Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Tomb is Empty? Yeah! He is Risen and The Lord is With us!

What Happened?

Luke 24:12, Psalm 16

 † Jesus, Son, Savior †

May the God’s presence flood your life with peace and love and mercy, washing it clean as we realize two intersecting truths:  Jesus has Risen, and The Lord is with you

Duh – What Happened?

The tomb is….empty?

As he runs to the tomb, the words echo in his mind, the words of the women, the words that can’t make sense…

the tomb is empty?

Nonsense! As the images pound through Peter’s mind, the scene at the last supper, the scene in the garden, the torches, the anger, the betrayal…the words echoing with every footfall,

the tomb is empty..

Even as the rocky ground passes underneath him in a blur, the crowds yelling crucify Him, Christ’s Body whipped and broken, dragging that beam.. and the words echo again,

the tomb is….. empty!

The pain in his legs growing as he runs out of the city and up the hill towards the tomb – yet knowing his pain is nothing compared to what he witnessed, the hammer pounding the spikes, Jesus looking… it seemed like he was looking right at Peter as he talked, begging the Father to forgive them. Those words hurting so much, as Peter realizes his betrayal, and now these words,

“the tomb is empty!”

Nonsense! The words echo, as do other words, the voice of Jesus prophesying the temples destruction, and the miracle of Jonah, so many words about death and something after… as Peter arrives and looks in and sees for himself,

the tomb is empty…

In awe, confused, shaken, dazed, amazed, shocked…he walks away.. not sure what to make of it all…..muttering. “the tomb is… empty

Hear the gospel again,

“then he went home again, wondering what had happened.”

That’s where the gospel ends?  Really? With Peter wondering, “what happened?  Really?  What happened?

Our Journey

As I struggled with this passage this week, the more and more I realized that this moment defines Peter as much as any, as he walks away from the tomb, in awe, confused, not quite sure what is going on in life.  It’s going to take him a while to process it all, and indeed several private talks with Jesus.  Peter will eventually get it and we see the result at Pentecost, and with Cornelius and as he writes two letters, that tell of the hope he knows, even as he awaits persecution and death.

I also realized that this has been my story, all too often in life.  That I know, as we gather around this altar, as we celebrate the death of Christ on the cross and the resurrection, the fact that the tomb is empty.  Those facts are undeniable, they are true.

But how often do we walk away, not sure what that has to do with us?  How often do we miss that this entire week, was for us?  That this isn’t some celebration of history, like president’s day, or the fourth of July or even Mother’s Day.  How often do we walk away, sure in awe, but not getting it?

The Tomb is empty folks.  That means Praise God, He is Risen. Even more, it means that the Lord is with you!

David’s run!

Since Peter walked away, and his story for a moment was paused – let’s look at David’s Psalm.  For there we pick up our story and the kind of thoughts that occur as we get it, we realize what the empty tomb means.  David got it – about 1000 years before the cross, and the description of what David realized comes across so clearly in this Psalm.

David’s hit that point where Peter is – so overwhelmed – so out of it as he looks around him.  It’s going to take him a few verses to get re-oriented – to get his thoughts straight.  At the end of his rope, He “runs” to God, pleading for safety, pleading for a sanctuary, a place of rest – that God would be his Lord, the one accepting the responsibility of caring and providing for David and keeping him safe and sane.  Look there – he comes to the realization that this world doesn’t make sense – apart from Christ.

I think most of us get that part at least – what we experience, what we go through, from our own sin to the evil we encounter in the world, it doesn’t click, we find this world – and yeah our lives broken.  Out of desperation perhaps – we think we reach out to God.

And somehow – we are surprised at what we find!

Others who God has reached out to – those He has called – the ones He is healing, they are pretty interesting people!  They make great people to hang out with – heck – there always seems to be great food around them too!  We find that we aren’t the only ones who were shopping for an idol, a false God to meet our needs,  only to demand more and more out of us before they fail to deliver what we thought we would.

God’s like addictions, whether work or drugs or sex or whatever it is that we think will provide that which will heal our emptiness that will remove our pain, our nothingness. Heck, we are so good at creating false gods, some of us can even create them to look like religion,  Yet there is no peace, the gods we have fail us… even as they failed David, even as they confused Peter.

