Monthly Archives: December 2022
Thoughts which draw me to the cross
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had had the demons begged him, “Let me go with you!” But Jesus would not let him. Instead, he told him, “Go back home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how kind he has been to you.” Mark 5:18-19 GNT
1 I praise you, LORD, because you have saved me and kept my enemies from gloating over me. 2 I cried to you for help, O LORD my God, and you healed me; 3 you kept me from the grave. I was on my way to the depths below, but you restored my life. Psalm 30:1-3 (TEV)
Had not these shepherds believed the angel they would never have gone to Bethlehem, they would have done none of those things related of them in this gospel. One might say, I would gladly believe if an angel from heaven were to preach to me. But whoever does not receive the Word for its own sake will never receive it for the sake of the preacher, even if all the angels preached it to him.
The vocational reformation of our own time (if it turns out to be that) is a rediscovery of the pastoral work of the cure of souls. The phrase sounds antique. It is antique. But it is not obsolete. It catches up and coordinates, better than any other expression I am aware of, the unending warfare against sin and sorrow and the diligent cultivation of grace and faith to which the best pastors have consecrated themselves in every generation.
Luther points out something we know, at least we should know it. The shepherds, the first of the New Testament evangelists, went to share what they saw in a manger. This is what the angels shared with them, but their message was not about the angels, it was about the Messiah, who came to them.
Likewise, the man posessed by demons, commissioned to bring the gospel to his gentile community, is to talk about what God has done to him.
Hear the Psalmist as well, who understands that they’ve been saved at the gates of hell. Saved from those depths, and restored!
These are the seeds of a revival. These are souls that are being changed by God, souls that have been cured. There is little need ot but point them at their community, at their world and let them go bring the news about God’s ministry in their lives. (Luther goes on to say they shouldn’t remember the messenger – so overwhemed by the presence of God and His love.) This changes communities, it changes the world.
Revival doesn’t just target a demographic. It tells everyone, and they come, for they need God’s love and cure as well. This is so different from the Church Growth Strategies I’ve been taught over the last 40 years! Those strategies want the pastor and leadership to plan the ministry, to control the way the Holy Spirit focuses, bsaed on data and marketing strategies, leadership principles and, to be honest , investment strategies. (Investement of time and resources, not just money).
Revival means the pastor is, as Peterson notes – more focusd on helping people deal with sin and sorrow by planting seeds of grace, and encouraging people’s awareness of the Christ revealed to them in prayer, study, sermons and the sacraments. Done well, the people treasure these moments of being cured, and it is so amazing that they will share it with those they encounter. Their hunger is for Christ, and to see the Holy Spirit at work.
“Seek God first, and the rest shall be added to you” THis is true for the church, as well as for the individual.
Lord, please help us look to You, to cry out for Your minisry, for You to revive Your church. Help us to seek Your face, and then send us to tell others what You have done! Help us hear Your message, and to see You revealed to us. We pray this in Jesus’ name. AMEN!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 456.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 65.
† Jesus, Son and Saviour †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father, which you were meant to receive—united to Jesus, be evident in your life!
Close your eyes for a moment, and picture one of the Christmas Trees of your childhood. You see the packages there, all wrapped up nicely, the name tags properly hanging off of them.
Your eyes spot that one package, prior inspections tell you that this one is yours, and for some reason you know this is “the present”.It doesn’t include the socks or underwear or flannel pajamas (he we all didn’t grow up in California!).
It was that present. You knew it.. and you wanted to rip it open first!
Do you remember what that present was?
Now move your vision to the stable, and the manger, and realize that the present there was done with more thought, with more care….hear the prophet Isaiah’s words about this present…
For a child is born TO US… a Son is given TO US.
It is as if, on the manger, there is a tag on the manger.
To; The child I love.
So let’s look at this intimate, influential, immanent gift from which we are inseparable!
For the prophet teaches us a lot about our incarnate Lord Jesus!
