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Through You I Will Shine!

Through You I Will Shine

Isaiah 49:1-7

† In Jesus Name

 As you dwell in the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may you realize that His glory shines through you, doing far more for His Kingdom than you could ever imagine!

Who is this servant who brings God glory?

As we hear this call from Isaiah to pay attention, to hear his words, written to us from distant lands and who are far far away, we need to ask the question.

Hear part of it again, starting in verse 3,

“He said to me, “You are my servant Israel, and you will bring Me glory”

So here is the question – who is it that is saying this?

Who is God’s servant, who will bring God the Father glory?  Who is it that God says to, “through you I will shine?”
The Sunday School answer is Jesus, some scholars would says the nation of Israel, others might indicate it is Paul, and missionaries and people who want to see the church grow may say it is…us.

Yet, who is this servant whom through God says “you will bring me glory”, or as I titled the sermon – “through you I will shine?”

I think we need to dig through more of the passage in order to find out.

What about this feeling of uselessness?  Is that Jesus or Us?

If we are going to find this person or persons out, let’s look at the next sentence:

4  I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.

That’s a proper response to realizing that God chose us from before our mother’s gave birth to us?  That is the response to realizing God knew our name – even then?

4  I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.

I think this would put many of us in contention for who this passage is about.  We know God’s called us, we know He knows our name.  Yet there are days where we wonder if our efforts to be faithful are working.  When our prayers don’t seem to be answered, where we have spent ourselves, exhausted ourselves in our efforts to build His kingdom, or some days, our efforts just to endure.

So is this passage about us then?

If it is, then can we finish the verse?

Yet I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.”

The real struggle in life isn’t enduring those times, but in leaving things in God’s hands, in trusting Him to make the situation be what He promised, when He promised that all things work for good for those who love Him, whom He called according to His will. When we look around us and wonder, why aren’t things reflecting the love of God, why does not it look like we are blessed by God?

Here is the catch, while we may know these feelings at times, they are also true for Jesus.  Think of the words he uttered in tears looking over Jerusalem,

 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. Luke 13:34 (NLT)

Later He would say,

Luke 19:41-44 (NLT) 41  But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to weep. 42  “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace.

Just in case we in our pride think Jesus only felt this way about Old Testament Israel, read the letters to the church in Revelation, for there we see God’s call to Christians like us, who struggle to realize they are His.

There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus knew these questions as well, for He was tempted in every point, just as we are. Yet He was able to commit Himself into the Father’s hands

So is He the servant through whom God will shine?  Or are we?

The final “qualification”

If we go down to verse 6, there is another point to consider; that will help us determine whether this servant is us, or Jesus, or someone else.

6  He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Surely this points to our Lord, it is the very concept we sing of in the Nunc Dimitis, those words of Simeon when he saw the infant Jesus. For his ministry was seen to be just to the Jews, to restore them, that they would be readily identified as the people of God.  His ministry went beyond that, reaching out even to us, 2000 years later, in a far distant land, the land that Isaiah calls to listen, and pay attention!

I do not think it is only about Jesus though.  In our Bible Study, we’ll see Paul used the same language about Paul’s call into ministry, and about others. I would include, ABOUT US!  The people of Concordia, the people that God gathers here in the this place.

Even with this last qualification, there is a strong point to be made – that we are part of this….

The realization of the Gospel

To make my point, I will refer back to last Sunday’s sermon on Romans 6.  In the call and response we re-learned I said something – based on Paul’s understanding of our being united to Christ in Baptism….let’s see how good your memory is….

The call was, Alleluia!  His is Risen!  To my saying that, the new response is…

( “therefore WE are risen indeed!  Alleluia )

It is critical to understand the gospel, to learn to place it all in the Lord’s hands, to trust in God for the reward, that we are that united to Christ’s death and resurrection.  We need to realize that we find life in Him, and that the Holy Spirit dwells in each one of us that God has called by name, those whom He recognizes as His people.  (even if we do not yet)

So this passage is about Jesus – but because it is about Jesus, it is about us as well!  We can learn to leave everything in His hands, and trust in Him that it will be made right.  We can see that He has called us, knowing us and forming us in our mother’s wombs, and that our words can bring people to know that they are righteous in the sight of God, for that is His judgment for those who know Him.

Our strength isn’t spent for nothing and no purpose, our work isn’t useless.

