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Encounter God and Commune – A sermon for Holy Thursday

Encounter God and Commune
Exodus 24:3-11

† I.H.S.†

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ convince you of the feasts to come, and that you will dwell in peace until those days are here.

74 out of 2.4 Million

It struck me, as I was starting to write this sermon tonight, that while 74 of the leaders of Israel communed with God that night, it was 74 out of 2.4 million people camped there at Mount Sinai.

Those their share in the covenant meal, on behalf of those who were below.

I have to wonder if those gathered in the presence of God, eating and drinking, were aware of those who were not there with them? Did it affect their mood?

What about for the apostles in the upper that night, some 1990 years ago.  Did some think of who they wished were there?

This is getting me to think of all those I wish could be here, when things are normal, and who are not.

Some of those people are far away, in places like New Hampshire, or Sicily, or Michigan.

Others are in heaven, friends, and family who rest in God’s peace.

Some have moved on to other places, other churches.

Some, sadly to say, are struggling with sin, and are losing. Or they don’t know God loves them, and are not ready to listen to that news… quite yet.

There are a lot of people that I wish could be here… and yet, there is just a handful.

Let’s look back to the feast in Exodus, for there, we will find peace, and hope – that is a vision for the future.

But look at the feast – and what didn’t happen.

I want to read one verse again, listen to it well,
1`11  And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence!

I love this picture!

There they are – in a room blazing with brilliance, the glory of God reflecting off of everything. A light that only God’s holiness could create! Looking at God – gazing at him!  They mouths dropped open, then eyes bugged out wide,
Despite the fact they were sinners, they were welcomed into God’s presence, so welcome they were fed a meal guaranteeing the relationship with God – for that is what a covenant meal is – that is what communion is, a meal to celebrate the relationship. It is given as a guarantee of it.

Eating and drinking in the presence of God.

With no fear of His wrath, with no hint of wrath or even disappointment on the part of God.

This is a little picture of a more substantial feast to come.

As is this covenant feast at this altar tonight.

This isn’t the feast we long for, it just helps our desire for that feast.

Just as that feast in Exodus, pointed to this- yet, even more, pointed to the feast when we all arrive before the throne.

Knowing that we can share in the suffering…

While we cannot share in the feast together this evening, there is another way we can commune, something else that we are sharing in….

When Jesus asks the apostles to wait and pray with Him when he faced suffering.

We need to realize He was doing that for those disciples and for you and me.

It is the tears that Romans describes us sharing in together; as one cries, we all dry, and when we laugh, we share in that as well. This is what He invited the apostles to

We surely share in this, and as we do, as we find a bittersweet communion.  Bitter because what we are going through is hard, it requires us to forgo one of the usual ways God strengthens and nourishes our faith, and reminds us we are His family, that we are one.

And yet to realize how much we miss it, has an oddly similar effect, as we long to share in the feast that will eventually take place.

Desire the Feast – and yes, the feasts to come.

The feast that is yet to come, the feast of the bread and wine, the feast of being welcome home into not only Jesus’ presence but the presence of the Father.

Not just a small percentage, but the entire people of God, Old Testament and New, Jesus and Gentile, the entire one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, united in Jesus Christ.

This is our hope, our expectation, and nothing can separate us from it, for we cannot be separated from our God.  AMEN!

 

Revealed His Glory: A sermon and worship service based on John 2

     Revealed His Glory

John 2:1-11

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God help you realize the glory of God that is revealed to you as experience His glory, may you grow to do what He asks, and depend up on Him more!

Who saw the glory revealed?

As I studied the gospel reading this week, one phrase kept grabbing my attention.

This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory

This thought, that Jesus revealed His glory for the first time, just needed to be looked into, it needed to be meditated upon, and I think it is a key for us today.

There is a question that accompanies it though, something else we need to think through.

Here it is, “who was this glory revealed to?”

We are going to look at three different groups, those who experienced it, the servants who had done what He said, and the disciples who would grow in their faith and dependence upon Jesus, as they saw His glory revealed.

As we see and experience His glory, I pray we are changed even more dramatically that the wine was changed!

Experiencing it without seeing it

The first group is the “master of ceremonies” and the bridegroom, and probably most of the guests.  They certainly experienced the miracle, yet they didn’t know where the wine had come from, they simply enjoyed the wine, and the fellowship it caused.

The master of ceremonies didn’t understand it either,  as he asks the logic of serving the best, when people are drunk . 

