Encountering God at the Cross – A Sermon for the Sunday of Christ’s Passion
at the Cross
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to hear people when they want to meet Jesus!
An Odd Question
I have a question for you, one I wish I you were to here to answer. Message me your answers, no cheating.
Did the Greek visitors to Jerusalem in the gospel reading meet Jesus that day?
Yes or no? (Pause)
Come on, no cheating! No cheating!
Well, if you said yes, or if you said no, you have done what most people do – they give their opinion on what they think the Bible teachers, without really knowing. The answer is simple – we do not know.
We know that Phillip, not knowing what to do, went to Andrew, who didn’t know what to do, who went to ask Jesus… but that is where the story transitions to Jesus teaching.
So did the Greeks get to see Jesus that day?
I don’t know, but they would before the week was out.
Which Jesus did they want to see? (Miracle guy, Great Teacher, The Amusement)
Which Jesus did they want to see, anyway?
There were a ton of rumors floating around. This was the greatest speaker ever, this was the guy who does all the miracles, this was the guy who was going to kick out the Romans or maybe they heard the rumor out of Bethany, that there was this guy with two sisters… who died.. and was buried for half a week – and he’s walking around town now.
For these foreigners, here to experience this Passover thing, this was one of the things on their vacation list. This was a curiosity, and attraction, something special they may have thought, but they had no clue.
The Jesus they saw..
They had no idea they would see him, just a few days from now…beaten and bruised, with spikes that shattered bone and ripped though flesh into the hard wood of the cross.
Jesus had pointed this out, as He said,
And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate how he was going to die.
My friends, He knew….
These Greeks showing up simply confirmed it, he was drawing everyone to himself.
To forgive them
To save them,
To have them dance with God the Father….to be swept up in His arms the way the prodigal’s dad did.
It’s not what they expected, it was shocking, but it was amazing.
Be His voice
An abrupt change of direction here….one appropriate for the day Jesus was praised but not for why He should have been praised.
There are people all around us, that need to know they are loved by God.
They are looking for hope, even while they are stuck in their homes. But like the Greeks, and often like us, they are looking for someone to save them, to change the brokenness of life which crushes them.
Which crushes us.
These days we need to encounter God just as the Greeks wanted to so desperately.
But why do we want to see Him? Do we want to see the miracles? Do we really want to hear what He wants to teach us? Do we want to see Him raise people from the dead?
Why are we seeking Him out?
Just like the Greeks, it doesn’t matter why we are going to seek Him, what matters is that we see Him revealed to us in all His glory, as the love is seen in the harsh light of the cross.
God brings us all there, to the cross – to not just encounter Christ, but to join Him.
To not just see us die with Him, but to raise us, free of all the brokenness, free of all the sin, free of the idolatry, where we decide to play God and control Him.
You can’t do that at the cross… it is not possible.
You can’t control the God who dies there
who dies there… to embrace you… and give you life,
We want to see Jesus – but we need to see Jesus crucified for us…
As do our Greeks visiting us.
That is the Jesus they need to see.. these visitors.
Yes – you want to see Jesus, it doesn’t matter why – Here he is.
He loves you…
Just let that wash over you, comfort you, cleanse you, heal you.
Then when someone needs to meet Him.. introduce the one who loved you from the cross you cling to.
Encounter God and Live: A Sermon on John 11 from Concordia
Encounter God and Live
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ show you how to live!
Two odd focal points
Like most of the gospel, I have preached on reading from Luke before. I thought I had attacked it from every possible point and hadn’t missed anything in the story before.
I did pick up on a couple of things I missed, two different phrases that are repeated twice. I was also trying to work on how you preach on the miracle of someone rising from the dead in the middle of a pandemic. I mean, if there was a time to repeat the miracle in the Valley of the Dry Bones, wouldn’t it be a great thing to do it now?
Back to the two things I missed – these two phrases. As we deal with them, I pray that they will help us learn to live, to really live.
The first is that twice it describes Jesus as being Angry.
The other is a phrase that Jesus uses, that is translated as, “for your sake!”
The gospel records this,
“33 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked them.
Did you catch this?
38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
Other translations make this seem that he was simply bothered, that he was upset – and yet word describes someone who is enraged, indignant, and storming about angrily.
Does that make sense? After all, what is he angry about?
