Scriptures for the worship this coming Sunday, April 6, are all about water. From the Book of Exodus we read about the Hebrews at Rephidim, complaining about the lack of water. Fearing that the people under his leadership are about to stone him, Moses appeals to the Lord, Who empowers him to produce gushing water from dry rock. The Israelites’ thirst is quenched. However, Moses is vexed and disappointed, calling the place “Massah* and Meribah,* because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’” Also thirsty, Jesus asks the Samaritan woman for a drink from Jacob’s well at Sychar. In an surprising reversal, He offers her the living water, “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life,” and tells her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.” From the rock at Rephidim to the well at Sychar, life-giving water is provided. But only the living water provides the gift of eternal life.
"For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive."
This quotation from Paul’s letter to the Romans is the heart of the Gospel. Though it's not a terribly difficult verse to understand, it's incredibly hard to believe. And so, this Sunday we will analyze together more fully its message of Good News for our lives.
Let's take it in two parts. The first part is this: "For as in Adam all die..." The reference is the story of Adam and Eve. After their creation God placed them in a lovely garden teeming with beauty and abundant with every good food to eat. (Genesis 2) Unfortunately, they ate the forbidden fruit and took life into their own hands.
We commonly call this story, The Fall of Adam, because it was here that Adam fell from grace. So did Eve, for that matter. It's important not because of what happened to Adam and Eve eons ago, but what it says about human nature from the beginning of time. In short, the story of Adam and Eve is our story too.
We call this original sin, and that's a good term for it in that it stems from our origin. It's not that we're prone to making mistakes; it's that our very nature is corrupt. We can be counted on to do and say hurtful things, to act selfishly, even to do good things for the wrong reasons.
And so, the bad news is, "As in Adam all die . . . ." The Good News is, "so also in Christ all will be made alive." What we have here is nothing less than a New Creation: Just as the Old Creation started with Adam, the New Creation started with Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul told the Romans: "So then as through one trespass, all men were condemned; even so through one act of righteousness, all men were justified to life." (Romans 5:18)
What's important for us to understand is this: Just as we had nothing to do with the fall of Adam, neither are we responsible for this New Creation God has established in Jesus Christ. What's more, we're just as sinful as ever. The Good News is that, now, God has chosen to count us as righteous, even though we are not. This is the way Paul puts it in his Letter to the Romans: "For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:23)
This has nothing to do with how deserving or undeserving we may be; it has everything to do with the miracle of God's grace and the sovereignty of God's love. As Paul said, "But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
As incredible as it may seem, God has acted, once and for all, to reconcile the world to Himself through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Overlooking our sinful nature, God has chosen to love us anyway and is hoping we'll choose to love him, in return.
Next Sunday we will study the scriptures that pertain to Adam’s transgression as well as our redemption through Christ as Paul describes in his letter to the Romans. This study is very purposeful in this Lenten season as we prepare ourselves for the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Just as Harold and I were thinking spring was on the horizon, Ol' Man Winter decided to take one last blast. As nice as it is outside today - with temperatures forecasted to be in the mid-50s - it was gloomy, blustery, and very cold with ice and snow on Sunday morning.
When the Elder Chairperson called, the weather was just turning bad at our house, but the storm had already glazed the streets of Yates Center with ice and covered that with a nice dusting of snow that was still coming down. Always erring on the side of caution, church was canceled. Health and safety must be considered and we thank our Elders for their proactive response to the situation.
We all hope that winter has moved on now, and look forward to a fresh, airy spring filled with sunshine and flowers. Let us thank God above that no one was hurt getting out in the weather on Sunday - and that spring appears to be here on this happy St. Patrick's Day!
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land! So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
On April 3, 1968, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared this personal epiphany with an audience at the Church of God in Christ Headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee. Mountains have often had a significant role in God’s dealings with His people. In the English language we have the expression mountaintop experience. This expression has its origin in the Bible because of the encounters of different people have had with the Lord on various mountaintops. So the phrase has come to mean a moment of transcendence—an epiphany, and in particular, an instance of significant revelation given by God.
On Sunday, March 16, we will look at two accounts—one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament—of mountain-top experiences in the Bible. In Exodus, we will read about Moses’ encounter with the Lord on Mount Horeb, where he received the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments. Then we join Peter—along with James and John—as they travel with Jesus up a high mountain where they witness their Rabbi transfigured—His face showing like the sun and His clothes a dazzling white—and joined by Elijah and Moses (Matthew 17:1–9). Like the epiphany of Martin Luther King, these are transcendent experiences. Yet Christians are called to be in the world if not of the world. All who ascend the mountain must descend the mountain as well. Like Martin Luther King would encounter an assassin’s bullet just a day later, Moses would encounter the spectacle of the people he was called to lead worshiping a golden calf. Peter would see his Lord who was visibly transformed into His true God-like stature beaten, scorned, and abused before finally being crucified at Golgotha. It is difficult—even jarring—to return to the world of sin and imperfection after any moment of epiphany. Yet that is what Christians are called to do. God gives the mountaintop experience in order to sustain His people as they go down into the valley. His revelation is always intended to help us to journey more closely with Him on the path we are called to walk.
Rev. Harold HICKS
I have served as pastor at First Christian Church of Yates Center for nine years, beginning at Christmas in 2008. The focus of the ministry of our a community of faith has always been worship, teaching, and service. I always place an emphasis on pastoral care and community engagement, and my wife Aeron, who served actively as co-pastor for five years, continues to serve the church with support of the fellowship. Aeron's Christian Life Seminars were enjoyable times of learning and sharing. She has written most of the blog posts and has provided bulletins, newsletters, and other publications to the fellowship including working with leaders to develop and file official church documents.