Faith in Action: Makes Sure! A Sermon on Hebrews 3 (with video of the service!)

Faith in Action…
Makes Sure

Hebrews 3:12-29

I.H.S.

May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so fill your lives, that you without thinking look and support those who are struggling with sin.  And when they come to support you, that you will let them.

Be Careful

I love the old movies, where the hero has to survive a gauntlet, avoiding the traps, the deadfalls, and make the decisions that mean life or death.  They avoid death,  if they, in the words of one of those who guided one such hero, choose wisely.  (btw – that movie was released 29 years ago – so I guess it can be classified as an “oldie”!)

The hero had to be careful, he had to take his time, evaluate his situation, realize the words that had been spoken, and choose to act wisely.

In the case of the letter to the Hebrews, the idea of being careful include  a deep discerning look at our situation, at the challenge we face with that sin, and the evil and unbelief it can cause in our lives.

Yeah – this passage is a call to us, this call to take a deep, hard look into our lives, and make sure about our hearts, warning and supporting each other….

For being deceived by sin is all to easy, and happens all too often.

Who Was it?

We see how easy it was, in the example provided by the writer of Hebrews.

The people of Israel, led by Moses from Egypt, who heard God’s voice and trembled.  Who saw his power, both judging the sins of the Pharaoh in Egypt and in the incredible miracles at the Red Sea, and in the provision of water, and manna and quail.

And yet, as direct as their contact was, they still fell into temptation, they still sinned, and when things got hard, they didn’t trust God.

They didn’t believe.

For that is what faith and belief in God is, the ability to trust in God despite the entire world, and even your own life telling you that He isn’t there. Despite them telling you that he doesn’t care.

They struggled, oh how they struggled! They heard the very voice of God, yet still rebelled.  They saw the signs of His presence, the miracles, the cloud of smoke by day, the pillar of fire by night, and still hardened their hearts

And so they did what was evil, what was in rebellion from God.

Too often, you and I join them. You might even have already asked, like the apostles, “Is it I Lord?” when He talked of the one who would betray Him.

We’ve heard His voice calling us, we’ve seen His power at work, We know both His wrath and mercy, Yet, we struggle to trust God in situations we encounter, or we all too easily forget about Him.  Especially when we are tempted by sin, even what we might call the smallest of sins, or perhaps the biggest.

For the biggest of sins, the violation of the first commandment happens to us all the time.  We create our own gods, something we want to trust in, something we can find hope in. and set aside the God who has revealed Himself to us, through word and sacrament, through the people that are the church.

We aren’t any better than the people of God in the days of Moses.  We have all these blessings pointing to God in our lives, and yet sometimes we still turn away, we still get deceived, we still fall to scold others, rather than warn and counsel them as scripture teaches.

And so, we need to take time, to be careful, and discern what we are doing. Looking carefully at what we do, what we think, what we say!

Make Sure your (plural) own hearts (Parakleso)

It took me a while in studying this passage, to see an incredible blessing that God has given us, His people, His church.

It’s seen in words like “your” and “each other” and “you”, and “we” in this passage.

I think we hear the words, “Be careful” and “war” and “if faithful to the end, but we miss these pronouns and fail to see the blessing God gives us, when He takes us into Himself and makes us the body of Christ.

You see, when one of us baptized, when Christ’s promises are given them, they join us in His body.  And the body looks after itself, each part caring for the rest. To be careful then is not just talking about individual introspection and confession, but being careful and in love, approaching those who are struggling with faith and sin, and lifting them up, helping them see God’s love and mercy revealed to them again.

We are one people, saved in Christ together, forgiven together, sent into this world together.

So we choose wisely, and care for each other, warning each other in a way that is loving and yet firm, which calls back the sinner, and assures them of the grace of God.

