It was an amazing opportunity, a blessing that would have been unheard of at the 450th anniversary of the Reformation. A chance for a Lutheran pastor to explain where we have come from over the last 500 years, and using writings of a Pope, Martin Luther, Vatican II and a leading Lutheran Theology professors, give us hope and urge us on to seek reconciliation.
here is a rough draft recording of the talk…..okay a really rough draft.
May we pray that the Church would be one and that it would be seen as one by us. AMEN.
Here is YOUR Repentant Attitude
† In Jesus Name †
May the Grace and Mercy of God, which was revealed when Christ came in human form sustain you as you, as you help others know this incredible comforting peace! AMEN!
How does this happen?
Paul writes to the church in Rome
15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Romans 12:15-16 (NLT)
It is something we do here, one of the amazing things seen as we gather at the communion rail, and moments before, as we greet each other with the promise of God’s peace.
Living in Harmony, I suppose I could ask Chris to demonstrate harmonics on his guitar, to show you how a string vibrates when a string nears it vibrates at a precise pitch, without the first string doing anything. It just happens.
Be happy when others are happy, and yes, far too often it seems like we are weeping as those around us weep, that our hearts are crushed as theirs is crushed.
This is the attitude of someone who is repentant, someone God is transforming. It is the attitude that Paul calls us to, in His epistle. Read again the first verse,
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had…
That sounds so hard, yet we see it so clearly, as we look to the way we respond to each other, in times where the peace of Christ must be known, where only God is able to comfort each other, and he does it through our words, our hugs, and the holding of each other, as we pray to God.
The struggle in our souls
The struggle is that we don’t always share in each other’s lives in that way. We confessed that a few moments ago, as we prayed for God’s mercy, as we recognize that we sinned against God and too often, against each other.
Or does anyone around here want to confess something different, that they do love God with everything they are, and that they love their neighbors, even their enemies, as much as they love themselves? Remember that passage I used, about being happy and sad with those we love, that we are in harmony with? Well here is it in context…
9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Romans 12:9-16 (NLT)
Big difference isn’t it? To know we can rejoice and weep with those we grieve alongside this week; but we are to weep and laugh with those we struggle with, that we may not like, or that we’ve been angry with for 7 years…
How in the world can we obey this? How in the world does God expect us to love this deeply?
And if we can’t, are we condemned?
John’s epistle tells us that those who cannot love their neighbor, who they can see, how can they love the God who they cannot?
Harsh words, meant to make us think, and make us walk to the cross this week with Jesus…
The purpose of God’s word teaching us that is not to condemn us, not to make us feel guilty and ashamed, but to help us realize where our hope is found; to help us realize where our power is found to endure…
To realize the very work of the Holy Spirit in our lives…
We have to realize we aren’t alone.
You see, that is the message of this passage of Philippians, one of the earliest praise songs, that was common even as Paul wrote his letters, as two of the four gospel were not even written yet.
Christ humbled Himself, gave Himself, loved us in a way one songwriter declared it to be reckless, as he bought grace for us, by allowing himself to be treated violently.
This is why every knee shall bow, why every tongue will praise and glorify Him.
This is what it means for Him to be Lord, not a Lord who desires to control us, to force us, to use every power He has to manipulate us into behaving the way He wants…
He simply uses His love… and the more we find sanctuary in that love, the more we find rest, the more we can realize the comfort that brings peace beyond all ability to comprehend….
This is how it happens.
You see, growing in the knowledge of Jesus love, of His presence, of all that he is doing in our lives is how we learn to love each other. It is not some complicated thing, but it is profound. For as we are drawn into fellowship with God, as we kneel at this rail and realize that Christ gave His body and blood for us, we can’t help but love the person next to us, and even perhaps, love the guy handing to us the precious body of Christ, and holding out the cup of His blood, a blessing meant for us,
As we praise Him for that, as we know His love, we are transformed. This is what repentance really is, this transformation God works in us, as our minds are conformed to His. That is what it means to be repentant, to be granted repentance by the Holy Spirit. The very fact we hurt this deeply for Sandie and for the Jennings shows us that God can make this change in us, that He has done this….for we love them even as Jesus loves them. And as we dwell in Christ, this shared love spreads out to all…
That this mind of Christ becomes ours…. That we experience a love so profound that those who simply know it, are able to love sacrificially, are able to share the sorrows, and the laughter, of those they come to love.
This is why we rejoice and praise Him, this is why the journey to the cross means so much, as we are comforted by Him, as we know His peace.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. Luke 2:15-20 (NLT)
14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)
All along, in pursuing this very notion in all its consequences, we will realize that, underneath the trivialized display of happiness about the God who became a child, there towers one of the great Christian concepts, which in fact leads us to the innermost core of the mystery of Christmas. This consists, after all, in the paradox that God’s glory would not be manifested in the triumphal procession of an emperor whose might conquers the world but in the misery of a Child who, ignored by society’s great, is born in a stable. The helplessness of a child has become the most genuine expression of God’s almighty power, which employs no other force than the quiet might of truth and love. In the unprotected helplessness of a child we were to encounter God’s saving kindness first of all.
I only remember one midnight Christmas mass as a child, but it had a definite impact on me.
This was what Christmas was about. Later years would be filled with trips to my Grandfather’s house, and then my dad’s sister might come to ours. Christmas Day was just my folks, my brother and sister and I. We were filled with awe by the things we recived, cassette tape recorders, and games and a toboggan!
The decorations were there, and the manger scene sitting in the big bay window. or perhaps on the ancient sewing machine that doubled as a desk.
But the awe wasn’t about the greatest gift, the child in the manger. The awe isn’t at the love of God, revealed not to presidents and kings, movie stars and professional athletes. But too simple shepherds, who in awe (and not a little fear) realized the blessing they had seen.
Simeon a few days later would realize that all his life was centered in the moment he held Jesus. For in that moment, not only did Simeon see his own salvation, but the hope for all the world,
THe hope that would bring darkness to an end for gentiles, and show Israel again the glory of God their anscestors saw and counted upon.
Simeon saw this, as did the shepherds in the fields. Yes, it was revealed to them, even as it is to us. They saw it, as Benedict XVI pointed out, in the unprotected helplessness of a child. In the humble manger, in the poverty of Bethelem, not the neighboring riches of Jerusalem.
We need to find a way to be in awe of that moment IMMANUEL – GOD IS WITH US, and the moment years later, when the baby, now a man, would hang on the cross, when IMMANUEL would once again be seen as helpless, and yet all the power of God was there, as the Father poured out every bit of wrath our sin deserves, on Jesus, the one annointed to prove God’s love for us.
We can find the awe again, as we kneel, and receive His helpless Body and Blood in the Eucharist, in the Lord’s Supper. We can find it as we realize that God is still with us, the promise God gave us, as His Spirit was given to us in our Baptism….and as we hear our sins forgiven, and our being given access to the place where awe begins.
In the presence of God.
IMMANUEL! God with us…us!
The Christ, Jesus. The chosen and set aside One who is God’s salvation.
We are in His presence… rejoice in that thought. For this is what should cause the awe… that we need.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 396–397). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day –
For God’s Kingdom is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of the righteousness, peace, and joy which the Holy Spirit gives. And when you serve Christ in this way, you please God and are approved by others. Romans 14:17-18 (TEV)
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man who was driving out demons in your name, and we told him to stop, because he doesn’t belong to our group.” “Do not try to stop him,” Jesus told them, “because no one who performs a miracle in my name will be able soon afterward to say evil things about me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Mark 9:38-40 (TEV)
Of course some of them preach Christ because they are jealous and quarrelsome, but others from genuine good will. These do so from love, because they know that God has given me the work of defending the gospel. The others do not proclaim Christ sincerely, but from a spirit of selfish ambition; they think that they will make more trouble for me while I am in prison. It does not matter! I am happy about it—just so Christ is preached in every way possible, whether from wrong or right motives. And I will continue to be happy, because I know that by means of your prayers and the help which comes from the Spirit of Jesus Christ I shall be set free. Philippians 1:15-19 (TEV)
“The Church, the holy People of God, treads the dust-laden paths of history, so often traversed by conflict, injustice and violence, in order to encounter her children, our brothers and sisters. The holy and faithful People of God are not afraid of losing their way; they are afraid of becoming self-enclosed, frozen into élites, clinging to their own security. They know that self-enclosure, in all the many forms it takes, is the cause of so much apathy.
