Monthly Archives: August 2013

Sinning? Deal with it!

The First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Toronto

 1  Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2  Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? 3  Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4  For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.    Romans 6:1-4 (NLT)

We should concern ourselves with this revealed will of God, follow it, and be diligent about it because the Holy Spirit gives grace, power, and ability through the Word by which he has called us. We should not explore the abyss of the hidden foreknowledge of God, even as Christ answered the question, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” by saying, “Strive to enter by the narrow door” (Luke 13:23, 24). Luther puts it this way: “Follow the order in the Epistle to the Romans. Concern yourself first with Christ and his Gospel so that you learn to know your sins and his grace. Then take up the warfare against sin as Paul teaches from the first to the eighth chapter. Afterward, when in the eighth chapter you are tested under the cross and in tribulation, the ninth, tenth, and eleventh chapters will show you how comforting God’s foreknowledge is.”5[i]

When I sermon i write deals with sin, 90 percent of the time I am trying to help people see that God will help us overcome the devastation it causes; I teach that God will bring healing to their lives, and the lives around them that are wrecked by their sin, or the sins of others.   Let me revise that – make it 98 percent of my sermons deal with it this way.   That is after all, why Christ came, and for a Lutheran pastor – that is what we preach – Christ crucified, our hope to be found in the glorious presence of God.

So much so that we neglect the Biblical admonitions to be free of sin, to realize that Christ has overcome it, and we have something far better to do, to think, to say.

I think it is partially fear that stops us from talking about living as disciples, living in Christ, living lives set apart to the purpose of walking with God.  For us, its not the fear that noone will listen.  (We already know that only about 10% of what we say sinks in..)  Rather its a fear that we will somehow, accidently cause people to believe that they do something to be saved.  That does happen, simply because all of us like to think we are better than we are.  For us the usual temptation is to think that because we’ve go the right doctrine, because we are baptized and believe, we  are saved.  Even so, the balance of works caused by faith, as compared to works causing faith is a tough one to manage.

Yet, we have to, and Luther tried to give us a pretty simple way of handling sin in his commentary on Romans… that I find.. intriguing.

Let me put it into my own words…

1.  Let Christ deal with the sin…  look to Him, see His cross – see HIs love for you demonstrated as he takes the sin from you…

2,  Go to war with sin – realize how it steals your life, your hope, your ability to love.   The way we battle it is by confessing it and trusting In Christ’s cleansing.  As we war – we also go after those captured by sin, and take them back, for they were made by God to be His. Seeing people freed from sin is a powerful encouragement to all around.

3.  Realize that God has planned and empowered your life – freeing you to walk with Him, to work alongside the Holy Spirit as we love God with everything we are, and as we demonstrate that in our love and service to others.  A love that resembles Christ’s because we find ourselves compelled to sacrifice our lives.. to help people know God.

This is all seen in the great passage from last week’s epistle,

1  Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. 2  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. 3  When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! Hebrews 12:1-3 (MSG)  As you thank God for your being saved – remember that He has saved you for a purpose – to walk humbly and justly with God.  Find a spiritual coach (what we sometimes call a Father-confessor) to help you through these battles.  Don’t be afraid to pray for help – and indeed to ask others to pray for you as well.  FInd ways to become disciplined…

But realize we do this – not because we have to, but as a response to the gifts we’ve been given by God…

Cry out “Lord have mercy” and remember that freeing you from sin is a way He has…


5 Preface to Romans, EA, 63:135.

[i] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 621–622). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Churches that are full of sinners… can be a great blessing to you!

Devotional thought of the day….

 15  This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16  But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NLT)

What compassion you feel for them!… You would like to cry out to them that they are wasting their time… Why are they so blind, and why can’t they perceive what you—a miserable creature—have seen? Why don’t they go for the best? Pray and humble (original mortify)  yourself. Then you have the duty to wake them up, one by one, explaining to them—also one by one—that they, like you, can find a divine way, without leaving the place they occupy in society. 

Yes, I know, churches are full of hypocrites and sinners – spectacular and plain.  Some of the most obvious are those that are at the microphone – the pastors/priests, the worship directors, the singers, and those guys that make announcements.

