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The Could Not See This… Will We Refuse to?

closed eyed man holding his face using both of his hands

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

John 9:40–41 (CEV) — When the Pharisees heard Jesus say this, they asked, “Are we blind?” 41 Jesus answered, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty. But now that you claim to see, you will keep on being guilty.”

And what decides it is your love. “In the twilight of our lives, we will be judged on how we have loved”, says John of the Cross, one of the great Christian mystics and lovers. From the beginning to the end, love is the guiding thread that leads us through all the labyrinths of time and life and history.
At the end, when we look into the eyes of our divine Lover, we shall see ourselves in totality, we shall see ourselves as He saw us and designed us from the beginning. At the end we shall touch the beginning. We shall hear Him sing to us something like the popular songwriter Dan Fogelberg’s lovely song “Longer”:
Longer than there’ve been fishes in the ocean,
Higher than any tree ever grew,
Longer than there’ve been stars up in the heavens,
I’ve been in love with you.
Jesus says something very much like this: “Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ ” (Mt 25:34).

Some avoid seeing it by locking onto tradition. Others by keeping busy working in the mission field. Others dive deep into academic approaches to theology. Some dive deep into doing things, into being a workaholic, as if over-using the talents of God is pleasing to Him.

I think all of these pursuits allow us to avoid actually interacting with God, much as Israel did at Sinai when they pleased that God speak through Moses. This is the modern version of Phariseeism – avoiding God.

I am not sure why we are afraid to explore the width and length, the height and depth of the love of God, but we are!  We don’t want to know that God passionately loves us, that He desires an intimate relationship with us.  We scoff at such, saying it sounds to sexual or even to effeminate. And we are less likely to talk and meditate on this love that 9 guys are to sit down and watch a Hallmark movie together!

So we remain blind to the immense love of God. We know all about Him, we can defend His existence, but like the Pharisees standing in the presence of the Lord God Almighty, we remain blind.

We are unable to sit and meditate on the love of God – because we are afraid of that love.

Read that line again…

Kreeft’s words get to the heart of the matter. They are glorious to read, yet as glorious as they are, they are challenging.

To look into Jesus’ eyes, and see how He sees us?

To see the depth of love that He has for us when we struggle to know who we really are?.

It is time to stop all that…

It is time to be still, and let your eyes be opened and see that He is God – and that he loves YOU!  Amen!

 
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 135.

They Didn’t Know, but He Did!

They Didn’t Know,
But He did
Luke 23:27-43
† In Jesus Name †

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ help you to know that you will be with Him in paradise.

They Didn’t Know – 1 Cor. 2:8

I have a confession to make.

When it comes to politics, I am slightly… okay… mostly… apathetic!

I like to blame it on scripture, you know, passages like Psalm 146,

3  Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. Psalm 146:3 (NLT2)

Or Psalm 118

8  It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people. 9  It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8-9 (NLT2)

I mean –I can justify my apathy there, can’t I?

But if I am honest, it is because I have known a few politicians in my life, and I don’t understand them, or a system where what is popular is better than what is right by God’s standard.

I’ve even got one more passage that talks about people in power, one that nails their lack of knowledge clear. Paul tells the church in Corinth this,
7  No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8  But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (NLT2)

Jesus saw this as well, as he looked out on those who were crucifying them and said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

They didn’t know what they were doing as they crucified Jesus, and what they really did not understand was that they were doing exactly what they needed him to do/

Hear that again, in their ignorance they did exactly what God wanted them to do, what He needed them to do.

They crucified Jesus.

He did

When Jesus forgives them, he does so with full knowledge.  Not just the experience of the crucial pain of the cross, but the full knowledge of why He was hanging there. To be able to say “you are forgiven”. To be able to say to us, as we realize the depth of our sin, rise, go in peace, your sins are forgiven, sin no more…. Only to be ready to tell that to us again the next time.

Presently I am reading Luther’s little pamphlet on meditating upon the cross. It is powerful, not just in the depth of walking us through the depths of our sin, but helping us realize the love of God that causes Jesus to volunteer to bear that pain. He chose it, knowing over and over from where the Triune God inspired the Old Testament, that He had to suffer and die!

Time and time he told the apostles it had to come about, that He had to die for them, that He had to die for us.

