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In Order to see the Church Rebuild, will we dare do this?

devotional thought of the day:

“ ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: I will respond to the house of Israel and do this for them: I will multiply them in number like a flock. 38 So the ruined cities will be filled with a flock of people, just as Jerusalem is filled with a flock of sheep for sacrifice during its appointed festivals. Then they will know that I am the LORD.’ Ezek 36:37-38 CSB

m 28 They will know that I am the LORD their God when I regather them to their own land after having exiled them among the nations. I will leave none of them behind. 29 I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel.” This is the declaration of the Lord GOD. Ezek 39:27-29 CSB

“Give me your heart, my son,”12 he seems to whisper in our ears. Stop building castles in the air. Make up your mind to open your soul to God, for only in our Lord will you find a real basis for your hope and for doing good to others.

As we come out of COVID, I find the church offered a myriad of solutions to address the fact that prior to COVID, the church in America was already shrinking. We want to blame people not coming back on COVID, but if we are honest, many had left before that, in fact they have been leaving for decades.

It is not because the church isn’t relevant enough, or faithful enough to traditions. It isn’t because we haven’t found the right book or the right coach/consultant/father-confessor/seminar or podcast.

It is much simpler than that.

We aren’t looking to God to full our ruined cities and churches. We aren’t looking for Him to fulfill His promises.

SImply put, we don’t know that He is the Lord, that He is our God!

And so we don’t look to Him to fill our churches, to bring healing and reconciliation to our communities,.

We build our castles, both physically and mentally, when we need to open our soul to God. St Josemaria is correct, it is there, open to God, led by the Spirit, that we not only find life, we find a reason for living. Walking with Him, we find the most incredible blessings. As the Spirit changes us, the masks are lifted, and we can see what God is doing.

And that is revive the church, by reviving the people who find themselves in His presence.

Abba Father, let Your Spirit fall on Your church! Draw our eyes to Your Son Jesus, that our hearts and souls are open to the Spirit’s presence, and help us to see Your work, reviving and restoring Your Church. Amen!

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Early Morning of the Cross: A sermon on Mathew 26:36-47

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

We could not.. so He did!
So Go Ahead and Rest?
Matthew 26:36-47

Jesus! Son! Savior!

May you find in the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ God’s grace and experience true peaceful rest!

  • What was Jesus’ Body Language

I wish I was there in the garden.

I wish I could see and hear Jesus as he came back for the third time, and found the disciples asleep, and said,

“Go ahead and sleep! Have your rest! But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

Was Jesus angry, resigned, disappointed?

Did his voice betray His emotions? Was He so tired and anxious he couldn’t control his feelings?

As importantly, how did the apostles hear this?

How much did they realize that a few days later, they would be guaranteed a rest…

  • They Could Not, Neither Can We!

If there ever was a night for Jesus to be frustrated with the apostles, it was this night.

It starts off with two apostles fighting like 4-year-olds about who gets the best seat, the one next to Jesus. DaVinci thought John won the argument – for he is pictured next to Jesus in his painting of the Last Supper. They argue, and Jesus teaches them a lesson by bending down and washing their feet.

The evening gets worse as Peter once again says that his will and intellect are better than Jesus’. Nope, I am not going to let you care for me, Jesus. Nope, no way in…what was that?  Err… Uhm.. let me re-think that….will you, please, and wash not my feet but everything while you are at!

Then that thing with Jesus, but if you heard the first gospel tonight, which apostle thought he was capable of betraying Jesus? That hit me this week in preparing; each of the disciples thought they could possibly be the one who would betray Jesus…

Sounds like guilty consciousness!

Hmm… I wonder how many of us would have asked?  If you think you would not have, a straightforward question.

Have you betrayed him today? Have you chosen to sin or simply overlooked that what you are doing is sin?

Then you should have said, “is it me, Lord?”

As if that wasn’t enough, they kept falling asleep when the Lord Jesus needed their encouragement.

Finally, after He tells them it is okay to rest… they will run away, deny him and stay their distance.

I am not trying to make you feel guilty, but I want you to understand this… you are not any better than James or John, Peter or Matthew.

We could not avoid sin… and knowing that means we need to rely on the message that has been shared all Lent long.

We could not…so He did…

  • Go Ahead and Rest

With all that, hear Jesus’s words again,

“Go ahead and sleep! Have your rest! But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

I choose to hear this given the theme. Jesus looks on us weary, broken, crushed by sin, and unable to save ourselves and says that we can rest because He was treated as a sinner by sinners.

