† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ create in you an eager repentant Spirit that rejoices in the God’s presence!
- We should be envied!
There is an old Italian “blessing”, which mommas used on their children when they are misbehaving! That “blessing” is this:
“I hope your children grow up to be …. JUST LIKE YOU!”
Oddly enough, the Psalmist would agree, but without the sarcasm.
You, according to the Psalmist, you are to be envied greatly! People should want to be just like you! Well, at least in one way!
Let me explain. Our translation reads:
“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! 2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”
In looking up the word “joy”, I discovered it means “to be envied with great desire” So we could translate this
“Greatly envied (with a desire to be like them) are those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is forgiven. Yes, how we should envy (and wanna be like) those whose record the LORD has cleared from guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty”
So you are to be greatly envied, and people should want to be just like you!
- Our stupidity!
Well, except there is a problem—at least the writer of this Psalm had one, and I think some of us might as well. He describes the problem spiritually in verse 3:
3 When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
That sounds like a bit of a problem!
I need to be clear here, not all physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering is caused by refusing to confess your sin. But there is a definite correlation between suffering from the guilt and shame sin causes and one’s well-being.
Sin can and does rip us apart.
We need relationships, and it destroys them. It can cause a type of paranoia—as we are afraid someone is going to find out. It creates all sorts of stresses, as it disconnects us from God and from those who love us and would have us live in peace. Even if we convince ourselves that our particular sin isn’t that bad, living a life based on that lie hollows it out until it collapses.
Sin drains us,
It wipes us out..
And makes our life hollow.
There is only one way to deal with this—though it is a joyful one.
- Our Joy!
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone!
I know how much courage this takes to stop trying to hide all the guilt. But as much courage as it takes, the reward of knowing those sins are completely lifted and tossed away…
All of it – forgiven!
All the guilt—gone!
Think about that for a moment…
Not one thing should haunt you.
Not one thing should you even regret!
As much as we contemplate our sin and brokenness during Lent, it is for this purpose–to know the relief of Psalmist–the absolute joy of the weight being lifted off of us!
We really need to take the time and think through what God has done to us… what He continues to do in our lives. …
Therefore, the psalmist says people should envy us, as we live forgiven lives, empowered by the Holy Spirit! For the burdens we no longer carry, or at least that we aren’t to carry,.. so many do! This is what Jesus came to do, to free us from the sin which stops us from being with God!
So many walk around, living with guilt and shame….so many people walk around without knowing God really loves them, without experiencing that love.
- What happens next
The change is so incredible for the psalmist – that feeling the relief inwards; he turns to those around him
Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. 7 For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory!
This is an evangelistic spirit.
Wow, God, you did this for me! All of us need to know this – we all need to pray—we all need to experience this relief, especially before the waters rise, and judgment occurs.
The more you know God has done for you, the more you need to share it with others, to share with them how God heals and protects and hides us from trouble, the more we need to invite people into the safe place we have found.
This is Christianity at its simplest… to realize the incredible way God has called you to His side, cleaning you up along the way, as you invite others into a peace that is beyond explanation….as Jesus saves them, as the Holy Spirit takes us residence with them, as sin and satan the fear of death are tossed out like yesterday’s trash…
This is our hope, and it is the very reason people should be envious of us, why we want them to be just like us.
† In Jesus Name †
So every Sunday, part of what I do is play my guitar in the service. Not all pastors do this, but I do. And before I do, I have to tune my guitar.
I have 6 strings here, and each is supposed to be a different note. Each has its own place, and its own sound.
But if they aren’t in tune, there is a problem.
For instance – this string is supposed to be an “A” string. But what if it decides to be something else? And this string, the “B” string, wants to be higher than it is supposed to be? It may sound nice on its own…. But what happens when I play all the strings together?
Does that sound good????
That’s why each string has its own specific note. And the gut who plays guitar has the responsibility for making sure they sound like they are supposed to.
So I use my tuner – and I tune my guitar…..
So we are like the strings on my guitar. Each one of us has a special place in life, and a special role. But sometimes we want to be something different, we want to do things our own way. But what does that do to the entire group we are part of?
It messes everything up!
So who is responsible for getting us back in tune?
Except we don’t have pegs we are tied to, we are just always connected to Jesus, who fixes things and makes it right.
And then when we play, or sing, or just live with other people – it works out so much better.
