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Blessed to Be in His Presence: Free from Blame and made Partners: An Advent Sermon on 1 Cor 1

church at communion 2We 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!

AMEN!

Live in Harmony/Concordia: A sermon on Romans 12:9-21

church at communion 2Live in Harmony/Concordia
Romans 12:9-21

 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!

The challenges

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: A Sermon on Romans 8

church at communion 2When You Don’t Know How to Pray

Romans 8:18-27

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!

Until then….

 

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

AMEN!

How they/We Recognize(d) Him. A sermon on Luke 24

How they We Recognized Him

Luke 24:13-35

I.H.S.

 This grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ that we so often talk about, may you come to know it with your heart, your soul and your mind as you come recognize His presence in YOUR life.

The walk – 

I’ve got a question for you to think about for a moment.

Why did God hide who Jesus was from the two disciples?  Why did God stop them from recognizing Jesus?  (significant pause)

Why not just simply show up and reveal himself directly? He does the same thing to Mary Magdalene in John’s gospel.  She also doesn’t recognize him at first, thought it doesn’t say God stopped her from recognizing Jesus.  She even talked to him, asking Jesus where they put his body.  It would my asking Chuck where Chuck was…

Why hide?

Why hide in plain site?

In the way that Jesus will minister to them, we see a possible answer, an answer that gives us some direction not only for how Jesus ministers to us, but also how He ministers through us.

It’s what we call the ministry or word and Sacrament.

And it is all about revealing God so that they could recognize Jesus, so that we can recognize Jesus, and so we can help others recognize Jesus.

So this sermon title – how do they/we recognize Jesus, is answered.  He is revealed through His word and through the Sacraments.

He Listens

The first thing Jesus does is listens.  Though He knows their hearts, they need express what they know specifically what they know about Him.  They tell Him that He is or should that be was, a prophet, He does miracles, He was a mighty teacher, and we had hoped, we expected based on all this, that He was the Messiah!

Then they tell Him what He knows all to well, that he was handed over to be killed and that they crucified Him.  There is part of me that wonders how Jesus didn’t laugh at the irony.  Think about it!  They are telling Him what happened to Him!

But as He listens, as they speak the truth they see it, they put into words their pain, their inability to believe the drastic change of what is going on.   Our Lord knows us well, and for us to process that He is the Messiah, that He is our Lord, and what that means in daily life, what that would have meant – they need to do that.

We do too…

The Revelation of the Word

Then Jesus begins to do what we call the ministry of the word – and note that is a small “w”.  He explains what we need to know about Him!  The prophetic predictions – th very things that the Messiah would have to suffer, the missing part of their knowledge they have revealed to them.

And while He does, the hearts start to realize something different is going on, even though they won’t get it until Jesus is fully revealed.

But we need to know about Jesus, we need to understand what He did when He died on the cross when He suffered prior to coming into His glory,

The glory of the Resurrection

For Praise God, He is risen!  (He is risen indeed!  Alleluia

And therefore, we are risen indeed!

And that is not just glorious – it is His glory and the fulfillment of God’s desire.

But these men on the road need to understand that, we need to understand it.

We need to understand what God’s desire is, what His goal in creation is, and how all of the scripture, from the law to the promises, from the histories to the psalms, from the gospels to Revelation, are all about that desire being fulfilled in Jesus.

And that is what Jesus explained, from all the scriptures they knew about, He revealed who the Messiah was….

And their hearts burned within them, even as they knew all about Him, and didn’t recognize Him.  And they know this stranger, who showed them that Jesus the Messiah had to suffer in order to enter His glory, they don’t want him to leave.

They begged Him to stay, and yet there is one more thing.

The Revelation of the Sacrament

He has to do something that will drive the lesson from their head to their heart.  For the head comforted the heart, the ministry of the word brought comfort, but they need more.

And so Jesus broke bread and gave it to them, and His ministry fo the sacrament opened their eyes.  This sacred moment, reminiscent of four days before, prophesied about throughout the Old Testament, this revelation, this ministry opened their eyes.

