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But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

 

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St. Luke 16:19-31

Trinity I

June 22, 2014

St. Paul’s Anglican Church

 

“Looking Up”

 

There are two main characters in the parable read together this morning.   Lazarus, the beggar, who is the only figure in all of our Lord’s stories with a proper name.  And a “certain rich man” known by the name “Dives,” a Latin term meaning “a wealthy person.”

 

Dives is described as enjoying the “best of everything.” His clothing was the best – linen undergarments and purple robes.  His food was the best, feasting lavishly every day.  His residence was the best.  And we conclude that he was concerned about only one person in life, himself!

 

Lazarus had the worst of everything.  His body was clothed with sores, which were ulcerated (or infected) for that is what the word means.  His food was scant; he would have loved to have eaten just the crumbs which fell from Dives’ table.  His residence was the ground on which he had been laid – or literally, “thrown down.”  No one showed him any care whatsoever – except the dogs which licked his sores.  The one thing he had in life was God – for his name means “God is my help.” 

 

But the scene changes!  We are told that Lazarus died, and angels carried him to Abraham’s “side” as the “guest of honor” at a banquet.  Soon thereafter, Dives also died – and was buried.  And we are told that from the torment and anguish of hell, he could see Abraham and Lazarus far off in comfort.  In arrogance, he asks for Lazarus to perform his bidding and come with a drop of water to cool his parched tongue – exclaiming, “I am tormented in this flame!“

 

Abraham replies with a very kind and affectionate term – “son” (or, literally, “child”).  For in life, he had acted just like a very self-centered, egocentric,spoiled child!  The term of address was tender, but it could not alter the situation.  A great chasm now separated them in the afterlife!  Abraham reminds Dives that in life, he wanted nothing to do with God – and his final state was but the logical outcome of his own choice!  Sobering!

 

So Dives, assuming Lazarus may still be sent to perform his bidding – for the first time thinks about someone other than himself, though still limited only to his family.  He asks that his five brothers be warned not to repeat his folly lest they share his eternal torment.  Abraham replies that his brothers have the Word of God to warn them – if they will only humble themselves to read and follow it.  When Dives protests, saying they need something more spectacular – such as someone resurrected from the dead – Abraham calmly reiterates there is no other way to protection than hearing and heeding the Word of God!

 

There are many important lessons for all of us in this remarkable parable!  For example, there is the observation that Dives’ eternal destiny was not determined by any particular “bad” thing he did!   On the contrary, his indictment was based upon what he did not do!  No respect for God.  No compassion for his own neighbor!

 

There is also the observation that death is the final and common end to which every last one of us will surely come – whether we want to, or not.  …it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment…  In life, you and I are given time and energy and assistance to prepare for eternity!  Jesus holds out no hope for a “second chance.”

 

And then there is the observation that the souls of believers are especially cared for by Almighty God in the hour of death!  The Lord Jesus Christ declared that when the beggar, Lazarus, died, he was carried by angels to Abraham’s side where he found the comfort he never had on earth!  There is something most inviting, something incredibly comforting – for all of us – in these words!

 

But this morning, let us note a single detail in the parable.  It is so small, it could easily go unnoticed.  But it clamors for our attention – because it is so important!  We are told that from the torment of hell, Dives “looked up”!  This is, of course, something he had never done in life!  …and in hell he lift up his eyes…  “Looking up” is one of the great privileges in life!  Without doubt, “looking up” is one of our greatest callings of life!  It is free.  It is simple.  It is rewarding!  It is healthy!  It is so wise!  And it has eternal consequences!

 

The psalmist of old wrote, I will lift up mine eyes… from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.  (Psalm 121).  Yet just how many sons of Adam… just how many daughters of Eve lift up their eyes to the Ancient of Days?  All too few!  Not enough time!  Not enough need!  Not enough energy!  Not enough return!  Not enough value in the eyes of friends and relatives!  And just like Dives, of old, such people never lift up their eyes until it is too late!

 

How did the sea captains of yesteryear navigate the vast oceans?  By looking up – at Polaris and the unblinking constellations!  How do they navigate huge vessels today?  By still looking up – at orbiting GPS satellites.  And if it is important to find our way in boats, planes, and cars by looking up – how much more important is it in life to chart our journey into eternity by “looking up” when we still have time!

