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I love it when a plan comes together! (a plan… not mine)


Altar with communionDevotional Thought of the Day:

O LORD, I will always sing of your constant love; I will proclaim your faithfulness forever. 2 I know that your love will last for all time, that your faithfulness is as permanent as the sky.  Psalm 89:1-2  GNT

 

345         What a great discovery! Something you barely half-understood turned out to be very clear when you had to explain it to others. You had to speak very gently with someone, who was disheartened because he felt useless and did not want to be a burden to anyone… You understood then, better than ever, why I always talk to you about being little donkeys turning the water-wheel: carrying on faithfully, with large blinkers which prevent us personally seeing or tasting the results—the flowers, the fruit, the freshness of the garden—confident about the effectiveness of our fidelity.

The contemplation of God, of his person, creation, incarnation, and re-creation of the world, is a different kind of knowledge. It is a contemplation on the mysteries, namely, the mystery of God creating, the mystery of God incarnate, the mystery of the cross and empty tomb, the mystery of God’s presence in the church, and the mystery of Christ’s return to claim his lordship over creation. The contemplation of these mysteries moves us to live into these mysteries, participating in God’s life for the world.

This week has not gone as I planned, I had a number of things to accomplish to get ready for vacation, also plans to celebrate my 28th anniversary tomorrow.

Let’s just say those things I planned to get done were often interrupted, as hours were spent in crisis moments, and in a meeting, a very necessary meeting, that took out most of a day.  And then, of course, the implementation of a new phone system.  Yeah, my plan?  Long days and nights, and some of the things are off the checklist… but I am leaving for “home” in a little more than 48 hours…

Yet with the esteemed Colonel on the old A-team, I can look back and say, somehow, “I love it when a plan comes together!”  Even if I haven’t seen it come to its fulfillment.

More and more I realize that Escriva’s idea that those who serve as the church are like blinded donkeys, walking around, supplying the work that God uses to bless others is true.  We love it when a plan comes together, but we are equally sure that it cannot be our plan. At least if we want it to come together!  There must be a greater planner who is able to not just plan well, but execute and carry us to where the plan “comes together”

One in whom we can trust, one who we can depend on, not just for the plan, but for the result. And then we can go back to our trodding through life, content to let the Spirit lead, flexible enough to simply follow that Spirit when the need occurs, even when we think we are a round peg being placed into a square hole.

That is where Webber’s words this morning make so much sense to me.  That as we contemplate the very mysteries of God, as we try, not to understand as much as observe in awe, and accept we cannot have all the answers, but we can have Him, the need for all the answers, the need to see all of our agendas come to pass fades.  Simply put, knowing Him, living in His glorious peace is….. more than sufficient.

We learn to sing with the psalmist about God’s love, about His faithfulness.  Which feeds on itself.  For the more aware of this, the more we explore the breadth, width, depth, and height of God’s love for us, revealed in Christ, revealed at the cross, and at the table, the more we desire to simply know that….

And we are assured of the living water that our lives help distribute to fields will see them ready to harvest, as the world comes to know the love of Jesus.

AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1604-1609). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

Great Confidence in the Message. A Sermon about the Transfiguration.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreater Confidence in the Message

2 Peter 1:16-21

Jesus, Son, Savior † 

As Jesus love for us in revealed as He journeys toward the cross, may the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus transform our lives, as we dwell in His glorious light and love!  AMEN!

An Odd line

I love the honesty of scripture, especially the insights that we see into the lives of Peter and Paul into their letters to the early church.  They do not portray themselves as perfect, but as men who have struggled, and still struggle to walk in a relationship with God.

Much like I do.

And as Peter looks back on his life and ministry, and writes his second epistle, he remembers an “ah ha” moment in the section we come to today.  A moment that everything becomes more real.

The moment on the mountain, when he and James and John see Jesus revealed in His glory and honorwhen it was revealed to them exactly who Jesus was, and what it meant for the Messiah, the Anointed One to be with them.

But in the middle, as Peter is talking about this wondrous voice, and the Father revealing to them who Jesus is, Peter makes an incredible statement

“Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets!”

Which means that while they knew the scriptures, there was something about this experience, this moment, that made the scriptures come alive for them.  It makes them look differently at the Old Testament differently, something that you and I would benefit from as well.

The Temptation to just see the Bible as myth

We gain a little more insight into this comment if we go back to the first line of the readings,

16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes.

