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05.24.20 Morning is Coming Psalm 30 and 1 Peter 1 Sermon Summary

Psalm 30 comes to us as a song from the other side. The occasion for the author’s lament has past and he is being restored to a joyful community of worship. Our national anthem is another song from the other side. The dark night of war, punctuated only by the glare of rockets and bursting bombs, yields to dawn’s early light to reveal the stars and stripes of our banner. Songs from the other side encourage and give hope. They are honest about our laments and hopeful of God’s deliverance.

The author of Psalm 30 is one who has lamented, who peered into the “Pit” of death and survived, and is now returning to congregational worship. His cause for lament is given in one compact sentence: “You hid your face, I was dismayed.”

Psalm 104 uses the same language. “When you hide your face, creatures are dismayed; you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” Our psalmist was brought to the point of death where the dark Pit of Sheol is visible. But he survives and returns from the other side to say, “Sing praises to the Lord, and give thanks to God’s holy name.” (verse 4)

The heart of the psalm is verse 5: “God’s anger is but for a moment, God’s favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

We’re told that the psalmist was healthy and wealthy. He was “established as a strong mountain” and enjoyed “prosperity.” But then the fortunes were reversed. He uses a lot of metaphorical language: “strong mountain,” the “Pit,” God’s “face,” sickness as “foes.”

This brings us to the first point about lament psalms: They invite personalization. What is your “strong mountain?” What are your “foes?” What losses cause such grief that your own life seems in jeopardy? Psalm 30 speaks to you from the other side.

How did this psalmist survive?

One thing he did was to cry out to God for help. So often we don’t do this, perhaps because we feel guilty for our own suffering, as if it is our own fault. And there may be some truth to that.

But God is a savior. It’s God’s nature to save. God doesn’t care who’s to blame. God doesn’t care how long it takes us. We can always ask for help.

A second strategy for survival is based on this. A saving God wants to be praised and thanked, so the psalmist argues, “The dead don’t praise you—they’re dead! If I die, I can’t praise you.” This is the perspective of the psalmist. “Save me from dying, so I can praise you.”

God’s answer to the author of this psalm was to save from dying. But what about when that isn’t God’s answer? Is the psalmist’s faith voided by death? Is psalmist’s hope vain in death? What about the death of our loved ones? What about our own death? What about when God’s answer is not to save from dying? Does God just not answer? And if God does not answer, should we continue in prayer? Continue in faith? Continue in hope?

First Peter was written to answer these kinds of questions. This is evident early on in the letter. The resurrection of Christ is God’s answer to the psalmist’s charge, “If I die, it’s too late to save me, and I can’t praise you.”

The resurrection of Christ removes the foundation of the argument. After the resurrection death is not final. It is not the end. God’s ability to save is not extinguished by death. In fact, it is enhanced by it. Jesus’ foes thought they had won: “He claimed to be God’s Son, let God rescue him now.” Jesus even cried in the words of the psalmist, “My God, why have your forsaken me?”

Then he breathed his last, and died. Jesus went down to the Pit. He entered Sheol where God’s praise cannot be uttered.

“But,” Peter proclaims, “God raised Jesus from the dead,” and now we have a “new birth” into a “living hope.” What is more, “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” is secured for us. This is a salvation in the future, necessarily in the future, because it is beyond death.

In the meantime Peter acknowledges we will suffer, we will lament, and we will die. But the “genuineness” of our faith—the “truth” of our faith—will be proven like gold refined by fire.

And the result is exactly what God desires: “praise and glory and honor when Christ is revealed.”

God the savior will save. Death cannot hold us captive. The resurrected Christ liberates us from the grave. Our mourning is turned into dancing. We replace our sackcloth with garments of joy. The weeping of the night gives way to joy in the morning. And we will praise God. Morning is coming. Thanks be to God.

05.17.20 Gathering in a Deserted Place Mark 6.31-42 Sermon Summary

The Twelve primary disciples of Jesus had just come back from their first solo ministry flight. They had gone about teaching and healing in Jesus’ name. They were excited but exhausted.