My first reaction was the lack of faith, the absolute raw pain he is witnessing! Here he is, and Martha even acknowledges he is the Messiah.
Is Jesus truly mad at the lack of faith?
If so, perhaps he is mad at me for this week. After all, watching the fear and anxiety affect so many has been brutal. Hearing of friends whose families have contracted the virus has been brutal, especially as I can’t go to them, pray with them, give them a hug.
I don’t want to entrust these friends and their loved ones into God’s hands, and that, as brutal as it sounds, is a lack of faith.
Is that the reason God is upset? Because they couldn’t trust that Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead?
I don’t think so.
But I think we beat ourselves up too often for our lack of faith, and this time is definitely not a time to be doing so…
This epidemic is not about our lack of faith, and God hasn’t abandoned us in this time.
We might not see what He is doing, but that is true in other times of our lives as well.
We have to understand it is okay to struggle, it is okay to ask the hard questions, it is okay to weep, because then, having admitted where we are, we can see Jesus at work.
For your sake
Which is where the other duplicated phrase comes in to play.
Verse 14, “So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.”
and then verse 42, Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.”
When you see these verses bracket this story, it is not a major leap to see that Jesus’ anger isn’t toward those whose faith is struggling. For it is to strengthen our faith that this occurred.
So why would He be mad at the lack of faith?
God worked something out of this situation that led people to have more faith in Him, to depend on Him more than they ever did before.
In this case, it was a miracle, the resurrection of someone dead 4 days.
But that too – was something God had planned – remember – he said we are going to him. Even though Jesus said he was dead, they were going to him.
But that isn’t the end of the story, for God was going to demand more of their faith, which we get a hint of in Thomas’s comment, “Let’s go, too – and die with Jesus.
A Greater Demand on their Faith?
This story is about the fact the disciples would need even greater faith when Jesus dies just a little while after this. They would need to depend on God for the darkest three days of their lives.
Not knowing what any of it meant, not knowing what darkness would hit next…
As God would sustain them during those dark days between the cross and the resurrection –
For that is the place where God’s anger is purged – as the power of death and sin was crushed.
The sin which so separated us from God, and from each other – Jesus’s anger at that sin was made evident, there as He is with those dealing with the consequence of sin, death. He understood that death for the sinner would be final, which is why a short time later, the Father would deal with death through Christ’s suffering and death and resurrection.
He had to do something about the sin and death that so scares and scars us.
And so he did… Jesus would die,
For their sake…
And for ours.
And that is why we have a faith that is stronger, that is why we know we can depend on Him, not just for the forgiveness of sins, but that He will be with us always…
Caring for us, loving us, dying for us…
Alleluia – He is Risen!
and I can’t wait for you to say the next part
He is Risen Indeed Alleluia and therefore we are risen indeed! Alleluia!
Let us Ever Walk With Jesus! Walking with Jesus means Our faith grows! A sermon on Luke 17:1-10
Let us Ever Walk With Jesus!
Walking with Jesus means
Our faith grows!
May the grace, the mercy and love God the Father and the Lord Jesus Chris show you, enable your dependence on them to grow strong as the Holy Spirit sustains you!
The oddest question (and perhaps craziest? 😊 )
The question the disciples ask in the Gospel reading today must be one of two things. It must be ignorant, or if not, it is completely, without doubt, insane.
Let me explain the first. If by “increase our faith” they are asking Jesus to increase their knowledge of the faith as in the doctrines and understanding of religious ordinances, then they are ignorant.
Faith is not our doctrine, faith is not a belief statement, or even all the teachings found in, or taken from scripture. Though we use the word as a noun in these days to describe what people believe doctrinally, it wasn’t so then. So if they were asking God to increase their knowledge of doctrine, of theology, then their question was simply ignorant.
But faith means to trust and depend on something or someone. Let’s say I decided during the week that there was too much dust on the lights up there. So, I decided to clean them myself. I would need to have faith in the ladder’s ability to hold me up, I would depend on it, and that the warning that it can only support 225 pounds was somehow… wrong.
So for the disciples to ask Jesus to increase their faith, what they are really asking is, “Lord, give us the opportunities to depend on You and nothing else” Or to put it another way, “Lord, get rid of all the things that we can’t depend on in our life, so that we only depend on you!”
