Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven
That’s not FAIR!!
† IHS †
As we journey together, may we know the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit, the peace of Jesus Christ, and look forward to the feast with our Heavenly Father.
Two Candy Bars and some Chuckles
Last week we started on this path, a sermon series that will explore the journey of our lives. It is a parable of sorts, comparing that journey, where we will end up in heaven, with our journey as children, on the way to an Aunt’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, or maybe our Grandfather’s for the party on Christmas Eve.
Last week we looked a little at the squabbles that can happen, as you jam three young children in the backseat of a 1970 Dodge Dart, and heard the conversation that would ensue when my dad would tell us to “get along back there.”
Well, today we continue that journey, hearing another conversation.
My dad had a lot of common sense. He knew that If we were eating something, our mouths couldn’t open. And on so many of these trips he had stashed our favorite candies in the car. A Chocolate Charleston Chew for one of my siblings, a Chunky chocolate bar for the other, and because I was allergic to chocolate, I got a pack of chuckles.
This worked until one day, when one looked at other’s candy bar, and saw a long narrow bar – nearly 10 inches long! She looked at my Chuckles and saw six pieces of candy, each about an inch long. And she looked at her chunky bar, 3 inches by 3 inches and proceeded to yell out,
“It’s not fair!”
She didn’t see the weight of the candy bars as equal, or that hers was three times as thick and wide, or that all of the candy cost the same amount. Explaining that to her, well, anyone ever try to point out such logic to an upset young child.
It wasn’t fair as she saw it, and when two brothers have to share and sacrifice their favorite candy, and they do understand the logic, well, now the journey becomes more complicated!
But we are often like little children, complaining that life isn’t fair.
We end up just like the crew who sweated all day in the hot sun, and didn’t get a larger payday than the guys who put in an hour.
We need to realize the blessing in that… we need to see God’s view of this, so we can rejoice in how God cares for His people.
Why did they cry it wasn’t fair?
If Jesus’ parable were told today, a number of us would probably be telling the employees who broke their back all day long to contact a lawyer, or to call Handel on the Law. Certainly there is a law out there, that demands the same exact hourly wage for all employees.
Some of us might take the Master’s side, saying that he can do whatever he wants, after all it is his money.
The story might even go viral on Facebook, and there would be interviews on Youtube, and maybe even an appearance on some daytime talk show like Dr. Phil, or Dr. Oz, or Judge Judy.
After all, it’s not like it’s fair, what this employer did.
What did our Old Testament reading say?
His Ways aren’t our ways
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.
Could it be that this Master’s goal wasn’t about getting the vineyard harvested?
Could it be that he was more concerned about the people in his life, the people of his community, than he was about making money?
Think about this, he started at 6 am, then returned to hire workers at 9, 12, and 3 o’clock, each time he saw workers standing around, doing nothing. The first time – he negotiated a wage that was fair and equitable – after that, the scriptures tell us he simply promised to be fair.
It is that last time, at five o’clock, which he didn’t just see some workers, the Greek word there is the root word from where we get heuristics. Anybody here watch CSI, or NCIS? Heuristics is the science of finding that which was hidden, not in sight. He went to them, found them, and hear again the description of His action,
“6 “At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’ 7 “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’ “The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’ “
It was his desire, not to gain a harvest, but to provide for the people what they needed, to be part of His work, His life.
And so it is, with the kingdom of heaven.
God would provide for us what we need.
As a pastor, I’m often approached with the question of who will be in heaven. What about the people that come to know God’s love on their death bed, minutes before they pass away. Do they get into heaven, or does God punish them for all the years they refused to follow Him, and they don’t get to go into heaven?
Usually the question involves the people most people would consider beyond any chance to be saved. Would God let them into heaven, if they repented at the last moment?
If I answer in the affirmative, knowing that the power of God is so incredible to transform us, sometimes I hear those words, “But that’s not fair pastor!”
You mean that mass murdered could get the same blessing that those of us who’ve been in church every Sunday… ok one Sunday a month get? They get the same size mansion as those of us who served as preschool teachers, or elders, or deacons?
