For Lent Let’s give up being Drama Queens

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Nothing worse than a drama queen right? like a train wreck we slow down our cars to watch them on reality t.v., hollywood award shows, or perhaps we get to enjoy a live show at work or on campus. they wear their emotions on their sleeve. well i suppose its just one emotion. they are upset and they want to make sure everyone knows. In fact the dirty little secret is that they like being upset!

I love Ash Wednesday and i love Lent, yet how quickly we can make the season a melodramatic t.v. miniseries! It begins with ashes on our foreheads as we walk out of church and are greeted by so and so at the gas pump or our neighbor at the grocery. Look at me with my ashes! i’m reallllllly sorrrrry. i’m succcchhhh a sinnnnner. I remember one member telling me with shock how someone asked him what was on his forehead. “they didn’t even know what it was pastor! can you believe it?!” he exclaimed. Of course he either didn’t explain it to the innocent bystander or he simply said, “well its for ash wednesday! haven’t you ever heard of it?!”

If you get your ash in church this wednesday please wipe it off when you leave the building unless you plan on sharing its meaning and Good news of Jesus with everyone who sees you! Don’t just be a drama queen, parading your sorrow for all to see.

And then of course there is the helpful discipline of fasting and abstaining. I’m a big fan of both. Yet these spiritual disciplines can quickly turn into someone moaning about her desire for a Latte but of course, “i gave that up,” as she announces her piety to the room. Soon everyone is sharing what they did or did not give up and how hard it is. Ok Cinderellas.

Ah but i recently discovered my own drama queen tendencies! I’ve noticed that i love to tell God how sorry i am! I have been apologizing to God for something i did a little while ago. I’ve been so upset by it. At night time i cry out, “i’m sorry please forgive me.” on my 6 mile run i get frustrated and repeat over and over, “Lord have mercy.” Sounds good right. A broken and contrite heart o lord you will not despise!? Well don’t let me fool you. Ive been acting like a drama queen! My old adam bought into the false religion that somehow if i keep saying i’m sorry with emotion and desperation God will forgive me. no, actually i think that by saying it enough and being upset by it enough i’ll make up for it somehow. hell, i don’t even care if he forgives me, i just like to make a big show about it! Drama Queen! I am forgiven by the blood of Christ period! its done. shut up about it! stop going on and on. I screwed up. I’m forgiven. move on.

This Lent don’t concentrate on how much of a show you can make of your unworthiness, your sorrow and contriteness. you aren’t kidding anyone let alone God. yeah, you have really screwed up! With a word Christ forgives you! period. Not because you said you are sorry or because you demonstrated a degree of sorrow, but because He loves you!

Our Lord is no drama queen. we are given really no details of his Passion if you think about it. He didn’t moan and groan about how much we were hurting Him. He didn’t prolong his pain to make us feel really guilty. He was quiet and to the point. It is finished! He gave up His Spirit. That’s that! In a moment all of our sins were paid for!

If you are going to go on and on about something for all the world to see, how about going on and on about God’s mercy in Jesus Christ!

Jesus; the better Groundhog

“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
  According to Your word;  
       For my eyes have seen Your salvation,  Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,   
       A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, 
 And the glory of Your people Israel.”

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       It is not a coincidence that Groundhog day is the same day as the day the church celebrates the Presentation of our Lord. Both days are about hope and life, the end of darkness and cold, the beginning of light and warmth. Ground hog day is a day of looking forward to the end of winter and the coming of Spring. The Presentation of our Lord is a day of remembering how the appearance of a greater hero,Jesus, ended darkness and despair; and began the reign of Light and Life forevermore!

Ground hog day has its origins in a pagan day of importance called Imbolc. This was especially popular on continental Europe. On that day, February 2, it was believed that if the Sun was out, winter would be prolonged. And if it was cloudy, spring was right around the corner. While winter seems to rub many of us the wrong way, I’m not sure we so desperately desire its end as much as people did 1000 years ago or even a hundred years ago. After all, until recently one did not have immediate access to food and comfort all year around. Also, people back then did not have the drugs for common diseases as we have. Therefore much preparation went into winter living. Food had to be stored. Wood needed to be chopped and kept dry. Winter could be enjoyed, but not for long. And it was especially hard on the weak, young and old. This was a time of catching diseases. It was a time of being inside which means disease is easily spread. Many a rough winter wiped out our first colonies in America.

