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Our Suffering, our Doubts, and Jesus’s Struggle at the Cross. A Good friday Devotion


clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought for Good Friday:
1  My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? 2  Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.    Psalm 22:1-2 (NLT)

22  Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship, and punctuate it with Hallelujahs: 23  Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers; give glory, you sons of Jacob; adore him, you daughters of Israel. 24  He has never let you down, never looked the other way when you were being kicked around. He has never wandered off to do his own thing; he has been right there, listening. 25  Here in this great gathering for worship, I have discovered this praise-life. And I’ll do what I promised right here in front of the God-worshipers.   Psalm 22:22-25 (MSG)

He is pleased to withhold from us the milk and honey of his consolation, that, by weaning us in this manner, we may learn to feed on the more dry and solid bread of vigorous devotion, exercised under the trial of distaste and spiritual dryness. 3. That as violent temptations frequently arise amidst these desolating drynesses, we must resolutely fight against them, since they do not proceed from God; but nevertheless, we must patiently suffer them, since God has ordained them for our exercise.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was tested in every way we are, that he faced the same issues, the same temptations, the same situations which can cause us to doubt, or to want to run.

We see that today, in the passage that Jesus quotes from the cross.

He too had moments where the Father seemed to far away, where the illusion of being abandoned was strong.  Where the feeling that God has left us on our own to struggle dominated every other feeling we have.

I’ve often wondered why God allows us to go through these times.  Surely they don’t come from God, yet St Francis de Sales indicates they are ordained by God for our exercise.  God allows them to come upon us, as He did Job and Jesus, for a purpose.

IN Jesus case, the abandonment was seen for what it was, a pouring out of wrath that far exceeded the wrath of the Pharisees, Sanhedrin, and the Roman guards.  A wrath that one taken upon Jesus would kill him, yet like the grain in the sand, it would give life to us, and to all those who believe and are baptized.

In our case, the suffering intended to defeat us, intended to drive us away from God can and does (eventually) ordain for us to be drawn toward Him.   De Sales calls this being drawn a vigorous devotion, I beg to differ a little.  Like the psalmist I look at my own pain, my own suffering to early, to often, being drawn down into the darkness, being overwhelmed by the pain.  But there He rescues me, He reminds me of HIs love, He shows me that He was always with me.

This is the point David is making in the Psalm, which starts out so dark, which so describes the pain of being crucified or struggling today.  The point where we can see as the light shatters the darkness, as our faith, no even more sure of God’s presences testifies to naturally, without even thinking.  read it again,

22  Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship, and punctuate it with Hallelujahs: 23  Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers; give glory, you sons of Jacob; adore him, you daughters of Israel. 24  He has never let you down, never looked the other way when you were being kicked around. He has never wandered off to do his own thing; he has been right there, listening. 25  Here in this great gathering for worship, I have discovered this praise-life. And I’ll do what I promised right here in front of the God-worshipers.   Psalm 22:22-25 (MSG)

When we are struggling, when Satan and his minions are oppressing us, when all seems dark, this is what is true.  He is with you, He loves you, and you will soon be praising Him as the Holy Spirit convinces you of this reality.   Like the cross, the victory, the depth of God’s love is revealed in these trying moments, in the midst of the pain, and the darkness.  We then see the truth;

You weren’t abandoned, He was there… and you will tell others about this!

AMEN!

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

Great Confidence in the Message. A Sermon about the Transfiguration.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreater Confidence in the Message

2 Peter 1:16-21

Jesus, Son, Savior † 

As Jesus love for us in revealed as He journeys toward the cross, may the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus transform our lives, as we dwell in His glorious light and love!  AMEN!

An Odd line

I love the honesty of scripture, especially the insights that we see into the lives of Peter and Paul into their letters to the early church.  They do not portray themselves as perfect, but as men who have struggled, and still struggle to walk in a relationship with God.

Much like I do.

And as Peter looks back on his life and ministry, and writes his second epistle, he remembers an “ah ha” moment in the section we come to today.  A moment that everything becomes more real.

The moment on the mountain, when he and James and John see Jesus revealed in His glory and honorwhen it was revealed to them exactly who Jesus was, and what it meant for the Messiah, the Anointed One to be with them.

