1 When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5 I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NLT2)
We shall see that in order to enter fully into communion with the life brought to us by Christ we must in some sense—sacramentally, ascetically, mystically—die with Christ and rise with Him from the dead. The whole life of the Kingdom of God consists then in the gradual extension of the spiritual effects of the death and resurrection of Jesus to one soul after another until Christ lives perfectly in all whom He has called to Himself.
This gospel is to us a true example of firm and perfect faith. For this woman endures and overcomes in three great and hard fought battles, and teaches us in a beautiful manner the true way and virtue of faith, namely, that it is a hearty trust in the grace and goodness of God as experienced and revealed through his Word.
Is the church dying? Is it dead? Is it no longer relevant to a society that ignores its brokenness? Will we continue to consolidate and merge ministries, selling this off to try something different over here? Will we believe the post-covid reports abut what the decline in church attendance means?
There is no doubt attendance is less across all Christian denominations, but what does that mean?
I think it is time to listen to St. Paul, and focus on the cross of Jesus, to think through that which is our only hope, to realize we have died, and risen with Him. We have to get back to that message – for the sake of our people. Merton states this clearly – the whole life of the Church nad its believers consists of the death and life of Christ, and our unity with it. Luther adds the grace of God experienced and revealed through His word which proclaims Christ crucified.
We can’t afford to be in a defensive position any longer! In fact we should have never gone down that road to begin with, relying on our own intellect and ability to strategize the next moves for the church..
Paul, one of the greatest intellects in the history of the church, says he abandoned the things which communicated loftier ideals with larger words.
Just Christ. Just the cross.
This is where we die, and live…
This is the message that sparks revivals and reformations. That Jesus dwells with His people, His church. This is what is seeing churches in other places in the world grow so fast they are sending missionaries here.
God at work, in the lives of people, redeemed and reconciled by the body and blood of Christ shed on the cross, and found on the altar.
Let’s celebrate that love, that passion, that presence… and depend on Him. As we do, we will find the rumors of the death of the church to be greatly exagerated, and in fact, lies from hell.
Merton, Thomas. 1976. The New Man. London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. 1915. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern.
Thoughts for this day, that draws me closer to God….
7 When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. 8 Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him. 9 “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:7-13 (CSBBible)
At dinner on the day after Pentecost [ Martin Luther said], “One shouldn’t think of any other God than Christ; whoever doesn’t speak through the mouth of Christ is not God. God wants to be heard through the Propitiator, and so he’ll listen to nobody except through Christ.
We can always trust the moving and the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our experiences. On the other hand, we cannot always trust our human leanings and our fleshly and carnal desires.
I have never gotten tired of talking about prayer, and with God’s grace I never will. I remember that, back in the thirties, as a young priest, people of all kinds used to come to me looking for ways of getting closer to our Lord. To all of them, university students and workers, healthy and sick, rich and poor, priests and laymen, I gave the same advice: “Pray.” If anyone replied, “I don’t even know how to begin,” I would advise him to put himself in God’s presence and tell him of his desires and anxiety, with that very same complaint: “Lord, I don’t know how to pray!” Often, humble admissions like that were the beginning of an intimate relationship with Christ, a lasting friendship with him. Many years have gone by, and I still don’t know of a better recipe. If you think you’re not quite ready to pray, go to Jesus as his disciples did and say to him, “Lord, teach us how to pray.”18 You will discover how the Holy Spirit “comes to the aid of our weakness; when we do not know what prayer to offer, to pray as we ought, the Spirit himself intercedes for us, with groans beyond all utterance,”19 which are impossible to describe, for no words are adequate to express their depth.
I find it odd, that when people talk about repetitive prayer, they often mention the verse just before Jesus teaches the disciples to pray… the Lord’s Prayer. Don’t babble on, or don’t be vain and repetitious as others translate the passage. And then comes the Lord’s prayer, which people say is vain and repetitious.
