Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Israel, the LORD who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. 2 When you pass through deep waters, I will be
The apostle does not belong to himself/
A couple of decades ago, I took a class from UC Berkely’s online program in Shakespearean Literature. One of the essays we had to pen was a reaction to the play, “The Taming of the Shrew” and the query we had to respond to was, “Is there a relationship today where respect and obedience are demanded?”
My paper indicated this was so, that there was a relationship where respect and obedience was required and that a negative consequence was automatic if that obedience wasn’t fulfilled. That relationship was the relationship between a teacher and a student. From there I could extrapolate forward to both governments and contracts, and backward to the parent/child relationship as well.
To be honest, we spend most of our lives struggling for freedom. As students, we are encouraged to “be ourselves” and discover “ourselves”. TO cast off the restraints our parents laid upon us.
As we get older, as our bodies and minds fail, as our finances are challenged, we again find ourselves desiring freedom from that which restrains us, from that which hampers life.
Between our youth and old age, we find that we are not really free. Our employers control our work, the government controls many aspects of our lives, and family obligations remind us that freedom is… not a reality.
Given that, as the great philosopher, Bob Dylan wrote, “you gotta serve somebody”, we might look for the most benevolent master we can find. For rare is it a master who desires the best for those that are “His”.
One such Master, one such Lord is found in scripture. He is described in the words of Isaiah above, and His love pours out on all He claims responsibility for, as He claims them as His. A Master who would give His life for those He calls His own, for those He calls His finest work (Eph. 2:10)
Knowing He is our Master, our Lord, is different than thinking He is just our boss, He is only interested in us for how our work benefits Him. Knowing Him, and His attitude toward us, we understand why it is a blessing for Him to be our Master.
Which is why it doesn’t make sense to dismiss Him work, to dismiss our belonging to Him. We need to rejoice in that He is responsible for us, cares for us, and yes, guides us. Being ashamed of Him makes little sense,
Not to mention, it leaves you in hell, a slave to your appetites, and never, ever, fulfilled.
In the end, consider these words,
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 57). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day
24 Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. 25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. 26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. 27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. 29 “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’” Matthew 13:24-30 (NLT2)
16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT2)
We believe, teach, and confess that there is a distinction between man’s nature and original sin, not only in the beginning when God created man pure and holy and without sin, but also as we now have our nature after the Fall. Even after the fall our nature is and remains a creature of God. The distinction between our nature and original sin is as great as the difference between God’s work and the devil’s work.
3 2. We also believe, teach, and confess that we must preserve this distinction most diligently, because the view that admits no distinction between our corrupted human nature and original sin militates against and cannot co-exist with the chief articles of our Christian faith, namely, creation, redemption, sanctification, and the resurrection of our flesh.
4 God not only created the body and soul of Adam and Eve before the Fall, but also our bodies and souls after the Fall, even though they are corrupted, and God still acknowledges them as his handiwork, as it is written, “Thy hands fashioned and made me, all that I am round about” (Job 10:8).
It seems like we either want to anoint people as angels or condemn them as demons. We want to be able to accurately pick out which are sons of Satan, and which are children of God.
We want to separate the wheat from the weeds, we want to declare that not only are the reformed theologians correct when they say people are predestined to heaven, and therefore others are predestined to hell but that we somehow know which is which. Somehow we think in our baptism we were all given the spiritual gift of discernment, that enables us to see into people’s hearts and souls, and determine who is saved, and who is not.
Then we can declare this person is a good person, and that person is the purest evil. People we don’t even know, but that we judge from thousands of miles away. People we’ve never talked to, that we’ve only seen in the news, or mentioned on Twitter.
What we aren’t allowing for, in these judgments, is the work of God, and we deny the grace which is extended to all, including us. We deem what God desires to be impossible, and then for others, which sins we willing overlook, as automatic. By automatic, I mean we judge the heart based on works we see and assume the person is righteous.
In either case, what we’ve done is stopped seeing the need for praying for them. If we think they are saved, we think that prayer redundant. If we think they are condemned, there is no need to ray, as their fate is already determined. If they are close, not only do we stop praying for them, we may stop telling them about God. We might give up on the power of God to transform them, just as we need Him to transform us. Eventually, this leads to complacency affects our own walk with God.
