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Crying Out Loud

Crying Out Loud

Featured imageGalatians 4:4-7

IHS

We are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father!”

A Lightening Strike….
a great quote!

A few weeks ago, at 3:40 in the morning, a loud thunderclap woke up people from here to Irvine, and all the way up to Santa Monica.

I know, for immediately afterward, my phone was going off with facebook messages about it from those two places, and everywhere in between.  People were posting about the children and their dogs flying into my friend’s bedrooms, diving under their covers, trembling and scared.

I figured it would eventually make for a great Pastor Parker Parable, and with our readings today, it does.

How many of you remember that happening, either the invasion of your bedroom, or invading your parents’ bedroom, after a particularly loud thunderclap, or a frightening strike of lightning?

Well, Christmas is somewhat like that thunderclap.

For it sends us racing to the Father’s arms, the place we belong, not just when we are anxious or scared.

Because of Jesus, it is the place we belong….

For we’ve been given the right to cry out loud, to use the name of the Lord, to call out to Him in prayer…  and in praise.

That’s the point of Christmas, of the name of Jesus which means Yahweh Saves, and His  being Immanuel – God with us,

It is the point of Paul in our 2nd reading as well…

This What the Right Time is about!

When the time was right Paul says, when the moment was perfect, when the plan came together, and every aspect that God had promised, revealed in the Old Covenant and the words of the prophets,, when that time happened.

It was Christmas… Mary gave birth to God and Man, one being, yet… beyond our ability to comprehend.

He was born within the very covenant relationship, yet fully representing both sides, the Sovereign Lord, and the man God would bind himself to, for eternity.  I love how one theologian-pastor put it:

Christianity is not a religion of fear but of trust and of love for the Father who loves us. Both these crucial affirmations speak to us of the sending forth and reception of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen One which makes us sons in Christ, the Only-Begotten Son, and places us in a filial relationship with God, a relationship of deep trust, like that of children; a filial relationship like that of Jesus, even though its origin and quality are different. Jesus is the eternal Son of God who took flesh; we instead become sons in him, in time, through faith and through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation…. He destined us in love to be his [adopted] sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:4).[i]

What amazing words, we who had chosen to rebel against God, who sold ourselves into slavery by choosing to sin rather than obey God, are welcomed as children, His children!

No matter that threat of the storm, we are invited to life in Christ, He’s opened the door, welcomes to live as His very own children.

Knowing we will be the children who struggle, who get frightened by storms and thunderclaps.

It will take us a while to learn to run to Him, but that is what children need to do.

The Blessing of being the Trinity’s family!

That is why I love to talk about baptism, that time when God makes it all right.  He joins us to Christ’s death and resurrection, It is that point where the promise of God’s work is made clear, as the Holy Spirit is given to us, the Spirit sent into our hearts to convince us that we are the children of God.  Another Christian leader put it this way:

“With Baptism we become children of God in his only—begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Rising from the waters of the Baptismal font, every Christian hears again the voice that was once heard on the banks of the Jordan River: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Lk 3:22). From this comes the understanding that one has been brought into association with the beloved Son, becoming a child of adoption (cf. Gal 4:4–7) and a brother or sister of Christ. In this way the eternal plan of the Father for each person is realized in history: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren” (Rom 8:29).

You are God’s son, you are God’s daughter,

We are the children of God, given the ability to cry out loud for our Abba, Father.  Indeed we are expected to, whether the cry is the cry for comfort and protection; or whether it is the cry, when we realize we have come home on that holy day when Christ brings us home.

The pastor went on….

It is the Holy Spirit who constitutes the baptized as Children of God and members of Christ’s Body. St. Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth of this fact: “For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13), so that the apostle can say to the lay faithful: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor 12:27); “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” (Gal 4:6; cf. Rom 8:15–16).[ii]
That is the Holy Spirit’s job, to bring us into the family, to bring make us one with Christ,  To bring us to faith. He makes it happen, as we become aware of our part in the body of Christ.

That is what Paul is talking about – why Christmas and being a Christian is like a lightning storm’s ear shattering thunderclap – for we know where our comfort, our peace, our family belongs.. in the presence of our dear heavenly Father, for there, there is peace.

