“So when you offer your gift to God at the altar, and you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there at the altar. Go and make peace with that person, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24 NCV
The boldness of Luther in the hour of danger has been sadly misrepresented by his enemies. It has been attributed to arrogance, self-confidence, and as many other evil qualities as would have constituted a thousand demons. But when we withdraw the veil of his private life, and get an acquaintance with his thoughts in solitude, we get a different view of him. When we follow him to his retirement, and hear nothing but that solitary, penitential cry, “My sins, my sins,” we do not find much self-reliance. It was not in himself that Luther found confidence: it was in the arm of Omnipotence.
2. That a man pray in every time of trial and need; for, the greater our need the stronger is our prayer. Therefore also God, in the 50th Psalm, says: “Call upon me in the day of trouble.” (Always and everywhere there is sufficient provocation to prayer if one will but realize it).
In a lot of churches, November is a month of budget preparation for the next year, and for those churches, Stewardship drives and Stewardship Sundays and fundraising takes a lot of time. At least that is the way many of us were trained, and based on emails and programs sent to me, it still is a major endeavor for some.
I have yet to see a program started in the words of Jesus, found in Matthew’s gospel, and quoted above. For one good reason, the fiscal impact of this heard in our churches would cause the offering plate to have a different weight, for most would hear this as a required first step, and decide it wasn’t worth the effort! They might say, “So if I can’t give unless I reconcile, I guess – I don’t have to give!”
And the most time we don’t want to reconcile, it is because we see “those” much as some Catholic leaders of his day saw Luther! (and undoubtedly as he saw them!) Courts declare such relationship divied, based on irreconcilable differences, whether the relationship is a business or marriage. And in some cases, for the moment, so they are.
But look at Hunt’s words about Luther – everything would change if they could have witnessed how he was haunted by sin, terrified by a God he thought could not love him–then he realized scripture revealed Jesus far differently. some tried to steal that comfort, that peace that knowing our sin was completely forgiven! No wonder he was a little perturbed at Eck and Tetzel, then at the pope that defended their work!
But how do we get through the hardship of trying to do the impossible and reconcile with people we can’t stand? Well, I can tell you that the only way is through and during prayer – while we plead with God for such. Our faith and trust in God deepens as the Spirit empowers us to reconcile. For there is no other way to approach it, except trusting in God to break hearts and restore souls and in doing so, bring about the desire of God. To bring about what Christ’s directive states…
This is far more pleasing to God that throwing $20, $50, or $10,000 in the offering plate….
So be good stewards – first of relationships, then of other treasure, talents and time. And know, God will supply whatever you need, for you dwell in Jesus! Amen!
Martin Luther and John Hunt, The Spiritual Songs of Martin Luther: From the German, trans. Thomas Clark (London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co., 1853), vi–vii.
William Lœhe, Seed-Grains of Prayer: A Manual for Evangelical Christians, trans. H. A. Weller (Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House, 1914), 1.
We Could Not Die Eternally
So He died…
† In Jesus Name †
May the Death of Jesus prove to you the love of God!
- Do we “get it.”
You have come here or are watching online because it is Good Friday. Hopefully, that means you know a little about Jesus and why we have a wooden thing hanging over a thing that looks like a table.
Your knowledge has to go deeper than that… and it has to go deeper than he died to pay for your sins.
That is important, but it is the first step on a journey. Perhaps it is better to picture it as having the door opened and being invited into a home built just for you.
What the cross opens up for you is amazing.
A.W. Tozer explained it well,
That life in the Spirit that is denoted by the term “deeper life” is far wider and richer than mere victory over sin, however vital that victory may be. It also includes the thought of the indwelling of Christ, acute God-consciousness, rapturous worship, separation from the world, the joyous surrender of everything to God, internal union with the Trinity, the practice of the presence of God, the communion of saints and prayer without ceasing.
This is what the cross opens up to us, a life that is acutely aware of the presence of God, and that awareness leaves us in awe, but not in terror.
We know we are welcome.
- Sin Exists
This is not to say our sin is meaningless. It would take the death of Jesus to atone for it.
