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Do I see it? Or…

Rainbow at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:

15 Moses built an altar and named it “The LORD Gives Me Victory.” 16 Then Moses explained, “This is because I depended on the LORD. But in future generations, the LORD will have to fight the Amalekites again.”   Exodus 17:15-16 CEV

Raw belief, a passion for others
grows in me,
encircling each moment
with instinctive prayer.
I will carry the freshness
of the dry lands after rain.
Compassion lives in me again.

Perhaps thy views of the Gospel plan are confused, or thou mayest be placing some little reliance on thyself, instead of trusting simply and entirely to the Lord Jesus.

As I am going through advent, the Old Testament readings each week promise life in a way that seems, impossible. A complete utopia where enemies have become friends, where those that can’t do, where those who prey on others, now protect and nurture them. A time when those who are broken, rejoice in being restored, in being healed.

It is as Paul says, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has any man imagined…” (my Adaptation of 1 Cor. 2:9) 

As I read the lesson this morning from Exodus, one concept stuck more in my mind than anything else. “the LORD will have to fight the Amalekites again.” Maybe it is because I’ve fought the same battles over and over again. That has led me, personally into a tired, nearly pessimistic view, on which wonders about Christ’s return.  I get tired of the battles, I get tired of the traumas, I get tired of seeing people manipulated, and division being the cause of the day.

Even as I write this, I am being drawn back to Spurgeon’s gentle correct… about relying on myself.  While I saw the promise of more battles, I didn’t see it is the LORD that will fight them, and I forgot the battle in context, where they just had to depend on God’s promise for victory.

When I stop trying, and simply entrust it to Jesus, some wonderful, miraculous things happen.  I see that raw belief growing in some people I work with, I see their passion for others growing, and for them to see God ministering through them.  I look around at what some would call amazing coincidences, and I see God’s hand at work, for the coincidences are too amazing.

When I leave it in God’s hands, I see the victories, not the promise of more challenges, and even then, I realize what Moses did, those challenges will meet God head-on and will suffer defeat again.

Prayer will grow in me too, for seeing God at work stimulates prayer, knowing He will respond.  Then I will see the growth, and the freshness that comes, as God pours out the blessings, just as they always are being poured out.

The difference is my eyes see them…. and my heart begins to resound with praise.

 

 

An excerpt from Today’s Meditation in the Morning Prayer at northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-pra    yer for December 9th. written by Andy Raine

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Jealousy, Desire, and the Holiness of God.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

3  “You must not have any other god but me. 4  “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5  You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.    Exodus 20:3-5 (NLT)

9  The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)

This desire of Jesus has permeated his whole life up to this very hour when the desire of the bridegroom at last approaches the hour of its fulfillment, the hour in which the words and the waiting will be succeeded by the full reality of love. And in the background of this human waiting of Jesus that looks forward to this very hour in which he will make the supreme sacrifice and can become ultimately ours, there is present, too, the eternal desire of God, which also awaits this hour, because God longs to give himself. But what response does this longing on the part of God encounter? How much indifference! How much inner emptiness and disregard! And what about ourselves? Do we really approach this center of the universe with eagerness? Or do we not sometimes flatter ourselves that we are doing God and the Church a favor by spending an hour there with him.  (1)

These two words, jealousy and passion, make most men uncomfortable.  There is something about them that make us think the person who is jealous, who is passionate about something lacks control, lacks wisdom, lacks logic.

So to hear these words used about God?

It seems unreasonable. It almost seems blasphemous to describe God as a jealous God, one who in His rage would destroy those who would get between those whom he desires.  When you read the first passage above from Exodus, it seems strongly worded, but then look at others, Deut. 4:24, Deut 6:15, Nahum 1:2, and you get a picture of God that seems too intense, to desperate, to out of control.

Does God really desire a relationship with someone else so much that he would become angry and full of wrath when that relationship doesn’t come to be? Would God have a “melt down” to that extreme?

It doesn’t seem like the God we hear about today, the one that is represented in logical presentations, and case studies which detail the perfection of God.  In churches that focus on holiness, the concept of being holy as God is holy is more about precision behaviors meeting a standard, a standard usually set by someone other than God.

