Boldly Curious

Reading for the day (Sunday, June 17, 2018):

Exodus 1:8-14; 3:1-15

 

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

 

I can’t remember when, but at some point during my childhood, my parents replaced the front door of our house.  I’m sure it got replaced because was not very efficient and needed an upgrade.  Although, I don’t even remember what the old door looked like.  The new door is a solid white color with a half circle window towards the top of the door.  A window that only tall people can look out of.

This window is perfect for anyone who is tall and curious.  This house is at the top of a hill on a dead end street.  So growing up, this location was ideal for my brothers and me to play in the street and not have to worry about many cars coming up the street.  But living on a dead end street at the top of hill was not ideal for learning how to ride a bike.  Trying to keep your balance as you ride along the hill sideways proved to be difficult.

Like I said, living on a dead end street is usually pretty quiet.  Although, every once in a while, there would be a car that would not see the street sign that said “No Outlet” and they would drive up the street thinking that they could get to the next block.  And so, when you’re sitting in the living room in the evening and you hear a vehicle coming up the hill, what do you do?  Continuing to sit, watching your favorite show on TV?  Or get up and go look out the window to see who it is?  And which is easier, pulling the curtain back or simply taking a little peek out of the little window at the top of the new door?

Would you consider yourself to be a curious person?  How curious?  Curious enough to get up and peek through a window to see what’s going on?  Or curious enough to not only get up and peek, but get up and go right outside to see what’s going on?  If you’re anything like me, you’re fit more in with the first one.  You’re curious.  You want to see what is going on, but you don’t necessarily what others to know that you are looking.  That’s why you peek through small windows or pull the curtain back just enough to sneak a peek.  Like my children trying to sneak a peek into our bedroom when we are trying to get Christmas presents wrapped.

Today’s story is the beginning part of the Moses story.  First some background information.  The Israelites are in Egypt, away from their homeland because of a famine that led them to Egypt where there was food.  There was food in Egypt because of Joseph, one of Jacob’s sons, had earned favor with the king of Egypt.  So with the famine, Jacob’s whole family was invited by Pharaoh to live in Egypt.  And not just invited to live in Egypt, but to settle in the best part of the land.  Because of Joseph, Jacob’s family was respected and honored throughout the land of Egypt.

Fast forward a generation or two and a new king rose to power in Egypt.  This king did not know Joseph and all of the work that he did in saving not only the lives of the Israelites, but also the Egyptians.  Since this new king didn’t know any better, he viewed the Israelites as a threat – something to be controlled or they would control the Egyptians.  So Pharaoh ordered that the Israelites would all become slaves and do heavy labor.

It is during this generation that Moses is born.  Moses was born an Israelite, but raised in an Egyptian palace as Pharaoh’s grandson.  One day after killing an Egyptian for beating one of his own people, an Israelite, Moses fled the region because Pharaoh sought to kill him.  While he was away, Moses got a job as a shepherd.  One day, he was on Mount Horeb tending to the flock when he noticed a bush on fire.  But this fire was different than other fires.  There were flames of fire coming out of this bush, but the bush was not burning up or being consumed by the flames.  Moses was curious!  He couldn’t ignore this mysterious bush.  He had to go check it out, to see what was going on.

And what do you think Moses’ curiosity looked like?  Did he hide behind another tree or bush and gently push the branches back to sneak a peek at this bush that was burning?  Or did he walk right up to it to see what was going on?  All we know from Scripture is what Moses said after he noticed the bush.  Moses says, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.”[1]  We don’t know how he approached the bush, but I know how I would have approached the bush – similar to how I peek through the window at my parent’s house to see who is driving up the dead end street.

How curious are you when it comes to your faith?  Are you curiously shy – sneaking up just to get a small little peek at what’s inside?  Or are you boldly curious – confidently looking around and asking questions that come to mind?  If you’re curiously shy, then you’re one who sneaks a peek at worship – you come to hear a scripture reading or three, listen to a 10 minute sermon and then go home.  If you’re boldly curious, then you’re one who hears those same scripture readings and listens to the same 10 minute sermon, but then goes home thinking about what you’ve heard and going deeper into your own study of God’s Word.  Curiously shy keeps us from getting engaged in the text.  Whereas, boldly curious opens the door for us to become more engaged in God’s Word and to enter into a deeper relationship with our Lord.