 

In our seam of life, when every social issue impinging upon us is categorized as either “left” or “right” – how important for us to remember there is still an “above” and a “below.”  At a time when so many spend their God-given talents to get out in “front” of the competition and not left “behind” the Joneses – how important it is for us to stop and look where no one else is looking – “up”!  At a time when troubles and challenges – severe challenges – are encircling us nationally, how important that we “look up”! …and in hell [Dives] lift up his eyes…

 

We all need a fresh vision of the greatness of God.  We all need to be led regularly into His Presence.  Looking up to Him reminds us of the underlying meaning of life.  Looking up gives all of us the corrective we need in how to live.  Looking up reminds us from whence we came, who we are, and where we are heading – in life and in eternity.  And looking up reminds us of what we can become, by God’s grace and mercy!  Looking up stirs our consciences and brings insight and hope to overcome worry and anxiety! How important to stop and “look up”!

 

The word cynic describes history’s harsh critics.  In the Greek, it means dog-like.  It shares the same root as the word canine.  The cynics were – and still are – so called, at least in part, because all they can do is look down like a dog – at what?  At the dirt!  The dirt of human greed. The dirt of human vice.  The dirt of human failure.  That is all they can see…  They never look up!  …and in hell [Dives] lift up his eyes…

 

One of the contributing factors in Dives’ failure was the fact that he isolated himself from those who could help him. 

 

We all need a home church where we attend regularly and meet with others – to “look up”!  To look up together to the One who made us and call Him “Our Father”!  How much wiser it is to lift up our eyes in corporate worship in this life – than to lift them up in sorrow – like Dives – from a place of unending torment!

 

Historians tell us that when Rome invaded Britain two-thousand years ago, the chiefs of their clans gathered together in council.  Each chief had his own plan for repelling the enemy.  And each was stubbornly insistent upon employing it.  Hopelessly deadlocked, an old, wise and revered chieftain picked up a bundle of sticks and handed one to each present.  “Break them!” he ordered.  Each easily snapped his stick.

 

Then he took an equal number of sticks – and tied them in a tight bundle!  Handing them to his peers, he commanded, “Break them now!”  Even the strongest could not even bend the bundle of sticks – let alone break it!  This is the difference between “solitary religion” and the “fellowship of faith”!  This is how God wants us to “look up” to Him – as His Family – together, each Sunday at the start of the day that marks each new week!

 

We dare not forget that Dives ended up in isolation.  And Lazarus ended up in enjoyable fellowship and communion!

 

Remember Lazarus!  Remember Dives!  Remember… to “look up.” 

World without end. Amen. 

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 St. John 3:1-15

Trinity Sunday

June 15, 2014

St. Paul’s Anglican Church

 

“Ye Must Be Born Again”

 

Words cannot describe the importance of the encounter between our Lord and Nicodemus! 

 

Nicodemus was a “ruler of the Jews” – a member of the Court of Seventy Elders – the Sanhedrin -- the “Supreme Court” of the land.  He was also “the” teacher of Israel – not “a” teacher of Israel – but “the” teacher of Israel.  He had a special responsibility in the religious instruction of God’s people. 

 

The fact that he came to Jesus by night has been interpreted as a weak and fearful act.  But truth be known, it was probably a very respectful gesture, for our Lord’s daily schedule was demanding.  A quiet evening conversation seemed appropriate! 

 

His opening statement – we know… thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles… except God be with him – was not flattery!  It was simple recognition that Christ’s miracles could not be explained any other way!  Nicodemus’ concern was with his own people.  In his dealings with the “best” and “worst” of his countrymen, he knew they were “fallen.”  He saw no hope whatsoever in the “ability” of man! 

 

Jesus, understanding this, immediately went to the “heart” of the issue.  Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  As has been stated so eloquently, except a man be born again, he cannot even find the door to the Kingdom – let alone force his way through it!  Nicodemus, with no confidence in fallen man’s moral capability, asks, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

 

Then Jesus delivers His famous reply: Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 

 

What do these words mean?  The simplest interpretation is the best!  Except a man be cleansed and purified by baptism – regenerated by the Spirit of God – he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.

 

Fallen man is governed by his fallen nature!  It governs his thoughts and emotions… his decisions and habits!  Unchecked, it produces a rigid self-will and egocentricity – from the youngest among us to the oldest among us!  Men and women.  Rich and poor.  Europeans, Asians, Africans, Americans!  And even with the Spirit of God, it takes a lifetime to “correct.”

