That’s Not Necessary!
(but compassion is!)
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the grace of God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ become how you live and breathe, resulting in compassion that is miraculous!
What is necessary….
There are times i our lives where the Lord’s lessons are subtle, where He sets the example of what living in a relationship with God and with God’s people should look like, and we completely miss it.
That’s what happened in the gospel reading this morning, as Jesus sets and example of servant leadership, and the apostles are given and opportunity to imitate that example, and fail to learn the lesson—and so Jesus has to point it out a little more clearly…
Most of the time, we fail to see the lesson as well, because of the miracle of seeing 5 hamburger bun sized pieces of bread and a couple of tilapia, That is an amazing miracle but the lesson in compassion that Jesus lived out before their very eyes.
A Little Background…
Just before Jesus and the apostles try to escape and find some time to relax and pray, two things happened – two devastating things. The thing right before their trip was to hear the news that John the Baptist was executed by Herod – his head chopped off to make his wife and daughter happy.
Still not sure why flowers, or chocolates or a nice dinner at Carl’s Jr. wouldn’t have worked, but Herod messed up – and had to make up for it with John’s head.
The other more devastating thing that happens in chapter 13 is that Jesus was rejected in His hometown by all his family and friends.
Between the grief of his cousin being killed and his own people rejecting him, trashing him, dismissing the very things they were praising God for – until they realized it was him… that was brutal, it would drain all the energy from him, and so he wants to escape, and tries…. But cannot.
And he sees people, and they are looking for hope. One of the other gospels has Jesus describe them as sheep without a shepherd.
And He sees us, and He can’t go on without us…so he sits on the hillside and has compassion and taught and heals us. That is what scripture says,
“14 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
As physically, emotionally and spiritually tired as he must have been, as filled with grief. He took time to meet people where they were.. were we are.. and give them more than a quick word, he gave them himself.
We Fall Short – but why?
Compare that to the apostles, After a day where Jesus met their needs, and the needs of these people and then scripture tells us,
15 That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” Matthew 14:15 (NLT2)
Now while they see the needs of the people, they don’t have the compassion that Jesus demonstrated—and they definitely weren’t will to give away their filet-ed fish sandwiches!
Whether it was a lack of belief that they could do anything, or simply that they didn’t want to, they wanted Jesus to close up shop, and tell them all to go home.
That is where they missed the mark, that is where they failed to care for their neighbor. It was where sin entered and they became more self-centered. “Tell them to get – lost – to go care for themselves—it doesn’t even matter that it’s already late and even the 7-11 and Denny’s will be closed by the time they get there!
We do the same thing at times – when we see people in need – and we decide not to help…or even to help them find help.
Can we help everyone? Probably not – but to ensure they find the help – we can.
That’s why Jesus says…”16 But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.” Matthew 14:16 (NLT2)
That brings them back to Jesus, for they have no where near the food they need!
That’s the point—with us—there isn’t enough to feed anyone—spiritually or physically – Jesus must supply it all – and He always pulls it together!
If we have compassion for people—if we see their needs and brokenness, our job isn’t to meet every need on our own but to bring them to where Jesus provides for them.
“Bring them here,” he said. 19 Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. 20 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. 21 About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!
We should know this – for His compassion is why we are here!
We can take that comfort and compassion and shown to us and pour it out on others, bringing them to Jesus, getting them to sit and take their rest, while God multiples whatever we have to help them.
Even it it’s a can of tuna fish and a bagel,
Or a piece of round bread, and a 10th of a sip of wine—that is, by His declaration – His body and blood!
That is necessary – getting them to realize they are in God’s presence, as it is necessary to help us know we are. That is what is required – and even was in the Old Testament, where Micah wrote,
8 No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (NLT2)
And if we are walking humbly with Him, that means this – that the Lord is with you! AMEN!
He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God 2 Cor. 1:4 GNT
I think we can say that most Christians have no clear end toward which they are striving.