Some people have used this as an excuse to not go to church – they don’t want to affiliate with a low life sinner like me.  And that is with only partial knowledge.  Only God knows exactly how sinful I can get… even I can’t calculate that.

It may sound odd — but the fact that you can recognize me, a pastor, as a sinner is a good thing.  Because if you combine that with the fact that God has promised that my sin won’t count against me, that what i’ve done, ans said and thought isn’t beyond forgiveness, that means  that your forgiveness is as assured.  Look at it this way, the greatest leader of God’s people in the Old Testament was David.  An adulterer, a murder, a politiician who used his office to be able to do all these sins- and as God worked in David’s life, David became a man know as a man after God’s own heart.   This was God’s work in him.   (side note – that we are such doesn’t justify our continuing to sin)

If God can work with that kind of material, God can work with you – and this is God’s desire.  It is what God wants.  If God can initaite  a relationship and wanted to reveal Himself to a murderous pharisee like Paul – He can do the same with you – and desires to do exactly that.

The same thing – if the guy in the pulpit, if the people surrounding you as you sit in the pew are sinners, and we all are, then this is the place where you belong.  For if God can call us saints, if He calls us, despite our scars His children.  Then you know He will accept you to, that He will adopt you as well.  That He will, through word and sacrament, bring healing to your brokenness, and peace to your soul.

A church full of sinners and hypocrites – that’s my kind of place.  Come and join us…please?

English: The Last Supper of Jesus Christ

English: The Last Supper of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 974-978). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Does anyone really know what time it is?

"Saint Francis embracing Christ on the Cr...

“Saint Francis embracing Christ on the Cross” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does anyone really know what time it is?

Luke 12:49-56

 

Jesus, Son, Deliverer

My friends, may you be very careful about the sort of lives you lead, living  like intelligent and not like senseless people.  May you make the best of the present time, for it is a wicked age. 17  This is why you must not be thoughtless but must recognize what is the will of the Lord. AMEN!    Adapted from Ephesians 5:15-17 (NJB)

Synchronize your watches

         

The men are gathered around their leader, excited, anxious, a bit nerve-wracked as they consider what it will take to come out of this alive, and more importantly, bring those that they have been sent to rescue out alive.

They have gone over the plan, time and time again. They have it memorized, the exact time each will be called on to do their part, right down to the second.   They know the signals, the potential obstacles, and as they once last time are briefed, the leader calls for them to synchronize their watches, it is 9:35 on my mark….mark!

Timing is very important.  Knowing what time it is, can be critical. (except during the sermon)

When Jesus is talking to the crowd about timing, about how they should know what time it is, they cannot quite comprehend the mission He is on, nor perhaps can they understand how it will change their lives.

It is time for something to happen, for God is in their midst.  Jesus the Messiah is talking to them – and all of the promises of His work in preparing them to be the people of God are coming true, right before their eyes.

But that action will call for a painful division, one that cuts right through their souls, right through their hearts.

Jesus has been teaching them, and we’ve been hearing Him teach them for 3 weeks, about His work… really, we’ve been hearing Him talk to us, calling us to realize it’s time.

The question today is like the title of an old Chicago song…”does anyone really know what time it is?”

and if we do, are we ready for what needs to take place, within us, within our world?

The High Cost of the Mission

As Christ has spoken to us through the gospel readings this week and the previous two weeks, He has asked us about our priorities, or perspective in life and yes, our loyalty.

It’s not that there is something wrong with wealth, or things, or family.  Each has its place; each has it’s time; each should be treasured as a gift from God. The challenge is when they become more important that our relationship with God.  Make no mistake, the cost of hearing God’s love and responding to it, trusting in Him, can divide us from anything.

It can mean we realize that money or careers are not our priority.
It can mean we realize that even relationships with family and friends don’t quite compare.

Luther found this out, when he realized God wanted him to be a priest, his father wanted to disown him.  Francis of Assisi’s dad locked him up in a storage area that was 3 feet tall and 5 feet long because he wanted to become a monk.  Some relatives may call us nuts or fanatics, we may struggle to explain to them why our relationship with God is our highest priority…there is division… at first.

We may even struggle with this cost… after all, worldy logic tells us that blood is thicker than water… though I don’t think they understood the power of this water when the word of God is applied with it.

