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The Effect of the Resurrection. Part III Losing our ignorance – a sermon on Acts 3

church at communion 2

The Effect of the Resurrection
Transformed Minds,
Part III:  Losing our Ignorance

Acts 3

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ circumcise your heart, cutting away all the ignorance, hatred and sin. Leaving you holy, transformed in heart, soul and mind.  Amen!

I need a break! 

Over and over this week, there is one phrase that I kept on wanting to explore.  It is one I think I understand, but there are times, where I wonder what it would be like to experience such a time.

The phrase is, “times of refreshment”

I mean if our weeks at all were similar, you don’t know what that means either.

I mean it sounds like those days when we were young and were playing baseball or in our case hockey, or whatever, and after sweating and running around I the hot sun, we all had a cold glass of Kool-aid, then dove in the lake, or a friend’s pool

That sounds refreshing!

In our reading from acts, it is not just a time of refreshment that is promised as God transforms us, as our sins are wiped away, buts times, seasons of it. Time upon time of living in that refreshment, that time when the soul is healthy!

But as to what such a time is today, I am not sure.  You might say I am ignorant of such a time, but it sure sounds nice!

How could they be that ignorant?
As Peter discussed all of those who were involved in crucifying Jesus, he doesn’t call the people and their leaders, evil.  He doesn’t say they are wicked, or bad.  Instead, He says that they were ignorant, that they didn’t know better.
Now I suppose it is better to be called ignorant rather than evil. Still being called ignorant is not really fun to hear. In this case, where they rejected and crucified the Messiah, despite Pilate’s protest, it seems impossible.  How could they not know Jesus was the Messiah?

I think before we go any farther, we need to understand what ignorance in the Bible is.

It is not about having the data about something.  It goes deeper than that, and in fact, that depth is the key to defining ignorance and overcoming it.

We talked about this term last week, when the two disciples walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and they didn’t know it was him.  The word isn’t talking about simple recognition, it’s the term that indicates understanding someone the way you can when you live with them for year and decades.  When you can finish their sentences for them when you know how they are feeling and what is on their hearts.

It is what, for lack of a better term, I call having an intimate relationship.

Not that kind, though oddly enough, the same word in Greek and Hebrew describes that as well.
They crucified Jesus because they didn’t understand Him.  Despite all the scriptures telling them about the Son of God, they did it.  They sinned.

Much the same as we do when we choose to sin.

We forget Jesus, we don’t understand or really, deeply know God.  And so, being ignorant about Jesus, being ignorant of God, we ignore the way He planned for us to live, a life of love and peace.

And a God draws us to Himself, as He brings us to repentance as He brings us to this transformation where we allow Him to cut away the sin, and the guilt and the shame, the ignorance is removed as well

And what we find out when we enter this relationship is that God loves us, He cares so deeply for us.  He makes us whole and brings us a peace.

That is what the ignorance was hiding, that is what we couldn’t know when we didn’t understand God.  And it was that way until God started to work in our lives. Until He brought us to repentance, to that place where our souls find healing, much as this lame man found healing.

Everything changes when we realize how much God loves us, how unwilling He is to be separated from us.

One pastor, in explaining how a church service is organized, explained this love of God in this way.

This is the only way the true structure of the liturgy can be restored, a structure that, as we have just seen, makes concrete in divine worship the fundamental structure of divine action. God, the Revealer, did not want to stay as solus Deus, solus Christus (God alone, Christ alone). No, he wanted to create a Body for himself, to find a Bride—he sought a response. It was really for her that the Word went forth.

This is why we do what we do, why we worship the way we do, and study the Bible and pray, and remind each other of the Lord’s presence, for the more we do, the more we know Him, in a way that is so full of peace and joy.

It is as we see this God, revealed to us, that the power of sin is broken, that it is wiped out of our lives that we are free, that we finally find the love that we so need, and the peace, and the refreshment until He comes and restores all things…as He has promised.

So let us pray…

You need to be a saint…

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
14  Be obedient to God, and do not allow your lives to be shaped by those desires you had when you were still ignorant. 15  Instead, be holy in all that you do, just as God who called you is holy. 16  The scripture says, “Be holy because I am holy.1 Peter 1:14-16 (TEV)

250    I listened in silence as you said to me, “Yes, I want to be a saint”—although generally I have little respect for such a broad and vague assertion.

In Juan Carlos Ortiz’s classic book “Disciple”, he tells a story of a man who wanted to be God’s, who was in shock as God revealed to him what that meant, as God stripped him of everything, step by step.