This thinking about people, the Lutheran Confessions brought out in my reading this morning, is counter to our theology. FOr we should see in even the most notorious of sinners the handiwork of God’s creation. It may be marred by sin, it may be broken, but it is not, in this lifetime, marred so much so it is beyond recognition. They are still God’s creation, they are still His children. AMEN!
We are not our sin, and our weakness to temptation does not define us. Or the person next door, or the person being lambasted or praised on FB or Twitter or SnapChat or the nightly news. That sin and sin nature is removed by Christ so completely that it proves it was never meant to be us, or how we are defined.
We are new, we are complete. What God does in us, can be done in others. What we pray to happen in their lives, we testify can and is happening in ours. This is our hope for everyone, near or far, friend or enemy, family member, and ourselves.
That all would come to experience the love of God.
So next time you are tempted to say someone is pure evil or pure good, remember the impact that makes on you….
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 466). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9 In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 (NLT2)
776 Don’t fall into a vicious circle. You are thinking: when this is settled one way or another, I’ll be very generous with my God. Can’t you see that Jesus is waiting for you to be generous without any reservation, so that he can settle things far better than you imagine? A firm resolution, as a logical consequence: in each moment of each day I will try generously to carry out the will of God.
I have been at people’s sides when they were so overwhelmed that they thought they would never live through it. And I’ve been there when they not only expected to die, they actually expected it. The feeling as darkness closes in, as our hope in this life seems to fade, these emotions? feelings? Those words aren’t strong enough, this level of life seems too unbearable, even as tears come without warning, or worse, the days when you wonder if there are any left.
It is those times we want to be like Luther, hiding in plain sight in a thunderstorm, trying to make a deal with God. “God, if you will only let me survive this, I will dedicate my life to you as a monk, or go on the mission field, or give up my favorite moments of sinful joy.”
In Josemaria’s words, we refuse to be generous with God unless He miraculously settles the issue, solves the problem, provides the miracle. We look at accounts like Luther’s, or we misappropriate the story of Gideon’s fleece, and blackmail God, only giving Him what He should have if our demands are met if our rescue is completed if we receive the blessings we want. We can even find justification for our actions in Jacob’s wrestling with God, demanding a blessing from Him.
Except that Gideon’s fleece wasn’t something that directly benefited him, and Jacob’s blessing was not a blessing of his choosing.
I wonder if God hadn’t already been working on his to give up the legal profession for the ministry. Seems like an awfully random thing to come up with in the midst of a storm. Repent of something might be more common, fearing God’s wrath certainly, but sacrificing his life as a living sacrifice?
I think he may have already been doing a Jonah routine on that one.
And God used his suffering to benefit many. God would use his sacrifice to reform the church (yes the Catholic Church reformed after that – some of his issues were handled at Trent, and then Vatican I & II… and maybe some more..eventually)
When we try, under duress or plan, to blackmail God, we take our eyes off of Him, and we ignore or refuse to see and hear His plan, and how it will be good. Even in this midst of pain, even in the midst of suffering.
That’s when we need to listen to Paul, and the sure confidence he has in God, who rescues us from sin and death. We learned to rely on God he writes. instead of relying on ourselves. It is a plea to us as well; that we would know we can rely on Him, too. “He will continue to rescue..”
We need to know that. For the, we can hear Josemaria’s advice, to give generously, without any reservation, without any thought of the suffering, for we shall endure eternally with Jesus. Don’t wait for everything to work out, give of yourself generously during the crisis. Depend on His faithful love. Look forward to the day we will be at home with the Father/ As it is now, with the Spirit indwelling in us, so it will be with our dwelling in the Father’s presence, fully experiencing the breadth, width, height, and depth of His love.
Heavenly Father, when we suffer, help us to keep looking to you, knowing Your love is faithful always, that you do promise all to work for good for us who love You. Help us to realize we aren’t always the best judge of that, and simply trust in You.
We pray this in Jesus name, AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1791-1795). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Infinite Valuable
That leaves all in the dust…
† In Jesus Name †
May you realize the infinite value of the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and as you do, may you not even notice the things left behind.
