Category Archives: semons
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!
Be Different: Act like God’s kids
† In Jesus Name †
May the gifts of God’s mercy, love and peace enable you to truly live life, as you learn to love those God brings into your life.
The hardest lesson to live!
The words of Jesus that I read this morning are hard to hear.
They are easily understood, but how easy are they to live up to?
Turn the other cheek! Give up more than you are sued for, give to those who demand of you, don’t turn away those who want to borrow.
And these hard words of Jesus, “Love your enemies, pray, that is, ask God to bless, those who persecute you.”
In a world where we are trained to look out for ourselves and those we love, how do we even do this? How do we set aside our resentment, our fears and anxieties, and the pain others cause, and love them?
Yet Jesus asks us to do exactly that….
And it doesn’t matter who our enemy is, whether it is a global one or the bully that lives down the street.
How can God ask this of us? What is really going on here? What is God up to?
What is God up to?
We see a clue in another of the verses,
In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
Why would God give good stuff to those who are evil? Why would He rain blessings on those who are not just? And what does that have to do with the challenge we have, in loving those who are our enemies, or who we think are, and therefore are afraid of them?
The first answer is the old one, (First written by Augustine) that talked about the fact that in hating our enemies we are hurting ourselves more than we could ever hurt them.
A better answer is seen in one parable, where Jesus taught that He doesn’t remove the weeds among the wheat; because we can’t be sure of not uprooting wheat when we dig out the weeds. Likewise, the enemy of today may become the friend, the brother in Christ. The one which we are praying for may stop persecuting us, as Paul the apostle went from killing and tormenting Christians, to being one who preached about Jesus’ love from Jerusalem to Athens to Rome and perhaps beyond.
We don’t know, we just know the heart of God, who the apostle Peter tells us is patient, not willing that any should die in their sin, but that would come to the transformation that happens when our sin is forgiven.
To put it another way, what makes the different between a weed and what is not how they look, but what happens when they encounter Jesus. That’s why the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel would write this, “
21 But if wicked people turn away from all their sins and begin to obey my decrees and do what is just and right, they will surely live and not die. 22 All their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live because of the righteous things they have done. 23 “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. Ezekiel 18:21-24 (NLT)
Knowing God’s heart, and knowing that neither we nor angels can know how someone will turn out, these are things that help us love those that others tell us can’t be loved. Knowing that every single one of them God loves and desires to be one of His own. This helps too…
Acting like God’s kids!
But what helps the most is knowing that God loves us, while we were His enemies, while we chose to live without him, choosing to do what we thought was right more than we cared what He thought, what He wanted.
Paul makes it clear – while we were all His enemies, Jesus died for us. He died, taking on the judgment we deserved. He died to make sure that our sin wouldn’t divide us from God. He died that we might live, and live life knowing God loves us and is with us.
So for us to be God’s kids – to live like that, we need to know what He loves, and how Jesus lived. Loving those the rest of the world considered unlovable, loving those who are our enemies, and asking our Father to bless those who make our lives difficult.
For when we know that, loving those who the world considers our enemies, is nothing more that loving those our Father in heaven would have become our brothers and sisters. And loving them becomes possible because we dwell in God’s glorious peace, peace that the world doesn’t understand, which is the peace in which Jesus guards our hearts and minds. AMEN!
I Can See! The Darkness is Gone!
† In Jesus Name †
May God’s glory, His mercy and Love revealed in Jesus, may that glory shine so brightly in your life, that even the darkest shadows are forgotten!
Sunrise @ Concordia
One of the blessings I never expected when I came to Concordia was the incredible sunrises I would see on Sunday mornings. Sometimes it is the sun breaking through the crowds, other times the entire sky looks like it is on fire.
There are times Dane will come out of the MPR and find me with my camera or my phone, trying to capture the incredibly beautiful blessing that so few see.
Though I hate getting up that early, there is a blessing that is so incredible, when a pitch black dark night is shattered by the sunrise
And that is what we celebrate during the weeks of Epiphany.
This feast which celebrates Christ entering the world and the glorious love of God being visible, being seen, drawing people to Him…
From the wise men whose arrival starts Epiphany, to the apostles who will witness the transfiguration, which we will celebrate 8 weeks from now, we are talking about the glory of God, shining in our lives, because Jesus is here!
and so Isaiah’s words are so meaningful and relavent to us,
“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you!
2 Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you!
Or maybe we should read it this way!
“Arise, Concordia! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you!
2 Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you!
Time for the homecoming
Growing up, we would love electricity because of snowstorms. Tree branches would get heavy with snow and ice, crashing down on power lines which would have to be replaced. During the darkness you couldn’t do anything, but when the sun rose, life would return to normal.
