Devotional Thought of the Day:
The LORD says,
“Listen to me, you that want to be saved, you that come to me for help. Think of the rock from which you came, the quarry from which you were cut. 2 Think of your ancestor, Abraham, and of Sarah, from whom you are descended. When I called Abraham, he was childless, but I blessed him and gave him children; I made his descendants numerous. Isaiah 51:1-2 GNT
In union with Christ and through our faith in him we have the boldness to go into God’s presence with all confidence. Eph 3:12 GNT
105 If you don’t keep in touch with Christ in prayer and in the bread, how can you make him known to others?
In our first quote from Isaiah, God tells us to look back at our past, at the people who came before us. The passage will start with Abraham, but it will not stop then. God wants us to think about those who went before, to consider their situations deeply.
But the reason why is critical. We look back at the past not to glorify them (they were sinners – notorious ones at times) or imitate their actions (they were sinners remember) and turn what they did into our traditions. They aren’t superheroes, and people for us to adore. They were sinners.
We can talk of Abraham or Moses, we can move to the New Testament and talk of Peter and Paul. We can talk about the saints through the ages, ones like Francis of Assisi, or Ignatius of Loyola, modern favorites like St. Theresa or Billy Graham, or my two favorites Martin Luther and St. Josemaria Escriva.
Looking back at those who went before us is good, unless we begin to turn them into idols, or people whose faith and practice was so much “holier” than our own. We need to remember Paul didn’t say “imitate me!” He said imitate me as I imitate Christ”
So what do we do with these saints? what do we learn as we look back at those whose faith precedes our own?
The Lord tells us in Isaiah, we look back and see that Abraham was a broken guy, just like the rest of us, and then God worked in His life!
As we look at the past, that’s what we need to see, that the Lord worked in the life of Abraham, that God worked in the life of Moses, and King David, and stubborn and broken guys like the Apostles Peter and Paul
God works in our lives too. Which is why the chief of all sinners can tell the church in Ephesus to enter the presence of God the Father with confidence. Not when we die and get to heaven, though that surely will happen then. But to do so now, as we be still and take time to pray, to seriously find ourselves in the presence of God, laying burdens down, letting Him strip us of sin, talking with us, being with us.
This is why we look back at the our ancestors in the faith. To realize as broken and sinful as they were, God worked in their lives, He drew them into a relationship with Him, and in the process, things happened. But the major lesson – they lived in the presence of God, learning to depend on Him, whether in their prayers, or the times where He was physically present.
That’s what we need to know. That is what we must experience. that is what every person in our world needs. Looking back shows us He will be there, because He always has been there for His people, no matter how broken, even calling them back when they wandered or ran off.
He was faithful, He is faithful, and we learn He will be faithful in our lives, and in those who follow us… and look back to us.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 396-397). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Two Encounters With Jesus
† Jesus, Son, Saviour †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ cause you to recognize Him, and bring to Him those who need to be made whole.
The Challenge to Evangelism?
In twenty years of ministry, one of the hardest things to see develop in a church is the attitude that we exist and serve to bring others to Christ. Some call this being missional, some call it recognizing our apostolate.
You see, each of us is sent by God, to live where we are, and to reflect the love of God to those who are broken and so desperately need His touch upon their lives.
The challenge is not in learning what to say, most of us have been taught how to explain our faith. I mean how many of us can say the Lord’s Prayer and the apostles’ creed without looking at the bulletin?
We know the teachings, the basic doctrine.
So what do we need? What will change us into being a church that reveals to people the Jesus who will make them whole?
The key to Concordia, or any other church, becoming an evangelistic church, is simple. We need to know how to act when we encounter Jesus.
For when our souls learn to recognize Jesus, when our hearts know we dwell in His presence, the intuitive thing to do will be to drag people to Jesus, to the places where we know they will encounter them.
In today’s gospel, there are three encounters with Jesus. Two will show us how we can react to seeing Him. And the third, well, we will get to it later.
Seeing Him, amazed and confused!
