Monthly Archives: July 2015

A Second Look at How the Church Should Deal With Sinners and Even Evil.

Featured imageDevotional/Discussion thought of the day

24 Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. 25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. 26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.
27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?
28 “ ‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.
“ ‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.
29 “ ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn. ”(Mt 13:24–30) NLT

792    Duc in altum.—“Put out into the deep.” Cast aside the pessimism that makes a coward of you. Et laxate retia vestra in capturam—“And lower your nets for a catch.” Don’t you see that, as Peter said, In nomine tuo, laxabo rete—“At your word I will lower the net,” you can say, “Jesus, in your name I will seek souls!”  (1)

I’ve often read the parable above as being about the end of times.  It is an eschatological treasure after all, and challenges those with complicated end times theories.

But this parable has a heavy focus on ministry as well, about how we are to deal with evil and that which doesn’t seem to be correct or dare I say kosher.  To hear this lesson is challenging, because it goes against conventional wisdom, It goes against leadership rules and all those ideas about dealing with alligators in the church.  These people may be your enemies, your adversaries, even your pains in the neck.  But they have been given to you.

To hear Jesus’ words here takes a level of courage, even a level of courage that could be taken for complacency. It actually takes more work, more pastoral concern, more leadership, more devotion and obedience.

Leave them in the field you care for, letting God determine whether they are weeds or wheat at the end of time..

Continue to share with them both their absolute need for Christ, and His mercy that overwhelms that need.

If they walk away, so be it, but don’t push them out of vineyard.  That isn’t your call.  It isn’t within your pay grade to uproot them and burn them in the furnace, or at the stake. Even in times of church discipline, keep them in sight!  Minister to them, plead with them to be reconciled to God. (1 Cor 5 – note it doesn’t say reconcile themselves to God  – He still does the work)

This is going to take courage, and obedience.  it is going to require hearing the Master’s voice, and trusting that He knows what He is doing, what He has commissioned.  It may take sacrifice, and yes, more than a little pain  It will take creativity and ingenuity as you minister to them,  But since when is ministry about the ease of our jobs?

Even as you call them to repentance, even as you shepherd them in view of the others growing in the fields that will be harvested, you need to love them. This is exactly what Peter is talking about, as he mentions the Lord’s long-suffering nature, not willing that any should perish….

So hear His voice… listen to His words… care for those that you think may be weeds..Seek the salvation of the souls He brings into your sight… and love them. ..

God might surprise you both!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1828-1831). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do We Still Beg Jesus To Go Away? Why?

Featured imageDevotional/ Discussion  thought of the day

28 When Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gadarenes,* two men who were possessed by demons met him. They lived in a cemetery and were so violent that no one could go through that area. 29 They began screaming at him, “Why are you interfering with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us befoe God’s appointed time?” 30 There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding in the distance. 31 So the demons begged, “If you cast us out, send us into that herd of pigs.” 32 “All right, go!” Jesus commanded them. So the demons came out of the men and entered the pigs, and the whole herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.
33 The herdsmen fled to the nearby town, telling everyone what happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the entire town came out to meet Jesus, but they begged him to go away and leave them alone.  New Living Translation (Mt 8:28–34).

But when theological discussion ceases to be a striving for truth and becomes, instead, a struggle for power in the Church, then the nature of theology has been radically falsified; it introduces party politics into the Church and becomes the medium of party power; it divides the Church. Wherever theology generates theological parties and these parties become Church parties, it has become a false wisdom. It creates enmities and embitters people. I must admit that what shocks me most deeply in many letters and publications is the rank hatred of the Church and her members that speaks through them. The role of true wisdom and hence of the authentic teacher of theology in the Church is to create peace, not strife, to create goodness and inner openness, not embitterment.

As I’ve read verse 33 above, I have always wondered what was in the people’s minds.  They saw Jesus deal with the person in their village who was most in need, and he completely rescued and healed the man. Because of his actions, the villagers were safe.

And they drove Jesus away… they pleaded with Him to leave them, to leave them alone!

