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Midweek Lent II: Treasuring God’s Gifts Means We Think of Others as Gifts,

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Means We Think of Others as Gifts,

 † In Jesus Name †

 

As we realize the mercy, peace and love of God our Father, that crafts the life we have in Christ, may we rejoice in the gifts that life helps us realize are ours!

 

Commands, or sub-clauses?

I said last week that I am coming to see the 10 Commandments, what is known as the Decalogue, more and more as the Old Testament’s Beatitudes.  The Blessed are they whose lives are described in the words that many of us have memorized.

In a way, it is a matter of hearing, even as it is with the Beatittudes.  We hear them as commands, as a list of characteristics we must developed in ourselves.  What English instructors and Greek professors call “imperatives”

If they were, I think we are in more trouble than we think we are, for how many of us can keep these commandments 24/7/365-366?  If we see these as simple commands – do this or you are going to be zapped, we are in deep trouble.

I hate to sound like an English teacher, but if these are instead  sub-clauses (and they are), it is based on the original statement.

I am the Lord your God, who rescued you….. and therefore…

This is how you live.
This is the masterpiece, this is ….His masterpiece.  The one we read together earlier.

10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
The problem of false witness/gossip
These words, these phrases, that we know so well, take on deeper meaning when we realize they describe how we look as God’s masterpiece, and that sinnings is simply robbing ourselves and God of this masterpiece, smearing the masterpiece, like someone throwing a bucket of pain over a priceless painting, or graffiting a incredible statue.  It mars the image, it obscures the masterpiece that is there for all to see, to testifying of God’s wisdom, His glory, His creative power in our lives.

This week, the phrase we read, from Deuteronomy concerns bearing false witness, testify, talking about someone in a way that wrecks their reputation.  It’s not just about telling lies about them, but as Luther taught,

“we will not deceive by lying, betraying, slandering or ruining our neighbor’s reputation, but will defend him, say good things about him, and see the best side of everything he does.   Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

In the Large cathecism, Luther even reveals that it is not just spreading lies about them, but it can be spreading the truth, if our reason is false – that is, if we spread the truth, because we think it will damage their reputation.

Why?  Where is God’s wisdom in this?

If we begin, even about a person we truly detest, to think bad about them, to gossip about, to assume that what they do is with devious or evil intent, that begins to affect our own character.  It spreads an grows, like an unchecked infection, throughout our lives.

It wrecks our relationships with others, it puts us on the defensive, it robs us of compassion,  and steals us of the ability to love them, as Christ loved us.

That spreads and spreads, and it even affects how people look at us, as they primarily hear us comment negatively about others.

We are all guilty of it, whether we want to admit it or not. We all have those we have trouble understanding, those we don’t want to see the best side of, to think of what they do in the best way.  Some are our enemies, some are those who lead, and some are just people whose actions affect our lives.  They are in far off places like Russia, or Washington D.C. or St. Louis, they might be our co-workers, or family, or they are might be here, in this very room.

Blessed are they, who do not testify falsely, whether in word or intent about others.

The challenge of Trusting God’s craftsmanship

Last we talked about the reason one could be content, rather than jealous had nothing to do with who had more than us, our even our unmet expectations. Rather, whether we talked about it being a matter of trusting God, about realizing that He in love, provides what we need.

The issues about gossip, slander, and trying to damage the reputation of others is the same issue.

If we trust that God is in charge, if we have faith in His Lordship, and that He will deliver us from evil, we must believe He desires to rescue them from evil as well.  That He desires to make their life a masterpiece along with ours.  We see them, not as a drain on society, but someone who either knows God’s love, or needs to know it.  We hear Joseph’s words,

“What you meant for evil, God used for good,” and we know it is about all of us.  That all of us are forgiven, blessed, cleansed, and our actions, no matter what they were, or what our intent was, God will use for good, for those whom He loves, for He has called them by name.
How could we testify about their actions or intent harmfully, if we trust God will make it good?   As we look at them, and see them at the foot of the cross, the blood washing away their sin, as we realize our need to be there as well,

He desires to make our life a masterpiece, and occasionally, we can glimpse that He is doing this very thing.  We trust Him at His promise, the promise that we see here, in baptism, the promise we see here, at the altar….

We know He desires that for every one, and it is the same trust, the same faith we have in God, that leads us to treasure all those He has died to save…and as we realize His love for them… the love that grants repentance, the mercy that transforms, the more we know God will use them… and the more we find ourselves thinking of them in the best possible way – as God’s gifts

As we see them that way – as we love them as we love ourselves… we find ourselves in living in Christ, is peace.
Let us pray…..

 

 

Ash Wednesday Sermon: Treasuring God’s Gifts: Being Content, not Covetous

Treasuring God’s Gifts:SAMSUNG

Results in Living Content with What He Provides!