Value beyond calculation…
Every once in a while, when the lottery gets over 500 million, I wonder what that kind o money would look like, and all the good things that could be done with it. It is kind of silly, to want to know what kind of money looks like, but interestingly Google has the information.
500,000 dollars in $20 dollar bills would be a stack over 10 feet tall, and it would weigh close to 60 pounds.
It might be difficult to calculate, but it can be done. And its value? That is easier to calculate. A half of a billion dollars could provide
2500 full-ride scholarships for 4 years
It could buy 750 homes for homeless families that live in places like Coyote Creek or the Santa Ana River Trail.
It could provide 5 thousand people health insurance for 10 years.
or it could build 50 new churches and provide them a pastor at district scale for 2 years.
Or perhaps, our dear friend Pr. Bernie could use it for his mission projects in … 6 months? 😊
So its value isn’t infinite
Not even close.
Yet today we are looking that is, enough so that as we realize it, we drop everything, leaving it all behind.
Because what we are given is the infinitely valuable thing in our life.
An Important word?
Like most of Paul’s writings, there is a lot to focus on in this passage. Some like to focus in on Paul’s qualifications and talk about how important he was. Others like to talk about the athletic language used in verses 12-14.
Me? I get distracted by one of my favorite words in Greek.
Translated in most modern translations as rubbish (who uses that today? Rubbish?) or garbage. The old King James was more accurate with dung. While it has the same amount of letters, it was in common Greek, you might say a much coarser or foul synonym.
For some reason I always got a chuckle out of Paul using that word to describe his genetic lineage, his academic and professional accomplishments, and that the word is in scripture, and that translators struggle with how to put it…nicely.
But that is part of the problem we face, in this passage which talks about not just the most valuable, but the infinitely valuable, we mess around with resumes, sports terms and other bull… rubbish.
I wish I understood why we can get so easily distracted, why we find it so easy to focus in on other things in a passage, rather than what the passage itself says is most important.
Important enough to leave all else in the dust.
For they have no value, and knowing Jesus who was chosen and anointed to save us, to realize He is our Lord, knowing Him is everything.
Nothing is worth chase after, like chasing after we’ve been caught
Paul explains why a few verses down,
I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
This is why knowing Jesus is infinitely valuable. Not just knowing about Him, knowing Him. To experience life, the life that comes from dying with Him, and being raised, for we are united to Him.
To be that close, to know Christ, to depend on Him, sure that while we may fail, He will never fail us.
In one of my readings this week, a pastor wrote the words he us with a burnt out pastor, “
Delight,” I told him, “in the mystery of God revealed in Christ, who, by the Spirit, is united to our humanity and opens the way to our union with God. Delight in the incarnation of God in Jesus, in his sacrifice for our sins, his victory over the powers of evil, and the good news that everything that needs to be done to unite us with God and establish our spiritual relationship with God is done through grace by faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Affirm that Jesus, in union with God, dwells in you and you in him, and see the world through God’s divine embrace. Then live in your freedom to participate in God in the life of the world!”
That pastor, like so many of us, was looking to his own works to make him holy, looking to his own actions to prove how spiritual he was. And like the apostle Paul, he couldn’t do it. No way, no how.
Graduating seminary and getting ordained are great tools to prepare you to minister, but they don’t make you holy. Neither does just coming here, and doing your duty. All that stuff, if we don’t hear Jesus, if we don’t get to know Him, if we don’t hear His voice, if we don’t experience His love as He brings us to life, all that other stuff is a bunch of….. rubbish.
But when we come here, when we spend time hearing of His love, of His promised work in our lives, from forgiving us our sins to comforting us as we struggle, as He holds us in His embrace…
That is infinitely valuable.
So come, celebrate the Lord’s love for you.
Come, taste and know the love of the Lord…
For He is with you and wants you to know Him, and then know His peace. AMEN.
 Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
A Devotional Thought for our Days:
The truth is that, although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defence that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10: 4-5(Phillips NT)
824 Do you feel as if goodness and absolute truth have been deposited with you, and therefore that you have been invested with a personal title or right to uproot evil at all costs? You will never solve anything like that, but only through Love and with love, remembering that Love has forgiven you and still forgives you so much!
