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Fed by the Word - Proclamation Closing service

Notes & Transcripts

“Grace and peace to you, from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come”(Revelations 1:4b)

           

Today we celebrate the conclusion of 11th year of Proclamation here in Brant County – and we sing some of my most favorite hymns, as Jean Duff, our Organist will attest

And that greeting that I opened with is from the 1st chapter of John’s Revelation

                        And What a powerful greeting that is

Powerful - yet in the culture of the day, and in today’s culture extremely subversive

It is known as an apostolic benediction

A message or blessing from the early followers of Christ.

                        The greeting combines both Greek (“grace”) and Hebrew (“peace”)

                                    Grace, that is, the good-will of God towards us and His good work in us;

                                                And Peace, that is, the sweet evidence and assurance of this grace.

            It is message to not only one group of people - but all people

                        At the time… and today… a Subversive and counter-cultural message

And for this evening with members of the Body of Christ from a variety of denominational backgrounds, it seems fitting to greet you with Grace and Peace

And then we hear: “the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come”

                Since before Abraham He “was”… and “is”… the "I AM"

                        and He “is”… and "always was"…, the eternal Logos or Word;

Consider the beginning of John’s gospel

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.

2 He was in the beginning with God.

3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.

What has come into being 4 in him was life,

and the life was the light of all people.

5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.(John 1:1-5)

 

Jesus, not only “is” and “always was” but also "who is still to come" - the promise of the Return of Christ

            God from everlasting to everlasting

Jesus is the Christ – the messiah – God incarnate.

Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end

Consider the world in which this is written - where the state religion is worship to the emperor – a man, who was understood to be a deity

And consider our own culture today where everything is acceptable relative to the eye of the beholder

‘What’s true for you is true and as long as you respect what is true for me is my truth’ – relative truth

And today in this Proclamation concluding service, we celebrate the Word of God

            To all the politically correct statements of relative truth

Today, at the end of a full reading of the Bible, we Christians declare proudly that Jesus is the truth - and Jesus the Christ reigns over it all

In that message of Christ in the past, present and future - everlasting to everlasting

            There is a message of completeness

And in fact, as you likely know, all of our readings represent a sense of completeness

            We began with Psalm 150 – the final and glorious conclusion to the center of the Bible

            We heard from the last chapters of the prophet Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament

            We heard the concluding chapter of Gospel according to St. John, the final Gospel

And lastly we will hear the final chapter of the final book of the Bible – The Revelations of John

                       

The purpose of this message of completeness might be best described in the 1st  chapter of Revelations where Christ is declared as “the firstborn of the dead, and ruler of the kings of the earth”(Rev. 1:5b)

            Also “to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever” (Rev. 1:6b)

 

The Book of Revelations for some is the most difficult book in the whole bible to understand.

That, is mostly to do with the fact that we don’t think in the same apocalyptic way of the Middle-east of 2000 years ago

However Revelations can provide an incredible vision.

                                    It is the product of the marriage of hope and despair, of promise and pain.

It is a book/dream/vision/poem/letter written by John, an Apostle and disciple of Jesus

God through the words of Revelations offers us a vision of a brand new life;

            A life lived in a brand new order in a brand new way.

The book of Revelations presents to us, some confusing and frightening images

            Serpents and lakes of fire, and demented creatures

                        But don’t be distracted by that – that is merely a style of story-telling

        What we are to see through all of that, is the message that John intended

   And it speaks precisely to what we are celebrating today - The Word Eternal

           

In the midst of this message today, and all of Revelations, we are given Christ’s dominion over all things

            No matter what comes against you in this life;

No matter if all of the power of pain and chaos of the universe seems to overtake you all at once;

No matter if you can not control one single thing, or fix one single thing in your life,

                                                The worst is over, the healing has already begun.

                                                            The lamb is on the throne.

Revelations, understood for our day, beyond the style of story

            We have the very nature of Hope.

                        For Christians hope is not a wish.

