Messiah for All

Sermon from Luke 4:16-30

Many times when reading the dramatic telling of this story of when Christ declared His identity in the synagogue at Nazareth, we skip straight from Christ’s speech to the crowd wanting to throw Him off the cliff! When we skip the middle dialogue of this story, we lose what is really happening, and we think that they wanted to throw Him off the cliff because of His declaration. However, that is not the case. When He first made His declaration, they accepted it. In fact, they “spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth” (Luke 4:22).

The problem arose when the people began to take a “What’s in it for us?” attitude toward the fact that the Messiah was a hometown boy. They began to expect that they were going to start seeing all the perks of the Messiah centering His miraculous ministry in Nazareth.

However, He perceived the thoughts of their hearts, and the self-centered view that they took of the Messiah, that He was only for them. So He told two Old Testament stories of the blessings of God being shared with people outside the nation of Israel. When they realized that He was saying, they got angry, and this is what caused them to reject Him.

Self-protectionism is a very natural human response. We experience the same phenomenon when a weekday ministry at our church begins to grow, and suddenly there are no good parking spots left, and someone has drunk all the coffee in the kitchen, and someone has used up all the toilet paper in the bathrooms. When blessings begin to spread and ministry begins to enlarge, it can become inconvenient for the in-crowd, and it takes an intentional effort to resist becoming insular, accept the inconveniences that come when ministry is enlarged, and rejoice in seeing the Kingdom of God grow.

When we get too narrow-minded and comfort-focused, we lose the heart of God, which is focused on the people of the world. Endure the discomfort and inconvenience, and rejoice when the outsiders become your brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus is not just our Messiah, but He is the Messiah for all!

Immeasurably More

Sermon from Ephesians 3:1-21

Like Simba in the Disney movie, The Lion King, we are prone to forget who we are, thereby sacrificing both the privileges and the responsibilities as children of the King. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is to us like what Rafiki’s knock on the head was for Simba… A wake-up call. The Lord calls us to dive in to the heart of the challenges of this fallen world. The truth we have is the hope of heaven and earth. God forbid we brush off the troubles of the world by saying, “Hakuna matata, no worries.” Paul says that God has entrusted us with the administration of the gospel to engage in this sinful and broken world. The problems surrounding us are bigger than us, but Almighty God has given us His Spirit to strengthen us and fill us with all His fullness. I experienced this firsthand when I was a part of what God was doing in Central Florida during the situation surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin. I saw God’s Spirit move mightily to bring unity and power in His Church during that time. I have seen the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge, and His power is at our disposal as His children. He can do more than we could ever ask for or imagine.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21

Immeasurably More – Sermon by the Rev. Charlie Holt from The Church of St John the Divine on Vimeo.

Epiphany: The Big Reveal

Things into which angels long to look

William Phelps taught English literature at Yale for forty-one years until his retirement in 1933.

William Lyon Phelps.
William Vandivert—Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Marking an examination paper shortly before Christmas one year, Phelps came across the note: “God only knows the answer to this question. Merry Christmas.” Phelps returned the paper with this note: “God gets an A. You get an F. Happy New Year.”

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church in Ephesus, he marvels in what he describes as the “mystery of God’s will”. A mystery is something that “God only knows”.

We all love a good mystery. Mysteries have tremendous power; the unknowns keep us engaged and drive us to seek a resolution to the mystery. As in any good mystery, with the big reveal, we learn who did it and how.

The story of salvation is in many ways an unfolding mystery. There are certain things that we know and have clues about from God’s revelations to Abraham, Moses, David and the Prophets of the Old Testament. God gave a lot of clues.

The Apostle Peter tells us that we now know things even the prophets and angels of God longed to see:

It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look (1 Peter 1:12).

The people of old knew that God had a plan to save the world. They knew that central to the plan was the nation of Israel, and specifically a Messianic king who would be in the line of King David.

But, as Paul writes, there were certain things about the story of salvation that remained hidden in the councils of God until the big moment of revelation. The big reveal is called the Epiphany!

First: who? Who will be the Messiah? We now know that Jesus Christ, the incarnate son of God, is the one who will save the world. No one would have expected that a carpenter’s son from Nazareth would amount to much. Yet everything now points to him and his birth, ministry, death and resurrection.

The big reveal is that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except by him ( John 14:6).

How will God save the world? We now know from the big reveal that through the proclamation of the Gospel message about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God will convert the hearts of the people of this world. He will liberate them from the powers of death and darkness, save their souls, and grant them eternal life.

As with any epiphany we can be surprised and shocked at the way things turn out. Who could fathom the sheer magnitude of the salvation of God as he converts the people of the world to Jesus? The Lord continues to surprise and amaze!

You and I have the tremendous privilege of knowing the big reveal to life’s most intriguing mystery. God has shown us how he will save this sinful and fallen world, and who has accomplished it. This is a revelation that is too important to keep hidden and secret. Our privilege, duty and calling is to make known the mystery of the will of God to a world that desperately needs to see the light of the Gospel.

Let your light shine!

Guarding the Faith

“O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’ for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.” – 1 Timothy 6:20-21

Paul’s final charge to Timothy is to “guard the deposit entrusted to you” (6:20). As a minister of the Gospel, Timothy is being sent into a battle on the front lines for the very Gospel itself. He needs strong encouragement to see the importance of the task and ministry with which he has been entrusted.

The need for Paul’s letter was occasioned for two main reasons: geography and time. First, Paul was simply not able to be in more than one place at a time. The delegation of leadership to others was an essential task for Paul if there was to be a geographically broad gospel movement. As Paul traveled on his missionary journeys moving from region to region, city to city, town to town, many new congregations were planted. New leadership had to be developed in each region, city, and town. Coordination and support of those various congregations also became mission-critical for the gospel.

The second issue was related to time. Paul was always keenly aware that his days of “fruitful ministry” were numbered. The issue of succession was critically important to Paul as he empowered Timothy to lead and then to identify and empower more leaders for the churches.

In this way, we see the first examples of succession and delegation at work in the church in the personal and pastoral relationship between Timothy and Paul. For Paul, the issue is not merely the passing of a torch humanly speaking, but for him it was critically important that the content and character of the gospel be guarded in order that it may be passed on faithfully to the next generation of leaders.

As each generation considers its own faith, it must also keep in mind the needs of the next generation of believers. We are given a sacred trust in the gospel of Jesus Christ, guarding the faith carefully so that it can be passed on.

In what ways are you delegating, passing on, and guarding the faith which has been entrusted to you?


This post originally appeared on The Bible Challenge here.