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Faith in Action, is Content! A sermon on Ecclesiastes 5:10-20

Link to Video of Church Service 10/21/2018

Faith in Action:
Is Content

Ecclesiastes 5:10-20

 I.H.S.

 May the grace, the mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, that you find yourself dwelling, content in His presence!  AMEN!

1.6 Billion dollars…. For what?

On Friday, I stopped by the local 7-11.

The parking lot was full, there were three clerks working instead of the usual one.  There were people in line, and another line over in the corner, waiting for little pieces of paper to make little marks that they would put their hope in…

Seriously, putting all your hope in some little marks on a piece of paper.

And they will do it again this week, looking for a change in life because of that piece of paper, those little marks. Enough people doing so that the Lottery can easily put less than half the money back, and still raise the prize some 600 million dollars.

Some people buy those tickets out of curiosity, others buy them in despair and desperation. There was one guy, running through the “have you won scanner” what looked like 50 such pieces of paper.

I wonder how many of them realize what Solomon said some 3000 years ago,

10 Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!

We aren’t going to find contentment in things, we can only find contentment in something we have more than enough of…. But how do we realize it?

The Idol of Wealth

Solomon talked of reasons why wealth doesn’t breed contentment. The reasons it doesn’t bring happiness, why it doesn’t provide a beautiful life.  I mean these reasons aren’t rocket science,

  • You can never have enough.  (Solomon would know!)
  • The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it.
  • You can watch it slip through your fingers
  • Investments can sour, and the money is lost
  • We eventually end up the way we started, ashes to ashes, dust to dust
  • You can’t take your riches with you
  • You don’t make a lasting impact on the world.

And yet, we will, as a country spend 3 or 4 billion dollars on the lottery.  And we still won’t find contentment, even the one who wins.

Or we will struggle and put ourselves into debt, trying to get the right college education, or the right career options, playing all the games and work our fingers to the bone, trying to get ahead.

And we won’t find contentment.

But that won’t stop us chasing wealth, riches, fame, and all its accouterments.  For we make these things our idols, we put our hope in them, thinking that if only we get the right numbers for the lottery, the perfect job, or health plan, the perfect home or spouse and family, everything will be okay, and we can finally be content.

But idols can’t buy happiness, even if we could gain them all.  But Solomon, the richest, wisest man of his day, tells us we can never get enough.  Our hunger will never be removed, the idols will just hold out their empty promise… and we will line up to give them what we’ve worked so hard for in life

it’s like chasing the wind.  Except that we do it all too often.

The Gift

There is an option, there is a gift that God gives us, the result of the gift is seen in verse 19,

To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God.

He says it there, whether you are the CEO or the janitor, there are people who find contentment in their work and their life because they realize it is a gift of God.

That’s hard for us to understand, hard for us to deal with at times.  Doesn’t God realize what He’s putting us through?  Doesn’t he realize the pain, the grief, the anxiety that comes with our lot in life, this place He’s put us in?  Doesn’t He know our struggles?

Yeah, he does, and that is why Solomon says finding contentment is a gift.

A supernatural gift, and ability that isn’t natural to us, but divine grace that is poured over us, allowing us to find the beauty in our lives, to find that elusive contentment.

A contentment that comes as we have faith in Him, as we grow in our trust and dependence on Him. As we go to him with our failures and sins, as we abandon the idols that cannot bring us contentment, and we hear Him, welcoming us into His presence.

That is what the cross and the resurrection is all about, to free us to live in the presence of God, a presence where all our troubles are taken from us, as God promises us life everlasting in His presence.  For there, in the presence of God, we find how incredibly He loves us, a love we are told every week this year that we can’t understand, but that we can experience, and we do.

Contentment, true happiness, or having what in Hebrew can be translated best as “the beautiful life” comes not what we have in terms or worldly value.  It comes from finding out we are loved, loved beyond measure. Loved even when we failed to love in return, as God picks us off the ground, saving us to Himself.

