Category Archives: semons
It’s Time to Make Him Known!
May you see Christ so clearly revealed through His word and sacraments, that the grace of God our Father, and our Lord shine brightly through you, to those who need to know His name!
Deeply Troubled, Are We?
Imagine walking around Athens as Paul did, waiting for his friends to show up. This capital city, formerly the capital of the world, this place that might cause wonder, disturbed him greatly.
Scripture says he was deeply troubled, deeply and profoundly bothered by what he saw, what he experienced. Wherever he looked there was idolatry, people trying to find hope, and looking to man-made things to provide hope.
Broken, weary, unfulfilled desires become even more broken as their false gods revealed themselves to be nothing but a bunch of rocks. These people that were searching for answers, those who led them who loved to hear of new thoughts about God, they all needed a God to depend upon, a God to turn to, a God that would be there, a God who would help.
It wasn’t the first time, 600 years before, Diogenes records that Epimenides, a philosopher from Crete was sent for because no one had an answer to their problems, a plague, a drought, a famine all at once went through the land. Epimenides looked at all the temples, all these false gods and idols and suggested that the answer was that their prayers and sacrifices didn’t work because they didn’t know the real God they could pray to….
And so they made an altar to an unknown God, and prayed, and dedicated an altar with the words agnosto theo – and dedicated the altar to the unknown and real God, asking Him to save them, asking Him to hear their prayers. For a few centuries they remembered this God and His mercy, then, like many others, they forgot this nameless, faceless, benevolent God.
As Paul arrives, the altar was probably near ruins, the story all but was forgotten, and the people were back to looking anywhere for an answer.
But it was time to make this God known… even as it is today.
Can People Pray to A God they Don’t know? Will He answer them?
This passage plays havoc with what are called closed theological systems, or those systems that people close off themselves. It has caused a lot of debate, especially among conservative Lutherans. Because it isn’t beautiful and tidy, and God doesn’t fit in our box.
For example, there is the question of people praying to a God whom they don’t know.
We know we can’t find God if all we are using is our own reason and strength, that is solid, basic theology. But does that stop them from looking for Him? Does that stop them from praying to Him, begging Him for help.. and to reveal that He is present here.
Well, rather than just say yes, let me share a few passages, starting with today’s reading,
27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist.
11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)
and then this from Solomon’s dedication of the temple
41 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42 for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name. 1 Kings 8:41-43 (NLT)
And one more, from the Large Catechism, one of the primary documents describing our faith,
All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Unless of course, someone reveals God to them, as God desires!
So is it wrong for people to pray, even if they aren’t sure who God is? Will He hear their cries and respond?
Of course, for He desires to draw them close, to save and deliver them into His Father’s presence. Scripture tells us this is God’s will, His desire, to draw everyone to Himself, to cleanse them from sin, to restore them as His children. He will never force us, but He will always hear us and care and love us.
Paul was sent to Athens by the Lord to do what he did, to reveal to them that He was their Creator, but also that He was their redeemer. He died and rose from the dead so that He could judge the world, and judge us just, righteous, holy, the people who could cry out to Him.
If you kept on reading, Paul would speak to them more about the resurrection from the dead that he mentions in verse 31. There Paul mentioned that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, Some would stop listening to then, others wanted to hear more about it later, including some very learned people.
They heard about the God who would come and die, to deliver them from sin, and the power of death. They would hear about the God who rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven, the God who would draw us to Jesus lifted on the cross, where we would die with Him, our sin nailed to that cross. And then, as He rose from the dead, so do we, forgiven, cleansed, separated from sin, now children of the Father.
For the unknown God has made Himself known, and calls us to be transformed and trust in Him.
And so we do, the broken finding healing in Jesus, while we reveal Him to others as Paul did.
This is our life in Christ, for in Him we live and move and exist. For we are His children. AMEN!
 Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Once Upon A Time
1 Peter 2:2-10
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ overwhelm your heart with the knowledge you belong to Him, for you have received mercy!
A struggle to belong
I’m going to list a group of television shows and movies and I want you to think about them as I do. You may not know them all, but think about what they have in common,
The Breakfast Club, MASH, Friends, Force 10 from Nazarene, the Power Rangers, Stripes, Grey’s Anatomy, Seinfeld, Gilligan’s Island, Cheers, the Dick Van Dyke show, Lost.
You might know some of those movies and shows, a few of you might know all of them. Some of those are comedies, some dramas, some tragedies. They span five decades, and include diverse casts, playing diverse people. People who will get on each other’s nerves, that won’t understand each other at first. They will grow to depend on each other and find a place in each other’s lives.
Which is why we resonate to such shows.
It gives us a hope that we might find a group of people we belong with, that we can depend upon, a group that belonging to will give us something to identify ourselves by. A chance to stop being the outsider but to belong.