His car, his home, his belonging, even his clothes, and well himself.

If he was to be God’s, fully sold out to him, then that is what is what God would give him.  Eventually, the man’s vision had God entrust all back to him, to help him realize that all the man had been blessed with, he was accountable to God to use for the ministry God has entrusted to us.

Just as Jesus used all He was, to care for us.

I think that is what St. Josemaria is getting at, in the quote in blue above.

Being a saint, being holy isn’t a vague description,  It can’t be determined by a broad overview of our life. Taking our 50 or 70 or 90 years as a quick glimpse, and recalling just the good things we have did.

Being a saint is seen in the small things, in the thoughts and words that betray what we do.  In the moments when no one is watching, and in the moments when our hearts and souls are stretched tightly, ready to snap.

It is at that moment that sainthood is revealed, as we turn to God and cry out for mercy, as we cry out for help.  It is then when we realize that faith isn’t just about the doctrines we believe, but the trust and dependence that God will see us through the time of trial. A cry that happens without thought, an automatic response to the oppression.  A response of trusting God, no matter what happens.

But that doesn’t happen if we talk about being holy, about becoming a saint without seeing God touching every part of life, without knowing His love, and realizing it is beyond all that we could ever expect.  It comes from realizing that love, about receiving in regularly in word and sacrament, in letting the Holy  Spirit transform us, as we see Jesus, as we explore the dimension of His love.

We become holy, even as we confess our sins ( yeah – even that one!) and believe they are forgiven because Jesus for joy bore the cross for us. For confession happens when we trust God to love us, to be merciful and faithful to us.

Be holy my friends, cry out to the Lord for mercy… and as you receive it, as you relish and rejoice in being made clean, as you rejoice in being His, you will find, He has declared you to be, and made you into a saint.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 668-670). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Challenge of Being Right

16  I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles. 17  For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end. As the scripture says, “The person who is put right with God through faith shall live.”
Romans 1:16-17 (TEV)

When relating these events in his Gospel, Saint Matthew continually emphasizes Joseph’s faithfulness. He kept the commandments of God without wavering, even though the meaning of those commandments was sometimes obscure or their relation to the rest of the divine plan hidden from him. The Fathers of the Church and other spiritual writers frequently emphasize the firmness of Joseph’s faith. Referring to the angel’s command to fly from Herod and take refuge in Egypt,7 Saint John Chrysostom comments: “On hearing this, Joseph was not shocked nor did he say: ‘This is strange. You yourself made it known not long ago that he would save his people, and now you are incapable even of saving him—we have to flee, to set out on a long journey and spend a long while in a strange place; that contradicts your promise.’ Joseph does not think in this way, for he is a man who trusts God. Nor does he ask when he will return, even though the angel left it so vague: ‘Stay there, until I tell you to return.’ Joseph does not object; he obeys and believes and joyfully accepts all the trials.”8 Joseph’s faith does not falter, he obeys quickly and to the letter. To understand this lesson better, we should remember that Joseph’s faith is active, that his docility is not a passive submission to the course of events. For the Christian’s faith has nothing whatever to do with conformity, inertia, or lack of initiative. Joseph entrusted himself unreservedly to the care of God, but he always reflected on events and so was able to reach that level of understanding of the works of God which is true wisdom. In this way he learned little by little that supernatural plans have a logic which at times upsets human plans.

There are days where it is a challenge to live by faith, to live in view of the brutal world where people are butchered, tortured, and enslaved.  There are days where the pain is much closer, a friend struggling with cancer, a son dealing with the death of a parent, the parent dealing with the death of a child. It can even be more of an irritant, an argument among friends, or even a relationship being broken, a relationship between people who should be united, but can’t get past their brokenness.

Some may dismiss these latter things by noting that we are sinners, that we are supposed to be broken, that what we need to do is be confident in our absolution. Surely that is true for sins in our past, but the danger lies in assuming that such a lack of faith is appropriate for tomorrow.  The lesson that some will hear is that we don’t have to be concerned about loving our neighbor, caring for the widow and orphan, and if we fail to because of self-interest or greed or apathy?  Oh well, confess it, and be confident in your forgiveness.

St Josemaria, in talking about Joseph, quotes one of the key verses for Martin Luther. The just shall live by faith!    But what does that mean?  Does it mean that we are simply quickened (as the old Creed says) and are alive because of faith, or does it mean we actually LIVE, day by day, moment by moment, dependent on God, trusting Him for what He has promised, revelling in the joy of His presence, even when life sucks?