So you can imagine people looking desperately toward warmer temperatures and sprouting plants. The food was running out. The fuel for the fire was dwindling. The newborn babe was shivering and had caught a cold. How awfully exciting and comforting it was back then when the days became warmer and the sun stayed out longer and buds of life peaked out from the cold and muddy ground. Ground hog day was not just a cute holiday but it was about LIFE and DEATH! Spring couldn’t come too soon.

God tells us that the world is living in a dismal season much like winter. Indeed all the world had been put into this season of death and darkness since Adam disobeyed God and grasped for power in the once green garden. And just as snow and cold are the characteristics of winter; death, destruction, division, and despair are the characteristics of the season of this world. All the results of humans sinning, you and me!

This was the desperate season in which lived our relatives in Christ, Mary, Joseph, Simeon and Anna. Mary felt the pain of this spiritual winter when she bore her first born in the lowly stable. And as are most births, unclean blood preceded and succeeded her messy delivery. Indeed that it is why she had come to the temple that day; she had to wait the ordered 40 days of purity until she could be considered clean and be around other people. Her days of separation were concluded at the temple where she came with her firstborn son to do what every good jew did as commanded by God; to present their child to the Lord in thanksgiving for preserving their life. The new couple also came to give two doves for a sacrifice; one for thanksgiving, the other for atonement for the mother’s sins; for her purity! You see a major characteristic of the sinful season was the blood that always flowed from the altars in Israel! Blood for blood. Death for death. An animal’s death in place of a sinner’s death. Mercy and forgiveness with a price!

Yet in the midst of this dark season. Amidst the muddy streets and cold hearts, and lonely eyes, a green sprout appeared! While mary and joseph came to present their miracle baby to God, God in fact presented His Son to the world, specifically the patient adam and eve; Simeon and Anna! While mary and Joseph came to complete the sacrifices necessary for their purification and cleanness before God, God presented His son who would be the FINAL SACRIFICE for the true and complete purity of all sinners! The end of death had arrived! The end of darkness was at hand. The end of mourning and sorrow, of doubt and despair, of waiting, of waiting, of waiting was ENDED!

Simeon had seen the ravages of winter wreck his world for sure. He had seen Israel endure destruction by her dishonest rulers and adulterous children. He had surely seen death take many members of his family. He had surely seen sin separate people; and indeed wreck havoc in his own life. He had surely seen young children die, poor people starve, and many people suffer grotesque diseases and catastrophes. He had seen Satan hold the world hostage in a winter season that had no end! But God had told him to come on this ground hog day, to see the end of winter and the beginning of LIFE!

So when He saw this green bud, named Jesus, he passionately proclaimed, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
  According to Your word;  For my eyes have  seen Your salvation,   
 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,  A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES,
  And the glory of Your people Israel.”

Half were words he put together. Half were words he had known since he was just a young child when He first learned from Isaiah of the savior who was to come! NOW, Simeon says! NOW, God declares! NOW the sun has arisen. NOW Life has begun. NOW Death has met its match. NOW The Devil is conquered!

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We live in that NOW today! Yours eyes have also seen that salvation! And your ears have received the GOOD NEWS! And your hearts have been given the spirit of God and forgiveness for all your misdeeds! Jesus the green blade of life laid down his life like those two turtledoves and received once and for all the wrath meant for all sinners, you and me!
But sometimes we are confused, aren’t we? it so often seems to be so dark outside. Not spring like at all. Many of our Christian brothers and sisters have suffered the ills of the season. Cancer has taken the life of not just an older friend but a young one even! The superficial worries of this world may have claimed a friend of yours who once was so active in the church!

And the darkness… the darkness sometimes strangles our hope and faith. Late at night we sometimes stay up burdened by our terrible sins. Terrible deeds we have done against God, against others, even against our loved ones, even against our own body. Oh we fall down don’t we? Sometimes we would rather live in the darkness away from the light of Christ, alone in our sins. Sometimes we let the dark ways of the world invade our life and our relationships with even our brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes we cry out differently than Simeon saying, “ WHERE IS THE PEACE! WHERE IS THE GLORIOUS GREEN LIFE IN CHRIST! WHERE IS THE SPRING?

