Sunday, June 25, 2017


James 1:1-12 06/25/2017
Introduction: We are living in a culture that says, the Pursuit of Happiness is everything. When the rest of the world is suffering, all we want and care is to be happy, healthy and wealthy. We want happiness and love and contentment without ever having to suffer or sacrifice. And we want it now. There is no scarcity of preachers who preach the health and wealth gospel, but what we are lacking is a balanced theology on suffering. Since, coming to America I’ve been introduced to the life story of Joni Eareckson Tada. Tada was born in 1949 in Baltimore, Maryland, the youngest of four daughters. As a teenager, Tada enjoyed riding horses, hiking, tennis, and swimming. On July 30, 1967, she dove into Chesapeake Bay after misjudging the shallowness of the water. She suffered a fracture between the fourth and fifth cervical levels and became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down.
            In preparation to this sermon I was listening to her interview on CBN, tears were flowing down my eyes as I heard her continued struggle at the same time her Joy in the Lord. She said, “After almost 50 years in a wheelchair, every single morning when I wake up I need Jesus so badly," she told CBN News, "I just can't tolerate the thought of another day as a quadriplegic with someone else giving me a bed bath and exercising my legs and toileting routines and it all just seems too overwhelming." Her next thing she said is to pray "Jesus, I need you. I can't do this. I cannot do quadriplegia but I can do all things through you."
            Joni is a living example of someone who found Joy in the midst of suffering. Last week we have learned how we were to speak to our souls and encourage ourselves in the Lord. Today we will look at, what should be our attitude, and response to suffering. The Apostle, James lays down a pathway for first century Christians on how they can overcome their struggles, and remain firm in their faith. I title this message, “CONSIDER IT ALL JOY.”
            Background: The author identifies himself as James (1:1); he was probably the brother of Jesus and the leader of the Jerusalem council (Ac 15). James was one of several brothers of Jesus, probably the oldest since he heads the list in Mt 13:55. At first, he did not believe in Jesus and even challenged him and misunderstood his mission (Jn 7:2–5). After Jesus’ resurrection, James became very prominent in the Jerusalem church: James was one of the select individuals Christ appeared to after his resurrection (1Co 15:7). Paul called him a “pillar” of the church (Gal 2:9). James was a leader in the important council of Jerusalem (Ac 15:13).
            Tradition tells us that James spent so much time on his knees in prayer that they became as callous as the knees of camels. This epistle was written around 60 A.D. The recipients were identified explicitly only in 1:1 “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. “the term “twelve tribes, was referring to the early Jewish Christians. Under the Emperor Nero, Jewish Christians were hunted, persecuted and many were put to death. Several, apostles were killed and many were scattered all over the region. In that context, the Apostle James was writing to the believers not to give up hope but to consider it all Joy, because their perseverance will be richly rewarded.
            A lot has been written and said about, happiness and how to be happy. But what is happiness and how is it different from Joy? A dictionary definition of happiness is “a state of well-being; a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” Happiness is based on “happenings” meaning if things happen to go well, you are happy. For example, it’s easy to be happy when you are healthy, you’re financially secure, and all your relationships are good, but then you have trouble with one or more of these, what happens to your “happiness?” It’s probably gone. But the biblical Joy is different. If you’ve trusted in Jesus and know you are secure and safe in His hands, and Jesus is in control of every situation then you still have joy.
            A quote on Joy, by Henri Nouwen, “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” Depending on the translation, the Bible uses the words happy and happiness about 30 times, while joy and rejoice appear over 300 times. For our study, I use John Piper’s definition on Joy, “Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.”
            Joni Eareckson knows what it is to have that good feeling in her soul, irrespective of her outward circumstances. Joni notes, “God is more concerned with confirming me to the likeness of His son, than leaving me in my comfort zones. God is more interested in inward qualities than outward circumstance, things like refining my faith, humbling my heart, cleaning up my thought life and strengthening my Character.” God wants to change our hearts more than relieving pain.
