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Crafting Serenity: A Sermon for the Feast of Christ the King!

church at communion 2

Crafting Serenity

Col. 1:13-20

† Jesus, Son & Savior †

May the Grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, the grace seen in action as He brings us from darkness to life, may you know so clearly that grace, that you dwell in His peace!

Made Peace – Crafted Serenity:

In the last verse read from Colossians this morning, we hear something that Jesus has done.  It is accomplished, done, competed, and yet we don’t’ always see it.

It is a great description of what reconciliation really is, what the cross accomplishes,

Hear the words again,

He made peace with everything on heaven and earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

He made peace…made peace.

It actually can read more powerfully than that…

He crafted serenity…

 Crafted Serenity….

I hear those words, and for a moment I am taken back to Lake Ossipee – to a place where you can barely see the homes on the other side of the lake, when the colors of the fall include just about every color imaginable, and the lake’s waters are so still there are no ripples… just calm serenity, with a brief breeze or a snowflake fluttering down….

A bit different than life lived on the 91, 5 or 605 freeway.

We need to note that God isn’t saying He will craft serenity later, that this peace will be made at some future point.  It’s not happening in some undefined period labeled “soon”.

It is a tense that originate in the past – and keeps going – that crafting serenity, that making peace hasn’t stopped for a moment..

But that raises the question….

Why doesn’t our spiritual life seem more like that serene day standing at the edge of a beautiful calm lake, and why does it too often seem like I am standing in the middle of that freeway at 5 p.m.?

Who is this?  Who are We not?

That peace is the creation of God, created as Christ’s blood was shed on the cross.  The Christ we worship and praise, the Christ who is the visible image of our invisible Father. He’s been there forever, in Him everything – including us is created.

He created it all – everything in heaven and on earth!  Everything we see and can’t see, and He is supreme over all creation holds it all together.

And that is where we struggle, and often why we don’t know peace.

That He is Creator, we don’t have a problem with, it is that we want to be supreme, we want to be in charge, we want to make it all work out.  That is the root of all sin, the idea that we think for a moment, or we are tempted to think that we know what is best for us.

And so we go off on our own, we walk away and do what we want, what we desire. Even today we struggle with this idea that Jesus is not only our Savior but our benevolent, loving Lord.

Rather than learning what He desires, rather than seeking Jesus first. we choose what we want, what excites us, what we think might quench our cravings, or what we think might lead us to comfort or peace, or rest.

That’s why Paul goes back over – it through Jesus God created this all. From the beginning, He was in charge, not us.  For if we look to our own efforts to find the rest we desire, all we will do is find the consequences of our sin, of our rebellion, our throwing off God’s desires.

We have to set our desires aside and hear Paul’s confession – Christ is the head of it all, everything that was created was created for him, and for Him,

Which means all things, everything was meant to be defined by it’s relationship to Christ.

For He is God, in everything. Over life and death, over the new resurrected life that we have been given, as Christ drew us back to Himself.  For that is what reconciliation is, retuning that which was changed beck to its original – apokatalsso- to bring back, to restore, to make right.  To take us out of the darkness we entered and bring us into the light of His glory!

And that is what Christ did and is doing – making everything in heaven and earth the way it should be….you see that, even as He hands on the cross and reconciles the thief to Himself.

The work that was planned before creation, that was revealed at the cross!

That’s why we are in awe

That is why we are here, to see this work of God revealed.  As He calls us to Himself, as He reconciles us to Him, recreating us in His image, recreating in us His righteousness, guiding us.

It is why we listen to people read the bible, why we confess what we believe, reminding ourselves of His return, it is why we listen to a sermon, that forces us to consider our struggles, and know He is the answer to them.

It is why we know we can pour out our burdens here in prayer, and then come here to be given the Body and blood to eat and drink, to know that He has crafted for us a serenity, that He has fashioned this place where everything is set aside and we see what heaven will be like, where He gives us this peace, a peace that passes all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Jesus.  AMEN!

