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Make No Mistake, the Church is Being Reformed (October 27, 2019)

Jeremiah 31:31-34; John 8:31-36

Reformation Sunday is a festival Sunday unique to Lutherans. As the last Sunday in October, it’s a celebration of the day Martin Luther called out the church on it’s need to reform. He began a movement that resulted in what we call the Lutheran Church, but is more than that. Martin Luther helped us recognize that the work of the Holy Spirit through the church is ongoing. Reforming isn’t a one-time thing from in the 16th century, but never ends. As long as there is a church, there will be a need for reformation.

That said, I wonder what the Rev. Dr. Luther would think of the Lutheran Church today? Personally, I think he’d be somewhat confused. There’d be a few things he’d think were pretty stellar, e.g., our emphasis on grace, our understanding of scripture both in terms of law and gospel, our acceptance of the priesthood of all believers. But I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be so happy about some other things. I think he’d be sorely disappointed with the role the Lutheran Church plays in our culture. Or rather, the lack of the church’s role.

I think he’d be annoyed at the casual attitude we have around Christian and Biblical education—for adults, primarily.

I think he’d be upset about our general lack of effort regarding supporting the poor and most vulnerable among us.

But mostly, I think the fact that the Lutheran church just can’t seem to share the gospel effectively would absolutely shock him. Granted, he lived in a different time, culture, and political system. But one thing he never had to worry about was the Church’s message being communicated. That’s part of why his protests mattered so much. The church DID communicate with the rest of the world, and, in his biblical opinion, was communicating the wrong things. That was a problem because the world actually heard the message of the church. We had to get it right, because the gospel of Christ was at stake.

How offensive it would be to him today that really bad, harmful, even dangerous theology is being proclaimed in Jesus’ name in our world, and we Lutherans remain pretty quiet about it. It’s as if we don’t think it matters all that much, which Luther would never accept nor understand. Christ’s message is one of hope, of forgiveness, of grace, of life itself. Luther almost lost his life proclaiming that. On the one hand, this gospel is being dangerously distorted by those on the religious right for power and for personal gain. And on the other hand the gospel of life is being casually taken for granted by those on the religious left.

If Martin Luther understood the state of the church today, I’m pretty sure he’d call for another Reformation.

And I think he’d get it.

Not because Luther would be outraged, but because it’s what the Holy Spirit already seems to be doing. The church that came after the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century looked way different than the church that preceded it.

And it will be so in the Reformation we are already in the midst of today.

Reformation itself isn’t a new thing, nor is it a one-time thing. About 2600 years ago, Jeremiah wrote in our OT text today, “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors . . . says the Lord.”

In the gospel of John today, Jesus talks about the truth setting us free. Apparently, there was a denial of the truth about Jesus that would change everything. That’s reformation talk. Jesus brought reformation. The funny thing is, the Judeans who heard this Reformation talk didn’t like it because they disagreed with it. Jesus says that not being set free by truth is bondage to the lie. It’s that important. We’ve gotten into a bad habit of deciding that if we don’t like something, it isn’t true. That’s what Jesus is calling out here.

The truth is, the church that’s coming will not look like the church that currently exists. The sooner we accept this reformation, the sooner we’ll be set free to be part of it. Although I’m no expert or futurist, I believe the church that’s coming:

  • will be more focused on following Jesus and less on following doctrine.
  • will be more about compassion and less about conversion.
  • will be more about what we do on Monday and less about what we do on Sunday.
  • will be more about loving others and less about labeling them.
  • will be more about celebrating diversity of beliefs and less about policing uniformity of them.

And the truth is, here at LCM we are making every effort to be part of that future, reforming church. Trusting in the guidance and movement of the Holy Spirit, we want to be part of God’s new reformation.

The truth is that if the changes that are coming in the church are hard, it’s because every reformation is always hard. We will all be challenged in our faith, our spiritual lives, even our daily priorities. If we are hoping for a church that makes us comfortable, we’re hoping for a dying church. If we’re hoping for a church that affirms what we already think and believe, we’re hoping for a dying church. Reformation means that God is up to something new. And how exciting that we get to witness the beginnings of this new thing God is doing!

