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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Hearing the Voice of the Good Shephard

Sunday Sermon Summary: Guest Pastor Mark Cooke

This is the fourth Sunday of Easter, when Jesus Christ declares to the Jews that he is the good shepherd. What does it mean to hear the voice of the good shepherd? To hear the voice of God? We need to embrace the idea that we are sheep. The shepherd psalms are
  • psalm 78: 52 But he brought his people out like a flock;
    he led them like sheep through the desert.
  • psalm 77: 20 You led your people like a flock
    by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
  • psalm 79: 13 13 Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
    will praise you forever;
    from generation to generation
    we will recount your praise.
  • psalm 80 1 Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock;
    you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth
  • psalm 100
  • psalm 23
The common analogy is that God is our shepherd. Max Lucado says sheep are dumb and dirty. What does it mean to be a sheep? Dirty. Obstinate. Mob mentality. Max Lucado says that sheep are the least capable of taking care of themselves. Isaiah 53 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Also reference 1 Peter 2.

Can you pass the sheep test? You know you are a sheep when...
  1. you can control your words at all times
  2. you are at peace with all
  3. you have no fears
  4. you need no forgiveness
We can't pass the test. We begin to hear the voice. To understand who the Shepherd is and what he does lets look at psalms 23:1. 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. "LORD" is in all caps. Lowercase "lord" means lord as a title. "LORD" is YAHWEH. The good shepherd is Jehovah. The good shepherd is the lamb in Revelation. Over 29 times in Revelation 'lamb' is used. In John 10 and Matthew 2:6 the good shepherd is the risen Lord, also the coming king, lord, lamb and savior.

What does he do? Reference John 10:3-4 and 11:14-15. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. He gave sheep eternal life. He gives eternal life so they will never perish. He guards and protects his sheep. He pens the sheep and calls each one by name. The relationship of good shepherd to sheep is that he knows hos own and his own knows him...knows his voice.

God calls us gently. The sheep follow him. The Lamb will guide us to the book of life. The sheep love Him. A sign of not being a sheep is unbelieving. When we get before the Lord there will be no denomination. We will be ONE flock with one shepherd. The 12 tribes become one flock.

We need to ask ourselves:
  • do I belong to Him?
  • do I recognize His right to me?
  • do I respond to His authority and acknowledge His authority?
  • do I find freedom and complete fulfilment in this arrangement?
  • do I find deep contentment and a sense of peace under his direction?
  • do I know and respond and belong to the good shepherd?
Listen. Listen. It is the voice of the good shepherd. In the words he is calling us by name. Won't you run to him? Trust him? Follow him? Know the joy? He is calling you by name. Hear h is voice and follow him.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Velvet Elvis

God never changes, nor do the central truths of Christianity. But our understanding of those truths is in constant flux. Christians will always be exploring and discovering what it means to live in harmony with God and each other. Now in softcover, Velvet Elvis offers original and refreshingly personal perspectives on what Christianity is really about. Might be interesting reading. Check it out.

The book is written by Rob Bell. Robert "Rob" Bell (born August 23, 1970) is an author, Christian speaker, and the founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church located in Grandville, Michigan. He is also the featured speaker in the first series of spiritual short films called NOOMA.


Internation Justice Mission

Founded in 1997, IJM began operations after a group of human rights professionals, lawyers and public officials launched an extensive study of the injustices witnessed by overseas missionaries and relief and development workers. This study, surveying more than 65 organizations and representing 40,000 overseas workers, uncovered a nearly unanimous awareness of abuses of power by police and other authorities in the communities where they served. Without the resources or expertise to confront the abuse and to bring rescue to the victims, these overseas workers required the assistance of trained public justice professionals. More of the history here.

IJM was established to help fill a void, acting as an organization that stands in the gap for victims when they are left without an advocate. They do have a four fold purpose:
  • Victim Relief - Relieve the victim of the abuse currently being committed.
  • Perpetrator Accountability - Bring accountability and just consequences under the law to the specific perpetrator(s) of abuse.
  • Structural Prevention - Prevent the abuse from being committed against others who are also at risk by strengthening community factors that are likely to deter potential oppressors, reduce the vulnerability of at-risk populations and empower local authorities to stop such abuses.
  • Victim Aftercare - Provide access to services to help victims transition to their new lives and to encourage long-term success.


Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday Service

Summary of the Good Friday Sermon given by Spike Coleman

As mentioned before in the Maundy Thursday post, the sermon is the 2ND part of a three part Easter message. Last night we focused on a community of love and what it means to die with Jesus Christ. The scripture lesson is Luke 23: 1-49. It is the story that makes us tremble.

Some of us have had the opportunity to meet Steve Hayner. While he was president of a small christian college, one of his jobs was to separate the students from their parents so that they could attend orientation. He planned events for the parents and often times he would ask them what they wanted for their children. The parents would often say that they wanted their kids to be happy. Steve would say that the was, "so very sorry. I want so much more for my kids. " He would tell the parents he wanted them to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. When we are conformed to this world we pay the price of sin. We think worldly things will make us happy. What does it mean to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ? Think about that.

A friend of Spike's is an associate pastor named Todd. One Sunday when conducting the children's sermon, he asked the children what they needed to do to get to heaven. He got a multitude of different answers. One child said that to get there, first you gotta die. Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. (Luke 17:33) Paul writes in Romans about dying in sin. Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? (Romans 6:2) And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. (Romans 6:21) We will find salvation in Christ. Christ lives in Him and he lives by faith in the son of God.

Tonight we are here to remember the sacrifice made for us so that we die to the powers of sin and evil in the world. What does that mean? It means getting rid of bad habits, the improper way we treat our family, examining the way we use resources, our time and our treasures. We must recognize that the power of evil and sin are greater than our mistakes. Sin corrupts our most noble virtues.

When Spike first got out of school, he at first was dealing with a church located in a bigger metropolitan area. The church was healthy, people came often. It seemed all he had to do was open the doors and they would come. The church was growing and it was strong. Later while working in a different area...Kingston, things were different. Spike was living in the middle of a tobacco field in an area where tobacco used to be king long ago. It was a place where the family farm used to be a way of life. Several generations used to live on the family farm. Now it was a place where all the young people moved away to find work. It was a tough place.

There were some wonderful people there. There were people who loved the Lord and were kind. Years ago there used to be quite a few youth (about 40), but since the younger families were moving away, there were only about four. Parents came to church, not to make it strong, but for healing. There were hard times there and it was tough. One particularly hard day, Spike went home and after reflecting on a Byzantine icon he had acquired from Greece, he lit a candle and prayed for hours. He thought, God, I don't know what you have gotten me into, but if you will provide a moving truck, I will not step foot into another Presbyterian church.

He thought that the ministry was what he could or would do with the church. That is not how it works. Sin is much bigger than our mistakes. Sin affects all we do and are. We need to confess our mistakes, hopes and dreams and plans made to save our lives. Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. If we try to save ourselves we will lose our lives.

Rayford. B. was one of the church members who was having a medical procedure the next day. Spike still had not energy at all. He did speak with Rayford's wife, Sue at the hospital. Spike tried to smile, but he had nothing to give. He stayed with them. The doctor ended up being called away to an emergency so the procedure was delayed. Spike and the family waited and prayed and sat in silence. After a while Rayford looked at Spike and said, "I am grateful to God that you are my pastor." Needless to say, the moving truck never came. Jesus came.

It is not our plan. It is what Jesus Christ wants to be in and through us. Our goal and life in church is constructed by the mission of Jesus Christ. If we are to get new life, first we must die.


Good Friday

Jesus Christ, having been arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane by the Temple Guards through the guidance of Judas Iscariot, is brought to the house of Annas, who is father-in-law of the current high priest Caiaphas. There he is interrogated with little result, and sent bound to Caiaphas the high priest, where the Sanhedrin had assembled (John 18:1-24).

Conflicting testimony against Jesus is brought forth by many witnesses, to which Jesus answers nothing. Finally the high priest adjures Jesus to respond under solemn oath, saying "I adjure you, by the Living God, to tell us, are you the Anointed One, the Son of God?" Jesus testifies in the affirmative, "You have said it, and in time you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Almighty, coming on the clouds of Heaven." The high priest condemns Jesus for blasphemy, and the Sanhedrin concurs with a sentence of death (Matthew 26:57-66).

In the morning the whole assembly brings Jesus to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, under charges of subverting the nation, opposing taxes to Caesar, and making himself a king (Luke 23:1-2). Pilate authorizes the Jewish leaders to judge Jesus according to their own Law and execute sentencing, however the Jewish leaders reply that they are not allowed by the Romans to carry out a sentence of death (John 18:31).

Pilate questions Jesus, and tells the assembly that there is no basis for sentencing. Upon learning that Jesus is from Galilee, Pilate refers the case to the ruler of Galilee, King Herod, who was in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Herod questions Jesus but receives no answer; Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate tells the assembly that neither he nor Herod have found guilt in Jesus; Pilate resolves to have Jesus whipped and released (Luke 23:3-16).

Pilate has Jesus flogged, then brings him out to the crowd to release him. The chief priests inform Pilate of a new charge, demanding Jesus be sentenced to death "because he claimed to be God's son." This possibility filled Pilate with fear, and he brought Jesus back inside the palace and demanded to know from where he came (John 19:1-9).

Coming before the crowd one last time, Pilate declares Jesus innocent, washing his own hands in water to show he has no part in this condemnation. Nevertheless, Pilate hands Jesus over to be crucified in order to forestall a riot (Matthew 27:24-26). Jesus carries his cross to the site of execution, called the place of the Skull, or "Golgotha" in Hebrew and "Calvary" in Latin. There he is crucified along with two criminals (John 19:17-22).


Legend of the Dogwood Tree

An old and beautiful legend has it that, at the time of the crucifixion, the dogwood was comparable in size to the oak tree and other monarchs of the forest. Because of its firmness and strength it was selected as the timber for the cross, but to be put to such a cruel use greatly distressed the tree. Sensing this, the crucified Jesus in his gentle pity for the sorrow and suffering of all said to it: "Because of your sorrow and pity for My sufferings, never again will the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a gibbet. Henceforth it will be slender, bent and twisted and its blossoms will be in the form of a cross -- two long and two short petals. In the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints -- brown with rust and stained with red -- and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see this will remember."


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Maundy Thursday Service

Our Maundy Thursday Service was held this evening at 7pm at St. Andrew's Presbyterian church. The sermon presented by Spike Coleman was the first part of a three part sermon series. The 2nd part will be presented on tomorrow at the Good Friday Service which will be on tomorrow evening at the church at 7:00 PM. The final sermon will be presented on Easter Sunday. Easter Sunrise Service will be at 7:00am on Sunday morning. Regular worship service will be at 11:00am on Sunday morning. Please join us for all of the activites we will have this Holy Week. All are welcome!

The sermon presented at the Maundy Thursday service this evening was entitled, More Than Just a God Example. (God, not "good) The scripture less is John 13: 1-17 , 31-35.

Sermon Summary: Jesus Christ is the mission of God for the world. The disciples shared the message of Jesus Christ and shared the good news of the word. Jesus gave his disciples the ultimate commandment, that we should love one another. The word "Maundy" comes from the Latin for 'command' (mandatum). It refers to the command given by Jesus at the Last Supper, that his disciples should love one another.

Spike grew up in Lunchburg with friend named Joe. Joe had a very tough upbringing. He was very athletic and played various sports throughout his school career. He was always a terrible student when it came to grades. He had an abusive parent, his father, who told him over and over that he was stupid. Eventually Joe believed that and his grades suffered for it. He suffered physical abuse as well in the form of beatings. Joe was desperate for love and friendship.

When Spike was in his first year at Duke, Joe was in high schol and was just miserable. His life was filled with drug abuse, alcohol and promiscuity. He just could not overcome what he endured at the hands of his abusive parents. He developed bad patterns of living. Whenever Spike came home and encountered Joe, they would pray together for Joe to have a better life and to make changes. Joe would try to hold on but pretty soon, the same people (not friends) would come around and Joe would be back to his old way of life. What would have made a difference?

As a pastor, Spike struggles with how we can help people right here break the power of sin. How can we help people hear that good news? Jesus Christ gives us a new commandment: Mandatum Novum. Mandatum Novum is from the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you"). Jesus Christ unites us to share in his life and mission.

Jesus Christ knew that with the passover his hour had come. "Hour" is repeated several times in the scripture. It is not an hour as we know it--60 minutes. The hour is the reason why God sent Jesus Christ into the world. All is fulfuilled in that hour. Jesus Christ knew that he was about to leave his disciples. He also knew what Satan had put into Judas's heart to do. In his last moments he shared the most important thing he could with the disciples. He washes their feet. Jesus Christ takes on the role of a servant.

In those days they did not have shoes like we have today. With all the walking they did, their feet were very dirty. Jesus Christ girds his waist with a towel and shocks the disciples with his humility by washing their feet. This is the same God who spoke into the darkness, separated light from dark and gave us the breathe of life. This is the one who has become their slave. Judas does not get it. Peter is not so sure either. Jesus tells Peter he will understand after. Be patient. Peter is eager but confused. Jesus knows that if he does not wash his feet, he will have no share in him. He is showing them what it means to share in his be the God example.

Jesus is preparing them to be the community of love, preparing them for life after the resurrection. If we are to proclaim the good news, then we must embody it. Be proof positive the gospel is true...the lame walk, the blind can see and the dead get a new life. People have to see that in us first. What does it mean to share in the mission of Jesus Christ? If we follow his God example, then, we will understand, As we obey it will make sense and love will flourish. Jesus Christ calls us to be a community of love, to love one another. Jesus Christ gives us the new commandment, to love on another as he first loved us. Jesus does much more than that when he washes the feet of the disciples. He offers us himself. He offers his body and his blood for the sins of the world. Jesus Christ wants us to share in his risen life as we gather around the table.


Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is the Thursday of Holy Week (the Thursday before Easter). It was the day on which Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples, sharing a meal with them which we call the Last Supper.
In those days it was usual for a servant to wash the guests feet on arrival. On this occasion there was no servant present and none of the disciples volunteered to do the menial task. Instead, Jesus got up and washed his disciples feet, giving them an object lesson in humility and service.

The word "Maundy" comes from the Latin for 'command' (mandatum). It refers to the command given by Jesus at the Last Supper, that his disciples should love one another.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Seder Meal

The Seder meal is a feast of unleavened bread or the Last Supper. St. Andrew's had the first Seder meal on April 4Th. We all gathered in the Fellowship Hall around the tables and shared our meal. Here are pictures of our Seder Meal. The meal lasted for several hours but it was well worth it. Having the same meal as the Israelites was something to be experienced. The children, of course, had parts as well. Everyone said they enjoyed it and look forward to having the Seder meal again next year!

Elements of the Meal


Lamb The word 'pesach' (pasch, passover) applies to the Lamb of sacrifice as well as to the deliverance from Egypt and to the feast itself.

Unleavened bread (Matzoh) called "bread of affliction" because it recalls the unleavened bread prepared for the hasty flight by night from Egypt. Three large matzohs are broken and consumed during the ceremony.

Bitter herbs (Moror) is a reminder of the bitterness of slavery and suffering in Egypt.

Green herbs to be dipped in salt water. Salt water represents tears of sorrow shed during the captivity of the Lord's people.

Haroseth (or 'haroses') represents the mortar used by Jews in building palaces and pyramids of Egypt during their slavery. (It is a mixture of chopped apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine.)

Wine is dipped from a common bowl. The 'Four Cups,' Thanksgiving, Hagadah ('telling'), Blessing, and Melchisedek ('righteousness'), are "four different words for redemption, spoken by God to Moses."


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Food Memories

Sunday Sermon Summary April 1, 2007

Strawberries are now in season. Spike Coleman's parents have come down just for the berries. Spike's favorite food as a child was strawberries and cream. The significance surpasses just the taste. He is taken back to fond memories. Fond memories of another table where he was loved unconditionally... Memories of eating berries with his grandfather.

It is about love that his grandfather had for Spike as he allowed him into his life. They did many things together. They golfed, fished, went to Sunday school and church. He was the child who could not sit still. His grandfather shared so many experiences with him that he learned what it meant to be a beloved grandson. His family story took place in a larger context.

His family table was given new meaning by the table of the Lord. The Lord's table gives us many things as God's children. We are loved. After berries with his grandfather, Spike and his grandfather would pull out the bible and read scripture and have prayers together. His witness to Jesus Christ let him know he was a beloved child and a child of God.

Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem and he had Passover with the disciples. The passover let the Jews know that they were God's chosen people. they got freedom from slavery and Pharaoh. When the youngest begins by asking, "what makes this night unlike any other?" we discover who we are. Jesus Christ took on flesh and blood and is the passover lamb. He fulfills it, not confirms it. The law and prophets are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. WE discover what it means to be human and God's children. We are brothers and sisters In Christ.

Spike's family went to church because it was who they are, not because they had to. Jesus Christ invites us to the table. Our very identity is part of a story we did not create. It is part of undeserved love. God sent Jesus to us. The church is who we are as the body of Christ. When we try to separate ourselves from that, we seek meaning in life from other places that pale in comparison. We are children of God, chosen to be his people.

Jesus Christ invites us to know who we are this Holy Week. Dodge the controversies. Spike and his grandfather has a great relationship. He taught, through his stewardship and discipline, that all he had was a special gift. His life was to be lived for the benefit of others. Holy Week is the most sacred week for Christians. We are invited to discover anew who we are and how we should live.

Spike's grandfather has died but his relationship with him has not ended. Our lives are not over. This week when Spike goes to gather strawberries with his parents, he will be reminded that Jesus lives and so does his the kingdom of heaven. Aren't you hungry?