Second Reformed Church

Sunday, April 29, 2007

May Sermons

D.V., I plan to preach:

5/6/07 Communion I Peter 1:10-12 "Things Angels Long to See"
5/13/07 I Peter 1:13-16 "Be Holy"
5/20/07 Ascension Sunday Ephesians 4:1-16 "The Benefits of the Ascension"
5/27/07 Guest preacher: George Gutierrez

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Puritan WIsdom

On I Peter 1:7 --

"Though the outward man decay (by sickness, poverty, disgrace, imprisonment, and the like) yet it is the inner man (Faith, Hope, Comfort, &c.) increased daily; for Faith the more its cut; the more it grows; the more it is trodden on; the thicker it comes up. And by afflictions there's purged away a great deal of pride, self-love, worldliness, hypocrisie, and the like, which long peace gathers, where of Jonah had experience when he was cast into the Sea; those tame us also: A man that was conceited against his neighbor for smal causes in prosperity, in sickness and affliction will be glad to take every one by the hand; therefore are the most afflicted, for the most part, the fullest of Faith and Grace, and purer then others; and a man is never better then when he is in, or newly come out of affliction. Hence it is, that we are willed to be thankful for them, yet to account it exceeding joy when they come, those being blessed that are so afflicted." -- John Rogers, 46.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

On I Peter 1:3 --

"Now followeth the subsatnce of the Epsitle, consisting of Doctrine and Exhortation: Doctrine to the thriteenth Verse; Exhortations in the Verses following. The Exhortations are to continue constant in the profession of the Gospel of Christ, and to stick close to that Salvaiton purchased by Christ, and revealed therein; and that they would lead an holy and godly life, answerable to this profession and Gospel, both in their general and particular callings; yea now in their present troubles, and notwithstanding any other they might meet with hereafter. Now this being a very weighty building, therefore he had need lay a foundation fitting for the same, and so he doth, which is this, namely, The signular benefits we receive by Jesus Christ his Death and Resurrection, viz. Assurance of Salvation, Hope, Joy, Peace, &c. and at last everlasting life in the Kingdom of Heaven; all which are revealed and wrought in us by the Gospel, which is no new Doctrine, but that which of old was revealed to all the Prophets, though now more clearly and fully manifested. Therefore seeing God hath done so great things for us by Christ Jesus, and these things are revealed in the Gospel, which is very ancient, good reason they should cleave to Christ, and be carried after no other way of Salvation, accordingly walking worthy of the beneifts they have both already reaped hereby, and may further hearafter. The Doctrine setteth forth the great benefit that we reap in Jesus Christ; namely, That we are begot to a lively hope of Salvation, and of being partakers of such an inheritance, as is without comparison, which is every way set forth, according to its excellency; where we have, 1. The benefit, That we are begotten to a lviely hope: 2. The moving cause, The abundant mercy of God: 3. The means whereby, namely, The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: 5. [sic] The end, That we may partake of Salvation, which he calls an Inheritance, ..." John Rogers, 14-15.

Monday, April 23, 2007

"A Living Hope" Sermon: I Peter 1:3-9

"A Living Hope"
[I Peter 1:3-9]
April 22, 2007 Second Reformed Church

Last week we began our look at I Peter, and we saw that as Christians, we always have hope, no matter what circumstances we are in, because we have been elect in the Trinity: we were chosen by the Father, bought and paid for through the Blood Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and now we are being sanctified -- made holy -- by the Work of the Holy Spirit in us.

This morning's Scripture is one excited, run-on sentence in Greek, in which Peter tells those Christians who are running for their lives, living in foreign lands -- people like you and me -- he is explaining to all Christians that our hope is a living hope.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to his great mercy, we are born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," (my translation)

Peter breaks out in praise, singing a doxology to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice that: He is Lord, our Master and Sovereign. He is Jesus, the Real and True Man of Israel. And He is Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the Very God Who saves us. And He is to be praised. Why? Because, in accordance with His Great Mercy -- see, it is nothing you and I have ever earned or merited or been owed, no, it is all of mercy, it is all a free gift. He has raised us from death -- we who were spiritually dead are now alive; we who we dead in our trespasses and sins, unable to do any good thing are now alive and able by our God to do what is good and pleasing in His Sight. We have been born again into a living hope -- an active, real, pulsing, full-of-life hope -- a sure reality that has not yet come, but must. Why must it? It must based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead -- since He is risen, our living hope is secured and guaranteed -- there is no losing it or forgetting it or finding it dead along the roadside. We have a living hope guaranteed by Jesus. Peter preached, "God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of dead, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him" (Acts 2:24).

"to an inheritance that is immortal and undefiled and unfading," (my translation)

When do we inherit? When someone dies. The writer of Hebrews wrote, "In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living" (Hebrews 9:16-17). Who has died? Christ has died; much more than that, Christ is raised. It is through Him, then, and His Death, that we receive an inheritance which is immortal -- it is not subject to death or time, it is imperishable. Our inheritance is undefiled -- it is pure. And our inheritance is unfading -- it endures in its beauty and in every one of its qualities.

"kept in the heavens for you, who by the power of God is guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time," (my translation)

Our inheritance is kept, guarded, shielded, protected from danger in the heavens. No being can get to it to tamper with it or steal it or corrupt it. That inheritance, that salvation, that eternal life, pure, holy, that Jesus secured for us through His Resurrection, God is keeping for us until that final day when we received the fullness of salvation, sanctified and glorified -- that inheritance is ready, it is safe, it is secure, but it is not the last day, so we wait. We wait with a living hope, looking forward confidently to what is already accomplished and is soon coming to pass.

