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Do We Take Sin’s Cure Seriously Enough?

chemnitz-on-us-dwelling-in-jesusDevotional Thought of the Day:

26  The LORD said, “Do not make idols or set up statues, stone pillars, or carved stones to worship. I am the LORD your God.   Leviticus 26:1 TEV

16  Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.
James 5:16 (MSG)

Marcion taught, on the basis of the opinions of his master Cerdo, that there is one god of the Old Testament, just, stern, and punitive toward sin, who rained down sulfur and fire on Sodom, Gen. 19:24; and there is another god of the New Testament, merciful, beneficent, long-suffering, who “causes His sun to rise and sends rain on the just and the unjust,

 

Our Saviour has left the holy sacrament of penance and confession to his Church, that in it we may cleanse ourselves from all our iniquities, as often as we should be defiled by them. Never suffer your heart, then, Philothea, to remain long affected with sin, since you have so easy a remedy at hand. A soul which has consented to sin ought to conceive a horror of herself, and cleanse herself as quickly as possible, out of the respect she ought to bear to the Divine Majesty, who incessantly beholds her. Alas! why should we die a spiritual death, when we have so sovereign a remedy at hand?

I have to wonder how much Marcion’s idea of two gods, one of the Old Testament and One of the New affects our viewpoint of sin.

The thought is prevalent today among many in the church, and it drastically colors our viewpoint of sin.  We tend to dismiss things in the Old Testament that were prohibited  (and not declared clean like bacon and Gentiles!) because we see the God of the Old being different, and having different standards than Jesus.

Perhaps that is why we don’t take the cure for sin seriously?

We all are sinners, whether it is gossip, or sexual sins, or hatred and name calling. We’ve developed our justifications, our defenses, such as – well that was in the Old Testament, and life is different in the New Testament.  We even have simply gotten to the point where we deny that sin is sin.  We ignore its gravity, its pain, its horror.

Worse than the horror, what we are really doing is robbing ourselves, and those we teach, of a wondrous gift, a gift that is more valuable than anything we could purchase.  We don’t cover up and hide the sin, we bury and hide God’s glorious love and mercy.

We rob ourselves of forgiveness, of the healing and restoration God has promised us.  We rob ourselves of being right with God, of knowing His love and presence.  As De Sales teaches, why should we embrace a spiritual death, when our remedy is so at hand?  When that remedy is the body and blood of Jesus, given and shed for you, that this covenant promise would be yours – that you would be righteous, innocent and holy, being freed from sin.

Paul’s words in Hebrew echo again here – run to Jesus, for if e neglect such a great salvation, what else is there?  And if we are neglecting it because we don’t want to deal with sin, what is there?

The challenge is presenting this, not as the choice between wrath and paradise, for that is not the primary purpose of forgiveness.  That purpose is so that we can know, that we can be assured that God is our God, that we are His people, that we are in fellowship, a deep intimate relationship that is based on the deepest of love.  His love which doesn’t ignore our sin, but heals us. That was His plan throughout the Old Testament (read the dedication of the Temple if you don’t believe me) and is fully revealed in Jesus in the new.

Which is why Chemnitz follows his comments about Marcion with the beautiful, intimate description of our dwelling in the Word of God  (that is, Jesus) as a baby dwells in the uterus.  Safe, secure, nourished, until we find the day where glory shines… and all that is God is revealed.

Til then, we dwell in His peace. Amen!

 

Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.1885. Print.

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 

He Thinks about, and Cares for US!!

He Thinks About, and Cares for Us!
Psalm 8

In Jesus Name

May you receive the grace, the mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, that you resonate with the cry for His majestic name, His incredible glory, to fill the earth!

What to Preach about this Week?

When I looked at the readings this week, and realized that on hallmark calendars it was Father’s Day, and on the Church Calendar it is Trinity Sunday, I faced a dilemma.

Which incredible thing do I preach on?

Do it preach on Trinity Sunday, and what the Athanasians’ Creed means?  Do I preach on how those of us who are fathers can try to be like our Father in heaven?  Or how our children should respect us like we are supposed to respect our Father in Heaven?  Look at the readings – we have the incredible passage about the great commission! Go into all the world my friends and let’s get to work making disciples!  Or about baptism, or doubt, or faith?  I could have even preached on the longer optional reading today, which was all of Creation in chapter 1 and some of chapter 2 of Genesis.

Lot’s of great choices!  Which one do we need to hear the most?

