Monday, December 28, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
What you do in His Name, that is to say, as a Christian, in faith, is not pointless or meaningless or in vain. However much or little you may seem to accomplish, and whether you receive thanks or suffer persecution, your life is a witness of Christ the Crucified. - Rev. Rick Stuckwisch
(rest of the sermon here)
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” That sounds almost cruel to say in the midst of grief at a funeral. It seems distant and cold, like Paul went too far by saying we should always rejoice. Maybe it makes a little more sense if I told you that I read this passage to Laverne on Tuesday, and so God used this Scripture to prepare her for her death.
But that raises the question – What did a woman in Laverne’s condition have to rejoice about? It was painfully clear on Tuesday that her body and mind were being destroyed. She was taken from us – and not just when her heart stopped beating on Saturday, but slowly over time as her brain refused to work right, and bits of her mind actually worked against herself and us.
St. Paul says to “Rejoice in the Lord” because “the Lord is at hand.” But God being around does not always seem like something to be happy about. When a kid’s ball goes through the window, the last thing he wants to find out is that mom or dad saw it happen. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, the last thing they wanted to hear was God’s footsteps in the Garden. The Lord was at hand. They found no reason to rejoice, because He had said those who sin will die. They tried hiding in the bushes.
For only so long can we hide the fact that our lives are not the way God wants them. Sooner or later, we are forced to stop ignoring the consequences of our sin. Laverne said what she should not say and did what she should not do, and now sin has paid its wages of death.
Unless the heart believes in Christ as Savior, it is impossible for sinners like us to rejoice that the Almighty God is at hand, near to us. The unbeliever is filled with hatred for the eternal Judge who condemns sin, seeing Him as the enemy. Those who die rejecting Christ do not go to a better place, but enter the eternal pain of Hell.
However, when you know the Lord has released you from an evil conscience, joy will naturally result. LaVerne believed His Gospel promises that Christ is given for us, to reconcile us with God, to forgive our sins and set our consciences free. Not by our works, but by His, or as LaVerne sang in one of her favorite hymns, “Rock of Ages”, “Not the labors of my hands can fulfill Thy Law’s demands… Nothing in my hands I bring; Simply to Thy cross I cling.”
This is the rejoicing that St. Paul is talking about – a rejoicing where there is a confidence in God’s kindness. Though you cannot always see God’s goodness and mercy, it is always there. Christmas can be difficult for those who grieve. You see the world’s happiness in Santa and elves and holiday specials. Perhaps this year their happiness may seem cold and distant to you – if not because of LaVerne’s death, then maybe because of something else weighing your heart down. But in the midst of the laughter and the tears, the Lord is at hand for you. You do not have a God who is cold and distant to us, despite how often our sin makes us be cold and distant to Him. Jesus is not out of touch with what you suffer. Christmas reminds us that He was born of the Virgin to be our Savior. We have a flesh and blood Jesus because the Lord became a man and wore our skin. We have a down-to-earth Jesus, who not only knows what you go through, but has Himself lived through what you live through, yet He never committed sin, and so He can help you when you are tempted.
Jesus has felt what you felt. He has laughed and cried, been happy and lonely, been satisfied, but also tired, cold, and hungry. Most importantly for you today, Jesus has mourned at the pain of loved ones’ death. So there is no shame in your sadness. Do not try to fake it that you are not sad – but at the same time, do not force yourself to be sad. If the Lord finds ways to make you happy this Christmas, do not feel guilty about that either. Be honest with yourself and each other – and God – about what you feel. The Lord is at hand to see you through it all, to lessen the sting of death in His time and His ways.
When St. Paul says to “Rejoice in the Lord always,” he is not ignoring the harsh realities of life, but being honest with them. He is talking about a joy in Christ that can look happy when times are good, but a joy that can look kind of sad when times are bad. For Paul does not say, “You’ve got life great. What are you complaining about? Get over it!” No, not at all. Because in the next breath he goes on to tell us, “By prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). How could we make our requests known to God if we just ignored what makes us anxious? Laverne took God’s invitation to pray quite seriously. At each of my visits she practically demanded that I pray for her roommates and fellow residents, various staff members, and you, her kids, Brenda Kay and Gary Allen. I was not surprised in the least, Gary, when you told me one of the hymns she often requested at sing-a-long was “What a Friend we have in Jesus.” Though much in life had been taken from her, the Holy Spirit displayed the truth of Christ’s words in her confirmation verse. Laverne knew faith in Christ was necessary for life, and despite the destruction sin and death brought to her life, Laverne’s faith in Christ could not be taken away from her. Now she sings with the angels like she never sang before.