Exodus 20:17, Eph 2;!0

 

IHS

 

My friends, my desire for us for this Lenten Season is this, that from us is removed all that hides that we are the Masterpiece of Christ. For that is what God’s grace and mercy does, leaving us in His peace.

 

Lent’s Beginning

From now until Easter Sunday morning, we find ourselves in the time of the year know as Lent.  Some think it is a time to sacrifice, to give up something, to embrace some suffering, and doing without, to help us realize what it costs to give up pleasure, to suffer.  So they give up candy, or caffeine, or some have even suggested giving up all things electronic!

As I look at it, its not about sacrificing that which is good, or even that which we treasure in order to suffer.  It’s about seeing our idols sacrificed, the things we give control over our lives, a time of testing them.  Because if it is a god, it can be killed off and rise again, without our help, without our desire.

Lent is about purifying ourselves from our self-centeredness, not because we have to, but because we know these things have power over us, they take our attention off of God.  In doing so, they rob us of remembering God’s grace, of remembering our access of Him.

As we journey through this particular year of Lent, it is going to be a journey where we begin to treasure God’s gifts to us more, to treasure the promises, and the life He has created us to live, the work of our lives that with Him are glorious.

The works that sin would mar, that self-centeredness would hide from us…

That is why we hear in Luke, that the life God commissions for us, the masterpiece He’s designed can be summarized in two statements.

Love Him,

Love those He brings into our lives.

All of them.

We are going to look at the 10 commandments, in a way that we don’t often talk about them.  To see them as God’s blessing of our lives, as the Old Testament version of the Beatitudes.  We are going through them backward, seeing them confront our lives, not to condemn or judge us, but to free us, in order to love each other, in order to love each other, and those who so desperately need the freedom we rejoice in.

So let’s get at it.

The Challenge of Contentment

In the ninth and tenth commandment, the issue is described as not coveting, not desiring that which others have been given, the blessings and curses with which they have to live.  That’s one of the odder things, we often desire what those who have them consider great burdens!

The opposite of coveting, of desiring what others have, is knowing contentment.

Be satisfied with what you have, not letting some thing or someone so consume you, that your thoughts are consumed, and eventually your heart and mind by possessing it, by getting their affection.  To believe that your life will only complete if you get that car, or can live in that kind of house, or get that next promotion, or if can have a relationship like the ones you have with others.  Or simply have their life, or their health.

Contentment, a hard thing to have, its completely contrary to the environment we live in, that we’ve been raised in.  Today it might be having the Benz, or the BMW, or going to that school, or on that vacation, or having a spouse that looks like, acts like, etc.

The Real Challenge – Will We Trust God Completely?
       Do We Believe His promise?

As we will see with every single commandment, there is a challenge that is far deeper than the challenge we see.  The “rules”, the shall nots and shalls, are often misunderstood as regulations, even as we often see religion and relationship with God somehow divided.

But the basis of the commandments, or the Decalogue as it used to be called, is not a list of impossible commands, it is the life that God described through the apostle Paul.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago!

The commandments, the Decalogue is about trusting God has made our lives into that masterpiece, into something where we can do the good things that He has planned, to live our lives in His presence, to love Him with all we are, and to love those around us fully, and with abandon.

TO live content is nothing less, than to see God’s blessing of each of us, and to realize He knows what He is doing.  That if one person has more, or less, then God has given them a burden.  It is there in contentment we find the healing that comes when we give up the desires that dominate and oppress us. The desires that somehow turn into what we deserve, what we have a right too, will slowly disappear as we see Christ, and the cross, and His gifts to us.

Contentment is about trusting God’s wisdom, trusting what He given us, from our talents and abilities, to the blessings of our homes and all in them, to the blessings of the relationships He has called us into, professionally, our family and friends, even our romantic relationships.

As we realize these treasures, given to us by the One we treasure above all, we find ourselves trying to help others realize how they are blessed, more than we chase what they have. More than we let desire consume us, we can help them, and they us, enjoy our blessings, the different things God gives us.

You see, the masterpiece God has commissioned, like a rich person commissioning an sculpture, or a painting, or a musical, is not about restricting us from fun, or living the good life.  These commandments are about living a full and abundant life.

Lent is realizing that we need His presence to live this way, to have Him fix the times we fail to, to bring healing to the times we ignore His presence.

We can’t live this way, without Him, we don’t have the strength, or the power, or the ability to.  But as we journey to the cross, as we realize His care and His design, and His desire to see us this way….

We find ourselves treasuring His ways, because we treasure Him. Because we know His love, and His work transforming us, and we trust Him because of it.

and there we find peace….

Let us pray..

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