What we cannot do, He did, staying awake through the anxiety, through the pain, enduring the wrath of God, and enabling us to dwell in peace.

How stunning it is to hear Him tell us to rest in that case! How grateful we can be for what He has done!  How grateful for what He was doing this night and into the darkness of the morning!

This is the love that makes a difference in our lives! The love that would intentionally do what we cannot because of our sin.

But because He did, we can experience peace, the purest peace, and the love that goes past all understanding.

We need to know this… especially when we are weak, when we are so weary, we can barely focus.

He has not abandoned you or me.

He chose to love us… and do what we could not.

….

SO let’s find that rest, as we let Him once again cleanse us from sin and all unrighteousness, and celebrate as He gives His Body and Blood to sustain us.

Which Message Needs to be Preached?

Is there joy or suffering in this nativity scene?

Devotional Thought for this day:

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. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. 26 Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. John 12:23-26

If you want to be faithful and fruitful, our homilies should always disseminate and harvest hope.

Later they will know that they are to be educated to be pastors. Afterward they will offer their services when some position is unoccupied. That is to say, they will not force their way in but will indicate that they are prepared, in case anybody should ask for them; thus they will know whether they should go. It is like a girl who is trained for marriage; if anybody asks her, she gets married. To force one’s way in is to push somebody else out. But to offer one’s service is to say, ‘I’ll be glad to accept if you can use me in this place.’ If he is wanted, it is a true call. So Isaiah said, ‘Here I am. Send me’ [Isa. 6:8]. He went when he heard that a preacher was needed. This ought to be done.

There is a lot to being a pastor, to preaching the word, to ensuring people receive the sacraments. It is a calling from God and recognized by the church. You go when you are needed, as Luther discusses. And yet, there is a question of recognizing the need, and responding to it.

The passage in red, from the gospel is one message that needs to be proclaimed. It seems to ask for a lot, for the believer to follow Jesus and sacrifice himself for the needs of others. It seems different than Pope Francis’s words about providing and havesting hope.

Do I preach about self-sacrifice and Christlikeness? Or

Do I give a message of hope?

Or is there a third option, to so clearly preach about being in Christ that one realize the hope found in self-sacrifice. That is the challenge when presented with the dilemna of preaching this or that. It is not one or the other, it is where they intersect, and that intersection always is found where we meet Jesus. For our greatest hope is found when and where we are closest to Christ, when the Holy Spirit is transforming us into His image. There, no matter the sacrifice, the work of God is seen, a work that is joyful beyond anything else we can experience.

It’s not preach self-sacrifice or preach hope. It is both/and… in Christ Jesus

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 110.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 80.

Are You Tired? Wondering if you are on the right road?

Devotional Thought for the Year:

You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths. 4  I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe. Psalm 23:3b-4 (CEV)

I love to speak of paths and ways, because we are travelers, journeying to our home in heaven, our Father’s land. But don’t forget that, though a path may have some particularly difficult stretches, and may occasionally involve wading across a river or passing through an almost impenetrable wood, as a rule it will be quite passable and hold no surprises for us. The danger lies in routine, in imagining that God cannot be here, in the things of each instant, because they are so simple and ordinary!

I am tired.

In the last year, almost 10 percent of my congregation passed away. Not one from Covid. And that was only a small part of the trauma my people endured…

This year seems to be competitive so far. Yesterday, I received news of a mentor whose health is failing. Then, a message that a staff member’s sister is in ICU after a drunk hit her head-on. I was with my mom, who had a procedure that confirmed another complicated procedure is needed. Four other people with other serious health issues came to my attention.

I am tired.

Did I say that?

If I am honest, there are days I wonder if I am on the right path. One of my elders joked that we change the church’s name so that trouble and trauma would have a more challenging time finding us. I wonder what I had done, which caused all this mess and all this trauma. Am I the bad luck charm that causes all the trauma, all the stress, the crap that invades the world around us?

This path that St. Josemaria mentioned is one that is one that has particularly difficult stretches. It seems that we are going through such a time right now. Like the forests in a Tolkein novel, the forest seems impenetrable, the dark valleys where things that terrify surround us. ( I think those show up in his novels because he endured them as he journeyed with Jesus.)

It is those dark valleys that David walked through that caused Psalm 23 to be written. The CEV translation broke the sentences a little differently, which hit me this morning. For before and after the mention of those dark valleys, there is the assurance of the presence of God. Hie leading, His protection, His PRESENCE.

