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Mirror-Image

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the Day:
3  “You must not have any other god but me. 4  “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5  You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. Exodus 20:3-5 (NLT)

Arrogance, the ontological lie by which man makes himself God, is overcome by the humility of God, who makes himself the slave, who bows down before us. The man who wants to come close to God must be able to look upon him—that is essential. But he must likewise learn to bend, for God has bent himself down. In the gesture of humble love, in the washing of feet, in which he kneels at our feet—that is where we find him.

Scripture tells us that we were created in the image of God, and it tells us that we are to imitate Him.  (1 Cor 11:1)  It tells us we are transformed into His image ( Romans 12, 2 Cor. 3)

I think somehow we have twisted this, instead of reflecting God’s image to the world, we reflect our image into what we see as God. We are more subtle than the ancients who created their idols of brass and gold, from wood and stone.  Instead, the image we create serves our vanity, it serves our desires, our will.

Will the image of God we see look like us?  And if so, will it be the image of one who kneels, who washes feet, who cares for the poor, who welcomes the alien, the sick, the prisoner?   Will we, who want encounter God be willing to encounter and look like the one who was bruised and broken for others?

Is our the glory that we see in God the glory of His love for us, as His suffering brings us healing and wholeness?  Or do we want to see Him perfect, unmarred, triumphant, unbreakable?

We need to see the Lord who washes our feet, who bandages our wounds, who is broken and marred and crucified, for us.  Are we willing to be patient, so that person doesn’t perish, so that person can be transformed into God’s image as well?  We need to mee the God who is broken for us…for only there can we meet Him.

And for those of us who preach and teach about Jesus, what image of Him do we portray for people to imitate?

The God who loves us enough to bow down before us, or some other god..

Lord Jesus, help us to see your love, as you wash and heal us, serve us…and as you make us whole, help us to be there for others.  AMEN!

Question to think through:   How do you picture God?  How does that affect your interactions with others?

Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.

Walking With Jesus from Trials to the Triump: Part VI Finding Hope on the Walk

church at communion 2

Our Lenten Journey:
Walking with Jesus through trials to the triumph

Finding Hope on the Walk
Zechariah 9:9-12

† I.H.S.†

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you the hope you need, as we endure this journey, depending on His faithfulness!

 The Steps of the journey

Imagine being on the side of the road, leading up to Jerusalem.  Jesus, the one some are claiming to be the Messiah starts the long climb up to Jerusalem on a small donkey.  As it meanders up the pathway, the crowd is growing in size and in energy,

Expectations are building, even though the man is a mystery,

He does miracles, incredible miracles.  He teaches like no one else, and those who’ve met him, are more aware of God’s love, of God’s presence in His life.

He’s coming!  Everything is going to change!

It is no different today, as we journey through life, as we walk, guided by the Holy Spirit, and await Jesus coming into our lives.

The Prophet Zechariah told them what to be looking for when Jesus came, He told them what to expect, from how Jesus would arrive, to what He would do.

Understanding this prophecy, this promise gives us real hope,

First – He is coming

As we hear the words rejoice, as we hear that Jesus, our Lord is coming to us, he comes to us in a way that is a paradox.

He’s righteous and victorious, even before the cross there is no demon, no power that can withstand Him. Think about that for a moment, the prophet is using words that are present tense, righteous, victorious, and this is known before he goes into Jerusalem.

Before He goes to the cross, he is already described as victorious.

But then he doesn’t enter as the conquering hero, and that is where we see the paradox.
Maybe that is why he goes to the Jerusalem without the armies, without the majestic horse and the flashing sword. He comes not to conquer, but to provide for His people.

And so he comes, riding on a small donkey, simple and humbly, to be with His people.  Just as He promised to back again, and we await Him….

Second  – He’s here… working

The second thing we see God doing in this passage is very interesting.  Hear it again

I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations.

I want you to notice something very important, He’s not removing the ability of our enemies to do battle, but rather, he is removing our ability to do battle.

