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The Five Words You Need to Hear, that You Must Hear at Church!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA devotional thought for your day:
20  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (NLT)

23  “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23 (NLT)

659         If you had presence of God you would remedy many things that have apparently “no remedy”.

You need to hear these words.

They are critical for you to hear, not just with your ears, but with your heart, your mind, and into the depth of your soul.  They make the difference in your life….

“The Lord is with You”

If you’ve ever attended a Lutheran liturgical serve, or a Catholic Mass, or even some Anglican or Orthodox services you will hear these words repeated several times throughout the service.

Do you ever wonder why?  Are we just saying this as a form of greeting, or in order to mark a transition in the service?

Or is this what church is supposed to be doing, helping you realize you dwell completely in the presence of God!  That the Holy Spirit has brought you to that place, in that moment to realize you aren’t alone,  That God wants you there, and will do anything to make it possible for you to be there in His presence.

It might be that it is a time to be still and know God is your God.Maybe it is time to celebrate the freedom of Jubilee, when God erases every debt you incurred by your sin and unrighteousness, maybe it is time to offer a cup of water to someone who is physically or spiritually thirsty and dehydrated.  Maybe it is to receive that cup of water.

As St Josemaria notes, it is this presence of God that remedies that without remedy, that heals relationships to shattered to be healed.  It is the fulfillment of the greatest of prophecies, the very name attached to Jesus, Immanuel – God with us.  It is the promise of the last words He tells the apostles as he ascends to heaven.

It makes the difference in our lives, and incomparable difference, for the peace that comes realizing and depending upon it is beyond anything we can express.

A peace that is there and starts to impact you, as you realize their truth.

The Lord is with You!

(and yes  – and also with m)

Lord, have mercy upon us, reveal to us the presence of your Spirit, cleanse us of sin, and help us dwell in your peace! AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2767-2768). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God? Don’t You Care? A sermon from Mark 4


God, Don’t You Care?
Mark 4:35-41

May this sermon help you search out the richness of God the Father’s love you, show in Jesus, confirmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit!

What Should They Do Next Time?

This morning we are going to try and walk a mile in the apostles sandals.

Or maybe it would be better to say we are going to take a turn at the oars of their boat.

I want you to think through the storm again, to feel the panic of the apostles, to be up to you waste in cold water, to feel the 80-knot wind. The time in our gospel is now a distant memory, a couple of months back, and yet you find yourself in the middle of another storm.

You heard Jesus’s words, echoing through your brain, as you again battle the elements,

“Why are you afraid?”

“Do you still have no faith?”

And as another wave crashes over the bow of the boat… what are you going to do?

What would a person who has faith in God do differently?

Or, What should they do the next time?

Don’t answer yet…

Or let’s make this personal.  What is your trust in God going to cause you to “do” the next time you encounter such a storm?

At the Right time….

Before we decide on how we and the apostles should act during the next storm, I want to switch from the gospel to Paul’s letter to the church in 2 Corinthians 6.  There, Paul continues the theme of our pleading with people to “come back to God.”  Indeed, he says there,

As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it.

I suggest that this is the same concept as we find Jesus talking in the gospels about. He challenges the apostles, questioning their faith, and here, Paul says, why are you ignoring the gift from God?  The letter to the Hebrews asks the same question in another way,

3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? 4  And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose. Hebrews 2:3-4 (NLT)
Here are these guys in the boat, and the one person who can do something, whom they have seen do all sorts of miracles, is left asleep.

Here are these guys in the boat, and the one person who can do something, whom they have seen do all sorts of miracles, is left asleep.

Whoops!!

(The same thing happens to Job, the one thing his friends never did – was actually ask God why everything was going on!)

They had forgot the mission of Christ! Why he came!  To establish the Kingdom of God, to create for God the Father a people that would be His.  All the miracles were done, not to maximize Jesus reputation, but to convince people that the Father was there, in their midst, ready to bless and save them!

And, they left Him asleep!

They didn’t trust him enough to even bother waking Jesus up, they forgot about His love, His presence, His desire to reconcile them to the Father.  They saw the waves, and got scared.  Someone probably even said, “don’t worry, God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.”  Of course they were wrong.

God didn’t say that He promised something different,

“At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.”

But they didn’t think of that, and their cry to Jesus was even worse,

Lord, don’t you care about us?  Are you going to let us be destroyed?

Imagine saying that?  Actually, I don’t have to, I’ve said it.  Eventually, usually through another believer, but sometime as we study God’s word, or in a prayer or vision, we hear Him…

This question is a hard one to face, because we struggle to see God, not just physically, but actively in our lives.  We wonder if he is asleep, or on vacation, because sometimes we don’t hear His voice.  We don’t feel His comfort.