"in this you rejoice exceedingly, even if it was necessary, now, for a little while, for you to be pained by various trials" (my translation)

Since we know our salvation is secure, since we know we have not yet fully received it, but we will on that final day, we rejoice. We rejoice exceedingly. There is no question, no shadow of doubt, no chance in anything on the earth or above the earth or below the earth that Jesus and the salvation He has for us will ever fail. It is coming -- it's not a question of if, but when -- we can rejoice -- we can rejoice exceedingly. And when we are called to endure pain, trials, when we are called to suffer, even though we don't like those trials, even though, like Job, we mourn our children, we cry over our pets and flocks and job, even though our families should turn away, even though we should become sick and in pain, and even if Nero has sent the whole Roman army out after us to kills us in the most horrible way -- still we rejoice exceedingly. Why? Paul put it this way, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18). We still hurt; we still don't enjoy trials; but we have a hope that is greater than the worst that comes our way.

"that the testing of your faith -- far more valuable than gold , which is lost though it is tested in the fire -- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revealing of Jesus Christ," (my translation)

But why are we tested at all? Why do we have to suffer? What good does it do us? Peter tells us that just as gold taken straight from the ground has to lose its dross -- its impurities through the refiners fire, so do we also have to endure the refiner's fire for the purification of our faith -- which is worth more than the finest gold. And, though we endure this refining now -- though it is not pleasant -- when Jesus "himself [] descends from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ [] rise first" (I Thessalonians 4:16) we will be transfixed on the sight and through our faith, which has been proven genuine, we shall praise Him and glorify Him and honor Him from that day forth and forever and ever. That is the glorious day we are waiting for, and in that moment, every trail will fall away as nothing, and we will be lost in the wonder and praise of our God and Savior.

"who, though you have not seen him, you love, though you do not see him now, you believe him and are exceedingly glad, with joy unspeakable and with glory, obtaining the fulfillment of the faith, the salvation of your souls" (my translation)

Thomas doubted the Resurrection of Jesus and said, "'Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe'" (John 20:25b). It was just eight days later that Jesus appeared when Thomas was present, and Jesus told him to do just what he had asked. But without touching Jesus, "Thomas answered him, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him, 'Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed'" (John 20:28-29).

If you have believe in Jesus Alone for your salvation this morning, it is not because you have seen Him, yet you have loved Him. Indeed, none of us have seen Jesus in the flesh, yet we have believed in Him. We have believed and we are exceedingly glad, we are unspeakably joyful, and we are filled with the glory of Him Who gives us this living hope. We are filled with a supernatural joy that reaches its fullness in that final day when Jesus returns.

So, Peter tells those Christians on the run -- and you and me -- no matter what happens the rest of this day, the rest of this week, the rest of our lives, no matter what trials we endure, we are filled with unfathomable joy, which changes everything about us, and expresses itself in praise and honor and glory to our God and Savior. Why? Because we who believe have received the goal of our faith -- a living hope -- the salvation of our souls.

Let us pray:
Our God and our Joy, our Hope and Salvation, we thank You for Your Promised Living Hope. Cause us to live it out, showing that our hope -- our sure hope -- is greater and more valuable that everything and anything we might endure. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

On I Peter 1:1-2

"It followeth 1. That if any can prove his election, he must stand and admire at the unsearchableness of God's free mercy, that he should think upon him a poor worm before the beginning of the world, and one that should be of the common flock of Adam, a sinful wretch; think of him, I say, to choose him to life passing by so many. Oh how should this ravish our hearts, and inflame us with love!

"2. That if any be rejected, they must not complain of cruelty in God, for that they are rejected; Is the clay to say to the Potter, why hast Thou made me thus? Beside, thou are not condemned but for the just deserts and sins which thou hast committed against God; all that can be said, is this, He gives not grace to them, as he hath done to his elect, whereof who shall complaine? God is bound to none." -- A Godly & Fruitful Exposition Upon all the First Epistle of Peter. by the Pious and Eminent Preacher of the Word of God, John Rogers of Dedham in Essex, 30.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

"Elect in the Trinity" Sermon: I Peter 1:1-2

"Elect in the Trinity"
[I Peter 1:1-2]
April 15, 2007 Second Reformed Church

We begin this morning, with the help of God, a study of the book of I Peter. I & II Peter were written during a time of great turmoil, especially for the Church. It was written when, above all else, the people of God needed to know and firmly believe that there is hope. In many ways, it was a time like our time: may God be pleased to instill and affirm His Hope in us.

I & II Peter were written after 33 A.D. and before 70 A.D. We know this because Peter taught the resurrection of Jesus, but did not mention the destruction of the Temple. We can close the dates in further and say that Peter wrote between 54-68 A.D. when Nero was emperor of Rome. During Nero's reign, Christians were persecuted horrifically -- they were hunted down like animals, and for that reason, they ran from Israel and became strangers in foreign lands.

He begins his first letter, "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ." He didn't need to tell them that he was Simon bar Jonah, called "Cephas," called "Peter." No, they knew who this was simply by the designation of "apostle," because there was only one apostle named "Peter."

What does it mean to be an apostle? According to the Scripture, the apostles were the twelve, plus Paul, who had known Jesus in the flesh -- they had been called by Jesus Himself -- they had been taught by Him and sent out to minister by Him. The apostles were an inner circle who were taught and sent in a way that none of other the disciples, or you and I, experience. They spoke directly for God, in a similar way to the way in which the prophets had spoken. So, the word of an apostle carried with it that same "thus says the Lord" as had the word of the prophets. There were only ever thirteen apostles and the whole of Christendom knew who they were.

