Take My Life! What Does that Mean?
1 Kings 19:1-8
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to joyously invite God to take your life and let it be dedicated to Him!
100 years…. A lesson
Church experts, both in Lutheran circles and in other denominations, talk about church life cycles. There is a bit of evidence for this, at least statistically.
Simple theory, the first ten years, the church grows and explodes. The second ten years, it keeps on the trajectory, growing developing programs. In the third ten years, it slows down and loses momentum, and in the last ten, it plummets towards death and closing.
One of the guys who came up with this theory noted that exceptional churches didn’t splash down….they didn’t die.
They simply see God at work still, the God who takes their life. They see God consecrating them as the Holy Spirit making them holy, setting them apart as they dwell with Christ.
That’s how the churches that last 100 years last! They are re-focused on the work of Christ in their midst! They rejoice in the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells in them, the Spirit whose indwelling is the promise of their baptism. The promise that is celebrated as they break the Bread and drink what Christ has provided!
And they live in that joy, loving God who loves them, and with Him, loving their communities, as they teach them all about Jesus.
In the words of the hymn, Jesus takes their life and consecrates it.
When do we pray for God to take our life?
In the reading this morning from 1 Kings, Elijah tries to give God his life.
Hear his words again,
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 1 Kings 19:4 (ESV)
There are two problems with this, and it is not that he journeyed to Palmdale. 😊
We face both problems, temptations that, if acted upon, result in sin.
The first is asking God to take his life, not from trusting God to do something with it, but from despair.
Basically, he thought it was time to end it all, and we get there at times. As individuals and as churches, we can get to the point where it seems the work is more than we can deal with, that the investment of our time, our hearts, and energy is not there.
And I bet over the last 100 years, there have been times when people in this church felt that way!
“Lord, we’ve been faithful, we’ve supported our school, we’ve bought the new hymnals, we’ve volunteered for the choir, or we’ve held board positions. The church isn’t what it was 30 years ago, or even before COVID struck.”
And so we doubt what God has in mind for this church – that He’s not revealed yet! Elijah was so focused on his energy into the ministry that he failed to see what God was doing through him.
He was relying all on his own power and reason….
And we’ve done the same thing on occasion.
The second error he made is found in these words,
“for I am no better than my fathers.”
While Elijah’s life led him to think he was done because he didn’t have anything left in the tank, the second, deeper sin crept in. He forgot the call on his life and the work that God made. By saying he was not better, he forgot what God was not doing through him but in him.
He was different from his father’s, at least the ones who died in rebellion and sin.
He walked with God, and God guided his way and empowered the victories he had experienced and would experience. His life had been taken and consecrated to God.
Just as God will do so here, in this place…
But we have to see how God ministered to Elijah.
We have to see how God would take his life and consecrate it to him.
How did God consecrate Elijah’s life
We need to see this work of God in Elijah’s life, and then we can see it in ours. For it is the sweet message of the gospel that helps us heal from our sins, the sins of not depending on God for strength, and that of doubting God’s work within us as if God could not consecrate and make us holy.
It happens as a messenger from God came to Elijah, hear again of the words of scripture,
And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 1 Kings 19:5 (ESV)
He looked – and there was the provision of God for him – enough to get him through the day…
Something to eat, something to drink – provided for him by God, and the messenger simply drew his attention to it. This is what scripture says happened next….
And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. 1 Kings 19:6-8 (ESV)
The journey was too incredible, the messenger said so – so he would eat and drink again. He would then travel to Horeb – to find God and speak with Him, before taking on more tasks.
But there is our lesson – to realize that there are times when we forget what God does through us because we forgot what God does in us.
He takes our lives and melds them to Jesus’s death and resurrection in baptism, recreating us and making us new by the power of His word, for He promised this.
And then He brings us back to remember that, every time we look and rise, take the Bread, and the wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus, given and broken for us.
This is where you will find God taking your lives, the lives of the school children here, and the lives of this community and consecrating them for another 100 years.
This is where you will see that consecration’s impact in this life, as God drives us to others who are broken, to invite them to share in this mystery God blesses us within Christ.
