Red Clay Theology

Holy Cross Day

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(I actually won’t be able to deliver this message until chapel service on Tuesday- but thought I would share what I have planned since today is Holy Cross Day)

HOLY CROSS

This past Saturday was HOLY CROSS DAY- Not Every Church but Lots of Different Denominations around the world celebrated Holy Cross Day- In some countries it is seen as the day or festival that marks the end of the Summer- it is always on September 14th –

some Christians call it by different names- Holy Cross Day- the Festival of the Cross- the Exaltation of the Cross- the Triumph of the Cross- We Celebrate the Holy Cross on September 14th because that is the day that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was consecrated in Jerusalem by the Emperor Constantine in the year 335, legends say that Saint Helena, His Mother, found the True Cross of Jesus during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and a portion of that cross was placed inside the Church-

I wrote this last week as a way to celebrate Holy Cross Day- Let’s Start with reciting Psalm 98:1-5- it was a hymn that was written to invite all the people on earth and creation itself to join in singing a new song of “beautiful noise” celebrating God’s justice and victories.

and then we will pray-

PSALM 98:1-5  (to be read in unison) 

O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy

arm, hath gotten him the victory.

The LORD hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of

the heathen.

He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth

have seen the salvation of our God.

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.

PRAYER

Let Us Pray: O Lord- Our Maker – Our Redeemer – Our Comforter- We Gather today to Meditate on

the Work of the Cross- Ordained by The Father – Carried out by the Son – Proclaimed by the Holy

Ghost- Open Our Hearts To Your Word And Draw Us Closer To You- We Praise You- We Bless You-

We Worship You- We Glorify You- and We Give Thanks to You for Your Great Glory-

For You Alone are Holy; and You Alone are Lord; AMEN

MOSES- BRAZEN SERPENT (adapted from The Voice translation of Numbers 21:4-9)

 

I want to start by going back to the OLD TESTAMENT- and retelling you the Story of the Children of Israel in the Wilderness- Just to quickly recount it- you may remember they had to wonder in the wilderness for 40 years because they would grumble against God and disobey- this is during that time period-

the Israelites set out again. They left Mount Hor and traveled by way of the Red Sea, skirting Edom;

but again, the difficult travel gave everyone a short temper. They challenged both God and Moses.

The Israelites said: What were you thinking to bring us up out of Egypt and let us die out here in this

desert land? There’s nothing to eat and no water either. We are sick and tired of living on what food we have.

As a divine response, the Eternal One sent venomous snakes among them and the people were bitten. A number of Israelites were indeed killed by them. They then appealed to Moses.

The Israelites said: We are so sorry! We know that it was wrong to speak against the Eternal and

against you. Please talk to the Him, and get Him to take these awful snakes away.

So Moses appealed to God on behalf of the terrified and chastened congregation, and He instructed

Moses.

Make a venomous snake that looks like the ones tormenting the congregation, and put it on a pole.

Everyone who gets bitten can simply look at your serpent and be healed., Said the Eternal God

So Moses took some bronze and cast a likeness of those vicious snakes to serve as an antidote for

anyone who had been bitten. If they were to look on the bronze serpent, they would then live.

remembering that Old Testament story- we will go to John chapter 3- we actually read a different part of John 3 last week- Jesus talking to Nicodemus-

so lets read THE GOSPEL OF OUR LORD JESUS ACCORDING TO JOHN

John 3: 13-17

13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not

perish but have eternal life.

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

The Brazen Serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness was a type or a foreshadow of the Cross of

Christ- The Brazen Serpent being lifted up on the Pole was an antidote for the Curse of the Vipers and Christ being lifted up on the Cross was the Antidote for the Curse of SIN.

