† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be evident in your life in the Harvest field!
- You are that answer to Prayer
For the next 11 weeks we are going to be talking about God working through us, turning us into an answer to prayer—a prayer Jesus taught us to pray. It comes from Matthew 9:38, There, we find written:
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”
Matthew 9:36-38 (NLT2)
And so we pray, and then we find that we are the answer to pray – each one of is not just sent into the harvest fields once in a while, God has called us to live in the midst of the field that He has planted.
As we look at this, there are a number of lessons to learn experientially, before we get to the reading of Revelation 7, and the final eternal celebration of the Harvest:
We will hear that description on Reformation day,
“9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a mighty shout, (have everyone read this part) “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10 (NLT2)
I can’t wait to hear you say that in heaven!
Today’s reading from Psalm 67 talks about it… we see the promise of the harvest, 6 Then the earth will yield its harvests, and God, our God, will richly bless us. 7 Yes, God will bless us, and people all over the world will fear him.
So what happens before that…
- Before the harvest
Is prayer – a prayer that God’s blessings be known, not just to us, or to the Israeli people, but to everyone. Hear it again!
2 May your ways be known throughout the earth, your saving power among people everywhere. 3 May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you. 4 Let the whole world sing for joy, because you govern the nations with justice and guide the people of the whole world.
5 May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you.
I still wish Bible translators knew of the existence of exclamation points!
People throughout the whole earth, people everywhere, need to know what God is doing! How He is using all His power to save people everywhere! We need to know, everyone needs to know God is there, to the point where their reaction is simply to praise Him.
Which means to know what it means to be saved.
We need to explore that – because to just say, “hey, you were just saved.”—especially without a exclamation point…. Doesn’t inspire a lot of praise and adoration.
Our salvation – yeah that does. Or it should!
- Justice and Guidance
So to understand salvation – we have to look deeper into the passage, to where it talks about God governing the nations with both justice and guidance.
The first is justice – everyone thinks they want justice in this world, until you really think about what it means. I had two instances where I had to think about what justice truly is this week. One situation has played out in the news, the other was regarding something I witnessed.
The first case, I urged patience in, the details of the court case was only given by one side. And the other side is only beginning to be heard. Rumors abound, which doesn’t help anyone, it just divides people. The second case, I thought I wanted what I thought would be justice… and then, when it didn’t go quickly or easily, I became uneasy, and when the dust settled – my thought was the accused got way too light of a sentence for the suffering he caused.
And then I looked at my sermon notes again…
If anyone of us got the sentence that justice demands for our sins, the sins we commit in our thoughts through our words and what we do, not one of us should be here. Not one of us should be allowed to receive communion, in fact, Bob and I should be struck dead as we approach the altar…
So God’s justice cannot be what we call justice. It must be something more…
It has to be God’s justice, or to use the other word that is translated as–His righteousness. God governs us, which is about judging us and our lives.
And in His righteousness, He sees us as righteous.
His level of righteous…for in Christ’s death and resurrection, Jesus was credited with our sinfulness, as He credited us with His complete righteousness. So, God is completely just, His judgment is unquestionable.
After judging us as righteous, God does something even more phenomenal. He invests in our lives. He guides us and takes responsibility for our lives.
This is why we praise Him! He makes us His own, caring for us, cleansing us, walking with us through life, simply because He loves us.
These are His ways that need to be made know throughout the earth, the effective way He will save everyone who depends on Him..
- The Harvest that is now – and not yet
As we spread that message, as those seeds are planted, they grow until the harvest at the end of time. We heard it from the Psalmist earlier, but let’s hear it again,
5 May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you. 6 Then the earth will yield its harvests, and God, our God, will richly bless us
Or as Jesus said it
13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come. Matthew 24:13-14 (NLT2)
So its simple – we work in the fields we live in, sharing the work of God, knowing His presence, and then, the harvest happens, and we are all brought before the throne of God. Until that day, God governs us and guides us, His people as we dwell in His peace…doing His will, sharing His love with the world. AMEN!!
He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God 2 Cor. 1:4 GNT
I think we can say that most Christians have no clear end toward which they are striving.