The first way people reacted to Jesus is seen in the boat. The apostles, tired and weary, still overwhelmed by their first mission trip, and the feeding of thousands, see Jesus.
They see him, the word there is from where we get “identify.” Picture someone routinely checking driver’s licenses, and then realizing the person in front of them is someone famous. This is how they reacted, and their hearts, confused by all of life, were described as too petrified to take it all in. We all get that way sometimes, as life throws a few curves at us. As we get overwhelmed, as we are struggling with what is going on, or with the storms in our lives.
The apostles were there, “hey” its Jesus. Oh no! It’s beyond natural! It’s something supernatural! It’s not something normal.
Uhm, yeah Peter and James and John. It’s Jesus! What did you expect from Him, if not the supernatural?
We don’t recognize Jesus all that well at times, or the Holy Spirit’s prompting. We struggle to see Him during the hard times, and we don’t completely get what God is up too when we see the miraculous happen.
Our hearts are petrified, they are too hard to take it all in. But can we change?
Knowing Him – and dragging people in bed to Him
The second group was the group that encountered Jesus when He got out of the boat. These people just didn’t identify Jesus, the Greek indicates they knew Him, they deeply knew Him, who He was, and what it meant for Him to be there.
Whereas the Apostles went crazy with fear, these people went crazy bringing every person they could find that was broken. They ran around, grabbing people on mattresses and carrying them, they even just knew that if they could encounter Jesus, even just touching the edge of their robes, it would change everything….
And it did.
They encountered Him in the everyday mess of life. Though they had no clue about the cross, or the grave, the resurrection, they were sure He was a messenger from God, and they knew he would do the supernatural. So they brought the broken, the needy, almost without thinking about it!
Imagine lying there on your bed, some guys storm in, and the next thing you know, you are being dragged to meet Jesus, no explanation given. As you encounter Jesus, something more occurs than just being healed. You are made holy, you are saved. You are made right, perfect.
That’s what happens when you reveal the love of God to someone, that is what happens when Jesus is revealed In your life, what occurs when you encounter Him.
So How? Close Encounter of the Third Kind
So how do we go from the first reaction to reacting like the evangelists in the second group of people? How do we go from going crazy because of trauma and stress, to being crazy trying to get people to come to Jesus? What hope is there for those of us who are overwhelmed, whose hearts are too hard to take it all in?
Because even the holiest and most devout of us can get overwhelmed by life.
I did this week, as the prayer list seemed to explode with people in need.
It isn’t within me to remember 24/7 that God is here, actively working in our lives, actively working through our lives. I get too distracted, I get too overwhelmed by the storm, I get too frustrated by the work that God sent me to do.
So how do we keep centered on Jesus? How do we stay aware of His presence in life?
One pastor wrote it this way,
Only from a personal encounter with the Lord can we carry out the diakonia (service) of tenderness without letting us get discouraged or be overwhelmed by the presence of pain and suffering. (Pope Francis)
Remember where the disciples were heading with Jesus when they came back from their first mission trip? When they took off and found people chasing them on the shore, and then Jesus fed them?
They were heading off to a place to be with Jesus, to find time to pray, to find time for that personal encounter with God. To know Him enough to recognize Him.
Jesus did this, He went away for a time to talk to the Father, that was why He had to chase the boat, and if it is a blessing for Him, it is necessary for us.
Not just to please God, though it does. I need it, and you need it too. We need to be able to recognize God’s presence in our lives, to expect it, and the healing and peace that He brings. For that presence ties out theology to life, it makes what we say more than words.
To know Him, to encounter Him in prayer, and in the sacraments, they help us to now He is there. And so this week, God blessed me by helping me encounter Him more, as people took time out, and we shared in the Lord’s Supper together. Then when the storms hit, we know to look for Him, to expect His presence.