It is curiosity that takes us further into an encounter.  If you’re curious about what is going on in your neighborhood, if you’re curious about what is going on at work, at school, at home, then your curiosity will drive you to get more information.  You’ll talk to people.  You’ll read the news.  You’ll ask questions.  Where there is curiosity, there is the potential for something more.  Without curiosity, you will gain no further information.  But as long as you are slightly curious, there is the potential for something more.

As we see in the story of Moses, our God works through curiosity.  When God saw that Moses stopped and turned towards the burning bush that is when God called out to him.  Through curiosity, God continues to reveal more about Himself and the more we know about God, the deeper our faith and trust is in Him.  Which brings us into a closer relationship with our Lord.

Our God not only loves you and cares about you, but He is also boldly curious about you.  He desires a close relationship with you.  As God told Moses regarding the Israelites, He knows their suffering.  He has observed their misery.  He has heard their cries.  And He has come down to deliver them from their oppression.  Our Lord knows our sufferings.  He has observed our misery.  He has heard our cries.  And through the birth of His Son, Jesus, He has come down to deliver us from that with oppresses us, our sin.

This God that we confess our belief in, is not only boldly curious about us, He is also a god of action.  God not only hears, but acts.  He heard the cries of the Israelites as they were slaves in Egypt.  And He acted by using a curious man named Moses.  We trust that our God also hears our cries for help and He acts by using curious people like you and me to carry out His mission as we answer the call to be boldly curious for the sake of God’s Kingdom.  Amen.

 

 

© 2018 Anthony Christoffels.  All rights reserved.

[1] Exodus 3:3, NRSV

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An Unending Promise

Reading for the day (Sunday, June 10, 2018):

Genesis 18:1-15; 21:1-7

 

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

 

Last year, after Emma was born, I started working on a quilt rack for her bedroom.  I have already made quilt racks for Nicholas and David.  So I figured it would only be fair that I made one for her as well.  I’ve made a handful of these racks, so I figured this should be a rather quick and easy project to finish.  I measured and cut all of the parts and everything was going fine.  Everything was going fine that is until I screwed up.  Then when I tried to fix the screw up, I stripped the screw head – making it nearly impossible to get the screw out so I could fix the screw up.  I got so frustrated with it that I gave up on it.  Now a year later, the unfinished quilt rack is still in the garage.  The quilt rack keeps moving from one spot to another in garage.  Not moving towards completion, just moving when it gets in the way of other things.

It is frustrating when things don’t go the way we want them to go.  Do you ever get an idea in your mind as to how something is going to go and then when it doesn’t go exactly as planned, you get disappointed, frustrated, and upset?  Our story today is like that.  Abraham was chosen by God to be the “father of many nations.”  God chose him, and his wife Sarah, to create a whole nation.  It’s like starting a new colony and God chose Abraham and Sarah to be the first two people in that colony.  Now all they needed to do was to go and multiple.  And with no other previous experience to tell them differently, they trusted in God’s promise that they would be a great nation.

Now the only way to multiple and become a great nation is to have children.  And it wasn’t working.  But Abraham and Sarah still believed in God’s promise.  Eventually months of waiting turned into years, and those years of waiting turned into decades.  And as they aged, that belief in God’s promise started to weaken.  Their hope of having children started to fade as God’s promise continued to go unfulfilled.  How can you possibly create a whole nation when you are childless?  There is no possibility of future generations without at least one child.

After decades of waiting for God’s promise to be fulfilled, they eventually gave up on His promise for them.  And that’s when they took matters into their own hands – basically saying, “I’m not waiting around for you God any longer.  It’s time to take action.  And if you’re not going to, then I am!”  And that’s how their servant Hagar ended up having a son named, Ishmael.  Abraham and Sarah felt that they were ignored.  After all, they weren’t getting any younger.  Abraham was 86 years old and Sarah was 76 years old.  How much longer were they to wait for God’s promise to be fulfilled?  They felt that God had forgotten about them.

When things don’t go the way we expect them to go.  Or when life doesn’t go in the order or in the time frame that we set for ourselves, it’s easy to feel that God has forgotten about us.  When you’re hoping for a “yes”, and all you keep getting is “no.”  Hearing “no” can feel like absence or abandonment.  This leads us to get impatient; very impatient.  Impatience is what led to Ishmael being born.  We take matters into our own hands when we get impatient.  Why wait for someone who is never going to show up when you could just do it yourself?