Concordia Lutheran Church
Visions of Peace II
† Jesus, Son and Savior †
May the grace f God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that you dwell securely in the peace of God, which is beyond anything we can understand!
A Vision of Concordia
I’ve been thinking about the changes I’ve seen in my lifetime recently. I mean, growing up, we had one phone in the house, and to call us you only dialed 4 numbers. We had a black and white television that was 13 inches in diagonal, later to be replaced by a massive 20 inch, color television which weighed about 80 pounds!
I wouldn’t say life was simpler or better back then, but it was certainly different.
But one thing is certain, parents then, and parents now want life to be better, more peaceful for their children, and for their grandchildren.
Let’s be honest, we haven’t been a peaceful world, a peaceful country, or even peaceful communities in the last 57 years. Heck, even the internet and social media isn’t all that peaceful!
It’s not a surprise to me then, that the readings for December, as we prepare for Christmas, all deal with peace, giving us a vision for peace, that like the harmony I talked to the children about—all comes down to Jesus.
What Peace Looks like
Paul explains what peace looks like in the church,
5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. 6 Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now we are back to the lesson on the children’s message – the idea that we should function in complete harmony with each other. We see what happens in the world when it doesn’t happen, when everyone determines what they are in tune with, and what note they want to play.
Paul gives the idea of being in harmony, each in tune, and played together.
When we aren’t tuned to and by God, we really can’t be in harmony with each other. We can “de-tune” our lives from God, rejecting His role in our life. That is the basis of what we call sin, when we think we know better than God
But when we de-tune ourselves, that also breaks the harmony we had with other people.
We need help… and Jesus is there to help us.
The Help to establish Peace
Paul gives one example of how Christ brings together people divided, addressing one of the most critical divides, still today. Hear again what Paul wrote,
Remember that Christ came as a servant to the Jews to show that God is true to the promises he made to their ancestors. 9 He also came so that the Gentiles might give glory to God for his mercies to them.
This divide – racial, cultural, ethnic, was huge in the day. It was violent, it still is, as it is the center of most of the middle east conflicts.
And Jesus, broke down the wall, by dying for all of them,
Paul wrote to another church, this one in Ephesus,
14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. Ephesians 2:14 (NLT2)
The cross is the answer to all sin, to all the times where we are out of tune with God, and therefore not capable to be in harmony with each other.
This works with any disharmony, with any dysfunction, where people are able to allow God to come and minister to them, to forgive their sin, to reconcile to God, tuning them, and then creating the harmony that exists, as we live with God together.
This is why we are here, why we have a school, to help people living broken lives to know God is working in those lives, brining healing and bringing peace.
A peace that unites us all, as we are united to Christ in our baptism, and at the communion rail. A peace that goes beyond understanding, and in which God keeps us, for this He has promised.
God is Making you… His People
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that you are the people of God!
- Missing at the Feast…
It was a card table, probably purchased back in the 1950s. It came out for every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, with 4 folding chairs that were far sturdier than they looked.
At 18 to 19, just starting to date Kay, I understood that I would be sitting there with her 5 and 7-year-old nephews, Kay’s 14-year-old niece, and Kay.
It was the kiddie table, and we were the younger folk there.
I did think that there would be a time when I could move to the adult table; I just didn’t think it would take until I was in my fifties.
As we share in the Lord’s Supper, we are in the present moment, and yet we are also part of that great feast when Jesus returns. It is what we are looking towards, yet we are a part of it as well, as with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven, we praise God, our heavenly Father.
There is no kiddie table at that feast, for we all have matured and become complete in Christ.
And we see that promise in the passage read earlier from Jeremiah.
- The Difference Between the Covenants
Jeremiah describes how people related to God in the reading. “I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them…
It sounds more like Israel acted like a toddler rather than a partner of God’s. I picture Israel as a toddler having to be brought to the table, seated, then getting up to see what’s happening everywhere else. What’s on their plate? Is their chair better than mine? And, of course, causing all sorts of spills and breakage, left behind as something else catches their eye.
The world is not different today, and neither are many of us in the church. We want what we want when we want it! We often “unintentionally” redesign Christianity to be more consistent with what we wish… rather than allowing God to conform us to the image of Jesus.
It’s easy to throw a tantrum against God, demand what we want…that we cry and howl and tell Him to get lost. Heck, even at the last supper, the disciples fought over who was better…
And Jesus bows down… and takes a towel and washes their feet….