The temptation is simple – to allow the Trinity to be overlooked.  To see God’s mission to take a back seat, to be blind to our time with family to be time invested in God’s mission. Whenever  we forget it is time to see God at work, we’ve allowed false God’s to slip in,

Back to the question for us, which means more to us? Is it our relationship with God, or how we define ourselves apart from Him?
If it is time to see God’s Kingdom come in its fullness among us, if we are going to find our lives set apart completely for God’s use, then that means that we will be divided from things, and potentially our relationships with others will change.

And we need to ask are we ready for this time?

If we answer ourselves honestly, to really see our loyalty and how we invest our time and effort being centered in our relationship with Christ, we are going to need help.  Lots of it!

Christ’s desire

         

But as is the case over and over, when we have to face the harsh reality and demands of our life of faith, we find the one in whom we have faith.  I love the way the New Living Translation puts the first two verses of the gospel.

I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning! 50  I have a terrible baptism of suffering ahead of me, and I am under a heavy burden until it is accomplished.

 

The two verses are a parallelism – they are saying the same thing. What will set the world on fire – what will devour us, is the very baptism of suffering that Jesus would endure.  For us, that He endured.  Next year – on good Friday, you will hear Jesus proclaim “It is finished” (well you can read it before then too!) It is the same root word as accomplished.  For as He dies, everything in the universe changes – the world is consumed there on the cross – along with all of us, and our sin.

But I want you specifically to see the desire of Jesus – He wants to get on to this, He is under a heavy burden, waiting for His crucifixion!  Not because of the nature of the suffering, but because of what it brings – our deliverance, our salvation, our being united to Him, our being freed from burdens of sin, anxiety over death, from the oppression of Satan.

All of that will be consumed at the cross. All of that was consumed at the cross…

Being on fire for Christ, as some talk about it, is about His suffering, His death, consuming our sin, our idolatry.  It’s about responding to Christ’s enduring the cross because of the incredible joy that God, Father, Son and Spirit would have, with our life in Christ secure.

Look at the cover of the bulletin – that is what the author of Hebrews, tells us, in the chapter after our epistle reading….

What all of those people of faith looked forward to.. it is time for… time to..

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)

 

That’s the fire that changes everything – this baptism of suffering which Christ endures.  It causes a fire of love, of faith, something which consumes our hearts and minds, something that transforms them, purifying us, assuring us of God’s love in a way that is not illogical – but greater than any logic we can understand…

it’s like the blessing which I started the sermon with…

May you make the best of the present time, for it is a wicked age. 17  This is why you must not be thoughtless but must recognize what is the will of the Lord. AMEN!

The will of God, His greatest desire… to feast with you, to pour out His love upon you, to help you realize you are never alone, but that He would cleanse of all our idolatry, that He would divide us from the world in a sense, but give us back that same world and many of those relationships as they are cured of their brokenness, that they are healed of the sin which so ravaged them.

Because of His love for us…

His burden is over now… the wish that the fire were already burning is no longer needed – this fire, this desire to see the world saved – it is kindling in us, and as we come to realize how great the Father’s love for us is…. It will burn brighter and brighter, as we desire that all the people we know join us…all the people we meet, for as they join us at this altar, we know that they will join us before His throne…..

So yes – may you daily recognize what is the will of the Lord…

That because of the cross, because of Christ’s love, we would dwell now and forever in His peace, the peace that passes all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN?

The Cost of being a Christian….Martyrdom

Today’s Devotional/discussion thought:

 Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night. 11  And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.   Revelation 12:10-11 (NLT)

     I will grant that you behave properly… But, allow me to speak sincerely. You must admit that you are doing things in such a leisurely way that, apart from not being entirely happy, you remain very far from holiness. That is why I ask: Do you really behave properly? Could it be that you have a mistaken idea of what is proper?  (1)

This morning, my sermon is about being a disciple, about being united not just in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, but to be united to His desire that drove him to the cross.

That’s something I think we overlook a little – being united to the cross includes being united to His heart, His soul, His will.  Therefore to the Father’s will as well.

