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Wait for it…..can you?

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The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God. May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

Devotional Thought of the Day:
2  The LORD gave me this answer: “Write down clearly on tablets what I reveal to you, so that it can be read at a glance. 3  Put it in writing, because it is not yet time for it to come true. But the time is coming quickly, and what I show you will come true. It may seem slow in coming, but wait for it; it will certainly take place, and it will not be delayed. 4  And this is the message: ‘Those who are evil will not survive, but those who are righteous will live because they are faithful to God.’Habakkuk 2:2-4 (TEV)

Impatience carries within itself a punishment: sterility.
The impatient, by wanting it all at once, is left with nothing. Their projects are like the seed that fell on rocky soil: they lack depth; they are mere words without consistency.

I remember the movie theatre in my hometown would change movings on Saturday, in time for the matinee.  Then it began that they would open on a new movie on Friday night, and now often, there is a midnight screening that you can go to, usually packed, so that you can be among the first to see the new movie.

We aren’t a very patient society at all, when we are willing to give up our health in order to say, “I was there” for a movie picture.  (Heck – now they will bring the popcorn barrel and half a gallon of caffeine to your seat so you won’t fall asleep in the powered recliner.

Is it any wonder that we are not patient in the church?  That we are so wanting the church to be what we envision the church to be that when there aren’t instant results we give up?  When this program or that staff member doesn’t accomplish the goals we set (did we even ask God what His vision for our congregation is?), we simply get rid of the program, find another place, a better fit for the staff member, rather than finding the patience we need.

But that impatience leads to fruitlessness, it leads to a weak church that doesn’t take time to see God at work, the kind of work that is sound, that is based in spiritual growth, that depends on learning to live in the presence of God.  That learns that true growth happens as we are left in awe of His love, as we adore Him, as we realize the change He is making in us, and the difference that change is from where we were.

Patience and its corollary, steadfast-faithfulness, doesn’t mean futility or stagnation.   It doesn’t mean doing nothing, but rather dwelling in Christ.  Not just going through the motions for religious reasons, but treasuring what we’ve been given for the way it reveals Jesus with us, and helps us experience the serenity that the Spirit brings us.  It means rejoicing as we realize what we’ve been given, what has been handed down to us.

This isn’t always easy, especially for one like me that thrives on change. (the only stable thing in my life is the presence of change, I get nervous without it)  Patience is not on my virtues, but neither is it for many of us.   Which is a good thing, as it drives us back to Christ, it reminds us that only in Him do we have hope, the promise that all will work out for good for those who love God.

God is with you, be at peace, and wait for it!

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. Print.

God Blesses

(Twice a year, the three congregations that use our facility combine for one incredible service.  People who were born in Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia as well North America God has gathered here…. The entire service is in both English and Mandardin and people are welcome to pray during the prayer times during the Creed and the Lord’s prayer in their own language.  Sometimes the songs alternate languages, sometimes the song is sun simultaneously in Mandarin and English.  I was very blessed to have an incredible translator work alongside me today, helping me deliver this sermon.  Cindy’s translation will be up later.
All praise to God, who brings us through all challenges, and unites us in worship. AMEN. 

God Blesses!

Matthew 5:1-12

In Jesus Name 

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ instill in us the trust to know that He has blessed us, and the patience to wait for that blessing to be revealed!

God Blesses….

The English Translation of our gospel reading this morning from the New Living Translation adds a small three-letter word that the older translations assumed we would read into the passage.

Yet it is critical we hear that word, it makes all the difference in the world.

The word is “God”.

For it is God who blesses.  It is His blessing, His favor, His healing, His touch on our lives. The word in Greek for blessing is one that is used only for divine, supernatural blessing.  Not just luck, or coincidence, but the touch of God’s hand in our life.

In this life many are crushed by sin, and the world’s pressures crush many of us as well.  The pressure might be financial pressure, or challenges with physical health, psychological health, it could be family issues or even anxiety over death. Pressures that Satan is trying to use to crush us and humble us….

God comes to us, even in those places… and God Blesses.

God Blesses us, (pause)  and God desires to bless all of those outside of this place… even blessing them through us.

It is God, who would bless us all, and that is what we are here to celebrate… AMEN?

Why can’t we always see it?

