The Father’s Thoughts:
Looking forward to the Birth of Christ
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
18 …may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT)
Mary did you know? God did!
If it hasn’t happened yet, soon your mailboxes will be filled with cute Christmas cards, some of them actually daring to be “religious”, to have picture Mary and Joseph looking down, adoring the “6lb, 7oz. Baby Lord Jesus” asleep quietly, without dirty diapers in a manger so spotless, cleansed by the glorious light of the star, that you wouldn’t hesitate to make Christmas cookies there.
We’ll sing the carols, eventually, as they help us contemplate what it means to look into a manger and see there Jesus, our savior. We’ll even hear songs like Joseph’s song, as he tries to comprehend what it means to raise Christ, or “Mary, did you know”, as we celebrate Christmas. As we consider if Mary really understood the pain that Simeon prophesied she would bear – as she watch Jesus be crucified, or the joy she would know as He ministered, and healed and rose from the dead.
This advent, I want to prepare us for those joys by seeing what the Trinity expected, as Jesus was sent to be born. Tonight, we will look at what the Father thought, as the plan made before the foundation of the world became reality, as His only begotten was born into this world, amidst the sin and brokenness…
What did He see, what did He plan, what was He expecting, as He sent Jesus into our world?
A difference, a Mission, and a wedding banquet
He’s different… (so you will be!)
The first thing we need to consider is who is sent! It is not a soldier on an impossible mission, it’s someone who has been hand-picked.
Picture God the Father, looking down into the manger and saying the words He wrote through Isaiah,
““Take a good look at my servant. I’m backing him to the hilt. He’s the one I chose, and I couldn’t be more pleased with him. I’ve bathed him with my Spirit, my life. He’ll set everything right among the nations. 2 He won’t call attention to what he does with loud speeches or gaudy parades. 3 He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant, but he’ll steadily and firmly set things right. 4 He won’t tire out and quit. He won’t be stopped until he’s finished his work—to set things right on earth. Far-flung ocean islands wait expectantly for his teaching.” 5
This babe, this man, this Savior, is our God, who will not disregard anyone us, He will set things right, not just in one place, one country, but in the world. He won’t tire or quit on us, He won’t give up, even when we do.
As the Father prepares for these moments of Jesus’ Incarnation, His life among us, He knows the relationship He has with His Son, that is the kind of relationship He wants with each of us, His people.
But Christ’s being sent, is what that will cost!
Here’s what will happen!
You see, even as Christ is the image of the Father, in sending us Jesus, the Father sends us the very image we are being transformed into, the very life we are being reformed to live. The image that we can see, as we look at our own children in love, or in those moments where we struggle with the injustice and unrighteousness of the world. The times where we operate “outside ourselves” in the way we love and sacrifice, just because we need it.
Hear again what the Father says to Jesus, and picture Him saying it over Jesus, laying in the manger.
6 ”I am GOD. I have called you to live right and well. I have taken responsibility for you, kept you safe. I have set you among my people to bind them to me, and provided you as a lighthouse to the nations, 7 To make a start at bringing people into the open, into light: opening blind eyes, releasing prisoners from dungeons, emptying the dark prisons.
This manger – these lights, the blue paraments, that is what it is all about, this time of Christmas.
It’s about the Father sending Jesus with the deliberate intent of dealing with our brokenness, about freeing us from the darkness of sin and self-centeredness, about releasing us from that which constrains and binds us, Satan’s work deceiving us and getting us to buy into our rights.
Freeing us to live in a relationship with the Father, as His children, as those who He rejoices in, whom He takes responsibility for, the people that He keeps safe.
You’ve been invited!
As we look at advent, the Father’s intent becomes clear as we are invited to His son’s wedding feast in the gospel. For Christ has come, and as we look at His coming again, no message sends that more clearly than the feast we’ve been invited to, to celebrate His love, to celebrate the fulfilment of His mission.
To celebrate His taking our burdens and bringing us is, everyone the Spirit has laid eyes on, the good, and those of us who aren’t so good. To look forward to the feast, and to realize we continue in the very ministry of Christ, inviting all to be fed, to know His love.
For in Jesus, all has been set right, as we live in Him this work of His is being finished.
For we have been called to dwell in His peace.
