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The Purpose of Real Power…

Devotional Thought for the Day:

3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him complete power; he knew that he had come from God and was going to God. 4 So he rose from the table, took off his outer garment, and tied a towel around his waist. 5 Then he poured some water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. John 13:3-5 GNT

860         As soon as you truly abandon yourself in the Lord, you will know how to be content with whatever happens. You will not lose your peace if your undertakings do not turn out the way you hoped, even if you have put everything into them, and used all the means necessary. For they will have “turned out” the way God wants them to.

There is a video going around of a basketball coach, who is seemingly striving to empower other women. While we have a long way to go to make sure opportunities and pay are equal for people of both genders, there is an underlying message that I struggle with.

The search and focus on gaining power and influence without knowing the direction that power will be used to achieve. Power can be used for good or bad, and we need to develop people as much on how to use power, as we do to encourage them to grab all they can. Will we look to develop people spiritually and morally (there is a difference) to use power properly, even as we teach them to seek it out?

I look to the reading from the Bible in red this morning, and something struck me that I hadn’t really noticed before. This is one of my favorite stories, it is the basis for one of my favorite songs (Michael Card’s “The Basin and the Towel”) I know it inside and out, and just like every year, it will be part of the reading on Maunday Thursday.

This year, I saw that beginning phrase, “Jesus knew that the Father had given Him all power.” It goes on to talk that Jesus knew where he was coming from, where He was going (the cross). SO …. he serves. He takes the role that is humiliating as any, even though he was the guest of honor.

That is what he does in the context of having just some power, but all of the power. He uses it to serve, to teach, to benefit others. Jesus uses what power He has not to avoid the cross but to embrace it, because of His love for them, because of His love for us.

This is what power is for, not to increase fame, or wealth, or personal standing. Not ot get a kick “playing” with those you have power over. Rather it is to benefit those people you have been made responsible for, for power is only a tool of responsibility.

So teach our daughters and sons to strive to do their best, to find places to serve in where they can make the greatest impact. Where they can affect many, helping them learn to love. Help them achieve things that would take great effort, but always remind them of why they are there.

To love their neighbors who they can see, empowered by the presence, the mercy and love of God they can’t see, but can perceive.

For in his presence, there is peace, and contentment… and we are safe there, our hearts nd minds protected by Jesus. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3526-3528). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Can’t They Learn From Our Mistakes? (The difference between instruction and discipling)

We must all come to the place like Peter, where we let Jesus wash our feet….

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9  So Moses wrote down God’s Law and gave it to the levitical priests, who were in charge of the LORD’S Covenant Box, and to the leaders of Israel. 10  He commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, when the year that debts are canceled comes around, read this aloud at the Festival of Shelters. 11  Read it to the people of Israel when they come to worship the LORD your God at the one place of worship. 12  Call together all the men, women, and children, and the foreigners who live in your towns, so that everyone may hear it and learn to honor the LORD your God and to obey his teachings faithfully. 13  In this way your descendants who have never heard the Law of the LORD your God will hear it. And so they will learn to obey him as long as they live in the land that you are about to occupy across the Jordan.”
Deuteronomy 31:9-13 (TEV)

The word of God is creative; and the Word he said, once and for all,
to human beings couldn’t be other but the Word made flesh, his Son, Jesus Christ. However only those who hear the Word made flesh from their experience of personal sinfulness and weakness will receive his saving power. This is the reason why the Lord says he has come for the sick, not the healthy.

Our lives are long enough to learn what we need to learn, but not long enough to change anything. That is our flaw. Each age must learn everything afresh. Such waste!
Such waste – making all the mistakes once and again, each generation making the same mistakes, fumbling in ignorance and darkness.
This oak was already old when I was born. Now I am old and soon to die, and this tree grows strong still.
We are small creatures. Our lives are not long, but long enough to learn.

There are times that preaching and teaching becomes tedious. It seems like we do the same thing, over and over, year in and year out. Sure, we use different words, but the story is the same.