They didn’t see it coming, the leaders didn’t, the people didn’t, and Jesus died, which would have never happened if they truly understood and lived their lives knowing He was the Son of God..

And the thief realized it…

Only one man that day, dealing with the pain of his own sin, realized what Jesus being the Messiah meant. The man being crucified next him. 

Hear this man’s words again,

Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

Do you realize how crazy this is to say?  How insane/

They are hanging there, on the cross, both about to die! To die! 

Hey Jesus, when this is over, can I be part of what you’ve got coming next?  Please?  I mean, really Jesus, and as he leans to speak to Jesus, the pain once again robs him of all His strength.

please..? Can you imagine the joy that comes from hearing Jesus response? 

I am not sure if he even heard the word, day….. or maybe the word paradise.

He heard what was in between though, “YOU will be with ME”

“You will be with me”

That is why Jesus came to the cross, to be able to say those words to that sinner.  To that man who spent his life doing what He shouldn’t do, and not doing what he should do.  The kings and leaders who crucified him didn’t know this was Jesus’ intent.  Neither did all the people who cried “Crucify Him” and mocked him.

By the prompting of the Holy Spirit, this man knew… and he heard the sweetest words.

Words that every sinner can hear.  Including you and I.

Jesus says, “you will be with ME!”

And as we hear that, all else fades away. 

The sin, the shame, the grief, the pain. The doubts, the anguish…. It all faded away faster than this man’s life was, for he hear Jesus’s words…

We need to hear that, even as we struggle with out own brokenness and apathy.  We need to realize that all things – – including Jesus dying for our sins, works out for good, so even the ignorance of kings and leaders can, as well.

“You will be with ME!”

You will be with ME!

We indeed are with Him!!  AMEN!

Let us pray….

Faith in Action is Active in Christ (The Faith in Action Finale) A sermon on Jude 20-25

The Church Service!

Faith in Action: is Active…. In Christ.
Jude 20-25

In Jesus Name

May the grace, the incredible mercy and peace that your gift from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, so bring about your healing, that you find ways to help heal and build up others. AMEN!

Faith in Action…

Since September 9th, we’ve been talking about what Faith in Action looks like.  We’ve talked about because our Faith must be in action, people can see that faith, that for faith to be in action it has to be drawn close to Jesus, and that it has to be in dialogue.  We then talked about how faith in action has to set apart our perception of reality and soak in God’s reality, that it is patient, making sure of every step.  Faith in action learns to be content.  We ended up talking about the idea that Faith in Action can occur because it is a blessing from God and enables us to adore Him and others, and Bob talked last week about how this is possible because we can boldly enter God’s presence.

Which leads us to this week, the final week of the church year, the week we celebrate God’s victory over sin, and consider how we live, knowing He is returning for us.

For as our reading from Hebrews this morning reminds us, we “await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life” and who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault!”

Faith in Action is Active in Christ because He makes us alive, and gives a future and a hope with Him. A hope that we can… (not that we need to) reinforce in everyone, building each other up, especially those that are broken, wavering and need to be “snatched from the flames of judgment.”

For that is how “faith in action” is active.  It is active as we build each other up, and minister to each other, healing them even as we are being healed in Christ Jesus.

The Evidence of Faith in Action

You have often heard me use the word cHesed, that incredible Old Testament word, that is equally defined as either love, or mercy, or as the loving-kindness of God.

The evidence of Faith in Action, it’s activity, is summed up in that word.

Look at the things we are called to do,

To build up each other in our most holy faith.  In less “churchy” words, to help each other be completely at home trusting and depending on God.  A trust that is tied, not just to God’s presence and active help In this life, but to our eternal life.

To help each other be “at home” in their faith, to build up this household of faith requires that cHesed, that incredible blend of love and mercy.  To know when to comfort, to understand each other’s need to see God’s grace revealed in our lives. To know that God welcomes us into His home, and we become an integral part of it.

Even when we struggle, or as Jude says, wavering.  Again, our faith in action is active when we see someone who is struggling to make sense of this world, their place in it, and why God would care about someone like them. That is when we all work together, encouraging them, comforting them, helping them to know that God loves them, that He is working in their life.

