The Glory of God and Human Worth
† IN the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit †
May the Holy Spirit make us more and more like Jesus Christ, causing us to reflect His glory into our broken world.
A precious lesson to remember
I’ve been doing a bit of thinking since I realized that this summer will make it 30 years since I was a pastoral intern. Some of that pondering has been in awe of what God has done, other moments have brought tears. It has been especially rough as this year has seen some dear people pass away at each of the churches I’ve served at. Nor does it help that in my devotions I’ve read Job recently, and presently am reading Ecclesiastes, where Solomon’s chorus seems to be,
All is meaning-less.
And there are days that I hear this!
Over the thirty years I’ve also learned to disregard that attitude, to know that even when I don’t see how everything will work out, that I am assured of God’s promises, and can rest secure knowing He is faithful.
That’s not where this sermon on Psalm 8 is going, well, not directly, but that is part of the background. Thirty years ago, actually thirty-three years ago, a phrase was drummed into my mind. It took 3 years to make sense, and a lifetime to implement. It is a great guideline for theologians and preachers, and it helps those who listen to sermons and try to apply it to their lives.
These are those words,
You cannot fully understand any Biblical truth until you have reduced it to a corollary of the idea of Covenant.
or to put it in the way I came to understand it,
You can’t clearly understand any doctrine, in Christianity until you understand it in view of the relationship God calls us into with Himself, as described in the New Covenant.
Which includes the incredible glorious mystery we celebrate today, that God is One, and God is, simultaneously three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What we call the Trinity the merger of the words Tri and Unity. Until we understand that in view of God’s relationship with us, His relationship that He calls us into, the result is meaningless.
Failure to Understand the Relationship
So how does this work? Why can’t we understand the idea of the Trinity, the doctrine that God is Triune, if we don’t include our relationship with God in contemplating it? Why is understanding the Covenant necessary to understanding this?
The answer is somewhat simple, we can’t understand the Trinity until we are actively involved with it. To understand the Trinity, we must move and live in unison with God, in sympathy with God. It is as if we are dancing with Him, moving as His partner.
And if we don’t understand this, it is as if we are standing in the corner of life, just observing His glory, yet not able to understand it.
We end up with a partial picture of Psalm 8,
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers, – the moon and the stars you set in place – what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?
From a distance, this is how we see God, all the incredible beauty he creates, the skies, the mountains, a smile a joy filled laugh. It is glorious for sure, it is beyond the scope of our ability to describe, but we still don’t understand God, we still don’t know Him. We think we know all about Him, but we do not know Him, and we cannot see the fullness of His glory, His majesty, His love.
It is as if we are a high school freshman, at his first dance, looking at an incredibly beautiful girl. He can describe her dress, her beauty, but until he is dancing with her, looking in her eyes, he really doesn’t understand her beauty.
Neither can we understand the Father, Son and Holy Spirit until we are moving with God. Our lives lived in Him, and He dwelling in us. Until that point it is an academic exercise, one were we put ourselves in the place of judgment, as if we are the experts in judging His glory, because of our great understanding. The understanding that is merely theological, that is merely from a distance.
Which means we read this psalm and say -God doesn’t think about us, He couldn’t care about us! He has a universe to run! Like desists we think that God is far off, that He isn’t involved, and that it is up to us to run our own lives.
That gives us freedom, to go after what we want, to do what seems good to us. It means we can justify our sin, thinking it doesn’t really matter to God, that He doesn’t really care, and that we should just enjoy life.
Ultimately, sin is nothing more than choosing to remain in the corner, distant from God, unengaged with Him. We refuse to walk with God, preferring to stay at a great distance, able to describe Him, and creating explanations for what we do not understand. Explanations that encourage sin, and encourage living life to what we think is the fullest.
That separation leaves us unfulfilled it doesn’t satisfy the hunger, it just makes it greater, and it enslaves us. And once enslaved, with sin pulling us further and further away, our “expert” view of God becomes more blurred, and often more hostile.
Until we agree with Solomon, that all is simply meaningless.
Sure, God is three, and He is One, but what does that matter if my life is spent against the wall, alone with my speculation and philosophy and theology books?
Trinity understood through Covenant.
When we reduce the doctrine of the Trinity (not the Trinity itself) to a corollary of covenant, when we see this incredible mystery of Three in One from the point where we engage God, when we see it defining who we are, we begin to understand this,
This is my God, and I am His child!
