Repentance! It’s the word and topic of all of the Scripture readings for this Sunday. It means to turn, away from sin and toward God. So it includes the confession of sin, and faith in God and the forgiveness of sins He gives to all.
But let’s keep in mind a couple of things:
…“when you were dead in sin, God made you alive” (Col 2:13)
And so as we read in the meaning to the 3rd Article of the Creed, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel…”
As the prodigal son turned toward home after his going astray; it was remembering what he had when with his father that caused him to “come to his senses” and return home. And it was his father who was waiting, looking, and ran toward his son, hugging him and celebrating with him!
So I invite you to join me in repentance! Turning to the Living and Loving and Always Merciful and Gracious God! He will receive your repentance. Indeed, He is working this repentance in our hearts and minds even as we read this.
Happy Advent!! As we prepare for the Advent of our King, turning toward Him and looking for His presence in our lives, now and forever!
This Sunday we enter into the season of Advent. Advent means: coming, arrival. And in the Church it refers to the coming of Christ. Christ comes to us…..
So as we read in this Sunday’s Gospel reading, “they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 13;26) As we see in the context and in these words themselves, this refers to Christ’s return on the Last Day.
Often connected to this coming Christ are the fears of God’s wrath and judgment. And the Scriptures include words that speak of God’s wrath and that can fill us with fear. Unless…
Unless, God decides to NOT bring His wrath and judgment upon us. And that is exactly what the Advent of Christ is telling us:
He came as a Baby to live among us and as our Savior
He comes to dwell with us and in us through the waters of baptism and in faith.
He returns to receive us into His glorious presence forever.
And so the Advent of Christ is filled with God’s grace and love and mercy. Fear is replaced with faith and hope and joy!
It’s like a parent telling a child that she/he would not have food or shelter or protection without the love and care of a parent. But the parent is holding the child, fixing supper, and standing in the warm house that has been provided for all the family. So the child need not fear; rather she/he can be glad that they have those who love and care for them.
Just as you and I have the God who saves us from the powers of sin, death and the devil. And He is with us always. So we need not fear; rather trust and rejoice in the God who loves and cares for us always.
"Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For the Lord is our God, and we are the people of God's pasture and the sheep of God's hand." (Psalm 95:6-7)
Overwhelmed! Overworked! Stressed!! Anxious!!! It's too much!!!!
Have you ever felt that way? Experienced what you just read? Of course you and I have. Maybe even daily at some point...with everything happening in our personal and family lives, at work, in our nation and world, and now we've got a big Thanksgiving dinner to prepare, a house to clean, and still energy to deal with all of those difficult family situations. I know, why did I have to bring it all up? When all I wanted was to have a peaceful moment of devotion and prayer.
So let's do that. In the midst of everything going on and yet to come in each of our lives...let's stop!
And "worship and bow down". As we just think and pray to "the Lord our maker"
"The Lord our God" And we are His people, “the sheep of God's Hand."
For right now, we don't have to worry about anything. We don't have to even think about anything other than God as our Shepherd who loves and cares and protects us.
I like a picture I've seen of a guy and his dog, sitting on a bench, looking over a big landscape, and the thinking bubbles of the man show that he is thinking about..."his job, his finances, his, health, his family, his friends, his future"...all kinds of different challenges and problems that he has.
And then you see the thinking bubbles of the dog sitting next to him, and every one of the dog's thoughts, are, "I'm with him", "I'm with him” “I'm with him", "I'm with him", etc.
Maybe you and I are trying to be more like the Shepherd, rather than His sheep. God will bless us, He will guide us, He will strengthen us, He will love us and give us grace. All we have to do is know we are with Him!
Why? Do you remember hearing that question from the 5 year old, as he or she is watching you rake leaves, sweep the garage, vacuum your carpeting, or whatever you are doing?
“Whatcha doing Dad?”
“Why are you doing that?”
And that kind of conversation can go on for quite a while…longer than you or I probably want it to go. And it usually ends with something like,
“Because I want to…Just because…”
“How about we go get some ice cream?” (my way of stopping the incessant questions, but of course, it reinforces the child’s questioning, and so you’ll hear them even more :)
So this upcoming Sunday we will be celebrating Thanksgiving at Resurrection. And of course it will continue all through the week, at least through Thursday, Thanksgiving Day.