            Coming back to our passage, the Apostle James wanted the persecuted Jewish Christians to focus on developing Christ like Character when he said, Vs, 2“Consider it pure Joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, “James addresses the readers as, “brothers and sisters” fifteen times in this short letter.  Brothers and sisters refers to believers, both men and women as part of God’s family.” He has many rebukes for them, but he corrects them in a brotherly love. So, if you are a believer and belong to God’s family then this address is referring to you as well.  
            What does it mean, to “consider it pure (all) Joy,”? The English word, “Consider” means, “to think about carefully.” The Greek word here also means “evaluate.” Based on these definitions, we could say, that believers need to think carefully or evaluate when they face trails. Our normal tendency when we go through trails, is to think that we got the wrong end of the deal, and we are the only ones who are going through such suffering. But when we pause and think, many people in the world are going through worse things than we can ever imagine.
            What are the trails of many kinds? The Greek word means trouble or something that breaks the pattern of peace, comfort, Joy and happiness in someone’s life. The action form of this word means, “to put someone or something to the test” with the purpose of testing that person’s nature or that things quality. Every trail becomes a test of faith designed to strengthen a believer. God at times brings such tests or allows his children to go through them in order to increase and strengthen the quality of their faith.
            We see this played out clearly in the horrible trails that Job underwent in the OT, but as he stood the test and did not give into the temptation in the end he was blessed beyond belief. James, might have had Job as an example when he said, Vs 3-4, “Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
            Vs- 3-4 are the basis of Vs 2, James knew what happens to those who will hunker down, and persevere under trails, in the end they will become mature, complete and not lack anything. Therefore, he encourages the persecuted believers not to give up when facing trials but to consider it all Joy. You might be saying to yourself, pastor you don’t understand my situation, you have no clue about what I am suffering, how can you say to me to consider it all Joy? You are right, I may lack understanding of your situation, but there is someone who can perfectly understand us because he went through, all what we are going through or would ever go through.
            I suggest two keys, that might help us to develop the attitude of Joy in the midst of trails. One is to have a right perspective and the other is to have faith in God. Having the right perspective: When it comes to handling rightly in adversity, Jesus is our model.  On the sermon on the mount, Jesus warned us that we will be persecuted and mistreated because of our faith.
            Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Similarly, the Apostle Peter encouraged the suffering believers saying, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
            This was one of the big motivations for the early martyrs, they saw themselves identifying with the sufferings of Christ, so they didn’t back off in their suffering. Even today, many are being persecuted for the sake of the gospel around the world. Many are imprisoned and even put to death for preaching the good news of peace and love. We have the examples of prophets, the early and the present-day martyrs of faith, and above all Jesus who endured the cross for the Joy that was set before him, that was you and me.
            The writer to the Hebrews this has to say to us in our trails, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
            I hope by now you are beginning to develop a right perspective over your suffering, by looking at these cloud of witnesses. Secondly, “Having faith in God.” We put our faith in God who promised to be with us in our trails. He encouraged us to call upon him in the day of trouble and he will answer us. (Psalm 50:15).
            He also promised to provide a way out. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” I Cor 10:13. The Greek word for temptation and tempted can also be translated as, testing and tested.
            Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11, Jesus promised to give us Joy when we obey his commandments. He also challenged us to ask him in prayer, “until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” John 16:24.
            The Apostle James, qualifies what to ask for and how are we to ask? When we go through hardships we need wisdom to respond rightly.If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” James 1:5-8   
            The key to receive anything from God including wisdom is, to have faith in God, and never to doubt him. For example, when you pray for healing, a job or for a breakthrough in a situation, by faith you ask Jesus to intervene, do not be double-minded, but believe firmly that God is going to answer your prayers. I’ve seen this kind of faith at work in my own life.