But we do not remember the Cross or Pray to the Cross as a Magical Item or Idol- It isn’t a magical talisman- when We wear it, or place it on our buildings, or proclaim it to the world- We use it as a sign to remember and easily share with others our Faith in Christ- the Sinless Lamb who placed himself on that Cross and had God’s Wrath Poured out on him for Our Transgressions-

Jesus FOREKNEW He Would be Lifted up- – about 3 years before his crucifixion he told Nicodemus in the Gospel of John- “The Son of Man must be lifted Up” – Lifted Up To The Cross at the Crucifixion- Lifted Up From the Grave at the Resurrection- Lifted Up to Heaven at the Ascension-

Verses 14-17 of John 3 are loaded with Theology- they contain Christology- Jesus was the Only Begotten Son sent to Save the World- it contains Soteriology- Believing on Christ will grant everlasting

life – Sovereign God Theology- The CROSS is Part of His DIVINE PLAN-

George Bennard, in the hymn- The Old Rugged Cross, doesn’t let us forget that the Cross was a symbol of not just suffering, but shame- every willful sin and every secret hidden violation was taken on by the Best Friend man has ever had- Sinless Christ Became Sin- Paul says in Second Corinthians- “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”  -TO FREE US FROM THAT PUNISHMENT- SHAME- SUFFERING- The Song Says

–For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above

To bear it to dark Calvary.

— In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,

A wondrous beauty I see, For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,

To pardon and sanctify me.

Lets Go and See what Paul and the Early Christians thought about the Cross-

from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 1 Corinthians 1:18-24

18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding

of the prudent.

20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made

foolish the wisdom of this world?

21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the

foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

It seems like part of the World is always asking for signs and another part searching for facts – either way it is Power and Wisdom they Seek. But we tell a different story. We proclaim a crucified Jesus, God’s Anointed. The world sees it as either scandalous or uneducated, but for those of us living out God’s call—regardless of our heritage or world view— we know the Anointed One -that is Christ Jesus, the Messiah- both Messiah and Christ mean Anointed One- embodies God’s dynamic power and God’s deep wisdom. You can count on this: God’s foolishness will always be wiser than mere human wisdom, and God’s weakness will always be stronger than mere human strength.

The cross challenges human values because no one expects to find freedom through Death. Unlike most of the thousands who faced crucifixion before and after Jesus, He was clearly not a criminal. God uses this contradiction to reveal His power and wisdom: Jesus has offered Himself to death and has been raised to life to bring liberation to others. Those who truly follow this crucified king do not seek power and authority through the normal patterns of the world; they offer themselves in loving sacrifice for others. That is where God’s transforming power is truly revealed in the church.

In our Epistle Reading- Paul tells us that we are to preach Christ Crucified- the Messiah Executed- the Savior Humiliated- The Spotless Lamb Standing Slain as Revelation 5:6 says- The Cross is the

Foundation of the Word of God and the Christian Faith- If you Have NO CROSS, You HAVE NO

ATONEMENT- NO SALVATION- NO CHRISTIANITY-

Talking about the cross reminds me of a lot of songs- we all ready talked about the Old Rugged Cross- does anyone else have any favorite songs that talk about the Cross? — At the Cross At The Cross where I first Saw the Light and the Burden of My Sin Rolled Away–

another old one from the 1700’s was Rock of Ages—

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;

Closing

If you Haven’t Trusted in the Message of the Cross- that Christ, Our Atonement, Took Our Place- I ask You To Do That Now- Believe On Him as the Son of God and as Your Savior- You can quietly Confess that He is Lord of Your life right now if you have never done it- by simply saying I know I am a sinner and I know you died for my sin- make me a new creature, Lord- Amen

Prayer

Most Merciful God,

Thank you for sending your only begotten Son, Jesus to be our atonement on the cross

and for sending the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us until the return of Christ

We Confess that we have sinned against you

in thought, word, and deed,

We haven’t Loved You with Our Whole Heart-

We haven’t Loved Our Neighbors as Ourselves-

We Are Truly Sorry and Humbly Repent-

We have Faith that Your Word says

“If Any Man Sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the

Perfect Offering for Our Sins, and not for Ours Only, but of the whole world.”

