Category Archives: Devotions

We all know God loves us, but far too often the stresses, anxieties and problems in life crowd Him out of our view. Here find a moment to re-focus and remember how incredible it is that God loves us, and what it means to live in His presence, in the peace that passes all understanding…

A New Year… a Time to Heal Brokenness

Jesus foot washing

Devotional Thought of the Day:

†14 I am the LORD your God, and I command you not to make fun of the deaf or to cause a blind person to stumble.  Leviticus 19:14 CEV

17 Don’t hold grudges. On the other hand, it’s wrong not to correct someone who needs correcting. 18 Stop being angry and don’t try to take revenge. I am the LORD, and I command you to love others as much as you love yourself. Leviticus 19:17-18 CEV

So they ran all over that part of the country to bring their sick people to him on mats. They brought them each time they heard where he was. 56 In every village or farm or marketplace where Jesus went, the people brought their sick to him. They begged him to let them just touch his clothes, and everyone who did was healed.  Mark 6:55-56 CEV

I wondered this morning as I read the first passage whether the deaf and blind were only physically blind, or if it included those we consider spiritually blind as well.

It doesn’t matter if we a progressive or conservative, contemporary or traditional, right or left, or somewhere on a different spectrum.  We all believe there are people that are so out of touch with reality. that they can’t see or hear, because otherwise, how could they be that stupid?

Or perhaps they are the people we resent, with cause perhaps.  People we are angry with, people we want ot hurt just as much (if not more) than they hurt us. We will take ourselves out of their lives, stating they are the toxic ones, they are the ones that shattered the relationship that was once valued, even treasured.

What would life be like if we, like those who dragged their ailing friends, neighbors, brought these people, the spiritually deaf and blind or those who have hurt us and those we love, before the throne of God?

What would happen if we prayed for them, even wept over the brokenness we think we perceive?

Would God be any less willing to listen, to interact, to bring sight to their eyes (or ours) and enable their ears to hear?  Would He bring them to repentance, and forgive their sins?

Or maybe, answering our prayers, would He change us…

Something to think through and pray about this new year, as we look forward to seeing how God is God, our Almighty God, our Wonderful Counselor, our Everlasting Father, our Prince of Peace.

Godspeed to you and yours… and this time next year, may you see the healing God has long desired in your life!  AMEN!

Last Blog of the Year: Is it time to finally grow up?

 

District photoDevotional Thought of the decade

11  When I was a little child I talked and felt and thought like a little child. Now that I am a man my childish speech and feeling and thought have no further significance for me. 12  At present we are men looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face! At present all I know is a little fraction of the truth, but the time will come when I shall know it as fully as God now knows me! 1 Corinthians 13:11-12 (Phillips NT)4

1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory! Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)

All my life I search for this unique, individual self—my true self—and yet I never fully find it. Only God knows it fully, for He designed it. And only God can give it to me because He created it and is creating it right now, sculpting it with all the tools of heredity and environment that make up my life. None of us knows who we really are once we stop fooling ourselves. That knowledge and that destiny await us in our home. Our home is in Heaven because our true identity as individuals is waiting for us there. The character’s identity is found in the author’s mind and nowhere else.

While I have no need for my childish speech, feelings, and thoughts, this passage from 1 Corinthians 13 also makes it clear that I am not capable of the kind of understanding I would expect of someone who is more.. mature.  My ability to know reality and what is true is limited, and it will be until Jesus comes for us.

I struggle with that limitation, as much as I did as a 12-16-year-old when I thought I knew everything, or at least was making progress towards that audacious goal!  Like Peter Kreeft, I wanted to know who I was, and there were a lot of struggles on the way.

To be honest, I am not sure who I am… I could define myself as a musician, a pastor, a husband, a father, a son, and someone who suffers with Marfan’s Syndrome and probably am on the Asperger’s Spectrum as well.

None of those things really define me, and I can’t yet know who I am, only God knows. He is, as Kreeft acknowledges, still working on me, crafter me as a master craftsman only can.  (He is doing the same for YOU, by the way!)

Before I became a precocious teenager, I was far more content with not knowing everything, I was content with just learning, just experiencing, and I need to do that more in the next year. I need to be satisfied with less control, with having less wisdom than I think I need, to simply walking and living with God.  That is where I am truly content anyway.

