Category Archives: semons

Come Back to Me, and Never Be Abandoned – a Lenten Sermon on Isaiah 42

3/25 Lenten Midweek Service

Come Back to Me
And Never Be Forsaken
Isaiah 42:14-21

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…

The Kingdom of God is a Pizza! A sermon on 1 Cor 1:10-18

The Kingdom of God is Like a Pizza
1 Corinthians 1:10-18

 I.H.S

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you enjoy your role in others’ lives and their role in yours.

  • The Kingdom of God is Like a Tripoli’s Pizza

Growing up, one of the great treats was going to the beach, and the best part of the trip was stopping at Tripoli’s Pizza. It was an incredible treat, so much better than the other pizzas that we would get back home.

Little 4-inch square simple cheese pizza.  Occasionally, if it had been a good week for my folks, there would be Pepperoni on top.  But there was something about it, the flavor was incredible, from the dough to the sauce, to the cheese. It was perfectly put together and it hit the spot. Always the same, always good, always hit the spot. Not sure what was in the recipe, or it was the salt air of the beach, or what it was.

It was good and right…and perfect, and nothing compared to it, heck nothing still compares to it.

The Kingdom of God is like that…

Until sin enters into the picture.

  • Dividing the Pizza Up

And if we bought an entire pizza, as opposed to the normal 2 slices for a quarter, the battle royal between my brother, sister and cousins began. Everyone wants their particular slice, usually the corner with the extra pizza dough.

Or if we were blessed to get Pepperoni, there would always be one person who would count how many slices were on each piece, and if they didn’t get as many pieces as the others, oh my gosh, the battle that would ensue!

The world is like that, everyone wants what they want, everyone wants to make sure they get what they consider is their right, and what they consider is “just.” It’s not just the world though, it can happen in the church.

As it did in Paul’s day, as they compared who they followed, whose teaching, or who baptized them.  In Greek, it is even more divisive, as it reads, “I am Paul’s!”  “I am Peter’s!” “I am Apollos’s”, and some, even more, condescending said, “nana nana na na, I AM CHRIST’s”!

It wasn’t just then either, Martin Luther said it this way,

In the first place, I ask that men make no reference to my name; let them call themselves Christians, not Lutherans. What is Luther? After all, the teaching is not mine [John 7:16]. Neither was I crucified for anyone [1 Cor. 1:13]. St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3, would not allow the Christians to call themselves Pauline or Petrine, but Christian. How then should I—poor stinking maggot-fodder that I am—come to have men call the children of Christ by my wretched name? Not so, my dear friends; let us abolish all party names and call ourselves Christians, after him whose teaching we hold.[1]

That lasted until after he passed away – and then the Evangelical-Catholic church was renamed…. The Lutheran Church.

You see, what this is all about isn’t who we follow, not really.  It’s about me getting mine, it’s about my pride, my superiority.  It’s not about doctrine, most of the time, it’s about me getting the corner piece of pizza, the one with the extra half slice of Pepperoni!

  • What if we are the pizzas

Here is here the sermon flips. I said the Kingdom of God was like a pizza, not like eating pizza. We aren’t the ones fighting for “our” piece, or for equal shares of pepperoni.  We aren’t in control of the church, or our community.

God is.

That’s a good thing!

Some of us are the dough, some of us are the sauce or the various spices in the sauce, some of us in this community are the cheese, others are the pineapple or anchovies.

O wait, Tripoli only made cheese pizza.

Again, God makes life – life, our lives, masterpieces. He’s the cook and the One who writes the recipes.  He pulls all the ingredients together, mixes us all up and makes it a masterpiece.

While those not focused on God think this is foolish, we realize it is something so much more. We see it as God at work, bringing us together, putting each of us into the mix in just the right place, at just the right time.

Sure we have to be cleaned, and cut up, some of us have to me squashed or grated or tossed about like Pizza dough, but that is where faith comes into play.  We trust in God’s work in our lives, knowing the incredible thing He is creating.

That what happens when we are brought into the faith, God puts us in just the right place.  You see, in my analogy, the Kingdom, the Body of Christ is the pizza. Christ is the pizza, and we have our place in Him, together.

We can count on His love and mercy, and His amazing wisdom when we don’t get what we want when we don’t think it is fair when someone else gets more.  Because He has promised at the end there is something amazing that He is preparing,

That is why Paul didn’t use all his 50 dollar words in writing these letters because the message of God bringing us back is so necessary for us not just to hear, but to understand.  What why the cleansing of our sin resembles washing, why our celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection is a feast, where again we are told this is where the relationship is defined, where we are welcome to be honored guests, part of the feast.