The Apostle Paul explained it this way,
27 To them, God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. Colossians 1:27-28 (ESV)
This is why the Grace Lutheran Church of Lancaster has endured 100 years of heat, good times, and trying times… and what it will do if it endures another 200…
To declare to the people who are in this sanctuary, to the children who sit in those classrooms, to work with the other churches to make it known in this valley, the glory of this mystery;
Christ, who was born of Mary, suffered under Pontus Pilate, was crucified, died, was buried and rose again, and did so to bring you to God the father.
The Spirit united you to Him in Baptism. We celebrate this together, as we arise and eat and drink.. looking forward to the day we will eat at the Wedding feast of the lamb.
This is most certainly true.
So my new friends, in a moment, we will share and celebrate this mystery, as the Lord takes your life and again consecrates it, for we know the Lord is with you! And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!
He is Qualified… (for what?)
† In Jesus Name†
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you and cause you to dwell in His peace!
- We have an applicant!
As we look at Psalm 29 this morning, I want us to consider it as we would a job application.
Our question for the day? Is the person being presented to us a good fit for the position we need to be filled in our church? Are they needed in our lives?
This may seem an odd or different way to look at this scripture. Still, I think in the end, it will prove an important point, that God is qualified., incredibly qualified to be a productive part of Concordia’s team.
- The References ( What do people say about him?)
When I look at a job application, I want to know what people say about the applicant. Is he or she worth interviewing? I may even call their references and former employers before interviewing them. Even in a church, this is true. Do they stand out, does the employer or reference have to think about what they are going to say, or immediately praise them.
Or what if they have to think about it for a moment…. Trying to remember who this is?
Well, King David had no problem serving as a reference for God. In verse 1 & 2, he says,
Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings! Honor the Lord for his glory and strength! 2 Honor the Lord for the glory of his name! Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness!
David isn’t just trying to get the people of Israel to praise God. He is trying to get all of creation to do so!
I don’t think you could get better references, as the angels praise him for his power, ability, and ability to lead. Those are the concept behind glory and strength, splendor.
So, God, the Lord God Almighty, has a solid reputation with those who
- Look at these qualifications!
But David doesn’t leave it at the references,
He will then spend a significant amount of time talking about the qualifications and abilities God has, just by the sound of his voice.
First, David explains it in theoretical terms,
3 The voice of the LORD echoes above the sea. The God of glory thunders. The LORD thunders over the mighty sea. 4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic. Psalm 29:3-4 (NLT2)
This talks about sheer power! God’s voice so powerful it can divide the sea, as it did in Moses’ day, and again as Joshua crosses the Jericho River in flood stage! God’s power, simply the power of His voice, creates, Divides, and destroys – as He wills, as He desires!
I don’t think we truly understand the connection between power and ability – but if we are looking for someone to be here, working alongside us, knowing God’s power refers to His ability to work, is something we need to understand.
God has all the ability; we see that as the power of His voice is further described.
5 The voice of the LORD splits the mighty cedars; the LORD shatters the cedars of Lebanon. 6 He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf; he makes Mount Hermon leap like a young wild ox. 7 The voice of the LORD strikes with bolts of lightning. 8 The voice of the LORD makes the barren wilderness quake; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the LORD twists mighty oaks and strips the forests bare!” Psalm 29:5-9 (NLT2)
If we weren’t sure of God’s ability and power before, this should do it!
You want a few tables moved around? It shouldn’t be a problem for the God who can make Mount Baldy and Mount San Jacinto play hopscotch. … Hmm, do they still play hopscotch in schools today?
This is actually all child’s play for God, but it gets us thinking about how powerful He is…!
Qualified to do what, though?
As we’ve been considering God’s qualifications to be part of the team at Concordia, there is one thing we haven’t considered yet. His role.
I mean, we’d probably let him have any role He wants, right?
But a good manager helps someone find their perfect role in an organization, if at all possible!
But Psalm 29 includes a description of the job that God wants.
11 The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace. Psalm 29:11 (NLT2)
There is it… there is what God wants to do to the people of our community through this church.
