Human Demands – Divine Response

The Reverend J. Howard Cepelak

Trinity Church

Waltham, Massachusetts
Pentecost VIII – 22 July 2012

Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 23, Ephesians 2:11-22, Mark6:30-34, 53-56

From the Book of the Prophet, Jeremiah:
Jesus said, Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! Says the Lord…. You have scattered my flock, and have driven them away….

From the 23rd Psalm:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…and…I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

From St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians:
Concerning the reconciliation between Gentiles and Jews, the apostle wrote, So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone…

From the Gospel According to St. Mark:
…Immediately the people recognized him, and ran about the whole neighborhood and began to bring the sick people on their pallets to anywhere they heard he was

Let us pray.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation,

In 1969, the band known as The Who made rock and roll history when they released the first rock opera entitled, Tommy. The story for the opera centers on a deaf, dumb and blind boy named Tommy who is somewhat of a cult figure because, despite his afflictions, he becomes a pinball wizard. Although a pinball wizard, he remains afflicted and wants to be healed.

One of the most touching songs in the opera is entitled, See Me, Feel Me. In this song, the afflicted Tommy pleads in a kind of prayer, See me, feel me, touch me, heal me. Note that I said in a kind of prayer; sadly Tommy does not address this quasi-prayer to God, but rather offers it up to anyone or anything that just might be out there.

There’s an old joke about the Unitarians who worship an impersonal life force, or something similar. They address their prayers, To whom it may concern. All too many people in our generation offer up quasi -prayers to whoever or what ever just may be out there. I know one man who characterizes himself as an agnostic but who believes in prayer. When I questioned him about why he prays when he doesn’t really believe in God, he said, I pray just in case there’s something out there; kind of like a spiritual insurance policy.

Now, I am going to be bold enough to say that I believe that the One True God hears any and all prayers offered up from an honest and sincere heart. Yes, many non-believers do indeed have honest and sincere hearts even though their minds have not accepted the reality of God and they have not committed themselves to Him, Father, Son and Holy Ghost in heart, mind, body and soul. Yet I believe that God hears those honest prayers and often answers in the affirmative, granting the petition, intercession or supplication.

He does so because He loves His children and He wants His children to love Him – love Him freely, having chosen to love Him not because He brow beats them into submission – not because He gives them everything that they ask for as a kind of bribe, but because He wants them to know Him, to experience His goodness, His grace, His mercy and His peace – and in so doing, come to faith in Him.

God wants all of us to know Him – intimately. That’s why He, God the Father, condescended to take on human flesh and reveal Himself to us in God the Son, entered into human history as fully human and as fully divine in an incomprehensible, mysterious, divine miracle and then sacrificed Himself for His children for the sake of their salvation.

He came to us in Jesus Christ who spoke of Himself as the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep and whose sheep know Him. His sheep know His voice and hear His voice. And when they hear His voice, they follow. He will defend his sheep from the wolves – even to the point of laying down His life for His flock.

Yet, even the sheep who know Him will go astray – either by simply wandering away or by deliberately seeking what they believe to be greener pastures or a better shepherd. But we also know that the Good Shepherd will seek out the lost sheep and will bring them home. If they continue to wander, well, that’s a different story. Unlike real sheep, we, as sheep, have free will and can choose to finally separate ourselves from the Good Shepherd and from His flock – His flock being His true church. When that’s the case, the wolves move in and, literally, all hell can break loose.

Our Lord, the Good Shepherd, does have sheep in other folds. His sheep in those other folds are there for a purpose – a mystery to us but not to Him. He knows what’s He’s doing. They do know Him in a different way that do we who believe, but they live within the larger fold made up of all those who truly love Him.

Perhaps these sheep serve as His agents in flocks currently claimed as belonging to another shepherd – shepherds who are not the Good Shepherd but who may very well be wolves in shepherd’s clothing. These kinds of bad shepherds intentionally lead the sheep astray with false promises of the aforementioned greener pastures.

The apostle Paul knew that our Lord had sheep in other folds. That’s why he became the apostle to the Gentiles – to the Greek and Roman pagans who worshipped other gods and goddesses but who were really and truly – honestly and sincerely seeking the Lord but looking in the wrong places.

