Devotional Thought of the Day:
After this the Lord chose another seventy-two men and sent them out two by two, to go ahead of him to every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2 He said to them, “There is a large harvest, but few workers to gather it in. Pray to the owner of the harvest that he will send out workers to gather in his harvest. 3† Go! I am sending you like lambs among wolves. 4 Don’t take a purse or a beggar’s bag or shoes; don’t stop to greet anyone on the road. 5 Whenever you go into a house, first say, ‘Peace be with this house.’ 6 If someone who is peace-loving lives there, let your greeting of peace remain on that person; if not, take back your greeting of peace. 7† Stay in that same house, eating and drinking whatever they offer you, for workers should be given their pay. Don’t move around from one house to another. 8 Whenever you go into a town and are made welcome, eat what is set before you, 9 heal the sick in that town, and say to the people there, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near you.’ Luke 10:1-9 GNT
Certainly, those who do not know Christ also do not know their right to hear His love and His plans for them. Nonetheless this right is real: it is, we might say, intrinsic to their humanity which God wills to fulfil in Christ.
Some people are tempted to abstain from announcing Christ because they believe that by this they would show themselves to be more respectful of the human and spiritual values already present in the cultures and religions of the world. In reality this is to show respect for a partial value, rather than allowing that value to come to its definitive realization—which is what happens when it encounters the Gospel. It is on the contrary a lack of respect for the values present in the cultures and religions of the world, as well as those in whom those values are found, when, in silencing the Gospel, we deprive them of what would have brought them to fulfilment.
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.
Living in one of the most diverse parts of the world is a challenge. Within 5 miles of my house are Islamic Centers of different types, A Center of Jainism, Mormon Stakes, Jehovah Witness Kingdom Halls, various forms Buddhist temples, A Namaste Center for Spiritual Living, and 20-30 other Spiritual and Religious communities I cannot identify.
As I look at this, my heart aches, for as these people seek for God, they miss the revelation of God’s love for them, the revelation of His love, as He sent Jesus, His Son to dwell with us. The apostles would testify as to His glory, and they were sent to share that glorious love with the world.
For century’s the way the church dealt with this was through force. Not a good idea and the church wasn’t the only religion to do so. This violence, seen in wars, personal attacks, and martyrdoms and many self-fulfilling “martyrs” today.
So how do we balance out this need (both ours to share, and their need to hear) the message of God’s love?
How do we respect their traditions, their journey trying to find divinity and the peace that comes from being united to God, while showing them the way God revealed to us that He would draw men and women to Him? How do we work with those who are cults, who have perverted the teaching of Jesus?
It is a difficult road to travel, and yet, the fact that it is a life long journey should help us on the road. For we can invite them to share a part of that journey, we can explore with them their beliefs. We can share with them the hope we have, even in the face of death.
Not as competitors to see whose belief system is better, to see who “wins”. But to know God’s heart toward us all. For there is the key, to know we are loved, to know His mercy and healing when we fail, to rejoice in the presence of God.
That is what we are called to do, to share the reason we have hope in this broken world, to draw people to Jesus with the promises made to us, and delivered through word and sacrament.
It is challenging, no one said it would be easy. But God is with us, and this is how he ministered to us.
Rey, D. (2012). Adoration and the New Evangelization. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 10). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 419). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
14 And so, my friends, as you wait for that Day, do your best to be pure and faultless in God’s sight and to be at peace with him. 15 Look on our Lord’s patience as the opportunity he is giving you to be saved, just as our dear friend Paul wrote to you, using the wisdom that God gave him.
2 Peter 3:14-15 (TEV)
206 I understand your holy impatience, but at the same time you must realise that there are some who need to think things over for a long time and others who will respond all in good time… Wait for them with open arms. Add the spice of abundant prayer and mortification to your holy impatience. They will be more youthful and generous when they come. They will have got rid of their bourgeois approach, and they will be all the more courageous. Think how God is waiting for them!
