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Have I Become What I Struggle Against?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
9  He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: 10  “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. 11  The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. 12  I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’ 13  “Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’ ” 14  Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” Luke 18:9-14 (MSG)

For a legalist, spirituality is tantamount to saying, “I think the right way, live the right way, associate with the right people, read my Bible, pray, go to church, and avoid worldly ways; therefore I am spiritual.” This person might be a “good” person, live a straight and disciplined life, be a good friend and neighbor, and support the church and its ministries. But legalism is not true Christian spirituality, for in the end it looks to self to achieve a condition of spirituality by adhering to a predetermined set of rules and fixed doctrinal interpretations. It goes beyond what the Bible teaches and what the common tradition embraces.
Legalistic spirituality is not directly situated in God’s story of creation, incarnation, and re-creation. Legalistic spirituality is situated in derivative rules and doctrines determined by a particular cultural expression of the faith. This sort of spirituality, instead of contemplating the mystery of God’s vision and participating in the life purposed by God, measures a person’s spiritual state by the secondary rules and doctrines that ask: “Are you keeping the rules?” “Are you adhering to the doctrinal particulars espoused by this particular church?” Legalism focuses on the self and how well the self adheres to the group expectations.

As I read the Webber’s words, into my mind popped a number of legalists that I deal with, or have to deal with the consequences of their actions.  They frustrate the heck out of me, and to be honest, the consequences of their actions and their decisions scare me.  I’ve seen too many people give up on the church, and some even give up on God because of the legalism.

But as I re-read the words, I have to wonder, how often do I (and you can and perhaps should) turn into the very thing I struggle against, the same thing that frustrates me, the same thing that pisses me off.

Is it possible that I could become what Webber calls a legalist?   Have I become so antagonized by their actions that I justify myself in order to feel more righteous than those I can’t understand, or for that matter stand?

It is all too easy to become the Pharisee, to find the attitude inside myself that finds others less holy (usually those I catch doing that to others – but that doesn’t excuse or justify my sin)

As Webber says, I can be good, I can know all the right doctrines, I can express them fluently, but the moment I count out that to justify me, at least compared to them.

And that is the point, I stop comparing myself to Jesus, I stopped seeing my own faults, and therefore the need to cling to Jesus, who justify me and would justify them.  That’s what spirituality is to Webber, the reason he called the book the Divine Embrace.

It is there on the cross that I can find the peace I need, and the ability to love those that frustrate me, to realize that those who I find as legalistic I can find compassion for, and I can find the hope to not be legalistic.

For God is with us….. and therefore, there is hope!

Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

Our Logic and Reason: Can We Trust Them?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
2  The LORD Who are you to question my wisdom with your ignorant, empty words? 3  Now stand up straight and answer the questions I ask you. Job 38:2-3 (TEV)

11  When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I am an adult, I have no more use for childish ways. 12  What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God’s knowledge of me. 13  Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:11-13 (TEV)

I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intelligence or power. But the Holy Spirit call me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith. In this Church, He generously forgives each day every sin committed by me and by every believer. On the last day, He will raise me and all the dead from the grave. He will give eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. Yes, this is true!

I am not sure if it was written in the 70’s or early 80’s, but James Dobson once wrote a book called, “Emotions:  Can you trust them?”.  Extremely popular, it was one of the books that rocketed him to celebrity status in the evangelical world.   And in questioning our hearts, we learned that these emotions easily deceive us.

It’s been 30 years since i read it, but I think we need a sequel to the book.   Specifically, asking the very tough question of whether we replaced our emotions with what we perceive to be our logic, our ability to reason.

I am not talking about outside our churches, although that might be an interesting study.  I am talking about inside the church.  We have tried to divorce our feelings from ourselves, and the church has been lifeless because of that.  We extoll those who present the faith logically, who try to show, step by step, the logic of scripture.  (Side note:  It is not surprising that as Dobson downplayed emotions, exegetical preaching – verse by verse – became “the” way to preach.  Exegesis is good, but it can be blind to the gospel)

But is our intellect, our reason, our ability to be logical all that reliable?  Or does it have the same frailty as our emotions?  Can you actually divorce the two?  The biggest question we need to be asking ourselves is the same question Job was asked, who are we to question God?

