Reflections for the Week of April 17, 2016 Fourth of Easter

Scriptures: Acts 9.36-43; Psalm 23; John 10.22-30; Revelation 7.9-17.

Acts 9: Peter raises Tabitha from death. Ps 23: the LORD is our Shepherd in all circumstances. In Jn 10 Jesus is the great Shepherd of the sheep and nothing can snatch them out of His hand. Rev 7 says salvation belongs to the Lamb who died but is on the throne.

Those Who Mourn

After the Ascension of our Lord and after Pentecost Peter revealed that he had received the power to raise the dead. Ps 23 is s favorite telling us that the Lord is with us even in the valley of the shadow of death. Jn 10 says Jesus is the great Shepherd of His sheep and nothing can separate them from Him–not even death. In Rev 7 Jesus is portrayed as the Passover Lamb who was sacrificed to save His people from death and give them eternal life. The second Beatitude (Mt 5.4) says how happy you will be if you mourn because you will be comforted.. What can this mean? It sounds contradictory or at least paradoxical. Paul spoke of an ‘old man’ (Eph 4.22), also called the ‘old self’ or the ‘false self’, that fallen man grows up with from childhood containing all his (her) programs for happiness constructed in childhood before there is any knowledge of God. These programs are self-centered feel-good programs based on self-sufficiency. They try to accomplish security, affection, pleasure, and control, and avoid pain and displeasure. They see oneself at the center and the whole world revolving around them. Things, people, and circumstances are good or bad based on how they affect ME, rather than on reality. When one is regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit and begins to be aware of God and have faith in Christ, the old, false self begins to die–to be crucified–and a new, true Self is born in us, which is God Himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwelling in us. This is the kingdom of God (Lk 12.31; Mk 1.15; Mt 12.28). Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it“ (Lk 9.23,24). Jesus is referring to our ‘old, false self’ when He speaks of denying oneself, and saving one’s life. To take up one’s cross daily is to crucify the old, false self daily. And to crucify one’s old self with all its habits and self-centeredness is to suffer and thus to mourn. But it is the narrow gate and the hard path to Jesus. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Jesus bids us to come to Him and die.” To come to Him is to come to the cross, and that is where our old self is crucified. And as the old self passes away, the new Self where Christ dwells in us takes its place. We are born anew and become new creations with God dwelling within us. We are under new management. We were under the dominion (i.e., power) of sin but now we are under the dominion of Christ and the Holy Spirit. We mourn and grieve at the death of our old self, but how happy we will be in our new life in Christ! Jesus poured out His life to twelve disciples (“learners”). A proverb says “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Prov 27.17). Modern Christians need to be discipled, be shaped spiritually, by being in small groups of believers committed to letting Jesus disciple us in community. St. Clement is offering us the opportunity to do just that in coming weeks. We will be given the opportunity to come together in small groups (2-5 persons) with the intention of learning from the Lord how to live the life He came to teach us. A small dedicated learning community is more powerful than merely studying by oneself.

Memory Verse: For sin shall have no dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace (Rm 6.14).

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