We have to get this – the love and care that God takes in making our lives, with the outcome in mind at all times.

For then, with the goal in sight, we can rejoice, and let Him do His work in our lives.

AMEN!

 

 

[1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 45 : The Christian in Society II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 45 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 70–71.

Let’s Go See Jesus – A Christmas Day Sermon

Altar with communion

Let’s Go See Jesus
A Christmas Day Sermon

In Jesus Name

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

How dare they?

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

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

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

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

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

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

So who was back with the sheep?

Would we dare to leave it all behind?

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

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

We need to be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Center Stage: The Cross – A sermon on Galatians 6:14-18

Centerstage:
The Cross
Galatians 6:14-18

† Jesus, Son, Savior †

May God’s peace and mercy be upon you, as you live knowing this, you are a new creation, the very people of God

Where do we find contentment?

The Apostle Paul desired that he would never, ever boast in anything except the cross of Christ.

Not in His favorite sports teams

Not in a promotion, or an award given at work

Not in his citizenship or Nationality

Not even in the academic grades or the sports accomplishments of his children or grandchildren.

That makes some sense, even as we know we do those things regularly.  When we look a little deeper at the word behind the word “boast,” the lesson gets a little harder.

The Greek word means to be proud of or to be satisfied and content with your situation or accomplishments. 

Should I go back through that list? 

We find many things that we find contentment, many things in which we find satisfaction.  Paul would have us only find contentment, only find satisfaction when we looked there, at the cross which reminds you that God loves you enough that Christ died… for you!

Nothing is more important in your life than to know God loves you.  Seeing the cross at the center stage of our lives, yet…

The Law – The world rules

That is why Paul talks about the need to see our interest in the world crucified, and the world’s interest in us terminated.  This is hard to comprehend at times, for how do we live in the world and yet, as Jesus tells us, not be of the world?  How can we deal with the family and friends we might lose, the jobs we might have to turn down, all because they do not understand?

It is not easy,

I need to say here we don’t lose them because we annoy them with our condescension, or pretend we are holier or more special that they are.  We better not lose them because we condemn their sin, while ignoring our own.

But the ability to dwell miraculously in peace, and receive God’s mercy will create a difference, and not understanding that is challenging.  As is the change in priorities that occurs when we are transformed by the presence of God in our lives.

The Transformation

You see, God starts transforming us, the moment He claims us in baptism.  We might not even realize the difference He is making, But we become something new, something different, as we experience His love.

We live differently, what the Apostle talks of, to live by this principle, the principle is this: that we are the new people of God.  In Greek, this is the word canon. Not the kind I would like to play with, but canon as in the Biblical Canon.  It means the rule, the form, the standard that we can be measured by. 

Luther talks about something similar when he talks about the third use of the law, that we live in a peace and mercy that affects our life, causing us to live as new creations.

While the world may not understand it, God changes us.  It is why kneeling here is so incredible.  It is why Al when he stood here and baptized his granddaughters was crying for joy.  It is why people, when they hear that they are forgiven, every sin from murder to those little white lies that haunt us, feel as if they were released from the greatest of burdens.  This is the transformation!

It is something the world just can’t understand, this remarkable peace and grace of God which defines us, when we remember that we have been made the children of God.

The Mark How does that happen?  Paul describes it this way, “I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.

The stigmata in Greek.  A Reference to the marks, the wounds of Christ.  For it primarily means the mark left by the healing of injured tissue, in a way, a natural tattoo.

But it is deeper than that, because Paul says it is a mark that shows that he belongs to Jesus.  A mark that tells us we are His, that we are united to Him and His death on the cross. We bear that mark of the cross, the stigma of it, for with it we were baptized , marked and sealed, so that not only do we die with Christ.

We live with Him as well.

Which is why I make the sign of the cross during the creed, because of His cross, and our death with Him there, we will rise from the dead and living in the glory of the Father forever! 

And until that day comes, when all men will be judged, the Holy Spirit dwells with us, comforting us, transforming and guiding us, as we live as the new people of God… AMEN!

