The sermon from Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos Ca.
The subtitle could be The Kingdom of God is Like the Beverly Hillbillies
His Mysterious and Awesome Plan!
May you realize the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, the grace that reveals you are what they desired, as from before time, the manger and the cross became their plan in action!
18 times…. One Thought
Eighteen times in the course of eleven verses, the plan of God is either mentioned directly or indirectly or the plan itself is simply reveled.
In these beginning verses of Ephesians, we are told over and over about this plan of God.
Paul wants to make sure the church in Ephesus knows that God’s mysterious plan, this awesome desire of His is made clear, that it is full revealed.
The Holy Spirit didn’t stop there, as this plan from before the foundation of world was executed, as it was completed. As we, nearly 20 centuries later, see what God has planed and did impact our lives.
Right now, God’s plan is being revealed, and it is revealed in our lives..
18 times Paul mentions the plan….
It is that important to understand that plan for us…
…….And it defines who we are…..
The Amazing Plan….
We see the plan revealed with these words,
who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ
for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.
this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.
12 God’s purpose was that 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.
The apostle Paul is explaining the reason for the manger, for the cross, for the baptismal font, for the altar from which we receive the feast of all feasts, the Lord’s Supper.
This purpose, this plan, was to reconcile everything to God the Father, as it was united to Jesus.
Paul will use the gardening/farming illustration of grafting us to Christ, of binding us to Him, for He is the source of our life.
He will use the banking illustration of reconciling us to Christ, and of redeeming us from the debt owed. Everything we are, moved from a liability to an asset in God’s balance book.
He will talk of freeing us, and declaring us justified/righteous, judicial terms, and the medical concept of quickening – the bringing back to life. God uses the image of the travel agent even, delivering His people into the land of milk and honey, the image looking toward the day Paul mentions in Colossians,
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NAB)
This is all why this exists, this plan of God to make for Himself a people, the masterpiece he will mention in chapter 2, verse 10.
A plan which no one could really understand prior to the cross, a mystery because no one could have understood that all this would be accomplished through a cross, through the violent death of God, as we killed Jesus, as God the Father raised Him from the dead.
The Amazing Reason….
If the plan for our deliverance, for our salvation, a plan put into place before the garden of Eden and is incredible and praiseworthy and glorious, there is a comment about this plan that is more astonishing.
It is mentioned a number of times as well…. The idea of bringing us home, of making us in Christ Jesus His children, is that this is His desire, this is what brings God, our creator great pleasure.
This is God’s goal for creation, it has been what the Trinity has determined to be their plan since the beginning. God desired to adopt you Bob, and you Ben, you Carol, and you Julie.
If God had a facebook account with pictures of His kids….it would include you!
That may sound silly, (or it might cause some great concern – He’d have the most embarrassing pictures ever!)
But you are God’s adopted kids, a process that He takes the greatest joy in….
You are His, and you are the one He wanted….
Hear that again… all of this… all of Christmas….all of the symbolism, all of the decorations, all of advent and lent, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost… it’s all about one thing….
God desire to make us His children, and doing what it took to make it so….
That’s why this passage from Ephesians is called a doxology – an ancient song of praise.
Because God has desired this, because He has done this.
He’s made us His!
He has blessed us in a way we know is promised, and occasionally we get a glimpse of, like when someone is brought into the family of God, whether as an infant, or as someone in their 90’s.
We are amazed at such love, and we have to delight in it – we have to praise Him directly and to others… it is the reaction that comes from knowing such great love!
It is why this is all here as well – to testify, to proclaim that this love is for every person that has lived – and celebrated, for those who are living now – to come and pray here, a place for this incredible, glorious plan of God to be revealed to them, for His desire to be His children to be made known.
For all the people who live with 20 miles of this place to know the height and depth, breadth and width of God’s love, for them to rejoice and praise Him, for them to dwell in the peace we know…. For in Christ, we live in that peace, awaiting the day of His return…with Him.
