This Sunday we looked at the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) in relation to our recent celebration of Easter. Easter is amazing news! It gives hope through connecting us to Jesus – the personal, living, eternal Saviour. He is “God with us”. We have new life and a new relationship with God when we trust in Jesus!
The Mission of Easter
(GUEST POST Carter Whyte)
Easter is such an amazing reminder of the good news that we have received. It is an amazing reminder of the power and miracle of Jesus dying and raising again; as well as the powerful miracle he does in our lives when we believe in him. He miraculously and lovingly gives us new life and a restored relationship with him! This is the foundation and reason for everything Christians live for. The love of Jesus and his ability and desire to transform our lives to become new and beautiful.
But Jesus doesn’t only give us a new identity, hope, and a restored relationship with Him. Jesus gives us a new mission – a mission that is part of his continued transformation in our lives. Jesus sends us out with the Easter message to love others, share with them this message of hope and transformation from Jesus, and walk with them as we both walk with Jesus. This is the mission to make disciples – the Great Commission.
This week at Plattsville we are going to look into Matthew 28:16-20. We will discover what this mission is, what it requires of us, and how much of a blessing it will be if we actually adopt this as our life mission like Jesus desires! It will be a blessing to get to share this message, as the pastoral intern here at PEMC. I look forward to being changed by Jesus together this Sunday – and learning how to change lives with Jesus!
Easter: The Centre of the Universe
On Sunday we looked at the different stories we orient our lives around. The truth is life can turn dark quick sometimes. The truth is that life can be difficult: relationships can fail, jobs can be lost, and disaster can happen. And when that happens it becomes so easy and tempting to believe that the universe isn’t a generous place, that God is maybe not good, or that things will keep on getting darker and darker.
And that’s what we wanted to really examine and also challenge: that I don’t believe hurt, fear, or darkness is at the centre of the universe. And to do that we looked at Colossians 1 where we read this:
For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.
And this passage can manage to offend just about everyone. Paul begins reminding us that we are all broken. We are all sinful, and we are all hostile towards God. Whether we recognize it or not, we are broken. But Paul knows this but he doesn’t end there. Paul says that yes we are enemies of God separated by our evil thoughts and actions, but God takes an amazing step.
Paul says God responds to this enmity and hostility by reconciling everything and everyone to him through the death and resurrection of Christ. Paul says that all of creation is redeemed and reconciled to Jesus because of his depth of his obedience in and through the cross. Paul says that we are all included. That we are holy, blameless, and standing before God without a fault.
And this is so life changing, so world altering, it can only be called Good News.
The truth is that at the centre of the universe isn’t random chance, at the centre of the universe isn’t hate, at the centre of the universe isn’t disaster or difficulty.
At the centre of the universe is love.
At the centre of the universe is a God that is for you, not against you. A God that gives up all he has to bridge the gap between us. A God that holds nothing back to welcome you, to include you, to bring you into his family, his love, and his grace. This is the news that has changed the world and it does this by changing people. Its changed me, and billions of others throughout the centuries. And on Sunday I wanted to remind us of a story we so often forget: that love is at the centre of the universe.
Michael Gungor says, “Faith comes from listening to the right stories”
And so often it’s so easy to listen to the wrong or damaging stories: that hurt is around the corner, chance is the arbiter of fate, or that things will get worse and worse. But that is not the story of the gospel, the story of the gospel is that you are holy, blameless, and standing before God. This is the message of hope that we need to hold onto, that needs to shape our lives, and that we can’t drift from.
So Sunday all we sought to do was to remind ourselves of the good news: that love is at the centre of the universe. For those of us who have never heard this, we invited them to accept Jesus and this truth. And for those of us who have heard this, we invited us to never drift from this truth but to welcome and celebrate it. Because it is Good News that goodness is at the centre of the universe.
Big Idea: Love is at the heart of the universe
- We all have at certain points the feeling that things aren’t going for us but against us
- “Faith comes from listening to the right stories.” – Michael Gungor
- God is Jesusy
- We are all broken and separated from God
- Through Jesus everything is reconciled to God
- God is for you not against you
- The gospel is that the resurrection changes everything, and every single person.