It seems in the last week another religious crusade has erupted. On one side there are those who are signing a creed that defines proper marriage and marital relationships. On the other side a creed that defends people who don’t seem to fit within those relationships. Both have proponents that say unless you support their new creed, you really aren’t a Christian. And that is definitely true if you do support the opponents Creed.
Thousands have proudly affixed their names to one or the other creeds. They call them declarations, but when you define your understanding of the Christian faith by them when you say this is what you believe or what you condemn, they are creeds or confessions. ( Ironically, a lot of those signing these documents come from church brotherhoods or denominations that were against having formal creeds!)
Which is why I will sign neither.
Simply put, I want a creed and confession that gives me hope. I want one that promises reconciliation, one that isn’t condescending or treats those with other beliefs like their enemy. I want one that talks of God’s work in our lives.
Paul says it clearly, our weapons are spiritual, they pull down Satan’s strongholds, revealing to people the true knowledge of God. It doesn’t tear them down but rather reveals God in such a way that people’s thoughts are about Him.
That’s what the historic creeds and confessions do, they bring people to Jesus, and leave them in awe, knowing they are loved, that their sin is forgiven, and that the Holy Spirit is renewing and reconciling them, transforming them into the image of God.
St. Josemaria states it so well if we think our job is defending God’s truth that has been deposited with us (as if He left the building ). Apologists are to give the reason we have hope, not wield a rushing and condemning offense. Our job is to love, knowing the mercy of God, and treasuring is so much we want everyone to have it revealed to them.
Yes, we need to show them the need for it, but we need to do so with love, not with anger, or with statements made without the chance for conversation and revealing God’s grace. That is why there is a call to remember our own brokenness, and how Jesus addressed that with mercy, and do likewise. From out of our brokenness, we approach others differently than if we were the self-appointed morality police. From out of our brokenness, we realize the blessed truth found in creeds and confessions that talk of God’s love and redemption, of His works through one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.
Love them, pray for them, ask God to bless them, and do battle for them, with the intent of saving their souls. This is spiritual warfare, this is the hope our creeds give us!
That the Lord is with us! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3390-3393). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand! Matthew 13:41-43 (NLT)
1. O hell, I detest thee now and for evermore; I detest thy torments and pains; I detest thy miserable and accursed eternity; and, above all, I detest those eternal blasphemies and maledictions which thou dost vomit forth eternally against my God. And, turning my heart and soul to thee, O beautiful Paradise, everlasting glory and endless felicity, I choose my habitation, forever and irrevocably, within thy fair and sacred mansions, within thy holy and most lovely tabernacles. I bless thy mercy, O my God, and accept the offer which it pleaseth Thee to make me of it. O Jesus, my Saviour, I accept thy everlasting love, and I acknowledge that it is Thou who hast acquired for me a right to a place in this blessed Jerusalem, not so much for any other thing as to love and bless Thee for ever.
One of the devotional books I am using this year is De Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life. Over the last year, my sermon research has regularly included quotes from this 19th century priest, so I thought I would add it to my list, along with a deep theological text by Martin Chemnitz.
Early on, it has used the hell a significant number of times as part of the devotions; something I was surprised to see. Partially because I am not a “hell, fire and brimstone” type preacher/evangelist, trying to keep God’s Law and the Gospel in tension. Or to use a covenantal approach, making sure people understand both the curses and promises that exist in our covenant, our “contract” with God.
But as I think about our devotion to God, the reason we are drawn to Him, the reason we adore Him, it makes sense that we take both heaven and hell seriously.
Knowing what He has delivered us from creates some of the devotion, it gives us a reason to adore Him. Over 25 years ago, I had a cardiac arrest. I can still remember who it was who did CPR till the doctors got there. I remember who was in my ICU room (even though I was sedated) Those moments of coming back to life are indeed precious to me. Those people I will always feel a special way towards.
SO much more so when we meditate on the hell we deserve because we choose disobedience, rebellion and sin rather that walking with God. As believers to look back and know what we deserve, yet His love changes all that! As we consider what we deserve yet are rescued from, our devotion, our adoration,, our hunger to worship Jesus grows.
