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Renewing the Spirit: A Sermon and Service Based on 2 Cor. 4:13-15:1

Renewed in Spirit
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you life to begin again, regularly!

  • Context!

@@ St. Paul wrote, “But we continue to preach..” 

We continue to speak about God he says, and that is all well and good! But to understand that comment in all of its power, we need to understand why the “but” was there. And to do that, I need to go back a few verses.

8  We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10  Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11  Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 (NLT2)

Pretty exhausting week St. Paul and his crew had. Not quite as bad as dealing with COVID, but still pretty bad, don’t you think?

The question is how do you keep talking about Jesus, when in the midst of all of that turmoil?  Perplexed, stalked, knocked down, suffering, living under constant danger, dying, enduring masks and not being able to give or receive hugs.

And yet, Paul is able to keep on talking about Jesus… and since the word there is to talk – and not proclaim, it is something we can do as well….

but how?

  • The Psalmist’s real words (Law)

@@  The first step is to understand what Paul and the Psalmist meant when talking about faith in God. Paul wrote, 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”

That sounds pretty good – he just pushed through, or maybe muddled through, depending on how exhausted he was. He just kept speaking, or so it seems.

That works well into our upbringing. Most of us were just trained to keep on working until the work was done.  Didn’t matter how tired, how many times the computer deleted our files, or what was going on – we were to get the work done! And get it done right!

If we check the Psalmists words though, it clarifies things. What the psalmist wrote was,

“ I believed in You, so I said, ‘I am deeply troubled, LORD.’” Psalm 116:10

Notice the difference? The Psalmist that Paul agrees with is not our there on his own strength, he is leaning on God. He, like Jesus in the garden, is going to the Father in prayer, and sharing the aches and pains, the anxieties, and the doubts.

To try and do it all on our own is sin, and act of pride. It is telling God, even if unintentionally, that we don’t want to walk with Him, that we want to do it on our own.

And then, rather than finding a second wind, a renewed Spirit, we burn out.

But St. Paul and the Psalmist cry out to God, using God’s personal name, sharing the brokenness and burden.

And that changes everything, for as we depend on God, our hearts and souls are renewed, even if our bodies are failing.

  • Why We don’t Give up

In the midst of the brokenness, St Paul writes something that is truly amazing,

14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.

The promise of the resurrection from death is so powerful, that it reinvigorates the physically, mentally and spiritually broken disciple. This is why he can keep speaking about God, because of this incredible, awesome promise!

I can share from my own story, this week I was pretty tired twice.  The first time I was revived by the pictures than Amanda, our banker, put up on Facebook the pictures of her daughter’s baptism right here, 5 years ago. ( I did needle her a little about bringing her back more often) Another day, I received an email from Colleen – about the miraculous healing that her friend’s wife has had, a lady we’ve been praying for.

That means far more to a tired pastor, or elder or deacon than giving us a million dollars, right Bob?

This is the power of seeing God at work in and through us, the work of the holy Spirit. That is how our life is re-invigorated, our spirits renewed, as we see the work of the Spirit, drawing people closer and closer to Jesus.

  • Everything else is less

That is why Paul can say,

17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

No masks or social distancing in heaven, no getting crushed, or driven to despair, never abandoned by God, just simply the life of Christ seen in our Bodies as the effect of our dying with Him, and rising with Him.

Nothing else compares…. For we are with Him. And being with Him, aware of our presence, crying out to Him when wea re struggling, we find a peace that passes all understanding, for we are His.  AMEN!

When Trusting God is Challenging…

Devotional thought for this day:

31 For the Lord will not reject us forever. 32  Even if he causes suffering, he will show compassion according to the abundance of his faithful love. 33  For he does not enjoy bringing affliction or suffering on mankind. Lamentations 3:31-33 (CSBBible)

O most lovely and most loving Heart of Jesus, miserable is the heart which does not love Thee! O God, for the love of men Thou didst die on the cross, helpless and forsaken, and how then can men live so forgetful of Thee?

