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Faith in Action is in Dialogue (IV) A sermon on James 5:13-20

church at communion 2Faith in Action:  Is in Dialogue
James 5:13-20

† I.H.S. 

May the grace, mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ instill in you the confidence to be drawn to them and enter intimate dialogue with Them

People in trauma

The people that James was writing too sound like us.  Based on the words we read just this morning, we could ask if they are part of Concordia!  Hear how James describes them

verse 13 asks if they are suffering hardships
verse 14  ask if any are sick
verse 15 mentions people who have committed sin
verse 16 may be the hardest question of all, have some of us wandered away from Jesus.

Pretty sure you can find most of us on that list, in fact, some of us probably can answer more than one of those questions.

As we’ve said a few times around here, how do we get through this life, without knowing Jesus?

This life is broken, we see it enough in our homes, in our workplaces, in our families, even in our churches.  But it isn’t a new thing, James wrote about these problems to people nearly 2000 years ago.

Even with all the differences, the problems are still the same, hardships, sickness, sin, and our struggle to go our own way.  And in asking how people go through this life without Christ, we begin to see how James addresses each of these ways we are broken with a simple, misunderstood four letter word.

Pray.

There is an answer

Prayer, Praise, Prayer, Pray for each other

Suffering hardship – pray!
Sick  call the elders (pastor and deacons too!) and have them pray
Sins?  Confess and pray for each other
Wanders from Jesus (the truth) bring him back from the wandering so he can communicate with God, with us.

Pray… Pray… Pray…

Sounds like one of Al’s emails or text messages to me. They often end that way… and for  reason.

We know prayer makes a difference. We know when that prayer isn’t what you do when there is nothing else to do.

It is what you do first, and always.

Not because prayer adds up like tickets you get playing skeeball at an arcade, or frequent flier points.

That’s not the way prayer works or the reason to pray.  It’s not about what we do to impress God, it is an act of faith, it is the way we depend on God.

But what is prayer – Elijah’s example.

James gives us as an example of prayer, in the situation with Elijah and the weather.  That prayer was not simple monologues, they are conversations. As you follow the story throughout 1 Kings 17 and 18, you see Elijah moving by God’s direction, enabled to do what he did because God was there, with Him, even as the Lord is with you! (and also with you?)

You see that in these chapters where Elijah is ministering to Israel, and to a the widow in what is now Lebanon, as he confronts sin and evil, as he deals with brokenness, and sickness and even death. As he is on top of the world, and as he feels like he’s the last man standing and isn’t sure how much more he can stand.

In other words, he is a man like us!  And yet. Because he walked and talked with God, this was said of him,

24  “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the LORD truly speaks through you.” 1 Kings 17:24 (NLT2)

God speaks through those who hear Him, who talk with Him, and that is what prayer is.
A conversation with God, depending on His presence, and on His love, shown in the mercy He has on us.

And then we see the greatest work that depending on God, talking to Him, hearing Him brings about.

19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.

Here is where prayer is so necessary, to see those who come back from wandering away from God, sometimes even running away from God, come back.

To see them saved from death and hell, to see them freed form sin and the guilt and shame that can so haunt those caught in its grasp. That only happens when our faith is active, and that faith requires us to be in conversation with God.

We have to depend on God, for otherwise there is no way we can have the patience, the determination to have patience, the ability to withstand the rejection, and still leave the door open for them to come in, look around, put their toe in the water…ask a question or three.. even be critical.

Trusting in God, communicating with Him, knowing His heart for us and all prodigals like us, we can take the time to see people return to God, even if we have to help carry them.

This is the power of prayer, this is what knowing that the Lord is with you causes to happen in real life.  That is a major part of who we are. As one pastor wrote,

Finally, the suffering person is entrusted to an innkeeper, so that he might continue to care for him, sparing no expense. Now, who is this innkeeper? It is the Church, the Christian community—it is us—to whom each day the Lord entrusts those who are afflicted in body and spirit, so that we might lavish all of his mercy and salvation upon them without measure.
[1]

So let us pray, and as we dwell in Christ’s peace, the peace that passes all understanding.  AMEN!

[1] Francis. (2016). Wednesday, 26 February 2014. In Audiences of Pope Francis, 2013–2015 (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Shadows Cast on the Manger

Shadows Cast on the Manger
Isaiah 9:2-7

 

IHS

May you know the awe of the shepherds as you realize your salvation is near!

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On us a light has shined…

I am trying to imagine what it must have been like, during the dark hours when the angels appeared.  When Isaiah’s prophecy we heard tonight, a moment that would change the world, and change us.

Isaiah tells us the in our greatest darkness a light has shined, and for the shepherds, there at the stable, the glory was unbelievable, a moment that would never be forgotten.  The time was now, Christ was here.