LaVerne has been taken from us, but we know that the pains we feel are temporary – even as the pains Jesus felt were temporary. He suffered the insults and the nails that tortured Him on the Cross to pay for our sins and open Heaven to us. And He did this trusting the promises God made in the Old Testament, that death would not win, for after three days Christ would rise from the dead. Now He has ascended into Heaven – this One for whom there was no room at the inn, this One who loved those who hated Him. Now this One sits at the right hand of the Father, as a Man like us, only without sin, with man’s redemption won, still working to bring you into His presence and joy.
Here is the comfort for those who miss LaVerne - God kept His Word. He has delivered her from evil, rescued her from her troubles and sins. And sometime in the future, He will raise this body from its grave, and give it back to LaVerne perfectly healed, pure and whole. For when she was baptized, God promised that He would remember her, listen to her prayers and deliver her soul. He taught her His glad tidings of great joy – that Jesus was once a Baby, weak and poor and small like her, who grew up to lay down His life for LaVerne and for all. So now LaVerne has found her place in Christ’s glory, freed from the hurts she felt and the hurts she caused.
Now she waits for you with Alfons and all the saints at peace. While they cannot come back to you, you can go where they have gone. When it is time, God will bring you there. For the God who was born in Bethlehem loves you. So your sadness will end when you see Jesus, your Redeemer, for yourself. God will remove every tear and tiredness, all hunger and thirst, all worry and fear, all guilt and regret. Even for those who grieve, there is the joy of Christmas in Jesus.
Monday, December 21, 2009
While working on a funeral sermon for tomorrow, I found this quote helpful for myself as I sit and pray because I cannot overcome or destroy the darkness I am in these days (see Weedon's devotion from 2007):
Your eyes cannot always see His goodness and mercy, but they are always
there. Wait on the Lord. Trust that He is good. Hold Him to His Word and
Promise. The whole creation, even we, groan as in the pains of childbirth
waiting for the revelation of the sons of God. Now John has been revealed. You
still groan and still wait, but you will also be revealed.
But what if you think it may not be real, that it may be a farce, that your
hope might be vain? Or that God is cruel or fake? Then rejoice that you have
such pains. For the pains of doubt come not from doubt, but from doubts struggle
against faith. You hurt and struggle because your fallen flesh is at war with
the new man in you. Your pain is evidence of faith. If all you had was doubt, it
would not hurt. It would be simply despair, not fear. So also do you rejoice in
the comforting words of the Holy Scriptures and the hymns we sing today. Men do
not create this in themselves. It is given to you by the Holy Spirit. It is the
fruit of Holy Baptism. It is your faith in action in the thick of your fallen
flesh. (from this funeral sermon by Rev. David Petersen)
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Worthy are you, O Lord our God, to receive all glory, honor and worship. By Your coming, open our lips and hearts to sing your praise with pure voices now and forever.
Anyway, tonight at Vespers begins the use of the O Antiphons.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
The only bummer? It felt a little redundant praying the collect for the "Anniversary of a Baptism" after praying the collect for November 20.
btw, I already loved the hymn "God's Own Child, I Gladly Say It" (LSB 594) - but now even more now that I've seen it as an expansion of "It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal life to all who believe this..." (Luther's Small Catechism)
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Pastor Weedon has here a summary of the Writing, and the bio of St. Elizabeth (whose name graces one of our local hospitals). And while you're at it, check out what he wrote about yesterday's OT reading here.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Pastor Weedon spotted another important connection between the readings.
Friday, November 13, 2009
hmmm... this thanksgiving sounds so different from what the world would expect or instruct. yes, verse 14 goes on to speak of what would be expected, thanking expressed with paying vows, living in service, etc. But this first section is not expected - thanking by receiving more gifts from the One you are thankful to. Seems like I heard somewhere that the highest form of worship is faith - trust in the God who saves.
a very beloved section of the psalms, and highly appropriate for the anniversary of my nativity, as my friend Mark Schlaamann calls it. Starck uses the verse for his birthday devotion. (HT: Weedon)
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
But this evening, another promise stands out. It is a joy to know that as I slumber and sleep, the One who keeps me will not. The Lord grant you rest this evening and peace at the last.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Whether you follow Lutheran Service Book’s Daily Lectionary or not, you know the parable from Matthew 21 assigned for yesterday, the parable of the tenants who killed the vineyard owner’s son – and the chief priests and Pharisees knew Jesus was talking about them.