The first and highest work of love a Christian ought to do when he has become a believer is to bring others also to believe in the way he himself came to believe. Here you notice Christ begins and institutes the office of the ministry of the external Word in every Christian; for he himself came with this office and the external Word.
Psalm 119:59 tells of a time of self-examination, a time where the Psalmist looked at his life and probably sight, stood up and began the journey again. It is a hard course of action to take, but one that we each need to do, and perhaps, need to do as congregations as well.
But 30-30 years after Tozer originally noted that we strive without a true direction, we still don’t find it. We get caught up on crusade after crusade. THe latest is to fignt human trafficking, prior to that there were battles on both sides of the CRT issue, and the LGTBQ issue, and this political issue and that one. It’s nothing new, I remember the church being directed to strive against rock & roll, promiscuity, divorce and greed growing up.
And in all of this, we’ve lost what it means to be the church, to have Jesus revealed to us, to believe, trust and depend on the work of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in our lives.
and then to share that work with those who need it. Which is everyone we encounter. That’s the basis of what Paul is telling the church in Corinth. We need to strive to maintain the hope given to us in the life, death, resurrection and eventual return of Jesus–and then we need to share that with all who are broken.
I need to do this, but so do you. Luther’s clear about this being the work of both those called to shepherd the church. and those who are the church.
This needs to be our focus, our life, this hope of being a relationship with our creator, who loves us.
To strive after anything else, to think spiritual warfare is about anything else, is vanity
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 255.
58 So then, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and steady. Keep busy always in your work for the Lord, since you know that nothing you do in the Lord’s service is ever useless. 1 Cor. 15:58 GNT
42 He remembered his sacred promise to Abraham his servant. 43 So he led his chosen people out, and they sang and shouted for joy. Ps 105:42–43.
My goals here are to suggest some of the ways in which priests can be pastors and vice versa, to sensitize my fellow pastors to the rich resources for pastoral care within the liturgical life of the church, and to show how insights and skills of the pastoral care disciplines can be of service in the continuing task of liturgical renewal.
Instead, readers will find fresh inspiration to take up again the Scriptures and the practices of the Christian tradition and find in them sufficient hope to finish the race that our Lord and Savior set before us. Hunter does not take us to a final destination, but he equips us for the journey.
As I come to the completion of my formal education at 58 years old, I wonder if the education has been worth it, or if my studies have just driven me mad. My advisor wants to know what academic research I will pursue or encourage next, and yet, I want to return to a focus that is simple, to remind people that God has not forgotten His promises to us, and for those people to then sing and shout for joy.
Not just the people at Concordia, but like Bishop Willimon wrote decades ago, to help pastors and priests see the resources now overlooked in worship. To see worship as not just a way to warm people up and prepare them to be taught, but that worship actively provides the pastor the chance to teach and care for them far deeper than out 15-30 minutes pontificating on some principle or some key to life.
They need to know Jesus, and the Liturgy that is drawn from the Scriptures is a great way to help them walk with Him. (read chapters 2-4 of my dissertation if you doubt me!) These practices weren’t randomly generated by an AI, they came down to us from men who saw their benefit, who compiled them with purpose–that the people of God would experience Christ, from the incarnation through His teaching, His death, His resurrection, through their lives, as they wait for the Second coming.
Is Liturgy the only tool in the toolbox? Is worship the only way to walk with Christ? No, but if the Liturgy is done well… then it can provide a foundation, a place to work from for the entire church. Therefore it is worth the effort, it is worth learning to savor its words like fine bacon wrapped shrimp (or whatever your favorite food is). To live the liturgy in such a way that others hunger for what it is the pipeline for, Jesus, and the grace given to those who depend on Him.
That was what Willimon saw back in the 80’s, and what Bishop Todd Hunter’s new book is supposed to provide. I can recommend both, and a few others, or maybe let me take you out for tea or coffee, and lets’ talk this through…
Lord Jesus, help us to see You as we are gathered with others, that as You are revealed – our soul, our heart and our minds find peace, and joy, and learn to praise You for what You’ve given us…as promised! Amen!
