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The Greatest Thing a Pastor/Priest can do! (for you!)


A Devotional Thought for the day:

Sunrise at Concordia

Sunrise on the day of our combinsed service at Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos Ca (also home to Passion International Christian Church!)

Foolish people don’t care if they sin, but good people want to be forgiven. Proverbs 14:9

486         That big young man wrote to me saying: “My ideal is so great that only the sea could contain it.” I answered: “And what about the Tabernacle, which is so ‘small’; and the ‘common’ workshop of Nazareth?” It is in the greatness of ordinary things that He awaits us!

When a pastor is ordained, or perhaps is installed in a new church, we often make grandiose plans, and have visions of the church growing, and becoming stronger,  We (and our people – that’s why they called us) envision our churches overflowing with people, with ministries that meet the need of every demographic in our community, and even impact the world through the missions we support.

What is often overlooked is the simple things, the things that are needed, the common work of a pastor or priest.  The sacramental things that make the greatest difference in a person’s life.  Not a great difference, the greatest difference, even though we may also need to teach them about it along the way.

THis great work? This simple thing that will radically change their lives?  For a Lutheran pastor, it is these words,

“Let it be done for you as you believe! In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus, I forgive you all your sins!  In the Name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN!”

For a Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican priest the words are different.  The Baptist or Evangelical pastor may simply say, “you’re forgiven”, without backing it up with the formal language.  These words of forgiveness are heard in church service during a baptism, or as we celebrate the Lord’s supper in confessionals, in the pastor’s office or out having coffee. They are said at the bedside of someone who is dying, and while counseling the prisoner in a jail.

It is the simple work of ministry, something we need to hear, something we know we need to hear. Ordinary perhaps, but as those words are heard, as they are understood in our heart, soul, and mind, shame and guilt are swept away as the sin is removed.  We are reminded of God’s love for us, and the relationship Christ’ death on the cross secured and guaranteed for us.  We might even find the strength and hope needed ot ask forgiveness from that relative we hurt or the friend we accidentally betrayed. 

Most pastors and priests will never preach to thousands at once.  Most of us won’t baptize a hundred in a day.  We would love to see that of course, but the best thing we can do is found in what we can do for you…. to tell you of a God who loves you so much that He would forgive you of all your sin, and has.  Who would do so in such a way that you would learn to run for forgiveness, that you would desire it, that you would rejoice when you hear it.

This is ministry, real ministry, a ministry which heals and restores and leaves you full of joy and peace.

So come talk to us, hear the words you need to hear, “you are forgiven of all your sins, (and yes – that one as well!)

See you soon!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2126-2129). Scepter Publishers. 

Why Do We Play Hide, and Not Seek?


ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought fo the Day:

16  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16 (NLT)

323         Anyone who hides a temptation from his director shares a secret with the devil. He has become a friend of the enemy.

3 With regard to the time, it is certain that most people in our churches use the sacraments, absolution and the Lord’s Supper, many times a year. Our clergy instruct the people about the worth and fruits of the sacraments in such a way as to invite them to use the sacraments often. On this subject our theologians have written many things which our opponents, if they are but honest, will undoubtedly approve and praise.

There is no hope, no chance to correct the wrongs, no chance to fix that was broken, the person thought.  So they had one of two easy solutions,  Ignore the problem, or run and hide from it. either way, the damage increases, and the help needed to overcome the problem is ignored.

If this was a medical issue, (and yes people ignore and hide from them) most of us would come alongside the person and urge, even beg them to seek help.  If it was an addiction, we might risk their anger and do the same.   But how many of us are going to take such an action on something that is far more critical, the spiritual health of our friends and family?  How many of us would even think to suggest absolution, the ministry, and sacrament of reconciliation, if someone was sharing their battle with guilt and shame?

St. Josemaria’s words are harsh, that when we hide our sins, when we don’t confess them, when we don’t ask for help in dealing with them, we effectively align with Satan, and we accept the bondage of guilt and shame which will paralyze and haunt us. 

That’s pretty serious, and after 20 years of ministry, and seeing the problems that unresolved guilt and shame brought upon people, upon their family and friends, I concur. All we do when we ignore sin, or when we isolate ourselves from others because of it is fall, to trust in Satan’s deception. 