- Wonderful Counselor–Intimate
The first words to describe Jesus is that He would be a Wonderful Counselor. The comforter whom you can tell anything too, knowing that they will support you through the crisis, through the time of reconciliation, through the time of healing.
There is nothing you can say that would shock Him, for as God He knows your deepest and darkest secrets… and loves you still. This is the most intimate of relationships, one that goes beyond all defenses, for God knows you better than you know yourself
- Almighty God—Influential
The second phrase of the description is that Jesus, this child born TO US, this Son given TO US is that He is Almighty God. That power is wielded on our behalf, both to defeat our enemies of Satan and death, but also to change us, to transform us, giving us new hearts and minds that are Christ’s.
This powerful influence of God is beyond anything that can be described, as He uses all He is to transform and protect His people.
This is why Paul prays that “you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 1:19-20 (NLT2)
This is the Almighty God—who has come – and uses that might to influence everything for us us
- Everlasting Father—immanent
The next thing this child born to us, the Son given to us is takes a while to wrap our heads around. He is our Eternal Father.
From the Creation of the World to the recreation of the heavens and earth at the Judgement Day, Jesus, who is one with the Father, reveals the Father to us.
He is always our Father, always therefore us, because He has loved us and will love us. We call Jesus Immanuel as
The Lord of all, is our Father, and welcomes us to pray to Him, to ask for help, to let Him be our dad, for that is part of the revelation of the child being born to us
- Prince of Peace—Inseparable
The last description of Jesus, the last title in this list, the result of His being sent to us, given to us is that He is the Prince of Peace.
And as He comes to u-bringing that peace into our darkness, into our times of doubt, into our times where peace just doesn’t seem possible. Where it is beyond our imagination, but that is exactly what God’s peace is, – beyond all understanding.
I can tell you that, I’ve had too many experiences where peace should not be known. Times of doubt, times of anxiety, times of fear. And yet, in the midst of trauma, there is Jesus, the one born and laid in a manger,
the one who is Immanuel – the Eternal Father whose is always there,
The one who is Almighty, and uses His power to influence every aspect of our lives,
All because who is the Wonderful Counselor who intimately knows us.
This is the birth of our God, who dwells with us.
† Immanuel †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ reveal to you the love of God, which pours out blessings upon us.
Christmas day in the early 70’s was fun, even though the Parkers weren’t wealthy. We weren’t allowed “downstairs” until 7 a.m. Usually about 5:50 a.m. my brother Stephen and I would sit on the very bottom stair – technically not on the first floor—but we could see the tree – and were close enough to be warmed by the woodstove.
What I didn’t understand as a kid was my parents. They didn’t seem in a rush to open their presents, they just smiled and cheered us on as Stephen, Kelly and I opened ours.
I understand that now, as the joy they had was really watching us revel in the gifts we were given.
I think that there is a lot of God seen in that attitude, to revel, not in what you receive, but in what you gave to others. Even if it was only a life-savers book, that would be devoured by New Year’s!
As we look at the gospel today, as we see Jesus revealing to us the Father, and the heart of the Father, we need to see God’s joy, as we discover the gift He gives us in Jesus. And the gift Jesus gives us, that John writes about in verse 18.
- Near the Heart!
18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.
This is how it works. Now one knows the Father’s heart like Jesus, and His mission is to reveal the heart of God to people who are anxious, and unsure of where they are in life, never mind where they are going. People who are broken by the world, broken as their health suffers, broken by the sinful acts done against them, broken by our own sin.
Without Jesus, what would we know of God? Our Lutheran Confessions tell us we would have no idea of the Father’s heart, no idea of what it means for God to be merciful. Without Jesus’ revelation, all we could expect is eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
But Jesus reveals God’s heart to us…
- Revealed God wants to be present in our lives
My parents love to watch us open presents, as they saw the eyes grow wide with each new discovery. In the same way, God the Father enjoyed the sense of discovery and joy that Adam and Eve had in the garden.