Simply put, St. Peter is telling us that the reports he has made about Jesus are eyewitness accounts of God’s life, lived among us.  It is not just a story or a fable that we tell people to get them to behave.

While we wouldn’t use the word myth, I think many of us treat scripture in a similar way.  Stuff to ponder, and think about, to consider and to apply to our lives so that we live better.  One pastor/theologian recently talked like this when they said that our mission wasn’t about waiting for the hope of heaven, but to bring heaven to earth now, by our doing good work.  They dismissed the ideas of heaven and hell and said our focus is on transforming the here and now.  That is how they see scripture as if it is the guide to making life perfect here.

And what Peter talks of counters that.

These are just stories from an alternate reality.  They aren’t just fables. The transfiguration, like the incarnation, the death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection are miraculous events, Events that Peter and the apostles are witnesses of, and that experience changed everything.

And in Peter talking of how His experience observing Jesus making a change in how he viewed the Old Testament, we see the same thing in effect.  Prior to knowing Jesus, the stories in the Old testament, the lessons, all were simply that.  History and training in being a good person.  Scripture is living, and for Peter it came alive when he saw Jesus transfigured, and everything began to make sense.

But seeing Jesus in His glory, seeing the love of God up close changes that…

And Peter says it will change our lives as well.

The Bible comes alive as the words reveal Christ in you!

 You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.

These words in scripture.  They aren’t just words.

They tell us that God planned to shatter the darkness, the hopelessness, the kind of life that is so oppressed by the brokenness of the world. Lives shattered by sin, broken by hatred, tormented by resentment we can’t free ourselves from, from guilt and shame, as well, for it is not just the brokenness of the world that could crush us, but our own brokenness as well. This is why he directs us to pay close attention to them, for as Jesus is revealed, our confidence in God’s work is strengthened.

In these words we see Jesus and the promise of his love enter our lives, as glorious as Peter and James saw – as He enters our hearts, as He reconciles us to God the Father and sets our lives apart to live in the presence of God.

For this is the purpose of scripture, to draw us into this relationship with God, a relationship more complete, closer, with nothing that can shatter it.  One based on truth, the truth of God’s love for us.

God who spoke of Jesus as His dearly loved Son, and who speaks of us with the same words…..

Words which cause the scriptures to come alive, for they tell our story, and help us to realize the deep love He has for you and I.

Knowing that love, having Christ shine in our very hearts, brings to us the peace of God which can’t be explained, but which we are safe in, for Jesus keeps us there.  AMEN!

Are You Mad Bro? (why that is possibly a good thing!)


clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought of the Day:

20  Then Jesus went home. Again such a large crowd gathered that Jesus and his disciples had no time to eat. 21  When his family heard about it, they set out to take charge of him, because people were saying, “He’s gone mad!” Mark 3:20-21 (TEV)

910    Your ideal, your vocation: it’s madness. And your friends, your brothers: they’re crazy. Haven’t you heard that cry deep down within you sometimes? Answer firmly that you are grateful to God for the honor of being one of those “lunatics.”

It’s been a while since mad was a synonym for crazy, but the idea is that you are not in control of your emotions, and your emotions are in control of you.

It sounds like an odd description for Jesus, the one who is fully God, fully man!  Especially the fully God part.  Can God really be mad, crazy, a lunatic?  There were times people were sure he was insane, a raving madman.  

Who else would tell people to love their enemies?  To not stand against what was evil?  Who would demonstrate these were not just sayings, but would actually prove the logic of the madness. 

And while we may doubt the sanity of some of his followers, Jesus did tell us the world wouldn’t understand our madness, even to the point they would persecute us. 

There is another word for the madness, in Hebrew, it is cHesed; in Greek, agape; in Olde English, it was Charity; in modern English, the depth of the word love.  An affection, a care for someone where you do what is best for them, no matter the cost.   Where you put their salvation before your comfort, and often times, their comfort before you own need, or wants, or desire.

Not just those like you, Jesus makes that clear in Matthew 5.  All people. 

Which means you must know His love, and how it put you first, without any thought of cost. To know God’s love…because He loves us, we love Him.

This is madness to the world, but it is God’s logic, God’s love… it is reality.

AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2116-2118). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do You Have the “Need to Know”


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thoughts of the Day:
4The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to humanity. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out….. 9This was the real light—the light that comes into the world and shines on everyone……14 The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son.  John 1:4,9,14  TEV

786    May no attachment bind you to earth except the most divine desire of giving glory to Christ and, through him and with him and in him, to the Father and to the Holy Spirit.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”
6 What does this mean?
Answer: I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

Man has searched for enlightenment for centuries, we see it in the writings of the Ancient Greeks, the Ancient Chinese, the Incas and others.   We see it in the gnostic cults that sprang up in early Christianity, and in their Jewish predecessors that looked for enlightenment deeper than the actual words in the Old Testament. Of course, there is what we call the Age of Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason. This latter period is one I tend to credit for screwing up the world that I know.

We’ve fallen for the same line that Satan gave Adam and Eve, that knowledge leads us to be like gods. And so, while we are blinded to our brokenness, to the gaps in our reasoning, to the limited knowledge we have, Satan convinces us that we are the judges of what is reasonable, that we know what is best, that if it doesn’t make sense to us, it can’t be right.  (Which is a claim for being all-knowing)

Pastors and Theologians fall into this all the time, as we try to explain mysteries like how God is Three, and yet One.  Or how the Body and Blood of Jesus are physically present or not in the Celebration of the Eucharist, or how we have the free will to reject Jesus, but not choose to be saved.  We want the knowledge of life and death, of good and evil, and if we can’t have it if we are blind to the brilliance of God, we (or Satan) baffle ourselves with our own bullshit.

Which is where our readings and the liturgical season that begins tomorrow comes into play. It corrects our thirst to know the unknowable, by focusing us on what we need to know.

Epiphany is the celebration of God’s glory coming and dwelling with us.  It is the realization of the light that shined, that the Wise Man saw and searched for diligently.  (even that search was because of the promises God revealed through the prophet Daniel and others)  Even as a babe – the glory was revealed.  Throughout His ministry, including the Transfiguration, but also the teaching, the miracles, the peace that people knew, His glory was revealed.  On the cross, where our sin, the guilt, the shame, the wrath that it deserved, he freed su from all of that, there is where His glory is revealed the clearest.  For what we praise God for, is the love He has for us, and the way that love causes Him to act toward us.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit, revealing to us the love of God, the glorious love of God that is found in Jesus.  True God, True man, and complete in truth.  It is the Spirit that helps us to see Jesus, that draws us to Him, and to the cross, the most glorious moment – because at the cross His love for us, His mercy, His care was fully revealed.

We saw His glory, John says in his gospel, and that is enough.  Being drawn into that glory, into the love of God, is what we really need to know, it is what we have to know, no matter the size of our bank account, our IQ, how much talent we have, or knowledge.  Everything else we thirst for as far as knowledge is but a shadow,

It is our need to know, and the Holy Spirit has revealed to us Jesus, and we know Him.

Praise God!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1813-1814). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Missed the Celebration? Maybe not….


10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional THoguht of the Day:

9 The LORD told Moses 10 to say to the people of Israel, “When any of you or your descendants are unclean from touching a corpse or are far away on a journey, but still want to keep the Passover, 11you are permitted to observe it one month later instead, on the evening of the fourteenth day of the second month. Celebrate it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12Do not leave any of the food until the following morning and do not break any of the animal’s bones. Observe the Passover according to all the regulations.  Numbers 9:9-12 TEV

It is there in the wounds of Jesus that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his heart. I have seen so many people who find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him, “Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in your wounds and wash it away with your blood.” And I always see that God does just this:
He welcomes, consoles, cleanses and loves.

For the orthodox fathers were pressured with great hatred by heretics under this particular pretext, namely, that the church should have no other thought concerning the inaccessible light of the Deity than that which the Deity Himself in proceeding from the secret place of His majesty has revealed concerning Himself.

I encountered the heart of God today in a most unexpected place.

Sure the Book of Numbers is in scripture, but we usually think it is one of those boring books with lots of lists and lots of precise and even complicated directions.

Yet, in the midst of it, God offers something to those who are far off from God.  Far off because of business, or far off because of being unclean. There, God gives direction to those who cannot celebrate the Passover, the great high feast where the angel of death is told it has no right to take us, it has no right to deny us the grace God meant for us.

Yes, it isn’t time to celebrate it, because of your situations, but that doesn’t mean don’t celebrate it at all.  Here is your opportunity, here is the way you can know you are with me, that I am still your God, and you are my people.