- I don’t care what you or anyone else have done in your life I care what Jesus has done for your life
- Love is at the heart of the universe
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What did you think of the deer story? What would be your “deer story” where things just get worse and worse? Have you ever felt like hurt or difficulty is just around the corner? What “stories” are you trusting? How can believing that love is at the centre of the universe change your life? How can you ensure that you never drift form that good news?
Discussion Questions for Families:
Today talk to them about how easy it is to get scared, to have fear drive us, or to believe that things wont’ get better. But share with them the passage that the heart of the universe is a God who loves us and is for us.
Challenge for the Week: Trust that God is for you not against you.
Three Words to Change Your Life ~ That aren’t “I Love You”
On Sunday, for Easter, we explored Jesus first words he says after his resurrection. For the past 6 week’s we’ve looked at what Jesus said before he died. Now we wanted to look at what he says when he lives.
The key thing to notice first off is that words have power. They can both heal, or tear down. They can give life, or create death. Words have a power, a weight, an energy to them. And Jesus’ words especially have a power to them.
So the disciples are sitting in fear. They are filled with fear and worry and anxiety. Shame is covering their hearts, and guilt is seeping through their souls. They are hiding in a room and Jesus shows up. And before we jump to Jesus words, we need to first recognize one clear thing: for the disciples Jesus showing up would not seem like a good thing.
And at first that statement might seem funny – you might have even re-read it – but its true.
We know that Jesus comes with grace, and forgiveness – but the disciples didn’t. Remember at this point they are God-betrayers, God-abandoners, and God-deserters. That’s who they are. They are not in the “good and righteous God followers” column or category. And they would have grown up in a world that talked about the “Day of the Lord” (the coming of God) as a good day for the righteous but an awful terrible day for sinners, gentiles, and the unrighteous. The Old Testament says if you are sinner, a gentile, or unrighteous that when God shows up it’s a day to be feared, it’s a dark day full of vengeance and punishment.
So when Jesus shows up we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that for the disciples this was instantly good. They were filled with fear, and shame and most likely didn’t think of themselves as “righteous and good”. They would be wondering if Jesus is here to settle accounts, to bring rightly deserved punishment, to bring vengeance and sentence.
And its into this highly charged, tense filled silence – where the disciples worst fears are playing with their imaginations – where shame is leading their souls further from God – that Jesus speaks some of the most beautiful words ever: peace be with you.
Peace be with you. Peace be with you. Peace to your sins. Peace to your shame. Peace to your betrayal. Peace to your disappointment. Peace to your fear.
Jesus shows up and gives out radical peace and forgiveness to a group of men who didn’t deserve it. Jesus first words are about peace, not judgment. This is a beautiful radical thing that we need to get. Jesus here is not just saying a short hello, or a salutation – Jesus is revealing the heart of God as about peace. Jesus is giving the trajectory of his kingdom that it will be about peace and not punishment and vengeance. God’s heart is about peace.
This is a radically freeing three words. Because then God isn’t to be feared, God is to be embraced.
Some of us believe that when Jesus shows up it will be to punish us for sins. But that’s not what this passage reveals. Jesus wants to free us from sin, not to punish us for sin. He has already taken all the punishment. And he wants to free us by offering us his peace.
So that’s where we landed on Sunday – with the Prince of Peace saying – Peace be with you. We closed with inviting everyone to simply picture Jesus saying to each of them – peace be with you. Peace to your fears, peace to your shame, peace to your guilt, peace to your brokenness, peace to your imperfection…peace…peace…peace
And that’s a good way to end, and to begin – with the peace Jesus wants to give us all.
Big Idea: Peace be with you
- Words are powerful things
- Shame is the heart disease of every era. People are dying from it – some quickly, others slowly. Shame deceptively but convincingly leads us to believe that we deserve to be shackled to it for the rest of our lives. We believe we don’t deserve to be free of shame. Silence always leads to more pain and guilt and shame festering inside. Pete Wilson
- The disciples are not sure Jesus showing up is a good thing.
- Jesus is saving the world, and creating the world in this moment through peace.
- God at his heart is about peace
- God is not someone to be feared, God is someone to be embraced
- Jesus wants to free us from sin, not to punish us for sin
- Fear and shame have no part of God’s Kingdom.
- Peace rules in God’s Kingdom.
