Monthly Archives: January 2021
Walking in Christ’s Light:
We are concerned about others walk
1 Cor. 8:1-13
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you and those you encounter in life.
Anyone offer any food to idols recently?
I would like to start today’s message by asking an odd question.
When was the last time you ate a mean that was spiritually unclean because it was offered to an idol?
How many even know what that means?
So most of you couldn’t see arguing about that in a congregational meeting? You can’t see Tom and Dane or Jim and Manny, or Bob and Bob yelling and screaming at each other and threatening each other with physical harm over some bacon-wrapped shrimp?
However, other things that people contend are a big enough issue to divide a church or the Church.
Sometimes, the issue is big enough, like whether we are justified by grace alone. Or that Jesus was fully man and fully God. Another issue would be that the elements there on the altar are the body and blood of Christ un and under the bread and wine.
But with most things, even things we think are “religious”, we need to listen to that famous theologian, Captain Jack Sparrow:
“The problem is not the problem. Your attitude about the problem is the problem!”Law – Depending on what we know, rather than seeing people as people
We see this is in the words of St. Paul,
“Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. 2 Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much.
Here is the problem – we all think we have all the knowledge on a subject. Whether it is about eating meat offered to idols, or how to properly be Lutheran, or about Politics, or Football or COVID. Our knowledge knows what is right, and that’s the end of the story, right?
No, if you think you know everything about a subject, then you know nothing. The knowledge you have, scripture says, makes you feel important, but it isn’t all there is on the subject.
And while that knowledge makes you feel important, there is a problem. Yo
Important compared to whom?
Who do you think you are better than? Who has to be brought down low so that you can be more important?
There is the first sin, the sin against your brother or sister who you demand bow to your superior knowledge…
The second reason such an idea is sin is that if we claim to know it, all and scripture doesn’t mention it directly, we merely are playing God.
And while the Corinthians were arguing about food offered to idols, they were making themselves the idol, the final judge who condemn people based on their own knowledge.
You and I do the same thing. Our pride in our knowledge judges and condemns people for things that our preferences, rather than what God clearly reveals.
Or just the opposite… we don’t address the sin we know needs to be addressed because we know better than those judging us…
And the way we act, our attitude about our knowledge shows how we use it, that our idol is more important than the people of God.
Paul begs us to not worship idols, these things that we make to be the gods we rely upon, whether in heaven or on earth. Because we have something more.
Gospel – seeing for whom we live in through whom we have a life!
Hear Paul again,
6 But for us, There is one God, the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live! (exclamation point mine)
Instead of relying on our own knowledge, instead of turning the knowledge we have collected from man and making that data the basis for our lives, this matters
There is God the Father, who created you.
And there is God, our Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Father, through whom we have been recreated, and through whom we live.
In other words, everything we are, everything that defines us, everything that makes a difference in our lives is found in our relationship with Jesus…
The relationship defines everything about us, for God is our God.
I need to repeat that,
The relationship defines everything about us, for God is our God.
Through the scriptures, the knowledge He gives us – even that needs to be used in a way that draws people to Jesus.
For He died to do that! That is why our sins are forgiven so that we realize we live for God and that we live through God!
Looking at Him – people matter
The last point in this sermon comes from the first verse.
But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.
If knowledge causes us to feel important, love helps us realize that others are important.
That our freedom isn’t worth driving a wedge between them and God because they feel guilty for doing things they feel are wrong, but that we know is okay.
That is why Paul says he will go without meat or bacon. Too many didn’t know their freedom there, and rather than force them to approve of what they consider sin, he would go without…
For man doesn’t live by Woodranch alone. But man because of the very word of God… the word of God which declares our sin forgiven, that declares this bread and wine to be the Body and Blood of Christ, that declares us to be the family of God, and invites us to this feast…
Where we can pause, and find rest and peace in the presence of God…. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
29 The king said to him, “Why keep on speaking about these matters of yours? I hereby declare: you and Ziba are to divide the land.”s
30 Mephibosheth said to the king, “Instead, since my lord the king has come to his palace safely, let Ziba take it all!” 2 Samuel 19:29-30 CSB
Nor ought any one to say that the frequent celebration serves to bring the Sacrament into contempt, for those who are rightly prepared will always hunger for this Bread and thirst for this Drink; and the more frequently that they commune, the firmer becomes the persuasion that all of the earthly life is only a preparation for the celebration of the great Supper on high. “Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, they shall still be praising Thee, Sela.” God be merciful to you, and supplant your lukewarmness with heavenly earnestness. Amen.