Even as we look forward to the day when we cry our loud – “Abba Father!” and we hear in reply, “welcome home, my dear children!”

AMEN!

[i] Benedict XVI. (2013). General Audiences of Benedict XVI (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

[ii] John Paul II. (1988). Christifideles Laici. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

He Has Sent, and Sent Again, and therefore, We Call Out to Him!

He Has Sent, and Sent Again,

and therefore, We Call Out!

Galatians 4:4-7

† IHS †

May you truly know the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, which has seen you through this year, and will accompany you in the next!

 The Trinity at Work…as the Father sends.

One of the things I find fascinating is the heritage of the church in Ireland.  Perhaps we know about St Patrick and his three leaf clover, or the a Celtic cross and the knots on it like I am wearing today, the kind of cross the one hanging over the altar is modelled after. There are others. Bede, the author of “Be Thou My Vision”, and one of the great historians of the early church, and Adain and Finian.  The early Irish Christians were known for their artwork, especially their Biblical manuscripts and stone and metalwork.  If you do a little research, they were also know for their missionary zeal, for bringing word of God’s love to mankind.

One of the reasons we did our Advent series on a Celtic look at advent, is that of the theologians I’ve read, the early Christians in Ireland and Scotland were amazed at the interaction of the Trinity in Scripture.  The mystery of how Three are One, and One are Three, and the paradox of what that means for us.

It’s been said that every denomination plays favorites among the Trinity.  Some focus on the authority of God the Father.  Others, especially us in the Lutheran sphere, focus a lot on the work of Christ, how He came to make us right before God, how when we are joined to His death and Resurrection, we are cleansed of our sin.  Others have focused primarily on the Holy Spirit, with an emphasis on personal holiness and using the gifts the Spirit gives us, as we are made alive through the Spirit’s power.

Yet God is three, and yet one, Three who love us and work in our lives.  We see it in today’s reading, as we hear Paul tells us that the Father has sent Jesus, and sent the Holy Spirit, and that is why we can truly call on Him, our heavenly Dad.

He sent Christ to deal with our sins

We’ll get to the Father at the end of the sermon, so we start looking at what St. Paul tells us about the Father sending Jesus to us.  Quite appropriate as it is the fifth day of Christmas, don’t you think?
Paul says in verse 4, “when the right time finally came, God sent his own son,” He sent Jesus.  The word there for sent is “apostled”, to send someone was an emissary, an ambassador with the authority and power to establish a relationship.

What it would take, in this case, was simple.  He had to buy our freedom from the things in our life that captivate us, that seem to control us, that oppress us and stop us from loving God, and stop us from loving each other and those that so dearly need it.

That is the what is so devastating about sin, the actions and thoughts and life that we count on, that society tells us brings us joy and fulfillment; they don’t bring us joy, they enslave us. We spend so much time chasing them, and when we “get” them, trying to defend them, or defend why they are the center of our life. This sin, for all sins are part, ends up owning us, owning our time, our lives, our souls.

Which is why Jesus came to purchase, why he came to take us off the market.  To not only purchase us, but also to free us and to make known that we are adopted by the God the father. To enter into not just a business relationship, but also one of family, of not just respect, but love.

He sent the Spirit to confirm our adoption.

It is incredible to think of this freedom that has been purchased for us, these chains that have been broken. It is so incredible, that I think we often lose sight of the freedom, and the incredible relationship that we have with God.   Which is why the Father sent the Son, and then they sent the Holy Spirit to us, to confirm in us that which Jesus had already accomplished.

If we need it confirmed, and I most definitely believe we do, for so many things would try to steal the peace and comfort of knowing God’s love, the Holy Spirit is here, in our hearts.  The proof, the guarantee of God’s love for us, that He will never leave or forsake us.
Knowing that presence, knowing our place in His heart, and His place in our hearts, we are prompted to call out to God, as a child calls out to his father.  Sometimes this is in time of need, in desperation.  Sometimes it is in excitement, as we realize His glory, as we are excited in His presence.