I will be the first to admit I have used it that way. Back in junior high school, we had races to see who could say it the fastest, or the entire rosary (I went to a Catholic parochial school.) And in doing so, we sinned, violating the
command about using God’s name in vain, for we didn’t think about Jesus when we prayed, we focused on speed and diction… not even the meaning of the words. There are days when I say it in church – that my thoughts are not focused on the words as much if we are saying it. (Which is why we more often sing it) It is easy to disengage. but that does not change it… just me.
As I have grown older, there have been more than a few times where I did not know how to pray. The words would not come through the anxiety, the words wouldn’t come through the tears, or even the times, where so overwhelmed, I
couldn’t cry. Finally, out of frustration, I would cry out, and pray the Lord’s prayer, letting the words of Jesus burrow through all the debris crushing my heart and soul.
And then, as St Josemaria put it, it was up to the Holy Spirit. Indeed, in those times, it is only the comfort of the Holy Spirit that brings that prayer to mind, who uses these words of Jesus to bring life where there is no life.
Tozer is dead on accurate with his point – it is the Spirit we need to trust, as we pray as Jesus said. For Satan loves to deny us hope, and peace, and the realization of God’s love.
And so by praying as Jesus taught, we again admit we don’t know how to pray, and in that humility the intimacy with God grows, we hear what He’s told us He will provide – from His kingdom, to His perfect Will occurring in our lives, to
what we need daily, food, the ability to know we are forgiven and the enabling of our forgiveness. What wonderful things! He goes on to provide us a way from temptation, and rescue us from evil….. WOW….
Because I didn’t know how to pray in the brokenness of the moment, I pray, and as the Trinity hears, my heart is reminded of what God provides.
And somehow, miraculously, I find peace in the storm.
That is why I pray the Lord’s prayer, it is where God leads, and the comfort it brings is extraordinary.
I pray you may as well!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 155.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
If you would like to see the video of this sermon and the service it was part of, please check it out on my Facebook page or Bit.ly/concordiacerritos –
Also, please leave your comments about the sermon, the feedback helps me prepare sermons in the future.
Who is Your Man?
† I.H.S. †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ bring you comfort and peace, allowing you the chance to look around, and see others need for that comfort and peace!
Who is “this man”… for you?
As they settled down for dinner, all attention was on Jesus, the “honored” guest.
I say “honored” that way, because the Greek is clear, they were on guard, not sure about what he was going to say. They had heard cool things about His ministry, the miracles, the crowds. But they also heard about the concerns, that people had claimed he was a blasphemer, that there had been mobs that had tried to stone him, and that many of the pharisees stood against them, perhaps even the one who invited him this night!
and off in the back, was a man no one noticed.
How he had gotten there, it doesn’t say. The pain levels he was encountering were severe. Whether the swollen legs were cause by heart failure, or by blood clots, or diabetes, we don’t know. But they didn’t have water pills in those days, and his legs were many times larger than they should be.
Even still, he was there, this man that was overlooked, and not one noticed.
Except Jesus. He did, and despite the opposition, he performed a miracle, and healed this man!
Which brings us to
my sermon question for this day.
If we apply this passage to your life, who is “your” man? Who is the person in need that you are overlooking? Who is in need? Into whose life had God drawn you, so that you could help them?
The Parable and the Man
After Jesus heals the man, he sends him off. Then he talks to the pharisees and the experts in religion about what He had done and whether it was kosher to do it on the Sabbath. They had a paradox to work through, an ethical dilemma. Minister to someone in need, and break man’s interpretation of God’s law, or obey God’s law and leave the man in pain and in danger of dying?
They can’t answer.
So Jesus tells the parable, and gives them direction. We need to realize that Jesus wasn’t changing the subject, this is the same context, the same conversation.
So who is the more distinguished person Jesus advises everyone to leave the best seat for?
Looking at the text of the entire passage, I think it is the man who is hurting, the one whose body is broken. The reason I say this is the words from verse fourteen,
Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”
The most distinguished people in God’s way of thinking, are those in need. Whether it is because they are physically broken, mentally broken, or spiritually broken by sin and its partners, guilt and shame, these are the people that have value in God’s mind.
