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Walking With Jesus from Trials to the Triump: Part VI Finding Hope on the Walk

church at communion 2

Our Lenten Journey:
Walking with Jesus through trials to the triumph

Finding Hope on the Walk
Zechariah 9:9-12

† I.H.S.†

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you the hope you need, as we endure this journey, depending on His faithfulness!

 The Steps of the journey

Imagine being on the side of the road, leading up to Jerusalem.  Jesus, the one some are claiming to be the Messiah starts the long climb up to Jerusalem on a small donkey.  As it meanders up the pathway, the crowd is growing in size and in energy,

Expectations are building, even though the man is a mystery,

He does miracles, incredible miracles.  He teaches like no one else, and those who’ve met him, are more aware of God’s love, of God’s presence in His life.

He’s coming!  Everything is going to change!

It is no different today, as we journey through life, as we walk, guided by the Holy Spirit, and await Jesus coming into our lives.

The Prophet Zechariah told them what to be looking for when Jesus came, He told them what to expect, from how Jesus would arrive, to what He would do.

Understanding this prophecy, this promise gives us real hope,

First – He is coming

As we hear the words rejoice, as we hear that Jesus, our Lord is coming to us, he comes to us in a way that is a paradox.

He’s righteous and victorious, even before the cross there is no demon, no power that can withstand Him. Think about that for a moment, the prophet is using words that are present tense, righteous, victorious, and this is known before he goes into Jerusalem.

Before He goes to the cross, he is already described as victorious.

But then he doesn’t enter as the conquering hero, and that is where we see the paradox.
Maybe that is why he goes to the Jerusalem without the armies, without the majestic horse and the flashing sword. He comes not to conquer, but to provide for His people.

And so he comes, riding on a small donkey, simple and humbly, to be with His people.  Just as He promised to back again, and we await Him….

Second  – He’s here… working

The second thing we see God doing in this passage is very interesting.  Hear it again

I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations.

I want you to notice something very important, He’s not removing the ability of our enemies to do battle, but rather, he is removing our ability to do battle.

The coming of the Messiah doesn’t equip us to do warfare, it enables us to live knowing that our God is victorious. He is bringing peace into our lives, even as He prepared to the cross, so much more now should we be living in peace?

Yet you and struggle and fight, sometimes we try and fight the evil in the world, sometimes we fight the evil in each other, and sometimes, we fight the evil within ourselves.  We know we should not sin, that we shouldn’t be so easy to give into temptation, and yet we do. Yet we don’t always turn this over to God, we might even swear we will do everything in our power to be good, rather than depend on Him, and on the work on the cross.

God has to remove our ability to fight, for as long as we do, we will not know His peace. For as long as we fight, we won’t depend on Jesus, we won’t depend on His work at the cross.

We have to let Jesus take over, it isn’t easy at times.  Who am I kidding, it isn’t easy at all.

Yet Jesus took care of our need to prove ourselves right.  Because of the cross, because of Jesus death paying for our sin, for our unrighteousness, we are now counted righteous.  He strips from us not only the way to do battle but the desire to, for we begin to realize that God is taking care of us, that Jesus has made things right.   That is His role, as He is our king,

Third Step, He frees us.

He describes that here, in verse 11:

11  Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death in a waterless dungeon. 12  Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope!

Even as the prophet is speaking and writing for God, the plan is set, it is by the blood of Christ that all who were imprisoned by sin are freed from it. Even as Christ rides up the mountain to Jerusalem, the plan which was set in place from before the creation of the world is as good as done.

This was the promise to Abraham, this is the promise made to Moses,

He frees us from all that imprisons us, all that causes us to fight, to struggle.  Our anxieties, our fears, our sin, our brokenness. He brings us to a place of safety, a place of security, a sanctuary where we dwell with Him. A place where we learn to trust Him more and more, as we begin to experience and see His love for us.

For we are safe with our King leading us, with our King, Jesus, providing for us.

This is what we hope for, understanding it better than the people in the prophets day, or even the disciples in Jesus day.  But we still need to understand it better, this love of God, revealed to us in the cross of Christ.  This is the hope we have, given to us as Christ died on the cross, yet sometimes hard to see,,,

That is why as I close, I pray for you as Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus,

16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT)

AMEN!!

 

Sunday of the Passion: Here is your repentant attitude!


Here is YOUR Repentant Attitude

Phil. 2:5_11

In Jesus Name

May the Grace and Mercy of God, which was revealed when Christ came in human form sustain you as you, as you help others know this incredible comforting peace!  AMEN!

How does this happen?

Paul writes to the church in Rome

15  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16  Live in harmony with each other.  Romans 12:15-16 (NLT)

It is something we do here, one of the amazing things seen as we gather at the communion rail, and moments before, as we greet each other with the promise of God’s peace.

Living in Harmony, I suppose I could ask Chris to demonstrate harmonics on his guitar, to show you how a string vibrates when a string nears it vibrates at a precise pitch, without the first string doing anything.  It just happens.

Be happy when others are happy, and yes, far too often it seems like we are weeping as those around us weep, that our hearts are crushed as theirs is crushed.

This is the attitude of someone who is repentant, someone God is transforming.  It is the attitude that Paul calls us to, in His epistle.  Read again the first verse,

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had…

That sounds so hard, yet we see it so clearly, as we look to the way we respond to each other, in times where the peace of Christ must be known, where only God is able to comfort each other, and he does it through our words, our hugs, and the holding of each other, as we pray to God.

The struggle in our souls

The struggle is that we don’t always share in each other’s lives in that way.  We confessed that a few moments ago, as we prayed for God’s mercy, as we recognize that we sinned against God and too often, against each other.

Or does anyone around here want to confess something different, that they do love God with everything they are, and that they love their neighbors, even their enemies, as much as they love themselves?  Remember that passage I used, about being happy and sad with those we love, that we are in harmony with?  Well here is it in context…

9  Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10  Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11  Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12  Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13  When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 14  Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16  Live in harmony with each other. Romans 12:9-16 (NLT)

Big difference isn’t it?  To know we can rejoice and weep with those we grieve alongside this week; but we are to weep and laugh with those we struggle with, that we may not like, or that we’ve been angry with for 7 years…

How in the world can we obey this?  How in the world does God expect us to love this deeply?

And if we can’t, are we condemned?

John’s epistle tells us that those who cannot love their neighbor, who they can see, how can they love the God who they cannot?

Harsh words, meant to make us think, and make us walk to the cross this week with Jesus…

The purpose of God’s word teaching us that is not to condemn us, not to make us feel guilty and ashamed, but to help us realize where our hope is found; to help us realize where our power is found to endure…

To realize the very work of the Holy Spirit in our lives…
We have to realize we aren’t alone.

You see, that is the message of this passage of Philippians, one of the earliest praise songs, that was common even as Paul wrote his letters, as two of the four gospel were not even written yet.

Christ humbled Himself, gave Himself, loved us in a way one songwriter declared it to be reckless, as he bought grace for us, by allowing himself to be treated violently.

This is why every knee shall bow, why every tongue will praise and glorify Him.

This is what it means for Him to be Lord, not a Lord who desires to control us, to force us, to use every power He has to manipulate us into behaving the way He wants…

He simply uses His love…  and the more we find sanctuary in that love, the more we find rest, the more we can realize the comfort that brings peace beyond all ability to comprehend….

This is how it happens.

You see, growing in the knowledge of Jesus love, of His presence, of all that he is doing in our lives is how we learn to love each other.  It is not some complicated thing, but it is profound.  For as we are drawn into fellowship with God,  as we kneel at this rail and realize that Christ gave His body and blood for us, we can’t help but love the person next to us, and even perhaps, love the guy handing to us the precious body of Christ, and holding out the cup of His blood, a blessing meant for us,

As we praise Him for that, as we know His love, we are transformed.  This is what repentance really is, this transformation God works in us, as our minds are conformed to His. That is what it means to be repentant, to be granted repentance by the Holy Spirit.  The very fact we hurt this deeply for Sandie and for the Jennings shows us that God can make this change in us, that He has done this….for we love them even as Jesus loves them.  And as we dwell in Christ, this shared love spreads out to all…

That this mind of Christ becomes ours…. That we experience a love so profound that those who simply know it, are able to love sacrificially, are able to share the sorrows, and the laughter, of those they come to love.

This is why we rejoice and praise Him, this is why the journey to the cross means so much,  as we are comforted by Him, as we know His peace.

AMEN

We Cry our Hosanna (save us!) Because our World is Upside Down!

We Cry Out, Hosanna

Featured imageBecause Our World Is Upside Down!
Zechariah 9:9-12

IHS

As we adjust from living in a world that is upside down, may the grace of God turn our world right side up, and help us be at peace with the change!

Discomfort and the Poseidon Adventure
Vicar Mark made a comment in Bible Study the other night that made so much sense.  Talking about Palm Sunday, (aka the Sunday of the Passion) he compared it to an old movie, the Poseidon Adventure.

He indicated that Palm Sunday is like the few hours after the people on the upside down ship were rescued.  When they were still so disoriented because what had been upside down, was now right side up. Where what had sadly become normal, was not normal any longer.

It is like trying to adjust to the sermon being the very first thing in the service.

It’s odd, and we aren’t comfortable with it.

Yet when God comes into our lives, it is to put everything back the way it should be.

We have to get used to it as well! Even as we have to get used the paradox of this being both Palm Sunday, and the first day of Holy Week; also known as Sunday of Christ’s passion.

The world shifts back to normal, but will we recognize it?  Will we adjust to God making everything right?

Our Discomfort with the Meek Ruler

When in a few minutes, you hear the words of Zechariah read, I want you to think through the words, 

Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.

That was why the people of Jerusalem were so happy, this was the King, their King that was entering Jerusalem, the one to whom they cried out Hosanna. By the way, that isn’t just a cry of victory, it is a cry asking for it, a cry of despair, a cry for Jesus to go out and win.

Even as they recognized and cried out to Jesus, knowing this, they didn’t see what the salvation they cried for entailed.

For instance, instead of coming on the White Warhorse, proud and ready to lead, he comes on donkey’s foal – a young ass barely able to carry him.

That’s not what we want as our leader, we want someone strong, ready to take on everything, ready to go to war, ready to conquer everything.  The kind of King we can follow in triumph.

But that Is upside down thinking.  If our God is God and nothing can stand against Him, then Jesus doesn’t have to come decked out for war, He can come humbly and peacefully.  He can come in a way that is relaxed, in a way everyone can reach out to Him.

That is how it would be, if sin didn’t rule over people.  Jesus knew why He came, and the kind of kingdom He would establish.  Confident of the Father’s love, and their plan to set everything right side up, He comes with that in mind.

Our discomfort with the Peace He Brings!

We see the same disorientation, when you start to think about the peace this prophecy about Jesus’ promises.  Usually we think of creating peace by disarming the enemy, making them submit to us.

Look at the verse again.. and hear this when it is read later,

10  I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations.

The prophecy wasn’t about God disarming the world, it was about God disarming Israel!   That doesn’t sound quite right! It sounds quite upside down in fact!  At least from the perspective of living in a broken, sinful world, we want a country well armed!  After all, isn’t It the world against us?  Shouldn’t we make it submit to us?

As God moves to set make everything right, Jesus shows us the greatest victory through dropping the defenses, and loving and serving those who would be our enemy.  His example isn’t from forcing them to obey, but by giving us the confidence to obey.

A confidence that realizes that we don’t have to be offensive in dealing with our enemies, for Jesus will provide them a level of peace, even as His kingdom spreads throughout the world.

As Israel, under the watchful eye of the Roman military as well as the religious authorities calls out for Jesus to save them, Zechariah’s prophecy should point them to the paradox of the cross, where Jesus brings the Father glory, where He wins us the victory, by disarming himself.

They never saw it coming.  They couldn’t see it right, for their world was upside down.  The question is will we see it here.. And now?

Or has sin disoriented us too much?

He is our answer, our place of Safety.

Zechariah saw it coming.  Perhaps it is a better to say the Holy Spirit inspired His perception, and led Zechariah to write this prophecy.

Here some more of it,

11Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death in a waterless dungeon. 12  Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope!

Even as the Vicar and an Elder process this morning, you will note that the procession moves towards the altar, toward the place where you will be given Christ’s body and blood this morning, the place where you cry of Hosanna – God save us! Is answered.

Before a cross, remembering that it was at the cross where the blood of the covenant was poured out, even as the wine and blood will be poured out this morning.

Everything turned upside down. A Kingdom won by surrender, peace gained by allowing violence, leadership found in humility, Life created in death, freedom found in submission. Saints found as sinners are revealed to be in Christ.

A life lived in safety and security, for eternity.

Because of God’s passion, because of the peace He came to bring, riding on a donkey.

So we celebrate that Christ, the one who flips everything, making it right, making life the way it was supposed to be.  We celebrate Jesus, who sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, to give us the strength to deal with the disorientation is revealed to be something need to know – the peace that passes all understanding.

AMEN!

Why Would God Blind Them as to who Jesus Was?

Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday(in order to make sense of the sermon, I have included the beginning of our service – the processional readings for Palm and Passion Sunday. THere is something about crying in one breath “Hossanna ! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” and in the next, “Crucify Him!”  That tension, that uncomfortable gut wrenching realization that we would have cried out as they did…. is something we should experience, and oddly enough, where we find God’s greatest glory revealed. DTP )

Invocation  

pastor:               “In the name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit!” Cogregation:       Amen!

Verses for Procession for Palm Sunday       Matthew 21:1–9 

pastor:                 “When they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, congregation:    Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” pastor :                      6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, congregation       “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

 Processional Hymn       All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name/Our God Reigns

pastor :                          (Later that Week) 21  So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd shouted back, congregation:     “Barabbas! pastor:late             Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, congregation:      “Crucify him!” pastor                           ““Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?” But the mob roared even louder, congregation:      “Crucify him!” pastor:                          Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” 25  And all the people yelled back, congregation       “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”

Confession and Absolution

(we then proceeded into a time of confession our sins, and hearing the incredible words, that because of Christ, they are forgiven….It it with that context that the following sermon is delviered)

Why Would God Blind their Eyes?

Because Jesus Christ Had to Die…For Us

John 12:20-43

T In Jesus Name T

May You Grow in Awareness of what is yours as you walk in Christ, the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father.  AMEN.

I don’t get it….

I usually love the mysteries of scripture, the things we call paradoxes. They are glorious, mystical things that cause our minds to eventually give up, and stand there, in awe of God’s wisdom and glory.

The mystery that is the Trinity, the paradox of Jesus being 100% God and yet 100% man.  The mystery that we will celebrate as we take and eat the Body of Christ, in and under the bread; and drink the blood of Christ in and under the wine.  I could go on and talk of how we are simultaneously sinners and yet righteous, or the mystery of our being Born Again, as God’s pours water over us, and replaces our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh….

There are other things, not quite to the level of these glorious mysteries, but still puzzling, and it takes a little to work them out.  Things in scripture that just don’t make sense at first glance.  We have to struggle with them, to understand how what it teaches makes sense, considering what we know about God.

Such is found in verse 40 of the gospel reading.  (Click)

40  “The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts— so that their eyes cannot see, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and have me heal them.” John 12:40 (NLT)

Does this sound like the action of the God we know, who loves us, and desires that none should perish, but that all would come to everlasting life?  That He would intentionally blind someone, that they couldn’t see His glory, that he would harden their hearts so that they couldn’t understand? Why would He stop them from turning to Him? Why wouldn’t He heal them?

Is this the God of love that we adore?  (Click) Or are we missing something?  Why would God blind their eyes?

The Mission:  Bring Glory to the Father’s Name

As the gospel reading opened, just prior to the Triumphal Entry, the Great procession into Jerusalem we see something that we need to understand.  Before Jesus enters Jerusalem, before the cries change from Hosanna to Crucify Him, Jesus will hear that the world has come, and has wanted to meet with Him.

A few Greeks have come to Jerusalem, and desire to meet jesus.

Think back to last week, when Caiaphas prophesied that it would be better for one Man to die, that the people of God would live.  John’s gospel said – it wasn’t just for one nation, but looking to the Old Testament prophecies, that people from every nation would be saved when One Man died. Then there is this, from the dedication of the temple…

41  “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42  for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43  then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. 1 Kings 8:41-43 (NLT)

That day has come, as men come from distant lands to pray, and they will soon know the glorious answer to their prayers – that God is listening.  The time when Christ is to die, though they don’t get that yet.  He points is out in places like verse 23-24  (click)

23  Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. 24  I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. John 12:23-24 (NLT)

In this, Jesus unites His glory to His death, the death where He is planted, but that very death provides a plentiful harvest and lives that are full of His love. That seems odd as well, for how is the death of a man, especially the torture and death that Jesus faced, something that would be glorious? Jesus will make the point again a moment later,  (click)

32  And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” John 12:32 (NLT)

That word “lifted” up, is more often used in the sense of our phrase – “putting up on a pedestal”.  To honor and cherish and praise the one lifted up, yet the crowd understood this meant he would be crucified? (click) Glorified or Crucified? (click) Or could it be both?  (click)

The Challenge – Would We Cry to Crucify Christ?

Could lifting up Christ refer to Christ being glorified, to the Father’s name being praised, and to the crucifixion of Jesus?

It does – and that is why God would blind the people of Israel, and harden their hearts. Because Jesus needed to die for them, for us. It is here where we find our answer to the original question:  (CLICK)

“Why would God Blind their eyes?” Because otherwise, as the other reading says, they wouldn’t crucify the Lord of Glory.

How many of you this morning, were comfortable saying the words the crowds cried on Good Friday? How many felt odd crying “Crucify Him!”? We struggle with the idea, and we weren’t even there in the courtyard.  How could we cry out crucify jesus?  The Son of God?

How many did felt a lump in their throat, or hesitated? How dare we call for His death, even to save us from our sins? 

I think that is what makes it hard – knowing that it was our sins that put Him there. How many of us, considering our sin, our failures, our shame and guilt, would even ask Jesus to pay for those sins?  Demand it?  Yell it til Pilate submits?

Yet that moment, when what the crowds’ two cries are fulfilled simultaneously, when the Messiah, the Son of David comes and saves us, as His is nailed to the cross, that moment as He says, It is finished; that moment is glorious.

It is the moment we are delivered, the moment we find ourselves freed from sin, from all unrighteousness, the moment our eyes are opened, our stone hearts are replaced with hearts of flesh.  That moment – when the crowds cries – Hosanna and Crucify Him are fulfilled… that moment is glorious.

As Christ dies, for us.

That’s the Moment the Father is Praised and Glorified for… Odd isn’t it?

If they weren’t blinded, if they hearts weren’t hardened, they wouldn’t have killed the Lord of Glory, They had already tried to make Him king, they wanted Him to free them, but they had no clue the kind of Kingdom He came to deliver.

I am not sure we get it all the time either…. It is too glorious, too incredible, more wonderful than anything we’ve ever seen, or heard, or even imagined

For It is at that moment, as we see Jesus, on the cross, beaten and brutalized that we realize the depth of God’s love for us, and we praise God, we glorify Him, we are in awe..

God loves us that much?

Yes, you and I.

That much!

Think about it for another moment…..

Imagine now crying out “crucify him,” understanding His love, His compassion, and His joy that drives Him to that cross……

to save you.

and me.

And the world.

May knowing the depth of Christ’s love for you, of the Father’s desire to make you His children, instill in you His peace, the peace of God which passes all understanding, and guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.

There is no other God!

“There is no other god…”

Deuteronomy 32:36–39

† 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?

Cross or Crucifix, Palms or Passion

Česky: Kříže - symbol utrpení Ježíše Krista a ...

Česky: Kříže – symbol utrpení Ježíše Krista a jeho ukřižování (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional thought of the day… as we prepare for Holy Week:

 14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. 15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God. Galatians 6:14-16 (NLT)

Over the years, I have had a number of people who ask me why I, a “protestan” pastor (which I do not consider myself to be – but that’s another conversation) wear a crucifix more often than I wear a cross.  Its the same reason the Sunday of Christ’s Passion – the celebration of the depth of His love, is so much more than Palm Sunday…

My answer is simple – it is where my hope is founded, it is what makes a difference in my life, it is what sustains me, as I face the crap of this world, the sin and trauma that just can rip your heart apart, and the sin and trauma that is my own, which then crushes that heart, with the force a sledgehammer.

It is why the drama of Palm Sunday, when the masses are crying out Hallelujah – and Hosanna, and Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord,  is so ironic, and in a way painful.  I can’t but hear under the praises, the same voices starting their other cry, the one that will call for this same man to be crucified, to be tortured and killed.  There is great irony in that, in the second cry, as it is heard and acted upon, they will realize the glorious nature of God’s love.

It is why I would rather cling to an old rugged crucifix, than just an old rugger cross.  For in baptism – I am joined to Christ there as Paul talks about in Romans 6 and Colossians,  It is there at the cross – that a circuimcision of my heart takes place, as God separates my sin and all unrighteousness from me, as He signs adoption papers, as He declares me justified, as I receive the most incredible gift, as I enter into fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

Why do I wear a crucifix more than I wear a cross?

Simple – I desperately need to remember He died for me… and as I share in His death, so too I share in His new life.

That He has had mercy on us,,,, despite the cross.

 2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which lay ahead of him, he endured the cross, disregarding the shame of it, and has taken his seat at the right of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2 (NJB)

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