God’s Faithful Love
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ bring you peace and help you to realize how faithfully He loves you! And knowing this, may you learn to wait in hope, knowing He will never abandon you forever!
Fear of Abandonment
In that day, people had turned their back on God. They had chosen lives filled with immorality and deceit, lives that were so perverse that they didn’t even realize how badly they were enslaved to sin.
They were beginning to reap the consequences of their action, as families were divided, as their cities were being destroyed from within and without, as they were no longer a place where refugees came for hope, but a place where they fled from, not with any plan, but they simply had to “get away.
They were a people that were broken, much like many in our community in our nation, in our world today. There felt like they were alone – and that they were abandoned by God. This was reinforced by the shame that what they were experiencing, shame they knew they deserved because of their sin. They felt abandoned, without any hope…
And then a prophet spoke.
There would be healing, so that even in their grief, they would know not only that God was compassionate, they would experience that compassion. For God has promised that His love is faithful and unending, that His mercy, His compassion, His work forgiving and restoring people will never end.
And this faithful love of God endures today. It is why this church can be what we say it is, the place where people find healing in Christ while helping others heal.
Submitting to the yoke…together
I want to read verse 24 through 27 again,
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” 25 The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. 26 So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD. 27 And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline: 28 Let them sit alone in silence beneath the LORD’s demands
While we look at 26 through 28 a little closer, please keep in mind the attitude expressed in 24 and 25, that we have hope, for God is our inheritance, that He is good to those who depend upon Him.
But in verse 26-28 we find some things that are… challenging, and if we think through them, disturbing.
The first is that it is good to wait quietly, (and the Hebrew includes the idea of expectantly) for God to rescue us. Let’s get past the word salvation and realize that this is a matter of spiritual life and death we are talking about.
This word salvation, getting down to simple thoughts, is about being rescued, about being picked up from the crap that we have gotten ourselves into, the trouble we have made for ourselves, the sin we committed, that leaves us broken, frustrated, and alone.
The issue of sin is the reason Jeremiah tells us that it is better for us to submit to a yoke of discipline at an early age. A little explanation there. A yoke was that which was put over a team of oxen or horses’ necks so that they could be used to work. It was a way of controlling them, but even more, a way of teaching and guiding them. For a new ox would be paired with one who was experienced and together they would get the job done,
In the same way, it may seem hard to think of God disciplining people, but He doesn’t leave us alone, for as He disciplines us with that yoke, he is also carrying it with us, doing the work, making sure we “get” it, never leaving us alone, even though we think we can’t bear it anymore.
And that is the way it is throughout our entire life. Even when we struggle, He is there, right beside us, working us through it, bringing us back on track. Far better to learn this as a young person, but it is never too late!
For we find as God guides us, even if it is with a “strong hand” that we not only endure, we are blessed by His presence, even if we don’t really enjoy His strong hand, and His correction.
His Mercies begin Fresh, they never cease
But this is what it means that His love is faithful, and it never ends. God’s love for you and it means that He will always, always do what is best for us. That is the nature of this love, this cHesed. It binds Him to us, His love for us demands He be faithful to us, even when that faithfulness isn’t easy, or comfortable, say for instance when it required the death of Jesus.
On the cross.
Because He loves us, and He will not ever give up on us, or abandon us. But we live forever with Him.
In this book of lament, there is one thing that still amazes me, and brings me to tears, not of grief, sorrow or shame.
It is verse 23, “His mercies begin afresh every morning.”
Every morning. No matter how bad I screwed up yesterday, no matter how shameful my sin, no matter how badly you think you shattered that relationship, that mercy, that bond that God has with you is there, as new and precious as it was when He cleansed you from sin in your baptism.
That is why we are told to remember our baptism every evening before we go to sleep, so that we may sleep without guilt and shame, and why we should begin every day thinking of what God promised us here, not just the forgiveness of sin, but the presence of the Holy Spirit, who will accompany you all day, guiding you, correcting you, comforting you.
That is the faithfulness that Jeremiah offered to the sin-ridden people of Israel
And it is the faithful love of God I promise you is there, for you this day.
