Where do you live?
This is a question that is often asked in polite conversation. Say a new person joins you at breakfast one morning you might ask, where do you live? Meaning on what floor, or what apartment or what wing of the building? It is like that all of our lives. We would often ask people that we would meet on vacation or at business engagement or other social gathering, this basic question, where do you live? It is often a nice way to open up a conversation because we may have lived close to him or her, known someone who did, or know a lot about the place. Even if we didn’t, we could carry on a conversation as we asked the other person to tell us about the place where he or she lives.
As residents of the United States we never thought much about having a national identity, because for many years you could travel to many places outside of the United States without a passport. Somehow living in the United States was special and didn’t require much more than a driver’s license because it was obvious we were from the US. But now as the world has become a smaller place and more homogeneous, we must now have a passport. Even to visit places like Canada and Mexico you now need a passport that identifies where you live.
St. Paul, in chapter three of the letter he wrote to the Philippian Christians, talks about the question of where you live. He talks about people who don’t believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior and talks about where they focus their lives. He says their lives are self-centered and focused only on taking care of their physical and earthly needs. He says for these people, “their god is their belly… and their mind is set on earthly things.” (vs.19) Yet most of us reading that would say, well yes, we are residents of earth.
St. Paul continues in verse 20 and says this to the Christians, “But, our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” I wonder in all the times we have ever been asked, where do you live or where is your home, have we ever thought to answer that our home is in heaven? If you look at your passport, it does not have a notation that your permanent residence is heaven. Yet St. Paul is clearly making that point that our home is not here on earth, but is in heaven. In fact, Paul cautions us not to get too focused on our earthly possessions and goods, because we will be leaving them behind here on earth when we go home to heaven.
That is the great promise of all who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, that heaven is in fact their home. Paul encourages us not to get all bothered about the things of this world because this is not our real home, heaven is. We are most fortunate to have lived here on God’s wondrously created earth and enjoyed the pleasures of this world. But our real joy will be when we finally get home to heaven to be with Jesus forever and ever. That’s where we will really live!
O most wonderful creator God, you are amazing. You created an earth that is full of wonders and examples of great beauty, might and power. And we have been truly blessed to spend many years here. But we are looking forward to the day when we will be allowed to join your Son, Jesus Christ, in the real home you have prepared for us, heaven. May our focus and joy be the Good News of your work to save us and to bring us home to be with you. We give thanks and praise to you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Where are you headed, Jesus?
Ever notice how often we ask some form of the preceding question? We see someone coming out of their apartment with a coat on and we ask, where are you headed George? Or we see someone standing in the lobby looking out of the windows, obviously looking for someone and we ask, where are you headed Betty? And their answers may be relatively simple. Maybe George was going for a walk outside or getting ready to get on the bus and go to the Jewel or a doctor’s appointment. Betty might have been waiting for her daughter to pick her up and take her to lunch or maybe for a bit of shopping.
We are always curious about where people are going. You hear that someone is going to be going on vacation and your first question is usually, where are you going? We like to see if it is somewhere that we have been, or would like to go; or if it is somewhere very special or off the beaten track. We are always interested in where people are going. Think about when your grandson or granddaughter says they are going to college in the fall and you ask where. Same thing happens when they get a job, you ask where is that job?
Last week we ended the season of Epiphany with Jesus going up on the mountain and being transfigured, glorified in his person as God. Then in the middle of the week we celebrate Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season, and the question we might want to ask is where are you headed, Jesus? Because of the confession of the disciples that Jesus is Christ the Son of the living God and Jesus’ transfiguration, things are different now. No longer are the disciples going to be moving around the region of Galilee. Now it is different and Jesus has told them where they are headed, Jerusalem.
This is not the first time that Jesus and the disciples have headed to Jerusalem; they have been there before. What is different this time is that for Jesus this is the last time he will head to Jerusalem. Jesus answered the disciples’ question of where they were headed and he told them Jerusalem. But he added to the answer, that he was going to Jerusalem to be arrested and tried by the Religious Leaders and turned over to the Roman rulers who would kill him. But he also told his disciples that on the third day he would rise again. Unfortunately, they didn’t listen and understand all that Jesus told them.
But Jesus heading to Jerusalem to die is good news for us. He is headed there to die, not because he did anything deserving death, but rather because we did. Jesus is headed to Jerusalem to die on a cross to pay the price for the sins that we have committed. It is with his shed blood that our sins are wiped away and we are put in a new and right relationship with God. Jesus is heading to Jerusalem to save us. That is the good news of Lent and that is why we focus on sorrow for our sins, knowing where Jesus is headed and why he is going there.
Lord God, we often want to know where you want us to go with our lives. Yet your answer is clear to us. You want us to follow Jesus. You want us to go with Him to Jerusalem and to the cross on Calvary and see where He suffers and dies so that we receive the forgiveness of our sins. During this time of Lent strengthen us to walk with Jesus knowing that it is for us that He suffers and dies. Amen
Did You See Jesus?