So when Peter the apostle of Jesus Christ wrote to them, they knew who this man was. He was that hand-picked servant and student of Jesus whom Jesus had personally sent out with a call and a work to accomplish. This was Peter of the Gospels and Acts -- documents which were circulating and being read.

And this letter is addressed "to the elect/chosen strangers." This letter is addressed to the people whom God chose to save -- out of all the mass of humanity who had damned themselves -- those whom God chose according to His Sovereign Good Pleasure, not based on anything the elect would or would not do. These are those that God chose to save, as Paul explained, those who "were not yet born and done nothing either good or bad -- in order that God’s purpose in election might continue, not because of works but because of his call --" (Romans 9:11). These are the people who God chose and, therefore, they had come to believe in Jesus Alone for their salvation, and now they were living as strangers in a strange land. They had to leave Israel for foreign lands due to the persecution of the Romans under Nero.

Specifically, "of the diaspora in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia." This letter is specifically addressed to the elect of God who had left Israel due to persecution and settled in what we would now call Turkey. These Christians had fled Israel and now were living in the Christian communities, ministering in the churches, of Turkey, and they needed to know, that amidst the persecution, amidst their having to leave their homes and go to a strange land, amidst all of this, they needed to know there was still hope. So Peter began, by addressing them as the elect, the chosen of God -- wherever they were, whatever conditions they were living under -- they were the people that God had chosen for Himself.

Remember Jesus said, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of this world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:18-19).

The Christians were spreading throughout the world, keeping ahead of the Roman sword, and they wanted to know that there was still hope. They wanted to know that God was still their God, working in them and through them. And we want to know the same thing today, as we look at the world, as we look at our Classis and our church.

What's going on? What is God doing? Do we have hope? The world is a mess; pagan religions are gaining followers by leaps and bounds. Many of the churches of our Classis continue to decline. Faithful men of God are being struck down and some are moving out of this area. Ministers are admitting that they don't believe that the Bible is true. Yet, to read our denominational magazine, we're told that the answer is to grow in number, no matter what we have to do. Grow in money, and pay our dues on time, no matter what we have to do. Because if the pews are full and the bank account is full -- all's right with the world!

Then what do we do with those to whom Peter is writing? They're on the run; they're being cut down. They looking for answers; they're afraid for their lives. Sometimes being faithful means leaving, being in the minority, even being willing to die. Understand, we ought to desire and pray that God would bring His people into this church and fill this church and all His churches with His people that He might be glorified by them -- but not to the neglect of our faithfulness.

So Peter addresses the diaspora -- those elect strangers in a strange land -- and begins by telling them -- and telling us -- that God chose them and God chose us for this work, now, in this time, because it pleased Him to do so. The first thing we ought to know, is that God chose us, but not based on who we are or what we would do.

And Peter emphasizes that our election takes place in the Trinity -- The Three Persons of the Trinity are involved in the election of God's people. They are wholly in concert in Their Work in us and through us as the One God Who elects us to salvation.

Peter says that the strangers -- and all those who believe in salvation through Jesus Alone -- are elect "according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." God so movingly told the prophet Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:4b). In a way that is barely comprehensible to our minds, before we existed, God loved and chose us, but not based on our selves or our works. God did not look into the future to see who we would become. God chose us for His Reasons, for His Pleasure. But know this surely, Christian, before you ever existed in reality, God the Father loved you and chose you to be His.

When the devil comes at us and tells us we are nothing, that we are committing the same sins over and over, that we have not lived up to our call, we can respond with surety, "Yes, but God has always loved me and chose me to be His forever, and so I shall be." Our election, our future, our hope is certain, because it is based on God the Father, not us.

Then Peter says that they are we are "in the process of sanctification by the Spirit." God the Holy Spirit is at work in each one of us who believes, changing us, perfecting us, making us holy -- it's a process that will take until the day that Jesus returns, but it is happening -- because we cannot be God's people and remain in our sin. And if we think to ourselves, "I don't know about that. It seems to me that I am more of a sinner, less faithful, further from what I ought to be than I was when I first believed." That may be, perhaps you are unrepentantly engaging in sin. But, it may also be, that you are being changed, and as you are being changed, you are becoming more sensitized, more repulsed, more upset with the sin that still remains in you. If you are constantly at war with your sin, fighting against it, seeking God's help and forgiveness, it is likely that this is one of the fruits of that sanctification -- the process of becoming holy -- that the Holy Spirit is working in you. Look for the evidence -- there will be evidence if God is changing you. Our priorities will continue to change, and we will more greatly desire that God would be glorified in everything that we do, and we will desire to do the good works that God has put before us, denying ourselves the sin that we are tempted to commit. These are evidences of the Holy Spirit at work in us.

So, when the devil causes us to doubt the work of the Holy Spirit in us, let us respond to him, "Christ died for me." For we have been elect "for the obedience to Jesus Christ and for the sprinkling of His Blood;" The good works that we are called to are those that Jesus Christ has set before us, and we are able to do them if we have been sprinkled with His Blood. As Paul wrote, "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). Just as the sacrifice made the people acceptable before God, and they were sprinkled with its blood, so we become acceptable to God through the Blood of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who sprinkles us down through the ages, that we might be cleansed and live lives pleasing to God. "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14).

And to those who know this, who believe this, who have this hope: "May grace and peace be multiplied to you." Peter prays and believes that those who believe in Jesus Alone for their salvation, are the elect. They are elect in the Trinity: loved by the Father, being sanctified by the Spirit, and, therefore, by the Sacrificial Work of Jesus Christ, enabled do good works in His Name.