The Hebrew is exciting in both these words; the strength He wants to give them is His strength! It is the word for protection, protecting them from everything that would assault and stress them out.
It is like God taking us in His hand and protecting them as He deals with our enemies.
He’s taking on the sin that has so easily attached itself to us and freeing us from it.
The second term Is to bless us with peace, to bless us with serenity—something we so desperately need during this broken, messed up world and in the corner of it.
All this work happens because Jesus was lifted up, as it says in the gospel. “so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.
That is what happened at the cross! That is where His voice was heard, as He pleaded with the Father to forgive us… for we don’t really know what we have done.
That is where our salvation took place. That is where God’s voice was heard; that is where He took us in His hands and gave us peace….
That is where He proved what He is doing here in and through Concordia in this community.
He is qualified to be our God….AMEN!
Encounter God and Live
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ show you how to live!
Two odd focal points
Like most of the gospel, I have preached on reading from Luke before. I thought I had attacked it from every possible point and hadn’t missed anything in the story before.
I did pick up on a couple of things I missed, two different phrases that are repeated twice. I was also trying to work on how you preach on the miracle of someone rising from the dead in the middle of a pandemic. I mean, if there was a time to repeat the miracle in the Valley of the Dry Bones, wouldn’t it be a great thing to do it now?
Back to the two things I missed – these two phrases. As we deal with them, I pray that they will help us learn to live, to really live.
The first is that twice it describes Jesus as being Angry.
The other is a phrase that Jesus uses, that is translated as, “for your sake!”
The gospel records this,
“33 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked them.
Did you catch this?
38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
Other translations make this seem that he was simply bothered, that he was upset – and yet word describes someone who is enraged, indignant, and storming about angrily.
Does that make sense? After all, what is he angry about?
My first reaction was the lack of faith, the absolute raw pain he is witnessing! Here he is, and Martha even acknowledges he is the Messiah.
Is Jesus truly mad at the lack of faith?
If so, perhaps he is mad at me for this week. After all, watching the fear and anxiety affect so many has been brutal. Hearing of friends whose families have contracted the virus has been brutal, especially as I can’t go to them, pray with them, give them a hug.
I don’t want to entrust these friends and their loved ones into God’s hands, and that, as brutal as it sounds, is a lack of faith.
Is that the reason God is upset? Because they couldn’t trust that Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead?
I don’t think so.
But I think we beat ourselves up too often for our lack of faith, and this time is definitely not a time to be doing so…
This epidemic is not about our lack of faith, and God hasn’t abandoned us in this time.
We might not see what He is doing, but that is true in other times of our lives as well.
We have to understand it is okay to struggle, it is okay to ask the hard questions, it is okay to weep, because then, having admitted where we are, we can see Jesus at work.
For your sake
Which is where the other duplicated phrase comes in to play.
Verse 14, “So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.”
and then verse 42, Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.”
When you see these verses bracket this story, it is not a major leap to see that Jesus’ anger isn’t toward those whose faith is struggling. For it is to strengthen our faith that this occurred.
So why would He be mad at the lack of faith?
God worked something out of this situation that led people to have more faith in Him, to depend on Him more than they ever did before.
In this case, it was a miracle, the resurrection of someone dead 4 days.
But that too – was something God had planned – remember – he said we are going to him. Even though Jesus said he was dead, they were going to him.
But that isn’t the end of the story, for God was going to demand more of their faith, which we get a hint of in Thomas’s comment, “Let’s go, too – and die with Jesus.
A Greater Demand on their Faith?
This story is about the fact the disciples would need even greater faith when Jesus dies just a little while after this. They would need to depend on God for the darkest three days of their lives.
Not knowing what any of it meant, not knowing what darkness would hit next…
As God would sustain them during those dark days between the cross and the resurrection –
For that is the place where God’s anger is purged – as the power of death and sin was crushed.
The sin which so separated us from God, and from each other – Jesus’s anger at that sin was made evident, there as He is with those dealing with the consequence of sin, death. He understood that death for the sinner would be final, which is why a short time later, the Father would deal with death through Christ’s suffering and death and resurrection.
He had to do something about the sin and death that so scares and scars us.
