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Yes! Come!

Yes, Come!Concordia Lutheran Church

Mark 14:22-33

 Jesus, Son, Savior

 

May you know the grace and peace of God our Father, without which it trust enough to cry out to God to save you!

A Story of Deep Faithfulness. 

Many people see the song we just sang, A Mighty Fortress, as an anthem, a glorious, powerful anthem, a militant march that prepares us to go off to war against evil, prepared to win all the battles in our spiritual war against Satan’s evil, against the storms of life.

A great cry of confidence and faith as we prepare to engage in a warfare that people’s soul’s depend upon.

I don’t see it that way, which is why we sang it the way we did.  I see it as the song of Luther, a man brutalized and battered by the world and by his own battles with sin. Luther who stands on the castle’s walls, relieved that God has taken up the battle.  Luther who can now find rest, and perhaps some peace, for once… some peace.

A mighty Fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing…..

There are days we know we need such protection, such a strong God, and we are immensely grateful for His presence.  When we are grateful beyond description for His presence, for His faithfulness, for His coming to us.

Then there are the other days, when we forget His presence…….

That is the story of faithfulness, that we see in St. Peter’s encounter with God this day:

The Storms of Life

The storm hits, its fury increases, the spray of the waves and wind soak him to the bone.  Peter’s is struggling, the storm is capturing all his attention, as he realizes he is in the struggle for his life.

Catching a glimpse of Jesus, of the one they will later realize again is God, who has come and lived in their midst, Peter calls out to the Lord.

The Lord responds, “Yes,,…. Come!”

Twice in the story this scenario is seen.

A Storm,

Overwhelming Fear
Seeing God

A Cry of Help

The Lord, his Master, answers.

And the storms quiet down, as the disciples once again find themselves in awe of the Lord who comes to them.

The two times the story is seen.

First this happens in the boat, as the disciples have been struggling all night against the storm.  They are tired, and weakened.  They bones ache from the work, or is that they ache because of the cold?  Lutheran answer – both of course!

They took off in daylight – it is 8 hours later now, that they’ve been rowing this boat across the lake.  They aren’t just fighting the winds and the waves, now they are literally fighting against death, against the anxiety.  They might even be thinking, is it worth it anymore.

Jesus comes to them, reaches out to them. Tells them not to be afraid, for it is not some spook, but it is their Lord.  He has come for them.

I AM here….

The I AM being the sacred name of God not just – hey, it’s me.

God, the Creator, the I AM that I AM of Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David….

I AM here…

And therefore everything changes.

A few moments later, the waves crash again, against a rough handed brash man who trusts in God.  These waves cause instant fear, and instant sense of the closeness of death. The fear rises in Peter, not just over time – but instantaneously he knows he has no hope…..

He cries out, perhaps with what he thinks will be his last breath….Lord, save me!

And on top the waves, Jesus reaches down, grabs Peter’s hands, as if answering again…. Yes! Come!

I am your Lord, I am your savior, I am your strength, your fortress, your sanctuary, the place where you are safe.

He Has Come, He is waiting,

That is the thing about Jesus, He comes to us, He hears us call.

He sees us in our struggles, He knows our pains, what afflicts and depresses us.  He knows what causes us anxiety, He knows the fear when we are sinking.

He is here…..

He is reaching our His hand to us,

He is answering our cry, “Lord Save us” as we realize that we can call out to Him, that He is our hope, whether we are in the boat, or whether we are trying what others call impossible.

Do not fear, I am Here.

Yes, come, let us travel this road together.

That’s What King’s do

Peter’s cry, in both circumstances, starts with the word “Lord”.  And this is the key, perhaps more than anything.  He realizes the nature of the relationship, that as His master, as His King, Jesus has the responsibility in the relationship.  That Jesus will provide and protect, who is in control, and who saves, who loves and comes to us.  That is what Lord’s and King’s and Master’s are supposed to do, to care for their people, to provide for them.

This is the nature of the relationship that God has created us to be in with Him. Not one of servants, but that of His children, His friend

We need to realize something else about this story.

