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The Only Right That Matters

The Only Right that Really Matters

John 1:1-14

†  I.H.S.

 I pray for you my friends that you would grow to realize even deeper this truth.  Because Jesus was born, lived, died and rose from the dead, you are the children of God!

It seems we are always talking about our rights.  In the Constitution, it talks about inalienable rights, and its first ten amendments were the Bill of rights.  People talk about human rights; there have been numerous civil rights movements.  We talk about water rights, mineral rights, the right to assemble, the right to education, the right to medical care, the right to arm bears, o wait, bear arms.  Theologians and philosophers talk about the right to basic human dignity. Heck, I even remember one old rock song from 30 years ago that encouraged us to fight for the right…to party!  (yeah 30 years ago!)

But what if all but one right were taken away.

What if every right people claimed and demanded were stripped of them, but they could choose one….

I would hope we take the one that we heard a moment ago in the gospel.

It is the only right that really matters.

And to receive it, to trust that we have that right, means that all other rights are diminished, that all other rights are revealed to be something less.  They become like idols of wood or stone; that lose their luster and their importance.

Rights, or Self-idolatry?

While I am one who often speaks about making sure others are treated well, I think that we often make what we demand the right to, into an idol, a God that serves us.  We can’t think of life without that “right”, and we will fight to protect that right.

I’ve even heard of some people who indicate they will fight for that right, even to the point of death.
I am not talking about trying to serve others, and ensure they have what most would consider basic things in their life. I am talking about when those things or things not so basic or necessary become idols, where we think life must have them, or it isn’t really living.

It is then we have taken something good and turned it into something bad.  It is like the Israelites, taking Gideon’s armor and worshipping it, rather than the God who directed Gideon.  Or the staff with the snake, that God had Moses fashion, to heal people of the snake bites they received when they were unfaithful.  We do it to, when we take the things that remind us of Jesus, from buildings to people, from crosses to music, and say that’s what matters.

Or even when we take a day like Christmas, and make it more about the presents and food than about the Lord, who came to us.

The Lord, who laid aside his rights as God, to come and live among us, to serve, even to the point of death, and that death on a cross.

The Right

So what right do we cling to? What right is the one that makes the difference in our lives?

This one…

12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

You have been given the right to be a child of God.  His son, His daughter. The child whom He loves.

So has everyone else on the planet.  Everyone in history,

This is why we are here.

It is not just for the brunch; it is not because of the music, or my eloquence. It’s not because of tradition, or because someone forced you to wake up and be here.  (although they might have!)

It is because God drew you here, to remind you of the right He gave you.

That He purchased for you by sending Jesus here, to be born and laid in a feeding trough, to wander around as an itinerant prophet without a home, to be mocked and brutally beaten and hung on a tree to bear every curse your sin earned.

So you would have the right to be a child of God.

To share in His love, His mercy, His glory, His peace……

AMEN.

Hang on to God, not gods, a sermon on Mark 10:23-31

The Companions of the Cross

Hang on to GOD, not gods

Mark 10:23–31

May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ so leave you in awe, that no idol, no other desire would distract you from their love and mercy.  Amen!

Can’t get in!

I remember almost thirty years ago, standing at the desk at St joseph’s hospital in Orange.  A young man was standing outside the obstetrics ward, as his girlfriend had given birth to his son.  Big kid, some 13 pounds 8 ounces. He was frustrated, because it wasn’t visiting hours, he was there too early, and he wanted to see his son and his lady.

But there are rules, and at that hospital, back in those days, no one was allowed on a floor.

I remember the tiny little nun and the nurse, standing there, telling him there was no way they would let him in, never mind any of the other family standing around. He tried every argument, even suggesting a small bribe and then a bigger bribe.  Well, that didn’t make things much better,

No access.  No way.

I think the camel would have passed through the needle twice before he would get in past the nun and nurse prior to visiting hours.  .

No access.  No way.

Last week we saw the rich young man walk away because he owned too much property, and it was his idol, how he identified himself, and to give it all up to follow Jesus.

The rich man so wanted to find a way to get into heaven, and walked away realizing it would cost him more than he was willing to part with, it would cost him everything to walk with Jesus.