And so he did… Jesus would die,
For their sake…
And for ours.
And that is why we have a faith that is stronger, that is why we know we can depend on Him, not just for the forgiveness of sins, but that He will be with us always…
Caring for us, loving us, dying for us…
Alleluia – He is Risen!
and I can’t wait for you to say the next part
He is Risen Indeed Alleluia and therefore we are risen indeed! Alleluia!
Let’s Go See Jesus
A Christmas Day Sermon
† In Jesus Name †
May the Grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ help you to desire to dwell in the presence of Jesus more and more!
How dare they?
How would you feel if you went to the supermarket tomorrow morning, and the doors were locked shut… and not a staff member was to be seen?
And then you headed over to your favorite restaurant, to use the gift card someone gave you, and it was closed.
Frustrated, you start to head home and realized you needed gas, and the gas station was closed, and the pumps turned off.
I imagine that would be the same response as the owners of all the sheep around Bethlehem if they had gone out to check on their shepherds on the first Christmas Day…
Think of it, all these employees just left their jobs, and took off to go see a little baby, lying in a manger? It wasn’t even their own child or grandchild.
But they took off, and they enter the village and go to the stable, and as they stare at this little baby, mumbling about angels, and being woken up from a sound night sleep and praising God for finally sending the Chosen One, the Messiah.
So who was back with the sheep?
Would we dare to leave it all behind?
So here’s my question, knowing what they did, and why, would you leave your work if an angel showed up and told you Jesus was here?
Not some ceramic doll, but if Jesus was truly here, would you leave your Christmas gifts behind, you plan for lunch or dinner? Would you drop all the other “stuff” in your life, would you forget your plans, would you be that irresponsible?
We need to be
If you wouldn’t, or If you say you would do it later, in a day or two, then I have failed our calling. I need to make sure you understand what it means for Jesus to be in your life, for Him to dwell with you!
Enough that everything and everyone else in your life takes second place.
Not just because He forgives your sins, but the real reason, our fellowship with the God who loves us, the God who came to dwell among us, and whom we will dwell with for all of eternity.
That is why He came, and laid there, for shepherds to see, and praise God to all who would listen. That’s what Mary pondered, that this little one she carried would save, not just all of Israel, but people that will be gathered from every language and tribe and tongue.
The one named Yahweh Save, and who is Called God with Us!
This Baby Jesus, who you came to celebrate today, and receive in the sacrament. He is not just the reason for the season, but the reason for your life. A life He longs to share with you, the good, the bad, the sinful, the holy, all of it. He longs to be yours, and you to be His.
So as the shepherds left everything to find that which mattered most, I pray you see Him revealed to you in this message, and in the sacrament, and because of that, in every moment of this day and week.
Knowing you are His, may the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.. AMEN!
As Much As
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ help you know this.
YOU ARE LOVED BY GOD!
Intro – They Don’t Know His Mind toward them.
In Luther’s Large Catechism, there is this sobering thought:
66 These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and distinguish us Christians from all other people on earth. All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Kathos Key
It is a sobering thought, and yet has to do with the gospel reading this morning. For what the heathens, Turks, Jews and false Christians need to know is what Jesus reveals in today’s gospel reading, the words that give the context to the title, “as much as”.
May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me
God the Father loves you, as much as He loves Jesus!
As much as, to the very same degree, to an equal measure…
God loves you, just as much as He loves Jesus.
“As much as.”
And this is revealed when we see how much we love, how much we are devoted to, how much we care for one another.
This is the very glory that Jesus shares with us, that we are loved, and it is proven in the unity we have with each other. A unity that is often not spoken, but it is so…evident.
and proves the love that God has for us.
When you looked at the apostles, it is truly a miracle that they were of one mind and one heart. There were men that were enemies, such as Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax collector. Seriously, both the lesser Simon and Judas from Iscarioth were rebels, they lived and trained to kill those who work with the Romans. No one worked closer than the tax collectors, who grew rich off the people.
Or what about the “sons of thunder”, do you really think they got that nickname because they were so gentle and kind towards each other?
