Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Story of Mom

This is perhaps one of the hardest writing assignments that I have had to undertake in recent years, if ever. Yeah, let’s go with “if ever”. This is the hardest writing assignments. How did I get it? I’m the preacher in the family. I have experience writing, and of telling stories.
Yet, this isn’t about me. This is about a lady I call “Mom”. She died the other day. It was an interesting day, one of her choosing I believe, if the nurse, who told dad, who told me, who is telling you, my reader, is accurate. When she woke that morning, she said she was going to die that day. She did. April 15, 2015.
It was a blessing, really. Mom was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. She was watching her sister from afar suffer through. And though she herself was suffering as well, her medication kept it at bay, mostly. Imagine a dam built. It doesn’t block all the water, but most of it. But then when it is removed, that water wasn’t drained away. It was still there, and now it was flooding. 7 years’ worth of HD rushed her in 6 weeks. She was proud, shuddered at the idea of suffering and being a burden to anyone.
She was born December 27, 1941, just shy of 2 weeks after Pearl Harbor. She’s told me a few times that her name was almost Pearl. It would have been if Grandpa listened to the War Department. Her name, however, was Carolyn Rae Harbour, or Carrie to those she loved and who called her friend. She was born in an odd place if you are a bit younger. It wasn’t anything like Phoenix Children’s Hospital, or St. Joseph’s Hospital. No, she was born at The Stork’s Nest in Phoenix, Arizona. See? It’s an odd name for someone such as myself, or those even younger than myself.
I know that she was living in Tucson when she met Dad. They were at a Young Republican meeting of sort. She loved politics, though she never ran for office. She was a behind the scenes type woman. She was out there campaigning for the candidates. She was out there being a right proper precinct committee person, knocking on doors, making sure people knew about who was running, even if that candidate had a “d” next to the name. People needed to register to vote and then they needed to vote. Come the county fair, you knew that she would be at the GOP booth. She would call out to people she’d not met. Then she would register them to vote.
Her love for politics spilled into her home life as well. Oh, perhaps I should mention that shortly after Mom and Dad married, they moved to Yuma where Dad started his business. Mom would be there helping, serving as his accountant. She was sharp with the money. 
But as mom involved with politics, there were so many files that she kept track. “Didn’t you go to the meeting last night?” She would tell me that that meeting was the Republican Precinct Committeeman Meeting. Tonight is the Young Republican Meeting. Next week is the regular Republican Meeting followed by the Women’s Republican Meeting, and when I turned 13, she helped sponsor the founding of the Teen-Age Republicans. I think I may be missing a couple of groups, but I am not sure. But she loved working behind the scenes, and instilled in me a love for politics.
Mom wasn’t just involved in politics, though another club she belonged to was a bi-partisan group, a watch-dog group for Yuma called, Governmental Affairs Forum. They met at Tate’s. Again, this was a behind the scenes group that watched and kept the local governments, be it school boards or city council, in check. If something needed to be done and wasn’t, Mom was one of those passing the petition.
From there, she was involved in Scouting. She was my den mother in Pack 90. She and her friend Elsie were both involved in Cub Scouts long after my brother and I advanced to Boy Scouts. She loved the social setting. She loved being a homemaker. She slept little, I think. Most of the house work was done after we were in bed so that for at least a few hours, while we slept, the house would look clean and neat. During the early mornings, she would be outside keeping the yard looking nice, not only the front, but the back yard as well, even though there was a 6 foot block wall keeping away prying eyes. She loved getting her hands dirty.
Which was good because she also loved being part of the Yuma Women’s Rod and Reel Club. I don’t think she passed many opportunities to fish. There was one contest once that the fishing was slow. She put in a minnow, baby bass really, because that was all that bit her line. It was to be a joke, the smallest fish caught. But at the close of the weekend, the smallest fish was the only fish. There were a few other fish hooks to share if you ask. But Mom never fished alone. If no one at home wanted to fish, she would call on her mentor and friend, Bea Strong. (Yeah, I never got tired of the pun material her name gave me.)
But that just furthers Mom being a socialite. She loved being around people. She loved going out to lunch with her husband at the busiest time of day for Brownies. She loved going to El Charro on Friday nights. She loved Gene’s and various other establishments that are/were around Yuma. And while we ate, she would talk. When we finished eating, she would begin.
When Mom and Dad bought a new home, it had something that we kids had wanted for a long time, a swimming pool. Of course, we kids were now grown. But that didn’t stop her from making friends with the youth ministers and opening her backyard so that the youth groups had a place to meet and enjoy a time of refreshing cool water in the hot desert sun. But it wasn’t just the kids from church she had in her pool from time to time, but also she enjoyed teaching her grandchildren to swim, playing with them splashing them.
At the holidays, and whenever she could get us all home, she expected her dining room to be crowded with family. And with as many grandkids as she had, the dining room table was full, the card table was full, the sofas in the living room were full, and the table at the poolside was full of people enjoying the company. She really shined with a full house underfoot.