But the tomb is empty.  Praise God – He is Risen!  And the Lord is with You!

The Biggest Surprise!

As David processes things – the big “aha” moment shows up in verse 5.  Let’s read it together,

5 My choice is you, GOD, first and only. And now I find I’m your choice!

David figures it out – we don’t have to run to God, at least we don’t have to run far – He is here – He chose us – all of us, He wants us in His life, He wants to be our God, our Lord, our Father.

That’s the reason the tomb is empty, that’s the reason He has risen.  The Lord wants to be with you – (wait…then ask aren’t you going to response) to share life together with us!  To sustain and carry us through the times where we can’t walk alone – and to remind us that we don’t have to be alone.

David got that – oh did he get that – as God cleansed him of sin, as brought healing to a life ravaged by others like Saul and his son.  As he lost another son, and his best friend.  As his nation turned their back on him, God was there!  The depth of emotions of the pain that is turned to joy just pours through the psalms – the worship that He writes.

For he realized God chose him, even as God chose Peter…even as God chooses to walk with us, to dwell with us.

Plot Lines

That’s seen in the next verse – the odd line about a house and a yard.  In more literal translations it is talked about as God setting the plot lines for our inheritance, a beautiful and pleasant and peaceful place.  But really, it is talking about how we live with God, each and every

Jesus talks about this as the mansions and rooms that He goes to prepare for us.

And yet God doesn’t even wait for that to come and live with us.  St Paul asks us,

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit makes His home in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 (Parker’s Paraphrase)

The implications of that will take a lifetime to discover, it’s more than a set of eyes peering into a dark tomb can see.

But that is why David is happy, that is what he realizes He never wants to let go, for the risen and reigning Christ, and His glory is reflecting from our faces, for He has taken our hand – and walks through life with us.

Let’s start by just knowing this –

– The Tomb is Empty

–  Praise God!  He has Risen

–  And that means, He is with you!

And because of that – the peace of God, which passes all understanding, is yours, and in it you are protected, your hearts and mind guarded by Christ himself.  AMEN!!!

The Great Apocalypse in upon us!

Devotional/Discussion thought of this day:

 50 Jesus again gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 51 Then the curtain hanging in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split apart, 52 the graves broke open, and many of God’s people who had died were raised to life.   Matthew 27:50-52 (TEV)

In the midst of the most horrifyingly beautiful scene in all of scripture, as Jesus dies, crucified as he takes upon Himself all of the sin, all of the injustice, all that is wrong in you and I, and all of humanity, Matthew gives us one odd detail.

A curtain is torn in two, ripped apart in the temple.

And to those gathered in this Holy Place, what is behind the curtain is revealed.  It is unveiled.  It is an apocalypse – the unveiling, the revealing.

We fear that word for some reason, but what it means is simply that – the revealing, in this case, what is behind the curtain.  And the answer was nothing.  There was no ark of the covenant, no mercy seat, just an empty room, where blood people counted on to cover their sins, was poured down the drain.  Their sacrifices were revealed to be vain, and for those who trusted in their offerings, in the work of the priests who knew the truth, all of the empty liturgy that they took such pride in, and in the temple built to Herod’s glory, they realized their faith was misplaced.

But their cries for mercy, their prayers were answered, none the less.

For there was something else revealed – a few miles away, on another mountain, not just a apocalypse, but the Apocalypse, the power that caused the earth to shake, the rocks split apart – and God’s people who had died to rise.

God was revealed in all of His glory, the depth of His love for us unveiled, the greatest apocalypse man had ever known, even though they didn’t recognize it.

For it was God there, on the cross,  Jesus the one annointed, chosen, humbled, crucified, for the joy that awaited Him, the love so manifested so overwhelming.  He would die, for us, so that we would never be bound by sin, so that we would become the children of God, the prodigals returned home.  For that apocalypse, that revealing of the love of God, was described in another place,

12 Because we have this hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who had to put a veil over his face so that the people of Israel would not see the brightness fade and disappear. 14 Their minds, indeed, were closed; and to this very day their minds are covered with the same veil as they read the books of the old covenant. The veil is removed only when a person is joined to Christ. 15 Even today, whenever they read the Law of Moses, the veil still covers their minds. 16 But it can be removed, as the scripture says about Moses: “His veil was removed when he turned to the Lord.” 17 Now, “the Lord” in this passage is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. 18 All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory2 Corinthians 3:12-18 (TEV) 

The veil that was torn in two, the veiled that was removed unveiling Christ, unveiling His Love, Unveiling His Grace…

He Has Risen, and we with Him…

Let’s Boldly go – as our Savior has gone!

