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The Church’s Hope: Life Together

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Though of the Day:

14  Each morning fill us with your faithful love, we shall sing and be happy all our days; 15  let our joy be as long as the time that you afflicted us, the years when we experienced disaster. 16  Show your servants the deeds you do, let their children enjoy your splendour! 17  May the sweetness of the Lord be upon us, to confirm the work we have done! Psalm 90:14-17 (NJB)

Evangelical Christianity is gasping for breath. We happen to have entered a period when it is popular to sing about tears and prayers and believing. You can get a religious phrase kicked around almost anywhere—even right in the middle of a worldly program dedicated to the flesh and the devil.
Old Mammon, with two silver dollars for eyes, sits at the top of it, lying about the quality of the products.… In the middle of it, someone trained in a studio to sound religious will say with an unctuous voice, “Now, our hymn for the week!” So they break in, and the band goes twinkle, twankle, twinkle, twankle, and they sing something that the devil must blush to hear.
They call that religion, and I will concede that religion it is. It is not Christianity, and it is not the Holy Spirit. It is not New Testament and it is not redemption. It is simply making capital out of religion.


Christianity, at least in the West, is still gasping for breath. From my perspective, it needs to catch its breath, to find its “second wind.” Some might think the church is beyond help. Others think spiritual intubation or the shock of a defibrillator might restore life to these wearied saints and the emptying churches.

I think the issue is compounded by COVID and our inability to gather. Pastors are being reduced to online preachers. Their role as commune-icators seems to be reduced to providing monologues. Pastors are called on to produce talks that try to motivate and comfort. Yet they cannot see the sparkling eyes that tell you the gospel has been heard or the body betraying the anxiety of a soul tormented by guilt and shame.

There is no dialogue, no worship, no life together.

We struggle alone, pastors and people separated from each other and feeling separated from God. The expression of the vibrant Christian religion has been replaced by a religious expression that doesn’t see people celebrating in God’s presence.

Tozer saw this in his time; the Psalmist saw the answer to it in his time. We need to be reminded of the Psalmist’s prayer, prayed for “us” the people of God. The answer to vain religion is to see God filling “us.” We need to savor the sweetness of the Lord together, to see Him confirm the work we are doing as we walk together in His presence. That only comes as we see God at work in us, as we know His presence.  His presence not just in individual lives, but as He draws all believers into His presence. Not just those who believe now, but those who will come to believe.

This is the hope for the church to be gathered again into His presence and rejoicing in that together. For together, we will savor the sweetness of the Lord.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

We Are His!

Alleluia!  He is Risen…thereforeSAMSUNG

We are His!
John 17:1-11

In Jesus Name

 As we walk through this life together, may we know the grace and peace of God, for He has made us His own…

 

He is Risen, and therefore…

There is an old tradition among God’s people, to greet and respond to each other during the seven weeks between Christ’s resurrection and Pentecost with the following words,

Alleluia!  He is Risen!

(Some respond “He is Risen Indeed!  Alleluia!”)

Let’s all try that – English and Chinese at the same time

Alleluia!  He is Risen!

(response)

We’ve added something to that, this year in our congregation.  It is that I respond, “therefore” and the congregation responds, “we have risen indeed!  Alleluia!”

In each of our sermons, then, we’ve looked at what it means to be the people of God who are united to Christ in His death and in His resurrection.  Today is the last day of that series, and in our gospel reading we see the incredible truth,

He is risen and therefore we know we are His!

If there is something that should cause our praises to be heard throughout California, through the world, it is this.  You and I are Christ’s, and therefore dwell in the presence and glory of God!

Let’s look at how this is laid out in John’s gospel….

But first I want to hear it one more time.

Alleluia, He is Risen (response)

therefore, ((response)

The Son Gives us Eternal life

In verse 2, we are reminded why Jesus came, what the moment of His glory was all about.  It says there,

For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him.

But what is eternal life?  My first funeral sermon was done back in 30 years ago at a church in Yorba Linda.  Since then, I have done hundreds, and I’ve heard people talking before and after the services about what heaven is, or at least asking the same questions.

“Will my dog be there?”
“Will there be golf?”
“How old will I look?”
“Will we know each other?”

Or one of my favorite comments,

“When I get to heaven, I am going to ask God, (or maybe the Apostle Paul) why….

Most of the questions, we can’t respond to, they aren’t dealt with in the passages that describe heaven, like 1 Corinthians 2:9 – which says it is beyond our ability, or the passages in the Book of Revelation, where it talks its perfection.

Jesus describes eternal life here though, in this passage, in a way that is simple  and clear.

And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.

Eternal life is simply knowing the Father and the Son, to be in a relationship with them, to dwell in their presence, to dwell in their glory.  This is what it is, this relationship with God that is described here eight times in these verses, that we are His!

I think that deserves a Alleluia!  Or if we translate that – a “Praise the Lord” or in Mandarin (teach English speakers to say it  J )

Eight times as Jesus prays we are described as being God’s, either the Father’s or that we’ve been given to Christ by the Father!

  • Keep His Revelation

We are God’s people, that has been the plan since before the foundation of the world, it is what Jesus accomplished on the cross, and it is there that we are united to His death, and to His resurrection.

We see that relationship described in verse 6 as well, as we are described,

6 “I have revealed you* to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

We are described here in a way that is incredible. We have kept the Father’s word,

“Kept His word.”  Some translations in English translate this as obey, as if God’s word is simply about obeying the Ten Commandments, checking each one off, one by one.  The words go deeper than that – the word for kept is to guard, to observe, to value and treasure and protect.  In English it goes back to the most secure place in the community, the castle keep, where you put all of your treasure.  TO keep something was to secure it, to guard it with every ounce of your strength, for it is precious.

It is the same word as in verse 11, where Jesus asks the Father to protect us by the power of His Name.  The word for word is rhema in Greek – God’s declaration, God’s official statement regarding the issue.

In this context, I think of the word, as that which we find in Moses writings, and in the prophets, the statement that God makes to us.

“You will be My people, and I will be your God” or “You will be My people, for I AM your God”.

That is a declaration of God that should be at the core of who we are, for it completely defines who we are.

We are His!

And that is worth treasuring, not just with “a” Alleluia, or a Praise the Lord, but a life filled with praises, a life glorifying Him, as we live in complete awe of His love for us!

  • Keep/protect Us

I mentioned before, that the word translated as “kept” was also seen in verse 11 as “protect”, when Jesus prays,

11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name;* now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.

This word, keep/protect, brings up the last point of our message, our reason to celebrate today.  The power of God seen in our lives again, as God protects us, as God guards us, protects us with the full power of His name.

That is something to have confidence in, to be in awe of, and to contemplate.  That God cares about us so much, that we are protected and His treasured people. That He would take the time to cleanse us of sin, to deliver us from the bondages of that sin, and of Satan, that He would free us of our anxiety and fear of death, for we know we have life eternal.

It is from this place of security, this place of peace, this walking with Christ daily that holiness and unity flows.

We are one, not because of our work, nor are we holy because we decided to be holy.  We find our unity, our eternal life, in God, in His making us His people.

All because God the Father send Jesus to us, to claim us for we are His.

For jesus Christ was born of Mary, was crucified, died and Alleluia! He is risen!  (let them answer) and therefore ( We are risen indeed.)

Hear it as Paul wrote to the churches in Colossae,

1  Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT)

So treasure the eternal life you’ve been given, know the blessings of God revealing that you are His children, His people, and be confident, that you are kept in Christ and we are one in Him!  To sum it up,

He is Risen, and therefore We are His!

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