Category Archives: sermon
The Power of Focus: NOW!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so mesmerize us, that His presence in our lives consumes and transforms all our thoughts!
Desire – but how do we?
There is no doubt in my mind, that the people of Concordia know what it means to joyfully adore God. I’ve seen you do it.
I’ve even seen it in the hardest of times, when God’s joy overwhelms everything else we encounter in life.
And that is one of the marks of revival, this joy that lifts us up, that incredible joy that comes as we realize that God is here, that God is at work.
He is at work here!
In each of our lives, whether we are here in the courtyard, or watching it live right now, or watching it a year from now on YouTube, God is at work in our lives.
One of the challenges we face in realizing this revival is focus, and Psalm 27 is going to help us stay focused on the fact…
The Lord is with you!
At He is at work!
That is why the Psalmist wrote,
The one thing I ask of the Lord— the thing I seek most— is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.
This is the attitude we have, when we realize God is at work, a work we name revival – bringing life into the church. When we see that, we want more, we can’t help it, we want to see God at work in our lives, and the lives of those around us.
So how do we stay focused upon this work of God? Where do we look for it?
Well let’s keep looking at the psalmist, who knew this revival.
5 For he will conceal me there when troubles come; He will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. 6 Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music.
David’s joy comes in the midst of troubles,
He tells us he realizes that not only is he in God’s presence during these times, but the reason why he does. He realizes that God is protecting him, that God has him, right in the midst of his holiness, for that is what it means to be in the sanctuary.
The Apostle Paul taught this to the church when he wrote,
Focus on His Call
1 You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!
Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)
Paul and David agree – even as we live in this world, our real reality is found in the presence of God, that is where we belong, and Jesus will make sure we get there. Remember that, rejoice in it, whether in the midst of COVID, fires, heatwaves, earthquakes, even as we mourn, or get anxious because of the world.
You can shout for joy, and sing and praise God with music….
For He has promised that everything will work out for you, and nothing can separate us from God!
Focus on His Promise
How do we do that? The psalmist helps us there as well!
Even in the midst of the Old Testament, here is the realization, we can hear God say, Come and Talk with Me!
Come and talk of your struggles, come and talk of the heartache, and pain. Come and talk of your dreams, asking God to bless them, to fine tune, them, even correct them, and our thoughts, come and talk to Him, here, even when we struggle with sin, or feel so ashamed that we can’t imagine Him calling to us.
The Lord God, creator of all, says, Tom, come and talk with me. Bob, come and talk with me. Debbie and Cyndee, come… come and talk with me.
And our heart learns …. to respond… Lord, I am coming!
And revival has been realized!
This is so mind-blowing
To realize God wants us to come to Him, to talk to Him, as a child should talk to a Father,
That time with God is so powerful, so incredible, so reviving and resuscitating that we can’t imagine life without it. This is what our last words from the psalmist testifies to…as He pleads with God!
9 Do not turn your back on me. Do not reject your servant in anger. You have always been my helper. Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me, O God of my salvation!
I don’t think this is really a fear, as much as it is a realization, hearing Him, hearing the invitation to come and talk with Him, knowing He will listen, knowing He will act brings such life to our lives, we have to ask, is this going to end….
And hear God’s answer.
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age!”
Matthew 28:20 (NLT2)
Assured of this, there is revival… and we realize it…
Holy Spirit, come open up our hearts, show us how you are reviving our lives, our church and the community in which we live. Re-kindle in our lives the joy of Your salvation! And may the revival You are helping us realize, change the world!
Come Back to Me
and Be Happy
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so real in your life that you now true joy and happiness!
What am I thinking?
As I looked over the reading for tonight, the one word I would choose to describe my emotions was “mad”.
The only problem is I couldn’t figure out was whether I was mad as in angry at God, or mad as in insane. I honestly don’t know.
This isn’t right, to have this place of peace so empty, so devoid of smiles and laughter, of even the tears that come as we find it easy to lay our burdens down.
It has been a hard day, our preschool “chapel” time was just Susan, three teachers and myself. Looking forward to tonight, with just a few of us here, was difficult.
I so want to share the Lord’s supper with every person possible!
And as I looked at the sermon schedule, planned months ago, based on readings set in place decades ago…. I realized I was supposed to preach on happiness.
Come on God, what are you thinking?