Come then, O Lord! come and take possession of my heart; close its doors forever, that henceforward no creature may enter there, to divide the love which is due to Thee, and which it is my ardent desire to bestow all on Thee. Do Thou alone, my dear Redeemer, rule me; do Thou alone possess my whole being; and if ever I do not obey Thee perfectly, chastise me with rigor, that thenceforward I may be more watchful to please Thee as Thou willest. Grant that I may no longer seek for any other pleasure than that of giving Thee pleasure; that all my pleasure may be to visit Thee often on Thy altar; to entertain myself with Thee, and to receive Thee in Holy Communion.
The young, crippled man, Mephibosheth, who was King Saul’s son, meets King David after he was restored to his throne. Even though David would restore to him all that he had, the young man would have none of it. So glad was he that David was restored to the throne.
Grace didn’t matter; restoration of things of the world didn’t matter.
Being in the presence of his lord, the one who saved him from death, did.
This is a lesson for us! We should be like the young man, desiring just to be in the presence of Jesus.
William Loehe, a trainer and sender of Lutheran pastors and missionaries in the 19th century, saw this need and its answer in the Lord’s Supper. He implored a frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The words in purple show why – “it prepares us for the celebration of the great Supper on high!” It helps us see that the only meaningful thing in our life is the presence of Jesus. The Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, is the most significant way to celebrate and meditate on that presence!
Likewise, 100 years before Loehe, a Catholic Bishop, wrote the words in blue. The words come from his treatise on the Lord’s Supper. And they describe something I have found more trustworthy and more comforting in these challenging days than ever. The presence of the Lord that we encounter in the Lord’s supper, as we receive Christ, helps us find the rest that restores us from the brokenness we encounter, from the brokenness we know in our own lives.
Like Mephibosheth, we find that all that matters is the presence of our Lord. The Lord who is pictured in the parts of David’s life, where he became known as a man after God’s own heart. When we know His presence, our riches fade in importance. Our troubles lose their ability to overwhelm us. In the same moment, we want to collapse in awe and yet be hugged, embraced by the Lord, who makes our crippled souls whole, as we are invited, as special guests, to His feast.
This is the glory of God; this is why He deserves our praise. He comes to us, and He cares for us… This is the place where Paul prayed for the people of Ephesus to be when he wrote,
I pray that from his 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. 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 3:16-19 NLT
I pray that for us all, this experience of the love of Jesus Christ. I prayer that we encounter it frequently, as we take and eat the Body of Christ, and we take and drink His precious Blood… and we look to the day when with all the saints from all times, all places, all nations, and all languages, we celebrate the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. AMEN!
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 55–56.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 128.
Devotional Thought of the Day
“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:43-44 (CSBBible)
Eighthly, for all sinners, that God would seek and save them from their fall, so that they be not overtaken by the wrath of God, nor condemned in the day of His severe judgment.
Ninthly, for all those who, on account of their sins, are troubled by evil spirits, that God would stretch forth His merciful hand and give them His grace, so that they be not overcome….
Twelfthly, for all our enemies and persecutors, who seek after our lives, honor and possessions, that God would not charge them with their sin, but bring them by His grace to true repentance and faith.
Fourteenthly, for all those who have not yet come to the knowledge of Christ the Savior, be they Jews, Turks, Heathens, or evil-doers of any kind, that God would bring them into His fold through the power of His holy Word.
Hopefully, the Bible passage in red above is something you have heard before. A passage that should have challenged you. It probably caused you to become defensive, and to ask questions seeking to divert attention to the enemy, adversary or the person that is down right annoying. I’ve heard commments such as, “Pastor, how can I pray for that asshole?” “Pastor, how can I trust them again?”, “How do I defend myself from being hurt for the 10th, 100th time.”
While pastors and priests may tell you to do this, (usually after you did the opposite) we don’t always teach you how to do it, or provide you a model.
So when I came across Loehe’s general prayer, I found a starting place for us. The entire prayer is good, but I find most of the other areas things we focus on well. It is these areas that are hard to face, that can load us down with fear, or cause great anxiety.
