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Come Back to Me, and Never Be Abandoned – a Lenten Sermon on Isaiah 42

3/25 Lenten Midweek Service

Come Back to Me
And Never Be Forsaken
Isaiah 42:14-21

Jesus, Son, Savior

May the grace and peace of God assure you that you will never be forsaken, that He will always be with you!

Why not End at verse 16? –

As I looked at the reading and started to plan out the sermon, I was tempted to shorten the reading from Isaiah by last few verses.

After al, the primary focus of my message is verse 16, and the promised actions of God, as He rescues and guides us, and promises to never, ever forsake us.

So why not drop verse 17-21?  Why not just focus on the positive part, and leave these verses behind?

But those who trust in idols, who say, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned away in shame. 18  “Listen, you who are deaf! Look and see, you blind! 19  Who is as blind as my own people, my servant? Who is as deaf as my messenger? Who is as blind as my chosen people, the servant of the LORD? 20  You see and recognize what is right but refuse to act on it. You hear with your ears, but you don’t really listen.”

 That is some pretty serious stuff, these warnings against trusting and depending on something besides God. We have to hear those warnings, we have to realize our need for God to act, for God to get to us, for God to rescue us, to get to the goal, that we will find that we have come back to God.

Remember the Call

Remember, that is the call…as we’ve looked at for a couple of weeks now, this idea that it is time to “come back to God” to be reconciled to Him.

We know this is God’s desire, that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all come back, that all are transformed.

We see this attitude, this desire in verse 14-15, where God cries out, where God, in his desire to be with us, flattens mountains and gets rid of rivers and pools in His desire to get to us.

Quick side note – this isn’t God crushing the idols as some might suggest. I’ve read enough of the bullshit out there saying that the corona pandemic is God crushing idols we’ve set up.  Idols like athletes, movie stars, finances and other things we chose to trust in, instead of turning to God.

But in verse 17, those idols still exist, and some people still choose to trust in them. They aren’t the big idols as much as the things we turn to when stressed, the things we “can’t do without”. Idols that we even unconsciously cling too – the things that pull us from God. We have to release them – otherwise, we will simply replace them.

Back to the desire of God, this is His greatest desire – to see us return home like the prodigal did, as the Holy Spirit grants us repentance and transforms us!  We have to realize that this is His ultimate goal, so great is His love for us.

Which makes it even more… challenging, if we reject His presence, if we continue to choose to place our trust in other things. He’s not going to force us to walk with Him. But nothing will be able, nothing is able to separate us from His love,

Nothing has been since the cross.

For that is when God flattened everything, to make it possible for us to have come back to Him.  He made it possible by coming to us, and drawing us to Him, as He was raised up on the cross, and united us to Him there – so that in being united to His death,w e would also be united to His resurrection.

Look at this power of this promise…

In verse 18-21, Isaiah’s words challenged those who still were blind and trusted in idols, because they didn’t have too. People who were blind were those that Jesus led on the new path, those He guided on an unfamiliar way.

The way of grace, the way of complete forgiveness, the way where the darkness of sin is shattered by the light of His glory, the light He brings us into. Where we had stumbled and tripped by temptation fell into sin, that too is now smoothed over, as our sin is cleansed.

And never ever will He abandon us, or forsake us!

We need to realize that – that God who came to us, that we could have been found to come back to Him – even as we were blind, He promised to not forsake us!  How much more so now that He’s invested the Body and Blood of His son into our lives!

This is the message of lent – the love of God which draws us back to Him, through the cross of Christ. That we can leave the emptiness and isolation, the blindness behind, for God will be with us, and guide us.

Or more precisely, as He is revealing Himself, cleansing us, healing us, we realize that God is drawing us home,

and throwing us a feast…

Come Back to Me.. and be Happy! A sermon on Romans 5

Come Back to Me
and Be Happy
Roman 5:1-8

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so real in your life that you now true joy and happiness!


What am I thinking?

As I looked over the reading for tonight, the one word I would choose to describe my emotions was “mad”.

The only problem is I couldn’t figure out was whether I was mad as in angry at God, or mad as in insane. I honestly don’t know.

This isn’t right, to have this place of peace so empty, so devoid of smiles and laughter, of even the tears that come as we find it easy to lay our burdens down.