And the madness elevated to another level.
But look at the verse again,
Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we take our stand. So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God. Romans 5:2 (CEV)
So are happiness comes from more than this life, it comes from looking forward to sharing in the glory of God forever….
We know we will be happy then… but what about now?
The process of suffering?
Paul continued this passage… now please remember this was planned months ago… don’t blame me – I am just the messenger…
3 But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. 4 And endurance builds character,
How in the world do we gladly suffer through a pandemic, through watching people whose anxiety levels are maxed out, who are challenged beyond our ability? I know that a lot of you aren’t worried by the virus, as much as you hurt for those who you love whose lives are more impacted.
Some of you will understand what I mean when I say that watching people suffer, watching them struggle is harder often than struggling ourselves.
And yet, the saints I know who are my age and older, have seen God work through wars, and earthquakes, through sickness, and economically challenging times, and they know God will be with us in these times. God will be there with our laughter, and with our tears.
And His presence will give us hope, a hope that will never disappoint us.
For that Hope is found in the presence of God, a presence we can faintly see now, but will see in all its glory one day.
This is why He calls us back to Him, to give us this hope as we realize how …. beyond words His promises are.
In times like these, we need to be able to focus, to realize how much God loves us. That is how we find the strength to get through. That is why Paul goes from hope – the right to explaining why we have hope.
All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love. 6 Christ died for us at a time when we were helpless and sinful. 7 No one is really willing to die for an honest person, though someone might be willing to die for a truly good person. 8 But God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful.
Romans 5:5-8 (CEV)
We need to hear that right now, that even before we knew God’s love, back when we were even more rebellious and sinful, GOD LOVED US.
And if he loved us then, He certainly has not given up on that love, or the mercy that sustains us, and calls us back to Him, even in the deepest depth of sin….
He still calls us to come back to Him,
He still will forgive us when we ask
He will still throw a feast for us, as we come home.
He loves us, the children who finally realize our need for Him…
That is how we find happiness in the midst of trauma, tragedy, and yes pandemic.
That is how we gladly embrace our suffering, knowing He is here…
This is our God… who loves us…
And happy are all He calls to His feast.
The Light Streams in Our Lives
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace, mercy, and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ shock you!
- Kreeft and Love
I just started a new book, one I didn’t know a favorite author named Peter Kreeft wrote. In the introduction, he writes something quite startling,
“God loves you”—isn’t that the most well-worn of clichés? It’s just standard filler for the laziest, most obvious and repetitive homilies. Smile. Yawn. Everybody knows that by now, at least everybody who has ever been in a church or read a Bible.
No. Exactly the opposite. It is not familiar. It is shattering. It changes everything. And most Christians do not realize it.
Even as I encountered this in my readings this week, It took me a moment to think about it. Do we know what love is? Do we really know understand it, have we experienced it?
Does it shock you when I tell you that God loves you enough that Jesus died, for you! For you Tom, for you Sandy, for you Missy, even for you who are watching this…
God loves you…
Does it still shock you, this love, when you hear the words I speak at Jesus’ command, “Your sins are forgiven you!”
Or when, into your hand, or on your tongue I place the Body of Christ, and the deacon gives you the cup containing His blood? Are you startled then?
If you aren’t, I apologize.
I haven’t revealed to you clearly enough what it means that God is love… and that love is aimed at you.
- Would we recognize Him today? Or would we reject Him?
In the St. John’s gospel, there is something as staggering to hear,
10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.
I still don’t understand this, how in the world could they miss Him with the way he taught, so different from all the others. He who brought healing into their lives, He who dared to forgive the vilest of sins.
He who had compassion on the most broken, those haunted by their sin, those possessed by demons, those who couldn’t be faithful to Him, like Peter and James and John…who even doubted when they saw Him risen from the dead and about to ascend to heaven.
How could they not recognize Him? Consider what Peter would write, “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 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
Yet they did not recognize Him, and I am not sure we do either when we encounter Him in the lives of the people He so dearly loves. And even if we realize it from a theological perspective, that doesn’t mean we realize His love for us.
We need to have Jesus revealed to us, through Word and Sacrament, we have to be reminded of His presence and His love.
His love streams among us
So what does it mean when John’s gospel and Peter’s epistle say that saw His glory, His majestic splendor. What is that they saw, when Jesus came and made His home with them, with us?
