No Time For Complacency
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the Gifts of Serenity and Peace of God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ not just sustain you in these days, but empower and drive you from being complacent about sin, to reconcile those divided by it.
Did you come here to hear that reading?
What were you thinking of, as you heard the Old Testament reading from Zephaniah this morning? Was it what you expected to hear, what you thought about when you getting ready to come to church?
Anyone like the picture on the cover? Although it is there, not sure many of you saw the word “hope” there!
This is a hard reading, for sure, and I wonder how many of us truly agreed with Bob as we said “Thanks be to God!”, to his “this is the word of the LORD!”
Even as we struggle with this, we have to realize that the day of the Lord is near, and that means there is, no time for complacency.
For while that day is one we hope for, for others it will be terrifying.
Being sucked into the dregs of Life (Complacency)
This idea of complacency in the Old Testament has an interesting word picture. It is a word picture of someone so drunk that they do not notice they are drinking the bottom of the barrel of wine, what are called the dregs.
They are so drunk they do not notice they are drinking wine that is thicker than soup, and it causes them to be even more inebriated, even more, unaware of the situation around them. They are simply numb to reality, unaware of what they are witnessing, unable to even care.
While we don’t realize it, that is the power of sin over us.
It makes us numb, unaware of those around us, unable to care for them, as long as we are able to continue in the sin. Like the alcoholic who doesn’t realize the damage he is doing to himself and to others, sin slowly and surely claims those who are victim to it, slowly demanding that we give ourselves into it more and more.
You see, sin is the strongest addiction out there, and it doesn’t matter the sin!
That is what scripture is talking about when it talks about God searching through Jerusalem, searching through people that claim to be his, people that are so drunk in their sin that they don’t recognize His presence.
Please understand – God isn’t just searching out these sinners just in the world, but here, among His people.
And for those complacent in their sin, hear again what waits,
14 “That terrible day of the LORD is near. Swiftly it comes— a day of bitter tears, a day when even strong men will cry out. 15 It will be a day when the LORD’s anger is poured out— a day of terrible distress and anguish, a day of ruin and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, 16 a day of trumpet calls and battle cries. Down go the walled cities and the strongest battlements! 17 “Because you have sinned against the LORD, I will make you grope around like the blind. Your blood will be poured into the dust, and your bodies will lie rotting on the ground.” Zephaniah 1:14-17 (NLT)
This is the word of the Lord!
Thanks be to God?
For judging us this harshly for our sin?
The Gospel of Jealousy
O wait, darn it, I forgot the last verse, the place where we will find not just the terror, but the hope. It’s a bit hidden, the gospel in the passage, so look closely
18 Your silver and gold will not save you on that day of the LORD’s anger. For the whole land will be devoured by the fire of his jealousy. He will make a terrifying end of all the people on earth. Zephaniah 1:18 (NLT)
Do you see the hope there? Right in the middle of that verse….
It might not be obvious at first, see it there?
In the fire of His jealousy, we see hope, right when our silver and gold does no good, when we can’t purchase our salvation, there is hope.
You see, God is jealous enough to burn it all up, yet when we take prophecy as a whole, and not simply focus on one passage, we realize that this too must be considered,
9 I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’” Zechariah 13:9 (NLT)
Throughout scripture, we hear about God’s jealousy, that God desires to make for Himself a people. But God’s way of doing that is incredible, for He purifies us, He cleanses us, even as He burns off the impurities.
Remember John the Baptist promised this when He said,
“But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Matthew 3:11 (NLT)
The fire of God’s wrath was poured out on Christ at the cross, all of His anger, all of His rage, and those of us in Christ were raised with Him when God broke the power of both sin and death.
Even are we can’t be complacent about our sin, we can’t be complacent about the sin of others. Not just about warning them about the sin, but we need to reconcile them to God! We need to help them wake up from their complacency that sin causes. We need to give them the hope that will see them through the fire to the resurrection, assured by the promise of Jesus.
That is why we are here, and knowing God is near, let us not fall into complacency, but rather hear God say that we are His people, while we rejoice that He is our God…and that He brings us through the fire, cleansed, holy, pure, and His. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!
Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)
97 Renew each day the effective desire to empty yourself, to deny yourself, to forget yourself, to walk in novitiate census, with a new life, exchanging this misery of ours for all the hidden and eternal grandeur of God. (1)
Since teaching through Colossians a couple of years ago, these words in red above seem to resonate with me more and more. I have written about them before, and will probably do so again.