We live in two seasons my friends; A dark winter that is passing; A bright Spring that has already begun. But the spring is hidden as it is today in our gardens. Tubers and bulbs beneath the earth appear dead to the eye. Yet they hold in them life none the less that will soon bloom. So it is with those in Christ. When you have been captured by your Lord, you have been hidden with Him. Now we live by faith, then we shall live by sight!
It was the same with our Lord. Everywhere Jesus, that green blade of life; went, reversals of this doomed world followed. Everywhere His green and yellow shadow fell, a blind man was given sight. A deaf man could hear. A lame man could walk. A bleeding woman was clean. A dead man was RAISED! When he came and walked among us it was as if one looked out right now upon a muddy and cold field and there was a perfect oasis of green!
Yet the depravity of our condition had never been more evident as when those who have should rejoiced in His presence instead crushed him on the cross and buried him deep into the winter soil. Yet that greatest victory of Satan was turned into God’s victory and our salvation! For Christ’s terrible death gave you LIFE. Just as a seed must die for it to bloom. And that seed did bloom. It sprung up 3 days later and proclaimed the END of DEATH, the END of SATAN, the END of SIN for all those in Him.

And you too have been planted by the Holy Spirit! When you were baptized into Jesus you died with Him on the cross and are now dead to this WORLD. Yet in God’s eyes you have LIFE, LIFE THAT IS NOW! Yet you too are like those seemingly lifeless things, hidden to the perverted eye of the world. But you shall be revealed! On the last day when our Lord returns you too shall rise again just as He did!

That is our hope. But it is a hope that is fed and encouraged NOW by our gracious gardener and Shepherd; Jesus. That is the purpose of the Church. You who despair in sorrow. You who are tired of the dark world and your dark flesh always looming over you. You who are lonely and fearful. You who worry over your children. You who stay up late in sorrow over your sins. Come and be fed by the Lord of LIFE NOW. THE LORD OF LIGHT;. THE LORD OF FORGIVENESS AND PEACE! For here today He comes to you and He feeds you. For His Holy Supper is the supper of life and hope-for it is his very body and blood. And when you eat of it remembering His death is your life, you are given FORGIVENESS, FAITH, and LIFE. And I hope that you take Simeon’s words to heart today as you leave saying,

“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
  According to Your word; 
       For my eyes have seen Your salvation,   Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,   
      A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES,
  And the glory of Your people Israel.”

COME LORD JESUS

Stop eating like an animal

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‘whoever is slothful will not roast his game’ proverbs 12:27

what you do around food betrays what you think about yourself and the world, your weltanschauung as the germans like to say. As Solomon observed above, the fool can not wait to roast his catch. he just digs right in…like an animal. don’t be a fool.

The wise man, the civilized man, despises such base pragmatic practices at dinner time. He does not rush into it. He employs a variety of protocols and rituals; particularly played words and objects that accompany the meal. The table is set a certain way. there is a beginning and ending. hopefully a prayer or two precedes and concludes the meal. for the civilized man dinner is a ceremony of sorts. Dogs just stick their face in the dish and chow down as if their life depended on it. Dogs also growl when another dog draws near his food. for the dog, the food is everything. she may never be fed again. Do you look more like a dog or a human being when you eat?

In America we increasingly look more like dogs than civilized people when we chow down. We stuff our face with whatever is quick and easy as we hastily drive to work, type a blog post, or drag our family to the high school baseball game. it does not matter how we eat only ‘that we eat!’

Even when we sit down for a prepared meal, most of us have lost any ritual of utensil arrangement or litany of words. perhaps twice a year we pretend to be human beings; christmas and thanksgiving. at best we might say a prayer of 3 to 10 words.

It is no surprise we have degenerated into domesticated pets. Simple American pragmatism might be the biggest culprit. We aspire to do things as efficiently as possible. Efficiency has become the chief commandment of the modern American’s decalogue. From our architecture to our vocabulary, we pride ourselves in cutting anything that has no use. We have even made it legal to remove useless people. So naturally we invented the spork, applaud fast food, removed the dining room, and munch on t.v. dinners. Watch out for the practical and efficient man. he is not your friend. he views life cheaply.

