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We Have Hope: A sermon from a broken heart.

We Have Hope!
Jeremiah 31:15-17

In Jesus’ Name

In this new year, may the hope of God’s rewards for you, the rewards of being His children become more and more real, as we see the hope for our future in Christ Jesus!

You have to wonder….

One of the guys I want to meet in heaven is the guys who chose and approved the readings for the three-year church cycle, and how we choose which readings to use.  I mean you look at the readings for today, they don’t seem like the kind of readings you want to start the year with, they don’t seem exactly what you might call promising!

They are the readings that call us to remember some of the youngest martyrs in the church.  An event that Matthew’s gospel compared to the time the young people of Israel were led off into captivity, a fate that was the result not of their unfaithfulness, but the unfaithfulness of the generation that preceded them.

That is the weeping that Jeremiah’s passage originally referred to, yet Matthew says it is equally applicable to the time of Jesus birth.  For then, the male infants and toddlers were sacrificed because of a man’s paranoia…

Again, the readings don’t seem to be the kind you want to start the year with!

Not auspicious…

Well, not at first…

The sobering reality…

The sobering reality is that babies are still killed because of the sins of the generation that would have given them birth.  You look to places where children are taken from their homes and conscripted into armies.  Others are simply killed because they won’t convert to another religion.  Estimates online say between 10,000, and 100,000 (  http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24864587) Christian martyrs in the world last year.  Worldwide the estimate is another 43 million children were killed before their birth in 2015.  Even as I wrote this sermon yesterday, the amount for 2016 was already over 171,000 (http://www.worldometers.info/abortions/)

It is enough to make you weep.

This is just one form of the trauma that exists, one that makes no sense, like those observed by Jeremiah and by those who watched Herod massacre young children.

But the Law isn’t that

But it is not the acts of death that I see confronting us today.  We need to find ways to help those being persecuted, and those who are told that life is disposable if it threatens our lives.

But I want to look at the Rachel’s, those of us who weep for this reason or maybe others.  Some of us have hit that point, and others of us have friends who are experiencing that level of grief, that level of despair or depression.  This is the law that confronts us this morning when the struggle to trust in God is too great, and we refuse to be comforted.

How do you help the person whose cry is described as, deep anguish and bitter weeping.”  How do we help the person, “refusing to be comforted.”

How do we help a person when faith doesn’t seem to be enough?

For that is the mission of the church, especially this church.  Remember how we are described,

Concordia is the place where broken people find healing in Christ while helping others heal.

So how do we, as the people of God, bring healing and hope to people who have none? And how is that the gospel message for this day, and for this year?

And the gospel is this…

We do it the same Jeremiah did, and with the same message:

We spend time with them, there in the struggle.  Praying for them, holding their hand, feeding them, caring for them, and sharing with them this message,

Do not weep any longer, for I will reward you,” says the LORD. “Your children will come back to you from the distant land of the enemy. 17  There is hope for your future,” says the LORD. “Your children will come again to their own land.

In the passage, God addressed the very issue that was causing the struggle, the pain over the children who were. No more.  He didn’t forget them, nor the pain that the people of God knew, as the innocent suffered because of the evil of that day.

In this passage in Hebrew, five times, the phrase, “says the LORD” is used, though we see it only three times.  The important thing is to realize this isn’t the title of God, the Lord Almighty, but the personal name we aren’t to use in vain, but to use in communicating to Him.

He keeps saying,

First he was the one who heard the cry of His people and recognized the depth of the pain. Even the fact that the people refused to be comforted.  That is what God says…

And then He says the promise. Do not weep. There is hope for your future.

In this case, the children will come again into the land, they will return from the land of the enemy.

For the Jewish person, this is a promise of reconciliation, that God will restore not the property, but the position of being the covenant people, the people He has promised to care for, the people He loves.

That is what so many fail to see when they talk about being the chosen people.  They look for the land, rather than the relationship.

But the hope, the hope which will dry up the tears is found in the relationship.  The very thing that was forgotten, that was trampled upon, is restored to those it should have been passed onto.

