The High Cost of Love

devotional thought of the day:

44 Turning to the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she, with her tears, has washed My feet and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing My feet since I came in. 46 You didn’t anoint My head with olive oil, s but she has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 
49 Those who were at the table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” 
50 And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”  Luke 7:44-50 HCSB

 

760      The cheerful love that fills the soul with happiness is founded on suffering. There is no love without renunciation.

There was a song when I was growing up called “Love Stinks” and though it was talking more about infatuation, there is some truth to the idea.

For love is commitment, and that commitment often requires us to go without, to make sacrifices, to lay all we are on the line, in order to truly care for the one we love. 

Parents know this very well, as they will go without to provide for their children,  From little things like watching television shows their kids like, and not watching the ones they want to, because they are inappropriate for their child’s ears and eyes.   Teachers who give up time to plan, or to think of how to reach “that” student understand this as well.  

It is a mystery, a paradox, that delaying or denying your gratification for the sake of the one you love can lead to greater joy, greater happiness. 

The lady in the gospel reading found this out. She did something quite costly, anointing Jesus feet with oils that cost her much, oils she probably bought ot treat herself well, to help her forget the pain of life, after suffering the humiliation of submitting to others desires.

Still, in awe of God’s mercy, she sacrificed the reward of her labors to treat Jesus with love, to adore the Man who didn’t drive her away.  Maybe she was one of the people invited to Zaccheus’ house, one of the sinners Jesus was accused of eating and drinking with by the Pharisees. She tried to repay that love, with the most costly thing she knew of, with a action of love that showed how much she adored the man that didn’t want sex from her, and still talked to her, and interacted with her.

The suffering that love costs is high, and often it stinks.  Yet in the case of loving God, what it demands, though pleasurable, or profitable, is the thing that stops us from knowing joy.  We go without the pleasure, without the gain, and find ourselves free.

Just at the prostitute found herself freed from sin, and shame, and guilt.   Instead, she knew love, and that she was welcomed in the presence of God. She gave up what was costly and pleasurable and found a joy so much greater, and happiness that comes from being accepted and loved.

knowing this, realizing it in our heart, gives us the motivation, the ability to desire to give up what we need to give up.  Not because we have to, but for the joy set before us, the same joy that drove Jesus to endure the cross, for us.

Lord, help us to embrace you, receiving your love.  And as our love and adoration “costs” us, help us to realize the joy that comes from knowing that love.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2743-2745). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

We MUST Go to Others! a sermon on Mark 1:29-39

church at communion 2We Must Go to Others

Mark 1:29-39

In Jesus Name

 May the gifts of the love, the mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so accompany you in your life that you are aware of those who lack it, and may that lack inspire you to reach out to them with your greatest treasure!

 Must?

As I tried to come up with a sermon title this week, knowing I was preaching on the gospel I tried to come up with something special, something that would inspire and catch on, a phrase you can’t get out of your mind, encouraging you to walk with Jesus, just as the apostles did,

I couldn’t come up with something, so I figured a great title is found in Jesus’s words,

“We must go on to other towns” or in these days, we can make it simple, “we must go to others.”

The problem using that as the title is that it sounds different than it really means.  It sounds like work and obligation that is demanded of us by God.  To use Lutheran-speak, it sounds like the law, and therefore it points out where we fall short, where we fail God and deserve to be punished.

But that isn’t at all what Jesus is telling the apostles when he says “We must go to others, and I will preach to them too, for that is why we came.”

We need to hear Jesus, and more than that, we need to understand Him.  This isn’t about us being good children of God or good members of the church.

It’s about finding out for ourselves what Paul told the people in Athens,  Repeat them with me.

‘In him we live and move and have our being,” Acts 17:28 (NAB) 

What did “they” do?

Let’s go back a few verses, as Jesus and the apostles go to Simon Peter’s house.  There, Jesus finds Peter’s mum sick, so sick that with a very important guest at her house, she is lying down, burning up with a fever.  I mean, think about it, how sick would our ladies here be, if they didn’t get up and be hospitable?

So Jesus heals her, helps her up, and the word spreads.

Next thing you know, there is a crowd at the door and it looks busier that St Jude’s Hospital ER during flu season.  People with every kind of illness and disease, people even possessed by demons, all being brought to Jesus.

