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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!”

An Odd Responsibility: A Lenten Sermon on Ephesians 5

church at communion 2An Odd Responsibility

Ephesians 5:8-14

I.H.S.

May you enjoy the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and in that joy, may He shine through you to a broken world!

 An Odd Responsibility

Of all the things scripture tells us to do, the one we heard in the first reading today may be the oddest.

I mean we are encouraged to love God, to love our neighbor, to love even our enemy.  We are told to honor our parents, be faithful to our wives and husbands, to care for our children. We are told to no gossip, and be content rather than being jealous of what others are blessed with by God.

None of these are easy, but then we hear this one today, and they seem.. better defined?

Here it is again,

“Carefully determine what pleases the Lord”

Across all of the Bible translations in English that I have, two of them use acceptable, and one uses “what God wants of you”.  The rest use the word please, or pleasing.  Knowing the Greek word behind it doesn’t help that much – it means good pleasure – or causing or creating peace.

So we are responsible for… making God’s life good?

That seems a bit odd.

And more than a little difficult!  How are we supposed to figure this out?  Even more concurring,, how can we accomplish it?

I mean if God can’t find peace or be pleased, how are we to see that happen?

The Darkness that consumes and burdens

I mean, at least for me, I feel that life is often just a longer edition of that feeling when you are asleep and someone comes in and turns on the 250 watt light in your bedroom in order to wake you up.

You know, the disorientation, the inability to really see clearly, the pain of looking at everything in harsh, painful more powerful than the sun – light?

Spiritually the world seems that dark at times, as people stumble around, not sure of what is right, but absolutely convinced of what is not good.  Sometimes we even justify staying in the dark, because if we saw what was truly going on, the shock and horror would be even more overwhelming.

If the darkness hides the world’s evil deeds and intentions, it can also do the same thing for us, hiding the thoughts, words, and deeds that we are personally ashamed of, the failures that haunt us, that cause us shame.  Yet the spiritual darkness gives us the illusion that no one sees those things, no one else knows them, even God.

The darkness may seem comforting, it may seem safe, but spiritual darkness and ignorance has severe problems, Guilt, shame, loneliness, despair, and the pervasive darkness which causes us to live without hope, without any healing of our soul, or the relationships that break.

The work of the light

 So into this darkness that oppresses more than it relieves, that hides from the world but not our conscience, comes the glory of Christ.

it takes us a while to get used to it.  At first, we might think that the light is the spotlight used to interrogate us, like the third-degree interrogations in old war and spy movies.  For it does reveal the dark shameful things, the thoughts and words and deeds of the past that haunt us.

We need to understand that rather than being an interrogation tool, this is the light by which God examines us, to cut away that which isn’t of us, the sin and unrighteousness, the shame and the grief, the pain and resentment, and the light which strengthens and allows our souls to heal.

It takes a while to get used to, to learn to welcome, but as Paul promises,

“This light within you produces only what is good, and right, and true.”


This light, this glory of God so shows things for what they are that we let God remove them from our lives.

Which is why we can live without them, though it may take a while to realize that, as we wander around, trying to get used to walking in the light, as those people who are the people of light.

This is what grace is, this is why we are here, to help each other realize we aren’t alone in this world, that we can live lives where forgiveness is more powerful than brokenness, where reconciliation is always possible, and is desired by God. That not only can we desire to grow in holiness, we can see God at work in us, transforming us into His holy people.

And this is what we discover pleases Him, it is what He desires, it is what He spent eternity planning, and why Jesus came and died on the cross to shatter our darkness, to remove our sin.  It is what we truly need to understand – that what pleases God is our being His people, trusting in Him, depending on Him to care and provide for us, having faith in the promises He has made us, including forgiving our sins, and make us His holy people, and welcoming us as we dwell in His glory.

And freed from the darkness, freed from its oppression and evil, freed from the guilt and shame it causes, we live in the light, for we have had revealed to us the truth of the old hymn Paul quoted,

We have awoken, We have risen from the dead! For Christ has come and dwelt with us, and we have seen His glory.  AMEN!