Amid the weariness, hearing this is so needed. St. Josemaria notes that danger is found when we imagine God is not there… that He is not in each instant. I know that, but I need to hear it as well.

He is here… HE IS HERE!

Realizing that I can find the rest I need, even if it is only for a moment in a praise song, in a word that reminds me of His love, His mercy, His presence.

When we realize that, our weariness changes form. It changes, no longer communicated by groans, to that with sighs of peace For we know the hope created by our destination; and we know Who it is to guide us on the journey.

Be still, find your rest in Jesus, with whom we have died at the cross so that we are raised in His glory and peace.

If you don’t understand this, please give me a call – or drop me a message. These days, this forest is too challenging to take on, on your own.

Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (p. 149). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition. (taken from Friends of God by St Josemaria Escriva , p 313-314)

Church on Sunday, Work on Monday… Why do we have such burdens?

Can we bear to see the pain,
in order to see the beauty?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

With your faithful love, you will lead the people you have redeemed; you will guide them to your holy dwelling with your strength. Exodus 15:13 CSB

Poor and lukewarm is the Church that flees from and avoids the cross!

For many of our contemporaries, though, work is “a tedious function”: they see their professional obligations—intellectual or manual, of public relevance or unfolding quietly within the four walls of home—as a weight that must be carried “because there’s no way out of it.” Some live for the weekend and try to bear with the fatigues of work with the consolation that their well-deserved break is coming. Thus, they condemn themselves to five days of suffering and two of fleeting enjoyment, for the gray monotony of the next Monday appears immediately on the horizon. Others imagine that work is a divine punishment, the fruit of original sin. They forget that when God created man and woman and placed them in the Garden of Eden ut operantur, to work, he gave this command before the Fall of our first parents.

Yesterday, I had the honor of confirming 4 young adults in the faith. Over the time we studied together, I hope I gave them a different view of church than many adults have. A way that Fazio expressed above regarding work, the idea that we have to go “because there’s no way out of it.” That church is somehow an invasion, God trying to take his chunk out of the time of rest that people are owed for their back breaking work.

I think people need to see both work and church in a different way. Not as tedious things they must do, but as a time they are able to work alongside the God who loves them. Managers and bosses can encourage this, giving people the freedom to do their work in a way that encourages their artistic sense, or gives them a measure of satisfaction and joy.

We need to do this with church as well. To help people run to the cross, because they know the faithful love that is revealed there. They know how singing and even dancing in the presence of God, no dancing with God, is more fulfilling than anything else. That the feast of the Lord’s Supper is something to be celebrated, a time of great joy and wonder. We need to be drawn to the cross, not purpose driven.

This is the picture Moses drew for the Israelites in Exodus, as God guides His people into His presence, into their home. To see the faithful love of God at work in those moments, and to see it infect people who take that joy of being home with God into their work places, recognizing His presence there. He would guide them there, patiently, just as He guides us…

To that place where we look on awe, realizing the strength of the love that endured all of it, from the pain of the betrayal to the beating, from the mocking voices ot the tearing pain of the spikes which pierced His hands and feet. Hebrews tells us that He not only endured it, He did it for the joy set before Him, the joy of reuniting us with the Father, of bringing us home.

When we are there..at the foot of the cross, it changes everything. No longer is work an obligation, no longer is church a duty to do, a burden laid on us. It is a time of refreshment, of joy, of being reminded that God surrounds us in peace. That peace extends out from these few hours on Sunday, and makes even work come alive.

For we are His people…His beloved people, and He is with us… even if all we do is work in the kitchen…

Lord, help the people i minister to see Your love for them, and rejoice in it.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 366.

Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (pp. 105-106). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

That’s an odd word….

clydes-cross-2

Devotional Thought of the Day:
17  My strength, I will make music for you, for my stronghold is God, the God who loves me faithfully.   Psalm 59:17 (NJB)

what more canst thou hope for than the fulfillment of this great promise, “I will be their God”? This is the masterpiece of all the promises; its enjoyment makes a heaven below, and will make a heaven above. Dwell in the light of thy Lord, and let thy soul be always ravished with his love.

It is Karl Barth’s answer to the questioner who asked him, “Professor Barth, you have written dozens of great books, and many of us think you are the greatest theologian in the world. Of all your many ideas, what is the most profound thought you have ever had?” Without a second’s hesitation, the great theologian replied, “Jesus loves me.”

