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Why I look forward to the end, and to judgment.

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought of the day:

20  He who gives his testimony to all this says, “Yes indeed! I am coming soon!” So be it. Come, Lord Jesus! 21  May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with everyone. Revelation 22:20-21 (TEV)

8  And now there is waiting for me the victory prize of being put right with God, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that Day—and not only to me, but to all those who wait with love for him to appear. 2 Timothy 4:8 (TEV)

The believer has in essence already received God’s favorable verdict. Now, as at the future judgment, he or she stands clothed only in the righteousness of Christ and for his sake is assured of life. Thus, the fear of condemnation disappeared for Luther, and, instead of holding out the return of Christ as an object of terror, he could exhort his parishioners to pray for the speedy arrival of the lieben jungsten Tag, the dear last day, when the riches of divine grace, invisible to the eye and accessible only to faith in this world, would be revealed in the kingdom of God.

I grew up in the midst of a hysteria about the end times.  Even as the revival and renewal of the 60’s and 70’s guided people back into the church, part of that renewal was based on fear, and false teaching about the tribulation, the horrors of God’s wrath powered an evangelistic fever, and a desire to make sure our family, neighbors, and friends were safe.

End times, much like in the time of Luther, were pushed as something to drive people to God in fear of his wrath.

And salvation became a salvation from the extreme power of sin, and Satan, and the power of death.

Men like Tim LaHaye, Chuck Smith, Hal Lindsey, and Jack Chick became experts in this presentation of end times, and of using what Freud called Thanatos to motivate people’s going to church, and buying books and tracts.

We all grew to fear the second coming, and what preceded it, we studied the news with as much emphasis as studying scripture, and eventually, many burnt out on this fear-of-the-end-driven religion, and many more turned off, as we tried to scare and shame them into our form of Christianity. (and we were often proud of our “evangelistic efforts” being rejected, as proof we were doing the right thing!)

And as the day delayed, the church lost its grasp on people, the fear diminished, as did the fervor to save them from something, for we forgot to teach them what they were saved into…

Luther had this going in his days as well, though instead of buying books and tracts, they bought indulgences.

As I was reading this morning, the passage above from a book on Luther’s Spirituality again helped me to see a different approach regarding the end.  One I’ve come to appreciate on its own but didn’t make the connection of it to Luther.

I want the end to come!  I pray that Christ will return

Sometimes for the wrong reasons, for the end to all the trauma, I see, especially in the church.  Sometimes so there is finally an end to the trauma and pain caused by our sin, that spiritual illness that we are powerless against.

But the real reason to desire the end, to desire the judgment is that we know what Luther knew.  Because of Jesus, we are already judged as righteous, as holy as able to walk into the presence of God, glorifying Him for doing the impossible.  For He has declared and made us as holy, as special as Jesus.

And that makes heaven a homecoming, that makes heaven an entry into something beyond our imagination, beyond our ken.  To see God in all of His glory, and to know we belong in His presence. To hear our welcome, to hear with delight (and still the attitude of “who? me?  really?  when Lord?”) the Lord welcoming us into His presence.  To have answered the prayer that my mornings begin, “One thing I have asked of the Lord, and this is what I seek.:  That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,; to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to seek HIm in HIs temple”

May we all learn to desire this, to pray for it, to realize how real that day is, and rejoice in the thought it is nearer than before. Maranatha!  Come Lord Jesus!

strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Taken from https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/    (psalm 27:4

Te Missional Key To the Book of Revelation

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought of the Day:

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Messiah have now come, because the accuser of our brothers has been thrown out: the one who accuses them before our God day and night. 11 They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives in the face of death.   Rev. 12:10-11 HCSB

223         Christ expects a lot from your work. But you will have to look for souls, as the Good Shepherd went after the hundredth sheep: without waiting to be called. Then make use of your friends to do good to others. Tell each one of them that nobody can feel at ease with a spiritual life which, after filling him, does not overflow with apostolic zeal.

As I am reading through Revelation, I am not surprised at how much verse 11 sticks out.  It does every time I read it, it is just so powerful, this testimony of the victory of the saints, of our victory.

And yet this time, it struck me that this verse is one of the keys to understanding the Book of Revelation, and indeed, the role of the church in these days.  If we understand this, the mission and the very existence of the church becomes clear.

We are sent, we have our apostolate. and we are freed to accomplish this work, assured that our victory over sin and Satan, and death is finally won. Satan has been conquered, and His ability to accuse us of sin is over.

That is where the word of our testimony is so powerful, for we witness to the love of Jesus, the incredible mercy that floods our lives, our hearts and souls cleansed by the blood of the Lamb.  That is our testimony, not of our work, but of the love of God which establishes us as His children, His Holy People.