When Matthew’s gospel quotes this passage, he recalls to people’s minds the promise. Not a promise to one mother, but to the nation of Israel – that God’s people will be God’s people. He will restore them. That He will keep His promises, including the one we don’t always see occurring, that all things work for good, for those who love God, and are called according to His purpose.

You see, we aren’t waiting for God to keep this promise somewhere in the future.  The very thing that would call us “home” has occurred.  We have this relationship with God; we are His people that have returned.  We know that the promise is complete, even though we struggle to see its completeness…. Because we don’t see Him face to face…yet.

But we shall, and we have the promise of eternity with Him.

That is the promise, the ultimate promise, of that day when there will be no more injustice when there will be no more martyrdom or those who are sacrificed for the benefit of others.

For this is why He came….Jesus even said so, in his first recorded public sermon.

18  God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free, 19  to announce, “This is God’s year to act!” 20  He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. 21  Then he started in, “You’ve just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.”   Luke 4:18-21 (MSG)

This is the message we have for those, who at first refuse the comfort we want to want dearly to give them. It is the message of the altar; the place were we find healing, and the peace that comes from knowing God will do what He promised.

For He always has.  He always speaks to His people, bringing them comfort, and hope.

God still acts, and He will in our lives, and in the lives we bring to find His love, His mercy, and His peace.

AMEN!

 

Will God hear even me today, in this mood I am in?

Devotional THought of the Day:

9  And so I say to you: Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. 10  For those who ask will receive, and those who seek will find, and the door will be opened to anyone who knocks. 11  Would any of you who are fathers give your son a snake when he asks for fish? 12  Or would you give him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? 13  As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:9-13 (TEV) 

469         Lord, I do not deserve to be heard, because I am wicked, a penitent soul prayed: But he added: Yet… listen to me quoniam bonus—because You are good.  (1)

I am in a lousy mood today – so lousy that it is now 9:30 and I am just getting to my blog.  I am not even sure if I wrote one yesterday, which was very busy and tiring.  I am sitting in front of my computer, after wasting time in a doctor’s office, after dealing with traffic and long lines and in starting to do the bills, and tearing up a letter that I wrote no less than 8 times to a friend, who doesn’t quite see eye to eye with me regarding Christ’s church.  What I wanted – on this a “day off”?  To spend some time writing my book, or to re-read “Between Heaven and Hell”.

English: Gian Lorenzo Bernini - Dove of the Ho...

English: Gian Lorenzo Bernini – Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, stained glass, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  There is a old phrase, misery loves company…which I believe is totally false.  When I am in such a miserable rotten mood, I don’t want company – i want God to leave me alone.

I wanted to write the blog about what my friend and I disagreed on, or about the 50th anniversary of Aldous Huxley’s death, (as well as some guys named CS Lewish and John F Kennedy ), but did so as my pattern is, and looked at a passage of scripture, thought about it, then looked at St. Josemaria’s book and remembered – oh yeah – dealing with that section on prayer.

I so resonate with his words, for I too do not deserve to be heard.  Not at all.  In one of those moods that makes the impulsive and hotheaded  Peter look like a saint.  ( Uhm… well – you know what I mean)  My attitude isn’t great, and to be honest, I am not sure I want it to change – even as I know it must!  Lord, I trust you can deliver me, help me trust enough to want to be!

This is one of those things I adore about God.   That I don’t have to be perfect to be heard.  Because of Jesus, because of His perfection, because of His love and sacrifice, the Father hears my prayers as if I was Christ.  The Holy Spirit helps by interpreting those prayers into a manner consistent with both my heart – and more importantly the Father’s heart.

So trust I will- that God will, as He promised listen to my prayer, that He will forgive my sins, that He will not just give me what I ask- but that He will provide what calls me home, heals my horrible mood, and reminds me that He is my loving Abba Father…

Even in this mood, I can praise Him, knowing this!

