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The Power of Words…to Wreck our Mission/Apostolate

Altar with communionDevotional Thought for our days:

Dt 19:16-20 “If a malicious witness comes forward and accuses someone of a crime, 17 then both the accuser and accused must appear before the LORD by coming to the priests and judges in office at that time. 18 The judges must investigate the case thoroughly. If the accuser has brought false charges against his fellow Israelite, 19 you must impose on the accuser the sentence he intended for the other person. In this way, you will purge such evil from among you. 20 Then the rest of the people will hear about it and be afraid to do such an evil thing.

 

902  Acquire the habit of speaking about everyone and about everything they do in a friendly manner, especially when you are speaking of those who labour in God’s service. Whenever that is not possible, keep quiet. Sharp or irritated comment as well may border on gossip or slander.

THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
16 What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not tell lies about our neighbor, nor betray, slander, or defame him, but should apologize for him, speak well of him, and interpret charitably all that he does.

It is too easy to complain about other people.

Our neighbor, our co-workers, our family, our elected officials, even complaining about those who complain too much.  it is all too easy to complain, to bicker, to criticize and condemn.

We might even believe our words, or at least believe the people who passed them on to us.

Too often our words poison our lives, causing us to be blind to what God is doing, cutting off our souls from the peace God would have us live in, the peace Christ died for, in order to bless us. These words can steal from us the hope of reconciliation, both the reconciliation of God, wherein God draws us into His mercy, and the reconciliation that happens there, as we realize we are His family.  It is a serious thing – look at the warning God gives against the misuse of words.

Think of the damage that gossip, slander and the malicious words we utter do to the mission of Christ.  For if our hearts are turned against those God has sent us to reach with his love, how can we?  Why would we pray for those we speak evil above

We need to confess this and ask God for help, for the comfort of the Spirit, to remember the miraculous promise that happens in Christ.  We need to be forgiven and to revel in the joy of that forgiveness and what it restores to us.

We need to hear Him call to us, even as broken as we are, and hear of the value He places on our lives.

He is our hope, HIs word is what matters, the word of life….Hear them, let your mind dwell on them and what they promise.

Amen.

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3672-3675). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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

Is it too much to ask for a miracle, for peace, this day?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

16  Some Pharisees and Sadducees who came to Jesus wanted to trap him, so they asked him to perform a miracle for them, to show that God approved of him. 2But Jesus answered, “When the sun is setting, you say, ‘We are going to have fine weather, because the sky is red.’ 3And early in the morning you say, ‘It is going to rain, because the sky is red and dark.’ You can predict the weather by looking at the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs concerning these times!n 4How evil and godless are the people of this day! You ask me for a miracle? No! The only miracle you will be given is the miracle of Jonah.”
So he left them and went away.  Matt 16:1-4 TEV

535    Communion, union, communication, intimacy: Word, bread, love.  (1)

I am struggling with my sermon manuscript this morning.

The struggle is not with the text, it is glorious, it can, and it will preach Christ.

My problem is with my friends acting like the Houses of the Capulets and Montagues. No, I must be honest, there is  a growing desire to call them out and curse them both as Shakespeare wrote, “a pox on both your houses!” There is my problem, the enormous weight that causes my writer’s block.

I am not sure I can get these friends, the fellow citizens to stop attacking each other, to lower the defenses enough to look each other in the eyes and see each other’s struggles and brokenness, and to limp together to an altar and pray for each other. And as I receive emails, tweets, and read posts, I am reaching that point where I question whether I want to anymore.

There is a temptation to wipe the dust off my feet, to walk away and leave people pointing at each other, yelling at the top of their lungs the very same insults, the very same attacks, crying as they are assaulted by the same fears and anxieties.

Though I am not trying to trap Jesus, (or am I? In truth, today, I do not know.) I want Jesus to stop this; I want the miracle that will create the peace that will enable people to stop attacking each other, to know the mercy that will allow them to lower their defenses, to remember that we have been given the role of servants, to facilitate reconciliation.  To allow people on both sides of the issue to be still, and know that God is still God.  That He is our refuge and strength.

But how do we get people to lay aside their sin, the idols they have manufactured to provide the answers they desire?  How do we get them to consider there are hopes greater than what they expect, that what they have counted on to be the norm?  Surely I can’t out yell the masses that are yelling at each other.

I sometimes joke that St Josemaria Escriva is my patron saint, simply because I resonate with what he writes at a level that is deeper than just my poor intellect.  The words in blue above were probably written during the Spanish Civil War, a time of unrest that puts the hatred espoused on Social Media in perspective.  I imagine he grieved for his nation as he saw them killing each other, as a house divided fell apart as the bodies that composed it fell to the ground.