Our sin is severe; it is not just waived away as if it was meaningless. The hurt and pain it causes are real. Very real. We can’t just dismiss it, saying that it is dealt with.
We must realize what it could have cost us.
We could be heading to hell, the place we deserve, because we chose to separate ourselves from God. We may think it a little sin, or we may know it is a humongous sin.
It’s real, it is no joke, and it is what the death on the cross saves us from, as Jesus took on the burden of all our sin….
Jesus once told the apostles and Peter that the gates of hell could not prevail against the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. In saying that He was saying what comes at the cross, nothing can keep the sinner from being saved, from being rescued, for Christ has broken the power of sin and death.
But what happens next… what does this mean…
How do you make sense of His brutal death?
Especially when he could have stopped it, with the snap of a finger?
- This is love – we couldn’t
This is what it is all about! This ministry that we have here focuses on the cross, not as the most important thing, but as the entrance into that.
Just as baptism, absolution, and the Lord’s Supper are pipelines of grace, so is the cross a point of grace, the light that shines in the darkness – drawing us to Jesus.
This is the point of God’s love.
He couldn’t let us die eternally; that was not His plan.
We couldn’t die eternally…. So He died…
This is what grace is… this is what love is…
This is God’s desire to spend eternity with you.
Trust Him; he laid it all on the line… so you would know you are loved.
 A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 For this reason we have always prayed for you, ever since we heard about you. We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives. 10 Then you will be able to live as the Lord wants and will always do what pleases him. Your lives will produce all kinds of good deeds, and you will grow in your knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength which comes from his glorious power, so that you may be able to endure everything with patience. And with joy give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to have your share of what God has reserved for his people in the kingdom of light. 13 He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us safe into the kingdom of his dear Son, 14 by whom we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven.
Colossians 1:9-14 (TEV)
780 Deo Omnis Gloria—“All glory to God.” It is an emphatic confession of our nothingness. He, Jesus, is everything. We, without him, are worth nothing: Nothing. Our vainglory would be just that: vain glory; it would be sacrilegious theft; the “I” should not appear anywhere.
A question arose as I came across these readings this morning.
Do we please God?
The question began to transform a little, first int this,
DO we care about pleasing God?
and then it hit home,
Have I taught my people about what pleases God? Have we, as pastors and leaders int he church equipped our people, not just the the knowledge, but the ability and the desire to please God?
Do we, as Paul did for the church in Colossae and others, pray for this for them?
Or has God’s pleasure, what pleases Him, fallen off of the church’s radar?
Have our words praised and glorified God, but our actions and thoughts forgotten what pleases Him, what He desires?
From my Lutheran perspective, we fight so hard against the teaching of works meriting salvation that we shy away from teaching that we should please God after our baptism. We are afraid our people can’t understand the difference, that they will deliberately misunderstand. It sounds like a good justification at first, but it is a poor excuse.
We know what pleases God, all you have to do is read the last 6 chapters of Isaiah and see it over and over. Or hear the parable of the prodigal son or the Good Samaritan. We know about God finding the treasure in the field, and giving His Son to purchase it, and the joy in heaven over one sinner transformed. There we find His will, that none should perish, that all should come home.
Yet we don’t do this work alone, it is His will, His desire, and we receive the strength from His glorious power.
That is why He gets all the glory, as we live as He wants, as He revealed. We live reconciled to Him, and we grow in desire to do what pleases Him, lifting high His cross, seeing people drawn to His mercy, into His grace! And as we do, we come to know Him better, to rely on Him more.
Lord, help us, those you have tasked with shepherding your people, to reveal your love and mercy to them. Help us to pray for them, that they too would understand your will, and as they grow to respond to Your love, to do that which brings You great pleasure. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1802-1804). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THoguht of the Day:
9 The LORD told Moses 10 to say to the people of Israel, “When any of you or your descendants are unclean from touching a corpse or are far away on a journey, but still want to keep the Passover, 11you are permitted to observe it one month later instead, on the evening of the fourteenth day of the second month. Celebrate it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12Do not leave any of the food until the following morning and do not break any of the animal’s bones. Observe the Passover according to all the regulations. Numbers 9:9-12 TEV
It is there in the wounds of Jesus that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his heart. I have seen so many people who find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him, “Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in your wounds and wash it away with your blood.” And I always see that God does just this:
He welcomes, consoles, cleanses and loves.