I think they are critical for us to understand, this idea of our “real life”, a life which seems hidden, a life which is easily overlooked and forgotten, a life that is found at the throne of God.
THat’s where we belong, it is our eternal life. The life that began when God circumcised our hearts, cutting away the sin and unrighteousness as He baptized us. That was the conversation in the previous chapter in St. Paul’s letter to these saints.
But in chapter 3 he gets to the impact of that cleansing, the difference it makes in our lives today, and every day that will come. He talks of our eternal life as our real life, our reality. He urges us to set our hearts on this dance with God the Father, Son and Spirit. The dance we’ve been invited too, and see glimpses of, even if our mind cannot clearly picture it.
If our mind cannot, our hearts and soul can be set on this. For our hearts are better at knowing we are loved, knowing we are forgiven, and being able to accept the mysteries that our minds can’t fathom.
But as our hearts settle there, we dwell in the peace of God, we lose ourselves, yet find our life in Jesus. For everything changes, from our priorities, to our relationships, from what we “need” to how we view those around us.
So today, think about the glory of heaven and come to realize with your heart that not only do you have a place there… you are already in His presence…
and rejoice in that peace!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 556-558). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Life’s not Fair
Could that Be OK?
† I.H.S †
May God’s gifts of love and mercy so fill your life, that you are assured you will live tomorrow and forever in His incredible, unsurpassable, unexplainable peace!
Life’s Not Fair!
That gospel reading this morning was strange, wasn’t it!
So strange most pastors don’t ever want to preach on it, but in a world that doesn’t always make sense, heck this world rarely makes sense. So this passage seems appropriate.
I mean I don’t understand why this guy is talked about positively in Scripture.
He doesn’t do his job.
When he does, he does it unethically, not doing what he’s given authority to accomplish, but what works in his favor.
Then, as he’s given notice to clean out his desk, what does he do? He uses the authority he’s been given to create a bunch of favors people will owe him – favors he will cash in on so that he isn’t bankrupt!
And here is what is strange, according to scripture, his boss, the owner of the company admires him! Other translations say he praises him – and the words are synonymous.
This just doesn’t make sense. It isn’t fair, so how in the world could the Bible teach that the dishonest rascal was admired?
I mean it’s not far, how could it be okay?
Admiration and Praise?
I think we need to hear again why the rich man admired the rascal. After being told to get his things in order, and that he was being terminated, the rascal said,
4 Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’
Jesus would go on to say
And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. 9 Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.
While neither praising the ethics or actions of the dishonest man, Jesus notes that he is thinking more than about the present moment. That his concern is for the time when he is not able to care for himself, for a time after he is judged, and found to fail, to fail because of actions he took.
Most of us don’t plan for five years from now, never mind 25 years from now or eternity. We don’t use our knowledge, what we’ve been entrusted with, what we’ve been given the future, never mind what is waiting for us eternally. We don’t often think about this given our lives, and we need to consider it about our lives, and those of these children we have been blessed with!
If we did, how would we live? What would change in our lives, in how we treat people? What priorities would change in your life, if you were thinking of judgment and eternal life? What would we want for our children?
How do we live life, thinking of eternity?
It starts there – with using your possessions to benefit others, To invest your time and strength in making friends and caring for them.
Not unethically, but realizing people are more than possessions. That relationships matter more than accomplishments, more than personal wealth, more than a secure retirement. T love and care for them, as you would want them to love and care for you!
And there is one relationship that demonstrates this, there is one where the relationships were so important, the future so important that one man died, to completely forgive the debts own to his Father.
Get that settled!
Jesus wasn’t just given notice, nor was he told that he was not doing His job well. Still, He knew He was about to be terminated with prejudiced. And as He had planned, along with the Father, He used his legitimate authority to make himself friends.
He wasn’t unethical, He wasn’t using His authority to benefit himself, He simply loved others, and by His death turned those that didn’t love Him, who abandoned Him, who cried out for Him to be crucified.
He was thinking of eternity, of life after all is terminated.
Not His life,
And so He died on the cross, to make true these words,
15 I shall no longer call you servants because a servant does not know the master’s business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father.
John 15:15 (NJB)
This is why we are here – as a church, as a school, all the ministries that are Concordia. TO make the love of God know, to encourage you to search out the height, the depth, the breadth and the width of God’s love for you.
We find that out in our baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper, as we take and eat His body and drink His blood. As we hear, children sing of His love.
