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Sermons for this Week:

John 13:1-17, 31-35 - Maundy Thursday: "Seeing Ourselves In The Disciples"

We come together this evening to recall in our hearts and minds the events that occurred on Thursday of what the church calls Holy Week, the last week in the life of our Lord. One-third of all the events that we have about Jesus’ life occurred during this week: Reminding us of the great significance of these last days. The disciples have gathered in a home, whose we are not sure, but we do know that it had a furnished second floor.

 

As they gather they participate in what is called a Seder meal, one of the highlights of the Passover week. The Passover festival, of course, had been done for centuries before Jesus came on the scene. It commemorated that time when the Jews were in bondage in Egypt. Moses warned Pharaoh to let his people go, but Pharaoh hardened his heart. So God sent a death over the land of Egypt, but miraculously this death passed over the homes of the Jews. Thus, the season of Passover was given birth.

 

The meal itself was a symbolic one reminding the Jews of the sufferings of their forefathers and the power of God's deliverance. The foods that were eaten were symbols to remind the Jews of their captivity in Egypt. Apple sauce was eaten to remind them of brick mortar and the fact that they were forced to make bricks with no straw. A bitter herb is eaten to remind them of the bitterness of their captivity. It was this symbolic Seder Meal that the disciples were partaking of that night in the upper room.

 

It was at the conclusion of that meal that Jesus himself added two more symbols. He took a loaf and broke it and gave it to his disciples saying: Take eat, this is my body which is broken for you, do this in remembrance of me. Then he took a cup with wine. He drank from it and gave it to his disciples saying, “Drink ye all of this, for this is my blood which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin.” Thus was born our sacrament of the Lord's Supper, out of the experience of an ancient Jewish custom.

 

Leonardo da Vinci by his famous painting has forever impressed upon on our minds the last supper of our Lord. The scene that he depicts is that moment when Jesus announces his impending betrayal. The disciples look at one another with great shock, all, that is, except Judas, who refuses to look Jesus in the face and clutches his money to his breast. I wonder as we look at those disciples around the table if we can see ourselves. For me they represent all that is good and bad about our humanity.

 

Maybe we can see ourselves in Matthew...

 

The rest of this brief 10 minute sermon looks at 10 of the disciples sitting around the Passover Meal and how we can see our own frailties and sinfulness reflected in them.


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John 18:1-19:42 - Good Friday - "It Is Finished."

 

The last word that Jesus spoke on the cross, as reported by John's gospel, chapter 19, verse 30, is "It is finished." That sentence is just one word in Greek--"Tetelestai." That sentence can have varied meanings depending on the context and the tone. A few years ago a professional boxer named Roberto Duran was locked in an epic championship bout with sugar Ray Leonard. Both fighters struggled heroically with almost superhuman endurance. But finally Duran was too exhausted to continue. He cried out in Spanish, "no mas," meaning "no more." It's over. I quit.

When Jesus cried out "It is finished," he was not quitting. Had he been announcing defeat, he would have spoken with a whimper. But that's not how Jesus said it. John is the only one of the four gospel writers who tells us precisely what Jesus said at this point. The other three report just the tone and volume and demeanor of Jesus. They are unanimous in reporting that he threw back his head and shouted loudly. That was the shout of a marathon runner who has finished successfully that grueling 26-mile race. And as he crosses the finish line, he throws back his head and shouts, "I have done it. I have completed the race!" The New English Bible renders "tetelestai" as follows: "It is accomplished." Perhaps one could compare Jesus' cry to that final push and scream by a birthing mother as she brings all her energies to bear at the end of a 24-hour ordeal, propelling into this world a brand new life. She screams, "It's done!" Something incredibly significant has happened.

When Jesus threw back his head and screamed "Tetelestai," he was declaring, "I have accomplished this awesome, painful mission. I have poured out every ounce of devotion, almost beyond my capacity to bear. Now it's done. I have taken the enemy's best shot but have not been defeated. History's most difficult assignment has been accomplished. Free at last, free at last, Great God Almighty, I'm free at last.

What precisely had Jesus finished or completed when his agony on the cross was over? Three things, at least. 

 

1.  The price of salvation was paid in full.

2.  Jesus revealed the character of God.

3.  Jesus established the Kingdom of God.

 

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John 20:1-18 - Easter Day: "Why I Believe in the Resurrection"

 

You probably do not remember the name Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin. During his day he was as powerful a man as there was on earth. A Russian Communist leader he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution 1917, was editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda (which by the way means truth), and was a full member of the Politburo. His works on economics and political science are still read today. There is a story told about a journey he took from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to address a huge assembly on the subject of atheism. Addressing the crowd he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity hurling insult, argument, and proof against it.

An hour later he was finished. He looked out at what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of men's faith. "Are there any questions?" Bukharin demanded. Deafening silence filled the auditorium but then one man approached the platform and mounted the lectern standing near the communist leader. He surveyed the crowd first to the left then to the right. Finally he shouted the ancient greeting known well in the Russian Orthodox Church: "CHRIST IS RISEN!" En masse the crowd arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sound of thunder: "HE IS RISEN INDEED!"

I say to you this morning: CHRIST IS RISEN! (congregational response should be: HE IS RISEN INDEED!). I am convinced! I have faith that Christ was dead and he was buried. That I believe. But, this too I accept as true: He rose from the dead and will come again in glory.

This is Easter. And to stand here on this day in this pulpit and proclaim this word. . . I cannot begin to tell you how this defines all that I am.

But, you will say to me, how do you know that the resurrection is real? How do you know that it is really valid? 


1.  I believe because somebody told me about the resurrection.

2.  I believe because the resurrection has stood the test of time.

3.  I believe in the resurrection because I have experienced it. 

 

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What Is Unique About Christianity?

The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what's all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We're debating what's unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that's easy,” answered Lewis, “it's....

 

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