Category Archives: semons
A Glorious Land!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you look forward to the glorious day of Christ’s return!
- What No Eye has seen… but is revealed!
I can read our theme verse for lent a thousand times more, and it will still leave me in awe of what God has promised us.
Hopefully, you will always rejoice when the expectation is laid out before you. You think about what God has waiting for you – because you love Him – because He loves you.
More incredible than the most awe-inspiring, beautiful thing you have ever seen. More amazing than anything you’ve ever heard, more mindblowing than anything you’ve ever imagined…
That’s what is waiting for us… when God brings all His people together on the day of Jesus Christ.
That is what Lent and repentance prepare us for as well. We realize what we need to leave behind… because of what is waiting.
- The picture of that day
Listen again to the description
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, so our land will be filled with his glory. 10 Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed! 11 Truth springs up from the earth, and righteousness smiles down from heaven. 12 Yes, the LORD pours down his blessings. Our land will yield its bountiful harvest. Psalm 85:9-12 (NLT2)
Once or twice I have mentioned that what God saves us for is more important than what he saves us from. The psalmist starts to help us picture it…
God’s love and truth meet…. This means hatred and falsehood no longer exist…
Righteousness and peace kiss – meaning injustice and every kind of fighting – from family disputes to workplace arguments to gang battles and war – will be long forgotten…
Oh! How I long for that day!!!
These interactions are incredible, as we see God pouring down His blessings – and a harvest is huge – not of plants but of souls!
What an incredible picture of God creating something for those He calls His people!
It will be a glorious day when God’s love overwhelms everything – and we see reality the way God does!
- It isn’t heaven on earth
The challenge here, of course, is that while this promise is ours, the cross of Christ making it guaranteed for those who trust and depend on God, we really don’t see it yet. We see the brokenness that leads the psalmist to cry out,
4 Now restore us again, O God of our salvation. Put aside your anger against us once more. 5 Will you be angry with us always? Will you prolong your wrath to all generations? 6 Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you? 7 Show us your unfailing love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation. Psalm 85:4-7 (NLT2)
Can you hear the despair in that cry? Can you hear a heart – much like our own – that is tired of the world, that is tired of the brokenness caused by sin… that needs healing, that needs to be revived?
That needs the hope that is only found in the cross of Christ – where injustice and conflict are dealt with, as God pours out His wrath on Jesus… so that we can live for eternity with Him.
I’ve said before that repentance is a change of mind – that God works in us. We know about where we are – and where we’ve been… tonight I Hope you see where we are heading… to a glorious land where God has prepared a place for you and me…
God is Making Your Body Change!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you as God transforms you!
We started last week looking at this theme of “God is making you….” A look at the work that Paul wrote to the Philippian church, saying, “And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the day of Christ.
Last week we saw that God is making us righteous. That His masterpiece is recreating us in a way that there we are holy, that there is no sin we can be accused of, that we are innocent. So we are not just allowed to be in the presence of almighty God; we are expected there and welcomed.
This week the work is described as Jesus taking our weak and mortal bodies and changing them into glorious bodies like His own!
Imagine that – our bodies will be perfect and glorious. No more aches and pains, no more need for physical therapy, no more medicines, no more diets… no more sin affecting us, not only spiritually, but physically.
Sounds like a much better change than, say… moving your clocks ahead one hour!
We need to understand the change… and compare it to our feeble, broken down, sin-damaged bodies…. Lives that are so ugly and pathetic that even discussing them causes Paul to cry.
The Enemies of the Church – conduct
Paul describes those who aren’t changed this way, “18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction….”
No wonder Paul is crying! These people he is crying over are people he cares for, people he was raised with, and they are, in context, his people. He wrote about them to the church in Rome,
1 With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. 2 My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief 3 for my people, my Jewish brothers, and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them. Romans 9:1-3 (NLT2)
Each of us has similar people in our lives, or at least we know of them. People who walk about, not knowing the love and peace of God. They reject Him because they do not know Him. But here what makes them different…
Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.
Remember how we define a god. A god is what you turn to in time of trouble for help. It is who or what you depend upon to get you through life.
