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God? What Are You Thinking/Doing?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. 2 Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.
1 John 3:1-2 (NLT2)

8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT2)

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;
then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part;
then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

God often speaks to us in obscure ways to allow us the room and time we need to respond. He lets us know he is speaking to us but also that we need to stretch out in growth in order to receive the message. Perhaps we think, “God, why don’t you just say it? Tell me in detail how to live.” But we are usually full of mistaken ideas about what that would actually mean. If it actually happened, it would probably kill us or unbalance us. So God in his mercy continues to approach us obliquely. Our minds and values have to be restructured, but God speaks anyway because he appreciates our interests. As we mature, this is less so, until that time when we can safely know him as he knows us

I’ve known many people who ask, “what in the world is God thinking?”

Some are doing so because they don’t understand the trauma and testing the are going through.

Some are trying to figure out what it is God is calling them to do, what “God’s will is for their life” This is something we do need to consider, yet to often we do not hear God, and we wonder why He seems… silent.

Some just can’t comprehend that God would love someone like them, or that God could love “those people.”

As the prophet Isaiah says, God thinks differently than we do. He works differently than we do, even to the extent He may work through us in ways that we would not expect, that we would never do if it was left up to our own choice.

We don’t get it, we struggle with our knowledge of God, and His thoughts and ways. The above scriptures indicate that part of that struggle is that we struggle with our knowledge of our own lives. We don’t know ourselves well enough to see what God is always doing in our lives. Remember Socrates’ one key goal? “know thyself?” We do not.

And because we know neither God’s own thoughts, (or His thoughts about us) nor who we truly are, we have a dissonance, a confusion that exists in our lives. This dissonance, this difference between what is real and what we perceive is more than challenging. Sometimes, it causes us great stress.

Dallas’ Willard’s words in purple above give an explanation that makes a good deal of sense. (We have to add in the stipulation that God would not communicate with us in a way that is contrary to His being revealed in word and Sacrament.) But the idea that God would communicate to us obliquely, in such indirect ways, is a measure of His love and care for us.

An example, He might have a specific mission or apostolate for us, a call and commission to reach out to a certain group, or help certain people. Let’s say you a 16th-century monk/priest/professor named Martin, how would you react when God told you not only would you become a priest, but an outlaw, revolutionary and cause the fracturing of the church? If Martin had the foresight of what God intended – he might have stayed a simple lawyer.

So God takes His time, He is patient and wise in how He reveals His will, He surrounds us with others when we are going to struggle with it. He loving and with great care shepherds us through life.

There are times where the Holy Spirit does make it clear, times that become easier ot recognize the more we are spending time with Jesus, meditating on His promises, hearing and exploring the dimensions of His love ( especially as it is delivered in His sacraments)

The more we understand of His mercy, the more we experience His love (which is also to great to understand) the more we grow comfortable with what He asks of us. The more we become comfortable with His desire that no one should perish, but all come to repentance, the transformation that the Holy Spirit effects in our lives.

That is why the Lord’s invitation to us to come and dialogue with Him, to come and reason with Him has the context of cleansing us from sin. It all starts there, as God justifies us, as God declares us free of sin, having laid that sin on Jesus.

But cleansed from sin, able to move into the presence of God with confidence, and swell there, that changes everything. We become less concerned with the “why’s?” and “what’s next?” We are more attuned to focusing on Christ, adoring Him, hearing Him through word and sacrament, and experiencing His love that wherever we are led happens. We become free of the anxiety caused by the unknown because we believe in Him, and trust His care for us.

Dear Father in heaven, knowing your love and care for us, we ask that the Holy Spirit help us focus on knowing You, on experiencing the Your love for us revealed in Christ Jesus, through word and Sacraments, helping us to be at peace with what we may not, or cannot understand. Rather Lord, help us to rest, knowing we are secure because we are yours. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!

We Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.


I Have Certainly Seen, I Am Aware, I Have Come Down!

I Have Certainly Seen, I Am Aware,

I Have Come Down…

Exodus 3:1-15

Jesus, Son, Savior

 

It is my prayer for you, that you realize the grace of God, that His merciful love and peace wash over you, cleansing you, as we realize that He has come to us!

 

The Burning Bush?  Big Deal…

It draws our attention like a moth is drawn to a flame, like the day after thanksgiving gathers shoppers to stores.  Like chocolate draws the attention of some people… or like Best Buy adds draw William’s attention… well and mine. 

Yet in our Old Testament reading this morning, it is about as important on its own as the color and smell of the sheep Moses shepherded.

Burning Bushes are interesting, they get our attention, they call us to look at this passage, they gain our attention.

But this passage is about the burning bush.  It is about what God reveals to Moses, something that after this week of challenges I don’t just want to preach about. I need to know it as you do.  I need to know it is as true for us, as it was for Israel.

Verse 7, slightly adapted:

Then the Lord told us, “I have certainly seen the oppression of you my people. I have heard your cries of distress because of the trauma life is tossing at you. Yes, I am aware of your suffering. So I have come down to rescue you.