For when you care
for them, you are caring for Jesus
I mentioned those broken by sin, by guilt and shame. I think we need to examine how we treat those people. I am not just talking about sinners like murderers and rapists, I am talking about those who have trouble with envy, or gossip, lust, or using God’s word in the wrong way, to curse or swear. We can add those who don’t use God’s name to praise or pray to Him as well, or who run to other gods, like drugs or sex or work, rather than depend on God to bring healing to their brokenness.
They are the people, these people that are broken and crushed by the weight of sin, that we need to be aware of, that we need to see, that we need to serve. They are the people that we need to invite to feast, and it was for such people that this place, this altar was put here.
Not for people who think they have a right to them
But for those who are broken, for those who are sinners
For you and I…
The Gospel – for Jesus, “this man” is for you
You see, you and I can have several roles in this story. Far too often, we are like the ones who try to get the best seats in the house. That needs to stop! We can be like Jesus, seeing those who need to see and hear and find healing. That should be our goal, and every single one of us needs to become accustom to seeing and inviting those God is preparing, those who God would see us help.
But before we are ready to imitate Jesus, we all need to see our role in this story as being the man with the swollen arms and legs, the man who is broken and needs healing.
The sinner who Jesus comes to and says, “Friend, we have a better place for you!”
We have to realize that is where we start, and as you come to communion this morning, hear Jesus’s voice calling to you, bringing you here, and remember that He is healing your brokenness.
For that is why He died on the cross, to take than sin from us. That is why we united to His death and resurrection in baptism. That is why the book of Hebrews echo’s Jesus invitation,
16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our
gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help
us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:16 (NLT2)
My friends, we need to think through what He’s done, to remember this death we proclaim every time we commune, to remember the forgiveness that is ours because His blood was shed for us.
As we look around this room, and around our community, looking for these broken people God values, may we never forget He looked around, saw us broken, and invited us to dine with Him. AMEN!
As Much As
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ help you know this.
YOU ARE LOVED BY GOD!
Intro – They Don’t Know His Mind toward them.
In Luther’s Large Catechism, there is this sobering thought:
66 These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and distinguish us Christians from all other people on earth. All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Kathos Key
It is a sobering thought, and yet has to do with the gospel reading this morning. For what the heathens, Turks, Jews and false Christians need to know is what Jesus reveals in today’s gospel reading, the words that give the context to the title, “as much as”.
May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me
God the Father loves you, as much as He loves Jesus!
As much as, to the very same degree, to an equal measure…
God loves you, just as much as He loves Jesus.
“As much as.”
And this is revealed when we see how much we love, how much we are devoted to, how much we care for one another.
This is the very glory that Jesus shares with us, that we are loved, and it is proven in the unity we have with each other. A unity that is often not spoken, but it is so…evident.
and proves the love that God has for us.
When you looked at the apostles, it is truly a miracle that they were of one mind and one heart. There were men that were enemies, such as Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax collector. Seriously, both the lesser Simon and Judas from Iscarioth were rebels, they lived and trained to kill those who work with the Romans. No one worked closer than the tax collectors, who grew rich off the people.
Or what about the “sons of thunder”, do you really think they got that nickname because they were so gentle and kind towards each other?
Yet, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they become one in mission and one in heart and mind. The fisherman and the scholar, the enemies, the brothers, and even Peter. Sounds a lot like us, if it wasn’t for the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us.
When we are so desperate, so overwhelmed we listen to God, and hear how he loves us, that love causes what divides us to drift away. It doesn’t matter how much hatred we had toward others, how much sin was in our lives, how depraved and evil someone is, when the love of God cuts through to their heart, that love changes everything.
That is how incredible it is that God the Father loves us as much as He loves Jesus.
As God reveals this love, as Christ hangs on the cross, as He is in the grave, as His rises. The Spirit reveals it to us, as our hearts are cut open, and all that which is broken begins to heal as we are untied to Christ in our baptism, and here at the altar, as we receive His body and blood.
Impact – so that’s!
We see it at work, as we don’t want to stop until we have past God’s peace to every person in the church. We see it as we kneel at the altar together. I dare say it would be more than awkward to commune next to someone we are pissed off at! But somehow, as our sins are forgiven together, there is healing of our relationships.
And the world, seeing this, realizes that Christ came for them all.
For such unity is not natural.