I wonder if the church today is more sophisticated than that, but to the same effect.  Within our theological discussions, the last thing we look for is the presence of Christ, or His desire, reconciliation, health and wholeness.  You can see it in the refusal to meet at the altar and start theological dialogues there, in His presence, together as His body.  You see it in the nature of forming political parties in a church, or in a denomination. (we won’t call it that, but we have planks and litmus tests, and budgets and political machines )

We relegate the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Redeemer, Reconciler to the back room, to some closet or chapel, while tempers flare, and sides square off, and everyone battles for power. We would rather talk about purity of doctrine and purging ourselves from anything false (like we could!) or faithfulness to our mission. (as if we are ready to go out on our own, with a bunch of web articles and expert consultants)

In the meantime, we are so busy arguing what often boils down to semantics, that we forget the Lord can deliver us from all that crap. We forget that this is work based in His will, in His desire.  We forget that we are led by the Holy Spirit, not some negotiated consensus.

That is how these reconciliation happens.  True reconciliation that isn’t based in compromise, but in Jesus,

May we stop running from the one who will rid us of our demons, bring healing to our souls, bind us together as one body as we celebrate being in His presence,

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 242). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Reforming and Revitalizing the Church, and the Soul

Reforming and Revitalizing the Church, and the Soul

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 perfect. Romans 12:2 (TEV)

Hence, true “reform” does not mean to take great pains to erect new facades (contrary to what certain ecclesiologies think). Real “reform” is to strive to let what is ours disappear as much as possible so what belongs to Christ may become more visible. It is a truth well known to the saints. Saints, in fact, reformed the Church in depth, not by working up plans for new structures, but by reforming themselves. What the Church needs in order to respond to the needs of man in every age is holiness, not management.[1]

760    Here is a thought that brings peace and that the Holy Spirit provides ready-made for those who seek the will of God: Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit—“The Lord rules me, and I shall want nothing.” What can upset a soul who sincerely repeats these words?

2 Good works follow such faith, renewal, and forgiveness. Whatever is still sinful or imperfect in these works will not be reckoned as sin or defect for the sake of the same Christ. The whole man, in respect both of his person and of his works, shall be accounted and shall be righteous and holy through the pure grace and mercy which have been poured out upon us so abundantly in Christ.

3 Accordingly we cannot boast of the great merit in our works if they are considered apart from God’s grace and mercy, but, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31). That is to say, all is well if we boast that we have a gracious God. To this we must add that if good works do not follow, our faith is false and not true.[2]

It is not a day that goes by that I don’t receive some offer from someone to teach my church how to come alive.  As well as some advice on what that looks life.  Some say you will see unprecedented growth, others say that you will become more like the church in the past, others say they guarantee the church will give more.  Some even suggest that the church will be more multi-cultural or multi-ethnic.  All tis two can be yours with a complete set of spiritual Ginsu knives (helpful for circumcising the heart of course) Heck, there are other that talk about bein the cause-driven church.  If your church promotes the right cause, if it is involved in feeding the hungry, helping people choose life,, if it is involved in missions, and everything will be perfect. There are even missions societies, and non-profit ministries all geared to helping you manage your  church.

Yet we know better than this, we know that individual renewal doesn’t come from some slick portfolio, or some manaed duplication of what worked somewhere else.  Even Pope Ratzinger noted that the plans of some in church leadership is needed, for such are nothing but facades. It doesn’t matter whether the façade is new, or old.
Renewal happens as we see the transformation that happens when we trust in God’s work renewing us.  It happenns as mercy flows over us, as the Spirit provides us with peace. As we descrease and Christ increases in us,  Paul says something similar when he says it is not I that lives, but Christ that lives in me. And as individuals in the church grow spiritually, as they are renewed, as they are conformed to the image of Christ, it is the church that is renewed as well.  We sacifice all that we are, and find out who we really and truly are.

It is as we hear the promises sin the gospel and in the proises made in the sacraments.  Promises we need to know because God’s law, shows us how broken we are, how in need we are of such healing.

Renewal comes from abiding in Christ, walking with God, knowing, simply put that He is with you always, even to the edge of the age.

[1] Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 241). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1769-1771). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edi

[2] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 315). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

What Do You Invest in?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the day

5 “The purpose of my covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace, and that is what I gave them. This required reverence from them, and they greatly revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 They passed on to the people the truth of the instructions they received from me. They did not lie or cheat; they walked with me, living good and righteous lives, and they turned many from lives of sin.
7 “The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.(Mal 2:5–7 NLT

758    The wholehearted acceptance of the will of God is the sure way of finding joy and peace: happiness in the cross. It’s then we realize that Christ’s yoke is sweet and that his burden is not heavy.  (1)

Yesterday I ha the blessing of baptizing a young man named Aiden.

