Monday, October 8, 2012

Of Men and Angels

Hebrews 1:1-4
1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
Hebrews 2:5-12
5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified:

“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
a son of man that you care for him?
7 You made them a littlelower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honor
8 and put everything under their feet.”

In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. 9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists,should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.12 He says,

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the assembly I will sing your praises.”

Nobody knows who wrote the book of Hebrew, from where we get our New Testament reading today. Some say it was Paul, because, well the wording and theology sounds very much like Paul. Others say it was Appollus one of Paul’s followers who was very knowledgeable. But the true writer is lost to history. So it might be the only letter given to us that is included in the New Testament that was not written by an Apostle. But like all the letters written by the Apostles it addresses issues that have arose in the churches at the time of its writing and I think the reason why this letter is included even though it was possibly not written by an apostle is that the issues faced by these churches and individuals 2 thousand years ago are the same issues faced by us today.

One of the main themes in the beginning of the book of Hebrews is angels.

I heard that a few weeks ago of an odd circumstance. It seems that God was looking down at Earth and saw all of the evil that was going on.  He decided to send an angel down to Earth to check it out.  So he called one of His best angels and sent the angel to Earth for a time.  When she returned she told God, yes it is bad on Earth, 95% is bad and 5% is good.
Well, he thought for a moment and said, maybe I had better send down a second angel to get another point of view.  So God called another angel and sent her to Earth for a time too. When the angel returned she went to God and told him yes, the Earth was in decline, 95% was bad and 5% was good.
God said this was not good. So He decided to email the 5% that were good and He wanted to encourage them, give them a little something to help them keep going.
Do you know what that email said?
Ah, so you didn't get one either?

What are angels? There is a lot of confusion on just what they are. Literally the word angel means messenger. An angel is a messenger of God. Also Hebrews 1;14 tells us “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”,  and in the Old and New Testament we see taking on bodily form as humans. Hebrews 13:2 tells us “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” . So angels are messengers of God that are spirits in essence that can take bodily form. For the purpose of delivering God’s message or doing God’s work in the lives of His children. Well it seems that during the writing of Hebrews people were confused about Angels. They saw them as many do today as superior and powerful beings. And some people began to worship angels. We even see that today, angels are very popular and there are many people who pray to angels.

The author of Hebrews wanted to emphasis that angels are created beings, not to be worshipped. Our New Testament reading today tells us:
The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.  This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names… And furthermore, it is not angels who will control the future world we are talking about. For in one place the Scriptures say,
“What are mere mortals that you should think about them,
    or a son of man that you should care for him?
Yet you made them only a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
 You gave them authority over all things.”
Now when it says “all things,” it means nothing is left out. But we have not yet seen all things put under their authority. What we do see is Jesus, who was given a position “a little lower than the angels”; and because he suffered death for us, he is now “crowned with glory and honor.” Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone. God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation. So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters. For he said to God,
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.
    I will praise you among your assembled people.”

Angels are powerful beings. They are heavenly beings that manifest themselves to guide and protect the people of God. But they are creatures. God is to be worshiped, and Jesus as God is to be worshiped  Angels are created beings. They are more powerful than man, and although Jesus was made a man He still is God manifest in the flesh. Angels help the Lord, but they are just His messengers.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that we are to worship and pray to God alone. Part of the result of Jesus’ death for us is that we now have direct access to the throne of God. We do not need someone to go before God for us. As again the writer of Hebrews in chapter 4 verse 16 tells us, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Today and through the week, remember that God loves you and He wants to hear directly from you. You can go directly to Him with all your problems, all your worries and cares. Because He truly cares about you and what you are going through, and He wants to help. He want to help rescue you or help give you purpose to the trials of life.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Big Man on Campus

Scripture of the day: Mark 9:30-37
30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?”34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.

When General David Petraeus was The head of all international forces in Afghanistan he was involved in a 2010 think tank in the UK over the he did a question and answer session.  He was given a slightly over the top introduction from the director of the agency and in response General Peraeus gave the press a story on importance.