In Matthew 10:14, Jesus gives the following direction to the Twelve Apostles as they embark on their first teaching journey,
14 And if some home or town will not welcome you or listen to you, then leave that place and shake the dust off your feet. 15 I assure you that on the Judgment Day God will show more mercy to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah than to the people of that town! Matthew 10:13-15 (TEV)
I’ve heard this used a lot over the course of my ministry, in a way that is simply, sinful. The pastor who is burnt out on ministry, and can’t seem to get his people to appreciate his vision. The leader who, though sincere, is causing division in the church. The family member, who has given up on a parent, or a child, or a cousin, because they are too stubborn, too obstinate, too argumentative to see their need for Christ. Or the horrible sinners, proven by their lifestyle, or political choices, (or in their favorite sports team) who will not heed our call to repentance of the speck in their eye, while they see the petrified forest in ours.
We are tired of the pain, the anxiety, the stress, so we write off someone we care called to love, rather than embrace the call to minister to them patiently. We use the passage from Matthew to justify our cutting off the person or people that cause us such trauma. (often without thinking about the trauma we cause them!)
In shaking the dust off our feet, we feel vindicated, somehow more righteous or holy, and we think that God is on our side.
And we couldn’t be more wrong.
We, who have benefitted from the Lord’s patience, need to imitate that patience. We who have come to know His love, need to love that sacrificially/ Sacrificing our pride, our self-righteousness, even the sleep we may give up, as we spend the night in prayer for these people we are called to love, and that God would sustain and heal our hearts in the process.
For being patient with them, is about realizing this isn’t a win or lose based on getting them to church tomorrow, but spending eternity with them in the presence of God. That is why St Josemaria urges us to be patient, giving those we are sent to minister to enough time to realize the love being revealed to them. Wait for them with open arms, continually pray for them, knowing that our mission is different than the apostles, in that it wasn’t preceding Jesus to the cross.
Be patient, God is. Be loving, for He loves you! Be willing to sacrifice, and even suffer, for that too will prove to them the love of God who doesn’t give up on them, or on you and I.
Be patient, with the unbeliever, and the believer.
And keep on putting them in the hands of God…. for this will help, as you contemplate on how much God loves us all.
Lord, give us the heart to see people healed of their sin, to be freed from their brokenness, and the patience that only the Holy Spirit can give us, You patience, to wait and see them come to the Lord! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1068-1072). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. 28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:26-29 (NLT2)
1 There are many Christians who are persuaded that the Redemption will be completed in all environments of the world, and that there have to be some souls—they do not know which ones—who will contribute to carrying it out with Christ. But they think it will take centuries, many centuries. It would be an eternity if it were to take place at the rate of their self-giving. That was the way you yourself thought, until someone came to “wake you up”.
“Responsibility is something to be avoided. Evade it at all costs!”
It seems more and more this is the mission statement of the church. Not just in terms of man-made trauma, as people scatter, trying to avoid the blame game like kids playing tag. But in regards to the work of the church as well.
And we wonder why the church as a whole is in decline!
We all know the great commission, we know it is the responsibility of the church to disciple those who are saved. Yet we think its the pastor/priests responsibility. Or we think the pastors/priests should train those people up to do it, but no one will volunteer. Everyone avoiding responsibility, everyone pointing to someone else.
So the work goes undone, and we all shake our hands and wonder why…
How do we create in the church the attitude we see in Paul, who realizes this wonderful thought, Christ in you, which gives you the assurance of sharing in His glory eternally.
That people would know their share of this glory, that they would be free of the cruse of sin and enabled to do so, this was Paul’s struggle in life, one he threw himself into with all abandon, this was his reason for being here.
A reason that we, as the priesthood of all believers, have as well. To tell others about Christ, warning them and teaching them, that we may present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Jesus!
So it is time to wake up church, to realize this love that Christ has for us, that welcomes us, cleansed sinners, broken souls who are finding healing in Christ Jesus, and helping others who need to heal. We have to realize that this isn’t an obligation or a task… it is the glorious blessing God gives us, to see others made new!
Whether we help them teaching Sunday school, or praying for someone on the street corner, or offering them a cup of cold water, or simply inviting them to comse see Jesus love of them revealed.
