Visions of Peace III: An Advent Sermon based on Isaiah 35:1-10
Visions of Peace III
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the Grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you realize you dwell in the most incredible and unexplainable peace!
- The Promise
Have you ever talked to someone who, though speaking English, was using the technical knowledge that is known only to people in their own work?
Maybe they are a lawyer and tossing around terms that you think might have been Latin, or a doctor talking about your health in medical terms that have 16 syllables per word. Maybe it is an engineer, or someone talking about crocheting.
Pastors aren’t immune to this either. IN fact, one of the many reasons I miss one certain person’s presence, is that she always signaled me when I used to many theological terms, and didn’t define them. She does it with such grace that I could never be offended by it, but that she wants to know what I am saying… is a wondrous thing!.
One of those technical theological terms is the word “gospel.” We know it is something I am suppose to preach, that you all are supposed to share with loved one, neighbors, friends, even enemies…
We know it has something to do with God’s love, and with Jesus, and the cross.
But the gospel is more than that…
The gospel, completely revealed, is what Isaiah describes in our Old Testament reading this morning…
It is heavenly…
And that is why Isaiah says to share it,
“With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. 4 Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.”
I don’t know about you—but I could use some strength and encouragement!
And the gospel should do that—as you look for the incredible change in all of creation that comes with Jesus’ return!
- The Party
For someone who had to deal with wars and oppression, Isaiah has an incredible vision for life in Christ.
He describes it so incredibly! Places where there is little life just explode with life. I am not sure if I would use the deserts and wilderness and the flowers that appear over a few hours.
So I came up with a different example.
Everything comes to life as fast as Christmas decorations proliferate stores and streets at the first opportunity. Think about how fast everything changes!
I mean ever here—yesterday at 10 there were the poinsettias and by noon—everything was different; the tree is up and lit, there is green all around, there is the sense that Christmas is near.
But it is not just how things look that changes.
And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. 6 The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. 7 The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived!
What an incredible vision this is!
Imagine if after church we had a basketball game, and Tom and I were running full bore up and down the court, doing things we haven’t done in 20 and 30 years?
Imagine everyone with hearing aids being actually able to hear what their wives are saying and responding to what is said!
I shouldn’t keep saying, “imagine” as if this is some kind of naïve, idyllic pipedream.
I should say “look forward to” for that is the gospel, that is the truth. We are looking forward to this, not just thinking it might come
God has promised. He has sworn it will be true and guaranteed it with the blood of Christ.
This is what we long for, when everything broken in our lives and in the world… is made brand new….
Including our hearts and souls… everything is made new as we celebrate in the presence of God, our Creator, our Redeemer, the One who draws us into a special relationship with Him!
- The Way
That relationship was described in the of Acts as those who were “followers of the Way,” probably with this passage from Isaiah in mind. This is well before we were known as Christians or little Christs.
To be on the way means we are walking with Christ, for He has ransomed us, in order to walk with us on this way home.
Here it described again,
There will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it. 10 Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.
I would equate this as going on a plane trip—from our baptism to heaven is simply walking up the ramp from a plane to the terminal.
The excitement is building—we know we’ve arrived; we are where we are supposed to be. Now more hassles, no more security checks, no more struggles. Just the excitement of being at our destination.
That is where we are at right now, because Jesus came.
We are almost there, at the point where we will see God face to face…
Because Jesus came into our world—all our troubles are taken care of—all our weaknesses and instabilities. All our guilt and shame…
We are in His Kingdom even now… and those who depend on Him, and come to love Him, will rejoice…
For Jesus Christ is born, and was born for you. AMEN
Visions of Peace: An Advent Chidlren’s Sermon and regular sermon based on Romans 15:4-13
† In Jesus Name †
So every Sunday, part of what I do is play my guitar in the service. Not all pastors do this, but I do. And before I do, I have to tune my guitar.
I have 6 strings here, and each is supposed to be a different note. Each has its own place, and its own sound.
But if they aren’t in tune, there is a problem.
For instance – this string is supposed to be an “A” string. But what if it decides to be something else? And this string, the “B” string, wants to be higher than it is supposed to be? It may sound nice on its own…. But what happens when I play all the strings together?
Does that sound good????
That’s why each string has its own specific note. And the gut who plays guitar has the responsibility for making sure they sound like they are supposed to.
So I use my tuner – and I tune my guitar…..
So we are like the strings on my guitar. Each one of us has a special place in life, and a special role. But sometimes we want to be something different, we want to do things our own way. But what does that do to the entire group we are part of?
It messes everything up!
So who is responsible for getting us back in tune?
