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Then You Will Know that… A Lenten Sermon on Ezekiel 37

dscf1215-copy-copyThen You Will Know

Ezekiel 37:1-14

 In Jesus Name

 As you know the miraculous work of God in your life, as the grace, mercy, and love become reality, never forget that this is your LORD who walks with you!

In the midst of the miraculous

There is a part of me, the geeky part, that would love to see a movie made out of the Old Testament scene today, with the skeletons coming together, with the tendons and muscles crawling up the bones, the faces going from skeleton to muscle to flesh…

It would be like watching a horror movie in reverse….

And then the miracle of the wind, roaring across the valley, visibly entering each body’s nostrils, entering their mouths, their eyes snapping open, amazed by the life that now pumps blood through the body that surrounds the formerly dry and brittle bones!

What a wonder it would be!

A great crowd of people, awake and risen from the graves, brought back to the life they were always meant to live!

What a great movie, what complicated special effects, probably even beyond the imagination of Spielberg or Lucas!

And the most miraculous thing that happened would be overlooked in such a movie…

The incredible miracle of the chapter, found in these words,

“Then you will know that I am the LORD!”

“Then you will know that I am the LORD!”
Even as we see everything else happen, not just as a movie in our lives, but here and now, will we hear those words? Then will We Know?

Yea – those are our bones…

The first thing that might take away our knowing is looking at the bones, our bones.

Like Israel, most of us can see how we’ve withered and dried out.  We can see where our faith is challenged, where temptation has turned to sin, where the first cracks happened that left us broken, that made us outsiders.

It may have been the sin of jealousy and coveting that got you, or some juicy piece of gossip that you had to pass on.  Maybe it was a desire that caused you to be unfaithful in your words or thought, or anger that caused you to hurt someone you should have loved.  Or maybe the sin was not honoring parents or authorities, or not recognizing the need for time with God, or using His name in a way we shouldn’t, or not using it when we should.

It doesn’t matter the sin, whether it was in thought or word, or action that we took, or knew we should and didn’t.

Those bones in the story are ours, as much as they were Israel’s.

And seeing them, we can lose our hope, we can lose our focus on God, and see only our own sin.

But that isn’t the story here, nor is it where our thoughts need to dwell.  Can our dried bones live?  Can we, despite our sin and shame find life?  The LORD knows…

It’s time to stop focusing on your sin, your history

Yea – that is the Quickening

Our dry bones can take much of our attention away from God. So can our being brought back to life, the miracle of God covering our sin, our nakedness, and putting His Spirit within us.

It is truly a miracle, this work of God, this thing that theologians calls the quickening, this miracle were a sinner is declared and becomes righteous by God’s command. This miracle where sin is stripped from us, and laid on Jesus at the cross.  Where we are brought to life with Him and His resurrection.

This is a wonderful thing as God saves us from our hopelessness, and causes us to rise again.

But it is not the greatest thing, not even close…

But here is what you need to know.

Go back to that phrase, “Then you shall know that I am the LORD!:

We may skip over that far too quickly.   For the other things, our sin and our being brought to life seem to capture our attention, they are more graphic, more visual, and knowing that Jesus is the LORD, that is something we might just assume, or take for granted.

But know here isn’t just about knowing the facts, it is about knowing God as LORD, as the I AM.  To know him deep down into our heart and soul, the part of us that seems hidden.  Hidden not only from those who know us but deep down into the parts of us that lie beneath our character, that truly define who we are.

We also have to remember that when we see LORD in all capital letters, it is not His title, it is His name, YHWH, or Jehovah, the I AM that Moses was told to use to introduce Israel to Him with. The Name we are to call out to God with when we are in despair, the Name of God we are to use in our prayers and our praises, the God who communes with us here.

This is knowing at our deepest part, knowing Him in the most intimate of settings in our heart and soul.  Knowing Him at a point where brokenness is healed, where love is known, even if we can’t explain it.  Where peace is found, for there God has put His Spirit. For God has breathed into you life, a life that is abundant.

This is the real miracle in the valley of the dry bones, the revelation not just of salvation, not just of the Love of God, but of knowing Him, and realizing how well He knows and loves us.