Content playing the keyboard, content with my head in a book, learning what I can.  Content teaching people what I really know well, that “the Lord is with YOU!” Really content as I put in people’s hands the Body of Christ. Content as I see these things have an impact that only God can be responsible for, as He brings them to maturity, as they learn to depend on Him.

That’s is something I can’t control, I can’t plan for it to happen.  I can work on the opportunities, but it is something that I have to trust in God to make happen.  To trust Him as a child does, and perhaps like a much older person, who has wisdom.

God is with you…

and in 2020, come share in His feast!

and let us sing His praises together…

the rest will work itself out.

God’s peace from 2019…

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 22–23.

How Do You See God Working in “Them?” How does that affect your own faith?

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
10  Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord!” he replied. 11  The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. 12  I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” 13  “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! 14  And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.” 15  But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16  And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” 17  So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18  Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19  Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength. Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days.
Acts 9:10-19 (NLT2)

675  It’s true that he was a sinner. But don’t pass so final a judgment. Have pity in your heart and don’t forget that he may yet be an Augustine, while you remain just another mediocrity.

How can we hate people as much as we do?  Just a glimpse on social media this morning, I see people attacking homeless, immigrants, the President, the House of Representatives (both sides), athletes, Muslims, conservative Christians, those who have had abortions, those who are pro-life, Hollywood and Netflix, people who liked the new Star wars, and those that found major issues with it.

It is spiritually exhausting, all this hatred.

We not only judge their actions, but we also condemn them and assume they are and will always be demonic.

It is as if we don’t believe God is capable of turning them as if God has never had to deal with sinners before, and is incapable of transforming them into saints.

Ananias needed to be converted as much as Saul did. His reluctance shows it, as his faith wasn’t in the God who was transforming him.  Did he think God didn’t know who He was sending him to baptize?

Do we believe God does not desire these people we hate to come to faith, to repent, to be transformed?

If we did believe their salvation was possible, would we spew our hatred out on Facebook and Twitter the way we do? Would we try to justify it when we are challenged on our words and actions?

I would imagine this affects us more than we know, go if we realized God could save them, then perhaps we wouldn’t hesitate to go to God, confessing our own sins, our own darkness, our own doubts.

We need to be cleansed of all sin, and all unrighteousness, including our doubt that God can save all people, that the cross paid for all sin. That in Christ, all can be considered holy.   The more we trust in HIm to save and transform others, the more we will see what He is doing in us.

Trust Him, He is at work, seeking to save the lost, all of us.

Amen!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Let’s Go See Jesus – A Christmas Day Sermon

Altar with communion

Let’s Go See Jesus
A Christmas Day Sermon

In Jesus Name

May the Grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ help you to desire to dwell in the presence of Jesus more and more!

How dare they?

How would you feel if you went to the supermarket tomorrow morning, and the doors were locked shut… and not a staff member was to be seen?

And then you headed over to your favorite restaurant, to use the gift card someone gave you, and it was closed.

Frustrated, you start to head home and realized you needed gas, and the gas station was closed, and the pumps turned off.

I imagine that would be the same response as the owners of all the sheep around Bethlehem if they had gone out to check on their shepherds on the first Christmas Day…

Think of it, all these employees just left their jobs, and took off to go see a little baby, lying in a manger?  It wasn’t even their own child or grandchild.

But they took off, and they enter the village and go to the stable, and as they stare at this little baby, mumbling about angels, and being woken up from a sound night sleep and praising God for finally sending the Chosen One, the Messiah.

So who was back with the sheep?

Would we dare to leave it all behind?

So here’s my question, knowing what they did, and why, would you leave your work if an angel showed up and told you Jesus was here?

Not some ceramic doll, but if Jesus was truly here, would you leave your Christmas gifts behind, you plan for lunch or dinner?  Would you drop all the other “stuff” in your life, would you forget your plans, would you be that irresponsible?

We need to be

If you wouldn’t, or If you say you would do it later, in a day or two, then I have failed our calling.  I need to make sure you understand what it means for Jesus to be in your life, for Him to dwell with you!

Enough that everything and everyone else in your life takes second place.