Except we don’t have pegs we are tied to, we are just always connected to Jesus, who fixes things and makes it right.
And then when we play, or sing, or just live with other people – it works out so much better.
Concordia Lutheran Church
Visions of Peace II
† Jesus, Son and Savior †
May the grace f God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that you dwell securely in the peace of God, which is beyond anything we can understand!
A Vision of Concordia
I’ve been thinking about the changes I’ve seen in my lifetime recently. I mean, growing up, we had one phone in the house, and to call us you only dialed 4 numbers. We had a black and white television that was 13 inches in diagonal, later to be replaced by a massive 20 inch, color television which weighed about 80 pounds!
I wouldn’t say life was simpler or better back then, but it was certainly different.
But one thing is certain, parents then, and parents now want life to be better, more peaceful for their children, and for their grandchildren.
Let’s be honest, we haven’t been a peaceful world, a peaceful country, or even peaceful communities in the last 57 years. Heck, even the internet and social media isn’t all that peaceful!
It’s not a surprise to me then, that the readings for December, as we prepare for Christmas, all deal with peace, giving us a vision for peace, that like the harmony I talked to the children about—all comes down to Jesus.
What Peace Looks like
Paul explains what peace looks like in the church,
5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. 6 Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now we are back to the lesson on the children’s message – the idea that we should function in complete harmony with each other. We see what happens in the world when it doesn’t happen, when everyone determines what they are in tune with, and what note they want to play.
Paul gives the idea of being in harmony, each in tune, and played together.
When we aren’t tuned to and by God, we really can’t be in harmony with each other. We can “de-tune” our lives from God, rejecting His role in our life. That is the basis of what we call sin, when we think we know better than God
But when we de-tune ourselves, that also breaks the harmony we had with other people.
We need help… and Jesus is there to help us.
The Help to establish Peace
Paul gives one example of how Christ brings together people divided, addressing one of the most critical divides, still today. Hear again what Paul wrote,
Remember that Christ came as a servant to the Jews to show that God is true to the promises he made to their ancestors. 9 He also came so that the Gentiles might give glory to God for his mercies to them.
This divide – racial, cultural, ethnic, was huge in the day. It was violent, it still is, as it is the center of most of the middle east conflicts.
And Jesus, broke down the wall, by dying for all of them,
Paul wrote to another church, this one in Ephesus,
14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. Ephesians 2:14 (NLT2)
The cross is the answer to all sin, to all the times where we are out of tune with God, and therefore not capable to be in harmony with each other.
This works with any disharmony, with any dysfunction, where people are able to allow God to come and minister to them, to forgive their sin, to reconcile to God, tuning them, and then creating the harmony that exists, as we live with God together.
This is why we are here, why we have a school, to help people living broken lives to know God is working in those lives, brining healing and bringing peace.
A peace that unites us all, as we are united to Christ in our baptism, and at the communion rail. A peace that goes beyond understanding, and in which God keeps us, for this He has promised.
The LIGHT Streams Into Our Lives: a sermon based on John 1:10-14
The Light Streams in Our Lives
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace, mercy, and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ shock you!
- Kreeft and Love
I just started a new book, one I didn’t know a favorite author named Peter Kreeft wrote. In the introduction, he writes something quite startling,
“God loves you”—isn’t that the most well-worn of clichés? It’s just standard filler for the laziest, most obvious and repetitive homilies. Smile. Yawn. Everybody knows that by now, at least everybody who has ever been in a church or read a Bible.
No. Exactly the opposite. It is not familiar. It is shattering. It changes everything. And most Christians do not realize it.
Even as I encountered this in my readings this week, It took me a moment to think about it. Do we know what love is? Do we really know understand it, have we experienced it?
Does it shock you when I tell you that God loves you enough that Jesus died, for you! For you Tom, for you Sandy, for you Missy, even for you who are watching this…
God loves you…
Does it still shock you, this love, when you hear the words I speak at Jesus’ command, “Your sins are forgiven you!”
Or when, into your hand, or on your tongue I place the Body of Christ, and the deacon gives you the cup containing His blood? Are you startled then?
If you aren’t, I apologize.
I haven’t revealed to you clearly enough what it means that God is love… and that love is aimed at you.
- Would we recognize Him today? Or would we reject Him?
In the St. John’s gospel, there is something as staggering to hear,
10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.
I still don’t understand this, how in the world could they miss Him with the way he taught, so different from all the others. He who brought healing into their lives, He who dared to forgive the vilest of sins.
He who had compassion on the most broken, those haunted by their sin, those possessed by demons, those who couldn’t be faithful to Him, like Peter and James and John…who even doubted when they saw Him risen from the dead and about to ascend to heaven.
