Category Archives: Sermons
Let us Ever Walk With Jesus!
Walking with Jesus Means Knowing He Hears You!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ lead you to understand that God is present in your life, listening…
Is the lesson that we are to be a pain in the neck?
When I read the gospel story about the widow who consistently stood before the self-centered judge, I think I should make the case for a different sermon title. That one would simply be,
Walking with Jesus? Get what you want by BEING A PAIN IN THE NECK!
At first glance, that is what the passage seems to be saying, isn’t it? Jesus is teaching us to pray and never give up, so just keep on bugging God till we get what we want, right?
You want a new car? Bug him.
want the bills paid, just keep on bugging him, and never give up.
You want to stop people from making stupid decisions, and then watch them as they
You want to feel better, be less tired, have less back pain, stop feeling old. just keep praying and never give up making a pain in the…. neck of yourself.
That seems to be what Jesus is talking about, when he tells us about the lady, isn’t it?
If it is that, then I think that the lesson in the story is simply. And most of us, have no problem in making ourselves a pain in the neck, when we want to be!
Ready for communion?
O wait, the story isn’t about the widow… .
So back to the beginning, or maybe to the end.
What about the question… Will God find people trusting in Him?
the end of the passage, Jesus asks a great question:
“when the Son of Man* returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”
Will God find people who trust in Him, will he find people who will depend on Him, who will find in Him the hope they need to live in this broken life?
Will we, in the midst of the good times or the bad find the ability to cling to God, knowing that only in Him do we find hope?
Or will we walk away, like all but the apostles did, when He talked of His body and blood being their true food and drink?
Will we count on Him listening to us, or will we give up?
I’ll be honest, there are times where giving up seems like the option. As we get tired of being broken, and we look round and see that the world is more broken. And oh boy, this week, did it appear broken!
In those times, I am not sure I want to hear Jesus say – Just always pray and never give up!
There is a tendency to want to fight or flee, to struggle or simply walk away. Those reactions, whether choices of not, are sinful, and we need to hear once again that our sin is forgiven. We need to hear that though we didn’t move toward God, that we didn’t put everything in His hands, we can now… including our weak faith…
The example in the story isn’t the lady…. But the judge!I mentioned earlier that Jesus focus wasn’t on the nagging widow. The story isn’t about her. It is about the unrighteous judge, and the fact that even someone like him would eventually hear the person calling for justice, calling for righteousness.
If an unrighteous judge would listen, how much more likely is it that a good, loving merciful God listen to those whom he dwells with?
That’s the point of this parable, this story Jesus tells. When we cry out to Jesus to make us righteous, to make the situation we struggle in something good, He does. The challenge is seeing it, something we can’t do if we are trying to fix it ourselves.
Our confidence needs to be in the fact that God does exist, is present in our lives, that He loves us and is acting to defeat our enemies, Sin, Satan and the fear that death brings. He’s taken care of it all, as He has cleansed us of all sin, as the Holy Spirit dwells with us, as we are never alone, as our cry never goes unheard.
Prayer, as odd as it sounds, benefits us more than we can ever imagine. Not because of how well we pray, and its not about the burdens we lay down.
The key is that as we pray, as we reach out to God, we remember His promises, we remember all He is done to make this relationship happen, and we begin to realize that “the Lord is with you” is not just a polite greeting, it is the truth we have to depend upon. HE is with you and He hears your cry to for righteousness, for justice, and Christ died to give you that justice! To bring you back to the Father, to make everything right!
The more we do pray, the more we seek His face, the more we will trust Him, for we will experience His love, we will see Him at work in our lives, making our lives a masterpiece. The more we will treasure the hope we have.
That is what this passage is teaching us, that to walk with Jesus means we know He hears us, and makes our lives righteous.
Be Dressed to…
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ strengthen your faith, so that no only are you ready for Christ’s return, but that you wait with great joy and expectation! AMEN!
Remembering the Long Nights
Reading the gospel, I was taken back nearly forty years, to my second job in 1980, washing dishes and doing all the grunt work, working 10 pm to 6 am – the graveyard shift.
Those nights were long, and hard at times, but there were some moments, especially as the morning sun light shattered the darkness, that are unforgettable. The peace, the beauty, the relief, I don’t know if I can find the words to explain it.
I think the time we are in, as we await the return of Jesus, is a lot like those dark nights.
As surely as the dawn came to end those nights, so to will our “dark nights” end, as we experience the return of the Son.
The Dark Nights of the Soul
Jesus talks a lot about the Kingdom of God, and about the time when it will be seen in all of its glory. A lot of these conversations, as today’s has Jesus urging us to seek God’s Kingdom and to be ready for the moment our Lord returns.