Jesus brought them into a boat with the destination at a deserted place to rest. But it only appeared to be deserted. In actuality there was a crowd needing to be taught (which in Mark’s Gospel includes healing). So Jesus, out of compassion, does this. He teaches (and heals) for the rest of the day until it was “very late.”

Balancing word and deed as Jesus always does, he next wants to feed the crowd. But the Twelve protest.

Disciples of Jesus often don’t recognize God’s movement so they don’t realize God’s mission. These disciples were already tired. They were focused too much on reality. Now while God recognizes reality also, God never limits himself to reality because “reality” can be deceiving.

What makes Jesus both divine and human is his ability to see reality and beyond. And he calls his disciples to do the same thing.

“We don’t have enough food,” the Twelve say. “Well, what do you have?” Jesus responds. And this is what he asks us also. “We have five loaves of bread and two fish” they reply. And you know with their eyes they say to one another, “But we can’t feed everyone with these!”

So Jesus says, “What can you do?” And this is what he asks us also. “We can group people,” they reply.

Then Jesus takes what is, looks to heaven, blesses it, which just means he receives it as a gift and thanks God, and begins breaking it. The Twelve and everyone else see him do this: Take what is, look to God, receive as a gift from God with thanksgiving, and share it.

And wouldn’t you know, “all ate and were filled.”

This evening we’ve come to an apparently deserted place. It was ten weeks ago that we were last together at this place! But it only appears deserted. Our neighbors across the street may say, “Where is the church? It’s been deserted!”

Now our building may be empty, but the church is alive and well! We are still following Jesus. We are still (1) studying the Bible. We are still (2) praying for the world, (3) maintaining our spiritual friendships, (4) loving God in worship, and (5) serving our neighbors in love. These are our five practices of faith. We are still the church, just not in this apparently deserted place.

And this brings us to the boat. In early Christian art, the boat was used to symbolize the church. You might remember Noah’s Ark that saved God’s people. You might remember Peter’s fishing boat which was a pulpit from which Christ spoke to the crowds.

In this story, the boat is the vehicle that delivers Jesus to the sheep without a shepherd. In this story, the boat is the vehicle that delivers the bread of life to the hungry masses.

And this is what the church does. We bring the Shepherd to the lost sheep. We bring the Bread of Life to the hungry. And that is one meaning of this story in Mark. “Get in your boat, Church, and serve the people.”

But remember how the story begins: “Get in your boat, Church, and rest a while.” Our shepherd has gathered us to a deserted place, he has led us to a green pasture covered with blacktop, and has sat us down according to cars, in order to feed us.

Let us rest a moment, Church. Let us receive the grace of God in these gifts of bread and cup. Let us rest in the presence of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

Eucharistic Prayer

God of creation, you have given us this time and this place to gather as a community of faith. We thank you. We are assembled here next to our church building, deserted in this time of quarantine. But wherever we are brought together, around your Word and Sacrament, “there it is not to be doubted a church of God exists.” (John Calvin)

And so we have parked here as the Body of Christ. We remember that Jesus took bread and blessed it, broke it and gave it to his disciples with the assurance of his presence: Here is my body, here is my blood. Grant us your Spirit, we pray, that in seeing and serving one another, we the Body of Christ your church, may be strengthened and edified. May each one of us, members of Christ’s Body the church, receive in the bread and the cup the grace of Communion, and discern what you are calling and equipping us to do in fulfillment of Christ’s desire to show compassion to all people.

This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

05.17.20 When the Road is Long Psalm 13 and Philippians 1 Sermon Summary

The road was long for Abraham and Sarah as they travelled to Canaan and waited for a child. The road was long for Joseph when he was sold as a slave to Egypt and waited for the fulfilment of his dreams. The road was long for Moses when he hid as a fugitive and later when he crossed the desert. The road was long for Anna the widow of eighty-four who was one of first people to recognize the redemption that came in Jesus.