But in the middle, as Peter is talking about this wondrous voice, and the Father revealing to them who Jesus is, Peter makes an incredible statement

“Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets!”

Which means that while they knew the scriptures, there was something about this experience, this moment, that made the scriptures come alive for them.  It makes them look differently at the Old Testament differently, something that you and I would benefit from as well.

The Temptation to just see the Bible as myth

We gain a little more insight into this comment if we go back to the first line of the readings,

16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes.

Simply put, St. Peter is telling us that the reports he has made about Jesus are eyewitness accounts of God’s life, lived among us.  It is not just a story or a fable that we tell people to get them to behave.

While we wouldn’t use the word myth, I think many of us treat scripture in a similar way.  Stuff to ponder, and think about, to consider and to apply to our lives so that we live better.  One pastor/theologian recently talked like this when they said that our mission wasn’t about waiting for the hope of heaven, but to bring heaven to earth now, by our doing good work.  They dismissed the ideas of heaven and hell and said our focus is on transforming the here and now.  That is how they see scripture as if it is the guide to making life perfect here.

And what Peter talks of counters that.

These are just stories from an alternate reality.  They aren’t just fables. The transfiguration, like the incarnation, the death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection are miraculous events, Events that Peter and the apostles are witnesses of, and that experience changed everything.

And in Peter talking of how His experience observing Jesus making a change in how he viewed the Old Testament, we see the same thing in effect.  Prior to knowing Jesus, the stories in the Old testament, the lessons, all were simply that.  History and training in being a good person.  Scripture is living, and for Peter it came alive when he saw Jesus transfigured, and everything began to make sense.

But seeing Jesus in His glory, seeing the love of God up close changes that…

And Peter says it will change our lives as well.

The Bible comes alive as the words reveal Christ in you!

 You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.

These words in scripture.  They aren’t just words.

They tell us that God planned to shatter the darkness, the hopelessness, the kind of life that is so oppressed by the brokenness of the world. Lives shattered by sin, broken by hatred, tormented by resentment we can’t free ourselves from, from guilt and shame, as well, for it is not just the brokenness of the world that could crush us, but our own brokenness as well. This is why he directs us to pay close attention to them, for as Jesus is revealed, our confidence in God’s work is strengthened.

In these words we see Jesus and the promise of his love enter our lives, as glorious as Peter and James saw – as He enters our hearts, as He reconciles us to God the Father and sets our lives apart to live in the presence of God.

For this is the purpose of scripture, to draw us into this relationship with God, a relationship more complete, closer, with nothing that can shatter it.  One based on truth, the truth of God’s love for us.

God who spoke of Jesus as His dearly loved Son, and who speaks of us with the same words…..

Words which cause the scriptures to come alive, for they tell our story, and help us to realize the deep love He has for you and I.

Knowing that love, having Christ shine in our very hearts, brings to us the peace of God which can’t be explained, but which we are safe in, for Jesus keeps us there.  AMEN!

Do you ever feel like you can’t win….?


Devotional Thought fo the Day:

31 Jesus continued, “Now to what can I compare the people of this day? What are they like? 32They are like children sitting in the market place. One group shouts to the other, ‘We played wedding music for you, but you wouldn’t dance! We sang funeral songs, but you wouldn’t cry!’ 33John the Baptist came, and he fasted and drank no wine, and you said, ‘He has a demon in him!’ 34The Son of Man came, and he ate and drank, and you said, ‘Look at this man! He is a glutton and a drinker, a friend of tax collectors and other outcasts!’ 35God’s wisdom, however, is shown to be true by all who accept it.”  Luke 7:31-35  TEV

607    Humility is one of the good ways to achieve interior peace. He has said so: “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  (1)

There is a scene in the movie Forest Gump that I relate all too well, it seems it almost pictures life.  

He is walking down the lane, and everything seems fine, until life, or in his case, the neighborhood gang of bullies comes around the corner. And the race is on, except life is riding bicycles, or tossing rocks from the back of a speeding truck.  I am on foot, hobbled by leg braces, and it seems like I will never get to the point where the braces fall off, and I can use everything I have to lose that which would bruise me, that which seeks to hurt.

It seems like in today’s gospel, Jesus knew that feeling.  These stubborn sinners, the people that killed prophets that would call them back to God, that wouldn’t listen to John the Baptist, and then, because Jesus wasn’t like John, they found an excuse to not listen to Him as well.