SO we start with this prayer, or one like it. We can pray it word for word, savoring the words until they resonate it into our heart. We can also use it as several bullet points, letting each petition or phrase resonate within us names and the feelings, letting the Holy Spirit bring us to healing as we pray, as we give to God (and often give back to Him again and again)
For that is the blessing on praying for these people. As we entrust them to God in prayer, as we ask for them to be blessed, the burden we allow them to cause in our lives is lifted off, and we are freed. As that happens these prayers take on more life. For God begins to shape our hearts toward them – providing the healing. God is amazing in this…
We need to start to prayer – so now with a place to start, thanks fo a pastor dead some 170… we have a starting place…
Ready, set, Go!
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 52–53.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
53 Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth: if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in yourselves. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them to life on the last day. 55 For my flesh is the real food; my blood is the real drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them. John 6:53-56 (TEV)
The sermon is part of the “Eucharistic transaction.” As Williams (Rowan Williams – Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury) says, “We are there at the Eucharist so that we may be changed into [the likeness of Jesus Christ], from glory to glory. We are not there to change certain things in the world, which we then adore from a distance. We are there so that the transubstantiation may occur in us.” Preaching itself has a sacramental quality in radical orthodoxy because its subject matter is transformation. The very act of talking about such transformation is itself a part of the transformational event.
Let us ask our Lord that we may be souls who are ready to work with a heroism that proves fruitful. For there is no lack of people here on earth who, on being approached, turn out to be nothing but large, shiny, glossy leaves. Foliage, just foliage and nothing more. Meanwhile, many souls are looking to us, hoping to satisfy their hunger, which is a hunger for God. We must not forget that we have all the means we need. We have sufficient doctrine and the grace of God, in spite of our wretchedness.
Likewise, they teach that one holy church will remain forever. The church is the assembly of saints in which the gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly.
There is a lot of talk, during COVID, that the church will never be the same after it is over. That at least one-third to one-half of the people who have not been to church durign this time will not come back again. They will simply sit at home, in their pajamas, drinking their coffee and watch church on YouTube.
I understand the concern, and the anxiety in this time. How do you keep a church going if the people don’t gather together? Some may think I am talking about the organization, So they plan how people can be the church without the organization.
I am not talking about the organization, and that is why I think the anxiety is pessimistic, and more than that, I believe it is wrong. If forgets what the church is.
You see, it is never, nor has it ever been about the structured organization. It is about the gathering, about being in the presence of God, together. About the communication and communion with God. What Williams talks about as the Eucharistic moment, the time for the transformation of sinners into saints, about what they are calling the moment of transubstantiation in us, those who believe and depend and cry out to the God who has come into our lives.
That is why a church broadcast can, for a time, temporarily fill the gap. But long range, people need the altar to come to and commune. That is why the Lutheran confessions talk about the church being where the gospel is proclaimed and where the sacraments are distributed. Communication and Communion, the presence of Christ with us all.
This is the church… and as those who preach and lead realize that people will return, hungry for the Word and the Sacrament, and sharing in it. And from here, we will go out into the world, to gather others to Jesus, to share in that sweet Communion.
Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 63.
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 43.
Devotional Thought for this day:
Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 (CSBBible)
When Luther’s puppy116 happened to be at the table, looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes, he [Martin Luther] said, “Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope.”
The workers in the marketplace had all day to spare. The one who buried his talent wanted to kill the passing hours. The one who should have been looking after the vineyard went off elsewhere. They all prove insensitive to the great task the Master has entrusted to each and every Christian, that of seeing ourselves as his instruments, and acting accordingly, so that we may co-redeem with him, and of offering up our entire lives in the joyful sacrifice of surrendering ourselves for the good of souls.
There was a commercial series that ran for a long time. It had a man walking around, in all sorts of places, asking someone on his cell phone, “can you hear me now?” In Deserts, forests, rain, sun, no matter where or how he was, he always made sure he was connected to someone. (we never did hear whether they could hear him)
As I read in 1 Samuel this morning, I realized that Saul’s issue was that kind of issue. He couldn’t hear God, and even when he could, too many things drowned out what he heard.
Saul was so unlike the dog who focused on the food forgetting everything else. He was more like the one who buried the treasure entrusted to him. Or the ones who abandoned the vineyard or the sheep because the wolves were near.
I am not any better, for just a moment ago, while writing this, an ad for a Can-Am Ryker caught my attention. I lost my focus on what God was trying to communicate to me. I lost track of this idea of focusing on Him so completely that His task becomes ours. So completely that we don’t think of the cost to us, but the blessing of others, as they come to know the God we say we love.