Not just because He forgives your sins, but the real reason, our fellowship with the God who loves us, the God who came to dwell among us, and whom we will dwell with for all of eternity.

That is why He came, and laid there, for shepherds to see, and praise God to all who would listen. That’s what Mary pondered, that this little one she carried would save, not just all of Israel, but people that will be gathered from every language and tribe and tongue.

The one named Yahweh Save, and who is Called God with Us!

This Baby Jesus, who you came to celebrate today, and receive in the sacrament. He is not just the reason for the season, but the reason for your life. A life He longs to share with you, the good, the bad, the sinful, the holy, all of it. He longs to be yours, and you to be His.

So as the shepherds left everything to find that which mattered most, I pray you see Him revealed to you in this message, and in the sacrament, and because of that, in every moment of this day and week.

Knowing you are His, may the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.. AMEN!

 

Passionately Committed: A Christmas Eve Sermon on Isaiah 9:2-7

 

Altar with communionPassionately Committed
Isaiah 9:2-7

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace, mercy and peace of God so flood your life that you realize how passionate God is committed to you!

The overlooked words

Have you ever had a conversation, where the main point that you were trying to make was overlooked?  In fact, the little stuff, that was dependent on the main point, became the focus of the conversation?

That happens continually when pastors prepare sermons.  In fact, I have questions I ask myself every week, that I put in place to try and protect you from me doing this with scripture.

The first question is, “where is the law in the passage, where do we find ourselves disobeying God and doing what we want”  If is followed by “Where is the gospel, where does God heal our brokenness”

But there is a final question, “how is the intimate relationship between God and His people revealed?”

Those questions, especially the third one, keep the main idea, the main idea. For all that we do here, from the candles to the tree, to the manger which will have the baby in it soon, it is all to reveal that concept, that God is passionately committed to you.

That other stuff – just describes the real truth

You see some of the words of the prophecy of Isaiah on Christmas cards, on banners, quoted every year, Let me reread them, from the King James,

6  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (KJV)

Those words are an incredible promise of Jesus’ birth, and His life, death and resurrection. To call one born on a women Mighty God and Everlasting Father is incredible.

While I have preached 20-30 sermons on all of that verse, and sung those words in the Messiah, that isn’t the main point of those seven verses.
The key point – the passionate commitment/zeal

They, like the idea that the darkness we all walk in will be shattered by God’s glory, and the joy we will have when God breaks sin’s hold on us, all point  to one simple point, explained in the last verse:

The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

The Lord, God almighty is passionately committed to making all this happen.

Why?  What is He after?  Why would he zealously and passionately committed to sending Jesus to make all this happen?

Because He is passionately committed to you, that’s what this is all about.
God loves you with every part of His being!  He is committed to making you His own, to help you through life, to help you deal with sin, to help you live life, with the confidence of the joy set before you – that you will spend Christmas in His presence.
This is why we are here; this is why we sing Hallelujah, and Joy to the World, the Lord has come.  He has come to be with you, to love you, to help you depend on Him.  AMEN!

What’s in a Name? A Christmas Eve Sermon from Concordia (Matt 11:18-25)

Altar with communion

What is in a Name?
Matthew 11:18-25

In Jesus Name

May the Grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, prove to us He is Immanuel, God WITH Us!  AMEN!


I’m confused – Do I call him Jesus or Immanuel

Once upon a time, I managed a fast-food restaurant.  It was the rule back in those days to call the managers by Mr., or Mrs., or Ms. and their last name, and cooks and cashiers by their first name.

That was always a challenge for me because, at 22, I had a closing crew that was all older than I was at the time.  And having my elderly 40-year-old cashier Su-lin from Thailand, or Maximino and Guillermo, two brothers in their 30’s from Oaxaca call me Mr. Parker just didn’t seem right.

Su-lin had a problem with pronouncing Dustin, so as we were talking one night, she asked me what the name Dustin meant.  I told her and Max piped up – so we can just call you Pedro.  Fine with me, don’t like Dustin that much.

But it made it confusing for the rest of the staff, looking around when one of the three of them called out – Pedro – help!

As I read the story about Joseph from Matthew’s gospel, I thought of the confusion!

