Why The Report of the Death of the Church is Highly Exagerated!
Thoughts which draw me to Jesus, and to the Cross
1 When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5 I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NLT2)
We shall see that in order to enter fully into communion with the life brought to us by Christ we must in some sense—sacramentally, ascetically, mystically—die with Christ and rise with Him from the dead. The whole life of the Kingdom of God consists then in the gradual extension of the spiritual effects of the death and resurrection of Jesus to one soul after another until Christ lives perfectly in all whom He has called to Himself.
This gospel is to us a true example of firm and perfect faith. For this woman endures and overcomes in three great and hard fought battles, and teaches us in a beautiful manner the true way and virtue of faith, namely, that it is a hearty trust in the grace and goodness of God as experienced and revealed through his Word.
Is the church dying? Is it dead? Is it no longer relevant to a society that ignores its brokenness? Will we continue to consolidate and merge ministries, selling this off to try something different over here? Will we believe the post-covid reports abut what the decline in church attendance means?
There is no doubt attendance is less across all Christian denominations, but what does that mean?
I think it is time to listen to St. Paul, and focus on the cross of Jesus, to think through that which is our only hope, to realize we have died, and risen with Him. We have to get back to that message – for the sake of our people. Merton states this clearly – the whole life of the Church nad its believers consists of the death and life of Christ, and our unity with it. Luther adds the grace of God experienced and revealed through His word which proclaims Christ crucified.
We can’t afford to be in a defensive position any longer! In fact we should have never gone down that road to begin with, relying on our own intellect and ability to strategize the next moves for the church..
Paul, one of the greatest intellects in the history of the church, says he abandoned the things which communicated loftier ideals with larger words.
Just Christ. Just the cross.
This is where we die, and live…
This is the message that sparks revivals and reformations. That Jesus dwells with His people, His church. This is what is seeing churches in other places in the world grow so fast they are sending missionaries here.
God at work, in the lives of people, redeemed and reconciled by the body and blood of Christ shed on the cross, and found on the altar.
Let’s celebrate that love, that passion, that presence… and depend on Him. As we do, we will find the rumors of the death of the church to be greatly exagerated, and in fact, lies from hell.
Merton, Thomas. 1976. The New Man. London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. 1915. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern.
God is Making Us Righteous: A Sermon on Romans 8:10-13
God is making us… Righteous
† I.H.S. †
May the Grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus be evident in your life that you may know God will fulfill His promises to you.
The Lenten Journey
Time for another Pastor Parker Poignant Parable – that comes from experience this week!
Our Lenten Journey in the Kingdom of God is like the 405 freeway. You know that there is major construction you will encounter, though you don’t know where it will be today! It will be a mess, but you will eventually get to your destination!
Some things in our lives need to be demolished. Some things need to be widened (though they seem too wide already). Things generally need to be rebuilt, and things need to be smoothed out and repaved. The hardest part is that we have to deal with someone else making all the decisions that affect our journey!
But eventually, we will get to our destination.
Each week of Lent, we will see what God has promised to do and is doing in our lives…
Some of it will be unexpected, some may seem like it is going too slow, or the detour doesn’t make sense…
And on occasion – there will be some major demolition needed…
But getting us to the final destination – and getting the work done, is the promise.
The promise is on the cover of the bulletin. It is a promise that Paul taught the church in Ephesus about when he wrote,
“And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the day of Christ Jesus.” Amen? AMEN!
As we realize God is in charge of the work and in charge of getting us to our destination, perfect and mature… and on time – His time; we find His peace
The Problem with Journeys
If you ask anyone living between Long Beach and Irvine, the 405 has been a mess, is a mess, and will be a mess until Jesus returns.
Sort of like life. I’ve had to drive it 4-5 times in the last two weeks, and probably a dozen since December – and you never know where the construction will happen or what ramps will be closed or open.
It’s a mess – as is life.
Sometimes we think everything will be perfect, and then something is screwed-up. Sin enters the picture and demolishes a bridge or closes the on-ramp we thought we would use. Or someone sins, accidentally, of course, and everything in life slows down to a crawl.
You know – something like the sins happening between the Ukraine and Russia….. and the related sins – like the spreading of gossip and fear.