William H. Willimon, Worship as Pastoral Care (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1982).
Esau McCaulley, Foreward, Hunter, Todd D.. What Jesus Intended (p. 3). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
The Kingdom of God is like
Sewing a Quilt
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain us, as we share His word, and look to see what He produces!
A Needed Parker Parable
- I have a question to start this message off.
How many of you tilled 10 acres of land and planted seed in the last 3 months?
Maybe a follow up – how many of you are going to go harvest an acre of tomato plants? Jim, do you have a couple of trucks filled with your cucumbers for us all to share in?
SO maybe I need to use a slightly different illustration to help us understand this passage abut the rain washing down the ground and causing the seed that is sown to grow and provide that which is needed.
So a pastor parker poignant parable…. And I will do a play on words, and instead of comparing the Kingdom of God to sowing seed, we will see that the Kingdom of God is like sewing a quilt…
We might not know much about sowing fields, but most of us have seen the incredible quilts that are made with love and care, and receiving one has a lot to do with receiving the blessings of Christ Jesus.
- The Benefit of what is sown v.11-13
10 The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. 11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
When God sends the rain, or the sower sows seed, or a lady (or maybe a guy) sews together a quilt, and most definitely when the message of Jesus’ love and forgiveness is shared, there is a purpose, and a person/people who are to be blessed by the creation.
The quilt isn’t just made to toss into a closet somewhere; it has the care and work put into it, even if the recipient isn’t well known to the maker.
In the same way, even the rain, and the seed is worked into the purpose of God—to provide, not just what people want, but what they need. It is amazing to me that Isaiah would write this, not knowing fully what God meant by the word, “Word”.
He’s talking, not just about the scriptures, but Jesus, and the work He would do as He was born, taught and healed, died for you, rose with you, and ascended into heaven until he comes back for us.
Going back to the idea of the quilt in the closet, these things are provided because of need. And we need what Jesus would provide.
Freedom from guilt and shame, that’s surely part of it. Healing for the broken part of our lives. Healing for relationships shattered by sin, and the restoration of the most important relationship we have—the relationship with the One who sends the rain, who provides the seed, the bread, and the life. Just as those who receive a quilt find a special connection with the ones who made it.
There is a relationship that is sewn together, just like the panels of the quilt, according to a pattern that was long provided, just as God planned for Christ to come and dwell in us
- It’s more about the warmth and comfort than just the beauty!
Isaiah described the nature of this plan, with these words,
12 You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! 13 Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up. These events will bring great honor to the LORD’s name; they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”
Both at this church, and in Anza, I saw groups make a bunch of quilts. Those crafting them, and even praying for the people who would receive knew the joy of the work, even as, on occasion, things didn’t fit together just the way they wanted.
But there would be even more joy, when I visited the people who received them, and they had them on their laps, or around the shoulders. Even when it was hot in their living room or hospital room, the quilt was there.
You see, quilts are beautiful and they are warm, but that isn’t the reason they are special. It is the comfort they give, knowing someone cared enough to invest their time and energy and probably a decent bit of money, into making one, for you. Or for someone you love.
It is the same thing – the reason Christ means so much to us, is because God the Father invested Jesus’ entire life – from Birth to the cross, to even now, as He intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father,
And He invests the Holy Spirit in us as well.
Remember Isaiah talked about the rain that pours out? Similar language is used about the Spirit,
5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” Titus 3:5-7 (NLT2)
Or to keep more in line with the parable, 27 And when you were baptized, it was as though you had put on Christ in the same way you put on new clothes. Galatians 3:27 (CEV)
Or wrapped yourself in a quilt, surrounding yourself in the comfort that comes from knowing that since your baptism, you have dwelt righteously in Him.
