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Faith in Action is in Dialogue (IV) A sermon on James 5:13-20

church at communion 2Faith in Action:  Is in Dialogue
James 5:13-20

† I.H.S. 

May the grace, mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ instill in you the confidence to be drawn to them and enter intimate dialogue with Them

People in trauma

The people that James was writing too sound like us.  Based on the words we read just this morning, we could ask if they are part of Concordia!  Hear how James describes them

verse 13 asks if they are suffering hardships
verse 14  ask if any are sick
verse 15 mentions people who have committed sin
verse 16 may be the hardest question of all, have some of us wandered away from Jesus.

Pretty sure you can find most of us on that list, in fact, some of us probably can answer more than one of those questions.

As we’ve said a few times around here, how do we get through this life, without knowing Jesus?

This life is broken, we see it enough in our homes, in our workplaces, in our families, even in our churches.  But it isn’t a new thing, James wrote about these problems to people nearly 2000 years ago.

Even with all the differences, the problems are still the same, hardships, sickness, sin, and our struggle to go our own way.  And in asking how people go through this life without Christ, we begin to see how James addresses each of these ways we are broken with a simple, misunderstood four letter word.

Pray.

There is an answer

Prayer, Praise, Prayer, Pray for each other

Suffering hardship – pray!
Sick  call the elders (pastor and deacons too!) and have them pray
Sins?  Confess and pray for each other
Wanders from Jesus (the truth) bring him back from the wandering so he can communicate with God, with us.

Pray… Pray… Pray…

Sounds like one of Al’s emails or text messages to me. They often end that way… and for  reason.

We know prayer makes a difference. We know when that prayer isn’t what you do when there is nothing else to do.

It is what you do first, and always.

Not because prayer adds up like tickets you get playing skeeball at an arcade, or frequent flier points.

That’s not the way prayer works or the reason to pray.  It’s not about what we do to impress God, it is an act of faith, it is the way we depend on God.

But what is prayer – Elijah’s example.

James gives us as an example of prayer, in the situation with Elijah and the weather.  That prayer was not simple monologues, they are conversations. As you follow the story throughout 1 Kings 17 and 18, you see Elijah moving by God’s direction, enabled to do what he did because God was there, with Him, even as the Lord is with you! (and also with you?)

You see that in these chapters where Elijah is ministering to Israel, and to a the widow in what is now Lebanon, as he confronts sin and evil, as he deals with brokenness, and sickness and even death. As he is on top of the world, and as he feels like he’s the last man standing and isn’t sure how much more he can stand.

In other words, he is a man like us!  And yet. Because he walked and talked with God, this was said of him,

24  “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the LORD truly speaks through you.” 1 Kings 17:24 (NLT2)

God speaks through those who hear Him, who talk with Him, and that is what prayer is.
A conversation with God, depending on His presence, and on His love, shown in the mercy He has on us.

And then we see the greatest work that depending on God, talking to Him, hearing Him brings about.

19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.

Here is where prayer is so necessary, to see those who come back from wandering away from God, sometimes even running away from God, come back.

To see them saved from death and hell, to see them freed form sin and the guilt and shame that can so haunt those caught in its grasp. That only happens when our faith is active, and that faith requires us to be in conversation with God.

We have to depend on God, for otherwise there is no way we can have the patience, the determination to have patience, the ability to withstand the rejection, and still leave the door open for them to come in, look around, put their toe in the water…ask a question or three.. even be critical.

Trusting in God, communicating with Him, knowing His heart for us and all prodigals like us, we can take the time to see people return to God, even if we have to help carry them.

This is the power of prayer, this is what knowing that the Lord is with you causes to happen in real life.  That is a major part of who we are. As one pastor wrote,

Finally, the suffering person is entrusted to an innkeeper, so that he might continue to care for him, sparing no expense. Now, who is this innkeeper? It is the Church, the Christian community—it is us—to whom each day the Lord entrusts those who are afflicted in body and spirit, so that we might lavish all of his mercy and salvation upon them without measure.
[1]

So let us pray, and as we dwell in Christ’s peace, the peace that passes all understanding.  AMEN!