Mark’s gospel tells you that the entire town turned out to watch these miracles….

But how did they know all this was happening?

Someone, more excited than someone winning the Superbowl had to have told them.

That’s what happens when we begin to realize the depth of God’s grace, the depth of His mercy.  When we find out in Him we can live, really live.  When we see our souls begin to be healed, we see others who need it, and then rejoicing even more that there is no limit.  When the demons that torment us lose their grip. And we are freed from them and the guilt and shame that they try to plague us with disappears.

As we get used to that freedom, we never want to leave His side… so how will people know God’s love?  How will they have the blessing of God’s love, the blessing of His mercy and forgiveness revealed to them?

Remember those words

In him we live and move and have our being!

Jesus doesn’t say, “I must” or “you must”

For that is why he came, to give us the knowledge that in Him is everything we are, our life, our breath, what we do, everything we are.

That is what the cross is all about, and all those church words, redemption, justification, reconciliation, renewal, revitalization, all those words picture that in Christ we have died to sin and all that isn’t of God, and our lives, our very being is found in Him.  It is why he was born of a virgin, suffered and died, rose from the ascended and sent the Holy Spirit.

So that He could transform us so that He could give us life.

You see that as He doesn’t just say, “I must go to others,”  and He doesn’t say “you must go to others.”  What does He say, “we must go to others”

We must, Jesus and all those who are with Him must go to others.  All those whom He has joined to Himself.   We Must Go, We being Jesus and you all and me.

And then He is the one who reveals Himself to them, as He draws them here. And we don’t have to go all that far.

Why He Came

Maybe some of us are called to go to the next country, to go with Bernie to the Sudan, or with Christina to Turkey, but when Jesus says “we must go to others” it could be to our neighbor, who could be from the Sudan, or Guyana or Indonesia or France, or Germany or Switzerland or even someplace really strange – like Boston or Wisconsin.

We live in a transient age when people from every country on the planet save one or two have come to our neighborhoods!  We must go, with Jesus, to them, so that He can show them His love.  They even come to us sometimes, as they did yesterday.  As I pulled up, 16 people were in the parking lot, playing a game called Pokemon go, a few hours later, I went to the bathroom and there were another dozen people.  Both times, as we waited for the game to set, they asked me how I heard about the game being live on our campus.  I said… uhm, I am the pastor here… and they asked questions about the church and about the school. People as young as a five-year-old, as old as all of us. came here to play a game on their phones,

At least that is why they think they came…

We, you, me and Jesus need to go to them and let Jesus reveal Himself, and the news of His love.

We, you and me and Jesus, need to go to others and let them know about the love and mercy and healing of their hearts and souls.  Whether that means going across the parking lot, or across the street, state, country or world.  We, Jesus, you and I must go..

Because this is why He came…

And as He goes to others, we simply go with Him, for in Him we live and move and have our being!

AMEN!

Slogans, Sermons, and The Celebration

A devotional thought for our days…

Jesus went with them, and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell Him, “Lord, don’t trouble Yourself, since I am not worthy to have You come under my roof. 7 That is why I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be cured. 8 For I too am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under my command. d I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”  Luke 7:6-8  HCSB

705      Christian responsibility in work cannot be limited to just putting in the hours. It means doing the task with technical and professional competence… and, above all, with love of God.

Yesterday, my birthday presents were delivered a bit early.  Actually, they came just in time for the Superbowl ( my second favorite part of tomorrow!) 

The present included two items, a hat and a sign for my office. 

The first is a new cap, with what I thought was my favorite slogan for sports and ministry.  “Do Your Job” and that is a critical aspect in football, in the military (as the centurion noted) or in our relationship with God and the ministry that is created by God in our lives.  

We simply need to walk with Him and do as He leads.  Which takes faith, the dependence on God that provides the will and ability (Eph 2:13) to do what pleases Him!   Do Your Job, do it trusting in God.  Do Your Job, loving God

The second slogan now hands on my office door, a few feet from me.  No Days Off!  Oddly enough, this slogan was not revealed during the march to last year’s Superbowl victory, but afterward, during the victory parade.  What was the secret to the victory?  The coaches and players lived football, they lived the game, in season and out of season.  They lived according to the standard of their slogans… and did their job, whatever it required.

Can you imagine if the church did this?  If it made the sacrifices to walk with God each day?  If it dwelt in His presence, depended on His mercy, realized His love and peace fills our lives?  If we stopped treated being Christian was a part-time gig, and desired to live in His love, not just part-time (as if to hit the minimum requirements to gain heaven) nor even full-time ( meeting what we think is our duty) but every day treasured our time with Him, and rejoiced in the love that is our, in and through Jesus?  That is really what our “job” is, everything else, worship, loving for others, caring for others, these things are just the impact of walking with Him. 

Then there is the motto I don’t have anything on, one that I couldn’t find applicable in the Kingdon of God.  The most recent slogan, ‘Not Done Yet”

Then I realized where that slogan comes into play in the church.  It happens as the sermon finishes, and for some people, that is the high point of our church time together.

It isn’t even close.

Altar with communionFor the sermon is simply revealing God’s plan in our lives.   But we aren’t close to being done at that point.  The greatest time in the church comes when we approach the rail together, as we bow together, recognizing the presence and invitation of God, and those who can kneel, and as a community of His people, share in the Eucharist as one.

As I preach, my hunger for the sacrament grows, and I pray it grows in my people.  To be welcome at the table, fully righteous in the eyes of God, fully cleansed by Him and made ready to celebrate.  Even as we realize we are not done yet, as we take a knee, the Lord’s Supper is the beginning of the celebration of Jesus completing His work in us,  For He has done all it takes to make us His own.  And the Eucharist is His thanks to the Father, and our thanks to Him, for it is finished.

He Has done and is doing, His job.  
He takes no days off…
And He is not done yet but will be, when He brings the last prodigal home.

Until then, let us walk with, work with and celebrate the love of God.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2578-2581). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

The Church is NOT an Organization… it is an Organism…

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:
9  Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. 10  Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. 11  Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. 12  Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13  Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. 14  Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15  Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16  Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise. 17  If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. 18  Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Romans 12:9-18 (TEV)

Christ exists only in his body, not just as an ideal; that means: with all those others—with the permanent, time-transcending community that is his body. The Church is not an idea, but a body, and the scandal of the Incarnation, on which many of Jesus’ contemporaries came to grief, continues in the vexations of the Church, but here, too, the saying is applicable: Blessed is he who is not scandalized in me. This communal character of the Church necessarily means, then, her we character: she is not just somewhere; we ourselves are the Church. Certainly, no one can say: “I am the Church”; each must and may say: We are the Church. And “we”—that is not just a group that isolates itself, but one that belongs to the whole community of all the living and deceased members of Christ. Thus a group can really say: We are the Church. The Church is here in this accessible we that removes boundaries—not just social and political boundaries, but also the boundary between heaven and earth. We are the Church—from this proceeds our co-responsibility, but also the privilege of being co-workers; from this comes our right to criticize, but we must always begin with self-criticism. For Church—we repeat—is not just somewhere, someone else; it is we who are the Church.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Church appears and truly is dysfunctional.

It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about a Bible study of 6, or a congregation of 60 or 1000, or the Church as the entire Body of Christ, throughout the world, and throughout time. We are dysfunctional; we are broken, we argue and fight, we try to one-up each other.  We allow politics to divide us, then complain about the division.

Sociologists have fun studying us.  

And yet we need, desperately need to be part of such a dysfunctional family.   As much as we need each other, as much as we need to realize the “we” of the church, we struggle with it. 

Pope Benedict XVI wrote of this, trying to help us realize that we need to remove the boundaries. No easy task there.  But it is needed.  We need to picture the Church as the Church.  We need to picture ourselves as more “we” at every level.  We need to be able to weep and laugh with others who are part of this magnificent, beautiful, incredible, dysfunctional family.  No, not just a family, a body.  We aren’t an organization, we, the church are an organism. 

St. Paul gives a great description of what the church should look like in the passage quoted above… the loving sincerely, full of respect, devotion, hope, and joy.  What an incredible idea, to live like this.

Some will reply, how can we do that?  Others more theologically trained will determine this description is law, and they will use that determination as an excuse not to live this way, ignoring how the chapter started, because of God’s great mercy…..

