A Rock Higher than I am

 

Psalm 61:2b Lead me to the rock that is higher than I am.

The Elephant Rocks in Missouri have long been an attraction for our family.  Becky and I took our children there when they were small.  Of all the places we took our children, the elephant rocks seem to have made the biggest impression.  Now they take their children to climb about on those huge reddish-brown boulders.

Translations differ in how they present ps. 61:2b in English.  The ESV has the psalmist, whose strength has given out, asking God to “Lead me to a rock…higher than I am.”  REB, “Lift me up and set me high on a rock.”

In scripture God is often referred to as the “Rock of salvation.”  St. Paul, in I Corinthians 10:4, writes of Christ being a rock that followed the Israelites through their desert Journey from Egypt, “For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” God the Rock is a source of spiritual sustenance, safety and provides a firm foundation for life.

At Easter we remember that Christ the Rock of our salvation could not be contained by a tomb carved into the rock nor even by a sealed and guarded rock at its entrance.

As we approach the Gospel for this coming Sunday we encounter the group of Jesus’ followers fearfully hiding behind locked doors.  The early Christians who found much of Christ in the book of Isaiah, at that moment did not remember Isaiah 44:8, “Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it?  And you are my witnesses!  Is there a God besides me?  There is no Rock, I know not any.”

Lord, I may no longer be able to clamber over the Elephant rocks of Missouri, but when I am fearful, set me upon the rock higher than my fears, even Jesus Christ the Rock of my salvation.

 

Advertisements

Outside the City’s Concrete Circle

 

One of the joys “running around and preaching,” is to get outside the 270-255 concrete circle.  I find that when weeks and even months go by without breaking outside the encompassing concrete boundary that I lose contact with what is happening in the nearby countryside.

Just off 255 at New Poag Rd is an area with an abundance of white blooming trees.  It isn’t that we don’t have blooming trees on our street, we do, pear, cherry, magnolia, red bud, dogwood, and Lilac.  But to pass a woods dotted with blooming dogwoods and red buds holds a wonder all its own.  In the fields the winter wheat is growing green, corn will soon be sprouting, cattle and horses are plentiful in the pastures.  That is the scene Becky and I have experienced on our way up to Bunker Hill this spring.  And this coming Sunday we will be traveling to Conant/Pinckneyville.  I look forward to the quiet wonders we will behold along the way.

On the third day of creation God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.” And it was so.

Pius Parsch writes, “Nature is a holy symbol.  It is a picture – book given by God to his children in which they may see his beauty and his love; a picture-book which tells of another world which now at Easter is likewise celebrating resurrection, the world of supernatural life within us.

Spring with its transformation of hill and meadow is, accordingly, a great symbol of an event in sacred history and of an event now taking place in the church.  Springtime is nature executing her Easter liturgy.”

The second stanza of Thomas Mentzer’s hymn “O that I had a thousand voices” is fitting for Easter,

You forest leaves so green and tender

That dance for joy in summer air,

You meadow grasses bright and slender,

You flow’rs so fragrant and so fair,

You live to show God’s praise alone.

Join me to make his glory known.

Easter Monday

 

Kate Seredy wrote children’s book published in 1935 set in Hungary.  On Easter Monday “Wet Monday,” the young boys of the village went from house to house, wherever there were young girls and when the girls came to the door the boys recited a blessing and splashed the girl with water.  The girls invited the boys in and everyone feasted on Easter food.  The girls gave the boys some painted eggs to take home.  On Easter Tuesday they replayed the whole game in reverse.

Now it’s a fun day throughout much of eastern Europe, with everyone splashing everyone else with water.  The origins of the practice are foggy.  But it can be connected with remembering baptism.

The Old Testament reading for Easter Monday is from Exodus 15, which is a song of rejoicing after God delivered the Israelites by cutting a path through the Red Sea waters and throwing the Egyptian horses and riders into the sea.

Having grown up in Northern Wisconsin where the ice, at times, was not off the lakes yet at Easter and there could be snow, “Wet Monday” probably would not be a welcome and fun experience.  Though it did remind me of the spring music festivals held in Rice Lake.  Choirs and soloists from area schools gathered for competition.  Along main street Woolworths and Ben Franklin stores stocked up on squirt guns. Downtown was full of teenagers having fun.   It was more of a “Wet May Day.”  Connecting it with baptism never entered our minds. In the days following the festival teachers, were busy confiscating squirt guns.  Today, we would have been expelled.  But that was in the 1950’s when no one thought of bringing their deer rifle to school.