Confession and absolution, the hearing that God does forgive us because of Jesus’ work on the cross, that free us from that bondage, it starts the healing of brokenness that would otherwise crush us. It is liberating, it brings about both incredible joy and incredible peace. 

It’s time to stop ignoring our sin, or hiding from others as the sin and guilt tear our souls apart.  

God loves you and wants you to know, He desires to cleanse you of it all, to restore your soul, to mend the broken hearts.  He wants us to encourage each other to know this, to hear it from those entrusted to speak on His behalf.

Come, know the peace of God, and rejoice in the freedom Christ’s blood bought you!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1526-1527). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.  

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Is God Hiding from You? Or You from Him? The Game is Over, and there is Peace!


Devotional Thought of the Day:
3  When I did not confess my sins, I was worn out from crying all day long. 4  Day and night you punished me, LORD; my strength was completely drained, as moisture is dried up by the summer heat. 5  Then I confessed my sins to you; I did not conceal my wrongdoings. I decided to confess them to you, and you forgave all my sins. Psalm 32:3-5 (TEV)

175         You are consumed by the desire to seal once more the self-dedication you made some time ago: remembering that you are a son of God and living like one too. Put your many weaknesses and infidelities in the Lord’s hands. For that is also the only way to lessen their weight.

In Paul’s teaching about the Lord’s Supper in  Corinthians 11, he mentions the need for self-examination.  To ake some time and think through our lives. to think about our sins, to realize the great need we have for God’s mercy and abundant love.

Most of us want to please God, we want to avoid sin and temptation, we want to do better.  We understand all too well though the battle that rages on in our hearts and souls which the apostle Paul describes clearly in Romans 7 and then again in Hebrews 12.  In the latter, he begs us to leave it all behind, this sin which so easily traps us.

Yet many of us are bothered by this idea of self-examination.  We don’t want to see what we know is there, the resentment, the hatred, the lust, the greed and envy, the thirst for what benefits us, no matter what the cost.  We don’t like looking int he mirror, and if we are “made” to, we act like we can clean up our mess.  “Just give me another week, just be more patient, I will fix this,” we tell God.

We can’t, the burden will just get greater, the pressure more intense, the spiritual and emotional crushing pain will go on and it will either eat us up, or will cause us to become callous, and defensive.

With a little humility and some trust, this burden can be removed and in its place, we came know peace and joy, just as the Psalmist says.  We can give to God our weaknesses, our infidelities, placing them in His hands, knowing He will deal with them, forgiving them, cleansing us, answering our prayers to lead us not to temptation, and deliver us from the evil one.

Free of the snares, your heart will be far less burdened, your mind at ease, knowing that what you really desire, to please the God who loves and saves you, is possible.

But you say, how can I do this?  How can I take this step?

You aren’t alone in it, for the Shepherd of your soul, Jesus, has provided you and all the church those who can guide you through this, the pastors and priests who are tasked by God and the church with helping you with this, of hearing you confess, of counseling you through this, and then saying, on Jesus’s behalf (and by His command), “you are forgiven!”

Come, lay down your burdens, and lay down your pain.  Let God deal with your sin, and let the Holy Spirit set you apart as one who is the child of God.  Trust Him, He won’t turn you away, for this is what he wants for you.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 945-948). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Paradoxical Mystery of Confession


St Francis Catholic Church

Devotional Thought fo the Day:

14 Since the children, as he calls them, are people of flesh and blood, Jesus himself became like them and shared their human nature. He did this so that through his death he might destroy the Devil, who has the power over death, 15and in this way set free those who were slaves all their lives because of their fear of death. 16For it is clear that it is not the angels that he helps. Instead, he helps the descendants of Abraham. 17This means that he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order to be their faithful and merciful High Priest in his service to God, so that the people’s sins would be forgiven. 18And now he can help those who are tempted, because he himself was tempted and suffered.  Heb 2:14-18 TEV

261      God is with you. The Blessed Trinity dwells in your soul in grace. That is why, in spite of your wretchedness, you can and should keep up a continuous conversation with the Lord.

Growing up Catholic, the thing you learned to fear was that once a week meeting with your priest.  For us at St. Francis Elementary School, the parish priest would come to the school, and though he never made eye contact with you, his presence intimidated you.

You were afraid to mention your sins, and logically, I do not know why.