            So, dear friends, what is your trail today? Some of you might be going through severe hardships, financially, health wise and relationally. Whatever your struggle may be, have you considered it all Joy? I want us to leave this morning encouraged, with James’ assuring words, Vs 12 “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” Amen.

Sunday, June 18, 2017


Psalm 42:1-11, 6/18/2017
Introduction: Life’s crazy cycle seems to be spinning out of control these days. Everyone seems to be strapped for time, weighed down by the burdens and pressures of life. We have to work hard to keep paying the bills, to clear our debts and stay afloat. It looks like our present culture is putting us through a pressure cooker. By the end of the day we come home exhausted, weary, and hardly have any strength left to carry on the other responsibilities at home. We go to bed tired, we battle insomnia, we wake up more tired and hit the road again. The crazy cycle starts to spin again.  Does this crazy cycle sound familiar to anyone?
            Last, week has been one of those weeks for me where my schedule was fully packed with appointments, meetings, errands, phone calls and sermon preparation. By the middle of the week I was getting a bit weary. I went to attend our pastor’s group in Braintree, after catching up with each other, sharing in one another’s personal, and ministry challenges, we started our devotion. A fellow pastor led us through a different kind of devotion this time, it was to close our eyes and to consciously and slowly breathe in and out, thinking about God’s love, peace, and the rest he was brining to our souls.  It was one of the best meditation times I had in a long time. No debates, opinions expressed, exhortations, but simply resting in the presence of the Lord.
            After that peaceful experience, again life’s crazy cycle began. More meetings, more challenges, somehow by the end of Friday I finished my sermon, thinking I had a good sermon for Father’s Day, but the Lord seemed to have something else in mind. At first, I was upset with that thought, I panicked, and wondered, how I was going to get ready for Sunday. As I quieted myself for a while, skipping my CNN fix, the Lord led me to a passage of scripture, “By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.” With that assurance, I went to bed singing that song I slept peacefully through the night without a worry.     
            I got up Saturday morning at 5:00 A.M, again it is quite unusual for me to get up that early on Saturdays, this time I had to take Jemimah for her road test. While waiting in the McDonald’s parking lot, I began to study this passage, it was one of the most refreshing quiet times, (in the midst of a crazy, chaotic world) I had in a long time. My soul, and body was refreshed. Today’s message is the outcome of my need for more of God. What are you thirsty for today? Is your scheduled so crowded that it leaves you thirsty for time alone with God? I title this message, “THIRSTING FOR GOD IN TROUBLE” Psalm 42:1-1.  A bit of background of the book of Psalms, and an understanding of the context of this particular Psalm will help us to appreciate and apply this Psalm to our personal situations. Let’s get started.
BACKGROUND: Authors: David, Asaph, the Sons of Korah, Solomon, Heman, Ethan, Moses and unknown authors. The dates were between the time of Moses (probably about 1440 BC) and the time following the Babylonian exile (after 538 BC). The Psalms for the most part a book of prayer and praise. In it faith speaks to God in prayer and about God in praise. But there are also psalms that are explicitly instructional in form and purpose, teaching the way of godliness.
            What do we know about Psalm 42. It is a prayer for deliverance from being “oppressed by the enemy” (42:9; 43:2) and for restoration to the presence of God at his temple. Psalm 42 & 43, these two psalms form a single prayer (though they are counted as two psalms) The speaker may have been a leading member of the Korahites, whose normal duties involved him in the liturgical activities of the temple. The “unfaithful nation” in Ch 43:1, was referring to Arameans of Damascus and that the author had been taken captive by the Arameans during one of their attacks into Judah. While living in exile, away from his home land the author writes this Psalm. It can be divided into two parts: The Psalmist’s thirst for God in trouble, and the remedy for a disturbed soul.
            Vs 1-4, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.”
