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Are Your Ears Burning? They Should Be! A sermon on 1 Thes. 1:1-10

church at communion 2Are 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, 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.

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. As a result, you have become an example to all the believers in Greece—throughout both Macedonia and Achaia.

with joy…..

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)

But how?

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

Luke 24:13-35

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?

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.

He Listens

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.

AMEN!

 

He has Risen! He has Risen Indeed! And…

church at communion 2He has Risen! He Has Risen Indeed!

And… therefore….

Colossians 2:10-12

† 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. 

Our circumcision…

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.

AMEN!

(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.

The complaint

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.

The Hope

       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.

It’s time to come home: A sermon on Luke 15

It’s Time to Come Home

Luke 15:1-10

In Jesus Name

 May the grace, the incredible love, mercy, and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, give you confidence and desire to let Him joyfully carry you home!


You are the One:

When you compare the epistle and the gospel lessons this morning, there is a conclusion you can draw that is pretty simple.

Paul didn’t see himself as one of the 99.

He saw himself as the one, the one who wasn’t just lost, but in the process of being destroyed.

He saw himself as the one who was as notorious a sinner as any, yet he realized the incredible patience of God, who searched for him, and found him.

The challenge isn’t thinking we are the ones who get to celebrate Paul’s return, but the fact that we, like Paul, needed to be rescued.  For we like Paul, find ourselves broken, lost and in need of a savior.

And when we trust Jesus, and He joyfully carries us home… then there is a party like none we’ve ever seen.

To get there – there are a few challenges

It’s not “them.”

The first challenge is realizing who we are.  There are two groups mentioned in the gospel.  The first group who work and sincerely dedicate their entire lives to following God’s law – to living as He commanded.  The second group is our group – the group that is notorious sinners.

Now I need to let you know what a notorious sinner is.  It’s not as bad as it sounds…

It’s actually kind of worse.

One of the ways the word is defined in Greek is one who falls off the path, one who can’t stay on it.  We understand that the path is narrow, but I don’t think we realize it is a bridge like this one, with ditches that are about 1000 feet deep to each side.

Sort of like this path in China that they call the glass path.

Here’s another view.

Sin is simply deviating from the path.  It doesn’t matter whether it is using God’s name in the wrong way, murder, adultery or gossip.  It is sin, and you and I fall into it, far too often.

Even as the Pharisees stand there, judging the tax collectors and notorious sinners, they are sinning, denying the very grace of God, the grace they were entrusted with, the grace that should have inspired them to help others come to hear Jesus.

Jesus realizes this, and there is a gentle jab at the Pharisees when he says the shepherd leaves the 99 in the wilderness – for he identifies that all are in the wilderness,

The wilderness – the place of nothingness, the place without any blessing from God.

The ones who determined they are holy enough, that they are truly dedicated to God, find themselves outside… while the sheep who lay dying, is brought home…

And brought home Scripture says – joyfully.

Guess it pays off to admit we need His mercy, that we need God to find us. Doesn’t that sound strange?  That those who depend on their strength are left behind, while those needy are brought to safety and celebration?

There is joy in your transformation

This is the second challenge.  We need to recognize the joy that Jesus has bringing us home and the fact that the work brings more joy to God than the 99 who are righteous. Of course, we know that none are righteous, but even so, the picture of Jesus is one with a grin on his face!

Dad, I’ve brought another one home!

Now imagine him saying it on the cross – it’s finished – Tom’s home, Al’s home, you’ve been brought home.

Remember, the letter to the Hebrews tells us that it was this very joy of getting us into the kingdom of God, bringing us to where we should be, that Jesus endured the cross.

What an amazing thing!

To think that what brings God the greatest joy – and all of heaven with Him is when we trust Him enough to cleanse us, heal us, and bring us into the presence of the Father.

That is what brings God joy, for us to become His children, for us to become His people, for us to realize, and trust the fact that He is our God, our heavenly father.

I don’t know if we understand that all too well.  That when we realize God’s grace, when we have an aha moment when His grace transforms our lives and that is seen, the joy it brings Him and all heaven is greater than our awe, and our joy!

The Feast.

It is so great – that Jesus’s parable mentions a great feast – a great party full of joy, inviting everyone to rejoice with Him.  The same for the lady who finds the reward for her work, that was for a moment – thought lost. They both throw a feast – as they recover something quite precious to them.

I often wondered- for the man who owned the sheep – what did they feast on?  What was the main course?

I mean, it would be a little odd to throw a feast like that and serve lamb chops!

I bring the sermon to a close with this; the man gave his life to bring us home, to carry us with him in His death and resurrection,

and so for this feast- celebrating our homecoming, celebrating our repentant, transformed life, is a feast where the host serves the very best – where He gives His all to us.

His broken body, the blood poured out so that we could be brought home… and this feast is on of great joy, as it celebrates this,

Alleluia! He is Risen indeed
He is Risen!  Indeed!  Alleluia

And therefore,

We are risen alleluia indeed!
And He has brought us home….

If I Only Had A Fork

If I Only Had a Fork!