To know and to desire that no one should perish, but that all would come to eternal life.  To desire this so much, that we are willing to give up our lives to see it occur.   Whether that means martyrdom, as is becoming a daily event again in Egypt, and has been the case in so many other places, or whether it means putting to death our normal desires and wants – to see His accomplished.  Will we give up an afternoon of rest to be there for a friend, will we drive a few hours to hold the hand of someone who needs it?  Will we forsake our treasures, our bank accounts, even our families, when God chooses and anoints us to be the one who reveals God’s love to others?  We are called to love others, as Christ loved us…

You see – martyrdom isn’t just physically dying for our faith.  The word means to testify, a testimony of one’s life – what we are willing to die rather than recant.   It means putting others needs first – sacrificing our lives for theirs.

It’s not about our death – it’s about that to which we testify, that to which we witness with our very lives..

I think we, in our comfort, in our lack of external physical threat – forget that we too are called to be martyrs.. to give our life, as the One we are united to, gave His…for us.

A heavy call indeed… yet one we need to respond to…and only can…as we know the love of Christ.

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 848-852). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Division Between Sacred and Secular? No…that is impossible!

Soufrière Catholic Church

Soufrière Catholic Church (Photo credit: waywuwei)

22  Now all this happened in order to make come true what the Lord had said through the prophet, 23  “A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel” (which means, “God is with us”). Matthew 1:22-23 (TEV) 

 20  . ..And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.Matthew 28:20 (ESV)

 1  So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2  Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfectRomans 12:1-2 (TEV)

“In many Catholic parishes of the twenty-first century there is little sense of sacred space. The reverent silence that used to prevail in Catholic churches is rarely encountered, even in churches that have an ample narthex where the gathering congregation can greet one another before entering the church proper. Yet if the church proper is the Porta Coeli, the door of heaven and the portal of the Kingdom, then surely one ought to act in that space somewhat differently than one acts at the local mall or supermarket. (1)

I have, in the last few months as I have digested Weigel’s book on the century long changes in the Roman Catholic Church, found many things that are well stated, many things that are Biblical, many things I wish my own church would implement in attitude.  But no church denomination is perfect, and no plan of man for its reform is without error,  And I think I’ve found one, one that is sadly reflected in my own church as well.

It’s this idea that there is a distinction between that which is sacred and that which is secular, or to use the philosophical categories – sacred and the profane.

Like many people, Weigel sees the church facility as a transition place, a place where we go from the unreligious, unrighteousness of our world into a transition zone – we are coming close to God, and therefore our mind, our attitudes, our bodies must change.  His line about acting differently in that space, more reverential. more sanctified, more holy, is a great point – and yes – I would love for my own church to have a time of meditative silence, to think about how much we need to remember we dwell in God’s presence.  It would be beneficial, it would be nice.

But the reasoning is flawed.  It’s not about what we do that prepares us for the blessings of sharing in Word in sacrament.

It is even more flawed because it teaches us that our lives are somewhat split.  We behave one way in church, when we are in the presence of God, and one way when we are at work, or home, or a ball game.   It’s as if we say – hey we aren’t in God’s presence anymore, we can now behave like the rest of the world.  That was “His time” and now – the rest of the week is “ours”   It doesn’t work that way – and that we allow people to think that way is not a beneficial thing.

God doesn’t want that 60-75 minutes a week.  ( but the more we realize how it blesses us, we should! ) He wants to share every moment with us, that is why He is called Immanuel ( Immanent/Immediate God), that is what He has promised us.  That is the gift of our baptism, as the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us.   Yes the time where blessings are poured out are awesome, but so can be the times in the night, when we need His comfort, and realize He is there. The blessings of having Him bring us peace, in the midst of trauma or adversity.  Even the restoration, when we realize the depth of our sin, or how we have created an idol that we put in His place… and cry out for forgiveness and restoration.

Christianity is not about our practices, it is about our living with God.   It is about the fact that there is no secular space for us, there is no profane time, because He has invaded it, cleansed it, set it apart for our time with Him.

The church doors being a division between such?  May we never think that way… may we never teach it that way… may we live each day, each moment, whereever we are, in His peace, in His mercy, in His glory…. in HIs love.

AMEN

 

(1)   Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 157). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

Is your life of faith a struggle? Yes? Great!!!!!!