For from there, recognizing God at work is easier, knowing He is here, and He will make us whole is easier. For with Him revealed, we are still, and we know He is indeed God. And that He keeps us, our hearts and minds safe in Jesus. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Acts 6:4 (NAB)
22 So turn from youthful desires and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord with purity of heart. 23 Avoid foolish and ignorant debates, for you know that they breed quarrels. 24 A slave of the Lord should not quarrel, but should be gentle with everyone, able to teach, tolerant, 25 correcting opponents with kindness. It may be that God will grant them repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they may return to their senses out of the devil’s snare, where they are entrapped by him, for his will. 2 Timothy 2:22-26 (NAB)
11 This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; 12 if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. 13 If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. 14 Remind people of these things and charge them before God to stop disputing about words. This serves no useful purpose since it harms those who listen. 15 Be eager to present yourself as acceptable to God, a workman who causes no disgrace, imparting the word of truth without deviation. 16 Avoid profane, idle talk, for such people will become more and more godless, 2 Timothy 2:11-16 (NAB)
I’ve been going through Acts for about 7 months with one of the Bible Studies I teach. And so as devotional reading got to Acts, I sort of went into glide mode. Got this, know these words well. Then, as I got to Acts 6 – the passage that gives birth to the ecclesiastical office of deacon, the first quote above hit me between the eyes.
I need to rethink some of my ministry, and especially my priorities.
We shall devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of word…..
But do we?
There is no doubt I need to pray more, times of dedicated prayer and in times of just enjoying life as God and I walk together, times as well where the family of God breaks out in prayer.
But what about the ministry of the word? It is important I think to understand that this is not talking about careful exegesis, or studying the logic and reason to use it to argue and divide. The ministry of the word is not using it to divide the believer and unbeliever, to prove the who is orthodox and who is heretical. The ministry of the word is the ministry of reconciliation.
That is why Paul urges tolerance and gentleness in our teaching, that through these words, people can be called to dance with God, to live with Him.
This is our work, and it is why prayer must be so much a part of our ministry. For only from growing in our dependence on God, can we understand and commit to His will, to see all come to deliverance.
I need to clarify what I mean by this is our work, our vocation. I am not talking that it is our job as if we work 10-12 hours and then we go off duty.
This is our life work, this ministry of the word, this ministry of reconciliation. And what we do in our free time is just as much part and parcel of that work as our time in the office, at the pulpit, or beside the hospital bed. So if we blog, or podcast, it must be the goal of that work. If we are out having a beer, this ministry is still our work, if we are meeting with other ministers, this call to reconciled, to be reconciled to God still is our life.
So let us lay aside the sin, and all other things that hinder this, and let us look to our Lord Jesus, who reconciled us to Himself at the cross – and may we live with Him, praying and ministering at His side.
He Rebuked “them?”
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace, that love and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you, and help conform your will to His, as you walk with Him through this life.
The Invitation: Come Walk With Me
I asked some friends this week this question,
“What would your excuse be, if Jesus showed up today and said, Come – follow me! ?”
Eleven of them basically denied that they would have an excuse, with comments that they were ready to go, that nothing would stand in the way, that they were ready.
I guess that they have more the attitude of James and John and Simon and Andrew – who simply let their dad’s and co-workers clean up the mess. Or like Matthew, who left his collection desk with the Roman version of the IRS and went with Jesus.
How many of us are ready, or more importantly, willing, to answer God’s call that way? How many are ready to suffer discomfort, or leave things undone, even not taking the time to get things in order with our family?
I have no doubt about our desire to follow God, to walk with Jesus, to learn of Him, to be mentored by the Holy Spirit.
What we need to consider is where that desire, that devotion is limited, and turn that over to God, that we may find the limitation fade, and our devotion of God grow, and the desire grow to where we can really understand that to walk with Him is the only way to live.
The Challenge: Raining Down Fire!
Four times in this passage, Jesus confronts attitudes that would make walking with Jesus a process we control, that we are in charge of, where we decide when and where to follow Jesus. Three are simply seen, as Jesus questions and rebukes those who would not follow Him because it is uncomfortable, or because we might lose family over it, or because we don’t have all our lives in order. Jesus challenges each one of those pretty intensely, but I want to focus on the fourth issue, the one we don’t see right away.