 

Easter = Resurrection

Easter 2016, Bunker Hill, I Cor. 15:19-26

Pastor Buls was telling the school children of Bethel Lutheran the story of the resurrection, describing how Peter and John went running to the tomb to check the story which the women had told.  And when they got there after that long run, they found that the grave was empty.

Then Pastor Buls asked, “How do you suppose Peter and John felt.”

One of the younger boys said, “They was mad.”  “Why? Why would they be mad?”  “They run all that way; and – nothin’!”

Easter is about going to Jesus’ tomb and finding nothin.’  Finding nothin’ left the women who had gone to the cemetery at early dawn utterly at a loss. They had spent Friday evening in their own Tenebrae service, the service of darkness; getting spices ready to put around Jesus’ body to reduce the odor which would soon be emanating from the tomb. Saturday for many of us was filled with activity getting ready for Easter.  However, for the women, because it was the Sabbath, they simply had to bide their time.   And so they got up early Sunday morning and by the dawns early light they made their way to the tomb.  Their only question was, “Who would roll away the stone?” A stone had been placed across the entrance and sealed.

Why would they expect anything different?  They had seen Jesus arrested, put on trial, sentenced to death.  They had seen him stumble under the weight of his cross.  They had seen him crucified.  They stood at a distance watching the ghastly scene being played out.   They had followed all the way south from Galilee to Jerusalem only to see Jesus die. Yet, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the ruling council who was looking for the kingdom of God had also seen and believed that Jesus was that kingdom.  With Pontius Pilates permission he buried Jesus in his tomb.   The women followed, saw the tomb and how the body was laid.

But what do they see that early Sunday morning?  The stone was rolled away.  The seal broken.  When they entered the tomb, “They did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.”  They found “nothin’.” Well, that’s not quite true.  Two men in dazzling clothes were there.  They asked the women, “Why do you look among the dead for the living?  He is not here.  He has risen!”

Easter equals resurrection.  That’s what this day is about.  Years later Peter will preach, “We are witnesses…though they put him to death…God raised him on the third day.”  Peter was not mad after running to the tomb and finding nothin.’  He went away amazed at what had happened.

Easter is about the unexpected happening.  Easter is about marveling at what God can do.  Easter is the day which the Lord has made and we have every reason to rejoice and be glad in it.  Easter is about the power of God to overcome death.  That is what Easter is for us, resurrection.  Just as the stone was rolled away, the seal broken and the tomb rendered useless, so will it be for you and me.  When Jesus returns, grave stones with the date of our birth and death will be out of date, containing outdated information.  Who cares when you were born and died, you’ll be alive beyond all time and dates.  Sealed caskets and vaults will prove to be no more a restraint to our resurrection than such paltry human efforts were in keeping Jesus in the grave.  Our resurrection will be part of the new heavens and the new earth that God is in the process of creating even now.  You know all those sentiments about someone who has died looking down from heaven on us, such sentiments will finally be proven foolish.  This morning the prophet Isaiah tells us, “The former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”  Nor is the resurrection an inner realization of our true self.  Resurrection is God recreating our whole self, changing us from children of Adam to his newly created children, brothers and sisters of Jesus, the second Adam.  Through Christ our hope extends beyond this life to eternity.

All of that is ours because Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection, the first in the harvest of the dead.  You see, the spring of the year, the time of Passover and Pentecost, was the time of the barley harvest.  On their way to Jerusalem, Jesus and his entourage would have seen the barley crop beginning to ripen.  Jesus resurrection is the firstfruits of an abundant crop of resurrections when the Father sends him back again to reap the rest of the harvest, and we are that harvest.  Someone likened it to the first ripe berries, or tomatoes or apples.  But heaven hope us when all of the zucchini squash ripen at once.  We may not appreciate being compared to a squash, but that is what the resurrection will be like.  Everyone milling around with new bodies.  Not just one grave empty, but all of them.  Old bodies gone; new bodies in their place.  Dust to dust; Ashes to ashes reversed; reconstituted with bodies patterned after Jesus risen body.

Jesus resurrection is the pillar of our faith.  That is Christianity at heart: a single miracle – like an island surrounded by the sea.