This is not the only time where the Scriptures declare God can cause suffering.

Jeremiah is clear, God doesn;t like afflicting or causing us to suffering, Yet trusting Him when it happens is certainly a challenge. Especially when the lesson is not for those who are suffering, but for those who are simply witnessing the suffering.

It is one thing if we deserve the suffering, or the person suffering does. We deserve enough of it, we need to be disciplined, in a way that only God can. That is, God disciplines us with great love, and with the specific aim of causing growth and restoration, to draw us back into the realization that He is present in our lives.

But what about when the lesson is for someone else, when our suffering serves as an example for those who are not suffering? The story of Job, the suffering of Paul, the embracing suffering of Eric Liddell and so many martyrs, people whose lives were cut short or damaged. How do we justify their suffering?

Or how are we able to trust in God, when it is our turn to suffer?

The only way I know, it to look to the heart of Jesus. We must allow the Holy Spirit to drive our intimacy with God so deep that we are sure of His love and care! We need to know this even as Jesus knew that the feeling of the Father’s abandonment would lead to the greatest of praise! (Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22) Intinacy with God causes us not to trust Him in the moment of suffering, but to rejoice in it!

This is why I love the altar, the place where peace is so clear, as the Lord’s Supper is being given, a momnet in time where we realize that Christ suffered for us, and that sharing in His sufferings is sharing with Him.

This doesn’t make the suffering easier…the pains still are there, the exhaustion, the mental anguish, and yet in its midst, there is peace.

For He is there… and seeing Him with us, we find ourselves in peace…..

And I will take that peace, that peace beyond all understanding, over things going “perfectly”.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 301.

What Have You Planned for, today?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

4  “Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5  And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NLT2)

“Why does God love us, but that he may be loved?”1 wrote St. Bernard. And Moses had said the same before him: And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but that thou fear the Lord thy God … and love Him?

It’s a three day weekend.

Some are having barbecues, some are marching in parades or running 10ks. Some are working, trying to prepare for another weekly grind.

But in the midst of all of that, we, are loved.

But that love is illogical, it loves those who sin against it, who spit on it, and would dance on the grave of Jesus. For that is what sin is, it mocks the love that God has for you. It says everyting else is more important, every else is a priority. Everything else is worth more than his love.

There is one thing though, His grave we dance would dance on is empty,

And the one who loves us enough to die for us, still makes us His priority, as He intercedes for us with the Father. We are still His priority. He still loves us.

So take some time, think about His love… and think of ways to show Him your love…even while you are drawn to adore Him!

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 293.

Getting Back on “the” Topic!

Devotional THought of the Day:

Look, the days are coming”—the LORD’s declaration—“when it will no longer be said, ‘As the LORD livesw who brought the Israelites from the land of Egypt,’ 8 but, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the land of the north and from all the other countries where ID had banished them.’ They will dwell once more in their own land.” Jeremiah 23:7-8 CSB

I don’t know whether or not we can avoid having social classes. In any case it is not my job to speak of such matters, much less here, in this oratory, where we have come together to talk about God (I would never want to talk about anything else) and to talk to God.

It wasn’t the case of “what had God done for me lately.”  

The people of God were living in the past with God; they weren’t looking for Him in the present. They kept talking about the past, the glories that were there when God freed them from Egypt.

They weren’t looking for His work in their here and now. They didn’t expect Him to be with them, there in the brokenness, as they dealt with the consequences of their sin.

We are not any different. We start by wanting to make the best of a situation, to deal with the apparent injustices in our day. We want to reverse the damage of “their” sin, forcing them to do what we think is right, what we think is just.

We overlook that all sin, and whoever we put “in charge” of making things just will surely offend people. We overlook our biases while condemning others. Therefore aren’t anymore just than those we oppose. We’ve forgotten God dwells in our presence, that we dwell in His presence.