Not only was Jesus the Messiah.

He was their risen Lord.

He had entered His glory.

And they were there to share it with Him.

What our minds can accept but can’t conceive of, that God wants a relationship with us, that He died to set us free to enter His glory, that is something the heart can accept, and know, and convince our mind is so gloriously true.

He lives and because He Lives, we live as well.  We share in His glory, as one of my friend’s is know to say, we get to dance with God.

That’s what the sacraments are, our time to experience God’s love….

Whether it is in our baptism, our as we hear again we are freed from all sin, or as we take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus, whether it is our time in prayer, or our time of giving, these sacramental times, these moments of holiness, are where we encounter our Risen Lord.

Where we learn to rejoice.

Where we share in His glory.

The Ministry of Word and Sacrament

This is why we are a church that does ministry of word and Sacrament. Because we need to realize what the Messiah does, and we need to know Him< to see His promises revealed, to have revealed as well His presence, right here, right now.

For the Lord is here, the Lord is with you!  And He has promised to never leave or forsake you.

AMEN!

 

Epiphany! I Have Revealed My Faithfulness! A Sermon on Micah 6

church at communion 2Epiphany! I Have Revealed My Faithfulness

Micah 6:1-8

 I.H.S. † 

 May you rejoice today, as you consider the promises of God, made to you and to all people, as He teaches us about His faithfulness!

All Rise… the court is in session:

In today’s sermon, we see an interesting civil court case, one that has some very interesting testimony and a wonderful surprise or two…

Like many civil trials, there is a complaint, and sort of a counter-complaint.

The adversaries are talking about who has kept their part of the deal, and what that means.

The trial is not what you would normally expect, for Man and God going to trial.  It is not one where man is on trial, to see whether a man is guilty or innocent.  Nor is it a trial as someone tries assert that the evidence given to mankind demands a verdict, that God exists.

It is more like a case for what they used to call an “alienation of affection,”

Man’s complaint

The trial opens with God inviting mankind to state their case against Him.  What promises did God make, where in the covenant did God fail? Our carefully planned out points of complaint are seen on the next slide. (Blank)

Yes, there they are….

Now you might be saying that there are plenty of things I can complain about.  The existence of heart diseases, cancer, poverty, hunger, and the lack of peace seem to come right to mind.

Remember, the case is about the alienation of affection.  Did God break his promises to Israel.  Did God break His promises to us.

And there is little evidence that He did, no, there is no evidence he did.

His surprising complaint

We then get to God’s complaint.

It’s then the case becomes clear, for He doesn’t shred us (or Israel) for our sin, for all the disrespect we show to authority, and pain we’ve caused to others lives.  He doesn’t go after us for adultery, or what we’ve taken from others, for our gossip or our jealousy and what it causes us to do.

Instead, hear God’s complaint….

“O my people, what have I done to you?  What have I done to make you tired of me!”

Really?  Of all the things that God could complain of, He complains that we’ve grown tired of Him?

Really?

That sounds… weak?  wimpy?  Like God is a lovestruck teenager, whose girlfriend was stolen by the class president/football team captain?

“What have I done to make you tired of me?”

Could God really be that in love with us?  Does He desire to call us “His” that much?
Epiphany reveals to us that he loves us that much.

Not just infatuation, but pure desire, pure love, and His work proves it.

And His case is.. What?

God will go on to make a case, that there is no reason for us to be alienated from Him, there is no reason to deny Him the affection he so longs for.

Remember the rescue from Egypt?

What about the time that prophet was paid to curse you and blessed you instead?  Do you remember that?

Do you remember me?…..

Do you do something to remember me?

God tells them what He’s done, as he says, in the midst of your rebellion, from the Acacia Grove to Gilgal’s caves, I did everything to teach you about my faithfulness.

God wanted to instill in Israel the idea that He’s not giving up on them.  He wanted them, just like He wants us, to count on Him, to count on Him in the way that a God is supposed to be counted on by His people, by His beloved children.