That is life by faith, life in Christ, real life, the kind of life that accepts what comes to us, trusting and depending on God. This was ultimately freeing to Luther, not just in absolution, but in living.  For Joseph, Escriva claims it gave him the strength to obey the angelic visitation that occurred in dreams (unlike Mary who encountered the angel face to face.)  He just went, because he trusted God.  He went depending on God, despite the oddities, despite the lack of answers, despite the appearance that God didn’t care.

You want to be right?  Live this way, dependent on God, so dependent that obedience becomes more natural, and that when we fail, we run for forgiveness – in both cases dependent on the promise of God… How does this grow?  Through encountering Christ through His word, through sacraments like the Eucharist, and through prayer and meditation on Christ.

For this is life!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1355-1371). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Our Need for Prayer

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Featured image3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:3 (NLT)

6  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

The more you suffer, the more you are tempted  the more you need to pray; prayer now alone can strengthen you with help and consolation.  Let not pain and fierce temptation paralyze you prayer.  The devil does all he can to prevent you from praying at these times.  But rather than give into weak human nature which absorbs the soul in its paid so that it sees nothing else for the time, turn your eyes to our Lord and speak to Him standing so near.  He is with you, looking on you lovingly, listening for your words.  He tells you to speak, that He is there to hear you, that He loves you and you have not a word to say to Him, no look to give Him.  What ingratitude!  Look at Him speak to Him without ceasing, The deeper your agony, the deeper you must bury yourself in the Heart of your Beloved, and cling to His side with ceaseless prayer!  (1)

I have to admit, while I don’t spend the time i would like, perhaps as much time I really need in prayer, the words in blue resonate with me.

I know them true, and it is why I can desire to spend more time, more hours, more days in prayer.

You may ask why I put the first reading there, about ignoring salvation. Simply put, because salvation isn’t just about the event, where God cleanses us from sin, washing us clean as He promises in our baptism, replacing our heart of stone with a heart of flesh and giving us His Spirit, (see Ezekiel 36:25).  Salvation is rescuing us from and delivering us to something that is incredible.

As we are saved we become something.  We become part of the people of God, daughters and sons of God, adopted and marked as His children, we enter into a entirely different relationship with God, one where He promises to never forsake us, never abandon us, never to stop working in our lives.  We find life, a life lived in fellowship, in community, in communion with God.

And that is what we should never neglect, that is what we need to grow in, the awareness that the Lord is with you.  (and yes, thank you – also with me).  We need to learn to depend up this, not as a fact, but as reality.  He is with us, ready to listen, ready to comfort, ready to heal, ready to reach out into this broken world.

Prayer then becomes the way of life, the very meaning of our salvation.  Walking with God. Please re-read the second scripture passage and the italicized blue above, there is our hope.  our peace, our comfort, our very ability to live.

In the past couple of weeks, many people I know have encountered death of their loved ones. I’ve talked to others, who have lost jobs, or are afraid of losing a relationship.   Just knowing this is exhausting, tiring, painful, the feeling of emptiness and loneliness I observe is… crushing.  For those directly involved, the devotional writer gets it right.  The sorrow and grief consumes us.  Nothing else can matter in that moment.

Until God breaks through, until He reminds us that He is here.  There is a strong correlation between how quickly we hear His voice in those moments, and the time we spend walking with Him at other times.  Even if we feel that there aren’t the other times.  Yet if we neglect this, if we take Him for granted, it may take a longer time to find Him, when only His comfort is the answer.  Don’t neglect Him, don’t

Then we can find rest and peace, dwelling in His love.

So pray my friends, realize God walks with you, and share with Him everything… and spend some time in stillness, and in quiet, and know He is God.  AMEN!

(1) from Celtic Daily Prayer:  Finian Reading for April 10th.

Where God Puts His Name

Where God Puts His Name

1 Kings 8:22-30; 41-43

In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

May your ministry as people and pastors, proclaim the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ to all of the broken people you come in contact with, including each other


When God Put His Name

Ted my friend, today you are going to hear some very special words… then again, you have heard them before.  Sometimes with your ears, and other times, they sunk right down into your soul.

The first time your soul heard these special words, was just three years after the end of World War II.  You were only three months and seven days old, and before you could even play the organ (I think), those words forever changed you, and your life.  God marked you with them, He put His name on you in Baptism.

I messaged you last week, and asked you to think about how many times you’ve heard them in your life, and I could hear you laughing.  Just the number of times you heard them, while sitting over on that organ bench, is beyond count.

From that bench, you heard Dr. Hendry say them, and Pastor Jerry, you heard the Reverend Vicar Dustin say them, and watched Vicar Matthew say them, and heard Dr. Stoterau say them, when Matt became a pastor, your pastor.