For as that is revealed – we become more and more aware that we dwell in His presence, and are safe there… for He is our LORD, He is YHWH, our God.  AMEN!

 

What do people see in us?

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The church is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought fo the Day:
14  Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15  Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16  He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:14-16 (NLT)

917    Nonne cor nostrum ardens erat in nobis, dum loqueretur in via?—“Was not our heart burning within us, while he spoke to us on the way?” If you are an apostle, these words of the disciples of Emmaus should rise spontaneously to the lips of your professional companions when they meet you along the ways of their lives. (1)

At first, I felt an incredible burden as I read the words of St Josemaria this morning. While I know, we are sent into this word, that we are all apostles, the idea of people responding to us the way the two disciples on the road to Emmaus did seems so unlikely.

I read these words, and my heart asks whether St Josemaria knows we aren’t Jesus.  We aren’t perfect; we don’t have the wisdom, we are righteous enough, we are too bogged down by brokenness and anxiety.

So how could people react as if they encountered the holiness that is natural for the Son of God?

Because they have.  When they enocunter us, they encounter Jesus, for He is with us!

The promises are there; we will never be forsaken by Jesus, He will be with us for eternity.  The Holy Spirit dwells within all those who believe and are baptized. The Holy Spirit is transforming us into the image of Christ, even as we see His glory.

We know these things theologically, that is not enough! We have to realize the reality of what we know.  It has to sink deep into our hearts, our souls, even as we explore the vast dimension of the Love of God for us, revealed in Jesus.

This doesn’t happen through academic learning. It happens as we pray, as we spend time aware of God’s presence and peace, His comforting us and healing our brokenness, forgiving sin, removing resentment.  We are altered at the altar, as we receive Him, His precious Body broken for us, His blessed Blood, which confirms our relationship with Him and reminds us of all of His promises.  This is a life that is one of prayer, and meditation on His word. Not to prove our righteousness, but because in these encounters with God, we find His peace, we rest in Him.

As much as some would shy away from experiential aspects of our faith, these experiences where God is transforming us through His promises we hear in HIs word, through the sacraments He commissioned, these are His means.

We may never be aware of the result of the work, save when someone realizes Christ’s passion and care for them through us, and that is okay.

It’s not about our glory; it is about people being changed by our dwelling in HIs glorious presence.  AMEN!

(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2132-2134). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

We Can Know the Wonderful Things!

We Can Know the Wonderful Things!

1 Cor. 2:1-12

In Jesus Name

As the grace of God enfolds you, as the mercy and peace comes through like a cleansing wave, may you realize the greatest blessing is simply… beyond your imagination!


A Pastor Parker Parable….

It is time for another of “pastor parker’s parables!”

Side note – it’s been a good year for parables already – this is the fourth one and we are only 6 weeks into the year!  So this one seems clearly appropriate!

You see, the Parable is, “The Kingdom of God is revealed like….  (long pause) a Parable!

Told you it was somewhat appropriate!

Parables are simply word pictures that we enter into, stories with the purpose of teaching us, introducing us to deeper truths that we might be able to think through on your own.

They start our simple, like the parable of the sower, and the basic teaching that sometimes things grown, sometimes they do not. The reasons growth doesn’t happen is explained, as is the glory that when things do grow, oh my, do they grow!

That’s the simple story, basic truth, but with an application that takes it far further. In that case Jesus was talking about how people would receive His message – the news of the depth of God’s love, that was about to be revealed to them in a way that would be beyond belief.

Do you remember the old Jack Nicholson quote, “You can’t handle the truth!?”  Parables are tools to help those who can’t handle the truth, and that is everyone, as to them is revealed the very glory of God, revealed to us in Jesus birth, death, resurrection and His glorious message that God is with us!

Such is what St. Paul is trying to explain to the church in Corinth – as He is going to spend the entire letter refocusing them on what is important in life, the very mystery of God.

A Time for simplicity

As Paul starts out the chapter, he talks about forgetting everything but one thing – Jesus Christ, and His crucifixion.  Nothing else!  That is enough to focus on, keeping it simple. Jesus is God, Born of Mary, was crucified for your sin, rose from the dead and is in Heaven with the Father – there to plead for us.