Any ideas of what you are asking God to take away there?
Any one ready to pray that?
The challenges of Faith – Sin in its various forms
If we look at why the disciples ask the question, you see there in the gospel the conversation that occurs before the question, and you see it deals with sin. Specifically, it talks about the sin we encourage in others, or passively encourage by not confronting it, by not rebuking it.
Talk about something that requires the greatest level of faith.
I mean, how easy would it be for Bob to pull me aside and talk to me about my sin? To confront it, to challenge it, to remind me that he can run with me to God, and it can be forgiven?
Or is it a lot easier for our deacon to simply say, “Well pastor is mostly a good guy, except for being a Pats fan, and he lets me have fun preaching and teaching, so I will just ignore the sins he committed, or the heresy he teaches, after all, he’s a good guy…”
How much faith would he need to depend on God to bring up the sin, and encourage me to seek God’s forgiveness?
And yet to not do so, to allow people to linger in sin, to give into temptation, to remained trap there, is sin for us.
So whether the sin is gossip or unrighteous anger, whether it is using God’s name in vain, or being jealous to the point where it dominates, we need to trust God enough to be the one God uses to start the redemption process, and the wisdom to listen to God as to what is necessary at this point in time.
You see, “rebuking” isn’t going up to people and wagging your finger in their face. It is working for the repentance and redemption that can only come by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is placing a value on the sin – realizing something has to be done for the person, because of the damage sin will do!
Rebuking them is going to them in love, and caring for them enough to address the issue
The answer – recognizing the Master
So back to the
question – how do we increase our faith?
Jesus answer is, uhm… really? If you had any…then…. everything is possible.
Not quite the answer I would expect from Him, really.
And then He goes into this parable about the servant and the master. The Master gives instructions and the servant simply does it. It’s about that nasty word “obedience”. To do what we are supposed to do, because our master is here.
Or as we say it around here, “The Lord is with you!”
This isn’t doing what we are told to do, as Jesus leaves us on our own, it is our responding to His wisdom, to the fact He has responsibility over us, to ensure we get to be with the Father in heaven. It is listening to Him here, and now, hearing His concern for those who get caught in sin, or who are convinced what they are doing is right, because people of God haven’t confronted them.
It’s about faith and trusting and depending on the God who is here. About talking to Him and hearing His voice. About realizing His love for us is so complete that He won’t lead us astray.
Depending on God is
easier, when you know He is here, when you know He is in charge, when you
realize that our Lord is the one who loves us.
When we realize He will make all things work for our good, even the
tough stuff, then we are able to craft what He has called us to do…
Faith is found, not in your will, not in your strength, but in the fact of God’s presence in your life. You can trust Him, He is here, with you… you can depend on Him, He loves you and is working for your best.
Faith isn’t something that is increased, it is simply something realized… I can trust God, because He loves me! AMEN!
Center Stage: The Cross – A sermon on Galatians 6:14-18
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May God’s peace and mercy be upon you, as you live knowing this, you are a new creation, the very people of God
Where do we find contentment?
The Apostle Paul desired that he would never, ever boast in anything except the cross of Christ.
Not in His favorite sports teams
Not in a promotion, or an award given at work
Not in his citizenship or Nationality
Not even in the academic grades or the sports accomplishments of his children or grandchildren.
makes some sense, even as we know we do those things regularly. When we look a little deeper at the word
behind the word “boast,” the lesson gets a little harder.
The Greek word means to be proud of or to be satisfied and content with your situation or accomplishments.
Should I go back through that list?
We find many things that we find contentment, many things in which we find satisfaction. Paul would have us only find contentment, only find satisfaction when we looked there, at the cross which reminds you that God loves you enough that Christ died… for you!
Nothing is more important in your life than to know God loves you. Seeing the cross at the center stage of our lives, yet…
The Law – The world rules
That is why Paul talks about the need to see our interest in the world crucified, and the world’s interest in us terminated. This is hard to comprehend at times, for how do we live in the world and yet, as Jesus tells us, not be of the world? How can we deal with the family and friends we might lose, the jobs we might have to turn down, all because they do not understand?
It is not easy,
I need to say here we don’t lose them because we annoy them with our condescension, or pretend we are holier or more special that they are. We better not lose them because we condemn their sin, while ignoring our own.