- A Celtic Advent: Looking at God’s Expectations about Jesus Birth (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Celts to the Creche: St. Columba of Iona (saintsbridge.wordpress.com)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 Once a man came to Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what good thing must I do to receive eternal life?” 17 ”Why do you ask me concerning what is good?” answered Jesus. “There is only One who is good. Keep the commandments if you want to enter life.” 18 ”What commandments?” he asked. Jesus answered, “Do not commit murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not accuse anyone falsely; 19 respect your father and your mother; and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” 20 ”I have obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else do I need to do?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich. Matthew 19:16-22 (TEV)
636 You are constantly talking about the need to change and reform things. Good… Reform yourself! For you need it badly, and already you will have begun the great reform. In the meantime, I shall not be putting too much faith in your proclamations of reform. (1)
It seems that Rush Limbaugh has taken it upon himself to criticze the pope for not being Christian, for not being faithful to scripture. Well the claim is that the Pope is a Marxist because of the way he interprets scripture. I haven’t read more than one article on it, so I am not sure where Limbaugh’s points are. I don’t see the Pope being much of a Marxist, just one who would have Christians love the world as Christ did, taking on the form of a servant…
As I read the article, as I see all the posts about people wanting to reform our government, I have to wonder when we will slow down and consider the advice of St Josemaria, and reform our own budgets, our own spending habits. Will we hear the last “commandment” the man heard Jesus ask about? The one that where we considering loving our neighbor as we love ourselves? Will we desire the “perfection” of giving up all we have to the poor, and following Christ. Would consider giving more than just our hand-me-downs and loose coins to the Salvation Army?
If we take the scriptures in their fulness,what God wants to see develop from within this people is the same kind of love that Christ has shown, the same eagerness to sacrifice for others as Christ did. You can’t but see this in the way the Old Testament prophets confronted Israel over their treatment of the single moms (widows) and orphans. You see it in the commands of how one treats the foreignors, the responsibility of families – even multiple times removed, to care for those in their family. You see it again in the gospels (the Good Samaritan, the Sheep and the Goats) , and in Romans and 1 Corinthians 12, and the entire epistle of 1 John. This love for neighbor, this willingness to be with them in their brokenness, this love for them isn’t one that is mandated, but comes from a heart that beats in symphony to Christ’s heart.
As I write this, I myself am changing in my attitude. Maybe the reason for coming across the article wasn’t for me to defend Christianity against Limbaugh’s American Civil Religion. But to get me to think about my riches and how they are going to be used. Of what I can give away to the poor, of how our finacnes are used. How can I grow in likeness to the Lord who gave all for me?
Heavy thoughts during these early days of Advent…..but ones that I invite you to share in a well.
Thank God that He walks with us through them, and I pray we trust in Him enough to stay and follow and enjoy His presence, rather than walk away sad….
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2679-2682). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Pope a Marxist: Is Rush right? (cnn.com)
- Is it insane to keep doing/teaching/preaching the same thing over and over, and expecting… (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Who is more faithful to the faith? Wrong question! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Advent Devotion: Convenient, Comfortable Christianity? Hmmm… (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional Thought of the Day…
6 I chose you to bring justice, and I am here at your side. I selected and sent you to bring light and my promise of hope to the nations. 7 You will give sight to the blind; you will set prisoners free from dark dungeons. Isaiah 42:6-7 (CEV)
Tommorow night at Concordia Lutheran Church, we take up again our tradition of mid-week worship services and a meal of fellowship. All are invited as they are every Wednesday Night until Christmas!
We’ve taken a different approach this year, rather than our usual look at how Israel was looking forward to the Messiah. For that is what Advent is, taking lessings from Israel’s preparation (and lack of preparation) for the arrival of the promised Deliverer, the One chosen by God our Father to free us from the things of life which crush and smother us. The hope is, learning those lessons, our celebration of Christmas, our understanding of how God the Father kept His promises, will help us prepare for the joyous Day when Christ returns, to bring us into the Father’s presence.
Like I said, this year we are going to look at it a little differently, as we take a Celtic approach to it, and look at the Birth of Christ from God’s view, from what He expected, from what He planned.
To see His joy, as He patiently waited for the right time, as the Father sent messengers to give us inklings of what to expect, as the Son looked through the manger and the muck and crud He would be born to, to the Cross where everything would be cleansed. As the Holy Spirit would come and breathe life into a spiritually dead people, and bring them to life and make them aware that they walk with God, that they are His people.
In the process, we will see why the angels sang at the birth of this baby, why the lowest of the low went and were the first of the New Testament evangelists, sharing the incredible news that God is with us. We begin to understand why the wisest of the wise would journey, to lay gifts at His feet. We begin to understand why we sing Joy to the World, and Hark the Herald Angels Sing…
For God so loved the world….
Come join us!