For the orthodox fathers were pressured with great hatred by heretics under this particular pretext, namely, that the church should have no other thought concerning the inaccessible light of the Deity than that which the Deity Himself in proceeding from the secret place of His majesty has revealed concerning Himself.
I encountered the heart of God today in a most unexpected place.
Sure the Book of Numbers is in scripture, but we usually think it is one of those boring books with lots of lists and lots of precise and even complicated directions.
Yet, in the midst of it, God offers something to those who are far off from God. Far off because of business, or far off because of being unclean. There, God gives direction to those who cannot celebrate the Passover, the great high feast where the angel of death is told it has no right to take us, it has no right to deny us the grace God meant for us.
Yes, it isn’t time to celebrate it, because of your situations, but that doesn’t mean don’t celebrate it at all. Here is your opportunity, here is the way you can know you are with me, that I am still your God, and you are my people.
For us, the equivalent is seen in the wounds of Christ, the place we find our security, our serenity, our peace. It is there where we ask Him to take away our sin and to wash us. It is there we find the consolation, the comforting hand of God showing us His love, even as He has always done.
This is the majesty that Chemnitz notes, the heart of God revealed that we don’t have the authority to change. This is the God who reveals Himself to us, and reveals His will that none should perish, but that all be transformed by His love.
Far too often, the church considers people as being away, as if they are no longer part of the family, as if they are no longer part of the church. Rather than welcome them back, we too often, like the prodigal’s brother, wonder why they’ve returned, why they should be allowed back, as if they weren’t away at all. And as the Father celebrates their presence, we turn away, we refuse to acknowledge their presence, we fail to celebrate with them the love of God which drew them back.
CHemitz reminds us that we need to have the same heart, the same attitude that Jesus has. For that is what has been revealed to us. We need to help them know the wounds Christ bore is not something they should fell guilty about but should be in awe of, for He loves us. We need to celebrate this cleansing, this consolation, this love for them. No, that’s not right. Rather this cleansing, this consolation, this love for us all!
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be heard in every part of you and transform your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength.
Raising Cain – What if….
As you look at this title and think back on the words from Genesis we heard read a few moments ago, I wonder what you are thinking.
I mean if I gave your “permission” to think about raising Cain, would you think I was encouraging you to do something evil? To cause great trouble, to be rebellious, to behave ( as one person said) like loud protestors at some protest rally?
Or is there another option to raising Cain?
And what you do you think about Cain? Is he another like Judas that is beyond redemption, that is condemned because of the evil he committed? Do we write him off like Pharaoh, or like King Saul or Ahaz and that rotten women Jezebel?
Aren’t we glad that we certainly aren’t a sinner like that Cain…?
Or like that tax collector,
Are we more like that Pharisee than we want to admit, thanking God that we aren’t sinners like everyone else, picking our sins we are proud we didn’t commit and proud of the things we do that “prove we are righteous?”
Could it be that instead of encouraging riotous living, the idea of Raising Cain is about trying to see how God called Cain to repentance and offered him hope, and life?
When we can see God working in Cain’s life, it will give us hope, as we struggle in our brokenness, in the midst of this broken world?
Look at the chances!
One of the things I see in this passage is that God doesn’t easily give up on Cain. Nor will he give up easily on us, and we need to know that.
But consider a few of these things.
As Cain is upset about the offerings, God comes to him and says,
6 “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
And like Cain, God comes to us, as we are struggling and says similar things. He tells us we are His, which we are accepted. But Jesus also warned Peter about potential sin, and then Peter would describe Satan this way…
6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.. 1 Peter 5:6-9 (NLT)
Does that sound familiar?