The coming of the Messiah doesn’t equip us to do warfare, it enables us to live knowing that our God is victorious. He is bringing peace into our lives, even as He prepared to the cross, so much more now should we be living in peace?

Yet you and struggle and fight, sometimes we try and fight the evil in the world, sometimes we fight the evil in each other, and sometimes, we fight the evil within ourselves.  We know we should not sin, that we shouldn’t be so easy to give into temptation, and yet we do. Yet we don’t always turn this over to God, we might even swear we will do everything in our power to be good, rather than depend on Him, and on the work on the cross.

God has to remove our ability to fight, for as long as we do, we will not know His peace. For as long as we fight, we won’t depend on Jesus, we won’t depend on His work at the cross.

We have to let Jesus take over, it isn’t easy at times.  Who am I kidding, it isn’t easy at all.

Yet Jesus took care of our need to prove ourselves right.  Because of the cross, because of Jesus death paying for our sin, for our unrighteousness, we are now counted righteous.  He strips from us not only the way to do battle but the desire to, for we begin to realize that God is taking care of us, that Jesus has made things right.   That is His role, as He is our king,

Third Step, He frees us.

He describes that here, in verse 11:

11  Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death in a waterless dungeon. 12  Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope!

Even as the prophet is speaking and writing for God, the plan is set, it is by the blood of Christ that all who were imprisoned by sin are freed from it. Even as Christ rides up the mountain to Jerusalem, the plan which was set in place from before the creation of the world is as good as done.

This was the promise to Abraham, this is the promise made to Moses,

He frees us from all that imprisons us, all that causes us to fight, to struggle.  Our anxieties, our fears, our sin, our brokenness. He brings us to a place of safety, a place of security, a sanctuary where we dwell with Him. A place where we learn to trust Him more and more, as we begin to experience and see His love for us.

For we are safe with our King leading us, with our King, Jesus, providing for us.

This is what we hope for, understanding it better than the people in the prophets day, or even the disciples in Jesus day.  But we still need to understand it better, this love of God, revealed to us in the cross of Christ.  This is the hope we have, given to us as Christ died on the cross, yet sometimes hard to see,,,

That is why as I close, I pray for you as Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus,

16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT)

AMEN!!

 

The High Cost of Love

devotional thought of the day:

44 Turning to the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she, with her tears, has washed My feet and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing My feet since I came in. 46 You didn’t anoint My head with olive oil, s but she has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 
49 Those who were at the table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” 
50 And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”  Luke 7:44-50 HCSB

 

760      The cheerful love that fills the soul with happiness is founded on suffering. There is no love without renunciation.

There was a song when I was growing up called “Love Stinks” and though it was talking more about infatuation, there is some truth to the idea.

For love is commitment, and that commitment often requires us to go without, to make sacrifices, to lay all we are on the line, in order to truly care for the one we love. 

Parents know this very well, as they will go without to provide for their children,  From little things like watching television shows their kids like, and not watching the ones they want to, because they are inappropriate for their child’s ears and eyes.   Teachers who give up time to plan, or to think of how to reach “that” student understand this as well.  

It is a mystery, a paradox, that delaying or denying your gratification for the sake of the one you love can lead to greater joy, greater happiness. 

The lady in the gospel reading found this out. She did something quite costly, anointing Jesus feet with oils that cost her much, oils she probably bought ot treat herself well, to help her forget the pain of life, after suffering the humiliation of submitting to others desires.

Still, in awe of God’s mercy, she sacrificed the reward of her labors to treat Jesus with love, to adore the Man who didn’t drive her away.  Maybe she was one of the people invited to Zaccheus’ house, one of the sinners Jesus was accused of eating and drinking with by the Pharisees. She tried to repay that love, with the most costly thing she knew of, with a action of love that showed how much she adored the man that didn’t want sex from her, and still talked to her, and interacted with her.