You see that word for warning, it’s not the kind of warning that warns you from the shore that your drifting to toward the waterfall.  It dives in with a rope, catches you and helps you get back to short…

Or in Jones case, sweeps away all the other false gods, and leaves the one Chalice, the one filled with the love and mercy of Christ Jesus, that’s what a friend, a fellow member of the body of Christ would do, bringing you back to the word and sacraments, to remember and revive the word and sacraments

We are each a blessing God gives to us, when we care more for each other than the discomfort of helping someone being deceived, moving to the point of their hearts becoming evil and not trusting in God’s presence, in His mercy and Love.

As James wrote in His epistle,

19  My friends, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings you back again, 20  remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20 (TEV)

So choose wisely, make sure that all our hearts are not evil and unbelieving turning us away from God, and warn each other, so none are deceived by sin, and hardened against God.  Serve one another, loving each other enough to share in God’s glorious grace, helping each other to dwell in the peace of God which is beyond our comprehension, yet in which we dwell together, in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

 

 

Meditation – the rest that isn’t an escape…

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

14  But as for you, continue in the truths that you were taught and firmly believe. You know who your teachers were, 15  and you remember that ever since you were a child, you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, 17  so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed. 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (TEV)

We are witnessing today a kind of meditation in which religion becomes a drug. Its object is to find, not an answer to truth, but a liberation from the burden and misery of each individual existence.

Though Pope Benedict’s quote is nearly 20 years in the past, I see it coming true today as well.  There is a definite tendency in Spiritual Development to create a modern monasticism.  There is a tendency to want to turn out the world, not to contemplate the mysteries of God as much to escape the rat-race.

We want to be freed from the brokenness of the world, we want to be saved from the misery and anxiety of today.  We want respite, a rest that would refresh us.

We don’t want to leave our mountaintop experiences and return to our broken lives. I’ve seen this on too many retreats, and those who would easily volunteer to work on such retreats, experiencing the refreshing nature by observing others going through a process exploring what it means to depend on God.

But we need to meditate, we need to contemplate the mysteries of God.  Meditation is not to escape life, but to embrace life in Christ, To explore the how wide, how long, how deep, how high the love of God is, by experiencing it in the midst of life.  To treasure the guidance of God in His law, because we depend on His wisdom and mercy, to be amazed at the promises He has made us, and delivers in the sacraments.

That is why Paul urges Timothy to study the scriptures, to treasure them continually, for they give us the wisdom that comes from knowing we are saved, for we dwell in Jesus.

Meditation is not an escape from the world, it is the rest we need in the midst of the world, the chance to remember that the Lord is with us, the chance to take a rest and concentrate on His love, on His presence.  To remember the cross, to remember our baptism and what it means, to remember the Body broken and the Blood shed for us.  To see His place in our lives, revealed in the pages of the scriptures.

This is what we need, this gives us peace in the storm, a peace that can be far more powerful than the peace we find escaping the storm.

So take a moment, breathe deep, and remember you dwell in Him, and in His peace.


Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 328). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Don’t Shake the Dust off Your Feet….yet

Good News BibleDevotional Thought for the Day:
14  And so, my friends, as you wait for that Day, do your best to be pure and faultless in God’s sight and to be at peace with him. 15  Look on our Lord’s patience as the opportunity he is giving you to be saved, just as our dear friend Paul wrote to you, using the wisdom that God gave him.
2 Peter 3:14-15 (TEV)

206         I understand your holy impatience, but at the same time you must realise that there are some who need to think things over for a long time and others who will respond all in good time… Wait for them with open arms. Add the spice of abundant prayer and mortification to your holy impatience. They will be more youthful and generous when they come. They will have got rid of their bourgeois approach, and they will be all the more courageous. Think how God is waiting for them!