As we start the month of February and are getting ready for Lent, this is a fair question to ask. In January the church was celebrating the season of Epiphany. Epiphany is a Greek word that translated means, manifestation, make visible, reveal. And as we recall the readings and events that took place during the season of Epiphany, that is exactly what happened. On Epiphany Sunday we heard about the three wisemen who came from the east, seeking Him who was born king of the Jews. And when they found the baby Jesus they worshipped him and gave him gifts, for he had been revealed to them as the promised savior of the world.
Likewise we saw the Baptism of Jesus take place in the Jordan River, where John the Baptizer, baptized Jesus. And once again more about Jesus is revealed, simply that he is filled with the Holy Spirit as represented by the dove descending from heaven. But he is made manifest as the savior when the heavens open and God speaks and says; “this is my Son, with Him I am well pleased.” That day many people saw Jesus and got a glimpse of God with flesh on.
In a few days, we will worship the transfiguration of our Jesus. This is the reading, which marks the end of the season of Epiphany. For here Jesus is shown in his role as God. The disciples Peter, James and John have gone up on the mountain with Jesus. And while their eyes grew heavy with sleep, Jesus was transfigured. Jesus’ appearance was changed to be bright, and magnificent reflecting to some extent the glory he has as God. This man the disciples know as Jesus is manifested as God, the holy, almighty, creator God. And they get just a glimpse of his magnificence and glory that he possesses as God. Over and above his appearance is that fact that Jesus is joined by Moses and Elijah. Two of the most well known Old Testament people, Moses the deliverer, who lead the people out of bondage in Egypt and who gave the people God’s commandments. Then there is Elijah the great prophet who called the people to turn away from idol worship and return to the worship of the only true God. Jesus the Lord’s savior, God with flesh on is talking with these two great prophets about Jesus’ upcoming death.
The disciples at that moment awoke, confused, frightened and not fully understanding what was before them, was God revealed, made manifest to them. Fortunately, the disciples do begin to understand and see Jesus as their Lord and Savior. So now we come back to our question. Did you see Jesus? Did you see him in God’s word, teaching, preaching, healing, forgiving and promising you grace, mercy and love? Did you see him in the acts of kindness and love performed by others? Did you see him in the answer to prayers? Did you see him in the comfort his presence gives to those who mourn, but who have hope because of the promise of eternal life with Jesus? If you didn’t, look again, because Jesus is here and invites you to come and see him and know him better.
Most Wonderful Heavenly Father, we give you thanks that you have sent your Son our Savior to live here on earth. We give you thanks that you have revealed his glory, honor and might before us these past few weeks. We ask you to help us to see Jesus in acts of kindness and mercy. Help us to see Jesus as we read and study your Holy Word. Help us to see Jesus in the answers to our prayers. But we pray especially that you will help us to show Jesus to others, by how we live, act and speak. We ask this all in the name of our revealed Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen
How Would You Change the World?
I think it is fair to say that most of us would agree that the world needs changing. As I write this article the United States is still reeling from two recent mass shooting incidents, there continues to be strife in the Middle East, economic uncertainty and all manner of troubles around the world. Add to that the daily incidents of rudeness, me first-ism, and a lack of respect and kindness for others and I think the point is clear; the world needs changing.
In December in the season of Advent we were talking about preparing for the coming of our Advent King. In talking about this king the point was made repeatedly that He was going to turn the world upside down. This king was going to be a king in ways that most people did not expect. This king would be different than all the other kings that people knew. He would be a world changer.
Each of us has the chance to be a world changer. I know most of you don’t think that is possible. You say that you are not a king, you are not a leader, you have very little influence and certainly you don’t have the talent, skills or abilities to change the world. I beg to differ with you. I believe that you do have the ability to be a world changer and have all the skills, abilities and talents you need. And simply all you have to do is follow the example of our Advent King and you can change the world! Think about how Jesus changed the world. He taught people to turn the other cheek, he taught people to love their enemies and he taught us what it means to love sacrificially.
You change the world first and foremost by beginning with you, yourself. See each of us could learn to love better. First we need to learn to love ourselves, I talk to so many people who just don’t seem to love themselves. They think they are not good enough, tall enough, pretty enough, nice enough, you fill in the blank. They just don’t seem to love themselves. God makes us for His purposes, in His Image and we are worth everything in his eyes, so let’s agree to love ourselves, because God does.
Next let’s learn to love one another better. I am a people watcher and when I am out and about I watch people and it is amazing how rude and crude we are to other people. We don’t open doors for others. We barge ahead. We cut in line, both in person and in our cars. We don’t take the time to do for others, to share a kind word, a compliment or see how we could help someone. If we focused on doing one act of kindness or love each day for someone we would be surprised how much of an impact it would have on others. Think about this year, you can be a world changer. “Love one another as I have loved you … by this they will know you are my disciples.” This is pretty good advice from the perfect world changer.
Lord God, we know that you have created the world and continue to be in the world shaping and changing our lives. We have never thought of ourselves as world changers, yet we see how your Son did this while he was on earth. He taught us about love, real love, love that is sacrificial, love that gives and does not take, love that is complete and perfect. It is all too often too easy to look for and see the negative, the bad side of things and people. Lord, help me to look to the good side, the side of love, care and concern. Help me to be a world changer by loving as our Lord Jesus has loved. In his loving name I pray. Amen