Yes, and that is the incredible blessing of your working alongside God in His harvest. They are blessed to come into our family, to have the grace and mercy and peace that God has desired for all of us.
Remember again – what the Old Testament said,
7 Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. 8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
There is God’s goal, to take all of us, who struggle with doing what is loving, what is merciful, what is right, and can’t. There is His love, for He finds us, this Father/master who will bring us into His marvelous life’s work.
That is better than just being fair from a human perspective, it God being extravagant in his love. This is what we call justification – God making us right, forgiving our sins, and sanctification, God setting us apart making us His co-workers in His work. If God were fair, would He share with us His desires, His life? Would He trust us enough to serve alongside Him?
God is more than just fair; He is extravagant beyond all measure.
God, bringing us into His ministry to the world, making us part of the family.
All this because Jesus Christ, true God, true man, didn’t give a rip about what was fair, and died that we could all become the children of God.
That’s what the kingdom of God is about; His love for us, making it known and seeing it transform us.
This is a love that brings mercy and peace into our lives, a peace beyond measure, the peace we know and celebrate here, together. For we are His people. AMEN?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. 29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31 They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 32 They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. Romans 1:28-32 (NLT)
13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Matthew 9:13 (NLT)
28 Sometimes we hear love described (you’ll have heard me mention this more than once) as if it were a movement towards self-satisfaction, or merely a means of selfishly fulfilling one’s own personality. And I have always told you that it isn’t so. True love demands getting out of oneself, giving oneself. Genuine love brings joy in its wake, a joy that has its roots in the shape of the Cross. (1)
In the first quote above, there is an incredible list of sins. If you read the verses before the quote in Romans, there are more sins, more perversions of the relationships that God has blessed us with, in those He has brought in to our lives.
Some will talk of how horrible this sin is, how malignant that one, or that a specific one is an abomination. Some of us will point out the entire list, indicating that gossip is as bad as any sexual sin, that breaking vows is as bad as murder. We want sin confronted, the people chastised, preferably publicly! We all have our pet peeves, those sins that need the full wrath of God poured out on them. Often arguments are reduced to which sin is worse, which will receive the fullest wrath of God, even as each of us thinks our sin should even reduce the way our mansion in heaven is furnished.
In treating sin and those whose sin we condemn in such a way, we too sin. I would draw your attention to the last sin in verse 31. We have become people who are heartless (literally – we refuse to love our family) and we refuse to show mercy.
We refuse to forgive, we refuse to reconcile, we refuse to acknowledge each other as the adopted, cleansed, forgiven children of God whom have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. In refusing to show mercy to others, we deny the will of God, which is patient because we aren’t willing that any should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance, all should be reconciled, all should be invited to know the mercy and filial love that Christ has shown us.
In not forgiving, we are asking God to not forgive them, to bind that sin to them and make them face the wrath of God. In not forgiving, in not showing mercy, that is exactly what we are asking. We are denying the very heart of God.
Is showing mercy easy? No.
Does loving people like they are our family (and in Christ they are, or can be) take the kind of sacrifice, the getting out of oneself that Escriva encourages us to do? Yes, and it is hard, very hard.
So what that it is hard?
Yes…. that doesn’t negate the need to be merciful, nor to show people love.
We are merciful, because it is God’s desire, and because He has shown us mercy…..
and when we struggle, the aid is just a short prayer…..
Lord, have mercy a sinner!
- Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 339-343). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. 5 There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. 6 There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service. 7 The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (TEV)
11 It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12 He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13 And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. 14 Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. 15 Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. 16 Under his control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love. Ephesians 4:11-16 (TEV)
Hence the highest office is that of the ministry of the Word, with which all other offices are also conferred at the same time. Every other public office in the church is part of the ministry of the Word or an auxiliary office that supports the ministry, whether it be the elders who do not labor in the Word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17) or the rulers (Rom. 12:8) or the deacons (the office of service in a narrow sense) or whatever other offices the church may entrust to particular persons for special administration. Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers, almoners, sextons, precentors at public worship, and others are all to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office.
