Blog Archives

In Ministry, whom do we please? A different perspective!

Devotional Thought off the day:

28  “Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in this man’s name?” he demanded. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!” 29  But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30  The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. 31  Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven.
Acts 5:28-31 (NLT2)

383         In governing, after considering the common good, one must realise that both in spiritual and in civil affairs it will be very rare for a law to displease nobody. There is a popular saying: The rain never pleases everybody! Yet you can be sure, that is not a defect of the law, but an unjustified rebelliousness of pride and selfishness by a few.

I have often heard those in ministry talk about the pressure to please others. It is one of the things that contribute to clergy and lay ministry burnout.

Sometimes, we get so tired of being there for others, of trying to meet their expectations, that we decide to only please and look after our own needs. with a similar attitude, I have heard pastors and others justify their own attitudes that precede and accompany such burnout.  I am going to please no-one – just be faithful to the scriptures, using a passage like the one above from Acts.  In reality, the attitude is not one of a shepherd, but one of a scribe, using the law to condemn, rather than an agent of reconciliation

Let me be blunt, most of the times I have heard, or even said such a thing, the idea of pleasing God was not on the mind of the one spewing it forth.  They might have been in burnout, they may have been overwhelmed, or tired of feeling attacked. But we weren’t trying to please God…

We were trying to find some respite, perhaps a little peace, and in a perverse way, the pleasure of telling someone off.  We want karma (…err… God’s wrath) to bite them in the … well you get the picture

If we were trying to please God, we would hear the rest of the passage and realize what pleases God. 

People being transformed, people having their minds renewed, for this is what repentance is. His goal and greatest desire is to see people forgiven and to be drawn into a relationship with Him.  A relationship based in love, not fear. That is God’s end-game, it is His desire, it is what pleases Him.

One more thought, if we are patient and strong enough in our faith to strive for their reconciliation, if we depend on God for the words, the wisdom, the heart to see their redemption through, then we will have provided them with what will please them more than anything else we could ever do.  

So work to please everyone, working not for the false pleasure of the world, but the real pleasure that is the result of God and His people, rejoicing together!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1747-1750). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Where Will We Find Ourselves?

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought for the day:

11 Just as underwear clings to one’s waist, so I fastened the whole house of Israel and of Judah to Me” g—this is the LORD’s declaration—“so that they might be My people for My fame, praise, and glory, h but they would not obey.  Jeremiah 13:11 HCSB

We have to be candles,
burning between
hope and despair,
faith and doubt,
life and death,
all the opposites.
That is the disquieting place where people must always find us.

And if our life means anything,
if what we are goes beyond the monastery walls and
does some good,
it is that somehow,
by being here,
at peace,
we help the world cope
with what it cannot understand.

We may talk about finding ourselves, or our search for meaning, but I am not always sure we are ready to find ourselves.  Each generation has their search, whether it was the boomers in the 50’s and sixties, or the GenX’er, or now the Millenials.  Eventually, the majority of the people will settle down into a life that isn’t truly satisfying.  A life filled with turmoil, anxiety, uncertainty.

Lite I mentioned, I am not sure we are all ready to find ourselves.

Because the search will lead us into what Brodrick calls the “disquieting place”.

We live there, but we don’t want to find ourselves there, bouncing between optimism and pessimism, between joy and sorrow, in a place which is more often surreal than real.

And to be content there… in the midst of the disquiet, in the realm of the dysfunctional, in the place where balance isn’t found, that is when we truly find ourselves.

Because there, we learn to do what God desires, what God designed us to do.

To cling to Him like a pair of underwear!

Seriously, it is in that place where life spins us back and forth between the extremes that we find our only hope is clinging to God.  It is in our relationship with Him that we can find rest and peace, it is in Him that the paradox of life can be put to rest.

In Him, the disquiet turns into a crescendo of praise.

And clinging to Him, we reach outside of ourselves and find that we can help the world cope with what it cannot understand.

It is as we cling to Him, ministry happens…..

So learn to realize the disquiet can be a blessed place as well, and when it isn’t, remember to cling to God like a pair of underwear clings to its owner.

William Brodrick  (https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/  )

Independence or Isolation? We need ot be careful which we choose.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 I lift my eyes to You,  the One enthroned in heaven. 2 Like a servant’s eyes on his master’s hand, like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand, so our eyes are on the LORD our God until He shows us favor.    Ps. 123:1-2 HCSB

Many men and women are experiencing more and more today serious lowliness and neglect as a result of their excessive zeal for autonomy which they inherited from modernity. But mostly they have lost the support of something that transcends them.