- Resurrection means that sin is ended
- Resurrection means that evil is ended
- Resurrection means that shame is ended
- Peace be with you, because I am with you – Jesus.
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Have you ever thought about how the disciples would have been feeling? Do you think they might have been fearful of Jesus? Have you ever been fearful of God? Why are Jesus words “peace be with you” meaningful for you? Who should you share Jesus words with? Who needs to hear them?
Discussion Questions for Young Families
Why not actually practice this passage today with your kids. Ask them if they have any worry, any fear, any shame or guilt or hurt. Talk to them, and then talk to them about Jesus gives us peace. Share his words with them, and have them repeat them with you. Share the peace of Jesus with your kids – that’s a good way to start.
Challenge for the Week: Hear Jesus say, “Peace be with you”
Resurrection Changes Everything
Sunday was Easter. The biggest day of the year for Christians. Because on this day 2000 years ago all of life was changed. On this day 2000 years ago death was beaten. On this day 2000 years ago darkness was beaten. On this day 2000 years ago sin was beaten.
In short, Jesus won and life overcame the darkness.
And this is radical, momentous, and something I can’t even put into words. Yet the significance of this day is something that seems to get overshadowed by bunnies, Easter eggs, and a familiarity with this death-shattering day. Our familiarity with Easter causes it to lose some of its power.
So on Sunday I talked about resurrection. Because Paul makes a radical and life-changing statement: “that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you”
Do you understand how utterly life-altering that one statement is?
The power that broke death…is in you.
The power that trampled evil…is in you.
The power that conquered all darkness, sin, difficulty, and disease…is in you.
Paul’s point is that resurrection isn’t just something that happened 2000 years ago, resurrection is something that is happening now. The same power that raised Jesus, that resurrected him, is in you.
So on Sunday we asked the radical question: what does God want to resurrect in us? Because Easter isn’t just that some guy was raised from the dead. Easter is about the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, was raised from the dead and now that power dwells in us.
Jonathon Martin writes this,
Resurrection changes everything. If that man could get back up, anybody could get up. If hope died and came back to life, then hope can rise again for the whole world. If even God can die but come back to life, then anyone can come back to life.
That was our main point on Sunday: resurrection changes everything.
Resurrection changes everything. We live in a world strangled by the language and reality of death. We see dreams die, relationships fracture, hopes crushed, and lives defeated. Yet resurrection says – new life is possible, new hope is possible, a new reality is not only possible but here. Because resurrection changes everything.
So on Sunday we asked one simple but life changing question: what do you want to resurrect in our lives Jesus? If resurrection isn’t something that just happened, but can happen today – what does that look like in our lives?
And while I don’t know what that might specifically look like in your life I know some things about it. Areas in your life where death reigns, where darkness covers hope, where defeat directs your life, where fear rules, where sin shames – do not need to stay that way. Resurrection happened and resurrection is happening.
So today if yesterday just slipped by like any other day, why go one more day without resurrection in your life? Go to Jesus, he is alive, he is risen, and he has resurrection power he wants to give to you. Why not go to him and see what he might do in your life? Because 2000 years ago life burst from a death-filled ground, and it changes everything…
Big Idea:Resurrection changes everything…
+ Resurrection means that new life can begin, even out of death.
+ Jesus, what do you want to resurrect today?
+ Entropy is a law of nature in which everything slowly goes into disorder.
+ Another important point is that Jesus’ death was a political death. If you ask one of the crucial theological questions – why was Jesus killed? – the answer isn’t “Because God want us to love one another.” Why in the world would anyone kill Jesus for that? That’s stupid. Its not even interesting. Why did Jesus get killed? Because he challenged the powers that be – Stanley Hauerwas
+ Fear’s a powerful thing / It can turn your heart black, that you can trust / It’ll take your God-filled soul / And fill it with devil’s and dust. – Bruce Springsteen
+ “What we have then in the apostolic circle, is a group of disillusioned, frightened, guilty, mournful, semi-traitors” – James Allison
+ “Resurrection changes everything. If that man could get back up, anybody could get up. If hope died and came back to life, then hope can rise again for the whole world. If even God can die but come back to life, then anyone can come back to life. Jonathon Martin
+ Resurrection changes everything…
+ Death can do its worst, and Jesus will do his thing
+ What is it you need resurrected in your life? And are you ready to receive it today?
Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? In what ways is your life under the “shadow of death”? Can you relate to the disciples feeling full of fear? Talk about the quote from Jonathon Martin. How does resurrection change everything? How has resurrection changed your life? How might God want to change your life today? What do you need Jesus’ resurrection power to touch in your life today?
Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families: Today talk to you kids about what Easter is. Share with them that Easter means that when things seem darkest and most difficult – Jesus can show up and change everything. Talk to them about how fear holds us back, but God wants to take away our fear. Ask them if there is anything in their life they need Jesus to help them with – and then believe and pray about it. Jesus resurrection power isn’t just for adults, its for everyone.
Challenge for this Week: Live in Jesus’ resurrection power
Heaven is Here Now…
On Sunday we talked about the end of the story. We explored the last two chapters of Revelation. These chapters are full of images of life and hope. We read of living waters flowing, bringing healing to every person. We read of a place where chaos no longer reigns. We read of God restoring everything. We read of a place where the sun continually shines bathing people in life, light, and love. We read of how the presence of God is fully there unmediated, and fully available.
And we asked the question that is most obvious: when will these things happen?
The difficult, astounding, and Biblical answer is that in some way they already have. That with Jesus’ resurrection God’s presence is available for all us. Healing of our spirits and souls can now be found. Chaos is beaten, and light begins to stream from the tomb. The hard to grasp beautiful truth is that the future of hope is coming towards us, but it began at Easter with resurrection. So we do not need to wait till the end of time to experience, we can experience heaven now. Because the truth is wherever Jesus is fully present so too is heaven. Heaven is his presence.
We closed with reading a promise, a prayer, and an invitation to all of us today:
“The Spirit and the bride say ‘Come’. Let each one who hear them say, ‘Come’. Let the thirsty ones come – anyone who wants to. Let them come and drink the water of life without charge”. Revelation 22:17
This promise isn’t about the future but the present. This promise isn’t about what will happen, but what can happen today. Today if you need life, love, grace, hope, and healing. Answer the invitation to come, answer the call and drink the water of life, letting it give you life.
This is what we explored on Sunday and what we will explore for the rest of our lives…how to live in light of God’s presence that is with us today because of Easter.
Big Idea: The end of the story is beautiful but it begins today…
- What does Jesus death and resurrection mean?
- God doesn’t cancel our current creation but restores it
- In Jewish thought the sea can be a metaphor for chaos
- We can experience living water today
- You experience heaven now by finding Jesus today
Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What made you laugh? What did you take away? What would your life be like if you lived without guilt, shame, or brokenness? What do you need to experience today (life, freedom, hope, etc)? How can you Easter become a reality? How can you welcome Jesus into your life today?
Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk to your kids about how following Jesus isn’t about just going to heaven, but experiencing heaven here. Ask them what they think heaven is like. Talk to them about how heaven is full of joy, grace, love, fun, and hope. Talk to them about how Jesus wants them to experience that now. Ask them when they’ve felt those things and if Jesus has felt close when they feel loved. Take a moment and pray with them to experience “heaven” in their lives today.
Challenge for this Week
Come to Jesus today…
Death, Darkness, and the Fallacy of “Good” Friday
Today is Good Friday. A day that is only good in hindsight, and even then it’s obscured through darkness, pain and difficulty.
Today is the day that Jesus entered fully into our darkness to provide a way out. It’s today that when we look upon Jesus and his sacrifice we realize how unable we are to make our lives work as we would want. We see our struggle for coherence, meaning, and power. We see in Jesus’ naked body nailed to the cross our own betrayals of friends and family. We see how our desire to create empires of meaning and worth are empty, and filled with dust and dirt. We ask ourselves “what have we become”? We look at our lives in light of the sacrifice of Jesus, and we are moved to silence. We see God die and ask ourselves why, and when does the darkness break? But the darkness won’t break for another three days.
For three days doubt, darkness and death reign.
So today is not an easy day. Today is not a good day. Today is though a necessary day.
Today, like on a day many years ago Jesus’ body was broken, like bread, so that we might be made whole. Jesus poured his life out, like wine, as a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus gave up his life so that we might find it.