There is often a division in the church that is both unnecessary,
It is said in different ways, but it is the division between laity and clergy. It has gotten so bad at times, that churches haa abandoned the idea of setting apart of people for service. Or it has gotten to the other extreme, and the ideas of pastor as CEO (or the older idea of Herr Pastor) comes into play, where all the authority is vested in the clergy.
It’s not supposed to be this way, it is the work together that is the work of the kingdom, there are different role, though some are more visible, or have responsibilities that differ, but the work is done together. The clergy and the laity are together holy and sacred. Neither should Lord it over the other, or act condescendingly toward each other.
You see, we have the same goal, to mature in our trust in God, to have our faith “grow” in Christ. We come to know His love and celebrate His love together, as we share in HIs word, as we are His community gathered around the sacred times where those promises are revealed and made known to be ours. Theses sacraments require both, pastor and parish, priest and penitential people,
I love how CFW Walther, and early leader in my denomination, phrases it in blue above.
Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers, almoners, sextons, precentors at public worship, and others are all to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office.
We are to regard all who serve in ministering to others as ecclesiastical and sacred – part of the church and those celebrated. We all serve God in the church, we are all set apart to serve the Lord, and our actions are part of His work (see Eph. 2:10)
Do the actions differ? Yes. Do the responsibilities? Of course. But we share in this ministry of reconciling people to God. We share in bringing them to a place of healing, a place of grace. It is our ministry, not as individual, but as one church.
May we concentrate more on the work, and waste less time on power squabbles and condescension.
Lord Have mercy on us!
Walther, C. Church and Ministry : Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Churhc and the Ministry. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1987.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father—that’s reading the story backwards. He is our faith father. Romans 4:16 (MSG)
What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. (1)
We live in a world full of stress, full of anxiety, full of brokenness.
There is a blessing from this, well sort of, in a round about way.
The blessing is that it is often quite easy to realize when we have set up false idols, when we have set God aside
You see, the more stress we deal with, the more anxiety snares us, the more we deal with brokenness, the more false gods, and the idols we create are revealed.
it may be that are false gods are the the demons of distraction. The distraction helps us escape or even ignore the problems, they create the illusion of refuge. For some, this is drugs or alcohol; for others, it seems less dangerous – television or computers or listening to music or even books. We run to them and hide in them, they become our refuge, our place away from the world and its trauma. With the exception of the drugs, these things can be nice hobbies, but when we find ourselves spending to much time with them, and that is only the times when we are stressed, there may be an issue
It maybe that our idols, are false gods are a poor imitation of Christianity, the kind of thing where we control God, and we put our hope in cliche’s, not in the actual promises of God.
It maybe our false idols are our political and economic system, or in nationalism/patriotism. That everything will be okay because we are Americans, or Canadians, or (insert country name here) and God is always going to take our side. This is often more subtle, but it also overlooks the sins of a nation that allows for abortion, that in many ways would redefine life and family, and which would rather see vengence than reconciliation or mercy. This while insisting we are always in the right, well, except for our politicians.
Simply put, idols today aren’t crafted of wood or stone or precious emeralds or ivory. But they are idols none the less. We turn to them and try to find hope, or relief from them.
There are other idols, especially the one that is a simple plaint capital letter: I. We try to fix life ourselves, we ponder what can be done, we rely first and primarily on ourselves, as our culture teaches us. We go to the altar of self for refuge, for sanctuary, and we reveal that we only trust in ourselves, and we even know that is probably going to fail.
Luther is right on when he describes what “makes” a god or idol in our lives. It is where we go to in those times where we should trust in God’s promises, that He is in charge, that He will work it out, and it will turn into a blessing. We fail to hear what Mary did at the annunciation, that we are filled with grace, that the Lord is with us.