Love is, Jesus is, We are: Not Demanding Our Own

church at communion 2Love is, Jesus Is, We are

Not Demanding of our Way

1 Corinthians 13:5

In Jesus Name

 May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so leave you in awe that you walk humbly with Him, rejoicing in His presence!

Love is not 

The song we just sang, and have sung each week during Lent is a hard one for me to sing.  Simply because it calls me to admit how I feel when I look at what God expects from us when I realize how hard it is to love, to truly love someone else….

When I realize how hard it is for me to love God with everything I am, all of my heart, soul, mind and strength.  To love my neighbor as I love myself.

Especially when loving means that I don’t get what I want, that what is in my best interest, what I think is right has to be set aside.

We hear from Paul that love does not demand its way.  It is not zealous; it doesn’t put all its energy seeking what it desires, what it wants, even what it needs.  Or what it thinks is the right way to go….

And I as read this, the words to that song come to mind…

“my eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold.  And I know how I ought to be, alive to you, and dead…. To me.

I would have thought I would be better at this by this time in my life, that I wouldn’t get so riled up when I didn’t get my way, that I wouldn’t be so hurt when what I know is right is denied by bureaucracy or systems that don’t consider the effect they have on people.

There are still times where I want to shake some sense into people……

You know what I mean?  What were they thinking?  How could they be so blind, so stupid,

and then I read this passage and realize how far I’ve strayed from what God desires….

For even if I am right, even if the way I demand is right, too often in demanding it I will win the battle, but I will lose the war.

Jesus is not

When we consider any aspect of love, it helps to see it in action, and the perfect example is usually Jesus.  Okay, it is always Jesus, for only Jesus was perfect enough to love completely, and only Jesus, in that love provides the cure for when we aren’t loving.

In this case, we could look at the times when people begged for mercy, and Jesus went out of his way to provide it, to provide food for those that wouldn’t leave him alone, and followed him out into the wilderness.

Or we can look in the garden, and see Jesus asking the Father for an option to the cross.

38  He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39  He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Matthew 26:38-39 (NLT)

That certainly is not demanding your way!

And it was done so that you and I could know the depth of God’s love for us, for the cup of suffering he took, included the betrayals, the beatings, the cross,

and death.

He didn’t demand his way, but as Isaiah prophesied, like a lamb, he was silent.

We are not!

So what about us?  How can we whose hearts are dry, whose faith is old, find the strength to love so sacrificially?  How can we deny ourselves and take up our cross, and be silent?

On our own, we cannot.

As God guides Paul to write these words, they are there.  This is what our confessions talk about as the describe the “New Obedience,” the way we begin to live as we trust and depend on God.

As we explore His love, as we come to realize our need and trust in God’s work, the Holy Spirit teaches us we are loved, and brings us to the point where we can love God and those around us.  He shapes us the way an artist draws, guiding our lives as we look to Jesus, as we stand in awe of His love.

The way to love is not just to study the character of Jesus, but to know His love, to look to Him for that love and be amazed, to see the depth of His care for you and those around you, understanding what He promises, and rejoicing and treasuring the hope He gives.

Loving isn’t something that happens easily, but it is something that happens as we know we are loved.

A love that leaves us so at peace, so content, that we simply lay aside everything else to enjoy it, including the way we once so zealously demanded.

That peace is beyond our understanding, but for those who know God’s love, it is our reality, for Christ guards our hearts and minds in that peace.  AMEN!

Did You See What He Did There? a lenten sermon on Exodus 17

church at communion 2Did You See What He Did There?
Exodus 17:1-7

I.H.S

 May the Grace and Peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ teach you that He will always provide for you, even when you can’t see that He is, and has planned to do so!

 Did you see what Israel did?

Have you ever met people like the ones Moses tried to lead in the Old Testament reading this morning?  A little of what went before.

