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Death, Grief, Sports, and the Company of Heaven

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Featured image2  This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. Titus 1:2 (NLT)

1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)

“with angels, and archangels, and all the company of heaven, we praise Your gloriously name”  (words of our liturgy, prior to singing the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy)

It was October 28th, 2004 about 8 o’clock in the morning. I was listening to Jim Rhome’s show on the radio, driving up Palms to Pines Highway, heading to a meeting at my church in Anza.  I had to call into the show, but even as I wanted to tell the story about my grandfather playing catch with me and telling me stories of the red sox greats…. I was overwhelmed, and missed my grandfather.  The grief was hard to bear… even now remembering the grief that flooded….

Friday, two of my friends  and I went to see the move Sniper.  Watching the PTSD build up in Chris Kyle made me think of my dad.  No movies were made about him, but he too saw things, did things, that would haunt him.

Sunday, after an incredible morning in church, my son and I watched our family’s favorite football team, the New England Patriots, come from behind to win a superbowl.  I put on facebook my feelings a few moments after, as I walked through the bedroom and saw the flag presented to me at my dad’s service.  How he would have loved the game.  How he would have loved watching my son throwing a ball back and forth with me during it.  Flashbacks to our driveway in New Hampshire, and my dad and playing catch.  More and more emotions… more and more grief….

Being raised in a Irish/Italian home, I tend to sentimentality.  Even more though, I was raised not to bury grief, but rather to embrace it.  As I say the words in blue above, as I look out over my congregation, faces comes to mind.  I can almost hear their voices as well, part of the great company of heaven.  Those we’ve lost for the moment, those we’ve said good by to over the years.  Guys like Dale, and Richard, my first vicar Clyde and his buddy Armando, Rich B, who helped me define a vision for my present church, and Warren, who helped that vision become reality.  Others who’ve placed great faith in me, like my wife’s grandmother, or Joseph, a dignified retired pastor from Guyana, who pastored “his pastor” with encouragement.  Or Harley, a man who proved I could be his friend as well as his pastor. And yes, my dad…

Grief upon grief, we face a lot of it in life.

Some is quite poignant, the bitterness of not being able to play catch anymore, or watch a game together, arguing about referees calls, or trying to break the record for the most consecutive throws and catches.  (football with my dad was 232 – don’t know why I remember – with my son yesterday… it was 33)

The experience as we get a sense of the great cloud of witnesses, the whole company of heaven is different.  Yeah, I wish I could commune my dad one more time, or either of my grandfathers just once.  Or have a service with all those guys mentioned above…..and yet I know there will be a communion, that lasts eternally, that lasts forever.  And this celebration here, is a small sense of the one there.

For all who believe in God, who trust Him for what He promises will be gathered together again.  We can have confidence in that, because it was promised, this plan of God that even preceded creation.  This promise is the joy that Christ focused upon, even as He was crucified by us, for us.

We will all share eternity with God, our Father, ou Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  I can’t tell you what that will look like, because it will beyond anything we’ve ever seen, heard, even thought of, but it will be with Him.

As we hear those words, grief becomes… blessed… it transforms into yearning, and hope.  Not just to see them again, but to be together in the incredible presence of God. He’s promised it, this family gathering that will be forever.  We take that hope into the world, an share it with those who need it as much as we do.   we share it with those who know it, as we celebrate it together, and with those who do not…as we minister to them, where ever we encounter them in life.

even as we play catch with them…. or watch a game with them… or argue about which team is the best in history….

God’s peace to you… in

Are You Ready….. for Something Far More than Football?

Devotional Thought for the Day:
Featured image
15  I assume I’m addressing believers now who are mature. Draw your own conclusions: 16  When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? 17  Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness—Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is. 18  That’s basically what happened even in old Israel—those who ate the sacrifices offered on God’s altar entered into God’s action at the altar. 1 Corinthians 10:15-18 (MSG)

Who, then, receives such a sacrament in a worthy way?