That He who is our God becomes OUR God when we trust Him, when we embrace and hold on to Him for dear life, because His promises will make us whole. When we realize that it is, and has been all along to be our God, for us to be His people, His children, the one He pledges to take care of and love. When the idols of our life fade away, as we realize the promises God has made to us in our baptism. When God becomes our refuge our strength, to whom we turn when life is broken and stressed.
When He is our first option, our first action is to turn to Him, not any other idol, not any other false god.
It’s tough – but it is also why God starts in the first commandment, not with us, but with Him. You see it starts with this….
“I, the LORD (actually His Name – YWHW) am your God, who brought you out of slavery……”
There is our hope at work, His action…. trust Him my friends, and know you can pray for the Spirit to help you when you are too weak too…
(1) The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
21 Submit yourselves to one another because of your reverence for Christ. 1 Children, it is your Christian duty to obey your parents, for this is the right thing to do. 2 “Respect your father and mother” is the first commandment that has a promise added: 3 “so that all may go well with you, and you may live a long time in the land.” 4 Parents, do not treat your children in such a way as to make them angry. Instead, raise them with Christian discipline and instruction. Ephesians 5:21, 6:1-4 (TEV)
19 Be grateful to your parents for bringing you into this world, thus enabling you to become a child of God. And be all the more grateful if it was they who placed in your soul the first seeds of faith and piety, of your Christian way, or of your vocation. (1)
Later this week, my mom and I will take a day and just get away. It will be one year since my dad passed, and the grief and loss that we feel may indeed well up inside of us. So I have been thinking of family a lot recently. This morning I came across St Josemaria’s quote you just read in my devotions, All over the news o that the brokenness of some famous athletes’ families recently aired out in front of the world, and an odd comment on facebook recently, sparked off this blog.
The comment this morning that struck me as odd, was the reference to the Virgin Mary as simply a “vessel”, nothing more, nothing less. It struck me as pragmatic and lifeless, and against the very idea of family as taught in the scripture. For no mother is simply a vessel, a holding place for life for 9 months.
God designed us to be part of families, and while many are dysfunctional… no wait, all are dysfunctional because of sin, that doesn’t mean we should devalue them. Yet that is what we allow. Mother’s are reduced to vessels, and holding tanks. Father’s are thought unnecessary, and of little value. Children are tossed aside, before and after they are born. Siblings are made to think that rivalry is the norm, rather than a loving family.
This isn’t new – you can’t read scripture without seeing the brokenness of families, and directions about how things really should be. Directions that are critical to be really heard, and by that I mean the scriptural meaning of hear – to absorb and let affect and transform you. This is not just something that we can take as what theologians call adiaphora, it is not optional. Nor is it it simply environmental or biological. As an adopted child, I have met my birth mother, and much of who I am, I see in her. As well, I see a lot of my adopted parents as well.
It is the relationship of family, even if we struggle with it.
The reason this is critical is simple. The family is an image of our relationship with God. He is our loving Father, our merciful Brother. We are all siblings, whether we note the relationship, or not.
Frequently, we take the image of family that we know, our broken, confused, dysfunctional families, and those we see, and project them onto our relationship with God. It becomes a fight for who is wiser, or who is in control, who is the authority, who has the rights. And we treat God like we treat our parents, our children, our brothers and sisters.
If instead of projecting on God’s family what we know from dysfunctional experiences, we let it work the other way?
We would honor our parents, praying for them, hearing them.
We would sacrifice for our family, the way Jesus did for us, knowing that in love, no sacrifice is too great for those who are in His family.
We would value the people God has given us, parents, children, siblings in our families, and in our church families.
We would seek those who are part of this family, yet don’t know it… yet.
We would love.
Lord Have mercy as we worship and love you, as we embrace our families in love.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 304-306). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Conversations on the Way to Heaven:
#1 Get Along Back There!
† IHS †
May our journey together always be filled with God’s joy and peace, as His mercy flavors every moment!
A Bajillion Hours crammed in the back seat…
I remember every twist and turn, as if it was yesterday, and not 42 years ago.