It is refreshing to read words of pastors from other eras in the church.  Especially when those words haven’t been translated, and even cleansed in recent decades.  Even so, sometimes how things are said are shocking, they set us back, and cause us to process what we read.

Such an occurrence took place as I was reading from Spurgeon this morning.

Ravished?

That seems such an odd word to use regarding the love of God.  Whether it is used in the sense of carrying someone away (after pillaging their village) or causing an incredible level of intense delight (https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/ravish ), it just doesn’t seem right or maybe a better word, considering Spurgeon’s roots – proper.

But maybe that is precisely what is missing from Christianity today. We are missing a sense of the incredible idea of being raptured ( a synonym), not in the sense of eschatology. Instead, in the sense that as we realize we are loved by God, everything else is left behind, that the delight, the joy, the wonder of being loved transform where we are, and it is no longer the place we thought we were.

You see that kind of sentiment in the great preachers and saints throughout history.  John Chrysostom, Pascal, Saint Theresa, St Josemaria, Luther, all expressed that kind of experience, as they experienced the love of God. It is what mystics search after, these moments of transcendence, these moments of uncontrollable, heavenly bliss.

It is only from dwelling in that love that we can minister to others.  It is the only hope we have when we have been broken by the sin of the world and shattered by our own sin.  To let our soul be ravished by the love of God, as He takes us out of the brokenness, transforming us and giving us a new perspective on the world in which we dwell.

The world we dwell in, as we live in Him, and He in us. Completely loved and adored, beyond our imagination, beyond our understanding. Rather than trying to figure it out, perhaps it is better to acknowledge it, and the peace we gain from His presence. The Lord loves you! And even as you find delight in that, the realization should hit you, He delights in it as well!

 

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 34.

Center Stage: The Cross – A sermon on Galatians 6:14-18

Centerstage:
The Cross
Galatians 6:14-18

† Jesus, Son, Savior †

May God’s peace and mercy be upon you, as you live knowing this, you are a new creation, the very people of God

Where do we find contentment?

The Apostle Paul desired that he would never, ever boast in anything except the cross of Christ.

Not in His favorite sports teams

Not in a promotion, or an award given at work

Not in his citizenship or Nationality

Not even in the academic grades or the sports accomplishments of his children or grandchildren.

That makes some sense, even as we know we do those things regularly.  When we look a little deeper at the word behind the word “boast,” the lesson gets a little harder.

The Greek word means to be proud of or to be satisfied and content with your situation or accomplishments. 

Should I go back through that list? 

We find many things that we find contentment, many things in which we find satisfaction.  Paul would have us only find contentment, only find satisfaction when we looked there, at the cross which reminds you that God loves you enough that Christ died… for you!

Nothing is more important in your life than to know God loves you.  Seeing the cross at the center stage of our lives, yet…

The Law – The world rules

That is why Paul talks about the need to see our interest in the world crucified, and the world’s interest in us terminated.  This is hard to comprehend at times, for how do we live in the world and yet, as Jesus tells us, not be of the world?  How can we deal with the family and friends we might lose, the jobs we might have to turn down, all because they do not understand?

It is not easy,

I need to say here we don’t lose them because we annoy them with our condescension, or pretend we are holier or more special that they are.  We better not lose them because we condemn their sin, while ignoring our own.

But the ability to dwell miraculously in peace, and receive God’s mercy will create a difference, and not understanding that is challenging.  As is the change in priorities that occurs when we are transformed by the presence of God in our lives.

The Transformation

You see, God starts transforming us, the moment He claims us in baptism.  We might not even realize the difference He is making, But we become something new, something different, as we experience His love.

We live differently, what the Apostle talks of, to live by this principle, the principle is this: that we are the new people of God.  In Greek, this is the word canon. Not the kind I would like to play with, but canon as in the Biblical Canon.  It means the rule, the form, the standard that we can be measured by. 

Luther talks about something similar when he talks about the third use of the law, that we live in a peace and mercy that affects our life, causing us to live as new creations.

While the world may not understand it, God changes us.  It is why kneeling here is so incredible.  It is why Al when he stood here and baptized his granddaughters was crying for joy.  It is why people, when they hear that they are forgiven, every sin from murder to those little white lies that haunt us, feel as if they were released from the greatest of burdens.  This is the transformation!

It is something the world just can’t understand, this remarkable peace and grace of God which defines us, when we remember that we have been made the children of God.

The Mark How does that happen?  Paul describes it this way, “I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.

The stigmata in Greek.  A Reference to the marks, the wounds of Christ.  For it primarily means the mark left by the healing of injured tissue, in a way, a natural tattoo.

