Monthly Archives: July 2017
Do You Understand This?
My prayer for you as you read this sermon: As you think about the grace and mercy of God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord, may you understand that God has found what He treasures, in you!
Do you understand this?
Toward the end of our gospel reading today there is a question that we need to hear, that we need to take seriously.
Do you understand all these things?
Do you understand this? What Jesus is talking about are these groups of parables. Called parables of the Kingdom because Jesus says each is an example of the Kingdom of Heaven. Do we get what it means for someone to search for treasure, and for a merchant to search the world for the perfect pearl/
Do we understand what it would cost to buy the field, what would be given up in exchange for the pearl?
The price is pretty high….
And if we don’t understand the price to be paid, we need to…
Just as we need to understand these words of the Apostle Paul.
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. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT)
That observation of St. Paul’s has everything to do with the treasure and the pearl… and understanding them!
We need to understand the incredible love of God for us… and then we can unlock the meaning of parables with great ease!
Chasing after the treasure?
One of our challenges in understanding this passage is that we are so used to searching out chasing after things. We’ve forgotten how to be content with what God has blessed us with.
People search for and struggle to find the perfect career, and the perfect path in that career. So they change careers now, four or more times in their lives. Wait, I’ve only had three… HHmmmm
People chase after the perfect home, or the perfect community, the perfect family with our children and grandchildren having everything that will make their lives perfect as they grow up.
And of course, some of us chased after our spouses – until they sprung their trap…err they let us catch them. 😉
It is no wonder then that most hear this parable about the treasure and the pearl and think, well – we must find the kingdom of God, we have to find the treasure in the field. Preachers like Billy Graham and Greg Laurie encourage us to give up everything to decide to make Jesus our Lord and Savior. In effect, to see this passage this way means we save ourselves, we redeem ourselves.
But it is the way we’ve heard it, so we design church services and our evangelism programs to help people seeking to find the treasure, assuming they will recognize it when they see it, and that they will want to give up everything for something they barely understand.
Except that it doesn’t work that way.
When we are in bondage to sin, when we are buried and tarnished by the weight of this broken world, we don’t have the energy or power to save ourselves. We don’t have the ability to find the true treasure and even if we did, what could you give up that is valuable enough to give to purchase heaven?
What could we trade of equal value that would redeem us from sin and the brokenness it causes?
We aren’t the treasure hunters, we aren’t the merchants trying to find the perfect, priceless pearl.
So if we aren’t? Who is?
The simple answer is God. He is the one who came to seek and save the lost. Jesus is the one who gave up everything and took on the role of the servant. In each of the parables in this chapter, God is at work, harvesting us, causing the church to grow.
Paul described it in our second reading this way,
30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.
We need to struggle with, and come to accept that we are His treasure, we are His Pearl of incredible value. Here are some other ways this is described,
17 “They will be my people,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. Malachi 3:17 (NLT)
5 Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. 6 And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ Exodus 19:5-6 (NLT)
18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. James 1:18 (NLT)
And of course,
10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
This is what Paul means by exploring the incredible dimensions of God’s love for us, to explore how broad and wide, how high and deep.
It is the love we have to learn to ocunt on, depend on, have faigh in, even when we don’t seem to shine like a pearl, or we seem to tarnished and pitted to be His treasure.
God is the one who found us, He is the one who gave up everything for us. This is who we are, the people that God treasures, and loves to the extent that Jesus died for us. We We heard Moses explained it to Israel, words that are true for us,
! 8 Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. 9 Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God.
So my dear friends. know you are treasured, and that God treasures everyone that you know, they just need to hear it from God, through you and me.
A devotional thought for the Day:
42 They spent their time learning the apostles’ teaching, sharing, breaking bread, n and praying together. Acts 2:42 NCV
Chapter 7 Baptism into union with Jesus is the sign of our new spiritual identity with the Triune God and with each other in the church. In baptism Christians embrace the new life that is the gift of God’s grace through Jesus Christ by the Spirit.