For the last day or two, pictures from last summer remind me of my favorite place on earth.  It is a quiet place, and even in the midst of the summer Deer Cove on Lake Ossipee was quiet, tranquil, a great place to walk, enjoy God’s creation and peace.

I miss it, this idyllic, beautiful peaceful place. 

When life is stressful and overwhelming, when I am dealing with people in great trauma, I long to find the autonomy, the independence of such a place. 

Yet I hear Pope Francis’s words this morning and I know my desire to be introverted, independent, emotionally off-the-grid is a trap.  What I would be choosing is isolation, not freedom.  What I think is an escape is a sentence, a form of suffering I could not bear.

We choose, far too often the very thing prison wardens do to those who will not live by the rules.  We dwell in that place that makes memory stealing diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia so frightening. 

Complete Isolation. 

Complete Autonomy

Complete Loneliness. 

While a good deal of our stress comes from others, so should the support that comes from the people of God.  So does the reminder from others that I need to hear, that the Lord is with me. (and also with them!)  We were made to live in community. 

But that community starts in the presence of God,  Where love and mercy are the greatest of gifts, the purest grace.  (this is a necessity, otherwise, our sin and brokenness can make the community a nightmare.)  As a community, as the Body of Christ, we look to God to provide that which we need, and the confidence of that provision grows.  

Even as we learn to be merciful to each other, it grows. For that is the power of the Lord demonstrated in our midst.  

Our desire for freedom, for independence, for autonomy is really a desire for freedom from sin and the brokenness, guilt, shame, and division it causes.  As the sin is forgiven, as the mercy is realized, as our hearts re-discover peace and joy, the desire for independence disappears. 

For we realize God is with Us, we realize His provision unites us, brings us together as a family. Brings us together in His peace. 

Which is what we need, more than anything. 

Heavenly Father, as we try to run away from all that oppresses us, help us look to you, open our eyes to Your mercy and love, Help us to rejoice in Your presence, together with all your saints. Help us to be confident in Your work in our lives.  AMEN!

 

 

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 227). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Who Am I? Escaping our own self-delusion.

561266_10150669017895878_539105877_9573351_938050676_n

Devotional Thought of the Day:
10  and have put on the new self. This is the new being which God, its Creator, is constantly renewing in his own image, in order to bring you to a full knowledge of himself. Colossians 3:10 (TEV)

871      Tell him slowly: Good Jesus, if I am to be an apostle, and an apostle of apostles, you have to make me very humble. May I know myself. May I know myself and know you. Then I will never lose sight of my nothingness.

875      Lord, help me to be faithful and docile towards you, sicut lutum in manu figuli, like clay in the potter’s hands. In this way it will not be I that live, but you, my Love, who will live and work in me.

 

Each of us suffers from a delusion about who we are.

Some of them are simply naive, the young kid who thinks they will be the next Tom Brady ( or in my day Roger Staubach), the beautiful lady who thinks she is too fat, the average guy, who believes he is God’s gift to women, or the person that believes they are worthless, and beyond hope.

We each live, caught in the maze of self-delusion.  We don’t really know who we are, or what we are worth, or why we are worth anything.

This is one of the benefits of having a relationship with God; for as we are drawn closer to him, as He transforms us, our identity becomes clearer and clearer. An identity that finds contentment and serenity in knowing we are God’s creation, His masterpiece, the children He loves.

There is a paradox in this quest for self-awareness, in our search for the answer to “Who am I?” It requires an incredible amount of humility to realize the masterpiece (Eph 2:10) that we are.  It requires that we intimately know and are aware of God here, in our lives.  Not just the doctrine of His omnipresence, but the presence of God, the real, active, intimate presence of God in our lives. 

That is what it means to have a full knowledge of God.  We aren’t talking about theological knowledge, but moving with God, dancing with Him, confident of His presence and guidance.  It is then, as He reveals Himself to us, that we realize what our transformation is going to result in when it is complete.  Being in the image of God, not that we will be gods in our own right, but that we will have the qualities He has, especially the quality of being able to love purely.  The transformation happens as God strips away those delusions, as He draws our eyes to Him, This is what Jesus meant when He taught, 25  For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it.” Matthew 16:25 (TEV)

Is this easy?  Nah.  We are still going to pick up our self-delusion, dust them off and try them on again.  We will try to convince people are far better than we are.  We are still going to battle what we’ve convinced ourselves of, that we have no worth. Which is why we don’t do this journey alone, it is why we have each other, pointing each other to Christ, reminding each other that God is at work and that He promised all things work for good for those who love God.

He is with you, and the more you know that the more you can cry out to Him, and have the confidence that He listens, answers, does and transforms you!