But holiness is about being separated out, being chosen, being drawn into a relationship where God desires, even jealously desires the one He loves. This holiness is seen in a relationship where God longs for the company of the beloved.  It is seen in the picture of the beloved in the Song of Solomon, or the prodigal’s father running to see his son returned.  It’s the God who was waiting for the cross, and the grave, for the joy set before Him.

This is Holiness.  God setting Himself up to dance and rejoice with the one He loves, as Isaiah pictures it so beautifully

That is why it seems so lame to trust in something other than God, to entrust ourselves and depend upon something we did or made.  The more we understand God’s desire, His jealousy, His passion for us, the more we desire to spend time with others sharing in that love, adoring the one who loves us.

My prayer for you today is the same that Paul prayed for the church when he said,

14  When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension.  Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)

May you indeed know that love so far beyond our comprehension.  AMEN!

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 115–116). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

 

The Search for REALITY

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
1  Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)

1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)

18  And all of us, with our unveiled faces like mirrors reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image that we reflect in brighter and brighter glory; this is the working of the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NJB)

692    You suffer in this present life, which is only a dream, and a short one at that. Rejoice, because your Father God loves you so much, and if you put no obstacles in his way, after this bad dream he will give you a good awakening.

A friend tweeted that we should follow our passion when it comes to ministry. 

I have o admit I struggle more than a little with that line of reasoning. Not because I think that following our passions is a way to justify doing what we want to do.  Rather there are times where we have to embrace that which we aren’t passionate about, because we are following the call of God, and because we realize what He is passionate about.  And our passions and His?  Well, they don’t always line up as clearly as we would hope.

That’s okay, we aren’t expected to turn instantly into the Messiah, in fact, the transformation isn’t complete until Christ returns.

That means we can embrace what we are not passionate about, with the same dedication and drive.  We can turn our back on what we desire, and embrace that which will incur suffering.  Even if suffering is only giving up a dream.

But to embrace suffering takes something, something even more than character. It takes faith, it takes hope that isn’t based on a guess.  It takes knowing God’s promise of eternity with Him, sharing in His glory, is our reality.

Some say that a person can be so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.  If that statement is true, it is a different heaven than we are promised.  It is not the reality of walking with God, of sharing in His glory.  It is not the heaven that we have a foretaste of as we feast with Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is our guarantee, our down-payment on that place where we dwell.  On the place where reality surrounds us, the reality of God’s peace, His provision, and His life. It is clinging to the hope, the expectation of God’s promise being fulfilled that enables us to keep going, and keep focused on Jesus.  It enables us to go beyond, as we serve, as we live, as we share the love of Christ.

Keep your eyes on Him, be drawn to Him, revel and dance in HIs love.  Remember, bring a few people with you!

Lord have mercy on us!

AMEN

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1613-1615). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God Blesses

(Twice a year, the three congregations that use our facility combine for one incredible service.  People who were born in Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia as well North America God has gathered here…. The entire service is in both English and Mandardin and people are welcome to pray during the prayer times during the Creed and the Lord’s prayer in their own language.  Sometimes the songs alternate languages, sometimes the song is sun simultaneously in Mandarin and English.  I was very blessed to have an incredible translator work alongside me today, helping me deliver this sermon.  Cindy’s translation will be up later.
All praise to God, who brings us through all challenges, and unites us in worship. AMEN. 

God Blesses!

Matthew 5:1-12

In Jesus Name 

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ instill in us the trust to know that He has blessed us, and the patience to wait for that blessing to be revealed!

God Blesses….

The English Translation of our gospel reading this morning from the New Living Translation adds a small three-letter word that the older translations assumed we would read into the passage.

Yet it is critical we hear that word, it makes all the difference in the world.

The word is “God”.

For it is God who blesses.  It is His blessing, His favor, His healing, His touch on our lives. The word in Greek for blessing is one that is used only for divine, supernatural blessing.  Not just luck, or coincidence, but the touch of God’s hand in our life.

