Category Archives: Sermons
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.
You might just get it!
† In Jesus Name! †
May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you in the midst of life, drawing you under His wings, where you can find rest and restoration!
All things? Including a death threat?
God has made many promises in scripture.
One of the promises that is one of the hardest to believe, but also is one of the most amazing is found in Romans 8. **
“And God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according His purpose for them.”
I don’t know about you, but that is a promise that I sometimes struggle with in my life.
From my point of view, looking at the brokenness in my own life, I sometimes wonder whether that promise was made to me. Because I can’t always see how God can make some of the stuff I’ve done, and some of the things that happen to me work for good, at least my good.
But they do, even as we will see this morning, as we consider the desires of two men, desires that seem to be unlikely to be fulfilled, and one of which, cannot possibly be good, because it calls for someone to die.
But could it?
We shall see….and it is amazing!
Two Men, Two Desires
Herod’s (and Everyman’s desire)
Lets start with Herod first. **
His desire is that Jesus would die.** The scriptures don’t declare why he wanted Jesus dead, simple that the Pharisees indicated that he did. These normal adversaries of Jesus are so concerned that they warn Jesus of it.
It’s a case of “the enemy of my enemy must be my friend.”
**It could be because he feared Jesus was going to haunt him, as John the Baptist did. Some were even saying Jesus was John returned, a though that would have scared Herod. After all, Herod was manipulated into killing John, chopping his head off at the request of his daughter and wife.
As the guilt added to his already massive amounts of guilt, the more he would want to get rid of any Godly influence in his life.
**You know that feeling, when you are dealing with guilt and shame, and instead of running to God, you want to run away? Instead of seeking forgiveness, you try to bury the guilt and shame? You try to find a way to avoid it, and what better way than killing the person who is God’s messenger?
So Herod’s desire is delayed, and for the moment He can’t get what he has asked for..
Which leads us to Jesus, who speaks of a desire, the purpose that He is working towards, that he relentlessly pursues. The goal of gathering the people of God together, to ensure their safety, to care for them.
But they won’t let Him. Just like so many in the world today, including, at times, you and I.
Yet this is Jesus focus, to bring us all into a place where we are cared for, where our souls find peace and healing from the ravages of sin. The sins of the world, and our own. For the damage is great, the brokenness that steals away life. Yet that is the life we cling to for some reason.
While Jesus is trying to draw us into a life that is abundant, and free.
How He longed to do that to the people of Jerusalem then, how He longs to lift us up now!
They both got what they wanted
Only God could grant both
there desires and work it out so that as they are fulfilled, every one who
loves God, everyone called according to His purposes.
Jesus will die as Herod wants, and even as Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all to Himself!
Both desires met. Both would get exactly what they wanted, and more.
You can’t read these chapters in Luke, from the transfiguration to the cross and not know it is coming. Herod couldn’t see that, nor how his desire to be rid of the prophets who confronted his sins would provide the solution to the sin which so easily traps us. He knew the answer to his guilt and shame would be found in the shedding of Jesus’ blood. But how it was solved, the solution that would cleanse anyone of sin, was beyond His thoughts!
Jesus knows that His death, his being raised from the dead will bring people in, that they will find the forgiveness they need, that they will be able to no longer fear God, but revel in His love.
That is why He is willing to die, to see us be drawn into His death, that we may share in His love. Hear again Paul’s words,
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)
So God made both of these thing,
turning the death of Christ, which Herod so wanted, into a blessing beyond
imagination as He gathered people together in the cross of Christ.
As He will do with everything in your life, and mine, and as He reveals His love for us, as we explore its breadth and width, its height and depth, the more we will be assured of this. Assured of it, we will rest, knowing His peace.
The Joy of Finding Refuge
† I.H.S. †
May this Lent be a time of deep self-evaluation that leads you to recognize how incredible the grace of God is, as it provides to us a refuge in Jesus. AMEN!
Groaning to God
The season we call Lent begins tonight. It is the darkest of seasons in the church year.
It is a season to cry out to God, in much the same manner as the psalmist did. Here the beginning of his cry again,
O LORD, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. 2 Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. 3 Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly
How many of you have groaned to God today?
How many people are willing to communicate
with God the way they post comments on Social Media? Or the way groan when
talking with friends over a beer, or over coffee and doughnuts?
How many of us groan about the absolute wickedness we see in the world, the sins that are so blatant, the pride that causes men and women to say the scriptures are wrong, and what they are doing is not murder, is not adultery, is not gossip, that what they think is not based in jealousy?
Pleasure in wickedness,
We want to rejoice in the psalm because it says that God destroys those who lie, that He hates those who hurt others, who will deceive people.
And the Psalmist prays that such people will be caught in their own traps.
Hmmm. Wait a second! do we really want to pray that? If we prayed that all sinners, all who rebel against God be driven away, we better examine ourselves.
Because some of you lied today.
and some of you wanted someone to get what’s coming to them, and you wanted revenge.
Some of you had a problem with thoughts of adultery. That you wished you had a romantic, fulfilling life like those people on television or in that book.