But the ability to dwell miraculously in peace, and receive God’s mercy will create a difference, and not understanding that is challenging. As is the change in priorities that occurs when we are transformed by the presence of God in our lives.
You see, God starts transforming us, the moment He claims us in baptism. We might not even realize the difference He is making, But we become something new, something different, as we experience His love.
live differently, what the Apostle talks of, to live by this principle, the
principle is this: that we are the new people of God. In Greek, this is the word canon. Not the kind
I would like to play with, but canon as in the Biblical Canon. It means the rule, the form, the standard
that we can be measured by.
Luther talks about something similar when he talks about the third use of the law, that we live in a peace and mercy that affects our life, causing us to live as new creations.
While the world may not understand it, God changes us. It is why kneeling here is so incredible. It is why Al when he stood here and baptized his granddaughters was crying for joy. It is why people, when they hear that they are forgiven, every sin from murder to those little white lies that haunt us, feel as if they were released from the greatest of burdens. This is the transformation!
It is something the world just can’t understand, this remarkable peace and grace of God which defines us, when we remember that we have been made the children of God.
The Mark How does that happen? Paul describes it this way, “I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.
The stigmata in Greek. A Reference to the marks, the wounds of Christ. For it primarily means the mark left by the healing of injured tissue, in a way, a natural tattoo.
But it is deeper than that, because Paul says it is a mark that shows that he belongs to Jesus. A mark that tells us we are His, that we are united to Him and His death on the cross. We bear that mark of the cross, the stigma of it, for with it we were baptized , marked and sealed, so that not only do we die with Christ.
We live with Him as well.
Which is why I make the sign of the cross during the creed, because of His cross, and our death with Him there, we will rise from the dead and living in the glory of the Father forever!
And until that day comes, when all men will be judged, the Holy Spirit dwells with us, comforting us, transforming and guiding us, as we live as the new people of God… AMEN!
Are Your Ears Burning? They Should Be! A sermon on 1 Thes. 1:1-10
Are Your Ears Burning? They Should Be!
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
† In Jesus Name †
May you realize the grace God our Father and the Lord Jesus have given you, and may that grace be so evident that those around you, and even far away speak of God’s work in your life!
Is the word ringing out?
Did you ever walk into a room and suddenly everyone stopped talking? Or walk by a group of people and they all started staring at you? Or get back to the office and find out that 4 or 5 people needed to talk to you?
There is even an old question that asked if you notice this kind of behavior,
Are your ears burning?
Well, looking at the church in Thessalonica that Paul was writing too in our epistle reading this morning, their ears should have been burning. People were talking to them, and it was a wonderful thing!
I pray that people are talking about us in the same way!
Here how Paul described it,
wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it, 9 for they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God. 10 And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead!
Do people know that you’ve turned away from idols and false gods? Do they know of you look forward to the second coming of Jesus?
Are they so in awe of God’s work in your life that they speak of your trust, your dependence, your faith in Him?
How did the people of Thessalonica end up with their ears burning… as they should have been….
And how can we see that happen in our lives?
How can our dependence on God become so strong that it is remarkable, that people talk about it?
I mean, that is a good thing, if I were to invite someone to come here, and the people already knew how strong our faith was, how we set aside ungodly rubbish in order to we look forward to eternity in the presence of God?
So let us investigate what else Paul said about these people!
We know God..
He says in verse 4, “We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people.”
It all starts there, and I know this to be true about you as well.
I said it last week this way,
The Lord …
Who loves you
Is with you!
For that is what it means to be chosen, to be called. It is to dwell in the presence of God, to dwell in the glory of God.
God loves you, as He did the people in Thessalonica, He chose you to be His people. We need to know this, not just with our minds, but deep, deep in our souls, in the places where we wonder how God could love us, and so traumatized by our past, we wonder why He loves us.
It is in those dark, anxious broken places, that God is there… even when we can’t see Him, can’t feel His presence. When He is revealed there, we realize that He is willing to pick us up, no matter how many pieces there are, that life begins to be transformed.
Hear something else Paul says… and we understand that it is reality too.
6 So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord. 7 As a result, you have become an example to all the believers in Greece—throughout both Macedonia and Achaia.
despite the trials and tribulations, despite the pain that is endured as God heals us. As God transforms us, as He did Paul, into the image of Jesus.