Peter opens his letter telling Christians in dire and strange circumstances -- like us in many ways -- that grace has been given, that peace is available, only by the Work of God. So this is their hope and our hope, their future and our future: God has chosen us, loved us, is making us like Him, and causing us to live out His Sacrifice through good works. Do we have hope? So long as God is God.

Let us pray:
May your grace and peace come upon us, O God. You, Who in Your Triune Self has made us a people for You, we pray that You would continue to work in us and through us, causing us to be Your people and Your witnesses here in Irvington. Raise up a faithful Church on earth. And keep us in Your Hope. For it is in Jesus' Name we pray, Amen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

"Is it possible, think you, for a person to be conceited of his miseries? May there not be a deep leaven of pride in telling how desolate and unfeeling we are? -- in brooding over our unearthly pains? -- in being excluded from the unsympathetic world? -- in our being the invalids of Christ's hospital?" -- Bonar, Memoir..., 23.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

"He Is Risen" Sermon Luke 24:1-12

"He is Risen"
[Luke 24:1-12]
April 8, 2007 Second Reformed Church

Jesus had been crucified, and He had died. The Roman officers made sure He was dead before they released the Body for burial. They even shoved a spear up through His Side. Pilate was not about to release the Body of Jesus if He was not fully and completely dead.

And he wasn't about to allow any of His crazy followers to stage a resurrection, so he had a stone rolled over the entrance of the tomb, and he sealed the tomb with the royal seal, and he posted guards to keep anyone from attempting to disturb the tomb and the Body.

So, we read in this morning's text that Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women went to the tomb on the morning of the third day. Why? They went to finish embalming Jesus. He had died at the end of the day and had to be quickly put into the tomb so as not to violate the Sabbath. Now it was the morning of the third day, the first day of the week, and they had returned to the tomb where they had seen Him buried, and they went, expecting to find a dead Man. They went, expecting to find a lifeless Body which needed to be embalmed.

The disciples also believed and expected that the women would find the dead Body of Jesus in the tomb. They were in hiding, fearful that the Pharisees and the Romans might now come after them. After all, they had taken their Leader and killed Him, and He was now dead in the tomb.

What is your expectation this morning? Is Jesus dead? Are you here to celebrate the beginning of Spring? Are you here to celebrate the Easter Bunny and his invention of candy? What is your expectation?

The women arrived at the tomb, carrying their spices and oils, and they were shocked, and then terrified. They fell on their faces, not knowing what had happened or how to respond. The guards were passed out on the ground, the seal had been broken and the stone was rolled away, and two angels, who look like men, appeared, blazing with the Glory of God.

And the angels asked them two questions:

"Why do you seek the living among the dead?" He is risen! Why are you looking for Someone Who is alive in a tomb? You don't find living people in tombs.

"[Don't you] remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise?" He is risen! Don't you remember what He told you? Why didn't you expect Him to rise from the dead? Why did you expect to find a dead Body? Don't you remember?

"From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised" (Matthew 16:21).

"As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, 'The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day'" (Matthew 17:22-23).

"And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 'See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day'" (Matthew 20:17-19).

What wasn't clear?

So the women all ran back to the disciples and told them that "He is risen."

But the disciples also expected Jesus to be dead; they thought He was a dead Body in the tomb as well -- that was their expectation. So Peter and John ran to the tomb, and they confirmed what the women heard and saw: He is risen.

And in the days to follow, Jesus would be seen, touched, and eat with over three hundred people, who became eyewitnesses to His Resurrection.

"Well," the sceptics say, "that's the story. But who knows if it really happened. Maybe He wasn't really dead. Or perhaps they just made the story up later."

There are a variety of insane theories about Jesus not really being dead. So consider, if you will, how all of these theories must go: after being beaten and tortured all night, crucified, stabbed, losing massive amounts of blood, and seemingly dying, He was placed in a tomb, with a stone rolled in front of it, and guards to keep anyone from removing the Body. Once everyone left, Jesus unwound the burial clothes, pushed the massive stone up and away from the tomb, from the inside, overpowered the Roman guards and/or convinced them to lie for Him, and then He disappeared into the wind, leaving His disciples to believe that He rose from the dead -- a belief that they so firmly believed, that for two thousand years now, they have been willing to be tortured and put to dead.

We have a choice, brothers and sisters, to believe that Christianity is the biggest and most cruel hoax ever perpetrated -- in which case -- somewhere there is real proof, and we ought to find it and expose this lie. Or, everything Jesus said was true.

Whatever expectation we come with, we are faced with the announcement that "He is risen." This is either the most horrifying blasphemy ever -- or it is true. There is no other choice.

There are many today who want to make Christianity some pedestrian moral system that teaches us to be good people. But the fact of the matter is that Jesus taught again and again that He is God.

If President Bush insisted that he is God Incarnate -- or if Senator Clinton demanded that we believe that she is God and worship her and look to her as the only way to salvation -- and masses of people believed -- would we say that such a thing was just teaching people how to be good and moral citizens? Would we say, "O, Lord God, Mr. Bush, you are a good man. Mighty Hillary, our Savior, you have saved a village by your good teaching"? No! We would say that this is either the greatest insanity ever perpetrated, or it is the truth. Someone who claims to be God, Himself, is not just a nice, normal person. He is either over-the-edge nuts, or he is God.

And we can't sit on the sidelines. We can't not make a decision based on the evidence. Saying that we don't take a stand -- that we don't have an opinion -- is the same as saying, "I don't believe."

If the claims of Christianity are true, if He is risen, then we know that Jesus has taken God's Wrath against us for our sins on Himself -- our debt has been paid -- and we have received His Righteous Life credited to our accounts. And we also know, if it's true, if He is risen, then we who believe will likewise be raised.