We need to stop, and breath… and be still and know He is God.  TO be still enough to hear His voice. That is hard to do, but that is why we are a church.  So if I am struggling, Al or Chuck or Wanda is there to help, if you are struggling, we all are there for you.  To remind you to listen, to help bring you to calm waters, So that you can hear God’s voice.

“Trust me,” God tells us, “I love you, I am here, I will help….  I CARE!”

Which leads us back to the question…

What do you do the next time…

The next time the storm is attacking, and that may be right now, How should you handle it?  Given Jesus’ loving correction to those whom He loved, what should we do?

Should we

1)  Try to command the storm to stop on our own, using our great faith?

2.) Let fear overrule our trust in God, our knowledge of His love, and become so confused that we forget the presence of God?

3.  Or Should we remember that Jesus is here, that He loves us, and then put everything we are into His hands?

The lesson of faith is not to try and calm the storms, but to trust the One who is Lord over everything.  Faith doesn’t try to manage things on our own, faith runs to the one whom is our shelter in the storm, our refuge in battle, our deliverer, our salvation,

Our goal is to remember He cares, to remember He’s promised to never leave us or forsake us,

He cares, He really cares, and in our baptism, He gives us His Spirit, the Comforter.  He is the God who lifts up – that is the very meaning of His name, the paraclete.

That is our ministry together, as we remind each other that He is here, as we call others to experience that grace.  That’s Paul’s discussion as well. It is the very presence of Christ that keeps him moving, despite opposition, despite bodyaches, despite those who would physically assault him, as he preached the gospel.
He can go on through these storms, because of God’s presence, …..

So once again, in the storms of life, don’t bother trying to have enough faith to endure them by yourself, and don’t forget in whose presence you dwell, but continually encourage each other to know this….

The Lord is with you, and He cares for you….

Knowing that, dwell in the indescribable peace of God, for there you are safe, your hearts and minds guarded by Christ Jesus.

AMEN.

For Yours is the Kingdom, the Power and The Glory: The Prayer of Easter!


For Thine IS the Kingdom,

The Power, and the Glory!

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

In Jesus Name

We need to be Reminded – 

Yesterday, as I was at a loss for words for this message, I received an email from Linda and Tom.

It opened up with these words,

“You just can’t let me forget that God is ever present in our lives.”

Then he added,   

“Don’t stop !”

As I read them, the words that we heard from another letter this morning burned even deeper in my heart

Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before.

All of us need to be reminded of the good news, that God is ever-present in our lives.

Solomon once wrote

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. 2  A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. 3  A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. 4  A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 (NLT)

The passage goes on for another 4 verses, 8 more comparisons of what we might say is a contrast between good and bad, joy and sorrow if we don’t hear how the thought ends,

11  Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

In Solomon’s time, this is true, we couldn’t father the scope of God’s work. Now, in the Gospel message, in the good news, we see the scope of God’s work as we realize the message revealed in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. We have heard this message, a message that God is ever-present in your lives.

(wait…)

I said the Lord is with YOU.

Oh! Now you remember.  As Tom wrote – don’t stop telling me this! We need to hear that God is ever-present with us. He died for our sin, was buried and rose again!

Alleluia! He is Risen!

(He is Risen indeed!)

And that means?
(we are risen indeed!  Alleluia!)

in other words
The Lord is With You!
(and also with You!)

AMEN!

The Message of Hope

Hear Paul again,

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.

Most important is actually a little weak, it is not only of prime importance, this is foundational. It is the basis for everything else in our lives.

That Christ died – not just that He died, but for you He died but that He was buried and raised from the dead, which is what we celebrate today.
Later Paul will say that if Jesus didn’t die and rise from the dead, we of all people are to be pitied more than anything else in the world.

Jesus death for our sins, Paul tells us, was told about for centuries prior to His being born. Over and over the Old Testament tells us He would die, that God would provide an offering for our sins, and proof of the depth of His love and commitment to us.

The same for His burial and resurrection, and the praises that would result, as God made sure that we knew this wasn’t haphazard, but that this previous weekend was planned before He ever created light.

Jesus would die for our sins, be buried and rise again.

We need to hear this and hear it again and again.  Without the series of events for Holy Week, we cannot hear what we need to,

That the Lord is with you!

The Witnesses

Paul wants to make sure the Corinthians know this well, so well, that they can base their lives on the Jesus’ death for our sins, on His Burial and Resurrection.

Maybe they won’t believe me, he thinks.  No problem.  I’ll refer them to other, for there are so many others who can bear witness.  Peter’s in town, they call him Cephas, he can share how important this message is.  Paul is going to go through all the eye witnesses to the physical resurrection of Jesus so that people will know.