Imitation – reborn like Paul was reborn like Jesus (POWER)
That word behind “imitate” has another meaning. It means to be born, to begin, completely new, completely different. We talk about being baptized, being born again, that is the same concept here. To die to our sin, our past, our self-centeredness. To die with Jesus, in order to be raised to this new life, this being born again, in Jesus.
Just like Paul did, and Peter, and so many millions who God has join to Jesus, and to His death and resurrection.
This is why the preaching of Jesus has power, as Paul said in verse 5,
“For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true”
It is the power, not just to any old miracle, but the incredible miracle that is the reason that God our Father sent Jesus His son into our lives, to live among us, to die for us, and to share that death and the resurrection with us.
One pastor, Chris Gillette’s mentor, Robert Webber, calls this power the divine embrace. It’s the prodigal’s dad, coming running to him, to smother him, so excited that the prodigal is finally home.
And it is the reason behind all of this…
For when God embraces us, that is the assurance we need. That is the power that is at work, making the love of God, not some intellectual exercise, not something to diagram or diagnose.
And as we rest in God’s arms, as we are welcomed by Him, into His family, as we know His presence, everything changes. We become an example to others, some older in the faith, some younger. The word goes out, for people know how much we abandoned to be with God.
And how much we look forward to the ultimate reunion, when Jesus returns, and brings us to the throne, to see for the first time, God our Father, face to face.
This is what it means for God to give you grace and peace, to belong to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN!
How they/We Recognize(d) Him. A sermon on Luke 24
How they We Recognized Him
† I.H.S. †
This grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ that we so often talk about, may you come to know it with your heart, your soul and your mind as you come recognize His presence in YOUR life.
The walk –
I’ve got a question for you to think about for a moment.
Why did God hide who Jesus was from the two disciples? Why did God stop them from recognizing Jesus? (significant pause)
Why not just simply show up and reveal himself directly? He does the same thing to Mary Magdalene in John’s gospel. She also doesn’t recognize him at first, thought it doesn’t say God stopped her from recognizing Jesus. She even talked to him, asking Jesus where they put his body. It would my asking Chuck where Chuck was…
Why hide in plain site?
In the way that Jesus will minister to them, we see a possible answer, an answer that gives us some direction not only for how Jesus ministers to us, but also how He ministers through us.
It’s what we call the ministry or word and Sacrament.
And it is all about revealing God so that they could recognize Jesus, so that we can recognize Jesus, and so we can help others recognize Jesus.
So this sermon title – how do they/we recognize Jesus, is answered. He is revealed through His word and through the Sacraments.
The first thing Jesus does is listens. Though He knows their hearts, they need express what they know specifically what they know about Him. They tell Him that He is or should that be was, a prophet, He does miracles, He was a mighty teacher, and we had hoped, we expected based on all this, that He was the Messiah!
Then they tell Him what He knows all to well, that he was handed over to be killed and that they crucified Him. There is part of me that wonders how Jesus didn’t laugh at the irony. Think about it! They are telling Him what happened to Him!
But as He listens, as they speak the truth they see it, they put into words their pain, their inability to believe the drastic change of what is going on. Our Lord knows us well, and for us to process that He is the Messiah, that He is our Lord, and what that means in daily life, what that would have meant – they need to do that.
We do too…
The Revelation of the Word
Then Jesus begins to do what we call the ministry of the word – and note that is a small “w”. He explains what we need to know about Him! The prophetic predictions – th very things that the Messiah would have to suffer, the missing part of their knowledge they have revealed to them.
And while He does, the hearts start to realize something different is going on, even though they won’t get it until Jesus is fully revealed.
But we need to know about Jesus, we need to understand what He did when He died on the cross when He suffered prior to coming into His glory,
The glory of the Resurrection
For Praise God, He is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia
And therefore, we are risen indeed!
And that is not just glorious – it is His glory and the fulfillment of God’s desire.
But these men on the road need to understand that, we need to understand it.
We need to understand what God’s desire is, what His goal in creation is, and how all of the scripture, from the law to the promises, from the histories to the psalms, from the gospels to Revelation, are all about that desire being fulfilled in Jesus.
