Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.2 “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”3“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,”Jesus answered.“This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.4We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.The night is coming, and then no one can work.5But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:1-5 (NLT2)
But some may say, “It is my complaint that my sufferings cannot be compared with the sufferings of the saints. I am a sinner and do not deserve to be compared with them. They suffered for their innocence, but I suffer for my sins. Little wonder that they bore everything so blithely!” That is a very stupid statement. If you suffer because of your sins, then you ought to rejoice that you are being purged of your sins. Then, too, were not the saints also sinners?
During my life, I have noticed that after disasters and major challenges, some groups come out and blame the trauma on the fact that someone has sinned. They blindly say this epidemic or that earthquake, or whatever tragedy is because of this groups’ sin.
Glad I haven’t seen that so far… I really don’t want to get that angry.
But it is a question that has been asked before. While I wouldn’t call it stupid the way Luther did, it does show a lack of knowledge about God., about His love for you and the incredible depth of His mercy. These things aren’t new, the love and mercy is gloriously rampant throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament.
God doesn’t punish this group of sinners less than that group. For all have sinned – we see that in the world, and of course scripture acknowledges it. Even the “heroes” and holy prophets did. They had their time of weakness, scripture has no problem showing us that!
But even in the midst of our suffering, we can see God at work, using the moment to bring us back, to cleanse us of our sin, to reveal to us again that we are saints, that we are the people He is healing who have been broken by sin, even shattered by it. Yet God can and does put us back together.
The power of God seen in us… healing our brokenness, while using us to help heal others.
What a glorious thing!
Lord, help us just look to you! Help us to depend on Your love and mercy. Help us to rejoice in Your glorious work that is revealed in our lives, even during this time of pandemic. We pray this in the Namr of the Father, and of the Son † and of the Holy Spirit! Amen!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 140.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
David sneaked over and cut off a small piecen of Saul’s robe, but Saul didn’t notice a thing. 5 Afterwards, David was sorry that he had even done that, †7 and he told his men, “Stop talking foolishly. We’re not going to attack Saul. He’s my king, and I pray that the LORD will keep me from doing anything to harm his chosen king.” 1 Sam. 24:4-7 CEV
One may do more mighty works, and may bring more glory to his Father, but he whose name is the least in the kingdom of heaven is as much the child of God as he who stands among the King’s mighty men. Let this cheer and comfort us, when we draw near to God and say, “Our Father.”
Yet, while we are comforted by knowing this, let us not rest contented with weak faith, but ask, like the Apostles, to have it increased. However feeble our faith may be, if it be real faith in Christ, we shall reach heaven at last, but we shall not honour our Master much on our pilgrimage, neither shall we abound in joy and peace.
Of all the things King David did in his life that demonstrate trust in God, there are two that stick out as incredible.
Twice he had the opportunity to kill the man who was hunting him down, who was stalking him. He could have killed him right there, and the nation would have never batted an eye.
He didn’t though, and he demonstrated the kind of faith we need in this time, a faith that can obey God, even when disobeying would make life easier, or less worrisome. Faith that isn’t content with self-preservation, but trusts God when we are oppressed, when we are struggling, and when we are being tempted
Spurgeon is right of course, that those who are weak in faith, yet still have it, will find themselves in heaven, but the earth will be more like hell. Anxieties and self-preservation will lead to temptations which will lead to the brokenness of sin.
Yet trusting God, hearing His voice as He cleanses us of all sin and shows us how to truly love others, is what faith is all about. It sets aside our fears, knowing that God is bigger than what our minds imagine.
He is with us… and His love inspires and empowers our ability to love more than seek after our own needs and preservation.
even in the presence of those who think they are our enemies…
God is with you and loves you….
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT2)
Raise magnificent buildings? Construct sumptuous palaces? Let others raise them. Let others construct them. Souls! Let us give life to souls—for those buildings and for those palaces! What fine dwellings are being prepared for us!
There is a balance to life, especially a religious life.
It is hard not to worry about the food we will eat this week or next. It is hard not to see the pictures of the lines. It is hard not to try and make large plans, and make decisions that affect our people. It seems every other day that the government is changing what restrictions are out there, and foreseeing the impact on our people is hard.