And knowing we are loved changes everything, adding color to a gray landscape caught in the darkness before dawn. Bringing life that is gloriously eternal to a life that was once going to end with nothing.

And with our eyes on Him, on the Lord who loves us, we come to know that life Is incredibly beautiful, a life in which we find contentment, a life in which we dwell in the incredible peace of God…..

And so I end with the prayer of blessing we began with….

May the grace, the mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, that you find yourself dwelling, content in His presence!  AMEN!

 

The Simple Journey of Hope

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
66  As a consequence of this, many of his disciples withdrew and no longer followed him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “And are you too wanting to go away?” 68  “Lord,” answered Simon Peter, “who else should we go to? Your words have the ring of eternal life! And we believe and are convinced that you are the holy one of God.”
John 6:66-68 (Phillips NT)

Let us follow Jesus, knowing that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joyful hope that we must bring to this world. Please do not let yourselves be robbed of the hope that Jesus gives us!

It is too easy to lose hope in this world.

We can lose hope after a doctor’s visit or from balancing our checkbook.  We can become dejected because of the words of a friend, or a family member, we can begin to dwell in pessimism after reading the news, and seeing the discord that is prevalent in every part of four society.

Yet, we have to have hope to survive, and we have seen incredible things that have occurred because people dwell in hope, not despair. Because they know what God has promised, and they have learned to expect God’s intercession, that God will make what is going on work for good for those who love him, who are called according to His promises.

But how is that hope created, and in view of our broken lives, our broken society and broken world, how is it nourished, sustained, how can it grow when the world hammers away at us?

In the little devotional from Pope Francis that is one of the books I use for my devotions this year, he notes the strong correlation between following Jesus and the hope we have, that we can infect the world with.

Following Jesus, letting Him accompany us, letting Him carry us, not just walking in steps 2000 years old, but walking with him today, Monday the 8th of October, and tomorrow the 9th, and the 10th, and every day from now on dwelling in His presence.

This is why the Apostle Peter would proclaim that there is nowhere else to Go, for only Jesus can provide the words that give the hope of eternity, and the joy that will come in the presence of the Father in heaven. To share in a relationship, where God the Father identifies us as His children, where Jesus identifies us as His brothers and sisters. This is the love He spoke of, and the life He invites us all to have. To learn of His mercy, to explore the dimensions of His love, to even be corrected by Him, so that we don’t drift away.  This begins the hope we so desperately need.

Walking with Jesus, meditating on His love, on His sacrifice, on His resurrection which we are joined with, that provides hope.  Hearing His promises, knowing that He who created everything stands behind those promises, this gives us hope.

This is what matters in life, so please, please, don’t neglect this hope, or the times of prayer and fellowship that will nourish it.

And may you know God’s peace…. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 325). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Faith in Action: It Hears and Soaks in God’s Reality

Worship Service 10/7 Faith in Action

(above link takes you to the link for the entire service!

Faith In Action V
Hears and Soaks in God’s Reality
Hebrews 2:1-13

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God, the love, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so overwhelm you that you can never ignore it.  AMEN!

 Overlooking the Treasure given

It was sitting in a garage, next to an old doublewide trailer in a small high desert town.  Covered with some canvas tarps, realtor after realtor overlooked it.  After all, the doublewide trailer was old, and while kept nicely, needed a lot of restoration.

In fact, our agent suggested removing it and just putting a brand new on in its place.  The value was the property, with its beautiful trees, and the redwood decking, and the 3 car garage with a playroom

So, curious what was next to the 1940’s pickup, under all the tarps, I lifted the tarp.  And there, underneath was a car. And oh… what a car.

A 1965 Shelby Cobra, a car worth more than the double-wide, the garage, the acre of land.  It looked like it was in mint shape, just simply forgotten about.

Unfortunately, it didn’t come with the house.  Yeah – I asked if the old vehicles on the property came with the property.

The son who inherited the house, and was trying to sell the property, had not forgotten what his dad had treasured.  But he had neglected it over the years, and so instead of being driven, it had sat, with tarps piled upon it.

