Rely on God

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Genesis 45:1-28

It goes without saying, Joseph is a model of faithfulness for anyone who faces trouble in their life. His brothers became jealous and angry that their youngest brother was their father Jacob’s favorite. So intense was there jealousy, they cast Joseph into a pit leaving him for dead. Later he would be sold into slavery, and finally, he would be falsely accused and imprisoned for crimes he did not commit. In each instance, Joseph could have cried out in anger. He could have turned away from the God of his ancestors or, he could have completely given up. Yet in every instance, Joseph remained faithful and relied on God.

The story of Joseph teaches us that within this fallen and broken world, God can use all things for the good of his people. Our lives are filled with challenges to our faith yet, there is no one person who is so lost that God cannot find them. There is no one so grief stricken that God cannot bring consolation. There is no one person so sick, suffering, or in peril that God cannot deliver them from that which holds them captive.

During this time of Advent, the story of Joseph reminds us of God’s grace. We are reminded of the lengths God will go to deliver his people from sin. Our Lord is willing to go even unto the cross in order to redeem that which was lost. Yes, bad things do happen, even to God’s people. But our Lord and God is stronger than any powers of this earth. Ours is to remain faithful and fully rely on God.

O God our Savior, in times of despair, keep us faithful through your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

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I Am With You

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Genesis 28:10-22

Jacob, having tricked his father Isaac into blessing him over and above his brother Esau, is now on the run. He is in fear for his life as his brother has vowed to kill him for what he had done. Alone and afraid, Jacob travels through the wilderness. He is not seeking an encounter with God, nor is he searching for some deeply religious explanation of his life. Jacob is between places, the place of his father which is his home, and the place to which he is traveling where he hopes to find a new life. Yet, through a dream, God makes his presence known and the gospel, the good news of God’s deliverance comes to Jacob. “Behold, I am with you!”

Jacob’s vision of a ladder reaching from earth into heaven teaches us that the world is not a place absent of God’s presence. Rather, there is intersection between the realm of earthly life and God’s kingdom. Angels, messengers of God, travel to and from bringing tidings of good news and God’s divine protection to those who live within the family of faith. God’s children are not alone; there is someone who walks with us, powerful enough to take on our troubles and wash away our shame. Because God loved the world so much, we have a Savior who says, “Behold, I am with you!”

How often do we wander in the wilderness? When are those instances when we search for God, yet He seems distant? These are the times to become quiet and still, to open our hearts and minds to the presence of our Lord Jesus. For the words of his promise are sure, “Behold, I am with you.”

Holy God, guide us by your Holy Spirit and guard us with your angels. Help us to see always, your power and presence in our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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The Sacrifice

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Genesis 22:1-18

We can’t deny the powerful images within this morning’s text, just as we cannot imagine making such a choice in order to save our own lives. But through the testing of Abraham, God’s people can see the lengths God will go in order to bring salvation to those who are lost in sin. God is not only the God who commands obedience, he is also the God who provides the means for salvation when his children fail to obey.

Abraham was true and obedient. As he was about to offer the life of his son Isaac in sacrifice, God intervened and provided the suitable substitution. The ram caught in the thicket by its horns was no mistake; it was no coincidence. God provided the atoning sacrifice. In the same way, God offered his only Son for the same purpose, to provide the atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world.

As Christian people we know we are sinners and fall short of God’s expectations. Faith leads us to believe that we are saved from our sin through the one whom God gave as atonement for our disobedience. We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus.

It was never God’s intention for Isaac’s life to be offered as sacrifice. However, given the test, Abraham acted in faith. Perhaps you don’t feel you have the faith of Abraham. Instead your faith is weak and fragile. Just so, faith, either weak or strong, is still faith. Because Christ gave his life as atonement for our sin, we are forgiven. God’s grace is freely given to those who believe; given by the almighty and loving God who provides all that is needed.

Thank you, O Lord, for your mercy and grace. Amen.

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To Be Blessed and Blessing

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Genesis 12:1-4

It is true that, because of modern marvels in technology and transportation, our world is becoming a smaller place. People often pick up and go here and there, move from one place to another and sometimes settle in foreign lands. Yet, there are places where many families have put down roots and stayed in the land of their ancestors. Either way, as part of a mobile society or not, it is difficult to imagine God’s call to Abram. God called Abram, instructing him to leave the land of his ancestors in order to settle and dwell in the land promised by God. Abram would later become known as Abraham, meaning Father of Many Nations. Through him, God began the work of redemption for our fallen humanity.

Today, God continues to call his people to leave behind their old way of life in order to follow his son Jesus Christ. God sanctifies his people through the power of the Holy Spirit given in Baptism. He forgives our sins through the body and blood of his only Son. God equips us through his Word and send us into the world to share the good news of salvation.

Such is the message of Advent; to remember the covenant God made with Abraham so long ago, remembering also the promise that Christ will come again. We are God’s people now, saved by the blood of the one whom God raised up through the family of Abraham. We too are blessed and called to be a blessing for others.

Holy God, you call us to follow where you would have us go. Give us faith that we may do your will and share the good news of salvation through the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Deliverance

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Genesis 9:1-17

In the days of Noah, the evil nature of mankind had taken over every aspect of life causing God to pass judgment upon the world He once called good. Beginning with Adam and Eve’s banishment from the garden and following Cain’s killing his brother Abel, it became clear that creation had refused to honor God, instead choosing to honor itself. In so many ways, humanity chose to believe the deceiver’s lies over God’s truth. Creature became the object of worship rather than God. Yet even as Noah was a sinner, he found favor with God.

Scripture tells us that Noah “was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” In Noah we see that even as creation had fallen, there was one who accepted his status as creature and God’s as Creator. Throughout the narrative of the flood there is one refrain that repeats over and over; “And Noah did all that God commanded.” Noah realized God’s commands were promises for life. He heard God’s command, he followed and his family was delivered from the waters of the flood.

In the centuries following Noah, the world is still one that is fallen into sin. In terms of saving ourselves we are no better off today than were the generations before the flood. Still, the narrative of Noah shows the lengths God will go in order to save his people.

As we hear the words of prophecy concerning Jesus during Advent, we begin to understand that even as we cannot keep God’s laws, we receive His commands as promises for life. Even as we cannot save ourselves from sin and death, God brings salvation to His people through the one promised to be Savior. God invited Noah and his family into the ark as a means for salvation. Today, God invites the human family into his presence through the blood of Christ who is salvation for all of humankind.

Mighty and everlasting God, Just as you saved Noah and his family from the waters of the flood, we thank you for saving your people from their sin through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Deceived

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Genesis 3:1-24

When God created the heavens and the earth He declared that everything was good. Indeed, all that God had created, the plant life, animals and yes, even human – everything God had made was good. Yet we look at our world today and we can say with certainty that what God once said was good has fallen. In their desire to become like God, Adam and Eve disobeyed the One who is the author of all life and followed the deceiver who was disguised as the serpent in the garden.

Created in God’s image and likeness, Adam and Eve knew the goodness of God’s love. In fact, it was all they knew; there was no need for any other understanding. The serpent, however, used his skills in deception to lead Adam and Eve into a life of disobedience. After eating from the forbidden tree, their eyes were opened, but not to what they had hoped. Instead of becoming like God, they had become separated from God.

No longer sinless, Adam and Eve were banished from the garden. They could no longer walk with God or talk with Him. The only way to restore the relationship they enjoyed before their fall, would be for Adam and Eve to remove the stain of sin, but this is not something humanity has the ability to do. Yet even in the garden, God promised to rescue his fallen children, the seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head conquering evil forever. Christians understand this to be the first instance of God’s promise of a Savior which is Christ the Lord. God promised a Savior who would take away the sin of the world.

Today, on this second day of Advent we have the blessing of God’s salvation, grace through faith in Christ Jesus. Through his sinless life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, Jesus paid the ransom for our sin and reconciled a fallen humanity. Now, living in a restored relationship with our God, we are Advent people, awaiting Christ’s coming again in the fullness of His glory.

Heavenly Father, in your goodness and mercy you gave your only Son as sacrifice for our sin. We give you thanks for your mercy and ask that you guide us by your Holy Spirit that we may follow your ways and live according to your will. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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Beginning the Season of Advent

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Genesis 1:1-3

Have you seen something wonderful today? Have you noticed the beauty of God’s creation all around you? The world we live in is filled with beautiful things, trees, lakes, rivers, animals; the list goes on. All of these and everything else is the result of the creating love of God. Sometimes I wonder if we can even imagine the conditions before God said “Let there be…” We humans cannot begin to understand the formlessness and void of creation in the beginning. Yet God said, “Let there be…” And it came to be.

As Christians all over the world begin to observe the Advent of our Lord Jesus, we do so by recalling the history of our salvation through Christ, which begins of course, in the beginning. As we read Holy Scripture, we believe Christ was present in the creation of all there is. The opening verses of the Gospel according to John teach us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4). The Creation narrative teaches us that apart from God there is no life or light.

Still, even today so many continue to discount God’s creating love in the beginning. Many also continue to deny the presence of God in the world or in their lives. Yet, the simple fact remains, without God there is nothing. Without God humans have no purpose. Without the love of God in Christ Jesus, the people of the world walk in the darkness of their sin and their reality is such that they have no hope for salvation.

Jesus is the light of the world; he is the one in whom we find hope. Through Christ, God’s Word incarnate, the people of God once again walk in the light of God’s mercy. Our lives are not formless, they are not void, rather, they are filled with the purpose of proclaiming the gospel and the vocation of love for our neighbor. Today we find ourselves at the beginning of Advent. We find ourselves as sinners awaiting the celebration of our Savior’s entrance into earthly life in order to rescue God’s people from sin and death. Today we find ourselves at the beginning, understanding Christ’s presence in the beginning of time and the creative nature of God’s love.

Thank you God for this beautiful world in which we live. Thank you for each person you have created in your image. Most of all, thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, who is our light and our life. Amen.

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