And then I was able to give to 60 or more people Christ’s body and blood.  Somewhere in the middle I delivered a sermon,   This is what I live for in life when I am consistent with the Spirit given me in baptism some 50 years ago.

It’s what i do, it is, in many ways, what I’ve invested my life in, at least the investment that is worthwhile.

I have invested time in other things, some that were fun, some that were silly, some that caused suffering, my own or someone else’s. Are some of those things good?  Well, God promises that all will work for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

It is when we see God’s will when we see His presence, His mercy, and His love made manifest, those are the times of the greatest peace, the most incredible joy. Which is why giving and yes receiving the sacraments, or studying God’s revelation of love is so much a time of blessed peace. It is when we are praying with someone, asking for God to reveal Himself, to reveal His mercy, whether that person is 98 and on their death bed, or 2 years old and crying because she doesn’t want to leave church, or with a bunch of friends at lunch that we see this.

You see the work of a pastor/priest is different, but no different in that God is working through us all, reconciling the world to Himself.  That is His desire, that none should perish, but that all are transformed into this life.

He is here, He is with us, He brings us life and peace… this is what we all are to pass on,  That is the greatest investment we can make… giving someone else the peace of God, found in life united to Christ.

And may we rejoice as we turn many from their sin because of this gospel message, lived out in Christ.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1766-1767). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Being Made Complete Experiencing His Love – A Sermon on Ephesians 3:11-42

Being Made Complete
Experiencing His Love
Ephesians 3:11-42

† In Jesus Name †

 © Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus is one we can have for each other.  “I pray that from God’s glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong!

The Parable of the Old Spike  ©

It was found on a pile with a ton of others.  Pitted, rusted, considered by most to be worthless trash.

And one day a man named Jim found it.  As he stared at this piece of useless steel, he saw something in it, and carefully and lovingly gave it a new identity.  What was of no value, not only was given a new identity but was transformed into a piece of art.  A piece of art that testified to the skill and craftsmanship of the one who found it, purchased it, and transformed it.

Here is what the rusty pitted railroad spike now looks like, after Jim transformed it.

These railroad spike knives provide for us a picture of the work of God in our lives, a work that doesn’t just change how we appear on the outside.  God’s work does all I prayed for, as I asked God to bless you a moment ago. For we are transformed much like the spike is…..

Inner strength

Several times in this passage, the concept of strength is mentioned.  The words that lay under the surface mean everything from the ability to fortitude, from the capability to internal strength that will result in completing the task, the trial. It is physical and mental, psychological. It is to have the will and determination, the patience and the stubborn nature that will see you overcome the power of temptation, the power sin and Satan, and even the fear of death. ©

If we look at our lives, who can claim to be that strong?  ©

Which of us looked at temptation in the eye this week, and didn’t sin at all?

Which one of us loved every neighbor as ourselves?

©Did anyone of us honor God in every single thing we did?  What about in every word we said or typed?  Did we gossip about others?  Did we

What about in every word we thought?

Did we reach out, stretch ourselves beyond our own comfort to help those in need?

We don’t naturally have that strength.

And who has enough inner strength to out wait death…

Which of us enjoys going to the doctors, enjoys the tests and prods and pokes and blood draws, and doesn’t for a moment worry about the results?

Paul understood this well, as he wrote  ©

54  So when this takes place, and the mortal has been changed into the immortal, then the scripture will come true: “Death is destroyed; victory is complete!” 55  “Where, Death, is your victory? Where, Death, is your power to hurt?” 56  Death gets its power to hurt from sin, and sin gets its power from the Law. 1 Corinthians 15:54-56 (TEV)

©  I need you to note something Paul said “then the scriptures will come true.”  I’ve heard this passage misused a time or two to say that we shouldn’t grieve, we shouldn’t struggle, and that is wrong.

But there will be a day, when the power of sin is so shattered, that death will no longer have the power to hurt us.

A day we need to have the strength, the ability to wait for, trusting in the promises of God that it will come.

We need that strength, an inner strength that is based on hope…

The Way God Empowers us.