As we adore Him, let us look to our future as well, and to what God does in our lives at this moment. For the heaven that we can know only in part is glimpsed in this life, ever so briefly.
Otherwise, heaven is too great a concept for our minds, our hearts, and souls to contemplate. But in the eyes of a sinner, freed as they realize the mercy and love of God, the comfort that settles on one who mourns, the relief as a beloved prodigal walks back into the life of a church they left behind.
These are glimpses of heaven….just as when we see someone claimed by God in their baptism, or we eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus.
As we consider the reality of both heaven and hell; as we realize the enormous difference between them, our hearts will cry out, glorifying the Lord who delivered us from Hell and into Heaven.
This we need, we so need….. and it changes everything….
As our cry of Hosanna (Lord Save Us!) and Kyrie Eleison are proven answered!
Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
† In Jesus Name †
May the compassion of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed for you, that you hear Him as He tell you to rise up!
Jesus asks, “where are the other nine?!” and I can’t imagine hearing that without hearing some frustration in His voice, and maybe even a little pain.
Where are they?
Don’t they realize what I’ve done for them? And don’t they know that this is only the beginning?
Where are the other nine?
I don’t know how you read it any differently, though it may seem odd to hear God being pained by our inattentiveness, by our being ungrateful, by our not being aware of the incredible mercy and compassion that goes neglected.
But consider this.
God describes himself in Exodus 34 with these words,
14 You must worship no other gods, for the LORD, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you. Exodus 34:14 (NLT)
and in Hebrews we find this,
3 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:3 (NLT)
This is the God who weeps over Jerusalem, who compares himself to the man whose beloved wife whom he rescued from a horrible life cheats on Him.
Now can you hear the pain in his voice, as he asks, “Didn’t I heal ten? Where are the other nine?
is it enough to color between the lines?
Where are they? Why at the priest’s, showing them the healing so they confirm it. They are obeying Jesus, but isn’t that enough? Isn’t’ that the point of scripture, and the commandments, to get us to obey the commandments?
A quick illustration why it is not enough might help.
Think of a children’s coloring book – with pictures of great masterpieces in it.
Forgetting the parental requirement to love every piece of art your child or grandchild colors in; is it enough to color between the lines? Can a Van Gogh be as beautiful or a Mona Lisa look as stunning if the colors don’t make sense?
Or to use another illustration – if we stay in our lane on the freeway, does that mean we can travel as fast as we want?
Of course not!
So in this case, while listening makes sense, what they didn’t hear was that Jesus had heard them, and answered.
A quick background – these lepers were supposed to cry out when people approached, “UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!” They were to warn people to not come close, their disease was not only devastating, it was contagious.
Instead, somehow this group recognized Jesus, they recognized that though he wasn’t their Lord, He was one with authority, and they called out to him have mercy, to have compassion on them. Mercy and compassion aren’t just about feelings, but love so full that it acts, it finds a way to relieve the burdens, to bring comfort and peace to lives that were broken, that were shattered.
As Jesus speaks, he offers them something they could only have dreamt of – to go and show themselves to the priests, to be declared free from the ravaged brokenness they knew, to be welcomed back into the community of the people of God.
And as they left, they were healed physically, miraculously. Bodies that were more rotting than whole, bow showed skin that was a whole and new and vibrant as any.
This was the Master that spoke, that commanded this. The Master, the one promised and sent by God. This is the Messiah, the one who would not just restore bodies, but souls. That would cleanse not just skin, but hearts and minds. Who would make them His people for eternity!
And we walked away. We neglected the salvation, we obeyed the letter of the law, and missed something more important. The Spirit, the messiah, Fellowship with God.
Even though they obeyed to the letter of the law – they missed what the law was given to do, to show them they were in fellowship with God.
Rise up! Not only healed – but saved.
There is Jesus, and we’ve just heard him ask where the other nine was, when he focuses on the man again, lying there on the ground in front of him. Who voice, which was loud when he cried for mercy, was mega loud when cried out God’s praises, when he offered great thanks – using the very word Jesus will use as he starts the last supper and gives thanks.
And what Jesus says is lost in almost every translation.