            Where was the Psalmist when he wrote this Psalm? Vs 6, gives us the location, “My soul is downcast within me; therefore, I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon from Mount Mizar.” The Psalmist remembers in his exile the joy of his past intimacy with God, now in exile painfully wonders why God has forgotten him, yet he was not without hope. From the land . . . from Mount Mizar. Probably indicating that the author speaks from exile outside the contemporary boundaries of Israel and Judah. Some think the author locates himself at Mount Mizar (a small peak or village, not otherwise known) on the flanks of Mount Hermon somewhere near the headwaters of the Jordan.
            This Psalm begins and ends with a deep longing to be with God. To express that longing the author uses, two powerful metaphors, “A deer” and “Water” The Psalmist refers himself to a deer, who has been running away from hunters, exhausted and thirsty, its entire life now depends on water, so she pants for streams of water. The second metaphor is water. Thirst is such a powerful longing that it displaces all others. I learned something about thirst during my study. “We frequently mistake dehydration for hunger. Thirst and hunger send similar signals to our brain. Staying hydrated throughout the day will help avoid false hunger pangs. Do you feel like you’re always hungry? Or do you frequently want something to eat, you may be dehydrated, and your body may be misinterpreting those feelings of thirst as hunger.”
            My wife often tells me, drinking a glass or two of water before eating, can keep you from over eating. Coming back to our Psalm, though the Psalmist longs for God’s help in the midst of physical thirst and danger, this metaphor also offers a profound spiritual image: Pursuing our relationship with God is as essential to our spiritual wellbeing as water is to our physical well-being. The image of a quiet stream suggests tranquility, while a crashing wave speaks of power. Images of water can convey strength, beauty, terror or peace.
            The Psalmist recognizes water’s spiritual symbolism. God’s voice is heard as, “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls, all your waves and breakers have swept over me.”
What does it mean, “Deep Calls to deep”?  The “deep” above (from God) pours down into the streams and rivers that empty into the seas, the “deep” below. It pictures the great distress the author suffers, and the imagery is continued in the following reference to God’s “waves and breakers” sweeping over him.  In other words, God’s hand is involved in the psalmist’s suffering. However, not apart from, but in the midst of his suffering the Psalmist was thirsting for God.
            Out of seventeen verses of this Psalm, three times the Psalmist talks about his soul’s condition. Vs 5, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” In the Message Bible it reads, “why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God—soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God.”
            Here we see the Psalmist, was in touch with what was really going on in his inner life. After admitting, that he was in deep trouble, he rebukes his soul and later on encourages himself in the Lord. Though the Psalmist talked to his soul the inner person, he doesn’t show any distinction between his inner life and outer life, as they both are inseperable.
            He was connecting his soul’s condition to his physical condition by saying, Vs 10, “My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
It is so true that there is a direct co-relationship between our soul and our body. What happens to our body effects our soul and vice versa. For example, I struggled with gout for about three years and those were emotionally disturbing years of my life. Similarly, if our emotional health is in disarray, due to a divorce, a broken relationship, or death of a loved one the physical health of individuals and or the family can take a toll. So, if we want to live happily and healthily we need to take good care of our physical and emotional health.
            The Psalmist gives two remedies for a disturbed soul. First, putting our hope in God. The scriptures tell us, our God is the God of hope (Romans 15:13). Not only he is the God of hope, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” I Peter 1:3-4 Our God is the God of hope, he raised us to a living hope but he himself is our hope (I Tim 1:1)
            The second remedy for a disturbed soul is to Praise God regardless of the trouble. The Psalmist said, after assessing and recollecting his troubled situation, “for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” This personal determination to praise God must be made by any and every individual whose soul is troubled today, no one else can make that determination.
