Blog Archives

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!

Is Easter Wasted? Was His Death and Resurrection Meaningless?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
Featured image8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. 9  But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. 10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make a liar out of God, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10 (TEV)

3  I passed on to you what I received, which is of the greatest importance: that Christ died for our sins, as written in the Scriptures; 4  that he was buried and that he was raised to life three days later, as written in the Scriptures; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (TEV)

142    Domine!—“Lord!” Si vis, potes me mundare.—“If you will, you can make me clean.” What a beautiful prayer for you to say often, with the faith of the poor leper, when there happens to you what God and you and I know may happen. You won’t have to wait long to hear the Master’s reply: Volo, mundare!—“I will! Be made clean!”  (1)

Yesterday, after seeing all the “He is Risen” memes and comments in my e-mail and on FB and Twitter, I tweeted a question:

“I keep reading; He is risen! But few share the reason that is good news. Because Jesus rose, we will share in not only His death but rise 2.”

You see, if the death, burial and resurrection has no specific meaning to you; for you it is wasted.  For you it simply becomes a historical matter, something to discuss and create papers and blogs and podcasts debating.  But all of that effort is a waste of time, if there is nothing that is gained (or lost ) at that moment when Jesus dies, and rises from the dead.

“He is risen!  Alleluia!”  We cry this, yet there must be more to that praise.

Look again at the reason Christ dies, he dies for our sin! 

Those amazing words come flying out at us. He dies to take on our sin, to be beaten for our iniquities Isaiah tells us.

Don’t bother denying it, God already had John take care of that issue.  If you didn’t sin, you are calling God a liar.  Even worse, by saying it, you’ve sin against God again!  Everyone has sinned, Pope Francis, Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther, St. Peter, St Paul, Abraham, Issac, Israel, you and I.

Yesterday I had a great conversation after church, about the tension between logic and faith.  One of the things discussed was the reliability of faith in God.  The problem is that neither logic nor faith are things able to be proven; they are things to be used.  I gave the following illustration, getting to people to discuss why the glass is either half full or half empty.  While they were discussing this, I took the glass and drained its contents.  “You see,” I said, “you can talk all you want about the glass, but its purpose is to provide a way to drink the liquid we desire.”  (Well it was only water, and I desired something different, but you get the picture)

So it is with faith (and logic)  They are things we exercise, the foundational blocks by which we view and live in the world.  They need to grow in focus; They need to be challenged and refined.  But if faith isn’t used, if logic isn’t applied, it becomes useless, a distraction.

The same thing with the death for our sins, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  It is a nice hobby to have to create philosophical, apologetic and theological treatises about, but that is not why Christ died,

He died so that your sin and mine, would be erased!  That like the man with leprosy, we would be sure of God’s desire to cleanse us, and the fact He has.  To do so took the blood of Christ Jesus, but it did the job perfectly. With Christ’s resurrection, that sin we would deny, no longer needs to be denied, hidden, repressed. We don’t have to call God a liar, or be separated from Him.  He is here…with us, comforting us of our brokenness.

That is something to praise Him for, to shout of His glory and mercy to all the world.

or as we say at my parish,

Pastor;  Alleluia!  He is Risen!

People:  He is Risen indeed1

Pastor:  What does this mean?t?

People:  We too are Risen!  Alleluia!

AMEN

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 463-466). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

He is Risen! therefore We Recognize the Lord!

Alleluia! He is Risen! And ThereforeMy Church's Building - our goal - to see it restored and filled with people who find healing in Christ Jesus, while helping others heal

     We Recognize the Lord!

Luke 24:13-25

May you become more aware of the grace of God that is yours, the love and mercy revealed in Christ Jesus!

Why didn’t He Reveal Himself Sooner?

Two men, walking down the road together, trying to get home for dinner.

Distraught, emotions all over the place as they try to make sense of Jesus’s death. Emotionally drained, they desperately need rest.

Even as Jesus begins to walk with them, He will comment about the deep discussion they are having, which leads me to one question.

Why does He wait so long to reveal Himself to them?  Why?

Or is there a lesson for us, in how Jesus ministers to these men, who are crushed and broken

including perhaps, realizing how God ministers to us?

Our Struggle to Hear God!

It seems sometimes, like everyone has gone, or is going through a walk like these men.

You don’t even have to hear their voices, to hear the stress, the anxiety, the despair as they speak.