Will you depend on your King?

   What was written, is written… in our hearts

John 19:16–42

† In Jesus Name †

May the cross convince you of the depth of God’s love for you!

The confrontation

Have you ever wondered why the chief priests were so frustrated, so needing to get Pontius Pilate to change what was on a piece of wood and nailed to the cross?

Remember – the relationship with between the priests and Pilate is already strained.  This is the same Pilate that when angered before mixed the blood of Gentiles he had put to death with the blood offering of the temple. He had backed down to the crowd, and let them have what they wanted – to crucify this man that Pilate had judged innocent.  And he did so at the risk of irritating his wife, who warned him to have nothing to do with Jesus.  With Pilate already on edge, with a temper that was infamous, the chief priests approached Pilate and told him to change the words.

His answer was a quick dismissal – but spoke to his authority, and to a truth that Pilate testified to…

What I have written, I have written.

End of scene.

Whether he meant it to mock the priests, whether he meant it to mock Jesus, no matter what Pilate’s reason, he actually bore witness to the truth.

Jesus is the King of the Jews, He is the long awaited Messiah, the promised glorious one of Israel – the one whom in even the gentiles find hope.

But why were the priests so… insistent? Brave? Demanding?

Could it have to do with what Pilate recognized, and the reason he was inspired to use this particular word to describe Jesus?

The Meaning of Basileus

The King, the one who preached that the Kingdom of God is with you – who sent others to preach the Kingdom of God is near, Do we get what it means for Jesus to be King of the Jews?

Here is the most important point – it has less to do with authority or responsibility – and far more to do with…. Responsibility.

The kind of responsibility a parent has, when their child breaks a neighbor’s window, or when their child is threatened, or hurt.  Someone who is King has responsibility for His subjects.  The one who makes things right, at whatever personal cost.

Such is the idea of kingship, such is the concept of leadership in scripture.  It is about providing for the people of the kingdom, about being responsible for their welfare, because it has been entrusted to you.

For the priests – this is not just counter to their own ministry style, where lording it over people was evident, but contrary to the kind of relationship they wanted with God.  The last thing they wanted was God’s personal involvement in their stuff, cleaning up after their act.

It’s sort of like a teenagers reaction to his father and mother deciding to clean the teenager’s room.  “it’s clean enough, it doesn’t need to be cleaned – and the embarrassment that comes when the pizza from a month ago is found under the bed.  Or some really worrisome thing is found on their computer. We get too easily embarrassed when we realize our need for dependence on God to clean up our lives, to be the only One who can be responsible for our sin.

Because it can’t be us…. We just can’t do it.  We, just like the priests who demanded Pilate remove the sign proclaiming Jesus to be the King, desperately need Him to be our King!  We desperately need Him to provide, to care for us, to take responsibility for our sins, for our errors, for that which divides us from God.

And He did….

to the extent that even Pilate recognized it.  Pilate who declared Jesus to be innocent.  Who washed his hands of the case, who yet still delivered Christ to the place where He would take up the responsibility for us, for our actions, for our sin.

Rejoice my friends, find not sorrow in this moment, but the deepest joy.  Because in Christ, we find our lives… cleansed, provided for, loved. And at peace, for

17 Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 18 All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19 Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends. 20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21 Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (TEV)


The Church’s Only Business, it’s only ministry….

 20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21 Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (TEV)

“Like the grain of wheat, we too have to die in order to become fruitful. You and I, with the help of God’s grace, want to open up a deep furrow, to blaze a trail. That is why we have to leave the poor animal man behind and launch out into the sphere of the spirit, giving a supernatural meaning to every human undertaking and, at the same time, to all those engaged in them.”