You might say that you don’t, that everything you listen to or teach or preach is in complete accordance with God’s revelation.  That your brand of theology is the correct version, and you are sticking to it, come Hell or high water.  That everything else is heretical or heterodox or mysticism or pietism or legalism, and you are contrary to all that crap.

At which point, you have sinned, and placed yourself in the place of God.

Get it straight, even as your emotions can betray you, so can your logic.  That is why John tells us that if we deny our sin, our brokenness, the truth is not in us, we are liars.

That is why we need Christ, that is why we need Him to come to us, His presence revealed and know by hearts and minds in word and sacrament.  Not just emotionally, not just logically, but present here, now, overwhelming us with His righteousness, with His mercy, and with His peace.

That is why we need the Spirit to transform us, to conform us to the image of Christ, and to the will of the Father. That is why we need to lay aside all things, and set our eyes on Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, of our life.

It is then, Paul tells the church in Rome,

2  Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:2 (TEV)

Be still and know He is God, let Him be your place of rest, and safety, and let Him transform you.  This is the hope you need, that those around you need as well. That He will reconcile our broken reason and our broken emotions to Himself, and gives us life.

AMEN.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained, WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “The Third Article: On Becoming Holy”.

The Repentant: King David

The Repentant

King David: Pride and the Altar

1 Chronicles 21:1-19

In Jesus Name

May God’s grace not only call you to repentance but give you hope and expectation as you await the joy that awaited Jesus as He journeyed to the cross!

This is not that story

As we hear the stories of the Repentant, the lives God would change so much that all heaven would rejoice, most people who know the Bible would expect me to bring up David at some point.

I won’t disappoint you.

Well, I will, because I am not going to talk about the little affair he had with Bathsheba, and killing her husband.  Simply because that sin, while horrible, doesn’t measure up to the sin of counting his soldiers, of counting the people God entrusted to His care.

Wait, are you saying that counting people is a grievous, horrendous sin?

Hmmm. Dane, have you counted how many people are here tonight?  If not, maybe you shouldn’t?

There are, and there are not, greater and lesser sins.  In this case, the sin was directly disobeying God, which adultery and the murder of Bathsheba’s husband also are.  SO in one way, the sins are equal. It is in their impact on others that these sins differ.

One affects two families and children.  That is the sin we know about, the story of lust and jealousy. This one has far more serious repercussions.  David chooses his punishment even, and even that stands out.  His sin, this time, affects 70,000 of the people for whom he was responsible.

70,000.

For disobeying God.

He was tempted by Satan, and he sinned gravely.

Innocent people had to die because of it.  Well, they were innocent of the sin David committed.

Just like every sin we commit has consequences that affect others.

Even though we might repent, even though we might ask forgiveness, the impact of our sin’s damage on others is felt.  Families are divided, friendship’s shattered, lives crushed, because we chose our way, rather than listen to God’s direction, to the life He clearly describes for us to live, that we might bless others.

Disobedience, which boils down to telling God that we know better than He does, that we should be God.
Distressed by the realization of the impact
David asked forgiveness, but there are days where we ask for forgiveness, and while we want to be forgiven, we think that is enough. We don’t always want reconciliation; we just want to be free from punishment.  We don’t always want to be repentant, and we just want to be sorry….

As David looks upon the innocent suffering, as David sees the Angel of Death ready to destroy his people, the reaction is different.  He is distressed by his sin, he realizes the consequence, hear His words,
“I am the one who called for the census! I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? O LORD my God, let your anger fall against my family and me, but do not destroy your people.” 1 Chronicles 21:17 (NLT)

This is part of what repentance is, the distress of realizing the depth of our sin, and that sin isn’t victimless.  It is what drives us to confess our sins….and beg God to spare the innocent, even as David did.

(after this first half of the sermon, we have a time of silent confession and prayer, and express our hope in God, that is described in the Creed)

The Repentant

King David: Pride and the Altar

1 Chronicles 21:1-19

In Jesus Name

May God’s grace not only call you to repentance but give you hope and expectation as you await the joy that awaited Jesus as He journeyed to the cross

The Altar & the Promise

Even as David and leaders are face down, praying that God’s wrath will be limited to those who are guilty, there is a strong lesson in grace, a lesson that is overlooked.