The first and highest work of love a Christian ought to do when he has become a believer is to bring others also to believe in the way he himself came to believe. Here you notice Christ begins and institutes the office of the ministry of the external Word in every Christian; for he himself came with this office and the external Word.
Psalm 119:59 tells of a time of self-examination, a time where the Psalmist looked at his life and probably sight, stood up and began the journey again. It is a hard course of action to take, but one that we each need to do, and perhaps, need to do as congregations as well.
But 30-30 years after Tozer originally noted that we strive without a true direction, we still don’t find it. We get caught up on crusade after crusade. THe latest is to fignt human trafficking, prior to that there were battles on both sides of the CRT issue, and the LGTBQ issue, and this political issue and that one. It’s nothing new, I remember the church being directed to strive against rock & roll, promiscuity, divorce and greed growing up.
And in all of this, we’ve lost what it means to be the church, to have Jesus revealed to us, to believe, trust and depend on the work of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in our lives.
and then to share that work with those who need it. Which is everyone we encounter. That’s the basis of what Paul is telling the church in Corinth. We need to strive to maintain the hope given to us in the life, death, resurrection and eventual return of Jesus–and then we need to share that with all who are broken.
I need to do this, but so do you. Luther’s clear about this being the work of both those called to shepherd the church. and those who are the church.
This needs to be our focus, our life, this hope of being a relationship with our creator, who loves us.
To strive after anything else, to think spiritual warfare is about anything else, is vanity
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 255.
The Risen Body of Christ
May the grace of God and the Lord Jesus Christ encourage in us a sense of awe as we serve alongside each other; helping each other find healing in Christ Jesus.
- What did the Risen Church Do?
I want you to imagine a conversation that the disciples had, about 3 weeks after Jesus shows up, “no longer dead.”
Peter gets them back in the upper room and says,
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
And the disciples respond, “He is risen, indeed!”
Peter comes back with, “and therefore…”
And the disciples are ready, the shout out “we are risen indeed! Alleluia!”
And Peter looks around the room, and wonders,
“Uhm… What do we do next?”
Well, we know from scripture they will replace Judas, and then wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come open them.
And as they baptize 3000 people, they begin to do things…. And that is where we get to today.
What does a bunch of people who have risen with Christ do?
What they did then, maybe is what we should be doing now…
- What they did…
Well scripture is pretty clear about what they did,
They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to the study of the word of God as it showed the promises that came true because of the cross.
They had fellowship events together, where they came together as one—like the women’s luncheon yesterday.
They shared in meals, including the breaking of bread in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
They prayed together. The word there in Greek is to ask, even beg God to interact in their lives, but to do so, knowing He is listening.
And they shared everything they had… meeting each other’s needs,
It was special.
So much so that, “43 A deep sense of awe came over them all!”
That was before all the signs and wonders!
God was at work!
- Why did they do it?
So why were they so involved?
Some churches talk about being purpose driven, setting out a purpose such as saving the world. Others create Vision Statements and Mission Statements with core values. Very similar to that which a corporation would create.
They speak of getting people to buy into the vision of leadership, and therefore everyone is motivated to work towards that vision. Programs, events, everything has to serve that vision, or it falls apart. Consultants and coaches make a lot of money helping churches discover that vision.
Except that in the places where the church explodes, there usually isn’t enough time or leadership to spend time on the vision statement! They certainly didn’t have one at Pentecost!
At its best, the church is beyond our control.
That’s okay – our mission statement here is a little uncomfortable.
Concordia is the place where broken people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal!
Wait! That means each and every person here is broken in some way!
Yes! We are in a long line of people broken by sin, that do incredible things as God works through us to help others. Gerry did that yesterday, as she invited Shelly to come to the luncheon. Maureen, a new person among us, came and brought her teenage daughter! And I saw a bunch of ladies I didn’t know – what a wonderful outreach, that God did!
God at work! Creating a fellowship meal where people got to know people, where they laughed together!
Just like at Pentecost!
Half the things I do it seems, are not for who I originally meant it to bless, but it blesses other people.
Not just about the church, but about everything. We have our vision, and we don’t always ask God if it resonates with Him!
I’ll give you another example. I thought we wouldn’t make it this year financially as a church and school without the ERC money. Yet, as of last month, we haven’t touched it. Concordia was in the black —as a whole.
God has provided!
