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The New Covenant that Changes Everything

Maundy Thursday

The New Covenant that Changes Everything

Text: Hebrews 10:15-25

613.  Jewish tradition teaches that there are 613 commandments in the laws of Moses.  Could you even imagine keeping straight 613 commandments?  Most people I’ve met don’t even know all 10 Commandments.  How could you keep straight 613?  There were laws about cleanliness, laws about family, laws about civil justice, laws about worship and festivals and sacrifices.  613 laws to obey.

These laws served as a sort of hedge for the people of Israel.  They set them apart as being “different” than all the other people of the world.  They were cleaner.  They were more pure.  They were more sanctified in their living.  They were more dedicated to their God.  Thus, God told them that if they obeyed he would be their God and they would be his people.  If they obeyed, that is.

When they didn’t obey, that’s what the system of sacrifices was for.  If you committed this sin, then this sacrifice was required.  And if you committed that sin, then that sacrifice was required.  The message was loud and clear: God is holy.  If there is sin, there must be death and bloodshed to pay for it. Read the rest of this entry

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A Blessed Fellowship

Maundy Thursday

A Blessed Fellowship

1. With Jesus
2. With each other

Text: 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

Have you ever wondered what it was like to live in the Garden of Eden?  That must have been spectacular.  No weeds.  No sweat.  No back pain or arthritis.  No sadness.  No stress.  No calendars or appointments.  No worms in your apples.  No bills.  No high priced gasoline.  Only peace, perfection, and paradise.

But there’s one other aspect of the Garden of Eden that would have been fantastic.  Perfect harmony and communion with God.  Adam and Eve were created in God’s image.  That means that they were perfect, righteous, and holy like God.  What would it have been like to live in perfect peace with God?  No fear of God because you had nothing to hide because you hadn’t done anything wrong.  You knew his word and his will and you always kept them.  If God showed himself and appeared, you wouldn’t run away because it was normal and perhaps even expected.  You were in perfect harmony and fellowship and communion with God.  What was there to be afraid of?

That’s hard for us to imagine, impossible to imagine even, because all we know is the exact opposite.  All we know is fear of God and disharmony and disunity that come from shame and guilt.   Read the rest of this entry

The Risen Savior Reassures with a Personal Touch of Power

3rd Sunday after Easter

The Risen Savior Reassures with a Personal Touch of Power

Text: John 21:1-14

Intro

A lot of planning and preparation goes into Easter.  For our church we have 20,000 postcards to design and mail out.  We have a rummage sale and school open house to get ready.  There are Easter eggs to stuff and hide.  There’s a brunch to host.  We have multiple services to prepare for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter.  The choir starts rehearsing Holy Week music already in January.  A lot of planning and preparation goes into Easter.

The same is true personally too.  Who are you having over for Easter dinner?  When are they arriving?  When are they leaving?  What are you going to eat?  What nice outfit are you going to wear for Easter Sunday?  Can you roll out of bed in time for the sunrise service or will it have to be the late service?  How early do you let your kids start eating their Easter candy?  How long can you put up with a sugar rush?

All that planning and preparation, energy and effort for only one day.  And what a day it was!  Easter was awesome!  The services were festive and uplifting.  The music was powerful and lively.  The food was terrific.  Everyone was smiling and happy.  Our joy was about as high as could be!

Then just like that, Easter was over.  It was done and gone.  Then what?  Well I followed my tradition of every year and went golfing on Easter Monday.  Then I went to the beach with my family.  What did you do?  With Easter over, now what?  Time to sit back and relax?  Back to life as usual?  Time to go fishing? Read the rest of this entry

God Fulfilled His New Covenant Promise

Maundy Thursday

God Fulfilled His New Covenant Promise

Text: Hebrews 10:15-25

Intro

If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands . . . I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people . . . But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant . . . I will bring on you sudden terror . . . I will set my face against you . . . I will punish you for your sins.”

It couldn’t be more simple than that.  God established a very clear covenant with his people.  A covenant is a contract agreement between two parties.  This was the simple covenant God established with his people at Mt. Sinai:  If you obey me and my commands, I will bless you and be with you.  If you do not obey, I will turn from you and punish you for your sins.

God didn’t use hidden codes or secret passwords or confusing words.  He laid out the covenant ground rules in clear and easy to understand language.  You would think that they would have listened and kept the simple terms to this covenant.  After all, with such great promises of blessing from God, why wouldn’t they want to keep the covenant?

We tend to think that way often.  We tell our children not to play with the fine china and not to sass back and not to fight with each other.  Why wouldn’t they want to listen?  Don’t they want special privileges and treats from their parents?  Do they really want to spend the whole day in their rooms with no friends, no toys, and no electronics?

We think the same way in our school.  We tell students to be on time, to wear their uniforms to school, to do their homework, to be respectful to each other and to teachers.  Wouldn’t they want to listen?  Don’t they want good grades on tests and report cards?  Don’t they want special privileges and extra recess time?  Do they really want tardies, detentions, suspensions, or expulsion?

The covenant contract seemed to be so simple and easy.  But the evil sinful nature knows better and wants otherwise.  And Satan knows better and wants otherwise. Read the rest of this entry

Jesus’ Personal Touch of Love

16th Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus’ Personal Touch of Love

Text:  Mark 7:31-37

I.a.

“Did you hear?  Did you hear about that guy?  They say he’s like no one else.  They say he can do incredible, unbelievable things.  They say he made a paralyzed man walk and healed many others.  They say he has provided food for thousands.  Some say that he can even walk on water.  Did you hear about him?  And did you know that he’s here—right here, right now—today?”

The eager and excited friends knew what to do.  They battled their way through the crowds of people.  They pressed and pushed on until finally they reached him.  “Jesus!  Jesus!  Help us!”

They brought forward their friend.  “Help us, Jesus.  He’s deaf.  He can’t talk either.  Help us.  Please.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to have the chance to do the same?  Surely we would love the opportunity.  There could be massive, hording, raucous, Woodstock-like crowds.  It wouldn’t matter.  We’d fight through it.  We would stand in line, push and pull—whatever it takes—all to have the chance to see him face to face.  “Jesus!  Jesus!  Help me!”

“It’s my daughter.  She’s sick.”  “It’s my mother.  She has cancer.”  “It’s my family.  We’re really struggling.”  “It’s me.  I’m lost.  I don’t know where to go.  I don’t know what to do.  I can’t sleep at night.  I’m worried.  I’m confused.  I’m sad.  I’m lonely.”

“Jesus!  Help me.  Please.” Read the rest of this entry