It is like looking into the eyes of your beloved as you dance together. You may not be able to describe what you see, heck, you may not be able to speak. Eloquence evades you, but you know your beloved at a level that transcends truth. This is when we begin to understand how much God does think of us, how much He truly cares.
It is when the Psalmist begins to understand the answer to his question,
what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?
You made them only a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority.
The answer is simply understanding the Trinity in view of our relationship with God.
For we see the Trinity involved with us from the beginning, as God makes us just a little lower than Himself, making us in His very image. In our creeds, as we describe this glorious Trinity, we see God the Father, the Creator at work,
And then God crowns us with glory and honor. This is the work of Jesus, the Son. of the Father, and our Lord. It is His redeeming us, pulling us out of the corner, bringing us to dance with God. This is Jesus, our righteousness, whom we are untied to in baptism, made one with, as He cleanses us from all sin and all unrighteousness. His very birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension affect s our lives, from redeeming us to being our advocate, proclaiming us Holy and deserving of the crown and righteousness.
And then the Spirit sanctifies us, setting us apart, conforming us to the image of God’s son. We are revealed to be in Christ Jesus, the Spirit dwells in us, and gives us the role of God’s trusted children, trusted enough that He puts all things under our authority, our responsibility, as we walk with Jesus. This is what it means to be holy, to be sanctified, to walk with God,
And so we see God, in all of His glory, working in our lives. Creating us. Redeeming us, Sanctifying us. Making us His people. That is what the creeds describe the Trinity doing, simply engaged with us, thinking about us, caring about us so much that God invests Himself fully in our lives. His is what we confess; it is what we believe. It is our Credo – why we depend on upon God.
It is a description of our faith in God who reveals Himself in this way to us,
This is why Paul can preach as the He describes in Colossians,
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 in His glory. Colossians 1:27 (NLT)
This is how we are to understand God, not with high minded philosophy from afar, but moving in unison with God as our Father, our Lord Jesus Christ who died to save us, and the Holy Spirit who will bring to completion our transformation into the children of God. He thinks about us, He cares for us, HE LOVES US!.
As we come to know the Trinity this way they share with us the peace that surpasses all understanding and will share the glory of eternity. For this is true!
We are His people; He is our God… AMEN!
His Plan, His Desire, His People, “in Christ”!
† In Jesus Name †
May our lives bless our Father in Heaven, as it is revealed to us that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing! AMEN!
A preposition for you!
I have a life changing preposition for you!
Two little letters that change everything in life, that change our priorities, our plans, our dreams. That gives life and meaning to life, even in these days when our world chases after all the things that are vain, that do not satisfy, that cannot make a difference.
I have a preposition for you my friends.. not a proposition – a preposition.
Remember that list you memorized, about above among around at behind before, remember those things? Well in today’s epistle, one keeps showing up – and it makes all the difference in the world,
For it is combined with a pronoun – that word that takes the place of a name? Two letters for the preposition, and three letters for the pronoun and the world is shaken, and everything made new…so radical a change in life these two simple words, these five letters, that our reaction to them is nothing less than to praise and glorify God, to bless Him, to in awe applaud His work.
The pronoun is Him, the preposition I have for you to consider is…
And when we realize what it means to be “in Him” we begin to realize how much of our life, our world has changed… even as we wait for the day when we fully understand it.
Chose us in Him
Of the dozen or so times the preposition and pronoun, (or a noun the preposition refers to) appears in this passage, we have to start somewhere to examine this incredible concept. So let’s look at one first, there in the beginning of verse four, when Paul tells us that the Father has “chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”
It is in choosing us, that we find every spiritual blessing coming upon us, it is there that that we realize that we aren’t just after thoughts in God’s plan, but indeed the focus of His will, and His desire. From before the foundation of the earth, He has chosen mankind to have a special relationship with Him, and demonstrated that choice by placing us in Christ.
There, we find out what He has chosen us for, to be His children, adopted because of Jesus Christ, for it is in Christ that we are found to be holy and blameless, set apart for something special, with nothing able to mar or change that choice. To share in the life and love of God, in what sounds amazing – to become part of that relationship that exists between the Father and the Son and the Spirit. To share in such a relationship, as one of my friends has described it in a song – to join in the Trinity’s dance.