Simply put, it is the fact that God is love. And that He loves us- this is what they saw… God, in Christ, had compassion on them, he was charitable towards them. He loved them, just as He loves us.
From Peter Kreeft again (did I start the right week to read this, or what?_
Jesus does not merely give us advice about agape. He gives us agape. He exchanges selves with us: we are put in Him, and He is put in us. He is the Love that “does not insist on its own way”. First Corinthians 13 is a description of Christ. His love can be in us only because He is in us. We attain agape not by trying a little harder but by faith, by believing and thus receiving (Jn 1:12), by letting Him in, letting Him invade us, possess us, haunt us.
This is it, we can love because He loves us.
We are loved. How much? Look at the cross, see what He experienced there, so you can experience His love. Look at the font, where He brings you into Himself, fuses your life to His own. Come to the altar…. And realize how much love it takes to forgive every single sin you have committed. No, how much it cost to forgive just that sin.
All this stuff about Christmas, the gifts, the tree, the flowers, the manger, it is all there to convince you of this.
So that you can believe in Him, trust in Him, and know that you have become the children of God. Shocking isn’t it… You are loved.
God loves you. He wants you with Him, now and forever
I can’t explain it any clearer than that.
God loves you… and always will. AMEN!
Let us Ever Walk With Jesus!
Walking with Jesus means
Our faith grows!
May the grace, the mercy and love God the Father and the Lord Jesus Chris show you, enable your dependence on them to grow strong as the Holy Spirit sustains you!
The oddest question (and perhaps craziest? 😊 )
The question the disciples ask in the Gospel reading today must be one of two things. It must be ignorant, or if not, it is completely, without doubt, insane.
Let me explain the first. If by “increase our faith” they are asking Jesus to increase their knowledge of the faith as in the doctrines and understanding of religious ordinances, then they are ignorant.
Faith is not our doctrine, faith is not a belief statement, or even all the teachings found in, or taken from scripture. Though we use the word as a noun in these days to describe what people believe doctrinally, it wasn’t so then. So if they were asking God to increase their knowledge of doctrine, of theology, then their question was simply ignorant.
But faith means to trust and depend on something or someone. Let’s say I decided during the week that there was too much dust on the lights up there. So, I decided to clean them myself. I would need to have faith in the ladder’s ability to hold me up, I would depend on it, and that the warning that it can only support 225 pounds was somehow… wrong.
So for the disciples to ask Jesus to increase their faith, what they are really asking is, “Lord, give us the opportunities to depend on You and nothing else” Or to put it another way, “Lord, get rid of all the things that we can’t depend on in our life, so that we only depend on you!”
Any ideas of what you are asking God to take away there?
Any one ready to pray that?
The challenges of Faith – Sin in its various forms
If we look at why the disciples ask the question, you see there in the gospel the conversation that occurs before the question, and you see it deals with sin. Specifically, it talks about the sin we encourage in others, or passively encourage by not confronting it, by not rebuking it.
Talk about something that requires the greatest level of faith.
I mean, how easy would it be for Bob to pull me aside and talk to me about my sin? To confront it, to challenge it, to remind me that he can run with me to God, and it can be forgiven?
Or is it a lot easier for our deacon to simply say, “Well pastor is mostly a good guy, except for being a Pats fan, and he lets me have fun preaching and teaching, so I will just ignore the sins he committed, or the heresy he teaches, after all, he’s a good guy…”
How much faith would he need to depend on God to bring up the sin, and encourage me to seek God’s forgiveness?
And yet to not do so, to allow people to linger in sin, to give into temptation, to remained trap there, is sin for us.
So whether the sin is gossip or unrighteous anger, whether it is using God’s name in vain, or being jealous to the point where it dominates, we need to trust God enough to be the one God uses to start the redemption process, and the wisdom to listen to God as to what is necessary at this point in time.
You see, “rebuking” isn’t going up to people and wagging your finger in their face. It is working for the repentance and redemption that can only come by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is placing a value on the sin – realizing something has to be done for the person, because of the damage sin will do!
Rebuking them is going to them in love, and caring for them enough to address the issue
The answer – recognizing the Master
So back to the
question – how do we increase our faith?
Jesus answer is, uhm… really? If you had any…then…. everything is possible.
Not quite the answer I would expect from Him, really.
