Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc.
The Church in Central New York founded and consistently fostered by the GLBTQIS community. October 31, 2018 was the 35th Anniversary in our 36th year in Ministry.
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Sermon for RESURRECTION 2nd SUNDAY 4/30/00 (Year B)

The following are the Scripture readings as scheduled in the "Revised Common Lectionary," an ecumenical schedule of readings of Holy Scripture. Our sermons are based on these readings.

Acts 4:32-35
RESURRECTION 2nd SUNDAY 4/30/00 (Year B)

32Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

This is the Word Of The Lord; Thanks Be To God.

Psalm 133

1 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. 3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

RESURRECTION 2nd SUNDAY 4/30/00 (Year B)
1 John 1:1-2:2

1We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—2this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—3we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4We are writing these things so that our£ joy may be complete. God Is Light 5This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

This is the Word Of The Lord; Thanks Be To God.

John 20:19-31
RESURRECTION 2nd SUNDAY 4/30/00 (Year B)

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Jesus and Thomas 24But Thomas (who was called the Twin£), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” The Purpose of This Book 30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe£ that Jesus is the Messiah,£ the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Reader: This is the Gospel of the Lord; Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Brother Benedict, Sermon 218b

The Second Week of our celebration of the Resurrection Of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ April 30, 2000

Acts 4:32-35
Psalm, 133
1 John 1:1-2:2
John 20:19-31

We are now in the fifty days of celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many wonderful things happened during the first fifty days after the resurrection. For this is the reason the Church takes this portion of the events at a day-to-day pace. After all, this is the highlight of our whole reason for being Christians! You may also notice that during this season our reading schedule will include two Christian Testament readings, a psalm, and the Gospel. This will continue until Pentecost Sunday. Again, the reason for two Christian Testament readings is there is so much to remember and apply from these "great fifty days" that the Church has chosen to give us a double portion of the Christian Testament.

The first reading today and the psalm stress the unity that the Christians immediately chose to live in as a result of the resurrection. In our day, extreme forms of unity like this is known only in such places as monastic, religious, or charismatic communities where people really are living together on one property. Our society stresses individuality rather than communal effort and sharing. You may have noticed, however, there has been an increase in retirement communities with a religious format over the last thirty years. People living in these communities say their faith really increases in an environment where faith is openly shared and cultivated. Of course there are parochial schools and hospitals where faith is shared in a more open format. Then, finally, there is the local church, local parish, such as we are here. We have found over the years that deep and profound unity is very hard to achieve in a format such as ours.

One reason for the difficulty is, we are geographically very spread out covering the area from north of Syracuse to south of Elmira, NY in our currently active participants. Our time for interaction is greatly limited by this fact. Additionally, it is apparent that for many this is their first consistent walk with Christ and Christ's Church. Many of our associates have not lived a Christian life before coming to Ray Of Hope Church. This is good in a lot of ways. For example, we are not trying to undo denomination-specific customs, habits, and expectations. However, it is also difficult because there are times when we really could use more spiritual maturity for everyone's sake. However, these are pretty much universal problems with churches that minister to the Gay, Lesbian, Trans, Bi, Questioning communities all over the country. The reason is, many of our people have clearly written God off for the majority of their lives.

Therefore, I think we need listen to these two readings today as they teach us that our Christian faith demands a response of unity from us. Division is for children or wrath, Unity is for Children of God. It is that basic. Division is caused by lying, jealousy, envy, covetousness, etc., whereas Unity is sustained by honesty, respect for one another's place in life, and support and appreciation. This brings us to our second reading where the same theme continues.

The beloved disciple, John, is writing in the office of Bishop as he is inviting more people to join the "fellowship" with the other Christians as well as with the Trinity. (1 John 1:3) John makes it perfectly clear that joy in Christ and fellowship with God and the Holy Spirit only come from an honest effort to live in Christ's light. John is saying there is no room in the fellowship for those who continue to follow the examples of the way of wrath and disobedience. Let me be perfectly clear, as John is in this lesson. We are not saying those who sin have no place in our fellowship. No, indeed, we regularly admit and confess our sins both in our liturgical celebrations and on a one-to-one basis in our relationships. However, there is a limit to the tolerance we are to have for sin in our midst. That level of tolerance is when a person refuses to confess their sins, refuses to approach Godly sorrow, and ask for forgiveness. This is what John speaks of by those who are "walking in darkness." (1 John 1:6) When persons refuse to admit and confess sin they are telling us they have no place for Christ in their lives. This is the second subject John takes up in this chapter.

He says; "If we say we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as He himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." (1John 1:6-7) Jesus gave us the ministry of reconciliation, which is the exact subject of tonight's Gospel reading. Reconciliation happens through the forgiveness of sin. Sin cannot be forgiven if it isn't confessed! If sin is retained that is, if we refuse to confess it, we lose our fellowship with God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and with the Church. Why? For the same reason Jesus cried out from the cross: "Father, why have you forsaken me?" God cannot receive sin. Turn to your neighbor and say "God cannot receive sin."