And having that testimony, that knowledge that we are God’s forever, our priorities change.  NO longer are we concerned as much about our own pleasure, our own happiness?  What becomes more important is the 1 whom has wandered from the 99, the child of God who has forgotten their Creator, their Father.  Our hearts break for them, and their situation.

And drawing them back to Jesus, that becomes far more important than the latest toy, or that trip.  Their eternity becomes more a concern than riches or fame.  The foreigner who is lost, the woman in the hospital, the 20-something in jail, these are the priorities we gain over self-indulgence.

God with us, freeing us from all the fear of that which is to come, He is who we witness of, and that witness is what forms our life until He returns.

This is who we, the church, are called to be, a people full of joy as the love of God infects the world around us, drawing more an more people to Him, and into being part of His people.

We can only do that, knowing the victory of Satan is complete, and because of the blood of Jesus it is.  AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1133-1136). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Christmas is how close? GULP! Some thoughts on struggle that Christmas can be.

Altar with communionDevotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:

19  And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20  By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21  And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22  let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. 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 10:19-25 (NLT)

But, as St. Gregory the Great puts it, it is still only the time of dawn, when darkness and light are intermingled. The sun is rising, but it has still not reached its zenith. Thus the time of the New Testament is a peculiar kind of “in-between”, a mixture of “already and not yet”. The empirical conditions of life in this world are still in force, but they have been burst open, and must be more and more burst open, in preparation for the final fulfillment already inaugurated in Christ.

Two weeks from today is Christmas, a day some are able to celebrate with great joy with those whom they love, who they care for, as meals are shared, as presents are exchanged, as laughter and smiles are contagious.

Yet recognizing that Christmas is only two weeks away causes my anxiety levels to rise.  There are services to plan, sermons to write, music to practice, and most of all, people to pray for and try and find ways to comfort and to try to reveal God’s presence to, so that they can know some peace.

Some are stressed out by finances, or work situations.  Some are broken by their own sin, or addictions, or broken by the sin and addictions of those they love, that have caused deep division.  Some are grieving, and that number has grown this year.  Some are simply wandering, directionless, unable to find anything stable enough to give them hope, even as they drive by churches advertising Christmas concerts, and advent services, even as they set up Christmas trees and manger scenes in their own homes.

I like how Pope Benedict phrased where we are in life, in this time of the dawn, when darkness and light are intermingled.  There are shadows that seem to overwhelm us, to convince us we still are in the darkness. The struggles of life are still there, undeniably, yet there is a hint of the perfect, complete life we know is coming in Christ Jesus.

We are in the time of the “now, and not yet!”  The time where God’s kingdom is here, yet we struggle to see it.  The time when we are in God’s presence, though we cannot see Him,  It is a time where we have to depend on God, but still have so many doubts, where we have to have hope, but struggle to define that, and therefore to express it.

Which is all the more reason to gather together as believers regularly,  To celebrate the fact that we are in His presence, that Christ has cleansed us, that we have been baptized by His blood, and therefore have clean consciences! This all in order that we know, that when He returns, He is not just returning to us, but returning for us.

We gather to encourage each other with these facts, for too often we forget them in the shadows of the world.  Too often we get overwhelmed by sin, ours and that of the world.

There is the hope, that is the real message behind all the decorations, all the mangers scenes – and the lights symbolizing Jesus coming, He whose light shatters our darkness, He who is our light, the Light of the World.  He who is our comforter, He who is our peace.

And for the next two weeks, and until His return, the One who hears us when we cry, “Lord Have Mercy,” and find int he manger and the cross, He has!

So let’s get together in these times, often, so that we can cry and laugh together, and encourage each other, even as we look forward to the day of Chrsit coming.  AMEN!

Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.

Are Your Ears Burning? They Should Be! A sermon on 1 Thes. 1:1-10

church at communion 2Are Your Ears Burning?  They Should Be!
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

In Jesus Name

May you realize the grace God our Father and the Lord Jesus have given you, and may that grace be so evident that those around you, and even far away speak of God’s work in your life!

 Is the word ringing out?

Did you ever walk into a room and suddenly everyone stopped talking?  Or walk by a group of people and they all started staring at you?  Or get back to the office and find out that 4 or 5 people needed to talk to you?

There is even an old question that asked if you notice this kind of behavior,

Are your ears burning?

Well, looking at the church in Thessalonica that Paul was writing too in our epistle reading this morning, their ears should have been burning.  People were talking to them, and it was a wonderful thing!

I pray that people are talking about us in the same way!

Here how Paul described it,

wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it, for they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God. 10 And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead!

