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Archive for the ‘Church Calendar’ Category

Fred H. Klooster in his commentary of the Heidelberg Catechism (HC) makes a seemingly bold statement when discussing the questions and answers on the Ascension of Christ.  He says, “In fact, if there had been no theological controversy concerning the ascension of Christ after the completion of his earthly ministry, there might never have been a Heidelberg Catechism (v. 1, 592).”  Then he proceeds discuss the historical environment the HC was birthed from.  First, he makes the reader aware that the Catechism itself shows this in that there is only one Q & A over the the resurrection, an accepted doctrine by all, and four on the ascension.  Then he notes that the main theological issue was the ubiquity of Christ.  That is, Christ, in both his divinity and humanity, is omnipresent (or present everywhere).  This issue erupted in then Reformed leaning but German Heidelberg.  The Lutheran church in 1559 adopted the doctrine of Ubiquity, thus separating it from the wing of Lutheranism that was influenced by Philip Melanchthon and from the Reformed church following John Calvin.  Melanchthon and Calvin taught that Christ’s human nature is ascended and remains in heaven, and that Christ is present with us through the Holy Spirit, not physically but Spiritually.  

So, great debate exploded in Heidelberg, Germany but the elector could not subscribe to the doctrine of Ubiquity and thus needed a new catechism – prior to this they used a Lutheran catechism.  As a result, the Heidelberg Catechism was created and has been cherished by many around the world.  And sometimes we take such documents for granted, not realizing the struggle that they were created in.  Just think, a Christianity with the great Q & A 1 that so aptly points us to our true comfort in life and death.  It is especially interesting, that in light of this the ascension of Christ is often over looked by many Christians today.

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I realize that this post is a couple of weeks late, but the more I work through our lenten journey at our church the more importance Transfiguration Day takes.  I have come to appreciate the placement of the story of the Transfiguration in the Gospels in a completely different way since becoming a pastor.  A few days prior Jesus instructed the disciples concerning his death and resurrection.  Also, he instructed them about the life that they are called to live – a life of cross-bearing.  Surely, there was confusion and discouragement among the disciples.  This was not what they signed up for.  They left their employment to follow the triumphant son of David who was going to rid Israel of the yoke of Rome.  They didn’t follow Jesus that he might be killed.  So in some respects the Transfiguration before James, John, and Peter was an event of encouragement.  Coming down the mount meant the way of to Jerusalem, the way of the cross.  Thus, they needed to see that the one who was going to die, and who was instructing them to carry their cross as well, was the glorious One, the Son of God.  Only with witnessing this would their feeble hearts be able to continue the way to Jerusalem with Jesus.  And it was only in seeing this that they could have some idea of or confidence in Jesus’ words of resurrection.

 We too are as feeble as the disciples, constantly needing encouragement as we follow the way of the cross this Lent and everyday.  And the primary place that we receive our encouragement is to join with the saints in liturgy on Sundays (Resurrection Day).  Here the veil is slightly removed as we join in the praises of heaven, hear God’s Word, pray together and dine at the Table.  Maybe this is one reason Sunday’s are not counted in the days of Lent.  Sunday’s almost become little Transfiguration Days along the pilgrim way to the cross.

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A Summary of This Sunday’s Sermon

Texts: Isaiah 40:1-11, Mark 1:1-8, 2 Peter 3:8-13.

Israel and Judah were going to be judged for their disobedience and they’re turning away from the LORD and His ways.  This was referred to in Leviticus 26, thus showing that God’s word is more sure than man’s, as we fade but the word of the LORD stands forever.  Also, at the end of Leviticus 26 it talks about that if Israel confessed their sins and returned to the LORD, the LORD would forgive them and restore them because of the covenant He has made with Israel – He is always faithful to His covenant and promises.  Thus, the word of the LORD is sure in that God would once again comfort His people.  In the midst of their distress, though as a result of their own disobedience, they could be comforted by the fact that their God would again restore them – the Good News; that the LORD would “advent,” or come, to them and again be their God and shepherd them.   (more…)

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Pessimism surely has a stronghold in the church today.  Yet, it is this season, the season of Pentecost, that should actually provoke us to boldness is working for the Kingdom – that is transforming culture.  It is clear in the entire Scriptures that wherever God is there is victory or success for the Kingdom.  The words from 2 Kings 18:7 are striking, “And the LORD was with him (Hezekiah); he was successful in whatever he undertook.”   (more…)

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Despite that there are many that reject using the Church Calendar as a helpful tool for the growth of the congregation in grace.  In reflection, I have noticed that using the Calendar forces the church and the preacher to declare the whole Gospel.  By July 1 I will have preached for a entire year, minus 3 Sunday’s off, and I have noticed that it is easy to say the same thing in many different ways.  Thus, the Calendar helps in declaring the whole redemptive plan in Christ from Advent through Epiphany, Lent, Easter, to Pentecost with specific days like Christmas, Jesus’ Baptism, Transfiguration Sunday, Ash Weds., Good Friday, Ascension Day, and Trinity Sunday (after Pentecost is the season of Church growth, Trinity, Pentecost, or etc depending on what calendar you are looking at).  It is evident that the Good New of Jesus Christ involves all of this as so much more.  I am reminded of Luke 24:27, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”  

-HAVE A BLESSED PENTECOST DAY!

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Q. What do you mean by saying, “He ascended to heaven”? 
A. That Christ was taken up from the earth into heaven before the very eyes of his disciples and remains there on our behalf until he comes again to judge the living and the dead.

Q. But isn’t Christ with us until the end of the world as he promised us? 
A. Christ is truly human and truly god. In his human nature Christ is not now on earth; but in his divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit he is never absent from us.

Q. If his humanity is not present wherever his divinity is, then aren’t the two natures of Christ separated from each other? 
A. Certainly not. Since divinity is incomprehensible and everywhere present, it must follow that the divinity is indeed beyond the bounds of the humanity which it has taken on, and is nonetheless ever in that humanity as well, and remains personally united to it.

Q. How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us? 
A. First, he is our advocate in heaven in the presence of his Father. Second, we have our flesh as a full guarantee in heaven that Christ our head, will also take us, his members up to himself. Third, he sends us, as a guarantee on earth, his Spirit by whose power we seek what is above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God, and not things that are on earth.

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The Lord IS Risen!

Easter truly is the greatest celebration in the Church calendar. It is on this day that we celebrate God’s awe-some triumph over His enemies as put on display in the Resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. Yet, after the day is done the church goes back to business as usual, forgetting the season. I appreciate why it is a season like Advent, Epiphany, and Lent; it did not end on Easter Day but extends to Ascension Day and Pentecost.

Often we get bogged down by our day to day affairs and afflictions; we slip back into depression and pessimism. Yet, it is this season that lets the trumpet blow in the midst of dispair. Christ IS Risen! The LORD is victorious! We live in daily triumph in the midst of thorns and thistles of life. And it is for this reason Peter says that there is a “living hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pt. 1:3).

The Lord IS Risen Indeed!

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