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Take My Life! What Does that Mean? A sermon on 1 Kings 19:1-8

Take My Life! What Does that Mean?
1 Kings 19:1-8

I.H.S.


May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to joyously invite God to take your life and let it be dedicated to Him!

100 years…. A lesson

Church experts, both in Lutheran circles and in other denominations, talk about church life cycles. There is a bit of evidence for this, at least statistically.

Simple theory, the first ten years, the church grows and explodes. The second ten years, it keeps on the trajectory, growing developing programs. In the third ten years, it slows down and loses momentum, and in the last ten, it plummets towards death and closing.

One of the guys who came up with this theory noted that exceptional churches didn’t splash down….they didn’t die.

They simply see God at work still, the God who takes their life. They see God consecrating them as the Holy Spirit making them holy, setting them apart as they dwell with Christ.

That’s how the churches that last 100 years last! They are re-focused on the work of Christ in their midst! They rejoice in the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells in them, the  Spirit whose indwelling is the promise of their baptism. The promise that is celebrated as they break the Bread and drink what Christ has provided!

And they live in that joy, loving God who loves them, and with Him, loving their communities, as they teach them all about Jesus.

In the words of the hymn, Jesus takes their life and consecrates it.

When do we pray for God to take our life?

In the reading this morning from 1 Kings, Elijah tries to give God his life.

Hear his words again,

4  But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 1 Kings 19:4 (ESV)

There are two problems with this, and it is not that he journeyed to Palmdale. 😊

We face both problems, temptations that, if acted upon, result in sin.

The first is asking God to take his life, not from trusting God to do something with it, but from despair.

Basically, he thought it was time to end it all, and we get there at times. As individuals and as churches, we can get to the point where it seems the work is more than we can deal with, that the investment of our time, our hearts, and energy is not there.

And I bet over the last 100 years, there have been times when people in this church felt that way!

“Lord, we’ve been faithful, we’ve supported our school, we’ve bought the new hymnals, we’ve volunteered for the choir, or we’ve held board positions. The church isn’t what it was 30 years ago, or even before COVID struck.”

And so we doubt what God has in mind for this church – that He’s not revealed yet! Elijah was so focused on his energy into the ministry that he failed to see what God was doing through him.

He was relying all on his own power and reason….

And we’ve done the same thing on occasion.

The second error he made is found in these words,

“for I am no better than my fathers.”

While Elijah’s life led him to think he was done because he didn’t have anything left in the tank, the second, deeper sin crept in. He forgot the call on his life and the work that God made. By saying he was not better, he forgot what God was not doing through him but in him.

He was different from his father’s, at least the ones who died in rebellion and sin.

He walked with God, and God guided his way and empowered the victories he had experienced and would experience. His life had been taken and consecrated to God.

Just as God will do so here, in this place…

But we have to see how God ministered to Elijah.

We have to see how God would take his life and consecrate it to him.

How did God consecrate Elijah’s life

We need to see this work of God in Elijah’s life, and then we can see it in ours. For it is the sweet message of the gospel that helps us heal from our sins, the sins of not depending on God for strength, and that of doubting God’s work within us as if God could not consecrate and make us holy.

It happens as a messenger from God came to Elijah, hear again of the words of scripture,

And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 1 Kings 19:5 (ESV)

He looked – and there was the provision of God for him – enough to get him through the day…

Something to eat, something to drink – provided for him by God, and the messenger simply drew his attention to it. This is what scripture says happened next….

And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7  And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8  And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. 1 Kings 19:6-8 (ESV)

The journey was too incredible, the messenger said so – so he would eat and drink again. He would then travel to Horeb – to find God and speak with Him, before taking on more tasks.

But there is our lesson – to realize that there are times when we forget what God does through us because we forgot what God does in us.

He takes our lives and melds them to Jesus’s death and resurrection in baptism, recreating us and making us new by the power of His word, for He promised this.

And then He brings us back to remember that, every time we look and rise, take the Bread, and the wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus, given and broken for us.

This is where you will find God taking your lives, the lives of the school children here, and the lives of this community and consecrating them for another 100 years.

This is where you will see that consecration’s impact in this life, as God drives us to others who are broken, to invite them to share in this mystery God blesses us within Christ.

The Apostle Paul explained it this way,

27  To them, God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28  Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. Colossians 1:27-28 (ESV)

This is why the Grace Lutheran Church of Lancaster has endured 100 years of heat, good times, and trying times… and what it will do if it endures another 200…

To declare to the people who are in this sanctuary, to the children who sit in those classrooms, to work with the other churches to make it known in this valley, the glory of this mystery;

Christ, who was born of Mary, suffered under Pontus Pilate, was crucified, died, was buried and rose again, and did so to bring you to God the father.

The Spirit united you to Him in Baptism. We celebrate this together, as we arise and eat and drink.. looking forward to the day we will eat at the Wedding feast of the lamb.

This is most certainly true.

So my new friends, in a moment, we will share and celebrate this mystery, as the Lord takes your life and again consecrates it, for we know the Lord is with you! And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus! 

Keep Confident and Hope in Jesus Christ! A Transfiguration Day Sermon on Heb 3

Keep Confident and Hope in Christ!

Hebrews 3:1-6

I.H.S.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ not just give you hope, but confidence in God walking with you through your life.

How cool to have a Leader like Moses!

I can’t even imagine the feelings that would run through the hearts and minds of Peter, James and John as they stood on the mountain top, and realized who they were in the presence of!

I mean Elijah wow, and Moses was with them!

The leader of all of the leaders in Jewish History, and the man through whom the greatest miracles in history were performed!  Remember the water from the rock, and the bronze serpent on the pole who everyone could look to and be healed?  Remember the manna?

I can imagine Peter asking, “so what was that stuff anyway?”

And Mount Sinai and the Ten Commandments?  (lucky is wasn’t me carrying them down the hill!  The might have been only five!)

And what about the Red Sea?  Man, can you imagine someone doing that today! 

I can imagine the apostles being so incredibly excited by the leadership of Moses and Elijah! Wow – now we are really getting somewhere!  Now things can really change around here! 

I could even here James telling John, “Hey, Moses is with you!” and hearing him echo back, “and also with you!”

I don’t think it is much of a stretch to think the apostles were more than impressed, more than in awe of this. That’s why Peter goes to Jesus, and asks, “Hey can I build some tents for you guys to dwell in?  We’ll even make one for you Jesus!

There is an obvious problem with this, something the apostles overlooked in the excitement!  Something the reading from Hebrews recognizes.

How good are we at following leaders?

We need a better leader than Moses.  I mean he was pretty good at handling what God wanted Mosses to be responsible for, with only an error here or there.  But Moses didn’t do a good enough job.  He was as faithful as any.

But he didn’t get all of God’s people to the Holy Land.  In fact, an entire generation was left all over the desert. 600,000 men (and their ladies) didn’t make it. 

Did some awesome stuff, but there is only so much you can do when you aren’t the owner of a place, but just one of the servants. 

The problem wasn’t completely with Moses, it was just as much with the people that didn’t follow his leadership. Don’t get me wrong, Moses sinned, but he had a lot of people who didn’t listen, and what could he do about them? 

We aren’t much different today when it comes to listening to leadership.  We tend to dismiss them, we tend to think of them as our servants, not as those who are out there to help us and lead us. 

I saw the meme yesterday, and it is exactly how people treated Moses,

We need someone better, someone, who can deal with our rebellious nature, someone who isn’t just a servant, someone who can really make a difference.  And it would help if they had our best interest at heart.

We need the owner to show up, someone really in charge!
 
We Need Something More than a Boss!

We look back at the transfiguration, and we get that Jesus was there.  But I’ve even heard that Elijah and Moses were there not just to talk to Jesus about his upcoming death, but to encourage and strengthen Him for the ordeal.

I don’t think so, to confirm it maybe, but Jesus’ strength was found in His love for us, and in His love for the Father. 

The Father with whom He planned all this, with the Father who created all this through Jesus.

The Jesus who is Lord of all. 

And we need to understand what it means for Jesus to be Lord.  It means He is the builder of the house, and the one who laid down the plan for it. (It would be more accurate to

You see Jesus being the LORD, the builder of the house means more than just ordering us around, more than just saying “do this, don’t do that” and “here is the punishment, here is the reward.” 

Jesus being Lord is all about His plans for the house, how He intends to build it and care for it. It means He has committed Himself to care for His house, for His people. It means He has committed Himself to dwell in the house He is building, building with us.

And because He is the builder and the designer of the church, there is something He can do, that Moses didn’t have the ability to do.

He can make our sin, our rebelliousness of no account. He can take our brokenness and make it part of the masterpiece of His dwelling.

And He does, because He paid the price, and that’s been part of the design from the beginning. It was the cost of building His home, a home we are part of, along with all those who depend on Him, and trust Him to do what He has said, what He has promised.

That is why we can keep our courage, that is why we remain confident.