Each time you heard them, it was a blessing.  It was a moment to remember and re-call that God made you one of His children, and the blessings of that relationship, both in this life and for eternity.

Today, when Dr. Stoterau says them over you as you are ordained, it is not for your sake, it is not to bless you.  Stand up, and look around, see your friends, your church family.  The reason you will hear these words is for their blessing… even as it costs you.

Adter you hear the words “I ordain you”, these are those special words, “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. Those words are for them to hear, as God places His name here, for them!  When you see the excitement in their eyes, because God has marked you again with His name, when they are as excited as Patriot fans in February, it is for their sake you will endure this.  They may not realize it, but those words are for them.

The Parable of Solomon’s Temple

The Old Testament reading this afternoon is a parable, an illustration for everyone here to understand what ordination is.

As Solomon prays, he reveals why God puts His name places, why He will identify certain buildings and people to have an identity that is set apart from the norm.  Maybe that is why pastors are not all that normal!   Seriously, you know enough of us Ted to know it is not that the person who is ordained is anything special, it the reason that God ordains us that is special…

The same reason the Temple was built, for your parish to know that God hears their prayers, and responds to their prayers.

For Your “Identified” Parish!

When someone works as a chaplain, or a social worker in the medical field, you talk of your identified clients, and your unidentified clients. It is true about ministry as well  You have your identified parish, and your real parish,

Your identified parish is the people here at Good Shepherd, the members, regular attendees, young and old, brand new Christians and those who have been Christians back into the middle of the last century.

When they come to you, whether it is here, or to your home, or at C&S coffee shop, pray with them, just like people went to the temple of Solomon.  As you do, assure them, what was true in Solomon’s day, is still true.  He prayed,

And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

By the way, this is the hardest part of your ministry, and sometimes the most frustrating.  For in helping them to hear that God forgives them, you must remind them that they need to be forgiven.

That can happen in a coffee shop, as you preach, or hear their confession.  It can happen as you counsel them.

Every one of us needs to know that God desires to forgive us, to heal our brokenness, to give us hope.  Every one of us, including your peers in ministry, especially us.  For if God can clean us up…

That is why God is marking you with His name.  So that they can know that nothing will separate them from God, including their sin, and the sin of this world.   As John writes in his first epistle, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous forgiving us of sin, and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.”

Still, they will not like to hear that they are sinners.  Be patient and loving and you will get past that.  They realize you are here, that God has put His name on you to assure them of that forgiveness, so they could audibly hear it, then, they will rejoice.

That is why you will preach, that is what you guarantee them in baptism, and part of what they receive as they the Body and Blood of Christ.  It is what they hear when you say, as a called and ordained servant, I forgive you in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  You will use His name, as He calls you to, and they will know they have been reconciled to God.

It is what they need, what God wants them to have.

It is why He marks you with His name today.  To make sure they know His love and mercy!

For Your “Real” parish

Solomon’s prayer insisted that the temple was not built just for Israel.   It is the same thing for you.  Never think your people are only the people who find their way here on Sunday morning.

Your parish includes every person that comes to you!  It includes the former students of La Contenta; the people you know about the town; anybody who knows you are a pastor. Your parish includes those who come up to and says, “Ted, can I have a few moments of your time, I need to talk.”  It might be a former co-worker, it might even be one of these guys dressed funny.  It might even be someone you do not know, who sees you in your collar.

God is putting His name on you for them that they too could pray, even if they do not know God by name yet!  God knows their name, and He will have them contact you, so that you can encourage them to pray.  Remember Solomon’s words here as well,

“In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42  for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43  then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name. 1 Kings 8:41-43 (NLT)

The same Name that will mark you as one of the shepherds that He has given to His people.  Not to make you famous, or special.

He is putting His name on you again, so they can know Him.

I’ve said this day, this time is a blessing for all of the people you know, and will know.

God placing His name on you is going to cost you a lot, and I am not just talking about those college loans. You already know this, that you will spend time at people’s bedsides.  You will miss dinners (and Barb will miss you cooking dinner!).  You will hand someone those last couple of bills you have in your pocket.  You will cry with them, rejoice with them… be crushed when they refuse to repent, dance (reverently) when the prodigal comes home.

You will be here. You will be the place where God has put His name.  So the believer can pray and know that God hears… and forgives.  So that the unbeliever can pray, and know God hears… and know and trust in Him.

Those two things will make it all worth it.