In this one it says this,
“Didn’t I heal ten men?” Then it says, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
A few others say, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:19 (NASB)
But a few say it this way – reflecting the Greek, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’ Luke 17:19 (NJB)
Not just made well, not just healed, his faith, his trust in God demonstrated in the return to praise God was the trust, the dependence that saw a much greater gift given – and invitation, and the recognition that he was no longer an alien, no longer a foreigner, but a part of the people of God.
Jesus was now this man’s Lord, this man’s master. Salvation, like the healing that was for so long only a dream, this salvation was now his.
And Jesus tells him to stand, he doesn’t have to grovel, he doesn’t have to lay there in the dirt. He was made whole and saved, therefore he was welcome to stand!
If there was gratitude when he only knew the healing, can you imagine the gratitude when salvation was what was given? When eternity, in fellowship with God, given the ability to stand in His presence, to truly live life.
Can you imagine how incredible the mercy, the compassion he cried out for was revealed?
Yet that compassion, that mercy, that love, that acceptance of God is ours.
It is time to revel in it, to give thanks and praise.
And to hear, as Jesus look at the table, and considers the bread and wine, the gratitude he shows the Father, who will allow Jesus to give His body and blood for us, to save us.
For it our time to hear those words, you trust in God has saved you,,, for He has had compassion on you. AMEN!
For He Will: For He Has….
† Jesus! Son! Savior! †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ reveal to you the hope of Glory, His gift to you!
What does this Mean?
As people are driving by the church this evening, as they see the cars in the parking lo now, and later, and tomorrow morning, I prayer that they ask a simple question.
Why are these cars here??
I pray that they also seek out the answer. That they would realize the reason we are here is more than just tradition, It is more than the lights and music. It is worth delaying the gifts, and the family and friends that didn’t accept our invitations to join us.
It is here in this place, Christmas takes on a real meaning.
For this night, we celebrate the greatest blessing the world has ever known. The greatest blessing that we will ever have, and nothing else is close.
We will realize this through the eyes of Joseph this evening….as we see him twice, both times somewhat unable to put his thoughts into words. Both times unable to really understand what is going on…
The first we see of Joseph, he is struggling, confused, hurt, broken. Feeling betrayed and overwhelmed
His fiancé tells him she is pregnant, and he knows he isn’t the father. In fact, he hasn’t been alone with her, so how could…. what is a man to think? The story Joseph was told? How could she be so malicious, to think Joseph such a fool?
Our translation tonight used the phrase, “as he considered this,” yet the word picture behind the original is one who is breathing hard, who is out of control. Hurt and broken, feeling betrayed, shocked, he is beyond words. Speechless, he struggles through the night.
Some of us know this kind of anger, this kind of stress, we’ve felt that betrayal.
Most of us have experienced this kind of stress, this anger, hurt, betrayal, and pain. Maybe like Joseph, we cannot conceive of how someone else’s actions could be anything but evil. We can’t find a way to explain the situation in any positive way.
It hurts, we can’t figure a way to get out of the relationship with more pain, yet…can we even stand the pain any longer? He had every right to demand she pay for her unfaithfulness, but the pain was so deep, he knew that wouldn’t help.
Or maybe, it wasn’t someone else who betrayed us.
We are the one who betrayed us. I betrayed myself, you betrayed you. We fell into that one sin, we gave into temptation, we chose to do something we know we would risk becoming broken. We can’t believe we did it. We can’t sleep, we are so angry with ourselves, so full of guilt and shame…..
And in either case, we need an angel, a messenger from God to come, and make everything right again.
We end up beside ourselves, or we bury the guilt and shame, or the anger and resentment deep, where it causes so many other problems when we can’t bury any more
The Second Joseph
When the angel comes to Joseph, it changes everything.
He hears the news from an angel,
“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21 (NLT)
He will save, this baby that is growing in Mary’s womb. He will save Joseph, and Mary, and his family. He will save his clan and nation and all people will have the opportunity to be saved from that life of brokenness.
This message brought the news that would repair his relationship with Mary. No longer would he think her guilty of being unfaithful. No longer would he deal with the brokenness inside him.
The message of who this baby would be changed all of that. That is what He will save means.