            Putting our hope in God and Praising God works like miracle medicine for a troubled soul.  How is your Soul today? Is it troubled? Is there a hopeless situation you are facing? Are you battling through a hopeless illness? Are you trying to save a hopeless marriage? What do you need most today? Do you need just a word of hope? That’s what we all need. However, the key to having hope is to thirst for God during our troubled times. When we do that God will come to us and satisfies our thirst by his very presence which is the anchor of our Hope. Amen

Sunday, June 11, 2017


John 4:1-18, 6/11/2017
Introduction: One of the more remarkable movements of modern times is Alcoholics Anonymous or AA, a fellowship of men and women who share their experiences, strength and hope with each other in order to help each other to recover from alcoholism. A striking feature of AA is the degree to which social barriers are broken down. AA meetings are attended by diverse groups of people who would not normally associate with each other. If you were to attend an AA meeting in Boston tomorrow, you could well end up sitting between the Mayor, and someone who has just been released from prison; or between a famous basketball player and someone who has spent the last few years living under a bridge. You would meet people who are very different from each other, yet have all been outcasts in their own individual ways.
            Nowhere is this more evident than in strife-torn countries where people who would otherwise have been enemies have found common ground in AA. I recently read an article about AA in Israel where Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Arabs, both men and women attend AA group. There was no animosity between them. For all of them, AA was a haven away from suicide bombings and counter strikes and a place where they could accept each other for who and what they were. In AA, there are no barriers of gender, class or race, and they find unity.
            AA seems to be doing a good job at reaching out to outcasts, we as church I believe can do a much better job because we have Jesus Christ, the only one who can truly embrace the outcast to heal and to restore their dignity. Can you imagine what difference would that make in our society if churches learn to embrace the outcasts among us?  I want to share with us a familiar story in the bible where Jesus reaches out and saves a social outcast of his time. I title this message, Loving the Outcasts. (pariahs). John 4:1-18
            Before we delve deep, let’s look at the definition of an outcast. (pariah) “A person who is avoided or not accepted by a social group, esp. because he or she is not liked, respected, or trusted;” In John 4th chapter, we come across a group called the Samaritans who were treated as the Outcasts by the Jews. What do we know about the Samaritans?
            SAMARITAN, SAMARITANS usually this term refers to a person who belonged to an Israelite sect located in the territory of Samaria between Judea and Galilee. According to II Kings 17, when the Assyrians conquered the Northern regions of Israel, they brought people from the surrounding nations to settle in Samaria. This was a military strategy of the Assyrians known as population shifting. The mixing of foreigners with the people living in Samaria fostered syncretism. Foreigners brought their gods, customs and culture with them. There were interracial marriages, hence the Samaritans were no longer considered as pure Jewish race.
            The Samaritans were rejected by the Jews in the intertestamental period. If you are an avid reader of the Bible you will know that God always reaches out to the marginalized, and the social outcasts, so even the mixed group of Samaritans are not beyond the scope of God’s salvation plan. Keeping that in mind Jesus was reaching out to the Smartian woman at the well.
            We pick up our story from here. During his ministry one day Jesus left Judea and went back to Galilee. Vs 4-6 reads, “Now he had to go through Samaria. So, he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.” When the Jews conveniently avoided Samaria, why did Jesus have to go through Samaria? Out of all the towns why Sychar, and why near the plot of Jacob? Let’s look for answers.
            Jews for all practical reasons avoided traveling through Samaria, not because it was too far and a roundabout way to get to the sea of Galilee, indeed it was the shortest and the most straightforward route only 30 miles to the north. Yet they avoided like a pest because of their past historical prejudices and cultural hang ups. The Jews, simply did not like, and trust the Samaritans, let alone travelling through their cities.
            The following scripture in Lk 9: 51-54 depicts the prejudice and attitude of the Jews at that time: As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them.”
            Is this kind of attitude of indifference and prejudice familiar to us? How do we react when we come across people who are different than us and may not necessarily share our religious and cultural values? Everything that Jesus did during this encounter with the woman was to break down the fences that separated Jews and Samaritans and raise an awareness that in God’s eyes there are no social outcasts. Let’s see the imaginary fences that Jesus broke in his pursuit of the outcasts.