Now Mom is at rest. She was preceded in death by her mom, Eva June Cramer, her dad, Marion Edward “Ray” Harbour, and her step-mom, Rose Margaret Harbour. She is survived by her husband of 44 years, Patrick Harvey, her daughter Michelle Harvey, her sons Steven (Carol) and John “Jack” (Dawn) Harvey, her sisters Peggy (Don) Murray and Patricia (Roger) Emeigh, and by 19 grandchildren. (I told you there were a lot!) 

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Story 13 - Finishing Well - Proverbs 1.1-7

Let us talk about Solomon this morning. His story is a bit of a sad story.  Oh, like the kings before him, he started fine. Well, maybe not. As king, the first action he took that is recorded is that he wed Pharaoh’s daughter to forge an alliance with Egypt.  But still, he did have a heart after God. He knew what was right and what was wrong. God even appeared to him, asking him whatever he wished, as if the Lord Almighty was a bit of a genie.
Solomon acknowledged God and what He had done for Solomon’s father, David. He acknowledged that he was leading God’s people, a great nation, but because of his youth and lack of leadership, he sought wisdom to judge properly God’s people. Oh not just wisdom, but wisdom that comes from an obedient heart. Could it be that in marrying the daughter of Pharaoh, he already knows his weakness? 1 Kings 3.
That’s a pretty good start for a king. God was pleased with this answer. Verse 10 goes on to say that God granted him his request and because Solomon didn’t ask for long life, riches, or fame, God would make him a king unlike any other before or since Solomon. And if Solomon was to walk in the way of his father, David, then also Solomon would be given long life.
This is where we get our proverbs. Solomon collected 3,000 of them. Though we don’t know all that Solomon had, he put these together, it is held at the beginning of his reign. Yet verse 11 makes me wonder otherwise. However, let’s read the text this morning:
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: For learning what wisdom and discipline are; for understanding insightful sayings; for receiving wise instruction in righteousness, justice, and integrity; for teaching shrewdness to the inexperienced, knowledge and discretion to a young man – a wise man will listen and increase his learning, and a discerning man will obtain guidance – for understanding a proverb or a parable, the words of the wise, and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
So of the purpose of the collection that we have, is that we would develop a discipline, learn righteousness, integrity, and discernment. These are some of the characteristics that Solomon had as king. And yet, the sad part of Solomon’s story is how he finished.
1 Kings 11 records that his heart was turned from the Lord because of his many wives and lovers. He would embrace their beliefs, culture and idols.  He would collect proverbs not just from following God, but also looking at other cultures. Though I am not sure of the writing of the Song of Solomon, a.k.a. Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes seems to come from life’s reflection, looking back, and the king sharing his mistakes. Apart from a relationship with the Lord, everything under the sun is worthless, meaningless. Then Proverbs perhaps from a sense of urgency. Son! Be quick to listen. It’s not too late. Do what I say, not what I do.
Of course all of the noble characteristics that are mentioned in the first 6 verses were displayed in one hearing. 2 women come before him, fighting over a baby. Both claim to be his mom. So Solomon put out a test to determine the real mom. For the real mom would rather know that her son is alive and watch from a distance than to kill him to satisfy justice, for that really isn’t justice. So when Solomon is done with the case, mom has her son back.