6:30 at Concordia Lutheran Church, 13633 183rd Street, Cerritos, Ca
Devotional Thought of the Day:
But when the Son of man comes, will he find any faith on earth? Luke 18:8b (NJB)
57 As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ 58 Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.’ 59 Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me,’ replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first.’ 60 But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’ 61 Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home.’ 62 Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’Luke 9:57-62 (NJB)
650 When will you realise that your only possible way is to seek sanctity seriously. Make up your mind—don’t be offended—to take God seriously. That levity of yours, if you do not fight against it, could end up by becoming a sad and blasphemous mockery. (1)
Yesterday we began Advent, that time of year where we build expectation of Christ’s return, as we consider life prior to the Incarnation.
It is hard to look back, without considering the voices of the prophets, and their call on the people of God to take their relationship with God seriously. Their reminders that we have a relationship with God who has made it possible, and that we should neglect that relationship.
Yet too often we do.
Advent seeks to shake us from that – to prepare us for Christ’s coming – not just the 6 lbs 8 oz Baby Lord Jesus, lieing in a smelly feeding trough, but the returning Lord who gave it all, for us.
It’s a startling image in this day where peopel are put out if they are asked to pay more in taxes, or meet the expecations others place on their time and their lives. We want to be served instantly, we want it our way, we want things to be convenient, and comfortable, with no sacrifice and no cost.
We hear that salvation is free, that God paid all the cost for our sins, with Christ dieing on the cross, and we rejoice. We focus on that part of the message of God. We love it, rejoice in it, willing share that part with others.
But we don’t want the inconvenience of being in a relationship with God. It might be uncomfortable, He might ask us to sacrifice something, to downscale our lives in order to help others. He might ask us to spend time with Him, and with those people at church that aren’t like us. He may ask some of us even to suffer for the faith, and how many of us are really willing to do that?
SO the prophetic question is asked – do you trust God? Are you willing to trust Him, even if it seems to mean some personal cost? What if it means giving up a personal dream, or embracing discomfort? What if it means being alienated from family? What if it means our friends turn their back on us, because we won’t be there when they want us to be, because of our commitments to serve others, especially those others they might consider “less deserving”? Will you trust God, when it costs you a little of what it cost Jesus, the shame He embraced on the cross? Are you willing to trust Him enough that you would embrace suffering, if it meant one more person would know Christ?
Remember why – it was for the joy awaiting Him, the joy of sharing His glory with you! The joy of bringing you into the glory and love that is shared between this Triune God we worship.
Is your trust in Him, your love for Him enough to embrace a inconvenient, uncomfortable messy way of life?
Look beyond the manger, and the shining stars and “cute” depictions of the birth of Christ. Look at the rejections He endured, Look at the cross He bore, and the investment He’s made, promising you the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. KNow His faithfulness, His trustworthiness, His love and mercy….
and embrace a life of faith and trust…. knowing that no other life is worth living.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2728-2731). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- You Must Be Ready…but How? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Sacraments and Sacramentals: Advent (simonebrosig.wordpress.com)
- How to Build the Church (justifiedandsinner.com)
- “We’ll get together then, God. You know we’ll have a good time then! (justifiedandsinner.com)
You MUST Be Ready…but How?
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
As our expectations build toward celebrating Christmas, may the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ
reveal to us His presence in which we already dwell!
It is perhaps one of the small benefits I have as a pastor during this time of year; as people are invite each other to parties;
There is that question that lurks in the back of your mind, as you wonder how fancy the party will be?
Prior to becoming a pastor, it was hard for me to figure out how to get ready. If I wore comfortable jeans, everyone would be in suits and dresses. If I wore a suit, or even a tuxedo (does anyone do that anymore?), you know everyone would be wearing polo shirts and casual pants with sandals.
You stand there, looking in your closet, knowing you have to get ready! But…how?
My advantage now as a pastor is that I just throw on a shirt and collar – bring along a jacket… and I am all set! Well – I may have to remember to answer every time I hear the word, “Father,” like at my cousin’s party back when I was in Boston. Besides that… I do okay.
It is that feeling of not knowing what to expect, how to get ready for that which we will encounter, that is so challenging. Where are we going? Will it be fancy or simple? Formal or homey?
If we struggle with that, on this first day of Advent – the day of Hope and Expectation, what do we think of, as we hear Jesus’s words,
You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.
How do we get ready to come into the presence of the King of Kings and Lord or Lord’s?
The Norms of Life?
Parties and work and life..
One thing is certain from this passage… we do not have a clue when it will be, when everything that God has promised is fully complete.