Luther wrote:

63 In addition, you must also know how to use the name of God aright. With the words, “You shall not take the name of God in vain,” God at the same time gives us to understand that we are to use his name properly, for it has been revealed and given to us precisely for our use and benefit.

Since we are forbidden here to use the holy name in support of falsehood or wickedness, it follows, conversely that we are commanded to use it in the service of truth and all that is good—for example, when we swear properly where it is necessary and required. So, also, when we teach properly; again, when we call on his name in time of need, or praise and thank him in time of prosperity, etc. All this is summarized in the command in Ps. 50:15, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.” All this is what we mean by calling upon his name in service of truth and using it devoutly. Thus his name is hallowed, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer.[1]

Here is why the Spirit comes and dwells with us, why He comes into our hearts, so we have such a relationship with God, that we can run to him, when hurt, so that He can comfort and bring us peace, or when we are excited, and want Him to share in our joy.

This is our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a God who comes to us, a God who brings us into His presence, who share with us His glory, who gives to us in ways that are so incredible, that we struggle to believe that He didn’t make a mistake.  The entire Trinity, their work focused on communicating to you and I a love that is beyond anything we can imagine.

A love for us…

So what do you need to cry out to Him for? 

So maybe this morning, we’ve found ourselves in need of crying out for His help, crying out with our last hope.  This is your God, who sent Jesus to make it so, and the Holy Spirit to convince you that it is the fullness of time for those cries.

Maybe this morning you are just overwhelmed with His grace, and you need to cry out to Him with excitement, with praises that go on.

Both cries are appropriate, and we can, as His family join in those prayers, and in those praises.

Then, may we all realize, that because we are His children, because the Trinity has heard our prayers and praises, that we can dwell in their peace, in their love.  For God is here, He has freed us from all that would hold us captive, and has made us His children.

It is the fullness of time for us as well…. To know the Lord is with us.  AMEN?


[1] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 373). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Bearing Christ for the World

Bearing Christ for the World

Luke 1:30-46

 

In Jesus Name

 

As we contemplate the praises that a young pregnant girl offers, because she trusts in God’s promises, not just for her, but for the people of God, can we as well be blessed because we trust in Him, as we bring Christ into the world as well.

How much confirmation means

The bottom line – you are blessed because you trust God at His word..

But the things she trusts in God for, we should as well

Some think she was sent to her cousin in disgrace, a young teenage girl – pregnant prior to her marriage.  The timing is off for that – for she left a few short days after Gabriel brought her the message of God’s intentions for her- which makes Elizabeth’s words all the more… incredible.

I would think she hadn’t told anyone but in a hurry takes the opportunity and leaves town – but caring for her aunt gave her a chance to get away, to contemplate the incredible message, to try and figure out what to tell her fiancé, her family, her friends.

Remember – back then – such a disgrace was often punished by throwing her out of the house – and throwing stones at her.

She gets to her cousins house, probably deep in thought, a bit anxious, and though not doubting God, the implications of being chosen by Him for a purpose still dominating her thoughts, her emotions.  And in the midst of this – without any prompting, her cousin Elizabeth proclaims,

[Mary]  “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.

Put together with the words of Gabriel  – these form the beginning of the prayer anyone who grew up catholic knows quite well,  Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thine womb – Jesus!

These words of Elizabeth, so powerful, so confirming, fueled by the power and joy of the Holy Spirit, confirm that which was already known… but oh what peace it is, to have confirmed that which God has already made clear is His will in one’s life.  No longer can it simply be discounted as a dream of a young girl – but a reality.

But let’s not overlook the rest of Elizabeth’s words, indeed we cannot – for they form the foundation – not only for the reason Mary is called blest, but for the sermon as well!

44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”


You are blessed because you believe the Lord would do what He said…

That my friends, is not only Mary’s blessing – but yours as well.

Let’s see why

He hasn’t forgotten me!

Mary responds to Elizabeth’s words, with words of her own, words of praise, words that adoringly reveal the glory of God she is witnessing.  These are not the kind of words you would expect from a teenage girl – unless that teenage girl was filled with the Spirit of God.  Hear again the first section.

 

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.

47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!

48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,

and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
Have you ever felt that God was so busy, He forgot about you for the moment?  That your prayers went to voicemail?  Have you ever felt that you weren’t important to God?  Growing up, I was often the odd man out, and while I didn’t mind persay, I you sometimes wondered if God knew who I was, any more than those whose lives flashed past mine. I get what Mary is saying here.

The word that “took notice” is translated from is an incredibly powerful word.  It’s look and deep perception and discernment combined.  This kind of look pierces all of our outside illusions and comes right to the core of our being.  God the father took notice of Mary, even as He takes notice of us – each one of us, and places within us His love, His peace.  And as she realizes this depth of God’s concern for her, as she realizes how He will work in her life – the joy and worship just flows from her soul….it will know no limitations in this moment, and yes – we do count her blessed – for she trusted in His love.

Bringing this home, there is not one of us, that isn’t so blessed.  There is not one of us, that goes without God “taking notice of us”.  To realize that He does love us, that He is interested in us, that He is immanent, transcendent, incarnate in our lives as well as Mary’s – that is an intimacy with God that goes beyond anything we can imagine.

The question is – do we realize it – do we hear the voices that confirm it, just as Mary heard Elizabeth’s cry of joy?

He has done something wonderful for me!

Mary moves on from the realization that God takes notice of us, as her praises slightly transistion,

 

49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me!

Pastor’s pet peeve moment – why doesn’t that sentence end with a exclamation point?  What were the translators thinking – imagine how they would have felt – if on Christmas day, when their children and spouse opened their presents, if the reaction was, o what a great present..  no, they want to hear their children exult with glee – excitement – and yeah – hugs and thanks.

Yet they used a period her.  Yup – God is mighty and holy and He did some great, well good sorta, well nice things for me  – PERIOD.

Can’t you see the women dancing in each other’s arms, the mother of the prophet, and the mother of Jesus, the mother of God. Can’t you hear their laughter – their joy, their excitement?  Or do you think this scene occurs with the high dignity of English tea time?

Sure – Mary is not thinking about the cross yet, or the resurrection – while she knows her Son will be the promised one, that the baby- just barely forming in her womb – is the Lord who will change everything – who will turn the world upside down.

Would we, who have been joined to Christ incarnate, whose bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit – as much the temple of God as the young lady whose body bore the son of God, rejoice as well as we bear God for the world!

While I would admit there is a difference – that being physical – in both Mary and our lives, the presence of God is indeed what makes us blessed, it is why we rejoice!  It is something beyond wonder, beyond amazement, that God would look upon us and choose us, that He would bless us, that He would abide with us.
He does something for those like me!

I find it extraordinary as well – that Mary’s magnificat doesn’t end there – with God doing wonderful, great things for her.  Her song takes a final transition, as she realizes this wonderful thing is not just about her…but a blessing for the entire world. Let me call your attention to verses, 50, 53, 54, and 55

50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him.

 

53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.

54 He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful.

55 For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”

It is amazing to me, that Mary takes this incredible news in her life – and realizes that it isn’t just about her – that all those who desperately need to know God’s mercy, that its about those who are hungry for something more in life, that He fills, that those in need of help He has helped – as He pours out His loving mercy to them, even as He promised…

That it is finally about the descendant of Abraham – the one long promised coming, the Lord who would bless every nation, who would  create from a bunch of sinners like us, a people for God – a people for God to Love.

The early church fathers, the pastors and bishops of the first few centuries – often talked of Mary as a image, a symbol of the church.  That the qualities that make her unique in some ways, are the very qualities one finds in the bride of Christ, the church,  Often this is talked about, as she answers Gabriel’s message with the “let it be done according to Thy Word.”

As well, I think the incredible quality of hers, to see the effect of God’s presence in her life, as it affects others, is also a major characteristic of the church. For that is our call as believers – as those who bear God’s name, who are the temple of the Holy Spirit – a place people can find forgiveness, and healing and peace, even as Jesus brings those things into our life.

For we as well bear Christ, we bring Him into the world, and in doing so, share with others the intimacy, the love, and peace He has given us, for we are blessed for we believe God would do, did do, what He said He would, in Christ.  AMEN?

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