God is with you, and because of that, you can know He will be merciful, He will forgive because He loves you. And like Jeremiah, as He is healing you, you can reach out to others who need healing.
For you can live with Him, knowing His incredible peace, now and forever!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God. ( Psalm 42:11 AND 43:5 HCSB)
695 In the moments of struggle and tribulation, when perhaps the “good” fill your way with obstacles, lift up your apostolic heart: listen to Jesus as he speaks of the grain of mustard seed and of the leaven, and say to him: Edissere nobis parabolam—“Explain the parable to me.” And you’ll feel the joy of contemplating the victory to come: the birds of the air under the shelter of your apostolate, now only in its beginnings, and the whole of the meal leavened.
As I was reading Psalm 42 this morning, the verse in red and it hit me.
The amount of trauma and conflict (more of the former than the latter) I have had to deal with recently has me somewhat depressed. Okay, more than somewhat. The accumulated weight of trying to guide people to God in at least 10 situations has taken its tole.
So I highlighted the verse, thankful for the reminder that my hope is in something far more stable, far more faithful. and knowing that, even in the midst of this dark time, I can praise Him. Can? I must, for that is the reaction of relief, as I remember He is here, as I remember His promises.
At least I do for a moment, then move on, back into reading the next Psalm, which is a little more positive, a little more upbeat, and yet, it ends with the same exact same words! Okay, I’ve got the message Lord, and paused to let them sink in a little more.
I need to… I really do.
Then I scroll over to my friend’s writing. For I resonate with so much that St. Josemaria Escriva writes, it feels like the words of a wise friend when I read them.
WHich takes the hope, seeping through the darkness, and causes it to shatter the darkness.
Even though I reached on the passage yesterday, I forgot that often how Christ minister’s to us in our brokenness, is how He ministers through us ot others. Knowing how we have died and risen with Him, and find shelter in Him, means that in my death and resurrection Christ’s work will help others find peace and freedom. They will find rest as I minister to them, they will find hope, and by God’s grace, the darkness they encounter will be shattered as well.
including the 10 plus situations where brokenness and darkness seem so… overwhelming.
What kind of God do we have, that can take someone as broken and struggling as I am, and give me the peace to help others who are breaking and broken? What kind of God can help people find refuge and sanctuary through all of us, even as our faith wavers a little? How incredible is that? How amazing?
Only the God who is loving and merciful, the God who is our Savior, who is our God.
As we realize what it means that He is our God, that we have been drawn to Him and made His people, it is time to react… it is time to praise Him and adore Him, and walk with Him!
What joy would it bring you to know God will use all things for good for you, even the trauma, the suffering, even the conflict?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1620-1625). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought of the Day:
7 But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan’s messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. 8 Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. 9 But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me. 10 I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (TEV)
604 Humbly acknowledge your weakness. Then you can say with the Apostle: Cum enim infirmor, tunc potens sum—“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
605 “Father, how can you stand such filth?” you asked me after a contrite confession. I said nothing, thinking that if your humility makes you feel like that—like filth, a heap of filth!—then we may yet turn all your weakness into something really great.
There is a point of burn out in ministry, at least that is what I have often thought. There is a point where a pastor simply can’t take anymore, where the grief and the problems simply overwhelm his strength. We aren’t superheroes, after all, and it doesn’t take kryptonite to drop us into times of depression, into times of great angst, into times where we just aren’t sure of anything, at least in our minds.
And yet out of such times, can come the most incredible moments of praise.
Out of brokenness, when we realize how our sin has caused devastation when like the person confessing their sins wonders how their priest can stand the filth, only to hear that once that is cleansed, then God strength resonates through us. He renews us in a way that we cannot even completely understand, protecting us as we stand in awe at His strength. As He watches over us, as He guards us, as His power cares and comforts us in our brokenness, and as we live in a world horrifically broken.
It is in such moments, humbled, broken, we stop trying to play God, and our prayers finally reach out to Him.
He’s been there, for He never abandons his children.
Even when we struggle to see Him, even when we struggle to entrust our brokenness to Him.