Yet, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they become one in mission and one in heart and mind. The fisherman and the scholar, the enemies, the brothers, and even Peter. Sounds a lot like us, if it wasn’t for the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us.
When we are so desperate, so overwhelmed we listen to God, and hear how he loves us, that love causes what divides us to drift away. It doesn’t matter how much hatred we had toward others, how much sin was in our lives, how depraved and evil someone is, when the love of God cuts through to their heart, that love changes everything.
That is how incredible it is that God the Father loves us as much as He loves Jesus.
As God reveals this love, as Christ hangs on the cross, as He is in the grave, as His rises. The Spirit reveals it to us, as our hearts are cut open, and all that which is broken begins to heal as we are untied to Christ in our baptism, and here at the altar, as we receive His body and blood.
Impact – so that’s!
We see it at work, as we don’t want to stop until we have past God’s peace to every person in the church. We see it as we kneel at the altar together. I dare say it would be more than awkward to commune next to someone we are pissed off at! But somehow, as our sins are forgiven together, there is healing of our relationships.
And the world, seeing this, realizes that Christ came for them all.
For such unity is not natural.
It is Godly though – and people will praise God because of what they see Him doing in us. And that is a witness to the world, just as Jesus prayed it would be.
God has made us one, as He loves us as much as He loves Jesus…..and we will be with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for eternity.
And so, along with knowing Jesus asked the Father for this kind of peace, I end with one of the prayers and the words that follow of St Paul,
5 May the God who inspires men to endure, and gives them a Father’s care, give you a mind united towards one another because of your common loyalty to Jesus Christ. And then, as one man, you will sing from the heart the praises of God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN!
So open your hearts to one another as Christ has opened his heart to you, and God will be glorified.
Romans 15:5 (Phillips NT)
Concordia’s Service on Sunday May 12, 2019
More Blessed to Give than Receive!
† In Jesus
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so transform your life, that you just don’t know it is better to give than receive, but that you give yourself completely…
If there is a day that I don’t have to look far for a sermon illustration, today’s sermon passage from Acts 20 is it. Here is the primary verse for the passage…
“It is more blessed to give than to receive”
and then think
Hmmm… could there be a connection there? You know, those ladies who have given so much, and whom most of us have benefited from,
Most of us struggle to really understand this passage but if there is a group of people who do, it would be moms! Been watching a lot of pics on FB this week, of friends whose kids are graduating college. The largest and perhaps the quietest, proud smiles are on the faces of the moms. Heck, half the time, they are the ones taking the picture! The same for my cousins, putting up pictures of their sons and daughters at recitals or ball games! I think they find more joy at the moment than their children do, and the sacrifices, well are forgotten.
Mom’s give a lot, and some of them, when their children succeed, or simply have learned that lesson that was so hard to teach them, find their reward, and know the sacrifice was worth it.
So they have a small grasp on what it means when Paul mentions Jesus’ teaching on “it is more blessed to give than receive.”
And yet, there is more to it, as we shall see.
The struggle and the answer
The challenge of understanding these simple words is that most of us don’t recognize when someone is sacrificing something in order to help us. We didn’t see our mom’s at the end of a long day, cleaning the house, or doing the laundry.
We don’t understand why they would work so hard, or our fathers would work so hard, until we faced the same thing, until we wanted something for our children, for those we care for… then sacrifice became the norm, often without even thinking.
Yet prior to that, we assumed that was our mom’s role. That is what parents do, they are supposed to wrap their lives around us kids. They are, along with our grandparents, supposed to spoil us rotten.
And when they disciplined us, we never understood the phrase, “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you….”
But it did….
Well, I think it did!
But we have to encounter the need to sacrifice out of love, we have to have it happen naturally before we understand it… or at least experience it. It has to get by that part of us that wants to get, get! Get!!
That part of us that is sure what we want is best, that we know what is right, and that throws a tantrum. What? You don’t think adults throw tantrums?
We are quite good at it!
Look at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or listen to conversations at Starbucks or a bar if you don’t believe me!
Remember, we are called to love. Love our moms, our spouses, our families, our friends, neighbors and enemies…
That means we can grow in this blessing of giving more than we receive.
Let me give you an example.