The Man they thought was the answer not to just their dreams, but the dreams of a nation.  The Messiah, the long awaited anointed one of God, who was to deliver them to change their lives, to fix everything, from their economy to their families.

They had the kind of dreams that we see in one of those California Lottery commercials, as the winner dreams of the new yacht, the chaffered limousine, the mansion up on the hill with the heliport.

Except, the odds of Jesus being the Messiah were about a trillion to one better than the lottery. You see, as they informed “undercover Jesus”, they had based their hopes on the fact that Jesus had done miracles, and had talked with great authority.   That He was a leader, confirmed not only by people, but by God himself.  Blind could see, people who never walked, completely healed, those who had been dead, raised to life.  Even the Samaritans and Gentiles knew hope because of Jesus.  It had to be him.

They knew that Jesus spoke for God.

Then, they killed him.

If that isn’t a reason to put your trust in Him, to look for Him to fulfil the promises that were so well known, the promises they heard about in their synagogues ever Sabbath all their lives…

Those hopes, those expectations, everything they know about the Messiah, were crushed.  Everything they had hoped for, taken away in a few hours on Friday…

So why didn’t Jesus relieve their suffering, calm their storm by simply revealing His presence?

Yet God hid himself, even though they saw Jesus, they didn’t know Him….

Who Are These Two That Hear the Whole Story?
Beyond that question, I have another question about these two men, walking so defeated, so overwhelmed on the road to Emmaus.  Why them?  Why do they get to hear Jesus explain they entire Old Testament?

Shouldn’t it be Matthew or John? They will be writing the Gospels…

Shouldn’t it be Peter and James?  Why aren’t the leaders of the apostles

Why Cleopas and some guy we don’t even know the name of?

 

Why did Jesus choose to minister to these two?  Having chosen them, why didn’t He reveal Himself sooner?  Why did Jesus deliver to them a lecture about the Old Testament, instead of simply revealing Himself so that their pain would cease?

The Story Reveals

When we hear, that over several hours as they walk, Jesus explained that everything from the first five books of the Bible that Moses wrote, through all of the prophets, we have to hear the conclusion that is drawn.  Look there in verse 27, the things concerning Him. Jesus explains that the Bible is all about Him.  That is what it reveals, or rather, who it reveals.

In this way the Lord shows us the proper method of interpreting Moses and all the prophets. He teaches us that Moses points and refers to Christ in all his stories and illustrations. His purpose is to show that Christ is the point at the center of a circle, with all eyes inside the circle focused on Him. Whoever turns his eyes on Him finds his proper place in the circle of which Christ is the center. All the stories of Holy Writ, if viewed aright, point to Christ.
What these men needed to know, was that Christ’s death was from the beginning, the plan.  Jesus had to suffer, Jesus explains, it needed to be done.  Over and over that was the plan revealed in the Old Testament.  The word of God, the Old Testament Covenant promises, the Old Testament pictures of Christ like Isaac on the altar, the sacrificial system, the picture of the tabernacle and the temple and the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea….

They needed Jesus to be revealed to them, and He was. Not the way we would expect at first.  Rather, they learned that God had planned, from before the foundation of the world, to have Christ suffer and die.  It was necessary, it wasn’t a detour, but the very way in which we are saved.  They needed to understand this, so that they understand the depth of the love of God for His people.
Jesus taught them, He revealed Himself to them, without revealing Himself to them.

They couldn’t let Jesus leave.  Not that they realized there was one revelation left that had to happen to them.

He Reveals Himself

That is where the most miraculous moment for these two men, and for all of us like them occurs.

Thanks is given, bread is broken, and even as they lose sight of Jesus, yet they finally know Him.

They realize He is with them, and all of the hopes and all of the blessings come flooding back.  These men, moments before, weary, tired and broken, know Him in the breaking of the bread.   The presence of Jesus overwhelms them, even as it gives them the strength to climb back up the mountain to return to the apostles.  We aren’t talking about a hike from here to the Towne Center – we are talking about walking from here to Disneyland – if Disneyland was uphill.

Why didn’t Jesus reveal himself earlier?

I don’t know.  What I do know is that when He did reveal himself, it was the perfect time, they had heard, they knew of His love. They got it, and their life was forever changed.  Even as they confirm what the others had seen, had known, what matters in that moment, was Jesus appearing, and how they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.

for us.

