Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Marked by the blood of THE Lamb

I was reading my treasury of Daily I do in the mornings...and I read a text this morning that I think we have all read several times and glazed over. Within the Exodus we hear many times of God “testing” his people. We even hear of it in Genesis where God “tests” Abraham.  Sometimes we even talk about it in our lives and in our little circles saying things like; “God is / was just testing me” or “the silence of God is just a test to see if I’m trusting Him or not” or even when we talk of others, “Job was tested.” For whatever reason this has always rubbed me the wrong way. The Hebrew verb can also be translated using the English words; try, prove, or tempt. I would venture to say that most of us think of this verb in connection to the Devil, and we confess in the sixth petition of the Lord’s prayer; “God, indeed tempts no one?” In addition, we at times tempt, try, and test God often in our own lives, as did the children of Israel, provoking God to action, most times in anger. Perhaps the notion of God doing to us what we do to him and the devil does to us is difficult to swallow because it is difficult to imagine a loving God doing what we sinners do in malice. 
Perhaps ‘God testing” rubs because I used to cheat on tests, (I started and stopped that in the second grade) or perhaps it is because I hate tests, or maybe it is because I always think that whoever is giving the test is secretly out to get me. I have never had a very positive perspective on tests. I get nervous, I choke, I forget everything I should know or that I once had committed to memory. Tests in my mind have been a “make or break” deals. The worst of all the subjects for me was spelling. I can only hear out of one ear, so when covering homophones I just grabbed a shovel and a plot of land and started digging because I knew I was going to die, and I didn't want to be "that student" who raised her hand after each word and said; "Could you repeat that in another sentence?" So, going back to God then; as one who “tests.” I think the problem in my perspective and perhaps for others, is we think there is a mark with all tests. You study, you take the test, you pass or you fail, done. God however, doesn’t work like that. He continually tests and not for a mark or grade. He continually places us in situations where we can look to Him and trust, or look to ourselves and see what happens. It isn’t to prove anything to Him, it is only to show us. Just like with the children of Israel wandering through the desert. He continually tested them not to prove their worthiness of entering into the promised land. No, he already selected them to enter the promised land. God is faithful, and committed. The teacher knows his subject better than the students. He gives them these little tests to show them just how faithful He truly is. So they can know for their future wanderings that He does as He says He will. He tests, so that we know Him better and so that we do not have to test Him. He examines us and our hearts so that He Himself can know how to teach us better of Himself. He shows us our sin, to show us our Savior, and He tests our very being so we know what we might become, but only in and through Him.
I find it interesting that there really isn’t a “pass” or “fail” in God’s testing. Sure the Israelites and many of the Patriarchal fathers turned their back on God when they needed to be trusting Him, but the beauty is that it isn’t a fail because God is still faithful and uses those moments to teach us. Our greatest fail was in not listening and trusting His words that He breathed on us in creation. But our greatest gain is learning that our failures are blotted out by the very Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The very One who took the test in our place, and completed it in all faithfulness as only God could do. Every test is gain as we look to the one who washed us clean and made us white. In Christ we have one who goes before us, and completes what we otherwise would fail. He makes our bitter waters sweet, He promises us healing and cleansing from our sins, and He feeds us with His very body and blood. To quote my supervising pastor at the end of every one of His sermons; “Thanks be to God, for this Jesus Christ! Amen!” 
Exodus 15:25-26 So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet. There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them, and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fighting Against Death

Today was difficult. I cried my make up off and it didn’t take many tears to do that, but even was the first time I cried this much in and among my friends and deaconess students. One of our deaconesses sent me a message to let me know that a woman we had been visiting quite regularly had gone severely ill. This morning I received the call that she had passed away early in the morning and they were trying to find enough money to get the body from the hospital to the home. I have written on funerals before and how they have to burry the body immediately so I have explained that things go quite quickly. 

While the deaconess students and I are all still learning together how these things work and how we communicate the Gospel in the midst of pain and suffering, we know in one another the unity of Christ that carries us through these difficult events. The woman who died left four children behind, and their pain was made known. They suffered for not being able to stop the effects of sin and death upon their mother. My friends; the deaconesses, suffered for not being able to stop the pain of what that death would bring. I suffered to see the tears that rolled down both the children’s faces, and my friends faces. I suffered because it rendered me helpless. My heart has held many people up in prayer as sin has played it’s nasty final card of death, and every time I feel so powerless. Yet every time my arms are held in those of one who is carrying a cross much larger than mine, I am reminded; here God has given us, one to the other so that He can be made known, and I am humbled and honored. 

As I watched both the children and my beloved friends, I saw them fight against death while holding the promise of eternal life within their hands. Here a mother had left her children, yet God has not. God remains present in His word, and in the Body of Christ.  Here in the final days of lent, just before Palm Sunday, a mother no longer walks the lenten path of repentance and reflection on her saviors death, but she lives in the light of the resurrection. She lives to sing the Easter hymns now while we remain to sing the lenten ones. She lives to praise her Savior face to face. Tears may flow and doubts, worries, and sadness linger over our heads and block the light of the blistering sun but not the heat itself. Yet; we hold the light of the world and all His promises, and we support and love one another in these promises. Because He lives we too shall live. Because He lives, we cling to those promises in our veil of tears.

Christ Is Risen, Christ Is Living:
1.)Christ is risen, Christ is living, Dry your tears, be unafraid!
Death and darkness could not hold Him, Nor the tomb in which He lay.
Do not look among the dead for One who lives forever more;
Tell the world that Christ is risen, Make it known He goes before.

2.)If the Lord had never risen, We’d have nothing to believe.
But His promise can be trusted: “You will live, because I live.”
As we share the death of Adam, So in Christ we live again;
Death has lost its sting and terror, Christ the Lord has come to reign.

3.) Death has lost its old dominion, Let the world rejoice and shout!
Christ the firstborn of the living, Gives us life and leads us out.
Let us thank our God, who causes Hope to spring up from the ground;
Christ is risen, Christ is giving Life eternal, life profound. 

1.) ¡Cristo vive, fuera el llanto, los lamentos, y el pesar!
Ni la muerte ni el sepulcro lo han podido sujetar.
No busquéis entre los muertos al que siempre ha de vivir, 
¡Cristo vive! Estas nuevas por doquier dejad oír.

2.) Que si Cristo no viviera vana fuera nuestra fe:
mas se cumple su promesa: ¨Porque vivo, viviréis.¨
Si en Adán entró la muerte, por Jesús la vida entró:
no temáis, el triunfo es vuestro: ¡El Señor resucitó!

3.) Si es verdad que de la muerte el pecado es aguijón, 
no temáis pues Jesucristo nos da vida y salvación
Gracias demos al Dios Padre que nos da seguridad,
que quien cree en Jesucristo vive por la eternidad.   (LSB #479)