A second cause might be that we have embraced the study of ‘how things work’ to such a degree that we have stripped dinner of its beauty and preciousness . Instead we only see our meals as a pile of vitamins and minerals meant to simply keep us moving. Our unbalanced focus on the material aspect of life preaches that we are only animals after all. so why not eat like one. whats the point of pausing before eating or standing up before the lady of the house sits down if the goal of life is only to survive and produce progeny?

Christians, of all people, should enjoy the freedom to take their time around a 12 oz sirloin. Like God’s gift of the Sabbath that required His people to not worry about tomorrow, let alone where they were going to get their next meal, Christ has rescued us from the rush of time, the stress of survival and of course the god of pragmatism. There is no rush. We do not need to engulf our food, paranoid that this might be our last meal. Take your time. Also we appreciate the meal which is a gift from God. Decorate the table, bring out the dishes with fanfare pausing between each one. engage in a litany between the host and dinner party whether its just yourself, your family or by chance you are blessed to enjoy the company of others! Don’t take it for granted. God has placed a feast before you whether its leftovers or Grandma’s meatloaf. give a good hearty prayer of thanksgiving and enjoy the sound of the words as they roll off your lips into God’s ear.

But perhaps we may see things in our meals greater than just daily sustenance. Perhaps we may see two other great feasts given to us by God; The Holy Supper instituted by our Lord and the great feast of the resurrection! Will that not cause us to enjoy our meals with ceremony?

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George McDonald writes in The Miracles of our Lord, “With his divine alchemy, [God] turns not only water into wine, but common things into radiant mysteries, yea, every meal into a Eucharist, and the jaws of death into an outgoing gate.”

As in His earthly ministry Jesus is our guest. Why not let lunch point to the foretaste of the feast to come! Why not rejoice with friends around fondue because this will not be our last meal, but only the first when the table will be filled with all the saints, Abraham, grandmother and Johnny Cash!

So stop being an animal, you slothful fool! Roast your game. you are made in God’s image! Eat like it.

David Bowie: Ecce Homo

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David Bowie live at Hammersmith Odeon on Ziggy Stardust tour.

So another Rock n Roll icon, if there ever was one, has died. David Bowie. He was more than a Rock n Roll superstar. He was bigger than that. He was an entertainer on a Wagnerian scale. Even his name was the product of his desire to create and entertain. His real name was David Jones, but one of the Monkees enjoyed that moniker, so he stole the great American ‘Bowie’ name. voila! Everything he did was a projected image. he wasn’t just a songwriter or performer. A sort of white man’s ‘Prince.’ Every public appearance seemed unnatural and thoughtfully constructed. Lady Gaga is a derivative of a derivative. but aren’t we all.

Great. I loved his music. And of course his personality and appearance immediately drew even the most boring of us to him. like, yet unlike, Isaiah’s man of sorrows. He even sported a permanently dilated pupil that played perfectly into his alien persona.

But what do we do with him now? He’s dead. What did i gain from his pain staking work? did he make the world a better place? Did he love his neighbor as himself? Did his art permanently change anything, good or bad?

Bowie himself said that “Hitler was the first pop artist.” Why not? the harbinger of the new age, the post modern age. Ah perfect Bowie, sort of a comrade in arms with Warhol. One might say he sailed farther than Warhol in over all output.

but ultimately what do we have? some cute songs. something to fill our bored lives for 4 minutes a pop?

i don’t know if i can say that any of Bowie’s songs gave any answers. He was no Bono, thank God. He did not preach. like Dylan he transcended politics or agendas. He simply portrayed the human condition. no, of course he never talked of the pervasiveness of sin or even good and evil. he just was. Sad for him i suppose, he himself was a work of art.

Though Ziggy Stardust died early in his career, the invented Rock God was the essence of Bowie. A man who had everything and nothing, lost and drifting in the manure of humanity, though not human; an alien. even his androgyny fit the bill. alienated as all humanity is really. are we all not born aliens of ourselves.