When Jesus noted that Peter had “little faith”, it is the same Greek compound word that  Jesus uses when he says,

20  “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”     Matthew 17:20 (NLT)

Peter had enough faith to cry out to Jesus, to plead with Jesus to save Him.

But that is not all faith is for, it is the trust to walk with Him, on water, or to deliver a cup of water, or to share with how the water of baptism brings you the hope, that the Lord is with you and will be with you until the end of the age.  To know that He is Lord, no matter what the situation, no matter what the storm.  It doesn’t even matter if there is no storm, for He is with you – He has come to you, even on the beautifully calm mornings on the lake. He tells you – Yes Come with me, and so we walk, and pray, talking to our Lord along the ways of life!

He is your Lord, and doesn’t even have to walk across a lake to come to you… He is here… He has reached out to you, and taken your hand Therefore you dwell guarded, protected, in the Fortress that is Jesus Christ, our King.

AMEN?

 

Apologetics, far more than a “defense of the faith”… It’s about giving hope

English: Icon of Jesus Christ

English: Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional thought of the day:

14  But even if you should suffer for doing what is right, how happy you are! Do not be afraid of anyone, and do not worry. 15  But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 1 Peter 3:14-15 (TEV)

As I was looking through all of the resolutions our group of churches will consider this summer, there are many that concern me.  One of them calls for our seminaries and our publishing house to work on training all pastors in “the defense of the faith”.  One of the texts such is based on, I’ve shown above.

The resolution troubles me…. a lot.

The word “answer” in the italicized text is the word in Greek that we get apologetics from, a word many translate as “defense”.  When they translate it either from a milatristic sense – we have to defend our position, or from the sense of jurisprudence – defending ourselves in court.

And for a Christian, neither is necessary, and it is not what the passage above is talking about – at all.

The word in Greek from where we get apologetics is a compound word – from “apo” the word “from” and logos – the word we get logical, and reason, and well “word” (as in John 1:1-14.

St. Peter’s words here aren’t about creating a philosophical, forensic defense of the Christian faith.  It’s not about defending the church from persecution for its beliefs. It’s not about doing battle with other religions, or with atheists and agnostics.  It’s not about the church at war. Apologetics isn’t about memorizing arguments and strategies for dealing with the enemies of God.  ( Atheists and agnostics and those of other religions aren’t our enemies… they are those we are called to love and serve and sacrifice for, that they may know God)

It’s about the church, the people of God and explaining the hope that we have, living in Christ Jesus.

You see – the logos part of the word apologetics is used again in the sentence….the word “explain” as in explain the hope.

That they would know the hope… that they would be able to rejoice and dance as they realize God’s love, and the freedom He gives them from sin, and from evil and that they no longer have to anxious about death… for they know they will then share in God’s glory.

We go on the defensive, we plead our case… they don’t hear why we have…. hope.

We don’t need to be trained to go into battle – we need to know God’s love, we need to know why we have hope….

When it comes to giving a plea before judges and courts, hear these words of Jesus,

 18  You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. 19  When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20  For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.     Matthew 10:18-20 (NLT)

One final thought – that word logos….

It’s Christ.

He is our hope, He is our reason… and He is what the world needs

 

How Important is our Salvation?

English: Resurrection of Christ

English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How Important is our Salvation?

Psalm 30

 Jesus, Son and Savior

May we realize how precious this love and mercy is, which we have been given by God our Father, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

 

What Changes Men
In the gospel reading this morning, and in the one from Acts, we have too long narratives, the stories of the conversion of Paul, and the renewal of Peter.

Amazing stories – as men who struggled with God, find themselves, and the healing of a relationship that no one would have ever thought possible, heck most of us wouldn’t even think they had a chance of making up for what they did.

The man who murdered and imprisoned believers… and the man who, when given a chance to confess his friendship, his relationship with Christ, betrayed him…not just once – but three times.

And they were changed, their lives, as Paul would write to Titus, were re-vitalized – quickened – born again – and renewed.  Everything changed in a flash of light, in a moment, as the darkness they dwelled in, was dispelled by the love of Christ, by His mercy, by His presence and comfort in their lives.

