Category Archives: Life in Jesus

Glorious!!! (not in dark despair): A sermon on Isaiah 9:1-4 from Concordia Lutheran Church

Glorious! (not dark despair)
Isaiah 9:1-4

In Jesus’ Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, which eliminates all darkness in your life, reveal to you the freedom and victory won for you… and those around you!

  • Titus 3:3—So once were you

Someone once said that those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it. When it comes to politics or military strategy, education or sociological phenomena, it seems pretty accurate.

It is different when it comes to our faith.

We are not condemned to relive our past—We just condemn others to repeat our lives without God.

Paul discussed this with Titus in Chapter 3 this way:

3  Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4  But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5  he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:3-5 (NLT2)

This is the view that complements the view of Isaiah. Isaiah says—you have hope, this is going to happen…. Paul says—this has happened don’t forget it.

Not because you will have to repeat it, but because there are people you need to help rescue from the darkness you once knew.

  • The pressure of dark despair

I don’t know how few of us remember the darkness before we realized the love of Jesus. Most of us plod through our spiritual lives, knowing God is there, but not walking closely with Jesus. We know hard times, depressing and oppressive times, but the light is always at the end of the tunnel.

Can you remember life without that? Where the darkness and despair doesn’t just threaten to overwhelm us, it completely has taken over life.

That’s what people deal with, every day of their lives. No hope in this life, just the illusion that success or money or sex or fame brings with it joy… and peace.

That empty, that lost, that not even aware that there is a God out there, who knows their name—and loves and cares for them.

Hear the promise to them again:

Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory. 2  The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.

We may not remember this transformation… from absolute oppressive darkness to light, but God has definitely removed the shadows, or comforted us in the midst of them.

C.S. Lewis talked of people caught up in the darkness and despair and being so used to it that they cannot cope with the light and joy and peace, so they desire to return to despair.

But remember—Paul reminds us we were once there…

  • But now… in Christ—the Victory….of all victories- shattering everything

How did you feel after nearly 2 weeks of rain, when the sun came out this week? I was walking from the sanctuary back to the office, and I just stood along the sidewalk and just wanted to soak in the sun’s warmth, even though the breeze was cold..

It was just incredible to stay for a moment in the warmth and light of the sun.

Even more awesome was it for the apostles and all Israel to revel in the presence of God, the son, Jesus the Messiah. Even though they didn’t understand what it meant that Jesus was the Messiah—the world went ballistic following Him as we heard in the gospel.

Think about it, people would leave their family and home, their farms, their animals, to wander out to find this man that everyone was talking about.

Even more we know it, for we clearly understand what it means for Christ to come and be born of Mary, live, teach, suffer, die, and rise from dead.

We know what God has done as well, for as Christ died and rose, we have died to our sin, and the darkness and despair, and risen with Him into a new life.

The Promise

Hear the rest of the promise of Jesus’s actions,

3  You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and, like warriors, dividing the plunder. 4  For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor’s rod, just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian.

This is describing a victory beyond victories.

IN a couple of weeks, there will be a football game, and in a couple of months the Stanley Cup playoffs. When those teams play, there will be a winner, and a parade, and some tears of joy. A big deal will be made out of it, and everyone who is a fan of the winning teams will go crazy!

But that is nothing compared to the celebration of Angels when one person is baptized, and they go from the darkness to the light of God’s glory

All of heaven celebrates that victory as much as they did the birth of Jesus.

A similar joy in heaven occurs when God’s people realize they are freed from the darkness and despair as their sin is forgiven, or a communion feast is given, which is a tiny sample of our homecoming feast—the wedding supper of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit dwells with us, right now, right here. We dwell in the presence of the living God, as much as Moses at the burning bush, or Solomon in His temple, we dwell in the glorious presence of God

These moments, when we experience the love and peace of God, are what awaits us, every moment of eternity.

And are available, not only to those who believe, but are available to everyone…

Paul described that this way…

He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone. Titus 3:6-8 (NLT2)

I continually explain this for this reason, that we teach those around us about this loving God, who draws us into His glory. Paul insisted that we do this as a church—and we shall.

For we dwell in God’s glorious love and peace—even though we can’t understand or describe it.. but we know we are kept there. By Jesus. AMEN!

Some Changes… yet the same message!