            Firstly, his intentionality to go through the town of Samaria, challenged the long-held misconception and the unreasonable avoidance of the Samaritans by the Jews. Secondly, by going to the city of Sychar, near the plot Jacob had given to Joseph, Jesus connected the Jewish people with their ancestral History. Thirdly, by reaching out to the Samaritan woman in the broad day light, Jesus broke the racial, religious, gender, and class fences that were strictly and at times unreasonably imposed by the religious leaders of that time.
            What was the significance of the plot and the well? The plot is Israel’s ancestral inheritance. Jacob’s well though it is only mentioned here in John, may have been historically very significant. Later in the story we will find out by the confession of the Samaritan woman, Jacob and his sons and probably the subsequent generations might have drunk from it. Jesus used Jacob’s well as a bridge to love the Samaritan woman and present Himself as the life-giving Messiah, not only to her, but through her to the whole village of Samaritans.
            Let’s continue with the conversation that took place between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. Jesus said to her, Vs 7 “Will you give me a drink?” The Samaritan woman said to him how can you ask me a drink? (for Jews do not associate with Samaritans) or do not use dishes Samaritans have used. In her question, we can sense both a shock and a surprise.
            She must have thought, how could he being a Jew wanted to drink from a Samaritan, not only that a Jewish man talking to a woman in public, that too a woman of her reputation, which was not so great. Jesus let her remain in that state for a while and said, Vs 10, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Jesus went on to say, Vs 13 “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
            The Samaritan woman must have been intrigued by this offer of the living water and on top of that the continual supply of it, (if you are living in DR or Cape Virden you wouldn’t pass up this offer easily), so she quickly responded, Sir, “give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
            While the Samaritan woman was only concerned about her physical needs, Jesus cleverly lead her to recognize her real thirst her Soul thirst, so he offered her the Living Water. What is this Living water all about? The Living water in the Bible is often referred to God himself. God had something to say to the Israelites who had given up on him in the pursuit of the gods of other nations and earthly pleasures. Jeremiah 2:13 “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
            Rev 7:17, “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Here Jesus was promising to the Samaritan woman his very own presence that would later on will be in the hearts of all the believers through the Holy Spirit indwelling in them.
            Jesus gently convicted the Samaritan woman of her sins and revealed himself as the messiah. The Samaritan woman runs back into her village and tells everybody, to come and see the Messiah. The whole village turns up to see Jesus, and because of his words many more became believers. After this encounter, they too recognized that Jesus is indeed the Savior of the world. What a powerful story of Jesus’ love towards the outcasts.
            What are the implications of this story for us today? Who are the outcasts or the Pariah’s?  Where do we find them? Let’s face this question honestly. When we think of outcasts, we tend to think of people in other countries. For example, I know in India this is a huge problem. But how about here in our country? Do we know anybody who perhaps might be feeling that they are not accepted in their family or in a social group? How about the lonely kid in your class who has been bullied by others because he or she is from another country or race?  How are we to respond to gender and racial discrimination in the work place?
            How about the recent developments in our country, within minutes of signing of the executive order banning the entry of nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries, suddenly Muslims became the new pariahs. We have heard and witnessed horror stories. Mothers, fathers, children, students, employees from this community suddenly feel they are not wanted here or they do not belong here. We take pride in our diversity in Sharon. There are people from 88 nationalities call Sharon their home. Sharon is also home to 80 Muslim families (coming from 20 nations) and the Islamic Center of New England, one of the largest mosques and Muslim elementary schools in the Commonwealth.
            Recently, from our Interfaith Clergy association several Rabbis and clergy went to the state house to submit testimony in support of the Safe Communities Act. How would Jesus respond to the discrimination and prejudice that goes on unchecked on a daily basis? It looks like the AA, groups and the Inter Faith clergy groups seems to be getting the message. What can Hope Church, do to reach out to the Outcasts or the Pariahs? When it comes to reaching out to the Outcasts, Jesus is our model, he showed in his Word, some principles and best practices.