Why don’t we see God all the time?  Why do we have to walk these roads, knowing the despair? Knowing the pain, and wondering, “where is God in all of this?”

I don’t know. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt He is here, with His people.  But I don’t know why sometimes we walk that same road, not hearing the testimony of those we would normally trust.

I do know that we have all the same promises that God will redeem His people. We can know Christ through the pictures of Him that are drawn all over the Old Testament, We can hear all the prophecies and know that God has never, and will never abandon His people.  We know He walks with us, even if we aren’t always aware of His presence.

We can recognize His presence, here and now, even in the breaking of the bread.

Knowing those promises, that God will use even what was planned for evil for good, that nothing can separate us from Him, that all will work for good, and that He will complete the work He began in us, we taste and see He is good.  Our eyes are opened to His presence. We are 21 days out from Easter, yet the season continues. We know He is Risen – just as we have learned this has been His plan…. But because He is risen, we can recognize Him, we can know Him, and rest assured of His love and work that we shall know His peace, even now throughout all eternity.
A peace that goes beyond our understanding – but guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN?
AMEN!

What is the Meaning of Easter, of Christ’s Resurrection?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! 18  Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:17-20 (NLT)

10  For all of us must appear before Christ, to be judged by him. We will each receive what we deserve, according to everything we have done, good or bad, in our bodily life. 11  We know what it means to fear the Lord, and so we try to persuade others. God knows us completely, and I hope that in your hearts you know me as well. 12  We are not trying again to recommend ourselves to you; rather, we are trying to give you a good reason to be proud of us, so that you will be able to answer those who boast about people’s appearance and not about their character. 13  Are we really insane? It is for God’s sake. Or are we sane? Then it is for your sake. 14  We are ruled by the love of Christ, now that we recognize that one man died for everyone, which means that they all share in his death. 15  He died for all, so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but only for him who died and was raised to life for their sake. 16  No longer, then, do we judge anyone by human standards. Even if at one time we judged Christ according to human standards, we no longer do so. 17  Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:10-17 (TEV)

As we prepare for our ministry , let us ask for the grace to be men and women of faith, evangelizers of the faith we have received. Let us hope that in these exercises the Lord will make us understand and realize that evangelization “is not an optional contribution for the Church.… This message is something necessary. It is unique. It cannot be replaced. It does not permit either indifference, syncretism, or accommodation. It is a question of people’s salvation . It is the beauty of the Revelation that it represents. It brings with it a wisdom that is not of this world. It is able to stir up by itself faith— faith that rests on the power of God (cf. 1 Cor 2: 4-5).” Let us be fully aware that it requires that we, as apostles, “consecrate to it all [our] time and all [our] energies, and … sacrifice for it, if necessary, our own lives”  (1)

Coming our of our time of Lent there seemed a direction that our 50 days of Easter needed to take.  Apparently, my congregation is not the only church needing to do this, my earlier -reblog of Bishop William Willimon is similar to it, as are the words from Pope Francis above.   (Gee, can a Methodist Bishop, a Pope, and a Lutheran pastor agree on something?

There is a need for us to understand Easter.  Not just understanding that Easter is about Jesus and His resurrection and not about chocolate bunnies with their ears nibbled off, or about those eggs you hid three weeks ago finally being found.  There are enough blogs that at least try to being some religious focus to Easter.  It’s not just about the cross and the empty tomb as past events.  Or the fun stories about Thomas or Peter.

Easter has to be about salvation, ours, our neighbors, our families, our friends, and yes even our enemies.

Jesus did rise from the dead to make sure there was a holiday to plan spring break for, or to create a few pages in history books, and a few more in theological primers.  He died and rose in order that each of us could know that because He is risen, we have risen with Him.  That those who struggle with sin, and so many of the ways it complicates life would know they are forgiven as well.  That this news radically changes their lives. changes our lives.

Do we, as Willimon asked in his letter,believe in eternal life as we say we do in our creeds?

If so, are we so callous that we would want people to remain ignorant of His love that makes this possible?  Or will we love, even as God loves us?

Tough questions…..

Lord Have Mercy on Us!

(1)  Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (p. 33). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.

 

Resurrection: Getting What God Wants

These words that Will Willimon writes are as applicable for Lutherans as for Methodists.