Because we know His plan, even as we begin to realize we dwell in His presence, as we realize that He loves us so much, the cross and the death of Christ were planned, so we could be at home with God.

So, may you know you dwell in His peace, a peace you can’t be stolen from Him, for He has claimed you and made you, His!  AMEN!

Some thoughts about why the Church is Here….

Devotional/Discussion THought of the Day:

10  For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11  For the scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him. 13  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14  But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? 15  And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring (the) good news!” 16  But not everyone has heeded the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what was heard from us?” 17  Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.  Romans 10:10-17 (NAB) 

196         Rest assured, there are many people there who can understand your way. There are also souls who, whether they know it or not, are looking for Christ and have not found Him. But “How can they hear about Him, if nobody tells them?”

197         Don’t tell me that you care for your interior life, if you are not carrying out an intense and ceaseless apostolate. The Lord— whom you assure me you are close to— wishes all men to be saved.

30 years ago, when I started “officially” studying to become a pastor, I was also dealing with some pretty challenging personal issues because of a genetic disorder.  In one of the discussions, a question was asked.   I can still remember where I was when it was asked, because it got me thinking.

“What is the reason the church is here?”

My thoughts went something like this.  If God’s desire is for us to be with Him, in a place where there is no more sorrow, no more tears, no more suffering, no more Marphan’s Syndrome, then why doesn’t He just take us home like He did with Elijah?  As you get baptised, the chariots of fire come down and whisk you to heaven.  Of course, some pastors, evangelists and ministers would have to remain behind to continue to work to convert people, but hey, God will take care of us.

There have times where I have re-thought this.  When a friend is dealing with cancer, when a mom has to visit her son in jail, when we have to deal with authorities whose works frustrates us (whether those authorities are at work, in government, or the most frustrating type, in the church.  I could go on and on, with the struggles of life, but the question remains.  Why not just take 99 percent of the believers and bring them home to the purest of joy and save them from the crap we go through on earth?  If the doctrine of the rapture was applicable (my college had some pro-rapture – and a lot against it) then no one should struggle, no one should go through any kind of tribulation.  And there is a lot of tribulation out there in life.

This question, “why does God allow us to go through all the stuff we go through?  Why doesn’t He just bring us home?”  Would not that be the loving thing for God to do?  To alleviate our suffering, to save us from the ravages of sin?

My answer is… His Mission.

You see, if ministry is only for pastors and missionaries, then taking the rest of us out of here is logical.  We don’t need to be here, we don’t need to see churches burning in Egypt, the Sudan.  We don’t need to wait for the results of CAT Scans, and colonoscopies, and angiograms.  We don’t need to be there for those grieving, or those struggling with addictions or mental illness, or watching their children deal with their special needs.

But God, as odd as this sounds, needs us all here.   Yes, God needs us here.

For we are those who will minister, who will serve, whose lives are testimonies to His work.  As such, they testify to His presence, in the good times and the bad,   We are the ones sent out – not just the pastors and missionaries – but everyone of us, into every place we go.

God wishes everyone to be saved, and so He sends His people, He apostles us to the world… and our own little corner of it.

And the more we realize how He is with us in this endeavor, the more we realize that He is our life, the more we want people to know this…….the more God’s mission, God’s work becomes our life.

And our devotional life and our understanding of our mission, and our prayer and worship and study all coalesce, for that is who we are in Christ Jesus.

God’s sent people…..

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows the detail of his face. The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1028-1033). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Lord’s Supper: A Tangible Invasion of My Darkness…

Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles by Mei...

Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles by Meister des Hausbuches, 1475 (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional thought of the day….

I’m GOD’s favorite. He made me king of the mountain.” Then you looked the other way and I fell to pieces. Psalm 30:7 (MSG) 

As I look at this verse, part of the passage I will discuss in this week’s sermon, I think it well describes the life of a Believer.

I think about Elijah, and the drastic change from the man on Mt Carmel, to the man buried in self-pity in a cave a month’s journey away.

Peter comes to mind – at one moment hearing that the words of his mouth was a revelation directly from the Father, to the next, his pride turned to disgrace as the same mouth is confronted as being the adversary to God.  Never mind the night of the last supper, as he goes from correction regarding the foot washing, to the glory of being there for the first celebration of the Lord’s Supper, to the failure to stay awake and pray, to the absolute pit of despair as He hears a rooster crow…and realizes how he has failed again… and denied the Messiah, the Savior.

