Take My Life! What Does that Mean? A sermon on 1 Kings 19:1-8
Take My Life! What Does that Mean?
1 Kings 19:1-8
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to joyously invite God to take your life and let it be dedicated to Him!
100 years…. A lesson
Church experts, both in Lutheran circles and in other denominations, talk about church life cycles. There is a bit of evidence for this, at least statistically.
Simple theory, the first ten years, the church grows and explodes. The second ten years, it keeps on the trajectory, growing developing programs. In the third ten years, it slows down and loses momentum, and in the last ten, it plummets towards death and closing.
One of the guys who came up with this theory noted that exceptional churches didn’t splash down….they didn’t die.
They simply see God at work still, the God who takes their life. They see God consecrating them as the Holy Spirit making them holy, setting them apart as they dwell with Christ.
That’s how the churches that last 100 years last! They are re-focused on the work of Christ in their midst! They rejoice in the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells in them, the Spirit whose indwelling is the promise of their baptism. The promise that is celebrated as they break the Bread and drink what Christ has provided!
And they live in that joy, loving God who loves them, and with Him, loving their communities, as they teach them all about Jesus.
In the words of the hymn, Jesus takes their life and consecrates it.
When do we pray for God to take our life?
In the reading this morning from 1 Kings, Elijah tries to give God his life.
Hear his words again,
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 1 Kings 19:4 (ESV)
There are two problems with this, and it is not that he journeyed to Palmdale. 😊
We face both problems, temptations that, if acted upon, result in sin.
The first is asking God to take his life, not from trusting God to do something with it, but from despair.
Basically, he thought it was time to end it all, and we get there at times. As individuals and as churches, we can get to the point where it seems the work is more than we can deal with, that the investment of our time, our hearts, and energy is not there.
And I bet over the last 100 years, there have been times when people in this church felt that way!
“Lord, we’ve been faithful, we’ve supported our school, we’ve bought the new hymnals, we’ve volunteered for the choir, or we’ve held board positions. The church isn’t what it was 30 years ago, or even before COVID struck.”
And so we doubt what God has in mind for this church – that He’s not revealed yet! Elijah was so focused on his energy into the ministry that he failed to see what God was doing through him.
He was relying all on his own power and reason….
And we’ve done the same thing on occasion.
The second error he made is found in these words,
“for I am no better than my fathers.”
While Elijah’s life led him to think he was done because he didn’t have anything left in the tank, the second, deeper sin crept in. He forgot the call on his life and the work that God made. By saying he was not better, he forgot what God was not doing through him but in him.
He was different from his father’s, at least the ones who died in rebellion and sin.
He walked with God, and God guided his way and empowered the victories he had experienced and would experience. His life had been taken and consecrated to God.
Just as God will do so here, in this place…
But we have to see how God ministered to Elijah.
We have to see how God would take his life and consecrate it to him.
How did God consecrate Elijah’s life
We need to see this work of God in Elijah’s life, and then we can see it in ours. For it is the sweet message of the gospel that helps us heal from our sins, the sins of not depending on God for strength, and that of doubting God’s work within us as if God could not consecrate and make us holy.
It happens as a messenger from God came to Elijah, hear again of the words of scripture,
And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 1 Kings 19:5 (ESV)
He looked – and there was the provision of God for him – enough to get him through the day…
Something to eat, something to drink – provided for him by God, and the messenger simply drew his attention to it. This is what scripture says happened next….
And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. 1 Kings 19:6-8 (ESV)
The journey was too incredible, the messenger said so – so he would eat and drink again. He would then travel to Horeb – to find God and speak with Him, before taking on more tasks.
But there is our lesson – to realize that there are times when we forget what God does through us because we forgot what God does in us.
He takes our lives and melds them to Jesus’s death and resurrection in baptism, recreating us and making us new by the power of His word, for He promised this.
And then He brings us back to remember that, every time we look and rise, take the Bread, and the wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus, given and broken for us.
This is where you will find God taking your lives, the lives of the school children here, and the lives of this community and consecrating them for another 100 years.
This is where you will see that consecration’s impact in this life, as God drives us to others who are broken, to invite them to share in this mystery God blesses us within Christ.
The Apostle Paul explained it this way,
27 To them, God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. Colossians 1:27-28 (ESV)
This is why the Grace Lutheran Church of Lancaster has endured 100 years of heat, good times, and trying times… and what it will do if it endures another 200…
To declare to the people who are in this sanctuary, to the children who sit in those classrooms, to work with the other churches to make it known in this valley, the glory of this mystery;
Christ, who was born of Mary, suffered under Pontus Pilate, was crucified, died, was buried and rose again, and did so to bring you to God the father.
The Spirit united you to Him in Baptism. We celebrate this together, as we arise and eat and drink.. looking forward to the day we will eat at the Wedding feast of the lamb.
This is most certainly true.
So my new friends, in a moment, we will share and celebrate this mystery, as the Lord takes your life and again consecrates it, for we know the Lord is with you! And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!
Stop Teaching the Faith… teach faith!
Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. Hebrews 11:32-34a (NLT2)
The catechist then takes up a part of the catechism, and begins to catechise not only the children and those to be confirmed, but also the older and matured members of the congregation. Adults shall not be forbidden to ask questions, state doubts or whatever may trouble them, so that the minister may encourage or warn them as need may require.
In this relationship with Jesus Christ through the new birth, something takes place by the ministry of the Spirit of God which psychology cannot explain. This is why I must contend that faith is the highest kind of reason after all, for faith goes straight into the presence of God
O foolish ones of the world, says St. Augustine, miserable creatures, where are you going to satisfy your hearts? Come to Jesus; for by him alone can that pleasure which you seek be bestowed. “Unhappy creatures, whither are you going? The good you seek for comes from him.”1 My soul, be not of the number of these foolish ones; seek God alone: “seek for that one good in which are all good things.”
Loehe, a German Lutheran pastor from the 19th century, prepares young people to be part of God’s family in a unique way. Look at this demonstrated in the purple quote this morning. He lets the Adults (apparently they sat in on the youth’s classes) state their doubts and what troubles them! These “older and more matured church members are allowed, no encouraged, to speak of their doubts and their troubles in front of the impressionable young minds? The young people witness the pastor working with these older people, encouraging and warning them!
This isn’t how catechesis works today. Now it is all about “teaching the faith,” or to use a less politically correct term, indoctrination. Here is the material, here is data. Digest it, spit it back, and we will make a church service all about you, praising you for passing our class.
Instead of “teaching the faith,” I think we need to teach faith. We need to arrange our instruction so that those we are responsible for experience the love of God! It is a love with vast dimensions, far more than we can explore, a love that is experienced, for words cannot describe it. (see Ephesians 3:18-19) Tozer talks of this in noting that being born again is beyond Psychology’s science. It is beyond human reason, yet not beyond us.
Augustine, perhaps the greatest and simplest of theologians, speaks to this as well. He just wants people to come to Jesus, to be drawn to Him. There the contentment, the joy they chase is experienced. There is the highest good, the sunnom bonnum of which poets and songwriters attempt to describe. It is no wonder the Old Testament includes a book, solely describes the intimacy Christians have with God, using romance and sex to describe it. Not that our relationship with God is sexual; instead, like sex, it goes beyond explanation and yet envelopes us entirely in the dance.
Teaching this is more than teaching someone to memorize the Decalogue or the Lord’s Prayer. It is teaching them to find peace in the silence of a sanctuary as they contemplate the truth of the phrase, “The LORD is with you!” The moments between the notes of a hymn, where the words take root in the heart. It is in the tears of the one worn out by guilt and shame, as the tears flow even more as the guilt and shame are lifted by the sin being forgiven.
Teach people to depend on God, trust Him, and entrust Himself to His care. This is what catechesis should be.
Then, as they begin to sing…stand back, and look in awe at what God has created…in us.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 68.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 149.
Why Do Mondays Exist? (and other mysteries of God that are a pain!)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him complete power; he knew that he had come from God and was going to God. 4 So he rose from the table, took off his outer garment, and tied a towel around his waist. 5 Then he poured some water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Are you going to wash my feet, Lord?” 7 Jesus answered him, “You do not understand now what I am doing, but you will understand later.” 8 Peter declared, “Never at any time will you wash my feet!” “If I do not wash your feet,” Jesus answered, “you will no longer be my disciple.” 9 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, do not wash only my feet, then! Wash my hands and head, too!” John 13:3-9 (TEV)
294 The plants were hidden under the snow. And the farmer, the owner of the land, remarked with satisfaction: “Now they’re growing on the inside.” I thought of you, of your forced inactivity … Tell me, are you also growing on the inside?