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day…..

WARNING –  THIS BLOG WILL BE SOMEWHAT BRUTALLY HONEST AND CAUSTIC

12  I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. 13  Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. 14  I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. 15  So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! 16  Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.   Philippians 3:12-16 (MSG)

  Another paradox of the spiritual way: the soul which has less need to reform its behaviour struggles harder to do so, and does not stop until it has succeeded. And the contrary is also true. (1)

Back in the 1980’s, there was a saying, “life’s a bitch, and then you die….”   There are days I think we said things like that.. and were a bunch of whiney little brats.  There are other days, where looking at the pains of life, whether physical or emotional or spiritual, and the saying is dead on accurate.

Life isn’t always easy.   The life of faith, living each day trusting in God’s promises, isn’t easier.  If anything, it takes more courage, more strength of character, more trust, not blind trust, but committed trust to promises that can only be known within our heart and soul.  You see, our mind will tell us, over and over again, that such trust is based in nothing, that there is no tangible evidence for it.   People will mock you for it, and there will be days so trying of our faith, that we won’t know which way to turn.

And yet, a life lived in faith is more determined to prevail.  We struggle harder, we search harder, we do not stop or give up.  Even when we are crushed, beaten, depressed, wiped out, when nothing makes sense.  When we battle against sin, our sin, “their” sin, the damage caused by centuries and millennia of people just like us.   Somehow, no not somehow, because of the trust God has given us, because He has revealed Himself to us, we endure.  We realize that there is something more that what we struggle with, that there is more strength that we have been given, that every challenge is not so much a challenge to overcome, but a challenge to trust.

And so we do.

A friend’s dad was often mocked as a proponent of positive thinking.  He wasn’t the kind of pastor who proclaimed that if we believe we’ll be rich, we will be, not the name it claim it type of positive thinking.  But instead the kind of positive thinking shown in Paul’s epistle above – that we can strive, that we can keep going, that in the toughest times, God’s presence brings us toughness.  That the scars that we carry, are used by God to cause in us growth, such growth that is remarkable.  Not because we are tougher, but because we are more aware of His presence in our life.  You see, we have no option but Jesus, we have no comfort but His presence.

And yes we struggle – hard.  Even as Paul notes that Christ has already reached out, saved and secured us… we still have to struggle with what that means.  Even as life is painful.  Even as we see people struggle financially, losing jobs, not having enough money to pay bills.  Even as we see others deal with family crises.  Even as we see people deal with heart disease or cancer, with memory issues or just getting old.  As we see people struggle with the fact that they are in bondage to sin… or they try to ignore that fact, because of the grip that sin has on them.  And so we wait and pray, and pray, and attempt here and there to help them realize their sin, that they may realize the blessing of God’s mercy.

As St. Josemarie says – the more we know these things – the more we mature in our faith and yes, in our battle against sin, the harder it comes….

Greater as well though grows the strength and desire to push on, to lay ahold of these truths, to trust in the Lord who has grasped us.   Our effort redoubles, our desire begins to conform to His.

For our trust in Him grows… each and every time we see His hand at work.

We don’t find life easier, we don’t find it simpler… but we don’t need to… for we know He will bring us through all things…

Of that we can be positive.  Our positive thinking has nothing to do with us… and everything to do with Him.

So is life a struggle?  Is trusting in Jesus challenging?  That’s okay… the struggle is worth far more… than the lack of struggling could be…

Oh and btw  – the “die” in the phrase that started this blog?  Have you considered what comes after our death?  Exactly what is promised to us when we died spiritually in our baptism into Christ.  The difference is we shall see Him face to face!

Stained glass window of the sacred Heart of Je...

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 858-860). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How and Why do we confront sin?

Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day: 

It is widely reported that there is sexual immorality among you, immorality of a kind that is not found even among gentiles: that one of you is living with his stepmother.  2  And you so filled with your own self-importance! It would have been better if you had been grieving bitterly, so that the man who has done this thing were turned out of the community. 3  For my part, however distant I am physically, I am present in spirit and have already condemned the man 4  who behaved in this way, just as though I were present in person.  When you have gathered together in the name of our Lord Jesus, with the presence of my spirit, and in the power of our Lord Jesus, 5  hand such a man over to Satan, to be destroyed as far as natural life is concerned, so that on the Day of the Lord his spirit may be saved. 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (NJB) 

 5  If anyone did cause distress, he caused it not to me, but—not to exaggerate—in some degree to all of you. 6  The punishment already imposed by the majority was quite enough for such a person; 7  and now by contrast you should forgive and encourage him all the more, or he may be overwhelmed by the extent of his distress. 8  That is why I urge you to give your love towards him definite expression. 9  This was in fact my reason for writing, to test your quality and whether you are completely obedient. 10  But if you forgive anybody, then I too forgive that person; and whatever I have forgiven, if there is anything I have forgiven, I have done it for your sake in Christ’s presence, 11  to avoid being outwitted by Satan, whose scheming we know only too well.  2 Corinthians 2:5-11 (NJB)

This morning as I looked at facebook, I was a bit in shock at the response of some people to the election of the new leader of another denomination that shares the name Lutheran with my own.  We are, in many ways radically different, but the mocking and deriding of their decision was sickening and to be blunt, sinful.   Confronting sin, whether just perceived or actual, never justifies sinning in the confrontation of it.   What is worse, Luther’s rants were used to justify their own mocking and ranting.  Luther’s large catechism was also quoted, talking about the confrontation of sin.   Here is the passage used to justify mocking and berating others:

All this has been said regarding secret sins. But where the sin is quite public so that the judge and everybody know it you can without any sin avoid him and let him go, because he has brought himself into disgrace, and you may also publicly testify concerning him. For when a matter is public in the light of day, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying; as, when we now reprove the Pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. For where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public, that every one may learn to guard against it.-  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

But this brings to mind – what is the reason we confront and challenge sin, or in this case – practices or others who are in Christ that we know/feel/believe are not in line with scripture?  We may truly believe they are in sin, and we may be right.  If so, the reading from 1st Corinthians above tells us actions we can and should take- but it also informs us of the reason – to save their soul.  If we understand Luther’s Large Catechism, that is the sense there as well, and warning others of the danger they face in following that direction.  But the purpose is never to mock sinners, the purpose is never to taunt or increase the division that may exist.   It should never be done with joy, but rather with sorrow and with great pain.   Love will never rejoice over sin – either in approving it, or in calling for repentance.  Instead it desires to see the damage of sin broken, the bonds that it has shattered.  It always looks for ways to embrace the cross – for the joy that is awaited when reconciliation occurs.  That has to be our goal.  Anything else… well it is our own sin which should drive us to that very same altar of grace.

The reason to confront sin determines how it is to be done, whether in accord for Matthew 18 privately, or in the case of “Public sin”  The law must be applied with the intent that when repentance is granted – the love and comfort of grace is poured out without hesitation, without thought.  Every sinner, including those who have the task of confronting sin themselves, need to be at the altar, at the foot of the cross.  That is where it is supposed to occur. (Paul isn’t kidding about that in First Corinthians, its not just a expression)  The same goes when we challenge each others practices, as we discuss.  DIvision caused by sin is a grievous thing – not something that should gain us kudos and “likes” as we mock them publicly, as if we were perfect in our thoughts words and practices.

The goal is unity in Christ, unity found in His mercy, in His grace, in His forgiveness and love.  It is to call all sinners to receive repentance and faith and to find joy in our relationship with God.

We cry, Lord have mercy… but we

Dr. Martin Luther's Church Door - Wittenburg, ...

Dr. Martin Luther’s Church Door – Wittenburg, Germany ’93 (Photo credit: Mikey G Ottawa)

need to remember we all need it!