Faith conquers our sin…

Devotional Thought for the Day:

23 But I see a different law at work in my body—a law that fights against the law which my mind approves of. It makes me a prisoner to the law of sin which is at work in my body. 24 What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ! Romans 7:23-25 GNT

We, on the other hand, teach and comfort an afflicted sinner this way, and we console the afflicted sinner: “Friend, it is impossible for you to become so righteous in this life that your body is as clear and spotless as the sun. You still have spots and wrinkles (Eph 5:27); nevertheless, you are holy.” You, however, say, “How can I be holy, when I have sin and I perceive it?” “It is good that you perceive and recognize sin. Give thanks to God, and do not despair. It is one step toward health when a sick person recognizes and admits the disease.” “But how will I be liberated from sin?” “Run to Christ, the Doctor, who heals the contrite of heart and saves sinners. Believe in him. If you believe, you are righteous, because you give glory to God that God is omnipotent, merciful, truthful, etc. You justify and praise God. In sum, you attribute divinity and all things to God. The sin that still remains in you is not imputed to you but pardoned for the sake of Christ, in whom you believe and who is perfectly righteous in a formal sense. His righteousness is yours; your sin is his.”

Faith is likewise a Yes to God in Jesus Christ, who looks upon me, makes me open, and enables me ultimately to entrust myself to him. Faith penetrates to what is most personal and most interior in me and, in doing so, responds to the Person of Jesus Christ, who calls me by name.

Sin is a serious issue.

The brokenness it causes is even far more serious. It shatters individuals, friendships, marriages, churches, communities.

It rages like a forest fire, and it often seems we are helpless ot do anything about it. We struggle to confront it in our own lives, and we are afraid to deal with it in others.

Rather than do so, we compromise, and settle for the brokenness, even embracing it, for the cost seems to high. Except the cost of NOT dealing with it is higher.

Paul demonstrates that in his plea to be rescued from death, a cry of hope that brings him to the only hope. We have to let Christ deal with it. We have to let the Holy Spirit cut us open, and the mercy of God penetrate to the most personal, intimate, secluded places where the brokenness has taken root.

As the Holy Spirit uproots the brokenness, He plants faith, the ability to entrust ourselves to Jesus, and to grow in our dependence on His work, trusting Him to pardon us, to declare that we are righteous and belong in the presence of God the Father.

Even though the struggle goes on, even if the struggle is magnified by our realizing how deep our sin and rebellion is buried, that very realization is proof of God’s work, unearthing it so He can heal us.

Healing is painful, coming face to face with the pain we thought we had buried, that we had gotten past, burying it deeply within. Yet that pain needs to be truly dealt with, by the only one who can. God.

And He has at the cross, and as you were baptised, and every day of your life, as the Holy Spirit cleanses us deeply, comforting us, healing us, making us the Holy people of God, the children He has call to dwell in His presence. AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 168). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 214). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

His Mysterious Plan: A sermon on Ephesian 3:1-12

His Mysterious Plan
Ephesians 3:1-12

† In Jesus Name †


 May the grace of God our Father help you see your role in the church, as God displays His wisdom, found in the mystery of His eternal plan carried out through Jesus Christ our Lord!

A mysterious plan

As this sermon will be translated in to Mandarin, I decided to look into how to translate the word mystery.  It is one of those words, that doesn’t translate easily, there could be at least 4 ways to translate it.

The Cambridge-English dictionary suggested clarifying what is meant in our usage of the word mystery. What comes closest to my understanding of the Greek word is this option:  †

“something strange or not known, that has not yet been explained, or understood”  Another way to phrase it would be an enigma, and in this case, a divine enigma. 

Oddly enough, the word google translate suggest is Chinese is 谜, pronounced “Me” ( Mi)

So “Me” is a mystery and an enigma.

Makes sense in English!

But we are talking about God’s mystery today, this plan that has been in existence since before time began.  A secret which Paul would reveal, which is still challenging for us to comprehend, and it is still a challenge for us to use in our lives.

Not revealed? Kept secret?

Twice in this passage, Paul mentions that his mystery, this plan of God that is not yet completely known or understood was kept secret.  In verse 5 he says,  

 God did not reveal it to previous generations,

And then in verse 9,

I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.

There is a challenge here, that we need to deal with, this idea that God hides His mystery, that God doesn’t lay out His entire plan for us to deal with, for us to accept, for us to know.

That doesn’t just sound right, after all, shouldn’t God just be completely honest with us?  Why wasn’t He completely transparent with His people?  Why where His plans such a mystery? 