Do people know that you’ve turned away from idols and false gods?  Do they know of you look forward to the second coming of Jesus?

Are they so in awe of God’s work in your life that they speak of your trust, your dependence, your faith in Him?

How did the people of Thessalonica end up with their ears burning… as they should have been….

And how can we see that happen in our lives?

How can our dependence on God become so strong that it is remarkable, that people talk about it?

I mean, that is a good thing, if I were to invite someone to come here, and the people already knew how strong our faith was, how we set aside ungodly rubbish in order to we look forward to eternity in the presence of God?

So let us investigate what else Paul said about these people!

We know God..

He says in verse 4, We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people.”

It all starts there, and I know this to be true about you as well.

I said it last week this way,

The Lord …

Who loves you

Is with you!

For that is what it means to be chosen, to be called.  It is to dwell in the presence of God, to dwell in the glory of God.

God loves you, as He did the people in Thessalonica, He chose you to be His people.  We need to know this, not just with our minds, but deep, deep in our souls, in the places where we wonder how God could love us, and so traumatized by our past, we wonder why He loves us.

It is in those dark, anxious broken places, that God is there… even when we can’t see Him, can’t feel His presence.  When He is revealed there, we realize that He is willing to pick us up, no matter how many pieces there are, that life begins to be transformed.

Hear something else Paul says… and we understand that it is reality too.

So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord. As a result, you have become an example to all the believers in Greece—throughout both Macedonia and Achaia.

with joy…..

despite the trials and tribulations, despite the pain that is endured as God heals us.  As God transforms us, as He did Paul, into the image of Jesus.

Imitation – reborn like Paul was reborn like Jesus (POWER)

But how?

That word behind “imitate” has another meaning.  It means to be born, to begin, completely new, completely different.  We talk about being baptized, being born again, that is the same concept here.  To die to our sin, our past, our self-centeredness. To die with Jesus, in order to be raised to this new life, this being born again, in Jesus.

Just like Paul did, and Peter, and so many millions who God has join to Jesus, and to His death and resurrection.

This is why the preaching of Jesus has power, as Paul said in verse 5,

For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true”

It is the power, not just to any old miracle, but the incredible miracle that is the reason that God our Father sent Jesus His son into our lives, to live among us, to die for us, and to share that death and the resurrection with us.

One pastor, Chris Gillette’s mentor, Robert Webber, calls this power the divine embrace.  It’s the prodigal’s dad, coming running to him, to smother him, so excited that the prodigal is finally home.

And it is the reason behind all of this…

For when God embraces us, that is the assurance we need. That is the power that is at work, making the love of God, not some intellectual exercise, not something to diagram or diagnose.

And as we rest in God’s arms, as we are welcomed by Him, into His family, as we know His presence, everything changes.  We become an example to others, some older in the faith, some younger.  The word goes out, for people know how much we abandoned to be with God.

And how much we look forward to the ultimate reunion, when Jesus returns, and brings us to the throne, to see for the first time, God our Father, face to face.

This is what it means for God to give you grace and peace, to belong to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  AMEN!

Ready, Are We? A Sermon on life as We Await Jesus’ Return

MarkJ AdventReady, Are We?

Matthew 24:36-44

I.H.S.

 As you encounter the grace, the mercy, and love of God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ, may your desire to experience His presence grow, as will your desire for Jesus to come again!

2 A.M. Somewhere….

Most of us picture Jesus returning based on a passage in First Thessalonians,

16  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. 17  Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NLT)

We see him, His long hair and robes flowing in the wind, his hand stretched out and a look of pure serenity on His face, with just a few high clouds in the sky, and the sun shining brightly, but no obscuring his glory.

But did you ever think – that somewhere when he returns – it will be 2 a.m in the morning?  That somewhere people will be sound asleep; and in another home, a mom will be feeding her baby, as some will be taking their delivery trucks out, as bars and clubs close.

And somewhere, in the midst of their lives, at some time of the day or night, some people will be engaged in sin. Someone will be cursing using God’s name, and another forgetting to pray for an enemy.  Someone will be killing with physical weapons, and others simply using their words to do damage as significant.   Some will be committing adultery, and others gossiping., and some, just struggling to depend on God who they can’t see.

And out of the clouds, whether 2 p.m., 2 a.m. Jesus will return.

Our gospel tells us we must be ready always, for Jesus will not only return, but he will also return when you least expect it.

So as I share God’s love this morning, I want you to think about a couple of questions.

First – Do you care?

The first is challenging, well, they both are.  But here is the first question:

Do you, or do you think the church cares about whether Jesus is coming back?

Is it on your radar at all?  Do you wake up in the morning, and wonder if this will be the day?   Do we ever consider it given our decisions to do this or that?