                                    It is not a tooth under a pillow,

                                    Or fingers crossed

                                    Or just one more 649 lottery try.

            Hope, for a Christian is an assurance,

                        A firm and binding promise.

                                    It is a sure thing.

            Hope is not a feeling - It is a fact.

                        It is a fact rooted in the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

And assured by the amazing, steadfast, unshakable love of God, for God's people and recorded for all time in The Holy Word

                                                God will not be shaken.

            Hope is independent of circumstances and it ‘will never be’ conquered by evil.                                          Even if hurt seems to be winning,

                                    The battle by God - has already been won.

From our reading this evening: Revelations 22:7 - Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic message of this book. (Revelations 22:7b)

Moving from The Revelations of John to the final chapter of our Gospel account recorded by John we are given a glimpse to Jesus’ closest disciples and tonight, in particular, I would like to consider Peter

Peter’s story is a story of a journey of faith, this seems fitting as over ten days we have journeyed through the whole of Bible

        Peter’s journey is one that is gradual and filled with the highest highs and the lowest lows

We see Peter, the impulsive disciple – journeying in one way then flip flopping back and forth making mistakes repeatedly

It all began in a boat down by the lake... the reluctant dream of an impulsive fisherman

That dream had come hard -- indeed at first he rejected the thought.

This Jesus who had the audacity to commandeer his boat and then tell a fisherman how to fish? "...we have worked all night long but have caught nothing(Luke 5:5)

 (what's another empty net in a night filled with empty nets?)

"Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets." (Luke 5:5)

Then it happened! "...they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break," (Luke 5:6)  

From that moment on, Simon Peter's life was defined by a dream.

There are all kinds of everyday dreamers like you and me who dream that somehow, someway, our lives might make a difference in this world.

Our childhood images were filled with, "Cinderella," "The Little Train that Could," or any of a hundred other tales that fired our hearts with the notion that we could -- if we hoped, prayed and worked hard enough -- make a real difference in our world!

But there [can be] a kind of a "downside" to dreams.

They are not always fulfilled

Somewhere in most of our lives there is at least one dream that fell apart

Some broken dreams may have to do with major issues that change the direction of our lives -- others are simply a temporary inconvenience, but most of us have been there.

The dream that had become the heartbeat of Peter's life was huge.

While most of us "have" dreams -- this dream "had" Peter.

[One way to fully appreciate the struggle of Peter's journey] is to examine some of the more powerful statements he made to Jesus during the course of their relationship.

By taking a closer look, we can trace the rise and fall of Peter's [journey] in four amazing statements he made to Jesus and one he made at the end, to a crowd of bystanders.

"Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" (Luke 5:8)

At the very beginning when Jesus had directed Peter to a "catch" so unbelievable, Peter was confronted with awesome divinity of a carpenter from Nazareth… and fell to his knees.

"Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water."(Matthew 14:28)

Spoken when a boat, full of terrified disciples, saw Jesus walking toward them on the water

Here we witness Peter's life changing desire to step out in faith.

"You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."(Matthew 16:16)

Can you imagine Peter ever forgetting the day he identified the Messiah who then changed his name [from Simon to Peter] meaning "The Rock"?

"Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you." (Matthew 26:35)

Blurted out when things were coming unglued (at least in the disciple's view), Jesus has just said that all of them would desert him. Peter's vehement response was a heartfelt affirmation of loyalty.

[Then]

"I do not know the man!" (Luke 22:60)

These words must have stuck [like unrelenting heartburn] to Peter's soul

They represent the moment Peter's dreams died!

The fisherman who identified the Messiah of God and went to the mountain top with Jesus… became the disciple who denied the Lord three times and sunk to the depths of dreamless despair.

Peter's dream finally saw him arrive at the worst experience of his life.

Hope, joy and expectation, tentative at first, grew into full blown excitement for the "new world order" [the real one!], Jesus was bringing.

The Kingdom of God was at hand -- within reach -- the sick were being made well, crowds were discovering "the joy of the Lord" and evil was on the run.