When God puts His name on you, and makes you one of those that gets to help people realize He makes them His… I cannot explain the joy of this ministry (I can explain the pain) …but you will know it.

Blessings to you my friend, for God has made you His child by placing His name on you, and is putting His name on you again, to bless them, and so many others,
In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit!  AMEN!

What we need to know… to survive the Monday’s of life….

Devotional Thought of the Day:A  Picture of our Journey... with Christ

25  I will sprinkle clean water on you and make you clean from all your idols and everything else that has defiled you. 26  I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart. 27  I will put my spirit in you and will see to it that you follow my laws and keep all the commands I have given you. 28  Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors. You will be my people, and I will be your God. 29  I will save you from everything that defiles you.. Ezekiel 36:25-29a (TEV)

12  My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. 13  The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. 14  And you are my friends if you do what I command you. 15  I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16  You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17  This, then, is what I command you: love one another. John 15:12-17 (TEV)

2      God is my Father! If you meditate on it, you will never let go of this consoling consideration. Jesus is my intimate Friend (another rediscovery) who loves me with all the divine madness of his Heart. The Holy Spirit is my Consoler, who guides my every step along the road. Consider this often: you are God’s… and God is yours.

This morning as I was working out, I hit a wall.  I thought I was done, at 12 minutes into my final treadmill session i knew I couldn’t go on any longer. I looked for an excuse to quit. I looked for a reason to end my suffering.  I didn’t want to endure.   A little more than 20 seconds later, the wall was there imposing, I needed to quit.

I heard in the back of my head my high school P.E. teacher’s rasping voice crying out LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT.   Like back then, it made me want to quit even more.

Just like Mondays, and all the other days in life that seem like Mondays.

You know the feeling, like when you are in a meeting that is going on forever, as all the same issues keep frustrating things keep being rehashed.  as you do your bills, and wonder about the day when there will be money left over.  It’s when the long awaited rain shuts down roads you need to use to get to work.  It’s when all that was good and precious that you experienced in worship yesterday become a faded memory, choked out by the world….

It’s monday.

Or it might as well be.

There is only one hope on Monday, there is only one thing that will kill off the drama, the anxiety, the lows that we face.

It’s to realize that we, you and I, are the people God loves.  the people that He claimed.  That the Trinity in all of Their glory has called you to live life in their glory.  They didn’t insist that you come to Them, they’ve come to us!

Look at the promise in the reading from Ezekiel – the promise of Baptism!  Look at how God takes care of us, from eliminating the sin in our lives, to setting up shop in our lives, creating something quite incredible!

Look at the words of Jesus.  I know there is much criticism of those that treat Jesus as their brother, as if that meant all we did was “play” with Him.  But there is something far different in knowing Christ is our brother than that (check out yesterday’s sermon for one)

Look at the words of Josemaria, these blessed words which encourage us to really think through what it means for God to be our Father, Jesus our brother/friend, and the Holy Spirit to be our very needed comforter!

This is what the Christian religion is about.  It is how we get through life, even as we despise its shame, we look for the joy of walking with God, and one day, seeing Him face to face.  it’s how we get passed minute 12 in our journey, how the wall that we hit, exhausted and weary, is destroyed.  we find His strength, and He comes to us and helps us get to realize that though there are “Mondays” that even those Monday’s become our Sabbath, our day of rest.

For we are God’s people…..

and that trumps any Monday.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 237-242). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Lord, I Believe You Will Do the Impossible… Help me trust you will!

Devotional Thought of the Day:God, who am I?

15  Simply proclaim the Lord Christ holy in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15 (NJB)

23  “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” 24  The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:23-24 (NLT)

929         Don’t forget that we will be more convincing the more convinced we are. (1)

I’ve had a task to do, that I am not looking forward to handling.  Simply put, there are things we are called to do as believers that are impossible.

This is one of those.

The temptation is to really on our own wisdom, our own strength.  To force the issue, to pretend we are God, that all things can be fixed, with the “if only” caveat.  That caveat justifies failure, it allows us to walk away without having to admit the failure.  It allows us to walk away without feeling disappointment.

That caveat is the seed of our defeat, just like a prenuptial agreement is a danger sign in a marriage, because it leaves open the room for failure, and nearly guarantees it will happen. It puts the success or failure somewhere besides making us responsible for it, and therefore leaves out the one crucial ingredient for success.  The one ingredient?  Oh, you want to know what it is?

Jesus makes it known in the 2nd quote above.  If you believe, if you trust in God, if you know His heart well enough to base your life on it, even risk your life on it.

