Most assuredly, if blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe, faith then is confidence in God. True confidence nurtures expectation. Expectation shapes our hope in Christ and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us (Romans 5). Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit, is given to all those who have faith in the Son sent by the Father. As his disciples today, we fulfill the scripture when we witness and testify to his love, faithfulness and truth, and the ministry of Christ continues to make available to every one who believes, the reconciliation of our lives to the Father and the Son. And through the Holy Spirit our 1 day recognition of this gift becomes a 366 day celebration of life redeemed in the spirit of truth, giving all glory to God. Amen.
“When the Day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” Acts 2:1-21
This right relationship, what Christ has been giving, living and expressing in his actions since God sent him to be with us; is simply this – that we love God and love one another as Christ has loved us. It is a relationship likened as to a good Shepherd to his sheep, a true vine that nourishes its branches, and friend who is a confidant. After he has given to his disciples all that his Father has made known to him, Jesus emphasis on this relationship of love culminates into his final discourse; what is known as the “High Priestly Prayer”, before he is taken out of this world. He does not pray for our perfection. He does not pray for our guilt and shame. He does not pray for our atonement. He prays for our sanctification. Jesus petitions God to sanctify (make holy) his disciples and those who come to believe through their word. From that moment on we who know God’s love, live God’s love among one another and make God’s love known through his son to all who will come to believe after us, become a holy nation made one in Christ. As we continue to live in fulfillment of the scripture, how incredibly blessed we are to be in this love relationship with the Father, Son and the advocate which he promised to send, his Holy Spirit, the one love relationship that I believe Judas could not receive, because he did not have faith.
Like Christ, God most certainly has a purpose for us, a purpose, which in reality is a continuation of his plan the moment he sent his son Jesus Christ in to the world not to participate in the ways of the world but rather to help us become one with God and one with each other in order that we might believe and have eternal life, even as we struggle with the questions and doubts. Most assuredly today when we are called by God we are not destined to be lost in in Judas’ struggle, and in the same way that Peter who denied him and Thomas who doubted Christ’s resurrection, finally took their place among the believers, each of us must stand to take our place in order that the scripture be fulfilled in our own lives. There will be difficulties in our ministries including the struggles we have among one another. However, it is important to know that God plans for each of us to be a witness in our own way using the gifts he has given us. A witness is a person who testifies to what is seen, heard or known by personal presence or perception. In Judas, we understand that it is possible to witness something and still get it wrong because of our physical perception. As believers, our witness comes by our faith in God’s spiritual gift and our experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and not by what we physically perceive but rather by what we know to be true in Christ Jesus. Because of this we have every opportunity to get the relationship right.
Consider for a moment a time when you may have felt hurt or betrayed by someone and yet as you look back on life you find yourself in a better place because of that experience. There is no way of knowing with absolute certainty what Judas’ thoughts may have been, but we can not argue that he must have had some questions and struggles within him even into his death, which in my mind is a tragedy. We know that Judas questions the use of the oil used to anoint Jesus feet. Perhaps he also questions Christ’s tactics and motives and particularly through out these last days struggles with the perceived rise of Christ among common humanity. Judas finds himself in between his relationship with the world and the spiritual relationship with Christ. He is having a difficult time seeing beyond the vehicle that is the body of Christ. Remember Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Is not Judas portrayed to be in a place where we sometimes find our selves; unable to see beyond our present circumstances questioning God’s ways? The reality for us today is that when Judas died those questions, concerns and doubts did not die with him. Ultimately Judas had to make a decision and so do we. The scripture had to be fulfilled and Judas made the choice that led him to a sacrifice for death and yet leads us to the one sacrificed for life. Judas could be anyone of us or someone we know, but Judas’ dilemma doesn’t have to be our dilemma. The good news is that we have something that Judas did not have, the gift of the Holy Spirit. Are we using the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that the scripture can be fulfilled in our own lives?
Throughout this Easter season we spend a lot of time being encouraged to abide in God’s love and to love one another as Christ loved us. This emphasis on love requires that we be in relationship. Sometimes it’s very difficult as humans to love something in which we have no relationship. In fact I believe it’s perhaps even more difficult to love something with which we are not in right relationship. It is at this point where Judas’ relationship with Christ is given some attention. Just before Jesus is arrested, condemned and put to death, Jesus prays for his disciples saying; “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one… I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.” Christ words help us to understand the significance of a right relationship with God and one another, something Judas was never able to comprehend. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just be taken out of this world? You know the world with all its pride and prejudice, greed and licentiousness. However, this world by itself is not evil and I have come to realize that just being taken out of the world doesn’t actually solve any problems. In this journey we are confronted with every temptation that is produced in the world, and no one new this better than Jesus. So what does Judas’ part in Jesus ministry really mean for us today?