In Matthew 10:14, Jesus gives the following direction to the Twelve Apostles as they embark on their first teaching journey,

14  And if some home or town will not welcome you or listen to you, then leave that place and shake the dust off your feet. 15  I assure you that on the Judgment Day God will show more mercy to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah than to the people of that town! Matthew 10:13-15 (TEV)

I’ve heard this used a lot over the course of my ministry, in a way that is simply, sinful.  The pastor who is burnt out on ministry, and can’t seem to get his people to appreciate his vision.  The leader who, though sincere, is causing division in the church.  The family member, who has given up on a parent, or a child, or a cousin, because they are too stubborn, too obstinate, too argumentative to see their need for Christ.  Or the horrible sinners, proven by their lifestyle, or political choices, (or in their favorite sports team) who will not heed our call to repentance of the speck in their eye, while they see the petrified forest in ours.

We are tired of the pain, the anxiety, the stress, so we write off someone we care called to love, rather than embrace the call to minister to them patiently.   We use the passage from Matthew to justify our cutting off the person or people that cause us such trauma.  (often without thinking about the trauma we cause them!)

In shaking the dust off our feet, we feel vindicated, somehow more righteous or holy, and we think that God is on our side.

And we couldn’t be more wrong.

We, who have benefitted from the Lord’s patience, need to imitate that patience.  We who have come to know His love, need to love that sacrificially/  Sacrificing our pride, our self-righteousness, even the sleep we may give up, as we spend the night in prayer for these people we are called to love, and that God would sustain and heal our hearts in the process.

For being patient with them, is about realizing this isn’t a win or lose based on getting them to church tomorrow, but spending eternity with them in the presence of God. That is why St Josemaria urges us to be patient, giving those we are sent to minister to enough time to realize the love being revealed to them.  Wait for them with open arms, continually pray for them, knowing that our mission is different than the apostles, in that it wasn’t preceding Jesus to the cross.

Be patient, God is.  Be loving, for He loves you!  Be willing to sacrifice, and even suffer, for that too will prove to them the love of God who doesn’t give up on them, or on you and I.

Be patient, with the unbeliever, and the believer.

And keep on putting them in the hands of God…. for this will help, as you contemplate on how much God loves us all.

Lord, give us the heart to see people healed of their sin, to be freed from their brokenness, and the patience that only the Holy Spirit can give us, You patience, to wait and see them come to the Lord!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1068-1072). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

I Have A Dream…or is it my prayer?

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought of the Day:

God’s love was revealed among us in this way: y God sent z His •One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation e for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 1 John 4:9-11 HCSB

197         Don’t tell me that you care for your interior life, if you are not carrying out an intense and ceaseless apostolate. The Lord— whom you assure me you are close to— wishes all men to be saved.

A few decades ago, a preacher stood up and had a dream, a very valid dream where racism didn’t exist, where quotas and systems didn’t have a place, because diversity was natural, and celebrated.  A great dream.

My dream is somewhat different, somewhat more specific. Yet with the same thought, a reconciliation so pure that we don’t remember the damage. It has been a growing desire, this dream of mine, you might even call it a prayer. (though my mind would consider winning the lottery more likely….I would rather this dream come true over winning the lottery.)

it takes place in a small quiet sanctuary, without the reporters, without the news commentators, and without FB and Twitter going crazy. Only three people would know the meeting ever took place.  A pastor/priest, Judge Kavanaugh, and Dr. Ford.  And of course, the only One who could make this happen.

God.

As they gather together, the love of God would cause the positioning to drop away, the perceptions and the individual realities would be swept away, and the sin, whatever sin there is, would be covered.  Not covered up, but covered by the blood of Christ.

Healing would happen, as they are absolved by the Authority who can wash away sin. And with the sin, the anger, the hurt, the resentment begins to find healing

Because God loves them both, He ministers through the pastor/priests words to them both.  And the love of God transforms them both. So much so that they both realize all the sin in the room is so washed away, it doesn’t even come to mind anymore.

All there is is love. The love of God poured out on them, reflected from them to each other.

The world doesn’t have to know about it, just the two, and the priest/pastor sworn to secrecy.