To which the man cries out a Kyrie Eleison – Lord have mercy – help me when I cannot trust.

Depend on Him.  That sounds simple, but it isn’t.  We have to know His desire, we have to understand the effort God will put into keeping his promises. We have to realize the depth of His love.  We have to know it – deeply in order to trust in it, even as this man had to trust that Jesus could heal his son.

It isn’t easy – but we can pray, we can communicate our need for something to booster our faith, we can admit we need His help – even to trust.

But when we do, patience comes naturally, peace flows, the impossible seems be have cracks of God’s probability shine through. We realize we can wait for it to happen, we realize that God will make all things work for good, we realize the power of mercy and forgiveness.

And we trust in His presence to make all the difference, and it does.

For He has promised – and He is faithful.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3775-3776). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Finally,… Pray

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

today at Concordia, just minutes before this sermon, a little girl was baptised, claimed by God to be His daughter.  Read about what happens in baptism in Ezekiel 36:25 and follwoing and in 1 Tim 3:2-8.  This is truly a miracle, one of the greatest we experience!

Finally… Pray!

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

In Jesus Name

As we receive the grace, that mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may Jesus lead our hearts into the full understanding and expression of the love of God, and may we, in Christ patiently endure!

How much will life change in Her life?

I want you for a moment to dream of the future.

A time 60-80 years from now, as Cayleen is sitting in the front row of this church, watching her granddaughter or even great-granddaughter being baptized.  The church might have different music then, our new music becoming the old, archaic stuff that her generation longs to hear occasionally.

Maybe there will not be cars in the parking lot, but those little family jets that we saw on the Jetson’s.. Cell phones?  Texting?  Tablets? I can’t even begin to imagine what life will be like for them. I just think about how much it has changed since my son was baptized 6 years ago.

Except for one thing.

She will still need to know God’s love. There will still be the challenges of life that we will have to endure, for while many things in life changes, life itself will not change as much for her as it did this morning.

Which is why Paul not only asks us to pray, but then offers a blessing for the church in Thessalonica, as He asks God to lead our hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God, and the patient endurance that is found in Christ.

Come to think of it, if you can’t remember what to pray for her and indeed for all the baptized, that’s a pretty good prayer to remember!

You promised to pray…
Full understanding and expression of God’s love

                   That means His mercy, and His granting repentance

         
I pray that you remember to keep the commitment you made this morning to God, as you keep Cayleen in your prayers.  Do not just make this something you said, as you were caught up in the moment.  Pray for her, and for those around you, for we all need prayer. Even apostles, even pastors, even grandparents.

Sometimes we do not know how to pray, or what to pray, and I think that is where a passage like this comes in so handy.  Two simple things to pray for, to know and express God’s love, and to endure.  There will probably be some points where you need to pray for Dan and Kristen for that as well – like when Cayleen is 2, or when she’s that sweet age that starts just after the 12th year and 364th day of her life.

Seriously, pray for her, and for all believers in Christ, and for everyone you know.

Pray that they would follow Jesus, as He leads their hearts into a fuller understanding of the depth of God’s love for them.  A love that does not just write us off the first time we sin but he continues to call to us, to urge us to repent, and to sin no more.  The love of God that desires to fix the parts of our lives that are broken, to heal the wounds that our hearts and souls have encountered.

For to fully understand God’s love is to realize we do not have to hide our sins, we do not have to pretend they aren’t sins. Rather, we are to go to God and confess those sins, to ask Him to fix them. That takes faith, and confidence, and knowing God’s love and faithfulness so well, that we run to Him whenever we are struggling, whenever we are broken, whenever we break life.

 

Patient endurance?

Christ must lead us there!
That is how we endure as well, realizing that Jesus has united us to His death, and to His resurrection.  That iss the promise of baptism, that unity to Christ.  It is the hope He’s given us of sharing in His glory (col. 1:26-29 talks of that)

When we realize that our destiny is secure, that this life, as long as it may seem some days is going to become eternity in God’s presence, it helps us incredibly to endure.  We can stand firm, knowing God’s promise that all things will work for good for us, because we love the God who called us and made us His.

It’s in knowing what Christ endured for us, that leads us to endure in His presence.  For that too is a blessing given to Cayleen and all who believe and are baptized.  God promises in Matthew 28 that He will never leave us, even until the end of the ages.
That’s why Paul says Jesus must lead us in knowing and expressing God’s love and into that ability to endure.  It isn’t based in our own inner strength, even as Christians.  Maturity for a believer doesn’t happen after we go through puberty and our voices change.