The attitude demonstrated by the two brothers, James and John. The attitude for which Jesus sharply rebuked them.
All they wanted to do was rain down fire and have it consume those they thought were the enemies of Jesus. I mean these Samaritans rejected the Messiah – don’t they deserve death and hell? Isn’t that how it works?
I mean, it is not like John and James wanted to condemn them for being mean, or having a different political view or falling asleep during the sermon, or daring them to do something they should not do. It wasn’t just a selfish desire to judge and condemn.
These people rejected Jesus, they chose to refuse the Kingdom of God, they deserve it!
In making that judgment, even as they walk with Jesus, even as they follow Him, they prove that they really aren’t following Him. They might be travelling with Him, but following is something entirely different.
Following Jesus isn’t about the miles they walked, anymore than it is the miles we walk. It’s about traveling with Him through life, and allowing Him to guide us, support us, train us. It’s about hearing His voice, and understanding the way of life and where it is He is taking us.
The irony is that these very people they are wanting to toast to a crisp are the very people Jesus will send them to, once He has died, and risen and ascended. For they will once again witness to them, as Jesus will direct them just before He ascends.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NLT)
The reason Jesus rebukes them? The reason Jesus would still rebuke us when we too want to call down fire and judgment on someone? Because following Jesus means we will come back to them, and minister to them and proclaim God’s love, because He came to set them free. Because that is that is why He is going through Jerusalem to get to where He is going… that we and they can go with Him.
The Observation… The Destination is Different
When I think of this passage – which is just after the transfiguration, I think of Jesus setting out for Jerusalem where he will be crucified. It would make sense then, that when He is inviting them to follow Him, He is talking about the cross – about the sacrifice that we can be forgiven of our sins.
The passage in St. Luke’s gospel says it a bit differently.
51 As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
Note that the focus isn’t the crucifixion, it is the ascension. The cross isn’t born by Jesus without a view of the Father’s promises, without the knowledge that because He bore it, we would “follow Him” and eventually he would return to us.
Hebrews 12 tells us that it is with this joy that He endured the cross – that he is both the genesis/beginning and the completion of our trust in God the Father.
John’s gospel tells us that even as Jesus prophesied His ascension, He told us that not only that he would return, but that the reason He was going was to prepare a place for us.
That’s the goal that Jesus has in mind as He rebukes the brothers, as He tells them that they shouldn’t even think about such a request – because it is so completely against the Father’s will. Revenge and wrath aren’t the goal, punishing evildoers isn’t God’s will either, for He punished Jesus rather than us for our sin.
It is God’s desire that those Samaritans out there, those who rejected His presence, would begin to value it, to welcome it, to desire it.
The same thing goes for those who would offend God today and all lesser offenses as well. Despite their sin, despite their rejection, God hasn’t given up on reaching them, any more than He has given up on us!
What it means to follow Jesus, to walk with Him, to let Him be our Master, our Lord is that we realize His desire is to commune with His people. His Father’s will that none should perish, for He greatly desires to be our God, and us to be His people! As we walk with Him, more and more we realize His love for us, That love, that mercy changes us, assures us, reminds us that the destination is more than just the cross or the resurrection, but it is our being with God.
That’s what this is all about, that is where we find life. As we walk with Him, our will is conformed to His will, even as our sinfulness is erased and we are see with His righteousness. That means we see the “Samaritans” in our life differently. It means we continue to pray and love those who don’t know God, desiring that as He does, they will hear and come and walk with Him as well.
That they will know His peace, a peace that passes all understanding – the peace of God that comes as we walk with Christ, as He keeps our hearts and minds secure in that peace.
- Dan Brown, Dante’s Inferno and the Missio Dei (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the day:
A post on Facebook this morning brought memories of our trip (dare I say our pilgrimage) to Rome last year.
