Meeting Times at 4th United Presbyterian Church

Cafe' Worship: 9:15 a.m. each Sunday in Gathering Hall (activities provided for children; coffee; snacks)
Adult Sunday School: 10 a.m.

Sunday Worship: 11 a.m.

Bible Study: each Thursday at 6 p.m.

Community Forum: last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. with meal (no community forum in November, 2011)

About the 4th United Presbyterian Bible Blog

Posts on this blog are from me, Rev. George H. Waters, one of the two organizing co-pastors of 4th United Presbyterian Church. Our other organizing pastor was Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen, who is now pastor of a church in Charlotte, N.C. Since June of 2011, Rev. Elizabeth Peterson has been our parish associate pastor for new church development. The earliest posts are sermon notes from the few I have typed the last two years. Then, there is a series of notes posted on the book of Romans. After that, it varies from week to week, sometimes church news, sometimes reflections on a happening, a passage of scripture, or even some pictures. This blog is meant to open the conversation we have going on in our church to others in our community.

The picture below is of our church's sanctuary, built in 1913.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sermon on Matthew 16 from Christoph Blumhardt

Matthew 16:13-19: “The Church of Jesus Christ”

The following is an abridged version of the above-titled sermon of Christoph Blumhardt. This sermon, which was preached on June 29, 1897 in Germany, is printed in “Christoph Blumhardt and His Message,” R. Lejeune (Plough Publishing, reprint in 1963). This book, which was written in 1938, contains Lejeune’s biography of Christoph Blumhardt and a collection of Blumhardt’s sermons.
“But who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked the disciples. We are told that Peter replied: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And, I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven.”

“This is a description of how God’s kingdom comes into this world like a mustard seed. Here is Jesus, the Son of Man, more truly human than any other man or woman, more childlike than all other children. He lives among humans and He is the kingdom of God. He does not make it; He is the kingdom! Why? Because He is God and human. When God created the world He founded His kingdom on earth. The earth was His kingdom. And who was to reign, to rule and to watch over it as His representative? Human beings. God’s kingdom was paradise through humanity. . . An Adam, and there it was, God himself in paradise. Even if here and there something wrong was still lurking in corners, that didn’t matter. A human being was there, and God was with this human. Nothing else was of any importance. Indeed, it dissolved, as sugar dissolves in water, before this one human, Adam.

“The loss of humanity was the world’s catastrophe. True humanity was gone. This is still the world’s undoing today. Yet now we do have the fortune to know that there is one in whom the world is God’s again, in whom all that is created is again placed into the light of the first creation. This one is Jesus. Where then is evil, death, corruption? Jesus is here! In His presence, what is there to fear? Suffering and corruption, night and death, disappear. Where He comes, human beings are set free as long as Jesus is among them. Through Him the desert is turned into paradise, the sick are healed, the dead come alive, the poor become rich, the foolish clever. The down-trodden and broken are raised up and praise God. Everything is allowed to come back to life. True humanity is present again in God’s creation; God’s creation breathes and shines forth again in one true human, Jesus.
“If the Savior were to come today, He would surely come as a human being. The world needs true humanity. God was always there; He was in the world before Jesus. God ruled everything from Adam until Jesus. The Creator never separated himself from His work, never. But true humanity, through whom creation can really become God’s and as such be influenced, ruled, protected and cultivated - true humanity was missing, and is still missing and will be missing until Jesus comes and does away with false humanity. The false human is the world’s undoing. It is not true that there is no God; however, because there are so many false human beings, one no longer sees the Father in heaven. It is not true that there is no Spirit of God who made the world; but the false spirits destroy everything. It is this false nature which at present comes to the fore in humankind. The are so many false humans that one no longer sees true humanity. Thus the creation is concealed, at least superficially. False humans with a false spirit, with false desires and false aims, think that they are real human beings. Yet they are unhappy, because in reality they are false human beings. Wherever true humanity is, there is heaven on earth. . .

“. . . Now Jesus seeks a living church, and He seeks it on the earth. Could not the one who rose from the dead have come quickly, in heavenly glory, to conquer and overcome all things? He would have done it long ago, with hesitating, if this would have made God’s kingdom possible. He could have come with a host of angels. But no! He doesn’t want only angels. Human beings, not superworldly powers, must serve God on earth. This is Jesus’ loyalty towards us false humans. He could have come in judgment . . . He would rather wait another 1000 years, if need be, than give us up. This is Jesus Christ’s faithfulness, that He is patient. Through him we are to become real humans once more, and through true human beings the Father in heaven will come to us.

