16 “Now tell your fellow-exiles what I am saying. I am the one who sent them to live in far-off nations and scattered them in other countries. Yet, for the time being I will be present with them in the lands where they have gone. Ezek. 11:16 GNT
But God is trying to reveal by His Holy Spirit the utter weakness of the child of God who is still putting his trust in himself.
Why does it take us so long to put our complete trust in God? He has made it so simple, so rewarding to yield what we are to Him!
767 What really makes a person—or a whole sector of society—unhappy, is the anxiety ridden, selfish search for well being, that desire to get rid of whatever is upsetting.
As I read Ezekiel’s words to the exiles, I can easily put myself in their shoes. There are days I feel like I don’t belong, that I am all by myself and feel like there is no hope.. no relief from the pain or the loneliness. I also know I am not alone in this – all you have to do is look at the number of pastors leaving the ministry, the number of teachers leaving education, the number of frontline workers leaving sheriff’s departments, police departments, and the rise of “coaches”–more often than not those who could not continue in their vocation, but someone want to help those who remain (and find a remnant connection to it)
Often times we call such times of self-imposed exile “burnout.” And truly, they are.
Those times come with a promise though, one seen by Tozer, that God will reveal our weaknesses, and use those times to deepen our relationship with Him–that we would come to trust Him more. You see exile and burnout are a matter, not of a lack or weak faith, but a time that reveals those times so that we value what God’s presence in the brokenness provides.
What it we took St. Josemaria’s idea of what was upsetting – and instead of getting rid of it, saw it as an opportunity to get to know Jesus better? To look for how He will provide? To find the joy in the presence of God who loves and embraces us, even in the midst of all that we consider negative. What if we heard Ezekiel’s message – that our exile was not just a disciplinary action by God, but a chance to see Him active in our lives, restoring us, calling us back–fulfilling the promise He made through the words of Ezekiel.
God sends us off into the exile we choose in our rebellion, so that He can be with us, and therefore restore us. Even there, WE ARE NOT ALONE!
God is with us… even in our doubt-filled, sin caused periods of exile we choose and impose on ourselves. He lets us go there.. so He can bring us back..
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Escrivá, Josemaría. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Thoughts which draw me closer to the cross, and to Jesus.
My people are like sheep whose shepherds have let them get lost in the mountains. They have wandered like sheep from one mountain to another, and they have forgotten where their home is. 7They are attacked by all who find them. Their enemies say, ‘They sinned against the LORD, and so what we have done is not wrong. Their ancestors trusted in the LORD, and they themselves should have remained faithful to him.’ Jeremiah 60:6-7 GNT
14But as for you, continue in the truths that you were taught and firmly believe. You know who your teachers were, 15and you remember that ever since you were a child, you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Tim 3:14-15 GNT
Segments of Christianity have made every possible concession in efforts to win young people to Christ; but instead of converting them to Christ they have “converted” Christianity to them. Too often they have come down to the modern level—playing, teasing, coaxing and entertaining. In essence, they have been saying to them, “We will do everything as you want it,” instead of giving them Christ’s insistent word, “Take up your cross!”
The Jews were stubborn and depended on God’s promises. They vainly thought they owned the temple, and that God dwelt there; besides, they thought they had mighty men, money and treasures enough to defy all their enemies. They trusted in their own glory and built their own confidence on a false delusion, which finally deceived and destroyed them.
Jeremiah, Luther and Tozer, from different periosds in the story of God and His people talk aof the same problem. One which I hear people in the church complain about, a lot, today. A world without direction, devoted to compromise and self-determination. Therefore, both on the liberal and legalistic sides of the journey, they sin.
That sin is easily is described in the words of Luther, people think “they own the temple.” THey think they are in charge and whether it is a progressive agenda or Chirstian Naitonalism, they seek to remake God and the relationship He’s created with us according to their thoughts. Tozer calls this converting Christianity to them, as their wander aimlessly, either encouraged by those originally taksed with shepherding them, or just ignoring the Shepherd’s existence. The church is even mocked today for not following God, and deserving the redicule they earned, by creating visions that are not faithful to God.
This would be a very negative post, except that it points out our need to be freed from the false delisuion, to be converted (transformed) into the image of Christ, to hear and to treasure what the Shepherd and His shepherds teach about the cross, the grave. and the resurrection… and the life found there.