Yesterday I read an article about a church offering a program that was advertised as “life-changing”.   I thought it would be something that was about this incredible week – as we celebrate Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.  It wasn’t – it was about how to find peace – but not Christ’s peace.  Instead it was financial peace.   Over the last few days, similar things have arisen, as people have asked about this or that, about getting churches active in this political crusade, or that social issue.  Most of the things have merit, they can benefit people.  But they aren’t critical. Not even close.

There is only one thing that is critical.  There is only one business the church about which the church should be concerned.   It has a couple of different names in the church, a couple of different ways we describe it. Today, as we celebrate Christ dying on the cross,  (yes celebrate) I was to use the one I used a couple of weeks ago in a sermon.  The church or theological term is


I like the way the TEV  describes it – “let God change you from enemies into His friends”.

That’s our job – to appeal to people on God’s behalf  – let God do what God does best.  Let Him heal all the relationships you have – let Him not just forgive your sin, but let Him bring you into a relationship where you share His righteousness and holiness, (fancy words that simply describe a relationship with Him, with His people, with all His creation where things are done in love) let Him bring you into a relationship where you share His glory as well.

To those in such a relationship – we make our appeal, we beg people to let Him do these things – even if we have to die to do so.  For we definitely do die to self – it takes sacrifice to reach out to people, it takes love, it takes humility.

You might think that is asking to much?  Can’t we just leave this to pastors and priests, to do this work?

Well, not really, and it isn’t really asking too much, for when Christ reconciled us to the Father, when He brought us to the Father, when He brought us home….

He will never be the older brother, upset at the Father throwing the celebration for the prodigal son/brother.  Instead – he offered His life to bring us home…. now its our turn – not necessarily to die – but whether we are a living sacrifice, or a martyr- that is our business.

Other things may come into play – but let us be about the Father’s work, Jesus work, the work the Spirit does through us,

And let us beg people – to let God transform them, from His enemies, into His friends.


Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3571-3574). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Devotional Thought for Good Friday.

Evangelical Catholicism Pt IV: Why have churches shrunk?

Discussion Thought of the Day:

“If a robust Evangelical Catholicism, formed by Word and Sacrament to take the Gospel of truth and love “into the deep” of the modern and postmodern world, is the deeply reformed Church to which the entire trajectory of Catholic development from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI points, and which the Second Vatican Council envisioned, then the great postconciliar failure of Catholicism— the collapse of the Church in Christianity’s historical heartland, Western Europe— comes into sharper focus. Western European Catholicism’s demise was not, it becomes clear, the result of an internal civil war between Catholic progressives and Catholic traditionalists. Nor are the prescriptions of either of these exhausted camps likely to lead to revival and reform in the future. The Church in Europe has been in free fall throughout the postconciliar years because too many of its people ceased to believe that the Gospel is true. The crisis of Catholicism in Europe did not come about because the institutional Church faltered and its people subsequently bailed out. The crisis came because the people of the Church (including the clergy) ceased to believe with passion and conviction, ceased to find joy in the presence of the Lord— and sought their happiness elsewhere. Because of that, the institution (which in some countries, such as Germany and Italy, remains extremely wealthy) faltered— and seems to be collapsing in the first quarter of the twenty-first century. The Catholic future in Europe lies not in managerial reforms (although those are needed), but in a renaissance of faith, which will likely come (as such things often do) from outside the formal structures of Catholic life (i.e., parishes and dioceses) and from within renewal movements and new forms of Catholic community. There, the vision of Evangelical Catholicism is alive. And if that vision attains critical mass, following the authentic promptings of the Holy Spirit, it may eventually reform— and transform— the institutional Church.” (1)

What I read above, though directed at the Roman Catholic Church by one of its own, I believe is equally true for all churches and all denominations and especially my Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

It’s not a matter a matter of who is right in the worship wars, or the supposed division of being faithful versus being missional.  It doesn’t have to do, as much as we think it might – with who is in power, for I think that where the gospel is preached and the sacraments are administer – that is where the church is.  The hierarchy exists to serve – to be a blessing to the people, as they serve the sacraments and are nothing but conduits through which God’s love and mercy flows.  And I have seen both churches that are contemporary, and that are high liturgical and that are 1950’s dream churches – that all are growing – and that all are failing to reach their community.  (Recently in Rome, I saw a church filled with people for a high Latin Mass – all of the with great joy as they looked to the sacrament.)  As Wiegel notes – we can reform all our admin, we can put allt he right systems in place and run programs and have staffing, but it will be in vain.  And our churches will continue to fail – and depend on what god has supplemented the God who came to us, and died.