Chapter 8 The spiritual life is a living into our baptism—dying to all that is sin and death, rising through the new birth into the new life modeled by Jesus, the one who images humanity completely united to God’s original purposes for creation. The spiritual life contemplates the mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ and participates in the purposes of God for humanity.
Chapter 9 The spiritual life is disciplined by the rule of steadfastness, fidelity, and obedience; it attends to prayer, study, and work; it meets God in daily life, in material things, and in people.
Chapter 10 The spiritual life is nourished by the church, which is the continued presence of the incarnate Jesus in and to the world. The spiritual life is nurtured by worship that sings, prays, preaches, and enacts the divine embrace in its daily prayer, weekly celebration, and yearly attention to God’s saving embrace in the services of the Christian Year. (1)
Only from a personal encounter with the Lord can we carry out the diakonia (service) of tenderness without letting us get discouraged or be overwhelmed by the presence of pain and suffering.
A friend put up a meme the other day, that testified to the power of a good hug, one of those so powerful that you can feel the other person’s heart beat, and the ability it has to calm you down and assure you that everything will be all right. I experienced those kinds of hugs on vacation, as some of my friends from junior high got together 38 years after we had last seen each other. It was remarkable and refreshing. (thanks, Ana, Dina, Christos, Danny, Glenn, and Brian!)
It is the kind of life the church had in its infancy, one we call koinonia or living in communion with each other. We become a community that is incredibly close, and there for each other. It is hard to explain, the level of such a relationship, where even years melt away as…. I can think of no other word… the intimacy of the communion is restored. ( Not physical intimacy as in sexual intimacy, but a connection of souls)
Webber would note that such an embrace is possible because of God, of His drawing us into His story, of Him invading ours, not just to purge us of our sin, but to embrace us, to heal us, to bring us into the depth of His peace. The outline of his chapters above shows how this happens in baptism and the spiritual life that is created as we learn to walk with God. This is what Pope Francis was talking about when he mentions our service and ministry of tenderness that begins with a personal (intimate) encounter with God. If not a part of our lives we will (and still do when we forget to return there) burnt out, we will be overwhelmed. But with God’s embrace, and with those around us who likewise are locked in His embrace, we are safe… and can find the rest we need, even as we hurt.
Webber went on from the start of the Divine Embrace to note that this spiritual life, this divine embrace is nourished in the gathering of people known as the church. It is there we find the presence of the incarnate Christ in the world (this is why some call the church our mother and say salvation is not found apart from her! ) As we pray and worship, as we continue in the apostles teaching of the Word of God (Jesus) as revealed in the word of God (scripture) as we take and eat the body of Christ, and take and drink His blood, poured out to remove all of our sin and restore our relationship with God, this divine embrace, this intimate relationship with God is restored, and it envelops all of us.
This early description of the church in Acts talks of this – look at what they did! It doesn’t say they held endless meetings or held strategy meetings for growth. It says that they did the things which reminded us and strengthened our awareness of God’s embrace.
Maybe it is the time we got back to being the church, rather than doing church. Our people need it, we need it. and oddly enough God treasures it far more than we can realize. For He sent Jesus to minister to us, even to the point of offering His life as a sacrifice, that we could be held in God’s hands…
Time management in the church? Where is our time of understanding God’s word, praying together, sharing our lives and meals together, and sharing in the Eucharist? It may seem too simple, but the joy we will find being those God called together will be far more contagious than anything we can plan.
The Lord is with you! It is time to manage our time so that we spend most of it Celebrating that Divine Embrace!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 ,,,Pilate said to the crowd, “Here is your king!”
15 They shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
Pilate asked them, “Do you want me to crucify your king?”
The leading priests answered, “The only king we have is Caesar.”
16 So Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified. John 19:14-16
508 The Lord has the right to be glorified by us “at every moment”—it is an obligation for each one of us. So if we waste time we are robbing God of his glory.
One of my greatest temptations is to respond to my friends on the left and the right political spectrums who say (and post and tweet) news that seems to replace God with Donald, or bash him and say if only we had Hilary, if only we had Bernie. if only “they” would get their act together and think about us.