This indeed Paul tells us is no accident, it was a choice made from before the foundation of the world. It is the very purpose of His will – or as another translation explains it – it is the plan to achieve God’s greatest desire. Peter phrases it this way,
3:9 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. 2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)
The Lord’s choice, to choose you in Him, in Christ…
Riches of His gift, lavished upon us
The next “in Him” to look at is in verse 7 and 8, as we read,
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
In Christ’s death, we have been paid for, our lives redeemed at the price of His sacrifice on the cross. He did this that because of the great grace, the gift which he lavishes upon us, why?
Paul calls this the making known of the mystery of His will, this incredible grace lavished upon us, as God picks us up in our brokenness, and instead of throwing us away, carefull repairs and heals us, bringing us into Himself, that we might be one with Him. Imagine everything perfect, in His presence, a place where doors don’t creak and neither do our bodies, where our relationships are finally the way they should be, including our relationship with our Father, where we finally let God be God, and we rejoice in knowing we are His chosen people.
This is our lot for all eternity, that which God has planned for us, the life God has given to us, this great mystery of why He would choose us to be His children, that even as He makes this true now, we struggle to realize it, for we struggle to realize we are in Christ, we are in the Beloved son of God, and therefore share in the Father’s love.
How we got there?
We are the children of the king – waiting for that moment when we reach full maturity, when we share in His kingdom. It is true now, and yet like a child waiting to reach the age of inheritance, we struggle with it. Indeed, we need to be reminded of it often, and how and when this incredible thing happened.
Paul explains it in verse 13
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
It’s the same story throughout scripture – the way we become His children, according to His plan is when we hear the truth – the truth of His love for us, that is this gospel, this good news.
It is the message of His love that causes us to trust in Him, to believe in Him, to realize that our very lives are in His hands, and that this is a good thing!
That when we were baptized, God marked us, He sealed us as His children, the sign of the cross is what we were marked with, that even as we share in Christ’ death, we too share in His resurrection, for we live in Him.
That has been His plan all along, a plan we have only begun to realize…. For we are still children, waiting for our inheritance to become ours, for us to reach the maturity of Christ, when we visibly know we are in His kingdom.
Until that day, we have a guarantee, a down payment if you will. Something incredibly wonderful, something beyond our comprehension. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, what Peter describes as the gift of God’s Spirit, which Paul will also describe as our being the temple – the living place of the Spirit of God, the one called the Comforter, the Lord and Giver of life…
Here, in us, even as we dwell in Him….
A preposition for you my friends, a truth that is so incredible..found as we hear that we are “in”….
So knowing this we can rejoice as Paul does and declare, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… AMEN!
Discussion/Devotional Quote of the day:
In the introduction to a book of Josemarie Escriva’s sermons, I read this,
When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom 8: 14–17). This text speaks to us about the Blessed Trinity, which is another frequent theme in these homilies. It also reminds us that Jesus Christ is the way leading to the Father through the Holy Spirit. He is our brother, our friend—the Friend—our master and lord and king. The Christian life, then, means being continuously in touch with Christ in the context of our ordinary life, without abandoning our rightful place. How does this contact take place? Monsignor Escrivá explains very concisely: “In the bread and in the word.”
Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By
I was recently told that the only hope for the church was to be found in a “annointed man’s” understanding of the book of Revelation and the end times passages of Matthew.
I don’t think so, for Paul declined talking of such things in detail – saying it wouldn’t be of benefit to the church. What matters – that we understand His grace is all we need. (funny coincidence that I just preached on that!) That we, because of Christ, and through the Holy Spirit can cry out Abba, Father! That is where our hope lies! Not in someone’s speculation – but instead in a intimate dance with the Trinity, as they pull us into their relationship…
That comes, as the introduction tells me this priest points out – as we hear God’s logos, His word, His reason, His plan.. as we see that plan re-revealed as we come again to the feast which is a foretaste to come, as we commune with our Lord, as He communes with us. This is not just some simple ritual, this gathering of people who walk with God, it is an intimate encounter with God, the I AM – and because He is, as we commune with Him, we find out that we are…. His. It’s where we enjoy the dance, where we are reminded of the depth, height, width, and breadth of God’s love, of that fact that His peace is so incredible, that we can rest in His presence, rejoicing that we are welcome there…
God’s Revelation, the Apocalypse, the Unveiling (they are all translations of the same word) is not about the calendar – its about the relationship, the assurance that God is with us, that He is always HERE. If we can learn that… if we can hold on to that… we won’t have to change the church… we will realize that we are being changed… as we walk in Christ.
That is the reason we have hope… when we realize…
The Lord has had Mercy… on us..
