Category Archives: sermon

Sermon Series: Let Us Every Walk With Jesus – Are YOU ready?

Let Us ever walk with Jesus!
Are You Ready?

Luke 14:25-35

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

Teach you

Guide you through problems
comforting you

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?

Rule 7

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


Who is Your Man? Luke 14:1-14

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Who is Your Man?
Luke 14:1-14

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!

The Apostle Paul and “Marie Condo’ing You Spiritual Life:

Decluttering Your Life
Philippians 3:4-14

† In Jesus Name †
\

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so give you peace, that everything that at all the trash in your life would disappear.

Office Talk

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 you life look like someone’s garage that doesn’t have enough room to park a bicycle in.

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…

Marie Condo 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 things.

Hear how Paul says it,

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 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 with Him, we will experience the resurrection from the dead!

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 come and declutter my garage later)

AMEN!

Don’t Worry, be catching

Concordia Lutheran Church
February 10, 2019

Don’t Worry, Be Catching
Luke 5:1-11

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…

Uhmmm… HELP!!!!!

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. The load of fish in the nets convinced him something was up. Because he goes from struggling with the catch to having a full blown anxiety attack, right there on 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.” 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 picking up Peter, it seizes him, and he can’t stand against it, so he collapses into the bottom of the boat.

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… no.. catching men and women, and seeing them find healing for their souls, and hope for all eternity.

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 God, than to draw someone else into it, and watch the difference it makes in their life… and yours.

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

AMEN! 

Let’s pray!

Christmas is how close? GULP! Some thoughts on struggle that Christmas can be.

Altar with communionDevotional 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 the Incarnation.

MarkJ AdventLoving God with All Your Soul– the Blessing of Incarnation

Isaiah 61:1-10

 † 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.

Tired.

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.

Our souls.

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)

See that?

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!

 

Forgiven much, so love much: A sermon on Luke 7

 

Forgiven Much, so Love Much
or Was our Debt the Smaller One?

A Sermon on Luke 7

I.H.S.

The grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus will bring you such life that you will adore Him!  AMEN!

A New Title:

There are times where the biggest struggle in a sermon is found in coming up with a title.  This week, that was part of the struggle, not the only one, but a struggle none the least.

I mean, I couldn’t turn the gospel into a pastor parker parable, could I?  The Kingdom of God is like a …   Nah, that doesn’t quite work. Imitate a … well never mind, that still doesn’t work either.

But the title of the sermon sets where I am going with it, so I went with the Forgiven much, and was our debt smaller. It is a good simple basic sermon about forgiveness, basics for a Lutheran sermon.

On Saturday, I decided to put a Concordia spin on it, to focus more on the woman than on Simon, to see here as Jesus, and for us to see Jesus as she saw him.  Which changed the sermon to:

Healed of so Much, So Worship and Adore Him And Let the Tears fall!

The challenge of dealing with our brokenness  – Simon’s challenge

I should mention Simon the Pharisee for a moment, just to compose myself and explain why the prostitute at Jesus’ feet is more spiritually mature than he is.  And why, in a way, we need to be more like here than like the religious professional who invited him to a feast.

Yes, I believe the lady balling was more mature than the calm collected Pharisee, who was devoted to serving God, and dedicated to living life as holy as possible.

It is seen in the parable he was told, about the two debtors.  Not because he was able to guess correctly, that the one forgiven of much was the one who would love and adore more the man who forgave the debt.

He got that right.

What he didn’t understand is that he was the greater debtor.

We have a look into this as Simon’s thoughts are shared with us in verse 39

39 When the Pharisee, who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”
That is why Jesus tells the parable, and the mistake Simon makes is that Jesus knew exactly who the woman was.

Even more, he knew who Simon was, and that Simon’s debt wasn’t 1/10th of the lady’s debt, but that Simon’s debt was as great, therefore should his love for God should have been like the lady’s, and his welcome, as much in awe and adoration of Jesus, who comes into the presence of those who are sinners, of those who are broken.

The tears pour but why
This is what the spiritually mature lady knew, and I will explain why in a moment.  She knew he would welcome her; she knew she could go to him, she so valued this love Jesus showed in forgiving sins, that she poured out her life, the perfume that would cost more than a year of her life, just to bring comfort to his feet.