So then, what do we do when we fell this way, do we turn and fight, or is our fight to flee, to run so hard we break everything that would inhibit us?

Where is the wisdom of God, that we simply need to accept?

It is found, not in the different behaviors of John the Baptist and Jesus, but in the common message that both preached.  John preaching it prophetically, pointing to Jesus, and Jesus preaching it indicatively, signaling to all that God is present, that thw Kingdom of God is here.  That God has made us His own.

That is the lesson of both, as they would accept the roles that the Father gave them.  John to decrease, Jesus to increase through the cross and resurrection.  They accepted their roles, they knew the presence of the Holy Spirit, and they lived.

Humility, that gift of being able to know we can’t outrun the pressures of life, but that we can depend on God, we can cry out to Him, we know He is there…

As we do that, we find a place of rest for our souls, we find His gentle care, we find our fortress, our shelter, our home, in Jesus.

In humility, we can cry out, Lord, have mercy, and know for sure, He has.

AMEN!

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1443-1445). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Need to Seek God. Why prayer is more than tweeting Him!


photoDevotional Thought of the Day:

16 But he would go away to lonely places, where he prayed.  TEV  Luke 5:16

But there are other reasons why God has bestowed this external knowledge of Himself upon the minds of all men.
In the first place, He has done so for the sake of the external discipline which God wants all men to observe, even the unregenerate.
Paul explains the second reason in Acts 17:27 with the words “to seek the Lord.” This expression has been placed in the causal construction, “because of or on account of our deficiency.” Thus there is absolutely no doubt that this knowledge has been revealed so that we will seek God.

Nay, you must even accustom yourself to know how to pass from prayer to those occupations which your state of life lawfully requires, though ever so distant from the affections you have received in prayer: for example, let the lawyer learn to pass from prayer to pleading, the merchant to his mercial transactions, and the married woman to the care of her family, with so much ease and tranquillity that their spirits may not be disturbed; for, since all of them are in positions according to the will of God, they must learn to pass from the one to the other in the spirit of humility and devotion.

Chemnitz, in the reading in blue, notes our need to seek the Lord.  In the passage it comes from, he is talking about what we see from natural revelation, but that too only wets the hunger for contact with God, and more than contact, for intimacy. In the intimate moments, we find peace and rest.  When we enter that peace and rest, then something miraculous happens, we find healing, for we are being transformed into His likeness.

We need God, we can’t make it on our own, we have broken too much, and been broken too many times. The requirements of scripture primarily show us this, not just a path to enlightenment.  We need him as much when we have been made His children, as when were alone in the darkness.

We are made for fellowship with the Father, we see that in Jesu’ own life, as He seeks the peace that comes as He finds rest in the Father’s love.

Why are we more in need of seeking God, of finding HIs presence?  Don’t we mature?  Don’t we become strong believers who can handle things on our own?

No

Simply put, no.

If anything, we become more aware of our brokenness, More aware of the healing needed in our lives, and in those around us.  So we need Him more, we need HIs comfort, His peace, His presence.  We need to be assured we are healing. The affections that he talks of maintaining.

Which is where prayer is so desperately needed.

I am not talking about praying unceasingly, as some portray it.  Prayer is not a text message here and there or sending a tweet to God and occasionally seeing if.  That isn’t the unceasing prayer.

Rather it is like De Sales advocates, this times of prayer where we find ourselves so enamored of God’s love that it becomes part of our parenting, part of our being an employee, part of being a boss, whatever it is.  We move from our time of peace, our time of healing through our life.

That is unceasing prayer, a life of being there, in the presence of God, which stems from our sacramental time (3) where we deliberately take time to seek God and realized that He is our life, our breath, our breathing, as Paul states in Acts 17:28.

So go, spend some time crying out to the Lord!  Find your rest and peace in His presence.  Take your time there, consider the Lord’s supper, your baptism, the promises made then.  Explore the dimensions of His love, allowing Him to relieve you of all your anxieties, your worries, your burdens, and yes your sin and shame.  Then, knowing the glory of God’s love, re-enter life, assured of His presence as you walk by His side….

The Lord is with you!

 

(1)   Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.
(2)  Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
(3)  Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XIII talks of prayer as a sacrament, and if we knew it as one, maybe we would be more quickly run to it!