Waiting to pour His love into us… waiting to show us His glory, as He redeems and reconciles us, our very lives, and uses us to spread His love to this unjust and broken world.
Father, help us realize our weakness, our brokenness, and humbly walk with You. Help us to stop playing God, and realize again that You are God, and that you love us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1438-1442). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
9 Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. 10 If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help him. 11 If it is cold, two can sleep together and stay warm, but how can you keep warm by yourself? 12 Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone. A rope made of three cords is hard to break. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (TEV)
11 May our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus prepare the way for us to come to you! 12 May the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow more and more and become as great as our love for you. 13 In this way he will strengthen you, and you will be perfect and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all who belong to him. 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 (TEV)
26 “The Helper will come—the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God and who comes from the Father. I will send him to you from the Father, and he will speak about me. John 15:26 (TEV)
21 So it is with all idolatry. Idolatry does not consist merely of erecting an image and praying to it. It is primarily in the heart, which pursues other things and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils. It neither cares for God nor expects good things from him sufficiently to trust that he wants to help, nor does it believe that whatever good it receives comes from God.
Luther’s words about the first commandment are always convicting to me at first. For it is too simple to set up an idol. We can make them out of anything, ranging from money and worldly success to our dreams, to our honor.
Whatever we place our hope in, whatever we pursue as if attaining it will give us peace, that becomes our idol.
Even if it was something that was given to us by God for good. An example of this is the Bronze Serpent, a foreshadow of Christ, that brought healing to a situation, that people later worshipped. The same for Gideon’s ephod, and later relics and holy objects. These should have pointed us to God, but sometimes we forget the reality of God and focus on something that should remind us of Him. We can even do this with our church life, where we only want certain hymns or songs, or we want a certain kind of sermon or lesson. Because that is what gives us comfort.
Solomon’s words out of Ecclesiastes should help here, especially when taken along with Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit. Two are better than one, and when the One we are tied to is the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, it is His immeasurable strength that holds us as one. The same with the promise in Thessalonians, the work God does in our lives to strengthen us.
This gets to the heart of faith, why it is more than simply knowing the facts. Faith isn’t depending on the facts, it depends on the God who draws us into Himself. Who cleanses us from all our idols (see Ezekiel 36:25).
Even in this sin of idolatry, it is too hard for us to overcome ourselves. Again, even as we struggle with this, God is at work, healing us, cleansing us, comforting us. He is incredible that way and has shown His continual patience, patience that wisely tempers His jealousy. Yes, God is jealous when you turn away from Him to idols of your own making!
We need to learn to trust and depend upon Him, We need to realize that He cares, that He wants to help, that even the things we don’t like that He provides, (like broccoli or the situations that cause growth!)
He is good, He loves you, more than you know, and the only way to grow is to experience that love.
So I pray you do this week… and that we all can learn to rejoice as idols are removed….
The Lord is with you! Rejoice!
What things do you struggle to trust God with? What things might offer more comfort than God at first glance?
as always, comments and discussions gladly accepted
The Large Catechism of Martin Luther: FIrst Part, The First CommandmentTappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 367). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 Then the high priest took action. He and all his colleagues, those who belonged to the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 So they arrested the apostles and put them in the city jail. 19 But an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail during the night, brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the •temple complex, and tell the people all about this life.” 21 In obedience to this, they entered the temple complex at daybreak and began to teach. Acts 5:17-21) HCSB
14 Zion says, “The LORD has abandoned me; The Lord has forgotten me!” 15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. 16 Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me. Is. 49:14-16 HCSB
378 Don’t be a pessimist. Don’t you realize that everything that happens or can happen is for the best? Optimism will be a necessary consequence of your faith.
It is not easy to be critiqued, even when the criticism is constructive. When it is influenced by rivalry, by hatred, when its intent is to tear you down and hurt you, it is, even more, a test.
St. Josemaria would tell us to be optimistic and make a passing reference to Romans 8:28, that all things will work for good for those who love God. If you didn’t know his history, you would think him more than a little naive. Be optimistic while people are trying to destroy us? While they are work to tear us down?
