Devotional Thought of the Day:
5 Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. 7 And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” Matthew 28:5-7 (NLT2)
This is the way our Church wants us to be today: men and women freeof compromises, unprejudiced, free of ambitions, and free from ideologies, in other words, men and women of the gospel and only the gospel.
It was not an easy task which the Church faced.… To carry on the work of a man who was known to have died … to persuade others that this man had risen again from the dead and that He was the Son of God and Saviour: this mission was, in the nature of it, doomed to failure from the start. Who would credit such a fantastic story?…
Have you ever needed to have your mind and heart jump-started?
Tozer’s words (in purple) did that for me this morning, and then Pope Francis’s words resonated with them. We have to be gospel-centered people. We have to carry on the work of redeeming the world, the work that Jesus is sending us, just as the Father sent Him.
Imagine being the women sent to proclaim the good news to the disciples! I am pretty sure they didn’t need to be told to remember – I think the angel’s words would have burnt into the heart, soul, and mind.
“He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead – just as He said would happen!
How do you explain that to those who saw Him tortured and dying on the cross? Who heard nails driven through his wrists, who saw the spear pierce His side, as the water drain from His taxed lungs, and the heart emptied of the blood that was left…
How do you find the words to make them believe this?
How do we truly believe it, not just as a historical event, but as something that has more impact on our lives than anything else?
Over the next 5 days, I have to preach 4 sermons, all geared to helping people know, to help them dwell upon their union with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. To know they were drawn to Him at the cross, united to Him there through their baptism. To know He came to them at the celebration of the Eucharist. To understand the intimate fellowship that God wants with His people.
How do we lay everything else aside? How do we communicate this to people who live compromised lives? People who are struggling with realizing their own prejudice? (or being accused of it!) How do we open the eyes who are driven to ambition to gain…what exactly?
To be honest, I cannot compete with all of that, and the greatest preacher doesn’t have any greater chance than you and I. I have to tell them about Jesus. We just have to do it, with lots of prayer, before, during, and after Jesus is talked about. Not praying because it will make us successful, but because it will remind us to depend on the Holy Spirit. For it is the Spirit that will cut open their hearts and open the opportunity for healing.
Let’s remember what the angel told the ladies – and let us go tell all who would follow Him that Jesus is alive! He has risen, just as He said!
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), 114.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
at the Cross
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to hear people when they want to meet Jesus!
An Odd Question
I have a question for you, one I wish I you were to here to answer. Message me your answers, no cheating.
Did the Greek visitors to Jerusalem in the gospel reading meet Jesus that day?
Yes or no? (Pause)
Come on, no cheating! No cheating!
Well, if you said yes, or if you said no, you have done what most people do – they give their opinion on what they think the Bible teachers, without really knowing. The answer is simple – we do not know.
We know that Phillip, not knowing what to do, went to Andrew, who didn’t know what to do, who went to ask Jesus… but that is where the story transitions to Jesus teaching.
So did the Greeks get to see Jesus that day?
I don’t know, but they would before the week was out.
Which Jesus did they want to see? (Miracle guy, Great Teacher, The Amusement)
Which Jesus did they want to see, anyway?
There were a ton of rumors floating around. This was the greatest speaker ever, this was the guy who does all the miracles, this was the guy who was going to kick out the Romans or maybe they heard the rumor out of Bethany, that there was this guy with two sisters… who died.. and was buried for half a week – and he’s walking around town now.
For these foreigners, here to experience this Passover thing, this was one of the things on their vacation list. This was a curiosity, and attraction, something special they may have thought, but they had no clue.
The Jesus they saw..
They had no idea they would see him, just a few days from now…beaten and bruised, with spikes that shattered bone and ripped though flesh into the hard wood of the cross.
Jesus had pointed this out, as He said,
And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate how he was going to die.
My friends, He knew….
These Greeks showing up simply confirmed it, he was drawing everyone to himself.
To forgive them
To save them,
To have them dance with God the Father….to be swept up in His arms the way the prodigal’s dad did.
It’s not what they expected, it was shocking, but it was amazing.
Be His voice
An abrupt change of direction here….one appropriate for the day Jesus was praised but not for why He should have been praised.
There are people all around us, that need to know they are loved by God.
They are looking for hope, even while they are stuck in their homes. But like the Greeks, and often like us, they are looking for someone to save them, to change the brokenness of life which crushes them.
Which crushes us.
These days we need to encounter God just as the Greeks wanted to so desperately.
But why do we want to see Him? Do we want to see the miracles? Do we really want to hear what He wants to teach us? Do we want to see Him raise people from the dead?
Why are we seeking Him out?
