It’s Time to Make Him Known!
May you see Christ so clearly revealed through His word and sacraments, that the grace of God our Father, and our Lord shine brightly through you, to those who need to know His name!
Deeply Troubled, Are We?
Imagine walking around Athens as Paul did, waiting for his friends to show up. This capital city, formerly the capital of the world, this place that might cause wonder, disturbed him greatly.
Scripture says he was deeply troubled, deeply and profoundly bothered by what he saw, what he experienced. Wherever he looked there was idolatry, people trying to find hope, and looking to man-made things to provide hope.
Broken, weary, unfulfilled desires become even more broken as their false gods revealed themselves to be nothing but a bunch of rocks. These people that were searching for answers, those who led them who loved to hear of new thoughts about God, they all needed a God to depend upon, a God to turn to, a God that would be there, a God who would help.
It wasn’t the first time, 600 years before, Diogenes records that Epimenides, a philosopher from Crete was sent for because no one had an answer to their problems, a plague, a drought, a famine all at once went through the land. Epimenides looked at all the temples, all these false gods and idols and suggested that the answer was that their prayers and sacrifices didn’t work because they didn’t know the real God they could pray to….
And so they made an altar to an unknown God, and prayed, and dedicated an altar with the words agnosto theo – and dedicated the altar to the unknown and real God, asking Him to save them, asking Him to hear their prayers. For a few centuries they remembered this God and His mercy, then, like many others, they forgot this nameless, faceless, benevolent God.
As Paul arrives, the altar was probably near ruins, the story all but was forgotten, and the people were back to looking anywhere for an answer.
But it was time to make this God known… even as it is today.
Can People Pray to A God they Don’t know? Will He answer them?
This passage plays havoc with what are called closed theological systems, or those systems that people close off themselves. It has caused a lot of debate, especially among conservative Lutherans. Because it isn’t beautiful and tidy, and God doesn’t fit in our box.
For example, there is the question of people praying to a God whom they don’t know.
We know we can’t find God if all we are using is our own reason and strength, that is solid, basic theology. But does that stop them from looking for Him? Does that stop them from praying to Him, begging Him for help.. and to reveal that He is present here.
Well, rather than just say yes, let me share a few passages, starting with today’s reading,
27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist.
11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)
and then this from Solomon’s dedication of the temple
41 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42 for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name. 1 Kings 8:41-43 (NLT)
And one more, from the Large Catechism, one of the primary documents describing our faith,
All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Unless of course, someone reveals God to them, as God desires!
So is it wrong for people to pray, even if they aren’t sure who God is? Will He hear their cries and respond?
Of course, for He desires to draw them close, to save and deliver them into His Father’s presence. Scripture tells us this is God’s will, His desire, to draw everyone to Himself, to cleanse them from sin, to restore them as His children. He will never force us, but He will always hear us and care and love us.
Paul was sent to Athens by the Lord to do what he did, to reveal to them that He was their Creator, but also that He was their redeemer. He died and rose from the dead so that He could judge the world, and judge us just, righteous, holy, the people who could cry out to Him.
If you kept on reading, Paul would speak to them more about the resurrection from the dead that he mentions in verse 31. There Paul mentioned that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, Some would stop listening to then, others wanted to hear more about it later, including some very learned people.
They heard about the God who would come and die, to deliver them from sin, and the power of death. They would hear about the God who rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven, the God who would draw us to Jesus lifted on the cross, where we would die with Him, our sin nailed to that cross. And then, as He rose from the dead, so do we, forgiven, cleansed, separated from sin, now children of the Father.
For the unknown God has made Himself known, and calls us to be transformed and trust in Him.
And so we do, the broken finding healing in Jesus, while we reveal Him to others as Paul did.
This is our life in Christ, for in Him we live and move and exist. For we are His children. AMEN!
 Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
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!
An Odd Responsibility
† I.H.S. †
May you enjoy the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and in that joy, may He shine through you to a broken world!
An Odd Responsibility
Of all the things scripture tells us to do, the one we heard in the first reading today may be the oddest.
I mean we are encouraged to love God, to love our neighbor, to love even our enemy. We are told to honor our parents, be faithful to our wives and husbands, to care for our children. We are told to no gossip, and be content rather than being jealous of what others are blessed with by God.
None of these are easy, but then we hear this one today, and they seem.. better defined?
