Devotional Thought of the Day:
26† “Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well. Luke 14:26 GNT
676 Have you noticed how many of your companions know how to be very kind and considerate when dealing with the people they love, whether it is their girlfriend, their wife, their children or their family? Tell them—and ask it of yourself too— that the Lord does not deserve less. They must treat him that way! Advise them, besides, to continue practising that kindness and consideration, but do it with Him and for Him,and they will achieve, even here on earth, a happiness they had never dreamed of.
Is God really serious
That I have to love Him, be more devoted to Him that to my wife, my son, my mother, my friends?
Other translations phrase it more bluntly, indicating that we have to “hate” those relations. The root word can extend from the hate that is actively working against the person to simple indifference, where the blessing we could be is neglected, to refrain from being in the person’s life.
I have to admit this, I don’t like these words of Jesus.
I struggle with them.
I can try to rationalize a million reasons why Jesus didn’t mean what he said. From talking about our responsibilities under the fourth commandment ( Honor thy father and mother) to talk ing about the witness we need to have with our lives, as we care for those God has put in our lives. And I know people that have done as the Pharisees and discounted their parents out of religious obligation. Jesus talks about them as well, calling that practice wicked.
Yet these words will not disappear from scripture.
And as much as we are shocked by them, we need to hear them. We desperately need to hear them. We need to admit how we too often turn these relationships into idolatry When we live through them or define ourselves first as a husband, dad, son, brother, cousin, friend. When the devotion we should have towards God is sacrificed on the altar of these relationships. When we tolerate sinful behaviors or brokenness because we are afraid of hurting the relationship. When we are more worried about losing this person’s favor than we are about losing the love of God.
And there is the problem, this idolatry of relationships, this giving of the place that God designed in your life, so that you can know His love, that you can know His care, that you can realize His presence.
Yeah, He means it. not out of some self-centered jealousy and need for self-affirmation, but because of what He can provide for us, that no one else can.
As we learn to live in that love, as that relationship defines us, we even find out our care for others becomes more like God’s, truly loving and not just caring for what we get out of it.
A hard lesson to hear, a harder one to live out. Yet so necessary…
Lord, help us to receive Your love for
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2824-2829). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Key to Good Relationships
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in our lives, that we are certain that ALL things God intends for good.
You offended who?
Imagine if you offended someone with a lot of power. Say, the head of the CIA, or one of the leaders of the Mafia. Or to make it truly scary, the guy you cut off this morning, he’s waiting for you outside, and he is the head interrogator… Err… analyst for the IRS.
Can you imagine their fear the eleven brothers had that we heard about in the reading from Exodus, the person they offended had so much power that Joseph could have made them and their family disappear?
They were so afraid of him that they didn’t even go to beg for their lives themselves, they delegated that task to someone, coming up with a whopper of a story.
I can imagine the messenger trying to “sell it” to Joseph.
“Uhm, your brothers sent me… and uhm… they wanted me to tell you that your dad, uhm…. Before he died instructed them to tell you… you had to forgive them all that cruel stuff they did to you. Uhm like mocking you and tossing you into the pit, and saying they were going to kill you and then selling you to some passing merchants.
Uhm yeah, Mr. Prime Minister sir, yeah that’s the message they told me to say, uhm… please don’t kill the messenger?!?”
So afraid were they, that they didn’t get the message their brother told them in chapter 45, the same message he would give them here….
The same message we need to hear when we screw up, for it is the key to having good relationships, and really when one is broken, the only way to see those relationships reconciled, and healed.
Why the tears brother?
I usually look at this passage from Joseph’s perspective. But today, I want to see it from the brother’s perspective. There are people who have offended us, and that is a challenge, but do we ever think that someone we’ve offended would forgive us?
If we were to see the person we’ve offended cry as Joseph did, if we were to see them break down and weep, what would be going through our minds?
How would we understand his sobbing? Would we think he was re-living the pain, the agony, the loneliness we caused? Would his breakdown leave us more anxious, more worried, more afraid of what he would do?
It must have had an effect on them, for they no longer talked of being the servants of their father’s God.
They fell at Joseph’s feet and did something amazing.