It could have been a day like Thursday, when people were enjoying all the family and friends and feasting that goes along with Thanksgiving. Or days like Friday, when people who work in retail establishments are overwhelmed by those who want more for which to be thankful.
Celebrations, work, life, and into the midst of it all, will come Christ! In another passage Jesus will ask,
8 …when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?” Luke 18:8 (NLT)
It’s a hard question, for how many will follow idols, or see their life fulfilled in what they acquire and what they do or who they are with, rather than in the relationship we’ve been given with God? How many of us would consider that which defines us to be our relationship with God? And if we do, does the way we live our lives reveal that definition?
I am not saying we should not throw parties, that people should not get married, or that they should not work. It is not what we do that reveals our priorities; rather it is how we do it. Is Christ involved, is the idea of His coming a consideration in how we do things. Paul talks about it this way,
31 .. whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT)
There is our answer, to being prepared, to know what to expect for His coming, His advent, Coming and Advent that great greek word “Parousia”. It simply means – I am around. I will be here.
That is what we need to expect – the presence of God in our lives.
Given all the distractions during this holiday season, given all the extra work, and the events with friends, how do we stay “ready?”
So how do we stay “ready”??
There was a time, and there are still people that would say we simply keep someone here at church praying, 24 hours day, 7 days a week. That they have a cell phone ready to speed dial all of us, just in case if the clouds break open and Jesus descends. One church did that back in 1981, on December 31st, there was a large crowd at a church in Orange County, whose pastor promised that Jesus would return that year. On the last day of the year – fully expecting His return, they sat there…singing songs, waiting.
Since Noah prepared and was expecting the flood without ever having experienced a rainstorm, maybe we can take a lesson from him. The letter to Hebrew Christians describes him this way,
It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith. Hebrews 11:7 (NLT) 7
He was ready, because he trusted God. He heard Him. Noah expected God to keep His promise because He walked with Him.
He had such a relationship with God that Noah could hear God’s message, he knew God’s love and trusted God enough to obey and do that which they did not understand. It was not just that what God told him to do was more important than his own enjoyment, it was that his relationship with God was more important.
He heard, he obeyed because he trusted God.
Because of that trust, because of that relationship, he was ready.
Not because of the actions, but because of the God who asked him to act.
When the rains came, he was ready.
For he knew that God was with him.
There were days in the last church year, many of them, where I wanted to cry out, Come o Come Immanuel, but for the wrong reasons. To be honest, it was a tiring year! It was a year where I would have rejoiced in Christ’s coming, simply to be done with it all. To see an end to suffering, both globally, and among those I know. To see the promises of no more sorrow, no more tears occur – for that reason.
That is not the reason to want Christ to come though. The reason is the advent, of the parousia – the coming of God– of His presence, here with us, That we would fully come to understand what it means that He is our God, that we are His people.
Key – Noah heard God’s voice….
The key is hearing Him.
Hearing Him mark us as His people, as He cleanses us of sin in baptism…
Hearing Him say, Take and eat this is my body, take and drink, this is my blood. Broken and shed for you…
Hearing Him say, I am, I am your God and you are my people.
Hearing Him, knowing His presence will result in a day when He will fully reveal His presence to us, as we stand around His throne, singing His praises, as He welcomes us hom.
For hearing God’s voice, knowing His presence, that is what advent and His second coming is all about…
Knowing that we dwell in His love, His mercy, His peace. That love and mercy and peace that is beyond all understanding, as it guards our hearts and minds in Christ. AMEN!
- A New (Church) Year’s Challenge to Pastors, Priests, Liturgists, and Worship Leaders…. (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional/Pragmatic THeological Thoguht of the Day:
18 ”But can you, O God, really live on earth among men and women? Not even all of heaven is large enough to hold you, so how can this Temple that I have built be large enough? 19 LORD my God, I am your servant. Listen to my prayer and grant the requests I make to you. 20 Watch over this Temple day and night. You have promised that this is where you will be worshiped, so hear me when I face this Temple and pray. 21 Hear my prayers and the prayers of your people Israel when they face this place and pray. In your home in heaven hear us and forgive us. 2 Chronicles 6:18-21 (TEV)
32 ”When foreigners who live in a distant land hear how great and powerful you are and how you are always ready to act, and then they come to pray at this Temple, 33 listen to their prayers. In heaven, where you live, hear them and do what they ask you to do, so that all the peoples of the world may know you and obey you, as your people Israel do. Then they will know that this Temple I have built is where you are to be worshiped. 2 Chronicles 6:32-33 (TEV)
658 We should make no mistake… God is no shadowy or distant being who created us then abandoned us; nor is he a master who goes away and does not return. Though we do not perceive him with our senses, his existence is far more true than any of the realities which we touch and see. God is here with us, really present, living. He sees and hears us, He guides us, and knows our smallest deeds, our most hidden intentions. We believe this—but we live as if God did not exist. For we do not have a thought or a word for him; for we do not obey him, nor try to control our passions; for we do not show that we love him, and we do not atone… Are we going to continue living with a dead faith”? (1)
“After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.” (2)
Tomorrow we start a new year in the church. I would ask that for a moment, like “secular” new years, we think about our lives as those who facilitate the worship of the people of God. (Both those who know they are, and those who will come to know they are in this year)
Tomorrow is also the first Sunday of Advent or the Parousia, that season we spend trying to understand the desire of the peope of God for the Messiah to come, for the promises to be fulfilled, for God to dwell among us. We do this, so that we too can desire God’s presence and His return. That is why the ancient church cried out “Maranatha!” the cry of Come Lord Jesus!
