Devotional thought for our seemingly broken days:
3 Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was full of remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. v 4 “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” he said.
“What’s that to us?” they said. “See to it yourself!”
5 So he threw the silver into the sanctuary w and departed. Then he went and hanged himself. Matthew 27:3-5 HCSB
20. But what should you do if you are not aware of this need and have no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?
To such a person no better advice can be given than this: first, he should touch his body to see if he still has flesh and blood. Then he should believe what the Scriptures say of it in Galatians 5 and Romans 7.
Second, he should look around to see whether he is still in the world, and remember that there will be no lack of sin and trouble, as the Scriptures say in John 15–16 and in 1 John 2 and 5.
Third, he will certainly have the devil also around him, who with his lying and murdering day and night will let him have no peace, within or without, as the Scriptures picture him in John 8 and 16; 1 Peter 5; Ephesians 6; and 2 Timothy 2.
In so saying, we finally discover the answer to the question with which we started. After the tearing of the Temple curtain and the opening up of the heart of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified, do we still need sacred space, sacred time, mediating symbols? Yes, we do need them, precisely so that, through the “image”, through the sign, we learn to see the openness of heaven. We need them to give us the capacity to know the mystery of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified.
In many ways, life would be easier without the celebration of Christmas.
For one thing, my cynical nature could use the rest. It gets tiring, seeing people spend millions on decorations (which Costco was selling in September this year!) and gifts and clothes for all the parties, while people they should know are living on the streets. In talking to other pastors, people who used to come to church on Christmas and Easter hardly do anymore, because they are too busy with celebrating Christmas!
It’s hard, all the extra work all the extra services ( 4 in 25 hours this year and add another on the prior Wednesday night )
And we know it all right? We all know Jesus was born in a stable, and the angels sang to him, and the wise men didn’t visit him in the manger that night, but later at the house where they were staying. ( Hmm you didn’t know that? )
So why not give everybody so more time to rest, some more time to spend with families?
I find the answer in the odd (given the season) reading in my devotions this morning. When Judas, torn up with guilt and shame, tried to find hope, tried to find mercy and was denied. The very elders ( read pastors) who were supposed to point him back to God instead they threw his sin back in his face. The very men who were supposed to give him a message of grace didn’t care.
He needed Christmas. he needed to know God would come to Him, forgive his sin, reveal His love for Judas, reveal that this was the very reason for the cross.
Joseph Ratzinger, (later Pope Benedict XVI) had it right, we, like Judas, need to be given the capacity to know the mystery of God, reveal in the heart of Jesus, the one who embraced the manger and the crucifixion, for us. Or as Luther pointed out, we need to realize that this life is full of sin and trouble and Satan is at work to steal our peace. Just as that is done as we approach the altar, as God shares Christ’s body and blood for us, so we need Christmas.
We need to celebrate, even if it is sappy or too utopian in its portrayal, the fact that Jesus shattered the darkness by coming into our world, not just 2000 odd years ago, but today, now, here. That He is with us, that He loves us, that He is merciful toward us, cleansing us of all sin. Our world needs to know this, we need to celebrate it, we need to find out that God has found us.
Rejoice, for unto us a Child is born, and He shall be called Wonderful! Counselor! Almighty God! Everlasting Father! The One who Reigns with Peace…
the peace we are invited into, for that is why He came.
So celebrate Christmas, and see what is revealed to you this day. AMEN!
Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.
Luther, Martin. Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1991. Print.
I AM here!
Matthew 14: 22-33
As you hear and think about the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may you realize as well, that is only possible because He is here, with you!
An Interrupted Prayer time?
As I study a passage of scripture to preach on it, I look at other passages that are similar. With the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, this is pretty easy, as they cover more than 2/3rds of the same stories.
In this case, Mark’s gospel adds one interesting note, that Jesus’s prayer time, his time talking with God the Father was interrupted. Mark’s gospel adds this little note in
47 Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. 48 He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, Mark 6:47-48 (NLT)
While Mark doesn’t mention Jesus praying, it does mention that HE SAW THEM!
So Jesus heads out – checks on them as He is passing, and that is when something interesting happens.
No, not their freaking out, as they’ve been struggling for 9 plus hours to row and sail a boat against contrary seas. That isn’t interesting, it is tragic. They are tired, and to see someone walking across the sea, in the midst of a horrible eastern Mediterranean storm… well – it’s got to be supernatural, a phantasmic (not fantastic) experience in Greek.
What is interesting is Jesus response to their cries of fear. I AM here.
Sounds like what I keep telling you, you know, “the Lord is with you!”!!!
The Struggles are Real
We need to know that, and some weeks, and some Saturdays, we need to know it even more.
Sometimes we are like the disciples, tired from fighting contrary winds, feeling like the world is going to overwhelm and drown us. Sometimes the other guys in the boat aren’t much of a help, or at least we don’t thing they are. And the wind – there is nothing we can do…
A few years ago, when Kay came back from a mission trip to Siberia, they had a team reunion near a reservoir in San Diego. The reservoir had little sailboats, brand new, in fact the one she and I got in had never been used!
We found that out as we get maybe 100 feet away from the dock, and the rudder, not fully screwed in , because it decides to float away! Then I notice they didn’t insert the centerboard, so there is nothing to keep the boat stable,, and then of course, the wind picks up.
We got blown across the reservoir, where a park ranger met us. She then told kay to get out of the front of the boat, and I learned they didn’t insert the ballast either, and the boat flips over with only my weight on board! Funny it was.. but more than a bit frustrating!
And we didn’t even get to see Jesus walking on the water, and when I got out – I didn’t walk on it! But life sometimes feels like it was that day, failing miserably, helpless, unable to go where I should, and ending up soaking wet!
But Jesus still sees us struggling, even when we aren’t aware of His presence, or His care for us. We don’t, otherwise we wouldn’t freak out, or scream like the disciples did, in fear of their lives.
We often talk about sin as this action, or that action. This evil thought, or those words that hurt that we say. But sin is also when we ignore God, when we try and play God, or choose things our way.
Please hear me, I am not saying the struggle is sin, absolutely not! By no means! But during the struggle, have we forgotten Jesus? Do we remember He cares? If not sin, or often the effect of sin in our lives is evident, for we’ve lost sight of our Lord, our Deliver.
I am here, compared to I AM HERE
Which is why we need to hear his voice, we need to be reminded of His presence. We need to realize it,, we need to let Him calm our fears, put to rest our anxieties, heal our souls and bring peace to our hearts.
By the way, there is a spelling error on the Bulletin, and I may have set this one up when I told Cris the sermon title.
It isn’t I Am Here…. It is I AM here.
That doesn’t seem like much does it? It would be to Peter and Andrew, James, Hahn, Mathew and the rest. You see, in both Greek and Hebrew, Jesus didn’t just reveal that he was walking by.
He revealed he was God, and that He was involved in their life. You see, that I AM is the I AM Moses heard at the burning bush, it is the name of God that is translated as LORD throughout scripture, the name God gave us to call out to him. Yahweh, Ego Eimi, the I AM THAT IAM . The name that was put on the temple for people to know who to pray to, and of course, the name we aren’t to take in vain, but use to pray and to praise God.
During the storm, and at the cross, God is there for you. In the trauma of everyday life, He answers us, and to finally get to that other guy on the water, He says to us as He did to Peter.
Don’t be afraid, I am here – come on – walk with me!
And so we shall, trusting in the Lord who is with you! AMEN!
An Everlasting Sign
† I.H.S. †
As we walk though this life, may we continually see the everlasting signs of God’s power and love, at work in our lives, and in the lives of those around us.
Walking by the lake… you can’t take it all in…
Walking by the side of Lake Ossipee in New Hampshire, I learned a lesson about photography, and perhaps about life.
Simply put, the camera can’t take all that we experience with our eyes. They can’t take in the gentles waves, little more than ripples, and the beautiful homes across the lake, never mind the mountains that are visible on the horizon. You can’t take in a 360-degree panorama of beauty, never mind the feeling that occurs when you walk down a road with your son, that you and your dad walked down before.
Likewise, even our eyes can’t focus on everything at once.
There is so much more than we can see and hear, never mind the stories that give the story more depth, and the experience that goes beyond words.
Either because the experience is so full of joy, or so full of the pain of being broken, or sometimes, because the experience is both, and how do you concentrate on the joy, when you are struggling with tears?
And if that is simply trying to process a vacation, how do we catch what is really important about life?
Maybe we need a sign or two to help us along the way, to help us focus on what we need?
Do we see the fruit God’s word accomplishes?
One of the things I don’t often see is what Isaiah recorded God telling us,
10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. 11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
This illustration might be harder for us to understand here in California than it is sitting beside a lake in New Hampshire. After all, like looks little different at first today than it did a year ago when we are in a drought. Yet there is still snow in the high Sierras, the depleted reservoirs are again full.
We can’t see those signs, but we do know of the snow and rain from the crops that provide us food, from the grain that gives us bread to the grapes that provide us wine!
But like the camera view that cannot pick up everything, sometimes it is hard to see the blessings of God. They are there, just like the water that sits up in the High Sierras and the reservoirs. We may not regularly note the benefits of the blessings, but the blessings sustain us, none the less.
Again, do we see the rain and snow here? Not so much, but the evidence of that blessing we share see in a moment, just as we do every we eat, and with every sip we drink. His work is there, providing for us, even if all we can “see” are the end results of the blessings.
It is the same way spiritually, as God works through means, and delivers us grace and comfort, as He reveals His compassion and peace.
It will accomplish what God desires it to accomplish, and that is an incredible blessing.
The change is real – let’s see it!
So if in the physical life we see the end product, the food and drink that nourishes us, is there something similar spiritually.
Is there an eternal sign that proves God is at work, that He is blessing us?
Is there something that changes dramatically as a land that was once filled with thorns and weeds being filled with towering cypress and abundant colored myrtle trees, as verse 13 describes?
Yes indeed, we can see the effect of the blessing of God’s word, for the growth and change it does cause. The lives that do change, the lives that hear and know God’s peace in the midst of trauma, the lives that are reconciled.
I started this sermon by talking about the pictures that can’t take in everything the eye can see, and the eyes that can’t take in everything we experience.
Bu those eyes can take in a cross, and contemplate it’s meaning as we are joined to Christ’s death on the cross in our baptism. Those eyes can rejoice as we are welcome to feast on Christ’s body and blood, even as we try to meditate on that incredible feast. Our ears can celebrate as we heard our sin is forgiven, and rejoice as we hear that God is with us.
And as we know this peace, and share it, for so many need to know God’s gift of peace, given through His Son. That peace is the sign of His everlasting power and love, a peace bought for us at the cross and delivered to us in word and the sacraments. The word and sacraments used by the Holy Spirit to change us, for God is with us! AMEN!
Devotional Thought to Prepare us for Advent….
15 I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17 This, then, is what I command you: love one another. John 15:15-17 (TEV)
233 You spoke about the scenes in the life of Jesus which moved you most: when he met men suffering greatly… when he brought peace and health to those whose bodies and souls were racked with pain… You were inspired—you went on—seeing him cure leprosy, restore sight to the blind, heal the paralytic at the pool: the poor beggar forgotten by everybody. You are able to contemplate Him as He was, so profoundly human, so close at hand! Well… Jesus continues being the same as then. (2)
There is an attitude that negatively views contemporary worship (or that of 30-100 years ago) that treats Jesus to0 close, too intimate, too friendly. They would rather perceive God from the perspective of great distance, and perhaps great fear.
Which would make sense if we were approach Christ’s advent, His coming, with the anticipation of judgment without the cross’s benefit. To turn advent into a time of anticipating hell, fire, and brimstone, wrath and tribulation is wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, we need Jesus to come back, perhaps even desperately so. Life is too screwed up, we all need to be delivered from sin completely, we need to come home to God. But that turns advent from anxiety about Jesus coming, to realizing we and anxiety is more caused because of the wait we endure until He returns.
If we have friends we haven’t seen in ages coming to dinner during the holiday; we look forward to it. We anticipate it, we work hard, trying to get everything as perfect as possible. It is the same for Jesus second coming, we desire to grow in faith, we desire to see people come to know Him, to come to trust in Him, because He is our friend, because He loves us so completely.
Those contemporary worship songs which treat Jesus as a friend, they aren’t as far off base. They bring home that which we need to know, the attitude that Luther noted, makes the difference between one who knows God, and one who only knows of Him,
“For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. For they have not the Lord Christ, and, besides, are not illumined and favored by any gifts of the Holy Ghost.” (2)
If we don’t understand God’s desire for an intimate, deep friendship with the people He calls and makes His own, we truly only know a God whose presence evokes fear and brings to the front of our heart the condemnation of guilt and shame. We have to realize the intent of Christ’s incarnation, to head resolutely to the cross, to show us the depth of His love, to bring us healing and forgiveness.
Yes, we should be in awe of God’s presence, we are overwhelmed by His glory, but a glory that pours out grace, that delights in showering us with His Mercy, embracing us in the love, even as the Holy Spirit sanctifies us. The awe of realizing God, in all His glory, desires to be our friend.
Which makes the wait of Advent tense, as if we hear every passing car as if it is our long awaited Friend…
For He is coming!
May your patience and desire to see God sustain you, even as you anxiously await His return. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1170-1174). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) The Large Catechism of Martin Luther. The Apostles Creed: Explanation of the Third Article.