Yet that is part of the glory of God,

Even when we have been consuming the cheap stuff of the world, when we are tired and worn out, and even broken by world, God comes to us and gives us the best,

The world will do that, as it tempts us to believe we enjoy the cheap things it offers.  Fame, pleasure, the things money can buy, or the security of having a solid financial portfolio, or our political party ascend in government.

These things are illusions, and like cheap wine, they will seem to satisfy for a moment.  Compared to the glorious mercy and love of Jesus, they simply begin to fade away.

People encounter God’s glory all the time.  But will they recognize it?

Will they see it in the hand of someone who comes to their aid, or their neighbor who tries to tell them about Jesus? Will they see God’s hand guiding them?

Will we recognize His presence, when we hear His word, will we realize His presence when we kneel here, when we share in Christ’s body and blood? 

Or will we not discern His presence, and as Paul warns, and eat and drink judgment upon ourselves?

The servants knew, they had done what He said!

The second group to experience the glory of God, revealed in Christ, was the servants.  They knew where the wine had come from, they played a role in the miracle’s occurrence.

Told by Mary to do what Jesus said, they did.  I can’t imagine why they did, but they did!

Grabbing some huge stone pitchers, filling them with water, and then taking a ladle of it over to the master of ceremonies. 

Seriously?  Taking a ladle of water over, and ….   A miracle happened…

I mean if that could happen, if water could be turned to wine, what else could happen?

Could wine also be the blood of Christ?  Could a little round piece of bread also be His body?

Could we be transformed into the image of Christ?

The disciples depended on him

The glory of Jesus revealed in that miracle had the greatest effect on the last group.  

They had only recently started hanging out with the odd rabbi, scripture tells us just a day or so, just after Jesus baptism.  I am not sure they knew all that much about him, but they were invited to the party with Jesus.

So they went.

They would have seen the interaction of Jesus with his mother, and with the servants.

They surely would have sampled the wine and been amazed.

And scripture says they believed in Him. 

Not believed in him like a mathematical fact, because the miracle defied all form of logic.

Miracles always do.

Believed in him, had faith in Him in a way that changed everything else in their lives. 

That’s what truly seeing the glory of God revealed to us does,

It helps us see that we can and should depend on God.

We can toss aside every other thing that we would depend upon for joy, or the illusion of it, for we have found real joy!  We have found real peace, knowing that God will provide what we need in life!

The disciples would do that, these men that would watch Jesus die, and then see Him, risen from the dead.  They would experience the Holy Spirit, they would baptize thousands, and share every day in the body and blood Christ, as they prayed and fellowshipped with all that would be united to Jesus.

They believed in Jesus, for they had seen His glory revealed!

His glory revealed?

I need to make one thing clear.  We need to define what it was that Jesus did that revealed His glory.

Some may think it is transformation of water to wine, and that is, I have to admit, a pretty cool miracle.

I think it is more than that though, it is the response of Jesus to those in need, the response to a plea from His mother to come to their aid.  To make sure the celebration of two becoming one was not diminished.

Remember, a way for us to understand the love of Jesus for the church is the true love between a husband and wife.  Ephesians 5 describes that so well, especially the mercy of Christ, which sees us as holy and perfect and glorious.

We understand this miracle in view of that, and we realize that He loves us in the same exact way.  That Jesus will transform us, just as He transformed the water.

Even as His glory is revealed through scripture now, and when someone was baptized, and as we take and eat His body and drink His blood, in an under the bread and wine.

Jesus loves you, and the glory you see I that love, and know in that mercy is eternal.

And each day, the Spirit readies us for the final wedding feast, described in  Revelation

6  Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder: “Praise the LORD! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. 7  Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. 8  She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people. 9  And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.”
Revelation 19:6-9 (NLT2)

And as those disciples were invited to the wedding feast in Cana, so you are invited to this wedding feast. For you, church, are His beloved.

And until that day, you dwell, your hearts and minds guarded by Jesus, in that inexpressible peace of God.  AMEN!

Augsburg and Trent, A Journey Through Both…. but to what end?