- Preparing them for the new covenant…
And in doing so, shows them a new way…
We often talk about foot-washing as an example – this is how we should serve others. But Peter had to learn something first – to let Jesus wash his feet, for boy, they needed to be cleaned….
We need to be drawn into this relationship, this covenant with God. We need God to do what He’s promised to do, the promises we’ve been looking at – God’s work.
And that is seen easily this night. Everything about the Passover points to his sacrifice in the morning – a sacrifice he looked forward to – because of the joy of Jeremiahs’s promise being fulfilled.
- How God puts His instructions inside us…
Here it again…
“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
That is why Jesus says this is His blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. The Body and Blood shed for you that all your sins, including those tantrums, are forgiven.
This is why we are here… this is what it is all about… God with us.
A new relationship that goes beyond anything we can think or imagine.
A relationship where God comes to us feeds us, and makes us know we are home… for we are His people.
So let’s celebrate – with the feast that is the foretaste of the feast to come…
Encounter God with Everyone
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that God desires all to be transformed because He loves you!
A Different Perspective
The Crowds stood there that day…. Looking upon Jesus, and they cried out for Him to die for Him to be crucified.
Isaiah’s description of it was all too accurate.
Beaten, whipped thirty-nine times, a crown of 1’inch thorns smashed on his head, beaten and slapped senseless.
Then carrying that beam, significantly over 100 pounds, out of the city, then up the mountain, to the peak of the hill, then spikes hammered through both wrists and through the ankles.
Is it any wonder that the prophet describes him as one so disfigured that he hardly looked human? That stomachs were upset as they looked upon what they had cried out for?
Sunday is undoubtedly coming, but we have to pause a moment here, on Friday, and consider the way Jesus looked?
We need to consider what our sin did to him,,,,
We need to see Him, and the pain our sin caused…
We need to be part of the group Isaiah describes, that looks upon Jesus on the cross and marvels. We need to join the leaders of the world, who are unable to speak.
We need to understand how this wretched sight is a most beautiful thing…
We need to see and understand…
We need to understand that it is love that drove him to this point.
We need to understand what the author of Hebrews wrote that Jesus did this for the joy set before Him. The shame he despised, the pain he dreaded, but He volunteered to take this beating.
Not just the physical torture.
Not just the agony of seeing his friends betray and abandon him or his mother look upon his broken body.
But he bore the spiritual trauma of taking every sin, the millions upon millions of sins committed by you and me.
He accepted that weight, that burden, all the guilt, and shame.
See Him them, crushed, almost inhuman,
And now we see and understand, absolutely, stunningly beautiful.
He took this on… for us. AMEN!
A sermon from Concordia
Washed by Water with the Word:
Being placed in Christ’s care
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ result in your loving God, loving others, and letting yourself be loved by others.
Distracted by the object Lesson
I want you to look back at the epistle reading this morning.
I added the first verse, what is verse 21 of the chapter, to what the traditional reading is for today. I think it is necessary, as it sets the tone not just for what we have in today’s reading, but the relationships described in the next chapter. There the relationship between parents and children, and bosses and those who work for them are described in the same manner as the relationship between husband and wife in today’s reading.
I want us to read it together,
“And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
There is the key to every relationship you will ever be in, caring for one another to the extent that we care for them, and are cared for by them.
It’s quite a challenge!
Especially if you leave that verse out, and start the reading with, “For wives, this means submit to your husband as to the LORD!”
Without verse 21, the moment I read verse 22 I lose everyone. All the guys would remember is that I said women should submit, and nothing else. (And the stupid ones can’t wait to tell their wives what pastor said!) I lost the women because they are all thinking, “Oh my gosh, that is all my husband will have heard!” And both would spend the rest of the service thinking about that!
Okay, that’s a big generalization. Not all of you would be distracted and stop listening.
When we drop verse 21 is that we omit the reason we do these things.
Which is because first of all, we adore Christ, and how He has submitted in order to care for us. And until we are in awe of that, the rest of this stuff is meaningless.
But once we adore Him, as we realize what He has done for us. As we realize how He has loved us and calls us to love as we are loved.
Let’s look at how Christ submitted, which is described at the end of verse 25,
He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.
What a concept. Submission as seen in doing what the other person needs, what the person needs in their lives. In this case, in our case, what Christ did was give up His life for us, that we could become holy and clean!
I have mentioned before what holiness Is, and what it isn’t. It isn’t perfection or being nicer and sinning less than other people. Though those who live holy lives as a side effect may indeed sin less, that is a side effect.
