He’s Gonna Tear Us to Pieces!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ encourage you to accept the work of the Holy Spirit, who purifies you and makes you holy!
This News is Awesome!
In the middle of the lesson from Hosea this morning, there is some of the greatest news I can share with you!
God is going to meet a critical need this morning…if He hasn’t already!
As surely as the sun came up, He has either done this, or He is about to do it.
Here is what Hosea credits with God with doing,
“He has torn us to pieces…
He has injured us…”.
Like I said, if God hasn’t done this to you, He will… and that is good is a good thing.
And if you need God to tear you to pieces, I hope this sermon will make you look forward to it!
- A Need to Be Met!
- Self-inflicted, here and Ezekiel 6:9
Let’s go back to the first verse of the reading, the last verse of chapter 4, “Then I will return to my place until they admit their guilt and turn to me. For as soon as trouble comes, they will earnestly search for me.”
God tells the prophet Hosea that he’s going to let Israel realize their need for Him. He’s just going to wait for them until they realize they need it!
I think that is what they call “tough love.” Letting someone walk away as a prodigal, knowing the pain and suffering they would endure.
It is an amazing thing to see God be that patient with us, I mean how patient are we with everyone around us? God has the advantage of being God, and knowing that as Father, Son and Spirit, they had planned to redeem us all, but still, we, every human from every language, culture, age group, have walked away… and chosen sin at times.
But the response is more challenging, ““Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds
It takes a lot to say this! Not only to realize that God will heal us and bandage our wounds, but that He was the One who disciplined us, and did so in a way we might consider harsh.
Though what it often is, is not God’s intent, but what He warned us about. HE won’t always withhold the punishment that we earn with every sin, He will let us experience the consequences.
That is something each of us has to face, to come to the realzieation of the prodigal – that I had it better back home.
What God promised in regard to sin is true, but so is what He promises in regard to grace.
One leads to pain, punishment
- The Doctor is In!
- Heal, Bandage, Restore
But when we come to our senses, God is right there.
That same verse says he will heal us, that He will bandage our wounds providing long term healing and growth to health and He will restore us to the image of Christ that He created us to shine into this dark world.
This all became true for people starting at Pentecost – and it comes true for us this day as well.
If we are running from God, its time to come home.
It’s time to stop being torn to pieces, its time to stop getting injured by the consequence of sin, it’s time to stop, and let God finally restore us to His image.
- Best News
- He wants this as much as we do!
The good news in this was that the Lord loves us enough to tear us to pieces, to allow ourselves to be wounded by the sins we so easily choose over him.
The better news – that God will welcome us back, heal us, bandage us,
But here is the best news, a response to the prophet’s plea to his people,
3 Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”
That is a critical example of faith, this ability to cry out to know God better, this encouragement to get to know Him, and the confidence that we shall – because we know He shall respond to us, even as we come back to Him.
And here is His response,
4 “O Israel and Judah, what should I do with you?” asks the LORD. “For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight. 5 I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces— to slaughter you with my words, with judgments as inescapable as light. 6 I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.
That God responds to us, knowing what we’ve done, knowing how much we struggle and how our love can be there one moment and not the next, is incredible.
Yeah – He did hit people hard judging them, but doing so with the purpose of reconciling us to Himself – of drawing us back to the only place, to the only One who loves us enough to heal and restore us…
Because He wants us to know Him, more than anything else.
He wants us to know Him,
Knowledge not is academics, knowledge as in experience, as in understanding how much love there is, of knowing how much He cares, and thinks of us, and wants the best for us, and designed and formed us specifically (mentally, physically, socially, intellectually) to interact with Him.
This is our God, let us return to Him, and dwell in His peace. AMEN!
4 He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God. 5 Just as we have a share in Christ’s many sufferings, so also through Christ we share in God’s great help. 6 If we suffer, it is for your help and salvation; if we are helped, then you too are helped and given the strength to endure with patience the same sufferings that we also endure. 2 Corinthians 1:4-6 (TEV)
Even darkness, even evil, even death, even sin: all of them, seen by the light of the sacramental fire, become capable of helping the work of God. They can contribute accidentally, but existentially, to the life, growth and liberty of our souls.
