Author Archives: justifiedandsinner

“Take Only Two?” Learning to Accept God’s Work

Thoughts that draw me to Jesus, and to His cross

Moses said, “The LORD has commanded us to save some manna, to be kept for our descendants, so that they can see the food which he gave us to eat in the desert when he brought us out of Egypt.” 33*Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, put two litres of manna in it, and place it in the LORD’s presence to be kept for our descendants.”  Exodus 16:32-33 GNT

The union of the Christian with God is the exact opposite of a Promethean exploit, because the Christian is not trying to steal something from God that God does not want him to have. On the contrary, he is striving with his whole heart to fulfil the will of God and lay hands upon that which God created him to receive. And what is that? It is nothing else but a participation in the life, and wisdom, and joy and peace of God Himself. This is greater than any other gift, higher than any other power.

In my reading this morning, I was struck by the detail given in the directions to Aaeon. Only put 2 litres (an omer) of Manna in the jar. It was something I had to go back and think about. Why 2 litres/quarts, Why that sampling amount?

The only thing I could find was that was the amount each person was supposed to collect off the ground each day, for that day’s need. 2 quarts and that was it – collect more and it spoiled quickly. Now think of the Lord’s prayer, where we are asking God not for a month’s supply, not a weeks, but the bread we need for this day. That is what we are to depend on Him for, one days need at a time.

I think this is to form us, to keep our conversation with God going. Not that God won’t provide it all, but asking daily helps us stay in communication with Him, and to realize He is keeping His promises. This is what Merton is getting at as well, our regular communication—and more. The more being a partnership – a fellowship, a sharing in the wisdom, joy and peace of God Himself. It is about walking with God,a nd realizing that is what He’s always done for His people.

The Manna was to help Israel remember God providing for them, caring for them – food, drink, protection, healing, forgiveness. He would provide for each, every day, that is the reminder of the 2 litres. He came to them and made sure they all knew His presence and that they could depend on His care! They could know He would provide, even though they struggled to talk with Him, preferring to use Moses as a buffer zone. They didn’t need this buffer zone, God didn’t want it, but He is patience with us. Even when we don’t understand how He works, even when we get anxious for next Tues, or next year.

The manna reminds us – give us this day…

Still He was there, a pillar of fire at night, the cloud of smoke by day.

He was there, as He is with us…and He gives us reminders of His presence and provision. May we appreciate these things that point us to Him, even as we worship and praise Him, right here where we live.

Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 34.

Evangelism is More Than a 10 Minute Presentation

Thoughts that drive me to the cross:

22  Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them. So I become all things to all people, that I may save some of them by whatever means are possible. 1 Corinthians 9:22 (TEV)

28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29  To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:28-29 (TEV)

I think we cannot experience that which we have not believed. I still think we must instruct and urge men and women, toiling along in average and common Christian ways, to move forward and claim spiritual victory they have not yet known.

The joyful and the sad should be advised differently. Before the joyful are to be set the sad things that accompany [eternal] punishment, but before the sad the joyous promises of the kingdom should be set.

It was nearly 40 years ago that I was “trained” as an evangelist and trainer of evangelists. Somewhere I even have the certificate from Evangelism Explosion, and the neat talking cards they equipped me with, so that I could be an evangelist, and train others to do the same.

Forty years later, I feel less equipped, having seen that a practiced monologue doesn’t make someone an evangelist. I know now that the role of an evangelist, like that of a pastor, is something that can take years, that requires the patience of a shepherd, and the willingness to sacrifice time and energy helping people see the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Because we struggle in this world, because we struggle in our own worlds, we need to hear the gospel-the truth that God loves us-daily ourselves. We need to believe, as Tozer points out, what we are sharing. We need to have revealed the victory that God provides. Otherwise we cannot provide it for those who we love and care for, for we cannot give what we’ve not had given to us.

The other part of this is that we can’t give to someone else when we don’t know where they are at. We have to be like them, as Paul so eloquently points out. All of us are evangelists and therefore serve as a conduit of God’s grace. But conduits connect two points, in this case, God and one or ten or 100 of His people. Some of these know they are God’s people, some are beginning to discover it, and some are fighting it. So we come alongside them, and bear their weakness, we share in their trials, and we love them…

The work of an evangelist is never clean, it is never simple. I learned that when on one of my first EE calls, the door we knocked on to visit a couple was answered by the wife’s “friend”, and she would come to the door, well, not adequately dressed. They both, and the husband, needed God’s presence, in the days ahead, yet no card in my stack addressed their situation in a way that would draw them to Jesus. It would take them years to work through life’s issues, as the gospel and the church showed them God loved them. Not a ten-minute presentation followed by a prayer and baptism. More like a spiritual rollercoaster that seems out of control. But God knows the tracks… we just ride with our people.