Do we even think about Jesus coming back?

Think about that for a moment.

second – why?

if you do think about Jesus returning, the second question comes into play.

Why do you want Him to return?

Is it to escape the pressure and depression that this world and the evil in it causes?  I have to admit; there are days I don’t want to hear any news, to see any headlines.

Is it to stop having to struggle with life and the complications we have in our lives?  Complications like aging and sick bodies, challenged relationships.  ( Great line from Skorpion  – Thanksgiving is about having meals with people we don’t get along with the rest of the year!)

Is it to stop having to deal with our sin, our guilt, shame, brokenness?

When we pray for Jesus to return – is it to be rescued from something, or to be delivered into the presence of God?

That’s what the issues were in Noah’s day, they forgot about the presence of God in their lives, and they lived life without thinking about God.

And to be honest, many of us get trapped in the same kind of life.

Unaware of God, and only turning to Him to be rescued.

Walking with Jesus is much, so much more meaningful than that. Eternity will be so much more than simply being free of the crap of this world!  Eternity with God is dwelling with Him, in the purest peace, the most mindblowing joy, in fellowship divine.

It is to live, as we are being drawn into the glory of God…..

And it will happen… sooner than we have prepared for…

Ready, Are we?

 

SO then, the questions change a little….

How do we get ready for Jesus to return?

We turn to the words of Paul in the epistle…

12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes,

This speaks of two things – first our baptism, and the incredible work of God that started there, as God cleanses us from all our sin, just as He promises. But it also speaks of repentance – the continuing action of our being transformed – what we see when we confess our sins and expect God to keep His promise there as we and then the question of how we stay read

14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And this speaks of baptism too – as God the Father clothes us in Christ’s righteousness, in His holiness.  As we see the work of God drawing us closer, and it is so incredible, so peaceful and so joyous that we begin to desire it more and more.

And we see that not only in baptism, but here as we kneel, as we receive Christ, as we have a glimpse at our relationship with God, and the height and depth, the breadth and width of His love for us, this endless joyous love.

Advent?  TO desire Jesus presence, to have nothing hindering it, not guilt, no shame, no brokenness, this is what advent is about – and why we desire Him to return…

And may that desire grow – as you know His love, as you dwell in His peace.

AMEN!

The Attitude of Advent: Our dearest Friend is coming to be with us!

Devotional Thought to Prepare us for Advent….
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 15:15-17 (TEV)

233         You spoke about the scenes in the life of Jesus which moved you most: when he met men suffering greatly… when he brought peace and health to those whose bodies and souls were racked with pain… You were inspired—you went on—seeing him cure leprosy, restore sight to the blind, heal the paralytic at the pool: the poor beggar forgotten by everybody. You are able to contemplate Him as He was, so profoundly human, so close at hand! Well… Jesus continues being the same as then. (2)

There is an attitude that negatively views contemporary worship (or that of 30-100 years ago) that treats Jesus to0 close, too intimate, too friendly.  They would rather perceive God from the perspective of great distance, and perhaps great fear.

Which would make sense if we were approach Christ’s advent, His coming, with the anticipation of judgment without the cross’s benefit.  To turn advent into a time of anticipating hell, fire, and brimstone, wrath and tribulation is wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, we need Jesus to come back, perhaps even desperately so.  Life is too screwed up, we all need to be delivered from sin completely, we need to come home to God.  But that turns advent from anxiety about Jesus coming, to realizing we and anxiety is more caused because of the wait we endure until He returns.

If we have friends we haven’t seen in ages coming to dinner during the holiday; we look forward to it.  We anticipate it, we work hard, trying to get everything as perfect as possible.  It is the same for Jesus second coming, we desire to grow in faith, we desire to see people come to know Him, to come to trust in Him, because He is our friend, because He loves us so completely.

Those contemporary worship songs which treat Jesus as a friend, they aren’t as far off base.  They bring home that which we need to know, the attitude that Luther noted, makes the difference between one who knows God, and one who only knows of Him,

“For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. For they have not the Lord Christ, and, besides, are not illumined and favored by any gifts of the Holy Ghost.” (2)

If we don’t understand God’s desire for an intimate, deep friendship with the people He calls and makes His own, we truly only know a God whose presence evokes fear and brings to the front of our heart the condemnation of guilt and shame. We have to realize the intent of Christ’s incarnation, to head resolutely to the cross, to show us the depth of His love, to bring us healing and forgiveness.

Yes, we should be in awe of God’s presence, we are overwhelmed by His glory, but a glory that pours out grace, that delights in showering us with His Mercy, embracing us in the love, even as the Holy Spirit sanctifies us. The awe of realizing God, in all His glory, desires to be our friend.