They said they were his slaves. That he had complete power of their lives, as they took a position of incredible humility… and still they were unable to think of the idea of reconciliation, or true forgiveness.
They are like the prodigal son, eating the same food as the pigs he fed, because there was nothing else. He didn’t expect his Father would forgive him, but maybe he would accept him as a hired hand, or even a slave.
and maybe that person we offended would recognize we were people again. They might not ever be friends again, but maybe they wouldn’t be actively hostile toward us?
The power of knowing God
I think the reason they struggled with reconciling broken relationships is they were missing something.
They didn’t understand how God worked, because they never looked for what God was doing. They didn’t understand what Joseph had seen in Potiphar’s house, or in the jails, the very distinct and certain path God had planned.
Joseph couldn’t have become prime minister without meeting the cup bearer in jail, he couldn’t have bene there if he hadn’t been a slave in Potiphar’s house, he couldn’t have been sold to Potiphar unless his brothers betrayed him and sold him into slavery in the first place.
Each step, miraculously led to the next, and what was planned for evil God intended to use for good.
The other offense.
Joseph knew the heart of God, the heart of the Lord whom we have offended.
For our sins, much more numerous than those of the eleven brothers, offend Him. He’s created us, given us a simple task of loving Him and each other, and we fail too often. And like Joseph’s brothers, is there any way we could ever believe He would cry over our betrayal?
That somehow, God could plan for what we intended that was unloving and sinful to somehow end up being for good?
Yet in cross, where Jesus died to ensure our forgiveness, we see the ultimate version of what Joseph knew. He knew the heart of God, and that God would always call us back to Him. Perhaps he listened to his father, a pretty notorious sinner who even wrestled with God, fighting for a blessing. Or remembered the stories of his grandfather and great grandfather, whom God would use and make promises to, even as they weren’t always faithful.
God always plans to call us back, to renew and heal us from our sin. He will care for us as Joseph cared for his brothers, even comforting us and reassuring us about the promises He makes to us, the promise made to little David this morning.
The promise that is renewed here, when we are given the body and blood of Jesus, the blood spilled out as man did the ultimate evil, killing someone who was innocent.
And yet out of that ultimate evil, comes the greatest act of mercy, as Jesus died not just because they killed them, but to forgive every sin we’ve have committed. Every single one.
This is the heart of God that Joseph saw, the sacred Heart that cares for us more than the pain we caused.
The heart of God that would cry over our sins, and then call us back to Him, and care for us, providing for us.
This is our God, and trusting in Him, we can find peace overwhelming our anxieties, our fears washed away by His comfort, our sins washed away by His blood.
For what we meant for evil, God used for good.
It was our evil… it was for our good.
This is the secret to good relationships – the power of God to reconcile us to Himself, and then there – we are already reconciled to each other.
He calls to you today as well, offering that peace, which doesn’t make sense to us, but in which He promises to care for us, for we dwell in in Jesus. Amen.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 The LORD spoke to Moses and said: 2 Consecrate to me every firstborn; whatever opens the womb among the Israelites,a whether of human being or beast, belongs to me. Ex 13:1–2 NAB-RE
209 You made me smile, because I know what you meant when you said: I am enthusiastic about the possibility of going to new lands and opening a breach there, perhaps very far away… I would like to find out if there are men on the moon…Ask the Lord to increase that apostolic zeal of yours. (1)
On facebook this morning, I saw a man saying that he definitely would speak for Christ if he was put in the place of a potential martyr, where the decision was to either say he believed in another god or Jesus. And then he challenged everyone else to claim they would as well.
It made me think of the passage in red that I came across a few days ago, about the command of God to dedicate to His service every firstborn. We can think of those who did in scripture. Hannah comes to mind, as does Elizabeth. Abraham had the question put to him, and his faith in God was proven true. And less we forget Mary’s first son, who she watched God the Father dedicate to the purpose of saving all of mankind.
Dedicating a child to God’s work isn’t something new, but it is something forgotten. During the middle ages, and even until recent history, the second male was encouraged to enter the ministry. Not the first, because that would be the heir of the family name, but the second. (Who gets the better inheritance IMHO)
These days, we aren’t so ready to do so. Not with the first or the second. We aren’t ready or willing to give them up to a life of service, or for that matter, a life of martyrdom, as they sacrifice and even are sacrificed to accomplish the work of God.