And at the end of the day, may we each look back in awe at what Christ has done in our communities, through and with us! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 242-245). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our days:
Dt 19:16-20 — “If a malicious witness comes forward and accuses someone of a crime, 17 then both the accuser and accused must appear before the LORD by coming to the priests and judges in office at that time. 18 The judges must investigate the case thoroughly. If the accuser has brought false charges against his fellow Israelite, 19 you must impose on the accuser the sentence he intended for the other person. In this way, you will purge such evil from among you. 20 Then the rest of the people will hear about it and be afraid to do such an evil thing.
902 Acquire the habit of speaking about everyone and about everything they do in a friendly manner, especially when you are speaking of those who labour in God’s service. Whenever that is not possible, keep quiet. Sharp or irritated comment as well may border on gossip or slander.
THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
16 What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not tell lies about our neighbor, nor betray, slander, or defame him, but should apologize for him, speak well of him, and interpret charitably all that he does.
It is too easy to complain about other people.
Our neighbor, our co-workers, our family, our elected officials, even complaining about those who complain too much. it is all too easy to complain, to bicker, to criticize and condemn.
We might even believe our words, or at least believe the people who passed them on to us.
Too often our words poison our lives, causing us to be blind to what God is doing, cutting off our souls from the peace God would have us live in, the peace Christ died for, in order to bless us. These words can steal from us the hope of reconciliation, both the reconciliation of God, wherein God draws us into His mercy, and the reconciliation that happens there, as we realize we are His family. It is a serious thing – look at the warning God gives against the misuse of words.
Think of the damage that gossip, slander and the malicious words we utter do to the mission of Christ. For if our hearts are turned against those God has sent us to reach with his love, how can we? Why would we pray for those we speak evil above
We need to confess this and ask God for help, for the comfort of the Spirit, to remember the miraculous promise that happens in Christ. We need to be forgiven and to revel in the joy of that forgiveness and what it restores to us.
We need to hear Him call to us, even as broken as we are, and hear of the value He places on our lives.
He is our hope, HIs word is what matters, the word of life….Hear them, let your mind dwell on them and what they promise.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3672-3675). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. 13The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them. 14And you are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17This, then, is what I command you: love one another. John 15:11-17 NLT
811 Do you remember? Night was falling as you and I began our prayer. From close by came the murmur of water. And, through the stillness of the Castilian city, we also seemed to hear voices of people from many lands, crying to us in anguish that they do not yet know Christ. Unashamedly you kissed your crucifix and you asked him to make you an apostle of apostles. (1)
“You shall not kill.”10 What does this mean? Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not endanger our neighbor’s life, nor cause him any harm, but help and befriend him in every necessity of life.
It was just before noon, as I sat on a fountain, waiting for my ride.
The man in the picture showed up, folded out his sign, put in his ear buds and began to be a light in the darkness, a missionary sent to bring heathen musicians to.. hmm – that’s a good question.
I think he symbolized the church in so many ways…. standing there, his sign doing the proclaiming, but his heart and soul focused on what he was hearing. It wasn’t the people passing him by.
Maybe it was a podcast of the latest apologetic guru, telling him how to cause people to submit to his logic and reason.
Maybe it was someone telling him how to be an entrepreneurial apostle.
Maybe it was someone teaching him how to defend his Bible translation or his style of worship, or trying to provide comfort in his failing outreach, because after all, he’s supposed to be in the world, but not of it. He didn’t make eye contact with anyone, he didn’t try to pray with anyone. I want to jump on his case, to make him see what he’s missing, buy am I any better?
This man isn’t a wacko, or a fanatic, he simply is the church today.
We are so caught up in our own agendas, our own words, that we fail to hear the cries of those who have lost hope, of those who have been broken. We might even get into a dialog about how they were broke, was it their sin, their parent’s sin, the sin of the world? We might read books and listen to the greatest speakers, read the greatest blogs, find the best consultants, and grieve over the fact that they don’t hear us.
But do we hear them?
Do we hear their cries? Do we go beyond their polite statements to find their pain? Do we let them know we won’t abandon them in their brokenness, because we are broken as well? Do we stand there, oblivious to the individuals, overwhelmed by the thousands, yet unable to see them? Do we take our ear buds out of our damn ears long enough to hear them?
