While we are waiting for His return….
While We are Waiting…
† In Jesus Name †
The Blessing of the Book of Jude:
To you who are called, to you who are dear to God the Father and kept safe for Jesus Christ, 2 mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
The Holy Stairs.,,
Luther had stood at the base of the steps we stood before, just about 500 years prior to Kay and I standing at them. Even as Jesus has reportedly climbed those same stairs, as he approached Pilate, and the cross were He would embrace death, that you and I would know life.
At the top of the stairs, now with a church built around them, was a incredibly compassionate picture of Jesus, looking down the stairs, at those who would pray to Him as they climbed those stairs on their knees, humbly praying, as they have for hundreds of years.
One thing that struck me then, as it had all week, the incredible devotion showed to God, some in love, some in fear, that we saw in the pilgrims and in the many beautiful places dedicated to God. Such testimonies to an incredible devotion to God that so touched the hearts of tourists; as well as those who were somewhere between tourist and pilgrim.
I am sure that God listens to prayers without our needing to make pilgrimages, or spending hours upon hours on our knees praying. But there is something to be said for the devotion, for the focus, for the treasuring of God’s love, that would draw someone to such actions, or to build incredible basilicas that rival any other buildings in the world. To sculpt or paint, or compose music, that would point to God’s glory. It amazes me the work that man can accomplish, that testifies to God’s glory. What amazes me more, is the work that God can accomplish through us, as He builds His people into His church.
As we celebrate the end of the church year… as we look to His return, and the celebration that will come, when God gathers all of us home… Jude encourages us to accomplish some things while we are waiting…
It is better to say… to let the Holy Spirit bring things to pass in our lives…
Building up in holy faith
I know that Michael last week talked about the things which last, that it is not the temples and basilicas and even the churches of today that will last eternally – but the people that God calls into being as His people. For Jesus talked of that, as the disciples talked of the stones that built Herod’s temple – stones taken from the mountains that Jesus spoke into being.
Jude talks of building that up – the community of believers, the brothers and sisters united in Christ, as children of God – that which Jesus indicated would last, for He would guard and keep that church.
You, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21
It is, I think, more of a challenge to build up each other in the most holy faith, than it is to paint the Sistine Chapel. But that is the masterpiece we have been called to build up. To point each other to Jesus, to help each other trust in Christ. That includes, at times, the challenge of showing people their need for Jesus, for each one of us, from the greatest to the smallest, from the proudest to the meekest, from those who seem to have it all together, to those who can’t even remember which part needs repair the soonest. We all need Jesus, we all need His healing, we all need His love…
It is given to us, to build up each other, not in building up egos, but in helping each other realizing our desperate need for Jesus, to encourage each other to turn to Him, to even walk beside each other, pointing each other to God, and His healing. And to that, in prayer, listening to God, hearing the Holy Spirit. I like what one pastor wrote about this..
..you realised that until now you had known that the Holy Spirit was dwelling in your soul, to sanctify it… But you hadn’t really grasped this truth about his presence. You needed that advice. Now you feel his Love within you, and you want to talk to him, to be his friend, to confide in him… You want to facilitate his work of polishing, uprooting, and enkindling…
I wouldn’t know how to set about it! you thought. Listen to him, I insist. He will give you strength. He will do everything, if you so want… And you do want! (Escriva, The Forge)
It is no mistake, in this tiny, last of the epistles, that the writer would encourage us to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice, to pray in His power, to realize His presence, even as we are awaiting the full revelation of Christ’s mercy upon His return. For our task is not one merely of human creation, but one which requires all the strength and creativity of God.
Jude mentions two very similar ways of building each other up, ways in which we simple are to do this.
The first is to show mercy to those who are wavering, those who are struggling, those whose faith is fragile, even as they struggle. Such weakness is never a cause for contempt, it is never our place to say – well if they can’t hack it – if they don’t have the strength on their own – then that is their own problem. We are called, instead of judging or condemning them, to come alongside them, and encourage them. Jude says this is not option – we must those mercy to those whose faith is wavering.
For indeed, in our own lives, we know that kind of mercy, or we need to know i! We see it when we struggle, or doubt, or wonder. Whatever you want to call it…we each go through it – no one in this sanctuary is strong enough on their own, no pastor that has ever stood before you, no elder, or Sunday school teacher, no board member, nor any child who comes into this place. Each has been there, with their faith wavering, whether they wanted to admit it or not. All of us need that love, that compassion, that care, the kind that Christ shows through His people. The kind Jude compels us to show. There is no other option, and it is quite probable we need to repent for not obeying this.
Likewise in verse 25, we are commanded to “23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.
You see, that is what we are doing when we share our faith, whether in a doctor’s office in Artesia, or in a café in Rome outside of Vatican city. We aren’t just trying to convince people that our way is somehow better than theirs, that our God is better than the god of Islam, or Judaism, or Buddhism. This isn’t like anything else than “snatching people from the flames of judgement”.
Is there anything more important that we do in our lives? Is there any reward more incredible than seeing someone you’ve loved when no one else bothered to, baptized and cleansed and given a new life? You could build a thousand Concordias! You could paint a Sistine chapels day after day – every moment of your life creating artistic masterpeices, and none of it comes close to this work of showing mercy. The most incredible thing you could ever do in life, is to lead someone to a baptismal font, or guide them to an altar where they are cleansed of their sin, or as they are struggling come to them –pointing them to Jesus as you carry them to His side in prayer and love.
Whether they are simply struggling in their faith, or… being swallowed by Hell…
This is our work, this is what the saints of God are called to do, even as we are called to walk with the Holy Spirit in prayer
Know God is powerful
The bottom line of Jude is found in the last few verses:
. 24 Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. 25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time!
Note in the middle of the praises, there is a description of God’s action – that He is the One who keeps you from falling away – from being safe in God’s love as He mentioned. It is His work to bring you into the Father’s glorious presence, more glorious than any painter or sculptor can imagine and create.
He brings us there without a single fault, not one, not even one little tiny fault. He has promised us that, and died to make it so. That’s why he climbed the steps before Pilate and made good His promise to become our Savior. The steps that some climb, to pray for a friend, or a family member or themselves, he climbed for us all. That is what we are to encourage each other to trust in, the Lord who climbed those steps, who endured that cross, looking forward to the joy of revealing how much He loves you. That is why we are to come alongside and support those whose faith wavers, and to rescue others from the fire.
And someday… instead of celebrating the end of the church year, we will celebrate the homecoming of all homecomings,
Until then, my friends, know this – even as you will see His glory face to face, you dwell in it now. Even as you will sing praises to Him in all His glory, you dwell in that glory now…and even there, as His peace will reign in your life, it does so now.
For our Lord Jesus Christ has made it so, creating us as His people, cleansing us from sin, and keeping us from falling out of that peace. AMEN?