And sooner or later, we will get frustrated by the work, the need for it, frustrated by delays, and our reactions! Like how we react when someone cuts us off on the freeway while traffic is going 20 mph.
Our lack of understanding – which leads to frustration – leads us into sin…
God’s work – done… and yet not done.
This is where we need to remember God is at work! And the job is going to get done in His time!
After all, God is far more in control than CalTrans!
We just need to trust in Him – to believe in our heart that He’s doing what He promised to do…. Hear again from Romans,
10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”
God has a destination for every single one of us in mind. That destination is His side, with Him forever. He is in charge of the journey, including the detours and the slowdowns. Remember his promise that all things work for good for those who love God..? That includes all the stops, detours, and frustrations of the journey. For God uses them to teach us to trust in Him, depend on Him, to believe in our heart that He is making us right with the Father.
That is what the cross is all about – the point in this journey where God made us righteous.
This is a done deal!
We are made right with God – we are being drawn to His side…
Believing, trusting, depending on Him means we let Him be in charge of the journey – even if it reminds us of the 405 freeway or the 5 into LA.
That’s why Paul reminds us that “Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” Romans 10:8-13 (NLT2)
Saying that God gives generously to us is simply saying that if He does not spare Jesus but offers Him on the cross. He did not spare His body but allowed His blood to be spilled; how much more will He make certain what He started at the cross comes to completion.
He has made you righteous – He has made you right with Him. And though you don’t know how long the journey will be, we are confident in His finishing the work – on the day we arrive and see Him face to face.
And until then – no matter how bad the 405 is, no matter how high the price of gas, no matter how many closures – we can live in His peace and in the presence of the Holy Spirit – until we get home… AMEN!
Deal with it Lord! Deal wth our Ignorance! A sermon for the 5th week of Lent
Deal with it Lord!
Deal with our Ignorance!
† In Jesus Name †
May you realize the gentleness of the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, as you see revealed that Jesus is the source of your salvation!
- Instinct When Dealing with Ignorance
The illustration for today is simple.
You are going to teach someone who has never seen a old fashioned charcoal barbecue, how to cook a nice steak, and maybe a few beast loaf burgers on the grill.
Simple? Easy? Sure!
Except they are completely ignorant about the process.
So you tell them to make a nice pile of Kingsford charcoal in the grill, and they get the bag and do so.
Step two, you get some handy barbecue lighter fluid and tell them to squirt some on the briquets, and then using the torch, which you have demonstrated, light the fire.
A moment later you see them dousing the charcoal, and they keep dousing it, you go inside to grab a drink, come out and in their left hand they are still dousing the charcoal and in the right hand they have the torch, and they’ve lowered it into the grill, where there now ¼ of an inch of lighter fluid in the bottom.
What do you do next?
Wait!!! Before you answer than, I’ve got one question, which is more dangerous, an ignorant person with something flammable and even explosive, or an ignorant and wayward person tempted to sin?
- Will This Work with the Sinner?
I am going to assume you are all brave and honorable and would somehow try to save the person you were supposed to be teaching before he or she burns down the entire neighborhood.
But can you use the same technique with the person about to give into temptation? Can you reach the person ignorant of God’s grace yet caught up in sin the same way?
Imagine, you are the ignorant, wayward sinner about to gossip, and racing across the church comes Bob, and he is about to tackle you! Or maybe you were about to covet something, and Tom starts screaming at you to stop! I will not event get into what Manny might do if you don’t find a sabbath rest with God!
I do not think that any of them are going to stop you from sinning, in fact, they may create another response or two that is sinful!
So back to what is more deadly than lighting 3 cups of lighter fluid at close distance.
The acts of the ignorant and wayward person caught up in sin.
- Jesus Does it
Our passage in Hebrews tells us how Jesus, the great high priest will deal with him.
2 And he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people because he himself is subject to the same weaknesses.
I love that, he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people… like you and me.
Jesus doesn’t tackle us or scream at those caught up in sin. He deals with us, and he does it gently, with grace and compassion.
- How He does it
So how does Jesus deal with those who get caught up in sin, who don’t understand He is here to rescue us?
He does two things according to this passage. He identifies with us and our trials, and He offers the sacrifice that
Let’s deal with the identity idea first.
Remember it said that “he Himself is subject to the same weaknesses.”