His love, for us.
As we know it, peace comes over us; that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
54 The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 56 And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!” 57 Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him 58 and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died. Acts 7:54-60 (NLT)
11 And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Revelation 12:11 (NLT)
1 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 post is based on one of the Bible Study discussions among my people at church. We’ve been going through the book of Acts of the Apostles, and came to the martyrdom of Stephen.
It brought out a discussion of the fears we have because of the terrorism in Lebanon, the Sudan and Paris, the incredibly painful trauma people experience. A trauma that is spreading through anxiety and fear, which is being maniuplated by those who would have us stop out from reaching in love, because of that fear.
As we discussed these things, someone mentioned the incredible level of faith that someone who willing embraced martyrdom must have. The faith that would testify of God’s love, that would know the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians, even as the boulders were thrown down upon him, or as the blade slice through the air.
Such heroism seems beyond us, such an ability to set aside one’s automatic nature to preserve one’s self. Yet the angel in the passage from the Revelation states that the people there have defeated the accuser by the blood of the Lamb, the witness (in greek – the word we get martyr from!) and by the fact that they didn’t love life so uch they were afrasid to die.
That describes you, if your faith is in Christ. It describes me as well, and every other person who puts their hope in Christ Jesus. The more we comprehend, not just now, but understand at the gut level, the love of Christ, the guaranty of His promise that we will share in His glory eternally, the more we don’t need to cling to life, the more we don’t need to defend ourselves against persecution. The more we can embrance suffering like Jesus did. The more we trust, the more we look to the promise, the more we understand God’s love, the more we can accept martyrdom.
I want you to compare what Stephen goes through in the first reading to what Paul urges believers to do.
Stephen looked into heaven, and saw the glory of God.
Paul tells us to set our sights on the reality of heaven.
Stephen sees Jesus at the right hand of the Father, in the place of honor.
We are to see the same thing – the same Jesus, the same right hand, the same place of honor.
Stephen is killed. Physically.
We are to realize that we have died to this life. Yes spiritually, (as had Stephen) but also in our need to cling to it, for we realize we aren’t just here, we are hidden in Christ in God, waiting to be revealed with Jesus in our fullness.
That’s where the strength comes from to allow a witness to Christ result in our martyrdom, whether that martyrdom is physical, or whether it is setting aside our dream life, our desires, our need to preserve our identity, in order to bear witness to the love of Christ. This is exactly what Paul is talking about in Philippians 2:1-10. urging us on to unity in Christ. It is what Paul talks of when he urges ust o imitate him as He imitates Christ.
Ultimately, Martyrdom is never about the death, it is never about the sacrifice, it is about knowing the love of Jesus, about trusting in His promises, that is the martyrdom, the very witness we bear. Is this heroic then? It would be, except that the strength doesn’t come from us, it coems from the Holy Spirit. It is the very thing we are urged as believers to do. To bear witness with our very lives, to give the reason we have hope. To set aside our fears, to set aside our need for self preservation, to set aside all, to love God, and to love man.
It is who we are, because of what Jesus does for us in baptism…..what He does to us.
This is what it means to know the Lord is with you, that He answered your plea for emrcy.
It is abiding, secure in Christ’s peace. It is, His gift, His grace.
The End that Justifies the Means
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may that love and mercy be revealed to you, and may it assure you that in His presence you will remain!
Is the Journey more important than the destination?
Four years before Martin Luther would nail to the door an invitation to discuss indulgences, a man in Italy, the man who would become the father of political science, and the first to write on political ethics finished his best known work.
Though not in the book as a direct quote, a summary of it gave us one of the best known proverbs that is not contained in the Bible. A proverb many a businessman and many a politician see as foundational.
The end justifies the means.
Basically, Machiavelli held that, “a ruler must be concerned not only with reputation, but also must be positively willing to act immorally at the right times.” (Wikipedia)
One example given on Wikipedia of that is this, “Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of power and introduction of new legal institutions.”
As odd as it sounds, there is one example of that proverb, that you and I must be grateful, one time in history where the end justifying the means was not only appropriate, but a blessing.
As the Jewish people struggle with Jesus teaching that they must eat His body and drink His blood, they will struggle even more that in order to receive the promises of God, in order to be His people, they would have to depend upon the greatest injustice in history.