All this, is complete reversal of the way of humanity since Adam ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.  For death came by a man, Adam.  In Adam all die.  Marie, a character in Yann Martel’s novel, “The High Mountains of Portugal” looks at death in terms of a mystery novel.  She says, “The sad fact is that there are no natural deaths, despite what doctors say.  Every death is fleet by someone as a murder, as the unjust taking of a loved person.  And even the luckiest of us will encounter at least one murder in our lives: our own.  It is our fate.  We all live in a murder mystery of which we are the victim.”  And who is guilty of our murder?  It is death, the grim reaper, who was loosed upon creation through the disobedience of Adam.  There has never been such an efficient and thorough reaper as death.  Not one stalk of humanity is left standing at the end of death’s never ending harvest season.

But, writes Paul, “In Christ shall all be made alive.”  It turns out that when we are planted in the ground, in our graves or wherever that may be, in God sees us as seeds leading to an enormous harvest of life.  When I look out at the wheat fields growing green in the spring sun and rain, I see a parable, a parable of the harvest of those who believe and trust in Christ.  In the end, when Christ returns, death our last enemy, will be put to death, annihilated, destroyed.

And so being alive in Christ, let us rejoice.  Let us enjoy our Easter breakfasts and egg hunts.  Let us hear his word and eat of his body and blood.  Let us sing to the Lord for he has triumphed gloriously.  God will bring life out of death.  It’s like nothin’ for God, but it’s everything to you and me.

Where Are You Lord?

 

A paraphrase of Psalm 10:1 asks, “Where are you, Lord when we need you? Why do you hide?”

A more literal translation asks, “Why, O Lord, do you stand afar off?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

Jesus asked much the same question when from the cross he quoted Psalm 22, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?”

For the Tenebrae service this evening at Bunker Hill, I selected a portion from Lamentations for the First Lesson,

Lam. 3:1-6, 19-24

I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; surely against me he turns his hand and again and again the whole day long.  He has made my flesh and my skin waste away; he has broken my bones; he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago.

Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!  My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind, and therefore have hope:  the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Psalm 121 asks, “From where does my help come?”  However, the writer has already identified where he has been looking, “I life my eyes to the hills.”

On Good Friday we look to a particular hill, Calvary.  There we see the Lord in our time of trouble.  Where is the Lord?  On a cross between two robbers.

Prayer of the Day:

Almighty God, graciously behold this Your family for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and delivered into the hands of sin men to suffer death upon the cross; through the same Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

Spy Wednesday

 

I was intrigued this morning when I came across a bit of an English Lenten Carol.

“It was on Spy Wednesday,

And all in the morning,

That Judas betrayed our dear heav’nly King:

And was not this a woeful thing?

And sweet Jesus we’ll call him by name.”

 

In Mark 14:3-11 & Matt. 26:6-13 we have two interesting events.  Two days prior to the Passover Jesus is in Bethany eating with a leper named Simon when a woman comes in and anoints Jesus with costly ointment.  Some were indignant over such a waste of money which could have been used to feed the poor.  (In John 12, it’s Judas who complains.  It’s also Mary who does the anointing.)  However, Jesus commends her, because she has prepared his body for burial even before the crucifixion.  Could the faint sweetness of that oil have lingered with Jesus as he is abused after his arrest, perhaps even as he was carried to the tomb?  Jesus comments that wherever the good news is proclaimed the woman and what she has done will be remembered.

Immediately following Jesus’ anointment, Judas goes to the chief priests to offer to betray Jesus into their hands.  “And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money.”  What Judas did is also remembered, but not well remembered.

Yet the woman in Bethany and Judas, both in their own way, prepared Jesus for his burial, and paved the way for his resurrection.

Prayer of the Day:

Merciful and everlasting God, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all to bear our sins on the cross.  Grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in Him that we fear not the power of sin, death, and the devil; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.

 

 

 

 

Easter: Sins are Gone

 

In 1532-1533 Martin Luther preached on I Corinthians 15, seventeen times. Below are a few snippets from those sermons.

If Christ is not risen from the dead, then sin and death have devoured and killed Him.  Since we could not rid ourselves of our sins, Christ took them upon Himself that He might tread sin, death, and hell underfoot and become their Lord.  But if he did not rise, He did not overcome sin but was overcome by sin.  But if He was overcome by sin, He did not rise.  If He did not rise, He did not redeem you, then you are still in sins.

