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Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection We see things differently! A sermon on Acts 4

church at communion 2

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection
We see things differently!
Acts 4:1-12

Jesus, Son, Savior

 May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help us to see all things from His perspective!

A Matter of Perspective

There are days my relationship to the world seems a lot like this picture.

I don’t quite understand what they see, and I am absolution sure they don’t see what I see.

And most of the time, that doesn’t bother me.

If we are talking about the gospel it does.  It bothers me tremendously.

The same concern exists when we talk about the church, have to offer people, it does.  Not just because my life is literally wrapped around the church, but because of what the church offers to us, as it reveals to us the very heart of God, His desire, His will… His love, for you and I.

His love for us..

A love that changes things, no, not really, it changes us.

This love transforms us so completely, it is as if everything was flipped over.

And while there are days I would willingly knock some people over, what we need is to build a desire that they would see what we see and treasure.  We need to understand how critical it is for them to see the Jesus who loves them, who died for them, who lives with them.

As we look at the Pharisees we will understand what they see, and why they can’t see it.

What they saw… something to reject

As hard as it seems, let’s try to walk in the priests and Sadducees sandals for a moment.  It’s now almost 2 months since the crucifixion of Jesus the Nazarene.  They thought they had gotten risen of the pesky troublemaker, and most of his followers had scattered like cockroaches when the light turns on, and know His followers are back

And the ministry, as interesting as it is, isn’t happening the way it should.  It wasn’t in conjunction with the appointed ministers of God in that place, And the ministry wasn’t happening to the best of people, it was to the rabble, like that lame guy who begged all his life.

They had lots of questions, and as we heard last week, they were ignorant.  They were looking for logic and reason.  They were looking for answers that could be put in a nice neat box.

That’s why they asked, “by what power, or on whose authority, have YOU done THIS?”

As if the answer would allow them to reject the miracle that was happening.  As if the answer would allow them to discount what the reality they are facing.

But humanity does that all the time.  We choose to be blinded to God, we choose to look at things upside down. We choose to call what is right wrong, and what is wrong right.

Even those of us who claim to follow Jesus do this, as we assume that our plans are God’s, that our beliefs about the world are equivalent to God’s plans.  ( I could mention that I had pastor friends in the last week, one tell me God is happy with the Republicans, and another the Democrats, and that’s why they feel free to bash the opposition!)

Matter of fact, I think we confuse those who don’t know God when we seek to speak for God on things not found in scripture, or when we make the sins that upset us the most the unforgivable sin,  or when we make the sins we personally struggle with not that big of a deal!  When we say, thus spake the Lord, and we don’t have the authority or responsibility to do so.
What we are doing in that case is not standing opposite the world looking at what was written, but opposite God.

And we find ourselves there too often.

What we see – the basis of our hope

Last week, I said the ignorance the people had was not that they were stupid, nor was it that they didn’t have the data.  They did, they just didn’t understand it.

This week the change is similar, they didn’t have the right perspective, even the apostles didn’t, and they heard Jesus prophecy about his death for three years.

The apostles didn’t understand the incredible message of salvation, until they put it together after the cross, until they saw the wounds in his hands and in His side, until He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit, just as we received it in our baptism.

it was then that they realized what it meant for Jesus to be the cornerstone. That sets the perspective in stone, and we can’t say what Jesus says is a 6 is a 9, or what is wrong is right.

There is more to being the cornerstone than setting what is right and wrong though.    The idea of the cornerstone is that every stone is connected to the cornerstone, everyone is linked, and the cornerstone or keystone keeps them connected.

Because Jesus is the cornerstone because He is our rock, we are connected to Him, and that changes everything.  Paul talked about it this way,

16  So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17  This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT)

Because of Jesus, it is not only Jesus we see differently but ourselves… and each other.

And we need to!  We need to see Jesus as our Savior, our Lord!  We need to understand that we are connected to Him, that we are united to Him, and our lives are lived out in that connection.

You, me, him, her, each person here.  Each person is a new creation, each is as new in their redeemed lives as the lame man who could not only walk- he could dance now! Everything in our lives is new, from our lives free of sin, to our lives lived in the presence and peace of God.

This is our hope, and peace, to know His peace… and love.  Let’s pray

 

 

Transformed Minds: The Effect of the Resurrection, part 2: One heart and mind

church at communion 2Transformed Minds….
The Effect of the Resurrection
Pt. 2  One Heart and Mind
Acts 4:32-35

 In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus transform your heart and mind so that you united to Jesus, and to all who are His!

God’s Mega Blessings

In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles this morning, we heard a description of Concordia, and I want you to hear it again.

God’s great blessing was upon them all.

This is us.

Blessed, overflowing with the grace of God, overwhelmed by the presence of God, and if we take a moment to take a breath and think about it, or better, to look around us, we shall see it.

For we see the work being done in each other.  We may be completely oblivious as to what is going on in our own lives, but we see what is going on around us, and the peace that is found here.

I can look around the room, and see the same thing Luke described in the early church, a place where people are united in one hear, one mind, the very transformation that comes from knowing that….

Alleluia, He is Risen!  (He is Risen indeed!  Alleluia!

and therefore, (we are risen Indeed!  ALLELUIA!)

