Faith in Action: is Active…. In Christ.
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace, the incredible mercy and peace that your gift from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, so bring about your healing, that you find ways to help heal and build up others. AMEN!
Faith in Action…
Since September 9th, we’ve been talking about what Faith in Action looks like. We’ve talked about because our Faith must be in action, people can see that faith, that for faith to be in action it has to be drawn close to Jesus, and that it has to be in dialogue. We then talked about how faith in action has to set apart our perception of reality and soak in God’s reality, that it is patient, making sure of every step. Faith in action learns to be content. We ended up talking about the idea that Faith in Action can occur because it is a blessing from God and enables us to adore Him and others, and Bob talked last week about how this is possible because we can boldly enter God’s presence.
Which leads us to this week, the final week of the church year, the week we celebrate God’s victory over sin, and consider how we live, knowing He is returning for us.
For as our reading from Hebrews this morning reminds us, we “await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life” and “who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault!”
Faith in Action is Active in Christ because He makes us alive, and gives a future and a hope with Him. A hope that we can… (not that we need to) reinforce in everyone, building each other up, especially those that are broken, wavering and need to be “snatched from the flames of judgment.”
For that is how “faith in action” is active. It is active as we build each other up, and minister to each other, healing them even as we are being healed in Christ Jesus.
The Evidence of Faith in Action
You have often heard me use the word cHesed, that incredible Old Testament word, that is equally defined as either love, or mercy, or as the loving-kindness of God.
The evidence of Faith in Action, it’s activity, is summed up in that word.
Look at the things we are called to do,
To build up each other in our most holy faith. In less “churchy” words, to help each other be completely at home trusting and depending on God. A trust that is tied, not just to God’s presence and active help In this life, but to our eternal life.
To help each other be “at home” in their faith, to build up this household of faith requires that cHesed, that incredible blend of love and mercy. To know when to comfort, to understand each other’s need to see God’s grace revealed in our lives. To know that God welcomes us into His home, and we become an integral part of it.
Even when we struggle, or as Jude says, wavering. Again, our faith in action is active when we see someone who is struggling to make sense of this world, their place in it, and why God would care about someone like them. That is when we all work together, encouraging them, comforting them, helping them to know that God loves them, that He is working in their life.
We each need this kind of support at times and need it desperately at that. Because our lives can become so dark, so hopeless, that what we know is wrong seems to be like our only lifeline, our only option for comfort. That’s how sometimes we get sucked into alcohol, or drugs, how others rely on comfort food or get absorbed into a television game, or video games.
And to help each other through these times of wavering requires us to love them more than we love ourselves. It might take our sacrificing our time, our preferences, even our sleep as we spend the night interceding in prayer.
This is our faith in action, it is how it is active in Christ, even to the point of our saving someone by snatching them from the flames of judgment. That seems colorful in its phrasing, but it is dead on accurate. Our Faith in Action can and does save people from hell, not because of us, but because they see God working through us.
The need for caution
In the midst of this, in the midst of focusing us on Christ’s return, Jude talks about showing mercy this way.
Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.
I love how Jude describes sin here…. As something that contaminates our lives. As something that just infuses its way into our lives, so deeply that we sometimes mistake sin as the identity of the one who sinned. It is too easy to take one of two choices. The first being that because they are inseparable from the sin, it is okay with God. The second is that because they have sinned so grievously, that there is nothing that can be done to call them back.
Jude tells us here, that sin is something different, a contaminant that oozes its way in, that spoils a person, but that our carefully showing God’s mercy to them will eradicate the contamination. To use Bob’s word last week, we need to see that sin annulled, to see the mercy poured out so that the sin is forgotten by God because Justice was served.
We do this, by depending on what happened at the cross. Paul describes it this way
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
We need to show mercy to those in this process, understanding how hard it is to be rid of the stain of sin. Mercy meaning, we are there for them, pointing them to the promise of God’s grace. We help them realize God is calling them, not to heal themselves, but to trust in God’s work removing the stain of sin. Helping them realize it was annulled, that in God’s eyes, He has cleansed them of it so completely that it didn’t exist.
He has called them into a life of repentance, even as He has called us. All of us.
Which is again why this promise is where we end this series<
Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. 25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord.
† Jesus, Son & Savior †
May the Grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, the grace seen in action as He brings us from darkness to life, may you know so clearly that grace, that you dwell in His peace!
Made Peace – Crafted Serenity:
In the last verse read from Colossians this morning, we hear something that Jesus has done. It is accomplished, done, competed, and yet we don’t’ always see it.