In today’s gospel, the story continues.  The apostles are amazed that the rich man can’t get into to heaven. They were astounded that Jesus compared the difficulty of taking a camel weighing 2000 pounds and forcing it through a sewing needle.

About the same likelihood of a young father getting to see his son in a Catholic hospital thirty years ago, a son born to a woman he was not married to…

Astounded and amazed – Powerless – really

It says twice in our gospel reading that the apostles were amazed and astounded by the fact the man couldn’t be among those blessed.  After all, the man they saw before Jesus had EVERYTHING they believed marked one as a blessed son of God.

He had property in the holy land, what God had promised to Israel, or so they thought.

He was able to keep the commandments and claim it before Jesus, something Jesus didn’t contest.  That didn’t mean he broke them, but that when he did, he offered the appropriate sacrifices to atone for them.

Mark even records that he was greatly loved by Jesus.  Either this was based on a comment or observation, but the proof was evident, so evident that the holy spirit recorded it in the scriptures.

With all of that, he wasn’t able to be given a free pass into the kingdom of God.

If anyone should have been, it should have been him.

Reminds me of paul’s words in Philippians

4  though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! 5  I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. 6  I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. Philippians 3:4-6 (NLT)

Sounds like the young rich young man, doesn’t it.

Matter of fact, some in the early church thought it might have been.  A man with all the right stuff, all the right credentials, and he couldn’t get into heaven on his own.

The barriers were still up, and the idols he clung too were too much.

Amazed he can’t, the disciples are dismayed.  They wonder who can be saved, they ask the same question, what will it ake.  And if the apostles and the rich man can’t impressed Jesus enough, how in the world do you and I have a chance.

I guarantee I am not able to measure up to someone like Paul, and sorry, there isn’t one of you who can either.

Let’s be serious, we have as many false gods we cling too, we have our idols, and the things that control us, our identities, our sins.

And if it is impossible for a man who was, by all accounts a saint, who desired to be in heaven, to see the fulfillment of all of God’s promises, then it is impossible for us as well.

What hope is there then Peter says, we’ve given it all up.. is there any hope/

Empowered

While Jesus says it is impossible for man, it is possible for God.

The man, impatient to see his son and lady, realized someone walked up behind him.  It was his younger brother, who had a name badge identifying himself as a chaplain at another hospital.  The nun and nurse greeted him warmly, noting the badge.

He asked if he could see his brother’s lady, and the nun graciously said she would immediately show the young chaplain into see her.  The chaplain asked if his brother would come, and was told, ‘yes, chaplain.’  The man went in and saw his newborn son and lady.

What power and money couldn’t do, having a connection to the right person could. As we said in Boston,  click  “ya gotta know somebody.”

It is as Jesus said, what is impossible for man, God is able to do.

Or as Paul the apostle wrote,

7  I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8  Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9  and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. Philippians 3:7-9 (NLT)

That is what heaven is about.  About having a relationship with the creator of the universe.  It is about knowing his grace, his mercy, and his love. That we become one with Him, that we know we are the kids that God has given birth to in our baptism.

Nothing is more valuable, nothing is even comparable to knowing the love of God, love so incredible that St. Paul talked of our exploring its height, its depth, its width and breadth.

It is worth abandoning all, as peter indicated that he and the other apostles had.

And then heard Jesus remark something incredible,

I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.

my brothers, sisters, we have been given each other, a gift from God as we’ve been born again.  We are going to have some struggles, but together, as His family, we will one day be home with our Father, and with our Lord and the Holy Spirit.

Until that day, we are His, and will dwell, guarded in peace, a peace that passes all understanding.

AMEN!

Why a Crucifix can be so incredibly important… not just during Holy Week

Devotional Thought of the Day:

23  So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. 1 Corinthians 1:23 (NLT)

20  My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21  I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. Galatians 2:20-21 (NLT)

70  You asked me if I had a cross to bear. And I answered, “Yes, we always have to bear the Cross.” But it is a glorious Cross, a divine seal, the authentic guarantee of our being children of God. That is why we always walk along happily with the Cross.

For some it is a piece of jewelry, or an art piece, and artifact.