My favorite rock n roll acts often do just that. Of course if i had no compass, If i did not see in color the figures that cast shadows in our cave, i would be lost all the same. major tom. And quite frankly the beauty of Bowie would not be as pronounced to my clouded eyes. the light illumines the darkness.

yet, I know that the fairy tale is real. There is a real hero and more than that, a fantastic conclusion to this drama of life.

David Bowie, ecce homo. behold man. just a man. man adrift in space. Whether he wanted to or not, Bowie’s songs betray an absence that allows me to hear Pilate declare the famous phrase all the more boldly, yet pointing to another Alien who came to the alienated, Jesus Christ.

Can you hear me major Tom?

epiphany: trapped in darkness, found by the light

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5 years ago 33 guys had a mountain fall on them as they were working in a mine in Chile. Darkness. it literally could not be any darker. they couldn’t see their hand in front of their face. they could just hear screams and rumbling. after a while they managed to get some lights on and they realized they all were ok. but they were completely trapped. there was no way they could get out by their own actions. Can you imagine being in such a situation? maybe you have. 17 days went by as food ran out and probably began to believe they would die there. Suddenly a drill bit pierces the room they are in! Salvation!

That’s epiphany! That’s the meaning of “the Word made Flesh and He dwelt among us!” Christ pierced through the dark disaster that we have made of our lives and this world. a drill bit busted through the rocky wall. A child is born! more than that Jesus broke through to you personally in baptism – and snatched you out of certain doom. Let there be light.

There are worse things than being stuck 2 miles underground in total darkness. When one of the miners stuck his head above the ground to the applause of friends and family he was met by his wife…and his mistress. nice. the wife walked away alone. a whole other kind of darkness met her that night.

its 2016 and many are still afraid of wars and rumors of wars. Many scramble around deep underneath hopelessness, guilt, shame, death. we try to save ourselves with government, medicine, philosophy, good deeds, nothing. many are still stuck in a cave of their own making. Some even walk around pretending they know what they are doing as they crash into walls, reality, in the dark.

Jesus Christ is the light of the world. The darkness can not overcome.

His light shines and covers our lust, greed, hate, and murder. His light even burst through the dark dungeon of the grave! There is nowhere His light can not shine. there is no one His light does not shine upon.

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Magi were awoken by a star that entered their dark minds and hearts. It led them to Jesus because it was sent by Jesus. They were not jews. they were strangers. like all of us, estranged from God and one another. yet Jesus came to them!

those Magi likely dwelled in lands full of people we might call our enemies today. so what? the Star is still for them because Jesus is for them! Our Isis neighbors, our muslim brothers in adam, our fellow sinners lost in caves of our own creation. Jesus continues to come in the flesh, in light, in drills through miles deep walls of sin shame and death.

For we are the star. the church. through us amazingly and more miraculously than a floating celestial object God shines His light of forgiveness and peace into the lives of our coworkers, classmates, family members, and strangers from afar.

Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. The darkness has not overcome.

Before the miners returned to the surface they were fed through a tube for some time. At first it was awesome that they had been rescued and were able to enjoy regular meals as well as other things sent through the tube. Yet shockingly, in an interviewer some years later one of the miners revealed that he had grown to hate the tube. he despised it because he had to totally trust in whoever was sending food down it! it couldn’t do anything, completely helpless, he was completely at a doctor’s mercy sending food and other things down the vessel!

So it is with us. Even after rescue we are completely dependent upon Christ. our old adam doesn’t like it. we want to rescue ourselves. we want to do our share. we want to be in charge. we want to have control – even though we have time and time proved our completely inability to be in control. and of course we don’t like to be dependent! ugh! how many elderly or chronically ill people consider suicide because they don’t want to be a burden!

Ah but you can trust the one at the other. The source of the light. The man giving mercy. It is the one who died and rose for you! just receive the gifts. bask in the light. He won’t stop saving or feeding. He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of His coming!

Jesus Christ is the light of the world. The darkness has not overcome.

May His light continue to shine on you, breaking through, breaking you down and bringing you up.

Happy New Year: Its not how hard you hit. its how hard you get hit

 

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in 2007 the great crystal ball that was dropped in times square was called the ‘star of hope.’ it was comprised of a bunch of triangles with different hope themes such as ‘hope for peace’ etc.

probably an appropriate title right? so many of us put a lot of hope in the new year. you? hope for a better economy, a better job, a better health report. or perhaps you have some personal goals – a better body, better diet, better work out routine – a work out routine. and of course we all want our favorite college football teams to win their bowl game!

I hope you put a couple of other hopes and goals in your arsenal this year. a closer walk with Christ. better behavior toward others. better reading of holy scripture and prayer. a stronger faith.

what hopes do you have this year?

don’t stop hoping. don’t stop going forward or trying to better yourself. these are all good things.

but we know from God’s Word and from experience, there are plenty of obstacles to our hopes and dreams.

no matter what happens this year we know sin and death will fight against us. we will fail. we will fail others. we will fail our Lord. we will be here sunday morning confessing our sins and hold out empty beggar hands and enjoy the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ.

Paul says in his letter to the Romans, chapter 8, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but rgave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? sIt is God who justifies. 34 tWho is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—uwho is at the right hand of God, vwho indeed is interceding for us.10 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
now before you start thinking ‘cool’ i’m going to get that new job. MSU is going to win the national championship.

Paul was definitely not referring to conquering in these ways. In fact, he was talking about the certainty of suffering in this present age. He himself found himself beaten and broken by those who hated his message of peace in jesus. He was talking to himself. he was talking to a church persecuted and scattered.

he was talking to you when you are drowned in tears as you feel guilty by your sins. he was talking to you when you are tired of struggling against your vices and weaknesses.

he was talking to you when you get hit hard by sin, death and satan.

It may not look like it, but God is for you! the battle is bloody but the victory has already been won! you will be all right. Jesus has already conquered sin and death FOR YOU! you are forgiven. you will rise again from the dead.

I love the quote from the 2006 Rocky movie. Rocky is talking to his son who wants him to stop fighting because he’s getting too old and his competition is too young.

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life…
But it ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. . It’s How much you can take, and keep moving forward…

that’s the christian life. That’s life under the cross! Brothers and sisters you are going to get hit this year. you are going to fall. you are going to fail. you are going to get hurt. you are going to hurt others. you are going to get pounded in that ring!
chin up.
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again!

Your story isn’t over! Your story is intimately tied to His story.
We know how that turned out! Christ took a hit! boy he could have hit! he could have hit the world, everyone of us in our sins. we deserve to be hit hard for the way we act. the way we speak. what we have done to one another. what we have done to God’s creation, to ourselves.

but instead of hitting.

He took the hit! stepping in front of the glove of justice for us! fulfilling what we are unable to do. Receiving what we should deserve.

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we are forgiven we will rise again!

Every time you get hit this year, praise the Lord with your bloodied mouth and remember:

“in all these things we are more than yconquerors through zhim who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

A Christmas feast in the midst of war

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“you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”-Psalm 23

i love the pictures of soldiers receiving communion in the middle of a war. in the midst of suffering, hate, and sin, Jesus comes through His Church(His people) with forgiveness and life. Like the messengers He sent to John, Jesus does not deliver them or John from their situation, instead He visits them, feeds them, keeps their hearts and minds in Him and His promises. So no matter what they see around them, their chin is lifted knowing the cross and empty tomb is behind them while the resurrection and glory are before them.

So it is with Christmas. Jesus is plopped down in the midst of it all; in the womb of a humble nobody, next to shit and held tightly by rough worn hands. A meal indeed as He is wrapped in cloths lying literally in a feed trough! more than that He comes in the midst of sin and death, busted dreams and losing battles. Yet His beginning is just a preview of His ending as He announces, “it is finished” hanging for our sins between two murderous rebels.
and in the midst of the dark dirty a green shoot springs, nee, breaks the dungeon doors!

And in the midst of war He comes with cool water, and a magical Word; our sins are finished, forgotten, forgiven by God and that an eternal blossom begins in our own heart.

“you prepare a table before me in the presence of enemies.”

This Christmas you are likely surrounded by enemies, in some sort of war, battling demons outside or in, feeling defeated by your own succumbing to temptation. Good News. Christmas is not a place you go to. Its not a fantasy on a screen or the result of existential struggle. christmas comes to you where you are at – in the midst of your enemies; in the hospital bed, beeside your dying mother, in your dark corner where you realize you are completely unworthy, unclean, out of control and helpless. Christmas is for you. The Lord prepares His table there; take and eat this is my body, take and drink this is my blood shed for the forgiveness of your sins. He is the bread of life quite literally.

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So eat and drink dear sinners, scared and scattered, in the midst of battles and bruises. Christmas is for you.

Celebrate Christmas where ever you are, knowing that one day you will dine without enemies encroaching and with dinner companions from long ago. today’s Christmas feast is itself a preview as Isaiah predicts:

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.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

Merry Christmas

Let it be

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When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Mary. She was a peasant girl. No one important. Nothing that would separate her from all the other girls. She was a redneck who grew up far away from any major metropolis let alone the capital of God-Jerusalem. Nothing special about Mary. She was probably the quiet one in class and among her friends. You would not pick her out in a crowd of teenagers.
She likely went to synagogue with everyone else, listening to the readings from Torah and hearing about the Day of the Lord that was coming. And the Messiah who was going to restore Israel’s fortunes.
Many paintings of old have mary kneeling before a scroll of scriptures and praying when the angel visited her. There is no indication of that in our gospels. I think, like any other young servant girl of that time – she was working – her brow sweating as she cleaned a more well to do’s family members house.
So there she was working just like any other day. And the Angel appeared dressed in the glory of God; Gabriel. He looked completely out of place next to this plain teenager.
“Rejoice, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
Luke tells us that Mary is troubled by this greeting! She was afraid as she stood before the Almighty. But she was also troubled . ‘what are you doing here!’ this can’t be good. at least Zechariah was in the right place at the right time, he was all dressed up as a priest should be – but she was not ready for any visitor, let alone the Lord! she tried to discern what this meant that the Angel was far away from Jerusalem, from the temple. In her unimportant and peasant quarters!
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, fyou will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be calledmholy—nthe Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her owho was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant1 of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
Let it be!

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It is all quite incredible to Mary. The angel’s visit for sure. But that the hope of Israel was now in her common, inexperienced, fragile, virgin womb!
Its frightening enough to carry a baby, but God?. Like Zecheriah, she could have doubted it. she could have argued with Gabriel – wanting proof. She could have complained like Moses – giving up every reason why she would not do a good job of raising up the Messiah.
But what does Mary say – she does not fight it. she says, “I am the Lord servant; let it be to me according to your word’
Let it be.
Let it be to me according your word! This is the response of faith! She says it like only a young girl could say it. She doesn’t know all that this will mean. She would soon find out as she watched her son be rejected by those who were supposed to receive him. She would soon be broken as only a mother can be as she watches her son hanging from the cross between two criminals in shame without the dignity we all think we deserve when we die. Mary do you even know what you are saying?
Let it be!
What word has God given you?
“Love one another as I have loved you!” Forgive repeatedly those who offend you. let go of jealousy, envy, pride. This is the way of the Lord. It is how he wants us to live in His Son. it is for our benefit and the benefit of others!
But often we don’t want to live according to His Word. We wrestle against it. push against. We certainly don’t want to let it be.
Even though He has also told us that we need not worry about what will wear, what will eat. God provides. We don’t just ‘let it be’. We worry. We cling to our stuff desperately. Not willing to share, because we are worried about tomorrow. it is scary to love others and to let go of ourselves.
Mary says, “Let it be!”
Greater than His instruction God gives us His Word – his promises!
He gave you a promise in Holy baptism – you are His! You are forgiven of all your sins. You will rise again and live forever. Death has no power over you any more! That is His Word to you!
The devil wants to steal your peace. He wants you to fight against even these words of FREEDOM and HOPE.
Mary says, “Let it be!”
This is my body, this is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins! We can argue with him. you can say – how can bread and wine be his body and blood. Surely he doesn’t mean that!
Let it be.
We can say, ‘ surely God does not forgive me for all I have done.’ ‘there must be a payment plan’ ‘ it can’t be free!’ surely i need to add to this gift with something!
Mary says, “Let it be”
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be to me according your Word!
It can seem rough sometimes. And it is dark sometimes. and we are frightened. When what we see is not so pretty.
Let it be to me according your word.
For the one who gave us His Word. Is the one who let it be according to His father’s word. He came to our broken down planet. He stood among the suffering and the hurting. He let them hurl insults at him and treat him like dirt.
let it be.
He let them kill him. For that was the Divine Plan. For our salvation.
His disciples tried to stop him. He said,
“let it be!’