Lord, Father in Heaven, have mercy!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2064-2065). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Questioning where you are with God? Me too sometimes.. An answer of peace…

Devotional Thought of the Day:
 20  Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?” 21  Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? 22  If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure 23  and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right? Romans 9:20-23 (MSG)

 13  Like clay in the hands of a potter, to be molded according to his pleasure, So are men in the hands of their Creator, to be assigned by him their functionSirach 33:13 (NAB) (1)

In 1964, after a stay in Pamplona during which he preached to many people, he said how ashamed he felt at the demonstrations of affection he received. “They carried me around like a statue in a procession!” He added, “Later on I heard that there had been many conversions, lapsed Catholics going to confession … and I remembered the clay our Lord used to open the eyes of the blind man in the Gospel.” (2)

Yesterday, in a class I was teaching on Evangelism, there was a great discussion on the issue of our partnership with the Holy Spirit in ministry.  The question led to thikning on my part, and during breakfast this morning I came across the above quote about Jesus using the clay (mud) to open the eyes of a blind man, and St Josemaria’s likening himself to that clay.

It is a theme in scripture, this molding and designing our use, as you see in Romans.  It appears in Jeremiah as well, and in other places.  It gives us a model of ministry, one which answers many of my questions about why I go through what I go thorugh in ministry.  Not the answer I want, by any means!  But one that leaves me… at peace.

I don’t like the answer at first, because it means I can’t set the boundaries, I can’t determine my own path, or what I think is the right way and strategy to serve God.  It’s not something I can turn to a mentor, or the new term “life-coach” to find out.  They are on differnt journeys, they have a different calling. Prayer is good, and I often seek others to pray for me and those I encounter. Prayers for guidance, prayers that God’s desire be revealed, prayers for strength to endure what God’s desire for me is, not leaning on my own strength, but securely found in His care.  Following His advice/guidelines/commands, because He is God and I am not god, I am just one of His children.

That’s tough, because I like to think of myself as a semi-rational, somewhat intelligent person.  I love exploring God’s word, delving deep into the languages to see His love for my peopel revealed.  But because I know a verb tense, because I have access to some of the greatest linguistic tools known, that doesn’t make me an authority over scripture.  It doesn’t give me the right to say Thus didn’t say the Lord, or thus did say the Lord.  I can point to what He says.

The same goes for what I am called to do in ministry, where God wants me.  I can dream of other places, of places where the trauma is less, or the work is more “visibly” effective. A place where I am more personally able to relax and be at peace, or where I am not tempted to be someone else.  But here is where I have been placed, this ministry (at least for the moment) is where God has placed me to serve.  Do I have to understand why?  Do I have to find great accolades from my peers or my people?  Or can I just be satisfied with knowing God has molded me for this moment, this day, this serving, and that this moment will mold me for tomorrow and next year?  That can happen only if my trust is in God, that I reognize not only His wisdom, but His love for me.

If I had a dream church, nestled in the mountains of New Hampshire, overlooking Lake Osippee, in a town of 1000, with 2500 people in church, with all my friends from the church I’ve pastored and been part of, (all of them healthy and financially stable, with solid marriages and awesome kids) there is no guarantee I would feel at peace more there than where i am today.

For peace doesn’t come to clay when it sets the rules, where it determines its use.  Peace comes from knowing Who it is who created and formed and places us where we are.   Peace is foudn walking with God, knowing His love.  Whether we are in the inner city… or suburbia, or a jungle or desert.  For we are His beloeved work, His beloved masterpieces.

English: An artist "centering" clay ...

English: An artist “centering” clay on the potter’s wheel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Peace is found in Him, and that peace… oh that peace!

(1)  For my friends from protestant backgrouns, the book identified as Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) is one of the books in the historic canon.of scripture, and it shows up in Bibles prior to the 19th century, including the King James Version.  To simplify things if you are unfamiliar with it and the issues about the Canon, consider it like you would a writings of an Augustine, or a Luther, or other orthodox preacher.

(2)   Urbano, Pilar (2011-05-10). The Man of Villa Tevere (Kindle Locations 5180-5184). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Who is more faithful to the faith? Wrong question!

Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day

8  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9  Do not let all kinds of strange teachings lead you from the right way. It is good to receive inner strength from God’s grace, and not by obeying rules about foods; those who obey these rules have not been helped by themHebrews 13:8-9 (TEV) 

Although it seems a paradox, those who call themselves sons of the Church may often be precisely those who sow greater confusion.  (1)

I see a lot of confusion among the people of the church caused by those in the church today.  Matter of fact, the old cliche, “we’ve met the enemy and we are it!” may be at a epic high.  It doesn’t matter what denomination, what movement, what area, there is a battle who is more faithful.  In my denomination, the battle as to who is most faithful often is waged between those who want to abide by the old rules, the old ways and customs and methods of the church in its 1940’s-1950’s heyday, and those who define faithfulness as being tied to ourreach and mission.  We get convinced that only if we can find the right box, with the right walls, then God will bless us – because we are faithful. That God will cause the church to thrive because of our perfect liturgy, our our desire to see people know Christ.

And we lovk ourslves in a box…. Sometimes in fear, sometimes in frustration, sometimes just because we want and need a way to now we are okay with God.

It is ironic.  But then, as sinners, we are good about making it all about ourselves.

In other times, it was waged over music, or church governance or finances or any of a number of good and practical things.  We focus on concepts, on the theology, on the practice… and we forget about the content, the relationship.. to put it bluntly, what I see lacking the most in these battles, is our desire to know and make known the Lord who loves us.

It’s time to cut through the confusion, its time to strip away both new ideas and old man-made requitements and just draw our strength from where it comes.  Hebrews says it is a gift of God, it is grace, it is walking each day in His presence, reveling in His mercy, depending on His faithfulness, trusting ourselves into His loving hands…confident of His faithfulness.

Seeing whatever happens as something He is working through, whether it is joyous or a cross, whether it is in abundancae …well… let me quote Paul

8  We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; 9  there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. 10  At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (TEV)

Here is the key that stops us from looking for affirmation of our faithfulness- because we don’t need it.  We have Christ.   We have a God who says, “you are my child, I have begotten you… dwell in my love.”

And when we do.. all sorts of interesting things happen…not that we’d notice… for our lives would be constantly praising Him… for His faithfulness.

So stop trying to prove your faithful, that your faithfulness is superior or more holy.. and just dwell in His presence, evjoy His love.. and adore Him..for He is our God, and we are His kids.

AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1664-1665). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Needing a Sanctuary… because we know He is there…

This was the church of my parochial school... a beautiful sanctuary in Lawrence, Massachusetts..

This was the church of my parochial school… a beautiful sanctuary in Lawrence, Massachusetts..

 Devotional thought of the day….
In God is my safety and my glory, the rock of my strength. In God is my sanctuary! 8  trust in him, you people, at all times. Pour out your hearts to him, God is our sanctuary,. Psalm 62:7-8 

 18  “But will God really live on earth among people? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built! 19  Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you. 20  May you watch over this Temple day and night, this place where you have said you would put your name. May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. 2 Chronicles 6:18-20 (NLT)

Think about this carefully: being transparent lies more in not hiding things rather than in wanting things to be seen. It is a matter of allowing the objects lying at the bottom of a glass to be perceived, and not trying to make the air visible.” (1)

I have never so wanted to go into to a church building as I did last Sunday, to just go in an pray, to feel at home, to find myself calmed as I sat in the back and took the time to have God revealed to me.   Until perhaps today…as I received a text from a very close friend, whose dad past away today, 34 days after mine.  

I want to run back to the church where I grew up serving, where I grew up finding a peace and comfort not known in any other place.  Too many people affected by death recently, even as I have come here to relive memories, and the past.  

I feel a but disjointed, for the place I would run to here….. the place is not here anymore… and I need that sanctuary to be able to weep, to be able to pour my heart out – just like I can back in Concordia’s sanctuary, or Shepherd of the Valley’s… or St Francis here in Lawrence – just a few miles from where I sit at the lake.  It’s not that other churches wouldn’t work, or that I can’t do it here, sitting at the lake, looking out at something more beautiful than anything a artist’s brust or a camera can capture..  But… there is something special about the places we call our home parish, our home church.  I hear it in the voices of the people who cry when a church closes, or consolidates, or for whatever reason.  It is probably why I’ve spent most of my ministry working in smaller churches – churches that might close if they aren’t given hope.