And that is what Jesus explained, from all the scriptures they knew about, He revealed who the Messiah was….
And their hearts burned within them, even as they knew all about Him, and didn’t recognize Him. And they know this stranger, who showed them that Jesus the Messiah had to suffer in order to enter His glory, they don’t want him to leave.
They begged Him to stay, and yet there is one more thing.
The Revelation of the Sacrament
He has to do something that will drive the lesson from their head to their heart. For the head comforted the heart, the ministry of the word brought comfort, but they need more.
And so Jesus broke bread and gave it to them, and His ministry fo the sacrament opened their eyes. This sacred moment, reminiscent of four days before, prophesied about throughout the Old Testament, this revelation, this ministry opened their eyes.
Not only was Jesus the Messiah.
He was their risen Lord.
He had entered His glory.
And they were there to share it with Him.
What our minds can accept but can’t conceive of, that God wants a relationship with us, that He died to set us free to enter His glory, that is something the heart can accept, and know, and convince our mind is so gloriously true.
He lives and because He Lives, we live as well. We share in His glory, as one of my friend’s is know to say, we get to dance with God.
That’s what the sacraments are, our time to experience God’s love….
Whether it is in our baptism, our as we hear again we are freed from all sin, or as we take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus, whether it is our time in prayer, or our time of giving, these sacramental times, these moments of holiness, are where we encounter our Risen Lord.
Where we learn to rejoice.
Where we share in His glory.
The Ministry of Word and Sacrament
This is why we are a church that does ministry of word and Sacrament. Because we need to realize what the Messiah does, and we need to know Him< to see His promises revealed, to have revealed as well His presence, right here, right now.
For the Lord is here, the Lord is with you! And He has promised to never leave or forsake you.
He has Risen! He has Risen Indeed! And…
He has Risen! He Has Risen Indeed!
† In Jesus Name †
As we celebrate Easter, as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, may you realize your part in it, for the grace of God has brought you to life in and with Him. AMEN!
The earlier sermon… Our union with Christ…
You have already heard a sermon this morning. Rather you’ve seen it happen, you witnessed what my poor words will attempt to describe.
Paul says it this way, in our epistle reading.
You are complete through your union with Jesus.
Complete, whole, perfect, lacking nothing.
What became true for Damon, Madelynn and Rosemarie, and is true for everyone who trusts in the mighty power of God is because of this incredible union, being united with Christ’s death and resurrection.
That is the incredible miracle of God that occurs in our baptism, as we are united with Jesus, and then we die and are resurrected with Him.
Our need for circumcision
The apostle Paul, in this epistle, this letter to a young new church, explains the work that God does in baptism using the illustration of circumcision. He writes,
11 When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature.
He talks about our sin nature here, that ability we have to get ourselves into trouble, that ability we have which feeds our desires, no matter the cost to us.
It’s not just about the sin, it’s not just about the failures, there is something deeper there, that causes us to implode, to choose self-destructive things, to even argue these things are good for us. That self-destructive behavior, that’s our struggle with our sin nature. It is strong and powerful, overruling our heart and mind at times.
And we were unable to do anything about it…no one without God in their lives can, we struggle and struggle and just fall short.
We need help, supernatural help.
That is where Jesus brings the idea of circumcision into this picture of baptism uniting us with His death. The word in Greek for circumcision means to cut around – to carefully, with surgical precision, cut and remove something. That is what Paul is talking about when he says
Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. 12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life
In the case of baptism – it pictures our dying, and when we come back to life, there is something missing. That sin nature that so oppressed us, so controlled us, so kept us in bondage.
it’s been cut away, nailed to the cross of Christ,
Paul’s letter to the Romans explains it again
5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.
Romans 6:5-6 (NLT)
And to the church in Galatia he wrote,
19 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. 20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:19-20 (NLT)
I could go on and on with the ways scripture describes out being separated and cleansed of our sin. But that is only part of the process to the greater blessing, the forgiveness, the separation of you and your sinful nature is but a description of what it leads us into, our new life in Christ.
Our Hope of Glory …
Earlier this week, a friend asked me what my favorite scripture was. My answer without hesitation was this,
9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)
This is what Easter is about, this incredible plan God has for us, the very reason for the cross and why the church obeys the command to make disciples by baptizing and teaching them to treasure everything God establishes. It is through this work God does through us, that we are made whole and complete, and are given the Holy Spirit to help us live in a such a different life.