Some even talk as if the end of the world is imminent, because of the “others” being so stupid, so ignorant. As if the eschatology of the universe was completely dependent on American politics.
It is as if we are back on Pilate’s porch, willingly casting aside Jesus, as we pin our hopes to a god that is foreign to us. It doesn’t matter whether it is Trump or it is the idea of someone else needing to sit in that seat – both sides find their only hope in either Trump or getting rid of him. As if that we do away with all that is evil, all that is negative, all that is broken in our lives.
But kings and presidents, governors and judges cannot save us from ourselves, from the evil within that demands to be fed, demands to be taken care of, that demands to have our desires met and fulfilled.
Not only is that not the job description of any government official, often it is contrary to their work, especially the work God gives them as is described in places like Romans 13.
Yet we still lay aside Jesus, we still forget about God, we still shatter the commandment to not beat false witness, all in hopes.
It is time to stop, time to repent. We know that Christ died on the cross to redeem us, to save us, to bring us into the kingdom of heaven. He is our God, He is our King, Jesus is the one who presides over us. He is the one who gives us hope, who sustains us in times of trouble, and who defends us, promising nothing can separate us from his love. And may God be glorified in everything we say and post and tweet.
May we trust in and depend on Him more than we trust or distruct in those who lead us. Amen!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2214-2216). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
When You Don’t Know How to Pray
† In Jesus Name †
May you find great peace in knowing the grace and compassion that God has for you seen in the work of the Holy Spirit who intercedes for you when we are weak!
St Patrick’s dream
When I utter those words, “the Lord is with you!” what do you see? How do you picture that? For a picture is worth all the words you can use.
While going through a period of turmoil and conflict, the great missionary pastor we call St Patrick wrote these words,
“And on another night, I know not, God knows, whether in me or near me, spoke in most eloquent language, which I heard and could not understand, except that at the end of the speech he address me this, “Who for thee laid down his life?” and so I awoke full of joy and again I saw on praying on me, and I was as it were within my body and I heard him over me, that is, over the inner man, and there he prayed fervently with groanings, and during this time I was full of astonishment and was wondering and considering who it could be that was praying in me but at the end of the prayer He declared it was The Spirit and so I awoke and remembered that the Apostle says, “The Spirit also helps us in our infirmities, for we know we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered” that is m expressed in words, and “the Lord our advocate makes intercession for us” (the confessions of St Patrick)
What an incredible vision! What an incredible picture, lying there, and seeing the Holy Spirit at our side, leaning over us begging the Father to work in our lives where we truly need it!
I wish that every single one of us could have such a vision as St Patrick, could know the peace and joy that comes from seeing the Holy Spirit so involved in our lives, in caring for our heart and soul. This is what I want us to see when we hear those incredible words, “the Lord is with you!
The Holy Spirit, actually and quite actively working in our lives, comforting us, healing our souls, bringing us to the Father to be blessed, and then becoming a blessing, which impacts our families, our friends, and everyone we encounter!
It’s a challenging vision, especially when we are struggling…struggling with our lives, and if so, often struggling to trust God as well.
The need for help
We aren’t alone in that struggle. While Paul reminds us that the struggle isn’t even in the same ballpark as to the glory of God we are invited to share in, he also reminds us that we aren’t alone.
Hear how he says it, “All creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are, Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse, but with eager hope the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay!”
Even so, he goes on to say, “we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time, and we believers also groan”
I kinda want to give an “Amen” to that last part, the part about we also groan.
It has been a week of groaning and struggling, and I needed to know the Spirit was with us
I needed to know the Spirit’s prayer would be answered, bringing us into harmony with God’s will.
We need that kind of help, that kind of intercession in life. For along with all that God has created we struggle to the point of groaning in this life.