For us, the equivalent is seen in the wounds of Christ, the place we find our security, our serenity, our peace.  It is there where we ask Him to take away our sin and to wash us.  It is there we find the consolation, the comforting hand of God showing us His love, even as He has always done.

This is the majesty that Chemnitz notes, the heart of God revealed that we don’t have the authority to change. This is the God who reveals Himself to us, and reveals His will that none should perish, but that all be transformed by His love.

Far too often, the church considers people as being away, as if they are no longer part of the family, as if they are no longer part of the church.  Rather than welcome them back, we too often, like the prodigal’s brother, wonder why they’ve returned, why they should be allowed back, as if they weren’t away at all. And as the Father celebrates their presence, we turn away, we refuse to acknowledge their presence, we fail to celebrate with them the love of God which drew them back.

CHemitz reminds us that we need to have the same heart, the same attitude that Jesus has.   For that is what has been revealed to us.  We need to help them know the wounds Christ bore is not something they should fell guilty about but should be in awe of, for He loves us.  We need to celebrate this cleansing, this consolation, this love for them.  No, that’s not right.  Rather this cleansing, this consolation, this love for us all!

AMEN!

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.

 

Do you ever feel like you can’t win….?


Devotional Thought fo the Day:

31 Jesus continued, “Now to what can I compare the people of this day? What are they like? 32They are like children sitting in the market place. One group shouts to the other, ‘We played wedding music for you, but you wouldn’t dance! We sang funeral songs, but you wouldn’t cry!’ 33John the Baptist came, and he fasted and drank no wine, and you said, ‘He has a demon in him!’ 34The Son of Man came, and he ate and drank, and you said, ‘Look at this man! He is a glutton and a drinker, a friend of tax collectors and other outcasts!’ 35God’s wisdom, however, is shown to be true by all who accept it.”  Luke 7:31-35  TEV

607    Humility is one of the good ways to achieve interior peace. He has said so: “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  (1)

There is a scene in the movie Forest Gump that I relate all too well, it seems it almost pictures life.  

He is walking down the lane, and everything seems fine, until life, or in his case, the neighborhood gang of bullies comes around the corner. And the race is on, except life is riding bicycles, or tossing rocks from the back of a speeding truck.  I am on foot, hobbled by leg braces, and it seems like I will never get to the point where the braces fall off, and I can use everything I have to lose that which would bruise me, that which seeks to hurt.

It seems like in today’s gospel, Jesus knew that feeling.  These stubborn sinners, the people that killed prophets that would call them back to God, that wouldn’t listen to John the Baptist, and then, because Jesus wasn’t like John, they found an excuse to not listen to Him as well.

So then, what do we do when we fell this way, do we turn and fight, or is our fight to flee, to run so hard we break everything that would inhibit us?

Where is the wisdom of God, that we simply need to accept?

It is found, not in the different behaviors of John the Baptist and Jesus, but in the common message that both preached.  John preaching it prophetically, pointing to Jesus, and Jesus preaching it indicatively, signaling to all that God is present, that thw Kingdom of God is here.  That God has made us His own.

That is the lesson of both, as they would accept the roles that the Father gave them.  John to decrease, Jesus to increase through the cross and resurrection.  They accepted their roles, they knew the presence of the Holy Spirit, and they lived.

Humility, that gift of being able to know we can’t outrun the pressures of life, but that we can depend on God, we can cry out to Him, we know He is there…

As we do that, we find a place of rest for our souls, we find His gentle care, we find our fortress, our shelter, our home, in Jesus.

In humility, we can cry out, Lord, have mercy, and know for sure, He has.

AMEN!

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1443-1445). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Has the Church become a pathetic loser?


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Devotional Thought fo the Day:
I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked; you have tested those who call themselves apostles but are not, and discovered that they are impostors.* 3 Moreover, you have endurance and have suffered for my name, and you have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first! NAB-RE Rev. 2:2-4

414    How pathetic: a “man of God” who has fallen away! But how much more pathetic: a “man of God” who is lukewarm and worldly!

A lot of conversations I’ve been in recently have been about the church in decline.

One talked about how we need to start lots of new churches because old churches can’t grow.  

With another friend we talked about how three churches, healthy two decades ago, may share in the services of one pastor, rather than simply have someone come in every Sunday to preach.

A third conversation was about one of the largest of mega-churches, and how it, and its worship, are but a shadow of what they once were.

We look at the extremes of the church, and it is no less grievous.  One side wants to embrace society’s ills, setting aside the scripture that tells us to shine the light in the darkness.  They do such by just agreeing to live there.  The other extreme also avoids shining light in the darkness, by shining light where there is the brightness of day.  Like in the passage from the Revelation, they do all the good things, they detest the false teaching, they suffer abuse and endure.

What you don’t often hear anymore, is how in love the church is with God!

How head over heals we are, how much we are in awe and wonder, and how we adore God. How amazed we are to find ourselves counted as His loved ones.

The result of loving our love for God?  Lukewarmness, busyness, being focused more on what is going on around us, than being aware of His glorious presence in our life.  A church that focuses itself on outreach, or on maintaining a level of purity.

We need to remember this – we need to rekindle that love!  But how does that happen?

We need to spend time, resting in God’s presence, meditating on His love, hearing His voice which calls out to us. We need to hear of His love for us, His desire for us to be in His presence.  As we meditate on such things our love for Him grows, depending on Him, having faith in Him becomes easier, as does sharing that love with others.

Pastor  – you want you church to come alive, for people to grow in faith (and in a pure faith?)  Then fall in love with God, rejoice in His love for you.

The rest will fall in place.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1033-1034). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Raising Cain! A sermon on Genesis 4


Raising Cain
Gen 4:1-16

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be heard in every part of you and transform your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength.

Raising Cain – What if….

As you look at this title and think back on the words from Genesis we heard read a few moments ago, I wonder what you are thinking.

I mean if I gave your “permission” to think about raising Cain, would you think I was encouraging you to do something evil?  To cause great trouble, to be rebellious, to behave ( as one person said) like loud protestors at some protest rally?

Or is there another option to raising Cain?

And what you do you think about Cain?  Is he another like Judas that is beyond redemption, that is condemned because of the evil he committed?  Do we write him off like Pharaoh, or like King Saul or Ahaz and that rotten women Jezebel?

Aren’t we glad that we certainly aren’t a sinner like that Cain…?

Or like that tax collector,

Are we more like that Pharisee than we want to admit, thanking God that we aren’t sinners like everyone else, picking our sins we are proud we didn’t commit and proud of the things we do that “prove we are righteous?”
Could it be that instead of encouraging riotous living, the idea of Raising Cain is about trying to see how God called Cain to repentance and offered him hope, and life?

When we can see God working in Cain’s life, it will give us hope, as we struggle in our brokenness, in the midst of this broken world?

Look at the chances!

One of the things I see in this passage is that God doesn’t easily give up on Cain.  Nor will he give up easily on us, and we need to know that.

But consider a few of these things.

As Cain is upset about the offerings, God comes to him and says,

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

And like Cain, God comes to us, as we are struggling and says similar things.  He tells us we are His, which we are accepted.  But Jesus also warned Peter about potential sin, and then Peter would describe Satan this way…

6  So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 7  Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 8  Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9  Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.. 1 Peter 5:6-9 (NLT)
Does that sound familiar?

God knows his heart, knows that Cain is being eaten up by the sin, by the jealousy, by the nature he inherited from his folks and made his own.

And as God prophesied – sin caught him, his anger and jealousy and attempted to devour him,

He killed his brother. He did something only God has the right to do, to take a life.

What happened next, he could never have foreseen.

Instead of God taking his life, he comes back to Cain, and calls him to repentance,

Afterward, the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”

“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”

10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!

As I read this, I had to ask, why does God ask where Abel is?  God is omniscient, isn’t He?  God asked the same question of Adam and Eve, where are you?  What have you done?

And of Peter on the beach, as Peter couldn’t get over denying Jesus three times, and three times Jesus asked, Simon Peter, “do you love me?”

We have to realize this; God didn’t give up on Cain.  He didn’t just take his life, as He should have. If God were only merciful and not just, he would have just taken Cain’s life.

But God cares for him, and for you and I when we fall into sin when we are trapped and in bondage.

Even when we realize we deserve to be punished for our sin and utter those words Cain did…

13 Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! 14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”

If we didn’t have a pharisaical bias towards Cain, would we hear this any differently? Would we notice that Cain added in something God didn’t say?

