Turn Around

Sunday, June 6, 2021 – Tony’s Message
Corpus Christi Sunday Service

Greeting:
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glory of God and the power of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Response:
And also with you.

Scripture Reading:
Paul’s Vindication of His Apostleship

The Letter of Paul to the Galatians, Chapter 1, Verses 11 to 17
(New Testament, New Revised Standard Version)

v. 11 – For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin;
v. 12 – for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
v. 13 – You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the Church of God and was trying to destroy it.
v. 14 – I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors.
v. 15 – But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased
v. 16 – to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being,
v. 17- nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.

Paul relates here that God had chosen him to be an apostle before his birth, not unlike Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet. Paul, like some Jews in Galatia, had previously tried to earn his salvation by works. He needed no validation because of the way he had received his message.

It often happens that the destroyer of a creed or system has been bred in the bosom of the system which he was destined to destroy. Luther had taken the vows of an Augustinian. Pascal had been trained as a Jesuit. John Wesley and George Whitefield were clergymen of the Church of England. It was not otherwise with St. Paul. The deadly antagonist of Judaic exclusiveness was by birth, a Hebrew. The dealer of death, the son of Pharisees, and a scholar of Gamaliel, had lived according to the most unswerving sect of the Jewish elite!
Sermonette:
Turn Around

Paul relates to the Galatian Christians how he at one time in his early life was “going in the wrong direction”. In his letter to the Galatians, he writes ‘For you have heard of my “former” life in Judaism. I persecuted the Church of God violently and tried to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many people of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.’ (v. 13 to 14).

There is a Latin word conversio, which carries the idea of a turn around and is the word from which we get “conversion”. One cannot remain the same after a religious conversion; one cannot keep going in the same direction as before. A true conversion is transformative. It involves emotions, the intellect and one’s morals, which, co-operatively, turn a person’s life around and set it forth on a new course. Without this turnaround, a claimed conversion is suspect. Trying to be religious without a life-altering conversion is to be consumed with spiritual dry rot, much as Paul was. The conversion experience produces the juicy vitality that brings faith alive and liberates the converted.

We must try to avoid those who want to “do God’s will” but who seem to find God’s will is just what their culture and life situation calls for. So they put up with putting minorities in ghettos and in marginalizing the elderly. They vote to heap up weapons of war and eagerly join the mindless cycles of consumerism. You cannot pick and choose what is the will of God.

Jesus Christ alone can challenge us. He is the keystone of a towering arch of goodwill and selfless service and until we commit ourselves to Him, person to Person, we are quite likely to be serving God in a cultured religion, such as that which ensnared the Scribes and the Pharisees. They didn’t know and could not see or hear Him either.

It’s the same story in every conversion example. It is in fact the story of Abraham, of Moses, of Jacob; the story of Paul. We know the plot in advance: the details differ only in their externals. Nonetheless, since in each case, there is a human life at stake, they are worth reading over and over again. They are thrilling accounts of a life going one way and then abruptly turning around and proceeding – more happily, more content – in the opposite direction.

Amen.

Let us close this service by reciting the Lord’s Prayer, either out loud, or within our hearts.

The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Amen.

I Hope You Are Satisfied.

Sunday, May 16, 2021 – Tony’s Message
The Seventh Sunday of Easter

Greeting:
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glory of God and the power of the Holy Spirit be with you always.

Response:
And also with you.

Scripture Reading:

Joel, Chapter 2, Verses 21 to 27
(New Revised Standard Version)

v. 21 – Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things!
v. 22 – Do not fear, you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and vine give their full yield.
v. 23 – O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication , he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before.
v. 24 – The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
v. 25 – I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you.
v. 26 – You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.
v. 27- You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame,

This week’s scripture reading speaks of ‘satisfaction’. In the refrain we have the promise of the prophet Joel that the Lord will satisfy the needs and wants of His chosen people, after reciting the abundant things the Lord will do, how “The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil” (v. 24) and “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied” (v. 26). This promised prosperity is characterized in terms which obviously mark the period which succeeded that of the Babylonian captivity and they can rest on the strong arm of Omnipotence!

Sermonette:
I Hope You Are Satisfied

The material and spiritual satisfaction, for which we all long, can be had by:
• desiring the proper things which can bring satisfaction;
• not setting goals so high they can’t be satisfied;
• keeping life simple where simple satisfactions are attainable;
• not coveting;
• not letting either material or spiritual goals become idols, for idolatry cannot be satisfied.
Satisfaction can never be enjoyed when we overreach. The Lord can only bring us satisfaction when our WANTS are in accord with our NEEDS!

To try and grasp what is realistically beyond our reach is to shove satisfaction out of the picture. This is exemplified in this short verse:

With feet to take me where I’d go,
With eyes to see the sunset’s glow,
With ears to hear what I would know;
I’m blessed indeed. The world is mine;
Oh God, forgive me when I whine.
(Anonymous)

Following is a list published in Esquire Magazine which helps to define a truly satisfied person!

1. The satisfied person’s life has both meaning and direction.
2. The satisfied person rarely feels cheated or disappointed by life.
3. The satisfied person has attained several long-term goals that were important to him or her.
4. The satisfied person is in love and loves mutually.
5. The satisfied person has a select group of really GOOD friends.
6. The satisfied person is cheerful.
7. The satisfied person is not thin-skinned or sensitive to criticism.
8. The satisfied person has no major fears.

…You can’t always get what you want, but …
You get what you need.

(Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, The Rolling Stones)

May the Lord always bless us and keep us…
Amen.
And now let us close by repeating the Lord’s Prayer, either in our hearts or out loud:

The Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Amen.

Go!

April 25, 2021 – Tony’s Message

The Fourth Sunday of Easter

Greeting:
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glory of God and the power of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Scripture Reading:
A Living Hope

The First Letter of Peter, Chapter 1, Verses 1 to 4
(New Revised Standard Version)

v. 1 – Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
v. 2 – who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood: May grace and peace be yours in abundance.

v. 3 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
v. 4 – and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

Our salvation is grounded in God’s mercy, His act of compassion towards us despite our condition of sinfulness. God has given believers a new spiritual life which enables us to live in an entirely different dimension than the one allowed by our physical birth. God has already determined that we will one day experience our own part of paradise. God has set aside in heaven a wonderful inheritance that is waiting for us even now. If we would know the glories of it, we must go and see it.

Sermonette:
The Magic of the Word – Go!

The word “Go” can be used in so many ways:
• Go team go!
• Go for broke;
• Go for it;
• Go to the devil;
• Go for the gold;
• Go in peace;
• Go tell it on the mountain; and
• Go with God.

Go was an important word to Jesus as well. He used it to send forth people He had helped:
• “Go and sin no more”;
• “Go thou and do likewise”;
• “Go preach the kingdom of God”; and
• His famous send-off to the disciples as He prepared to leave them – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the same name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the close of the age.”

To be ‘sent out’ includes all who send out their daily witness of concern, love, honesty, and hope where they labour and minister in the by-ways of life. A mother sends out her love to her children, husbands and wives send out their faithfulness to each other, employers send out their confidence to their employees, who in turn, send out their labour and loyalty to “the boss”. In such ways all believers are conduits of Christ – ‘ordinary’ Christians participating in an extraordinary mission.
Amen.

And now let us close by repeating the Lord’s Prayer, either in our hearts or out loud:

The Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Amen.