It’s something we need to take seriously, just as I had to have all the dishes done, and the plates stacked, the maple syrup heated and the vat of coffee ready for the people who would come in the morning, expecting to be served.
But those nights were long and dark. There was a lot of work to be done. There were times of fear, like when we got robbed, or a man had a grand mal seizure. There were other times where it was so tempting to fall asleep, because the early morning was so boring and slowwww, and one could get so tired, one might even fall asleep while sitting on the toilet. Not that I know anyone who would have possibly done that.
But our life, waiting for Jesus to return, is much like that. We might be distracted by the business, and all the tasks, we might have moments where trauma seems dominant, and anxiety paralyzes us. Other times, we get so, so tired, and rather than looking to Jesus, we just fall spiritually asleep, unable to pay attention to the promises of God, and His warnings about His return.
I am not talking about actual sleep, but spiritual sleep, the kind of lethargic and eventually unconscious feeling that comes over us, as we stop looking to God, and start falling into temptation, and unaware of God’s grace, we are put into bondage or oppressed by the sin which Hebrews says can so easily trap us.
For nothing will cause us to be unprepared for Jesus return like sin does. It grabs our attention, it coddles and pleasure us for a moment, and having broken us, leaves us. We might not consider it all that much, a little lie here, a thought there, and well, that action can’t be as bad a sin as others would make it out to be. I mean, it didn’t hurt anyone, and other people seem to think it is okay.
And heck, pastor never mentions “that” sin.
Sin is sin, and if you aren’t sure, the simple test is whether it takes your mind off of God, and how would you feel if He came back the moment you said that word, or thought that thought, or were engaged in that deed? If you don’t like His presence in that moment, you can bet it is a sin… and it will eventually put your soul into a comatose state.
And then what happens if God comes back?
Getting Dressed for..to be served
It is with that thought Jesus tells us to be dressed and ready to serve, because we don’t know when Jesus is come back. But when He does, we will be ready to open the door, and greet Him.
But that is where what Jesus says gets interesting. Seek first Jesus Kingdom, put it above everything else, for Jesus is coming back. We get that, and if we dare, we might even think about the fact that those who are not ready will be set aside, where they will be judged based on their actions.
But hear again what awaits those who are dressed, and ready to serve.
37 The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat!
This is what is so
amazing about our Lord, and the work He gives us, leads not to being slaves, or
even servants. But valued guests and friends in the kingdom of God. He took up our serving apron, and fixes us a
feast, rewarding us who are his.
Even though there were moments in the night where we struggled to get our work done, moments where sin had lulled us to asleep, or the stresses and anxieties of life overburdened us.
In His joy, for at Christ’s return the Father and His greatest desire is fulfilled, for we have been transformed, our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit. That is what repentance truly is and being repentant, being transformed we are alert, and care about His coming in the first place. Not from fear, but looking forward to it with great expectation!
Until then, in the midst of the night, the Holy Spirit helps us realize the peace of God, which passes all understanding… as Jesus protects our hearts and minds. AMEN!
Get Off Your “But” and Follow Jesus!
Luke 9:57-62, 1 Kings 19:19-21
† I. H. S. †
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain you as you walk “in His steps”
Are you listening? Are you understanding?
you ever asked someone if they were listening, and 30 seconds after they
replied yes, they ask you “what are you talking about?”
I think that happened to Jesus, far more than it happens to us.
It does today, as one man offers to follow Jesus, and two others responded to His invitation to follow him, but they then realized they had a problem. They all had a big “but!” Uhm – that’s but with only one T.
As we look at the call to follow, as we begin to really
hear Jesus, I pray we come to understand what it means to follow Him, or as the
apostle Peter wrote,
21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (NLT2)
The Big BUTS
So the first guy tells Jesus, I will follow you wherever you go! Jesus tells him, “okay, here is the challenge, we have no support, no place to stay, no place to sleep.” Oddly we don’t’ hear from the guy again.
Following Jesus isn’t easy or comfortable.
The second and third guys clearly describe their “buts”.
One wants to go home and take care of his dying Father. The second wants to go home and make significant arrangements for his family’s care, cutting off their need for his involvement in their life.
How many of us would have similar issues to deal with? I mean, before Jesus asks us to go with Him to China, or Jordan, or Papua, New Guinea? And how many of us have relationship issues that would make leaving with Jesus complicated?
Those “buts” aren’t easy to deal with, and to turn down an invitation to go with Jesus is heartbreaking, or it should be. I mean if you knew Jesus was going to be at the ordination I am officiating at this afternoon, would you drop everything and come with me? What about if you could meet him on Pastor Bernie’s next trip to the Sudan, but you had to leave today?
What if it required moving to Turkey and working alongside Christina for the rest of your life? Never ever returning to the U.S.A. but you knew for sure you would encounter Jesus every day?