But there is a time where you wish people would learn the lesson, internalizing it. making it part of who they are. There is also a time where those who teach wish that each succeeding generation would be able to hear and learn from those who went before them, not having to watch them make the same mistake generation after generation.

Or deal with the same issues.

Lawhead’s comments in green above brought me back to that thought. My generation struggled with extremes. Topics like the role of women in the church, or what is appropriate in worship (from music to dress), struggles theologically, it was so easy to become blown this way or that depending on who was teaching.

It seems vain, and without impact, as we didn’t see all that much change possible in the world. We could learn, or we could help, but neither left an impact on us, what hope do we have to pas this down to the next generation.

Which brings me to Pope Francis’s words, and the amazing insight in them. We give the same lesson over and over because the place where it is best learned is that place of brokenness we all inhabit. The valley of tears, where guilt and shame haunt us, and we need God to intervene in our lives.

Why does each generation have to deal with the same arguments, the same battles, the same sins over and over? BEcause it is in those paradoxical places, being blown about, struggling, we find out He is our rock, He is our anchor, He is our peace.

And that is the difference between a sermon that instructs your people and a message to those you are discipling. One promises hope, the other guides them into discovering it, and seeing God reveal it to them. The result is that their voices praise Him from the soul, and their hearing and the reaction of obedience is something natural, not something forced.

The people that we guide through life, each and every generation have to deal with the same issues, the same struggles, the same questions that plunge the paradoxes of our faith.

But we need to know the paradoxes are not the final issue and not the final battle. We need to discover the Lord who is deeper, the Lord who is greater, the Lord whose love goes beyond the dimensions we can explore. But exploring those dimension, that is where life is found.

And that is a trip you can only take from the point of brokenness… and each person, and each generation must deal with that brokenness…

Lord, help those on the journey be patient with those who are beginning it. Lord, help us see the struggles that we have, not as something to deny or hide, but help us look for those who will point to You, and remind us of that which is greater than our struggle. AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 113). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Stephen Lawhead,
https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ (for this day March 30

That I may know how to…

That I May Know How..

Isaiah 50:4–10

 In His Name

 

May the gifts of God’s love, mercy and peace truly sustain you when you are weary!

The purpose of being taught –

         
There is one phrase in our Old Testament reading that I would like to focus on this morning, and I have to admit – it is quite convenient for a day when we dedicate our staff for the new year, and we have some of our children sing.

It is the first verse of our Old Testament, there on page 5.

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.”

I think if we as parents, could look ahead to see our children grown, and ready to retire from their careers, if this is a phrase that described their lives, we would be proud, and quite joyful.

If beyond what the world that counts as success, we knew they learned how to care for others; if they learned how to help others endure in life; if they learned how to care for others; how to love, then we would consider that we’ve done our job as parents and teachers and as a church well!

Think about It this way, if our children grew up to be the next Bill Gates, or Steven Spielberg, or even Tom Brady,  would it be worth it, if the cost was their alienating themselves from their families; if they had no their friends and they ended up rich and famous, and alone. Would we be as satisfied and content as if they spent their life helping those who couldn’t help themselves?

We have a challenge, in this God-given task of raising children, as parents. We also have a challenge, those as the people of this church and school, to come alongside parents to support and assist and encourage them in “training up” their children.

It is a God-given task, which in order to succeed, requires that we need to trust and rely on God.  For we have too accomplish in the midst of a world that would encourage them to aim for success, to look out for number one, to have it all, even though they cannot take it “all” with them.

When God teaches – we..

When Isaiah credits God for giving him the voice that speaks the words of comfort, he is crediting God for that which has trained him to be able to do so.  You see, the word there for taught is used for vocational training not just academic teaching.  He provides on the job training, not just schooling. Or to use our preschool’s language – God gives both an academic and developmental learning experience!

The next verse talks of how that training takes place – as God gets us to listen, to hear Him.  In Isaiah that is a constant topic, as repeatedly the people of God are described as those who don’t listen, who don’t see that which God says and shows them in life.  If only they did, they would not rebel, they would not get themselves into trouble, they would know peace, and their lives would not seem so broken.