The unknown fisherman and his friends from the North were about to be a part of ushering in God's plan for Israel.

The denial was beyond belief! Just to make sure the accusing bystanders believed him, Peter punctuated his denial with curses,

"I do not know the man!"

When Peter's world collapsed. He wound up heartbroken and soul sick.

If you have ever had a time when your fondest hopes were smashed or your most cherished dreams were dashed -- you can relate to Peter at this lowest point in his life.

Most of us have experienced the trauma of shattered dreams and broken hearts.

[So what is Peter to do in this life-shattering moment]

The most natural thing in the world… when trouble and trial come, you naturally go back to the beginning of things, to before the dream began

[the wonderful good news is that] Jesus meets Peter at the beginning point of their relationship.

Of course Peter would go back to fishing.

Of course we want to go "home" when something terrible hits.

The key point here is: God will meet us at the point where we most need to walk with God.

We can not find healing for our broken dreams until we open up to ("recognize”) the presence of Christ in our circumstances.

The point of the gospel lesson is...

Christ was there when it all began…

He is present now… even when it is difficult to recognize him.

A sure beginning step in recovery is to pray, "Lord help me to see you here and now in the midst of my difficulty."

Peter contributed to the demise of his own dream by trusting too much in his own strength.

He made the very natural mistake of saying, "Lord, I will be strong for you!"

Instead, he would later have to learn to pray, "Lord, give me strength to serve You!"

After breakfast on what must have been an incredibly joyful reunion on the Northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, there is a bit of unfinished business to take care of.

As if to take him through the three denials -- face Peter with his need for grace. Jesus asks Peter three times, "Do you love me?" And true enough -- the third time was the charm.

"Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time... 'Do you love me?'"(John 21:17)

In other words, Jesus finally had Peter's attention and was able to help him put his life on track to finally bring him fully and wholly to conversion

Jesus' final instruction to Peter is the essence of simplicity and brilliance. "Follow me!"

The greatest thing in all the world -- the thing that can bring the greatest joy and fulfillment is the great commandment Jesus gave some time before this early morning breakfast...

"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)

In other words, love God with all you've got and your life and you will line up with God's design for your living.[1]

In God’s eyes, by our Lord Jesus Christ, you share in the victory over death and all that is death

You are given the offer of completeness – of wholeness of being

In God’s eyes - it’s not how you got there that matters – God will use any broken situation

God will come alongside you and bring you home – and may even meet you where you feel you are most at home – like fishing – or working – or amongst family and friends

            When you have eyes to see the Risen Lord – God will be waiting there for you

                        Dramatically if you need drama – gradually if you need the journey

                        God is there on the beach – to welcome you home – to restore you to wholeness

                                    To call you to simply – Follow Him

           

God paints a sustaining vision,

            A vision wholeness,

            A vision of things the way God intended.

            A vision, in the midst of struggle and pain - there is the promise of glory.

Over the entire Bible there is a kind of journey through the mysteries of salvation.

As we mark the conclusion of reading God’s Word over ten days we finish with a message of completeness

                        And here we find the victorious Christ enthroned in glory.

In faith we believe that He has indeed conquered the forces of sin and death,

                                                And he is already enthroned with God the Father.

                                                       In anticipation, we look forward to his final glorious appearance.

 

We are living in the ‘here and now’ with the God that “is” “always was” and “is to come

            Tonight as we celebrate the triumph that is Christ’s dominion over all

                        Celebrate because the victory is offered to all of us

And so in the words of the final verse of Bible

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. (Revelations 22:21-22)

Let us pray - Christ was in the beginning, all things were made through him, He is here now and He is the promise, the hope on which our faith is rooted. Jesus, be the beginning and the goal of our lives, Come Lord Jesus, come reign in our lives - Amen


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[1] http://www.lectionarysermons.com/pieces2.html - "Picking Up the Pieces - When Dreams Have Died," John Jewell, 1998.

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