Could you show Jesus your “but”?
This isn’t theoretical for the people in the gospel! They had BIG BUTS, major life concerns, as they truly desire to travel with Jesus.
It’s what some would call a First commandment issue, a problem with prioritizing who is our God, who is most important in our life. Who is most involved in it. For if we can’t listen to God and respond obediently to Him, are we really in a relationship where we realize He is the God who rescues us, and we are the people He listens to, cares and provides for, and loves?
The problem is simple to fix, we just have to get off our “but” and follow Jesus. Follow Him, not travel with Him. If the people had listened to what Jesus said, they would have understood the difference.
What’s the difference? Glad you asked!
The Elisha Example!
In the Old Testament passage, we see Elisha also responding to a call to follow, as Elijah makes him his successor. That’s why he threw his cloak over him, that is what you symbolically did back in those days.
But Elisha goes back to his people. He takes care of business, and isn’t rejected by Elijah, the way it seems Jesus rejected those who had big “buts”.
But look at what Elisha did carefully, and you will see he was already following Elijah as he goes back. He takes his old stuff, the plow, the oxen and uses those things to minister to people.
What the invitation really is
You see, the word for follow doesn’t mean travel with, it means begin to imitate Him. To become like, to gain the attitudes and heart and desire of the person you “follow”. There is a word to walk with, but this is far more, it is another word like disciple, or apprentice.
It is to know Jesus is on the journey with us, shaping us, forming us, sending us out to where He would have us minister. Like the man he delivered from the clutches of demons, often the place is where we call home, sharing the news of God’s mercy with those we love and care about, with those whose lives are broken, and spiritually dead.
Following Jesus is not just physical, it is more, it is transformative, it is incarnational, it is beholding His glory and knowing He dwells among us.
This is what His invitation to believers is about, it is life lived in His presence, hearing His voice, learning to care for and love people as He does. That is what it means to walk in His steps, to live life the way He does, and we do that by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, help us see the “buts” not as challenges to following You, but as places where You bring us to minister and care for other, with you at our side.
A Chance to Relive our Deliverance
† I.H.S. †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you to go all through your community and tell them everything God has done for you!
A Map of our Journey
Today’s message is a little different than most of those I deliver. I am going to take you on your life’s journey, seen through the eyes of the man who had been possessed not by just a demon, but whose life had been a plaything for thousands of them.
For most of us, such a journey is difficult, because, well I could joke and say it is because we are at Concordia, but because, as one philosopher once said, “life is suffering” Or so it can seem! Especially when Jesus seems like he’s moved on from us.
So let the journey begin.
The journey begins… alone and in darkness
Before we knew Christ, and even some days now, our lives seem like that of the man who found Jesus on the side of the lake. We may not live among the gravestones, or actually be the property of a horde of demons, but our lives may have been as dark.
Sin can dominate and rule us as certainly as demons, and they aren’t afraid to haunt us with temptations that seek to ensnare us
Like the man, in those dark days, we barely know anything except the emptiness. We may feel quite distant from people, and though we love them, there is a grave disconnect, as if we aren’t sure they understand us, or “get” us.
We might even hear their words of love and care as them trying to control us, to force us to change from who we are, for the brokenness we experience seems to be who we are.
When we are in bondage to sin, like when the man was haunted and owned by demons, there is this sense of walking around in the fog, disconnected from the world.
Even God seems a bit hard to communicate with.
Did you ever notice Jesus doesn’t talk directly to him at first? He addresses that which haunts him?
Joined on the Journey
On this broken journey, that is what happens next, we all of a sudden find ourselves standing in brilliant daylight, freed from what has hounded us, what has caused us to be disconnected,
We are no longer alone, as the light sines from our partner in our journey, the one that makes it come alive. The brokenness seems, for the moment to be mending, and people notice as well, something is different in your life.
Some may even be overwhelmed by the change, like the community where the man who the demons were forced to free were overwhelmed. They didn’t know what to make of it, and were so afraid, they couldn’t adjust to the glory of God that was transforming this broken man’s life and making him whole and healthy.
No wonder all the man wanted to do was to sit at Jesus feet, to hear Him speak of the Father’s love, to dwell in the sweetness of the moment, to just enjoy the peace and freedom that is here.
I think that is why little kids love to come to this rail and just sit here… I know that is why here, at the altar, or even over on the side, hiding behind the pulpit is the place where I feel the most at home in the entire world.
It is so radically different from dwelling in darkness, hounded by sin and despair.
To just sit here and know, the Lord is with you, and that because Jesus has risen, so we are risen indeed! ALLELUIA
He wants us to go where? WHY?
is then we hear the words of Jesus, as He leaves where He found us, and began
our healing, and showed His love, and the life that His gives us, freed,
forgiven, and healed/
We want to stay here, we never want to go without Him, and He says to us, as he did to the man, “No, go back to your family and tell them everything God has done for you!”