One of the commentators I read this week, commented about this passage in a way that brought the railroad spike to mind.  ©

As fire penetrates iron, and seems to change it into itself, so does God penetrate the soul and fill her with himself; and though she never loses her own being, yet she becomes so penetrated and absorbed by that immense ocean of the divine substance, that she remains, as it were, annihilated, and as if she ceased to exist. The Apostle prayed for this happy lot for his disciples when he said: That you may be filled unto all the fulness of God.  (de Ligouri)

©   Or to put it into a picture, look at this picture…

The spike is you, the red glow is the glory of God, dwelling within you, empowering you, transforming you. Think of the pictures in this incredible passage

©  He will empower you with inner strength thorgh His Spirit

©  Christ will make His home in your hearts

©  Your roots will grow deep into God’s love… there is the sourceof your strength!

All of this pictures the presence of God invading your life, becoming part of you, even as the energy and heat of the blacksmith’s fire consumes the spike and transforms it into a strong, sharp knife…

Even more the experience that Paul describes,

©  18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.

When God unites us to Jesus in Baptism, when we take and consume the bread and the wine, this picture of the knife, glowing because of the power it is immersed in is perfect.  Where the metal and the fire have so united that you can’t tell which is absorbing and consuming the other.

This love of His is that in which we live, and even thogh we may never be able to completely put into words how incredible this love is, we will understand it far more deeply than we understand anything else.

This is the empowering that Paul tells us occurs as the Holy Spirit works within us.

It is what Aiden will grow up knowing, as he is reminded of it by Jason and Jennifer, by Tammie and Mark, and by Wanda and Kay and the rest of us.

God is not just working in us, He has made us His home in us,

This is how we are made complete.  Not by any other way but experiencing the incredible, unmeasurable love of God in Christ Jesus.  A love which transforms us as we experience it, a love that becomes as much us, as well…. Us.

That gloriously transforms us, as the Holy Spirit transforms us into image of Jesus.

This is how we have “inner strength” that will enable us to oversome sin and temptation, the power of Satan and even death. He dwells in us, and nothing can separate us from His love, from His glory, from Him.

This is His work, His promise to us, His children, the people among whom He makes His home,

Once again, hear the prayer of Paul the apostle, that he prayed for the people of God, that we can pray for each other

©    “I pray that from God’s glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong!”


?? Is the Church Asking the Right Quesion as It Tries to Share its Hope??

Featured imageDiscussion/Devotional Thought  of the Day

10  God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 (TEV)

15  But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 1 Peter 3:15 (TEV)

“If you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven?”  “why?  (1)

“The only preparation which multitudes seem to make for heaven is for its judgment bar,” (2)

Nearly 30 years ago, my pastor and I were trained in what was known as Evangelism Explosion. The goal of the ministry was to prepare people with a scripted message that they could share the Christian faith. Tens of thousands of pastors and people were trained in the method.  The scripts basic concept (as with most evangelism methods ) was to give peopel the assurance of eternal life in heaven, rather than eternal damnation/annihilation/punishment and the wrath of God.

In fact, last week someone asked those very questions to me via social media.

And this blog has been simmering ever since.  The key was the quote from my devotions this morning, which brought it home.  is our evangelistic work as believers primarily focused on making sure people get into heaven? Or is it about giving them the life, the peace, and the knowledge of God’s presence in this life, that is our hope for eternity?

If it is evangelism to prevent them from being sent to hell, there is strong motivation that would cause us to share God’s love with those we care for, with those we love. But that mission accomplished, is there the tight communion that you should see, is there the shared life, is there a willingness to stay together through thick and thin.  To be blunt, does create a life that struggles with sin, and strives to love others as Christ did?

If our questions and manuscripts lead people only to get past the St Peter and those who guard the gates of heaven, what are we really doing?  is conversion something that happens in a twinkling of an eye?  You were going to hell, woops now you are going to heaven?

Or is our hope, our expectation based on a promise that we have a hint, a glimpse of in this life, and that glimpse changes everything?  A promise that is repeated time and time in the scriptures.You will be my people, and I will be your God.”

isn’t that where our hope lies? In the fact that who weren’t once a people, are now a people?  Isn’t our hope seen in the promise that God will transform us and cause us to walk in ways that are incredible and blessed. (even though they might include suffering)

The evangelism explosion questions have their place, much of the material I still use to this day. Even so, the direction of our evangelism must be more than selling eternal fire insurance.  What our hope is based on is one promise, that is as true now as it will be then.  That gives us hope for this world, when it seems like it is falling apart, and yes  for eternity.

The hope that is found when we know that the Lord is with us, and will never abandon us.

May the questions you ask lead people to realize this.

(1)  paraphrase of the two questions from Evangelism Explosion used in many evangelism training seminars

(2)  Celtic Daily Prayer, Harper 1 Publcishing – the devotion for this day

The Only Thing That Matters in the End…. His Love NEVER fails

Devotional Thought of the Day

8  Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 1 Corinthians 13:8 (NLT)

17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.

Almost all men are infected with the disease of wanting to acquire useless knowledge, but one thing alone is sufficient: the knowledge of the love of Christ.57[i]

You are standing at the shoreline at the ocean.  The waves occasionally wash over your feet, the salt water foaming around them.  But you can’t stand in one place all too long.  For the water and sand, and your own weight work against you standing in place. The sand shifts, your heels and toes sink in, and soon you find yourself off balance.

There is an old hymn about that, On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand, and a contemporary version of it called Cornerstone.

Despite the warning in 1 Corinthians 8, I wonder if the church treasures knowledge above love at times.  Do we treasure the theologians and their systems that amaze us than the simplicity of hearing the words of Scripture testifying to God’s unending love?   Do we treasure those that reveal the deep theological knowledge of theologians like Augustine and Chemnitz, or those who reveal the secrets of the end times, or the errors of all other theologies and the superiority of their own?

When we minimize our faith to knowledge, when that is what we treasure, then we have to be careful as the sands shift under our feet.  For the Kingdom of God is beyond any man’s ability to understand, never mind explain. We are all struggling, and we can have the right knowledge, and do all the right things, and still be worthless, spending our days trying to find the next moment of illumination, the next winning argument, the next solid theological fact that makes us that much more…


Not because the fact is wrong, but because we put our roots, our trust, into the wrong thing.

We need something permanent, more stable; that doesn’t swing like a pendulum, or ebb and flow like the tide that erodes where we stand.

We need our roots to go deep into the love of God.  For it never fails.  It is our constant, our basis.

For when we talk of love not failing, we aren’t talking about a grade for a semester,  We are talking about failing as in fading, as in weakening, as in failing to support and be stable.  It doesn’t fail like the sand underneath our feet at the beach.  It is far greater in every dimension than we can ever understand.

But it is something we experience, that we can know with our hearts far more than our tongues can explain. It is the constant in our life, as the God who is defined as love takes up resident within us. Never will His love abandon or forsake us.  Never will it weaken or fade, never will we be separated from it. His love will always support us and it can and will flow through us to others.

Love simply is..

Because God is love.. and that love is revealed to us daily…

May we remember that His love is where our roots take hold, our foundation, our basis of life and may remember that because it will never fail.

57 Quoted by A. Mitchell Hunter, The Teaching of Calvin: A Modern Interpretation, 2d ed. (London: James Clarke, 1950), p. 82. But Hunter adds that Calvin “did not burn his classics; nor did he cease to peruse them” (pp. 82–83). Hunter’s quotation is from Comm. Eph. 3:19 (C.O. 51:188).

[i] Gerrish, B. A. (2004). The old Protestantism and the new: essays on the Reformation heritage (p. 61). London; New York: T&T Clark.

Y’all Come Back Now, You Hear? A sermon on Ephesians 2 (manuscript)

Y’all Come Back Now, You Hear?

Ephesian 211-22

In Jesus Name

 May the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ assure you of the peace that is found as the world comes back, reconciled to Him!

Concordia Hillbillies

Another Pastor Parker Parable….but one that needs a bit of a set up…

They were gathered, at the end, around a pool that reminded you of a Roman Villa.

As the credits rolled past, the cast of the sitcom would, with a hospitality that seems somewhat unknown today, invite us to watch next week with the words,

Y’all come back now, you hear?

You might call this pastor Parker parable, “The Kingdom of God is like the Beverly Hillbillies!”

Another way to put it is that if we made a television show about our church, it could be called the Concordia Hillbillies!

We certainly are a diverse group of characters, and there is no one that would walk in our doors, that wouldn’t be welcome.

If you are unfamiliar with the show, here is the basic plot, a poor family of people from somewhere in the Appalachia strikes it rich with oil on their property.  They load up their truck and move to the Beverly Hills, the place of dreams and where rich people belong.

Of course, there are some things they had to get used to,  As the slide says, Ma, somethings just ain’t going to be the way they used to be!  Things like indoor plumbing, a pool in the backward instead of a creek and a pond, and the manners of the rich and infamous they would need o learn to deal with, and quickly.  It was a study of cultural anthropology, and conflict resolution between peoples of different cultures and backgrounds done with great humor.

As we hear the words of Paul to the church in Ephesus, we see similar cultural issues, and we see a community being formed, as the people become one.  There were things that the Gentiles and the Jews would need to learn, as they were brought together in Christ.

This is our goal for today. That we would begin to desire that all people would come and hear our plea, “be reconciled to God!” No matter their place of birth, their native language, their gender or economic status, that they would come, and that they would all come back to God, you hear?

Did We Worry About Fitting In?  Or Did we Look Down on the newbies

The first plea to be reconciled goes to those who are new to the community.  Those who were, and you have to here the “were” aliens.  They weren’t part of the community, they weren’t governed by the law of the covenant, they were considered outsiders.

Some of us have experienced that feeling once or twice in our lives.  We were born in a different place, some even on a different continent, like South America, or Asia.  Some have come from Africa or Europe  Some of us came from really strange places, like the lakes region of New Hampshire.  We may have had people mock us, and California natives tell us we weren’t welcome or we felt like we would never fit in.  Hear Paul’s words again, and see if the feeling sounds familiar,

  • 11 Don’t forget that you – used to be outsiders.
  • You were called “heathens” by the others
  • In those days you were living apart.
  • You were excluded from bein part of the community
  • You did not know the rules and benefits of bein a part
  • Therefore, you lived in this world without God and without hope”

For the Gentiles, it was just a matter of being held without the hope of fitting in,
I love Paul’s concern for these new believers that they will fit into the community of God.  But part of that is helping them understand that they aren’t unbelievers anymore.  These things were true – but they aren’t anymore.

It is as if he said, “Clampetts – you used to go to the bathroom out back, but Jethro, you don’t need to anymore.”  Paul says, “Gentiles – remember you were like that before, but now you have hope, now you are part of the covenant, now you are in the community, no longer separated, no longer aliens!”  They were now saints.. and that means something.

But they weren’t the only one’s who needed to learn!

Does anyone remember the name of Miss Hathaway’s boss?  You know the rich banker who used to try and acquire the Clampett’s money?  Was it Clydesdale?

Whatever his name, I think they modeled him after the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. He had trouble, serious trouble, adjusting to the fact that someone whom he didn’t think was worthy ended up with more blessings than he did.  The Jews had the same struggle.  Their pride in their circumcision and the other traditions they counted on caused them to lose contact with God’s vision.

It’s a problem we all struggle with at times, as our faith isn’t focused on Christ, but on something of us.  I love how this translation puts it, “even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts.

Do we let our religious lives get like that at times, where they affect our body, but not our souls?  Do we get to the point where we go through the motions and say the words, but don’t rejoice over the incredible mercy and love God shows us?  The point when our traditions, or our preferences become more important than others coming to know God’s love?

What will it take for the new folk and the old folk, for the Jew and the Gentile, for all the cultures, all languages, all life to be at home together?

What Makes it Home

It happens when the same way it did in the Clampett household.  It happens as we feast together.

It happens when we remember the life, death and resurrection of Christ includes us.   We come home as we are joined together with Christ’s death and resurrection.
That’s how we know when we are home… home together.  Hear Paul’s words again,

17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

to His home together

19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
We belong together, we have been made one people, one holy people as we are God’s family.  He is making His home out of us.  People from every background imaginable, people who’ve committed every sin and been forgiven, people who are broken, who’ve come to be healed.  God will work with people who’ve even come, like the apostle Paul did, to fight God,  He can heal those who come to persecute God’s people, and like Paul was filled with awe, God can reach them!  We can welcome, and even love them, and shown glimpses of the glory of God which we shall share in, together.

That is the power of God, seen as He makes us one….in Christ…

And y’all come back now, to His table for there will be a feast, celebrating His death and resurrection, the power of which is at work in us.


7/19 Sermon on Eph 2:11-22 Yall Come Back Now, Ya Hear? ( Audio/Video)

The sermon from Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos Ca.

