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The Glory of God and Human Worth

The Glory of God and Human Worth

Psalm 8

†  IN the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit †


May the Holy Spirit make us more and more like Jesus Christ, causing us to reflect His glory into our broken world.

 A precious lesson to remember

I’ve been doing a bit of thinking since I realized that this summer will make it 30 years since I was a pastoral intern.    Some of that pondering has been in awe of what God has done, other moments have brought tears.  It has been especially rough as this year has seen some dear people pass away at each of the churches I’ve served at.  Nor does it help that in my devotions I’ve read Job recently, and presently am reading Ecclesiastes, where Solomon’s chorus seems to be,

All is meaning-less.

And there are days that I hear this!

Over the thirty years I’ve also learned to disregard that attitude, to know that even when I don’t see how everything will work out, that I am assured of God’s promises, and can rest secure knowing He is faithful.

That’s not where this sermon on Psalm 8 is going, well, not directly, but that is part of the background.  Thirty years ago, actually thirty-three years ago, a phrase was drummed into my mind.  It took 3 years to make sense, and a lifetime to implement.  It is a great guideline for theologians and preachers, and it helps those who listen to sermons and try to apply it to their lives.

These are those words,

You cannot fully understand any Biblical truth until you have reduced it to a corollary of the idea of Covenant.

or to put it in the way I came to understand it,
You can’t clearly understand any doctrine, in Christianity until you understand it in view of the relationship God calls us into with Himself, as described in the New Covenant.

Which includes the incredible glorious mystery we celebrate today, that God is One, and God is, simultaneously three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  What we call the Trinity the merger of the words Tri and Unity.   Until we understand that in view of God’s relationship with us, His relationship that He calls us into, the result is meaningless.
Failure to Understand the Relationship

So how does this work?  Why can’t we understand the idea of the Trinity, the doctrine that God is Triune, if we don’t include our relationship with God in contemplating it?  Why is understanding the Covenant necessary to understanding this?

The answer is somewhat simple, we can’t understand the Trinity until we are actively involved with it.  To understand the Trinity, we must move and live in unison with God, in sympathy with God.  It is as if we are dancing with Him, moving as His partner.

And if we don’t understand this, it is as if we are standing in the corner of life, just observing His glory, yet not able to understand it.

We end up with a partial picture of Psalm 8,
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers, – the moon and the stars you set in place – what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?

From a distance, this is how we see God, all the incredible beauty he creates, the skies, the mountains, a smile a joy filled laugh. It is glorious for sure, it is beyond the scope of our ability to describe, but we still don’t understand God, we still don’t know Him.  We think we know all about Him, but we do not know Him, and we cannot see the fullness of His glory, His majesty, His love.

It is as if we are a high school freshman, at his first dance, looking at an incredibly beautiful girl.  He can describe her dress, her beauty, but until he is dancing with her, looking in her eyes, he really doesn’t understand her beauty.

Neither can we understand the Father, Son and Holy Spirit until we are moving with God.  Our lives lived in Him, and He dwelling in us.  Until that point it is an academic exercise, one were we put ourselves in the place of judgment, as if we are the experts in judging His glory, because of our great understanding.  The understanding that is merely theological, that is merely from a distance.

Which means we read this psalm and say -God doesn’t think about us, He couldn’t care about us!  He has a universe to run!  Like desists we think that God is far off, that He isn’t involved, and that it is up to us to run our own lives.

That gives us freedom, to go after what we want, to do what seems good to us. It means we can justify our sin, thinking it doesn’t really matter to God, that He doesn’t really care, and that we should just enjoy life.

Ultimately, sin is nothing more than choosing to remain in the corner, distant from God, unengaged with Him.  We refuse to walk with God, preferring to stay at a great distance, able to describe Him, and creating explanations for what we do not understand.  Explanations that encourage sin, and encourage living life to what we think is the fullest.

That separation leaves us unfulfilled it doesn’t satisfy the hunger, it just makes it greater, and it enslaves us.  And once enslaved, with sin pulling us further and further away, our “expert” view of God becomes more blurred, and often more hostile.

Until we agree with Solomon, that all is simply meaningless.

Sure, God is three, and He is One, but what does that matter if my life is spent against the wall, alone with my speculation and philosophy and theology books?
Trinity understood through Covenant.

When we reduce the doctrine of the Trinity (not the Trinity itself) to a corollary of covenant, when we see this incredible mystery of Three in One from the point where we engage God, when we see it defining who we are, we begin to understand this,

This is my God, and I am His child!

It is like looking into the eyes of your beloved as you dance together.  You may not be able to describe what you see, heck, you may not be able to speak.  Eloquence evades you, but you know your beloved at a level that transcends truth.  This is when we begin to understand how much God does think of us, how much He truly cares.

It is when the Psalmist begins to understand the answer to his question,

what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?

You made them only a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.  You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority.

The answer is simply understanding the Trinity in view of our relationship with God.