It is Godly though – and people will praise God because of what they see Him doing in us. And that is a witness to the world, just as Jesus prayed it would be.
God has made us one, as He loves us as much as He loves Jesus…..and we will be with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for eternity.
And so, along with knowing Jesus asked the Father for this kind of peace, I end with one of the prayers and the words that follow of St Paul,
5 May the God who inspires men to endure, and gives them a Father’s care, give you a mind united towards one another because of your common loyalty to Jesus Christ. And then, as one man, you will sing from the heart the praises of God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN!
So open your hearts to one another as Christ has opened his heart to you, and God will be glorified.
Romans 15:5 (Phillips NT)
Faith in Action….is Blessed!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ open your mind to see how God has, and is, and will bless you! AMEN!
The Shopping List
If you were going to start a new project, part of the process is making sure you have the material you need to complete the project.
Whether it is making a fancy dinner, or building a shed, or, in our case, building the church.
You need to make sure you have everything you need because once you are started, stopping to go get a missing peace slows down the process, and could even require you to start all over.
The reading from the gospel of Matthew this morning provides such a shopping list.
Matthew lays out the kind of people we need to build the Church.
Not just the service in Mandarin, or the service in English, and not even Concordia.
But the Church throughout the world.
These blessed people are the components to the Church, and a church that contains such people very simply grows.
Are we so described?
So if we are going to look at Concordia, as a part of the church, let’s see how we do.
In the English translation we use, the first item is, “those who are poor and realize their need for God.” Do we have such people?
Do we have people that continually see their need for God, and desire to dwell in His presence?
What about people who mourn and grieve.
Not just because we have lost someone, but also because of the brokenness in the world, and in our lives?
Are we all humble? Are we all meek and willing to deal with people in a caring manner, not being competitive or angry?
Do we all hunger and thirst for justice? Real justice, not just justice that favors us?
Do we all show mercy?
And how many of us can say our hearts are pure, that we never ever sin, or even think sinful thoughts? Or who work for peace in every situation?
We could go on and talked about the rest of the checklist, but it looks like we are already falling short of who we need to see the God designed built.
There might be a few people here who meet one of the checkboxes, but none of us meet all of them.
I also am pretty sure that there are some boxes, especially the mercy and pure in heart that has no boxes checked,
We are blessed!
But what if we are looking at the wrong thing to check off? What if, instead of what we are described as, we find the box to check off is the “being blessed”?
As an example, we can find people who are blessed because God has shown them comfort.
We can find people who are blessed because they have been shown mercy,
We can find people who have become pure, because their blessing is having seen, having encountered God.
Now the passage takes on a whole different perspective.
It focuses on the work of God.
It focuses on the blessing.
As we and every person in the church should focus upon.
God’s work, God’s blessing, poured out on us!
Those who are poor and need His presence (all of us!) are blessed
Those who grieve and mourn… are blessed
Those who have nothing, but will inherit everything… are blessed
Those who need and desire justice… are blessed
Those who need mercy… are blessed
We are blessed by God, we know His presence, His comfort, his justice.
The Greatest blessing
You see, that is what makes the Church grow,
It is what will make Concordia, both the multi-cultural ministry in English, the ministry in Mandarin thrive and the Tagalog ministry grow.
It isn’t because of how intelligent, charismatic and good-looking your ministers are.
(And that’s probably a good thing! )
The reason a church grows, or the Church grows, is when it realizes how God has blessed every single one of us.
When we realize we have received mercy, and we are satisfied by God’s justice.
When we realize we will inherit the whole earth, and the Kingdom of God. When we realize we have been comforted, when we realize we shall see God,
These are the blessings poured out on us, even as Jesus was loving us and dying for us on the cross.
Even as our sins were paid for, and cleansed from our souls.
Even as we are given the Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life in the glory of God.
this is who we are, those who depend on God, and trust in Him, for we know..
We are blessed!
Devotional Thought of the day:
11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. Colossians 1:11-14 (NLT2)
998 O blessed perseverance of the donkey that turns the waterwheel! Always the same pace. Always around the same circle. One day after another, every day the same. Without that, there would be no ripeness in the fruit, nor blossom in the orchard, nor scent of flowers in the garden. Carry this thought to your interior life.