We each need this kind of support at times and need it desperately at that.  Because our lives can become so dark, so hopeless, that what we know is wrong seems to be like our only lifeline, our only option for comfort.  That’s how sometimes we get sucked into alcohol, or drugs, how others rely on comfort food or get absorbed into a television game, or video games.

And to help each other through these times of wavering requires us to love them more than we love ourselves.  It might take our sacrificing our time, our preferences, even our sleep as we spend the night interceding in prayer.

This is our faith in action, it is how it is active in Christ, even to the point of our saving someone by snatching them from the flames of judgment.  That seems colorful in its phrasing, but it is dead on accurate.  Our Faith in Action can and does save people from hell, not because of us, but because they see God working through us.

The need for caution

In the midst of this, in the midst of focusing us on Christ’s return, Jude talks about showing mercy this way.

Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

I love how Jude describes sin here…. As something that contaminates our lives.  As something that just infuses its way into our lives, so deeply that we sometimes mistake sin as the identity of the one who sinned. It is too easy to take one of two choices.  The first being that because they are inseparable from the sin, it is okay with God.  The second is that because they have sinned so grievously, that there is nothing that can be done to call them back.

Jude tells us here, that sin is something different, a contaminant that oozes its way in, that spoils a person, but that our carefully showing God’s mercy to them will eradicate the contamination.  To use Bob’s word last week, we need to see that sin annulled, to see the mercy poured out so that the sin is forgotten by God because Justice was served.

We do this, by depending on what happened at the cross. Paul describes it this way

24  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
Galatians 5:24(NLT2)

We need to show mercy to those in this process, understanding how hard it is to be rid of the stain of sin.  Mercy meaning, we are there for them, pointing them to the promise of God’s grace. We help them realize God is calling them, not to heal themselves, but to trust in God’s work removing the stain of sin. Helping them realize it was annulled, that in God’s eyes, He has cleansed them of it so completely that it didn’t exist.

He has called them into a life of repentance, even as He has called us. All of us.

Which is again why this promise is where we end this series<

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. 25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord.

AMEN!

 

Your Life Has a Different Meaning…

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought for the Day:

8 Dear friends, don’t let this one thing escape you: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.  9 The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. 
10 But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness 12 as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God. The heavens will be on fire and be dissolved because of it, and the elements will melt with the heat. 13 But based on His promise, we wait for the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.
14 Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found at peace with Him without spot or blemish. 15 Also, regard the patience of our Lord as an opportunity for salvation, just as our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him.     2 Peter 3:8-14  HSCB

187         Listen to me carefully and echo my words: Christianity is Love; getting to know God is a most positive experience; concern for others—the apostolate—is not an extra luxury, the task of a few. Now that you know this, fill yourself with joy, because your life has acquired a completely different meaning; and act in consequence.

Patience is one of those things we don’t like to talk about.  Simply put, it is something that is beyond us.  Our culture thrives on impatience.  Cell Phones (remember having to wait to get home to call someone?), DVR’s (so we can fast forward past the stuff we don’t like), microwaves and now insta-pots all serve our desire not to wait.  We might try to justify it as “not wasting time” but in reality, it is our god of impatience that we continually try to find ways to serve.

Into this comes a passage about God’s patience, and the fact that He is patient with us, His people.  He doesn’t want anyone to perish, to be destroyed on the day to come.

Be sure, all will be destroyed, this He has promised.

Judgment will happen, this too is promised.  Some to be judged as lacking trust in God’s mercy, and therefore, trusting in themselves they stand condemned. And some, trusting in Christ’ intercession, in His death which erases our sin, and in His resurrection, which brings us to life, they will be judged righteous and welcomed into heaven.

So if God is patient with His church, and yet, will fulfill His word, we find the meaning of life as we imitate His.  We, the church, need to be both patient and yet focused on drawing people to Jesus.  For the day is coming.

It is hard to see the truth of the second coming without wanting to badger people, to not just draw them into Christianity, but to drive them into it, like a rancher driving his cattle.  It takes the patience of a shepherd, who uses his voice and staff guides his flock and leads it into the presence of God.  Or a parent guiding a child to learn to walk, and then ensures where they walk is safe.

This work requires love and thereby provides the new meaning in our lives.