God says,

I have certainly seen….. I am aware…. And

I have come down
Our struggle – we aren’t sure if He sees, if He is aware…

I think we get that God has come down in the past, in the time where He walked with Abraham, or Moses, or when He inspired King David to write incredible songs of transparency and praise.   We know He was there for the prophets. Yet when God talks so passionately about His people, about seeing them and being aware their troubles, and coming down to rescue them, I think we lose something in translation.

Because we use the pronoun “them”, rather the “us”

There are days I wonder, does God see us the way He saw Israel, does He know the pain we endure, whether it is our grief, or our anxieties.  When our complaints and our brokenness seem unheard, seem that they do not gain His attention.  Just like Israel, crying out for His help, as they struggled under oppression in Egypt.  Faith is realizing the them is us.

So that we can cry out like the man who encountered Jesus, “Lord, we trust in you, help us trust in you!”

We look around to see if there is a burning bush nearby… or maybe we check with our friends, or maybe even our pastor, to see if they’ve seen one. After all – Moses was not outside the Starbucks in Cairo, Egypt when the people were crying out.  He was out in the desert, out in the wilderness, trying to avoid his own problems. Hmmm.. maybe I should check with my friends in Anza and Yucca Valley, see if they’ve seen our bush?

I have to be honest in this, there are the days, where like the Israelites wandering in Sinai, I wonder if it would be better to go back to New Eng..err Egypt.  That the problems and sufferings might have been less there.

We are not the super-heroes of the faith.  Matter of fact, if we read their stories, Abraham, and Moses, David and Jeremiah were not superheroes either.  They struggled as we do, to see God’s presence, to see God’s faithfulness.  

Otherwise, why do burning bushes and arks of the covenant exist?

Because we need to know this: that He sees us, we need to know He is aware… and to remember He has come to rescue us.  We need something to distract us from our normal grind of life, to call us to realize that we stand on Holy Ground… not because of a burning bush or a beautiful sanctuary, but because we live in God’s presence.

But He has… and He therefore comes down!

We are not in the situation Israel thought they were in, when Moses turned back to see phenomena, and instead realized He was in the glorious presence of God.  We are in the journey from that place, on our way to the Promised Land, the place God has set aside for us to dwell with Him eternally.

He has come down! He is guiding us, even as He guided them through the Sinai.  We are not in paradise, in heaven just yet.  He calls us together like a shepherd gathering a flock, like Moses was sent back to Egypt to go get God’s people.  Because our oppressors have been defeated.

It is not in today’s reading but not long after that the miracle at the Red Sea happened. Like this it was prophetic, a picture of our baptism.  When the Israelites walked through that sea – it was to get to the other side.  Passing through the sea was to get them to the place where God arranged for them to live in His presence.  However, those that oppressed them died in the water, they did not pass through it.

Just like that is our baptism, where the goal is not just the removal of our sin, not just to unite with Christ’s death, but with His resurrection as well.  Though we pass under/through the water of baptism that which would and could separate us from Jesus does not.  It died – then and there.  Our oppressor and the sins which enslaved us died and lost all authority over us there.

Because God saw, and was aware of our situation, and came down to rescue us.  The rescue is only the beginning, even as sending Moses to Egypt was only the beginning for Israel!

And He is still here… because He has seen, and is aware… and is with you

 

Flash forward 1500 years, to two more mountains, the first and encounter between another tree, and another man, another appointment arranged by God.  The second mountain, where that man would turn to his apprentices, to send them back to their lives, to free others still captive in sin, still oppressed by it.

Christ would die on that cross, and I pray that everyone we come in contact would turn to look at that tree, on which God was killed, yet would live.

It is that other mountain, that I would look at, to close this sermon and lead us toward prayer.  The words that we know, but again, that we miss part of at times.  The words that send us back out into our worlds, back to the places where people need to know God’s love. 

18  Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”    Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)

All authority is invested by the Father in the Son, and even as the Father sends the Son, so He sends us. Just like Moses was sent.  The key is in the other part of the passage that is underlined.

I am with you… the same message that Moses would hear… as he was sent to deliver people from bondage. The same message those people would hear, as God guided them to the Holy Land. The same promise made to us when we were called into this relationship, the same promise made to every believer, as they are sent to free others from the bondage of sin.  

He is with you.

He certainly sees, He is so aware, and He’s come down to rescue us.

That’s what the tree on the mountain that wasn’t consumed by fire was really about.

That’s what the parting of the water of Red Sea was about.

That’s what the cross on another mountain is about…

That’s what the water of baptism is about..

And it is what this altar, and this meal is about…when we, as Moses was told remember His name. 

Then the Lord told us, “I have certainly seen the oppression of you my people. I have heard your cries of distress because of the trauma life is tossing at you. Yes, I am aware of your suffering. So I have come down to rescue you.

And He brings us into His peace, His indescribable peace that passes all understanding, where Jesus will keep us, mind and heart, safe and secure; for the Lord dwells with you!  AMEN!

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