God knows his heart, knows that Cain is being eaten up by the sin, by the jealousy, by the nature he inherited from his folks and made his own.
And as God prophesied – sin caught him, his anger and jealousy and attempted to devour him,
He killed his brother. He did something only God has the right to do, to take a life.
What happened next, he could never have foreseen.
Instead of God taking his life, he comes back to Cain, and calls him to repentance,
9 Afterward, the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”
“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”
10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!
As I read this, I had to ask, why does God ask where Abel is? God is omniscient, isn’t He? God asked the same question of Adam and Eve, where are you? What have you done?
And of Peter on the beach, as Peter couldn’t get over denying Jesus three times, and three times Jesus asked, Simon Peter, “do you love me?”
We have to realize this; God didn’t give up on Cain. He didn’t just take his life, as He should have. If God were only merciful and not just, he would have just taken Cain’s life.
But God cares for him, and for you and I when we fall into sin when we are trapped and in bondage.
Even when we realize we deserve to be punished for our sin and utter those words Cain did…
13 Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! 14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”
If we didn’t have a pharisaical bias towards Cain, would we hear this any differently? Would we notice that Cain added in something God didn’t say?
14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence;
God didn’t – he is still with Cain. God is talking to Him. God is with him, there, and Cain is in the very presence of God.
Whether we hear those words of Cain as complaining, or fear, or pleading for mercy, they are said to a God who is there, who is listening, who is both just and merciful…
Just as He heard us a few moments ago, when we confessed our sin, when we pleaded for God to show us grace…
Even as He did to Cain.
Look at the grace – and what it pictures
We don’t see it if we just skim the passage, but it is there,
15 The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him.
I think we usually see that mark as one of punishment – a stay away from this evil person.
But it is there to protect Cain, to let people know that he was under God’s protection, that (gulp) God was with him. That no one had the right to condemn him, no one had the right to punish him. Just like the woman caught in adultery.
Just like the mark of our baptism,
3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior.
Titus 3:3-6 (NLT)
You and I, we were no different than Cain, we were rebellious and sinned, despite God’s warning it devoured us. God came to us again, and called on us it, showed us what we deserved, and then reminded us we are marked….. in our baptism, and no one has the ability to condemn us. Nor will we ever be banished from His presence.
You are forgiven, just like the tax collector, and Peter, Paul, David, and me.
So go, and live in God’s peace, for Christ will guard your heart and mind in that incredible peace. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 “You must not have any other god but me. 4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. Exodus 20:3-5 (NLT)
9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)
This desire of Jesus has permeated his whole life up to this very hour when the desire of the bridegroom at last approaches the hour of its fulfillment, the hour in which the words and the waiting will be succeeded by the full reality of love. And in the background of this human waiting of Jesus that looks forward to this very hour in which he will make the supreme sacrifice and can become ultimately ours, there is present, too, the eternal desire of God, which also awaits this hour, because God longs to give himself. But what response does this longing on the part of God encounter? How much indifference! How much inner emptiness and disregard! And what about ourselves? Do we really approach this center of the universe with eagerness? Or do we not sometimes flatter ourselves that we are doing God and the Church a favor by spending an hour there with him. (1)
These two words, jealousy and passion, make most men uncomfortable. There is something about them that make us think the person who is jealous, who is passionate about something lacks control, lacks wisdom, lacks logic.
So to hear these words used about God?
It seems unreasonable. It almost seems blasphemous to describe God as a jealous God, one who in His rage would destroy those who would get between those whom he desires. When you read the first passage above from Exodus, it seems strongly worded, but then look at others, Deut. 4:24, Deut 6:15, Nahum 1:2, and you get a picture of God that seems too intense, to desperate, to out of control.
Does God really desire a relationship with someone else so much that he would become angry and full of wrath when that relationship doesn’t come to be? Would God have a “melt down” to that extreme?
It doesn’t seem like the God we hear about today, the one that is represented in logical presentations, and case studies which detail the perfection of God. In churches that focus on holiness, the concept of being holy as God is holy is more about precision behaviors meeting a standard, a standard usually set by someone other than God.
