Wish You Were Here


This morning as I was driving to the church I heard a song that I had heard many times in my life, but it was like this morning was the first time I REALLY listened to the song. The band Incubus is a hard rock band that I am sure most of you have never heard of, but their song “Wish You Were Here” intrigued me for some reason. 

When I arrived at the office and opened my Bible to read the sermon text for this coming Sunday (we will be in Acts 10 for those interested). Acts 10 tells us the story of Jesus correcting Peter about matters of cleanliness and gospel proclamation. As I read this text, that song that I listened to anew as if for the first time earlier echoed in my mind. And then I decided to look up an explaination of the meaning and the context of that song by Incubus. Vocalist Brandon Boyd told MTV.com several years ago that the song “was about (him) acknowledging a very brief moment in (his) life and in (the shared) experiences with (his band) as they made their (“Morning View”) album.” He further said, “I wish that I had somebody to (say), ‘I love you, man.’ I was wishing that there was someone there to share that moment with.”

Boyd longed for a connected community with substantive friendships that celebrated their time together making that album. He was reflecting what so many people desire: joy-filled hope within a community of people with shared experiences and life together.

As we prepare for Sunday, know that God will be placing you this week in places surrounded by people who long for a genuine relationship. The Holy Spirit stirred within Cornelius a desire to belong in the fellowship of God. Had Peter maintained his stubbornness about who was worthy of hearing the Gospel, Cornelius and other Gentiles in Caesarea Maritima may never had heard the Gospel (or maybe they would have, who knows?). But it is not a question we have to answer because Peter was obedient to God’s call and faithfully went where the Lord led him to carry the Gospel to all the world. As a result, people were added to the family of the Lord and all had the community gifted to them by God so that they could all share the joy-filled hope of Christ Jesus.

Are you obeying the call of Christ and faithfully pointing those entrusted to you by God himself to know Christ and enjoy him forever?  

If you are reading this and are looking for a genuine community of faith, we wish you were here. We have a place for you at Homewood CPC!

A Place For You

We have a place for you at Homewood CPC. That is not just a nifty catch phrase. It is the reality in which we live. Homewood CPC is a place that literally has a place for you. In so many ways, churches and organizations want you to come in and adapt to their standards and guidelines. At Homewood CPC, we truly believe that God has knit this community together knowing that every person who comes to Homewood CPC has a place to exercise the gifts given them by Christ Jesus. We are a place that values the gifts of God in the people of God.

This is the standard to which we all hope to live–we have been blessed to be a blessing to others. So our question each week at Homewood CPC is, “How can we as individuals be a blessing to the world around us?”

This means that we need you. It is so easy for us all to forget this reality. Whenever we have a worship service and you are not in attendance, the body lacks. Whenever we have a bible study or fellowship dinner, we truly miss those who are absent. God created us to be the body of Christ and to live fully together to the glory of His name. Let us never neglect this calling, for when we neglect it, we neglect God and His Word.

Sherrad and I hope to see you all this Sunday. We both know that life can be busy. But we also know that the life rightly ordered is anchored in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Should we all not make it our priority to encourage one another as we follow Christ together? As we encounter the busyness of life, may we encounter it together.

The witness of Acts is clear: when the Christian community faithfully gathers with one heart and one mind to study the scriptures, to break bread together, to pray with and encourage one another, and to care for one another in our times of need, God adds to the number of that community. If you don’t believe me, check out Acts 2 and Acts 4.

This is our call. This is our desire. This is our purpose. At Homewood CPC, we have a place for you. If you haven’t attended in a while, we invite to come claim your place and let’s see how God grows us for the glory of Christ Jesus.

Defining Moments

Defining moments in sporting events are critical. During the 2016 World Series, the Cubs and Indians played a classic series that led to something no one ever thought possible–the Cubs won the World Series. As a lifelong Cubs fan, I had endured 32 years of disappointment and jokes directed toward the “lovable losers” of baseball. But 2016 was different. A team filled with young talent and wise leadership made the most of their opportunity and took charge of the moment at hand.

When Game 7 began, the Cubs opened the game with a lead off home run by Dexter Fowler. Later in the game, the old veteran David Ross cracked a home run. As big as those two moments were, they were not the defining moments of the game. No, the defining moment of the game came not because of a stellar play on the field, but instead, when the rain began to fall after the 9th inning ended with the game tied 6-6. I truly believe that the Indians would have won the World Series had that rain delay not happened. What was the defining moment? During the rain delay, another veteran who had struggled with his bat during the entire postseason, Jason Heyward entered the locker room with his Cub teammates and delivered and impassioned speech that reminded the team of who they were and what was on the line in that game. He appealed to the team’s sense of purpose and talent. He reminded them that they had what it took to finish the game and end a 108 drought for the “lovable losers”.

When the game resumed around 20 minutes later, the Cubs came out and scored two runs in the 10th and held on to win the series 8-7 over the Indians.

The defining moment of the World Series was a speech during a rain delay from a struggling veteran. Incredible.

As we live our lives, we have defining moments. These moments are important for us as we attempt to navigate this life of faith. On Sunday mornings at Homewood CPC, we have opportunities to come to church and hear a message from God’s Holy Word reminding us of who we are, who God is, and what God has done for us and called us to.

The sermon each and every week hopefully provides each of us with the truth of Jesus Christ in order for us to finish well. Paul often times refers to life as a race, and he encourages us all to finish well. If we want to finish this life well, we must focus upon Christ and his call for all our lives. Any person who stands in the pulpit at Homewood CPC is aware of the importance of the centrality of the defining moment in all of creation. This defining moment is Jesus Christ. How do we respond to him?