This is what Paul is telling Timothy to focus upon the truths which he learned from those who taught him from the scriptures. The message that teaches us how Christ saves us, and that is the message we can and must depend upon. THis is the message that matters, This is the truth that will guide our lives, and bring us home, rather than leaving us wandering around.
This is our hope – so look there.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 317–318.
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles, pray to God. 2Surely you have heard that God in his grace has given me this work to do for your good. 3God revealed his secret plan and made it known to me. (I have written briefly about this, 4and if you will read what I have written, you can learn about my understanding of the secret of Christ.) 5In past times human beings were not told this secret, but God has revealed it now by the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets. 6The secret is that by means of the gospel the Gentiles have a part with the Jews in God’s blessings; they are members of the same body and share in the promise that God made through Christ Jesus. Eph 3:1-6 GNT
There is in God’s judgment no greater sin on earth than when pious men and women despise those who lie in their sin.
Sin is, of course sin.
Let’s take the sixth commandment – it covers all sexual sin, where the blessing that God gave to a wife and husband is misused, and sexual intimacy is shared between any two that are not married. (in thought and word–as well as deed). Sin is sin.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, it has the same consequence, it divides us from God, each other, and even shatters who we are. Using the 6th commandment again, it doesn’t matter who the contact is between, or whether it is just in words – or thoughts. It is sin.
Luther claims to know that God’s #1 issue is when His people, or those who appear so, hate their brother and sister so much that they leave them in sin, unaware that the Lord has provided a cure and healing for the sinner, and will gladly transform them (2 Cor. 3) into the likeness of Jesus. To leave someone, helpless and unaware of this, to not have this basic level of compassion for them, is wrong. It shows a lack of love that is contrary to the love of Christ dying on the cross.
Compare that to Paul’s words about bringing the Gentiles into the Kingdom alongside the Jewish believers in Christ. He would work with everything he had, with the extent of making this mystery (which wasn’t really–the Old Testament tells over and over that the Gentiles would be called home.) known.
It is our responsibility now – not just pastors and missionaries–our responsibility as the church, to welcome everyone into the Kingdom of God, to see them cleansed from their sins, to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ Jesus.
Does that mean that all my Church needs to move to Ephesus – and walk in the footsteps of Paul? Or all go to seminary? No, but we can pray for these people, love them, and be guided by the Holy Spirit’s love to share with them the hope we have, because of Jesus, and the cross.
Ask God to show you who is ready to hear, Ask Him to give you the words, that they would come to know Him, and be transformed as God promises, as God planned. Listen, love, share… and realize you are a co-worker of Jesus, a person He shares His harvest with, and His glory.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 282.
The Kingdom of God is like
Sewing a Quilt
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain us, as we share His word, and look to see what He produces!
A Needed Parker Parable
- I have a question to start this message off.
How many of you tilled 10 acres of land and planted seed in the last 3 months?
Maybe a follow up – how many of you are going to go harvest an acre of tomato plants? Jim, do you have a couple of trucks filled with your cucumbers for us all to share in?
SO maybe I need to use a slightly different illustration to help us understand this passage abut the rain washing down the ground and causing the seed that is sown to grow and provide that which is needed.
So a pastor parker poignant parable…. And I will do a play on words, and instead of comparing the Kingdom of God to sowing seed, we will see that the Kingdom of God is like sewing a quilt…
We might not know much about sowing fields, but most of us have seen the incredible quilts that are made with love and care, and receiving one has a lot to do with receiving the blessings of Christ Jesus.
- The Benefit of what is sown v.11-13
10 The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. 11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
When God sends the rain, or the sower sows seed, or a lady (or maybe a guy) sews together a quilt, and most definitely when the message of Jesus’ love and forgiveness is shared, there is a purpose, and a person/people who are to be blessed by the creation.
The quilt isn’t just made to toss into a closet somewhere; it has the care and work put into it, even if the recipient isn’t well known to the maker.
In the same way, even the rain, and the seed is worked into the purpose of God—to provide, not just what people want, but what they need. It is amazing to me that Isaiah would write this, not knowing fully what God meant by the word, “Word”.
He’s talking, not just about the scriptures, but Jesus, and the work He would do as He was born, taught and healed, died for you, rose with you, and ascended into heaven until he comes back for us.
Going back to the idea of the quilt in the closet, these things are provided because of need. And we need what Jesus would provide.
Freedom from guilt and shame, that’s surely part of it. Healing for the broken part of our lives. Healing for relationships shattered by sin, and the restoration of the most important relationship we have—the relationship with the One who sends the rain, who provides the seed, the bread, and the life. Just as those who receive a quilt find a special connection with the ones who made it.
There is a relationship that is sewn together, just like the panels of the quilt, according to a pattern that was long provided, just as God planned for Christ to come and dwell in us
- It’s more about the warmth and comfort than just the beauty!
Isaiah described the nature of this plan, with these words,
12 You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! 13 Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up. These events will bring great honor to the LORD’s name; they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”
Both at this church, and in Anza, I saw groups make a bunch of quilts. Those crafting them, and even praying for the people who would receive knew the joy of the work, even as, on occasion, things didn’t fit together just the way they wanted.
But there would be even more joy, when I visited the people who received them, and they had them on their laps, or around the shoulders. Even when it was hot in their living room or hospital room, the quilt was there.
You see, quilts are beautiful and they are warm, but that isn’t the reason they are special. It is the comfort they give, knowing someone cared enough to invest their time and energy and probably a decent bit of money, into making one, for you. Or for someone you love.
It is the same thing – the reason Christ means so much to us, is because God the Father invested Jesus’ entire life – from Birth to the cross, to even now, as He intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father,
And He invests the Holy Spirit in us as well.
Remember Isaiah talked about the rain that pours out? Similar language is used about the Spirit,
5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” Titus 3:5-7 (NLT2)
Or to keep more in line with the parable, 27 And when you were baptized, it was as though you had put on Christ in the same way you put on new clothes. Galatians 3:27 (CEV)
Or wrapped yourself in a quilt, surrounding yourself in the comfort that comes from knowing that since your baptism, you have dwelt righteously in Him.
20 You have nothing to do with corrupt judges, who make injustice legal, 21 who plot against good people and sentence the innocent to death. Ps 94:20-21 GNT
Yet popular Christianity has as one of its most effective talking points the idea that God exists to help people to get ahead in this world! The God of the poor has become the God of an affluent society. We hear that Christ no longer refuses to be a judge or a divider between money-hungry brothers. He can now be persuaded to assist the brother that has accepted Him to get the better of the brother who has not!
Too often, individuals and organizations look to get the best deal. How can their actions benefit themselves, or the group that they owe allegiance too. Even within orgranizations, there is competition between divisions and departments. It exists in churches and denominations as well. We want ours to get what it needs, even at the cost of others. Even if it means they shut down.
There is a name for this in scripture,
We can justify it all we want, but covetousness is contagious. It starts out small, like the man who tells the pastor that he doesn’t care what happens to the church – as long as it is their to do his and his wife’s funerals. There is little care for the people around him. It then extends out to churches and denominationals that see other churches as places to prey on – and so welcome and recruit people from other churches, offering them “more” of this, and ‘more” of that–to meet their perceived needs. It can go on, to people pushing agendas that prey on needed ministries to fund those agendas.
THis isn’t new, Tozer’s words acknowledge it 30 years ago.
You see it in the scriptures as well, as people go against the work of Ezra and Nehemiah, as the Kinsman passes his right to Boaz (who gets to slap him in the face with a sandle!) so his son gets the full inheritance. In the apostles who are jealous of others ministering in Jesus’ name.
Here is the option.
The word cHesed in Hebrew, often translated as love, loving-kindness, has the sense of loving loyalty. It is the word used in conjunction with a covenant, to express the attitude that one should do everything in their power, not only to keep their end of the covenant, but to help the other party keep their end of it.
Even if it means death.
This is what compelled Jesus to die on the cross, the promise ot help mankind receive all the promises made to Adam, and to Abraham, and the promises given to all naitons through Moses.
This is the heart of the matter in Luther’s understanding of the 7th commandment as well. In explaining it to dads, so they can explain it to their children, Luther wrote, “but help him to improve and protect his income and property.”
To do otherwise is to disobey God by stealing from one’s neighbor.
But when we do help them, when we invest in them, when we strive on thier behalf, we see God at work in them and we see God’s blessings upon them, and we get to share in their joy.
Is such easy? no!
Is such perhaps met with suspicion and reluctance? yeah… because of past history.
Is it worth it? Was it worth it to Christ.
Our being in Covenant with God means we are in covenant with all of mankind, and so cHesed – this loyalty/love/kindness compels us to these kinds of actions. May we welcome such compulsion, and turn our back on coveting that which God gave to someone else.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Martin Luther, “The Small Catechism: The Ten Commandments”, Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 343.
10 One day spent in your Temple is better than a thousand anywhere else;
I would rather stand at the gate of the house of my God than live in the homes of the wicked. Psalm 84:10 GNT
For the entire gospel testimony is unanimous that Jesus’ words and deeds flowed from his most intimate communion with the Father; that he continually went “into the hills” to pray in solitude after the burden of the day (e.g., Mk 1:35; 6:46; 14:35, 39). Luke, of all the Evangelists, lays stress on this feature. He shows that the essential events of Jesus’ activity proceeded from the core of his personality and that this core was his dialogue with the Father.
Thus the spiritual life of the minister, formed and trained in a school of prayer, is the core of spiritual leadership. When we have lost the vision, we have nothing to show; when we have forgotten the word of God, we have nothing to remember; when we have buried the blueprint of our life, we have nothing to build. But when we keep in touch with the life-giving spirit within us, we can lead people out of their captivity and become hope-giving guides.
A good deal of my time this year has been spent contemplating the question that is the title of this post. I’ve had three distinct possibilities, three times I was a finalist for a position, and once I received a call to pastor a different church. All three interested me, and I dread the idea of having to decide between my present call and them.
But the question about where I am supposed to be is far deeper than a geographical location, or what vocation I have. In fact, the locations where we live and what we do are meaningless without the insight of “where we are” offered by the psalmist.
We have to imitate Jesus, and rely on our location in response to our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our identity is determined by our awareness of our proximity to God. If we know we are in HIs presence, everything else takes on a new dimension, a new meaing. Our families, our workplaces, our hobbies all become a way in which to experience God’s love, and to see the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
This is essential for the entire church – and it resolves with all of us taking our positions as ministers, as those who serve people, that they might know Jesus. Intimacy with God is the core of our spiritual leadership–it is also the core of our spiritual lives. Without interaction with God prayer, meditating on the gospel and the sacraments, there is little that we can and should attempt to do. Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI ) is correct – all we are and do flows from our intimate – yeah – intimate connection with God.
I believe that is what the psalmist knows, and puts into words… it is being there in God’s presence that is the most desirable place to be.
And then we can give people the hope we find there, with Jesus,… as they are called and drawn to the One lifted up on the cross.
Joseph Ratzinger, Behold The Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 17–18.
Nouwen, Henri J. M.. The Living Reminder (p. 73). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
It was about three o’clock one afternoon when he had a vision, in which he clearly saw an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius!”
4 He stared at the angel in fear and said, “What is it, sir?”
The angel answered, “God is pleased with your prayers and works of charity, and is ready to answer you. 5 And now send some men to Joppa for a certain man whose full name is Simon Peter. 6 He is a guest in the home of a tanner of leather named Simon, who lives by the sea.” 7 Then the angel went away, and Cornelius called two of his house servants and a soldier, a religious man who was one of his personal attendants. 8 He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.
9 The next day, as they were on their way and coming near Joppa, Peter went up on the roof of the house about noon in order to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat; while the food was being prepared, he had a vision. 11 He saw heaven opened and something coming down that looked like a large sheet being lowered by its four corners to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals, reptiles, and wild birds. 13 A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat!”
14 But Peter said, “Certainly not, Lord! I have never eaten anything ritually unclean or defiled.”
15 The voice spoke to him again, “Do not consider anything unclean that God has declared clean.” 16 This happened three times, and then the thing was taken back up into heaven.
17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of this vision, the men sent by Cornelius had learnt where Simon’s house was, and they were now standing in front of the gate. 18They called out and asked, “Is there a guest here by the name of Simon Peter?” Acts 10:3-18 GNT
St. Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, was a master wordsmith, who wrote a significant portion of the New Testament. It comes as a surprise then that he vacillates so much on St Peter’s name in this passage. Talking to others, the angel uses his full name – “Simon Peter.” Yet when addressing the the Lord in a vision, the Lord only uses the name Peter was given by God, “Peter.”
Is it only a curiosity? Is it only something with a hidden message, that only those who have been introduced to the full mysteries of the faith are to understand? Or is it a message to Peter, to prepare him for a lifetime lesson?
For sure Cornelius’ men don’t know – all they have been told is to fetch Simon Peter.
But for Peter to hear Simon again, the name he had before he encountered God, should have shaken him. It would be like me calling one of you Saint and Sinner, identifying the before Jesus you and the you who is being transformed by the Holy Spirit. But identifying you as well as the Saint you are becoming… and are.
For Peter it is the lesson in a microcosm – the vision retold, personally…
God declared Simon Peter clean.
And as Peter hears the voice from heaven speaks, it addresses him… not as Simon Peter, but simply as Peter.
Peter the cleansed, Peter the one restored to ministry after he denied Jesus 3 times. (John uses the same Simon/Peter description on the seashore in the same way)
Peter will go and minister to those God would declare clean – even though the world sees them as sinners. He understands what Luther noted,
“Hence, even though you see your neighbor so weak that he stumbles, think not that he is beyond hope. God will not have one judge another and be pleased with himself, in as much as we are all sinners, but that one bear the infirmity of the other. Christ also pleased not himself, hence we are to do as he did.”
As we look at equipping the saints in the churches we serve, understanding the sinner-saint dynamic will be important. We aren’t any better than Peter as we judge what we see in the brokenness of the churches and the schools we serve. We need to consider the work God can do with those who are broken, as we bear their infirmities, as they see God at work in our lives, so that they know that God can work in theirs.
We talk about the fact that we don’t have authority as ministers of the gospel. We only have the ability to influence people. And the greatest influence we can have… is helping them see how complete the work of Jesus is, in those weak enough to depend on Him.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 169.
10 And then he said, “I have here a book that Hilkiah gave me.” And he read it aloud to the king.
21 King Josiah ordered the people to celebrate the Passover in honour of the LORD their God, as written in the book of the covenant. 22No Passover like this one had ever been celebrated by any of the kings of Israel or of Judah, since the time when judges ruled the nation. 23Now at last, in the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah, the Passover was celebrated in Jerusalem. 2 Kings 23:10,21-23 GNT
It is in the intimacy with God that we develop a greater intimacy with people and it is in the silence and solitude of prayer that we indeed can touch the heart of the human suffering to which we want to minister. Do we really believe this? It often seems that our professional busy-ness has claimed the better part of us. It remains hard for us to leave our people, our job, and the hectic places where we are needed, in order to be with him from whom all good things come. Still, it is in the silence and solitude of prayer that the minister becomes minister. There we remember that if anything worthwhile happens at all it is God’s work and not ours.
Something happened to King Josiah as the gospel, contained in the word of God was read to him. It went far beyond doing church, “right,” and being good, ethical stewards of the money entrusted to their care.
He didn’t have a time of silence and solitude as we normally think of it, but as the gospel was read to him from the word of God, the miraculous happened.
The Holy Spirit created the intimacy with God which made King Josiah unlike any other king, including Hezekiah and David.
He became a king who was also the pastor of his people. He realized part of his work was to free them from bondage to false idols, to bring them to the point of celebrating the Passover–something long forgotten among the people.
They celebrated it, in a way that reflects on their hunger and thirst for the presence of God, and to see and celebrate the work of God in their midst…now!
The people of God came back to life, they realized again what God was doing! Revival broke out–not because they were running the business of church right, but because their time was dominated by God’s revelation of His presence and care.
Nouwen is correct though, it is not our work that makes us pastors, priests and ministers. It is not from our agendas that we find the strength and ability to minister. It comes from the time when our darkness was invaded by the glory of God’s love, where His comfort and peace sought us out to heal us.
It is time, to gather around the gospel, to hear it–to realize the intimate presence of God–who loves us, cares for us, comforts and heals our brokenness..and then uses all of that, as we serve and minister to those around us…. as we guide them to the Altar– to our Passover…
Lord, may it be said of our time, that our moments of being gathered together and celebrating Your work in us is unlike any other, as You revive Your church as you did the people in Josiah’s day!
Nouwen, Henri J. M.. The Living Reminder (p. 51). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
The Risen Body of Christ
May the grace of God and the Lord Jesus Christ encourage in us a sense of awe as we serve alongside each other; helping each other find healing in Christ Jesus.
- What did the Risen Church Do?
I want you to imagine a conversation that the disciples had, about 3 weeks after Jesus shows up, “no longer dead.”
Peter gets them back in the upper room and says,
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
And the disciples respond, “He is risen, indeed!”
Peter comes back with, “and therefore…”
And the disciples are ready, the shout out “we are risen indeed! Alleluia!”
And Peter looks around the room, and wonders,
“Uhm… What do we do next?”
Well, we know from scripture they will replace Judas, and then wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come open them.
And as they baptize 3000 people, they begin to do things…. And that is where we get to today.
What does a bunch of people who have risen with Christ do?
What they did then, maybe is what we should be doing now…
- What they did…
Well scripture is pretty clear about what they did,
They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to the study of the word of God as it showed the promises that came true because of the cross.
They had fellowship events together, where they came together as one—like the women’s luncheon yesterday.
They shared in meals, including the breaking of bread in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
They prayed together. The word there in Greek is to ask, even beg God to interact in their lives, but to do so, knowing He is listening.
And they shared everything they had… meeting each other’s needs,
It was special.
So much so that, “43 A deep sense of awe came over them all!”
That was before all the signs and wonders!
God was at work!
- Why did they do it?
So why were they so involved?
Some churches talk about being purpose driven, setting out a purpose such as saving the world. Others create Vision Statements and Mission Statements with core values. Very similar to that which a corporation would create.
They speak of getting people to buy into the vision of leadership, and therefore everyone is motivated to work towards that vision. Programs, events, everything has to serve that vision, or it falls apart. Consultants and coaches make a lot of money helping churches discover that vision.
Except that in the places where the church explodes, there usually isn’t enough time or leadership to spend time on the vision statement! They certainly didn’t have one at Pentecost!
At its best, the church is beyond our control.
That’s okay – our mission statement here is a little uncomfortable.
Concordia is the place where broken people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal!
Wait! That means each and every person here is broken in some way!
Yes! We are in a long line of people broken by sin, that do incredible things as God works through us to help others. Gerry did that yesterday, as she invited Shelly to come to the luncheon. Maureen, a new person among us, came and brought her teenage daughter! And I saw a bunch of ladies I didn’t know – what a wonderful outreach, that God did!
God at work! Creating a fellowship meal where people got to know people, where they laughed together!
Just like at Pentecost!
Half the things I do it seems, are not for who I originally meant it to bless, but it blesses other people.
Not just about the church, but about everything. We have our vision, and we don’t always ask God if it resonates with Him!
I’ll give you another example. I thought we wouldn’t make it this year financially as a church and school without the ERC money. Yet, as of last month, we haven’t touched it. Concordia was in the black —as a whole.
God has provided!
- The results—great joy, generosity, goodwill and the Lord added…
The effects of the church spending so much time dedicated to God’s word, to the sacraments, and to prayer were four-fold.
They lived in awe of God.
They experienced great joy
They were generous, spending not only money, but time investing it in each other’s lives.
And those around them recognized God at work and looked upon them favorably.
I would share with you something someone told me about our Easter service,
“I watched your service live as it was happening rather than later on as I had planned. There was something very special about the whole thing, including a very peaceful yet joyful atmosphere that I detected.” Jim
I’ve had other people tell me similar things about our church, including a pastor who I took to lunch on a Monday a few years back. He asked what happened on Sunday, as there was a residual feeling of holiness, as if everyone experienced the presence of God.
And others just know they fit in, this is where God wants them…because God was tangible here, that they felt God’s peace in the midst of their brokenness. Even a couple of weeks ago, as we watch James get baptized, where His mother was baptized. And as saw another group of youth get confirmed.
God slowly, surely adds to our number…He places people here, where they become part of our family…
God is at work here, in this risen body of Jesus.
This is the church, where we see God invest His word and His precious Body and Blood in us, and we invest in each other…
And together, we find that God pours out His peace upon us, our hearts, our minds, as we realize we are united with Christ.