Uhm, Lord, if I walk away, what happens if the demons return? What If I can’t handle it, and I fall into temptation and sin reaches out and gets me?
I can imagine these things went through his mind. Why? Because they can go through my mind, when I forget the most important truth in my life, that the Lord Is with me.
Then there is the fear, if I was this man, I would phrase It this way. “Lord, send me to anywhere, but please not back to the people that know me and my weakness so well. Not back to the people that rejected me, and who I have hurt. I could come up with 1000 reasons, but the bottom line is that I would rather be here, in them moments to come.
I even wonder if Jesus wasn’t accepted by his family, why I would ever expect my family and my community to listen to me.
Even so, having delivered us from what oppressed us, and as He is healing us, He sends us out, to those who will recognize the change God has made in our lives, to those whom we know need what God has given us. And as we share what God has done in us, we realize the depth of His love even more, and we realize what it means that because He died on the cross, and rose from the dead, we have risen indeed, and were are given new life and the companionship of the Holy Spirit who resides in us.
The more we experience this love, the more we seek to share what God has done, and that is something we can share…. Reliving again and again what He has done, as we share these blessings… and are in awe of His love.
Heavenly Father, help us to realize the incredible done in our lives, help us to live our lives, among those whom You have sent us, sharing all the mind-blowing things You have done for us. Help us to praise Your name while sharing it with those around us who need to escape their darkness. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!
As Much As
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ help you know this.
YOU ARE LOVED BY GOD!
Intro – They Don’t Know His Mind toward them.
In Luther’s Large Catechism, there is this sobering thought:
66 These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and distinguish us Christians from all other people on earth. All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Kathos Key
It is a sobering thought, and yet has to do with the gospel reading this morning. For what the heathens, Turks, Jews and false Christians need to know is what Jesus reveals in today’s gospel reading, the words that give the context to the title, “as much as”.
May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me
God the Father loves you, as much as He loves Jesus!
As much as, to the very same degree, to an equal measure…
God loves you, just as much as He loves Jesus.
“As much as.”
And this is revealed when we see how much we love, how much we are devoted to, how much we care for one another.
This is the very glory that Jesus shares with us, that we are loved, and it is proven in the unity we have with each other. A unity that is often not spoken, but it is so…evident.
and proves the love that God has for us.
When you looked at the apostles, it is truly a miracle that they were of one mind and one heart. There were men that were enemies, such as Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax collector. Seriously, both the lesser Simon and Judas from Iscarioth were rebels, they lived and trained to kill those who work with the Romans. No one worked closer than the tax collectors, who grew rich off the people.
Or what about the “sons of thunder”, do you really think they got that nickname because they were so gentle and kind towards each other?
Yet, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they become one in mission and one in heart and mind. The fisherman and the scholar, the enemies, the brothers, and even Peter. Sounds a lot like us, if it wasn’t for the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us.
When we are so desperate, so overwhelmed we listen to God, and hear how he loves us, that love causes what divides us to drift away. It doesn’t matter how much hatred we had toward others, how much sin was in our lives, how depraved and evil someone is, when the love of God cuts through to their heart, that love changes everything.
That is how incredible it is that God the Father loves us as much as He loves Jesus.
As God reveals this love, as Christ hangs on the cross, as He is in the grave, as His rises. The Spirit reveals it to us, as our hearts are cut open, and all that which is broken begins to heal as we are untied to Christ in our baptism, and here at the altar, as we receive His body and blood.
Impact – so that’s!
We see it at work, as we don’t want to stop until we have past God’s peace to every person in the church. We see it as we kneel at the altar together. I dare say it would be more than awkward to commune next to someone we are pissed off at! But somehow, as our sins are forgiven together, there is healing of our relationships.
And the world, seeing this, realizes that Christ came for them all.
For such unity is not natural.
It is Godly though – and people will praise God because of what they see Him doing in us. And that is a witness to the world, just as Jesus prayed it would be.
God has made us one, as He loves us as much as He loves Jesus…..and we will be with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for eternity.
And so, along with knowing Jesus asked the Father for this kind of peace, I end with one of the prayers and the words that follow of St Paul,
5 May the God who inspires men to endure, and gives them a Father’s care, give you a mind united towards one another because of your common loyalty to Jesus Christ. And then, as one man, you will sing from the heart the praises of God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN!
So open your hearts to one another as Christ has opened his heart to you, and God will be glorified.
Romans 15:5 (Phillips NT)
Who is Asking,
“Come, Stand by Me”
† I.H.S. †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to hear those who cry out for someone to stand by them, even as the Holy Spirit stands with you!
The Vision – Mission Impossible!