But how do we grow in our ability to pay attention to God? How do we mitigate the distractions? I do not believe it is something we force ourselves to do as if we simply whip our bodies into submission. It cannot be, for even the most disciplined people will eventually fail and give up.
I think Luther was on to something as he referenced the dog. The mongrel knows the meat’s taste, and it is beyond his power to not respond. He locks in on it, using every tool to make it his own; pleading eyes, speed, power, all of the tools to try and gain that which their heart and stomach are focused.
The Psalms testify to this desire as well!
1 As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you, God. 2 I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God?
Psalm 42:1-2 (CSBBible)
Some things cause us to respond, we don’t have to even think, because we have learned to treasure them. The smell of coffee does it for some, the smell of bacon for others. It might be playing that perfect instrument or driving a particular car, being on a golf course, finding the perfect shoe; these things are triggers for us. Once we sampled it, we have to return to it.
Following God is like that if our focus is on Him. The more we’ve experienced His love, the more we can’t live without it. The more we see Him work through us. The more we realize our role in redeeming this world, the more we want to see more people freed from the power of sin, Satan’s influence, and the fear of death, the more we want to see it happen and again.
Ministering to others becomes our meat that draws our attention, for there we know we are in God’s presence, we know He is there, and the transformation He has done in our lives…. A transformation that means He can work through us… as He ministers to others.
Lord, help us hunger for You and then satisfy that hunger by working in and thru us. We pray this in the name of the Father, the Son†, and the Holy Spirit! AMEN!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 37–38.
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 Samuel replied, “Don’t be afraid. Even though you have committed all this evil, don’t turn away from following the LORD. Instead, worship the LORD with all your heart. 21 Don’t turn away to follow worthless things that can’t profit or rescue you; they are worthless. 22 The LORD will not abandon his people, because of his great name and because he has determined to make you his own people. 1 Sam 12:20-22 CSB
These theologians have wished to apprehend God through speculations and have paid no attention to the Word. I recommend that speculation be laid aside, and I should like to have this rule adhered to after my death.”
“The Confessio has an excellent signification; by means of the elevation the minister in a powerful manner calls attention to the words: “This is my body, etc.” as much as to say: “See, dear friends, this is the body which was broken for you.” The elevation is not a symbol of sacrifice, as the Papists foolishly affirm, but an exhortation to move the people to a hearty acceptance of the doctrine of the Real Presence. In this there is not a syllable concerning sacrifice.”
The only remedy for human nature is to destroy it and receive instead the divine nature. God does not improve man. He crucifies the natural life with Christ and creates the new man in Christ Jesus.
There is some brutality in these quotes this morning, Especially the words of Luther (in blue) and Tozer ( in green) I have seen far to often where the word of God is bypassed, if not dismissed, as the answers to life’s problems are sought. I have seen us desire to live the way we want, rather than accept that we have died and risen in Christ’s death and resurrection.
Some will say this situation isn’t addressed in scripture, that what we need to good God has given us common sense to do. The speculation insists that Christ would do something like what they want to do, justifying it with this action, (clearing the temple is a common one) or giving part of the answer (“neither do I condemn you”- omitting “go and sin no more!”
Such speculation needs to be laid aside. Sin is sin, evil is still evil.
It still needs to be dealt with, not the symptom – the sin itself, but the nature of the sin. That requires the killing off of the “old Adam”. A complete change of our heart and mind, replacing our broken, sinful selkf with Jesus’s heart, His mind and soul.
Samuel encourages us in these moments, where our sinful nature and the Spirit of God wage war in us. We are told God isn’t going to abandon us becauese we did evil . Instead focus on Jesus, worship the God who loved you enough to die, that you might live.
We have to take this seriously, you and I. We can’t, as Hebrews notes, “neglect this great salvation.” We have to realize the love of God which calls us to Him. He is determined to make you His child, to remake you in His image.
That is why Loehe would back the lifting of the Bread and Wine, the Body and blood of Christ. To help us see the presence of God in our midst, under the bread and wine… to realize His presence in us, as we commune with Him. As deLigouri would write, “OUR holy faith teaches us, and we are bound to believe, that in the consecrated Host Jesus Christ is really present under the species of bread.“
And therefore present in us…
For even as we need to realize we must die, and rise united in Jesus, so to we have to realize that unity, and God’s desire to see it happen.