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And he rose again from the dead! Just as He SAID he would! He conquered death!
His Word can be trusted! God comes through! As Mary believed, just let it be. you will rise!
And He has given his word to YOU!
I wake up to the sound of music, mother mary comes to me, there will be no sorrow
Let it be!

Planned Parenthood is right. words matter.

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As part of Planned Parenthood and the left’s campaign of connecting pro life rhetoric to the recent shooting at a Colorado Springs planned parenthood clinic, Planned Parenthood Action retweeted this by Jessica Valenti:

“words matter. when we dehumanize people we make it easier for others to do them harm.” –

well its probably true. those who believe that it is ok to kill a baby for any reason at any time up to the very moment of birth are probably right. Robert Dear’s rampage last week at a Colorado Springs planned parenthood was at least partly the result of being under the influence of pro life rhetoric. Of course he very well could have simply looked at the facts, pictures and all, of what goes on in an abortion clinic. Its not ridiculous that such images would be enough to push an already unstable man over the edge. That doesn’t make it right of course.

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Rhetoric does indeed have consequences. words matter. That being said, no one is out there in the prolife movement encouraging terrorist actions. so there is no smoking gun. Still, if someone is told often enough that butchers are chopping up babies and selling their parts, it might beg the question – what should we do about such an atrocity? it might make someone very very mad.

So, on behalf of those who believe its wrong to kill a baby days before it would normally be born, we are very sorry that Mr. Dear took the lives of people he had no right to take. He should be punished under the full extent of the law.

of course, now perhaps it is time for Planned Parenthood’s apology. or have you not heard of the baby found buried alive in Los Angeles a couple of days ago. or perhaps the famous case of Melissa Drexler who gave birth to a child, only to put him in the trash and return to her prom dance in 1997. Of course there is also the manifesto left by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold of Columbine fame. There are many similar stories.

These stories should not surprise us. The rhetoric of pro abortion folks regularly reminds us that a woman should be able to do whatever she wants to with what is in her body. This logically applies to baby seconds after her first breath as much as seconds before. The rhetoric regularly preached in our schools telling kids that they are only animals. Our existence is only the result of random coincidences. There is absolutely no purpose or meaning in life except to reproduce. We teach our kids that If a doctor kills a child moments before birth he is a hero, but if the actual mother of the child kills the baby, she is a villain?

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It is true, words have consequences. they influence people even unintentionally. repeated words even more so! even if they have no basis in science, logic or simple observation. The words of the mainstream yet militant secularists must surely create a culture where killing people/clumps of cells (which we all are anyway) is easy.

if anyone owes an apology for creating a culture of killing in this here United States it isn’t those who hold high the value of all life;, no matter how viable, disabled, young, old, strong, weak, rich or poor.

words matter. so does truth.

still, Lord forgive me for my words as well, as i break people down even in my own family, as i gossip about others, slander them without trial. forgive me for my contribution to a culture of death.

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Words are powerful. But the words of men are ultimately so empty. So i am moved by another’s rhetoric, well more than just rhetoric. i am moved by the words of the One who rose again, even more, the one who died for all men including the leaders of planned parenthood, Robert Dear, you and me.

Unlike anyone else, His Words count. They have power. they are what they say they are. Jesus.

His Words condemn indeed my words and actions as well as those of Mr. Dear, Miss Drexler, and the pro abortion lobby. Yet the same Jesus speaks forgiveness not revenge, mercy not punishment, life not death! He says, “love your enemy” and He did. He says ‘take and drink this the cup of the new covenant shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.’
May His rhetoric create in me a new heart, continue to mold me to be more like the person He says i am in holy baptism. May His Words have their way with us all as we look forward to a culture of Life that will be revealed on the last day.