St. Paul enjoyed great success in his mission to those sheep. He brought thousands into the fold as he established churches all over the ancient world. He addressed them in his letter to the congregation at Ephesus saying, you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ Jesus being the cornerstone in whom the whole structure is joined together…. St. Paul brought our Lord’s sheep from other folds into the fold of the True Good Shepherd.

One wonders why some responded – and continue to respond in our generation – to God’s call offered through St. Paul or offered through legitimate evangelists today – and others did not. One can only speculate that in they had and have ears to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice, recognized it and follow Him.

We also know that the bad shepherds continue to preach a false gospel, deliberately leading astray members of our Lord’s flock. They may be the one’s who promise health wealth and happiness as the benefit of claiming Christ – or the one’s who denounce Jesus Christ as the one and only exclusive Savior of all mankind – or the one’s who seek to gender bend our Lord, His Father and in so doing compromise the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth into a Spirit of deception.

These bad shepherds have been preaching from the beginning of time seeking to damage both the flock and the Good Shepherd. Such was the case in Jeremiah’s generation – some 600 years before the coming of our Lord.
Thus the prophet proclaims, Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! Scripture is consistent that a harsh judgment falls upon those who deliberately attempt to lead others astray.

One very effective method to lead others astray is to undermine the efficacy of prayer. They will claim that prayer is futile, that either there is no God who hears or if he / she / they / it hears, will not respond.

Surely some prayers are not heard – of if heard are not received. These are what one can call the human demand prayers – prayers offered up as a demand rather than a request – prayers that function consciously or unconsciously as an effort to make God into an instrument of the person’s will rather than in the spirit of submission to His will. That’s why our Lord’s words, offered in His prayer of supplication and petition at Gethsemane, Thy will, not mine, be done.

Such exploitive demand prayers meet rejection. God will never abandon His authority as the Shepherd and give it to any of His sheep. The demand prayers are either rejected or answered with a definitive and absolute No!

All of us share in Tommy’s affliction – we’re often deaf to God’s Word, dumb in our proclamation and blind to His vision. All of us can petition, See me, feel me, touch me, heal me. We can – and we should. Right from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, people flocked to Him seeking healing. He could not escape the crowds.

Surely, the victims of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado last week have offered up that prayer. Such a horrible event causes even the doubters, the non-believers and those who sense that there just might be someone out there – to pray. But never should any of us seek to make Him the instrument of our wills. That’s when the supplication – the petition – becomes a demand.

For those who know that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd – the only Good shepherd – they also know that they shall not want of anything essential for salvation. They know that His pastures are the greenest and that the pastures that seem to be greener are Astroturf. Furthermore, they know, because the Good Shepherd has indeed laid down His life for His sheep, that they shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. And that’s the whole point.

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, grant that we may be faithful sheep in your fold. Deliver us from the temptation to wander away or to run away from your rod and your staff. Comfort us, O Lord, and keep us safe from the wolves in shepherd’s clothing who seek to separate us from you. And make of us men and women who hear your voice, speak your Word and see the glory of your grace – and live our lives so as to bring honor and glory to your Son,
our only Savior
and the One True Good Shepherd
of all mankind,
in whose name we offer this
and all our prayers.

More On Power

The Reverend J. Howard Cepelak

Trinity Church

Waltham, Massachusetts
Pentecost VII – 15 July 2012

Amos 7:7-15, Psalm 123, II Corinthians 12:2-10, Mark 6:1-13

From the Book of the Prophet, Amos:
Speaking to the prophet, the LORD said, Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel…

From St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Church at Corinth:
Regarding the thorn in his flesh, the apostle wrote, Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

And from the Gospel according to St. Mark:
Many of the people who had heard Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue in his home town and having heard of his great deeds in other places, they asked, Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands!

Let us pray.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

This morning’s sermon is somewhat of a continuation of my sermon of July 1st in which I spoke about the power of God moving in and through history. In that sermon, I specifically referenced the founding of the United States of America by men open and receptive to serve as instruments of the divine providence – a favorite expression among our Founding Fathers – as God worked in their historical time period to establish this nation.

God working out His will in human history has been true, of course, from the first moments of creation. From the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane, He moved powerfully in this world in and through His chosen people. He judged men and nations. He established and brought down men and nations. And He called out and built up men and nations. He anointed kings and judged them. All by the power of His will working in human history.