There is something about the sanctuaries that we call home. The place we know God’s put His name – because we’ve experieced it over and over.

I’ve heard from other ministers that writing such stuff isn’t “manly” – that it will turn guys off, that it will drive them away.  Don’t admit your weakness – and really don’t expect us too either!  Not that I want to do so in front of you, or in front of them, heck in front of anyone.  Guys don’t like that stuff. it’s not manly enough, it’s not for those who admire strength.  I think it is just the opposite – for it takes some strength to trust God enough to pour out your heart… if takes strength to risk that transparency, to be His Kid.  I think that is what St Josemaria’s talking about – about letting our pains and our sins be seen to God – not trying to hide them anymore. To say,  yeah, it’s time to pour out my heart – to let my God be my God, to let Him be my Comforter,  to know He is here…lakeside…for He dwells with us.  


The Lord is with us.. the Lord is with my three friends, who are dealing with the death of loved ones this week…

With me… as I place them in His hands… for mine are not up to the task today ( even if I was back in Cali – which tomorrow I will be.)  …catching my own tears…as I mourn my own Dad’s death, as I mourn the loss of places I knew in my youth… as I see my old church, my old sanctuary, where i served as an altar boy and played organ and pulled pranks…where I found God’s peace so many times… (tomorrow I will be back in Cali – and back to my norm – I know this as well – for I know God’s strength)

With you…. for He is your sanctuary…. so trust in Him… pour out your heart to Him….so give Him all your burdens..let Him be your God, let Him be your sanctuary!

And then you will find revealed again, His wondrous peace that passes all understanding, the peace in which we dwell, the peace in which Christ keeps us!

Please keep my three friends in your prayers tonight – an their families… thanks!
(and if you have a spare moment… pray that God would find away to reopen the church of my youth!)

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1555-1557). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Christian’s Attitude Toward Government? Optional?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 Peter 2:11-17 (MSG) 11  Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. 12  Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. 13  Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; 14  they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. 15  It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. 16  Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. 17  Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.  

 Titus 3:1-2 (MSG) 1  Remind the people to respect the government and be law-abiding, always ready to lend a helping hand 2  No insults, no fights. God’s people should be bighearted and courteous. 

Yesterday, because of our government’s way of doing business, the government is starting to shut down.   Lots of political debating is going on, lots of blame games, lots of finger pointing.  I sort of expect that, it is the way the world works, when it is based in competition.

What I do not get, is the role I see many followers of Jesus taking in this battle.  Not that I think we shouldn’t be advocates for that which si righteous.  Or that we can’t, during such times, find ourselves on opposite points of view, because of that which lies close to our hearts.  (For example – one side is very concerned about the unborn – a nobel cause.. and the other is very concerned about the poor and elderly – also a nobel cause )

But what bothers me is the rancor, the hatred and mockery that spills out of us at such times.  That we become diabolical in the truest sense of the word – throwing mud and accusations in the worst possible construction towards those we oppose.  ( see my sermon on Spiritual Warfare for more understanding of diabolical)  We literally and literarily try to destroy our opponents.  We call them names – make accusations, assume their insincerity and basically make this a war of good and evil- and assume we stand for good.

Which is simply bullshit.  (Pardon my americanese)

Look at the passages above – where Paul and Peter urge us to respect and work with those who are leaders – knowing our behavior reflects on who it is we claim to trust (have faith in.)  There is no option there for belittling, slandering and gossipping about those in authority.  Can we oppose them respectfully?  Can we pray for them, encourage them, lift them up?

Can we imitate Christ, and Peter and Paul, and those who followed in their steps – knowing something that is more important than who is to blame?

For example – who took all the blame on Himself?

You see – our political statments reveal ultimately who we have faith in, who we trust.  Our publicly displayed rancor and anger reveals a hurt of being betrayed.  It is not only a statement that we feel our government broke trust with us, but a statement that we have lost sight of our God in whom we trust, a God who promised all things – even those things we mean for evil – will work out for good.