This is the reason the ministry of reconciliation is at the very heart, the very center of the Church. Jesus Christ came, lived, died, and rose to forgive sins so that we may be reconciled to God. The forgiveness of sins is the entire core of our ministry.

One thing that has always stood out to me about this reading is John, the Beloved Disciple includes himself when he says; "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1John 1:8) Sometimes I think, if anyone should have been able to achieve a sinless life after the resurrection it should have been John, because John obviously was Christ's favorite male companion in life, and John was given a very high honor when he was entrusted with the Revelation of the last things. However, here John is as pastor and bishop saying we all sin! His point is thanks be to God, for God SO LOVED THE WORLD, we have the forgiveness of our confessed sins through the blood of the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. John says: "If we confess our sins, He who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness..... if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." (IJohn 1:9-2:2)

The core of our ministry then is to bring people to the place where they trust God enough to confess sin, and to realize that the freedom everyone is seeking in life is only available through the atoning blood of Jesus, through the ministry of reconciliation given to the Church. Unfortunately, the Church has sinned against the Church!

The Church has taught teachings and dogmas that have harmed the progress of the Gospel, and may even have stunted the progress of the Gospel at various times and places. Of course, knowing what we know, that the Bible in no way in any verse condemns any sexual orientation or expression of any sexual orientation, we are very aware of one such mortal sin the Church has committed against the Church. It is a lie to tell anyone that the Bible, and consequently God, considers any sexual orientation a sin, or any person expressing their sexual orientation a sinner. The harm caused to countess millions of people and families by this horrific lie is beyond any of our combined imaginations. Think of the hundreds of vocations to the priesthood, missions, and so many ministries that have been cast aside due to this horrible lie the Church has propagated. Think of the millions of unhappy marriages that have resulted from gay, lesbian and transsexual persons forcing them selves into heterosexual unions because they feared damnation if they expressed their true orientations.! This is only one example of the horrors of unconfessed sin in the Church against the Church and consequently against all humanity. Look at how women have been treated as another immediate example. Look at the racism that has been tolerated, or ignored by the Church............

Unconfessed sin tears at the very foundation of the Church and prevents the Church from being Holy, that is separated for God's purposes. Our world, our society, people living today are finding out the newest car, the biggest house, the best clothes, or the latest hair style, or the latest music CD do not, cannot, will not relieve our hidden anguishes caused by sin in our lives. There is only one remedy, one path to wholeness. It is the way of Christ.

Our Gospel tonight shows us that way of Christ. The setting is Sunday night, the same day of the resurrection. Jesus appears, despite the locked doors and boarded windows. He truly startles everyone. After preliminary greetings and proof that it really was Him and not a ghost, Jesus gets right to business. Jesus says: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." (John 20:21) Oh my, put that with the verses we say many times a month where Jesus says those who believe in Him will do the same and better works than He did, (John 14:12-14) and we have an explosion of possibilities for our lives. We are invited to do all, and achieve all that Jesus did. In order to achieve this commission of being sent to reconcile the world to God, as Jesus was sent, and now sends us, He immediately provides the necessary tools.

John records as soon as Jesus told them they were being sent to the world as God had sent them, He "breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’" (John 20:23) In order to do the ministry of reconciliation we would need the ministry of the Holy Spirit among us. This is why I said in my Annual Meeting Report we must build a community of born-again believers. Only Spirit-filled persons can achieve any ministry using the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. It isn't possible to do ministry by reading a manual and following a set of directions. You must be in total union with the Holy Spirit before you even start. Then and only then, can we begin to do the works that Jesus did and can we respond to His sending us to the world as God sent Him, namely to forgive sins.

Unity in the Church is not achieved by ascribing to our Statement of Purpose, or by doing things together. Unity in the Church is only possible by building a fellowship of Spirit-centered, Christ-bearing, God-fearing Christians. If we center on these things, our sexual orientation doesn't even become an issue in terms of defining who we are as a Church. The main thing we must take up after aligning ourselves with Christ through our confession of faith that He is the Son of God, God in the flesh, is the ministry of reconciliation. Confession of sin must be a daily exercise in each of our lives. Why be caught in death with unconfessed sin when forgiveness is the main thing that is available to us as Christians! I hope for the sake of any possible future of Ray Of Hope Church that we fully embrace the ministry of reconciliation and call all people to recognition, sorrow, and confession of all sin in our lives.

As we prepare for the season of Pentecost, confess everything, get it all out in the open and at the feet of Jesus so that the Holy Spirit can truly use us in powerful ways to build up the Church until He comes again. He has given us the ministry of reconciliation. He has called and sent us according to the way He was called and sent by God. Thanks be to God for the written Word so we may hear, recognize what our call is, and respond with total and holy obedience.

Ray Of Hope Church is for those Christians who choose to hear the Word of God and give unreserved obedience to everything Christ calls us to. Those who hear and want to respond to Christ follow us as we lead the way to His Way. May this be a blessed and holy season of the resurrection for you.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

May Almighty God bless all of us, in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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