But they are only television shows, they are only movies. No matter how much they resonate with us, they are simply stories that strike a chord in our soul. These things help us identify a need that the Apostle Peter identified for us nearly 2000 years ago. He described the need this way,
Once you had no identity as a people…
Once upon a time, you didn’t belong, you had no place in life, you were broken off, lost, helpless.
But all that has changed now.
how we got there
There has been a great concern for a couple of decades regarding how we see ourselves, our self-esteem, how we see ourselves, how each one of us identifies themselves.
We, as a culture, and as individuals struggle with this, and because of that, we often fell left out, not part of the in-group. Most of the characters in the movies and shows I mentioned had that problem. And they dealt with if differently.
Some very aggressively, trying to lead and dominate the group
Others tried to impress, or make themselves valuable and needed.
A few kept back, afraid to trust others, afraid for people to see who they really were.
And many tried all of those tactics at one time or another.
We do this today as well, as we try to figure out our roles, to figure out the meaning in our life. We want a reason to belong, a valid reason that gives us value.
The problem with this is that our creating our identity usually backfires, for what happens is we separate ourselves from those not like us, who we think cannot understand us, and the further we separate, the harder it is to let the others be part of our life.
We just go on our own way and assume no one else knows or even cares. We realize we aren’t like others and we won’t fit it with them. Hurt by this, and even angry about it, we eventually will make the decision that they aren’t worth it.
Which is why the following
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven
Jesus goes on…
46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48 (NLT)
Anyone struggling with this standard? Anybody else got a group of people they don’t understand, don’t like, are afraid of, and can’t imagine being part of that you find it hard to love?
Yeah? Well, Jesus calls you to love them.
That is what following Jesus, results in, that is your identity, what it means to receive mercy…when you can’t imagine someone showing you mercy.
The key is found in Peter’s words about acting like babies. Seriously!
Hear Peter’s words again,
2 Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, 3 now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness. 4 You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple.
Where I to have several hours to preach, I would explain the cornerstone illustration more completely. But realize this – God has given us an identity, a part in those who are called to be His people. Each one of connected to Jesus the cornerstone,
We find our identity in how we relate to Him, we find our place in life based on His place in our life. We find out who we are in God’s eyes, and we find the mercy, the welcome, the hospitality in the eyes of Jesus who died and is risen, that we would know life.
But this is just a little taste of His love, of His desire to make us His own. Peter says to crave experience this love, now that you know about it, drink deeply of His love, desire it, make experiencing it the major priority of your life.
For knowing His love, with not just your mind but your heart, your soul, that is what helps you realize you fit in, that we all do, for we find our place in our relationship to God.
Our identity as well, and the reason we can love those we formerly didn’t fit in with, for they two are coming to Jesus, and being made part of His chosen people, called out of the darkness into His glorious light.
For once upon a time you had no identity, but now you are identified as His people.
How they We Recognized Him
† I.H.S. †
This grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ that we so often talk about, may you come to know it with your heart, your soul and your mind as you come recognize His presence in YOUR life.
The walk –
I’ve got a question for you to think about for a moment.
Why did God hide who Jesus was from the two disciples? Why did God stop them from recognizing Jesus? (significant pause)
Why not just simply show up and reveal himself directly? He does the same thing to Mary Magdalene in John’s gospel. She also doesn’t recognize him at first, thought it doesn’t say God stopped her from recognizing Jesus. She even talked to him, asking Jesus where they put his body. It would my asking Chuck where Chuck was…
Why hide in plain site?
In the way that Jesus will minister to them, we see a possible answer, an answer that gives us some direction not only for how Jesus ministers to us, but also how He ministers through us.
It’s what we call the ministry or word and Sacrament.
And it is all about revealing God so that they could recognize Jesus, so that we can recognize Jesus, and so we can help others recognize Jesus.
So this sermon title – how do they/we recognize Jesus, is answered. He is revealed through His word and through the Sacraments.
The first thing Jesus does is listens. Though He knows their hearts, they need express what they know specifically what they know about Him. They tell Him that He is or should that be was, a prophet, He does miracles, He was a mighty teacher, and we had hoped, we expected based on all this, that He was the Messiah!
Then they tell Him what He knows all to well, that he was handed over to be killed and that they crucified Him. There is part of me that wonders how Jesus didn’t laugh at the irony. Think about it! They are telling Him what happened to Him!
But as He listens, as they speak the truth they see it, they put into words their pain, their inability to believe the drastic change of what is going on. Our Lord knows us well, and for us to process that He is the Messiah, that He is our Lord, and what that means in daily life, what that would have meant – they need to do that.