Here it is again,
“Carefully determine what pleases the Lord”
Across all of the Bible translations in English that I have, two of them use acceptable, and one uses “what God wants of you”. The rest use the word please, or pleasing. Knowing the Greek word behind it doesn’t help that much – it means good pleasure – or causing or creating peace.
So we are responsible for… making God’s life good?
That seems a bit odd.
And more than a little difficult! How are we supposed to figure this out? Even more concurring,, how can we accomplish it?
I mean if God can’t find peace or be pleased, how are we to see that happen?
The Darkness that consumes and burdens
I mean, at least for me, I feel that life is often just a longer edition of that feeling when you are asleep and someone comes in and turns on the 250 watt light in your bedroom in order to wake you up.
You know, the disorientation, the inability to really see clearly, the pain of looking at everything in harsh, painful more powerful than the sun – light?
Spiritually the world seems that dark at times, as people stumble around, not sure of what is right, but absolutely convinced of what is not good. Sometimes we even justify staying in the dark, because if we saw what was truly going on, the shock and horror would be even more overwhelming.
If the darkness hides the world’s evil deeds and intentions, it can also do the same thing for us, hiding the thoughts, words, and deeds that we are personally ashamed of, the failures that haunt us, that cause us shame. Yet the spiritual darkness gives us the illusion that no one sees those things, no one else knows them, even God.
The darkness may seem comforting, it may seem safe, but spiritual darkness and ignorance has severe problems, Guilt, shame, loneliness, despair, and the pervasive darkness which causes us to live without hope, without any healing of our soul, or the relationships that break.
The work of the light
So into this darkness that oppresses more than it relieves, that hides from the world but not our conscience, comes the glory of Christ.
it takes us a while to get used to it. At first, we might think that the light is the spotlight used to interrogate us, like the third-degree interrogations in old war and spy movies. For it does reveal the dark shameful things, the thoughts and words and deeds of the past that haunt us.
We need to understand that rather than being an interrogation tool, this is the light by which God examines us, to cut away that which isn’t of us, the sin and unrighteousness, the shame and the grief, the pain and resentment, and the light which strengthens and allows our souls to heal.
It takes a while to get used to, to learn to welcome, but as Paul promises,
“This light within you produces only what is good, and right, and true.”
This light, this glory of God so shows things for what they are that we let God remove them from our lives.
Which is why we can live without them, though it may take a while to realize that, as we wander around, trying to get used to walking in the light, as those people who are the people of light.
This is what grace is, this is why we are here, to help each other realize we aren’t alone in this world, that we can live lives where forgiveness is more powerful than brokenness, where reconciliation is always possible, and is desired by God. That not only can we desire to grow in holiness, we can see God at work in us, transforming us into His holy people.
And this is what we discover pleases Him, it is what He desires, it is what He spent eternity planning, and why Jesus came and died on the cross to shatter our darkness, to remove our sin. It is what we truly need to understand – that what pleases God is our being His people, trusting in Him, depending on Him to care and provide for us, having faith in the promises He has made us, including forgiving our sins, and make us His holy people, and welcoming us as we dwell in His glory.
And freed from the darkness, freed from its oppression and evil, freed from the guilt and shame it causes, we live in the light, for we have had revealed to us the truth of the old hymn Paul quoted,
We have awoken, We have risen from the dead! For Christ has come and dwelt with us, and we have seen His glory. AMEN!
Love is, Jesus Is, We are
Not Demanding of our Way
1 Corinthians 13:5
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so leave you in awe that you walk humbly with Him, rejoicing in His presence!
Love is not
The song we just sang, and have sung each week during Lent is a hard one for me to sing. Simply because it calls me to admit how I feel when I look at what God expects from us when I realize how hard it is to love, to truly love someone else….
When I realize how hard it is for me to love God with everything I am, all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. To love my neighbor as I love myself.
Especially when loving means that I don’t get what I want, that what is in my best interest, what I think is right has to be set aside.
We hear from Paul that love does not demand its way. It is not zealous; it doesn’t put all its energy seeking what it desires, what it wants, even what it needs. Or what it thinks is the right way to go….
And I as read this, the words to that song come to mind…
“my eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold. And I know how I ought to be, alive to you, and dead…. To me.
I would have thought I would be better at this by this time in my life, that I wouldn’t get so riled up when I didn’t get my way, that I wouldn’t be so hurt when what I know is right is denied by bureaucracy or systems that don’t consider the effect they have on people.