What a waste!

Even more of a waste is those who live as if they didn’t know Jesus, as if they didn’t know He loved us, as if they didn’t realize the mercy and forgiveness that would bring healing to our souls, the souls so shattered by sin and its companions, the pain-filled and shame, and grieving over our brokenness.

This is the strongest challenge to the idea of faith in Action, for we need to hear about God’s reality, and really let it soak in and heal our souls, even as we help others heal.

We need to hear, and soak in God’s reality, for that is what faith in Actions does.

Every Violation, Every Act of Disobedience

I want to read the first two verses of our reading again,

So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished.

If we don’t remember God’s truth, it is too easy to drift away, to be swept away in the rapids of life.  For that is what sin does, it picks us up, and takes us for a ride, until we are so far from where we should be.

God is serious about this, every violation of the law, every one of them is punished.  As is every act of disobedience.

No excuses, no negotiations, every violation, every act of disobedience. No exceptions, no mulligans.

Every time we have been jealous or envious,

Every time we’ve gossiped, sharing rumors or even the truth with the intent of hurting someone’s reputation.

Every time we steal, or take advantage of someone, not giving them what the items is worth.

Shall I go on, and expand on adultery or murder in thought word and deed, or how we disrespect our parents or those in authority?  How we don’t treasure the time God would have us rest and relax and heal in His peace or do I need to mention our disobedience as we fail to pray, calling on His name as He urges us to do?

Every sin, every violation of the law committed or by failing to act in love, every moment lived in disobedience, punished.

Do we hear that?

I am not sure we do.

Jesus tasted death for everyone

What I think we hear is,

For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience will be punished.

and what is actually written is

For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished.

 there is a big difference between will be and was.

And that is the truth, the gospel that we can’t neglect.

It is said in a different way toward the end of the passage,

and because he suffered death for us, he is now “crowned with glory and honor.” Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone.

Past tense, suffered, past tense, tasted, past tense, was punished.

We need to hear this, we need to celebrate it, we need to understand and cling to the hope tightly that Jesus paid for every violation of the law, every act of disobedience, and therefore we are free from the guilt, the shame, the eternal consequences of our sin.  Because Jesus suffered death for us, because he tasted death, fully embraced it for everyone.

That changes everything.

We realize it, our lives should resound with praise, with gratitude, with living life in an incredible way…

Not ashamed is He!

And then this of this…

11 So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters.

You and I, all those who trust in Him, or will come to trust in Him.  Who live life, trusting in Him, depending on Him for this work He does, making us Holy.  He sets us apart for a life with God, a life where we relate to Him as His children, where we are Christ’s brothers and sisters.

This changes everything, far more than finding a quarter of a million-dollar sports car under some tarps.

This is life. so don’t neglect, it, rather explore the love of God who does this for us, bringing us into our salvation, this amazing wonderful life, free from guilt a shame, a life that will last enterally, with our incredible Father.

AMEN!

Your Life Has a Different Meaning…

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought for the Day:

8 Dear friends, don’t let this one thing escape you: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.  9 The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. 
10 But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness 12 as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God. The heavens will be on fire and be dissolved because of it, and the elements will melt with the heat. 13 But based on His promise, we wait for the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.
14 Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found at peace with Him without spot or blemish. 15 Also, regard the patience of our Lord as an opportunity for salvation, just as our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him.     2 Peter 3:8-14  HSCB

187         Listen to me carefully and echo my words: Christianity is Love; getting to know God is a most positive experience; concern for others—the apostolate—is not an extra luxury, the task of a few. Now that you know this, fill yourself with joy, because your life has acquired a completely different meaning; and act in consequence.

Patience is one of those things we don’t like to talk about.  Simply put, it is something that is beyond us.  Our culture thrives on impatience.  Cell Phones (remember having to wait to get home to call someone?), DVR’s (so we can fast forward past the stuff we don’t like), microwaves and now insta-pots all serve our desire not to wait.  We might try to justify it as “not wasting time” but in reality, it is our god of impatience that we continually try to find ways to serve.

Into this comes a passage about God’s patience, and the fact that He is patient with us, His people.  He doesn’t want anyone to perish, to be destroyed on the day to come.

Be sure, all will be destroyed, this He has promised.

Judgment will happen, this too is promised.  Some to be judged as lacking trust in God’s mercy, and therefore, trusting in themselves they stand condemned. And some, trusting in Christ’ intercession, in His death which erases our sin, and in His resurrection, which brings us to life, they will be judged righteous and welcomed into heaven.

So if God is patient with His church, and yet, will fulfill His word, we find the meaning of life as we imitate His.  We, the church, need to be both patient and yet focused on drawing people to Jesus.  For the day is coming.

It is hard to see the truth of the second coming without wanting to badger people, to not just draw them into Christianity, but to drive them into it, like a rancher driving his cattle.  It takes the patience of a shepherd, who uses his voice and staff guides his flock and leads it into the presence of God.  Or a parent guiding a child to learn to walk, and then ensures where they walk is safe.

This work requires love and thereby provides the new meaning in our lives.

To love those caught in sin, those in bondage to grief and shame, who are caught in selfishness and greed.  This is the meaning of our lives, to love God, to love those whose lives are broken, and help them find the healing that is in Jesus, even while we heal ourselves.

God is with you.. never forget it, and help others know it.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 997-1000). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

God doesn’t throw tea parties…**

grayscale woman photography

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

For you have not come to what could be touched, to a blazing fire, to darkness, gloom, and storm, 19 to the blast of a trumpet, and the sound of words. (Those who heard it begged that not another word be spoken to them, 20 for they could not bear what was commanded: And if even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned! 21 The appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am terrified and trembling.) 22 Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels in festive gathering, 23 to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to God who is the Judge of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, 24 to Jesus (mediator of a new covenant), and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel. Heb. 12:18-24

I have a dear friend, who owns an antique shop*, which specializes in China and glassware and all the fancy stuff.  When I drop in to visit her lovely shop, I tend to get a bit… anxious.

You see, at 6’2, 300+ pounds and with the grace that could only be compared to a drunk giraffe on ice skates, I am paranoid that I will trip and fall and set off her entire shoop like one of those domino exhibits.

Why am I telling you this?  I think we occasionally get the idea that God is fragile, that His holiness somehow makes Him brittle.  Or perhaps it is His patience with us that is brittle.

Either way, we become stand-offish,  trying to find the one safe place that is safe to stand, out of the way, out of the danger, unable to cause a major spiritual catastrophe.  We aren’t to stand and gaze on HIs beauty from afar, afraid to touch, afraid to approach, afraid to get personal with God. Worried that we will screw up something, or do something that will His anger, that we will deserve His wrath and punishment for breaking things, including our own lives.

That isn’t the God we have been drawn to, as the author of Hebrews tells us.

Holiness isn’t some kind of proper, reserved, dainty, perfect mannered attitude suitable for tea parties.  (though Jesus does care for those who go to such events!**)  It is an incredibly emotional overwhelming experience of relief or peace of love.  It is like the time when our Soldiers first returned after the post-9-11 invasion of Iraq, as people lined the road out to the Marine Corps base for nearly 20 miles, celebrating the return of their loved ones.

Except holiness is not seen in celebrating the return of heroes coming home, but prodigals, sinners.  Or holiness celebrates our being made holy, our being cleansed and set apart for this incredible relationship we have with God.  We are reunited with the God who offered Thomas the chance to put his hand in His lance-pierced side, to know Jesus was with Him.  We walk with the God who is willing to transform our heart and mind and share with s His in the process.

This is our God, a God who makes contact with us, who just doesn’t sit on a shelf, or look down on us from heaven.  He is a God who shows us How much He loves us… by coming and dwelling among us, carefully restoring that which we’ve broken…because…

He loves us!

Relax, and soak in that love, and as you see people afraid of God, share with them the God who knows you!  AMEN!

 

*If you are in Orange, Ca, you can visit my friend’s show at A&P collectibles in the Orange Circle   🙂

**  the ladies of our church have an incredible ladies advent tea each year… and I am sure Jesus is present at it… 🙂

Is Optimism always Positive?

woman wearing black shirt

Photo by MIXU on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

35  Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36  (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38  And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 (NLT2)

In the Christian catalogue of virtues, despair—that is, the radical opposite of faith and hope—is listed as a sin against the Holy Spirit, because it fails to take into account his power to heal and to forgive and thus rejects redemption. Correspondingly, in the new religion, “pessimism” is the sin of all sins, for doubt with regard to optimism, progress, and utopia is a frontal attack on the spirit of the current age: a contesting of its fundamental credo, on which its certainty rests, although it is, nonetheless, constantly threatened in view of the weakness of talk about a “make-believe” God………….
It was once again evident that there is no greater sin against the spirit of the age than to put oneself in a position where one can be accused of a lack of optimism. The question was certainly not: “Is what has been said true or not true? Are the diagnoses right or wrong?” I have been able to find no evidence that anyone took the trouble to investigate such outmoded questions. The criterion was very simple: “Is it or is it not optimistic?” And given this criterion, the book was, of course, condemned.

When I was growing up, there was a book my parents had me read called, “The Power of Positive Thinking.”  It took a lot of criticism, as did Pastor Robert Schuler,  who preached a message of positivity and wrote books which talked about how faith helped people go from trauma to healing.

They received a lot of criticism, and while I am not sure they deserved it, some took their thoughts and words and turned it into a narcissistic, “I will be blessed” religion.

We’ve gone a lot further than that today.  Now as Benedict indicated in the quote above, anything that is not optimistic is considered negative, and even evil.  An example is bringing to light the problems in our city where young men are besieged by violence, some of which is gang-related, and some of which is an overreaction by authorities in fear of being victims themselves.  

We don’t want to hear about that, it is such a negative thing to talk about.

Or the situations of kids “in the system” who bounce from house to house, unable to ever relax in a home.  There are other injustices out there, elder abuse, child abuse, the damage done by drugs to individuals and their families, 

But let’s not mention these problems, because if we do, the idea of America being utopia could be called into question.

Blind optimism is one of the worst curses today, it is the enemy of faith. It denies reality, and therefore it denies our need for God to be involved in our lives!   Jesus said the well do not need a doctor, and yet we optimistically go around saying all is well.

Paul talks in Romans 8 that all things work for good, and that nothing can separate us from God.  These statements are certainly true, yet they are an inventory of the challenges we will face.  True faith and the positive thinking approach cannot exist without hardship, without facing the reality of our brokenness, and then, depending on God, be assured that He will not let go of us.

God is here with you, comforting you, healing you, renewing you.  

The challenge is in realizing you need Him, and that takes an openness to the truth of wh you are…without him.  Not an overly optimistic one, (or overly pessimistic one… but one that rejoices sin that we were once, lost, but now found, once blind, but now we see…HIM!

May God’s peace, which goes so far beyond our comprehension, guard your hearts and mind… as you realize you dwell in Christ Jesus!  AMEN!

 

 

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. 293–294). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Why do Christians endure burnout?

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
Lk 21:36Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.”

Ro 12:12Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

Eph 6:18Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Col 4:2Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

1Th 5:17Never stop praying.

Lk 11:5-9Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, 6 ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ 7 And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ 8 But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. 9 “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

“To be with him”—this “with him” is needed not just for a certain initial period so that it can be drawn upon later. It must always be at the heart of the priestly ministry. But it has to be used, it has to be learned so that eventually it will have acquired a certain ease and we can take for granted that it will not fail us in times of trial. It is important that we do not cultivate prayer only when we find joy in it. Just as nothing important can be attained in this life without discipline and method, so, too, our inner life has need of both of these

The quote from Pope Ratzinger above comes out of a quote that starts with a serious question. Back when he was a bishop, he was trying to determine why those who enter the ministry with zealous, that many had high expectations of, why would these potential superstars in ministry collapse, burn out, losing the zeal, only to replace it with emptiness.

It is a good question for us, not just for those in “ministry”, but for all who are in the priesthood of all believers.

And I think the answer is the same.

it is the lack of prayer, the lack of fellowship time with God.

We have to get away from the idea that prayer is something we have to do, or that prayer time should be a time of great joy and being uplifted.  We have to realize that the times where prayer is a lament, the attempt to vent and leave God with all our burdens.  To pray with the tears running full, even to the point where our prayer ends in exhaustion and a release into sleep.

That is why Jesus and the apostles kept encouraging people to pray, to speak, to listen, to communicate with God. You see it over and over, through the psalms, throughout the New Testament, there are invitations to walk in the presence of God.  There are the invitations to give Him all of our burdens, to find peace in His presence, and to know we are safe there.

And if the lack of pray results in burnout and loneliness, then prayer, these times of fellowship with God, allow us to see how He sustains us. To know He is there, to know He is listening, to know we can enter into those hard times of prayer with ease, confident of His love. This is what we need, this is what keeps us going, even in the darkness.

This is our guard against burnout, against losing our zeal, against the feelings of emptiness and loneliness in the storm.

Prayer helps you to know this… God is with you!

So keep praying my friends!

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 291). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Faith in Action: A sermon on James 2

church at communion 2Faith in Action
James 2:1-10, 14-18


In Jesus Name

May the Grace, that mercy and love that God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to respond, depending on them in everything you do!

Faith isn’t invisible

In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author makes a radical claim,

1  The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. 2  The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. Hebrews 11:1-2 (MSG)

The fundamental fact of existence is found in our relationship with God.

We trust in Him, know and depending on His faithfulness that we just praised will never be broken, that it will never fail. So we trust in Him, in His promises, in His presence in .with us.

That faith makes life worth living, As one pastor I read in my devotions yesterday.

And that faith, my dear friends, is seen in how we live.  It is visible, even in the midst our struggles, in the midst of challenges, in the midst of our pains, our faith, our trust in Him, and in His presence becomes clearly visible,

it is how we exist, it is what we do…in everyday life,

Our faith takes action, it underwrites what we do, and how we do it.

So it becomes so much part of who we are and what we do, that people realize it.

so let us look at how Faith in Action means something.

Believe in Something, even if it means sacrificing everything

Nike started an ad campaign this week.  Some think it is controversial because of the people in it, especially the narrator.  Yet the slogan, I think is one we need to re-teach In the church,

This is their new slogan,

Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,

I would phrase it slightly differently, but I really love the idea.

Have faith in Someone, for nothing else is worth it.  And act on that faith.

The example James uses in our epistle today is helping the poor or treating them as nicely as you would treat the famous or the wealthy person. Even if it means sacrificing, giving up what you need to help them.
That’s contrary to the nature this world has, to put number one first, to take care of yourself, That is where sin blocks our ability to trust in God, for if we trust in God, we can help anyone, we can sacrifice what is needed to help

In the ad, the narrator noted the problem isn’t that our dreams are desires are crazy, He said our problem is that our dreams aren’t crazy enough.

I’ve got some dreams for you, tell me if they are crazy:

How crazy is it that a broken church could realize that its strength is found in its brokenness, for there it encounters Jesus.

How crazy is it that a group of people praying that God’s kingdom would come in this world then would find itself making the stoles for pastors in a far off place, and building a bakery there, which underwrites all the cost of training pastors. knowing that God is faithful.

How crazy is it that a small church would help people in Sudan, and Turkey, and Papua New Guinea, and in Long Beach and Pico Rivera, and who knows where else next?

How crazy is it that a group of older people, who meet together, make sacrifices so kids can learn about God, then get to see a five-year-old that is so excited to get baptized in front of them he dunks his head in the baptismal font?

How crazy is it that an older smaller church that has become home to young gifted people who are encouraged (and feel safe enough) to share their gifts and grow in use of them?  A church that would be called “my church” by someone who mentors them, and our of all the churches he serves, finds himself home there

How crazy is it that a church, which has seen God at work, grows two and three times its size, not because they are focused on growth, but because they care for other people whom they encounter, who are poor in spirit, and desperately need to know the love of God.

O wait, you are thinking that the last one is crazy?  Well, if I described the other crazy dreams ten years ago, you would have thought them more than just crazy.

But these things aren’t crazy… they are simply what happens when we see Faith in Action.

Have faith in Him who sacrificed everything, our glorious Lord

When we trust and depend on God whose faithfulness is so great!.

These things and far more happen, things that are crazy, things that add to the praises we sing and speak of the God who is with us.

For ultimately, it is His faithfulness that matters, His belief in a dream that He was willing to sacrifice everything, His place in heaven, His comfort in this life, even His life that makes the difference,

Jesus died on the cross because He believed He could save us from our sin, and bring us home to the Father.  That our lives were worth His life, no matter how messed up, no matter how broken, no matter how much guilt and shame we bear.

It is Jesus we have faith in, not just His promises, not just His word, not just in the sacraments, but in the One whose love for us is we need to explore, its incredible width and breadth, height and depth!

A love that changes us, as we begin to trust in Him because of that love. As that trust, that faith leads us to walk with Him, not matter where He leads, no matter what we endure, a faith that acts, which makes itself visible, as it draws people to His side.

For there, in Christ, we find God’s peace… a peace that, like His love is beyond all understanding, as He is our rock, our cornerstone, our safety… AMEN!

Confession of a Burnt Out Minister of God

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the day:

14 May the day I was born be cursed. May the day my mother bore me never be blessed. 15 May the man be cursed who brought the news to my father, saying, “A male child is born to you,” bringing him great joy. 16 Let that man be like the cities the LORD demolished without compassion. Let him hear an outcry in the morning and a war cry at noontime 17 because he didn’t kill me in the womb so that my mother might have been my grave, her womb eternally pregnant. 18 Why did I come out of the womb to see only struggle and sorrow, to end my life in shame?  Jeremiah 20:14-18  HCSB

14. In the world of today, when people are so burdened with duties and their problems, which oftentimes have to be solved with great haste, range through so many fields, there is considerable danger of dissipating their energy. Priests, too, involved and constrained by so many obligations of their office, certainly have reason to wonder how they can coordinate and balance their interior life with feverish outward activity. Neither the mere external performance of the works of the ministry, nor the exclusive engagement in pious devotion, although very helpful, can bring about this necessary coordination. Priests can arrive at this only by following the example of Christ our Lord in their ministry. His food was to follow the will of him who had sent him to accomplish his work.

I always worry when in my devotions I read passages like those above.

No, this confession isn’t mine, it is Jeremiah’s.

But it could be, as it could be the confession of so many pastors and priests and others who work in the church.  It doesn’t matter whether they are volunteers, or whether this is a paid vocation.

Burnout is inevitable.

There are days serving the church where it seems we would be better off dead.  (And we even think maybe those we serve would be as well!)  There will be days where the demands of our duties and the problems they bring will overwhelm us.  Where we would rather lock ourselves in our offices, and simply write.  Or find some passing big fish and dive into it, ala Jonah!

And Vatican II points out that devotion alone isn’t the answer, it also notes that just going through the motions of ministry doesn’t solve the problem as well.  We can do the job, it can bless others, but it is just as empty as becoming a monastic and retreating from the world which needs us, simply because we know we need God.

We can minister more effectively, and help others, even in the midst of burnout and brokenness, when we accept that the weariness is sometimes necessary.  That God is with us, even there.  That the Holy Spirit, the great Comforter, the Lord of life will lift us up, and empower us, and work through our lives to call others to depend on the God who is there.

Max Kolbe, the Catholic priest who died in a concentration camp, probably knew this weariness more than any pastor in the USA today.  Imagine, working with the guards, who denied their actions were evil.  He served the Christians who were in despair, Fr. Max served and died for those who didn’t know Jesus as well.

How did he do such a thing?

Maximilian Kolbe was an individual deeply marked by Christ, wholly ordered to Christ. When he immersed himself anew in the witness of Holy Scripture, he was not searching for theories, not on a voyage into the past. It is impossible to live with a mummy—with a merely historical Jesus; nor can we live with mere words and programs—with a “thing”. But Kolbe lived from and for Jesus. He could do this because he heard in Scripture the voice of a living Person. He heard Jesus as a living Person because he experienced him as a living Person; he could touch him in the Blessed Sacrament in which he forms a Church and is present for us.

The only way to minister through the hardest times and despair in ministry is to hang on to what we’ve been entrusted with as ministers.  Not word and sacrament, but what they are conduits of, the experience of encountering Jesus in both word and sacrament.  Of knowing God loves you, because of that encounter, of knowing His care because it too is encountered in the sacraments.

As Paul writes to the church in Ephesus

14  When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled through all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT) 

Knowing about God’s love won’t sustain you in the darkness, it won’t keep you moving through the despair. It won’t help you see God at work in the midst of the pain.  But knowing you are known, finding hope in the fact you are loved, being refreshed through the grace and mercy poured out upon you.  Being filled through all your being with God Himself.

That is what we need, and that is what He provides… so relax, hear God!  Hear God! And find rest for your weary soul!  AMEN!

Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests: Presbyterorum Ordinis. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 281). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Denial’s effect on the world…

woman wearing black shirt

Photo by MIXU on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

14 They have treated My people’s brokenness superficially, claiming, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.  Jeremiah 6:14  HCSB

993    You reason well … coldly: how many motives for abandoning the task! And some of them are apparently conclusive. I see without any doubt that you have reasons—but you are not right.

For decades the Catholic church has ignored a crisis in their midsts, and now many are trying to avoid the blame that their denial of the issues has caused.  They are not the only ones, there are a few protestant mega-churches now learning the high cost of denial of the problems of sin and immorality

You see the high cost of denial as well, as churches that were once 10 or 15 times their present attendance are floundering, struggling not ot close. But for the decades in decline, denial was the passive strategy, or implementing programs that promised great success, but didn’t account for denial’s apathetic response.

I’ve seen it in personal relationships as well, from abusive relationships to neglect, from drug and alcohol addiction to work problems.  We deny our problems, we present that all is at peace, and the pain and trauma results in our heart and soul being destroyed. 

We have all the reasons to engage in denial, we can rationalize it out with the best of them.  We can claim we are powerless, we can claim we can’t do better, we can find theologians and pastors who will enable our denial.

But the denial is like covering up an infection without neutralizing it. It will rot, and build up pressure underneath the surface.  It will eventually have to be dealt with, but by the time it is, the results are even more damaging, the healing takes longer, significantly longer.

So how do we overcome the temptation to enter into denial? 

First, we have to recognize it. We have to realize we are running away and turning our back on the problem. 

Second, we have ot trust in God’s ability to sustain us, to make things work out for our best, even in the midst of the pain of dealing with the situation.  That trust grows as we pray, as we spend time in deep conversation, seeking God’s care, getting to be familiar with Him, and knowing His will.

What happens then is what Luther often mentioned, when he explains prayer, noting that God would see His will worked out whether we pray or not, but that we pray that we know it comes in our lives.

We pray so we remember He is here, so we are assured of His love, and His active care. Knowing His presence, the anxiety of dealing with the problem fades. W can take on the issue head on, we can deal with the problem.  We can even handle it with great tenderness, patience, and love.

And life finds healing, and revival, and hope. 

Lord Jesus, help us not hide our problems and the major issues in our lives, but run with them to you.   AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2307-2309). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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