That’s a challenge for us, to know this love, which is why we have to remember, to see it again over and over.  TO think back daily on God proving that faithfulness as He cleansed us from all sin.   TO think about it as God calls us to remember the Body broken, the wine that was spilled so that we could be with Him, now and for eternity.

That’s why God doesn’t need all the sacrifices, that’s why we don’t have the blood of calves and rams and more oil than you can count.

That’s not what He’s after, He doesn’t want complete submission and surrender, and lives spent in trying to pay back the cost of all we’ve broken.

God wants our affection, our presence, our love.

And in Epiphany we celebrate Him revealed that to us, as Christ comes to love us.

Micah 6:8

Which brings us to that final verse, as God tells us what is good… and what He wants from us.

TO do what is right – or to put it another way, to live in this relationship where He is our God, and we are His people. To love His cHesed, to know that loving kindness/mercy/love, that loyalty, and faithfulness He has for us, and to walk with Him, realizing what it means to be His beloved.

Those things, we don’t tire of, those things will cause us to be in such awe, those things will draw us into His glory and love.

No, they have done those things – for we are in Epiphany, the season celebrating His presence among us, and our presence in Him.   AMEN!

 

 

Do We Realize an Urgent Need in the Church?


(church at communion 2
(TEV)
Devotional Discussion Thought fo the Day:
1  I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, 2  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, 3  striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: 4  one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; 5  one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6 (NAB)

Not only by the reception of the sacrament but by the words associated with the sacrament the heart will be encouraged to believe and be quickened. For it is in the words that God promises the forgiveness of sins: “This is my body, given for you.” “This is the cup of the new covenant,” is the new promise, the promised righteousness, eternal life, “in my blood which is shed for many for the remission of sin.”
Thus they obtain the forgiveness of sins not through any outward act but through the faith which is awakened by the word and the sign.
Also the people are to be taught that this sign has been instituted not only to awaken faith but also to instruct us in love, as St. Paul says in I Cor. 10[:17]: “It is one loaf and it is one body, for we all partake of the same loaf.” We are not to harbor envy and hatred, but each is to care for the other, to help the other with alms and every kind of service which God has commanded us.
This teaching shall be repeated often. For what else is it than dishonor of the body of Christ when we harbor envy and hate and want to show no love and yet want to be considered a part of the body of Christ

First of all, that the Last Supper of Jesus is recognized as the authentic occasion of the founding of the Church: Jesus bestows on his own this liturgy of his death and Resurrection and, in doing so, bestows on them also the feast of life. At the Last Supper he repeats the covenant of Mount Sinai—or better: what was there initiated only in signs becomes here the full reality—a union of blood and life between God and mankind. When we say this, it is clear that the Last Supper anticipates both Cross and Resurrection yet at the same time necessarily presumes them, for otherwise everything would be but an empty gesture. That is why the Fathers of the Church could say, in a very beautiful image, that the Church sprang from the open side of the Lord, from which there flowed blood and water. That is, in reality, only another way of formulating the thought I express when I say: the Last Supper is the beginning of the Church. For it always means that the Eucharist unites mankind not only with one another but with Christ and so constitutes humanity as the Church, thus giving, at the same time, the basic constitution of the Church: the Church lives in eucharistic communities

Some people are afraid of it, for they assume unity means compromise.

Some people are afraid of it because they know that such unity does mean change, and requires us to submit our will, our right to grievances, our resentment and even jealousy to God’s desire for His people. 

Some are simply afraid of it, no let’s be honest, we are afraid of “them.” Of those we’ve been taught to stand opposed to, even as we recognize that we confess the same creeds ( or if we are “anti-creedal – we cover the same ground in our faith statements.)

And yet, in the New Testament, there is a definite call for the church to be “one,” to be unified, to be about the ministry of reconciliation. It is part of Jesus prayer, where He asks the Father to bless us, that we would all be one.  It is a major them in the 2 letters to the Corinthians, and to the Galatians, it is obviously here in Ephesians, and the great passage in Philippians 2 describing in Christ’s ministry to us, is to urge us to unity, to submit our personal desires and even needs to serve those who need it.