Which leads them to brag about whatever helps them in their time of weakness. Another way of phrasing it – they glorify that which exposes their weakness and shame. They end up defending the very things that hurt them, the same things that cause their brokenness – because they do not realize that God can save them from the brokenness… they accept it as reality and then defend it.
We aren’t just talking about sinners like Putin. We are talking about anyone who doesn’t count on Jesus and turns to other things in place of God…and these are people we know- and people we pray for…
The reason Paul would cry is simple, he was once like them, as we were. He describes us that concept this way, “3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. Titus 3:3 (NLT2)
But notice – he said once… for our transformation – God making us into glorious bodies – is already underway!
A Different Schematic – Syn-mimic
Ezekiel describes the change as getting rid of our heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh. In other places – our mind is replaced with the mind of Christ, or we are dressed with Christ.
Here, Paul describes the change with two ideas.
The first is to follow the pattern of their lives on Paul’s life. The picture words there are we get to be born and mimic from! Our new life in Christ should be that we move like Paul as he mimics Christ! Where Jesus moves, we move in reflection of His love and mercy….
The second is the word for change –the idea of changing the schema -the word and concept from which we get the idea of schematic. Or, as we would say these days, God makes a DNA level change in us. For the computer geeks – a complete reboot with a new operating system.
That is the work God is doing in us – a complete change!
What is fantastic is both these things are God determined – and God-driven. He changes us in a way that allows us to live, mimicking Christ, for Christ lives in us. He changes the schematics in us, miraculously recreating us…
The challenge is being patient with the change in our lives and those around us! But know God is at work… and here is the amazing thing…. He makes this change with the same power by which everything is cared for by Him.
The same power that entered into the world, and healed people, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, is at work in every believer. God is drawing into a relationship every one – as He works through us….
Like the family who Marvel contacted – because they needed a minister for a memorial service. Or the people Manny and Gloria invite to the Tagalog Bible Study, or Violet inviting people to Family fun night…
Or any of you are praying for 8 people… to simply see Jesus revealed in their lives.
You see, those tears of Paul that we have for others, know that it is part of this change in us. We see their emptiness and brokenness and realize that as we find healing in Jesus… so can they… so we want to help them find it!.
This is the change He makes in us… a change that will be complete when we see Jesus face to face…
And until then – the very idea that God is at work in you – and will complete that work… should help you know His peace – which you dwell in… for the Lord is with you!
(hear a slightly different version of this sermon – at our church YouTube Page… bit.ly/concordiacerritos )
God is making us… Righteous
† I.H.S. †
May the Grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus be evident in your life that you may know God will fulfill His promises to you.
The Lenten Journey
Time for another Pastor Parker Poignant Parable – that comes from experience this week!
Our Lenten Journey in the Kingdom of God is like the 405 freeway. You know that there is major construction you will encounter, though you don’t know where it will be today! It will be a mess, but you will eventually get to your destination!
Some things in our lives need to be demolished. Some things need to be widened (though they seem too wide already). Things generally need to be rebuilt, and things need to be smoothed out and repaved. The hardest part is that we have to deal with someone else making all the decisions that affect our journey!
But eventually, we will get to our destination.
Each week of Lent, we will see what God has promised to do and is doing in our lives…
Some of it will be unexpected, some may seem like it is going too slow, or the detour doesn’t make sense…
And on occasion – there will be some major demolition needed…
But getting us to the final destination – and getting the work done, is the promise.
The promise is on the cover of the bulletin. It is a promise that Paul taught the church in Ephesus about when he wrote,
“And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the day of Christ Jesus.” Amen? AMEN!
As we realize God is in charge of the work and in charge of getting us to our destination, perfect and mature… and on time – His time; we find His peace
The Problem with Journeys
If you ask anyone living between Long Beach and Irvine, the 405 has been a mess, is a mess, and will be a mess until Jesus returns.
Sort of like life. I’ve had to drive it 4-5 times in the last two weeks, and probably a dozen since December – and you never know where the construction will happen or what ramps will be closed or open.
It’s a mess – as is life.