- The results—great joy, generosity, goodwill and the Lord added…
The effects of the church spending so much time dedicated to God’s word, to the sacraments, and to prayer were four-fold.
They lived in awe of God.
They experienced great joy
They were generous, spending not only money, but time investing it in each other’s lives.
And those around them recognized God at work and looked upon them favorably.
I would share with you something someone told me about our Easter service,
“I watched your service live as it was happening rather than later on as I had planned. There was something very special about the whole thing, including a very peaceful yet joyful atmosphere that I detected.” Jim
I’ve had other people tell me similar things about our church, including a pastor who I took to lunch on a Monday a few years back. He asked what happened on Sunday, as there was a residual feeling of holiness, as if everyone experienced the presence of God.
And others just know they fit in, this is where God wants them…because God was tangible here, that they felt God’s peace in the midst of their brokenness. Even a couple of weeks ago, as we watch James get baptized, where His mother was baptized. And as saw another group of youth get confirmed.
God slowly, surely adds to our number…He places people here, where they become part of our family…
God is at work here, in this risen body of Jesus.
This is the church, where we see God invest His word and His precious Body and Blood in us, and we invest in each other…
And together, we find that God pours out His peace upon us, our hearts, our minds, as we realize we are united with Christ.
Please listen, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph’s descendants like a flock. O God, enthroned above the cherubim, display your radiant glory 2 to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh. Show us your mighty power. Come to rescue us! 3 Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved. Psalm 80:1-3 (NLT2)
He told me, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! 32 Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.” Acts 10:31-33 NLT
Listening to someone personally beats hearing about that person second hand. Yet strangely when it comes to the mission of the church we settle for the latter. Too much of what passes for gospel mission is second hand information; it may be factual and instructive, but it’s not personal. It resembles advertising more than anything else.
Then he [Martin Luther] was asked whether the sacraments have a spiritual power in themselves, so that baptism would be consecrated water which by its own strength could wipe out sins, even in case the water were drunk by an ass. He replied, “Because the spiritual power of God doesn’t comprise corporeal, inanimate matter, baptism doesn’t accomplish anything at all as water existing by itself. But as an action (which would be in its use) baptism has power, so that if anybody sprinkles an infant with water together with a recitation of those words of Christ by which he instituted baptism and promised the forgiveness of sins, that action, and not the water, has divine power.
The experts that study the church have told us for years a simple thing about why people come to church. It is because a friend, relative or co-worker invited them to come, and made sure they knew they would be welcome. Maybe it is because we are tired of trying to motivate our people, or we’ve seen too many “invite-a-friend” Sunday fail that we fall for the glamour and hype modern marketing and business planning offers us. Mission statements, goals and objectives, strategic implementation all geared to help us sell our faith…
BUt we aren’t in the business to sell our faith. We are ind the ministry to share why we have hope.
Sharing why we have hope, giving the reason for it means that we have discovered a reason to have hope—God revealed it to us, It is an overwhelming hope, as God guarantees us an eternity free of guilt, shame, resentment, pain, sorrow. It is a life where His presence brings us peace during the trials and traumas of life. This is hope at its best, and assurance of God’s love and presence in our lives–a presence that is available to everyone.
What if our efforts were teaching people to pray like those who wrote the Psalms did, expectantly begging God to make Himself known to all of us?
What if we realized He desired to turn us and draw us to His side, to smile at us, to save us all?
Senkbeil mentions the importance of hearing from someone directly, and he is talking about hearing from God. Both Cornelius and Peter did, and responded to what the message God had given them. Luther takes it another step–it is listening to God’s promises in the words of Christ that make a sacrament a sacrament.
If the people who are the church hear God, hearing His word will transform them. That transformation will cause their hearts to break as they see people suffer without Him, and they will want them to know His peace.
That causes revival, the knowledge of God’s love and His work rescuing us…
Or, as we say at my church – we are the broken people finding healing in Jesus, while helping others heal.
Lord Jesus, reveal to us today more of the work you are doing in our lives, turn us again and draw us closer to You. Then Lord, help us see others as You do, and use our lives to draw them through You to the Father. AMEN!
Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 226.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 358.
The Call Never Changes
Isaiah 6 & Luke 5
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain you, as you are formed for the works God has planned for you in the future, as you walk with Him through this life!