There are days, especially in this last year, where I admit I was crying this out for the wrong reason, And perhaps, leading my people to cry this out for the wrong reason as well.
You see, I cried it out because things were rough, because I was in mourning, or in despair. Where I wanted the suffering of people around me to end, Not that we would die, but that we would be rescued from this place, and brought into the presence of God in Heaven, where there is no more sorrow, no more tears, no more cancer, no more death. I wanted us all to be rescued from this life, and brought into the joy, the glory, the peace of God that we shall know for eternity. We have endured a lot these last few years…have had to minister to each other, with seemingly no break. We need rest and healing and a time to breath in deeply, and know the message of Christmas, that God is with us.
Something we already know… sort of.
And that is where the challenge for this New Church Year is going to be found.
Making the experience people have when they come to our churches have be one where they are sure Christ is with them.
Where it’s not about us, where we don’t go through the motions, where we don’t block people’s reception of God’s presence because of our poor-formance (misspelling intentional)
Look at the readings from the Dedication of Solomon’s temple above, there is an assurance in Solomon’s words that they are in the very presence of God. All of Israel, gathered there, assured of His love and that nothing can spearate them from His love. That strangers, people who don’t even know who God is except for his title, would be able to come and know that this place, this altar, where we stand, is where God has gathered them as well.
For the sake of our people – this article isn’t about worship styles, traditional Liturgy, or contemporary. It’s about us, you and I, and how we approach this blessed time we share with the people of God. The time were our voices, our body language, our intimate reverence and joy betray to our people that we KNOW we are in the presence of God the Creator, That He is here. I would desires that our readings are filled with awe, realizing that this is what God has thought through and inspired so His love is revealed to His people. That the readings are also clear, and done in a language and manner that doesn’t require a dictionary to understand. That our prayers, whether pre-written or from the heart, assist them in laying every burden down at His feet, entrusting them to Him, as He desires. That every spoken word be such that thy know this is something we do, but something that is our life. That our music and the way it is played isn’t about leaving them in awe of our talents and voices, but lead them voicing their awe at the God who loves them so much, that for the joy of revealing this to them, endured the cross and all its sufferings. The God that welcomes them and draws them to Him, broken, sinful, needy, that He might heal and comfort, cleanse and encourage.
That every person, whether life-long church goer, or first time guest of God, encounter Christ.
That’s what our ceremonies are designed to teach, whether liturgical or common, whether accompanied by majestic pipe organs, or simple strings, or even acapella.
That’s what makes the difference in our lives, in the expression of our trust in God.
KNowing He is here.
Desiring Christ’s last return, not just to escape the pains of this world.. but because we will see Him, the God who loves us, face to face. That the glory we now see hints of, as we see one baptized, or receive Christ’s Body and Blood, as we see the prodigal welcomed home, and the joy of all in celebrating it, that we would see that joy, that glory in its fullness.
In His presence.
So here is the challenge, as you enter the church tomorrow. Breathe deeply, let your nerves calm down, your burdens be dropped, His joy lift you high. For we dwell, as Solomon did that day, in the very presence of God.
The God who has had mercy on us, who has come to us, and in whose presence we live.