It would be back to splitting wood for the woodstove and fireplace. It would be cooking food to feed those who were out shoveling the snow, it would be having friends stop by, driving their trucks or skimobiles.
So too, when we realize that God has shined on us, that Jesus has come, and we have beheld His glory, that it is time to get ready.
For God tells us what is going to happen next,
3 All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance!
4 “Look and see, for everyone is coming home! Your sons are coming from distant lands; your little daughters will be carried home!
They are all coming – as they see God’s light – God’s glory shining here in this place. As we realize what God has done, and is doing here, as we realize the glorious love He has for us, everything changes, and it is noticeable!
Others see it, and they will be drawn to His glory, like a moth to a flame, or like certain guy’s attention can be gotten by announcing a football score, or a child to a stuffed animal.
God’s glory will gather attention, and it will draw people to the place where it is seen, where it is made manifest, where it brings light and warmth and peace and love.
I love how Isaiah describes the homecoming, as sons and daughters are returned home. What he is talking about is those of us like the prodigal son, who went our own way, and did what we thought was right. Who either rebelled against God our father or simply ignored Him.
But as God’s glory is revealed, as the grace and mercy of God are revealed and remembered, the prodigals come home. His love draws us back, hoping that we will be welcomed, unaware that God’s love for them has not dimmed.
The picture of the daughters being carried home is the same, as the Holy Spirit brings them home, those who strayed and wandered, those who were lost and without hope.
For those of us who have come home, to find God’s people waiting for us with open arms, it is something we never forget, this love of God shown through His people. For we see them as Isaiah describes,
5 Your eyes will shine, and your heart will thrill with joy,
When someone “comes home”, when their darkness is shattered by God’s glory, by the light of the world which is Jesus, that should be our reaction! Our brother or sister has been brought home, and we begin to rejoice like the angels in heaven, indeed all of heaven does.
It’s time to worship the Lord
As we see that happen, we begin to rejoice, we begin to praise God. For the darkness is no more, even the shadows of darkness fade in the light that has revealed to us Christ, this glorious light that guides us to him.
Sometimes the words in Greek and Hebrew have a meaning that is deeper than we remember – and so it is with the word for praising God – it is to cry Alleluia or Hallelujah!
Hallel means to recognize the incredible thing that someone has done, the deeds that deserve to be shouted from the rooftops.
and Yah – well that is short for YHWH – God’s name.
To praise Him, for shattering our darkness with His light, with His glory….
The glory of the incredible thing that happens as Jesus dies to bear our sins, as he takes on himself our unrighteousness, and is risen from the dead to give us life, to restore us from our brokenness. His glorious work as the Holy Spirit cleanses us from sin, gives us life and lives within us,
This is Epiphany! When we realize the glory of God is His love for us, seen in the work He does in us, a work that shines through us to the world.
“Arise, Concordia! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you!
2 Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you!
Overwhelmed by Joy!
† Jesus Son & Savior †
As we begin this year, may the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ overwhelm you, leaving you noticeably at rest and full of joy!
Standing in the wings
Isaiah, the prophet gives an incredible description of the new beginning we have in Christ in today’s Old Testament. It takes most of back a decade or two or five.
Back to when us guys were standing in churches, or chapels, and waiting for the doors to open. Back when you ladies were on the other side of those doors, in that moment of anticipation, in that moment of joy.
That’s what Isaiah starts the passage with, as he attempts to describe the joy he feels, as he catches a vision of the restoration of the people of God. Hear it again,
10 I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.
All dressed up – and waiting, but what clothes! Salvation and Righteousness!
And Isaiah saw this coming – and the joy was overwhelming!
As we start this new year, this is what we need to realize, that our lives have changed, and changing as much as a young couples lives change, as the bride and groom see each other on their wedding day….
We’ll get back to that in a moment…
The prayer – for the new beginning
We need to understand that Isaiah is one of the prophets whose writings are filled with lament. With the words that people will hear, because they continually choose sin over God. They are self-centered, and ignore those in need, which Isaiah mourns over, even as he warns them what they are heading for, if they continue.
In between the woes, and the promises of judgment, there brief views of hope. He will talk about a virgin who would conceive, and the baby who would be the wonderful counselor, eternal Father, the prince of peace. He would mention the one who pleased God by taking on himself all the wrath of God, thus giving life to those crushed by their own sin.
But overall, the book is challenging to read, Lots of what we might call hell fire and brimstone. But then, sin is a serious issue, and it took a serious cross to cure and heal the damage done to sinners.
But you see God’s heart reflected in Isaiah’s prayer
Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch.