Heavenly Father, help us to drop everything else in life, even for a few moments, and hear Your voice. May we hear of Your great desire and determination…. to see us as Yours. We ask this in Jesus’ name, who died for us, and even more lives with us. AMEN!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 35.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 45.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 113.
Walking in the Light of His Glory: Part 2
We Hear His Call!
1 Samuel 3:1-10
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be a call in your life that you always answer with great joy!
- A poor night’s sleep….
As I read the reading about the young Samuel learning to interact with God, I felt terrible for Eli, the prophet-priest.
The poor guy has gone blind, his kids have turned their back on God and on him, and this little kid keeps leaving the tabernacle to come to wake him up.
Eli, Eli, did you call me?
imagine you have had a long, long day, you just get to sleep, and you hear this voice…
Eli, Eli, wake up, did you call me?
and then, just as he went back to sleep,
Eli, Eli, wake up, did you call me?
He might have been thinking, “Go back to bed, you little brat!”
If only they had recognized where the young man was resting…
if you and I only recognized where we find our rest….
If you and I only could recognize the Voice calling out to the world.
- In the Presence but not knowing it…
If you were all Old Testament Scholars, you might pick up where little Samuel was sleeping. He is sleeping in the sanctuary to ensure the oil lamps on the Lamp of God do not go out. That puts him over in the corner of the Holy Place. He was probably not far from the thick curtain which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holiest places.
That is the place where God’s glory sat, over the Ark of the Covenant and its seat of mercy. This is where God promised Israel that He would be…. For them.
Even so, Samuel didn’t recognize the Voice of the Lord. He is sleeping just a few feet from the glory of God, hidden behind the curtain…
He didn’t recognize the Voice… and the Bible explains why…
7 Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before.
Someone forgot something! Eli had never taught the young child to listen to God.
Eli was getting that repetitive message because he sinned. He didn’t teach the young man how to listen to God. Here was the man of God, whose own sight was failing, wasn’t preparing the future generation to see God.
That is the priest’s job to make sure young believers, whether 4, 54, or 94. And we are all part of God’s priesthood! We need to be the people that God uses to draw others into the presence of God and help them learn to hear His Voice.
not Bob’s, or Chuck’s, or mine
We need to help them hear God’s Voice.
Samuel would learn to do this, as he would help all of Israel hear God, and then he would try to help King Saul and the then King-elect David hear the Voice of God.
But first, Eli needed to realize that God was calling Samuel. He had to wake up and notice this. He needed to look past his own blindness and see what was going on in Samuel’s life.
That means we must get by what blinds us, what causes us to go to sleep…
We must know we dwell in God’s presence as well. For then, we realize that their annoying cries are simply a misguided attempt to answer the call of the Voice of God.
They hear His Voice, but how will they recognize it unless we help them come to the point where Eli guided Samuel.
“Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’ “
We can help them be still, to know that God is God…. Help them find the rest that replaces the stress and anxiety in this maddening world.
But we have to be there, in the place where we are listening to God, where we hear His Voice cry out to us…even as we respond, “Speak Lord, your servants are listening.”
- How is calling you to do? How will you serve?
I can see parallels for everyone here.
We are like young Samuel, trying to understand Who is calling us.
We are like tired old Samuel, with eyes tired that no longer want to see 2020…yet God has called us to guide others to dwell in His presence and to hear His Voice.
The thing that they had in common, that you and I share with them, was the call of the Voice of God.
The call that draws us nearer to Him, that draws our attention to the altar, to the places where He has told us He will meet us, places where He reminds us of the cross, and the resurrection. Places where He pours out His mercy, and His forgiveness
Come and listen… and then help others hear Jesus call….
And hearing the Voice of God…telling you He loves you…and inviting you to partner with Him in your life and ministry, you will dwell in His peace.
For Jesus keeps you there.. your heart and mind. AMEN!
Devotional Thought for the Year:
You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths. 4 I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe. Psalm 23:3b-4 (CEV)
I love to speak of paths and ways, because we are travelers, journeying to our home in heaven, our Father’s land. But don’t forget that, though a path may have some particularly difficult stretches, and may occasionally involve wading across a river or passing through an almost impenetrable wood, as a rule it will be quite passable and hold no surprises for us. The danger lies in routine, in imagining that God cannot be here, in the things of each instant, because they are so simple and ordinary!