He wasn’t a mean.
He wasn’t known for asking outrageous acts of Penance, (the usual was 5 Our Fathers, 10 Hail Mary’s and 2 acts of contrition – you could say that much on your way back to class)

But there was something intimidating about confessing to another person, even to a man God put in place to remind you that you were forgiven because of Christ’s death on the cross!

Now some forty years later, and being a Lutheran pastor who absolves people of sins, I realize there is no difference.  People are still intimidated, still anxious, people still struggle with guilt and shame.

Even though we know the solution is found in our merciful high Priest Jesus, we shy away from Him, we put up our defenses, we deny we have done wrong. We try to hide our wretchedness, the wretchedness that eats us alive, that causes our souls to wither, our hearts to break.

We need to learn to trust, to depend on this God who came to us, to be like us, to free us from that sin, that shame, that oppression.  We need to let Him help us, to speak through those He’s called and ordained to do this very work.

We need to hear, “you are forgiven”

There is the paradox, the One we fear the most, the One we want to hide from the most, is the Lord who can do something to cut away our sin,,,to cleanse and purify us.

This is what we need, this is what we’ve been promised, this is what we should run to in hope, this time where God dwells in our heart with all His grace and love.

So don’t hesitate.  There are pastors and priests waiting, desiring to do their job, to tell you that which is the best news you will here today, or any day….

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1092-1094). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Great Escape That is our Faith


church at communion 2Devotional Thought of the Day:
13  Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.   1 Corinthians 10:13 (TEV)

As soon as you perceive that you are tempted, follow the example of children; when they see a wolf or a bear, they at once run to the arms of their father or mother, or at least they call out to them for help. It is the remedy which our Lord taught, when He said; “Pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Matt. 26:41). If you find, notwithstanding this, that the temptation still continues, or even increases, run in spirit to embrace the holy cross, as if you saw Jesus Christ crucified before you. Protest that you will never consent to the temptation, crave his help against it, and continue still to refuse your consent, as long as the temptation continues.
But in making these protestations and in refusing to consent, look not upon the temptation, but only on our Lord; for if you look upon the temptation, especially whilst it is strong, it may shake your courage. Divert your thoughts to some good and pious reflections, for good thoughts, when they occupy your heart, will chase away every evil temptation and suggestion.  (1)

 And this understanding is necessary for the church, so that it may know that God is daily at work in His world and embracing with His fatherly care especially those to whom He has given His Word, and He is defending them, watching over them, nourishing and freeing them from all dangers and troubles, and is unwilling to do anything which would take away anything good from those who seek the Lord, Ps. 34:10

Often times I hear the Bible passage above quoted in regards to the problems of life, that God doesn’t give us challenges that we can’t handle.  As if God wants us to take on the challenges using our own wisdom, our own strength of character, our own power.

But that is not what the passage is about, if we look at the verses that come before and after the passage.  It is a transition sentence, moving us from the sin of those in the Sinai with Moses, who grumbled and overlooked the care of God, and a powerful section about the communion we have with God, as we take and eat His Body, as we Drink His Blood that was shed.

It is the escape God provides, the way past temptation and sin that comes as we trust, as we depend on God to provide for us.  That is our way out, carried in the palm of His hands, carried through death and the cross, through the resurrection and life in the glory of God.

Depending on the truth we hear Martin Chemnitz states so well, that God is at work, and won’t take away anything good from those who look to Him.  It is what St Francis de Sales states as well, that our hope is found as we run to and embrace the cross, looking not at the temptation, but focusing on Jesus, on HIs presence, on HIs love, on HIs mercy.

This is our great escape – through Christ, from darkness to light, from guilt and shame into the very glory of God, from brokenness to being healed and life abundant in Christ. TO have the mindset of Christ, to focus in on the love of God our Father, to explore that love, as the Apostle Paul tells the church to, this is our safe place, our sanctuary, our refuge.

That is why the Kyrie Eleison (Lord Have Mercy! ) is such a powerful prayer, for it directs our hope to Christ, where it finds the proof that sustains it.

We must go back, and see where Paul finds that escape, in the communion of people and God.  In the sharing of the Eucharistic (the Blessing) Cup, in the Body of Christ which we share.  In that sacramental meal, we find ourselves so in the presence of God. This sacrament, this time of being with God, is so precious, so needed!

This is Christianity, our religious dependence and trust in God, the path of walking with Christ, being the place where the Spirit dwells, where the people of God are lifted up.

So look to Jesus my friends, and find the escape we all need. AMEN!

(1)  Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.

Recovering from, “Lord, I WILL NEVER….”


54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

33 Peter spoke up and said to Jesus, “I will never leave you, even though all the rest do!” 34 Jesus said to Peter, “I tell you that before the cock crows tonight, you will say three times that you do not know me.” 35 Peter answered, “I will never say that, even if I have to die with you!” ……75  and Peter remembered what Jesus had told him: “Before the cock crows, you will say three times that you do not know me.” He went out and wept bitterly…  Matt 26:33-35 & 75d  TEV

Confound yourself: But, alas! my Creator, instead of uniting myself to Thee by love and service, I have become rebellious by my inordinate affections, wandering and straying from Thee, to unite myself to sin: valuing thy goodness no more than if Thou hadst not been my Creator.
4. Prostrate yourself before God: O my soul, know that the Lord is thy God: it is He that has made thee, and not thou thyself. O God, I am the work of thy hand.

I saw a meme this morning that said the best celebrations of Christmas are preceded by powerful tears of advent.

I think the thought is correct, if only needing to be unpacked a little, to help us explain, to help us grieve, to help us weep, to help us heal.

As we hear Peter’s strong words at the Last Supper, I hear them with my voice.  I hear me telling the Lord how I will not fail Him, how I will gladly even face death if that is what it takes.  Yet I find it harder to face life, to hear those crows as I fail, over and over again.

I won’t commit that sin again, I won’t fail to love, I won’t fail… and I do.

You do as well.

We do as de Sales indicates, we fail to see ourselves united to God, we fail to love Him with all we are, and we unite ourselves to sin.  We wander about, trying to satisfy our passionate desire, trying to convince ourselves that we are actually good enough, strong enough, holier than the next person, which should be enough.

We need to hear that rooster, we need to remember Jesus words, we need to remember we are the created, not the Creator.

For then, we prodigals can rush home, for we realize there is no other hope, and that all we desire, is found in the Lord who proved His faithfulness to us; even as we see the proof in the nail holes in His hands, and the gaping wide wound that reveals His heart.

So realize you will cry, you will fail, you will sin, and He will absolve, and forgive, and heal.

(and you might find such love will sustain you through the next temptation…)

Cry out, through those tears, and with confidence in His fidelity, “Lord, have mercy in me, a sinner…”  Then let Him draw you into His glory, where you will find healing and peace…

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

The Christian and the Problem of Sin…and Hope


Discussion thought of the Day:

15  I do not understand what I do; for I don’t do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate. 16  Since what I do is what I don’t want to do, this shows that I agree that the Law is right. 17  So I am not really the one who does this thing; rather it is the sin that lives in me. 18  I know that good does not live in me—that is, in my human nature. For even though the desire to do good is in me, I am not able to do it. 19  I don’t do the good I want to do; instead, I do the evil that I do not want to do. 20  If I do what I don’t want to do, this means that I am no longer the one who does it; instead, it is the sin that lives in me.
Romans 7:15-20 (TEV)

11  In union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by human beings, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consists of being freed from the power of this sinful self. 12  For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13  You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins;
Colossians 2:11-13 (TEV)

7  But if we live in the light—just as he is in the light—then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin. 8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. 9  But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. 10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make a liar out of God, and his word is not in us.
1 John 1:7-10 (TEV)

The problem of sin is one that has stalked mankind since the beginning.  

We may try to hide it, sure that people won’t see through our careful concealment, our spiritual camouflage.  We may deny it, or let it rip our souls to shreds. It is there, lurking, stalking us.

As pastors, we see its effect in our people, as they struggle with every aspect of life, from work to marriage to raising their children. I’ve watched it nearly destroy a church, and I know it has destroyed churches and even denominations. We’ve watched it destroy our brothers in ministry, and yes, we know its dark powers all too well.

Yes, sin is a problem in the church, and being a real church means we try to deal with it. We can’t really hide it, denying it and the bondage it puts people in is.. well asinine in that we are committing people to hell on earth, and hell eternal.  We cannot camouflage it and hope it blends into the background. For in all of those options we see the warning of John, indicating that we make God a liar. 

So how does a Christian, whom we teach has been cleansed of sin in baptism (see Ezekiel 36:25ff, Titus 3:2-8, 1 Peter 3, Romans 6 and Colossians 2) struggle with the fact that they still sin? How do we find comfort knowing t  How do we find comfort in the wrongdoing that has been done to us as well, that we will fall prey to Satan and commit a sin, or two, or twenty?  For sin and unrighteousness paralyzes us, it inhibits our faith, especially when Satan tries to convince us the pain is real.

Note:  When talking about sin and wrongdoing, it is important to note that the sin is our wrongdoing, and the wrongdoing John mentions is the wrongdoing, the sin done to us.  When we are declared righteous, when we are purified – both are dealt with.  Yet there is a struggle.  For we don’t always see this done and we live with the pain of sin.

In talking this over with a  friend, and thinking through the passages above, and of note the underlined sections, I came up with an analogy. 

I had a friend who lost a leg, and he often talked of (he never complained) of phantom feelings in his missing limb.  Sometimes it felt like it was asleep, or it itched, or it even caused him great pain as it felt like it was cramping.   The feelings were not “imagined”, they were documentable and real. Sensory nerves were firing, motor nerves were wanting to direct movement.  The brain registered it all.

The symptoms were real, the effects on the body were real, the source?  It wasn’t real. It was cut off completely, removed, and thoroughly as something is removed in a circumcision.  This paradox defies explanation. 

Spiritually, the paradox is much the same.  It may seem like sin controls us, the actions, the results appear much the same as they did before our “circumcision.”(  I love Ezekiel 36 on this – as the Spirit removes our stone dead heart and replaces it with one living, and home to the Spirit)  That sinful nature died on the cross – that is God’s promise.  Surely our sin was forgiven, and the sin of the world was stripped away from us, as if God somehow combined a brillo pad with ivory soap… and could scrub us, without damaging us.

So why does it still feel like we can’t stop sinning?  Why is there despair that is so deep, and so powerful that it could be labeled a black hole?

It’s that paradox again – the phantom power of sin, the illusions that the demonic can try to cast.  Yes we still sin, yes we still don’t do what we should and do what we shouldn’t.  Yes, there are days we feel like a wretch, and our ability to condemn ourselves will run high. Where we wonder if there is hope, if we will ever be righteous and holy and good.

It is then we have to realize the power of spiritual circumcision – that the sin we are battling is the cause of the sin. (this is NOT and should never be an excuse) The way to defeat it is to go and confess, and hear God has forgiven us, to hear that He has healed us. That He has purified us. That He has cut away this sin, and though we feel its effects, its pain, it itching… it isn’t us.

We live in Him. 

Dealing with the phantom pain then becomes realizing how real it is, and isn’t, and running to the one who confirms it isn’t, and letting His promise mean more than our struggle. To trust Him, to depend upon Him, to let Him support us, even as we walk through life, missing that which would have destroyed us, but for His action, His love.

This is our life… in Chirst.

Knowing He has had mercy, even as we cry out fo it!

God’s peace to you, forgiven child!

Do We Have to Talk about…SIN?


the devotional thought of the day:
12  I am surrounded by many troubles— too many to count! My sins have caught up with me, and I can no longer see; they are more than the hairs of my head, and I have lost my courage. 13  Save me, LORD! Help me now!
Psalm 40:12-13 (TEV)

993         In our meditation, the Passion of Christ comes out of its cold historical frame and stops being a pious consideration, presenting itself before our eyes, as terrible, brutal, savage, bloody… yet full of Love. And we feel that sin cannot be regarded as just a trivial error: to sin is to crucify the Son of God, to tear his hands and feet with hammer blows, and to make his heart break.

29 We eliminate from contrition those useless and endless discussions as to when we are sorry because we love God and when because we fear punishment. We say that contrition is the genuine terror of a conscience that feels God’s wrath against sin and is sorry that it has sinned. This contrition takes place when the Word of God denounces sin. For the sum of the proclamation of the Gospel is to denounce sin, to offer the forgiveness of sins and righteousness for Christ’s sake, to grant the Holy Spirit and eternal life, and to lead us as regenerated men to do good. (2)

There is in Christianity two “normal” responses to sin.  

The first is to diminish it, to justify it or simply ignore it.  We see this all the time in society, especially with sins of desire, that is lust, greed, unrighteous anger.   Oh, it’s normal we say.  Or, we’re just all sinners, you can’t judge those who sin differently than you.  Or, God made me this way, and I can’t help being unfaithful.  There is even a theological argument, that if we preach against our sin, we have to be mindful that we are capable of nothing else.

That’s all bullshit.  Dangerous because it denies the need for repentance, for transformation by indicating it is not necessary.  It even denies the need for guilt or shame and covers it up as it celebrates the evil we have done.

The second is to deny repentance because it is impossible.  Because their sin is so wicked, that we can only crush sinners, so their sin doesn’t affect us, or our children or our community.  We stand there, with stones in our hands, trying to ignore Jesus’ calling out to us, asking us to be repentant of our sin, as well as comforting those we are trying to crush.

Though it seems to be the opposite side of the crap, this response is just as full of cow dung as the other.

Sin damages, it crushes, it breaks and shatters life.  That is the reason God calls us out of a life of sin, out of a life of brokenness. And to deny that is to condemn ourselves to a life that is empty, alone, and dead.  We may try to dull the pain with more sin, more “pleasure”, more logic, more condescending judgment of others, but the sin remains, something more dangerous than cancer or heart disease or diabetes.  For those things destroy the body, but sin destroys the soul.

To deny the need or the possibility of repentance is perhaps the worst sin of all.  For then we have placed ourselves in the position of God.   We have become our own idol, and our brokenness is complete.

I love St Josemaria’s bluntness, echoing David’s.  We have to realize that sin requires a sacrifice, and that Christ died because of it.  Yes, that little white lie, or that juicy piece of gossip about that politician that we eagerly forward, that thought about someone else’s spouse or that jealousy.  You and I sent Jesus to the cross because we chose to sin.

That thought should terrify us as much as any….

A child psychologist once told me that the most effective punishment was not just punishing my son when he was bad, but punishing things and people he loves.   Putting his favorite stuffed animal on time out (or his computer) or both.  I didn’t believe him at first, but he was right.  Think about the Hymn “O sacred head now wounded,” that sin would have no power over us, except that it makes us realize the pain Christ endures for our sin.

And while it terrifies us to know what Christ endured because of our lack of love, because of our lack of self-control, in the very same act we find a love that heals, forgives, ends the brokenness and the anxiety of being found alone and without God.

That is why the quote in blue from the Lutheran confessions completes our thoughts.  For preaching the gospel is simple – we need Christ because we are sinners, He is there because He loves us and desires to help. And the gospel isn’t complete without the Holy Spirit at work, transforming us (A synonym for repentance) and guiding us to do good works.  These things, the call to repentance, the transformation that is repentance and the life of the repentant are indivisible.  It is God at work in us, with us, through us.

And it is what we need.

Which is why we have to, it is an absolute must, to talk about sin and the grace which overwhelms and heals the effect of that sin.

Cry out, Lord have mercy!  And know He does…

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 4014-4017). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 185–186). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Why Would God Blind Them as to who Jesus Was?


Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday(in order to make sense of the sermon, I have included the beginning of our service – the processional readings for Palm and Passion Sunday. THere is something about crying in one breath “Hossanna ! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” and in the next, “Crucify Him!”  That tension, that uncomfortable gut wrenching realization that we would have cried out as they did…. is something we should experience, and oddly enough, where we find God’s greatest glory revealed. DTP )

Invocation  

pastor:               “In the name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit!” Cogregation:       Amen!

Verses for Procession for Palm Sunday       Matthew 21:1–9 

pastor:                 “When they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, congregation:    Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” pastor :                      6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, congregation       “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

 Processional Hymn       All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name/Our God Reigns

pastor :                          (Later that Week) 21  So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd shouted back, congregation:     “Barabbas! pastor:late             Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, congregation:      “Crucify him!” pastor                           ““Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?” But the mob roared even louder, congregation:      “Crucify him!” pastor:                          Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” 25  And all the people yelled back, congregation       “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”

Confession and Absolution

(we then proceeded into a time of confession our sins, and hearing the incredible words, that because of Christ, they are forgiven….It it with that context that the following sermon is delviered)

Why Would God Blind their Eyes?

Because Jesus Christ Had to Die…For Us

John 12:20-43

T In Jesus Name T

May You Grow in Awareness of what is yours as you walk in Christ, the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father.  AMEN.

I don’t get it….

I usually love the mysteries of scripture, the things we call paradoxes. They are glorious, mystical things that cause our minds to eventually give up, and stand there, in awe of God’s wisdom and glory.

The mystery that is the Trinity, the paradox of Jesus being 100% God and yet 100% man.  The mystery that we will celebrate as we take and eat the Body of Christ, in and under the bread; and drink the blood of Christ in and under the wine.  I could go on and talk of how we are simultaneously sinners and yet righteous, or the mystery of our being Born Again, as God’s pours water over us, and replaces our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh….

There are other things, not quite to the level of these glorious mysteries, but still puzzling, and it takes a little to work them out.  Things in scripture that just don’t make sense at first glance.  We have to struggle with them, to understand how what it teaches makes sense, considering what we know about God.

Such is found in verse 40 of the gospel reading.  (Click)

40  “The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts— so that their eyes cannot see, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and have me heal them.” John 12:40 (NLT)

Does this sound like the action of the God we know, who loves us, and desires that none should perish, but that all would come to everlasting life?  That He would intentionally blind someone, that they couldn’t see His glory, that he would harden their hearts so that they couldn’t understand? Why would He stop them from turning to Him? Why wouldn’t He heal them?

Is this the God of love that we adore?  (Click) Or are we missing something?  Why would God blind their eyes?

The Mission:  Bring Glory to the Father’s Name

As the gospel reading opened, just prior to the Triumphal Entry, the Great procession into Jerusalem we see something that we need to understand.  Before Jesus enters Jerusalem, before the cries change from Hosanna to Crucify Him, Jesus will hear that the world has come, and has wanted to meet with Him.

A few Greeks have come to Jerusalem, and desire to meet jesus.

Think back to last week, when Caiaphas prophesied that it would be better for one Man to die, that the people of God would live.  John’s gospel said – it wasn’t just for one nation, but looking to the Old Testament prophecies, that people from every nation would be saved when One Man died. Then there is this, from the dedication of the temple…

41  “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42  for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43  then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. 1 Kings 8:41-43 (NLT)

That day has come, as men come from distant lands to pray, and they will soon know the glorious answer to their prayers – that God is listening.  The time when Christ is to die, though they don’t get that yet.  He points is out in places like verse 23-24  (click)

23  Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. 24  I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. John 12:23-24 (NLT)

In this, Jesus unites His glory to His death, the death where He is planted, but that very death provides a plentiful harvest and lives that are full of His love. That seems odd as well, for how is the death of a man, especially the torture and death that Jesus faced, something that would be glorious? Jesus will make the point again a moment later,  (click)

32  And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” John 12:32 (NLT)

That word “lifted” up, is more often used in the sense of our phrase – “putting up on a pedestal”.  To honor and cherish and praise the one lifted up, yet the crowd understood this meant he would be crucified? (click) Glorified or Crucified? (click) Or could it be both?  (click)

The Challenge – Would We Cry to Crucify Christ?

Could lifting up Christ refer to Christ being glorified, to the Father’s name being praised, and to the crucifixion of Jesus?

It does – and that is why God would blind the people of Israel, and harden their hearts. Because Jesus needed to die for them, for us. It is here where we find our answer to the original question:  (CLICK)

“Why would God Blind their eyes?” Because otherwise, as the other reading says, they wouldn’t crucify the Lord of Glory.

How many of you this morning, were comfortable saying the words the crowds cried on Good Friday? How many felt odd crying “Crucify Him!”? We struggle with the idea, and we weren’t even there in the courtyard.  How could we cry out crucify jesus?  The Son of God?

How many did felt a lump in their throat, or hesitated? How dare we call for His death, even to save us from our sins? 

I think that is what makes it hard – knowing that it was our sins that put Him there. How many of us, considering our sin, our failures, our shame and guilt, would even ask Jesus to pay for those sins?  Demand it?  Yell it til Pilate submits?

Yet that moment, when what the crowds’ two cries are fulfilled simultaneously, when the Messiah, the Son of David comes and saves us, as His is nailed to the cross, that moment as He says, It is finished; that moment is glorious.

It is the moment we are delivered, the moment we find ourselves freed from sin, from all unrighteousness, the moment our eyes are opened, our stone hearts are replaced with hearts of flesh.  That moment – when the crowds cries – Hosanna and Crucify Him are fulfilled… that moment is glorious.

