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Posts Tagged ‘pilgrimage’

 

Text:  Hebrews 11

Today’s Epistle reading is the Roll Call of the Heroes of Faith in Jesus Christ with the theme verse, the 11: 1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.

In the middle of the Roll Call, there are verses of hope in Christ, by faith, toward the Lord’s will in Christ for all:

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.

The  hymn “I’m but a Stranger Here” (#748, Lutheran Service Book) expresses an Biblical truth we seem not to like as Christians, the first stanza:

I’m but a stranger here,
Heaven is my home;
Earth is a desert drear,
Heaven is my home;
Danger and sorrow stand
Round me on every hand;
Heaven is my fatherland,
Heaven is my home.

This reminds me of the country song lyric, “Everyone wanna go to heaven, but no one want to go now”.  We like it here.  We have a hard time with the understanding that, “earth is a desert drear”.  Never before in the history of the world have so many people enjoyed the life that just a century before was limited to the wealthy few:  single family dwellings, lawns, vast entertainment possibilities through, radio, TV, internet, even indoor plumbing.  Prosperity preachers make much ado about this that we can even more if we strike a deal with the Almighty. We are very much at home here and now and want to hold on for dear life…even Christians. Yet, if what I have written is true, we are being false to the faith and hope the saints of old lived in Christ:  the Lord has a better plan.  The Lord laid out this plan in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth:  an enduring city, who’s builder is none other than the Lord Himself.  Even our desire, even lust, for the “good life”, the “best life” now and forever demonstrates that eternity is part of our very thoughts, reflecting in a fleshly way, the Lord Himself. Ecclesiastes 3:

 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Eternity is in our will, that we know we were made forever with the Lord, yet on our own we can not find out “what God has done from the beginning to the end”.  Now with the Lord’s revelation finally and fully of the Incarnation, Ministry, life, death, resurrection and ascension of His Son our Lord, Jesus Christ, we know by what the Lord is doing.  For all our pagan attempts to hold onto life, grab all the gusto, we are looking to ourselves, inwardly, the despair of our times.  All the heroes of the faith, from A-Z, from Abraham to Zechariah were directed by the Lord to seek a “homeland”.  “Homeland Security” cannot give finally security and yet we seek homeland security for the here and now.  The hope of the homeland which is secure forever has been given:  the city of God.  We think our I-Phones/Pods and Pads are the “bomb”, giving us information and control at a finger swipe but all the while we want to be loved.  We live as if this were it, and fear and tremble that it is not. But,

“With all true Christians running
Our heavenly race and shunning
The devil’s wiles and cunning”,

we know by the Lord’s scarred hands that this world is not the final resting place.  Christ is.  I am, maybe like you, not too crazy about dying…but when we know sin is death, Christ is life eternal, seeking His homeland is sanity in this dark world for which Christ died.

In the Hall of Heroes of the Faith, note that all the saints therein were looking forward in hope, in the hope of Christ to come.  They had no cathedrals, except the Temple not made with human hands:  Jesus Christ (John 2:21; 1 Corinthians 3:17 ).  We pray many will hear the Word and come to faith.  But if faith is only for this world, or even for our congregation alone, then we are of all people the most to be pitied:  but Christ is raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:18-20).  It is clear from Hebrews 11:  Faith not only clings to Christ for what He has done for us but what He will do:  Thy Kingdom Come, based upon the Rock of our salvation,what He has done from womb to tomb to the Resurrection. Our national pastime, baseball, has it right:  to go home, after all the strike outs, errors, missed catches, we can in Christ. The homeland is given even now:

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.-St. John 14: 23

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 One of my favorite TV shows was and still is, Star Trek.  Every episode began with this:

 Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

 Except I  do think that space is not the final frontier.  The final frontier is the heart, soul, mind and body of everyone of us. We can not traverse that frontier so well and following our devices and advices we get lost. “I did it my way” we sing and pay the piper, again and again. “with no direction home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone”.  That’s how man is without the Lord. Like a rolling stone, not built upon the cornerstone of His life.  We live in an age which has lost it’s direction and we seek directions with every talk show, expert, professional, guru and teleevangelist.    Only God can go where no mere man has gone before, that is Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfector of our faith.  “I am the way , the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me”.  Indeed, Believe in God, believe also in Me because, “I am the Word made flesh.  I have come to take you home to be with now and in the life of the world to come.  I will lay down My life, in order to take it up again.  I am the way, the road.  Follow me. You have gone down cul de sacs and dead ends, tried shortcuts, other ways which lead nowhere, on a road to nowhere, highways to hell.  Thieves and robbers along the way trying to take your life, your faith, your hope and My love and forgiveness from you. The devil like a prowling lion seeking someone to devour, stand fast in the Way, I am the way. Follow Me, not your thoughts and feelings”.   We are called by the Lord Jesus to Himself, who as sheep go astray, everyone to his own way, and the chastisement that made us whole was laid upon Him. 