But holiness is about being separated out, being chosen, being drawn into a relationship where God desires, even jealously desires the one He loves. This holiness is seen in a relationship where God longs for the company of the beloved. It is seen in the picture of the beloved in the Song of Solomon, or the prodigal’s father running to see his son returned. It’s the God who was waiting for the cross, and the grave, for the joy set before Him.
This is Holiness. God setting Himself up to dance and rejoice with the one He loves, as Isaiah pictures it so beautifully
That is why it seems so lame to trust in something other than God, to entrust ourselves and depend upon something we did or made. The more we understand God’s desire, His jealousy, His passion for us, the more we desire to spend time with others sharing in that love, adoring the one who loves us.
My prayer for you today is the same that Paul prayed for the church when he said,
14 When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)
May you indeed know that love so far beyond our comprehension. AMEN!
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 115–116). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11-12 (NLT)
12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)
155 Jesus is never satisfied “sharing.” He wants all.
156 You don’t want to submit yourself to the will of God … and instead you adapt yourself to the will of anybody and everybody.
Also they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. (2)
A few days ago, my facebook history brought up a blog I wrote about the crucifix. How some churches and believers avoid it, how we would prefer to have an empty cross, I’ve also been thinking about what it means to take up our cross and follow Jesus.
What would our reaction be if that read, “let yourself be crucified as you follow me”?
That makes the question very real. The question then challenges us greatly. Let myself be crucified? Willingly submit to suffering and being a sacrifice? To what end?
St. Paul tells us we have seen crucified our passions and our lusts (Gal 5:24) if we know Christ. That our sin has been crucified, that we have died with Christ (Romans 6:1-8) That is part of it, and it is no error that concept arrives above in Timothy’s case. It is also the kind of life St Josemaria advocates, in giving ourselves completely to God, to letting Jesus take “all”.
It isn’t optional, it is what really happens in our baptism. It isn’t a requirement of our salvation, as the Augsburg Confession testifies. St Paul agrees with that when he says we strive to possess that which already possesses us.
But we do strive, we do struggle, for it is a struggle. Satan would distract us, the temptation would draw us away, our own pride and brokenness will oppress us. It takes effort to keep our eyes on Christ, to confess our sins, to gather with others in prayer and worship, and to pray on our own. It takes efforts to walk with Christ, to abide with Him.
It may seem less beneficial than working out, or writing some theological or political manifesto,
It isn’t, nothing is more important than communing with God. That is what this is all about.
Walking with God, being His kids, enjoying the peace that comes from that…. that is enough.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 494-496). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.Augsberg Confession, The
(2) Augsberg Confession, The
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News! 1 Corinthians 9:16 (NLT)
4 I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.” Isaiah 49:4 (NLT)
902 I didn’t think God would get hold of me the way he did, either. But, let me tell you once again, God doesn’t ask our permission to “complicate” our lives. He just gets in: and that’s that! (1)
As I look at my life, there is a strong temptation to question God’s wisdom, or perhaps His sanity.
Not that doing so is a good practice, please note, I said temptation. And like Jeremiah, and Isaiah, I sometimes struggle with why God would lead me the way he has, and like Isaiah, I wonder if I will ever get to see the results.
I preach about God’s faithfulness, and I know it is true. I have seen it over and over in my life. Yet there are times where the attitudes of Jeremiah and Isaiah aren’t just interesting passages, they are words I think, and say. Lord, really? Couldn’t you find someone who could do this better? Couldn’t you find someone with a stronger faith, who was more patient? Couldn’t preaching about the peace of Christ be more… peaceful?
Those times don’t last for months, but they can flow from one day into another. They never get past Sunday, or the Wednesdays during Advent and Lent where we share in the Eucharist, where we receive the Body and Blood given and shed for us.
I wonder what would happen if every pastor was honest about those times where God “complicates” their lives? How would their congregations react? Would they be supportive? Would they dismiss the pastor? Would they work harder in the harvest fields? Would it strengthen their faith, or weaken it? What about their peers in ministry, how would they see them?