Everyone went and got in the old yellow Dodge Dart. Up two miles on Brookdale Road, the right onto North Policy, then right onto Pelham Road. Up onto route 93, then route 213, then southwest on route 495, off the highway on Mass Ave, then right on Fernwood to my Auntie Lanie’s and Uncle Wally’s house, where Thanksgiving Dinner and my favorite French onion dip awaited.
I remember so much of the drive, the rest area we never stopped at, the Mall and the golf course, going over the Merrimack River on the double decker bridge, and along its banks the dump and the reform school, My dad always remembered to point that out for some reason. Some great memories, and well some challenging one’s as I squeezed into the middle seat between my older brother and little sister.
I looked it up on google maps this week – it was 12 miles, 18 minutes in no traffic. I swear there were times that it seemed like a bazillion hours.
And as we look into conversations that occur on the way to heaven, this was the often heard phrase,
“Get along back there!”
Which was usually followed by something like, well we will hear those in the weeks to come!
Why is it so difficult to get along with each other? Why do we hear these same kinds of conversations today? As Jesus, guiding our journey, hears not only our words, but our thoughts, it is difficult to hear him asking us to get along!
Get Along back there?
In today’s gospel, the words of Peter so sound like one of my siblings. “Do I have to forgive my brother? Do I have to forgive my sister? Peter’s not as blatant as my brother and sister were, he asks, “how many times do I have to forgive?” But you know if Jesus said 7, Peter was going to go to his brother Andrew and tell him he was at 7 already…and so the next time? You do it again Andrew, and you will pay for it!
But the base question is the same – do we have to forgive those who sin against us?
The answer is, of course yes. We are people that believe in reconciliation.
It’s not a measure of the law, but a description of those who live the life of the baptized, those who live in a relationship where Jesus has reconciled them to the Father, and they are His children together.
That Is why Jesus tells the parable about the two slaves, they both belong to the same household, they are, legally, family. Yet the first man, although forgiven that which he was to pay back, refuses to forgive the debt of the other man. Even to the point of visiting violence on the other slave.
Sounds like one of those backseat things – even up to the contact.
Why do we fight, and why do we struggle to forgive each other, when the dust settles? Haven’t we heard jesus’ 7 times 70 enough, or this parable? Don’t we realize that we’re the ones who sins cannot be paid for in a thousand lifetimes, and we are willing to collect the debt for what is petty in comparison?
That sin you are holding onto, that pain, that resentment, how does it rate against the pain that your sin has caused God? You have decades of it? Do you really want that sin dividing the body of Christ Jesus?
I realized something this week as I was going over all three readings today. There is account after account in scripture of how we are bound together, how we worship together, how we feast and fellowship together, how we endure together, how we face persecution and even die, together. In all these things we are together, weeping together and rejoicing together. What happens to one, happens to all. What happens to all effects each one?
One exception, verse 12 of our epistle.
12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.
Hearing that, we come back to the gospel….
33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters* from your heart.”
Faith if God is where we find the strength….
So what do we do? How do we find the ability to really forgive, to give no more thought to the debt incurred by sin?
Well Peter and Andrew weren’t the only brothers in the readings this morning. There was also Joseph in the Old Testament Reading. You know, the guy who his loving brothers kicked out of the back of the family station wagon, and sold to wandering merchants?
Look at how he forgave his brothers…
19 But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. 21 No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.
Can you see those words of Joseph coming from your mouth, to those who have sinned against you? What do you think their reaction would be? What do you think yours would be?
The sinners who thought their brother would grab them by the neck in revenge, he gave up that right, because of the work of God in all their lives. A work that saved their physical lives.
We have something more incredible, something more beyond thought, in the work of Christ, who doesn’t just forgive 490 sins of ours, Heck, that is just this week! He’s the master who forgives us all, who brings us home to the Father in heaven, cleansed, pure, holy. Who gave up everything to make that happen, because He loves us. Who endured the pain of the cross, because of His love for us.
If Joseph could forgive, knowing the blessing of God seen in the saving his people from famine, we should be even more eager to let them know the gospel. That every sin was paid for on the cross, that we have been forgiven a world of sin. That is what the communion feast celebrates!