To help them understand God hears them?
Do we try to help them know God wants to hold them in His hands, cherish them, bring about their restoration and healing so that all will understand He finds great delight in their presence, that all heaven parties with great joy when they “come home”
Luther wrote that we should do everything we can to help and befriend our neighbor. Most hear him speaking physically in the commandment about not killing. But is it not applicable to our neighbor’s spiritual life as well? St Josemaria talks about us hearing the cries and praying to God to send us, will we do that, and if sent will we hear them? Or simply lament their not hearing us? ( Or worse, will we rejoice that it proves we are on the narrow path and they are not?)
These are hard thoughts to hear, and they may be convicting you, they certainly are convincing me. But I know this as well. As I left that day, a man walked up to me and started talking about his journey. ( he thought I was a Catholic Priest) He talked of how God was helping him stay sober after 27 years. He talked of how great it was that I was there, to remind him of God’s grace. His name was Dave, and hearing him say my presence there was important as it reminded him of God’s love? That made my day. I wanted to go back, and see who else I could encounter, or maybe realize that I had, and was too blind to see it. But for once I was able to stop, and hear, and see what God was doing, by sending me to that part of the sidewalk, just for that man to encounter.
God is good, open your eyes and ears, see Him and know His love for you, and all whom you encounter. ALL whom you encounter. And rejoice, the Lord who is delighted in your presence, He is with you! Amen!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1867-1870). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
37 “Do not judge others, and God will not judge you; do not condemn others, and God will not condemn you; forgive others, and God will forgive you. 38Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands—all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you.”
39 And Jesus told them this parable: “One blind man cannot lead another one; if he does, both will fall into a ditch. 40No pupil is greater than his teacher; but every pupil, when he has completed his training, will be like his teacher. TEV – Luke 6:37-40
The hectic commercialism is repugnant to us, and rightly so: for it is indeed utterly out of place as a commemoration of the hushed mystery of Bethlehem, of the mystery of the God who for us made himself a beggar (2 Cor 8:9). And yet, underneath it all, does it not originate in the notion of giving and thus in the inner urgency of love, with its compulsion to share, to give of oneself to the other? And does not the notion of giving transport us directly into the core of the mystery that is Christmas?
587 They have no faith, but they do have superstitions. We laughed, and at the same time we’re sorry, when that tough character became alarmed at the sight of a black cat or at hearing a certain word which of itself meant nothing but for him was a bad omen.
The cars religiously pull into the parking lots, as people go into buildings. Some deeply ponder the mystery that is set before them. Others simply look without seeing and grasp at what they think they need. Some are full of joy, others severely depressed, all looking for the answers that plague them during these holidays.
But are they at church, or at a mall?
Are they going to ponder the mysteries of life, or pondering what will satisfy and hopefully bring joy to someone they love, or are committed to, or sadly stuck with?
Pope Benedict, back when he was a cardinal, wrote the words in blue above. They are profound, deeply profound.
As a pastoral counselor, I know the at the first issue ever brought up in the office is the real issue. It may take a session or two or even twenty to find the ultimate issue. So why don’t I give those who are seeking something at Christmas a break? Why do I have to tear down, and condemn, rather than build from the heart and soul where they lie.
People at Christmas, religious or not are seeking love, and seeking to be loved. To in the midst of the darkness, find some comfort, some joy, find something that means more that gift cards and cash, more than jewelry or electronics.
Could we instead of criticizing them? Could we stop judging and condemning them find in their depths this need, and show them how it is met in a simple manger in a backward, remote community, in a couple that is far from home, in the simple field workers that are told by a million angels, direct from the Father’s presence, “Peace be with you!”
Maybe Jack Sparrow (that eminent fictional Carribean theologian) was correct. “The problem is not the problem. Your reaction to the problem is the problem.”
These people have a need, a need to love, a need to be love. A need to give and receive the perfect gift that demonstrates that love. Perhaps, as our attitude toward them becomes more like Christ, they will see that need met. For it has been.
