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Holy Anxiety (Sermon December 6, 2015)

Philippians 1:3–11 (NRSV) Iwan_Schischkin_002-medium

Paul’s Prayer for the Philippians

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

 

The season leading up to Christmas and shortly after, is one of my favorite times of the year. I know it sounds pretty cliché but it is not about the gifts, mainly because I am a terrible gift giver. I think it has something to do with the whole concept of leaving my job at a store and going back into a store when I am not working that just has an adverse effect to my mental wellbeing. What is it about this season if it is not the gifts, I really like the gatherings. I love the idea of friends and family coming together and sharing meals and laughter with one another. We live in such a busy spread out culture that we rarely gather, there is too much to do. I love these gathering because these are the times that memories are made. The moments we stop what we are doing to enjoy the fruit of our labors.

The season of advent is a season of longing. It is a season to celebrate the anticipation of the coming messiah. It is a time to recognize the hope that those in ancient days looked forward to and to remember that we too are longing for the fulfilment of that coming to be seen today. I have a fear that as we mature physically and emotionally we forget about the anticipation and longing of the season. Kids on the other hand they get it, well I should clarify that by saying they get the longing of the season though maybe not the reason we should be longing. Advent is filled with longing but also joy. There is hope for those of us in Christ because there is a reason behind our longings, we do not wait appearance of the king, but we are waiting for the return of the king.

There is a difference in these longings. Those of ancient days were longing for the Messiah, they had these preconceived ideas of how this person would look and act. They studied this in great detail, to such a degree that when the one came many missed it. We on the other hand have the actual personality revealed to us, we know what to expect and our hope is not in hypotheses but in observations. There is a difference in the two types of longing. One is based on ideas the other is based on experience. One is founded on interpretation of hope, the other is anticipating the fulfillment of that hope in the world around us. One is like living in the shadow where the other is like turning around and walking toward the light.

This holy anxiety is something that I would like us to consider today. Anxiety might not be the best word to use, but the idea of a joyful anticipation that cannot be stilled in response to this turning from the shadows to walk in the light. Paul understood this holy anxiety. Last week we got a glimpse of it when we read his prayer to the Thessalonians, today we see it again as he writes to the people of Philippi. Both of these places were in Macedonia, both were people Paul was called to minister through the vision he received while at a cross road in Troas. He could have gone south to Ephesus or north across the sea into the heart of the Hellenistic world. God led him to the north and Paul began the ministry that brought the Gospel of Christ to the west.

There is a difference in the joy, the holy anxiety that Paul feels between these two cities. To the Thessalonians the anxiety was a longing that they would remember and to the Philippians there is joy that they have continued. Some biblical scholars feel that a more accurate translation of Paul’s opening would be, “I thank God for your remembrance of me.” Instead of him thanking God when he remembers them. There is something to that statement. They remember him and he is aware of their remembrance. This could only mean that they were participants in the continued ministry that Paul started among them. If you were to look at a map you would see that Paul would have gone from Troas directly to Philippi, and from Philippi to Thessalonica. So the Philippians were the first Macedonians to encounter the Gospel. And they were so engrossed in the new life that Christ had to offer that they assisted Paul in spreading the gospel throughout their land.

I think that it is a valid point that the scholars make because of how Paul continues his greeting and prayer of blessing. The next verses he speaks of the joy that he has for them because they participated in the spreading of the Gospel from the first day until the moment he penned the letter. They were active, their belief was more than just knowledge based but it moved into the deeper regions where they put their very lives into the hands of God and allowed Him to direct their paths.

He says to them, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” Witness the holy anxiety. There is a longing not only within the life of Paul but one that he senses within the lives of the community of Philippi. Something began in their lives and it continues to well up within them, it stirs and moves, it makes it difficult to stay still, they are on the verge of becoming charismatic Quakers literally moved by the Spirit. But I want us to focus on the word began. The use of this word means that they are involved in a process that started at one point and is growing. A seed is taking hold and through the fullness of time will bring forth fruit. It began, it continues to press through the anticipation of advent reaching out to that glorious day of the return of the one on whom we lay our hope.