It’s not a dream, it is not something Paul cooked up, it is something that happened, really happened. Five Hundred people witnesses it all at once, not just one hear and one there, 500 at once, and most still lived, in case people wanted to get an opinion other than Paul’s!

And Paul wants us to be assured of it, in order that our lives are based on it.

Paul’s words at the end – it doesn’t matter who tells you, the message is the same, and people like James are more than willing to die, even as they share it.  We don’t know if Paul was there when James was martyred, but we know he was when Stephen forgave him, and all those who killed him, simply because he trusted in Jesus, the one who died for Stephen’s sins, and Paul’s and yours and mine.  As he trusted in the Jesus, who was buried and rose again from the dead.

Whatever we are now!
We often talk of Christ’s death – for our sins, but there is more to the story of Easter than that.  Paul gets to that in verse 10, and what he says of himself, is true for every one of us, read the words with me,

10 But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me.

For that grace, that very same grace is yours.   It is not special to Paul but is the very blessing that God gives to everyone He calls, every person He pours His Spirit on, making them part of His church.

You see, just like if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead our lives are meaningless, so are they not the same if we don’t realize the change He is making to us because Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and Jesus is Risen!

and, therefore?

We are risen to a new life, a life lived with God, a life that we need to know God is ever-present in.  Something we can’t stop reminding each other of, even in the times where we aren’t sure that God will make these things beautiful.  Sure of that, and that being the foundation of our life, we can understand why the Paul told Hebrew Christians,

23  Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24  Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT)
That is part of the new life of Paul, to continually remind people of the gospel, that Jesus died for our sins, that He was buried, and that Praise God with everything in us, for He has risen!

And that means….

Why we end our prayer with praise

48 days ago, on Ash Wednesday, we began a look at the Lord’s prayer.  We finished the requests on Friday, as we realized that at the cross Jesus delivered us from evil and answered every request.

Which leaves only this to finish that journey today, as we celebrate our life with God.

Let us pray,

Our Father, Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, forever and ever. AMEN!

God, please leave me alone!!! (and thank you Holy Spirit!)


Devotional Thought of the Day:

4  When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.” 5  Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.” 6  It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. 7  They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch. 8  Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” Luke 5:4-8 (MSG)

574      You insist on trying to walk on your own, doing your own will, guided solely by your own judgement… And you can see for yourself that the fruit of this is fruitlessness. My child, if you don’t give up your own judgement, if you are proud, if you devote yourself to “your” apostolate, you will work all night—your whole life will be one long night—and at the end of it all the dawn will find you with your nets empty.  (1)

This morning I made it through my devotional time, without a thought that struck me hard.  I would think I was just going through the motions, but that is a poor excuse.  The reason I enjoy the time I spend in the scriptures, reading through the Book of Concord and Vatican II documents (my goal for this church year) and the writings of St Josemaria Escriva is because one of them reveals to me the presence and promises of God.

i do it so I don’t get into the practice of doing by just going through the motions.

I am in mourning this morning, and that has an effect on me, I am sure.  A very good friend from one of my previous congregations passed away, and it is hitting me all to hard. I haven’t seen him in a while, maybe two years…. and I miss him a lot.  This is on top of a very emotional week.  Two other friends in ICU, and pouring out in sermons on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Sunday the miracle of Christ’s presence, and the desire of God to make us His holy children.

I feel a lot like Peter, as Jesus performs the miracle and fills his boat with abundance. Lord, I am tired, weary, not holy enough to be in your presence. Just leave me alone….. please…..

As I was finishing up with devotions, the very first point in The Forge, is the one quoted in brown above. I knew I had to write on it, and the event that inspired it, the scripture passage.

What I didn’t realize, even as I started writing, having copied and pasted both quotes, was how Peter’s request would affect me.  It is how I feel.

Lost
Full of remorse,
Tired
Hurting.bereaved

And yet, all around me, I see miracles, stuff God is doing, there is no other explanation for what is going on….

“Leave me alone, I can’t handle this holiness Lord!” This is Peter’s cry… but it is echoing over and over in my soul.

Even as I am writing this, another passage comes to mind….

26  Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. 27  He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. 28  That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:26-28 (MSG)

I will hang on this this today, despite my wanting to find a cave like Elijah, or the spot David can’t find in Psalm 139, a place where God isn’t.  I need to know God doesn’t forsake or abandon us, He is there, a Father who keeps His promise, a Brother who gives His life for us, who bears our sorrows, and iniquities… (taking away our excuse to run because we aren’t holy) and the Holy Spirit, who brings comfort and peace, and takes our cries…and prays for what we really need……

The assurance of God’s presence, and love.

Lord Have Mercy….. and He does!  

