Life together

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27 November, 2020

In my first year of high school, Australia converted to decimal currency and Simon and Garfunkel released the song, “I am a rock”. While everyone in Australia was working together to adjust to the new currency the song spoke of going it alone. “I am a rock. I am an island.”

It’s a sad song about being hurt and withdrawing into isolation in order to avoid any more pain.

We’ve had some experiences of isolation this year and depending on our nature we’ve either enjoyed or hated those times.

Our God is into community. God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist in a divine community of love and because we’re made in the image of God we’re also made for community.

The Christian faith in particular and life in general aren’t meant to be solo adventures. Even those with an introverted nature need others. We all need community.

Paul describes the community in terms of a body with many different and varied parts in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. The different parts of the body need each other and when they work together the body functions properly.

The beauty of this image and situation is found in the love and support we give and receive in the community. There are times when we desperately need the support of a loving community and there are times when we provide the support to members of the community.

This ‘strange’ year has highlighted the need for community. We need to care for each other and look out for each other.

It’s great to know God is always doing his best for us. It’s also clear our sisters and brothers are gifts from God. God often helps us through the community. God bless you with all the help you need and with all the strength you need to help others.

 

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Means of Grace

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“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:7-8 (NIV) ‘By the ‘Means of Grace’ are meant those things by which God offers and gives His gifts of forgiveness of sins, life and salvation’ ~ Luther’s Small Catechism Broadly speaking, a ‘Means of Grace’ refers to all the ways by which Christians grow stronger in their faith and grow in the grace of Christ. They are the ways that God brings us forgiveness through our faith, which was gained for us when Jesus died for our sins. For Lutherans the ‘Means of Grace’ come through Baptism, Holy Communion, Absolution (Forgiveness) and God’s Word in the Bible. The Holy Spirit works through all these ‘Means of Grace’ to bring us understanding, guidance and comfort. I really enjoy baking and cooking. At special times of the year, I like to bake my special slices for family and visitors to enjoy and have a special little something with a coffee. One that I only make at special times is my peppermint log slice. It really is not hard to make and only has four ingredients: malt biscuits, crown mints, condensed milk and desiccated coconut. Each of these things by themselves work fine and you could eat happily (though you may feel sick after too much condensed milk), but together – just yummy! God gives us so many things which by themselves still leads us to our future hope and salvation, but He has also given us other ways to receive God’s grace which when put all together brings us into a closer relationship with our Heavenly Father. In our Baptism we are washed clean from all our sins and God’s grace comes personally to us. When we receive Holy Communion, we commune with Jesus as He offers us His body and blood granting us forgiveness from all our sins. When Absolution is given in worship, we can know that all is forgiven and forgotten, and we can go forward with a clean slate for the week. Every time we read God’s Word, God’s love, grace and forgiveness just flow out of it and the Holy Spirit then works. God’s recipe for our continued growth comes through the ‘Means of Grace’! Prayer: You come to me continually through the ‘Means of Grace’ which you have made available to me. May your Holy Spirit work in my life to help me grow and bring others to you. Amen.

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Even Though

13th Day in Lent (Wednesday)

Read John 11:25-26

“… for all have and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24 (NIV). ‘In His grace, God is willing to forgive us and bless us, even though we fall short of living righteously.’ I remember when my children were smaller, and even not so small, asking them to do things – pick up toys, pack away homework books, pick up shoes and clothing, tidy your room, etc. I am sure that every family can relate to this. At times there may have been cajoling or rewards offered, I’m sure there were even privileges revoked. Were these things asked done? Were they done willingly and without complaining? I know for sure that they were not always completed in the timeframe nor always done joyfully, but even though things weren’t completed as asked my love for my children never changed and privileges always returned. Imagine our loving God. He asks us to obey ten things (Ten Commandments), the greatest is to love God above anyone or anything else. Do we do this? Ok, we try. We may even get through an hour or two without getting any one of the ten things wrong. But ultimately, we get it wrong, we disobey, we sin! Even though we can’t get things right in God’s eyes, He is prepared to forgive us over and over and tell us how much He loves us. That is a loving, grace-filled God! Day after day we are offered the gifts of forgiveness and love and the grace of a loving Saviour. God doesn’t withdraw His love from us every time we sin, rather He extends His blessing further into our lives and tells us how much we are loved. God loves us so much that He sent His beloved Son into the world to live a human life, die a horrible death and be raised victoriously. This was done out of love for you and me! So, even though we sin we will live eternally with God. Do you believe this? Can you answer with Martha in John 11:27 – “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” Even though we sin, we are forgiven! Prayer: Thank you, my loving God, for forgiving me over and over again. Even though I mess up constantly, your love for me never changes or wavers. Your grace is amazing! Amen.

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Alive in God’s Grace

12th Day in Lent (Tuesday)

Read: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and by God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NIV)

‘We live in a world of earning, deserving and merit, which result in judgement. That is why everyone wants and needs grace. Judgement kills. Only grace makes us alive.’

The Statue of Liberty (titled: ‘Liberty Enlightening the World’) was dedicated on October

28, 1886. This monument was designed, built and presented to the people of the United States by the French people to celebrate the abolishment of slavery. In the 1860’s, Édouard René de Laboulaye proposed this gift to the United States on behalf of France, in hope that by calling attention to the recent achievements of the US the French people would also be inspired to form their own democracy from a controlling monarchy. After its dedication, this statue became an icon of freedom/newness, a time to begin again with the past forgotten.

That is what has happened to each of us with the gift of Jesus Christ. Through this gift, God abolished our sin and gave us the gift of new life – the gift of God’s grace. With this gift we can begin again and be strengthened in all that we do. Consider the following scenario: We have hurt a good friend by thoughtless words, and we carry this guilt around. Whenever we see this friend, the guilt weighs us down so much that we no longer find we want to spend time together and so estrangement happens. Then, one day the friend comes around and wants to begin again – to put the past behind and remember the hurt no more! How alive we feel, the weight has been removed and the relationship is restored and made new.

Jesus did that for us! We have been weighed down by all our wrongdoings. We no longer want to talk to God, go to church or be a part of His community. We feel so inadequate. But, God, through the dying of Jesus for our wrongdoings has pronounced us best friends again. Everything has been forgiven. The cross is that symbol of freedom, of God’s grace that points us to the beginning of a new life.

Live in the grace that makes us alive.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, you died to forgive the wrongs that I have done, that separated me from my loving God. Thank you for the gift of grace that you have given me and made me alive. Amen.

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