Benediction

Hebrews 13:20-21

King James Version (KJV)

20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 

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Rough Draft of Prophet Reading Plan

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Here is a tentative list of texts for the month long OT Prophet reading list- can you think of any other single chapters that epitomize a prophet’s work? please share- to start date picked yet- thinking about only doing a chapter a day 5 or 6 days a week- (take 1 day every week off for catch-up) – please, feel free to share suggestions! also- Prophet Windows at Cologne Cathedral- Kölner Dom- Germany- Construction of the cathedral in Cologne started in the 1200’s – during WWII it was hit by over 1 dozen shells, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site- all of the prophets are featured because of their Messianic Prophecies-

Leave Comments or Suggestions on our Ekklesia FB page  https://www.facebook.com/EkklesiaSC
 Day 1 – Isaiah 1
 Day 2 – Isaiah 25
 Day 3 – Isaiah 43
 Day 4 – Jeremiah 2
 Day 5 – Jeremiah 9
 Day 6 – Jeremiah 23
 Day 7 – Lamentations 1
 Day 8 – Ezekiel 6
 Day 9 – Ezekiel 18
 Day 10 – Ezekiel 34
 Day 11 – Ezekiel 37
 Day 12 – Daniel 7
 Day 13 – Hosea 4
 Day 14 – Hosea 14
 Day 15 – Joel 2
 Day 16 – Amos 4
 Day 17 – Obadiah
 Day 18 – Micah 5
 Day 19 – Micah 6
 Day 20 – Nahum 1
 Day 21 – Habakkuk 3
 Day 22 – Zephaniah 3
 Day 23 – Haggai 1
 Day 24 – Zechariah 3
 Day 25 – Zechariah 8
 Day 26 – Malachi 3

Getting Started with Prayer!

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ACTS Prayer Pattern
– should be a “starting point” that leads to Extemporaneous Prayer (which is just opening up your heart and talking to God)
1. A-Adoration
1Chronicles 29:11-12; Jude 1:24-25; Revelation 7:12; Isaiah 6:3
Psalms of Praise:
Hymns 8, 19, 33, 66, 67, 95, 100, 103, 104, 111, 113, 114, 117, 145-150
Songs of Zion 48, 76, 84, 87, 122, 134
Covenant Psalms 50, 67, 72:17-19; 78, 81, 89, 132
Messianic Psalms 8, 16, 22, 35, 40, 41, 55, 69, 102, 109
Messiah’s Kingdom Psalms 2, 18, 20, 21, 45, 61, 72, 89, 110, 132
2. C- Confession
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against thee
in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved thee with our whole heart;
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
We have faith that you will have mercy on us and forgive us; if we ask for forgiveness
through the Blood of Christ
Empower us with the Holy Ghost that we may delight in thy will, and walk in thy ways,
to the glory of thy Name. We ask through our Lord Christ Jesus- Amen
Jeremiah 10:23-24; Daniel 9:4-19
Psalms: Laments of Repentance 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143
3. T- Thanksgiving
Lamentations 3:22-23
Psalms of Thanksgiving: Group Gratitude 65, 67, 75, 107, 124, 136
Individual Gratitude 18, 21, 30, 32, 34, 40, 66, 92, 108, 116, 118, 138
Gratitude for Historical Actions 8, 105-106, 135, 136
Songs of Trust 11, 16, 23, 27, 62, 63, 91, 121, 125, 131
4. S- Supplication
Heavenly Father, We Ask for your Blessings and Guidance and Mercy on Behalf of
-Our Political and Religious Leaders, that they guide us in Your Will
(in Particular ________)
The Sick and Infirmed in need of your Healing Touch
(in Particular________________)
Those in need of comfort, Spiritual and Physical
(in Particular ____)
And for Your Protection and Blessings, Lord (in Particular _______)
guide us so that we not grieve the comforting indwelling Holy Spirit
In Jesus Good Name We Pray, AMEN