We were walking down a street – just trying to get a feeling for the city. An amazing city, and dare I say it had a sense of both home and holiness. It is hard to explain – but it was there, not just in the churches, but among the very streets. We came across this building from the back, obviously a place that was old and needing more restoration. As we rounded the front – it was the Pantheon – the incredible temple built for sacrifices to be offered to the pantheon of Roman Gods – its oculus – the hole in the center of the dome – even on an overcast day lit this ancient magnificent structure incredibly. The huge iron doors, amazing.
Yet what astounded me the most, this incredible building, built to worship false gods, built as a place to appease them, was transformed, sanctified, set apart centuries later to be a place of like transformation, a place to celebrate the Light pouring into lives.
What I never read of, what I never realized – is that this building is now a church – an active place where people are baptized, and transformed by the Love of God. A place where the Body and Blood of Christ is the only sacrifice that matters, the only one that could be used to redeem and revive and restore.
A place that was redeemed, that was set apart (sanctified) to be a place where redemption and sanctification of man occurs, because of the love of the One, True God, who does that which we cannot. He buys us back, He redeems us, He cleanses us, He sets us apart….for Him.
As I walked into the Pantheon, as I saw the altars, the paintings, the incredible dome, the oculus, a sense of awe overtook me – much different than the awe at the forum, or at Triumphant Arches, or looking at the wall, or even as we walked through the ruins of Pompeii. It wasn’t just a historical reminder of our past, of the culture we’ve lost.
It’s a place where faith is strengthened, where life in Christ begins, where redemption is seen and known.
A place where God has come.
A place where I have hope – for if God can transform such a place – I realize that I too can be transformed – and that I too can be a place where God dwells, where He abides, where with other believers, we form a temple not made with hands… and our sacrifice is not to die, but to live. Where as this building gains the identity of being a place of God, such is my vocation and life. Yours as well.
Such is the wonder of walking with Christ.
He makes all things – whether ancient temples dedicated to man’s glory, or men themselves…new.
May our lives praise Him, and may people glorify Him more as they see His work in and through us. AMEN
The Tomb is Empty, So is the Jail
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
As you realize the grace, the mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, may you realize as well that He has freed you to join Him!
The +1: The Tomb is Empty, He is Risen, The Lord is With you, You are Free.
Last week, during the service and sermon I asked you to respond to a number of things! Actually, I didn’t ask you! You just responded, and did it well. Which is appropriate, as we use these things pretty regularly here at church.
I wanted you to tie them together – a bond that would lead you from one saying to the next – and every time you hear one – hopefully the others will just come to mind as well.
So let’s see if you remember them
The Tomb is ……
therefore, He is Risen…
therefore, The Lord is with…
And to that today, as we look at the reading from the book of Acts, we are going to add one,
36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:36 (NLT)
Indeed – and that is our theme for this day…as we look at the fact that no longer was the Tomb empty, but so was the jail. Moreover, while this is fact, the difference between the Priests and the Apostles is such a valuable lesson for us. For many of us deal with times in our lives where we feel ourselves imprisoned, bound, captive – and the point is simple –
The Tomb is Empty, He is Risen, The Lord is With You – and IF God has set you free…
Who was really imprisoned? What Imprisoned them?
If you look at the actions of the Priests and officials, you see what motivated them to react with orders to arrest the apostles. We see it there in verse 17 – the were filled with jealously – the word picture describes being overwhelmed and flooded with it – even to the point of not seeing the good they were denying.
They were fighting against good stuff. They stopped people from being healed. The interfered with people being freed from what oppressed them – what ailed their spirits or the demons with whom they struggled. Even more annoying to them, were the crowds that began to believe. The crowds in whom the word of God was working, generating life and faith as lives were brought together with God. Such things that the crowds grew, and the glory of the priesthood and its empty temple diminished, quickly.
The priests were in a prison that was far more insidious, even more restrictive than the facility that the one in which they stuck the apostles. For we can find peace anywhere, but we cannot flee from ourselves. We cannot flee our own idols, and we can’t even free ourselves from the sin and idols which we worship.