For others, it is something they do not want to face, so they remove them from homes and sanctuaries.  They may say it’s divisive, or that they are afraid of it becoming and idol. Even a barren cross is seen as too close, and so they are removed, taken away, hid in a closet or irreverently thrown in a dumpster.

But there is something about a crucifix, about looking at a portrayal of a body wracked with pain, the crown of thorns, the nails through the wrists and ankles, the eyes that through the pain look out upon us.

The reason for the cross.

To make us the people of God,

This is what God the Father gave the son to endure, because He loves us……

This is what Jesus endured, hating its shame, but for the joy set before Him…. the joy of seeing us rise with Him.

This is what the Holy Spirit testifies to, the very power of the gospel that can save us all…..

Christ dying for us… and His crucifixion – the place where we died to sin…. the place where the promise comes home, we have risen with Him as well.

As i go through this life, as I see the effect of sin devastating marriages, crushing families, as I see the challenges of this broken world strike us with disease, as I see us choose, again and again, to tear down, to let resentment build, to seek after something that will quench our pain for the moment, whether it be sex or drugs or the latest television binge.  Escapes that mean little but a moment away.  We need something more substantial, something more enduring.

We need to remember when God came into our lives, dwelt among us, and the glory of God, displayed on a cross.  The love of God so incredible, so unbelievable, so needed. I need to stop and meditate on the wondrous love that would drive him there, to deliver us from all that assails us.  Crosses, crucifixes serve to call us to that point, to remember the love of God…. to remember His work – even now at work in us.

It is “the” game changer, that brings light to darkness, that dispells evil, that brings peace into chaos.

I don’t think we need less reminders… but perhaps far more.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 514-517). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Lord is With Us…removing our idols!

Realizing and Revealing…
The Lord is With Us

Removing our Idols

† IHS †

As you experience and know the grace, mercy and peace of living in God’s presence, may the idols you cling to, that weigh you down, simply fall aside..

 

Can you imagine the Sanctus, sang by people of every tribe, every language, every ethnicity, as they pour into the space around the throne of God?  As we seem Him in all of His glory?

As we hear the people of God, all in awe of our Father’s appearance and of His glory. Can we our voices added to theirs as we all sing Holy! Holy! Holy! with such awe that almost sucks the breath out of us, combined with a joy that goes beyond anything that we could ever imagine?

Our attention will be so focused on the Lord God Almighty, that I doubt we will notice the other parts of the scene, the 4 seraphim, the 24 elders, and though we will move and sing as one being – I think all of our attention will focus on the love of our lives, our Father…. The Son, the Holy Spirit….

Everything else, all the things of the world… will have ceased to exist, they won’t matter.

Including our idols,

including our idolatry.

The Idols fall away…

That is the lesson tonight! As we look at Gideon’s walk with God, we consider this Lenten journey – what it means. We realize how it changes our lives to accompany Christ on His walk to His cross.  As He bears the punishment we deserve, if only because of the number of times we have shattered the 1st “commandment”,

Because I am the Lord your God, who rescued you, you shall have no other gods… you will not make or worship idols.

Far too often, our lives resemble that of Israel.  Imagine – as people walk up to the front door of your house, there is a monument to your favorite idol, to the thing that you most often put in God’s place, the things or people or achievements that we spend most of our time either working for, or enjoying, or chasing after.

Rarely are we as simplistic as Gideon’s dad was, just placing our idol, or an altar to that idol in our front yard.  We may be more sophisticated in how we chase them, of how we pursue them, but they are idols none the less.  We may even be as blunt and transparent in how we chase after these things – at least in the view of others, or if we look at how we spend our money, our time, our thoughts, and who or what we turn to, as we deal with a crisis.
What is it that binds us, that ties us up, that stops us from being with God?

The thing about idols that I don’t think we understand – is that if you have an idol, you don’t own it – it owns you.  That’s the thing about gods, if they are a god, not only do we depend on them, we are entrusted to them – we become their property.  We find ourselves to connected to them to break the connection, to dependent on them for our success, our ability to deal with, usually by ignoring it, the aspects of life that cause us anxiety.  We become addicted to them, and knowing its wrong struggle to find a way to break free.