Which makes the wait of Advent tense, as if we hear every passing car as if it is our long awaited Friend…

For He is coming!

May your patience and desire to see God sustain you, even as you anxiously await His return.  AMEN!

 

 

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1170-1174). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther. The Apostles Creed: Explanation of the Third Article.

The Final Lesson: We are priestly companions of Jesus the King!

Companions of the Cross

The Final Lesson:

Priestly Companions of the King

† IHS †

May you know the grace and peace that is yours, the gift of the One who is, Who always was, and who is still to come!

The Vision/the Mission

While both the Old Testament and Epistle reading today are about the end of time, about looking toward the end of time, the gospel takes us back to thirty weeks ago, to the remembrance of what happens the morning of Jesus’ crucifixion, It covers one of the events we remember during Holy Week.

The gospel covers the trial of Jesus, the moments before he is sentenced by mankind to die.  The moment that God our Father planned for, that Jesus was committed to before the foundations of the world were laid.

The trial, the cross, the critical moment in all of time, as eternity hung in the balance.

Your eternity, my eternity.

We need to look back, in order to see why Daniel and the Revelation of John can talk so positively of the of the end. Hearing that Christ has been the King, even at the cross, we understand our future, and can walk confidently in the present.

For we walk with a king, and we are His companions.   The very King of King and Lord of Lords who makes us a Kingdom of priests, ready to serve God our Father.  Ready to serve alongside Jesus.

Let me rephrase that, He makes us into the priests of His Kingdom.

That was His vision, His mission, and it is what He has accomplished on the cross, even as Pilate was condemning Jesus, enabling Him to shed His blood for us.

The Ordeal of Hope

When we are involved in planning something, there is a hope that everything will work out well. It doesn’t matter if the planning and preparation are for a game, or for an event like the women’s advent tea.

Hope can sometimes be an ordeal as our minds consider all the things that could destroy our hope.  For instance, for a football team, we could focus on a critical injury or just an accumulation of them.  For an event like the Advent Tea, it could be that the speaker cancels out at the last moment.  It could even be the week between finishing a course, and getting the grades!  Our minds can spin wildly out of control, conceiving of all the things that could go wrong.  It is no different for our lives, and for our eternity.  When we think of hope, it can be an ordeal as we wonder what will happen to mess up that which we hoped for so eagerly.

Which is why I think the readings work together so well today.  They lay out a pattern that assures us that our hope is not in vain, that there is nothing that can change what we hope for, what our trust in God leads us to expect.  If we didn’t have that assurance, the first verses in Daniel would be terrifying; hear them again.

  I watched as thrones were put in place and the Ancient One sat down to judge.His clothing was as white as snow, his hair like purest wool. He sat on a fiery throne with wheels of blazing fire, 10 and a river of fire was pouring out, flowing from his presence.  Millions of angels ministered to him; many millions stood to attend him.  Then the court began its session, and the books were opened.

If we feel anxiety watching a football game, or waiting for the guests to arrive, of the report card to show, what kind of anxiety would we experience, knowing we had to stand before all of the missions of angels, and all of humanity, as God opened the story of our life and began to look at the details, examining our actions, our thoughts, our words?

We could try to dismiss the guilt and shame, but it still would haunt us.  We could try to rationalize it, we could argue that it isn’t fair for God to give us desires that cannot be eased without sin.

Before the throne, before a God that not only knows our thoughts but the hearts where those thoughts originate, such attempts at self-preservation do not matter.  If we are to have hope that Jesus is our salvation, that we will live in His Kingdom that has no end, we have to be serious about the fact we needed to be saved.

We sin.  Thoughts, words, deeds.

As we will say in Advent, it is our fault, we need to grieve over that fault, we need to seriously grieve over that sin.

If we are to know the grace and peace of God, we have to realize how radically different it is to know God’s grace and peace, compared to the brokeness of our lives.

Realizing the love of God
For then, understanding the depth of our despair, we find ourselves blown away by this word grace, by the peace that is ours when we should be weighed down by guilt and despair. We begin to understand how incredible these words written by the Apostle John are,

All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. 6 He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

It’s not just that Jesus has freed us from sin, and Satan, that He’s robbed death of the anxiety it can cause, that guilt and shame are wiped away.  It is that He’s made us like Him, He’s made us priests who serve the Father, He’s made us holy enough to be the very attendants of God the Father.

All of us, from the smallest to the largest, youngest to the oldest, we have been made companions of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

No wonder all of creation will bow before Him!  No wonder we will shout about the glory of God He has revealed to us.

He loves us!

He freed us from our sin, by shedding HIS BLOOD for us.

He has made us priest, …..

ALL GLORY TO HIM FOREVER AND EVER!  AMEN!!!

Sermon on Daniel 12:1-3 Companions in Glory!

Featured imagenote – the audio with slides is at the bottom of the manuscript

Companions of the Cross: Companions of Glory
Daniel 12:1-3

 IHS

May you know and depend upon the grace, the incredible loving-kindness, and peace that is yours because the God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ did what it took to make it yours!

 Times of Anguish
Even though Micha-el stands guard?

If one wasn’t knowledgeable about scripture, one might wonder if these are the days in which the prophet Daniel spoke of when there will be a time of anguish greater than any time since nations first came into being.

The numbers climb, as people in Lebanon, the Sudan, and as we have heard all over the news, France, have been killed this week.  The numbers climb as well, as lives are taken here in the US, as violence sweeps over our cities.  And less we forget, our state has now mandated that centers that hope to give women an option to abortion now have to advertise those places that will provide them, without offering any option.  That was driven home to me this week, as I talked to a Crisis Pregnancy Center director, whose office is surround by 9 of the largest abortion clinics in California.

There are days which are scary, and it was brought home Friday evening as a bomb was found in an Anaheim hardware store.

Certainly these are days of anguish, throughout the world.

Yet the prophets words talk of a messenger, actually “the messenger” standing guard over the people of God.

Where is He?  Where is this messenger who is supposed to be standing guard over us?

And what is to come next?

Like the Book of the Revelation, should Daniel’s words today bring us anxiety and fear, or comfort and peace?

I suppose that is determined by the judgment, and what we face for our eternity.

Everlasting Life or Everlasting Disgrace?
But which do we deserve?

There are two options that Daniel tells us,
The first is the for those who will rise up, and enjoy everlasting life because their name is written in the book of life, and they will have been rescued, delivered, and saved.  The word for life is incredible, it is not only life but everlasting nourishment, everlasting abundance,

The second is those who will have to experience shame and everlasting disgrace, a word that is far stronger, everlasting abhorrence and scorn. It is reminiscent of the anguish described in the gospels, as Jesus talks of Gahanna, of hades, of the destination prepared for Satan and that which is demonic, which wasn’t intended for mankind, yet in stubbornness and rebellion and self-centeredness is their choice.

It is the place we all deserve, yet in because God loves some are rescued and delivered from that path, that destination.

For that is what the one called Michael does, as this prime messenger comes from God.

So who is this Michael, who is this who stands guard over the nation.

Michael – One Who is Like God.

Well, one of the challenges is whether in Hebrew “michael” is a name or a title.  What Michael means in Hebrew is “One who is like God”, or “One who is as God.”

Consider these words from Colossians,

15  Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, Colossians 1:15 (NLT)

Add to that the term archangel simply means, “the first of all messengers.” In this case, the primary messenger; the primary message of God.

Who then cares for, and guards the people of God, who is the prime messenger of God, who is like God in every way?

If it is, then consider this, the anguish that is greater than any since before the beginning of the nations was His, and He embraced the entire wrath of God to provide and guard our hearts and minds.

It is this anguish that provides our rescue, our deliverance from the power of sin, Satan and death into the presence of God our Father.

It is He whose death and resurrection, as the wrath of God for all of our sins is poured out on Him, that is the cause of our rescue, our deliverance.

And finally, it is united to Him that we see the promise of Daniel fulfilled.  The promise that those who are wise and depend on God’s providing Christ for us shine as bright as the sky.

Here the apostle Paul again

27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you the assurance of sharing his glory. Colossians 1:27 (NLT)

and again

 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)

This is too good not to share!

This is so incredible, this Lord, who is the image of God the Father,  As we approach the end of the year, the readings all focus on the end the ages and the incredible blessing that is knowing Jesus.

It is so good, how can we not share this hope with all who need to know it!

That is why the Holy Spirit inspires Daniel not just to tell us we will share with the Christ’s glory, but repeats the promise with a slight modification.

and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.

For it is natural, as we learn the depth of God’s love, to pour out our praises, praising God with all we are, praising Him to those around us, desiring that they would come to know the love that resonates throughout our lives.

hear it again.

Jesus, the one who is like God, stands guard over us, taking all the wrath we deserve; He has rescued us, and we will rise to everlasting life, shining as bright as the sky, and as we lead people to Him, we will shine like the stars…forever.

For until that day, Jesus stands guard over us, His companions, protecting our hearts and minds as we dwell in God’s peace until we are revealed fully in His glory!  AMEN!

Pentecost 25 companions of the cross, companions of glory w audio

Prepare! Clear the Way for Jesus!

Prepare! Clear the Way for Jesus!

Mark 1:1-8
IHS

 My friends, my desire for us for this Advent Season is this: that from us is cleared away everything that divides us from God.  From knowing His Love, from adoring Him.  That is what God’s grace and mercy does, leaving us in His peace.

 Preparing for Christmas Shopping  – Rent a pastor!

It’s time for a Pastor Parker Parable, Advent edition.  As we prepare for the Christmas holidays, for the party’s, and as we buy gifts for people we love, I have an idea that might provide some insight into how the gospel works, using the idea of surviving the shopping, and the incredible crowds.  Here it is:

For a small donation to the elder’s benevolence fund, I will go shopping with you.

Let me explain how this is of a benefit.  I need four volunteers…. One lady and let’s say Dane and Bob and Chuck.  Did I say volunteers?  Well – you’re here, so you volunteered.  You three stand here, and pretend you are talking about football, or guns or even politics, and completely oblivious to what’s going on around you… Oh you are in the middle of a busy store…say Sears or Walmart

Now, over here we have Debbie, tired and weary of trying to find Tom just the right present.  She sees it over there, on the other side of the three guys talking, and there is no way to get through them.  You are out of luck.

But with the Pastor Shopping Assistant, this is problem is no problem at all.  There is an advantage to having a 6’2” pastor dressed in black with his collar.  You point out where you want to go in the store and I walk there, with you following behind.  I navigate through the three men, who aren’t sure they are moving because of the collar, because I am big, or because I look mean and ready to send them to hades, or to the woman’s lingerie section. But move they do…. And you get what you desired.

This is how a pastor can benefit you in your shopping, and the same benefit you get from time in God’s word, whether in a sermon, or Bible Study or personal time reading God’s word!  It’s the same thing we see as John preaches to the people of God and baptizes them as a sign of their repentance.

So the parable is this; pastoral assistance prepares for the appearance of Jesus the Christ!  The way is clear, there is a path to the goal
Getting through that which would separate you from Christ

In our lives, there is much to be cleared out, much that slows us down, junks that stops us from living life in the peace God has given us. It’s the stuff that in Peter’s reading will burn up in the end.

Very few of us are the John the Baptist types, who live off the most basic of things.

I mean, how many of us are willing to take cast-offs to wear, for that’s what he wore for clothes.  Or to eat whatever we came across, as we lived out in the field? We probably can’t find that much raw honey, but there is a good source of protein out there!  His life was pretty well prepared. The way for him has few obstacles…

John preached the message about clearing the crap that gets in the way of our relationship with God.  About clearing the way, making ready the path. He’s not talking about re-tarring the driveway at church, but getting rid of things like bitterness, resentment, anxiety, fears, and sin. He talked getting rid of our idea that we are right, and God just doesn’t know what life today is like.

We do that, when we don’t repent of sin, or when we allow others to think their sin isn’t a major one.   We do it when we make personal comfort our goal, rather than knowing we find our comfort in Christ.  We do it when we criticize others and gossip about them, rather than pray for their soul. We do it, when we don’t help those in need, or when our help is more to soothe our consciousness, rather than actually help them. This is the sin and unrighteousness that we hang on to, we protect, and we are don’t want to give up.   Though that makes very little sense.

All these things need to be cleared away.  Anxiety, fear, sin takes a straight road and turns into the spiritual version of Malibu Canyon road or trying to get one of the Black Friday super-specials.  On our own we stand a better chance of winning three consecutive state lotteries, than in being prepared for Jesus’ second coming.

We need to hear the word of God, we need to hear the John the Baptist, and be cleansed of our sins, of our idols, of the crap that blocks our way to Jesus.  We need to see His promises, we need to have the comfort He has promised, we need to know we are loved.

But there is so much that blocks us from Jesus, so much sin, so much anxiety, just so much!

How will we get it done in time?

Or will we give up and cling to the very things that poison our lives?  The things that stop us from being close to Jesus?
This is the stuff we need to get through, but it is so hard!

Is He there?
That’s where the word of God and the sacraments come into play.  Where a sermon or Bible Study that we are part of reveals Christ’s presence. When we hear the gospel  crushes that which stops us from our time with God.  Where it clears away the things that would block our access to God.   That’s how God’s word works, that is how the Holy Spirit uses it…to ready us for Jesus’s coming

Why else would people treasure it enough to wander out to the desert to hear him?  Why would they listen, what moved their hearts so much they admitted their sin?, Why would they run into the water, demonstrating that the Holy Spirit was at work in their lives, bringing them to repentance?

They gave up the game of being self-righteous, about pointing out the sins of others.  They acknowledged they needed God’s presence, and their lives were cluttered and blocked.  The crud washed away as promised, for and the word of God broke through, much as the 6’2’ 315 pound pastor can break through a crowd in a mall at Christmastime.