It is frustrating when things don’t go according to our plans – when God’s timing doesn’t matchup with ours.  And even though things might not make sense now, know that your life is in God’s hand and in God’s time.

Thirteen years after Ishmael was born, the Lord appeared to Abraham.  Actually He really was there to visit Sarah, to tell her that He had not forgotten about her.  That His promise was still valid, and that she would finally have a son.  God’s promise was finally going to come to fulfillment.  Hope had finally returned.

Abraham’s visitors told him that his wife Sarah would in due season have a son.  Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent.  Upon hearing that she would bear a child at the age of 89, she laughed.  Sarah laughed because she thought it was impossible.  She laughed because after all of those years of pain, she had hope that joy would finally come in the form of a child.  She also laughed in disbelief.  Sarah couldn’t believe what she was hearing, that even in her old age God was giving her life, giving her hope for the future.  Sarah experienced unexpected joy.

Even though Sarah doubted, even though she laughed at the possibility that she would be a mother in her old age, nothing is impossible for God.  He turned around and blessed her abundantly.  Even though we doubt.  Even though we are impatient with God and we want the pain, we want the frustration, we want the challenge to be gone instantly – it’s not always in God’s timing to do so.  So whatever your situation, whatever it is that you are waiting for God’s answer to change from a “no” to a “yes” – remember that there is hope.

With Sarah, notice that God did not yell when she took matters into her own hands which resulted in Ishmael being born.  He did not punish her when she laughed at the possibility of bearing a child at the age of 90.  And God certainly did not revoke His promise to Abraham and Sarah when she did not believe.  That promise was made at the beginning when God chose Abraham to be the “Father of many nations.”  And that promise still stood.

God chose you when you were baptized and the promise to be with you forever still stands.  Even in your disbelief, God’s grace abounds.  He has not ignored you.  He has not abandoned you.  He has not forgotten about you.  God still upholds His promises.  He still graciously forgives you.  And God will still bless you abundantly.  Amen.

 

 

© 2018 Anthony Christoffels.  All rights reserved.

Here I am, send me??

Readings for the day (Holy Trinity Sunday, May 27, 2018):

Isaiah 6:1-8

Psalm 29

Romans 8:12-17

 John 3:1-17

 

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

 

Today is defined as Holy Trinity Sunday.  I’ve preached on the complexity of believing in our Triune God.  The three-in-one who is also one-in-three.  And understanding the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, is confusing.  So instead, this week I was drawn to the prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah is a rather significant prophet of the Old Testament.  Many of the prophesies about the birth of Jesus are found in Isaiah.  We just heard Isaiah’s call story – how God called Isaiah to do His work for His kingdom.  It appears that Isaiah’s call is simple and easy.  God asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”  And Isaiah responds so simply, “Here am I; send me!”  That’s ridiculous!  Without even knowing exactly what he was to do, Isaiah just says, “You’re lookin’ for someone; I’ll do it.”  We usually aren’t that quick to volunteer for something we know nothing about.  Our response to the question, “Whom shall I send?” would be more like, “Here am I; send someone else.”  It is much easier to volunteer someone else.  Especially when you look at the verses that follow.  After Isaiah willingly says, “Send me,” we learn that his work was certainly not a simple and easy call.  His call was going to be challenging and difficult.

Would you consider yourself to be a successful person?  How do you measure success?  And if you consider yourself to be successful, or even if you consider yourself to be unsuccessful, you are probably using numbers in some way to measure your success.  Students measure their success in the classroom by seeing how many questions they got right on a test.  Businesses measure success based on how much profit is made.  If the moisture in the crop is low and the yields are high, that would be considered a success.  This weekend we remember our fallen heroes and they are remembered by their successes, such as how many missions they did and how many years they served our country.

So if those achievements are what make us successful, then is the church successful?  Is the ministry that we are doing today successful?  In the church, we do measure success and effectiveness.  And often we use numbers to measure that success.  We look to see how many were in worship, how many attended Bible study, and how many children are in the Sunday School.  Now if we use numbers to measure the success of the church’s ministry, the trends would say that the church is not very successful.  And maybe some of you are getting worried that with the late, wet spring that maybe your crops will be like the church – unsuccessful.

