Sunday, September 8, 2019
“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,wife and children, brothers and sisters,and even his own life,he cannot be my disciple. Boy, that’s pretty harsh. Jesus told me to “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Think of those who had heard Jesus, those who were follow Him. Then you hear you’re supposed to hate those closest to you? What is Jesus trying to say here?
My first reaction would be, “just who do you think you are, Jesus”
Can you imagine anyone else saying this to you? Think of other spiritual leaders. Mohammed, unless you hate your mother and father? Perhaps love the Koran and its teachings more than anything else…
Buddha; Unless you hate your mother and father? Perhaps love the 8-fold path more than anything else….
Or in recent times, the late Billy Graham; hate your mother and father to be my disciple?
But Jesus does say this. Another way to say what Jesus said is; “love Me, your God, more than anything or anyone else.
Now Jesus was either right or He was a lunatic. He is either who he says he is or an imposter. But we believe, by faith that He is God and as such is worthy to be loved above all else. “Jesus answered them, ‘Even if you do not believe my words, believe in the works I do.” Was there ever another who raised himself from the dead, turned water into wine, and who rose up to Heaven before witnesses?
Let’s go at this statement another way. Are you happy? Do you know other people who are happy? Not just with outward appearances, all of us are good at putting on a happy face for others, but are you content? Are you at peace? Do you know many people who are at total peace and contentment?
Most of us, myself included, say I will be happy when… When my promotion comes through and I don’t have to deal with these people; when I’ll have power and be in charge. When, I accumulate enough money, buy a house, a new car. When, I locate someone who will be my girlfriend/boyfriend. When I secure companionship. When….
What is the focus of my life? Is it something other than God? Is it power, sex, money, pleasure….? What makes us happy?
Victor Frankl survived Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Kaufering and Türkheim concentration camps. When he was released, he wrote a book, Man’s Search for Meaning. He noted that there were happy people in the camps. Stripped of all rank, status, money, pleasure…. there were people who were happy! Their focus was on God and hope, not on the things of this world.
True happiness is aligning yourself with God. God is the focus of our lives. Hope in other things will drive you from that happiness and leave you miserable. If there is ANYTHING…. ANYTHING that you hold more important than God, you will not be happy.
Sunday, August 25, 2019
Someone comes up to you at the mall, or knocks on your door with the question, “are you saved?” What is your answer?
God, who is Love, creates us, out of love. We were created by Love, to love and be loved by the One Who is Love; God. We are placed in a garden. Everything we need is provided for us. We are meant to live in a sort of “Original Grace”; friends with God. We are even given the dignity of “Free will”. Because Love is a decision. True love can never be commanded, that would make us slaves. We have to choose to love and Free will allows us to choose. But also, in Free will, the decision is made to disobey.
The penalty? Leave the garden, work for food and housing. By our Free will, the relationship between God and us is fractured. The way back to the Garden is forbidden. An angel is placed to guard against our return. Original Grace is replaced by Original Sin. All of us inherit this fault. We live in a damaged world. We suffer. The transgression against God is rectified by Jesus; true Man/true God. Since man disobeyed, only a man can pay the price due. Only a God can ascend to the Father and plead our case for forgiveness.
Rather than everyone of us paying the price for sin, Jesus, in His Humanity assumes the punishment delegated to us. Jesus suffers death. The original sin which every human inherits is paid for by the perfect Man; Jesus. Then, in His Divinity, Jesus ascends to the Father. “Father, forgive them.” And there it is, Salvation. No one could enter the Garden until now. Jesus’ work unlocks the gates back to the Garden. We can be saved from sin.
“He descended into Hell?” Not the Hell of damnation, but the place all good souls went to wait for salvation. The Jews call it Sheol(Shadowlands). He delivers salvation to all the good people and they can now go home, back to the Garden.
We did nothing to earn this salvation. It is offered to us free of charge. We can’t purchase salvation and we don’t “earn” salvation. We our granted salvation, this freedom from Original Sin, by way of the Sacrament of Baptism. A sacrament is an outward sign of Jesus doing something on the inside. The sacraments do what they say they do. In this case Original Sin is washed away and we are given that free gift of salvation.
The Old Testament hides the New Testament and the New Testament reveals the Old. In Genesis, the waters are tamed by the breath of God, bringing order from chaos. God begins again as the Great Flood washes the earth. Israel is delivered from slavery through the waters of the Red Sea. In the Temple, the priests wash before offering sacrifice. The prophet Elisha tells Naaman to wash away his leprosy in the waters of the Jordan. Ezekiel tells us that water will cleanse God’s people. In the New Testament, John calls sinners to repent and wash themselves clean with the waters of the Jordan river. Then, Jesus was baptized. Not that He needed to be washed clean of Original Sin, but that the waters are blessed by His Divinity.
But we baptize as infants, as children, who don’t know what they are doing. Shouldn’t we wait to let each decide for themselves? Do we let infants decide if they want to have a needed surgery or not? Do we let children decide if they should see a doctor when they are sick? We want our children to be Christians. We want our children to be healthy.
Salvation stays with us once it is given. It is never taken away. So, the idea of once saved always saved is correct. However, in our Free will, we can turn away from our salvation. Sin can deny us of our salvation. But how do we regain that salvation? Say you’re sorry. Just turn around.
Am I saved? Yes, I am.