For you and for me, living two thousand years after Gethsemane, we bear witness to His most powerful intervention in history – the crucifixion and resurrection of His Son, the world’s only Savior, Jesus Christ. On the cross and out of the tomb, we see God’s power most perfectly manifested.

His resurrection power – the only power that can bring life from death – the creative and re-creative power in which we literally live comes from God. But other powers remain present in this world – unholy powers that seek death and destruction.

The question for us is how do we tell the difference between the powers of goodness and life – Christ power, and the powers of death and destruction? Since the evil powers always decorate themselves as good powers, how do we know the difference?

Well, God has given us a plumb line – a plumb line being the line dropped by the stonemason or a builder to establish the straight line so that he can build the wall or the building straight and strong. The plumb line sets the standard.

The prophet Amos proclaimed this message to the people – that God has given a plumb line – a standard against which all things could be measured. For them, the plumb line was the divinely revealed law combined with the prophetic message that revealed all that’s good and right and true.

Amos lived at a time in history in which the Hebrew people enjoyed great prosperity and peace. Fat and happy, so to speak, they began to indulge themselves, believing that these great blessings were an entitlement and wanting – indeed, demanding – more and more of life’s greatest pleasures. The politically powerful used – rather abused – their power – always a divine trust and hence subject to the divine judgment – to further their own interests, increase their own wealth, insure ever increasing comforts and pleasures all at the expense of the common people.

And regarding the common people, well, many of them enjoyed a good life as well. Some poorer people were exploited for sure, but many common people lived well. Everyone wanted more.

What they did not want was the law of the One True God. That law, the plumb line for goodness, did not serve their purposes. The gods and goddesses of the pagans offered them what the wanted – license to indulge self-gratification as if it were a divine entitlement. So the went pagan.

The unrestrained fulfillment of self-gratification, which looks so attractive on the surface, leads to the downward spiral of the quality of life with ever increasing suffering and pain resulting in the aforementioned death and destruction. True then. True now.

Amos called for authentic justice in society as well as for personal honesty and integrity. The King would bear the greatest judgment because he had been given the greatest power. All those who abused that power would face condemnation if they failed to repent. But repentance would bring on a new age of goodness, righteousness, blessing and truth. God made the offer. He left the king and the people free to choose to either accept or reject that offer.

So, another question for us. Do we see God’s hand moving powerfully in our present history? Or, as so many today believe, has He abandoned us to our own devices? Has He withdrawn His righteous power from our power plays, from our politics? And, will we see no other manifestations of His power until he comes again to judge the world at the end of time – the ultimate judgment of all the power brokers since the Lord will return as the King of Kings?

In most cases, we do not even talk about the will of God regarding political issues or about the will of God regarding the politicians. We avoid this – at least most of the time -since devoted friends can become bitter enemies when it comes to discussions in this realm. Committed to his or her own choice of candidates, both might believe that God favors the one over the other – that God intends that one be elected and the other defeated and that God’s power will bless the politician’s power.

But more likely, people select their candidates without regard for God’s will. I fear that most people really believe that God plays no role in the process whatsoever. Believing this, they fail to turn to God for help when the bad choices bit back and they fail to give thanks when the good prevails.

Regardless of our positions on the issues and on the candidates, I believe that God may have sent one to reveal a greater goodness and a higher truth and the other to manifest the true nature of political and social corruption, deception, evil and sin. If we will but open our eyes – if we will simply measure against God’s plumb line, then we will be able to discern the good one from the bad one.

God still does move in our history. But no politician can be our savior. God has already sent the Savior – the one and only Savior of the whole world as well as the one and only Savior of each of us. No other saviors will be coming. But the one and only Savior will come again.

Yet those who do not truly believe in Jesus Christ as the only Savior of all mankind or who believe in Him conditionally – well they continue to seek a savior and of all people are the most to be pitied. For in every case they will have placed their faith and their hope in a deceiver and they will become bitter and hopeless.

Two last thoughts. St. Paul placed all of his faith and all of his hope in Jesus Christ. For this apostle, Jesus Christ, the plumb line, gave him the strength and the courage to confront some of the most powerful forces in the ancient world. And in that struggle, Paul knew his own weakness. He knew that he was not a savior but that Jesus was – and the power of the Christ was perfected in the weakness of Paul. In Paul’s weakness, God’s grace sufficed.