But it is deeper than that, because Paul says it is a mark that shows that he belongs to Jesus.  A mark that tells us we are His, that we are united to Him and His death on the cross. We bear that mark of the cross, the stigma of it, for with it we were baptized , marked and sealed, so that not only do we die with Christ.

We live with Him as well.

Which is why I make the sign of the cross during the creed, because of His cross, and our death with Him there, we will rise from the dead and living in the glory of the Father forever! 

And until that day comes, when all men will be judged, the Holy Spirit dwells with us, comforting us, transforming and guiding us, as we live as the new people of God… AMEN!

The Greatest Identity Theft….ever!

Who is the MAN?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

5  David became very angry at the rich man and said, “I swear by the living LORD that the man who did this ought to die! 6  For having done such a cruel thing, he must pay back four times as much as he took.” 7 “You are that man,” Nathan said to David. “And this is what the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I made you the king of Israel and rescued you from Saul. 2 Samuel 12:5-7 (TEV)

So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Look! Here is the man!” John 19:5 GNT

Identities are stolen every day.

Some are as innocent as a wife seeing her husband’s Facebook page open and typing in, ” I have the most beautiful, precious wife in the world!” Others have a more evil intent, stealing money, credit, anything they can from their victims, their families, even their workplaces.

Identity theft is so prevalent that it is has created multiple industries to defend against it, from computer programs and special routers to wallets that protect the information on your credit and atm cards, to special companies that scan your information regularly and alert you, and insurance policies to compensate you while it all gets straightened out. It is a billion-dollar industry.

But the greatest identity theft we see happen in two Bible passages above.

David, full of sin, and not all that remorseful judges a sinner as being worthy of death (and paying back 4 to 1 what was stolen.) The sentence was right and just, it was what the man deserved, Without a doubt, without any hesitation.

And then David hears the harsh words, “David, you are the man”

Remorse sinks in faster than the realization of Nathan’s words. His contempt for God has been revealed, his sin is now known to all. He is broken, or perhaps one can say, the brokenness he lived with is finally brought to light.

And this is where the identity theft comes in, as another man hears similar words, “Here is the man”, and a death sentence is carried out.

The death sentence David deserved is taken by Jesus. He steals David’s identity as a sinner, as an adulterer, as a murderer, The death David deserved is given to the Lord, who steals his identity.

And leaves David with his own, as David will become known as a man after God’s own heart.

But David is not the only one whose Identity has been stolen on a Friday like this.

Your identity is stolen as well.

Maybe you didn’t actually have someone killed, Maybe just in anger, you wanted someone dead. Maybe you have committed adultery, being unfaithful to your spouse, or causing someone else to be unfaithful to theirs. Or maybe it was simply desiring someone you aren’t married to.

Or any of the millions of sins in thought, word or deed that you committed, or the sins you committed by doing nothing.

That identity you have, and the accompanying guilt and shame is something you’ve lived with, maybe so long you have grown hardened to, and indifferent.

Jesus comes along, nailed to the cross, and steals that identity. We lost our identity, it is no longer ours, It is nailed to the cross, all of its ugliness, all our painful brokenness.

We are free, that is no longer us.

As we realize this, as we explore this new identity we have, as children of God, as we explore the breadth and width, depth and height of God’s love for us as Jesus is there, hanging on the cross…

it is time to say thanks, time to adore Him, time to let that old identity completely go…and be healed.

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to steal our identity. And thank you for the Holy Spirit who establishes our new identity. Help us to heal and live new lives, sharing this “theft” with the world. AMEN!



Are You Talkin t’ me? Are YOU Talkin t’ME?

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought for our days…

“I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. 25 The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates m his life n in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant o also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.  John 12:24-26

When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross, when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly; we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

We, who are so often unable to put up with one another; we, who are not fit to appear before God, are received by Jesus. He wears, so to speak, the garment of our wretchedness and, by taking us with him, makes us fit to stand in the presence of God; we have gained access to God. We are washed by letting ourselves be drawn into his love. This love means that God receives us unconditionally even when we are not capable and are not worthy of it, because he, Jesus Christ, transforms us and becomes our Brother.

In the middle of Jesus prophecy about His imminent crucifixion and resurrection, there is something we have to see, something we have to hear again.

6 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me.