Sometimes we think everything will be perfect, and then something is screwed-up. Sin enters the picture and demolishes a bridge or closes the on-ramp we thought we would use. Or someone sins, accidentally, of course, and everything in life slows down to a crawl.
You know – something like the sins happening between the Ukraine and Russia….. and the related sins – like the spreading of gossip and fear.
And sooner or later, we will get frustrated by the work, the need for it, frustrated by delays, and our reactions! Like how we react when someone cuts us off on the freeway while traffic is going 20 mph.
Our lack of understanding – which leads to frustration – leads us into sin…
God’s work – done… and yet not done.
This is where we need to remember God is at work! And the job is going to get done in His time!
After all, God is far more in control than CalTrans!
We just need to trust in Him – to believe in our heart that He’s doing what He promised to do…. Hear again from Romans,
10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”
God has a destination for every single one of us in mind. That destination is His side, with Him forever. He is in charge of the journey, including the detours and the slowdowns. Remember his promise that all things work for good for those who love God..? That includes all the stops, detours, and frustrations of the journey. For God uses them to teach us to trust in Him, depend on Him, to believe in our heart that He is making us right with the Father.
That is what the cross is all about – the point in this journey where God made us righteous.
This is a done deal!
We are made right with God – we are being drawn to His side…
Believing, trusting, depending on Him means we let Him be in charge of the journey – even if it reminds us of the 405 freeway or the 5 into LA.
That’s why Paul reminds us that “Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” Romans 10:8-13 (NLT2)
Saying that God gives generously to us is simply saying that if He does not spare Jesus but offers Him on the cross. He did not spare His body but allowed His blood to be spilled; how much more will He make certain what He started at the cross comes to completion.
He has made you righteous – He has made you right with Him. And though you don’t know how long the journey will be, we are confident in His finishing the work – on the day we arrive and see Him face to face.
And until then – no matter how bad the 405 is, no matter how high the price of gas, no matter how many closures – we can live in His peace and in the presence of the Holy Spirit – until we get home… AMEN!
We could not.. so He did!
So Go Ahead and Rest?
† Jesus! Son! Savior! †
May you find in the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ God’s grace and experience true peaceful rest!
- What was Jesus’ Body Language
I wish I was there in the garden.
I wish I could see and hear Jesus as he came back for the third time, and found the disciples asleep, and said,
“Go ahead and sleep! Have your rest! But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”
Was Jesus angry, resigned, disappointed?
Did his voice betray His emotions? Was He so tired and anxious he couldn’t control his feelings?
As importantly, how did the apostles hear this?
How much did they realize that a few days later, they would be guaranteed a rest…
- They Could Not, Neither Can We!
If there ever was a night for Jesus to be frustrated with the apostles, it was this night.
It starts off with two apostles fighting like 4-year-olds about who gets the best seat, the one next to Jesus. DaVinci thought John won the argument – for he is pictured next to Jesus in his painting of the Last Supper. They argue, and Jesus teaches them a lesson by bending down and washing their feet.
The evening gets worse as Peter once again says that his will and intellect are better than Jesus’. Nope, I am not going to let you care for me, Jesus. Nope, no way in…what was that? Err… Uhm.. let me re-think that….will you, please, and wash not my feet but everything while you are at!
Then that thing with Jesus, but if you heard the first gospel tonight, which apostle thought he was capable of betraying Jesus? That hit me this week in preparing; each of the disciples thought they could possibly be the one who would betray Jesus…
Sounds like guilty consciousness!
Hmm… I wonder how many of us would have asked? If you think you would not have, a straightforward question.
Have you betrayed him today? Have you chosen to sin or simply overlooked that what you are doing is sin?
Then you should have said, “is it me, Lord?”
As if that wasn’t enough, they kept falling asleep when the Lord Jesus needed their encouragement.
Finally, after He tells them it is okay to rest… they will run away, deny him and stay their distance.
I am not trying to make you feel guilty, but I want you to understand this… you are not any better than James or John, Peter or Matthew.
We could not avoid sin… and knowing that means we need to rely on the message that has been shared all Lent long.