Earlier I said that Isaiah’s call was challenging and difficult.  After saying, “Here am I; send me” God responds by telling Isaiah what he is to do.  God says, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’  Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.”  God tells Isaiah that this work is going to be hard.  His preaching, his leadership, his ministry, God says, will not work; it will not be effective.  Isaiah is being sent into an uncertain, unstable situation where people will not listen to him.

Sound familiar?  When only a few children show up for Sunday School.  Or when confirmands never return to the church after Confirmation Sunday.  Or when your own children and grandchildren will not attend a church even though you’ve encouraged, you’ve asked, you’ve invited them to come.  I get it.  It is frustrating and challenging.  It feels as though we, the church, have become unsuccessful.

Or even as a parent, it’s challenging when your children don’t listen.  Maybe you feel like you are an unsuccessful parent.  But you know, take a closer look at the Prophet Isaiah.  He spoke and no one listened.  He proclaimed God’s Word and he was ignored.  By the world’s standards, it would appear that Isaiah was a very unsuccessful prophet for God’s kingdom.  But who was it that made all of those prophesies or predictions that the Messiah, the Son of God would be coming into the world?  Oh yeah, his name was Isaiah.  And when God called Isaiah into this challenging ministry, He did so through a vision.  A vision that clearly defines a massive God who has power and strength.  A God who is able to forgive sins.  A God who is willing to come down from His throne and join in the suffering His creatures endure because of their sin.

This is our Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.  This is the God that we believe in.  This is the God who views our success through different lenses.  This is our God, who cares for us like a parent cares for a child – frustrated at times when the child doesn’t listen or completely ignores their parents.  God gets frustrated with us when we don’t listen or when we ignore His call.  But our God also has deep love for us and we can see that love through the fulfillment of what Isaiah proclaimed to the Israelites – that God Himself would take on human flesh in order to save the world from sin and death.  And today we have the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us, navigating us through the obstacles of life.  So that we may be successful.  Maybe not always 100% successful in what we do every day, but being successful in God’s eyes.  And as long as we are faithfully doing God’s Will, we are successful – even when the involvement and attendance in the church doesn’t show that.

There are days when God’s call for us is challenging and difficult.  There are days when you may feel like Isaiah, feeling unsuccessful.  Those are the days when it is hard to remain hopeful.  Keep your faith in our Triune God.  For God is our hope and our strength in the midst of the chaos.  Sometimes all we can do is take a leap of faith and say, “Here I am, send me!”  Amen.

 

 

© 2018 Anthony Christoffels.  All Rights Reserved.

Prayers FROM Jesus!

Readings for the day (7th Sunday of Easter, Sunday, May 12, 2018):

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

Psalm 1

1 John 5:9-13

John 17:6-19

 

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

 

Have you ever prayed before?  Okay, of course if you’ve been to church before, you’ve prayed to God.  You probably pray at home, too.  Maybe at work.  Maybe at school.  It seems that no matter where we turn, someone is requesting our prayers: prayers for healing, prayers for peace, prayers for a good outcome, prayers for safety.  Prayers are requested for family and friends who are in the hospital, someone struggling with mental illness, a family dealing with a financial crisis, a couple dealing with infertility issues.  We request prayers for favorable weather, for a loved one who is dying, for a family who is grieving.

In any given week, we can receive numerous requests for prayers – many of those requests coming from posts that we read online through Facebook and other sites.  I think there is something to be said about the power of prayer.  Even though there are many people who have no desire to be involved with the church, they still do request prayers for various situations.  And why would you request prayers for something or someone unless you actually believed in the power of prayer?  Even the lukewarm Christians believe in the power of prayer.

We have come to the end of the season of Easter.  Next Sunday is Pentecost.  In John’s Gospel, there is no teaching of the Lord’s Prayer.  There is no institution of Holy Communion.  Instead, Jesus washes His disciples’ feet during His final meal with His disciples.  And then Jesus teaches His disciples about loving each other by serving one another.  And then He enters into this long prayer.  First a prayer for Himself, as He prepares to head to the cross.  Then Jesus prays for His disciples, meaning His twelve closest friends.  Finally Jesus prays for “those who will believe in me through [the words of these disciples].”[1]

Did you know that?  Did you know that Jesus prays for you?  Jesus, God’s only Son, the Messiah, the Savior of the World…prays for you.  You’re from Martin County Minnesota, you’re not all that important.  You’re a farmer, a teacher, a business owner, a nurse, a student, a golfer, a fisherman, a retired person who is living the dream.  None of us are really all that important.  I mean, it’s not like we are Pastor Eric or anything.  But we really aren’t all that important.  We don’t have a security detail.  We don’t have a wait staff at home.  We haven’t changed the course of history.  Generations down the road will not learn about us in history textbooks.  And yet, Jesus, the Savior of the world, the Son of God says that He is praying for you.