Paul puts it this way: "Now if Christ is proclaimed as risen from the dead, how can some of you say that this is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testify about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ" (I Corinthians 15:12-23).

I don't know what expectation you came with this morning. But I say to you: He is risen. Jesus is risen from the dead, just as He said. If you don't believe that is true, then also understand that you cannot say that Christianity is a good religion. If it's not true, Christianity is a horrible, deceitful, blasphemous religion. But if you do believe He is risen, if you believe in Him, you are forgiven, and you also shall be raised on the last day.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we gather to celebrate the Resurrection of Your Son, Jesus, the Incarnate God. We thank You for the witness and the evidence that He is risen. We ask that He would make Himself known to each one here this morning, and that each one here would honestly and surely respond to the declaration of the angels: He is risen. For it is in the Name of the Living Son of Man, Jesus, we pray, Amen.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

"The Day Draws Near" Sermon: Hebrews 10:19-25

"The Day Draws Near"
[Hebrews 10:19-25]
April 6, 2007 Second Reformed Church

"And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twisted linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy. You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place. And you shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle opposite the table, and you shall put the table on the north side" (Exodus 26:31-35).

God instructed Moses to build the tabernacle -- the place of worship -- with rooms within rooms and courts within courts. The innermost room, the Holy of Holies, contained the ark of the testimony -- the ark of the covenant -- that box that contained the Ten Commandments, Aaron's rod, and some of the manna from the wilderness. In that holy place, the Glory of God would descend. And no one was allowed in that room, except for the high priest, once a year, on the Day of Atonement. The room was separated by the ornate veil -- curtain. Anyone who entered that room presumptuously would be put to death.

At the moment Jesus breathed His Last on that first Good Friday, we read this, "And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from the top to the bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split" (Matthew 27:51). And we can imagine those who were in the temple, running in terror, for the Holy of Holies was now open for anyone to see and enter. For hundreds of years, Israel had raised her children with the knowledge that if you glimpsed the Holy of Holies, you would die, and now, it was open to all.

But the author of Hebrews tells us not to fear, but to rejoice, for this is Good Friday. The Incarnate God lived and then died the horrific death of a criminal. He hung between Heaven and Hell, suffering God's Wrath, and being forsaken by His Father. And then, in victory, He tore the curtain from the ceiling to the floor, exposing the Holy of Holies. And our God says, "Come before Me with confidence."

"Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great high priest over the house of God,..."

Therefore, as we saw last night, since Christ our Passover Lamb has been slaughtered for us. Since His Blood has been shed and placed on the lintels and doorposts. Since He is Perfect and Sinless, and offered Himself up for His people. Since He offered His Whole Self, Perfectly, Completely sacrificed on that cursed tree. Salvation is now. Jesus has made salvation now. From that first Good Friday, salvation is now. Don't wait until tomorrow -- there may not be a tomorrow -- salvation is now.

Therefore, since He gave Himself as the Perfect and Complete Sacrifice, He has the Authority to tear open the curtain that separated us, His people, from the Holy of Holies. As His Body was torn apart and His Blood poured out, for the first and last time, a Holy Sacrifice was given, the Old Testament sacrifices ceased, and we were credited with His Holy Life, so we can come into the Very Presence of God confidently.

Therefore, since Jesus assumed the office of the Great High Priest when He offered up Himself as the One Holy Sacrifice, He perfectly fulfilled the word of the angel of the Lord to Joshua, "Thus says the Lord of hosts: if you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here" (Zechariah 3:6-7).

Jesus is our High Priest in representing His people before God the Father. He assists us through His Sacrifice of Himself. And through that Sacrifice, He makes us acceptable to the Father. Whereas that way into the Holy of Holies had been only for the high priest through blood sacrifice and death, once a year, now all of God's people -- all believers -- have the privilege of coming into the Holy of Holies every time we gather to worship.

Therefore. Or, perhaps, so what? Or, who cares?

Brothers and sisters, we are in the presence of the Almighty God. Jesus is here in this place, and He ministers His Grace to us through the reading and preaching of the Word of God and as we receive the bread and the cup. The fact that you and I are here together and we have not been struck dead for daring to come into His Presence, ought to make us ponder, fill us with awe, and realize that we must be different people. People who truly come into the Presence of God are changed.

The writer of Hebrews calls us to three things in the text we read:

First, "let us approach God with a true heart in full assurance of faith."

As we join together in the Presence of God to worship, let us come before Him knowing that we are eternally right with God through Jesus Christ Alone. Now, that doesn't mean we don't sin any longer. Christians sin, and we ought to repent and confess our sin. What it means is that we have been changed inwardly and outwardly through Christ. Our evil conscience has been purified by the sprinkling of His Blood. Our body has been cleansed with pure water -- that is the symbolism of baptism -- by which we understand the process of sanctification. That we are being made in body and spirit -- in every facet of our being -- like Jesus. We are being made holy.

We are to come into the Presence of God knowing, believing, that everything that we are, all of our good, everything worthy in us, has been earned, bought, and credited to us by Jesus Christ Alone. This fundamental principle in holy worship is to come into God's Presence with liberty and boldness and confidence, because Jesus is our High Priest and Sacrifice. If we truly believe that salvation is all of Jesus, and nothing of us, then we are assured, because salvation has nothing to do with us and our decisions and our performance. It's all Jesus. Holy, Perfect, Complete Jesus.

Second, "let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful."

As we make our confession of belief each time we gather together, let us remember that the facts of the confession do not stand or fall with the Reformed Church in America. They do not stand or fall by Second Reformed Church. They do not stand or fall by Peter Butler, Jr. And they do not stand or fall by any one of us here.