Living among us wasn’t easy, even as God. Besides dealing with Satan, He had to deal with sinners like Peter and hotheads like James and John, and Matthew and Simon the Zealot on opposite sides of the political spectrum.
I imagine Jesus might have been tempted to let some of them light the barbecue grill once or twice…
Remember, he faced temptation, just as we have, without sinning. He lived our kinds of lives and didn’t give in to sin.
Knowing He went through what we do, it makes it easier to realize His compassion and sympathy for us.
While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. 8 Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.
That doesn’t sound like the easy life.
Jesus felt the pain and the anxiety of dealing with sin around Him, and He knew when death was coming, and how it would come… and for what reason.
Which leads to the second way in which Jesus helps us. He is not just offering the sacrifice for our sins.
The writer of Hebrews said this about Jesus’ role,
In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.
Going back to our illustration, as our playing with sin is likened to lighting half a bottle of lighter fluid on fire. Jesus deals with us by moving us away, and taking all the heat Himself. He protects us from the consequences of our actions and does becomes our salvation.
Every sin you’ve committed. Every single one. He takes your place and my place, taking all of God’s wrath as the ultimate sacrifice.
A sacrifice we realize as we take His Body and His blood at communion, and realize the penalty of sin was dealt with, as His body and blood were broken and spilled for us.
He moves us out of the way, and takes all the heat….
And the Holy Spirit recreates in us a holiness that reflects Jesus’s
We just confess our sins, and realize He did the hard stuff.
- Lent and Outreach
During Lent, we go back to these basics. We work through them, remembering Jesus gentleness with ignorant and wayward ones for two reasons.
The first is simple – we need to work gently with the ignorant and wayward ones in our lives. We have to not tackle them or scream at them, but bring them Jesus slowly, prayerfully and patiently. Gently, drawing them to Jesus, letting the Holy Spirit convert them.
The second is more touchy. Some of you here today are wayward, and if not ignorant of God’s mercy, it has been forgotten as we are buried under guilt and shame. If that is the case, knowing God’s nature, we stop hiding or fighting Him, and let Him bring healing into our lives.
That is where we are – either the ignorant and wayward, or called to gently minister to the ignorant and wayward…. Or of course, we are both.
Either way, Jesus is our high priest, and the one who offers the sacrifice. AMEN.
We Could not… so He did! Let this pass!
We Could Not..So He did:
Let this pass… but
Matthew 26:36-47, 1 Peter 1:6-9
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father help you to look to Jesus when you can’t endure.
- The Chalice…
The prayer of Jesus in the Garden has always been fascinating to me. Let me set the scene again,
37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
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.”
He knelt there, in the Garden, and thought of the suffering her was going to endure… that He was going to embrace.
The Cup of suffering, the Cup that the Passover foreshadowed, was His to drink.
How he got to this point, through the Last Supper, amazes me… and here in the Garden…he would do what I could never do…
He drank deeply of the suffering…
2. The Cup That Needs to Pass
There are two types of suffering.
Suffering because we deserve it, and suffering when we don’t deserve it.
To be honest, I do not like either!
It is one thing to suffer because I screwed up. You know, the consequences that happen because you overate and felt sick. Or perhaps, someone, now one here, drank too much as has a hangover. Or maybe you didn’t walk away from that fight…
It is another thing to suffer because you don’t deserve it. The illness, the accident, the economy, or COVID…or perhaps you
In the midst of either, we struggle. We gripe and complain. We may get depressed and ask why me…, and we don’t ask God to let this pass.., we demand it, claiming that good people like us shouldn’t suffer so much.
I hate to say it, but we often sin in the way we deal with discomfort and suffering, not trusting the God who has saved our very souls…
He Took the Cup!
There is a third kind of suffering.
The kind of suffering where you take on the suffering someone else deserves.
The parent who tries to save their child from the consequences they deserve might be an example. Or the friend or co-worker who covers for another person.
But Jesus took on so much more, the agony and pain of every sin, the wrath of God. Not just to cover it up or to enable someone. But to really deal with it. To embrace the agony that only He could deal with.
He knew that when He took the bread and the Cup and taught once again what He would do for us…
But now in the Garden, the threat takes on a new dimension, and He embraces it all….
Knowing the pain, knowing the agony, the betrayal…
He does so… because He loves us.