 

The world in which you and I live is filled with incredible problems… predicaments… crises…!  I do not know if I have ever seen so many problems on God’s earth at one time!  And guess what?  They are all man-made!  The cleverness of sophisticated, fallen man brought them all into being!  And even Christians are all too often sucked into the vortex of humanistic “solutions” – which spins ever faster and deeper in its belief and trust in fallen men (“experts”) and their abilities and humanistic political solutions.

 

People the world over want “change.”  But lo and behold, they do not want change in themselves!  They want the change to be in others!

 

They long for a new world order, in which all wrongs will be righted.  But they do not look for a new order in their own lifestyles, or ethics, or habits, or manners.  And Nicodemus’ concern comes full circle: How is a new world to be built on fallen man?  How is the world to improve using such poor quality bricks and mortar, as it were? 

 

If we can only stop and listen to ourselves, we soon discover how often we forget Jesus’ five words to Nicodemus: Ye must be born again.  Moral problems require moral solutions!  It was not man’s wisdom that overcame the Roman Empire in the First Century!  It was the Gospel!  It was evangelism!  It was Christian education.  It was regeneration based upon Jesus’ message: Ye must be born again. 

 

Even freedom itself in our day is now thought to be the “gift” of civil government!  Yet the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit declares in II Corinthians 3:17 – where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  Freedom is the gift of God, and comes to those regenerated by His Spirit!  Without it freedom is lost!

 

Dear old Samuel Adams, for twenty years an American patriot and Christian leader known as the “Father of the American Revolution” – which was in reality an exercise in self-defense – stated that freedom was, and I quote, “the gift of the Almighty.”  On the very day in which the Declaration of Independence was signed, he wrote: “We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient.  He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.

 

Perhaps no more important words than these are to be found in the entirety of the Bible: Ye must be born again.  “Human generation” simply perpetuates the underlying problem – man’s fallen nature!  Human intelligence and human intuition – despite their touting by the “elites” the world over – are in reality the problem, not the solution!  For they bring forth no moral resolution whatsoever!

 

The supernatural rebirth – being “born again” – breaks the cycle of the Fall in society, in politics, in education, in marriage, in the family, in business, in all of life!

 

With our Lord’s help, Nicodemus “figured it out.”  He was “born again” and it showed!  St. John records him defending Jesus among his peers.  And when all others were running away from Christ’s Cross, there he is carefully helping lower Jesus for burial!

 

Apart from the Holy Spirit of God, man’s work is futile!  In the Spirit, however, we can change and grow. 

 

Where are you today?  What do you know firsthand of these things?  How are you progressing in your development in the Spirit?  Are old humanistic patterns falling by the wayside?  Are new avenues of service to God developing in you?  Regeneration by the Holy Spirit may not eliminate many problems of life.  But it certainly does give power to overcome the problems of life!

 

What is our message to each other as individuals?  What is our message to others regarding the many problems of life?  Jesus spoke it so clearly to Nicodemus, of old!

 

Ye must be born again.  Amen.

St. John 14:15-31

Pentecost

June 8, 2014

St. Paul’s Anglican Church

 

Pentecost celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit to God’s people!  Where would we be without this Guide?  Where would we be without thisEnabler?  Where would we be without this encouraging Companion? Where would we be without the Holy Spirit

 

This morning, let us consider three truths regarding the Holy Spirit… and one error.  Three truths to enjoy and apply and one error to avoid!

 

First, the POWER of the Holy Spirit!  Certainly God the Father is great – governing all things.  Certainly the Son is great – having endured the worst this world had to offer Him… overcoming it all in order to provide a ransom for His people so they could escape from the terror of hell.

 

And certainly the Holy Spirit is great!  Jesus could only be in one place at a time because of our humanity He had taken upon Himself when He came to live among us and show us His ways!  But the Holy Spirit can be – and indeed is -- with all believers at one and the same time!  What a powerfulgift our Lord sent to His people!

 

What brand of folly drives fallen man to think he can thwart the Holy Spirit from accomplishing His holy purposes among us?  Fallen man cannot even see the Holy Spirit… and will he defeat Him??

 

Who can stop the will of the Father?  Who can stop the grace of His Son? Who can stop the power of the Holy Ghost?  Jesus told us the Holy Spirit is like the wind!  He moves gently where He will… and He moves powerfully when He will.  No man can stay His Hand!  Oh, that we may see His moving among us once again – as in the days of old… Pentecost! The Reformation!  The Great Awakening in America’s colonies!