In the manger.
At the cross.
in the incarnation that has occurred in your life as well, as Jesus drew you into Him, as He would draw all into His death and resurrection.
This is Christmas – His gathering. May we seek out those who are seeking to love and be loved, and reveal to them our Lord and His love for them. AMEN!
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1402-1404). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
These words that Will Willimon writes are as applicable for Lutherans as for Methodists.
Do we believe the promises of the third article of the Apostles and Nicene Creed? Do we realize that Easter is about, not just the forgiveness of sins, but our resurrection and the life of the world to come?
Or does somehow that take a back seat in our lives, and in our ministry?
Devitional Thought of the day:
“As much as possible, and to the utmost of your ability, be at peace with everyone.”. Romans 12:18 (NJB)
3b Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Philippians 2:3-4 (MSG)
15 But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 16 but do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15-16a (TEV)
“I hope this post offends as many people as possible: Merry Christmas” – (facebook meme from National Liberty Foundation)
My son has had a number of homework projects recently where he had to determine which thing doesn’t belong with the others. You know, where you have 3 circles and a triangle, or 3 clowns and a cowboy. Look at one of the above statements, does one not belong? Is there one not in harmony with the others?
In recent years, there has been much disagreement about Christmas. Some want to ban the phrase “Merry Christmas”, or get rid of historic public displays, some secular and yes some religious, that focus on Christmas. Others want to protect “their rights” of free speech and their traditions and memories of Christmas. Sometimes these discussions (and the facebook posts that follow) can get a bit vehement, and nasty, like the post above.
Seeing it in the context of scripture, we hear the dissonance, we hear that the author’s “rights” trump the nature of the very Holy Day they say they want to protect. It is sadly ironi.
But is their an obligation for Christians to surrender their rights, not to the government, but out of love for others? Is there an obligation to no react in this way, demanding that we get our way, rather than taking the time to explain the reason for our hope is seen in the fact that God came to dwell with us? To assure us of His love and desire for us to dwell in His presence, even at the cost of the cross? Even at the cost of Christ bearing all our sin? Can we explain these things with gentleness and respect, as we dwell in the peace of Christ we want them to share? Can we forget ourselves and invest our time in those who would oppose Christianity because they haven’t heard why it is good news? Can we love them more than our rights? Can we like the deacon Stephen in the Book of Acts, actually love and bless those who would oppress us? ( I dare not say persecute – because in this country we’ve lost all sense of the concept of Martyrdom)
Or has our “rights” become an idol we need to protect?
Or can we, in love, lay aside our “rights”, in the hope of showing people the love and will of a God who would come to us?
Some tought thoughts, as we look at Christmas during advent. Not as tough as when we realize that people live without the hope we know, and God sends us to them… to bring His love.
Lord have mercy on us, and help us to have a heart like Christ… who put serving those who were lost above His own rights.
- Have you been neglecting yourself? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Augustine, St. Francis, Martin Luther, John Wesley walk into a bar… (justifiedandsinner.com)
God is Watching over His People!
† In Jesus Name †
May we realize God watches over us with a compassion deeper than words can express, desiring to heal us and give us life abundant in Christ as we share His love with the world!
The First Traffic Jam That Made the News
Unlike traveling our local freeways, no one that morning expected a traffic jam outside the city of Nain. There were no sig alerts, no gps updates or radio warnings about the two massive crowds heading that would collide that morning.
But that collision of crowds did occur, and traffic did stop, and both groups of people had to take the time to observe something quite remarkable, so life changing, so life giving, that it made the evening news in every household, not just in Nain, but across the entire country.
As our churches this morning merge so seamlessly together, may we as well realize the blessings that have been poured out on us, the blessings one small family experienced that day….
Two Types of People
The Looky-loo’s & Those distracted
There are two types of people that seem to cause the smallest occurrence on the freeways to become even more of a traffic jam, and it was no different that particular day.