There is a part of me that wants to preach on this passage from the safety of focusing on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. After all, there are theologians who say this passage where Jesus demands us to eat His Body and drink His blood as being primarily about the Lord’s Supper. And there are some that say it is not. Fascinating arguments on both sides.
It is safe, it would help you comprehend what we do during communion, and it would miss the point.
This passage isn’t about communion, in the way that a journey isn’t about the journey, it is about the destination. Because the Jewish people were worrying about the journey, they missed the message of the destination.
That God would remain in us, and we in Him.
We’ll get back to that in a moment, but we need to see that we are no different than the Jewish people, who though knowing God’s law, struggled with what Jesus was saying, struggling so much that they would say,
“This is very hard to understand, how can anyone accept it?”
It was so hard to understand, that most of the disciples would leave.
Because they were focusing on the means, rather than the end.
We do the same thing today, when we toss aside God’s word. Maybe we consider it out of date in the moral standard. Or when we dismiss something because those rules were okay back then before people were educated, but they don’t apply to us smarter and more sophisticated people today. We argue with God, we try to define what is right and what is wrong. We try to change the rules, rationalize our way out of things, or create a different standard.
A great example is how we treat our enemies, adversaries and those who are a pain in the butt.
Do we really love them? Do we really pray for them? Do we really want to forgive them and welcome to commune with us?
Or do we try to find a loophole, an exception to God’s desire that we love all our neighbors?
Or what about when God says to embrace persecutions and suffering, for the sake of the gospel. He just means pastors and worship leaders and elders. Not bass players and sound men, and ushers, right?
We don’t get it, it seems too hard to understand. We don’t like it when God confronts us and challenge our agendas, or rules out what we like and what we dodo. Sometimes, confronted by God’s wisdom and unable to get it, sometimes we walk away. Just like the disciples did.
John’s gospel shows how hard it is, as it records Jesus’ words, “The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But some of you do not believe me.”
We need it, we need a God we can relate too, trust in, depend upon…
for our very lives.
Remaining in Christ Jesus
One of the things that we look at, when studying the passage, is the frequency something is mentioned. For example – if a thought is repeated, even if a little different, that is called a parallelism – and it is important. Especially if it followed by AMEN! AMEN! or “This is True!” Three times is even more critical to understand.
We know this well. If our parents or our wives or our bosses repeat themselves, it is critical we are listening.
In this passage, the body and blood being sacrificed is mentioned frequently. But even more frequently is something else. Here it is….
“will live forever”
“so the world may live”
“have eternal life within you”
“has eternal life”
“I will raise that person at the last day”
“remains in me, and I in him.”
“will live because of me”
“will not die”
“will live forever.”
“The Spirit alone gives eternal life”
“Very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life”
68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”
This is what it is all about, this life we have with God. That we are His people, that He is our God. That we are fixed to Him, we remain in Him, and He in us. United from the very moment of our baptism, united by a promise, the very new covenant, a promised renewed as He sustains us with His body and blood.
A life given, and shared.
A glorious eternal life.
That is our destination, that is the end that justifies the means that seem beyond unfair.
For one of Nicollo Machiavelli’s summaries became true, at the cross.
Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of power and introduction of new legal institutions.”
Or let me phrase it a little differently
Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of God’s reign and introduction of a new covenant.”
The violence of a Cross, the creation and stabilization of a righteous people of God, gathered in His presence, by the enactment of a new law, a new covenant.
That is what this is all about… it is why we know Jesus words are true.
Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”
So eat, be nourished, understand the gift of life in Christ and remain in Him, for there is His peace. AMEN.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
54 So when this takes place, and the mortal has been changed into the immortal, then the scripture will come true: “Death is destroyed; victory is complete!” 55 “Where, Death, is your victory? Where, Death, is your power to hurt?“ 56 Death gets its power to hurt from sin, and sin gets its power from the Law. 57 But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 (TEV)
383 The scholastics do not teach the righteousness of faith. They interpret faith as merely a knowledge of history or of dogmas, not as the power that grasps the promise of grace and righteousness, quickening the heart amid the terrors of sin and death.
(disclaimer, I haven’t watched GoT yet…. but please keep reading)
Last night my Twitter and FB feeds went crazy, I mean really crazy. Like 1000 posts in five minutes crazy.
Everyone was talking about someone dying, reacting the way I remember us reacting when the Challenger exploded, or perhaps when the way people did when Kennedy was shot.
Turns out it was a character on a television show called Game of Thrones. ( I vaguely remember a similar incident when someone shot JR, but then again, I didn’t watch that show either!)