Those walks in the garden, those times of joy were long missed because Adam and Even being tempted and sinning. But we see how much God desires that relationship and Jesus comes and dwells with us, and according to Matthew, promised that God will always be there for us…
This is the heart of God—the God who would spend every moment with us, enjoying our discovering the work He’s done for us.
- Revealed God’s love and dependability never fails
Has anyone ever had a roommate who wasn’t exactly who they expected? Maybe it was a good thing—like you found out they were a chef… or one roommate—whose parents lived with us for 2 months, and did all our laundry, cooking, housecleaning. There are other stories, I am sure some of them are horrifying!
For God to come and dwell among men must have had all sorts of expectations.
More rigid rules?
Best behavior at all times?
That was not the key thing John took away, the part of Jesus that reflected the heart of the Father. It was something far more incredible,
He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.
This is what mattered about Jesus, that he was full of an amazing merciful love, and that he was faithful, dedicated and true to His people.
Both words love and faithful are interesting translations. Other translations will use Grace and Truth instead of love and faithfulness.
The words in Greek are heavy in meaning – and can mean love/grace. We get the word charity from it, which has been a synonym for active love and care for a long time.
What John and the other apostles realized is that God the Son, and therefore God the Father loved them, was charitable towards them. Even for the Jewish people, this was unexpected, who would anticipate God being that loving.
It has been a long time since “true” was used regarding relationships. Being true is the ultimate version of faithful. No other interest: nothing but fulfilling the promise made in the relationship.
Jesus would be the ultimate partner, the ultimate friend, and He reflects the love and faithfulness of the Father.
- Revealed God’s glory
Therefore, John can say, “we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”
What is God’s glory? Simple, it is His love and faithfulness, shown to us as He dwells with us. Therefore, we celebrate the birth of a baby in a remote village, in a powerless nation, nearly 2000 years ago.
His glorious unfailing love and that He is true to all He has promised. This made a difference in the life of John and all the apostles. It is what makes a different in 2000 years of His people He calls together; it is what makes a difference in our lives today, and we pray it is what makes a difference in the lives of those around us.
God is with us…. And therefore, we dwell in His unexplainable peace. AMEN!
(if you want to hear this service, please check out the worship service at bit.ly/concordiacerritos )
† In Jesus Name †
May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,Christ, give you grace and peace!
I could leave the sermon with just the blessing, a simple blessing that plus or minus a word, begins every letter Paul writes to the churches.
If you all believed this promise, if you all knew that God gives you grace and peace, and you shared that with all your relatives, friends, neighbors and enemies, and lived life counting on it… well – sermon is done… let’s get to communion!
The problem is that little three letter word “may” in the translation. It doesn’t sound… solid enough.
Is it going to happen? Is it just Paul’s dream for the church in Rome? In my case, if someone says something good “may” happen, my instinct is, “what will I do that will mess this up”
That’s why we have to take a step back – and to understand that this “may” is not dependent on us, but on the who Jesus came to be, and the promise of God that is ours, because of Jesus.
In this case, “may” means, “this will definitely happen…”
- The evidence
So what gives Paul so much confidence in blessing people like this?
The short answer is the gospel—the good news.
1 This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News. 2 God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. Romans 1:1-2 (NLT2)
Paul tells us he was called by God to speak.
Not only him but God promised this through the Old Testament prophets over and over throughout scripture.
The reason we have confidence that we will have grace and peace because of Jesus has been communicated over and over, it was ingrained in the people of God, even if they didn’t understand it.
The promise was there, and Paul revealed it was there—now. As it is for us now…as we will see.
Paul will then say this,
The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, 4 and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.
Here is the summary: Jesus is who the prophets said he would be. He was the promised Messiah, the Savior who restore David’s kingdom, who would restore the people of God, whose arrival would result in an eternal, everlasting kingdom.