This is a natural transformation, actually supernatural…

As we look at the description of how the church interacted in this passage, it seems either naïve, r some socialistic plot, at first.

Karl Marx who used a description gathered from these verses to describe his perfect society, describing it this way, from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs

And wherever that has been attempted by law or by forcing people to believe it, it has failed.  Not because the idea is wrong, but because the transformation has been forced, rather than allowed to happen naturally,  It is put upon the people that this is the way they will live, rather than allowing love to cause it naturally, to be driven by the spiritual desire to love those around us.

We do that to often, even in the church, when we try and change people’s behavior without seeing their hearts and souls transformed by God, resurrected and brought to life by the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit draws them into Jesus, into His death and resurrection.

This is a long habit, dating back to the Pharisees, and probably before.  When they didn’t want the tax collector or the prostitute in Church.  When they paid more attention to the outside appearance of the individual, and the broken and different were sent away.

We want people to live generously, we want them to give sacrificially, we want them to give up the sins that so damage their lives.  What we want for them is good, if we don’t guilt them into it, or promise them some special blessing from God, if they only act the way we think God wants them to think and act,

It happens more naturally than that, or it might be better to say, more supernaturally than that…. For God moves us, His love transforms us.

The testimony causes it…

That is what the rest of the verse had mentioned,

The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all.

The blessing that was upon them was delivered through the testimony that Jesus was no longer dead, that Praise God, He is risen….

And as the apostles proclaimed this, the people realized all the promises of God were poured out on them, for they were forgiven, cleansed, made the holy people of God our Father. They had become brothers and sisters of Jesus, counted no longer as servants, but as friends.

The gospel is not just the testimony of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, but it is the testimony of what this means.

We are His, we are free, we have been given the Holy Spirit, God present with us, who comforts us, empowers us, and transforms us.

To use our motto, that is why we, the people of Concordia, are the broken people, who are finding healing in Christ, help others to heal.

It is why Cyndee and Carol and Linda find such joy in gathering women together for special events, knowing that they will bring joy into their lives.  Or why Jim and Manny had a few guys over for the first men’s time yesterday.  It is why Hank and his team from both congregations raised the money, and why Hank was down here each day, checking on the work.  It is why we help people who’ve lost homes or send Bernie back to Sudan, or why you sent me to China a few years ago.  It is why we have Al constantly talking about benevolence, and he doesn’t just talk about it.  It’s why we have Nancy keeping her prayer book and encouraging others to pray. It’s why Missy sets her anxiety aside to guide our worship, and why these people smile over here, as they hear your voices sing louder than theirs… I could go on and on, but this is the evidence of God working  Just as they did in the early church, each person helping the rest… not thinking about themselves.

We want others to know the love we know, or as Peter describes in His epistle, to be people with a future and a hope.

The love that we find here at the altar, its why a 2-3-year old will cling to it, not understanding, but knowing this is a special place. For many of us older folk as well… for here, reminded of how deep God’s love for us is, the resurrection becomes more than history, it becomes our life!

It’s the love given to us in our baptism, and that becomes more real each and every day.  For Ezekiel promised that God would change us,

The gospel is that God loves us, and cleanses and transforms us, something seen as we grow in love for one another, in a naturally supernatural way…..

25  “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26  And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27  And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NLT)

A love that brings us together, one heart, one soul, for ours is His heart, His soul….a love that causes us to dwell in His peace… united to Him… AMEN!

Let us pray!

as an added bonus…. the notes from Bible Study  (let me know if I should continue to post these!

What is Concordia
A Look at the Body of Christ


Why should we study what the church is?

If we are shaped by the Holy Spirit, then can’t all this come about naturally (Jer 31:34)?

 

Is the church in the day’s of the Acts of the Apostles better or worse from the church today?

The Lutheran Confessions describe the Church this way:
1 It is also taught among us that one holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among who the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel.

2 For it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word.[1]

 

Does this resonate with what we heard today in the sermon?  What caused the transformation in the believers?

Is Concordia the Church, or just part of the Church?

 

What does it mean that all the believers ( those having faith) are of one heart (kardia) and mind (psyche)

is this passage talking just about sharing money, or is that just an example?

What do people “need” in this church?

 

 

Back to being a witness to the resurrection.  What does that mean?  How can we be that today?

How do the sacraments fit into that? (1 Cor 11:26 &  Titus 3:4-8)

So are the sacraments still being a witness to the resurrection?

How much of one kardia and psyche do we realize during the sacraments?

[1] Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

 

Walking with Jesus through the trials to the triumph! Part 7 The Mind for the Walk (on Easter)

church at communion 2 Our Lenten Journey:  Walking with Jesus through trials to the triumph
Part 7:  The Mind for the Walk
Luke 24:13-35

In Jesus Name

May the grace, mercy, and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ cause your hearts to burn, as His love for you is revealed!

 Do we walk unaware?

This morning we finish a journey we started some 46 days ago, on Valentines Day.