And the very last thought. When Jesus taught in His hometown, the people marveled at his wisdom and at His mighty works. And they asked, Where did he get this wisdom and this power? Is this man not Mary’s son, the carpenter? Did he not grow up in this town? We know the family, his brothers and sisters. He’s noting special- just a regular guy like you and me. But the wisdom and the mighty deeds – Where does His power come from?

We know – as did a few of them – that His power came from God. Yet most of the people could not get out of themselves and into what was actually happening right before their eyes. Blind by lack of faith, they set themselves outside the realm of His redemptive power. His wisdom and His mighty works did nothing for them except to confuse them.

The moral to this story is just this. God has set the plumb line – Jesus Christ. God’s hand still moves powerfully in human history. His hand is moving now. He has set before us the ways of life and death. He wants us to choose life. But he leaves us the choice. Yet He will judge, measuring us against THE plumb line.

And one man is better than the other. Judge by the plumb line, Jesus Christ.

Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, bless all of us with eyes to see your truth and ears to hear your saving word. Use us for your purposes in this world and grant to us the willingness to serve you exclusively, to boldly proclaim the saving power of your Son and find your strength in our weakness.
We ask this in the name of your Son, the only Savior of all mankind, Jesus Christ the King,


Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
July 08, 2012, Pentecost VI

Ezekiel 2:1-5; Psalm 123, II Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13

From the Prophet Ezekiel:
“Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels, who have rebelled against me; they and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day.”

From the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians:
I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

And from the Gospel of St. Mark:
And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

My sermon title this morning is “Commissioned.” The word commission means: the act of granting authority to someone to carry out a certain job or duty. Like the Federal Trade Commission investigates false advertising. Since this is an election year with only five months remaining; do you think they will investigate any of the campaign ads for false advertising? Don’t we in effect commission our elected officials; do we not grant them authority to enact laws and regulations on our behalf? Our elected officials in turn elect judges, whose job is to interpret the law, and not legislate law. This is why it is so very important for us to be informed as to what our elected officials are doing. They need to realize that they work for us; they are commissioned by us, to do our will not theirs.

A few days ago, we celebrated the anniversary of our country’s independence. Our great country was founded by good faithful Christian men, with Judeo-Christian values and principles. God’s Holy Spirit commissioned and guided these brave men in forming our constitution and this nation. In recent years, however, God is being systematically removed from our society and unfortunately, we have let it happen. It didn’t happen overnight. It was gradual. We all need to repent and turn back to God, so that once again we can be that great nation that our founding fathers envisioned and God wants us to be.
It’s hard to believe that it has been almost four years since I was commissioned or ordained a Deacon. Called by God and this church to preach the Word of God and minister to His people. A calling that I am humbled and that I take very seriously.

But anyone who professes Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, is also commissioned and ordained in Christ; to bring glory to God Almighty; that through Christ there is redemption, salvation and eternal life.

Our Old Testament reading this morning is about the prophet Ezekiel. Like Jeremiah, Zechariah, and John the Baptist, the Prophet Ezekiel, which means “God strengthens,” was called by God or commissioned from being a priest to serving as a prophet. As God’s spokesman to the Jewish exiles in the land of Babylon, he would rebuke them for their sins and expose their idolatry, but he would also reveal the glorious future the Lord had prepared for them. The Jewish people needed to face their sin and repent, but also realize that there is hope. Ezekiel was thirty years old at the time of being commissioned as a Prophet, the normal age for a priest to begin his ministry (Num. 4:1-3).

It would have been much easier for Ezekiel to remain a priest, for priests were highly esteemed by the Jews, and a priest could read the Law and learn everything he needed to know to do his work. Prophets were usually despised and persecuted. They received their messages and orders from the Lord as the occasion demanded and could never be sure what would happen next. It was dangerous to be a prophet. Most people resent being told about their sins and prefer to hear messages of cheer, not declarations of judgment.

Jeremiah had been ministering in Jerusalem for four years when Ezekiel was born in 622 B.C., but surely as he grew up, he paid attention to what Jeremiah was saying. It’s likely that Daniel and Ezekiel knew each other before the Captivity, though there’s no evidence they saw each other in Babylon. Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry was greatly needed in Babylon because false prophets abounded and were giving the Jewish people false hopes of a quick deliverance and a triumphant return to their land (Jer. 5:30-31; 27:1-11, 28:1-17). Jeremiah sent a letter to the Jews that they would be in Babylon for seventy years and therefore should settle down, raise families, and pray for their captors. But Jeremiah announced the ultimate fall of Babylon, a message the exiles were only too eager to hear.

The most difficult task of a prophet is to change people’s minds. This means pulling up the weeds of false theology and planting the good seed of the Word of God. It also means tearing down the flimsy thought structures that false prophets build and constructing in their place lasting buildings on solid foundations of truth (Ezek. 1:10).

Ezekiel was now to receive his official commission as a prophet of the Lord God, and the Lord told him he was facing a very difficult task. Whether it’s raising a family, teaching a Sunday school class, shepherding a church, or evangelizing in a distant nation, we have to accept people as they are before we can lead them to what God wants them to be.

As a result of beholding the vision, Ezekiel fell to the ground, completely overwhelmed by the glory of the Lord and the wonder of His providential working in the world.
Who but the sovereign Lord could have a throne like a chariot and move as quickly as He pleased? Who but the Lord could travel in the midst of a fiery whirlwind to accomplish His great purposes?

Ezekiel is called “son of man” in his book, a title that the Lord also gave to Daniel. “Son of man” is also a messianic title which the Lord Jesus applied to Himself when He was ministering on earth. But in the case of Daniel and Ezekiel, the title “son of man” emphasized their humanity and mortality. Ezekiel was face down in the dust when God spoke to him, reminding him and us of mankind’s humble beginning in the dust (Gen. 1:26; 3:19). “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14). God remembers, but sometimes we forget.

There is a time to fall down in humble adoration, and there is a time to stand up and take orders (Josh. 7:6ff). The command of the Word and the power of the Spirit enabled Ezekiel to stand to his feet, and the Spirit entered him and strengthened him. On many occasions, the Spirit would lift him up and give him special power for his tasks. The important thing was that Ezekiel stand obediently before the Lord and listen to His Word.

Prophets weren’t people who majored only in foretelling the future, although that was part of their ministry. They were primarily forthtellers who declared God’s Word to the people. Sometimes they gave a message of judgment, but it was usually followed by a message of hope and forgiveness. The Jews needed to hear Ezekiel’s messages because they were rebellious, stiff-necked, and hard-hearted. They had revolted against the Lord and were obstinate in their refusal to submit to His will. Their refusal to obey the terms of the covenant had led to their defeat and capture by the Babylonian army. Even in their captivity, they were nursing false hopes that Egypt would come to their rescue or the Lord would do a great miracle.

Israel was God’s chosen people, a special nation, and yet they were acting like the Gentiles who didn’t have all the blessings and privileges God had given the Jews. This wasn’t a very encouraging word for the young prophet, but he was told in advance that his work would be difficult. But whether the people listened and obeyed or turned a deaf ear, Ezekiel had to be faithful to his task (1 Cor. 4:2).

In our Epistle reading, Saul, later to be called Paul, had a very dramatic commissioning on the road to Damascus. In the ninth chapter of Acts we read: “Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” And he said, “Who are you Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”

God honored Paul by giving him visions and revelations. Paul saw the glorified Christ on the very day he was converted or commissioned (Acts 9:3). He saw a vision of Ananias coming to minister to him and he also had a vision from God when he was called to minister to the Gentiles (Acts 22:17).

During his ministry, he had visions from God to guide him and encourage him. It was by a vision that he was called to Macedonia (Acts 16:9). When the ministry was difficult in Corinth, God encouraged Paul by a vision. After his arrest in Jerusalem, Paul was again encouraged by a vision from God (Acts 23:11). An angel appeared to him in the midst of the storm and assured him that he and the passengers would be saved (Acts 27:23).

Along with these special visions that related to his call and ministry, spiritual revelations of divine truth were also communicated to Paul. God gave him a profound understanding of the plan of God for this present age.

God also honored Paul by taking him to heaven, and then sending him back to the earth again. This marvelous experience had taken place fourteen years before the writing of this letter to the Corinthians, which would place the experience in about the year A.D. 43. This would be the period in Paul’s life between his departure for Tarsus (Acts 9:30) and his visit from Barnabas (Acts 11:25-26).

So wonderful was this experience that Paul was not quite sure whether God had taken him bodily to heaven, or whether his spirit had left his body. Obviously, God had the power to do either. Paul affirmed here in his letter the reality of heaven and the ability of God to take people there. The third heaven is the same as “paradise,” the heaven of heavens where God dwells in glory. Thanks to modern science, man is able to fly above the heavenly clouds in an airplane; climb aboard a space ship and fly amongst the planets and heavenly stars, but man cannot get to God’s heaven without God’s help.

God honored Paul by granting him visions and revelations, and by taking him to heaven; but He honored him further by permitting him to hear “unspeakable words” while he was in heaven. He overheard the divine secrets that are shared only in heaven. These things could be spoken by God and by beings in heaven, but they could not be spoken by men.

There is no doubt that this vision of God’s glory was one of the sustaining powers in Paul’s life and ministry. No matter where he was – in prison, the deep, in dangerous travels – he knew that God was with him and that all was well.

You and I are not going to heaven till we die or till our Lord returns. But we have a marvelous encouragement in the fact that we are today seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). We have a position of authority and victory “far above all” (Eph. 2:21-22). While we have not seen God’s glory as Paul did, we do share God’s glory now (John 17:22) and one day we shall enter into heaven and behold the glory of Christ (John 17:24).

In our Gospel reading this morning, we have Jesus calling His disciples together, and sent them out two by two, and He commissioned them; He gave them authority over the unclean spirits. When the Lord originally called the 12 Apostles, His purpose was to teach and train them so that they might assist Him and eventually be able to take His place when He returned to the Father (Mark 3:13-15). Before sending them out, He reaffirmed their authority to heal and cast out demons.

He told them to take what they already owned and not go out and buy special equipment for their itinerant travels. They were not to be loaded down with extra baggage. Jesus wanted them to be adequately supplied, but not to the point of ceasing to live by faith.

As they ministered from place to place, they would encounter both hospitality and hostility, both friends and enemies. He cautioned them to stay at one house in each community and not to “pick and choose” when it came to their food and accommodations. After all, they were to be fruitful servants, not pampered guests. If a house or a village did not receive them, they had His permission to declare God’s judgment on those people. It was customary for the Jews to shake the dust off their feet whenever they left Gentile territory, but it was something new to do this to a fellow Jew.

The word Apostle means “to send someone with a special commission to represent another and to accomplish his work.” Jesus gave these twelve men both the apostolic authority and the divine ability to do the job He sent them to do. They were not alone; they represented Him in all that they did and said.

The men went out and did what Jesus told them to do. It is remarkable that a band of ordinary men could go out in this way to represent Almighty God, and that they could demonstrate their authority by performing miracles. God’s commandments always include His enablements (2 Cor. 3:5-6). They proclaimed the Good News of the kingdom, called on sinners to repent, and healed many who were sick (Mark 6:12-13).

Each of us as ordinary people, have been commissioned and called by God to be Jesus’ disciples; to represent Almighty God. We may not be given the authority to perform miracles, but each of us has been given one or more gifts of the spirit, which enables us to proclaim the Good News of the kingdom: that Jesus Christ is the Messiah! That Jesus Christ is Lord! Hallelujah!

Let us pray:
Almighty God, you have built your church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Commission us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching and witness, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.



The Reverend J. Howard Cepelak

Trinity Church

Waltham, Massachusetts

Pentecost V – 1 July 2012
The Sacrament of Holy Communion

II Samuel 1:1, 17-18, 23-25; Psalm 130, II Corinthians 8:7-15, Mark 5:21-34

From the Second Book of the Prophet, Samuel:
Hearing the account of the deaths of King Saul and of his son, Jonathan, King David lamented and said, How the mighty have fallen.

From St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Church at Corinth:
The apostle, encouraging the Corinthians to fulfill their promise of financial support for the failing church in Jerusalem, spoke these words – Now as you excel in everything – in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in your love for us – see that you excel in this gracious work also.

From the Gospel According to St. Mark:
Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue, saw Jesus and he fell at his feet, and besought him, saying My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.
And later, a woman seeking healing, touched the hem of Jesus’ robe and Jesus perceived that power had gone forth from him.

Let us pray.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation,

In the latest issue of the Steeplecock News, as I wrote about celebrating Independence Day, I said that we are actually celebrating God’s hand moving in human history. I fully believe that the founding of this great nation, the writing of the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights came about through divine inspiration and intervention. God’s Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, powerfully moved in, on, over, under, around and through the founders – all of whom were receptive to that power. Our Founding Fathers believed in divine inspiration and in divine providence – and were not ashamed to publicly proclaim it.

I know that many people do not believe that God actually does move in human history, especially regarding any involvement in the political and economic affairs of nations. Such involvement, so they think, is limited to the Biblical accounts. For their perspective, God has withdrawn from history leaving us to our own devices.

For the true believer, we know that God still acts in history just as He did when He called Moses into service to deliver His people from Egyptian slavery – just as h
He did when He commissioned Samuel to serve as the Judge of the Hebrew people – just as He did when He become fully human in His Son and changed everything in the crucifixion and resurrection – and just as He did when He sent St. Paul to proclaim the Gospel and establish churches all over the ancient world. The power of that proclamation changed everything from the individual’s heart, mind, body and soul to the government of the Roman Empire.

His hand moved powerfully again when this nation was established. His hand is moving now. He has not withdrawn and left us to our own devices. He’s paying attention to how we handle the reality that we face right here and right now as we live in the year of our Lord, 2012. And, yes, it is the year of our Lord. Time belongs to Him as well as history.

We’re living, as I have so often said, at a pivot point in history – a time that, come this fall, will determine whether or not this nation survives and as a Constitutional Republic or becomes a socialist, and ever increasingly atheistic state, with the loss of personal freedom, religious freedom and every form of liberty previously guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. With that loss will come also the loss of what little prosperity any of us might currently enjoy.

Should the worst happen and the nation chooses socialist atheism, we will do so because we have chosen to believe the great lie – that somehow and in some way, socialism can work. It does not because it cannot. Socialism, parasitic by nature, eats it’s host and when the host has been eaten, it dies as well. Socialism does not – and cannot – generate wealth. It destroys it. It eats it.

The European socialist economies have been able to sustain themselves only because they could invest here. Micro-socialism can survive only if it’s an integral part of macro-capitalism. In other words, small socialist entities can survive so long as they can participate in a much larger free market capitalist economy. But as our government has so dramatically reduced our free markets, there’s nowhere for anyone to go. Hence, the incremental implosion of the European economies. As the Lady Margaret Thatcher so rightly said, The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples’ money. That time has come.

Back in history, we read about St. Paul’s letter to the wealthy church at Corinth that had pledged financial support for the failing church in Jerusalem. The apostle was encouraging them to keep their promise.

The Jerusalem church practiced socialism. Individual wealth had to be contributed to the common fund and get distributed according to individual’s needs. They, of course, quickly fell into poverty. As is always the case, the needs far outweigh the ability of a few to meet them. In a socialist entity, the means of wealth production just does not exist.

Although St. Paul continued to raise money for the failed Jerusalem congregation, he eventually admonished the churches not to do this kind of thing. Because of the abuse, he wrote in Thessalonians, He who does not work does not eat!”

Now – back to the future – to us in the here and now. Because of the government’s departure from the Constitution over the past couple of decades – the very Constitution that each senator, congressional representative, Supreme Court justice and president swears to uphold, we have begun our implosion. Hence, the pivot point. The time has come. Decisions must be made God is watching. And God is calling.

The intimate link between faith, faithfulness, freedom and economics, as manifested in our founding documents, is a part of the divine plan for this world – it didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. Any careful study of Scripture will reveal that close link. Men and women in any generation, sensitive to God’s Word, can perceive what’s happening at various decisive points in history. Mankind has had many such decisive points – pivot points – some minor – some major.

James Russell Lowell, the son of a Cambridge clergyman, lived at a pivot point in history. He wrote, at one of those points in his – and our – history, these magnificent words:

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new messiah, offering each the bloom or blight.
And the choice goes on forever, ‘twixt the darkness and that light.

This poem became the text for the hymn entitled Once to Every Man and Nation, # 441 in the Pilgrim Hymnal. Lowell wrote this text in response to the Mexican – American War of 1836 – 47. That war arising out of Texas declaring its independence from Mexico – the pivot point. The hymn pretty much hits the proverbial nail on the head when it comes to all pivot points in human history. False messiahs popping up, lying to the people who are all too ready to believe in him and in the deception because they do not believe in Jesus Christ, the only true Messiah.

Now pivot points are always power points at any point in history. When Texas declared its independence from Mexico, they threw off an oppressive power for the power to determine their own lives.

God wants His people free. He has moved in history to establish that freedom. The prophet Samuel, the last of the judges of the Hebrew people, implemented a massive power shift as the divinely granted power over the chosen people moved from the judges to a king. Samuel did not want to make that transition. He spoke against it proclaiming the word of God to the people that having a king would be a bad thing.

Samuel proclaimed that divine word when he told the people what God had revealed to him – I would paraphrase. He said that the king will take the best of the young men and place them in front of his own chariots as they go to war so that they will die as they protect the king. Furthermore, he will take the young women and make of them his servants. And on top of that, the king will take their money, give it to his friends and keep heaps for himself and the people would be enslaved. Check out I Samuel 8:11-19 to see if my paraphrase is accurate. I think it is.

But the people demanded a king- All the other nations had one why can’t we? – so they said. They forgot that God was their King – but they had had enough of that

God allowed for their faulty choice. Yes, He leaves us free to choose between right and wrong, good and evil, freedom and oppression.

Yet, within their bad choice, God inserted His hand, choosing a King through his judge, Samuel. And Saul was selected. We know the story. Saul went bad. King Saul had a good son, Jonathan. Jonathan had become the best friend of the next king; David – a young man of God’s own choosing – selected to eventually take the power.

That pivot point came when the mighty King Saul – and his son, Jonathan, were killed in battle. David, always loyal to the Lord’s anointed even though Saul, the anointed king had gone bad, nonetheless lamented his death – and even more so the death of his dearly beloved friend, Jonathan. And David proclaimed in his grief, How the mighty have fallen!

The apostle Paul was one of the most powerful individuals in history. He implemented and expanded the tectonic shift in power that came with our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. St. Paul, as well as St. Peter and the other apostles – but Paul primary among them as the evangelist to the pagans – changed history.

Eventually, Christianity became the dominant religion and the power of God properly recognized. We know about all of history’s abuses. People remain free to do right or wrong. But God had moved powerfully.

Scripture bears witness to God’s movement in human history – the power of His Truth – personified in the Holy Spirit – and the saving and redeeming power of Jesus Christ. God the Father in God the Son – on the cross to save us from sin and death and then up from the grave to bless us with eternal life.

It’s all about power. When Jesus lived with us in the flesh, He healed many of their deadly afflictions. Witness this morning’s passage regarding Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the hemorrhage. The power of health over affliction, of life over death. As He healed, Jesus could feel the power go out from Him.

On the cross, His divine power went out from Him to destroy the powers of sin and death. His power came back to Him as He rose from the dead. And His crucifixion and resurrection was then – is now – and will be forever – the single most important and definitive pivot point in all of human history. At that pivot point – at that power point, God offers us – as individual men and women as a nation – the choice between truth and falsehood, good and evil, right and wrong. To quote James Russell Lowell’s words again,

Though the cause of evil prosper, Yet the truth alone is strong
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne.
Yet that scaffold sways the future, And behind the din unknown
Standeth God, within the shadow, Keeping watch above His own.

Knowing that evil always disguises itself as good, that the big lie always claims to be the great truth, nonetheless we also know that God does keep watch. If we turn to Him in these most deceptive times, He will sustain us and lead us onto a glorious future. If we do not …. Well scripture tells us what will happen then.

In the meantime, come to this sacred table. Receive the broken body and the shed blood of God made Man. Take and eat – and be thankful. And be free.

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, we pray that you will powerfully call your people unto yourself. Bless us all with keen discernment. Deliver us from our own temptation to believe in deception. And grant your people the victory – given in and only in your Son our only Savior,

Jesus Christ the Lord,