999 And what is the secret of perseverance? Love. Fall in Love, and you will not leave him.
This weekend was extremely busy, a funeral on Saturday added to an already long day. Sunday included church, Sunday School, a meeting, and then another service, where we installed the new president of our district.
As I was there, I ran into a bunch of friends, including pastors that served for twice as long as my two decades in ministry, Even one who has served 55 years as a pastor. Another who has served in the mountain jungles of Papua New Guinea since 1972, translating the New Testament into three different languages.
As i shared some time with these brothers, I thought about the stories we hear, about 1500 pastors and priests a moth leaving the ministry, about clergy burnout and how often pastors flee or are fired from congregations.
And then today, in my readings, I come across these words in Colossians about patience and endurance. As I read the words of St Josemaria about perseverance as well, about how ministry is really being available for people day after day, meeting them in trauma, helping them remember that God is with them, or revealing His presence, which brings to them peace and healing.
The situations change, but the basic motion is the same. Encounter trauma after trauma, work with the break to see healing happen, even as Jesus heals us. Day in and day out, counting on God’s faithfulness to see us through.
Yet, even after all of our plodding, we see the effects. The beauty in a child that wants to be baptized, the joy in a child who wants to receive the Body and Blood of Christ and learns the things that make her desire even more. The smile on a man’s face when he receives communion after having to miss church for 4 weeks because of work. The work of pastors who gather together to pray for and with each other.
All these things happen because we keep our eyes on Jesus as we plod through our daily ministry. Because what happens is, our eyes on Jesus, we reflect His love to those as broken as we are. We reflect the power of mercy, as we live knowing Jesus has forgiven us, in order to unite us to God. These things happen, as we experience the love of God, and learn to adore Him, as He invites us to share in His glory.
For those who are shepherded by such men, pray for them, and encourage them to spend time contemplating God’s love for them.
For those who plod through ministry, Keeping looking to Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will use your plodding in ways you won’t believe!
And to all, find peace and rest in this fact: THE LORD IS WITH YOU!!!!!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2316-2321). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our days…
“I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. 25 The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates m his life n in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant o also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. John 12:24-26
When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross, when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly; we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
We, who are so often unable to put up with one another; we, who are not fit to appear before God, are received by Jesus. He wears, so to speak, the garment of our wretchedness and, by taking us with him, makes us fit to stand in the presence of God; we have gained access to God. We are washed by letting ourselves be drawn into his love. This love means that God receives us unconditionally even when we are not capable and are not worthy of it, because he, Jesus Christ, transforms us and becomes our Brother.
In the middle of Jesus prophecy about His imminent crucifixion and resurrection, there is something we have to see, something we have to hear again.
6 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me.
We have to bear the cross, we have to go with Him there, or more precisely we need to allow Him to draw us into Himself, to give up our lives so that we can live in Him, with Him, through Him. (yes the Eucharistic reference is intended)
For without the cross, His cross, we cannot truly be His disciples, we can’t be united to Him, for that is where our unity with God begins, it is where life is restored in the midst of death.
And so Jesus calls us to die, even as He was sent to die. We are drawn to the cross, not because of the pain, not because of the sacrifices required (those idols aren’t worth anything anyway) but because of the love we know there, this incredible, unbelievable love that is poured out on us, the broken and sin-crushed. Yet that love heals us, transforms us, judges us as those who are brothers and sisters of Jesus, the Son of God.
Without that death and resurrection, we are nothing. And having died to sin, and been raised in Christ, we begin to realize life differently.
The crosses we have to bear, the sacrifices we make to serve others, the forgiveness that pours out from our hearts is not something that is more painful than the joy we find in the presence of Jesus Christ.
In fact, as we get used to living in Christ, we may not even realize we are making sacrifices, bearing crosses, being patient with those who require the greatest patience. We just know what we do is what we are supposed to do…
It is just what we do,
What He’s called us to do, for He has revealed His love, He has revealed His promise
The cross..and the resurrection, He and us, united there, and forever. AMEN!