[1] Francis. (2016). Wednesday, 26 February 2014. In Audiences of Pope Francis, 2013–2015 (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

The Image of God and His People You Will Never Forget (though you might want to!)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  This is what the LORD said to me: “Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it on, but do not wash it.” 2  So I bought the loincloth as the LORD directed me, and I put it on. 3  Then the LORD gave me another message: 4  “Take the linen loincloth you are wearing, and go to the Euphrates River. Hide it there in a hole in the rocks.” 5  So I went and hid it by the Euphrates as the LORD had instructed me. 6  A long time afterward the LORD said to me, “Go back to the Euphrates and get the loincloth I told you to hide there.” 7  So I went to the Euphrates and dug it out of the hole where I had hidden it. But now it was rotting and falling apart. The loincloth was good for nothing. 8  Then I received this message from the LORD: 9  “This is what the LORD says: This shows how I will rot away the pride of Judah and Jerusalem. 10  These wicked people refuse to listen to me. They stubbornly follow their own desires and worship other gods. Therefore, they will become like this loincloth—good for nothing! 11  As a loincloth clings to a man’s waist, so I created Judah and Israel to cling to me, says the LORD. They were to be my people, my pride, my gloryan honor to my name. But they would not listen to me. Jeremiah 13:1-11 (NLT)


538    There he is: King of Kings and Lord of Lords, hidden in the bread. To this extreme has he humbled himself for love of you.  (1)

There are many images in scripture used to describe the close, intimate relationship between God and His people.  He is the Good Shepherd who carries his lost sheep home, the Father who runs to meet His prodigal son,  The Bridegroom awaiting His perfect spotless Bride.   We are His temple, His dwelling place, His home…

And then there is this one

God and His people, who are pictured as… His underwear?  (that’s what a loincloth is…)

I mean, that is how close God wants His people to be to Him?  Not only that, He wants us to be like clingy underwear?

TMI!!!

(which could stand for too much information  or too much intimacy!)

It is an odd picture to be sure, this picture that the prophet Jeremiah puts on paper, inspired by the Holy Spirit.  But it drives the point home in a way we cannot deny.

God wants His people close to Him, Closer than anything else.

Yet too often, we don’t want to be that close to Him, we don’t even want to be in his bureau.  We want to keep God at just the proper distance.  Close enough to rescue us when we sin, but not so close that His presence causes us to move with Him,   We want to have our sins forgiven, but not have to spend time clinging to Him, having our lives wrapped around His life, going where He wants to go.

He wants us that close. He wants to be that involved in our lives, and we to be that involved in His.  For even as the prophet Jeremiah pictures us as God’s clothes, Paul will picture God wrapping Himself around us

26  It is through faith that all of you are God’s children in union with Christ Jesus. 27  You were baptized into union with Christ, and now you are clothed, so to speak, with the life of Christ himself. Galatians 3:26-27 (TEV)

This intimacy is not just pictured, but occurs at a deeper level, as we take Christ’s Body and Blood into us, in the Lord’s Supper, where Christ hides Himself, as St. Josemaria tells us, that we can know His love.

This intimate relationship is why the Father sent Jesus to live among us, to die for us, to restore us to the very ideal that God created us to be…. HIs people, His pride, His glory, and that we can bring Honor to His name.

Remember, the Lord is with you!

And if you need help remember how close… remember this picture from Jeremiah!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1299-1301). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Struggling with Temptation…. Christ’s Example

What Child is This?

The One Led By the Spirit!

Matthew 4:1-11

 

IHS 

 

As you come to know and treasure the grace of God, that mercy and love that comes as we are untied to Christ’s death, may we stand firm in His peace and forgiveness

 

Can We Wear Our Dad’s Shoes?

Most have done it, some of us have pictures of our children or grandchildren doing it.

Somewhere between the ages of three and five, we walk into our parent’s bedroom, find their shoes, try them on our small feet, and then try to walk in them.

We/they did not get that far, did they?

As we journey through this season of Lent, I think we are going to find out often, that we try to put our Father’s shoes on still.  Not our biological parents, but our Father in Heaven’s shoes.

We still cannot walk in them any better than we did when we were four!  Nevertheless, the temptation is there, and we want to be grown up and independent.  We want the same authority, the same power, the same ability.  That is a temptation every day, to play God, or at least imagine what we could/would do, if we had the ability to take His place for a day,

As we read the gospel today, we see that Jesus faced those trials as well.  The only one who has walked through life, who would could make a claim to wear the Father’s shoes, to wield His authority.

Will we learn the lesson His actions teach us?  Or will we try to take on temptation by falling for Satan’s spin on the scriptures?

The Challenges
Basic Survival

Imagine 40 days without your favorite meal or snack, or your favorite beverage! Never mind, we are in Lent, and some of you are doing just that!  Jesus was going not 40 days without a specific food, or without coffee, but 40 days without normal dietary intake, without chocolate, or pizza, or bacon, or coffee!  We could have just eaten, and yet walking in the parking lot over at the Town Centre and smelling the fumes from Wood Ranch’s ovens can cause us to be hungry!