That is why Josemaria wants to get back on topic – talking about God, talking to God.  That is why Isaiah’s prophecy aims to get people to look for what God is doing now and is about to do. We have to learn to look to Jesus. We have to look for how the Holy Spirit is reconciling people in this day, as is promised.  We have to pray and ask God to reveal His work through and around us.

Ironically the cross and the resurrection are not in the past as the Red Sea was. It is present, always! That is where our rescue, our deliverance, our salvation occurs. Our Baptism makes the cross and resurrection our present, the Lord’s Supper – brings us back to that moment of sacrifice, and it cleanses our sin… now.

This is our life… this is why we are here… to talk about God and talk with Him now, even as we see Him at work. Looking a the past helps us see His promises – but we need to know they are here.. now. He needs to be the topic of our lives…. and then we will live in peace. For He has promised that… to us.

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

Have We Forgotten How to Pray? Is that why churches are mediocre?

Is the church dying? Does it need reinventing?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

23 However, I did give them this command: ‘Obey me, and then I will be your God, and you will be my people. Follow every way I command you so that it may go well with you. 24 Yet they didn’t listen or pay attention but followed their own advice and their own stubborn, evil heart. They went backward and not forward. 25 Since the day your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until today, I have sent all my servants the prophetsae to you time and time again. 26 However, my people wouldn’t listen to me or pay attention but became obstinate;ag they did more evil than their ancestors. Jeremiah 7:23-26

The word mediocre comes from two Latin words and literally means “halfway to the peak.” This makes it an apt description of the progress of many Christians. They are halfway up to the peak.… They are morally above the hardened sinner but they are spiritually beneath the shining saint.…
Do we really think that this halfway Christian life is the best that Christ offers—the best that we can know? In the face of what Christ offers us, how can we settle for so little? Think of all that He offers us by His blood and by His Spirit, by His sacrificial death on the cross, by His resurrection from the dead, by His ascension to the right hand of the Father, by His sending forth of the Holy Ghost!

And we acknowledge and confess that we are not worthy to receive such manifestations of thy mercy and goodness, but rather deserve thy judgment and condemnation and on account of our indifference, sins and hypocrites to be left without the light of thy holy Word. But we beseech thee of thine mercy, deal not with us after our sins nor reward us according to our iniquities. Abide with us, O Lord, for it is toward evening. Keep us and our posterity in the faith of Thy Word and in the right use of the holy Sacraments. Sanctify thy Church in our midst; further and advance thy Kingdom; glorify Thy Name; put down Satan under our feet, and destroy the Son of perdition by the brightness of thine appearance. Preserve us from all false teachers, hypocrites and enemies of Thy Word who seek to overthrow thy Church purchased at so great a cost by thy dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord; but at all times send us faithful ministers and teachers who shall lead us into the knowledge and confession of the heavenly mysteries, and finally into the glorious righteousness of thine everlasting Kingdom. Amen.

Tozer’s statement about the Christianity becoming mediocre is all too accurate in our day. The church wants to find itself better (morally) than sinners, but doesn’t want to do the spiritual work to become saints. The church is becoming apathetic, caring less for its people, and even less for those that are “outside.” You see this in the recent treand to automate the church, from contacts,, to attendance tracing, to even planning worship and using sermons that are pre-written for a generic congregation, rather than the message for the people of God in this place. Are we going backward, not forward, as Jeremiah wanrs?

We wonder why the church gets weaker, and people who have no reason too,, sit at home and watch, rather than interacting together.

THe problem is how do we address this? Since it is not by our own reason or strength that we come to Christ, how do we bring people back? Using guilt and shame may seem effective, but it doesn’t deliver what they truly need. The fellowship, the compassion of God, the mercy and love. Why are we beoming distant from God, and then from each other?

Looking at Loehe’s prayer this morning, I wonder why we don’t pray like this anymore. Not the ornate flowery language of days gone by, but the cry of broken, needy hearts, which want to see the chruch holy, that wants to see the next generation grow in its dependence on God. That we would be preserved against false teachers.

What would happen if we began to pray this way again, with heartfelt cries to see God at work in our lives and in the lives of those around us, Praying, not to manipulate God or get our desire – but really communicating with Him? If we listened to God, if we allowed the Holy SPirit to tune our hearts to sing of His grace? If our faith became a living dialogue again…

Lord, send forth Your Spirit, revive Your Church, help us to pray again, and through us, renew this world. Amen!

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 149–150.

Am I a Hypocrite? What if I feel like I am?

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
(Jesus said) “Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they disfigure their faces so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 17  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18  so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.   Matthew 6:16-18 (CSBBible)

8  Then I heard the voice of the Lord asking: Who will I send? Who will go for us? I said: Here I am. Send me. 9  And he replied: Go! Say to these people: Keep listening, but do not understand; keep looking, but do not perceive. 10  Make the minds of these people dull; deafen their ears and blind their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their minds, turn back, and be healed. Isaiah 6:8-10 (CSBBible)

I do not deny that, over the years, people have come to me and have told me with real sorrow: “Father, I don’t know what’s come over me, but I find I am tired and cold. My piety used to be so solid and straightforward, but now it feels like play acting …” Well, for those who are going through such a phase, and for all of you, I answer: “Play acting? Wonderful! The Lord is playing with us as a father does with his children.” (a few paragraphs on…)
“But, Father,” you ask me, “can one put on an act for God? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical?” Don’t worry: for you the moment has arrived to play out a human comedy before a divine spectator. Persevere, for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are contemplating your act; do it all for love of God, to please him, although you find it hard. How beautiful it is to be God’s jester! How beautiful to act out such a role for Love, with a spirit of sacrifice, not seeking any personal satisfaction, but just to please our Father God, who is playing with us! Turn to our Lord with confidence and say to him: “I don’t feel like doing this at all, but I will offer it up for you.” And then put your heart into the job you are doing, even though you think you are just play acting. Blessed play acting! I assure you it isn’t hypocrisy, because hypocrites need a public for their pantomimes, whereas the spectators of our play, let me repeat, are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit;

Since i was a little child, Jesus’s words above in red bothered me. I thought it was somewhat hypocritical, and even a lie to pretend what was going on wasn’t going on.

If you are fasting or suffering, why should you hide it?

I get the part of offering it up to God, but to pretend things are different than they are? Isn’t that being a hypocrite?

I have not only heard peopel ask how to deal with the “dry spells” of their faith, I have had them myself, and I am not talking about my childhood, or my time studying to be a pastor. I feel like giving up somedays, and other wonder why Isaiah didn’t! I mean – he walked into the gig – knowing he would have little or no effect! He did it anyway!

I had to read St. Josemaria’s words a few times over to get into the idea of “acting” differently than I am. To persevere in my acts of faith, of searching for the Lord’s pleasure and presence – knowing that I would not always get the satisfaction, at least cognitively.

And not getting the satisfaction cognitively….doesn’t mean it is not there!

And it certainly means that we are not hypocrites, we are not doing this for praise, we aren’t showing off our holiness, we are trying to love God, the God who loves us. We are trying to reach out to the One who came and reached out on a cross to show us His love. It isn’t acting – it is trying to do what we have done, where we have known HIs grace. He knows our hearts better than we, He is the one who empowers our faith as well as our will, and the very desire to keep moving, there is something that pleases Him.

Simply put, if you are worried about being a hypocrite, the odds are you are not. Continue to trust in Him, continue to do what you know will reveal His presence, and HIs grace… for even if you can’t feel it…

THE LORD IS WITH YOU!!


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

RIght Now, the Church Is Like An Anxious Bride…

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day

1  A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. 2  It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:1-2 (CSBBible)

We have been accustomed to hear of the Creation, Incarnation, Redemption, of Jesus born in a stable, of Jesus dead on the Cross. O my God, if we knew that another man had conferred on us any of these benefits, we could not help loving him. It seems that God alone has, so to say, this bad luck with men, that, though he has done his utmost to make them love him, yet he cannot attain this end, and, instead of being loved, he sees himself despised and neglected. All this arises from the forgetfulness of men of the love of God.

O Thou dealest so mercifully with us, and ascribest to us all Thy merit and righteousness; and in Thee the Father himself accounts us as righteous, even as though we were like Thee, Thou Mediator of the New Covenant; and through Thee the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and quickens us to newness of life.

The hands of God are blistered with love and accompany us on the path of life. Let us entrust ourselves to the hands of God, like a child entrusts himself to the hand of his father. This is a safe hand!

As we come out of COVID, the Church is like an anxious bride moments before
the wedding begins. Anxiety-driven by the moment, as concerns over everything
being perfect, everything fulfilling her dreams comes into play. Anxiety over
how the Church will be renewed, how we will get all our people back, and the
anxiety paralyzes us.

I asked a newlywed about her wedding last year, and she summed it up by
saying that she was walking down the aisle one moment the next moment she was
getting kissed. With that a common thought, why is so much time spent in
anxiety needed? If only I could rid them of the anxiety and allow them to savor
every word, every vow, every promise, every indication of the love that is
shared. Some women get caught up in the moment and are terrorized by it.

I see the same thing in de Ligouri’s quote in blue above. We know all about the
work of God; we can even enter into theological disputes about it. The
masterpiece of creation and every moment that God has formed is there to ponder!
To meditate on His love for us that is revealed. Yet instead of that, we worry
about life, we try to find the latest book to read and recommend to others,
that their lives and churches might be full. So we don’t look for His love; in
fact, we abandon Him in search of other, more immediate answers and fixes.

As God stands there with blistered hands and a pierced side so our anxiety
would be replaced with peace! So that our sin would be replaced with His
righteousness! so that the Holy Spirit would quicken us to new life! He would
care for us with such mercy, like the groom who tenderly holds his wife’s hands!
He is caught up in the moment as well –  but caught up in the moment because he is with
her. (By the time the sermon is over, even the most anxious bride is caught up
with her groom, in the moment)

That is where we need to be, fully aware of God’s love, fully aware of His
presence. This is where Solomon’s wisdom comes into play and why he says mourning
is better than feasting. It focuses on the transition rather than ignore it. As
we realize the shortness of this life and what comes after, we should long for
that day and the incredible life that follows! We need to hear Jesus, we need
to hear the vows He made to us, we need to see our hands held in His, and
forward to our eternal life spent with Him.

As we do, the anxiety will fade, and the miraculous happens as the Holy
Spirit breathes life into us. We begin to have hope again as we realize the
love of the God who is here… with us.

As we come out of COVID, together, we need to focus on Jesus, on His love that has sustained and comforted us, and the promise of life with Him.  As that is our focus, then church will not just come back to normal, it will revive!

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 252.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 133.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 147.

Stop pretending that everything is good…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

17  I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the LORD has done. Psalm 118:17 (NLT2)

We rejoice and are glad in Thee who hast had compassion upon us, and hast delivered our souls. And we beseech Thee, enlighten our hearts, so that Thy birth may minister to us grace against sin, death, Hell and the power of the Devil; and by Thy Holy Spirit comfort and sustain us in the perils and pains of the last hour. All of which we ask, O precious Jesus, who art blessed and exalted forever, for the sake of Thy miraculous incarnation. Amen.

Those who share in the cross do not need to verify their activity with triumphalism because they know that the cross itself is already a triumphant victory.

On August 3, 30 years ago, everything in my life changed.

I died. After a signifcant bout with Arythimic Tachycardia, paramedics and doctorshad to defibrillate me 5 times. I woke up days later, when my heart was medically able to keep a normal rhythm. Since then I’ve had implanted defibrillaors put in, replaced, and replaced again. I have had two heart valves replaced with mechanical valves. Cardiomyoapthy is an issue, because of the meds, diabetes would as well.

Life changed that day. So much of it changed.., and so many things I enjoyed, I miss.

Boogy-boarding, martial arts, basketball, volleyball, running, other activities. My life for 30 years has been more sedate, less dynamic, and there are times where life simply is not good. It is not enjoyable. I’ll be honest, there are times it is seriously depressing, when things ae dark. And Satan knows how to get the most out of such times.

It is one of the reasons I like reading Luther and Pope Francis, and now Loehe.

They treat life as it is, broken, and not the way it should be. They acknowledge the dark stuff, and the work of Satan in our lives. Consider these words of Luther’s,

I’ve heard no argument from men that persuaded me, but the bouts I’ve engaged in during the night330 have become much more bitter than those during the day. For my adversaries have only annoyed me, but the devil is able to confront me with arguments. Often he has offered an argument of such weight that I didn’t know whether God exists or not. I shall now confess this to you so that you won’t believe him. When I was without the Word of God and was thinking about the Turks, the pope, the princes, etc., he came and struck against me with weapons. But when I have taken hold of the Scriptures I have won.

I can’t pretend everything is good in the middle of the battle, in the throughs od despair. I used to try, and it would exhaust me. Jeremiah 20:7 became my go to cry, not just because of my pain, but because of the pain I watch others endure. That too is a challenge, as I’ve watched people deal with guilt and shame, as I’ve watch them overwhelmed by grief or anxiety, as I’ve watched them struggle, and those around them struggle.

The idea of the “triumphant, victorious Christian life” is not in my wheelhouse.

I deal with these dark times now differently that I did when I was younger. I accept that life isn’t a bowl of cherries, or that I don’t have the spiritual equivelant to Tom Brady’s football career. And words like Loehe’s are there to help me focus on what is good and right.

The love and compassion of Jesus.

For as I realize that, as it is revealed through the Word and the Sacraments, I don’t care about the stuff that I’ve lost. I care about what is coming, and I can look to Jesus. And that is everything.

To know He sustains me in those dark times, to know He takes care of everything Satan can throw at me, to know that life has more meaning than a perfect set in volleyball, or a spinning crescent kick connecting.

There is life made whole, even in the midst of the pain, and the loss, because there is Jesus.

SO I will live, and I will tell people what He’s done.

He’s made me, and you, His own.

and that means more than anything else, than everything else.

It even makes the darkness, gloriously a light in His glory.

May my words help you to see this, so that we can stop pretending that everything is good… and know that because He loves us… it is serenely beautiful.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 133.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 123–124.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 93.

The Early Morning of the Cross: A sermon on Mathew 26:36-47

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

We could not.. so He did!
So Go Ahead and Rest?
Matthew 26:36-47

Jesus! Son! Savior!

May you find in the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ God’s grace and experience true peaceful rest!

  • What was Jesus’ Body Language

I wish I was there in the garden.

I wish I could see and hear Jesus as he came back for the third time, and found the disciples asleep, and said,

“Go ahead and sleep! Have your rest! But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

Was Jesus angry, resigned, disappointed?

Did his voice betray His emotions? Was He so tired and anxious he couldn’t control his feelings?

As importantly, how did the apostles hear this?

How much did they realize that a few days later, they would be guaranteed a rest…

  • They Could Not, Neither Can We!

If there ever was a night for Jesus to be frustrated with the apostles, it was this night.

It starts off with two apostles fighting like 4-year-olds about who gets the best seat, the one next to Jesus. DaVinci thought John won the argument – for he is pictured next to Jesus in his painting of the Last Supper. They argue, and Jesus teaches them a lesson by bending down and washing their feet.

The evening gets worse as Peter once again says that his will and intellect are better than Jesus’. Nope, I am not going to let you care for me, Jesus. Nope, no way in…what was that?  Err… Uhm.. let me re-think that….will you, please, and wash not my feet but everything while you are at!

Then that thing with Jesus, but if you heard the first gospel tonight, which apostle thought he was capable of betraying Jesus? That hit me this week in preparing; each of the disciples thought they could possibly be the one who would betray Jesus…

Sounds like guilty consciousness!

Hmm… I wonder how many of us would have asked?  If you think you would not have, a straightforward question.

Have you betrayed him today? Have you chosen to sin or simply overlooked that what you are doing is sin?

Then you should have said, “is it me, Lord?”

As if that wasn’t enough, they kept falling asleep when the Lord Jesus needed their encouragement.

Finally, after He tells them it is okay to rest… they will run away, deny him and stay their distance.

I am not trying to make you feel guilty, but I want you to understand this… you are not any better than James or John, Peter or Matthew.

We could not avoid sin… and knowing that means we need to rely on the message that has been shared all Lent long.

We could not…so He did…

  • Go Ahead and Rest

With all that, hear Jesus’s words again,

“Go ahead and sleep! Have your rest! But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

I choose to hear this given the theme. Jesus looks on us weary, broken, crushed by sin, and unable to save ourselves and says that we can rest because He was treated as a sinner by sinners.

What we cannot do, He did, staying awake through the anxiety, through the pain, enduring the wrath of God, and enabling us to dwell in peace.

How stunning it is to hear Him tell us to rest in that case! How grateful we can be for what He has done!  How grateful for what He was doing this night and into the darkness of the morning!

This is the love that makes a difference in our lives! The love that would intentionally do what we cannot because of our sin.

But because He did, we can experience peace, the purest peace, and the love that goes past all understanding.

We need to know this… especially when we are weak, when we are so weary, we can barely focus.

He has not abandoned you or me.

He chose to love us… and do what we could not.

….

SO let’s find that rest, as we let Him once again cleanse us from sin and all unrighteousness, and celebrate as He gives His Body and Blood to sustain us.

Thoughts on the day before the cross: You don’t have to settle for a “victorious Christian Life!” There is something far better!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7  I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8  I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. 9  No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety. 10  For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. 11  You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. Psalm 16:7-11 (NLT2)

The deeper life has … been called the “victorious life,” but I do not like that term. It appears to me that it focuses attention exclusively upon one feature of the Christian life, that of personal victory over sin, when actually this is just one aspect of the deeper life—an important one, to be sure, but only one.
That life in the Spirit that is denoted by the term “deeper life” is far wider and richer than mere victory over sin, however vital that victory may be. It also includes the thought of the indwelling of Christ, acute God-consciousness, rapturous worship, separation from the world, the joyous surrender of everything to God, internal union with the Trinity, the practice of the presence of God, the communion of saints and prayer without ceasing.

I have known a few dark times in my life… to be honest, more than a few. I’ve done enough battling wondering why crap happens to me and those I care about. The Psalms explain many of those dark days. matter of fact your can’t praise God, if He wasn’t the one who delivered you from dark days. Such is Psalm 16, as you can’t help noticing the depth of the writer’s pain.

So when I see posts about being victorious, or claiming that life is “better’ with Christ, that everyone in Christ is an overcomer, I take a step back, and want to hear how they are saying this, and how they define victorious, or what it means to overcome.

I resonate deeply then with Tozer’s words, there is something far deeper in life than simply winning a victory or a battle. There is something far deeper, and far more meaningful.

Realizing the presence of God, whether life is victorious or not! Knowing His promise that even if we die, we shall live..

That is more than enough…

Whether life is great or life sucks, the presence of God is going to be there for you. Not to change the situations, but to change us… much as the psalmist described… chaging our focus, remidning us of the promises.

That presence means everything… and I have known it, even the midst of suffering.. (though somedays – need reminding)

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

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