 

The Holy Spirit, we should remember, is depicted in the second verse of the Bible as bringing “form” to the unformed elements God had brought into existence at the start of Creation Week!  He brings form to the formless areas of our lives as well.  Consider the power of the Holy Spirit!

 

Second, the PROVISIONS of the Holy Spirit! 

 

The Holy Spirit brings to God’s people everything they could possibly need to overcome their challenges and please Him!  To troubled hearts He brings “peace.”  To fearful souls He brings hope!  To those without knowledge He brings enlightenment!

 

Look at what he did for the Disciples!  The Holy Spirit took them from hiding behind locked doors following the crucifixion to proclaiming out in the light of day – as described in the Lesson this morning – the Word of God with holy boldness! 

 

And they did not stop there!  As you know, they spread across the then-known world to bring Him to millions of others.  And here in America this morning we find ourselves 2,000 years later the beneficiaries of His great goodness and provisions!

 

And we are told in the New Testament that we have not received the spirit of fear… but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind!  

 

Elsewhere we are reminded that if any of us lacks wisdom, He gives us help and shows us the way – without grudging… only reminding us to be committed to Him and not double-minded!

 

The transformation he brings is seen in the gifts He bestows (known as the “fruit of the Spirit”).  First he brings us a change of heart and character –love… joy… peace!  Then our outlook shifts from ourselves to others –patience… kindness… goodness!  Then a deepening commitment to the Lord Himself – faithfulnessgentlenessself-control!  Remember theprovisions of the Holy Spirit.

 

Third, the PURGING of the Holy Spirit!  To purge is to make clean… to purify!  It is certainly for a good reason and purpose that the Holy Spirit is described as “fire.”  For this is one of His functions!

 

Now fire can do many things!  It can destroy.  But fire can also perform many good functions – such as heating homes… and such as melting metals into their liquid state so that impurities (dross) can be easily removed one item at a time from what is to be purified… 

 

When He forgives us of our sins, their penalty is removed in an instant… as far as the east is from the west!  But when He sanctifies us He removes their power from our character.  This requires a lifetime of joyful discovery as His progress in our lives is revealed daily.  When we die as Christians, we are glorified (the Bible tells us) and removed from the presence of all sin!

 

We are told that God is light – and that He shines His light into our lives, constantly showing us who we are… but also who we are becoming by His Holy Spirit!

 

This transformation from being self-willed and self-deluded to self-controlled and self-governed is not “easy” but let me tell you it is a delight for those who can look back and see what they have passed through!  And God does not spare His children from it.  This does not destroy… but ennobles them.  The flame does not consume but only refines… making us like the Father – perfect (mature) as He is perfect!

 

Now for the ERROR we are to avoid!

 

Some may say the Spirit of God is so esoteric, so mysterious, and so obscure to them they are reluctant to embark on His pathway.  But the psalmist of old encourages us to taste and see that the LORD is good – to move forward in faith and experience for ourselves the good things God sets before those who will commit themselves to His loving care!

 

Jesus said something very interesting in our Lesson… that worldlingscannot receive the Holy Spirit because they will only believe what they can see!

 

Yet a great portion of life – maybe the majority of life – is made up of that which we cannot see.  Can we see memories?  Can we see the air we breathe?  Yet without it we perish!  Can we see history?  No.  Nevertheless we believe in on account of the witnesses whose testimony shapes it.  Can we see protons or neutrons or electrons (or for that matter sub-atomic particles)?  No.  Yet they remain the basis of all matter.

 

And we ourselves have spirits which we cannot see – because we are made in God’s Image – and yet we do not deny them.  And we speak of spirits often.  All of us have heard others say, “Thank you for the gift and the spirit in which it was given.”  Or “the spirit of friendship.” And we are warned in the Bible to avoid the “spirit of this world.”  The “spirit of this age.”

 

If we are not born again by the Holy Spirit we cannot see the Kingdom of God!  That which is born of the Spirit is spirit!

 

This day make the gifts of the Holy Spirit yours – His POWER… His PROVISIONS… His gentle PURGING.  He is not unknowable!  He is closer to us than we are to ourselves.  He may be trusted fully!  O taste and see that He is good!

 

St. John 15:26-16:4a

Ascension I

June 1, 2014

St. Paul’s Anglican Church

 

There are four important statements in this morning’s Gospel Lesson…

 

First, Jesus told His followers he would send them the Holy Spirit after He ascended to Heaven.