It’s my life – the moments were I am so sure of God’s presence – with which I get to passively participate, to the moments that I question my ability to stand in His presence, because I am confronted with my own failures, my own thoughts and desires, my own sin. I tell you, there are days I wonder if there are any good caves on the market – (suitably furnished with wi-fi and a refrigerator stocked with Diet Coke with lime and some good cotto salami and cheese)  Seriously, there is so much darkness in the world, and in my own life, that I wonder what headway is being made. I wonder if there is anything that will help people… and if I can help them, by God’s mercy, i have some proof of God’s work in my life.

Maybe our lives our like jig-saw puzzles – and it seems when I see the beautiful scene that God has designed coming into focus, someone comes along and tosses all the pieces back in the box.

I know my road may not be as dark as some, and perhaps not as many pieces are thrown in the box (just as I know others who try to comfort themselves with the same thoughts), yet there are times in life where it falls apart, or my mind tries to cope with all the stuff that is flying around me.  It doesn’t matter whether it is my own issues, or those of those I count as my family (which includes family, friends, fellow believers that I work with, and well the people on FB that I correspond with often)  Our pains aren’t individualized ( Romans 12:15-16)  we share them – and the burdens can add up. And when we realize we don’t see God, everything falls apart…. breaks up,… our anxieties build, and..

It is dealing with such things – that I’ve come, more and more, to appreciate the Lord’s Supper, the feast were we Commune with God, what we call the Eucharist, or the Sacrament of the Altar.  A piece of bread, a sip of wine, these things we eat and drink, that tangibly invade my darkness, my place where I am broken, among people who are broken….

For the bread and wine aren’t just empty carbs, they are the Body and Blood of Christ, in and under that bread and wine.  He is present, tangibly, His holiness, His mercy, His love.

That which is broken, He’s come to repair, that which is hurt, is healed, the pieces are picked up, the tears are dried off, the cold darkness replaced by His warmth and life  and …..glory.   Yes – by His glory.

For He is here….  comforting us and causing us to realize in that moment, that He always was… He will always will be.

Some have talked about how the Lord’s Supper is something that recharges them, that lifts them up… I think the reason why is simple  – it calls us to interact with God in a… well,,. supernatural, divine way. A way that reminds us of the transformation, the very work of Christ in our lives.  It calls us to remember the promises, the mercy – but most of all – it recenters us on His presence……

May we always treasure this celebration, and give thanks and praise to the One who is our gift, our grace.

The journey is too great for you… arise and eat…

Is our Journey too great?  Arise, Take and Eat

I Kings 19:1-8

In Jesus Name

As we journey toward the day when all are gathered around our Father’s throne, may we know the mercy and peace that comes from hearing His voice call to us and say,

Arise and eat…

Not the answer I want to hear!

          But it is the one I need to hear!

Tired,

 

Alone.

 

Exhausted.

 

Hunted,

 

Barely sleeping on the hard ground, as he hides under a tree with spikes for branches..

 

He’s at the end of his rope, a little while prior to hearing the angel’s voice, he had been praying that God would bring it all to an end, that God would take his life.

Not just because he’s had it, but also because he realizes that he’s not up to the challenge, he’s as weak as those who have gone before him.

“Enough is enough!” he cried….

 

And now, prodded and poked awake by the Angel of the Lord, the messenger of God, he hears the answer to his cry.. the answer he didn’t want to hear.

 

“the journey is too great for you….”

At first look, that is NOT the answer to my plea that I want to hear, as I try to go on in this life.  It’s not the answer I want to hear as I see the trauma of life around me, even as I look back to the blessed victories.

“the journey is too great for you…”

 

It may not be what we want to hear, even as I am sure Elijah would much rather have heard – “You can do it!”.  Instead, we hear with him,

 

“the journey is too great for you…”

 

And though we may not want to hear it, it is the exact answer we need to hear…
The Journey is long

          Even after victories

          Anxiety kicks in… why?

          We even can abandon those God sent to lift us up…

          We can even cry out as Elijah did..

 

In Elijah’s life, we see how fast things can change.  He barely had taken in the incredible victory over those who would lead God’s people deeper into sin, when his world falls apart. Ahab and 450 prophets of Ba’al were little challenge, as the god they made in their own image was proven non-existent,  Elijah even mocked them, suggesting their “god” was on vacation, or maybe using the bathroom.   That event ends with people praising God, the living God.  Good times, a revival moments away..

One victory is not the journey, and as high as that mountain top experience was, it all seems to come crashing down, as Jezebel’s demonic oath unsettles him, as he realizes he needs some rest, and the desire for rest is changed by anxiety into a desire to run and hide. As his praises and awe of God’s work in his life changes into pleas and despair, as he wonders how will he survive this time.