You are being prayed for.  Not just by your family, your friends, your neighbors, your pastors, but also your Savior.  The one who went to the cross because our sins put Him on the cross.  Yeah, He’s the one who is praying for YOU!

How are you all doing?  Stressed?  Overwhelmed?  Tired?  Worried?  Scared?  The weather certainly isn’t doing anyone any favors.  The late winter and now this wet spring is effecting all of us.  With all of this rain, the fields and gardens can’t get planted.  Windows of opportunity to mow the lawn between the rainfall is rather small.  And if your house is anything like ours, you are certainly sick of sucking up and bailing water out of the basement.  Maybe you’re exhausted.  Maybe you’re frustrated.  Maybe you’re impatient.

Well, I have some good news for you.  No matter how unimportant and insignificant this world says that you are.  Know that you are loved by someone.  And not only are you loved by God, but Jesus is also praying for you.  You know, it seems culturally okay to ask for prayers around the time of death, or when you or someone is in the hospital.  But when you are stressed and scared, when you are beyond tired, when you are overwhelmed and worried, then it appears that asking for those types of prayers is not culturally acceptable.

Thankfully for us, Jesus says that He does not belong to the world.  Which means He does not belong to whatever the world has deemed as “culturally acceptable.”  Jesus also says that WE do not belong to the world.  He says that we are still in the world, but as God’s children, chosen and called, we are not of this world.  One way to think of this is that you are an ambassador for Jesus.  Throughout the world, our country has U.S. ambassadors all over.  As a U.S. ambassador in say, Italy, that ambassador is still considered a U.S. citizen, even though they are living in Italy.  So the ambassador is subject to any and all U.S. laws.  But the ambassador is also living in Italy.  And in order to create and maintain healthy relationships with the people in Italy, it would be wise for the ambassador to follow the Italian laws in addition to the U.S. laws.

We are God’s ambassadors in this world.  We are in the world.  The world that God created for us.  But we are not of this world.  This world is not our home.  As my son said this weekend about making cards for Mother’s Day, “Don’t forget to make a card for Grandma.  We can bring it to where she will come back with Jesus.”  This world is not our home.  We are not of this world.  We are simply God’s ambassadors, living in this world, following both God’s laws and the laws of this world, doing what God has called us to do until the day comes when Jesus does return for my Grandma and for all of us.

No matter what crazy thing this life throws your way, know that Jesus, your Savior, the Son of God Himself is praying for you…His beloved ambassador!  Amen.

 

 

© 2018 Anthony Christoffels.  All Rights Reserved.

[1] John 17:20, NRSV

Witnessing Something Unexpected

Readings for the day (3rd Sunday of Easter, Sunday, April 15, 2018):

Acts 3:12-19

Psalm 4

1 John 3:1-7

Luke 24:36b-48

 

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

 

The calendar says spring.  The church calendar says Easter.  But a look outside still stays winter!  Things do not always go the way we intend them to go.  Babies don’t always come when we expect them to.  Planters sometimes need to be unhooked from tractor in order to move snow in April.  A president issues a tariff and the markets go haywire.  Things do not always go the way we want them to go.

The Easter story is no different.  Up to the end, the disciples still thought that Jesus was talking about leading an uprising in Jerusalem.  That’s why the ear of the high priest slave was cut off when Jesus was getting arrested.  His disciples figured this was the time the uprising was going to begin.  But instead, Jesus, their leader, ends up being hung to a tree to die a criminal’s death.  So it is no surprise that on that first Easter, the disciples are still pretty bummed.  It’s like Monday morning after a Vikings loss – bummed and disappointed that things didn’t end differently.