Fewer men are entering the ministry, fewer women dedicating their lives to working in the church and church schools as well. Fewer willing to go on the mission field, whether far abroad or here in the inner cities.
We claim to be people who trust God in everything, will we trust Him with our children? Will we trust Him with those who are precious to us?
Even if their vocation is to be a pastor or priest, missionary or even if they are called to martyrdom?
Do we trust Him with life?
Again, go back to Mary’s son, her first born. The only-begotten Son of our Heavenly Father. Who was the pastor, priest, missionary, and yeah – martyr as He died on the cross. As He saved us from our sin. As He came to us.
The firstborn of the firstborn.
May our trust in God grow, as we consider what God the Father committed and consecrated His firstborn to do, and may we seriously encourage more and more people to consider a vocation that sees them ministering to others.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1082-1085). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
21 Submit yourselves to one another because of your reverence for Christ. 1 Children, it is your Christian duty to obey your parents, for this is the right thing to do. 2 “Respect your father and mother” is the first commandment that has a promise added: 3 “so that all may go well with you, and you may live a long time in the land.” 4 Parents, do not treat your children in such a way as to make them angry. Instead, raise them with Christian discipline and instruction. Ephesians 5:21, 6:1-4 (TEV)
19 Be grateful to your parents for bringing you into this world, thus enabling you to become a child of God. And be all the more grateful if it was they who placed in your soul the first seeds of faith and piety, of your Christian way, or of your vocation. (1)
Later this week, my mom and I will take a day and just get away. It will be one year since my dad passed, and the grief and loss that we feel may indeed well up inside of us. So I have been thinking of family a lot recently. This morning I came across St Josemaria’s quote you just read in my devotions, All over the news o that the brokenness of some famous athletes’ families recently aired out in front of the world, and an odd comment on facebook recently, sparked off this blog.
The comment this morning that struck me as odd, was the reference to the Virgin Mary as simply a “vessel”, nothing more, nothing less. It struck me as pragmatic and lifeless, and against the very idea of family as taught in the scripture. For no mother is simply a vessel, a holding place for life for 9 months.
God designed us to be part of families, and while many are dysfunctional… no wait, all are dysfunctional because of sin, that doesn’t mean we should devalue them. Yet that is what we allow. Mother’s are reduced to vessels, and holding tanks. Father’s are thought unnecessary, and of little value. Children are tossed aside, before and after they are born. Siblings are made to think that rivalry is the norm, rather than a loving family.
This isn’t new – you can’t read scripture without seeing the brokenness of families, and directions about how things really should be. Directions that are critical to be really heard, and by that I mean the scriptural meaning of hear – to absorb and let affect and transform you. This is not just something that we can take as what theologians call adiaphora, it is not optional. Nor is it it simply environmental or biological. As an adopted child, I have met my birth mother, and much of who I am, I see in her. As well, I see a lot of my adopted parents as well.
It is the relationship of family, even if we struggle with it.
The reason this is critical is simple. The family is an image of our relationship with God. He is our loving Father, our merciful Brother. We are all siblings, whether we note the relationship, or not.
Frequently, we take the image of family that we know, our broken, confused, dysfunctional families, and those we see, and project them onto our relationship with God. It becomes a fight for who is wiser, or who is in control, who is the authority, who has the rights. And we treat God like we treat our parents, our children, our brothers and sisters.
If instead of projecting on God’s family what we know from dysfunctional experiences, we let it work the other way?
We would honor our parents, praying for them, hearing them.
We would sacrifice for our family, the way Jesus did for us, knowing that in love, no sacrifice is too great for those who are in His family.
We would value the people God has given us, parents, children, siblings in our families, and in our church families.
We would seek those who are part of this family, yet don’t know it… yet.
We would love.
Lord Have mercy as we worship and love you, as we embrace our families in love.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 304-306). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Am I My Brother’s Keeper?
† In Jesus Name †
May the peace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ be your sanctuary, your refuge, and may you always welcome the journey there!
Cain’s question should haunt us….
There is something special about having friends and family around us. We see that today, as some have come long distances to help their friends celebrate forty years of marriage.
