Archives for January 2012

Prayer of application 1/29/12

Almighty and merciful Father, restore our souls in Jesus Christ, that we may be merciful and kind even as you are. Let your forgiveness make us willing to forgive all wrong which we have suffered, and to ask forgiveness for every wrong which we have done. Give us the spirit of Him who dwelt among men in great humility, and was meek and lowly of heart. Let the same mind be in us which was also in Him. And grant that, being rooted and grounded in the mystery of the Word made flesh, we may receive the power to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Amazing in its relevance at this time.

The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany.


O GOD, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright; Grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


For all thy Church, O Lord, we intercede;
make thou our sad divisions soon to cease;
draw us the nearer each to each, we plead,
by drawing all to thee, O Prince of Peace;
thus may we all one Bread, one Body be,
through this blest Sacrament of unity.

So, Lord, at length when sacraments shall cease,
may we be one with all thy Church above,
one with thy saints in one unbroken peace,
one with thy saints in one unbounded love;
more blessèd still, in peace and love to be
one with the Trinity in Unity.

Devotional at Grace and Peace Congregational Meeting

Devotional at Grace and Peace Congregational Meeting

January 25, 2012

          From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.(2 Corinthians 5:16-21 ESV)

Of all passages, this one, perhaps more than any encapsulates the heart of the Gospel and the Christian life. It is about reconciliation—Grace and Peace.

Reconciliation entails the coming together of two parties in order to make right what went wrong in the relationship. Who did the wrong? Sometimes one party; sometimes both. Now I want you to take a moment and think about a relationship with a friend or a family member where things went really sour. Maybe you said the wrong thing, and you haven’t talked to that person since. Maybe they did the wrong thing, and you’re still angry. Do you recall that anger, that disappointment, that frustration?

Our relationship with God was threatened, but not because God said the wrong thing, or did the wrong thing. We said the wrong thing, did the wrong thing, failed to say and do the right thing. And we’re still saying the wrong things, doing the wrong things, failing to say and do the right things. And we’re all suffering for it. We did not ask for life, or for love, but we received them as gifts! All God asked was that we love both God and neighbor, and even these commands were a gift, because they are what make us human. In our decisions to neglect and even hate God and our neighbor, we ended up hating ourselves, and became inhumane. We are both the victims and the oppressors of our own twisted humanity.

This passage indicates that we naturally live for ourselves. You can call it selfishness, but I like Luther’s way of talking about it, in Latin. Sin, Luther says, is INCURVATUS IN SE, which means to be curved in upon the self. The rupture in our relationship with God occurs when we decide that we are independent, autonomous individuals who are quite capable of living life on our own, thank you very much. So by sin all of life is curved in upon us so that we are the center of our universe holding up our own little world like little Atlases. And it’s getting very heavy, because it’s too much for us to bear.

Now the bleakness of this situation may seem all too real to some of you, and all too depressing to others of you. Why ponder such sad things? But I want to get in touch with the reality of the pain of our world, lest we become too comfortable with things as they are, because the sick thing about this rupture in our relationship with God is that there are plenty of ways we can distract ourselves from this rupture. Some persons withdraw and seek refuge in endless amusements and entertainments. Some choose alcohol and drugs, or pornography. Some find refuge in a sport or club or hobby, or career; others in fighting battles in society or even in church. Such things become idolatry!
But as Christians, we have received not a new distraction, but a piece of Great GOOD NEWS. It completely changes the bleakness of the picture. We must live no longer for ourselves. Why? Because he died for all. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, as the supreme act of love, did not deal with us according to our sin, but dealt with himself according to our sin, exhausting all judgment and wrath on himself rather than letting it fall on us. The death of Christ was God’s work and revelation that God loves us so much that nothing will separate us from Him in Christ.
God did this while we were his enemies. God is Emmanuel, and that’s why He chose the cross. Because that’s who he is. And he did this for ALL, in Christ: “We are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.” The language of death in Paul gets a little tricky, but what he means here is that we have all died in the sense that we are united to Christ who died for our place.