He didn’t just forgive her of her sins, He healed her of her inability to love, and now, able to truly love, she did.

With tears that didn’t just roll down her cheeks, but poured out of her. Enough to bathe his feet, not just rinse them.  She massaged those beautiful feet that brought her good news with her hair, again the cultural implications of this are staggering, for a woman’s glory was seen in long luxurious hair.

In her being forgiven of so much, she was healed to love so much.

To love without thought to cost or culture restriction, to love with every bit of her heart and soul.

That is what grace does.  That is what happens when God comes and lives with us.

She’s not the only one…
I mention a moment ago that this lady didn’t come to Jesus without.. encouragement., without expecting something to happen.

I didn’t get this till I looked at the end of the reading, the part that comes from the next chapter,

He took his twelve disciples with him,  along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.

You see, this lady wasn’t the first broken person that Jesus healed, she wasn’t the first sinner that was amazed at His grace and love. She wasn’t the first person who learned to adore him, giving of all she had and all she was, literally pouring it out at her feet.  She knew He was her hope, even if she didn’t know what hope was.  Someone brought her there, someone helped her, brought her into His presence.

I am not sure whether it was Mary Magdalene who led her into the courtyard at Simon’s house, or whether it was Joanna or Susanna or one of the disciples.

Her experience wasn’t a novelty; it wasn’t a single occurrence in the ministry of Jesus. There had been others before her; there have been millions since.

Who learned to love and adore Him, who learned to let the tears flow, who learned that worship happens, not in a controlled managed environment, but worship happens when we encounter the God, who dwells in our midst, and open to sinners coming to Him, and feasting with Him.  This is who we are as a church, a people who’ve found healing in Christ, while helping others heal… and

This is our Lord, and He invites you to come, and as you do, do not be surprised at the tears that well up inside, or the healing that takes place, or that you find yourselves loving him, far beyond what you could have expected.

For those who are forgiven and healed of much love much, and this is you and I.  AMEN.

Companions of the Cross – Lesson 2 Mark 9:38-50

Companions of the Cross – Lesson II

Don’t Cause others to Stumble

Mark 9:38-50

 

In Jesus Name

 May You so grow to treasure the grace and mercy of God that you diligently strive to make it known, reminding yourself and those around you to depend upon it in all times.

Being Christ’s Companion is Like a Treasured Cup of Coffee 

Dr. Anthony Campolo told a story about one of his aha moments, where his faith became real.

He was on his way to an important board meeting in Philadelphia.  One of the ministries he headed up was being considered for an extremely generous grant, the kind that allows for incredible expansion of ministry.

With that in mind, he was walking from the parking garage to the office building when he spotted a man.  A man with dirty hands and filthy clothes. A man whose torn old clothing could have barely protected him from the bitter cold of a Philadelphia winter.  A man with a cup in his hand held out as if hoping for a coin or two to be dropped into the cup.  He was coming right at Dr. Campolo.

The guilt and shame became proactive; Tony knew he should try to help the man – after all, helping others is what he trained college students to do.  As the man came closer, the cup held out.  The nerves rose – there would be no way to avoid the man, he would be late for his meeting, and this guy so looked like he needed the kind of help that Christ would judge Tony for not providing.

As the man approached, he said, “Mister, Mister, here, have this cup of coffee!”  As Tony looked him in stunned disbelief, as this poor broken man tried to serve him, the professor and leader, the man continued, “No I don’t want anything, I just had a cup, and it is such an incredible thing on a day like this, I had to share one with someone else”

As Tony brought the cup to his lips, indeed, it was the best coffee he had ever had. An incredible gift from the least expected person in the world. And he would share with the businessmen that morning, not his prepared notes.  But the story of a man who just had to share what he’d been given.

Such a lesson is the key to this morning, to these passages that seem confusing, until you realize they are about the same thing.

Being a companion of the cross with Jesus. A treasure so incredible, that you have to share it, that you have to help others know it, that it is worth more than life itself.

A Treasure too great to Insulate

We see that in the first few verses.  Last week we heard the disciples getting chewed out because they all want to be the primary disciple, the one who would take over when Jesus died.  Now content to serve each other, Jesus opens the gates a little wider.