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.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Do You Understand This?
My prayer for you as you read this sermon: As you think about the grace and mercy of God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord, may you understand that God has found what He treasures, in you!
Do you understand this?
Toward the end of our gospel reading today there is a question that we need to hear, that we need to take seriously.
Do you understand all these things?
Do you understand this? What Jesus is talking about are these groups of parables. Called parables of the Kingdom because Jesus says each is an example of the Kingdom of Heaven. Do we get what it means for someone to search for treasure, and for a merchant to search the world for the perfect pearl/
Do we understand what it would cost to buy the field, what would be given up in exchange for the pearl?
The price is pretty high….
And if we don’t understand the price to be paid, we need to…
Just as we need to understand these words of the Apostle Paul.
17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT)
That observation of St. Paul’s has everything to do with the treasure and the pearl… and understanding them!
We need to understand the incredible love of God for us… and then we can unlock the meaning of parables with great ease!
Chasing after the treasure?
One of our challenges in understanding this passage is that we are so used to searching out chasing after things. We’ve forgotten how to be content with what God has blessed us with.
People search for and struggle to find the perfect career, and the perfect path in that career. So they change careers now, four or more times in their lives. Wait, I’ve only had three… HHmmmm
People chase after the perfect home, or the perfect community, the perfect family with our children and grandchildren having everything that will make their lives perfect as they grow up.
And of course, some of us chased after our spouses – until they sprung their trap…err they let us catch them. 😉
It is no wonder then that most hear this parable about the treasure and the pearl and think, well – we must find the kingdom of God, we have to find the treasure in the field. Preachers like Billy Graham and Greg Laurie encourage us to give up everything to decide to make Jesus our Lord and Savior. In effect, to see this passage this way means we save ourselves, we redeem ourselves.
But it is the way we’ve heard it, so we design church services and our evangelism programs to help people seeking to find the treasure, assuming they will recognize it when they see it, and that they will want to give up everything for something they barely understand.
Except that it doesn’t work that way.
When we are in bondage to sin, when we are buried and tarnished by the weight of this broken world, we don’t have the energy or power to save ourselves. We don’t have the ability to find the true treasure and even if we did, what could you give up that is valuable enough to give to purchase heaven?
What could we trade of equal value that would redeem us from sin and the brokenness it causes?
We aren’t the treasure hunters, we aren’t the merchants trying to find the perfect, priceless pearl.
So if we aren’t? Who is?
The simple answer is God. He is the one who came to seek and save the lost. Jesus is the one who gave up everything and took on the role of the servant. In each of the parables in this chapter, God is at work, harvesting us, causing the church to grow.
Paul described it in our second reading this way,
30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.
We need to struggle with, and come to accept that we are His treasure, we are His Pearl of incredible value. Here are some other ways this is described,
17 “They will be my people,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. Malachi 3:17 (NLT)
5 Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. 6 And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ Exodus 19:5-6 (NLT)
18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. James 1:18 (NLT)
And of course,
10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
This is what Paul means by exploring the incredible dimensions of God’s love for us, to explore how broad and wide, how high and deep.
It is the love we have to learn to ocunt on, depend on, have faigh in, even when we don’t seem to shine like a pearl, or we seem to tarnished and pitted to be His treasure.
God is the one who found us, He is the one who gave up everything for us. This is who we are, the people that God treasures, and loves to the extent that Jesus died for us. We We heard Moses explained it to Israel, words that are true for us,
! 8 Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. 9 Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God.
So my dear friends. know you are treasured, and that God treasures everyone that you know, they just need to hear it from God, through you and me.
† I.H.S. †
May you realize the long awaited promise of God’s active presence in our lives, came true for all on a night like this… as Jesus the Messiah was born.
Four simple letters, written by a prophet 700 years before the event he saw. The promise of God nearly two millennia before that.
Four letters, divided into two words, that matter more than we can imagine.
This child that we celebrate, this man who is God whom we glorify, was born to us.
And everything changes, as the relationship that God wants to have with us, is revealed. That which they couldn’t understand in Isaiah’s day, and couldn’t understand on the night when Mary gave birth, made clear. God came to us. To have a relationship with us, to relate to us in a number of ways Isaiah tells US.
Like Kay is my wife, the church’s office manager, the mother of my son, so too does God relate TO US in a number of incredible ways….. and as we celebrate Jesus coming to us, as we ponder what this all means, it is worth looking at who Isaiah says this Jesus, this God is saves relates… to us
Wonderful Counselor, the one who comforts and directs, who consoles and guides, whose wisdom we depend upon. This is the God, who came to us. It is the first way Isaiah tells us that He will relate… to us.
He does this because we need direction, we need comfort, we need God here, to be our shepherd. Because we too often lose our way morally, We need Him when life results in despair and mourning. So a child was born to us.
That baby, who was laid in a feeding trough, this child born of parents who would soon leave their country because of persecution and move. He is one we truly need, A God, the God, not made of wood or fashioned from stone. A God, who is mighty, and uses that might, that ability, that power, for us. For that is how He would relate to us. Not just minimally from a distance but interacting with us here.
Too often we make false gods, ones who would promise to do what we want, what we think we want. We don’t want these gods to love us; rather we only want them to give us what we think we need. This God, though, who came as a child to us…is not like that. He is a mighty God, who loves and knows what we truly need. He relates to us as the God, who is always able to be Whom we need,
The next way is is my favorite of the ways in which God relates to us humans, to his people. As our eternal dad, as the loving Father, we run to when we are hurt when we’ve broken our neighbor’s window, or their hearts when we’ve done the things that leave us needing His strong embrace.
And this Father is eternal, and he will be our Father eternally. Think about that. God just isn’t a god of this day or that, a fad. He will be your God always.
There is a lot in this idea that this child relates to us as our Father, our everlasting Father. Theologians make a big deal of it. But when you need Him, His embrace is there…for you.
The last way God relates to us, through this child given to us, is so needed today. With all of the stress, all of the fears, with all the brokenness we have to witness, such is the nature of the God who comes to us. He is the Prince of Peace!
We so often picture the serenity of the manger scene, which I am not quite sure would be that peaceful. A woman gave birth, a husband tired and weary, the shepherds, still in awe of the million angels announcing the glory of Christ being born… into that scene comes the prince of peace… and we always picture that scene as serene, peaceful, because we know His character.
The child who would be, no who is, the prince of peace….our Prince of peace.
This child in the manger calms our fears, our anxieties, our lives…our world. Because of him, we have this peace… peace beyond understanding. For that is why He came… to us.
And the prince of peace….to us is given
The prince of peace who has come… to us.
The love of a mother,
& the Love of The Father
† I.H.S †
As you go through life, may you be assured of the love God has for you, love that will go to extreme measure to free you from all that oppresses
What this isn’t about/What it is
As I preach about the gospel lesson this morning, I need to make something clear.
Yes, I know there are demons, and I am sure this lady’s story is exact and true. It isn’t some parable. Her daughter had a demon.
Okay, now onto what the story is really about, the love of a parent for their child.
The love of a mother,
and the love of the Father.
Understanding the depth of that love will reveal the cross, and the reason that Jesus took a side trip from his home into a spiritual no man’s land.
It will also make the difference in your life, for you are His beloved child.
You see, the demons in this passage – they aren’t relevant, they are a side note. Although in a way it would be easier to preach about fighting them.
It is the love that matters, the love that we so desperately need to know.
The Love of a Mother
I don’t even think Jesus had unpacked at the home he was staying at when she showed up. A desperate mom, looking for something to help her very young daughter.
I don’t have to have you imagine the pain, the desperation that leads her into Jesus presence the moment people realization it is a Jewish Rabbi – maybe even Messiah that has come into their presence.
But I will remind you that she is so desperate that she breaks every cultural norm, every piece of etiquette, and risks his very anger. For to be in the presence of a woman in such situation would render Jesus unfit to teach as a rabbi. As a man of God, being that close to someone outside the people of God would also render him unclean and able to serve, and to do a miracle for her?
She throws all decorum aside – she wants her daughter to be healed, to be delivered to, to be right. When I first read that she fell at Jesus’ feet, I thought the word there would be the root word for worship – to bow and lay prostrate before someone, a position of worship, adoration, honor.
It’s not, is the word we get Pepto in Pepto-Bismol from, she collapses in front on him, a withering wreck. And her only hope? A hyped up prophet from a country that hasn’t produced anything of value in 400 years….
She tosses everything aside, all pride, all loyalty to her people, everything if only there were hope.
She is so desperate she pleads, she begs, with everything she has. Heck, she even argues for table scraps from this prophet from that oddball place with the oddball religion.
Such is the love for her daughter.
Even a daughter who, obviously, wasn’t easy to care for, wasn’t easy to love.
A daughter who was more trouble than any can imagine, a daughter who would be un-lovable, even one most people would be afraid of, except for a parent. No one else would care, no one else would endure, but somehow she did.
As she collapses before Jesus, as she needed to depend on someone becomes more and more apparent, her responses grow stronger as if she intuitively knows that Jesus can help.
How could she know the love of God the Father, a God she was unfamiliar with, a love that would be revealed in Jesus coming near?
The Desperate Love of the Father
We have the benefit of hearing these stories, of knowing, even if we sometimes forget, a little bit about the depth of God’s love. Usually, I ask Chris to say the word in Hebrew, (cHesed) but I think I want to keep our guest musician dry this morning.
cHesed – the love that would go to any length for the one who is loved. That would go to any length to restore that which is broken,
it would drive a woman to the feet of a crazy prophet…
The same love that would drive a Father to send His only Son to her.
I want you to hear something in this passage again. I want you to see it, think about it.
He didn’t want anyone to know which house he was staying in, but he couldn’t keep it a secret
He couldn’t keep it a secret. He wasn’t able to another translation says, The Greek uses the word from where we get dynamic, dynamo, dynamite. He was without any power in this instance. The One through whom the universe was spoken into being, the one whose words sent demons scurrying, who calmed seas, whose words brought the dead to life, who spoke forgiveness and taught with authority.
He couldn’t keep where he went on vacation secret from anyone.
It’s as if someone was letting people know – here’s the prophet, here is your hope!
Because immediately, she found him. And right after that, Jesus leaves the area and goes back to Galilee. It is as if this wasn’t really a vacation, a chance to get away, but simply a trip to her, a divine appointment.
Think about this what stopped him, what took away his power to remain incognito? What could make Jesus the Messiah incapable, powerless, vulnerable?
Jesus couldn’t keep his presence secret because God sent Him to be there, for this lady, for this daughter who would collapse at Jesus’ feet.
Because God loved her even as He loves us. He didn’t send him just to deliver the child from the demon. Jesus obediently went where the Father sent them, to deliver them from everything that oppresses them.
Even as He delivers us.
Even as Jesus was sent to us. Even as He was sent to die on the cross for us.
Even though we weren’t clean and holy. Even though Jesus would have to dwell in our sinfulness, even as He would take on every sin we committed. Even if we acted like we were demon possessed. Even if our battle with sin is beyond belief.
Isaiah prophesied that the Father would lay every sin we’ve committed on Jesus. His suffering and death would cleanse us, make us righteous, heal us.
That is what we have to understand – God doesn’t will that any would perish, God won’t let anything separate us from His love,
God gave us this ministry as well, this ministry of reconciling everything to Him, even as we plead with people to be reconciled to God.
As we enter this new school year, as we swing into fall, we are going to see this over and over, that God wants us to be in communion with Him. That He loves us, that He will deliver us from evil. And that He sends us out, with His Spirit, to bring other broken people home to Him. To free others that are oppressed, by sharing with them His love.
It’s not about getting the scraps from the table. It isn’t about our being “not good enough”
It is about even if we are there, completely collapsed, knowing God will restore us and care for us, and comfort us. That He will heal those we bring to Him.
The Father’s love is that deep. And that love is revealed to us in the cross of Christ, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, in the promises of our baptism, and the feast that is but a small sample of the feast to come.
May you dwell in God’s peace, the peace beyond anyone’s understanding, assured that you will be kept in that peace by Jesus. For He has come to us, to deliver us from all evil. AMEN.