The road was long for the Samaritan Woman who was passed around in marriage and now finds herself walking back and forth to the water well. The road was long for Paul from his baptism in Damascus to his martyrdom in Rome. The road was long for Jesus as he went healing and teaching through Galilee then taught in Jerusalem on his way to the Cross.

And the road is long for us today. Where is this all leading? And how long will it take? “How long, O Lord?”

“How long, O Lord” is a four- word summary of faith. It is honest about our experience. It looks to God for deliverance. “How long, O Lord” is the shortest form of lament. But is lament faithful? The answer is yes.

Lament is faithful because it is trusting and true. Lament (1) trusts that God sees us and is listening. It (2) trusts that God cares and is loving. Lament (3) trusts that God is just, and it (4) tells the truth about suffering—either our own or that of others. And lament (5) remembers that God is all compassion because God’s suffering is exhaustive.

In all these ways, lament is faithful, and we need look no further than a passage like Psalm 13 to verify that it is. “How long, O Lord” is the shortest form of lament. Lament is faithful. So “How long, O Lord” is a four-word summary of faith.

But how do we go from Psalm 13:1-4 which states, “How long, O Lord, will you forget me forever?” to verses 5-6 which say, “My heart shall rejoice in your salvation, I will sing to the LORD”? How do we deal with our impatience?

For many of us, there are two primary areas of impatience. The first is highly personal. We’ve been at this Christian thing for a while, and yet we are still struggling with temptation.  (The theological technical term for this is “sanctification.”) Then there is our impatience with regards to society. We see injustice and societal tribulations—the ways our societies fall short of the Kingdom ideals—and we grow impatient.

The Apostle Paul, usually writing from prison, often faced an uncertain future. He was one who may have asked, “How long, O Lord?” Consider the opening verses of Philippians.

There are two strategies Paul uses to combat his impatience. One is looking ahead to the harvest. The other results from the Philippians’ “sharing in the Gospel.”

First, what does it mean to look ahead to the harvest? Reaping a harvest comes only after a long process. It actually begins when one keeps the seeds from the last harvest. Then one has to prepare the ground for planting. After one plants the seeds of the new season, one endures watering, weeding, and waiting.

Harvesting fruit takes time. But it is the promise of the final outcome, what Paul refers to as “a coming day of Christ,” that gives the Christian hope. Paul’s confidence in this promise is certain, because “God is faithful to complete the work that God has begun”—no matter how long it takes.

Pauls’ second strategy for dealing with impatience is the “sharing in the Gospel.” He gives thanks for the Philippians’ sharing “from the first day until now.” (1:5) This sharing is not just “belief” or “accepting Christ.” In the third chapter Paul says, “I have suffered the loss of all things in order that I may gain Christ . . . Join in imitating me.”

For Paul, “sharing in the Gospel” means solidarity in suffering. Paul doesn’t know the outcome of this imprisonment. Will he be released? Will he be punished then released? Will he be martyred? And how long will the imprisonment last? Paul does not know, but he knows he’s not alone. The Philippians share in the Gospel with him.

With this in mind, we see that what Paul writes to the Philippians he is writing to himself. He is assuring himself and them. And it applies also to us today. “[Christians are] a people of future glory and at the same time, of present suffering. We are simultaneously a people of the cross and of the resurrection. We have already within us the firstfruits of eternity, yet we bear in our bodies the marks of suffering.” (Villanueva, Federico G. It’s OK to Be Not OK p. 74).

As in the Psalm, Paul asks the question, “How long, O Lord?” And so do we. We await the day of Christ, when we will see growth in our personal spiritual lives, when we will see our societies better resemble the Kingdom of God. But any day could be day of Christ, and so God must be working every day.

And since God always working, we have to remain open, flexible, and teachable. And we also have to be constantly discerning. Paul prays that we will, “grow in love, knowledge, insight, and discernment” of what is best.