This is ministry, an investment of time and love, to help the broken find healing they need for the wounds of life, as they get to know the Lord who loves them. This is whether you are a pastor, or a parent, a elder or just a friend. For we all can share the Lord’s love that we’ve come to know.

Let us depend on God’s love and presence, as we share that with those around us….

A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).

St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 93.

Visions of Peace: An Advent Chidlren’s Sermon and regular sermon based on Romans 15:4-13

Children’s Sermon
Romans 15:4-13

† In Jesus Name †

So every Sunday, part of what I do is play my guitar in the service.  Not all pastors do this, but I do. And before I do, I have to tune my guitar.

I have 6 strings here, and each is supposed to be a different note. Each has its own place, and its own sound.

But if they aren’t in tune, there is a problem.

For instance – this string is supposed to be an “A” string. But what if it decides to be something else? And this string, the “B” string, wants to be higher than it is supposed to be? It may sound nice on its own…. But what happens when I play all the strings together?

Does that sound good????

No!!!

That’s why each string has its own specific note. And the gut who plays guitar has the responsibility for making sure they sound like they are supposed to.

So I use my tuner – and I tune my guitar…..

So we are like the strings on my guitar. Each one of us has a special place in life, and a special role. But sometimes we want to be something different, we want to do things our own way. But what does that do to the entire group we are part of?

It messes everything up!

So who is responsible for getting us back in tune?

Jesus!

Except we don’t have pegs we are tied to, we are just always connected to Jesus, who fixes things and makes it right.

And then when we play, or sing, or just live with other people – it works out so much better.

Let’s pray!

 

 

Concordia Lutheran Church
December 4.2022

Visions of Peace II
Harmony-Concordia
Romans 15:4-15

† Jesus, Son and Savior †

May the grace f God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that you dwell securely in the peace of God, which is beyond anything we can understand!

A Vision of Concordia

I’ve been thinking about the changes I’ve seen in my lifetime recently. I mean, growing up, we had one phone in the house, and to call us you only dialed 4 numbers. We had a black and white television that was 13 inches in diagonal, later to be replaced by a massive 20 inch, color television which weighed about 80 pounds!

I wouldn’t say life was simpler or better back then, but it was certainly different.

But one thing is certain, parents then, and parents now want life to be better, more peaceful for their children, and for their grandchildren.

Let’s be honest, we haven’t been a peaceful world, a peaceful country, or even peaceful communities in the last 57 years. Heck, even the internet and social media isn’t all that peaceful!

It’s not a surprise to me then, that the readings for December, as we prepare for Christmas, all deal with peace, giving us a vision for peace, that like the harmony I talked to the children about—all comes down to Jesus.

What Peace Looks like

Paul explains what peace looks like in the church,

5  May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. 6  Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now we are back to the lesson on the children’s message – the idea that we should function in complete harmony with each other. We see what happens in the world when it doesn’t happen, when everyone determines what they are in tune with, and what note they want to play.

Paul gives the idea of being in harmony, each in tune, and played together.

When we aren’t tuned to and by God, we really can’t be in harmony with each other. We can “de-tune” our lives from God, rejecting His role in our life. That is the basis of what we call sin, when we think we know better than God

But when we de-tune ourselves, that also breaks the harmony we had with other people.

We need help… and Jesus is there to help us.

The Help to establish Peace

Paul gives one example of how Christ brings together people divided, addressing one of the most critical divides, still today. Hear again what Paul wrote,

Remember that Christ came as a servant to the Jews to show that God is true to the promises he made to their ancestors. 9  He also came so that the Gentiles might give glory to God for his mercies to them.

This divide – racial, cultural, ethnic, was huge in the day. It was violent, it still is, as it is the center of most of the middle east conflicts.

And Jesus, broke down the wall, by dying for all of them,

Paul wrote to another church, this one in Ephesus,

14  For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. Ephesians 2:14 (NLT2)

The cross is the answer to all sin, to all the times where we are out of tune with God, and therefore not capable to be in harmony with each other.

This works with any disharmony, with any dysfunction, where people are able to allow God to come and minister to them, to forgive their sin, to reconcile to God, tuning them, and then creating the harmony that exists, as we live with God together.