In chapter 13, after more miracles than we can remember, Pharaoh lets the people of God go.

In chapter 14, a sea splits apart long enough to let 2.4 million people cross through it, and then swallows a half-million-man army chasing them with the intent to kill them all

In Chapter 16, the Lord provides them with the makings of quail tacos, as every morning he provides with the Manna and quail that would sustain them for 40 years.

After all that, after all God did, they doubt He knows what He’s doing?

Just because they don’t have enough water, and are so thirsty they can’t thing straight,  Just because they are struggling with the thirst,  they forgot the most important thing we need to know in life, they go crazy and become demanding and complain and whine to Moses, their pastor. Led by a pillar of fire and a cloud, they forget all that…tormented by thirst, unaware that the answer is so close….

Did you see what they did there?  Do you know people so overwhelmed by their place in life that they forget what makes life, life?

Did you see what they did there?  Yeah – that isn’t important.

Did you see what Moses did?

What about Moses?  Did you see what he did there?

He’s just as much of a whiner! Even as God leads them, Moses vents to God!  Why me Lord?  Why do they want me to suffer? Why are they going to kill me?  He too is overwhelmed by fear and anxiety!

He didn’t see that they were tormented by their thirst, he wants them to just stop their whining and be quiet. He takes their reaction to their stress personally, their cries to God as if they are personal attacks.

God go get them….. they don’t like us. Who cares what they are going through! Did you ever know anyone like that?

Did you see what he did there?

That isn’t important either,  There is only one Person whose actions we need to see in this story

Did you see what God did there?

God’s actions are really what everyone is concerned about, or is

Do we see what God is doing?

First He’s the One guiding them, He’s the one who brings these wandering people to the place where they are at, the place where He’s going to make eternal promises to them, and bring them into Abraham’s covenant in ways they will not understand until the resurrection of Jesus.

Then, God doesn’t bat an eye at the complaints.  He deals with Moses first – directing him to get back to caring for the people God gathered around him.  Walk out in front, gather them around.  Get your staff, the thing you’ve always had at hand when I worked through you, gather around the elders and all the people to see what happens.

Oh yeah – I will be there, standing before the cliff face..

And then for those miserable, tormented, thirsty, complaining people, God does something wonderful.  He provides what they need, as He planned.

He hadn’t forgotten them, He hadn’t forgotten to provide for them, He didn’t want them to die, but live, in peace, in relationship with Him.  So he tells Moses to take the staff and hit the rock face and water comes out, enough for them, and all their animals.

To give you and idea of how much water, quick calculations gave me the number of at a minimum. 500 backyard pools worth comes spilling out of rock face…or if we walled in the church property and made it one big pool, the water would be 7 feet deep. (and that’s not counting evaporation!)

Did you see what He did there?

People that whined and complained, led by a shepherd who didn’t care for the problems they were in, who forgot He was there. People just like you and I, people that were overwhelmed, who couldn’t function, who despite the miracles, who despite the things testifying to God’s presence, doubted.  People who scripture says tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord here with us or not?

For those people, God again provided what they needed.

Even though they struggled to realize it, He was there, He heard their cries, and had already provided for them.

Did you see what He did there?

So what?

The reason I want you to see what God did there, is often we forget.

It’s time to see what God is doing, no longer concentrating on our failures, or on the weakness of our leaders.

We need to see what He’s doing here, which isn’t much different.  Indeed, His faithfulness, His loving care, His giving life, is always there.  He is faithful.

I could focus on Christ being the rock that the Holy Spirit shepherds us to, or that He is the living water that cleanses us and gives us life.  That He does so, because He is faithful to His promise, to His plan, even if we struggle.  I would focus that he does work through weak and tired leaders, even when we think no one is listening.

But I would like us to focus the most on this, the answer to Israel’s question.  He is with us!  The Lord is with you!

Yeah – He is here! He promised to never leave us, to never stop providing for us.