Just finished watching “Jesus Christ Superstar” Awesome Musical based on the Rock Opera! Purposely told through the perceived eyes of Judas Iscariot, practically every fear known to man portrayed from every voice in this story of the Gospel and if truth is to be told within us we can find a bit of our selves in every voice. The musical begins with a frustrated Judas in red and just before Jesus is raised on the cross, Judas descends from above dressed in white yet with the same frustrations, still not understanding that to live one must die. Although we may suffer some of Judas’ frustrations we don’t have to live that way. Believe , Jesus has already paid the price. He has given us Pentecost (gift of the Holy Spirit) to help remind us. Let the Spirit of God sing out.
Acts 2:1-21 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
What does it mean to be friends with Jesus? The disciples have only had a three-year relationship with this person called Jesus and from my own experience the older you get you realize that’s really not that long of a time to get to know someone. We begin this thing called friendship at early ages, some years adding and other years subtracting people in our lives, in what we soon discover is a very small world. Some of us even gave our friends group names like the crew, peeps, brothers & homeboys, sorors and home-girls, posses, and entourage. However, unless you were the leader of that group, were you really friends with all of them? Remember when Jesus was resurrected he immediately went to be with his disciples and one of them wasn’t there. Thomas apparently, quite possibly in his grief was nowhere to be found, yet it was important for Jesus to make sure that Thomas believed, because it was important for Thomas’ witness (even as a doubter) to be a part of the growth of the Gospel (John 20:24-29). We know that today leaders don’t tell everybody in the group everything. So it’s not unusual to lose track of our “friends” simply by lack of communication. As time goes by some of these same people whom we have called friends ten or twenty years ago are today, now just acquaintances or people you know. The good news for us today is that Christ’s desire to be friends with his disciples is also his desire to be our friend and if that were not true of Christ we wouldn’t still be talking about him today. The question is whether we are ready to be friends with Jesus.
Since the day of resurrection, the message for us during this Easter season is squarely on relationship, God’s relationship with us and our relationship with one another. At the heart of that relationship is love and sometimes we have to encourage our selves in God’s love for us. He has already cleansed us with the power of his word. As we speak his words of truth for others we speak them for ourselves and know that that we will overcome the struggles and that the victory is always in the power of God’s eternal relationship with us. Thus our reward of eternal life is in our relationship with God; the goal that has no end.
Jesus says to his disciples and to us, “I am the true vine.” (And) He uses the word true to help us understand that he is the deeply rooted faithful and steadfast love of God from which all other love is to be connected. In the midst of so many other things that want to take root in our lives, as long as we have this relationship with God, even in the struggles we can be assured that he has not broken us off, but rather we must live in that eternal relationship and remain the branch that reaches out and bears fruit so that others might have that life also.
If in fact eternal life is our goal it seems to me that we must first understand what eternal life really means for us. Based on what I have come to understand about those individuals whom we’ve read about (Abraham, Moses, and the prophets etc.), all had direct relationship with God, I recognize and believe that eternal life for us today is synonymous with eternal relationship with Christ. The cleansing words of Christ in John’s gospel make it very clear, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” The purpose of this is to leave little room for anything else to take root in our lives that might influence us away from God. By definition, to abide is to continue or remain in a particular condition. Thus to abide in Christ is to remain in relationship with him in order that we may bring forth the fruit that is God’s love. Every relationship is potentially a branch to God’s love. As long as we abide in God’s love, we as believers strive to continue in this world as Christ is in this world. If we lose connection with the vine then every branch (relationship) we have, potentially loses connection through us. The life of the vine is what gives us hope. Stay connected to the vine!
The moment we decide to accept Christ in your life the quest to walk in God’s peace becomes a lifelong endeavor.
God commands us to love one another. The first letter of John in fact tells us that everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love – does not know God because God is love. I find however, that the walk with God often seems so abstract – and – set apart from the physical reality of life that we live on a day-to-day basis. What runner runs a race without first knowing the specific goal or having a particular purpose? I use the term runner not only to refer to a physical track race but also to represent every facet of life; education, career, or project of any kind, that has a starting point and an ending point. (But) As you can see, to use the terms start and end already contradicts abstract. So the moment we begin and accept Christ into our life and make the decision to walk in God’s love, we soon realize that while our physical beginnings will end and begin again, we are all always striving towards a goal that has no end. This leads me to ask the question, that although this journey involves interacting with the physical, why do we forget that the goal (eternal life) is never ending?