Messages from Pastor Raddatz
Sunday April 5, 2020 PALM SUNDAY
Other readings for the day: Isaiah 50:4-9a and Philippians 2:5-11, Mount Olive, Houston
Amazing Eyes, Matthew 26:1-27:66
Dear People of God,
Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Have you ever been AMAZED? Someone who is amazed is surprised and overjoyed. If you are diving for sunken treasure you will be amazed to discover a wreck filled with gold bars, unless the gold in those bars turn out to be paint, in which case your amazement will quickly turn to disappointment. Amazed means being astounded or filled with wonder (vocabulary.com). The opposite of amazed is common, every day or trivial (symonymns.com).
I am amazed we are still not able to gather in worship. What we are asked to do through social distancing is not common or trivial. God has not distanced himself from you. He is as close as your breath.
God still wants us to keep our “Eyes on Jesus”. At the beginning of this virus we were told that maybe we would be able be together in church by the 5th of April. Now it has been extended to the end of April. To refrain from gathering in groups of more than ten is the best possible way we can stop the spread of the virus. This is what planners call the end game or the big picture. It is our hope that by keeping our distance that the virus will die out or at least not be in such an active stage.
As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to keep our eyes on the big picture. The big picture for us this Palm Sunday is amazing because Matthew 26-27 shows the Son of God dying between two criminals on the cross, when he dies the curtain in the temple was torn in two and the religious leaders ask to put a big stone over the entrance to the tomb where he was laid so his followers do not try to steal Jesus’ body.
It is surprising that Jesus would choose to die between two criminals. Look at how Jesus identifies with all people! He rides into Jerusalem to the cheers and praises of the people. They shouted hosanna, which is an exclamation, or AMAZEMENT meaning (especially in biblical, Judaic, and Christian use) used to express adoration, praise, or joy. “…Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…” (Matthew 21:9). Jesus identifies with us, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8 (ESV).
It brings JOY that Jesus continued his heavenly mission to die for us sinful people and fulfill the sacrifice for us! GOD HATES SIN, BUT HE LOVES SINNERS!!! When Jesus died, the curtain in the temple was torn in two. The earth shook, and the rocks were split (Matthew 27:51). This curtain which separated the Holy of Holies, the place where God sat on his judgement seat, was torn in two forever separating the dividing wall between God and man. We could not go near a holy God for fear that he would condemn us, but now, since Christ was condemned on the cross, we can enter the throne room of God. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, we are cleansed from all our sin (1 John 1:7).
We know that even though they put a stone in front of the tomb, where Jesus was laid. He rose from the dead and the grave could not hold him. God in Christ was not only crucified for us, but he also rose from the dead and we too know that we will rise from our graves. Death has lost its sting and power.
We know and believe the BIG PICTURE God has for us. This is a challenging time, but it can also be filled with joy if we look with eyes of faith! During this time all athletic contest have been suspended. On the weekends one major television station replays some of the epic sport contests of our life. If you are ever watching some of these, do you remember who won? If you do, you know about the big picture. You know who wins. This is what Holy Week is all about. We know that because Christ won the victory over sin and death and the grave, we are recipients of this victory and we too have seen this amazing gift!
The Epistle reading for today reminds us that keeping our distance from someone during this epidemic can be a way to serve God and serve your neighbor. Philippians 2: 5-6 reads, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross” (ESV). This distancing, to keep the virus from spreading, has not stopped people from staying connected.
I am amazed how people can still stay linked during this time. The news has reported a few of the following ways people share their joy. From people standing outside the home of those who cannot go out to wish them a happy birthday to a community in Buffalo New York who has a 5:30pm community dance party. In this one community, the neighbors all come out of their house and maintain their distance while one of the neighbors plays some classic rock and roll from his second-floor balcony. The people dance on their driveway and wave to each other. When I saw this report on TV, I saw a lot of joy in the neighbors faces. If you want to look at this online, just google “buffalo new york social distancing dance party”.
May our eyes and hearts always be amazed by the love God has for us!
May this peace, which passes every human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in the one true faith in Christ Jesus, to life everlasting, Amen.
Your Fellow Servant, in Christ,
John Raddatz, Vacancy Pastor
Sunday, April 26, 2020
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Sunday, April 19, 2020
Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020
Good Friday, April 10, 2020
Sunday, March 29, 2020
Sunday, March 22, 2020