The disciples get jealous; they want to protect the only man in history who had no need, and no desire to be protected.  They wanted permission to shut this man down, Tony could have been happy with some security team member intercepting the man he perceived to be a beggar, but would actually offer a hot cup of coffee instead of a cup of water.

We don’t have to protect the gospel; we don’t need to play god and protect God.   Yes, He will call people to trust in Him through the ministry here.  And for others we will simply plant the seeds.  Allowing others to plant the seeds.

We can’t insulate the gospel, we can’t protect it, it is bigger than us.  As one pastor said this week,

“The Church, the holy People of God, treads the dust-laden paths of history, so often traversed by conflict, injustice and violence, in order to encounter her children, our brothers and sisters. The holy and faithful People of God are not afraid of losing their way; they are afraid of becoming self-enclosed, frozen into élites, clinging to their own security. They know that self-enclosure, in all the many forms it takes, is the cause of so much apathy.

So let us go out, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ.  (Pope Francis)
Being a companion of Christ is too good not to share, and so why should we be concerned, when others try to share it?  We can help them, together become more consistent with Jesus teachings, but to just stop them?

I am not talking about some required “you must tell your friends and family and force them here.”  But a relationship with God is too incredible to stop us from sharing it, so why should we stop someone else?

A treasure too great to not help protect

The same kind of thing goes for Jesus next point, the one this sermon is titled about.

If we know the value of this relationship with God, then we aren’t going to intentionally case someone to stop trusting in God.  It would be better for those 1000 pounds millstone to be chained to us, and Lal to drop us off on the way out on his next fishing trip.

The more we value God’s call, the more we will want others to know it, and the more we will want those who know it to treasure it, to value their relationship with Jesus  more than any other.  If that is true, how would we feel to cause them to be so scandalized that they fall out of the relationship?

As we grow in our understanding of the dimensions of God’s love, our attitude will change, and we will realize that the little children Jesus is talking about include the atheist, the adherent of Islam, the person’s who sins turn your stomach, and it includes you and I.

As we grow in knowing God’s love, it would cause us great distress to think we drove someone away from the relationship with God we treasure!

A Treasure too Great to Love Other – including ourselves.

The section about cutting off hands and feet, of gouging out eyes was always too much for me.  Seriously first it seemed a bit over the top.  Second, most of us would be crawling around here, for us all too quickly sin.

But the relationship with God is so incredible, that which He offers us is so overwhelming, that we would rather do those things rather than risk it.  We would realize that the first commandment is right – as we know what God has done, it doesn’t make sense to have other gods, it doesn’t make sense to put our trust in idols, even in the idol of ourselves.

That is what this is all about – the love of a God who would come to u because He desires us to be His people.  Who would rather than overlook our sins, decide to take on their burden and die so that we could be free of them.  Who would rise, so that we have the hope of everlasting life, and who would send the gift of the Holy Spirit to us in baptism, so we could know that hope, so we could have a glimpse of it.

A treasure so incredible, so amazing, that we simply can’t help but want others to know it. We would encourage each other to rejoice in it, and guard against causing people to give up on God or His people, and we would rather lose ourselves than lose the relationship.

This is what God gives us… to all.  The professor and the homeless guy, the businessman and the child, the pastor and the shut-in.

The hope we preach, that Christ is in you, and, therefore, you have the hope of sharing in His glory.  And until that hope is seen, you dwell, guarded by Him, in His peace.

AMEN!

Traveling Companions of the Cross – Lesson 1 Become Okay with being Last

Travelling Companions of the Cross

Lesson 1: Become Okay with Being Last….

Mark 9:30–37

 In Jesus Name

As we travel through life, may you be aware of God’s grace, of His mercy and love that rubs off on you, transforming your life, and the lives of your family.

The Theory

For the next 10 weeks, the lessons in our sermons are going to work on a theme.

It is based on the truth, that the longer you spend with someone, the more they rub off on you.  You parent of our preschoolers will notice this over the next 10-15 years, as your children will pick up behaviors they observe.  You might have already seen this, if they watch one particular show a lot and pick up on the verbal phrases of their favorite character.  It’s one of the reasons you will have to get used to handy many, doc McStuffins, Dora the Explorer, and movies like CARS, UP, and Frozen as the kids watch them 475 times each!