As Christ dies, for us.

That’s the Moment the Father is Praised and Glorified for… Odd isn’t it?

If they weren’t blinded, if they hearts weren’t hardened, they wouldn’t have killed the Lord of Glory, They had already tried to make Him king, they wanted Him to free them, but they had no clue the kind of Kingdom He came to deliver.

I am not sure we get it all the time either…. It is too glorious, too incredible, more wonderful than anything we’ve ever seen, or heard, or even imagined

For It is at that moment, as we see Jesus, on the cross, beaten and brutalized that we realize the depth of God’s love for us, and we praise God, we glorify Him, we are in awe..

God loves us that much?

Yes, you and I.

That much!

Think about it for another moment…..

Imagine now crying out “crucify him,” understanding His love, His compassion, and His joy that drives Him to that cross……

to save you.

and me.

And the world.

May knowing the depth of Christ’s love for you, of the Father’s desire to make you His children, instill in you His peace, the peace of God which passes all understanding, and guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.

Getting Past Betrayal: Finding Healing for That Which You Broke.


Devotional Thought of the Day:

 6  We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. 7  For a dead person has been absolved from sin. 8  If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. Romans 6:6-8 (NAB)

6  knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin; 7  for he that hath died is justified from sin. 8  But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; Romans 6:6-8 (ASV) 

 18  For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. 19  In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, 20  who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. 21   This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22  who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him. 1 Peter 3:18-22 (NAB)

613 God has a special right over us, his children: it is the right to our response to his love, in spite of our failings. This inescapable truth puts us under an obligation which we cannot shirk. But it also gives us complete confidence: we are instruments in the hands of God, instruments that he relies on every day. That is why, every day, we struggle to serve him.  (1)

In my devotions today, I read of Peter’s denial of Jesus, and the grief that he dealt with, in realizing that he betrayed the promise that was made with all his heart, in realizing he betrayed Jesus. 

How do you go on, after betraying someone you depend upon, someone you care for, someone you told you would die for?  Do we just let the relationship fade into our past, even while we deal with the haunting guilt and the shame?

It maybe a family member you betrayed, or maybe an old friend, that person who you stood beside all those years.  Definitely, all of us have betrayed God, some perhaps as tragically as Peter did, the night before Christ’s crucifixion. At some point in most of our lives, we’ve cried those same tears as Peter.  We felt the pain and crushing anxiety of knowing that things will not be the same, ever again.  In order to deal with this, we find distractions, new relationships, new hobbies, we work more, even things that would numb us from our pain.

We need hope, even when we feel things have gone beyond any reasonable expectation of hope.

Peter found such hope, and restoration, a complete transformation.  Paul did as well.

Most translations in Romans 6:7 use the phrase “freed from sin” in translating dedikaiwtai apo tes amartias. I believe that this is a serious error, given the use of the root word’s ( dikaios ) multiple appearance in chapters 3-5. There it in its various forms is translated as righteious, made righteous, just or justified.  It is more than being freed, it is God’s judgment, saying that you have been counted not guilty, that He views you as righteous, a view that is possible because Christ took upon Himself our guilt.  This is more than just being freed from sin, it is declaring that sin has no claim on us, whatsoever.

The old ASV gets it right in saying we are declared justified, the NAB I think even makes it clearer with absolved from sin.  We are cleansed and declared righteous, just, because of what. God has done.

In both passages, this answer is our baptism. Baptism, not as our work, but the appeal to God because we’ve been unifed to Christ’s death and resurrection.  When we look at what God does, what He promises in baptism, we find the source of healing, of cleansing.  We’ve died with Christ and live in Him.  We have been absolved, counted righteous, cleansed, healed…

And it does something wonderful, it shapes us into God’s instruments, Our response to this work is to become God’s people, created to do good works, for we dwell in Christ.

How does Peter go from tears just before dawn on Good Friday, to the one who responds to others grief at their own betrayal of God?   How can Peter point them to Baptism, and the transformation of their souls?

Because of the confidence that dieing with Christ, and being raised with Him brings.  A confidence not in our ability to absolve us from sin, but His.

So rejoice in your baptism, may you grow in your knowledge of the extent of His love, mercy and healing given to you there.  

 

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