Summary: Advent I the call of John the Baptist to repent and produce fruit....combined with reflections regarding the funeral of President George Bush, flowing back to the story of the death of Ananias & Sapphira with out repentance. Some quotes from "Keep On Believing" (Acts 5)
In Jesus Holy Name December 9, 2018
“The Mystery of God”
“The Mystery of God” said Isaiah, “is a bittersweet mystery.” It is for people of all kinds. Those who are bitter against Him for what they consider His lack of concern, and for those who sweetly tell His story. God takes back prodigals. He makes them into loving people again. This is the greatest mystery of all. The mystery of all mysteries that God should care enough about human beings that He Himself would come to the earth He created, offering Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. This is the message of the Bible.
This has been a week filled with emotions, sadness, pride and thanksgiving. This week watched as a family mourned loss of a father. This week the nation remembered and mourned the loss of one of our past presidents, George W. Bush. Dignified military precision. Soldiers, sailors, marines, standing in solemn attention on every step of the Capitol. Smoke filled the air, with every 21 gun salute to a fallen President. The band played “Nearer My God to Thee”. And on every step of the Capitol, not once did the President’s flag draped casket tilt.
During his eulogy President George H. Bush noted this “mystery of God” that saved his father from death two times. Once as a teenager, once when he was alone on a raft in the Pacific…after a bombing run on which his plane was shot down. He was rescued by a submarine. “My father believed that one can serve with integrity and hold true to the important values, faith, and family. He strongly believed that it was important to give back to the community and country in which one lives. He recognized that serving others enriched the giver’s soul. To us, his life was the brightest thousand points of light.” (George H. Bush eulogy speech)
Jon Meacham, biographer, in his eulogy said: “The story, his story & our story would go on by God’s grace. In a sense, the rest of his life was a perennial effort to prove himself worthy of his salvation on that distant morning.” It is one of “those mysteries of God” that brought George W. Bush to the Presidency of America. He loved his country and sought to motivate a nation to seek higher service through a “Thousand Points of Light”.
In his sermon Bishop Curry said: “Through his enduring commitment to
public service and his steadfast devotion to his family, he lived the way of Jesus through a life shaped by faith, hope and, above all, love. Through his unswerving service to our country and to the human community around the globe, he embodied the noblest ideals of his faith and his country.” (President Bush funeral)
And so on this Sunday morning, I am reminded of the words of John the Baptist to the crowds when they asked him: “What shall we do with our lives?” John said: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” I think President George W Bush answered that question. “Be honest in your dealings.” “Tell the truth.” Care for one another. Give a coat. Provide food. Give donations to help the fire victims. $1870.00 (we did). Demonstrate love & imitate Jesus. (Eph 5:1)
For a few days a nation was captivated by the dignity of military honors, reminded of service, a man and his family’s faith in God. It was both a cathartic and emotional experience for those of us who watched from a distance. Maybe we were also thinking about our own loved ones or our own potential eulogy.
The flag draped casket, the hymns, the church service are reminders, death does come to all. The Bible is filled with stories about death. Perhaps none more shocking than the account found in Acts 5:1-11. In the midst of growth and blessing in the early church we encounter a sudden and mysterious death.
It is the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Perhaps the day went something like this: Sunday dawned bright and beautiful in Jerusalem. Throughout the city, merchants began uncovering their wares. Mothers began to feed their children. For most people, that Sunday promised to be just another day.
But for a certain group, Sunday was a special day, they called the Lord’s Day. For them the highlight of the day was the meeting of the church. They didn’t have their own building, just a borrowed room. Believers came, happy, joyful, expectant. They came prepared to sing, pray, rejoice, hear the teachings of Jesus and give. ( From a sermon “Keep on Believing” – Pritchard)
Yes to give. Those early Christians specialized in giving. They not only gave money but clothes, food, tools, and the title deed to property. Sometimes they sold their land and brought money to the church. As the morning sun rose in the sky, the believers made their way to the meeting. Among their number was a man called Ananias. He like the others brought his offering with him. I imagine it went something like this: Peter stood up and said: “Now if anyone has an offering, let him come forward.”