Susan, last year when Ethan one of your preschool students ask you to be his sponsor when he got baptized.
Did you think about how much you and your teachers invested in Ethan? Of the time you taught him about Jesus, or held his hand on the way to chapel? Or were you just in awe of being asked?
That is what it means, that it is better, it is more of a blessing to give than receive!
Context! Context! Context!
And that brings us back to the context of our passage.
You see, Paul isn’t talking about being a mom to the leaders of the church in Ephesus. He’s talking about shepherding them, about their need to shepherd the people God entrusts to them…. About our sharing Christ’s love, no matter the cost, with the people God brings us into contact with.
He says this,
24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
Ultimately, that is our job, to help all of “our” kids know that God isn’t going to “get them” when they screw up, but that He wants to fix what they’ve broken. A relationship, a level of trust, their own internal life.
Because that is what the cross was about, the ultimate lesson in the idea that it is more blessed to give than receive.
For we received the forgives of sin, and the promise of everlasting life, the ability to know that God will be there for us, with us.
And Jesus gave His life so that God the Father would gain a family of saints. Including all that depend on Him.
For that is what faith is, realizing how much God has promised, and depending on Him to provide it. The forgiveness of all sin, the promise of eternal life, and the promise of His walking with us now.. even as we learn to give the gift of salvation to others.
This is what Paul wanted to give everyone the knowledge of, and as he did, as Susan did, as I have done, we realize what it means that it is more blessed to give than receive.
As we do we realize, as we see it over and over become real to others, that it is in giving that we realize how precious the peace of God is that He draws us into, a peace that goes beyond all understanding, even as, like a mother hen, He protects our hearts and minds in that peace. AMEN!
Faith in Action:
† I.H.S. †
May the grace, the mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, that you find yourself dwelling, content in His presence! AMEN!
1.6 Billion dollars…. For what?
On Friday, I stopped by the local 7-11.
The parking lot was full, there were three clerks working instead of the usual one. There were people in line, and another line over in the corner, waiting for little pieces of paper to make little marks that they would put their hope in…
Seriously, putting all your hope in some little marks on a piece of paper.
And they will do it again this week, looking for a change in life because of that piece of paper, those little marks. Enough people doing so that the Lottery can easily put less than half the money back, and still raise the prize some 600 million dollars.
Some people buy those tickets out of curiosity, others buy them in despair and desperation. There was one guy, running through the “have you won scanner” what looked like 50 such pieces of paper.
I wonder how many of them realize what Solomon said some 3000 years ago,
10 Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!
We aren’t going to find contentment in things, we can only find contentment in something we have more than enough of…. But how do we realize it?
The Idol of Wealth
Solomon talked of reasons why wealth doesn’t breed contentment. The reasons it doesn’t bring happiness, why it doesn’t provide a beautiful life. I mean these reasons aren’t rocket science,
- You can never have enough. (Solomon would know!)
- The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it.
- You can watch it slip through your fingers
- Investments can sour, and the money is lost
- We eventually end up the way we started, ashes to ashes, dust to dust
- You can’t take your riches with you
- You don’t make a lasting impact on the world.
And yet, we will, as a country spend 3 or 4 billion dollars on the lottery. And we still won’t find contentment, even the one who wins.
Or we will struggle and put ourselves into debt, trying to get the right college education, or the right career options, playing all the games and work our fingers to the bone, trying to get ahead.
And we won’t find contentment.
But that won’t stop us chasing wealth, riches, fame, and all its accouterments. For we make these things our idols, we put our hope in them, thinking that if only we get the right numbers for the lottery, the perfect job, or health plan, the perfect home or spouse and family, everything will be okay, and we can finally be content.
But idols can’t buy happiness, even if we could gain them all. But Solomon, the richest, wisest man of his day, tells us we can never get enough. Our hunger will never be removed, the idols will just hold out their empty promise… and we will line up to give them what we’ve worked so hard for in life
it’s like chasing the wind. Except that we do it all too often.
There is an option, there is a gift that God gives us, the result of the gift is seen in verse 19,
To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God.
He says it there, whether you are the CEO or the janitor, there are people who find contentment in their work and their life because they realize it is a gift of God.
That’s hard for us to understand, hard for us to deal with at times. Doesn’t God realize what He’s putting us through? Doesn’t he realize the pain, the grief, the anxiety that comes with our lot in life, this place He’s put us in? Doesn’t He know our struggles?
Yeah, he does, and that is why Solomon says finding contentment is a gift.
A supernatural gift, and ability that isn’t natural to us, but divine grace that is poured over us, allowing us to find the beauty in our lives, to find that elusive contentment.
A contentment that comes as we have faith in Him, as we grow in our trust and dependence on Him. As we go to him with our failures and sins, as we abandon the idols that cannot bring us contentment, and we hear Him, welcoming us into His presence.
That is what the cross and the resurrection is all about, to free us to live in the presence of God, a presence where all our troubles are taken from us, as God promises us life everlasting in His presence. For there, in the presence of God, we find how incredibly He loves us, a love we are told every week this year that we can’t understand, but that we can experience, and we do.
Contentment, true happiness, or having what in Hebrew can be translated best as “the beautiful life” comes not what we have in terms or worldly value. It comes from finding out we are loved, loved beyond measure. Loved even when we failed to love in return, as God picks us off the ground, saving us to Himself.
And knowing we are loved changes everything, adding color to a gray landscape caught in the darkness before dawn. Bringing life that is gloriously eternal to a life that was once going to end with nothing.
And with our eyes on Him, on the Lord who loves us, we come to know that life Is incredibly beautiful, a life in which we find contentment, a life in which we dwell in the incredible peace of God…..
And so I end with the prayer of blessing we began with….
May the grace, the mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, that you find yourself dwelling, content in His presence! AMEN!
A sermon from Concordia
Washed by Water with the Word:
Being placed in Christ’s care
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ result in your loving God, loving others, and letting yourself be loved by others.
Distracted by the object Lesson
I want you to look back at the epistle reading this morning.
I added the first verse, what is verse 21 of the chapter, to what the traditional reading is for today. I think it is necessary, as it sets the tone not just for what we have in today’s reading, but the relationships described in the next chapter. There the relationship between parents and children, and bosses and those who work for them are described in the same manner as the relationship between husband and wife in today’s reading.
I want us to read it together,
“And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
There is the key to every relationship you will ever be in, caring for one another to the extent that we care for them, and are cared for by them.
It’s quite a challenge!
Especially if you leave that verse out, and start the reading with, “For wives, this means submit to your husband as to the LORD!”
Without verse 21, the moment I read verse 22 I lose everyone. All the guys would remember is that I said women should submit, and nothing else. (And the stupid ones can’t wait to tell their wives what pastor said!) I lost the women because they are all thinking, “Oh my gosh, that is all my husband will have heard!” And both would spend the rest of the service thinking about that!
Okay, that’s a big generalization. Not all of you would be distracted and stop listening.
When we drop verse 21 is that we omit the reason we do these things.
Which is because first of all, we adore Christ, and how He has submitted in order to care for us. And until we are in awe of that, the rest of this stuff is meaningless.
But once we adore Him, as we realize what He has done for us. As we realize how He has loved us and calls us to love as we are loved.
Let’s look at how Christ submitted, which is described at the end of verse 25,
He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.
What a concept. Submission as seen in doing what the other person needs, what the person needs in their lives. In this case, in our case, what Christ did was give up His life for us, that we could become holy and clean!
I have mentioned before what holiness Is, and what it isn’t. It isn’t perfection or being nicer and sinning less than other people. Though those who live holy lives as a side effect may indeed sin less, that is a side effect.
Holiness is best described as being set apart for a very specific purpose. Everything has its place and purpose in life and using something for something other than what it is intended for, well, that causes things to break, and be shattered. For example, I can’t use Missy’s guitar to stand on to change a lightbulb or use Kay’s violin for swatting a fly, could I?
How it affects us…
In the same way, we’ve been created, and in Christ, recreated for one specific purpose. To be in a special relationship with God, as we are created and recreated to be His people, and He is the God who loves us.
