Faith in Action: Knows
† Jesus, Son and Savior †
May the gifts of mercy, of love and of peace from God our Father, which Jesus pours into your life, help you know Him, and may that knowledge allow your soul to find rest! AMEN!
People who have faith need to pray
I came across an interesting quote this week from a guy from Boston, a professor of philosophy named Peter Kreeft,
How long should we pray? At least as long as it takes to relax in His presence, to “be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10)
Professor Kreeft has a pretty good answer there, that prayer isn’t just a few words, uttered when we are in need, it’s not something we do out of obligation either.
It is a time to relax, to know God intimately, so deeply that everything else in life falls away as we find we trust and depend on Him, and then, as that happens, we are able to relax in His presence… as we realize what it means to be still and dwell in the peace of God.
As we look at our reading in Psalm 46 this morning, we see David’s urging us to find ourselves in that moment of peace. Safe where God dwells, for He is our refuge, our sanctuary. He is our peace.
The challenge to know God… for faith that is active has to know God
Not just about knowing about Him, but being still enough to realize that He is God… and calm enough to think through what it means.
Obstacles to knowing God
I don’t know about you, but I tend to struggle with fear, or the word that comes closest to it this day, anxiety.
It doesn’t take the earthquakes and oceans going crazy that David describes in the Psalm. It’s more like this lack week, where for a couple of days I was on a committee with the 1st and 2nd Vice President of Synod, guys I don’t always agree with, trying to help deacons and churches who are served by only those deacons.
Anxious because I might say the wrong thing…
Or anxious over a doctor’s appointment.
Or anxious about any of million things that could go wrong in life, or the complications of when things go right! (Sometimes I am more worried and scared by things going right. )
And then as I am dealing with the anxieties, I realize that I had forgotten all about God’s presence, and I get anxious about my lack of focus on God, and my obvious lack of faith. Causing more anxiety and fear to build.
Is such anxiety sin? If I even start down that thought process, it’s only going to get worse, causing more guilt, more shame, and our normal reaction will be to run away from God.
You see, we often buy into the fact that we have control over whether we sin or not. And therefore, when we do take our eyes off of God, we find ourselves alone as the earthquakes, or we feel like we are drowning, or all alone in the middle of a battlefield.
The answer to this is not to flee God, or fight him, but to run to Him, to speak and listen to him, to know He is God, and as we know what that means, find the ability to remain still.
So how does this happen?
Come and see the glorious works
There is an invitation to the world in the middle of the passage.
Come and see the glorious works of the Lord! See how he brings destruction upon the world!
The first part seems like a great invitation. Observing God’s glorious works! How awesome! How incredible! Hearing that my mind goes to the idea of miracles and healings, of baptizing people by the hundreds, and Concordia becoming a major influence in our community, even in all of Los Angeles.
And then I get the second half and go “wait…
BRINGS DESTRUCTION ON THE WORLD? WHAT?
Uhm, how is that going to end up giving me the ability to be still?
I mean, the DESTRUCTION OF THE WORLD?
I mean our world may be broken, evil might seem to be apparent, but destruction? Total destruction of the world?
Well, in the physical sense of the word, everything on the day of judgment will be destroyed because it will be renewed.
But that happens in our lives at baptism, as we are united with the death of Christ in the water of baptism, God promises and makes sure our brokenness is destroyed, it dies with Him there on the cross.
That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote,
4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. 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. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.
Romans 6:4-7 (NLT2)
It takes a while to work through this, that the anxiety caused by sin’s guilt and shame, the anxiety that is caused by not knowing the presence of God, and not knowing God is removed….
Even so, our old nature dies hard, as does the anxiety it can produce in us. In fact, you and I can only find peace when we God’s presence draws us into His glory, into His love, and causes you to be still, and just know He is God…
That happens as we know His presence, in places like this, a place we are drawn together, to know He is God. As we pray together, leaving every burden before Him, every anxiety, every moment becomes one of peace. A place where we see life end and begin, as people are baptized into Christ.
As we share in the body and blood of Jesus, as we realize we are united to Him, as we share in His death… and even now, in His resurrection.
And we find ourselves still and rest…knowing the God who loves us.
And our dependence on God, our faith becomes active, because we know Him! AMEN!
Faith in Action…
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so fill your lives, that you without thinking look and support those who are struggling with sin. And when they come to support you, that you will let them.
I love the old movies, where the hero has to survive a gauntlet, avoiding the traps, the deadfalls, and make the decisions that mean life or death. They avoid death, if they, in the words of one of those who guided one such hero, choose wisely. (btw – that movie was released 29 years ago – so I guess it can be classified as an “oldie”!)
The hero had to be careful, he had to take his time, evaluate his situation, realize the words that had been spoken, and choose to act wisely.
In the case of the letter to the Hebrews, the idea of being careful include a deep discerning look at our situation, at the challenge we face with that sin, and the evil and unbelief it can cause in our lives.
Yeah – this passage is a call to us, this call to take a deep, hard look into our lives, and make sure about our hearts, warning and supporting each other….
For being deceived by sin is all to easy, and happens all too often.
Who Was it?
We see how easy it was, in the example provided by the writer of Hebrews.
The people of Israel, led by Moses from Egypt, who heard God’s voice and trembled. Who saw his power, both judging the sins of the Pharaoh in Egypt and in the incredible miracles at the Red Sea, and in the provision of water, and manna and quail.
And yet, as direct as their contact was, they still fell into temptation, they still sinned, and when things got hard, they didn’t trust God.
They didn’t believe.
For that is what faith and belief in God is, the ability to trust in God despite the entire world, and even your own life telling you that He isn’t there. Despite them telling you that he doesn’t care.
They struggled, oh how they struggled! They heard the very voice of God, yet still rebelled. They saw the signs of His presence, the miracles, the cloud of smoke by day, the pillar of fire by night, and still hardened their hearts
And so they did what was evil, what was in rebellion from God.
Too often, you and I join them. You might even have already asked, like the apostles, “Is it I Lord?” when He talked of the one who would betray Him.
We’ve heard His voice calling us, we’ve seen His power at work, We know both His wrath and mercy, Yet, we struggle to trust God in situations we encounter, or we all too easily forget about Him. Especially when we are tempted by sin, even what we might call the smallest of sins, or perhaps the biggest.
For the biggest of sins, the violation of the first commandment happens to us all the time. We create our own gods, something we want to trust in, something we can find hope in. and set aside the God who has revealed Himself to us, through word and sacrament, through the people that are the church.
We aren’t any better than the people of God in the days of Moses. We have all these blessings pointing to God in our lives, and yet sometimes we still turn away, we still get deceived, we still fall to scold others, rather than warn and counsel them as scripture teaches.
And so, we need to take time, to be careful, and discern what we are doing. Looking carefully at what we do, what we think, what we say!
Make Sure your (plural) own hearts (Parakleso)
It took me a while in studying this passage, to see an incredible blessing that God has given us, His people, His church.
It’s seen in words like “your” and “each other” and “you”, and “we” in this passage.
I think we hear the words, “Be careful” and “war” and “if faithful to the end, but we miss these pronouns and fail to see the blessing God gives us, when He takes us into Himself and makes us the body of Christ.
You see, when one of us baptized, when Christ’s promises are given them, they join us in His body. And the body looks after itself, each part caring for the rest. To be careful then is not just talking about individual introspection and confession, but being careful and in love, approaching those who are struggling with faith and sin, and lifting them up, helping them see God’s love and mercy revealed to them again.
We are one people, saved in Christ together, forgiven together, sent into this world together.
So we choose wisely, and care for each other, warning each other in a way that is loving and yet firm, which calls back the sinner, and assures them of the grace of God.
You see that word for warning, it’s not the kind of warning that warns you from the shore that your drifting to toward the waterfall. It dives in with a rope, catches you and helps you get back to short…
Or in Jones case, sweeps away all the other false gods, and leaves the one Chalice, the one filled with the love and mercy of Christ Jesus, that’s what a friend, a fellow member of the body of Christ would do, bringing you back to the word and sacraments, to remember and revive the word and sacraments
We are each a blessing God gives to us, when we care more for each other than the discomfort of helping someone being deceived, moving to the point of their hearts becoming evil and not trusting in God’s presence, in His mercy and Love.
As James wrote in His epistle,
19 My friends, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings you back again, 20 remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20 (TEV)
So choose wisely, make sure that all our hearts are not evil and unbelieving turning us away from God, and warn each other, so none are deceived by sin, and hardened against God. Serve one another, loving each other enough to share in God’s glorious grace, helping each other to dwell in the peace of God which is beyond our comprehension, yet in which we dwell together, in Christ Jesus. AMEN!