“Want to make God laugh?”
by The Rev. Charlie Holt

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Ascension of the Lord IconWant to make God laugh? Tell him your plans!

We often find ourselves asking God to join in our agenda and plans for our own little worlds. God would have us join him in fulfilling his plan for the World.

The plan of God is:

  • Expansionary…NOT local provincial
  • Spiritually empowered… NOT my will power
  • For Jesus glory…NOT for my glory!

Key passage: Acts 1:6-14

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

What did you hear the Lord saying to you through this sermon? Leave a comment for discussion here!

 

Here is the Church and Here is the Steeple…

Little Lies We Learn as Children

There is a little children’s rhyme that we all learned as children. It uses hands to creatively teach about the church:

Here is the Church
And Here is the Steeple
Open the Doors
And see all the People!

The childhood rhyme is Biblically incorrect! While we often call the physical building and place of worship for the people of God, a Church, that is a misnomer. I go so far to call it a little lie. Little lies like this have been taught to us as children, and they have done great damage. Subtly and powerfully, they shape our vocabulary and thus our thinking and values as the people of God. The Church is NOT a physical building with a steeple and doors. Yet, we persist in using the word with that reference and meaning.

The institutional church itself has reinforced the vocabulary. A couple of years ago, the Bishop corrected me when I referred to St. Peter’s worship space as “the Sanctuary”. He said, “Properly, the sanctuary is the space behind the altar rails and building should be referred to as ‘the church’.” From a technical architectural vocabulary perspective, he was not wrong.

The reforming instinct in me cannot accept his correction. I have worked hard to never refer to a physical building as “The Church” because of the misaligned priorities on buildings, programs and institutions.

Empty Tombs

In the New Testament parlance, the Church is the gathered worshiping People of God. Rather than the building, the Church would be what you see when you open the doors and look inside the physical building. Monday through Saturday, the Church has left the building! Without the resurrected People of God gathered, the building stands vacant like an empty tomb!

As the angel who told the women looking for Jesus inside the rock-hewn tomb, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, he is risen!” Yes, there are many beautiful “church” buildings built around the world, with wonderful architectural features and gorgeous stain glass windows. They are built to the Glory of God! However, without a vibrant Holy Spirit filled, worshiping body of Christ, they are empty albeit beautiful sepulchers.

Whenever the New Testament uses the term “church”, it is always referring to the redeemed and holy people of God. It does describe church in terms of building and structure but always as a building made with living stones on the divinely appointed cornerstone.

The church building is alive!

Biblically, we should not say we go to church as so many of us are apt to say, but rather we should say we are the church! The church is a community of people whose lives are completely centered on Jesus, living stones built into the precious cornerstone.

Paul used this same imagery in his letter to the Ephesians. He says,

“You are being built into a holy temple, one stone placed upon another, incorporated with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone. In him, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a Holy Temple in the Lord. In him, you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

So does that mean that we should not build physical buildings for the church? Not at all! Yet, the institutional tools and structures that we have created with human hands out of wood, metal, bricks and mortar are merely tools and institutional supports for the spiritual living Church, the body of Christ. This is an incredibly important distinction for us. Why? Our primary focus is properly on the living organic Temple of the Lord.

The resurrected life is centered on the Person of Jesus Christ and the community and people that have been incorporated into the New Temple that is his Body. As in times of the Old Testament, the People of God find themselves serving worldly physical and institutional structures, rather than the physical and institutional structures supporting the people of God.

This was the corruption of the political, religious and economic systems which Jesus confronted in his day when he overturned the tables of the money changers in the old Temple.

The challenge in our day is to renew our emphasis on the True Church, the Living Stones, the New Spiritual Temple, The Body of Christ. The people of this world value the physical stones, but the Lord values the living stones. As the Apostle Peter writes, they are chosen by God and “precious to him.”

Question for thought and discussion: Do you agree that the people of this world place more value on worldly structures and institutions than people? Do you see this happening even with the Church? How do we get back to the right emphases?

Express your thoughts and comments here!

How important is community to a relationship with God?

The Stone and The Stones

The Apostle Peter wrote a letter to all the churches in Asia Minor where he told their members,“You are precious stones!” Hear that! Peter called the people of God “precious stones”.

Here is the full quote:

As you come to Him, the living stone, who was rejected by mankind but chosen by God and precious to him, so you also are like living stones that are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5)

The cornerstone proverb is shaping up to be at the heart of the resurrection vision of the New Testament. The proverb is quoted six times in the New Testament, always in reference to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The cornerstone is just the beginning. The larger vision is of stones on top of the stone. The people of God take their bearings and their marker from Jesus, first and foremost with Him as the central foundation stone.  However, the proper alignment of ones life is not merely to the person and work of Jesus. Our lives are to be incorporated first into Christ and second into the people of God. Our bearings start with centering our individual lives on the Chief Cornerstone, but then we are to be incorporated into a larger structure called the Temple of God.

Body and Temple

There two primary archetypes that the New Testament uses for the Resurrected Life: the Temple of the Lord and the Body of Christ. An archetype is a recurrent symbol or motif. For the New Testament, these two are intertwined, the body is a temple and the temple is a body.

Under the Old Covenant through Moses and David, the Temple of God is made with physical stones. Under the New Covenant, the stones are alive!

The “living stones” were prophesied in the Old Testament. During the days of the prophet Isaiah, The Lord promised to build with a living cornerstone,

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

Isaiah never knew the name of whom the is prophecy was anticipating because he lived several hundred years before Jesus was born! However, we know the precious cornerstone is Jesus Christ. Jesus is a living stone of a much larger structure. What Peter is arguing is that the larger structure being constructed is a holy Temple in the Lord. We are being built into a “spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5)

By trusting in him as the beginning reference point, a community is built based solely and squarely on him, a people who are in alignment with him–a holy priesthood and spiritual sacrifices. The living temple is also a living body of believers. In Jesus, God is building a community of people. In this way we cannot say that we are aligned to Jesus, without also being in relationship with the people of Jesus, the Church. Is it possible to have a proper alignment to Jesus Christ as the Cornerstone, without having connection to all of the “living stones” that make up the larger Temple structure?

For discussion in the comments here: Is it possible to have a solidly aligned relationship with Jesus but have a completely disconnected relationship with His people? What is the value of community to your personal relationship with God?

“Two reasons why it was good Jesus left”
by The Rev. Charlie Holt

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St Peter's, Lake Mary
May 18, 2014

Reasons why it was good Jesus left

Jesus informed his disciples that he was leaving them. Yet, he reassured the that his departure was actually for their good! Find out the reasons why by listening to this week’s sermon.

You may want to read the text from the Gospel of John 14:1-14

“Hearts on Fire!”
by Rev. Charlie Holt

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Hearts on Fire
May 4, 2014
The Road to Emmaus

Momo Chiesa, Trinità Discepoli Emmaus

In  the moment that Jesus broke the bread the disciples truly recognized that the presence of the risen Lord Jesus was walking with them all along “on the way”. They just had not recognized him until that moment. You can read the story here: Luke 24:13-35

Christian worship services reenact the Road to Emmaus every Sunday as The Lord opens the Scriptures to us through the Bible readings and Sermon and as Jesus reveals His presence in the Breaking of the Bread in the Communion. Jesus is walking daily with his people.

What part of the worship service sets your heart on fire? What part of the worship service do you most feel the presence of the risen Lord Jesus Christ? In the Comments Section feel free to offer your reflections.