What would the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther say to us about the Lutheran church today? I think he’d tell us that as uncomfortable as reformation might be, God is behind it, so it will be fine. And finally, in the midst of upheaval reformation can bring, in the midst of the uncertainty of not knowing what we can cling to in this time of change, I think he’d point to his wife Katie’s last words spoken on her deathbed, “I will cling to Christ as a burr clings to a coat!”

Welcome to the Reformation.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2019 in Sermon

 

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Truth Found in Community (October 20, 2019)

Luke 18:1-8; Genesis 32:22-31

The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Have you noticed? There seems to be a growing crisis of anxiety and depression in our culture. More and more people are experiencing hopelessness and despair, and the reasons are all around us. Increasing gun violence, separating refugee families and caging children, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and fear-inducing rhetoric about the perceived dangers that are all around us. We hear these words day in and day out. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month.

All of these words constitute an actual spiritual assault on our collective soul. The words of injustice and hatred and fear that are constantly being heaped on us are having an effect. There is a correlation between the hateful voices we’re continually hearing and the deep sense of gloom we’re experiencing as a culture.

We’re not alone. These texts today speak to this cultural despair. One aspect of depression and anxiety is the belief that the hopelessness, the injustice, the anxiety of today is the way it will be from now on.

That is a lie and we cannot believe the lie. One of the reasons we fall prey to that lie is that far too often it’s the only voice we hear.

In both of these texts, the main characters are dealing with hopeless, anxiety-causing situations, but doing so all alone. The widow in the gospel is alone because she has no one to advocate for her, no one to speak encouragement and hope to her. Where is her community? She has to face this unjust judge all alone. The only voice she hears is one that says there will be no justice for you. There will never be justice for you.

In the Genesis text, Jacob is worried about his pending meeting with his twin brother Esau. And he has reason to be. Jacob cheated Esau out of both a birthright and a blessing. All his life Jacob has been a scoundrel and a cheat. As he returns to his homeland for a reunion with Esau in this chapter, he’s still trying to trick his brother. He divides his property into two camps, hoping Esau and his men will attack one camp and not the other. He then, in an attempt to soften up his brother, divides the tribute he’s bringing among three different groups of his servants. Jacob deals with his situation alone because he keeps dividing his property and household into smaller and smaller camps until he ends up alone. And alone, the only voice Jacob hears is one that says your brother wants to kill you and steal you fortune. So there will be no peace for you. There will never be peace for you.

Can’t we relate to these stories? It seems the only voices we hear are voices of hopelessness, injustice, despair, cruelty, division. It’s wearing us down. We’re starting to believe that what these voices are saying is true.

But there’s the word of hope for us. Somehow in both of these texts there is another voice that counters the lie. For the widow in the gospel, there is a voice that tells her that the injustice she is currently living with is not the only outcome. It doesn’t have to be a permanent reality. That little sliver of hope—that the lie of injustice she keeps hearing isn’t the way it will always be—is something she clings to. As she hears this other voice of hope and then boldly repeats it herself, she wears out even an unjust judge and a new reality emerges. The hopeless injustice of today gives way to the newness of tomorrow.

For Jacob too, another voice is heard. In his situation it is the voice of God who comes in human form during the night. The voice of God who is vulnerable enough and persistent enough to wrestle with him all night long. The voice of God who keeps offering the possibility of another outcome. The voice of God who winds up blessing him. The voice of God who wrestles the lie away from Jacob and as a result leaves him changed, scarred, tired, but with a new voice and a new purpose for his life. Jacob limps away from his encounter with God, but having heard God’s voice he begins a new life with a new name.

These are timely stories for us. Dark nights of the soul are now part of our daily human experience. What matters is that when we’re in the struggles of these dark nights, there is another voice we can listen to. There is a voice other than the one telling us there will only hate, only fear, that there will never be any hope, that there is no future. There is another voice that we can cling to. And what’s more, we can echo that voice right into the heart of that hateful, hopeless abyss.