Do we believe the promises of the third article of the Apostles and Nicene Creed?  Do we realize that Easter is about, not just the forgiveness of sins, but our resurrection and the life of the world to come?

Or does somehow that take a back seat in our lives, and in our ministry?

Because We Were Raised From the Dead with Jesus, We Dwell in Peace

Alleluia! He is Risen! And ThereforeWill new camera 12 2008 167

We Have Risen and Live Joyfully in His Peace!

John 20:19-31

In Jesus Name

May the God’s desire to make us His own, proven to us through the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, be revealed more and more and therefore may we live in His peace!

The 371 picture….

One day driving up the mountain to Anza, I took what has become the best photo I have ever taken.  It is there on your prayer insert/sermon notes.  There has been nothing done to the picture, there was a fierce and I mean fierce mountain storm that was coming over Thomas Mountain and Mount San Jacinto.

Yet this tree stood as a beacon, the sun breaking through the clouds so gloriously lighting up the tree as if the tree itself was glowing. It stood, unaffected by the storm, unaffected by the clouds.

Completely at peace….

I have so longed to be like that tree – able to withstand the threat of any storm in life. To be able to dwell in God’s glory, to be able to reflect it like that tree, even in the face of such overwhelming storms.  Yet that is not to be….

As I looked at the picture yesterday, it reminded me of the upper room, the storms that threatened the disciples, that raised their anxiety levels to their maximum.  Enough that doors were shut, people weren’t allowed in, as they mourned, as they grieved, as they struggled.

In the midst of their storm… Jesus was revealed in their presence.  Jesus the crucified one, Jesus the Passover sacrifice, Jesus who had been born of Mary, who had taught, who had healed.

Jesus, who was no longer dead, whose glorious resurrection was revealed by His presence! The relationship they had was not over, it had become even more glorious, as they realized, Praise God, He is Risen!  (He is risen Indeed, Alleluia1)

And therefore…. (we have risen Indeed! )

Like the tree in the picture calls our attention, so too He calls our attention, our presence for in His presence we know His peace.

How often must we hear these words?

Jesus appears in the presence, like the tree appears along the side of the road, and the words resound, “Peace be with you!”  Even as their hearts were so flooded with joy that the anxiety was drowned, the words would resound again – “Peace be with you!”

We need to understand that blessing, and its equivalents, “fear not”, and “the Lord is with you!”  We need to hear them, to understand them.  We need to taste them, digest them, to bring them into the very core of who we are.

The problem is that these words can become the church equivalent of “How are you doing?” with the quick response of “And also with you” or “with your spirit”.  We too often reduce a powerful blessing to a greeting and polite response.

Why is that a problem?

We need peace.  Satan would rob us of it constantly. He does it through encouraging our sin, and the shame and guilt it will cause.  He does it through the sins others commit against us, as we allow the resentment to build, as we try to justify our sinful responses.  Satan would use grief and despair as well, even as he did with Thomas.

It can be so easy to take Thomas’ position, to cry out Lord, unless I see you, unless I know you are there, I won’t give up my doubt, or my anxiety, or my pain.  I won’t let you deal with it.

And then, when someone tells us, as we shall moments from now, “God’s peace is with you,” we quickly answer back – even mumble back a suitable response.

My friends, we can’t do that anymore.  We need to hear those words, we need to know as we approach this altar that God will take those anxieties, those pains, the guilt, shame and resentment away from us.

An example of Christ’s ministry

That is exactly how Jesus dealt with Thomas….

“Peace be with you!” He exclaims to the room again, not just for Thomas, but for all of the brothers.

Thomas, you needed these hands?  I am here, in the flesh.  My side? I will offer it to you, the side from which my blood poured. Now, can you live in peace?

I think we read this passage sometimes, without seeing Jesus’ love for Thomas, We want to hear Jesus’s words without compassion, simply going, okay Thomas, here you go.  Now get back to work.

But Jesus knows him, knows his brokenness, knows how much Thomas wants to believe.  He made Thomas, he walked with him for years.

This is the same God who inspired Solomon at the dedication of the temple, to pray,

32  And don’t forget the foreigner who is not a member of your people Israel but has come from a far country because of your reputation—people are going to be attracted here by your great reputation, your wonderworking power—and who come to pray to this Temple. 33 Listen from your home in heaven and honor the prayers of the foreigner, So that people all over the world will know who you are and what you’re like, And live in reverent obedience before you, just as your own people Israel do, So they’ll know that you personally make this Temple that I’ve built what it is.  2 Chronicles 6:32-33 (MSG)

That’s the God who answered Thomas, the Lord who would listen to prayers of people who aren’t even His… as far as they know.  Who would gather them, and encourage them to pray to Him.