This is how we get to Psalm 13:5-6 from verses 1-4. We (1) keep the Kingdom promise in view. In the meantime, we (2) “share in the Gospel” with others. We (3) practice discernment. And we (4) trust God’s timing and God’s hidden work.

With time we will arrive at Psalm 13:5-6, which says, “I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” These verses remind us—and they remind God—that until it is answered, our question remains: “How long, O Lord?”

05.10.20 Unnatural Enemies Psalm 55.1-8, 12-14, 16-22 and Romans 8.18-19, 22-25, 38-39 Sermon Summary

Everyone whose faith is sincere will be tested in that faith. We refer to these tests as “temptations” or “trials.” Some trials have a sudden onset and a quick resolution, like the temptation to be dishonest. Other trials build over time, like chronic pain. And some trials are both, like the death of a loved one which causes shock followed by waves of grief.

In Psalm 55 some event has shaken the faithful. There is a superscript related to David as the supposed author. The superscripts of surrounding psalms indicate a set of catastrophic times in David’s life. Whether or not David is the author we do not know, but at least according to the compilers these psalms offer powerful help in trying times.

This message does not directly address two aspects of Psalm 55. In the first, the author witnesses the city besieged with violence, iniquity, and economic injustice. In the second, the author prays for vengeance, specifically for the sudden and early death of the attackers.

Other psalms bemoan social unrighteousness and pray for vengeance. What makes Psalm 55 unique is the part included in this message. Psalm 55 lifts up the double wound of betrayal—not only the pain of the city being under attack, but that the attacker is a friend.

Betrayal causes unique and deep pain. It comes as a surprise, by someone close. It is unique because WE let that person become close. So there is the wound, there is the loss of friendship, AND there is a feeling that it’s our fault.

This is what makes betrayal so hard. “It is not enemies or adversaries,” the psalmist laments. “I could bear that. I could turn away. But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.” No wonder the double wound of betrayal leads the author to desire death for the betrayer.

In Psalm 55, the double wound leads to another negative place. This terrible trial of faith leads to fear and the desire for flight. “O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.”

We might not recognize fear. We are conditioned to deny fear. But behaviors of flight are harder to ignore. Such behaviors of flight often take the form of a pursuit of something else. Perhaps the pursuit of fancy, like binge watching TV. Or the pursuit of satisfaction, like eating bad carbs. It may be the pursuit of numbing by drinking too much. Or the pursuit of distraction through over exercising. Maybe for you it is the pursuit of unconsciousness by sleeping all day, or the pursuit of control by organizing and planning.

All behaviors of flight are generated out of an experience of fear—because we see the city being attacked and because we feel betrayed. We feel betrayed: This is NOT how it is supposed to be. We have believed. We have prayed. We have studied the Bible. We have worked hard. We have been generous.

And yet, our city is under attack. Our nation is under attack. Our world is under attack. We feel betrayed. We feel betrayed by the religious formula. We feel betrayed by God. And we feel betrayed by nature itself.

On one level, the faith of Psalm 55 looks to justice, to a balancing of the scales, to retribution against the betrayers. On another level, the faith of Psalm 55 simply trusts: “I call upon God, and the Lord will save me. . . Cast your burdens on the Lord, and God will sustain you.”

Here, ultimately, lies the peace we desire: To trust in God’s judgment, and to trust in God’s power to sustain. And so we turn to Paul’s vision in Romans.

This is a passage of “reframing,” of seeing reality through another lens, of viewing our situation from another camera angle. There are three reframings in this passage.

The first comes with the words, “the present sufferings are not worth comparing to the coming glory.” We are suffering, yes. This will always be true. “Life IS suffering,” says the Buddha. “Life is contaminated by sin,” says Christianity. While this is true, still a glorious conclusion awaits us.

