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13-Sep-09

13-Sep-09

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Published by Joseph Winston

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Published by: Joseph Winston on Sep 13, 2009
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The Greatest Show On Earth
The Rev. Joseph WinstonSeptember 13, 2009
Sermon
Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, children of all ages, step right up. Comeand see the greatest show on earth. In ring one, we have enormous elephants fromthe deepest, darkest part of Africa. These majestic mammals will entertain youwith their breathtaking feats of raw strength along with their incredible intelli-gence. Way above this fabulous show, working with out a single safety net, is thedeath defying high wire act. See the trapeze artists twist and turn as they throwthemselves from the security of their swing to the tiny cable stretching from oneside of the big top to the other. And in ring three we have the clowns in their crazyclothes. Their antics will make you laugh to hard that you will cry.For a very long time, circuses have entertained the civilized world. The fifth
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Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3.
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king of Rome,
Lucius Tarquinius Priscus
(c. 616-c. 578 BC), established the firstcircus in all the world some six hundred years before the birth of Christ.
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Thiscircus located in Rome hosted the annual running of the horses along with box-ing tournaments.
Julius Caesar 
(100-44 BC) then enlarged this circus during hisreign. He made the racetrack almost one-half of a mile long and about one footballfield wide. He also added enough seating for two hundred and seventy thousandspectators.
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Sometime after the death of Christ, the Emperor
Caligula
(AD 12-41) startedanother circus in Rome that
Nero
(AD 37-68) finally finished.
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A well-respected Roman historian named
Tacitus
(c. 56-120) tells us aboutthe amusement
Nero
provided for his citizens in the circus.
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In 67, the Emperor
 Nero
competed in a race held inside the circus that bears his name. For addedentertainment,
Nero
had Christians executed during this event. One of these wasPeter, the one who confessed Jesus as Messiah in today’s Gospel lesson. Near themiddle of the racetrack,
Nero
executed Peter by hanging him upside down on across.Tradition tells us why Peter chose this strange way of execution. He did notwant his crucifixion to be the same as Christ’s death on the cross. Given thisinformation, you can easily imagine the discussion happening in the stands during
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the race. “Why is that man’s head pointed at the ground and his feet in the air?”“They say that he does not want to die life his leader, Jesus.”The early church knew this way of dying first hand. Nero started his hostiletreatment of Christians two years earlier. This violence against them did not stopthe Christians.
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They continued to witness in the circus.It is widely reported that Mark Twain once wrote the following:Many people are bothered by those passages in Scripture which theycannot understand; but as for me, I always noticed that the passagesin Scripture which trouble me most are those which I do understand.Today’s Gospel lesson certainly falls in this category. It is full of easy to under-stand ideas that we want to dismiss out of hand because they are too hard. Takefor example this part of the lesson where Jesus tells the crowd, which includesus
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, and his disciples, “If anyone wishes to follow after me, let that person denyhimself and take up his cross and follow me (Mark 8:34).”
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If you listen to what Jesus is commanding and you try to do what He tells you,you soon will see that these words are very troublesome.Deny simply means to saying “no” to yourself. If you are like me, this com-mand from Jesus is absolutely impossible to follow. There are hundreds of reasons
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Officially recognized persecution of Christians started in 249 when Emperor
Decius
forcedthe Christians to worship him.Joseph H. Lynch,
, (Longman, 1992), p.9This aggression lasted about eleven years and the Christians had forty-three years to regroup be-fore Emperor
Diocletian
attacked them again.Henry Chadwick,
, Re-vised edition. (Penguin Books, 1993), p.121. The official persecution of Christians ended in 312when
Constantine
became the new emperor.
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