Not one of those…

We need to hear the words of the Psalm… we need to grasp the incredible praises that are communicated in those words, and then, join in the praises!

Though we rarely give thought to the psalms, besides to pray through them, I think this day… everything else, why we want to explain the Trinity, the Mission of the Church, the role of fathers, everything, begins to make sense…..  so let’s get to it!

  • What is Man?

How many of you saw the moon Friday night, or last night?  How many have looked up into the sky and seen the brilliance of the millions of stars in the Milky Way galaxy?   Or simply lain in the grass and looked at the clouds passing by on a beautiful day, and realized that it is God who put these things in place…it is He who ordained all of creation…..
How glorious, how inspirational, how even creating something like a star, or the universe through which it’s light and energy travel.. How it is all kept in balance, how amazing…
Compare that to us.

Who are we, compared to the distances of space, the energy that could reflect off a moon and shine so gloriously in the night sky?

The psalmist asks that very same question:

what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?

Who are we?

We might answer we are dads, or moms, we might answer by what we do for a living, I am a pastor, Tom is retired, Chris is a professor and a musician…

We might answer more honestly from our perspective, we are people who know sorrow and grief, are anxious, sometimes dwell in guilt and shame, we are broken, sinful.  We struggle to understand things of God, like how the God is three and one, or how Jesus is 100% God and 100% man… or how a creed written 1400-1700 years ago explains it.

But that is from our perspective, from our view, and the Psalmist is asking God what He thinks about us……. and why He would care for us….

That is why the Psalmist praises God, because God does think about us, and He does care for us…..

Unbelievable, Incredible!

Not just think as in – oh yeah, there they are, the word has a depth of perception, of looking into deeply and understanding.

God – the one who thought for a moment and the moon and stars were made….

Thinks deeply and cares about us.  About you, about me, about us together as Concordia…

And He cares.. more deeply than we can imagine..

Yhwh and Adonai

I want you to go back, and look at verse one for a moment.

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

Do you notice that the first LORD there is all in capitals, and the second is normal?  That is because in Hebrew, there are different words.  The first, the one all in capitals, isn’t the word LORD, but the actual name of God.  Yhwh or Jehovah depending on pronunciation.  The Name that is to fill the earth, the Name above all names.  The Name God has given us to call upon Him, that we would know He saves us!

The second is His title – Lord, Master, King, the one who reigns over us.  But that to is not always what we think.  The word comes from the idea of a foundation, of the one who provides support and sets us up firmly to stand.

The description of it in Hebrew reminded me of something here, the base for the processional cross.  Hmmm…. Vicar, come up here for a moment please.

We are like the processional cross… without a base – we look nice – and maybe able to stand for a moment.  But without the base, we will fall eventually and maybe even crack someone on the head…

But with the base…the foundation, the place where we fit, we stand….

And that is the nature of God’s reign, of His Lordship.  It focuses on His commitment to us, the promises He makes and fulfills in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

We see it in His sharing His creation with us, giving us responsibility for it.  A responsibility to care for it, to care for each other, even as He cares for us.

It makes sense for God to do this to Jesus, to place all this authority and responsibility in His hands.  But does it make sense to put it in our hands?

It does, when we realize that God never leaves us, that God is always present here, in our lives, even as Christ’s Body and Blood are present in the Lord’s Supper.

And in Christ, joined to His death and resurrection in baptism, we find ourselves alive in Him, His co-heirs, God’s children.  I love the Apostle Paul’s way of phrasing this:

12  For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13  You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14  he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. 15  And on that cross Christ freed himself from the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities; he made a public spectacle of them by leading them as captives in his victory procession.
Colossians 2:12-15 (TEV)

Does God think about you?  Does God care?

Look at what He has done for us in Christ……

And know He knows you, He cares for you…

The Majestic, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Triune God… thinks about you, cares about you… loves you….

And brings you into His glory and peace, a place beyond all description, where we are guarded and protected by Christ….

So let us worship Him!  AMEN?

Christianity and …Tea

Devotional thought of the day….

We are in love with Love. That is why Our Lord doesn’t want us to be dry, stiff, lifeless. He wants us to be steeped in his tenderness!