Holiness is best described as being set apart for a very specific purpose. Everything has its place and purpose in life and using something for something other than what it is intended for, well, that causes things to break, and be shattered. For example, I can’t use Missy’s guitar to stand on to change a lightbulb or use Kay’s violin for swatting a fly, could I?
How it affects us…
In the same way, we’ve been created, and in Christ, recreated for one specific purpose. To be in a special relationship with God, as we are created and recreated to be His people, and He is the God who loves us.
That is why the cleansing is needed, to ready us for the day when we stand before God, free of all guilt and shame, free of all things that stop us from being His glorious people.
Christ submits to cause this in us, as we are washed by the water and the word. As we are baptized, united to His death and His Resurrection as both Romans 6 and Colossians 2 describes.
That is why Jesus was born, and why He lived, teaching and healing, and died and rose again, so that we would be freed from all the problems that sin causes, free to be in that relationship just soaking in the love of God as we share in His glory (Col. 1:26-28)
This is what it is all about, assuring us of the work of Christ in our lives. Linking people to Christ’s death and resurrection as He promised when we are born again in baptism.
And our response…
As He washes us in water and the word, changing our lives so completely that we begin to live as He did, more concerned about those we love and are called to love than we are concerned for ourselves.
This submission in reverence to Christ becomes our new nature, our new life. Often in ways, we don’t see, it just happens.
As we walk with Jesus, as we see His love and are united to Him, as we become one with Him.
This is who we are, the people of God, who reflect the glory of His peace into this broken world.
So my friends, remain in Him, experience His love, and dwell in His peace which goes beyond all understanding, as He keeps our hearts and minds in Him! AMEN!
Prayers answer in Christ’s Wounds: Make Me Yours! ( The first sermon in a Lenten series at Concordia)
Prayers answered in Christ’s Wounds
Make Me Yours
† I.H.S. †
The Mark you bear….the passion it represents
A moment ago, you had some palm tree ash put on your forehead. Ash, the dirt that comes from burning something that was once alive, but now is dead and is burnt because the option is to let it take up room while it rots and smells up the place.
Fire leaves behind what’s left, what can’t decay, what can’t be broken down anymore.
As we go through Lent, we are going to look at some of the deepest prayers of our souls, the prayers that we should be aware were answered completely, even if that answer remains partly hidden. We can learn that it is answered, we can begin to see that revelation, and know that in time, we will see it completely answered.
Those prayers are seen, in part, in the hymn, O Sacred Head Now Wounded, and each week we will add a verse, as we see the prayer that is answered in Jesus wounds….
The prayer tonight? It is found in the last line of the first verse, “I joy to call Thee mine.”
An appropriate prayer, considering it is Valentine’s day… a prayer to God, “be mine”, a prayer to God as well, “make me yours!”
An answer that we see in the mark, the brand you are wearing tonight. A mark that symbolizes not only our grief and brokenness but a mark that shows us that God has made us His.
The Mark of Brokenness, of grief and shame of the cross
Ashes, all that is left after all that can rot and stink has been taken away… Little better than carbon-based dust…something that can be blown away, even by a gentle breeze.
Ashes have been used as a sigh of grief for a long time, and though we also see them as a sign of repentance, they are first a sign of grief, a recognition that without Christ, our lives, so dominated by sin, are but the ashes and dust we come from, and the ashes and dust we will return to someday.
We often see them as a sign of repentance, but repentance comes as a gift from God and develops out of a sorrow for our sin, a realization of our brokenness. To realize the effect and impact of our individual sin, of the havoc that sin wracks in our lives.
And so we wear the ash, in sorrow and grief and shame.
The grief and shame that wears down the head of Jesus, wounded for us, to answer our prayers, Be mine, make me yours!
The Mark of Bliss
As we journey through this life with Jesus, as we journey with Him from the cross, we begin to see that the ashes leave the same mark as our baptism.
The sign of the cross, the place where Jesus was bruised and battered, the place Isaiah described so clearly in our reading tonight,
10 But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah 53:10-11 (NLT)
It is tempting to see in this God the Father crushing Jesus, the accomplishment of anguish. The idea that all this required anguish, the anguish of the weight of our sin which He bears. All that is necessary for a time. But it is not where it ends. What we need to see, what will rescue us from the appropriate grief is this,
The Good plan,
The having many descendants,
The accomplishment ( in Greek this would be the same as “it is finished!”
the fact that many, including us, will be counted righteous.
In lent we need a both and, a time to grieve our sin, and a time to dance over the fact we are forgiven, hence the ashes in the sign of the cross…
Make Me thine
And in that cross, we hear those words, that we are found righteous, that it has been accomplished, that we have become His, for He has given us life.
He has made us His own.
We can rejoice, for we know the joy of calling Him ours, and we can say with the bluntest honest the words of the psalm, “I joy to call the mine!”
We Are Blessed to Be in His Presence
Free from Blame and Made His Partners!
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
† I.H.S †
As the Apostle Paul desired for the Corinthians, may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace!
Thank God you belong to Jesus!
An observation I heard more times than I could count yesterday is one familiar.
“How do people get through this without Jesus?”
“How does the secular world deal with this?
And to be honest, I don’t know, but I have an answer to their problem, at the end of this message.
So when I got back to church yesterday, and I looked again at the passage, what caught my eye more than it did before was Paul giving thanks to God for his people and the grace He’s given, for they belong to Jesus.
And so memories of after the service came back, so many of your faces, resonating with these words of Paul.
I have to thank God that it the grace He has given so evident, as is that you belong to Jesus, you are His! All of the words of comfort you offer each other confirms it, as we seemingly do it month after month, year after year. The gospel I share with you from up here, or in the MPR, I get to see them lived out far more clearly, as the riches of God’s gifts is seen in you.
I don’t have to prove His presence is true, you know that, even if you are little hazy about all the details, we cannot deny that God carries us in times like these.
Look at what we do, this isn’t possibly without God’s work being true
I don’t know how often you think about Jesus coming back, never mind are eagerly waiting for His return. Most of the time for me, it is a prayer of desperation, a prayer because I don’t know how we are going to cope any longer, or dare I say, how much more of a challenging life we can endure.
That’s the same kind of feeling Isaiah had in the Old Testament, when he cried, Lord, just burst open the heavens and come down!!!!
We’re waiting Lord! Just rip open those skies and get down here!
I mean what are you waiting for Lord?
We’re not the first people to struggle, and we aren’t the only people who think the struggle’s gone on long enough. According to the Book of Revelation, even those in heaven, those who testified to God’s love cry out, “How long, O Holy and true Lord, how long until the suffering is dealt with?” (Rev. 6:10)
God’s answer to them is rest a little longer, the number of your brothers and sisters aren’t complete. Remember that please. That the number isn’t complete….
The church is like Maxwell house….
So how do we endure all the suffering? All the pain that sin causes in our lives? If God won’t come and take us all home right now, how will we get past tomorrow?
How can we endure to the end? How will we be strong and faithful from this moment until Christ returns?
While Jesus isn’t coming back for the final judgment yet, He promised that God would never abandon us, that He would never leave us alone. Here he promises it again,
“He will keep you strong to the end,”
But it doesn’t end there, there is more , “so you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus returns”
Hear that guys? All blame! By guys I was talking to the men who are to blame for everything! You know who you are!
Seriously, that promise is twofold. The first is that God will personally sustain us, and keep us strong until Jesus returns. The second is that we will be blameless – completely righteous, innocent of all sin, completely cleansed by God, our soul completely healed.
What we can’t do, He did already. For our strength comes from our being untied to Jesus’ death and resurrection in our baptism, in God claiming us as His, for it is when we were united to Jesus that we became His, new creatures, that He fully cares for and sustains.
Because of Him we were sinners, and now we are forgiven, righteous, holy, and this is how Jesus will find us, the very work He did on the cross made it possible, and made it happen
Partnership with Christ – from His death till He comes again
So let me bring back up the idea of how people get through this life without knowing God.
It’s not supposed to be that way, and in fact, even as God planned for us to be blameless and holy, and strong to the last drop, he planned for those people who didn’t know His comfort.
Just as the Father sent Jesus to us, Jesus sends us to them.
You heard me right, that’s what the idea the Apostle is getting to, when he says, “God will do this, for he is faithful to do what He says, and he has invited you into partnership with His son, Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Our partnership, our communion, our fellowship with Jesus is so complete, we share in His vocation of Savior. Not that we are crucified for their sins, but they hear about that incredible act of love, and the resurrection through us. They hear of the love of God that will sustain us through this seemingly broken, shattered life.
And our words will confirm the work of Jesus, as the Holy Spirit draws them to Him, as we share the hope we have.
They don’t have to go through this life without Christ, and certainly, we know that God doesn’t desire that they go through life without hope, and for that reason, He isn’t come back yet…
You and I are Jesus partners, have been since our baptism, and through us, through the gospel, we share with family and friends, they will know that God is with them as well…
And then on the days when they like us are broken and exhausted, or tire of crying, and dealing with the guilt and shame of sin, they will know the power and beauty and strength and peace found in these words,
The Lord, who loves you, is with you!
Live in Harmony/Concordia
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May you realize the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enables and empowers you to live in harmony with each other, as God intended!
Live in Concord
When I originally put a title to this sermon, it was missing one of the words you see up on the screen right now.
Anyone want to guess?
The original title read this way, Live in Concordia.
But I was afraid that some people might start moving their bedroom furniture into the Multi-Purpose Room this week, and Hank and Loreen would sell the furniture at next week’s yard sale!
Seriously, Concordia was the Latin name of the goddess the ancient Greeks called Harmonia – the two words are interchangeable, one simply finds it roots in Latin, the other in Greek. So to live in harmony, as Paul tells us, is to live in Concordia.
We are to blend together, with one heart and mind. Not to be copies or clones of each other, but rather to have our lives be together working together as one, as beautiful as any symphony.
For that is who God is transforming us to be, a people who love other, who really love them, with genuine affection.
Even if it isn’t easy, even if we struggle to do so, for in that struggle we learn to depend on the God who changes us!
Love each other, challenging at times.
Love the stranger – that’s what the word hospitality means – literally to love the alien like a brother.
Ask God to bless those who try to crush you.
This isn’t exactly easy stuff!
It’s going to be very difficult at times, it is going to take effort that we don’t want to put into it, that we are not sure is worth it.
It is very different from who society has tried to make us become.
This is love without bounds, being ready to help them at all times, without any hypocrisy, as we serve God by loving others.
It’s a lot of work, we can’t be slackers about it, it takes dedication, and hearing God and obeying Him, even when we don’t want to love them.
Let’s be honest, though they may be different for each of us, there are people that it is hard to love. Maybe it’s a neighbor, or a family member, or a person on the road that cut you off, or maybe even a pastor or deacon.
If this was simple and natural, Paul wouldn’t be writing it, covering every loophole he does.
We have to love each other, we have to love others, even those who aren’t like us… we have to love our enemies enough that we plead with God to bless them. As Jeremiah says, we have to influence them on God’s behalf, rather than let them influence us by their persecution, by their hatred.
We have to love our enemy!
To do otherwise, to not do so is sin….
The righteous anger of God….
Paul gives us a way to deal with our tension, our frustration with those who are our enemies, those who persecute us, and try to crush us.
He says not to take revenge, to not personally seek our own brand of justice.
Let God handle it, let God’s righteous anger work itself out. For God will do what is ultimately righteous, what sees sin paid for fully, which wreaks havoc on the guilty.
God promises this!
Even if the one who pays the price is Jesus.
Actually, that is His glorious preference, that all sinners would be united to Jesus at the cross. All sinners. All those others, all those strangers all those aliens and even you and I.
So rest assured, what we plead for if we hear God, is fully within His will.
And that changes everything, as God saves you and me, uniting us to Jesus, demonstrating His grace and mercy to us in that cross where His blood was spilled where hopefully they will be united as well, for Jesus paid the price for all our sin.
Which is why I find the greatest place for reconciling people to be here, at this altar, at this place where God’s love is poured out on us
Our confident Hope.
I want to back track from God’s wrath being poured out on Jesus for a moment, to verse 12,
Let’s read it together,
12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
Rejoice in our confident hope, the hope we find at the cross, the hope we find in the resurrection, reaffirmed every time we unite with Christ’ in communion, even as we did in baptism.
Be patient and longsuffering. Don’t think a life lived loving others will be easy, but suffer through it, depending on God not only for the strength and power but to help you stand firm.
Which is why you keep on praying, pleading with God for them, and to help you remember His love for you. Prayer is more than just asking God, it’s talking to Him, realizing His love, letting Him take the weight off your shoulders. It is keeping your eyes on Him, knowing that enemies can’t crush you.
You see, that’s the key, to keep your eyes on God, to keep in His presence, to find yourself loved and safe in His peace. AMEN!