There are still times where I want to shake some sense into people……
You know what I mean? What were they thinking? How could they be so blind, so stupid,
and then I read this passage and realize how far I’ve strayed from what God desires….
For even if I am right, even if the way I demand is right, too often in demanding it I will win the battle, but I will lose the war.
Jesus is not
When we consider any aspect of love, it helps to see it in action, and the perfect example is usually Jesus. Okay, it is always Jesus, for only Jesus was perfect enough to love completely, and only Jesus, in that love provides the cure for when we aren’t loving.
In this case, we could look at the times when people begged for mercy, and Jesus went out of his way to provide it, to provide food for those that wouldn’t leave him alone, and followed him out into the wilderness.
Or we can look in the garden, and see Jesus asking the Father for an option to the cross.
38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Matthew 26:38-39 (NLT)
That certainly is not demanding your way!
And it was done so that you and I could know the depth of God’s love for us, for the cup of suffering he took, included the betrayals, the beatings, the cross,
He didn’t demand his way, but as Isaiah prophesied, like a lamb, he was silent.
We are not!
So what about us? How can we whose hearts are dry, whose faith is old, find the strength to love so sacrificially? How can we deny ourselves and take up our cross, and be silent?
On our own, we cannot.
As God guides Paul to write these words, they are there. This is what our confessions talk about as the describe the “New Obedience,” the way we begin to live as we trust and depend on God.
As we explore His love, as we come to realize our need and trust in God’s work, the Holy Spirit teaches us we are loved, and brings us to the point where we can love God and those around us. He shapes us the way an artist draws, guiding our lives as we look to Jesus, as we stand in awe of His love.
The way to love is not just to study the character of Jesus, but to know His love, to look to Him for that love and be amazed, to see the depth of His care for you and those around you, understanding what He promises, and rejoicing and treasuring the hope He gives.
Loving isn’t something that happens easily, but it is something that happens as we know we are loved.
A love that leaves us so at peace, so content, that we simply lay aside everything else to enjoy it, including the way we once so zealously demanded.
That peace is beyond our understanding, but for those who know God’s love, it is our reality, for Christ guards our hearts and minds in that peace. AMEN!
Love Is, Jesus is, We are
Never Jealous, Boastful or Proud
† In Jesus Name †
As we explore the dimensions of God the Father’s love for us, revealed clearly in Jesus, may we realize that He is not only loving us, but teaching us to love as well!
Last week when we defined love, we heard about the fact that love never gives up and that love always cares for others more than itself. Which is the basic definition of the word cHesed in the Old Testament.
Those two characteristics are expanded this evening, as we look what Love is, and see that is who Jesus is, and become surprised that God is working in us, transforming us until that is who we are.
We see it take another step as we realize that love is NEVER jealous, that it is not boastful, that it is not proud.
Some interesting words there, all that are related to a heart that is self-centered that is driven by a need to have something, whether it goods, or admiration or applause. Love doesn’t need that, it is content, confident of the presence of God and the promises of God.
But how do we become so confident in where God has us, that we cease to be jealous, that we have need to boast, that we simply, humbly walk with God?
The answer, as we will see throughout this Lent begins with Jesus, for you can read this passage of scri[ture and simply substitute Jesus for the word love, and nothing changes.
He wasn’t jealous, even though He left everything, every right, every possession aside when He was born of Mary, but also when He began to preach and teach, and when He went to the cross and died.
There was no need for Him to boast, instead of taking the best place, He washed feet, and ministered to the Leper, and had compassion on widows and Samaritans.
And what to be proud of? That He could do miracles? That He could teach thousands? That he could confound the best and brightest by simple God-centered answers to the questions they planned to trap Him with?
What good would any of that have done.
Instead, He did what He came to do, He loved. He was love!
So how does Jesus help us overcome our self-centeredness? How does He help us lay aside what we desire, and our need for admiration? How does He transform us into people that like Him, prefer to be last, and prefer to lift others up instead of themselves?
The gospels tell us that as Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all to Him. And as they are drawn to them, as they look on and adore the Lord who delivers them from their own sin’s punishment,
As we grow in understanding that we are loved by God, our need to be self-centered can disappear, little by little.
As you understand that His love for you compels Him to care for you, to act on your behalf, so jealousy fades away, as does the need for the acclaim and applause of others. He loves you, and that is so overwhelming that it is more than enough. Indeed, I am not sure I can even comprehend with my mind fully to realize what that means… that God loves you and me that much.