A long.. long time ago there was a television show that every week started with a line like this.
“You mission Jim, should you choose to accept it….and then after describing int, ended with, “As always, should you and any of your IM Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will…. (self-destruct in 5 seconds.)
In the reading from Acts this morning, the Apostle Paul gets a similar message. Not on tape that self-destructs, but in a dream, a vision from God that is so clear, that Paul and his team of missionaries knew it was God calling them to tell the people about God’s love and mercy.
The vision of a man crying out for help, pleading with them, “Come over to us and help us!”
In Greek, that is two simple words, Paraclete – to call alongside to help someone stay standing– and boetheo – a word used to describe a doctor’s rushing to come to the aid of someone mortally wounded.
I hope we realize that St. Paul isn’t the only one given that mission, to go over and stand by people, to lift them up and help them find healing.
It is our mission, too!
Like the crew on Mission Impossible, which for 49 missions included Captain Spock by the way, Paul and his band of merry missionaries get to their destination. They look for people who are searching for God, who are searching for hope.
They find someone who deals with the most expensive cloth, who cuts it and sews it. This is Armani of her day, or Michael Kors, and she dealt with the kind of folk who she dressed up for the ancient Grammy’s or Academy Awards.
Not the kind of person that you would encounter at most small churches, but there she was, praying and hoping for an answer. Like many people, she tried to worship God, but wasn’t clear who that God was.
As Paul started to share about Jesus, the Holy Spirit opened her heart, and she accepted it, the Greek says she held for dear like to what Paul was saying.
It’s like the story I read of a priest yesterday. He encountered a young man who was struggling with heroin addiction. They spent the night in the sanctuary, all night long, thinking about the Lord’s Supper, about the Body broken for this young man. The priest described him holding onto the altar so tightly he thought he left his nail marks in it.
And that is the way Lydia received the revelation of God love for her.
Except she wasn’t someone we would normally think of being that “needy”, that desperate, that amazed at finding out something we probably take for granted all too often.
That God loves us.
Oddly enough, Lydia, after Paul baptizes her and all her household (which includes her employees by the way, uses the word Parakaleo when she asks Him to come and stay at her home.
She’s not being hospitable, she realizes she and her household needs continual help to start growing in the faith. There is a sense of desperation in it, as her begging forces them to agree to stay there.
The Church and Apathy about its Mission
How do I know we take our mission for granted?
How many people do we hear calling for help, whether they are the foreigner trying to adjust to living here, or the homeless guy, or the rich people we don’t think would bother with the likes of us?
How many of them do we hear cry for help and then take the time to respond to their cries for help?
I think we need to realize that not hearing them, not seeing their need is to sin, breaking the second commandment. For we need to use the Name of God in those situations, sharing with these people in need the love of God, revealing to them His mercy, and His abiding presence.
The need Him, and we need to remember this mission became our in our baptism, and we take it on every time we greet each other with God’s peace, and when we leave this sanctuary.
You know, I always wondered why they called it Mission:
Do you ever remember them failing one of their missions? Ever?
They just kept solving mission after mission, week after week.
Our real life mission, while a little more difficult, is even more possible.
God doesn’t threaten us by saying He will disavow any knowledge of us, should we fail.
His call to us to go alongside and reveal to people His love and mercy includes His power, as the Holy Spirit empowers our work, and ensures it all works out for good for those who love God, for those He calls according to His purpose, His will.
Sure it may take a while to help some people see His love – but the days and years and decades are worth it.
For while we are on this mission, Jesus promises He will never abandon us, that He walks with us, that we are united with Him, even as the Holy Spirit comforts us in our failings, as we are cleansed of our sins.
This is our mission. To share with people.
The Lord is with you!
And that because He is risen,….. (We are risen indeed – and they are part of the “we”)
And therefore, invite all whose lives cry out for someone to Come, stand by them, to enter into the peace of God, the peace you experience, even though it more that you could ever describe, the peace in which you are guarded, heart and mind, by Christ Jesus.
Concordia’s Service on Sunday May 12, 2019
More Blessed to Give than Receive!
† In Jesus
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so transform your life, that you just don’t know it is better to give than receive, but that you give yourself completely…
If there is a day that I don’t have to look far for a sermon illustration, today’s sermon passage from Acts 20 is it. Here is the primary verse for the passage…
“It is more blessed to give than to receive”
and then think
Hmmm… could there be a connection there? You know, those ladies who have given so much, and whom most of us have benefited from,
Most of us struggle to really understand this passage but if there is a group of people who do, it would be moms! Been watching a lot of pics on FB this week, of friends whose kids are graduating college. The largest and perhaps the quietest, proud smiles are on the faces of the moms. Heck, half the time, they are the ones taking the picture! The same for my cousins, putting up pictures of their sons and daughters at recitals or ball games! I think they find more joy at the moment than their children do, and the sacrifices, well are forgotten.