This is why we are here, why we have a school, to help people living broken lives to know God is working in those lives, brining healing and bringing peace.

A peace that unites us all, as we are united to Christ in our baptism, and at the communion rail. A peace that goes beyond understanding, and in which God keeps us, for this He has promised.

AMEN!

 

Necessary Sermon Study Beyond the Scriptures…

Thoughts that draw me to Jesus, and to His cross!

So tell the Israelites that I say to them, ‘I am the LORD; I will rescue you and set you free from your slavery to the Egyptians. I will raise my mighty arm to bring terrible punishment upon them, and I will save you. I will make you my own people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am the LORD your God when I set you free from slavery in Egypt. I will bring you to the land that I solemnly promised to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as your own possession. I am the LORD.’ ” Moses told this to the Israelites, but they would not listen to him, because their spirit had been broken by their cruel slavery.  Exodus 6:6-9 GNT

Two blind men who were sitting by the road heard that Jesus was passing by, so they began to shout, “Son of David! Take pity on us, sir!”  Matthew 20:30, GNT

Therefore, the discourse of the teacher should be adapted to the character of his audience so that it can address the specific needs of each individual and yet never shrink from the art of communal edification.

As the good works which Christ does to you have no name, so your good works are to have no name. They have no name so that there may be no distinction made and they be not divided, else you might do some and leave others undone. You shall give yourself entirely to him with all you have, the same as Christ gave himself wholly to you, with praying, fasting, all works and suffering, so that there is nothing in him that is not yours and was not done for you. Thus it is not your good work that you give alms and pray, but that you offer yourself to your neighbor and serve him, whenever he needs you and in every way you can, be it with alms, prayer, work, counsel, comfort, apologizing, clothing, food, and if need be, with suffering and death.

It is true that man can, by his natural powers, arrive at a natural and imperfect beatitude. This may include within itself a certain knowledge of God, even a kind of seemingly mystical contemplation. Those who are satisfied with the Pelagian solution find this to be quite enough for them. And if that is the case, we are quite willing to admit that they are right as far as they go. For they can, by their own power, reach what they think is the end of the journey. But what they call the end is not even the beginning.

When I first entered the ministry, I was a last second invite to an exclusive seminar on preaching. Last second because I had called a mega-church about a leadership gathering at 4 pm on a Friday, and someone cancelled out of the seminar a few minutes before my call. So I went…. and learned something not taught to me in the 9 classes I have had on preaching.

They all taught how to prepare the sermon, how to work through the passage or the theme. How to draw up the outline and the summary sentence, and even critique by peers on the delivery. All this was good – and faithful, and absolutely necessary.

But it left out something critical to know. We have to study more than the scriptures. We have to know more than theology.

We have to study, to know our people, and where they are at in their journey.

Moses had to realize the people of God could not listen, because their spirit was broken. They could not trust in the wonderful message of being rescued from Egypt. Notice is say – “You will know, I am the LORD-your God-when I set you free. Moses has to realize this, if he is to be patient with the people of God. (he had to learn this – like all pastors!) The two blind men were not ready to hear about the cross, they needed to know God’s pity extended into their lives, were they were at sitting by the side of the road. Merton’s gnostic person, not far from God, still needs to encounter Him, and have his entire life reset, even though he is spiritual and discerns there is a god. These examples, are found over and over–those who minister to others, need to know whom they are ministering to!

This is not new – Gregory the great – a Pope from 1400 years ago, taught this in his book to train pastors. We have to adapt our preaching and teaching to minister to those people we are encountering. This is true about pastors, and their example should lead their people to do the same thing–to know who they are trying to draw closer to Jesus. We have to meet the spiritual needs of the individual and the entire Bible study or congregation.  (That this was one of the 4 major lessons from Robert Schuller was, I believe, part of the reason his ministry reached so many that would not give time to other pastors!)

So this brings us to the quote from Luther, the lesson we need to know, if we are to communicate and communicate God’s love to our families, our neighborhoods, our communities. Those words in green sound challenging – to imitate Christ – to love and give of ourselves the way He loves and gives Himself to us. Again – how we communicate this is critical! People (and pastors) need to know how Jesus loves them, and gives Himself to them before they can do the same! Luther notes it rightly, giving ourselves completely looks different with every person, and even day to day.

That’s a lot of sacrifice–but if we are to minister to people – whether 5000, 100, or 2, we have to know them, and that comes from being there for them.. Then we know their struggles, their pains, and where they are with God.

So if you want someone to know Jesus, if you want to see them live in the peace that only Christ can instill in them, love them and dedicate yourself them.