Looking back, after most of those days when I feel like a Jeremiah, or an Isaiah, I find that God has been at work in ways beyond anything I can share here. I can see why being brought low in Spirit is a blessing, why being humbled is part of the cross we bear.
I’ve learned to just let the emotions run for a little while, and then remember the hope we have in Christ Jesus. That He will sustain us, that the peace and sustenance we’ve been given. That is why the Liturgy fo the Lord’s Supper becomes so much a blessing.
As we sing the sanctus, to realize we are singing of His holiness with the whole company of heaven, including Jeremiah and Isaiah. God proved faithful to them, and the promises He made through them, and He will be to us.
As we sing the Agnus Dei, to realize the Body and Blood of Christ is there, so He has been given for us, to take away our sins, to have mercy on us, to grant us peace…..
As we hear a welcome to the table, as we take and eat, and take and drink, we realize again that we dwell in Him, and that He has bound us to Him in the New Covenant.
As we (a Lutheran practice) leave the altar, we sing the song of Simeon, and realize that He is our salvation, that He is our light and life, and the glory of His people.
I can’t stop the days like Jeremiah’s, I can’t diminish the feelings like Isaiah. Not on my own. Yet walking with Christ, there is hope, and there is a peace so blessed, I can take the time to pour out my heartache, to give Him frustrations and my doubts. His peace allows for such blessed times.
I pray this for you as well, that you would realize the peace, and let it strengthen you to do so, whether you are ordained or not, for we all are His priests. We all serve, and He will use us in places beyond anythings we could imagine, or want.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3193-3195). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(in order to make sense of the sermon, I have included the beginning of our service – the processional readings for Palm and Passion Sunday. THere is something about crying in one breath “Hossanna ! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” and in the next, “Crucify Him!” That tension, that uncomfortable gut wrenching realization that we would have cried out as they did…. is something we should experience, and oddly enough, where we find God’s greatest glory revealed. DTP )
pastor: “In the name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit!” Cogregation: Amen!
Verses for Procession for Palm Sunday Matthew 21:1–9
pastor: “When they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, congregation: Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” pastor : 6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, congregation “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
Processional Hymn All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name/Our God Reigns
pastor : (Later that Week) 21 So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd shouted back, congregation: “Barabbas! pastor:late Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, congregation: “Crucify him!” pastor ““Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?” But the mob roared even louder, congregation: “Crucify him!” pastor: Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” 25 And all the people yelled back, congregation “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”
Confession and Absolution
(we then proceeded into a time of confession our sins, and hearing the incredible words, that because of Christ, they are forgiven….It it with that context that the following sermon is delviered)
Why Would God Blind their Eyes?
Because Jesus Christ Had to Die…For Us
T In Jesus Name T
May You Grow in Awareness of what is yours as you walk in Christ, the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father. AMEN.
I don’t get it….
I usually love the mysteries of scripture, the things we call paradoxes. They are glorious, mystical things that cause our minds to eventually give up, and stand there, in awe of God’s wisdom and glory.
The mystery that is the Trinity, the paradox of Jesus being 100% God and yet 100% man. The mystery that we will celebrate as we take and eat the Body of Christ, in and under the bread; and drink the blood of Christ in and under the wine. I could go on and talk of how we are simultaneously sinners and yet righteous, or the mystery of our being Born Again, as God’s pours water over us, and replaces our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh….
There are other things, not quite to the level of these glorious mysteries, but still puzzling, and it takes a little to work them out. Things in scripture that just don’t make sense at first glance. We have to struggle with them, to understand how what it teaches makes sense, considering what we know about God.
Such is found in verse 40 of the gospel reading. (Click)
40 “The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts— so that their eyes cannot see, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and have me heal them.” John 12:40 (NLT)
Does this sound like the action of the God we know, who loves us, and desires that none should perish, but that all would come to everlasting life? That He would intentionally blind someone, that they couldn’t see His glory, that he would harden their hearts so that they couldn’t understand? Why would He stop them from turning to Him? Why wouldn’t He heal them?
