Complaints and Prayer

Complaints and discontent are signs that though we have faith in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, our faith is weak. While we confess that Jesus died and rose again, and that He has saved us in the forgiving flood of His love, our complaints show that to our sinful flesh we believe that this is not enough. We complain because we want more. We complain because we think our way is the best way. We complain because we live out the curse given us by Adam – that we want to be god.

You see, your complaints reveal who the god of your heart is. It is the idol of self. For when you complain you have set your mind on yourself, instead of looking to our God of deliverance.

Our Lord Jesus would often use children and infants as prime examples of who the faithful are. The faithful are those who have “faith like a child.” That is, a simple, trusting attitude of humility. Children by nature are trusting of those whom they love, and of those who love and care for them. Therefore childlike faith is to hear what our Lord says in His Word, and believe, trusting in His love. Even in the midst of those things we would complain about, trusting in the loving kindness of God.

This is the attitude of faith that we who have been baptized into the love of Christ are given by the working of the Spirit. We are called to trust like a child. To hear the Word, and believe that Word, and know that God will always give what we need, when we need it. Even when what we need is suffering – the one with childlike faith trusts that Jesus knows best. That God will lead you out of trials and grow your faith.

So then, the life of one baptized into the Name of Christ is a life of prayer. As we gather together in the Divine Service we pray. As we face each new day, each challenge and trial, we pray. Prayer is, as you know, and act of faith. It is a confession that we believe that God is real, and living, and hears us when we pray. Prayer connects us to our loving Savior, who invites us to pray. Prayer then in an active conversation with the living God, whose blood has set us free from sin and death, and whose desire is to be our God, that we may be His people.

prayer

Order

Woven together in the womb of our mothers and given life by our creator, our calling in this world is to live these lives in praise and thanksgiving. Giving thanks to God who gives us all that we need to support this body and life. Living lives that give glory to God in Word and in deed.

Sin, the stain of death disorders this drive of life. It destroys the purpose for our lives – the purpose of praise and thanksgiving and turns it toward the self. Instead of turning to God for all good, and receiving from Him His gifts, we put ourselves in God’s rightful place. We think of ourselves as the highest good. In the end, nothing but sorrow results from this disordering of creation. People intent on only themselves will only hurt others, while living shallow, joyless lives. What is needed is a reordering of all things. What is needed is a new creation, centered on God and His life giving mercy.

So it is that the cross of Jesus becomes the focal point of this reordering of what sin has disrupted. The cross is rightly known as the defining mark of Jesus’ earthly ministry, for on the cross the holy, sinless Son of the most High God suffers. Jesus shows his never ending love for you by dying for you. Dying for you, Jesus conquers death and rises again to new life. First comes the suffering of the cross followed by the glory of the resurrection given to Jesus by His Father.

So, the correct order of things is this: First comes the cross. Then comes glory. First comes sorrow, then comes joy.

This holds true as well for us in our lives. There is a pernicious doctrine of the devil that teaches that the Christian in this life is to have it all. Fulfillment, refuge from suffering, plenty. A life free of trouble. Just follow Jesus, and God will make you happy in this life says the lie.

This is a disordering of things.

First comes suffering, then comes glory. First comes sorrow, then comes joy. In this life you will have trouble, says Jesus, but take heart, by His death and resurrection Jesus has overcome the world. And so, you, by faith have overcome the world. Being led by God through the cross and into His glory.

Follow the Leader

The life of the believer is Christ is one of following the lead of the Good Shepherd. Baptized in His Name we are led by the loving grace of the one who laid down His life for the sake of the sheep. It is Jesus Himself who provides for all our needs of body through the gift of vocation. And it is most certainly our Lord who gives us all we need for the sake of our souls. Giving us His Word and the Spirit that we may believe in Jesus, and have eternal life in His Name. It is by the mercy of God that we feed on the Word of salvation, even as we live among our enemies. Among those who would kill us.

As we walk the shadowy ways of this world we encounter many scary, dangerous things. Thieves and robbers come with sweet, yet false words hoping to seal away and destroy your faith. Death stalks us at every turn as we walk this valley.

Standing guard over you is Jesus, the good shepherd. He who laid down His life for you His sheep will not leave you nor abandon you. Even in your failures and sin Jesus will not desert you. Your sin, no matter how great – no matter how blatant it may be is strong enough to drive away Christ Jesus, who by His cross conquers the unconquerable death and brings life by His Word of mercy.

It is therefore of the highest comfort that we see Christ our Lord, the one who life was taken and again restored for our sake and for our salvation standing as our shepherd. Jesus stands as both the giver of life and all good things – preparing a table for us to feast on His Word of forgiveness, on His body and blood. And Jesus stands guard over us, watching against all dangers of body and soul, that nothing may harm you. That you may be led by grace into the green pastures of God.

It is through all of the trials you face that Jesus, who knows you. Who loves you and calls you His own, will never leave you. Goodness and mercy ever follow we who are joined to our Savior. Who live by faith in the love of the Lord who forgives us.

So it is, in the love and forgiveness of our Lord we find that we are truly dead to sin and alive to God. Let us then fight the good fight, knowing our victory is in Jesus, living as a people made holy by Christ.

good shepherd

Free from Guilt and Shame

The result of sin is guilt and shame. In fact, the experience of these two feelings points to the fact that sin truly exists, and what is more, that sin can be found even in your own heart.

Now – usually it is the guilt we are driven to deal with, not the source of this guilt. After all, guilt and shame are not pleasant emotions to carry around. They make you feel bad, and no one wants to feel bad.

The trouble is, left to ourselves, we “deal” with these things in the wrong way. We either make up for our guilt by being extra good, but trying really hard to make up for our mistakes, and become a better person using our own reason and strength. This always falls short of the mark, for the Law continues to have its way with us, and demand more and more from us. Inevitably, we will fall short of the standard, which leaves us back in our guilt.