Matthew tells us the angels told Joseph to name his foster Son, Jesus.  But then says that this was to fulfill the prophecy that he would be called Immanuel.

So which is it, Jesus or Immanuel?  Which do we call him?  Which is the proper way to address the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

Maybe looking at what why would call Jesus will help us figure it out.  Or maybe there is more to a name than how we yell at them from across the room!

Yah-Sozo

The angels say, “you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  Pretty simple, and that is what His name means.

Yah – short for Yahweh – God’s name in Hebrew, and Yasha – to make free, to preserve.

In that name, we hear an incredible message, that Jesus came to save us. As the angel says from our sins, from our brokenness.

That is part of the gospel message – that because of Jesus, we won’t face the wrath our sins deserve.

But as the television ads say, there is more, something greater than this life, which is found in what the Old Testament revealed that people will call Him.

Immanu-El

The other name Matthew tells us the Messiah will be called is Immanuel!  A word that reminds us that God is immanent, that God is immediate, that God is here, with us.

This is the purpose of Jesus saving us, to spend time with us, not just on Christmas and Easter, but every moment of our lives. This is His goal in saving us, His goal in the incarnation and birth, the life and death on the cross, it all ends up with this simple concept,

Immanuel.

God with us.

His dream, His desire, repeated over and over in scriptures, “for I will be your God and you will be my people.

AMEN!

A Brutal but Blessed Truth…

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Descendants of Jacob, I, the LORD, created you and formed your nation. Israel, don’t be afraid. I have rescued you. I have called you by name; now you belong to me. 2  When you cross deep rivers, I will be with you, and you won’t drown. When you walk through fire, you won’t be burned or scorched by the flames. 3  I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, the God who saves you. . Isaiah 43:1-3a (CEV)

A godly man often grows best when his worldly circumstances decay

I had always believed in God’s love and God’s omnipotence. But once I put the two ideas together, saw the unavoidable logical conclusion (Rom 8:28), and applied this truth to my life, I could never again see the world the same way. If God is great (omnipotent) and God is good (loving), then everything that happens is our spiritual food; and we should thank Him for it.

I am not sure I would use the phrase “godly man” to describe myself. Others might, assuming since I am a pastor, I must be.  But I know the difference, and so does God.

But I can say, I desire to be a Godly man, and that expresses my broken and sinful heart.  I desire it and know how deeply I fall short of it.  That God guarantees that I will be, that I am in His eyes because of Jesus is a great theological and often academic exercise, but there are days where theology doesn’t serve, and where my academic strengths fail.

It is then that I realize that even for who would desire godliness, the times of failure can be blessings.  Spurgeon is right, even for those like me. Kreeft says it even better – everything that happens to me, whether I am in control of it, or am not, is a result of God’s omnipotence, and more importantly, His love.

That’s hard to say when faced with disease and genetic disorders.  It is hard to face for those who suffer from mental illness, and for those who have been affected by the evil of others, or by their own, this is a brutal truth, and one that it is hard to comprehend, and harder to accept.

Even so, as I desire godliness, I must grow to trust, even when I struggle ot accept, that this is true. Even more so, I need to grow in trusting and sensing His presence when the deep waters come, and I feel like I am drowning.  Even more so when life feels like Dante is right about the inferno. When the pain and anguish seem to overwhelm, I need ot remember the promise of my baptism, and the discovery that I have made at the altar, that God is with us is not just words, it is a truth that is the purest of blessings, even when faced with the brutality of this world. Even when I am too tired to see it.

He is with us, He calls us by name, for we are His.

Even in the midst of “it”

Lord, help us to know Your presence in our lives, to experience the love that is beyond explanation, the peace which is beyond understanding.  Help us not to praise You because You rescued us, but because you made us Yours.  Lord, until you let the waters recede, and the fire be quenched, sustain us, and help us to be thankful for Your presence.. AMEN!

 

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 19.

The Problem of “Free Will” is we don’t want it freed….

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

Jesus heard them and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.”  Mark 2:17

You may say, “Well, did God not endow us with a free will?”19 I reply: To be sure, he gave you a free will. But why do you want to make it your own will? Why not let it remain free? If you do with it whatever you will, it is not a free will, but your own will. God did not give you or anyone else a will of your own. Your own will comes from the devil and from Adam, who transformed the free will received from God into his own. A free will does not want its own way but looks only to God’s will for direction. By so doing it then also remains free, untrammeled and unshackled.