Christ upbraids the disciples with their unbelief and hardness of heart. He does not reject them, nor deal too severely with them, but reproves them. It is not an insignificant matter that the Lord rebuked his disciples; for unbelief is the greatest sin that can be named. Christ tells them the cause of their unbelief when he says that their hearts are hardened, still he deals mildly and gently with them. This is told us for our comfort, lest we despair, when, lacking in faith, we doubt, stumble and fall.
It will take a lot to write this post.
I don’t enjoy encountering the dark moments of life. Neither do I like dealing with evil.
Whether the moment is personal, and is my own journey through darkness, depression and even despair, or whether it is walking beside someone, I really struggle. And as these journeys overlap and pile up, I get weighted down.
As do most pastors, teachers, counselors, and others who continually walk with people through the darkness.
I believe it is the primary reason that there is such burnout in the ministry today. We’ve spent 40-50 years pretending that everything is perfect in the church, looking for process after program, going through consultants and coaches (how many of them burnt out in ministry?) and fail to deal with the darkness, evil and the grief that shadow our lives.
And so we are crushed…. our faith, that ability to depend on God, melts like a ice cream cone in the desert in August. It’s at that point, that sin and temptation become so powerful, as we look for someway to escape, someway to cope with the pressure building up inside us. And when those sins and temptations fail to, the darkness grows more pervasive, more stifling.
Except for the promise of Jesus.
In Him, we have the promise that His great help – we have the promise of His presence, and His love and mercy. We have been given the Holy Spirit – who has the title of the comforter, and there is so much comfort there that we instinctively comfort others.
That comfort is seen in Luther’s explanation of Jesus correcting his disciples. Luther makes it clear that Jesus doesn’t reject them outright, nor is the severity enough to crush them. But as he qon’t quench a candle’s wick that is barely flowing, Jesus, with great love and wisdom, ministers to us in our times of weakness. It is shared in the scriptures not to make them appear weak, but to help us in our time of despair, doubt, and stumbling.
This I count onmore than ever in life. I Know I have to walk through the shadows; i know the effect they might have on me, but I also know He is there… and he will get me through this… as promised. I may not be able to change my attitude, or even find the light in my darkness, but I know it will be there…I know He will be there.
Merton’s words are absolutely accurate–these times are ones that accidentally cause incredible growth in our souls. For they show us how complete the works of Jesus is in our lives. W learn this through the sacraments, and the promises scripture gives in them. How Christ’s death – which we are united to in them, means we live in Him, and He in us. It may be an accident from Satan’s perspective, but it is well within the promise of God revealed in Romans 8 – all things work for God… and nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Now to learn to be patient through such trials!
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 173.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 153.
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ create in you an eager repentant Spirit that rejoices in the God’s presence!
- We should be envied!
There is an old Italian “blessing”, which mommas used on their children when they are misbehaving! That “blessing” is this:
“I hope your children grow up to be …. JUST LIKE YOU!”
Oddly enough, the Psalmist would agree, but without the sarcasm.
You, according to the Psalmist, you are to be envied greatly! People should want to be just like you! Well, at least in one way!
Let me explain. Our translation reads:
“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! 2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”
In looking up the word “joy”, I discovered it means “to be envied with great desire” So we could translate this
“Greatly envied (with a desire to be like them) are those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is forgiven. Yes, how we should envy (and wanna be like) those whose record the LORD has cleared from guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty”
So you are to be greatly envied, and people should want to be just like you!
- Our stupidity!
Well, except there is a problem—at least the writer of this Psalm had one, and I think some of us might as well. He describes the problem spiritually in verse 3:
3 When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
That sounds like a bit of a problem!
I need to be clear here, not all physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering is caused by refusing to confess your sin. But there is a definite correlation between suffering from the guilt and shame sin causes and one’s well-being.
Sin can and does rip us apart.
We need relationships, and it destroys them. It can cause a type of paranoia—as we are afraid someone is going to find out. It creates all sorts of stresses, as it disconnects us from God and from those who love us and would have us live in peace. Even if we convince ourselves that our particular sin isn’t that bad, living a life based on that lie hollows it out until it collapses.
Sin drains us,
It wipes us out..
And makes our life hollow.
There is only one way to deal with this—though it is a joyful one.
- Our Joy!
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone!
I know how much courage this takes to stop trying to hide all the guilt. But as much courage as it takes, the reward of knowing those sins are completely lifted and tossed away…
All of it – forgiven!
All the guilt—gone!
Think about that for a moment…
Not one thing should haunt you.
Not one thing should you even regret!
As much as we contemplate our sin and brokenness during Lent, it is for this purpose–to know the relief of Psalmist–the absolute joy of the weight being lifted off of us!
We really need to take the time and think through what God has done to us… what He continues to do in our lives. …
Therefore, the psalmist says people should envy us, as we live forgiven lives, empowered by the Holy Spirit! For the burdens we no longer carry, or at least that we aren’t to carry,.. so many do! This is what Jesus came to do, to free us from the sin which stops us from being with God!
So many walk around, living with guilt and shame….so many people walk around without knowing God really loves them, without experiencing that love.
- What happens next
The change is so incredible for the psalmist – that feeling the relief inwards; he turns to those around him
Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. 7 For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory!
This is an evangelistic spirit.
Wow, God, you did this for me! All of us need to know this – we all need to pray—we all need to experience this relief, especially before the waters rise, and judgment occurs.
The more you know God has done for you, the more you need to share it with others, to share with them how God heals and protects and hides us from trouble, the more we need to invite people into the safe place we have found.
This is Christianity at its simplest… to realize the incredible way God has called you to His side, cleaning you up along the way, as you invite others into a peace that is beyond explanation….as Jesus saves them, as the Holy Spirit takes us residence with them, as sin and satan the fear of death are tossed out like yesterday’s trash…
This is our hope, and it is the very reason people should be envious of us, why we want them to be just like us.
25 “I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.Isaiah 43:25 (NLT2)
I, the LORD, made you, and I will not forget you.22 I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.”23 Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! .Isaiah 44:21b-23 (NLT2)
Now, on the basis of grace as taught in the Word of God, when God forgives a man, He trusts him as though he had never sinned. God did not have mental reservations about any of us when we became His children by faith. When God forgives a man, He doesn’t think, I will have to watch this fellow because he has a bad record. No, He starts with him again as though he had just been created and as if there had been no past at all! That is the basis of our Christian assurance—and God wants us to be happy in it.
The great privilege of contemplatives is that we are invited to share first in our own redemption by accepting our personal alienation from God and its consequences throughout our lives, and then to identify with the divine compassion in healing the world through the groanings of the Spirit within us.
One of the standard theological characteristics of God is that He is a know it all.
The technical term is omniscience, and it is a logical progression. He is all powerful, created and sustains everything, therefore He knows everything–right?
Not so fast, for scripture says something contrary. For those that are in a relationship with God, there is one thing He chooses not to know.
If only it was so easy for us to not know them!
SO many of us live in the dark shadows caused by our guilt and shame for those sins once committed, yet which we still can’t dismiss from our hearts and our souls.
We need to learn to! While we have to recognize our sin, it is equally important to realize God is healing us. We can’t do the second without the first, and more than you can add gas to an empty fule take without realizing your need for it. Without God’s grace, we are dead.
But with grace, those sins become non-existent. He knows them no longer, and since He is still omniscient, they are not history..
That is why Jesus talks of being born again, and Paul talks about the renewing of our mind, and Ezekiel talks about a heart transplant, so the Holy Spirit begins to reside there.
God doesn’t know those sins, so let them slide away, even as they were once removed and live life free of them! You find that other sins and temptations will lose their grip on you as well..
God is with you, and He sees you as innocent.
Just think on that for a moment – and then love the Lord and this life He is sharing with you!
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 278.
God is making us… Righteous
† I.H.S. †
May the Grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus be evident in your life that you may know God will fulfill His promises to you.
The Lenten Journey
Time for another Pastor Parker Poignant Parable – that comes from experience this week!
Our Lenten Journey in the Kingdom of God is like the 405 freeway. You know that there is major construction you will encounter, though you don’t know where it will be today! It will be a mess, but you will eventually get to your destination!
Some things in our lives need to be demolished. Some things need to be widened (though they seem too wide already). Things generally need to be rebuilt, and things need to be smoothed out and repaved. The hardest part is that we have to deal with someone else making all the decisions that affect our journey!
But eventually, we will get to our destination.
Each week of Lent, we will see what God has promised to do and is doing in our lives…
Some of it will be unexpected, some may seem like it is going too slow, or the detour doesn’t make sense…
And on occasion – there will be some major demolition needed…
But getting us to the final destination – and getting the work done, is the promise.
The promise is on the cover of the bulletin. It is a promise that Paul taught the church in Ephesus about when he wrote,
“And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the day of Christ Jesus.” Amen? AMEN!
As we realize God is in charge of the work and in charge of getting us to our destination, perfect and mature… and on time – His time; we find His peace
The Problem with Journeys
If you ask anyone living between Long Beach and Irvine, the 405 has been a mess, is a mess, and will be a mess until Jesus returns.
Sort of like life. I’ve had to drive it 4-5 times in the last two weeks, and probably a dozen since December – and you never know where the construction will happen or what ramps will be closed or open.
It’s a mess – as is life.
Sometimes we think everything will be perfect, and then something is screwed-up. Sin enters the picture and demolishes a bridge or closes the on-ramp we thought we would use. Or someone sins, accidentally, of course, and everything in life slows down to a crawl.
You know – something like the sins happening between the Ukraine and Russia….. and the related sins – like the spreading of gossip and fear.
And sooner or later, we will get frustrated by the work, the need for it, frustrated by delays, and our reactions! Like how we react when someone cuts us off on the freeway while traffic is going 20 mph.
Our lack of understanding – which leads to frustration – leads us into sin…
God’s work – done… and yet not done.
This is where we need to remember God is at work! And the job is going to get done in His time!
After all, God is far more in control than CalTrans!
We just need to trust in Him – to believe in our heart that He’s doing what He promised to do…. Hear again from Romans,
10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”
God has a destination for every single one of us in mind. That destination is His side, with Him forever. He is in charge of the journey, including the detours and the slowdowns. Remember his promise that all things work for good for those who love God..? That includes all the stops, detours, and frustrations of the journey. For God uses them to teach us to trust in Him, depend on Him, to believe in our heart that He is making us right with the Father.
That is what the cross is all about – the point in this journey where God made us righteous.
This is a done deal!
We are made right with God – we are being drawn to His side…
Believing, trusting, depending on Him means we let Him be in charge of the journey – even if it reminds us of the 405 freeway or the 5 into LA.
That’s why Paul reminds us that “Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” Romans 10:8-13 (NLT2)
Saying that God gives generously to us is simply saying that if He does not spare Jesus but offers Him on the cross. He did not spare His body but allowed His blood to be spilled; how much more will He make certain what He started at the cross comes to completion.
He has made you righteous – He has made you right with Him. And though you don’t know how long the journey will be, we are confident in His finishing the work – on the day we arrive and see Him face to face.
And until then – no matter how bad the 405 is, no matter how high the price of gas, no matter how many closures – we can live in His peace and in the presence of the Holy Spirit – until we get home… AMEN!
Celebrating the Transfiguration of Jesus
† I.H.N. †
May the peace of God, our Father who raised Christ Jesus from the dead, transform you in a way others can see… and may that transfiguration cause others to worship Him.
- Shutting Peter up!
As I read and re-read Luke’s recounting of the Transfiguration, I tried to imagine what was going through Peter’s mind. He wasn’t having the best day…
He fell asleep on Jesus’s discussion with Moses and Elijah.
Then Peter managed to put his mouth into action prior to thinking or even asking what Jesus wanted to do…
Then he was terrified by the storm cloud surrounding him after he screwed up…
In between all that – he had to deal with seeing Jesus differently than he would ever see him…. Revealed in all of His glory, revealed as God.
I get all that. I can fall asleep kind of quickly, I can get scared by storms, and I can, as most guys can, put both feet in my mouth with room to spare…
But what I didn’t understand was how one thing happened. Luke describes it in a straightforward phrase, “They didn’t tell anyone at that time what they had seen!’
Somehow Jesus got Peter to shut up about the most outrageous miracle Peter haver seen to that point.
Peter, the one who couldn’t shut up – silenced…
What he saw – was that incredible… so powerful… and the promise with it so intimately personal – it changed him.
Peter had to wait until after the resurrection to share the story. We do not; we get to celebrate the transfiguration of Jesus! We get to celebrate His being revealed in all His glory… to us.
- Reactions to the glory of God – First – Fear
There are two reactions to God’s glory being revealed. The first is simple – it is fear.
In Adam hiding after eating the avocado and Moses at the burning bush, you see that. As described in the epistle, you also see it when the people of God saw Moses reflecting the glory of God…
They wanted no part of it; it terrified them, much as hearing God the Father’s voice terrified Peter, James, and John. Collapse in fear level terror. Solomon and the people of God knew that fear at the dedication of the temple, just as Isaiah knew.
Simple reason, without Jesus to explain the difference, all we got is that God is pure and perfect and hates sin…and we’ve sinned.
Even the reflected glory of God in Moses’ face was enough to terrify the people of God. As Paul wrote about – they cannot understand the truth – the truth that would set them free – that God loves them and would save them from everything…
And without that knowledge – collapsing in fear is pretty much what you get.
- Reactions to the glory of God – second peace
Compare that kind of fear to the reaction of Peter, James, and John. Seeing Jesus in all His glory, along with the two of the three greatest heroes in the Old Testament, they … they fell asleep?
No terror, nor fear, no collapsing or losing control of their bodies… they rested. They had found that kind of peace in the presence of Jesus.
Imagine that – being so restful – so at peace, that you could sleep through a miracle of epic proportions?
That is the difference that Jesus makes in our lives – because of Him, we can be comfortable in having the fullness of God’s glory revealed all around us.
By the way – this isn’t just my idea – this is what Martin Luther said,
Thus it was that the three apostles who saw Moses and Elijah on Mount Tabor were not afraid of them, because of the tender glory in the face of Christ [Luke 9:32]. Yet in Exodus 34[:29–35], where Christ was not present, the children of Israel could not endure the splendor and brightness in the face of Moses, so that he had to put a veil over it.
I love the way Luther phrases it – they weren’t afraid – because of the tender glory in the face of Christ…
And that was before Jesus headed to the cross and died for their sin, and for ours. It was before He instituted the Lord’s Supper – the place where we weekly encounter the glory of God, the love and compassion that are demonstrated as God gives us the Body and Blood of Christ.
IN our interactions with Jesus, whether it is studying His word, prayer, or the sacraments of Baptism, Absolution, or the Lord’s Supper – we see the glory of God so different than the people of Israel do…
We see the glory of love demonstrated to us as Jesus served, healed, taught, and looked forward to the cross for the joy set before Him. (Hebrews 12:2)
Knowing this, we can rest – and even sleep.. peacefully!
- Now, what do we do?
Now the challenge happens, as we wake up and realize we are in God’s presence…
We could be like Peter – and simply do what makes the most sense… except we don’t have to build tabernacles or temples. We have a perfectly nice one here.
Hopefully, we don’t need the storm clouds to come out and the sky to crack open with the voice of the Father…
We just need to hear – and treasure what Jesus has to say to us…
Treasuring His love and glory enough to just do it…
Like loving enemies and praying for those who persecute and oppress us…
Or going and making disciples of nations, baptizing them and teaching them to treasure all God has established…
In both cases, the goal is the same – to help people experience the glory of God – the kind that comes as they see the tender glory of Christ’s love for them, as they enter into His presence, as they realize what the cross and empty grave mean…. as they respond to you, as you tell them…
The Lord is with you!
Well – that is true – but I said you would be telling others this – and hearing them respond back…
Reassuring you of the glory of God and the peace that surpasses all understanding – for you dwell in Christ… and share in His glory! AMEN!
 Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 35. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 However, I did give them this command: ‘Obey me, and then I will be your God, and you will be my people. Follow every way I command you so that it may go well with you. 24 Yet they didn’t listen or pay attention but followed their own advice and their own stubborn, evil heart. They went backward and not forward. 25 Since the day your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until today, I have sent all my servants the prophetsae to you time and time again. 26 However, my people wouldn’t listen to me or pay attention but became obstinate;ag they did more evil than their ancestors. Jeremiah 7:23-26
The word mediocre comes from two Latin words and literally means “halfway to the peak.” This makes it an apt description of the progress of many Christians. They are halfway up to the peak.… They are morally above the hardened sinner but they are spiritually beneath the shining saint.…
Do we really think that this halfway Christian life is the best that Christ offers—the best that we can know? In the face of what Christ offers us, how can we settle for so little? Think of all that He offers us by His blood and by His Spirit, by His sacrificial death on the cross, by His resurrection from the dead, by His ascension to the right hand of the Father, by His sending forth of the Holy Ghost!
And we acknowledge and confess that we are not worthy to receive such manifestations of thy mercy and goodness, but rather deserve thy judgment and condemnation and on account of our indifference, sins and hypocrites to be left without the light of thy holy Word. But we beseech thee of thine mercy, deal not with us after our sins nor reward us according to our iniquities. Abide with us, O Lord, for it is toward evening. Keep us and our posterity in the faith of Thy Word and in the right use of the holy Sacraments. Sanctify thy Church in our midst; further and advance thy Kingdom; glorify Thy Name; put down Satan under our feet, and destroy the Son of perdition by the brightness of thine appearance. Preserve us from all false teachers, hypocrites and enemies of Thy Word who seek to overthrow thy Church purchased at so great a cost by thy dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord; but at all times send us faithful ministers and teachers who shall lead us into the knowledge and confession of the heavenly mysteries, and finally into the glorious righteousness of thine everlasting Kingdom. Amen.
Tozer’s statement about the Christianity becoming mediocre is all too accurate in our day. The church wants to find itself better (morally) than sinners, but doesn’t want to do the spiritual work to become saints. The church is becoming apathetic, caring less for its people, and even less for those that are “outside.” You see this in the recent treand to automate the church, from contacts,, to attendance tracing, to even planning worship and using sermons that are pre-written for a generic congregation, rather than the message for the people of God in this place. Are we going backward, not forward, as Jeremiah wanrs?
We wonder why the church gets weaker, and people who have no reason too,, sit at home and watch, rather than interacting together.
THe problem is how do we address this? Since it is not by our own reason or strength that we come to Christ, how do we bring people back? Using guilt and shame may seem effective, but it doesn’t deliver what they truly need. The fellowship, the compassion of God, the mercy and love. Why are we beoming distant from God, and then from each other?
Looking at Loehe’s prayer this morning, I wonder why we don’t pray like this anymore. Not the ornate flowery language of days gone by, but the cry of broken, needy hearts, which want to see the chruch holy, that wants to see the next generation grow in its dependence on God. That we would be preserved against false teachers.
What would happen if we began to pray this way again, with heartfelt cries to see God at work in our lives and in the lives of those around us, Praying, not to manipulate God or get our desire – but really communicating with Him? If we listened to God, if we allowed the Holy SPirit to tune our hearts to sing of His grace? If our faith became a living dialogue again…
Lord, send forth Your Spirit, revive Your Church, help us to pray again, and through us, renew this world. Amen!
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 149–150.
Devotional Thought for our Days
6 What should I bring before the Lord when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? 7 Would the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the offspring of my body for my own sin? 8 Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:6-8 (CSBBible)
“I didn’t learn my theology all at once. I had to ponder over it ever more deeply, and my spiritual trials were of help to me in this, for one does not learn anything without practice.”
I am not an anti-academic, I wouldn’t have a master’s degree and be on the final lap of a doctorate if I were.
But having those degrees did not prepare me to a pastor. They gve me tools that assist me in some parts of my ministry. Even preaching dosen’t come primarily from the studyof Greek and Hebrew, or the communication skills honed of twenty-three years of pastorl ministry, and another 6 as a chaplain.
The biggset lessons have come serving the drunk at 3 am before they head home to a wife they no longer loved, (or so they thought) They came at 2 am standing beside a nurse who cared for the hospice patient as they breathed their last. As I prayed for them, and prayed with the family, the nurse would wash the body once more, while waiting for the mortuary.
Ministey occurs there, in the brokenness of strangers, and in the times where I myself struggled. I am not alone, of course, nor have my battles been as severe as Job’s, Jeremiah’s, Peter’s or Paul’s battles.
Ministry is shaped when we have to depend on God’s promsied righteousness, when we realize we can depend on Him, for that is what it means to adore faithfulness, for He embodies what we are unable to accomplish. To simply walk with Him, letting Him shape our work, just as He shapes our eternal destiny. It is learned as we have to find the stillness to meditation in the middle of the tenseness and brokenness and anxiety of God.
Those battles we endure, they drive us to our Lord, teaching us how faithful He is to us. They drive us to the communion rail, and again we encounter Him. Not in a mechanical way, in a forced compliance. But in despair, looking for some hope, some comfort.
Academia provides the tools, But they cannot provide the suffering (though some students think they do!) that drives us to the Lord, the Lord in whom love us, the Lord who shows us mercy.
The Lord whom we praise, as those praises are generated from our hearts and souls, from the depths of our beings.
For He is there, the Lord is with you!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 50.
Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
9 That was the true light which shines upon every man as he comes into the world. He came into the world – the world he had created – and the world failed to recognise him. He came into his own creation, and his own people would not accept him. Yet wherever men did accept him he gave them the power to become sons of God. These were the men who truly believed in him, and their birth depended not on the course of nature nor on any impulse or plan of man, but on God. John 1:9 (Phillips NT)
He told me that I have a soul
How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life?
Is there another way to go? (Jean Valjean’s Soliloquy- Les Mis)
Go out into the streets to look, find, knock on doors,instruct and evangelize!
In a history marked by vulnerability our Lord Jesus Christ breaks in with an unstoppable strength and courage. That’s the Good News,the core of our preaching: the outright proclamation of this irruption of Jesus Christ incarnate, dead and risen, in our history.
The humblest Christian is called to live a miracle, a life that is a moral and spiritual life with such intensity and such purity that no human being can do it—only Jesus Christ can do it.
Yet this is no evangelicalistic theology, which is grounded in the same triumphalistic anthropology of the “I” (“I have decided to follow Jesus—no turning back, no turning back”). Instead—I believe that I cannot believe—the reversed Trinity of Luther’s catechism holds in tension the human inability in theology, faith, and life with the Holy Spirit’s work through Word and Sacrament. Thus, the third article is the actual turning point of the entire catechism, because everything that follows (prayer, sacraments, living in community) is precisely what happens to unbelievers when, the Holy Spirit acts on them, turning our “Woe is me!” into “Kyrie, eleison” (Lord, have mercy!). The theology of the reversed Trinity is literally “theo-logy” (God word), where God speaks to us and by speaking declares the old new, the sinner a saint, the unbeliever a believer—God’s service to us, not ours to God.
This mornigns devotional readings were accompanied by Les Mis, and the words of Jean Valjean kept echoing in my ears, as he considers the humble bishop who paid for his salvaiton…and yet Jean’s attitude was not to face who he was, but to create a new life, ignoring who he was. (In the book, this is a constant theme, for him and Javert.)
Their journey is the vulnerability that Pope Francis notes, a vulnerability we need, a lack of resistance to the incarnation, for Jesus must become incarnate in each of our lives.
It is the only way to change our cry of despair, as Wengert notes, from dismay and despair to the expecation of God hearing and acting on our cry for mercy. That is the only way we can live in the life of Christ that Tozer explains, a life that is obviously not ours, for it is not within our ability.
How does the bishop know Jean ValJean has a soul? Because the bishop has one, and has seen Christ invade it. It is why the silver is worth far less than Jean’s soul. It is why the investment is worth it, though it will take decades, with only a glimpse of the return here and there. Not until his death…is it revealed. ( I believe Colossians 3:1-4 explains this quite well)
You have a soul, and I have one as well. It is where the Holy Spirit dwells, bringing us peace, even as we struggle within this life.It is were our faith, our dependence on God is formed. It is where joy resonates from, when anxiety and trauma threaten to overwhem us. It is where peace exists, far beyond our comprehension, it is where we know His love more intimately than we can express.
Yet, we can share it with others… for that to is a miracle. You are ValJean and you are the Bishop.
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 366.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Timothy J. Wengert, Martin Luther’s Catechisms: Forming the Faith (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2009), 46.