Is this the God of love that we adore? (Click) Or are we missing something? Why would God blind their eyes?
The Mission: Bring Glory to the Father’s Name
As the gospel reading opened, just prior to the Triumphal Entry, the Great procession into Jerusalem we see something that we need to understand. Before Jesus enters Jerusalem, before the cries change from Hosanna to Crucify Him, Jesus will hear that the world has come, and has wanted to meet with Him.
A few Greeks have come to Jerusalem, and desire to meet jesus.
Think back to last week, when Caiaphas prophesied that it would be better for one Man to die, that the people of God would live. John’s gospel said – it wasn’t just for one nation, but looking to the Old Testament prophecies, that people from every nation would be saved when One Man died. Then there is this, from the dedication of the temple…
41 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42 for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. 1 Kings 8:41-43 (NLT)
That day has come, as men come from distant lands to pray, and they will soon know the glorious answer to their prayers – that God is listening. The time when Christ is to die, though they don’t get that yet. He points is out in places like verse 23-24 (click)
23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. John 12:23-24 (NLT)
In this, Jesus unites His glory to His death, the death where He is planted, but that very death provides a plentiful harvest and lives that are full of His love. That seems odd as well, for how is the death of a man, especially the torture and death that Jesus faced, something that would be glorious? Jesus will make the point again a moment later, (click)
32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” John 12:32 (NLT)
That word “lifted” up, is more often used in the sense of our phrase – “putting up on a pedestal”. To honor and cherish and praise the one lifted up, yet the crowd understood this meant he would be crucified? (click) Glorified or Crucified? (click) Or could it be both? (click)
The Challenge – Would We Cry to Crucify Christ?
Could lifting up Christ refer to Christ being glorified, to the Father’s name being praised, and to the crucifixion of Jesus?
It does – and that is why God would blind the people of Israel, and harden their hearts. Because Jesus needed to die for them, for us. It is here where we find our answer to the original question: (CLICK)
“Why would God Blind their eyes?” Because otherwise, as the other reading says, they wouldn’t crucify the Lord of Glory.
How many of you this morning, were comfortable saying the words the crowds cried on Good Friday? How many felt odd crying “Crucify Him!”? We struggle with the idea, and we weren’t even there in the courtyard. How could we cry out crucify jesus? The Son of God?
How many did felt a lump in their throat, or hesitated? How dare we call for His death, even to save us from our sins?
I think that is what makes it hard – knowing that it was our sins that put Him there. How many of us, considering our sin, our failures, our shame and guilt, would even ask Jesus to pay for those sins? Demand it? Yell it til Pilate submits?
Yet that moment, when what the crowds’ two cries are fulfilled simultaneously, when the Messiah, the Son of David comes and saves us, as His is nailed to the cross, that moment as He says, It is finished; that moment is glorious.
It is the moment we are delivered, the moment we find ourselves freed from sin, from all unrighteousness, the moment our eyes are opened, our stone hearts are replaced with hearts of flesh. That moment – when the crowds cries – Hosanna and Crucify Him are fulfilled… that moment is glorious.
As Christ dies, for us.
That’s the Moment the Father is Praised and Glorified for… Odd isn’t it?
If they weren’t blinded, if they hearts weren’t hardened, they wouldn’t have killed the Lord of Glory, They had already tried to make Him king, they wanted Him to free them, but they had no clue the kind of Kingdom He came to deliver.
I am not sure we get it all the time either…. It is too glorious, too incredible, more wonderful than anything we’ve ever seen, or heard, or even imagined
For It is at that moment, as we see Jesus, on the cross, beaten and brutalized that we realize the depth of God’s love for us, and we praise God, we glorify Him, we are in awe..
God loves us that much?
Yes, you and I.
Think about it for another moment…..
Imagine now crying out “crucify him,” understanding His love, His compassion, and His joy that drives Him to that cross……
to save you.
And the world.
May knowing the depth of Christ’s love for you, of the Father’s desire to make you His children, instill in you His peace, the peace of God which passes all understanding, and guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.