Then, as our people see this, may they know and be assured that and rejoice they dwell in Christ as well!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2759-2766). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.(1)
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Augsburg Confession. Article XXIV (p. 56) . Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
- An Impressive Resume (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Is it insane to keep doing/teaching/preaching the same thing over and over, and expecting… (justifiedandsinner.com)
- “We’ll get together then, God. You know we’ll have a good time then! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (joshuareich.org)
Devotional Thought of the day>
1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and because he is coming to rule as King, I solemnly urge you 2 to preach the message, to insist upon proclaiming it (whether the time is right or not), to convince, reproach, and encourage, as you teach with all patience. 3 The time will come when people will not listen to sound doctrine, but will follow their own desires and will collect for themselves more and more teachers who will tell them what they are itching to hear. 4 They will turn away from listening to the truth and give their attention to legends. 5 But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances; endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the Good News, and perform your whole duty as a servant of God. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (TEV)
\573 Please don’t abandon the task, don’t deviate from the way, even though you have to live with people who are full of prejudices: as if you thought the basis of arguments or the meaning of words were fixed by their behaviour or by their assertions. Do try to get them to understand you… but if you don’t manage it, carry on anyway. (1)
There is a point in minsitry that occurs when you realizing you are bashing your head against the wall.
An example – someone comes to you looking for spiritual guidance, and you offer it, and they go – thanks, and then going back to the same behavior that caused them to come to you in the first place.
Or someone who saks you to help them understand a Bible passage, you take the time to work it through with them, and then watch them return to the confusion, only to ask the same question in a similar manner a few weeks down the road.
It has been said that insanity can be defined by doing the same thing repeatedly, but hoping for a different outcome. In this case, many pastors, priests, teachers, counselors are not just simply insance, but completely insane.
There see to be two options to this insanity, first – keep doing the work in the same way, but give up caring about the results, or second, change things regularly, looking for the precise combination that will work in your community, in your parish, in your classroom. Sometimes we even bounce betwen the two, depending on who we last heard that appears to be successful, that appears to at least give an answer to our dilemna.
This glass half full/half open pendulum, and the second guessing and thinking that our “return on inventment” must result in a immediate reult that is satifactory dominates our churches. We are blown about by winds of, not of doctrine, but of some definitions and measurements of “faithfulness” and “success.”. We are hurt because we get into these fields beause we desire to change the world, and would like to at least change some lives. We know the answer is Jesus, (as does every pre-schooler !) we know where people will find the answers, we are trained to give them both clearly and in a way that should appeal to people.
And then we wonder if they will ever hear us…
And eventually we wonder if we are insane (in the sense above) or we act on the lack of success and desperately try new ways. Even to the point where we don’t give them time to see if they will work.
The nearly identical advice is seen above, ( I saw St. Josemaria’s first – my Bible devotional reading was somewhere else ). Our endurance in the midst of our preaching, teaching, counseling is not based on their changed lives. It’s not about “faithfully” doing it by dialing it in either. It is about realizing our role is to give the message, Because Jesus is coming back, and that is news that is incredible to anyone who trusts in Him, and if they don’t hear it, they won’t be able to trust in it.
Days preaching and teaching and counsling aren’t supposed to be easy, they often demand great sacrfiice, it often requires us to carry on, to keep looking at Christ and realizing the treasure that they need. Ministry and teaching and cousneling isn’t about our strength, its about the glory of God in which we work, sustaining us, encuraging, helping us endure, and driving us when needed. We are going to have to suffer in this role. Not just because of persecution, but because of those who do not hear the message, who we weep for, even as Christ weeped over Jerusalem. We need to realize that this struggle is okay.
That’s the example we have in Christ, and in our Father in Heaven. They have kept calling us, hounding us even though the results haven’t been all that spectacularly different. We still sin, we still forget about God, we still struggle, then repent, then worship. And still God loves and calls, and forgives and comforts and is here with us. He doesn’t change.. He never will… although the results can’t be seen b y us yet, He knows them, and dances with joy as He realizes those who trust in Him, who treasure His love.
In Him, we find the strength and the patience to avoid the insanity of reacting to what the world things is insane. So let us keep our eyes on HIm, He who begins faith and completes it is us, and in those who hear our message.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2448-2452). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- WE WERE ROBBED! yeah…so? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Will God hear even me today, in this mood I am in? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Have you been neglecting yourself? (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 ”Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. 9 You have six days in which to do your work, 10 but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to me. On that day no one is to work—neither you, your children, your slaves, your animals, nor the foreigners who live in your country. Exodus 20:8-10 (TEV)
552 It would be bad if you were to waste your time, which is not yours but God’s and is meant for His glory. But if on top of that you make others waste it, you both diminish your own standing and defraud God of more of the glory you owe Him. (1)
There is a song that was once a faovrite of mine, perhaps not so much these days because of the reality of it in life.