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2137-2140). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Burdened? With those of Christ, or Those of the World?


Devotional Thought of the Day:

28  “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 29  Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG) 

414         Is the burden heavy? No, a thousand times no! Those obligations which you freely accepted are wings that raise you high above the vile mud of your passions. Do the birds feel the weight of their wings? If you were to cut them off and put them on the scales you would see that they are heavy. But can a bird fly if they are taken away from it? It needs those wings and it does not notice their weight, for they lift it up above other creatures. Your “wings” are heavy too! But if you did not have them you would fall into the filthiest mire.  (1)

It’s one of the great mysteries of ministry, the ability to endure, and the strength that comes when we shoulder the burdens we are called to bear as we walk with Jesus.

There are days and weeks where pastors and others who serve the church get worn down, we are tired and weary and nearly breaking under the strain.  I saw such a week ago, at another pastor’s memorial service.  So many of my brothers looked worn down, beaten, broken.  I didn’t pay much attention to the service to be honest, as I was mostly praying for the pastors sitting on either side of me.   We are a tired bunch these days, many of us overburdened, many of us at the point where we can forget to look to Jesus.  As we forget it is He that works through us, caring for His people.

As I was reading this morning, I came to the above quote from St. Josemaria.  Having read of his life, of the existence during a civil war when brothers were dieing, of working tirelessly to see a vision where people – all people of the church realized that they were God’s worksmanship – that He had a role for each one, I realized these just weren’t words of advice.  These were words of experience, words that shared the hope of realizing that we live at our best, when we take on those burdens of Christ.

Similarly, Eugene Peterson’s translation of an oft quoted passage strike home as well.  It talks of the relationship we have with Christ.  The relationship based on letting Him lead, letting Him choose the burdens we must carry. He replaces the burdens of sin, and shame, and guilt and resentment and regret with grace, with love, with putting all that aside to walk with Him, as He re-creates lives, as He restores what was broken, as He brings healing to that which was sickened and weakened by neglect and oppression. That’s God’s work, not really ours, though often it happens as we talk, as we hold the hand of one weeping, praying for them.

The burdens we do carry… seemingly heavier than those we set down, set us soaring.  Not because they make us stronger, for that is not the nature of a wing.  Wings primarily work because they catch the wind, and the wind pressure supports them and lifts them up.  This is how the Spirit works in us, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who dwells in us, who cleanses us, who works through our words to bring people into that amazing relationship we have with God.

Ultimately, there is a time to stop, to listen to breathe.  To pick up my guitar or sit at my keyboard (music not this one) and play… and realize the God who named me as His child, who called me into this ministry, who knows what He is doing.  For if we don’t do that, surely we shall crash, surely we won’t be able to get out of the crud we entered as we ministered to people dealing with it in their lives.  It’s the lesson an old Baptist jail chaplain taught me, as we served together.  He told me when I left the jail, before I started my car to sit there, take a few moments to realize Christ’s promises to me in baptism. to remember that He has cleansed me, that He has taken all the real burdens from me, and that He will never leave me.

That’s a burden that is a blessing, and enables us to do everything else.

May you find the time today to take on His burden/blessings. AMEN

English: fragment of the Gospel of Matthew

English: fragment of the Gospel of Matthew (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1858-1864). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Vacation?


26  If (one) part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. 27  Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.  1 Corinthians 12:26-27 (NAB) 

I am sitting here, after driving 10 plus hours (somehow getting through Soledad took more time than taking the 91-405-101 during morning drive-but that is another blog)

I am beginning to rest, the camper is all set up….and I finally think back to our church services yesterday.  I think about our Taiwanese congregation, who are in those challenging days where they are looking for their new pastor….I think about the guests we had in our multi-cultural service, friends of friends.  I think of our people suffering through cancer, through depression, through work issues and family issues.  Sunday was my 5th anniversary with these people…we have been through the ringer…and have come out all the more dependent upon God’s love and mercy!

It was a little strange as so many of my friends, my parishoners said that I needed some rest that I needed to get away…. as if it was them that I needed to escape from!  Be assured…we will get physical rest.  But spiritual rest for me comes as we sing together, as we praise the God who brought us together, the God who is with us.   When we witness God working through each other, even those whom those who don’t know God’s love and mercy would consider the weakest.  Especially them, for they are the most amazing to watch God work through!  Watching the people of God trust in Him…watching that trust grow and build…it does a pastor’s heart good!

The verse above perhaps explains my rambling a bit better.  We are the people of God.  We belong to Him, and therefore are bonded to each other.  Distance can’t separate us.. lack of cell phone service or internet…( bahahahaha,,,,the campground has wonderful wireless!)  can’t separate us.  We’ve dined together with God.