To love those caught in sin, those in bondage to grief and shame, who are caught in selfishness and greed.  This is the meaning of our lives, to love God, to love those whose lives are broken, and help them find the healing that is in Jesus, even while we heal ourselves.

God is with you.. never forget it, and help others know it.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 997-1000). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Long lost lessons about dealing with feelings of futility,urgency and anxiety.

dscf1215-copy-copyDevotional Thought of the Day:

“Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Everything is futile.”  *Ecc 12:8  HCSB

10  Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (NLT2)

6  So, humble yourselves under God’s strong hand, and in his own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern. 1 Peter 5:6 (Phillips NT)

Rush, rush, rush! Hustle and bustle! Feverish activity! The mad urge to dash about. Amazing material structures … On the spiritual level … shams, illusions: flimsy backdrops, cheesecloth scenery, painted cardboard … Hustle and bustle! And a lot of people running hither and thither. It is because they work thinking only of “today”; their vision is limited to “the present.” But you must see things with the eyes of eternity, “keeping in the present” what has passed and what has yet to come. Calmness. Peace. Intense life within you. Without that wild hurry. Without that mad urge for change. From your own place in life, like a powerful generator of spiritual energy, you will give light and vigor to ever so many without losing your own vitality and your own light.

“slow down, you’re moving to fast, you’ve got to make the morning last!” came to my mind as I read the words in blue this morning.  Had to look the lyrics up -they come from a Simon & Garfunkel hit some 4-5 decades ago.

I remember a booklet in high school, that I read, and set aside because it wasn’t relevant to me, yet.  It was called Tyranny of the Urgent, and it to came to mind as I read these words of St. Josemaria.  As did lessons in my management program about the danger of managing from a reactive position, and the necessity of waiting patiently to see if things resolve.

As I spend more and more time in ministry, I think we have to learn these lessons over again.  Not passively or apathetically taking no action, but doing so with intent and deliberation, and a healthy dependence upon God. 

That’ is the Teacher in Ecclesiastes had to cope with, as he looked around him and realized the futility of life.  It is what the people in Isaiah’s time needed to learn, as they saw their world falling apart. It is what Peter (OF ALL PEOPLE!) advocates to those under pressure because of their faith.

Set all the things causing stress on God, knowing He will help – and keep us able to stand in the midst of a world trying to batter us, trying to break us.  He will heal us, His victory over sin and Satan and death becomes ours. 

The challenge is in realizing the eternal implications of our life in and with Christ.  My son’s teacher asked him this last year, “will this still be an issue in five years?” We should ask a similar question, “how does this affect our eternity?” and then work from that perspective. How does this situation lead people to God’s peace, or away from it? How will God view us, His children differently if we don’t immediately react?  

Take a breath… adjust, take a walk and spend the time looking for clues to God’s presence. 

God is with you….

Rest in that thought not just a second, try ten minutes, or sixty, or a day!

Repeat that, slowly, “The Lord is with me!”  

Be at peace, be still in and awe of the Lord’s work in your life…. and let go of the sense of urgency, the stress of anxiety, and the condemnation of futility.

The Lord is with you!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1928-1936). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is There Life Beyond Today?

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought for our days…and our future:

10 My brothers and sisters, try hard to be certain that you really are called and chosen by God. If you do all these things, you will never fall. 11 And you will be given a very great welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  2 Peter 1:10-11 NCV

“Life’s” destination lies beyond this life because it depends on “Someone” with a capital letter. All this is rooted in the hearts of our people, even if they are unable to express it conceptually.

There are times in my life, where surviving the evils of this day is my only goal.  Where i just try to hang on to God, and His presence long enough to help this person or that one. Where I deal with these problems, those challenges, this person’s sin, or worse my own.

I drag myself home, climb the stairs, and hopefully remember to thank God that He carried and dragged me through the day…..only to have another day come all too soon.

I do not think I am alone, not by any means.

We need to learn to live for something more, something that is glorious, something that is perfect.  Something that is beyond us, this destination that Pope Francis speaks of, the place where we will find Him, our “Someone”. A place that is truly home, a place of incredible, unbelievable peace, a place of joy, a place where tears, sorrow, weariness are unknown.