The struggle could be with our health or finances, with a relationship at work or in our family, the struggle could be dealing with someone in our family, or at our work, or even here at church. The struggle could because of the cumulative effect of the sin of the world, or because of someone who sinned against us, and the struggle always involves our own sin. Remember, this passage follows Paul;s words about not doing what he should, and doing what he shouldn’t, and therefore he is a wretch! He needed the Spirit to remind Him that Jesus died for Him, that God would restore Him.
But we groan, even as we wait for the day when death and decay lose all their power over us, when our bodies no longer struggle with sin when we no longer suffer.
The question then becomes how do we wait patiently and confidently until that day when the hope we see becomes fully ours?
We see it, it is more than hope, even so, we wait for it.
Paul talks of this in verse 24 when he says,
“We were given this hope when we were saved! If we already have something (see it as real) we don’t have to hope for it. But if we look forward (same word as have before ) to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.”
We have been saved – that is guaranteed, though we don’t see it completely. The way I think of it is like ordering something. We pay for something, and it is ours from the moment the money changed hands. But while it is ours, it has to arrive for us to fully enjoy it.
It works that way with us, as Jesus death paid for our sins, as God “redeemed us” buying us from the debt of sin. Yet we are still “in transit” to the Father, being drawn there by Jesus, guided there by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the delivery person, and we are safe in His hands until we are delivered to the seen in revelation, where with people of every language, of every culture, of every period in history we surround the throne and sing His praises. For it is there in that room that we see God’s will revealed completely.
The people He loves gathered around Him, his people, us. We look forward to that incredible day!
Which brings us back to the vision of St Patrick.
This is how scripture describes one of the ways the Holy Spirit works in us, pleading with the Father, straining and pleading in a way that brings us into harmony with the will of God. In groans so deep, so meaningful that they are inaudible – there are just not the words.
Yet God understands and hears, and acts.
For we are His children, the ones He has invited into His glory, the ones He reveals His love to, the ones Christ died to release from sin and suffering, the one’s the Holy Spirit will sustain until we are all before the throne
A Devotional Thought for the day:
Foolish people don’t care if they sin, but good people want to be forgiven. Proverbs 14:9
486 That big young man wrote to me saying: “My ideal is so great that only the sea could contain it.” I answered: “And what about the Tabernacle, which is so ‘small’; and the ‘common’ workshop of Nazareth?” It is in the greatness of ordinary things that He awaits us!
When a pastor is ordained, or perhaps is installed in a new church, we often make grandiose plans, and have visions of the church growing, and becoming stronger, We (and our people – that’s why they called us) envision our churches overflowing with people, with ministries that meet the need of every demographic in our community, and even impact the world through the missions we support.
What is often overlooked is the simple things, the things that are needed, the common work of a pastor or priest. The sacramental things that make the greatest difference in a person’s life. Not a great difference, the greatest difference, even though we may also need to teach them about it along the way.
THis great work? This simple thing that will radically change their lives? For a Lutheran pastor, it is these words,
“Let it be done for you as you believe! In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus, I forgive you all your sins! In the Name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN!”
For a Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican priest the words are different. The Baptist or Evangelical pastor may simply say, “you’re forgiven”, without backing it up with the formal language. These words of forgiveness are heard in church service during a baptism, or as we celebrate the Lord’s supper in confessionals, in the pastor’s office or out having coffee. They are said at the bedside of someone who is dying, and while counseling the prisoner in a jail.
It is the simple work of ministry, something we need to hear, something we know we need to hear. Ordinary perhaps, but as those words are heard, as they are understood in our heart, soul, and mind, shame and guilt are swept away as the sin is removed. We are reminded of God’s love for us, and the relationship Christ’ death on the cross secured and guaranteed for us. We might even find the strength and hope needed ot ask forgiveness from that relative we hurt or the friend we accidentally betrayed.
Most pastors and priests will never preach to thousands at once. Most of us won’t baptize a hundred in a day. We would love to see that of course, but the best thing we can do is found in what we can do for you…. to tell you of a God who loves you so much that He would forgive you of all your sin, and has. Who would do so in such a way that you would learn to run for forgiveness, that you would desire it, that you would rejoice when you hear it.
