Love Is, Jesus is, We are
Never Jealous, Boastful or Proud
† In Jesus Name †
As we explore the dimensions of God the Father’s love for us, revealed clearly in Jesus, may we realize that He is not only loving us, but teaching us to love as well!
Last week when we defined love, we heard about the fact that love never gives up and that love always cares for others more than itself. Which is the basic definition of the word cHesed in the Old Testament.
Those two characteristics are expanded this evening, as we look what Love is, and see that is who Jesus is, and become surprised that God is working in us, transforming us until that is who we are.
We see it take another step as we realize that love is NEVER jealous, that it is not boastful, that it is not proud.
Some interesting words there, all that are related to a heart that is self-centered that is driven by a need to have something, whether it goods, or admiration or applause. Love doesn’t need that, it is content, confident of the presence of God and the promises of God.
But how do we become so confident in where God has us, that we cease to be jealous, that we have need to boast, that we simply, humbly walk with God?
The answer, as we will see throughout this Lent begins with Jesus, for you can read this passage of scri[ture and simply substitute Jesus for the word love, and nothing changes.
He wasn’t jealous, even though He left everything, every right, every possession aside when He was born of Mary, but also when He began to preach and teach, and when He went to the cross and died.
There was no need for Him to boast, instead of taking the best place, He washed feet, and ministered to the Leper, and had compassion on widows and Samaritans.
And what to be proud of? That He could do miracles? That He could teach thousands? That he could confound the best and brightest by simple God-centered answers to the questions they planned to trap Him with?
What good would any of that have done.
Instead, He did what He came to do, He loved. He was love!
So how does Jesus help us overcome our self-centeredness? How does He help us lay aside what we desire, and our need for admiration? How does He transform us into people that like Him, prefer to be last, and prefer to lift others up instead of themselves?
The gospels tell us that as Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all to Him. And as they are drawn to them, as they look on and adore the Lord who delivers them from their own sin’s punishment,
As we grow in understanding that we are loved by God, our need to be self-centered can disappear, little by little.
As you understand that His love for you compels Him to care for you, to act on your behalf, so jealousy fades away, as does the need for the acclaim and applause of others. He loves you, and that is so overwhelming that it is more than enough. Indeed, I am not sure I can even comprehend with my mind fully to realize what that means… that God loves you and me that much.
But my mind doesn’t have to, my heart and soul do, especially while I am at the altar, and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ……
It is then I understand these words of Mary,
46 … “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
Luke 1:46-51 (NLT)
And quietly, as we are in awe of this love God shows us, the Holy Spirit is doing what the Apostle Paul described,
16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT)
That is what is happening to you my friends, as you dwell in God’s peace. AMEN!
The Question of Who BenefitsFrom “My” Work
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so transform you that you know the excitement and joy that leads you to see others needs…and meet them!
Part 1: Fruit of His Labors
When we hear Zacchaeus was a tax collector, I think we paint a picture in our minds. A small man, perhaps with squinty eyes, and hands that are moving way to fast. A glint in his eye when money is involved.
We probably assume he is evil, that he robbed people left and right of what they earned. After all, aren’t tax collectors the ultimate example of evil? There are some noble used car salesman out there, and even some very honest politicians and lawyers.
But a tax collector though? A government worker whose job depended on collecting enough revenue? Who had legal authority to fine and who received a bonus, or a cut, of all he took in, he is one who needs to repent, right?
So if he can repent, we have hope, right?
If Zack can be transformed by God’s love, then we are a much simpler job, right?
No. I don’t think so. I think we make a mistake in saying he was more evil than we are, just because of his role. Certainly, the little guy was hated more than anyone else, but he we can’t assume that he was more corrupt, more self-centered.
Certainly he was not a hero to his people. Look at how they grumbled because Jesus went to him!
He hoarded his wealth; he was successful in that we find out why he needed to repent. We see the change in him after he encounters Jesus. Instead of sharing, he hoarded. Instead of meeting needs, he made sure he had none. He didn’t care about those around him; he cared about himself.
It may be considered as American as apple pie, but greed is still a sin. Not loving your brother, and responding in love to his needs is still a sin. We don’t like hearing that, we want to enjoy the fruit of our labors, and not share it with others. We want what we deserve, the pay we earned with our own hands.
Which brings up an interesting question – why do we do what we do? To serve God, or to serve ourselves?
Zacchaeus served himself, but even as a wealthy man, a man who did his job well, that wasn’t enough. Throughout scripture, you see this – over and over, as those who are only focused on themselves live empty lives. Ethics and morality are reduced from living a life that benefits others, to lives that don’t rob from others.
We hear this in the first epistle of John,
16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? 18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; 1 John 3:16-19 (NLT)
This is our call to repentance this evening, this is the call to confession, to pray that God would help us to change.
That He remove from us the lack of compassion that has a grip on our souls. That He would remove from us a heart that is self-centered and only cares about its own needs.
As we enter a time of silence, let the Spirit convict you, show you where you need to have Him change you, and grant you the forgiveness you need.
( after confession of sin, confession of what we believe and why we have hope, part II begins )
Zacchaeus Part II
It probably never entered Zacchaeus’ mind that Jesus would be coming to dinner. He would be willing just to get a glimpse of him, maybe if was lucky, get a selfie with Jesus in the background.
Why would a prophet, why would a rabbi invest time in him? It is as inconceivable as Ebenezer Scrooge leaving his entire net worth to the elder’s benevolence fund. Or Mr. Grinch bringing Christmas presents for everyone in Whoville. Or Mr. Zacchaeus returning the tax money he collected to those in need.
No priest, no pastor would give him the time of day, he was a spiritually wounded man on the road to Jericho, and he really needed a Samaritan, a Savior. Even though he was a Jew, even though he probably donated money, how would he ever learn that he could repent of his sin? That he wasn’t a complete write-off in the eyes of God. He needed someone to tell Him,
And Jesus did.
He said let’s eat together – at your place.
I am interested in your life Zach; I want to be part of it.
It may be the first time any religious leader had said that to him, and it changed Zaccheus’s life forever.
Come, let us feast together, let me come to you.
My friends repentance doesn’t start with us promising God to make things right; it doesn’t start by our deciding we need to change. It starts like it did with Zacchaeus, with the Lord reaching out to us, loving us, wanting to be involved in our lives.
That love that interest in what is happening with us changes us heals us, makes us complete. It is the granting of repentance, the transformation from sinner to saint.
And it comes to all believers, as God comes to us and says, let me come with you, and let’s feast together this day…
Its time for us now, to hear that invitation. We too have realized that we don’t know always choose to love God with all we are, to love our neighbor as ourselves. But He’s come to make that possible, to show us His love.
So come, and eat with Jesus. He’s come here to be with you today. Here.
“There is no other god…”
† In Jesus Name †
May we realize that, if there is only one God, then it is to Him we should listen, as He reveals His love and grace to us, and assures us, that He has us in the palm of His hand.
How I don’t want to be part of the crowd…
Holy Week… a time of betrayals…
The Crowds praising God, for bringing the Messiah into their midst… in a few days, the crowds would be crying out to crucify the very person they praised the Father for sending.
The brothers James and John, arguing about who is first in the Kingdom, even to the point their mom would ask Jesus if He could separate them – by placing one at his right hand – and the other at His left. This they asked of the one who would kneel and wash their feet….
The kiss of Judas, how that must of hurt the One who came to embrace the sins of the world.
The sinner of sinners, Peter. Who though he walked with Jesus over three years, though he trusted him enough to set a record for walking on water. Who was at the mountain of transfiguration, who did and saw so many things at Christ’s side… would betray Jesus three times – in Jesus’ hearing, even as Jesus told Peter he would.
Boy do I understand Peter’s grieving, his tears this year. For I find – that as much as I don’t want to be part of the crowd that can go from doing right to doing wrong in an instant, I too often find myself doing so, sometimes faster than I can realize it. My instinct is to find an excuse, a logical reason for sin, to explain the intent – even knowing that the result does not legitimize the sin. We do all sorts of strange things when we sin – we deny the sin, we attempt to bargain, we get angry – maybe to the point where we crucify ourselves, or sometimes, perhaps worse – we attempt to crucify those who point out our error.
If we are blessed, as I have been – we have brothers who have walked that way before, and are ready to share with us, the very grace of God. To remind us that we are forgiven, when we confess the sins we’ve committed. They remind us – that even in our weakest most broken points, that God is faithful, that He is with us. Our reading from Deuteronomy explained it this way, Yahweh will see his people righted, he will take pity on his servants. And 39 See now that I, I am he, and beside me there is no other god. It is I who deal death and life; when I have struck, it is I who heal and no one can rescue anyone from me.
There are those days… when I would wish to escape from God, that I need to hear such words. Then as I realize the love behind them, they bring peace to one who struggles, partially because, like many of you, at times I am my own biggest idol.
Idols – fact and failure.
An idol is something we depend on, something we rely on, instead of relying on God. It can be anything from a good luck charm, to a person we desperately “need” in our lives, to the old fashioned idols made of wood or stone.
And as I mentioned – sometimes we are so impressed with our knowledge or our maturity, that we can become our own idol. We think we have all the knowledge, all the wisdom, all the power. We might even make ourselves an idol of ourselves because we are good Christians, just as Paul realized that he did last week – when we heard of all the things he counted as skubala as dung, because He realized He couldn’t rely on them.
Fact is, when we aren’t on guard – idols have a sneaky way of worming themselves into our lives, making us depend on them, more than we depend on God.
Then they fail – as God tells us they will. It doesn’t matter how much we work, how much we prepare, how much we tell ourselves we’ve got it down- our idols will fail – they will not provide us shelter, or comfort, or help.
There is only one God – the Lord who revealed himself to Abraham, to Moses, to Gideon as we saw during Lent. The God who waits – knowing that our idols, our false gods will fail us….
Ready to pick us up – ready to reveal again, that He is the Lord, that He is with us.
Death than Life.
As the deacons and vicars sat in my office this week – they came to an immediate realization about very 39, the difficult phrases they make us wonder at first glance. It is I who deal death and life; when I have struck, it is I who heal! They both remarked – this is talking about Law and Gospel – about the cross and baptism.
It is one of those moments where I realize that working with them is a great joy! They nailed it. ( Hmmm that might not be just the right way to say it, with Good Friday around the corner. ) But this passage is about this week – about a death that leads to life – and about how we are joined to that death in our baptism.
A death that shows the passion, the very heart of God, that He has for us….
That our sin, that even our idolatry can and is cleansed from us. Not that we should be proud of it, but we shouldn’t nail ourselves to the cross over and over again.
We’ve been there – because we’ve been here – at the baptismal font, at the place of St. Paul said,
12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13 You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; Colossians 2:12-13 (TEV)
That is where our confidence needs to be, not in ourselves, not in the failures that we so grieve over, but in the God who will not let us escape His grasp.
For there – when we realize He will not let us go… we find the peace that so eludes us, when we realized we cried Hosanna – hoping that God would do what we thought was right, the peace that eludes us as well, when we realize we are crying out “Crucify Him”, and then grieve over our guilt.
He won’t let us go, and because of that – we can know He is God, and that He crucifies us in Christ – that we can be raised to a new life. A life in which He reigns, and in which we live in peace. AMEN?