This is the message of today: life, breath, blood and brokenness all mix together so that in the end death might be beaten. But on this day we remember that before death was beaten, it seemed as if it had won. Before darkness lost its final battle, the light of the world was lost. So today we remember that before light and love burst forth…they went through death and darkness…
Lenten Reflections: Stations of the Cross, 14
Station 14: Jesus Body is Laid in the Tomb
The body of Jesus is taken to its resting place. At the very moment when he seems furthest from glory, when life seems darkest, hope is closest. Cold stone surrounds and imprisons his dead body. But we know that nothing can hold Jesus’ power of life over death. Reflect on how at the darkest moment life was closest to bursting forth. And if there is any difficulties in your life remember in this moment that life is never far away
Lent, Suffering, and Bonhoeffer
“Only the suffering God can help.” Dietrich Bonheoffer.
This is brilliant, true and full of hope for us during Lent. During Lent the disturbing reality is that we focus on a God, who in the person of Jesus Christ, was beaten, broken, and buried. This is the God we follow, one who died. Is it any wonder Paul said preaching the cross was foolishness…The world follows power, display, and strength; our God demonstrates sacrifice, weakness, and a willingness to enter even into death.
This though is why only the suffering God can help. We do not follow a God who is above suffering, empathy, and distantly removed because of his power. Instead, we follow a God who knows what it is to be beaten. We follow a God who knows what it is to be broken. We follow a God who knows what it is to be buried.
So if you have ever felt beaten down by life…have hope. If you feel broken in body or soul…have hope. If you have lost someone, or feel like you yourself are being buried under darkness…have hope. Because our God felt all those things, but broke through them to show us the way. Our God didn’t stay in heaven removed from the muck and mire of humanity and our struggle. Our God chose to enter into our struggle, to empty himself of all power and privilege to join us. This is why only the suffering God can help, because only the suffering God can understand what we go through. So you are not alone. God knows what it is to feel betrayal. He knows what it is to look forward and see darkness. He knows what it is to die. But the message of Easter is he also knows about resurrection. He is the resurrection and the life. It is through him that all of the world is changed, in a blinding moment of new creation, new life, and a new future. He enters into suffering to lead us out…so may we reflect and remember that this Lenten season. Let us not rush past the suffering to the resurrection of Easter. Let us remember that only the suffering God can help…
Living in Light of Easter
The biggest challenge of Easter isn’t to believe it happened; but to actually live in light of its happening right now. In essence,Easter isn’t something we are called to just believe in but to be transformed by.
So on Sunday I shared how resurrection can transform us, and why Easter matters. You can download it here. We talked about how when we are in the dark, resurrection teaches us that light is coming. No matter how dark, and “tomb-like” our lives may feel, light is coming. Darkness didn’t win. We explored how sin is disconnection and broken relationships. But Jesus, in his death and resurrection, takes on all separation, disconnection, and brokenness so that we can be made whole and holy. And lastly, even in the midst of death, life wins. Death would have us live in light of its lies: that life is over, that relationships are lost, that dreams can be crushed. But Easter reminds us that Jesus says it is finished, not death.
So this is why Easter matters. But if the point isn’t just to believe it, but to live it. So how do you do that?
Well that’s the hard part isn’t it, because we live in a reality where darkness seems to last, linger, and cover over us. We live in a reality that is fragmented with broken relationships, broken selves, and a broken planet. We live in a reality where death seems to win and loss seems irreparable. So how do we live out resurrection in this reality?
Well maybe a simple way to start is to let resurrection shape our reality.
We do that by holding onto Jesus, and onto hope. We hope even in the darkest, most broken, and death filled places, that life, light, and healing can still spill forth. Because that’s the message of Easter. This isn’t simply positive thinking. This is deep trust in the God who doesn’t let death, darkness, or sin win.
Andrew Root writes, “Optimism says, ‘Something good will come out of this experience’. Hopes says, ‘In the midst of this hell, God will act'”. That’s the message of Easter, that out of this hell, God will act. That’s how we live in light of the resurrection by holding onto hope even in the midst of hell.
So hold onto hope, hold onto the trust that the God, who was active in raising Jesus from the dead, is still active in your life as well. Hold onto the God who is active in the dark. Hold onto the God who doesn’t let anything but life, light, and love have the last word…