We are a forgiven family, we are brought together on a journey home, to heaven, to a feast. We are called to love each other, even if for a moment we struggle with it – we still love, and we shall forgive, even as we are forgiven.
For that is what the Holy Spirit is transforming us into, giving us the ministry of reconciliation, the ministry mercy. The Spirit’s transforming all of us who trust in Christ’s work, and the promises made to us, which we hear in His word.
So drop all the burdens, drop all the sins an rejoice in Christ’s peace…look to Christ, and find that we are all getting along on this journey in peace! AMEN?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
24 It makes me happy to be suffering for you now, and in my own body to make up all the hardships that still have to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church, 25 of which I was made a servant with the responsibility towards you that God gave to me, that of completing God’s message, 26 the message which was a mystery hidden for generations and centuries and has now been revealed to his holy people. 27 It was God’s purpose to reveal to them how rich is the glory of this mystery among the gentiles; it is Christ among you, your hope of glory: 28 this is the Christ we are proclaiming, admonishing and instructing everyone in all wisdom, to make everyone perfect in Christ. 29 And it is for this reason that I labour, striving with his energy which works in me mightily. Colossians 1:24-29 (NJB)
These two aspects of mission are inseparable, as we see clearly from Jesus’ calling of his apostles (Mark 3: 13-19). Our being with the Lord will be genuine only if it leads to preaching, and our preaching will be authentic only if it derives from our being with Christ on the cross. (1)
I’ve always wondered about people who think that ministry will never include suffering, that somehow it will simply be a perfect and easy life.
Don’t they realize that there is going to be death involved? Don’t they realize that ministry means having to deal with death, and anxiety and dears, That those who minister will face their own brokenness, their we have to see ourselves healing, if we are going to frag to Him.
Ministry is service, it is work, it is the hard decisions to set everything aside, because we know that what God has in plan is to walk beside us the entire way. Paul will talk of of striving – that isn’t punching some kind of clock, meeting some minimal expectation.
But it isn’t striving on our own power, or for our own good. it is for the good of others, those who do not know this incredible news that we know. That not only about the forgiveness of sins, but the glory that is here, and will be fully revealed when God calls us home.
We can’t divide these things, as Pope Francis points out – knowing God’s love, living in His glory will lead to sharing that with others, and the more we are bringing people to the cross, the more we adore Him, The investment of time and treasure and talents becomes our norm, our life. A life that is being transformed by the Holy Spirit into one resembling and reflecting Christ to this broken world.
It’s what we do, it’s who we are…
Walking with the one crucified so that we could be with Him.
Gods blessings to you this weekend, whether your preaching is tomorrow before 10’s or hundreds or thousands, or whether it is today over a iced coffee….
For having been to the cross – you will preach!
(1) Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (p. 59). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 For I received from the Lord the teaching that I passed on to you: that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took a piece of bread, 24 gave thanks to God, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in memory of me.” 25 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup and said, “This cup is God’s new covenant, sealed with my blood. Whenever you drink it, do so in memory of me.” 26 This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (TEV)
15 In these times of violence and brutal, savage sexuality, we have to be rebels: we refuse point blank to go with the tide, and become beasts. We want to behave like children of God, like men and women who are on intimate terms with their Father, who is in Heaven and who wants to be very close to—inside!—each one of us. (1)
Disclaimer: This blog is not primarily about 9-11.
there was a massacre once, the slaughter of the innocent, that we should not, will not, cannot forget.
It was ultimate act of depravity, the ultimate act of violence, and it is something we have to remember, not because of the violence, not because of the savagery, but because in that very act, we are given hope. Even in that death, we are given life. Even in that savage, torturous, incomprehensible act, we find our rest an peace.
There is no greater paradox.