The subtitle could be  The Kingdom of God is Like the Beverly Hillbillies

Will we stop them from coming… and knowing Jesus?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
36  As he saw the crowds, his heart was filled with pity for them because they were worried and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37  So he said to his disciples,The harvest is large, but there are few workers to gather it in. 38  Pray to the owner of the harvest that he will send out workers to gather in his harvest.” Matthew 9:36-38 (TEV)

28  Then the woman left her water jar, went back to the town, and said to the people there, 29  “Come and see the man who told me everything I have ever done. Could he be the Messiah?” 30  So they left the town and went to Jesus. 31  In the meantime the disciples were begging Jesus, “Teacher, have something to eat!” 32  But he answered, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” 33  So the disciples started asking among themselves, “Could somebody have brought him food?” 34  “My food,” Jesus said to them, “is to obey the will of the one who sent me and to finish the work he gave me to do. 35  You have a saying, ‘Four more months and then the harvest.’ But I tell you, take a good look at the fields; the crops are now ripe and ready to be harvested! 36  The one who reaps the harvest is being paid and gathers the crops for eternal life; so the one who plants and the one who reaps will be glad together. 37  For the saying is true, ‘Someone plants, someone else reaps.’ 38  I have sent you to reap a harvest in a field where you did not work; others worked there, and you profit from their work.” 39  Many of the Samaritans in that town believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40  So when the Samaritans came to him, they begged him to stay with them, and Jesus stayed there two days. 41  Many more believed because of his message, 42  and they told the woman, “We believe now, not because of what you said, but because we ourselves have heard him, and we know that he really is the Savior of the world.” John 4:28-42 (TEV)

54 Meanwhile they neither hear nor preach the Gospel about the free forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake, about the righteousness of faith, about true penitence, about works that have the command of God. But they spend their time either on philosophical discussions or on ceremonial traditions that obscure Christ.

800    The harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few. Rogate ergo!—“Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into his vineyard.” Prayer is the most effective means of winning other apostles.

I have to wonder what the disciples thought when people who were typically antagonistic towards Jewish peopel started streaming out fo the town towards Jesus. Were they frightened, were they on edge, considering their need to defend themselves? Were they concerned about Jesus reputation, what if the good people saw him hanging out with Samaritans? (Remember they had enough problems when Jesus hung out with Jewish Tax collectors and hookers!)

There is no doubt people are flocking to the United States.  We have people trying to legally enter and people trying to come across both borders.  There are people that come here on tourist visas and student visas and they expire. They are coming for hope, but like the people coming from the Samaritan Village, they may not understand what they hope they seek is found in Jesus.  They come for an opportunity, yet the opportunity they seek may not be the one they need.  Even so, they are coming here, looking for something.  They may even be looking to do harm, as Paul was, as he travelled to Damascus.

The problem is that they won’t find the hope they seek, just by coming to the USA.  As  nation we don’t have what they need. The opportunity, the hope they need is here.

We, the people who follow Jesus, have the hope they don’t know how to find.  What they need is the exact same thing we need, a relationship with God, with our creator.  A relationship where love and mercy overwhelmed guilt and shame and anger. A relationship so tight that nothing can get in its way.  A relationship that doesn’t depend on ethnicity, or gender, or economic status.

They are coming to find that relationship.

Our work, our calling to share with them the new of God’s love starts in prayer. It starts not with philosophical reasoning or with a worship service that impresses God or man. (whether traditional liturgical worship or freestyle or attractional concert.

It starts in knowing the very love of God that resulted in our being delivered from sin into His presence.  It starts in spending time in prayer and awe before God, and realizing how incredible the Lord we trust in is, how deep His love is.  As we spend time looking to Christ we become conformed to His image, an image that would die to see people share that hope that we have.

A pretty famous Christian has looked at the crowds heading toward America and pleaded with the public to urge our government to stop them from coming.  People responding to him have brought back the ideas of camps like Manzanar, about rounding up these people and basically imprisoning them.  Many have echoed their sentiments.  Those sentiments, those ideas are wrong.  I would even say they are sinful, as we put up a protective barrier that would keep them from hearing of God’s love.

Think about this, from the book of Revelation

10  Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now God’s salvation has come! Now God has shown his power as King! Now his Messiah has shown his authority! For the one who stood before our God and accused believers day and night has been thrown out of heaven. 11  They won the victory over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the truth which they proclaimed; and they were willing to give up their lives and die. Revelation 12:10-11 (TEV)

As people look at us, as they come to our communities looking for something, may they see the hope we have in Christ, and may we lovingly, patiently share it with them…. as we know Jesus would.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 278). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1843-1845). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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