Thomas, being ministered to by a Jesus who was real, found the peace he needed to believe.  To declare that Jesus was his master, the One who was in charge of His life! And His benevolent, merciful loving God….

In other words, He knew peace.

What can you do, knowing that peace?

But Jesus didn’t leave the apostles just in that place of peace.  He wanted them to take that peace out of the upper room, even as he wants us to take it outside the walls of this church, and off this property.  Even as the Father in heaven sent Jesus to bring us that peace, we now have to take that peace to the world.

Impossible?  Not if we realize that God is with us. That the Holy Spirit, breathed out on the 10 in the upper room was given to us at our baptism.

How?  In the mercy displayed as we forgive sins, even as we know our sin are forgiven. That peace is found there.  Nothing new about this – for while God answered prayers of those foreigners, Solomon also noted the prayers of the people of God.

18  Can it be that God will actually move into our neighborhood? Why, the cosmos itself isn’t large enough to give you breathing room, let alone this Temple I’ve built. 19  Even so, I’m bold to ask: Pay attention to these my prayers, both intercessory and personal, O GOD, my God. Listen to my prayers, energetic and devout, that I’m setting before you right now. 20  Keep your eyes open to this Temple day and night, this place you promised to dignify with your Name. And listen to the prayers that I pray in this place. 21  And listen to your people Israel when they pray at this place. Listen from your home in heaven and when you hear, forgive. 2 Chronicles 6:18-21 (MSG)

Sound familiar?

That is what Jesus authorized the apostles to preach – the forgiveness of sins, the freedom given in our baptism.  Whatever you forgive here… is forgiven….

These are the words heard in a few moments, the blood of the New Testament, shed for the forgiveness of sin.  And as you take and eat, and take and drink, what is the blessing the end of communion?  Until we are before His throne in glory, know you dwell in His peace…..

Be at peace, all sin, every sin committed against you is forgiven. Go and share that peace, the peace we know because sin was dealt with at the cross, and while it cannot rise, we know this.

Alleluia!  He is Risen!  (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

and therefore?

(We are risen indeed! Alleluia!)

AMEN

Moving From Religious Superstition to Religious Faith: Easter and the 666th blog post

Devotional Thought of the Day:photo(35)

12  My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. 13  The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. 14  And you are my friends if you do what I command you. 15  I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16  You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17  This, then, is what I command you: love one another. John 15:12-17 (TEV)

100 I am not the apostle I should be. I am… too timid. Could it not be that you are fainthearted, because your love is small? It is time to change! (1)

Yesterday my blog post was the 666th post on this blog.  It happened to be my Easter Sunday sermon, an odd “coincidence.”

I posed the question on Facebook, about whether I should post a Easter Sermon with post #666, or just post a blank post there.  As I noted in the question, I had already decided my response to the oddity, but I thought posing the question would make for a good learning experience. One of my friends, a devout atheist (and I use “devout” purposefully) indicated I shouldn’t, as did one other.  Some of the others encouraged, even dared me too, two noting that superstition should have no place in the consideration.  A response, which seemed with such certainty, such fervor, that it almost seemed counter-superstitious.  I must, some seem to assert, post it to prove that superstition had no hold over me.  That almost seems superstitious!

I asked the question, partially from curiosity, and partially because it resonated with my sermon.  The sermon was a discussion about faith in God, about trusting in Him, and worshiping Him, and no other gods.  To revel, to find great joy and peace that we are encrypted, hidden with Christ in God; even as we walk our journeys in this world with Christ.  To keep our eyes on Christ in the heavenly places, to know His work redeeming us is done, yet He continues to work within us, as the Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ,

The image of love.  Bringing us to the point where we truly begin to love one another, including those whom we struggle with, not just being challenged to love them, but even to like them. To realize that this is possible, as we look to Christ, as we keep our minds on heavenly things, to trust God with everything we are, to turn to Him, not only when the burdens overwhelm us, but even in the simple things.  As a simple bread making monk once put it, we need to practice the presence of God.  To be so confident of His love, that all other things are dealt with, while residing in His love, while residing in His peace.