As I get to work, my instinct is to lay aside my devotions, to get right to work. There is so much to do, so many people to talk to, care for, so many different things to consider, how do I have time for 30-45 minutes (or preferably 75-90 to catch my breath and remember I dwell in God’s presence?
My devotional readings this morning were kind of bland.. which didn’t help. I didn’t see anything much to think through that was applicable to my day until I got to St. Josemaria.
Soul care! What German Lutherans call seel-sorge – this is our calling as the church. Making sure our people are looking to God – realizing that even now, we still need ot seek Him, and lay our burdens down. Then take the guidance He offers, and go about our lives, assured of His peace.
So I will let those who make the decisions, make the decisions. I will care for those who come to me and go to the ones who are mine. I will point them to Jesus, and find ways to help.
God is with us, and the peace that news brings gives us the ability to live, and love those around us.
Seek Jesus first!
It will make a difference.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Encounter God… in the Midst of Sin?
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to know He ill always provide for you.
Where are you?
In the series we are starting today, we are going to look at a number of people who encountered God in scripture. Each one is different, each has a story to tell, a story that many of us will relate to, stories we can learn from, which will cause us to grow in our faith, that will help us to depend on God longer.
Just as these people did, many of them the hard way.
Just like us!
So we start with Adam and Eve.
Where it all started! Or perhaps one may say ended.
The encounter we are looking at is probably the scariest encounter with God that could exist.
And it is one of the best that you can have, prior to judgment day.
I’m not going to rehash Adam and Even’s sin, most of us know the story, and they acted like most people. You tell them not to doo something, and they do it.
Well, most people except Tom and Chuck. They always do what they are told to do…
That is assuming they hear it.
So let’s start with the question God asks,
WHERE ARE YOU!!!
Adam, Eve? Where are you?
Are you over here??? No. What about here??? No… Hmmm, I wonder where they are!
Some people I know think that God is outraged, furious, storming all over the place.
I think this worked out more like a very concerned parent, but one that wants to care for His children.
He knows exactly where they are. He knows what they’ve done, and that they are scared, that they feel guilty, they are buried in shame, and they even know what it means to be ashamed.
And He cries out with the care and compassion that is appropriate for God who is love,
Adam, Eve, where are you!?!?!
Every sermon I have written or heard on this passage focuses on what Adam and Even have done, and sometimes takes a theological side trip talking about who is to blame. But I think we need to look closer to God’s action.
First, He goes after them
Then, He gets to the basic issue, patiently brushing aside the blame game.
You ate… yes?
uh..uh.. yeah, but…
And what did you do,…
Uhh.. yeah I did, but I was deceived…
Despite their “explanations”, despite their trying to minimize what they did, despite all of their fears and anxieties, They knew the punishment now, and the idea of death was no longer a stranger. I would like to say I don’t know what they are going through, but been there, hiding from God.
Waiting for Him to tell me I was completely lost… completely beyond His forgiveness, beyond His love.
And as God shares the complications they invited into their own lives, the curses they chose, Includes something else.
What Luther called the first gospel ever preached, and it was preached at the Devil, “And I will cause hostility between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel”
By the way, that is why you see a snake in many of the old pictures of the crucifixion, for that is where Jesus crushes that snake, Satan.
And then, there is the second prophecy,
21 And the LORD God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.
The LORD God kills something, to cover the sins, that should have resulted in His killing Adam and Eve. He provides what is needed, and though there are consequences, the result is that they are still His children, they are still the ones He loves, that He will always care form that He always has…
So where are you?
So now I have a question, well, I don’t,
Here Him asking you “Where are you?”
Where are you?
What have YOU done?
Don’t worry about excuses, don’t worry about the name game,
Just respond, and hear this,
14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 13:14 (NLT2)
Does that sound familiar? God clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins. Animals had to die in order for the guilt and shame to be taken away.
He’s done the same thing with Jesus. He died for one purpose, to ensure that the Father doesn’t have to cry out, “where are you?
And can instead cry out, “I love you!”