Even as the prophet has his moments, okay, more than moments, years of struggling to get them to listen to God, he has a desire for them to come into the relationship they were meant to be in.
God’s desire infused the heart of Isaiah, and even as he weeps over their disobedience, he longs for the change that God has promised.
He has to pray, and will pray until they are right with God, so right they shine like the sun rising, and the proof of God’s delivering them lights up the darkness like bonfire.
This is what the prophet longs for, and what causes incredible joy, as he looks to the future, and gets a hint of what Jesus, the one born of a virgin, the suffering servant whose wounds would provide our healing, when Isaiah realizes the work of Christ!
Even as it was His hope, it is ours as well, and we are so much closer to realizing it fulfilled.
We like Isaiah are dressed, and waiting for the doors to open, to see the promise come into its fullness.
The clothes and the name.
When I mentioned the joy of Isaiah being such that he compared it to a groom standing here, or a bride back at the door, all dressed up in their clothing of salvation and the robe of righteousness, I didn’t explain the depth of those words.
The clothing is that of the greatest finery – the same words are used for the special robes of a priest on the highest of holy days. As is the robe – we aren’t talking about a bath robe or choir robe, we are talking about the covering of a king… and the types of garments aren’t even the best thing!
The clothing of salvation – that is in Hebrew the being clothed with Yeshua – being clothed with Jesus! The very thing Paul will talk about, as we are united to Jesus – as we put Him on,
Which explains how our robes are righteousness – the purity and innocence of one who does not know sin at all.
This is what Isaiah saw as our future, this moment of pure joy, pure bliss, as the people of God are made so righteous that the world is amazed, because we will share in the glory of God, as He holds out for all to see.
This moment as God makes you His, this special moment that Isaiah prayed and prayed and prayed for, that the people of Israel and all the nations would come to know…
The moment we were united to Christ, it is already here, it happened at the cross.
In the beginning of the sermon, I mentioned waiting here as a groom would, or there, as a bride would, that is what Isaiah saw – but for us, we’ve come to that point where the pastor announces our name for the first time, for we have be claimed by Christ at this font, and again at this altar.
We are his, and though we can’t quite believe it has happened, it has, and the rest of life is the walk down the aisle, dwelling with Him in holiness, until we go out into eternity.
The thought of this occurring caused Isaiah great joy, so much so He was overwhelmed,
How much more can this overwhelm us, who don’t see it far off, but know it true now.
How much more can it affect our very lives, this incredible gift of God.
May we sing His praises, now and forever! AMEN
Called to Belong: Called to Be His Own
† In Jesus Name †
What People Need?
There are a ton of articles circulating across pastor’s desks, as they have for the prior three generations. When I was in college, they asked why my generation was leaving the church and provided great statistics on why people like me, the children of baby boomers, weren’t attending church.
I wondered about it a lot, as I had gone to a large youth group in high school, in fact, it was significantly bigger than any church I’ve belonged to, and really, was bigger than all the churches I’ve pastored since.
In the nineties and up to about 2004 or 2005, pastors, church planters, it seemed everything churches did were questioning why people of my age group weren’t in church, and trying to make churches attractive to them.
As if we are all the same. As if our needs, our anxieties, our challenges, our doubts and fears were the same.
It has changed now, as churches seem to have lost focus on those in my age group – those once labeled genX. GenX is history, the church “experts” no longer mention us. Now the concern is with the millennials, Marissa, Melissa’s, Kelcie’s age group. A group that is two or even three generations removed from the days when youth filled every church, when complete families, three and four generations worth of family found themselves sitting together on Sunday morning.
And for the most part, the experts still treat whichever generation they mourn the absence of as if they are all alike. They want to find the “one” thing that will draw them all, the one key element that will draw them to church,
And perhaps, there is the problem in the first place.
If all we deal with is generalizations, how can we assure the individual whether 25, 50, 78 or 91 that they matter, that they belong?
To be honest, that’s been a challenge, even for pastors I’ve know in my life. Can the individual know that they are important, that God has called them to belong, that He has called them to be His own?
Yet, God calls us, individually here, to be part of this family, and maybe we can learn from that
Why is this good news?
When scripture talks about good news, we need to understand why it was good. As Paul is writing to Gentiles, we need to understand that this was one of the largest generalizations ever created.
It was everyone who wasn’t Jewish by birth, who couldn’t trace their ancestral tree back to Abraham, Issac and Jacob. A lot of folk. Good folk, bad folk. Tall, short, skinny, fat, smart, wise, silly. Older, younger, men and women, Some who wanted to find God to each out for help, others that simply wanted to mock God. And few that would want to make money off of people, but saying only they knew the way to God.