And then, bring them to Jesus- from where they are at… and know He loves you both!

St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 87.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 422–423.

Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 28.

The Cost (?) of Discipleship? (of walking with Jesus)

Thoughts that cause me to be drawn closer to Jesus… and to the Cross:

21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich. Matthew 19:21-22 GNT

IN this atmosphere of theological litigation it comes to seem as if God did not want us to be free, as if freedom were something He envied and begrudged us; as if grace, while making us “safe,” took all the sting out of this dangerous faculty of free will by robbing us of spontaneous initiative; in other words, it seems as if man saves himself and arrives at divine union by bartering his freedom for God’s grace. The price of happiness is the renunciation of his natural autonomy, and the acceptance of a slave-status in the household of a God who is powerful enough to make slavery worth while.

The methods that make the kingdom of America strong—economic, military, technological, informational—are not suited to making the kingdom of God strong. I have had to learn a new methodology: truth-telling and love-making, prayer and parable. These are not methods very well adapted to raising the standard of living in suburbia or massaging the ego into a fashionable shape.

We need to pray for men and women in our churches who have determined to set their own agendas—to live their lives as they please! They have determined to manage the influences of the Word of God in their lives.

When I was in Bible College, one of the motto’s of our school was “to prepare servant leaders,” And while most thought this was about pastors, youth pastors and missionaries, it was equally about preparing those who would serve the church in the community, and as volunteers in local congregations.  TO this end, every graduate ended up with a part of their degree being in Bible.

While I don’t believe it was everyone’s intent, there was a subtle concept undertow similar to Merton’s comment in green above. In order to show we were saved, we needed to give up what we wanted, and embrace the sacrifice that God wanted us to make. For that was the way to be holy. Avoiding sin was often taught as forgoing pleasure. We didn’t have to live like monks, (unless we were headed to the mission field) but books like Freedom of Simplicity, and books by Tony Campolo and Ron Sider were often looked at as true spiritual disciplines that we needed to embrace. (These books were good- but it was put to us that it was our “duty” to live sacrificially)

There is not doubt in my mind that we need a change of heart and soul in this country. Peterson is write, the American Way is often incompatible with God’s will. The perceived standard of living will not be increased, the ego won’t be massaged in the ways the world recognizes. This is not just a problem in society, it starts in the church, where we have been taught it is either God’s way or the highway.. Again, we see guilt and pressure to give up what we have…and perhaps even feel much like the young rich man Jesus invites into his crew.

Make no mistake, the lifestyles of someone dependent on God is different from someone without God. But it isn’t about losing freedom or sacrificing ones ego on the altar.

It’ is about seeing a change in ownership, about realizing that we were less free apart from God than we are walking with Him. We need to see that pleasure and happiness are not the same, and the damage sin does to us, is horrid. It is not losing freedom, it is changing masters, One who was oppressive, and one who is benevolent. One who does not care about one’s life, or eternity, One who cares for it enough to die…

That’s the missing piece of the discussion, the idea that free-will is not oppressed by Satan. Satan will use anything to captivate our attention, our hearts, our souls. The cost of following Jesus is not a cost to us, but a blessing. It is not a loss of free will, but freedom from the consequences of the thoughts, words and actions that deserve punishment. Until we understand this – we will struggle with the idea of the cost of discipleship.

God is our Lord, and when we struggle with that, and we will, may we ask for His help, and the assurance of His love and presence.  Amen!

 

 

Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 27.

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), 38.

A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).

Whatever my lot, God Has Taught me To Say…

Thoughts which bring me to Jesus, and His cross..

God spoke to him in a vision at night and called, “Jacob, Jacob!”
“Yes, here I am,” he answered.
“I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go to Egypt; I will make your descendants a great nation there. 4I will go with you to Egypt, and I will bring your descendants back to this land. Joseph will be with you when you die.”  Genesis 26:1-4 GNT

Moreover it is a common plague that no one is satisfied with his own lot, so that the heathen say: How does it happen that there is always better fruit in another field, and that the neighbor’s cow gives more milk than our own? How does it come that no one is content with his own state and thinks that of another is better than his own? If God allowed one to change his lot with all his will, even then he would be like every one else, would become more tired and at last stay with his own. Hence one ought not to think of changing his lot, but of changing his spirit of discontent. Cast aside and change that restless spirit, then the lot of one will be like that of another and all will be prized alike.
To overcome such unrest, discontent and disgust in one’s self, faith is helpful and necessary—a faith which is of the firm conviction that God governs all alike, places each one in the lot that is the most suitable for him. This faith brings rest, contentment and peace; it banishes the tired spirit

The prodigal son takes his part of the inheritance, glad that it is his, and travels as far as he can from his father’s house. Up to the point where the prodigal enters into himself and remembers where he came from, the story is that of Prometheus and the vulture. The prodigal has not stolen anything, but he thinks that to “find himself,” he must segregate whatever can be classified as “his” and exploit it for his own self-affirmation.

