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Our Suffering, our Doubts, and Jesus’s Struggle at the Cross. A Good friday Devotion


clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought for Good Friday:
1  My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? 2  Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.    Psalm 22:1-2 (NLT)

22  Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship, and punctuate it with Hallelujahs: 23  Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers; give glory, you sons of Jacob; adore him, you daughters of Israel. 24  He has never let you down, never looked the other way when you were being kicked around. He has never wandered off to do his own thing; he has been right there, listening. 25  Here in this great gathering for worship, I have discovered this praise-life. And I’ll do what I promised right here in front of the God-worshipers.   Psalm 22:22-25 (MSG)

He is pleased to withhold from us the milk and honey of his consolation, that, by weaning us in this manner, we may learn to feed on the more dry and solid bread of vigorous devotion, exercised under the trial of distaste and spiritual dryness. 3. That as violent temptations frequently arise amidst these desolating drynesses, we must resolutely fight against them, since they do not proceed from God; but nevertheless, we must patiently suffer them, since God has ordained them for our exercise.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was tested in every way we are, that he faced the same issues, the same temptations, the same situations which can cause us to doubt, or to want to run.

We see that today, in the passage that Jesus quotes from the cross.

He too had moments where the Father seemed to far away, where the illusion of being abandoned was strong.  Where the feeling that God has left us on our own to struggle dominated every other feeling we have.

I’ve often wondered why God allows us to go through these times.  Surely they don’t come from God, yet St Francis de Sales indicates they are ordained by God for our exercise.  God allows them to come upon us, as He did Job and Jesus, for a purpose.

IN Jesus case, the abandonment was seen for what it was, a pouring out of wrath that far exceeded the wrath of the Pharisees, Sanhedrin, and the Roman guards.  A wrath that one taken upon Jesus would kill him, yet like the grain in the sand, it would give life to us, and to all those who believe and are baptized.

In our case, the suffering intended to defeat us, intended to drive us away from God can and does (eventually) ordain for us to be drawn toward Him.   De Sales calls this being drawn a vigorous devotion, I beg to differ a little.  Like the psalmist I look at my own pain, my own suffering to early, to often, being drawn down into the darkness, being overwhelmed by the pain.  But there He rescues me, He reminds me of HIs love, He shows me that He was always with me.

This is the point David is making in the Psalm, which starts out so dark, which so describes the pain of being crucified or struggling today.  The point where we can see as the light shatters the darkness, as our faith, no even more sure of God’s presences testifies to naturally, without even thinking.  read it again,

22  Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship, and punctuate it with Hallelujahs: 23  Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers; give glory, you sons of Jacob; adore him, you daughters of Israel. 24  He has never let you down, never looked the other way when you were being kicked around. He has never wandered off to do his own thing; he has been right there, listening. 25  Here in this great gathering for worship, I have discovered this praise-life. And I’ll do what I promised right here in front of the God-worshipers.   Psalm 22:22-25 (MSG)

When we are struggling, when Satan and his minions are oppressing us, when all seems dark, this is what is true.  He is with you, He loves you, and you will soon be praising Him as the Holy Spirit convinces you of this reality.   Like the cross, the victory, the depth of God’s love is revealed in these trying moments, in the midst of the pain, and the darkness.  We then see the truth;

You weren’t abandoned, He was there… and you will tell others about this!

AMEN!

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

Good Friday Sermon: A Cry of Great Faith – Into Your Hands…


Into Your Hands…
Luke 23:46

Jesus, Son, Savior

May you realize the depth of the love of God our Father for you, revealed in Christ’s purchase of your grace.  AMEN!

Is this what we perceive?

It has been said that people hear what they want to hear.  Matter of fact, I think most of us are pretty good at it.

Like for instance, if I ask my wife if I can go to Sam Ash or Guitar City, her approval also means I can come home with a new guitar or keyboard. After 28 years of marriage, she won’t let me go to Best Buy or Fry’s alone.   She did, however, make the mistake of letting me go to the car dealership to get my oil changed two weeks ago…

It can work the other way as well if a professor says something critical, a student’s world collapses, or if a boss says you need to improve, you go home and tell the wife you are in danger of getting fired.

When we hear the words from the cross, we hear things through our frame of reference as well.

It’s true in the last words Jesus says, the words that he pushes out with his last breath…

Into your hands….I commit my spirit.

They are not just the final words of a man who has been betrayed by his friends, tried, beaten, forced to carry a cross out of the city, up a hill and be nailed on it.

They are a lesson in faith, an example of great dependence on God.

It would be what Paul talks about when we are told to imitate him, as He imitates Christ Jesus.

It was a cry of faith, not one of despair.

But that is not how we hear it.

The struggle of faith, and praying

There is rapid decline, or so the experts say, in the prayer life of people in America.

I can believe it because we have forgotten the joy, the comfort, the peace that comes in trusting God.  In depending upon Him, in the words of Jesus, in our ability to says these words, “into your hands I commit my Spirit.”

We hear Jesus, broken physical and I think we expect Him to be broken spiritually.  We hear the pain in His voice, the anguish, the trauma.  There is, in my mind, no doubt of the pain and anguish, that He felt, and I struggle to imagine these cries being anything else but the despair I would feel in such a situation.

The despair and even doubt I feel when I am subjected to suffering, or when those I love and care for are.

I hear these words, when I am in pain, when I hear them said with His dying breath, and they sound like a surrender, an admission that I am defeated, that you can feel the hope draining out from Jesus,

Because that is what I feel, that is the effect of the brokenness of sin on us who are mortal.

There is nothing left, no strength of body, or mind, or will.  There is only the inevitable; there is only death.

In times less trying we can’t even think of God because the weight of despair is too much.  We just feel numb, lost, empty. hopeless.  It is as if, for the moment, sin has won, and life has been taken from us.

We hear these words as the final admission of defeat.

He breathed His last…

But what if these words mean something more?  What if they are not the words of despair, but words from the last breath that reveal hope, that reveal faith, that reveal a trust that is deeper than the pain?

What if these words, like Psalm 22’s cry, accept the pain of the moment given victory that is complete and total and joyous?

Into your hands, I commit my Spirit.

A quote from Psalm 31, a quote which continues

5  Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

Hear it one more time…

5  Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. 6  I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD. 7  I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul,   Psalm 31:5-7 (ESV)

5  Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

These last words, are not just those of a man has hit rock bottom.  They are a cry of faith, a cry of wisdom that knows that the answer is found in the very steadfast love of God. A cry that celebrates that we aren’t alone in our distress, that we aren’t alone in our grief.

That though we barely have a breath left, it is a breath that is taken with God’s spirit.

It is a lesson for us, a cry for us to utter, not just when we have only one breath left, but when we are brought to life in Christ.  When we are crucified with Him in our baptism when we kneel and take and eat the Body and Blood of Christ, when we share in His death… and in the promise of His life.

It is His cry, a lesson to us with our very last breath.

A lesson in trusting God through it all, a lesson that we aren’t alone in our trial, in our fight, even when it gets down to the last breath.

St. Paul said it well,

4  For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
Romans 6:4 (NLT)

So repeat these last words of Jesus with me, knowing that the Holy Spirit with strengthening you, and help you make them your own.

Into your hands, I commit my Spirit…

And in God’s hands, in the Father’s hands, you will know peace that goes beyond your understanding, even as it guards your weary hearts and minds, for as you died with Christ in His death, so you find life in Christ.  AMEN!

Walking with Our Father, during Easter Week


Devotional Thought fo the Day:
9  This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored; 10  may your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11  Give us today the food we need. 12  Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. 13  Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One.’    Matthew 6:9-13 (TEV)

The word “Father” makes me sure of one thing: I do not come from myself; I am a child. I am tempted at first to protest against this reminder as the prodigal son did. I want to be “of age”, “emancipated”, my own master. But then I ask myself: What is the alternative for me—or for any person—if I no longer have a Father, if I have left my state as child definitively behind me? What have I gained thereby? Am I really free? No, I am really free only when there is a principle of freedom, when there is someone who loves and whose love is strong. Ultimately, then, I have no alternative but to turn back again, to say “Father”, and in that way to gain access to freedom by acknowledging the truth about myself. Then my glance falls on him who, his whole life long, identified himself as child, as Son, and who, precisely as child and Son, was consubstantial with God himself: Jesus Christ

The purpose of observing ceremonies is that men may learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Word may receive faith and fear and so may also pray.

My work today in the office is to try to get 8 services planned and prepared for printing, all which will occur in the next week. Services for Maunday Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and two funerals as well.

It was a good reminder then to hear the words in green above, that remind me of why we do these things, what the ultimate purpose is, that trusting in God, and being in awe of His love and mercy, that we can turn to Him…. and pray.  The result of a worship service is to teach people to communicate with God!  What a radical idea!

Talk to your creator, talk to Him, not as a minion to a master, not as a lowly employee to the CEO of the company, not as a prisoner to a warden, but as a child, who knows they are loved, talked to their dad.

Yes it is a level of humility that we would not normally want to admit to, but it is not the kind of humility or perhaps better, humiliation, that those other relationships often create.

You see, I think we see the Father-child relationship the wrong way.  Pope Benedict nails it, we want our independence, we want to be emancipated, freed from the burden of answering to someone else. But that isn’t the relationship that is pictured in the Lord’s prayer, in all of the times God shares his desire to care for us, to encourage us, to nurture us.

Benedict XVI’s words call us back to that point, to the point where we like Christ identify ourselves as the sons (and daughters) of God.

As you walk with the Father through this week, as we prepare to remember the last supper, the garden, the cross, consider the Father hearing these words from Jesus.  Consider our Father hearing these words from Jesus, this incredible prayer he taught us, not just in words, but with His very life…  For this is the prayer of a Son to the Father. It is His prayer, and as we go through this week… don’t just say it, hear it said, from Jesus to the Father….
… as Jesus clears the temple courtyard., so people who are not His people can pray and know they are heard
….. as Jesus washes the feet of sinners, because they argued about who was greatest and taught them the greatest serves
…. as He breaks the bread, and blesses the wine, and gives us a feast beyond anything we could imagine
…. as Jesus is whipped and beaten, that by the scars we would find healing,
…. as Jesus carries the beam he would be nailed to
….as Jesus dies, showing the world that all glory, honor and power is the Father’s.

So come to worship the King of Love, our Lord, and learn to depend on Him, and depending on Him, share your life in words, of praise, and of prayer.

as the sons of our Father!

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. 97–98). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 250). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

A Tithe To Remember – A Good Friday Sermon


Featured imageA Tithe to Remember

Luke 23:46

May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ bring such comfort and peace, that you with joy commit your spirit into their hands

 Introduction

As this service draws to close, there is something we need to discuss, something I need to encourage you to do, that you might not want to do.

I am here to convince you to tithe.

Is that okay Pastor Rich?  You aren’t going to mind if I talk about tithing a little, right?

By the way, by tithing I am not talking about a measly 10 percent of your net, or better 10% of your complete worth.

I am going to talk about a tithe of 100 percent.

The goal is to give it all to God, for that is what Peter is talking about when he tells believers,

“For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.”   1 Peter 2:21 (NLT)

To tithe, to give it all, to take up your cross,

It is difficult, but not as difficult as you think.  For Jesus shows the way, even as He utters these words,

46  Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.
Luke 23:46 (NLT)

I entrust my spirit, or as the translation here has, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

When we hear Paul say, imitate me, as I imitate Christ, this is the kind of tithe we are talking about.

When we hear Jesus say, take up your cross that too is part of this tithe which we speak

So are you ready to tithe?

II.  Christ’s tithe.

To tithe, means to commit, to entrust, to give over.

It is what Jesus does, as He entrusts everything to the Father as he is dying.  Not 10 percent, not holding back anything.  Theologians will talk discuss whether this is an act of the human part of Jesus, or the divine part, missing the point.

Jesus trusts the Father.  They committed themselves to our salvation, before the world was began.  You see it during all the work God did with Israel, assuring us of Christ’s presence, His love.  And here, in the depth of His pain, as he bears the weight of the sin of the world, as He bears the weight of our sin.

Jesus entrusts Himself to the Father.  He tithes.

He endures to the end, trusting in the Father, and the promises the Father made to us.

He entrusts Himself to God the Father, even as we should.

That is tithing,

Trusting, having faith, believing that the Father will keep to His promises.

III  Our tithe.

So now, let’s talk about you and I, and how we take up our cross, how we walk in Jesus steps, how we are to tithe, commit, and entrust our Spirit to Christ.

The simple answer is, you already did.  Well you didn’t…God took care of that for you. Nevertheless you are committed into His hands.  You just need to realize it.

When a pastor poured water over you, or dropped you into a baptism tank, it wasn’t the pastor at work.  It was God, taking you into His hands, promising to care for you, body, soul, spirit and mind.  He united you to the cross with Christ, nailing your sins there, but promising that by the power that raised Christ from the dead, you would know that resurrection as well.

He committed Himself to holding you in His hands. He tithed you, completely into His hands.

When you hear a pastor forgive your sins, you are reminded, you are not your own, you’ve been bought with a price, the price pain on that cross.

When you are given His Body, when you drink His blood, the promise remains.

He died for you, and you shared in that death.
Even as you hold His body and blood in your hands, He has placed you into His own. He tithed you there.

When He says, Father, into Your hands I commit my Spirit… we are there, the children of God, the sisters and brothers of Christ, united to God through the death of Christ.

Here His words from the apostle John:

19  And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.
John 17:19 (NLT)

All this, the sermons, the music, the service, is here to convince you to persuade you of this, that as Christ tithes, as He commits His Spirit to the hands of the Father, so all in Christ are placed there too.

Secure, saved, redeemed, in Christ.  Dead to sin, and alive to Him.

AMEN

(for the Greek and Hebrew Scholars out there, yes, I know that there is a word in Hebrew that means 10th, and iithemi – or paraTITHEmi is the word in Greek.  Yet a tithe in Hebrew is a iving that represents ownership of the whole, by the one the 10th is given to.)

The Incredible Awe and Joy found in the Cross of Christ


Devotional Thought of the Day:

Featured image

5  Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and 6  my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you— even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar. 7  I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me. 8  But each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life. Psalm 42:5-8 (NLT)

2  “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over for all her sins.” Isaiah 40:2 (NLT)

15  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15 (NLT)

I sit here in my office, as prayer requests continue to role in.  There are so many people out there who are hurting, grieving, struggling.  There are families, torn apart, not just by the loss of a loved one, but by the turmoil that was anticipated, the turmoil there just below the boiling point,

I am sad, discouraged, grieving with those who grieve. Yesterday was hard, as we prepared for our serving, celebrating Christ’s last supper, the night when thoughts of death oppressed Him, our Lord. Oppressed Him as He looked upon the disciples, who hadn’t learned the lessons of serving yet. They argued about who would be first in the Kingdom. (after Jesus of course!)  Oppressed as He considered Judas, who would betray Him with a kiss, and Peter, who would betray him not once, but three times. Considering the agony of the garden, where his closest friends couldn’t pray with Him one hour, even as many refuse to do so today.   Considering that pain adds to the pain I am enduring, as tears come too often, as I consider the trauma of friends, the pains, the battles, the grief.

it seems ironic that this day, the day when He would die, when we celebrate His death, I would find joy and relief.

I came across the verses above, these incredible words of promise.  That God’s love would pour over us like the constant swell of the ocean’s waves. That the days of dealing with our sin, and the brokenness that it thrusts upon us are over. Christ has been victorious, over my sin, over the bondage of guilt and shame that Satan used to oppress us.

It will be nearly 48 hours before this sinks in, and I like that.   I need to spend some time in the awe of Christ dying for me.  You should as well.

He died for us.  Those nails that physically held Him to the cross didn’t bind Him there as strongly as the love that drove Him there… and again the words of Hebrews comes blaring back into my ears….

For the JOY set before Him!

The Joy we know, that we need to know, even as we feel discouraged, tired, betrayed; as we know grief, and pain,

and LOVE.

May you find rest and joy in this moment of contemplating His death, the death He embraced for you. AMEN!

We Call on His Name – Just as Jesus DId!


Treasuring God’s Gifts!Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday
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!

 

The Journey

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.

It Is Finished? Or it is Consummated?….


“It is Finished”Will new camera 12 2008 167
John 19:30

IH

May you realize, not just what you have been separated from at the cross, but what you have been united to, for that is the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

One Word: Two Meanings

Have you ever heard someone, a teacher, your pastor, your spouse say something, and though you heard the words perfectly, you didn’t quite get what they are saying?

You heard them so well you could quote them back verbatim, and they would acknowledge you heard the words perfectly, but the message did not communicate?  I hope you were smart enough NOT to do that by the way.

When we hear Jesus words, there are two ways of hearing it, “it is done away with….”,  or ”it is completed”

The question is which we will hear,

 

and which we should hear…..

It is Finished!

The first way to hear these words, “It is finished”, is to consider all that has been dealt with, the bill that has been paid.

To think that sin has been made impotent, its power to cause guilt or shame has been eliminated.

The guilt and shame of being a sinner, wiped away in baptism, therefore the power of Satan’s accusation is no longer valid.
It is not that the Ten Commandments has been eradicated, it is that the curse for shattering them as we have, has been met.  The terms of our relationship with God have been met.

In this man, beaten, brutalized and scorned, that the complete burden of sin has been placed.

The debt for our envy, the damage done by our gossiping about others, the pain caused by our desires, our lust, our thirst for revenge, for the times when we would play God, or use His name to get what we want, rather than find rest and our burdens revealed by him.

All that debt, all that pain, all that brokenness….
It is finished.

It is finished……

Yet it is more than that….

It is Consumated/Completed!

As I looked through the history of the church, I saw something more than what we’ve been separated from as the focus of these words.  Augustine and the early church fathers used the equivalent of consummated, completed in regards to this phrase.  It is consummated, it is complete, complete, it has been accomplished.

They talk not just of the payment of sins, our being freed from sin and the devil, and the power of death.

They talk of what we are freed to, that the Holy Ghost, which Christ surrenders here, would soon be breath out upon the church.

It is completed, the work Paul talks of in Ephesian 2:10

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)

It is there, at the cross of Christ, this work has been accomplished, we’ve been taken into Christ, united with His death,

And with the hope of the resurrection, with that which we shall celebrate on Sunday.

It is completed this work to bring us to the Father, who finds us righteous, who welcomes us, His children, into His presence.  Sharing in His death, we now share in His resurrection.

That’s the point, what Jesus completed at the cross.  It is the so what, that changes a historical story into something that matters here in Brea, in the life of every person here this afternoon, that should matter to everyone who is driving by this church, to every person listed among our Facebook friends.  They all need to hear it – every person alive and every person that will be born until He come again. He has become the Way, the Truth and the Life, even as His head slumped, and He breathed His last breath.

We now can walk with Christ, we who trust in His work, who God has cleansed with water and the word.

Yes – He finished off all that would finish us off, but He completed that which He came to complete – to make for the Father a people who would be His, who would recognize Him as God their Father.

We have been united to Him, we dwell with Him, we are protected, our hearts and minds even as we dwell in the indescribable peace of God our Father.

AMEN?

Did Jesus Rest on this Sabbath?


Devotional Thought of the Day:The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God.  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

18  For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. 19  In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, 20  who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. 21   This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22  who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him. 1 Peter 3:18-22 (NAB)

“Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell: The third day he rose again from the dead:”  (1)

A conversation yesterday, between Good Friday Services, brought up the issue of what Jesus was doing, in the time between His death on the cross, and the Resurrection.

The people I was in dialogue with said he simply rested in the grave. They were using this to “prove” that everyone should worship on the Sabbath, during the time between Sunset on Friday, and Sunset on Saturday.

It brought up memories of my childhood, sitting in the pews at St. Francis in Lawrence, or St. Joes in Salem, and wondering about the line in the Apostle’s Creed above.

Why did Jesus have to descend to Hell?  Wasn’t the suffering and death on the cross enough?

It bothered me greatly, and those I asked about it, had no answer. Which bothered me a little more.  Would the Father let Jesus go to Hell, to suffer there for our sins? Why did He have to go?

I am not sure when I came across the verses in Peter’s epistle above, but they seem to settle the issue.  Jesus didn’t go to Hell to suffer, but to preach, to proclaim the love of God, that He would die for the sin of the world.  All sin. That those who trust in Him as their God, would know His salvation.  it is not quite a victory parade, though it is to declare victory.  And the gates of Hell cannot prevent it, Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One of God.   He was sent, apostle’d to deliver to the Father, those who have, would, will become the children of God

The words about baptism are not remiss therefore, for it is in Baptism that we are united with the death of Christ, and with His Resurrection.  Glorious events, worthy of praise, (yes the cross is glorious) for they show the depth of God’s love for us.  Love that wouldn’t even let those imprisoned by sin not know of His love, of His grace.  It is what takes those dead in sin, and makes them alive in Christ Jesus.

Which brings us back to the Sabbath, and the purpose of it.

It’s not about not working, for surely God is continually at work, sustaining the universe.  And those of us, who preach, who lead worship, who do a myriad of things on Sunday (or Saturday – Romans tells us we have this Freedom) certainly are at work in the House of God.    The Sabbath is about priority, teaching us to rest – not just from labor, but to rest in the presence of God.  To be in awe of His love, to be aware of the depth of His love, that will even descend into hell to deliver the children of God to their home… with Him.  That is why Paul says the sabbath is simply a foreshadowing of Christ, for it is in Him we truly find rest.

Even on a Saturday, while we prepare to celebrate the resurrection… Even here, the Lord of the Sabbath reigns, and because He does, we know we dwell in the Father’s peace, an indescribable peace, a peace that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
AMEN.

 

(1)  The Apostles Creed

If You Want to Lord, You Can Make Me Clean. Jesus said… I Do Want To…


Devotional Thought of the Day:

23  Examine me, O God, and know my mind; test me, and discover my thoughts. 24  Find out if there is any evil in me and guide me in the everlasting way. Psalm 139:23-24 (TEV)

40  A man suffering from a dreaded skin disease came to Jesus, knelt down, and begged him for help. “If you want to,” he said, “you can make me clean.” 41  Jesus was filled with pity, and reached out and touched him. “I do want to,” he answered. “Be clean!” 42  At once the disease left the man, and he was clean. Mark 1:40-42 (TEV)

86  With God, I thought, every day seems more attractive. I can see “little bits” at a time. One day I notice some wonderful detail; on another, I discover a sight I had not seen before… At this rate, it is impossible to say what will happen next. Then, I noticed that He was reassuring me: “Your happiness will grow greater every day, for you will be drawn deeper and deeper into that divine adventure, into that great ‘complication’ with which you have become involved. And you will realise that I will never abandon you.”

Good Friday.

A Crown of thorns, a thick “royal robe”, placed on a back that is raw from a whipping, Spikes hammered through each wrist, One more hammered through the ankles. Ankles already tired from carrying the beam up a mountain side.

People mocking Him, the people who called for His death, the people who once praised and followed Him, but followed Him hear for a different reason…..to watch Him suffer and die.

Why?

We were not able to cry out, as the man did at the beginning of Mark’s gospel.  A cry that echo’s David’s cry in Psalm 139.  Examine us!  Make us clean – completely. If you desire to Lord, you can.

And He did.  By hanging on the cross.

He cleansed us of every sin, He brought us into Himself – we share in that death – we hang there with Him, nailed to that cross in our baptism.  We rise with Him as well, brought into His very glory.

We receive all His promises, He guards us, never abandoning us, never forsaking us, always there, always faithful.  The promises that we find more and more of, as we plunge the scriptures, as we meet and pray and hear God’s word together.  As we kneel at an altar, and receive the Body and Blood of Christ.  These details, declaring God’s desire – that we are all transformed, that explain His patience…His will, what He did, for us, as Christ hung on that cross.

This day, as you consider the cross, as you consider that Jesus endured that pain, for the joy set before Him.  The joy of bringing us into the Father’s glory.

And here His answer to you….. I do want to… be clean!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 581-586). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Thursday, Good Friday and Easter… not just History


Devotional Thought of the Day:The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God.  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

23  As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24  but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 (TEV)

5  Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6  We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 8  And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9  We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10  When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11  So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Romans 6:5-11 (NLT)

 1  Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)

19  For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. 20  My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21  I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. Galatians 2:19-21 (NLT) 

For the past thirty years, there has been a tendency to deal with Jesus, and especially the cross and the resurrection as a historical event.  It is where they start, and Sunday there will be a lot of sermons that try to prove the resurrection.

But if that is all they do, if they engage people in “just the facts”, the message of Holy Week, the message of Christ’s death and resurrection will be overlooked.  The heart of the message will be missed.

Re-read the passages above.  There you hear that the Resurrection isn’t just about events 2000 years ago.  They are events that are current, the proof is not just seen in the claims of Josephus or Eusebius, but in our very lives. We were there, or perhaps it is better to say we are there… our sins being laid on Christ, our lives being re-generated with His resurrection.

Because the death and resurrection, everything changes in our lives, the hope that we have for this life, and for the next is not some day dream possibility. It is the expectation based on the promises we have been given, the guaranty of that not being some historical proofs, but of something more – of a life filled with the Holy Spirit…

21  It is God himself who makes us, together with you, sure of our life in union with Christ; it is God himself who has set us apart, 22  who has placed his mark of ownership upon us, and who has given us the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the guarantee of all that he has in store for us. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (TEV)

The “all that He has in store for us” is not about wealth or fame or riches in this life, it is something far more.  That we walk with Him now, that we are not just welcome in the presence of God, but that He desires us there, and draws us into His presence.

That just isn’t a historical event, it is something we live and breath. It is what establishes who we are, brings healing to who we were, and assures us of Christ’s presence in our lives.

Today on Holy Thursday,

Tomorrow as our hearts are found at the cross…

In times like Black Saturday, when we wonder if God is dead,

And on Sunday, as we realize we have risen with Him, just as He said!

Amen.

 

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