But there is a challenge for family and friends as well, for no one can disappoint us, no one can hurt us, no one can challenge our ability to love, as much as they do. It seems like it has always been so, well not always. Once Adam and Eve screwed up in the garden though, there has always been tension in families, and among friends.
We see it especially in the relationship of their first two sons, Cain and Abel. The challenge of loving each other was brutally sacrificed to bring some sense of relief to the pain and jealousy that found a place in Cain’s heart.
The reason that I bring him up this morning, is a question he once asked of the Lord.
Am I my brother’s keeper?
The son of man hears the answer to Cain’s question, and the answer is found in our Old Testament reading today.
7 “Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me.
Yes, we are to work to keep your brothers safe… for if something happens to them and they are unaware, the passage from Ezekiel tells we are held responsible.
That is a heavy burden, yet is our mission in this life.
The Apostle John wrote about this as well:
20 If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God whom we have not seen if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21 The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. 1 John 4:20-21 (TEV)
We have to be watchmen for each other…we have to warn each other, as best as we can, for this is the will of God.
We have to care for the wicked folk too!
As we look at Ezekiel’s watchman, it helps to make the connection between the words watchman and keeper. It’s the same word in Hebrew, to guard them. TO be on guard is to work for the safety and peace of those entrusted to your care. A peace and safety corrupted and destroyed by sin.
But note in the Old Testament reading, those entrusted to the watchman’s care are called the people of Israel. They are named, appropriately, after the one whose name means to struggle with God. Not after Abraham, the father of Nations, or Isaac, laughter, but Jacob/Israel, the one who wrestles, who fights God.
It goes on to say that these we care for are wicked, and are certain to die unless they change their ways.
Great description of the people we have to keep safe! Oh wait – he’s describing the people of God. Uhm, that means the description could very well be of us.
Wicked here means those who are guilty, those who have violated either God’s law or His will. Scary thought, if that is the definition of evil. Do we realize we embrace evil when we sin? Paul said it this way,
29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31 They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. Romans 1:29-31 (NLT)
All those people are evil, right? Do you hear that it includes those who gossip and quarrel? That it includes those who are proud and boastful? What about those who do not show kindness or mercy?
It is them we are called to warn that certain judgment is coming.
Some of you may contend that the watchman are just the Old Testament prophets, and maybe the apostles and evangelists of the New Testament. We might bristle a bit when we realize it includes the pastor, and that it could include deacons and vicars and elders.
But what if I said that each of one you is called to care, to help your brothers and sisters stand firm in the love of Christ Jesus?
That keeping them, guarding them in Christ by warning them is what we do, because we are called to love them? Think about it for a moment, is it loving to allow someone to do harmful actions? Maybe we can’t prevent them, Ezekiel seems clear about that, but we can call them to repentance. We can call them back to Christ. We can love them that much because He loved us!
Let this mind be in you…. Which is in Christ!
So what do we do with our past? What can we do when we screw up and fail? What do we do with our sin?
What do we do with those times when we failed to be our brother’s keeper, to serve Him as a watchman? When we’ve allowed them to be in bondage to sin without warning them, or when we failed to call them to repentance? When we’ve failed as watchman, guards, and keeping them safe? What about when we’ve rejoiced that they got what they deserved, ignoring our responsibility to call them to trust God?
Well, we don’t “do” something. We listen.
When we confessed it we need to listen and hear of the faithfulness of Jesus to forgive us, and to cleanse us of that sin. Maybe we need to hear His absolving us again. Maybe we need to hear the words of our baptism, that we are united with His death and sin has died to us. We need to hear that His blood was shed, His body broken, that we would live forgiven. We need to hear (and therefore proclaim) His death, until He comes again.
You see, ultimately, this prophecy is about Jesus as well. He is our watchman, our guardian; He is our brother who is our keeper. He is the one who warns us, and makes possible the very repentance, the change of heart and mind that repentance is.
That is why Acts talks of repentance being granted to the Gentiles, even as it was to the apostles and disciples who were Jewish.
He’s called you out of wickedness, into a life filled with hope, with goodness, with joy as we see Him at work. As we see Him take people that are gossips and haters and do not show mercy, who struggle with God, and re-create them into children of God.