That is when we see that everything has a spiritual component, Making bread, talking to our neighbors, working, being a husband, a father.  Whatever the place where God has guided us to, whatever role, becomes a place of love, for He is there with us.

It is this kind of growth, this need to depend on God, and the confidence that grows in His presence, that leads us from a form of “religious superstition” to a “religious faith”.  That means we know we don’t have to be anxious about 666 or making sure our actions and thoughts conform to some man-made expectation, some man-made ritual,  Because we know, intimately know, God’s heart, we know He secures our salvation, that He is our Hope, and our Way.  That Easter provides for us a remembrance on the depth of His love, the insight to how we live, as we trust in Him above all things.  As we realize He is God, and therefore we don’t have to be.   We can count on Him to be our deliverer, our savior, the One who is our master, our protector.

Where we live in awe of His love, not in superstitious fear.

A relationship, where His faithfulness assures us of what we need, to be able to live freely, to love. Rather that being paranoid about every move we make….

Lord, we trust in You, help us to trust You!

AMEN

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 628-630). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

With Christ, We’ve Been Raised to New Life!

Treasuring God’s Gifts:
You’ve Been Raised to New Life!  
So Set Your Eyes on God Alone

Exodus 6:1-6, Col. 3:1-4

In Jesus Name

As we think about the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, because we know of the Grace of God our Father, may we realize it is our resurrection as well, and knowing that, may we live life focused on Him.

 

Jesus is the Way….

One of the things I am in awe of, is the way in which Jesus deals with those who doubt, especially those who are bluntly, like the Apostle Thomas.  With one exception, Thomas is always pictured as the one who doubts, the one who struggles with his faith in God.

Each time we see Thomas struggling, Jesus turns it into a moment to minister to Thomas, to strengthen Thomas, to build his confidence that God is at work. Because the gospels record the words of some of these circumstances, Jesus ministers to us as well. One of those stories is seen in John’s gospel, chapter 14.

Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6  Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.     John 14:5-6 (NLT)

We talk about those words a lot, or at least we quote them, usually in regards to conversations about providing that Jesus is the only way to the Father.  Or that it is “His way or the Highway”.    Today though, we are going, in view of His death and resurrection, we are going to see that this is literally true, and not just figuratively….

That Paul’s words to the church in Colossians, and the words recorded by Moses in Exodus, are talking about this very thing.

That because Jesus is the way, because we’ve been raised to new life in Him

The Decalog –

The LAW I’ve Rescued you, I am God – No other God’s

We’ve been travelling through the decalog, through what we commonly call the Ten Commandments since Ash Wednesday.  As we’ve gone through each, we’ve realize that God didn’t give the commandments to restrict our lives, but to show us how we live life in Him, a life God considers and makes a masterpiece.

We finally get to the beginning, to the core of the message, to the one that resonates with the fact that jesus is “the Way.”  The first word that we usually hear as, “THOU SHALT NOT HAVE ANY OTHER GODS BEFORE ME.

We always hear it with a deep rumbly voice reminiscent of James Earl Jones, or maybe Darth Vader, going onto describe all the ways in which we create false gods, all the ways we create idols, and worship the things which we create.

Luther was correct in talking about the close connection between worshipping these idols, these false gods, and our putting our trust in them.  For surely he points out – that is what an idol is, what we primarily trust with our lives.  We put our trust in all sorts of things to bless us, to bring us peace, to protect us, to prosper us.

An idol is what we run to first in times of trial, it is where we find the support we need to keep on going, that which is bigger than us, even if we have to lie to self and say we can do it on our own.

We may not make our idols out of wood or clay or stone any longer, but that doesn’t make them any more reliable.  The are the things that run our lives, that we give power over us, that convince us that we will make it, that we shall survive this and that we might even prosper

Money can be our God, or some possession. Perhaps a relationship, or even a vision of what our life should be like and what it takes to serve that vision.  Paul touches on it, when he tells the church folk in Colossae to set their sight on Heaven, on God’s reality.  For idols grab out attention, they put a lockdown, a stranglehold on our hearts and minds.  These things cause envy, they division, they cause pain and unfaithfulness, they wreck out relationships, they cause us to distrust and dishonor authorities, they rob us of rest, and distract us on calling God for help.