There is nothing better….

Now to go and rest… knowing my people are in God’s hands…for that is not just my desire…it is His!

And my dear people at Concordia know this…above all….The Lord is with them! ( And also with me!)

And also…with you.

A Blog of/for the Tired and Wondering if it all Matters…


English: Jesus Christ saving the souls of the ...

English: Jesus Christ saving the souls of the damned. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:

25  “If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. 26  Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. 27  “Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? 28  All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, 29  but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. 30  “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? 31  What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. 32  People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. 33  Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. 34  “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.  Matthew 6:25-34 (MSG) 

 When you pray, but see nothing, and feel flustered and dry, then the way is this: don’t think of yourself. Instead, turn your eyes to the Passion of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Be convinced that he is asking each one of us, as he asked those three more intimate Apostles of his in the Garden of Olives, to “Watch and pray”.  (1)

This morning, I am a more than a bit anxious. more than a bit distracted, more than a bit pessimistic about life, and in someways, about the future.

I know part of it is being tired… a long day of driving yesterday… and still recovering from surgery.   Part of it is based on what seems to be overload from dealing with some very serious issues within my denomination and the direction it will head.  A direction that will very seriously impact the church’s mission of bringing Christ’ love and peace into the world seems to be the way we are being lead.  (I know God will work through others… He always His people get stubborn and centered on the wrong things… but I still grieve to see it)  And a million other details for which, post surgery, I know I am not ready to deal with, from the idea of strength. 

And looking at it all, I have to wonder whether it is worth it at all.  Whether the weakness and dryness I feel this morning, will ever be diminished.  I wonder if my “neither optimist or pessimist but let’s drink the liquid in the glass” will return.  

The fussiness seems to be dominant, (others versions use anxious or worried) easily distracting me from the peace that I know is ours. I have trouble seeing how the “everyday human concerns” and the concern for our churches will be dealt with, never mind how they will work for good for those God has called, those whom He loves.

I opened the wrong book for reading at the end of my devotions yesterday.  Meant to open “the Way”, opened on my Kindle, “the Forge” instead.  There was St. Josemaria’s quote, hitting me in the face.  This morning the gospel passage came to mind… and I know, in the midst of my despair, the hope that is always there.  I realize the promise are not in vain, even in the darkness of the day.  God is working, the cross is near, the resurrection and immanent as the incarnation.  And the gateways of Hell will not be able to stand against God’s will, against the truth that Jesus is the Chosen and Annointed One.. that He is our Savior, and the Lord who loves and cares for His people.

It’s enough… to help me to refocus, to remember that passion of Christ… to count on it… even when, especially when… the gettup and go… fails…………

“The Lord is with you!”  (exclamation intended) I will cry tomorrow… and know it today…

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2717-2721). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It’s Not About Calling the Qualified, or Even Qualifying the Called… it’s about revealing Christ.


Detail - Glory of the New Born Christ in prese...

Detail – Glory of the New Born Christ in presence of God Father and the Holy Spirit (Annakirche, Vienna) Adam and Eva are represented bellow Jesus-Christ Ceiling painting made by Daniel Gran (1694-1757). Post-processing: perspective and fade correction. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day:  (feel free to discuss – would really like to discuss this one!)

 9  Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10  That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NLT)

“With little effort we could find among our family, friends, and acquaintances—not to mention the crowds of the world—so many worthier persons that Christ could have called. Yes, persons who are simpler and wiser, more influential and important, more grateful and generous. In thinking along these lines, I feel embarrassed. But I also realize that human logic cannot possibly explain the world of grace. God usually seeks out deficient instruments so that the work can more clearly be seen to be his. It is with trembling that Saint Paul recalls his vocation: “And last of all, as by one born out of due time, he was seen also by me. For I am the least of the Apostles, and am not worthy to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.”15 Thus writes Saul of Tarsus, whose personality and drive fill history with awe. As I said before, we have merited nothing. Before God called us, there was nothing more than personal wretchedness. Let us realize that the lights shining in our soul (faith), the love wherewith we love (charity), and the desire sustaining us (hope) are all free gifts from God. Were we not to grow in humility, we would soon lose sight of the reason for our having been chosen by God: personal sanctity. If we are humble, we can understand all the marvel of our divine vocation. The hand of Christ has snatched us from a wheat field; the sower squeezes the handful of wheat in his wounded palm. The blood of Christ bathes the seed, soaking it. Then the Lord tosses the wheat to the winds, so that in dying it becomes life and in sinking into the ground it multiplies itself.”  (1)

It’s Monday morning, after an incredible church service, a great Sunday School class, and then 4 plus hours in a hospital room with my dad, who is struggling with a number of verious serious health concerns and hates the weakness he finds himself in now.  I am sitting down at my computer, in a moment will begin the studies for everything I have to teach this week – from a very indepth Bible Study for those preaching this week (tonight), to the end of the first chapter of Philippians (Wed), to the 10th Chapter of Hebrews (Thursday morning) to preaching and teaching Sunday.  IN my weakness, I wonder why me, why isn’t there someone stronger, more charismatic, more caring, more eloquent, more spiritual, less sinful.

And I know that if I were to post such a thing – I would undoubtedly here the phrase above, as people try to encourage me, with a trite phrase that simply pounds me into the ground a little deeper.  You see, what I hear when  I hear the phrase, “God doesn’t call you because you are qualified…because you are absolutely not qualifed – what WERE YOU THINKING!  But that’s okay, somehow God will make you barely adequate!”  (Somehow I think I am not the only one who hears it that way!

That trite “Christian-ese”  is so wrong.  Simply because it leaves the focus on us, on our ability, on our qualifications, and on our success or failures.

Paul thought the issue didn’t revolve around us – it is simply about grace – about His power not just qualifying us, but compensating, healing, overwhelming us.  It is about knowing how trustworthy He is, and knowing the Father has entrusted us into Christ’s care, and sent the Holy Spirit to work through us – in all of His power.

I love how St Josemaria explains it!  Just the the apostles, God works in and through us in such a way that people have to admit that it is more than our natural abilities.  In our God given vocations, as husbands and wives, parents, children, employees, managers (See Eph 5:21-6:9), we see God at work, as we love and serve and yes submit our desires to what is best for those with whom we live.  And in that sumbission, in that “dying to self” we find that Christ brings His light, His glory, His healing, into every relationship, into every place we go.

That is living in Christ, that is living the life of one who is revitalized/quickened and renewed in their baptism.

Such we see our lives, despite our sin, despite our shortcomings, despite our weaknesses, being reflections of Him into this world of darkness, into this valley where sin and death had cast their shadow on all.

We walk there, knowing this simple truth, which we hear over and over in our Liturgy.

The Lord is with You!

So go in His peace!

 

 

 

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 425-438). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Jail is Empty (because the Tomb is)


   The Tomb is Empty, So is the Jail

Acts 5:12-32

 † Jesus, Son, Savior

As you realize the grace, the mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, may you realize as well that He has freed you to join Him!

 The +1:  The Tomb is Empty, He is Risen, The Lord is With you, You are Free.

Last week, during the service and sermon I asked you to respond to a number of things!  Actually, I didn’t ask you! You just responded, and did it well.  Which is appropriate, as we use these things pretty regularly here at church.

I wanted you to tie them together – a bond that would lead you from one saying to the next – and every time you hear one – hopefully the others will just come to mind as well.

So let’s see if you remember them

The Tomb is ……
therefore, He is Risen…
therefore, The Lord is with…

And to that today, as we look at the reading from the book of Acts, we are going to add one,

36  So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:36 (NLT)

Indeed – and that is our theme for this day…as we look at the fact that no longer was the Tomb empty, but so was the jail.  Moreover, while this is fact, the difference between the Priests and the Apostles is such a valuable lesson for us.  For many of us deal with times in our lives where we feel ourselves imprisoned, bound, captive – and the point is simple – 

The Tomb is Empty, He is Risen, The Lord is With You – and IF God has set you free…

Who was really imprisoned?  What Imprisoned them?

If you look at the actions of the Priests and officials, you see what motivated them to react with orders to arrest the apostles.  We see it there in verse 17 – the were filled with jealously – the word picture describes being overwhelmed and flooded with it – even to the point of not seeing the good they were denying.

They were fighting against good stuff.  They stopped people from being healed. The interfered with people being freed from what oppressed them – what ailed their spirits or the demons with whom they struggled.  Even more annoying to them, were the crowds that began to believe.  The crowds in whom the word of God was working, generating life and faith as lives were brought together with God.  Such things that the crowds grew, and the glory of the priesthood and its empty temple diminished, quickly.

The priests were in a prison that was far more insidious, even more restrictive than the facility that the one in which they stuck the apostles.  For we can find peace anywhere, but we cannot flee from ourselves. We cannot flee our own idols, and we can’t even free ourselves from the sin and idols which we worship.

That is why I ask – who was imprisoned?  The one’s in the community’s jail, or the ones who tossed them into that cell?  It’s a pretty common occurrence in scripture, Joseph and His brothers, Saul and David, Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, or Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.  Or for that matter – who knew more freedom – Jesus on the cross, or those who crucified him?

When we are bound up in jealousy – when we zealously protect our idols, those things we count on, before we count on God. I am always curious when we think we need to defend our gods anyways.  Can’t they stand up on their own?  First sign of an idol is when we have to defend it.  Such sin is revealed as well when we stop good from happening because it didn’t happen our way.  It is then we should realize that we are imprisoned by something that controls us – we are oppressed by it, it suffocates us and can even kill our Spirit – as it did those priests and Sadducees.  Imagine not realizing the tomb was empty, or that He is Risen, or that the Lord is ….. indeed, if you didn’t know this – how could you ever conceive of being free indeed?

And how sad is that…?  Can we even conceive of it?

Or do we need to be rescued from it?

God Frees them and us in more ways than one

I love that the phrase, “the angel of the Lord” is used to describe who delivers the apostles from their prison.  For that phrase is used normally of God Himself – as in the days of Abraham, Issac and Israel, or Moses’ day.

It reminds us that real freedom comes from Him, He is always it’s source.  He is our source.  The way they are freed, it isn’t a big deal here.  Come on, Jesus says, let’s go, time to get back to what I sent you to do – go and give them my message of life!  Go tell them, that:

The tomb is….   Praise God He is Risen, the Lord is with….. and… if the Son sets you free… you are free indeed!

So my only question today – is what are you freed from?  For the Son has set you free. Have you thought about it recently? Maybe you are here today, wondering if you can be freed from…

Something…

Instead of the something maybe it is the guilt and shame or anxiety that you need to be freed from so that would enable you to act? Or maybe what you need freedom from is the jealousy or zeal for an idol, or a sin, that stops you from seeing that we dwell in the glory of God – He is truly present here, His spirit dwells in each one of us – for that is His desire.
You see, sometimes it isn’t what we think we need to be delivered from, but our being stuck to it, our being superglue’d to it, unable to free ourselves.  The guilt and shame bind us, or our desire that no one know we are in such a needy place, bind us far more than the actual issue.  Or our desire to protect ours – our precious thing – ends up strangling us, choking our life out.

O we need to get that Jesus has set us free!  That all the prisons that sin can create, all the temptations of Satan and the oppression of demons, that the anxiety we have over life and death – that was crushed at the cross.  The doors to that which confines us, thrown open, and Jesus, the Angel of the Lord comes to us and escorts us out, reminding us

My tomb is ….  I am risen and with you – and I have set you free….. 

For at the cross – when He died – when His blood was shed, all that ties us was defeated.. you are free!!


You are free – go and give the people this message of Life…

You are free.. Christ has freed you – the Son has freed you – so you are freed….?

Yes indeed.

I would end with this one thought…. There are a lot of people who don’t get this – that are struggling with very little hope.  They may know these phrases – but they don’t ever quite link them together.

or for a moment – because of trauma, or because of sin – they forgot them.

The Angel of the Lord re-commissioned the apostles that night – even as He freed them.

HE said to them, “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!”

So you too my friends have been commissioned – to go to those bearing the wounds and those who help carry them, looking for someone to help, praying someone will help – and now you know what to tell them….

The Tomb is

He has Risen

The Lord is With you

and if the Son has set you free… 

AMEN?

The Tomb is Empty? Yeah! He is Risen and The Lord is With us!


What Happened?

Luke 24:12, Psalm 16

 † Jesus, Son, Savior †

May the God’s presence flood your life with peace and love and mercy, washing it clean as we realize two intersecting truths:  Jesus has Risen, and The Lord is with you

Duh – What Happened?

The tomb is….empty?

As he runs to the tomb, the words echo in his mind, the words of the women, the words that can’t make sense…

the tomb is empty?

Nonsense! As the images pound through Peter’s mind, the scene at the last supper, the scene in the garden, the torches, the anger, the betrayal…the words echoing with every footfall,

the tomb is empty..

Even as the rocky ground passes underneath him in a blur, the crowds yelling crucify Him, Christ’s Body whipped and broken, dragging that beam.. and the words echo again,

the tomb is….. empty!

The pain in his legs growing as he runs out of the city and up the hill towards the tomb – yet knowing his pain is nothing compared to what he witnessed, the hammer pounding the spikes, Jesus looking… it seemed like he was looking right at Peter as he talked, begging the Father to forgive them. Those words hurting so much, as Peter realizes his betrayal, and now these words,

“the tomb is empty!”

Nonsense! The words echo, as do other words, the voice of Jesus prophesying the temples destruction, and the miracle of Jonah, so many words about death and something after… as Peter arrives and looks in and sees for himself,

the tomb is empty…

In awe, confused, shaken, dazed, amazed, shocked…he walks away.. not sure what to make of it all…..muttering. “the tomb is… empty

Hear the gospel again,

“then he went home again, wondering what had happened.”