To their wonder and amazement, Jesus appears to them, standing among them, in the flesh and says, “Peace be with you.”  That was certainly not something they were expecting.  They saw their leader and friend crucified and laid in a tomb.  No wonder they were frightened when Jesus appears before them, in the flesh, and says, “Peace be with you.”  And to eliminate their doubts of Him being a ghost or a hologram of some kind, Jesus shows them His hands and His feet.  He invites them to physically touch Him to see that He really is alive.  And since they were still wondering if He really was alive, standing in their midst, Jesus asks if they have any food for Him to eat?

Our world is hungry.  Not just physically hungry for food, but spiritually hungry for something better; something that can overcome the darkness.  With tariffs and unstable markets.  With the uncertainty of world leaders and countless shootings in schools and businesses.  The world does have a lot of darkness.  And although I have many complaints about Hollywood with the movie and TV industry, there is something surprising that is coming from Hollywood.  Many of the real popular movies have strong Christian themes in them.  In some cases you can simply replace Jesus with the main character and you’ve got the Easter story.  Especially in the Star Wars franchise and the super hero movies, there is one common theme throughout – hope.  Hope that the darkness will not win.  Hope that light will conquer darkness.  Hope that the light will be victorious.  Our world is spiritually hungry for this hope.  Yes these movies are popular because they are visually stunning.  But they keep making these movies with different storylines but the overall theme is still the same – hope.

With all of the darkness in the world.  With all of the bad news and unpleasant forecasts.  Everyone is longing and searching for something to hope in.  And because people are frightened and terrified of “the church” (meaning organized religion), they are finding their hope in the movies that Hollywood produces.  And Hollywood does an excellent job of telling people that the light will conquer the darkness.  Evil will not win.  Millions of people know this; they know (at least in a movie) light is victorious.  Except they miss one very important detail.  The light will conquer the darkness, because Jesus is victorious!  Jesus is the missing piece to their puzzle.  They have it mostly figured out.  They are just missing the fact that Jesus is the light.  He is the light of the world.

And this is not just something that we see in a movie.  Jesus is the light of THIS world!  He is our light, shining in the midst of our darkness.  He is our hope.  He is alive.  And we do not need to be like the disciples, disbelieving and wondering where He is or if He is alive.  For we can touch Him and see Him, in Communion.  Just as Jesus appeared to the disciples in the breaking of the bread, He comes to us in a very real form of bread and wine.  So that we can touch and see that He indeed is alive.

We also encounter Jesus in the people we encounter.  I saw Jesus as I visited with nine high schoolers on Wednesday night at youth group.  We were discussing their most recent fundraisers and what we were going to do with the money raised.  Before Lent, we discussed the importance of tithing and not keeping everything for ourselves, but giving a portion of that back to God for the sake of His kingdom.  At youth group they were imagining how many tie blankets they could make for the children’s hospital with ALL of the money they raised – not a portion of it.

Our God is gracious.  And many times, God’s plan for us happens in ways that we did not intend for them to go.  Like seeing your teacher crucified on a tree and three days later standing in front of you talking with you and eating your fish.  Or like seeing a group of high schoolers not thinking about themselves, but rather graciously thinking about others and their needs.

Jesus told His disciples that they are witnesses to these things.  Meaning, go and tell people that His death did not go the way they thought it was going to go.  Today we, too, are witnesses.  We weren’t there to see our Lord crucified and then raised.  But if we open our eyes, we do encounter Jesus all the time.  We see Jesus in our children and grandchildren.  We see Jesus in our friends and family.  We see Jesus in our classmates, teachers, coaches, employers, employees.  And we see and touch Jesus in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.  The One who is the Light of the World.  Who shines bright to chase out the darkness – removing all fear and doubts.  So that we can be witnesses and say confidently and boldly, “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

 

 

© 2018 Anthony Christoffels.  All rights reserved.

God’s April Fools

Readings for the day (Resurrection of Our Lord Sunday, April 1, 2018):

Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Acts 10:34-43

Mark 16:1-8

 

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

 

Jesus is dead.  Satan won.  Death is the end.  Game over.  April Fools!  Jesus isn’t dead.  He’s actually alive.  Satan lost.  Death is not the end.  And this isn’t “Game over.”  It actually is only the beginning.  For many though, this Easter simply means a day off from work, some chocolate eggs and a fluffy bunny.  But we know this day to be something more, something bigger, something that is much more important.  This is the day of God’s ultimate prank on Satan.  Satan thinks that he won.  He thinks that he has achieved final victory.  He actually convinced God’s own chosen people to turn away from Him and to murder Jesus, the Son of God.  But the joke’s on him.  God could not and did not stay dead.  Breaking the chains of death, He rose to new life.  Once and for all defeating death; defeating Satan.  Jesus isn’t dead, but alive.  Alleluia!

