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Why is He Standing at the Door, Knocking?

Jesus_knocks_on_door_heartDevotional Thought of the Day:
20  “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Revelation 3:20 (NLT2)

117 Thus you see how God wants us to pray to him for everything that affects our bodily welfare and directs us to seek and expect help from no one but him.
118 But this petition he has put last, for if we are to be protected and delivered from all evil, his name must first be hallowed in us, his kingdom come among us, and his will be done. Then he will preserve us from sin and shame and from everything else that harms or injures us.

Our God is so eager to forgive that at the slightest sign of repentance he is ready with his mercy. He does not forget the covenant he made with our ancestors.

716    “I don’t know how to conquer myself!” you write me despondently. And I answer: But have you really tried to use the means?

As I read the passage from Luther’s Large Catechism (in blue above) this morning, I found words that explained a key to what we need to do as those who disciple others, or who act as spiritual directors. 

Luther nails it so well, as he explores the Lord’s prayer.  It is something we get so confused as we disciple people, as we serve as their spiritual directors and/or pastors.  In reality, we put the cart before the horse, asking people to believe in God’s mercy, in God providing for us, and in God’s forgiveness before God’s presence is established as a reality in their lives.   We want to help them know they are free from their past, and to be strong enough to overcome temptation.

St. Josemaria’s thoughts are similar, as he wonders about the person who can’t overcome the compulsion to sin and fail when confronted by temptation.  His question about the means of grace come to a similar conclusion as Luther’s.  If you haven’t been brought into the presence of God through hearing His word, and partaking in His sacraments, how can you ever be assured of His mercy and protection?  How can you know that He is guiding you and that all things work for good in your life, as you grow in loving Him?

Which brings me to the title of the blog post today, why is Jesus standing at the door and knocking?  Is it simply to call us to account for our sins, clean us up, forgive us our sins, strengthen us against temptation and then leave us to fight the good fight on our own?

Of course not!  

He comes to spend time with us, in fellowship, sharing in life.  TO feast with us, and for us to know we are there for Him.  It is all about the relationship, not just the things that He does that makes the relationship possible. That’s why Luther says we need to see His name made Holy, to see His kingdom established, to see His will be accomplished among us. All these things are based on God being present in our lives, walking with us, living with us.  This happens before we can know His provision, His protection, and really the power of what it means to be forgiven and free. 

You can’t know those things apart from the relationship described in Covenant, where God promises us that we are His and that He is ours.  That relationship is why He stands at the door and knocks.   He wants to be with us, it is sharing our lives as we share His.

For those who pastor, for those who disciple or direct the spiritual growth of people, (and if you are being served by such) this has to be the priority.  To explore the breadth and width the height and depth of God’s love as we experience it.  This is the end of the means, this is the purpose we exist for, and as we learn ot live in it, we find it easy to ask God and live in the assurance that He will answer our prayers for daily bread, for the ability to forgive as we are forgiven, to overcome temptation and not fall into evil.

Never forget this, the Lord is with you!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 436). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 223). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1679-1680). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Whistle While You Work… (or sing while you suffer!)

7 dwarvesDevotional THought of the Day:

16 Then he went on to Derbe and Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy,  the son of a believing Jewish woman, but his father was a Greek. 2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to go with him, so he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, since they all knew that his father was a Greek.  T  Acts 16:1-3, HCSB

13 Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, “Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. 14 If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.”  Esther 4:13-14  HCSB

524    “Let’s burst into song!” said a soul in love, after seeing the wonders that our Lord was working through his ministry. And the same advice I give to you: Sing! Let your grateful enthusiasm for your God overflow into joyous song.

I have a confession to give.  I find most Disney movie music (and amusement park music) irritating.  It doesn’t matter whether it is Mickey screeching something, or an ice princess belting it “let it snow” or “it’s a small world after all”, the music is akin to someone rubbing their fingernails down a chalkboard, and the lyrics are worse!

( I know, this confession will irritate some, just as my not liking chocolate or pumpkin spice does others!)

The other day, an old commercial for Disneyland invaded my facebook ap, It was “whistle while you work”  Embedded in my mind, it was more predominant than all the news about the Royal wedding.  Don’t those characters know how serious work is?  Don’t they know how challenging and overwhelming it can be!

Great examples are seen in my readings this morning.

First, Timothy has to pay a horrendous cost in order to become a missionary and travel with Paul.  Having another man cut off part of your anatomy that it private and sensitive?  Certainly, I can’t see either one whistling or singing during that precise moment!  ( my cynical side thinks the “let it go” soundtrack might be appropriate here!)

Then Esther, to take on her role as queen, has to marry someone she doesn’t love.  The perks seem pretty okay, and maybe she would fall in love with the king, but then to risk her life, to protect her culture, her people?  How do you whistle or sing during that?

Yet they both were able to set aside their frustrations, their fears, the anxiety, their pain, in order to do that which God had called them to do. It wasn’t easy, but they endured.  And they served God and the people He sent them to serve.

Then in my devotions, after encountering these two, and the small catechism on baptism and absolution, I come to these words of St Josemaria.  “The church sings because just speaking would not satisfy its desire for prayer!”  Yet those words are from a man who suffered and sacrificed a lot for the church.  Yet the church sings, even in the midst of suffering.  You see that in Newton’s Amazing Grace, and in “It is Well with my Soul” Both are songs of incredible pain being worked through because they know the love of God.  That connection, so felt in prayer is somehow magnified as the prayer is sung. As our hearts and soul, every bit of emotion is wrapped up in the words and music, as we praise and pray to the God who is here, who is present.

And then the suffering seems to be lost, as we focus in on God.  The great laments in the psalms show this, as do the spirituals from the 18th and 19th centuries. Or even the songs people don’t know are really prayers, Like MisterMister’s Kyrie Eleison.  SOmething resonates so deeply in those moments, that we sense the transformation the Holy Spirit is making in our lives.

So my friends who are struggling, sing with me, sing even while we are suffering entering into the presence of God, who will comfort us, and redeem the time.  And so I close with these words from the Apostle Paul,

Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. 19  Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. 20  Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20 (MSG)

Amen

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1267-1269). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection We see things differently! A sermon on Acts 4

church at communion 2

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection
We see things differently!
Acts 4:1-12

Jesus, Son, Savior

 May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help us to see all things from His perspective!

A Matter of Perspective

There are days my relationship to the world seems a lot like this picture.

I don’t quite understand what they see, and I am absolution sure they don’t see what I see.

And most of the time, that doesn’t bother me.

If we are talking about the gospel it does.  It bothers me tremendously.

The same concern exists when we talk about the church, have to offer people, it does.  Not just because my life is literally wrapped around the church, but because of what the church offers to us, as it reveals to us the very heart of God, His desire, His will… His love, for you and I.

His love for us..

A love that changes things, no, not really, it changes us.

This love transforms us so completely, it is as if everything was flipped over.

And while there are days I would willingly knock some people over, what we need is to build a desire that they would see what we see and treasure.  We need to understand how critical it is for them to see the Jesus who loves them, who died for them, who lives with them.

As we look at the Pharisees we will understand what they see, and why they can’t see it.

What they saw… something to reject

As hard as it seems, let’s try to walk in the priests and Sadducees sandals for a moment.  It’s now almost 2 months since the crucifixion of Jesus the Nazarene.  They thought they had gotten risen of the pesky troublemaker, and most of his followers had scattered like cockroaches when the light turns on, and know His followers are back

And the ministry, as interesting as it is, isn’t happening the way it should.  It wasn’t in conjunction with the appointed ministers of God in that place, And the ministry wasn’t happening to the best of people, it was to the rabble, like that lame guy who begged all his life.

They had lots of questions, and as we heard last week, they were ignorant.  They were looking for logic and reason.  They were looking for answers that could be put in a nice neat box.

That’s why they asked, “by what power, or on whose authority, have YOU done THIS?”

As if the answer would allow them to reject the miracle that was happening.  As if the answer would allow them to discount what the reality they are facing.

But humanity does that all the time.  We choose to be blinded to God, we choose to look at things upside down. We choose to call what is right wrong, and what is wrong right.

Even those of us who claim to follow Jesus do this, as we assume that our plans are God’s, that our beliefs about the world are equivalent to God’s plans.  ( I could mention that I had pastor friends in the last week, one tell me God is happy with the Republicans, and another the Democrats, and that’s why they feel free to bash the opposition!)

Matter of fact, I think we confuse those who don’t know God when we seek to speak for God on things not found in scripture, or when we make the sins that upset us the most the unforgivable sin,  or when we make the sins we personally struggle with not that big of a deal!  When we say, thus spake the Lord, and we don’t have the authority or responsibility to do so.
What we are doing in that case is not standing opposite the world looking at what was written, but opposite God.

And we find ourselves there too often.

What we see – the basis of our hope

Last week, I said the ignorance the people had was not that they were stupid, nor was it that they didn’t have the data.  They did, they just didn’t understand it.

This week the change is similar, they didn’t have the right perspective, even the apostles didn’t, and they heard Jesus prophecy about his death for three years.

The apostles didn’t understand the incredible message of salvation, until they put it together after the cross, until they saw the wounds in his hands and in His side, until He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit, just as we received it in our baptism.

it was then that they realized what it meant for Jesus to be the cornerstone. That sets the perspective in stone, and we can’t say what Jesus says is a 6 is a 9, or what is wrong is right.

There is more to being the cornerstone than setting what is right and wrong though.    The idea of the cornerstone is that every stone is connected to the cornerstone, everyone is linked, and the cornerstone or keystone keeps them connected.

Because Jesus is the cornerstone because He is our rock, we are connected to Him, and that changes everything.  Paul talked about it this way,

16  So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17  This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT)

Because of Jesus, it is not only Jesus we see differently but ourselves… and each other.

And we need to!  We need to see Jesus as our Savior, our Lord!  We need to understand that we are connected to Him, that we are united to Him, and our lives are lived out in that connection.

You, me, him, her, each person here.  Each person is a new creation, each is as new in their redeemed lives as the lame man who could not only walk- he could dance now! Everything in our lives is new, from our lives free of sin, to our lives lived in the presence and peace of God.

This is our hope, and peace, to know His peace… and love.  Let’s pray

 

 

The Effect of the Resurrection. Part III Losing our ignorance – a sermon on Acts 3

church at communion 2

The Effect of the Resurrection
Transformed Minds,
Part III:  Losing our Ignorance

Acts 3

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ circumcise your heart, cutting away all the ignorance, hatred and sin. Leaving you holy, transformed in heart, soul and mind.  Amen!

I need a break! 

Over and over this week, there is one phrase that I kept on wanting to explore.  It is one I think I understand, but there are times, where I wonder what it would be like to experience such a time.

The phrase is, “times of refreshment”

I mean if our weeks at all were similar, you don’t know what that means either.

I mean it sounds like those days when we were young and were playing baseball or in our case hockey, or whatever, and after sweating and running around I the hot sun, we all had a cold glass of Kool-aid, then dove in the lake, or a friend’s pool

That sounds refreshing!

In our reading from acts, it is not just a time of refreshment that is promised as God transforms us, as our sins are wiped away, buts times, seasons of it. Time upon time of living in that refreshment, that time when the soul is healthy!

But as to what such a time is today, I am not sure.  You might say I am ignorant of such a time, but it sure sounds nice!

How could they be that ignorant?
As Peter discussed all of those who were involved in crucifying Jesus, he doesn’t call the people and their leaders, evil.  He doesn’t say they are wicked, or bad.  Instead, He says that they were ignorant, that they didn’t know better.
Now I suppose it is better to be called ignorant rather than evil. Still being called ignorant is not really fun to hear. In this case, where they rejected and crucified the Messiah, despite Pilate’s protest, it seems impossible.  How could they not know Jesus was the Messiah?

I think before we go any farther, we need to understand what ignorance in the Bible is.

It is not about having the data about something.  It goes deeper than that, and in fact, that depth is the key to defining ignorance and overcoming it.

We talked about this term last week, when the two disciples walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and they didn’t know it was him.  The word isn’t talking about simple recognition, it’s the term that indicates understanding someone the way you can when you live with them for year and decades.  When you can finish their sentences for them when you know how they are feeling and what is on their hearts.

It is what, for lack of a better term, I call having an intimate relationship.

Not that kind, though oddly enough, the same word in Greek and Hebrew describes that as well.
They crucified Jesus because they didn’t understand Him.  Despite all the scriptures telling them about the Son of God, they did it.  They sinned.

Much the same as we do when we choose to sin.

We forget Jesus, we don’t understand or really, deeply know God.  And so, being ignorant about Jesus, being ignorant of God, we ignore the way He planned for us to live, a life of love and peace.

And a God draws us to Himself, as He brings us to repentance as He brings us to this transformation where we allow Him to cut away the sin, and the guilt and the shame, the ignorance is removed as well

And what we find out when we enter this relationship is that God loves us, He cares so deeply for us.  He makes us whole and brings us a peace.

That is what the ignorance was hiding, that is what we couldn’t know when we didn’t understand God.  And it was that way until God started to work in our lives. Until He brought us to repentance, to that place where our souls find healing, much as this lame man found healing.

Everything changes when we realize how much God loves us, how unwilling He is to be separated from us.

One pastor, in explaining how a church service is organized, explained this love of God in this way.

This is the only way the true structure of the liturgy can be restored, a structure that, as we have just seen, makes concrete in divine worship the fundamental structure of divine action. God, the Revealer, did not want to stay as solus Deus, solus Christus (God alone, Christ alone). No, he wanted to create a Body for himself, to find a Bride—he sought a response. It was really for her that the Word went forth.

This is why we do what we do, why we worship the way we do, and study the Bible and pray, and remind each other of the Lord’s presence, for the more we do, the more we know Him, in a way that is so full of peace and joy.

It is as we see this God, revealed to us, that the power of sin is broken, that it is wiped out of our lives that we are free, that we finally find the love that we so need, and the peace, and the refreshment until He comes and restores all things…as He has promised.

So let us pray…

Transformed Minds: The Effect of the Resurrection, part 2: One heart and mind

church at communion 2Transformed Minds….
The Effect of the Resurrection
Pt. 2  One Heart and Mind
Acts 4:32-35

 In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus transform your heart and mind so that you united to Jesus, and to all who are His!

God’s Mega Blessings

In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles this morning, we heard a description of Concordia, and I want you to hear it again.

God’s great blessing was upon them all.

This is us.

Blessed, overflowing with the grace of God, overwhelmed by the presence of God, and if we take a moment to take a breath and think about it, or better, to look around us, we shall see it.

For we see the work being done in each other.  We may be completely oblivious as to what is going on in our own lives, but we see what is going on around us, and the peace that is found here.

I can look around the room, and see the same thing Luke described in the early church, a place where people are united in one hear, one mind, the very transformation that comes from knowing that….

Alleluia, He is Risen!  (He is Risen indeed!  Alleluia!

and therefore, (we are risen Indeed!  ALLELUIA!)

This is a natural transformation, actually supernatural…

As we look at the description of how the church interacted in this passage, it seems either naïve, r some socialistic plot, at first.

Karl Marx who used a description gathered from these verses to describe his perfect society, describing it this way, from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs

And wherever that has been attempted by law or by forcing people to believe it, it has failed.  Not because the idea is wrong, but because the transformation has been forced, rather than allowed to happen naturally,  It is put upon the people that this is the way they will live, rather than allowing love to cause it naturally, to be driven by the spiritual desire to love those around us.

We do that to often, even in the church, when we try and change people’s behavior without seeing their hearts and souls transformed by God, resurrected and brought to life by the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit draws them into Jesus, into His death and resurrection.

This is a long habit, dating back to the Pharisees, and probably before.  When they didn’t want the tax collector or the prostitute in Church.  When they paid more attention to the outside appearance of the individual, and the broken and different were sent away.

We want people to live generously, we want them to give sacrificially, we want them to give up the sins that so damage their lives.  What we want for them is good, if we don’t guilt them into it, or promise them some special blessing from God, if they only act the way we think God wants them to think and act,

It happens more naturally than that, or it might be better to say, more supernaturally than that…. For God moves us, His love transforms us.

The testimony causes it…

That is what the rest of the verse had mentioned,

The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all.

The blessing that was upon them was delivered through the testimony that Jesus was no longer dead, that Praise God, He is risen….

And as the apostles proclaimed this, the people realized all the promises of God were poured out on them, for they were forgiven, cleansed, made the holy people of God our Father. They had become brothers and sisters of Jesus, counted no longer as servants, but as friends.

The gospel is not just the testimony of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, but it is the testimony of what this means.

We are His, we are free, we have been given the Holy Spirit, God present with us, who comforts us, empowers us, and transforms us.

To use our motto, that is why we, the people of Concordia, are the broken people, who are finding healing in Christ, help others to heal.

It is why Cyndee and Carol and Linda find such joy in gathering women together for special events, knowing that they will bring joy into their lives.  Or why Jim and Manny had a few guys over for the first men’s time yesterday.  It is why Hank and his team from both congregations raised the money, and why Hank was down here each day, checking on the work.  It is why we help people who’ve lost homes or send Bernie back to Sudan, or why you sent me to China a few years ago.  It is why we have Al constantly talking about benevolence, and he doesn’t just talk about it.  It’s why we have Nancy keeping her prayer book and encouraging others to pray. It’s why Missy sets her anxiety aside to guide our worship, and why these people smile over here, as they hear your voices sing louder than theirs… I could go on and on, but this is the evidence of God working  Just as they did in the early church, each person helping the rest… not thinking about themselves.

We want others to know the love we know, or as Peter describes in His epistle, to be people with a future and a hope.

The love that we find here at the altar, its why a 2-3-year old will cling to it, not understanding, but knowing this is a special place. For many of us older folk as well… for here, reminded of how deep God’s love for us is, the resurrection becomes more than history, it becomes our life!

It’s the love given to us in our baptism, and that becomes more real each and every day.  For Ezekiel promised that God would change us,

The gospel is that God loves us, and cleanses and transforms us, something seen as we grow in love for one another, in a naturally supernatural way…..

25  “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26  And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27  And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NLT)

A love that brings us together, one heart, one soul, for ours is His heart, His soul….a love that causes us to dwell in His peace… united to Him… AMEN!

Let us pray!

as an added bonus…. the notes from Bible Study  (let me know if I should continue to post these!

What is Concordia
A Look at the Body of Christ


Why should we study what the church is?

If we are shaped by the Holy Spirit, then can’t all this come about naturally (Jer 31:34)?

 

Is the church in the day’s of the Acts of the Apostles better or worse from the church today?

The Lutheran Confessions describe the Church this way:
1 It is also taught among us that one holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among who the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel.

2 For it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word.[1]

 

Does this resonate with what we heard today in the sermon?  What caused the transformation in the believers?

Is Concordia the Church, or just part of the Church?

 

What does it mean that all the believers ( those having faith) are of one heart (kardia) and mind (psyche)

is this passage talking just about sharing money, or is that just an example?

What do people “need” in this church?

 

 

Back to being a witness to the resurrection.  What does that mean?  How can we be that today?

How do the sacraments fit into that? (1 Cor 11:26 &  Titus 3:4-8)

So are the sacraments still being a witness to the resurrection?

How much of one kardia and psyche do we realize during the sacraments?

[1] Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

 

Already Broke Your Resolution? Good! Now you can really change!

20170124_103703Devotional Thought for your new year!

4  “Israel, remember this! The LORD—and the LORD alone—is our God. 5  Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (TEV)

14  Their minds, indeed, were closed; and to this very day their minds are covered with the same veil as they read the books of the old covenant. The veil is removed only when a person is joined to Christ. 15  Even today, whenever they read the Law of Moses, the veil still covers their minds. 16  But it can be removed, as the scripture says about Moses: “His veil was removed when he turned to the Lord.” 17  Now, “the Lord” in this passage is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. 18  All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:14-18 (TEV)

503      Love Our Lord passionately. Love him madly! Because if there is love— when there is love—I would dare to say that resolutions are not needed. My parents—think of yours—did not need to make any resolutions to love me: and what an effusion of tenderness they showed me, in little details every day! With that same human heart we can and should love God.

In Lutheran thought, most commands are what are known as “Law.”  Law has three purposes, The first is to keep civil peace.  The second use of the law is to show us that we are guilty of sin and deserving eternal punishment.  Knowing that we can be drawn to Christ to receive grace, the merciful forgiveness that restores us, and welcomes us into the presence of God.  The third use of the law is simply to show us how to live, now that we are bound to Him, for Christ’s life is the picture of a life lived in full harmony with the law.

But the command following the words of the Lord being our Lord, the phrase known as the Shema, is not Law in the Lutheran sense.

Yes, we may struggle ot love God with everything we are, and if we think about it, this could make us wallow in guilt and shame.  Most of us can keep our resolution longer than we can maintain a love for God that includes every part of our life!  But if we feel guilty, or if we just ignore our shortcomings, we are missing the incredible, glorious, life-changing words that come before it.

The Lord, and the Lord alone, IS OUR GOD!

This line is why this isn’t Law, it I the purest of Gospel, for it describes what it means for us to have God (using His name YHWH) as our God. Loaded into that phrase is the idea that God takes responsibility for us, provides what we need, loves us. It means His nature of loving mercy (cHesed/Agape) is at work in us, bringing to completion the work began in us.

And as we consider this, as we think it through, there is no need for a resolution, no need for goals to change us.  As we think and meditate on God loving us, we love Him, we adore Him, we become more and more hungry to hear of His love, and to share it with others.

So maybe you made a resolution or four to change in this new year. To lose weight, to be more patient with people, to be more determined in your spiritual disciplines.  Maybe you already broke one or two.

That’s okay.

Real change in our lives starts with something else.

Being still, and knowing He is our God.

Knowing His passion and love for you…

Just sit there for a moment, and let His love sink in…

and find yourself changed.

Godspeed my friends!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1920-1925). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Our Hope: The Transformation found in Stability

DSCN0014Devotional Thought for our days:

God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure he will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again.  NCV Phil. 1:6

We often use the word stable to refer to a person who is constant and consistent. We say, “You can count on her.” Or, in Christian terms, we may think of the writer of Hebrews, who admonishes new Christians to endure to the end (Heb. 4:11).
The monastic concept of stability translated into our spiritual life means “stay in your baptism” and “continue to live out of the death and resurrection of Jesus by continually dying to sin and rising to the new life of the Spirit staying in God’s divine embrace.” Obviously such a vow should not be taken lightly.

2   God is my Father! If you meditate on it, you will never let go of this consoling consideration. Jesus is my intimate Friend (another rediscovery) who loves me with all the divine madness of his Heart. The Holy Spirit is my Consoler, who guides my every step along the road. Consider this often: you are God’s… and God is yours.

Stability.

It is an odd word for me.  You see, I have spent most of my adult life changing things.  Changing jobs, locations, residences ( again next week!) I am not sure I have known stability, or for that matter, provided it for my family.

I have to admit, I love change, and love being involved causing change.  Hopefully, the change is on the order of transformation, and not just the chaotic kind of change that causes stress.  Well, let me be honest, I can find that kind of change exhilarating and even entertaining. 

I love change, I am almost an addict of it.  Routine is boring, and I don’t find much alive in getting into a rut.

So this morning, I am writing on… stability? As a positive thing? Really?

There is an area I desperately need stability in, and if that is stable, if that is anchored, all other change simply becomes… negligible.  There is a stability that must invade my life, must always be depended upon.

Webber talks about it as staying in your baptism, what the monasteries and convents were actually trying to provide.  Their strength was not found in their own personal stability, or in the stability that living in a disciplined community caused.   Their stability was provided by the constant reference to the presence of the Lord.  

That is where the stability comes from, the work and promises God did in our baptism, and continues to do until the work is finished with Christ’s return. It’s this knowledge of Christ’s work, the Holy Spirit’s work, that happens in our presence, which reveals we are in the presence of the God the Father.  He is ours, St. Josemaria pleads with us to remember!  We are His!  And that creates a stability that goes beyond our problems, our challenges, our brokenness, our sin. 

It is the divine embrace, God taking us into His arms, our being fused to Christ and His cross.  Nothing is more intimate, more transforming and yet more stable than this.

Know this, hear it over and over;

The Lord is with you!  

Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 237-242). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

An Everlasting Sign: A sermon on Isaiah 55

DSCN0014An Everlasting Sign
Isaiah 55:10-13

 I.H.S.

 As we walk though this life, may we continually see the everlasting signs of God’s power and love, at work in our lives, and in the lives of those around us. 

Walking by the lake… you can’t take it all in… 

Walking by the side of Lake Ossipee in New Hampshire, I learned a lesson about photography, and perhaps about life.

Simply put, the camera can’t take all that we experience with our eyes.  They can’t take in the gentles waves, little more than ripples, and the beautiful homes across the lake, never mind the mountains that are visible on the horizon.   You can’t take in a 360-degree panorama of beauty, never mind the feeling that occurs when you walk down a road with your son, that you and your dad walked down before.

Likewise, even our eyes can’t focus on everything at once.

There is so much more than we can see and hear, never mind the stories that give the story more depth, and the experience that goes beyond words.

Either because the experience is so full of joy, or so full of the pain of being broken, or sometimes, because the experience is both, and how do you concentrate on the joy, when you are struggling with tears?

And if that is simply trying to process a vacation, how do we catch what is really important about life?

Maybe we need a sign or two to help us along the way, to help us focus on what we need?

Do we see the fruit God’s word accomplishes?
One of the things I don’t often see is what Isaiah recorded God telling us,

10  “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. 11  It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

This illustration might be harder for us to understand here in California than it is sitting beside a lake in New Hampshire.  After all, like looks little different at first today than it did a year ago when we are in a drought.  Yet there is still snow in the high Sierras, the depleted reservoirs are again full.

We can’t see those signs, but we do know of the snow and rain from the crops that provide us food, from the grain that gives us bread to the grapes that provide us wine!

But like the camera view that cannot pick up everything, sometimes it is hard to see the blessings of God.  They are there, just like the water that sits up in the High Sierras and the reservoirs.  We may not regularly note the benefits of the blessings, but the blessings sustain us, none the less.

Again, do we see the rain and snow here?  Not so much, but the evidence of that blessing we share see in a moment, just as we do every we eat, and with every sip we drink.  His work is there, providing for us, even if all we can “see” are the end results of the blessings.

It is the same way spiritually, as God works through means, and delivers us grace and comfort, as He reveals His compassion and peace.

It will accomplish what God desires it to accomplish, and that is an incredible blessing.

The change is real – let’s see it!

 So if in the physical life we see the end product, the food and drink that nourishes us, is there something similar spiritually.

Is there an eternal sign that proves God is at work, that He is blessing us?

Is there something that changes dramatically as a land that was once filled with thorns and weeds being filled with towering cypress and abundant colored myrtle trees, as verse 13 describes?

Yes indeed, we can see the effect of the blessing of God’s word, for the growth and change it does cause.  The lives that do change, the lives that hear and know God’s peace in the midst of trauma, the lives that are reconciled.

I started this sermon by talking about the pictures that can’t take in everything the eye can see, and the eyes that can’t take in everything we experience.

Bu those eyes can take in a cross, and contemplate it’s meaning as we are joined to Christ’s death on the cross in our baptism.  Those eyes can rejoice as we are welcome to feast on Christ’s body and blood, even as we try to meditate on that incredible feast.  Our ears can celebrate as we heard our sin is forgiven, and rejoice as we hear that God is with us.

And as we know this peace, and share it, for so many need to know God’s gift of peace, given through His Son. That peace is the sign of His everlasting power and love, a peace bought for us at the cross and delivered to us in word and the sacraments.  The word and sacraments used by the Holy Spirit to change us, for God is with us!  AMEN!

 

 

God’s Plan for Your Life, and Your Hesitation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought fo the Day:
16  Meanwhile, the eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. 17  When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. 18  Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19  Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time. Matthew 28:16-20 (NJB)

198         That way is very hard, he told you. And, on hearing it, you heartily agreed, remembering that bit about the Cross being a sure sign of the true way… But your friend noticed only the rough part of the road, without bringing to mind Jesus’ promise: “My yoke is sweet.” Remind him about it, because—perhaps when he realizes it—he will give himself.

Even as each of us is called into a relationship with God and all of His people, each of us has been given vocations, a great diversity of roles, and the gifts needed to fulfill them.

Yet, there is a common vocation, that of making disciples, for that vocation doesn’t belong to just a person, it is the vocation of the Body of Christ, the people of God.  If we are part of His one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, we are a people who have been sent into the world.  We have an apostolate, we are to be a mission-focused people.  Wherever we are, whatever other vocations we have, we are called to make disciples of those we encounter.

This way is hard, as St. Josemaria tells us, it can be brutal, and lonely.  It may have long stretches of doubt, of not seeing the fruit of our work.  It is all too easy to notice the rough parts of the road, the problems, and trials that exist on the road. For the work is hard, our Lord even had to die to make our discipleship a possibility, and so we shouldn’t expect this to be easy.

Fearing this hardship we hesitate, (some translations say doubt) We have trouble committing to God’s work, knowing it will take us on a rough road, knowing it will cost.  We hesitate, we wonder if we can do this if we are truly called to it if God would actually ask us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  And Jesus tells us, in the midst of the hesitation, even as we doubt ourselves, “Let’s go, we’ve got people to disciple, even as I disciple you!”

But how can we embrace the roughness?

Hebrews tells us that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him, the joy of knowing His mission, the reason the Father sent Him was for our salvation, for bringing us back into the family.  He suffered in order to welcome us home.  Expecting that joy allowed Him to endure the pain, the insults, the betrayals,  the loneliness.  He saw us, cleansed, holy, redeemed, and was able to see it through.

For us to learn to have that attitude is beneficial, but we have something that even makes it sweeter.  We have His authority backing us, and His presence sustaining us, that the Holy Spirit causes (and therefore is responsible) the changes in the lives we of the people we are sent to serve.   We have the incredibly sweet joy of knowing God is with us, sharing in our ministry, even as we share in His.

So, in the midst of the bitter road, we anticipate hearing the angels rejoicing, as another sinner is transformed by the power of God.  We hear the joy as one is baptized, or bows their knees at the altar, amazed that they are welcome, that their presence is desired. What joy they know, and how joyous is it for us to see!

This is our vocation, for all the members of the Body of Christ, we share in it, in the joy, in the tears, led by or Lord who shares in it all with us.

And that is truly sweet….

So when tired, worn out, struggling, look to the Lord who is with you, and know the joy set before us all.  AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1034-1038). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Love is, Jesus IS, We are! Sermons for Lent #1 Patient and Kind

concordia lutheran button only logo (1) - CopyLove Is; Jesus is; We are

Patient and Kind

 In Jesus Name

 As you experience the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ may you see God enabling you to really love Him and others!

During this season of Lent, many people think we are to beat ourselves up for our sin.  That we give up something in order to atone for our continued sin, to show God how sorry for what we’ve done, and what we’ve failed to do.

That’s not completely accurate, though it moves us to where we need to be.

The goal of Lent is to stop us, to help us realize we aren’t who we should be, as the children of God. Not to beat us up, but to encourage us to have a life that is more like Jesus’ life.  The goal is to build in us a desire to imitate Christ, and to live like Paul, who could say, “imitate me as I imitate Christ”.

Love Is

So this Lent, we are looking at one of the best descriptions of Jesus we can find, one we hear more often at weddings.  We’ll take a couple of the descriptions each week, and this week we are looking at these two.  

Love is patient and Love is kind.

The Message translation gives us another perspective:

Love never gives up.

Love cares for others more than for self.

Can you imagine if we were so patient we never gave up?  Or if everyone was more interested in what was good for others rather than just being self-centered?

Not just within families and churches, but if everyone loved everyone. This is who we are supposed to be!

This is not just a nice idea, it is what God commands us to do, to love Him, to love our neighbors, to love those who hate us.  We know this, but I wonder if we desire it, if this is truly who we want to be.

It should be

Jesus Is

As we look at love being described by St Paul, we have to realize how it describes Jesus Christ, who was the perfect, sinless man.  If we evaluated how he loved by these words, we see it perfectly.

Not just with his patience and not giving up on the Apostles, especially Peter.  But Jesus doesn’t give up on us, He isn’t even tempted to do so.

And we see his kindness, His putting others first as He ministered to those around them, having compassion on the crowds who followed them, always being able to find the people who needed His care.  Being there for those who would give up, or struggle with their sin, and don’t know how to break it.

This is what the Apostle John meant when he said God is love, for in Jesus, they found out what that really means…we see this amazing level of patience, that God will embrace suffering a long time, for His goal is bring everyone to repentance, to transform everyone so that their lives are a picture of Christ’s love.  That is the ultimate example of kindness,

We Are

So we know this description of love should describe our life as well.  We know it doesn’t, at least as we struggle with it, so how can we desire to grow in our ability to love?

The answer is on all of your minds.  Look, you can see it on those around you.

The cross, the place where Jesus gave His life for you.  We could put a blob on your forehead, but we put a cross.  To remind you that while you have sinned, you really aren’t sinners anymore.

You have been united to Christ, and the ashes that mark you, mark you as His, just as the cross made over your head and heart at baptism did.  His sacrifice, His body and blood broken and given for you provides the answer.

It is what we need to spend contemplating.  As we think about this great love, a love that cleanses us from sin, and leaves us holy, set apart to God, set apart for God to dwell with.  The more we spend time talking to God, exploring the breadth and width, the height and depth of His love, the more the Holy Spirit transforms us, causing and enabling us to love as He does…. For we are with Him.

As the song we will sing in a moment says, where You are Lord, I am free….

Free to love.. to be patient, to be kind, to be like Christ who not only sets you free, but makes you Holy.

AMEN!

 

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