I think Pope Benedict hits on the key, how this dysfunctional group of spiritually immature people become the “we” of the church when he talks about removing not just boundaries here on earth, but the boundary between heaven and earth.   As that boundary is removed, as we realize we dwell in the presence of God, as we are in awe of His love, we are transformed, and those things Paul talks about, those things beome who we are. The more our attention and focus is drawn to God and His glory, the more His presence is revealed and overwhelms us.. The greater this unity is realized as well.  

This is the mystery that Paul refers to in Col. 1:27-28, the idea that Christ dwells in us!  (The “you” there in Greek is plural), It is the blessing of the description of the Body in 1 Cor. 10-13, it is the picture of the redeemed, resurrected united people of God in Ezekiel 36-37.

It is the truth of this, “we” are the church, the people God called out to make His own.  And He has. 

WHich is why the people of God know peace that is beyond explanation, for we dwell, our hearts and minds safe and secure in Christ.  AMEN

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

The Struggle….of Brokenness

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The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God. May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

Devotional Thought of the Day:
12  I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. 13  Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. 14  I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. Philippians 3:12-14 (MSG)

735      The interior struggle doesn’t take us away from our temporal business—it makes us finish it off better!

Brokenness.

It is real, I encounter it each day in my own life, and I try to shepherd others through it daily as well.

Brokenness.

It sucks.  And we aren’t the first generation to deal with it.  It goes all the way back to two people who weren’t broken but became broken.

The breaks may be physical, or social, psychological.  They may seem to others to be tiny fractures, for others life is simply shattered.  Some of our breaks we hide… not easily, and some we try to hide from, distracting ourselves, trying to find ways to numb the pain.

Some of our brokenness may be dealt with, for that is what doctor’s, counselors, and mediators are there to do.  Other types of brokenness have to be endured, and that to sucks.  To deal with something broken for 40 or 50 or 70 years.  Never knowing how bad the brokenness and pain will be the next day.  We never know when we will be completely overcome by it.

As a pastor, I know this all too well, in too many areas I’ve tried to endure it.  Physical, emotional, social, and outcast. Been there, done that. Have the scars and the memories that still hurt.

I wish I could heal it all, I know sometimes it happens, as God’s mercy overwhelms us and the person’s shattered life is made whole.  I don’t understand why this one, and not that.  I only know the healing we all have access to, the brokenness that for everyone there is healing, that there is being made whole, as we are made holy.

Spiritual healing. The healing that comes from realizing God’s love.  The healing that comes from the cleansing and restoration that forgiveness is.  Our heart and soul freed of the burdens of guilt and shame.  The healing that comes from encountering the love of Christ, pure, faithful, incredible, without measure.

A love so graphically pictured in the cross, and in our baptism.  A love that invites us to share in Christ’s brokenness in communion, that our brokenness we would realize He shares in as well.  And in our promised resurrection united with Him, the brokenness fades into the past. Freed of it, spiritually now, but when Christ returns… completely as we dwell with him in Heaven forever.

This is our God, who loves us, who cares… who heals.

Find your rest in Him, and your endurance is guaranteed. This is what Paul tells us about, the struggle to hold onto Christ, realizing He is holding on to us. A struggle that as we are healed spiritually has an incredible impact on our lives, on our work, on the art that comes out of our lives.  Remind others of this as well, for that is what it means to be the church.   A place where people find healing in Christ while helping others heal.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2662-2664). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Our Life in the Christ: revealed in our Church’s liturgy, music, artwork..

Concordia Lutheran ChurchDevotional Thought of the Day:
10  And he gave these orders: “At the end of every seven years, the Year-All-Debts-Are-Canceled, during the pilgrim Festival of Booths 11  when everyone in Israel comes to appear in the Presence of GOD, your God, at the place he designates, read out this Revelation to all Israel, with everyone listening. 12  Gather the people together—men, women, children, and the foreigners living among you—so they can listen well, so they may learn to live in holy awe before GOD, your God, and diligently keep everything in this Revelation. 13  And do this so that their children, who don’t yet know all this, will also listen and learn to live in holy awe before GOD, your God, for as long as you live on the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess.Deuteronomy 31:10-13 (MSG)

Christ has died.   
Christ has risen
Christ will come again
We were dead in our sins
Now we’re buried with Him
We are risen in Christ
We are given new life
And Christ will bring us home
Making us his own
Christ has died
Christ has risen
Christ will come again!

