sermon – The Jesus of all History

July Sermon for St. John’s, Tulare

Come Holy Spirit. Fill our hearts and minds to overflowing with conviction, faith and trust, and gladness. Amen.

We heard read this morning Ephesians 3:17 — “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

So then,,,,The reason to believe in Jesus – and everything He is and will do and has already done – is so that… Christ may dwell in your heart. Ahhh, so that’s why we should believe in Jesus.

And who is this Jesus Christ in whom we are to believe, and then who dwells in our hearts?

There is a timeline on the blackboard in the parish hall, a straight line from one side to the other. It has the name “JESUS” written on the line from one side to the other, almost making it look like someone was “crossing out” the Name of Jesus.
On the contrary, it was an important visual lesson for the confirmation class, as we memorized Hebrews 13:8, which I told the class was one of the great historical descriptive verses in the bible.
This is in fact what makes Jesus “Historical”, not just because we can say he existed from about the year 0 AD to 33 AD,
The verse says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

You know, it is one of the tests of our faith, our belief in Jesus, to in fact accept the written testimony of his first followers, and of the OT prophets. I’m sure you’ve heard from somebody who simply can’t accept the miracle stories, and made you feel like an idiot for being such a believer.
But, standing firm, you know it’s not just about believing a guy named Jesus with certain DIVINE attributes walked around Judah, and Samaria and Galilee. It includes the challenge of believing the written testimony of those same followers about the stories of miracles and healings and exorcisms and all the great works Jesus performed.

Like in today’s gospel lesson, where Jesus causes a miracle to take place in this feeding of an enormous crowd of people making use of only a paltry few loaves and fishes.

If it’s just a guy walking around talking profound teaching, then maybe I won’t think believing in these stories is really necessary, and so the challenge of belief in them is…pfft.. set aside.

Or Jesus walking on the water — mind you, swiftly enough to catch up with the boat that left the shore well ahead of him –.

If it’s just a guy walking around talking profound teaching, then maybe I won’t think believing in these stories is really necessary, and so the challenge of belief in them is…pfft.. set aside.

It is a fact of our faith, provided to us through the written testimony of those who were his followers, AS WELL as by a couple of ancient Roman historians, that Jesus of Nazareth lived.
“Jesus of Nazareth” — that’s how Jesus is identified by some of those who only wish to keep Jesus identified as a person who lived in the 1st century AD. Christians don’t deny such an identification. We accept the written testimony. And We would also refer to this real life Jesus as “Jesus of Bethlehem”. As well as “Jesus, the son of Mary, and of his —if you will — step­father Joseph.” Even “Jesus, son of David”, because we accept the genealogy that is provided for us in our written testimony.

We can believe such identity, and human existence. We might even TRUST the testimony to say he was a real person. Just like we presume that Sophocles, or Aristotle, or Darius, or any number of personages of world history actually existed because someone said they did. Or even that we can believe YOU exist, whatever your identity might be. By the way, what DOES prove your existence? Your Social Security number?

But that kind of belief does not lend itself to the BIGGER historical Jesus. The one who is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. That’s the stuff of Beginning and Ending.
John in his gospel begins in chap 1 with such an historical statement, “in the beginning (which means when the beginning could be identified, He was already there) was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God. (And then comes the great pronoun) HE was with God in the beginning.

Our whole worldly existence, and all the history that can be gathered to describe that existence, is based on the existence already of Jesus, the Son of God, the Word of God, the only begotten Son of the Father.

When I ..when I try to comprehend such a huge historical concept of alpha and omega, of beginning and ending, and then look at the 33 years Jesus existed ON earth because he took on human flesh, it always puts the search for the “historical Jesus” who lived among us into a massively different perspective.

THAT’S the WHOLE Jesus, the whole HISTORICAL Jesus, again, Yesterday, and Today and Tomorrow, all at once, who has given me and you the opportunity to believe in. And that, ironically, is the Jesus who will die for me, and the one who will rise again for me, destroying that pitiful measure we call death in this existence.
You see, when I believe in SUCH A JESUS, my HISTORICAL JESUS is the Jesus of ALL TIME and ALL ETERNITY.

When THIS Jesus dies for me, it is a supreme sacrifice for all of MY history, NOW, and for ALL people at any time, any where, and when THIS Jesus is the one who will rise again for me, He is raising me to not just into his historical existence back to 2000 years ago, destroying that pitiful measure we might call death back THEN, but He is raising me into a new existence without fear of death FOREVER, and WHEREver He is.

So Now, with that understanding, I look again at the gospel stories of healing, of release, of restoration, of raising the dead, of exorcism, of divine wisdom, of authentic and powerful teaching authority, of changing water into wine, of walking on water, of feeding of 5000, of walking into a room with a locked door, of being transfigured on a mountain top, and more and more and more. John said it best when he said there is so much to write about this Jesus that there wouldn’t be enough room to store it all. Now I look at these Gospel stories with the understanding and belief in the Jesus of yesterday, today and tomorrow, and I see Exactly who I believe in, and WHO IS WORKING these miracles. It is God himself. Can GOD do miracles? You bet.

Yes, I believe in these written testimonies. I rejoice in these written testimonies. I proclaim these written testimonies of the power and might of God through Jesus Christ his Son, our Lord.

And more, I rejoice in the specific testimony of God’s power and grace as written in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, especially one of my favorite verses, Ephesians 3: 20 and 21.
“20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

I do not have to gaze only on the wonderful, amazing, awe-inspiring, reality challenging miracles of Jesus from written testimony 2000 years ago. Because this Jesus Christ is also the same TODAY, and then TOMORROW, our belief includes the possibility of what Jesus can do to make things happen in our lives, now and in the life of the Church, and in the life of the World that we can’t even conceive of, can’t even imagine, couldn’t even wrap our brains around right now. But that’s what you get when you believe in the Word of God. Living in you.

And, friends, this same Jesus Christ is seeking out hearts to fill. To live in. To dwell in. To provide abundant life.
Believe in that. Believe in him. Believe in the written testimony about him. Believe what you read in this collection of books and letters and proclamations about God, and about God who is Jesus Christ.

Arland Hultgren said,
“Christ cannot be simply a concept or a memory. The risen and living Christ comes to us in Word and Sacrament, and he seeks to find hearts in which to dwell. Where he is, there is love.”

What rejoicing. Joy in the midst of the pain of living in this world. Joy in the midst of unbelief, and skepticism.
Do not listen to those who tell you that the historical Jesus of 33 years is the only existence or reality or historical identity of Jesus. Do not listen to those who tell you that it is ok to pick and choose from the bible what kind of Jesus you should believe in.

Come to this eternal Jesus, repent of what you have done wrong in his presence (and he his present, believe it), believe in him as your Saver from such sin, and believe in him as your Ruler, Guide, Law, King, and Light, and live the new life of consecration through your baptism.

Today at the 8am service we [8am: are going to baptize] [10am: baptized] a woman into such rejoicing, such promise, such belief, such eternal life in this Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God that one more soul has seen and heard, has believed and received the joy of new life dwelling in her, belief in the Great Historical Jesus of all time and eternity.

Let us pray
Lord Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today and tomorrow, the God of miracles, the provider of salvation; pour out upon us now your Holy Spirit so we may comprehend all your works, all your existence, all your love, and be filled up to all the fullness of God. Amen.

RGE+

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