Written by Harry Chapin, it tells the story of a dad and his son, who thought they would desire to spend tie together, don’t. Life and work gets in the way. And the father who said, “not today”, in his old age hears the same phrase back, “not today”. It looks forward to the day when “we’ll get together then, you know we’ll have a
good time, then”
In this life, there will be no more “then’s” for me and my dad, there will be them for my son, and trying to keep that all in balance with the demands of being a servant to the people of God is a challenge. There are those that say the pastor’s family must always come first. A noble idea, but an impossibility, if we take our ordination vows seriously. There are those who use those same vows as an escape from the family, mismanaging their time. There has to be wisdom, and yes sacrifice. And in even in that balance, there will be pain to be born. Someone will have to hear “then”, and it will hurt to hear it, and hurt to say it.
This blog isn’t about those “then’s”, but rather the one’s we say to God.
God, I’m running late this morning – I’ll spend time with you later.
God, there’s a family event, I need to be at. I’ll be at church next week.
God, we’ll have a good time together, “then”!
The tragedy is great, this neglecting of relationship. Not just for us, even as we so need God’s presence in our lives. For life is a challenge, there are hurts and betrayals, sins and disasters, and we often need his comfort. Hard as it is to imagine, our neglect of our relationship with God is hard for God as well. You see it in God’s word’s to Hosea, as God explains the hurt as Israel prostitutes herself to false idols. You hear it in Jesus voice, as he cries over Jerusalem, explaining how he longed to comfort them as a mother hen comforts and protects her children. That’s the idea of a relationship – to spend time together, and the time lost… is time where love isn’t expressed, time where we drift apart.
There is another line in the song, the words of the song where the son says, “I’m gonna be just like you dad…”
And I pray, that with God, that line is true. That we will look to our Abba Father in Heaven, and we will grow up to love Him in the way He loves us. That we will appreciate our time with Him, the way He desires to spend it with us.
Not just in heaven,but now. Hear His promises,
“You will be my people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36:28 (TEV)
“and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (TEV)
“Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; ” 1 Corinthians 6:19 (TEV)
Writing about our time with God is hard, because no matter how hard I try, it sounds like law, it sounds like, well discipline. I still struggle with calling prayer and bible study and such benefits -spiritual discipines – because that makes it sound like tasks and obligations, rather than the good time we have, when we understand that God is here… that God is with us. But how we encourage each other to live aware of His presence, aware of His love and comfort, of His guidance. I Know that’s how Escriva’s words sound at first, yet I also realize that they come from a person who knows God’s presence, and knows how desperately we need to remain aware of His presence. Yeah – it’s that powerful, that life changing. That everything.
Prayer not just as a formal matter, but as our time with our Dad… where we admit that He’s gotta handle the things which we can’t, where we rejoice as He fixes and heals, as He shares with us His work in recreating this world. As He brings us together to encourage each other, to celebrate His love. To realize that this God did come to us, and is here with us… even this very moment.
Such is the nature of this joy, that we need to realize what it’s cost us to overlook it. Like Harry Chapin’s song is supposed to help us dad’s, and our sons.
Lord, have mercy on us, and help us to grow up just like Jesus.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2370-2372). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- WE WERE ROBBED! yeah…so? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Will God hear even me today, in this mood I am in? (justifiedandsinner.com)
That’s an Impressive Resume!
† Jesus, Son, Deliverer †
May we realize and reveal the depth of God’s grace, that mercy and love He pours out on us, until the day He returns for us.
We’re Looking for a Good Man
Well, here we are, at the end of another church year.
We’ve endured a lot this year, as we have in year’s past. We’ve endured because of God’s work in our midst, without which I don’t think we would have survived.
We’ve also had a number of great moments, like the baptisms, the weddings and the Combined services Sunday, and every week that we’ve knelt at this altar together, and received the blessings of Christ’s Body and Blood. They are great moments, not just because we are together, but because we’ve been brought together in the presence of God Almighty, who brings us together in those moments.
As we go into the next church year, as the weeks of advent lead to Christmas, and Ash Wednesday is followed by Lent and Easter and Pentecost, as we endure the summer months, we have to know that the one person that completes our community is here. The person that can bring it altogether, that will lead us as we try to change the world, by bringing it to the cross. He is necessary if we are to change our community by bringing it healing where it is broken, He will always be the only irreplaceable person at Concordia.
We must remember as well where to find Him at work and at home (especially those recently retired!) so that we can follow His lead.
Our epistle this morning presents His resume, His qualifications, this Son of God, this One who existed before all creation, this Man through all things were created and in whom they are created. This One who is the Alpha and Omega, who carries not just a team on His back, but all of creation.