It has been a hard day, our preschool “chapel” time was just Susan, three teachers and myself. Looking forward to tonight, with just a few of us here, was difficult.

I so want to share the Lord’s supper with every person possible!

And as I looked at the sermon schedule, planned months ago, based on readings set in place decades ago…. I realized I was supposed to preach on happiness.

Come on God, what are you thinking?

And the madness elevated to another level.

But look at the verse again,

 Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we take our stand. So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God.   Romans 5:2 (CEV)

So are happiness comes from more than this life, it comes from looking forward to sharing in the glory of God forever….

We know we will be happy then… but what about now?

The process of suffering?

Paul continued this passage… now please remember this was planned months ago… don’t blame me  – I am just the messenger…

3  But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. 4  And endurance builds character,

How in the world do we gladly suffer through a pandemic, through watching people whose anxiety levels are maxed out, who are challenged beyond our ability?  I know that a lot of you aren’t worried by the virus, as much as you hurt for those who you love whose lives are more impacted.

Some of you will understand what I mean when I say that watching people suffer, watching them struggle is harder often than struggling ourselves.

And yet, the saints I know who are my age and older, have seen God work through wars, and earthquakes, through sickness, and economically challenging times, and they know God will be with us in these times.  God will be there with our laughter, and with our tears.

And His presence will give us hope, a hope that will never disappoint us.

For that Hope is found in the presence of God, a presence we can faintly see now, but will see in all its glory one day.

This is why He calls us back to Him, to give us this hope as we realize how …. beyond words His promises are.

In times like these, we need to be able to focus, to realize how much God loves us. That is how we find the strength to get through.  That is why Paul goes from hope – the right to explaining why we have hope.

 All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love. 6  Christ died for us at a time when we were helpless and sinful. 7  No one is really willing to die for an honest person, though someone might be willing to die for a truly good person. 8  But God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful.
Romans 5:5-8 (CEV)

We need to hear that right now, that even before we knew God’s love, back when we were even more rebellious and sinful, GOD LOVED US.

And if he loved us then, He certainly has not given up on that love, or the mercy that sustains us, and calls us back to Him, even in the deepest depth of sin….

He still calls us to come back to Him,

He still will forgive us when we ask

He will still throw a feast for us, as we come home.

He loves us, the children who finally realize our need for Him…

That is how we find happiness in the midst of trauma, tragedy, and yes pandemic.

That is how we gladly embrace our suffering, knowing He is here…

This is our God… who loves us…

And happy are all He calls to His feast.

AMEN!

Be Careful What You Ask For… A Lenten Sermon on Luke 13:31-35

https://www.facebook.com/DaPastor/videos/10156216640650878/

Be Careful for What You Ask for…
You might just get it!

Luke 13:31-35

In Jesus Name!

May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you in the midst of life, drawing you under His wings, where you can find rest and restoration!

All things? Including a death threat?
God has made many promises in scripture.

One of the promises that is one of the hardest to believe, but also is one of the most amazing is found in Romans 8.  **

And God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according His purpose for them.”

I don’t know about you, but that is a promise that I sometimes struggle with in my life.

From my point of view, looking at the brokenness in my own life, I sometimes wonder whether that promise was made to me.  Because I can’t always see how God can make some of the stuff I’ve done, and some of the things that happen to me work for good, at least my good.

But they do, even as we will see this morning, as we consider the desires of two men, desires that seem to be unlikely to be fulfilled, and one of which, cannot possibly be good, because it calls for someone to die.

But could it?

We shall see….and it is amazing!

Two Men, Two Desires
Herod’s (and Everyman’s desire)


Lets start with Herod first. **

His desire is that Jesus would die.**  The scriptures don’t declare why he wanted Jesus dead, simple that the Pharisees indicated that he did.  These normal adversaries of Jesus are so concerned that they warn Jesus of it.

It’s a case of “the enemy of my enemy must be my friend.” 

**It could be because he feared Jesus was going to haunt him, as John the Baptist did.  Some were even saying Jesus was John returned, a though that would have scared Herod.  After all, Herod was manipulated into killing John, chopping his head off at the request of his daughter and wife.

As the guilt added to his already massive amounts of guilt, the more he would want to get rid of any Godly influence in his life.