The first we call lookey-loos, those who curiosity so overrules their common sense that they will do anything to see what is holding up traffic. They want to know everything that is going on. They don’t want accidents to happen, but if they do, they want to have more information that the accident investigation team do. Without realizing it, they slow down – they even change lanes to get into place to have a perfect view of the situation. Whether it is a motorcycle officer helping someone with a flat tire, or a accident requiring people me taken to the hospital by ambulance or helicopter. They want to see, they want to be able to say, I was there.
As Luke describes Jesus, he makes a distinction in the people arriving in Nain with Him. There are the disciples, those who have been called into the relationship with Jesus, and journey through life with Him for they realize the truth of Peter’s words,
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 And now we believe and know that you are the Holy One who has come from God.” John 6:68-69 (TEV)
But then there is the crowd, those who came along with Jesus, the kind of crowd that he had compassion on when He fed 5000. People who would abandon Jesus later, when he started talking about His death, and about His Body and Blood being given and shed for us. (deleted some here) But the crowd that followed like looky-loo’s on the freeway, people that wanted to see miracles, people that wanted to hear something different.. people unsure of what they were following Christ but where.
There are people who come to church and many more who call themselves Christians today, who do so like the looky loos. They come to see stuff, but they never get involved. They like the music, they enjoy the sermons, but they never get to know the God to Whom we sing. They pray, but because that’s what Christians do, not that they believe God is listening. They like what they see, but they don’t understand that it is a relationship with God that sustains them.
If the crowd following Jesus and his actual disciples were looky-loos; the other crowd was the kind of people that when traffic is slow and snarled, go on automatic pilot and focus completely on something else. They pay only enough attention to keep moving with the crowd. In this case, they weren’t focusing on the kids in the back seat, or the latest text message or phone call – but on the death of a young man, and how the death reminded them of how short life is. The word for large in the “large crowd” is the word “intense.” And so was their walking intensely focused on the emotions of grief, of the pain of their loss, of the uncertainty of their future, or the lonely widows.
People are like that today as well. They wander aimlessly, following the crowd yet unaware of their surroundings, trapped in what causes great anxiety, great pain, or what they find comfort in, an escape in…everything from drugs and alcohol, to television, to seemingly innocent addictions like facebook and candy crush saga and other addictive things…we are quick to find our escapes…
One pastor once confronted such people with this question,
Why stoop to drink from the puddles of worldly consolations (comforts) if you can satisfy your thirst with waters that spring up into life everlasting?
The Highway of Life Patrol…Watching
Compassion not just on the dead, but on the bereaved
Explaining the occurrences in the gospel with the idea of a traffic jam as the crowd following Jesus and the crowd heading for the burial of the dead young man leads us to Jesus’s intervention. We get to finally see how Jesus will work in this passage, and indeed, why the news of this incident would spread as fast through the Judean countryside as it did. (even though they didn’t have twitter!)
The only time you like to see the sirens and flashers of a Highway Patrol Car coming up behind you – is when you are crawling along the freeway at 10 mph, stuck in traffic. You are happy to see them, because you know that they can, if anyone can, solve the problem of the traffic. They watch the highways, sure to catch speeders and crazy drivers, (even that they do to keep traffic flowing) but they watch the freeway primarily to keep everyone safe and moving and alive.
As Jesus enters this town, He sees the patterns of things. He realizes the pain of the widow, the different types of people around him – those trying to deal with the pain of their own lives, and those just looking for something cool to happen.
His reaction is compassion – the Greek is great – it basically means that He felt her pain so much that it was gut-wrenching, the reaction it caused affected Him physically. He could not tolerate the pain she was going through,…
It was such compassion, Paul tells us in Philippian’s, that it caused Jesus to leave heaven, and to become our servant, to minister to us…. Isaiah tells us it was the Father’s compassion to place every sin – those we commit knowingly and those we don’t even know – the sins of omission, our Father in Heaven placed them on Jesus.- and as the Father compassionately cared for us so much, it pleased Him to have Jesus pay for our sins.
Jesus gets it all straightened out – and not only do the young man and his now joyous mom realize what happened – so do all the people fathered there. The looky-loos, those distracted by everything else and their own pain. They realize with such awe, like Thomas in the upper room, that Jesus is God, He is our Lord, our Christ, our Savior, our Master…
And the One who passionately loves us….