Idolatry, having these other gods, including the god of self, lies at the heart of every other sin we have to deal with in our lives. Idols can obscure and attempt to destroy the masterpiece God has planned for our lives.

        You don’t need any other God:  I AM HE

No wonder he says, “Have no other gods,”

He doesn’t want us damaged by them, when they prove to be not our creator, but our creations.  God wants more than just well-behaved people who hide their brokenness.  He wants His kids, even if that means cleaning up their mess at the cost of Jesus.

Remember when I said the commandment was far more than just the “Have no other gods?”

The first word, the first “commandment” starts with the bold text in verse 2 of Exodus 20.

 

2  I am GOD, your God, who saved you out of the land of Egypt, out of a life of slavery. 3  No other gods, only me.

Eqypt, the land of 1000 gods, the land where even the King, the Pharoah was considered a god.  We’d never do that, would we? Egypt, the land of idols, and idolatry.

The land of sin.

What is your Egypt?  What is the earthly place where sin rules, where temptation gets you, where life isn’t truly living, because you live in captivity.  What is it that in dieing and rising Jesus you’ve been rescued from?

He has rescued us, it has happened, He has sent Jesus to die, not just to pay for the sins which divide us from Him, but because as we are united to Him, in His death and resurrection, we are united to God and brought into the presence of God.

That is why Paul tells us we are hidden with Jesus Christ and therefore in God. I love the Greek there – the word hidden is the word we get encrypted, We are guarded protected, and even all of the hackers in the world can’t corrupt what God’s given us.

That is why we set our eyes on heavenly things – because that is where we are in Christ – that is where life is, where reality is.  We are the children of God, raised with Christ Jesus, just as our sin was put to death with Him at the cross.  We trust Him at His promise, we know that what we deal with here is simply temporary, but reality is lived united to Christ.  Saved from the idols, sure, but raised to live in the presence of God Almighty

We have no other go because we don’t need one… we have the God who came to us, made himself known to us.
You, revealed with Hm in Glory!

        Because of the cross and resurrection

Jesus is not just a way, He didn’t set us on the way, but He is the way we get to the Father. We get to the Father because we are united to Him, and travel with Him through His death and resurrection.  in Him we encounter the holiness of God, the glory of God.

That is why this day, as we celebrate the fact that God has raised Jesus is so critical.  In Him we died to sin, in Him we have been raised to life.  The resurrection is more than just history,  because we find life in Christ. United to Him we are brought to the Father… where we are revealed to be the very children of God…where we find ourselves being healed of our brokenness.

That’s the promise of our lives, it has been since our baptism.

He is our way, our truth and our life…. And because of that, Paul can tell us

4  And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.Colossians 3:4 (NLT)

All His glory, revealed as the place where we shall be, for this is what we’ve been promised, it is why we are hidden and protected, encrypted in Christ.

So look to Him, keep focused on God, know Him, trust these promise of God.  For there is His indescribable glory, we find His indescribable peace, a peace that keeps us there… for we are encrypted, hidden in Christ.

For Alleluia, He is risen

And therefore….we are risen indeed!

 

 

 

Did Jesus Rest on this Sabbath?

Devotional Thought of the Day:The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God.  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

18  For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. 19  In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, 20  who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. 21   This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22  who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him. 1 Peter 3:18-22 (NAB)

“Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell: The third day he rose again from the dead:”  (1)

A conversation yesterday, between Good Friday Services, brought up the issue of what Jesus was doing, in the time between His death on the cross, and the Resurrection.

The people I was in dialogue with said he simply rested in the grave. They were using this to “prove” that everyone should worship on the Sabbath, during the time between Sunset on Friday, and Sunset on Saturday.

It brought up memories of my childhood, sitting in the pews at St. Francis in Lawrence, or St. Joes in Salem, and wondering about the line in the Apostle’s Creed above.

Why did Jesus have to descend to Hell?  Wasn’t the suffering and death on the cross enough?

It bothered me greatly, and those I asked about it, had no answer. Which bothered me a little more.  Would the Father let Jesus go to Hell, to suffer there for our sins? Why did He have to go?