No longer do we have to hide, for we are beginning to know His love and compassion will find us, and the promise of forgiveness applied, even more surely than the promise was made and forgiveness applied to Adam and Eve.
This is what it means when we say in a couple of weeks, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!”
O wait, we aren’t supposed to say that… yet.
We need to hear it.
For sometimes still think we need to hide, sometimes we still think that guilt and shame are the norms.
No more my friends, for we have, in the midst of our sin, encountered a God who wouldn’t let us hide anymore!
He’s been calling, and the best thing you can do is listen, and hear Him say, I love you!
Then, as He carefully deals with your sin, you will realize this is one of the best encounters you will ever have in this life…
and His peace, a peace beyond comparison, a peace beyond all logic, will replace the guilt and shame… and you will realize you always have dwelt in His presence. AMEN!
Don’t Just Pretend
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so strengthen your dependence on them, that you no longer have to pretend…
Bill, as you and your people struggle with what I preach today, remember you asked me to do this
I need to clarify something.
This isn’t your service. It is not about you!
Just like your wedding wasn’t about you!
This ordination is about the church, and their relationship to God, which you are to constantly reveal to them in all of its glory, in all its wonder. It is about the comfort and peace that accompanies the love of God, that you simply serve up and remind them of, with the words you speak, and the sacraments you administer.
It does include you, as a member of the church, but an ordination as Greg Seltz use to say, is about the church, the pastor and the people. Not just the pastor, not just the people, but together gathered into God’s presence you all are the church.
I asked you to extend the epistle reading a little, so I can talk about you all.
Let me read the last part of the last verse. “Don’t think you know it all!”
That’s a pretty strong challenge for a guy who spent his career working with doctors because as a nurse, you often did.
But I am not preaching about that today. Go back a few verses and it says this.
There is your mission.
Don’t pretend to love others, really love them.
When you people get frustrated because you’ve heard Pastor Abbott tell the same joke for the 65th straight week – really love him, don’t just pretend to love him.
Bill, when you get that 2 am phone call, from someone in the community that is having a crisis, in their opinion, love them, don’t just pretend to love them.
This is hard, because every person in this room, including every one of the pastors, has pretended to love others in the church a time or two.
You need to have genuine affection for each other, delighting in honoring each other. This is all part of what it means to present yourself as a living sacrifice. It’s not just about the gifts, it is about using them to love each other, to love those in the community, even those we don’t like, or those we are stunned by what they do, or have done.
This is your mission, this is what changes evangelistic efforts from arguing people into the faith, into walking beside them as they struggle through life. You see this as we laugh together and cry together. This is what means to live in harmony with each other.
Not pretend harmony, real harmony…
Bill part of your job will be preaching in such a way as to encourage this. Even when that preaching and pastoral care means you unveil the pretending. Not easy.
Church, that means you have to hold my friend to do that. Encourage Him to lovingly deal with your sin, by doing the same with Him. I’ve got a couple of elders and two or three members that do that. It is a pain in the butt, but it tells me how much they love me, and how much they value me as their pastor.
Real love makes a difference, and it allows you to minister to those you didn’t think it was possible to minister to, as well. For love sees their brokenness, and as you realize God is healing yours, you begin to desire that for them.
Tony Campolo has a great example of this, among his stories. He was in Hawaii to preach at a special gathering of pastors. Arriving in town a few days early, he couldn’t get used to the time change, and found himself in a 24 restaurant, working on his message.
About 4 a.m. a bunch of street-level prostitutes walked in, their “shift” done. Tony listened to their banter, their talk. One said she had to get home to her sick mom, and one of her friends told her to enjoy her birthday. She bitterly laughed as she walked out..
Tony had an idea. He went over and talked to the ladies, suggesting that they throw their friend a party the next night/morning. He arranged to go shopping with them later, buying stuff to decorate the diner. The husband and wife team that ran the diner said they would provide cake and drinks, and at 4 o’clock the next morning, the lady had a real birthday party. And tears of joy were shed because she knew she was loved. There is more to the story, but the part I like was when the cook found out Tony was a preacher.
“What kind of preacher throws a party for a whore at 4 am? I want to find a pastor and church that would do that!”
Well, that is what really loving someone is about. Not pretending.