We have to bear the cross, we have to go with Him there, or more precisely we need to allow Him to draw us into Himself, to give up our lives so that we can live in Him, with Him, through Him. (yes the Eucharistic reference is intended)

For without the cross, His cross, we cannot truly be His disciples, we can’t be united to Him, for that is where our unity with God begins, it is where life is restored in the midst of death. 

And so Jesus calls us to die, even as He was sent to die.  We are drawn to the cross, not because of the pain, not because of the sacrifices required (those idols aren’t worth anything anyway) but because of the love we know there,  this incredible, unbelievable love that is poured out on us, the broken and sin-crushed.  Yet that love heals us, transforms us, judges us as those who are brothers and sisters of  Jesus, the Son of God.  

Without that death and resurrection, we are nothing.  And having died to sin, and been raised in Christ, we begin to realize life differently.

The crosses we have to bear, the sacrifices we make to serve others, the forgiveness that pours out from our hearts is not something that is more painful than the joy we find in the presence of Jesus Christ.  

In fact, as we get used to living in Christ, we may not even realize we are making sacrifices, bearing crosses, being patient with those who require the greatest patience. We just know what we do is what we are supposed to do…

It is just what we do, 

What He’s called us to do, for He has revealed His love, He has revealed His promise 

The cross..and the resurrection, He and us, united there, and forever.  AMEN! 

 

 

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

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.

Prayers answer in Christ’s Wounds: Make Me Yours! ( The first sermon in a Lenten series at Concordia)

Prayers answered in Christ’s Wounds
Make Me Yours

Isaiah 53:7-11

† I.H.S. †

The Mark you bear….the passion it represents

A moment ago, you had some palm tree ash put on your forehead.   Ash, the dirt that comes from burning something that was once alive, but now is dead and is burnt because the option is to let it take up room while it rots and smells up the place.

Fire leaves behind what’s left, what can’t decay, what can’t be broken down anymore.

As we go through Lent, we are going to look at some of the deepest prayers of our souls, the prayers that we should be aware were answered completely, even if that answer remains partly hidden.  We can learn that it is answered, we can begin to see that revelation, and know that in time, we will see it completely answered.

Those prayers are seen, in part, in the hymn, O Sacred Head Now Wounded, and each week we will add a verse, as we see the prayer that is answered in Jesus wounds….

The prayer tonight?  It is found in the last line of the first verse, “I joy to call Thee mine.”  
An appropriate prayer, considering it is Valentine’s day… a prayer to God, “be mine”, a prayer to God as well, “make me yours!”

An answer that we see in the mark, the brand you are wearing tonight.  A mark that symbolizes not only our grief and brokenness but a mark that shows us that God has made us His.

The Mark of Brokenness, of grief and shame of the cross

Ashes, all that is left after all that can rot and stink has been taken away…  Little better than carbon-based dust…something that can be blown away, even by a gentle breeze.

Ashes have been used as a sigh of grief for a long time, and though we also see them as a sign of repentance, they are first a sign of grief, a recognition that without Christ, our lives, so dominated by sin, are but the ashes and dust we come from, and the ashes and dust we will return to someday.

We often see them as a sign of repentance, but repentance comes as a gift from God and develops out of a sorrow for our sin, a realization of our brokenness.  To realize the effect and impact of our individual sin, of the havoc that sin wracks in our lives.

And so we wear the ash, in sorrow and grief and shame.

The grief and shame that wears down the head of Jesus, wounded for us, to answer our prayers, Be mine, make me yours!

The Mark of Bliss 

As we journey through this life with Jesus, as we journey with Him from the cross, we begin to see that the ashes leave the same mark as our baptism.

The sign of the cross, the place where Jesus was bruised and battered, the place Isaiah described so clearly in our reading tonight,

10  But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11  When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah 53:10-11 (NLT)

 It is tempting to see in this God the Father crushing Jesus, the accomplishment of anguish.  The idea that all this required anguish, the anguish of the weight of our sin which He bears.  All that is necessary for a time.  But it is not where it ends. What we need to see, what will rescue us from the appropriate grief is this,

The Good plan,
The having many descendants,
The accomplishment ( in Greek this would be the same as “it is finished!”
the fact that many, including us, will be counted righteous.

In lent we need a both and, a time to grieve our sin, and a time to dance over the fact we are forgiven, hence the ashes in the sign of the cross…

Make Me thine

And in that cross, we hear those words, that we are found righteous, that it has been accomplished, that we have become His, for He has given us life.

He has made us His own.

We can rejoice, for we know the joy of calling Him ours, and we can say with the bluntest honest the words of the psalm, “I joy to call the mine!”

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