So relax, stop trying so hard to find yourself, relax and realize He is your God.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3091-3094). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Godly Paradox: The Blessing of a Angry, Jealous God

Devotional Thought of the Day:
Featured image
1   GOD, you smiled on your good earth! You brought good times back to Jacob! 2  You lifted the cloud of guilt from your people, you put their sins far out of sight. 3  You took back your sin-provoked threats, you cooled your hot, righteous anger. 4  Help us again, God of our help; don’t hold a grudge against us forever. 5  You aren’t going to keep this up, are you? Scowling and angry, year after year? 6  Why not help us make a fresh start—a resurrection life? Then your people will laugh and sing! 7  Show us how much you love us, GOD! Give us the salvation we need! 8  I can’t wait to hear what he’ll say. GOD’s about to pronounce his people well, The holy people he loves so much, so they’ll never again live like fools. Psalm 85:1-8 (MSG)

1  I hope you will put up with a little more of my foolishness. Please bear with me. 2  For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. 3  But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. 4  You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed. 2 Corinthians 11:1-4 (NLT)

We find in scripture many mysteries, many things that we can know, but never quite understand.  There are also things that we label paradox, the things we can understand, yet seem, not quite right, perhaps a little unbelievable.

The concept of a jealous God fits that last category, and if we don’t work through it, we will never understand His anger, and why He threatens and pours out His wrath.

If we do understand why God is a jealous God, if we understand why He is angry, there is a wonderful blessing to be known. A simple blessing.

Here it is:

You don’t get jealous, you don’t get angry when a relationship is stepped all over, or worse, ignored, unless you care, and care deeply.

God’s anger, God’s jealousy is proof of how much He loves us, how much He cares, how he longs to show us His mercy and love.

But this seems paradoxical at first.   So take a moment, stop, breath a few times and think it through,

We like the fact that God is patient with us, but does patience have a cost?  Of course it does.  It means that God is willing to wait until we remember He is there, until we come to our senses, until the Holy Spirit’s work is done.

We like the fact that God is willing to go to extremes to bring us back to Him.  Searching for us, (even though He knows where we are), calling to us; sending us messengers prophets and evangelists, and shepherds to rescue us and guide us,

Foreknowledge doesn’t turn God into some kind of metaphysical robot,  It doesn’t take away the pain of the times we rebel, of the times we walk away, the times we choose to sin rather then revel in His love and care.   While He knows the outcome, that doesn’t relieve the sorrow He knows as we spend time away from Him, as we spend time like the prodigal, dirty and muddy and hungry for something that will sustain us.

God wants this intimate relationship with us, He wants to care for us, to be our God, we His beloved children.

When stuff gets in the way of this relationship, when we create other things that would take His place, that we trust in, that we place our hopes in, He would destroy them.  And someday He will.  Yet for those who trust in Him, the wrather and anger that we deserve, that we are owed.  God dealt with that too, and poured out all His anger and wrath, because He desires this, and was jealous of how we spend our time and energy, by nailing Jesus to the cross.

In doing so, we can be restored, the jealousy fades and we become what He desires more than anything…. HIs family.

Rejoice that we are in the hands of an angry God….. and realize that His desire for us is a blessed thing!

A Joyful Journey! or One To Be Sacrificed? YES!

Devotional Thoughts for this Day:
Featured image
5  What joy for those whose strength comes from the LORD, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. 6  When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings. 7  They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem. 8  O LORD God of Heaven’s Armies, hear my prayer. Listen, O God of Jacob. Psalm 84:5-8 (NLT)

51  As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Luke 9:51 (NLT)

882  To be a Christian, and in particular to be a priest—bearing in mind, too, that all of us who are baptized share in Christ’s priesthoodis to be at all times on the Cross.(1)

The Book of Psalms has many verses that talk about the journey toward Jerusalem.  Often, we picture the journey as one of great joy, one where people are excited, because of the feasts, because of the nature of the “homecoming”, and because that journey would be spiritually refreshing.

They were going to witness the sacrifice that would assure them that they were still God’s people, that as they prayed toward the temple, even as Solomon prayed centuries before, they sins would be forgiven.  They would find rest…and peace beyond understanding.

For Jesus, the journey was different. He set out resolutely, for He knew He wasn’t going to witness the sacrifice, but to be the sacrifice.  He was going to bear our sins, to unite us to His death, and to His resurrection.   Yet the author of Hebrews tells us, that this too was a journey for the joy set before Him. A journey that was so much a paradox, as life dies and lives. As shame gives way to joy, as Holiness absorbs evil, as Sacrifice brings healing.