We might even feel like the Zion in the second scripture reading above. We might think that God has abandoned us, that He simply forgot we were here, suffering oppressed, attacked. We might think that we need to raise the defenses, that we need to be prepared to defend our Lord, our church, ourselves. For if God has forgotten about us, who will defend us? Or at least that is what we think.
But Isaiah’s words remind us gently, that God can’t forget us, that He could not. His involvement in our lives is as close, as personal, as intimate as a mother nursing her child. Thinking about us is as inescapable as a tattoo on one’s hand, or the scars made by a spike through that hand.
This is how the apostles could keep their minds off the threats issued by the Sadducees and Priests. Their direction was to tell people about this life, this way of living in the presence of God.
So they went and taught people.
About Jesus, about His love and mercy, seen at the cross, seen as He accompanies them through life. They stayed focus on what gave them hope, what brought them peace, what would make a matter in this life and for eternity. They knew nothing could separate them from God.
And such a focus knows that God is still in charge, that God will see is us through.
God is with you!
So go, ignore the threats, ignore the criticism, and simply teach people what they need to know about Jesus.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 958-960). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 16 but do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15-16 (TEV)
350 In addition to being a good Christian, it’s not enough to be a scholar. If you don’t correct your rudeness, if you make your zeal and your knowledge incompatible with good manners, I don’t see how you can ever become a saint. And, even if you are a scholar—in spite of being a scholar—you should be tied to a stall, like a mule.
Given how many times St Josemaria referred to himself as a donkey, I can’t but think this was one of the lessons he had to be taught over and over.
Which gives me hope, because it is one I need to learn over and over.
A little knowledge and a heart full of zeal and wonder of God’s love can be a very dangerous thing. And the more the knowledge, the more danger you can do, as you bring forth that knowledge with the force of projectile vomit.
It is hard to temper the zeal, it is hard to govern the rate that we explain these great things we have learned. I get that, and sometimes it is the very zeal that leads to a charisma that attracts people, for it is special to see someone who really believes, fired up about the love of God.
Unfortunately, the very fire that burns within us can rage and burn out of control, damaging the very people we try to help, and those around It is not intended, it is not because we lack sincerity, but it is because we are not aware of the people we are trying to reach, we don’t hear them, we don’t’ bother to find out where they are at.
And we need to take that time. We need to find out where they are so that our message shows them the love of Christ, not just describes it. As Peter, one of the original models for saying things before his mind engaged warns us, we need to give the reason for our hope with gentleness, and with respect.
Of course, it doesn’t help that as while I write this post, I am having to live its lessons out. But isn’t that the point of this? That God’s words and those who went before can help me deal with those in life I would love to correct, and correct quickly and forcefully?
They need to know the love and mercy of God, but I do as well. I can never lose sight of that fact, and zeal can be tempered by love, and our knowledge by humility, acknowledging that all knowledge and wisdom comes from God, and should be used to glorify Him
Lord, give us hearts that care for those who stray from you but give us the peace, the wisdom and patience to go alongside them and show them you love and mercy, which is at work sanctifying us. AMEN.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 889-892). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thoughts for our Day:
so David inquired of God, “Should I go to war against the Philistines? Will You hand them over to me?”
The LORD replied, “Go, and I will hand them over to you.”
11 So the Israelites went up to Baal-perazim, and David defeated the Philistines there. Then David said, “Like a bursting flood, God has used me to burst out against my enemies.” Therefore, they named that place the Lord Bursts Out. 12 The Philistines abandoned their idols there, and David ordered that they be burned in the fire. 1 Chronicles 14:10-12 HCSB
The Lord has shaken you; he has done it without anesthesia, like he did to Abraham, asking him to give up his son, his dreams, his projects.He tested him without explanation, introducing him to the school of detachment to be truly a free man and completely available to the projects of God who was planning to make him a collaborator in the great history of salvation
If you must be heard, let it be like the babbling brook,
laughing over the rocks.
If you must be seen, let it be like sunlight
giving warmth and comfort to all.