I envy those who are dead and gone; they are better off than those who are still alive. Ecclesiastes 4:2 GNT
19 If our hope in Christ is good for this life only and no more, then we deserve more pity than anyone else in all the world. 1 Corinthians 15:19 GNT
753 When you pray, but see nothing, and feel flustered and dry, then the way is this: don’t think of yourself. Instead, turn your eyes to the Passion of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Be convinced that he is asking each one of us, as he asked those three more intimate Apostles of his in the Garden of Olives, to “Watch and pray”.
To this you have been invited, now is the time to come, now the supper is ready. Your Lord Jesus Christ is already born, has died and risen again, therefore do not remain away any longer, accept your promised treasure with joy, come to the table, eat and be happy.
I think we need to go through days as Solomon did, at least the kind of days that cause writing so full of darkness and despair.
I hate those days, as I can easily echo Solomon’s jealousy of those who have gotten to pass through this life and are now awaiting Judgment Day in the presence of God. MY mind comes back to the promise of what is waiting for us there – that the glory of God is more than we’ve ever seen, heard, or can imagine. (1 Cor. 2:9) So I long for that day, even as I grieve fro the broken world that surrounds me, and ingrained in me.
St. Josemaria must have had those days as well, for he could not describe the flustered, dry feeling that can occur when praying. WHen words are beyond you, because you don’t know how to pray, and you even wonder whether God is listening! (Or even worse, if he is playing a Jeremiah 20:7/Job idea on us!)
But we have to go through those “dark nights of the soul”, as one writer called them.
St. Josemaria’s advice is clear – look to Jesus, and see His dark night – that He chose to embrace for us. He knows the emptiness, the vanity of it all, for He experienced it – and was able to focus on the joy of rescuing and redeeming you and me! This is what Solomon would eventually remember – this relationship with God, but he had to process the vanity, the hopelessness of life without God, even as we have to remember that emptiness.
TH\hat is why the Apostle Paul reminds us of eternity and that our hope goes far beyond this life, far beyond this life’s dark times. If that was all there was, so go eat and drink into oblivion. And piuty those who use religion as a outlet for despair. Jesus died and rose so we don’t have to live without hope, but we can have hope ever while we are despairing of life.
This is why Luther, who knew some dark nights and a lot of futility, became so excited when considering the Lord’s Supper, and the feast that it anticipated. To be invited as a guest of honro, to share in Christ Jesus, to know His presence, love, mercy as we take and eat His body, as we drink His blood–knowing it is the price of our relationship being renewed. This is a moment of incredible, overwhelming joy.
Even in the midst of this life… and its brokenness, we enter into that time where all is set aside, but Jesus.
God is inviting you.. so come to church tomorrow, and know the joy of knowing God is with you now… but has something awaiting you that the Apostle Paul describes this way, “9 “What God has planned for people who love him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard. It has never even entered our minds!”” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (CEV)
Come, celebrate with us, or if too far away, find a church that will provide for you the feast of Jesus…
Escrivá, Josemaría. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 252.
Who Am I?
† In Jesus Name †
May the love of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ help you realize who you are…in Christ.
- Paul hits hard…
When I read stuff by the Apostle Paul that I don’t like, I remember the words of the Apostle Peter about Paul:
Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction. 2 Peter 3:16 (NLT2)
And I agree, some words of Paul take a lot of thought, something I don’t want to invest.
I will admit, I want to apply those words of Peter’s to some of the clearest words of Paul, like where he says,
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Romans 12:14 (NLT2)
Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. Titus 3:1 (NLT2)
Unfortunately, there is nothing hard to understand about those two passages, and really, there is nothing hard to understand about today’s passage either.
“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” Romans 7:18-19
This bothers the heck out of Paul, ever after talking about the glorious truth that we died with Christ, and because, praise God, He is Risen, we are risen indeed. It bothers the heck out of me as well, because it is true, and I understand why Paul felt like a wretch!
Too bad Peter wasn’t right about this!
- Ergon versus Poieo
It gets even worse when you look at it in Greek.
You see, when Paul is talking about desiring, not just wanting, but to desire to “do” what is right, he uses the word we get “ergonomics” from—simply work that we do, even without thought. Paul wants to do what is right like he breathes—to simply do it.