During a recent hospitalization, I was awake late at night and thought through my life.

Let’s just say, that even though I do what I wanted to do as a child, there is much in my life that is… disappointing. Part of that is because of the physical limitations of a genetic disorder, which caused my heart, spinal and visual issues. How many things can I not do, that I loved. How many others I would have do, if only…

It is easy to get an attitude like the prodigal – to want to take what you’ve got and head for somewhere else. To find something where life is easier, or at least less stressful, less painful. Not that those dreams have the chance to become reality, but the dreams still exist. It’s not fair to face so many challenges, to walk with others facing even more challenges. Luther hits this hard, talking of the sin of wanting to change his lot, only to find that equally unsatisfying.

At the end of the Ten Commandments, there are the commandments about coveting, of wanting something that isn’t ours. The lists includes homes, family, associates, every part of our lives. Taken in view of the Commandments beginning, “I am the Lord, your God who has delivered you.” the reason that wanting to be different than who we are comes clear. He has given us our families, our vocations, the people in our lives, and yes, our bodies. To want to toss all that aside, so that we think we can find affirmation in another scenario, means we don’t trust in God’s plan and providence, and we doubt His love.

I imagine this was Jacob’s attitude, as his sons explained to him the necessity of the move, and the impossible miracle they said was true. Ninety years of hard work, of tears of loss of the wife he truly loved, and her son. Now, in his old age – a move? A new country? To give up everything? How could God ask him of this, after everything else he’s been through?

God doesn’t forget him, this man who was brave enough to wrestle with God and not let go. Or perhaps not brave, just simply at the end of his rope, and unable to conceive of life going on, and enduring more trauma. Hearing God’s voice makes a difference. Don’t be afraid—I will be with you. That makes every bit of a difference.

You and I need to hear that voice, the promise that while life is not “ideal”, that God is here, that life is in His hands, that even broken bodies, and wounded hearts have meaning and purpose… that He will hold us, even in the midst our angst, our pain, our frustration and anger. He is there, for that is His promise to us in baptism, and one we experience as we are given the Body and Blood of Jesus Gathered by God into His presence with others. It is there we fin the Spirit’s comfort, the healing of Jesus, the love of the Father. It is there we are taught to say, with confidence, that it is well, with our souls, and find a peace-filled contentment with our life, lived in His presence..

 

 

 

 

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 416–417.

Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 25.

God – Get Off My Back!

“What about you?” he asked them. “Who do you say I am?” 16*Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Matthew 16:15-16 GNT

But this occurs only when God awakens us and keeps us in his fear, so that we may always be concerned and cry: “Lord, increase our faith.” Our hearts should always be in a condition as if we had only begun to believe to-day, and always be so disposed toward the gospel as if we had never before heard it. We should make a fresh beginning each day. Our faith must constantly grow and become stronger. 

The naked, hidden God needs no theological proof, apology, or defense. The problem, Luther saw clearly, was neither how to find God nor even to prove God’s existence, but how to get God off our backs. Yet only God could do that.

Here is the central reason for his inescapable feeling of guilt. He condemns himself to frustration. He cannot enjoy the gift of God unless he snatches it away when God is not looking. This is necessary, for Prometheus demands that the fire be his by right of conquest. Otherwise he will not believe it is really his own. And that is the paradox that St. Paul saw so clearly: salvation belongs to the order of love, of freedom and of giving. It is not ours if it is conquered, only if it is freely received, as it is freely given.

Rarely have I found a true atheist, especially among those of any intellectual capability.

I have found people who know God exists, and do not like Him!  Also, I have found many who don’t like His people, because we can be arrogant, self-centered, holier than thou, who target this sin or that one–making that sin the cause of a new crusade.

Forde’s insight of Luther is often true of them, as they feel the tension bought about by a God who is only focused on correcting their errors, what we refer to as sin. This was Luther’s battle, and the freedom he eventually found was transformative. Forde simply says to Luther’s cry to get God off his back, that only God could do that. Only God can deal with the feeling God is on your back, bugging you to do what is right, and not do what is wrong.