And then He goes into this parable about the servant and the master. The Master gives instructions and the servant simply does it. It’s about that nasty word “obedience”. To do what we are supposed to do, because our master is here.
Or as we say it around here, “The Lord is with you!”
This isn’t doing what we are told to do, as Jesus leaves us on our own, it is our responding to His wisdom, to the fact He has responsibility over us, to ensure we get to be with the Father in heaven. It is listening to Him here, and now, hearing His concern for those who get caught in sin, or who are convinced what they are doing is right, because people of God haven’t confronted them.
It’s about faith and trusting and depending on the God who is here. About talking to Him and hearing His voice. About realizing His love for us is so complete that He won’t lead us astray.
Depending on God is
easier, when you know He is here, when you know He is in charge, when you
realize that our Lord is the one who loves us.
When we realize He will make all things work for our good, even the
tough stuff, then we are able to craft what He has called us to do…
Faith is found, not in your will, not in your strength, but in the fact of God’s presence in your life. You can trust Him, He is here, with you… you can depend on Him, He loves you and is working for your best.
Faith isn’t something that is increased, it is simply something realized… I can trust God, because He loves me! AMEN!
Let Us ever walk with Jesus!
Are You Ready?
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ draw you into this journey, knowing He is there with you!
Don’t go it alone!
In my “down time” I am reading an interesting set of books. The main character is a retired army officer, who has volunteered to work with the British. It was at the time they are forming the first commando units in World War II, the kind of group the old show Rat Patrol was based upon. It is interesting because of the 10 rules that Colonel Randal set up for his raiders.
I like a couple -especially the first
Rule 1: The first rule is there ain’t no rules
Rule 2: Keep it short and simple
Rule 4: Right man ( or woman), right job
Rule 6. It is good to have a plan B
Rule 7: Expect the unexpected
It was because of rule 7 that the unofficial rule 8
was born – never go out alone. So
whether it was a mission of one of his jeep teams, or his special sea going
raiders on motor boats, or missions to drop paratroops or supplies, no jeep,
boat or plane every went out alone.
And that is true today for us as well. We can’t go out into the world on our own, for there is a spiritual battle which will destroy us if we try.
That is why our sermon series for this fall is based on the hymn we are about to sing, Let us ever walk with Jesus. It is why Sunday School is about Joining Jesus on His mission, and why Wednesday Night will be about seeing who God has revealed Himself to be, because we can’t survive on our own,
God’s honesty…is scary…
That is what the reading from Luke’s gospel talks
about this morning, this invitation to be with God on the journey of our
lives. Allowing Him to disciple that and
all that He commits to, when God makes a disciple. That commitment is a 24/7 commitment on God’s
part! He is responsible to
Guide you through problems
Provide for you
Help you heal
Fix the things you break… including yourself
Those are all the things God will do and more, doing what you need Him to do, what He sees all you need! And He makes it happen. For those who make the decision and endure it, those who are willing to give up everything,
I always read this passage as God is asking so much of us. To potentially give up family and friends, to consider how much having a relationship with Jesus could cost you.
Part of me wants to say, Lord, that is too much!
How can you expect us to give up everything?
Are you ready to give it all up?
Have you counted the cost?
Remember rule 7? Expect the unexpected?
That’s what God has done, the unexpected.
You see when Jesus told us to give up everything, when He told us to count the cost before we followed Him, he wasn’t talking hypothetically. He wasn’t fooling around either. That is what He expects, when we
It is not easy walking with Christ throughout life. It may require great sacrifice, it may result in family not understanding, and even abandoning you. But that is what Jesus himself did, in order to invite you to journey through life, into the afterlife, with Him guiding you, teaching you, comforting you, making sure you get there.
He has saved us. But to do so, Jesus gave up everything in order that we could walk through life with Him. Philippians 2 is clear, He gave up heaven to come and dwell with us, and to let us put him to death, and that death was on the cross.
He counted the cost as well, knowing that a sinless sacrifice for our sin would need to be paid. He knew the amount of sin we would commit. He knew that he would bear God’s wrath for it all, He knew the anguish, physical, mental, spiritual anguish,
He did the unexpected, he took it all, so we could be His disciples, His friends.
This is why we walk with Him, God loves us this much, Despite our sin, for He chose to die for us while we were sinning.