I am not sure when I came across the verses in Peter’s epistle above, but they seem to settle the issue.  Jesus didn’t go to Hell to suffer, but to preach, to proclaim the love of God, that He would die for the sin of the world.  All sin. That those who trust in Him as their God, would know His salvation.  it is not quite a victory parade, though it is to declare victory.  And the gates of Hell cannot prevent it, Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One of God.   He was sent, apostle’d to deliver to the Father, those who have, would, will become the children of God

The words about baptism are not remiss therefore, for it is in Baptism that we are united with the death of Christ, and with His Resurrection.  Glorious events, worthy of praise, (yes the cross is glorious) for they show the depth of God’s love for us.  Love that wouldn’t even let those imprisoned by sin not know of His love, of His grace.  It is what takes those dead in sin, and makes them alive in Christ Jesus.

Which brings us back to the Sabbath, and the purpose of it.

It’s not about not working, for surely God is continually at work, sustaining the universe.  And those of us, who preach, who lead worship, who do a myriad of things on Sunday (or Saturday – Romans tells us we have this Freedom) certainly are at work in the House of God.    The Sabbath is about priority, teaching us to rest – not just from labor, but to rest in the presence of God.  To be in awe of His love, to be aware of the depth of His love, that will even descend into hell to deliver the children of God to their home… with Him.  That is why Paul says the sabbath is simply a foreshadowing of Christ, for it is in Him we truly find rest.

Even on a Saturday, while we prepare to celebrate the resurrection… Even here, the Lord of the Sabbath reigns, and because He does, we know we dwell in the Father’s peace, an indescribable peace, a peace that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
AMEN.

 

(1)  The Apostles Creed

Christmas Day Sermon – He IS RISEN

 He is Risen Indeed!

John 1:1-14

 

May we know the joy that is our because of Christ’s Birth, Death, Resurrection and Ascension as we look forward to His coming again

 

† IHS †

 

Pastor Parker Parable;  Christmas is like Opening the batteries first.

It’s time for another Pastor Parker Parable!

Christmas is like opening the batteries first on Christmas Eve.

Obviously, I need to explain.  Back when I was a child, it seemed to happen every year,  Not sure whether by design or simply a coincidence, I would always get the package with the batteries in it among my first packages – right up there with the life-saver books and the socks.

You knew something special was coming, but what it is…. You had no clue.

As I think about it – it must have been by design, for whatever the batteries went to, was the last present you opened that year.  One year that I remember, it was cassette recorder, another year, walkie-talkies, one year, it was a battery operated trainset.

But you had to wait, but the batteries were as sign of something even more awesome to come.

Christmas is like that…

It’s a glorious sign that there is more to come…

We look at we know something more is coming…

I always have a slight chuckle when I hear that Christmas is someone’s favorite holiday.  Usually because I know that when I ask why, the answers might not have anything to do with Jesus, or at best they will be what I call the “fringe benefits” of Christmas.  The gift giving, the family – all at peace for once, the decorations and bright lights.  The music, the movies,  the traditions.

Comparing that to my favorite Christian holiday seems bleak, because I like to celebrate Good Friday!  It is my favorite, it is special because even as we do it, I am reminded that my sin was nailed to that rough old cross. That my brokenness is overwhelmed by God’s desire to fix what is broken, whether it is the relationship with one of my brother or my cousins, (usually because of their breaking my Christmas presents!)

It does seem a bit odd to like the holiday where Christ was crucified more than the one celebrating His birth, until we look at Christmas happening so Christ could be crucified, and then those words we love to hear – Alleluia!  He has risen!

But what the present is, the glory that we are invited to share with Christ, that is the present, the reason for His coming, the point at which we find out how deep His love, and the Father’s love is for us.

Christmas – it’s what causes us to look forward to Good Friday and Easter, the greatest presents of all, as we find ourselves united to Christ, and sharing in His glory!  AMEN?

Christmas is like the batteries, but the present is seen at the cross, when His love for us is made manifest.


We beheld His glory… not at His birth, but at His death and Resurrection.

In our gospel this morning, we heard of it all, we hear of the creation, of Jesus prior to birth, but then we hear this, the reason that Christmas is Christmas,

10  He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11  He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12  But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13  They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. John 1:10-13 (NLT)

John will go on to say – and we beheld His glory….the glory of God’s only begotten son, the son who came to us, that we could be His sons and daughters, the glory of the one who not only died to make that so, but is risen.

So know this – this one we worship – who is pictured here in this manger, Alleluia, He is Risen… and Alleluia He is with us. AMEN!

%d bloggers like this: