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Renewing the Spirit: A Sermon and Service Based on 2 Cor. 4:13-15:1

Renewed in Spirit
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you life to begin again, regularly!

  • Context!

@@ St. Paul wrote, “But we continue to preach..” 

We continue to speak about God he says, and that is all well and good! But to understand that comment in all of its power, we need to understand why the “but” was there. And to do that, I need to go back a few verses.

8  We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10  Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11  Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 (NLT2)

Pretty exhausting week St. Paul and his crew had. Not quite as bad as dealing with COVID, but still pretty bad, don’t you think?

The question is how do you keep talking about Jesus, when in the midst of all of that turmoil?  Perplexed, stalked, knocked down, suffering, living under constant danger, dying, enduring masks and not being able to give or receive hugs.

And yet, Paul is able to keep on talking about Jesus… and since the word there is to talk – and not proclaim, it is something we can do as well….

but how?

  • The Psalmist’s real words (Law)

@@  The first step is to understand what Paul and the Psalmist meant when talking about faith in God. Paul wrote, 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.”

That sounds pretty good – he just pushed through, or maybe muddled through, depending on how exhausted he was. He just kept speaking, or so it seems.

That works well into our upbringing. Most of us were just trained to keep on working until the work was done.  Didn’t matter how tired, how many times the computer deleted our files, or what was going on – we were to get the work done! And get it done right!

If we check the Psalmists words though, it clarifies things. What the psalmist wrote was,

“ I believed in You, so I said, ‘I am deeply troubled, LORD.’” Psalm 116:10

Notice the difference? The Psalmist that Paul agrees with is not our there on his own strength, he is leaning on God. He, like Jesus in the garden, is going to the Father in prayer, and sharing the aches and pains, the anxieties, and the doubts.

To try and do it all on our own is sin, and act of pride. It is telling God, even if unintentionally, that we don’t want to walk with Him, that we want to do it on our own.

And then, rather than finding a second wind, a renewed Spirit, we burn out.

But St. Paul and the Psalmist cry out to God, using God’s personal name, sharing the brokenness and burden.

And that changes everything, for as we depend on God, our hearts and souls are renewed, even if our bodies are failing.

  • Why We don’t Give up

In the midst of the brokenness, St Paul writes something that is truly amazing,

14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.

The promise of the resurrection from death is so powerful, that it reinvigorates the physically, mentally and spiritually broken disciple. This is why he can keep speaking about God, because of this incredible, awesome promise!

I can share from my own story, this week I was pretty tired twice.  The first time I was revived by the pictures than Amanda, our banker, put up on Facebook the pictures of her daughter’s baptism right here, 5 years ago. ( I did needle her a little about bringing her back more often) Another day, I received an email from Colleen – about the miraculous healing that her friend’s wife has had, a lady we’ve been praying for.

That means far more to a tired pastor, or elder or deacon than giving us a million dollars, right Bob?

This is the power of seeing God at work in and through us, the work of the holy Spirit. That is how our life is re-invigorated, our spirits renewed, as we see the work of the Spirit, drawing people closer and closer to Jesus.

  • Everything else is less

That is why Paul can say,

17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

No masks or social distancing in heaven, no getting crushed, or driven to despair, never abandoned by God, just simply the life of Christ seen in our Bodies as the effect of our dying with Him, and rising with Him.

Nothing else compares…. For we are with Him. And being with Him, aware of our presence, crying out to Him when wea re struggling, we find a peace that passes all understanding, for we are His.  AMEN!

Perfection? Unrealistic! Watch God at Work!

Deovtional Thought of the Day:

6  I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (CSBBible)

We need to remember that this world is not so much a place for doing things as for making character. Right in the midst of what some people call drudgery is the very best place to get the transformed, transfigured life.

SInce i was a child, I dreamed of being a pastor/priest. Of taking the Body of Christ, and placing it on the toungue, or in the hands of believers – believers who understood the great treasure that was being given to them.

Thirty-five years ago, that dream came crashing to a halt, as my intern advisor told me that I had no gifts that would serve me as a pastor.

I thought he was correct, and that changed the next ten years of my life. I would become a pastor later, and some have even said I am a good one. I am not sure I agree with them! I still see my shortcomings, I still think I could do more, I still think I need to improve in a lot of areas. No, not think, know.

I came to the conclusion that while I wait to become the perfect pastor, I can do what I am called to do. That is the key. What the Church, or a church calls me to do, that is what I do. I get to point people to God, tell them of His love, feed them the Body and Blood of Christ.

It is in the midst of doing it, that the Holy Spirit is at work, changing me. Just as He is changing you. It is not the job you do that defines you, the job is used to transform you. Whether that is playing guitar in the band, or teaching the five year olds about Jesus, or being the person that is dedicated and cleans the communionware after church.

Should you get training to do stuff? Sure! You should also have the expectation that to be really skilled at what youa re called to do, will take some time- you will learn from some errors, you might even get frustrated now and then. That’s as true in the church as it is in the world. And if there are times where you haven’t thought of quitting because you screwed up, or because you think you won’t ever get it, that means the transformation is happening! For it is in those times that your faith is tried, and it is shown to be growing.

God is with you… relax… do what comes to you, what the church calls you to do…and learn to know you won’t get it perfectly… till Jesus returns. So praise God for how He is transforming you through the challenges!

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

What I still need to learn about Worship

The Pantheon, a place where God’s people have worshipped for nearly 1800 years…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

6 Blessed be the LORD, who has not let us be ripped apart by their teeth. 7 We have escaped like a bird from the hunter’s net; the net is torn, and we have escaped. 8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 124:6–8 (CSB)

Worship means to “express in some appropriate manner” what you feel. Now, expressing in some appropriate manner doesn’t mean that we always all express it, in the same way, all the time. And it doesn’t mean that you will always express your worship in the same manner. But it does mean that it will be expressed in some manner.

“A Christian should and must be a cheerful person. If he isn’t, the devil is tempting him. I have sometimes been grievously tempted while bathing in my garden, and then I have sung the hymn, ‘Let us now praise Christ.’ Otherwise, I would have been lost then and there. Accordingly, when you notice that you have some such thoughts, say, ‘This isn’t Christ.’ To be sure, he can hear the name of Christ, but it’s a lie because Christ says, ‘Let not your hearts be troubled [John 14:27]. Trust in me,’ etc. This is a command of God: ‘Rejoice!’338 I now preach this, and I also write it, but I haven’t as yet learned it.

As I read Luther’s words in green, I felt a sense of relief. Because to be honest, I am not always in the mood to “rejoice!” And often, I wonder how I will lead people in worship when I am not in a joyful mood.

Sometimes it is a matter of relief, as the psalmist describes in verse 6. Processing that leads to awe, as is described in verse 8. And sometimes that is the best I can offer, at least at the beginning of a Bible Study or Worship Service. I am back, God got me through all of this, this week…..

Satan thought he would win in his attack and oppression. He didn’t.

Worship did, or better yet, realizing we are in the presence of Jesus, and therfore worshipping.

That is what we do when we find ourselves in the presence of God who is compassionate, merciful, and loving, who heals and protects and comforts us. Tozer makes a point, we will worship in different manners, depending on our context, our environment, and our mood. But we will worship!

God is with us… meeting us where we are at.

It might be the joyous festival worship, it might be the cry of lament, it may spring from quiet, powerful meditation.

But we will worship! As we are revealed to be in the presence of Jesus, as we see Him healing and comforting us, we will worship!

For the Lord Jesus is with us….

We just need to learn that… together.

A. W. Tozer and Harry Verploegh, The Quotable Tozer II: More Wise Words with a Prophetic Edge (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 1997), 197.

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), 96.

Can We Enjoy Faith?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
The whole community that had returned from exile made shelters and lived in them. The Israelites had not celebrated like this from the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day.l And there was tremendous joy.m 18 Ezra read out of the book of the law of Godn every day, from the first day to the last. The Israelites celebrated the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the ordinance. Neh. 8:17-18 CSB

This anti-emotionalism … is an unwarranted inference, not a scriptural doctrine, and is in violent opposition to psychology and common sense. Where in the Bible are feeling and faith said to be at odds?
The fact is that faith engenders feeling.… We can have feeling without faith, it is true, but we can never have faith without feeling. Faith as a cold, unemotional light is wholly unknown in the Scriptures.

Unite me, my Lord, entirely to Thyself, and make me forget myself, that I may have the happiness one day to lose all things, and even myself, to find Thee alone, and to love Thee forever. I love Thee, my Sacramental Lord; to Thee do I bind myself, to Thee do I unite myself; make me find Thee, make me love Thee, and never more separate Thyself from me.

These thoughts came from my devotions yesterday, and even today, I am still processing them.

For nearly 4 generations, the church has been taught to not trust our feelings, to disregard our emotions. I can’t count the sermons and lectures I have heard that challenge or diminish those who are too celebratory, too enthusiastic, too ruled by emotions. It is time to clarify that, for a lack of visible emotions is just as much an emotional outburst as the most visible.The question is what is driving the emotions, are they a simple reaction, or are they manipukated by some internal or external force.

The third quote, the prayer, cannot be said without passion, either as translated or in a more modern translation. Not can trusting and depending on God be a dry, emotionless act of will. That kind of prayer comes out of our brokenness, the guilt and despair Christ freed us from when we were joined to His death and resurrection.

It is not unlike being caught in an undertow and thinking you will drown, only to be free and surface. There is an exhilaration, a joy, a realization that life is more than what life was before being captured by the current. Like the Israelites, the celebration is natural… and then… a time of peace… and rest.

But that comes from the journey through the darkness. And that means a incredible sense of relief as one is converted from death to life. It should be marked by emotional feelings, by a sense of great joy, by a level of gratutde that is overwhelming. A joy that needs to be shared.

Rejoice – you have been saved!

Saved from sin, Satan and the threat of death, saved for a loving relationship with God and HIs people, the Body of Chirst!

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 200.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Dare I Demand What Is Mine by Right?

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devtional Thought of the Day:

17 If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. 18 What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News. 1 Corinthians 9:17-18

Grant, my Lord, that before I die I may do something for Thee!

The apostle does not belong to himself/herself, but is buried with Christ
(Col 2:12).
Any other way is to be ashamed of Christ and, therefore, to face
the eschatological consequences: “If anyone is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, also the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with his holy angels” (Mk 8:38).

The Apostle Paul writes something to contrary to our culture today.

He preached Christ crucified, and if that meant surrendering his rights, he did.

Even to the point where he would welcome chains, for then he could share the love of God with those guards to whom he was chained.

I wonder how many of us would be willing to do that today?

How many of us pray with de Ligouri that we could do something for God before we die? What suffering or sacrifice would we accept and embrace if that desire could be come true?

If you think I am trying to pour on the guilt to try and motivate you to serve God, to love your neighbor and your enemy, I am not. If you are feeling guilt over this, go back to the cross, go back and look at the love that Jesus has for you there, as He embraced the guilt as He removed your shame, as He embraced that cross for the joy that He would come to know, as you walk with Him in your life.

That is what it means that you aren’t your own, that you belong to Jesus. That you were untied to Him in His death, burial and resurrection, THat guarantees God is at work in and through you, the queston is do you see it?

THat is the job of pastors and priests, daecons and elders, Bible teachers, and 4 and 7 year olds who remind you that Jesus is with you…

at which point, thoughts about our “rightes” mean nothing, not compated to the love God has for us, as He trusts us to invite others into this divine fellowship.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 140.

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), 57.

Why We Need to See Jesus in the Manger

Devotional Thought of the Day:

And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you except to fear the LORD your God by walking in all his ways, to love him, and to worship the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul?b13 Keep the LORD’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good. 14 The heavens, indeed the highest heavens, belong to the LORD your God, as does the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the LORD had his heart set on your ancestors and loved them. He chose their descendants after them—he chose you out of all the peoples, as it is today. Deuteronomy 10:12=15 CSB

Ah, my Jesus, my love, my infinite good, my all, be ever welcome in the poor dwelling of my soul! Ah, my Lord, where art thou! to what a place art Thou come! Thou hast entered my heart, which is far worse than the stable in which Thou wast born; it is full of earthly affections, of self-love, and of inordinate desires. And how couldst Thou come to dwell there? I would address Thee with St. Peter: Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.1 Yes, depart from me, O Lord, for I am indeed unworthy to receive a God of infinite goodness; go and find repose in those pure souls who serve Thee with so much love. But no, my Redeemer; what do I say? Leave me not; for if Thou departest, I am lost. I embrace Thee, my life; I cling to Thee. Mad indeed have I been in having separated myself from Thee for the love of creatures; and in my ingratitude I drove Thee from me. But now I will never more separate myself from Thee, my treasure; I desire to live and die ever united to Thee.

“It’s very difficult for a man to believe that God is gracious to him. The human heart can’t grasp this. What happened in my case? I was once terrified by the sacrament which Dr. Staupitz carried in a procession in Eisleben on the feast of Corpus Christi.47 I went along in the procession and wore the dress of a priest. Afterward I made confession to Dr. Staupitz, and he said to me, ‘Your thought is not of Christ.’ With this word he comforted me well.
This is the way we are. Christ offers himself to us together with the forgiveness of sins, and yet we flee from his face.

Ours is a joy not born from having many possessions, but from having encountered in our midst a Person: Jesus who never leaves us alone in difficult moments, and is all the more present when problems seem unbearable and obstacles insurmountable.

It is Christmas Eve.

It is 2020, and we are amid a pandemic that has caused further division. In the days after a political free- for all that has divided us further.

This world is so broken! Even Christianity has become more about a “personal” belief than a communal relationship with God.

It is Christmas Eve.

I look at the world and then look in the mirror and wonder why God would bother with us, why He would bother with me. Luther was correct; it is hard for man to believe that God is truly gracious, that God desires to cleanse us, heal us, help us in the midst of all the crap in which we live. Ligouri echoes the same sentiment when realizing God is here, that God is invading our lives. Ligouri’s reaction is to drive our Lord away…. as if the pollution in our lives could poison God.

I know that struggle; I wonder how God could even dare to descend into my world… I want Him here; I know I need Him here.

This is Christmas Eve.

This is Christmas Eve…

And in a few hours, the babe will go in the manger in nativity sets around the world.

I need to see Jesus there, in all His innocence, in all the simplicity, in that place were holiness and the crap of this world. I need to see, as the filthy shepherds did, God incarnate, the one the angels sang about, reveling in His glory.

I need to see Him there… We need to see Him there.

For there, we can approach Him and realize the incredible love and devotion of God. To realize His faithfulness, to realize His desire to dwell with us…not just in Israel 2000 years ago… but today in Cerritos, or wherever you are….. and then, maybe, we can see His desire for eternity with us…

But it starts there… where He can be approached…reverently for sure, but without the terror that comes as we realize His holiness and purity and realize the difference between man and God.

Seeing Him there, may we never desire to flee from Him again… but stay by Him… until eternity draws nigh…

It is Christmas Eve…

It is Christmas Eve!

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 77–78.

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), 19–20.

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), 406.

The Missing Part of Worship…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Be careful to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 You are to labor six days and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. Do not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey, any of your livestock, or the resident alien who lives within your city gates, so that your male and female slaves may rest as you do. Deuteronomy 5:12-14 CSB

For this reason, holy souls endeavor to remain as long as possible in prayer after Communion. The Venerable Father Avila, even when he was given his missions, used to remain for at least two hours in prayer. Father Balthasar Alvarez used to say, that we should set great value on the time after Communion, imagining that we hear from the lips of Jesus Christ himself the words that he addressed to his disciples: But Me you have not always with you.
It is not advisable, as many do, to begin to read immediately after Communion: it is then better to spend at least a short time in producing holy affections, and in conversing with Jesus, who is then within us, and in repeating many times words of tenderness, or some feeling prayer.

We are living out the joy of walking with Jesus, of being with Him, of carrying his cross with love, with a spirit that is always young!

For a few months now, we have worshipped as a church outside. At first, the hot summer temperatures were a challenge. Those have been replaced by the challenges posed by the cool Southern California winter. There have been challenges with smoke from fires, and a couple of rainstorms.

But what I think is the greatest challenge is the missing altar rail.

Outside, there is a parade by the pastor, the deacon who serve the people of God the body and blood of Christ. A spiriutal conveyor belt without time to pause, to contempalte, to let the presence of Christ’s body and blood be appreciated, reveled in, amazed at.

We go through the line, return to our seats and wait for the service to continue….

Especially during advent, where we left the altar open for peopel to stay as long as they needed. To find in that pause of time, the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the amazing mercy of Christ. The chance to pour out our broken lives, to be made complete as God comes to us, and dwells in us.

Not that having a rail to kneel at does all this. BUt it provides the opportunity for the pause that we need, the de Ligouri talks about so enthusiastically. The rest that we need, that was created for us by God, that was part of the Ten Commandments. Something so important that we are commanded to share it with those who work for us, who work with us, even providing it to those among us who are alien and foreigners. This is what people need!

This is a time we need to provide – but how… and how long….and how do we help people spend that time in awe of what has been given them in the sacrament. All questions – but none that prceclude giving people a few moments to ponder, to be in awe, to feel the relief that flows through us, as we experience the love of God.

God is with us… He gives Himself for us…

God read that last sentence again, and again…

We need to take time to process this, not just continue on with the service…

Something to ponder… so that others can ponder this gift of God’s love…. and then celebrate it…

btw – if you like this topic – consider this song by Bob Bennet,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtcCXq0lFMA

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 75–76.