In today’s parable, the Son of the King is alive again, with the wedding feast all prepared by His Father. And you know that Jesus is talking about you. It is pretty easy to put yourself in the sandals of the King’s servants. God sends you out to call the world He has invited, saying that the Lamb has been slaughtered to save them from their sin. Everything is ready for them to be in the presence of God and not die, so come to the Divine Service. But the inactives of your congregation and those lost in your community have not come. They pay no attention to your encouragements and warnings. Too engulfed in the busy-ness of life in this world, they have earned the right to be lazy on Sunday morning. Besides, God is alright with them and they are alright with God – or whatever other reasons they give for not being in church. Yes, dear brother, though you have not yet been seized and killed by those the King has invited to His Son’s wedding feast, it is easy for you to see your role in this parable as one of the King’s servants.
But there is a problem with that. Not that you are not the King’s messenger servant – you are. Rather, the uncomfortable truth is that we spend time as those who are invited to the feast but will not come. And not just in the past, where you might have been like me and spent some time away from the church. But even now, God sends His servants to us – whether they be a fellow pastor or a layperson – and we find ways to pay no attention to them. Can’t you see how busy I am with being a pastor here?
When I was in Seminary, my pastor told me about his first day in Hom 1. The professor told his class, “You have enjoyed your last sermon.” You know what he meant. You know the struggle to listen to a sermon – or even just to listen to the Scriptures. When you are not busy working, taking mental notes of what you want to say in your preaching, you are critiquing the preacher, thinking to yourself that you would say what he said better, or not said it at all. Either way, you keep yourself from resting in the green pastures of God’s Word of grace and mercy.
The difference between the inactives, the lost in our communities, and you and me is only a matter of degrees. We share the same spirit that wants to serve ourselves at the buffet of spirituality. We face the same temptations to self-medicate our wounds, to deny our sins are sins through justifying excuses, and we have the same opportunities to use worldly amusements like the internet and alcohol to numb ourselves to the pain. When we become full of ourselves, we cannot be interested in the feast of fellowship with God. Even when we have noticed the hunger pangs for righteousness, we have rejected the invitation, for instance, when you and I complain about the way that servant laid out before us the Bread of Heaven and the fruits of the Spirit. Their presentation was not good enough. A servant comes to warn us of the shameful nakedness our sin is causing, and we refuse to listen to one person simply because of who they are, while we would have listened if a servant we liked better had warned us in the exact same way.
How terrible would it be if, after you preached to others the invitation to the feast, you yourself would be disqualified, bound and cast out into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth? God does not want you speechless, for this is the Lord who opens our lips so that our mouths might declare His praise with pure voices forever. So that you will not be naked in shame, but be found forever wearing white robes, with a palm of victory in your hand, put yourself in the sandals of the good and the bad. For our Lord does not give up in sending His Suffering Servant to you, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world as His mouth is closed in death – but then re-opened on Easter to declare His “Peace be with you”.
On a recent “CSI”, the new leader of the department was struggling. She had received a bad review from a former worker who complained she was a bad leader and because of her the team had no unity. When she went to another police officer with her doubts about her abilities, he told her that the previous leader, Grissom, “had one thing you don’t have – He had you.” Things went better after she appointed an assistant leader to her team, even as she had assisted Grissom.
Dear brothers, do your people have one thing you don’t have? It should not be that way. God provides plenty of men who could be your pastor. With modern technology, you can easily find a brother who regularly posts audio recordings of his sermons on the internet and listen to them. Listen to them not for your own sermon fodder, but so that you may preach the faith because faith has first come to you by hearing Christ’s Word.
But more than that, you need your own pastor who will speak God’s word to you as an individual and who will speak to God for you, praying for you and your family at the hospital, or in whatever other troubles or joys you find yourself in. You need a pastor who will show you how you have rejected God’s invitation to feast upon His love. And then you need all the more your pastor to forgive all your sin in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And what you need, God will provide. Amen.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Pastoral Care Responses to Marital StruggleRegistration: 8:15-9:00 a.m.
Program begins at 9:00 a.m.
Program concludes at 4:00 p.m.
For those pastors who are traveling some distance and would like to arrive before Tuesday’s conference, as well as for men who would like to extend their conference experience, a Pre-conference program examining Personality Disorders will be offered beginning Monday afternoon.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Understanding Personality Disorders: Providing Spiritual Care for “Difficult People”Registration: 2:15-3:00 p.m.
Program begins at 3:00 p.m.