For the three women who went to the tomb on that first Easter morning, this ultimate prank was not the least bit funny; it was terrifying.  Since they are forbidden from doing anything on the Sabbath, the women had to wait until the next day to go and carry out the ritual burial customs of anointing the dead with spices.  They get up early on the first day of the week to do what they needed to do.  When they arrive at the tomb, they expect to find a dead body.  Instead, they found no body.  God’s ultimate prank was not funny, at all.  It’s terrifying!  No wonder Mark says that these women fled the tomb and said nothing to anyone.  They were terrified.  They were afraid.  Jesus was supposed to be dead.  That’s what happens when you witness something dying.  They are supposed to stay dead.  But there’s not a dead body and they are told that Jesus has been raised.

What are you afraid of?  The most common fears that people have are a fear of heights, a fear of flying, a fear of enclosed spaces, a fear of snakes, and a fear of needles.[1]  And what is the church afraid of?  Decreasing involvement?  Fewer pastors?  No, our greatest fear is sharing the Gospel.  We can relate to these three women who fled the tomb, for terror and amazement seized them and they said nothing to anyone.  We do a good job of being like the women in this story, saying nothing to anyone.  But you know what, here’s another April fool’s.  The women did say something.  They did go and share this Good News with the disciples.  Otherwise we wouldn’t be here today.  If the women had never said anything about Jesus’ rising from the dead; the disciples would never had known.  Which means that they would have never heard the young man’s command to go to Galilee to meet Jesus.

After being raised from dead, Galilee is exactly where Jesus went.  Why Galilee?  Because that is where He said He would meet the disciples.  And where is Galilee?  Or more so, for these women and the disciples, what is Galilee…home.  Galilee is where they live.  It is where they work.  It is where they play.  It is where they study God’s Word.  The young man in the tomb told the women, “…[Jesus] is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”[2]  Jesus is not going to be found among the dead, but among the living, and specifically, He will be found where you live, where you work, and where you play.

Jesus is with you wherever you go.  When you are at home, Jesus is there.  When you are at work or at school, Jesus is there.  When you are out riding your snowmobile or on the lake fishing, driving the tractor or on the golf course, Jesus is there.  Jesus is not found among the dead, but among the living.  Wherever you go.  Wherever you run.  Wherever you rest.  Jesus is always right there with you.  So there is no need to fear sharing this Good News with others.  Through His crucifixion and death, Jesus has taken away your sins and has reconciled you with God once again.  Therefore you need not fear your future or the future of Christ’s church.  Satan thought that he had won.  He thought that darkness finally conquered the light.  But it was just one big April fool’s prank.  Satan does not win.  Darkness does not win.  Death claims no victory.  Because by Jesus’ resurrection, He defeated Satan, proving that light snuffs out the darkness, and we celebrate our Lord’s victory over death.

The best April fool’s prank of all time, Jesus not dead in a tomb, but alive; for your sake.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!  Amen.

 

 

© 2018 Anthony Christoffels.  All rights reserved.

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-01/ten-of-the-most-common-phobias/6439210

[2] Mark 16:7, NRSV

What are You Passionate About?

Readings for the day (5th Sunday in Lent, Sunday, March 18, 2018):

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Psalm 51:1-12

Hebrews 5:5-10

John 12:20-43

 

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

 

Spring is coming, I can feel it.  And before you know it the pools and lakes will be filled once again with people of all ages taking a dip in the pool to stay cool during those hot summer days.  Now unless the pool is heated to about 95 degrees, no matter how hot it is outside, the water takes some getting used to.  When I’m at the lake, swimming with our children, I start with getting my feet wet.  And on a hot summer day, the cool water feels pretty good.  So I take my children by the hand and we walk a little bit further out into the lake.  As we walk, we get a little deeper and the water appears to be getting a little colder.  Before I know it, my children are standing on their tiptoes, trying not to have the cold water get any higher on their bodies.  And that’s when I completely submerge myself in the water.