So let me play the role of the 5 year old: “Why?” “Why are you doing Thanksgiving? Why do you always say “Thank you!”
Here’s how the Scripture readings for this Sunday answer this question:
We all have the “faith and love…the hope of salvation…God has destined us not for wrath (as we read in this Sunday’s first reading from Zephaniah 1) but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore, encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8-10
And as this Sunday’s Gospel Reading tells us, “we will have an abundance”!!
For God is the God of abundant love, grace, and mercy, giving all of us eternal salvation!!
How will you answer the question, “Why celebrate Thanksgiving?” Please share an answer in the “COMMENT” space under this blog.
And as we continue to hear the questions, “Why?...”, may you and I enjoy some turkey and pie, and football (and maybe even some ice cream :)
Have you checked your oil lately? I’m old enough to remember when gas stations had people who would offer to check your oil when stopping for gas. I worked at a gas station when I was young, and that was a question I always asked.
Evidently oil and gaskets and machines are much better than years ago. It seems we rarely need to add oil to our cars and lawn mowers, etc. But they still need oil to run!
Likewise, we don’t have many lights that require oil. Maybe an antique oil lamp, or a torch for backyard lighting and insect repellent. Now it’s all about rechargeable batteries, electricity, and whether we have a good connection to the source of power. But again, we need that source of light and power!
Either way, Jesus is making a point in the parable He shares in this Sunday’s Gospel reading. We need the “oil”, the fuel, the energy, the stuff that keeps things running. And Jesus puts this need for oil to keep the lights on in the context of waiting. Which for us is waiting for the return of Christ on the Last Day. And Jesus specifically cautions us that no one knows when that will be; we just need to be ready.
The oil and light that keeps us ready for the return of Christ is the faith, hope and love that we have from God. Yes, from God! God provides us with all we need to be ready for Christ’s 2nd Coming. He gave us His Son to give us salvation. The Holy Spirit works faith and life in Christ.
If you look closely at the Parable in Matthew 25:1-13, it doesn’t say where the oil came from when the 10 were sent out. But I suggest it was provided by the one who sent out the 10 bridesmaids. Yes, the foolish were told to go and buy their oil. But that is only after it was already provided for them.
God provides us with all need for this life, while waiting for the end of time. And no one can buy what we all need: faith and hope and love. God gives it all to us! In His Word and Sacraments, where the Holy Spirit will be working in and through us.
Have you checked your oil lately? Do you need more? Then go to God and you will find all you need for the faith and life we have in Christ.
In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, we hear this word repeated nine times. Here in Matthew 5, Jesus begins His sermon on the mount, and we call these opening words, “The Beatitudes”, meaning “declarations of blessedness”.
The word “blessed” means more than “happy”. Happiness is an emotion often dependent on outward circumstances. Whereas blessed is a well-being and joy that is based on the grace and love that God has for us. And God’s grace and love comes to us, not because we deserve it or have done anything to earn it. Rather, it is in the nature and actions of God that brings us into a state of blessedness. And this is most evident in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our salvation.
And so we are blessed no matter what the outward circumstances are in our lives or world. Jesus describes those who are blessed in a variety of ways, from people who are poor in spirit and who mourn, to those who are merciful, pure in heart, to those who are persecuted. Yet in each and every one of these circumstances, you are blessed!
As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:38-39, “neither death nor life, neither angel nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I may not know what you are experiencing in your life today, whether it is grief, anxieties, trials, or having a wonderful day. But this I know: you are blessed! Through the grace and love that God in Christ has for each and every one of you!
“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
These words of Scripture are referring to the new life we have in Christ, given to us through the life, death and resurrection of our Savior and Lord. And in Baptism we receive this gift and can be daily renewed in the new life we have in Christ.
I would like to point out a couple of parts of this “new life in Christ” that we have happening at Resurrection Church.