Yet, Solomon gave up his discipline of learning about God. Reverence of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but a fool despises wisdom and discipline. It makes me wonder if perhaps he has passed judgment upon himself.
To start, these characteristics are not how others perceive us, but how God sees us. Without reverence of the Lord, you cannot be a righteous person. Righteousness comes from doing what is right before God. Integrity is knowing who you are before God, being honest with God. And of course, the wise would increase his knowledge, knowledge of the Lord.
 Solomon wed a woman outside the faith. This is why he asked for a faithful heart. With such a prayer before him, one might wonder how did his heart change since God gave it to him? The Bible tells us that his many wives and lovers were able to turn his heart, yet how did he get to that place where they could?
His fall came from pride, something he would write about later in this book. It is easy to see, he is famous, world renown. People come from all over just to hear some of his teachings, of creation, of love, of mathematics, of design. You name the subject, he would share his knowledge. Even though God appeared to him twice, he still took his focus from his Lord and put it upon himself. He ceased his following, he stopped his habit of looking to the Lord. The Lord’s Temple, planned by his father David, took 7 years to build. But his palace would take nearly twice as long, 13 years, to build. He was a proud king. So he lost his focus.
So let’s turn this toward home. What is your integrity before the Lord? Paul tells us that we all fall short of the mark. Jesus tells the multitude that integrity comes from having a broken spirit before God, seeking him. Apart from Christ, we cannot be honest before God. I know people who, because of their storms, not only blame God but hate him, saying, “if he truly was God, then the storm would have never happened.”
Yet we live in a fallen world. Storms happen. Bad things happen because the world is more and more selfish and sinful. I know I am a sinner. I have no problem echoing Paul’s words to the Romans, I know what is right and what is wrong. I want to do right, but oft I find myself doing what is wrong. Lord, Save me.
Praise be to God our Father! Time and again, we see in Scripture that when we call upon the Lord, he rescues us, calms us in the storm. Sure, we may still have the storm to deal with, but we have the assurance of getting through it. That is the good news.
I cannot be honest, likely won’t be honest before God, and therefore I cannot stand before God on my own. But for being clothed in Christ, in calling on Him daily, Paul tells us that we are made righteous, not a process, but a declaration by God.
Yet sometimes, we might become distracted by wants and desires of the eyes. We take our focus from God and tell ourselves, “God has done some amazing things in my life.” We tend to focus on what has happened. One church I once served I was told how great the young adult program was in the 70s. If only we were still like that. Well, why aren’t you?
Pride has us settle where we are. We forget again Paul’s words to keep pressing forward. To not consider what has happened, good or bad. Our goal is to look to Christ, a goal that is not yet obtained this side of glory, but a goal ever pursued. Are you pursuing God?
Create in me a clean heart, Father. Continue to renew a steadfast spirit that I will always look to you, to praise you, to seek you, to tell others of your wondrous love and grace. Thank you, for the gift that Jesus paid so that we might call you, the Lord God Almighty, heavenly papa. Thank you for loving us.

A Race of the Lifetime - An Easter Sunrise Sermon

That fateful Friday so long ago. Can you imagine what it must have been like for the disciples, for the crowd, for the religious leaders? Here is Jesus, accused of blasphemy, though any excuse to rid them of this upstart, this threat to their powerbase, would have worked. He stood there silent.
He went before the authorities. Pilate talked with him, attempted to. “I have power of life over you.” “Only because my Father has allowed you that power.” What was Pilate to do? One hand his wife pressured him to have nothing to do with him, with his execution. Then on the other hand, the religious leaders were bent on having their way. They wanted Jesus dead.
He turned to the crowd, as a good politician does. He said to the crowd he figured was hailing him as king would take Jesus’ freedom over the scoundrel that was Barabbas. What shall I do with Jesus? Crucify him!
Can you feel the vitriol, the hatred for him? Imagine being there, being one of his disciples watching this take place, watching the finality of Jesus’ fate on the cross. Can you see the severity of his beating. It’d been a mercy had he fallen to it as so many have. He struggled with the cross, climbing the Hill of the Skull. Then there was the crucifixion. For 3 hours, darkness covered the sky. John watched him die. John watched as a spear punctured his side, his heart, and watched as his life essence flowed out of the hole. There was a finality as they took him down, as they quickly wrapped him and laid him in a tomb, as the Roman guard took position around the tomb.
Saturday, they cowered, the disciples. Would Jesus’ fate be like the rest? Little did they realize that Saturday would be like preparation for a race of a lifetime. It was as if “Runners, take your position!” Because as Sunday dawned, we would see a few races.
The first one was actually the last one run. The women who went out, not knowing that Jesus was quickly prepared already, to prepare his body, even after being in the grave. They loved him that much. So when they returned saying that He’s alive, the disciples, Peter and John, couldn’t believe it. They ran to where he was buried, and though John being faster, he had seen the finality of death. He stopped short, in case the women were mistaken in grief. He couldn’t go in.
Peter had no problem going in. He saw the linen folded neatly. But he wondered about it. John couldn’t believe it. But he did. Though he saw the brutality of Friday, he knew that the linen meant that today was the Greatest of Great Days. Peter still couldn’t understand, not yet, but he would.
This first race is alive today. Jesus in the Letter to the Church of Laodicea, calls those who do not trust, who do not take a stand, wishy-washy. They are worse than lukewarm water that is spewed from the mouth. People in this race believe that perhaps Jesus is a facet on this universal deistic model, that as long as a person is sincere, they will be ok. Ah, that is close to what the second race is about.
The second race was actually the first race. Imagine that you and 24 of your friends are guarding the tomb. It’s a bit trying, but being good military soldiers, you stand your ground. Then a supernatural earthquake not only knocks you down, but also knocks you out. When you and your comrades come awake, you see the impossible. The tomb is no longer sealed, but now open and empty. You quickly return to the ones who hired you because you don’t want to report failure to your commanding officer. So if anyone knew what to do in this situation, it would be your boss, the Religious Leaders of the day.
And this is where it becomes weird, interestingly so. When they report what had happened, those who hired them totally believed it. They didn’t doubt what had happened. Perhaps they had spent the week studying the Scriptures to see that Jesus could well be the Messiah. But as the Messiah, they would be out of a job. So they further commission the soldiers into lying with the promise of squaring it with their commanding officer.
Jesus being exclusive, it’s his way to the Father, to eternal life, or it’s eternal suffering and death, doesn’t make people feel too good about themselves. They want to deny Jesus’ existence, deny that he was really more than a good teacher. Yet the Gospel shows that it was a mere commission to lie about the truth that was known to the enemies of Christ back then.
This brings us to the last race, which was really the second race. That is the one with the women. They knew that they were not able to do anything for Jesus on Saturday since it was the Sabbath, so as soon as it was first light, it was safe to go and care for the Rabbi who meant so much to the world, or to them and the rest of the disciples, he was the world.
When the women arrived at the tomb, they saw the linen, and then as they were wondering, an angel appeared to let them know that one should not look for the living among the dead. Then they remembered His words, “destroy this temple and on the third day I shall raise it again.” They knew that Jesus was talking about this moment. They were excited so they hurried back to tell Peter and the rest.
Unfortunately, the disciples were slow to believe. Peter in Luke is said to be perplexed, not understanding the meaning of what the women have said. Yet here is the good news that comes from this race.
Not only did Peter come to believe, once he saw Jesus, but that God uses the unlikely sources to spread His good news. It wasn’t the religious leaders whom Gabriel announced God’s plan, for they were not looking, not caring. It was too an old woman, barren now to be with child. It wasn’t to celebrities that Gabriel revealed the plan, but to a young maiden named Mary, by now from a no count lineage of David. And it wasn’t to the same religious leaders that the angel appeared and announced Jesus’ rise from the dead, but it was to the women who came to minister to him.
Just as it is today, yes there are great preachers out there who appear to reach many people, who appear to bring many people to the decision of salvation, of faith in Jesus. But more times than not, those who make a decision at such a preaching event, a concert, whatever venue, people make a decision based upon the witness of their Christian friend, family, neighbor.
You don’t have to be some fancy preacher, some great church leader, to be used by God. And more times than not, He wants to use you, just as you are. Because you may be the only one who will reach certain people. So let me close with this question: Which race are you running? The one you run will be the race of your life.

Missed Opportunities - A Palm Sunday Message - John 12.12-19

Ever have one of those arguments, you are going back and forth, making your points. Perhaps even more, someone resorted to insults. Then after it was over, you realize you could have made a great point. It was a missed opportunity. Another one, early in our marriage, we started looking into relocating out of El Paso. Jobs were hard, my ministry with both the church and the mission concluded. Then I had a call from my new uncle-in-law. He had an opportunity if I was willing to relocate to Korea. After being in Yuma for a year, he called one last time to offer that to me. It was a missed opportunity.

Today, we are celebrating Palm Sunday. It is the time that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a beast of burden. It hasn’t been broken, yet… It was fulfilling Zechariah, fulfilling Isaiah. But it was also a time of missed opportunity. Let’s read from John’s Gospel, 12.12-19:

The next day, when the large crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet Him. They kept shouting: “Hosanna!  He who comes in the name of the Lord is the blessed One—the King of Israel!”
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written:  Fear no more, Daughter Zion. Look, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.
His disciples did not understand these things at first. However, when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about Him and that they had done these things to Him. Meanwhile, the crowd, which had been with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify. This is also why the crowd met Him, because they heard He had done this sign.
Then the Pharisees said to one another, “You see? You’ve accomplished nothing. Look—the world has gone after Him!”

Nearly two thousand years ago, the gates were open. The Lord came on a donkey that had never been ridden. Two thousand years ago, people lined up from the gate leading out to the Mount of Olives. Can you imagine what that day must have been like? People all over Jerusalem has heard that Jesus is coming to town. Many go out with palm branches and others are busy making sure that the way of the Lord was clean by putting some branches down, but also putting their robes on the road as well.

This wasn’t just an ordinary king’s parade. This is one that took all day to make it from the western gate into the city to the Temple complex. Mark’s Gospel said that it was the next day that he cleaned the temple. The other two do not offer anything that is contradictory. For a single man, the streets are lined with onlookers. And in front of him are those acting as troubadours, bards declaring him. “Save us!” they cried.

After the parade, already mentioned that Jesus went into the Temple courts and drove out the market. John is the only one who places this event at the beginning of the ministry. All others have it after he rode in on the donkey, on the foal. A contradiction? No, more likely that in the 3 and half years of ministry, he cleansed the Temple. Maybe he did it just twice. But he had to cleanse it. The market kept many from drawing close to God.

But not everyone appreciated this. Luke records that the religious leaders rebuked Jesus, “tell your disciples to be quiet.” Ah but if that were to happen, even all creation would cry out. Paul writes that creation was in pain, that Jesus came to reconcile all of creation. So the stones were waiting for their chance to cry out.

This parade also sparked jealousy. Oh they knew all right. The religious leaders knew that the messiah would come in this fashion. They knew because a week later, when the Roman guards come back and report the supernatural earthquake that knocked them out, a couple of dozen soldiers mind you, the leaders didn’t bat an eye. They knew what that meant. Say that his disciples overpowered you.

It was a missed opportunity for the leaders of Israel. Rather than to accept he whom they were looking, they turn on one another. Who are you? Seems you’ve lost your disciples to him. A plot to kill him ensues. Oh, but I wonder, a mere 5 days later, how many of those who shouted “Lord, save us!” would then shout, “Crucify!”

But the leaders were not the only ones to miss the opportunity here. Others missed it as well. Remember, the crowd was shouting, “Lord, save us!” That was exactly what he was doing. The people were looking for a military salvation. Yet from the beginning of the parade, he was declaring a salvation of peace between God and them. This day, his beast of burden would not be one of might, but of love and grace, the hope of eternal life.

That is not to say anything of the lament Jesus had for the city of Jerusalem. Oh a time was coming, not but 35 years later or so, Jerusalem would be razed to the ground. Nothing would remain. Yet even as this parade concludes, I wonder if the majority of the residents were clueless to the historic week that was unfolding before their very eyes.

Even today, we have missed opportunities. We have missed opportunities when we are like the Pharisees. Consider what they were facing. They knew who the messiah would look like. Yet they rejected the Messiah because they were comfortable where they were. They liked being on top. They liked telling people what to do. Jesus undermined them.

Today, the church is majoring in the minors with opportunities. The culture is changing, and we forget that as culture changes, as people become more hostile to the Gospel of Christ, sometimes we need to learn from those who’ve gone before us. Consider Paul who was beaten without a trial, both of which are illegal to inflict on a Roman citizen. Yet Paul saw and used both as opportunity to proclaim Jesus to the city of Philippi.

With society telling us that what is wrong is really good, we miss that opportunity to share the Gospel when we declare that we will not deal with those who disagree with us. We forget that apart from God, people are blinded and believe the lies. What an opportunity we miss when we cling to rights instead of using the opportunity to share the love and grace of the King.

We miss the opportunity when we are like the crowds. One moment they call out to the king. The next moment, they reject him. This can be harsh pill to swallow. Yet when we accept Christ, we are clothed in the Holy Spirit, God wants to clean out his temple of anything and everything that keeps us from worshipping our Heavenly Father.

Yet we can develop an attitude that says, “I’ve done my God-thing for the week (church), now the rest is my time.” It’s like saying that God, you can clean my temple, but these two rooms? No, don’t worry about them. I will just keep that door locked. It’s such closets that can get us into trouble. They can become gateways for sin to grow, to take over. Consider the warning to Cain: sin is crouching at your door waiting to devour you. And devour him it did. In jealousy over God’s approval, Cain murdered his brother Abel.

At some point, keeping our closets, we live the words that Paul calls a perversion, to allow sin to reign so grace may abound more. The writer of Hebrews warns that of such an attitude, there will be a time that we will lose the grace because we are crucifying Christ all over again, bringing about public shame.

Finally, we miss the opportunity when we are like Jerusalem. The time is coming and soon will be here for God is not slow in keeping his promises as some understand slowness. For with him a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. But God’s patience means salvation. Those are Peter’s words.

We live in a world that is hurting, even downright headed toward death. People are constantly looking for something better, for some great cosmic meaning. Others have bought into the lie that they are a cosmic joke, a fluke that came from pond scum. Believing themselves no better than animals, they live lives that are self-destructive.

You know, only in Christ, if I might call Christianity a religion, do we put others first because we serve a God who put us first. All other religions are merit based. Only Christianity is grace based. Imagine coming across someone who has been through a pain, made to feel worthless and being able to tell them that God desires to know him or her? Yet time is short. Because nearly 2,000 years have passed, we’ve lost our sense of urgency.

Because with the Good News, that Christ died so people can be loved by God, the bad news comes as well. If you aren’t of the crowd shouting, “Lord, save us”, you will be in the crowd that walks into hell.

But let me conclude on a positive. We can capture opportunities if we realize that we serve the King who, unlike world leaders, will hold us accountable. If we surrender all that we are, we will see opportunities. If we see the world as Jesus saw the world in Luke 10, the fields are ripe for the harvest. Pray to the Father to send out workers. When we start seeing people as God sees them, lost and need of grace, then we can be his instruments of love. We will regain our sense of urgency. And when we do miss opportunities, consider what Paul wrote to the Romans, “I know what is right and what is wrong. I know the difference between them and I want to do right. But too often, I do wrong. Who will save me? Praise be to God the Father that through Christ, we have the hope of salvation.”

As we enter this Holy Week, let us be mindful, let us look anew, for opportunities so that others might also say, “Lord, save me.”

In Remembrance of Him - An Easter Message

In a little bit, we will be observing the Lord’s Supper. Since Easter, a word that is closer to an Old Slavic word meaning “Great Day”, and our monthly observation of the Lord’s Supper falls on the same day, I thought I would take time to focus more closely at the command, “As often as you do this, do this in remembrance of me”, and Paul’s statement: “We proclaim the Lord’s death.”
It is fitting because as we proclaim the Lord’s death, we proclaim why He had to die. And because we proclaim why he had to die, we can’t help but to tell the rest of the story as why his death is so significant.
My passage this morning picks up where the Scripture Reading left off. I will be reading from 1 Corinthians 15.21-26:
20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man.  22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  23 But each in his own order:  Christ, the firstfruits; afterward, at His coming, those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He abolishes all rule and all authority and power.  25 For He must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet.  26 The last enemy to be abolished is death.
Our partaking of the Lord’s Supper is the proclamation in a world that needs a bit of good news today. This week alone, we have had a great share of bad news, of loss of life, of tragedy. In Kentucky flooding, a mom and her baby were swept away. Hundreds needed to be evacuated as waters rose quicker than expected. In Kenya, Muslims targeted a university because of its rich Christian student population. Last I checked on Thursday, the death toll was sitting at 174. That’ just 2 of the many world events. I can’t even begin to describe personal struggles and storms. I can think of loved ones who once daily called on the Lord turn their backs all because of the storm that hit their lives.
“If God is good, then why does this happen?” they ask. It goes back to the garden, to Adam. That is when sin entered the world. With sin, death came in. With death comes sickness of the body, sickness of the mind. People become more selfish. Despite the world supposedly becoming better, think back to when you were growing up. How many of your neighbors called you by name? Today, how many children do you call by name, aside from your own? Our concern for one another is waning. We are becoming more selfish. Prisons are filling with people who’ve lost respect for others or have made bad decisions as they seek their own happiness, and all because of our sin that we allow to remove us from God, further away.
Yet, God was not content in allowing this ever growing rift. That is the mission of Jesus’ life. He came to mend that rift that we are able to once again be in His presence. Now mind you, as the rift is mended, though we were created to worship and fellowship with him, accepting Christ’s gift will not spare you storms in your life, nor the consequences of your past actions prior to coming to Christ. He does promise to give you the ability to weather the storms.
Adam gave us death. Jesus gives us life. This life isn’t a better life in this world, but to allow us to look forward to a better life apart from this world. This life, we see that we have brothers and sisters suffering. We see our neighbors searching. But in Christ, we will have life because this day, He conquered the last enemy, death.
In remembering Christ, we look forward to His return. First there was his resurrection, he is the firstfruits. Then those who belong to Christ will be made alive as well. Then there is the end. Some may see that this is a second interval, a second second-chance. But I see it as the time of judgment before the Father. It is at this time, those who do not belong to Christ will bow their knees and confess that Jesus is the Christ and the Lord.
Yet we belong to Christ and we proclaim his goodness, his mercy, his grace and his love. So as we remember this morning what this day means, what Christ has done, allow it to create an urgency, because that last enemy is already defeated. His return is closer now than it has been.

At the Sunrise this morning, I pointed out that people come to Christ more times not because of fancy, polished preachers, or from the moving music, but because of the Christian witness that they see in their Christian friend, co-worker, family, or neighbor. You may be the only person who can reach the people in your sphere of influence. So proclaim not just today as we take the Communion, but proclaim tomorrow, proclaim on the good days, proclaim in the midst of your storm. Praise the Father and proclaim the Great News of this Great Day!