Then God commanded, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate day from night and to show the time when days, years, and religious festivals Gen 1:14.GNT

Now all this happened in order to make what the Lord had said through the prophet come true, 23*“A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel” (which means, “God is with us”).  Matt 1:22-23

How foolish it is therefore for the inexperienced to assume pastoral authority when the care of souls is the art of arts.1 For who does not realize that the afflictions of the mind are more hidden than the internal wounds of the body

This true bride-love God presents to us in Christ, in that he allowed him to become man for us and be united with our human nature that we might thus perceive and appreciate his good will toward us. As the bride loves her betrothed, so also does Christ love us; and we on our part will love him, if we believe and are the true bride. Although he gave us the wisdom of all the prophets, the glory of all the saints and angels, and even heaven, yet would we not esteem them unless he gave us himself. The bride can be satisfied with nothing; the only one thing she wants is the bridegroom himself. “My beloved is mine and I am his.”

A seller of purple, Lydia traveled to the market of her day, and undoubtedly she had found freedom and satisfaction in that era when women were not counted at all.
But Lydia heard the Apostle Paul tell of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the Lord opened her heart. In Christ she found an eternal answer, which career and position had never been able to give.

Religions do not, in fact, simply supply answers to questions. Or at least they do not confine themselves to this until they become degenerate. Salvation is more than the answer to a question.

Every November 1, I change up my devotional reading list. It is like saying goodbye to old friends, and trying to get used to new friends.

Except this year.

This year, the new selections are like meeting an old friend who has had massive changes in their appearance, yet re the same person inside.  At least that is my impression after the first day. The readings, from a early Roman Catholic Pope, a different selection from Luther, Tozer and Merton all bring home what I’ve dedicated my ministry to, as well as my academic career.

We need Jesus…. and we need to guide people into the presence of Christ, despite what they think they know of Him. This sounds simple, but only after 25 years of ministry and three degrees do I feel like I’ve only begun to understand how to bring people into the presence of Christ in such a way they find healing and peace. Pope Gregory is right, this is an art form, not an academic exercise. But there is nothing–absolutely nothing–more important. Getting people to open up and share their woundedness is rarely possible in an hour. Sometimes it takes a decade. But when it happens, and they learn to walk with Jesus a step or two… oh how wonderful it is!

This is what Luther is trying to help us understand, as he urges us to understand God’s love, and His good will (care) for us, in the intimately deep way that  a husband should care for his wife, knowing her needs, caring for her when life is challenging. Knowing that Christ cares for us this deeply, this completely, allows us to toss aside that which burdens us, just to spend time with Him–being His. We need this time, more than anything, for from it comes the ability to care for others, even as we’ve been cared for by Jesus.

Again–the idea of SoulCare is right there, in front of everything.

That is what Lydie found, as Tozer commented. Ahead of her culture by two millennia, this woman ran a very incredible, high profit business. And found something all the success in the world could not provide. A soul at peace! A soul that was content in waiting for what God has planned for those who love Him because she heard Paul’s voice, and the Holy Spirit showed her the love and care of Christ…for her.

Which brings us to Thomas Merton, the wild card in my reading this year. And yet he nails it, this idea that our religion isn’t just an answer to a question. Christianity is more than dealing with the questions of sin, guilt, shame, death, even more than questions about heaven and hell. It is about the relationship with Jesus, who is God-with-us—even now! Right where you are reading this. He is Immanuel, God with us! Knowing this changes everything about life. As Luther noted – everything else falls aside, and we concentrate on the One who loves us.

Which brings us to the last quote, the odd translation of the Good News Translation in Genesis 1 – where God established the night and the day to determine the timing of religious festivals. The Hebrew there means “appointed times”, which makes me think there is a point here, since the order seems a little odd. Days, years and holidays (holy days) seems more logical than days, years and seasons. These appointed times/religious festivals where special times of rest, where God gathered His people to allow them a chance to rest, and to heal. A time to be cared for, cleansed, assured that God loves, even adores His people. This is what heals the soul, this incredible blessing of knowing God’s attitude toward us!

The Lord is with you! And there is a reason for Him to be here. To show you that you are loved.

This is what this religion is about – not just the answer to a question, but a relationship deeper and more precious than anything we can experience… and we are only just beginning it.

May we know this – more and more thoughout this next year!

God’s peace!

pastor dt

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), 29.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 384–385.

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

Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 1–2.

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