As they rush to Bethlehem, as they look into the stable, were the shadows cast over the Baby there in the manger?  As the stars shone done upon the very glory of God, was there enough starlight to see the glory they had been told about?

As I stand here, as you will come up to this place, and stand before this altar, what shadows will be cast, and will they obscure the glory of God with us?  For each of us this night cast a shadow, but will we find ourselves free of them, as Christ is revealed? Till we realize the only shadow that would remain, and that now… it too has gone.

The shadows cast…until we kneel in adoration
The shadows I am talking about, symbolize those things in our lives that can turn these days into something less than a joyous party.  Maybe it is that we are missing someone.  Maybe it is the stress over relationships that are broken, anxieties over health, or finances, or just our own sin.  Or maybe, it’s that I am so busy trying to get all the ministry done, that I forget to be amazed at the love of God, that is revealed to us!

Shadows darken the room, they threaten cause us fear, they would cause us to not see the babe in the manger, or understand that this great light that has come, has come to be an end to the shadows, and end to the darkness.

The challenge is seeing past the shadows, seeing the brilliant glory of this child, this baby laying in a manger. It looks so peaceful and serene, the shadows so ominous, so threatening.

We need to see Jesus more clearly, we need to understand that He is here for us.

We need to understand this scene is about God coming into our world, into our darkness, invading it.  That this babe we sing about in Mary’s lap, and artist would eventually render like this.  (slide of crucified Jesus.)
I am not sure she ever held him like that, but the picture is clear… there is one shadow over him, that would not be taken away.  The shadow of the cross.

But that shadow is glorious – for it leads to the resurrection and reveals a glory of God that is only hinted about here.  The salvation promised by the angels, the salvation that God had planned for, even before Adam and Eve had to leave the garden, and creation fell.

The One shadow remains…

Often we see the pictures of the manger with Mary and Joseph, with an Angel above the roof juncture of the barn, of the shepherds, and the kings moving to bow before Christ, to worship Him, to adore Him.

They are falling to their knees, and the shadows they cast are no longer long, the shadows no longer cover His face.  They know the moment is special, just as when we kneel here, before His altar, before His Throne, but struggle with what it means that Jesus the Christ is here… with us…

Until we remember that the Babe in the manger is the Lord who gives us His body and blood, broken and shed for our sakes. Broken and shed because as we realize that love, His glory shines, not just from heaven, but into our lives, into our hearts.

For there, as we dwell in His presence, the shadows cease.. the cross becomes not a shadow, but a glorious message of love –  a love that overcomes the darkness….

For unto us a child is born…unto us He is given,

and unto a light – His glory is shining…

So come and kneel, not because of the porcelain baby, but because here, you will know the depth of His love, as your shadows are loosened and left behind, as you are fill with His mercy and peace, as we are reminded why Christmas is here.. to prove to us that the Lord is with you – and that He loves you!

The Beauty of Faith, the Beauty of Christ

Corcovado jesus

Corcovado jesus (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:

“There are some who pass through life as through a tunnel, without ever understanding the splendour, the security and the warmth of the sun of Faith” (1)

As I read this little quote this morning, my mind goes back to the study I did yesterday, for Sunday’s sermon on the gospel reading which is found in St. John 5:1-18.   It is the story of the invalid man -whom Jesus heals, after Jesus asks him, “do you want to be made whole?”  An incredible story!

What struck me while I did my research was the comments and references to the passages throughout church history. Early on, the church Father’s talked about how this story represents Christ coming to us, and even before the man is ready to face the change of a new life, Christ gives him that new life.  It is a picture of the miracle down to each of us in our baptism.

Then I moved into the reformation, and the enlightenment. The use of the passage changed, now it became a source for “doctrine”- especially regarding the divinity and humanity of Jesus.  ( Albeit I have less “sermons” and letters to churches from that era).   There are a couple of exceptions- such as Newman. But for the most part, in order to focus on the deep theology, they overlook the incarnation of Christ into this man’s life.  They miss His passion, and the healing- which is a type of the very healing Christ does in each of our lives.   We can miss Christ coming to us, we can miss His presence, His healing, and the peace and security Jesus brings us, who dwell in pain.

I think that is what St. Josemaria is getting to, in this little quote.  Do we see Jesus – do we see the beauty of His love, and the beauty of the relationship that He builds with us, as we learn that we can trust Him, and how much we can trust Him.  Or do we see the minutae –  the stuff about Christ, the things that are beyond our comprehension – not because we are so small, but compared to knowing Him, they are!  I can’t think of any of the unknown things of Christianity, the stuff that academic theologians often get distracted by, that is more glorious, more profound, than what has been revealed to us, in Christ.

And that’s the point.

So for today, think, meditate, and be still and know – all the thoughts, the meditations, the knowledge focused on knowing the Lord Jesus, who has come into your life to make you whole…..

 

 

 

(1) Escriva, Josemaria

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