The only thing they have in common, is that they didn’t belong. Even someone adopted into a Jewish family didn’t quite make it, and those who were hyphens, those who were half Jewish and half something else, they were treated with less of a welcome.
We were all outsiders, stuck in the darkness, not worth the time for a Jewish Rabbi to share his wisdom, not allowed to hear the sweet words that God had accepted our sacrifice for our sin. For that is why we became outsiders, our inability to love God with all we are, and our struggles to love others, including our enemies, as God has designed for us to live. Because of that sin, we were outsiders, out in the cold and dark, possessed by our sin, oppressed by sin’s guilt and shame.
That is why the gospel is good news, For it smashes the demographic divisions, it grinds up generalizations, for what defines us is that we are wanted.
That God calls us to belong.
Look at verse 6. Let’s read it together
And you are called among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ.
Though, he wrote this letter to an entire congregation, as you sin in the next verse, that “you” is singular.
You are called to belong to Jesus.
You are called to be a saint, one of God’s Holy People, whom He loves.
You are. Singular. Not because you are this age or that, because you have this heritage or that, no because except for this one.
God loves you.
And therefore you belong to Jesus.
He bought you at the cross, freeing you from the sin and hell which had power over you.
This is what Advent leads to, what Christmas and Easter, the manger and the cross.
That’s what has made the difference in every church I’ve been blessed to be a part of, we knew we belonged together, for we now we belonged to Christ.
I want you to hear those words one more time, what we need to hear, each of us in this room , and every person on this planet,
Matter of fact, maybe it will sink in deeper if we say it together,…
6 And I am included among those who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. 7 Paul wrote this to me and all who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people.
We will be Like Him!
1 John 3:1-3
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, as you realize you are the Father’s beloved, blessed children!
Awfully Big Shoes to Fill!
Jesus often taught in parables, so it makes sense that pastors should use them on occasion. Stories and words that paint a picture, and that we get the lesson of, intuitively.
I also like to use them because I can then address them as “Pastor Parker’s Panoramic Parables.
I bet that doesn’t sound quite as nice in Chinese!
Well here is today’s parable, the kingdom of God is like this,
The kingdom of God is like a child trying on their Father’s shoes!
We are just kids who can’t resist trying on Dad’s shoes.
And while the desire to be “grown-up” seems a good thing, we far too often want to try on God’s shoes and walk in them. And the usual result is that we fall down and hurt ourselves, and others.
We Can’t Walk in them Yet!
As children, we often want to be like our parents, to act like they do, and putting on their shoes is symbolic of that. It is a cute thing, but not so much when we try to put on God’s shoes.
It happens, we play God when we want that parental level of authority, we want to be in charge. Usually, there is another brother or sister involved, and if we have God our Father’s authority, we can judge them and put them in their place.
Instead of being responsible we want to condemn them, or get revenge, or just make sure everything is fair, according to what we perceive!
I mean, even as adults we have trouble loving our neighbors as we are supposed to love them. Can you imagine the temptation and the damage we would do if we were actually God?
I mean – it would be nice to get on the freeway and command everyone else to get off, so we wouldn’t be stuck in traffic!
Really, we are still kids, we still can be a little self-centered, we can still do things where we try and play God. We still mess up – we still get self-centered, we still want things our way, and will do things to try and make it happen. We even still throw tantrums when we don’t get our way – if you don’t believe me, wait until Tuesday, when some adults will be poor winners, and others poor losers. Either way – there will be tantrums, arguments, accusations of cheating and people saying “It’s not fair!”
And God will still be God, and He will look on us and show us mercy and love, and as that love leads us to repent, our sins will be washed away
That is why the Father sent the Son to the cross – to draw us into Jesus, to restore that relationship, to make us again His children, and to show us what we will be like when Christ appears, for we will be like Him.
But We will – This is assured!
Hear the words of the Apostle Paul that were written to the Colossian Church.
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)
This is the same thing the apostle John wrote that we heard today
But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. 3 And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.
Holiness, purity, is simply living like Jesus, being like Jesus, and that is the transformation that happens, starting when the Holy Spirit brings us to life, gives us faith and cleanses us in baptism.
It comes as the Holy Spirit transforms us, as we gain that hope, that expectation that God will complete the work, the transformation He has began in us, as He promised.
We like all children will grow up – spiritually, this happens when we arrive at being completely like Christ Jesus. The good news, is that is His work, and the world of our loving Father. Want to know what you will be like – you will love the Father like Christ loves the Father, you will love each other the way Christ loves us.
