Losing loved ones sucks

My dad told me that life support had been removed from my grandmother around 3pm PST. It has been rough for me. I only grew up with two grandparents, both on my dad’s side, so I had a very special relationship with both of those grandparents. My grandfather died in April 2014, and that left only my grandmother. And now she’s going…In fact, one regret I have is that the last time I saw my grandmother was at my grandfather’s funeral. I think I’ve seen her maybe twice in 9 years? that sucks. I hate it.
I called her yesterday. My dad called me and said I should. I talked to her and told her I loved her, how much of a blessing she was in my life, that we can hope in God’s love for us, that she was like a mom to my mom once my mom’s mom died, and how much that meant to me, and once again, that I loved her so much. I was crying. I could barely keep it together. It sucked. But I wouldn’t trade that phone call for anything. I wish I could be out there. My hospital chaplaincy has shown me just how special it is when families gather around a love one at the hospital, and I wish I could be there to be with my grandma and with my aunts and uncles and cousins. I hate that I’m not in Sacramento right now.
I hate that I will never have one last visit with her. Before my grandfather died, we knew his time was short so I visited him over Christmas break. It meant the world to me that I could, and I hate that I won’t have that chance with my grandmother.
At the same time, I know that we Christians have the ultimate hope in Christ. We have the hope of resurrection. Death sucks. There’s no way around it. It sucks because we aren’t supposed to die; it is unnatural because God didn’t create us to die. It is a horrible thing because it separates us from each other and because it separates us from our bodies. We are made body and soul, not embodied souls or animated bodies…body AND soul, and that is disrupted in death. Heaven cannot be our home, because only a part of us will be there. Thankfully we have a vision of how it will be in Jesus Christ. When he was resurrected from the grave he was not a spirit…he was a human body that could be touched and could eat. It was a glorified body. And in his ascension he has promised to return, and on that day he will give us resurrected and glorified bodies, and we will live on a perfect, recreated earth with him, our Lord, forever. Death is not the end for us, and heaven is but a pit stop along the way to fulfillment in Christ. And I cannot wait for that day when my grandmother will be reunited, body together with soul, and live forever with her Lord.
Dear Lord, may you help me and all my family in this time of hurt and pain. We know that death hurts, and you know that too. You have mourned death and you know what it is to die. But you rose and have promised to return, so give us an increase of faith so we too may trust in your Holy Word, and praying “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” Amen.

Sow the seeds now that you hope to bear fruit in the future

I fear that if we don’t sow the seeds and plant the message of forgiveness and reconciliation now, it will be too late when it is needed, and we will have but dead seeds yet to sprout or bear fruit. It frightens me. We must take care now!

It has been said that Commandments 2-10 are commentary on the First, and stem from the breaking of that First. I think they may also be seen in the opposite manner. It is easier to break the Tenth, then the Ninth, then the Eighth, and so forth, until the First is no longer an obstacle to us. The Devil starts small, then works and weasels his way until the crack is large and unpatchable.

We all have need to repent. All of us. So let us do so, confessing that we have sinned against God and against our brothers and sisters; then let us hear God’s absolution for us, be reconciled to Him for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and then be reconciled to one another in His perfect love.

This may sound idealistic. But I have hope in God’s strength and love and mercy to bring about events and outcomes that are wonderful and amazing and impossible and, yes, even idealistic.

The Water is the Source

Devotion for January 10, from The LORD Will Answer (2004, CPH):

Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life! A viper of the Cainite* heresy, lately dwelling in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first sin to destroy Baptism. This is quite in accordance with nature. For vipers and asps and basilisks themselves generally do prefer arid and waterless places. But we, little fishes, after the example of our ICHTHUS** Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water. So that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine, knew full well how to kill the little fishes, by taking them away from the water!

–Tertullian of Carthage, c. 160-225

Prayer:

Psalm 43:1-3 (KJV): Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man. For thou art the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.

And as a bonus, the rest of the Psalm

Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

*Cainites were a small “Gnostic” group in early Christianity.

**ICHTHUS is an acronym for “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior” from the original Greek. “ichthus”, or “ichthys” is also the Koine Greek word for “fish.”

Prepare the Way! Come, Lord Jesus

Our sermon text at my Field Ed church this past Sunday, the First Sunday in Advent 2013 (Series A in the 3 year LCMS lectionary), was Revelation 22:20.