He wasn’t just hungry, our Lord was starving, His body would have been rebelling against Him, when Satan walks up and offers a solution to Jesus. Just turn these rocks into a nice roll from Panera, or one of those donuts, you know that will be sitting in the MPR about 30 minutes from now.

It’s simple – use what you have, to get something that will take care of your needs.

Which is where many of us fail, as we use what we’ve been blessed with, to get what we want, what we desire, what we feel we deserve.

Like Wednesday night’s sermon, the issue is being content, trusting God with what He’s provided, what He’s called us, where He has placed us in life.

Jesus’s answer is the answer of faith.  To trust every word, every promise that comes from the mouth of God. Those words strengthen us, enable us to keep our attention on God, and His work in our life.

It is not easy,  Luther put it this way,

I believe that God created me, along with all creatures. He gave to me: body and soul, eyes, ears and all the other parts of my body, my mind and all my senses and preserves them as well. He gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and land, wife and children, fields, animals and all I own. Every day He abundantly provides everything I need to nourish this body and life. He protects me against all danger, shields and defends me from all evil. He does all this because of His pure, fatherly and divine goodness and His mercy, not because I’ve earned it or deserved it. For all of this, I must thank Him, praise Him, serve Him and obey Him. Yes, this is true!

As we will see in each of the temptations, the key isn’t doing it by our strength, by trying to be strong enough to resist temptation, but to turn to God, to His promises, to remember we dwell in His presence, and to know His heart towards us.

 

Proper Trust
The second temptation that Jesus faces is another we are far too familiar with, the temptation of hearing what we want from people, and trying that trick with God.  Satan wants us to hear or read the Bible in such a way, that we believe we will never face hardship, never face trauma.  No matter what we do, or don’t do.

That sin?  Oh, don’t worry about it! Everything you want will be as you deserve!  Obedience?  Faithfulness?  Actually studying the scripture?  Prayer?  Suffering?  It’s not that big of a deal!  Gossip, sexual immorality, hatred, not reconciling with people? Nothing to worry about – no side affects!  Remember – God will forgive every sin!  Pastor said so! Satan would have us know exactly enough scripture that we can act self-righteous, while doing what we want.  All thiswhile putting our faith in promises God has never made the way Satan spins them.

Jesus’ answer to Satan again isn’t to fight Satan’s scripture twisting by his own authority, but He returns to scripture, to the commands of God, and rebukes Him from the word of God He knew so well.  Don’t put God to the test!  It reminds me of what is found in Jude’s little epistle, about the archangel Michael:

9  But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
Jude 1:9 (NLT)

It is a tactic that is necessarily employed in spiritual warfare, in dealing with temptation.  To remember that we don’t wear the Father in Heaven’s shoes, that we aren’t God, but that He is with us, guiding us, that the scriptures reveal He is with us, and that He reigns….

Power/Authority

Which is what the last temptation is about, the one where Satan makes a bold promise.  Here is everything you desire, the power to save those you love, the power to do whatever you want in their lives.

Oh gosh how tempting this one is in life.  What if Satan offered to us unlimited funds for missions. Wouldn’t it be great to have rescued the 33 missionaries about to be killed in North Korea, or feed those starving? Or the ability to cure everyone who suffered from cancer, or diabetes, or heart disease.  What if we could bring every person back who has lost their faith, or those who’ve left and healed every painful memory?

Would that be worth bowing before him, for just a moment? Would it be worth it, to set aside the promises of God, for these false promises?  Would it be worth it to give up our relationship with God, and all He is for us, to for a moment, to know the illusion of everything being “right”

What could a few seconds of bowing mean? Right?

It’s not just a bow, it’s worship, it submission, it is confessing who has responsibility for your life, it’s about who you trust in, for life, to love you, to care for you in every instance.

Do you want the devil, who would devour you?  Or do you want the Triune God, who in Christ came to take on our failure to overcome temptation, who to on our failures, our brokenness, who would bring us back to our Father in Heaven?  Who took on our temptation, and defeated Satan, not just in this passage, but the cross

When it comes down to it, who do you want responsible for you?

The one who brings division and temptation, and the one called the Accuser of the family of God.
Or the one who heals.

Rely, trust, believe and  know the God who loves you – who died for you.. who lives with you.  Know His word and follow His example – don’t take the devil on your own, don’t hear just what you want to hear – but know the God who walks with you… who brings you into His glory, His peace.

AMEN!

Stirred, not Shaken!

Basic Bond coat of arms with motto translated ...

Basic Bond coat of arms with motto translated as The World is Not Enough (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Stirred but not Shaken”

Acts 2: 14a ,22-36


Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

 May you realize the grace of of knowing the Triune God desires and works to know you, and make you perfect, perfect for a relationship 


Anybody get the number of  that creed?   