We could not…so He did…
- Go Ahead and Rest
With all that, hear Jesus’s words again,
“Go ahead and sleep! Have your rest! But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”
I choose to hear this given the theme. Jesus looks on us weary, broken, crushed by sin, and unable to save ourselves and says that we can rest because He was treated as a sinner by sinners.
What we cannot do, He did, staying awake through the anxiety, through the pain, enduring the wrath of God, and enabling us to dwell in peace.
How stunning it is to hear Him tell us to rest in that case! How grateful we can be for what He has done! How grateful for what He was doing this night and into the darkness of the morning!
This is the love that makes a difference in our lives! The love that would intentionally do what we cannot because of our sin.
But because He did, we can experience peace, the purest peace, and the love that goes past all understanding.
We need to know this… especially when we are weak, when we are so weary, we can barely focus.
He has not abandoned you or me.
He chose to love us… and do what we could not.
SO let’s find that rest, as we let Him once again cleanse us from sin and all unrighteousness, and celebrate as He gives His Body and Blood to sustain us.
We Could Not..So He did:
Let this pass… but
Matthew 26:36-47, 1 Peter 1:6-9
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father help you to look to Jesus when you can’t endure.
- The Chalice…
The prayer of Jesus in the Garden has always been fascinating to me. Let me set the scene again,
37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
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.”
He knelt there, in the Garden, and thought of the suffering her was going to endure… that He was going to embrace.
The Cup of suffering, the Cup that the Passover foreshadowed, was His to drink.
How he got to this point, through the Last Supper, amazes me… and here in the Garden…he would do what I could never do…
He drank deeply of the suffering…
2. The Cup That Needs to Pass
There are two types of suffering.
Suffering because we deserve it, and suffering when we don’t deserve it.
To be honest, I do not like either!
It is one thing to suffer because I screwed up. You know, the consequences that happen because you overate and felt sick. Or perhaps, someone, now one here, drank too much as has a hangover. Or maybe you didn’t walk away from that fight…
It is another thing to suffer because you don’t deserve it. The illness, the accident, the economy, or COVID…or perhaps you
In the midst of either, we struggle. We gripe and complain. We may get depressed and ask why me…, and we don’t ask God to let this pass.., we demand it, claiming that good people like us shouldn’t suffer so much.
I hate to say it, but we often sin in the way we deal with discomfort and suffering, not trusting the God who has saved our very souls…
He Took the Cup!
There is a third kind of suffering.
The kind of suffering where you take on the suffering someone else deserves.
The parent who tries to save their child from the consequences they deserve might be an example. Or the friend or co-worker who covers for another person.
But Jesus took on so much more, the agony and pain of every sin, the wrath of God. Not just to cover it up or to enable someone. But to really deal with it. To embrace the agony that only He could deal with.
He knew that when He took the bread and the Cup and taught once again what He would do for us…
But now in the Garden, the threat takes on a new dimension, and He embraces it all….
Knowing the pain, knowing the agony, the betrayal…
He does so… because He loves us.
We can’t deal with the Cup of suffering. We can’t deal with what we deserve, the consequences of our sin and error. So he did.
And He wants to make sure we are with the Father, forever.
This is what Lent focuses us on, the incredible love of God that embraced the suffering in the Garden and the cross…
So that we could be whole, and the damage of sin eradicated… but more importantly, that we would spend our eternity with Him.
This is amazing.. and leaves us in awe… for He loves us.
For the will of God was to take the Cup of suffering, to offer to us the Cup of salvation.
Think of that, as you come and drink, as you receive the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of your sin.
Think of that, as we come… and lay down all that we suffer, and place it in His hands.
Walking in the Light of His Glory: Part 2
We Hear His Call!
1 Samuel 3:1-10
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be a call in your life that you always answer with great joy!
- A poor night’s sleep….
As I read the reading about the young Samuel learning to interact with God, I felt terrible for Eli, the prophet-priest.
The poor guy has gone blind, his kids have turned their back on God and on him, and this little kid keeps leaving the tabernacle to come to wake him up.