Yet, the love that can unify those broken has its effect, and the world, ignorant of the scene, begins to change, as the most powerful thing in the world takes a hold of people, and reconciles them, even as it will draw others to reconcile.

This is my dream, and more it is my prayer. That the ministry of reconciliation become the dominant ministry once again, as we realize that love is not a human emotion, but the power of God at work in us.

Lord, this day, help us to see the power of your love at work in us, as we find ourselves being reconciled to those we were once divided from…  AMEN!

The question of the day.
If you knew reconciliation and healing was possible for the most broken relationship you have, what would stop you from seeking it?

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1031-1033). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Simple Journey of Hope

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
66  As a consequence of this, many of his disciples withdrew and no longer followed him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “And are you too wanting to go away?” 68  “Lord,” answered Simon Peter, “who else should we go to? Your words have the ring of eternal life! And we believe and are convinced that you are the holy one of God.”
John 6:66-68 (Phillips NT)

Let us follow Jesus, knowing that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joyful hope that we must bring to this world. Please do not let yourselves be robbed of the hope that Jesus gives us!

It is too easy to lose hope in this world.

We can lose hope after a doctor’s visit or from balancing our checkbook.  We can become dejected because of the words of a friend, or a family member, we can begin to dwell in pessimism after reading the news, and seeing the discord that is prevalent in every part of four society.

Yet, we have to have hope to survive, and we have seen incredible things that have occurred because people dwell in hope, not despair. Because they know what God has promised, and they have learned to expect God’s intercession, that God will make what is going on work for good for those who love him, who are called according to His promises.

But how is that hope created, and in view of our broken lives, our broken society and broken world, how is it nourished, sustained, how can it grow when the world hammers away at us?

In the little devotional from Pope Francis that is one of the books I use for my devotions this year, he notes the strong correlation between following Jesus and the hope we have, that we can infect the world with.

Following Jesus, letting Him accompany us, letting Him carry us, not just walking in steps 2000 years old, but walking with him today, Monday the 8th of October, and tomorrow the 9th, and the 10th, and every day from now on dwelling in His presence.

This is why the Apostle Peter would proclaim that there is nowhere else to Go, for only Jesus can provide the words that give the hope of eternity, and the joy that will come in the presence of the Father in heaven. To share in a relationship, where God the Father identifies us as His children, where Jesus identifies us as His brothers and sisters. This is the love He spoke of, and the life He invites us all to have. To learn of His mercy, to explore the dimensions of His love, to even be corrected by Him, so that we don’t drift away.  This begins the hope we so desperately need.

Walking with Jesus, meditating on His love, on His sacrifice, on His resurrection which we are joined with, that provides hope.  Hearing His promises, knowing that He who created everything stands behind those promises, this gives us hope.

This is what matters in life, so please, please, don’t neglect this hope, or the times of prayer and fellowship that will nourish it.

And may you know God’s peace…. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 325). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Faith in Action: It Hears and Soaks in God’s Reality

Worship Service 10/7 Faith in Action

(above link takes you to the link for the entire service!

Faith In Action V
Hears and Soaks in God’s Reality
Hebrews 2:1-13

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God, the love, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so overwhelm you that you can never ignore it.  AMEN!

 Overlooking the Treasure given

It was sitting in a garage, next to an old doublewide trailer in a small high desert town.  Covered with some canvas tarps, realtor after realtor overlooked it.  After all, the doublewide trailer was old, and while kept nicely, needed a lot of restoration.

In fact, our agent suggested removing it and just putting a brand new on in its place.  The value was the property, with its beautiful trees, and the redwood decking, and the 3 car garage with a playroom

So, curious what was next to the 1940’s pickup, under all the tarps, I lifted the tarp.  And there, underneath was a car. And oh… what a car.

A 1965 Shelby Cobra, a car worth more than the double-wide, the garage, the acre of land.  It looked like it was in mint shape, just simply forgotten about.