One of my much younger friends tried to explain it to me. She was kind of shocked that I hadn’t watched GoT yet and tried to convince me I MUST watch it. We “chatted” across FB for a while, and I went to sleep thinking I might be able to watch and episode or two… maybe in August?
But I thought about it, apparently this show, like a few others this last year, have made a point about people dying who are someone special to the show. Someone died in Gray’s Anatomy (McDreamy McSteamy, McBlasphemy?) , And I think there is some other show where they regularly kill off a character. I suppose if BlackList (the only show I regularly watch, and I am a season behind)
All this shock of death, even the death of a fictional character is, in my mind a good thing. We can learn from it, that death is fleeting, and that life needs to be taken in a proper perspective. That the relationships, we count on can be horribly marred by death, Whether that death is a friend in their 90’s or infant still in the womb. Whether it is the death of a dear friend whom we will miss for years or of someone across the world.
It can cause fear as well, I can testify to that. Because of a genetic heart condition, I’ve faced it for a long time though since 1998 the threat has lessened because of surgery. Even so, death has an incredible power over us who live. It threatens us, it hurts us, it damages our psyche as we try to cope with our lives being shorter and more tragic than we want to admit, that we want to face.
Yeah – a character can be killed off. Even more importantly, a friend can die, or you can. An accident, a cardiac arrest, food poisoning, cancer, war, civil unrest. No one is immune. No one. (as GoT so aptly proves!)
In the quote above in blue, a man named Phillip Melancthon talked about belief, about faith, in a way that can give us some comfort. Faith is what gives us peace in the midst of death and dying, It isn’t just knowing some facts and figures, it isn’t just about thinking about God, or trying to behave well. It is clinging to God in a way that brings hope, even in the midst of tears, and anger, and trying to make sense out of this life, and the terminal nature of it.
Faith clings to the God, who promises that death is not as brutal, that there is something more to life than ending in death.
It clings to the promises God has made, that He has revealed, that He sends the Holy Spirit to confirm to us and to comfort us and to be our guarantee of eternity. When we have faith, we count on God more and more, and He sustains us, comforts us, holds us close. And nothing, not even death, can separate us from His love.
So if GoT caused you to grieve, to be angry, to hold onto speculation that the character really isn’t dead, to go even into a small depression, maybe that’s a good thing. Take the time to think through your reaction, to realize the power of death, and the only way to break its very real hold on you, is to hold on to Jesus.
He’s promised to protect your heart and your mind… and surround you with the incomprehensible peace of God our Father.
You’ll be okay. He died to make sure of it!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 165). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. Titus 1:2 (NLT)
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)
“with angels, and archangels, and all the company of heaven, we praise Your gloriously name” (words of our liturgy, prior to singing the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy)
It was October 28th, 2004 about 8 o’clock in the morning. I was listening to Jim Rhome’s show on the radio, driving up Palms to Pines Highway, heading to a meeting at my church in Anza. I had to call into the show, but even as I wanted to tell the story about my grandfather playing catch with me and telling me stories of the red sox greats…. I was overwhelmed, and missed my grandfather. The grief was hard to bear… even now remembering the grief that flooded….
Friday, two of my friends and I went to see the move Sniper. Watching the PTSD build up in Chris Kyle made me think of my dad. No movies were made about him, but he too saw things, did things, that would haunt him.
Sunday, after an incredible morning in church, my son and I watched our family’s favorite football team, the New England Patriots, come from behind to win a superbowl. I put on facebook my feelings a few moments after, as I walked through the bedroom and saw the flag presented to me at my dad’s service. How he would have loved the game. How he would have loved watching my son throwing a ball back and forth with me during it. Flashbacks to our driveway in New Hampshire, and my dad and playing catch. More and more emotions… more and more grief….
Being raised in a Irish/Italian home, I tend to sentimentality. Even more though, I was raised not to bury grief, but rather to embrace it. As I say the words in blue above, as I look out over my congregation, faces comes to mind. I can almost hear their voices as well, part of the great company of heaven. Those we’ve lost for the moment, those we’ve said good by to over the years. Guys like Dale, and Richard, my first vicar Clyde and his buddy Armando, Rich B, who helped me define a vision for my present church, and Warren, who helped that vision become reality. Others who’ve placed great faith in me, like my wife’s grandmother, or Joseph, a dignified retired pastor from Guyana, who pastored “his pastor” with encouragement. Or Harley, a man who proved I could be his friend as well as his pastor. And yes, my dad…
Grief upon grief, we face a lot of it in life.