Our confession of salvation in Jesus Alone, throughout all of the Bible, stands on the fact of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Our confession, and the fact of our salvation, stands on the sure and everlasting fact that our faithful Jesus has fulfilled the pledge that was made for centuries through the sacrifice of animals when He sacrificed Himself, the One Holy and Final Sacrifice. Our confession is sure because the Sacrifice of Jesus is sure. And since that Sacrifice is sure:

Thirdly, "let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another."

If this is all true, if we believe that the Work is done and we can come boldly before our God, if we are assured because our Salvation is not based on our fallible selves, not based on our works, but on Him Who is making us His Own, then there ought to be evidences of that truth in our lives.

We ought to be provoking each other -- in a good way. The word there means "inciting, stimulating, strongly encouraging." We ought to be showing love to one another other, putting ourselves out for each other, helping each other to accomplish what is good and pleasing in the sight of God. We ought to encourage each other to continue to do good works. Now, understand, that doesn't mean encouraging foolish ideas, much less sin. And it doesn't mean telling each other that any idea we have is hopeless and useless, but you'll help anyway. It means that if someone is doing something good -- that we encourage her and help those good things to continue. And if someone doesn't know what good thing to do, that we make suggestions based on what we know of him and his abilities.

It especially means encouraging others not to neglect being in worship with other Christians -- to do all that we can to encourage each other to be at every worship service. Some people say, "Well, I worship God at home and in my own way." And it's true, we can meet God and worship Him in our homes -- we should be encouraging each other to pray and read the Bible and good Christian books at home. But we cannot rightly hear the Word of God read and preached and receive the sacraments if we don't join in worship with the people that Jesus saved. Christianity is not first of the individual, but of the people of God.

And we ought to be encouraging each other in all the good things that God has called us to do -- to worship, to be discipled and disciplined, to receive spiritual food from many and various sources, to grow in our life and faith, to forsake our sin, and especially the sin of sloth in spiritual things. "I'll pray when I get older. I'll read the Scripture when I get older. I'll do good works when I get older. I'll become a Christian when I get older." Salvation is now You may not get any older. Salvation is now.

"All the more as you see the Day approaching."

Which day? What is the writer referring to?

There are at least two different possibilities, and we may be wise to say both are right:

The first is the day of the destruction of the temple -- which occurred in 70 A.D. The book of Hebrews is largely concerned with how Jesus has fulfilled the sacrificial system -- a system that took place, largely, in the temple. So, the writer may have been referring to Christians understanding how Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial system, and beginning to live that fulfillment out, before the temple is destroyed and so many are lost for not having a place to sacrifice an animal.

A second possibility is the more general idea of the Second Coming. The writer may have been pressing Christians to live as people who can now stand in the Presence of God in the Holy of Holies, as an evidence to the world, before Jesus returns and it is too late to believe.

For us, the temple is destroyed, there are no more animal sacrifices, we understand that Jesus has died once, His sacrifice being Perfect and Complete, and we prepare to receive the bread and the cup and receive His Grace even this evening. But Jesus has not yet returned in the flesh -- yet He will.

So, let us understand what happened on that Good Friday. Let us rejoice that Jesus has brought us safely into the Holy of Holies by His Work. And let us be assured of our salvation -- because this is His Work Alone. Let us be assured of our sanctification -- because that is His Work Alone. And let us live lives of Christians, confessing our sure faith, working and worshiping as God's Salvation people, loving, encouraging, doing everything we can to make each others' lives better and more of a glory to Him.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, You have called us to be "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people for [Your] own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of [You] who called [us] out of darkness into [Your] marvelous light. Once [we] were not a people, but now [we] are [Your] people; once [we] had not received mercy, but now [we] have received mercy" (I Peter 2:9-10). Cause us to live confidently, with assurance, and as a witness to Your Salvation. For it is in Jesus' Name we pray, Amen.

Friday, April 06, 2007

"The Passover" Sermon: Exodus 12:1-28

"The Passover"
[Exodus 12:1-28]
April 5, 2007 Second Reformed Church

"Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, 'Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.' They asked him, 'Where do you want us to make preparations for it?' 'Listen.' he said to them, 'when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, "The Teacher asks you, 'Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?'" He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there." So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal" (Luke 22:7-13).

After four hundred years, God sent Moses to tell Pharaoh to let God's people free. But, as God had predestined, Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let Israel go free. So God sent plagues: First, the mighty Nile River was turned to blood. Then the land was covered with frogs, then gnats, then flies, and then the livestock became ill and died. Then God sent boils on the Egyptian people. Locus covered the land. And then there was darkness. But, each time, Pharaoh refused to let Israel free.

And then, the tenth plague: the death of the firstborn son. God was going to come during the night and kill every first-born son in the land of Egypt. Unless. Unless God makes a Way of Salvation -- and He did.

God told them to institute the Passover meal -- a celebration that Israel would celebrate every year to commemorate God's "passing over" them and not killing their firstborn. This would be the beginning of the year. They would begin their year remembering what God had done for them in saving them. And God told them that, in this is salvation:

They were to take a lamb, one for each family, and if a family could not afford a lamb, their neighbor was to share with them. Salvation, we understand, is first for a people. Just as they were saved from their slavery and death as a people, so we are saved, first and foremost as a people. Peter wrote that we are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people for God's own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once [we] were not a people, but now [we] are God’s people; once [we] had not received mercy, but now [we] have received mercy" (I Peter 2:9-10).

Salvation is for a people.