His answer is my answer, the place I must run to find hope, and find the strength to offer hope.  A sacramental, incarnational, miraculous answer found in God’s presence. Fount at the cross, found as well in those things that unite us to the cross – the sacraments through which the word assures us of God’s grace, His mercy and peace.

As God unites us to Himself, as He invites us to feast, as He communicates with us, as the Word comes and dwells among us, as we see and declare His glory.

As we know, love.

As much as I want my friends, to love each other, the miracle happens in Christ, not by logic.  They are delivered from their fears and frustrations, their shattered idols and broken hopes as Christ is revealed.  As they see Him, crucified to bear it all, to bring them healing from it all.

Sometimes the answer isn’t found in engaging in the mess, or getting depressed and angry as I grieve over it.

Sometimes the answer, the hope is found in seeking Christ, in letting His presence assure and comfort me, reminding me that all things will work for good and that nothing can separate us from His love.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Location 1295). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Midweek Lent II: Treasuring God’s Gifts Means We Think of Others as Gifts,

Treasuring God’s Giftsconcordia lutheran button only logo (1) - Copy

Means We Think of Others as Gifts,

 † In Jesus Name †

 

As we realize the mercy, peace and love of God our Father, that crafts the life we have in Christ, may we rejoice in the gifts that life helps us realize are ours!

 

Commands, or sub-clauses?

I said last week that I am coming to see the 10 Commandments, what is known as the Decalogue, more and more as the Old Testament’s Beatitudes.  The Blessed are they whose lives are described in the words that many of us have memorized.

In a way, it is a matter of hearing, even as it is with the Beatittudes.  We hear them as commands, as a list of characteristics we must developed in ourselves.  What English instructors and Greek professors call “imperatives”

If they were, I think we are in more trouble than we think we are, for how many of us can keep these commandments 24/7/365-366?  If we see these as simple commands – do this or you are going to be zapped, we are in deep trouble.

I hate to sound like an English teacher, but if these are instead  sub-clauses (and they are), it is based on the original statement.

I am the Lord your God, who rescued you….. and therefore…

This is how you live.
This is the masterpiece, this is ….His masterpiece.  The one we read together earlier.

10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
The problem of false witness/gossip
These words, these phrases, that we know so well, take on deeper meaning when we realize they describe how we look as God’s masterpiece, and that sinnings is simply robbing ourselves and God of this masterpiece, smearing the masterpiece, like someone throwing a bucket of pain over a priceless painting, or graffiting a incredible statue.  It mars the image, it obscures the masterpiece that is there for all to see, to testifying of God’s wisdom, His glory, His creative power in our lives.

This week, the phrase we read, from Deuteronomy concerns bearing false witness, testify, talking about someone in a way that wrecks their reputation.  It’s not just about telling lies about them, but as Luther taught,

“we will not deceive by lying, betraying, slandering or ruining our neighbor’s reputation, but will defend him, say good things about him, and see the best side of everything he does.   Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

In the Large cathecism, Luther even reveals that it is not just spreading lies about them, but it can be spreading the truth, if our reason is false – that is, if we spread the truth, because we think it will damage their reputation.

Why?  Where is God’s wisdom in this?

If we begin, even about a person we truly detest, to think bad about them, to gossip about, to assume that what they do is with devious or evil intent, that begins to affect our own character.  It spreads an grows, like an unchecked infection, throughout our lives.

It wrecks our relationships with others, it puts us on the defensive, it robs us of compassion,  and steals us of the ability to love them, as Christ loved us.

That spreads and spreads, and it even affects how people look at us, as they primarily hear us comment negatively about others.

We are all guilty of it, whether we want to admit it or not. We all have those we have trouble understanding, those we don’t want to see the best side of, to think of what they do in the best way.  Some are our enemies, some are those who lead, and some are just people whose actions affect our lives.  They are in far off places like Russia, or Washington D.C. or St. Louis, they might be our co-workers, or family, or they are might be here, in this very room.

Blessed are they, who do not testify falsely, whether in word or intent about others.

The challenge of Trusting God’s craftsmanship

Last we talked about the reason one could be content, rather than jealous had nothing to do with who had more than us, our even our unmet expectations. Rather, whether we talked about it being a matter of trusting God, about realizing that He in love, provides what we need.

The issues about gossip, slander, and trying to damage the reputation of others is the same issue.