The other way we deal with guilt and shame is to change the standard. We convince ourselves that if so and so can do it, so can I. Or, even worse, we say that what God calls sin – such as moving in together before marriage – isn’t actually sin, therefore we do not need to feel guilty about it. The thing is, try as hard as we can, the reality of what God says remains true. We may be able to force our guilt deep down, or to numb ourselves to the created reality of our God, but sin remains sin. And we remain guilty.

Jesus has given to us the only way to deal with our guilt and shame. By His blood shed on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead our Lord cuts to the chase, and takes care of the source of our affliction. Jesus forgives us of our sins.

So it is that by the waters of Holy Baptism our Lord cleanses us of our sin, making us clean, and giving to us a good conscience. Guilt and shame are wiped away, not by self-justification, but by the cleansing flood of Jesus blood.

It is as if the dry dead bones of sin, by the preaching of repentance and forgiveness are restored. By the Word of absolution, and the eating and drinking of Christ’s body and blood the breath of life is given, and we, God’s children stand, holy and righteous by His Name.

free

Be Glad

While the threats and promises of the Law show immediate fruit in changing behavior, the Christian is not motivated, or controlled by these things. As St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5; “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

We know that the Law of God is good, for it is the Word of our Lord. However, the Law, as good as it is, cannot change our hearts. The change of outward behavior is not always a sign of the renewal of mind and soul in Christ. This is achieved only by the power of the Holy Spirit working in the Word of the resurrection of our Savior. We are controlled by the love of Christ – that is, Jesus who died for us, pours His love into our hearts, that by His grace we are motivated to love our neighbor. For in Christ Jesus all have died.

And in Christ Jesus all are raised from the dead by the glory of the Father.

And so, we, along with the saints who have come before us gather on the great high feast of the church to shout into the darkness that Christ is risen. In our joy we sing that He who suffered the cross, shines fourth in the eternal light of everlasting life. By faith in our Lord we defy this world, the devil, and the death and disease that so plagues us in this fallen place.

It is in this joy and glory of Christ’s resurrection that we find we are controlled by the love of Jesus. This love controlling our thoughts, words and deeds.

Now, to be sure, this is not some crass excuse, this love of Jesus, that we should continue to live and indulge in sinful pleasure. Rather, the new life of Jesus given to us by faith in His Word frees us from sinful death that we may truly love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us that we who receive the salvation of our Lord may live lives of moral integrity, fixing our eyes on the joy of heaven.  life from death

The King of Peace

The coming of the king is a time of great celebration for those who believe, for the coming of Jesus marks the end of war, and the beginning of peace. Such was the joyous anticipation the prophet Zechariah saw. The coming of the King is cause for great rejoicing, for the King brings with Him peace.

This peace, as does all peace, comes at a price. The price of blood. Not everyone in the crowd that watched Jesus ride into Jerusalem to the waving of palms was rejoicing. Many influential leaders of the people in fact watched with hatred, plotting to destroy the one they called an impostor. To them, this Galilean king symbolized not the coming of peace, but the coming of war, for they believed the Romans would not abide any king but Caesar.

War in fact did come. A cosmic battle centered on one man, one cross. The cost of life was spent on wood, as iron nails were pounded into the divine flesh of Christ Jesus. Peace with God is achieved by the humble death of Jesus.

This is what the prophets longed for and foretold. This was the hope of believers, that the Christ, the Messiah would shed His own blood, making satisfaction for our sin, and making peace between us and God. This, the death of Jesus Christ is the source of our joy, for in the cross of Christ the glory of God, the glory of life is seen, even on the midst of death.

Jesus, true God and true man is sent from heaven to save. Such is His mind that He came as a servant to do the servant’s work of death. Obedient to His Father’s will, Jesus dies the most cursed death by being hung on a tree. As innocent Lord Jesus dies. His righteousness covering all of our sin.

Having faith in this work of Christ, then, our calling is made clear. In Baptism we have this mind of Christ. Therefore we too put the needs of others ahead of our own. We live in peace, for in Christ we have peace. We walk in humility, for Jesus humbled Himself. Trusting in God above all things, we love our neighbor – even those who hate us – as we love ourselves.

Inconvenience

flat

Death is an inconvenience. It always comes at the wrong time in our lives, interrupting the daily flow of work, school, and leisure activities.  When a loved one dies, it puts our lives on hold. It becomes a bitter reminder that this life has an end. That, maybe we are just going through the motions, heedless of what is really going on. Ignoring what is really of importance in this life.

Mourning death is an inconvenience as well. It interrupts our routines, puts us behind in the other things we hope to accomplish with the time we have. It takes us away from the lives we hope to live. It makes us feel bad – feel bad at our loss.

Yes, death, and the tears that flow as a result of our loss is inconvenient.

And it should be.

For death is both a punishment – reminding us that we are all born sinful. That all of us are in need of a loving Savior, – and death is a disrupter, shaking us out of our obsession with our selves, to remind us that we live together in a community. That we have family and friends given to us as gifts from God, and that maybe these things – the gifts of family, the gifts of others, are of more value than whatever it is that death interrupted in our lives. Death reminds us, as God tells us in Genesis that we are dust, and to the dust we shall all one day return.

Death, that inconvenience, is truly a terrible judgment to bear. Too much for you or me to bear on our own. Jesus tells us that all who hear His Words, and believe in the one who sent Him to save the world does not come into this judgment. This is what the cross of our Jesus is all about. It is by His crucifixion that our Lord shouldered the burden of death, and won for us reprieve. That is, through His death He brings those who fight the good fight of faith to life. By faith in our Savior we have forgiveness.