Understanding Christ in the Old Testament

Old testament window

Old testament window (Photo credit: Henry McLin)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day

 16  “Therefore, tell the exiles, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Although I have scattered you in the countries of the world, I will be a sanctuary to you during your time in exile. 17  I, the Sovereign LORD, will gather you back from the nations where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel once again.’ 18  “When the people return to their homeland, they will remove every trace of their vile images and detestable idols. 19  And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, 20  so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God.  Ezekiel 11:16-20 (NLT)

WHILE our Saviour’s Redemption is applied to us in as many different ways as there are souls to be saved, still love is the one universal channel of redemption, without which it can never be applied. And so the gates of this earthly paradise were kept by the cherubim with the flaming sword, that we might learn how there is no entrance into the Heavenly Paradise save to him who is transfixed by the sword of Love. Therefore it is that the Dear Lord Who bought us with His Blood so greatly desires that we love Him in order to our eternal salvation; and that we attain that eternal salvation so as to love Him eternally; His Love effecting our salvation, that salvation His Love. “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled.1[i]

 

I recently took a class that was supposed to discuss teaching pastors how to preach Christ from the Old Testament.  I struggled with the class, and eventually dropped out of it because of the underlying perception that Christ could be seen in the Old Testament without the lens of God’s love.  The authors of the text book had all academic methods to find analogy and typology and all sorts of literary devices to inject an understanding of Christ.

Personally, I didn’t think it was that hard, I didn’t think finding Christ in the Old Testament was an academic excercise, as much as it is one of trust, one of seeing the very promises of God and trusting them, for they will always lead us to Christ, for He is our way, our truth and our life.  So that which points us to the Father, points us through Christ.  You look for the relationship – as in the great passage from Ezekiel above – the removing of idols, the new heart, the new Spirit,  You look for this relationship this love that would exist between God and His children, a relationship described in essence by the word love.

It is as de Sales says – though one person may be brought to Christ through the work of a child, and another through the work of a priest, and another by passing by a church, hearing the words of a man being read – and that man came to know God’s mercy because of a brush with death – each comes to find God revealed to them, as God’s love shines brightly upon them.  But the one common way is that the love is revealed, the work of that love as Christ was nailed to the cross, bleeding and broken, to heal that in us which is bleeding and broken because of sin.

But what we often don’t realize, or perhaps meditate upon enough is that this is the greatest desire of God, to see His love revealed to us and thereby transform us.  I’ve mentioned it before – this incredible desire of Jesus the Christ to embrace the cross – that His love would be revealed to us, and that His love would indeed save and transform us.  It is mind-boggling to look upon, it is mind boggling to realize, it leaves us quiet and in awe….

And this desire of God is all over the Old Testament.  It is on every page – for even as Luther was reported to note, Christ is found on every page of the Old Testament.   More importantly is what He does to us as we encounter Him.  Encountering Him in the scriptures, encountering Him in our church family gatherings as we worship Him in His presence, and as we meet Him in prayer, encountering Him in the sacraments of Baptism and Absolution and of course in the community celebration of the Lord’s Supper, All of this – seen in the Old Testament relationship of God’s people, all of this seen more clearly as Christ walked among us, all of this more seen as we gather as God’s people,

In the Old Testament, the people of God are His people because of Christ. In the time since.. the same is true.  Where God’s love is, where the people of God are, there is Christ…even as He has promised.

Let us today find our rest as He and His love are revealed to us!  AMEN

 


1 Luke 12:49.

[i] Francis de Sales. (1888). Of the Love of God. (H. L. S. Lear, Tran.) (pp. 55–56). London: Rivingtons.

The Perspective Death Brings….

Woodcut by Hans Brosamer of the Baptism of Chr...

Woodcut by Hans Brosamer of the Baptism of Christ in the 1550 Frankfurt edition of the Small Catechism of Martin Luther (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day

51  But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52  It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53  For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. 54  Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55  O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56  For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57  But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 (NLT) 

For if Christ by the touch of his most innocent flesh has hallowed all waters, yes, even all creation, through baptism, how much more has he by the same touch of his most innocent flesh and blood sanctified every form of death, all suffering and loss, every curse and shame for the baptism of the Spirit, or the baptism of blood!22 Of this baptism of suffering he says in Luke 12 [:50], “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!” Here you see how he is constrained, how he pants and thirsts to sanctify sufferings and death and to make them things to be loved, for he saw how we stand in fear of sufferings, how we tremble and shrink from death. Therefore, as a godly pastor and faithful physician, he hastens to set limits to this our evil, and is impatient to die and by his touch to commend suffering and evil to us. [i]

I was doing my sermon study this morning, when up popper this deep quote from Luther.
Deep because it seem odd to commend suffering and death (the evil) to those God calls His own.  Indeed, it seems awkward, and perhaps a little evil in its own right.   How can death be a good thing?  How can an end to life as we know it be a blessed moment?  How can we deal with such times, as several of my friends who have passed in the last few years have, with anticipation and joy?