Part of our role as a school is to help you help them pick up the good behaviors, attitudes and phrases and discard those not so good.

Picking up behaviors, phrases, and attitudes is something we will do all of our lives.  To put it simply – we rub off on each other!  Without realizing it, we begin to act like those we admire, those we care about, and sometimes, those who antagonize us!

That’s the nature of the sermon series, the behaviors we pick up – as Christ’s companions In life.

The First Lesson – The First Lesson

In our second reading, we are going to see the first lesson, that we can be okay with being last, with being the servant of all.  Jesus gets the disciples – basically a term for apprentice or people who master something through on-the-job training, Jesus gets them alone for a while.  He knows his crucifixion is near, so he wants to explain to them again what will happen.  This is what he taught them

“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.”

there is a problem, though, as we keep reading

32 They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.

He couldn’t get to the point where he would explain to them that caring about people means this is the length you go to, to show them, love. That is part of His lesson for them throughout scripture.  Paul does a great explanation of that in Philippians 2, and in Romans and 1 Corinthians 12.  It is what he means by, imitate me, as I imitate Jesus.

They don’t understand yet that He has to die, or that He has to die so that they can live, so they can be free of the punishment their sins deserve.

Rather than ask, they keep quiet – they decide the lesson is too overwhelming… but they will learn, as will we

The First Quiz

The second part of the lesson occurs as the disciples argue who is the top student, the assistant to the rabbi-master.  That is what they are asking, “Jesus, who is in authority if you leave?”  For the greatest student always succeeded the master in that day.

As they are arguing about it, Jesus gives them the lesson again,

“Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

And Jesus will show them what that means, as He heads to the cross, to die for them, and for us.  He does it because He is the greatest example of God’s love we have ever known.  He does it because the love of God drives him to do something no one else ever could.  He dies, as Isaiah prophesied said he would, 700 years before the cross,

5  But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6  All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6 (NLT)
The Refresher

Which brings us to the third lesson, as Jesus takes time for the youngest, the weakest, those that society would think aren’t worth the time of a master teacher.

Imagine a seminary president, taking the time to show an unknown preschooler around a university.  Not with television crews and thousands following him, but just the child and a few friends.  Or think of computer CEO, playing some chutes and ladders with the 4-year-old daughter of one of his stockroom clerks.  Again, not in the limelight, but because he valued them. Or a superstar taking the time to visit a senior home, or a President or international religious leader, who would spend time, without the cameras with someone in the hospital, or a forgotten convict in prison.

The lesson is to love the least, and that is what the disciples of Jesus need to learn.

Note I didn’t say they learned it – for we are disciples as well.

That is the example Jesus gives the disciples, and yet takes it even deeper with these words,

37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf* welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

Here is the key to learning this lesson.  It is found in welcoming Christ, in welcoming the Father’s presence in their life.  Because Christ did exactly what He is teaching us, as He comes to us.  He loves those who everyone else says are not worth the time.  When we hear that by His authority, our sins are forgiven.  When He invites us to pray to the Father, and gives us the words for when we don’t have the words.

We show we’ve learned not just the lesson of not being first, and the value of serving others because we’ve realized that He is how He loves us.  As we realize that love for us, it changes us, to use a modern phrase, His character rubs off on us. We reflect the nature of God, the God who loves us, who comes to us, who put our salvation, our eternity before his own pleasure, and served us by dying for us.

It is because of this, that we know the peace of God that goes beyond all understanding, that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

The End that Justified the Means

The End that Justifies the Means

John 6:51–69

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may that love and mercy be revealed to you, and may it assure you that in His presence you will remain!

Is the Journey more important than the destination?

Four years before Martin Luther would nail to the door an invitation to discuss indulgences, a man in Italy, the man who would become the father of political science, and the first to write on political ethics finished his best known work.

Though not in the book as a direct quote, a summary of it gave us one of the best known proverbs that is not contained in the Bible.  A proverb many a businessman and many a politician see as foundational.

The end justifies the means.