To live in a relationship with the God who not only created us, but deeply loves us. To get to know Him, through our talking to Him in prayer and meditating on His word, searching it out as we explore how deep, how high, how wide, how broad this love is that He has for us.
Whose plan for us is to dwell eternally with Him, sharing in His glory, dwelling in the purest love.
This is what this is all about, this being complete as we are united with Jesus. About being recreated as the children of God, about knowing His peace, it is about knowing Him!
And may you always know that peace of God which is beyond anything we can understand, the peace that is ours in Christ Jesus AMEN!
The Scientific Method, Agnosticism, and Finding Hope in Misery
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement,* 4 who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.c 5 For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ* does our encouragement also overflow. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement. 2 Cor. 1:3-7 NABRE
20 For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him; therefore, the Amen from us also goes through him to God for glory.l 21 *But the one who gives us security with you in Christ and who anointed us is God;m 22 he has also put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.1 Cor 1:20-21 NABRE
Indeed today’s progress in science and technology can foster a certain exclusive emphasis on observable data, and an agnosticism about everything else. For the methods of investigation which these sciences use can be wrongly considered as the supreme rule of seeking the whole truth. By virtue of their methods these sciences cannot penetrate to the intimate notion of things. Indeed the danger is present that man, confiding too much in the discoveries of today, may think that he is sufficient unto himself and no longer seek the higher things. (1)
When the holy apostle St. Paul wanted to console his Corinthians he began by saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may also comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” [II Cor. 1:3–4]. With these words he teaches us through his own example that the afflicted are to be comforted and that this comfort comes from God and not from men. St. Paul emphasizes this to avoid that false and pernicious comfort sought after and handed out by the world, the flesh, and also the devil. That [kind of comfort] slows down and stops all the benefits and the fruits that come to us from suffering and cross.
One of the cardiologists I had was a world class doctor. Indeed, among his other patients were a former president and a king. Though not a Christian, and perhaps only nominally religious, he used to tell me that God would keep him humble. God did this every time he accomplished something extraordinary by simply giving him a head cold. With such, he could not perform surgery, he wasn’t supposed to see patients in poor health and was rendered miserable physically, and because of his inability, miserable because he was useless.
I think the quote in blue helps us understand the problem. The ability to observe suffering, to encounter that which makes one miserable is undisputed, The ability of hat observation to do something about, something even as simple as providing comfort and relief is not always possible.
We can do so many things medically and scientifically, but not everything. We count on our doctors, our pharmacies, science and sometimes the liquor store to provide the answers to every ailment, to every problem, to every struggle. They can’t, and what is worse if our hope has been placed solely in their provision, we’ve lost faith and trust in something higher.
We’ve become agnostic, and in doing so, we’ve lost the comfort and peace the Holy Spirit brings in those moments of horrid, miserable brokenness.
Luther points us back to scripture, to the fact that such comfort does come from God, that secure in HIs presence, we find the comfort when life seems to crush us. I could have put 12 more quotes from 2 Corinthians, or tossed in Job and Ecclesiastes and Hosea, for that truth is throughout scripture.
Where man’s brilliance fails, God is there, providing comfort and peace. There is compassion, the mercy, the comfort, all that comes through the power of the Holy Spirit, who raised Christ from the dead and works within us. (it is tempting to wax theologicial here) But the Holy Spirit, whose presence was a gift to us in our baptism, who gives us life, real life, and heals our broken hearts and souls, there is our hope, there is the guarantee that eternity will not be life as we know it.
As one who has had a share of physical pain and suffering, illness and disease, I share this as well, in Christ Jesus, you will find hope. Reminded of my physical brokenness with the very ticks of my heart (two artificial heart valves) and struggling with back pain, and worst of all, these stupid, miserable, nose reddening, sinus pounding allergies, I know this.
The Lord is with you (and with me – as my beloved congregation reminds me very often!)
Hearing that, I find the answer to my quest for mercy; I find the comfort and peace that the Spirit reveals that gives me hope, and I find the strength to share that hope with you.
Scientific method, Agnosticism, and Atheism will not answer the cry for mercy.
But when we cry, “Lord have Mercy!” God answers, for He is our beloved Father.