The second comes with the words, “All creation groans, and we also.” We humans are not the only ones who suffer. Humanity and Creation are inextricably linked. The suffering of one relates to the suffering of the other. It isn’t always a 1:1 “direct correlation”: “We suffer, so creation suffers.” Sometimes it is an “indirect correlation”: “We suffer, and creation thrives.”

We humans are suffering through restricted travel, but creation is recovering during our reduced carbon footprint. Our present suffering alleviates the suffering of creation. The point is: We are related. Our suffering is not in a vacuum. There is redemption in our suffering.

And the third reframing occurs with the words, “We wait with creation for the final outcome.” Redemption out of suffering is universal. Jesus’ resurrection foreshadows our redemption, but God’s commitment to us is same to all creation. Creation awaits OUR redemption because it represents the redemption of all God’s creation.

So here is the good news of Christ for today: The corona virus is an aberration of creation. The disease it causes is part of sin. But God has overcome sin through Christ. Creation is not our enemy. Nature is not our adversary. In Christ God is reconciling all things.

COVID-19 may attack our cities. It may betray us as part of a DISTORTED creation. We may feel betrayed by the world in which we live. But this world is God’s world. No matter how distorted it becomes, God is determined to redeem this world and all its inhabitants.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing. No attack on the city. No betrayal by a friend. No virus. Not even COVID-19.

And the best news of the good news is that no sin can separate us from the love of God.

05.03.20 Together in Spirit Psalm 42-3, Ephesians 3.16-21 Sermon Summary

Some people come to the church expecting it to be uplifting all the time. They say the rest of the week and the real world is already too discouraging. The church is about “good news,” right? But how can we understand “good” unless we acknowledge “bad”?

Jesus came to proclaim “good news to the poor,” and taught that, “blessed are the poor in spirit.” It is where we are poor that the good news is good, and it is in our poverty that we experience the blessing of God.

Psalm 42-43 (originally one psalm) speaks of being “downcast.” Here is a person in touch with his poverty of soul. He is like Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah—heroes of the faith who all experienced being downcast. Jesus himself tells his disciples, “My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death.” (Matthew 26:38)

Being downcast in soul is like watching a deer desperately searching for water in the desert. “My soul thirsts for God,” reports the psalmist. This burning awareness is more obvious after a long absence, after an extended deprivation. “Day and night,” we’re told the psalmist waits. It is long enough to draw the attention of his neighbors who ask, “Where is your god?”

Such extended seasons may not happen often. Last year a friend said to me, “I’m concerned for you, and I have been for a while.” “When did you start,” I asked. “A couple of years ago.”

How long would it take for you? How many “days and nights” would pass? How long before you couldn’t fake it anymore? How long before it becomes obvious to your friends that your soul is cast down?

Many of us feeling cast down right now. We are experiencing deprivation on several fronts. Social distancing keeps us from our friends and families. Limits to our physical activities deprive us of health. And spiritually we have given up corporate worship in our sanctuaries.

In these circumstances we remember better times. Like the psalmist, we remember worship together. “As I pour out my soul, I remember going to the house of the Lord, with songs of thanksgiving.” We used to have our Sunday routines. I would see you situating yourself in the sanctuary, greeting people, reading the bulletin, maybe marking the hymnal. We would hear the organ and watch choir and instrumentalists. Together we would sit and stand. And we would share communion.

These deprivations have made us thirsty. It has been “days and nights.” It has been long enough for people to notice. I hear it in your voices. I see it in your faces. I read it in your emails. Remote worship doesn’t really satisfy. We can’t look into each other’s eyes. We can’t hear the richness of the music. We can’t give and receive.

Our souls have been cast down. Other deprivations have cast our souls down also. At the end of the day you may ask yourself, “Why am I so easily frustrated? Why do I feel unsettled? Why have I been so impatient?” The reason is that our souls are downcast. We are experiencing an impoverishment. And then it becomes real: Christ came to preach good news to the impoverished.

In Federico Villanueva’s book It’s OK to Be Not OK he writes, “The good news is that you don’t have to pretend you are not [OK]. Like the psalmist, you can actually say, ‘My soul is downcast.’ It’s OK to be down. It’s OK to admit we are down. Most importantly, it’s OK to come to God when we are down – especially when we are down.” (p. 21)

How do we come to God when our souls are downcast? There are commonalities, of course, but for everyone it’s a little different. For me, I return to liturgical prayer. I find in the liturgy reliable words from the church’s past to help me in the present.

During this down time I have included the words of Martin Luther who lived through plagues, societal upheaval, and church transformation. In Jesus, Remember Me I read these words of Luther: “When a heart is in doubt, it may very quickly be driven to blasphemy and despair. This is why St. Paul so frequently exhorts us to have full assurance, that is a firm and immovable recognition of God’s will towards us, which gives us assurance to our consciences and steels them against doubt and unbelief.” (p. 17)

And so alongside Psalm 42-43 I read Ephesians 3:16-21. And I make four observations that help me during this time when my soul is downcast. First, it is out of God’s fullness, Spirit, and “glory” that God responds to us. There is an abundance in God that cannot be exhausted by our need.

Second, God’s response to us strengthens and indwells us. And the substance of God’s response is that we are loved. Third, this is a mystery. It is beyond head-knowledge. This comfort is God-given. It may be prayer-sought, but it must be believed. It can’t be known by conventional means but by faith alone.

Finally, the hope we receive from God is church-wide and multi-generational. So often our troubles focus our attention on ourselves. Ephesians reminds us that life includes struggles and it is not just about us. There is hope in other places. There is hope in other times.

If your soul is downcast you are not alone. You are in good company. Be honest about it. Ask why. Tell God about it. Be not ashamed of your poverty, for it is in deprivation that God’s Word comes to us. Jesus came to proclaim good news to the poor. Hope in God, for we shall again praise him.

04.19.20 John 14.1-12, 27 The House of the Lord Sermon Summary

Jesus would have known Psalm 122, one of the “psalms of ascent,” from however many trips to Jerusalem he took for the festival celebrations. He would have sung about Jerusalem’s glory, about the joy of worship together, and about the promise of justice for all. And Jesus would have prayed for Jerusalem as Psalm 122 ends.

Jerusalem was the symbol of all these—glory, worship, justice. But by his last trip to Jerusalem Jesus would have realized without a doubt what is true of all symbols, even the symbol of Jerusalem. The power of symbols is in their ability to refer. Symbols possess meaning and they are possessed by meaning.

Take the U.S. flag, for example. It is a symbol. But no matter how powerful a symbol it is, it is not the U.S. Symbols are powerful but they are still symbols. And so with Jerusalem. Jesus knew that Jerusalem was a faulty symbol. He had discovered the path to glory, worship, and justice. It included Jerusalem but it was also beyond Jerusalem.

Jesus’ path to the glory, worship, and justice of Psalm 122 would go through Jerusalem, pause at the Cross and the tomb for three days, then continue in resurrection. Jesus’ path to glory, worship, and justice didn’t end in Jerusalem. He would die there, but his path would not end there.

As part of Jesus’ departing words, this passage in John shows how supremely confident Jesus was that his path leads to God, that it goes beyond Jerusalem to God’s very presence. This confidence is why Jesus could say, “you know the way,” and “I am the way,” and “You have seen me AND the Father.”

“You know me,” Jesus says. “You’ve seen my works. Therefore you know God and you’ve seen God’s works. Jerusalem may be the symbol of glory, worship, and justice. It may look pretty bad now, and it’s gonna look really bad tomorrow, but our hope of glory, worship and justice does not end in Jerusalem,” Jesus teaches. “Our hope rests in my path, my way.”

This is a message for Jesus’ disciples; a message for us. We don’t “know” Jesus by knowing the Bible, or by saying a prayer, or through a particular church. We “know” Jesus, and therefore God, by following Jesus, by following his path, by following in his way, by imitating him in our own lives.

This is good news for the church, especially through hard times in our own Jerusalems. When what is supposed to work doesn’t work, this is good news. When doing the right thing is ridiculed, when honesty costs more than dishonesty, when industry doesn’t reward, and when prayers don’t bring peace.

Jesus is saying to us his disciples, “Don’t give up! Keep walking the way. Keep following in faith. Look beyond the promises to the Promiser, for even death cannot stop the Promiser from fulfilling the promise.”

“In the Father’s house are many residences,” Jesus tells his disciples. “I go to prepare a place for you. And I will come and take you to me.” Some imagine we’ll each have a mansion when we die, but in reality what we have is more like an apartment in the house of the Lord.

After a week in Jerusalem, and three days in the tomb, Jesus proved that his way leads beyond the symbol of Jerusalem to God. And Jesus’s resurrection proved that God is the Lord of life. Now we who walk in Jesus’ way will walk through disappointments in Jerusalem. We will even walk through death. But we will experience glory, worship, and justice in our own resurrection; just like Jesus.

But that’s not all Jesus is saying here. He is talking not just the nature of discipleship—following Jesus on the way—and the destination of discipleship—the resurrected life with God. Jesus is revealing something about God.

God created us with the desires of Psalm 122, with the desires for glory, worship, and justice. And God gave us the symbol of Jerusalem and promised our desires would be satisfied there. And God is faithful to God’s promises. God delivers us to the Jerusalem beyond Jerusalem, to the life beyond this life, to the fulfilment of our God-given desires for glory, worship, and justice.

These are promises not just for Jesus’ disciples. These are not just for the people of Israel. These are promises made by God to all God’s creatures: “All flesh shall see it together” says Isaiah; “One man’s act of righteousness leads to justification for all” says Paul; “In Christ God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things” says Colossians; “Christ suffered for sins once for all” says 1 Peter; “Christ has offered for all time a single sacrifice for sin” says Hebrews.

We who know Jesus have an assurance and a hope. It is unique to those who know Jesus. It is the hope and assurance that Jerusalem is the destiny of all God’s creatures. It is a truth that is contradicted in death, obscured in grief, and shrouded in mystery. But it is a truth that is promised by God and proven by Christ.

We do not grieve death as those who have no hope; we have hope—and not just for ourselves but for all creation. In the house of the Father of Jesus there are many residences, and Jesus has gone ahead to prepare them. A place to reside for all God’s children, and for all God’s creation.

This is the truth that Jesus reveals. The Father of Jesus is a God who saves, a God who redeems, a God who overcomes death. And we are God’s people; a people who hope, a people who rejoice, a people who look beyond Jerusalem, who look beyond death.

So what can you do as a believer in this God? As a person of hope? You can light a candle of remembrance. You can see in the windows of God’s heavenly apartment the faces of your beloved departed. You can rejoice in God’s victory over sin and death in the resurrection of Christ.

You can rest in the assurance of the Celtic prayer that applies not only to you but to all: “May God and may Jesus give aid unto me, May God and may Jesus defending me be; May God and may Jesus everlastingly Seek for me and find me and save me wholly.” (Celtic Spiritual Verse, no. 523)

“I was glad when they said to me let us go to the house of the Lord.” How could I not be glad? For in that house there is a residence for me. And in that house there is a residence for all whose deaths I mourn. And the same is true for you.

Each of Our Souls is Called to Offer

09.13.19

Each of our souls is called to offer–and is equipped to make it so–

a work of art inspired by God.

 

It may be praised, admired or not

in words or melody or shape.

More often it is overlooked as merely work, as merely work.

 

But when responding to the call

it isn’t merely work at all

it is vocation

despite location;

far from any sanctuary

beyond the walls of monastery

creating convents where we raise

the fruit of labor mixed with praise.

 

And so each life, a sacred see

where sits infallibility

as faith and our simplicity

sanctifies our industry.

 

To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

let thanks and glory be

as by our work and faith we join

the life of  holy Trinity.