This is why the cross happened; this is why He died, taking on the burden of the death and condemnation that awaited us.
That is how a brother acts towards his brothers and sisters. He sacrifices Himself, so that they may live. That is what it took to get our attention, to reveal not just the existence of God, but His love for us.
For our brother, our Lord, Jesus our savior is our watchman – He is the One who is our Keeper, as He keeps us firm our heart and mind in the peace of God our Father. AMEN!
devotional thought of the day:
27 At this Peter exclaimed, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What is that going to be worth to us?” 28 “Believe me,” said Jesus, “when I tell you that in the next world, when the Son of Man shall sit down on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones and become judges of the twelve tribes of Israel. Every man who has left houses or brothers or sisters or fathers or mother or children or land for my sake will receive it all back many times over, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first now will be last then – and the last first! Matthew 19:27-28 (Phillips NT)
In the last few days, I have been thinking about death a bit. No, not because of the movie and television star who died, but because of someone important in my life. Someone I barely knew, yet revealed to me again a truth about family, especially the family of God.
As we stood at her graveside this morning, as her children dropped beautiful red roses flowers onto the urn’s vault, someone suggested that I do, as one of the family, drop a flower into the vault as well. I flashed back to the service at church, a few days before, and a story where another of her “children” was told, “you maybe one of my daughters, but I am sure I didn’t give birth to you!”
As I stood there, a rose in my hand, the verse above came into my head. This Lady whose ashes were being lade to rest – could very well be an elder sister, if not a mother in the faith. Her husband was surely one of the great father-figures in my faith. And her six children, they truly are like my brothers and sisters, even though we grew up on different continents, Even though they and their children live all over the world today, even though there is little at first glance that we would have in common, they welcomed me as their brother. Though I have spent less than 24 hours with some of them, I yearned to bring them comfort as a sibling would in those moments, and felt the impact of their mom’s temporary loss in those moments.
There are two things that can bind people together, (there are more – but these two are the most powerful) The first is traumatic, the fact that those we love, and we ourselves will die. It can cause us great despair, despair that is more than individual, yet more deeply felt than anything we feel individually.
But even as powerful, even as final as death seems to be. There is something that binds us even closer, that is far more powerful, and endures far greater.
The Love of God. The love which binds us, the children of God, together more powerfully. That transcends culture, that transcends age, nationality, ethnicity, It is a love reflected in the words read this morning.
3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” 5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 6 And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. 7 All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. Revelation 21:3-7 (NLT)
We are His children. The lady whose ashes were laid to rest most certainly understands that now – the promises of God to her in her baptism, that she heard all her life, that her husband proclaimed from pulpits, that she taught her children – all of us, that was proclaimed loudly.
For she is one of those brothers or sisters or fathers or mother or children that I have received.
That message that this couple shared with so many of their children, they shared with their New England born and raised kids, Who didn’t get to know them long enough, and yet knew their home was my home as well – where brothers and sisters welcome me still! .
Truly in Christ Jesus we gain more relatives, more family, and a hope that extends far beyond this life….. into eternity.
We are God’s children….. created in Christ to do good works, to love… to care for each other, to share the hope given to us.
Sermon from Concordia Lutheran Church, June 29. 2014
The Paradox of Life in Christ
† IHS †
May we understand that this grace, the mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, is what makes life worth living.
But I thought…… The paradox that isn’t
As I read the gospel reading first two verses last Monday, (for I did not come to bring peace… but a sword.. and cause division in homes) other Bible passages started to run through my mind.
Isa 9:6 — For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end.
Ac 10:36 — This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
Ro 5:1 — Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.
Eph 2:14 — For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.
Eph 2:17 — He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near.
Col 1:20 — and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
And as I read the verses about division, I thought about the 4th Commandment, and our duty to Honor our father and mother. Then St, John’s words, questioning how we can love God who we can’t see, when we don’t love our neighbor whom we can see. I mean – isn’t God all about love? The two greatest of commands are love Him and love our neighbor, right?
It seems confusing at first, that this passage contradicts so many others in scripture, indeed, some which form the basis of our relationship with God.