I highlighted part of Wiegel’s words above in red for a reason, this is the only thing I see that makes a difference in a church, no matter the size, no matter the budget, no matter whether it is growing or not. It is, clearly this one principal – do they get that they are in the presence of God, do they celebrate His love and mercy and His presence.  Do we get that the Lord’s Supper, the focus of this day, isn’t about the rote movements – but as one of my oldest favorite songs describes – “God and Man at Table are sat Down”  DO we realize His presence, His love, cleansing not just our feet but our lives, healing us, transforming us, the Holy Spirit residing with us!

Do we get that God has invited us to be not just His servants, but as Jesus says, His friends?  To dwell in HIs glory, to be adopted children of the King?

You want such and such style of worship? Fine. You want such and such programs? They are out there!  You want a cozy intimate church where everyone knows you name?  You want a church that is involved in missional work?  Or in serving the poor?  Or in saving the unborn?  Or in educating everyone?  All good things… BUT

Above all, desire this – to be in a place that understands these words:

The Lord is with you!

And respond back… with fervor, with conviction, and with love…

And Also with you ( or and with your Spirit)

(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 51-52). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

I love to deal with sin!

Devotional/Discussion of the Day

 6 I am GOD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of a house of slaves. 7 No other gods, only me. 8 No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. 9 Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them because I am GOD, your God, and I’m a most jealous God. I hold parents responsible for any sins they pass on to their children to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation. 10 But I’m lovingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments. 11 No using the name of GOD, your God, in curses or silly banter; GOD won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name. 12 No working on the Sabbath; keep it holy just as GOD, your God, commanded you. 13 Work six days, doing everything you have to do, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath, a Rest Day—no work: not you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, your ox, your donkey (or any of your animals), and not even the foreigner visiting your town. That way your servants and maids will get the same rest as you. 15 Don’t ever forget that you were slaves in Egypt and GOD, your God, got you out of there in a powerful show of strength. That’s why GOD, your God, commands you to observe the day of Sabbath rest. 16 Respect your father and mother—GOD, your God, commands it! You’ll have a long life; the land that God is giving you will treat you well. 17 No murder. 18 No adultery. 19 No stealing. 20 No lies about your neighbor. 21 No coveting your neighbor’s wife. And no lusting for his house, field, servant, maid, ox, or donkey either—nothing that belongs to your neighbor! Deuteronomy 5:6-21 (MSG)

We often talk of the above list as the Ten Commandments, (although I prefer to refer to them as how God has commissioned our lives – but that’s another blog entry)  Violating these guidelines, whether intentionally or without conscious desire or knowledge is what we theologically call sin.  Sin simply is living outside the way God would desire us to live, based on His wisdom, based on His love, His wisdom, His desire for our best.

I wrote as the title of this blog, that I love to deal  with sin.   I have had to deal with people who struggled with every one of the sins in the last two months, maybe even in the last few days… no definitely in the last 48 hours.   And I love to deal with sin.

And I don’t like to not deal with it.

Let me unpack that.  People like to deal with sin in the same ways they cope with trauma – or death.  We go through the same kinds of phases.

We deny it is sin – it doesn’t matter whether it is missing church or Bible study, or engaging in sin that is outside the bonds of marriage.
We bargain – I won’t commit that other sin, if you God overlook that other sin…
We get depressed – as we realize that on our own, we are weak and helpless to overcome temptation
We get angry – often very angry as we crucify ourselves- or worse- those who try to help us through it – even though that means they have to make the mistake of pointing out the sin.
Or we accept that we are sinners – and just keep on… well sinning.

And in everyone of those phases – we don’t deal with sin at all.  We smother it, we cover it, we celebrate it, but the very last thing we could possibly do – is deal with it. And if we fail to deal with it, we find ourselves in the place St. John talked about.