Most of us, if we are honest – go through life distracted and wanting to be distracted, or as those looking at what’s happening to others. We don’t always realize that we walk every moment in God’s presence, we don’t often realize His compassion, and His watching over us,
But it is there, as surely as it was for this woman.
His compassion is there not only for us, but for us as we hurt for others, whether we grieve because they have died, or because they are spiritually dead. When we realize that some of our co-workers, our neighbors, our friends and even our family don’t know of the love of God our Father, of the mercy and compassion of Christ Jesus, of the comfort and peace of the Holy Spirit. When we look around us, and just see the crowds, lifeless- directionless…
His compassion reaches us there as well, for His desire is that they are saved as well, God’s one desire is that none of them should perish, but that all should be transformed by the redeeming power of Christ, by the work of the Holy Spirit through God’s word, and those things God uses to change us….
I would say we see here today, a even greater resurrection that they all witnessed that day. For not just one man has been brought to life – every one of us who trusts in Christ, Passion and Concordia brothers and sisters, has been raised from the dead. That is the promise of God’s baptism of us, in water and Spirit.
Our resurrection, as well, is not temporary, it is not fading…it will not end, as this man’s did – in another death.
For our resurrection is with Christ, it is a resurrection to eternity, for Jesus said,
25“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die; 26 and those who live and believe in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 (TEV)
Well do you?
If you said no, come talk to Pastor Mao, or Pr. Lu, or me or one of the leaders here… we’d love to help you know this…to know Jesus, and to realize His compassion for you.
But if you know this – that if you live in Jesus, if you trust Him, then this is true for you….
You live in God’s peace, that peace which is beyond explanation, which you are guarded, your heart and mind, by Christ himself.
That is news worth sharing with all of Cerritos and all of of LA and Orange County… Alleluia – He has risen, and we have been raised to life with Him
† In Jesus Name †
May you be encouraged, and rejoice as God shows you the love and mercy He has given you, as you witness it given to others.
I wonder if Peter was reading from the prophet Jonah?
As Peter starts to describe the way in which salvation had come to the Gentiles, I’ve wondered something. What was it he was praying about? What had he been meditating upon?
Was Peter working through the lessons he had been taught over and over and even a third time by Jesus? Was he considering the incredible grace of God that restored him each time he sinned, each time he tried to play God?
I wonder if he was reading the book of the Old Testament prophet Jonah…who would likewise be called to a place, to bring word of God’s love? Was he being sent to bring the blessed gift of repentance to a place his upbringing said wasn’t eligible or worth God’s mercy. Was he going to a people that his culture said was beyond God’s love.
Peter as always, struggled with where God was leading him to serve. It seemed that the third time God gave him the message; he actually “got” it. That is the story of chapter 10, which he recounts to those who were struggling with what he did here. This chapter isn’t really about what Peter did, to share God’s love with the Gentiles, it is what he did to help his fellow Jews to grasp how deep that love of God was, for every person of every ethnicity in the world.
It is amazing to me that Peter didn’t take on the criticism directly, nor did he take it personally. Instead, he simply focused on what God had done, and laid out the story as it happened. As Peter did this, led by the Holy Spirit, people changed.
Two Groups to Win…
Peter Is summoned to talk with those concerned about “those people” receiving the word of God. They are concerned about Peter compromising the gospel by fellowshipping with them. There will be a conversion here, a needed one, as people are reconciled to God’s will.
It is not the obvious one though, though that too is marvelous! The work of God is so incredibly evident there, as those who were far from God, and in bondage to sin. It is amazing and yet unexpected to hear that God was already working in them, that an angel miraculously intervened in Cornelius’s life, and he sent officials to bring Peter to him, for Peter was to bring them the message that would save him, and all of His household.
How amazing! That God work so bluntly, so clearly, so undeniably! By the time the vision is over, the words of God were burned into Peter’s heart. “What God has made clean, do not declare common!”
How incredible that this became true – not just about bacon and lobster, but about Cornelius and all his family! How amazing that those who were thought to have no hope, were given hope, were given life… were given the presence of God in their lives.