Most people hate Mondays. I understand, and commiserate.
Not because the weekend has ended, not just because being back at work is such a challenge. Primarily I hate them because I don’t get to do what I do on Sundays, when I hear the people respond, “and also with you!” (In response to my statement that the Lord is with them!)
But back to Mondays. The second day of the week, the day everyone loves to hate, the day no one wants to come.
Why did God make it?
What is up with that?
There are a lot of similar questions, like why did God make mosquitoes? Why do people have to go through the terrible twos, or the angst of teenage years, or why do we have to grow weaker (and endure more pain) as we age?
A lot of that stuff, to put it simply, “suck”.
But what we can’t see, is what exists beneath the surface. Like St. Josemaria’s farmer knew, something is growing there. Something wonderful, but our sight is obscured.
For Peter, this was the heart of a martyr, A man who would embrace the suffering that following Jesus brought. The man who writes those beautiful epistles could not have done so, unless he had allowed himself to learn the lesson given when Jesus washed his feet.
Jesus had to remind Peter that he didn’t have a clue as to what Jesus was doing. But he also assured him that there was a reason. THat this action that Jesus, this logos/word of the moment, was critical. “Just relax Peter, you know ME, this will make sense…but for now, it is hidden.”
This is what faith is, this trust in God and dependence on His, His character and the promises He gives us in scripture. It means trusting God has a plan for Mondays, or the times where we are laid up recovering. The Spirit is working deep within us, creating in our life a work of art. (see Ephesians 2:10)
even when bit by a mosquito, on a Monday, when we are waiting for one of “those” conversations.. and are twiddling our thumbs until it happens.
Lord Jesus, help us to experience your promise, that you will never leave or forsake us. Help us to be patient, depending on You to work as You have promised in our lives. Cleanse us and help us see the Holy Spirit at work giving us the desire and the power to do that which You would do. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 767-769). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
What Deep Faith Looks Like:
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 He made no difference between us and them; he forgave their sins because they believed. 10 So then, why do you now want to put God to the test by laying a load on the backs of the believers which neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry? 11 No! We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.” Acts 15:9-11 GNT
Great faith, like great strength in general, is revealed by how easily it works. Most of what we call a struggle of faith is really the struggle to act as if we had faith when in fact we do not.
Imagine a jacket lying on the ground. If someone picks up the garment holding it from the end of one of its sleeves, or from one of its pockets, the result would be a considerable mess. You have to take the jacket from the shoulders to hang it properly.
Something similar happens with worship: to adore is to take life by the shoulders and not by the sleeve. Anyone who puts God at the top of the values of their existence, notes that ‘everything else’ happens to occupy the place it should. By worshiping God one learns to relativize all things which, although important, should not be at the centre, that do not relate to it.
I recently was told I was “a man of great faith.” I am not sure what the person meant by that, but to be honest, in my understanding of it, I am not.
That is not saying I don’t aspire ot be a man of great faith, o how I wish I was. But I am like the father, who told Jesus, “I believe! Help me in my lack of belief.”
This morning, I came to the three readings I copied and pasted above, and it reinfoces the need to discuss what great faith is, or even having faith.
The middle one resonates as true – faith – a deep dependence of God, is so much of who we are that to operate depending on God is easy, it is natural. If I am questioning my faith, and asking if I have enough, then what I really need to be doing is asking God to strengthen my faith, to undergird it, to help me depend on the Holy Spirit more than I depend on my own reason, my own will, my own power.
Deep faith means we act in prayer, knowing that God has answered Paul’s prayer in 2 Thes 1:11 – giving us the desire and completing the the He causes us to do, by faith. It happens, and we even sometimes act without realizing it, as we minister to those people who are the least of these.
That kind of deep faith is taking the God at His word, at what He’s promised to do, and depending on it. That is what the final quote discusses, hanging up the jacket the right way. When we worship God because of what He’s revealed at the cross, at the altar, in the word, everything else takes its place relative to it. Life comes together, like a plan in the old ATeam series – though it often doesn’t come together in the manner we think it should. But as our faith deepens, as we come to depend on God more and more, the more that becomes a cause for joy.
You see this in the quote from Acts, the apostles and early church, struggling with what the Gentiles beocming part of the church meant, kept God’s work at their focus. They joy was not in the agreement they “brokered” but in the very knowledge that God had worked in others, bringing them to the greatest challenge of faith.
Depending that God has saved us, that He has forgiven us sll of our sins. There is faith at it hardest challenge, the most illogical thing, even the most foolish thing that we believe in as His people. (see Proverbs 17:18) Yet, that is where faith begins.
To know that God loves us enough to do something foolish – to be responsible for all of our debt, all of our sin. To depend on Him to restore us from the brokeness that sin creates in our lives.
This is where faith struggles the most, right at the beginning, To truly live life knowing and depending on our sin being forgiven, depending on the renewal and reconciliation that happens as God does this miracle, is life changing. To know that my sins, my thoughts, words and deeds of which I am ashamed (or should be ashamed) are taken care of by God.
It is at that moment, as we realize this, that our faith soars, that our praises rise, that we are in awe of God. It is there we find the Holy Spirit revealing to us through word and sacrament this wonderful, glorious, marvelous love of God.
And it is then that we can dive deeply into this relationship, not fully understanding why God would do this..
This is the deepest moment of dependence of God, and the moment when HIs love for us overwhelms us.
Lord God, even as we have to depend on You in the daily struggles of our lives, help us depend on the acts in which You draw us into Jesus Christ, cleanse us of sin, and restore and heal us. Help us know that love which does all this – and then walks us through each day. We pray this in Jesus Name! AMEN!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Aguirre, J. I. M. D. (2012). Eucharistic Adoration and Sacred Scripture. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 109). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Broken Vase: The Writing of a Good Friend
A friend of mine, who has endured a lot in life sent me this devotion she wrote for the staff at her church. It is a good devotion, one that resonates with much I write. But what is amazing to me is her ability to trust God enough to share these things that run so deep. Facing brokenness is never easy, and sharing it so others can heal… is beyond amazing!
For that, I am incredibly thankful to God and proud of my friend!
And so, for only the third time, I turn my blog over to someone else…. knowing there are others who need to hear T’s words.
Last night I was driving home and the song You Say by Lauren Daigle came on. One of the lines in the song says, “I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough, Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up”, spoke to me in a very profound way. One of my daily battles is fighting the tape in my head that tells me
• I am stupid
• I am fat
• I am ugly
• I am unworthy of love
• I will never be enough
I grew up being told all of these things and more, so my tape player is strong.
Imagine for a moment that you knock a priceless vase to the ground and it shatters. What do you do? Do you try to put the vase back together as it was? Do you collect the pieces and drop them in the trash, as the vase is a total loss? Or do you pick up the beautiful colored pieces and glue them back together?
I am like that broken vase, that has been glued back together. I still retain the shape of the vase, but I am fractured. For many years I believed that those cracks made me not only damaged but broken beyond repair. Then I met Jesus, and at the age of 26 I was baptized, reborn with the promise of salvation. In time I began to realize the tape in my head was a lie. It was someone else’s story, not mine.
This is not to say I don’t still struggle, but I am able to remind myself to look to God for the truth of who I am.
Lauren’s song continues with “You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing, You say I am strong when I think I am weak, You say I am held when I am falling short, When I don’t belong, You say that I am Yours”.
And I know I am HIS!
We are all broken in some way, broken dreams, broken relationships, broken lives. So, what do we do with the broken pieces? Take those broken pieces and use them to make something new turn yourself into a colorful mosaic, reach to God and turn what is broken into beautiful, pieces, by sealing the cracks with lines of gold.
Jesus promises us that we as broken people will be better than new. Let that soak that in for a moment, WE WILL BE BETTER THAN NEW. 17 Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:16-19
Don’t let the lies that swirl around and whisper to you in the deepest parts of your soul in the weak moments define who you are When you feel like you have lost your grip, and things come crashing down reach for Jesus.
It is Jesus that tells us that we don’t need to hide our scars. Our brokenness has not rendered us useless in this life. God breaks through all of those lies. He tells us that we are never beyond healing or too broken for restoration.
Don’t be ashamed of your scars, of the deep crevices that line your soul, or the broken places of your life. They have an amazing story to tell. 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 (NLT2)
Dear Father, I pray that we remember each and every day that the only thing that matters is finding our worth in you. That we are able to lay everything at your feet knowing that we don’t have to carry it ourselves. AMEN!
Don’t Ask, “What’s Important,” Ask, “Who should be Important!”
Devotional Thought of the Day:
12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors—for they will invite you back, and in this way you will be paid for what you did. 13 When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind; 14 and you will be blessed, because they are not able to pay you back. God will repay you on the day the good people rise from death.” Luke 14:12-14 GNT
656 It is through Love rather than study that one comes to understand the things of God. That is why you have to work, you have to study, you have to accept illness, you have to be sober—lovingly!
Far too often we define our faith by the set of doctrines we believe. As if we could ever completely understand the mysteries of God. As if our logic, through enough study, could transcend the gap between the human and the divine.
That isn’t how we were saved in the first place, (our small catechism reminds us that it isn’t “by our own reason or strength”) so why do we think it is the proper process for our growth in our dependence on God, on growing in our awe at the love of God.
Please here me, meditating on the word of God is important! Studying it with other believers is important as well. But it is not enough on its own, we simply cannot know enough.
We have to experience that love, we have ot come to know it, as Jesus does exactly what He tells us to do. He invites us to feast with Him. Not the angels and archangels, but the broken sinners, the ones who are not holy (yet), who are not just in how they deal with others, the ones who are weak, the spiritually blind, the ones everyone else writes off. He invites us to share in His body and blood, showing us the love, bringing us the experience that fills in all of the gaps where we simply can’t understand the mysteries of God.
It is that love as well, extended through us to others who are just as broken, just as blind, who also struggle with sin and its constant partners, guilt and shame. As we are conduits of that grace, as we reveal their need for God and God’s response to that need, we find our understanding of God’s mysteries growing. It is an amazing thing to witness the glory of God at work, to see the Holy Spirit bring to life the one who was spiritually dead.
That is why St. Josemaria says that understanding comes from love, not just from the study (though he mentions study again). It is seeing God’s care for the broken that we were to understand what we can’t, the incredible love, that is beyond our ability to understand but not to experience.
May Paul;’s prayer for the
17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots
Ephesians 3:17-19 (TEV)
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2753-2755). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Is Your Faith This Strong?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 (TEV)
7 Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (TEV)
5 Give yourself to the LORD; trust in him, and he will help you; Psalm 37:5 (TEV)
28 We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (TEV)
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid; I can’t put myself in the place of God. 20 You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good, in order to preserve the lives of many people who are alive today because of what happened. 21 You have nothing to fear. I will take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them with kind words that touched their hearts. Genesis 50:19-21 (TEV)
A test of faith is not a multiple choice or essay test about how much you know doctrinally. None of us can know beyond what scripture teaches, and most of us don’t know all of that. (Even if we pretend to)
Nor is a test of our holiness, and how well we live from an ethical and/or moral standpoint. For while we should strive to live within the way God has laid out, we too often fail. And each of us will tend to look to the sins and failures of others, even counting them eviler, or condemning them, while trying to justify our own actions.
Nor is it a test of our will, and our ability to compensate or atone for our own error. The price is too high, and even if we could atone, why would we? To avoid punishment? To attain paradise? Both are self-centered motives, and therefore, as sinful as the sins we commit.
None of these “tests” measure a Biblical faith. Not one of them testifies to our ability to depend upon Jesus for what He has promised. Look above at the scripture quotes.
Do we have enough faith, enough trust God for the complete rest (physical, emotional, spiritual ) that we so need?
Do we have enough faith to leave our anxieties, our concerns, even our very life in His hands? Do we faith in His promise that all things work for good? Even the sins of our country, even
Do we trust in Him enough to proclaim to those who have hurt us, what you meant for evil, God used for good?
To do these things requires faith in God, confidence that He will do exactly what He said He would. Faith means to depend on Him, even when the guilt and shame are overwhelming, even when the hurt of betrayal is too powerful.
It is then faith is revealed, for it is that certain hope that despite all the logic, despite all the anxiety and fear, despite all the pain and suffering, God will see us through, that He will carry us, and bring us healing, and help.
That is faith. That is what it means to believe in God, to have confidence in what He has promised, that He will heal all that is broken. He will care for us, and never let us alone.
Faith is that feeling you get during communion when you are so overwhelmed by God’s love, that all you can think of is Christ, giving Himself of you, his Body broken, His love shed… and as you are focused on that, everything else falls away.
That feeling for a second or even a minute is a glimpse of heaven, it is a moment of purest faith when all there is, is God, and we depend on Him. letting everything else go.
So next time if you wonder if you have faith, hearken back to that moment you communed.. and relax, you passed the test.
Faith in Action is in Dialogue (IV) A sermon on James 5:13-20
Faith in Action: Is in Dialogue
† I.H.S. †
May the grace, mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ instill in you the confidence to be drawn to them and enter intimate dialogue with Them
People in trauma
The people that James was writing too sound like us. Based on the words we read just this morning, we could ask if they are part of Concordia! Hear how James describes them
verse 13 asks if they are suffering hardships
verse 14 ask if any are sick
verse 15 mentions people who have committed sin
verse 16 may be the hardest question of all, have some of us wandered away from Jesus.
Pretty sure you can find most of us on that list, in fact, some of us probably can answer more than one of those questions.
As we’ve said a few times around here, how do we get through this life, without knowing Jesus?
This life is broken, we see it enough in our homes, in our workplaces, in our families, even in our churches. But it isn’t a new thing, James wrote about these problems to people nearly 2000 years ago.
Even with all the differences, the problems are still the same, hardships, sickness, sin, and our struggle to go our own way. And in asking how people go through this life without Christ, we begin to see how James addresses each of these ways we are broken with a simple, misunderstood four letter word.
There is an answer
Prayer, Praise, Prayer, Pray for each other
Suffering hardship – pray!
Sick call the elders (pastor and deacons too!) and have them pray
Sins? Confess and pray for each other
Wanders from Jesus (the truth) bring him back from the wandering so he can communicate with God, with us.
Pray… Pray… Pray…
Sounds like one of Al’s emails or text messages to me. They often end that way… and for reason.
We know prayer makes a difference. We know when that prayer isn’t what you do when there is nothing else to do.
It is what you do first, and always.
Not because prayer adds up like tickets you get playing skeeball at an arcade, or frequent flier points.
That’s not the way prayer works or the reason to pray. It’s not about what we do to impress God, it is an act of faith, it is the way we depend on God.
But what is prayer – Elijah’s example.
James gives us as an example of prayer, in the situation with Elijah and the weather. That prayer was not simple monologues, they are conversations. As you follow the story throughout 1 Kings 17 and 18, you see Elijah moving by God’s direction, enabled to do what he did because God was there, with Him, even as the Lord is with you! (and also with you?)
You see that in these chapters where Elijah is ministering to Israel, and to a the widow in what is now Lebanon, as he confronts sin and evil, as he deals with brokenness, and sickness and even death. As he is on top of the world, and as he feels like he’s the last man standing and isn’t sure how much more he can stand.
In other words, he is a man like us! And yet. Because he walked and talked with God, this was said of him,
24 “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the LORD truly speaks through you.” 1 Kings 17:24 (NLT2)
God speaks through those who hear Him, who talk with Him, and that is what prayer is.
A conversation with God, depending on His presence, and on His love, shown in the mercy He has on us.
And then we see the greatest work that depending on God, talking to Him, hearing Him brings about.
19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.
Here is where prayer is so necessary, to see those who come back from wandering away from God, sometimes even running away from God, come back.
To see them saved from death and hell, to see them freed form sin and the guilt and shame that can so haunt those caught in its grasp. That only happens when our faith is active, and that faith requires us to be in conversation with God.
We have to depend on God, for otherwise there is no way we can have the patience, the determination to have patience, the ability to withstand the rejection, and still leave the door open for them to come in, look around, put their toe in the water…ask a question or three.. even be critical.
Trusting in God, communicating with Him, knowing His heart for us and all prodigals like us, we can take the time to see people return to God, even if we have to help carry them.
This is the power of prayer, this is what knowing that the Lord is with you causes to happen in real life. That is a major part of who we are. As one pastor wrote,
Finally, the suffering person is entrusted to an innkeeper, so that he might continue to care for him, sparing no expense. Now, who is this innkeeper? It is the Church, the Christian community—it is us—to whom each day the Lord entrusts those who are afflicted in body and spirit, so that we might lavish all of his mercy and salvation upon them without measure.