So let us go out, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ (Evangelii Gaudium, 49). The People of God can embrace everyone because we are the disciples of the One who knelt before his own to wash their feet (ibid., 24) ” (1)
If you haven’t heard, Pope Francis is visiting the USA. In green, you see one of my favorite quotes from him, one that hasn’t been pushed much on Twitter, or quoted on FB. It is both this lack of attention AND the truth of it, that makes it possibly my favorite quote of his.
Some people are excited, some people are worried, some people are mad, and want everyone to know that the visit of the one they think is “the” anti-christ, in combination with a harvest moon, in combination with the green stuff growing in their refrigerator resembling the hairstyle of a prominent presidential candidate means the means to the end is near.
I do think it providential though, that the gospel reading this week contains the middle quote from scripture. The one that has Jesus crying out, “do not try to stop him!”
Let me start out with this, According to the doctrines of the Catholic Church, some of what I preach is anathema. And likewise, some, repeat, some of the things that are doctrines the are to hold to are heterodox and even heretical. One could do several Ph.D. thesis outlining these things. And several more outlining the things upon which we agree. Those need to be discussed not hidden.
But therein is the rub. To dismiss each other entirely it is to dismiss where we agree as if it were as false. For example, the truths found in the three Creeds. Or the promises that God is faithful to the promises He makes to us, including the promises attached to the proclaiming of the Gospel, the promises attached to Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the forgiveness given us in Confession. We can never dismiss each other entirely, because the core of our creed, we share in common. We share a hope found in Christ Jesus. For me to presumptuously say everything the Roman Catholic Church teaches is wrong is to dismiss the Christ in whom I find hope, and the mission, the apostolic mission given to the Church.
With this particular Pope, Pope Francis, what resonates of his message is what is found in 1 Peter, that God doesn’t desire any person to be lost, but that all would come to repentance, that all would be reconciled, that all would know the love of God, and the mercy poured out on us because of the death of Jesus Christ, and His resurrection.
That message of his won’t make the evening news often, nor will it make the conservative or liberal blogospheres in either of our church bodies. That won’t get attention, because it won’t cause hits to come in large numbers. Controversy does that. It draws us in; it creates elitists, groups that will become, as Francis points out – apathetic. They will become apathetic to the real ministry, to the real mission, to the real apostolate. Their focus will go from that to their own personal crusade, and the Missio Dei will become a distant memory for them. Not for all, for God has promised that as well. That Missio Dei is our mission, the reason we are sent to this world, which is the reason Christ was sent,
as Francis says,
“to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ.”
May we bring that life to all,
A life in which Jesus guards our hearts and our minds, a life of peace the world cannot give, a life of incomparable peace which the Father in Heaven desires to share with us. The peace that is the answer to our prayer,
Lord have mercy on us sinners… AMEN!
(1) From the Homily given by Pope Francis on 9/24 found here http://opusdei.us/en-us/article/canonization-of-junipero-serra/
Filled with Joy!
† In Jesus Name! †
May you be so filled with fresh joy from seeing and hearing the love of Christ at work in your life, that you humbly welcome His molding you into His image!
The fear of the unknown
It is that sense you have, the night before you take on a new job.
Or maybe as you sleep for the first night in a new place and have to struggle to remember where the bathroom is, and where the light switches are. You hear strange groans and creaks and noises, and your heart it trying to decide to dive under the covers or find a weapon, or both!
Or maybe it is that call from the doctor’s office, you know the one where the doctor himself calls you and asks that you come in, right now…
I don’t know what the official phobia is called, but the fear of the unknown is the greatest fear that most of us will ever face. It doesn’t matter what the unknown is, a matter of fact; that is why it is so scary! We just don’t know!