Well, not really, he doesn’t wonder, for if his words tell us that he doesn’t want to survive.  He wants God to come and collect him, to claim his life.  He is so dogged by this anxiety, this sense of failure, that he abandons the young man he mentors, whom he trains to trust God in everything!

Don’t we do that sometimes as well?  The very people God would have us mentor in life, those whom God sent to life us up, we unload on them, or worse, we abandon them, as we go and find some place to be miserable.   What is worse, we do it to God as well, instead of seeking His rest, His comfort, we just want to give up.

We might even cry out Maranatha – the Greek for Come Lord Jesus! Return NOW…. Not because we are desiring to be in heaven, but because we are so tired of this life,  so weary of all that challenge us.

I am not just talking about temper tantrums here, but those points in life, where life just doesn’t make any sense anymore.   Where exhausted, we crash wherever we think it will be safe for the moment.

How do we go on in such times?  It seems like I am asked that more and more..

Then we hear the voice of God agreeing that the journey is indeed… to much!

How do we go on?

We rest, we arise, we eat that which is provided…and healed by God, we find we walk in His strength. sustained by that bread He has provided.

 

We aren’t alone

          The Angel is the Angel of the Lord

          He to whom we Journey, is on the Journey with us

          He’s honest with us

          But He provides what we need for strength.. in a meal which sustains us til we reach

 

You see in these tough times we need to realize that, we can’t lose God’s presence, nor are we hidden from those He sends to minister to us, and the Spirit that has taken up residence in us, in our baptism.

 

As the Angel ministers to Elijah, it is good to remember that we talk about this specific Angel, who bears the title “the Angel of the Lord”, as being God himself.   All sorts of great theological discussion on this, but what matters here, more than that, is that we realize we aren’t on the journey of our lives alone, any more than Elijah was alone.

That’s a good thing – because, as the Angel of the Lord points out – with point blank honesty, “the journey is too much for you!”

No matter how strong our pride is, on our own, we aren’t strong enough to overcome in this life.  That pride, which says we can do it on our own, is simply our struggle with sin.  We do not like to depend on anyone, even God. Yet our journey is one we cannot manage alone, and when we try, we end up rolled under a bush somewhere, with God poking us awake, reminding us that He can and does provide for us.

We don’t need to be strong enough on our own, we don’t have to run ourselves into the ground, to the point where we think that we’ve had enough.  But even when we reach that point, we aren’t alone.  He is with us.  And…

He provides the rest we need.

 

He provides the strength we need…

 

He provides that which sustains us, the bread of life, the living water, a feast that sustains us throughout our entire period of suffering, our entire period of pain…

He’s here.

Cleansing us

 

Healing us…
Sustaining us, when we are too weak to go on.

 

Feeding us, that which will restore in us life, not just “barely surviving life” but the life which is rich and abundant…
He nourishes us with His Body, and with His Blood, even as He nourished Elijah with the bread that was brought to Him.

Arise, take and eat… the journey is to long for you… without my presence, without me.  But I will lift you up, I will strengthen you – the entire family of God.

As we were united with Christ in our baptism, as the cleansing of water and word brought us life together, so to that community is seen on our journey, as we celebrate the feast of Christ, the feast that is a prophecy, an inkling of the feast to come.

The Body and Blood of Christ, broken and shed for you! It is indeed so rich a blessing!  It gives life to road weary bones.  As we celebrate and feast, as we rest in a peace that assures us that we will complete this journey, not on our own strength, but in Christ, dwelling secure in His peace.

 

That is what makes this place, this time special, sacred.  The people of God being ministered too by God.  A God who knows when we face such challenges, when we are weary, when the journey is too long.  He comes to us, causes us to rest – feeds us that we may be strengthened, and go on, not weary, but in His strength.

 

So my weary friends, in a moment it’s time to rise and eat, as we prepare to continue our journey with Him

Maybe it is me, but this year so far is a wearying one… one which too often we try to do things in our own strength, and yes to make the journey alone.

It is time for that to end, not just for us, but for those out there who are weary, as broken, as in need of a poke from God, as in need to hear those words,
The journey is too great for you… arise and eat…

As you do, may this bread, this very body of Christ, nourish and sustain you, as you confidently continue in this journey of life, knowing that until we have all joined the angels and archangels, and the entire company of heaven, we journey sustained by Christ, dwelling in His peace.  AMEN

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