10 If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God. 

There is a way to deal with it – a very simple, powerful, wonderful, mindblowing way to deal with the sin….  it comes from the very same place as the quote a moment ago. 

 8 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. 9 On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-10 (MSG)

That’s how we deal with it – a simple confession, a simple proclamation of forgiveness – and it’s done.

It could look something like this,

Individual Confession 
Pastor, please hear my confession and pronounce God’s forgiveness in order to fulfill God’s will.

I, a poor sinner, plead guilty before God of all sins. I have lived as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most. My Lord’s name I have not honored as I should; my worship and prayers have faltered. I have not let His love have its way with me, and so my love for others has failed. There are those whom I have hurt, and those whom I have failed to help. My thoughts and desires have been soiled with sin.

What troubles me particularly is that . . .

The penitent confesses whatever he has done against the commandments of God, according to his place in life. The he concludes by saying:

I am sorry for all of this and ask for grace. I want to do better.

God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith.

Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?

Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive You all your sins in the name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Dealt with.. Done.

Sin is simple to deal with, so let’s deal with it... knowing the Lord has had mercy on us.

Location, Location, Location (of a favorite BIble passage)

Devotional /Discussion thought of the day… 

1 Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. 2 I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. 3 Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. 4 And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. 5 The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: 6 He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. 7 Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. 8 He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death— his death on the cross. 9 For this reason God raised him to the highest place above and gave him the name that is greater than any other name. 10 And so, in honor of the name of Jesus all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below will fall on their knees, 11 and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:1-11 (TEV)

“How often you will find yourself inundated, intoxicated with God’s grace—and what a sin if you do not respond!” (1)

The Carmen Christ – the great hymn of the faith that is found in the passage from Philippians above (verse 5-10) is one of the most memorable scriptures in the Bible.  It was our epistle reading last week in Church, as we considering the Passion of Christ entering what we call “holy Week”.  Truly indeed is our way to the cross such a blessing, such a thing to stand in awe of, and it makes such a difference.

Yet this great hymn, the majestic and glorious passage cannot be removed from the context in which it is written.  We are called to have that same attitude towards others, that Christ has towards us.  We are called to serve, to love, to show mercy, to work towards being of one mind.

All things that are counter to our culture. This kind of radical humility and mutual submission (see Eph 5:21-6:9) is often lost in our independent and driven culture.  And while we are good at realizing often the narcissism and self-centeredness is simply another name for sin.  Even to hear that – we rebel a little – but to hear the call to lives of deliberate simplicity, that we can use our resources to help others?  What about our comfort, what about what we’ve earned (and therefore deserve?)

I love and hate that the new pope has taken such a thing seriously, that he is setting an example of it – within some incredible constraints – the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.  I love it – because I know how much the Church ( Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist) need such encouragement, and such and example.  I hate it, because it confronts me with my own wealth not being used well, my own self-centeredness, and such a confrontation leads to guilt or shame, or



Could we live in the shadow of the cross, not just gratefully soaking in the mercy and love, understanding the passion of Christ for his people, and see the model for our own lives, lived as He commissioned them?  Could we imitate the suffering servant? The one who humbled himself and died….for us?

Not by our strength, not by our wisdom… but by being inundated, and yes intoxicated, with the very love of God!  For then, there is no option but to respond!

May we seek His mercy and grace, and as we focus on His love, and as we do – may others see that He is present in our lives!



(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3551-3552). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


Can I be happy, as I face the cross?

A cross on a New York Church

A cross on a New York Church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day….

1 Thessalonians 5:13 (Phillips NT) 13 Live together in peace, and our instruction to this end is to reprimand the unruly, encourage the timid, help the weak and be very patient with all men. Be sure that no one repays a bad turn by a bad turn; good should be your objective always, among yourselves and in the world at large. Be happy in your faith at all times. Never stop praying. Be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be. If you follow this advice you will be working out the will of God expressed to you in Jesus Christ. 