It happens when we know God’s love, when we know the promises of love given this day.  When we realize how Jesus is always faithful, how He is always guarding our hearts, our minds, our souls. How He leads us as the 23rd Psalm says besides still waters and restores our soul.  (which means it needed restoration)

That’s what Jesus does, that is what our Lord is tasked with, saving us from sin and the power of satan and death, and restoring us to life, quickening it us.  That’s why a believer doesn’t live in terror of God, but in awe of Him, knowing His love, and being able to express that knowing (not knowledge of but knowing) through their voices in praise and through their lives.
But pray also for the mission and for those needing rescue
So pray for Cayleen, pray for those people around you! Make this your prayer for them; that they would be lead by Christ into the full understanding and expression of His love, and that they would, in Christ, endure!

Paul asks us also to pray for the mission, that this message of God’s love be honored, that it is heard and responded to with praise, wherever it goes.  And to pray for those who have to deal with what the translation says are wicked and evil people – those who can’t comprehend God’s love, who don’t feel comfortable dealing with His mercy and those who are guilty, and need to deal with it.  God dealt with them by the way, as we hear all of Paul’s guards in jail came to know God’s love and were granted repentance.

So finally my friends, pray, give into God’s care those you love – and those you struggle with.  Let Him take the anxieties, the worries and challenges from you, freeing you to love them without distraction, to care for them as He would, to point them to Him when you don’t know what to do.

Having does so, knowing God’s love more fully, you will find yourself expressing it, in a place of peace beyond all comprehension. It is there where you are kept, guarded, your heart and mind protected by Jesus himself.  AMEN?

 

If Faith=knowing Him, not just about Him…then Worship is…

Lord's prayer in Coptic language

Lord’s prayer in Coptic language (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional THought of the day:

7  “When you pray, do not use a lot of meaningless words, as the pagans do, who think that their gods will hear them because their prayers are long. 8  Do not be like them. Your Father already knows what you need before you ask him. 9  This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored; 10  may your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11  Give us today the food we need. 12  Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. 13  Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One. For Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory, Forever and Ever, AMEN!  Matthew 6:13 (TEV)

It’s necessary to be convinced that God is always near us. Too often we live as though our Lord were somewhere far off—where the stars shine. We fail to realize that he is also by our side—always. For he is a loving Father. He loves each one of us more than all the mothers in the world can love their children, helping us and inspiring us, blessing … and forgiving. How often we’ve erased the frowns from our parents’ brows, telling them after some prank, “I won’t do it again!” Maybe that same day we fall again…. And our father, with feigned harshness in his voice and a serious face, reproves us, while at the same time his heart is softened because he knows our weakness: “Poor boy,” he thinks, “How hard he tries to behave well!” We have to be completely convinced, realizing it to the full, that our Lord, who is close to us and in Heaven, is a Father, and very much our Father.  (1)

At the end of the Lord’s Prayer, there is what is called a Doxology, a time of praise and worship.  Some translations leave it out – citing that it doesn’t appear in some manuscripts.  Some do, taking the opposite approach that it appears in most.  I don’t bother with those explanations… all that much.

It belongs there… IMHO… for it is the reaction of what happens when someone can let God be God, when they realize He is by their side, as St Josemaria says, ALWAYS.   When we realize how loving He is, how merciful, how close to us, and our Father.

There are a few acronymns that would replace this prayer, this outline of prayer.  ACTS is one, ITCP is another. They have been used for a while, but I think they rely too much on our intellect and strength.  THey have us start where we should end – with adoration, with hearing how we are to live.  They don’t start with the relationship, the prodigal finding himself in the Father’s arms, the mom begging Jesus to heal her daughter, Peter… downcast and distraught, realizing his betrayal.

I think we need to start where Jesus taught us to. To pour out to God our despair, our brokenness, trusting that He is our Father, and as we pour out that brokenness, as He lifts the anxiety, the guilt, the pain from our hearts, as He assures us of our protection and His love.  It is then, as He lifts us up, as He calms us, as He reminds us of His love and peace… and His presence…

Then praise, and oh the praise.

I’ve often said we confuse the word translated as “believe/faith” with the gathering and storing of knowledge of God.  It isn’t.  It is trusting Him, finding ourselves in a relationship where we can depend,on God, and growing to the point where we turn to Him first, rather than trying to do this all on our own.  Praise and Worship isn’t about what we do – it is the reaction to what He has done.  It isn’t about being perfect enough in our performance, it is, having abandoned ourselves, living in Him, delighting in His presence, realizing we have been revived and healed and restored by Him, and living the  life He has given us.