What we know about God, what Jesus reveals to us about Gods, is that God speaks something different than the injustice and anxiety we see and endure. What these two texts tell us is to cling to that voice of God. Rather than struggle alone, we can speak together of God’s promise of justice; to encourage each other to never let go of God no matter how dark the night gets or how long the night lasts. We must not believe the lie that is spoken in the night. We must wrestle, cling, and continue to repeat the voice of God. Dawn is coming. Justice will be delivered.

The voices of hate and fear seem real in the night, but they are shown to be lies when the dawn comes. God comes to us and whispers words of truth, words of love, hope, and new life into our ears. It’s these words we cling to, these words we repeat, these words we remind each other. The dawn is coming. Hear the voice of hope, of justice, of peace, and of joy.

Hear them. Because they are words of truth.

Repeat them. Because they are words of encouragement.

Shout them. Because they are words of hope.

The hateful, frightening voices of the night will not win today. Speak words of truth to the person next to you: they are loved, they are worthwhile, the dark nighttime of injustice and despair is coming to an end. Together we can endure. God has spoken it.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2019 in Sermon

 

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“Knowing Truth” (October 29, 2017)

John 8:31-36

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

Today we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther’s experience of a deeper truth. One that caused him to change outlooks, approaches, and life itself. And as a result of his experience of a deeper truth, the whole church (including the Roman Catholic church) was reformed.

Here’s what’s going on in this 8th chapter of John. The narrative is set during the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles, which acknowledges God’s presence with the Jewish people as they fled from slavery in Egypt. They built temporary huts, sometimes called booths or tabernacles, and used them for shelter during their 40 years in the wilderness. At the time that John is describing, all people are invited to gather in Jerusalem for this celebration—many of whom would build replica booth-like dwellings and even eat and sleep there during the week of the celebration.

As the people are commemorating God’s protection in the wilderness during their flight from slavery in Egypt, Jesus speaks of the very things the people have gathered to observe: slavery and freedom, dwelling places and truth.

Jesus says, “If you continue (literally: dwell, tabernacle, live) in my word, you are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Those who had previously believed in him argue, saying, “We have Abraham and Sarah as our ancestors. We’ve never been slaves.” Uhhmmm . . . did they forget why they’re gathered in Jerusalem in the first place? What the Festival of Tabernacles is about?

Even if the people aren’t clear about what slavery–therefore freedom–is, Jesus is very pointed about it. “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

What does he mean by “knowing truth”? The word John uses for “to know” (ginosko) is more than intellectual agreement. It means to deeply know, to be assured by, to know completely. It is the word used in the Bible when a man and a woman “know” each other, and 9 months later a baby is born. It’s more than reading a book about a subject, OK?

It’s like the difference between objectively watching an event and actually seeing what’s happening.

It’s like the difference between casually hearing someone talk and actually listening to what they are saying.

It’s like this: I can read books about white-water rafting, listen to lectures, and see movies–and therefore know about it. But that’s different than actually going white-water rafting. Then, I know it from the inside out, based on my experiences. I know it much more deeply. Ginosko.

This is the knowing Jesus talks about: an experience of Christ (who is truth) that changes us from the inside out. Much deeper knowledge. For example, quite a few years ago, I knew that the Bible stood in opposition to homosexuality. I knew it, because I could recite all seven verses in the Bible that seemed to oppose it. That’s one kind of knowledge, a book-like, incomplete knowledge.

Then, through a series of events, experiences, studies, and conversations, I came to a different kind of knowing, ginosko, a deeper, more complete knowing than a few Bible verses. I experienced the truth of God’s love and God’s inclusivity in ways that have changed me from the inside out. I have been set free from a bondage of a narrow, external perspective to a deeper, internal freedom in God’s grace and love for all humanity.

We will be witnessing today, in love and support, three of our young people as they take significant steps in their faith journey. Two will affirm their baptisms, and one will be received in the rite of Welcome to Baptism. They are doing this today not because they know the doctrines of the church, or have memorized enough Bible verses, but because they have struggled with what they actually believe. They have been brought inside and come to a deeper knowledge of God in their lives—which sometimes leaves more questions than answers. They probably can’t articulate Luther’s explanation to the 3rd Article of the Apostles’ Creed, but they have, I believe, experienced a deeper, internal knowledge of the Holy Spirit working faith in them (because we all know that that’s what the 3rd Article is about, right? Right?). They don’t know all the answers, but they know how to ask questions, how to watch for God in the world, and how faith needs to continue to grow with them. I’m not even sure they would say that, but I know it, because I’ve watched it happen in them. They know God in significant ways. And they know from the inside that God knows them. They know some truths, and they are set free.