When You Don’t Know How to Pray
† In Jesus Name †
May you find great peace in knowing the grace and compassion that God has for you seen in the work of the Holy Spirit who intercedes for you when we are weak!
St Patrick’s dream
When I utter those words, “the Lord is with you!” what do you see? How do you picture that? For a picture is worth all the words you can use.
While going through a period of turmoil and conflict, the great missionary pastor we call St Patrick wrote these words,
“And on another night, I know not, God knows, whether in me or near me, spoke in most eloquent language, which I heard and could not understand, except that at the end of the speech he address me this, “Who for thee laid down his life?” and so I awoke full of joy and again I saw on praying on me, and I was as it were within my body and I heard him over me, that is, over the inner man, and there he prayed fervently with groanings, and during this time I was full of astonishment and was wondering and considering who it could be that was praying in me but at the end of the prayer He declared it was The Spirit and so I awoke and remembered that the Apostle says, “The Spirit also helps us in our infirmities, for we know we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered” that is m expressed in words, and “the Lord our advocate makes intercession for us” (the confessions of St Patrick)
What an incredible vision! What an incredible picture, lying there, and seeing the Holy Spirit at our side, leaning over us begging the Father to work in our lives where we truly need it!
I wish that every single one of us could have such a vision as St Patrick, could know the peace and joy that comes from seeing the Holy Spirit so involved in our lives, in caring for our heart and soul. This is what I want us to see when we hear those incredible words, “the Lord is with you!
The Holy Spirit, actually and quite actively working in our lives, comforting us, healing our souls, bringing us to the Father to be blessed, and then becoming a blessing, which impacts our families, our friends, and everyone we encounter!
It’s a challenging vision, especially when we are struggling…struggling with our lives, and if so, often struggling to trust God as well.
The need for help
We aren’t alone in that struggle. While Paul reminds us that the struggle isn’t even in the same ballpark as to the glory of God we are invited to share in, he also reminds us that we aren’t alone.
Hear how he says it, “All creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are, Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse, but with eager hope the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay!”
Even so, he goes on to say, “we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time, and we believers also groan”
I kinda want to give an “Amen” to that last part, the part about we also groan.
It has been a week of groaning and struggling, and I needed to know the Spirit was with us
I needed to know the Spirit’s prayer would be answered, bringing us into harmony with God’s will.
We need that kind of help, that kind of intercession in life. For along with all that God has created we struggle to the point of groaning in this life.
The struggle could be with our health or finances, with a relationship at work or in our family, the struggle could be dealing with someone in our family, or at our work, or even here at church. The struggle could because of the cumulative effect of the sin of the world, or because of someone who sinned against us, and the struggle always involves our own sin. Remember, this passage follows Paul;s words about not doing what he should, and doing what he shouldn’t, and therefore he is a wretch! He needed the Spirit to remind Him that Jesus died for Him, that God would restore Him.
But we groan, even as we wait for the day when death and decay lose all their power over us, when our bodies no longer struggle with sin when we no longer suffer.
The question then becomes how do we wait patiently and confidently until that day when the hope we see becomes fully ours?
We see it, it is more than hope, even so, we wait for it.
Paul talks of this in verse 24 when he says,
“We were given this hope when we were saved! If we already have something (see it as real) we don’t have to hope for it. But if we look forward (same word as have before ) to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.”
We have been saved – that is guaranteed, though we don’t see it completely. The way I think of it is like ordering something. We pay for something, and it is ours from the moment the money changed hands. But while it is ours, it has to arrive for us to fully enjoy it.
It works that way with us, as Jesus death paid for our sins, as God “redeemed us” buying us from the debt of sin. Yet we are still “in transit” to the Father, being drawn there by Jesus, guided there by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the delivery person, and we are safe in His hands until we are delivered to the seen in revelation, where with people of every language, of every culture, of every period in history we surround the throne and sing His praises. For it is there in that room that we see God’s will revealed completely.
The people He loves gathered around Him, his people, us. We look forward to that incredible day!
Which brings us back to the vision of St Patrick.
This is how scripture describes one of the ways the Holy Spirit works in us, pleading with the Father, straining and pleading in a way that brings us into harmony with the will of God. In groans so deep, so meaningful that they are inaudible – there are just not the words.
Yet God understands and hears, and acts.