That is why we are like Gideon’s father, who finds himself, a child of God, one who could well remember God’s reign over Israel; the proud owner of a home with the community altar to Ba’al.   An altar to worship the god of fertility.  Are we, like Gideon’s father, willing to make a stand, only after they are removed?

How can we overcome our attraction – even our addiction to those idols we have?  That is the part of our quest for lent, to rid ourselves of the things which stop us from realizing and revealing that the Lord is with us!

The Secret to Ridding ourselves of Idols.

I began this devotional message talking about our being in the presence of God, as we dwell in His presence before His throne, for a reason.

The only way to break the power of something over us, is to have something more powerful grab ahold of our attention, of our focus, of our very lives.

Remember – those idols wouldn’t stand a chance of attracting your attention, when you dwell in the presence of Almighty God, as are gathered in His presence around the throne of God.  We joke about you can’t take it all with you, but the real truth is that you wouldn’t want to!

You would look pretty silly, in the presence of God, illuminated by and dwelling in his glory, to be lugging a bag full of false gods, or to be bowing before things you have made yourself, or that others made. It wouldn’t be just silly, it could be even considered pathetic, sad, something that would bring us to tears.  Even as we talked about on Sunday, as Paul would cry and wail as he had to share that some people chose to be enemies of Christ, and the cross where our lives were linked with His.

 

The cure for idolatry is simple – it’s to realize we live, we dwell in the presence of God.  TO remember that doesn’t just happen when we go home to be in the Father’s presence, but we now dwell, fully, in the presence of God – the Holy Spirit.

It is found as we gather together, in Christ’s presence, as we worship Him, as we hear that we are freed from our sins, and from all of the world’s unrighteousness and injustice.  As we pray, as we spend time in scripture – both devotional reading and studying it together, as we come to the altar, and celebrate the foretaste of our homecoming feast – the feast of the lamb. It is found, as we realize and reveal to others, the Lord is With Us!

There is no idol that stands in the presence of God!
Gideon, dwelling in the presence of God, hearing God’s desire, did what we are called to do, and did away the idols that bound the people of Israel.….

Free not just of idolatry, but of every sin… for we dwell in the presence of God…

For we dwell in His peace. AMEN?

 

Sacrificing what doesn’t matter to embrace what does

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:

Last night, as a couple of friends and I were talking about the gospel reading for this week, we struggled with the message that will develop out of it.

Because it challenges our idols, it challenges the things we cling onto for support.  And if we are to preach it clearly, we will have to destroy and idol or two.  This isn’t easy, and the reaction of the man in the story is what we, as those who are tasked with what is fancifully called “the proclamation of the gospel” fear.  The man came to Jesus, desiring eternal life, willing to bend his knee and honor Jesus, and at the end of the discussion this is what happens.

he was stunned at this demand, and he went away grieving,”

He went away, rather than accept the invitation to accompany Jesus, in reality to do exactly what was at the heart of the question  – to experience heaven, to be in the presence of God. For if he had given all that restrained him, all that bound him, this young man would have walked with God, just as Enoch did, just as Abraham and Moses and David… and Peter and James and John.  What he wanted was right before his eyes!  And he walked away, turning down what he wanted most.  And not only did he turn away, he left broken and stumbling and….grieving.

While he went his way, Jesus went away, for the joy set before Him. A joy that would lead him to the cross. For this young man, into whose heart he looked, and loved, and would die for, gladly.  He would endure the cross to break the power of sin, in this case, the sin of idolatry, and by breaking those bonds, the man would be able to do that which he most desired, to live in the presence of God.  He would be able to do, that which we cannot do.  Jesus would come to him the next time, and free him of that sin, and unite with him.

A good summary of the lesson for us would be this prayer….may we each pray it today, embracing the pain that being separated from our idols will bring, for the joy that was set before Jesus….that caused Him to give up everything that had to do with Himself, that He could share with us that glory and love.

“”Lord, grant me the grace to give up everything that has to do with myself. I should have no other concern than your Glory… in other words, your Love. Everything for Love!”  (1)

AMEN!

 

 

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1038-1040). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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