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), 406.

The Challenge of Finding Joy…on Mondays, During Covid.

The Patriots Play football,
I do this…
I got the better gig!

Devotional Thought for this Day:
9  Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the LORD your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10  And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” 11  And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” 12  So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them. Nehemiah 8:9-12 (NLT2)

“Unless those who are in the office of preacher find joy in him who sent them, they will have much trouble. Our Lord God had to ask Moses as many as six times.24 He also led me into the office in the same way. Had I known had to take more pains to get me in. Be that as it may, now that I have begun, I intend to perform the duties of the office with his help. On account of the exceedingly great and heavy cares and worries connected with it, I would not take the whole world to enter upon this work now. On the other hand, when I regard him who called me, I would not take the whole world not to have begun it.

Reflect that God is our sovereign benefactor, who has bestowed upon us innumerable benefits, both general and particular. He has drawn us out of nothing, and formed us to his own image and likeness, without having any need at all of us: we are continually dependent upon him for our preservation.

Yesterday, preachers around the world preached on the topic of Joy.

It is not easy an easy task when over one-half of your church regulars are not there, needing to stay safe at home.

It is not easy when your people are in the midst of the holidays, many of them celebrating for the first time, alone.

It is not easy when others are caught up in sin, some whose hearts are crushed because someone sinned against them, others crushed by the weight of their own sin.

Preach on Joy! That was our call…

Every pastor knows the heartache that Luther addresses. OUr tasks are hard, they can suck the life right out of you. If only we knew what God called us to, we would willingly join Jonah in the belly of the big fish, or the boys sent into the furnace, or Elijah in his cave. NO one could talk us into this…ministry.

That isn’t just true for pastors. Parents know it s well, as do small business owner, teachers, nurses and doctors. Anyone who has to minister to care for someone else. Physically, mentally, spiritually. Those who care for others wear down, burn out, and experience despair.

The only answer I have found over the years is worship, to find yourself contemplating the love and mercy of God so intimately that your heart just wants to sing, it just wants to praise Him. Worship that isn’t forced or planned, worship that isn’t done out of a sense of duty.

Worship that comes from thinking about what God is doing in our lives. Experiencng the love, witnessing the removal of the burdens that plague us, and the millions of blessings that grace our daily lives, His presence in our lives, not just the pastors, but in the lives of the people entrusted into the pastor’s care.

THat is the moment that you understand what Luther said as well – that once in the ministry, there is nothing that the world could give you that would cause you to willingly give it up…

My prayer for you, as you are burdened, as you are distressed, is the same as Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus, for this will lead you (and me) into that joy,

16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 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. 20  Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21  Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen! Ephesians 3:16-21 (NLT2)

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), 12–13.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 64.

The Vision of Joy! A sermon on Isaiah

The Vision of Joy
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11


Jesus, Son, and Savior

May you enjoy the grace and glory of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

What was Going Through His Mind?

The Old Testament Reading this morning was the basis for a sermon before. In fact, the sermon was one of the shortest sermons in history.

It is recording in Luke’s gospel, chapter 4.  And after reading the first two verses from Isaiah, the preacher said this,

“The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
Luke 4:17-21 (NLT2)

I would have thought this would have caused great joy… but it did not that day.  They decided to kill the person who read the passage from Isaiah….who dared to give them a Vision of Joy…

I wonder what was going through Jesus’ mind as He looked forward to that sermon, knowing the joy that He set before Him. Was there a massive smile on His face, knowing He came to do was now, finally going to happen?

Imagine if a scientist had to break the news that he had discovered a simple, easy cure for COVID.  Imagine the smile he would have on his face as he approached the microphone that all the challenges it has caused were over!

Yeah, what Jesus had come to do… was a billion times better.

And I get to show you that today!

What He Had Observed

Consider what God looked down upon, that Isiah describes,

There were the poor,
There were those whose hearts were shattered
There were people who could not leave the horrid situation they found themselves in…
There were people who lived, prisoners of their own choices, of their own sin, which was crushing them.
There were people mourning,
There were people in despair,
There were people living in lives lived in ruins

Sounds like 2020, doesn’t it?

One of the points we have to understand is that when we are crushed like in this time, by what is going on around us and what is going on inside us, God knows…

That is why the Apostle Paul says,

8  We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9  In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NLT2)

Been there, done that.