This is ministry, real ministry, a ministry which heals and restores and leaves you full of joy and peace.
So come talk to us, hear the words you need to hear, “you are forgiven of all your sins, (and yes – that one as well!)
See you soon!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2126-2129). Scepter Publishers.
devotional thought of the Day:
1 One day it happened that Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us how to pray, as John used to teach his disciples.” 2 “When you pray,” returned Jesus, “you should say, ‘Father, may your name be honoured – may your kingdom come! Give us each day the bread we need, and forgive us our sins, for we forgive anyone who owes anything to us; and keep us clear of temptation.'” Luke 11:1-2 (Phillips NT)
5 Then he added, “If any of you has a friend, and goes to him in the middle of the night and says, ‘Lend me three loaves, my dear fellow, for a friend of mine has just arrived after a journey and I have no food to put in front of him’; and then he answers from inside the house, ‘Don’t bother me with your troubles. The front door is locked and my children and I have gone to bed. I simply cannot get up now and give you anything!’ Yet, I tell you, that even if he won’t get up and give him what he wants simply because he is his friend, yet if he persists, he will rouse himself and give him everything he needs.”
9 And so I tell you, ask and it will be given you, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. The one who asks will always receive; the one who is searching will always find, and the door is opened to the man who knocks.” Luke 11:1-9 (Phillips NT)
470 Our Lord sent out his disciples to preach, and when they came back he gathered them together and invited them to go with him to a desert place where they could rest… What marvellous things Jesus would ask them and tell them! Well, the Gospel is always relevant to the present day.
What did the disciples see in Jesus as He prayed?
HOw did it differ from the prayers they saw in their families growing up, and in the leaders of the synagogue?
We hear them ask Jesus to teach them to pray, but these are men who had been praying all of their lives, They grew up learning to meditate on the word, great up worshipping God as they sang and read the psalms. SO what is so different about the way Jesus prays, that they want to learn how He prays?
The answer, I believe, is found in the word, “rest”
Yeah. prayer is the most restful thing you can do, even as we struggle through another long week. (even the week after you get back from vacation) We are tired, frustrated, worn down, even though the work we are doing is good and beneficial – it can also be spiritually and emotionally exhausting.
And we need that rest.
Sometimes desperately need it.
And it can be found, as we take a few moments, find a place that is quiet, and unload all the crap we are dealing with, all of the stress, all of the weariness on the God who cares for us. who loves us, who asks s to cast all of our burdens and cares upon Him.
As we become confident of His love and mercy, we can do that, accepting He will do as He promised. what is best for us. ( It may take some to grow in this kind of faith and dependence – that’s okay! You will need refresher courses in it too!)
As we do, as we unload all that we carry, the good, the bad, the blessings and the unrighteousness, as we drop it all we can breathe, we can find not just hope, but peace. A peace that restores us, a peace that calms us, and refocuses us on the life we have in Jesus.
We need this daily, but as we do more, we need it more often. As we mature in faith, we find a correlation between finding rest in God and our ability to endure.
Be at peace my friends, find the rest you need, pray, not as if you are doing somethign for God, but because you will remember He is with you…and loves you, and works to give you that peace.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2066-2069). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the daylight, he will not stumble, because he can see by this world’s light. 10 But if anyone walks at night, he stumbles because there is no light to help him see. John 11:9-10
18 Do all this in prayer, asking for God’s help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God’s people. Ephesians 6:18 (TEV)
448 You haven’t been praying? Why, because you haven’t had time? But you do have time. Furthermore, what sort of works will you be able to do if you have not meditated on them in the presence of the Lord, so as to put them in order? Without that conversation with God, how can you finish your daily work with perfection? Look, it is as if you claimed you had no time to study because you were too busy giving lessons… Without study you cannot teach well. Prayer has to come before everything. If you do not understand this and put it into practice, don’t tell me that you have no time: it’s simply that you do not want to pray!
It seems to me that a life of prayer has become a lost to the church today.