They were to take a lamb without blemish and offer it up for sacrifice. Salvation, we understand, must come through a Perfect and Sinless One. God expected and would only receive the best possible sacrifice that could be offered up. God would not receive a sacrifice that was tainted or malformed. God is a holy God, and the only appropriate sacrifice, the sacrifice that will save, must be a perfect sacrifice. Again, Peter wrote, "Know[] that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that lamb without blemish or spot" (I Peter 1:18-19).

Salvation comes through a Perfect and Sinless One.

The lamb was to be killed; his blood was to be shed, and then the blood was to be placed on the lintel and the doorposts. The lintel is the horizontal beam; the doorposts are the vertical. What symbol were they making? What image were they symbolizing as necessary? Salvation, we see, only comes through the shedding of blood and by being covered with it. The writer of Hebrews wrote, "Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." Israel deserved God’s Wrath, just as much as Egypt, but there is salvation through and in blood sacrifice.

Salvation only comes through the shedding of blood and being covered by it.

God told them that they were to roast the lamb over a fire and eat all of it, every part of it, until it was gone, and anything left, was to be burnt up in the fire. The lamb, the sacrifice, was to be totally consumed in its entirety. Nothing was to be left. Salvation only comes through total devotion -- total sacrifice -- and such a salvation effects the whole self. This should not surprise us -- what did Jesus say was the royal law? What is the most important, the most foundational law, but that law calling for every single part, every facet of our being, to be given to God in love? "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30).

Salvation only comes through total sacrifice and such a salvation effects the whole self.

God told them that He would pass-over all those homes with the blood , but all those who did not have the sign of the lamb's blood on their door, all those who had not sacrificed and eaten the lamb, those families would have the first-born die. For the cost of unbelief is everything. "Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his officials and all the Egyptians; and there was a loud cry in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead" (Exodus 12:30).

We're told that "by faith [Moses] kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them" (Hebrews 11:28). The cost of unbelief is everything. It is the one sin God will never forgive (Matthew 12:31).

God also said to bake unleavened bread for the journey -- bake bread without yeast. Why? Because when it was time for them to leave Egypt, they would have to leave -- at a moment's notice. They would not have time to let bread rise, and punch it down and then let it rise again before baking it. It was to be made and baked immediately, so they would be ready to go at a moment's notice. And so we understand that salvation is now -- there is no time to wait. Paul wrote, "Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (II Corinthians 6:2b). We don't know what tomorrow will bring; only God knows tomorrow.

So, now is the time of salvation -- there is no time to wait.

God told Israel to end the Passover week in worship. After they had recounted the salvation of the people by God, they were to join together in worship. And the angel told John to "keep the words of this book. Worship God" (Revelation 22:9b).

On Maundy Thursday, Jesus fulfilled the Passover: what thousands upon thousands of sheep could not do for all eternity, Jesus the Lamb of God did. He did for the people He came to save. He is without spot or blemish. He was killed and His Blood was spilt. He was completely consumed. And He calls us to believe -- and to believe now -- for tomorrow it may be too late. Tonight we remember the institution of the Lord's Supper, the fulfillment of the Passover, a place where we meet our God and Savior now, in a meal that we celebrate until His Soon Return.

"When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, 'I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.' Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, 'Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.' Then he took a loaf of bread and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!' Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this" (Luke 22:14-23).

The time is gone. The bread and the cup are on the table. And Jesus calls us to come. If we have believed, Jesus invites us to come. To meet with Him and receive His Grace.

Let us worship with prayer:

Almighty Savior, we thank You for providing Salvation for us, even as You fulfilled the Passover. Thank You for making us a people for You. Thank You for Your One Sacrifice. As we receive the bread and the cup, give us Your Grace, and may we know anew what You have done, and may it cause us to worship, again and again. For it is in Jesus' Name we pray, Amen.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

LCA?

I was in a Lutheran Church this week, and I was talking with one of the choir members. Since we are in New Jersey, I asked, "Is this an LCA Church?" And he said, "No, we're Missouri Synod. Do you know what that means?" I said, "Missouri Synod is the conservative branch." And he answered, "But don't worry, we're probably the most liberal Missouri Synod church on the East Coast. We believe in the ordination of women, and I'd be willing to bet, within forty years, we'll look at the whole discussion of [full inclusion and ordination] of homosexuals with the same amazement as we look at the way we used to treat blacks." I said, "You're probably right..." And he said, "Besides, there's hardly anything said against homosexuality in the Bible."

Puritan Wisdom

"For assuredly a sinner is still under wrath until he has actually availed himself of the way to the Father opened up by Jesus. All his knowledge of his sinfulness, and all his sad feeling of his own need and danger, cannot place him one step farther off from the lake of fire, It is 'he that comes to Christ' that is saved." -- Bonar, Memoir..., 13.

"The Very Stones" Sermon: Luke 19:28-40

"The Very Stones"
[Luke 19:28-40]
April 1, 2007 Second Reformed Church

Our text this morning is a familiar one: we have come in the life of Jesus to His final week before the crucifixion. At this point, He tells His disciples to go and fetch Him a colt, which He will ride into Jerusalem. They go and do as He has commanded them, and Jesus rides the donkey into Jerusalem, much to the joy of His disciples and the crowd that follows. They throw their cloaks and palm branches on the road to make for a smooth ride. They cry out blessings on Him as One sent by YHWH God. But the Pharisees rebuke Jesus and tell Him to rebuke His disciples, and Jesus tells them that if He did, "the very stones would cry out."

Jesus' actions tell us two things about Jesus, two things that we ought to remember this morning and always: First, Jesus is the King of Israel, and second, Jesus is the King of Creation.

First, Jesus is the King of Israel.