Because of God’s reconciliation, we regard no one from a human point of view. That means both ourselves and others. We cannot regard ourselves from a human point of view. We cannot regard ourselves as the center of our universe. We are not God, but neither are we scum. I am no longer my own worst enemy, because I am not my own judge.

We do not regard others from a human point of view either. Because no one is God’s enemy, no one can be my enemy either. They may hate me, but I cannot hate them, because God does not hate them. So all I should do is show love. What does that look like? It looks like Jesus.

God has reconciled us to himself through Christ. In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting our trespasses against us.

I want to be clear about this: when someone does something wrong to us, that’s a trespass. And when they do it, who does it count against? It counts against THEM! Right? That’s life, that’s fair. But it’s only fair according to our standards. In Christ, God does not count the trespasses of those who have trespassed against him. We hear this from Jesus on the cross when he says “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” They don’t KNOW any better – they think they’re operating under fair and righteous principles, but quite the contrary. An eye for an eye is not fair, as it turns out, because God reconciles not just us, not just his friends, but the whole world of his enemies.

And as Christians, as a reconciled people who are convinced that this is true for us and for the whole world, we have been given a ministry. God is making his appeal through us to tell the world: “We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In other words, stop putting yourself and others to death with your words and your actions because you resent all that’s wrong with the world! God has made things right, and no one has to be tortured to placate this demonic darkness.

God has already declared peace. The war is over, but our world is still fighting. And so, as members of Grace and Peace Presbyterian Church, we have to make a choice. Are we going to join the world in its war with itself, or are we going to declare the end of the war and the beginning of peace in Jesus Christ?

Let us live up to our name in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let us be ministers of reconciliation. Amen.



seminal thoughts from a sermon by Rev. C. T. Nelson


Epiphany was first observed in second-century Egypt, as both the day of Jesus’ birth and baptism. December 25 wasn’t established as a separate celebration of the nativity until around A.D. 336 and has never been universally celebrated on that day. Today some Eastern churches still observe Christmas on January 6, the day of Epiphany.

The Wise Men, originally recognized at Epiphany, have gotten mixed up with the shepherds, the angels, the stable, and the manger of Christmas. It is time we reclaimed Epiphany as a separate celebration with a meaning and significance all its own.

Star of Bethlehem - wise men from the east

The word Epiphany means “manifestation,” “showing,” or, less literally, “a moment of recognition.” Epiphany celebrates God’s manifestation of Jesus in three ways.

First, Epiphany celebrates the fact that Jesus came to all people. The story most often associated with Epiphany is that of Wise Men from the East following the star as it led them to Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12). Foreigners bowing before the new king show that God offers the Messiah to the whole world, not to just one race or nation.

The second manifestation showed Jesus’ divinity. After his baptism by John in the Jordan River, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended like a dove and rested on Jesus. Then a voice came from heaven proclaiming him as God’s Son (Matt. 3:16-17).

Finally, Jesus’ power was manifested at the wedding feast in Cana. It was here that he performed his first public miracle, changing water into wine.

These three events–the Magi’s visit, Jesus’ baptism, and the miracle at Cana–are traditionally associated with January 6. Although all three moments of recognition are observed on Epiphany, the majority of customs associated with the holiday in the Western world relate to the “Three Kings.”

The biblical account does not offer many details about the foreigners or their visit. Much of what we think we know is based in tradition, not Scripture. Legend has fleshed out the visitors by giving them names, homelands, and even experiences on their journey, both before and after their encounter with Jesus.

If we are to reclaim Epiphany, the first step will be to get the facts straight as Matthew tells them. Reread the story with a careful eye and realize that the Gospel does not put the visit of the Wise Men at the stable but at a house. Most scholars attest that the visitors arrived in Bethlehem as much as two years after Jesus’ birth, according to the biblical account (Matt. 2:16).

Thanks be to God that Jesus was made manifest to us Gentiles!

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. (Romans 3:27-30 ESV)

Sermon Christmas Day 2011


Being Taught by Grace


Titus 2:11-15


For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people (the Abrahamic promise), training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.


Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.