Mom’s give a lot, and some of them, when their children succeed, or simply have learned that lesson that was so hard to teach them, find their reward, and know the sacrifice was worth it.
So they have a small grasp on what it means when Paul mentions Jesus’ teaching on “it is more blessed to give than receive.”
And yet, there is more to it, as we shall see.
The struggle and the answer
The challenge of understanding these simple words is that most of us don’t recognize when someone is sacrificing something in order to help us. We didn’t see our mom’s at the end of a long day, cleaning the house, or doing the laundry.
We don’t understand why they would work so hard, or our fathers would work so hard, until we faced the same thing, until we wanted something for our children, for those we care for… then sacrifice became the norm, often without even thinking.
Yet prior to that, we assumed that was our mom’s role. That is what parents do, they are supposed to wrap their lives around us kids. They are, along with our grandparents, supposed to spoil us rotten.
And when they disciplined us, we never understood the phrase, “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you….”
But it did….
Well, I think it did!
But we have to encounter the need to sacrifice out of love, we have to have it happen naturally before we understand it… or at least experience it. It has to get by that part of us that wants to get, get! Get!!
That part of us that is sure what we want is best, that we know what is right, and that throws a tantrum. What? You don’t think adults throw tantrums?
We are quite good at it!
Look at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or listen to conversations at Starbucks or a bar if you don’t believe me!
Remember, we are called to love. Love our moms, our spouses, our families, our friends, neighbors and enemies…
That means we can grow in this blessing of giving more than we receive.
Let me give you an example.
Susan, last year when Ethan one of your preschool students ask you to be his sponsor when he got baptized.
Did you think about how much you and your teachers invested in Ethan? Of the time you taught him about Jesus, or held his hand on the way to chapel? Or were you just in awe of being asked?
That is what it means, that it is better, it is more of a blessing to give than receive!
Context! Context! Context!
And that brings us back to the context of our passage.
You see, Paul isn’t talking about being a mom to the leaders of the church in Ephesus. He’s talking about shepherding them, about their need to shepherd the people God entrusts to them…. About our sharing Christ’s love, no matter the cost, with the people God brings us into contact with.
He says this,
24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
Ultimately, that is our job, to help all of “our” kids know that God isn’t going to “get them” when they screw up, but that He wants to fix what they’ve broken. A relationship, a level of trust, their own internal life.
Because that is what the cross was about, the ultimate lesson in the idea that it is more blessed to give than receive.
For we received the forgives of sin, and the promise of everlasting life, the ability to know that God will be there for us, with us.
And Jesus gave His life so that God the Father would gain a family of saints. Including all that depend on Him.
For that is what faith is, realizing how much God has promised, and depending on Him to provide it. The forgiveness of all sin, the promise of eternal life, and the promise of His walking with us now.. even as we learn to give the gift of salvation to others.
This is what Paul wanted to give everyone the knowledge of, and as he did, as Susan did, as I have done, we realize what it means that it is more blessed to give than receive.
As we do we realize, as we see it over and over become real to others, that it is in giving that we realize how precious the peace of God is that He draws us into, a peace that goes beyond all understanding, even as, like a mother hen, He protects our hearts and minds in that peace. AMEN!
(a special thanks to Bob Bennett, who did a couple of special pieces and played with our praise band. And to all the people who came and celebrated this blessed day with us
They Stood There in Disbelief
… Filled with Joy and Wonder
Luke 24: 36-49
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ fill you with awe, with wonder, and suspend your disbelief!
You have to love these crazy, hard-headed apostles.
No matter how many times they heard Jesus say he was going to rise on the third day, they just didn’t get it. Over and over Jesus told them, He pointed out all the teachings about the Messiah in the Old Testament, about His death and resurrection.
And the first word we see describing their reaction to Jesus showing up was terror.
And the second was, oddly enough… disbelief.
Or better translated – they didn’t have faith, they couldn’t trust their own eyes…or their ears, or their sense of touch.
Here it is, three days after Jesus died on the cross after a spear pierced His heart, and He’s standing before them asking for a few fish sticks.
The can’t believe it.
I am not sure I blame them. It is hard to process, hard to wrap your mind around this thing called resurrection. Dead – Alive? Tortured and Beaten – Healthy? (well except for the holes in his hands, feet, and that gaping wound in his side…)
We’ll hear Jesus tell Thomas at some point – “hey, you see me and believe, blessed are those who believe me and don’t see.” In response to which I must quote another man in the gospels.
“Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief”
Realizing that they struggled with the resurrection, there in the upper room helps a lot. It enables me to deal with the times where despair brings doubt with it. And when we forget or doubt that He is risen… (He is risen indeed, therefore, we are risen indeed!)