For we see the Trinity involved with us from the beginning, as God makes us just a little lower than Himself, making us in His very image.  In our creeds, as we describe this glorious Trinity, we see God the Father, the Creator at work,

And then God crowns us with glory and honor.  This is the work of Jesus, the Son. of the Father, and our Lord.  It is His redeeming us, pulling us out of the corner, bringing us to dance with God.  This is Jesus, our righteousness, whom we are untied to in baptism, made one with, as He cleanses us from all sin and all unrighteousness. His very birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension affect s our lives, from redeeming us to being our advocate, proclaiming us Holy and deserving of the crown and righteousness.

And then the Spirit sanctifies us, setting us apart, conforming us to the image of God’s son. We are revealed to be in Christ Jesus, the Spirit dwells in us, and gives us the role of God’s trusted children, trusted enough that He puts all things under our authority, our responsibility, as we walk with Jesus.   This is what it means to be holy, to be sanctified, to walk with God,

And so we see God, in all of His glory, working in our lives.  Creating us.  Redeeming us, Sanctifying us.  Making us His people.  That is what the creeds describe the Trinity doing, simply engaged with us, thinking about us, caring about us so much that God invests Himself fully in our lives. His is what we confess; it is what we believe.  It is our Credo – why we depend on upon God.

It is a description of our faith in God who reveals Himself in this way to us,

This is why Paul can preach as the He describes in Colossians,

 

For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too.  And this is the secret:  Christ lives in you.  This gives you assurance of sharing in His glory.  Colossians 1:27 (NLT)

This is how we are to understand God, not with high minded philosophy from afar, but moving in unison with God as our Father, our Lord Jesus Christ who died to save us, and the Holy Spirit who will bring to completion our transformation into the children of God.  He thinks about us, He cares for us, HE LOVES US!.

As we come to know the Trinity this way they share with us the peace that surpasses all understanding and will share the glory of eternity.  For this is true!
We are His people; He is our God… AMEN!

Has the Church Forgotten the only Fact it needs to focus on?

devotional thought fo the day
Featured image
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age Matthew 28:20b (NLT)

“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.’”   Mt 1:23 

For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”  Mt 18:20 

“Answer: A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.
If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.”  (1)

2. In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph. 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (see Eph. 2:18; 2 Peter 1:4). Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God (see Col. 1:15, 1 Tim. 1:17) out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends (see Ex. 33:11; John 15:14–15) and lives among them , so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself.  (2)

584    Stir up the fire of your faith! Christ is not a figure of the past. He is not a memory lost in history. He lives! Iesus Christus heri et hodie: ipse et in saecula! As Saint Paul says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today—yes, and forever!”  (3)

We cannot probe more deeply into the roots of the world in order to change it than by resting on the Heart of God, thus making it possible to call upon the living Ground and Power that supports everything and is alone capable of restoring all things  (4)

When something keeps showing up in my morning devotions, I figure it must be something I need to share with those who read my blog.  Actually, I don’t want to admit the real reason, and writing the blog helps me, because I write what I need to hear/read.  It is God’s way of seeing if there is anything functioning in my brain, trying to get me to understand the most critical fact the church needs to remember.  The critical fact I need to remember.

To know that not only God is, not only does He love us, but that He is with us.  He has designed us to live with Him, describing us as being in Christ, abiding in Christ, the Holy Spirit residing with us.  Over and over and over. That is why we can trust in Him because He is present because we have a relationship with Him, a relationship more intimate, more complete than any other relationship we have.

It all begins and ends with that relationship.

Every doctrine focuses on it, from Justification that makes it possible. Sanctification, the doctrine of being set apart, to that relationship.  The sacraments, by which the reality of the relationship is communicated. Scripture, the record of the promises God makes to us, and a record of how He faithfully keeps those promises. Faith, the trust that becomes the natural expression of the relationship.

This is where we need to focus; it is this fact that is the reason for evangelism.  It isn’t about transforming behavior (though that may happen), it isn’t worry about whether the world reflects what God teaches us is good and holy behavior. (We struggle with it, why do we expect them not to?)

This is what our religion is all about, walking with God.  Everything else in Christianity, in our religion brings us to know this.

It is what matters in the end, and it is what gets us through this day.

I need to be reminded of this daily, so I expect that you will hear of it often.

The Lord is with you!

1.   Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 365). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

2. Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation: Dei Verbum. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana

3.  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1395-1397). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

4.  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 211). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

What we need to know… to survive the Monday’s of life….

Devotional Thought of the Day:A  Picture of our Journey... with Christ

25  I will sprinkle clean water on you and make you clean from all your idols and everything else that has defiled you. 26  I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart. 27  I will put my spirit in you and will see to it that you follow my laws and keep all the commands I have given you. 28  Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors. You will be my people, and I will be your God. 29  I will save you from everything that defiles you.. Ezekiel 36:25-29a (TEV)

12  My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. 13  The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. 14  And you are my friends if you do what I command you. 15  I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16  You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17  This, then, is what I command you: love one another. John 15:12-17 (TEV)

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.

This morning as I was working out, I hit a wall.  I thought I was done, at 12 minutes into my final treadmill session i knew I couldn’t go on any longer. I looked for an excuse to quit. I looked for a reason to end my suffering.  I didn’t want to endure.   A little more than 20 seconds later, the wall was there imposing, I needed to quit.

I heard in the back of my head my high school P.E. teacher’s rasping voice crying out LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT.   Like back then, it made me want to quit even more.

Just like Mondays, and all the other days in life that seem like Mondays.

You know the feeling, like when you are in a meeting that is going on forever, as all the same issues keep frustrating things keep being rehashed.  as you do your bills, and wonder about the day when there will be money left over.  It’s when the long awaited rain shuts down roads you need to use to get to work.  It’s when all that was good and precious that you experienced in worship yesterday become a faded memory, choked out by the world….

It’s monday.

Or it might as well be.

There is only one hope on Monday, there is only one thing that will kill off the drama, the anxiety, the lows that we face.

It’s to realize that we, you and I, are the people God loves.  the people that He claimed.  That the Trinity in all of Their glory has called you to live life in their glory.  They didn’t insist that you come to Them, they’ve come to us!

Look at the promise in the reading from Ezekiel – the promise of Baptism!  Look at how God takes care of us, from eliminating the sin in our lives, to setting up shop in our lives, creating something quite incredible!

Look at the words of Jesus.  I know there is much criticism of those that treat Jesus as their brother, as if that meant all we did was “play” with Him.  But there is something far different in knowing Christ is our brother than that (check out yesterday’s sermon for one)

Look at the words of Josemaria, these blessed words which encourage us to really think through what it means for God to be our Father, Jesus our brother/friend, and the Holy Spirit to be our very needed comforter!

This is what the Christian religion is about.  It is how we get through life, even as we despise its shame, we look for the joy of walking with God, and one day, seeing Him face to face.  it’s how we get passed minute 12 in our journey, how the wall that we hit, exhausted and weary, is destroyed.  we find His strength, and He comes to us and helps us get to realize that though there are “Mondays” that even those Monday’s become our Sabbath, our day of rest.

For we are God’s people…..

and that trumps any Monday.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 237-242). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

He Loves It When His Plan Comes Together!

 

He loves it When His plan Comes Together

Ephesians 1:3-14

 

IHS


May you understand the pleasure that God finds, in pouring out His grace, mercy and love on us as we are drawn into Christ!

A-Team

Sometimes as I watched the show, I thought it was a comedy, sometimes a action adventure epic, other times a serious drama where people were rescued from oppression.  The characters played their roles, the Colonel, Faceman, B.A. and the possibly crazy pilot Murdock…so well.

Yeah – I am actually talking about the old show A-Team.  Because there was a line in every show that came to mind as I prepared to share what is revealed in the Epistle reading this morning.

The line of the colonel, when the people are rescued, as the team regathers, as he sits back and exclaims, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Not that they planned anything better than I planned how the last five years would go. We aren’t God, our plans.. well.. their our plans.

This passage causes me to picture our Father in heaven watching as Jesus is born, and ministers to people, dies, rises, ascends, as the Spirit is poured out into our hearts. As He sees what has been planned before there was even the earth, our Father in Heaven, with a twinkle in His eye, uses similar words. Hear again how Paul describes God’s attitude?  Reaction? How God responds to the completion of His plan.

5 This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure.

Hence the title of this sermon, “God loves it when His plan comes together!”

Look at God’s work  (we have a better a team)

I want you to hear some of the passage again.  

Verse 4:  God loved us and chose us

Verse 5:  God decided in advance to adopt us, and This is what He wanted to do and it gave Him good pleasure

Verse 9, God has now revealed His mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill His own good pleasure

Verse 11 – He chose us in advance,  and then, He makes everything work out according to His plan

Verse 12 – God’s purpose was

Verse 13 – He will give us the inheritance He promised

Verse 14 – by giving you the Holy Spirit whom He promised long ago

Do you see how these words, over and over tell us that this is God’s will, His plan?  Do you see the great desire Paul describes that God has a plan in place from before time?  

Even more incredible, can we begin to understand that this plan isn’t just a last minute thing – but He desires to do it, that God takes incredible pleasure when this plan comes together?

Look at “In Christ” I-R Stuff  (they have a real mission)

So what is the plan?  Well that is well laid out as well… and always comes down to the fact that we are in Christ.

God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself

God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.

At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ

Because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God,

we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. 13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you.

when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit,              

14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people.

Nine times in this passage’s eleven verses, we hear about our being in Christ, about us being brought in and adopted as the children of God. About God brining us into a relationship.  A relationship that is defined by His love and desire…

His plan to save us is to deliver to Himself a people, a people to love, a people to care for, to share life with for eternity, a people with whom to have a relationship deeper, freer more complete than any other.

Us.

To do this brings Him pleasure.

Each time one of us comes home, each time a sinner trusts God, each time a life is made whole.

No wonder Peter can write to the church and say,

always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have. 16  But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience,     1 Peter 3:15a-16b (NJB)

What a hope – to know God has always had this plan, a plan to find us in Jesus Christ, and place the Spirit in our hearts, so that we will always know we are God’s people.

That we are forgiven, freed, adopted, chosen,

Think on this for a moment – God’s work & Plan and desire and what gives him pleasure = You in Christ!

Going to read those verses describing God’s plan again, this time I want you to hear it being said to you….. and listen and hear them, for they are about us, and all who trust in God…

God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself

God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.

At the right time he will bring (US ) and everything together under the authority of Christ

Because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God,

we (Jews) who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. 13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you.

when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit,              

14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people.

That is what happened when God saved us, when verse 6 became true on the cross, and at our baptism, and when we take and eat His body and blood in and under the bread and wine,

So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.

It is beyond words, this love of God that we know, that is the fulfilment of His plan and promise, a plan that He takes great pleasure in seeing come to fulfillment in everyone of our lives… as we are brought together in Christ…

A place where we indescribable peace, the indescribable peace of God, in which we are kept by our Lord Jesus Christ…. AMEN?

He Has Sent, and Sent Again, and therefore, We Call Out to Him!

He Has Sent, and Sent Again,

and therefore, We Call Out!

Galatians 4:4-7

† IHS †

May you truly know the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, which has seen you through this year, and will accompany you in the next!

 The Trinity at Work…as the Father sends.

One of the things I find fascinating is the heritage of the church in Ireland.  Perhaps we know about St Patrick and his three leaf clover, or the a Celtic cross and the knots on it like I am wearing today, the kind of cross the one hanging over the altar is modelled after. There are others. Bede, the author of “Be Thou My Vision”, and one of the great historians of the early church, and Adain and Finian.  The early Irish Christians were known for their artwork, especially their Biblical manuscripts and stone and metalwork.  If you do a little research, they were also know for their missionary zeal, for bringing word of God’s love to mankind.

One of the reasons we did our Advent series on a Celtic look at advent, is that of the theologians I’ve read, the early Christians in Ireland and Scotland were amazed at the interaction of the Trinity in Scripture.  The mystery of how Three are One, and One are Three, and the paradox of what that means for us.

It’s been said that every denomination plays favorites among the Trinity.  Some focus on the authority of God the Father.  Others, especially us in the Lutheran sphere, focus a lot on the work of Christ, how He came to make us right before God, how when we are joined to His death and Resurrection, we are cleansed of our sin.  Others have focused primarily on the Holy Spirit, with an emphasis on personal holiness and using the gifts the Spirit gives us, as we are made alive through the Spirit’s power.

Yet God is three, and yet one, Three who love us and work in our lives.  We see it in today’s reading, as we hear Paul tells us that the Father has sent Jesus, and sent the Holy Spirit, and that is why we can truly call on Him, our heavenly Dad.

He sent Christ to deal with our sins

We’ll get to the Father at the end of the sermon, so we start looking at what St. Paul tells us about the Father sending Jesus to us.  Quite appropriate as it is the fifth day of Christmas, don’t you think?
Paul says in verse 4, “when the right time finally came, God sent his own son,” He sent Jesus.  The word there for sent is “apostled”, to send someone was an emissary, an ambassador with the authority and power to establish a relationship.

What it would take, in this case, was simple.  He had to buy our freedom from the things in our life that captivate us, that seem to control us, that oppress us and stop us from loving God, and stop us from loving each other and those that so dearly need it.

That is the what is so devastating about sin, the actions and thoughts and life that we count on, that society tells us brings us joy and fulfillment; they don’t bring us joy, they enslave us. We spend so much time chasing them, and when we “get” them, trying to defend them, or defend why they are the center of our life. This sin, for all sins are part, ends up owning us, owning our time, our lives, our souls.

Which is why Jesus came to purchase, why he came to take us off the market.  To not only purchase us, but also to free us and to make known that we are adopted by the God the father. To enter into not just a business relationship, but also one of family, of not just respect, but love.

He sent the Spirit to confirm our adoption.

It is incredible to think of this freedom that has been purchased for us, these chains that have been broken. It is so incredible, that I think we often lose sight of the freedom, and the incredible relationship that we have with God.   Which is why the Father sent the Son, and then they sent the Holy Spirit to us, to confirm in us that which Jesus had already accomplished.

If we need it confirmed, and I most definitely believe we do, for so many things would try to steal the peace and comfort of knowing God’s love, the Holy Spirit is here, in our hearts.  The proof, the guarantee of God’s love for us, that He will never leave or forsake us.
Knowing that presence, knowing our place in His heart, and His place in our hearts, we are prompted to call out to God, as a child calls out to his father.  Sometimes this is in time of need, in desperation.  Sometimes it is in excitement, as we realize His glory, as we are excited in His presence.

Luther wrote:

63 In addition, you must also know how to use the name of God aright. With the words, “You shall not take the name of God in vain,” God at the same time gives us to understand that we are to use his name properly, for it has been revealed and given to us precisely for our use and benefit.

Since we are forbidden here to use the holy name in support of falsehood or wickedness, it follows, conversely that we are commanded to use it in the service of truth and all that is good—for example, when we swear properly where it is necessary and required. So, also, when we teach properly; again, when we call on his name in time of need, or praise and thank him in time of prosperity, etc. All this is summarized in the command in Ps. 50:15, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.” All this is what we mean by calling upon his name in service of truth and using it devoutly. Thus his name is hallowed, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer.[1]

Here is why the Spirit comes and dwells with us, why He comes into our hearts, so we have such a relationship with God, that we can run to him, when hurt, so that He can comfort and bring us peace, or when we are excited, and want Him to share in our joy.

This is our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a God who comes to us, a God who brings us into His presence, who share with us His glory, who gives to us in ways that are so incredible, that we struggle to believe that He didn’t make a mistake.  The entire Trinity, their work focused on communicating to you and I a love that is beyond anything we can imagine.

A love for us…

So what do you need to cry out to Him for? 

So maybe this morning, we’ve found ourselves in need of crying out for His help, crying out with our last hope.  This is your God, who sent Jesus to make it so, and the Holy Spirit to convince you that it is the fullness of time for those cries.

Maybe this morning you are just overwhelmed with His grace, and you need to cry out to Him with excitement, with praises that go on.

Both cries are appropriate, and we can, as His family join in those prayers, and in those praises.

Then, may we all realize, that because we are His children, because the Trinity has heard our prayers and praises, that we can dwell in their peace, in their love.  For God is here, He has freed us from all that would hold us captive, and has made us His children.

It is the fullness of time for us as well…. To know the Lord is with us.  AMEN?


[1] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 373). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Celtic Advent II: Jesus’ Thoughts on the Incarnation

Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus’ Thoughts
Looking toward Being Born of Mary

Isaiah 49:4-6

 

† Jesus, Son, Savior †

May we be in awe of the love of Christ, demonstrated in His leaving heaven, to come dwell with us, even as He saved us.

 

The impossibility of the task:

It Is as difficult to picture Jesus in heaven before the incarnation, as it is trying to see what life will be life when we dwell eternally with God.  We are after all, talking about dwelling with God. We are talking about Jesus the Messiah, the one through whom all things were created.

And now through whom all things are recreated, in order that we do the good works planned for us since before the foundation of the world.

Even so, the exercise is useful, trying to imagine what Jesus thought and felt a few hours (however one experience that) in heaven.

Can you imagine Him and the Father, looking down at the world, knowing what was to come, having planted the seed of this even before Adam and Eve were ushered out of the garden for their own protection?

Even before the garden was?
What did he see?

As he looked down at their brokenness, as he considered the sing, the evil, the hardness of hearts that Jesus knew He was going to encounter, as He considered the beauty, the glory, the incomparable, indescribable, life He was going to freely give up…

How could He not be repelled?  How could the stench of sin, the overwhelming self-centeredness of mankind not turn Him away?  How could he not react as we do when we face making sacrifices for those that would rather not be helped?

How could He not hesitate, but for the joy that was set before Him, smile at the Father and with a sparkle in His eye, say, “It’s time” and in a moment, find Himself defenseless, in the womb of a young woman?

The mission was always bigger

As we travel through Advent, that is what we must see, this deep desire of the Father, of the Son and of the Spirit to rescue us from the death that is life apart from God?

We see this in the old testament reading – the absolute exhaustion that Isaiah prophetically sees in Christ.  He’s been born, struggled with our rejecting Him, dealt with people like the sons of Thunder, those people who act so brashly and loudly… he’s dealt with Pilate and Matthew, with Judas’s betrayal, and perhaps more painfully Peter’s betrayal.

He knows that those are just foretaste of ours, the days when our behavior, our thoughts and words do not reflect our love for God.  The days when our resentment and desire for revenge and our own self gratification seems to dominate.

He knows this pain – but the mission He was sent on by the Father, that they planned together – the time to that point is now gone… and the knowledge is seen.  Hear Isaiah’s prophecy about Christ’s attitude:

.” 5  Even before I was born, the LORD God chose me to serve him and to lead back the people of Israel.

 

He will go on..
 Now the YHWH – God the Father says to me, “It isn’t enough for you to be merely my servant. You must do more than lead back survivors from the tribes of Israel. I have placed you here as a light for other nations; you must take my saving power to everyone on earth.”

He comes – just as planned – to save Israel, and to save all nations.  Not just our friends and family, but our enemy.  Not just to forgive our sins, but the sins committed against us. To free us from all of that… for that was the plan, even before His birth.
Why?

The gospel, in its simple yet profound language tells us.

. 57  In the same way that the fully alive Father sent me here and I live because of him, so the one who makes a meal of me lives because of me.

 

In the same way our meal over on that side of the room shows our life together, so this meal here does.  They are, in many ways, the same thing.  Our fellowship here with God, reflected there.

He came to give us life, to redeem us and return us to the Father, to bring us back Isaiah says.  To have life because His saving power, this love and mercy, this invitation to communion, to fellowship, to living with Him has been His plan since before He entered Mary’s womb.

For we live with Him, because we have died with Him.

As Jesus stood there, ready to enter time, ready to leave heaven, ready to be born of Mary and live among the sin and brokenness, the stench of sin and the horror of lives that are spiritually rotten.. He heard the Father’s voice… and loving the Father, loving us, became Immanuel

God with us… The Lord God Creator, Savior, Redeemer Re-Creator.. has come to us….

It was what they wanted.. it is what changes everything…

With Him, having been rescued from darkness, let our lives reflect His glory and mercy and peace to this world.  AMEN?

A Celtic Advent: The Trinity’s Look Towards Christ’s Birth

The Father’s Thoughts:

     Looking forward to the Birth of Christ

† Jesus, Son, Savior †

18  …may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

 Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT)

 Mary did you know? God did!

If it hasn’t happened yet, soon your mailboxes will be filled with cute Christmas cards, some of them actually daring to be “religious”, to have picture Mary and Joseph looking down, adoring the “6lb, 7oz. Baby Lord Jesus” asleep quietly, without dirty diapers in a manger so spotless, cleansed by the glorious light of the star, that you wouldn’t hesitate to make Christmas cookies there.

We’ll sing the carols, eventually, as they help us contemplate what it means to look into a manger and see there Jesus, our savior.  We’ll even hear songs like Joseph’s song, as he tries to comprehend what it means to raise Christ, or “Mary, did you know”, as we celebrate Christmas.  As we consider if Mary really understood the pain that Simeon prophesied she would bear – as she watch Jesus be crucified, or the joy she would know as He ministered, and healed and rose from the dead.

This advent, I want to prepare us for those joys by seeing what the Trinity expected, as Jesus was sent to be born. Tonight, we will look at what the Father thought, as the plan made before the foundation of the world became reality, as His only begotten was born into this world, amidst the sin and brokenness…

What did He see, what did He plan, what was He expecting, as He sent Jesus into our world?

A difference, a Mission, and a wedding banquet

He’s different… (so you will be!)

The first thing we need to consider is who is sent!  It is not a soldier on an impossible mission, it’s someone who has been hand-picked.

Picture God the Father, looking down into the manger and saying the words He wrote through Isaiah,

“Take a good look at my servant. I’m backing him to the hilt. He’s the one I chose, and I couldn’t be more pleased with him. I’ve bathed him with my Spirit, my life. He’ll set everything right among the nations. 2  He won’t call attention to what he does with loud speeches or gaudy parades. 3  He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant, but he’ll steadily and firmly set things right. 4  He won’t tire out and quit. He won’t be stopped until he’s finished his work—to set things right on earth. Far-flung ocean islands wait expectantly for his teaching.” 5

This babe, this man, this Savior, is our God, who will not disregard anyone us, He will set things right, not just in one place, one country, but in the world.  He won’t tire or quit on us, He won’t give up, even when we do.

As the Father prepares for these moments of Jesus’ Incarnation, His life among us, He knows the relationship He has with His Son, that is the kind of relationship He wants with each of us, His people.

But Christ’s being sent, is what that will cost!

Here’s what will happen!

You see, even as Christ is the image of the Father, in sending us Jesus, the Father sends us the very image we are being transformed into, the very life we are being reformed to live.  The image that we can see, as we look at our own children in love, or in those moments where we struggle with the injustice and unrighteousness of the world.  The times where we operate “outside ourselves” in the way we love and sacrifice, just because we need it.

Hear again what the Father says to Jesus, and picture Him saying it over Jesus, laying in the manger.

6  “I am GOD. I have called you to live right and well. I have taken responsibility for you, kept you safe. I have set you among my people to bind them to me, and provided you as a lighthouse to the nations, 7  To make a start at bringing people into the open, into light: opening blind eyes, releasing prisoners from dungeons, emptying the dark prisons.

This manger – these lights, the blue paraments, that is what it is all about, this time of Christmas.

It’s about the Father sending Jesus with the deliberate intent of dealing with our brokenness, about freeing us from the darkness of sin and self-centeredness, about releasing us from that which constrains and binds us, Satan’s work deceiving us and getting us to buy into our rights.

Freeing us to live in a relationship with the Father, as His children, as those who He rejoices in, whom He takes responsibility for, the people that He keeps safe.

You’ve been invited!

As we look at advent, the Father’s intent becomes clear as we are invited to His son’s wedding feast in the gospel.  For Christ has come, and as we look at His coming again, no message sends that more clearly than the feast we’ve been invited to, to celebrate His love, to celebrate the fulfilment of His mission.

To celebrate His taking our burdens and bringing us is, everyone the Spirit has laid eyes on, the good, and those of us who aren’t so good.  To look forward to the feast, and to realize we continue in the very ministry of Christ, inviting all to be fed, to know His love.

For in Jesus, all has been set right, as we live in Him this work of His is being finished.

For we have been called to dwell in His peace.

Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross (Photo credit: freefotouk)

Faith, Hope, Love – they are verbs… not nouns

Andrei Rublev's Trinity, representing the Fath...

Andrei Rublev’s Trinity, representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a similar manner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day….

James 2:17-18 (TEV) 17  So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead. 18  But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.”  

479      Whenever you speak of the theological virtues, of faith, of hope, of love, remember that, rather than to theorise on, they are virtues to be practised. (1)

I was reading this morning about the church – and one man’s ideas of re-invigorating it, of restoring it to its prior glory.  There were a lot of things he thought could be done to restore it in this “post-Christian” age in which we live.  And then he went on with his list – fix this, restore that, and basically laid down His law.

I closed the book, (well, the Kindle Ap) and was frustrated.  For one, I don’t believe we are in a post-Christian age – I think that sort of speculation is based on frustration and a lack of identity and mission in the church.  Specifically, we know what we are to save people from – but then what?  Salvation is a synonym for deliverance  – but a delivery takes us from one place – and brings us to another.

Or to paraphrase Jesus – what happens to someone who is demon-possessed and is freed – and does nothing?   What happens is the demon comes back – this time with friends – because the feasting on a empty soul is what they yearn for.

We have to deliver people to something – specifically to the relationship that Jesus provides us the opportunity to enter – with the Trinity.  To dwell with God – here when the Holy Spirit dwells within us, and then eventually, in the full presence and glory of the Father.

That’s what we are meant for – that’s what we are called to, this covenantal relationship…

That is where these verbs come in – the verbs faith, hope and love.   That is why James teaches us that they are not in a vacuum – things to be dissected, exegeted, studied by theologians who come up with libraries of books about them.

We are called to “do” faith – a better word- to trust in our God.  To do that which is basically laying every burden we’ve ever had, every worry, every pain into His care – including our very lives… and let His use it all.  To realize that every moment is our interaction with Him – and that He walks with us.

We are called to “do” hope – – to eagerly live life expecting Him by our side – expecting Him to fulfill His promises.  Not just hope like someone might hope their team wins the world series – but hope as in basing our entire lives and actions on what God has promsied us.

And love – the greatest of actions – for love is an action – maybe it is better to say it is ever more than action.  It is that which compells, directs, causes, guides and drives and defines our action.   It changes the very nature of all we do – and all that is done to us.  It is life itself – but life that lives with another as our core.

Even writing this – I am doing what I say shouldn’t be done – talking about these things…

So its time to do these things….

So trust in God…. expect His word to be true in your life… and love as you are loved.

AMEN

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1829-1831). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why I don’t hate “religion”, because it is His One, holy, catholic/christian and apostolic church

English: Baptism of Christ

English: Baptism of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But this is the meaning and substance of this addition: I believe that there is upon earth a little holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one head, even Christ, called together by the Holy Ghost in one faith, one mind, and understanding, with manifold gifts, yet agreeing in love, without sects or schisms. I am also a part and member of the same a sharer and joint owner of all the goods it possesses, brought to it and incorporated into it by the Holy Ghost by having heard and continuing to hear the Word of God, which is the beginning of entering it. (1)
The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

385    Our Lord says: “A new commandment I give you: that you love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples.” And Saint Paul: “Bear each other’s burdens, and thus you shall fulfill the law of Christ.” I have nothing to add. (2)

I was reading the other day about someone who was making a case for a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ.  A little later a friend sent me a question about the protestant church, and their view of faith being individual, compared to the “one holy catholic and apostolic church”.  I thought it through and sent him some thoughts about it, tracing it back past the Enlightenment to Zwingli and his attitudes towards the Lord’s Supper and the miraculous.  Putting the two together this morning, plus preparing to head to St Louis for my denominations convention, has me thinking about our faith a lot, and how scriptures expresses it – corporately.

You can’t really come up with a “personal faith” in Christ, nor for that matter a personal relationship with Him.  The easiest way to see this is to start with the Trinity.  To have a relationship with Jesus, means we have a relationship with the Father, whom Christ brings us to, and with the Holy Spirit, who is sent to us, by the Father and the Son.  The Spirit brings us deeper into that relationship with the Father and Son, testifying of Them, showing you Their glory, reminding us of the presence of God in our life, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  That’s why we baptize in Their Name.

If we can accept the relationship with the Trinity, then we have to realize that as They work in our lives as individuals, they are drawing us into a relationship with each other.  It is inevitable, it is our very hope, to share in their glory, to know Christ is in us, but that means us.  That means we are all enveloped in Him, we are united to Him, and therefore each other.   This is why Escriva says he doesn’t have to add anything to what Jesus commissions us to be, what Paul describes and encourages us to be.  Religion is nothing more than a way to classify this relationship, to describe the actions that take place because of it, for to be united to Christ results in our fulfilling the law of Chirst.

Which is why, united to Christ from our very baptism, from the very work of the Holy Spirit calling us to faith and repentance, we learn to love each other!  It is part of being drawn into the love of Christ for us, for the Father.  It isn’t our decision or desire to love, it is part of the very nature of God – the Triune God, who is working in our life.  It is part of our spiritual DNA – our heritage as those called into a relationship with God.   He makes us One!  He causes us to love, to serve, to think of others before we think of ourselves.  For that is who He is, and as He unites us to Him, as we look to Him, the Spirit is drawing us to this, forgiving, reconciling, redeeming and causing us to share in this life of Christ.

So go in peace, to love God, and therefore each other.