Unfortunately, it didn’t come with the house.  Yeah – I asked if the old vehicles on the property came with the property.

The son who inherited the house, and was trying to sell the property, had not forgotten what his dad had treasured.  But he had neglected it over the years, and so instead of being driven, it had sat, with tarps piled upon it.

What a waste!

Even more of a waste is those who live as if they didn’t know Jesus, as if they didn’t know He loved us, as if they didn’t realize the mercy and forgiveness that would bring healing to our souls, the souls so shattered by sin and its companions, the pain-filled and shame, and grieving over our brokenness.

This is the strongest challenge to the idea of faith in Action, for we need to hear about God’s reality, and really let it soak in and heal our souls, even as we help others heal.

We need to hear, and soak in God’s reality, for that is what faith in Actions does.

Every Violation, Every Act of Disobedience

I want to read the first two verses of our reading again,

So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished.

If we don’t remember God’s truth, it is too easy to drift away, to be swept away in the rapids of life.  For that is what sin does, it picks us up, and takes us for a ride, until we are so far from where we should be.

God is serious about this, every violation of the law, every one of them is punished.  As is every act of disobedience.

No excuses, no negotiations, every violation, every act of disobedience. No exceptions, no mulligans.

Every time we have been jealous or envious,

Every time we’ve gossiped, sharing rumors or even the truth with the intent of hurting someone’s reputation.

Every time we steal, or take advantage of someone, not giving them what the items is worth.

Shall I go on, and expand on adultery or murder in thought word and deed, or how we disrespect our parents or those in authority?  How we don’t treasure the time God would have us rest and relax and heal in His peace or do I need to mention our disobedience as we fail to pray, calling on His name as He urges us to do?

Every sin, every violation of the law committed or by failing to act in love, every moment lived in disobedience, punished.

Do we hear that?

I am not sure we do.

Jesus tasted death for everyone

What I think we hear is,

For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience will be punished.

and what is actually written is

For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished.

 there is a big difference between will be and was.

And that is the truth, the gospel that we can’t neglect.

It is said in a different way toward the end of the passage,

and because he suffered death for us, he is now “crowned with glory and honor.” Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone.

Past tense, suffered, past tense, tasted, past tense, was punished.

We need to hear this, we need to celebrate it, we need to understand and cling to the hope tightly that Jesus paid for every violation of the law, every act of disobedience, and therefore we are free from the guilt, the shame, the eternal consequences of our sin.  Because Jesus suffered death for us, because he tasted death, fully embraced it for everyone.

That changes everything.

We realize it, our lives should resound with praise, with gratitude, with living life in an incredible way…

Not ashamed is He!

And then this of this…

11 So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters.

You and I, all those who trust in Him, or will come to trust in Him.  Who live life, trusting in Him, depending on Him for this work He does, making us Holy.  He sets us apart for a life with God, a life where we relate to Him as His children, where we are Christ’s brothers and sisters.

This changes everything, far more than finding a quarter of a million-dollar sports car under some tarps.

This is life. so don’t neglect, it, rather explore the love of God who does this for us, bringing us into our salvation, this amazing wonderful life, free from guilt a shame, a life that will last enterally, with our incredible Father.

AMEN!

Your Life Has a Different Meaning…

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought for the Day:

8 Dear friends, don’t let this one thing escape you: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.  9 The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. 
10 But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness 12 as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God. The heavens will be on fire and be dissolved because of it, and the elements will melt with the heat. 13 But based on His promise, we wait for the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.
14 Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found at peace with Him without spot or blemish. 15 Also, regard the patience of our Lord as an opportunity for salvation, just as our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him.     2 Peter 3:8-14  HSCB

187         Listen to me carefully and echo my words: Christianity is Love; getting to know God is a most positive experience; concern for others—the apostolate—is not an extra luxury, the task of a few. Now that you know this, fill yourself with joy, because your life has acquired a completely different meaning; and act in consequence.