In many ways, that is reflected in society today, where self-centeredness and the need for immediate gratification has made our world so dark, so narcissistic, so full of anxiety, and so little hope.  We are unwilling to learn why, or why there are consequences to actions, we just take them, and the consequences be… well you know what I mean.

 

A great example is seen in how Isaiah talks about being able to deal with opposition, with insults, with those that would distract us from what we’ve been trained to do.  In Isaiah’s day, that kind of opposition was very physical in the way it mocked and worked against those who would serve others.  Today it is more subtle, more sophisticated, but the world no more understands those who try to live a life that lovingly serves others, and call them to a life that is lived hearing God.

There is a great temptation, to defend ourselves, to engage in foolish verbal fights and arguments!  And often we are tempted to hit back when insulted, or when people judge us as fools, or condemn us for being “irrelevant” or out of touch.  It is interesting, no its critical that we understand that it is God’s grace – His gift that enables us to have the strength to endure that adversity, as we bring the message that gives comfort and strength to those who are weary.

Learn to trust and rely on God

 

The message of course, is the same message that causes us to endure hardship, mockery and ever condemnation.  For we learn, through experience, on the job, that it is God’s judgment we need to be concerned about, not that of others.  For when we bow to the pressure of others, we become distracted.  When we let the pressure and condemnation of the world affect us, we compromise, and eventually lose that faith which undergirds our message.

But when we listen to God, we find out there is no disgrace, no shame, for in His love and mercy, He has forgiven our sin and errors.  It is He that vindicates us, that will judge us in the end, and He has promised that those who trust in Him, those He’s roused and who listen and trust Him, to remove all that would cause guilt.  That is why we don’t have to fight – as St Paul says,

 

34 Who, then, will condemn them? Not Christ Jesus, who died, or rather, who was raised to life and is at the right side of God, pleading with him for us! Romans 8:31(TEV)
What happens if, in the midst of the learning, we find that we have defended ourselves, that we have treated others wrongly?  If we have confidence in God, if we have learned to rely on His strength, we know what we can do, we can go back to that person, and make it right, we can apologize for our error.

Why?  Because Jesus is our Model

When I started this message, I mentioned that if we want our children and the next generation to grow up well, to be the kind of people we are proud of, then the challenge is in our being the kind of people that model the faith and trust in God which develops us into such people.  That we are described in those words of Isaiah as well as they are.  Remember that line?

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.”

How do we find the strength for this?  How do we come to be able to sustain those, with a word, when they are weary – even if it is those who mock and attack us?

The key is realizing that while this passage encourages us, it is not about us, but about the one we are courage to imitate, to live like.  It’s about Jesus.

For He, when beaten and scorned didn’t fight back.  But instead trusted in the Father.  He sustained the weary with the “word”, He gave it all and then some, and listened to God the Father and never once rebelled.

Why?  To sustain us, to bring light into our dark lives, to give us hope.

Even at the cost of His life.   St Paul said it well…

5:8 But God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! 9 By his blood we are now put right with God; how much more, then, will we be saved by him from God’s anger! 10 We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God’s friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ’s life! 11 But that is not all; we rejoice because of what God has done through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has now made us God’s friends.
Romans 5:8-11 (TEV)

It is in Christ, united with Him in our baptism, looking to His love and mercy demonstrated in our lives every day, and every time we approach this altar, that we see our example- even as the children will see our example.

He gave it all – he didn’t despite who hated Him, He listened to the Father and learned to love, He shared His life, and eternity, even though the cost was huge personally.

It is Jesus that Isaiah’s prophecy is about – the Jesus of whom Paul said, imitate me as I imitate Jesus Christ…. May we learn to do so, may we allow ourselves to be trained, so that we can say to these children, and many more – imitate us, as we imitate our Lord, our Savior, our Friend, Jesus.

As we do, as we experience His mercy and grace, we will find that a peace comes over us, the peace of God our Father, a peace unexplainable, in which our hearts and minds are guarded, in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

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