You see, that place where the angel stands, the place where God commands the angel of death to stop, where he tells him it is finished, is a special place in Jewish history.

It is the temple mount, the very place in the temp that would be called the Holy of Holies.   A place of grace, a place where sin would be atoned for, with the blood, portraying the blood of Jesus, the innocent, holy Son of God, taking on the curse of sin, once and for all.  The plague would stop, the power of death would be shattered, and repentance, the transformation that occurs to us because of Jesus, is made sure.

For repentance is not just the feeling of sorrow, it is not even just the distress caused as we look at the effect of our sin, repentance is not just the removal of sin crushed hearts and minds, but it is effected by the blood of Christ, the love of God being poured out upon us.

You will notice that God ordered the stoppage before the repentance was complete, and that’s because of His desire to bring us back, the joy of the father seeing his prodigal son seeing the dust from his son’s feet in the distance.

I can’t make this point enough – our repentance, our realization of how badly sin has crushed us.as that repentance becomes real, as it occurs in even just one of us, the joy of heaven is beyond belief.  It is as if the entire company of heaven is looking done in wonder as God takes us and heals us.

A moment of great joy, a moment beyond our comprehension… a moment to find His peace and rest and healing… for like David, and Naaman and Josiah, we’ve become the Repentant.

AMEN!

 

a thought about truly suffering for God

Devotional thought of the day:

Featured image16  “And when you fast, do not put on a sad face as the hypocrites do. They neglect their appearance so that everyone will see that they are fasting. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. 17  When you go without food, wash your face and comb your hair, 18  so that others cannot know that you are fasting—only your Father, who is unseen, will know. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18 (TEV)

3  The people ask, “Why should we fast if the LORD never notices? Why should we go without food if he pays no attention?” The LORD says to them, “The truth is that at the same time you fast, you pursue your own interests and oppress your workers. 4  Your fasting makes you violent, and you quarrel and fight. Do you think this kind of fasting will make me listen to your prayers? 5  When you fast, you make yourselves suffer; you bow your heads low like a blade of grass and spread out sackcloth and ashes to lie on. Is that what you call fasting? Do you think I will be pleased with that? Isaiah 58:3-5 (TEV)

765      Renew in your own soul the resolution that friend of ours made long ago: “Lord, what I want is suffering, not exhibitionism.”  (1)

There is a trend that is growing more and more.  The idea that those who are “persecuted” should be publicly defended,  Sometimes that call for action is taken by the very people under persecution.  Other times people attach themselves to the cause, urging others to join them.  It is almost like people want other Christians to suffer, a sort of Christian version of Munchausen by Proxy, or even a Svengali syndrome.  And sometimes, we can even bring it on ourselves, a masochistic attempt to gain fame or at least attention.

An example, the person who gets fired for using their position of authority to “spread the gospel”.  Or the Christian who boasts of losing family and friends because of the Biblical position against adultery, or abortion, or homosexulaity.

Even the temptation of pointing our how richer, how much fun, how much sex we could have, how much better life would be, if we didn’t sacrifice our desires out of obedience or submission to Christ.

Jesus addresses that pretty clear in the New Testament.  If you are voluntarily suffering, and it is because of your faith, then don’t let it show.  If you are embracing that pain (ar some annoying stuff) then don’t make a public spectacle of it. we could project that out to those who want to make a Christian cause out of everything, because then they can be the hero.

All of this public suffering borders on exhibitionism, We (or the person/cause) we’ve hooked up with gains us acclaim, or pity, it projects a value or praise onto our life. We pursue, as Isaiah writes, our own interests, our own satisfaction?  Our own recognition by others who declare us, “holy”.

Yet what if we endured it, sought true martyrdom even death, without a sense of need of people even knowing?  What if our cause that never appeared in daylight was sacrificing time and money to help others out of poverty.  What if our desire was not to hear man’s applause, but to hear God welcome us home?  Our suffering should be God pleasing, whether a real form of martyrdom, or the self-sacrificial acts we embrace, loving others?