The answer to that attitude is found not in trying different things, or working the old things harder.  Instead, its found in realizing that we are in Christ.

Even to the phrase that our ministry is not just found here, among the people we love.  Rather God uses us, our words, our work, to reach people throughout the world, and will continue to do so.  For what Paul said in our epistle reading this morning, to the church in Corinth.  Look there in your bulletin, for the verses are highlighted,

I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.

And let’s start at verse 7 for the second one..

Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

For there, in partnership, in communion with Christ, we find who we’ve been called to be, the children of God. For there in Christ we know that God will shine through us!  That we will reflect His glory, and dwell in Him.

Knowing that, we find a peace that passes all understanding, which guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!  AMEN?

Does It Seem Like You Are Just Spinning Your Wheels in Life? in MInistry?

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Week:

 3  He said to me, “You’re my dear servant, Israel, through whom I’ll shine.” 4  But I said, “I’ve worked for nothing. I’ve nothing to show for a life of hard work. Nevertheless, I’ll let GOD have the last word. I’ll let him pronounce his verdict.”  Isaiah 49:3-4 (MSG)

657 Sometimes the immediate future is full of worries, if we stop seeing things in a supernatural way. So, faith, my child, faith… and more deeds. In that way it is certain that our Father God will continue to solve your problems.

658  God’s ordinary providence is a continual miracle; but He will use extraordinary means when they are required.  (1) 

One of the better professors I had in my Master’s program taught young pastors to be to never change anything in their churches, until they could mourn the loss the change caused.

His idea was two-fold, the first that we need to work in ministry patiently, not just changing things, whether to make them more tranditional or more missional (which I don’t think are contrary – though I admit many do).  Things will not become more successful just because you change how you go about things.  Far too often we have the attitude, the view of the servant in Isaiah, we look around and do not see any results for our labors, for our sacrifice.  So we get desparate to see results, and we react by changing eerything to produce the results we want.  We may try to become “holier” to do things in a more regiemented, disciplined way that seems to have worked at some point in the past.  Or we may try to throw off the past, and do tings that get back to the “core” of the early church, far more missional/apostolic.

In both cases, we are not trusting in the providence of God, but rather in the direction we feel should be set, often without looking to see where we are at, what we are doing.  We want results now, great, glorious results, results that are undeniably miraculous, and to which we can point to a place in time and say, it was at this point, when we discovered, revealed, made this change… that it all happened.

I would contend that our desire to change things – either to restore the practices of the past (romantically viewing them as the solution because the church was so perfect or to make them cutting edge to see better results) can be driven by despair, by frustration, by the feeling that we are simply spinning our wheels in ministry.  I am not saying we shouldn’t evaluate what we are doing, or that there shouldn’t be a standard that includes both scriptural integrity and pragmatic effectiveness (does our preaching Christ crucified communicate) but that spinning our wheels may only be in our perpspective.

So the first question we should ask – are we trusting in God in doing what we are doing now?  Are we working form the assumption that God is already working within us, within our lives, within in our ministries?  Do we see His hand in our present situation, providing for us, caring for each of us?  Or are we seeing the “spinning of wheels” as evidence to the contrary?  Do we see the supernatural miraculous, the sacred that is already occuring in our midst?

You see, its easy to see the lack of our effect easily, it is almost our default – our impatience, our self-determination taking over, but faith demands seeing God at work, even when we don’t see it in our own lives.  To know He is there, listening comforting, strengthening.  He is at work through HIs word, which never returns void, and in the sacrament, the word combined by God with water, with bread and wine, through the hands and voices of the people of God. THat His work is always beneficial, that it always provides results, including the greatest of results, calling us into His presence.

From that position, we perceive our work differently, we trust in His judgment more, we rely on HIm, more, and ours plans are synthesised into His will.

Breathe, be still and know that He is God…. then having heard, realize His glory will be seen in your life, in your work.  AMEN!

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2419-2423). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Sermon for Those sent to Serve

“The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me…so Why?”

Luke 4:14-30

 

In Jesus Name

As you give your lives as a living sacrifice to God, as you are equipped by the Holy Spirit’s gifting in your lives, never forget that for you as well is the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

The Burden of the Call
We So want to see the evidence – to know it has been fulfilled!

It always amazes me, how the man made schedule of readings God is able to use.  The Sunday I am preaching to those apostello’d  – those sent not just by the LCMS but by God to share His message – the gospel reading is about Jesus taking up the burden of His being apostello’d – of His being sent.