If you are interested in hearing this sermon – you can check it out at
Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. 24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! John 17:22-24 (NLT)
Most Lutheran churches celebrated a church “holy day” yesterday. The 496th anniversary of Martin Luther inviting theologians and pastors and people to a dialogue on issues that gravely concerened him. The issue was a very serious one – which affects how we see Christ’ work and the cross. As you read this, please understand me, this is still the serious issue for me. It is why I am Lutheran and not Roman Catholic Christian.
But the unintended side affects of that action has resulted in a splintering of the church, as we have taken serious issues, and far less issues and made them “the” points of division. 40,000 divisions, and whether they are over issues like Christ’s work on the cross, or whether we baptize with a little water or much, or what instruments we use, or what we call the guy who preaches and teaches the congregation about Jesus, or about whether something is sin. Those divisions are to be grieved, not celebrated.. Seriously grieved over.
Simply because the division breeds contempt, and often attempts at reconciliaiton – true reconciliation are avoided, ignored, and even mocked. We celebrate these days, and rejoice that God “purified” His gospel, without considering that millions won’t hear it, For if we believe the difference is that important, why don’t we engage is discussion, that the position may be evaluated, tested against scripture, that it might be heard?
There are times where it would seem like reconciliation is impossible, like when Luther had a death warrant on him. But that doesn’t mean we stop praying for the church to find that reconciliation, even praying those from whom we are divided. It doesn’t mean we stop engaging in discussion when we can. It means we trust in God, even risking all, to depend on His working these things out, in His performing miracles.
You see, any sense of unity that would happen, would happen not in board rooms, but at the foot of the cross. It won’t happen through negotiation, but through absolution. It happens as we are broken together before God, and we praise Him together for saving us, redeeming us, reconciling us to Him. Where we celebrate Christ uniting us to Himself in Baptism, and we find we are together there. That is when I believe that we will begin to find unity that demonstrates the love of the Father for the Son, for the Trinity for us. That unity is found in no other name, no other label, in unity or disunity with no one else. For only Jesus can deal with our sins, those very things that divide us from God, those things that divide us from each other. We can’t deal with sin, any sin, especially the sin of division, unless it is there, in Christ.
I doubt I would ever sit down with my own Synodical President, never mind Pope Francis (who I greatly admire, perhaps more than any church leader in my life so far) That doesn’t stop me from praying for them, praying to see what the theologians call the “invisible Church” be more clearly manifested in the “visible Church”. That Christ would be known by the world.
Yeah- I Pray that Reformation Day would become obsolete, preferably by its 500th anniversay…..and I struggle to celebrate it. Because the next day… matters even more. The Day we celebrate All Saints, as we have testified along with countless others, that God has one, holy, universal (i.e. small c catholic) and apostolic church. A church that rejoices together in God making us His people, and it being revealed to us He is our God.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind! In Sight? Christ
† IHS †
May you see the incredible love and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so clearly, that it robs you of any desire to focus your life on anything else!
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
The thing parents miss the most…
It is the one tactic that works in raising children for a while, that works so spectacularly that when it no longer works, parents and preschool teachers cry.
Described by six little words, oh the problems solved by it.
If I give you the first three words, I bet you will get it. Heck, I bet some of you will get it with only one word.
Out ….. of ….. sight
Yeah – that great opportunity to simply remove something from the picture, and in a moment, most young children forget it was ever there. You are driving past a golden arches, and they so want to go there… until of course you are 30 seconds past it…. Then it is forgotten.
It is true for adults as well, especially spiritually. Not so much for things like coffee and doughnuts and… bacon.
But spiritually, we are very much children – we have to deal with those things that are in front of us, and the challenge is.. what is in front of us!
What should Be out of Sight and out of Mind
In the epistle reading today, we see a great example of this very thing. Paul talks of those things that we in front of him spiritually, consciously. The things that gave him the confidence he needed when he was a young up and coming rabbi. He had all the right boxes checked off, all the advantages that anyone could want.
Genetically – he was perfect, family – perfect (those are the root words in Greek Genea and phylum) the right schooling – the roughest and most demanding program which he excelled at, He even proved how loyal he was to his nation, to his religion, by squishing like a cockroach those who opposed it.