We’ve walked with Jesus through trials, we talked about the different things we’ve encountered, and today we cover the last bit.  It is a hard journey, as we walk in the steps of men who are in a steep decline; both physically as they walk down the steep decline to their home in Emmaus, and spiritually, as they struggle with despair, as they lost their hope, and descend into depression, and despair, oblivious to God’s work.

But it is only from their that they can finish the journey,

It’s a journey each of us makes, that each of us endures, unaware of the fact we don’t make it alone…..

Even though we think we do…

The Struggle of our minds

As I look at the story of the two men, what amazes me is how oblivious they were.

First, they made the typical mistake that men make, they heard but didn’t listen to the women in their lives.  They heard that they came back with an amazing report, that Jesus was gone.  Did they listen?

Yes.

Did they really hear what was being said?

Nah.

Luke tells us as they were struggling with everything, as they tried to toss around answers to all the question ripping them apart they stopped and sadness and gloom were written across their face.

That gloom wouldn’t leave, even while Jesus took them through all of scripture, as Jesus explained to them every scripture that testified about Him.

We have days like that, when all the knowledge we have about Jesus, when all the information passed onto us doesn’t compute when we remain oblivious of God’s presence, and all the while there He is, teaching us, guiding us, walking with us.

Yet we remain oblivious, too worried about how we interpret what’s going on around us.  Just like these two guys who followed Jesus were oblivious.

At least their minds were.  Their hearts were a different story…. The hearts were on fire!

The Heart and Soul Knew Better.

Here’s a question to consider.  If they were still struggling if they still didn’t understand, then why did they beg him to stay the night?

It wasn’t until a little later that their eyes would be open, so why was it so important to stay with this person they had just met?  What made them want to do this?

Again, we go back to their hearts afire, the work of the Holy Spirit bringing them comfort and peace through the word of God that was being explained to them.  They couldn’t let Him go, they needed Him there in their lives, they needed the Holy Spirit working through the word!

They couldn’t let God go, even though they didn’t know it was Him

And some days, we need to do that, and knowing this story, we see that God is still with us, that He still is guiding us, just as He promised.  Even when we are struggling in a downward slide.   The Lord who is Risen, is with you indeed!

As He broke the bread!

As they hit bottom, as they get to their home, something happens that changes their mind about where they belong.  Enough so that they climb back up the mountain without thinking.

I mean, what kind of attitude do you have to have to run 8 miles, uphill, in less than an hour. I don’t know about you, but I can’t run that fast, anymore.!

He broke bread with them, He blessed it, he consecrated, just as He had in the upper room, and He gave it to them… and they recognized him the scripture tells us.

But recognized doesn’t tell us the entire picture.  The word there is epiginosko – they knew Him.  They deeply and completely knew Him.  This is the word for the level of intimacy a couple has for each other, not just the physical stuff we think of as intimacy, but the level intimacy when people can finish each other’s sentences, where they can communicate with just looks, without words, where they know what each other is thinking.

This is what happens when God opens their minds, their hearts as He gave thanks to God and broke the bread.  What they knew in their hearts becomes revealed in their mind, and the road they traveled in despair becomes somehow different, less challenging as they know He is with them, as they know they can trust Him, depend on Him

That’s why the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper means so much to so many of us, as we realize that God has not left us alone, that He who is risen, is risen indeed, Praise God!

And because He is… we are risen indeed, ALLELUIA!

And because we are risen, because He has opened our minds, we intimately and completely know Him, and we are loved.  AMEN!

Can I ask, “So What?” now? (the purpose of Easter and Theology)

photo(35)

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 God’s divine power has given us everything we need to live a truly religious life through our knowledge of the one who called us to share in his own  glory and goodness. 4In this way he has given us the very great and precious gifts he promised, so that by means of these gifts you may escape from the destructive lust that is in the world, and may come to share the divine nature.   2 Peter 1:3-4 TEV

At first we do not know him, but the voice of the Church tells us: it is he. It is up to us, then, to set out in haste to seek him, to come closer to him. We meet him by listening to the words of Holy Scripture, by sharing his life through the sacraments, by our encounter with him in our personal prayers, by our encounter with those whose lives are filled with Jesus, in the various occupations of daily life, and in innumerable other ways. He seeks us wherever we are, and thus we learn to know him. To come closer to him in a variety of ways, to learn to see him—that is the primary purpose of the study of theology. For this study has basically nothing to teach us if the knowledge it imparts does not refer to the reality of our life.  (1)

All day yesterday I saw people putting “He is risen! Alleluia!” on their FB posts, on Tweets, on Memes.  And most of the time, I was able to resist the temptation of asking “So what?”

I wanted to avoid the temptation because I knew the responses would miss the reason why I asked. You see, I’ve asked people before, and they look at me, stunned, as if trying to figure out if I was insane, or an atheist, or …

But it is a question we need to ask!

So what He is risen?  SO what the cross didn’t defeat him?  So what difference does this event make in your life today?

If you don’t know, then tomorrow or maybe by Thursday that post on Sunday will be forgotten, the response said on Sunday with such enthusiasm will be put in the closet until next year, when it will be dusted off again.

Does the resurrection have enough personal value to you that you will post He is risen in October or January?  Will you praise God that Christ is risen the midst of 100-degree temps in August when your A/C is broken, or when your family is in the midst of Trauma?  What about when everything is going well, and you begin to relax and enjoy your life?