You have hopefully heard about LCM’s “Renewal Team,” which is part of a cohort of three congregations seeking to know more fully what God is calling us to be and do. The idea is not for us to follow a program or series of prescribed steps, but to come to a deeper knowing of what God is doing in us and in our neighborhood.

On this 500h Anniversary of the Reformation, John declares that we are set free in Christ—truly free. Free from prejudice, from fear, from pretention, from other people’s opinions, from stagnation, from whatever it is that keeps us captive. And it is Christ who not only reveals this truth, but in whom that truth comes to us. This is the freedom Martin Luther experienced 500 years ago. A freedom that changed the world. As we continue to grow in our experience, our deep knowledge of this Christ from the inside out, we too become more and more free.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2017 in Sermon

 

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Listen with Your Heart (April 17, 2016)

John 10:22-30

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”25Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.”

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Have you ever heard any of these things said to you? Or thought them yourself? Have you heard these voices?

“You’ll never be good enough.”

“This is all your fault.”

“No one likes you anyway, and no one ever has.”

“You can’t be trusted.”

“You’re too incompetent.”

“You’ll never make it.”

“You don’t have the abilities.”

“Everyone would be better off without you.”

“You’re incapable of making a difference.”

“Whatever it is you’re trying to do, you’ll never make it happen.”

“You’re just not worth the effort.”

These are among the words I have actually heard spoken to me. More often than not, it’s my own voice saying them. Sometimes these words are spoken so frequently that I begin to believe them. And when I start to believe them, I might even start to act as if they were true.

There are a lot of voices telling us different things. A lot of voices. They come from everywhere: social media, friends, family, the news media, public figures, commercials, even the church. Too many voices trying to convince us of too many things. Sometimes we arent sure which voices to trust.

Which is why this text from the gospel of John is so important.

“My sheep hear MY voice,” Jesus says. “I know them, and they follow me.”

That should come as a relief. In the midst of all the voices clamoring for our attention, Jesus knows his sheep and they do hear his voice. And hearing his voice, can follow him. A voice that we can hear through all the other noise. A voice we can to trust. A voice that will tell us the truth. A voice that leads to life.

Jesus knows us, calls us, leads us, gives us life, and we can’t be removed from his hand. Good news, right? This should be the end of this sermon.

Except . . . We just can’t let it go at that. We need to complicate it, find a way to make this good news into something else. We move this wonderful message of comfort from a deep, inner heart, faith place where the voice of Jesus resonates to a narrow, intellectual, head place where all the other voices are competing.

We work ourselves out of comfort into skepticism. We analyze until we find some wiggle room, like Jesus saying, “you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep” and we won’t let it go.

Now, you see, we can open a door into all kinds of anxiety. Like:

Who are his sheep?

Who aren’t his sheep?

I’m not sure I hear Jesus’ voice, does that mean I may not be one of his sheep?

Does that mean I’m not going to heaven?

What do I have to do to become one of his sheep?

How do I hear his voice?

And this beautiful assurance of life and belonging become an anxiety-ridden exercize in doubt.

So let’s put an end to the anxiety. Let’s hear this text the way it is meant to be heard. What is something you feel confident you know about God? . . .

How do you know that? . . . .

It’s because you’ve heard the voice of Jesus. You know it, you recognize it, and you, therefore, are one of his sheep, held lovingly in his hand where nothing can snatch you away.

Have you ever loved someone? Not just a partner or significant other, but a sibling, a parent, a friend. Someone you trust and would be willing to go out of your way to help, or ask help from. That’s the voice of Jesus. You know it, you recognize it, and you, therefore, are one of his sheep, held lovingly in his hand where nothing can snatch you away.