14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence;

God didn’t – he is still with Cain.  God is talking to Him.  God is with him, there, and Cain is in the very presence of God.

Whether we hear those words of Cain as complaining, or fear, or pleading for mercy, they are said to a God who is there, who is listening, who is both just and merciful…

Just as He heard us a few moments ago, when we confessed our sin, when we pleaded for God to show us grace…

Even as He did to Cain.

Look at the grace – and what it pictures

We don’t see it if we just skim the passage, but it is there,

15 The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him.

 I think we usually see that mark as one of punishment – a stay away from this evil person.

But it is there to protect Cain, to let people know that he was under God’s protection, that (gulp) God was with him. That no one had the right to condemn him, no one had the right to punish him.  Just like the woman caught in adultery.

Just like the mark of our baptism,

3  Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4  But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5  he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6  He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior.
Titus 3:3-6 (NLT)

You and I, we were no different than Cain, we were rebellious and sinned, despite God’s warning it devoured us.  God came to us again, and called on us it, showed us what we deserved, and then reminded us we are marked….. in our baptism, and no one has the ability to condemn us.  Nor will we ever be banished from His presence.

You are forgiven, just like the tax collector, and Peter, Paul, David, and me.

So go, and live in God’s peace, for Christ will guard your heart and mind in that incredible peace. AMEN!

 

“Do I have to pray, read the Bible, go to church, etc?”


devotional/discussion thought of the day?
10  I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11  so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! 12  I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. 15  Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. 16  But we must hold on to the progress we have already made. 17  Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example.   Philippians 3:10-17 (NLT)

33 We should concern ourselves with this revealed will of God, follow it, and be diligent about it because the Holy Spirit gives grace, power, and ability through the Word by which he has called us. We should not explore the abyss of the hidden foreknowledge of God, even as Christ answered the question, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” by saying, “Strive to enter by the narrow door” (Luke 13:23, 24)

325    Fight against the softness that makes you lazy and careless in your spiritual life. Remember that it might well be the beginning of tepidity … and, in the words of the Scripture, God will vomit out the lukewarm.

Sometimes the question is phrased as you see above, “Do I have to pray, read the Bible, go to church, etc. ?”.  Other times it is more a defensive statement, “I have a great relationship with God and therefore I don’t have to…”  Or perhaps the most dangerous version, “God will understand that I have other priorities….”

As a pastor such questions and statements are the horrific omens, they are the symptoms of life that will be soon going through a kind of spiritual cardiac arrest.  One that will be haunted by guilt and shame that will be easily tempted to some form of idolatry, to put faith in something else.  That idol will fail eventually, that dream and desire will not satisfy, and the comfort of a lukewarm faith will cause us to fall asleep.

I don’t say this simply as a diagnostician, or simple as a pastor who is tired of observing it and picking up the pieces.  I say it as one who struggles with it, as well. I who wants to pass on my morning devotions and get to “work.”  I so want to bypass my examination of my life and praying that God would help me not just repeatedly come to being sorry and apologetic, but to move from contrition to the transformation that is true repentance. I want to grow in overcoming the sin that so easily ensnares me, and I want to help you do the same.

All three quotes above talk about this – from the Lutheran Confessions which tell us to stop trying to probe the hidden mysteries of God, the things scripture doesn’t mention and theologians argue and write about.  We must instead focus on the love and mercy that God does reveal.  What a wondrous thing it is to know how deeply God loves you and me!  What an incredible thing to think of the cross, and how that love was revealed, in an act so merciful that it staggers the mind.  He died for us, and we live with Him!  There is our focus!

St. Josemaria echoes it in his plea that we all don’t get lazy and careless in our spiritual life, that with Paul we forget what is behind us, what is history, and try to possess, to understand, to hold onto the fact that Christ has united us to himself.  To begin to understand how much we are loved, and what it means to be united to God in Christ’s death and resurrection, to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The answer to an apathetic faith, to a personal or parish/congregational malaise, is quite simple.  We need to understand the wide, how long, how high and how deep His love is for us, experiencing the love of Christ which is too great to completely understand with our hearts and souls and mind.  Even so, as we begin to explore that love, we come alive, and the power of God is revealed in us.

So you and I, yes we need to pray, and to spend time contemplating what scripture reveals, we need to gather together to hear of this love, to receive the sacraments which are tangible gifts showing that love.