I am tired.
In the last year, almost 10 percent of my congregation passed away. Not one from Covid. And that was only a small part of the trauma my people endured…
This year seems to be competitive so far. Yesterday, I received news of a mentor whose health is failing. Then, a message that a staff member’s sister is in ICU after a drunk hit her head-on. I was with my mom, who had a procedure that confirmed another complicated procedure is needed. Four other people with other serious health issues came to my attention.
I am tired.
Did I say that?
If I am honest, there are days I wonder if I am on the right path. One of my elders joked that we change the church’s name so that trouble and trauma would have a more challenging time finding us. I wonder what I had done, which caused all this mess and all this trauma. Am I the bad luck charm that causes all the trauma, all the stress, the crap that invades the world around us?
This path that St. Josemaria mentioned is one that is one that has particularly difficult stretches. It seems that we are going through such a time right now. Like the forests in a Tolkein novel, the forest seems impenetrable, the dark valleys where things that terrify surround us. ( I think those show up in his novels because he endured them as he journeyed with Jesus.)
It is those dark valleys that David walked through that caused Psalm 23 to be written. The CEV translation broke the sentences a little differently, which hit me this morning. For before and after the mention of those dark valleys, there is the assurance of the presence of God. Hie leading, His protection, His PRESENCE.
Amid the weariness, hearing this is so needed. St. Josemaria notes that danger is found when we imagine God is not there… that He is not in each instant. I know that, but I need to hear it as well.
He is here… HE IS HERE!
Realizing that I can find the rest I need, even if it is only for a moment in a praise song, in a word that reminds me of His love, His mercy, His presence.
When we realize that, our weariness changes form. It changes, no longer communicated by groans, to that with sighs of peace For we know the hope created by our destination; and we know Who it is to guide us on the journey.
Be still, find your rest in Jesus, with whom we have died at the cross so that we are raised in His glory and peace.
If you don’t understand this, please give me a call – or drop me a message. These days, this forest is too challenging to take on, on your own.
Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (p. 149). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition. (taken from Friends of God by St Josemaria Escriva , p 313-314)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 May the day I was born be cursed. May the day my mother bore me never be blessed. 15 May the man be cursed who brought the news to my father, saying, “A male child is born to you,” bringing him great joy. 16 Let that man be like the cities the Lord demolished without compassion. Let him hear an outcry in the morning and a war cry at noontime 17 because he didn’t kill me in the womb so that my mother might have been my grave, her womb eternally pregnant. 18 Why did I come out of the womb to see only struggle and sorrow, to end my life in shame? Jeremiah 20:14-18 (CSBBible)
It can’t be otherwise. It’s annoying when one has the best of intentions but things don’t turn out well. Surely this is murmuring. I do the same, and I can’t banish the thought from my mind when I wish that I had never started [this business].88 So likewise when I wish I were dead rather than witness such contempt [for the Word of God and his faithful servants].89 Accordingly it is only speculative theologians who condemn such impatience and recommend patience. If they get down to the realm of practice, they will be aware of this. Cases of this kind are exceedingly important. One should not dispute about them in a speculative way.
14 “It’s very difficult”, you exclaim, disheartened. Listen, if you make an effort, with the grace of God that is enough. Put your own interests to one side, you will serve others for God, and you will come to the aid of the Church in the field where the battles are being fought today: in the street, in the factory, in the workshop, in the university, in the office, in your own surroundings, amongst your family and friends.
I resonate with Luther’s words in purple far more than I want to admit. When he questions his very life because of what he observed, his writings hit hard to things I dare not admit. (for friends readings this – not today)
He’s not the only one – Jeremiah 20:7 is a favorite passage, and has been for over 30 years. Yet, only over the last decade have I learned to give voice to that without feeling guilty and ashamed.
It is good to know at least Jeremiah and Martin Luther understand this – and were able to give voice to it… and still trust in God.
You see, it takes more faith to pray in this way, to be this honest, this transparent. To depend on God to be with us in the places where we are exhausted, the places we don’t have the answers, or the answers are not pleasant to consider. The points where God calls us to action in the ways we can’t imagine.
Once we give voice to it, once you’ve come to trust God in that moment, then the wisdom of Escriva’s comments make sense. Depending on that grace, we find the abiltity to set aside our own pain, and minister to those around us.