There is a word for this – it is called a paradox… and certainly, from the view of the world, this life we have been given in Christ is a paradox
So let’s look at this passage – and see something truly amazing…..
Yeah – Jesus does mean it –
Does Jesus actually mean it, when He talks about coming to cause division, to cause strife? That He didn’t come to bring peace, but a weapon of war? A sword to separate us from each other?
I mean, I like swords and knives and such, but is this the tool we need for ministry? Does following in His steps mean that we all have to carry swords and machetes? Of course not!
But does Jesus mean it, when He prophesies that families will divide, father against son, daughter against wife? That some who hate us, will be those in our very homes? That we have to love God more than any. More than our parents, than our children? Or if we do not, we aren’t worthy, we aren’t capable of being in a relationship with him
Yes, He does. He means it.
As we struggle with this, it is helpful to know which of the words for “love” is used here. It is phileo – the love usually expressed within a family. Within that, there is a sense of loyalty, the recognition that these are “my people”, that no one takes precedence over them. It is a tight mutual bond, one of great loyalty, one that can go deeper than we have words for, or the logic to explain.
Jesus says that this is the kind of love that we should have for Him, more than any other person in our lives. It’s not new in scripture, remember God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Issac? Remember Gideon, tearing down the statue of the idol Ba’al in his dad’s backyard? Or the cry of Joshua to his people, As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord?
That word actually cuts deeper and harder for many of us. Challenging our loyalty to our family, our very natural desire to care and protect those we love is a dangerous thing. Which is more important, the kids chance for a sports or academic scholarship, or spending time in church and Bible Study? What about God’s commands about marriage, or wanting them to just enjoy being “in love?” What about having to sacrifice time with our family, not to minister to a friend, but to show love and pray for an adversary, maybe their adversary?
Who is closer to us, who are we going to be loyal too? Who are we going to listen to, and base our “right and wrong” on?
Please here me! I am not talking about nagging people to death, or condemning those we love who aren’t living as God planned for them to live. But there has to be an option between tolerating that which is evil and wrong in God’s eyes, and condemning them and turning our back on them.
The option that is only found… in loving God more than all. The only real option we, who trust in Jesus have….
For Jesus does mean these words, but not just to convict us of our sins, or to give Him a reason to condemn us. This call, this command to love Him more than all others
The Reason – “being Mine” Phileo!
One of the challenges of preaching on a portion of a chapter, is remembering the context of the entire chapter. We noted this last week, as we talked about the context of these verses before – these are Jesus’ words to the men he is sending out, His representatives to proclaim that God’s kingdom is here, among us. That God does care and is helping, comforting, saving and defending us.
That is the same context here. Jesus is speaking to those who know in part, and will soon know how deep God’s love for them is, as they realize the message they are coming to give – is that God loves us so much, that His son would be crucified for us.
They recognize, intuitively, that this Jesus has for them the words of life, that He is going to free them from all that restricts life, from all that limits it from being lived to the fullest.
That when we respond to His love, when our loyalty, our priorities are all based in responding to His love.
A side note – to be explored more, but when we love Him first, when our loyalty and the primary relationship is with Him, then all the other relationships we are in take on a deeper and truer nature, they are less effected by sin, or by anxiety, they become less our gods, as we put them into God’s hands…..
We are called to walk with God, as His family. Not just for a while, it is who we are, now and forever. It defines us, this relationship we are in, more than our being a son, or a dad, a mom or a daughter. More than any things else – we have to know we are loved by God to the point where we are now family.
His people, Close family, His children.
We are the people God is willing to die for, we are the people that Christ did die for, willingly, for the joy set before Him, he endured that cross.
He welcomes us to pick up ours, and walk with Him. That may test us, as family and friends don’t get us, as they don’t understand why we do what we do, why we act like we act, as we struggle to leave behind the sinful behaviors and attitudes that they find normal. They will wonder as they see us struggle and sacrifice to love our enemies, rather than get revenge. This relationship will test us as we struggle with our desire to do what pleases us, rather than what pleases God.