The suffering that love costs is high, and often it stinks.  Yet in the case of loving God, what it demands, though pleasurable, or profitable, is the thing that stops us from knowing joy.  We go without the pleasure, without the gain, and find ourselves free.

Just at the prostitute found herself freed from sin, and shame, and guilt.   Instead, she knew love, and that she was welcomed in the presence of God. She gave up what was costly and pleasurable and found a joy so much greater, and happiness that comes from being accepted and loved.

knowing this, realizing it in our heart, gives us the motivation, the ability to desire to give up what we need to give up.  Not because we have to, but for the joy set before us, the same joy that drove Jesus to endure the cross, for us.

Lord, help us to embrace you, receiving your love.  And as our love and adoration “costs” us, help us to realize the joy that comes from knowing that love.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2743-2745). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Christian, Are You This Courageous? Do you have this strength?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thoughts for our days:

10 “Stop fighting,” he says, “and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme over the world.” 11 The LORD Almighty is with us;  the God of Jacob is our refuge.  Psalm 46:10-11  TEV

A mighty Fortress is our God, A Bulwark never failing; Our Helper He amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing: For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great. And, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing; Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth His Name, From age to age the same, And He must win the battle.

This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, in his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love.

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the reformation, I have spent a lot of time reading and thinking through the history, and how it affects the Church today.  Not just my congregation, or my denomination, but the entire family of God’s children.  And what it means to reform.

For example, in my news feed, this morning was a great story of Pope Francis and liturgical reform. If I dare say, it is very Lutheran.  At the same time, there are those who are trying, with intent or ignorance, to divide the church further.  Not in the hope of reform, but in the desire to keep what they know pure.  And in the process, lose what Luther found the greatest comfort in, the love and mercy of God. 

Ninety percent of the time I hear Luther’s classic hymn quoted in green above, it is done with the power and energy of a military anthem.  Full crescendo Organs, loud brass, even clashing cymbals, as if it is a call to battle, something to unite the forces of good behind as we go to war.

Given that it is derived in part from Psalm 46, I am not sure that interpretation is valid.  It is not a mighty anthem, but a recognition that we are not that strong, that we need a refuge, that we cannot have confidence if we are dealing with Satan or the World.  I see Luther, inspired by the Psalm, writing this to a soft broken melody of one who knows despair, who is confused and hurt, and who is beginning to realize his hope is found in the one who was nailed to the cross, the Lord Jesus who is portrayed on the crucifix he sol tightly grasps. I see this as the resolution of a man who has searched for hope, finding it with his last gasp… the music of reeds and deep strings.. as the words are whispered out…. from broken, contrite spirits that are finding refuge… and rest.

We have to have the confidence to hide in CChrist we must depend on Jesus’ mercy and his patience and to seek and find refuge in Christ, who we are united to in our baptism.  

So stop fighting the world, stop striving against the powers of evil, (or those you just think are evil.) Have the courage, the confidence to trust in God.  He is dependable, He is the one who has the victory, and in Him…

we are safe.  we can rest.

TO do so takes a lot of courage, a lot of strength, to stay firmly planted in Jesus, despite every temptation to fight or flee.  It, in fact, takes far more to endure, to wait on Him.  Yet the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For the Spirit works through the church to remind us of this fact.

the Lord Almighty is with you, and God is your refuge.  AMEN!

Martin Luther – A Mighty Fortress is our God

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print

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Life’s Not Fair, Could That Be Ok?

Life’s not Fair
Could that Be OK?

Luke 16:1-9

 † I.H.S †

May God’s gifts of love and mercy so fill your life,  that you are assured you will live tomorrow and forever in His incredible, unsurpassable, unexplainable peace!

 Life’s Not Fair!

That gospel reading this morning was strange, wasn’t it!

So strange most pastors don’t ever want to preach on it, but in a world that doesn’t always make sense, heck this world rarely makes sense.  So this passage seems appropriate.

I mean I don’t understand why this guy is talked about positively in Scripture.

He doesn’t do his job.

When he does, he does it unethically, not doing what he’s given authority to accomplish, but what works in his favor.