Basically, Machiavelli held that, a ruler must be concerned not only with reputation, but also must be positively willing to act immorally at the right times.”  (Wikipedia)
One example given on Wikipedia of that is this, “Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of power and introduction of new legal institutions.”

As odd as it sounds, there is one example of that proverb, that you and I must be grateful, one time in history where the end justifying the means was not only appropriate, but a blessing.

As the Jewish people struggle with Jesus teaching that they must eat His body and drink His blood, they will struggle even more that in order to receive the promises of God, in order to be His people, they would have to depend upon the greatest injustice in history.

The Journey

There is a part of me that wants to preach on this passage from the safety of focusing on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  After all, there are theologians who say this passage where Jesus demands us to eat His Body and drink His blood as being primarily about the Lord’s Supper.  And there are some that say it is not.  Fascinating arguments on both sides.

It is safe, it would help you comprehend what we do during communion, and it would miss the point.

This passage isn’t about communion, in the way that a journey isn’t about the journey, it is about the destination.  Because the Jewish people were worrying about the journey, they missed the message of the destination.

That God would remain in us, and we in Him.

We’ll get back to that in a moment, but we need to see that we are no different than the Jewish people, who though knowing God’s law, struggled with what Jesus was saying, struggling so much that they would say,

“This is very hard to understand, how can anyone accept it?”

It was so hard to understand, that most of the disciples would leave.

Because they were focusing on the means, rather than the end.

We do the same thing today, when we toss aside God’s word.  Maybe we consider it out of date in the moral standard.  Or when we dismiss something because those rules were okay back then before people were educated, but they don’t apply to us smarter and more sophisticated people today.  We argue with God, we try to define what is right and what is wrong.  We try to change the rules, rationalize our way out of things, or create a different standard.

A great example is how we treat our enemies, adversaries and those who are a pain in the butt.

Do we really love them?  Do we really pray for them?  Do we really want to forgive them and welcome to commune with us?

Or do we try to find a loophole, an exception to God’s desire that we love all our neighbors?

Or what about when God says to embrace persecutions and suffering, for the sake of the gospel.  He just means pastors and worship leaders and elders.  Not bass players and sound men, and ushers, right?

We don’t get it, it seems too hard to understand.  We don’t like it when God confronts us and challenge our agendas, or rules out what we like and what we dodo.  Sometimes, confronted by God’s wisdom and unable to get it, sometimes we walk away.  Just like the disciples did.

John’s gospel shows how hard it is, as it records Jesus’ words, The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But some of you do not believe me.”

We need it, we need a God we can relate too, trust in, depend upon…

for our very lives.

Remaining in Christ Jesus

One of the things that we look at, when studying the passage, is the frequency something is mentioned.  For example – if a thought is repeated, even if a little different, that is called a parallelism – and it is important.  Especially if it followed by AMEN! AMEN! or “This is True!”  Three times is even more critical to understand.

We know this well.  If our parents or our wives or our bosses repeat themselves, it is critical we are listening.

In this passage, the body and blood being sacrificed is mentioned frequently.  But even more frequently is something else.  Here it is….

“will live forever”
“so the world may live”
“have eternal life within you”

“has eternal life”

“I will raise that person at the last day”
“remains in me, and I in him.”
“will live because of me”
“will not die”

“will live forever.”

“The Spirit alone gives eternal life”

“Very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life”

68 
Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”

This is what it is all about, this life we have with God.  That we are His people, that He is our God.  That we are fixed to Him, we remain in Him, and He in us.  United from the very moment of our baptism, united by a promise, the very new covenant, a promised renewed as He sustains us with His body and blood.

A life given, and shared.

A glorious eternal life.

That is our destination, that is the end that justifies the means that seem beyond unfair.

For  one of Nicollo Machiavelli’s summaries became true, at the cross.

Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of power and introduction of new legal institutions.”

Or let me phrase it a little differently

Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of God’s reign and introduction of a new covenant.”

The violence of a Cross, the creation and stabilization of a righteous people of God, gathered in His presence, by the enactment of a new law, a new covenant.

That is what this is all about… it is why we know Jesus words are true.

Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”

So eat, be nourished, understand the gift of life in Christ and remain in Him, for there is His peace.  AMEN.

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