Merton’s Prometheus has a similar struggle. He tries to steal fire, that is his purity, his righteousness. But you can’t steal what which is a gift! We see that in society today as well, and even in some theological systems, where we have to attain a level of holiness, or perfection, before God would bend down to us. I think that is the real reason for those theologies which promise health and wealth – the illusion of being blessed by God . It has more to deal with our opinion of ourselves than God’s opinion of us. It is to ogain the illusion of success, or at least striving for it.

The first quote from Luther, though, picks up an interesting idea. That the presence of sin in our lives, no matter how small, no matter how big, should drive us to cry out to God for a deeper faith. To trust in Him more, because we realize our incredible need for Him and His healing. As sin is a daily issue, so too is this life of transformation, trusting—depending on God to see be there for us.

Perhaps if we started each day thinking through Peter’s exchange, hearing God ask us, “who do you say I am” And realizing that Jesus is the Son of God, the One chose and anointed (for that is what Messiah means) to bring us to the Father, at any cost. That thought balances off the reverence, and yet the intimacy we need…It reminds us we can cling to Him, we can depend on Him, to care for us. He’s not on our back, He has our back.. for He loves us.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 415.

Gerhard O. Forde, “The Preached God,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 22.

Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 24.

For What Are We Thankful? Is that ALL?

Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to His cross

You, LORD, are all I have, and you give me all I need; my future is in your hands. 6  How wonderful are your gifts to me; how good they are! 7  I praise the LORD, because he guides me, and in the night my conscience warns me. 8  I am always aware of the LORD’S presence; he is near, and nothing can shake me. Psalm 16:5-8 (TEV)

For instance, it is very common to find, even under the formulas of impeccable orthodoxy, a raffishly Promethean spirituality which is avid not so much for God as for “spiritual perfection.” The language of prayer in such cases may be the language of the most consummate humility. Grace becomes everything. Nature is worse than nothing: it is an abhorrent nothing. And yet such a spirituality may be completely self-centred. Its orientation can be directly opposed to the true orientation of Christianity. Instead of being the fulfilment of a Christian finding himself in God through the charity and selflessness of Jesus Christ, it becomes the rebellion of a Promethean soul who is trying to raid heaven and steal the divine fire for its own glorification. What Prometheus wants is not the glory of God but his own perfection. He has forgotten the terrible paradox that the only way we become perfect is by leaving ourselves, and, in a certain sense, forgetting our own perfection, to follow Christ.

In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, there is a turbulent scene in which a whaleboat scuds across a frothing ocean in pursuit of the great, white whale, Moby Dick. The sailors are laboring fiercely, every muscle taut, all attention and energy concentrated on the task. The cosmic conflict between good and evil is joined; chaotic sea and demonic sea monster versus the morally outraged man, Captain Ahab. In this boat, however, there is one man who does nothing. He doesn’t hold an oar; he doesn’t perspire; he doesn’t shout. He is languid in the crash and the cursing. This man is the harpooner, quiet and poised, waiting. And then this sentence: “To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start to their feet out of idleness, and not out of toil.”
Melville’s sentence is a text to set alongside the psalmist’s “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10), and alongside Isaiah’s “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isa. 30:15).

As I have scrolled through social media today, I have seen a lot of people express that they are thankful for this, and thankful for that. Some are thankful for the relationships of friends and family. Some are more honest, and are thankful for a day off, where some family members work harder than they would on a work day! Others are thankful for health, and yet others–missing those they love–are thankful for the time they did have together.

Some even added a religious tone to their thanks, thanking God for this country, or for their religious freedom. After all, most picture Thanksgiving as Pilgrims and Indians, gathered around a table, free from the horrible religious controls that saw the Puritans leave England, hoping for freedom to practice their brand of Christianity, rather than following the flavor of King James. Some may even remember to thank God for the cross,

With this in the back of my mind, I came to Merton and Peterson’s heavy words, and they resonated enough that I had to think through them more deeply than the norm. It is not the most sophisticated systematic theology I have encountered. Even so, they are incredibly deep thoughts, and require more context than I include.  But the thought is similar in each, a search for something more

The concept gets to what we should be thankful for, more than anything else.