The prophet Zechariah prophesied this way, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you, righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zechariah 9:9).

It had become practice that when a new king was announced in Israel, he would ride a donkey through the gates of Jerusalem; this would be the coronation march, so everyone would see the new king, and they would receive him as their king. There would be no mistaking the new king.

So what was Jesus doing? What message was He communicating? Israel was an occupied nation; Rome ruled over Israel, and Rome had appointed Herod as king. But Jesus told His disciples to get Him a donkey -- that He would ride into Jerusalem. Notice, the disciples didn't ask Him why -- they understood very well why -- they asked Him what to do if the owner of the donkey thought they were stealing it. They understood what He was doing, the crowd understood what He was doing, and the Pharisees understood what He was doing:

In riding into Jerusalem this way, on a donkey, amidst the jubilation of the crowd, Jesus was announcing that He is the King of Jerusalem; He is the King of Israel. Not Herod, not Rome. No, Jesus is the King of Israel. It would be like Billy Graham driving up to the White House claiming to be the real and true President.

The Pharisees understood, and they did not want this to get out of hand. They had it well under the occupation. They were still supported by the people. They could still manipulate and cheat and control the people. But if Jesus was ever made king -- well, we know what Jesus thought of the distorted religion of the Pharisees.

The fact of the matter is that Jesus was and is and forever will be the King of Israel, and He not only symbolically fulfilled Zechariah's prophecy, He fulfilled it in fact. Jesus is righteous -- He has been declared innocent based on His Own Merits -- and He is Salvation. In Him, by Him, through Him, and for Him, we find our salvation and its confirmation through the week that followed.

Jesus is the King of Israel.

The Pharisees were angry and afraid, and they said to Jesus, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop." "Rabbi, stop this -- tell them they have misinterpreted You. Tell them to stop calling You, 'King.' Tell them to stop declaring that You have been sent by YHWH God. Don't forget, we are an occupied nation. Do You want to bring the wrath of Rome down on us? Do You think they will tolerate You saying that You are King, and not Caesar? You’ll ruin the good thing we have going here. Rome will disband the priesthood."

But Jesus doesn't do what they want. Jesus answered them, but it was not the answer they wanted. Jesus told them, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out."

When Jesus was brought before Pilate, Pilate asked what crime Jesus had committed. They told him that Jesus had denounced the Pharisees and claimed that He is God the Savior, the Christ. But Pilate would have none of it -- he wasn't going to get mixed up in their strange religion. But then they said, "We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king" (Luke 23:2).

The Pharisees understood Who Jesus claimed to be, and on Good Friday, they twisted His Words and presented Pilate with a case of treason. Pilate was stuck. He had to act. The Pharisees understood that Jesus claimed to be the King of Israel, and they understood that He claimed to be the King of Creation, God Himself.

Jesus told them that even if the tongues of men and women went silent, the creation itself would declare His Divinity. If the people would not sing His Praises, then the stones -- inanimate objects -- would shout out Who He is. The Pharisees understood Who He was claiming to be.

Now, we look at this, and we're twentieth-first century people. Our science has advanced greatly in the past two thousand years. We're not superstitious like the ancient peoples were. We know that rocks don't speak. We understand the point Jesus was making, but He didn't mean it literally, right? Right? Right?

Let us remember the history of Balaam:

"But God's anger was kindled [towards Balaam] because he went [to Moab], and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. And the donkey saw the angel of the Lord [YHWH] standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road. Then the angel of the Lord [YHWH] stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. And when the donkey saw the angel of the Lord [YHWH], she pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam's foot against the wall. So he struck her again. Then the angel of the Lord [YHWH] went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord [YHWH], she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam's anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. Then the Lord [YHWH] opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, 'What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?' And Balaam said to the donkey, 'Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.' And the donkey said to Balaam, 'Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?' And he said, 'No.'

"Then the angel of the Lord [YHWH] opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord [YHWH] standing in the way, with his sword drawn. And he bowed down and fell on his face. And the angel of the Lord [YHWH] said to him, 'Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come to oppose you because your way is perverse before me. The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live'" (Numbers 22:22-33).

This is history: God caused a donkey to be able to speak in Hebrew. And we say, "Well, even if that is true, donkeys have mouths, stones don't have mouths." And that makes good logical sense, but there's one more question to consider: Is it possible for the Almighty God, the God Who created everything from nothing, is there any possibility in all of infinity that the God Who did this, Who made everything exist that exists, is it at all possible that He could cause a stone to speak -- even without a mouth? Be careful how you answer; you might deny the God of the Bible.

Even now the Creation is declaring Him, as Paul writes, "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the World, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles" (Romans 1:18-23).

The Creation, even the rocks, are already clearly telling us Who God is, and if we know God, we will also know His Son. Let us not wait for God to give the rocks mouths. Let us declare and proclaim what we know now: Jesus is the King of Creation. Let us join together with the creation and Christians around the world in proclaiming, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!"

The day will come when we will eternally praise Him without interruption in the New Jerusalem. Let us begin now, because we know Him and He has made us His through His Salvation. Let us make His Name and His Salvation known to the whole world now before the day comes. Let us join together in receiving the bread and the cup, remembering the Work that Jesus finished, communing with Him right here and now in this sanctuary, and looking forward in hope and expectation for the day when the sky will roll up like a scroll, and we will be received into the Kingdom fully come.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, Jesus, Lord and Savior, You are King of Jerusalem and of the entire created order. Cause us to praise and acknowledge You. Let us join unashamedly with the non-human creation is showing who You are through our words and deeds. And may You be forever praised. "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven." In Jesus' Name, Amen.