So he had that going for Him, fulfilling that part of the promise. But then, the mystery that was promised – but never seen before.
Jesus, the Son of God, the one who would lie in a feeding trough when born, would be raised from the dead.
We consider this often around here, not just at Easter
Alleluia! He is risen! (He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!)
And therefore, (We are Risen Indeed!)
And at every baptism, and every celebration of the Lord’s Supper, we realize that we’ve died with Him, so that we may… no we will live with Him.
“He is, He IS Christ our Lord”, Paul tells us.
And before we can come up with another excuse… he makes us understand we are the ones Christ died for, and rose for…
5 Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.
6 And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ.
You are included.
That’s my privilege. I don’t care what you’ve done in the past, or what you are presently struggling with guaranteed. God raised Christ from the dead—for you.
His Body was broken, His blood was shed—for you.
Look at the blessing
- Grace and peace!
Therefore, you know this blessing is more than a casual “may”, and a fond wish for a friend.
This is the blessing that has been planned for you since before the foundation of the world
Grace – the gift of salvation. And let me be absolutely clear—salvation is not having sins forgiven. That is what leads to salvation.
And let me be clear—salvation is not the forgiveness of sins. That is how we are saved. Salvation is the relationship that is guaranteed.
I was reminded of that in one of my devotional readings this week. Eugene Peterson wrote,
“The way a pastor uses the language is a critical element in the work. The Christian gospel is rooted in language: God spoke a creation into being; our Savior was the Word made flesh. The (pastor)/poet is the person who uses words not primarily to convey information but to make a relationship,”
My role, just like the apostle Paul’s is not to lecture you, not to teach you Greek or Hebrew, or make you feel guilty about your past. Some of that may happen along the way—but my one purpose, the way I am to use my words, is to make sure you know the grace of God–which is the relationship that Christ claimed for you. It is why you were redeemed.
It is what makes Christmas and Easter special, this incredible relationship we have with God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
Therefore, we are here…to know God’s grace…
And knowing that, we find ourselves at peace.
Knowing this love, knowing all the promises God has in store for us, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
This is what it is all about—this incredible relationship.
This is what makes the difference now, and for eternity.
Knowing He is here, knowing the grace that accomplishes this—may you realize this peace which is beyond understanding… as Jesus keeps you in this peace, your heart and mind secure in it.
THoughts that drive me to the cross…
7 The LORD said to Moses, “Go back down at once, because your people, whom you led out of Egypt, have sinned and rejected me! Ex 32:7. GNT
But Moses pleaded with the LORD his God and said, “LORD, why should you be so angry with your people, whom you rescued from Egypt with great might and power? Ex 32:11. GNT
The apocalyptic pastor is a poet. St. John was the first major poet of the Christian church. He used words in new ways, making (ποεατεας in Greek is maker) truth right before our eyes, fresh in our ears. The way a pastor uses the language is a critical element in the work. The Christian gospel is rooted in language: God spoke a creation into being; our Savior was the Word made flesh. The poet is the person who uses words not primarily to convey information but to make a relationship, shape beauty, form truth.
Reason cannot understand how there can be pleasure in crosses and peace in disquietude. Such peace is the work of God, and none can understand it until he has experienced it.
The conversation between God and Moses is interesting, it is the poiema – the work of art (from which we get the word poem from) that Peterson references. God will not only provide for His people’s sins, but will teach Moses and all pastors a lesson.
Moses has to realize – I didn’t lead these people from Egypt, I am not their God, Yahweh is their God, He is the one who rescued them from Egypt, it has to be His work that will save them from their sin. That is what Moses will toss back to God, and I can imagine God smiling inside as Moses tells him – “they aren’t mine, they are Yours!”
“Don’t forget that Moses, and don’t let them forget it, either!”
