300 S Ardmore Ave, Villa Park IL, 60181

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Saturday - 4:30 pm Sunday - 8:00 am & 10:30 am Christian Education Sunday - 9:15 am


You are the most handsome
of the sons of men;
grace is poured upon your lips.
Psalm 45:2a

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor Rob Rogers was born in Seattle Washington. He has a B.A. in Communication from Concordia University, Austin, TX and a Masters of Divinity from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. READ MORE >>

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February 23, 2020
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Transfiguration –February 23, 2020
Text:             Exodus 24:8-18
Theme:
         Bleed it and Burn it.

       Remember the little Jesus books for kids – Arch Books?  When my kids were little, and we were reading those books to them, I noticed two things.  One is that they cause a lot of confusion because, in an effort to have pretty pictures and cute rhymes, they make stuff up.  What kind of fruit was the forbidden fruit?  We have no earthly idea.  It could have been a kiwi for all we know, but some illustrator or artist at some point decided it was an apple so generations of kids are sure that Adam and Eve ate an apple.  Or here’s another one.  How many Magi came to visit Jesus?  We again have no idea, but, if you read the children’s books about Epiphany you will see pictured 3 Kings to match the song, so there you have it.  That is really the lesser problem.  It is a little irritating to have to spend so much time undoing Arch Book theology in confirmation but it’s not that big of a deal.

      The bigger problem with Arch Books and all of the little-kid-Bible-books is that they skip over all of the really cool stories!  Children rarely hear of the awesome power of God because that’s too scary.  A friend of mine and I have joked about creating a rival children’s series for Arch Books.  These would be books written on a child’s level but they talk about real theology and the raw power of God.  One of these books might tell the story that we see in our Old Testament reading today where Moses offers a sacrifice to God and then throws the blood all over the people.  Then God appears to the people of Israel as a “devouring fire.”  It must have been terrifying to be covered in animal blood and facing a devouring fire.  We would call our books Starch Books.  The promo would read: “Put a little more starch back in our kids.”

      I know parents want to protect their children from everything frightening but in so doing, sometimes we hide them from the awesome, raw, overwhelming power of our God.  Eventually, they are going to get a little older.  Eventually things will go horribly awry, as they inevitably will.  When that happens; when someone betrays us, when someone we love dies, when we face failure, we need more than a sweet, happy Jesus lying in a manger or parading through palm fronds on a donkey.  When things go south, we need a blood splattering, fire throwing, unstoppable, unfathomable God.  That is what we see in Exodus today.

      The Israelites were in the wilderness and Moses had just told them the 10 Commandments and all that the Lord required of them as his people.  If they did as the Lord said, he would send his angel ahead of them and they would conquer the people who occupied the Promised Land.  The people responded that they would do everything that the Lord commanded.  To seal the deal, Moses offered sacrifices to God and threw half the blood on the altar and half the blood on the people.  Now think about that.  You are standing before the altar of God, dripping in blood having heard the promise of salvation.  That is a gory vision.  But it is also powerful.  Don’t try to sanitize our God.  He is raw and gory.  You and I still stand before his altar each week with his body that hung on the cross and his blood that dripped from his nail-pierced hands and feet in our mouths.  Having heard the promise of salvation, we are bathed in his blood.   For Moses, the blood was symbolic.  The blood thrown on the altar was also thrown on the people thereby binding them together with God.  But there is a difference between Moses’ people and us.  For us, the blood is real.  The blood that ran from Jesus torn and beaten body flows into our mouths thereby making us one with Jesus, one with the Father and one with each other.  It’s gory.  It’s also overwhelmingly powerful.  It takes some starch to be a Christian.

      We’re told in Exodus that God appeared to the people as a devouring fire.  This is not a sweet, old man sitting on the top of a puffy, white cloud.  This is a devouring fire.  When I was a boy, the logging mill in our town caught fire during an unusually dry summer.  Like small town people do, we drove out to the mill to see the fire.  I was not prepared to see anything so ghastly.  The fire was all consuming.  People were screaming. Timbers were exploding. All the fire fighters could do was dig huge trenches around the mill and try to prevent the fire from burning the down the town. The heat from the fire burned your face from hundreds of yards away.  The sounds of trees exploding before they began to burn sounded like the reports we were hearing on the nightly news from Vietnam.  Nothing I had ever seen prepared me for the devastation of that fire and since that day, I have always been extremely cautious with fire.  That logging mill fire was a weak, flickering flame compared to what the people of Israel saw when God revealed himself to them as a devouring fire.  That is why we burn the palms from Palm Sunday, and we will place the ashes of those palms on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday in just three days.  The palms of Palm Sunday welcome our King into the city where our salvation was accomplished and the ashes of Ash Wednesday remind us that our King is a devouring fire that consumed and forgave all of our sin by shedding his blood for us on the cross. And as our King came once, so will he return for us soon, very soon.

      Blood and fire are harsh images but they are also extremely comforting.  To know that I am connected by blood to this God who is a devouring fire is powerful.  See, I don’t need another buddy in this life.  I have buddies.  I don’t need a kindly grandpa to bounce me on his knee and tell me everything will be okay even though he has no power to insure that it will indeed be so.  I need an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God to whom I am connected by his own blood and who promises to walk with me, lifting me up and empowering me to do whatever he calls me to do.  That’s what I need and that’s what we have.  Don’t be deceived by people who want to make God into something less so that we can comprehend him and control him.  Our God is out of our control, beyond our understanding and that is exactly what we need most when the world shifts sideways on us.