When your church loves the supposedly unlovable, then Bill, you will know God has done what He promises through you.
How will that happen? Correct them when necessary. Absolve them when they confess, make them know God loves them more than he hates their sin. That is what it means to preach the word. That is what Law gospel is all about! It’s not easy. Most will want you to preach about other’s sins, those committed by people in Washington, or California or Vegas.
Still preach about where God needs to help them repent.
As important, help them see what happens at the altar as a celebration, a party God throws, a celebration of the new birth when they became His people. Here it is that they begin to understand that God doesn’t pretend to love them, that he has genuine affection for them.
Here it is that the Holy Spirit transforms them, as their eyes are on Jesus as Paul describes.
This is how you see them change, and how you yourself change Bill.
Not by your logic, or the strength of your personality. That might have worked with doctors, and you might think it works with Sonja. But change in the church always happens when the people of God know they are in the presence of God.
Bring them there, let God teach them and empower them to love, as He loves them! He gives them the Body and Blood of Christ, as He forgives their sins, as He tells them what the prodigal hear.
My child, you were dead, and now you are alive! You were lost, and now are found!
And as they realize this, the party begins…and love becomes what the church is known for…and for the peace that goes beyond logic… and is there in the midst of trauma.
When that happens, you will rejoice in the work God has done through the church, through the pastor and people together.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
“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 Cor. 2:9 CEV
When Gideon looked, the angel was gone. 22 Gideon realized that he had seen one of the LORD’s angels. “Oh!” he moaned. “Now I’m going to die.” “Calm down!” the LORD told Gideon. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. You’re not going to die.” Gideon built an altar for worshiping the LORD and called it “The LORD Calms Our Fears.” Judges 6:21-24 CEV
Even the atheistic philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said, “There comes a time when you say even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, ‘Is that all there is?’ ” How can we understand anything of Heaven if there is nothing at all on earth to compare it to, nothing heavenly, nothing that never gets boring? Thus either Heaven is boring, or something on earth is not boring, or nothing on earth is like Heaven.
There are two parts to the answer: first, that everything on earth except agape is meant to be boring; and second, that agape is not.
So let us take up this problem: genuine art is “esoteric in the best sense”, say Rahner and Vorgrimler; liturgy is simple; it must be possible for everyone, particularly the simple, to participate. Can liturgy accommodate real church music? Does it in fact demand it, or does it exclude it? In looking for an answer to these questions, we will not find much help in our theological inheritance. It seems that relations between theology and church music have always been somewhat cool.
As I read Kreeft’s words in scripture today, I was amazed by their accuracy. We don’t understand heaven, we can’t conceive of it, even as the Apostle Paul says in the first quote.
I remember a professor quoting one of the early revivalists who said if he could give people a minute of hell, he would never have to convince them to repent. My sarcastic comment was, “but what if we could give them a glance of heaven?”
Sarcastically said then, but I’ve thought of the wisdom of it – how can we give people a taste of heaven? How can we help them know the joys of which we should sing? That which is “beyond” theology, that which defies our explanation?
How can we show them the holiness, the glory, the pure love that we will experience in heaven? How can we help them experience love beyond love, as radical as the day is from the darkest, stormiest night?
The church’s liturgy aims to do so, revealing the love of God as we celebrate our forgiveness, the Lord dwelling among us, the actions He takes to bless and transform us into His holy people, and the feast of the broken bread and the wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus. The feast that celebrates the love, the feast that opens, for a few moments, a view for our souls of heaven.
I love the story of Gideon, especially the verses above. Here he is, somehow missing the miracles the Angel did, then realizing afterward the significance of being in the presence of a holy messenger. He starts to freak out, the anxiety builds as he realizes his own sin and inadequacy. His glimpse of something holy, someone from heaven, causes enormous fear.
Then the Lord God tells him to chill.
Wait – where was he?
God does speak to us still, just as He did to Gideon. One of the ways that should happen is in our church’s gathering. Even as we receive the message we will struggle with, that kills oof our sinful self, and raises us to life with the crucified Christ. Even as we struggle with that, the Lord comes to us in His feast and tells us, don’t fear, I am with you…
That is why we have a dilemma about the art of leading liturgy and the art of leading songs and hymns that accompany it. The use of the term “art” makes us think it is a showcase for the best o our talents. It isn’t!