Sure, we give a moment at the beginning and end of our meetings to prayer. We routinely ask God for the wisdom we need to guide our ministries, our meetings, our people, and our own lives. But that is being treated like grace before a meal is, a moment given to remember God, say a routine prayer, and then on to the real event.
We ask God for wisdom, but I think often what we want is for Him to give us the wisdom, then to back away, and let us use our own wisdom as if it is His wisdom. Yet, man’s wisdom isn’t God’s wisdom, and to mistake human intellect with supernatural reason is dangerous. Yet it is a trap we personally fall into far too often, and it is becoming more and more a trap for the church. Would we even hear a prophetic voice today, calling us to repentance and to follow God’s will? Or would we measure it against our theological opinions and check for the Return of Investment?
The problem is that without prayer, and that part of prayer called meditating on God’s word, we stumble around in the darkness, we lack the light that comes from knowing He is here, He is with us. Not just knowing as in recognizing a theological tenet of God’s omnipresence, but actually perceiving Him, seeing Him deeply involved, walking with us.
We need this. Not as a matter of law, but as the blessing we need to get through the day, to be able to do the impossible, to see everyone and everything reconciled to God. St. Josemaria points this out from a logical perspective, it is the proper preparation that we need to live. Prayer, as he noted, gets lost in the time crunch, it gets overlooked in the strategy meetings, and over the years, it looses its importance, as we fail to see it work, as it doesn’t have a measurable ROI for the time it takes to truly pray and meditate.
We need to come to realize that it is more important than the meetings, more crucial than the strategic leadership initiatives, more important than the high-level theological discourses.
You ask why?
Prayer is fellowship with God. It is time spent, talking to and listening to our Creator, our Savior, our Sustainer. It isn’t just about nourishment, or wisdom, our guidance. THought all of those are there, this is about knowing we are loved, about seeing His compassion and mercy cleanse us, it is about dwelling in peace. Not because we checked off enough boxes to earn it, but because that level of intimacy with God results in it.
So take the time..as an individual, and as part of the church. We need it.. and pray… and listen… and know He is your God.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1986-1991). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The devotional thought of the day:
35 When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, Jesus found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He asked, “Who is the Son of Man, sir, so that I can believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him. The Son of Man is the one talking with you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe!” Then the man worshiped Jesus. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world so that the world could be judged. I came so that the blind n would see and so that those who see will become blind. 40 Some of the Pharisees who were nearby heard Jesus say this and asked, “Are you saying we are blind, too?”
41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin. But since you keep saying you see, your guilt remains.” John 9:35-41 NCV
Open our eyes Lord
We want to see Jesus
To reach out and touch Him
And say that we love Him
Open our ears Lord
And help us to listen
Open our eyes Lord
We want to see Jesus (1)
445 If you abandon prayer you may at first live on spiritual reserves… and after that, by cheating.
The Pharisees struggled with this idea of Jesus healing a blind man.
They had even more of a problem with this man showing them the obvious, that the one who healed them was the prophet promised by Moses, the One they were waiting for, the Messiah and Savior, not just of Israel, but the world. (they had trouble with that as wel!)
One of the earliest praise songs I can remember learning to play is in green above. Simple lyrics, some might say too simple. They are a prayer we need to consider, to pray for ourselves, to teach others to pray.
They are what Jesus is getting at, as he responds to the Pharisees, noting their blindness, a blindness so complete that they do not even realize they cannot see. Some would read Jesus’ words as simply chastising the men, but that would overlook His love for them, and the mission He has been sent on by the Father. (Luke 4) He is there to open the eyes of all the blind, the ones that cry out to him for healing, and those who don’t even know what it is like to see.
If we only hear Him chastising them, as much as I hate to say it, we must realize that we are no better than them. We have become just like them.
My instinct is that it is then we have forgotten to love a life of prayer, a life not just studying about Jesus, but listening to Him, and realizing that we can tell Him that we love Him, that we adore Him. We get judgmental, condescending and condemning when we’ve forgotten this, and yes it happens to all of us.