For we are His children, the ones He has invited into His glory, the ones He reveals His love to, the ones Christ died to release from sin and suffering, the one’s the Holy Spirit will sustain until we are all before the throne
How they We Recognized Him
† I.H.S. †
This grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ that we so often talk about, may you come to know it with your heart, your soul and your mind as you come recognize His presence in YOUR life.
The walk –
I’ve got a question for you to think about for a moment.
Why did God hide who Jesus was from the two disciples? Why did God stop them from recognizing Jesus? (significant pause)
Why not just simply show up and reveal himself directly? He does the same thing to Mary Magdalene in John’s gospel. She also doesn’t recognize him at first, thought it doesn’t say God stopped her from recognizing Jesus. She even talked to him, asking Jesus where they put his body. It would my asking Chuck where Chuck was…
Why hide in plain site?
In the way that Jesus will minister to them, we see a possible answer, an answer that gives us some direction not only for how Jesus ministers to us, but also how He ministers through us.
It’s what we call the ministry or word and Sacrament.
And it is all about revealing God so that they could recognize Jesus, so that we can recognize Jesus, and so we can help others recognize Jesus.
So this sermon title – how do they/we recognize Jesus, is answered. He is revealed through His word and through the Sacraments.
The first thing Jesus does is listens. Though He knows their hearts, they need express what they know specifically what they know about Him. They tell Him that He is or should that be was, a prophet, He does miracles, He was a mighty teacher, and we had hoped, we expected based on all this, that He was the Messiah!
Then they tell Him what He knows all to well, that he was handed over to be killed and that they crucified Him. There is part of me that wonders how Jesus didn’t laugh at the irony. Think about it! They are telling Him what happened to Him!
But as He listens, as they speak the truth they see it, they put into words their pain, their inability to believe the drastic change of what is going on. Our Lord knows us well, and for us to process that He is the Messiah, that He is our Lord, and what that means in daily life, what that would have meant – they need to do that.
We do too…
The Revelation of the Word
Then Jesus begins to do what we call the ministry of the word – and note that is a small “w”. He explains what we need to know about Him! The prophetic predictions – th very things that the Messiah would have to suffer, the missing part of their knowledge they have revealed to them.
And while He does, the hearts start to realize something different is going on, even though they won’t get it until Jesus is fully revealed.
But we need to know about Jesus, we need to understand what He did when He died on the cross when He suffered prior to coming into His glory,
The glory of the Resurrection
For Praise God, He is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia
And therefore, we are risen indeed!
And that is not just glorious – it is His glory and the fulfillment of God’s desire.
But these men on the road need to understand that, we need to understand it.
We need to understand what God’s desire is, what His goal in creation is, and how all of the scripture, from the law to the promises, from the histories to the psalms, from the gospels to Revelation, are all about that desire being fulfilled in Jesus.
And that is what Jesus explained, from all the scriptures they knew about, He revealed who the Messiah was….
And their hearts burned within them, even as they knew all about Him, and didn’t recognize Him. And they know this stranger, who showed them that Jesus the Messiah had to suffer in order to enter His glory, they don’t want him to leave.
They begged Him to stay, and yet there is one more thing.
The Revelation of the Sacrament
He has to do something that will drive the lesson from their head to their heart. For the head comforted the heart, the ministry of the word brought comfort, but they need more.
And so Jesus broke bread and gave it to them, and His ministry fo the sacrament opened their eyes. This sacred moment, reminiscent of four days before, prophesied about throughout the Old Testament, this revelation, this ministry opened their eyes.
Not only was Jesus the Messiah.
He was their risen Lord.
He had entered His glory.
And they were there to share it with Him.
What our minds can accept but can’t conceive of, that God wants a relationship with us, that He died to set us free to enter His glory, that is something the heart can accept, and know, and convince our mind is so gloriously true.
He lives and because He Lives, we live as well. We share in His glory, as one of my friend’s is know to say, we get to dance with God.
That’s what the sacraments are, our time to experience God’s love….
Whether it is in our baptism, our as we hear again we are freed from all sin, or as we take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus, whether it is our time in prayer, or our time of giving, these sacramental times, these moments of holiness, are where we encounter our Risen Lord.
Where we learn to rejoice.
Where we share in His glory.
The Ministry of Word and Sacrament
This is why we are a church that does ministry of word and Sacrament. Because we need to realize what the Messiah does, and we need to know Him< to see His promises revealed, to have revealed as well His presence, right here, right now.
For the Lord is here, the Lord is with you! And He has promised to never leave or forsake you.