That He is here is we need to know, with more than our mind; to experience deep in our souls the comfort and peace that God gives us, and letting that comfort and peace work its way from our hearts into our minds, overcoming the doubts, the fears, the pain, the hunger and thirst for life, that seems unquenched.

That is what the cross and the grave, the resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost are about.  He went through it all to show us His presence, giving us evidence that backs up His promise of love, His promise to care.

Lent does, for this is the time when we realize our thirst is not for water, not for manna, but for Him.  And He hears our cries… and reminds us, “I am standing right before you..”

He is our LORD – the one who stands before us, calling us home, welcoming us home, welcoming us to His feast…. Where we remember His presence and rejoice and rest.

AMEN!

Love is, Jesus is, We are! Never Jealous, Boastful, or Proud

church at communion 2Love Is, Jesus is, We are
Never Jealous, Boastful or Proud

 In Jesus Name

 As we explore the dimensions of God the Father’s love for us, revealed clearly in Jesus, may we realize that He is not only loving us, but teaching us to love as well!


Love IS

 Last week when we defined love, we heard about the fact that love never gives up and that love always cares for others more than itself.  Which is the basic definition of the word cHesed in the Old Testament.

Those two characteristics are expanded this evening, as we look what Love is, and see that is who Jesus is, and become surprised that God is working in us, transforming us until that is who we are.

We see it take another step as we realize that love is NEVER jealous, that it is not boastful, that it is not proud.

Some interesting words there, all that are related to a heart that is self-centered that is driven by a need to have something, whether it goods, or admiration or applause. Love doesn’t need that, it is content, confident of the presence of God and the promises of God.

But how do we become so confident in where God has us, that we cease to be jealous, that we have need to boast, that we simply, humbly walk with God?

Jesus Is

The answer, as we will see throughout this Lent begins with Jesus, for you can read this passage of scri[ture and simply substitute Jesus for the word love, and nothing changes.

He wasn’t jealous, even though He left everything, every right, every possession aside when He was born of Mary, but also when He began to preach and teach, and when He went to the cross and died.

There was no need for Him to boast, instead of taking the best place, He washed feet, and ministered to the Leper, and had compassion on widows and Samaritans.

And what to be proud of?  That He could do miracles?  That He could teach thousands?  That he could confound the best and brightest by simple God-centered answers to the questions they planned to trap Him with?

What good would any of that have done.

Instead, He did what He came to do, He loved.  He was love!

We Are

So how does Jesus help us overcome our self-centeredness?  How does He help us lay aside what we desire, and our need for admiration?  How does He transform us into people that like Him, prefer to be last, and prefer to lift others up instead of themselves?

The gospels tell us that as Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all to Him.  And as they are drawn to them, as they look on and adore the Lord who delivers them from their own sin’s punishment,

As we grow in understanding that we are loved by God, our need to be self-centered can disappear, little by little.

As you understand that His love for you compels Him to care for you, to act on your behalf, so jealousy fades away, as does the need for the acclaim and applause of others.  He loves you, and that is so overwhelming that it is more than enough.    Indeed, I am not sure I can even comprehend with my mind fully to realize what that means… that God loves you and me that much.

But my mind doesn’t have to, my heart and soul do, especially while I am at the altar, and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ……

It is then I understand these words of Mary,

46 … “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48  For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49  For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50  He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51  His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
Luke 1:46-51 (NLT)

And quietly, as we are in awe of this love God shows us, the Holy Spirit is doing what the Apostle Paul described,

16  But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17  For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18  So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT)

That is what is happening to you my friends, as you dwell in God’s peace.  AMEN!

 

 

 

Lent: It’s Not about YOUR Sin! A sermon for the first Sunday in Lent

church at communion 2Lent: It’s Not About YOUR Sin
Romans 5:12-19

Jesus, Son, Savior

As you encounter the brokenness of this world that goes back to the days of Adam and Eve, my you know how great the difference is in your life, because of Jesus Christ our Lord!