Then, as he’s given notice to clean out his desk, what does he do?  He uses the authority he’s been given to create a bunch of favors people will owe him – favors he will cash in on so that he isn’t bankrupt!

And here is what is strange, according to scripture, his boss, the owner of the company admires him!  Other translations say he praises him – and the words are synonymous.

This just doesn’t make sense.  It isn’t fair, so how in the world could the Bible teach that the dishonest rascal was admired?

I mean it’s not far, how could it be okay?
Admiration and Praise?

I think we need to hear again why the rich man admired the rascal.  After being told to get his things in order, and that he was being terminated, the rascal said,

Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’

Jesus would go on to say

And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.

While neither praising the ethics or actions of the dishonest man, Jesus notes that he is thinking more than about the present moment.  That his concern is for the time when he is not able to care for himself, for a time after he is judged, and found to fail, to fail because of actions he took.

Most of us don’t plan for five years from now, never mind 25 years from now or eternity.  We don’t use our knowledge, what we’ve been entrusted with, what we’ve been given the future, never mind what is waiting for us eternally.  We don’t often think about this given our lives, and we need to consider it about our lives, and those of these children we have been blessed with!

If we did, how would we live?  What would change in our lives, in how we treat people?  What priorities would change in your life, if you were thinking of judgment and eternal life? What would we want for our children?

How do we live life, thinking of eternity?

It starts there – with using your possessions to benefit others, To invest your time and strength in making friends and caring for them.

Not unethically, but realizing people are more than possessions. That relationships matter more than accomplishments, more than personal wealth, more than a secure retirement.  T love and care for them, as you would want them to love and care for you!

And there is one relationship that demonstrates this, there is one where the relationships were so important, the future so important that one man died, to completely forgive the debts own to his Father.

Get that settled!

Jesus wasn’t just given notice, nor was he told that he was not doing His job well.  Still, He knew He was about to be terminated with prejudiced. And as He had planned, along with the Father, He used his legitimate authority to make himself friends.

He wasn’t unethical, He wasn’t using His authority to benefit himself, He simply loved others, and by His death turned those that didn’t love Him, who abandoned Him, who cried out for Him to be crucified.

He was thinking of eternity, of life after all is terminated.

Not His life,

Yours.

And so He died on the cross, to make true these words,

15  I shall no longer call you servants because a servant does not know the master’s business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father.
John 15:15 (NJB)

This is why we are here – as a church, as a school, all the ministries that are Concordia. TO make the love of God know, to encourage you to search out the height, the depth, the breadth and the width of God’s love for you.

We find that out in our baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper, as we take and eat His body and drink His blood.  As we hear, children sing of His love.

His love, for us.

As we know it, peace comes over us; that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

 

 

Yet – 3 Powerful Words of Powerful Faith.

Devotional Thought for the Day

17 For though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit appears on the vine, Though the yield of the olive fails and the terraces produce no nourishment, Though the flocks disappear from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, 
18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD and exult in my saving God. 19 GOD, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of deer and enables me to tread upon the heights.*  NABRE – Hab 3:17-19

Anything done out of love is important, however small it might appear. God has come to us, even though we are miserable creatures, and he has told us that he loves us: “My delight is to be among the sons of men.”10 Our Lord tells us that everything is valuable—those actions which from a human point of view we regard as extraordinary and those which seem unimportant. Nothing is wasted. No man is worthless to God. All of us are called to share the kingdom of Heaven—each with his own vocation: in his home, his work, his civic duties, and the exercise of his rights.

Nothing is wasted!   What marvelous words are uttered by St Josemaria! 

Words that resonate with the Habbakuk’s conclusion of his book. Let me paraphrase!

“Life Sucks!  YET I will rejoice in the Lord! YET I will exult in my saving God!

For as our souls, our very lives are entrusted to Him (something the Holy Spirit does, because Jesus paid the price to make it happen on the cross!) everything has meaning, and we begin to see how all things can indeed work for good, for those who love God. 

That’s a hard thing to trust God for, especially when we think of him as the deists did in the centuries following the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment.  Because they couldn’t trust the God they couldn’t see, they reasoned he left town,  Because they couldn’t understand that God was there in darkest points of history, they assumed he wasn’t there, and that He didn’t care and abandoned those He promised to walk with, those He promised to support, and heal, and strengthen.

Nothing is wasted. 

Man is that hard to hear! For there has been much that I can’t count as beneficial without coming to the same conclusions.  Where are you, my God?  Why did You abandon me?  Why did I have to go through this?  Why do I see it repeated? 

Nothing is wasted.

Not even the times of emptiness.

Not even the times where I cry out in anger, in pain, in fear.

Those words talk of dependence, of the greatest level of what we call faith.  The point where rock bottom we realize He is hear, and just go, “Lord, I can’t anymore, all I have to cling to are Your promises, the promsies I can’t believe are true for me. 

Yet, I abandon myself to you, I will depend on what I can’t see, what may be beyond my logic, but what you promise is real.

You are here… I can see that today…when I couldn’t last week, and may struggle next month to see it.

You are here!

So I will praise You, So I will rejoice in a God who wrote those promsies through prophets, and etched them in the hands of His Son.

Yet… a powerful word.

One I need to pull out and use… often.

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1394-1399). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Let’s Not Get Tired…. REALLY? A sermon on Galatians 6

Let’s Not Get Tired!

Galatians 6:1–10, 14–18

 In Jesus Name 

May God’s mercy and peace rest upon you, as you live a life drawn to the Cross, for you are the people of God!

No Un-obeyable Orders
But Don’t get tired?

Every summer I read a series of books by one of my favorite authors.  He writes series about the military and the police, novels based on true events.  In one of the books I was reading this week, an older retired officer mentioned to a younger officer that you never issue an order you know can’t be obeyed, or won’t be obeyed.  Specifically, if the character of the person you are directing leads you to believe they can’t or won’t obey the order, don’t bother.

Find someone else, or find a way to replace the person.

For some reason that piece of wisdom made me laugh, when I was reading Paul’s words to the church in Galatia,

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.

Of course, when I read it, I read it more like, “don’t get tired while doing good!”

Too late – been tired for a while – way too tired sometimes.

But oh the feeling of accomplishing something good is… to Goood!

Even if we are tired.

So today’s lesson could be titled – How not to get tired of doing good to other even when we are tired.

So how do we do that?

Obeying the Law

First, we have to define what it means to do good. Not that’s not right, we don’t get to define it, God does.

What we have to do Is have revealed to us what God sees as doing good, or doing what is right. The easy answer is found in next week’s gospel – a passage I preached on 30 years ago.  To do good is to do this,
“‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Luke 10:27 (NLT)

If you all agree that everything you do will fulfill that, we can have communion and go home!  Seriously, we need to understand that, and today’s epistle gives a number of examples, such as,

“if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.”

“2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3″

These are pretty strong commands, pretty challenging.  For how many of us are willing to go to someone who is sinning, and try to help them to see the need to stop?  How many are willing to invest and risk what it will take to gently and humbly restore that person.

Knowing that loving them this much – even with a gentle and humble spirit could mean that they strike back, and tell you to mind your own business.  Or even worse?

How many of us are willing to help someone bear their burdens, to be there in times of sorrow and in times of tears?  What about in the dark times, where anxiety and doubt and guilt are crushing them?

This is as much doing good as is celebrating the service of those who are retiring, or those whose ministry is changing.

It isn’t easy, it takes commitment, patience, the old kind of patience which is called long-suffering, it takes faith, and the ability to set aside our own self-interest, to make sure the physical, emotional and most importantly spiritual needs of others are taken care of, that they are okay.

But how do we do that?  How do we set aside a basic interest of self-preservation to minister to others, to share their burdens?

Treasuring the Walk

We remember Jesus, and we let Him draw us back to the cross.  Here St. Paul again,

14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died!

This is our hope, in the cross, where Jesus was brutally put to death.  At the cross, where he was nailed, and where a spear pierced his heart and lungs.  In Christ lifted up, drawing us to Him, that we could become children of God.

Where our transformation into His likeness begins.

That is where the interests of the world disappear, that is where what drives the world, riches, fame, pleasure and even health don’t seem as magnificent as seeing Jesus looking at us, knowing only as God can the love for us that says the torment and pain are worth it.

For he freed us from sin, from Satan, from the power of death that would separate us from God and all that is good.

Getting tired, exhausted even?  Feeling like you do not have another step in you?  Like I said, some of us have been there and done that often.  Sometimes, it is at that point where we see another in need, someone desperate for help. Someone caught up in sin and struggling to stay afloat.

Look to the cross, see the love of Christ, dying there for you and the person in need.  You won’t tire of responding to that need then; You won’t say I don’t have the strength, or I can’t make that sacrifice.

You will simply take their hand, and lead them to the cross, to the Lord of love, to the one who was crucified, died and was buried and rose again… for us.

Knowing this, the peace of God our Father is your, the peace beyond all understanding; that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

Monday: A perfect day for church! (I need it!)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 20 How great is your goodness, Lord, stored up for those who fear you. You display it for those who trust you, in the sight of the children of Adam. 21 You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from scheming enemies. You conceal them in your tent, away from the strife of tongues. 22 Blessed be the Lord, marvelously he showed to me his mercy in a fortified cPsalm 31:20–25 (NABRE)ity. 23 Though I had said in my alarm, “I am cut off from your eyes.” Yet you heard my voice, my cry for mercy, when I pleaded with you for help. 24 Love the Lord, all you who are faithful to him. The Lord protects the loyal, but repays the arrogant in full. 25 Be strong and take heart, all who hope in the Lord.      Psalm 31:20–25 (NABRE)

42  All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. 43  A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44  And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45  They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46  They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47  all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.    Acts 2:42-47 (NLT)

After the happy encounter on Easter morning, Mary Magdalen wants nothing more than to return to the former familiar status quo, to leave the Cross behind her as though it were just a bad dream. She wants to have “her teacher” as she had had him formerly. But that conflicts with what has transpired. No one can have Jesus as “his teacher” while disregarding the Cross.  (1)

As a young man, even as one who wanted to and was studying to be a pastor, I never understood why the church met in Acts daily in the temple.  Part of it seemed practical, how could you write a sermon every day, and do an adequate job.

Perhaps part of that is that I focus on the teaching aspect of their getting together, not the sacramental, the communal nature of it.  As one who was trained in expository and exegetical preaching, I tended to believe that the sermon was the critical part of any gathering of the people of God.  That it was and is the major tool in the box of the preacher, in order to make disciples of all nations.

Looking at Benedict’s words this morning, another piece of the puzzle fell into place.  If we think Jesus’ primary role is that of the teacher, the disciple whose lessons show us how to live, we have tragically missed what being a believer is about. 

It is for walking with God, about living life in HIs presence, in the presence of God who loves us. The love which drove Jesus to the cross, that love which had the Father throw all of His wrath on Him, the wrath we deserved, onto Jesus.  Check out Isaiah 53:10 and Hebrews 12:2-3 to see this more clearly, as it was for joy Christ went to the cross, and it pleased the Father to crush Him there.

So we could be the children of God. the holy children of God!

So great is His love for us!

So back to why I want there to be a church service on Monday, what Catholics and old fashioned Lutherans call a “mass.” It is because of the Psalm above.  As God becomes our refuge, our hiding place, the refuge, and fortress that David sought, that Luther’s most famous hymn celebrated and rejoices to find. 

It is there, that Jesus becomes more than a teacher, as we celebrate His incarnation in our midst, as we celebrate His sacrifice, as we take and eat, and take and drink the very body and blood of Christ.  It is there, with our knees bent, we find our refuge, we find our peace, at the altar where we encountered the crucified and risen Lord.   Where we find our healing, where we find our peace.