We have been delivered into God’s presence, and He has told us, He is our Father – the incredible picture that St Josemaria paints of the our Father, the one who patiently works with us, correcting us, encouraging and empowering us, who simply wants to walk by our side through life.  Prayer is that conversation, that walk – that dance, as we together with God – enjoy His glory, enjoy His creation, and find ourselves led in this incredible dance of joy….

May you realize this day…how close you are to Our Father…

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 706-713). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Need Hope? No Answers? Come Experience Jesus, Have Hope! (evangelical catholic VI)

English: The Lord Jesus Christ in the image of...

English: The Lord Jesus Christ in the image of Good Shepherd. Early Christian trsdition of symbolism. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion of the Day..

 15  But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you1 Peter 3:15 (TEV)

At the same time, Evangelical Catholicism recognizes that, in offering everyone the possibility of friendship with the Lord Jesus, it is offering the postmodern world something postmodernity badly needs: an encounter with the divine mercy. As the God of the Bible came into the ancient world as One who liberates humanity from the whims and fancies of the Olympian gods or the terrors of fearsome Moloch, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and friendship with him liberate postmodern humanity from its burden of guilt, born of a tacit (if often intuitive and inarticulate) understanding of the awfulness that humanity visited upon itself throughout the twentieth century. By whom can that burden of guilt be expiated? To whom can that wickedness be confessed, and from whom can forgiveness be received? In offering friendship with Jesus Christ, Evangelical Catholicism offers postmodern humanity a path to a more humane future, absolved of the guilt of the recent past. 12 And where is this friendship with Jesus to be found? According to the evangelical Catholic proposal, this friendship is found in the Church, in the Word of God recognized as such by the Church in the Bible, in the sacraments celebrated by the Church, in the works of charity and service, and in the fellowship of those who have been “born of water and the Spirit” [John 3.5]. Despite the sinfulness of its members and their failure to live fully the meaning of friendship with the Lord Jesus, the Church is always the privileged place of encounter with the living God, who continually forms his people into the community in which the full truth about humanity is grasped.

In the last few days, I have had to deal with an increasing number of people who have struggled to have hope, to find hope.  There have been a large variety of reasons, with a multitude of causes.  Some are young with everything going right, some are more my age – and partially wonder about what is right still, still others, older and wondering if their life has any meaning, and if it ever did.  The weight they bear – each again different, seems crushing.  So crushing is the weight upon them, so much so that I struggle with just watching their struggle.   As I returned to my office, to complete my sermon, I have to write this – as much as for those around those who are struggling, as those who are.

You see – when someone is severely anxious, severely stressed, when they can’t find the answers – they don’t need to know about Jesus – they need, desperately need to know Him.

All of the sound bite apologetics sound nice, and they may even give assent to them  After all – we’ve heard them before – we’ve seen them posted on FB, they’ve made the rounds.  They may have read the books where the quotes we all love come from. and actually know the context of the quotes!

Whether they do or don’t, they need to know the God who is there with them – they need to connect to Who they feel disconnected to, or from whom they disconnected themselves.  They need a tangible and real connection to divine mercy, to the love of God that keeps them, literally guards them.  They need to know the reason we have hope – and that is far more than knowing about Christ – it is about knowing Him deep enough  sure enough, that we don’t just hope in Him the way we hope the tax bill won’t be enormous – but we expect Him, we trust Him to keep everything He has promised.   That our trust in Him, based in knowing even the beginning of the depth, height, breadth and width of His love, because we know HIm, brings comfort to our hearts.

Simple because we know – He is with us!  He is our Shepherd, our caring and providing and merciful Master.

I love how the quote from Weigel’s book identifies the source of that hope – is to be found in the Body of Christ – in the community He established, where He reveals His presence through His word, where He pours out that DIvine mercy in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and yes Confession and Absolution.  (and I would include prayer – as the Apology of the Augsburg confession most assuredly tells us is sacramental)

You see, in word and sacrament ministry, we don’t just learn about Christ, we don’t just take notes on how God is promising to work, but we see HIm at work, we experience His grace, the miracle of the reconciliation that comes as God bring us to faith, as we begin to truly see what it is like to live – as we encounter His life, His mercy…

That Encounter – one which lasts all our lives, overwhelms any modern or post-modern theory.  It crushes the idea that we are alone, that there is no meaning to life – no constant to hold on to, to base our lives upon.

That is what is needed…. and that is what we bring to the picture – and what we desperately need to be reminded of, even as we do….

Lord, show us the mercy you have and have had on us!

 

(1)  Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 59). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

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