So let us pray, and as we dwell in Christ’s peace, the peace that passes all understanding. AMEN!
 Francis. (2016). Wednesday, 26 February 2014. In Audiences of Pope Francis, 2013–2015 (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
The unusual strength we need…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
38 And he said to them, “Keep watch, and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38 (TEV)
56 Spiritual childhood demands submission of the mind, which is harder than submission of the will. In order to subject our mind we need not only God’s grace, but a continual exercise of our will as well, denying the intellect over and over again, just as it says “no” to the flesh. And so we have the paradox that whoever wants to follow this “little way” in order to become a child, needs to add strength and manliness to his will.
We live a life that is challenging, that is complicated, and when we are doing right in one person’s eyes, we are doing wrong in another’s view. If we forgo the former, we are criticized, if we play by the latter’s rules, we are judged and perhaps even condemned.
Very few are wise enough to navigate these harsh waters that we find ourselves in, yet our minds tell us we must. And so we screw up, sometimes critically, unable to balance all the things in the adult world.
We aren’t the first with this problem, see the writings of the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul.
I’ve always thought the answer would be found in wisdom, the application of the intelligence God has given us. Now into my 50’s, I wonder if that is achievable, As St. Mark records of Jesus, we desire to do what is right (just and fair, ) Our spirit resonates with what is right, we are so willing to do it, but we fail.
I find some help here in the words of St Josemaria this morning, that it is not our mind that provides us with the answer, Our mind, our wisdom, and intellect, has to be humbled and broken. It must submit to Christ, be entrusted to His guidance. And it is in this discipline that the fruit comes forth, as our faith becomes the childlike dependence on God that will always sustain us.
This isn’t easy, it requires strength and a focus that needs to be crafted, It requires that our souls learn patience, so as to temper the mind. It requires our hearts be comforted, that the anxiety which often compromises our intellect be stilled.
This is not possible by our own strength and merit.
We need the Spirit, we need the loving, strong guidance of the Spirit who cleanses us of sin, revives and renews us. The Holy Spirit causes us to look with awe at Jesus, our savior, and Lord. And as we do, we become more childlike in our faith. more willing to accept God’s directions, more willing to depend upon Him.
This is our hope, this work the Spirit is doing in us, this hard work that is truly a blessing, for it testifies that God is at work in our lives and that He cares for us.
Heavenly Father, please help us become childlike in our dependence on You! Continue to pour our your Spirit upon us, disciplining us, that our heart, soul, and mind would be Yours, and reflect the glory of Your love ot our lost and broken world. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1975-1979). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Where Does the Strength to Praise God Come from?
Devotional THought of the Day:
7 But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan’s messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. 8 Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. 9 But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me. 10 I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (TEV)
604 Humbly acknowledge your weakness. Then you can say with the Apostle: Cum enim infirmor, tunc potens sum—“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
605 “Father, how can you stand such filth?” you asked me after a contrite confession. I said nothing, thinking that if your humility makes you feel like that—like filth, a heap of filth!—then we may yet turn all your weakness into something really great.
There is a point of burn out in ministry, at least that is what I have often thought. There is a point where a pastor simply can’t take anymore, where the grief and the problems simply overwhelm his strength. We aren’t superheroes, after all, and it doesn’t take kryptonite to drop us into times of depression, into times of great angst, into times where we just aren’t sure of anything, at least in our minds.
And yet out of such times, can come the most incredible moments of praise.
Out of brokenness, when we realize how our sin has caused devastation when like the person confessing their sins wonders how their priest can stand the filth, only to hear that once that is cleansed, then God strength resonates through us. He renews us in a way that we cannot even completely understand, protecting us as we stand in awe at His strength. As He watches over us, as He guards us, as His power cares and comforts us in our brokenness, and as we live in a world horrifically broken.
It is in such moments, humbled, broken, we stop trying to play God, and our prayers finally reach out to Him.
He’s been there, for He never abandons his children.
Even when we struggle to see Him, even when we struggle to entrust our brokenness to Him.
Waiting to pour His love into us… waiting to show us His glory, as He redeems and reconciles us, our very lives, and uses us to spread His love to this unjust and broken world.
Father, help us realize our weakness, our brokenness, and humbly walk with You. Help us to stop playing God, and realize again that You are God, and that you love us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1438-1442). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.