It is the basic story of our faith, the part that we need to focus on, as we talk to people about Jesus – about faith – about Christianity!  Too often we get focused on other things, the things we want to save people from, the sins they have, or the bizarre ideas about Christianity or the universe, or just life.

St Peter says it this way, 15  Simply proclaim the Lord Christ holy in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15 (NJB)

Paul talks of this being so critical of a message, that the responsibility of giving it clearly caused him anxiety, and to become an introvert it was so heavy.  It caused him to use plain and simple language, this man who would be a professor in any university, in the religion department or philosophy department or languages.

Yet this message is too critical – like the parable it has to begin simply.

Why?  Because if it was easily recognized, Paul wouldn’t be able to say what he says in verses 7 and 8, “No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord.”

They may have understood the first part of the parable, the clearer lessons that were seen at the time of the Old Testament.  They were able to see that, and waxed eloquently on those things.  The Greeks were able to do this to, learning basic ideas like God is just, and that they tried to draw conclusions about God and the universe based on their limited knowledge.   With all of their wisdom, with all of the wisdom of the world today, we might understand the basics of the parable, but can we see the plan that God had hidden in plain sight of all? Not at all!  Indeed much of their work obscures anything of the cross.  As does the work of some today, who think they are wise.

So instead of speaking eloquently, Paul realized what the Old Testament prophets said was right – that’s why he said,

9  However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”– 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)

And let me tell you, God has conceived some pretty amazing things….anyone interested in knowing one?  Nah…..

Paul said just to focus on Jesus, and the cross…

A Time for Wisdom

But there is a time, among mature believers, to discuss that which is revealed to us, the very mystery of God – hear verse 7 again…

No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began.

Did you hear that?

God’s plan is for our ultimate glory – and that’s been His plan – all along

That is even more mind blowing than anything else you can hear.  More mind blowing winning the lottery.  Understand that God is going to bring us into His glory, is more mind-blowing than finding out your wife is pregnant.  Way more mind blowing!  Take my word for it – I’ve had to deal with both this week!

(did you get that – okay – back to the sermon)

God’s plan for us – since the beginning – to share in His glory – no wonder we can’t see it clearly – no wonder just the forgiveness of sins and the restoration of our relationship with Him.

No eye could have pictured this – when all around us we see sin.

Ears that have rejoiced when hearing the words, “I love you”, hear it from God, the creator of the universe, as He comes and abides with us, and makes our hearts come alive…

and everything, everything, working out for good for us, because we are loved by God, and He calls to us.

That is why Jesus was nailed to the cross, that’s why we are here, it is why we listen to sermons, to know of this love, a love for us.  That is the wonderful thing He has freely given, this relationship that we’ve believed was impossible.

That’s the deep thing of the parable, that makes it like the kingdom of God.  The deep meaning is all about Jesus Christ – the crucified one, who came to bring us home to God the Father.

Knowing the depth of this mystery – Christ in you – the hope of Glory the apostle told the Colossians – we find ourselves in peace… God’s peace.

Which has been His plan since the beginning.

AMEN?

Becoming Like Christ…. How it Happens:

Devotion/Discussion Thought of the Day:

17  For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18  So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NLT)

There is an old adage that says, “birds of a feather, flock together…”
It’s true, and its trite in many ways.   Who we spend our lives with, the time we invest with them, changes us dramatically.
Negatively, we call it succumbing to peer pressure.  Positively it is the encouragement that we call communion, fellowship, koinonia.

It’s true spiritually as well.  We don’t become more like Christ through our actions, through our thoughts, even through our discipline.  We are not made holy by our actions.
But we do become more holy, more sanctified, more set apart as Christ is, because we are gathered into His flock, we become like Him.  We learn to love as He does, to sacrifice as He does.

Not because of our work, but because of God’s work in us, as He called nad baptised and cleansed us – the very promises that have been there since the beginning.

This is what Paul is talking about – we Christ is revealed to us, we are transformed – His work in us begins, we are given His heart.

Such is the blessing of His being our God.