**You know that feeling, when you are dealing with guilt and shame, and instead of running to God, you want to run away?  Instead of seeking forgiveness, you try to bury the guilt and shame?  You try to find a way to avoid it, and what better way than killing the person who is God’s messenger?

So Herod’s desire is delayed, and for the moment He can’t get what he has asked for..

Jesus’ Desire

Which leads us to Jesus, who speaks of a desire, the purpose that He is working towards, that he relentlessly pursues. The goal of gathering the people of God together, to ensure their safety, to care for them.

But they won’t let Him.  Just like so many in the world today, including, at times, you and I.

Yet this is Jesus focus, to bring us all into a place where we are cared for, where our souls find peace and healing from the ravages of sin.  The sins of the world, and our own.  For the damage is great, the brokenness that steals away life. Yet that is the life we cling to for some reason.

While Jesus is trying to draw us into a life that is abundant, and free.

How He longed to do that to the people of Jerusalem then, how He longs to lift us up now!

They both got what they wanted

Only God could grant both there desires and work it out so that as they are fulfilled, every one who loves God, everyone called according to His purposes.

Jesus will die as Herod wants, and even as Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all to Himself!

Both desires met. Both would get exactly what they wanted, and more.

You can’t read these chapters in Luke, from the transfiguration to the cross and not know it is coming. Herod couldn’t see that, nor how his desire to be rid of the prophets who confronted his sins would provide the solution to the sin which so easily traps us. He knew the answer to his guilt and shame would be found in the shedding of Jesus’ blood.  But how it was solved, the solution that would cleanse anyone of sin, was beyond His thoughts!

Jesus knows that His death, his being raised from the dead will bring people in, that they will find the forgiveness they need, that they will be able to no longer fear God, but revel in His love.

That is why He is willing to die, to see us be drawn into His death, that we may share in His love. Hear again Paul’s words,

12  For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
Colossians 2:12 (NLT2)

So God made both of these thing, turning the death of Christ, which Herod so wanted, into a blessing beyond imagination as He gathered people together in the cross of Christ.

As He will do with everything in your life, and mine, and as He reveals His love for us, as we explore its breadth and width, its height and depth, the more we will be assured of this.  Assured of it, we will rest, knowing His peace.

AMEN!

The Truth Seen in Lent

Devotional Thought fo the Day:

“Simon, Simon! Listen! Satan has received permission to test all of you, to separate the good from the bad, as a farmer separates the wheat from the chaff. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you turn back to me, you must strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 GNT

But Peter answered, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about!”
At once, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned around and looked straight at Peter, and Peter remembered that the Lord had said to him, “Before the rooster crows tonight, you will say three times that you do not know me.” 62 Peter went out and wept bitterly.
Luke 22:60-62 GNT.

Even as the adorer enters into the ‘ascending’ reparation made by the Lamb of God to the Father, he opens himself to the ‘descending’ reparation by which the Lamb of God restores likeness to the image of God in souls disfigured by sin. Christ presents Himself in the Most Holy Eucharist as the spotless Victim come to repair sinners, restoring wholeness and beauty to souls. At the same time He is the Priest who offers perfect reparation to the Father by restoring all things to Him ‘whether in heaven or on earth, making peace by the Blood of His cross’ (Col. 1:20).

The apostle Paul one said that he was the chief of sinners, and that was good news, because it showed us that if God could save even him, we are a piece of cake.

Peter is the same kind of confidence builder. After all, the first of the apostles is a man who is as broken as any of us. He puts his foot in his mouth, he is rash, he thinks of himself. He is a great symbol of humanity.

And in today’s gospel reading, he gives us a great example to understand who we are in Christ. There we see his sincerity, he wants to stand by Jesus, even to the point of death. He will vow, he will promise, and I don’t think it is from pride alone. He is devoted to Jesus. He’s left everything to follow him, and even as the storm clouds gather this night before the cross, Peter has bought in fully with his heart.

In the early morning, just a few hours later, he would fail. He would sin as grievously as any person could in life. He would directly deny God. Not once, but three times.

His sincerity went out the window, as his courage failed him. Broken, he weeps even as Jesus looks upon him, with compassion.

Just as you and I do…

We sin, we deny God, our sincerity fails, it is simply not enough to overcome the temptations our desires, our lust, our anger, our idolatry place before us.