And then I forget it and start the process all over.

I need to hear Jesus calling; I need to hear Him describe what He will do again.

The Vision of what was coming

Usually, I focus on the bringing good news, the comforting the brokenhearted, the release of those locked in and the freeing for those imprisoned, and the other ways our salvation is shown.

But today, I want to look at a specific one of the changes that happen because Jesus said that this prophecy is full.

Everyone will realize that they are a people the LORD has blessed.” 10  I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me in the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.


This is the greatest thing ever.

To realize that we are the people the Lord has blessed! What an incredible realization –  we are the people the Lord God, the Creator of the universe, has blessed! 

Even more than that – look at the excitement of Jesus’s words,


He’s overwhelmed with joy because of what God the Father has caused to happen.


Jesus is as happy as the groom; he awaits the wedding and life that is to come with his bride.

Kevin – you are the most recent groom around here… how did you feel in the moments before the doors opened, and you saw Susan there? 

That is how Jesus felt as He preached that day… as the relationship that He had been waiting for since the worlds were created through Him finally was here.

No wonder Jesus was looking forward to the crucifixion for the joy set before him

As he was handed the scroll..the anticipation began to build, as He red the words, oh my the joy that began to spread, and continued to, until that point, when nailed to the cross, Jesus would say…

It is done… it is finished …..

the same thing that he said that day in Galilee….will be said at the cross. 

And He says that to us today… today hear the good news, you are free from whatever crushes you, for you can see God, and you are free and blessed, for He is your God. It is done this day – to you.

Rejoice! He is your God, the God who blesses you… Today, He has done this… AMEN!

Church on Sunday, Work on Monday… Why do we have such burdens?

Can we bear to see the pain,
in order to see the beauty?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

With your faithful love, you will lead the people you have redeemed; you will guide them to your holy dwelling with your strength. Exodus 15:13 CSB

Poor and lukewarm is the Church that flees from and avoids the cross!

For many of our contemporaries, though, work is “a tedious function”: they see their professional obligations—intellectual or manual, of public relevance or unfolding quietly within the four walls of home—as a weight that must be carried “because there’s no way out of it.” Some live for the weekend and try to bear with the fatigues of work with the consolation that their well-deserved break is coming. Thus, they condemn themselves to five days of suffering and two of fleeting enjoyment, for the gray monotony of the next Monday appears immediately on the horizon. Others imagine that work is a divine punishment, the fruit of original sin. They forget that when God created man and woman and placed them in the Garden of Eden ut operantur, to work, he gave this command before the Fall of our first parents.

Yesterday, I had the honor of confirming 4 young adults in the faith. Over the time we studied together, I hope I gave them a different view of church than many adults have. A way that Fazio expressed above regarding work, the idea that we have to go “because there’s no way out of it.” That church is somehow an invasion, God trying to take his chunk out of the time of rest that people are owed for their back breaking work.

I think people need to see both work and church in a different way. Not as tedious things they must do, but as a time they are able to work alongside the God who loves them. Managers and bosses can encourage this, giving people the freedom to do their work in a way that encourages their artistic sense, or gives them a measure of satisfaction and joy.

We need to do this with church as well. To help people run to the cross, because they know the faithful love that is revealed there. They know how singing and even dancing in the presence of God, no dancing with God, is more fulfilling than anything else. That the feast of the Lord’s Supper is something to be celebrated, a time of great joy and wonder. We need to be drawn to the cross, not purpose driven.

This is the picture Moses drew for the Israelites in Exodus, as God guides His people into His presence, into their home. To see the faithful love of God at work in those moments, and to see it infect people who take that joy of being home with God into their work places, recognizing His presence there. He would guide them there, patiently, just as He guides us…

To that place where we look on awe, realizing the strength of the love that endured all of it, from the pain of the betrayal to the beating, from the mocking voices ot the tearing pain of the spikes which pierced His hands and feet. Hebrews tells us that He not only endured it, He did it for the joy set before Him, the joy of reuniting us with the Father, of bringing us home.

When we are there..at the foot of the cross, it changes everything. No longer is work an obligation, no longer is church a duty to do, a burden laid on us. It is a time of refreshment, of joy, of being reminded that God surrounds us in peace. That peace extends out from these few hours on Sunday, and makes even work come alive.

For we are His people…His beloved people, and He is with us… even if all we do is work in the kitchen…

Lord, help the people i minister to see Your love for them, and rejoice in 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), 366.

Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (pp. 105-106). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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