We do too…
The Revelation of the Word
Then Jesus begins to do what we call the ministry of the word – and note that is a small “w”. He explains what we need to know about Him! The prophetic predictions – th very things that the Messiah would have to suffer, the missing part of their knowledge they have revealed to them.
And while He does, the hearts start to realize something different is going on, even though they won’t get it until Jesus is fully revealed.
But we need to know about Jesus, we need to understand what He did when He died on the cross when He suffered prior to coming into His glory,
The glory of the Resurrection
For Praise God, He is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia
And therefore, we are risen indeed!
And that is not just glorious – it is His glory and the fulfillment of God’s desire.
But these men on the road need to understand that, we need to understand it.
We need to understand what God’s desire is, what His goal in creation is, and how all of the scripture, from the law to the promises, from the histories to the psalms, from the gospels to Revelation, are all about that desire being fulfilled in Jesus.
And that is what Jesus explained, from all the scriptures they knew about, He revealed who the Messiah was….
And their hearts burned within them, even as they knew all about Him, and didn’t recognize Him. And they know this stranger, who showed them that Jesus the Messiah had to suffer in order to enter His glory, they don’t want him to leave.
They begged Him to stay, and yet there is one more thing.
The Revelation of the Sacrament
He has to do something that will drive the lesson from their head to their heart. For the head comforted the heart, the ministry of the word brought comfort, but they need more.
And so Jesus broke bread and gave it to them, and His ministry fo the sacrament opened their eyes. This sacred moment, reminiscent of four days before, prophesied about throughout the Old Testament, this revelation, this ministry opened their eyes.
Not only was Jesus the Messiah.
He was their risen Lord.
He had entered His glory.
And they were there to share it with Him.
What our minds can accept but can’t conceive of, that God wants a relationship with us, that He died to set us free to enter His glory, that is something the heart can accept, and know, and convince our mind is so gloriously true.
He lives and because He Lives, we live as well. We share in His glory, as one of my friend’s is know to say, we get to dance with God.
That’s what the sacraments are, our time to experience God’s love….
Whether it is in our baptism, our as we hear again we are freed from all sin, or as we take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus, whether it is our time in prayer, or our time of giving, these sacramental times, these moments of holiness, are where we encounter our Risen Lord.
Where we learn to rejoice.
Where we share in His glory.
The Ministry of Word and Sacrament
This is why we are a church that does ministry of word and Sacrament. Because we need to realize what the Messiah does, and we need to know Him< to see His promises revealed, to have revealed as well His presence, right here, right now.
For the Lord is here, the Lord is with you! And He has promised to never leave or forsake you.
He has Risen! He Has Risen Indeed!
† In Jesus Name †
As we celebrate Easter, as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, may you realize your part in it, for the grace of God has brought you to life in and with Him. AMEN!
The earlier sermon… Our union with Christ…
You have already heard a sermon this morning. Rather you’ve seen it happen, you witnessed what my poor words will attempt to describe.
Paul says it this way, in our epistle reading.
You are complete through your union with Jesus.
Complete, whole, perfect, lacking nothing.
What became true for Damon, Madelynn and Rosemarie, and is true for everyone who trusts in the mighty power of God is because of this incredible union, being united with Christ’s death and resurrection.
That is the incredible miracle of God that occurs in our baptism, as we are united with Jesus, and then we die and are resurrected with Him.
Our need for circumcision
The apostle Paul, in this epistle, this letter to a young new church, explains the work that God does in baptism using the illustration of circumcision. He writes,
11 When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature.
He talks about our sin nature here, that ability we have to get ourselves into trouble, that ability we have which feeds our desires, no matter the cost to us.
It’s not just about the sin, it’s not just about the failures, there is something deeper there, that causes us to implode, to choose self-destructive things, to even argue these things are good for us. That self-destructive behavior, that’s our struggle with our sin nature. It is strong and powerful, overruling our heart and mind at times.
And we were unable to do anything about it…no one without God in their lives can, we struggle and struggle and just fall short.
We need help, supernatural help.
That is where Jesus brings the idea of circumcision into this picture of baptism uniting us with His death. The word in Greek for circumcision means to cut around – to carefully, with surgical precision, cut and remove something. That is what Paul is talking about when he says
Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. 12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life
In the case of baptism – it pictures our dying, and when we come back to life, there is something missing. That sin nature that so oppressed us, so controlled us, so kept us in bondage.
it’s been cut away, nailed to the cross of Christ,
Paul’s letter to the Romans explains it again
5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.
Romans 6:5-6 (NLT)
And to the church in Galatia he wrote,
19 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. 20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:19-20 (NLT)
I could go on and on with the ways scripture describes out being separated and cleansed of our sin. But that is only part of the process to the greater blessing, the forgiveness, the separation of you and your sinful nature is but a description of what it leads us into, our new life in Christ.