Of course, the new life spoken of in Scripture is more than just what we as a congregation experience. We each have personal experiences of all that God in Christ brings to us. So may we live as the Psalmist declares,
This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:24)
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble…Nations are in uproar…He makes wars cease…Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:1,6,9,10)
This past week we all heard about the war between Israel and Palestine. There is continuing warfare in Ukraine and Russia. We know of all kinds of conflict and violence in our nation. And all of this on time of a history of “wars and rumors of war” (Matthew 24:6)
Recently I have been reading books about the wars and violence in history. From a book about the Civil War, to books and a miniseries on World War II, to books and conversations about racism and its violence and murders of people because of their race.
The Scriptures also include accounts of violence and war. The Psalmist recognize this conflict, and also tells that God “makes wars cease.” Jesus tells us we will have “wars and rumors of war…Such things must happen, but the end is still to come” (Matthew 24:6)
So what are we to do about all of this? What can we do? Here are three things we all can do:
We pray: “God, our refuge and strength, you have bound us together in a common life. In all conflicts, help us to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, to listen for your voice amid competing claims, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 76).
“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine--the best of meats and the finest of wines.,” (Isaiah 25:6 NIV)
Since I will be on vacation next week, I thought I would focus this blog on the First Reading for October 15. And I love commenting on this verse, a favorite of mine, with the words “best of meats and the finest of wines”. All a part of the feast that Isaiah is referring to.
I love a good steak, or a thick pork chop, and of course: bacon! Especially when the steak or pork chop are grilled to perfection on a grill, and the bacon is thick!
But here’s the best part of this word picture: The Lord is the one preparing and serving this feast! I mean, I pride myself in knowing how to grill a fine ribeye or inch thick pork chop, or fry that delicious bacon.
But I will gladly step aside and allow my Lord to do all of this in absolutely the best way possible! For the Creator and Lord certainly knows how to do all things right and well.
(even though I most appreciate my steak prepared only medium rare, but I am sure the Lord knows that 🙂
So when is the Lord doing all of this for us (preparing and serving a feast to us)? The obvious answer is in heaven. Except the Scriptures tell us that even now we have eternal life (John 6:47). For the Lord of the Kingdom is right now with you, dwelling within you, leading you and blessing you all through life. So enjoy the feast every day!
And if my Lord and Savior does all of this for me, how does this impact how I treat others? Surely I too can love and serve one another, gladly in response to God’s abundant grace and love for all of us.
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting hungry! So let’s enjoy together the feast of the Lord!
“In you O Lord I take refuge; let me never be put to shame…. Be to me a rock of refuge… For you, O Lord, are my hope
Some of my favorite Scripture passages are in the Psalms. Psalm 23, 46, 71, 100, 121, are just some of my favorites. The Psalms are often described as the hymnal and prayer book of the people of God. I’ve also heard the Psalms described as containing all the emotions and responses that any person can have, including toward God. So we see in the Psalm words of repentance, faith, doubts, confusion, frustrations, anger, even unbelief.
But here’s the thing: if we bring all these thoughts and emotions to God, then we are bringing them to the right place. Because God is certainly big enough to hear all our problems and complaints, and yet still love and guide and bless us.
I like comparing our relationship to God to a young child and her/his parents. Just as a young child can cry and run away from a parent, so can we do the same with God. Just as a parent loves and will care for and protect and discipline their child, so does God with each and every one of us.
Sometimes I hear people complain about a passage of Scripture which includes anger, conflict, even violence between God and people. And certainly all of this is included in the Psalms.
But now compare this to a good relationship, such as between a loving and caring parent and their child.. There still will be times of anger and conflict. Yet always there is love and trust in one another. If a person disobeys good authority, discipline and direction will be given. If my child or grandchild runs toward a busy street, or reaches to touch a hot stove, I will yell and stop that child from hurting him/herself. Or if someone or something tries to harm my family, I will use whatever means necessary to protect them. Yet always I will try to do so with love and care for all people involved. How much more so is God toward all of His creation!
So as we read the Scriptures, including the Psalms, let us always remember the over-arching love and grace of God, as most evident in God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. We may not understand every action of God, as described in Scripture. But then, a young child doesn’t understand every action of a parent. In the end, all we need to know is that God is almighty, and the God of love, who reaches out to each and every one of us with His grace and mercy.