What the art is, is not found in the musician’s talent, or the pastor, in the charisma. It is found in the communion, the communication of revealing to people they dwell in the presence of God, and helping them to hear His voice. Therein is the art, there is our target, the goal we strive for, there is our art.
There is our joy as well, for the connection is undeniable, and beautiful beyond words, as people come to know they are loved… as they feast with the Lord, knowing the joy that only comes from knowing you are loved.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 88.
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 100.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Jabin’s army had nine hundred iron chariots, and for twenty years he made life miserable for the Israelites, until finally they begged the LORD for help. Judges 4:3 CEV
Jesus told the people another story:
What will a woman do if she has ten silver coins and loses one of them? Won’t she light a lamp, sweep the floor, and look carefully until she finds it? 9 Then she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, “Let’s celebrate! I’ve found the coin I lost.”
10 Jesus said, “In the same way God’s angels are happy when even one person turns to him.” Luke 15:8-10
790 Don’t you long to shout to those youths who are bustling around you: Fools! Leave those worldly things that shackle the heart and very often degrade it…. Leave all that and come with us in search of Love!
I see the scenario played out in Judges all the time. People who need help, who refuse to ask for it from God. They go years, even decades without praying about things, without looking to God from whom all help must come.
We struggle along, depressed, moaning about the brokenness we have to endure. Despising our own weakness, and yet, for some reason, unable to cry out for help.
We forget all the illustrations of God, who like the woman, search diligently for the coin. (Think one worth $500) Or we think it is about us, trying to find the answer we cannot provide. We think we have to get to God!
We struggle with the fact that we have ot deal with this sin, or that anxiety, this problem, that temptation, and then we can walk into God’s presence.
I want to struggle with St. Josemaria, “Fools! (myself included) drop all that stuff that is crushing you! look – a cross! You are loved! I am loved. (Josemaria knows it is not a hard or long search – for God is the one searching us out, even as He did Adam and Eve!)
For only in that place, where we are stunned by His love, can we see Him at work in our lives, and in this broken world! We need to start our days there, we need to start over and over again there, in the place where we find life. We need to run there when things are broken.
In Christ! Living out what the sacraments help us experience – the incredibly, intimate, love of God for you and I, revealed in all that is Jesus Christ!
Lord, in the midst of our brokenness, help us redefine life based on this simple truth. You love us more than we can ever know! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
After a while the people of Joshua’s generation died, and the next generation did not know the LORD or any of the things he had done for Israel. 7 The LORD had brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and they had worshiped him. But now the Israelites stopped worshiping the LORD and worshiped the idols of Baal and Astarte, as well as the idols of other gods from nearby nations. Judges 2:10-13 CEV
On the other hand, we must acknowledge that, together with the affirmation of this rich inheritance with its high technical demands, there is a desire to see the liturgy completely open to all, a desire for the common participation of all in the liturgical action, including liturgical singing, and this, inevitably, must put a curb on artistic requirements.
We should, then, learn what the sacraments are, what purpose they serve, and how they are to be used. We will find that there is no better way on earth to comfort downcast hearts and bad consciences. In the sacraments we find God’s Word—which reveals and promises Christ to us with all his blessing and which he himself is—against sin, death, and hell. Nothing is more pleasing and desirable to the ear than to hear that sin, death, and hell are wiped out.
When I was in High School and College, it was said that my generation (the early GenX’ers were leaving the church in droves. The worship wars were just starting to ramp up, the Seeker Sensitive movement had yet to begin, and the church changed from a place where the Gospel was preached to a place where scripture was exposited and doctrine was defended. Still to this day, there are not a lot of people in my age group in the church.
I have seen all sorts of plans over the years to reach them, and now it seems the church has given up on us, and now they mourn the Millenials not being in church. Now all sorts of ideas are being floated by boomers to reach them as if they are the last hope for the church in the world. We’ve even labeled this time as the “post-Christian” era, and strategize about how to consolidate our resources, closing churches as if the buildings were nothing more than fiscal assets, and our concern is not “return on investment” but eerily similar, where we make decisions based on a ratio membership against property value.