The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in him. From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ: “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”11 And they invite people of every era to enter into the joy of their communion with Christ:

I had perceived—via God’s grace, not my own wit, surely—that since God is love, we must therefore love God and love whatever God loves; that if we turn to the divine Conductor and follow the wise and loving baton that is His will, His Word, then the music of our life will be a symphony.

Over the years, I have heard people argue over the concept of free will.  Some would say we have it, others would simply say we don’t, that God is not only responsible for all of our actions, but He chooses what we will do, in every moment.  I’ve heard it blamed for our sinful choices, and for the temptations that we tried to avoid, but gave into and sinned.  Somehow people think because God gave us the ability to decide to wreck out lives, He is responsible for their breaking.

Until reading Luther this morning, I never conceived of the idea that free will could mean that it is not “our will”; not “my will” or “your will”, but the ability to simply have a will that is free, and therefore can be influenced by God,  A will that Kreeft describes himself realizing that God is love, and therefore we should resonate with His love, and love what He loves.  The power of free will then, is not aligning it to our own desires, but letting it be guided, let it resonate with the will of God.

After all, isn’t that the invitation Jesus came to deliver?  That those of us who are sinners, will be freed from sin, able to walk with Him?

That is why we train people in the faith; why we make disciples, not converts; why we catechize, answering the real questions of faith, rather than indoctrinate.

It’s not to force one’s will to be Christ’s, it is to help people see that their will, their Spirit, once clean of all sin of all injustice, resonates with Jesus.  For we were made in God’s image, and the Spirit causes us to realize this, as we realize the love of God.

This resonance is why salvation, realizing God has removed dampen and distort our lives, is so joyous. A guitar or violin string doesn’t have to be forced to sound, a similar string resonating brings its movement and sound.  Just as the word of God resonates with a truly “free will” creating joy where it resounds.

Heavenly Father, please, once again, send the Holy Spirit to remove all that would distort and dampen the will the Holy Spirit has restored.  In Jesus’ name!  Amen!

 

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 48

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 107..

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 16.

Do You Really Have Faith in God? Do I?

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God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
25  Whenever you stand up to pray, you must forgive what others have done to you. Then your Father in heaven will forgive your sins.  Mark 11:25 (CEV) 

12  God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. 13  Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. 14  Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together. Colossians 3:12-14 (CEV)

Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

In the second place, this petition mortifies us through other people who antagonize us, assail us, disquiet us, and oppose our will in every way, who mock not only our worldly actions but also our good spiritual works, such as our prayers, our fasting, our acts of kindness, who, in brief, are never at peace with us. O what a priceless blessing this is! We should really pay such assailants all our goods, for they are the ones who fulfil this petition in us. They are the ones through whom God breaks our will so that his will may be done. This is why Christ says in Matthew 5 [:25], “Make friends quickly with your accuser.” That is, we must surrender our will and accept our adversary’s will as good, for in that way our will is broken. In the breaking of our will God’s will is done; for he wants to see our will hindered and broken.

The Letter of St. James notes that we should demonstrate our faith in our works.  That is not always easy!  Especially when it comes to demonstrating our trust in God when it comes to the adversaries, enemies, and jackasses we have to deal with in everyday life.

The Catholics have it right when they say sin originates in letting our trust in God die in our hearts. It is then, as we turn our back on the Holy Spirit that we take power into our own hands, and do what God says not to do.

Like seek revenge, or curse those who oppose us, or simply forget they were created by God, and treat them without the love and respect the children of God should receive.

We have to trust, when people oppose us, that God is doing what He has promised to do, that all things, even the opposition, will work for good.  As Luther notes, God may be using them to break our will, so that His will may be done. Whether they realize this or not, we should be thankful to God.

That is why we can forgive them, realizing that their actions are actually blessings.  That they show God’s love for us, although in ways that are pretty frustrating, and yes, humbling.  We must realize that God is behind it. We must realize that His love is manifested in what these people are doing, saying, thinking.  God’s will is being done, not theirs, and definitely not ours.