Francis is correct about our not knowing how to express it conceptually. We don’t know how to talk about heaven, we don’t know what it will be like, and to talk about it, sooner or later, we might have to talk about death and dying.  We really don’t want to talk about that.  NOT. AT. ALL.

But heaven is our reality, dwelling with God, in His glory, in His peace, in wonder and awe that He wants us there, that is what Christianity is about.  An eternal, everlasting relationship that we can’t even begin to conceive of (see 1 Cor. 2;9) 

But we know we shall be with Him. 

At the end of the day, that is what matters, 

At the beginning of tomorrow, we need to realize He is still here…revealing to us His love and mercy, comforting us, healing us, and preparing us for life with Him.

A life that began when we were baptized into His death, into His resurrection.. and given the promise of the Holy Spirit to dwell with us, keeping us til then.

 

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

 

 

Delayed Gratification and the Missio Dei.

dscf1215-copy-copyDevotional Thought of the day:

9  The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 10  The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and melt away, the earth and all that it contains will be burned up. 11  Since everything is coming to an end like this, what holy and saintly lives you should be living! 2 Peter 3:9-11 (NJB)

48      It would be good if it could be said of you that the distinguishing feature of your life was “loving God’s Will”.

Most of us go through life, living day to day.  Because of that we give little thought to tomorrow, or next week, or eternity.

We want everything now, and the struggle ( noted 30 years ago by M Scott Peck ) with delayed gratification has only become worse.  We can’t wait months anymore, sometimes we can’t wait hours.

SO how can we understand a God who will be patient for decades with us, who will be patient for millennia with humanity?  How can we understand the patience that is born of a desire to have us realize we are His people?

For that is His desire, that we realize the Jesus died, not just to separate us from our guilt and shame, but so free of it that we spend time with our God who is holy and righteous, who wants to care for our children. God is patient, hoping we understand His desire to call us His friends.

If this realization was the distinguishing feature of our life, and of our lives together, how incredible our lives would be!  How we would consecrate ourselves to His mission, to the vocation of the apostolate – realizing we are sent, whether we work in a church, or at Best Buy or running a country, to see this desire of God fulfilled.   Whether it is a friend we are sent to , or a homeless person, or a corporate CEO/COO.  It doesn’t matter. God desires to see all His friends at His table.  All of them.

Eternity is the goal, an eternity spent in the most loving relationship there is, eternity spent free of pain, of guilt, of shame, and eternal life.

So think about tomorrow…. and God’s desire for it… and watch your life change!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 402-403). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Have we forgotten eternity?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
9  That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT) 

34  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  Matthew 25:34 (NLT)

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.”
John 6:68-69 (NLT)

906    Et regni eius non erit finis—“His kingdom will have no end.” Doesn’t it fill you with joy to work for a kingdom like that?

A little over a year ago, I was at a funeral where one of my early mentors preached.  He made a point very clear that we no longer preach about eternity. He asked me if I, no longer in that denomination, ever mentioned eternity in my sermons, and I indicated I did, and while I do, the conversation took a back burner for a while.

I do mention it in sermons, for it is the 2nd great promise of our baptism,, the first being the presence of the Holy Spirit.  It is why the removal of our sin is so critical, for those who are counted as sinners, those who are bound by them, have an eternity that is not what I would call life.  (hell does exist, but how it is clearly described is an existence that is not what we think of as life.)

But I think we put off eternity, we have defined it as a reality we cannot know until we die.  It is “after-life” in many people’s thoughts.  Not life right now, eternity and heaven are not visible we think.  I believe this is, in part due to passages that describe the final judgment, and what theologians call the “not yet”.of the “now and not yet.”

We need to understand that there is a “now” to eternity.  That even as we struggle to see it, the love we know now is no different than the love we shall know then.  We will just be more aware of it, we will see it more clearly. 

How different would our lives be if we could begin to realize the truth of Paul’s words to the church in Colossae,

12  For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Colossians 2:12 (NLT)

and

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. Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT)

Eternity has begun.  It is hard to see at times, and yes, Satan and the world would love to obstruct our vision of Jesus, to diminish our ability to sense His presence and be comforted and consoled by it.  As we realize that, our duty becomes reminding each other, teaching and preaching about our eternal life. Meditating on it, partaking in the sacraments, and celebrating those who enter this life by being united to Jesus in the sacrament baptism.

