The second word of Jesus from the Cross is to the ‘penitent thief’ at his side:
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Think about what Jesus didn’t say to this thirsty man! “You don’t know enough yet.” “How can I be sure you believe and are repentant enough?” “Don’t you know it’s too late for you?”
No, this is a beautiful reminder that this life is not all there is! This is the King reigning over the real Kingdom. This is the inside truth of who is really in charge here. The penitent thief somehow recognized this. Jesus will soon die, clean out Hades, and rise victorious over death! Even on the cross, the Lord is inviting his nearest neighbor to come home. (I can’t help but wonder if the second criminal ended up joining them!)
One thing is certain. Jesus’s Vision was crystal clear! It was embedded in the amazing prophecy of Isaiah (chpt 61 and 58) that Jesus read in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth. This sermon explores what is behind the vision and its implications for us today. (Due to a technical difficulty, this is a ‘studio’ recording, not the original.)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, (from Isa. 58:6) to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
There are 4 aspects of Jesus’ vision that must drive what the church is about!
Jesus’ vision is for the whole person – spiritual AND physical;
Jesus’ vision is for the Jews AND all humanity;
Jesus’ vision is to be both proclaimed AND demonstrated;
Jesus’ vision is for the present AND the future.
And so our vision at Christ Church has been put this way. We pray for the grace to live it out!
Christ Church will be a diverse community that lives the Good News of Jesus Christ for the flourishing of all people throughout our region and around the world.
Our Mission Priorities:
As a movement of people dependent upon God, we will:
•Become and make committed disciples of Christ who glorify God and embody our faith in every area of life.
•Bring compassion, mercy, and justice to our local community and the world in sustainable ways.
•Start new and strengthen existing Christ Church communities.
NOTE: I would recommend looking at the great little book by A. J. Gordon that inspired the name of our Luke 3-5 series. It’s called How Christ Came to Church. (You can find it on the archive of his works here: under his books.) Gordon has wonderful insight into the presence and power of the Holy Spirit for our life with Christ. Here’s a sampling:
Just in front of the study window where I write is a street, above which it is said that a powerful electric current is constantly moving. I cannot see that current: it does not report itself to hearing, or sight, or taste, or smell, and so far as the testimony of the senses is to be taken, I might reasonably discredit its existence. But I see a slender arm, called the trolley, reaching up and touching it; and immediately the car with its heavy load of passengers moves along the track as though seized in the grasp of some mighty giant. The power had been there before, only now the car lays hold of it or is rather laid hold of by it, since it was a touch, not a grip, through which the motion was communicated.
And would it be presumptuous for one to say that he had known something of a similar contact with not merely a divine force but a divine person? The change which ensued may be described thus: instead of praying constantly for the descent of a divine influence there was now a surrender, however imperfect, to a divine and ever-present Being: instead of a constant effort to make use of the Holy Spirit for doing my work there arose a clear and abiding conviction that the true secret of service lay in so yielding to the Holy Spirit that he might use me to do his work!
The “songs” of Luke’s Gospel are many and amazing. Zachariah, Simeon, the Angels’ Gloria, and of course Mary’s Magnificat! They are sung throughout the year: morning, evening, and late nite by Christians all around the world. In preaching on the Magnificat, I borrowed this title: “Soundtrack for a Revolution” from a documentary on the “Freedom Songs” of the Civil Rights movement. I would call the Magnificat a “Cosmic Freedom Song!” It announces our liberation from sin and death and oppression. You can listen to the sermon audio here.
In a day when so many question if there is a God who really sees and can take action, we need to see Mary’s song in a new light. In the sermon, I reference the poetic structure below that reinforces a powerful truth: What God has promised is already as good as done!
My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. for he who is mighty has done great things for me…
he has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
[he has] exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
[he has] sent the rich away empty…
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.
God DOES notice, and God HAS acted in Jesus!
We can live accordingly and join in the Revolution that His Kingdom has launched!
In our series, Ordinary People, Radical Kingdom, we examined Mark 1:21-28 and asked the question, “By what authority?” Why was Jesus’ authority so obvious – and what, if any, authority do we have as his modern day disciples?
Jesus demonstrated his authority, not only in his teaching, but also in calling the 12, casting out demons, healing the infirm, eating with ‘sinners,’ and more! He also delegated his authority to his disciples and we today have authority when we speak and pray and embody the Kingdom ‘in His Name.’
The personal challenge for us is whether our lives have integrity. Does what I say I believe sync with how I live? Do my principles and my practice match up? Do I embody (like Jesus) what I announce?
The calling of the first disciples in John 1:35-51 is an intriguing picture of simple invitation and mysterious Divine plan. The number of disciples first increases through the organic networking of family and friends. It still does!
“Come and see,” says Jesus to Andrew…who finds his brother Peter and brings him to Jesus…who calls Philip to follow him…who finds cynical Nathanael and invites him to “Come and see!” Ordinary people doing ordinary things, like running to find those you love most to introduce them to the irresistable King. (“The High Calling” is a sermon in our series – found here.)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer gives us an earthy reminder:
“Thy Kingdom Come” – this is not the prayer of the pious – of the individual who wants to flee the world,
nor is it the prayer of the utopian fanatic. Rather, this is the prayer only of the church-community of children of Earth…who persevere together, in the midst of the world, in its depths,
in the daily life and subjugation of the world…
Here, in the midst of the dying, torn, and thirsting world, something becomes evident to those who can believe, believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ Baptism – and ours – reminds us that we enter into the very life of the Trinity! We join with God in His Mission to the world! Our teaching series on “Ordinary People ~ Radical Kingdom“ dwells on the beginning of Christ’s public ministry including the CALLING of the disciples as well as OUR calling to follow Him.
The account of Jesus’ baptism by John is recorded in all four Gospels and is loaded with foundational truth about God and how near he is. You can access the sermon here.
Malcom Guite has written a sonnet describing the beautiful authority and subversion ofHis Kingdom Reign.
The Baptism of Christ
Beginning here we glimpse the Three-in-one; The river runs, the clouds are torn apart, The Father speaks, the Sprit and the Son Reveal to us the single loving heart That beats behind the being of all things And calls and keeps and kindles us to light. The dove descends, the spirit soars and sings ‘You are belovèd, you are my delight!’
In that quick light and life, as water spills And streams around the Man like quickening rain, The voice that made the universe reveals The God in Man who makes it new again. He calls us too, to step into that river To die and rise and live and love forever.