In this life many are crushed by sin, and the world’s pressures crush many of us as well.  The pressure might be financial pressure, or challenges with physical health, psychological health, it could be family issues or even anxiety over death. Pressures that Satan is trying to use to crush us and humble us….

God comes to us, even in those places… and God Blesses.

God Blesses us, (pause)  and God desires to bless all of those outside of this place… even blessing them through us.

It is God, who would bless us all, and that is what we are here to celebrate… AMEN?

Why can’t we always see it?

This is more challenging than it sounds though.  More challenging for a simple reason we see when we slowly read verses 4- 9 slowly. When we see what is common to all.
It says God blesses those, (or Blessed are they) and then it describes people caught in a challenging situation.

Those who mourn,

Those who have been humbled,

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice…. Which means they haven’t seen it, yet. 

Those who have had to show mercy… which means they have been brutally sinned against.

Those whose hearts are pure, which means they have been tempted and either overcome the temptation, or been cleansed of the sin when they failed…

God blesses those who work to make real peace. Not covering up or hiding that which divides people from each other, but those who actually engage the problem and try to reconcile people together.

Each of us, caught in those situations are blessed.  God blesses us.

We rejoice in that!  We truly do.

The challenge appears when we look at how God will bless them.  The challenge is that word I just said.

Will.

God will bless them as He comforts them, as He gives them the earth, as He satisfies their craving for justice and righteousness.  God will show them mercy and they will see Him and they will be called His children.

Will.  Future tense. Something that does not always appear to us yet!  Even though it is promised to be reality. Even though it is reality. Even though God already blesses us, we do not always see it in the moment.

That causes a problem with most of us, as patience is not always something to admit we can exercise.

We want to see healings now, we want the heartaches to fade away in a moment, we do not want to hear we might have to work at our relationships and that being merciful requires to interact with those we need to show mercy towards.

Knowing we are blessed by God is now, realizing how God Blesses us, that may take time, and lot of faith and patience.  It takes remembering who it is that blesses us.  It takes remembering that God does not break promises, He doesn’t change His mind and what He has done, He has done.

God Blesses…  He always blesses us, He always does.  Guaranteed.

Even when we struggle to see the blessing, Even when we struggle to see Him.

He is with us. The Lord is with you!

Except for the two “is”

So how do we deal with the time when we have to be patient, when we have to trust in God that we will receive the blessings, the comfort, our hunger and thirst for righteousness quenched?

We need to look to the two blessings that are not in the future tense. The promised blessing for those poor in spirit, for those who are persecuted for being just, mistreated for living in Christ, for living life in view of God’s desire that all should come to know Him, to be granted repentance, to be transformed.

You see the two beatitudes tell us we’ve become part of the Kingdom of God.  We are in Him, His reign over us is now.  Brought into a relationship where God is our Lord, our Master, we have been made His children. He has made promises, bound Himself covenant promises to us.

You see, God being our Lord is an awesome thing.  That means He has committed to us in a relationship and dwells with us, working on us, in us, and yes through us to reach the world, to reach Cerritos and all in this area.

In Biblical times there was more an obligation on the Lord, than the servant, just like there is more obligation on the parent than on the child. God commits to us in ways that go beyond our understanding… but that is okay, He is God.

It is the Master’s responsibility to care for the servant, His obligation to provide for them and assure their welfare, just as it is parents responsibility to care for their children.  Not our wants, but our needs, and always n His wisdom, which is pure and holy and loving.

We have been brought into the Kingdom of God.
We’ve been brought into the relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

That is why the Father sent Jesus to be our blessing.  Why Jesus came and defined each of these blessings.

Why he became poor in spirit, allowing sin to crush Him.

Why He mourned over all the people of God as He mourned over Jerusalem

Why He chose to be humbled and He hungered and thirsted for righteousness so much He died to see that hunger satisfied, He humbled Himself and became a servant to the point of death as Paul writes to the Phillipian Christians.

That is what all these blessings are about, it is what the Kingdom of God is about.  God’s love for us, His uniting Himself to us through the death of Christ.  The mercy of God shown to us, the way in which are hearts are purified even though we have sinned, as He worked to make peace for us, peace with us, for He is the Son of God.