How many of you have ever had a moment when you’ve understood that you are actually OK, a glimpse of being worthwhile, a small recognition of your gifts, a little crack into the difference you have made in someone’s life? That’s the voice of Jesus. You know it, you recognize it, and you, therefore, are one of his sheep, held lovingly in his hand where nothing can snatch you away.

There’s a voice of truth calling you. One voice that says you are deeply and dearly loved. One voice that points out that you are good enough right now. One voice that reveals in your heart the truth about who you are. The voice of Jesus. You are his sheep.

So for just a few seconds, listen to the voice of Jesus. Listen with your deep inner being so your head won’t make excuses. LIsten and trust it. Listen as a sheep would hear the voice of their shepherd, whose voice they really do know. Listen and be comforted. Listen and be reassured.

Jesus says to you, “You are my sheep and you hear my voice. I know you, and you follow me. I give you eternal life, and you will never perish. No one will snatch you out of my hand.”

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2016 in Sermon

 

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Image of God: One Reason I Need the Church

Genesis 1:26-27

“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness . . .’ So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Growing up, I was the nerdy smart kid with few social skills, even fewer friends, and the one who could disappear into the woodwork and become invisible to avoid getting beat up. I always felt I didn’t measure up, wasn’t good enough, always fell just short of what was expected.

I believed my self-worth came from what I couldn’t do, which far outweighed what I could do.

I believed my value as a person came from what others said was valuable, which didn’t happen to coincide with my gifts.

I believed my identity was grounded in failure and weakness, which my peers would continuously point out.

I didn’t like myself very much as a kid, because I believed there wasn’t much about me worth liking.

It was all a lie, but the lie had power and I believed it. I believed that those around me knew better than me. I believed that if some people didn’t think I was worthwhile, then I wasn’t worthwhile. I believed it, and in buying into this lie I was depriving the world of a unique glimpse of the image of God. A glimpse that only I could give.

Because the truth is that I am created in the image of God. Not the complete image–certainly not everything about me is Godly. But the deepest, most significant, most authentic part of me is. Because I am created by God, I reveal God. Part of God’s character is part of me. As someone created by God, it cannot be any other way.

If God is good, there is goodness that is authentically part of who I am.

If God is merciful, there is mercy that is authentically me.

If God is forgiving, there is forgiveness that is authentically me.

Do I believe that this is the truth about who I am? Sometimes, sort of. The lies continue to swirl around me, however, and I can’t seem to block them out all the time. Certainly not by myself.

That’s where I need you. Other people who know that they, too, are created in the image of God and so can recognize that. I need people to remind me of who I really am, people who can recognize the lies and point them out, people who know the image of God and can see that in me–expecially at those times when I cannot see it in myself.

That’s what we do for each other. We look for the image of God in one another. We point it out to each other. We expose the lies about our identity and celebrate together God revealed in one another.

We’ve all been lied to. Each of us has believed at one time or another that we are somehow less, that we don’t really matter, that our value is directly connected to others’ opinions, that our weaknesses define who we are. It’s not true. We are all created in the image of God. We all shine forth with God’s love and grace in wonderful and dazzling ways–not because we work up to it, but because it’s at the very core of who we are. Strip away the lies, the self-doubts, the insecurities, and the inadequacies, and the central, authentic identity we all have is people who reflect the holy, generous, gracious image of God.

That’s something we need to be reminded of. It’s something we need to hear. It’s something we need to point out to those around us.

What are the lies about yourself that you’ve believed? Lies that maybe you’ve even lived into? Have you ever believed the lie that you are farther away from God that others? Have you ever believed the lie that you have nothing to contribute? Have you ever believed the lie that you don’t make a difference in the world?

We all fall prey to the lies about who we are. And we all need to see and remind each other of the image of God shining forth. That’s why we will love each other, forgive each other, show compassion to each other; because it’s God’s image among us. And that’s why we point out to those around us how we see God in them: how we see God’s goodness, mercy, love, kindness, compassion shining forth from them. Because they may not be seeing it. We owe each other the truth about who we are. We are people who, no matter what else, are created in the image of a loving, gracious, forgiving, generous God.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2014 in Sermon

 

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The Spirit of Truth? No Thanks.