Eli, Eli, did you call me?
imagine you have had a long, long day, you just get to sleep, and you hear this voice…
Eli, Eli, wake up, did you call me?
and then, just as he went back to sleep,
Eli, Eli, wake up, did you call me?
He might have been thinking, “Go back to bed, you little brat!”
If only they had recognized where the young man was resting…
if you and I only recognized where we find our rest….
If you and I only could recognize the Voice calling out to the world.
- In the Presence but not knowing it…
If you were all Old Testament Scholars, you might pick up where little Samuel was sleeping. He is sleeping in the sanctuary to ensure the oil lamps on the Lamp of God do not go out. That puts him over in the corner of the Holy Place. He was probably not far from the thick curtain which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holiest places.
That is the place where God’s glory sat, over the Ark of the Covenant and its seat of mercy. This is where God promised Israel that He would be…. For them.
Even so, Samuel didn’t recognize the Voice of the Lord. He is sleeping just a few feet from the glory of God, hidden behind the curtain…
He didn’t recognize the Voice… and the Bible explains why…
7 Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before.
Someone forgot something! Eli had never taught the young child to listen to God.
Eli was getting that repetitive message because he sinned. He didn’t teach the young man how to listen to God. Here was the man of God, whose own sight was failing, wasn’t preparing the future generation to see God.
That is the priest’s job to make sure young believers, whether 4, 54, or 94. And we are all part of God’s priesthood! We need to be the people that God uses to draw others into the presence of God and help them learn to hear His Voice.
not Bob’s, or Chuck’s, or mine
We need to help them hear God’s Voice.
Samuel would learn to do this, as he would help all of Israel hear God, and then he would try to help King Saul and the then King-elect David hear the Voice of God.
But first, Eli needed to realize that God was calling Samuel. He had to wake up and notice this. He needed to look past his own blindness and see what was going on in Samuel’s life.
That means we must get by what blinds us, what causes us to go to sleep…
We must know we dwell in God’s presence as well. For then, we realize that their annoying cries are simply a misguided attempt to answer the call of the Voice of God.
They hear His Voice, but how will they recognize it unless we help them come to the point where Eli guided Samuel.
“Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’ “
We can help them be still, to know that God is God…. Help them find the rest that replaces the stress and anxiety in this maddening world.
But we have to be there, in the place where we are listening to God, where we hear His Voice cry out to us…even as we respond, “Speak Lord, your servants are listening.”
- How is calling you to do? How will you serve?
I can see parallels for everyone here.
We are like young Samuel, trying to understand Who is calling us.
We are like tired old Samuel, with eyes tired that no longer want to see 2020…yet God has called us to guide others to dwell in His presence and to hear His Voice.
The thing that they had in common, that you and I share with them, was the call of the Voice of God.
The call that draws us nearer to Him, that draws our attention to the altar, to the places where He has told us He will meet us, places where He reminds us of the cross, and the resurrection. Places where He pours out His mercy, and His forgiveness
Come and listen… and then help others hear Jesus call….
And hearing the Voice of God…telling you He loves you…and inviting you to partner with Him in your life and ministry, you will dwell in His peace.
For Jesus keeps you there.. your heart and mind. AMEN!
The Vision of Joy
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
† Jesus, Son, and Savior†
May you enjoy the grace and glory of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
What was Going Through His Mind?
The Old Testament Reading this morning was the basis for a sermon before. In fact, the sermon was one of the shortest sermons in history.
It is recording in Luke’s gospel, chapter 4. And after reading the first two verses from Isaiah, the preacher said this,
“The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
Luke 4:17-21 (NLT2)
I would have thought this would have caused great joy… but it did not that day. They decided to kill the person who read the passage from Isaiah….who dared to give them a Vision of Joy…
I wonder what was going through Jesus’ mind as He looked forward to that sermon, knowing the joy that He set before Him. Was there a massive smile on His face, knowing He came to do was now, finally going to happen?
Imagine if a scientist had to break the news that he had discovered a simple, easy cure for COVID. Imagine the smile he would have on his face as he approached the microphone that all the challenges it has caused were over!