Answering “so what” now will help you know the answer when all around you everything is perfect, or everything sucks.

Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI gets this.  He is one of the most brilliant theologians in the last 150 years.  Yet for him, it boils down encountering Jesus, not just alone, but in the midst of the church, in the midst of others who are the children of God.  In our prayer life, in our time reading scripture and sharing in the sacrament, but also in our work.  St Peter talks about it (as does St. Paul) using the thought that we actually share in His glory, we are welcomed into, and that is the place we belong.

This is what it is about, this walking with God, this knowing Him whom we trust and depend upon, this being humble enough to be spiritual children, rushing into the arms of our heavenly Father.

This is what it means that He is risen.  It means we are as well.  It means the Holy Spirit dwells in us.  It means we are the people of God, the ones He died and rose to share His life, His glory, His peace with, and whom He loves!

AMEN!

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

 

He has Risen! He has Risen Indeed! And…

church at communion 2He has Risen! He Has Risen Indeed!

And… therefore….

Colossians 2:10-12

† In Jesus Name †

As we celebrate Easter, as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, may you realize your part in it, for the grace of God has brought you to life in and with Him.  AMEN!

The earlier sermon… Our union with Christ… 

You have already heard a sermon this morning.  Rather you’ve seen it happen, you witnessed what my poor words will attempt to describe.

Paul says it this way, in our epistle reading.

You are complete through your union with Jesus.

Complete, whole, perfect, lacking nothing.

What became true for Damon, Madelynn and Rosemarie, and is true for everyone who trusts in the mighty power of God is because of this incredible union, being united with Christ’s death and resurrection.

That is the incredible miracle of God that occurs in our baptism, as we are united with Jesus, and then we die and are resurrected with Him.

Our need for circumcision

The apostle Paul, in this epistle, this letter to a young new church, explains the work that God does in baptism using the illustration of circumcision. He writes,

11  When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature.

He talks about our sin nature here, that ability we have to get ourselves into trouble, that ability we have which feeds our desires, no matter the cost to us.

It’s not just about the sin, it’s not just about the failures, there is something deeper there, that causes us to implode, to choose self-destructive things, to even argue these things are good for us. That self-destructive behavior, that’s our struggle with our sin nature. It is strong and powerful, overruling our heart and mind at times.

And we were unable to do anything about it…no one without God in their lives can, we struggle and struggle and just fall short.

We need help, supernatural help. 

Our circumcision…

That is where Jesus brings the idea of circumcision into this picture of baptism uniting us with His death.  The word in Greek for circumcision means to cut around – to carefully, with surgical precision, cut and remove something.  That is what Paul is talking about when he says

Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. 12  For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life

In the case of baptism – it pictures our dying, and when we come back to life, there is something missing.  That sin nature that so oppressed us, so controlled us, so kept us in bondage.

it’s been cut away, nailed to the cross of Christ,

Paul’s letter to the Romans explains it again

5  Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6  We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.
Romans 6:5-6 (NLT)

And to the church in Galatia he wrote,

19  For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. 20  My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:19-20 (NLT)

I could go on and on with the ways scripture describes out being separated and cleansed of our sin. But that is only part of the process to the greater blessing, the forgiveness, the separation of you and your sinful nature is but a description of what it leads us into, our new life in Christ.

Our Hope of Glory …

Earlier this week, a friend asked me what my favorite scripture was.  My answer without hesitation was this,

9  “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)

This is what Easter is about, this incredible plan God has for us, the very reason for the cross and why the church obeys the command to make disciples by baptizing and teaching them to treasure everything God establishes.  It is through this work God does through us, that we are made whole and complete, and are given the Holy Spirit to help us live in a such a different life.

To live in a relationship with the God who not only created us, but deeply loves us.  To get to know Him, through our talking to Him in prayer and meditating on His word, searching it out as we explore how deep, how high, how wide, how broad this love is that He has for us.

Whose plan for us is to dwell eternally with Him, sharing in His glory, dwelling in the purest love.

This is what this is all about, this being complete as we are united with Jesus. About being recreated as the children of God, about knowing His peace, it is about knowing Him!

And may you always know that peace of God which is beyond anything we can understand, the peace that is ours in Christ Jesus AMEN!

 

Witnessing Something Changes You: Sermon for the 2nd week of Easter

Witnessing Something Changes You

Acts 5:12-32

 † I.H.S. †

 May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ change you, as you witness and bear witness to His Love.  Amen!

Change?

 As people, we remember critical times in our lives.  For some can remember where they were on December 7, 1941, or for some others, November 22, 1963.  For my generation, it was where we were when the Challenger, blew up, and all of us are marked by the date 9-11.  Others have dates that are more personal, our birthdays and anniversaries, for my parents, April Fool’s Day, 1965 was pretty important as well.  It was the day where they picked up an infant from and adopted him.

We remember those days, because what we witness those days changed us. IN some cases, like the birth and wedding for the better.  Other days, like 9-11 change us forever, bringing us anxiety and re-calling exactly where we were, a memory we share with others who witnessed the same event, even if they were halfway around the world.