Life with Christ is a process it is a journey that begins, and stretches along life’s pathways as we walk toward the light. The difference between the greeting Paul give the Philippians and that of the Thessalonians is that the Philippians continue to walk with their faces pointing to the sun, where the Thessalonians turned their heads and begun to cast shadows. Paul looks to the Philippians with increasing joy, and those in Thessalonica there is thoughts of nostalgia.

Last week I asked a very personal question, I asked each of us to consider why this meeting called me. I asked this because I have a great deal of love for this meeting, it is something very deep within my spirit. To be fully honest I longed to be here with an anxiety that I could only say was God’s calling. When I left from the care of this meeting, I walked out into the life of being a pastor knowing that eventually I would be back here. What surprised me was the timing. I did not understand the longing that I had stirring within my soul, was it a stirring of nostalgia a longing to return home to the comfort of home or was it this joy similar to what Paul feels with Philippi? That is my own part of this journey. But what is yours? Was the longing that you had one of nostalgia or anticipation for the next phase of the journey?

Paul writes to these people of Philippi, the people that first responded to his ministry in Macedonia, and he longs for them with a longing of continued partnership. He urges them in his prayer to continue pressing on toward the goal before them. He prays that the love of God will overflow among them that they will become a greater blessing to those around them, and that as they continue with their journey toward Christ that the very Spirit of God will grant them greater knowledge and insights in how to proceed.

There is a reason that Paul writes this prayer, because Philippi is a very important place. It was an important port for Macedonia, a center for gladiatorial sport, and the religious cult of Dionysus. We are far removed from the ancient practices of the pre-Christian Roman Empire so many do not understand the importance this has, but Dionysus is the Greek form of the god Bacchus. This is the god of wine, merry-making, and insanity. This god was believed to be a shape shifter that would appear as a drunk man that would shift into a frenzied lion or bear. Those that participated in the worship Dionysus would engage in drunkenness, fornications, and would work themselves up into a violent frenzy where they would rip sacrificial animal apart with their hands. Rituals of this kind were so disorderly and threatening to the community that the roman government was forced to regulate it. Much of the letter to the Philippians was written to encourage the community of Christ to live his lifestyle even though so much of their culture opposed the ideas of Christ.

Remember his prayer again, that love would overflow abundantly, filled with knowledge and insight. This prayer and these words speak volumes to our own culture that seems to be fixated on intoxication, sexuality, and violence. Our current era is far from the debauchery those ancient Philippians witnessed daily. I admit that we as a culture have turned our faces away from the light of Christ and are standing in the shadows instead of facing the light of God’s grace, but there is hope. All we are experiencing today are things that our spiritual ancestors face two thousand years ago and they filled Paul’s life with joy.

We are called also. We are called to live through this time. God has given us gifts to minister to the people of this era, He will continue to give us insight that will direct our paths for His glory. Do not lose heart. Do not lose hope. Have faith that the one who began this work in our lives will see it through. Believe that we will see a harvest. Pray for knowledge, pray for insight, and pray for an overflowing abundance of love. It is the life of Christ that turns people away from the emptiness of the world. It is lives that reflect the holy lifestyle of Christ, that give this broken world hope.

When people experience the love God has for them through us it causes them to question us and themselves. When we live the love of Christ with them and encouraging them to walk in faith they have to respond with belief or rejection. Remember who the people Paul wrote this letter to, they were a people that were once actively pursuing a life totally dedicated to the satisfaction of their own lusts, yet they turned from those ways to embrace life with Christ. They actively pursued this life and spread this life from the very moment they heard and continued long after Paul left from their presence. This tells us that our current culture is not irredeemable, there is still hope. If God can turn Philippians to Him He can do a great work among us.

The question is how do we move from where we are today into that anticipated future in Christ? We get to that place only by loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others. We get to that place when we stop arguing about who is right or wrong and encouraging others to embrace life with God.

We live in a culture that is broken, hurting, spiritually sick and hungry. We live in a world that does not need more judgement but hope. We have that hope, we know that Christ came just as the ancients hope for. We know that he was born, lived, and taught us how to live life with God, and He made that life possible through His death and resurrection. He empowers us to continue the work He began by giving us the Holy Spirit who gives us all the gifts we need to spread the Gospel of the kingdom in our communities, states, nation, and world. He gives us gifts of teaching, healing, encouraging, hospitality, wealth, music, art, and various others. He gives these gifts for his glory and our joy. He gives us all we have for this time and this place. I ask again, “why did you call me?” Am I here to pat you on the back and say we are better than others or to encourage you to continue participating in the spreading of the Gospel? I long with the compassion of Christ that his love will overflow more and more among you and this meeting, and that we will see the fulfillment of what He began in our lives.