For us, going to church is a joy as well, but it is also a great sacrifice. Not His again, rather we are joined to His. We die with Him, we rise with Him, we gain a share in the precious Body which was given, and the blood given out.  We love our lives, and gain them, all in one moment.  Our sinful nature killed off again, yet in doing so, a precious life comes into view.

Our lives become living sacrifices, that is the result of our journey to Jerusalem….It is no long us that live, but Christ that lives in us. We are told in Philippians 2:5 to have this mind of Christ, the mind that sets aside everything else, to sacrifice everything and serve.  This is something that can only happen if we are in Christ!.

So let us go to Jerusalem, with joy anticipating the cross, and our being made a living sacrifice…. as we are joined with Jesus.

.


Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3114-3116). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Paradox of Life….in Christ

Sermon from Concordia Lutheran Church, June 29. 2014Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

The Paradox of Life in Christ

Matthew 10:34-42

IHS

 

May we understand that this grace, the mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, is what makes life worth living.

But I thought……             The paradox that isn’t

As I read the gospel reading first two verses last Monday, (for I did not come to bring peace… but a sword.. and cause division in homes)  other Bible passages started to run through my mind.

Isa 9:6 — For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end.

Ac 10:36 — This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

Ro 5:1 — Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

Eph 2:14 — For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.

Eph 2:17 — He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near.

Col 1:20 — and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

And as I read the verses about division, I thought about the 4th Commandment, and our duty to Honor our father and mother.  Then St, John’s words, questioning how we can love God who we can’t see, when we don’t love our neighbor whom we can see.  I mean – isn’t God all about love?  The two greatest of commands are love Him and love our neighbor, right?

It seems confusing at first, that this passage contradicts so many others in scripture, indeed, some which form the basis of our relationship with God.

There is a word for this – it is called a paradox… and certainly, from the view of the world, this life we have been given in Christ is a paradox

So let’s look at this passage – and see something truly amazing…..
Yeah – Jesus does mean it –

Does Jesus actually mean it, when He talks about coming to cause division, to cause strife?  That He didn’t come to bring peace, but a weapon of war?  A sword to separate us from each other?

I mean, I like swords and knives and such, but is this the tool we need for ministry? Does following in His steps mean that we all have to carry swords and machetes? Of course not!

But does Jesus mean it, when He prophesies that families will divide, father against son, daughter against wife?  That some who hate us, will be those in our very homes?  That we have to love God more than any.  More than our parents, than our children? Or if we do not, we aren’t worthy, we aren’t capable of being in a relationship with him

Yes, He does. He means it.

As we struggle with this, it is helpful to know which of the words for “love” is used here.  It is phileo – the love usually expressed within a family.  Within that, there is a sense of loyalty, the recognition that these are “my people”, that no one takes precedence over them.  It is a tight mutual bond, one of great loyalty, one that can go deeper than we have words for, or the logic to explain.

Jesus says that this is the kind of love that we should have for Him, more than any other person in our lives.  It’s not new in scripture, remember God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Issac?  Remember Gideon, tearing down the statue of the idol Ba’al in his dad’s backyard?  Or the cry of Joshua to his people, As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord?

That word actually cuts deeper and harder for many of us. Challenging our loyalty to our family, our very natural desire to care and protect those we love is a dangerous thing.  Which is more important, the kids chance for a sports or academic scholarship, or spending time in church and Bible Study?  What about God’s commands about marriage, or wanting them to just enjoy being “in love?”  What about having to sacrifice time with our family, not to minister to a friend, but to show love and pray for an adversary, maybe their adversary?

Who is closer to us, who are we going to be loyal too?  Who are we going to listen to, and base our “right and wrong” on?

Please here me!  I am not talking about nagging people to death, or condemning those we love who aren’t living as God planned for them to live.  But there has to be an option between tolerating that which is evil and wrong in God’s eyes, and condemning them and turning our back on them.

The option that is only found… in loving God more than all. The only real option we, who trust in Jesus have….

For Jesus does mean these words, but not just to convict us of our sins, or to give Him a reason to condemn us.  This call, this command to love Him more than all others

The Reason – “being Mine”  Phileo!

One of the challenges of preaching on a portion of a chapter, is remembering the context of the entire chapter.  We noted this last week, as we talked about the context of these verses before – these are Jesus’ words to the men he is sending out, His representatives to proclaim that God’s kingdom is here, among us.  That God does care and is helping, comforting, saving and defending us.

That is the same context here.  Jesus is speaking to those who know in part, and will soon know how deep God’s love for them is, as they realize the message they are coming to give – is that God loves us so much, that His son would be crucified for us.

