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We’re in this boat together…but not for long…

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Some thoughts to help you see Jesus in your lives!

Listen to what I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, because they are ready for harvest. 36 The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life,d so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For in this case the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps. 38 I sent you to reap what you didn’t labor for; others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor John 4:35-38 CSB

Simon Peter told them, ‘I am going out fishing’; and they said, ‘We too will go with you.’ So they went out and embarked on the boat; and all that night they caught nothing. But when morning came, there was Jesus standing on the shore.”26 He passes by, close to his Apostles, close to those souls who have given themselves to him, and they don’t realize he is there. How often Christ is not only near us, but in us; yet we still live in such a human way! Christ is so close to us, and yet we can’t spare him an affectionate glance, a loving word, a good deed done by his children.

The angel told Mary Magdalene that Jesus would meet the disciples in Galilee – so we know Jesus knew they would go there, to return to their old ways, their old work. That without help they would go back to what they knew.

Even after knowing Jesus was risen from the grace – they still did this! They didn’t connect the Resurrection to the Mission of God, to draw all people tto Him.

But in their pain, in their anxiety, dealing with the change, they forgot this.

I think the church has done the same thing in the last 2 years. We have been struggling with COVID, many of us are helping people deal with grief, or struggling families, trying to hold up each other – all these things are good and right, and beneficial.

But we’ve forgotten who we’ve been sent to help, who we are called to serve, who we’ve been called to guide, as the Spirit calls them, into the realization that God truly loves them.

Even though they knew Jesus was there, that He had preceded Him there (Mark 16:7) they didn’t look for Him. And they didn’t look for the men they would catch. And so Jesus comes by – and reminds them the harvest is ready (Peter – feed my sheep!) He reminds them of His presence. amd the work they would share.

Perhaps they needed that moment set aside… perhaps not. It happened though, and Jesus refocused them on the ministry they had together. MWe aren’t any different. This time of COVID has been our time in the boat together. Now its time to throw our nets in on the other side, and see the catch God has for us to bring in – a great harvest of souls.

Let’s go fishing my friends… but not for fish – the Spirit says it time to gather all God would call!

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

On Sunday Morning, Do We Not Hear Christ’s Cry, Do We Know Hear the Father’s Desire?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
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50  Don’t you realize that it is better for you to have one man die for the people, instead of having the whole nation destroyed?” 51  Actually, he did not say this of his own accord; rather, as he was High Priest that year, he was prophesying that Jesus was going to die for the Jewish people, 52  and not only for them, but also to bring together into one body all the scattered people of GodJohn 11:50-52 (TEV) 

906      That cry of the Son of God, lamenting that the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few, is always relevant. How it tears at our heartstrings. That cry came from Christ’s mouth for you to hear too. How have you responded to it up to now? Do you pray at least daily for that intention?  (1)

A few weeks ago, as I answered the call to provide the invocation at my city’s Martin Luther King day celebration, I thought of the charge laid against the church in the 80’s, which may be still true today.  It noted that Sunday morning was the most segregated time in a church’s week.  With few exceptions, (my Concordia is close to being one ) churches in our country are primarily ethnocentric. It is true, unfortunately, that churches, even the most missional ones, are this way. My own denomination’s national magazine recently had our president lamenting that a district hadn’t planted a church in a predominantly Anglo community in fifteen years.

While this may be an issue of passivity and comfort, there is something that is even more staggering.  A move to isolate the church on Sunday from the world. A pendulum swing reaction from the Seeker-sensitivity of the 80’s and 90’s, that is claiming that Sunday Morning worship services are for believers only.  That we have to return deliberately to encoding everything in practices and languages that a unbeliever would not be able to comprehend. This is what is faithful, we are told, to use words like salutary, or beseech, to strive for an ethereal and beautiful service, but one that our own people struggle to value.

Let me be clear, I am in no way advocating the abandonment of the liturgy. if anything, I think word and sacrament order should be made more available.  

But I am saying we need to hear the Father’s desire that all come to the transformation of repentance. We do need to pray for the work, even the work on Sunday morning!  We all need to realize that the harvest doesn’t pause for a station break on Sunday morning as we, the holy people’ recharge.  Evangelism happens as well as a couple chooses to move from their comfortable place, to sit with those visitors and make them comfortable, and explain the service movements.  Harvest work should be seen throughout every aspect of the service. Our spiritual homes must be places of hospitality to all.  That has always been true, even at Solomon’s temple, and at the tabernacle.