We are blessed, because we are united to Jesus, to His death, to His resurrection.  We have been brought to Christ, marked as His, as has every believer, everyone who trusts in Him. It doesn’t matter if we are from Germany or Taiwan, from Boston or the Philippines, or from South America or Africa or you are a native California.  It doesn’t matter whether we are 6 months old, or 6 years old or 100 years old, God has called us into a relationship to care for us, to provide for us, to heal our souls and make us His children. He brings us into this relationship and commits to us…

He commits to bless us, to be our God, to be our Lord, to be our Father.  

To bless us.

Today we celebrate All Saints Day, we look back at the saints who God has blessed in the past, we realize that He has blessed us and is blessing us, and we know He will bless the next generation of Concordia and Passion.  For He has always done this, He has always taken care of His people, His children.

Even when we struggle to realize it.

For God is always faithful.  He can be counted on, for all of the blessings we find in scripture, including one last one I would leave you with one final blessing, from today’s reading… a look at the day when all of the blessings are fully revealed

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.

that’s us, and here is the blessing…

15 “That is why they stand in front of God’s throne

and serve him day and night in his Temple.

And he who sits on the throne

will give them shelter.

16 They will never again be hungry or thirsty;

they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.

17 For the Lamb on the throne

will be their Shepherd.

He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.

And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

May it be that we, to whom this blessing speaks, and our children and children’s children, both physical and those children who come to faith as God works through us, may it be that we all realize we dwell secure in His peace… the unsurpassable peace of God.  For it is there we dwell, for we are in Christ, and He guards our hearts and minds in that peace.

AMEN?

The Problem with Leadership…

Devotional/Discussion  Thought of the Day:

I urge the elders among you, as a fellow-elder myself and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, and as one who is to have a share in the glory that is to be revealed: 2  give a shepherd’s care to the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, as God wants; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it. 3  Do not lord it over the group which is in your charge, but be an example for the flock. 4  When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the unfading crown of glory.  1 Peter 5:1-4 (NJB) 1

Many false apostles, in spite of themselves, do good to the masses, to the people, through the very power of the doctrine of Jesus which they preach—even though they don’t practice it. But this good does not compensate for the enormous and very real harm they do by killing the souls of leaders, of apostles, who turn away in disgust from those who don’t practice what they preach. That’s why such men and women, if they are not willing to live an upright life, should never push themselves forward as leaders. (1)

 

Tomorrow morning, before even life gets up, I will get on an airplane and head to my denominations convention, a three year event to do the business of the church.  I dread it, for there are forces at play that are well described in St. Josemaria’s words.  That don’t care for the flock, or its leaders, and they see themselves as not just leaders, but the only authority on what it means to be Lutheran or for that matter, Christian.   It is more than sad.

But that brings up a question, how are we to deal with leaders described in the quote from St. Josemaria?  Do we simply not listen to them, and do what is right in our hearts, according to our own

Martin Luther, author of the text of Christ la...

Martin Luther, author of the text of Christ lag in Todes Banden, and who, with Johann Walter, also wrote the melody (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

internal clocks?  Do we call for their resignations, or if they don’t, we try to remove them?  Or do we call them to repentance and rejoice when they do.  In a large group – how is it best dealt with, not just for our good, or theirs, but for the good of God’s kingdom?

More importantly, can we realize that it is ultimately God that is in charge, and if this is a season of pruning or oppression, God will use it to bless us?   A great example of this is Luther of course, who was forced into a nearly monastic hiding arrangement, yet came out of it with even a greater appreciation for our life in Christ, having translated the New Testament into German.  Can we avoid the real harm which some would do, can we endure the disgust and minister to those around us, pointing them to Christ, and the reason we have hope?

In such times – the cry is simple… Lord, Have Mercy!

and not just rely on it, but trust completely in His provision.

Godspeed!

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1024-1028). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Blog of/for the Tired and Wondering if it all Matters…

English: Jesus Christ saving the souls of the ...