Our Hope of Glory …
Earlier this week, a friend asked me what my favorite scripture was. My answer without hesitation was this,
9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)
This is what Easter is about, this incredible plan God has for us, the very reason for the cross and why the church obeys the command to make disciples by baptizing and teaching them to treasure everything God establishes. It is through this work God does through us, that we are made whole and complete, and are given the Holy Spirit to help us live in a such a different life.
To live in a relationship with the God who not only created us, but deeply loves us. To get to know Him, through our talking to Him in prayer and meditating on His word, searching it out as we explore how deep, how high, how wide, how broad this love is that He has for us.
Whose plan for us is to dwell eternally with Him, sharing in His glory, dwelling in the purest love.
This is what this is all about, this being complete as we are united with Jesus. About being recreated as the children of God, about knowing His peace, it is about knowing Him!
And may you always know that peace of God which is beyond anything we can understand, the peace that is ours in Christ Jesus AMEN!
Then You Will Know
† In Jesus Name †
As you know the miraculous work of God in your life, as the grace, mercy, and love become reality, never forget that this is your LORD who walks with you!
In the midst of the miraculous
There is a part of me, the geeky part, that would love to see a movie made out of the Old Testament scene today, with the skeletons coming together, with the tendons and muscles crawling up the bones, the faces going from skeleton to muscle to flesh…
It would be like watching a horror movie in reverse….
And then the miracle of the wind, roaring across the valley, visibly entering each body’s nostrils, entering their mouths, their eyes snapping open, amazed by the life that now pumps blood through the body that surrounds the formerly dry and brittle bones!
What a wonder it would be!
A great crowd of people, awake and risen from the graves, brought back to the life they were always meant to live!
What a great movie, what complicated special effects, probably even beyond the imagination of Spielberg or Lucas!
And the most miraculous thing that happened would be overlooked in such a movie…
The incredible miracle of the chapter, found in these words,
“Then you will know that I am the LORD!”
“Then you will know that I am the LORD!”
Even as we see everything else happen, not just as a movie in our lives, but here and now, will we hear those words? Then will We Know?
Yea – those are our bones…
The first thing that might take away our knowing is looking at the bones, our bones.
Like Israel, most of us can see how we’ve withered and dried out. We can see where our faith is challenged, where temptation has turned to sin, where the first cracks happened that left us broken, that made us outsiders.
It may have been the sin of jealousy and coveting that got you, or some juicy piece of gossip that you had to pass on. Maybe it was a desire that caused you to be unfaithful in your words or thought, or anger that caused you to hurt someone you should have loved. Or maybe the sin was not honoring parents or authorities, or not recognizing the need for time with God, or using His name in a way we shouldn’t, or not using it when we should.
It doesn’t matter the sin, whether it was in thought or word, or action that we took, or knew we should and didn’t.
Those bones in the story are ours, as much as they were Israel’s.
And seeing them, we can lose our hope, we can lose our focus on God, and see only our own sin.
But that isn’t the story here, nor is it where our thoughts need to dwell. Can our dried bones live? Can we, despite our sin and shame find life? The LORD knows…
It’s time to stop focusing on your sin, your history
Yea – that is the Quickening
Our dry bones can take much of our attention away from God. So can our being brought back to life, the miracle of God covering our sin, our nakedness, and putting His Spirit within us.
It is truly a miracle, this work of God, this thing that theologians calls the quickening, this miracle were a sinner is declared and becomes righteous by God’s command. This miracle where sin is stripped from us, and laid on Jesus at the cross. Where we are brought to life with Him and His resurrection.
This is a wonderful thing as God saves us from our hopelessness, and causes us to rise again.
But it is not the greatest thing, not even close…
But here is what you need to know.
Go back to that phrase, “Then you shall know that I am the LORD!:
We may skip over that far too quickly. For the other things, our sin and our being brought to life seem to capture our attention, they are more graphic, more visual, and knowing that Jesus is the LORD, that is something we might just assume, or take for granted.
But know here isn’t just about knowing the facts, it is about knowing God as LORD, as the I AM. To know him deep down into our heart and soul, the part of us that seems hidden. Hidden not only from those who know us but deep down into the parts of us that lie beneath our character, that truly define who we are.
We also have to remember that when we see LORD in all capital letters, it is not His title, it is His name, YHWH, or Jehovah, the I AM that Moses was told to use to introduce Israel to Him with. The Name we are to call out to God with when we are in despair, the Name of God we are to use in our prayers and our praises, the God who communes with us here.
This is knowing at our deepest part, knowing Him in the most intimate of settings in our heart and soul. Knowing Him at a point where brokenness is healed, where love is known, even if we can’t explain it. Where peace is found, for there God has put His Spirit. For God has breathed into you life, a life that is abundant.