Such a great salvation, such a great deliverance and rescue of their hearts and minds. How sad would it have been, if they had just dismissed it, and went about their daily business, as if nothing had happened.

Such is the experience of David as well, the one who wrote our other reading, Psalm 30. A Psalm whose words describe this incredible work of God, as God saves David, as God brings healing to David’s wounds, as God restores him…

As God has promised to do in our lives, as indeed He is doing.

Sing Praise – Remember what the Holy One Has done, and give thanks!

David starts the Psalm out in such an upbeat manner – he’s seen God’s had at work, freeing him from what oppressed him, freeing him what is against him.  No one can point out David’s shame, no one can gloat over the situation he has found himself in, God has rescued him from the situation.  He hasn’t just been revitalized – he has been completely renewed  – as He himself testifies to in verse 2 –

“I cried to you for help, O Lord my God, and YOU healed me!”

He was healed, He was delivered, saved, everything changed – life changed, it began anew – David was given a new life!  In verse three, we see that, for David thought his life was heading for the death and hell.  God restored David’s life, – we call it being “born again’ these days, and it was brand new.  A life unmarked by the strife, by the sin, but dwelling secured and safe.

Of the ways David describes God’s delivering him, my favorite is found in verse 4, as we  worship Him – remembering what He did, and giving Him thanks.  For those words are the ones we find – even as we will hear in a few moments – as we hear Christ’s words about the true nature of the bread and wine, the Body and Blood. Echo His praises, give thanks, and when you do this.. remember me.  Know me, Know intimately my presence, my love, my promises, my presence – know me.

David understood the way that God works, even as he points to the day of the feast – of the celebration of God’s goodness!

So with Jesus, let us give thanks – and we comprehend, as we remember He is here….

not quite yet… for David reveals something next…that is shocking… for its clarity.

But what about the terrifying days…when we don’t see God?

King David a number of his times experiences the trauma that he describes in verse five to seven.  They aren’t part of his life before God revealed his love to him, but were very much a part of his life as a believer, as one who trusted in God – who walked with the Lord and was given the ability to address God by His name, Yahweh, the IAM.

Hear again verse 5-7

5  His anger lasts only a moment, his goodness for a lifetime. Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning. 6  I felt secure and said to myself, “I will never be defeated.” 7  You were good to me, LORD; you protected me like a mountain fortress. But then you hid yourself from me, and I was afraid.

There is a famous, probably in the history of the United States, entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards.  Having known God’s love, having known how He delivers those He loves, those who trust in Him, it is not being in God’s presence that scares the life out of me, it is when I think God has abandoned me, when He has looked away.  That is when the tears – can last through the night, when sleep fails, when as David says – “I was terrified”.

O, how my anxiety soars, when I’ve lost sight of the fact that God has me, not just in His sight, but in His son,  We can, we indeed do walk with God through just about anything.  I can look around this sanctuary and see incredible saints, who have walked with God through incredible challenges.  Yet it is the times, where we aren’t sure God is with us, that drive us to despair, that rob us of the life God’s given us. Or at least Satan would like us to think that God has abandoned us, that God has forsaken us…

That’s when we play games like David mentions. Our version goes like this. “Hey God – remember me?  I’m the one you saved so I could worship you – do you want all your hard work to go to waste?  Who’s going to go out and save the world?  Who’s going to teach my grandkids about you, Lord?  or make sure this place stays open to proclaim your faithfulness.”

It is in the darkness of night, the sleepless night that we ask those kinds of questions.  Forgetting that God can raise up the rocks to praise Him.  It is when we get what it must have been like for Peter… why he had to run to the tomb, and why it took a few weeks to sink in,  Until Jesus took him on a walk along a beach and reminded him… I am with you… and reminded Peter that Peter knew this – because Peter loved him!

Hear me – o wait… you did!

That is why there is such a quick transition from the whining of David, into the rejoicing.  He remembers…well what He was supposed to remember – that God has changed everything.

From the mourning that exists in the depth of your soul, the grief that causes those tears to last all night, into the joyous dance that comes as dawn breaks – that joy that comes as we hear God’s joyous cry of jubilation!  That’s the reason we dance – that is why we are changed from clothes of mourning, into that fit for a celebration, a time of great praise –

Because God commanded – everything is restored, everything is renewed, life is given!

I love how a pastor 15 centuries ago described this psalm,

John tells us most fully how and when this appearance took place. But the Lord rose in the morning from the sepulchre in which He had been laid in the evening, that those words of the Psalm might be fulfilled, Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Ps. 30:5)[i]

It is that moment – the moment of the stone being rolled away, the empty tomb, the cry He is Risen, that we need to comprehend – for it was then our salvation was made sure – it was not just a guarantee – it was real.
That tomb – it is …

That means Praise God – He is risen!
and that means – The Lord is …
and if the Son has set you free – you are free

So rejoice – praise Him, glorify Him, never be quiet – always know, even when you don’t feel it, that you dwell in His undescribable peace…

For He keeps you there… your heart, your mind… AMEN!

 


[i] Thomas Aquinas, S., & Newman, J. H. (1842). Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers, Volume 2: St. Mark (340). Oxford: John Henry Parker.

What Peter didn’t know – we do!

 

Peter Didn’t Know,
but We Do!

Luke 9:28-36

 

May you realize that you walk in the grace, the mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, even as we walk in His glory

 

Have you ever observed a situation where you wonder what in the world was that person thinking?  Why in the world did they ever say that? 

Didn’t they realize….. and then you list reason after reason after reason that what they did was idiotic, how in the world couldn’t they have seen, how in the world did they come up with,

Most of us treat Peter that way, wondering how in the world he could manage to put his foot in his mouth so often.  Sometimes he got it wonderfully right, like the time when Jesus asked, “who do you say I am?”.  Or the time he got out of the boat and set the Guiness Book of World Records for longest distance walked on water by someone who wasn’t divine.

Other times, like when he demanded that the Son of God NOT obey the Father and give his life for us, or the time he said, “I will never deny you!”  Or the time he got caught by Paul eating bacon wrapped shrimp with the Gentiles and then telling the Jews it wasn’t kosher!

There were also a few times, where he proved the broken clock theory, where he was right, even when the next second he was wrong.  Oh I want to applaud the words he started with – Lord, it’s wonderful we are here!   So incredible true were those words, but then – how could he follow up with, I know – let’s set up three tents… 

If you’ve ever seen NCIS, that’s a Tony line, one that’s about to get you whapped upside the back of your head!

Build tents?  What was he thinking….even John’s gospel tells us he didn’t know what he was saying…. But the part about it being wonderful that they were there…that is pure truth.

What Peter didn’t know… we do…

What Peter didn’t know/hear –do we hear it?

Peter, like a few other times in the gospels, was sleeping, otherwise he would realize what was truly significant in the event on the top of the mountain.   It wasn’t the revealing of Jesus in all of His glory, as St. John wrote about:

John 1:14 (ESV) 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

That was incredible – and indeed Peter would mention it in his epistle as well:

2 Peter 1:16-18 (NLT) 16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” 18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.

It’s not even that Moses and Elijah, the two great leaders of the Old Testament, the ones representing the Law and the Prophets, were there.

It is what is talked about among Moses and Elijah and Jesus, while the Peter and James and John are taking a quick nap.  It is the discussion about everything that Moses and Elijah, all the Law, and the Old Testament Histories, the Writings and the Prophets, what all of this pointed to clearly…

The NLT describes it as “his exodus from the world”, that which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem….His being lifted up – the crucifixion, His death

The glory of God revealed, the very thing Jesus was sent to do… it wasn’t about the glory days of Israel, it wasn’t about overcoming the rulers from Rome.

It was about the cross, and death, and realizing how much those three numbskulls who fell asleep needed the grace and mercy that would flow like the wounds that Jesus would bear as he was tried and sentenced and executed, bearing all sin upon himself.

Why it is so wonderful

That is why the Transfiguration was such an event. A few verses after this gospel reading, after a little more teaching, and healing as they rejoined the other disciples, Luke tells us, that as the times approached for him to be lifted up on the cross, he set his face like stone and journey’d toward Jerusalem.

So what does that mean for us?

It is about here (the baptismal font) where Kevin will be linked to that exodus of Jesus, to Jesus death, for as Romans 6 says,

Romans 6:4 (NLT) 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

Our chance, Kevin’s chance, to get out of this rat race, to escape, not the problems of this world, but the power that sin and the fear of death have over us, that journey out starts here.   As God’s word and the water cleanse him, not just of His sin, but opens up the opportunity to journey with God, in His peace, in His glory, until we arrive home, where we will see Him face to face.

Even so, the dwelling in His glory?  It is not so far off.  Hear Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians,

2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT) 16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

That is what this is all about, what we can comprehend far more than Peter.  That living in the love, and the peace of God, is living in, and sharing in the glory of God. Our journey is alongside His – to the cross, as Chuck says, – the cross where His body is fixed, in our baptism, and the cross where we celebrate His body and blood broken and risen,  as we share in the feast that is a foretaste of the feast to come.

Build three tents?  No!  Having fed on the word, let us celebrate as we witness the promises poured out on another brother! Then let us celebrate as we share in the glorious feast, as we realize we dwell in the presence of God; the merciful, loving presence of the one who would be transformed on a glorious mountain!  As He was encouraged as he set out for another mountain, one even more glorious, where the depth of God’s was revealed, glorious, even as Jesus would be lifted up for us on the cross.

Because of that – know that you dwell in the peace filled presence of God, which is beyond any understanding, in which we dwell safely, our hearts and minds secured there by Christ.

AMEN!

Ministry in the Spirit

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:

” I pray every day with all my heart that God may give us the gift of tongues. Such a gift of tongues does not mean knowing a number of languages, but knowing how to adapt oneself to the capacities of one’s hearers. It’s not a question of “saying foolish things to the crowd so that they understand”, but of speaking words of wisdom in clear Christian speech that all can understand.” (1)

Yesterday, my sermon talked of how we boldly and with confidence enter the presence of God Almighty.  How we go there, without division – and how this incredible plan of God – to make us all HIs people, is something that it is a privilege to share.

Whether you completely agree with the concept above, in this day where language barriers appear to be broken ( how much of the world speaks either Spanish, Mandarin or English?) the language barriers aren’t as broken as we think.   It still takes, not only translating the Bible out of Hebrew/Greek/Aramaic/Latin, but also into a language, the language that people speak, the language that they really hear. Such is the challenge of a multi-cultural society – one that is different, not just based on ethnicity, but also economic, regional, age, musical (yes I believe this is a major aspect of culture that divides us) etc.  Our language, though it may seem common, is loaded with words that have different meanings.

I think most of us struggle with this, when it comes to personal conversation – we just assume people know the words that we have used for so long – words like redemption or faith, or baptism, or who Jesus is. ( most people think He came to show us how to live…) There is a lot to “unpack” for the people we minister to, those inside and outside (for the moment) of the church.  We need to assume that people don’t know our language.  But this is true for our gatherings as well – we need to ensure people feel comfortable with asking questions, and we need to continually, whether we have more traditional worship and Bible Studies, or more contemporary styles of worship.  ( people even then don’t know what to do, or when… they can feel out of place there as well!)

We have to remember, that this freedom, this grace, this mercy we live in, is so incredible, and so open to all!  And we have the great privilege to see God’s work, amazingly, through us – as we trust in His guidance, and rejoice in His presence… as we invite others to come with us. Paul talked of this plan of God – to bring us into the presence of God… Peter did as well..

 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 repentance2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)

May we this week – consider how we pray, that not only would God have mercy on us, but on those whom we encounter, and may we be instruments that communicate His word, the revelation of His plan for them in Christ.

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2334-2337). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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