We are called Christians because we may look at the Christ and say: Dear Lord, You took all my sins upon Yourself, You became Martin, Peter, and Paul, and thus You crushed and destroyed my sin.  There (on the cross) I must seek my sin.  You have directed me to find it there.  On Good Friday I still clearly see my sin, but on the Day of Easter no sin is any longer to be seen.

He who would really possess the benefit of Christ’s resurrection must shed his old skin, must enter into Christ and become a new man.  If he does not do so, he is none better for the resurrection of Christ.

To wise reason and worldly wisdom it seems to be a big stout lie that the entire human race should die because of the guilt of a single human being.  For it certainly appears exceedingly unfair and absurd on the part of God to react so oddly to Adam’s folly and to take a position so foolish as to judge that because Adam bit into an apple he brought about the death of all human beings who come after him down to the end of the world.

The life of the world is nothing but a progress toward death; indeed, it is like the progress of people who rush toward the grave backward; for they revel and riot and are unmindful of death until they suddenly drop into it.

Prayer for the Tuesday of Holy Week:

Almighty and everlasting God, grant us by Your grace so to pass through this holy time of our Lord’s passion that we may obtain the forgiveness of our sins; through Jesus Christ, Your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

 

Have the Mind of Christ

Palm/Passion Sunday, 2016, Bunker Hill

Phil. 2:5, Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…

This week, in the drama of our salvation, Jesus stands at center stage.  Sunday, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem hailed with Hosannas.  Jesus teaches in the temple. Thursday, Jesus institutes Holy Communion at the Passover meal.  Jesus prays in the garden of Gethsemane.  Friday, Jesus on trial.  Jesus stumbles under his cross.  Jesus crucified.  Jesus dies.  Jesus buried in a borrowed tomb. Sunday, Jesus, no longer there, but risen.

However, we also see minor characters out on the edges of the stage that move in and out of the story.  These curious characters are purposely placed to point us to the crucified Christ.

I draw your attention to the Betrayers: Judas and Peter.  An odd couple.  Both disciples of Jesus.  Both were at Jesus last supper.  Both betrayed him within hours of that meal.  When the test of their faithfulness was most severe and the cost of their discipleship was highest, both Judas and Peter failed.

Look at Judas over there in the colonnade of the temple, meeting with agents of the high priest, while his Master teaches openly in the temple courts.  He’s about to strike a business deal.  “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?”  To Judas, his Savior was worth thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave.  To the woman who anointed Jesus with expensive oil he was worth everything.  Jesus said of her, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.  She has prepared me for burial.”   To Jesus, you are worth everything.  He gave his all for your sake.  He paid the price not with gold or silver but with his holy precious blood. What is Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, worth to you?

Listen to Peter, at the Last Supper, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.”   See Peter in the courtyard of the high priest, declaiming with curses and oaths, “I do not know the Man.” Listen, to the slap delivered to the face of our blindfolded Savior, “Prophesy to us, you Christ!  Who is it that struck you?”  Listen, to the rooster crowing.  See Peter weeping.

Judas and Peter, both betrayers of Christ.  Both deniers of Christ.  Both deeply regretful.  Judas spoke for both of them when he said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”  But from there their paths diverged.  Judas went and hanged himself.  Peter’s sorrow led him to accept Jesus forgiveness.  When we succumb to betraying the Lord for far less than thirty pieces of silver do we take the path of despair or the path of repentance leading to God’s forgiveness?

Look over here, we have the Condemners, Caiaphas the high priest, and Pilate, the Roman governor, behold power and corruption, weakness and dereliction of duty.  See Caiaphas, the spiritual leader of God’s people, leading the show trial.  Hear the irony in his demand of Jesus, born of the Holy Spirit and of Mary to save His people from their sins, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”  He wants God to swear on a stack of bibles that he is God.  And when Jesus answered that he would see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven, Caiaphas tore his robes.  When God declared that He was God, Caiaphas, called it, “Blasphemy.”  His coconspirators agreed, “He deserves death.”

But Caiaphas must turn to the Roman governor for the death penalty. Cast your attention on Pilate.  What is Pilate to do? The man brought to him is guilty of nothing.  However, a riot is about to break out.  The keeper of the peace of Jerusalem has a way out.  Offer them the choice of the notorious criminal Barabbas or Jesus, who is called Christ.  But the crowd chooses the wrong man.  Jerusalem, city of peace, prefers a disturber of the peace over the God’s Prince of Peace.  “What shall I do with the Jesus?” pleads Pilate. “Let him be crucified.”  To save the peace he released the criminal and sent the innocent One to a criminal’s death.  He washed his hands of the man’s blood, while the people chanted, “His blood be on us and our children.”

Jesus, blood was indeed on the people, their children and on Pilate, as well as on us and our children.  With Jesus’ blood upon us, we the guilty, are washed clean.  His blood is shed, even for those who called for his crucifixion.

Now look at Barabbas the Murderer, walking away a free man, while the Man who could free him from the prison of his sins is held prisoner, and delivered for crucifixion.  See Simon, a tourist from North Africa, standing along the way as Jesus carries his cross to the place of the Skull.  When Jesus stumbles, the soldiers conscript Simon.  “Hey you, pick up the cross.”  We don’t know how the passion of our Lord affected Simon or Barabbas.  Whether as an innocent bystander or a jailed criminal, the path of God’s Son may cross ours at the most unexpected moments.  How will we react when freed from our prisons?  How will we react when we are drafted to carry a cross?

The psalmist writes, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”  How true, how true.  His disciples had eaten his bread and then betrayed, denied and fled from Jesus.  In their place two other condemned men, robbers become his close companions.

At the end of his life, Jesus dies alongside two convicted brigands.  At the end of his life, Jesus faces a virtually unanimous public shaming, a veritable consensus of his guilt.  We however know how the story ends.  We know that Good Friday becomes Easter Sunday, that death does not have the final word but that life reigns through the resurrection.  On Palm Sunday, all indications are that Jesus is guilty, that Jesus deserves the shame of the cross.  Easter is the great proclamation of Jesus’ innocence and of God’s mission fulfilled, finding us not guilty.

Does anyone among all the actors on the Holy Week stage have the mind of Christ among themselves?  Jesus is not wholly bereft of friends in the moment of darkness.  A number of women looked on from a distance.  They had followed him from Galilee.  Even now they ministered to him with their presence in the midst of the violence.  Other witnesses emerge upon whom the light of recognition has shined in this dark hour.   Roman soldiers, ones who would have played a role in his crucifixion, see that Jesus is no mere criminal.  Filled with awe they confess, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

As Good Friday concludes two more enter the scene.  Joseph of Arimathea gives Jesus body a temporary home, in his unused tomb. “He rolled a great stone over the entrance…and went away.”  As if this wasn’t enough, Pilate dispatched soldiers to guard the place.  They sealed the tomb and stood guard.  It all sounds so final.

The stage is set for the dawn of the first day of the week and the events that caused an earthquake that changed the world.   A New Week. Making us new creations.  The old has passed away, behold the new has come.  Marvel.  Be amazed.  Its too good to be true, but it is.  Have this mind among yourselves which you have in Christ Jesus.  Follow him.

 

 

Give us or Gimme

 

We concluded our study of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15) this morning.  When the son said to his father, “Give me the share of the property that is coming to me;” he was really saying “Gimme what is coming to me now.”

The son’s request falls in with Judas request of the chief priests in Matthew 26.  “What will you give me (gimme) if I deliver (give) him (Jesus) over to you?”

We have a similar request/demand in I Kings 21.  King Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house.”  Ahab even offers to give Naboth a better vineyard in exchange.  The question is, how did Ahab get the vineyard he is now willing to give to Naboth.  And if Naboth doesn’t want another vineyard, Ahab is willing pay cash for it.  But Naboth refuses because his vineyard is a part of the family heritage handed down for generations.  That piece of ground was regarded as God’s gift to his clan. Ahab proposes to tear up his God given vineyard and use it for a vegetable garden.  Jezebel vows to take care of the matter.  She, in a trumped up trial, gets some worthless men to testify against Naboth and soon Ahab has his coveted piece of ground. (This tragic miscarriage of justice is similar to that carried out against Jesus.)

When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, taught them to pray for their daily food.  “Give us this day our daily bread.”  Notice, we do not pray “Give me my daily bread.”  We pray that as we received our food that God would grant food to everyone else.  We also don’t pray for a cart full of groceries, but enough to get us through today.  We’ll trust God to supply us what we need for tomorrow, tomorrow.

I asked in class whether anyone has just enough food for today.  No one was down to their last slice of bread.  And so Luther writes in his explanation of this petition, “But we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.”

 

 

Love, Peace and Righteousness Meet in christ

Midweek Lent, 2016 Psalm 85

85:8 Let me hear what the Lord God would speak when He speaks peace to his people and to His faithful, that they turn not back to folly.

I come from a long line of Jansen’s who are gifted in wood working. Me? Not so much. I took shop in high school. One of the items we were to make was a bird feeder. I just couldn’t get the sides to match up. I cut a little more off one end and then the other, until I thought, “If I keep this up I’m not going to have anything left.” So I forced it together. Nailed a tin roof on it and called it done.

That’s how we come here this evening. Our lives are not quite in line with the pattern God would have us follow. We come not quite up to par. We come, with hands not quite as clean as we would like. Choose your picture, but in small and large ways, in actions unseen and seen, in words unheard and heard, we, the workmanship of God in Christ, arrived here burdened with those pesky things we call sins, we just haven’t measured up.

However, Psalm 85 opens with, “God, You favored us, You restored us, You forgave Your people’s crimes.” Crimes? Well, if we break God’s law what does that make us before God? But God has cleared our criminal record through the criminal death of his Son Jesus Christ. The psalm continues, “You covered all their offenses.” St. Paul tells us, “In Christ, God’s Beloved, we are redeemed through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Our sins are covered by his blood and we don’t have to worry that God will ever dig into our past, pull out those failures, and use them in political advertisement against us. As psalmist says, “You laid aside all Your wrath, You turned back from Your blazing fury.”

But there are times when we have difficulty focusing on the abundance of his grace. We take our eyes off God’s grace in Christ and fix them on the state of affairs in our world; or whatever problems with which we may be contending in our daily life. We wonder, “Why is God displeased? What have I done?” We think, “Oh, Oh, God is going to get me for that.” God is not going to do any such thing. We have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Why would God do that if he was going to turn around and get us for something which displeases him? That’s foolishness. Yet even the faithful suffer from such thinking when we look only see the distance between ourselves and God; instead of the nearness of His grace, no matter our circumstances, or feelings.

The author of Hebrews calls to refocus our attention on Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith.”  Earlier in the service, at the end of our Lenten reading we said, though God has spoken to us in many and various ways by the prophets, “But now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.”

Thus the words of the psalmist become our words, “Let me hear what the Lord God would speak when He speaks peace to his people, that they turn not back to folly.” The English actress Helen Mirren said in a recent interview that she loves to perform in our country. She said the English audience sits back and says, “What are you going to do for us?” The American audience leans forward and says, “What are you going to do for us?” The psalmist is leaning forward.

Leaning forward in anticipation, he and the whole congregation gathered for worship hears one word, “Salvation.” “Surely his salvation is near.” His victory is at hand. Jesus coming was a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.” God lavished his grace upon us in Christ that this divided world and universe would be put back together again. You see, that word “Salvation” in the Hebrew is Yeshua. We know Yeshua as Jesus. What did the angel tell Joseph? “She (Mary) will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

But the writer of psalm 85 goes on to tell us what powers God’s salvation. “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet.” It’s like two friends meeting on the street. Steadfast love is God’s loyalty to us. Martin Luther called it, “goodness in action.” Faithfulness is God’s reliability. Steadfast love and Faithfulness meet on the street. Steadfast love says, “Faithfulness. Where you going?” Faithfulness responds, “I’m going to take up residence in Jesus.” “What a coincidence,” said Steadfast love, “I’m headed in the same direction. So I guess we are going to be spending some time together.” “Yes, we will be dwelling in Jesus and in his followers for eternity as I understand it.” James Lee Burke says of God’s nature, “He has a sense of humor and because He’s a gentleman, he always keeps his word.”

The psalmist reports further, “Righteousness and Peace kiss each other.” Righteousness is blamelessness, honesty, good order. We are at the end of the day; can we say we have gotten through the day entirely blameless?  We can answer “Yes.” Because God put everything for which we are to blame on Jesus thus we have Jesus blamelessness, honesty and everything is in good order in our life.  What about Peace?  Well, the angels sang at Jesus birth of peace on earth.  And on Palm Sunday, the people spoke of peace in heaven.  In Jesus we have peace with God and able to be at peace.  We will be able to leave with the promise that God will us blameless and give us peace. He will go before us during the week with righteousness breaking a path for us and salvation following behind.