May the Lord Lead Your Hearts


church at communion 2May the Lord Lead Your Hearts
2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

†  I.H.S.

 May the grace, that incredible gift of God’s love, mercy and peace, lead you to share His message in a way that it spreads, and where it is heard and rejoiced in by all you share it with!

Rescue From Wicked People?

This week has been, to be honest, very trying.  My patience hasn’t been all that strong, neither has been my endurance.

It has been challenging, mostly because I wonder if we truly understand the love of God, and how He works in our lives.

I would love to say the election was the cause of it, but I think it only revealed what was hidden, as many of us identified those we thought we needed to be freed, or delivered from; the people Paul asked the Thessalonian people to pray he would be delivered from,

Those wicked, evil people who are not believers.

We think we know what that means; we probably have various people in mind.  Until I remind you that the word belief here is as often translated faith. So, the people we are talking about are those who do not have faith, who do not trust in God.  People who do not depend on Him.

Uhm – is this too close to home for you?  It is for me.

Because while I will easily say I believe in God, it is another thing to ask me whether I trust Him, or whether I truly depend on him.

Especially this week, as I have watched some of my closest friends call each other, and the people we are supposed to love and pray for, well, we haven’t done that this well in America.

Rather, we identified them as the enemy, because we don’t understand how they are different from us… until we realize they are “us.”

When it came to us

Paul is making a similar plea here in verse 1.

He wrote, “Pray that the Lord’s message will be spread and honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you!”

Which leads to a question – is the Lord’s message being spread and by us?

Or has that taken a back seat as our anxieties, and our fears about what other anxious people will do dominate us?

Is God’s message spread and glorified among us still?

Surely it can, yet there are moments where we gossip about our neighbors or fail to put things, as Luther explained, in the best construction. That’s not easy to do, it sometimes takes time, to sit with them and find out their fears, their concerns, their pains, and positions.

It takes communication, and we often damage the opportunity for it.

Can we return to the joy that we had when God’s message of grace we understood with our hearts, souls, minds and strength for the first time?

Can we see the message of God honored again, as it did when we first heard it?  And then can we dare spread it to those, who like us, find themselves broken in this world?

Can we do as Paul was confident the Saints then would, doing and continuing to do that which he taught us to do?

How we do and continue to do what God commissioned

The answer is, yes.

Yes, even though we sin, we can still be restored, the awe at the love of God can be found again.  It was why we remember our baptisms, where sin, all our sin, was washed away by God’s command, because of our connection to Jesus and His death and resurrection. To restore that joy of our salvation is why we gather here, to remember and reveal again the love of God through the words of scripture, and through sermons like this.

It is why we come to the rail, and receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ as we take and eat, as we remember the words of Jesus that established the covenant, as we are renewed by the gifts He gives us here.

We need this, all of us, from every demographic you can think of, from every political persuasion, we need to be refocused, revived, delivered and saved from the evil.  That happens one way,

Hear again the blessing of Paul,

May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.

There it Is, there is what we need, this incredible love of God, revealed to us.  Then trusting in Him, depending upon Him to save us, to strengthen us and guard us against evil becomes our nature.  Doing and continuing to do what we’ve been taught through scripture becomes not only our action; but our desire. This all happens because God leads us, leads our hearts into understanding and expressing His love for us.  That love, as it is revealed, causes us to trust in Him, to depend on Him, no matter what else happens.

For knowing how much he loves us, that is beyond anything.  What that loves is everything, it is glorious, and wonderful, joyful and enables us to endure anything.

We’ll even realize how many people that word “us” contains, and knowing that will cause this love, this message of God to spread rapidly, and be honored and glorified.

For it contains us all, for God so loved us all, and we all need to for Him to lead our hearts into a full understanding and expression of His love.

Here, he is doing that exact thing… may we realize it.  AMEN!

 

Is it too much to ask for a miracle, for peace, this day?