It is not unlike the time of the Judges, the time where a generation or two seems to be missing, and the church desperate for survival looks to consultants and business experts to guide them.
At the same time, the worship wars have gone underground, become more programmatic, and worship, whether contemporary, tradition or liturgical, has become more spectator driven and less participative. We’ve got it backward in many ways. Pastors and priests should be facing the people when they are proclaiming the gospel in the sacraments, revealing the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Worship teams should be facing the cross and altar when facilitating the worship of God, rather than standing with their back to the altar. In both cases, man is standing in the way of others being able to see and interact with God.
Pope Benedict was right, we have to put a curb on the artistic “performance” of the skilled musicians and liturgists, so that people can participate, so they can sing, so they can pray, so they can communicate with God!
This is why Luther was so adamant about people knowing how the sacraments are to be used, to comfort terrified consciousness, to communicate peace, their promises being fulfilled by the Holy Spirit as He transforms each and every one of them, from every ethnicity, from every language, from every generation.
It is this participation in worship, encouraging and empowering people to interact, not just with other believers, but together interacting with God, that was missing in the days of the judges. They didn’t share what they saw God doing in their midst in the past, in the present, and the hope of what He would do in the time to come.
They didn’t share what they saw God doing in the sacramental acts at the Tabernacle, they didn’t share in the promises of the covenant. And so the generation that followed didn’t know God, didn’t know the benefit of walking with Him, so they searched out other gods.
But they did it, one by one, family by family. What was to be passed down, the work of God, the covenant describing the relationship, was all not passed on, but simply treasured in their own hearts.
If in these days, we are to see the church revive, we have to help people see God. Older people, younger people, people of every description you can imagine. We have to help them worship the God who reveals His love, His mercy, His care to them… and not get in the way while doing it…
Let’s call them now… and plead with them, “let God reconcile you to Him….”
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 99.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 111.
1 Cor. 3:1-9
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus help you see God at work, causing you to depend on the fact God loves you!
Teaching Little Ones ( or Big Ones!)
There are a lot of amazing things in life. The Grand Canyon, the dawn on the Atlantic Ocean’s beaches and the sunset’s you see sitting on the sands of the Pacific Ocean. Things people do also amaze me, whether it is skilled athlete, or our musicians.
Or our preschool teachers, especially Lisa and Lorena – who work with the tiniest of toddlers. Keeping them focused on a lesson, and sitting still in chapel, well, mostly still
Keeping big kids focused is hard enough, I can’t imagine the faith that results in patience that God gives our teachers!
That’s why Paul will compare the Corinthians (and us) to infants in Christ! For while they should be focused on what is important, they are not. And so in frustration Paul tells them that he has to treat them like toddlers, or people that have absolutely no clue about the love and mercy of God.
Sounds kind of harsh, doesn’t it?
But all we have to do is look around, and we see the leaders who act as if they are playing out back in the playground. Then we see similar things among our church leaders. I will freely admit to getting distracted from what is important, and acting more than a toddler at times! I want what’s mine! Give it back! That’s not fair!
In the background, Jesus waits, for the Holy Spirit is at work… and will use God’s word, including these words penned by Paul, to correct us, to help us to focus, to get us back into what comes close to a line!
Distracted by what is not important
In the readings from 1 Corinthians, we see what was the distraction of the day. It was who the people followed. It must have been a significant problem, for Paul spends some time on it.
For some reason, they tried to establish a spiritual pedigree. I have seen that – even among pastors! They somewhat jokingly compare whether they were trained at our Ft. Wayne Seminary, or St. Louis Serminary! How ludicrous, especially when they know that the best pastors come from Irvine!
Can you imagine if people here argued about whether the Lord’s supper was better from the hand of Pr. Mazemke, or Pr. Rossow, or Pr. Hsu, or Pr. CHen or from me? The bread and the wine are what is important, not whose hand put it into your hand.