So trust God, depend on God, and know that in Him we have a peace that goes beyond all understanding – that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
† In Jesus Name †
May the compassion of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed for you, that you hear Him as He tell you to rise up!
Jesus asks, “where are the other nine?!” and I can’t imagine hearing that without hearing some frustration in His voice, and maybe even a little pain.
Where are they?
Don’t they realize what I’ve done for them? And don’t they know that this is only the beginning?
Where are the other nine?
I don’t know how you read it any differently, though it may seem odd to hear God being pained by our inattentiveness, by our being ungrateful, by our not being aware of the incredible mercy and compassion that goes neglected.
But consider this.
God describes himself in Exodus 34 with these words,
14 You must worship no other gods, for the LORD, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you. Exodus 34:14 (NLT)
and in Hebrews we find this,
3 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:3 (NLT)
This is the God who weeps over Jerusalem, who compares himself to the man whose beloved wife whom he rescued from a horrible life cheats on Him.
Now can you hear the pain in his voice, as he asks, “Didn’t I heal ten? Where are the other nine?
is it enough to color between the lines?
Where are they? Why at the priest’s, showing them the healing so they confirm it. They are obeying Jesus, but isn’t that enough? Isn’t’ that the point of scripture, and the commandments, to get us to obey the commandments?
A quick illustration why it is not enough might help.
Think of a children’s coloring book – with pictures of great masterpieces in it.
Forgetting the parental requirement to love every piece of art your child or grandchild colors in; is it enough to color between the lines? Can a Van Gogh be as beautiful or a Mona Lisa look as stunning if the colors don’t make sense?
Or to use another illustration – if we stay in our lane on the freeway, does that mean we can travel as fast as we want?
Of course not!
So in this case, while listening makes sense, what they didn’t hear was that Jesus had heard them, and answered.
A quick background – these lepers were supposed to cry out when people approached, “UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!” They were to warn people to not come close, their disease was not only devastating, it was contagious.
Instead, somehow this group recognized Jesus, they recognized that though he wasn’t their Lord, He was one with authority, and they called out to him have mercy, to have compassion on them. Mercy and compassion aren’t just about feelings, but love so full that it acts, it finds a way to relieve the burdens, to bring comfort and peace to lives that were broken, that were shattered.
As Jesus speaks, he offers them something they could only have dreamt of – to go and show themselves to the priests, to be declared free from the ravaged brokenness they knew, to be welcomed back into the community of the people of God.
And as they left, they were healed physically, miraculously. Bodies that were more rotting than whole, bow showed skin that was a whole and new and vibrant as any.
This was the Master that spoke, that commanded this. The Master, the one promised and sent by God. This is the Messiah, the one who would not just restore bodies, but souls. That would cleanse not just skin, but hearts and minds. Who would make them His people for eternity!
And we walked away. We neglected the salvation, we obeyed the letter of the law, and missed something more important. The Spirit, the messiah, Fellowship with God.
Even though they obeyed to the letter of the law – they missed what the law was given to do, to show them they were in fellowship with God.
Rise up! Not only healed – but saved.
There is Jesus, and we’ve just heard him ask where the other nine was, when he focuses on the man again, lying there on the ground in front of him. Who voice, which was loud when he cried for mercy, was mega loud when cried out God’s praises, when he offered great thanks – using the very word Jesus will use as he starts the last supper and gives thanks.
And what Jesus says is lost in almost every translation.
In this one it says this,
“Didn’t I heal ten men?” Then it says, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
A few others say, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:19 (NASB)
But a few say it this way – reflecting the Greek, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’ Luke 17:19 (NJB)
Not just made well, not just healed, his faith, his trust in God demonstrated in the return to praise God was the trust, the dependence that saw a much greater gift given – and invitation, and the recognition that he was no longer an alien, no longer a foreigner, but a part of the people of God.
Jesus was now this man’s Lord, this man’s master. Salvation, like the healing that was for so long only a dream, this salvation was now his.
And Jesus tells him to stand, he doesn’t have to grovel, he doesn’t have to lay there in the dirt. He was made whole and saved, therefore he was welcome to stand!
If there was gratitude when he only knew the healing, can you imagine the gratitude when salvation was what was given? When eternity, in fellowship with God, given the ability to stand in His presence, to truly live life.
Can you imagine how incredible the mercy, the compassion he cried out for was revealed?
Yet that compassion, that mercy, that love, that acceptance of God is ours.
It is time to revel in it, to give thanks and praise.
And to hear, as Jesus look at the table, and considers the bread and wine, the gratitude he shows the Father, who will allow Jesus to give His body and blood for us, to save us.
For it our time to hear those words, you trust in God has saved you,,, for He has had compassion on you. AMEN!