Which leads us to the second “conversion”, the second group that needs to be reconciled to God. They weren’t as far off, these who wanted this issue examined thoroughly. It was a foreign idea to them that God would work with these foreigners. It would be a difficult transition – they needed to see more than just information about God, they needed to see His heart, they needed to understand His will that no one should perish in bondage to sin. They needed to be reconciled to God, to come in line with His will….
And the Holy Spirit did that – again through the God’s love shared patiently through Peter.
The Critics Silenced…
God’s consistent will seen
In the midst of Peter sharing what God had done, as he explains that the men where there, that will of God is hinted at – when he says “And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. That word is the same as the word criticize above – again it means to thoroughly examine things – except in this case, no examination, no criticism. Peter, inspired directly by God’s Spirit, fully reconciled to God’s word by the vision goes…to bring words of life
He starts sharing about God’s love – He starts to lay out the gospel, to share with them the incredible love of God demonstrated through the incarnation, through the life, death, resurrection. He didn’t even get to the part about baptism, before it was evident that this was a God moment, a time when the Holy Spirit was creating life and faith and transforming them, bringing them to repentance. The very same things that happened at Pentecost – with the Spirit falling on the people of God, with the word being proclaimed, with people’s heart’s being opened and healed as they were washed and cleansed, as they received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
God’s consistent love – showing a depth and dimension unforeseen despite the prophecies, despite the promises that foreigners and immigrants would be welcome. God’s consistent love – so praised in the Old Testament, made evident even for those who were wrongly considered “far off”.
They realized God meant it when he said the Messiah would be a light to all nations,
They realized God meant it when He promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed by his descendant,
They realized Jesus meant it when He said that His blood would be shed on behalf of many, for the forgiveness of sins.
I love the way Paul would describe it,
19 you are no longer outsiders or aliens, but fellow-citizens with every other Christian – you belong now to the household of God. Firmly beneath you in the foundation, God’s messengers and prophets, the actual foundation-stone being Jesus Christ himself. In him each separate piece of building, properly fitting into its neighbour, grows together into a temple consecrated to God. You are all part of this building in which God himself lives by his spirit. Ephesians 2:19 (Phillips NT)
Peter, the one who was a bit too quick to speak, who overreacted, took his time, laid out what God had done, and when it was complete, there was silence. The doubt dropped to the floor. No one could object to God’s work. They had neither the strength, nor the desire. Just as Peter realized, when he sad,
17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
and the party began began.
The Reason for Praise
I have to admit – I love the spontaneous praising and glorifying of God, as these circumcised Jews realize that God loves the long time nemesis – the people of the world. The barriers are down, we are one…
That is what they are realizing, it is what we need to realize. It is what can and should break down every barrier between people – this idea that God has made us one, that God has granted to us “the repentance that leads to life.”
You see, there is something special in watching a brother or sister become part of the Body of Christ, as we did last week. There is something incredible about seeing that – or those “aha’ moments as we gain a little in understanding more about the depth of the Lord’s passionate love for us.
This is the work God does in both Jews and Gentiles. The change is what Luke describes with the word repentance here – this transformation of both our heart and will, redeeming us from our being oppressed by sin, and reconciling us with the will of God. That is the work of repentance – a total transformation of our heart and mind, both are used in the prophecies to describe God’s work.
And God has transformed, He has granted this repentance – this change to living a transformed life in Christ.
We see it here, when a child, or a youth, or even someone who has lived 8 decades comes – and is given the promise of that change as they are baptized into Christ!
We are witnesses to it happening here as well! As we gather at the family feast – where God our Father provides us with the Body and Blood of Chris! As He again grants us the power of the transformation, He has promised. For it is here that He reconciles us with His will, as He reconciles us together as one people – no matter our place of birth or whether the times since can be easily measured in days, years, or decades. He reconciles us together no matter the language we speak, or have spoken, no matter our height or weight or anything else.
We are One, in Christ.
And that is something so glorious – for God has transformed us all into His people. To Him be all the praise, all the glory and honor.