Luke 14:1-14

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ be so evident in your life, that you rejoice at the thought of a meal, knowing it is a foretaste of the most wonderful of feast, that you’ve been invited to…

A portable feast…

Last Sunday, on the way back from dropping off our trailer in Hemet, we stopped in Riverside for dinner.  I was kind of tired, and ate less than half my dinner, but it was so good, I had them pack up the rest to bring it home.  It didn’t make it.

There was a man in the parking lot, and as we left, he asked if we had any money for food.  He didn’t look homeless necessarily, and as my first thoughts doubted his sincerity, I decided to test him, and asked him if what he really wanted was food.

A simple nod, and I was hooked, I handed over the cashew nut chicken….

He didn’t even look me in the eyes as he said thanks, and quickly took off across the mall parking lot.

As we drove through the parking lot, I didn’t see him until we got to the street at the light.  There he was, sitting on the curb devouring the food with his hands, oblivious to how sticky and messy it was…..

If I had only known how hungry, if I had only known how desperate,

Then the light turned green, and as I pulled out onto the road and then onto the freeway, I struggled with my thoughts, I could have got him a drink, or a gift card for more food – or at least a fork.

The challenge

As people entered the rabbi’s house, their neighbor was in severe discomfort.  I assume no one tried to help him, not one asked Jesus if he would heal this man.  Instead they rushed to find a place to recline, close to the host, and able to easily hear the conversations between him and this guest, this wandering miracle worker.

Why didn’t they ask the miracle worker to care for their friend?  Why was their first priority to make sure they got the best seat, the freshest coffee, the perfect donut?

Are you and I any better?

Do we rush by people, seeking to talk to someone else? Are we more concerned with getting to “our place”

Jesus also talked about who we invite over, or those we go out with, do we only invite those who can invite us back?  Its the same thing – not that we should be hospitable, but that we have agendas going, agendas that serve ourselves, but also cause us to look past those struggling around us….

It’s a question about why we are here really, are we hear to love God and those He brings in our lives, or do we live to serve ourselves?

I encountered that question in my devotions yesterday, as the author wrote,

“They confuse renewal (God’s work in our lives, healing us) with comfort.”

And often we do this – and get upset with God when things aren’t as comfortable as we would want.

Sometimes it is better to be uncomfortable, if in doing so, we understand the incredible love of God that we see revealed in the life of Jesus.  As He embraced discomfort to care for people, for us.

The Invite

As we consider the lesson – the idea of stopping to care for the broken, the being humble and taking a seat in the servant’s area, and in inviting those who can’t pay you back, we see Jesus being not only one speaking this, but living it.

He doesn’t just stop to heal the man with edema, as He came to the cross, he came to die to heal you and me.  His blood, poured out on the cross brings healing to our brokenness.

He didn’t run to the top spot, to lose the world, but he became a servant, and God the father would call him to sit at His side, He embraced the servant’s role, the life lived in the poor section, to minister to you and I, to care for us, to make sure we knew we are invited to the feast in heaven, even at the cost of his death, and that death on the cross.
He is our host, He says we belong here – with Him.  He shares His life with us, even as the Father makes us co-heirs with Christ.

When Jesus offers us a feast – when he says, “

Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you, from the creation of the world!”

That’s what He is talking about here, and making sure, than in our desire to be there, we leave no one behind.

What a Blessing!

In the original division of the readings the gospel reading stopped at verse 14.

One of the nice things about doing our own bulletins, is I get to fix it, when I think they made it too long, or in this case , too short.

Let’s read verse 15 together,

15  Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!”

There is a man hungry enough for God’s kingdom that he wouldn’t care if he had a fork or not!  It’s time to dig in…

 Because of Jesus – that is you and I are attending that banquet, and in a moment, we get a little taste of it.

We’re invited, we been saved and healed and we’ve got great seats, and even a fork!

AMEN!

Yet – 3 Powerful Words of Powerful Faith.

Devotional Thought for the Day

17 For though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit appears on the vine, Though the yield of the olive fails and the terraces produce no nourishment, Though the flocks disappear from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, 
18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD and exult in my saving God. 19 GOD, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of deer and enables me to tread upon the heights.*  NABRE – Hab 3:17-19

Anything done out of love is important, however small it might appear. God has come to us, even though we are miserable creatures, and he has told us that he loves us: “My delight is to be among the sons of men.”10 Our Lord tells us that everything is valuable—those actions which from a human point of view we regard as extraordinary and those which seem unimportant. Nothing is wasted. No man is worthless to God. All of us are called to share the kingdom of Heaven—each with his own vocation: in his home, his work, his civic duties, and the exercise of his rights.

Nothing is wasted!   What marvelous words are uttered by St Josemaria! 

Words that resonate with the Habbakuk’s conclusion of his book. Let me paraphrase!

“Life Sucks!  YET I will rejoice in the Lord! YET I will exult in my saving God!

For as our souls, our very lives are entrusted to Him (something the Holy Spirit does, because Jesus paid the price to make it happen on the cross!) everything has meaning, and we begin to see how all things can indeed work for good, for those who love God. 