(1)  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 973-975). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Stirred, not Shaken!

Basic Bond coat of arms with motto translated ...

Basic Bond coat of arms with motto translated as The World is Not Enough (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Stirred but not Shaken”

Acts 2: 14a ,22-36


Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

 May you realize the grace of of knowing the Triune God desires and works to know you, and make you perfect, perfect for a relationship 


Anybody get the number of  that creed?   

Even though I dearly love the Athanasian Creed, even though I love how it lays out the relationship of the Trinity, even though I love spending a couple of hours with it, and highly recommend that to you, there is a certain feeling I get, reading it in a worship service.

Two ways to describe it…

The first is, I feel like Wiley E Coyote at the end of every scene in the old Roadrunner cartoons….

The other, I wonder if anyone got the license plate number of the theological 18 wheeler than just hit me.  I almost wonder if Anthony of the Desert, who is credited with writing it, and Athanasius, a deacon who presented the creed to a gathering of pastors and bishops – comprehended the depth of the creed’s teaching….

Maybe it overwhelmed them a bit two… as if as they read it, they wondered who was driving the chariot that ran over them….

Even as I love this incredible Creed, as I love how it teaches us about the mystery of the Trinity – the Tri-une God, the Three yet One, I realize it has one shortcoming.  It was written to challenge all the false teachings about the Trinity, and about the nature of Christ…it seeks to teach us to know about how the Trinity is, and how Jesus is both fully God and fully man…

But it assumes one thing…. That we know this Trinity, this Triune God.

It does a wonderful job stripping away many, if not most of the false teachings about Jesus… yet leaves us there… needing to get to know Him…

May this day, we rejoice, in not just knowing who God is not, but may we rejoice in knowing our Triune God…..

And as we grow in knowing the Trinity, this God of ours, may we be just the opposite of James Bond’s famous drink – may we be stirred, and know we cannot be shaken.

Stirred

Still a little overwhelmed by the theological semi that ran over my brain, I’m going to do the sermon backward today – and give you the gospel, before the law…

Hear King David’s words again, really hear them….

‘I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. 26 No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. 27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. 28 You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’

 The very God we proclaimed that we trusted a moment ago, David said is right before his eyes.  As God is here, right in our midst.  Here to protect, here to be our shepherd, here to be all that we need as our Father, as our Lord, as our God.
He is here…The Triune God who has been at work in our lives since we were created, is with us. He has called us together, He has brought us here, in order that we can know His love, that we can remember His mercy.  The Holy Spirit drew us that we can literally taste and see that the Lord is good.

Walking with Him, on this way, which He has revealed, is what our lives are to be, and are, because of that presence of His. To know He is here, To realize that love which causes Him to cleanse us, to assure us that our souls will not fade into nothingness, even as Christ’s body was not meant to tor in the grave.

Paul explain this, in this way,

12  For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13  You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14  he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:12-14 (TEV)

That is what the presence of God in our lives means… it’s the time to rejoice in everything that has opened up to us.  It is time for a party, for the feast – for the incredible life that God has given us…. And would live with us.

No wonder David says that His heart dances, it rejoices, (forget this line “glad” GRR) and his tongue SHOUTS his praises – the special shout reserved for the jubilee – that one time in life, everything you are shout!

He is here – He has given us life – He has given us the joy of His presence….

He is right beside me… and I shall not, will not, cannot be shaken…

Not Shaken   

That is where the Law comes in, this idea of being “shaken”.  Being shaken is like being out in the middle of Lake Galilee with 80 mph winds raising waves much bigger than our fishing boats, or a spiritual earthquake.  Those are the words that are used for those traumas, when life is so in turmoil that you cannot determine which way is which – not just east and west or north and south, but forward and back and upside down.
The Trinity’s presence in our lives takes care of that – for it completely changes our point of orientation. It is no longer us that is spinning out of control, even as the world is spinning – and in such a way that people have to realize God is with us.

As we do, as our lives, as our desires, as our dreams ocme into line with His, as we see that our redemption, our deliverance has been the Father’s goal all along, things change.

The law – which is the way in which God orders the universe, which we struggle with, is revealed to be what drives us to Him, looking for hope, looking for something which will cause the storm…

And when we are with God, Triune, majestic, beyond our ability to comprehend, at least during this life, we do find ourselves able to rest in hope, our heart finds that gladness, and we shout His praise, as we realize His desire is to be here – with us, His people.

It’s His plan…no, we are His plan..

 It’s His plan, the reading calls it His pre-arranged plan…
Even to the point where Jesus was betrayed, and fixed to a cross, and murdered.  As Peter preaches to the very ones who killed him,

That He could, for the people the Father created, pay the price of redemption, and pour out His Holy Spirit, that we would become His Holy and Righteous people…

Yeah – no wonder our hearts are glad…joyous – know His presence, having been shown the way of life – through the death of Christ.

May we indeed know His peace, as we wait, resting in the hope that comes from knowing He is beside us.  May such knowledge stir us to love and good deeds, even as we trust, as we know we’ll never be shaken…
AMEN?

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