How could they not recognize Him? Consider what Peter would write, “For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
Yet they did not recognize Him, and I am not sure we do either when we encounter Him in the lives of the people He so dearly loves. And even if we realize it from a theological perspective, that doesn’t mean we realize His love for us.
We need to have Jesus revealed to us, through Word and Sacrament, we have to be reminded of His presence and His love.
His love streams among us
So what does it mean when John’s gospel and Peter’s epistle say that saw His glory, His majestic splendor. What is that they saw, when Jesus came and made His home with them, with us?
Simply put, it is the fact that God is love. And that He loves us- this is what they saw… God, in Christ, had compassion on them, he was charitable towards them. He loved them, just as He loves us.
From Peter Kreeft again (did I start the right week to read this, or what?_
Jesus does not merely give us advice about agape. He gives us agape. He exchanges selves with us: we are put in Him, and He is put in us. He is the Love that “does not insist on its own way”. First Corinthians 13 is a description of Christ. His love can be in us only because He is in us. We attain agape not by trying a little harder but by faith, by believing and thus receiving (Jn 1:12), by letting Him in, letting Him invade us, possess us, haunt us.
This is it, we can love because He loves us.
We are loved. How much? Look at the cross, see what He experienced there, so you can experience His love. Look at the font, where He brings you into Himself, fuses your life to His own. Come to the altar…. And realize how much love it takes to forgive every single sin you have committed. No, how much it cost to forgive just that sin.
All this stuff about Christmas, the gifts, the tree, the flowers, the manger, it is all there to convince you of this.
So that you can believe in Him, trust in Him, and know that you have become the children of God. Shocking isn’t it… You are loved.
God loves you. He wants you with Him, now and forever
I can’t explain it any clearer than that.
God loves you… and always will. AMEN!
 Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 11.
 Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 85.
This Place is Wonderful but….
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ strengthen your faith, and help you endure until we get to our final destination.
Wow…. Look at all
I think I understand the disciples, and their awe standing in the midst of the Temple, the place they went, because God had put His name there.
When I walk around this place, there are memories and feelings that will always come to mind. The disciples had to show Jesus the stonework and the memorials, in awe of what God had done there, what He revealed here. And though this church is not as impressive as Herod’s Temple, there are precious memories of God at work in His people here.
Memories of tears shed together, memories of laughter, some memories that combine the two in a twisted dance.
I cannot imagine Jesus walking with us here, and saying, “6 “The time is coming when all these things will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”
I wouldn’t want to
hear it, I can’t imagine this altar rail here, or the baptismal font gone, or
even the pulpit I hide behind, as I play my guitar as we sing.
For just as the disciples looked at the Temple as the place, the place they could meet God, so too I can’t but see faces, present and past, as they met God in this place.
And so I understand their reaction of shock, as Jesus spoke… this place will be completely demolished..
When is it coming? Uhm?
The disciples begin to recover from the words of Jesus, and then they make it worse, they ask, when is this coming? What do we look for?
I wonder if they want to make sure they aren’t there, or what?
You see, the temple had been looted and destroyed before. Because of sin, it had been destroyed and abandoned. I can’t imagine this happening to this place, but even so, there will be a day when this place doesn’t matter anymore.
Jesus looks at them, and knowing their hearts, it must have broken His to reveal what has to happen before the end comes..
Even so, He will answer them honestly and scare the heck out of them. He’s going to tell them about false prophets, wars, earthquakes, famine, plagues, terrifying moments, miracles, persecution, people charging you with false crimes and dragging you into court, betrayal by family members, and just about everyone hating you! All sorts of lovely things!
Sounds like a normal
week around here?
Seriously, all he is saying is between that time and the time when temples and churches will have fulfilled their role, life is going to be rough, It is going to be impacted by the sins of billions of people, those in the past, and those presently alive. Jesus tells the twelve that people will kill “some” of us! Paul describes this as the earth groaning under as if in childbirth!
In the midst of the list there are a number other things,
Did you catch the part about miraculous signs from heaven? Even more importantly, did you catch two very important words to hear…
In the midst of the grief, the pain, the anxiety as we hear about all these horrid things, and we see them happening, DON’T PANIC!
I don’t know about you, but when someone tells me there is nothing to panic over… I immediately look around to see what should cause me to panic! Heck, if certain people were to tell me that, I would assume that panic is and underestimation of how I should react!