But my mind doesn’t have to, my heart and soul do, especially while I am at the altar, and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ……
It is then I understand these words of Mary,
46 … “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
Luke 1:46-51 (NLT)
And quietly, as we are in awe of this love God shows us, the Holy Spirit is doing what the Apostle Paul described,
16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT)
That is what is happening to you my friends, as you dwell in God’s peace. AMEN!
Lent: It’s Not About YOUR Sin
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
As you encounter the brokenness of this world that goes back to the days of Adam and Eve, my you know how great the difference is in your life, because of Jesus Christ our Lord!
A friend of mine commented this week that “we aren’t supposed to “like” Lent. Because that would defeat the whole purpose.”
It was an interesting thought, and I wondered about what her dislike Lent so much.
Perhaps it is because we have the focus on the wrong part of Lent. Because while Lent has us look at sin and our need for the Holy Spirit to grant us repentance, Lent isn’t about sin.
The purpose of these 40 days is to evaluate out lives, to see the places where the Holy Spirit needs to work, and to invite that work, to desire it, to allow God to clean out the unholy, unrighteous stuff that stops us from truly living life.
The goal of Lent isn’t to beat ourselves up for what we’ve said or thought or did.
The goal of Lent is to realize that crud is there and to desire it gone from our lives.
But how does that happen? How do we see the reality that sin doesn’t have us locked down and headed straight to hell?
Your sin is nothing new…
Please understand that I am not saying sin doesn’t exist, or that we shouldn’t be repentant. Not at all, sin is serious business, but it is not our primary business.
Hebrews 12 tells, “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up… and let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.” (Heb 12:1)
That is the invitation of Lent, to recognize sin for what it is, and to cast it aside. Yeah, it is bad, yes it damages our relationship with others and really damages our relationship with God.
As Paul says, this sin kills, it brings death as serious as any plague known to mankind. And we are its latest victim, in what appears to be an unbroken line, all the way back to Adam. That seems to be the point Paul makes over and over in the passage from Romans 5 that was read this morning. Time after time Paul tells us that Adam’s sin, his stepping over the line brought death, it brought condemnation.
For each of us, without salvation, would stand condemned, passing on sin as if it was a genetic syndrome.
Christ’s Act, and your right relationship
But I’ve said that Lent and this section of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome aren’t about sin.
They are about bring delivered from sin, and to look at our lives, and learning to desire to live in the like Christ, in His glorious holiness rather than in the darkness of Adam’s sin. To live, in what Christ righteous act on the cross brought us, what Paul calls a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.
This relationship, this life is the focus of Lent. Forty days to think about what we retain from Adam and to ask God to cleanse our lives. To depend on Him more, to live with Him in a more devout way. Not some kind of false holiness that would exalt us, but simply depending on Him, trusting Him, adoring the God who would take our debt and lay it on Christ, who would bring about righteousness in us.
To want to see this happen, to desire this above all, that is what these days we call Lent are about.
The Continuation of the thought..
At the beginning of the next chapter, Paul will ask the Romans the question which boils down to – who are you going to be like, Adam under condemnation, or Jesus who brings life. I like the way the Phillip’s translation phrases it,
1 Now what is our response to be? Shall we sin to our heart’s content and see how far we can exploit the grace of God? What a ghastly thought! We, who have died to sin – how could we live in sin a moment longer? Have you forgotten that all of us who were baptized into Jesus Christ were, by that very action, sharing in his death? Romans 6:1 (Phillips NT)
This is what we are aiming for in Lent, the desire expressed here, to live in sin’s power not a moment longer, to receive the grace that makes us live in triumph over sin and death as Paul mentioned in today’s reading.
To run to the altar, seeking the comfort that comes from knowing there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. To remember what was done in our baptism, to remember His death, burial and resurrection, not as historical facts, but as part of our life, for we died and rose with Him. This is what we celebrate, as we partake of His body and blood and know, the Holy Spirit is changing us, even as we can’t take our eyes off of Jesus.
This mystery of the faith is what we celebrate during Lent, building up to Good Friday when we hear Jesus’ words, it is finished. It is accomplished. We are clean, we are holy, we are righteous, for we dwell in Him!
Lent helps us realize that, and realizing that we do toss aside that sin, and look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. To realize in Him we live and move and have our very being.