English: Jesus Christ saving the souls of the damned. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:

25  “If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. 26  Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. 27  “Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? 28  All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, 29  but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. 30  “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? 31  What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. 32  People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. 33  Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. 34  “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.  Matthew 6:25-34 (MSG) 

 When you pray, but see nothing, and feel flustered and dry, then the way is this: don’t think of yourself. Instead, turn your eyes to the Passion of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Be convinced that he is asking each one of us, as he asked those three more intimate Apostles of his in the Garden of Olives, to “Watch and pray”.  (1)

This morning, I am a more than a bit anxious. more than a bit distracted, more than a bit pessimistic about life, and in someways, about the future.

I know part of it is being tired… a long day of driving yesterday… and still recovering from surgery.   Part of it is based on what seems to be overload from dealing with some very serious issues within my denomination and the direction it will head.  A direction that will very seriously impact the church’s mission of bringing Christ’ love and peace into the world seems to be the way we are being lead.  (I know God will work through others… He always His people get stubborn and centered on the wrong things… but I still grieve to see it)  And a million other details for which, post surgery, I know I am not ready to deal with, from the idea of strength. 

And looking at it all, I have to wonder whether it is worth it at all.  Whether the weakness and dryness I feel this morning, will ever be diminished.  I wonder if my “neither optimist or pessimist but let’s drink the liquid in the glass” will return.  

The fussiness seems to be dominant, (others versions use anxious or worried) easily distracting me from the peace that I know is ours. I have trouble seeing how the “everyday human concerns” and the concern for our churches will be dealt with, never mind how they will work for good for those God has called, those whom He loves.

I opened the wrong book for reading at the end of my devotions yesterday.  Meant to open “the Way”, opened on my Kindle, “the Forge” instead.  There was St. Josemaria’s quote, hitting me in the face.  This morning the gospel passage came to mind… and I know, in the midst of my despair, the hope that is always there.  I realize the promise are not in vain, even in the darkness of the day.  God is working, the cross is near, the resurrection and immanent as the incarnation.  And the gateways of Hell will not be able to stand against God’s will, against the truth that Jesus is the Chosen and Annointed One.. that He is our Savior, and the Lord who loves and cares for His people.

It’s enough… to help me to refocus, to remember that passion of Christ… to count on it… even when, especially when… the gettup and go… fails…………

“The Lord is with you!”  (exclamation intended) I will cry tomorrow… and know it today…

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2717-2721). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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)

God’s gathering His Family

Here is my Brother and Sister…
2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1 & Mark 3:20–35

† In Jesus Name †

May we, with all God’s holy people have the strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth of the love of Christ, which is beyond knowledge, as we are filled with the utter fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (adapted)

Blood isn’t thicker than water…baptismal water…

 

Today’s gospel challenges an old German proverb about family relationships being stronger than any other relationships we have.  To those who know German, I apologize for my pronunciation – the old proverb went like this, “Blut ist dicker als Wasser”

I would think that the family of Jesus would agree  with the German proverb.  In verse 21, after they determined that he was out of his mind, they set off to save Jesus, to save Him from Himself and the uncontrollable crowd.  

As they call for Him to come out – as the message is relayed inside, the answer seems almost insolent in response to their pleas. For Jesus says, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

 

Some people think that Jesus’ words border on rudeness, on dishonoring His mother.

Yet I think it is just the opposite, for here, once and for all, Jesus doesn’t limit His family, he expands it… to include us!

We, who trust in His faithfulness – who accept and find hope in the promises He makes to us, He was thinking of us, as well as the millions of others in “our family”….

Genetics doesn’t create the closest bonds that a human can know – though perhaps blood does and water…

Not our blood, but the blood of Christ spilled on the cross,

And the water of our baptism – where God promises to unite us to Christ’s death, that we may be united all united with Him as One, in His resurrection!

In uniting us together, in making each of us the place where the Holy Spirit dwells – the Father creates the new temple –  place where He will abide forever, a temple not made of human hands, but of His people.