Paul instructs the church to remember not just the act above, but the One who was brutalized and killed. In Greek the work translaeted “to remember, to not forget, to memorialize, etc” is much stronger than just give him a passing thought. It is related to words like repentance (to have a new mind) and the root where we get paranoia. It is something that deeply affects and is rooted in the mind. Not just knowledge, not just a passing thought, but something that burns into our mind and soul, that causes in us a change.
We proclaim that death, we reveal again the love that is revealed in His willing sacrifice of His life for us.
Something that changes everything.
Some of us will remember 9-11, like those before us remember the Shuttle exploding, or the Oklahoma City Bombing, like those, who remember Kennedy getting shot, or Pearl Harbor. There are other events that we will never forget because they scar our souls, they ring us to the core, they cause us to be on guard.
this remembrance, where we take and eat the Body of Christ given up for us, where we drink the Blood of Christ given and shed so that sin is forgiven, this knowing the presence and depth of the love of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, doesn’t just scar our souls, it brings healing and life to our heart and soul, our mind and body that have been scarred by sin and the injustice of the world. It sustains us through the rush of the world’s evil, and the traumas of life.
That is why we remember, that is why we proclaim His death until He comes….
For in knowing Him, we know peace.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 290-293). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 Jerusalem, I can never forget you! I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Isaiah 49:16 (TEV)
5 Lord, we are glad to find ourselves in your wounded palm. Grasp us tight, squeeze us hard, make us lose all our earthly wretchedness, purify us, set us on fire, make us feel drenched in your Blood. And then, cast us far, far away, hungry for the harvest, to sow the seed more fruitfully each day, for Love of you. (1)
I live in a land of earthquakes. I have friends that live in Tornado alleys, others who live in the normal paths of hurricanes, Where I grew up, snow storms could strand you for a week. Where my first church was located, you could dehydrate so fast that you could die before you knew it. There are places where there are wars, cities where drugs and gang violence is rampant.
I have come to this conclusion, if you are searching for a safe place to live, there is no such geographical location on the earth. As long as we are alive, there will be some threat living over us.
Some of us even have those threats inside us, for me, it was a genetic issue that affected my heart. For others, it may a tendency to addiction.
There can even be problems and threats inside places that should be safe, churches, schools, hospitals.
Is there a safe place?
Where do we go for safety, for refuge, for sanctuary?
Is there a place where we can know peace?
There is a place, rather, there is a person, and the relationship we have with Him, that is our sanctuary, that is our place of refuge, He is our peace.
Even in the worse cases. Consider in the book of Daniel, the three men in the furnace:
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered, “Your Majesty, we will not try to defend ourselves. 17 If the God whom we serve is able to save us from the blazing furnace and from your power, then he will. 18 But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty may be sure that we will not worship your god, and we will not bow down to the gold statue that you have set up.” 19 Then Nebuchadnezzar lost his temper, and his face turned red with anger at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So he ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual. 20 And he commanded the strongest men in his army to tie the three men up and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So they tied them up, fully dressed—shirts, robes, caps, and all—and threw them into the blazing furnace. 22 Now because the king had given strict orders for the furnace to be made extremely hot, the flames burned up the guards who took the men to the furnace. 23 Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, still tied up, fell into the heart of the blazing fire. 24 Suddenly Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement. He asked his officials, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the blazing furnace?” They answered, “Yes, we did, Your Majesty.” 25 “Then why do I see four men walking around in the fire?” he asked. “They are not tied up, and they show no sign of being hurt—and the fourth one looks like an angel.” Daniel 3:16-25 (TEV)
Jesus was there, and in the midst of the the moment, they knew His peace. They found their refuge.
Daniel Himself knew such opposition,
20 When he got there, he called out anxiously, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was the God you serve so loyally able to save you from the lions?” 21 Daniel answered, “May Your Majesty live forever! 22 God sent his angel to shut the mouths of the lions so that they would not hurt me. He did this because he knew that I was innocent and because I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” 23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders for Daniel to be pulled up out of the pit. So they pulled him up and saw that he had not been hurt at all, for he trusted God. Daniel 6:19-23 (TEV)
A final example, this time Stephen in the New Testament, who was killed, and tortured, and yet…. knew peace, and was in a very special refuge.