Even though I dearly love the Athanasian Creed, even though I love how it lays out the relationship of the Trinity, even though I love spending a couple of hours with it, and highly recommend that to you, there is a certain feeling I get, reading it in a worship service.

Two ways to describe it…

The first is, I feel like Wiley E Coyote at the end of every scene in the old Roadrunner cartoons….

The other, I wonder if anyone got the license plate number of the theological 18 wheeler than just hit me.  I almost wonder if Anthony of the Desert, who is credited with writing it, and Athanasius, a deacon who presented the creed to a gathering of pastors and bishops – comprehended the depth of the creed’s teaching….

Maybe it overwhelmed them a bit two… as if as they read it, they wondered who was driving the chariot that ran over them….

Even as I love this incredible Creed, as I love how it teaches us about the mystery of the Trinity – the Tri-une God, the Three yet One, I realize it has one shortcoming.  It was written to challenge all the false teachings about the Trinity, and about the nature of Christ…it seeks to teach us to know about how the Trinity is, and how Jesus is both fully God and fully man…

But it assumes one thing…. That we know this Trinity, this Triune God.

It does a wonderful job stripping away many, if not most of the false teachings about Jesus… yet leaves us there… needing to get to know Him…

May this day, we rejoice, in not just knowing who God is not, but may we rejoice in knowing our Triune God…..

And as we grow in knowing the Trinity, this God of ours, may we be just the opposite of James Bond’s famous drink – may we be stirred, and know we cannot be shaken.

Stirred

Still a little overwhelmed by the theological semi that ran over my brain, I’m going to do the sermon backward today – and give you the gospel, before the law…

Hear King David’s words again, really hear them….

‘I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. 26 No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. 27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. 28 You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’

 The very God we proclaimed that we trusted a moment ago, David said is right before his eyes.  As God is here, right in our midst.  Here to protect, here to be our shepherd, here to be all that we need as our Father, as our Lord, as our God.
He is here…The Triune God who has been at work in our lives since we were created, is with us. He has called us together, He has brought us here, in order that we can know His love, that we can remember His mercy.  The Holy Spirit drew us that we can literally taste and see that the Lord is good.

Walking with Him, on this way, which He has revealed, is what our lives are to be, and are, because of that presence of His. To know He is here, To realize that love which causes Him to cleanse us, to assure us that our souls will not fade into nothingness, even as Christ’s body was not meant to tor in the grave.

Paul explain this, in this way,

12  For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13  You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14  he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:12-14 (TEV)

That is what the presence of God in our lives means… it’s the time to rejoice in everything that has opened up to us.  It is time for a party, for the feast – for the incredible life that God has given us…. And would live with us.

No wonder David says that His heart dances, it rejoices, (forget this line “glad” GRR) and his tongue SHOUTS his praises – the special shout reserved for the jubilee – that one time in life, everything you are shout!

He is here – He has given us life – He has given us the joy of His presence….

He is right beside me… and I shall not, will not, cannot be shaken…

Not Shaken   

That is where the Law comes in, this idea of being “shaken”.  Being shaken is like being out in the middle of Lake Galilee with 80 mph winds raising waves much bigger than our fishing boats, or a spiritual earthquake.  Those are the words that are used for those traumas, when life is so in turmoil that you cannot determine which way is which – not just east and west or north and south, but forward and back and upside down.
The Trinity’s presence in our lives takes care of that – for it completely changes our point of orientation. It is no longer us that is spinning out of control, even as the world is spinning – and in such a way that people have to realize God is with us.

As we do, as our lives, as our desires, as our dreams ocme into line with His, as we see that our redemption, our deliverance has been the Father’s goal all along, things change.

The law – which is the way in which God orders the universe, which we struggle with, is revealed to be what drives us to Him, looking for hope, looking for something which will cause the storm…

And when we are with God, Triune, majestic, beyond our ability to comprehend, at least during this life, we do find ourselves able to rest in hope, our heart finds that gladness, and we shout His praise, as we realize His desire is to be here – with us, His people.

It’s His plan…no, we are His plan..

 It’s His plan, the reading calls it His pre-arranged plan…
Even to the point where Jesus was betrayed, and fixed to a cross, and murdered.  As Peter preaches to the very ones who killed him,

That He could, for the people the Father created, pay the price of redemption, and pour out His Holy Spirit, that we would become His Holy and Righteous people…

Yeah – no wonder our hearts are glad…joyous – know His presence, having been shown the way of life – through the death of Christ.

May we indeed know His peace, as we wait, resting in the hope that comes from knowing He is beside us.  May such knowledge stir us to love and good deeds, even as we trust, as we know we’ll never be shaken…
AMEN?

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