“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.

The Lonely Garden of the Father’s Will

The Lonely Garden of the Father’s Will

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed to His Heavenly Father: “If there be any other way, make it possible.” And yet, Jesus submitted obediently to His Father’s will and took the cup that the Father would have for Him. As Jesus wrestled with the most agonizing submission of His life, all of his disciples failed to support Him. Three times he asked them for support through intercessory prayer.

“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.

Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. –Matthew 26:38-45

Three times his closest friends and confidantes failed Him because of their own weakness and flesh. He desperately pleaded with them to sit with Him, to watch and pray with Him. But, they were overcome by sleep.

At His most desperate hour, Jesus was left to wrestle in agony with the will of His Father—all alone. The feelings of abandonment would be compounded on the Cross when he asked:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

The will of God can be a lonely personal fulfillment. There are times where we may even question whether God is with us. If Jesus asked that, so might we. At the end of the Apostle Paul’s life, he was facing the certain moment of his own martyrdom for the sake of the Gospel and the Name of Jesus. Paul discovered the lonely garden of the Father’s will:

At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! –2 Timothy 4:16

Notice the word “all”—“all deserted me.” Faithfulness to God’s call is often a lonely, lonely business. However, Paul lived faithfully on this side of the Cross of his Lord. While his human confidantes and friends abandoned him in his time of need, Paul knew that because of Jesus sufferings of abandonment, He would never abandon His people in their darkest hour. That is why Paul goes on to write:

But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. –2 Timothy 4:17-18

Because Jesus was God forsaken on our behalf, God says to you “I will never leave or forsake you.” Even though we may feel times of distance from the Lord, or moments where the experience of His presence is lacking, He is always with his faithful people. The Cross guarantees this reality. No one put this truth more beautifully than the Apostle Paul:

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus your Lord. Nothing!

The Cross proves it!

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The Lord’s Lament

The Lord’s Lament

Heavenly Father, we bless You and we praise You for the Passion of your Son, Jesus Christ. In it You have given salvation to us, You have made the Way of the Cross the way of eternal life. Help us to pick up our cross and follow in the footsteps of Jesus, that we too might share in His resurrected life, through Jesus Christ Who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns now and forever, Amen.

At noon until about the ninth hour, darkness came over the land. At about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani, which is my God, my God, why have you forsaken me”?

In the Gospel of Matthew we only have this one sentence recorded of what Jesus uttered from the cross. Jesus was quoting Psalm 22 which begins with: “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” Did Jesus recite the entire Psalm from the Cross or just this first line? There is no way to know. Interestingly, the last saying from the Cross “It is finished” sounds like the last line of Psalm 22: “He has done it.” Whether Jesus uttered the whole psalm or not, the first line says enough to convey the depth of spiritual lament of the Lord: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”?

The first phrase, My God, reflects again the intimate relationship that God, the Father, has with God, the Son. Earlier on in the Gospel of Matthew 11:25, Jesus offered praise to His Heavenly Father.

“I thank you Father, Lord of Heaven and earth because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father and no one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.”

Jesus and the Father are One, as John’s Gospel tells us in John 10:30. “No one comes to the Father except through the Son” (John 14:6) No one knows the Father, as Jesus says, unless He reveals the Father to them.

There’s a very intimate love that is between the Father and the Son and yet, here on the Cross, Jesus cries out to his Heavenly Father,

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

The cry reveals the abandonment of the Son from the Father. We are on the precipice of a Trinitarian mystery so we must be careful not to over-speak. How can the Father and the Son be one and yet there be this moment of abandonment of the Son by the Father? Can there possibly be a tear in the fabric of the relationship of the three divine Persons of the Trinity?

The words of Scripture often strain the limits of our ability to understand and comprehend. In a real and mysterious way, the Father forsook the Son. The spiritual agony of that moment is verbalized in Jesus’ prayer of lament from the Cross.

If Jesus prayed such honest prayers, then surely we are faithful in following His example. God knows our struggles. The incarnation shows us that Jesus became like us in every way, even to the point of death.

Some struggle with the thought of uttering honest prayers to God as if it is inappropriate or a sign of lack of faith. On the contrary, the Scriptures are filled with prayers of complaint, lament, and even anger voiced in prayer to God.

God wants your heart, not a façade. He knows when you are struggling. Through the indwelling Spirit He has placed in your heart, He hears the groans which words cannot express. (Romans 8:26-27) God already knows what you are feeling and how you are hurting. Go to Him with your most difficult questions, sorrows and struggles. Engage Him with your secret pain and your heart’s cry. Jesus did. He shows us the way to pray even in the midst of our darkest hours.

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ABANDONMENT: My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” –Matthew 27:45-47

The Problem of Evil

The most vexing question humans have ever asked is related to the origin of evil. It is often phrased as a logical conundrum:

If God is Loving and Good, all Powerful, and all Knowing, how is it possible that Evil exists. Why would God allow, or worse, create it in the first place?

Many solve this logical seeming contradiction by denying the sovereignty of God over His creation. Others deny God’s intervention in the created world, preferring instead to embrace a God whose creation is out of His ultimate control or some impersonal forces of light and darkness. Many secular-minded people have just given up on belief in God, period.

The problem of evil is a problem because there really is no good answer to the question of the origin of evil. We will forever be both intellectually and emotionally dissatisfied with answers when we contemplate human suffering, disease, natural disasters, tyrannical rulers, human holocausts and the like.

So when Jesus asks,

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

He is asking the universal unanswered question of human suffering: “Why?”

Whenever you or I ask that question the answers never seem to satisfy.

As a Chaplain at the St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, I ministered to a man sitting by the bedside of his wife who lay in a coma. He was grieving deeply. He shared that as he sat there he often had people who would come in and tell him what he called Platitudes. The examples he gave were: “Perhaps God is teaching you something.” or “This experience will help you grow.” “Maybe a greater good will come from this tragedy.” or “God must have needed her more.”

This man then said something I will never forget. He said, “Platitudes never make the person hearing them feel better, only the people uttering them.” That is so true. Much of the human suffering that we experience in life makes absolutely no sense. We are really uncomfortable with that! So we make up reasons to solve the emotional and intellectual gap in our minds and hearts caused by evil.

The cry of Jesus from the Cross teaches us that the problem of suffering does not make sense at all! It leaves us with a huge hole of an unanswered question: “Why?!?” There is no good answer. Jesus affirms our human limitations in that from the Cross.

Do you know someone in your life who is struggling? How do you minister to them in the midst of their pain? One thing you can do is be an intercessor with their heart’s questions. Rather than giving them pious platitudes to make you feel more comfortable, sit with them in the mystery of their problems.

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