Of all of this, what makes Him so essential to us here at Concordia, to ministry here in Cerritos and in each of our homes and workplaces,
So let us see why Jesus is qualified to be “the” person here. Why we need Him to be our… auditor.
Some messed up books
Someone made the comment this week, that 50 years ago a president gave an order to send a man to the moon, and it was done. Another president has given a order to create a web-based program to help people choose insurance, and they cannot. I thought it ironic, because all of the computers in Houston 50 years ago couldn’t add up to the power of my tablet computer, maybe even my phone today.
The person we have to depend on here at Concordia has a slightly larger job. To track the sins of at least 15 billion people, and give an accounting for them. To keep a set of books that are accurate not to 99.999999 percent – but perfectly.
If I make a rough estimate that the average age of a person in history is 50, that means tracking 2 quintrillion 190 quadrillion sins (190,000,000,000,000,000) That’s a lot of bookkeeping!
That weight of sin is incredible, the amount of damage we have done to each other, and to ourselves. It’s a mess that cannot be hidden, it can’t be ignored. Society has for too long been narcissistic, it has too long encouraged sin, it has too long said that to challenge sin is something we shouldn’t do, because it’s none of our damned business. Yet the brokenness is there. You see it in the commercials like I saw that night, where a man who was getting engaged bought a necklace for his fiancé’s daughter. Are broken marriages that common that we market to the kids of them now?
Yet these broken lives that are the result of sin, that is our business. We’ve been sent to bring them Christ’s healing! To help heal the relationships that the world would rather justify walking away from, as if somehow they can escape the pain.
We can’t, and neither can we deal with it on our own… we need someone with, as they say today, skillz. Someone we trust
So we need the ultimate accountant/reconciler
There is some incredible theology in this passage of Colossians, As Jesus is described in the second paragraph, the incredible majesty and glory is described in language that should leave us in awe. That is not where Christ’s qualifications to fix everything are best shown.
The part I would draw you attention to is in the first and third paragraphs, and in the last line of the second.
There we find accounting language, the language of books and audits, profit and loss, the language of running the fiscal operations of a major business, or a kingdom. Consider these phrases,
He “re-established” us! Where we were a liability, in the red in debt and under the power of darkness, He re-established us, put us in another column – as assets of the Kingdom of heaven1
He redeemed us, purchasing our debt of sin and cancelling it – dismissed the debt – wrote it off.
He reconciled everything (not just us) within Himself.
He restored the books to their proper manner – everything balancing out, everything in good order. Repeatedly in this passage are words related to the word for place. Moving us from one column to another, sending that which was our sin to a place far away from us. He restores us and reveals us to be not just something God values but treasures, as we are God treasured children. Something He treasured so much that Christ would give everything He had to make us the Father’s children, to restore in us the very image of God in which we are created.
And how he does it…
What is so amazing, is that Jesus, in maintaining the books of heaven, in judging who performs the audits, does so in a way that is well unconventional. He doesn’t consider the value or the cost, he doesn’t care if our “red ink” was 200 or 400 thousand sin.
He doesn’t just ignore the debt, or write it off and declare bankruptcy. He doesn’t handle it with analytical precision, but by drawing us into to His own death, His blood covering all of the sin completely. His blood cleansing us, reconciling us, purchasing us, moving us from being a liability, a mark in the power of darkness, and re-establishing us in the kingdom of God as a asset, as a valued treasure.
As it say in the last verse – we are set apart as His – made His alone, for that is the definition of Holiness, and beyond censure, we are without a single fault to be called upon.
That’s the way God does accounting, embracing us with all of our debt, bringing us back in Christ, That’s why there is the picture that there is on the front cover – with Jesus embracing a man who cannot go any further, who cannot bring himself to the cross.
For that, beyond everything else Christ is, is what amazes me the most. That He comes to us, that He reconciles us, that He pulls us into Himself, and carries our burdens, the things that cause us anxieties, our sins, and our very lives.
That is why Jesus is essential to our work here, no matter who pastors our congregations, no matter who our elders are, no matter who comes and sits in the pews, no matter how great the sin is.
We are gathered here by Him, even as He will on the last day, the day which the last Sunday of the Church year focuses. It is the reason we bow and worship, why we glorify Him.
It’s the reason this place, is His place, where our voices praise His name, where He pours out His gifts on us….It’s the reason He is our irreplaceable person, this Chief Reconciliation Officer, this Lord, this Savior, this King of Kings!
Where He makes us at home, in His peace. AMEN!