Yeah, what Jesus had come to do… was a billion times better.
And I get to show you that today!
What He Had Observed
Consider what God looked down upon, that Isiah describes,
There were the poor,
There were those whose hearts were shattered
There were people who could not leave the horrid situation they found themselves in…
There were people who lived, prisoners of their own choices, of their own sin, which was crushing them.
There were people mourning,
There were people in despair,
There were people living in lives lived in ruins
Sounds like 2020, doesn’t it?
One of the points we have to understand is that when we are crushed like in this time, by what is going on around us and what is going on inside us, God knows…
That is why the Apostle Paul says,
8 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9 In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NLT2)
Been there, done that.
And then I forget it and start the process all over.
I need to hear Jesus calling; I need to hear Him describe what He will do again.
The Vision of what was coming
Usually, I focus on the bringing good news, the comforting the brokenhearted, the release of those locked in and the freeing for those imprisoned, and the other ways our salvation is shown.
But today, I want to look at a specific one of the changes that happen because Jesus said that this prophecy is full.
Everyone will realize that they are a people the LORD has blessed.” 10 I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me in 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.
This is the greatest thing ever.
To realize that we are the people the Lord has blessed! What an incredible realization – we are the people the Lord God, the Creator of the universe, has blessed!
Even more than that – look at the excitement of Jesus’s words,
He’s overwhelmed with joy because of what God the Father has caused to happen.
Jesus is as happy as the groom; he awaits the wedding and life that is to come with his bride.
Kevin – you are the most recent groom around here… how did you feel in the moments before the doors opened, and you saw Susan there?
That is how Jesus felt as He preached that day… as the relationship that He had been waiting for since the worlds were created through Him finally was here.
No wonder Jesus was looking forward to the crucifixion for the joy set before him
As he was handed the scroll..the anticipation began to build, as He red the words, oh my the joy that began to spread, and continued to, until that point, when nailed to the cross, Jesus would say…
It is done… it is finished …..
the same thing that he said that day in Galilee….will be said at the cross.
And He says that to us today… today hear the good news, you are free from whatever crushes you, for you can see God, and you are free and blessed, for He is your God. It is done this day – to you.
Rejoice! He is your God, the God who blesses you… Today, He has done this… AMEN!
Do You See What Scripture Sees?
Week 1: What no Eye Has Seen
† Jesus, Son and Savior †
Do you see?
It used to be that we knew that Advent Started on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. There is now another way to know when Advent starts. It starts the Sunday after Black Friday. You know, the day when some people are out there, looking for things to buy other people for Christmas, while buying themselves a new television?
But Advent has started, our march towards Christmas, and towards eternity. As we journey looking towards Christ second return, as we relive what the people were feeling as they were waiting for Jesus.
For while scripture describes both Jesus’ incarnation and His second coming, while it sees it in vivid detail, we have about as much of a clue as the shepherds who were told by a million angels what was true then.
The Incarnation has happened! God is here to rescue His people!
uh…the baby in the feeding trough? It is going to save us?
yeah…. And wait until you see how!
and to us, wait until you see what those who wrote scripture described as coming!
What we want to see?
What I want to see is what Isaiah called for in the beginning of the Old Testament reading.
Here is the way it is translated,
Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down! How the mountains would quake in your presence! 2 As fire causes wood to burn and water to boil, your coming would make the nations tremble. Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame! 3 When you came down long ago, you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations.
Here is how I would translate it…
Lord, we need you! Rip open the sky and come down! Show all Your Creation Your power! Show them, like you showed the people who mocked Noah, and the Egyptians at the Red Sea, and the 60,000 Midianites who got slaughtered by 300 of Gideon’s men. We need you now Lord, what are you waiting for?
Oh how I want God to come back and show His power, just as Isaiah asked, just as Paul foretold when he wrote to the church in Thessalonica.
16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a mighty shout and with the soul-stirring cry of the archangel and the great trumpet-call of God. And the believers who are dead will be the first to rise to meet the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 (TLB)
There is, of course, one problem with God showing up right this second.