The idea that Sunday is only about those who are members of the church is as ludicrous as those who say it should only be about seekers.  Both ignore the fact that Christ would die for those who are already in covenant with God, as much as He died to bring the nations into that covenant.  For all to know that He is God, and we are His people. 

Worship wars, liturgy wars, wars about what is beneficial or not cease, as do the flurry of articles bashing contemporary worship liturgy, as well as that bashing traditionalism, have no place. They do stop when we focus on God’s desire to call all His people, to gather them together as one.  (this includes those that don’t know… yet!)  As we pray that, God would send more workers into the harvest fields, so these battles diminish.  I pray we realize that the harvest is great, not just in Turkey and Ghana, but also in our own sanctuaries.

May our worship teach anyone there what they need to know about Christ – His presence, His mercy, his faithful love…

AMEN

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3202-3204). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.(1(

Dang it Jim, I am a pastor/shepherd, not a teleport tech.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

36  When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. 37  “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! 38  On your knees and pray for harvest hands!” Matthew 9:36-38 (MSG)

277      Practise the virtue of hope and, with God as your motive, even when you find it hard, persevere at your work and try to finish it well, convinced that those efforts of yours are not useless in the Lord’s sight. (1)

I learned last week that another one of my students in my lay ministry classes has been accepted into a seminary program.  It is a humbling thought, to realize how many guys I have taught over the years are now preparing to be ordained, or are in seminary.  Three of them will be ordained in the next 6 months, another went home before he made it.  These men all have left careers and embarked on a journey that is harrowing, that will result in being set apart for a life that will demand great sacrifice and large time investments.

Somehow, I was involved in helping them to make such a huge division.  ( Of course it might just be, hey if he can do it… we can as well!)

Not only will this vocation demand sacrifices, it will also demand patience, and the wisdom it takes to not only be patient, but to envision the benefit of patient endurance.  I put as the title of this blog, a geeky Star Trek reference.  But it is one I think both young pastors (and seminarians) and the churches they work with need to understand.

For the churches, a pastor isn’t the transporter tech, as if we can push a button and we can send you to a place where everything is perfect, and you will find happiness and health. For the pastor to help you, you have to let him do more than press a button, or say a prayer during church. Our work is by your side, helping bring Christ’s healing to your lives.  Helping give you hope, assuring you of God’s mercy and love.   You need not fear us, for unlike the transporter tech we aren’t going to hand you a red shirt and then push the button.  (That’s a geek reference – the guys in the original Star Trek who wore red – they never came back, except for Scotty)

For the pastors, you can’t shepherd at a distance, you have to be there with the sheep.  You will get dirty, your time won’t be your own, you will worry about these people.  You’re time will not be your own, you will spend many hours in study for the joy of seeing people amazed by God’s grace.  You will be in the mud of politics, you will see the human spirit broken and crushed, you will deal with self-righteousness, and people who will set themselves over God.  You will witness them determining what is good and right in their eyes, despite God calling it sin.  You will wish for that transporter/time travel button at least once a week, and phasers set to stun (and sometimes kill!) You want to help, but you have to realize, that we call it spiritual growth, spiritual development for a reason.
We have to be there, shepherds called and set in place by God.  Given this responsibility, and the work to do will demand more than we are capable of, save that God is the one empowering us, and guarding our hearts and mind, even as He does with out people.
There is a reward though, when we see them baptized, when we nourish them with Christ’s body and blood, when we see them rejoice as the incredible measure of God’s love is seen, even in part, by His people.   For our efforts aren’t useless in the Lord’s sight, for He assures the work of His word.

It is an awesome thing to see men answer the call, to see their hearts’ break, as the they go to work in the harvest and care of souls.  May many many more come…

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1129-1131). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

That’s Not FAIR! Part II of “Backseat conversations on the way to Heaven”

Backseat Conversations on the Way to HeavenMy Church's Building - our goal - to see it restored and filled with people who find healing in Christ Jesus, while helping others heal

That’s not FAIR!!
Matthew 20:1-16

 IHS

 

As we journey together, may we know the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit, the peace of Jesus Christ, and look forward to the feast with our Heavenly Father.

Two Candy Bars and some Chuckles
Last week we started on this path, a sermon series that will explore the journey of our lives.  It is a parable of sorts, comparing that journey, where we will end up in heaven, with our journey as children, on the way to an Aunt’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, or maybe our Grandfather’s for the party on Christmas Eve.

Last week we looked a little at the squabbles that can happen, as you jam three young children in the backseat of a 1970 Dodge Dart, and heard the conversation that would ensue when my dad would tell us to “get along back there.”

Well, today we continue that journey, hearing another conversation.

My dad had a lot of common sense.  He knew that If we were eating something, our mouths couldn’t open.  And on so many of these trips he had stashed our favorite candies in the car.  A Chocolate Charleston Chew for one of my siblings, a Chunky chocolate bar for the other, and because I was allergic to chocolate, I got a pack of chuckles.

This worked until one day, when one looked at other’s candy bar, and saw a long narrow bar – nearly 10 inches long!  She looked at my Chuckles and saw six pieces of candy, each about an inch long.  And she looked at her chunky bar, 3 inches by 3 inches and proceeded to yell out,

“It’s not fair!”

She didn’t see the weight of the candy bars as equal, or that hers was three times as thick and wide, or that all of the candy cost the same amount.  Explaining that to her, well, anyone ever try to point out such logic to an upset young child.

It wasn’t fair as she saw it, and when two brothers have to share and sacrifice their favorite candy, and they do understand the logic, well, now the journey becomes more complicated!

But we are often like little children, complaining that life isn’t fair.

We end up just like the crew who sweated all day in the hot sun, and didn’t get a larger payday than the guys who put in an hour.

We need to realize the blessing in that… we need to see God’s view of this, so we can rejoice in how God cares for His people.

Why did they cry it wasn’t fair?

If Jesus’ parable were told today, a number of us would probably be telling the employees who broke their back all day long to contact a lawyer, or to call Handel on the Law.  Certainly there is a law out there, that demands the same exact hourly wage for all employees.

Some of us might take the Master’s side, saying that he can do whatever he wants, after all it is his money.

The story might even go viral on Facebook, and there would be interviews on Youtube, and maybe even an appearance on some daytime talk show like Dr. Phil, or Dr. Oz, or Judge Judy.

After all, it’s not like it’s fair, what this employer did.

Unless…..

What did our Old Testament reading say?

His Ways aren’t our ways

8  “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

Could it be that this Master’s goal wasn’t about getting the vineyard harvested?

Could it be that he was more concerned about the people in his life, the people of his community, than he was about making money?

Think about this, he started at 6 am, then returned to hire workers at 9, 12, and 3 o’clock, each time he saw workers standing around, doing nothing.   The first time – he negotiated a wage that was fair and equitable – after that, the scriptures tell us he simply promised to be fair.

It is that last time, at five o’clock, which he didn’t just see some workers, the Greek word there is the root word from where we get heuristics.   Anybody here watch CSI, or NCIS?  Heuristics is the science of finding that which was hidden, not in sight.  He went to them, found them, and hear again the description of His action,

“6 “At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’ “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’ “The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’ “

It was his desire, not to gain a harvest, but to provide for the people what they needed, to be part of His work, His life.

And so it is, with the kingdom of heaven.

God would provide for us what we need.

As a pastor, I’m often approached with the question of who will be in heaven. What about the people that come to know God’s love on their death bed, minutes before they pass away.  Do they get into heaven, or does God punish them for all the years they refused to follow Him, and they don’t get to go into heaven?

Usually the question involves the people most people would consider beyond any chance to be saved.  Would God let them into heaven, if they repented at the last moment?

If I answer in the affirmative, knowing that the power of God is so incredible to transform us, sometimes I hear those words, “But that’s not fair pastor!”

You mean that mass murdered could get the same blessing that those of us who’ve been in church every Sunday… ok one Sunday a month get?  They get the same size mansion as those of us who served as preschool teachers, or elders, or deacons?

Yes, and that is the incredible blessing of your working alongside God in His harvest.  They are blessed to come into our family, to have the grace and mercy and peace that God has desired for all of us.

Remember again – what the Old Testament said,

7  Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. 8  “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 

There is God’s goal, to take all of us, who struggle with doing what is loving, what is merciful, what is right, and can’t.  There is His love, for He finds us, this Father/master who will bring us into His marvelous life’s work.

That is better than just being fair from a human perspective, it God being extravagant in his love.  This is what we call justification – God making us right, forgiving our sins, and sanctification, God setting us apart making us His co-workers in His work.  If God were fair, would He share with us His desires, His life?  Would He trust us enough to serve alongside Him?

God is more than just fair; He is extravagant beyond all measure.

God, bringing us into His ministry to the world, making us part of the family.

All this because Jesus Christ, true God, true man, didn’t give a rip about what was fair, and died that we could all become the children of God.

That’s what the kingdom of God is about; His love for us, making it known and seeing it transform us.

This is a love that brings mercy and peace into our lives, a peace beyond measure, the peace we know and celebrate here, together.  For we are His people.  AMEN?

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