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Midweek Lent II: Treasuring God’s Gifts Means We Think of Others as Gifts,

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Means We Think of Others as Gifts,

 † In Jesus Name †

 

As we realize the mercy, peace and love of God our Father, that crafts the life we have in Christ, may we rejoice in the gifts that life helps us realize are ours!

 

Commands, or sub-clauses?

I said last week that I am coming to see the 10 Commandments, what is known as the Decalogue, more and more as the Old Testament’s Beatitudes.  The Blessed are they whose lives are described in the words that many of us have memorized.

In a way, it is a matter of hearing, even as it is with the Beatittudes.  We hear them as commands, as a list of characteristics we must developed in ourselves.  What English instructors and Greek professors call “imperatives”

If they were, I think we are in more trouble than we think we are, for how many of us can keep these commandments 24/7/365-366?  If we see these as simple commands – do this or you are going to be zapped, we are in deep trouble.

I hate to sound like an English teacher, but if these are instead  sub-clauses (and they are), it is based on the original statement.

I am the Lord your God, who rescued you….. and therefore…

This is how you live.
This is the masterpiece, this is ….His masterpiece.  The one we read together earlier.

10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
The problem of false witness/gossip
These words, these phrases, that we know so well, take on deeper meaning when we realize they describe how we look as God’s masterpiece, and that sinnings is simply robbing ourselves and God of this masterpiece, smearing the masterpiece, like someone throwing a bucket of pain over a priceless painting, or graffiting a incredible statue.  It mars the image, it obscures the masterpiece that is there for all to see, to testifying of God’s wisdom, His glory, His creative power in our lives.

This week, the phrase we read, from Deuteronomy concerns bearing false witness, testify, talking about someone in a way that wrecks their reputation.  It’s not just about telling lies about them, but as Luther taught,

“we will not deceive by lying, betraying, slandering or ruining our neighbor’s reputation, but will defend him, say good things about him, and see the best side of everything he does.   Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

In the Large cathecism, Luther even reveals that it is not just spreading lies about them, but it can be spreading the truth, if our reason is false – that is, if we spread the truth, because we think it will damage their reputation.

Why?  Where is God’s wisdom in this?

If we begin, even about a person we truly detest, to think bad about them, to gossip about, to assume that what they do is with devious or evil intent, that begins to affect our own character.  It spreads an grows, like an unchecked infection, throughout our lives.

It wrecks our relationships with others, it puts us on the defensive, it robs us of compassion,  and steals us of the ability to love them, as Christ loved us.

That spreads and spreads, and it even affects how people look at us, as they primarily hear us comment negatively about others.

We are all guilty of it, whether we want to admit it or not. We all have those we have trouble understanding, those we don’t want to see the best side of, to think of what they do in the best way.  Some are our enemies, some are those who lead, and some are just people whose actions affect our lives.  They are in far off places like Russia, or Washington D.C. or St. Louis, they might be our co-workers, or family, or they are might be here, in this very room.

Blessed are they, who do not testify falsely, whether in word or intent about others.

The challenge of Trusting God’s craftsmanship

Last we talked about the reason one could be content, rather than jealous had nothing to do with who had more than us, our even our unmet expectations. Rather, whether we talked about it being a matter of trusting God, about realizing that He in love, provides what we need.

The issues about gossip, slander, and trying to damage the reputation of others is the same issue.

If we trust that God is in charge, if we have faith in His Lordship, and that He will deliver us from evil, we must believe He desires to rescue them from evil as well.  That He desires to make their life a masterpiece along with ours.  We see them, not as a drain on society, but someone who either knows God’s love, or needs to know it.  We hear Joseph’s words,

“What you meant for evil, God used for good,” and we know it is about all of us.  That all of us are forgiven, blessed, cleansed, and our actions, no matter what they were, or what our intent was, God will use for good, for those whom He loves, for He has called them by name.
How could we testify about their actions or intent harmfully, if we trust God will make it good?   As we look at them, and see them at the foot of the cross, the blood washing away their sin, as we realize our need to be there as well,

He desires to make our life a masterpiece, and occasionally, we can glimpse that He is doing this very thing.  We trust Him at His promise, the promise that we see here, in baptism, the promise we see here, at the altar….

We know He desires that for every one, and it is the same trust, the same faith we have in God, that leads us to treasure all those He has died to save…and as we realize His love for them… the love that grants repentance, the mercy that transforms, the more we know God will use them… and the more we find ourselves thinking of them in the best possible way – as God’s gifts

As we see them that way – as we love them as we love ourselves… we find ourselves in living in Christ, is peace.
Let us pray…..

 

 

Get’Erdone and Gotterdienst – the Church and the Work of God

devotional thought of the day (or technically tomorrow for some of you- since I am already there!)
If you are familiar with redneck comedy, or  Vicar Mark, those words should sound familiar.

Maybe it is because of lieing awake at 3 am that this comes to mind – after 24 plus hours in planes, airport terminals – losing a day and finding myself feeling somewhat alone in a city of 12 million.

But I can’t hear get’erdone without thinking of it’s German relative Gotterdienst. Which translates (or so I’ve been told) as God’s work or God’s service.   (similar to the Latin Opus Dei)

WE talk about Gotterdienst as a name for the gathering when God’s people come together – and His work is done in their midst.  He brings mercy and peace to them as He gives them the ability to trust and repentance.  We are transformed in His presence, and begin to serve Him – with our praises, with our words, with our lives.

It is all His work, really – even as He works through us – preparing us for the day when we are all before His throne – as we celebrate the wedding feast of the lamb.

I love how St Paul describes this work in Ephesians

Ephesians 5:25ff (Phillips NT) 25 But, remember, this means that the husband must give his wife the same sort of love that Christ gave to the Church, when he sacrificed himself for her. Christ gave himself to make her holy, having cleansed her through the baptism of his Word – to make her an altogether glorious Church in his eyes. She is to be free from spots, wrinkles or any other disfigurement – a Church holy and perfect. 28 Men ought to give their wives the love they naturally have for their own bodies. The love a man gives his wife is the extending of his love for himself to enfold her. Nobody ever hates or neglects his own body; he feeds and looks after it. And that is what Christ does for his body, the Church. And we are all members of that body, we are his flesh and blood! ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’. The marriage relationship is doubtless a great mystery, but I am speaking of something deeper still – the marriage of Christ and his Church. 

Such is truly a beautiful thing – this work of Christ which makes us, His church, His people – glorious in His eyes.  Perhaps that is why St Paul also wrote

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NJB) 8 Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; 9 not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. 10 We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life.

In other words – God is at work – truly – He is ministering to us – and if the church the the “er” in the get’erdone – then Gottesdienst means pretty much the same thing.

Rejoice my friends, for God is at work, in you…… and with Paul, I can confidently say:

Philippians 1:6 (NJB) 6 I am quite confident that the One who began a good work in you will go on completing it until the Day of Jesus Christ comes.

Godspeed – from tomorrow!

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