Isaiah noted that problem as well,
But you have been very angry with us, for we are not godly. We are constant sinners; how can people like us be saved? 6 We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. 7 Yet no one calls on your name or pleads with you for mercy
I want to make sure you realize that Isaiah didn’t say “you were angry with me”. He didn’t treat sin as if it was okay that he was okay with God while the rest of the people weren’t. Their sin stained him, his sin stained them.
It may not seem fair, but the evidence of our sin is that we live among sinners. To put it bluntly, that we haven’t helped others deal with sin is sinful in itself. If you don’t believe me, look at what Ezekiel says, 18 If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths.
Ezekiel 3:18 (NLT2)
We have sinned, and most of us don’t plead for mercy, calling on God to provide what only He can…for all of us…
Rather than feeling guilt about what you cannot change about the past, and about those who you need to help by warning them, I would call you back to something said in Isaiah…. To make sure you have the full picture.
4 For since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!
In the midst of the brokenness, we wait for Him! There is the answer. To keep looking expectantly to wait for God to rip open those skies, and to realize something else.8 And yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand. 9 Don’t be so angry with us, LORD. Please don’t remember our sins forever. Look at us, we pray, and see that we are all your people. Note that it says “us” here again.
Don’t be so angry with us… look at us… and see we are all your people….
It takes a lot to pray that kind of prayer. To realize that God is at work, and that we can stop trying to re-create ourselves, we can stop trying to pretend we are someone we aren’t, and admit we need God to rip the heavens open and save us, all of us.
He did once, and laid in a manger, and slept with a rock or boat’s nets for pillows. And was beaten, and hung on a cross, and died for us… that WE could live with Him. And Jesus will rip the skies open again, and what happens for those who are waiting for Him, will be beyond anything we can imagine… anything we have seen, anything we have ever heard, for will see a God like you, face to face.
And until that time, our hearts and minds will be protected by Jesus, as we dwell in a peace that gods beyond all comprehension.
The Power of Imagination
Matthew – 22:15-22
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ revive and renew you, as it did on the day you were baptized! And may you see what God has image’ined you to be!
The Hot Sauce Experiment
I am not sure who tried the experiment first, but it was all the rage in high school, a long, long time ago. ( Maybe before Danny was born?)
You took a penny… and old penny you could not determine which side had Lincoln’s image, and which was the and put it in Del Taco hot sauce, and a day later… it was shinier than brand new! (Results of current test if possible)
The reason I bring this up, is that God has a vivid imagination…..
And He does an even better job that Del Taco in creating us to be that image… not matter how we have been aged by sin, and the brokenness of this world. He imagines us clean, revived, and an image of us that we might not even recognize, were we to see our lives the way He does!
And we get to see that imagination at work today, as Noelle is baptized!
The Image corrupted….
As the Pharisees and followers of Herod plot to trick Jesus, they thought they had him. One, the conservative religious folks, with the a-religious secular leaders of the day. They had the question that would trap him, one answer would lead him to be condemned by one, the only other answer they thought of would lead him to be condemned by the other.
They had him!
And he flipped the question around, and if they heard the answer, they would realize they were both caught….
Give to God what belongs to God.
Give what to God what is made in His image!
Did you know we were made in God’s image?
All of us.
From the youngest of us, to the oldest. Does not matter if we are retired, work, or go to school. Doesn’t matter the color of our skin, or how many tattoos or scars are on our Body. Nothing matters, for what God will reveal us to be is in His image.
Doesn’t even matter how much that image has been obscured by sin. Idolators, those who use Jesus name like a cuss word, those who don’t take time for God, those who dishonor their parents, those who murder, have been unfaithful to their spouse, or unfaithful to who they will be are cleansed. Those who cheat and steal, those who gossip, and those who are jealous and try to get what others are given, all of them…
Forgiven, cleansed, Revived and made alive in Christ!
God is far more effective than hot sauce!
Give to God…what is made in His image.
One of the things that I realized as I read through this, this time, is that Jesus is speaking to the leaders – and He is telling them to give to Him all they are responsible for, who were made in the image.