This is who we are…those living in Christ eternally… this is our hope, our trust, and dependence on God and His promises, including the love that will see us to the day when we see Him face to face.

Until then, as St. Paul says, sets your sight on the realities of heaven… for that is where you real life is, hidden in Christ.  AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2107-2109). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What Will It Take you To Prove

What will it take to prove…

Luke 16:19-31

In Jesus Name

 May the Grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you, as His unsurpassable peace guards your hearts, and your mind, until He returns.

From Lazarus’s Perspective

We know his name – but we’ve never heard his thoughts, save one.  Even as he stands at Abraham’s side, we hear him thought of as a servant – someone to dispatch with a message, not like an apostle, but like and errand boy.

While he is alive, suffering, unable to care for himself, the only thing we head from him is his desire to be fed by what falls from the rich’s man’s table.  How he longed for a piece of bread, a morsel of lamb, even and onion.

Something, anything!

And he was so weak; he couldn’t even brash away the dogs who would lick and nibble at his open wounds.

Some scraps, please? Please?

A man who knew only hunger and pain.

And then one day, a procession of angels came, sent by God, to bring him to Abraham’s side, to wait for the day when there will be a new heaven and a new earth when God will dwell with His people, and we will see Him!

He was welcomed home, as we will be.

For like Lazarus, God knows our name!

The journey home
But what is this screaming in the distance?

As Lazarus is standing by Abraham’s side, he hears something you can’t usually hear in heaven, in fact, this may be the only time.  Some un-named (and that is important) man is trying to get Abraham’s attention from across the gulf, from the place for those not welcome in God’s presence.

It’s a voice that sounds familiar, and maybe Lazarus even recognized it as the voice, that echoed through the gates, the laughed and enjoyed the fine banquets and parties.
But now the voice was one of anguish, one begging for help, begging for reliefs from the heat, crying for pity,

Because of his past, maybe we would think Lazarus was thinking Mr. No-Name was getting what he deserved.  Or more likely, because of the very reasons he was escorted by angels, his heart was moved, and as Abraham was asked to send a messenger, maybe Lazarus was in tears, wanting to help.

Even so, the man’s torment would continue, his heart still not turned. And as he pleads for his brothers, Abraham’s words are haunting,

“‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

What will it take to convince us?

These words that Lazarus hears are scary when you think about them, and who is saying them.  What kind of proof would convince someone about the consequences of their sin?  If the words of scripture will not, if even the fact that Jesus not only raised people from death but rose from the dead himself – if that doesn’t cause people to think a little more, what will?

How do we reach people, and bring them to Jesus, If they aren’t persuaded by Jesus rising from the dead?

Or perhaps a better question – does the resurrection of Jesus make a difference in our lives?

Does it give us hope?

Does it help give us peace?

Does that hope, that peace transforms our lives in such a way we aren’t tied to stuff, but that we realize people have names, that we are to love them in the way that God does?

What difference does the resurrection of Jesus have for the way we look at life, and death?

What difference would it make if we realize that God, and all heaven, knew us by name because Jesus lived and died and rose again?

What will it take for us to realize God knows us and calls us by name?

Col. 1:28 –

The apostle Paul explains it this way.

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 assurance of sharing his glory.

This is the message that changes us, knowing that God loves us, and indeed loves every human being changes everything.  It means everything.  It means that each one of us is God’s beloved.

Knowing that means that loving others is no longer a duty, no longer a sacrifice, but it is glorious and wonderful to see them come alive in Christ, to see their lives transform, for they begin to share in God’s glory as well.

They have a name; they mean something to us.  This is why Paul would go on to say,

28  So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29  That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.
Colossians 1:26-29 (NLT)

People need to hear of God’s love, while they are still alive. They need to see that love in a way that they can hear; that isn’t someone trying to persuade them, but rather share with them this glory, this love.  They

But that happens best when we know His love when we realize He knows our name!  It is then, as we hear Him calling us by name that we realize in awe that He has given us His peace, peace that goes beyond understanding, peace that we dwell in because Christ calls us His treasure, and keeps our hearts and minds there.

This is our life… where God calls us by name – so live it!  AMEN!

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!!!

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