If that is true for the communion we serve, it should be true for the message we give. As long as that message is about Jesus, about His love for you, about His forgiveness, that message that we sum up in a couple of statements…
The Lord is with YOU! ( and also with you)
Alleluia! His is risen! (He is risen indeed!) and therefore (we are risen indeed!)
Everything else, including which pastor brought you to know Jesus, or where you learned about His love, isn’t as important as the fact that God loves YOU!
What is important
You see, the intellect, the charisma of the pastor, that is not what caused you to believe. It was not by your reason or strength nor mine. It is, and always will be the presence of the Holy Spirit that causes the growth.
All of us and everything we do is used by the Holy Spirit, whether it is the music team, or Lisa teaching the kids, or Sandi keeping the books, or Dane, Bob, and Tom as they bring other people the Lord’s Supper. Even our coming to the altar is about one thing – letting God do the work of making a masterpiece of our lives,
Hear the verse again,
What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.
To truly being to understand that verse, we need to replace the word seed with the word, us,
What’s important is that God makes me grow!
What’s important is that God makes us grow!
God causes the growth in each one of us, and in us as a while.
We must realize this my friends, this is what is important, the work God does in your life! In our lives together. Seeing that He is working in our midst, through each other, all to the same purpose of helping everyone know God is actively part of their life. That is perfecting them, transforming them as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians,
“17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 
That is the purpose – that God is making us more and more like Jesus… that’s the goal and that is how God will continue to work in us, and through us.
That is what encourages pastors to do what we do, and empowers us to be there… -when we see people grow in their ability to depend on God, to trust in Him, to believe in Him. For the miracle we see occurring is that transformation that only the Holy Spirit can be credited for…
and so we shall… (lead into doxology…)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
24 The LORD doesn’t hate or despise the helpless in all of their troubles. When I cried out, he listened and did not turn away. 25 When your people meet, you will fill my heart with your praises, LORD, and everyone will see me keep my promises to you. 26 The poor will eat and be full, and all who worship you will be thankful and live in hope. Psalm 22:24-26 (CEV)
Joshua, please come and rescue us! The Amorite kings from the hill country have joined together and are attacking us. We are your servants, so don’t let us down. Please hurry!” Joshua 10:6 CEV
Grace and mercy are there where Christ on the cross takes your sin from you, bears it for you, and destroys it. To believe this firmly, to keep it before your eyes and not to doubt it, means to view the picture of Christ and to engrave it in yourself. Likewise, all the saints who suffer and die in Christ also bear your sins and suffer and labor for you, as we find it written, “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfil the command of Christ” [Gal. 6:2]. Christ himself exclaims in Matthew 11 [:28], “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will help you.” In this way you may view your sins in safety without tormenting your conscience. Here sins are never sins, for here they are overcome and swallowed up in Christ.
I sat in the E.R. hallway, trying to come up with something to calm my anxious soul. The lady, screaming profanities at the top of her voice didn’t help, but I was able to pray for her, and the staff that tried to calm her down. The flood of traffic, and the delay at seeing how I was bothered and comforted me at the same time. After all, if they were really worried about me, wouldn’t they have me in a bed, and be constantly looking in on me?
So I sat in the hall… trying to block out the noises, trying to find some sort of peace.
My prayer was not so different from the people sending word to Joshua ( whose name is shared with our Savior Jesus) Lord have mercy! Come help… make everything all right.
It took a while, six hours later to say I had severe gas bloating….
Six hours that seemed like a year.
As I have struggled with a few serious health issues over there, I will admit, I have wondered if God hates me. I have wondered if this sin or that is not forgiven, and that is why I have to suffer. I wonder if the suffering I help people endure in the churches I pastor is my fault, It is not a challenge to spiral, to let depression or anxiety fill the space where I forgot God was…
He is still there of course, as Psalm 22 reminds us. He has not forsaken us in our sufferings, He is there. Reminding each other of that..of God who is present, who is merciful, who is loving,,. well, that is how we carry each other’s burdens.
As to sin being the cause of our personal suffering, and the suffering all around us, consider the words Luther was able to pen…
Here sins are never sins… for here they are overcome and swallowed up in Christ!
Be at peace, Christ has not only overcome the world, He has overcome your world.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 105.