I imagine Thomas had one of those experiences, on a day, like this, just a week after the resurrection. The day that changed everything in his life, that took him from mourning into great joy, and awe, and a feeling of being overwhelmed.
We see that in the life of all the apostles in the first few chapters of Acts, as they go from men cowering in fear, to men who are willing to be jailed and beaten, to suffer and even die, because of what they witnessed,

Because when you witness something, good or bad, stunning or traumatic, it changes you….

And God promises to change us, because of what the apostles witnessed, and bore witness too.  When that is revealed to us, it will change us, in the same way.
Change? I don’t need change

With all the anxiety regarding change, I think most of us don’t see the need for change.  More precisely, we don’t want to see the need for change.  We are willing to settle for life this way; we grow content in it.

Change might shake it up!  We might lose the things we count on; we might be asked to make a sacrifice, or have some habit and sin removed from our lives.   We might have to give up that resentment, or that pain that we hang on to, that gives us an identity.  Change means giving up the sin that traps us, especially the sins that have such a hold on us that we try to justify, the sins that appease our insecurity, that help us avoid our anxiety, that put the blame on others.  That gives us the illusion of safety, of security, and instead of choosing God’s comfort, we simply choose to be comfortable.

There is a big difference there, between being comfortable and being comforted.  Being comfortable with life, often means we are comfortable in our sin.

After this week, I will take being comforted anytime, for the presence of God that brings us that comfort, that peace, a true refuge in time of troubles, that is what Thomas experienced, that is what Peter and the other apostles experienced.

A comfort that lets you get up and start moving again, sure that you are walking with God, who is in charge, who does love you.

I don’t see a change?

If we don’t see a need for change, that is a problem.  It is likewise a problem when we see the change that God is making in your life.  Sometimes it seems slow, ponderously slow.  We wonder if God has made changes in our life if He is living up to His promises.

There are days it seems like nothing changes, we still live in the midst of trauma, many still live with their lives confused and challenged by finances or our relationships. We still might have days where we wonder where God is, and why things aren’t perfect.

Why don’t we have the faith of Peter and John, and the rest of the apostles?  Why aren’t we like the giants of the faith?  I mean how many of us would have the faith to continue to live our life of faith, when under great pressure?

Would you go back to the temple – to teach those who wanted to know more about God?
As a church, I’ve to see you do that, maybe not under the pressure of jail, but facing great discomfort, and caring for each other, and with those who came to mourn.  We’ve gone back to the same pain, so many of us have felt, because others were there, needing the peace that we knew.

We’ve changed, we don’t hesitate, we run to that battle, even as the apostles ran to the temple.  Because people need us, because people who go through this life without knowing God’s life, don’t even know what it means to be able to trust God, to depend upon His faithfulness.  Everything gets set aside, to help other’s know Christ’s peace.

As I watched people caring for each other on Tuesday, I saw this.  But so did a lot of our guests,

It is no less remarkable than the apostles escaping the jail and finding themselves in the courtyard of the Temple – sharing the blessing of Jesus to those who would hear, and be amazed.

So is the Holy Spirit!

So how does this happen, this transformation, this change that happens in believers? The very last verses tell us and gives us the hope of such a change continue to happen in our lives.

I say continue, because the change is occurring, or perhaps, we are becoming more comfortable with God in our midst that it is easier to see.  Verse 30.

The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. 31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”

God, the Father allows Jesus to die, He raises Jesus from the dead, and Jesus ascends to the Father, and to a place of honor and glory for one reason, so that we, the people who wrestle with God, (for that is what Israel means) will become repentant, that we would be changed, and made holy as He forgives us.

This work of God is something we talked about last week, on Thursday when Chris shared, and on Good Friday as Bernie and I shared, and on Easter Sunday.  It sustained us on Tuesday, and others on Thursday, Friday and yesterday as some of us gathered with Mark and Susan.

This death and resurrection of Jesus, to pay for our sins, to call us back to God we know is true, we have witnessed its effect.  But so has the Holy Spirit witnessed it, for it is this truth that the Holy Spirit joins us to Christ’s death and resurrection in our baptism, and we walk given it, each and every day.

As we become more aware of it, as we look to Jesus, as we are aware that, Alleluia! He is Risen!…. and therefore….

And what that means, what the Holy Spirit is confirming in us, is that The Lord is with you!

And that changes everything, even as it did when Thomas cried out, My Lord and My God!… AMEN!

The Transformations of Easter, God changes our Demographics

Featured imageThe Transformations of Easter

The Change to Our Demographics

Acts 10:34-36

IHS

 May the mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so heal and transform our lives that we continually hear His desire that all come to the same healing and transformation.  And may we dedicate our lives to this very work!


Whose conversion would leave you “out of your mind”?

Have you ever been so confused that you felt out of place?  That life all of a sudden was so jumbled that you wondered if you were out of your mind?  That life didn’t make all that much sense, that your world seemed to be turning upside-down, inside-out and backward,

You aren’t alone. I’ve had those days myself. Matter of fact, I’ve had more than my share of them!

So did the apostles. Imagine how you would feel if at the next combined service – with two hundred people to feed, we only had 5 filet-o-fishes from McDonald’s, and Jesus said, “No problem, let me pray and then hand out what you’ve got?”

Or the time Jesus was asleep in the middle of the storm, wakes up and tells the sea to be still.   That one left them more afraid of Jesus than the storm.

Think about how things changed that night when Jesus, who they witnessed dying on the cross, just walked into the room and told them to stop being afraid, to stop being anxious. That confused them a bit, don’t you think?

The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus transforms everything in our lives, and sometime, okay, most of the time, we aren’t even ready for it.

Like in the story from Acts today, when the Roman soldier and his family, the enemies of Israel are saved.  The word for amazed in our translation is the word existemi – to be displaced, or more bluntly, to be out of your mind.

That’s what happens when God transforms your enemies into your brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.

Yeah, your enemies.  God wants to transform them and welcome them to our family.

Whether that is the ISIS leader, some politician you don’t like, your neighbors whose dog keep you up last night, there is someone whose salvation might confuse you a bit.

You see one of the transformations of Easter is God changing the demographics of His people, to include people of every group on earth.

Including you.

the Challenge of Grace

As we walk through life, we are going to encounter those people who are described with words like enemies, adversaries.  They may seriously threaten us, or they may simply irritate us.

For the most part, the Romans were counted among the former group in Peter’s day.  And the animosity and fear were mutual.  Jews were taught that non-Jews were not people because they weren’t allowed to be people of God.  That isn’t what the Bible taught, but it was so often heard in synagogues that it became part of the religion.

This resulted in a culture of fear, and the oppressive Roman government didn’t help much, nor did the extremists like the zealots, who made every issue a critical one.  Jewish men weren’t supposed to go into the homes of Gentiles, whether, Greek or Roman.

We may not feel this way about a nationality or race of people today, but most of us do have people we find hard to love or accept.  Maybe it is because they are of a different economic class, or because they belong to a different political party. Maybe they are family, these people who you would struggle with, And maybe your own reaction to them causes you to grieve, to be filled with anxiety, to even give up hope for reconciliation and healing.

Maybe we have even been dealing with the brokenness of a relationship so long, we believe it beyond God’s ability to heal?

For the Jewish people, these relationships with Greeks and Romans, even with their Samaritan neighbors, had long since been shattered.  Even though, God had promised Abraham that his descendant would bless all nations, even though David and Isaiah wrote about it, even though Solomon dedicated the Temple to both Jewish and non-Jewish people praying to God there….

The relationships were shattered; there was nothing there but animosity, fear, resentment, division and hatred.  Simply put, they were shattered by sin.

As have our relationships…indeed all relationships… until the hope of Easter transformed our relationships.

Among the things we can “take away” from this passage, it is the hope that realizing how “out of their minds” the Jewish believers were, when they witnessed their natural enemies and adversaries being touched by the Holy Spirit.  When the Holy Spirit who they counted on, who they were comforted by, who transformed their world, in a moment healed the broken relationship Cornelius’s family had with God, and therefore healed all the brokenness between them.

It is as radical as if we got a call from the leaders of Isis, to come share God’s love with them, and we ended up baptizing them and their families.

It is as radical as the guy who killed and captured pastors, coming to know Christ’s love, and becoming an incredible missionary,

It is as radical as God saving you, or I.

Making us the body of Christ, the people of God, the friends of Jesus.

As it happens, as God transforms this Roman military commander, and his family and household, there is confusion and joy and a myriad of emotions as they realized that God doesn’t have a list of types of people that are welcome before His throne.

There are people of every nation, every culture, every language, every economic class.  People who grew up worshipping idols, people that grew up knowing of God, but needing to know Him.  All types, all kinds, all ages,….

And those who, when God begins working in them, cause us to pause, to wonder, and then to be beside ourselves with joy!

That is why we don’t lose hope for those we struggle with; that is why we try to live at peace with them, care for them, love them.  That is our hope for dealing with them and seeing reconciliation happen.

Because it can, and it has….

Because of a cross, a burial and a resurrection of Jesus Christ the son of God.

Yes, because of that we can all know the peace of God, which passes all understanding, and guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.

AMEN!

How Easter Changes Our Worship

Featured imageHow Easter Is Transforming OUR World!

The Change to Our Worship

Psalm 150

Glory to Him Alone

Praise the Lord!

 Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

Hmmm, maybe you think I am saying, “praise the Lord”, as my praise of Him, the God who has called you by name and gathered you to this place.  The God who declared that you are His child, declared you are holy and righteous, backing that up by separating you from your sins, even as His united to Jesus, even as Jesus promised, when He said,

17  Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19  And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. 20  “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21  I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. John 17:17-21 (NLT)

Actually, like David’s Psalm, I am enocouraging you to praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

With your voices, with your hearts, with your lives,

Praise the Lord!

Why Don’t We?

There would seem to be three things that could stop us from praising the Lord.

The first is sin, and we are reminded over and over, that sin has been dealt with at the cross.  We are reminded of that in our baptism, where we are joined with Christ’s death, that or sins would be nailed to the cross.

Ezekiel tells us of this promise

25  “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. Ezekiel 36:25 (NLT)

as does St. Paul,

6  We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. Romans 6:6 (NLT)

The Second is Satan, whose only real power is to accuse us of being sinful and evil. Again, the cross of Christ is the key to taking care of this, for there Christ defeated Satan by bearing our sins, even as the prophet Isaiah said He would.

10  Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night. Revelation 12:10 (NLT)


That passage then goes on to describe the third enemy of mankind, the last thing that could try to possibly stop us from praising God, the fear of death.

11  And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die..

That doesn’t mean we give up on living, it means that we know what we started the service with, the promise, well, let me read it again

5  Those who win the victory will be clothed like this in white, and I will not remove their names from the book of the living. In the presence of my Father and of his angels I will declare openly that they belong to me.
Revelation 3:5 (TEV)

That means that we will enter into His rest, into His glory, that we will realize what Jesus promised when He said we would be in Christ and in the Father. That means we don’t fear eternity, but we look with patient expectation to His return.

You’ve been forgive, you’ve been cleansed, you’ve been made part of the family of God.  Satan’s been defeated, and eternity in His glory is yours, for you are Christ’s

So let us hear David’s words ring out – not just as David praises, but as the encouragement to know God’s love and mercy so much….that we cannot help but

Praise the LORD!

The Transformation of Easter: Part 1 The Change to Our Church

Featured imageHow Easter is Transforming Our World!
The Change to Our Community

Acts 4:31-35

IHS

May the Grace of God our Heavenly Father and our Risen Lord Jesus strengthen you, even as it transforms us.

Change versus Transformation:

I am about to tell you something is coming, and I want your reaction to the word I use.

What is coming, what will happen to us here at Concordia is “change”.  You will not be able to resist it, you can’t stop it.  Resistance is futile.

If you are like 90 percent of the population, hearing that might make you a little anxious, or you might wonder if there is anything that can be done to stop it.

Some of you might even begin to wonder what is changing.  Some will automatically look and think of negative changes.  Some of you might be thinking of things that could change for the positive.  And what is ironic – you might be thinking of the same exact thing!

For the rest of Easter, we are going to be looking at the changes that happen to a church, matter of fact that are happening at our church.

But to alleviate the stress, the worry, the concern, how about if I use the word transformation instead?  A transformation so complete, we might not even recognize ourselves, or our church, when God is through with us!

Today’s observed transformation

In our reading from the Book of Acts this morning, we see an incredible description of the change that will, no, the change that is happening to us.

It talks there of a church, the people that trusted in God that became united in both their heart and their mind.  In every part of their existence.  They were one in the way they felt, in the ways they thought. They desired the same thing; they reacted together to what was going on, and they identified themselves, all 8000 of them or more, as sharing the same life.

Luke tells us the uniqueness of this church; they were of one heart and mind to the extent of sharing everything they had with each other.  I love the way the word pictures describe this; everything is held to be common, nothing special and set aside.

Therefore, if there were people in need, the rest of the people found a way to meet that need.  No one lacked, because how can you let your people go without?

What a transformation we see happening to the people who trusted God!  Who continually heard that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead! (wait…)

I mean, what kind of people would liquidate their wealth, to help others, people they barely know?

The Change to our Norm

If we look at what God does to his people from the perspective of “before” the cross, the change seems frightening, and the description of the early church doesn’t make sense.

Give up what is precious?  Trust people with what I treasure?  Give up my security, to make sure others feel secure?

We talked about this when we talked about the Lord’s prayer, and the idea that we trust God to provide everything we need.  It takes faith to live like this, an incredible amount of faith.

You can’t listen to the questions that would raise doubts about our fellow man.  You can’t wonder if people need, or if they will abuse the blessing, or whether someone will be there for you, when you need the help, instead of being able to provide it.

You need to reach out and trust rather than be cynical, you have to have the wisdom to discern need, and the compassion to meet the need.

Our nature, even on the good days hears this and takes it as an obligation.  That God requires us to change our hearts, to reach out with this kind of love, making the sacrifices as proof of our faith.

And if that is our belief, we shall surely fall short.  We need to change…

Our old nature that was once in bondage to sin, Satan and feared death calls for us to protect ourselves, and what we’ve earned, what is ours by right.  That leads to sin, as we struggle to get what isn’t ours, or we overlook our neighbors, and what they need.

The change is not so much in what is individually ours.  Instead, we see what is God’s, and treasure that more than anything else.

The Beauty of the transformation…

Though the vision cast here in Acts is that what it looks like financially to be of one mind, I think we’ve seen here, at Concordia, what it means to be emotionally of one mind.

Paul talked of this too, when he told the church in Rome,

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Romans 12:15-16 (NLT) 

We’ve become “of one mind” here. We share deeply in each other’s joys, the moments when someone is baptized, or when someone has good news.  We’ve shared as well in each other’s sorrows and griefs, stood beside each other in moments of grief. We’ve cried with each other often; it seems as often as we laugh together over meals we have shared. 

That is the transformation that God works in His church, in His people.  That we respond to each other.  To meet each other’s needs before thinking about ourselves.

It’s come about not by force, but rather by focusing on God’s love for us, the love seen in the cross, and reflected as we share in His body and blood. By sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It’s what happens when we look to Christ, and as Paul says in 2 Cor 3, the Holy Spirit changes us, transforms us into Christ’s image, as we reflect His glory.

This change that happens isn’t our work, just as it wasn’t the idea of the apostles.  It happens when we realize the love of God, revealed in the death of Christ for your sins, in his burial, and in the fact He is risen from the grave.

He has given us life, now and for eternity, living in the glory of His love, with one heart, with one mind.   AMEN.

For Yours is the Kingdom, the Power and The Glory: The Prayer of Easter!

For Thine IS the Kingdom,

The Power, and the Glory!

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

In Jesus Name

We need to be Reminded – 

Yesterday, as I was at a loss for words for this message, I received an email from Linda and Tom.

It opened up with these words,

“You just can’t let me forget that God is ever present in our lives.”

Then he added,   

“Don’t stop !”

As I read them, the words that we heard from another letter this morning burned even deeper in my heart

Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before.

All of us need to be reminded of the good news, that God is ever-present in our lives.

Solomon once wrote

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. 2  A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. 3  A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. 4  A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 (NLT)

The passage goes on for another 4 verses, 8 more comparisons of what we might say is a contrast between good and bad, joy and sorrow if we don’t hear how the thought ends,

11  Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

In Solomon’s time, this is true, we couldn’t father the scope of God’s work. Now, in the Gospel message, in the good news, we see the scope of God’s work as we realize the message revealed in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. We have heard this message, a message that God is ever-present in your lives.

(wait…)

I said the Lord is with YOU.

Oh! Now you remember.  As Tom wrote – don’t stop telling me this! We need to hear that God is ever-present with us. He died for our sin, was buried and rose again!

Alleluia! He is Risen!

(He is Risen indeed!)

And that means?
(we are risen indeed!  Alleluia!)

in other words
The Lord is With You!
(and also with You!)

AMEN!

The Message of Hope

Hear Paul again,

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.

Most important is actually a little weak, it is not only of prime importance, this is foundational. It is the basis for everything else in our lives.

That Christ died – not just that He died, but for you He died but that He was buried and raised from the dead, which is what we celebrate today.
Later Paul will say that if Jesus didn’t die and rise from the dead, we of all people are to be pitied more than anything else in the world.

Jesus death for our sins, Paul tells us, was told about for centuries prior to His being born. Over and over the Old Testament tells us He would die, that God would provide an offering for our sins, and proof of the depth of His love and commitment to us.

The same for His burial and resurrection, and the praises that would result, as God made sure that we knew this wasn’t haphazard, but that this previous weekend was planned before He ever created light.

Jesus would die for our sins, be buried and rise again.

We need to hear this and hear it again and again.  Without the series of events for Holy Week, we cannot hear what we need to,

That the Lord is with you!

The Witnesses

Paul wants to make sure the Corinthians know this well, so well, that they can base their lives on the Jesus’ death for our sins, on His Burial and Resurrection.

Maybe they won’t believe me, he thinks.  No problem.  I’ll refer them to other, for there are so many others who can bear witness.  Peter’s in town, they call him Cephas, he can share how important this message is.  Paul is going to go through all the eye witnesses to the physical resurrection of Jesus so that people will know.

It’s not a dream, it is not something Paul cooked up, it is something that happened, really happened. Five Hundred people witnesses it all at once, not just one hear and one there, 500 at once, and most still lived, in case people wanted to get an opinion other than Paul’s!

And Paul wants us to be assured of it, in order that our lives are based on it.

Paul’s words at the end – it doesn’t matter who tells you, the message is the same, and people like James are more than willing to die, even as they share it.  We don’t know if Paul was there when James was martyred, but we know he was when Stephen forgave him, and all those who killed him, simply because he trusted in Jesus, the one who died for Stephen’s sins, and Paul’s and yours and mine.  As he trusted in the Jesus, who was buried and rose again from the dead.

Whatever we are now!
We often talk of Christ’s death – for our sins, but there is more to the story of Easter than that.  Paul gets to that in verse 10, and what he says of himself, is true for every one of us, read the words with me,

10 But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me.

For that grace, that very same grace is yours.   It is not special to Paul but is the very blessing that God gives to everyone He calls, every person He pours His Spirit on, making them part of His church.

You see, just like if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead our lives are meaningless, so are they not the same if we don’t realize the change He is making to us because Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and Jesus is Risen!

and, therefore?

We are risen to a new life, a life lived with God, a life that we need to know God is ever-present in.  Something we can’t stop reminding each other of, even in the times where we aren’t sure that God will make these things beautiful.  Sure of that, and that being the foundation of our life, we can understand why the Paul told Hebrew Christians,

23  Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24  Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT)
That is part of the new life of Paul, to continually remind people of the gospel, that Jesus died for our sins, that He was buried, and that Praise God with everything in us, for He has risen!

And that means….

Why we end our prayer with praise

48 days ago, on Ash Wednesday, we began a look at the Lord’s prayer.  We finished the requests on Friday, as we realized that at the cross Jesus delivered us from evil and answered every request.

Which leaves only this to finish that journey today, as we celebrate our life with God.

Let us pray,

Our Father, Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, forever and ever. AMEN!

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