This is more challenging than it sounds though.  More challenging for a simple reason we see when we slowly read verses 4- 9 slowly. When we see what is common to all.
It says God blesses those, (or Blessed are they) and then it describes people caught in a challenging situation.

Those who mourn,

Those who have been humbled,

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice…. Which means they haven’t seen it, yet. 

Those who have had to show mercy… which means they have been brutally sinned against.

Those whose hearts are pure, which means they have been tempted and either overcome the temptation, or been cleansed of the sin when they failed…

God blesses those who work to make real peace. Not covering up or hiding that which divides people from each other, but those who actually engage the problem and try to reconcile people together.

Each of us, caught in those situations are blessed.  God blesses us.

We rejoice in that!  We truly do.

The challenge appears when we look at how God will bless them.  The challenge is that word I just said.

Will.

God will bless them as He comforts them, as He gives them the earth, as He satisfies their craving for justice and righteousness.  God will show them mercy and they will see Him and they will be called His children.

Will.  Future tense. Something that does not always appear to us yet!  Even though it is promised to be reality. Even though it is reality. Even though God already blesses us, we do not always see it in the moment.

That causes a problem with most of us, as patience is not always something to admit we can exercise.

We want to see healings now, we want the heartaches to fade away in a moment, we do not want to hear we might have to work at our relationships and that being merciful requires to interact with those we need to show mercy towards.

Knowing we are blessed by God is now, realizing how God Blesses us, that may take time, and lot of faith and patience.  It takes remembering who it is that blesses us.  It takes remembering that God does not break promises, He doesn’t change His mind and what He has done, He has done.

God Blesses…  He always blesses us, He always does.  Guaranteed.

Even when we struggle to see the blessing, Even when we struggle to see Him.

He is with us. The Lord is with you!

Except for the two “is”

So how do we deal with the time when we have to be patient, when we have to trust in God that we will receive the blessings, the comfort, our hunger and thirst for righteousness quenched?

We need to look to the two blessings that are not in the future tense. The promised blessing for those poor in spirit, for those who are persecuted for being just, mistreated for living in Christ, for living life in view of God’s desire that all should come to know Him, to be granted repentance, to be transformed.

You see the two beatitudes tell us we’ve become part of the Kingdom of God.  We are in Him, His reign over us is now.  Brought into a relationship where God is our Lord, our Master, we have been made His children. He has made promises, bound Himself covenant promises to us.

You see, God being our Lord is an awesome thing.  That means He has committed to us in a relationship and dwells with us, working on us, in us, and yes through us to reach the world, to reach Cerritos and all in this area.

In Biblical times there was more an obligation on the Lord, than the servant, just like there is more obligation on the parent than on the child. God commits to us in ways that go beyond our understanding… but that is okay, He is God.

It is the Master’s responsibility to care for the servant, His obligation to provide for them and assure their welfare, just as it is parents responsibility to care for their children.  Not our wants, but our needs, and always n His wisdom, which is pure and holy and loving.

We have been brought into the Kingdom of God.
We’ve been brought into the relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

That is why the Father sent Jesus to be our blessing.  Why Jesus came and defined each of these blessings.

Why he became poor in spirit, allowing sin to crush Him.

Why He mourned over all the people of God as He mourned over Jerusalem

Why He chose to be humbled and He hungered and thirsted for righteousness so much He died to see that hunger satisfied, He humbled Himself and became a servant to the point of death as Paul writes to the Phillipian Christians.

That is what all these blessings are about, it is what the Kingdom of God is about.  God’s love for us, His uniting Himself to us through the death of Christ.  The mercy of God shown to us, the way in which are hearts are purified even though we have sinned, as He worked to make peace for us, peace with us, for He is the Son of God.

We are blessed, because we are united to Jesus, to His death, to His resurrection.  We have been brought to Christ, marked as His, as has every believer, everyone who trusts in Him. It doesn’t matter if we are from Germany or Taiwan, from Boston or the Philippines, or from South America or Africa or you are a native California.  It doesn’t matter whether we are 6 months old, or 6 years old or 100 years old, God has called us into a relationship to care for us, to provide for us, to heal our souls and make us His children. He brings us into this relationship and commits to us…

He commits to bless us, to be our God, to be our Lord, to be our Father.  

To bless us.