Can we empty ourselves, in this way?  Even as Christ did?

I think we can do better at it, simply by looking to Christ, adoring Him, cherishing His work. Let me rephrase that – as we do those things, we are being transformed by the Holy Spirit!  Then those crosses and burdens we bear?  They don’t seem worth complaining about, or receiving praise for, simply because knowing Christ in those moments far supersedes any praise or attention gained in other places.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2755-2756). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

2 days Blog: You Can’t Handle His Truth…… or can you?

Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

WARNING THIS BLOG POST MAY ANNOY THE HELL OUT OF YOU!

21  Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?” 22  “No, not seven times,” answered Jesus, “but seventy times seven, 23  because the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants’ accounts. 24  He had just begun to do so when one of them was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25  The servant did not have enough to pay his debt, so the king ordered him to be sold as a slave, with his wife and his children and all that he had, in order to pay the debt. 26  The servant fell on his knees before the king. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay you everything!’ 27  The king felt sorry for him, so he forgave him the debt and let him go. 28  “Then the man went out and met one of his fellow servants who owed him a few dollars. He grabbed him and started choking him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said. 29  His fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!’ 30  But he refused; instead, he had him thrown into jail until he should pay the debt. 31  When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything. 32  So he called the servant in. ‘You worthless slave!’ he said. ‘I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to. 33  You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you.’ 34  The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished until he should pay back the whole amount.” 35  And Jesus concluded, “That is how my Father in heaven will treat every one of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35 (TEV)

569  If you are annoyed at being told the truth, then… why do you ask? Is it perhaps that you want to be answered with your own “truth” so your errant ways can be justified? (1)

It seems the number of FB and Twitter posts recently that talk about how to treat those who sin against you, those who don’t meet your standards f behavior, those that just tick you off are on the rise.

Most don’t called for a counter-attack or revenge, or so it seems.  But they do, as they justify walking walking away, as they justify completely terminating the relationship, as they call for you to slam the door in the face of the one hurting, disrespecting, annoying and sinning against you.  They might even say that they forgive, but can never forget.  Or they talk about forgiveness, but not allowing the person to hurt or disappoint them again.

But that leads to a question – what good is it if there is forgiveness, if there is not the possibility of reconciliation?  If you cut someone off after the 7th sin, how in the world can they sin against you 69*7 more????

Undoubtedly, some are thinking – what about in cases of abuse, where violence has erupted, where there have been criminal acts like murder or rape?  What about where there are atrocities like genocide?   Are you saying that we must reconcile with “those” people?  Do we have to provide them the option of hurting us again?  Do we have to encourage something that we know could end in more pain?

That’s a good question, a very hard one.

But it is one we have to ask!

We have to realize that true forgiveness requires and hungers for reconciliation, for restoration. It may not happen, but we have to desire it.

What can reconciliation look like?  Can it be done with gradually, rebuilding that which was lost? Can we diligently work to restore that which was broken, to see it healed?  ( Not just tolerating the brokenness)  If our absence is necessary (and sometimes it is until repentance manifests) can we grieve over that, rather than triumph in it?  Do we weep as Christ wept over stubborn Jerusalem?

Jesus never said following Him would be easy.  Paul talked about it in terms of suffering like/with Jesus is necessary here – because of the glory we will share with Him there. So there will be sacrifices we will have to make, especially to our pride, especially to our expectations.  We will have to have the attitude of a servant, for we serve God, even as Jesus did.  Our work isn’t to promote ourselves, but to work at seeing His desire fulfilled… the desire that all come to repentance, that all come and are reconciled and restored, that all are presented perfect in Christ.

Look at the servant – forgiven by God of millions, who wouldn’t forgive such a small debt!  He’s talking about us when we separate reconciliation from forgiveness, when we pull back – not to urge repentance, but out of a desire to save ourselves, to guard our pride, or even our reputation.  We have no problem seeing the servant as evil and wrong, yet do we see the same lesson in our own lives. The truth of this parable stings, it hurts, when we realize we aren’t really forgiving, because we demand with the forgiveness that reconciliation isn’t possible.  That’s not forgiveness – that saying they don’t have to pay the debt – but we will still remember they owe us.  That isn’t right. It isn’t the way of the truth.

If we know this is true, Mercy must reign in our lives.  That we effectively use both God’s law and the gospel correctly to witness redemption occur.

It’s a very tough calling – living this way.  Yet it is His call on our lives, it is the truth that we see in Christ.  In fact, it is the truth that we can’t see outside of Him, and without the Holy Spirit’s help – it is impossible to see this truth revealed in our lives. But we need to see it, it will imprison and slowly kill us until we do.

Lord have mercy on us!  Help us handle the truth, that we are called to live a life of forgiveness… as those who forgive and reconcile, and those forgiven and reconciled!

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2433-2435). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is a Soul worth it?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

3  We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. 4  We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5  We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT) 

881 Sacrifice yourself, give yourself, and work at souls one by one, as the jeweller works on precious stones: one by one. Indeed you should exercise even more care, because you are dealing with something of incomparable value. The purpose of that spiritual attention you give is to prepare good instruments for the service of God: and they, each one of them, have cost Christ all of his Blood.

In 2 Corinthians, indeed in several of Paul’s works (and the OT Prophets) we see passages like the one above, where spiritual warfare and pastoral care are challenged, and answered.

The reason that Paul and the prophets, and even Jesus was challenged is simple, someone who cares for a soul will challenge that which enters a life and obscures the work of Holy Spirit, that denies the presence of Christ and our unity in Him, that which would try to convince us that something other than being God’s beloved is what defines life.   Simply put, if some sin, or some belief that would pull your focus away from God’s love for you exists, the word of God will challenge it, and those of us tasked with shepherding you will bring scripture to bear on life, their lives – and yours.

The reason is your soul is worth it.  Your life, lived distracted from God by obstacles, needs to be encouraged back to Him, and the obstacle?  Will you let us destroy it?  Even as Gideon destroyed the Ba;alite altar and image in his dad’s back yard?  Will you let the Holy Spirit perform surgery on your soul, skillfully using the word of God to remove that which holds you back from knowing you love?  Will you trust God to do that, trusting Him to leave you, and eradicate that which isn’t you?

It’s a scary thought. Especially for those who know some of their weaknessness well.  It might be pride, it might be resentment, it might be clinging to a sin that you think defines you, because it has been there so long.

Paul thought the souls of the people in Corinth were worth it, your soul is worth it.  Christ died to heal you from the damage of those obstacles…that is how much your soul is worth to Him.

Maybe its time to confess that sin… and trust in God  – knowing His promise to forgive you, and clease you from all unrighteousness….

Come – talk to a pastor who would love to point you to Christ, and do battle – by God’s strength – with the obstacles that would deny you knowing how much God loves you…

Godspeed!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3110-3113). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Rules of Hospitality?

The Pharisees Question Jesus

The Pharisees Question Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rules of Hospitality?

Luke 14:1-14

 † IHS †

 

May you realize the blessing of the Father being your host at the Banquet thrown for His Son, and may you welcome all those to the Banquet who your Father rewards you for inviting….

 

Jesus as Miss Manners? Or a spiritual Strategist?

When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!

 

As we look at these verses this morning, we need to realize its context. Otherwise, we limit the gospel message to simply being a message about proper manners and etiquette.  The other way we often misunderstand this passage is that we hear it as a strategic lesson, where Jesus is giving us advice on how to get the best seats at a banquet, whether here on earth, or the banquet that is to come in heaven.

This conversation between Jesus and a Pharisee is not a conversation about manners. The reason Jesus came and dwelt among us and died on the cross is not about getting us to behave with great dignity and knowing which fork to use, or how to sit properly at the dinner table.    There is something far more important than that being taught…
It is not about realizing our proper place in society, or trying to strategically deal with a situation so that we find ourselves being glorified and elevated in a situation.

Yet, often this passage is used in those ways.  “If you want to be great in God’s kingdom,” some would say.. “This is the way to go about it.”  Serve now! be served later! Be the servant of servants, then when you get to heaven, you will have front row seats next to Peter and James and just across throne form Paul and Abraham!

Jesus’ lesson here is a lot deeper when we look at the context of his lesson, at why He was giving this advice…

You see, we like the Pharisees and those fighting for position overlooked not only a man in great need.  They overlook his healing as well.  In overlooking him, they miss their own healing.

Instead of helping – they were rushing to the best seat…

As all the guests are arriving, and the question of healing on the Sabbath is being discussed, there is a summons to dinner.  Well, let’s be honest, it wasn’t quite a discussion,  Jesus asked a question, there was silence, He healed the man with severe edema and probably congestive heart failure, and then asked another question… to which they responded with?  Well, silence.

The rush to dinner is on, the questions asked to the religious leaders and experts in the scripture disappears, as everyone was scrambling for the best seat.

Unlike other healings, there was no glorifying God, there was no question about where the authority came to do this kind of miracle or to confront the wisest Bible scholars of the day, and all is lost in the rush to the table. It was not just about the food – I mean, they probably were not having bacon wrapped shrimp.  It was about who was important, where do I rank in society.  The rush to find the right place answers the question of, who am I? The question asked, “What value am I?”

Think about it, have you ever been to a wedding reception and been disappointed by which table you sat at?  Or at the Thanksgiving family dinner, when at 38 you were still assigned to the kid’s table?

That is why this is not about some kind of etiquette strategy. It is not – take the bad seat to start and then you will get a better seat!  Jesus is challenging, as He has all month long in the gospel – the idea of priorities.  This is about the fact that they did not realize the man with severe pain and suffering was there; and they could be there for him.  They could have been the ones God chose to care and love him….they failed.

Be like Christ

As Christ shows up at the feast, he recognizes those in need.  The obvious is the man with edema, the one swollen up like a balloon, whose pain and suffering was not a pressing concern for the leaders of God’s people.  Some commentators even went so far as to suggest that people brought him only to see what Jesus might do, how Jesus would deal with him.  Whether Jesus would answer the question they were asking – could Jesus heal on the Sabbath, was there a limit to His position and authority.

The man with the swelling of his hands and feet was not the only one with a problem with something swelling, with something being puffed up. Jesus came to that dinner, not just to minister to the man, but also to minister to the Pharisee and his friends, to serve them and help them to see that in Christ, it is not about where you sit, but instead that you are invited, that you are called, that you have a place at the feast.

That is the point!  The model that Jesus sets for us.

When Jesus talks of inviting those who cannot pay, the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, He is preparing to walk that talk, to do the very thing He has asked us to do.

For we were the spiritually bankrupt, we were the ones broken and damaged by our sin and the sin of the world; we are the ones blinded to God’s presence by that same damage.  Into our lives, as He did with the Pharisees, Jesus comes and invites us to feast with Him, knowing we could never repay His kindness.  In this meal, He brings to us healing, brings us peace, and welcomes us, even though we could never deserve it!

He asks us to consider doing that very thing that He has done!  The same thing for His taking a seat at the back, a seat of a servant.  That is the model He is for us as well! We hear that because He did take the lowest seat, that He Humbled himself and became a servant, even as He served our needs to the point of dying on the cross, every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that He is our Lord.

As I said above – this passage isn’t about etiquette, or about strategies to get ahead in the Kingdom of God.  It is about being Christ-like, about serving people as He has, about keeping priorities straight – and the priorities always have names.

We have on our church cards, and on other things the phrase – Concordia – where broken people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal.  This passage is an example of that very thought – as we are encouraged to be like Christ, to see what is going on around us, to look for those that need healing.
We cannot possibly do that unless we first realize that He has come to heal us… that He has taken the lowest place.

We help others heal, for In Christ we have encountered healing!
We forgive because in Christ, we have been forgiven.
We joyfully bring people who do not deserve to be in God’s presence, because we do not deserve to be there either, but Jesus has brought us into the presence of the Father.
We can bring peace into lives that are oppressed by fear, anxiety, and trauma, because we endure these things for Jesus has given us that very peace…

As He invites us to celebrate His taking the back seat, as He invites us to His table, to take a seat with God our Father…. To know we are loved…

You are invited to invite others… to share in this place, in this blessing, in this celebration of love….in this feast…

For the Lord is with you… and He loves you.

AMEN?

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