Of course, fasting and other physical preparations are excellent disciplines for the body. But anyone who believes these words, “Given for you,” and “Shed for you to forgive sins,” is really worthy and well prepared. But whoever doubts or does not believe these words is not worthy and is unprepared, because the words, “for you” demand a heart that fully believes.(1)

828      Have you ever thought how you would prepare yourself to receive Our Lord if you could go to Communion only once in your life? We must be thankful to God that he makes it so easy for us to come to him: but we should show our gratitude by preparing ourselves very well to receive him.  (2)

I’ll be the first to admit to loving watching football.
Especially watching the Patriots, who in the last 21 years, have been in the Superbowl 7 times!
I really love it when people write them off, say they are done, and they make it look like child’s play in the playoffs.
Tomorrow, I hope they beat the Seahawks, and I hope they come back for one more, next year.  B

Yet, if the game started at 9:50 here, rather than at 3:15, you wouldn’t find me in front of my television.  There is something more precious, more meaningful, more important to life where I am a spectator, and yet, am a full participant.

The Eucharist, The Lord’s Supper, Communion.  the Feast that is a foretaste of the feast to come.

St. Josemaria above puts a perspective on it….what if tomorrow was the only day, the only time you could receive it in your life?  What would your thoughts be today?  What kind of expectation would be building?  what would get in the way?

is a Superbowl big enough?  is the need for sleep?

If tomorrow was the only day you were able to commune with God, what would stop you?

If the answer is, ‘nothing”, then apply the question without the frequency, is it the same/  should it be/

This is a hard question, because to ask it could promote shame or guilt, or harden you against those things.

It will also make you examine what you think the Lord’s Supper is, and how it benefits you….. strengthening your confidence in the Lord’s love and presence in your life, healing you from the brokenness of sin, relieving stress and anxiety, and mostly giving you the rest and peace that comes from knowing the Lord is with you……

I am glad this is not a once in a life time thing… in fact, I am somewhat envious of those churches that provide it daily, simply because I know people who need this sacrament, this holy time, this holy meal…. more than once a week.  Or who cannot get there on Sundays…..

So are you ready?  Do you recognize your need for it?

I am!

(1)   Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained. Part 6, The Sacrament of the Altar

(2)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2940-2942). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

UnderCover Boss: What if God became One of Us?

UnderCover Boss:

What if God became One of Us

Hebrews 2:14-18

† IHS †

May the grace, mercy and peace God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ has planned to be part of our lives become more and more the reality we live in, as we realize God became one of us…

What if God became one of us?

 

Whatever the reason they agree to give up their comfortable lives, their homes and their families, the end result is staggering.  CEO’s of everything from restaurants like Hooters to portable toilet suppliers; from hotel chains to retail stores and airport shuttles. They go on the show, and are changed by doing the basic things their people do every day.

At the end of the show, if you have never seen it, the boss calls them into the corporate office, for a little chat.  He’s given money to help them change their lives, scholarships, promotions, new roles. But the big change is in their lives, as they stay in simple hotels, and live like the rest of us.  The changes they can cause in their peoples lives are nothing compared to the changes they find in their own lives, in their own work.

In the television show “Undercover Boss” there are great lessons for us all to learn, as we realize we aren’t dealing with just numbers, but with real people that are around us.  People with real challenges, People that become important, as we realize our lives are impacted by so many different people, people whom we don’t really know.

I owe credit for today’s sermon title to Kay, who looked at my sub-title – and thought of the show. But can you imagine if the Boss came undercover, and lived life as part of your world, your work?

How would that change your life at the end of the day, when you are called into His office?

What would happen today, if God became one…of us?

Do we realize God knows what our life is like?

Some of you, the theologians and scholars in our midst, are probably thinking that God has.  Remember the baby in the manger, the miracles, the transfiguration and cross and grace and Resurrection?

Yes, I do… but I meant today.

What would happen if the person next to you tomorrow at Starbucks was Jesus?  Or the person you encounter about 10:00 at work or the nurse taking your blood pressure at the doctor’s office?

What would that be like? If that person was “the Boss”?

The real question behind this is one we need to seriously ask ourselves. Does God know what our lives are like, and more importantly, does He care?  Or are we just another piece in His puzzle, another number on a spreadsheet, some of us in the assets column, some in the liabilities?

Does God know each one of us, and does He care?

How we answer that question will determine a lot of things in our lives. Especially how we relate to each other, and well of course to Him.

God’s answer is seen in the reading from Hebrews 2 this morning

Reason #1 to Come – You can’t help if you aren’t here

We often hear, and talk about, the role Jesus has and had, in delivering us from the power of sin, about the grief and shame we know, because we fail to do the things we are supposed to do, and we can’t stop those things we do the negative and things we think and have anxiety about.  It is true, that Jesus came to take care of those things, to deliver us from guilt and shame and the anxiety that sin causes.

But the author of Hebrews looks at another aspect of Christ’s coming here, to deal with our fears and anxieties, including that of death.  Hear the words again, 14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. 15 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

it is amazing in the show to see what the bosses learn, not about their job, but about their people. The things that handicap them, the things that could be done to make their lives easier.  When at the end of the show the Bosses help the people, the emotional level is so high, they realized the Boss is human too.

The apostle John said that Jesus, the logos of God, came and dwelt among us, and that they beheld His glory, A glory that shatters the darkness, a glory that is demonstrated in a love that took on death for us. A glorious love that shattered it power over us, and freed us from the fear and anxieties we have about it.

That’s what the cross does, it puts everything in perspective. It tells us Jesus Christ, truly God, truly man, has been here. He has come.

If that was all it would mean, for Him to come, there is much to rejoice in, but that isn’t all.

Reason #2 to Come – to run to our aid..

I want you to look at the last verse of that reading, where it says:

18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

The word translated help, is a bit more powerful than that, though I don’t know any word that adequately would cover it.  It combines the concept of a scream or a yell – and an immediate run to give aid. That’s the word picture, Jesus, not looking perfectly groomed, but rushing headlong to our aid. 

Since He knows our lives, since He lives with us, since He is… here.

Unlike most of the undercover bosses, Jesus knows us completely..  He knows the ups and downs, and how to survive, for He lived and still lives in us. He didn’t come here to make a television show, or to make His company more profitable, or perfect.  He came into our lives to stay, to bring mercy, comfort and love and peace.

He is here, and He has promised that we will never ever be forsaken, that He will be with us to the end of the age.

Undercover Boss?  Not really, not at all.  He desires we reveal His presence to every person, so they can know for sure, that He has become one of us, even more, through His death on the cross,

God didn’t just come to be one of us, but God came to be one with us.

God has come, and dwells among us.

That’s what this is all about…this service, this church, our preschool.

Helping you realize His presence, in every moment of our lives…..

and knowing this, the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!.

How do we treat those who are just “wrong”

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Acts 18:24-28 (TEV) 24 At that time a Jew named Apollos, who had been born in Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker and had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord, and with great enthusiasm he proclaimed and taught correctly the facts about Jesus. However, he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him home with them and explained to him more correctly the Way of God. 27 Apollos then decided to go to Achaia, so the believers in Ephesus helped him by writing to the believers in Achaia, urging them to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who through God’s grace had become believers. 28 For with his strong arguments he defeated the Jews in public debates by proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.  

A Confession  Prior to the Devotion.:
I will be the first to admit that I am the chief of sinners in regard to this, but then again, if I wasn’t, this post wouldn’t be written. It is my prayer, and solid hope, that God will work wonders to correct the errors of my past in this, and help me to overcome this tendency in the future.

The Blog:
Last night, probably while I was driving home from a friend’s Superbowl Party, one of the victorius Ravens was approached and said some thanks to God and quoted from Romans 8.  I know of this because my twitter feed and fb was filled with people’s attacking him and questioning his faith and practice.  The accusations ran from calls to discredit him because of his past, to charges of twisting the word of God. 

It would be twisting scripture to say his sin was any worse than ours, so that sets aside that charge for a moment, to deal with the charge of twisting scripture, or taking it out of context.  He might have – I haven’t watched the video, he might have not.  But if we thought we did, the response of simply blasting away with charges, is not correct.

The model that Priscilla and her husband give us, is a great one. Look at some of these steps:

1.  Take the person aside, and work through the issue.
2.  Focus on the Way of God – not our cultural applications of it, not our personal opinions, but focus on God’s revelation to man (i.e. the scriptures)
3.  As the respond , encourage their ministry!  Their zeal is something that should never be stifled, but directed and encouraged.  Too often, I believe, we decide to stifle them, afraid they will go back to their erring ways. We should be praying for them, teaching them, discipling them and sending them.   

We confess in my congregation each week that we belong to one, holy, catholic/christian and apostolic church.  Such a response as Priscilla and Aquilla had towards Apollos had, yeah that is consistent with that belief.  If we can’t work with them directly, our words should have the same flavor, as we instruct those who heard those words about how they apply.  But doing it with graciousness and love is still important.  Doing it with the best construction is still important.  

May we all have the mercy shown to us, as we work together in His Kingdom. 

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