             Here are a few steps we can take in our pursuit of loving the outcasts.  First, we must recognize, that all of us once were outcasts because of our sin. But thank God, because of God’s love, mercy, and abundant grace we have been saved, therefore we are no longer the outcasts, we belong to the family of God. Secondly, get to know our neighbors, befriend them, invite them to our church events, get involved in the community activities. I encourage you to attend, a “Neighbor 2 Neighbor event”, an Inter Faith Community Picnic that is planned for June 29th. Finally pray for them so that the Holy Spirit will convict them. My prayer is that we, the Hope Church will bring hope, by building bridges, breaking down fences, and by sharing the gospel of love and embrace the outcasts wherever we might find them. Amen

Sunday, June 4, 2017


Acts 2:1-18, 6/4/2017
Introduction: In one community -- the Village atheist was not a bad man. He just didn’t believe. He wasn’t interested in church…and there was only one in the area. And this church was, -- well, mostly a social club. Heartlessly and spiritually dead—no conversions or decisions for Christ had been made for some time. One day the church building literally caught on fire, and everyone, the whole town ran toward the church to help extinguish the flames…including the village atheist! Someone noticed the village atheist and hollered out: “Hey, this is something, this is the first time we’ve ever seen you running to church!” The atheist replied, “This is the first time I’ve ever seen the church on fire!”
            Over two thousand years ago for the first time in the History of Christianity, suddenly there came from heaven a violent rushing wind, it filled the whole house and there appeared to be tongues of fire on the people who were in that place. A great crowd gathered wondering what had happened. What happened that day changed the entire course of human history. Let’s look at the events that unfolded on that day, also known as “THE DAY OF PENTECOST”
            Let me give some historical context to this Holiday that is celebrated both by Jews and Christians alike. At Shavuot (Pentecost), the Jews celebrate receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, which was literally the beginning of Judaism. For Christians, Pentecost, which we celebrate was literally the beginning of the church, when the Holy Spirit was poured out and 3,000 were saved as Peter preached about the risen Christ.”[1] Let me also share the biblical background to this important significant festival of Christians. The prophet Joel, in 9th century BC prophesied about it, the Lord Jesus had promised of it, and the disciple have witnessed it.

            The Jewish religious calendar centered around a number of annual feasts. However, the three most important were those in which all males were required to appear before the Lord. Deut 16:16, “Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which he chooses, at the feast of the unleavened bread or Passover, the feast of the booths and the feast of weeks. Pentecost was known as the “Feast of Weeks.” In Judaism, Pentecost was traditionally seen as the day Moses received the law.
            The Day of Pentecost, the 50th day after the Sabbath of Passover week (Lev 23:15–16), thus the first day of the week. The Festival of Harvest (Ex 23:16) and the day of first fruits (Nu 28:26). In 900 BC, the prophet Joel predicted another kind of festival of harvest. This time it was going to be the harvest of souls. There was going to be an ingathering of people who will believe in Yeshua the messiah and be formed into a fellowship of believers. Joel Prophesied. “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” Joel 2:28-29
            Let me explain this passage. Afterward: means the Messianic period, beyond the restoration of Israel from their exile. I will pour out my spirit:  Not only the prophet Joel but also other prophets such as Isa 32:15; 44:3; Eze 39:29 and Zec 12:10–13:1, too have prophesied that there was coming a time where God would pour out His Spirit on the off spring of Israel, but Joel went one step further and said, “All People.” All will participate in this outpouring without regard to gender, age or rank.
            When that happens Moses’ wish in Numbers 11:29, “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them,” will be fulfilled.