Even our enemies, even those we are afraid of, even those who cause anxiety. 

This kind of unity is not worked out in theological dialogues, or debates.  It is not fostered by blogs and vlogs and podcasts.  In fact, those monologs, even ones like this urging unity, don’t foster the unity. 

That is done in the sacraments, where God shows unity not only to be possible, but to be created.  Some will hopefully wet our appetite for such a unity, while I fear far more urge greater division, greater separation because of a false understanding of holiness and purity. 

In our mutual baptism, we are each joined to Christ.  Where we are so united, we share in His death, and in the resurrection.  But even as we individually are drawn to Him, and find that He has united us to Himself, we find we are united together.

We also see it as we kneel and commune, as we share in the body and blood of Jesus together. Where each of us is reminded we are part of the covenant, and we commune with the Body and Blood of Jesus, together.  Here are the words of St. Paul on this,

16  The cup we use in the Lord’s Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread we break: when we eat it, we are sharing in the body of Christ. 17  Because there is the one loaf of bread, all of us, though many, are one body, for we all share the same loaf.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (TEV)

It is in these things where we not only encounter God, but are joined to them that we find we are joined.  Where the urgency that Paul observes finds not only hope, but the reality of what it means to be “one, holy (pure/set apart), catholic (universal – there is only one) and apostolic ( the church with a mission, a church that is sent into the word) Church.

A mission that is seen as people look at His church, His people and say, “see what love they have for each other!” and thereby are drawn to Jesus.  AMEN!

Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works, Vol. 40: Church and Ministry II. Ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 40. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999. Print.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

The Scientific Method, Agnosticism, and Finding Hope in Misery

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement,* 4 who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.c 5 For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ* does our encouragement also overflow. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement. 2 Cor. 1:3-7  NABRE

20 For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him; therefore, the Amen from us also goes through him to God for glory.l 21 *But the one who gives us security with you in Christ and who anointed us is God;m 22 he has also put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.1 Cor 1:20-21 NABRE

Indeed today’s progress in science and technology can foster a certain exclusive emphasis on observable data, and an agnosticism about everything else. For the methods of investigation which these sciences use can be wrongly considered as the supreme rule of seeking the whole truth. By virtue of their methods these sciences cannot penetrate to the intimate notion of things. Indeed the danger is present that man, confiding too much in the discoveries of today, may think that he is sufficient unto himself and no longer seek the higher things.  (1) 

When the holy apostle St. Paul wanted to console his Corinthians he began by saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may also comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” [II Cor. 1:3–4]. With these words he teaches us through his own example that the afflicted are to be comforted and that this comfort comes from God and not from men. St. Paul emphasizes this to avoid that false and pernicious comfort sought after and handed out by the world, the flesh, and also the devil. That [kind of comfort] slows down and stops all the benefits and the fruits that come to us from suffering and cross.

One of the cardiologists I had was a world class doctor.  Indeed, among his other patients were a former president and a king.  Though not a Christian, and perhaps only nominally religious, he used to tell me that God would keep him humble. God did this every time he accomplished something extraordinary by simply giving him a head cold. With such, he could not perform surgery, he wasn’t supposed to see patients in poor health and was rendered miserable physically, and because of his inability, miserable because he was useless.

I think the quote in blue helps us understand the problem.  The ability to observe suffering, to encounter that which makes one miserable is undisputed,  The ability of hat observation to do something about, something even as simple as providing comfort and relief is not always possible.

We can do so many things medically and scientifically, but not everything.  We count on our doctors, our pharmacies, science and sometimes the liquor store to provide the answers to every ailment, to every problem, to every struggle. They can’t, and what is worse if our hope has been placed solely in their provision, we’ve lost faith and trust in something higher.

We’ve become agnostic, and in doing so, we’ve lost the comfort and peace the Holy Spirit brings in those moments of horrid, miserable brokenness.