“Epiphania”– made its advent appearance- 1st Advent of Christ


“bringing salvation for all people” (the Abrahamic promise)




“Paideia” lexical studies>>


the whole training and education of children (which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this purpose commands and admonitions, reproof and punishment)


It also includes the training and care of the body and whatever in adults also cultivates the soul, esp. by correcting mistakes and curbing passions. instruction which aims at increasing virtue chastisement, chastening, (of the evils with which God visits men for their amendment)


Leads to: Imitation of Christ-


what is He, the perfect man, like?


training us (up to maturity) to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled upright, and godly lives in the present age, redeemed from lawlessness (doing our own thing) NO RULES


Example: We are offended from earliest years of life—denied our wishes, “NO, NO” enforced by a spanking, to being underappreciated, denied, crossed, as adults.


Our first impulse when offended is retributive justice—Payback! Get Even!–We are taught rather to imitate God’s covenant faithfulness by paying the price to forgive others- sacrificial justice. That’s what Jesus did!!!!!


Tim Keller: somebody pays—always


“waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing 2nd ADVENT of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”


Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. These things are to be taught!


Sully….an illustration of the pilot of US Airways 1549


On January 15, 2009, Sullenberger was pilot in command of an Airbus A320 from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte/Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. The flight was designated as US Airways Flight 1549 as well as United Airlines Flight 1919.[26] Shortly after taking off, Sullenberger reported to air traffic control that the plane had hit a large flock of birds, disabling both engines.[27] Several passengers saw the left engine on fire.[28] Sullenberger discussed with air traffic control the possibilities of either returning to LaGuardia airport or attempting to land at the Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. However, Sullenberger quickly decided that neither was feasible, and determined that ditching in the Hudson River was the only option for everyone’s survival.[29] Sullenberger told the passengers to “brace for impact”, then piloted the plane to a smooth ditching in the river at about 3:31 P.M.[30] All passengers and crew members survived.[30] He later said, “It was very quiet as we worked, my co-pilot and I. We were a team. But to have zero thrust coming out of those engines was shocking—the silence.”[31] Sullenberger walked the unflooded part of the passenger cabin twice to make sure everyone had evacuated before retrieving the plane’s maintenance logbook and being the last to evacuate the aircraft.[11][32]


Sullenberger, described by friends as “shy and reticent”,[33] has been noted for his poise and calm demeanor during the crisis. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for example, dubbed him, “Captain Cool”.[34] However, Sullenberger acknowledged that he had suffered some symptoms of posttraumatic stress for the first couple of weeks following the crash, including sleeplessness and flashbacks, though this condition had improved by the time of his late February 2009 interview with People magazine.[35] In a CBS 60 Minutes interview, he was quoted as saying that the moments before the crash were “the worst sickening, pit-of-your-stomach, falling-through-the-floor feeling” that he had ever experienced.[36] Speaking with news anchor Katie Couric, Sullenberger said, “One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience: education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”[37]


Source: Wikipedia


Likewise we are to be making regular deposits into the “bank” of character development in Christ so that when the time of testing comes we will be ready to make a faithful “large withdrawal.”


“In Christ” we are pleasing to God—that is bedrock INDICATIVE—By Faith


At the Second Advent appearing, we will please God….and we will be rewarded by God because we will reflect God’s nature—-God loves his own nature, attributes, character which he has been teaching us, beginning with grace and moving toward the imitation of Christ.


He loves to see them formed in us! ….To look like God. IMPERATIVE!


That’s what his grace teaches us!


Let us submit to the IMPERATIVE “paidaia” training of God’s INDICATIVE “epiphania” grace in Christ.     Amen.