 “He’s the spittin’ image of his father.”  One of the first queries after a birth of a child is who does he look like?  He’s the spittin’ image of his father…that usually comes later.  But of Jesus Christ, it is true from the womb.  He is the spittin’ image of His Father. When the Magi saw the Infant lowly, they fell down and worshiped Him. What the eye saw, the Holy Spirit revealed.   Phillip, if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.  In Christ the fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell. Was it because the Lord looked like a movie star or model that He said what He did to Phillip?  One of my profs said that in answer to what did Jesus look like, we do not know from the Bible as there is no description of His looks.  This itself is important in our image obsessed image that declares image is everything, that is looks .  My prof said the go-to verse as to maybe what Jesus looked like is Isaiah 53:2

For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him
.

So image is more than looks.  As Jesus said to Phillip that believe on account of My words and My works.  Phillip had heard and seen them all. Image is not looks but who one is. Every word from His mouth, every work of His hand is to warn and guide, to heal and uplift, to afflict the comforted, and comfort the afflicted. Phillip, this is what the Father looks like, you have seen the Father, but you want more.  Wanting more than Jesus and faith is the perennial problem. Some spiritual experience, some seeing of God sitting on His lap in heaven maybe, some emotional high contrived by my kind of music, some sign, give me a sign.  Here’s your sign: My Cross. The spittin’ image of the Father was spat upon.  Here is what God looks like for us all:  bleeding, dying, for you.  It is finished He said upon the Cross, that is, salvation free and clear.

 Why was Stephen stoned to death?  He was falsely accused of blaspheming the Temple by stating that Jesus is the Temple of the Lord not made with human hands, for now the kingdom of God is open to all believers. The temple in Jerusalem was never meant to be a hitching post but a guide post. He was saying what Jesus said that no one can come to the Father except by Me.  This does not fly in the corridors of theological correctness back then or in these days.  Of course, no Christian would say that because the exclusivity of the love of God in Christ Jesus that we Christians are superior beings.  That’s putting the cart before the horse.  Jesus is saying that His love is exclusively for sinners to repent receiving the Lord’s free remission.   His mission is the world’s remission of sin.   His exclusive love, bled upon the Cross, is for us all exclusively, that is, people who don’t live up to God’s standards, His Law. 

 Dr. Robert George, professor at PrincetonUniversity and he is a devout Roman Catholic, a rarity in many a university.  Dr. George said recently in a speech at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, that we are now in a time of social persecution of the Church which actually stands for something..  He said that it is still possible to be “safe” or a “comfortable Catholic” today “if one in fact does not believe what the Church teaches, or, for now at least, even if one does believe those teachings but is prepared to be completely silent about them.”  The type of capitalism that was the warp and woof of our nation was laissez-faire capitalism, which means economics with little or no governmental interference, but when it comes to the Church “laissez-faire” is deadly;  that is, Christianity without any direction from the actual Bible, God’s actual and literal Word.   Dr. George’s pointed comments about  comfortable Catholics, seems to go for laissez-faire Lutherans, especially those are completely silent about saving truth in Jesus Christ in the Bible.   When asked to give a defense of the hope that is in them, demur. For in the literal Bible the Lord tells us His Word of Law, don’t and His Gospel, I have.  And both Law and Gospel are exclusive, excluding sin and including the sinner, forgiven, to love what the Lord has set His heart upon:   life from conception, marriage between man and woman, serving the neighbor in his need, not for my greed, speaking the truth in love, but not loving the neighbor without the truth. You can’t tell me how to live is the cry at the Church.  We’re not, really.  God is.  Your complaint is as old as Adam. But when someone asks for directions because they are lost, and I know the way, to say I don’t know the way, is wrong.   

 The Church is not mortar and brick, but the Lord’s creation redeemed from the depths, as, “… you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter).  The Church is mobile as she follows her Lord in a world that has lost direction home to tell people of the home, the Church on the frontier of the kingdom come. The library here, as many do, has a bookmobile.  This is a picture of the Lord’s Church:  The Book mobile, His Scriptures pointing us ever to Jesus.  And the signpost home is Jesus’ Cross, the signpost of freed travelers on the living way of His dying and rising, His home with us, in His vast House, day by day in prayer, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

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Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life. We humbly pray that we may live before You in righteousness and purity forever; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 Lessons:

Psalm 114

Additional Psalm: Psalm 136

Old TestamentReading: Exodus 17:1-16

New Testament Reading: Hebrews 11:1-29

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  Hebrews 11: 8

Meditation:

“Great was the faith of Abraham…. For what God did and said seemed to be opposed to what was from God. Faith opposed faith. Command opposed promise.

“This is what I mean: God had said, `Go from your country and your kindred and … to your offspring I will give this land’ (Genesis 12:1, 7). But `He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length’ (Acts 7:5). You can see how what was done was opposed to the promise. Again He said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named’ (Genesis21:12), and he believed. But again He says, ‘Sacrifice to Me this one, who was to fill all the world from his offspring! Can you see the opposition between the commands and the promise? He enjoined things that were in contradiction to the promises, and yet this righteous man did not stagger because of it, nor did he say he had been deceived….

“He heard the opposite of the promises from Him who had made them; and yet he was not disturbed, but he performed them as if they had been in harmony. For they were in harmony. Although they were opposed according to human calculations, they were in harmony by faith. (John Chrysostom, Homilies on Hebrews, 25.1-2)

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