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Devotional Thought of the Day:

16  Some Pharisees and Sadducees who came to Jesus wanted to trap him, so they asked him to perform a miracle for them, to show that God approved of him. 2But Jesus answered, “When the sun is setting, you say, ‘We are going to have fine weather, because the sky is red.’ 3And early in the morning you say, ‘It is going to rain, because the sky is red and dark.’ You can predict the weather by looking at the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs concerning these times!n 4How evil and godless are the people of this day! You ask me for a miracle? No! The only miracle you will be given is the miracle of Jonah.”
So he left them and went away.  Matt 16:1-4 TEV

535    Communion, union, communication, intimacy: Word, bread, love.  (1)

I am struggling with my sermon manuscript this morning.

The struggle is not with the text, it is glorious, it can, and it will preach Christ.

My problem is with my friends acting like the Houses of the Capulets and Montagues. No, I must be honest, there is  a growing desire to call them out and curse them both as Shakespeare wrote, “a pox on both your houses!” There is my problem, the enormous weight that causes my writer’s block.

I am not sure I can get these friends, the fellow citizens to stop attacking each other, to lower the defenses enough to look each other in the eyes and see each other’s struggles and brokenness, and to limp together to an altar and pray for each other. And as I receive emails, tweets, and read posts, I am reaching that point where I question whether I want to anymore.

There is a temptation to wipe the dust off my feet, to walk away and leave people pointing at each other, yelling at the top of their lungs the very same insults, the very same attacks, crying as they are assaulted by the same fears and anxieties.

Though I am not trying to trap Jesus, (or am I? In truth, today, I do not know.) I want Jesus to stop this; I want the miracle that will create the peace that will enable people to stop attacking each other, to know the mercy that will allow them to lower their defenses, to remember that we have been given the role of servants, to facilitate reconciliation.  To allow people on both sides of the issue to be still, and know that God is still God.  That He is our refuge and strength.

But how do we get people to lay aside their sin, the idols they have manufactured to provide the answers they desire?  How do we get them to consider there are hopes greater than what they expect, that what they have counted on to be the norm?  Surely I can’t out yell the masses that are yelling at each other.

I sometimes joke that St Josemaria Escriva is my patron saint, simply because I resonate with what he writes at a level that is deeper than just my poor intellect.  The words in blue above were probably written during the Spanish Civil War, a time of unrest that puts the hatred espoused on Social Media in perspective.  I imagine he grieved for his nation as he saw them killing each other, as a house divided fell apart as the bodies that composed it fell to the ground.

His answer is my answer, the place I must run to find hope, and find the strength to offer hope.  A sacramental, incarnational, miraculous answer found in God’s presence. Fount at the cross, found as well in those things that unite us to the cross – the sacraments through which the word assures us of God’s grace, His mercy and peace.

As God unites us to Himself, as He invites us to feast, as He communicates with us, as the Word comes and dwells among us, as we see and declare His glory.

As we know, love.

As much as I want my friends, to love each other, the miracle happens in Christ, not by logic.  They are delivered from their fears and frustrations, their shattered idols and broken hopes as Christ is revealed.  As they see Him, crucified to bear it all, to bring them healing from it all.

Sometimes the answer isn’t found in engaging in the mess, or getting depressed and angry as I grieve over it.

Sometimes the answer, the hope is found in seeking Christ, in letting His presence assure and comfort me, reminding me that all things will work for good and that nothing can separate us from His love.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Location 1295). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Do We Still Beg Jesus To Go Away? Why?


Featured imageDevotional/ Discussion  thought of the day

28 When Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gadarenes,* two men who were possessed by demons met him. They lived in a cemetery and were so violent that no one could go through that area. 29 They began screaming at him, “Why are you interfering with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us befoe God’s appointed time?” 30 There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding in the distance. 31 So the demons begged, “If you cast us out, send us into that herd of pigs.” 32 “All right, go!” Jesus commanded them. So the demons came out of the men and entered the pigs, and the whole herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.
33 The herdsmen fled to the nearby town, telling everyone what happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the entire town came out to meet Jesus, but they begged him to go away and leave them alone.  New Living Translation (Mt 8:28–34).

But when theological discussion ceases to be a striving for truth and becomes, instead, a struggle for power in the Church, then the nature of theology has been radically falsified; it introduces party politics into the Church and becomes the medium of party power; it divides the Church. Wherever theology generates theological parties and these parties become Church parties, it has become a false wisdom. It creates enmities and embitters people. I must admit that what shocks me most deeply in many letters and publications is the rank hatred of the Church and her members that speaks through them. The role of true wisdom and hence of the authentic teacher of theology in the Church is to create peace, not strife, to create goodness and inner openness, not embitterment.