They recognize, intuitively, that this Jesus has for them the words of life, that He is going to free them from all that restricts life, from all that limits it from being lived to the fullest.

That when we respond to His love, when our loyalty, our priorities are all based in responding to His love.

A side note – to be explored more, but when we love Him first, when our loyalty and the primary relationship is with Him, then all the other relationships we are in take on a deeper and truer nature, they are less effected by sin, or by anxiety, they become less our gods, as we put them into God’s hands…..

We are called to walk with God, as His family.  Not just for a while, it is who we are, now and forever.  It defines us, this relationship we are in, more than our being a son, or a dad, a mom or a daughter.  More than any things else – we have to know we are loved by God to the point where we are now family.

His people, Close family, His children.

We are the people God is willing to die for, we are the people that Christ did die for, willingly, for the joy set before Him, he endured that cross.

He welcomes us to pick up ours, and walk with Him.  That may test us, as family and friends don’t get us, as they don’t understand why we do what we do, why we act like we act, as we struggle to leave behind the sinful behaviors and attitudes that they find normal. They will wonder as they see us struggle and sacrifice to love our enemies, rather than get revenge.  This relationship will test us as we struggle with our desire to do what pleases us, rather than what pleases God.

This isn’t what we have to do to save ourselves, for Jesus has done that already!  But as we realize His love, it is how we respond to His love, to His faithfulness to us. As we remember the new life He gave us in baptism, as He claimed us as His children, as we come to this altar and receive His body and blood.  As we realize that this is where we need to be, for chasing after the world’s idea of life stifles us, kills us….reduces us to mere animals

But in Him, there is life….

So welcome those who speak of His love, of His promises and yes, call you to repentance and life.  Welcome those who live life in Christ, struggling with the righteousness that is there.  Love those He brings into your life, helping them, even if it is by offering them a cup of cold water….

For following Him, walking in His steps is a life that is rewarding, for we realize the life He has given us, through the cross….

A life of God’s peace which is beyond our ability to describe, as we live it secure in Christ Jesus….. 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.

The Paradox of Holiness.. and peace

Devotional thought of the day:

I have often heard that the Bible isn’t a reliable book, because it is not logical, because what it says isn’t rational, it doesn’t make sense, indeed it goes so against our grain, that it is easy to dismiss it.

Following Jesus is full of apparent contradictions, for as Paul says, the foolishness of God confounds the wisdom of the wise.  The paradoxes are those that just are stunning, yet, as the Holy Spirit brings us to trust in God, what appears isn’t that they are less than logical, but that they transcend it.  For example:

It is in dying with Christ, that we find life.
We find peace and hope, not in the absence of trauma and pain, but in the midst of it.
We find righteousness, not in our our works, but in confessing that we are not righteous.

Perhaps my favorite paradox is the road to holiness.  For it lies not in seeking perfection, but in realizing our brokenness.  To think we can attain holiness by work, by sweat, tears, discipline, that is the road of most religious systems, and every self-help system that I have ever encountered.   But while I would encourage everyone to discipline themselves, the goal of that discipline is not holiness, but rather – to keep focused on the fact that we are, in Christ, Holy.

We become so, not by our effort, not by our sacrifice, but in our brokenness, in our realization that we cannot discipline ourselves enough, that we cannot sacrifice enough, that we cannot work hard enough.  All of those efforts, on their own, simply persuade us to live a lie, to hide our brokenness, our shame, our…failure.  And so, exhausted, empty, broken, we do not refuse the hands that pick us up, the hands that heal our wounds, though they bear nail scars, though the eyes that look on us with tender mercy and love are surrounded by a face disfigured and broken by thorns and beatings.  Despire the disfigurement, the eyes look into us, and heal and make whole, and yes Holy.

From His brokenness, we find the healing for our own brokenness.  For it is in His death, we find life, abundant, free, joyous, unburdened life….

We find something so mysterious, so incredible, so mind-blowing awesome.  In Christ, the broken are made holy.

No more hiding needed, no more facades, no more games, just Jesus.  Just His holiness and glory, transforming us into His image. (2 Cor 3:16ff)

That will never make sense to a world that tries to keep its eyes closed, its ears blocked to that which it cannot comprehend….unless they see it, in the brokenness of those Christ has healed… unless they hear the joy of those who found comfort in the midst of brokenness,

For those that found a peace beyond logic, comprehension, understanding, that Jesus brings to them… and keeps us in.

May we find joy in our brokenness, as we cling to the Hope given to us.. in the arms of the One broken, so that we are healed.

%d bloggers like this: