Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Advent 3: Gratitude – Loving Yourself, Loving Others

Message Series: Feasting on the Heidelberger!

Advent 3: Feasting on the Heidelberger:
Gratitude – Loving Yourself, Loving Others
LD 39-44

Download the Heidelberg Catechism Notebook, LD 39-44 PDF

The tale of two kingdoms is very real.  Ever wonder why every good story, every movie, every worldview, every religion seems to have a theme of good and evil, light and darkness, yin and yang, pro and con, filled with ‘cosmic dualities’?  Scripture identifies this reality in terms of light and darkness, finding their power in God or in something other than God, by defining them in terms of a ‘Kingdom of God’ and a ‘Kingdom of this World’.  

A Biblical Worldview sees our existence and reality through the lens of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation.  It all begins with the creation of the heavens and the earth and all there is, including humanity, out of God’s being, goodness, love, and joy.  All is as it should be.  The Kingdom of God being the kingdom of this world.  It was very good.  

But then, something happened.  A deception and lie was spoken to humanity and humanity willingly believed the lie.  And through disobedience, another kingdom was birthed into existence.  It was a lawlessness of large proportion with epic ramifications.  Like a stone thrown into a pond long ago, the ripples of destruction continue to flow.  

Into the chaos of the resulting brokenness and pain, Jesus came.  A shaft of light in the darkness.  A shot at redemption and God’s kingdom come.  God himself acted, in Jesus the Son, a faithfulness of large proportion with epic ramifications, opening the door for the Kingdom of God to reign.  Salvation, redemption, the restoration of shalom, a Savior.

And now, today, we are invited into God’s plan of God’s Kingdom to come and his Kingdom come.  It’s an invitation of grace (undeserved/unearned) and love (undeserved/unearned) and power (through a death and resurrection).  By way of Jesus and our entering in.    

It’s an invitation of grace and love and power.

Yet, we experience the ongoing reality of two kingdoms, one of light and one of darkness.  What are we to do?  Scripture leads us in response to God’s great salvation and redemption with a call to gratitude.  The Heidelberg Catechism spells out this response of gratitude by pointing us to ‘true faith’, evidenced in ‘gratitude’, by way of ‘repentance and conversion’, as we engage in obedience to God’s law. Instead of ‘lawlessness’, we now engage in the love and power of Jesus in a life of obedience of word, thought, and deed, of loving God and loving others and loving self as it should be, could be, and one day, completely will be.  This is not a response of heavy handed ‘have to’, rather, a response of ‘gratitude’ of ‘get to… want to.’    

Do not doubt God’s plan, his Kingdom will one day, someday soon, be all in all.  And in the ‘already, but not yet’ in between times, we have a calling by God, to fulfill and enter into.  In and through Jesus, a much larger stone has been thrown into the pond.  And the much larger ripples of redemption are, and will overtake, and cover over, every broken corner of our world.  At the same time, do not be deceived. The kingdom of this world and it’s ruler seek to fight God’s ‘kingdom come’ tooth and nail, kicking and screaming, seeking to destroy all it can, knowing it’s certain demise.  

Last week, we saw God’s calling for us in obedience to loving him with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength: shun all idolatry, acknowledge God alone, worship God in spirit and in truth, revere God’s name, and honor Sabbath.  These are ways we can shine in the midst of darkness (gratitude!).  There is more in God’s calling: honoring parents, shun murder, adultery, stealing, lying, and coveting (gratitude!). To engage in this calling shines light in the darkness and in engaging, we see God’s kingdom come.  And even though these commands of love given to us by God long ago, built into the very fabric and laws of the created order for humanity and the universe, seem to come to us in a ‘do not’ expression – they are ‘filled to the gills’ with positive inertia and thrills. 

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.  On those walking in darkness, a light has dawned.”  Isaiah 9:2.  Sunday the challenge went out to read the entire book of Isaiah before Christmas Eve worship service.  You can do it!  Listen for God to speak a single phrase of meaning and beauty and truth to you.  And be ready to bear witness to it on Christmas Eve by simply quoting this line of special meaning from Isaiah for the worship of God and the edification of us all.  

Sunday, we plan to visit Jesus on Colfax from 4-6pm.  All aboard, don’t forget to register.  
See you at church at 3:00pm to carpool or see you down there if you choose to drive yourself. 

Pastor Mark