Why should I panic if God reminds me that there will be a day when this place is not longer here? I can tell you why. I look around and see what God has done. I see the communion rail, and think of the kids that would not leave it, including a 50 year old named Chris, because this is where they experienced Jesus presence. I think about the back seat, back by the sound board and I think of Warren giving me a thumbs up, Or Mando, Or Clyde, or the two original Concordia Deacons who challenged me to find something in this room that would show the gospel…
Churches and Temples matter because they are places where we regularly found God’s presence, and therefore could rest and find peace In these sanctuaries, in these places that are holy, because we know we encountered God here.
And though we know better, the concept of change, and even loss threw the disciples into a panic!
In the midst of the brokenness – look up… your Salvation is near!
What we have to remember, what we have to know, is that
God isn’t tearing us away from what we love, to abandon us in the day of
judgement. We aren’t going to stand there, wondering if we are going to heaven
or hell. We don’t have to fear suffering His wrath, suffering and struggling
more with sin and doubt. The ark of the covenant won’t be needed, as Jeremiah
promised, neither will the font and the altar.
All these things are simply the shadows of the reality of Jesus.
That’s why he tells us “Don’t panic” and why angels say “don’t be afraid”, “don’t be anxious”
Jesus tells them why, just as He tells us, . 27 Then everyone will see the Son of Man* coming on a cloud with power and great glory. 28 So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”
is an interesting word, this word “salvation”. Not the usual word, but the word
for destruction – specifically the destruction of all the constrains us, all
that has bound us up, all that has stolen from us joy, all that has made life
challenging. Everything is redeemed and restored.
We may lose the shadow – but we never lose our Lord!
There is our hope..
Don’t panic, don’t fear, look up and see your Lord, coming to set you free,
And until then, He keeps you safe… no matter what, and yours is the peace of God which passes all understanding. AMEN!
I Can Depend on the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life!
The Gift of Pentecost:
I Can Depend on the Holy Spirit,
the Lord and Giver of Life
† In Jesus Name †
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love!
The gifts of Pentecost
Advocate, Paraclete, Helper, Counselor, Comforter, these are words that describe the incredible gift gibe by God to us in the Holy Spirit.
The gift was given to the church at Pentecost and given to every member of the church ever since when God cleansed them with water and His word.
That is the great gift of Pentecost, that we can count on, that we can depend on the Holy Spirit, who is the Lord, who gives us life, and life that is full, for our brokenness is healed.
25 I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. 26 I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. 27 I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (MSG)
This is the Advocate, the Spirit who will testify to us all about Jesus, the Holy Spirit who works in our hearts, transforming us, this is the Spirit that came because Jesus went to the Father until the day He returns.
The World’s Sin
One of the things that Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will do is convict the world of its sin.
But Jesus is very clear about what sin is, and what the Holy Spirit will convict us of, which is not trusting and depending on Jesus. That is the bottom line, sin is not having faith in the promises Jesus has made us. To lack faith is to not believe in Jesus’s words, His promises of love, His promises to guide and shepherd us.
That is where sin begins, in the attitude or action that proclaims, “I know which way to go, God,!” or “I know what is right FOR me” rather than hearing, “this is the body broken FOR you”, “this is the blood shed FOR you – for the forgiveness of sin!!”
That is what the Holy Spirit is going to remind us of, that the Spirit, our Advocate/Comforter/helper who will convict the world of its sin, of it’s not trusting God and depending upon Him…
I want to go back to verse 8 for a moment,
8 And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.
Between Conviction and Judgment
I asked a bunch of people this week this question:
When you hear “judgment” is your first reaction negative or positive?
It was not surprising that most said negative, even one lawyer who said “always negative”. (do I want him defending me?) Note in the quote in scripture, there is something between convicting us of sin, and the coming final judgment.
The righteousness of God.
There is what the Spirit reminds us of, most of all. That God is just and righteous, but that righteousness includes fulfilling in us what is lacking, healing what is broken, forgiving that which is marred by sin.
The Spirit picks us help, helps us, comforts us, acts as our counselor, our advocate in these situations. The Spirit’s role is to bring us to Christ, to help us to cry out to God for mercy, even using the term of endearment, ABBA!
You see, putting the righteousness of God in between our realizing we are sinners and the final judgment turns that judgment from something negative into something positive.
For those who come, by the Spirit’s prompting and guidance, that judgment of God is this.
“You are righteous, innocent, holy, and mine!
That is what the insertion of God’s righteousness does, it makes sinners who trust in God holy. That is why the Holy Spirit is called the Lord and giver of life.
And this is what Jesus is talking about when He promises that the Holy Spirit will testify all about Jesus. Everything that Jesus has been, and done, and will continue to do.
That the Holy Spirit would comfort us, counsel us, help us, come alongside, be our advocate, and testify to us of the love of Christ, which draws us to the Father so we can live in peace. AMEN!