We fail as Peter did…and Jesus still looks upon us with compassion, desiring that we would run to Him for refuge, wanting us to come and be cleansed. ANd if we take the time to consider our brokenness and the depth of our sin, we like Peter would weep bitterly.

That is why Jesus promises that when Peter fails when Peter falls into sin, his faith, his dependence on Jesus will not fail. The very thing Peter couldn’t do, Jesus did.

That is why the Eucharist is so needed in our lives. It reminds us of the sacrifice of Christ, the sacrifice that provides not only the payment for our sin but the repair of our lives. In the Lord’s Supper, this Communion with Jesus, we find the Spirit at work, restoring us, transforming us even as the New Covenant promises, for that is why His body was broken, and His blood shed.

for us.

To renew, restore, repair us into the image of Christ, and then bring us into the relationship we were meant to have with the entire Trinity.

It is never easy to admit we sin, that despite our best attempts not to, despite our most sincere desires to overcome it, we will sin. Perhaps less and less as we mature, but the unthinkable will happen.

And when it does, hearing this exchange between Peter and Jesus will hopefully come to mind, and we ill realize Christ’s compassion and the fact that we can depend upon Him.

Look to him, remember his compassion, and let the Spirit comfort and transform you.

This is the lesson of lent…. I pray we all learn it well!

AMEN!


Kirby, D. M. D. (2012). A Mystagogical Catechesis of Eucharistic Adoration. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 35). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

I need to find that God is THERE! (a thought about why I need Lent)

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7  Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8  If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. Psalm 139:7-8 (NKJV)

Now when people have learned and become aware from the commandments of their powerlessness, they become fearful as to how they will be able to satisfy the law. For the commandment must certainly be fulfilled, or they will be damned. They become completely humbled and reduced to nothing in their own eyes. They find nothing in themselves that might make them righteous. At this point, the other word, the divine promise and assurance, comes and speaks to them: “If you would like to fulfill all the commands, become free of all your covetous desires and your sin, as the commandments compel and require. Look here: believe in Christ, in whom I promise you all grace, righteousness, peace, and freedom. Believe, and you have it; don’t believe, and you won’t have it.17 For what is impossible to you through all the works of the commandments, which are so many but are of no use anyway, is quickly and easily done by faith. For I have placed all things in a compact form inside faith, so that whoever has faith has all things and is saved, and whoever does not have faith has nothing.”

Once upon a time, I was a non-denominational pastor. As such, I looked at Lent and Ash Wednesday with a negative eye. I thought it was all a bunch of hype, some innovative way to subject people, and steal from them the meager joys they have earned.

I had grown up Roman Catholic, and I had some good mentors in the faith. Fr. Alex and Sister Ursula made sure we understood why we did things, not just hearing that we had to do so. But even with that, I thought to take 40 days out to weep and grieve over our sins and my sins was a bit overkill. And to wear an ash cross on my forehead for a day? (Well at least that would stop an aunt or two from kissing my forehead!)

Yet, the older I get, the more experienced I get with my own guilt and shame, the more I need to spend that time, examining myself. Not to beat me down, or just to endure discomfort as if that can bribe God to keep me out of hell.

I need these forty days. I need to process the way I am when I set God aside.

Again, not to dwell in grief or shame indefinitely, but to remember what the psalmist said, You are there!

I can’t get away from the God who loves me, who loves me even “THERE.”

I need to know that even there I can go to Him, confess that I’ve sinned, that I’ve depended on other “gods”, that i’ve not dealt well with wanting revenge, or feelings of lust, or wanting that which isn’t mine, I need to be free from the anxiety caused by not respecting those who God’s put into authority, and from the sin of gossip and trying to defame others.

I need to know that even in the midst of sin, God is there to bring healing and hope into my darkness. And let’s be honest, just because I am a Christian and a pastor doesn’t mean I still don’t struggle with the darkness of sin in my life.

Lent, and especially Ash Wednesday, is an awesome time. We can stop playing the hypocrite, we can stop pretending our sin is justifiable, we can grieve what we’ve done, while rejoicing in the mercy and love that cleanses us. In the midst of such meditation, in the midst of such honest evaluation, I find this, that God is there, responding to our need, and that brings about the greatest joy!

AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 74). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Walking With Jesus from Trials to the Triump: Part VI Finding Hope on the Walk

church at communion 2

Our Lenten Journey:
Walking with Jesus through trials to the triumph

Finding Hope on the Walk
Zechariah 9:9-12

† I.H.S.†

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you the hope you need, as we endure this journey, depending on His faithfulness!

 The Steps of the journey

Imagine being on the side of the road, leading up to Jerusalem.  Jesus, the one some are claiming to be the Messiah starts the long climb up to Jerusalem on a small donkey.  As it meanders up the pathway, the crowd is growing in size and in energy,

Expectations are building, even though the man is a mystery,

He does miracles, incredible miracles.  He teaches like no one else, and those who’ve met him, are more aware of God’s love, of God’s presence in His life.

He’s coming!  Everything is going to change!

It is no different today, as we journey through life, as we walk, guided by the Holy Spirit, and await Jesus coming into our lives.

The Prophet Zechariah told them what to be looking for when Jesus came, He told them what to expect, from how Jesus would arrive, to what He would do.

Understanding this prophecy, this promise gives us real hope,

First – He is coming

As we hear the words rejoice, as we hear that Jesus, our Lord is coming to us, he comes to us in a way that is a paradox.

He’s righteous and victorious, even before the cross there is no demon, no power that can withstand Him. Think about that for a moment, the prophet is using words that are present tense, righteous, victorious, and this is known before he goes into Jerusalem.

Before He goes to the cross, he is already described as victorious.

But then he doesn’t enter as the conquering hero, and that is where we see the paradox.
Maybe that is why he goes to the Jerusalem without the armies, without the majestic horse and the flashing sword. He comes not to conquer, but to provide for His people.

And so he comes, riding on a small donkey, simple and humbly, to be with His people.  Just as He promised to back again, and we await Him….

Second  – He’s here… working

The second thing we see God doing in this passage is very interesting.  Hear it again

I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations.

I want you to notice something very important, He’s not removing the ability of our enemies to do battle, but rather, he is removing our ability to do battle.

The coming of the Messiah doesn’t equip us to do warfare, it enables us to live knowing that our God is victorious. He is bringing peace into our lives, even as He prepared to the cross, so much more now should we be living in peace?

Yet you and struggle and fight, sometimes we try and fight the evil in the world, sometimes we fight the evil in each other, and sometimes, we fight the evil within ourselves.  We know we should not sin, that we shouldn’t be so easy to give into temptation, and yet we do. Yet we don’t always turn this over to God, we might even swear we will do everything in our power to be good, rather than depend on Him, and on the work on the cross.

God has to remove our ability to fight, for as long as we do, we will not know His peace. For as long as we fight, we won’t depend on Jesus, we won’t depend on His work at the cross.

We have to let Jesus take over, it isn’t easy at times.  Who am I kidding, it isn’t easy at all.

Yet Jesus took care of our need to prove ourselves right.  Because of the cross, because of Jesus death paying for our sin, for our unrighteousness, we are now counted righteous.  He strips from us not only the way to do battle but the desire to, for we begin to realize that God is taking care of us, that Jesus has made things right.   That is His role, as He is our king,

Third Step, He frees us.

He describes that here, in verse 11:

11  Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death in a waterless dungeon. 12  Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope!

Even as the prophet is speaking and writing for God, the plan is set, it is by the blood of Christ that all who were imprisoned by sin are freed from it. Even as Christ rides up the mountain to Jerusalem, the plan which was set in place from before the creation of the world is as good as done.

This was the promise to Abraham, this is the promise made to Moses,

He frees us from all that imprisons us, all that causes us to fight, to struggle.  Our anxieties, our fears, our sin, our brokenness. He brings us to a place of safety, a place of security, a sanctuary where we dwell with Him. A place where we learn to trust Him more and more, as we begin to experience and see His love for us.

For we are safe with our King leading us, with our King, Jesus, providing for us.

This is what we hope for, understanding it better than the people in the prophets day, or even the disciples in Jesus day.  But we still need to understand it better, this love of God, revealed to us in the cross of Christ.  This is the hope we have, given to us as Christ died on the cross, yet sometimes hard to see,,,

That is why as I close, I pray for you as Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus,

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. Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT)

AMEN!!