How strong is this bond?  What makes it different?  That is what we talk of… today!
A Different “Out Look”

 

When we talk of the relationships we have, as the body of Christ, and how close they are, it is not to mean that we have some romantic idealism that there will never be strains and stresses in our relationships.

I know that I can get on people’s nerves at times, and there are one or two… million people that cause me to struggle.  We are people who struggle with sin, and with self-deception and self-centeredness, after all!  While we strive to be holy, it is not within our lives, apart from that which is united with Christ!

But that is the point – our bonds are so tight – because in Christ – we have been given a different outlook, a different way to see what is important as Paul states in our reading this morning from 2 Corinthians,
are unseen are eternal


16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal!

 

Our family, those found in Christ, those who know His incredible love and mercy.. we look at different things that the world that has, as yet, to realize that love.

The more time we spend realizing that we are in the presence of God, not just here on Sundays, but every moment of our lives.. ohhhh how that changes things! First eternally, as we consider promises like 1 Corinthians 2:9

 

2:9 but it is as scripture says: What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him;

Given that – our temporary struggles, are simply that, light and momentary afflictions!  Yet it is more than knowing that eternity is forever, and that comparing this life to that is not even possible…

This isn’t minimizing the pains of life, but putting them into perspective – it is hard to be mad at someone for being a pain in the neck, when we realize what Christ went through, in order that they know His love, and we can take on the fact that we are getting old – and our bodies don’t work as good as they did when we were in our twenties and thirties,

but our focus, our hopes, what causes us to tick and live and work in God’s kingdom is that we look to that we cannot see – but that we know – the presence of God, which is as real for us now, right now – and every moment of our lives…

Because we have been given the Holy Spirit – promised all over the Old Testament – especially clear in books like Ezekiel, and in the Psalms… made true for us, as Christ promised – the Spirit has come!  Again, I love Paul’s way of describing it!

3:3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” Titus 3:3-7 (NLT)

And even as we share this wisdom, as we share in the gift of the Holy Spirit – we share in it together – for we all dwell together with Him, and the love of God binds us together!


We believe, and We speak…

Knowing this – we begin to understand the start of the Epistle reading:

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

Paul’s quote comes from a psalm that praises God in the midst of a struggle, in the midst of life, when if we look at life without the lends of eternity, we would nearly give up.  It’s not worth the struggle, its not worth trusting God in the midst of temptation, its not worth the pain and anguish of dealing with people that are stubborn, or stupid, or irritating or corrupt…

Yet we know what God can do with such people, as we look at Moses, and David and young Jeremiah and Daniel.  As we see what God has done with Peter and Paul, and the visions he gave to a man who was called a son of thunder… and yet… wrote the gospel of John, the gospel of live. In the same way we see it in men who have sinned like Will and Stephen and Chris and I, yet who God has cleansed and called to proclaim His love, His mercy, and His grace…. And to guide people, as they hear of that love, and as we bring you closer and closer to Him!  For we trust in Him, and know what He has done in our lives.

He changes us, He causes us to trust in Him, and then He calls us to speak – to assure you, to help you be confident that the very power that raises Christ from the dead – will bring us with Jesus, into the very holy, awesome, presence of God…

both then – face to face- and now, as we serve together – as His grace and mercy extend to more and more people – and as we see them embraced by His love, as we do His will, as the ones we reach out to and we are shown to be the brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ – His praises arise within us, His glory grows, and we continually thank the God, who has made us us… and causes us to dwell in peace.
And because of that – …our “tradition”

One of the parts of our traditional service – that has grown to be a major focus of our multicultural service in English, is when we realize we are in the presence of God, and I get to declare – as I will in a moment – that the Peace of God is with you always – and the people exclaim “amen”!

The moment then comes – when we take some time – and share with each other –

shén de píng’ān yǔ nǐ tóngzài – the peace of Christ is with you – as we greet each other with this blessing!

This day… it is very appropriate… to end the sermon in this way – as we realize that because we are the brothers and sisters of Christ – as we realize that means we are bonded by Him to each other, in His presence… as we dwell – now and forever In the peace of God which passes all understanding, …
Pax Domini  

P   The peace of the T Lord is with you always!

C   Amen!


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