That is why I ask – who was imprisoned? The one’s in the community’s jail, or the ones who tossed them into that cell? It’s a pretty common occurrence in scripture, Joseph and His brothers, Saul and David, Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, or Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. Or for that matter – who knew more freedom – Jesus on the cross, or those who crucified him?
When we are bound up in jealousy – when we zealously protect our idols, those things we count on, before we count on God. I am always curious when we think we need to defend our gods anyways. Can’t they stand up on their own? First sign of an idol is when we have to defend it. Such sin is revealed as well when we stop good from happening because it didn’t happen our way. It is then we should realize that we are imprisoned by something that controls us – we are oppressed by it, it suffocates us and can even kill our Spirit – as it did those priests and Sadducees. Imagine not realizing the tomb was empty, or that He is Risen, or that the Lord is ….. indeed, if you didn’t know this – how could you ever conceive of being free indeed?
And how sad is that…? Can we even conceive of it?
Or do we need to be rescued from it?
God Frees them and us in more ways than one
I love that the phrase, “the angel of the Lord” is used to describe who delivers the apostles from their prison. For that phrase is used normally of God Himself – as in the days of Abraham, Issac and Israel, or Moses’ day.
It reminds us that real freedom comes from Him, He is always it’s source. He is our source. The way they are freed, it isn’t a big deal here. Come on, Jesus says, let’s go, time to get back to what I sent you to do – go and give them my message of life! Go tell them, that:
The tomb is…. Praise God He is Risen, the Lord is with….. and… if the Son sets you free… you are free indeed!
So my only question today – is what are you freed from? For the Son has set you free. Have you thought about it recently? Maybe you are here today, wondering if you can be freed from…
Instead of the something maybe it is the guilt and shame or anxiety that you need to be freed from so that would enable you to act? Or maybe what you need freedom from is the jealousy or zeal for an idol, or a sin, that stops you from seeing that we dwell in the glory of God – He is truly present here, His spirit dwells in each one of us – for that is His desire.
You see, sometimes it isn’t what we think we need to be delivered from, but our being stuck to it, our being superglue’d to it, unable to free ourselves. The guilt and shame bind us, or our desire that no one know we are in such a needy place, bind us far more than the actual issue. Or our desire to protect ours – our precious thing – ends up strangling us, choking our life out.
O we need to get that Jesus has set us free! That all the prisons that sin can create, all the temptations of Satan and the oppression of demons, that the anxiety we have over life and death – that was crushed at the cross. The doors to that which confines us, thrown open, and Jesus, the Angel of the Lord comes to us and escorts us out, reminding us
My tomb is …. I am risen and with you – and I have set you free…..
For at the cross – when He died – when His blood was shed, all that ties us was defeated.. you are free!!
You are free – go and give the people this message of Life…
You are free.. Christ has freed you – the Son has freed you – so you are freed….?
I would end with this one thought…. There are a lot of people who don’t get this – that are struggling with very little hope. They may know these phrases – but they don’t ever quite link them together.
or for a moment – because of trauma, or because of sin – they forgot them.
The Angel of the Lord re-commissioned the apostles that night – even as He freed them.
HE said to them, “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!”
So you too my friends have been commissioned – to go to those bearing the wounds and those who help carry them, looking for someone to help, praying someone will help – and now you know what to tell them….
The Tomb is
He has Risen
The Lord is With you
and if the Son has set you free…
“The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me…so Why?”
† In Jesus Name †
As you give your lives as a living sacrifice to God, as you are equipped by the Holy Spirit’s gifting in your lives, never forget that for you as well is the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!
The Burden of the Call
We So want to see the evidence – to know it has been fulfilled!
It always amazes me, how the man made schedule of readings God is able to use. The Sunday I am preaching to those apostello’d – those sent not just by the LCMS but by God to share His message – the gospel reading is about Jesus taking up the burden of His being apostello’d – of His being sent.
Not that you and I have the same burden as Jesus did – or even that of the original 12 plus Paul – but we do share in that burden – you are as surely sent here as God sent them. Whether you are GEO’s or doing life… err lifetime missionaries or accompanying spouse – or the children – you are all here because God has brought you here.