 

Second, He said the Holy Spirit would then testify and bear witness of Him!

 

Third, as a result… the Twelve would tell others about Jesus Christ, with Whom they had been from the beginning.

 

And fourth, while performing their Apostolic work, He told them they would be kicked out of synagogues.  In fact the day would come when they would be killed by people who thought they were doing God a favor!

 

If we think it is “easy” to be a Christian, we might want to re-examine ourselves in light of this morning’s text.  For while the lives of the Twelve are recorded by many church historians, and at times the records can be confusing – the story told according to best traditions is nothing short of inspiring!  The Twelve overcame unbelievable odds for their Lord!

 

When St. Peter left Jerusalem he labored in the region south of the Black Sea (modern-day Turkey) – the very region the Holy Spirit would not permit St. Paul to enter on his missionary journeys!  Eventually he labored in Rome – and it is in Rome where both he and his wife were martyred.  As his wife was being led away he very comfortingly addressed her by name, then said, “O, thou, remember the Lord.”  Then he was led away, and when they were going to crucify him, he asked that he be crucified upside down – not being worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord!

 

St. Andrew, Peter’s brother, ministered throughout the Mediterranean – including Greece.  The proconsul (Roman governor) of Achaia had him scourged (whipped) then tied (not nailed) to wooden beams in the shape of the letter X – in order to prolong his agony.  He hung there two days before dying on November 30, A.D. 69.

 

James the son of Zebedee (also known as James “the Greater”) you may recall was murdered by Herod Agrippa I in A.D. 44 following a missionary journey to Spain – apparently accused of conspiracy against Rome.  Executed by the leaders of his own people who had fallen into a “client relationship” with Rome!  Herod Agrippa I, according to the Book of Acts, died a painful death himself soon thereafter.  Read Acts chapter 12 for the details.

 

One of the youngest of the Twelve, John the son of Zebedee, was the lone Apostle who did not suffer martyrdom – giving a degree of explanation to the rumor that surfaced that he would never die (you may read the Gospel According to St. John chapter 21 for the details).  He was, however, imprisoned in a cave on the Isle of Patmos, finally dying at an advanced age in Ephesus around the year A.D. 100.  Interestingly enough, His brother James was the first of the Twelve to die… he was the last of the Twelve to die!

 

Philip apparently ministered in Gaul (modern day France), a region conquered by Rome in which Julius Caesar and his military forces killed over a million men.  Philip was eventually stoned, then crucified… and buried.

 

Bartholomew ministered in Armenia where he was beaten with clubs, flayed (skinned) alive, then crucified.

 

Thomas took the Gospel across India all the way to China – establishing churches and Christian schools for children.  He was eventually stabbed to death while praying on a mainland mountain -- opposite the island of Sri Lanka.

 

St Matthew ministered in Ethiopia and was martyred on the return journey which brought him back through Egypt.

 

James the son of Alphaeus (known as “James the Less” or “James the Younger”) was according to tradition the brother of St. Matthew.   This James was crucified in Ostrakine, Egypt (located just south of the huge Delta region).

 

Thaddaeus, according to tradition, was probably one of the first – if not the first -- of the Twelve to depart Jerusalem for a foreign country… and to witness directly to a foreign Gentile king!  He evangelized Armenia along with Bartholomew and for a short time with St. Thomas.  He eventually labored in Syria where he was martyred in Beirut.  Depictions often show him holding an axe – for that is the means by which he met his end!

 

Of particular interest to us is Simon the Zealot, who along with Joseph of Arimathea brought the Gospel to the British Isles.  He then labored in Persia where he was martyred -- sawn asunder!

 

According to tradition, Matthias (the replacement for Judas Iscariot) was one of the first followers of our Lord – and a prominent member of “the Seventy.”  He is credited with serving His Lord also in Armenia – then later in Damascus.   He eventually suffered martyrdom in his own homeland at the hands of his countrymen either by lance or the axe.

 

What a remarkable collection of men!  What courage… what obedience… what giants they were who so walked upon God’s earth! For they planted the seeds of the Gospel… then (as has been pointed out by many) watered those seeds with their own blood!

 

Where would Christianity be without the intrepid work of the Twelve?  And where, praytell, will Christianity be in the future without intrepid work on our part.