For in Christ, we exist in the unexplainable, unsurpassable peace of God. We are safe there, our hearts and minds kept there by Jesus. AMEN!
I will Trust My God!
† In Jesus’ Name! †
As the light of Christ’s glory shines in your hearts, may you know how great His mercy, how complete His peace, and how deep His love for you is!
Is it him, or me?
When we look at a prophecy in the Old Testament, there are some things we have to consider.
How was it in originally fulfilled.
Is it primarily about Jesus during the time from His incarnation to his
But there is a third application of the prophecy – whether it is just a lesson for us, revealing Jesus, or whether it is directly applicable to us. For example, in the 23rd Psalm, or in Psalm 51 or 139, the words are as applicable to you and me as they are to David.
But what about today’s selection? Is it like those Psalms that are more about Jesus, or the ones that tell us more about ourselves?
Are we the ones who were named by God before our birth, while in our mother’s womb known by God? Or is it Jesus?
Are we the ones hidden in the shadow of His hand, who serve God the Father and will bring Him glory, or is it only Jesus who is so aimed, whose words will cause people to know God’s decision that declares them righteous?
Who is this passage about? Jesus, our Lord, the one who brings the light of His glory into our darkness, or are these words of Isaiah about you and me?
Al – don’t say it!
Could He know the despair?
If I were to make the case that it is about us, what would seem to make that point is found in verse 4.
4 I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.
That sounds like something you or I would say, far more than it sounds like something the only begotten Son of God would say.
Think about those words for a moment. Do these words of despair sound like they would come from the mouth of the Lord Jesus? From the same lips that blessed bread and fish and fed thousands upon thousands? From the same lips that calmed storms, and called the little girl and the widow’s son and Lazarus back to life? Could Jesus, who forgave the adulteress, and healed the blind and paralyzed, could he have uttered such words of hopelessness?
Doesn’t this lead us to think these words, therefore, must be just about you and me?
Or is this what the writer of Hebrews means when he says,
15 We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. 16 So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.
Hebrews 4:15-16 (MSG)
If so, then this passage could still be about Him. If it is, then we have a God who doesn’t just look down on us, but can be there for us, knowing the challenges. He just doesn’t sympathize with us, this God who lights up our darkness with His light, it is His empathy that drives Him to do so!
If this passage is about Jesus, then it brings a whole different understanding to our faith. It isn’t n vain, and it isn’t a leap. Our hope is an expectation, just like Jesus’ faith is expressed back in verse 4,
“But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.
Somehow, Jesus was able to trust the Father, He was able to leave it all in the Father’s hands. Dealing with Peter and James and John and the wishy-washy disciples, dealing with Herod and the religious leaders who wanted to kill him. Dealing with the rich young ruler who walked away.
Did Jesus know those days when it seems like nothing works, that nothing makes a difference, and simply trusted in the Father’s will?
It is both, because we find life, in Christ!
So is this passage only about Jesus? Or can we utter those words as well? Can we leave it all in the hands of God, trusting in God to see us through?
Is He the only one who God formed to be his servant? Is he the only One who God uses to bring back those who’ve wandered off, to bring salvation to all who are far off, even to the ends of the earth? Who will see the powers and authorities of this world bowing before?
While it is about Jesus, it is about us as well, for we find our lives, the lives the Holy Spirit calls into existence, cleansing us from sin, in Christ Jesus. It is true of us because it is true of Him. For in the book of Acts Paul tells some gentiles in Athens that their poets had it correct when they said, “In Him we live and move and have our being”.
That is what it means to be in the season of Epiphany, to share in the glory of Christ Jesus. This is what it means for Him to be here, shattering our darkness. As we realize His presence anew every time we commune at the altar, every we time we hear His voice speak to us, as the Holy Spirit uses the gospel to create life within us!
We see this the last verse, where Isaiah says to those in Christ, it is the LORD, the faithful One, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you…
This is not about the one who is spoken too, it is not about their faith, but the faithfulness of the LORD who speaks. It is about His faithfulness in saving us, in lighting our way, in ensuring we endure, ensuring we hear His call of us, by name. The name for the church throughout scripture is this very term – the chosen or called ones. Called by name, kept in the hand of God, given a message to deliver to the nations.
This is our life, spent in Christ, our journey in the light of His glory, the glory that came when He came to dwell with man, and in our baptism as the Spirit comes to give us this wondrous life.
This is our focus during Epiphany, this is why we sing, as we recognize His glory has appeared here, where the Lord is with you! AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 “Make certain you do not perform your religious duties in public so that people will see what you do. If you do these things publicly, you will not have any reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give something to a needy person, do not make a big show of it, as the hypocrites do in the houses of worship and on the streets. They do it so that people will praise them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. 3 But when you help a needy person, do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it. 4 Then it will be a private matter. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4 (TEV)
693 It hurt you not to have been thanked for that favor. Answer me these two questions: Are you so grateful toward Christ Jesus? Did you really do that favor in the hope of being thanked for it on earth?
There is a part of us that cries out to be appreciated.
To hear someone say “thank you” seems only right, and when the thank you isn’t given, we are disappointed, even hurt. We may wonder about their manners, question how they were raised, even harbor a bit of resentment that our hard work and sacrifice was taken for granted, even ignored.
Examining our own expectation of that “thank you” never enters our mind, does it? Do we question our desire to hear that thank you? Or wonder if that announcement of appreciation was our motivation? Or why its lack would cause us to be bitter and resentful?
Or as the eminent theologian Jack Sparrow was noted to say, “The problem isn’t the problem. Your attitude about the problem is the problem.”
I think St Josemaria has an interesting point here. Are we as appreciative for what God has done for us, as we expect others to be for what we do for them? I am not asking this to create a guilt trip, precisely the opposite.
You see, our acts we want noticed and appreciated are actually how we show our appreciation for the work God has done for us. This life we live, is the fulfillment of Ephesians 2:10. What we want to be appreciated is the very life God planned out for us, as we’ve been recreated in Christ Jesus….a life lived in appreciation of His love.
I think as we realize this, then the appreciation of man becomes something that is nice, but not a need. The “thank you’s” are nice, but their lack becomes less noticed, as our actions become more something we are in awe of, as we realize they are done because of the Holy Spirit….. something that is holy and not our norm.
God is working in us! God is using us to bless others! What an amazing thing!
He has given us a place in life, and it is making a difference in others lives! And so our attitude changes a bit, and we begin to understand what Jesus said in Luke,
10 It is the same with you; when you have done all you have been told to do, say, ‘We are ordinary servants; we have only done our duty.’ “
Luke 17:10 (TEV)
What happens then, is we desire that He be praised, that He be appreciated, that He be loved… and when that happens… we are content… and thankful for the opportunity.
Praise be to our Lord!…. and thanks for reading this!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1616-1617). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Of the men I have taught and trained to be deacons, few have worked harder than Chuck, and few thought he could handle the work. Yet he is a natural, enthusiastic evangelist, one who is always sharing the love of Christ in very down home simple ways people remember. As part of his training, he delivered this sermon. ( All deacon sermons preached at Concordia are written with my oversight, assistance, and approval.) He aced this one, as people responded to its simple message, praising God for the grace, the love and mercy we’ve received. – pr. dtp
Pastor, Bob and I are Speedbumps, that you Need!
† In Jesus Name †
(Take a deep breath, and silently pray, “Jesus, may the words of my heart and the thoughts of my mind be acceptable to you, and may the words reveal to these people your love” )
My prayer for you this day is that the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ draws you to them, as the Holy Spirit fills you with love and mercy. AMEN!
Introduction – Meet your speedbumps!
Part of what I learned this week has to do with verse 20 in the Old Testament. It says there,
20 “If righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die. And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins.
As pastor and I talked about these “obstacles”, I thought they were like big speedbumps. Things God puts in your way to cause you to slow down so that you stay alive. In this case, staying alive spiritually.
The pastor asked me what those obstacles, those speedbumps were.
And after a few moments, it came to me.
Pastor, and Deacon Bob and I are the speedbumps!
I kinda like that.
That’s my story, my parable today. Pastor, Bob and I are speedbumps, speedbumps you need!
We have to be pretty big speedbumps as well, for we need to slow you down enough for you to be still, and know God is God. Which means you need us to be speed bumps.
That has two parts,
and Part 2.
So let me tell you about part 1.
part 1 – slow down, so you don’t die in your sins
The first reason I am a speed bump is to help you is to warn you about sin, and the consequences of it. That isn’t easy, or pleasant, so God helps us keep focused on it, He tells us,
17 “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. 18 If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths.
That sounds pretty serious. If I don’t remind you that the wages of sin are death, then I would be responsible for you spiritual death – not just physical death, but spiritual, eternal death.
I don’t really think I need that threat – I want you all to be in heaven because I love you. But that is what it says, maybe in case I get annoyed at you someday. (SMILE)
And if you get annoyed at me, well, I might have annoyed you about something less important before. This is important.
You need to know God takes sin seriously. We weren’t meant to live life following other Gods, or not using His name right. We aren’t supposed to murder each other or be unfaithful to our wives, or gossip about each other.
We are to love each other. And if we don’t, that is sin.
The second reason that Pastor, Bob and I are speedbumps in your life is to get you to slow down enough to become repentant. Repentant is not just being sorry, it means to be transformed, to be made new in our heart and mind.
That isn’t easy.
Imagine my garage is like your soul, and everything in it is your sin and unbelief.
You need to slow down, to put less and less into it, or you will not be able to walk in it. And the first reason, speedbumps slow you down. In the second reason, the speedbump gives time for the garage to be transformed. That’s a nice way of saying that God has to clean out all the stuff in our spiritual garages. He must clean out the garage so well that it is as clean as Carol’s kitchen.
That’s what we call a miracle.
Come to think of it, anyone needs a corner cabinet? Talk to me later if you do.
Oh yeah – we need to become repentant. That’s God’s work, that happens as we hear the gospel proclaimed, whether it is heard at church, or over lunch, or even in my doctor’s office.
That cleaning out is repentance, it is the change our-our heart, soul, and mind that happens because Jesus died on the cross to make it happen. He took that penalty of death that each of us deserved….
He died so that we might live eternally.
He died because the Father poured out all of his wrath, all of his anger, all of the punishment we deserve on Jesus.
So we can be cleansed, so we become not just sorry for our sins, but so we become repentant.
I am up here, to be your speedbump, to get you to slow down enough so that you know God’s love, to help you to slow down enough when you walk up here and kneel down, so that you are still, and as you eat the body and drink the blood of Christ you know He is God.
And I pray that Pastor, Bob and I are good speedbumps and that God will work through our preaching, our teaching and our giving you the body of Christ. Because God is working in your lives, you will know His peace, the peace of God that passes all understanding.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 Later on Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s house. A large number of tax collectors and other outcasts were following Jesus, and many of them joined him and his disciples at the table. 16Some teachers of the Law, who were Pharisees, saw that Jesus was eating with these outcasts and tax collectors, so they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such people?” 17 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.” Mark 2:15-17
580 Humbly ask God to increase your faith. Then, with new lights, you’ll see clearly the difference between the world’s paths and your way as an apostle. (1)
They were the those who were sent away, either to an island for toys that didn’t meet the standard, or out of the camp of Israel because they had sinned, or perhaps, their sin was just more obvious than the rest.
They didn’t fit in, and to be honest, I count myself as one of their number, and sometimes, I even wonder if I am a mis-fit in their circles. I have days like that, even a year or two where I feel that way.
Which is why it is hard at times to realize I do fit in at my church.
If I, their pastor, can feel this way, how many others do as well?
How many of us who gather on a Sunday morning know intuitively or because someone told us, that we aren’t like the others. Maybe it is a psychological challenge, or one of intellect. Maybe it is what appears to be a physical deformity or disease. Maybe it is the weakness of character, or some other distinguishing factor that the world would use to separate us from the norm.
But the church is Jesus’s territory, not the worlds! It is not so different from the Island of Misfit toys, the place where the outcasts would be gathered, and form a tightly-knit community. One gathered around Jesus, because He shows us we do fit, we are fine and safe.
The incarnation was not for the people in perfect places, with perfect clothes, with sinless perfect lives. The incarnation was among the misfits, the outcasts, those who others sent away, as if they were broken, or undesirable. Such make up the One, Holy, catholic (universal/complete) and Apostolic Church, and indeed, of those who were judged mis-fit, some become some of our greatest heroes of the faith, those we call saints (even though all who walk with Jesus are!)
For the world’s paths can’t be tread by them, and as they learn to depend on God, as their faith increases, as they talk and pray with God, He sends them out to bring the healing they are experiencing to the world. They reach out to the other outcasts, and even to those who have pretended they are not!
This is church, real church, with real people who have real problems, and are sustained by a real God.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1386-1387). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.