 

Our Lenten Journey: walking with Jesus through trials to the triumph: Finding mercy on the walk

Our Lenten Journey:  Walking with Jesus through trials to the triumph

Mercy Found on the walk
Numbers 21:4-9

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ help you to realize contentment and patience that comes from realizing you are God’s children!

 Mercy Needed on the Walk

It’s been a while since the last one, so we are due for a Pastor Parker Parable.

In the Kingdom of God, Lent is like setting your clocks ahead.

I mean time change wrecks everything, it takes forever to get used to, it affects everything, and to be honest, we don’t always understand why we do it.

Lent is like that, it is a needed, but hard to welcome transition, It requires us to do things that are not easy, that take time to get used to, and that affects every part of our lives.  Most of the time, we go through lent without thinking about why we do it.

Like time change, we just accept that its happening, grin, grunt, and struggle through it, often complaining as we go.

Really, lent is not only like dealing with the time change, but it is like the journey from the slavery of Egypt to the promised land.

And if we aren’t careful, if we don’t pay attention, if we don’t’ stay focused, we will get bit.

Then again, we might get bit anyway, so we need something more… we need mercy.

Mercy not seen on the walk

The problem is, we don’t often see the mercy, as we walk with Jesus

TO be honest, we do the same things that the people did in Moses day, we grow impatient with God’s plan, and we aren’t satisfied with what we perceive He is doing, and rather than wait for God’s actions to be seen, we start to complain, we start to doubt that God will provide.

Look at the words the first time the people of God open their mouths,

“Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?” they complained. “There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!”

They were tired, they were frustrated, I get that. Especially this week!  Especially these last couple of days, when trauma followed trauma like waves lined up at the beach. Or like the slow ticks of a click as the day seems last longer than it did last week.

The ironic thing is that the words “nothing to eat” and “Manna” are the same word in Hebrew.

Same word.  We have not bread to eat and we hate what we do have to eat.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it?

They weren’t thankful for the manna, the quail, to water form a rock, being saved by a miracle.  Nope, what have you done for us lately God, because we don’t like what You are giving us.

How often do we, struggling on our own with life, complain to God about what He is doing?  Or simply forget He is here at all?  We talk about the second commandment, about calling on the name of the Lord, not in vain, but using His name to pray and to praise God,

but do we?

Mercy found… in not getting rid of the snakes

Last week, when President Stoterau was preaching, he found a key to the passage in the pigeon cages that weren’t destroyed.  There is a similar key in today’s Old Testament passage, something that helps us when we realize what God does.

When the people ask God to take away the snakes, what happens to the snakes?

Does God take them away?

Oddly enough, God leaves them there. Happily sinking their fangs into who every complains and moans. I mean, that’s what snakes do right?

God’s answer to the prayers is in bringing another on of them into the picture, one in the same image as the others, but this time fixed high upon a pole.  And anyone, once bitten by a snake, can simply look up, and see hope and healing, trusting God to do exactly what He said he would.

Heal them,

Take care of them, the very thing they didn’t realize God was doing, in providing the manna, and the quail and the water.  Providing proof of His presence with them, a proof they could see when they needed to be saved.

Friends, you and I are going to struggle through life.  We can try with everything we are, and we should try with everything we are to please the God who loves and cares for us.  But there are times, times when we forget He is with us, times where we forget how deep His love is.

But every time we get bit by sin, every time we have to deal with our own brokenness, we have an advocate who has been lifted up on the cross, who has since been lifted up into heaven, where Jesus still intercedes on our behalf.  Still intercedes for us, still loves us, still cares for else, still forgives our sins.  This is the mercy of God, the mercy that keeps us on the journey home, the mercy that continually brings us the healing we need to stay on the journey!

We just need to look to Him, we just need to trust Him, and know that as we do, we shall be healed of the damage sin causes and plagues us with.

God doesn’t always take care of this snake or that one because the temptations and trials will bother us, until we reach the promised land. Sometimes we will be victorious over them, sometimes we won’t.

Either way, He will be here, lifted up for us to look at and know how much God loves us, and that He promised to cleanse us of all sin and unrighteousness.

Which is why we are here at church, to look up to the Lord, lifted up for us, the Lord who will heal us, the Lord who will bring us peace.

AMEN?

 

Prayers answered in the wounds of Christ Part IV: Hold Me!

Prayers Answered in the Wounds of Christ
Hold Me!
Psalm 27:7-10

I.H.S

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you of this, that you will never, ever be completely abandoned!  For The Lord loves you!

 The Fear of Abandonment

 It is among the greatest of fears, the greatest sources of anxiety.  It’s symptoms include anxiety, chronic feelings of insecurity, depression, esteem issues,, a feeling of no control self-depreciation ( I am not worth it!) isolation, or behaviors which are negative to us, to appease those we feel we cannot lose.

It is the fear of abandonment, and it is becoming more and more prevalent.

Its cause is not rational, it is not even a conscious thought, but there is something within us that convinces us that we are not appreciated, that we are not cared for, that we are neither loved, or lovable.

Even though we know better, the anxiety, the fear is there, knowing away at us, paralyzing us, or driving us into sin, so that we can minimize the pain we except.

And our hope is seen in the background of the slides, in the scars and wounds of the man who was the loneliest in all of history, as he was laid out on the cross.

Separation

I think Abandonment is why we fear death, and why we fear to get older.  Ultimately, we don’t want to be alone, we don’t want to be separated from those we love.  That is why some people will stay in an abusive relationship, or fear to work on damaged ones, because of the risk of being abandoned.  It is why we will willingly embrace sin, otherwise, people might reject us.  So we join them in their sin, in their negative behaviors.  We tell ourselves that the pain and consequences are okay… at least we aren’t alone.   Or we numb ourselves with behaviors that distract us, that gives us a break from the loneliness.  A warm body is better than nobody, right?

Sin does its damage as well driving a wedge deeper and deeper between us, trying to pry us even away from God.  It’s pain causing us to believe we are broken beyond us, beyond meaning,

The answer

The Psalm Al read before had significant meaning to me.  Especially this verse,

Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.

Even if the people who are supposed to care for you more than anyone else abandon you, God hasn’t. He holds you close.  In other places, Jesus talks about gathering us to Himself, as a hen gathers her chicks un her arms.  He talks about the Father running out to the prodigal joyously greeting Him with a bone-crushing hug. He talks of uniting us to Him in baptism, all of these examples to help us realize that He has us, that we are His, in death, and in heaven afterward.

As we’ve heard the wounds of Christ answer our prayers, our pleas for help, I want you to hear these words we sang of Jesus love again, this time brought into our language, where it becomes clear, this is not just our prayer, it is His answer

Here I will stand beside Thee,

From Thee I will not part!

O Savior, do not chide me!
When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish
In death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish,
Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

Paul tells us we are united to Christ in His death, and as the power of God raised Him from the dead, we rose, united to Him.  And He promises never, ever to abandon us.  We are His, His beloved children, His beloved people, and He went to the extent of Christ’s death to make sure of this.

You will never be abandoned, you will never be alone Jesus promised!  The Spirit dwells within you.  This isn’t just theology, it is the reality, as you will be reminded when Jesus gives you His body and blood to eat, to drink, knowing it is for you, because He loves you.

You are His… therefore you will never be alone.  So relax, look to Him, and know His peace.  For you are safe in that peace, protected by our Lord Himself.

The Necessary Ingredient of Heroism.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought for our Days:

3  I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. Romans 12:3 (MSG)

821      Work with humility. I mean, count first on God’s blessings, which will not fail you. Then, on your good desires, on your work plans—and on your difficulties! Do not forget that among those difficulties you must always include your own lack of holiness. You will be a good instrument if every day you struggle to be better.

We are no different than the children who put on superhero costumes for Halloween.

There is a part of us that wants to be the best, at something, anything. 

Especially the idea that we are the best at what we do, whether it is a parent needing the hero for their kids, or being the superstar at work, the one everyone turns to, that everyone counts on, the person who is indispensable.   

We want to be the heroes

We’ll even attempt to the difficult, the impossible if that will lift us up, not just for the praise, but for the acceptance.  For heroes are always accepted, aren’t they?  They always are welcome, aren’t they?

But this desire to be accepted, to be the hero, to be indispensable will fade, or we will fail. For we can never do enough, not for those whose favor we want, but to assure us own hearts that we will never be forgotten.