There is tendency in mankind to want to know, to understand, but along with that we want to be able to raise questions, to criticize, to help adjust the plans.  We want to be advisors to God, and we see that throughout history. 

Peter did this, when Jesus talked about the cross, and Jesus called Peter Satan, and told him to get lost.

We do it now, when we choose to give in to temptation, when we decide to sin, when we choose to ignore God’s commands, especially the two great commands,

To Love God with all our heart, soul and mind

To love our neighbor as ourselves.

Every time we do something that Is not loving, every time we sin, we tell God that we don’t trust Him.  How much more would we have done this, if we knew everything from the beginning?
The plan – all united in Christ

So God didn’t share the plan, but now He has.  And it is about that very thing, loving God and loving those people God brings into our lives.,

To bring us all into this incredible relationship where God is our Father, where we all become one body in Christ.

Where we all share in the riches that we have, because we are the children of God, the endless treasures of God’s grace and love.

For we dwell in Christ, united to each other, even as we are united to Him, at the cross.

That is why the cross is the center of the plan, for Paul will tell the church in Rome and the church in Colossae that we were united to Christ at His death on the cross, so that we could be brought to life with and in Him, when He rose from the dead.

And as we are all united to Him, we find ourselves united to each other.  Jewish person, Gentile person, Taiwanese, those of European extraction, Mainland Chinese, Filipino, people from South America, or Africa, or India or Indonesia. 

We are all one in Christ, that was the mystery that Paul revealed, the plan we needed.  For we needed to see what the cross would make possible. That cleansed of all sin, restored and reconciled in our relationship with God

The fulfillment of the plan – we come boldly

Every plan has a final goal, a final measurement when you know the work is done.

Even those plans that seem vague, have that moment when everything becomes known, when everything becomes clear.

In this case, the plan’s goal, is stated clearly in verse 12. 

12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.

So now you see God’s ultimate goal, the reason for everything He has planned. 

That we would be able to confidently dwell in the presence of God.  

No fear

no guilt

No shame

no doubt

Just simply dwelling with Him, find comfort and rest in His presence, depending on Him to guide us, and take care of us.


For that is what it means to have faith, to depend on God completely, no longer hidng behind illusions, but to trust God with everything…

For He is our God


And we, we are all His people!  AMEN!

The Battle of Our Lives: Knowing this

Devotional Thought of the Day:

21  So I find that this law is at work: when I want to do what is good, what is evil is the only choice I have. 22  My inner being delights in the law of God. 23  But I see a different law at work in my body—a law that fights against the law which my mind approves of. It makes me a prisoner to the law of sin which is at work in my body. 24  What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? 25  Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ! This, then, is my condition: on my own I can serve God’s law only with my mind, while my human nature serves the law of sin. 8:1  There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.
Romans 7:21-8:1 (TEV)

“The devil can devise the most extraordinary arguments: ‘You sinned. God is enraged against sinners. Therefore, despair!’ In this matter, it is necessary for us to proceed from the law to the gospel and grasp the article concerning the forgiveness of sins. You are not the only one, my brother, who has suffered such anguish. For Peter also admonishes us not to be surprised when the same suffering is required of us in the community of the brothers and sisters [1 Pet 4:12; 5:9]. Moses, David, Isaiah suffered much and often. What kind of anguish do you suppose David may have felt, when he composed the psalm, ‘O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, etc.’ [Ps 6:1]. He would much rather have died by the sword than experience these hard feelings against God and those of God against him.

At the end of a show I watched last night, a older priest looked a man in the idea, and told him he was heading to hell. The other charachter acknowledged this fact with a smile, as Jason Bull indicated he knew he had a suite reserved.

Oddly enough, the conversation was one of the most respectful I have ever seen dramatized. You might even say the dialogue was done in a very loving way.

As I read Luther’s words this morning, my mine recalled so many recent conversations about sin, and the grief it causes. The shame and guilt with which Satan and his minions try to crush our soul, The anguish that haunts us, and prevents us from finding the healing so easily available in Christ Jesus.

We have to grasp, and hold on to four our spiritual lives this doctrine of forgiveness, and the teaching of Christ’s mercy that so changes our very lives. We have to get past the sin, and let the law which convicts us drive us to our only hope, Jesus.

Sin isn’t something to hide, it is something to be treated.