When we struggle with believing in the resurrection, when we struggle with depending on Christ’s resurrection, our resurrection with Him becomes in doubt as well. For our resurrection, our life is intimately connected to Jesus’s death and resurrection.
Remember Colossians 2
12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Colossians 2:12 (NLT2)
It shouldn’t be surprising that Satan would try to get us and get the apostles to be caught up in disbelief. He had done a pretty good job…but you can’t last in Jesus presence long before things change.
Even while they are struggling with disbelief in the presence of God, they are finding themselves no longer empty, no longer hopeless, but filled with joy and wonder.
Something I think we could all use, right about now.
So let’s get past our struggles believing. and move on to the good stuff!
They were filled with joy and wonder!
I love how Jesus reminded them of what He had taught them, and as He does, He opens their minds to help them understand the scriptures. To see what the scriptures really focus on, this love of God, so immense, that is revealed throughout the scriptures.
Twenty-five years ago, Kay was in Siberia for 5 weeks, on a mission trip. It was so amazing when she got off the plane and I was at the boarding gate. There is something amazing to being reunited to someone you care a lot about, whom you know cares about you.
And yet this man they all cared about, who invested himself in their lives, whom they gave up everything to follow, and who was brutally killed before their eyes…
Jesus then opens their eyes to the most amazing thing, that the Old Testament was all about this moment – about His death and resurrection. And therefore, our resurrection.
HE’s back, the last three years of their lives weren’t wasted, their hopes, they if anything just got an incredible boost. Their sorrow disappeared faster than cockroaches when you turn the light on.
And yet this isn’t just their moment. We need to realize it is ours as well.
And then the wonder sets in, an amazing thing as we realize what the resurrection means, and how it changes everything.
Jesus even explains it, again.
47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations,* beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’
There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent. No matter how many hundreds of thousands of sins you have committed. No matter how dark those sins are. Everything is made new in our lives, that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Because of Jesus, we have a new life!
Remember, Alleluia He is Risen… and therefore!
Every sin you have committed and will commit, has been nailed to the cross.
Each and every one, dismissed because they were nailed to the cross with Jesus,
And while Jesus is risen, and you are risen, the sins are still there….dead, separated from you.
This is the work of the same Holy Spirit, the One who will empower His church. Not just these apostles and the disciples hanging out with them, but all the church.
You see, you have been entrusted with sharing that message with all people, every language, every ethnicity! Sharing with them that their sins are forgiven because of Jesus, as the Holy Spirit changes their lives, as He grants to them repentance. What is awesome, get this, the world is coming to us, and we can share it with them!
That is how much God has changed us, that is why we are filled with joy and wonder.
Because Alleluia He is Risen!
And therefore… you are risen indeed! AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
37 But some of them said, “He gave sight to the blind man, didn’t he? Could he not have kept Lazarus from dying?” John 11:37 GNT
The third part is the body with its members. Its work is to draw upon and apply what the soul understands and the spirit believes. To use an example from the Bible,17 Moses built a tabernacle with three different courts. The first was the holy of holies; here God dwelt, and in
First of all, thank you. Thank you for the reads, the comments (especially those) and the time you have taken. Thanks for the patience with my poor typing skills. Thank you mostly for returning to listen, and maybe be drawn closer to God.
This blog actually started in a different place, and has been home here since 2012. It started back when a friend from Washington would ask me for my sermons, and send them out to hundreds of her friends. Another friend once raead a journal entry I made, and declared that I should share it. So “asimplechristian” was born. justifiedandsinner followed a few years after when the host company of the first address couldn’t provide reliable service, then when the address was freed I got it back. It is compromised mostly of sermons and my devotional summaries, with the quotes that give birth to the thoughts.
Lots of thanks to God for those whose writings spawn those thougths. St. Josemaria Escriva, Martin Luther, Pope Benedict XVI, the writers of the Book of Concord and the writings of 2 Vatican Council provide some 80 percent of that.
And here we are, 50,000 reads later (not counting the subscribers who get each post in the mail. (I don’t know if you read it. but you get it!) From over 140 countries.
There is one question I struggle with a lot over the years, and it showed up in the gopsel reading this morning.
Why doens’t God bring about the healing and/or conversion of the ones I love? Why do I have to watch them struggle, knowing that God could take care of them in an instant?
It sounds like the question is about Him, but I think the question is more about me.
You see, I know God is God, and I spend so much time telling people what I know and believe about Him. His mercy, His love, His being there for them, as He rescues them, cleans them up and heals them, comforts them.
Theologians have great canned answers as to why this person is healed and not that one. Why this person responds right away, that one doesn’t, and a third struggles in between. But those answers don’t calm the tears, or ease the broken heart.
