In the Twinkling of an Eye

The Bible in a Year: 1 Corinthians 15:51-58

In 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, St. Paul states, “Listen, I will tell you a mystery!  We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.”  (NRSV).  He then goes on to explain that our mortal bodies will no longer be perishable.  In other words, when we die, we are changed into something new!  Our bodies must put on immortality and imperishability – and when this happens, the victory of death has been fulfilled! 

However, here is the thing…Jesus does not think of death the same our human minds think of death.  I believe that one of the hardest things about Christianity is that nothing is as it seems or the typical way we would think about things.  In fact, our human minds have difficulty thinking with the mind of Jesus Christ and seeing the world through His lens.  It’s a flip and takes intentionality, practice, and being in the Word. 

The meaning of death for Jesus is Sin.  St. Paul states, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Cor 15:56).  Sin is the number one barrier between us and God.  We cannot follow God’s Law!  Jesus would say that sin is death.  However, when we acknowledge our sin and repent, our sins are forgiven because of what Jesus did for us on the cross!

So, here is what I do know and believe:  Because of the Cross- Jesus Christ, we are forgiven daily; therefore, we are changed in “The Twinkle of an Eye,” right here – right now!  We are changed and transformed into the likeness of Christ through the waters of our baptism and when we partake in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ!  It happens – In the “The Twinkle of an Eye!”  We can know, without a shadow of a doubt, that we will never die!  We can know that right now!  We can have “imperishability and immortality” right now while living here on earth!

St. Paul is absolutely right!  It is a mystery.  We will never understand it.  We will never be able to figure it all out.  But, Jesus Christ does it!  He does it to us, through us, and within us!  And, at the “last trumpet,” we will be standing face-to-face before our Lord! 

ILet us pray.  Lord Jesus, death is a mystery.  Help us to focus on this LIFE – right here and right now!  Help us to acknowledge our sin and come to you for your grace and forgiveness that you so abundantly give to us.  Change us!  In the twinkle of an eye, give us the life you want us to have– and on that last trumpet, we will look forward to standing before you face to face!  Amen.

Wonder

Read the Bible in a Year

1 Corinthians 15:35-50

I have a friend who just lost his daughter.  With having four children of my own, I cannot fathom or even comprehend the pain he must be in at this time.  When I asked him how he was doing, his response was, “These are very dark days.” As believers in Jesus Christ, we know in our hearts and with the faith that God gives to us, we have the promise of eternal life.  However, what we don’t know is what that place looks like; what our human bodies will be like, and what that life will consist of when we no longer live here on earth.  It is the not-knowing that makes it difficult for us when we think of death and those we love who have died.

When St. Paul developed the Corinth Church, his congregation had the same questions that you and I have today.  We not only would like to know for our own sake what heaven will be like, but also for the sake of those we love so much.  And so, in their wonder, they ask him, “How are the dead raised?  With what kind of body do they come? (1 Cor 15:35).  Paul goes on to explain to them that just like we have a physical body here on earth, we will have a spiritual body in heaven!  

Paul then compares what it will be like by comparing a seed that is sown.  It’s first just a seed and when it comes from up from the ground, it’s a stunning, beautiful flower!  While I think gardening is a good example, think also the birth of a child.  A tiny seed is planted in the mother’s womb and within just only nine months, a beautiful child is born!  

The point here is that only God can take something (like a seed) that appears dead and give it life! No human being on this earth has that capability!  And, so that to me is what our resurrection will be like – We will be dead.  It is our God who will take our dead bodies and souls and give us new life!  It’s unexplainable – just as a seed that turns into a magnificent plant and the seed of human life turns into a beautiful child, we too will somehow be glorious – stunning, and beyond belief of anything here on earth!

Jesus says, “Blessed are those who morn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4).  These are dark days.  But, the days are surely coming, thus says the Lord, “I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for tomorrow.”  (Jeremiah 31:13).  The wonder of our eternal life is in the mystery of God who created all that we and all that we will be when we are with Him – finally!  

This is the Good News! Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, went to the cross – just so all these promises are sure and written on our hearts. Thanks be to God!