This is the real miracle in the valley of the dry bones, the revelation not just of salvation, not just of the Love of God, but of knowing Him, and realizing how well He knows and loves us.
For as that is revealed – we become more and more aware that we dwell in His presence, and are safe there… for He is our LORD, He is YHWH, our God. AMEN!
An Odd Responsibility
† I.H.S. †
May you enjoy the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and in that joy, may He shine through you to a broken world!
An Odd Responsibility
Of all the things scripture tells us to do, the one we heard in the first reading today may be the oddest.
I mean we are encouraged to love God, to love our neighbor, to love even our enemy. We are told to honor our parents, be faithful to our wives and husbands, to care for our children. We are told to no gossip, and be content rather than being jealous of what others are blessed with by God.
None of these are easy, but then we hear this one today, and they seem.. better defined?
Here it is again,
“Carefully determine what pleases the Lord”
Across all of the Bible translations in English that I have, two of them use acceptable, and one uses “what God wants of you”. The rest use the word please, or pleasing. Knowing the Greek word behind it doesn’t help that much – it means good pleasure – or causing or creating peace.
So we are responsible for… making God’s life good?
That seems a bit odd.
And more than a little difficult! How are we supposed to figure this out? Even more concurring,, how can we accomplish it?
I mean if God can’t find peace or be pleased, how are we to see that happen?
The Darkness that consumes and burdens
I mean, at least for me, I feel that life is often just a longer edition of that feeling when you are asleep and someone comes in and turns on the 250 watt light in your bedroom in order to wake you up.
You know, the disorientation, the inability to really see clearly, the pain of looking at everything in harsh, painful more powerful than the sun – light?
Spiritually the world seems that dark at times, as people stumble around, not sure of what is right, but absolutely convinced of what is not good. Sometimes we even justify staying in the dark, because if we saw what was truly going on, the shock and horror would be even more overwhelming.
If the darkness hides the world’s evil deeds and intentions, it can also do the same thing for us, hiding the thoughts, words, and deeds that we are personally ashamed of, the failures that haunt us, that cause us shame. Yet the spiritual darkness gives us the illusion that no one sees those things, no one else knows them, even God.
The darkness may seem comforting, it may seem safe, but spiritual darkness and ignorance has severe problems, Guilt, shame, loneliness, despair, and the pervasive darkness which causes us to live without hope, without any healing of our soul, or the relationships that break.
The work of the light
So into this darkness that oppresses more than it relieves, that hides from the world but not our conscience, comes the glory of Christ.
it takes us a while to get used to it. At first, we might think that the light is the spotlight used to interrogate us, like the third-degree interrogations in old war and spy movies. For it does reveal the dark shameful things, the thoughts and words and deeds of the past that haunt us.
We need to understand that rather than being an interrogation tool, this is the light by which God examines us, to cut away that which isn’t of us, the sin and unrighteousness, the shame and the grief, the pain and resentment, and the light which strengthens and allows our souls to heal.
It takes a while to get used to, to learn to welcome, but as Paul promises,
“This light within you produces only what is good, and right, and true.”
This light, this glory of God so shows things for what they are that we let God remove them from our lives.
Which is why we can live without them, though it may take a while to realize that, as we wander around, trying to get used to walking in the light, as those people who are the people of light.
This is what grace is, this is why we are here, to help each other realize we aren’t alone in this world, that we can live lives where forgiveness is more powerful than brokenness, where reconciliation is always possible, and is desired by God. That not only can we desire to grow in holiness, we can see God at work in us, transforming us into His holy people.
And this is what we discover pleases Him, it is what He desires, it is what He spent eternity planning, and why Jesus came and died on the cross to shatter our darkness, to remove our sin. It is what we truly need to understand – that what pleases God is our being His people, trusting in Him, depending on Him to care and provide for us, having faith in the promises He has made us, including forgiving our sins, and make us His holy people, and welcoming us as we dwell in His glory.
And freed from the darkness, freed from its oppression and evil, freed from the guilt and shame it causes, we live in the light, for we have had revealed to us the truth of the old hymn Paul quoted,
We have awoken, We have risen from the dead! For Christ has come and dwelt with us, and we have seen His glory. AMEN!
Love is, Jesus Is, We are
Not Demanding of our Way
1 Corinthians 13:5
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so leave you in awe that you walk humbly with Him, rejoicing in His presence!
Love is not
The song we just sang, and have sung each week during Lent is a hard one for me to sing. Simply because it calls me to admit how I feel when I look at what God expects from us when I realize how hard it is to love, to truly love someone else….
When I realize how hard it is for me to love God with everything I am, all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. To love my neighbor as I love myself.
Especially when loving means that I don’t get what I want, that what is in my best interest, what I think is right has to be set aside.