 With crystal clarity I see the formula, the secret of happiness, both earthly and eternal. It is not just a matter of accepting the Will of God but of embracing it, of identifying oneself with it – in a word, of loving the Divine Will with a positive act of our own will. This, I repeat, is the infallible secret of joy and peace. (1)

On this Monday of Holy Week – as the Crucifix looms on the horizon, as we look at the sin and injustice in this world, as we contemplate its score and the evil that is manifested in it, as we realize the pain embraced by Jesus Christ as all of that sin was laid upon Him, and God the Father let the wrath it deserved loose on him, I have another phrase for you – taken fron St. Paul’s advice to the church that was being persecuted in Thessalonika.

Be Happy!

Or as some translations put it, REJOICE ALWAYS!

Even as we look at the Cross?  At its brutality, and at the black sin which caused it?

Yeah – pretty much.

Hebrews 12 tells us that Jesus endured that cross – for the joy set before Him, the joy of being reunited with His adopted brothers and sisters, the joy on the Father’s face, as the Father rejoices over the prodigals coming home!  What joy there is to be found in that cross – where the passionate will of God was revealed to us all.  That God was willing to give it all up – to endure such pain, to pour out such wrath….

That we would be His people, His children, His beloved!

Even in the midst of suffering, in the midst of trauma, even if in the midst of boredom, we can embrace God’s will, we can see the cross and intuitively know the depth of His love.  When we do, there is a joy that comes about – for we realize that His promises are true, His presence is real, that we are not alone.

The secret is not avoiding things that are tough, not avoiding the trials – but making sure we know God’s love, in the midst of them.

And we will know peace, and comfort, and yeah – happiness.

This week – as we set our eyes on the cross – and the crucifixion of our Lord – may we see the joy that He saw, and realize we are with Him.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3547-3550). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

There is no other God!

“There is no other god…”

Deuteronomy 32:36–39

† In Jesus Name †

May we realize that, if there is only one God, then it is to Him we should listen, as He reveals His love and grace to us, and assures us, that He has us in the palm of His hand.

 How I don’t want to be part of the crowd…

Holy Week… a time of betrayals…

The Crowds praising God, for bringing the Messiah into their midst… in a few days, the crowds would be crying out to crucify the very person they praised the Father for sending.

The brothers James and John, arguing about who is first in the Kingdom, even to the point their mom would ask Jesus if He could separate them – by placing one at his right hand – and the other at His left.  This they asked of the one who would kneel and wash their feet….

The kiss of Judas, how that must of hurt the One who came to embrace the sins of the world.

The sinner of sinners, Peter.  Who though he walked with Jesus over three years, though he trusted him enough to set a record for walking on water. Who was at the mountain of transfiguration, who did and saw so many things at Christ’s side… would betray Jesus three times – in Jesus’ hearing, even as Jesus told Peter he would.

Boy do I understand Peter’s grieving, his tears this year.  For I find – that as much as I don’t want to be part of the crowd that can go from doing right to doing wrong in an instant, I too often find myself doing so, sometimes faster than I can realize it.  My instinct is to find an excuse, a logical reason for sin, to explain the intent – even knowing that the result does not legitimize the sin.  We do all sorts of strange things when we sin – we deny the sin, we attempt to  bargain, we get angry  – maybe to the point where we crucify ourselves, or sometimes, perhaps worse – we attempt to crucify those who point out our error.

If we are blessed, as I have been – we have brothers who have walked that way before, and are ready to share with us, the very grace of God. To remind us that we are forgiven, when we confess the sins we’ve committed.  They remind us – that even in our weakest most broken points, that God is faithful, that He is with us.  Our reading from Deuteronomy explained it this way, Yahweh will see his people righted, he will take pity on his servants.   And 39 See now that I, I am he, and beside me there is no other god. It is I who deal death and life; when I have struck, it is I who heal and no one can rescue anyone from me.

There are those days… when I would wish to escape from God, that I need to hear such words. Then as I realize the love behind them, they bring peace to one who struggles, partially because, like many of you, at times I am my own biggest idol.

Idols – fact and failure.

 An idol is something we depend on, something we rely on, instead of relying on God.  It can be anything from a good luck charm, to a person we desperately “need” in our lives, to the old fashioned idols made of wood or stone.  