Have you ever had the awkward experience of someone offering you forgiveness for something you didn’t do? When I was in seminary someone “forgave” me for dropping an air conditioner out of a third floor window. It did happen; it’s just that I was several hundred miles away on my internship when it occurred.  So of course I felt it necessary to justify myself and explain that I had nothing do with the dropped air conditioner, and therefore don’t need your forgiveness. How dare you forgive me when I don’t need it!
I think that sense of justification is usually how we feel about Jesus’ forgiveness too. We often look for reasons to avoid the need for forgiveness first. We convince ourselves we aren’t that bad, I’m basically a good person, I was justified in my actions, lots of other people are worse, I didn’t intend any harm, I was trying to do the right thing, it’s not my fault, I had good reason. Or we just can’t think of ourselves as broken enough to really need forgiveness. Stay close, Jesus, and if I need you, I’ll let you know. But unless you hear from me, you can just be on call. Because I really don’t need THAT much forgiveness.
The fact of the matter is that we really don’t want forgiveness. We want to not need forgiveness. We don’t want Jesus to forgive us; we want Jesus to tell us we’re doing OK without him.
So Jesus has to send his parclete, counselor, helper, advocate, the Holy Spirit: to remind us of what Jesus said and did, that Jesus is about the forgiveness of sin, calling to our attention the fact that we need forgiveness. Jesus calls this the Spirit of Truth.
Truth isn’t always easy, isn’t always refreshing. Truth can be harsh, even devastating. Alcoholics and addicts being told the “truth” about their condition is anything but fun. Having the oncologist tell you the “truth” about terminal cancer is hardly easy. Have you ever had a loved one tell you the “truth” about what a jerk you’ve been? Truth can be hard to hear. Which is why we so often resort to justifying ourselves instead. Then, we don’t need to hear the truth.
So whether we like it or not, Jesus has sent to us the Spirit of Truth, to point out, again and again, exactly what it is we need to be forgiven for; to reveal to us, again and again, how broken and far from God we actually are; to speak to us, again and again, how shallow and cheap our self-justification is. No wonder we try to ignore the Spirit of Truth when she speaks.
It seems we’ll do anything to avoid hearing the truth of our situation, to make ourselves feel better about our need for forgiveness. We claim that we have a good prayer life, we raise good kids, we give money to charity, we serve the church, we’ve spent minimal time in prison, we’ve even made a decision to make Jesus our personal Lord and Savior. So what? What we’re really saying is, “Thanks for dying and everything, Jesus, but I’m doing OK. I’m sure there are some people that really need you, but why don’t we just be friends? I’ll do you favors by going to church and pretending to be spiritually superior, and if I really need it, you can return the favor by forgiving me. Deal?”
That’s kind of like getting a cancer diagnosis and telling the oncologist, “I’ll do you a favor by eating whole grains when I want to, and you do me a favor by curing my cancer if I ever need it. Deal? I’m sure I don’t really have cancer. It’s just not that bad. I’ll let you know.”
We need to hear the truth: We need forgiveness. Desperately. Continuously. Immediately. We need forgiveness because we worship our own gods of personal preference and comfort. We use Jesus’ name to justify ourselves. We tear apart relationships if it makes us look better. We hold resentments against people who’ve hurt us. We hoard our money. We justify violence. We do just enough religious stuff to ease our consciences. We quit when following Jesus gets hard. We look for enemies so we have someone to hate and someone to blame.
Jesus has sent the Spirit of Truth to tell us the truth. The truth is that we really need his forgiveness. We need to know that on our own we are hopeless. His forgiveness is our only hope.
And, Jesus has sent the Spirit of Truth to tell us the truth. And the truth is that we already are forgiven. Jesus will never abandon us or ignore us. His forgiveness has already brought us to God. We are set free from the power of our own brokenness. Christ’s forgiveness comes to us unconditionally, continuously, right now. It is for us. It is for you.
The Spirit of Truth is with us forever. We need Jesus’ forgiveness. And he has given it to you. It is already done for you. It will continue for you. Forever. Amen

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2014 in Sermon

 

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