We hear from Paul that love does not demand its way. It is not zealous; it doesn’t put all its energy seeking what it desires, what it wants, even what it needs. Or what it thinks is the right way to go….
And I as read this, the words to that song come to mind…
“my eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold. And I know how I ought to be, alive to you, and dead…. To me.
I would have thought I would be better at this by this time in my life, that I wouldn’t get so riled up when I didn’t get my way, that I wouldn’t be so hurt when what I know is right is denied by bureaucracy or systems that don’t consider the effect they have on people.
There are still times where I want to shake some sense into people……
You know what I mean? What were they thinking? How could they be so blind, so stupid,
and then I read this passage and realize how far I’ve strayed from what God desires….
For even if I am right, even if the way I demand is right, too often in demanding it I will win the battle, but I will lose the war.
Jesus is not
When we consider any aspect of love, it helps to see it in action, and the perfect example is usually Jesus. Okay, it is always Jesus, for only Jesus was perfect enough to love completely, and only Jesus, in that love provides the cure for when we aren’t loving.
In this case, we could look at the times when people begged for mercy, and Jesus went out of his way to provide it, to provide food for those that wouldn’t leave him alone, and followed him out into the wilderness.
Or we can look in the garden, and see Jesus asking the Father for an option to the cross.
38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Matthew 26:38-39 (NLT)
That certainly is not demanding your way!
And it was done so that you and I could know the depth of God’s love for us, for the cup of suffering he took, included the betrayals, the beatings, the cross,
He didn’t demand his way, but as Isaiah prophesied, like a lamb, he was silent.
We are not!
So what about us? How can we whose hearts are dry, whose faith is old, find the strength to love so sacrificially? How can we deny ourselves and take up our cross, and be silent?
On our own, we cannot.
As God guides Paul to write these words, they are there. This is what our confessions talk about as the describe the “New Obedience,” the way we begin to live as we trust and depend on God.
As we explore His love, as we come to realize our need and trust in God’s work, the Holy Spirit teaches us we are loved, and brings us to the point where we can love God and those around us. He shapes us the way an artist draws, guiding our lives as we look to Jesus, as we stand in awe of His love.
The way to love is not just to study the character of Jesus, but to know His love, to look to Him for that love and be amazed, to see the depth of His care for you and those around you, understanding what He promises, and rejoicing and treasuring the hope He gives.
Loving isn’t something that happens easily, but it is something that happens as we know we are loved.
A love that leaves us so at peace, so content, that we simply lay aside everything else to enjoy it, including the way we once so zealously demanded.
That peace is beyond our understanding, but for those who know God’s love, it is our reality, for Christ guards our hearts and minds in that peace. AMEN!
Did You See What He Did There?
† I.H.S †
May the Grace and Peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ teach you that He will always provide for you, even when you can’t see that He is, and has planned to do so!
Did you see what Israel did?
Have you ever met people like the ones Moses tried to lead in the Old Testament reading this morning? A little of what went before.
In chapter 13, after more miracles than we can remember, Pharaoh lets the people of God go.
In chapter 14, a sea splits apart long enough to let 2.4 million people cross through it, and then swallows a half-million-man army chasing them with the intent to kill them all
In Chapter 16, the Lord provides them with the makings of quail tacos, as every morning he provides with the Manna and quail that would sustain them for 40 years.
After all that, after all God did, they doubt He knows what He’s doing?
Just because they don’t have enough water, and are so thirsty they can’t thing straight, Just because they are struggling with the thirst, they forgot the most important thing we need to know in life, they go crazy and become demanding and complain and whine to Moses, their pastor. Led by a pillar of fire and a cloud, they forget all that…tormented by thirst, unaware that the answer is so close….
Did you see what they did there? Do you know people so overwhelmed by their place in life that they forget what makes life, life?
Did you see what they did there? Yeah – that isn’t important.
Did you see what Moses did?
What about Moses? Did you see what he did there?
He’s just as much of a whiner! Even as God leads them, Moses vents to God! Why me Lord? Why do they want me to suffer? Why are they going to kill me? He too is overwhelmed by fear and anxiety!
He didn’t see that they were tormented by their thirst, he wants them to just stop their whining and be quiet. He takes their reaction to their stress personally, their cries to God as if they are personal attacks.
God go get them….. they don’t like us. Who cares what they are going through! Did you ever know anyone like that?
Did you see what he did there?
That isn’t important either, There is only one Person whose actions we need to see in this story
Did you see what God did there?
God’s actions are really what everyone is concerned about, or is
Do we see what God is doing?
First He’s the One guiding them, He’s the one who brings these wandering people to the place where they are at, the place where He’s going to make eternal promises to them, and bring them into Abraham’s covenant in ways they will not understand until the resurrection of Jesus.