And as I mentioned – sometimes we are so impressed with our knowledge or our maturity, that we can become our own idol.  We think we have all the knowledge, all the wisdom, all the power. We might even make ourselves an idol of ourselves because we are good Christians, just as Paul realized that he did last week – when we heard of all the things he counted as skubala as dung, because He realized He couldn’t rely on them.

Fact is, when we aren’t on guard – idols have a sneaky way of worming themselves into our lives, making us depend on them, more than we depend on God.

Then they fail – as God tells us they will.  It doesn’t matter how much we work, how much we prepare, how much we tell ourselves we’ve got it down- our idols will fail – they will not provide us shelter, or comfort, or help.

There is only one God – the Lord who revealed himself to Abraham, to Moses, to Gideon as we saw during Lent. The God who waits – knowing that our idols, our false gods will fail us….

Ready to pick us up – ready to reveal again, that He is the Lord, that He is with us.

Death than Life.

As the deacons and vicars sat in my office this week – they came to an immediate realization about very 39, the difficult phrases they make us wonder at first glance.  It is I who deal death and life; when I have struck, it is I who heal!  They both remarked – this is talking about Law and Gospel – about the cross and baptism.

It is one of those moments where I realize that working with them is a great joy!  They nailed it. (  Hmmm that might not be just the right way to say it, with Good Friday around the corner. )  But this passage is about this week – about a death that leads to life – and about how we are joined to that death in our baptism.

A death that shows the passion, the very heart of God, that He has for us….

That our sin, that even our idolatry can and is cleansed from us.   Not that we should be proud of it, but we shouldn’t nail ourselves to the cross over and over again.

We’ve been there – because we’ve been here – at the baptismal font, at the place of St. Paul said,

12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13 You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; Colossians 2:12-13 (TEV)

That is where our confidence needs to be, not in ourselves, not in the failures that we so grieve over, but in the God who will not let us escape His grasp.

For there – when we realize He will not let us go… we find the peace that so eludes us, when we realized we cried Hosanna – hoping that God would do what we thought was right,  the peace that eludes us as well, when we realize we are crying out “Crucify Him”, and then grieve over our guilt.

He won’t let us go, and because of that – we can know He is God, and that He crucifies us in Christ – that we can be raised to a new life.  A life in which He reigns, and in which we live in peace.  AMEN?

Cross or Crucifix, Palms or Passion

Česky: Kříže - symbol utrpení Ježíše Krista a ...

Česky: Kříže – symbol utrpení Ježíše Krista a jeho ukřižování (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional thought of the day… as we prepare for Holy Week:

 14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. 15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God. Galatians 6:14-16 (NLT)

Over the years, I have had a number of people who ask me why I, a “protestan” pastor (which I do not consider myself to be – but that’s another conversation) wear a crucifix more often than I wear a cross.  Its the same reason the Sunday of Christ’s Passion – the celebration of the depth of His love, is so much more than Palm Sunday…

My answer is simple – it is where my hope is founded, it is what makes a difference in my life, it is what sustains me, as I face the crap of this world, the sin and trauma that just can rip your heart apart, and the sin and trauma that is my own, which then crushes that heart, with the force a sledgehammer.

It is why the drama of Palm Sunday, when the masses are crying out Hallelujah – and Hosanna, and Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord,  is so ironic, and in a way painful.  I can’t but hear under the praises, the same voices starting their other cry, the one that will call for this same man to be crucified, to be tortured and killed.  There is great irony in that, in the second cry, as it is heard and acted upon, they will realize the glorious nature of God’s love.

It is why I would rather cling to an old rugged crucifix, than just an old rugger cross.  For in baptism – I am joined to Christ there as Paul talks about in Romans 6 and Colossians,  It is there at the cross – that a circuimcision of my heart takes place, as God separates my sin and all unrighteousness from me, as He signs adoption papers, as He declares me justified, as I receive the most incredible gift, as I enter into fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

Why do I wear a crucifix more than I wear a cross?

Simple – I desperately need to remember He died for me… and as I share in His death, so too I share in His new life.

That He has had mercy on us,,,, despite the cross.

 2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which lay ahead of him, he endured the cross, disregarding the shame of it, and has taken his seat at the right of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2 (NJB)

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