Patience is one of those things we don’t like to talk about.  Simply put, it is something that is beyond us.  Our culture thrives on impatience.  Cell Phones (remember having to wait to get home to call someone?), DVR’s (so we can fast forward past the stuff we don’t like), microwaves and now insta-pots all serve our desire not to wait.  We might try to justify it as “not wasting time” but in reality, it is our god of impatience that we continually try to find ways to serve.

Into this comes a passage about God’s patience, and the fact that He is patient with us, His people.  He doesn’t want anyone to perish, to be destroyed on the day to come.

Be sure, all will be destroyed, this He has promised.

Judgment will happen, this too is promised.  Some to be judged as lacking trust in God’s mercy, and therefore, trusting in themselves they stand condemned. And some, trusting in Christ’ intercession, in His death which erases our sin, and in His resurrection, which brings us to life, they will be judged righteous and welcomed into heaven.

So if God is patient with His church, and yet, will fulfill His word, we find the meaning of life as we imitate His.  We, the church, need to be both patient and yet focused on drawing people to Jesus.  For the day is coming.

It is hard to see the truth of the second coming without wanting to badger people, to not just draw them into Christianity, but to drive them into it, like a rancher driving his cattle.  It takes the patience of a shepherd, who uses his voice and staff guides his flock and leads it into the presence of God.  Or a parent guiding a child to learn to walk, and then ensures where they walk is safe.

This work requires love and thereby provides the new meaning in our lives.

To love those caught in sin, those in bondage to grief and shame, who are caught in selfishness and greed.  This is the meaning of our lives, to love God, to love those whose lives are broken, and help them find the healing that is in Jesus, even while we heal ourselves.

God is with you.. never forget it, and help others know it.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 997-1000). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

The Church’s forgotten mission: Hospitality

Devotional Thoughts for today

 Now the end of all things is near; therefore, be serious and disciplined for prayer. 8 Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. •Amen.  1 Peter 4:7-11  HCSB

By unremitting study they should fit themselves to do their part in establishing dialogue with the world and with men of all shades of opinion. Above all let them take to heart the words which this council has spoken: “Since humanity today increasingly moves toward civil, economic and social unity, it is more than ever necessary that priests, with joint concern and energy, and under the guidance of the bishops and the supreme pontiff, erase every cause of division, so that the whole human race may be led to the unity of God’s family.

Yesterday, a man I had lunch with caused me great concern. He didn’t, rather something he said did.

He was someone I met at a chamber of commerce event, and he engaged some of my staff in a discussion, and then as I walked up to the table, we talked for a while.  While very friendly, he was sure the church was based on falsehood, as he didn’t believe our God existed.  I invited him out to lunch, to discuss things further, and handed him my card. 

To be honest, I was pretty sure he wouldn’t take me up on the offer.  But he did, and we had a great conversation, both of us rarely eating what was on the table before us.  We learned a little bit about each other, talked about religion in general, Christianity, the church, and why a successful computer geek would sacrifice comfort and a great job to become a pastor in the middle of nowhere.

And what intrigued him the most, why a pastor/priest/minister would take the time to take him to lunch.  ( or for that matter, why a Christian who didn’t know him would)

And in retrospect, the very thing he was curious about, causes me great concern. 

The man has lived in my community for as long as my church has been here. There are other churches in my community that are as loving as caring as mine, and other pastors ( Mike, Bill, Father John) that are shepherds that care for people and for those who are lost or broken as I do.

So why would it take 4 decades for a man to be invited to lunch by a pastor/priest?

Why would we allow a man to go so long without knowing we could take him to lunch, and in a friendly discussion ( even with some teasing) help him explore what he doesn’t understand, that God loves him. 

That God is with him, even as he sees a new doctor today. 

God commands such hospitality, even to those who are alien to us, actually very specific to those who are alien to us. We are to love them, welcome them, help them experience and explore the incredible dimensions of God’s love.  