Dinner, Evening Office and Fellowship follows
Registration FeesPastoral Care Responses to Marital Struggle, $45.00
Both programs, including meals, lodging and reception, $135.00
Location: Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center in Madison, WI 53744
Please see our website for a downloadable Registration Form
But your work is not in vain as you abound in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). Even if your work goes nearly anonymous in the long run, like that of St. Simon and St. Jude. Still, you are God's fellow worker (1 Corinthians 3) as Christ builds the House of His Church when the Spirit of your Father speaks through you (Matthew 10:20, responsory for Apostles and Evangelists).
(Dr. Stuckwisch has this sermon for the day.)
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
"We do not know his plan. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great times of construction. It may be that the times which from a human point of view are great times for the church are times when it is pulled down."
Along similar lines, fwiw, at the end of this month's church newsletter I wrote some similar thoughts to challenge my parish to think that Christ might have greater plans for us than we realize. (I don't know what's going on with the font size - if you want to read it, try cutting and pasting into a word processor, and then enlarging the font.)
What are we going to do?
That can be more of a statement of panic than an actual question – “What are we going to do?” can actually mean, “I don’t think there is anything that can be done. We’ve got no way out of this hopeless mess.” You can hear the despair in the person’s voice.
But, “What are we going to do?” could also be asked very calmly or eagerly if you have many promising opportunities. Imagine the child in the morning, excited over the possible adventures: “What are we going to do today, mommy?” Imagine the child of God asking, “What blessings do you have in store for me today, Father?”
I now ask you, the members of St. Peter Lutheran Church, what are we going to do? You and I both know our congregation has many challenges. Despite that, don’t hear me ask the question with despair, like I’ve given up. Hear me ask it calmly, in an encouraging way, inviting you to provide answers to the question, “What are we going to do?” Note the word “we” – not just what can I do better as a pastor (that certainly is a long list), but what can we do together as a congregation?
The Doxology seminars and other recent conversations have shown me that I too often approach problems in the wrong way – as if the solution all depended upon me. (Luther has a nice prayer for pastors before church that confesses, “If I am left alone I shall easily bring [the church] all to destruction.”) God has blessed you with wisdom, knowledge, experiences and talents that can lead to solutions, which I would never think of (or be able to put into practice) on my own.
Speaking of Doxology, you might remember the last newsletter article was about authority. The abuse of power is destructive, while the proper use of divinely given authority builds up the church. Sin would have us see authority in terms of a chain of command – this leader tells the person under them what to do, like in the military. And yes, there is an element of the chain of command as God tells parents to raise their children in the discipline of the Lord. But that is done to preserve the Lord’s supply chain of blessings which He authorizes us to pass along to others. So, for instance, God authorized your parents to bring the blessing of life to you – not just by giving birth, but also by supporting you with the blessings of love, care, faith, food, clothing and shelter.
Now let’s take this thought into the Church. God’s blessings go from His sanctuary to His World – from the Heavenly sanctuary to His church in the world, and then from the church’s sanctuary out to the world. Again, there is an element of chain of command, as God authorizes His Church to proclaim the Law. But the Law is used in support of the supply chain of the Gospel, as He authorizes His people to bring to the world the blessings of forgiveness, peace, comfort, joy, and eternal life in Christ – blessings which we first freely receive from Him.
We cannot control the situations that we face, but we can work on improving our responses to them. What would happen if we refused to give up, but more often expected the Lord to provide possibilities when we ask, “What are we going to do?” As we find ourselves receiving so much help by God’s grace, it makes us want to bring the blessings of Christ to His world. What are we going to do when someone sins against us? When we get frustrated? When things do not go our way? I pray that God open our eyes to see how He would have us bring His blessings to the situation, that we would respond with the patience and peace that He first gave to us in Christ.
As a congregation, we directly supported Christ Our Savior Lutheran High School by providing them with our building for their classes. Now that they have their own buildings, they only use our church for chapel services. Our quilters still use the building on Tuesdays, we have our various meetings and a few meals, I do a little work here some weekdays. When I am visiting people, or doing other things elsewhere, mostly the building very quietly waits to be used on Sunday mornings.
What are we going to do? Individually some of you still support the High School, some support various spiritual and physical aid organizations locally and internationally. As a body of believers together, is there a way for our congregation to show charity to others, besides sending in mission offerings? Is God preparing us to use our buildings to bring more blessings to our congregation – or our community? Maybe, maybe not. To do something is not always better than to do nothing – but to do some things are better than doing nothing. What about a mid-week service of Scripture and prayer, a community Bible study, establishing our own food pantry? It might sound ridiculous, but who knows – maybe years from now, God will lead this congregation to re-open its school.