Biblical formality and festivity

Pastor Cathey quotes Pastor Sumpter who quotes  a scholar in the field of reformed worship:

“Since for Americans there is often an in-built negative reaction to any mention of formality in worship, let us turn briefly to Hebrews 12 and Revelation 4-5. Hebrews 12:22-24 describes a New Covenant (contrasted with the Old Covenant worship of vss. 18-21) corporate, Lord’s Day worship service. When the church gathers on the Lord Day she enters into heaven (by faith) to worship God with all of the angelic host and departed saints. It is as if the roof of the church building is torn off when the pastor calls the people to worship. Notice that the worshipers are all organized around the throne of God. The worship service does not merely provide an opportunity for private devotional experiences. The church is a ‘city’ and a ‘joyous assembly’ or ‘festal array’ (v. 22). The word translated ‘festal assembly’ denotes an assembly of people gathered for a celebration or festival. Later, when we are privileged with the Apostle John in the book of Revelation to peek into heaven, how is the worship conducted? What kind of worship is modeled for us in heaven? There are all kinds of liturgical lessons to be learned here. I only wish to highlight one aspect: the heavenly service is liturgical and formal. According to Revelation 4-5, heavenly worship is a formal, coordinated activity. There are cooperative, formal responses by groups of worshipers. Everybody responds together with the same words. There are no individual displays of spirituality. Angels, elders, and creatures respond antiphonally with responses that must have been learned! They have been trained. There is a pre-arranged form to the worship. They have rehearsed this event, and they are dressed accordingly (Rev. 4:4). In other words, heavenly, Spirit-guided worship is liturgical and formal (1 Cor. 14:26-33).”
G. Mark Sumpter

Scoring Points for Traditional Hymnody


Scoring Points for Traditional   Hymnody
Written by G. Mark Sumpter
Monday, 02 January 2012 00:00
What’s great at Christmastime can   be great 48 other Sundays. At the Christmas season, traditional hymnody—it’s   words and musical genre—scores big. For about 30 calendar days, traditional,   even some really old, hymnody rebounds in worship-life and society. People   show that they actually like the old stuff. Maybe this is one way to be more   strategic in recruiting worshipers from within the contemporary side of   the evangelical and reformed. It’s time to do a little CARPE DIEM. Here are   some good vibes at Advent, musically speaking.Generations Hold Hands: elementary age kids, very young children, 14 year olds,   25 year olds— goateed and lip piercings to-boot—stand next to 69 year olds,   those still sporting wire frame bifocals, and they’ll work their way through   five lines of #221 Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming. If you look close,   they’re holding a hymn book too. They appear dialed in with gratitude. Carols   bring about the pleasant wrapped-up gift of the church being the   church—young, old, wide, narrow, rich, and poor. Knuckles and high fives.

Sweat on the Brow is No Biggie: At Christmas we don’t mind having to work at our   singing. In our worship age, when we’re told about KISS—Keep It Simple   Songwriter, at Advent we’re not afraid of fancy notes, awkward beats, and   funny syllables. “The shepherds at those tidings re-joice-ED much in mind…”   How odd. (I wonder if Chris Tomlin uses re-joice-ED in contemporary   expression?)  At Christmas, that doesn’t scare us, and that’s good. I   still struggle with the line in O Come All Ye Faithful, the one, “very   God, begotten, not created.” I have to work at this line every time we come   to it. The timing with the syllables freaks me. But our willingness to work   at freaky beats and syllables is good. We see that people don’t mind going   over and over a tune to get it right. Maybe once Christmastime is over we can   make use of our willingness to be patient and work on singing skills. If   people are showing that they’re not afraid of elbow grease, let’s go for it.   Whistle while you work—on more difficult traditional worship music.

Use the Principle of Reinforcement: If you go to the malls and over to   the hospital, and turn on the radio, and attend the Christmas   programs…and—even open a Hallmark Card, you’ll get reinforcement of   traditional hymnody-like carols. The principle of reinforcement should cue   us. Pastor, Worship Leader: do you want a shot at seeing your people grow in   their singing? Discipleship centers on familiarity, recognition and   re-play. Once again—here’s hope for traditional worship music. Finding ways   for traditional hymns to be piped into ears and hearts is key. If God’s   people hear it enough, they’ll grow to love it. Christmas proves this.

If only it was Christmastime every   Sunday.


G. Mark Sumpter is a minister in   the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and is serving as pastor of Faith Presbyterian   Church in Grants Pass, Oregon.