As we look at the lesson in Isaiah today, we see that problem, the unknown future, the kind of future God prophecies about, but are we willing to hear, to see what He has in mind?
The message of God’s love
At the beginning of the Old Testament reading from Isaiah, the future is compared to a sealed book. The future is explained in a message from God that reveals all that is needed to know. A message that would calm the fears, that would bring the heart peace, and give assurance that all will be good to those souls who are stressed and anxious.
But those who the message are given too, perhaps scared of the unknown, don’t bother to read the message. They say, “we can’t read it because it is sealed”, even though it was given to them to read.
It’s like getting that certified letter from the IRS, or from the Superior Court. You stand there looking at it, unable to open it, as if not reading it somehow makes things less terrifying! Every morning you see it on the table, and you don’t want to even touch it!
And the message from God goes unheard, unread, unseen.
Others will claim that they are unable to read it, that the words are beyond their comprehension, so they too leave the message unead, unseen, unheard. It’s like those people who haven’t read the book of Revelation, for they fear what they will read will scare them.
The future becomes even more concering, it terrifies us even more.
We tried to fill the gap
Which is where our hypocrisy comes in, according to this passage from Isaiah. You see, rather than face our fears, rather than dealing with God directly. The world does this by creating other gods. Gods who will give them what they want, who will allow them to chase after what is worthless.
Unwilling to hear what God says, we make up our own rules, our own traditions, and then judge others by whether they follows what we say. We will say that we are God’s, we will say and sing the right things, but do we really understand the heart of God? Do our hearts beat in time with His? Is what He desires what we desire more than anything else?
Or is our worship, and the things we do that “prove our righteousness” simply empty, going through motions without realizing that they don’t please God? The prophets called Israel out on this over and over, telling them their sacrifices meant nothing, that their gatherings were worthless. The Pharisees were accused of this as well, as they tithed everything, even down to the seeds for their gardens. But they overlooked mercy, and helping those in need.
Our attempts to fill in the gaps, to prove we are good are worthless, and when we think about it, they don’t rid us of the fear of dealing with a God who seems to perfect, so righteous, that we don’t, we can’t stand being in His presence.
If only we saw His words, if only we could read them!
We’ll even go farther, we will tell God, our creator, that He doesn’t know what he is doing. That His laws don’t make sense, that we understand and know better. That his idea of life, or right and wrong, is wrong. We are like Isaiah’s jars – telling the potter who made them that he is intellectually challenged.
Or as Chris will soon hear from some student, that he just doesn’t understand, because the sophomore knows what he is talking about! And compared to God, we often act like sophmores, a term from the greek meaning “wise fools”!
We didn’t have to, He knows what He is doing
The idea that Isaiah is trying to get across is that we don’t have to play God, we don’t have to step in and fill in the gap when we don’t see God doing what He wants to! He is far smarter, and if we try to take control, our lives will be full of sorrow.
Yet even then, God will not abandon us! He has promised to amaze us with amazing things!
For what God had planned for us causes us to disguard our own wisdom, to drop the plans, to come out from the darkness, to be able to see and hear His words,
or we are in the days of verse 18,
In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book, and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness. 19 The humble will be filled with fresh joy from the LORD. The poor will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel..
Foe we, like Israel of old, like the believers who followed Jesus and struggled, have been told what the future holds, a future that has hope, that has peace, that has glory beyond our imagination.
Paul revealed that when he wrote,
9 However, as the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (TEV)
It is seeing this plan come together, as we beging to understand that Jesus’ death and resurrection is our death and resurrection, that this was the plan, this was the gospel even back in the days of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and Paul and Peter is amazing.
To realize that as He hangs from the cross and says Father, forgive them, Jesus is thinking of Dustin, Chris, Tom, Jim, Chuck, and Al and all of Concordia,
To know that when He said said, take and eat, this is my body, given for you, He was revealing our future. And when He said this is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sin, He was making our eternity possible.
This is why we can see, it is what we heard, even though we were once dead to the words of God.
So hear, see and rejoice in God’s presence
It is as we see this, we lay aside our wisdom, our plans, our self defensiveness and know the presence and love of God.
We, those who are humbled by the love of God, are filled, as Isaiah promises, with the fresh joy of the Lord, and we, who were poor, rejoice in the presence of the Holy One, the Lord God of Israel!
And our hearts and minds, finally enjoying His peace, relax and praise Him. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of a New Day
4 “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.” “What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.” Matthew 27:4 (NLT)
805 Listen, where you are … mightn’t there be one … or two, who could understand us well? (1)
Some point to the man and claim he was the most evil man that has ever lived.
Some say his sin was one that could never be forgiven, that he was so sold out to the demons that possessed him, that there was no hope.
He would hear the words from those who were supposed to be his shepherds, those who were spiritually responsible for him, who were to call him to repentance, to nurture him back to spiritual health.
Their words, without mercy, without hope, left him no other option.
He went out and hung himself.
And until reading this today, I never wondered if anyone ever cried for him, if anyone did anything but respond with “he got what he deserved.” Or, “Good riddance.”
Judas Iscariot, another man, another sinner, another man who cried out, looking for mercy, confessing his sin, and the answer of the ages has not told him there was mercy.
The mercy Peter would know, and Paul would encounter, after killing a servant of God. David knew it though he too thought he had lost any chance of knowing it. So did Jacob/Israel, and even the people of Nineveh.
But not Judas.
When he turned to the shepherds of Israel, looking for absolution, looking for mercy, looking for some peace to alleviate the pain of guilt and shame he found none. It’s no our business, Your sin, your problem. You don’t belong to our denomination, you certainly are guilty, live with it. You are a sinner. (even though they were his PARTNERS in the sin!)
Hours later, the answer Judas needed wold be provided, as the sun darkened at noon, and that which separated people from the glory of God was torn apart. The Answer that every prophet, ever priest, every king, had pointed to, the love and mercy of God.
I know pastors today, me included, may have seemed as heartless at times. Or we dismissed the pain you felt Churches too have failed to call people to dare to draw near to Jesus, to see Him on the cross. Forgive us, call us to hear the sweet words of forgiveness as well.
For no one, no matter their ethnicity, their political party, their age, should ever go without hearing that God has forgiven their sins. Indeed, that He commanded the church to forgive them. Look around you, they are there… even those you would never expect to repent. For know this, God doesn’t want any of them to perish. God doesn’t rejoice in the death of any wicked person. Even Judas, ever us.
We cry out, “Lord have mercy!”
We find peace in hearing His voice, “I have!”
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Location 1856). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
8 No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (NLT)
16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (NLT)
581 How humbly and simply the evangelists relate incidents that show up the weak and wavering faith of the Apostles! This is to keep you and me from giving up the hope of some day achieving the strong and unshakeable faith that those same Apostle s had later. (1)
The simplicity and pastoral care with which the Fr. Josemaria Escriva wrote his simple sentences astounds me. I may not agree with everything he writes, but there is so much which resonates with me. Simply put, he often puts the words to what I know and struggle to explain.
This is true today, as I struggle with how the church (myself included) struggles to reflect the love of Christ into a broken and dark world. We get so caught up in our own pain, the sense of betrayal we have felt, our own anxiety and paranoia that we fail to trust God, to have faith in His promises.
The task to have a world, a country, a community that glorifies God seems overwhelming, and even impossible. The world wants what it wants, its version of justice, its version of freedom, its version of love and hope, and we seem surprised that it is at odds with what we know from scripture.
And rather lament over the brokenness of the world, we lament over the loss of power and the loss of our dreams. As we do, or faith wavers, we doubt, we give way to our feelings.
To this loss, the words in blue above speak strongly. We aren’t alone when we struggle; the apostles struggled just as much as we do. They walked for 40 days with the Lord Jesus, after he rose from the dead, after being beaten, crucified and a spear strike into his heart and lungs. And in Matthew’s gospel, it tells us, their faith wavered, they doubted, they knew anxiety and fear. (What else did they need – they had Jesus, risen from the dead!)
That they did, that God continued to work through them, that they would go on to grow in their trust of God is amazing. 10 of 11 of the men there would die, brutally, because they took the task Jesus commissioned them for very seriously. They made disciples, they baptized people and taught them to treasure what God had given them in Christ Jesus.
But first they doubted, first their faith wavered, and Jesus even rebuked them a time or two… for not trusting Him, for not turning to God.
That is where humility comes in, of knowing we are children of God, people who are his, and are welcome to depend on Him. Even when we don’t understand the world any more than it understands us. It is at that point where we need to be humble, to be meek, to find our confidence, not in our strength, not in our ability to argue, not in our witty meme’s or comebacks. We need to be humble, to walk with God, to seek out the justice of the cross. To know the love of God, shown in Jesus bearing the wounds that would bring healing to all the broken people, all the broken relationships in the world. Including us.
As we find that healing in Christ Jesus, we can help others heal.
That requires trusting God… and being humble enough to admit our need, our dependence on Him.
Lord Have mercy on us!
1. Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1387-1389). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Matthew 16 13-19
In Jesus Name
May you see revealed to you, the grace, mercy and peace of God the Father, that comes from knowing Jesus, and knowing He is the Anointed One, the Son of God sent to save us!
The Confession of Peter
The Supreme Court decision on Friday will not change the bottom line of this sermon, it won’t change the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. As the Christ, He the one chosen and put in place to deliver us from sin.
But the decision on Friday did impact this sermon and what I am going to say. It did help clarify and focus the message on Peter’s confession, and what it means for us, and to us.
It will help us to know where we stand, what is our confession, what we can rely on, what we can base our life upon.
On Friday and Saturday, I heard over and over a part of our gospel reading quoted over and over. It was used with the intent to rally the church, to comfort those plagued by anxiety and fear, those feeling hurt and betrayed. It was to rally them, to give them some hope that despite an attack to what they know of life and religion, that God was still in charge.
I also hear it used triumphantly, as some Christians saw the decision as proof that God was blessing their position.
Either way, the confession that everyone pointed to as their hope was this,
upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
or to hear it the old way,
upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it! (KJV)
That the gates of hell can’t stand against the church, is true but it is not why we have hope, they are not the good confession.
This is the conversation that gives us hope
“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
and knowing that, trusting in that, making that your rock, your foundation in life, is what matters.
The “other confessions”
The Prophets of Law….
It’s not that they aren’t needed…
When the people of God in Jesus day looked at Jesus, they struggled to figure out who He was. That is the first question Jesus asks, as he uses the word from which we get logic. Who do they reason I am? Not just say as in passing, but when they really think about it.
The answer the apostles gave was John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah. Three prophets, three men, it can be said, brought an uncomfortable message of hope in a time where people didn’t want to hear it, yet held out for the hope it offered.
What the people saw in Jesus, based on their answers, is someone who could be with them in the present, but also looked with great hope for the future.
Let me say that again,
What the people saw in Jesus, based on their answers, is someone who could be with them in the present, but also looked with great hope for the future.
They were hoping for a prophet that would call those sinners back to God. They were hoping for a change in their society, in their life, and those prophets promised that it was coming…
And just a promise would have been such a great thing, to hope for the fulfillment of the promise was more than they could imagine. Never mind how the fulfillment of the promise would change everything.
Even Peter and the apostles, who had revealed to them by God the Father that Jesus was the Christ, the chosen One, couldn’t understand.
That the gates of hell cannot withstand the church is something really great, really encouraging.
But it is nothing compared to the fulfilled promise, the rock on which we base everything, the true confession we need to understand.
The Confession… the Christ!
Would it have been bad if Jesus was another Jeremiah? Another Ezekiel? A second John the Baptist? Perhaps not, and we constantly need people who call us on our own sin.
But even more we need the Christ, the one chosen and anointed to deliver us into the presence of God our Father.
I guess I can put it this way. Nancy and Bob yesterday celebrated their 50 year reunion. When they got engaged, it was a good thing. But imagine if they had remained engaged for the fifty years, never getting married.
That is the difference between being those promised the Christ, somewhere in the future, to those who have a relationship with God the Father, because Jesus came to us.
He came to us, the Anointed, chosen One of God came to us. Then the Father revealed to us, as Jesus taught, as He healed, as He did miracles, that Jesus was more than just a prophet. God came to live among us, to give us life, to make us His. He came to prove to us His love, His commitment to a relationship that would survive our sin.
That is or hope, that is why we have confidence in God.
He is the Christ, the one chosen to deliver us from sin, and into the presence of the Father. He is our Savior, our Redeemer, the One who Reconciles us to the Father, our Life, the Lord who calls us His beloved, who tells us we are no longer without a home, no longer without a family.
Because of Jesus, we know our Father in Heaven, the Creator of the Universe listens when we talk to Him, when we pray.
He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
And it is as we know this, as we begin to understand the love this takes, the love He has for us, that we see the church being drawn together. God begins to build His home in us. His love is so strong, that it can’t stop us from raiding hell, to bring back those who sin has damaged, whom it is broken.
Because He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
That is our confession, that is why we have hope, that is why we plead with people to be reconciled to God. We want them to know that love, that brings a peace that passes understanding, that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
The manuscript for this video is posted seperately. Since this is the first time I’ve tried recording this with video and audio, I would appreciate your feedback, whether the video feed was helpful. Thanks!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! 5 Show a gentle attitude toward everyone. The Lord is coming soon. 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. 7 And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. 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. 9 Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-9 (TEV)
116 Fill yourself with good desires, which is a holy thing, praised by God. But don’t leave it at that! You have to be a soul—a man, a woman—who deals in realities. To carry out those good desires, you have to formulate clear and precise resolutions. And then, my child, you have to fight to put them into practice, with God’s grace. (1)
Since Adam and Eve left the garden it seems, there have been discussions about doing good works, about purity of thought, about living a life that would please God.
I realized something about such conversations, they are rarely practical.
They can be theological, discussing how faith and works interact. Or how works and salvation are related. Most say that works aren’t necessary for salvation, but the arguments occur after that seemingly go on forever. The same can be said about the laws of God, and the Law of God. How does it impact believers, are we bound to first use of the law, or is there a third use.
Nice academic exercises.
One of my parishioners recently hit me hard with a comment, showing what conversations we don’t have. She mentioned that I explained the what well, and the why well, but often leave out the how. I thought about it, and I think she has a major point. It reminds me of one of my greatest fears. Trying to teach my wife, or my son, how to drive a stick shift, a manual transmission. It is about sensing, not thinking, and therefore it is hard to explain. Well, that is my excuse, and I won’t stick to it.
So here goes…. how to accomplish good works
When it comes to works, the first step has to be internal. You can’t do what is right, if our minds are always focused on what is not.
Which is why Paul tells us to fill our minds with things that deserve praise, the good things in life. Think on these things, On God’s love, on mercy, on His presence and peace. Don’t just think about them for thirty seconds, but often dwell on them. Think of Christ’s example, or that of apostles or those who’ve gone before us in the faith.
From dwelling on these things – to the point of desiring them in your life, desire them. Think of the good you can do, and for everyone this is different. It might be holding the hand of someone who is stressed and anxious. It is always praying for people, not just saying that you will keep them in prayer. It may be offering help, physical, financial, more often emotional. POinting them to that which will help their anxiety fade, pointing them to what will strengthen their faith. (An example – asking them why we commune, or what their baptism means – and reminding them that God is in their life..reminding them of passages like Romans 8:28-38)
Desiring to spend more time walking with God is the key, hearing Him, knowing Him, realizing the peace He brings, That is the key to doing good works, and yes, in Christ we can… for our lives, our souls are God’s good work, as He transforms us and guides us in doing what He has planned….
So think on Christ’s love, often… let it dwell in you richly… so much you sing about it unconsciously…..
Oh and the necessity of doing this? Try it for a while, then you will understand….for what happens is beyond our understanding….
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 610-613). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.