As I’ve read verse 33 above, I have always wondered what was in the people’s minds.  They saw Jesus deal with the person in their village who was most in need, and he completely rescued and healed the man. Because of his actions, the villagers were safe.

And they drove Jesus away… they pleaded with Him to leave them, to leave them alone!

I wonder if the church today is more sophisticated than that, but to the same effect.  Within our theological discussions, the last thing we look for is the presence of Christ, or His desire, reconciliation, health and wholeness.  You can see it in the refusal to meet at the altar and start theological dialogues there, in His presence, together as His body.  You see it in the nature of forming political parties in a church, or in a denomination. (we won’t call it that, but we have planks and litmus tests, and budgets and political machines )

We relegate the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Redeemer, Reconciler to the back room, to some closet or chapel, while tempers flare, and sides square off, and everyone battles for power. We would rather talk about purity of doctrine and purging ourselves from anything false (like we could!) or faithfulness to our mission. (as if we are ready to go out on our own, with a bunch of web articles and expert consultants)

In the meantime, we are so busy arguing what often boils down to semantics, that we forget the Lord can deliver us from all that crap. We forget that this is work based in His will, in His desire.  We forget that we are led by the Holy Spirit, not some negotiated consensus.

That is how these reconciliation happens.  True reconciliation that isn’t based in compromise, but in Jesus,

May we stop running from the one who will rid us of our demons, bring healing to our souls, bind us together as one body as we celebrate being in His presence,

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. 242). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Truth Building Confidence


Truth Giving Confidence
Titus 1:1-9

† IHS †

Featured imageMay these words reveal the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, the grace that assures you of His love, His mercy and His desire that you spend forever with Him!

Eucharist Dismissal

As people prepare to stand up from this rail, having received the very Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrament we call the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist, or simply Communion,

I follow a pattern, words long used in churches from here to Siberia, and on every continent, and even heart in space.

May this precious body and blood of Christ, strengthen your faith unto everlasting life. Depart in Peace.

I may adjust it a little here, and there, to match what God has revealed to us this day, through the readings, the worship, and the prayers. For example this day, it may sound like,

Dear friends, may this precious body and blood of our Lord, shed for you, build your confidence in God’s desire and promise to share eternity with you… and until that day, He will sustain you in His peace1

For what the Lord’s Supper does, it builds and strengthens our confidence in God. That is how the Lord’s Supper teaches you about Christ. For He is the truth that will give you the confidence that you have an eternity to spend with God.

That is the faith that Paul shared with Titus, his true son in the faith, and it the trust we have and share, in Christ Jesus.

It is the message we have been entrusted with sharing, as we journey through this life, as God’s promise of living with Him forever comes more into view.

The Guarantee of the Promise

As I look at scriptures like those we’ve heard and sung today, as you consider the words, you realize that the core message is a promise. A promise that we’ve been entrusted with, all of us, to share with the world. Chris and I can lecture for hours, days, weeks (?) on the promises of scripture that God has made. How He has bound Himself to those promises. That’s what the covenants are about, every agreement God makes with man in scripture.

They all boil down to one simple concept, to one promise. It is about the parties to the covenant. Not SuperBowl parties, but the participants, the community established and bound together in the covenant. Think about marriage, there are many promises made, many facets of it, but what really matters is the husband and wife are together, bound together as one, So it is with Biblical covenants.

Every covenant God has made has looked forward to one thing, that God would make us His people, that we would realize He is our Father, our God. That is the promise! We would live forever with Him, in that incredible relationship.

This is a incredible promise! Because we have done things that would ruin the relationship. We’ve done things we can justly be blamed for, that we may still struggle with guilt over. As we’ve confessed, we’ve not done things right, we haven’t loved our neighbors, or even our family.

Yet God’s promise, seen at the cross, is that sin won’t keep you away from Him. Yet those who lead in the church need to encourage you to live godly lives, and show those who oppose God’s ways where they are wrong. We’ve got to live lives that don’t compromise that – that testify that we believe God’s rule is the rule…..

But we always have to reveal that God will not just wipe us out, pour His wrath upon us, but rather will reach out to us, reveal His message of love, to reveal the promise – you are His people… He is your God.. forever!

At this right Time, it is revealed….

That is what was revealed at the cross! That is where Jesus died for all our sins to be forgiven. That we don’t have to live with anxiety caused by guilt or shame, where we don’t have to live, bound by resentment.

As we take this bread, this body of Christ and eat it, we know it was given for us. As we take this cup, this blood of Christ, we know His life was given, in order that all the debt of sin would be paid.

That this precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior, is given to strengthen our faith, this faith that all who share, Paul, Titus, you and I share. His body, given and shed for us, the promise of spending time with God, forever.

Agnus Dei / Nunc Dimitis

As we get closer to communion, as you rise from the rails and return to you seats, hear the words of we sing before and after…..

This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the World… Grant us peace!

and

I have seen my salvation….a light to guide the gentiles, the hope of all Israel.

As you do, may you faith, your confidence that comes from knowing the Truth, the Truth about God our Father, revealed it Christ grow, and may you realize His peace.

AMEN.

2 days Blog: You Can’t Handle His Truth…… or can you?


Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

WARNING THIS BLOG POST MAY ANNOY THE HELL OUT OF YOU!

21  Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?” 22  “No, not seven times,” answered Jesus, “but seventy times seven, 23  because the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants’ accounts. 24  He had just begun to do so when one of them was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25  The servant did not have enough to pay his debt, so the king ordered him to be sold as a slave, with his wife and his children and all that he had, in order to pay the debt. 26  The servant fell on his knees before the king. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay you everything!’ 27  The king felt sorry for him, so he forgave him the debt and let him go. 28  “Then the man went out and met one of his fellow servants who owed him a few dollars. He grabbed him and started choking him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said. 29  His fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!’ 30  But he refused; instead, he had him thrown into jail until he should pay the debt. 31  When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything. 32  So he called the servant in. ‘You worthless slave!’ he said. ‘I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to. 33  You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you.’ 34  The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished until he should pay back the whole amount.” 35  And Jesus concluded, “That is how my Father in heaven will treat every one of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35 (TEV)

569  If you are annoyed at being told the truth, then… why do you ask? Is it perhaps that you want to be answered with your own “truth” so your errant ways can be justified? (1)

It seems the number of FB and Twitter posts recently that talk about how to treat those who sin against you, those who don’t meet your standards f behavior, those that just tick you off are on the rise.

Most don’t called for a counter-attack or revenge, or so it seems.  But they do, as they justify walking walking away, as they justify completely terminating the relationship, as they call for you to slam the door in the face of the one hurting, disrespecting, annoying and sinning against you.  They might even say that they forgive, but can never forget.  Or they talk about forgiveness, but not allowing the person to hurt or disappoint them again.

But that leads to a question – what good is it if there is forgiveness, if there is not the possibility of reconciliation?  If you cut someone off after the 7th sin, how in the world can they sin against you 69*7 more????

Undoubtedly, some are thinking – what about in cases of abuse, where violence has erupted, where there have been criminal acts like murder or rape?  What about where there are atrocities like genocide?   Are you saying that we must reconcile with “those” people?  Do we have to provide them the option of hurting us again?  Do we have to encourage something that we know could end in more pain?

That’s a good question, a very hard one.

But it is one we have to ask!

We have to realize that true forgiveness requires and hungers for reconciliation, for restoration. It may not happen, but we have to desire it.

What can reconciliation look like?  Can it be done with gradually, rebuilding that which was lost? Can we diligently work to restore that which was broken, to see it healed?  ( Not just tolerating the brokenness)  If our absence is necessary (and sometimes it is until repentance manifests) can we grieve over that, rather than triumph in it?  Do we weep as Christ wept over stubborn Jerusalem?

Jesus never said following Him would be easy.  Paul talked about it in terms of suffering like/with Jesus is necessary here – because of the glory we will share with Him there. So there will be sacrifices we will have to make, especially to our pride, especially to our expectations.  We will have to have the attitude of a servant, for we serve God, even as Jesus did.  Our work isn’t to promote ourselves, but to work at seeing His desire fulfilled… the desire that all come to repentance, that all come and are reconciled and restored, that all are presented perfect in Christ.