It’s been about fifteen years now, since I was at Pepperdine running a department.  It was tradition for our dean, or maybe our Asst. Dean to get everybody some kind of fancy imported coffee for Christmas.  (the bunch of geeks that we were, we lived on caffeine.) But I don’t drink coffee, and though I would have been perfectly content with a 12 back of diet coke, he (or probably his office manager/exec asst.) got me a bag of Earl Gray and another bag of English Breakfast Tea, and one of those little mesh tea infusers. (what they used before the advent of tea bags – and what conciseness still use today)

To be honest, it does make a hug difference…. the way the tea tasted was superb!

When I read the words above from St Josemaria Escriva, I immediately latched onto that word “steeped”  It is really just another picture of the concept of living in Christ, or abiding in Him.  We are sort of like a glass of hot water, sitting on a table.  Okay… I suppose I notice it there… maybe even look at the steam coming off of it.  Yet through in a infuser, with a really good strong batch of tea… and everything changes.  The steam coming off the top of the cup projects it’s flavor/scent throughout the room. the beverage itself comes alive and the caffeine… well it is cafeinne!  🙂    All of a sudden we are awake, and alive and we have energy.

Such is the effect of living in Christ, of His love, His tenderness, His mercy, His nature, infuses (not making a theological statement here- just the concept) us, it affects us in ways we can’t even begin to comprehend.  The more we grasp His love, the more we begin to love others.  The apostle Paul decribes such an effect this way..

14 And I got it, thank God! In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. 15 Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life.  2 Corinthians 2:14-15 (MSG) 

You desire people to come to know Jesus?  You desire your church to be filled once again?  You want to be effective in your vocation, and in your walk as a believer?

It starts with something simple – something quite passive, something that calls us to be still… and know He is God…the rest will come… it is the natural result, like the steeping of some leaves in a cup of hot water results in a great drink…

It calls us to be steeped in His love and tenderness….

Adore Him, for indeed He is worthy…


(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1881-1883). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Hymn of Surrender… A Mighty Fortress…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Tomorrow, Lutheran Churches around the world will sing “A Mighty Fortress”, the hymn written by Martin Luther.

I’ve heard it called the Battle Hymn of the Reformation, a rally cry to do battle…. As I look at the words, and at Psalm 46 which it is drawn from, and look at Luther’s life, I am not so sure.

I think it is a hymn of surrender, and let me use a medieval village (think like Robin Hood’s era) as a parabolic example.

The village is constantly raided by bandits. Those who would try to stand and fight, are instead overwhelmed, beaten and battered into submission.  Those who are too weak simply give in, and compromise, and let the bandits steal what they want.  The village is crushed, there is no joy left, no hope, nothing but the bondage thrust on them by the  Until a messenger comes from a nearby castle, offering protection, and more importantly, a place in the King’s family.  People struggle with the decision, for it means they have to give up what they know and what will it be like to be no longer free.

Such is the life that Luther knew, in bondage to his own sin, oppressed by Satan and by the thoughts of death.  The church at his time didn’t help – it held hostage the very thing that would give any hope.  Forgiveness, redemption, restoration, the hope received by those who believe and are baptised, hidden behind indulgences merited..by paying a hefty price.

It is as Luther realizes the breadth, the width, the height and depth of the Father’s love shown to us in Christ, that grace – the mercy and peace of God is revealed.   Our freedom, which was but an illusion is traded in for security, protection, peace…forgiveness, adoption.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, St Paul wrote – can seperate us from that love in Christ.

I picture then, using my parable, the people of the village, being pursued by their enemies, running to the Fortress, encouraged by the One who came to bring them to their real home.  The hymn not a cry to do battle, but a realization that true safety is found there, in Christ, who brings us home.  For He is not just a messenger, but the Lord God Almighty, come to bring His people home.  A favorite Catholic priest/writer wrote:

“Doubts assail you, temptations, with that gloss of elegance about them. I love to hear you say how this shows that the devil considers you his enemy, and that God’s grace will never leave you unprotected. Keep up the struggle!” (1)

It is not our battle, this battle against sin, and satan and death… it is Jesus’ battle.  One of the translations of A Mighty Fortress says this so well:

With might of ours can naught be done, soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the Valiant One, whom God Himself elected.
Ask ye, who is this? Jesus Christ it is.
Of Sabbath Lord, and there’s none other God;
He holds the field forever.

Indeed He does, as we scurry into His fortress, as we tend to those wounded and broken, as we go out, not to do battle, but on rescue missions, to bring home  those who need the refuge we have found.

May we indeed live by faith, by trusting in the One who sets captives free, and then guards their hearts and minds, in the peace that abiding in Christ brings.

AMEN!

 

 

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1247-1250). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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