What are you passionate about?  Do you have a passion?  Something that is a priority for you, something that is very important to you.  What’s your passion?  It is something that you feel very strongly about.  It excites you.  It energizes you.  It consumes you – taking a lot of your time.  For example, people who are really passionate about football, know the ins and outs of the game.  They know who the players are, what their stats are, who would be a good player for say the Vikings quarterback position.  People who are passionate about football spend as much time as they can researching everything they can find about the game, the players, and the coaches.  It is the people who are passionate about football who have been saying for weeks now that Kurt Cousins was going to be the new Vikings quarterback.

What is your passion?  What drives you out of bed in the morning to tackle the day?  Right now, one of my passions is basketball.  It’s not at the top of my priority list, but it’s pretty close.  For the next two weeks, any free time that I have (like this afternoon) will be spent watching the NCAA tournament.  Every year I look forward to this time, this time of countless hours of basketball.  What’s your passion?  Maybe it is basketball or football.  Maybe it is your family.  Maybe it is sewing or exercise.  Maybe it is your work.  Whatever your passion is, it will be at the top of your priority list.  And no matter what, you will find the time for what you are passionate about.

We are nearing the end of Lent; next Sunday is Palm Sunday.  In the Gospel reading today, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.  The text that we have before us is what Jesus says right after His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  So after all of the pomp and circumstance of entering Jerusalem and being praised as the King of Israel, Jesus issues a call for discipleship, for faithful followers.  Jesus calls for us to be passionate about our faith.  He calls for us to be like the grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies.  The thing about Jesus’ call for discipleship is that He doesn’t call us practice our faith only when it is convenient for us.  Nor does Jesus calls us to come and just get our feet wet.  No, He wants us all in.  He wants us to jump in and be completely submerged in this faith.  Jesus desires for us to make our faith and belief in God the main thing we are passionate about.  But in order to be passionate about this faith, you must be all in.  You can’t be wishy washy.  You must be like the grain of wheat.  In order for the single grain of wheat to produce much fruit, it first must be buried in the ground.  Actually in order for the single grain of wheat to produce any fruit, it first must be buried in the ground.  And what happens to the seed if it is not fully buried in the ground?  It won’t grow.  The only way for the seed to produce fruit is for the seed to be completely buried in the ground.  The seed must be all in.  It cannot be only partially covered by the soil.

Jesus call us to be His disciples, and He desires us to be like the grain of wheat by being all in with our faith.  We can’t be living this faith only part way.  It is either all or nothing.  Faith that is only in part way is like a seed that is not fully buried in the ground.  Neither a partially covered seed, nor a partially active faith will produce any fruit.  And faith that isn’t all is, not a passion.  And we aren’t fully passionate about our faith because we like the past.  We like holding on to the past.  The shallow water behind us is comforting because we know how it feels and we know what to expect.  Looking forward to the future brings up so much uncertainty.  We don’t know what it will be like or how it will feel.  We have no idea what to expect.  But in order to faithfully follow Jesus, the only way to go is all in for our Lord.

And when we go all in, it often is terrifying because not only is the future unknown, but we are also giving up control.  When the grain of wheat goes all in and is completely buried in the ground, it dies.  It needs to die.  For that’s the only way to produce fruit abundantly.  And this is the reason why we struggle with going all in with our faith.  Going all in means giving up the past.  If the grain of wheat never goes all in, it will remain a single grain.  But if the grain of wheat goes all in and dies, then it will no longer be a single grain.  Rather it will be a plant with roots and produce it’s own fruit.  I know we don’t like to see things die.  We like to hold on to the past.  We like things just the way they are; even if we aren’t producing much fruit.  But death is necessary for resurrection.  You can’t have Easter Sunday without Good Friday.  There can be no resurrection without first experiencing death.  So the only way to get to new life, producing fruits of the spirit, is for us to go all in, letting go of the past, and be completely submerged by God’s love.  And there you will find your passion.  Faith that excites you.  Faith that energizes you.  Faith that consumes you.

And for Jesus, you are His passion.  You are what He is passionate about.  Jesus didn’t just get His feet wet.  He went all in for you.  He went all in to die in order to rise to new life and to bear much fruit.  And He did all of this; going all in for you.  Amen.

 

 

© 2018 Anthony Christoffels.  All rights reserved.