Then, God doesn’t bat an eye at the complaints. He deals with Moses first – directing him to get back to caring for the people God gathered around him. Walk out in front, gather them around. Get your staff, the thing you’ve always had at hand when I worked through you, gather around the elders and all the people to see what happens.
Oh yeah – I will be there, standing before the cliff face..
And then for those miserable, tormented, thirsty, complaining people, God does something wonderful. He provides what they need, as He planned.
He hadn’t forgotten them, He hadn’t forgotten to provide for them, He didn’t want them to die, but live, in peace, in relationship with Him. So he tells Moses to take the staff and hit the rock face and water comes out, enough for them, and all their animals.
To give you and idea of how much water, quick calculations gave me the number of at a minimum. 500 backyard pools worth comes spilling out of rock face…or if we walled in the church property and made it one big pool, the water would be 7 feet deep. (and that’s not counting evaporation!)
Did you see what He did there?
People that whined and complained, led by a shepherd who didn’t care for the problems they were in, who forgot He was there. People just like you and I, people that were overwhelmed, who couldn’t function, who despite the miracles, who despite the things testifying to God’s presence, doubted. People who scripture says tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord here with us or not?
For those people, God again provided what they needed.
Even though they struggled to realize it, He was there, He heard their cries, and had already provided for them.
Did you see what He did there?
The reason I want you to see what God did there, is often we forget.
It’s time to see what God is doing, no longer concentrating on our failures, or on the weakness of our leaders.
We need to see what He’s doing here, which isn’t much different. Indeed, His faithfulness, His loving care, His giving life, is always there. He is faithful.
I could focus on Christ being the rock that the Holy Spirit shepherds us to, or that He is the living water that cleanses us and gives us life. That He does so, because He is faithful to His promise, to His plan, even if we struggle. I would focus that he does work through weak and tired leaders, even when we think no one is listening.
But I would like us to focus the most on this, the answer to Israel’s question. He is with us! The Lord is with you!
Yeah – He is here! He promised to never leave us, to never stop providing for us.
That He is here is we need to know, with more than our mind; to experience deep in our souls the comfort and peace that God gives us, and letting that comfort and peace work its way from our hearts into our minds, overcoming the doubts, the fears, the pain, the hunger and thirst for life, that seems unquenched.
That is what the cross and the grave, the resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost are about. He went through it all to show us His presence, giving us evidence that backs up His promise of love, His promise to care.
Lent does, for this is the time when we realize our thirst is not for water, not for manna, but for Him. And He hears our cries… and reminds us, “I am standing right before you..”
He is our LORD – the one who stands before us, calling us home, welcoming us home, welcoming us to His feast…. Where we remember His presence and rejoice and rest.
Love Is; Jesus is; We are
Patient and Kind
† In Jesus Name †
As you experience the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ may you see God enabling you to really love Him and others!
During this season of Lent, many people think we are to beat ourselves up for our sin. That we give up something in order to atone for our continued sin, to show God how sorry for what we’ve done, and what we’ve failed to do.
That’s not completely accurate, though it moves us to where we need to be.
The goal of Lent is to stop us, to help us realize we aren’t who we should be, as the children of God. Not to beat us up, but to encourage us to have a life that is more like Jesus’ life. The goal is to build in us a desire to imitate Christ, and to live like Paul, who could say, “imitate me as I imitate Christ”.
So this Lent, we are looking at one of the best descriptions of Jesus we can find, one we hear more often at weddings. We’ll take a couple of the descriptions each week, and this week we are looking at these two.
Love is patient and Love is kind.
The Message translation gives us another perspective:
Love never gives up.
Love cares for others more than for self.
Can you imagine if we were so patient we never gave up? Or if everyone was more interested in what was good for others rather than just being self-centered?
Not just within families and churches, but if everyone loved everyone. This is who we are supposed to be!
This is not just a nice idea, it is what God commands us to do, to love Him, to love our neighbors, to love those who hate us. We know this, but I wonder if we desire it, if this is truly who we want to be.
It should be
As we look at love being described by St Paul, we have to realize how it describes Jesus Christ, who was the perfect, sinless man. If we evaluated how he loved by these words, we see it perfectly.
Not just with his patience and not giving up on the Apostles, especially Peter. But Jesus doesn’t give up on us, He isn’t even tempted to do so.
And we see his kindness, His putting others first as He ministered to those around them, having compassion on the crowds who followed them, always being able to find the people who needed His care. Being there for those who would give up, or struggle with their sin, and don’t know how to break it.