It is not something you should fear telling your pastor or priest about but run to them, so they can tell you, that in Christ, you are not condemned. Rather you are reconciled to God, your relationship to Him restored, you are considered by Him to be innocent of sin, He declares this with all the love within Him, as He looks at you and I, His beloved children.

Knowing this, not just with our minds as a theological doctrine, but with our hearts and souls is the battle of our lives. To be convinced with every part of our lives that we are forgiven means we believe it, to the point where we can even forgive ourselves.

Then, we find ourselves dwelling in peace… a peace that is more than the absence of conflict but is the deepest, most unexplainable experience. An experience that occurs as we comprehend the dimensions of God’s love.

So my dear friend, confess your sins to God, and as you need, come to church and confess them, so you can hear the word that you are made new, for there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. AMEN



Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (pp. 16–17). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

C

Be Full of Joy: A sermon and service based on Phil. 4:4-7

Be Full of Joy
Philippians 4:4-7


† In JesusName †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ leave fill you with more joy that you can imagine!  AMEN!

Irritating tunes…

There are in life some very irritating tunes.

You know, the ones that get stuck in your head and remain there for hours?

A few years ago it was songs from the children’s movie frozen, specifically “I want to be a snowman” and “Let it go!” And anyone who has ever been to Disneyland knows how long this next song sits in your mind. Here, I will give you the first word of it… and see if you can get it…

“It’s” (a small world after all…

There are a few of those in the church as well, though thankfully the ’70s are over and we rarely sing them.

Song’s like, “I’ve got that joy, joy, joy…(down in my heart) and even worse, “rejoice in the Lord always..”   (Missy please note– these songs are never to be sung here unless I am on vacation in New England and Bob is preaching…)The latter praise song, “Rejoice in the Lord Always” is just the same words over and over, and over and… you get the picture. But what made it worse was that it was called a round… so, group, a would start it, then group b, then group c, so basically you were getting overwhelmed with this idea of having to rejoicealways

and sometimes we are not in the mood!

Dang it, sometimes you just don’t want to rejoice, you know, because sometimes life… is challenging.  (What did you think I was going to say sometimes life sucks?)

And to be assaulted over and over with people saying “rejoice always” (which is how some old translations state this passage… shortens already short, frayed fuses.

One of the reasons I like this translation is passages like this, that makes it less about us, and talks of being filled with joy.
 
Things that joy needs to replace.

But if we are going to be truly filled with joy, we have to get rid of the just that is in the place where joy is supposed to be.  Heck most of us have our lives so filled with these things, that we have not room for a chuckle or two, never mind full-blown, life overwhelming joy.

The things we are anxious about, the things that our minds dwell upon that cause us great stress.  Getting rid of that junk will give us a lot of room in our lives for joy.

Then, of course, are the things we need, or that we think we need in our lives.  Those too take a lot of room in our hearts and minds.  And even if we get them, we aren’t always satisfied.  And chasing after, or hyper-focusing on these things takes up room that should be allocated for joy!

Then there are the things we pray for because we are so desperate that we turn to God. I am not sure we always do give it to Him, but we at least say we have, yet we still let the situation burn a hole in us.. And when it does, it steals the place for joy.

I could go on and talk about the guilt and shame that we live with, the things that cause us to fear death or consider the return of our Lord Jesus Christ in a way that isn’t full of joy and expectation.

For we should look at God’s returning, with the same kind of eyes that kids have, as they see presents with their names on them begin to be placed under the tree.  For Christ’s return and what happens next are described with these favorite words from all of scripture.

9 What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him;  1 Corinthians 2:9 (NJB)

And this thought should help us see the joy that God would fill us with if our lives can be emptied of anxiety, and our needs, and desperation and guilt and shame.

How did I come up with the list?
          Our conversation with God revolves around these important things

So where did I come up with that list, the things that fill us instead of the joy God would so lovingly fill us with? Where did I get anxiety, needs, despair, guilt, and shame?

From the passage of course.  Though I changed the words slightly.

Worry for anxious – the idea is to have a dueling mind, or two separate minds, at war with each other.  Some translations actually use “be anxious over nothing”.

Pray comes from the word for desire – it is to lay before God all the things that cause us despair, and then we are not just to tell God, but we are to makeGod intimately aware of our needs, so that we can trust Him to take care of them, so we can empty ourselves of these burdens, and allowing Him to gill us with joy.

He does this when we come to the realization that Jesus return is what we truly need.  We set aside our guilt and shame, or more accurately, we realize He has set it aside, thinking of the joy God has planned for in our homecoming, in our finally seeing Him face to face.