If we trust that God is in charge, if we have faith in His Lordship, and that He will deliver us from evil, we must believe He desires to rescue them from evil as well.  That He desires to make their life a masterpiece along with ours.  We see them, not as a drain on society, but someone who either knows God’s love, or needs to know it.  We hear Joseph’s words,

“What you meant for evil, God used for good,” and we know it is about all of us.  That all of us are forgiven, blessed, cleansed, and our actions, no matter what they were, or what our intent was, God will use for good, for those whom He loves, for He has called them by name.
How could we testify about their actions or intent harmfully, if we trust God will make it good?   As we look at them, and see them at the foot of the cross, the blood washing away their sin, as we realize our need to be there as well,

He desires to make our life a masterpiece, and occasionally, we can glimpse that He is doing this very thing.  We trust Him at His promise, the promise that we see here, in baptism, the promise we see here, at the altar….

We know He desires that for every one, and it is the same trust, the same faith we have in God, that leads us to treasure all those He has died to save…and as we realize His love for them… the love that grants repentance, the mercy that transforms, the more we know God will use them… and the more we find ourselves thinking of them in the best possible way – as God’s gifts

As we see them that way – as we love them as we love ourselves… we find ourselves in living in Christ, is peace.
Let us pray…..

 

 

What you need to know about Spiritual Warfare…

      Mission Briefing #3:

What You Need to Know about Spiritual Warfare

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Revelation 12:7-12

 † In Jesus Name

 

As you encounter the temptations and trials of this life, may you know that God’s grace, the mercy, love and peace the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ covers you with, will sustain you to victory!

 

Our Mission has…

 

This fall, we’ve been focusing on the mission of this church, of the church as a whole.   To do the work that God has planned for our lives, to do the very work Christ commissioned us to do. The work He has started, that we have a part in, as we reveal His love to the world.

Our mission?  To make disciples of people of every ethnicity, as we go about our lives.  To do so by baptizing them, cleansing them of their sin, and teaching them to treasure everything Jesus has taught us.

It is why the church is here, it is why we have a pre-school, it is why we have pastors and teachers and elders.  To reach out to the hurting, to those living in guilt and shame, to those whose lives are locked into destructive ways of life.

That is our job – to reach out to them, with the hope that comes from knowing the love of Christ, and the fact that He is with His people. That He is with you!  The world needs to know that, they desperately need to know His love, His presence, His healing, and His love.

It is our mission; it is why He sends us out where ever we go.  It has been the mission since the day Adam and Eve left the garden.  God gave the mission to Israel as they left Egypt, as they were ruled by judges and kings, and called to repentance by prophets.  It was their mission as they entered captivity, as they were restored to their land, as they waited for the Messiah.

They were to point to the One who was the light for gentiles, the glory of the people Israel.

Today, the readings all deal with opposition to our church’s mission.

For be sure, as we share God’s love with the world – we will face opposition.  A very ticked off and upset opposition.  An opposition whose only mission seems to be to drive a wedge between God and His people…

An opposition that has lost…but even so, won’t give up. For our opposition is demonic.

The Nature of Satan’s Mission…
Satan has a number of names, or descriptions in this passage, each revealing his evil character and the mission that has become his over time.  Scripture calls the dragon, the primeval serpent, the devil, Satan, and the accuser.   SO let us deal with them.

Dragons in Hebrew thought were large serpents, known especially for their patience, and their keen eyesight.  The very root word for them comes from one of the words for sight.  Their tactics were to kill their opponents by finding and striking at their weakest point – and so it is with Satan, as he looks out at our weakness
The primeval serpent did that, finding the perfect way to deceive Eve and tempt Adam.  Working on their pride, and on curiosity, he was able to deceive them into knowing evil, for all they knew before that was good.  He got in and poisoned their relationship with God and with each other. That’s his strategy, to cause division.
He tried that with Job, and even thought Job struggled, Job’s God proved faithful. Which is the point we need so badly to learn!

Devil and devils simply mean those who throw against, basically they are spiritual gossips and mudslingers.  The devils best tool is to bring light on our failures, to show our sins and character weakness. God, don’t you know your favored people, the people you called your own are a bunch of silly sinners?  These people and their pastor, God, don’t you know what they did this week?

Lastly, Satan simply means our Adversary.  The one who opposes us and uses all of His cunning to hurt us, for if he can drive a wedge between us and God, then he is happy, for that is all he can try to do, and even that… is but an illusion.

His Weapon?  Our Failure, our Guilt

You see, Satan’s only weapon is try to deceive us, to literally lead us astray from the love and mercy of God.  He will greatly use temptation, guilt and shame to try and separate us from the love of God.