This is what the Apostle John meant when he said God is love, for in Jesus, they found out what that really means…we see this amazing level of patience, that God will embrace suffering a long time, for His goal is bring everyone to repentance, to transform everyone so that their lives are a picture of Christ’s love. That is the ultimate example of kindness,
So we know this description of love should describe our life as well. We know it doesn’t, at least as we struggle with it, so how can we desire to grow in our ability to love?
The answer is on all of your minds. Look, you can see it on those around you.
The cross, the place where Jesus gave His life for you. We could put a blob on your forehead, but we put a cross. To remind you that while you have sinned, you really aren’t sinners anymore.
You have been united to Christ, and the ashes that mark you, mark you as His, just as the cross made over your head and heart at baptism did. His sacrifice, His body and blood broken and given for you provides the answer.
It is what we need to spend contemplating. As we think about this great love, a love that cleanses us from sin, and leaves us holy, set apart to God, set apart for God to dwell with. The more we spend time talking to God, exploring the breadth and width, the height and depth of His love, the more the Holy Spirit transforms us, causing and enabling us to love as He does…. For we are with Him.
As the song we will sing in a moment says, where You are Lord, I am free….
Free to love.. to be patient, to be kind, to be like Christ who not only sets you free, but makes you Holy.
Greater Confidence in the Message
2 Peter 1:16-21
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
As Jesus love for us in revealed as He journeys toward the cross, may the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus transform our lives, as we dwell in His glorious light and love! AMEN!
An Odd line
I love the honesty of scripture, especially the insights that we see into the lives of Peter and Paul into their letters to the early church. They do not portray themselves as perfect, but as men who have struggled, and still struggle to walk in a relationship with God.
Much like I do.
And as Peter looks back on his life and ministry, and writes his second epistle, he remembers an “ah ha” moment in the section we come to today. A moment that everything becomes more real.
The moment on the mountain, when he and James and John see Jesus revealed in His glory and honorwhen it was revealed to them exactly who Jesus was, and what it meant for the Messiah, the Anointed One to be with them.
But in the middle, as Peter is talking about this wondrous voice, and the Father revealing to them who Jesus is, Peter makes an incredible statement
“Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets!”
Which means that while they knew the scriptures, there was something about this experience, this moment, that made the scriptures come alive for them. It makes them look differently at the Old Testament differently, something that you and I would benefit from as well.
The Temptation to just see the Bible as myth
We gain a little more insight into this comment if we go back to the first line of the readings,
16 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.
Simply put, St. Peter is telling us that the reports he has made about Jesus are eyewitness accounts of God’s life, lived among us. It is not just a story or a fable that we tell people to get them to behave.
While we wouldn’t use the word myth, I think many of us treat scripture in a similar way. Stuff to ponder, and think about, to consider and to apply to our lives so that we live better. One pastor/theologian recently talked like this when they said that our mission wasn’t about waiting for the hope of heaven, but to bring heaven to earth now, by our doing good work. They dismissed the ideas of heaven and hell and said our focus is on transforming the here and now. That is how they see scripture as if it is the guide to making life perfect here.
And what Peter talks of counters that.
These are just stories from an alternate reality. They aren’t just fables. The transfiguration, like the incarnation, the death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection are miraculous events, Events that Peter and the apostles are witnesses of, and that experience changed everything.
And in Peter talking of how His experience observing Jesus making a change in how he viewed the Old Testament, we see the same thing in effect. Prior to knowing Jesus, the stories in the Old testament, the lessons, all were simply that. History and training in being a good person. Scripture is living, and for Peter it came alive when he saw Jesus transfigured, and everything began to make sense.
But seeing Jesus in His glory, seeing the love of God up close changes that…
And Peter says it will change our lives as well.
The Bible comes alive as the words reveal Christ in you!
You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.
These words in scripture. They aren’t just words.
They tell us that God planned to shatter the darkness, the hopelessness, the kind of life that is so oppressed by the brokenness of the world. Lives shattered by sin, broken by hatred, tormented by resentment we can’t free ourselves from, from guilt and shame, as well, for it is not just the brokenness of the world that could crush us, but our own brokenness as well. This is why he directs us to pay close attention to them, for as Jesus is revealed, our confidence in God’s work is strengthened.
In these words we see Jesus and the promise of his love enter our lives, as glorious as Peter and James saw – as He enters our hearts, as He reconciles us to God the Father and sets our lives apart to live in the presence of God.
For this is the purpose of scripture, to draw us into this relationship with God, a relationship more complete, closer, with nothing that can shatter it. One based on truth, the truth of God’s love for us.
God who spoke of Jesus as His dearly loved Son, and who speaks of us with the same words…..
Words which cause the scriptures to come alive, for they tell our story, and help us to realize the deep love He has for you and I.
Knowing that love, having Christ shine in our very hearts, brings to us the peace of God which can’t be explained, but which we are safe in, for Jesus keeps us there. AMEN!