That is why the cleansing is needed, to ready us for the day when we stand before God, free of all guilt and shame, free of all things that stop us from being His glorious people.
Christ submits to cause this in us, as we are washed by the water and the word. As we are baptized, united to His death and His Resurrection as both Romans 6 and Colossians 2 describes.
That is why Jesus was born, and why He lived, teaching and healing, and died and rose again, so that we would be freed from all the problems that sin causes, free to be in that relationship just soaking in the love of God as we share in His glory (Col. 1:26-28)
This is what it is all about, assuring us of the work of Christ in our lives. Linking people to Christ’s death and resurrection as He promised when we are born again in baptism.
And our response…
As He washes us in water and the word, changing our lives so completely that we begin to live as He did, more concerned about those we love and are called to love than we are concerned for ourselves.
This submission in reverence to Christ becomes our new nature, our new life. Often in ways, we don’t see, it just happens.
As we walk with Jesus, as we see His love and are united to Him, as we become one with Him.
This is who we are, the people of God, who reflect the glory of His peace into this broken world.
So my friends, remain in Him, experience His love, and dwell in His peace which goes beyond all understanding, as He keeps our hearts and minds in Him! AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the day:
5 For you can have 10,000 instructors in Christ, but you can’t have many fathers. For I became your father r in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 This is why I have sent Timothy to you. He is my dearly loved and faithful t son in the Lord. He will remind you about my ways in Christ Jesus, just as I teach everywhere in every church. 1 Cor. 4:15-17 HCSB
How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus, how much tenderness is in there!
Brothers and sisters let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God!
But what is it to pray that his name may become holy? Is it not already holy? Answer: Yes, in itself it is holy, but not our use of it. God’s name was given to us when we became Christians at Baptism, and so we are called children of God and enjoy the sacraments, through which he so incorporates us with himself that all that is God’s must serve for our use.
As I was working through my readings this morning, the first, the reading from Paul’s letter to a church he loved (and struggled to love) kept coming back to mind. And then as I read Pope Francis, and Pastor Martin Luther’s words, I saw great examples of what Paul was teaching.
Anyone can deliver a lesson, a sermon that is exegetical and explains the Bible passage more completely than someone can see at first glance. To be honest, you don’t even need a good preacher to do so, for we have 2,000 years of commentators like John Chrysostom, Augustine, Luther, Lenski, Matthew Henry and William Barclay who will do that for you.
Someone whose primary goal is preaching can do the studies, or borrow them from someone else, and lecture you, mailing you on what you did wrong, showing you how you must behave, and reminding you of who God is, helping you explore the incredible knowledge we have in scripture. They are instructors, and we need that kind of information.
But a sermon, a real sermon, is something a pastor crafts and delivers. It is a pastor, someone who acts as a spiritual father. Someone who has learned from their errors, and cares enough to help you when you are in error, guiding you back to the way that is “in Christ”.
The pastor brings you to see God in all His glory, the glory that comes from our love and our mercy. He wants you to experience the healing that happens when seeing Christ, you respond to His love being poured out upon you. When you realize as Luther said, that God through His word and sacraments, just doesn’t teach you, but see you incorporated into Christ that our thoughts turn to Him, depending on Him to care for us.
A pastor shepherds you to the place where you realize what a treasure it is to know God as your Father, when you realize the difference that makes in your daily life, no matter how challenged, no matter how boring, no matter how broken.
you see this in the words of Pope Francis, and Fr. Martin Luther. You see them not just wanting to impart knowledge of God, but helping people experience the love.
Imagine a boy learning to teach. The instructor tells him all about the bait, all about the rods and reels, all about the way to study the river or the lake. The pastor father takes the young man fishing, watching him learn, urging him to be patient, applauding him when he catches something, consoling him when the big one gets away. This is the father-pastor at work, and that care needs to occur in the midst of the sermon, in the midst of the worship service. Helping people “catch” God, who is never far away….reading to be caught, ready to be devoured, ready to be incorporated i our lives, as we are incorporated in His.
This is a pastor’s calling… to help people experience the love of Christ, even though it is too great ot understand fully (see Ephesians 3:19) while being made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 216). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 425). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press
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!