This isn’t what we have to do to save ourselves, for Jesus has done that already! But as we realize His love, it is how we respond to His love, to His faithfulness to us. As we remember the new life He gave us in baptism, as He claimed us as His children, as we come to this altar and receive His body and blood. As we realize that this is where we need to be, for chasing after the world’s idea of life stifles us, kills us….reduces us to mere animals
But in Him, there is life….
So welcome those who speak of His love, of His promises and yes, call you to repentance and life. Welcome those who live life in Christ, struggling with the righteousness that is there. Love those He brings into your life, helping them, even if it is by offering them a cup of cold water….
For following Him, walking in His steps is a life that is rewarding, for we realize the life He has given us, through the cross….
A life of God’s peace which is beyond our ability to describe, as we live it secure in Christ Jesus….. Amen!
Devotional after a long Day:
15 Rejoice with others when they rejoice, and be sad with those in sorrow. 16 Give the same consideration to all others alike. Pay no regard to social standing, but meet humble people on their own terms. . Romans 12:15-16 (NJB)
442 Diamonds are polished with diamonds…, and souls with souls. (1)
On Sunday, the people of my church will promise to a little baby, to be there when she is full of joy, to cry with her when her heart aches. In all things, to pray for her, and to remind her that the Lord is with her, for He has claimed her and united her to Himself. And as a baptized belever, she will grow in this as well, and as we struggle, she will be there for us, and as we know Christ’s peace, she will as well.
That’s the way Paul says we are supposed to be, as Jesus church, the people called together as His own, whom He calls His friends (yeah He does – look it up) But since you are His sibling and son or daughter of God, as am I, we are siiblings, we are united together in Christ. As Paul says
25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. .1 Corinthians 12:25-27 (NLT)
But this is where we in the western world, seem to short circuit. We don’t like people to know our “business”. We don’t mind them knowing our successes, our joys, but dare we let them see us when we are crushed, bruised, hurting, anxious and scared? When our health is failing, when someone is breaking our heart, when we are lost in sin, when we can’t escape its trap on our own, the causes of our pain and brokenness,
But will we dare to reveal ourselves, so that others can cry with us? So that others can be there, and remind us Jesus is there.. Will we let them see us, let them minister to us, cr with us? Will we we let their presence remind us of His presence, their love remind us of His love.
For the sake of the body… will we let it do what bodies are supposed to do?
I know it’s uncomfortable, I know its awkward, and we fear the embarassment….
O well, we are a family, let’s get used to being one…
For as that family, we have Christ, we have the Faher, and we have the Holy Spirit, the one who’s title is, the Comforter.
Will we cry out together, Lord have Mercy! and Maranatha! and Hallelujah?
If you want to see a church that does this… come join us at Concordia…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1964-1965). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
If a Man’s Home is His castle
God’s People are His Temple!
† In Jesus Name †
May we realize that God has brought the gospel of peace to those who were far off, and to those who have been near, and in so doing, has made us into the place where the Father, Son and Holy Spirit dwell!
Looking in from the outside
The most powerful memory from my high school back east was of a morning in a hallway, where I first realized how much I lived my life on the edge.
We all arrived early, some on the bus, some dropped off, some just because. There was my best friend John, a gymnast he was heading to the weight rooms. Bill – the star athlete, president of the class, and he was heading to Mrs. Johnson’s Algebra II class. Mike, well, Mike had interactions with various pharmacology, and was heading for an area we called the “hash block.” Another friend was heading to band practice, and another to autoshop – which was his second home. I think that of the 15 kids that hung out for 20 minutes, that of them every major clique in the school had representation. We hung out there…
every morning, for nearly two years…
It was one cold February morning, whenI realized I lived on the edge. As I was watching my friends, talking to some, I came to the conclusion that I lived on the edge.
Not the edge of danger, life filled with danger type edge.
But the edge of all their cliques, not really one of the brains, though we were in the same classes, not one of the jocks, though I ran and played with them, though I was a musician, the band geeks were a marching band – and you can’t carry your baby grand down main street. I knew the druggies and gearheads through my brother. I knew them all, yet, wasn’t part of their groups.
I was on the edge. Maybe some of you know what I mean, or maybe you wanted to be in one group – but found yourself in another – shut out from where you wanted to be – an outsider, and maybe you tried to force your way in. Maybe you still are trying to find that group to which you belong.