This isnt to deny it, but to trust God with it. Embrancing and moving past it, we find those scars a critical element in our ability to serve, in our ability to praise God.
Jeremiah would do that – continuing his prophetic ministry through the rest of this book and Lamentations as well. Luther would move forward in minsitry, even more resolved to help people understand the grace of God. He would come to the point of taking action, finding it was the time for impatience, not patience. It was time to act, knowing the presence of God meant He would be sustained.
That’s the key in these things – find your refuge in Jesus…find your rest in Him and you will find yourself ministering to others.
That is the miracle and the paradox….
That is walking with Jesus.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 30–31.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 294-298). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Walking in the Light of His Glory: Part 1
Bringing the Father Great Glory!
May the grace and mercy of God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ help you to see how you please the Father, as you dwell in Jesus!
That simple chorus and prayer has a lot to do with the baptism of Jesus that was described in the gospel reading this morning.
In my life, in this church, in our homes, Lord, be glorified. Simple prayer… one desperately needed this morning.
If we start with those places, if we begin to see God’s glory revealed in our lives, in our churches, and in our homes, we will soon be seeing God’s glory revealed in our community, spreading out from there, much as the glory of God spread out from Jerusalem and Judea into Samaria and to the end of the Earth.
As this prayer is answered, as we see God’s glory revealed in us, we will realize we walk in the light of the Lord, in the light of His glory, and the result, that we will hear,
You are my dearly loved child, and you bring me great joy.”
- I get why we are baptized!
Why does He get baptized?
That is a big question.
I know why we are baptized.
It’s not because we decided to, or someone else put pressure on us or decided that we should be baptized. I mean, that may cause us to be baptized, whether we are 2 or 3 weeks old or 94 years old.
The reason we are baptized was to show repentance in our life.
Because our hearts, souls, and minds are polluted with sin, we needed a change; we needed repentance to become a reality in our lives.
But repentance isn’t being sorry for our sin.
It means to have the change of how we process things, consciously, and subconsciously. That does mean we grieve when we consider our sins, but also that we turn and cry out to God.
That kind of repentance, that transformation of heart, soul, and mind, is found throughout scripture.
25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Ezekiel 36:25-26 (NLT2)
4 But—”When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:4-5 (NLT2)
this is always God’s work… as Paul tells Timothy,
25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. 2 Timothy 2:25 (NLT2)
This is because, as the reading from Romans talked about this morning – that baptism unites us with Christ’s death and His resurrection.
We are sinners, we need to be transformed, we need to come to repentance. God promises to do that to give us this new heart and mind and attaches that promise to our baptism.
But what does that mean for Jesus….
He didn’t need a new heart and soul and mind. He didn’t sin, so why did He get baptized?
- So Why did He?
We know in our baptism, we are identified with Christ’s death, so that we can be identified with His resurrection.
Working from that, we can see that Christ is baptized into our lives, to take on the sin of the world.
Consider these words,
Barth says, poignantly, that the situation “went right into [Jesus’] heart … so that their whole plight was now His own, and as such, He saw and suffered it far more keenly than they did.” Jesus “took their misery upon Himself, taking it away from them and making it His own.” 8
This is what God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had planned from before creation.
That Jesus would take on our suffering, our iniquity. “Our” as in the whole bleeding world. All that have been damaged by sin, all that have sinned. The baptism of Jesus pours on Him every sin, that every sin would be taken from Him, and paid for with the blood of Jesus.
He was baptized into our death, that when we were joined to His, we would be joined to His resurrection. He would take our dead hearts and replace them with His. It is seen in what Paul tells the church in Corinth, “But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.”
That is what this is all about – whether it is the epistle that tries to help us see the incredible blessing that being united with Christ in His death provides or the gospel that sees Jesus willingly embrace our sin and our death when He was baptized.
To see that occur, as the doors to eternity are opened to people who believe and are baptized… and united with Christ’s death and resurrection, we will hear the words of the Father…the same words that were said to Jesus…
You are my dearly loved child, and you bring me great joy.”
Because He came into our world, took on our sin, and gave us His life.
in that life, He will be glorified…. Just as we prayed as we sang.
8 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/2: The Doctrine of Creation: The Creature, trans. H. Knight, G. W. Bromiley, J. K. S. Reid, R. H. Fuller (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1960), 211.
 Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 52.