- Called to Train
Andrew Murray, a 19th Century Missionary from the Netherlands to South Africa, wrote,
“Let the Church awake to her calling to train the feeblest of her members to know that Christ counts upon every redeemed one to live wholly for His work. This alone is true Christianity, is full salvation.”*
While we need to carefully unpack that statement, it is quite true. Every person part of this community, young or old, is called to live for Christ.
Each of you is called to do God’s work, no matter what else you do, no matter where you do it.
The challenge is not to think that serving God is what saves you. Instead, salvation looks like these men’s lives: a relationship like Isaiah and Peter enter into with God. An intimate relationship resulting in a joy found in walking with Jesus throughout life.
And as you are called to walk in this journey, you are following in Isaiah and Peter’s footsteps, for the call never changes…
- Called into God’s Presence
The first part of the call is finding ourselves in the presence of God. For Isaiah, that was the incredible vision of heaven, seeing God in all His glory. It must have been overwhelming, to say the least, to see the angels ministering to God, praising God, seeing how God’s glory envelopes the entire world.
Peter and Andrew’s call was somewhat different. Their call happened at the end of a long night of fishing- long because all their hard work resulted in nothing but sore bodies and frustrated attitudes. As Jesus taught, and then the miracle – catching fish when and where you aren’t supposed to catch fish, led Peter to the same conclusion as Isaiah. “I have been called into the presence of God….”
- Called into God’s grace
Once called into God’s presence, both Isaiah and Peter had the same reaction,
5 Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips.
8 When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” 9 For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him.
To me, that they could talk while seeing God’s glory is amazing!
They were both aware of two simple facts…
The first is that God is so incredibly holy and righteous.
The second was how they described themselves.
for I am a sinful man. And I’m such a sinful man.
But that is where the second part of the call comes into play.
For these men were not sinners in the hands of an angry God, they were in the presence of a God determined to be merciful, a God who loved them, a God who had a plan for their life….
And even as they are called into God’s presence, they are called into His grace…into receiving His forgiveness and pardon. Hear that clearly….
He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”
Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid!
God doesn’t call us in this life to punish us. He calls us into His presence to purify us, and so both Isaiah and Peter are calmed, and their sin dealt with…so that they can see the last part of their call into the presence of God
- Called to Minister to Others
What happens to Isaiah and Peter next is important.
Not because it happened to them… but because the call of God never changes.
Remember Murray’s statement?
“Let the Church awake to her calling to train the feeblest of her members to know that Christ counts upon every redeemed one to live wholly for His work. This alone is true Christianity, is full salvation.”*
Peter is told he will become a fisher of men, so he will. Isaiah responds to the same call that brought him into the presence of God, saying, Here am I – send me! I often hear that like this…
Send me! Send me! Please send me!
For that is the response. One early church describes it this way,
“The Lord does not say unequivocally whom he is sending. He leaves the matter vague so that the prophet might respond to the call voluntarily. When Isaiah responds, he does not do so out of rashness or overconfidence but out of trust. For his iniquity has been removed, and he has been cleansed of his sins”
And Luther adds, “But to offer one’s service is to say, ‘I’ll be glad to accept if you can use me in this place.’ If he is wanted, it is a true call. So Isaiah said, ‘Here I am. Send me’ [Isa. 6:8]. He went when he heard that a preacher was needed. This ought to be done.”
Sharing God’s love is always a matter of faith – of trusting that God has sent us into that place, using whatever gifts, whatever knowledge we have – no matter whether we are 9 or 90, a preschooler or a Ph.D. A fisherman, a tax collector, a student, a pastor, a financial guru, it doesn’t matter… We are called into this relationship… something so incredible, we need to bless others by bringing them into it.
Most of us will be like Peter, just fishers of men called where we live. As we live, called in the presence of God, saved by the cross of Christ, the end result is fantastic… sinners end up in heaven.
Just like we will be…. So my friends… when you are in the presence of God… hear His call… and go where He sends you…trusting in Him. For you dwell in His presence. AMEN!
* Andrew Murray, Working for God!: A Sequel to Waiting on God! (New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell, 1901), 35.