Anxiety and the Believer

 a short lesson I did for the residents of an assisted living home on the Biblical Response to Anxiety and Worry- it wasn’t written as a full manuscript, just notes to help remind me, so sorry if it is hard to follow- thanks-

 

Psalm 8:1, 3-6

King James Version (KJV)

O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

6 Thou made-est him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

PRAYER

Eternal God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- thank you for letting us get together to fellowship and study your word again- You know all of the needs and worries of our hearts and we will trust in you to take care of them- Help us learn how to deal with Anxiety- a problem that robs the JOY from so many people today- In JESUS GOOD NAME WE PRAY, AMEN

Anxiety and Worry were touched on in a previous lesson on the Song that Mary sang when she visited Elizabeth- if you recall, it said – we are taught by the Bible to Pray and Rejoice instead of worrying about things that are out of our control.

Jesus said to not be Anxious at least 3 different times in the Bible- usually “FEAR, NOT LITTLE SHEEP.” and “Don’t You know that the Heavenly Father takes care of the Birds of the Air and the Wildflowers and you are more important to him than those things.”

That is why we are going to look at Anxiety as a Spiritual Issue instead of as a Medical or Psychological Issue like so many people today look at it.

Charles Mayo, the founder of the Mayo Clinic started noticing in his patients that people that Worried more and had more anxiety had more problems with their Heart, their Circulatory System, and their Glands. — He Wrote a article on the things he had noticed about Anxiety and how it wears down your health for the American Mercury Medical Journal- other doctors around the country read this and started noticing he was right- that Worry was actually killing some people- made them more likely to have heart problems, made them less likely to get better from illnesses or surgery.

So- since a lot of people today try to treat Anxiety as a medical issue, we are going to see what DOCTOR LUKE says about it-

Luke the Physician tells us in Chapter 12 of his Gospel that Jesus said :

25 And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?

26 If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?

27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

28 If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?

29 And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.

30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.

31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.

32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.

34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

— Jesus teaches us that instead of Worrying- or Being Anxious we should FIRST seek the Kingdom of God—

So, What are some ways in which we could STOP WORRYING and SEEK the KINGDOM?

Colossians 3:2 says that we should “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

And if we Look at Philipians 4 –

4 Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

PAUL tells us that we Should REJOICE or Be HAPPY and that instead of worrying we should approach those things by PRAYING- supplication or ASKING FOR HELP – and thanksgiving or BEING THANKFUL for the things we do have and by being THANKFUL for the things we know God will do for us-

JONAH in the Belly of the Great Fish started Saying Prayers of Thanksgiving because he recognized God is Sovereign, God has a Plan, and God will Take him where he needs to go.

In addition Paul says instead of doing the thing people who are Anxious do – dwelling on their problem- Paul says to Dwell on the things that are TRUE- NOBLE- RIGHTEOUS- PURE- GRACIOUS- and PRAISEWORTHY-

ALL of the Things you tell yourself when you are Worrying ARE NOT TRUE- Paul Says to focus on what is TRUE- So Focus on Verses or Statements of faith like the Apostles Creed that Says

Apostles’ Creed


1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:

3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:

4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:

5. The third day he rose again from the dead:

6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:

7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:

8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:

9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:

10. The forgiveness of sins:

11. The resurrection of the body:

12. And the life everlasting. Amen.

Another way to focus on those good and true and Noble and praiseworthy things is to meditate on verses like 1 Peter 5:6-7

6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

So- DON’T THINK SOMETHING IS TOO SMALL TO PRAY ABOUT- PETER reminds us that God cares about you so Cast all your Cares or Worries or Anxieties on God- But when You do that You have to LET go of them, because if you don’t you aren’t trusting God to be true to his word.