 

They followed the word of our Lord.  They followed the example of our Lord.  And we are to follow the Lord by their examples in our day!  Jesus is our paradigm.  The Apostles are our examples.  To be a Christian is to bear witness to the truth.

 

This witness, of course, includes words!  But witnessing for Christ also includes actions… manner of life… labors of love… works of faith!

 

Witnessing for Christ does not have to be “profound.”  Simpler is often better.  It must, however, be faithful.  It must be true!  It must be real!

 

Can we see ourselves as witnesses for Christ?  And do we indeed witness – confess – His holy Name each day?

 

It is our sacred obligation… it is our joyful privilege.

 

St. John 16:23-33

Easter V (Rogation Sunday)

May 25, 2014

St. Paul’s Anglican Church

 

“I Have Overcome the World”

 

…be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.  These are undoubtedly among the greatest words our Lord ever spoke!  They are indeed perhaps the greatest words ever articulated by a son of Adam or a daughter of Eve!  …be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. 

 

…be of good cheer, our Lord tells you and me.  Why? I have overcome the world.  To all discouraged and despondent wayfarers, to all disheartened and defeated pilgrims worn and fatigued by the conflicts of their day… to all parents worried for the welfare of their children, to all children worried for the welfare of their parents… He says …be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. 

 

Of all the words ever formed on the lips of mankind, surely these inspired words must rank among the most profound!

 

Such words merit our careful attention and our utmost respect in order that we might extract from them the life-giving and strength-developing nutrients of faith required for us as fallible and mortal men, women, children, and young people – who would aspire to follow the Risen Christ in victory and bear abundant fruit for Him!  …be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

 

But what do they mean?  The English word “overcome” is a translation of the famous Greek word νικαω, which means to conquer, to defeat, to be victorious, or in the vernacular -- to win

 

Thus, to hear Jesus say …be of good cheer; I have overcome the world is to hear Him say be of good cheer; I have defeated my enemies and I have defeated the entire fallen realm… I have conquered it… I have overwhelmed it!  I am the Victor over its wide and vast dominion!

 

It was General Douglas McArthur, who in 1951 addressing a Joint Meeting of Congress, summed it up as succinctly as is humanly possible: “…there is no substitute for victory.”

 

And we do well not to forget Sir Winston Churchill’s first statement as Prime Minister in 1940.  “Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.”

 

But the grandest statement of all surely belongs to our Lord, for it is a statement which has transformed this terrestrial sphere!  It has changed His people!  It has the power to change you and me more than we might imagine!  …be of good cheer… do not be despondent… do not be downcast…  I have overcome the world.  And if I have overcome the world, so shall you as my child! 

 

In these words, Jesus refers to His Resurrection from the dead!  When the stone was rolled away on Easter morning and the Master emerged in His glorified Body, He had truly overcome, with His Father’s help, the worst this fallen world had to offer Him. 

 

In so doing, He showed His people the power that is available to them to overcome their challenges – personal and collective!  And if He emerged as Victor over the plots and machinations, the conspiracies and secrecy, the conniving, scheming, and dark intrigue fallen men heaped upon Him – shall he not also prove the Victor in and through His Own people in the opposition and challenges they face as they seek and work to build His Church and His Kingdom?

 

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).

 

Devout people the world over make pilgrimages to the sites where their “leaders” are buried.  But Christians possess the unique distinction of being the only ones who go to visit an empty tomb!  …be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!

 

Men have built great arches and immense free standing monuments to commemorate victories at important battles -- many still seen standing in China, in Cambodia, and in Thailand!

 

There is the absolutely immense Arch de Triumph in Paris which took 30-years to construct… the Arch of Constantine in Rome… the Nelson Column in Trafalgar Square… and pylons erected in Ancient Egypt for the same purpose. 

 

But the most humble -- and humbling -- monument of all time commemorating the greatest victory of all time – towering over and dwarfing all others -- is without doubt the empty tomb…be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!

 

In the final analysis, Jesus’ Resurrection is not the “end,” it is the beginning!  The beginning of new life… new hope… new courage!  It has dimensions far beyond those that meet the human eye or mind… delightful dimensions bringing joy and cheer and hope and optimism to an otherwise unhappy and downcast world! 

 

Tense of the verb our Lord employed in saying I have overcome the world is not the simple past tense, but rather the intriguing “perfect tense” – which speaks of an action completed, the effects of which continue unendingly into the future!