            After the resurrection, Jesus stayed with the disciples for a period of over forty days. He spoke with his disciples about the Kingdom of God. On one occasion while Jesus was eating with them, keeping in line with the ancient prophecies, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:5. According to this scripture, waiting to receive the gift that our heavenly father promised was not a suggestion but was a command.  Moreover, it was Jesus who was going to baptize the disciples with the Holy Spirit. Why would the disciples need another baptism in the Spirit, in addition to the water baptism? He explained it in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
            We must pay attention to Jesus’ command here, he was shifting the focus of the disciples from themselves, and the city of Jerusalem which they loved to the rest of the world. How in the world would this bunch of fearful, and coward disciples fulfill the great commission? In order for the disciples to carry out the mission of Jesus they needed the power of the Holy Spirit.
            As the disciples were told, they kept gathering in the temple courts, with anticipation and expectation for Jesus to pour down the Holy Spirit as he had promised. On the day of Pentecost; fifty days after the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus Christ; the city of Jerusalem was all geared up to receive Jews from all over the then living world.  They were gathered to celebrate the beginning of the harvest or “the day of the first fruits” (Numbers 28:26). On that day, something spectacular happened. A group of 120 disciples including Mary the mother of Jesus who had been meeting in the upper house seeking and praying for the promised gift of Jesus.
            The scripture says; “Suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues (ethnic languages) as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4). Many who gathered around were amazed to hear these Galilean disciples speaking in languages that were not their mother tongue and said to one another what does this mean? While others were mocking and saying, “They are full of new wine.”
            Why did Jesus decide to send the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost? As we know on the day of Pentecost Jews from all over the world will gather in Jerusalem to celebrate. It is interesting to know that they were at least eighteen ethnic groups were represented in that crowd. All these people heard the mystery of the gospel by the disciples who spoke only Galileans. God used this opportune time to pour down his promised Holy Spirit, so that the gospel can be spread to all the four corners of the world. The Apostle Peter who cowardly denied Christ three times after the down pour of the Holy Spirit’s spring rain became as bold as a lion and reminded the crowd about the prophecy of Joel.
            As a result, 3000 people got saved that day. That was the beginning of the Church worldwide. Billy Graham in his book “The Holy Spirit” notes, “In a real sense, the Day of Pentecost in the NT on which the Holy Spirit came was “A day of first fruits” the beginning of God’s harvest in this world, to be completed when Christ comes again.
            Pentecost in the NT marked the commencement of the present age of the Holy Spirit.” The Pentecost day was the fulfillment of God’s promise long ago. What is the relevance of Pentecost today?

            The Holy Spirit has laid a strong and powerful foundation to the worldwide church. He turning the cowards into fearless witnesses of the gospel. The Holy Spirit fire that was ignited on that day kept burning for the last two thousand years, changing many lives around the globe. Why does Pentecost matter today? Here are a few reasons, why? Firstly, the down pour of the Holy Spirit is not only limited to that time period but meant for all subsequent generations including ours today. Like never before, these days, God seems to be sending a fresh wind and fresh fire of the Holy Spirit on all people. There seems to be a hunger and sincere desire to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit among Christians of all denominations. On the other hand, some are afraid to seek those gifts due to the controversy over a gift of speaking in tongues.
            Recently, I watched a “YouTube” interview of John Piper from Bethlehem Baptist Church where he shared a balanced view on this gift and also expressed his desire to receive this gift. He said, he prayed for it several times, but God said, No! I have given you other gifts. He went on to say, like a little child from time to time I come back to my heavenly father asking for that gift of tongues.” As we read in the scriptures we will come to understand that gift of tongues is one among other gifts that God is eager to give to those who earnestly seek after them.
            Secondly, the power of the Holy Spirit is meant for all believers both men and women, the young and the old, so that we become effective witnesses for Christ. Finally, how does one receive the Holy Spirit? By repenting of our sins and accepting Jesus as our lord and savior. The seasoned Christians, must walk, believing that the Holy Spirit is already in them. (John 14:17). On this Pentecost Sunday, my prayer is that, we as Hope Church will recognize, the presence and experience the Power of the Holy Spirit, daily. Oh Lord pour out your Spirit on all of us! Amen.