There are many more verses like Jeremiah 1:8 that says “Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.” it would take us a long time to see them all, but The Bible is ALWAYS clear GOD LOVES YOU- DON’T WORRY- HE WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU

I am also reminded of Joseph whose brothers sold him into slavery, when they were finally reuntited in Egypt- and Joseph was the second in command only next to Pharaoh, Joseph told his Brothers- WHAT YOU MEANT FOR EVIL AGAINST ME, GOD HAS USED FOR GOOD—

So, don’t worry, God is in Control-

So, Let us Read Isaiah 41:10 Together and then we will Pray and Dismiss with a Benediction from Revelation

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Prayer

O God of Isaiah and the Apostle Paul,
through all such faithful ones
you proclaim the unfolding of future joy
and renewed life.
Strengthen our hearts to believe your promise
that one day sorrow and worry will be no more
and the journey of God’s people will be joy. Amen.

Benediction

REV 22:21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

NT SUMMER 2013 Winding Down, RED CLAY Reving Back Up

I haven’t posted on Red Clay Theology since late spring because I was busy facilitating a “Read through the Entire New Testament- Summer 2013” on Facebook this Summer, we are winding down, just 10 more days and we will be finished with reading the the ESV translation of the NT.  I also lead a chapel service type devotional at an assisted living home once a week.

Once the Summer Project Wrap Up, I think I may try to do a series on “The Other Homily” – Liturgical Services *usually,* although not always, focus on the Gospel Reading from the Revised Common Lectionary, or whatever Lectionary or Missal they are using, as the subject of their Sermon. So, I wanted to spend a couple of months focusing on what the Sermon about the Old Testament reading would be like. I tried something similar during Lent when I used each Lesson from that weeks Revised Common Lectionary as a Daily Bible Study (for example, the Psalm on Monday, the Epistle Lesson on Wednesday, etc.).  Just one Idea I had to revive the WordPress page since the Read the New Testament Summer 2013 is coming to an end… it was a great experience, and perhaps I will share about it in the future.

For Now: you can Still Join Us for Our Last 10 Days of Study focusing on Matthew. We had around 30 people participate over the Summer. https://www.facebook.com/NewTestamentSummer2013

Eastertide 3C, Sunday, April 14, 2013

*Eastertide is the season between the Easter Vigil and the Day of Pentecost, during Eastertide, or “The Season After Easter,”  usually replace the Old Testament reading in the Lectionary with a reading from Acts instead. This tradition dates back to at least the Fifth Century, when it was mentioned in the writings of Augustine. 

Acts 9:1-20

The Conversion of Saul

 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

John 21:1-19

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Scripture Readings from the ESV translation

Criticism of the New Perspectives on Paul Movement

John Dominic Crossan, in the recent Huffington Post piece titled “What Really Happened to Paul on the Road to Damascus?” questions the account of story of conversion presented in Acts. The traditional text states that Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee, was traveling to Damascus to persecute followers of The Way (now known as Christians) when he was blinded by a vision of the risen Christ.

Crossan goes on to say that the conversion story is suspect because a Pharisee’s jurisdiction would have no power to cross Rome’s provincial borders. His article doesn’t consider the stance taken by the 1906 edition of the Jewish Encyclopedia.

The Jewish Encyclopedia proffers that Saul was a Sadducee, and Luke mistakenly identified Saul of Tarsus as a Pharisee. The Sadducees would be more likely to oppose the nascent Christian movement because they did not subscribe to an idea of an afterlife or punishment after death. The Sadducees also represented the state and Judaism abroad and worked closely with the Romans. Their argument is that Paul should have been known as Saul the Sadducee. As a Roman citizen and Sadducee, Paul would be able to easily cross boarders and persecute members of Jewish communities elsewhere. At the time, The Way was a Jewish sect. Paul was actually the person that was responsible for taking the Gospel to non-Jewish people.

At first glance, Crossan’s argument seems to have merit, until you explore the possibility that the Jewish Encyclopedia puts forth that as a Roman citizen and Sadducee Saul would have the power and the mindset to track down followers of Jesus wherever they were in the Roman Empire.

Grace Bible College professor, Phillip Long, and developed Reading Acts from a Sunday evening services he led. It developed into a survey of Pauline Theology. In the last several decades the New Perspectives on Paul movement has been involved with the scholarly re-examination of Paul and what he said.