I have previously and recently written on this verse regarding the end times; as a refresher here it is (ESV): “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

The sermon was very good, and is appropriate as an Advent sermon. Advent is supposed to be a time where we prepare our hearts for Christmas and the coming of Jesus. It is a time of penitence and reflection. It is impossible, or rather it should be impossible, to celebrate Christmas and Advent without also recognizing the reason why He had to be born. He was born for us. To save us from our sins while we were still sinners.

And although we look forward to the Second Coming we know that Jesus is still with us today. Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered in my name there am I among them.”

So one of the points of the sermon was that Christ is with us. And that whenever we pray “Come, Lord Jesus” He is indeed with us. Through all the pain and suffering…that when we ask Jesus to come, we are inviting him to be in our lives, in that muck and grime and into the deep dark recesses of our lives. Those secrets we keep to ourselves, the sin you haven’t told anyone or have maybe just told your confessor…we are inviting Jesus into those parts of our lives. He does and He has. He has borne that sin upon the cross for us and loves us still. Through His sacrifice we know that God the Father will see Christ in us and we shall be saved.

So whether we are talking about preparing for a meal, or a prayer of thanksgiving, or through the tough times of our life, through sin, or in waiting for the Second Coming, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

Working in our Faith

Faith, however, is a divine work in us that changes us and makes us to be born anew of God, John 1. It kills the old Adam and makes us altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers; it brings with it the Holy Spirit. O, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them. Whoever does not do such works, however, is an unbeliever.

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that the believer would stake his life on it. This knowledge of and confidence in God’s grace makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and all creatures. And this is the work that the Holy Spirit performs in faith. Because of it, without compulsion, a person is ready and glad to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, out of love and praise to God, who has shown him this grace. Thus it is impossible to separate works from faith.

Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord IV, 10-12

I read the above paragraphs a couple of days ago as part of my daily devotionals. Honestly, I read the first paragraph and felt convicted, so I wanted to move on from what I didn’t like hearing. The first few sentences of the second paragraph is completely different in tone and I thought, “Yeah! This is so great, so reassuring!” It is all about God’s grace and His promises for is. However, it pivots back to works. Ouch.

Why “ouch”? Simply put, for a few years I don’t think I’ve been living out my faith. There have been countless Saturdays and weekdays where I wasn’t working but didn’t do anything, or maybe I should say anything productive. I didn’t volunteer at a food bank or with kids or at some other ministry; I didn’t learn a new language or a new skill, I didn’t do anything to better myself or my neighborhood or the world around me. At least not regularly.

So you can see why I may not want to hear what God had to say for me. It wasn’t the first time I realized that I had been unproductive, but it’s always tough to hear it and be reminded of it.  But we need to hear it. We need to hear those tough words that our Father has for us, that we are not living up to His perfect standards. Yet, we can take comfort in His promises. We have that “daring confidence in God’s grace” because we know that our robes have been washed in the Blood of the Lamb.

The Holy Spirit works in us to sanctify us. Part of this work of sanctification, the process of becoming more holy (a process which shall not be complete while we are here on this earth), is that we desire to do good works. Good works, not for salvation, but because we know that those things are from God

Prayer: Father, we thank you for all you have done for us, all of the blessings in our lives are because of you. Please forgive us for having forgotten this and using our time and blessings for our own selfish desires and not for your. Thank you for the gift of grace through your Son and please give us your Spirit so that we may think, say, and do the things you would want us to do. Through your Son’s name, Amen.

Through the Blood of the Lamb

To be sure, all sins have been remitted and covered, but they have not yet been completely cleansed away. Not only do the dregs of lust, pride, hatred, wrath, and other desires cling to us, but also inner evils and hidden stains, doubts about God, unbelief, impatience, and murmuring, which do not come out into the open until the conscience is troubled by the Law and by the terrors of sin. Although we pay no attention to these things and do not sob because of such a disgraceful fall, yet God sees them. Therefore He tries to purge our impure nature. This is what He thinks: ‘You have been enlightened and baptized; but you still stink, and your flesh is full of many great vices. Therefore I must cleanse it, for that which is unclean and polluted shall not enter the kingdom of heaven’ (cf. Rev. 21:27)

Martin Luther (AE 7:229)

As taken from: Engelbrecht, E. A. (2009). The Lutheran Study Bible (p. 2235). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.