I think I can speak for both Sherrad and myself here, but we know and understand that every sermon cannot be “the greatest sermon ever preached”. We wrestle and struggle each week with obediently proclaiming the Gospel to a community of faith in an imperfect world. Through all our weaknesses and limitations, we always strive to proclaim the only thing worth proclaiming–Jesus Christ and him crucified. As a result of that truth, we hope to lead and equip the members of HCPC in the faithful execution of Christ’s commands. We are called to love one another more and more.

We are called to share the love of Christ with all we meet. We are called to worship and know our place in this world. And we are called to trust in Christ alone for our salvation, our purpose, our strength, and our all.

What will we do with the defining moments on Sundays? Only you can answer that question.

Called: Ephesians 1:1-14

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Ephesians is a rich letter from the Apostle Paul to his brothers and sisters in Ephesus. Written around 60 AD, Paul gives us a beautiful look at how orthodoxy (right faith) leads to orthopraxy (right living). The operative phrase in the entire book is “in Christ” (or some formulation of that phrase). Ephesians leaves us zero doubt that sanctification (being made holy by God) and justification (being declared righteous) is only in Jesus Christ. One way to remember this is by paying attention to how many times Paul uses some form of “in Christ” in his letter. He wants the reader to never forget that it is only in the person of Jesus Christ that we have any hope for relationship with God. Our relationship with others flows from this restoration we have to the Father by Christ Jesus. There is nothing we can do, say, or think that can get us into right relationship with God. The late Adrian Rogers once said in a sermon, “I wouldn’t trust my best fifteen minutes on earth to get me into heaven.” It is only in Christ alone that we have any hope to defeat sin and death.

In. Christ. Alone.

Lutheran theologian Walter Obare Omwanza has stated that “the unity of the church is given by God and not an achievement of human beings.” Omwanza rightly identifies that Paul is proclaiming that unity of faith is only possible in Christ Jesus. No human action can create the true unity that humanity desires. Omwanza echoes the prayer of Jesus in John 17. In John 17, while in the Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for unity of the disciples. This unity was not to be for the sake of unity alone, but it has deep theological significance for the world. The unity of the followers of Christ will provide a witness to the world that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the One who has defeated sin and death for all time. Unity is not a wish dream nor is it an ideal. It is a reality found only in the Triune God that communicates the gospel in a mighty way.

In verses 1 and 2, Paul opens his letter by addressing the people of Ephesus as saints. Many times we do not think of ourselves as saints. We often times think that a saint is a perfect person who does most everything correctly. However, the Bible teaches us that everyone who trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, even though we are imperfect, are God’s saints. These folks in Ephesus were faithful to Christ and that is the only requirement to be considered a saint. Therefore, in Christ, fallen humanity has hope and assurance that we are all saints with a purpose to glorify God.

In verses 3-14, Paul then instructs us on the all encompassing work of God in Christ
Jesus. Verse three begins with worship as Paul blesses God the Father because of the work of Jesus Christ. The Father of Christ has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. In verse four, we learn that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Also in verse four we are implored to to be “holy and blameless” before God. This is an impossibility apart from Jesus Christ. We are clothed in Christ and when God sees us he no longer sees enemies, but rather his children. The love of God has predestined us for adoption as children of God. It is for God’s purposes alone that this is done. God has blessed us in his grace in Christ. We have redemption in Christ and forgiveness of our sins. In the person of Christ, God has lavished all wisdom, grace, and insight upon us. Christ is the assurance for all time that we have been reconciled to the Father in heaven.

Not only have we this assurance, but we also have an eternal inheritance in Christ Jesus. All these blessings we have in Christ ought to cause us to worship and serve God with faithful hearts. It is the Holy Spirit of God–the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead–that inhabits all of the children of God and creates within them the faith that leads us to Christ again and again and again.

These opening verses reveal the foundation of our lives in Christ Jesus. No matter where we are or when we are, we have reason to worship the Triune God. This is better than good news–it is the Gospel.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to address the elephant in the room–election. The concept of God choosing and predestining his people for these eternal blessings cannot be ignored. What does he election mean?

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church was formed because our first ministers rejected the idea of election and double-predestination. As I see it, we cannot avoid predestination as Cumberland Presbyterians because the Bible uses those words and teaches those truths. However, we have to understand what it means for God to elect his people for salvation. Forgive the brevity and simplification of the next two paragraphs as the doctrine of election is a deeply nuanced doctrine.

One explanation of election focuses on the decree of God. Briefly, this explanation teaches that God has determined and decreed who will specifically be saved. God has predetermined his elect and it will be done.

An alternative to this view of predestination by decree is that God has predestined his people in Jesus Christ. Karl Barth tells us in his Dogmatics II.2, that Jesus Christ is both electing God and elected man. And because of this reality of Jesus, he has the final word over the fate of his creation. This makes the central question of election not “Who are God’s elect? but rather, it is the very question Jesus asks his disciples in Mark 8–“Who do people say that I am?” Election and predestination is in Christ alone. Therefore, whenever God’s elect is asked the question “Who is Jesus?”, their answer is this: The Son of the Living God; the Messiah; the Savior of the World; the Lamb who takes away the sin of the World; the image of the invisible God. Those in Christ’s flock know his voice. His is the voice of our Lord and Savior. Who do YOU say Jesus is?

These first fourteen verses prepare us for an encounter in which we can understand the truth of our God. Jesus Christ is the foundation of our being. Unless we recognize the truth of who we are in Christ, we will never find the promised rest our hearts so desire. Amen.