That’s a hard thing to trust God for, especially when we think of him as the deists did in the centuries following the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment.  Because they couldn’t trust the God they couldn’t see, they reasoned he left town,  Because they couldn’t understand that God was there in darkest points of history, they assumed he wasn’t there, and that He didn’t care and abandoned those He promised to walk with, those He promised to support, and heal, and strengthen.

Nothing is wasted. 

Man is that hard to hear! For there has been much that I can’t count as beneficial without coming to the same conclusions.  Where are you, my God?  Why did You abandon me?  Why did I have to go through this?  Why do I see it repeated? 

Nothing is wasted.

Not even the times of emptiness.

Not even the times where I cry out in anger, in pain, in fear.

Those words talk of dependence, of the greatest level of what we call faith.  The point where rock bottom we realize He is hear, and just go, “Lord, I can’t anymore, all I have to cling to are Your promises, the promsies I can’t believe are true for me. 

Yet, I abandon myself to you, I will depend on what I can’t see, what may be beyond my logic, but what you promise is real.

You are here… I can see that today…when I couldn’t last week, and may struggle next month to see it.

You are here!

So I will praise You, So I will rejoice in a God who wrote those promsies through prophets, and etched them in the hands of His Son.

Yet… a powerful word.

One I need to pull out and use… often.

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1394-1399). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

The Ministry Of Reconciliation: A Great Untapped Power…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

35 They will say, “This once-desolate land has become like the garden of Eden. The cities once ruined, laid waste and destroyed, are now resettled and fortified.”s 36 Then the surrounding nations that remain shall know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt what was destroyed and replanted what was desolate. I, the LORD, have spoken: I will do it!  (NABRE Ezekiel 36:35-36)

24 Suppose, now, that the invitation (to confess our sins and receive absolution) were changed into a command that all beggars should run to the place, no reason being given and no mention of what they were to look for or receive. How else would the beggar go but with repugnance, not expecting to receive anything but just letting everyone see how poor and miserable he is? Not much joy or comfort would come from this, but only a greater hostility to the command.
25 In the same way the pope’s* preachers have in the past kept silence about this wonderful, rich alms and this indescribable treasure; they have simply driven men together in hordes just to show what impure and filthy people they were. Who could thus go to confession willingly?
26 We, on the contrary, do not say that men should look to see how full of filthiness you are, making of you a mirror for contemplating themselves. Rather we advise: If you are poor and miserable, then go and make use of the healing medicine.  (1)

That is the way you are, too, he says; that is the way you are interiorly, if we look attentively at ourselves we shall know that this is true. We are interiorly stunted and crippled. We lack interior strength because we live only exteriorly. “Everyman”, who abounded in health and life, was interiorly completely crippled, but he did not know it. In his efforts to draw all life to himself, he had failed to learn what life truly is. There appears now on stage a second female figure, who teaches the dying Everyman how to pray again. Thus faith helps to give strength to his works. Supported by faith, his works can move, and he, too, can move—to move along the right, the true road to salvation. Faith gives him from Christ’s strength what Everyman does not have of himself.  (2)

A pastor or priest sits, and hears people unburden their lives, and we see a miracle happen.  Those crushed by guilt and shame are healed, they are made whole.  They are restored.

We can often see it with our eyes, yet the perception goes far deeper, as the grace of God bursts from their hearts and souls through their eyes.  It is such a thing that Ezekiel describes as he calls watching a once desolate land become the garden of Eden. Or a city laid waste, that has been restored.

Pope Benedict wrote of it as Everyman learning to pray again – the line of communication between God and man cleared of all that blocks it from our inattention, as guilt and shame are flushed away, and we can live again. Luther talks about it as a great treasure, this healing medicine of hearing God speak.

But we would rather look in the mirror and see the filth; we would rather look at works, poor and feeble, no better than filthy rags. Because we’ve let confession (and I mean the entire church) and the precious words of absolution be neglected, we struggle to believe them, to perceive the grace we should look for, the guarantee of mercy we should desire!

This is why pastors and priests must return to teaching about this precious sacrament.  So that its power to heal and restore people no longer sits unused, misunderstood, untapped.  Our people need to have this – they need to be able to share the joy of their salvation, to celebrate that God isn’t far off, but in Him we still live and move and have our very being!  This is amazing grace; this is proof of His unfailing love… these words of absolution, these glorious words that we are free…

God is merciful, the world needs to know this, you and I need to know this.

As we are absolved, let our awe turn into praises and celebration, as God throws us a feast, and as we know we are welcomed in His presence.  AMEN!

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 460). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  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. 233–234). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

* ( DIsclaimer: While it may be true that some in the RCC in Luther’s day are accurately described in his comment, the priests of the Roman Catholic Church I know and admire urge people to go, not just out of obedience, but because of the joy that awaits them as Christ assures them of His forgiveness – there are such pastors in every church body, even as there are those who would deny people of the joy of reconciliation)

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