The awesome thing about this is that we aren’t welcoming them on our behalf only, we are acting as agents of God’s grace, as those who have been tasked with serving as reconcilers, as those whose work is described in these words,erase every cause of division, so that the whole human race may be led to the unity of God’s family.

(Although I a Lutheran, I often find the missional wisdom of Vatican II inspiring, especially in a place like this.)

We can enter into dialogue with the world, assured by God that we don’t go alone. Prayer reminds us of this, as does our time of meditation, especially on the sacraments, which are all acts of God’s hospitality, revealed in very tangible means. 

We know a peace beyond understanding, we know a love beyond the ability of poets to describe, we have a God who welcomes u into His presence and would welcome all, forgive their sin and inviting them to share eternal life, with Him.

Heavenly Father, help Your people again show Your will at work in their lives, as we open our churches, our homes, and our lives to those who need to come to know that YOU love them, as we show them that love, as we love them in YOUR name.  And bless my new friend John on his journey, and be with him at his doctor’s appointment today. AMEN!

Do me a favor, share with me stories of how you have been welcomed and loved by churches you have visited.  Or stories in which you share how you could have been made more welcome. THANKS!

 

(p.s – the end of the lunch included John inviting me out to lunch, to continue our discussion)

Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Faith in Action is in Dialogue (IV) A sermon on James 5:13-20

church at communion 2Faith in Action:  Is in Dialogue
James 5:13-20

† I.H.S. 

May the grace, mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ instill in you the confidence to be drawn to them and enter intimate dialogue with Them

People in trauma

The people that James was writing too sound like us.  Based on the words we read just this morning, we could ask if they are part of Concordia!  Hear how James describes them

verse 13 asks if they are suffering hardships
verse 14  ask if any are sick
verse 15 mentions people who have committed sin
verse 16 may be the hardest question of all, have some of us wandered away from Jesus.

Pretty sure you can find most of us on that list, in fact, some of us probably can answer more than one of those questions.

As we’ve said a few times around here, how do we get through this life, without knowing Jesus?

This life is broken, we see it enough in our homes, in our workplaces, in our families, even in our churches.  But it isn’t a new thing, James wrote about these problems to people nearly 2000 years ago.

Even with all the differences, the problems are still the same, hardships, sickness, sin, and our struggle to go our own way.  And in asking how people go through this life without Christ, we begin to see how James addresses each of these ways we are broken with a simple, misunderstood four letter word.

Pray.

There is an answer

Prayer, Praise, Prayer, Pray for each other

Suffering hardship – pray!
Sick  call the elders (pastor and deacons too!) and have them pray
Sins?  Confess and pray for each other
Wanders from Jesus (the truth) bring him back from the wandering so he can communicate with God, with us.

Pray… Pray… Pray…

Sounds like one of Al’s emails or text messages to me. They often end that way… and for  reason.

We know prayer makes a difference. We know when that prayer isn’t what you do when there is nothing else to do.

It is what you do first, and always.

Not because prayer adds up like tickets you get playing skeeball at an arcade, or frequent flier points.

That’s not the way prayer works or the reason to pray.  It’s not about what we do to impress God, it is an act of faith, it is the way we depend on God.

But what is prayer – Elijah’s example.

James gives us as an example of prayer, in the situation with Elijah and the weather.  That prayer was not simple monologues, they are conversations. As you follow the story throughout 1 Kings 17 and 18, you see Elijah moving by God’s direction, enabled to do what he did because God was there, with Him, even as the Lord is with you! (and also with you?)

You see that in these chapters where Elijah is ministering to Israel, and to a the widow in what is now Lebanon, as he confronts sin and evil, as he deals with brokenness, and sickness and even death. As he is on top of the world, and as he feels like he’s the last man standing and isn’t sure how much more he can stand.