Jealousy, Desire, and the Holiness of God.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

3  “You must not have any other god but me. 4  “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5  You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.    Exodus 20:3-5 (NLT)

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)

This desire of Jesus has permeated his whole life up to this very hour when the desire of the bridegroom at last approaches the hour of its fulfillment, the hour in which the words and the waiting will be succeeded by the full reality of love. And in the background of this human waiting of Jesus that looks forward to this very hour in which he will make the supreme sacrifice and can become ultimately ours, there is present, too, the eternal desire of God, which also awaits this hour, because God longs to give himself. But what response does this longing on the part of God encounter? How much indifference! How much inner emptiness and disregard! And what about ourselves? Do we really approach this center of the universe with eagerness? Or do we not sometimes flatter ourselves that we are doing God and the Church a favor by spending an hour there with him.  (1)

These two words, jealousy and passion, make most men uncomfortable.  There is something about them that make us think the person who is jealous, who is passionate about something lacks control, lacks wisdom, lacks logic.

So to hear these words used about God?

It seems unreasonable. It almost seems blasphemous to describe God as a jealous God, one who in His rage would destroy those who would get between those whom he desires.  When you read the first passage above from Exodus, it seems strongly worded, but then look at others, Deut. 4:24, Deut 6:15, Nahum 1:2, and you get a picture of God that seems too intense, to desperate, to out of control.

Does God really desire a relationship with someone else so much that he would become angry and full of wrath when that relationship doesn’t come to be? Would God have a “melt down” to that extreme?

It doesn’t seem like the God we hear about today, the one that is represented in logical presentations, and case studies which detail the perfection of God.  In churches that focus on holiness, the concept of being holy as God is holy is more about precision behaviors meeting a standard, a standard usually set by someone other than God.

But holiness is about being separated out, being chosen, being drawn into a relationship where God desires, even jealously desires the one He loves. This holiness is seen in a relationship where God longs for the company of the beloved.  It is seen in the picture of the beloved in the Song of Solomon, or the prodigal’s father running to see his son returned.  It’s the God who was waiting for the cross, and the grave, for the joy set before Him.

This is Holiness.  God setting Himself up to dance and rejoice with the one He loves, as Isaiah pictures it so beautifully

That is why it seems so lame to trust in something other than God, to entrust ourselves and depend upon something we did or made.  The more we understand God’s desire, His jealousy, His passion for us, the more we desire to spend time with others sharing in that love, adoring the one who loves us.

My prayer for you today is the same that Paul prayed for the church when he said,

14  When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension.  Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)

May you indeed know that love so far beyond our comprehension.  AMEN!

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 115–116). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

 

Why our Idolatry is Worthless

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:
(From Today’s Adult Bible Study  – Special thanks to J!)

•3  “Worship no god but me. 4  “Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth. 5  Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the LORD your God and I tolerate no rivals. I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation. 6  But I show my love to thousands of generations of those who love me and obey (keep/treasure) my laws. Exodus 20:3-6 (TEV)

Presently in our Sunday morning adult Bible study we are looking at the way we worship.  The theme is The Dance of the Liturgy, Learning to Partner in Life with God.  We are now in the third class – and we were talking about the Choreography of our lives – and focusing on Eph 5:21-24 and Ex. 20.  The basic questions were, “Who leads”, “Why do we try to lead”, and “the Steps of our Life – the Decalogue/Ten Commandments.  It may be the best study I have ever written and is quite fun.  I have the blessing of growing up with parents who were master Ballroom Dance instructors, so I have a few stories…that illustrate things well.

As we got to the first commandment, after talking about the necessity of trusting our Partner as He leads us through life, one of the newer ladies to our congregation spoke up and said something that too me a couple of minutes to process.

“Pastor, the reason we shouldn’t worship and idols is because they cannot lead us through life.”

What a brilliant observation – these idols – whether they are celebrities, or statues, whether they are numbers ( like back accounts) or liquids (alcohol ) or anything else – will fail us.  An idol is this – it is what you turn to, when life is stressful, what you trust to get you through the hard times  what you credit for the blessings.  Often, the idol is ourselves – we think we are God. It doesn’t matter who we create as our “gods”, our “idols” they will fail for the reason mentioned – they can’t lead us, they can’t create out of our missteps something beautiful, and graceful and loving.

They cannot do what Paul instructs men to do, following the example of Christ,

25  Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it. 26  He did this to dedicate the church to God by his word, after making it clean by washing it in water, 27  in order to present the church to himself in all its beauty—pure and faultless, without spot or wrinkle or any other imperfection. Ephesians 5:25-27 (TEV)

That’s something an idol can’t do – it can’t lead you on the dance floor, or through the dance of life, or even through the dance of the liturgy……

Only God can…. so relax, know the hands that hold you, realized that He created the dance, and He will assure its completion and its beauty….

How to find strength in the face of adversity and trauma?

Discussion/Devotional thought of the day:

There are days when it seems the trials and traumas never end.  For a pastor, perhaps we see this more often than others, but I don’t think so.  There are so many things out there to cause anxiety, from health issues to financial struggles, to friends and family in trauma, to marriages and relationships that struggle and need supernatural help to survive and heal.

As I related yesterday, I’ve had a few myself –  from dieing to surgeries, and to being there for people in the midst of so many issues.   I have found that in the midst of adversity, in the midst of trauma, there is both a sense of peace, and strength that is there that isn’t mine, but it is available to me.  It is one of the reasons I am writing a book about churches in trauma – to remind them of what is already there… for them..

In this mornings devotion, I came across two notes that reveal it a little, once you think them through:

475    You realize you are weak. And so, indeed, you are. In spite of all that—rather, because of it—God has sought you. He always uses inadequate instruments so that the work may be seen to be his. From you he asks only docility.

476    When you really give yourself to God, no difficulty will be able to shake your optimism.  (Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1165-1168). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.)

I’ve been accused of being too optimistic once or twice, and while I would adjust St Josemaria’s statement a little – I agree with it.  My adjustment would be to say “When you abandon yourself to God” rather than give.   Give makes it sound like you can, like a child “take back” that which you have given.  (and so often we do!)  But to come to the realization that there is no other option, no other hope, then you do let God be God, the Master who promises to and designs your life as a piece of artwork.  (see Eph. 2:10 – the word for workmanship there is the word we get poetry from!)

I am not talking about conversion here – at least not in the evangelical sense.  For there, conversion has little to do with us, God simply reveals Himself and His love, through those who come to us with His word.  Wesley may have called this a “second infilling of grace”, Robert Schuller calls this positive thinking (knowing that we are God’s brings about incredible strength in times of need – that’s the hallmark of most of his writing) , the prophet/leader Joshua would ask it this way “choose you this day whom you serve”.  The apostle Paul talks about being confident that “all things work for good for those that love God.”   Luther would talk about such as a First Commandment issue – don’t have other God’s – but call upon Him in prayer and praise.  When you abandon yourself into God’s hands, and are confident that is the thing to do- you simply know and trust in Him.

What is mistaken for optimism – is simply a matter of confidence in God.  Trusting Him, having faith in Him, knowing Him.

That is where the other point of St. Josemaria comes into play.  When we realize we are weak – when we realize we have no real option but to abandon ourselves to God, then we begin to realize that God has plans, He has designs on our life, and those designs bring us to places we would have never imagined, to work with people we would never anticipate, and see them respond to the work of God in our lives.  Not because we can do great things – but in the midst of the storms, in the midst of what should promote incredible anxiety, in the middle of it all… we know God is with us.

Having mercy, pouring out His love and comfort, assuring us of our place with Him……there is our strength, and knowing that, we can be incredibly bold – in being His people.

So know He is God, and you are His chosen people.  And let Him do His thing… being God – He’s significantly better at being God than you are!

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