He restores us as we confess our sins, forgiving all of it.
He remembers the promises made in our baptism,
He nourishes us at His feast, even as He looks forward as much as we do to the feast that will be our welcome to heaven.
This is God, who gives it all up for you…
Let us ever walk with Him
If you would like to see the video of this sermon and the service it was part of, please check it out on my Facebook page or Bit.ly/concordiacerritos –
Also, please leave your comments about the sermon, the feedback helps me prepare sermons in the future.
Who is Your Man?
† I.H.S. †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ bring you comfort and peace, allowing you the chance to look around, and see others need for that comfort and peace!
Who is “this man”… for you?
As they settled down for dinner, all attention was on Jesus, the “honored” guest.
I say “honored” that way, because the Greek is clear, they were on guard, not sure about what he was going to say. They had heard cool things about His ministry, the miracles, the crowds. But they also heard about the concerns, that people had claimed he was a blasphemer, that there had been mobs that had tried to stone him, and that many of the pharisees stood against them, perhaps even the one who invited him this night!
and off in the back, was a man no one noticed.
How he had gotten there, it doesn’t say. The pain levels he was encountering were severe. Whether the swollen legs were cause by heart failure, or by blood clots, or diabetes, we don’t know. But they didn’t have water pills in those days, and his legs were many times larger than they should be.
Even still, he was there, this man that was overlooked, and not one noticed.
Except Jesus. He did, and despite the opposition, he performed a miracle, and healed this man!
Which brings us to
my sermon question for this day.
If we apply this passage to your life, who is “your” man? Who is the person in need that you are overlooking? Who is in need? Into whose life had God drawn you, so that you could help them?
The Parable and the Man
After Jesus heals the man, he sends him off. Then he talks to the pharisees and the experts in religion about what He had done and whether it was kosher to do it on the Sabbath. They had a paradox to work through, an ethical dilemma. Minister to someone in need, and break man’s interpretation of God’s law, or obey God’s law and leave the man in pain and in danger of dying?
They can’t answer.
So Jesus tells the parable, and gives them direction. We need to realize that Jesus wasn’t changing the subject, this is the same context, the same conversation.
So who is the more distinguished person Jesus advises everyone to leave the best seat for?
Looking at the text of the entire passage, I think it is the man who is hurting, the one whose body is broken. The reason I say this is the words from verse fourteen,
Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”
The most distinguished people in God’s way of thinking, are those in need. Whether it is because they are physically broken, mentally broken, or spiritually broken by sin and its partners, guilt and shame, these are the people that have value in God’s mind.
For when you care
for them, you are caring for Jesus
I mentioned those broken by sin, by guilt and shame. I think we need to examine how we treat those people. I am not just talking about sinners like murderers and rapists, I am talking about those who have trouble with envy, or gossip, lust, or using God’s word in the wrong way, to curse or swear. We can add those who don’t use God’s name to praise or pray to Him as well, or who run to other gods, like drugs or sex or work, rather than depend on God to bring healing to their brokenness.
They are the people, these people that are broken and crushed by the weight of sin, that we need to be aware of, that we need to see, that we need to serve. They are the people that we need to invite to feast, and it was for such people that this place, this altar was put here.
Not for people who think they have a right to them
But for those who are broken, for those who are sinners
For you and I…
The Gospel – for Jesus, “this man” is for you
You see, you and I can have several roles in this story. Far too often, we are like the ones who try to get the best seats in the house. That needs to stop! We can be like Jesus, seeing those who need to see and hear and find healing. That should be our goal, and every single one of us needs to become accustom to seeing and inviting those God is preparing, those who God would see us help.
But before we are ready to imitate Jesus, we all need to see our role in this story as being the man with the swollen arms and legs, the man who is broken and needs healing.
The sinner who Jesus comes to and says, “Friend, we have a better place for you!”
We have to realize that is where we start, and as you come to communion this morning, hear Jesus’s voice calling to you, bringing you here, and remember that He is healing your brokenness.
For that is why He died on the cross, to take than sin from us. That is why we united to His death and resurrection in baptism. That is why the book of Hebrews echo’s Jesus invitation,
16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our
gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help
us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:16 (NLT2)
My friends, we need to think through what He’s done, to remember this death we proclaim every time we commune, to remember the forgiveness that is ours because His blood was shed for us.