Others of you had a problem with authority,
not want to pray that God bless them, and perhaps you even asked God to strike
them dead, or damn them, or at least get them out of authority, to get them out
of our lives.
We need to evaluate our own lives, we need to see the depth of our sin, and grieve over it. Really grieve, because we realize the pain our sin causes God, because we realize the position we place Him in, where He has to punish the sin, He has to condemn it.
And therein is the problem that Lent is made for, a time to take seriously our lives, to examine them, and see our need to change, our need to repent.
Yet we can sing… we are safe, protected and because
At the same time, our sorrow is not without hope, it is Godly sorrow. Godly in the way that the Holy Spirit is convicting us of our sin, and yet guiding us to a confession of that sin that will lead us into a period of great joy The ashes we wear, they are not without hope, for the mark you are marked with, the sign of the cross, testifies to the end of lent. The cross where Jesus would hang by His wrists and His ankles, because of the joy set before him.
For in His death, as we are drawn into Him, we find refuge, we find peace, we find joy.
For as He dies, the power of sin dies as well, and we are finally set free.
Lent is about looking at our sins with Good Friday and Easter there, a time when realizing our brokenness results in realizing our healing.
When realizing that we approach the altar for forgiveness, and find we are drawn back, to share in Christ
And so like Jesus, we look to the joy that is set before us, and endure the cross, for it transforms us, it gives us refuge, it brings us peace.
Keep Confident and Hope in Christ!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ not just give you hope, but confidence in God walking with you through your life.
How cool to have a Leader like Moses!
I can’t even imagine the feelings that would run through the hearts and minds of Peter, James
I mean Elijah
The leader of all of the leaders in Jewish History, and the man through whom the greatest miracles in history were performed! Remember the water from the
I can imagine Peter asking, “so what was that stuff anyway?”
And Mount Sinai and the Ten Commandments? (lucky
And what about the Red Sea? Man, can you imagine someone doing that today!
I can imagine the apostles being so incredibly excited by the leadership of Moses and Elijah! Wow – now we are really getting somewhere! Now things can really change around here!
I could even here James telling John, “Hey, Moses is with you!” and hearing him echo back, “and also with you!”
I don’t think it is much of a stretch to think the apostles were more than impressed, more than in awe of this. That’s why Peter goes to Jesus, and asks, “Hey can I build some tents for you guys to dwell in? We’ll even make one for you Jesus!
There is an obvious problem with this, something the apostles overlooked in the excitement! Something the reading from Hebrews recognizes.
How good are we at following leaders?
We need a better leader than Moses. I mean he was pretty good at handling what God wanted Mosses to be responsible for, with only an error here or there. But Moses didn’t do a good enough job. He was as faithful as any.
But he didn’t get all of God’s people to the Holy Land. In fact, an entire generation was left all over the desert. 600,000 men (and their ladies) didn’t make it.
Did some awesome stuff, but there is only so much you can do when you aren’t the owner of a place, but just one of the servants.
The problem wasn’t completely with Moses, it was just as much with the people that didn’t follow his leadership. Don’t get me wrong, Moses sinned, but he had a lot of people who didn’t listen, and what could he do about them?
We aren’t much different today when it comes to listening to leadership. We tend to dismiss them, we tend to think of them as our servants, not as those who are out there to help us and lead us.
I saw the meme yesterday, and it is exactly how people treated Moses,
We need someone better, someone, who can deal with our rebellious nature, someone who isn’t just a servant, someone who can really make a difference. And it would help if they had our best interest at heart.
We need the owner to show up, someone really in charge!
We Need Something More than a Boss!
We look back at the transfiguration, and we get that Jesus was there. But I’ve even heard that Elijah and Moses were there not just to talk to Jesus about his upcoming death, but to encourage and strengthen Him for the ordeal.
I don’t think so, to confirm it maybe, but Jesus’ strength was found in His love for us, and in His love for the Father.
The Father with whom He planned all this, with the Father who created all this through Jesus.
The Jesus who is Lord of all.
And we need to understand what it means for Jesus to be Lord. It means He is the builder of the
You see Jesus being the LORD, the builder of the house means more than just ordering us around, more than just saying “do this, don’t do that” and “here is the punishment, here is the reward.”
Jesus being Lord is all about His plans for the house, how He intends to build it and care for it. It means He has committed Himself to care for His house, for His people. It means He has committed Himself to dwell in the house He is building, building with us.
And because He is the builder and the designer of the church, there is something He can do, that Moses didn’t have the ability to do.
He can make our sin, our rebelliousness of no account. He can take our brokenness and make it part of the masterpiece of His dwelling.
And He does, because He paid the price, and that’s been part of the design from the beginning. It was the cost of building His home, a home we are part of, along with all those who depend on
That is why we can keep our courage, that is why we remain confident.
Because we know His plan, even as we begin to realize we dwell in His presence, as we realize that He loves us so much, the cross and the death of Christ were planned, so we could be at home with God.
So, may you know you dwell in His peace, a peace you can’t be stolen from Him, for He has claimed you and made you, His! AMEN!