† IHS †
May you realize the grace and peace given to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, and may your life reveal it to our broken world!
If you get in trouble, call collect!
I still remember hearing the words, as I went out the door on February 13, 1981, my gosh, 32 years ago this week. I had just gotten my license two days before, and as I left the house, to go pick up my buddy John Cartier and the two girls that were supposed to go skating with, I heard these words…
“if you get into trouble, remember – you can call us collect!”
So I hopped in my first car, a very fast Pontiac Astra – and headed out, not thinking about the words much.
As I was writing this sermon, I was thinking how odd it is this sermon illustration has run its course – the people younger than 30 will never understand it! The kids today can call on their cells, text, even drop pictures of the car with the flat tire. Or skype their parents – even if they are on the other side of the world! I mean – when was the last time you saw a pay-phone anyway?
Calling collect? Wow – that was a big thing back then! It cost so much money! It was only for emergencies, or perhaps, to call a grandparent on a birthday.
That was the big thing about it – being given the assurance that my parents would help – or at least try to help if I found myself in trouble. Even if it meant I was calling collect from whatever problem I would find myself. They would be there. Looking back – a very special promise.
If you need to be saved…
Do you? That’s the walk of Lent!
The irony of a 40 day temporary change!
Generally, there were only two reasons to call collect in the old days. Incredibly joyous news, or oh boy, were you in trouble. Cell phones and skype are used now – the incredible technology we only dream of in comic books back in the day.
But you can still call collect if you are in trouble, matter of fact at county jail that is the only way you can call someone, I hope you all never find out how very, very expensive it is.
As we look at Paul’s epistle today, there is a similar call that is encouraged. As Paul tells us, “Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved!”
It is logical- that if you call on someone to save you, that there is something serious going on, and it isn’t a good thing! Especially for us guys – because we will take something that is a minor problem – and before we call someone else for help – we have turned it into a major crisis.
That is so often with the sin in our lives, as one sin leads to another sin, and rather than confess our sin, we end up creating a major war. Even so, one sin is enough to render us broken, one crisis caused by someone else’s sin enough to render us useless.
It is part of our walk during lent, to survey the damage that sin has caused, the problems and divisions, the anger and resentment and hurt, and to realize, just as my parents did – God encourages us to call out to Him –that we may be rescued!
It’s a pretty harsh thing – to look at the brokenness caused by generations of sin, but our generations aren’t innocent either – just the sins of the past months would be a harsh devastation to face for most of us. Yet, looking at such isn’t about creating within us a level of guilt or shame, or disgrace. For as Paul reminds us,
“As the scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced!”
That is the thing about knowing we have the ability to call collect – the assurance that though we are in trouble, we won’t be turned away – that there is almost an expectation that someday, we will be in a situation where our parents, or our close friends, may need to rescue us.
If our parents were so willing to care, how much more does God – who paid the price for our “collect call”, as Christ hung on the cross.
That is what church is about; a bunch of God’s kids reminding each other that God isn’t impossible to get to! That God isn’t going to be upset at us, when we call out to him to rescue us, or to rescue someone else who we care about – to rescues those who’ve we hurt, and even those who have hurt us.
That is what is so incredible, that God knowing our lives, the temptations we would face, the struggles we would have, the sin we would commit, planned and paid for all of our collect calls.
Indeed, it is even our normal thing to call, it is something that God places in our hearts, in our lives, It is the power of the Holy Spirit, working through God’s word, as it is communicated to others, that brings us to the point where we can call. Where, tired of the burdens we bear, tired of the hurts, tired of the stress in our lives and in the lives of those we love… we are compelled to reach out to the hand that has been offered, as we realize the price has been paid for the call…already
Is it time to call?
Generously He Gives
He answers all – Judean and Greek
None are disgraced!
There have been days where I thought that this passage was only about our call to faith, that it was a passage that a pastor or preacher would use at a revival, to assure us that our prayers to be saved would be heard, and having taken care of that, we could go about our lives, joyfully, complete.
We have a Lord who gives generously scripture tells us. A Lord who we can call on as we deal with all the struggles we have in this life, as He answers all of us, no matter our ethnicity, or our age, none who call on His Name – is disgraced. For that is why we’ve been given it – to call upon in need. We can call on Him anytime, in any place, and know that He is there. Ready to show mercy, ready to clean up the mess, ready to heal our brokenness, ready to heal and help us back on the road.
The sermon is short today, with a reason. It’s time to call upon His name – to give us time to call on God’s name – to extend our prayer time out a little, to take Him at His word.
That relieved of all stress, of all burdens, of all the sin and unrighteousness we deal with, and which we think about at this time, that our hearts and voices, undisgraced, can rejoice that indeed, His message, His declaration of love, is indeed on our lips.. and in our hearts.
- A Sacrifice for Lent…a broken heart? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Ash Wednesday (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Pope Benedict’s Full 2013 Ash Wednesday Homily (catholicglasses.com)
- An incredible Lenten Friday Sacrifice – the “safe” distance. (justifiedandsinner.com)
You Must Open Your Hearts…too
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
† In Jesus Name †
May you indeed find God’s grace, His love, His peace, His mercy so incredible, so beyond imagination, that you receive it with great joy, and grow to adore Him more and more!
A Scary Thought…
Nothing scares a pastor more than the possibility that Paul writes of, in his letter to the church in Corinth. We heard it this morning,
6:1 As his fellow-workers, we urge you not to let your acceptance of his grace come to nothing.
That what you have received, the promises of Baptism, the blessings of sharing in Christ’s feast, that the words of Grace that we have shared as we have heard the word of God read, as we’ve discussed it in sermons and Bible studies and conversations, that it would become of no value to you? That it would be in vain? Could it possibly be such?