Not that you and I have the same burden as Jesus did – or even that of the original 12 plus Paul – but we do share in that burden – you are as surely sent here as God sent them.  Whether you are GEO’s or doing life… err lifetime missionaries or accompanying spouse – or the children – you are all here because God has brought you here.

We look at Jesus taking up His burden as the primary, the first apostello. As He reads the prophecy that points out this very thing in Isaiah – hear these words, not just descriptive of His call – but of your call – because you are united to Him.

18      “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19      to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”


The year of the Lord’s favor – the year, when God descreed every debt cancelled, that every bill was paid in full – that everything is restored to its rightful place- including us.  The year of jubilee.

I know when I left the University I worked at – to enter “full-time” ministry, I thought of all those things happenin – all the people that would come to know Jesus, all the wonderful – even miraculous things that would occur – and how God’s people would praise Him… as they saw His love.

But then the questions arise

     Who are you – anyway?

     We even may think they are out to crucify you

          If they are – so what?

That was 15 years ago – nearly 20 if you count my time as a “part-time” minister.  Gonna be a little honest – I think more of my time has been like Jesus’ first service and sermon.  So excited to share God’s call to everyone to enjoy the freedom of Christ.. and I quickly fade as people start questioning me – and while they haven’t picked up stones yet……

It seems like that sometimes – not enough eyes that are blind to the gospel open them – or those who hear that they are free from the bondage of sin, stay in the familiar cells that they have become comfortable to – afraid of venturing out into the reality of God’s love.  Some have questioned me – not the – “aren’t you Joseph’s son”, but the same question, who are you to tell me I am a sinner in need of God’s grace?

I have to admit – I look at myself far more often than the message I am entrusted to bear.  I don’t always hear it for myself first, and so I find myself condemned in the eyes of those I am called to bring it to, those who it is so evident that they need it.

I end up feeling crushed – I end up wanting to go home – to find a little cabin in the mountains of new Hampshire, on a nice quiet lake with a awesome internet connected, and finish out my life canoeing, playing piano and guitar and World of Warcraft.

IT is then, that the law has afflicted me… and I need to be comforted by the very message I bring.  Having talked to a number of folk since I landed in Asia ten days ago, I am not the only one.

We have to know the news we bring… just not know – but know. We have to hear it from Him!

 

As good LC-MS Lutherans – we may have heard the phrase once or twice about proper Law and Gospel tension –  Afflict those comfortable in their sin, comfort those afflicted by their sin.

I get the feeling that most of you are as in need of that comfort as I am.  Ou wonder why wasn’t there 100 baptisms or even ten, or just one, to witness recently.  You want to blame someone, lest you have to blame yourselves. Our “Leaders” are really easy targets.  If only they would… then I could see the kinds of results I thought I would.

We who serve in the temple – so need to stop and remember that we are the temple – that God’s spirit is with us here – wherever here is.  The love we want people to know – we need to meditate on it, dwell in it, rest and be strengthened by it.

When we want to go on our way – to escape the crowd as Jesus did we need to realize He went on His way for us, and indeed through us!  As He walked through that crowd, the way He went, the way He chose to go on, was to that cross to did for us, that we could die with Him in baptism, that we could rise with Him.

That is why I am so greatful to end my stay this way – serving you – calling you to remember what I have failed to remember so many times.  That while we share Christ’s calling, we aren’t Christ.  The work doesn’t depend on us, or those holding us back.  No one can separate us from His love, for we are His called one, His loved ones.

When I proclaimed your sins forgiven, and when you proclaimed mine forgiven, did you hear that?  That you are cleansed of all your sin and all unrighteousness?

When we pray together the Lord’s prayer – do you hear yourself correctly addressing God as your Father?  Do you hear what Jesus has taught you to ask for, to pray for, knowing it is the Father’s will to give you all these things?

When you hear the words “for you” during the words of institution, do you get that it is for you… you?

Know this – you have been called and sent into… called and apostell’d to this place.  But you haven’t been sent alone, you have been sent with Him – not just His message – but with Him.

For you are His, as the song said – bought with the precious blood of Christ.

So as you serve – as you are tempted with loneliness, know that is never true… but you are in Christ… with Christ…

 

And he is keeping, guarding your hearts and minds in the glorious peace of God, the peace that goes beyond understanding, the peace that is the Father’s.

The peace that is yours.

AMEN?

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