Where we no HIs promise, that He won’t forsake us, that we don’t walk alone.

Maybe I am a wimp, or too weak in my faith, but why should someone like me not value and treasure such times?  I have to deal too often with death, and with brokenness in life, in my life, in those I minister to, and that refuge, that time of rest and renewal is too meaningful.

The cross, the grave, the resurrection, and the knowledge we aren’t alone…..

What a blessing…

Maybe the early church knew what they were doing!

KNow God is with you my friends… know He is your refuge!

Even on Monday.  AMEN!

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 129). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

 

How to Prepare for Suffering (aka Monday )

Devotional Thought of the Day:

38  Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. 39  Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.   Matthew 10:37-39 (TEV)

5  For since we have become one with him in dying as he did, in the same way we shall be one with him by being raised to life as he was. 6  And we know that our old being has been put to death with Christ on his cross, in order that the power of the sinful self might be destroyed, so that we should no longer be the slaves of sin.   Romans 6:5-6 (TEV)

14  But far be it from me to have glory in anything, but only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which this world has come to an end on the cross for me, and I for it. Galatians 6:14 (BBE)

On the Cross this readiness is put to the proof, and precisely the darkness in which Mary stands engulfed reflects the fullness of the identity of her will with that of Jesus. Faith is a community formed by the Cross, and it is only on the Cross that it achieves its full perfection: the place where redemption seemed utterly beyond our reach is actually the place where it is consummated. We must, I think, relearn our devotion to the Cross. It seemed too passive to us, too pessimistic, too sentimental—but if we have not been devoted to the Cross of Jesus in our lifetime, how will we endure our own cross when the time comes for it to be laid upon us? (1)

It is the week after Holy Week, and many students are returning to school after a week of freedom.  They dread it, for the switch from freedom to discipline, from play to work is never easy.  I think they get this, in part, from the adults they observe who return to work every Monday weary, tired, robbed of hopelessness.   It’s as if we, adults and students, expect a lifetime of suffering during the week. 

In truth, most of us don’t have ti that bad.  It may not be Disneyland, but then again we aren’t listening to “it’s a small world” 400 times!

To put it simply, we don’t know how to deal with discomfort; we don’t know how to embrace suffering.  We don’t want to lose the things that are precious to us, from family to creature comforts, to the comfort of our sin.  And so we avoid those things, find escapes from dealing with the reality of life.

Which is why we so hate Mondays, why they cause such dread.

We don’t want these crosses, because we haven’t taken the time to contemplate the glory of the cross.  Even the idea of it being glorious is a thought we are troubled by.  We might write it off as a necessary evil, or the price Christ had to pay to redeem us. Glory in it?  That sounds absurd!

Yet the man who would become Pope Benedict has it right, he understood Paul the Apostle so well!  We need to contemplate the cross, to meditate on it, and understand what it means that no only was Jesus crucified there, we were crucified with Him. Our real life begins there, with Him, in a place where redemption and healing seem absurd, but both begin.

The Test of Discipleship, so fearfully laid out in Matthew’s gospel no longer seems as daunting. For when we realize the glory of His cross, when we realize it’s impact on us, then we can trust God to get us through the little cross we struggle with, especially on Mondays.

Our cross?  In light of His cross, in light of the glory revealed there, may we run to it, bearing it, trusting God to use these crosses to bring blessings, to create something good, evil when “they” meant evil, or when the cost of suffering seems too high.

Even on Monday.

Cry out on Monday that cry that speaks of both despair and faith, “LORD HAVE MERCY!!”

And rejoice as that mercy is made sure.

AMEN.


Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 110). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Good Friday Sermon: A Cry of Great Faith – Into Your Hands…

Into Your Hands…
Luke 23:46

Jesus, Son, Savior

May you realize the depth of the love of God our Father for you, revealed in Christ’s purchase of your grace.  AMEN!