Paul’s description – painful but accurate?
In Paul’s epistle this morning, he is writing to those God has gathered together and made one in the city of Ephesus. In verse 11, he brings up the pains of their pasts – he reminds them that they were once on the edge, outside, not part of the group.
He reminds them that they were call names by those who thought they were cool. The phrases Paul writes, one after another, pounded in reminders of the feelings of being excluded, of the pain of realizing that life seemed somehow empty, and there were not part of the group that had it made. Basically, because you weren’t part of the family, because you didn’t know God, you were without hope.
By the way, there is a subtle reminder to humble those who think they are in the right group. Paul says, “who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts” I would realize much later, that those who made a big deal about being in this clique or that one, were the ones most insecure in those connections, who weren’t sure they belonged. Same thing in regards to our faith – those who compare themselves as far better than those outside of the faith, are the ones who need to find confidence in God’s work, rather than their own, to take it from being just an outwardly projected image, to seeing the image of Christ in them.
Returning to those of us former outsiders to whom Paul writes. It still seems strange to me, that there are those of us, who are comfortable in living on the edge. It is as if we desire to be part of the group, yet can’t bring ourselves to risk the rejection, as we may have, once or twice in life.
Will they accept me, both the good and the bad? If this is true with the cliques of our youth, it may be true of our adulthood. I hate to say it – but sometimes those fears have been proven, as people become part of a church, and struggle with the fact that sometimes we are more comfortable with each other, than the stranger who just walked in. How many in this world, are just looking for a group to belong to, a place where they are no longer the outsiders, living on the edge.
We’ve been re-created – a new people.
There are reason behind Paul bringing up these memories. First, we need to remember how incredible our Lord is, and how mind-blowing what He has done for us is.
You see the hard memory of the past is to be compared to where we are now, in the present. I want to re-read these words with you.
13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. 14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us.
You’ve been united with Christ! You aren’t going to get anymore “in” than that. The one whom all exists for and you are close, He has brought you near to the Father – close and loved. Hear some more
19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20
You belong! Not just as the newbee, the one on probation – you are members of the family! You have been brought with Christ – and God is the One who called you and I into this incredible relationship, – one more – verse 21!
22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
In comparing where we were – on the edge, on the outside looking in, without hope, to being an integral part of the people of God, a active and needed part of the body, we have been given hope, as the prophet Jeremiah tells a broken people who found themselves outside and on the edge. He said,
“This is God’s word on the subject…., “29:11 I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. “
Jeremiah 29:10- 11 (MSG)
And in Christ, that hope is not some far off and barely possible thing, but as the word used to mean – that which we have 100% confidence in, it is our expectation, because God has given us His Holy Spirit as a guarantee of this.
Look whose here…
I said that there were a number of reasons Paul would bring up our painful pasts, the feelings of not even having been abandoned, the feelings of not belonging in the first place.
It is to keep us humble, to help us from becoming, now that we are the people of God, like those who were proud of a circumcision that was only physical, that wasn’t the cutting away of the crap around our hearts, the sin and effcts of sin that can change us, and make us cold.
A number of times Paul helps us with this as well, as he explains that God is pulling all people into Christ, and therefore into His presence. Hear His words
14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.
15b He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.
17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.
Together, we are the people of Christ – He has brought us all into Him, and joined us to Himself, that He can bring us into the presence of the Father. The second reason to cause us to remember we were outside, is to explain how much we have all become one.
The sermon has a long title. If a Man’s Home is His castle God’s People are His Temple! God’s home isn’t created out of wood and stone, His temple isn’t one built of human hands. It is a house, a lineage, a people, that He Himself as called together, united, together, joined together,
20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.
One of the things I realized as I grew older, was that as one who lived on the edge, I was part of those groups – all of them. They weren’t so different than I am, and that each of us, is being called to be part of a bigger group, a real family, where burdens are shared together as we give them to God. For what defines us, what makes us who we are, is not our personas that we show to the public, not our gifts and abilities and differences and things we have in common, It is Christ, who has made us His.
We see a glimpse of it here, at this altar, as we will feast together, with our Lord, with our Savior, the One who made us His people, the one who calls us together in a life that knows peace.