Let us pray.  Lord God, heavenly, glorious, and mighty! Only You can take something that appears dead, raise it up, and give it new life!  We can’t understand it.  We cannot begin to imagine what that looks like or will be like.  However, we do know it is your promise to give us our final destination.  We pray for those who are mourning the loss of loved ones.  Give them Your peace and comfort of knowing that you have them in Your loving arms.  We pray this in your Name.  Amen.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Luke 16:19-31

[Jesus said:] 19“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house—28for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”


Her name was Teresa.  She was an African American woman who grew up in New York City.  She lived in government housing in the big city with her mom, dad, and three children.  At that time, the oldest child, a son, was about 6 years old, a 4-year old daughter and an infant, not quite one.

The day her life changed forever, her parents were bed-ridden, and her infant daughter was sick.  The child needed a doctor.  She couldn’t put it off any longer.  Without really quite knowing what to do, her parents – though sick and in the bed, thought that they could manage the two children while Teresa took her baby to the emergency room in New York City.

As each of us can imagine, a visit to the emergency room in New York city would most likely mean it would be hours of just waiting.  And, while Teresa knew this could potentially mean she would be gone for a long while, Teresa made the best decision that she thought possible – to leave her 4 and 6 -year old, at home in the hands of her sick parents.

She left that day for the emergency room – and what she found when she returned, was an absolute horror story that changed the trajectory of her life forever.

Parable after parable, as Jesus sits with his disciples, the Pharisees, and crowds of people who surround him.  And, with each parable that Jesus tells the Pharisees, the angrier they got! 

Just after Jesus had told the parable of the dishonest manager, they ridiculed Him.  They were lovers of money and Jesus had just told them that they could not serve both money and God.  No doubt, Jesus stroke a chord with them. 

But before we criticize the Pharisees too much, I believe that it’s important to remember that in the Jewish Law and particularly in those days, wealth and money was seen as a blessing from God.  In other words, you were living righteously – in the right way, if you had money.

So, not only were the Pharisees lovers of money, but also saw themselves righteous in the eyes of God!  In their minds, there was a legitimate reason they had what they had…

But with each parable, Jesus seems to get more and more blunt and doesn’t hold back…He’s running out of time – His face is set for Jerusalem…and there is this chasm that cannot be broken…a chasm – a tension between heaven and hell

A rich man – who is just like the Pharisees – is a lover of money, living high on the hog, dressed to the hilt, and had everything you could possibly imagine.  This rich man is so important that Jesus doesn’t even give him a name.  He’s just called the “Rich Man.”

But this rich man sure does know who Lazarus is – He’s that guy that just won’t go away and keeps hanging out right outside his door.  What a nuisance he is – always wanting something…uggg…and he smells and has these sores all over him, which attracts the dogs because they just want to lick his sores.  

The rich man most likely thought to himself that he just wished he would go away and go bother someone else…

But he doesn’t just go away.  He’s there right outside this rich man’s house until the day that he dies.  And, not long after Lazarus dies, the rich man dies too – even is buried and has a proper funeral. 

Jesus points out to the Pharisees who are listening to this parable…But, you see, in the Kingdom of Heaven, there is this great reversal –

Whoever is first here, will be last.

Whoever has received good things here on earth, will receive evil things.

Whoever lived in agony here, will now be comforted in their eternal home. 

In the Kingdom of Heaven, everything is turned upside down – reversed, and not what we would ever expect…surely not what the Pharisees would have expected.

The rich man sees Lazarus and recognizes Abraham who is with him.  “Help me,” he says.  I’m in agony.  I’m being tormented in these flames.  Can’t you just send Lazarus over – tip his finger in the water over there and just cool my tongue? 

CHILD – “No can do,” says Abraham.  For you see, there is this great chasm that cannot be crossed over – What is done is done.

And, what does the rich man say?  Hurry – please go warn my five brothers.  Maybe if they see you – Abraham – risen from the dead – they will listen to you and change their ways. 

Abraham tells him, “They already have Moses and the prophets.  If they won’t listen to them, they aren’t even going to listen to someone who has risen from the dead.”

So, what’s the point of this parable?  Was Jesus trying to scare the Pharisees into obedience?  Is that what Jesus is trying to do to us?

There is hell and there is heaven.  Want HEAVEN?

“Go sell your possessions and give to the poor.”

“Pick up your cross and follow me.”

“Show Mercy!  Have Compassion!”

“Follow me!  And, if you don’t…There is this Chasm that you cannot cross over…Once it’s done, it’s done…”

Your opportunity to do the will of God is over. 

In our human nature, as sinners in which we know whom we are, may be sitting here concerned about this  CHASM we cannot cross over…

Who LORD, is this parable for?  Because you see, I’m not sitting at the door of someone’s house hoping for just a crumb to fall from their table and sores all over me, in which the dogs come and lick…

Are you talking to me, Lord? 

Well, here is the thing…I believe Jesus is talking to me – to us.  But my Lord loves me, and He loves you.  My God doesn’t manage by FEAR.

He doesn’t point the finger and say, “IF YOU DON’T DO THIS, THEN YOU’RE GOING TO HELL!” 

Jesus, why in the world are you telling us this parable? 

Well, Teresa took her daughter to the emergency room.  And, yes it was hours later before she was able to get back home to her two children and her mom and dad. 

But, something bad happened while she was gone.  Because she was gone for so long, the two children got hungry and decided it might be a good idea to try and cook something to eat.  They turned on the stove and the apartment caught on fire. 

Her 4-year old and both, her mom and dad were killed in the fire.  Teresa, devasted, was now homeless, and both of her children were taken away from her.

I met Teresa in Atlanta while in seminary.  I was placed in a homeless shelter for women and children, where Teresa was with her 8-month old son – Jeremiah.

While homeless, Teresa had other children, all taken away from her due to homelessness.  She came to Atlanta, hoping and praying she could get feet back on the ground.

When I met Teresa, she had just been placed in government housing and reunited with her other 3 children, who had been placed on foster care for 5 years.

I was there with her that first Christmas they were all a family together for the first time in five years. 

You see, I got to know Teresa.  I visited her every week.  I witnessed her poverty, her struggles to survive, and her desire for her children to have a good education.

I thought I could help Teresa.  I could change her.  I could lead her into making good decisions about her life.  I could have a positive influence on precious Jeremiah…

But, something entirely else happened.  And, it was not at all what I expected…

It was the GREAT REVERSAL!

Something happened to me.  I was the one who began to change.  My perspective on homelessness changed.  I began to realize that for many who were homeless was due to circumstances in their lives.  Believe me – they don’t want to be homeless!

They don’t want to sleep in the post office every night!

They don’t want to worry if they are going to have something to eat this day.

They want jobs!  They want a home.  And, for some, they had those things…but they made mistake, they may have made some bad choices; It may even be how they were raised and they don’t know how to get out of the cycle…

I took Teresa and Jeremiah to lunch one day.  As I listened to her stories, I realized that she was no different than me.  She wanted all the things I wanted – her children to have a good home, a good education, and a promising future.

But, I had something that Teresa didn’t have.  I had the capability to better my life.  I had a loving and supporting husband.  I realized that for Teresa, maybe cleaning hotel rooms was about all she was capable of doing.  Her issues with her children were enormous.  As I heard what she was going through as a parent, I could not fathom how in the world she was dealing with all the problems.

That day as she got out of the car from going to lunch, I gave her two dollars.  I knew she smoked, if given the opportunity.  I told her, “Go have a cigarette on me.” 

Because in all honesty, if I was going through what she was going through…I probably would want more than just a cigarette.

You see…Jesus doesn’t want us to go out and feed the homeless, give clothing to the poor, and participate in outreach, because they need help!

We are the ones that need help! 

We are the ones who are sitting at the gate…begging for God’s grace and the Chasm to be broken…

Jesus knows that when we help others – turn the focus away from ourselves, it is our hearts that are transformed!  We are the ones who are changed in amazing and profound ways!

I always say, “If you want to see Jesus – Go be with the homeless. 

He’s the one sleeping on the park bench.

He’s the one walking down the street with everything he owns in a grocery plastic bag.

He’s the one who needs a shower from being in the heat all day long.

He’s the one who just needs a drink of cold water. 

If you do it to the least of these, you do it to me…

Teresa’s life changed drastically for her that day she came home from the emergency room. 

It’s her life that changed my life –

She opened my eyes and my heart to see the world differently.  To experience God’s grace in such a profound way that changed my heart…

And, so you see…this parable is told to us because as believers in Jesus Christ – because we are the ones who have heard and listened to Moses and the Prophets…

Because we believe in the Resurrection – the Risen Christ – we can know and experience the Love of God every single day of our lives. 

We experience God’s grace – We come to the table willing to accept “Even just a crumb from the Table!” –

And, it’s Jesus who sits in the center of Chasm – and we break through to the OTHER SIDE! 

And, it’s about GRACE!  This GRACE that Jesus gives to us is the same GRACE we are to extend to others –

God’s grace that was only made possible for us because of the CROSS. 

We may think those who are homeless don’t deserve our love, our food, or even our leftovers –

But, CHILD – nor do you deserve God’s amazing GRACE and all that our Lord has done for you! 

But, He did it anyway – AND WHY?

Just so the trajectory of your life would be changed forever!

Amen.

The Dishonest Manager

Luke 16:1-13

Sermon, Sunday, September 22, 2019

1Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 2So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ 3Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ 5So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ 7Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ 8And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
  10“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”


It was a beautiful day in Houston, Texas.  CEO Jeffrey woke up that morning, showered, ate his breakfast, and went to work, just like any other day.

He drives to his elaborate office in downtown Houston, gets on the elevator of the high-rise building, and takes it to the highest floor.  He gets to his office and enjoys the magnificent view of the city.

It’s not long, however, before he gets a call. 

“CEO Jeffrey, you are to come to the conference room on the fifth floor immediately.”

As he hangs up the phone, his heart begins to pound as he wonders to himself what this could possibly mean.

He walks into the 5th floor conference room and the whole board is all sitting there, and all eyes are on him – His heart is pounding and now his hands are beginning to sweat, and his adrenaline begins to pump through his body.

“Take a seat,” Jeffrey. 

“What is this we hear of you?  Give us an accounting of your management.”

Well, it turns out that Jeffrey is CEO of one of the largest corporations in the US. in 2001, Enron – an American Energy Company, and by the use of accounting loopholes, special purpose entities, and poor financial reporting, the company was able to hide billions of dollars in debt from failed deals and projects. 

Between 1996 and 2000, Enron’s revenue increased to enormous amounts, thereby increasing their stock prices, 401K’s, large-sum bonuses, and payoffs, that gave stock holders and employees a sense of security in their future and for their retirements.

CEO Jeffrey was in the hot seat and his life was about to unravel…

Jesus is sitting with his disciples and is on a roll with telling parables in order to help them understand things of the Kingdom.

In this parable…Similarly, the owner calls in his manager, “What is this I hear about you?  Give me an accounting of your management.” 

Much like the Enron Scandal, the manager is called-out for mis-managing the business that he was entrusted to take care of –

His heart begins to pound, adrenaline running high, his palms sweating – he immediately begins to wonder, “What am I going to do?  I’m not going to go and dig ditches, and it definitely is way beyond me to sit on the streets and beg –

What am I going to do?”

And so, after giving it some thought, he develops a plan.

He brings in each one of the debtors – one by one, he begins to ask them how much they owe. 

The first debtor owed an oil bill that was equivalent to 1000 denarii or about 5 years of salary. 

The manager says, “Tear up that contract.  Write a new one and make it for only 500 denarii.”  In other words, cut the amount you owe by half.

The next debtor owed a wheat bill of about 3000 denarii, about 12-15 years of salary.  Sit down quickly, the manager says – tear up that contract and create another one and make it for only 1500 denarii. 

And, so by doing this with each one of his owner’s debtors, they now were indebted to him!  So, that when he was on the street because he was now unemployed, they would invite him in and give him a place to stay. 

Now here comes the surprise! 

One would think that the owner would be upset and angry that the manager had again just mis-managed his property, but instead the owner “COMMENDS” him for his creativity in making sure that his FUTURE was SAFE and SECURE!

So, what do you think, Children of Light?  What is Jesus wanting us to understand here?

Eric Smallridge, from Tallahassee, FL killed two young women. Eric drove drunk and crashed into their car, killing the two 20-year-olds instantly.

One of the mothers, Renee believed justice was served when Eric was sentenced to 22 years in prison. She said in a news article, “I felt like our system had served us well and justice had been served.

Four years passed by and Renee came to realize that it wasn’t just Eric – the boy who drove drunk and killed her daughter, was in prison…

She too was in prison.  “It’s not going to do me any good, and it’s not going to do him any good. I would grow old and bitter and angry and hateful. … In my opinion, forgiveness is the only way to heal.”

And so she begins her healing process by going to the judge and asked that Eric’s prison sentence be cut in half.  Instead of 22 years in prison – He would now only serve 11 years.

You know, it’s this thing called GRACE – this thing called, FORGIVENESS that changes everything.

What the dishonest manager did when he called in his debtors was offer them GRACE.  He FORGAVE half of what they owed in order to secure his FUTURE in this WORLD! 

Renee, the mother of the daughter that was killed by a drunk driver, offered GRACE when she asked that his prison sentence to cut in half, which SECURES HER FUTURE in GOD’s KINGDOM!

What they did, in each case, was RADICAL!  It was over-the-top! 

What is this I hear about you!  I want an accounting of your management!

In October 2001, the Enron Scandal hit the news…

In the end, none of the financial success was real…only on paper and through the use of illegal accounting procedures did it appear that ENRON was a Fortune 500 company. 

When the investigation began, the stock plummeted and Enron’s 63 billion in assets made it the largest corporate bankruptcy in the United States history at that time.

Jeffrey Skilling, CEO of Enron was sentenced to 24 years of prison.  In 2014, his sentence was reduced to 14 years.  He was released just last year.

You see…This is a MATTER of the HEART!  This is about where our allegiance lies – things of this world – especially money…Or is our allegiance things of God’s Kingdom?

What is this I hear about you!  I want an accounting of your management!

Things of this world can quickly consume us forcing us to creatively come up with ways to get out of the situations that we have gotten ourselves into so that we can secure our future.

But it is not this world that Jesus is concerned with – It’s our eternal home – It is God’s Kingdom that Jesus wants us to invest our money, our time, and our abilities for the Goodness of God’s Kingdom.

It is to do the unthinkable, the unbelievable, to offer grace, forgiveness, and love that is over-the-top, RADICAL and CREATIVITY– in such profound ways that are UNFATHOMABLE! 

Because you see— CHILDREN of LIGHT!  That is what Jesus did for you!

God’s grace poured out for you, upon you, and through you!

Jesus did the unthinkable, the unbelievable; it was so RADICAL and so over-th-top, and the most unfathomable that we could ever imagine –

that day when He walked into Jerusalem knowing what he was about to do for our sake –

And he did it.  He climbed up on the cross – and He gave an accounting of His management so boldly and so profoundly that for me, I can’t help to wonder-

WHY in this world would God love me that much?

It’s Unbelievable – Unthinkable – It is so RADICAL – It is UNFATHOMABLE!

But God did it!  Through God’s AMAZING grace, love and forgiveness –

My FUTURE – YOUR FUTURE –

Is safe and secure!

Amen.

The Completion of Discipleship

Luke 14:25-33

25Now large crowds were traveling with [Jesus;] and he turned and said to them, 26“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”


When I felt the call to attend seminary, I had just one problem – I had not completed my undergrad. Well, it just so happened that Northern Kentucky University was only about 20 minutes from where we lived. So, I applied, and it was the beginning of my journey…

However, at that time, our sons were in the 9thand 10thgrade, and our daughters in the 3rdand 4thgrade.  Bob’s job required him to travel for most of the week.  It wasn’t long after I started school full time, I began working at Procter and Gamble full time, as well – not to mention, my job as a mom was full time – 

I get tired just thinking about those days.  No doubt, there were times I knew that “I bit off more than I could chew. There were times that I knew I underestimated when considering the costs.

It was only by the grace of God, that I completed what I had set out to do – graduate with honors so that I may be accepted into graduate school – Seminary.

You have heard the saying, “Don’t Bite off more than you can chew!”  A saying that often means…be careful that you don’t try to do something that is too much or too difficult for you…Don’t bite off more than you can chew. 

I wonder if this is possibly what Jesus was trying to say to the crowds today as they surrounded him…“Listen…be careful that you don’t bite off more than you can chew!If you want to be my disciple – there is a lot, you have to deal with –  

Because you can’t become my disciple if you don’t….

Hate your mom, dad, sister, brother, spouse, children – 

Hate your life!

You cannot become my disciple if you don’t pick up your cross and follow me.

You cannot become my disciple unless you give up all of your possessions.

Honestly, I’m not sure I would want to stay seated in the pew right now after hearing this text.  If it was Jesus’ intention to weed-out those who were serious about becoming His disciple, this just may have done the trick.

Consider the cost right now! I’m giving you an out!  I’m giving you an opportunity to walk out and get out of a situation that you cannot finish to completion if the pressure is too much for you!  If it’s more than you can chew…here’s your chance…

But, if you think you can do it…

Here are the requirements:

Must hate mother, father, sister, brother, spouse, and children.

Must hate life itself.

Must carry the cross and follow Jesus.

Must give up all your possessions.

Consider the costs!  

I mean after all, it’s like anything else – right.  We didn’t just decide to start to build a new fellowship hall until we sat down and considered what it would costs us.  We had to know if we could afford it!  And, come on – let’s face it!  It’s always more costly than what we would expect.  All kinds of things show up that we didn’t think about or consider in our calculations – 

So, when considering the costs to be a disciple for Jesus, make sure you leave room for incidentals – I’m also thinking that you may want to think about if you are a risk-taker or not – there’s an awful lot of risk to consider – like – Where you will sleep? What will you eat?  Think about it…you won’t have any possessions…You gave them all up!

You know…I don’t think there were too many disciples with Jesus as He made his way up the cross. Where were the 12 who had been with him?There was not a single person or disciple with Jesus that day as He was nailed to the cross – 

I don’t know about you – but, I’m thinking there were quite a few, including the disciples themselves, that bit off more than can chew.

Let’s face it! It’s too hard!  

I cannot do this list of requirements that Jesus wants me to do – 

I’ll be honest, I’m not willing to give up my possessions.

I love my family.

And, can I really carry the cross?  Am I willing to die for the sake of the Gospel and Jesus Christ? If a gun is pointed to my head, would I be willing to proclaim Christ as my Lord and Savior? While I certainly would like to think so – to die to this life, would be frightening.

Consider the costs.  

You know, here is the thing…I believe that Jesus knew that in no way you and I could possibly do these requirements.  And, while Jesus is not asking us to do anything that He has not done himself, He is God – and we are just mere human beings.

Besides, how can God tell us to honor our mother and father – but now we are told to hate them? How can Jesus tell us to love one another and now we are to hate them?  

Therefore, what in this world does Jesus want from us!

I had a young girl in confirmation in my first congregation.  She was not confirmed because she said that she did not believe in God.  I did everything that I knew to try and help her see how much God loved her.

One day, she blurted out in one of our discussions, “Gees…what does God want from me!  You would think He wants my HEART!”

I about fell out of my chair!  Yes, Yes! That’s exactly right!  God wants your heart! God wants your allegiance. God wants a relationship with you! God wants you to be transformed from things of this world to things of our eternal world!  

You see, Jesus knew that we could not meet the requirements as specified.

But what He does want is our hearts – 

  • Love me more than you love your family.
  • Do what it takes to proclaim the Gospel – even if it means getting out of your comfort zone – 
  • Know that suffering, pain, trials and tribulations are only a part of this world – but not the world I am about to offer you.

This will be really hard, Jesus says.  The things of this world will want to consume you.

…but here is the there…My face is set for Jerusalem. With or without you, I’m on my way to the Cross. It is the Cross that will bring you GRACE.  

I want YOU so badly in my kingdom and for you to be with me – that I’m willing to climb up on that cross – all by myself – 

So that my GRACE will be poured out abundantly – over and over again – ON YOU, FOR YOU, and WITH YOU!


When I made the decision to go to seminary and complete my undergrad – looking back, I know I bit off more than I could chew…Ask my husband and children how many times I said I wanted to quit – It was too hard…

While I thought I had considered the cost – there were a lot of incidentals that I had not considered – 

The sacrifices that my family made –

The financial burden – 

And, the time I lost with my children growing up – 

After graduating Cum Laude, I knew it was only by the grace of God that I had completed what I set out to do…

Jesus says…

Be my disciple.  Know the call is costly.  Don’t give up but give it all you got.  Recognize that – through your baptism – where the journey starts, your choices are shaped by the waters where Christ claimed you as HIS CHILD!

As a disciple and a beloved child of God. Jesus says, I want your heart!  I want your allegiance. 

I want you because I created you and I love you!  

I knew you even in your mother’s womb.

I have called you by name and you are mine.

Be my disciple.  The journey will be costly, difficult, and hard…And, there will be times that you will want to give up and quit.

But my grace will be enough. It will be all you need.

God’s Grace.  God’s amazing GRACE will carry you…carry us… to the completion of our discipleship.

Amen.

Future Blessings!

Day 298 – Bible in a Year: 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

I loved being a mom.  Now that our four children are all grown, hindsight is 20/20.  In other words, I can look back on those days when they were all so little and I had complete control of their lives.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know it then, but what I do know now is that I wish I had cherished those days more than I did!  I felt like I could keep them safe, protect them, and meet their needs!  Now that they are older and have careers and families of their own, I have absolutely no control! 

In 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, St. Paul is writing the Corinth Church and trying to explain to them why it was so important for Jesus to come and be raised from the dead.  Paul explains that if Jesus wasn’t resurrected, then you and I can just keep on living our sinful life.  Nothing would matter – not the way we speak to others, treat others, or how we live.  Life would be a “free-for-all” to do just what we want to do for ourselves and then just eventually die.  However, with Jesus’ resurrection, we have hope that our lives don’t end and because of that hope, we are grateful and love Christ for what He has done for us.  Our response to God’s love is to love God and love our neighbors! 

However, Paul then goes on to talk about “Subjection.”  He states, “All things are put into subjection” (v. 27).  In other words, God brings us under His control.  This doesn’t mean that God wants us to be puppets and God controls our every move.  What St. Paul is trying to say is that God wants us to have a relationship and a life with HIM!  And, in order to do make that possible, Jesus had to be crucified and then resurrected!  You see, God is like the parent who wants to protect their children, keep them safe, and meet their needs! 

St. Paul states: “God puts all things subjective under Him, so that God may be all in all!” (v. 28).  With God, we are saved, protected, and all our needs are met!  God will be and is, all things to everyone!

Let us pray…Gracious God, you love us so much that you sent your one and only Son to come to this world, die on a cross, face death, and then be raised from the dead.  You did it for us!  You did it so that we have life and grace!  You did it because you love us. Thank you Lord Jesus!  Amen.

Relentless Grace

Luke 13:10-17

10Now [Jesus] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

IMAGINE WITH ME…

IMAGINE a young child whose world is brand new! 

A child that goes to school for the first time.

A young child – maybe it’s you.  Maybe it’s your daughter or son – Granddaughter or Grandson…

A child who learns their ABC’s…who runs, plays, laughs, and makes friends.

A child who learns to play an instrument, loves to dance, play baseball, soccer, volleyball, Golf, and or…even HOCKEY!

IMAGINE WITH ME…

A young child who grows into a young adult…graduates from High School, goes to college, attends Seminary, Law School, Veterinarian or Medical School, joins the Peace Corps…

…Who travels the world, loves culture, people, and hungers to know more about LIFE!

…Who finds the ‘love of their life,’ raises a family, takes care of their loved ones as they grow old, who begins to see and experience the ebb and flows of life…

Who becomes a witness to LOVE, LIFE, Disease, EVIL, HURT, PAIN, and yes…even DEATH.

IMAGINE WITH ME…

A woman, who was once a young, vibrant woman, but now has now grown old…

A bent-over woman – so bent that now all she sees – all she experiences – all she knows is the voice of others, – the ground on which, she walks on – the dirt, her feet, and the feet of others – Not to mention, the constant back pain.

A bent-over woman whose life was once full of energy, who played with her friends, grew up in the community, and loved God –

And, a woman who for now 18 YEARS suffers from what is known today as Osteoporosis, which literally means “Porous bone.”  In other words, the density and quality of bone are reduced.  As the bones become more and more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture is greatly increased. 

Of particular concern are spinal and hip fractures.  In fact, some fractures can occur even if you haven’t fallen.  The bones that make up your spine can weaken to the point of crumbling, which results in severe back pain, loss of height, and a hunched-over posture.

But, in spite of her pain – the fact that she is unable to see what is in front of her – she shows up to worship in the Synagogue on the Sabbath –

The Sabbath – the Fourth Commandment of God’s Law: 

Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it Holy.

On this Sabbath Day, something is different.  Jesus is preaching and teaching.

This woman doesn’t know him.  She’s minding her own business.  She came to worship.

But Jesus sees her.  He feels her pain.  He sees her differently.  He knew her as a child!  He had watched her play with her friends, go to school, and raise a family. 

Jesus knew her!  And, he had compassion for her! 

“You have been through enough.  Your suffering is over.”

“Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight…”

Can you imagine…really IMAGINE what that must have been like?!!!  That after 18 long years of seeing nothing but the ground that you walked on, the agonizing pain of being bent-over – and now able to stand up straight!

I had the pleasure of having a conversation with a Buddhist man the other day.  I really don’t know much about Buddhism – but now have a clearer picture. 

In all reality, it reminds me much like the Jews who were there that day at the Synagogue when this woman comes to worship. 

I say this in the sense that this Buddhist told me that he spends his life trying to obey the law.  They have a book of “do’s and don’ts.” 

And, if you don’t get it right in this life, it is possible that you will be reincarnated and given another chance to get it right.

And, so I asked him, “What happens if you don’t get it right?  What happens when you can’t measure up, as hard as you may try?” 

He told me, “He didn’t know and wasn’t sure that he wanted to know.”  

He says that no one knows what their final outcome will be at the end…

Jesus humiliates the Jewish leaders that day for criticizing Him healing a woman, for whom 18 years has suffered pain and agony.

Seriously…you hypocrites, you want to give me a hard time about healing a woman who has come to worship God – whom you have probably seen here in this place every week on the Sabbath – Whom you have had no compassion for –

When on this Sabbath Day, you will lead your animals to get water – but yet, have no concern for this woman…

Be careful…you LAW followers…You can’t do it.  You will mess up.  And, before you start criticizing others, you may want to look at yourself first.

I looked intently at the Buddhist man and said, “What if I told you that I knew what my outcome was in this life?” 

And, He laughed at me…though curious…

“Yeah, how’s that, he asked me.”

My God loves me so much that He died for me.  My God FORGIVES ME when I mess up – even though I try really hard to do what is right.

Through Jesus, I have Salvation.

Through Jesus, I have GRACE upon GRACE.

He asked me how I knew that.  I told him, “Well, it starts with FAITH.”

He did not know what FAITH was…I even had to spell the word for him.  He had never heard of it. 

Now, can you Imagine that?

Faith is a hard concept.  And, it is easy to lose our faith when bad things are happening.  Because…

Here is the thing…we are all BENT in some way…

We break God’s LAW every day, even though we don’t want to.

We suffer and are in pain from all kinds of diseases – cancer, dementia, heart issues, depression – the list goes on…

We may have experienced a loss of our job, struggle financially, drug addictions and alcoholism…

We are all bent…

In fact, just like this bent-over woman who goes to the Synagogue on the Sabbath…

We too, come to worship – Bent OVER – where all we can see are the problems, the pain, and the suffering of the world that not only, we ourselves experience, but also the world.

IMAGINE WITH ME…

A young child – maybe it’s you.  Maybe it’s your daughter or son – Granddaughter or Grandson…

IMAGINE a young child whose world is brand new! 

But this isn’t any child…this child is not ordinary, but extraordinary…This child is God’s CHILD! 

Jesus sees you.  He feels your pain.  He sees you differently.  He knew you as a child!  He watched you play with her friends, go to school, and raise a family. 

Jesus knows you!  And, he has compassion for you! 

And, Jesus says, “You have been through enough.  Your suffering is over.”

“…you are set free from your ailment.” When he lays his hands on you, immediately you are able to stand up straight…”

IMAGINE WITH ME!

That day when we are made perfect and righteous – our CROOKED SOULS have been made STRAIGHT –

We are no longer bent when Jesus lays His hands on us – reaches out to us…

And as we stand up straight,

WE ARE FACE-to-FACE, with our Lord Jesus Christ!

God’s Amazing Grace upon Grace poured out upon you…overflowing with God’s MERCY and LOVE…

Because if truth be known, we can’t get it right…not in this lifetime or any other time.

My God loves you and loves me so much that He was crucified, died, and was resurrected just so that our world will be made brand new!

And, so you see, my Buddhist friend…

That is how we know our future!

Amen.