This conversation teaches Moses a compassion he will need much later, for he will need to remember these people are God’s, and therefore God will have to transform them. He is not the only under-shepherd that is guided by God. Each of the prophets would similarly see the artistry of God, who would use their experiences as parables of grace. Nathan, Hosea, Jeremiah all see life as an experience to share.
That makes the difference———these poems of our lives, these words we use which help people understand the relationship we have with God.
We need to study, to meditate devotionally, to look at our work as God’s craftsmanship–His work–in and through our lives. As we do, perhaps he church will sense our passion for the message, and that they understand it. And then they will treasure church, and listen to sermons and the words of the liturgy and music that all focus on this message God wants us to know.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 53.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 442–443.
† Iesou, Huios, Soter †
May the grace of God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you of the love revealed in the lists they made about Jesus’ work—2000 years ago, and today.
Intro: Don’t turn away…
I want you, for a moment, to put yourselves in the place of John the Baptist, as he awaits the return of his disciples. He was in prison, and like many of the prophets of old, it was for living the life he was called to live, a life walking as God directed. In prison he find himself deep in thought, he begins to wonder, and to doubt…
Before you ever say you wouldn’t…consider John the Baptist, and the reading tonight.
Here is the greatest of the prophets, the first one to recognize Jesus, even while they were both in the womb. I can’t even imagine the conversations they would have had while they were teens…
And at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, John saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove.. and proclaimed that He is the Lamb of God, who would take away our sin…
Yeah–the Agnus Dei comes from this guy…
And while in prison, he struggled. So much he had to send his followers to ask Jesus… are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting… or should we keep looking?
It almost sounds like John was the unfaithful, broken, weak and unstable one that needs to be invited to come see that Christ was born.
Jesus responds in a unique way, not challenging John’s doubts, but giving them a list to pass on to John.
He didn’t condemn John for his lack of faith—He ministered to him, even though he wasn’t right there.
Jesus sent a list to him… a list?
If I were John, I would want a miracle. I would demand one.
I can hear him saying, “Jesus—we’re family, I’ve given it all for you—why don’t you help? Why don’t you get me out of here? If you are the Messiah….why aren’t you…”
Jesus helps him focus and gives him a list that matches the list in Isaiah we saw Sunday.
4 Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— 5 the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. Matthew 11:4-5 (NLT2)
In other words, tell John, whose father was a priest, and studied the Old Testament deeply, that the prophecies are coming true. Jesus wanted him to know what was happening, that all pointed to not only John being saved, but all the world would have the blessing of salvation opened to them!
Just take the Isaiah’s checklist – John I am doing all that and more…the news that God is saving the Jews and the Gentiles is being preached – and it will be preached until the end of time!
This is what John knew was supposed to happen, but life Got in the way…
Instead of a lecture, or being mocked for his lack of faith, Jesus reaches out to John, and assures him with words John knew well. He recalls the promises made in the Old Testament, so that John can be re-focused on the ministry.
Don’t turn away… because of me.
I think this is where we need to go back to the beginning. And hear the words that sound shocking at first,
‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’
I think I hear those words at first as judgment – you blessed if you don’t turn away when you realize who Jesus is. A lot of translations make it sound that way….
But it is just as likely that it means that we don’t turn away because we are in Christ.
Try reading it this way,
God blesses those who do not turn away—because of me.’
You see, on our own, our faith struggles and fails. But when we remember He was born, he died for us, that is something quite different, far more powerful, far more precious.
When I say the closing blessing of a sermon, it is always based on this concept – that you know you dwell in the peace of God which passes all understanding, for your hearts and minds are kept in that peace by Jesus, – this is what John needed to know it is what we need to know.
We don’t fall away and get condemned by Jesus, for it is His responsibility to keep us in Him, and in knowing that we are truly blessed!.
Whether we are grieving, broken, struggling, in prison.
John kept ministering…
In fact, it is after his disciples return that John does significant ministry, instead of with the crowds, with the leaders of Israel, including Herod. So much so, that Herod is grieved by having to kill John, tricked by his new wife and daughter.
Jesus didn’t blast him, didn’t deny him the opportunity to minister. He reached out to him, showed him what God promised to do, and that it was getting done.
And lifted John back up off his feet, and reminded him of the ministry God had called John to..
And if you are struggling tonight, if things seem rough, God will do that for you as well.
That is what Advent is about – being there with John, and hearing that God is with you…that He is saving you – for that is what He promised, and that is what the lists in scripture show. AMEN!
And may you see revealed this peace of Christ in which you live, as Christ keeps your heart and mind in it. Amen!
Thoughts which draw me to Jesus, and to His cross
Put this altar outside the curtain which hangs in front of the Covenant Box. That is the place where I will meet you. Exodus 30:6 GNT
Contemplation is that wisdom which makes man the friend of God, a thing which Aristotle thought to be impossible. For how, he said, can a man be God’s friend? Friendship implies equality. That is precisely the message of the Gospel:
But you may argue that the statement of Paul is too awful, when he says, whosoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, eats and drinks judgment unto himself, and is guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. Dear friend, you must not consider yourself so much from the standpoint of worthiness or unworthiness of your person as from that of your need, which makes the grace of Christ necessary. If you recognize and feel your need, you have the requisite worthiness and preparation.
It is not hard to see myself as a servant, a slave of God. And I resonate with Paul, as he refers to himself as a doulas – a fully owned slave. Not that I am a particularly good one, I am stubborn, and I don’t follow directions all that well. But God can use us, often despite our thoughts and actions.
That is amazing…
But Merton’s words this morning, I know they are based in scripture (John 15:15), they are still tough for me to work through. A “friend of God?”, even contemplating on that leaves me shaking my head for a while. My mind comes up with 1000 reasons Jesus wouldn’t befriend me. He has to love me, but “friends”? That seems too much, too overwhelming!
Yet that is what God wanted from the beginning, as He walked through the garden with Adam and Eve. That’s what the meetup with God was about at the Ark of the Covenant, and the wonder of the mercy-seat, where blood would cover the sins of Israel.
All done so we could know God is with us, as a friend. That is what Job sought as well,
I want someone to plead with God for me, as one pleads for a friend. Job 16:21 GNT
And as it would be seen at the Ark of the Covenant, it would really be seen at the cross. As Jesus would tell the Father to forgive us..
He pleaded for His friends would be forgiven, to be restored to Him.
It is not a bad thing we struggle with this idea, though. That is where Luther’s quote come into play. We need to know Jesus makes this friendship possible! Even as we realize our sins have damaged it, for the moment. We can’t assume we deserve it. We know better. But we can rejoice in His actions to make it real, to make it true.
But He does all this, so we can be friends.
Amazing! This is the greatest miracle in all of scripture.
But Merton was right, we need to contemplate; we need to think through and work through and struggle with this thought. But we need to – it is true.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 12.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 400–401.
8 But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. 9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 2 Peter 3:8-9 (NLT2)
Precisely because one allows God to be God, by whose will and appointment all things happen, one is able to declare that the concrete moment of the proclamation (the absolution, the sermon, the baptism, the supper; all given for you) is the divine act of God in the living present. Of course that “for you” cannot be spoken except in the proclamation. We are left in the position where we can only move to the proclamation because it is a matter of the present tense, here and now.
Words are the real work of the world—prayer words with God, parable words with men and women. The behind-the-scenes work of creativity by word and sacrament, by parable and prayer, subverts the seduced world. The pastor’s real work is what Ivan Illich calls “shadow work”—the work nobody gets paid for and few notice but that makes a world of salvation: meaning and value and purpose, a world of love and hope and faith—in short, the kingdom of God.
I came across these two readings earlier in my week, and I wanted to journal on them. To them, I had to add the Apostle Peter’s words about God and time. There is something about them I needed to think through, not at a theological level, but at a personal level.
I need to know God is speaking to my people right now. Whether my words are forgiving their sin, or uniting them to Jesus, in His death and resurrection, these words need to be God’s proclamation, not mine. As I repeat Christ’s words identifying the bread and wine as His Body and Blood, they need to be His words, not mine.
In those moments, as well as when I preach and teach and council
I need to know He is at work in that moment.
His presence in the moment–what Forde calls “the proclamation” means there is no doubt to whether the promise is true. God dwells with men, revealing not only His presence, but His love as well.
That should be the goal of any pastor, of any teacher, to make Christ known, in the moment.
And by that work – everything changes.
Gerhard O. Forde, “The Preached God,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 36.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 45–46.
Visions of Peace III
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the Grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you realize you dwell in the most incredible and unexplainable peace!
- The Promise
Have you ever talked to someone who, though speaking English, was using the technical knowledge that is known only to people in their own work?
Maybe they are a lawyer and tossing around terms that you think might have been Latin, or a doctor talking about your health in medical terms that have 16 syllables per word. Maybe it is an engineer, or someone talking about crocheting.
Pastors aren’t immune to this either. IN fact, one of the many reasons I miss one certain person’s presence, is that she always signaled me when I used to many theological terms, and didn’t define them. She does it with such grace that I could never be offended by it, but that she wants to know what I am saying… is a wondrous thing!.
One of those technical theological terms is the word “gospel.” We know it is something I am suppose to preach, that you all are supposed to share with loved one, neighbors, friends, even enemies…
We know it has something to do with God’s love, and with Jesus, and the cross.
But the gospel is more than that…
The gospel, completely revealed, is what Isaiah describes in our Old Testament reading this morning…
It is heavenly…
And that is why Isaiah says to share it,
“With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. 4 Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.”
I don’t know about you—but I could use some strength and encouragement!
And the gospel should do that—as you look for the incredible change in all of creation that comes with Jesus’ return!
- The Party
For someone who had to deal with wars and oppression, Isaiah has an incredible vision for life in Christ.
He describes it so incredibly! Places where there is little life just explode with life. I am not sure if I would use the deserts and wilderness and the flowers that appear over a few hours.
So I came up with a different example.
Everything comes to life as fast as Christmas decorations proliferate stores and streets at the first opportunity. Think about how fast everything changes!
I mean ever here—yesterday at 10 there were the poinsettias and by noon—everything was different; the tree is up and lit, there is green all around, there is the sense that Christmas is near.
But it is not just how things look that changes.
And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. 6 The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. 7 The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived!
What an incredible vision this is!
Imagine if after church we had a basketball game, and Tom and I were running full bore up and down the court, doing things we haven’t done in 20 and 30 years?
Imagine everyone with hearing aids being actually able to hear what their wives are saying and responding to what is said!
I shouldn’t keep saying, “imagine” as if this is some kind of naïve, idyllic pipedream.
I should say “look forward to” for that is the gospel, that is the truth. We are looking forward to this, not just thinking it might come
God has promised. He has sworn it will be true and guaranteed it with the blood of Christ.
This is what we long for, when everything broken in our lives and in the world… is made brand new….
Including our hearts and souls… everything is made new as we celebrate in the presence of God, our Creator, our Redeemer, the One who draws us into a special relationship with Him!
- The Way
That relationship was described in the of Acts as those who were “followers of the Way,” probably with this passage from Isaiah in mind. This is well before we were known as Christians or little Christs.
To be on the way means we are walking with Christ, for He has ransomed us, in order to walk with us on this way home.
Here it described again,
There will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it. 10 Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.
I would equate this as going on a plane trip—from our baptism to heaven is simply walking up the ramp from a plane to the terminal.
The excitement is building—we know we’ve arrived; we are where we are supposed to be. Now more hassles, no more security checks, no more struggles. Just the excitement of being at our destination.
That is where we are at right now, because Jesus came.
We are almost there, at the point where we will see God face to face…
Because Jesus came into our world—all our troubles are taken care of—all our weaknesses and instabilities. All our guilt and shame…
We are in His Kingdom even now… and those who depend on Him, and come to love Him, will rejoice…
For Jesus Christ is born, and was born for you. AMEN
He’s Making His Lists
† I.H.S. †
May the grace and peace of God, our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ flood over you, as you realize how God has planned for and desired an intimate relationship with you!
- Wisdom from our youth—Three lists
The average sermon takes 8 hours to develop—and another 4-5 to write out the manuscript, which then is the basis for what you hear.
I said basis, anything good said beyond the manuscript is God caused… anything odd—blame me for!
For tonight’s sermon, the preparation time was shortened by our youth considerably! As we looked at the passage a couple of weeks ago, their conversation is the basis for this sermon, as they talked about what was important for me to communicate to you!
Our theme for Advent is the idea that God made a bunch of lists in the Bible, to help us understand what it means for Jesus to be the Christ, to be our Savior. There is a lot about Jesus, and the Bible neatly organizes it into lists for a reason.
To overwhelm us knowing that Jesus is, and that He loves us and works on our behalf, and to help us see what His work accomplishes in and for us.
In tonight’s passage from Isaiah 11, there is not one, not two, but three different lists the youth identified. We are going to focus on lists two and three, because when I asked which list I should focus on, they divided on lists two and three, and then realized you need list two, the things Jesus would do, to see list three, the effects of those actions in our lives…
So let’s get into List #2
- List two – What Jesus Did!
So here is what Isaiah said Jesus would do, things we know He has done and is doing still.
First, it says he will delight in obeying the LORD – that is God the Father.
How did Jesus obey the father? Well, Paul describes it this way,
“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Ephesians 1:5 (NLT2)
God the Father said to Jesus, “Go save them – and bring them Home!” And that is what everything else sets up.
That’s why Jesus doesn’t judge us based on our appearance, nor will Jesus ever listen to rumors and hearsay about us! No matter how many sins Satan will accuse us of, Jesus will cover each one. (that doesn’t mean we go commit more!)
Jesus will give those who are broken and poor justice, and make fair decisions for those who are exploited and oppressed. Again—this is both physical and spiritual – some people are physically poor and exploited and others are spiritually so. In each situation, God is there, working in their lives. (Which probably means we should do the same!)
That is the power of God’s word at work, when He declares those who are broken are healed, those who are imprisoned are free, when those who are alone, are those He gathers and invites into the deepest relationship.
So that’s the work in list 2, and here is the effect in list three.
- List three – The Effects of His actions
The third lists detail the results of what they were to expect Jesus to do. Simply put, it seems like His coming was to provide them a life of peace that is crazy!
All these natural enemies resting side by side, Wolves and lambs, Leopards and goats, Lions hanging out with small calves—that just sounds crazy! Isaiah will up this idea of of peace though.
Anyone want to take an infant into a cobra den?
Or let a toddler play with a bunch of rattlesnakes?
God’s work in our lives is leading to a place where everyone is that peaceful! Who are the people that are your enemies, your adversaries, those that damage you, whether unintentionally or intentionally? They cannot do so, and if they are, or become believers, they will be as close as your closest friend, and you will rejoice in that!
The Apostle Paul talks about the power that raised Christ from the dead at work in us, and that is what happens! God at work in all who believe in Him, and calling others to that place!
First, He judges us, and instead of finding us guilty as charged, He makes us righteous, cutting away all the sin and all that goes with it. Then He puts changes our heart—and gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us and makes us more and more like Jesus.
And then we learn from Him to live in His peace… to even love and pray for those who do not know that peace… That is why He came… that is what we need to see!
That is why these lists are here—to get to know Jesus, to see what He is miraculously doing, and to see the profound impact on our lives, and our world, and to provide for us a future that is amazing…
He is our God, and we are His people. AMEN!