It gave him hope it restored what was broken.
If we are to explain why we are here, in this place, if we are to ask what this ceremony means, it is the same message. For Joseph the message was He will save His people, for us it is He has saved us from our sin.
For Christ is the greatest message from God, as God comes to us, to tell us He loves us, and because of that, we are saved by Him.
Saved from our sin, our guilt, and shame, and delivered into God’s presence, saved and healed in this life, saved to see relationships restored and healed. Including our most important relationship, our relationship with God.
God coming, and making everything right, everything righteous, as Jesus goes from a wooden manger to a wooden cross. A new life which would bring life for the rest of us.
This is why this ceremony, and the one at 1115, and the one tomorrow are worth being at, this is what these ceremonies mean….for the gift is beyond all comprehension. It is a gift of everlasting peace, and joy, and the glory of God. It is knowing where we belong, and who we are, and freedom from all that is not good and holy.
Let us worship and praise Him with angels and archangels, shepherds and even wise men. AMEN!
Devotional & Discussion Thought of the Day:
37 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes. Matthew 24:37-39 (NLT)
50 Just as God’s name is holy in itself and yet we pray that it may be holy among us, so also his kingdom comes of itself without our prayer and yet we pray that it may come to us. That is, we ask that it may prevail among us and with us, so that we may be a part of those among whom his name is hallowed and his kingdom flourishes.
51 What is the kingdom of God? Answer: Simply what we learned in the Creed, namely, that God sent his Son, Christ our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil and to bring us to himself and rule us as a king of righteousness, life, and salvation against sin, death, and an evil conscience. To this end he also gave his Holy Spirit to teach us this through his holy Word and to enlighten and strengthen us in faith by his power.
This word of promise and joy thus turns into a question for us, making visible the challenge and meaning of Advent. Only when all flesh beholds God is his coming complete; the new heavens and the new earth can come about only when available to all. This word constantly intends to open the heart of Christianity, indeed our own heart. Adveniat Kingdom tuum [thy Kingdom come]—this plea of Advent, put on our lips by the Lord himself, is prayed by us correctly only if we allow it to transform us; if we let it open us up to all of God’s children, all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
As many of us prepare for Christmas, for the parties, as we gather gifts, even as we get ready for the abundance of church services over the next week, we may hear the following question.
Are you ready?
We get nervous, for most of the time we are not ready, otherwise the concerned friend wouldn’t wouldn’t recognize the fear and anxiety that has gripped our very lives.
The problem is we are getting ready for the wrong thing. We are, like one Ebenezer Scrooge, trying to deal with Christmas past and Christmas present, and not looking not to Christmas future, but the Advent of Christ in our future. We are like the people in Noah’s day, not always doing things outside of “normal” life, but not questioning what normal life should be.
How many of us have given any thought to Christ’s return since Thanksgiving? How many of us have seriously considered whether our lives are being focused on that time, of the Christ-mass – the gathering of Christ that will happen on that day.
We can’t run around to prepare for it. We can’t check out all the stores; we can’t do anything special to prepare for His coming. Matter of fact, if we are trying to do something special, we’re are even less prepared. For being ready for Christ’s second coming isn’t a special event, it is life itself. Life abiding in the presence of God. Life being comforted and lifted up by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Life as Joseph Ratzinger, who would become Pope Benedict XVI, described so well in the green quote above. A desire for God’s kingdom, His reign to come to all, a prayer of desire and desperation, a prayer born in brokenness. Our individual brokenness, our communal brokenness.
Luther agrees of course, as he notes that the reason Christ came was to bring us to the Father. And the Holy Spirit is given to reveal this to us, and support us in the life that is until we see God face to glorious Face.
When we consider the normal life in view of Jesus’ return, in view of death for those who are not here, we end up depending on God in a far different way. Our life is transformed by the His love, as we look forward with expectation, as we look forward with joy, as we trust in Him, and we are filled with life.
This is why we ask are we ready. Not to stress us more, but to cause us to be still, and know He is God, that He is our refuge, our sanctuary, our life.
May your normal life find you not just ready, but desiring His return, and the homecoming that follows. AMEN †
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 426–427). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 399). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.