He said, “This was about 20 years ago when I was the aide to the Army Chief of Staff in the Pentagon and Colin Powell was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
One of my fellow aides overheard the joint chiefs killing time before they were waiting for the arrival of a foreign dignitary. And the topic of conversation turned to examples of true importance. And what it really meant to be truly important.
And after a bit of banter, one of the chiefs offered what seemed to be quite a good opinion on this.
In my view, he said, true importance is a meeting with the President of the United States in the Oval Office, during which the President asks all of the other attendees to leave so that he can do a 'one on one' just with you.
"All the chiefs nodded at that.
But then another chief chimed in. 'Actually chiefs, he asserted, 'true importance is a 'one on one' meeting with the President in the Oval Office during which the President is so intent on what you are saying that he doesn't even answer the hotline when it rings'.
Well that had all the heads nodding in agreement. Until General Powell , a man who had, of course, as the National Security Adviser,  spent quite a bit of time in the Oval Office, settled the question once and for all.
"Chiefs," he said authoritatively, "true importance is a personal meeting with the President in the Oval Office, during which when the hotline rings, the President answers the phone, holds it out and says - Here Colin, it's for you".

Today in our new testament Scripture lesson, we see that the disciples had an argument with each other as to who was the most important disciple.  Our scripture says,
They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?”But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

You know we sometimes have a slightly glorified view of the disciples of Jesus, and it is times like this when they show their human flaws that I find encouraging. They were real people just like us with real concerns, real emotions, real lives and real flaws.

When a large group of people come together, often some people try to stand out. They try to show dominance, they try to take on themselves the role of the leader of the group. If you have been in any large group of people trying to do anything you know what I mean. Some people just love being the king of the hill.  For some it is a craving of power, or a need to find approval from others so they take the reigns. Some do it out of the need to get things done or to bring order out of chaos. But more than not many seek to be the big man on campus out of pride and power seeking. People like that often think highly of themselves.

A young preacher had just delivered in his own estimation, the best sermon of his young life. At the conclusion of the sermon, the worshipers filed out of the sanctuary to greet the minister. As one of them left, he shook the minister's hand, thanked him for the sermon and said, "Thanks for the message, Reverend. You know, you must be smarter than Einstein." Beaming with pride, the minister said, "Why, thank you, brother!"

As the week went by, the minister began to think about the man's compliment. The more he thought, the more he became baffled as to why anyone would deem him smarter than Einstein. So he decided to ask the man the following Sunday.

The next Sunday he asked the parishioner if he remembered the previous Sunday's comment about the sermon. The parishioner replied that he did. The minister asked: "Exactly what did you mean that I must be smarter than Einstein?"

The man replied, "Well, Reverend, they say that Einstein was so smart that only ten people in the entire world could understand him. But Reverend, no one can understand you."

Jesus in our reading today tells us about what it takes to be a real Christian leader. He tells us that if anyone in the kingdom wants to be first , he must be last, the servant of all.  Like always Jesus throws our preconceived notions upside down. Instead of pride, a Christian leader is to be humble. Instead of puffing himself up and being the center of attention, you should put the spotlight on others. Instead of seeking compliments, you should be giving them.  As a Christian we are not to be concerned about our rank, our status, our pride. We are called to serve. To serve Christ is to serve others. There is no seeking of status or glory in the kingdom.

And that brings us to Jesus and the children. Some people wonder about this passage, by bringing in the children and taking them in his arms, does it mean that we are to be like children? Some people question this, it seems a bit out of place in this context.  Jesus made a dramatic gesture by embracing a child to show his disciples who really is the greatest in the kingdom of God.  What can a little child possibly teach us about greatness? Children in the ancient world had no rights, position, or privileges of their own.  They were socially at the "bottom of the rung" and at the service of their parents, much like the household staff and domestic servants. What is the significance of Jesus' gesture?  Jesus elevated a little child in the presence of his disciples by placing the child in a privileged position of honor.  It is customary, even today, to seat the guest of honor at the right side of the host. Who is the greatest in God's kingdom?  The one who is humble and lowly of heart — who instead of asserting their rights willingly empty themselves of pride and self-seeking glory by taking the lowly position of a servant or child.

As children of God and believers in Christ, we are called to servanthood. What does that mean for us today?

We can be a servant today by:
By accepting others differences and opinions in love and acceptance…no matter what they are…instead of judging others and condemning them.
By looking beyond the things that separate us as people in the 21st century and look instead for our commonality. Be it politics, social class, upbringing or race.
And lastly by cherishing people over things, or words, or ideas.
Simply put, it is putting others first, and trying to humbly help whenever you can.

We are called to serve God and to serve God we must be servants to one another.

Today you are called to serve.  Let us be servants then, one to another.