And he cannot.
But when he talks about doing what he does instead, doing what is wrong, what is contrary to the plan and order of God – he uses a different word—the word we get poetry and poem for—a word that means to artistically craft something, putting effort and imagination into it.
So Paul wants to do what is holy and right automatically, just because of being alive, and he puts a ton of effort into his sin, planning, executing and defending it.
Thank God that none of us are like the Apostle Paul! (let the sarcasm drip like water flowing over Niagara Falls)
This is where John Newton, when he wrote Amazing Grace, found the line he adapted to describe himself—“that saved a wretch like me!” Here the translators went with “what a miserable person I am,”. How much we suffer, both because of the consequences of our sin, and when we realize we sin and we get down on ourselves, as Paul is doing here. The word picture for this feeling is even darker.
- Your living conditions!
You see, Paul talks about living with sin, and being a slave to it. The word picture is that sin, makes its home with you. It dwells incredibly close to you. It is that body of death Paul wants to be delivered from…
Back in Paul’s day, you literally had to live with your sin and the consequences of your sin. If Bob killed me, the Emperor could and order me to be tied to Bob for the rest of Bob’s life, or until all my body parts fell off. Imagine Bob inviting you over for steaks, about 3 months after that sentence. Wouldn’t be a pretty sight to see, or to smell!
That is what Paul is talking about, when he asks who will deliver him from the body of death tied to him.
But that is where this principle of life comes in. Let me read the first two verses of Chapter 8 again,
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Here is our answer, if God declares you are not condemned, that body of death that is sin cannot be attached to us.
This is the greatest statement about you that has ever been made. It defines you as one of God’s precious children,
That body of death, the sin that you live with, it is gone.
Was it there? Yes
Did it create a war inside your very soul? Yes
Did it cause guilt and shame? Yes
Did it win? No
You have been freed from it, you are welcome in the holy, glorious presence of God because you belong there, for you belong to Jesus, and you find life, not with sin strapped to your back, not with it making its home in your life… but you finding your life is in Jesus.
The reality of our struggle with sin is that we need to realize Jesus killed off the sinful part of us, that He has freed us from the guilt and shame.
In the last two weeks, Bob has pointed us to the altar and the blessing of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. I would point us to the third sacrament in Lutheran theology… hearing that the power of sin and death, and the grip it has on you has been shattered in your baptism, and confessing it and hearing you are forgiven, for you dwell in Jesus, bring you to the table of the Lord.
You are free, you are forgiven,
For you dwell in Jesus, because the Spirit has given you life. Not because, as the song said of what you’ve done, but because of who you am, in Christ. AMEN!
For those interested in the pushishment refered to, here is one citation. There is also a reference in one or Virgil’s poems to the concept for an older source. It is graphic… but powerful things often are!
Who will rescue me from this body of death?
This is a reference to the Roman method of punishment in which the body of the murdered person was chained to the murderer. The murderer was then released to wander where he might, but no one was allowed to help or comfort him upon penalty of suffering the same punishment. In the hot Eastern sun the dead body would soon begin to decay, overwhelming the sentenced person not only with the smell but also with infection from the rotting flesh. It was perhaps the most horrible of all sentences that the imaginary Romans ever devised. To Paul our putrefying body of sinful flesh is like this, and only Christ can rescue us from it.
James M. Freeman and Harold J. Chadwick, Manners & Customs of the Bible (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), 537.
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to the Cross
So then, my brothers and sisters, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:1-2 GNT
Those who have been cast down in terror should not despair, or flee before God, but rise again and be comforted in God. God wishes to have it preached and published that he never lays his hand upon us in order that we may perish and be damned. But he must pursue this course to lead us to repentance, else we would never inquire about his Word and will. If we seek his grace, he is ready to help us up again, to grant us forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit and eternal life.
