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.” (Phil. 3.19) 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.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly", says the Apostle. But the temptation to gloss over Scripture, to let it go in one ear and out the other, to fail to truly meditate upon and ponder the depths of God's riches, to prevent the Wisdom of God from taking root in your heart comes all too easily. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. Read. Mark. Learn. Inwardly digest.
If it weren't for faithful translators of Holy Scripture like Jerome, this would not be possible for us. Jerome, like the rest of us, struggled with the sinful flesh, which would prevent us from letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly. But he nevertheless knew well the importance of reading, marking, learning, and inwardly digesting Holy Scripture. It was for this reason that he devoted himself to not only learning the Biblical languages, but also to translating Scripture into Latin, the language of his day.
Careful study of God's Word is never an end in itself. We don't learn God's Word so that we can keep it to ourselves. No, the Word of God comforts us in all our affliction so that we may likewise comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:4). In our striving for holiness, Satan would have us become absorbed in the selfish care of our own souls and prevent us from living by faith in God and love toward our neighbor.
Jerome saw to it that the Gospel was available to the people of his day in language they could understand. In our day the task of translating the Gospel into plain language may not be as urgent as it was in the fourth century, but there nevertheless remains a vast multitude who are ignorant of the Gospel. How are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard (Romans 10:14)? God has given you lips that they might declare His praise (Psalm 51:15). You are his priest, called to declare His glory among the nations (1 Peter 2:9, Psalm 96:3).
But you must first glory in the Word before you can declare the Word's glory. Listening is the first step in faithful proclamation. The one who teaches must first be taught (Isaiah 50:4). The treasure of the Gospel can only be shared by the one who has first treasured it up in his heart. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Read. Mark. Learn. Inwardly digest.
That God speaks to His fallen creation at all is more than we deserve, and He comes not with a message of wrathful fury, but of loving kindness. For the full measure of His wrath was poured out on the One whose Word we've failed to ponder. His righteous judgment fell to Him who spoke the Gospel faithfully until His dying breath. In Christ, you have a gracious God, One who invites you to let His life-giving Word dwell in you richly, who would use even you to bring this life-giving Word to others.
So we thank God this day for giving His Church the example of Jerome, who, by careful study let the Word of Christ dwell in him richly, and by his translation sought to aid others in doing likewise. But even more we give thanks to God for that Word which dwelt in Jerome, for that Word which testifies to the Word made flesh, for the wisdom, life, and salvation that His Word bestows. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, indeed.
Almighty God, by Your great goodness mercifully look upon Your people that we may be governed and preserved evermore in body and soul; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” Mark 1:14-15
When Jesus began His earthly ministry, the first thing He says is that the kingdom of God is at hand, so people should repent and believe the gospel. “Repent” is a word that gets a bad rap in our culture. Usually when someone says “Repent”, we might think of a street corner preacher of questionable credentials yelling at people passing by or a booming voice trying to scare people. But repentance isn’t a bad word. It’s a very good word. Repentance simply means turning back toward God. To repent means that we turn away from all those things that we were fearing, loving, and trusting more than God. It means that were letting go of those sins that kept us enslaved.
Repentance—that is, confessing that we are sinners—means that we admit to God that we’ve broken His commandments, whether we were aware of doing it or not. But repentance also means that we receive forgiveness and believe that those sins really are removed from us. This is why Jesus said, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Repentance means that two things are happening: 1) we are turning away from sin and 2) we are believing that we are forgiven because of Jesus’ sacrifice.
When we look at repentance from this angle—from the angle of forgiveness at Jesus’ cross—we see that forgiveness is a gift from God. He gives it to us. He gives the gift of repentance by sending His Son into our fallen world to preach the good news to us. He gives us the gift of repentance when He shows us how none of those idols we’ve set up in our hearts can save us. He gives us the gift of repentance when He reminds us of the forgiveness that He pours out on us through the precious death and resurrection of His Son. Repentance is not a bad thing at all. It is a good gift from God.
The Christian life is one of repentance. As long as we’re in this fallen world with all of its temptations, our weak human nature is going to give in to sin. This will happen throughout our whole lives. This means that God must constantly turn us away from sin and back to Himself. He does this through His Word. That’s why He gave us His Word made flesh in Jesus, His Word in the Scriptures, and His Word preached to us by pastors. God wants us to return to Him, so He gives us the gift of repentance to bring us back. He shows us the truth and sets us free from the lies of the world and the devil. Our Christian life means being turned back to God constantly and hearing the voice of our Lord say, “Believe in the gospel.” Believe that your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. Believe that our Father will draw you back to Himself. Repent and believe that Jesus has died and risen again to give you eternal life.
Gracious God, You are always ready to forgive. Grant me repentance, so that I may turn away from my sins and turn toward Your Son and His cross. Forgive me for my sins and lead me to live confidently in that forgiveness. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.