Not because it is law, not because if we don’t, we shall be punished, but because these things are what nourishes our spiritual life, and what makes us aware that God is with us!

AMEN!

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 838-839). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Good Friday Sermon: A Cry of Great Faith – Into Your Hands…


Into Your Hands…
Luke 23:46

Jesus, Son, Savior

May you realize the depth of the love of God our Father for you, revealed in Christ’s purchase of your grace.  AMEN!

Is this what we perceive?

It has been said that people hear what they want to hear.  Matter of fact, I think most of us are pretty good at it.

Like for instance, if I ask my wife if I can go to Sam Ash or Guitar City, her approval also means I can come home with a new guitar or keyboard. After 28 years of marriage, she won’t let me go to Best Buy or Fry’s alone.   She did, however, make the mistake of letting me go to the car dealership to get my oil changed two weeks ago…

It can work the other way as well if a professor says something critical, a student’s world collapses, or if a boss says you need to improve, you go home and tell the wife you are in danger of getting fired.

When we hear the words from the cross, we hear things through our frame of reference as well.

It’s true in the last words Jesus says, the words that he pushes out with his last breath…

Into your hands….I commit my spirit.

They are not just the final words of a man who has been betrayed by his friends, tried, beaten, forced to carry a cross out of the city, up a hill and be nailed on it.

They are a lesson in faith, an example of great dependence on God.

It would be what Paul talks about when we are told to imitate him, as He imitates Christ Jesus.

It was a cry of faith, not one of despair.

But that is not how we hear it.

The struggle of faith, and praying

There is rapid decline, or so the experts say, in the prayer life of people in America.

I can believe it because we have forgotten the joy, the comfort, the peace that comes in trusting God.  In depending upon Him, in the words of Jesus, in our ability to says these words, “into your hands I commit my Spirit.”

We hear Jesus, broken physical and I think we expect Him to be broken spiritually.  We hear the pain in His voice, the anguish, the trauma.  There is, in my mind, no doubt of the pain and anguish, that He felt, and I struggle to imagine these cries being anything else but the despair I would feel in such a situation.

The despair and even doubt I feel when I am subjected to suffering, or when those I love and care for are.

I hear these words, when I am in pain, when I hear them said with His dying breath, and they sound like a surrender, an admission that I am defeated, that you can feel the hope draining out from Jesus,

Because that is what I feel, that is the effect of the brokenness of sin on us who are mortal.

There is nothing left, no strength of body, or mind, or will.  There is only the inevitable; there is only death.

In times less trying we can’t even think of God because the weight of despair is too much.  We just feel numb, lost, empty. hopeless.  It is as if, for the moment, sin has won, and life has been taken from us.

We hear these words as the final admission of defeat.

He breathed His last…

But what if these words mean something more?  What if they are not the words of despair, but words from the last breath that reveal hope, that reveal faith, that reveal a trust that is deeper than the pain?

What if these words, like Psalm 22’s cry, accept the pain of the moment given victory that is complete and total and joyous?

Into your hands, I commit my Spirit.

A quote from Psalm 31, a quote which continues

5  Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

Hear it one more time…

5  Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. 6  I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD. 7  I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul,   Psalm 31:5-7 (ESV)

5  Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

These last words, are not just those of a man has hit rock bottom.  They are a cry of faith, a cry of wisdom that knows that the answer is found in the very steadfast love of God. A cry that celebrates that we aren’t alone in our distress, that we aren’t alone in our grief.

That though we barely have a breath left, it is a breath that is taken with God’s spirit.

It is a lesson for us, a cry for us to utter, not just when we have only one breath left, but when we are brought to life in Christ.  When we are crucified with Him in our baptism when we kneel and take and eat the Body and Blood of Christ, when we share in His death… and in the promise of His life.

It is His cry, a lesson to us with our very last breath.

A lesson in trusting God through it all, a lesson that we aren’t alone in our trial, in our fight, even when it gets down to the last breath.

St. Paul said it well,

4  For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
Romans 6:4 (NLT)

So repeat these last words of Jesus with me, knowing that the Holy Spirit with strengthening you, and help you make them your own.

Into your hands, I commit my Spirit…

And in God’s hands, in the Father’s hands, you will know peace that goes beyond your understanding, even as it guards your weary hearts and minds, for as you died with Christ in His death, so you find life in Christ.  AMEN!

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