It is challenging, it requires faith, trusting in God’s promises for things that even those of us who have died cannot conceive of.  (Twenty years ago this week I flatlined and had to be shocked by defibrillators 5 times)

I love Luther’s take on this, as He looks at Jesus’ desire to embrace death, for what it means for you and me.  That Jesus was oppressed, constrained, anxious and focused to die, to embrace the suffering and death of the cross,.  Hebrews 12 tells us it was for the joy set before Him that He endured the cross, despising the shame.  It was for the joy set before Him!  What joy?  Not just the joy of freeing us from sin that had us caught in its deathly trap, robbing us of life and joy, but the joy of sharing in His resurrection, joy of sharing in the Life that He came to bring us.  To invite us to a dance, a wedding reception where we are the honored one, the very partner, the bride of Christ.

It is in our baptism that this is made so sure, even as we are bonded, united with Christ.

This is what makes a difference, this is what I’ve seen make a difference in what some would count as too many lives.

Yet they knew – they comprehended this incredible depth of God’s love – which turns the death of a believer, and even what they endure on the way… into the greatest of joys.

That’s perspective that we all need to gain, as we live our lives, as we complain about our trials, as we wonder if it is worth it all.

Look to the cross… look at how it doesn’t just take away the sting and fear of death, but it shatters that which would make death the end…. because of the Love of God, with whom those who trust Him will dwell…..

Be at peace… have no fear, no anxiety… God is with us…


22 Luther alludes here to the three kinds of baptism: by water, i.e., sacramentally administered; by fire, i.e., by the Spirit, apart from sacramental administration; and by blood, i.e., the shedding of blood in martyrdom. Cf. PE 1, 138, n. 1.

[i] Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 42: Devotional Writings I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 42, p. 142). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Cooperate to Graduate and other Ethical Dilemnas

Finally, brothers, let your minds be filled with everything that is true, everything that is honourable, everything that is upright and pure, everything that we love and admire—with whatever is good and praiseworthy. 
 Keep doing everything you learnt from me and were told by me and have heard or seen me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (NJB) 

 

With a school year fast approaching, one of the challenges for students will be dealing with the temptation to cooperate to graduate.  In certain classes, in order to get a high grade, there is the thought that they must deny their own beliefs, their own research, their own thoughts and give the answer the professors have been told to produce. ( Or so they think – that some professors have to toe the department chair’s or Dean’s position)

This kind of thought, this lack is thought to be one of academic independence, but in rather, a lack of room for ethical integrity.  Given enough of this, the student will bring this programmed attitude into workplace as well.  We reward those who work within the system, even if the cost is one of their betraying their ethics.  This also deviates into politics, and even into church politics.

We program people to a form of Machiavellianism- do what it takes to get rewarded, rather than do what is true and honorable and upright and pure.  No wonder morality is no longer a standard, but is bound to its situation, and needs and wants of the moment.  The good end that Machiavelli justified his unethical actions isn’t even considered anymore.

This again even occurs in the church, as I noted above.  Maybe the goal is to avoid confrontation, or to please people who are “important”, or rather than work through issues, we pretend that the morality or the need for confession and absolution isn’t really needed.

Can we change this?  How?

The only way is to look to the truth!  And scripture defines truth, quite simply – not as something, some someone.  It’s a relationship, nor a matter of cloning the right answers, but giving people the time and instruction to give them those answers.  It’s about helping them through the struggles, about guiding…and loving.

Its found in walking with Jesus, in looking to Him, in treasuring not just what He’s taught us, but what He has promised to do to and through us.  The grace that forgives us, the love that empowers us, the Spirit that guides us.  He is our priority, not the grades, not the diploma, not the promotions, or a church which pleases our denomination or the families that have always been in power, or the newcomer who wants to know if something really is sin,

Our priority is Christ, their priority needs to be Christ.

Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That is what shall make a difference in their lives.  That is what makes a difference in ours.

 

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