It is a great description of what reconciliation really is, what the cross accomplishes,
Hear the words again,
He made peace with everything on heaven and earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
He made peace…made peace.
It actually can read more powerfully than that…
He crafted serenity…
I hear those words, and for a moment I am taken back to Lake Ossipee – to a place where you can barely see the homes on the other side of the lake, when the colors of the fall include just about every color imaginable, and the lake’s waters are so still there are no ripples… just calm serenity, with a brief breeze or a snowflake fluttering down….
A bit different than life lived on the 91, 5 or 605 freeway.
We need to note that God isn’t saying He will craft serenity later, that this peace will be made at some future point. It’s not happening in some undefined period labeled “soon”.
It is a tense that originate in the past – and keeps going – that crafting serenity, that making peace hasn’t stopped for a moment..
But that raises the question….
Why doesn’t our spiritual life seem more like that serene day standing at the edge of a beautiful calm lake, and why does it too often seem like I am standing in the middle of that freeway at 5 p.m.?
Who is this? Who are We not?
That peace is the creation of God, created as Christ’s blood was shed on the cross. The Christ we worship and praise, the Christ who is the visible image of our invisible Father. He’s been there forever, in Him everything – including us is created.
He created it all – everything in heaven and on earth! Everything we see and can’t see, and He is supreme over all creation holds it all together.
And that is where we struggle, and often why we don’t know peace.
That He is Creator, we don’t have a problem with, it is that we want to be supreme, we want to be in charge, we want to make it all work out. That is the root of all sin, the idea that we think for a moment, or we are tempted to think that we know what is best for us.
And so we go off on our own, we walk away and do what we want, what we desire. Even today we struggle with this idea that Jesus is not only our Savior but our benevolent, loving Lord.
Rather than learning what He desires, rather than seeking Jesus first. we choose what we want, what excites us, what we think might quench our cravings, or what we think might lead us to comfort or peace, or rest.
That’s why Paul goes back over – it through Jesus God created this all. From the beginning, He was in charge, not us. For if we look to our own efforts to find the rest we desire, all we will do is find the consequences of our sin, of our rebellion, our throwing off God’s desires.
We have to set our desires aside and hear Paul’s confession – Christ is the head of it all, everything that was created was created for him, and for Him,
Which means all things, everything was meant to be defined by it’s relationship to Christ.
For He is God, in everything. Over life and death, over the new resurrected life that we have been given, as Christ drew us back to Himself. For that is what reconciliation is, retuning that which was changed beck to its original – apokatalsso- to bring back, to restore, to make right. To take us out of the darkness we entered and bring us into the light of His glory!
And that is what Christ did and is doing – making everything in heaven and earth the way it should be….you see that, even as He hands on the cross and reconciles the thief to Himself.
The work that was planned before creation, that was revealed at the cross!
That’s why we are in awe
That is why we are here, to see this work of God revealed. As He calls us to Himself, as He reconciles us to Him, recreating us in His image, recreating in us His righteousness, guiding us.
It is why we listen to people read the bible, why we confess what we believe, reminding ourselves of His return, it is why we listen to a sermon, that forces us to consider our struggles, and know He is the answer to them.
It is why we know we can pour out our burdens here in prayer, and then come here to be given the Body and blood to eat and drink, to know that He has crafted for us a serenity, that He has fashioned this place where everything is set aside and we see what heaven will be like, where He gives us this peace, a peace that passes all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Jesus. AMEN!
That’s an Impressive Resume!
† Jesus, Son, Deliverer †
May we realize and reveal the depth of God’s grace, that mercy and love He pours out on us, until the day He returns for us.
We’re Looking for a Good Man
Well, here we are, at the end of another church year.
We’ve endured a lot this year, as we have in year’s past. We’ve endured because of God’s work in our midst, without which I don’t think we would have survived.
We’ve also had a number of great moments, like the baptisms, the weddings and the Combined services Sunday, and every week that we’ve knelt at this altar together, and received the blessings of Christ’s Body and Blood. They are great moments, not just because we are together, but because we’ve been brought together in the presence of God Almighty, who brings us together in those moments.
As we go into the next church year, as the weeks of advent lead to Christmas, and Ash Wednesday is followed by Lent and Easter and Pentecost, as we endure the summer months, we have to know that the one person that completes our community is here. The person that can bring it altogether, that will lead us as we try to change the world, by bringing it to the cross. He is necessary if we are to change our community by bringing it healing where it is broken, He will always be the only irreplaceable person at Concordia.
We must remember as well where to find Him at work and at home (especially those recently retired!) so that we can follow His lead.