Compare this drive to the idea of humility, the idea of knowing who we are based on who God is, and what He does for us.  I love that St. Josemaria says that humility is counting first on God’s blessings.  Humility then is not a matter of self-abasement. It is not primarily an understanding of who we are, of recognizing our talents and limitations.  That comes into play, but even then, that should drive us back to the first step.

Who God is: our Father, our Brother, our COmforter, our deliverer, our Lord, and Shepherd.  WHat He does for us, creation, reconciliation, and as we are united to Jesus, the miracle of holiness happens to us.  We are holy in Him, in no other way, yet so incredibly transformed by the Holy Spirit.

This happens as the Spirit enables us to trust, to depend, to have faith in God, who loves us.

You want to be the hero?  Why?  You have one, and that Hero has provided what you need, accepting you, making you His child, treasuring you!

Humility is found in depending on this.  The Lord, your God, is with you…always!

AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2912-2916). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Prayers answer in Christ’s Wounds: Make Me Yours! ( The first sermon in a Lenten series at Concordia)

Prayers answered in Christ’s Wounds
Make Me Yours

Isaiah 53:7-11

† I.H.S. †

The Mark you bear….the passion it represents

A moment ago, you had some palm tree ash put on your forehead.   Ash, the dirt that comes from burning something that was once alive, but now is dead and is burnt because the option is to let it take up room while it rots and smells up the place.

Fire leaves behind what’s left, what can’t decay, what can’t be broken down anymore.

As we go through Lent, we are going to look at some of the deepest prayers of our souls, the prayers that we should be aware were answered completely, even if that answer remains partly hidden.  We can learn that it is answered, we can begin to see that revelation, and know that in time, we will see it completely answered.

Those prayers are seen, in part, in the hymn, O Sacred Head Now Wounded, and each week we will add a verse, as we see the prayer that is answered in Jesus wounds….

The prayer tonight?  It is found in the last line of the first verse, “I joy to call Thee mine.”  
An appropriate prayer, considering it is Valentine’s day… a prayer to God, “be mine”, a prayer to God as well, “make me yours!”

An answer that we see in the mark, the brand you are wearing tonight.  A mark that symbolizes not only our grief and brokenness but a mark that shows us that God has made us His.

The Mark of Brokenness, of grief and shame of the cross

Ashes, all that is left after all that can rot and stink has been taken away…  Little better than carbon-based dust…something that can be blown away, even by a gentle breeze.

Ashes have been used as a sigh of grief for a long time, and though we also see them as a sign of repentance, they are first a sign of grief, a recognition that without Christ, our lives, so dominated by sin, are but the ashes and dust we come from, and the ashes and dust we will return to someday.

We often see them as a sign of repentance, but repentance comes as a gift from God and develops out of a sorrow for our sin, a realization of our brokenness.  To realize the effect and impact of our individual sin, of the havoc that sin wracks in our lives.

And so we wear the ash, in sorrow and grief and shame.

The grief and shame that wears down the head of Jesus, wounded for us, to answer our prayers, Be mine, make me yours!

The Mark of Bliss 

As we journey through this life with Jesus, as we journey with Him from the cross, we begin to see that the ashes leave the same mark as our baptism.

The sign of the cross, the place where Jesus was bruised and battered, the place Isaiah described so clearly in our reading tonight,

10  But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11  When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah 53:10-11 (NLT)

 It is tempting to see in this God the Father crushing Jesus, the accomplishment of anguish.  The idea that all this required anguish, the anguish of the weight of our sin which He bears.  All that is necessary for a time.  But it is not where it ends. What we need to see, what will rescue us from the appropriate grief is this,

The Good plan,
The having many descendants,
The accomplishment ( in Greek this would be the same as “it is finished!”
the fact that many, including us, will be counted righteous.

In lent we need a both and, a time to grieve our sin, and a time to dance over the fact we are forgiven, hence the ashes in the sign of the cross…

Make Me thine

And in that cross, we hear those words, that we are found righteous, that it has been accomplished, that we have become His, for He has given us life.

He has made us His own.

We can rejoice, for we know the joy of calling Him ours, and we can say with the bluntest honest the words of the psalm, “I joy to call the mine!”

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