We are to trust in God above all things – above all people, above all government.

It’s about Jesus, remember?

I’ll leave you with the thoughts of the Pslams.

Psalm 2:1-12 (NLT) 1  Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? 2  The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one. 3  “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.” 4  But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. 5  Then in anger he rebukes them, terrifying them with his fierce fury. 6  For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.” 7  The king proclaims the LORD’s decree: “The LORD said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father. 8  Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession. 9  You will break them with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots.’” 10  Now then, you kings, act wisely! Be warned, you rulers of the earth! 11  Serve the LORD with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12  Submit to God’s royal son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities— for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!

 

Look! There He is!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Agnus Dei

Lamb of God
Son of God
You take away our sin
Lamb of God
Son of God
You take away our sin

Grant us peace!  Grant us peace!
Grant us peace! Grant us your peace!
Your peace

In a little less than an hour, those words , so familiar to Lutheran deacons, will be reintroduced to them with a new melody, as they kick off the afternoon session of their annual continuing ed conference.

They are the words we sing – after the words of institution, after the the passing of the peace, as we re-focus, and think about the Lord, and about His supper, and about why we find this feast to be The Feast.

When I got to my present church, this was when the pastor and the elders communed – while everyone else sang.  Now, we wait till after to sing, because I need the time to realize His presence, to examine myself and realize my incredible need for that presence, to comfort, to heal, to make me aware of His love, His mercy, His peace.  To welcome me to the feast where He is the host (and the double meaning of that word intended)

But I would advise you, to do the same – to take that time before communion, to stop and consider….

There He is!  There is the Lamb of God, the very one John the Baptist pointed out to His disciples.  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world…. So let our cries go out to Him.  Lord – grant us peace, grant us your peace!!!!!

And as we leave every burden at the rail… as He takes them from us…may we walk away with a smile that betrays the fact that because He has invited us there…. we do know His peace.

Look – there He is… the Lamb of God… for you!

And so may you voice with Simeon – as you take and drink, as you receive His gift…

Nunc Dimittis

O Lord now let your servants depart in heavenly peace
For we have seen the great salvation of Christ our Lord

For-told by the prophets
fulfilled for all to see
A light unto the nations
and Israel’s glory

 All glory to the Father

All glory to the Son
All glory to the Spirit

The Great God Three in One

As it was in the beginning
Is now and shall ever be
Amen! Amen! Amen!

For you are His…forever!

Lamb

Lamb (Photo credit: freefotouk)

In Hard Times Like These… hug Christ

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

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

1  That is why we must hold on all the more firmly to the truths we have heard, so that we will not be carried away. 2  The message given to our ancestors by the angels was shown to be true, and those who did not follow it or obey it received the punishment they deserved. 3  How, then, shall we escape if we pay no attention to such a great salvation? The Lord himself first announced this salvation, and those who heard him proved to us that it is true. 4  At the same time God added his witness to theirs by performing all kinds of miracles and wonders and by distributing the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to his will.  Hebrews 2:1-4 (TEV) 

When the branches are united to the vine they grow to maturity and bear fruit. What then should you and I do? We should get right close to Jesus, through the Bread and through the Word. He is our vine… We should speak affectionate words to him throughout the day. That is what people in love do. (1)

Been through a bit of stress this week… and part of me wants to lock myself in a room – or dive into a book or a video game.  It takes a lot to make me go introverted… and while it is a defense mechanism… it is dark at times when you are alone. (What is really hard is when I need to do the opposite – and have many people encouraging me to climb into my hole and lock them out..)

I added 10 people to our prayer list this morning…. people recovering from surgery.  People mourning friends who we won’t see until we are before the throne, I’ve talked too others, very afraid of another war, and others whose finances are so stretched beyond belief.  These are hard times, for so many, times of tears and weariness and emotional exhaustion.

THe strength we have, if at all, in these times, is remarkable and extraordinary.  It comes from deep within us… yes, even as it is not ours, and is clearly something alien to our basic nature.  It is because at such times, everything is cut away, and we find ourselves in Christ’s embrace.   And there, we find His heart, and the strong beat of life that calms our soul.

