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The Devout Life: Taking Hell and Heaven Seriously

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought of the Day:
41  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42  And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand! 
 Matthew 13:41-43 (NLT)

1. O hell, I detest thee now and for evermore; I detest thy torments and pains; I detest thy miserable and accursed eternity; and, above all, I detest those eternal blasphemies and maledictions which thou dost vomit forth eternally against my God. And, turning my heart and soul to thee, O beautiful Paradise, everlasting glory and endless felicity, I choose my habitation, forever and irrevocably, within thy fair and sacred mansions, within thy holy and most lovely tabernacles. I bless thy mercy, O my God, and accept the offer which it pleaseth Thee to make me of it. O Jesus, my Saviour, I accept thy everlasting love, and I acknowledge that it is Thou who hast acquired for me a right to a place in this blessed Jerusalem, not so much for any other thing as to love and bless Thee for ever.

One of the devotional books I am using this year is De Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life.  Over the last year, my sermon research has regularly included quotes from this 19th century priest, so I thought I would add it to my list, along with a deep theological text by Martin Chemnitz.

Early on, it has used the hell a significant number of times as part of the devotions; something I was surprised to see.  Partially because I am not a “hell, fire and brimstone” type preacher/evangelist, trying to keep God’s Law and the Gospel in tension.  Or to use a covenantal approach, making sure people understand both the curses and promises that exist in our covenant, our “contract” with God.

But as I think about our devotion to God, the reason we are drawn to Him, the reason we adore Him, it makes sense that we take both heaven and hell seriously.

Knowing what He has delivered us from creates some of the devotion, it gives us a reason to adore Him.  Over 25 years ago, I had a cardiac arrest.  I can still remember who it was who did CPR till the doctors got there.  I remember who was in my ICU room  (even though I was sedated) Those moments of coming back to life are indeed precious to me. Those people I will always feel a special way towards.

SO much more so when we meditate on the hell we deserve because we choose disobedience, rebellion and sin rather that walking with God.  As believers to look back and know what we deserve, yet His love changes all that!  As we consider what we deserve yet are rescued from, our devotion, our adoration,, our hunger to worship Jesus grows.

As we adore Him, let us look to our future as well, and to what God does in our lives at this moment. For the heaven that we can know only in part is glimpsed in this life, ever so briefly.

Otherwise, heaven is too great a concept for our minds, our hearts, and souls to contemplate.  But in the eyes of a sinner, freed as they realize the mercy and love of God, the comfort that settles on one who mourns, the relief as a beloved prodigal walks back into the life of a church they left behind.

These are glimpses of heaven….just as when we see someone claimed by God in their baptism, or we eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus.

As we consider the reality of both heaven and hell; as we realize the enormous difference between them, our hearts will cry out, glorifying the Lord who delivered us from Hell and into Heaven.

This we need, we so need….. and it changes everything….

As our cry of Hosanna (Lord Save Us!) and Kyrie Eleison are proven answered!


Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

We Cry our Hosanna (save us!) Because our World is Upside Down!

We Cry Out, Hosanna

Featured imageBecause Our World Is Upside Down!
Zechariah 9:9-12

IHS

As we adjust from living in a world that is upside down, may the grace of God turn our world right side up, and help us be at peace with the change!

Discomfort and the Poseidon Adventure
Vicar Mark made a comment in Bible Study the other night that made so much sense.  Talking about Palm Sunday, (aka the Sunday of the Passion) he compared it to an old movie, the Poseidon Adventure.

He indicated that Palm Sunday is like the few hours after the people on the upside down ship were rescued.  When they were still so disoriented because what had been upside down, was now right side up. Where what had sadly become normal, was not normal any longer.

It is like trying to adjust to the sermon being the very first thing in the service.

It’s odd, and we aren’t comfortable with it.

Yet when God comes into our lives, it is to put everything back the way it should be.

We have to get used to it as well! Even as we have to get used the paradox of this being both Palm Sunday, and the first day of Holy Week; also known as Sunday of Christ’s passion.

The world shifts back to normal, but will we recognize it?  Will we adjust to God making everything right?

Our Discomfort with the Meek Ruler

When in a few minutes, you hear the words of Zechariah read, I want you to think through the words, 

Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.

That was why the people of Jerusalem were so happy, this was the King, their King that was entering Jerusalem, the one to whom they cried out Hosanna. By the way, that isn’t just a cry of victory, it is a cry asking for it, a cry of despair, a cry for Jesus to go out and win.

Even as they recognized and cried out to Jesus, knowing this, they didn’t see what the salvation they cried for entailed.

For instance, instead of coming on the White Warhorse, proud and ready to lead, he comes on donkey’s foal – a young ass barely able to carry him.

That’s not what we want as our leader, we want someone strong, ready to take on everything, ready to go to war, ready to conquer everything.  The kind of King we can follow in triumph.

But that Is upside down thinking.  If our God is God and nothing can stand against Him, then Jesus doesn’t have to come decked out for war, He can come humbly and peacefully.  He can come in a way that is relaxed, in a way everyone can reach out to Him.

That is how it would be, if sin didn’t rule over people.  Jesus knew why He came, and the kind of kingdom He would establish.  Confident of the Father’s love, and their plan to set everything right side up, He comes with that in mind.

Our discomfort with the Peace He Brings!

We see the same disorientation, when you start to think about the peace this prophecy about Jesus’ promises.  Usually we think of creating peace by disarming the enemy, making them submit to us.

Look at the verse again.. and hear this when it is read later,

10  I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations.

The prophecy wasn’t about God disarming the world, it was about God disarming Israel!   That doesn’t sound quite right! It sounds quite upside down in fact!  At least from the perspective of living in a broken, sinful world, we want a country well armed!  After all, isn’t It the world against us?  Shouldn’t we make it submit to us?

As God moves to set make everything right, Jesus shows us the greatest victory through dropping the defenses, and loving and serving those who would be our enemy.  His example isn’t from forcing them to obey, but by giving us the confidence to obey.

A confidence that realizes that we don’t have to be offensive in dealing with our enemies, for Jesus will provide them a level of peace, even as His kingdom spreads throughout the world.

As Israel, under the watchful eye of the Roman military as well as the religious authorities calls out for Jesus to save them, Zechariah’s prophecy should point them to the paradox of the cross, where Jesus brings the Father glory, where He wins us the victory, by disarming himself.

They never saw it coming.  They couldn’t see it right, for their world was upside down.  The question is will we see it here.. And now?

Or has sin disoriented us too much?

He is our answer, our place of Safety.

Zechariah saw it coming.  Perhaps it is a better to say the Holy Spirit inspired His perception, and led Zechariah to write this prophecy.

Here some more of it,

11Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death in a waterless dungeon. 12  Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope!

Even as the Vicar and an Elder process this morning, you will note that the procession moves towards the altar, toward the place where you will be given Christ’s body and blood this morning, the place where you cry of Hosanna – God save us! Is answered.

Before a cross, remembering that it was at the cross where the blood of the covenant was poured out, even as the wine and blood will be poured out this morning.

Everything turned upside down. A Kingdom won by surrender, peace gained by allowing violence, leadership found in humility, Life created in death, freedom found in submission. Saints found as sinners are revealed to be in Christ.

A life lived in safety and security, for eternity.

Because of God’s passion, because of the peace He came to bring, riding on a donkey.

So we celebrate that Christ, the one who flips everything, making it right, making life the way it was supposed to be.  We celebrate Jesus, who sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, to give us the strength to deal with the disorientation is revealed to be something need to know – the peace that passes all understanding.

AMEN!

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