We look at Jesus taking up His burden as the primary, the first apostello. As He reads the prophecy that points out this very thing in Isaiah – hear these words, not just descriptive of His call – but of your call – because you are united to Him.
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
The year of the Lord’s favor – the year, when God descreed every debt cancelled, that every bill was paid in full – that everything is restored to its rightful place- including us. The year of jubilee.
I know when I left the University I worked at – to enter “full-time” ministry, I thought of all those things happenin – all the people that would come to know Jesus, all the wonderful – even miraculous things that would occur – and how God’s people would praise Him… as they saw His love.
But then the questions arise
Who are you – anyway?
We even may think they are out to crucify you
If they are – so what?
That was 15 years ago – nearly 20 if you count my time as a “part-time” minister. Gonna be a little honest – I think more of my time has been like Jesus’ first service and sermon. So excited to share God’s call to everyone to enjoy the freedom of Christ.. and I quickly fade as people start questioning me – and while they haven’t picked up stones yet……
It seems like that sometimes – not enough eyes that are blind to the gospel open them – or those who hear that they are free from the bondage of sin, stay in the familiar cells that they have become comfortable to – afraid of venturing out into the reality of God’s love. Some have questioned me – not the – “aren’t you Joseph’s son”, but the same question, who are you to tell me I am a sinner in need of God’s grace?
I have to admit – I look at myself far more often than the message I am entrusted to bear. I don’t always hear it for myself first, and so I find myself condemned in the eyes of those I am called to bring it to, those who it is so evident that they need it.
I end up feeling crushed – I end up wanting to go home – to find a little cabin in the mountains of new Hampshire, on a nice quiet lake with a awesome internet connected, and finish out my life canoeing, playing piano and guitar and World of Warcraft.
IT is then, that the law has afflicted me… and I need to be comforted by the very message I bring. Having talked to a number of folk since I landed in Asia ten days ago, I am not the only one.
We have to know the news we bring… just not know – but know. We have to hear it from Him!
As good LC-MS Lutherans – we may have heard the phrase once or twice about proper Law and Gospel tension – Afflict those comfortable in their sin, comfort those afflicted by their sin.
I get the feeling that most of you are as in need of that comfort as I am. Ou wonder why wasn’t there 100 baptisms or even ten, or just one, to witness recently. You want to blame someone, lest you have to blame yourselves. Our “Leaders” are really easy targets. If only they would… then I could see the kinds of results I thought I would.
We who serve in the temple – so need to stop and remember that we are the temple – that God’s spirit is with us here – wherever here is. The love we want people to know – we need to meditate on it, dwell in it, rest and be strengthened by it.
When we want to go on our way – to escape the crowd as Jesus did we need to realize He went on His way for us, and indeed through us! As He walked through that crowd, the way He went, the way He chose to go on, was to that cross to did for us, that we could die with Him in baptism, that we could rise with Him.
That is why I am so greatful to end my stay this way – serving you – calling you to remember what I have failed to remember so many times. That while we share Christ’s calling, we aren’t Christ. The work doesn’t depend on us, or those holding us back. No one can separate us from His love, for we are His called one, His loved ones.
When I proclaimed your sins forgiven, and when you proclaimed mine forgiven, did you hear that? That you are cleansed of all your sin and all unrighteousness?
When we pray together the Lord’s prayer – do you hear yourself correctly addressing God as your Father? Do you hear what Jesus has taught you to ask for, to pray for, knowing it is the Father’s will to give you all these things?
When you hear the words “for you” during the words of institution, do you get that it is for you… you?
Know this – you have been called and sent into… called and apostell’d to this place. But you haven’t been sent alone, you have been sent with Him – not just His message – but with Him.
For you are His, as the song said – bought with the precious blood of Christ.
So as you serve – as you are tempted with loneliness, know that is never true… but you are in Christ… with Christ…
And he is keeping, guarding your hearts and minds in the glorious peace of God, the peace that goes beyond understanding, the peace that is the Father’s.
The peace that is yours.