Oh, if we would only stop trying to make the Holy Spirit our servant and begin to live in His life as the fish lives in the sea, we would enter into the riches of glory about which we know nothing now. Too many of us want the Holy Spirit in order to have some gift—healing or tongues or preaching or prophecy.
Yes, these have their place in that total pattern of the New Testament, but let us never pray that we may be filled with the Spirit for a secondary purpose!
Remember, God wants to fill you with His Spirit as an end in your moral life. God’s purpose is that we should know Him first of all, and be lost in Him; and that we should enter into the fullness of the Spirit that the eternal Son, Jesus Christ, may be glorified in us!
In WEB Griffin’s masterpiece about the US Army, and officer responds to a question about a combat decision with, “I regret it was necessary”. The phrase always stuck in my mind. I can’t even remember when Captain Parker (that name stuck in my mind) said it, or in which book it was said.
It came to mind while reading Luther’s quote this morning, as I think God thinks something like that every time He has to discipline us, whether individually, as a community, as the world. Does God enjoy it? Never! Even for the wicked who die in bondage to their sin God weeps over. Its not His plan, and He works through His people, through the word and sacraments they share, to constantly to lift up those who realize how broken they are.
This is what St. Paul is describing to the church in Rome, encouraging people to stop fighting God, to simply let Him transform them into the image of Christ – as He planned. This will be uncomfortable at times, it will be disappointing at other times, but you cannot reshape and repurpose something without some changes being made. Embrace those changes!
The changes are necessary, completely necessary–even if we regret that they are needed.
That is where Tozer’s quote comes in, as too often people come to God with their own agendas. In this case it is referring to charismatics, but it is applicable to all who claim to follow God. It isn’t about the gifts, the theology, the worship style, about our pleasure (because we are living sacrifices) it is completely about being lost in Christ, having the Holy Spirit envelop us, knowing God in all His glory.
That is what this religion called Christianity is all about – nothing less than this…
The Lord is with you!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL:
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008). Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 229–230.
20 You have nothing to do with corrupt judges, who make injustice legal, 21 who plot against good people and sentence the innocent to death. Ps 94:20-21 GNT
Yet popular Christianity has as one of its most effective talking points the idea that God exists to help people to get ahead in this world! The God of the poor has become the God of an affluent society. We hear that Christ no longer refuses to be a judge or a divider between money-hungry brothers. He can now be persuaded to assist the brother that has accepted Him to get the better of the brother who has not!
Too often, individuals and organizations look to get the best deal. How can their actions benefit themselves, or the group that they owe allegiance too. Even within orgranizations, there is competition between divisions and departments. It exists in churches and denominations as well. We want ours to get what it needs, even at the cost of others. Even if it means they shut down.
There is a name for this in scripture,
We can justify it all we want, but covetousness is contagious. It starts out small, like the man who tells the pastor that he doesn’t care what happens to the church – as long as it is their to do his and his wife’s funerals. There is little care for the people around him. It then extends out to churches and denominationals that see other churches as places to prey on – and so welcome and recruit people from other churches, offering them “more” of this, and ‘more” of that–to meet their perceived needs. It can go on, to people pushing agendas that prey on needed ministries to fund those agendas.
THis isn’t new, Tozer’s words acknowledge it 30 years ago.
You see it in the scriptures as well, as people go against the work of Ezra and Nehemiah, as the Kinsman passes his right to Boaz (who gets to slap him in the face with a sandle!) so his son gets the full inheritance. In the apostles who are jealous of others ministering in Jesus’ name.
Here is the option.
The word cHesed in Hebrew, often translated as love, loving-kindness, has the sense of loving loyalty. It is the word used in conjunction with a covenant, to express the attitude that one should do everything in their power, not only to keep their end of the covenant, but to help the other party keep their end of it.
Even if it means death.
This is what compelled Jesus to die on the cross, the promise ot help mankind receive all the promises made to Adam, and to Abraham, and the promises given to all naitons through Moses.
This is the heart of the matter in Luther’s understanding of the 7th commandment as well. In explaining it to dads, so they can explain it to their children, Luther wrote, “but help him to improve and protect his income and property.”