We Make it Our Aim to Please Him
2 Corinthians 5:1-17
† In Jesus Name †
May you revel in the grace, mercy and peace – that in which your Father in heaven has provided for you through Jesus. And as you revel in it – may you know you bring Him the greatest pleasure!
The juxtaposition of life… and death
we hear Paul’s words about life, in view of life, and death– to know that this earthly tent that will be stripped away, in view of something not crafted with human hands, but prepared for us by God Himself. To realize that we have confidence as we live this life, trusting in Him, and not focusing on that which we can see, that which surrounds us, that which would distract us from realizing God’s presence now…
I used to think of eternity as that which began, as Paul would say, when this earthly tent is stripped from us and we finally experience the our eternal home, the life God has prepared for us – that is when eternity begins.
Yet, looking at our lives from God’s perspective, we already dwell in that kingdom, He has already claimed us, and though we cannot see it, we already live in His presence, for the Holy Spirit has been given to us, until that day when our sight finally matches that promise of God, in which we trust. If we have His perspective, then how we live our lives, what we do, and how we survive the times when we are overwhelmed with life.. and death.
But having an eternal outlook – so well described in Paul’s words,
5:6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
2 Corinthians 5:6-9 (NIV)
The challenge is keeping that focus… or perhaps… the key is realizing that the focus isn’t a focus – but in grasping that He is our Father.
The Challenges to an Eternal Outlook
Given the world we live in, living life with a heavenly focus, setting priorities based on what matters eternally is going to be challenging. There are so many distractions from birth to death, from things external to ourselves and even our own thoughts, our own battles with our earthly nature which focuses in our wants, our desires, our own sense of what brings us pleasure and/or peace.
As I get older – it is less being distracted by pleasure and fun; rather, I find myself distracted by aches and pains, and longing for freedom from them. Paul’s words are so… accurate…
5:1 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
2 Corinthians 5:1-4 (NIV)
While the groans are now more physical, in our youth the groans were those of frustration. Either we didn’t get what we wanted, and groaned as we compared reality to our dreams; or we groaned because we achieved those dreams, and found them empty, But the groans were there as well, and I am sure that those a little older than me find some days as full of groans as well. Those groans of course, are but a reaction to those things that draw us away from the promises given to us, the relationship that we struggle to walk in – as we have to ask why things happen to us.
The struggle to live life with an eternal outlook, and make decisions and act based on that with eternal significance is our relationships with sinners. Not just the sinners out there- but the sinners here. The sinners around you. Paul notes the change that occurs, when we see things spiritually, eternally, in the last paragraph.
5:16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
2 Corinthians 5:16-18 (NIV)
It is easy to look at someone, and based on either generalizations, or indeed, on past actions, and consider them from a worldly point of view – that is, they are jerks or idiots or other names you have created to avoid cursing. Yet, an eternal perspective looks at those people, and realizes that when Jesus says from the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do, He was talking about them.
Oh and he was talking about you as well.
But these people are the kind that can distract us, as we look at them with human, earthly eyes, and they challenge our ability to look at things, knowing as we do, that God has cleansed them or would cleanse them in baptism, even as He cleanses himself! Gosh we want them to receive what they are due! That tells us that we also get distracted from this view, when we catch ourselves being distracted, and take our frustrations, either on ourselves, or… on them.
So where is our hope?
Overcoming that challenge…by pleasing God
There is a secret to life, and to death, to all of eternity. A secret which helps us maintain our proper outlook on life, a viewpoint from which our decisions get things right eternally.
It is really simple, at least in Paul’s words,
5:8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 2 Corinthians 5:8-9 (NIV)
It is a well known phrase – that Christianity is less a religion, that it is a relationship. (Of course Lutherans ask the question- why can’t it be both?) If we look at the commandments of scripture as duties, we reduce it only to solely a religion. We have to understand that pleasing God comes from being with Him, being His children as we walk besides Him during life.
On father’s day perhaps – we get this the most – those of us without Father’s – realize how much we miss them – it doesn’t matter if it is a week or a decade. Those of us who have children realize how much we miss them – whether they are five, or fifty. This is the day when were wonder if we’ve went wrong, and/or look for evidence of how good we have been as a father.
