An Inventory of Blessings: Peace and Comfort! A sermon on Isaiah 66:10-14
An Inventory of Our Blessings
Peace and Comfort!
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you realize God’s desire that you come close to Him, and let Him give you life!
- This is what the Lord Says!
Often, I have people, mostly unbelievers or agnostics, tell me that they picture God in two different ways.
The Old Testament God is a God of wrath, who condemns people to hell as he smites them with fire and brimstone.
Then they see a different God in the New Testament, one that is, if anything, too merciful and tolerant.
When they hear the words that we did today, “This is what the LORD says, it is with a deep dark voice, almost like Darth Vader, or James Earl Jones, with every word punctuated and emphasized, rolling out like thunder. They anticipate what follows will be a harsh lesson, a caustic disciplinary correction or worse.
THIS IS WHAT THE LORD SAYS…..
And while hearing God’s voice may get a little uncomfortable, it is not because it is strong and harsh and demanding.
Rather, I think that is it too comforting, too intimate, and it reveals us needy as it pictures us drinking in God’s glorious love, much as an infant would be content and filled…
- Why does this make us uncomfortable?
There is a part of us I think likes to picture God as the mean and distant authority figure, of whom it is said, “just wait until your Father gets home!”
We aren’t as comfortable with God being the nurturing, comforting God that He is compared to in these words He gave to Isaiah. Just studying the passage is Hebrew, which is far more blunt and descriptive, was overwhelming, never mind projecting that level of care and intimacy on my relationship with God! Knowing God is that close, that aware of our needs, and that willing to provide for them–no matter the mess we make, is astonishing.
More than that, it is frightening to think we can be that dependent on God.
The same God who sees the mess we make of life, which is nowhere near as nice as that baby’s diaper.
It amazes me, and to be honest, I struggle with the idea that God knows us that intimately. He knows when we have messed up our lives. He even warned us about it, told us not to do it, but assured us He would be there to clean up the mess.
But we struggle with God being that close, that aware… We can be like the 2-3-year-old who’s done wrong and tried to hide it. Go all the way back to the garden, and you see men and women trying to hide their sin, trying to hide their brokenness. And so rather going with God when He calls us to spend time with Him, we hide out, thinking we can delay our getting in trouble, and maybe even escape getting in trouble.
As if any kid could fool their parents at that age…
Yet we still try, and we still mess up our lives, sometimes in spectacular ways.
And during cleaning us up, God gives us what we need, just as He taught us to pray for it, as we pray the Lord’s prayer. Just like the momma in Isaiah.
- The closeness we need!
That is what we really need! For God to be that close! For Him to care for us.
The joy that comes from realizing not only can we depend on God that much, but that He desires us to, is amazing.
One pastor I was reading said it this way, this week.
“Before our response to his invitation — well before! — there is his desire for us. We may not even be aware of it, but every time we go to Mass, the first reason is that we are drawn there by his desire for us.” (Pope Francis)
The think that I still try to grasp, that I want each one of you to realize, is that God wants us to be there with Him. He loves caring for us, just as much as a mom loves caring for her baby.
He knew we would sin, prepared well to clean us up and make us perfect, and comforts us even as we grieve.
This was what the cross was all about, proving to us that God cared this much for us, that He desires for us to dwell in His presence.
And by us, I don’t just mean those of us in this room, but all of those whom He created, and calls to be changed, and then changes them. People we help by sharing this understanding that God told Isaiah to record for all the people of God.
This is something we need to count on, and make sure we understand is always ours, this comfort and peace given to us through Jesus Christ. AMEN!
Isn’t God Listening?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. Matt 26:44 NAB-RE
And, moreover, since Christ took it into his hands, work has become for us a redeemed and redemptive reality. Not only is it the background of man’s life, it is a means and path of holiness. It is something to be sanctified and something which sanctifies. (1)
2. We believe, teach, and confess that the preaching of the law is to be diligently applied not only to unbelievers and the impenitent but also to people who are genuinely believing, truly converted, regenerated, and justified through faith.
4 3. For although they are indeed reborn and have been renewed in the spirit of their mind, such regeneration and renewal is incomplete in this world. In fact, it has only begun, and in the spirit of their mind the believers are in a constant war against their flesh (that is, their corrupt nature and kind), which clings to them until death. (2)
As I read this passage from St. Matthew’s gospel this morning, I was struck with an odd thought.
Why is Jesus praying again for the same thing, for the third time even?
I understand why I will pray often for the same thing, for the same people. But why did Jesus, in the Garden, pray in agony that the cross would be rendered unnecessary? The very moment the Father and He planned for, he prayed would be removed?
And why would the Holy Spirit determine that you and I needed to see this agony, to see this cry of desperation to our Father? Three times he would cry out, and twice in His agony, He found us asleep. (It is ironic that they could sleep while he is in agony, considering the lesson with the storm, when He was asleep in the back of the boat. They only thought death was imminent. He knew it, felt it stalking Him!)
I don’t believe it was only to give us a lesson, or a model how to handle stress, anxiety, and despair. It may serve that purpose, and serve it very very well. But ost of us aren’t facing death in a few hours, and our death won’t include the weight of the sins of all history.
It is also not because of unbelief. Far often we use this prayer as our “out”. If it isn’t answered then we can dismiss our pain (yeah, sure!) by saying it wasn’t God’s will that He would address this situation, or provide that healing. It surely cannot be that God isn’t listening either, for that means He isn’t God, and His promises are simply frauds.
I think the lesson is far deeper than that, for Jesus, and as we realize why He prayed, you and I.will find a desire to pray.
The obvious – prayer is commanded, or perhaps it is better described to be urged by God. It is one of those “works” that flows because we take God at His word. We believe His promises, we count upon His mercy and we depend upon His love. There is no other option, even as there wasn’t as Jesus cried tears of blood in the garden. Obi-wan isn’t our only hope, Jesus is. It is not just law, but the law helps us see the necessity, as the Holy Spirit reminds us, we need God. We can’t live life in a vacuum where He doesn’t exist.
And prayer, like the other sacraments (see Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XIII) reminds us that not only did Jesus command it, but there is a blessing attached to it, a promise.
He will listen.
He does listen.
He is listening, right now!
And this prayer, this action is on God uses in us to work out our salvation, to remind us we are being regenerated, we are being renewed. This work, as the Vatican II pastors wrote, is a work that is a redeemed and redemptive reality.
As we pray, as we give up our burdens, our fears, our anxieties and our sins, there is a growth that occurs, a communion with God that leaves us in peace. That leaves us able to bear a cross, that leaves us assured of His presence, His support, His love. As Jesus prayed to the Father, as He knew the Father was listening, that comfort of the Father’s love sustained Him. That moment of surrender, to say this is yours Father, I can’t deal with it, makes our being His children ever more real.
And we become sure His kingdom will happen right here, right now. It becomes redeemed and redemptive, holy and right, it floods us with His presence, and even through the tears, we know His love.We know it in a way we can depend upon, no matter if what is next is the cross, or the resurrection… or both.
Pray, cast your cares, your burdens upon Him, and know His peace…and if you need to do so again and even a third time.. and depend upon Him, for He is listening..AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1453-1454). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 480). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
The Madness of God….proven on Mondays
Devotional Thought of the Day….
19 Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19 (MSG)
24 ” ‘For here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to take you out of these countries, gather you from all over, and bring you back to your own land. 25 I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. 26 I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. 27 I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. 28 You’ll once again live in the land I gave your ancestors. You’ll be my people! I’ll be your God! Ezekiel 36:24-28 (MSG)
2 God is my Father! If you meditate on it, you will never let go of this consoling consideration. Jesus is my intimate Friend (another rediscovery) who loves me with all the divine madness of his Heart. The Holy Spirit is my Consoler, who guides my every step along the road. Consider this often: you are God’s… and God is yours. (1)
This morning one of the first things I read was this…
We wait for years for an extra day, and it is a Monday. A Monday? Really? I mean why couldn’t we have the extra day be a Sunday? Or at least a Friday?
Why did it have to be a Monday? What kind of Madness is this?
I could make the point it is a divine sort of madness. A reminder that God doesn’t want us just on Sundays.
God, our Father, doesn’t want “visitation” rights. he doesn’t want to be our God on a part-time or occasional basis He doesn’t just want to see us when we are on our best behavior, expecting times of great joy. He wants to be in our lives on Monday mornings, before we shower, or have that first 32 oz coffee (or in my case, diet Coke with line) He wants to be beside us at 10 am – when we realized we had a deadline at nine a.m.
What madness! How insane! He wants to be there, to show us His love, even when we admit we aren’t all that lovable, or all that ready to be loved. He not only loves us on Mondays when we are unbearable, but He also loves us as our sin crucified Jesus, His only begotten Son, our Savior and Friend.
What comfort that gives, what peace it brings, when we take a moment and catch ou breath, and realize He is still God, our God. And we are still His children, His beloved children. He has marked us as His, and not just for the good times, for the challenged times, for the times where we throw a tantrum and whine, because it is Monday…..
So know His peace…for God is mad enough to love us even now….
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 237-242). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Waiting For Our Prodigals…..Be Like a….
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.
32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 15:11-32 (ESV)
380 Would that you could acquire, as I know you would like to, the virtues of the donkey! Donkeys are humble, hardworking, persevering—stubborn!—and faithful, with a sure step, tough and—if they have a good master—also grateful and obedient.
In the last few months I’ve had a number of parents of adult and teenage children who’ve come to me for prayer. I hope and pray that my words gave them both hope and comfort.
The issue is often morality, in a couple of the situations, the immorality has led to horrendous consequences. The trauma on the parents is beyond anything I’e ever experienced. In the others, the fear of such trauma is intense, and seemingly unending. In both cases, fear and pain can seem unending, and reactions from those points can cause even more damage. Matter of fact, our lack of wisdom may cause more fear and anxiety. Those thoughts, words and actions we know are irreversible, but they aren’t beyond reconciliation.
So what do we do as parents, as pastors, as we wait for our prodigals to return? How do we deal with the anxieties, as our prodigals are away, enjoying themselves, or living with hogs in the mud? We don’t know all the story. We do the story of the prodigal, and hope that our situations will resolve in the same manner. We look out from our house often, looking down the road for some hope. We hear a car turn into our driveway, and our hearts are crushed, because it isn’t our prodigal.
Where do we find hope in this? What can help us find peace, find healing ourselves? What can help us, between the time they run off to follow strange desires, ignore logical morality, and turn their back on God? How do we avoid taking on the attitude of the cynical older brother, or just giving up hope, declaring the person dead to us?
We have to know the heart of Father, revealed in passages like this:
11 “I, the Sovereign LORD, tell you that I myself will look for my sheep and take care of them 12 in the same way as shepherds take care of their sheep that were scattered and are brought together again. I will bring them back from all the places where they were scattered on that dark, disastrous day. 13 I will take them out of foreign countries, gather them together, and bring them back to their own land. I will lead them back to the mountains and the streams of Israel and will feed them in pleasant pastures. 14 I will let them graze in safety in the mountain meadows and the valleys and in all the green pastures of the land of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will find them a place to rest. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken. 16 “I will look for those that are lost, bring back those that wander off, bandage those that are hurt, and heal those that are sick; but those that are fat and strong I will destroy, because I am a shepherd who does what is right. Ezekiel 34:11-16 (TEV)
This is our God, the Shepherd who diligently searches for His sheep, to bring them to restoration. Who hears our prayers, our cries, our grief. Who longs to rejoice when they come home. Who will never stop working to grant them repentance, transformation. You are not alone in your desire, and knowing that, we can find the patient hope we need to wait. We can find sustenance and rest. We can entrust them to God, knowing His love, and we can entrust ourselves to God at the same time.
Find you rest, your strength in Him. Know the peace of God, and that we can be like the Donkeys that Josemaria encourages us to be like. ( instead of the jackasses we could become! ) Faithful, stubbornly holding out hope, persevering, taking the right steps, one at a time, knowig our Master will guide us, for we dwell in His presence…..
And hopeful, for the Lord Almighty hasn’t forgotten our loved ones for a moment….
Lord, I pray for my friends, who children and grandchildren are caught up in things beyond them. Who have strayed, who have lost for the moment in darkness, in fog. Lord, be with them, and with those they love. Bring hope, bandage the wounds, given strength and sustain them. Help us to realize that You are reaching out to them, calling them to come home, and give us patience until we see them in Your Hands. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, the Savior, who lies and reigns with you an the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1488-1490). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Our Need for Vacation, (or the Sabbath) is Really Our Need for Christ
Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 LORD, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance. I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me. 2 Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me. 3 Israel, trust in the LORD now and forever! Psalm 131:1-3 (TEV)
11 In union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by human beings, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consists of being freed from the power of this sinful self. 12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13 You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14 he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. 15 And on that cross Christ freed himself from the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities; he made a public spectacle of them by leading them as captives in his victory procession. 16 So let no one make rules about what you eat or drink or about holy days or the New Moon Festival or the Sabbath. 17 All such things are only a shadow of things in the future; the reality is Christ. Colossians 2:11-17 (TEV)
657 Here is a point for your daily examination. Have I allowed an hour to pass, without talking with my Father God? Have I talked to him with the love of a son? You can! (1)
Today starts my vacation, so it was a coincidence? Ironic? God having fun? that my devotional readings switched from focusing on sacrificing to focusing on resting in Christ Jesus this morning.
As I started to read the Psalm this morning, and the other passages and the devotional reading, (with my son at my side – which was great!) I started thinking – how much people look forward to vacation, how much we look forward to a break from the grind of daily work. Even though many of us physically do not rest, do not take a break, but fill as much of our time as we can!
Matter of fact, we spend extra time preparing our work places and lives for vacation, we know we will have more work when we get back, we tire ourselves out during it and… well.. we don’t always get what we need – rest, a chance to breath, a chance to recover and be revitalized. It works against the Human Resources justification of Vacation – that employees will be more energetic and productive with that time away for rest and recreation, That it will reduce burnout, that it will have a positive impact on our work.
As I was thinking through this, I realized what vacations are supposed to be about is why God created sabbath times – not just weeks, but yearly and even sabbaticals where things rested for a year. When all pressure is off, where time is spent simply, without concern, knowing that God is caring for us, protecting us, Where we can find contentment, and peace. Where we can be still, knowing that it will take a couple of days to do so… to unwind, to breathe, to even gasp.
We need to do this more, setting aside even in a minute or two an hour, an hour a day, a day a month? And yes – our week or two a year…..
We need our time with our Father, for that is precious and restores our soul… It can give us the strength to face the rest of the hour, the pains of a day, the punishing grind of a year.
My son got it, when we talked of my role as a pastor, and why I need to start the morning with a devotional time. He said if I didn’t spend time with God, even though the time I spend with people is very good – I can’t really pastor! (He indicated he was guessing – he knew it was right – but he didn’t know why!)
How can we live as believers, if we don’t spend time, talking to Him with the love and adoration a son has for his dad?
This is why it doesn’t make sense to restrict people to a specific day for such rest, for dwelling in such love. If someone needs that rest on Tuesday night, or on Thursday morning. We need it. The Sabbath is about man receiving the peace and rest God would give them. It isn’t about obedience, but about restoration. That is why some prefer daily mass, and some churches with staff and time enough – have multiple service times across the week.
Well time to wrap this up – need to finish getting ready for some time of rest……
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2756-2758). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A Work of Love to Important to Leave to a Few…
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
1 Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (TEV)
27 God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28 So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29 To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:27-29 (TEV)
Before Christ and my own conscience I assure you that I am speaking the plain truth when I say that there is something that makes me feel very depressed, like a pain that never leaves me. It is the condition of my brothers and fellow-Israelites, and I have actually reached the pitch of wishing myself cut off from Christ if it meant that they could be won for God. Romans 9:1 (Phillips NT)
622 Do you realise how much depends on whether you are soundly prepared or not? Many, many souls! And now will you cease to study or work with perfection? (1)
There is a attitude in the church today, that needs to be confronted, that needs to be corrected. It is the idea that our lives are our own, that we have no obligation to work in the Kingdom of God. We have no obligation to tell people about God’s love, to either them, or to God.
We’d love to leave that to pastors (and pastors leave it to missionaries!) or to the religious fanatics. We don’t want the obligation and the obligations that come when those people we share God’s love with need to be loved…. by us. Or the obligation to know God’s word beyond the basic “believe and your will be baptized” type promises, the ones assure us that we aren’t going to hell The obligation of even praying for people is more than most of us are willing to take seriously.
how do we feel when we read Paul’s despair over the people of Israel? Is such love a foreign thing to us?
His is not the only love like this – look at Moses making a similar offer to God. What about Abraham, so worried about Sodom and Gommorah that he would bargain with God, over and over. These weren’t the best people these men of God tried to save, it was rebellious sinful people. The same kind of people around us. Will we hear their cries? Will we know their pain?
The problem is this idea that satan convinced the church of, that sharing our faith is an obligation, that it is commanded and we must do it. We buy into that, because it gives us an out – if it is law – we assume our guilt, claim to repent, and go our merry way, assured we are forgiven.
But sharing our treasured hope is not a matter of law – it is a matter of love. To look at those who suffer under the burden of shame and guilt, who are enslaved to sin, who are broken because of it. Who try to find their peace in bottles or drugs or anything that will numb the pain, that will allow them to ignore it, or set it aside. To look on these people is to see the need they have, that we know can be met, that can bring about healing and holiness.
It is a matter of loving them, and remembering when we realized what forgiveness is, what the promises of our baptism brings, what it means to know that God looks at us as His children, whom He chose to adopt.
We look those who don’t know Him, whom Jesus endured the shame of the cross to save… and we know we are called ot love them…..to be the ones who point them to life, to rest, to walking with God. Can we picture them, as the burdens are lifted, as the sins are removed, as the joy fills their hearts?
Lord, you’ve made us your children, help us to be patient, and desire that non perish…..and help us to embrace any sacrifice that will help us lead others into Your family. AMEN!.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2629-2631). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
We Call on His Name – Just as Jesus DId!
Treasuring God’s Gifts!
He has Given Us the Right to Use His Name!
Exodus 20:7, Romans 10:11-17
In Jesus Name!
May the glory of the cross, the love of God revealed, remind you that you are children of God, and can therefore cry out to the Father!
We have almost completed our journey through the Decalogue, through the masterpiece God makes of our life, so beautifully described in words we normally call the Ten Commandments. The journey where we have not heard them as hastily written words, given to cramp our style, to forbid fun.
Instead we remember to hear them as the words of God, which describe for us a way of life He considers His masterpiece.
On this day, when we hear Jesus cry out, “it is finished”, when we know of His cry, “Father, Into Your Hands I commit my spirit,” may we realize we can cry out to the Father, for that is why He has given us His name… to use.
The Third (4th) Word
The Third “word”, the “third commandment” is simple, “Do not use God’s name vainly” or to no good purpose. If we think it through, that command is simply a correction, a clarification to the idea that we are called to use God’s name.
For as we heard, all who call on the name of the Lord will be delivered, we will be saved.
There are people who misuse God’s name, using it basically in frustration, in anger, to condemn, to mock God, and often His people. That is sin.
There are also those who do not use His name at all, to lift others in prayer, to offer comfort, even the comfort of a glass of water, who do not care enough about others eternity to share God’s love with them, so they will know heaven and not hell. Those who do not use His name to reconcile, those who refuse to forgive – for that too is the proper use of His name, and to not do so, is sin.
Seeing the Gospel
When William was born, we were shocked by his pediatrician giving us her cell-phone number. She has a large office, and an incredible caseload. Over the years we’ve called it, and been surprised when we didn’t get a answering service, but that she answered it herself.
How many places can you call, where the boss picks up the phone? Never mind that, where a real person does.
Yet, God, Creator of the Universe, expects us to call out to Him, to give Him our burdens, to ask Him for forgiveness.
That is what the cross is all about, that is what this time and this place is all about.
God gathering His people here,
Gathering His people, marked by His name.
For Christ has been lifted up…..
We have been lifted up with Him.
Lifted up into His presence, into His place of peace, The peace that goes beyond all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.
Not Separating That Which Goes Together: God & Religion, Faith & Works, Justification & Sanctification
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” 19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? James 2:17-20 (NLT)
27 What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world. James 1:27 (TEV)
11 I am copying this example of cowardice from a letter so that you will not imitate it: “I am certainly very grateful to you for keeping me in mind, because I need many prayers. But I would also be grateful if, when you ask Our Lord to make me an ‘apostle’, you would not insist on asking him to make me surrender my freedom.” (1)
This morning as I was looking on Facebook while waiting for the shower, I saw another “meme” that thought you could separate God and religion. It had the usual accolades, the usual slams. Comments about religion not being loving, that religion causes wars, that it is hypocritical, and so on. Not one of those comments defined “religion”, not one of them quoted scripture. But they universally condemned religion.
I guess they find caring for widows and orphans, and not bringing yourself down by involving yourself in sin, something that is very negative. Though I expect that it is more the latter issue, than the former. That and the people who are a bit insistent that others follow God’s commands, without teaching first of His grace.
Religion is putting into practice the love of God in our lives. It is understanding His love is what gives us the Two Great Commandments, the Decalogue (aka the Ten Commandments), the Beatitudes. the directions given in the Epistles. Living those out, isn’t possible without the presence of God, with His love and mercy, with understanding that He desires what is best for us.
Dividing God from what He considers to be pure and genuine religion, is the same as dividing faith and works. Even though it is trusting in God (faith) that saves us, James (and Hebrews, and Paul and Jesus ) is clear. A person who trusts in God will live a different life from those who do not. A religious life. As will those whose first thoughts are to praise Him for His work in their lives, a work that becomes theirs. Yet there are people out there who says we don’t have to follow God’s plans for our lives. That they are outdated, that they are too restrictive, that they don’t make sense.
And they call for a relationship with Him, where what we do should be right in our eyes, not His. It’s still a religion folks, it is just that the deity we are in a relationship with, has been replaced. It is now us that rule, and God who does our bidding.
There is one last “break-up” that goes with the first two. I use theological terms for it, Justification and Sanctification. But I could easily use other theological terms, conversion/forgiveness and abiding in Christ/transformation/repentance. In each case we divorce salvation, God delivering us from our brokenness (sin) and healing/restoring us to what should come naturally. We make excuses, we blame others, we basically determine that we can’t live any better, that we can’t struggle with sin, and so we don’t.
And we toss God’s way of life out the window.
During lent, we take a breath, and see the need for God to put back together the lives we shattered, our own, and those we’ve had a hand in breaking. Not that we shouldn’t do this year round, but taking 7 weeks here, helps a lot. We see that religion – God’s plan, does have a purpose in our lives, it is a way of life we can abide in with Him. That we can know and show mercy, love, forgiveness, that we can redeem that which was tossed aside, that we are called and chosen to do this very thing.
That we can get off our own pedestal, that we can stop playing God, and that we can know His peace.
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 282-285). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Pay Attention to What the Prophets Wrote!!
Pay Attention to What They Wrote, Until…
2 Peter 1:16-21
† In Jesus Name †
May you know the height, the depth, the width and breadth of God the Father’s love for you, as we see it revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ.
How do we see scriptures?
Maybe I am just projecting my own personality onto Peter, but I think he must have had the hearing of a typical guy, somewhere from age of 4 until the age of 94. In other words, he probably had that dreaded disorder called “selective hearing”, especially at church.
Well, it’s not completely based on my own experience, but on his words in the epistle, look at verse 19.
19 Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote,
Maybe it is because I am cynical, but I see Peter, prior to the experience of the transfiguration, sitting in synagogue because his mom or wife is dragging him there. As the Rabbi is reading the Torah, or Isaiah, he’s thinking about where he will fish this week, about the taxes he has to pay, about the challenges he faces working with his dad…who happens to be sleeping two pews back…
Let’s be honest, there are times in our lives where the Old Testament scriptures, and sometimes the New Testament scriptures don’t seem as important to us as who will win the big game, or the struggles we face at work, or the challenges that affect those we love. We may have forgotten the wisdom of Leviticus last week already, the often repeated phrase in the midst of the commandments,
I am Yahweh, your God.
Or we might have forgotten the phrase we learned back in January, “Alleluia, He is Risen!” (therefore I am risen indeed! Alleluia!)
Something happened to Peter, up on that mountain. That changed how he looked at scripture, how he felt about those boring Old Testament scriptures… so much so that he encourages us, begs us to pay close attention to them…..
I pray we shall, as we encounter the Christ they reveal to us.
Getting Peter’s attention…As we hear Peter tell of the event, we hear his passion well, how much this event, years later, changed him. It is one of the reasons why I love teaching people how to read scripture, and the bottom line is to read it like you would read to a young child. Let me read it again, but first, consider this.
Imagine someone coming up to you, Al, and asking that all the stories you told, about the joy of baptizing your granddaughter were really true? Or asking any of you ladies if your wedding really happened? Or some event that moved you more than anything else in your life, actually was that important. Now, as you think through that attitude – hear these words.
16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
I wouldn’t call it being defensive, perhaps Peter could be, but this is important to him, it is one of those events that you don’t forget, for God is revealed to you in all of His glory. As you realize, like Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and every other prophet, and yes, Peter, James and John that there it is a wondrous thing to be found in the presence of God, and to realize you are welcome there.
Instead of hearing a list of his sins, and the verdict of complete judgment, Peter hears God the Father’s voice, uttered from heaven, sharing about His love for His son……..
And completely foretold in the Old Testament.
Now God has Peter’s attention… but will He have ours?
Words shining in Darkness
So do we need a transfiguration event, an experience like Peter’s to help us take scripture, including the Old Testament writings more seriously? Do we need something to help us pay attention to all the promises of God’s love, to the promises of Jesus coming to deliver us, to carry us back into relationship with God our Father, the promises that God will never abandon us?
Or will Peter’s words, about these stories he tells, that are neither fables or myths be enough? I can point us to the transformation in Peter’s life, the repentance and humility that becomes so part of Paul’s life, the changes in people like King David’s life, the determined hope of Jeremiah?
What will it take for these stories to so impact us, that we can’t wait for Bible Study on Wednesday or church on Sunday, but that we desire and guard our time that we can spend as Paul encourages us; to pay close attention to what is written and proclaimed by the prophets?
Will it take a mountain top experience? I don’t think so, been on enough retreats to know the fervor fades, much as Moses face did coming off of Mt Sinai.
What about the other things Peter witnessed, the miracles, the great teaching, or the things he experienced, the walking on water, or looking into an empty grave?
What will help us see the these words in scripture as a lamp shining into the darkness
What would help us know these words, in order that we could bring light into our neighbor’s darkness? If not for our sake, for theirs, to see them transformed as we have been, as we are in our baptism, to see their joy as they come and celebrate God’s love at the altar, as we commune with the Body and Blood of Christ?
Peter’s answer was simple – the experience made him realize that the scripture was all about Christ’s light invading our darkness, about His coming, the incarnation, about God dwelling with us. When the Nunc Dimitis is SPOKEN by Simeon, he quotes the Old Testament about the light that shines for the darkness.
Similarly John takes up that theme…
14 The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NJB)
They saw His glory, His light invading the darkness. That is what makes the difference, and it is what we need to see, to really think through.
We say it sort of, when we ask how people who don’t know God’s love can survive in life. We realize something has happened to us, but do we realize how much?
Yes, and yet no,
We can’t , until we find ourselves before the throne of God,
Until that day…
Which is why we should pay close attention to scripture, to hear the promises, to see what eyewitness record, to see the lives that are changed because they walked with God, and the lives that were sustained, because they know God is there….
Put simply, the reason we read scripture is to know that our lives, as we walk through them with God, are transformed. That we walk with Jesus, that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and we in Him. To know and be assured of the promises that spell out the depth of His love for those He calls to be His own. The very things that life tries to hide.
Those prophets, those writers tell us of His love, of His mercy, of His healing presence. That’s why Luther said he saw Jesus on every page of scripture, because that is who He was looking for there!
You see, that’s what devotional reading of scripture, and even serious study is about. To know as Paul tells it, of the incredible depth and height, the width and breadth of God’s love for us in Christ. It’s not about knowing the theology, its about knowing God.
It’s why it’s not fable or myth – it changes lives to know that love, to understand the promises, to get why this baptismal font and this altar and the words we say here matters.
It’s about God’s love – a love that can’t be stolen from you, a love that will see us to the day when we clearly see Him.
But until that day, of the promises you have been given, I end it with this one,
May you know you dwell in the presence and the peace of God our Father, a peace that can’t be put into words, but indeed a peace that holds us, comforts us, strengthens us, as our hearts and minds secure, for we abide in Christ Jesus our Lord. AMEN?
So pay close attention to those promises then!