Look at the servant – forgiven by God of millions, who wouldn’t forgive such a small debt!  He’s talking about us when we separate reconciliation from forgiveness, when we pull back – not to urge repentance, but out of a desire to save ourselves, to guard our pride, or even our reputation.  We have no problem seeing the servant as evil and wrong, yet do we see the same lesson in our own lives. The truth of this parable stings, it hurts, when we realize we aren’t really forgiving, because we demand with the forgiveness that reconciliation isn’t possible.  That’s not forgiveness – that saying they don’t have to pay the debt – but we will still remember they owe us.  That isn’t right. It isn’t the way of the truth.

If we know this is true, Mercy must reign in our lives.  That we effectively use both God’s law and the gospel correctly to witness redemption occur.

It’s a very tough calling – living this way.  Yet it is His call on our lives, it is the truth that we see in Christ.  In fact, it is the truth that we can’t see outside of Him, and without the Holy Spirit’s help – it is impossible to see this truth revealed in our lives. But we need to see it, it will imprison and slowly kill us until we do.

Lord have mercy on us!  Help us handle the truth, that we are called to live a life of forgiveness… as those who forgive and reconcile, and those forgiven and reconciled!

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2433-2435). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Persecution, Martyrdom, the Love of Christ…. and a hard lesson in prayer


Crucifix

Crucifix (Photo credit: LeChinchi)

 11  They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word to which they bore witness, because even in the face of death they did not cling to life. Revelation 12:11 (NJB)

 43  ‘You have heard how it was said, You will love your neighbour and hate your enemy. 44  But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you;  Matthew 5:43-44 (NJB)

 23  Do you think I enjoy seeing evil people die?” asks the Sovereign LORD. “No, I would rather see them repent and live. Ezekiel 18:23 (TEV)

The news again has horrible stories of terrorism in the headlines.  The situation in the Kenyan mall, and the two churches in Pakistan that were hit by suicide bombers.

This time, the targets weren’t just political – but they were specifically religious. They were after my brothers and sisters in Christ.   And there are new entries to the list of martyrs that extends through the centuries, and is growing day by day.

I want to be mad, I want to think about how to get revenge, whether its the President or some other official pushing a button and the merciless terrorists being zapped like vermin.

Yet I hear the words of my sermon yesterday, the quote from St Paul to a young pastor echoing in my mind, “I urge you – pray for ALL men, ask God to help them, intercede for them, and give thanks for them….”

Uhm God, is there an exception clause for this?   Can we strike out terrorists of body, and those who terrorize the soul?

My mind cries out that I can’t love them, that it is illogical and stupid and asking for more pain to forgive them.

Gosh I dislike that passage in Matthew 5.

This week I preach on that passage from Revelation 12, and iti s in my mind as well – how much do we cling to life?  Why do we do anything and everything to avoid death?  We don’t like to talk about it, we spend billions on hiding it and our aging (growing toward it) in our culture… and we hate anyone or anything that threatens it.   The Blood of Christ?  Sure  – we know and talk of that, our testimony about the Logos – the Word of God – Jesus?  yes definitely!

But… death?  Especially the death caused because of our witness to Christ?  You see that is what a martyr is – one who testifies in view of death.  And will embrace it because of that truth.

That is where I find the grace to even thik about praying for terrrorists, to hear the words, “pray for all people” and to know it includes those who encourage suicide bombers, shooters and others who are so full of sin and hatred that this is the answer they look for in life.

And then I remember those words from Ezekiel, those words that point to Jesus on the cross so clearly… for there we saw the truth of it.

God wouldn’t take pleasure in the deaths of terrorists, or those who indoctrinate or teach them.   Not for a second.  Anymore than He takes pleasure in any death, for at one time, we were all enemies.. and still Jesus died… we’ve sinneds, murfering people in our hearts, just as surely as others have done it physically.

And He loves us and pursues us and calls us… and prayerfully we hear and realize He forgives us and marks us as His.

This is perhaps the hardest and most blessed truth…. God loves and died for the terrorists as much as He did for the martyrs…..and weeps over the deaths of all.

Now… in this day – you have had some who’ve irritated you, you’ve had those people and those moments were you were just pissed off, you may have been betrayed, even brutally so…

So read those verses again – think through them… and ask God to touch those who’ve done you wrong…even as you rejoice in His bringing you back to Him.

And when its hard…to do this… cry Lord Have Mercy!

 

 

 

 

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