When my 6 year old was an infant, he used to go to sleep at night in my arms with his head over my heart.  Because I have two artificial heart valves – my heart literally clicks. Its funny – on the nights when he 2-4 and was scared or sick and desperately asks to sleep in our bed – he usually ended up with his head pressed (not just touching) about the same place – or against my back – where he could hear my heart click.  I can only imagine it brought him comfort and security.  He could rest.

We need to be like that with Jesus, that close, that spiritually aware, that intimate, that involved in the relationship.  As Escrvia says – we do this with the Bread and in the Word, as we connect to Jesus, to our Lord.  As Lutherans our way of saying this is through word and Sacrament.  For as we hear the word, the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life does more than just “teaches” us, that word is planted in us and grows, and we don’t just know it academically, but intuitively, with all that we are.  The same thing as we commune with God, and notice it is not you or I, but we…. the family of God.  It is these times we see Christ, revealed to us is His very Heart, the love He has for us… and how He has taken us into His heart, even as the Holy Spirit abides in ours.

There is a part of me that hates these hard times… I despise the pain, the abslutely… stripped feeling I have.  The seeming loneliness, the emotional rollercoasters…

Yet there is a part of me that has learned to deal with them… to welcome rather than run… because I know in these times… the Lord who makes us one with Him is there… ready to love, ready to show mercy… ready to embrace us….

And for that… what else can we do but adore Him?

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1683-1686). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Real Prayer…Changes things… Will you?

Devotional Thought of the Day…

 1  And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)

426      Today once again I prayed full of confidence. This was my petition: “Lord, may neither our past wretchedness which has been forgiven us, nor the possibility of future wretchedness cause us any disquiet. May we abandon ourselves into your merciful hands. May we bring before you our desires for sanctity and apostolate, which are hidden like embers under the ashes of an apparent coldness” ”Lord, I know you are listening to us.” You should say this to him too.  (1)

It has been said that if we are to preach about sin, we should preach against real sin.  The sin in our lives, the sin in our hearts and minds.  Not the sins of those in Washington D.C., or among some broken group of people.  But our sin.

In my devotions this morning, I came across the above quote by St. Josemaria – and it resonated with me, because it asks us to pray a real prayer.

Not just a prayer to changes things, but a prayer to change us.

A prayer of confession, and a prayer that acknowledges our real weakness, in our past and in our future..(2)  A prayer that acknowledges our wretchedness, and future wretchedness – and begs that this not cause anxiety…for we are confident in Him.

Jesus in Pray

Jesus in Pray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A prayer that seems to be generated in this midst of our spiritual “dryness”, where we realize our desire to be God’s children has dampened, as has our desire to bring His love to the world.

A prayer that realizes our hope is found, not in our strength, nor in our faithfulness, but a prayer that confidently is spoken, knowing that He who is listening is faithful… knowing that He is listening!!!

In the Romans passage – worship is similarly abandoning our lives in the presence of God.   Letting God transform us, letting God breath life into the barely warms embers, changing our mind (repentance) into the mind of Christ.

That’s a real prayer… change us Lord – make sure we know you are Lord – that you are here, listening and working…

A prayer in confidence that addresses the real issue…

Will you pray so?

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1637-1641). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Comment – the strongest people I have know – have dealt with physical trauma to the point where there bodies are wasted away… there, stripped of their strength – they find God’s immeasurable strength sustaining them.

What does Jesus “require” of His followers?

Devotional thought of the day:

 6 ‘With what shall I enter Yahweh’s presence and bow down before God All-high? Shall I enter with burnt offerings, with calves one year old? 7 Will he be pleased with rams by the thousand, with ten thousand streams of oil? Shall I offer my eldest son for my wrong-doing, the child of my own body for my sin? 8 ‘You have already been told what is right and what Yahweh wants of you. Only this, to do what is right, to love loyalty and to walk humbly with your God.’      Micah 6:6-8 (NJB)

Nunc coepi!—now I begin! This is the cry of a soul in love which, at every moment, whether it has been faithful or lacking in generosity, renews its desire to serve—to love!—our God with a wholehearted loyalty. (1)

If you know the Bible quote above, you are probably wondering why verse 8 just doesn’t sound right, especially if you are used to the KLV, the NKJV, NIV, or other main translations.

