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Breathe on Me, Breath of God

Breathe on Me, Breath of God
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

I.H.S.†

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, breathed out into you as the scriptures are read, remind you that you dwell in His peace!

 A Cute and False Statement about the Bible

Maybe 20 years ago I started seeing bumper stickers and tee-shirts with one of those cute Christian slogans on it.  The slogan is pretty popular, and somewhat cute, but it is wrong, and spiritually, it is not just false, it is deadly.

Basic
Instructions

Before
Leaving
Earth.

It is wrong because it reduces the exhaled words of God into a rule book, a guide by which we could live the perfect life.

Yet many of us, including me, have used the inaccurate acronym a time or two, not thinking that it could lead people to frustration, and turn them into either hypocrites, or worse, causing them to give up on the church.

First – if you look at it as a rule book, a guidebook, it is anything but “basic”.

I mean the Old Covenants has over 613 commandments, – that doesn’t sound, “basic”.

And the summary found in the New Covenant – Love God with every part of you – heart, soul, mind and body, and to love your neighbor, not the one you like, but the other one, as you love yourself.

Does that sound like easy, simple instructions?

And do you think you can achieve that level of maturity prior to leaving earth?

So I think we need to understand what it means that God gave us His word, and what He makes it useful for.

What Paul sees as an urgent need

In the second paragraph, Paul urges Timothy and all who read this letter to announce, to proclaim, to teach others the word of God. To bear witness to it, because of the hope it gives to those who will hear it.

He is insistent on it, he urges us to do so because the need to hear it is urgent.  We don’t urge people to do something that is common and simple.  We urge them to do something that is critical, that is needed.

And he urges us to be ready, whether it is convenient or not, even when it requires us to patiently correct people, to even rebuke them, and to encourage them with our teaching.

Not easy tasks, but ones we are urged to do, because this is why we have scripture, and it will make a difference in their life, and ours,

A difference that God wants to bring about urgently.

Because He loves us, and He wants us with Him, to know His love, to share in His glory.

By “us” I mean us all!

All, no matter what language we speak, no matter where we were born, our what languages we speak, or what political candidate we support or criticize.

God would have them hear of His love, and Paul reminds us of this and urges us to do it, for these are people Jesus died to save.

What scripture does – Gives specific wisdom

This is the message of scripture, the message that Timothy learned, the lesson that made him wise, and that wisdom was for a purpose –

to be saved.

Saved from, but more importantly saved into a relationship where we can believe in, trust, and depend on Jesus Christ.

This is what scripture teaches that we are to remain faithful to, the very things that were passed on to us, and o which we pass on to the next generations, even if it means we suffer in order to do it.

This isn’t basic, and it isn’t just some instructions – as if you have to assemble it.

It is revelation, an unveiling of reality, that affects our lives here and now, and from this point forward into all of eternity.  The Holy Spirit uses these God-breathed words to breath life into us, to give us faith.

This salvation is worth it, this being brought into the presence of God is that amazing.

Not just to be cleansed of all sin and shame
Not just to be freed from all guilt and resentment
To know we are loved
To know we will spend all eternity with our beloved Lord and Savior.
And that is guaranteed by the presence of the Holy Spirit, our comforter.

This is what scripture teaches us, this is what we rejoice in, this is the life which God reveals to us, as He breathed out the scriptures, and they breathed life into us.

This is where we remain faithful, depending on these promises.  This is where we stand, whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether we prosper or suffer.
For in Him, we have found a peace that is beyond all understanding, and we are  guarded, our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

AMEN!

Dangerous Thought on Tax Day: A Day of Repentance

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Remind the people to respect the government and be law-abiding, always ready to lend a helping hand 2  No insults, no fights. God’s people should be bighearted and courteous. Titus 3:1-2 (MSG)

13  Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; 14  they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. 15  It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. 16  Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. 17  Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government. 1 Peter 2:13-17 (MSG)

13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and some of the Herod-party to trap him in an argument. They came up and said to him, “Master, we know that you are an honest man and that you are not swayed by men’s opinion of you. Obviously you don’t care for human approval but teach the way of God with the strictest regard for truth – is it right to pay tribute to Caesar or not: are we to pay or not to pay?”  15  But Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said to them, “Why try this trick on me? Bring me a coin and let me look at it.” 16  So they brought one to him. “Whose face is this?” asked Jesus, “and whose name is in the inscription?” 17  “Caesar’s,” they replied. And Jesus said, Then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God!” a reply which staggered them. Mark 12:13-17 (Phillips NT)

67 The scene of the parable is being repeated: it is the same as with those people who were invited to the wedding feast. Some are afraid, others have their own concerns, many… make up stories or give silly excuses. They put up resistance. That is why they feel the way they do: fed up, all in a muddle, listless, bored, bitter. And yet how easy it is to accept the divine invitation at every moment, and live a happy life, full of joy!  (1)

It is April 15th, the day annual tax documents are do in the USA.