The writer of Hebrews describes this as well,
2:1 So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. 2 For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. 3 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:1-3 (NLT)
Can we let God’s grace that we have known “come to nothing? Can we ignore this great salvation? Can we turn our back on God? Is this just Paul being human and worried about the people he ministered too, or is there something insidious out there, ready to devour the people of God?
Like Paul, I urge you not to let your acceptance of His grace come to nothing…
that is, what ministry is really about – our ministry together, the ministry of the entire church – encouraging each other to know His grace, to receive it with joy, and to not neglect it – but to grow in your trust and dependence on it.
Nothing but the Blood of Christ for you
The chief purpose of all ministry.. is to give you Christ!
As Paul desires that no one should ever accept God’s grace in a way that is of no value, his ministry reflects that desire. That’s why he talks of putting no obstacle in the way of those he ministers too, including the church in Corinth. Indeed, as you read the letters of Paul, he seeks to rid any obstacle, anything that blocked people from God’s grace.
That includes things like misusing the law of God in order to guilt people into behaving, adding practices and obligations, or teaching people that they must have some secret level of knowledge. The more I read him – even the “difficult” letters like Romans, the more pragmatic he becomes – as he tells over and over – that the gospel – the good news of the Father’s love, seen in the work of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, and the giving of the Holy Spirit – that’s the power of God to save all – Jew and Gentile, now matter who we are, where we are from.
It is something that is so incredible, for as we say in baptism – God makes His sign that of the cross – He places His seal on our hearts and our minds.
Those who were the earliest of Lutherans, got this idea down – no obstacles. When describing the liturgy, the times where we are gathered by God to receive the promises of His word, the blessings of the sacraments, they wrote:
“after all, the primary purpose of all services is to teach people what they need to know about Christ” [i]
Deacon Mark says it this way – we preach the same message every week – we just use different words! It is the purpose of all we do, that all may be presented to the Father, perfect in Christ!
In this time…why we adore God, why we rejoice that someone was tortured more than we could ever imagine – it is because of His love for us, and that he went to that cross for the joy that was set before Him. The joy that was set before Him – the idea that we would be re-united with our loving Father in heaven, that we would be made complete – returned home – that salvation and deliverance would be ours….
No other message – for nothing else is as valuable as knowing this, nothing else brings comfort – the kind of comfort the word of God brings…
The Challenge of Consistent Trust…
That is why Paul will discuss to some length how God proves them authentic servants of His, as they serve people.
That they are compelled by the love of Christ to endure all the pain, all the oppression, all the stresses, being arrested and beaten and hungry. That during those times their faith was pure, they were able to rely on what they knew of God, and find the strength to be patience and kind, comforted by the Holy Spirit and truly loves their friends and enemies, that doesn’t speak of human strength, but divine.
I would almost say that it isn’t natural to be able to endure that they endured, or that we can endure. The world calls it supernatural – strength beyond that we can be explain. However, for the children of the Creator, for the sons and daughter of the God who reigns, it is not just natural, it should be the norm.
Think about a young couple in love, and getting married, naïve to that which goes on around them, they truly just enjoying and yes – adoring each other. Do they notice how rundown their first apartment is, or the low level of their income, or perhaps the opposition they face to their marriage this soon?
Such is the adoration we have towards God – less and less makes sense in our life, as we realize His love. Unlike the young couple with no clue to their surroundings, God promises that He has all in hand! That He, with every bit of His power and His love, He promises it will work for good, for those that love Him.
The Challenge of the Distress..
This passage we have heard ends in a unique way – as he urges them not to receive grace in vain, and he assures them both of his desire and action to remove any obstacles to grace, and testifies of its permanence, no matter the situation, he then urges them one more time concerning the love of God,,,
11 People of Corinth, we have spoken frankly and opened our heart to you. 12 Any distress you feel is not on our side; the distress is in your own selves.
There are times when the prophets and apostles in the New Testament deal bluntly with people, and of the churches in the New Testament, Corinth is the dealt with bluntly, and without apology. They have sacred cows that need to be barbecued slowly and with care – and Paul does. But its not just for fun that he does this, but because those sacred cows get in the way of the people’s relationship with God…
That is why Paul says that he speaks frankly! That if there is distress that its not that Paul caused it! Rather that the distress is internal, caused by a heart that is bearing burdens it need not, a distress caused by focusing on distractions and things that would try to rob from you the joy of your salvation. It may be caused by the oppression of sin, sin that needs to be cleaned out, and the Holy Spirit trying to do that very thing.
That returns us to the beginning – the incredible words of Paul,
Now is the real time of favour, now the day of salvation is here.
It’s the time to do that thing we almost fear… that we shrink from for we do not know the changes that it will bring.
Paul’s last words… “you must open your hearts…too.” (long pause)
Remember, Paul is speaking to the people of God, those baptized into Christ, those who have come to live in Him. This is not a call to faith! Rather it is a call to believers to abandon that which would separate us from God! It is a invitation to realize that the most important thing in our life is what was begun here, when God chose and marked us as His, and celebrated here,
I urge you – live in a life where trusting in God! Live full in His grace, know Him and rejoicing in your relationship! Live in Christ fully, as you come to know that which He promised you, the riches that scriptures teach are yours, as His children, the children He loves.
For then you will realize that His grace is not nothing… but everything….
And knowing that – will help you realize the incredible peace that God created for you to dwell with Him in, the peace of God our Father, which goes beyond comprehension, a peace in which our hearts and minds rest – guarded and kept there in Christ Jesus.
[i] (pr. Parker’s paraphrase – Article XXIV of the Augsburg Confession)