Discussion Thought for the Day:The church, is always in the midst of a storm... but safe in Him

3  Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. 4  There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6  there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all. Ephesians 4:3-6 (TEV)

2 The desire was also expressed for deliberation on what might be done about the dissension concerning our holy faith and the Christian religion, and to this end it was proposed to employ all diligence amicably and charitably to hear, understand, and weigh the judgments, opinions, and beliefs of the several parties among us to unite the same in agreement on one Christian truth, 3 to put aside whatever may not have been rightly interpreted or treated by either side,1 4 to have all of us embrace and adhere to a single, true religion and live together in unity and in one fellowship and church, even as we are all enlisted under one Christ.  (1)

For, whereas we saw that there was need of peace to deliver and preserve the commonwealth from the many impending dangers, we found all things replete with enmities and dissensions; above all, the princes, to whom well-nigh the whole direction of matters has been intrusted by God, at enmity with each other. Whereas we deemed it necessary that there should be one fold and one shepherdc for the Lord’s flock, in order to confirm the integrity of the Christian religion, and the hope of heavenly things within us; the unity of the Christian name was well-nigh rent and torn asunder by schisms, dissensions, heresies. Whereas we could have wished the commonwealth safe and defended from the arms and insidious attacks of the unfaithful, yet, through our transgressions and the guilt of us all,—the wrath of God, forsooth, hanging over our sins,—Rhodes had been lost; Hungary harassed; war both by land and sea had been intended and planned against Italy, Austria, and Illyria; whilst our impious and ruthless enemy, the Turk, was never at rest, and deemed our own mutual enmities and dissensions his fitting opportunity for carrying out his designs with success  (2)

 

I was messing around with some changes in my Logos Software last week, and I came across a crazy idea.

You see, my Bible software can take any of the thousands of texts and break them up into chunks.  You can read them over a week, a month, 6 months a year or more.

So I figured I would use it, starting November 1st, to read through the Bible again in a year.  While I was at it, it updated some of my books, so I thought about adding the Book of Concord, and just reading a small section of it over the next year.  (Not academic reading, just a light survey.  And for some reason, I then decided to add another work.  Looking through the works, I saw various works of Luther, and Melancthon, of other works ranging from Martyn Lloyd Jones ( a famous British preacher) and Joseph Ratzinger (aka Pope Benedict XVI.)

For some reason, my mind kept coming back to The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent.

For those who are not theologians, putting the Book of Concord (which is the Lutheran accumulation of Doctrine in its early days) and the works Trent (which was somewhat written to counter the Lutherans, Calvinists and other early reformers) is like putting a Oklahoma and a Nebraska football fan in the same room.  Or a room with a Red Sox and a Yankee Fan…. or splitting an atom.  The two schools of thought are diametrically opposed to each other on many items (though on some they aren’t.)

They won’t match up, point against point, but this is not going to be an academic exercise,  I am thinking of it more as a devotional exercise, a way to go back 500 years and see the heart of men who professed to follow God, and struggled to put what that means in writing.  They were under pressure, both had an added incentive of trying to appease Kings so a war could be fought together against the Turks.  They both had stubborn folk involved. Like I said, these documents were written back when wars were waged, and people killed over differences in doctrine.

What will come of it?   I don’t know,   Probably a few dozen blogs, probably some shaking of heads at my silliness.  Maybe more confusion on my part.  Hopefully some great discussions….

So far, one of the things that amazed me was the desire for the church to be one, they both shared that in the quotes above.  I think they said it, hoping to convince by scripture and logic, and if not by force, the entire church to be one. Yet, that goal at least will be the same.  They see the unity of the church as the basis of the survival of life as they know it, the ability to stand together.

Five hundred years later.. we still stand divided.  I don’t commune with my friends who are Catholic priests, they don’t commune with me.  Some of peers rejoice in this, some of our peers, like us, weep that a church could be so broken. But rarely do we sit down and strive for unity, rejoicing in the Christ who died for us, who on the day of His return will unify those He has called His children.

Maybe I am a hopeless daydreamer to think anything will come of this… then again…we’ve been given a ministry of reconciliation, of healing brokenness as people are drawn to Christ Jesus. So a little time spent pondering our common doctrine, and our radical differences, may be beneficial, if not, it should be at least interesting.

I would ask people who read this, and if any follow, over the next three years, to pray for all the people of God, no matter the name of their denomination, brotherhood, synod, or even the name of their church sign.  Pray that we could find healing for our broken church in Christ and that brothers could eventually break bread together, or at least look forward to the day we can, as we stand before His throne, at the wedding feast of Jesus, and His Bride.

God speed,

and Lord, have mercy on us all…..
 

 

(1) Tapperrt, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 24–25). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Buckley, T. A. (1851). The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (pp. 1–2). London: George Routledge and Co.

 

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