Is this what we perceive?

It has been said that people hear what they want to hear.  Matter of fact, I think most of us are pretty good at it.

Like for instance, if I ask my wife if I can go to Sam Ash or Guitar City, her approval also means I can come home with a new guitar or keyboard. After 28 years of marriage, she won’t let me go to Best Buy or Fry’s alone.   She did, however, make the mistake of letting me go to the car dealership to get my oil changed two weeks ago…

It can work the other way as well if a professor says something critical, a student’s world collapses, or if a boss says you need to improve, you go home and tell the wife you are in danger of getting fired.

When we hear the words from the cross, we hear things through our frame of reference as well.

It’s true in the last words Jesus says, the words that he pushes out with his last breath…

Into your hands….I commit my spirit.

They are not just the final words of a man who has been betrayed by his friends, tried, beaten, forced to carry a cross out of the city, up a hill and be nailed on it.

They are a lesson in faith, an example of great dependence on God.

It would be what Paul talks about when we are told to imitate him, as He imitates Christ Jesus.

It was a cry of faith, not one of despair.

But that is not how we hear it.

The struggle of faith, and praying

There is rapid decline, or so the experts say, in the prayer life of people in America.

I can believe it because we have forgotten the joy, the comfort, the peace that comes in trusting God.  In depending upon Him, in the words of Jesus, in our ability to says these words, “into your hands I commit my Spirit.”

We hear Jesus, broken physical and I think we expect Him to be broken spiritually.  We hear the pain in His voice, the anguish, the trauma.  There is, in my mind, no doubt of the pain and anguish, that He felt, and I struggle to imagine these cries being anything else but the despair I would feel in such a situation.

The despair and even doubt I feel when I am subjected to suffering, or when those I love and care for are.

I hear these words, when I am in pain, when I hear them said with His dying breath, and they sound like a surrender, an admission that I am defeated, that you can feel the hope draining out from Jesus,

Because that is what I feel, that is the effect of the brokenness of sin on us who are mortal.

There is nothing left, no strength of body, or mind, or will.  There is only the inevitable; there is only death.

In times less trying we can’t even think of God because the weight of despair is too much.  We just feel numb, lost, empty. hopeless.  It is as if, for the moment, sin has won, and life has been taken from us.

We hear these words as the final admission of defeat.

He breathed His last…

But what if these words mean something more?  What if they are not the words of despair, but words from the last breath that reveal hope, that reveal faith, that reveal a trust that is deeper than the pain?

What if these words, like Psalm 22’s cry, accept the pain of the moment given victory that is complete and total and joyous?

Into your hands, I commit my Spirit.

A quote from Psalm 31, a quote which continues

5  Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

Hear it one more time…

5  Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. 6  I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD. 7  I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul,   Psalm 31:5-7 (ESV)

5  Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

These last words, are not just those of a man has hit rock bottom.  They are a cry of faith, a cry of wisdom that knows that the answer is found in the very steadfast love of God. A cry that celebrates that we aren’t alone in our distress, that we aren’t alone in our grief.

That though we barely have a breath left, it is a breath that is taken with God’s spirit.

It is a lesson for us, a cry for us to utter, not just when we have only one breath left, but when we are brought to life in Christ.  When we are crucified with Him in our baptism when we kneel and take and eat the Body and Blood of Christ, when we share in His death… and in the promise of His life.

It is His cry, a lesson to us with our very last breath.

A lesson in trusting God through it all, a lesson that we aren’t alone in our trial, in our fight, even when it gets down to the last breath.

St. Paul said it well,

4  For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
Romans 6:4 (NLT)

So repeat these last words of Jesus with me, knowing that the Holy Spirit with strengthening you, and help you make them your own.

Into your hands, I commit my Spirit…

And in God’s hands, in the Father’s hands, you will know peace that goes beyond your understanding, even as it guards your weary hearts and minds, for as you died with Christ in His death, so you find life in Christ.  AMEN!

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