I want you to think about the ways Christ’s birth is declared in scripture.  A people living in utter darkness have seen a great life.  A time of healing a time of death being shattered by life, A day of the greatest rejoicing.

If that was true at Christ’s first coming to us, how much more will it be when He returns?

Hear again how Peter said in ( 2 Peter 3:8-14)


We are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

14 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.

It is the same concept, know that your life, your vitality is found in Jesus.  That His word reveals all that you need to see that the way is prepared, it has been planned, and for us, the way made sure at the cross, when Jesus died.  It is the blessing of having the gift of the Holy Spirit, given to us in our baptism. It is the blessing of having God’s word tell us of this, over and over again.

For the Spirit grants us repentance, and brings us comfort, and testifies to the promise of the death, burial, resurrection, ascension and return of Christ.

We need to know we have access to God the Father, that there is nothing that blocks us, no amount of crud, nor a temple curtain.  We’ve been invited to His feast, and He’s made sure we can know we are welcome.

Knowing that, we can have the peaceful, pure and blameless lives Peter encourages us to live in, for we dwell in Christ, He has claimed us, and He will get us home.

AMEN.

We pray….Lord, Rip Open the Heavens and Come!

 Featured image

We pray….Lord, Rip Open the Heavens and Come!  

Isaiah 64:1-9  Psalm 102:18-22

  IHS

 As you grow to know God’s mercy, may you find your prayers sustained by the Spirit’s presence, even as you pray for Christ’s return!


Rip’em open Lord

There are days where Isaiah’s cry I hear with great anger, and other times I hear it with great heartache.  As we look out into this world, with its wars, with it massacres. When we see people causing division, rather than trying to bring reconciliation, when we see people struggle with the political games, with broken relationships, when they get played by extremism, or self-centeredness.  When we look around us, and all we see is sin. There is a frustration that results in anger, and in tears. There is a desperation to our prayers, to connect to God!

Lord, come quickly, come so quickly you rip the sky’s open, and bring it to and end1

Isaiah certainly didn’t mean this as a casual invitation, but it was a cry born of pain, he pleaded with God to not hold back, but to come down with all His power, and set things straight.

To make things the way they are supposed to be.

Why can’t people love God, and love each other?

We can get so frustrated, there are times where we aren’t sure whether to be angry, or crushed.  For that matter, we aren’t even sure which we are, at the moment.

The World Deserves it….


The cries for God to fulfill His promises resound throughout the Old Testament.  For God promises, as he does in our reading tonight, to come with all of the angels and fix it.  To come and destroy all that is Holy, to shake it up the way He did in the Old Testament, to deal with those who do things that are unrighteous.

You see it in all of the prophets, they pray for God to come and fix it all that is broken.

To take care of evil once and for all.

Even as Christ came the first time to save us, we know He is coming back to judge the quick and the dead.  He will reign, He will fix everything, and that will go one forever.

They plead with God to return, they can’t stand living amid the brokenness any longer, so they turn to God and cry for help.  The God the psalmist notes is looking down, listening to the cries of those in bondage, and will come to release them.

We deserve it

Back in Isaiah, even as the prophet cries for God to rip open the heavens, there is a realization, a hesitation.  For Isaiah realizes how much the people of God have wandered away.  He realizes that God isn’t just angry at them, but at us as well.  That our desire to do good, is worthless, that we are dried up by sin,

What is alarming is verse 7,

No one prays to you or makes the effort to reach out to you….

I have to ask, how much is prayer a part of our lives.  Whether it is taking the psalms and praying through them, or whether it is just pouring out our heart to God.  How often do we think of Him, talk to Him, find our selves concerned with what He is concerned with in our lives, in our world?

How often do we follow what He tells us to do?  Or do we justify our sin, not caring if it breaks God’s heart?

We get frustrated by the very thing that in others we want to condemn.   We need to learn to hate this sin, this failure, in our own lives.  We need to  call out to God to cleanse us, heal us, forgive us.

As Isaiah says, we cry for Him to remember we are His people. The people He poured water upon in baptism, the people He feeds and nourishes the souls of during the Lord’s Supper.

We are people that the psalm was recorded for, so that we could praise the Lord with angels and archangels and all the hosts of heaven.

For He has promised to look down and release those for whom Christ died. To free them from their sins…. He promised that to us.

Advent makes Christmas something special, for it takes it from something historical, and we realize that it was to us He came.  Because we needed Him  To save us, and eventually, to return and bring us home to the Father.

Where we will dwell for eternity, in His presence. A day we should long for, even as God gives us His peace, until we return.

AMEN?  AMEN!

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