Today we celebrate All Saints Day, we look back at the saints who God has blessed in the past, we realize that He has blessed us and is blessing us, and we know He will bless the next generation of Concordia and Passion.  For He has always done this, He has always taken care of His people, His children.

Even when we struggle to realize it.

For God is always faithful.  He can be counted on, for all of the blessings we find in scripture, including one last one I would leave you with one final blessing, from today’s reading… a look at the day when all of the blessings are fully revealed

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.

that’s us, and here is the blessing…

15 “That is why they stand in front of God’s throne

and serve him day and night in his Temple.

And he who sits on the throne

will give them shelter.

16 They will never again be hungry or thirsty;

they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.

17 For the Lamb on the throne

will be their Shepherd.

He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.

And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

May it be that we, to whom this blessing speaks, and our children and children’s children, both physical and those children who come to faith as God works through us, may it be that we all realize we dwell secure in His peace… the unsurpassable peace of God.  For it is there we dwell, for we are in Christ, and He guards our hearts and minds in that peace.

AMEN?

Impatience, Broken hearts and Christian Ministry.

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, ...

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Devotional thought of the day:

3  There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, 4  and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. 5  In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! 6  Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway.  Romans 5:3-6 (MSG)

The world is cold and seems to be asleep. You often look on it, from your vantage point, with a glance that would set it on fire. Lord, may it awaken! Channel your bursts of impatience and be sure that if we manage to keep our whole life alight, we shall set every corner of the world alight, and the way it all looks will change.  (1)

By no means am I naturally patient.  It is not the gift I’ve been given, and  this is seen quite easily.  This morning, getting some lab work done, I was frustrated that there were 4 others before me.  I know ther has been as many as 20 before, but this morning, with places to go, people to minister to – waiting 10 minutes seemed like a month.

I am especially impatient when it comes to dealing with pain.  You know – the physical pain of them drawing blood ( 4  quart vials it seemed like! ) Or the spiritual pain of grieving, or the pastoral heart pain of watching people choose to do that which will hurt them.

“Why won’t they listen?” we ask.
“Why won’t they at least try it God’s way?”
“when will they ‘get it’?

Every minister I know has suffered from such impatience, such heart break as people continue to choose their own way.

Most of us have been tempted to hammer them, to “use the law” to crush them until they repent, until they conform to God’s plan. (or at least ours)   We want to find something to do to turn them into “supersaints”, to help them overcome all their sin,, to get their acts right and for them to become the next Billy Grahams.   We want that prodigal to turn for home as soon as he gets to the end of the driveway.  It doesn’t always work that way though.

But can we have God’s patience, the father’s patience with them, and still pray and encourage and take the moments we have to call them back to Christ?

It’s hard… its really hard…dang it, it’s hard.

The apostle Paul notes it as well,

18  I’m passing this work on to you, my son Timothy. The prophetic word that was directed to you prepared us for this. All those prayers are coming together now so you will do this well, fearless in your struggle, 19  keeping a firm grip on your faith and on yourself. After all, this is a fight we’re in. There are some, you know, who by relaxing their grip and thinking anything goes have made a thorough mess of their faith. 20  Hymenaeus and Alexander are two of them. I let them wander off to Satan to be taught a lesson or two about not blaspheming.  1 Timothy 1:18-20 (MSG) 

What a challenge this is!  How our soul, itself broken and impatent, struggles with such days of ministry!  Yet, learning to discern when to speak – and how to speak, and when to let the prodigal go is a skill that comes with maturity.

I find it interesting that Romans finds the solution in trusting Christ, in looking to His promises, the work we expect that He will do, in any time of trial, and that includes this one.

Escriva’s comment is similar – that we funnel our impatience into our own life, opening it up to see God work in us.   TO see God eradicate our own sin, and the things that would quench our spirit. Paul mentions this proactively to TImothy as well, telling Timothy not to walk down the road where these brothers walked….

As I thought through this… I think it is an essential part of our ministry, to be ready, in season and out, whether the time is right or not in our mind.  For prodigals do return home, and we need to be aware of how we’ve been welcomed back home ourselves.

For it is in realizing the grace we’ve been given, that we find the love and mercy to welcome them home.

So pray, intercede, contemplate God’s love for them and for us and be ready…  

to rejoice in their home coming.

Lord have mercy!

 

 

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1424-1428). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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