Some is quite poignant, the bitterness of not being able to play catch anymore, or watch a game together, arguing about referees calls, or trying to break the record for the most consecutive throws and catches. (football with my dad was 232 – don’t know why I remember – with my son yesterday… it was 33)
The experience as we get a sense of the great cloud of witnesses, the whole company of heaven is different. Yeah, I wish I could commune my dad one more time, or either of my grandfathers just once. Or have a service with all those guys mentioned above…..and yet I know there will be a communion, that lasts eternally, that lasts forever. And this celebration here, is a small sense of the one there.
For all who believe in God, who trust Him for what He promises will be gathered together again. We can have confidence in that, because it was promised, this plan of God that even preceded creation. This promise is the joy that Christ focused upon, even as He was crucified by us, for us.
We will all share eternity with God, our Father, ou Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. I can’t tell you what that will look like, because it will beyond anything we’ve ever seen, heard, even thought of, but it will be with Him.
As we hear those words, grief becomes… blessed… it transforms into yearning, and hope. Not just to see them again, but to be together in the incredible presence of God. He’s promised it, this family gathering that will be forever. We take that hope into the world, an share it with those who need it as much as we do. we share it with those who know it, as we celebrate it together, and with those who do not…as we minister to them, where ever we encounter them in life.
even as we play catch with them…. or watch a game with them… or argue about which team is the best in history….
God’s peace to you… in
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself. John 12:32 (ASV)
24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. Acts 20:24 (NLT)
32 Coming closer to God means being ready to be converted anew, to change direction again, to listen attentively to his inspirations—those holy desires he places in our souls—and to put them into practice. (1)
Too often in our messages, salvation is seen as one step, what theologians call justification. God calling His people to Him, drawing them to the cross. There He cleanses them from sin, frees them from bondage to Satan, and from the fear and anxiety that death causes.
There is nothing we can do, nothing we can say or think that makes this part happen.
Yet salvation is more than this, far more than this.
Salvation includes the life we have been given in Christ. It is not just justification, but sanctification as well. It is being made holy, being set apart to live a life God has designed. A life that gives us a hint of eternity, for in this life, we walk in Christ, and He lives and ministers to others through us. It is a friendship, a partnership in achieving the will of God in this world, preparing people for eternity.
It is living a life that is amazing, and is costly. We are called to bring the same message to the world that Paul did, as the Holy Spirit who drew us to Christ, draws others to Him by using us as their guides. Bringing peace where there is no peace. Watching people reconcile, to God, and then as that settles their souls, to each other.
As they join us in celebrating the wonderful mystery of God’s love and mercy for us, this incredible grace. That He has placed in us holy desires which He empowers us to find satisfied, as we minister in the stead, by the command, and with Christ.
This is salvation, this is finding ourselves in the presence of God, of finding that He has come to us and transformed us.
- Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 350-352). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
22 Jews want miracles for proof, and Greeks look for wisdom. 23 As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24 but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (TEV)
16 I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18 so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19 Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (TEV)
I venture to assure you, my dear reader, that if you and I enter into this forge of the Love of God, our souls will become better, being cleansed of some of the dross that clings to them. (1)
I watched a couple of interesting movies yesterday. The first was Good Will Hunting, and then I watched the movie that has become quite popular among Christians, God’s Not Dead.
I wrote last night on FB that both were about redemption, and that both fell short. They both dealt with brokenness, they both had characters, several of them, that needed to be healed of the darkness they dwelt in, and they both seemed to find healing for their brokenness. And both fell short. Both were incomplete.
But what surprised me is that I found that God’s not Dead seems to have fallen shorter in some ways.
Good Will Hunting isn’t a movie trying to serve as an apologetic. It is simply a John Hughes movie, done in the context of Boston. Quite realistic, even to the language. it got it when the character that is redeemed can’t be helped by the wisdom and knowledge of the world, of the professors and clinicians. It takes a broken, battered man (Robin Williams) and the unlikely average joe to bring about the promise of redemption, of meaning. And it is found, not in the career, not in the perfection of life, but in the need for real love, and the chase of the one who loves. Replace Minnie Driver with Christ, the sexual scenes with times of intimate prayer – and you have something.
But the brokenness and pain can’t be healed by anything but love.
Now to God’s not dead
Did you notice anything really conspicuous missing from the movie?