In this case, this is what Danny and Christy, and this church is doing today, as we baptize Noelle! We are testifying that Noelle is made in the image of Jesus, that God created her, and in His imagination, she would be His perfect child. Nate and Nicky – you are as well! Christy – you were once baptized here, and Danny.
Each one of you – each one here who believe and is baptized will be in heaven, every single sin forgiven, because Jesus died on the cross to restore the image we were created in… who God, with all His glorious imagination, created us to be…
May Noelle, and every one of us remember that… every day when we think of our baptism, and look in the mirror, and realize we are God’s kids!
Now lets get to the good part!
The Baptism of Noelle
Come Back to Me
And Never Be Forsaken
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace and peace of God assure you that you will never be forsaken, that He will always be with you!
Why not End at verse 16? –
As I looked at the reading and started to plan out the sermon, I was tempted to shorten the reading from Isaiah by last few verses.
After al, the primary focus of my message is verse 16, and the promised actions of God, as He rescues and guides us, and promises to never, ever forsake us.
So why not drop verse 17-21? Why not just focus on the positive part, and leave these verses behind?
But those who trust in idols, who say, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned away in shame. 18 “Listen, you who are deaf! Look and see, you blind! 19 Who is as blind as my own people, my servant? Who is as deaf as my messenger? Who is as blind as my chosen people, the servant of the LORD? 20 You see and recognize what is right but refuse to act on it. You hear with your ears, but you don’t really listen.”
That is some pretty serious stuff, these warnings against trusting and depending on something besides God. We have to hear those warnings, we have to realize our need for God to act, for God to get to us, for God to rescue us, to get to the goal, that we will find that we have come back to God.
Remember the Call
Remember, that is the call…as we’ve looked at for a couple of weeks now, this idea that it is time to “come back to God” to be reconciled to Him.
We know this is God’s desire, that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all come back, that all are transformed.
We see this attitude, this desire in verse 14-15, where God cries out, where God, in his desire to be with us, flattens mountains and gets rid of rivers and pools in His desire to get to us.
Quick side note – this isn’t God crushing the idols as some might suggest. I’ve read enough of the bullshit out there saying that the corona pandemic is God crushing idols we’ve set up. Idols like athletes, movie stars, finances and other things we chose to trust in, instead of turning to God.
But in verse 17, those idols still exist, and some people still choose to trust in them. They aren’t the big idols as much as the things we turn to when stressed, the things we “can’t do without”. Idols that we even unconsciously cling too – the things that pull us from God. We have to release them – otherwise, we will simply replace them.
Back to the desire of God, this is His greatest desire – to see us return home like the prodigal did, as the Holy Spirit grants us repentance and transforms us! We have to realize that this is His ultimate goal, so great is His love for us.
Which makes it even more… challenging, if we reject His presence, if we continue to choose to place our trust in other things. He’s not going to force us to walk with Him. But nothing will be able, nothing is able to separate us from His love,
Nothing has been since the cross.
For that is when God flattened everything, to make it possible for us to have come back to Him. He made it possible by coming to us, and drawing us to Him, as He was raised up on the cross, and united us to Him there – so that in being united to His death,w e would also be united to His resurrection.
Look at this power of this promise…
In verse 18-21, Isaiah’s words challenged those who still were blind and trusted in idols, because they didn’t have too. People who were blind were those that Jesus led on the new path, those He guided on an unfamiliar way.
The way of grace, the way of complete forgiveness, the way where the darkness of sin is shattered by the light of His glory, the light He brings us into. Where we had stumbled and tripped by temptation fell into sin, that too is now smoothed over, as our sin is cleansed.
And never ever will He abandon us, or forsake us!
We need to realize that – that God who came to us, that we could have been found to come back to Him – even as we were blind, He promised to not forsake us! How much more so now that He’s invested the Body and Blood of His son into our lives!
This is the message of lent – the love of God which draws us back to Him, through the cross of Christ. That we can leave the emptiness and isolation, the blindness behind, for God will be with us, and guide us.
Or more precisely, as He is revealing Himself, cleansing us, healing us, we realize that God is drawing us home,
and throwing us a feast…