Just like the Greeks, it doesn’t matter why we are going to seek Him, what matters is that we see Him revealed to us in all His glory, as the love is seen in the harsh light of the cross.
God brings us all there, to the cross – to not just encounter Christ, but to join Him.
To not just see us die with Him, but to raise us, free of all the brokenness, free of all the sin, free of the idolatry, where we decide to play God and control Him.
You can’t do that at the cross… it is not possible.
You can’t control the God who dies there
who dies there… to embrace you… and give you life,
We want to see Jesus – but we need to see Jesus crucified for us…
As do our Greeks visiting us.
That is the Jesus they need to see.. these visitors.
Yes – you want to see Jesus, it doesn’t matter why – Here he is.
He loves you…
Just let that wash over you, comfort you, cleanse you, heal you.
Then when someone needs to meet Him.. introduce the one who loved you from the cross you cling to.
They Didn’t Know,
But He did
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ help you to know that you will be with Him in paradise.
They Didn’t Know – 1 Cor. 2:8
I have a confession to make.
When it comes to politics, I am slightly… okay… mostly… apathetic!
I like to blame it on scripture, you know, passages like Psalm 146,
3 Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. Psalm 146:3 (NLT2)
Or Psalm 118
8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people. 9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8-9 (NLT2)
I mean –I can justify my apathy there, can’t I?
But if I am honest, it is because I have known a few politicians in my life, and I don’t understand them, or a system where what is popular is better than what is right by God’s standard.
I’ve even got
one more passage that talks about people in power, one that nails their lack of
knowledge clear. Paul tells the church in Corinth this,
7 No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8 But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (NLT2)
saw this as well, as he looked out on those who were crucifying them and said, “Father,
forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
They didn’t know what they were doing as they crucified Jesus, and what they really did not understand was that they were doing exactly what they needed him to do/
Hear that again, in their ignorance they did exactly what God wanted them to do, what He needed them to do.
They crucified Jesus.
When Jesus forgives them, he does so with full knowledge. Not just the experience of the crucial pain of the cross, but the full knowledge of why He was hanging there. To be able to say “you are forgiven”. To be able to say to us, as we realize the depth of our sin, rise, go in peace, your sins are forgiven, sin no more…. Only to be ready to tell that to us again the next time.
Presently I am reading Luther’s little pamphlet on meditating upon the cross. It is powerful, not just in the depth of walking us through the depths of our sin, but helping us realize the love of God that causes Jesus to volunteer to bear that pain. He chose it, knowing over and over from where the Triune God inspired the Old Testament, that He had to suffer and die!
Time and time he told the apostles it had to come about, that He had to die for them, that He had to die for us.
They didn’t see it coming, the leaders didn’t, the people didn’t, and Jesus died, which would have never happened if they truly understood and lived their lives knowing He was the Son of God..
the thief realized it…
Only one man that day, dealing with the pain of his own sin, realized what Jesus being the Messiah meant. The man being crucified next him.
Hear this man’s words again,
Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
you realize how crazy this is to say?
They are hanging there, on the cross, both about to die! To die!
Hey Jesus, when this is over, can I be part of what you’ve got coming next? Please? I mean, really Jesus, and as he leans to speak to Jesus, the pain once again robs him of all His strength.
please..? Can you imagine the joy that comes from hearing Jesus response?
I am not sure if he even heard the word, day….. or maybe the word paradise.
He heard what was in between though, “YOU will be with ME”
“You will be with me”
That is why Jesus came to the cross, to be able to say those words to that sinner. To that man who spent his life doing what He shouldn’t do, and not doing what he should do. The kings and leaders who crucified him didn’t know this was Jesus’ intent. Neither did all the people who cried “Crucify Him” and mocked him.
By the prompting of the Holy Spirit, this man knew… and he heard the sweetest words.
Words that every sinner can hear. Including you and I.
Jesus says, “you will be with ME!”
And as we hear that, all else fades away.
The sin, the shame, the grief, the pain. The doubts, the anguish…. It all faded away faster than this man’s life was, for he hear Jesus’s words…
We need to hear that, even as we struggle with out own brokenness and apathy. We need to realize that all things – – including Jesus dying for our sins, works out for good, so even the ignorance of kings and leaders can, as well.
“You will be with ME!”
You will be with ME!
We indeed are with Him!! AMEN!
Let us pray….
Into Your Hands…
† 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!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 For I received from the Lord the teaching that I passed on to you: that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took a piece of bread, 24 gave thanks to God, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in memory of me.” 25 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup and said, “This cup is God’s new covenant, sealed with my blood. Whenever you drink it, do so in memory of me.” 26 This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (TEV)
15 In these times of violence and brutal, savage sexuality, we have to be rebels: we refuse point blank to go with the tide, and become beasts. We want to behave like children of God, like men and women who are on intimate terms with their Father, who is in Heaven and who wants to be very close to—inside!—each one of us. (1)
Disclaimer: This blog is not primarily about 9-11.
there was a massacre once, the slaughter of the innocent, that we should not, will not, cannot forget.
It was ultimate act of depravity, the ultimate act of violence, and it is something we have to remember, not because of the violence, not because of the savagery, but because in that very act, we are given hope. Even in that death, we are given life. Even in that savage, torturous, incomprehensible act, we find our rest an peace.
There is no greater paradox.
Paul instructs the church to remember not just the act above, but the One who was brutalized and killed. In Greek the work translaeted “to remember, to not forget, to memorialize, etc” is much stronger than just give him a passing thought. It is related to words like repentance (to have a new mind) and the root where we get paranoia. It is something that deeply affects and is rooted in the mind. Not just knowledge, not just a passing thought, but something that burns into our mind and soul, that causes in us a change.
We proclaim that death, we reveal again the love that is revealed in His willing sacrifice of His life for us.
Something that changes everything.
Some of us will remember 9-11, like those before us remember the Shuttle exploding, or the Oklahoma City Bombing, like those, who remember Kennedy getting shot, or Pearl Harbor. There are other events that we will never forget because they scar our souls, they ring us to the core, they cause us to be on guard.
this remembrance, where we take and eat the Body of Christ given up for us, where we drink the Blood of Christ given and shed so that sin is forgiven, this knowing the presence and depth of the love of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, doesn’t just scar our souls, it brings healing and life to our heart and soul, our mind and body that have been scarred by sin and the injustice of the world. It sustains us through the rush of the world’s evil, and the traumas of life.
That is why we remember, that is why we proclaim His death until He comes….
For in knowing Him, we know peace.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 290-293). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Treasuring God’s Gifts!
He has Given Us the Right to Use His Name!
Exodus 20:7, Romans 10:11-17
In Jesus Name!
May the glory of the cross, the love of God revealed, remind you that you are children of God, and can therefore cry out to the Father!
We have almost completed our journey through the Decalogue, through the masterpiece God makes of our life, so beautifully described in words we normally call the Ten Commandments. The journey where we have not heard them as hastily written words, given to cramp our style, to forbid fun.
Instead we remember to hear them as the words of God, which describe for us a way of life He considers His masterpiece.
On this day, when we hear Jesus cry out, “it is finished”, when we know of His cry, “Father, Into Your Hands I commit my spirit,” may we realize we can cry out to the Father, for that is why He has given us His name… to use.
The Third (4th) Word
The Third “word”, the “third commandment” is simple, “Do not use God’s name vainly” or to no good purpose. If we think it through, that command is simply a correction, a clarification to the idea that we are called to use God’s name.
For as we heard, all who call on the name of the Lord will be delivered, we will be saved.
There are people who misuse God’s name, using it basically in frustration, in anger, to condemn, to mock God, and often His people. That is sin.
There are also those who do not use His name at all, to lift others in prayer, to offer comfort, even the comfort of a glass of water, who do not care enough about others eternity to share God’s love with them, so they will know heaven and not hell. Those who do not use His name to reconcile, those who refuse to forgive – for that too is the proper use of His name, and to not do so, is sin.
Seeing the Gospel
When William was born, we were shocked by his pediatrician giving us her cell-phone number. She has a large office, and an incredible caseload. Over the years we’ve called it, and been surprised when we didn’t get a answering service, but that she answered it herself.
How many places can you call, where the boss picks up the phone? Never mind that, where a real person does.
Yet, God, Creator of the Universe, expects us to call out to Him, to give Him our burdens, to ask Him for forgiveness.
That is what the cross is all about, that is what this time and this place is all about.
God gathering His people here,
Gathering His people, marked by His name.
For Christ has been lifted up…..
We have been lifted up with Him.
Lifted up into His presence, into His place of peace, The peace that goes beyond all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.
Devotional Thought of the Day….
32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” John 12:32 (NLT)
As I walk between the extremes of Christianity, and my own branch of the church, I hear a lot of advice about the church. Some suggest that God will bless the church, if we are faithful to this model. Wait, most of them say that – their models just appear – whether traditional or contemporary, whether doctrinal or social – fundamental or liberal to be at odds with the other models. I would content they might not be as much as they think, they are often making observations about the same thing from different perspectives.
But that isn’t the point.