Our epistle this morning presents His resume, His qualifications, this Son of God, this One who existed before all creation, this Man through all things were created and in whom they are created. This One who is the Alpha and Omega, who carries not just a team on His back, but all of creation.
Of all of this, what makes Him so essential to us here at Concordia, to ministry here in Cerritos and in each of our homes and workplaces,
So let us see why Jesus is qualified to be “the” person here. Why we need Him to be our… auditor.
Some messed up books
Someone made the comment this week, that 50 years ago a president gave an order to send a man to the moon, and it was done. Another president has given a order to create a web-based program to help people choose insurance, and they cannot. I thought it ironic, because all of the computers in Houston 50 years ago couldn’t add up to the power of my tablet computer, maybe even my phone today.
The person we have to depend on here at Concordia has a slightly larger job. To track the sins of at least 15 billion people, and give an accounting for them. To keep a set of books that are accurate not to 99.999999 percent – but perfectly.
If I make a rough estimate that the average age of a person in history is 50, that means tracking 2 quintrillion 190 quadrillion sins (190,000,000,000,000,000) That’s a lot of bookkeeping!
That weight of sin is incredible, the amount of damage we have done to each other, and to ourselves. It’s a mess that cannot be hidden, it can’t be ignored. Society has for too long been narcissistic, it has too long encouraged sin, it has too long said that to challenge sin is something we shouldn’t do, because it’s none of our damned business. Yet the brokenness is there. You see it in the commercials like I saw that night, where a man who was getting engaged bought a necklace for his fiancé’s daughter. Are broken marriages that common that we market to the kids of them now?
Yet these broken lives that are the result of sin, that is our business. We’ve been sent to bring them Christ’s healing! To help heal the relationships that the world would rather justify walking away from, as if somehow they can escape the pain.
We can’t, and neither can we deal with it on our own… we need someone with, as they say today, skillz. Someone we trust
So we need the ultimate accountant/reconciler
There is some incredible theology in this passage of Colossians, As Jesus is described in the second paragraph, the incredible majesty and glory is described in language that should leave us in awe. That is not where Christ’s qualifications to fix everything are best shown.
The part I would draw you attention to is in the first and third paragraphs, and in the last line of the second.
There we find accounting language, the language of books and audits, profit and loss, the language of running the fiscal operations of a major business, or a kingdom. Consider these phrases,
He “re-established” us! Where we were a liability, in the red in debt and under the power of darkness, He re-established us, put us in another column – as assets of the Kingdom of heaven1
He redeemed us, purchasing our debt of sin and cancelling it – dismissed the debt – wrote it off.
He reconciled everything (not just us) within Himself.
He restored the books to their proper manner – everything balancing out, everything in good order. Repeatedly in this passage are words related to the word for place. Moving us from one column to another, sending that which was our sin to a place far away from us. He restores us and reveals us to be not just something God values but treasures, as we are God treasured children. Something He treasured so much that Christ would give everything He had to make us the Father’s children, to restore in us the very image of God in which we are created.
And how he does it…
What is so amazing, is that Jesus, in maintaining the books of heaven, in judging who performs the audits, does so in a way that is well unconventional. He doesn’t consider the value or the cost, he doesn’t care if our “red ink” was 200 or 400 thousand sin.
He doesn’t just ignore the debt, or write it off and declare bankruptcy. He doesn’t handle it with analytical precision, but by drawing us into to His own death, His blood covering all of the sin completely. His blood cleansing us, reconciling us, purchasing us, moving us from being a liability, a mark in the power of darkness, and re-establishing us in the kingdom of God as a asset, as a valued treasure.
As it say in the last verse – we are set apart as His – made His alone, for that is the definition of Holiness, and beyond censure, we are without a single fault to be called upon.
That’s the way God does accounting, embracing us with all of our debt, bringing us back in Christ, That’s why there is the picture that there is on the front cover – with Jesus embracing a man who cannot go any further, who cannot bring himself to the cross.
For that, beyond everything else Christ is, is what amazes me the most. That He comes to us, that He reconciles us, that He pulls us into Himself, and carries our burdens, the things that cause us anxieties, our sins, and our very lives.
That is why Jesus is essential to our work here, no matter who pastors our congregations, no matter who our elders are, no matter who comes and sits in the pews, no matter how great the sin is.
We are gathered here by Him, even as He will on the last day, the day which the last Sunday of the Church year focuses. It is the reason we bow and worship, why we glorify Him.
It’s the reason this place, is His place, where our voices praise His name, where He pours out His gifts on us….It’s the reason He is our irreplaceable person, this Chief Reconciliation Officer, this Lord, this Savior, this King of Kings!
Where He makes us at home, in His peace. AMEN!