The Christian images, as we find them in the catacombs, simply take up and develop the canon of images already established by the synagogue, while giving it a new modality of presence. The individual events are now ordered toward the Christian sacraments and to Christ himself. Noah’s ark and the crossing of the Red Sea now point to Baptism. The sacrifice of Isaac and the meal of the three angels with Abraham speak of Christ’s Sacrifice and the Eucharist. Shining through the rescue of the three young men from the fiery furnace and of Daniel from the lions’ den we see Christ’s Resurrection and our own. Still more than in the synagogue, the point of the images is not to tell a story about something in the past, but to incorporate the events of history into the sacrament. In past history, Christ with his sacraments is on his way through the ages. We are taken into the events. The events themselves transcend the passing of time and become present in our midst through the sacramental action of the Church.
The centering of all history in Christ is both the liturgical transmission of that history and the expression of a new experience of time, in which past, present, and future make contact, because they have been inserted into the presence of the risen Lord. As we have seen already and now find confirmed anew, liturgical presence contains eschatological hope within it. All sacred images are, without exception, in a certain sense images of the Resurrection, history read in the light of the Resurrection, and for that very reason they are images of hope, giving us the assurance of the world to come, of the final coming of Christ.

324 Looking at his mercy, faith comforts and consoles us. Our opponents teach wrongly when they praise merits in such a way as to add nothing about this faith that takes hold of mercy

The readings this morning were just crammed full of thoughts that I needed to hear.  I could have doubled the amount I quoted, and foregone writing.  Except that I need to, for as I’ve said before, my devotions have to be thought through, meditated upon, and brought together in my writing.  It used to be called spiritual journaling, and someone once suggested i put it out there to be shared.

Today, it seemed like a lot of my readings were set up to talk about living within the story.  About faith is a life of dependence on God, living in harmony with Him, rather than a statement of what theological statements we hold to be true.

We see that in the words from the Lutheran confessions, as we take hold of mercy. That is faith, this incredible love of God that is revealed to us, that floods our lives so that we can hold onto it.  For faith is an engagement with God with not our mind at first, but our heart and soul.

Pope Benedict in the longest quote talks about this in the imagery in the early church and the synagogue, when visuals made our sacramental life part of the narrative poured out in visual representation.  And all of that representation is reflected in the resurrection, the very summit of our being made one with Christ.  For we are united to Him in His death, in order that we can rise to our new life with Him.

That is the reason for the reading of the entire community of Israel, over 2 million people, plus the foreigners that make their home among them.  (Note that part about the aliens!) They were to know the covenant, so that they could be in awe of God’s love and provision for them!  Even more than that, this awe was lived out before Him. In other words, not just in His are of vision, but right before Him, in His presence.

As I was reading all of this, I thought of my friend’s version of the liturgical hymn, the Memorial Acclamation.  Chris is not only an incredible musician and professor of worship but has a great understanding of sacramental covenant theology.   So when he recomposed this ancient part of Christian worship, he not only told Christ’s story, but he made clear what was inferred.  That we share in that death, and in that resurrection, and in Christ’s coming again.  What has become veiled and vaguely visible, Chris revealed in a glorious way. ( You can hear a rock version of it at the link!)

Every aspect of our ministry, from the music to the artwork and images, to the words we speak and lessons and liturgy are geared to help us make this transition.  We are not just people reading about history, we aren’t just witnesses to the story, we are the characters in the story, living and interacting in great awe with God.  Just as people have done since Adam and Eve walked through the garden.  Our people may not realize this, so we need, like Israel, to teach them more and more.  They need to know it, they need to experience His love. as do we, as do our communities.

May the Lord make this happen, opening our eyes more and more to His love!

AMEN!

 

The Memorial Acclimation by Rev. Dr. Christopher Gillette
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSOPkjcqfF4

Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Knowledge and Love: A Sermon on 1 Cor. 1:8-13

Kids phoneKnowledge and Love

1 Corinthians 1:8-13

†  In Jesus Name

 

As you experience the length and width, the height and depth of God’s love for you, may your knowledge be tempered by the love that God creates in your life, as you live your life through Him

Given a choice.. which will you choose for those you love?

There is a cute picture floating around the internet, of one of these.

It says above it, “it doesn’t matter how old or mean you are, when w toddler hands you one of these and say’s ‘it’s for you’, you take it and start talking into it.”