A relationship.

with God the Father Almighty, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

It is what Merton’s Prometheus couldn’t find, the reason he had to try and steal fire, he had to steal purity. Salvation was the end of the journey in his quest, without God. Which is, I am afraid, all to common these days, especially among those who are interested in theology and apologetics. We’ve done this for decades, chasing after the ultimate apologetic, and placing justification up as our idol, all but omitting its compatriot, Sanctification. We reversed the old Right Praise (Orthodoxy) leads to Right Doctrine and Right Practice. Preaching becomes more important hearing the word, and more important than communion with God in those incarnational, sacramental moments that reveal the greatest truth–God desires and made possible a relationship where He is our God, and we are His people.

It was what Peterson saw as Ahab’s strength, the ability to focus more on what was important than the evil storm, or the evil Leviathan.  Not sure Ahab knew that was what he was doing, but by resting he could fulfil his role, his destiny. We need a similar focus on those times with God, those moments we experience His acceptance of us, and His presence in our lives.

This is what our life is about, it is who we are…

His people.

That is, more than anything else, what we need to be thankful for…

Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 23.

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), 33.

Only One Guy Understood-How Ironic Who it Was! A Sermon for Chirst the King Sunday

Only One Guy Understood—How Ironic
Luke 23:27-43

In the name of Jesus, Son, Savior, King

May the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ draw you closer and closer to them! As close as a criminal executed for his bad (crappy) life!

  1. I Love Good Irony

Pastor Parker knows I like irony, for a few reasons….

But theological Irony? Well, I might need more teaching…to understand that!

Take this cartoon that someone put on the internet (ask Doug to advance slide or use the clicker)

Now, most of us will get the joke—having seen the beloved Peanuts gang’s Thanksgiving special for years…

But what most of you don’t know is that Charles Schultz was a devout Christian and used the Peanuts cartoon as a way to tell people about Jesus!

Linus will go from waiting for the Great Pumpkin in that movie to reciting the story of Jesus’ birth in the Christmas special.  Hmmm That’s cool! From waiting for Someone to Come and bring ultimate blessings–to seeing that Someone to come at Christmas! Sound familiar?

Anyone make that connection?

Here is where irony comes in… Lucy kills Jes… err the Great Pumpkin and serves Him up for everyone to eat.

HMMMMMMMM… someone mocked the Peanuts characters and unknowingly revealed one of the most blessed mysteries in scripture. That Jesus would provide His body and blood to us, to help us know He loves us and would die for us!  And we would share in that Body and Blood as gather here today!

Pastor thinks Schultz would love this cartoon… He certainly does. I think I do too!

So back to the gospel reading, and more irony!

 

  1. The Crowds and Experts (and sometimes us)

So, let’s talk about some serious mocking—or, as they say today—trash talking.

This is even more intense than pastor and I comparing Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers!

Hear the gospel again,

The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

That’s pretty nasty to say to a guy tortured and nailed to a cross to pay for your sins, don’t you think?

Other’s picked up on it, saying,

The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. 37 They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”

Even Pilate, the governor, got into the act. This is what he had done…

A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”

Man, these people are cruel!

I mean—I can’t see myself being that cruel to a guy was guilty and about to be executed!

Never mind doing that to Jesus, we would never ever do that, would we?

Here is the hard part of the law—we have…

Every time we have tried to kick Jesus off of the throne, by choosing our way, rather than His. Every time we have broken the commandments, or failed to love our neighbor, we deny the fact that He died to save us!

This is harsh—and I wish Pastor was preaching this… o wait- then I would sit there and pay attention…. And hear the law. It would sting and rip my sinful heart to pieces… hmmm… maybe it’s better I am up here…

We need to see our sin as…well sin. We need to see it as just as much a betrayal of Jesus as those people who mocked him, and those who laughed. We have to struggle with it, so that we become as desperate as the man on the cross… whose only hope…hanging there next to Jesus… was Jesus.

  1. Irony Man

Now we get to the criminal on the cross. Not the dude that mocked Jesus, but the one the Holy Spirit worked on, the one whose heart was opened, who saw Jesus as the Messiah, as the savior

The word for criminal is interesting. Kaka-poi-a-oh. It’s actually two words merged into one. The Poi-a-o one is to craft something—to bring artistic level skill to your work. So this guy is an artist when it comes to what he does…

What he does is the Kaka part. Now, that isn’t what it sounds like! It means the worst of the worse, the scummiest kind of bad actions against others. He was convicted of a capital crime—murder, treason; you know the other options.

And while everyone was mocking Jesus, telling him to save himself—this guy was the one to see that Jesus had to die… that Jesus must die, if there was any hope..