 Wilken, Robert Louis, Angela Russell Christman, and Michael J. Hollerich, eds. 2007. Isaiah: Interpreted by Early Christian and Medieval Commentators. Translated by Robert Louis Wilken, Angela Russell Christman, and Michael J. Hollerich. The Church’s Bible. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
 Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 54. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Some thoughts to help you see Jesus in your lives!
Listen to what I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, because they are ready for harvest. 36 The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life,d so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For in this case the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps. 38 I sent you to reap what you didn’t labor for; others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor John 4:35-38 CSB
Simon Peter told them, ‘I am going out fishing’; and they said, ‘We too will go with you.’ So they went out and embarked on the boat; and all that night they caught nothing. But when morning came, there was Jesus standing on the shore.”26 He passes by, close to his Apostles, close to those souls who have given themselves to him, and they don’t realize he is there. How often Christ is not only near us, but in us; yet we still live in such a human way! Christ is so close to us, and yet we can’t spare him an affectionate glance, a loving word, a good deed done by his children.
The angel told Mary Magdalene that Jesus would meet the disciples in Galilee – so we know Jesus knew they would go there, to return to their old ways, their old work. That without help they would go back to what they knew.
Even after knowing Jesus was risen from the grace – they still did this! They didn’t connect the Resurrection to the Mission of God, to draw all people tto Him.
But in their pain, in their anxiety, dealing with the change, they forgot this.
I think the church has done the same thing in the last 2 years. We have been struggling with COVID, many of us are helping people deal with grief, or struggling families, trying to hold up each other – all these things are good and right, and beneficial.
But we’ve forgotten who we’ve been sent to help, who we are called to serve, who we’ve been called to guide, as the Spirit calls them, into the realization that God truly loves them.
Even though they knew Jesus was there, that He had preceded Him there (Mark 16:7) they didn’t look for Him. And they didn’t look for the men they would catch. And so Jesus comes by – and reminds them the harvest is ready (Peter – feed my sheep!) He reminds them of His presence. amd the work they would share.
Perhaps they needed that moment set aside… perhaps not. It happened though, and Jesus refocused them on the ministry they had together. MWe aren’t any different. This time of COVID has been our time in the boat together. Now its time to throw our nets in on the other side, and see the catch God has for us to bring in – a great harvest of souls.
Let’s go fishing my friends… but not for fish – the Spirit says it time to gather all God would call!
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
1 Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. 2 I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. Romans 10:1-2 (NLT2)
49 “For everyone will be tested with fire. 50 Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.” Mark 9:49-50 (NLT2)
In apostolate, respect for the inner sanctum of personal conscience is essential: “It is necessary to banish any form of intolerance, coercion and violence in the dealings of some men with others. In apostolic action, rather, especially in apostolic action, we want no slightest trace of coercion. God wants to be served in freedom; therefore, any apostolate that failed to respect the freedom of consciences would not be honest.”
It should be simple, but it is a strange paradox.
The greatest gift we can give to a person, to reveal to them the love of God, we can’t force them to accept. We can’t try to overwhelm them with the logic, we can’t force them to believe.
I have struggled with this most of my ministry, as a lay person and as a pastor. I have struggled with so desiring family and friends to know God’s love. Even to the point of ringing their stubborn necks as they reject God. The opposite approach doesn’t work either – to leave them in peace, hoping and praying tht they might come to their senses.
Mark’s gospel seems contradictory – for salt attcks, it stings, even while it preserves and brings healing. How can we sting and bring peace? How can we long, with God, that all come to repentence, and put our heart into the ministry of reconciliation. How do we correct those who have misdirected zeal, who long for justice without righteousness, who long for love without morals, who long for heaven on earth, without a relationship with the Lord of life?
Is there no easy way to do this? Is there no short and simple approach to saving the world? Can’t we find some Machivellian ruse that brings them into God’s kingdom, and creates enough fear that they live a life free of sin and doubt?
The simple answer is to have faith in God. To simply share with people why they need God, because of sin and death. And then share that God si there. merciful and loving. Then the hardest part – to trust the Holy Spirit to work in them. Just like we have to trust the Holy Spirit to work in us.
To realize the heart of God, and simple live in that heart. To allow God’s message to course through you, and be communicated in love, and know that God will cut open the stong heart, and bring healing. For the will fall in love with God without our coercion, as the Holy Spirit brings them into His presence.