I think that is pretty much true, and I am tempted to try it on some of you afterward.

It’s because we care for our children, or grandchildren, or nephews or nieces or students. Or in the case of the teachers, our students. We love them, and they can melt the hardest heart.

So I want to think of that kid, who could get you to answer one of these.  Close your eyes, picture them in your mind and answer this question.

If you could choose what would be said about them at the end of their lives, would you desire it to be said they were geniuses, or that they loved and cared for the people around them and made a difference in their lives?

Not a difficult decision, or at least I would hope that it wouldn’t it be!

And in our gospel reading this morning, this is what the apostle Paul is talking about. And it is what we are talking about this morning, Knowledge and love.

Importance versus building up the community?

If I may, I would like to use a personal example.  When I was younger, there was this game called trivial pursuit.  Some of you may be familiar with it.

I loved it!  And I was…. pretty good at it.  Enough so that I usually won and proved the apostle Paul correct when he said, knowledge makes us feel important.  Some translations phrase it a little differently.  Knowledge puffs us up talking about our egos, and our minds.  And then one day, I looked at the name of the game again…

Trivial Pursuit.  What I was doing was chasing after what was trivial, what was meaningless.  And in the end, about all odd bits of knowledge were good for was putting little pieces of plastic inside another piece of plastic and annoying some friends.

While there is a lot of knowledge that isn’t trivial, there are enough examples of people who think they are more important than others because they have the knowledge given to them.  I won’t list the occupations, but I bet you are thinking of one or two professions that act that way.  Or you see yourself in this.

That is why Paul will say in chapter 13 if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 (NLT)

Instead of focusing on knowledge, Paul tells us it is love that builds the house, in this translation, it translates the house as church.  But the concept works the same in the church, in the home, or in the community we call home.

In each, in our homes, in our church, in our community, it is love is what binds us together, it is love that makes that bond strong and causes us to grow as a family.

The challenge is loving others the way we love the kid handing us the phone.

In the example Paul uses, he talks about how this love changes us, using the example of food offered to idols.

For him, with all the knowledge of one who was a leading Jewish theologian and became the greatest of Christian pastor-theologians, the idea of food offered to idols was silly.

The idols were carved pieces of wood or rock, metal fashioned to look like how man imagined God to be. And because there was no inherent power in them, because they weren’t gods, eating the food someone else dedicated to them was of no great importance.

But it was of great importance to those who didn’t know different.  They saw the world as a cosmic battle between these false gods and the One True God who came to us, love us and died for us.

And while knowledge would say debate with them and show them the truth, love said that we needed to remember they weren’t ready for to hear that; be patient.  Winning the argument isn’t worth driving them from Jesus. We can go without being proved right in the small stuff, we can even go without that piece of bacon wrapped shrimp or stuffed pork chops rather than cause them to stumble and do what they thought was wrong.

It’s not worth the fight, it’s not worth the debate.  Such debates can destroy faith, but love puts it in the correct priority… and eventually, love will straighten it all out.

How it happens

But how do we love others, especially when we some people are just darn difficult to love?  And how do we teach our children, grandchildren, students and other children we come into contact with to love like Jesus loved us?

The answer on how to love like that, how to make a difference in someone else’s life isn’t found in some instruction manual, it isn’t found in a series of podcasts or videos.

It is found in knowing that we are God, as Paul said,

There is one God, the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live.

And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live.

It is found in living for and in God that we find the love that changes us.  It forgives and removes our sin, and makes us holy, set apart to love God, to love His people.  It is something that is realized more than learned, something that we spend our life growing in, and as He changes us, we love, even those others see as unlovable.

For that is what knowing God’s love does, it changes us, and it gives us hope in the middle of what seems a lost and broken world.  That is why we are here, and why we have a place for kids, who will hand us a phone, and learn from us how to love.  As we learn it from God our Father.  AMEN!

The Question of Repentance

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7 He then said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 9 Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 
10 “What then should we do?” s the crowds were asking him.
11 He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts t must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same.” 
12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 
13 He told them, “Don’t collect any more than what you have been authorized.”
14 Some soldiers also questioned him: “What should we do?”
He said to them, “Don’t take money from anyone by force or false accusation; be satisfied with your wages.”   Luke 3:7-14  HCSB

36  “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” 37  Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?Acts 2:36-37 (NLT)

A lot of things recently have brought about discussions about repentance, what it is, how it is gone about, what kinds of things are involved, and most importantly, who is active,  I’ve written about those things before, especially how repentance, like faith is something the Holy Spirit gives us. ALso how repentance is a transformation far more than it is feeling grief or a decision to follow God!

But as repentance is seen, there is always a question that comes up, the question seen in my first reading above. (and in the second as well)

John the Baptist tells them to live a life that produces fruit consistent with repentance,  

And hearts, just starting ot living in this transformation ask, “What should we do?”   It’s the same question the Jewish people asked when they learned they crucified the Messiah, the one God sent to establish a time of rest and peace for them. 

What should we do?  You could add, “now?” to the end of the question.

The reason that this is THE question of repentance is that when repetnance comes to us, the only questions that remains is – what do we do…. because repentance is happening already!

Repentance, as we are granted it, as our lives are starting to transform, leaves us a bit, befuddled. lost, and confused.  We are a new creation and this re-birth and renewal given as God cleanses us is about as confusing as a kid from Nebraska being dropped off in Hollywood on a Saturday night.  

And so the people, crowds, tax collectors, soldiers, were given some basic ideas.  Not all-encompassing ideas, bot a complete set of laws to follow.  But examples.  Examples that are consistent with a transformed heart, a heart that is capable of living for others, of loving and caring for them.

Think of John’s advice as the training wheels of the Christian life, the life of the repentant, the baptized.  There is much more to living a life transformed, but these bits of advice from John gets the wheels spinning and our moving with the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power.

Do things that don’t serve your self-interest, don’t be pre-occupied with proving your own righteousness.  Do things that are loving.  And when you find you aren’t…. pray, and confess and know that God is with you!  He came to save you!  He is your messiah, your Lord, your life.

The answer to the question of repentance, of what we do is always going to be the same – in Christ, love those you encounter.

Lord have mercy on us, give us the strength and desire to see you transforming the lives we live!  AMEN!

 

 

A magnificent song sung by a pregnant, unmarried teenager, that needs to be heard!

Mark Jenning's Madonna

A Painting of Jesus and Mary by my friend Mark Jennings. You can find all his art (and order copies) at http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/mark-jennings.html

Devotional Thought of the Day:

46  And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord 47  and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; 48  because he has looked upon the humiliation of his servant. Yes, from now onwards all generations will call me blessed, 49  for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, 50  and his faithful love extends age after age to those who fear him. 51  He has used the power of his arm, he has routed the arrogant of heart. 52  He has pulled down princes from their thrones and raised high the lowly. 53  He has filled the starving with good things, sent the rich away empty. 54  He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his faithful love 55  —according to the promise he made to our ancestors— of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever. Luke 1:46-56 (NJB)

When faith takes hold of Christ, the mediator, the heart is at peace and begins to love God and to keep the law. It knows that now it is pleasing to God for the sake of Christ, the mediator, even though its incipient keeping of the law is impure and far from perfect.

It is called by many in the church, The Magnificat this song by a teenage girl who was pregnant before she was married.  Her name was Miriam, or as we know her, Mary.  Back then, being pregnant would be a serious offense.  Cut off from her family, mocked and scorned by all, sent away from her family to a distant relative. We need to remember what she faced, as we hear her song.

For her song is one we need to hear, it is one that the world needs to hear.  When life is broken, when life seems unfair, when we can’t really understand all that God is doing, we need to hear this song!

Go back and read these words again, hear the voice that is broken, yet whole because the Lord is with her.  Note as well that this song isn’t just about God providing for her, but it includes God providing for those who He raises, who He saves, who He feeds, and helps.  

This song isn’t about a personal relationship with God, it is about God caring for all His people, as He has promised those who came way before Mary.   In the translation I used, not all the italics, those are the words woven in that were the words of others, words of prophets and leaders, words that were interwoven as good, no better than any preacher or theologian could ever do.

This song is about God’s faithful love, His faithful love for Mary, and for us.

And it has an effect on us, an effect that is described in the other quote, the one from the Lutheran Confessions.  When we start to perceive Christ’s faithful love, when know He’s got a hold of us, and is saving us, things change. The peace of Christ envelops us, just as it did Mary.  We learn to love God (and therefore love those He has created)   Our souls can’t help proclaiming the greatness of our Lord…for we see His mercy… and His love!

So sing with Mary, sing your heart out, for God has come to you, to help. because He loves you and is faithful.  AMEN!

 

 

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.   Apology of the Augsburg Confession: Article IV

 

Repent Finally, and Let’s Go Fishing

church at communion 2Repent Finally and Let’s Go Fishing

Mark 1:14-21

I.H.S

May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you the confidence you need as God grants you repentance and then invites you to go fishing!

Two Invitations, two blessings

Have you ever been asked to go somewhere with someone, and dreaded it, only to find yourself really enjoying it?

I remember taking Kay one year for her birthday to see a musical at the Pantages.  Like a lot of guys, I am not much into musicals.  It’s not just the “guy” thing.  I’ve been asked to play in the band/orchestra for a couple of them, and both times, I hated it.  So taking Kay to a musical was something I did for her, dreading it, well prepared to hate every moment of sitting there, except enjoying the smile on Kay’ face.

I was greatly surprised when I actually found myself enjoying Phantom of the Opera.  So much so I actually took her to see it a couple more times.

Life is like that sometimes.  So is walking with God.  Somethings we seem to dread….we find are incredible blessings.

In the gospel this morning, we see two incredible blessings of that kind.

We probably don’t see them as blessings, but that is the point of this sermon.  To help us understand what Jeus was offering to people were life chaging blessings, incredible, mind-blowing blessings that we would enjoy, and rejoice in, and share with others.

Blessings we describe with a couple of words

Repent

Evangelize.

Don’t those things sound far more fun than going fishing, or going to a quilt show, or for me and William, hanging out in Best Buy or Fry’s?

So, let’s see how these things are blessings, blessings that provide joy beyond our ability to comprehend

Repentance – and invitation to be changed!

Hear Jesus’s words again,

15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”

REPENT OF YOUR SINS!!!!

Don’t worry, not going to turn into Baptist and preach Hellfire and brimstone.

Because that is based on a faulty understanding of repentance, one that makes it sound like beating yourself up until you really feel sorry and then God will forgive you, maybe.

Hear how it is used in the Book of Acts,

17  If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?” 18  When they heard this, they stopped objecting and glorified God, saying, “God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.” Acts 11:17-18 (NAB)

Life-giving repentance!

Life-giving repentance!

Does that sound like something to be afraid of?

But repentance isn’t something to be afraid of, it is an invitation of the greatest kind.  Literally it means to change one’s mind, or one’s way of thinking.  Another way to hear it described is to put on the mind of Christ.
This is what God does to us, as we hear of His love and experience its breadth and width, height and depth. He transforms our mind.  When Jesus says the Kingdom of God is near, when He is explaining to them that God does care,

Yes, repentance means giving over to God our sin, but that is a gift.  To walk away from our sin, from our shame and guilt, to live freely in God’s kingdom.  To know that God has forgiven us and experience the love of God in every facet of our lives.

That is why Jesus talks of repentance as a parallel to “believe in the Good News!”  Because repentance is something incredible, a blessing to change our lives, to be free of all of our failures, to know we are loved and cared for, because that is the change God makes in us, that change is repentance!

Fishing for people, (Or Knitting them together)

Repentance is a joy, but so is evangelism, or as Jesus told a bunch of fisherman, fishing for men.  I suppose that if he was talking to quilters he would say sewing another square into the quilt, that square being….human..

That might work in the case of some human, others might not like being called a square!

But as fishing for men, and bring them in works, so does sewing someone into the family of God, creating for them home, a place where they know they are cared for, a place where they know they are loved.

That is what evangelism is, sharing the news, the good, great, wonderful news that God cares for us.  Helping people become part of the family, because God our Father wants them to be part of the family.

That’s what evangelism is, reaching out to people and saying, God cares for you, and He died to remove all that would steal their life, just as He did for us.

That’s the amazing thing, the more we understand His grace, the more we experience His love, the more we want others to experience it that love, that immeasurable love, as well. A love that we experience as we celebrate that love at the altar, and share in the Body and blood of Jesus.

So repent, let God transform you – and then lets go fishing for men, or sewing them into the quilt of our church.  So they can share in the love and peace of God our Father!  AMEN?

AMEN!

 

 

 

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