A Misconception

A friend of mine commented this week that “we aren’t supposed to “like” Lent.  Because that would defeat the whole purpose.”

It was an interesting thought, and I wondered about what her dislike Lent so much.

Perhaps it is because we have the focus on the wrong part of Lent.  Because while Lent has us look at sin and our need for the Holy Spirit to grant us repentance, Lent isn’t about sin.

The purpose of these 40 days is to evaluate out lives, to see the places where the Holy Spirit needs to work, and to invite that work, to desire it, to allow God to clean out the unholy, unrighteous stuff that stops us from truly living life.

The goal of Lent isn’t to beat ourselves up for what we’ve said or thought or did.

The goal of Lent is to realize that crud is there and to desire it gone from our lives.

But how does that happen?  How do we see the reality that sin doesn’t have us locked down and headed straight to hell?

Your sin is nothing new…

Please understand that I am not saying sin doesn’t exist, or that we shouldn’t be repentant. Not at all, sin is serious business, but it is not our primary business.

Hebrews 12 tells,  “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up… and let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.”  (Heb 12:1)

That is the invitation of Lent, to recognize sin for what it is, and to cast it aside.  Yeah, it is bad, yes it damages our relationship with others and really damages our relationship with God.

As Paul says, this sin kills, it brings death as serious as any plague known to mankind.  And we are its latest victim, in what appears to be an unbroken line, all the way back to Adam.  That seems to be the point Paul makes over and over in the passage from Romans 5 that was read this morning.  Time after time Paul tells us that Adam’s sin, his stepping over the line brought death, it brought condemnation.

For each of us, without salvation, would stand condemned, passing on sin as if it was a genetic syndrome.

Christ’s Act, and your right relationship

But I’ve said that Lent and this section of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome aren’t about sin.

They are about bring delivered from sin, and to look at our lives, and learning to desire to live in the like Christ, in His glorious holiness rather than in the darkness of Adam’s sin.  To live, in what Christ righteous act on the cross brought us, what Paul calls a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 

This relationship, this life is the focus of Lent.  Forty days to think about what we retain from Adam and to ask God to cleanse our lives.  To depend on Him more, to live with Him in a more devout way.  Not some kind of false holiness that would exalt us, but simply depending on Him, trusting Him, adoring the God who would take our debt and lay it on Christ, who would bring about righteousness in us.

To want to see this happen, to desire this above all, that is what these days we call Lent are about.

The Continuation of the thought..

At the beginning of the next chapter, Paul will ask the Romans the question which boils down to – who are you going to be like, Adam under condemnation, or Jesus who brings life.  I like the way the Phillip’s translation phrases it,

1  Now what is our response to be? Shall we sin to our heart’s content and see how far we can exploit the grace of God? What a ghastly thought! We, who have died to sin – how could we live in sin a moment longer? Have you forgotten that all of us who were baptized into Jesus Christ were, by that very action, sharing in his death? Romans 6:1 (Phillips NT)

This is what we are aiming for in Lent, the desire expressed here, to live in sin’s power not a moment longer, to receive the grace that makes us live in triumph over sin and death as Paul mentioned in today’s reading.

To run to the altar, seeking the comfort that comes from knowing there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.  To remember what was done in our baptism, to remember His death, burial and resurrection, not as historical facts, but as part of our life, for we died and rose with Him. This is what we celebrate, as we partake of His body and blood and know, the Holy Spirit is changing us, even as we can’t take our eyes off of Jesus.

This mystery of the faith is what we celebrate during Lent, building up to Good Friday when we hear Jesus’ words, it is finished.  It is accomplished.  We are clean, we are holy, we are righteous, for we dwell in Him!

Lent helps us realize that, and realizing that we do toss aside that sin, and look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  To realize in Him we live and move and have our very being.

For in Christ, we exist in the unexplainable, unsurpassable peace of God.  We are safe there, our hearts and minds kept there by Jesus.  AMEN!

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