That’s where the gospel ends?  Really? With Peter wondering, “what happened?  Really?  What happened?

Our Journey

As I struggled with this passage this week, the more and more I realized that this moment defines Peter as much as any, as he walks away from the tomb, in awe, confused, not quite sure what is going on in life.  It’s going to take him a while to process it all, and indeed several private talks with Jesus.  Peter will eventually get it and we see the result at Pentecost, and with Cornelius and as he writes two letters, that tell of the hope he knows, even as he awaits persecution and death.

I also realized that this has been my story, all too often in life.  That I know, as we gather around this altar, as we celebrate the death of Christ on the cross and the resurrection, the fact that the tomb is empty.  Those facts are undeniable, they are true.

But how often do we walk away, not sure what that has to do with us?  How often do we miss that this entire week, was for us?  That this isn’t some celebration of history, like president’s day, or the fourth of July or even Mother’s Day.  How often do we walk away, sure in awe, but not getting it?

The Tomb is empty folks.  That means Praise God, He is Risen. Even more, it means that the Lord is with you!

David’s run!

Since Peter walked away, and his story for a moment was paused – let’s look at David’s Psalm.  For there we pick up our story and the kind of thoughts that occur as we get it, we realize what the empty tomb means.  David got it – about 1000 years before the cross, and the description of what David realized comes across so clearly in this Psalm.

David’s hit that point where Peter is – so overwhelmed – so out of it as he looks around him.  It’s going to take him a few verses to get re-oriented – to get his thoughts straight.  At the end of his rope, He “runs” to God, pleading for safety, pleading for a sanctuary, a place of rest – that God would be his Lord, the one accepting the responsibility of caring and providing for David and keeping him safe and sane.  Look there – he comes to the realization that this world doesn’t make sense – apart from Christ.

I think most of us get that part at least – what we experience, what we go through, from our own sin to the evil we encounter in the world, it doesn’t click, we find this world – and yeah our lives broken.  Out of desperation perhaps – we think we reach out to God.

And somehow – we are surprised at what we find!

Others who God has reached out to – those He has called – the ones He is healing, they are pretty interesting people!  They make great people to hang out with – heck – there always seems to be great food around them too!  We find that we aren’t the only ones who were shopping for an idol, a false God to meet our needs,  only to demand more and more out of us before they fail to deliver what we thought we would.

God’s like addictions, whether work or drugs or sex or whatever it is that we think will provide that which will heal our emptiness that will remove our pain, our nothingness. Heck, we are so good at creating false gods, some of us can even create them to look like religion,  Yet there is no peace, the gods we have fail us… even as they failed David, even as they confused Peter.

But the tomb is empty.  Praise God – He is Risen!  And the Lord is with You!

The Biggest Surprise!

As David processes things – the big “aha” moment shows up in verse 5.  Let’s read it together,

5 My choice is you, GOD, first and only. And now I find I’m your choice!

David figures it out – we don’t have to run to God, at least we don’t have to run far – He is here – He chose us – all of us, He wants us in His life, He wants to be our God, our Lord, our Father.

That’s the reason the tomb is empty, that’s the reason He has risen.  The Lord wants to be with you – (wait…then ask aren’t you going to response) to share life together with us!  To sustain and carry us through the times where we can’t walk alone – and to remind us that we don’t have to be alone.

David got that – oh did he get that – as God cleansed him of sin, as brought healing to a life ravaged by others like Saul and his son.  As he lost another son, and his best friend.  As his nation turned their back on him, God was there!  The depth of emotions of the pain that is turned to joy just pours through the psalms – the worship that He writes.

For he realized God chose him, even as God chose Peter…even as God chooses to walk with us, to dwell with us.

Plot Lines

That’s seen in the next verse – the odd line about a house and a yard.  In more literal translations it is talked about as God setting the plot lines for our inheritance, a beautiful and pleasant and peaceful place.  But really, it is talking about how we live with God, each and every

Jesus talks about this as the mansions and rooms that He goes to prepare for us.

And yet God doesn’t even wait for that to come and live with us.  St Paul asks us,

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit makes His home in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 (Parker’s Paraphrase)

The implications of that will take a lifetime to discover, it’s more than a set of eyes peering into a dark tomb can see.

But that is why David is happy, that is what he realizes He never wants to let go, for the risen and reigning Christ, and His glory is reflecting from our faces, for He has taken our hand – and walks through life with us.

Let’s start by just knowing this –

– The Tomb is Empty

–  Praise God!  He has Risen

–  And that means, He is with you!

And because of that – the peace of God, which passes all understanding, is yours, and in it you are protected, your hearts and mind guarded by Christ himself.  AMEN!!!

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