As we look around this room, and around our community, looking for these broken people God values, may we never forget He looked around, saw us broken, and invited us to dine with Him. AMEN!
Decluttering Your Life
When you work in the office, there is often interesting conversations going on. One of them I heard about a month ago was about this lady named Marie Condo. She wrote a book and has a show focused on two things – “tidying up” and “the art of decluttering”
Her theory is that decluttering gets rid of all the things in life that bog you down, that consume time and space, and to be honest, make
Not that I am thinking of anyone’s garage in particular!
I don’t know if the theory works in regards to our physical lives, but I know the Apostle Paul in the letter to the Philippians makes a case that our Spiritual lives need to be de-cluttered!
By the way, Marie Condo’s key phrase for decluttering, when you pick something up, is “Does this bring me joy”, and if it doesn’t, just place it in the back of Chuck’s truck!
Seriously, that is one of the considerations we will see Paul use, as He describes this to the church in Philippi, does this bring me joy?
Our Spiritual life is like our Garage.. it
needs to be de-cluttered
How many of you have a garage that you can’t list the contents of in less than … three hours? How about that extra closet? And if you have an attic?
Oh my gosh, do we clutter up our lives.
We do that spiritually as well.
We need to declutter by getting rid of the common things that have brokenness us. The sin, the resentments we build up, the judgments that crush us, the things that we have an inventory of, going all the way back to our youth!
Paul includes some other things, things we would normally count as positive! Our citizenship, our heritage, our lineage, even our religious practices and the holiness that people praise us as they witness our “goodness”. Think about the stuff he is talking about tossing out!
Anything that demands we pledge our loyalty and depend on it, those things becomes our idols. those things we count on for security, to demonstrate that we are blessed, and that we are the people who are in the right,
Those are the things that clutter our lives…
Those are the things that Paul the Apostle called crap.
Some translations clean it up, refuse, garbage, trash, but even the old King James called it dung.
They clutter our lives because they demand the attention we need to save, the attention we need to realize what God is doing in our lives. They cause us to depend on them to prove we are good, and in the right, and even holy.
Every time we said we are better than “they” are, that we are more blessed, that this is “God’s country” as if others aren’t, what we are doing is saying that being God’s child isn’t enough.
That our citizenship, that our heritage, that our culture is truly why God loves us, that we are blessed
And those things don’t matter. They are crap
If it doesn’t bring us joy…
said it well, get rid of the clutter if it doesn’t bring us joy, ditch it. Declutter your life, don’t count on those
Hear how Paul says it,
8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
There it is, what you can use to compare to, the joy of becoming one with Christ, the joy of being declared holy, trusting in God’s declaration that we are righteous, depending upon it….and knowing that while we suffer
Paul goes on to talk about trying to learn how to possess this incredible place in life, the place Christ has possessed. This place of the greatest security, the greatest peace, knowing we are loved more than anything.
It’s not easy to achieve, but it is worth all our effort.
It is worth throwing away everything else, even the stuff we count on as defining us in a good way.
to know Him as intimately as He knows you. To be in awe of His mercy, to rejoice in His love.
Time to declutter… spiritually!
The way it happens is this… you have to do so little. Just realize how broad and wide, how high and deep God’s love for you is, revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus… and all else will fade away…
(you can all
Concordia Lutheran Church
February 10, 2019
Don’t Worry, Be Catching
† Jesus, Son and Savior †
May the grace, the mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so comfort you, so put to rest your worries, that you can go fishing with Jesus!
If you teach a man to fish…
Every once in a while, you hear a saying that someone says comes from scripture, but when you start to think about it, it is actually quite contrary to scripture. This one came to mind in regard to this sermon.
If you give a man a fish, you fed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish….
he has to buy rods, graphite reels, lines, boxes, boats, trailers, coolers, sonar fish finders and a whole catalog of other things!
I suppose there is a corollary, if you teach a man to fish for men, you have to build a church, call a pastor, pass budgets, elect board members, hire musicians, plan woman’s teas, family fun nights etc..
But not let’s get ahead of ourselves!
In our gospel today, Jesus is going to do some pretty incredible things. He’s going to teach the massive crowd, he’s going to cause a miraculous catch, but there is something much greater that will happen, so incredible that Peter and his partners will leave a once in a lifetime catch to rot on the beach.
And God will do to you the same thing today….
But first, we have to witness Peter freak out…
What caused Peter to stress out?
I must wonder about Peter, who spent his life working as a fisherman, as he first dropped the nets as this silly rabbi instructed.
I get the feeling he did it with a little sarcasm and even more disbelief. Yeah, you want me to go right back to where we dragged our nets, all night long, as if all of a sudden, during the hottest part of the day a thousand fish…
Got love Peter, because every once in a while he gets it.
I mean, I don’t think he listened to the Rabbi teach all that much, he may have even fallen asleep in the boat.
Hear it again, “When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” 9 For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.”
Peter collapses in fear, he begs Jesus to leave. In Greek, the phrasing pictures fear
Get out of here, don’t you know what a sinner I am? If you don’t leave, I am a goner!
It is a common story in scripture, whether it is Isaiah in our Old Testament reading, or Moses, or Elijah, whether it is David or Paul on the road to Damascus or John as God gives him the vision of Jesus in Revelation. Even those who encounter angels panicked, stressed out, and realized how ill-prepared we are to be in the presence of God
We are sinners, we don’t belong in Almighty, most Holy, most pure God’s presence.
And Peter realized it, and begged God to leave him.
Would we do the same, if we realized the depth of our sin, or the heartache it caused God?
Or do we take our sin to casually, just as if we think God will forgive this one again, that the damage we do will be taken care of?
What does Jesus offer us?
And as Peter collapses in the boat, Jesus says something quite amazing,
Fear not. Let’s go and catch something that really matters.
You see, unlike the times I go fishing, the word in Greek isn’t about sitting there with a rod in one hand and a drink in the other. It wasn’t like that for Peter and friends there. The words for fishing were “catch” and “harvest”
Jesus, knowing the cross is in the future, knowing that everyone one of Peter’s sins will be atoned for, knowing the forgiveness, even when Jesus would betray Jesus as Peter would tell people, “I never knew the man,” will be forgiven; says to Peter,
Don’t worry, don’t be afraid, don’t let being in my presence cause you anxiety.
Let’s go catch some people and bring them into the Kingdom of God.
What an invitation, to be partners with God! To engage in His greatest project, to redeem the world, to catch people and watch, as God begins to heal their broken and often tortured souls. To see the promises of God poured out on people you love, or will come to love, as they are united with Jesus in baptism. Ask Susan what it was like to help baptize one of her students, or ask Chuck why he demands to be the deacon on duty when we baptize someone.
Or ask the elders what it is like to help feed people the Body and Blood of Christ here at the altar.
There is something incredible about helping someone come to know God’s love. It drives Bernie to the Sudan and even more… to places like Texas and Minnesota. Or Pastor Davies to the mountain jungles of Papua Guinea, or even my friend Matt to a university in Nebraska where he works with students from around the world.
You and I are called to walk with God, fishing…
That is the greatest thing in this passage, the invitation to help others know Jesus, to draw them in, as a fisher draws in his nets.
I tell you something, there is no greater way to know the blessed, unexplainable peace of
Lutherans don’t give “normal invitations” at the end of a sermon.
But I will give you one today, and invitation I pray you can’t refuse…
Don’t worry, be catching….with Jesus
Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:
19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25 (NLT)
But, as St. Gregory the Great puts it, it is still only the time of dawn, when darkness and light are intermingled. The sun is rising, but it has still not reached its zenith. Thus the time of the New Testament is a peculiar kind of “in-between”, a mixture of “already and not yet”. The empirical conditions of life in this world are still in force, but they have been burst open, and must be more and more burst open, in preparation for the final fulfillment already inaugurated in Christ.
Two weeks from today is Christmas, a day some are able to celebrate with great joy with those whom they love, who they care for, as meals are shared, as presents are exchanged, as laughter and smiles are contagious.
Yet recognizing that Christmas is only two weeks away causes my anxiety levels to rise. There are services to plan, sermons to write, music to practice, and most of all, people to pray for and try and find ways to comfort and to try to reveal God’s presence to, so that they can know some peace.
Some are stressed out by finances, or work situations. Some are broken by their own sin, or addictions, or broken by the sin and addictions of those they love, that have caused deep division. Some are grieving, and that number has grown this year. Some are simply wandering, directionless, unable to find anything stable enough to give them hope, even as they drive by churches advertising Christmas concerts, and advent services, even as they set up Christmas trees and manger scenes in their own homes.
I like how Pope Benedict phrased where we are in life, in this time of the dawn, when darkness and light are intermingled. There are shadows that seem to overwhelm us, to convince us we still are in the darkness. The struggles of life are still there, undeniably, yet there is a hint of the perfect, complete life we know is coming in Christ Jesus.
We are in the time of the “now, and not yet!” The time where God’s kingdom is here, yet we struggle to see it. The time when we are in God’s presence, though we cannot see Him, It is a time where we have to depend on God, but still have so many doubts, where we have to have hope, but struggle to define that, and therefore to express it.
Which is all the more reason to gather together as believers regularly, To celebrate the fact that we are in His presence, that Christ has cleansed us, that we have been baptized by His blood, and therefore have clean consciences! This all in order that we know, that when He returns, He is not just returning to us, but returning for us.
We gather to encourage each other with these facts, for too often we forget them in the shadows of the world. Too often we get overwhelmed by sin, ours and that of the world.
There is the hope, that is the real message behind all the decorations, all the mangers scenes – and the lights symbolizing Jesus coming, He whose light shatters our darkness, He who is our light, the Light of the World. He who is our comforter, He who is our peace.
And for the next two weeks, and until His return, the One who hears us when we cry, “Lord Have Mercy,” and find int he manger and the cross, He has!
So let’s get together in these times, often, so that we can cry and laugh together, and encourage each other, even as we look forward to the day of Chrsit coming. AMEN!
Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.
Loving God with All Your Soul– the Blessing of Incarnation
† I.H.S. †
May Jesus’s incarnation in your life be so real, so tangible that your love for Him grows with every breath you take!
My eyes are dry…the broken soul
It seems that many people this year would describe themselves with one word.
There may be some factors that cause us to be so weary, so many it seems like all we do is go from trial to trauma, from prayer request to prayer request. And as we talked about hearts being broken and needing Christ’s healing presence last week, the song talks about another part of us that is just worn down.
The part of us, that inner part that provides our courage, our character, our desire and the holiness that we need to walk through life in love with God, and to love our neighbor.
As we look at loving God as He asks, with all our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength, this one is hard.
When our soul is weary, when it is worn and broken, we hear the encouragement to love God, and we think about trying, and our soul cries out,
I’ve got nuthin. Nuthin.
It’s that dryness that causes us to wonder why we pray, or if God is listening, or if He cares at all. It is that dryness that causes us a spiritual exhaustion that robs us of hope, and leaves us thinking we still abide in the darkness.
He incarnation changes us… it dresses us.
Which is why we need to think about the incarnation, not just the incarnation when Mary is carrying Jesus in the womb, although contemplating that helps us contemplate His incarnation into our lives.
He came then, and angels sang. They sing as well as Jesus draws us into Himself on the cross, taking all of our sins into Himself, and cleansing us of it. He takes that dryness as well, as we understand the cross, as we understand he is not distant. He is here.
Isaiah’s second reading now makes sense –
I rejoice Heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul!
We are in Him, we abide in Him, and as we realize this, everything begins to change as well.
This is the joy we find in Advent, the restoration of our soul when we realize that Holy Spirit is there, despite our dryness, that He is here to comfort us, to restore us, to translate our prayers as Paul tells the church.
26 In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27 And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. 28 We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-30 (TEV)
So, even in those periods where we aren’t sure if God is listening, He is listening. Hearing and responding to the deepest cries of our heart. Even when we don’t know what to say. Even when we are too dry to say anything.
He is with us, He is here, ministering to us, assuring us of His presence. Using speed bumps to help us slow down, and know He is God, and He cares. As we realize this – so much happens, our souls come alive, as we realize His power saving us, as we are dressed in His righteousness, as He treats us as His beloved bride. Our reaction, from the deepest part of our soul, is to love Him back… with all we are.
This is why our services include the Lord’s Supper, even before our eating dinner.
Because as we commune we stop and we find ourselves giving Him everything, our burdens, our anxieties, our fears, our sins, our dryness. In his presence they actually fall off us, God removes them…as we stop and receive His blessed Body and Blood, given to us, His beloved, which strengthens our faith, helps us to depend on Him all the more, and dwell in peace. AMEN!