If you must be acknowledged, let it be as the eyes
behold the skies in all their glory.
If you must lead, let it be like the wind and all its unshackled direction.
If you must learn, let it be like breathing, the natural flow of in and out, and done without thinking.
I love the naive thoughts in the last of the quotes from my devotional reading this morning. I say naive because I know that the only way to accomplish such communication and leadership You have to be naive, you have to be blessed with a simpleness, that simply does things naturally.
Like Abraham sacrificing Issac, you have to be freed from the things that keep us from living in the freedom we need to be naive, to simply rely on God, detached from all that would possibly separate us from God.
To separate us from our idols, including the idolatry of our dreams, our plans our visions.
Which is something hard to give up, these visions and plans we carefully set up, after careful study, deliberation, and even prayer. (Most churches go through this regularly, trying to craft vision stations, mission statements, delineating core values in a precise and pragmatic way) But what if we have to sacrifice this on the altar, what if we have to realize that while we think we know God’s plan, we may not?
Will we do so as willingly as Abraham did?
Or will we need someone like David for us?
It may seem overlooked in the tremendous victory David had over the Philistines, but there is a more incredible victory that blesses the Philistines more than it blesses the Israelites.
It’s there in verse 12, that because of God working through David, God delivered the Philistines from their idols. In fact, the victory was so complete, they walked away from their idols. They were freed from them, and the emptiness they offered. The Philistines were freed from the brokenness, and though they had other issues to deal with, they weren’t bound to worshipping the dreams, the desires that these idols represented.
While I would wish my relationship with God was so strong, that my faith was so strong I could do what Abraham did, I am not that strong, I am not that devoted, I am not that willing to sacrifice my idols. So I need to pray that God sends a David to bless me, to win the victory for me that only one I count as my adversary could win.
In reality, isn’t this what Jesus did? While we were His enemies, He died for us, freeing us from our idols, freeing us from our self-centered idolatry. And as we are freed, then the Holy Spirit works in us the kind of selflessness that some would count as naivete, the selflessness that is so blessed. He won the victory against our sin and idolatry but won the victory for us. Just as David did.
Lord Jesus, free us from our idolatry, as David freed the Philistines from their idols. (and if necessary, use our adversaries to bless us in this way!) Help us to be like your Son, our Lord Jesus, who was able to love selflessly, and naturally love, show mercy and care for those around Him. AMEN!
QUESTION OF THE DAY:
Are you willing to be delivered from that which you depend on more than you depend on God? Do you even know what your idols are?
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.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life o for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. 17 This is what I command you: Love one another. John 15:11-17 HCSB
It is the urgent wish of this Holy Council that the measures undertaken by the sons of the Catholic Church should develop in conjunction with those of our separated brethren so that no obstacle be put in the ways of divine Providence and no preconceived judgments impair the future inspirations of the Holy Spirit. The Council moreover professes its awareness that human powers and capacities cannot achieve this holy objective-the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ. It is because of this that the Council rests all its hope on the prayer of Christ for the Church, on our Father’s love for us, and on the power of the Holy Spirit. “And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.
During the early years of the Reformation Luther and others proposed again and again that a general council of the church be convened to discuss and arbitrate the questions of doctrine and practice that were in controversy…..
It is a hard thing tl o love people you do not know.
It is a harder thing to love those you think you know, and whom you think wish you ill, but whom you do not really know.
This doesn’t matter whether we are talking about large groups (i.e. the Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, and Lutherans looking at each other) or whether we are talking about neighbors or “those” people.
if we are honest, each of us has people we think we understand, and whom we think we need to protect ourselves from, for we know they mean us evil.
Even so, we are called to love them, really love them. Even to the point of death…
Surely then, if that is the length we are to go, we could try to get rid of the preconceived judgments that Vatican II warns us of, trying to put no obstacle in the way of divine providence.
We know, as St. John’s gospel pointed out, the will, the desire of God to see us one. Surely indeed we could pray for that, and learn to love each other so that it would be possible? FOr is this not the fruit of Christ being at work in our lives?
In the title, I asked whether the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960’s meant these words in blue above. If we ask that question, it has to be without the preconceived assumption that they do not. (Luther’s idea of best construction) We have to rely on God to move in that way, for it is our faith in God that
I believe many of the leaders did, they saw the need for the future. It has taken a generation for that to trickle down to the parish level, for the people of the church to know this was even possibly a desire. And I think, from the priests I know, that it will become more and more a desire for the church. (The last three popes made it an issue, and I think Francis will continue that!)
Do they all? It will take time, and teaching, by both example and instruction. But I believe it will grow.
Now the question becomes, can we mean it? Can we, like Luther, seek our, not compromise but community?
And if I can ask that of these huge groups… can I ask it of me and that person?
The answer if found in the same place. In the love of God, in know His will, and the providence He supplies to His people. For as Vatican II noted,
The Council moreover professes its awareness that human powers and capacities cannot achieve this holy objective-the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ. It is because of this that the Council rests all its hope on the prayer of Christ for the Church, on our Father’s love for us, and on the power of the Holy Spirit.
So let us pray to the Lord of mercy. Amen!!
Catholic Church. “Decree on Ecumenism: Unitatis Redintegratio.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
The Effect of the Resurrection
Pt. 2 One Heart and Mind
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus transform your heart and mind so that you united to Jesus, and to all who are His!
God’s Mega Blessings
In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles this morning, we heard a description of Concordia, and I want you to hear it again.
God’s great blessing was upon them all.
This is us.
Blessed, overflowing with the grace of God, overwhelmed by the presence of God, and if we take a moment to take a breath and think about it, or better, to look around us, we shall see it.
For we see the work being done in each other. We may be completely oblivious as to what is going on in our own lives, but we see what is going on around us, and the peace that is found here.
I can look around the room, and see the same thing Luke described in the early church, a place where people are united in one hear, one mind, the very transformation that comes from knowing that….
Alleluia, He is Risen! (He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
and therefore, (we are risen Indeed! ALLELUIA!)
This is a natural transformation, actually supernatural…
As we look at the description of how the church interacted in this passage, it seems either naïve, r some socialistic plot, at first.
Karl Marx who used a description gathered from these verses to describe his perfect society, describing it this way, from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs
And wherever that has been attempted by law or by forcing people to believe it, it has failed. Not because the idea is wrong, but because the transformation has been forced, rather than allowed to happen naturally, It is put upon the people that this is the way they will live, rather than allowing love to cause it naturally, to be driven by the spiritual desire to love those around us.
We do that to often, even in the church, when we try and change people’s behavior without seeing their hearts and souls transformed by God, resurrected and brought to life by the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit draws them into Jesus, into His death and resurrection.
This is a long habit, dating back to the Pharisees, and probably before. When they didn’t want the tax collector or the prostitute in Church. When they paid more attention to the outside appearance of the individual, and the broken and different were sent away.
We want people to live generously, we want them to give sacrificially, we want them to give up the sins that so damage their lives. What we want for them is good, if we don’t guilt them into it, or promise them some special blessing from God, if they only act the way we think God wants them to think and act,
It happens more naturally than that, or it might be better to say, more supernaturally than that…. For God moves us, His love transforms us.
The testimony causes it…
That is what the rest of the verse had mentioned,
The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all.
The blessing that was upon them was delivered through the testimony that Jesus was no longer dead, that Praise God, He is risen….
And as the apostles proclaimed this, the people realized all the promises of God were poured out on them, for they were forgiven, cleansed, made the holy people of God our Father. They had become brothers and sisters of Jesus, counted no longer as servants, but as friends.
The gospel is not just the testimony of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, but it is the testimony of what this means.
We are His, we are free, we have been given the Holy Spirit, God present with us, who comforts us, empowers us, and transforms us.
To use our motto, that is why we, the people of Concordia, are the broken people, who are finding healing in Christ, help others to heal.
It is why Cyndee and Carol and Linda find such joy in gathering women together for special events, knowing that they will bring joy into their lives. Or why Jim and Manny had a few guys over for the first men’s time yesterday. It is why Hank and his team from both congregations raised the money, and why Hank was down here each day, checking on the work. It is why we help people who’ve lost homes or send Bernie back to Sudan, or why you sent me to China a few years ago. It is why we have Al constantly talking about benevolence, and he doesn’t just talk about it. It’s why we have Nancy keeping her prayer book and encouraging others to pray. It’s why Missy sets her anxiety aside to guide our worship, and why these people smile over here, as they hear your voices sing louder than theirs… I could go on and on, but this is the evidence of God working Just as they did in the early church, each person helping the rest… not thinking about themselves.
We want others to know the love we know, or as Peter describes in His epistle, to be people with a future and a hope.
The love that we find here at the altar, its why a 2-3-year old will cling to it, not understanding, but knowing this is a special place. For many of us older folk as well… for here, reminded of how deep God’s love for us is, the resurrection becomes more than history, it becomes our life!
It’s the love given to us in our baptism, and that becomes more real each and every day. For Ezekiel promised that God would change us,
The gospel is that God loves us, and cleanses and transforms us, something seen as we grow in love for one another, in a naturally supernatural way…..
25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NLT)
A love that brings us together, one heart, one soul, for ours is His heart, His soul….a love that causes us to dwell in His peace… united to Him… AMEN!
Let us pray!
as an added bonus…. the notes from Bible Study (let me know if I should continue to post these!
What is Concordia
A Look at the Body of Christ
Why should we study what the church is?
If we are shaped by the Holy Spirit, then can’t all this come about naturally (Jer 31:34)?
Is the church in the day’s of the Acts of the Apostles better or worse from the church today?
The Lutheran Confessions describe the Church this way:
1 It is also taught among us that one holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among who the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel.
2 For it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word.
Does this resonate with what we heard today in the sermon? What caused the transformation in the believers?
Is Concordia the Church, or just part of the Church?
What does it mean that all the believers ( those having faith) are of one heart (kardia) and mind (psyche)
is this passage talking just about sharing money, or is that just an example?
What do people “need” in this church?
Back to being a witness to the resurrection. What does that mean? How can we be that today?
How do the sacraments fit into that? (1 Cor 11:26 & Titus 3:4-8)
So are the sacraments still being a witness to the resurrection?
How much of one kardia and psyche do we realize during the sacraments?
 Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes and said, “Father, I thank d You that You heard Me. e 42 I know that You always hear Me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so they may believe You sent f Me.” 43 After He said this, He shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him and let him go.” John 11:41-44 HCSB
422 Jesus is your Friend—the friend—with a human heart, like yours, with most loving eyes that wept for Lazarus. And as much as he loved Lazarus, he loves you …
No, my blog hasn’t developed a Brooklyn accent, and no, I am not being rude.
I am not telling you to get lost, but indeed to be loosed, freed, from that which clings to you like the death wrappings clung to Lazarus.
Things like bitterness, resentment, envy, the need to gossip, the struggles with lust; you need to be free of these things.
We can add anxieties to this, for often these lead to temptation, and to doubt.
We can add sin as well, and all of the effects sin has on us, from the guilt and shame and fear of God’s wrath to the brokenness of injustice when we are the victim of sin.
We need to be freed from these things, to have them stripped from us, taken away, even as the burial wraps were unraveled, and he was free.
It starts with the Easter cry, “Come out” and our hearts souls, and minds follow Jesus out of the tomb, We have to hear His voice, and let it draw us past this other stuff that held as prisoners inside the tomb of our stone hearts (see Ezekiel 26:25ff)
As we hear His voice, the Holy Spirit breaks the power of death over us, and gives us life, the life He is Lord of, (this very thing we confess in the creeds! ) If the Spirit didn’t generate life in us, we couldn’t answer the call, He has, and this is something incredible.
A life lived in the presence of the Lord and Savior, who calls us His friends.
A life lived loosed of all the sin that so easily ensnares us.
A life lived loosed of all that is not of God’s love.
What are we waiting for?
Lord have mercy on us, and help us to live in your resurrection, for it is ours as well! AMEN!
What are the things you need to be freed from?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1047-1049). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.