Luther points us back to scripture, to the fact that such comfort does come from God, that secure in HIs presence, we find the comfort when life seems to crush us.  I could have put 12 more quotes from 2 Corinthians, or tossed in Job and Ecclesiastes and Hosea, for that truth is throughout scripture.

Where man’s brilliance fails, God is there, providing comfort and peace. There is compassion, the mercy, the comfort, all that comes through the power of the Holy Spirit, who raised Christ from the dead and works within us.  (it is tempting to wax theologicial here) But the Holy Spirit, whose presence was a gift to us in our baptism, who gives us life, real life, and heals our broken hearts and souls, there is our hope, there is the guarantee that eternity will not be life as we know it.

As one who has had a share of physical pain and suffering, illness and disease, I share this as well, in Christ Jesus, you will find hope. Reminded of my physical brokenness with the very ticks of my heart (two artificial heart valves) and struggling with back pain, and worst of all, these stupid, miserable, nose reddening, sinus pounding allergies, I know this.

The Lord is with you (and with me – as my beloved congregation reminds me very often!)

Hearing that, I find the answer to my quest for mercy; I find the comfort and peace that the Spirit reveals that gives me hope, and I find the strength to share that hope with you.

Scientific method, Agnosticism, and Atheism will not answer the cry for mercy.

But when we cry, “Lord have Mercy!” God answers, for He is our beloved Father.

AMEN!

(1) catholic Church. “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II. Ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 43. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999. Print.

 

It’s Monday, Are You Ready for a Good Cleansing?

Devotional thought of a Monday

 And this is what he (John the baptist/cleanser) proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. 8  I have cleansed you with water; he will cleanse you with the holy Spirit.”  Mark 1:7-8 – my paraphrase

Faith, hope, and charity will come into play in your professional work done for God. The incidents, the problems, the friendships which your work brings with it will give you food for prayer. The effort to improve your own daily occupation will give you the chance to experience the cross which is essential for a Christian. When you feel your weakness, the failures which arise even in human undertakings, you will gain in objectivity, in humility, and in understanding for others. Successes and joys will prompt you to thanksgiving and to realize that you do not live for yourself, but for the service of others and of God.  (1)

It’s Monday, and many of us on Monday’s are suffering from the toxicity of life.

Maybe it is because we overdid it on the weekends. Some have a tendency to enjoy some things a little too much, and what is good in moderation affects us when we move past the line of moderation into levels of excess.  It can become toxic.

Others aren’t enjoying their weekends, the dynamics of what might be called their “home life” is the source of the toxicity.  Broken families, broken relationships, broken lives.  Or maybe those we love, are suffering from this, and we spend our free time anxious on their behalf.  Our inability to do anything we consider tangible leads to a toxicity that is paralyzing.

Or maybe the toxicity is what we spend our weekends dreading, the return of Monday and the toxicity of our workplaces.  Maybe our work situation forces us to be too competitive, to unethical, or to take on burdens and scars we are tired of facing.

I have a bunch of people who are into various cleansing diets.  They purge the bad stuff from their system with shakes or drinks that basically cleanse their digestive tracts, and maybe their bloodstream as well.

I think we see our baptism as such – a spiritual cleansing – a purging of all the sin and unrighteousness that oppresses us.  Confession and Communion, as sacraments, have a similar effect.

Oddly enough, my devotional reading this morning lead me to believe a similar blessing is found in that dreadful thing known as Monday.  For in the suffering, in the toxicity, we find the cross, we find a reason for prayer, we find the need to depend on the Holy Spirit’s presence.  For the Holy Spirit, often through the oddest people, brings comfort and cleansing to the toxicity.  The Spirit enables us to know peace, unexplainable peace, that comes from being assured of the presence of God, and His cleansing, the power of His blood poured out for us in death, and his body, in which we are raised to life. Abundant life.

This is the work of the Spirit in our various vocations, the roles we take on, often just for physical survival, yet which the Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, uses to bless us, and those around us.  For in exercising our faith our trust in God, we come to hope, to expect, that His love sustains us, even on Monday.

For if in the midst of all the toxicity that surrounds such a day, we can know peace, then we realize His presence is with us, not just in church on Sunday, but in the moments of every day.

So rejoice, it is Monday!  God is with you!  The Holy Spirit is drawing yo into the glory of God, intoHolinesss, into that moment of peace!

And remember – when you are given food for prayer because of the incidents and problems, when the suffering helps you be aware of the cross, and the need for Christ’s love, cry out Lord Have Mercy on Us!

Know He will!

 

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1477-1481). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Worship Isn’t A Song or and Event: it is our very life!

Worship Isn’t A Song or and Event

It is our very life!

Concordia Lutheran Church
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ leave you in complete, life changing awe of their love and care for you!

 Not now…. Then!

I would hope by this time of the service; your mind is clear of the distractions of life.  That you are getting ready to engage in what God created you to do, to be.  That you have been encouraged by hearing all your sins are forgiven, that the music has inspired you to look to Christ, that the readings have compelled you to draw closer to Him,

It is nearly time…

In about 30 minutes, after the sermon, after communion, after the Benediction and then we begin to worship!

Yes, you heard me right, we begin to worship!

As Paul tells the church in Rome, it will be time to “give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you.  Let all that you are become a holy and living sacrifice. This is the kind of worship that God finds acceptable.”

That is what Paul says, “This is truly the way to worship Him!”

This is what worship is!  It isn’t just sitting in here, singing your hearts out.  It isn’t just kneeling here, as you receive Christ’s precious Body and Blood.  Indeed, those events are part of it; this service should encourage your worship – but it isn’t what worship IS.

Worship isn’t a song, or an event, it is your very life!

So how does this happen?

How it all starts, being in awe, 

I asked a question this week online, and I got an incredible answer.  The question was, “Do we desire God’s presence?  Do we desire Eternity?”

Here is what they wrote”

In answer to your question do we really desire to be in God’s house. Maybe one of the reasons is because we keep trying to make it Our house that elevates Our presence rather than Gods.”

Brilliant theological insight!  We make it about us, rather than God

This insight is exactly what keeps us from a life of worship. We somehow think this is our life, not His, That it is our church, not His. That what matters is what our will desires, not His, that this is our time. Our place, our job, our family, our life. We ignore God’s presence in it, His part, His desires, His plan.

That is why Paul starts out with a discussion about the incredible-ness of God.  He wants us to see God’s glorious nature!  To realize that we cannot understand how thoroughly He works.

Remember, God promised back in chapter 8 that all things work for good for those who love God?  Yeah, we don’t see that all the time, even with 20-20 hindsight. We can’t give Him advice, though we try.

A Life of worship starts in being in Awe of God.

In realizing we can’t know His ways, but we can trust Him.

That we aren’t His guide, He doesn’t need our support; we need His!!

That we can never give Him so much, that He is indebted to us, but that He gives us freely, out of the heart of love.

A life of worship recognizes that He is God, we are His children.  And this realization comes as He reveals Himself through His word.  This life of worship starts as we become find ourselves in awe of God.  As we realize what it means that He has given us the Body and Blood of Christ.

Being transformed

When we find ourselves in awe of God’s work in our lives, the very work He promised, we find ourselves being changed.  Which brings us to step two.

“let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

This is part of the worship, allowing God to convict us our sins, in order that He can cleanse us of them.  Easy to face? No, but knowing in advance that God has promised to heal us and He is doing so, makes our confession different.  It is an act of trust, it is worship!

This transformation isn’t just about being freed from sin.  Hear how Ezekiel describes God’s promise:

26I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. 27  I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws, and respect and practise my judgements. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NJB)

This is what God is doing in us, to us, and by the Holy Spirit.  He is transforming us, as Paul says renewing our minds, changing our hearts, counting us not only righteous, but making us holy!

Making us able to trust Him, to live out our faith in worship!