There are at least three reasons, at least three very important ones, in my opinion.

The first is that the NJB doesn’t use the word “require”, as in “this is what the Lord requires of you”.   Of the translations in Hebrew dictionaries and lexicons, require isn’t a major term for this.  To seek with care, or simply  to seek is how they translate they translate this.  This verse describes what God desires, it is what He has worked to, and is trying to develop within us.  It is the journey Christ takes, it is the mission of God, to seek this out in us, and to do it with care…

Yet, when the word is reduced to “require”, it becomes what theologians call “law”.  One translation even uses the word “demands”.  In doing so, it makes of God and omnipotent King, a demanding despot, a God who will strike you down, for not meeting His demands.  It is, in many ways, just the opposite of what the passage is trying to communicate, for it nullifies the very work of God, as He seeks out carefully, and He nourishes and develops us into what we are, in Christ.

The second thing that might sound odd is the “loving loyalty,” as we have always heard this as loving “mercy”.  If you’ve read my blogs for a while, or heard a sermon or two, this is my favorire Hebrew word, cHesed.  It contains the thoughts of love, mercy, favor, kindness, loyalty.  As a technical term, it describes a relationship that is so bound together that those in it will constantly work to make sure the other person is not only cared for, but that they will help the person fulfill the obligations they have to the one helping.  It is loyalty above and beyond the call of duty.  It is the loyalty that is so defined in the person of God, that we can see it in His patience with Israel, His work developing the people in scripture, from Moses and Gideon and David and Peter and Paul, to the ultimate example – God wants us in a relationship with Him so much that Christ comes to do what we cannot – to make us righteous – at the cost of His body and blood….

This kind of loyalty, mercy, love, is what God seeks to develop in us.  We can’t impress Him with what we bring to the relationship – but He works within us to help us see His love, mercy, loyalty….. and we fall in love with Him because of it.  That is what He seeks.

The third thing  is the reason I love the New Jersulalem Bible.  It doesn’t replace God’s holy Name with the substitute, “Lord” like every other translation does.   Luther’s explanation of the commandment “You shall not misuse the Name of YHWH (the Lord)” works with the positive as well as the obvious negative.  I roughly  Don’t use God’s name in vain means we should use it!  We should use it to lay our burdens down before Him, We should praise Him and thank Him and adore Him, with the name He has given us to use, to call Him by.

I sort of understand this – I have people I consider friends, people I have relationships with that are not just that I am their pastor, I am their friend as well.  It’s a little awkward when they call me Pastor Parker.  I understand the level of respect they have for me as a pastor, (or more precisely for God putting me in that office)   Some I can get to call me Pastor Dt (what i prefer to be called) or Pastor Dustin.  But there are some still that this is awkward.  I think it is the same thing – people want to humbly walk with God – which means, in their mind – calling Him “Lord” or “Master” or “Gracious Father in Heaven”.  Yet walking humbly with Him means looking for what He wants – a relationship where we call Him by name – where we bring His name and the message of His love to the world He died for, because He loves, He has cHesed for us.

What does God require of us?  What does Jesus “require” of those who are His disciples?

THe question still grates on me, because if this is what He requires, we are all toast, and abject and complete failues.

What does He seek to develop in us?  What is His desire for us? What does He want to develop is us, with all the mercy, love and loyalty that is His?

The righteousness and holiness that is ours in Christ, a relationship where we come to love and adore Him because of His mercy, love, kindness, and complete loyalty that He shows to us, and that we humbly walk with Him, hearing His voice, becoming His people, and realizing what it means to have a God who is so selfless in His desire to be with us.

That is what He seeks, someone to love……

Dearest Yahweh, thank you for the mercy You show to us, each and every day….

AMEN.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 877-879). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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