To do otherwise is to disobey God by stealing from one’s neighbor.
But when we do help them, when we invest in them, when we strive on thier behalf, we see God at work in them and we see God’s blessings upon them, and we get to share in their joy.
Is such easy? no!
Is such perhaps met with suspicion and reluctance? yeah… because of past history.
Is it worth it? Was it worth it to Christ.
Our being in Covenant with God means we are in covenant with all of mankind, and so cHesed – this loyalty/love/kindness compels us to these kinds of actions. May we welcome such compulsion, and turn our back on coveting that which God gave to someone else.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Martin Luther, “The Small Catechism: The Ten Commandments”, Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 343.
Thoughts that draw me to Jesus, and to the cross:j
They sang the LORD’s praises, repeating the refrain:
“The LORD is good, and his love for Israel is eternal.”
Everyone shouted with all his might, praising the LORD, because the work on the foundation of the Temple had been started. 12Many of the older priests, Levites, and heads of clans had seen the first Temple, and as they watched the foundation of this Temple being laid, they cried and wailed. But the others who were there shouted for joy. 13No one could distinguish between the joyful shouts and the crying, because the noise they made was so loud that it could be heard far and wide. Ezra 3:11-13 GNT
To experience anguish on account of the punishment of sin is not real repentance. Staupitz calls it “gallows repentance” (Galgenrew, attritio). True repentance is created by a contemplation of the vicarious sufferings of Christ for our sins. The love of God as revealed in these sufferings of the Savior kindles in our hearts a love for Him and a true sorrow over sin and all that is displeasing to Him.
This mroning Facebook in its wisdom showed me pictures from 44 years ago, the pictures of friends when we were all in Junior High School. My immediate reaction was I wish I could transport back to those days, because life was so much more simpler and joyful back then.
Well, it wasn’t. I got into serious fights with George, and a girl crushed my heart, telling me she would be my girlfriend one night – then changing her mind before school the next morning! My friends and I did things that should have gotten us into trouble. (are the statutes of limitations passed? There was stress… and lots of it. God was surely with me then, butHe is surely with me now.
Thden I came across the Bible passage of rebuilding the Temple and the reading about Martin Luther’s mentor/confessor, Staupitz, and I had to think for a while to see a correctation. There is one, and it has to do with what I did…. looking back at the past.
The elders in Ezra remembered the glory of the Temple Solomon built, something that could never be matched. THey also knew – for they wrote about to to Empoeror Darius, that it was their sin that caused God to no longer protect the Temple, or the people. Betweent he romantic remembrance of the good old days, and the knowledge the actions of their people lost it, the wailing was huge.
It was like Staupitz’s “gallows repentance.” They were “repentant” because of what their sin cost them. Their sorrow caused the desire for a transformation, for soemthing new to occur.
The people who were younger, who didn’t know the old Temple were free to see what God was doing for them in the present. How God arranged to rebuild the Temple – how He was providing, according to the promises made to Hezekiah and Isaiah and others. The transformation in them was because of what they saw God doing-the building of a place where they could fellowship with God, a place they could come and pray, a place where they could experience forgiveness.
SO bring that forward to today, to the people and pastors who grieve that church isn’t as full as it used to be. They don’t know who to blame, (or perhaps they do!) But things aren’t the wya they were…. and someone has to be to blame. But it just doesn’t seem right anymore, and then the search begins for what will restore the church, or who wreck it.
Perhaps we need to look to the present, and see what God is doing, and what He’s restoring. Focus in on the minsitry, through word and sacrament, and rejoice in their being restored. That is why churches and altars are put in places, in the first place – for the ministry that occurs through the people God, to people the Spirit is drawing to that place to be the church.
Rejoice, the Lord is with you!f
Uuras Saarnivaara, Luther Discovers the Gospel: New Light upon Luther’s Way from Medieval Catholicism to Evangelical Faith (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), 23.