Know the God you have faith in.. and trust in… His desire will make His word, spoken through you, not return void.
Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (p. 91). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of The Day:
20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. 22 And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. Jude 1:20-23 (NLT2)
When we say ‘God’ we confess a constant, unchangeable being, always the same, faithful and just, without any evil. It follows that we must necessarily accept his words and have complete faith in him and acknowledge his authority. He is almighty, merciful, and infinitely beneficent.… Who could not place all hope in him? Who could not love him when contemplating the treasures of goodness and love he has poured out on us?
This damage is so unspeakable that it may not be recognized by a rational process, but only from God’s Word. 10 No one except God alone can separate the corruption of our nature from the nature itself. This will take place wholly by way of death in the resurrection.
Over the last few days, I have seen more and more lamenting (okay, complaining) by the people of God in American. Oh no! Tthe government is stopping us from gathering. Oh no! We have to sue because the government has banned singing. Oh no! Churches are being vandalized, we must defend “our” churches. People are wondering if the end times are here.
It is as if we believe the pandemic has put an end to the Great Commission, or that it has put on pause the commandments to “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” that the church should just hunker down, go on defense and wait for the pandemic to end.
I am as guilty of this as any… but it is time to stop.
As I prepared a devotion on Jude’s letter to the church for this morning, I was struck by the context. There was a demonic attack on the church, there were false teachers, and scoffers who mocked the gospel and those who trusted in God. They dealt with famine and plague. They were dealing with real persecution, as people were killed if they didn’t dismiss God. Even Michael the Archangel was remembered, and how he depended on Jesus, more than on his own prowess.
Tough times the early church.
So we are not the first!
God read Jude’s next words to the church above again. Seriously, go re-read it.
In the midst of all those challenges, God says minister to each other and to the world!
Help strengthen each other’s faith. Show mercy and help those whose faith is wavering, who are struggling to depend on God, show that compassion and care to people who are so pressed by the times that they aren’t sure He exists! They need us, really we all need each other.
He also mentions rescuing people who are close to being judged, whose idolatry and sin are drawing them to condemnation. In the midst of all the trauma they were facing, all the spiritual warfare, Jude calls the church to be the church, to be the place where broken and sinful people find help and compassion, and mercy.
This si the time for the church to act, for you and I to take seriously a call to action. Not to defend the church, but to be the church, blessing the world. Luther notes the damage of sin s so horrible we cannot even see it, unless God exposes it. and if that is true, so the rest, that only in God can we find hope. That is the hope the Catholic Catechism speaks of, that it talks about confessing.
This is the hope people need, so desperately, a hope that we can be there to share with them, even over 6 feet of distance.
This is our time, the time for us, as the people of God, to be the light that is needed.
it is not time to sit and pity ourselves.
Heavenly Father, Your works through men are glorious, so glorious that the people become etched in our memories. Lord help us in this time of the coronavirus, empowering us to encourage those whose faith is weak, to reach out and show mercy to those who are unaware of it, and live lives dominated by sin, shame, and guilt. Lord, Help us to be your people, those who are being healed in Jesus while helping others heal.
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 506.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 467.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
46 But Paul and Barnabas bravely said: We had to tell God’s message to you before we told it to anyone else. But you rejected the message! This proves that you don’t deserve eternal life. Now we are going to the Gentiles. 47 The Lord has given us this command, “I have placed you here as a light for the Gentiles. You are to take the saving power of God to people everywhere on earth.” Acts 13:46–47 (CEV)
1533 Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are sacraments of Christian initiation. They ground the common vocation of all Christ’s disciples, a vocation to holiness and to the mission of evangelizing the world.
THE FIFTH (Commandment)
“You shall not kill.”
10 What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not endanger our neighbor’s life, nor cause him any harm, but help and befriend him in every necessity of life.
As I was working through my devotions this morning, in the back of my mind was lurking the idea of what difference do I make in this world. I know I am not the only one who is pondering this. This virus situation has taken away from so many how they perceive they are valued, as jobs, schools, and interaction with people that would normally give their life meaning has been stolen away.