Being Trusting

So as we are in awe of God, as we are being transformed, and as the Spirit takes up residence in us, the change that is made in our lives turns them into a life of worship! We begin to see our actions are being done in praise of God.

That is what Paul is talking about, as he talks about us having a proper perspective about ourselves.  Not how tall, or handsome, or intelligent, or how many things you have suffered through.  No, the way we evaluate ourselves is much simpler and much more real.  Do you trust God?  Are you willing to let Him use you, where God would put you?

How we measure ourselves is based in this simple thought.

If God calls us to use the gift He has given us, will we listen and obey, trusting that He will make it work for good?  No matter whether we get it right, or whether we see the outcome, that it will be a blessing to us, and to all who love Him?

Will you use the gift God has given you, at this time, where you live, work, and hangout?  Will you proclaim God’s love, trusting in Him?
Will you serve others, meeting needs, whether physical, spiritual, emotional, and trusting in Him?
Will you teach those who need to be taught, trusting in Him??
Will you come alongside and lift up those who are down, trusting in Him?
Will you give generously, even sacrificially, knowing that God will care for you?

Each has a different gift, and some different gifts for different periods of their lives, but will you use them, not trusting in things of this world but trusting in God?

Not holding those gifts back, not resisting the transformation that God is doing to us, in us.  That happens as the Holy Spirit works in our lives, causing us to live in and reflect the glory of Christ.

That’s worship!  Whether we are asking God to use our life, singing, or when we put out our finances to support His work, or when we offer a cup of cold orange juice and some pancakes to a hungry person.

Worship is our very life, every moment, for worship is living in awe of His presence, here and now, whenever that here and now is.  Worship is letting God run our lives, wherever He sends us.

Worship is also a life in awe, and therefore in a miraculous peace, for we live with God…. His believed children, and guard in Christ.  AMEN.

A Prayer for my Church, for our People

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

9  In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10  Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10 (NKJV)

St. Aiden’s Prayer for the Holy Island of Lindisfarne (and my prayer for Concordia!)

Lord, this bare island, make  it a place of peace!  Here be the peace f those who do Your will. Here be the peace of brothers serving man.  Here be the peace of holy people* obeying. Here be the peace of praise by dark and day. Be this Island, Your Holy Island! I, Lord, your servant Aidan make this prayer. May it be Your care, AMEN!  (1)

it hit me this morning, as I read the prayer above, that we should be praying like this more often than we do.

Please hear me, I am not saying we don’t pray enough for our people.  Anyone who has been to my church knows of our prayers, and many people who have never been here.

But how often do we pray our churches, our homes, will be a place of peace, a place where people grow in their devotion to God, a place where there is praise, day and night?  Do we desire and beg God that our sanctuaries, our homes would be places that are set aside to be with Him, to be places where people are served, where people learn to obey God ( I prefer the Greek – to guard/treasure His way of life)

Is this not what we are praying for in part, as we pray the Lord’s prayer?  That God’s rule over us would be established, that He would be our Master, that His will would be done. I love how Luther explains this:

Truly, God’s good and gracious will is accomplished without our prayer. But we pray in this request that is be accomplished among us as well. (2)

But do we actively pray this for our people?  For the places where they are set apart?  Do we fervently seek God’s will for them, and ask His guidance?   Or do we reduce our prayers to simple survival?  For healing, that we would get through the next crisis. Do we want to see their praises so inspired, that they cannot stop praising God?  And in those praises, find ways to serve those around them?

I think we do pray for their holiness, but I am not sure we are as conscious of it as we could be.  It is there, but it could be brought out more.  

It is time for that….

Lord, may our people here be holy and set apart.  May our church, their homes, their workplaces, be such places of peace, set apart to see your will accomplished.  May our desire to see this happen grow, and may we dedicate our lives and our fervent prayers to seeing them grow in the grace, mercy and love that is known in you.  AMEN!


(1)  Taken and slightly adapted from Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers of the Northumbrian Community

(2)  Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

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