The ontological arguments were well done. The brokenness of relationships with God and between Dean Cain and his family, and Kevin Sorbo and his girlfriend, students and life in general are well done, if a bit over the stop in stereotypes. The dealing with cancer, and the band ministering to the girl with a cancerous death sentence, nice done as well.
But there is something missing.
Figure it out yet?
Where was the cross?
You can prove the existence of the Divine, of a Creator, logically and completely, and still have someone who is bound by satan, enslaved by sin, in anxiety over death.
Luther noted that this was true, as he explained the work of the Holy Spirit in the Large Catechism
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. (2)
We can know all about the existence of God, but without the cross, you cannot know God’s attitude is towards you. All we can realize is that you don’t deserve love, but punishment. Like the mathematicians and fancy psychologists, we cannot find a way out of our brokenness. We are so broken, so torn up, so enslaved by sin. Even forensic, scientific apologetics becomes, not a hope, but a hindrance. The victory of young Wheaton in the movie is something we can triumph in, we defended God successfully! We won the battle, even as they don’t see the victory in the back room, or out on the street, or even behind him, as the girl who lost her family but found Christ was there.
We have to have the cross, for it is there we find God’s attitude toward us, we see the incredible dimensions of His love in those rough beams, in the blood soaked body of Christ. We proclaim His death until He comes again, as Paul says we do as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the incredible love of the Eucharist. We are joined to that cross in our baptism (see Colossians 2, Romans 6, Titus 3)
it is impossible to know the love of God without seeing His work, without seeing the cross.
And it was missing.
The relationship? It was a minor secondary thing compared to the victory. Compared to the people who came to “know” about God by deciding God’s case.
As if we could comprehend His ways, understand His actions simply by deducing there is a God.
We have to know there is a God who loves us……who loves us enough to die for us.
Yes, God’s not dead, but He did die….
Get to know Him, walk with Him, it is why He died.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 203-204). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.Part II Of the Creed: Article III
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! 12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:10-14 (NLT)
1033 Make those reflections of your friend your own. He wrote: “I was considering how good God was to me and, full of interior joy, I was ready to shout out loud, there in the street, for everyone to know about my filial gratitude: ‘Father! Father!’ And though not in fact shouting out loud, I kept calling him so—‘Father!’—in a low voice, many times, quite certain that it pleased him. I seek nothing else. I only want to please him and give him Glory. Everything for him. If I desire my salvation and my sanctification it is because I know that he desires it. If in my Christian life I hunger for souls, it is because I know that he has this great hunger. I say this in all truth: I will never set my sights on the prize. I don’t desire a reward: everything for Love!” (1)
As I was completing my devotions this morning, I came across the quote above my St. Josemaria Esciva, one of my favorite writers. My reaction to it, as I was reading it, was “WOW” – this is powerful stuff. And then I got to the last two sentences and was jarred a bit. Okay, more than a bit.
It seems to clash with the Bible passage above, one of my favorites since I could actually run long distances, back in high school and college.
I don’t set my eyes on the prize, or I do? Scripture should win this, the imitation of St/ Paul, an apostle and the author of scripture. RIght?
But what if the prize that Josemaria is speaking of is different than the one St. Paul is speaking of?
I’ve done enough funerals in my life to know that people have all sorts of interesting images of heaven. Most of which have nothing to do with what scripture teaches. A place of no more sorrow and tears for sure, but the idea of our sitting on the porch of our heavely mansions, sipping tea, or getting our wings fitted so we can play in the clouds, those ideas and many others don’t come from scripture. The peaceful, idealized version of heaven is not the prize we seek.
For Paul, and I believe Josemaria, and I pray for me, that the prize is simply knowing Jesus, to realize He is calling us into a relationship with God our Father. To enter into and bear witness to the glory and majesty of God which is seen so clearly in the depth of His love for us. To build up a level of faith, a level of trust in God that Josemaria describes so well. Where our desires become subject to His desires, because we realize the purity of His love. Where heaven is only a word that describes our cming into His presence. To have our trust in Him become such that His will becomes ours, where His righteousness is ours, where His mission, what Jesus was sent for, to seek and save the lost – is ours.
The prize that both seek is not heaven, it is the Lord of heaven.
It is not a reward for our work, but the reward already won, on a brutal cross.
Where communion with God is more than an event, it simply is life.
Lord have mercy on us, and show us your glory!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3650-3656). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.