We can’t deal with the Cup of suffering. We can’t deal with what we deserve, the consequences of our sin and error. So he did.
And He wants to make sure we are with the Father, forever.
This is what Lent focuses us on, the incredible love of God that embraced the suffering in the Garden and the cross…
So that we could be whole, and the damage of sin eradicated… but more importantly, that we would spend our eternity with Him.
This is amazing.. and leaves us in awe… for He loves us.
For the will of God was to take the Cup of suffering, to offer to us the Cup of salvation.
Think of that, as you come and drink, as you receive the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of your sin.
Think of that, as we come… and lay down all that we suffer, and place it in His hands.
We Could Not…So He Did! Part 2 – Guard this Treasure
We could not…so He Did!
Guard this Treasure!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and peace of God our Father help you to recognize the treasure given to you in your relationship with Jesus Christ!
The Dark Night of the Soul
As we walk with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we have the opportunity to witness the darkest night that has ever occurred spiritually. The night when evil was more powerfully present than ever when that evil created despair so powerfully it assaulted Jesus. It created a dark night, the darkest night, even for Jesus.
He would cry out to His Father, our Creator, in the depth of His despair, he would be so physically overwhelmed by anxiety and the darkness that He would sweat blood. The emotional and spiritual trauma was greater than anything ever experienced by mankind.
The Darkest Night of the Soul…
And perhaps a night of unshakable beauty…a night to not only remember… but to be in awe of the beauty of the darkness.
You see, we need to look at Jesus, the one Isaiah identified as the man of sorrows, and be in awe of the beauty. We need to treasure these moments.
Can We Keep the Watch? Can we stay aware of what Jesus went through?
Or will we be like the apostles… and fall asleep on our watch?
It had been an emotional week, with many ups and downs. Preparing for the feast was an enormous task for this traveling band of homeless missionaries.
The feast itself was a challenge, with two of the brothers fighting, with Peter nearly ready to walk away rather than let Jesus wash his feet. Then the comment by Jesus, about someone ready to betray him… a question that caused them all to question themselves, none of them confident in that moment…
The fiery scene with Judas, the long walk to the garden in the dark… and Jesus so serious, so perplexed.
It was draining.
We need to experience Jesus there; we need to pay careful attention to what He went through that evening. Our point of focus during these weeks of lent is a few hours described in just a few sentences… What will get in the way?
Will it be sleep? Will it be our own weariness? Will it be our own dark nights of the soul?
Will we be able to stay awake, to keep watch, to guard the truth of this night in our hearts, meditating on Jesus, being with Him there…
I am going to be bluntly honest. You will fail during this time… You will have the same level of t
You will sin…you might experience despair, and you might forget about the hope you have.
You will know the feeling that the 12 apostles had, as Jesus woke them up for the third time. There will be times where you will feel as guilty and ashamed as they did. As they witnessed His arrest, to follow Him at a distance as he was tried and beaten and crucified.
There have been times and will be times where you could not keep watch…where you did not treasure this suffering of Jesus.
We could not… so He Did…
I never want to tell you that it is okay to fall asleep on God, to fail to treasure what God is giving you in Christ Jesus.
But where we can’t keep our focus on Him, when we can’t guard the treasure of what He’s given us because of His passionate embrace of suffering, we find out He did.
He treasured that night, He suffered through it, He didn’t fall asleep.
And while He was disappointed that they could not treasure it, while Jesus is disappointed in our failures, He continues to come to us, to wake us up.
We have to realize the love that drives Him to do this is beyond our ability to understand. He doesn’t just love us if we fall asleep 7 times, or 70 times,
He loves us.
So He kept the watch that night. He treasured the relationship He has with you and me.
He kept watch over them, treasuring them, and not one of the apostles would die with Jesus because Jesus was faithful.
This is what we need to know in our dark nights, in our moments where anxiety and doubt take their toll when evil seems to have Jesus and obliterated God.
He is still there; Jesus treasures us. Because of that fact, we know a peace that passes all understanding, as He guards our hearts and minds.. in Him. AMEN!
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
† 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
† 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.
Be Careful What You Ask For… A Lenten Sermon on Luke 13:31-35
You might just get it!
† 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..
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.
I need to find that God is THERE! (a thought about why I need Lent)
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
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 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
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.