That’s when I needed to hear Luther’s explanation this morning, Taken from his explantion of the Magnificat of Mary, found in Luke’s gospel. He uses the illustration of the three holy places, and I get it now.
The outside, which everyone can see, I am a pastor, a strong believer who has been able to depend on God in some crappy situations.
It is the middle section, where i think my reason enters into it, that there is a problem. I get frustrated as I can’t understand it all, I can’t reconcile the glory I see to what appears to be inaction on God’s part. And the dissonance is challenging.
Where I find the resolution is the Holy of Holies, the innder court where God draws me into His presence, with you and a billion others. Luther says there is no light there, but there is something more. There is God, and in His presence there is no need for light. There is awe that overwhelms our intellect, our ability to reason, and as we spend time there, we are conformed to the image of Christ. There we find what it means to adore, to worship God, and there our hearts and minds find the peace and take it back out to the Holy Place, and to the outer court to share with others.
That is where I hope these posts have drawn you, into that Holy of Holies, into the presence of God who longs to dwell in you, and with you.
Thanks for coming- keep going, keep exploring the width and breadth, the height and depth of His love for you, revealed at the cross, in Christ Jesus.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 99). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
The Place Where God Put His Name
Became our Home
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you, as It has during His work here at St Paul’s for decades. AMEN
I would like to read one verse from our gospel reading from a different translation.
the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love
and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and
only Son. John 1:14 (NLT2)
The New Living Translation uses the word home instead of “dwelt”, and I think the difference is important. The word in Greek refers to setting up a residence in a community, it talks of establishing more than a house, it speaks of a home. It was used in the Greek Old Testament for the tabernacle, the place where God dwelt in the midst of His people.
More importantly, I believe it is why we are here today, and it is why this day is so hard.
You see, we call places like St. Paul’s Lutheran church our “church home” for a reason. This is the place were people have come home to God for decades, for generations. It was here we learned to feel at home in the presence of God, it is here where we came to be baptized, to celebrate Christmas and Easter and Pentecost, it is from this place we buried those who left this church home for their heavenly home.
For here God made us feel at home with Him.
You may not have realized why this place became your church home, we may have never reflected upon it. But it was a church home, and therefore leaving it is a moment of sadness, a moment of sorrow, a moment where we question what happened, what went wrong, why did this happen.
And today, as we move on from this home, we need to realize why this place was our home, where God made His home among His people.
The Place where God Has Put His name
In our Old Testament reading, we see Solomon addressing God at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem. In that prayer, even as they dedicate this building, Solomon’s prayer includes the concept that God can’t live on earth. Yet the temple was the place where he put His name, and people could pray, and know they could
Hear the words again,
0 May you hear the humble and
earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place.
Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.
This place where God put His name served the same purpose. This is the place where God has made you at home in His presence. He cleansed you, he brought healing to your souls, He forgave your sin and fed you the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
and then, for others, this place was where they found him, even as aliens found God at the temple…again from the Old Testament reading,
41 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42 for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do.1 Kings 8:41-43 (NLT2)
Over the years, the numbers of people baptized in this place is numerous, the number of people who discovered God because their prayers were answered has been significant. That is why we are here today, to celebrate how God’s mercy has been poured out in this place.
To realize that it is a special place, that it has been a church home, a place where God has put His name.
It is in that name we find out the hope Paul worked diligently, with all he had to preach and teach. The riches of the mystery of Christ in you! And in the end, Paul’s statement to another church will ring true about this church home, numerous people will be presented mature in Christ Jesus, because of the ministry that has happened here.
The Work Done Here, Has Honored His Name
The apostle Paul once said that the people he wrote to were the evidence of God’s work through Paul. In the same way, those who came to faith here, and those people whose faith was sustained here throughout the years are proof that this place has been home to God and man, communing together. It is the place where He put His name,
In a couple of hours, after we commune together, after we share in the stories of God’s work in this place, the doors will close, the lights will be turn off, and we will move on. It may take a while to get used to the new place where God draws you to Himself, these temporary homes on our pilgrimage to our eternal home with Him.
There will be some dissonance, just as when the red hymnal was changed out for the blue, and then the burgundy. Or when the King James gave way to the RSV, then the NIV, then the ESV or NLT. Yet the main thing does not change. The main thing is this: God will continue to draw you to a place where His people can realize the gifts of grace, the forgiveness of sins that testifies that we are safe and at home in Christ. And that others will pray there and find themselves at home as well.
And until we are all
before the throne in heaven, we find ourselves drawn to where God has put His
name, that we can come and pray and be forgiven, where unbelievers can pray and
have God answer. In such places, we will know God’s peace, a peace beyond all
understanding, For Christ will guard you there, keeping your hearts and minds
safe in these earthly homes.