You want to become holier?  Be like Mary, not Martha – don’t try and make yourself perfect for God – sit there, adore Him, be still and know HIm…. and then… reflecting His glory where you are…where He has placed you.. you will find yourself thinking as He does… and more importantly – loving as He does.

 

Will we trust what God has revealed? Or must we explain (and know) more than that?

Devotional and Discussion thought off day…

 25  And I have been made a servant of the church by God, who gave me this task to perform for your good. It is the task of fully proclaiming his message, 26  which is the secret he hid through all past ages from all human beings but has now revealed to his people. 27  God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. Colossians 1:25-27 (TEV)

Let us not try to reduce the greatness of God to our own poor ideas and human explanations. Let us try to understand that this mystery, for all its darkness, is a light to guide men’s lives. As Saint John Chrysostom said: “We see that Jesus has come from us, from our human substance, and has been born of a virgin mother; but we don’t know how this wonder came about. Let us not waste our energies trying to understand it; rather, accept humbly what God has revealed to us. Don’t try to probe what God has kept hidden.”5 If we have this reverence, we will be able to understand and to love. The mystery will be a splendid lesson for us, much more convincing than any human reasoning. (1)

Thirty years ago this fall I started studying Theology seriously, well as much as an 18year old dual major in Bible (exegetical theology) and Homiletics can be “serious”.  During that time I have seen a lot labelled theology which is at best that which is called, “speculation”.  The speculators are sincere, have great intentions, and are often brilliant.  Their brains work like super computers, and they can store and analyze so much, that to be honest, I often find myself in awe when I am in their presence.   Until they move from knowledge that is scriptural into the realms of speculation.  Some of those who speculate (and which of us haven’t) aren’t so bright, and indeed, we make some of the most challenging errors.

Examples abound these days, and indeed throughout history.  The movement known as Higher Criticism, which combines historical and linguistic knowledge of scripture and its environs, but then turns to specualtion when it makes the data subservient to the observations and logic of the scholars examining it.   Another example is those who will wax eloquent on the relationship of justification and santification, or those who debate on the nature of the Eucharist – with such speculation as to when it becomes, to the radii at which the Words of Institution are effective.  These all take that which God hasn’t revealed – and make it not only necessarily to meditate on such things – but to come up with the categories and prove their “logic.  Another mystery is the Incarnation and the two natures of Christ.  And the list grows and grows, including eschatology, pneumatology, baconatology (why can good things happen to bad people) etc.

English: The Lord's Supper. Christ standing at...

English: The Lord’s Supper. Christ standing at an Orthodox altar, giving the Eucharist to the Twelve Apostles. Frescoes in the upper church of Spaso-Preobrazhenski cathedral. Valaam Monastery Русский: Алтарная апсида верхнего храма Спасо-Преображенского собора Валаамского монастыря. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why can’t we leave what God left hidden, or left a mystery, hidden and a mystery?  Why can’t we simply accept that we will not be omniscient in this life – and continue to explore the height and depth, width and breadth of the love of God, revealed to us in Christ Jesus?

Ultimately, why can’t we trust God?

We have more than enough to work with – as Colossians informs us – we have the very glory of God, into which we are drawn, to examine.  We have the relationship – not of the divine and human attributes of Chirst, but the relationship between us and Christ to meditate upon.  Christ in us, the very gift of our baptism, the very thing we celebrate in the Lord’s supper, the assurance of our absolution leading to our being welcome in the presence of a Holy and Righteous God.  How is that someone that can be laid aside, in order to determine who was more accurate in their speculation about sanctification?

If we leave what God left as mystery, if instead we dwell on the incredible things He has revealed – will that not lead to a great appreciation of His role in our lives?   Will it not lead to wonder when we see a baptism and know the promises are for us?  Will it not lead to a reverent but absolutely joyous celebration of the Lord’s Supper?  Will it not lead to….worship and a desire to spend more time in communion with God?

Or do we grasp all that God has revealed all ready and full applied it within our lives?

I haven’t…

So let us rejoice we have a God who is so big -that we cannot understand all that He has created and planned, but we can rely on His faithfulness and His revelation…

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 667-674). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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