Which means Satan’s best weapons are our sins, and our weak points where He can tempt us. He wants to uses our failures.  He desires to cause us guilt, to cause us shame, to create an illusion that God does not want to forgive us, or that we do not deserve the love of God, and that we stand condemned.

Because he is no longer in heaven, accusing us before the throne of God, his only option is to work on us, to convince us that God will not fulfill the promise of Christ’s blood, to cover our sin.

This was part of our conversation this week in a college class on the Lord’s Supper.  That we feel guilty when we do not think we feel guilty enough!  When we think our attitude has to be perfect before we can come to church. We have to get our lives in line that we have to become saints prior to coming here, otherwise the roof might fall in, or the apocalypse might happen.

That is Satan’s only goal, to divide us from God, and if God will not listen to his accusations, maybe we will.  Either to his accusations about us, or the gossip that accuses others, both of which can cause division.

But if our prosecutor isn’t there?

 

What we have to remember is the victory is won.  The only judge who can condemn us has determined that Satan’s accusations are not worth listening to, and has tossed the one accusing us out of heaven.  The battle was not some heaven splitting war, it was simply that it was time to stop listening to the accuser.

Because Christ had come.

Because the blood of Christ has covered every sin.

That is the word that we bear witness! This love of God that sent the Son to bear the guilt of every sin! The word that we testify to is His promise to cleanse us of every sin, to unite us to His death, so that we will rise again.

 

Which is why we do not have to cling to life, for we know what death brings.

For our life in Christ means more than our physical life, for one is eternal, and one is passing. Think of it this way… in our baptism we meet Christ in His death, and at our death He meets us again, to bring us life.

Salvation and power and God’s empire have become known to us, for in Christ dieing on the cross, the bonds that hell had on us because of sin were shattered, for the gates of hell cannot ever stand against the revelation of God’s love for us, so clearly revealed in the cross of Christ.

It makes Satan’s role as our accuser meaningless, his accusations in heaven not even being heard.  For in Christ, our names are written in the record of life. If the prosecutor is not there, if the Judge will not listen to him, those who are guilty are freed, declared innocent.

We don’t have to listen to Satan’s charges, we don’t have to pay heed to the illusion of Guilt and shame, the agony of dealing with sin.  We have been declared free in Christ.

That’s why we come to this altar – to be reminded of the blood, to be reminded of that to which we confess, the truth we state when we say, I believe in God the Father…and in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, and in the Holy Spirit who calls us gathers us together.  Satan cannot do a thing about it, for He is powerless.

And knowing this, we live, forgiven in the unsurpassed, indescribable peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

AMEN…

Why are we so eager to “share” gossip and “memes” that make others look bad?

1 “Don’t pass on malicious gossip. “Don’t link up with a wicked person and give corrupt testimony. 2 Don’t go along with the crowd in doing evil and don’t fudge your testimony in a case just to please the crowd”.  Exodus 23:1-2 (MSG)

 8 In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.”  Philippians 4:8 (TEV)

It is the most trying thing about FB and Google+ and other social media.  It is a sin that needs to be checked, and it is more rampant and as devastating as any thing the church normally publicly protests.

It is not just violating the 8th commandment, but is a complete disregard of it, and the two passages above.  The incessant number of rumors, most of them lies, that we are so willing to pass on, without checking the facts behind the story, something that can be done with a highlight and a click or two.  Of course, we also takes these “gems” of wisdom with us, and they end up in conversations over lunch, or preceding Bible Studies and Worship services, giving more fuel to the falsehood, because people we know and care about shared them with us.

These days, many of them are still about the President of the United States.  Even more about the Pope who is about to retire, or about the church he oversees.  But there are many targets out there, and the gossip and slander is…sickening.  

I will be the first one to admit that I have done this in the past. 

I will also admit that with both men, and their predecessors and positions I have some issues.  (Less with this particular pope, more with the theology he inherits from the Council of Trent) If we have issues – deal with the real issues.  Do not degrade someone, do not dismiss someone based on heresay and gossip that has nothing to do with the issues. engage in discourse with those who can affect them. They are not the enemy…nor is any target of gossip and slander.  (see Eph 6)

There are a number of logical positions that can be made about this topic – how such spreading such gossip affects your own credibility, how it is simply sin, how it hardens you, and affects your prayer life, and your relationship as you dismiss other sins just as easily.

But simply put – it is sin, and we are called to abstain from it, be reconciled to those damaged by it, and to confess it.  Grace will not abound because you share that picture, or that article, or that quip or slam… it just won’t.  

But when we sin, confess it, and know we are forgiven…and cleansed… and then go and sin no more..

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