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I Didn’t Want to Write Today…yet needed to

Devotional Thought for the Day:

No longer will the Philistines eat meat with blood in it or any unclean food. They will become part of the people of our God from the tribe of Judah. And God will accept the people of Ekron, as he did the Jebusites. Zechariah 9:7

To bless God for mercies received is also the way to benefit our fellow-men; “the humble shall hear thereof and be glad.” Others who have been in like circumstances shall take comfort if we can say, “Oh! magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together; this poor man cried, and the Lord heard him.” Weak hearts will be strengthened, and drooping saints will be revived as they listen to our “songs of deliverance.” Their doubts and fears will be rebuked, as we teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. They too shall “sing in the ways of the Lord,” when they hear us magnify his holy name.

I didn’t want to write today, matter of fact, I didn’t want to even do my devotional reading. I realized as I did that I missed yesterday, and that may be part of the problem.

Another part was the serious prayer requests I’ve recevied over the last few days, people I long to help, but cannot visit them, cannot commune them, only just talk over the phone and pray with them. It doesn’t seem “enough”.

There are many things wearing me down as well – for example – receiving a note that I shouldn’t vote on election day, in order to protect me and my loved ones. Looking at the vanity of agendas all around me.

And in the midst of this funk, I come across this quote from Spurgeon, and again my heart looks forward to Sunday. When weak hearts like mine will be strengthened, when drooping saints will experience God’s revival… even as we sing of God’s rescuing us, even as we praise Him together.

Amidst this funk, the words of a little read prophet remind me of God’s care for every one of us, even us “gentiles”. For God will accept us, He will cleanse us, He has made us part of His people. He did this at the cross, and in the resurrection, as we died with Christ, so that we can be raised with Him.

One thing I have learned over this life, such times of despair are relatively short lived – at most the times in between gathering with others, seeing and hearing of how God is at work in their lives.

Sunday, my congregation will sing the following words, of a new version of the Sanctus…. “For you are Holy Lord… so PLEASE, save us Lord.” The “please save us” is the cry normally said this way, Hosanna! When I hear those words, along with the praises of Holy, I shall be lifted up, my heart will be strengthen, and revival will be there….

even as it is now….

When you hit bottom emotionally, spiritually, even physically, it is such a cry, recognizing God’s holiness, and our need for being rescued, that helps us remember His promise… and then gives us the endurance we need in such times….as we wait on Him, and know that He is Lord.

For that is enough…for this day.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Where and How We Worship and Pray: Does it Matter?

St francis at the crossDevotional Thought for our Days….

3“Is there anyone among you who can still remember how splendid the Temple used to be? How does it look to you now? It must seem like nothing at all. 4But now don’t be discouraged, any of you. Do the work, for I am with you. 5When you came out of Egypt, I promised that I would always be with you. I am still with you, so do not be afraid.
6 “Before long I will shake heaven and earth, land and sea. 7I will overthrow all the nations, and their treasures will be brought here, and the Temple will be filled with wealth. 8All the silver and gold of the world is mine. 9The new Temple will be more splendid than the old one, and there I will give my people prosperity and peace.” The LORD Almighty has spoken.   Haggai 2:3-9  TEV

Threats against those who do not love God: Ps. 11:5; 109:17; John 3:19; 1 Cor. 16:22; John 12:25; 14:24; 1 John 3:14.
Threats against those who do not trust in God: Ps. 49:6 ff.; 115:8; Prov. 11:28; Is. 59:4; 42:17; Jer. 17:5; 7:8; Luke 18:14; Mark 10:23.
Threats against those who do not hope in God: Job 8:13; 11:20; Prov. 11:28; Is. 20:5; 28:13.
Threats against those who do not fear God: Prov. 29:25; Hos. 10:3; Deut. 11:28; 2 Cor. 10:6; 2 Thess. 1:8.
Promises connected with love: Deut. 11:5–7; Ex 23:20 ff.; Is. 64:4; Prov 4:6; 8:17; John 14:23; 1 Cor. 8:3; John 16:27.
Promises connected with trust in God: Ps. 125:1; Jer. 17:7; Ps. 37:5; 56:11; 91:14; 31:1; Prov. 29:25; Is. 40:31; Rom. 5:5.

 

It cannot be that we choose for ourselves whether or how we shall worship God: what is important is that we respond to him in the place where he gives himself to us. We cannot decide on our own terms where God is to meet us, and we should not strive to reach him by our own efforts. He can come to us and let us find him wherever he chooses.

Of the three readings I posted above from this morning, the middle one troubles me the most.  Chemnitz’s inventory of threats (curses in Covenantal terms) is pretty clear.  If you don’t love God, if you don’t trust Him, if you don’t find Hope in His words, or aren’t in awe of His glory and power, what you have chosen is wrath and abandonment.  Yes, there are promises if you do love and trust in Him, but the threats, the curses that one could choose?  Why would anyone?  Why would anyone not warn someone who is heading that way?

Compare that to the promise of Haggai, and the people that looked out of their lives and couldn’t believe how far they had come from the beauty they once knew or heard of from their parents or grandparents.  The majesty of the temple of Solomon, where people could pray and know they were forgiven,  The beauty of the place where they met with God, sure that He put His name there  A place where their trust and dependence on God was rewarded, blessed, nurtured.

There is not much difference really, between Chemnitz and the prophet. They are both urging us to listen,, to really hear and depend on God.  We need to do that, and realize that while we are His people, He is our God.  

That means we have to let Him care for us, we have to let Him heal us.   We can’t be the doctor of our own souls. Which means when He prescribes something for us, such as being in a community of others who are struggling to trust Him as well, this is His good will for us, not some kind of harsh discipline. 

That’ why I love Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI’s ) remind us that we don’t get to choose for ourselves.  Nor do we have to seek God out.  He will find us, It is not by our own efforts we are saved, it is not something we deserve or are owed.  

God will go out and find us, and bring us home, but that is where we should stay, in the home, the church where He has placed us so that He can give Himself to us!  This is the greatest of miracles, the most glorious thing we can experience in this life, or in eternity. 

God, coming to us, loving us, cleansing us, and making us a holy people. 

Cardinal Ratzinger went on, “What matters is not just some pious feeling of ours that relegates religion to the realm of the nonobligatory and private but the obedience that hears God’s call and accepts it. The Lord does not want our private feelings; he wants to form us into a community and to build the new community of the Church on faith. The body must share in the divine worship as must the community with its hardships and discomforts.”

This is who we are, the people that have a God whom we can truly and completely depend on, a God who sees us complete, the masterpiece of His creation, a glorious work of grace and love.  

As we cry out for His mercy, the prayer should contain a willingness to receive that mercy, where He has promised to pour it out. 

Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

Our Intimate Relationship with God: His Desire, His choice, His Work!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

12 Moses said to the LORD, “See, you are telling me: Lead this people. But you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said: You are my intimate friend; You have found favor with me. 13 Now, if I have found favor with you, please let me know your ways so that, in knowing you, I may continue to find favor with you. See, this nation is indeed your own people. 14 The LORD answered: I myself will go along, to give you rest. 15 Moses replied, “If you are not going yourself, do not make us go up from here. 16 For how can it be known that I and your people have found favor with you, except by your going with us? Then we, your people and I, will be singled out from every other people on the surface of the earth.” 17 The LORD said to Moses: This request, too, which you have made, I will carry out, because you have found favor with me and you are my intimate friend.
18 Then Moses said, “Please let me see your glory!” 19 The LORD answered: I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim my name, “LORD,” before you; I who show favor to whom I will, I who grant mercy to whom I will.f 20 But you cannot see my face,g for no one can see me and live. 21 Here, continued the LORD, is a place near me where you shall station yourself on the rock. 22 When my glory passes I will set you in the cleft of the rock and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand, so that you may see my back; but my face may not be seen.  Ex 33:11–23 NABRE

The New Testament does not say that men conciliate God, as we really ought to expect, since after all it is they who have failed, not God. It says on the contrary that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19). This is truly something new, something unheard of—the starting-point of Christian existence and the center of New Testament theology of the Cross: God does not wait until the guilty come to be reconciled; he goes to meet them and reconciles them. Here we can see the true direction of the Incarnation, of the Cross. Accordingly, in the New Testament the Cross appears primarily as a movement from above to below. It does not stand there as the work of expiation which mankind offers to the wrathful God but as the expression of that foolish love of God’s which gives itself away to the point of humiliation in order thus to save man; it is his approach to us, not the other way around.

Moses is not the only one to have the struggle he describes in this passage from Exodus.  We all do, we all face situations where we don’t want to go another step further, because we simply do not have the strength.

It may be that we can’t deal with the people we are called to serve, as Moses often struggled.  Or maybe we see how impossible the task is, and we know it cannot be done with God’s presence.  Maybe we perceive the situation as being unfair, (whether it is or not is actually not relevant -get used to this idea:  life isn’t fair!)

It might be more personal, the struggle that you have that you don’t want to face. It may be that you have to be freed from a sin that has its hooks in you, like Israel faced so many times in the desert.  It could be some dark area that God wants you to be freed from, but it is so hard to break free.

Moses keeps telling God – I can’t go there without you!  If you are my God, please help, if I have an intimate relationship with you, don’t leave me alone.  He’s pleading for what every other religion tells us is impossible.

For God to come to us, as we are crushed, oppressed, weary and broken.  As we know the law that condemns us or the people we care about all to well.

As Pope Benedict XVI points out, this is where things are different with Jesus, with the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.  He comes to us, He always has!  He came to Adam and Eve in the garden, He came to Abraham (even when he was trying to pass off his wife as his sister!)  He came to Hagar at the well.  He came to David in his sin, and encouraged Moses and even Hosea to deal mercifully with the unfaithful, and gave them the strength of heart and soul to deal with those trapped in sin.

He even gives us glimpses of Him, as He ministers to us.  Yes, the obvious glimpses of His faithfulness in the past, to those who are broken like us, in need of healing, like us.  In need of knowing we are in His presence.

But glimpses as well in the sacraments, especially Holy Communion, the feast were we see the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, who takes away our sin.

Who comes to us, and we hear Him as He promises, “your sins are forgiven.”

He comes to us… He brings us through the transformation that is repentance and makes His presence known, and that His presence is, as this translation puts it, that of an intimate friend.

This is what Advent is all about, as we meditate on His coming to us, in all our need!

May we realize our need, the same need as Moses, and may our eyes be opened to His presence.

AMEN.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 372). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

 

UnderCover Boss: What if God became One of Us?

UnderCover Boss:

What if God became One of Us

Hebrews 2:14-18

† IHS †

May the grace, mercy and peace God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ has planned to be part of our lives become more and more the reality we live in, as we realize God became one of us…

What if God became one of us?

 

Whatever the reason they agree to give up their comfortable lives, their homes and their families, the end result is staggering.  CEO’s of everything from restaurants like Hooters to portable toilet suppliers; from hotel chains to retail stores and airport shuttles. They go on the show, and are changed by doing the basic things their people do every day.

At the end of the show, if you have never seen it, the boss calls them into the corporate office, for a little chat.  He’s given money to help them change their lives, scholarships, promotions, new roles. But the big change is in their lives, as they stay in simple hotels, and live like the rest of us.  The changes they can cause in their peoples lives are nothing compared to the changes they find in their own lives, in their own work.

In the television show “Undercover Boss” there are great lessons for us all to learn, as we realize we aren’t dealing with just numbers, but with real people that are around us.  People with real challenges, People that become important, as we realize our lives are impacted by so many different people, people whom we don’t really know.

I owe credit for today’s sermon title to Kay, who looked at my sub-title – and thought of the show. But can you imagine if the Boss came undercover, and lived life as part of your world, your work?

How would that change your life at the end of the day, when you are called into His office?

What would happen today, if God became one…of us?

Do we realize God knows what our life is like?

Some of you, the theologians and scholars in our midst, are probably thinking that God has.  Remember the baby in the manger, the miracles, the transfiguration and cross and grace and Resurrection?

Yes, I do… but I meant today.

What would happen if the person next to you tomorrow at Starbucks was Jesus?  Or the person you encounter about 10:00 at work or the nurse taking your blood pressure at the doctor’s office?

What would that be like? If that person was “the Boss”?

The real question behind this is one we need to seriously ask ourselves. Does God know what our lives are like, and more importantly, does He care?  Or are we just another piece in His puzzle, another number on a spreadsheet, some of us in the assets column, some in the liabilities?

Does God know each one of us, and does He care?

How we answer that question will determine a lot of things in our lives. Especially how we relate to each other, and well of course to Him.

God’s answer is seen in the reading from Hebrews 2 this morning

Reason #1 to Come – You can’t help if you aren’t here

We often hear, and talk about, the role Jesus has and had, in delivering us from the power of sin, about the grief and shame we know, because we fail to do the things we are supposed to do, and we can’t stop those things we do the negative and things we think and have anxiety about.  It is true, that Jesus came to take care of those things, to deliver us from guilt and shame and the anxiety that sin causes.

But the author of Hebrews looks at another aspect of Christ’s coming here, to deal with our fears and anxieties, including that of death.  Hear the words again, 14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. 15 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

it is amazing in the show to see what the bosses learn, not about their job, but about their people. The things that handicap them, the things that could be done to make their lives easier.  When at the end of the show the Bosses help the people, the emotional level is so high, they realized the Boss is human too.

The apostle John said that Jesus, the logos of God, came and dwelt among us, and that they beheld His glory, A glory that shatters the darkness, a glory that is demonstrated in a love that took on death for us. A glorious love that shattered it power over us, and freed us from the fear and anxieties we have about it.

That’s what the cross does, it puts everything in perspective. It tells us Jesus Christ, truly God, truly man, has been here. He has come.

If that was all it would mean, for Him to come, there is much to rejoice in, but that isn’t all.

Reason #2 to Come – to run to our aid..

I want you to look at the last verse of that reading, where it says:

18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

The word translated help, is a bit more powerful than that, though I don’t know any word that adequately would cover it.  It combines the concept of a scream or a yell – and an immediate run to give aid. That’s the word picture, Jesus, not looking perfectly groomed, but rushing headlong to our aid. 

Since He knows our lives, since He lives with us, since He is… here.

Unlike most of the undercover bosses, Jesus knows us completely..  He knows the ups and downs, and how to survive, for He lived and still lives in us. He didn’t come here to make a television show, or to make His company more profitable, or perfect.  He came into our lives to stay, to bring mercy, comfort and love and peace.

He is here, and He has promised that we will never ever be forsaken, that He will be with us to the end of the age.

Undercover Boss?  Not really, not at all.  He desires we reveal His presence to every person, so they can know for sure, that He has become one of us, even more, through His death on the cross,

God didn’t just come to be one of us, but God came to be one with us.

God has come, and dwells among us.

That’s what this is all about…this service, this church, our preschool.

Helping you realize His presence, in every moment of our lives…..

and knowing this, the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!.

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