This is why St. Paul’s advice to “Put up with each other” and “forgive anyone who does you wrong” is preceded by words reminding us of the FACT that God loves us, and chose us to be His own   That must come first, the relationship, the love that matters more than anything else. The love of Christ, that poured our in water and blood, the love that unites us all, cleansing us of ALL sin.  Binding us together.  Demonstrating how faithful God is to us, and how He, in His love, empowers our ability to look to Him, depend on Him, have faith in Him, even while persecuted…

Lord, we have faith in You, help us to have faith!
Lord, Have mercy on me, a sinner! 

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 100.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 44–45.

The LIGHT Streams Into Our Lives: a sermon based on John 1:10-14

The Light Streams in Our Lives
John 1:10-14

In Jesus Name

May the grace, mercy, and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ shock you!

  • Kreeft and Love

I just started a new book, one I didn’t know a favorite author named Peter Kreeft wrote. In the introduction, he writes something quite startling,

“God loves you”—isn’t that the most well-worn of clichés? It’s just standard filler for the laziest, most obvious and repetitive homilies. Smile. Yawn. Everybody knows that by now, at least everybody who has ever been in a church or read a Bible.
No. Exactly the opposite. It is not familiar. It is shattering. It changes everything. And most Christians do not realize it.
[1]

Even as I encountered this in my readings this week, It took me a moment to think about it.  Do we know what love is? Do we really know understand it, have we experienced it?

Does it shock you when I tell you that God loves you enough that Jesus died, for you! For you Tom, for you Sandy, for you Missy, even for you who are watching this…

God loves you…

Does it still shock you, this love, when you hear the words I speak at Jesus’ command, “Your sins are forgiven you!”

Or when, into your hand, or on your tongue I place the Body of Christ, and the deacon gives you the cup containing His blood?  Are you startled then?

If you aren’t, I apologize.

I haven’t revealed to you clearly enough what it means that God is love… and that love is aimed at you.

  • Would we recognize Him today? Or would we reject Him?

In the St. John’s gospel, there is something as staggering to hear,

10  He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11  He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.

I still don’t understand this, how in the world could they miss Him with the way he taught, so different from all the others.  He who brought healing into their lives, He who dared to forgive the vilest of sins.

He who had compassion on the most broken, those haunted by their sin, those possessed by demons, those who couldn’t be faithful to Him, like Peter and James and John…who even doubted when they saw Him risen from the dead and about to ascend to heaven.

How could they not recognize Him? Consider what Peter would write, “For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

Yet they did not recognize Him, and I am not sure we do either when we encounter Him in the lives of the people He so dearly loves.  And even if we realize it from a theological perspective, that doesn’t mean we realize His love for us.

We need to have Jesus revealed to us, through Word and Sacrament, we have to be reminded of His presence and His love.

His love streams among us

So what does it mean when John’s gospel and Peter’s epistle say that saw His glory, His majestic splendor.  What is that they saw, when Jesus came and made His home with them, with us?

Simply put, it is the fact that God is love.  And that He loves us- this is what they saw… God, in Christ, had compassion on them, he was charitable towards them. He loved them, just as He loves us.

From Peter Kreeft again (did I start the right week to read this, or what?_

Jesus does not merely give us advice about agape. He gives us agape. He exchanges selves with us: we are put in Him, and He is put in us. He is the Love that “does not insist on its own way”. First Corinthians 13 is a description of Christ. His love can be in us only because He is in us. We attain agape not by trying a little harder but by faith, by believing and thus receiving (Jn 1:12), by letting Him in, letting Him invade us, possess us, haunt us.[2]

This is it, we can love because He loves us.

We are loved.  How much?  Look at the cross, see what He experienced there, so you can experience His love.  Look at the font, where He brings you into Himself, fuses your life to His own. Come to the altar…. And realize how much love it takes to forgive every single sin you have committed.  No, how much it cost to forgive just that sin.

All this stuff about Christmas, the gifts, the tree, the flowers, the manger, it is all there to convince you of this.

So that you can believe in Him, trust in Him, and know that you have become the children of God. Shocking isn’t it… You are loved.

God loves you. He wants you with Him, now and forever

I can’t explain it any clearer than that.

God loves you… and always will.  AMEN!

[1] Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 11.

[2] Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 85.

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