Several views of Paul’s Road To Damascus experience are examined in Long’s “Basics of the New Perspective: Was Paul ‘Converted’ to Christianity?” Critics that subscribe to the New Perspective say that the traditional view that Paul underwent a spiritual conversion comes from a post-Luther reading of Acts.  Stendhal and Dunn say that it was not a “conversion” because Paul did not switch religions. They say that Paul still considered himself to be Jewish and believed he was merely spreading the zeal for ‘The Light” that he had as a Pharisee to the Gentiles. They believe that the experience is a “call” similar to the one that Isaiah received (Isaiah 6). The New Perspectives view is not unilateral, N.T. Wright still used the phrase “Paul’s Conversion.”

Long goes on to say the New Perspectives on Paul Movement’s view of Paul adapting The Law of Moses doesn’t fully depict how radically different Paul’s teaching is. Paul belief that Gentiles didn’t have to be circumcised was him fully embracing the fact that Jesus “fulfilled the law” (Matthew 5:17, Romans 8:3-4). The main problem the leaders of the church at Jerusalem had with Paul was they believed he was taking the Jewish commandment out of “The Way” (the first century name for Christianity).

Long concludes with the belief that one should probably consider Paul’s experience on the Road to Damascus as a call and as a conversion. He says that the theophany to Paul was a unique experience in the history of salvation (soteriology).

When reading scriptures, or modern commentaries on scriptures, it is best to keep in mind the prayer for discernment from the Psalm 119:18- “Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law.”

Prayer

God of victory over death,
your Son revealed himself again and again,
and convinced his followers of his glorious resurrection.
Grant that we may know his risen presence,
in love obediently feed his sheep,
and care for the lambs of his flock,
until we join the hosts of heaven in worshiping you and praising him
who is worthy of blessing and honor,
glory and power, for ever and ever. Amen.

Conversion on the Way to Damascus, 1601 -Caravaggio
Conversion on the Way to Damascus, 1601 -Caravaggio

Eastertide 2C, April, 7, 2013

Psalm and Gospel Lectionary reading for week Easter 2C

Psalm 118:14-29 (ESV)

14 The Lord is my strength and my song;
    he has become my salvation.
15 Glad songs of salvation
    are in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly,
16     the right hand of the Lord exalts,
    the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!”

17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
    and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18 The Lord has disciplined me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
    that I may enter through them
    and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
    the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

25 Save us, we pray, O Lord!
    O Lord, we pray, give us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
    We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
    up to the horns of the altar!

28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
    you are my God; I will extol you.
29 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

John 20:19-31 (ESV)

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The Incredulity of St. Thomas- Caravaggio, 1602

Caravaggio’s famous painting from today’s Gospel reading shows Thomas inspecting the Lord’s wounds. We know that Thomas was having a Crisis of Faith after the Death of the Lord. Despite Thomas’s crisis of faith and season of doubt, God used Thomas to spread The Word. Church history tells us that after this encounter and rekindled Faith, Thomas took the Gospel to India. In the year 72, church tradition teaches that Thomas died a martyr’s death while he was kneeling in prayer.

Prayer in Time of Doubt

Lord Jesus, I believe that You are the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Sometimes doubt assails me, making me confused and frightened.
I know that this is because we still walk in the shadows of faith while on earth, relying on the testimony of those who have seen and believed.
But I am still affected to some extent and somewhat shaken by such doubts. Make me realize that our doubts are the price which we have to pay for the fulfilment of the universe in Christ and the very condition of that fulfilment.
We must be prepared to press on to the end along a road on which each step makes us more certain, toward horizons that are ever more shrouded in mists.
All the while we bring forth fruits worthy of our new life such as charity, joy, and service of others. In so doing, we ourselves become for others living signs of the power of Christ’s resurrection which the Holy Spirit sets in motion in the Church. Amen.