(1) catholic Church. “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II. Ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 43. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999. Print.
The Brutal, Honest, Real Faith: A Sermon on Hab 1-2
The Brutal, Honest, Real, Faith
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and our Risen Lord Jesus so reveal His love for you that you know with all your heart and mind that He will sustain you and that you will share in His glory!
When Words aren’t enough:
On Friday, I stood next to a man, as he spoke at his son’s funeral. He talked about how time after time, his son was simply in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The final time, it resulted in his death, as he was shot along with a married couple.
The grief was as overwhelming as anything I have seen. The despair in the sanctuary of a church was beyond anything I have experienced for a long time because they could not imagine a God who would answer their cry for help.
And as I looked at my outline for today’s sermon, as I looked through these words of a prophet with a name you can’t say ten times fast, I understood Habakkuk’s pain, and the despair of his cry,
2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save. 3 Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. 4 The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.
The prophet’s words, his cries, his pleading with the Father, these words are brutal, they are honest, they are so real and even apply to today’s world.
And they only way to hear God’s answer is found in a Brutal, Honest, Real, Faith.
The faith God gives us, that He plants in us, that He nourishes is us.
I love reading the Old Testament prophets, not because they are so uplifting – they are not. But because they aren’t standing around pretending the world is okay, they call their listeners out on sin, but they also grieve.
They know how God has called us to live in peace, to know His live and to have faith in God. They also see the world dealing with the consequences of ignoring God, and it breaks their heart. They weep, they cry for what is, and what should have been.
How long, O Lord, must I call for help?
We look around us these days, and it seems like it hasn’t changed much. We still need a lot of help, the world is still violent, and it seems daily we hear about violence, not just overseas, but in our communities. The deeds that are evil, they still exist, whether those deeds are sorcery and idolatry, or murder/abortion, or sexual immorality, or unethical business, or gossip and envy. The world is still dealing with destruction, with misery, with injustice, and the wicked still outnumber the righteous.
Some of that, which we cry out for God to rescues us from, is our doing, our unrighteousness, our guilt, and shame.
Yes, some of the sin and unrighteousness in our world is because of our sin.
No pleasure in people turning away –
Just depend on Him
The key in reading the Old Testament, in fact, all of the scripture, is to no to a take a passage without considering the rest of the chapter, the rest of the book. There are times you have to keep going, such as this passage.
In the midst of his grief, Habakkuk says he will look – he will wait on God for the answer that must come. He will, despite his despair, continue to look to God for an answer.
And the Lord answers, and not only will he answer the prophet, the answer is to be etched into stone. So that all will hear and see these answers.
That is what verse 2 says,
And here is the answer,
3 If the vision is delayed, wait patiently, for it will surely come and not delay. 4 I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away, but the righteous person will live by my faith.*
if you don’t God working, He’s got it all in His timing, and that timing is perfect, As Habakkuk and all the Old Testament prophets waited for Christ Jesus to come, so we wait, trusting in His work at the cross to deliver us into the presence of the Father.
Peter certainly knew this, for he would paraphrase this passage
9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)
Peter will note this about Paul as well,
15 And remember, the Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— 16 speaking of these things in all of his letters.
2 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT)
It is a hard answer to hear that God will be patient, that things are going to be fixed right now, in our time, because God is at work, through us, reaching out to other people. That is what the cross is all about – that no one should ever die without knowing that God would forgive them, that He would draw them to Himself, that He loves them. God delays the recreation of the world, just to save one more, jut to rescue one more sheep, to find one more who was lost, to give one more broken person the hope of His healing them.
That’s a brutally honest, real answer. It’s one I don’t like at first, as I see and know of so much pain, so much suffering, as I witness sin and the bondage it keeps people in, and the hope it robs of those created by God to walk in joy.
When you see that person given faith in God, who comes to know they can depend on Him, who finds themselves cleansed not only of their own sin but the righteousness of the world, the wait is worth it! As we see those we love, whom we pray for, whom we often struggle with and against – there is the Holy Spirit, drawing them to Jesus, where they find healing and peace. This is why there is a delay, so those we love- and those we are called to love, can be reconciled to Jesus.
For we do so in Christ Jesus, and that means we do so know peace that is beyond all understanding, as Christ is the foundation of our hope.