I have friends whose children are graduating from junior high school, high school, college, and graduate degrees. They cannot celebrate these accomplishments in normal ways, stealing from them the celebration of their endurance. Preschool teachers I know, who live for interacting with their kids, and getting hugs, cannot. In my case, my primary joy is communing people – the 50-70 people that show up on a given Sunday, and have not been able to for the last 8 weeks. This has been my dream and desire, and I believe my calling since I was 8.
It is brutal to our psyche, to our mental health.
It is wearying, and those around us, who are going through the same things, feeling the same pressures, are struggling with each other.
And hope is given and taken away with every newscast, with every internet article. The roller coaster of our heart and soul seems to have no one at the controls, as we are wildly whipped around, and unable ot catch our breath.
The Catholic Catechism, notes our common place in life is found via the sacraments. That in that grace pouring out on us as we are cleaned and united to Jesus, we find our place.
We find we are being made holy, that we share in the same vocation as the Apostle Paul, as those tasked with sharing the news that God loves us, that God is with us, that we can, (and should) help other people know this! Not just in church on Sunday morning, but throughout our week, in our homes, our zoom meetings, our telephone calls.
God has placed us here, (even as the Father sent Jesus) to be a light to the gentiles. e
We do this by loving them, and helping them and befriending them in every possible way. Including the incredible necessity, they may not be aware of, the necessity to know God’s presence. The necessity to know they are loved, the necessity of knowing they have a place, and God redeems the world.
This is hard to see and easy to get distracted from by the cares and pressures. It is a place that takes up our entire lives, and yet..happens best when we don’t force it, but we simply live in this amazing relationship with God.
This is our place.. this is where we find out ultimate meaning in life, as the ones whom God loves, as the ones He shares His greatest work with, the recreation of everything.
Let us find our peace and joy, there, as we work side by side with Him. AMEN!
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 383.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Small Catechism from The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 343.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. 3 Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Psalm 46:1-3 CEV
The best of God’s saints must drink the wormwood; the dearest of his children must bear the cross. No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.
COMFORT WHEN FACING GRAVE TEMPTATIONS
First, such a person1 must by no means rely on himself, nor must he be guided by his own feelings. Rather, he must lay hold of the words offered to him in God’s name, cling to them, place his trust in them, and direct all the thoughts and feelings of his heart to them.
Second, he must not imagine that he is the only one assailed about his salvation, but he must be aware (as St. Peter declares) that there are many more people in the world passing through the same trials [1 Pet. 5:9]. How often does David lament and cry out in the Psalms, “O God, I am driven far from thy sight” [31:22], and, “I became like those who go into hell” [28:1]. These trials are not rare among the godly. They hurt, to be sure, but that is also in order, etc.
As I was trying to care for someone yesterday, who was worried and anxious, part of my prayer was a reaction similar to the title of this blog.
Actually, it was said to him with a bit more colorful language, and with, I must admit some anger.
Over my lifetime, I have needed to vent in more than once… and I know God can handle me, much as He did the Prophet, Jeremiah. (See Jeremiah 20:7) Yet, knowing I can vent it, knowing I can get past it, it is not easy to teach this.
Teaching others this, and helping them be patient with themselves as they wait on God’s action, is like teaching someone to drive a manual transmission. YOu have to let them do it, you have to let them drop the clutch at the wrong times, you have ot encourage, and help them make the tiniest of corrections until they feel the shift until it becomes intuitive until it becomes natural.
When we learn to drive a stick until we realize the moments of high anxiety and stress will resolve, as God does what God does, and as we learn to trust Him, life s like those early times of driving a stick. We get jerked all over the place, stall a lot (and still do on occasion), and make very little progress. But then it all comes together, and we can begin to move, as we sop thinking of on it, and simply focus on where we are going.
Spurgeon and Luther help us realize this, as help us realize that struggles don’t necessarily diminish as we mature, as we grow more dependent on our Lord, and on the presence of the Holy Spirit. How I wish it was the case that life gets easier!
Yet because it doesn’t, we can sit beside those trying to deal with the clutch, trying to learn, or absorb the challenges, and still keep their eyes focused on God. We can encourage them, and comfort them, and smile as they start to move smoothly again, as they resonate with the love of Christ.
This is our mission… this is who we are..
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 183.