We get spiritually dry, our reserves have been depleted, we’ve been overwhelmed, and in our dryness, justify and try to find comfort in our position, or our knowledge. We are better than them, whether they be those who are new to the Kingdom of God, or they are our neighbors, or our family, whoever is the one who reminds us that we cannot see God at the moment.
The blessing is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Repentance isn’t far from us, and the opportunity to pray is always there. You don’t have to take a number or remain on the on hold.
God is with you… ready to cleanse and bless and comfort you and I…
So Lord have mercy on us, and open our eyes… we need to see You!
(1) A praise song by Bob Cull 1976
(2) Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1975-1977). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
An Everlasting Sign
† I.H.S. †
As we walk though this life, may we continually see the everlasting signs of God’s power and love, at work in our lives, and in the lives of those around us.
Walking by the lake… you can’t take it all in…
Walking by the side of Lake Ossipee in New Hampshire, I learned a lesson about photography, and perhaps about life.
Simply put, the camera can’t take all that we experience with our eyes. They can’t take in the gentles waves, little more than ripples, and the beautiful homes across the lake, never mind the mountains that are visible on the horizon. You can’t take in a 360-degree panorama of beauty, never mind the feeling that occurs when you walk down a road with your son, that you and your dad walked down before.
Likewise, even our eyes can’t focus on everything at once.
There is so much more than we can see and hear, never mind the stories that give the story more depth, and the experience that goes beyond words.
Either because the experience is so full of joy, or so full of the pain of being broken, or sometimes, because the experience is both, and how do you concentrate on the joy, when you are struggling with tears?
And if that is simply trying to process a vacation, how do we catch what is really important about life?
Maybe we need a sign or two to help us along the way, to help us focus on what we need?
Do we see the fruit God’s word accomplishes?
One of the things I don’t often see is what Isaiah recorded God telling us,
10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. 11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
This illustration might be harder for us to understand here in California than it is sitting beside a lake in New Hampshire. After all, like looks little different at first today than it did a year ago when we are in a drought. Yet there is still snow in the high Sierras, the depleted reservoirs are again full.
We can’t see those signs, but we do know of the snow and rain from the crops that provide us food, from the grain that gives us bread to the grapes that provide us wine!
But like the camera view that cannot pick up everything, sometimes it is hard to see the blessings of God. They are there, just like the water that sits up in the High Sierras and the reservoirs. We may not regularly note the benefits of the blessings, but the blessings sustain us, none the less.
Again, do we see the rain and snow here? Not so much, but the evidence of that blessing we share see in a moment, just as we do every we eat, and with every sip we drink. His work is there, providing for us, even if all we can “see” are the end results of the blessings.
It is the same way spiritually, as God works through means, and delivers us grace and comfort, as He reveals His compassion and peace.
It will accomplish what God desires it to accomplish, and that is an incredible blessing.
The change is real – let’s see it!
So if in the physical life we see the end product, the food and drink that nourishes us, is there something similar spiritually.
Is there an eternal sign that proves God is at work, that He is blessing us?
Is there something that changes dramatically as a land that was once filled with thorns and weeds being filled with towering cypress and abundant colored myrtle trees, as verse 13 describes?
Yes indeed, we can see the effect of the blessing of God’s word, for the growth and change it does cause. The lives that do change, the lives that hear and know God’s peace in the midst of trauma, the lives that are reconciled.
I started this sermon by talking about the pictures that can’t take in everything the eye can see, and the eyes that can’t take in everything we experience.
Bu those eyes can take in a cross, and contemplate it’s meaning as we are joined to Christ’s death on the cross in our baptism. Those eyes can rejoice as we are welcome to feast on Christ’s body and blood, even as we try to meditate on that incredible feast. Our ears can celebrate as we heard our sin is forgiven, and rejoice as we hear that God is with us.
And as we know this peace, and share it, for so many need to know God’s gift of peace, given through His Son. That peace is the sign of His everlasting power and love, a peace bought for us at the cross and delivered to us in word and the sacraments. The word and sacraments used by the Holy Spirit to change us, for God is with us! AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
61 Knowing that his followers were complaining about this, Jesus said, “Does this teaching bother you? 62 Then will it also bother you to see the Son of Man going back to the place where he came from? 63 It is the Spirit that gives life. The flesh doesn’t give life. The words I told you are spirit, and they give life. John 6:61-63 NCV
Luther, too, employed this “core” as unquestioningly in his catechism as the Council of Trent did in the Roman catechism. That is to say: every statement about the Faith is ordered to the four basic elements: the Creed, the Our Father, the Decalogue, and the sacraments. The whole foundation of Christian life is thereby included—the synthesis of the Church’s teaching as it is based on Scripture and Tradition. Christians find here what they are to believe (the Symbolum or Creed), what they are to hope (the Our Father), what they are to do (the Decalogue or Ten Commandments), and the ambience in which all this is to be accomplished (the sacraments). Today, this fundamental structure has been abandoned in many areas of catechesis with results that are plainly evident in the loss of the sensus fidei among the younger generations, which are often unable to take a comprehensive view of their religion.
Although all nations see the horrible confusion, vices, and grievous calamities of the human race and feel the burden of sin, yet only the church of God teaches both where sin comes from and what it is and hears the Word of God concerning divine wrath and present and eternal punishments. And though human wisdom teaches us how to guide morals [and] disapproves and punishes actions against common reason, yet it does not recognize what is inherent in the consideration of sin, namely guilt before God or the wrath of God. Alexander saw that he had acted shamefully when he killed Clitus and he mourned as a result, because he made a judgment contrary to nature, but he did not mourn because he had offended God or because he was guilty before God. But the church points out the wrath of God and teaches that sin is a far greater evil than human reason thinks. Nor does the church reprove only external actions which are in conflict with the law of God or reason, as philosophy does; but it reproves the root and the fruit, the inner darkness of the mind, the doubts concerning the will of God, the turning away of the human will from God and the stubbornness of the heart against the law of God. It also reproves ignoring and despising the Son of God. These are grievous and atrocious evils, the enormity of which cannot be told. Therefore Christ says, “The Holy Spirit will reprove the world of sin, because they do not believe in Me, and of righteousness because I go to the Father, and of judgment, because the prince of this world is already judged” [John 16:8–11].
It is now the third generation since the decline of the church in America began.
I have heard many theories about each of the generations as those in the church grieve over their absence. We mourned the boomers who came and went, sometimes coming back. Their kids, my generation, some either came and stayed, but others fell aside and rarely come back, even for Christmas and Easter. It is any wonder why we think the millennials won’t come?
Our situation could be described in the words in blue above, the desperate times, the confusion, the carelessness towards vice and greed. Those words are nearly 500 years old, but so reflective of our days today.
Except the church has forgotten about how to teach and preach about sin. Part of the church would ignore sinful acts, thoughts, deeds. The same part would love to condemn and even crucify some specific sins that abhor them. But our focus (and I do mean our) is on “sins” rather than sin. It is the symptoms that concern us, rather than the cause. It is act, the thought, the deed that we either want to justify or condemn.
And because we are so two faced in the church, those outside the church only hear our rants about sins and sinners, and never about the issue, sin.
One of the reasons for teaching the basics of the faith with the outline of Commandments, Creed, Prayer, Sacraments was that it causes us to deal with sin, not just sins. It causes us to face the evil that we live with, that we are held hostage by, that we love and we hate. To deal not just with sins, the individual thoughts, words and actions that are contrary to scripture, but we must deal with the root cause.
Sin. That which divides us from God. divides us from each other, and shatters us personally.
That’s what needs to be dealt with, that’s the evil that has to be overcome in this world.
Our evil. Your’s and mine.
That’s what Jesus did.
That’s what we all need to hear – no matter the generation, no matter the age. That’s what we’ve taught for generations… what we need to teach again.
To give them the hope we all need.
Church – get that straight.. give them hope to deal with their brokenness – help them realize God still loves them, will cleanse them, heal them, declare them to be His own.
They will come for that.. they always have.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.