It’s also a day where we should confess our sins, and be absolved for them.

For disobeying the law, not man’s law (though some of us are guilty of that!), but God’s law.  The law which tells us the government is something God has established as a blessing for us.

Now some of you are thinking – but the government uses our money for evil, the government is trying to persecute the church, the government is giving our hard earned dollars to those that do not deserve it, the government is, and the slander and disrespect goes on and on, without end.  Unlike Jesus on the cross – who could have called down 10,000 angels while he was hanging on the cross, we want to call down God’s wrath on those who would take our idols, our Benjamins, Franklins and Lincolns.  Heck we begrudge even the littlest Lincoln upon which the government has a claim.

Dare someone quote the words from scripture above, and ridicule and scorn will shift, from the government, to the one writing them.  People (and pastors too) will start justifying their actions, and especially their words and their thoughts.  In do so, they deny that sin occurs in thoughts and words, beside in the things we do.  We toss our theology out the window – in order to protect the “rite” to free speech.  Even when that speech is sinful.

It’s time to repent, its time to realize that in keeping the fourth commandment, (honor thy Father and Mother) that includes the blessing of the government God established, the government that has the right to tax us, and to set what those taxes are.  It’s time to stop stealing, stop bearing false witness, to stop coveting our governments stuff.  Instead we should pray for them, bless them respect them (and not just “the office).

We’ve got a much better thing to be doing, we can revel in the presence of God, we can rejoice at His love and mercy. That’s what it means to find our place in the wedding banquet, rather than in the marketplace complaining and slandering.  It is what it means to live as forgiven, baptized children of God – to do things (like obeying the government) that we do – for God’s sake.

It’s a time for us to hear our sins are forgiven, that God has rescued us, that we no longer need to protect our idols.

It’s a day to know God’s mercy so well, the we show it to others….

May our Lord Jesus Christ walk with us this day, and may the Spirit of God, dwelling within us, empower us to keep these words above.

AMEN.

I am tired of it. 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 500-505). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

The Eucharist and Its Effective Work on our Hearts:

Devotional Thought of the Day….

1 Corinthians 10:15-16 (TEV) 15  I speak to you as sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16  The cup we use in the Lord’s Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread we break: when we eat it, we are sharing in the body of Christ. 

5 Through the Word and the rite God simultaneously moves the heart to believe and take hold of faith, as Paul says (Rom. 10:17), “Faith comes from what is heard.” As the Word enters through the ears to strike the heart, so the rite itself enters through the eyes to move the heart. The Word and the rite have the same effect, as Augustine said so well when he called the sacrament “the visible Word,”5 for the rite is received by the eyes and is a sort of picture of the Word, signifying the same thing as the Word. Therefore both have the same effect.  (1)  (from Article XIII of the Augsburg Confession)

“XXV. Of the Sacraments.  Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.”  (2)

 

“What do United Methodists mean when they call this act a sacrament?  Our Confession of Faith states: “We believe the sacraments, ordained by Christ, are symbols and pledges of the Christian’s profession and of God’s love toward us. They are means of grace by which God works invisibly in us, quickening [bringing to life], strengthening and confirming our faith in him. ”  (3)

530    Many Christians take their time and have leisure enough in their social life (no hurry here). They are leisurely, too, in their professional activities, at table and recreation (no hurry here either). But isn’t it strange how those same Christians find themselves in such a rush and want to hurry the priest, in their anxiety to shorten the time devoted to the most holy sacrifice of the altar?  (4)

 

Yesterday I had the great blessing of going back to my alma mater, and teaching a class on the Lord’s Supper (also known as the Eucharist and Holy Communion)   it was really a good experience for me, and I think I caused some of the students to think.

I started the class with my own “personal theology” regarding the Lord’s Supper.   I’ll briefly state it here:

You have a 16 oz cup that contains 8 ounces of wine.  Do you:
(1)  Agree and argue the position alongside the optimists that it is the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior.
(2)  Agree and argue the position that it is only grape juice, and it only is a act of faithful obedience….

(pause)

or (3) find some bread and with the people of God celebrate (give thanks)  the gift of God given to the people of God as you commune with Him?

As always, there is a third choice, as I I thought through the lesson, I was struck by something truly astonishing.  While the sacramental churches disagree on what I would call the mechanics of the Lord’s Supper – exactly how and when and in which ways the bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Christ, they don’t disagree that the Eucharist has a dramatic and transforming effect on those who trust in Jesus, on those in a relationship with Him.

For it is highly effective, and as a means of grace, brings into our lives so much, it is a wonder that anyone would ever avoid it, or not be glad to celebrate it.

The challenge is that how it affects us is not academic, or philosophical, but rather deeply spiritual, and if I dare us the word, emotional.

Maybe that is why we can’t agree on the mechanics, but can agree on its effect.  We can’t academically and logically dissect the Bread and Wine, we can’t scientifically prove the presence of God there… and our post-enlightenment minds struggle with what we can’t forensically prove, what we can’t observe and demonstrate in regards to the elements.

It’s not knowing about God that is important when it comes to the sacraments, it’s about knowing Him.  About realizing the depth of His love, the “sure-ness” of His presence, of resting in His comfort and peace, of being in community with Him, every part of us.

Melanchthon (author of the first quote from the Lutheran Apology of the Augsburg Confession) was absolutely right – this is about God’s work in our hearts.  Like the very word of God it cuts our hearts open and circumcises them, cleansing us, as in our baptism – of the sin which ensnares us.  Bathing us in God’s presence, His glory, His love, and bringing healing to our very hearts, our very souls.  It is God working in us, the power of the Holy Spirit transforming us into the image of God – as the sacrament ( the physical element and the word of God – takes hold of us. ) is there.

I didn’t include the RCC quote I used – because of its length, but instead a quote from St Josemaria Escriva, a favorite writer of mine.  I can begin to understand their practice of adoration and contemplation about the “mystery” of this  – the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ.  Of sitting silently in wonder at the depth of God’s love, at the incredible power of the Holy Spirit within us, to take the time to think through what we’ve shared in, this body and blood, this precious gift, that causes faith to well up within us.   For far too often as he points out – we rush through such times – we want to get it done, move through it.  Yet think about a good meal – bacon wrapped bacon wrapped shrimp for example.  You want to savor the smell, the enviroment, the flavor.  Could we take such a time with the Lord’s Supper as well, to let the moment nourish our hearts longer – to set aside our intellect and realize how precious it is, that God comes to us, that He is here?  To realize the Spirit’s work in us, drawing us to Him, transforming us, healing us, taking our burdens…

If I, in this week of returning to my alma mater – convince them of nothing theologically – that’s okay.  It’s not what I am aiming for. it’s not what the sacrament is about.  Doing a dissertation explaining 5000 years of sacramental theology?  Cool – but what is needed – knowing our need for God’s presence… and knowing He responds to that need, for this He has promised, this blessing is ours…in Him.

English: The Lord's Supper. Christ standing at...

English: The Lord’s Supper. Christ standing at an Orthodox altar, giving the Eucharist to the Twelve Apostles. Frescoes in the upper church of Spaso-Preobrazhenski cathedral. Valaam Monastery Русский: Алтарная апсида верхнего храма Спасо-Преображенского собора Валаамского монастыря. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So my friends, take and eat…. take and drink often, and know that the Lord is with you…  AMEN!

 

 


——

(1)   Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 211–212). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  The Articles of Faith (Anglican) http://anglicansonline.org/basics/thirty-nine_articles.html

(3)   http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.2311293/

(4)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1282-1284). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

In Hard Times Like These… hug Christ

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1  That is why we must hold on all the more firmly to the truths we have heard, so that we will not be carried away. 2  The message given to our ancestors by the angels was shown to be true, and those who did not follow it or obey it received the punishment they deserved. 3  How, then, shall we escape if we pay no attention to such a great salvation? The Lord himself first announced this salvation, and those who heard him proved to us that it is true. 4  At the same time God added his witness to theirs by performing all kinds of miracles and wonders and by distributing the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to his will.  Hebrews 2:1-4 (TEV) 

When the branches are united to the vine they grow to maturity and bear fruit. What then should you and I do? We should get right close to Jesus, through the Bread and through the Word. He is our vine… We should speak affectionate words to him throughout the day. That is what people in love do. (1)

Been through a bit of stress this week… and part of me wants to lock myself in a room – or dive into a book or a video game.  It takes a lot to make me go introverted… and while it is a defense mechanism… it is dark at times when you are alone. (What is really hard is when I need to do the opposite – and have many people encouraging me to climb into my hole and lock them out..)

I added 10 people to our prayer list this morning…. people recovering from surgery.  People mourning friends who we won’t see until we are before the throne, I’ve talked too others, very afraid of another war, and others whose finances are so stretched beyond belief.  These are hard times, for so many, times of tears and weariness and emotional exhaustion.

THe strength we have, if at all, in these times, is remarkable and extraordinary.  It comes from deep within us… yes, even as it is not ours, and is clearly something alien to our basic nature.  It is because at such times, everything is cut away, and we find ourselves in Christ’s embrace.   And there, we find His heart, and the strong beat of life that calms our soul.

When my 6 year old was an infant, he used to go to sleep at night in my arms with his head over my heart.  Because I have two artificial heart valves – my heart literally clicks. Its funny – on the nights when he 2-4 and was scared or sick and desperately asks to sleep in our bed – he usually ended up with his head pressed (not just touching) about the same place – or against my back – where he could hear my heart click.  I can only imagine it brought him comfort and security.  He could rest.

We need to be like that with Jesus, that close, that spiritually aware, that intimate, that involved in the relationship.  As Escrvia says – we do this with the Bread and in the Word, as we connect to Jesus, to our Lord.  As Lutherans our way of saying this is through word and Sacrament.  For as we hear the word, the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life does more than just “teaches” us, that word is planted in us and grows, and we don’t just know it academically, but intuitively, with all that we are.  The same thing as we commune with God, and notice it is not you or I, but we…. the family of God.  It is these times we see Christ, revealed to us is His very Heart, the love He has for us… and how He has taken us into His heart, even as the Holy Spirit abides in ours.

There is a part of me that hates these hard times… I despise the pain, the abslutely… stripped feeling I have.  The seeming loneliness, the emotional rollercoasters…

Yet there is a part of me that has learned to deal with them… to welcome rather than run… because I know in these times… the Lord who makes us one with Him is there… ready to love, ready to show mercy… ready to embrace us….

And for that… what else can we do but adore Him?

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1683-1686). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Connected…

Discussion/Devotional Quote of the day:

In the introduction to a book of Josemarie Escriva’s sermons, I read this,

When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom 8: 14–17). This text speaks to us about the Blessed Trinity, which is another frequent theme in these homilies. It also reminds us that Jesus Christ is the way leading to the Father through the Holy Spirit. He is our brother, our friend—the Friend—our master and lord and king. The Christian life, then, means being continuously in touch with Christ in the context of our ordinary life, without abandoning our rightful place. How does this contact take place? Monsignor Escrivá explains very concisely: “In the bread and in the word.”
Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By

I was recently told that the only hope for the church was to be found in a “annointed man’s” understanding of the book of Revelation and the end times passages of Matthew.

I don’t think so, for Paul declined talking of such things in detail – saying it wouldn’t be of benefit to the church.  What matters – that we understand His grace is all we need. (funny coincidence that I just preached on that!)   That we, because of Christ, and through the Holy Spirit can cry out Abba, Father!  That is where our hope lies!  Not in someone’s speculation – but instead in a intimate dance with the Trinity, as they pull us into their relationship…

That comes, as the introduction tells me this priest points out – as we hear God’s logos, His word, His reason, His plan.. as we see that plan re-revealed as we come again to the feast which is a foretaste to come, as we commune with our Lord, as He communes with us.  This is not just some simple ritual, this gathering of people who walk with God, it is an intimate encounter with God, the I AM – and because He is, as we commune with Him, we find out that we are…. His. It’s where we enjoy the dance, where we are reminded of the depth, height, width, and breadth of God’s love, of that fact that His peace is so incredible, that we can rest in His presence, rejoicing that we are welcome there…

God’s Revelation, the Apocalypse, the Unveiling  (they are all translations of the same word) is not about the calendar – its about the relationship, the assurance that God is with us, that He is always HERE.  If we can learn that… if we can hold on to that… we won’t have to change the church… we will realize that we are being changed… as we walk in Christ.

That is the reason we have hope… when we realize…

The Lord has had Mercy… on us..

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