I would contend that it isn’t how liturgical you are, or whether you church is Lutheran or Catholic or Methodist, or whether you are involved in social ministry, or training the next generation of leaders, or whatever it is. What matters is, is Christ lifted up. For Jesus is where we find hope, it is His love, His desire to reconcile us to the Father, that is seen when He is lifted up on the cross. I will contend that this is the unseen core of the what drives both the church growth crown and the we have to be faithful to our past crowd.
They both love, even if they don’t realize it, how Christ is revealed to them.
The grace and mercy of Christ is like gravity – it is so needed, and the more people need it, the more they get caught in its pull. The more aware they are of being broken, the more they are pulled to the one who is lifted up, just so their souls can find healing. Such was the story of the serpent on the pole – look there – find healing. It was the nature of Solomon’s temple – for believers – look there – find forgiveness/healing, for non-believers, God will hear them – and bring them what they need.
It is, always and forever, about our relationship with Christ, for nothing else provides us with what we need, nothing is like the one crucified to show us His love, His mercy, His desire for us to be His people.
May the Holy Spirit remove from us everything else that catches our eyes,,,, leaving only Christ visible…and then, as the Spirit transforms us into His image – may we see that around us with His eyes.
- It’s Not About Calling the Qualified, or Even Qualifying the Called… it’s about revealing Christ. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- I Have Decided, to Follow Jesus! (Controversy? Not so much…) (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Hungry for more than Discipleless Christianity (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Church that Needed to Repent and Be Reconciled to God’s Will (justifiedandsinner.com)
What was written, is written… in our hearts
† In Jesus Name †
May the cross convince you of the depth of God’s love for you!
Have you ever wondered why the chief priests were so frustrated, so needing to get Pontius Pilate to change what was on a piece of wood and nailed to the cross?
Remember – the relationship with between the priests and Pilate is already strained. This is the same Pilate that when angered before mixed the blood of Gentiles he had put to death with the blood offering of the temple. He had backed down to the crowd, and let them have what they wanted – to crucify this man that Pilate had judged innocent. And he did so at the risk of irritating his wife, who warned him to have nothing to do with Jesus. With Pilate already on edge, with a temper that was infamous, the chief priests approached Pilate and told him to change the words.
His answer was a quick dismissal – but spoke to his authority, and to a truth that Pilate testified to…
What I have written, I have written.
End of scene.
Whether he meant it to mock the priests, whether he meant it to mock Jesus, no matter what Pilate’s reason, he actually bore witness to the truth.
Jesus is the King of the Jews, He is the long awaited Messiah, the promised glorious one of Israel – the one whom in even the gentiles find hope.
But why were the priests so… insistent? Brave? Demanding?
Could it have to do with what Pilate recognized, and the reason he was inspired to use this particular word to describe Jesus?
The Meaning of Basileus
The King, the one who preached that the Kingdom of God is with you – who sent others to preach the Kingdom of God is near, Do we get what it means for Jesus to be King of the Jews?
Here is the most important point – it has less to do with authority or responsibility – and far more to do with…. Responsibility.
The kind of responsibility a parent has, when their child breaks a neighbor’s window, or when their child is threatened, or hurt. Someone who is King has responsibility for His subjects. The one who makes things right, at whatever personal cost.
Such is the idea of kingship, such is the concept of leadership in scripture. It is about providing for the people of the kingdom, about being responsible for their welfare, because it has been entrusted to you.
For the priests – this is not just counter to their own ministry style, where lording it over people was evident, but contrary to the kind of relationship they wanted with God. The last thing they wanted was God’s personal involvement in their stuff, cleaning up after their act.
It’s sort of like a teenagers reaction to his father and mother deciding to clean the teenager’s room. “it’s clean enough, it doesn’t need to be cleaned – and the embarrassment that comes when the pizza from a month ago is found under the bed. Or some really worrisome thing is found on their computer. We get too easily embarrassed when we realize our need for dependence on God to clean up our lives, to be the only One who can be responsible for our sin.
Because it can’t be us…. We just can’t do it. We, just like the priests who demanded Pilate remove the sign proclaiming Jesus to be the King, desperately need Him to be our King! We desperately need Him to provide, to care for us, to take responsibility for our sins, for our errors, for that which divides us from God.
And He did….
to the extent that even Pilate recognized it. Pilate who declared Jesus to be innocent. Who washed his hands of the case, who yet still delivered Christ to the place where He would take up the responsibility for us, for our actions, for our sin.
Rejoice my friends, find not sorrow in this moment, but the deepest joy. Because in Christ, we find our lives… cleansed, provided for, loved. And at peace, for
17 Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 18 All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19 Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends. 20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21 Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (TEV)
“There is no other god…”
† In Jesus Name †
May we realize that, if there is only one God, then it is to Him we should listen, as He reveals His love and grace to us, and assures us, that He has us in the palm of His hand.
How I don’t want to be part of the crowd…
Holy Week… a time of betrayals…
The Crowds praising God, for bringing the Messiah into their midst… in a few days, the crowds would be crying out to crucify the very person they praised the Father for sending.
The brothers James and John, arguing about who is first in the Kingdom, even to the point their mom would ask Jesus if He could separate them – by placing one at his right hand – and the other at His left. This they asked of the one who would kneel and wash their feet….
The kiss of Judas, how that must of hurt the One who came to embrace the sins of the world.
The sinner of sinners, Peter. Who though he walked with Jesus over three years, though he trusted him enough to set a record for walking on water. Who was at the mountain of transfiguration, who did and saw so many things at Christ’s side… would betray Jesus three times – in Jesus’ hearing, even as Jesus told Peter he would.
Boy do I understand Peter’s grieving, his tears this year. For I find – that as much as I don’t want to be part of the crowd that can go from doing right to doing wrong in an instant, I too often find myself doing so, sometimes faster than I can realize it. My instinct is to find an excuse, a logical reason for sin, to explain the intent – even knowing that the result does not legitimize the sin. We do all sorts of strange things when we sin – we deny the sin, we attempt to bargain, we get angry – maybe to the point where we crucify ourselves, or sometimes, perhaps worse – we attempt to crucify those who point out our error.
If we are blessed, as I have been – we have brothers who have walked that way before, and are ready to share with us, the very grace of God. To remind us that we are forgiven, when we confess the sins we’ve committed. They remind us – that even in our weakest most broken points, that God is faithful, that He is with us. Our reading from Deuteronomy explained it this way, Yahweh will see his people righted, he will take pity on his servants. And 39 See now that I, I am he, and beside me there is no other god. It is I who deal death and life; when I have struck, it is I who heal and no one can rescue anyone from me.
There are those days… when I would wish to escape from God, that I need to hear such words. Then as I realize the love behind them, they bring peace to one who struggles, partially because, like many of you, at times I am my own biggest idol.
Idols – fact and failure.
An idol is something we depend on, something we rely on, instead of relying on God. It can be anything from a good luck charm, to a person we desperately “need” in our lives, to the old fashioned idols made of wood or stone.
And as I mentioned – sometimes we are so impressed with our knowledge or our maturity, that we can become our own idol. We think we have all the knowledge, all the wisdom, all the power. We might even make ourselves an idol of ourselves because we are good Christians, just as Paul realized that he did last week – when we heard of all the things he counted as skubala as dung, because He realized He couldn’t rely on them.
Fact is, when we aren’t on guard – idols have a sneaky way of worming themselves into our lives, making us depend on them, more than we depend on God.
Then they fail – as God tells us they will. It doesn’t matter how much we work, how much we prepare, how much we tell ourselves we’ve got it down- our idols will fail – they will not provide us shelter, or comfort, or help.
There is only one God – the Lord who revealed himself to Abraham, to Moses, to Gideon as we saw during Lent. The God who waits – knowing that our idols, our false gods will fail us….
Ready to pick us up – ready to reveal again, that He is the Lord, that He is with us.
Death than Life.
As the deacons and vicars sat in my office this week – they came to an immediate realization about very 39, the difficult phrases they make us wonder at first glance. It is I who deal death and life; when I have struck, it is I who heal! They both remarked – this is talking about Law and Gospel – about the cross and baptism.
It is one of those moments where I realize that working with them is a great joy! They nailed it. ( Hmmm that might not be just the right way to say it, with Good Friday around the corner. ) But this passage is about this week – about a death that leads to life – and about how we are joined to that death in our baptism.
A death that shows the passion, the very heart of God, that He has for us….
That our sin, that even our idolatry can and is cleansed from us. Not that we should be proud of it, but we shouldn’t nail ourselves to the cross over and over again.
We’ve been there – because we’ve been here – at the baptismal font, at the place of St. Paul said,
12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13 You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; Colossians 2:12-13 (TEV)
That is where our confidence needs to be, not in ourselves, not in the failures that we so grieve over, but in the God who will not let us escape His grasp.
For there – when we realize He will not let us go… we find the peace that so eludes us, when we realized we cried Hosanna – hoping that God would do what we thought was right, the peace that eludes us as well, when we realize we are crying out “Crucify Him”, and then grieve over our guilt.
He won’t let us go, and because of that – we can know He is God, and that He crucifies us in Christ – that we can be raised to a new life. A life in which He reigns, and in which we live in peace. AMEN?