We don’t empty ourselves of these things, we need to trust God to do this, understanding that it is His desire to do so, and to fill us with joy, This is the comfortingwork of the Holy Spirit!  As He cleanses us,and fills us with God’s joy!

For as we heard Wednesday night, the prophet Zephaniah revealed the God delights in our homecoming, even more than we do.  You see the joy we are filled with is His joy, the joy God has when He sees His people knowing they are loved, and able to fully experience it. 

His joy is contagious, and His joy is found, and always has been found when He and His people are together when He’s been able to provide for them something beyond anyone’s capability to understand. or explain…

That which Paul prayed for His people and I pray for you, that emptied of all that can be replaced by joy, I pray you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. And know this, His peace will guard your hearts and minds, as you live in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

Faith in Action is Active in Christ (The Faith in Action Finale) A sermon on Jude 20-25

The Church Service!

Faith in Action: is Active…. In Christ.
Jude 20-25

In Jesus Name

May the grace, the incredible mercy and peace that your gift from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, so bring about your healing, that you find ways to help heal and build up others. AMEN!

Faith in Action…

Since September 9th, we’ve been talking about what Faith in Action looks like.  We’ve talked about because our Faith must be in action, people can see that faith, that for faith to be in action it has to be drawn close to Jesus, and that it has to be in dialogue.  We then talked about how faith in action has to set apart our perception of reality and soak in God’s reality, that it is patient, making sure of every step.  Faith in action learns to be content.  We ended up talking about the idea that Faith in Action can occur because it is a blessing from God and enables us to adore Him and others, and Bob talked last week about how this is possible because we can boldly enter God’s presence.

Which leads us to this week, the final week of the church year, the week we celebrate God’s victory over sin, and consider how we live, knowing He is returning for us.

For as our reading from Hebrews this morning reminds us, we “await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life” and who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault!”

Faith in Action is Active in Christ because He makes us alive, and gives a future and a hope with Him. A hope that we can… (not that we need to) reinforce in everyone, building each other up, especially those that are broken, wavering and need to be “snatched from the flames of judgment.”

For that is how “faith in action” is active.  It is active as we build each other up, and minister to each other, healing them even as we are being healed in Christ Jesus.

The Evidence of Faith in Action

You have often heard me use the word cHesed, that incredible Old Testament word, that is equally defined as either love, or mercy, or as the loving-kindness of God.

The evidence of Faith in Action, it’s activity, is summed up in that word.

Look at the things we are called to do,

To build up each other in our most holy faith.  In less “churchy” words, to help each other be completely at home trusting and depending on God.  A trust that is tied, not just to God’s presence and active help In this life, but to our eternal life.

To help each other be “at home” in their faith, to build up this household of faith requires that cHesed, that incredible blend of love and mercy.  To know when to comfort, to understand each other’s need to see God’s grace revealed in our lives. To know that God welcomes us into His home, and we become an integral part of it.

Even when we struggle, or as Jude says, wavering.  Again, our faith in action is active when we see someone who is struggling to make sense of this world, their place in it, and why God would care about someone like them. That is when we all work together, encouraging them, comforting them, helping them to know that God loves them, that He is working in their life.

We each need this kind of support at times and need it desperately at that.  Because our lives can become so dark, so hopeless, that what we know is wrong seems to be like our only lifeline, our only option for comfort.  That’s how sometimes we get sucked into alcohol, or drugs, how others rely on comfort food or get absorbed into a television game, or video games.

And to help each other through these times of wavering requires us to love them more than we love ourselves.  It might take our sacrificing our time, our preferences, even our sleep as we spend the night interceding in prayer.

This is our faith in action, it is how it is active in Christ, even to the point of our saving someone by snatching them from the flames of judgment.  That seems colorful in its phrasing, but it is dead on accurate.  Our Faith in Action can and does save people from hell, not because of us, but because they see God working through us.

The need for caution

In the midst of this, in the midst of focusing us on Christ’s return, Jude talks about showing mercy this way.

Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

I love how Jude describes sin here…. As something that contaminates our lives.  As something that just infuses its way into our lives, so deeply that we sometimes mistake sin as the identity of the one who sinned. It is too easy to take one of two choices.  The first being that because they are inseparable from the sin, it is okay with God.  The second is that because they have sinned so grievously, that there is nothing that can be done to call them back.

Jude tells us here, that sin is something different, a contaminant that oozes its way in, that spoils a person, but that our carefully showing God’s mercy to them will eradicate the contamination.  To use Bob’s word last week, we need to see that sin annulled, to see the mercy poured out so that the sin is forgotten by God because Justice was served.

We do this, by depending on what happened at the cross. Paul describes it this way

24  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
Galatians 5:24(NLT2)

We need to show mercy to those in this process, understanding how hard it is to be rid of the stain of sin.  Mercy meaning, we are there for them, pointing them to the promise of God’s grace. We help them realize God is calling them, not to heal themselves, but to trust in God’s work removing the stain of sin. Helping them realize it was annulled, that in God’s eyes, He has cleansed them of it so completely that it didn’t exist.

He has called them into a life of repentance, even as He has called us. All of us.

Which is again why this promise is where we end this series<

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. 25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord.

AMEN!

 

Faith in Action is Blessed: Matthew 5. Sermon manuscript and video of service link 11/4/18

Annual All Saints Service – Matt 5:1-12 

Faith in Action….is Blessed!
Matt 5:1-12

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ open your mind to see how God has, and is, and will bless you!  AMEN!

 

The Shopping List

If you were going to start a new project, part of the process is making sure you have the material you need to complete the project.

Whether it is making a fancy dinner, or building a shed, or, in our case, building the church.

You need to make sure you have everything you need because once you are started, stopping to go get a missing peace slows down the process, and could even require you to start all over.

The reading from the gospel of Matthew this morning provides such a shopping list.

Matthew lays out the kind of people we need to build the Church.

Not just the service in Mandarin, or the service in English, and not even Concordia.

But the Church throughout the world.

These blessed people are the components to the Church, and a church that contains such people very simply grows.

Are we so described?  

So if we are going to look at Concordia, as a part of the church, let’s see how we do.

In the English translation we use, the first item is, “those who are poor and realize their need for God.”  Do we have such people?

Do we have people that continually see their need for God, and desire to dwell in His presence?

What about people who mourn and grieve.

Not just because we have lost someone, but also because of the brokenness in the world, and in our lives?

Are we all humble?  Are we all meek and willing to deal with people in a caring manner, not being competitive or angry?

Do we all hunger and thirst for justice? Real justice, not just justice that favors us?

Do we all show mercy?

And how many of us can say our hearts are pure, that we never ever sin, or even think sinful thoughts? Or who work for peace in every situation?

We could go on and talked about the rest of the checklist, but it looks like we are already falling short of who we need to see the God designed built.

There might be a few people here who meet one of the checkboxes, but none of us meet all of them.

I also am pretty sure that there are some boxes, especially the mercy and pure in heart that has no boxes checked,

Not one.

We are blessed!

But what if we are looking at the wrong thing to check off?  What if, instead of what we are described as, we find the box to check off is the “being blessed”?

As an example, we can find people who are blessed because God has shown them comfort.

We can find people who are blessed because they have been shown mercy,

We can find people who have become pure, because their blessing is having seen, having encountered God.

Now the passage takes on a whole different perspective.

It focuses on the work of God.

It focuses on the blessing.

As we and every person in the church should focus upon.

God’s work, God’s blessing, poured out on us!

Those who are poor and need His presence (all of us!)  are blessed

Those who grieve and mourn…  are blessed

Those who have nothing, but will inherit everything… are blessed

Those who need and desire justice… are blessed

Those who need mercy… are blessed

We are blessed by God, we know His presence, His comfort, his justice.

The Greatest blessing

You see, that is what makes the Church grow,

It is what will make Concordia, both the multi-cultural ministry in English, the ministry in Mandarin thrive and the Tagalog ministry grow.

It isn’t because of how intelligent, charismatic and good-looking your ministers are.

(And that’s probably a good thing! )

The reason a church grows, or the Church grows, is when it realizes how God has blessed every single one of us.

When we realize we have received mercy, and we are satisfied by God’s justice.

When we realize we will inherit the whole earth, and the Kingdom of God.  When we realize we have been comforted, when we realize we shall see God,

These are the blessings poured out on us, even as Jesus was loving us and dying for us on the cross.

Even as our sins were paid for, and cleansed from our souls.

Even as we are given the Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life in the glory of God.

this is who we are, those who depend on God, and trust in Him, for we know..

We are blessed!

AMEN?

AMEN!

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