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God did it again! Grrrrrr! Can He frustrate me!

Devotional Thought of the day

23 Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.   Proverbs 4:23 GNT

Be open to the night…
Pray with open hand, not with clenched fist…
Shapes loom out of the darkness, uncertain and unclear: but the hooded stranger on horseback emerging from the mist need not be assumed to be the bearer of ill…
The night is large and full of wonders…

Lord Dunsany from Morning Prayer: 12/15 Northumbriacommunity.org

For God, we are not numbers, we are important, indeed we are the most important beings to him; even if we are sinners we are the closest to his heart.

Again I find myself sitting in my office, upset at another injustice I see.

Something that seems dark and ominous, something that I’ve got to watch someone deal with, something that just isn’t right, or in my humble opinion, Godly.

I want to react, some might accuse me of wanting to overreact.  I want to step in and make things right, to bring light to the darkness, to bring healing where there was only division and repression…. and brokenness.

Even as I go to pray about it, I want to vent my anger to God and pray that He gets angry as well, angry enough to leave His throne and come done and do something about it.  As I tried to pray, I found my anger too strong, and I tried to ask God to bless all involved. and then I moved onto my readings for the day… 

You see some of these readings above…. and I my anger shifts a little, changes a little as I realize that God did it too me again.  He frustrated my anger, my agenda, my coming to Him with clench hands by pointing these readings right at my weakness, at my brokenness, at my lack of trusting, in Him. 

I need to guard these thoughts of mine, I need to be careful of how I think, of how I respond, of how I resent injustice. I need to realize that God could work through this dark time for my friend (actually friends – I am dealing with at least three such situations.. just one more appeared this mornign) and I need ot pray that God determines how this situation should go. 

And I need to realize the people involved in causing the injustice, they too are just mindless numbers, that they too are people that God cares about, even as they are broken sinners as much as I am. I need to pray for them, not just that their hearts are convicted, but that they know God would bless them, and work in their lives.

Of course, I don’t appreciate God pointing this out, arranging these readings in such a strong and powerful way.  It’s more than a little frustrating, not to mention I feel like he’s spying on me and playing with me a little.

Then again, I am incredibly grateful that He loves me that much, that He calls me on my anger when giving into it and when I forget His goal of revealing His mercy and love.  I am grateful He makes me wrestle with Him, and He allows me to see the Holy Spirit at work.  I am grateful He shares with us His love…and mercy…and enables us to (eventually) reach out in real prayer for those who antagonize and hurt us.

This is God…who knows and cares about us.

and I am thankful for His work in our lives.   AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Let Nothing You Dismay: And Advent Prayer for the Day of Delight is Coming!

https://concordia.org/worship-services%2Fsermons

Let Nothing You Dismay! – An Advent Prayer
Week 3 – The Day of Delight is Coming!
Zephaniah 3:14-20

IN JESUS NAME

May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed to you, that the idea of dismay or disillusion be simply impossible, as you experience the dimensions of His love.

The Announcement Will Be
 
As we consider the old hymn’s line, God rest you merry gentleman, let nothing you dismay, as we look at the advent readings out of the prophets about the day of Christ, we’ve see something incredible so far.  These prophecies were all about a day that was to come, the day that Jeremiah described as the day of promise.  Last week Malachi described it as the day of returning, and next week, Micah will talk about the day of peace.

But tonight we’ve heard from Zephaniah, and we will explore the day he was prompted by the Holy Spirit to write about….

The Day of Delight!

Delight, the greatest of joys.  The kind of joy that leaves us unable to speak.

A video is circulating on the internet, of this kind of joy.  People born color blind are given these new special glasses, that enable them to see color for the first time in their lives.  And these people’s body language and the tears of amazement are something to see. 

So I think I will show you…

(video?)

That’s the kind of joy, the kind of delight the prophet says God has promised on that day.

This is Amazing… 

But what we really need to realize, is that he didn’t promise this delight to you and I.  We aren’t the primary ones to know this joy, this delight.

He is.

Hear the passage again,

17  For the LORD your God is living among you. He isa mighty savior. He the greatest delight in you with gladness.

God will beoverjoyed, He will know the greatest delight with gladness, as He comes anddwells with you, and me.

He will take delight in you, Al, and you Tom, He will take delight in you therein the back, yes you Doug and Frank, and you over hiding there behind thepulpit and the music stand, yeah you Missy and Kay.

God will, on that day, take delight in you! Think back to the joy of the color blind man… can you imagine Godlooking at your with that kind of joy? That is His promise to you!

I mean I get the idea that with all of our burdens we will know a delightbeyond all imagination when we are welcomed into the presence of God.

God finding that kind of joy, joy inexpressible, when we show up?

That’s what the prophet promises!  He even says it again, hear this! 

With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

The Hand of Judgement is removed

This is the incredible promise we have to understand, that as much as we findGod’s mercy incredible, as much as we are amazed when we hear our sin is completely forgiven, as much joy we find as we experience the width and breadth, the height and depth of God’s love for us, revealed in Jesus…

He finds the greatest joy in restoring us to Himself, reconciling us, cleansing us from all sin.

All of it.

Zephaniah tells us that God will remove his hand of judgment, he ends all ourtroubles, and we will never have to fear His wrath.  We will never be disgraced or live in shame,or be oppressed, and He will gather us together, and on that day bring us home.

Where we will see God rejoice and sing and be delighted, as He makes His homein our presence.

Not yet?  Or Now?

Now the really mind blowing part of this… this day when God finds such delight in our presence, the day when He rejoices over us with songs of joy…

While this will definitely be something that we see completely revealed on the day of Christ’s advent, this time has already happened, for John’s gospel tells us,

14  So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
John 1:14 (NLT2)

And in Luke’s gospel

19  and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” 20  He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21  Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
Luke 4:19-21 (NLT2)


In Christ’s incarnation, the thing we celebrate at Christmas, as Christ came, this truth became real, God again found great delight in His people, in dwelling with them.  Even through the suffering, the death on the cross, we find that Hebrews tells us it was for the joy set before Him that Christ endured the cross, and in the resurrection, and at the day of Pentecost and every day someone is baptized since, this promise becomes true,

God delights in His people, in you’re and I,, and He rejoices over us with songs of joy!

So let Him cleanse you once again, as we gather together and share in the Lord’s Supper… AMEN!

The Value of Quietness…and how it leads to a joyful dance!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9  This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.
Genesis 6:9 (NLT2)

All of us, in this era when public life is being more and more Americanized, are in the grip of a peculiar restlessness, which suspects any quietness of being a waste of time, any stillness of being a sign of missing out on something. Every ounce of timeis being measured and weighed, and thus we become oblivious to the true mysteryof time, the true mystery of growing and becoming: stillness. It is the same inthe area of religion, where all our hopes and expectations rest on what we do;where we, through all kinds of exercises and activities, painstakingly avoidfacing the true mystery of inner growth toward God[1]

You can suffer from a desperate hunger to be loved. You can search long years in lonely places, far outside yourself. Yet the whole time, this love is but a few inches away from you.
It is at the edge of your soul, but you have been blind to its presence.
We must remain attentive in order to be able to receive.

John O’Donohue

Our primary goal, then, is not just to hear the voice of God but to be mature people in a loving relationship with God. This will result in our living a certain kind of life—one ofloving fellowship with God and those who love him. Only with this in mind willwe hear God rightly.[2]

As a child, my favorite times were when I was alone. Alone to read, along to wander the woods behind our home, alone especially in a church, an hour or two before mass.

Something happened as I was growing up, somehow, I turned into an extrovert, which is kind of awkward, because socially, I am pretty awkward. I can’t find contentment, or satisfaction, or peace easily when I am alone anymore.  Which is pretty good considering my vocation as a pastor, but not okay really, because spiritually, there is a huge need to be alone.

Well, not really alone, for in Christ, we never area.

The quote from O’Donohue above (from the Northumbrian community daily devotions at https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/) struck me first this morning.  How often our desperate hunger to be loved forces us into awkward and even harmful situations,  How often are we blind to the purest and greatest love, that is right at the edge of our soul?  And yet to recognize it, we have to set aside our restlessness, we have to realize that being still, being quiet, being able to rest is not a waste of time.

For as Pope Benedict notes, there is a mystery that occurs as we are still, we grow and become, we find our reality, we relate to God.

Willard reinforces this as well, as he notes we aren’t just made to listen toGod, to hear His voice, to praise Him in unison with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.  We are madeto grow up into this loving relationship with God, to be in this amazing lifewhere we dance with God, where we share His joys, where He helps us with peacein the midst of sorrow.

Which means we have to find the quiet times, not to be disciplined, but to restin His presence, to remember He is our God, that He cares for us. To walk inclose fellowship with God as Noah did, and yet find the strength to know Him,to be at peace in His glory, in His presence.

So set the time aside, learn to love the moments of peace that finally set in…learn to leave all the distractions behind.

Meditate on the fact that He love you, until that meditation becomes aconversation, and then a dance.

Lord, may all those who read this, findthe time, and the patience, to realize they dwell in Your presence, and you intheirs… AMEN!


[1] 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. 386–387). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

[2] Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

Do we care enough to ask?

woman wearing black shirt

Photo by MIXU on Pexels.com

Devotional thought fo the Day:
19  My friends, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings you back again, 20  remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.    James 5:19-20 (TEV)

Anyway, I would gladly know how things are with your soul. Have you finally become sick and tired of your own righteousness and taken a deep breath of the righteousness of Christ and learned to trust in it.

What a question for Martin Luther to ask his friend George!

Can you imagine me, or any pastor, or any friend asking that question of you?  What would be your response?  How would you respond?

Maybe I should ask you!

Or perhaps it is isn’t as questionable as “maybe”.  We need to ask this question of each other.  We need to care enough about people to ask them this, to genuinely care for their souls, for their spiritual needs.

And while I am not exclusively talking about pastors, elders and other church leaders, it starts with us.  We are the ones tasked with shepherding souls, with reconciling the broken.  This job belongs to the entire church, the caring for souls, whether they are members of our church, or atheists, whether they are our family and friends or our nemesis.

The words of James’ epistle strike this home. if someone wanders away, we bring them back, we cover a multitude of sins, and we save them from death. 

As hard as it sounds, we have an obligation to our brothers and sisters, to lovingly help them bring their sins to Christ, to let Him remove and annul them.  Not just to look the other way, not to just say, “well, really, except for this or that, Joe was a good guy, good enough to get to heaven.”  That is easy, but really, it isn’t loving, it doesn’t call him back to God, it lets him wander through this life. It leaves him bound to self-righteousness, or to the guilt and shame he dwells in. 

The church, you and I, have the ability to be there, to assist the prodigal on the way home, to help them know what we should know so well, the words of God declaring we are forgiven.  We need to help them do as Martin Luther encouraged his fried George to do, to take a  “deep breath of the righteousness of Christ and learned to trust in it.”

Lord, help us not to hide our sin, help us encourage others to be drawn closer to You, to receive your promise of absolution, and to live lives free and forgiven.  Help us to be one people, united together in Your presence, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 3). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Learning to Listen to God. STEP 1

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the Day:
20  Impressed by their bold belief, he said, “Friend, I forgive your sins.” 21  That set the religion scholars and Pharisees buzzing. “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemous talk! God and only God can forgive sins.” 22  Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking and said, “Why all this gossipy whispering? 23  Which is simpler: to say ‘I forgive your sins,’ or to say ‘Get up and start walking’? 24  Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both… .” He now spoke directly to the paraplegic: “Get up. Take your bedroll and go home.” 25  Without a moment’s hesitation, he did it—got up, took his blanket, and left for home, giving glory to God all the way. 26  The people rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then also gave glory to God. Awestruck, they said, “We’ve never seen anything like that!”
Luke 5:20-26 (MSG)

God’s patience calls forth in us the courage to return to him, no matter how many mistakes and sins there may be in our life.

Doubts and hesitations justifiably trouble those who feel they are spoken to by God as Gideon was. “Why is it,” comedian Lily Tomlin asks, “that when we speak to God we are said to be praying but when God speaks to us we are said to be schizophrenic?”
Gideon, however, pursued the conversation with the angel of the Lord—testing the situation to see if it was real. We can do the same—think about it, wait, ask God to help us know if the speaker was himself or our own self.

There’s a new show, where a man receives text messages from God detailing his role in other people’s life. Though he is the son of a pastor, he struggles to believe in God, so these messages, well, he struggles with the messages, and the idea of a benevolent, loving God. A few years back there was another show with a similar twist, called Joan of Arcadia, and in a like manner, the young lady struggled with the idea that God would talk specifically and directly to her.

Lili Tomlin has a point, we will struggle to believe we are sane (and other people will as well) if we believe that God is talking to us.

But we need to hear Him, we need to hear His voice, as He talks to us.  We need to begin to trust in Him and to have faith in Him, and you can’t do that unless you are listening, (and along with Gideon, asking to Go to help us discern whether it is truly God, or just our heart speaking)

Listening to God isn’t easy, and discerning that it is Him is challenging. He speaks to us through His word, and through His sacrament, but this is delivered through others voices, through others hands. through others lives. And He speaks to us in prayer, which is more than just a monologue of our laying our burdens down.

So how do we start, listening to God?

I would say it starts with hearing one of the most important things we can hear, what the man lowered through the roof heard.

My friend, I forgive your sins!

The Lord, who will judge all of Creation, forgave your sin.

You have to hear that and know that no-one, not even you, has the right to judge you as guilty of them. You have to hear those words, spoken with so much love, “I forgive your sins!”

Hearing God starts there.  It opens up for you a great big can of healing (as opposed to the great gig can of whoop-#*& your think you deserve), it opens up the door to where God dwells and draws you in from the darkness of sin, shame, and the need for self-justification or self-pity.  And in His presence, as you are welcomed into His glory, you get to hear the next message from God.

I am the Lord your God, and you, you are my people.

Start hearing these two messages, let them sink deeply in your soul, and your will begin to hear and clearly understand God.

Lord Jesus, as you did for the blind, open our eyes to see You, and as you did for the deaf, heal our hearing so we can hear Your words, spoken in love, that our sins are forgiven, and that we are in a relationship with You.  ANd then help us to list, as you talk to us, thorugh the words You’ve given us, through Your sacraments, and through the people You bring into our lives.  AMEN! 

 

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

We Can’t Avoid it (or each other) Any Longer…

MV5BMTE0NTI1MDAyNDZeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDg5ODg5OTgx._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1386,1000_AL_Devotional Thought of the Day:

10 But Moses said, “No, LORD, don’t send me. I have never been a good speaker, and I haven’t become one since you began to speak to me. I am a poor speaker, slow and hesitant.”
11 The LORD said to him, “Who gives man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or dumb? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? It is I, the LORD. 12 Now, go! I will help you to speak, and I will tell you what to say.”
13 But Moses answered, “No, Lord, please send someone else.”  Ex 4:10–13  TEV

22 “You don’t know what you are asking for,” Jesus answered the sons. “Can you drink the cup of suffering that I am about to drink?” “We can,” they answered. 23 “You will indeed drink from my cup,” Jesus told them, “but I do not have the right to choose who will sit at my right and my left. These places belong to those for whom my Father has prepared them.”  Mt 20:22–23  TEV

We cannot proclaim Christ’s promises to ourselves; we cannot store them away safely on a computer disk or in a safety deposit box for later reference. We need the word to come from outside of us so that it may reign over us. Someone must wash us, someone must feed us, someone must speak an inescapable and unconditional word of absolution, and in doing so these someones become Christ for us. The worldly spirituality of Luther with its emphasis on vocation and service to the neighbor is also a thoroughly churchly spirituality. We are called to venture forth on our individual paths of discipleship as members of a redeemed people, the very body of Christ.

There is no way for the Christian to avoid the brokenness in life.

We may try to hide it.  We may try to justify it in our hearts and minds, yet our soul will still feel the brokenness.

We may try to run from it, and to be honest, this week, there have been times I wish I could have.

We encounter brokenness in each day, in each relationship, and even if we could isolate ourselves from the world, lock ourselves up in some monastery, we would still be crushed by our own brokenness.

So too often we from this aspect of brokenness to that one.  From this shattered place to that, never having found the rest we need, never dreaming that there could be a way to see all of life healed, never seeing life restored.

Moses ran from where he encountered the greatest point of brokennes in his life. Everything he was. up to that point, disappeared in a moment of rage. And so he ran, rather than face his brokenness.  God sends him back, not to deal with his own, but to help others deal with theirs. To deliver them from slavery, not the physical kind primarily, but the spiritual kind.

Moses goes back to help people realize that God isn’t distant, but that He is here.  That God loves them, that He wants a relationship with them where He can love and care for them. (That is why Christ came as well!)  And Moses, broken, afraid, more than willing to let someone else bear the burden, Moses would let someone else address the sin and shame.

God wouldn’t let him, but God also didn’t let him wander back alone.  He never does.

We are meant to see people healed and find hope in the community.  For even as Moses ministers to Pharoah and Israel, Aaron will minister to Moses, serving him as his mouthpiece, being his right hand, and Aaron does what Moses cannot do for himself.  They were Christ for each other, as we need to be.

That can get pretty messy, as we, sent by Christ in his stead ( and yet paradoxically with Him) encounter their brokenness.  As we share the grace they need, speaking absolution, binding their wounds, helping them have hope.  Them helping us by serving us as Christ would. This interchange can get extraordinarily painful, as we sacrifice our own comfort, our own illusion of peace in order to encounter the brokenness.  And even then, God provides real peace – that passes our understanding, meeting us in the midst of soul-wrenching pain that brokenness causes.

It takes confidence in God to reveal your own brokenness, to confess is and let yourself It takes confidence to go, and embrace those who are broken, to reach out and give them the proof of God’s healing them, the hope of the day when there will be no more sorrow, no more tears.  When brokenness and the spiritual death it threatens is swallowed up in the greatest of victories.

This is what we hold onto, this hope of the new day coming. The day the church holds onto each other until, as we minister to each other, and remind each other of the love of Christ.

Lord, help us neither hide our brokenness or run from it, or the brokenness of those around us.  But let us begin to minister to each other, to be Your hands, Your feet, Your mouthpieces, even as You minister to us through others. AMEN!

Strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxx). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Christian Maturity is not Self-Sufficient

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought of the Day:

20 “I have obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else do I need to do?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich.  Matt 19:20-22  TEV

5  That is why I have sent my prophets to you with my message of judgment and destruction. What I want from you is plain and clear: 6  I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than burn offerings to me. Hosea 6:5-6 (TEV)

One encounters Christ throughout the creation, says Luther, but the troubled conscience experiences him as its judge and flees in terror. In the supper, however, the believer meets the Lord unequivocally as the savior who lays his life down for me (“This is the body of Christ given for you; the blood of Christ shed for you”). There is no escaping Christ’s single-minded intention. He proclaims his love to each and every participant and asks only that they take him at his word.

he (Augstine) had a sort of vision, in which he heard a voice saying to him: “I am the bread of the strong, eat me! But you will not transform me and make me part of you; rather, I will transform you and make you part of me.”3 In the normal process of eating, the human is the stronger being. He takes things in, and they are assimilated into him, so that they become part of his own substance. They are transformed within him and go to build up his bodily life. But in the mutual relation with Christ it is the other way around; he is the heart, the truly existent being. When we truly communicate, this means that we are taken out of ourselves, that we are assimilated into him, that we become one with him and, through him, with the fellowship of our brethren.

We measure Christian maturity wrong, and we have for a long time.

We measure it by the level of theological knowledge they have, or by the amount of scripture memorized.  How dynamic they are when it comes to sharing or defending the faith. How much they “have it together” doesn’t really count all that much either, for anyone can put on an act.

The young man in the first reading above would have been counted as mature in the faith.  he did all the right things, he said them all, he knew it all as well.  The Israelites in Hosea’s time had the sacrificial system down, they had all the right movements, they processed sacrifices with the precision of a military unit, yet they too were not mature in their faith.

They didn’t understand, any more than we do today.

Being mature in the faith is not about being self-sufficient, but it is about being dependent on God, about walking with Jesus, about loving Him, about knowing Him!  Being a Christian is about letting God invade your life, about learning to hold no part back, for the Lord would save all of us.

Read again the words about Luther, and the writings of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger above.  Look at how they describe meeting Christ in the Eucharist, the transforming nature of God.  It is encountering the absolute love of God, as He pours out mercy and peace and healing upon us.

This isn’t just about the substitutionary atonement or the discussion of consubstantiation versus transubstantiation. It’s not just about the words of institution or the form of the mass in which this gift is celebrated.  Those things are part, but they mean nothing without the encounter…the encounter with Christ.

It is about this encounter, about meeting God, right then and there. About knowing the purest, most invasive, most intimate love, about taking in the Body and Blood of Christ. It is about being drawn into His glory, for His glory is simply the light of His love.

Christian maturity is about desiring to know this love, about realizing how much we need His presence, about rejoicing as we depend on Him, as we entrust to Him our very souls.

It is what Jesus asked the young man. …drop everything… let it help others… come walk with me.

The mature Christian has learned to do so, even asking God for the help.

Lord, help us grow in faith, depending on You, allowing You in every part of our lives and rejoicing in the His love for us.  AMEN!

 

Strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxviii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (p. 78). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

The Church Needs to Stop Betraying Sinners… now!

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

What do you think a man does who has one hundred sheep and one of them gets lost? He will leave the other ninety-nine grazing on the hillside and go and look for the lost sheep. 13 When he finds it, I tell you, he feels far happier over this one sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not get lost. 14 In just the same way yourq Father in heaven does not want any of these little ones to be lost.  Matthew 18:12-14

312         You should not want to make the world into a cloister, because this would be a disorder. But don’t convert the Church into some earthly faction either, because that would be tantamount to treason.

One of the great challenges facing the church today is sin, not its existence, but how we are to deal with it, and the damage it causes.

St Josemaria points out the two different dangers in our response to sin.

The first is when the church tries to isolate itself from the world, for instance, when we create all our own options so our people don’t have to mix with the world.  Our own schools, our own fraternal clubs, our own coffee shops, and even stores and social media.  When we try to create a community that isolates our people from the world, creating a victual cloister.   You see this as well in the attitude that the church is here to minister to its own, and those like them.

The second seems like the opposite, when the church, trying to “reach” people and bring them into the church, allow sin to convert them. We then bring into question what God really meant by sin, and was it only in that context, or since God will forgive all sin, why do we bother with telling people to stop, and just focus on healing the symptoms, trying to teach them to live a symptom free life, without getting at the cause itself, sin.

These two approaches aren’t really that different.  They both shy away from dealing with sin.  They try to avoid the appearance of sin, not by avoiding it or finding ways to absolve it, but rather just bury it, or hide from it, or try to justify it, because if it isn’t sin, we don’t have to confront it.

And in both cases, we betray the sinner, by denying them the grace they need, by blocking them from the healing and the restoration they need.

Dealing with sin and the brokenness it causes is brutal. Whether it is our own sin, the sin we have committed; or the sin people commit against us, or the sin we witness and are entrusted to help bring reconciliation to God to those who commit the sin.

And we have too often, afraid of being contaminated, or being labeled as accessories, as Jesus was mocked and berated for hanging out with sinners, the tax collectors and prostitutes of his day.

It is time for the church to start going out after the sinners, to bring them to the place where they can find healing, and hope, and be restored.  It won’t be easy, we will have ot deal with both anger, and even being sickened by the sin and the damage it has caused.

The church must commit to helping people heal from this brokenness.  We can’t leave people out in the darkness anymore.  We have to do this cautiously as Jude warns, and aware of our own inability to deal with sin, depending on the mercy of Jesus.  That is the key to dealing with sin, to be so aware of Jesus presence, of His intimate role in our lives, in the place He dwells in our heart, soul, and mind.

This is our vocation, the true role of the church in this world, to go after the one, the broken.   Let us pray,

Heavenly Father, strengthen our relationship with You, through Jesus, as the Holy Spirit draws us close to you.  Give us the courage to honestly address sin, our own, and the sin of the world, turning to You to be healed, to be absolved, to be made complete.  We ask this in Jesus name, depending on Your love, revealed to us at the cross.  AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1484-1486). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Please Come Back Soon, Lord! Huh? You Are Here!!!!

Jesus foot washing7 God sent me ahead of you to rescue you in this amazing way and to make sure that you and your descendants survive. 8 So it was not really you who sent me here, but God.  Genesis 45:7-8 GNT

Trial and temptation are the initial means of spiritual formation. Through them the Christian is stripped time and time again of presumption and the delusions of righteousness. One is thrust into a kind of existential free fall with nothing to break the descent into darkness, nothing to hold onto but Jesus the Christ.

309         Far away on the horizon heaven seems to meet the earth. Do not forget that where heaven and earth really meet is in your heart of a child of God.

Yesterday, I posted on FaceBook the following thought

“Struggling with the idea that Maranatha shouldn’t be just a prayer of despair, but one of expectation.”

Let me be honest, the last week or so, as I’ve have witnessed so much trauma, that I would be very grateful for the Second Coming of Christ.  And in a desperate way, I want to plead for it, for the release from the tribulation and tears that seem to be occurring wherever I turn.

And yet part of me regrets wanting the Second Coming for such a personal excuse, for such a homecoming, for such peace.  I know I should know this peace, and there are times where I know it, especially as I hand to my brothers and sisters the Body of Christ, as my elders and deacon encourage them to take and drink the Precious Blood poured out to activate the New Covenant, a relationship where we are free from sin.

As I look out on this broken world, this shattered community, as I see the sin ravaged relationships, my instinct to run and hide from the pain.

And gently confronting my angst this morning, I came across the readings above, and sit in wonder, as I realize God’s providence.

In the reading from Luther’s Spirituality, I see the blessing of such tribulation, as it strips from me everything but Christ.  Out of need I cry out to Him and find He’s already there.  He’s not on the distant horizon, not somewhere out there in time.  But He is here, He is wonderfully sustaining me! He is wonderfully here!

And then, like Joseph, I realize the pain’s purpose, the salvation of all of those around, the chance we all have because even in this midst of the trauma, I see God at work.  Oddly enough through some of the most broken, those in the deepest pain, those with no other option but Christ.

What an amazing paradox, what a wondrous mystery. What an unbelievable peace that is found now, in the presence of the Lord who will wipe away every tear one day, yet now cries with us, even as the Holy Spirit comforts us,

And as I think this through, I realize the peace, the incredible peace of being claimed and cleansed in baptism, of the feast where God celebrates our being united to Him. And though the trauma remains… so can we.

If you too are dealing with, or surrounded by those who are dealing with trauma, pain, whether from nature or because of sin, consider this prayer for you as well.

Lord, there are so many in need of Your peace, as they feel pressures crushing them, or feel for those who are being crushed, Lord reveal yourself to them, may they know the presence of the Holy Spirit, that in the midst of everything, builds within them the undeniable peace that is unable to be explained, but comes from knowing they are loved by you, Jesus, and the by the Father and Holy Spirit, as You reign and care for us, forever and ever, AMEN!

Strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxvii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1471-1472). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Faith in Action is Active in Christ (The Faith in Action Finale) A sermon on Jude 20-25

The Church Service!

Faith in Action: is Active…. In Christ.
Jude 20-25

In Jesus Name

May the grace, the incredible mercy and peace that your gift from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, so bring about your healing, that you find ways to help heal and build up others. AMEN!

Faith in Action…

Since September 9th, we’ve been talking about what Faith in Action looks like.  We’ve talked about because our Faith must be in action, people can see that faith, that for faith to be in action it has to be drawn close to Jesus, and that it has to be in dialogue.  We then talked about how faith in action has to set apart our perception of reality and soak in God’s reality, that it is patient, making sure of every step.  Faith in action learns to be content.  We ended up talking about the idea that Faith in Action can occur because it is a blessing from God and enables us to adore Him and others, and Bob talked last week about how this is possible because we can boldly enter God’s presence.

Which leads us to this week, the final week of the church year, the week we celebrate God’s victory over sin, and consider how we live, knowing He is returning for us.

For as our reading from Hebrews this morning reminds us, we “await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life” and who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault!”

Faith in Action is Active in Christ because He makes us alive, and gives a future and a hope with Him. A hope that we can… (not that we need to) reinforce in everyone, building each other up, especially those that are broken, wavering and need to be “snatched from the flames of judgment.”

For that is how “faith in action” is active.  It is active as we build each other up, and minister to each other, healing them even as we are being healed in Christ Jesus.

The Evidence of Faith in Action

You have often heard me use the word cHesed, that incredible Old Testament word, that is equally defined as either love, or mercy, or as the loving-kindness of God.

The evidence of Faith in Action, it’s activity, is summed up in that word.

Look at the things we are called to do,

To build up each other in our most holy faith.  In less “churchy” words, to help each other be completely at home trusting and depending on God.  A trust that is tied, not just to God’s presence and active help In this life, but to our eternal life.

To help each other be “at home” in their faith, to build up this household of faith requires that cHesed, that incredible blend of love and mercy.  To know when to comfort, to understand each other’s need to see God’s grace revealed in our lives. To know that God welcomes us into His home, and we become an integral part of it.

Even when we struggle, or as Jude says, wavering.  Again, our faith in action is active when we see someone who is struggling to make sense of this world, their place in it, and why God would care about someone like them. That is when we all work together, encouraging them, comforting them, helping them to know that God loves them, that He is working in their life.

We each need this kind of support at times and need it desperately at that.  Because our lives can become so dark, so hopeless, that what we know is wrong seems to be like our only lifeline, our only option for comfort.  That’s how sometimes we get sucked into alcohol, or drugs, how others rely on comfort food or get absorbed into a television game, or video games.

And to help each other through these times of wavering requires us to love them more than we love ourselves.  It might take our sacrificing our time, our preferences, even our sleep as we spend the night interceding in prayer.

This is our faith in action, it is how it is active in Christ, even to the point of our saving someone by snatching them from the flames of judgment.  That seems colorful in its phrasing, but it is dead on accurate.  Our Faith in Action can and does save people from hell, not because of us, but because they see God working through us.

The need for caution

In the midst of this, in the midst of focusing us on Christ’s return, Jude talks about showing mercy this way.

Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

I love how Jude describes sin here…. As something that contaminates our lives.  As something that just infuses its way into our lives, so deeply that we sometimes mistake sin as the identity of the one who sinned. It is too easy to take one of two choices.  The first being that because they are inseparable from the sin, it is okay with God.  The second is that because they have sinned so grievously, that there is nothing that can be done to call them back.

Jude tells us here, that sin is something different, a contaminant that oozes its way in, that spoils a person, but that our carefully showing God’s mercy to them will eradicate the contamination.  To use Bob’s word last week, we need to see that sin annulled, to see the mercy poured out so that the sin is forgotten by God because Justice was served.

We do this, by depending on what happened at the cross. Paul describes it this way

24  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
Galatians 5:24(NLT2)

We need to show mercy to those in this process, understanding how hard it is to be rid of the stain of sin.  Mercy meaning, we are there for them, pointing them to the promise of God’s grace. We help them realize God is calling them, not to heal themselves, but to trust in God’s work removing the stain of sin. Helping them realize it was annulled, that in God’s eyes, He has cleansed them of it so completely that it didn’t exist.

He has called them into a life of repentance, even as He has called us. All of us.

Which is again why this promise is where we end this series<

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. 25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord.

AMEN!

 

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