It is ironic—that the baddest, scummiest, crappiest sinner in the crowd was the one to see the need for Christ’s sacrifice… and to say… “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

I think it’s only when we put ourselves in his shoes… when we realize how broken and bad we’ve been, that we can see how wonderful Jesus is! How he is our hope—whether we are facing dealing with the consequences of our sin, or the ultimate consequence of sin as death approaches!

He is our King, the one who came to save us.

No matter how bad our kaka-poi-a-o has been…

We can cry out—Jesus, remember us, dear King!

And at Communion, what is called the Great Feast, I almost said pumpkin—as we celebrate, we recall what He said—do this; remembering me… proclaiming my death for you… until He comes again.

Jesus is here, and He could not save Himself, because He was saving you.

But in doing so, He entered His kingdom, and there will be a day when that Kingdom will be as clearly seen.

Until then, you still dwell in His Kingdom, as surely as the sinner on the cross next to Him, and therefore in His peace that passes all understanding, which He will keep you in…. AMEN!

 

Why “HE IS RISEN” is not “He rose”

Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and the Cross

Isaac had come into the wilderness of “The Well of the Living One who Sees Me” and was staying in the southern part of Canaan.
After the death of Abraham, God blessed his son Isaac, who lived near “The Well of the Living One who Sees Me”. Gen. 24:62, 25:11 GNT

Jesus left that place, and as he walked along, two blind men started following him. “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” they shouted. 28  When Jesus had gone indoors, the two blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I can heal you?” “Yes, sir!” they answered. 29  Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “Let it happen, then, just as you believe!”— 30  and their sight was restored. Jesus spoke sternly to them, “Don’t tell this to anyone!” 31  But they left and spread the news about Jesus all over that part of the country. Matthew 9:27-31 GNT

If I, even for a moment, accept my culture’s definition of me, I am rendered harmless.

If, for example, someone came asking us to intercede for them before some powerful man who was angry with him but did not know us, we would immediately respond that we were unable to intercede on his behalf because we do not have a relationship with the man in question. If, therefore, a person is too ashamed to intercede for another on whom he has no claim, how could anyone possibly assume the role of intercessor before God on behalf of the laity if he does not know himself to be in the intimacy of his grace because of the merits of his life? And how can anyone possibly ask for the forgiveness of another when he does not know if he is himself reconciled?

IT is in this perfect self-realization by contact of our own anguished freedom with the life-giving Freedom of Him Who is Holy and Unknown that man begins the conquest of death in his own soul. This finding of our true self, this awakening, this coming to life in the luminous darkness of the infinite God, can be nothing but a communion with God by the grace of Jesus Christ. Our victory over death is not our own work, but His. The triumph of our own freedom, which must truly be our triumph if it is to save us from death, is nevertheless also and primarily His. And consequently, in all these meditations we will be talking of contemplation as a sharing in the death and Resurrection of Christ.

We need to cling to God and pray: Merciful God, thou hast permitted me to become a Christian, help me to continue to be one and to increase daily in faith

In the great Easter acclimation, the church shares its hope as they yell, “He IS Risen, Indeed!” The tense of the verb is not mistaken – whether it is 33 AD. 700 AD, 1500 AD, or 2022 – Jesus is Risen!

Yes, the action originated nearly 2000 years ago, but it is still present tense. The impact of the resurrection is right now, wherever you are reading this. Peterson’s point about culture not defining us is based on the fact that Christ, the Christ who is Risen defines us. We are His!

St. Gregory shows the important of this relationship extends beyond the individual.It is from knowing the Lord is present that He is Risen means we are Risen. If we do not realize Chirst’s presence, how can we introduce people to Jesus? How can we promise them the healing of Jesus, unless we have experienced the power that raised Christ from the dead in our own lives. We need to live in that experience every moment of our lives.

Merton sees the same thing, in the selection I read from his work – our meditation, our contemplation has to be wrapped up in the death and resurrection of Jesus – for this is where we find His victory that is the triumph resulting in our freedom. Everything is based there, everything exists in that resurrection. That is this moment as well.

This presence of life is why Luther’s echo of the Apostle Paul – we have to cling to Jesus, even as we count on HIs clinging to us. This is the reason Hagar could name a well “the Lord who sees me”, and the well’s name stuck, a testimony to God’s presence in the life of one forgotten. It is the reason the formerly blind men went and told everyone. Christ was with them…

He is Risen. Therefore We are risen.

We need to know this, everything else in life depends on it.

We being all the people in the world.

so if you know… let those around you know as well. He IS Risen!

 

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), 21.

St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 44.

Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 10–11.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 399.

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