Imagine being the next American hero – a cross between Tom Brady and Bill Gates – and being the captain of Stanford’s football team and making a 4.0 in a dual major of computer science and a MBA and while there – you invent a computer that costs $5 dollars to make –can be sold for $500 and blows away everything else on the market?
These are the things that Paul counts on, they are on the forefront of his mind – so much so… that they become a detriment. They actually are so incredible – so depended upon, so much in sight, that what was not in sight, was was not forefront in his mind… was that which every Jewish person for hundreds of years said they were looking for, the Messiah.
The very things that should have helped him to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, got in the way, as Jesus was standing before him all the time. It is
These things – to put it simply, like the things we depend upon for our being considered “right” need to be put aside – for they distract us from what truly makes us righteous. It’s not that we’ve been coming to church all our lives, or that we’ve been Lutheran for 10 years, or that we are Irish, or that we’ve done this or that, or we’ve worked hard, or whatever it is… for if you don’t see Jesus, these things are nothing more than…distractions. It isn’t even that we belong to the very special church family,
Or As Paul says,
8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him.
What should be in sight, and in Mind
Even before Paul leaving behind all his stuff, there were two sets of brothers, who left their dad, and their family business, to follow a young homeless teacher, who a preacher said was the Agnus Dei – the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Another man, a very tax collector, left his tables on April 15th, to walk with this teacher. Paul leaves behind everything else – it cannot capture his mind, or his heart anymore. Indeed, he counts them as refuse – not just the trash but the stuff that fills sewers and raises a stink. St Patrick will, because of this very thing – return to the land where he was a enslaved and escaped – knowing that he could face death…because of what he gained in leaving it all behind. Everything they were, they left behind…
Because of the infinite value of knowing Jesus. Please hear this – it is the most important thing I can tell you. It isn’t that we know about Jesus, As the Epistle of James tells us, even demons know about Jesus – they recognize Him faster than anyone else in scripture. It is not knowing about Jesus, it is about knowing him.
Luther explained it this way.
For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.
They can know of him – but unless they understand God’s mind and will – that His desire is that we all come to repentance – the transformation that occurs when He comes to our lives, unless we understand His love and blessing, the motions we go through are worthless…
It is as we gain Christ, and become one with Him – as we are pulled into that intimate relationship with a God who loves us beyond anything we can imagine. That is when we begin to grasp what Paul says when he says..
I become righteous through trusting in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on trust. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
The incredible blessing that comes from knowing what happened to us here – as we were baptized, isn’t easy to comprehend. How do you explain the “coming to life” that happens when we realize that we’ve been cleansed from sin, when the cross becomes more than just a historical event, but the place where our life completely transforms because we are untied to Christ there, at the cross, in our baptism? Where we are united with Christ, and His death and the hope of His resurrection?
Where we are united to Him!
A few days ago, the new pope said it this way, in his first sermon
“This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who confessed Jesus Christ, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it.” He says, “I’ll follow you on other ways, that do not include the Cross.” When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord.
Without the cross – all we have is the garbage – the worthless stuff, the things this world might recognize as important – but have no meaning in the face of life or death, that isn’t what will sustain a marriage, or as Pope Francis said, will sustain a church. He went on, to recognize, very much like St. Paul, what would. He said,
I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward. “
Though the challenge would be worded slightly different for us – it is when we are joined to the cross of Christ, that everything is transformed. As we partake of the Body and Blood of Chris. That we begin to realize what Paul says… how this can occur.
How it can be…
I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.
You see – that is our key – to strive to “get” that we’ve already been gotten. That in Christ, it is not the attaining of perfection or holiness that is what we are challenged with, it is not being good enough.
The battle, the fight is to realize that we are already there, that God is calling us to realize He is there… He is our vision – and then we don’t need to toss aside all these other things – all these other “good” things… for they will have fallen aside, and become out of mind…
For we will dwell in incredible peace – the peace that comes from living in the presence of God, protected there, our hearts and minds kept there, for we are Christ’s possession. AMEN?