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Truth is Life Shared (Sermon November 22, 2015)

John 18:33–37 (NRSV)

33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

 

0801-sharing-econ-630x420As we head into the holiday season, we begin by remembering the things of which we give thanks. This is one of the greatest traditions in all of America, and is a tradition that is really unique to our culture. When I was in Ukraine and the students I worked with were curious about our culture, the most common question after how much money I had was, “What is Thanksgiving?” How would you answer that question? We say that it is a religious holiday, but has never been a day universally recognized by the greater church body. That being said it does have a spiritual dimensions to it. If we practice it properly we slow down our lives and reflect on things that have true meaning in our lives. Oddly enough the secular and religious communities seem to consider the same things as important on that day, because it is the busiest period of time for travel. And people travel to meet with family and friends. I want us to consider Thanksgiving, as we reflect on this passage today. The activities that we participate in and why it is that we do those things.

I said that the universal church does not necessarily consider this holiday to be one of their liturgical holy days, but that does not mean that the roots do not have spiritual meaning. The first thanksgiving, the one we learned about in grade school, is a day that the pilgrims celebrated the harvest with the indigenous people of America. The reason they celebrated the harvest was because they were puritans, and the puritans were a group of people that attempted to conform all of life around scripture. They were deeply devoted people, and they only celebrated holidays that were listed in scripture. And the holiday that they were celebrating was a form of the Feast of Booths. This particular holiday in ancient days was a feast that lasted seven days, seven because when God commands a celebration He intends that we really celebrate. But this holiday was to remind the people of their exodus and wanderings, how they lived in tents and shared all that they had because all they had was a direct gift from God. As they moved away from the exodus this festival became one of great importance, they were commanded to leave their house for a week, set up camps, and to share the fruits of their harvest. It was a festival that celebrated the end of the growing cycle, and the abundance that was given to them. During this festival all people were considered equal all were wanderers in the world and if someone wandered to your tent they were treated as a guest and were asked to join in your feast. The first thanksgiving was an attempt at recreating this festive atmosphere where we are mindful that all that we have is a blessing from God and it is not to be hoarded but shared.

Today we read a passage that does not seem too festive. Most of us would not choose to read a passage about a trial that would eventually lead to an execution as something to highlight a time to be thankful, but this is actually a beautiful passage. I will be honest, it has been hard for me to focus on one central theme because as I have studied the passage left me sitting in awe. I have found myself reading and then caught up in the words, unable to move forward because the Spirit of God urged me to just consider what is being said more fully. It has been a week filled with reflection.

“Are you the King of the Jews?” Pilate asks to opens the conversation. This is a loaded question, because no matter how Jesus would answer it consequences would follow. Is he the king? Pilate is not asking if he is a rebel wishing to start a revolution, but he is honestly asking if Jesus is the hereditary king or ordained ruler of the Jewish people. The answer that Jesus gives is actually quite intriguing, “Do you ask this on your own or did others tell you about me?” This is intriguing because it causes Pilate and everyone else that reads this passage to reconsider what was being said. Did Pilate consider Jesus the King of the Jews? Did he come to his own conclusion about the personality before him? Did the political power structure truly believe that Jesus was a threat to their status, or was this simply a case of jealousy by people attempting to maintain some semblance of power? By answering Pilate in this manner Jesus causes his questioner to contemplate not only his politics but also the actions of the man before him. He had to actually look at Jesus’ life and lifestyle, the way He lived and consider why Jesus did what he was doing. For the questioner there is no easy answer. Is He the king?

Pilate does not want to actually consider this, it challenges everything he knows in the world. Jesus did not act like anyone else he knew, he did not seek power yet He stood there accused. So Pilate says, “How should I know I’m not a Jew. But why have your own leaders sent you here?”

This is where this passage gets me. Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” This single verse is what caused me to stop and think for the past week. Words like fight, from, world, kingdom, and followers all seemed to lunge toward me leapt from the page and implant themselves into my mind. I realized I never really understood what was being spoken.

Imagine yourself in the conversation. Jesus is telling you these words. “My kingdom, what I find most important is not what you think. If it was I would have armed agents keeping me from being arrested. This is not about a debate or a championship bout, the things you spend your day investing in. What I find most important is not territory, power, or fame. I am interested in life.”

This is why this passage struck me as beautiful. It is a testimony of peace and freedom, but not because it has been liberated but because it is released. So often we think of our faith in Christ as a battle between good and evil, a war between what is right and wrong, but in our fights we can become distracted. Jesus says if my kingdom was the same as yours my followers would fight. The word fight used here is to describe a contest between athletes in an arena or a debate within a forum. These are the things that are important to the world. Connected to a “fight” in this sense of the word is fame, fortune, entertainment, and power. The idea of convincing people that you or your ideas are the most important or that you are the champion. It speaks of numbers, votes, status, and wealth everything that the world deems as being symbols of status and worth in a society. Jesus is saying if that is what I wanted you could not have touched me, but that is not at all what is important. What is important is much deeper.

What then is his kingdom? If he is not interested in the fight, or the debate what is important? This is the heart of the feast of Thanksgiving. The feast of Booths and the day of thanksgiving revolves around everything Jesus came to bring us. A life of abundance, a life filled with joys of companionship. We gather in the dining rooms on a holiday for no other reason than to enjoy the company of other. We visit with the people that we do not have to fight with to be seen as acceptable.

In my family Thanksgiving was probably the most important holiday of the year. As I am speaking here today my family is making their way from Texas, Colorado, and all across Kansas to meet together in a small town in the middle of nowhere. My family has a wide range of political views, they have various careers, and differing ideas on religious practice (though predominately Quaker). But when it comes to family all those differences fall away. My salary is of no concern, my job only matters if it brings joy, and politics might make interesting conversation but they do not really care. The important thing is that we are there together. If we cannot be together someone will pick up a phone and everyone will yell their greetings. We eat, we laugh, we enjoy a game, and we sing. Everyone gives something and no one leaves without a deep sense of belonging.

His kingdom is not from the world. His kingdom is from something deeper, a place that connects us together in ways that go beyond the superficial. His kingdom is life. His kingdom revolves around our relationships with each other and with God. It removes all the things our society deems important. Everyone sits together equal, sharing what we have to encourage and bless those around us.

Pilate listens to Jesus as He basically told him that everything he stands for is pointless, and Pilate ask, “So you are a king?” Pilate missed the point. He acknowledge that Jesus had something great, that there was something that gave Jesus power over the people but he did not quite understand what the use of that power was for. He did not get it because he is a man from the world instead of a man dedicated to life. Jesus responds again saying that he came for one reason, to testify to the truth, and that everyone that belongs to truth hears his voice.

As I sat this week contemplating this passage, it occurred to me that often I am just like Pilate. I miss the point and I enter into the fights of the world. I engage in debates trying to convince those around me that my way of thinking is the right way and if they disagree they are wrong. I spend my time chasing after the things that hold value in society, a job title and the influence that that can bring as well as the income. That is why it struck me so hard. I toil and struggle wondering if I am a success or a failure, and all I really need is right here around me. It is in the screams of joy I hear when I walk through the door. It is in the songs of praise I lift up on a Sunday morning. It is in the shared meals that I have with friends and family every day of the week. The most important things are not the achievements or the gains but it is the things shared. It is the shared life and the holy rhythm that Jesus taught us a life of worship, prayer, and service. The life of loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others. That is why Jesus came, he came to save us from the emptiness of the world so that we could know the truth of life. Life with Him and each other.

As we enter into this time of Holy Expectancy and communion in the manner of Friends, let us reflect of the truth that Jesus brought us. Let us consider the life he wishes to give us, and let us be released to live the truth of Thanksgiving.

Destiny (Sermon November 8, 20150

Hebrews 9:24–28 (NRSV) 100_1981

24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; 26 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

 

I have said on many occasions that there is not many jobs that are more fascinating than to study scripture and then to be able to talk about what I have learned. There are not many waking days where I am not in awe over something that I have learned while reading and contemplating on the words that God inspired humanity to write. It may not be something new but nearly every day God will show me something fresh, something that previously I was overlooking and by reading the words from a different perspective it is as if I traveled over the rainbow leaving behind the grays of the past and am thrusted into a world of vibrant color.

For several weeks we have walked through the book of Hebrews together focusing on the technical aspects of the priestly office that Jesus fulfilled. I pointed out that there is not really any contemporary office that actually hold a similar role. Even among the ceremonially rich churches of the Eastern and Roman orders the priest do not fully hold the same function. In the ancient sacrificial system the priest carried the blood of the sacrifice into the holy place, where the priest of today only say, “Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” Even though the priest announces pardon for sin they only speak for the ones that have already carried out the purification for us.

But this is not what has gotten me excited this week. I feel the writer of Hebrews has fully explained the office and function of the priest and how Christ has not only fulfilled but eradicated the necessity of that office. What has me excited is the last half of this passage. “[He] has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.” I am sure you are sitting there wondering why this is so amazing to me but Friends this is what theologians would call eschatology, or the study of the end. You see what the writer of Hebrews is proclaiming is that the age of the priesthood, the age of the temple, and all the things that once were known have come to completion and everything from this moment on is a new age. Many that reject the Messiahship of Jesus, hold their defense on the premise on theology that was not from ancient times but ideas that largely became mainstream in the past century. The idea that Jesus has yet to usher in the end of days after two thousand years. They will then say that we should not accept Christ because by his own words he would have done this within a generation of those that lived during that time, or approximately 70 years.

What gets me excited is that the writer of Hebrews most likely wrote this letter around the year 64 of the Common Era. Scholars have dated it to this because the descriptive language uses the tabernacle, the tent used prior to the construction of the temple, and an illustration instead of using the temple. They claim that this descriptive language was used because a tent has less permanence than a building constructed of stone, a building that people perceived to be indestructible. This lack of permanence was a greater illustration of the permanence of Christ’s sacrifice, so scholars conclude that the letter was written prior to the destruction of the Temple in the 70th year of the Common Era. Christ did this at the end of the age, and within a generation and shortly after the letter to the Hebrews was written the entire expression of faith among Christian and Jews alike radically changed. The era or the age of the temple no longer exists, sacrifice no longer occurs, so both branches of faith must now explain how sin is absolved. For the Christian a more perfect and complete sacrifice has been presented before the mercy seat of God through the very blood of Jesus, but what covers the sin of those that do not claim Christ?

When we consider the timing of the letter the pages of scripture open up in a different light, Christ came at the end of the age. He actually did fulfill the prophesied words that he spoke and within a generation all people of faith had to face the very grim reality that everything they once held as being important within their faith no longer mattered. Without sacrifice there is no priest without a priest where does our salvation come, who will stand before God for us? Did God turn his back on the nation or is something else happening?

There was a brief glimpse into this emerging era while the people lived in exile. While in exile when the first temple was destroyed the people began to wonder how faith could continue without a temple. It was during this time frame that the budding branches of what we see today began to emerge upon the pages of history, but a problem remained during that brief time. The people of faith, though faithful, were still in their sin. This lead the great heroes of the faith Ezra and Nehemiah come onto the scenes of history to rebuild the city and the temple so that the people could once again have the assurance that they were acceptable before God. Then the abomination that causes desolation happened, they had a temple but it was unclean and unable to be used. Which prompted the uprising that lead to the reemergence of the nation of Israel. The temple was again reestablished but there was this constant threat from outside that gentile forces might again be able to separate God from the people. For 70 years they lived without assurance and for approximately 400 they lived with the knowledge that their salvation was not secure. They lived on the cusp of the end, and the writer of Hebrews announces that through Christ our justification eternally secure. Through the perfect sacrifice from the highest of priests with the offering of his very own blood, Jesus enters into the most holy of holy places far greater than the sanctuary constructed by the hands of mankind and presents himself before the throne of God to intercede for us.

This tells us something. The age of the temple, the age of the law, the age of constant sacrifices year after year has come to an end and in this end time Jesus stands firm. For two thousand years this new age that emerged through Jesus has continued. The kingdom that Jesus professed has moved beyond the borders of the nation we call Israel and it has stretched to the east and the west. The Kingdom of God has become the primary influence of nations, and continents. The influence of Christ has brought nations and empires to their knees and confessions have been made that He alone is Lord. We have lived in this eschatology for millennia. But He is not finished yet.

This theologically packed passage continues, “And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment.” This is a verse I wish many in the contemporary church would remember. We as mortal men and women have an appointment with death. It is our destiny to eventually move from what we know here and pass through the veil of life into the mystery of death. It is our destiny to make this journey, and we make it once. This word is used twenty-two times in scripture and is the very word that great theologians have constructed the concept of predestination around. Our destiny is to live and die and to face what lies beyond. Consider this for a moment. In the ancient days the faithful could face that day with assurance because the priest stood between them and God, the priest stood on their behalf with the blood of sacrifice that covered their sins. Those ancient days have come to an end the temple and the tabernacle are no more who will stand with us as we meet our appointment with destiny?

Again we can consider the implications of the theological concepts but if Christ does not stand for us we will meet that predestined time having to give a full account on our own. Jesus taught in his sermons that it was said do not commit adultery, but if we have ever looked upon another with eyes of lust we have sinned even if we have not physically engaged in the act. He also said that the law says do not commit murder but that if anyone has ever spoken a curse upon another they have participated in the essence of this sin. We can go line by line through his teachings, and find that not one of us has a chance to honestly stand without condemnation. Who will stand for us? Who will stand with us as we meet conclude our preordained journey of life?

”So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” This again refers back to the image of the tabernacle. As the priest enters the most holy place to stand before God, the people stand on the outside waiting. They wait with the knowledge that the sacrifice should cover their sins, but it cannot be fully experienced until the priest returns from the inner rooms. The priest stands as a representative of the nation before God and returns as God’s answer. The sin is removed or covered by the blood but will they be saved will they continue to be accepted as the people of God? Imagine for a moment that period of time. The priest dressed in his holy garments has performed the rites before you and the entire nation, and he turns to face the veil. He is fully aware of a number of sins that have been committed by the people he is to represent. Each of those sins are enough to send not only that individual but the entire nation out of the presence of the most high and only true God. He slowly approaches the curtain. The words are spoken with uncertain boldness, steps are taken deeper and deeper within. The figure is no longer able to be seen and we sit waiting in limbo. Sin is forgiven but will the covenant remain?

You see that is the central aspect of the priesthood. If the priest does not return the relationship, the covenant or marriage between the people and God is severed. So often we do not see the difference between the forgiveness of sin and salvation. We assume they are one in the same but they deal with two different things. One is legal and one is relational. The people of the nation must sit waiting as the priest is in the holy of holies, they wait to hear and see God’s response to their pleas of forgiveness and remain their God. Will he preserve them or will they be left alone to drift without His direction.

Christ carried the blood into that holy place and the people, us included waited as he lay in a tomb buried. For three days they wait unsure of what was going on. Wondering if maybe they were wrong about everything. Yet they waited. They waited and it was revealed to them, Jesus emerged from the grave removing the sting of our destiny with death allowing us to look at our bleak future with renewed hope. Nothing can separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus. He is our priest and life with Him is our destiny. Our sins are forgiven but do we eagerly wait for him? Do we embrace his life and his lifestyle as we eagerly wait for the transitions of time? Through Christ the old has passed away and all things are made new. The old systems of faith have passed away and a new era has emerged where there is no more bondage of sin. Through Christ we can change the world and through Christ and reflecting his lifestyle we can see his kingdom expand all around us.

So often we get trapped into thinking we stand on our own. We get trapped into thinking that we must be perfect that we must be pure in our own strength. The truth is all we have to do is eagerly wait on the Spirit of God that is our salvation that is our destiny. Christ is our hope, He is our salvation, but not just for us but for the whole world. He came to give us life, and life to the full. This does not remove our appointed meeting with our mortal end but it does change things, we can live today in his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We can today live at peace with God and work toward peace with mankind if we eagerly wait on him. As we enter into this time of Open worship and holy expectancy I encourage us all to contemplate on this: consider the destiny of Christ, and where we are with him, consider what salvation is and what it is for, and eagerly wait and experience the joy of our relationship with the one that brought about a new era and era of God with us.

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Jared A. Warner

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