54 As the members of the Council listened to Stephen, they became furious and ground their teeth at him in anger. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw God’s glory and Jesus standing at the right side of God. 56 “Look!” he said. “I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!” 57 With a loud cry the Council members covered their ears with their hands. Then they all rushed at him at once, 58 threw him out of the city, and stoned him. The witnesses left their cloaks in the care of a young man named Saul. 59 They kept on stoning Stephen as he called out to the Lord, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 He knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord! Do not remember this sin against them!” He said this and died. Acts 7:54-60 (TEV)
Even there, in this midst of death itself, in the moments when all hell is trying to break loose, in what many would never be able to comprehend the existence of peace, there it is.
For the Lord was with the three men! He was with Daniel, He was with Stephen!
And the Lord is with you.
No matter the trauma, no matter the disaster, no matter the threat. No matter what, we are covered by His blood, sent by Him into these places, to be a beacon of hope, a reminder of God’s love and mercy and peace. For you need to know and count on this.
The Lord is with you!
and that is why Paul writes to us
6 Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. 7 And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus! Philippians 4:6-7 (TEV)
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 249-252). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you and make you clean from all your idols and everything else that has defiled you. 26 I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart. 27 I will put my spirit in you and will see to it that you follow my laws and keep all the commands I have given you. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors. You will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from everything that defiles you.. Ezekiel 36:25-29a (TEV)
12 My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. 13 The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. 14 And you are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17 This, then, is what I command you: love one another. John 15:12-17 (TEV)
2 God is my Father! If you meditate on it, you will never let go of this consoling consideration. Jesus is my intimate Friend (another rediscovery) who loves me with all the divine madness of his Heart. The Holy Spirit is my Consoler, who guides my every step along the road. Consider this often: you are God’s… and God is yours.
This morning as I was working out, I hit a wall. I thought I was done, at 12 minutes into my final treadmill session i knew I couldn’t go on any longer. I looked for an excuse to quit. I looked for a reason to end my suffering. I didn’t want to endure. A little more than 20 seconds later, the wall was there imposing, I needed to quit.
I heard in the back of my head my high school P.E. teacher’s rasping voice crying out LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT. Like back then, it made me want to quit even more.
Just like Mondays, and all the other days in life that seem like Mondays.
You know the feeling, like when you are in a meeting that is going on forever, as all the same issues keep frustrating things keep being rehashed. as you do your bills, and wonder about the day when there will be money left over. It’s when the long awaited rain shuts down roads you need to use to get to work. It’s when all that was good and precious that you experienced in worship yesterday become a faded memory, choked out by the world….
Or it might as well be.
There is only one hope on Monday, there is only one thing that will kill off the drama, the anxiety, the lows that we face.
It’s to realize that we, you and I, are the people God loves. the people that He claimed. That the Trinity in all of Their glory has called you to live life in their glory. They didn’t insist that you come to Them, they’ve come to us!
Look at the promise in the reading from Ezekiel – the promise of Baptism! Look at how God takes care of us, from eliminating the sin in our lives, to setting up shop in our lives, creating something quite incredible!
Look at the words of Jesus. I know there is much criticism of those that treat Jesus as their brother, as if that meant all we did was “play” with Him. But there is something far different in knowing Christ is our brother than that (check out yesterday’s sermon for one)
Look at the words of Josemaria, these blessed words which encourage us to really think through what it means for God to be our Father, Jesus our brother/friend, and the Holy Spirit to be our very needed comforter!
This is what the Christian religion is about. It is how we get through life, even as we despise its shame, we look for the joy of walking with God, and one day, seeing Him face to face. it’s how we get passed minute 12 in our journey, how the wall that we hit, exhausted and weary, is destroyed. we find His strength, and He comes to us and helps us get to realize that though there are “Mondays” that even those Monday’s become our Sabbath, our day of rest.
For we are God’s people…..
and that trumps any Monday.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 237-242). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.