If a earthly father rejoices in time with His children, then how much more our heavenly father would? Isn’t that what heaven will be about, being home with the Lord? Feasting with Him, spending time with Him – this isn’t about commandments for commandments sake – its about being with our Father, about pleasing Him, about sharing our lives, and sharing His work. Yes, He knows about your sin, and about the doubts, and hurts that need to be healed. He gives you His Spirit to help you heal, to help you realize the promise, to remind you that you are His child – here or there. He brings you comfort…when all there is, is tears.
He is there.
Pleasing Him, seeing what He desires fulfilled – except our heavenly Father doesn’t want a cold beer while watching a baseball game… He wants to see all His children come home, to realize that even while we apart from Him, we are still His… and because we are, because the Spirit assures us of His promise….
We can live either place…. Walking with Him… pleasing Him… sharing our life, lived in His peace…
“We are full of confidence, then, and long instead to be exiled from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 And so whether at home or exiled, we make it our ambition to please him.
2 Corinthians 5:8-9 (NJB)
To please someone, to bring them contentment, to see them with the peace and joy that comes from seeing life in its completeness.
It’s reading an update from a deacon I serve with, who this weekend celebrates Father’s Day, by seeing his daughter graduate from High School, and his son from Junior High. They have accomplished the task, they have finished a stage of life, and all is good. For a moment – a weekend, a summer, it is all good.
I don’t think we get that this same kind of contentment joyous feeling of contentment, of pleasure is experienced by God – when His children are living in His grace, in His peace, as we go through those stages when we “get it” a little more…
When we are baptized (if an adult) and our body reacts to the weight of the sin removed from us, or the look on so many dad’s faces as their children are baptized… and they know the peace that God has poured out on their child, and on them.
When we realize that when we take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Christ – that it isn’t some act of our obedience that makes it special, but that it is the incredible love of God, spread before us, strengthening our trust in Him, rejoicing in the relationship He has brought us into….
When we love those around us, and show the imprint of the Holy Spirit on our lives. When we show the mercy and peace and love of God …. in a way that seems natural to us, we may not even realize we are reflecting the love of Christ. And in that moment, it is not natural – but supernatural. God working through us, in us… and like a child working at his toy tool bench while his dad is really building something, we too bring a smile to God’s face.. we please Him.
Or when we come crying, broken and beaten up by our sin, and then find the comfort and peace that comes as He cleans us up again… and we allow Him to be our Dad….
It’s not hosting the crusade with 10’s of 1000’s hearing about Christ that is what we can do, to please God, to bring Him contentment….
It’s letting Him be our Father, it’s sharing in His work, it’s in spending time with Him, enjoying His love…
Have a great Father’s Day tomorrow….with your Heavenly Father (today as well!)
There are days in our lives that are quite stressful – that is something that we all have to face – it is inevitable. But what makes a difference is how we deal with these stresses.
Some stresses are huge and external – the kind where we look at an issue that is immense, like the stories of genocide, or see victims of crimes and disasters, or even the stories of corruption and misuse of power. Other stresses are external and closer to home, the illness of friend, the financial struggles of our friends and family, families that are broken. And some are personal – as we find ourselves isolated in our struggles, as we are challenged by things large and small….
It is overwhelming, and if we are honest, we wonder why, and how long, and will we always feel so… powerless, so broken, so inept, so hopeless.
As a pastor and even before – as a lay leader in the church – these feelings are all to common, as the stresses pressure us in, and it seems like just as we are able to deal with one issue… another situation sneaks up on us. And as a pastor, I realize that these is true for every family in my church, and all my friends.
I would say I have a secret for dealing with stress that works everytime, but that would mean I actually use it every time, which would be a lie. However, when I finally get around to it, it does work…
Paul writes of this solution to the churches of his day:
“16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. ” 2 Cor. 4
I hesitate to quote this – because from our views, those stresses are neither “light”, nor “momentary” but their do afflict us. Yet it is here we have to slow down and stop – and realize that it is not a statement that is in a vacuum, but one that compares our situation to that which we know is ours in Christ – because He has claimed us.
Okay – so we know – eventually, we will see the truth to God’s promise that all things work for good for those that love God…. that are called within His plan – but how do we deal with that in the hear and now…?
We know another promise – that He will send His Spirit – the Holy Spirit who walks besides us, comforting us, giving us strength to endure… we realize the promise that He will never leave and forsake us, and we do that which is so out of character for people in 21st century America…. we lean on HIm. We let Him be our Dad… we let Him deal with the struggles, the pressures – trusting that He will….
We stop and remember that we don’t have to play God – for we are the children of the One, True God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – who would daily take our burdens…
May we indeed let Him.