Jesus seeks a living church, and He seeks it on the earth. “Hundreds of times Christianity was deceived and took false forms for the real thing. But falsities shall not prevail; the false humans must come to an end. The true, genuine humanity will live and triumph. For true humanity is given the earth, the sky, and the communion of the entire human race. It is indeed a great thing, my friends, if in the midst of this dreadful confusion of false nature, false spirits and false people, even one person rises to say, “You are the one,” as Peter did. “I no longer want any part of this false world. You, Jesus, are the one.” “Then Jesus is comforted; then we too are comforted. For if one person is able to say it, if the light can dawn in one man or woman, then there is hope that in others too the light will dawn. When that happens, the church of God arises.”

“This is the rock on which Jesus founds His church:’You, Peter, are this rock. Yet it is not you who are the rock, but my Father. He revealed it to you. In you the light of the living God dawned, and this binds you to me. In this way you too are a child of the living God, for in you the Father can speak.’ Now we know how the church of Jesus Christ comes into being.”

“Some people think they can found a church of Jesus Christ by cutting themselves off from the world and sitting in a corner. That won’t do at all. Just try it! You would be taking false humanity along with you. For one thousand years people have tried to do it. It was all in vain; the way was wrong. Other people think they have managed when they have picked a quarrel with the church, but that is no good either. You can found as many sects as you like; it will lead you nowhere. I do not make light of many people who are willing to deny themselves for God’s sake. There are people who in their grief over sin have never permitted themselves a single laugh, a single pleasure, not even the joy of contemplating nature. I respect their serious outlook. Yet believe me - this is not the right way. On this way there will never be a church of Jesus Christ.

“The church of Jesus Christ is to be the light of creation, of the existing world, of our skies; it is to be a light in the clouds, in the atmosphere, even under the earth. Jesus is truly Lord over the whole creation, and God’s kingdom penetrates all that is created. His church is to have the width and breadth of Jesus, of God, of all creation. The light which Jesus kindles in the His church must be as great as the Father, for the Father alone gives His church to the Savior.”

“How then does this church come into being? Those who have seen Jesus must really stop letting themselves get distracted from the revelation of the Father. . . “
“Can God reveal himself in you, my friend? I will tell you when He can do it. It is when you are bent completely, fully, on God as love. Here the roads part. Believe me, I have rarely met a person who wanted this love of God. Does that surprise you? They all want to love, but they want to choose the people they love. They are cool toward or will even persecute with their hatred all those who do not suit them. Naturally everyone wants to love according to his sympathies. Everyone loves his family, her friends, his hobbies. However, it is quite a different matter to want God’s love fully and completely. There is a love that rules in the name of godless humanity; it is the most dangerous thing in the world! The love of the members of one party judges people belonging to the other parties. The love of the members of one church loves only these and condemns all others. The love that is in the world tears God’s love to pieces because it judges.

“Yet there is a love which denies itself, which esteems all people as equals, which respects creation and no longer judges. There is a love which saves, which does away with evil and fights against all evil in order that the evil person may be saved. There is a love which does not want to do away with anybody, so that nothing may be lost, because Jesus is here, because God is the Father of all people. Remember this. Whoever does not want this love, which is God’s love, will not recognize the living God, nor will he receive the revelation.”

“. . . We have received sufficient light to break away. So make a new beginning and no longer judge or condemn any person, just as Jesus has not condemned a single person. Fear every word that comes out of your false love. Be joyful and confident. Then you will recognize the true Human, the Son of Man, the Son of God, who now sits at God’s right hand in heaven. Make a beginning! There there will be light on earth, and we shall know where the living church of Jesus is to be found on the earth.

“May the Father in heaven have mercy on us! It is our hope that the light may soon come. May God’s kingdom unfold, not in the bustle of the world, not according to the desires of humans who want to see all things judged, but according to the infinite love of God which separates good and evil, which redeems, illumines and sanctifies all things. Praised by the Father in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit of God’s love!”

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