In other words, he is a man like us!  And yet. Because he walked and talked with God, this was said of him,

24  “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the LORD truly speaks through you.” 1 Kings 17:24 (NLT2)

God speaks through those who hear Him, who talk with Him, and that is what prayer is.
A conversation with God, depending on His presence, and on His love, shown in the mercy He has on us.

And then we see the greatest work that depending on God, talking to Him, hearing Him brings about.

19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.

Here is where prayer is so necessary, to see those who come back from wandering away from God, sometimes even running away from God, come back.

To see them saved from death and hell, to see them freed form sin and the guilt and shame that can so haunt those caught in its grasp. That only happens when our faith is active, and that faith requires us to be in conversation with God.

We have to depend on God, for otherwise there is no way we can have the patience, the determination to have patience, the ability to withstand the rejection, and still leave the door open for them to come in, look around, put their toe in the water…ask a question or three.. even be critical.

Trusting in God, communicating with Him, knowing His heart for us and all prodigals like us, we can take the time to see people return to God, even if we have to help carry them.

This is the power of prayer, this is what knowing that the Lord is with you causes to happen in real life.  That is a major part of who we are. As one pastor wrote,

Finally, the suffering person is entrusted to an innkeeper, so that he might continue to care for him, sparing no expense. Now, who is this innkeeper? It is the Church, the Christian community—it is us—to whom each day the Lord entrusts those who are afflicted in body and spirit, so that we might lavish all of his mercy and salvation upon them without measure.
[1]

So let us pray, and as we dwell in Christ’s peace, the peace that passes all understanding.  AMEN!

[1] Francis. (2016). Wednesday, 26 February 2014. In Audiences of Pope Francis, 2013–2015 (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Walk this way…

photo(35)

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
21 For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow o in His steps. 22 He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth;  23 when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He was suffering, He did not threaten but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.  24 He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; you have been healed by His wounds. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.  1 Peter 2:21-25  HCSB

189         The way Jesus called the first twelve could not have been simpler: “Come and follow me.” Since you are always looking for excuses not to keep on with your task, there is one consideration that fits you like a glove: the human knowledge of those first apostles was very poor, and yet what an impact they made on those who listened to them! Never forget this: it is He who continues to do the work through each one of us.

I remember a couple of decades ago when everyone started wearing “WWJD” merchandise.  Not many knew that the question was part of a fairly popular novel of the previous century.  In His Steps is a fascinating book, the story of a pastor and a church that tried to dedicate itself to asking what Jesus would do, if He made the decisions that they were faced with, every day in life.

It’s a good book, one in which the struggles of living a Christian life are seen in how we use our time, our talents, our influence, even the pains in our lives.

I might not agree with every decision, but the exercise is not a bad one.

The passage the story wraps around is the one above, from 1 Peter, urging us to walk in His steps, urging us to be as holy as Jesus was holy, as focused on doing what is right as Jesus is.

Or at least that is how following in His steps is portrayed.

The passage goes on to describe how Jesus lived, how He calls us to follow Him in that lifestyle.  An example that is pertinent today, He did not revile in return when He was reviled.  That is a pretty hard standard to live up against, as we so blatantly see in our world today.

If this is just giving us a list of standards we are to meet, if we expect our lives to simply be clones of Jesus, we will fail.  Just as the apostles, who were invited to follow Jesus also fell, often.

Following in HIs steps is more than just putting one foot in front of the other, It requires our focus be on Him, and How He lives.  It is about hearing His voice, about heeding the encouragement He gives to us. It is about letting the Spirit form us into His image. This isn’t tracking steps outlined in the sand 2000 years ago, or even last week.  It is about letting Him lead us, here and now.

Look to Jesus, the author and one who brings about maturity as you depend on Him.  Look to Jesus, and let the Spirit transform you as you reflect His glory.  He moves, move with Him, for He is the guardian and shepherd/guide of your souls.

The Lord is with you!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1004-1008). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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