No, that would not succeed if we tried doing it now. But I mention the thought for a few reasons. First, to make the point that we might be able to guess where things are headed, but only God knows what the future holds, what good He will work for those who love Him. Second, to get you to start thinking about what our congregation could do as a congregation – and talk about it! If I kept those ideas to myself, they would have died with me. If you have ideas, mention them to your fellow members, bring them up to the elders, discuss them with me, and pray to God to guide us. Even if your idea is something that cannot happen right now, it might be able to happen in the future. Or it might lead to some way to build up the church, help our community or our world right now. Who knows what we might be able to do if we put our heads together and are willing to help one another? Only God knows.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
UPDATE: Dad's surgery went well. Now for the Lord to grant patience to dad and mom during an extended recovery period.
Monday, October 19, 2009
On another note, in this morning's chapel message at the local Lutheran High School, Rev. Ralph Laufer brought up the Markan parallel's detail, suggesting that maybe Jesus kept walking past the boat to go in front of the disciples and clear the path through the storm to the other side. Wouldn't be the only time people were scared when the Lord was working to make their paths straight.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
So this morning I thought about posting these thoughts on what to do when you can't go to church (whether Pastor or layperson). Here's at least a start to a list:
- Repent - Not necessarily that any particular active sin has a straight line correlation to the sickness or other obstacle to attendance (unless you imbibed too much fruit of the vine the night before, which produced a hangover, or other such sin cause and effect). Nevertheless, the wages of sin is death (flu being one form of the proleptic nature of death... thankfully Christ works His healings proleptically too!). And where Isaiah and Nehemiah both confess not only their own individual sins, but the sins of their people, so also I think we can confess Adam and Eve's sin, without which there would be no flu. (I might need some correction on this thought - it seemed better before I thought it out loud.)
- Rejoice because you miss church. This sadness is not natural. It is a sign the Holy Spirit has been at work on you (which you know all the more so if you ever spent time avoiding church.) And especially if you are a pastor, your sorrow in missing church is a sign of blessing as indicated by Ecclesiastes 5:19, for you have been blessed by God with the gift of joy in the ministry.
- Which leads me to the next reason for praise - Rejoice because though you cannot come to church, you are blessed by Christ's ability to come to you. I only though the above thought because I heard Ecclesiastes 5:10-20 being read at Chapel of the Cross Lutheran Church on KFUO-FM this morning, and then listened to a well done sermon on Psalm 84, encouraging our desire to behold the beauty of the Lord's sanctuary as we give up our false desires and come into the presence of Christ.
- If you do not have local Lutheran services broadcast, the fact that you are reading these words means you have the internet. You are probably well aware of the sermons that can be heard on this medium. Two that I check every so often are St. John-Wheaton, IL (there's a Kleinig sermon up there from a few Sunday's back) and Resurrection, Cambridge, England - though that hasn't been updated since July and only has one sermon at a time. Ft. Wayne Sem's website has a nice web interface set up for listening to weekly chapel services too.
- If you can listen to the whole service and not just the sermon, then sing with the congregation if you are able to. I suffered from being a bit short of breath, so I could only join in every so often. But I find comfort in those vows in the Psalms along the lines of "I will sing to the Lord forever" - since that must mean that the Lord is going to have to give me back my voice so I can sing eternally, because right now I can't.
- I'd recommend not wasting your time watching the stuff that passes for Christian preaching on television (which hopefully not too many of your members watch approvingly when they aren't at church). Maybe do it once to confirm what you have heard - but tape it and watch it at some other time since it probably will make you sad or mad. It won't assist you in meditation upon the Lord's mercy - so spend time online listening to solid fathers in the faith who will encourage your faith.
- And focus on it. Don't multitask. (You might not be tempted to do it, but I had to force myself to just sit and listen and do nothing else.)
- And know that you and all the sick are being prayed for by the Church this day. And those prayers are heard and answered by the Great Physician of Body and Soul, who is omnipotent, omniscient and merciful. To Him, with the Father and the Spirit, be all glory and honor forever.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
The Sermon on the Mount
The Commissioning of the 12 Apostles
Parables in Matthew, Part 1
Parables in Matthew, Part 2
Matthew 24 and 25
(These are whole hours, so you'll also be getting stuff on other topics)
and you can hear Rev. Randy Asburry on Ignatius of Antioch here or Rev. Rick Stuckwisch here
Friday, October 16, 2009
Ukranian Bishop uses Treasury of Daily Prayer
(if you don't have TDP, and you don't have a Lutheran Service Book, you can find the OT and NT readings for the day here. just click on the day on the calendar.)
A few years back I read a sermon on the parable of the Sower by Rev. Lance O'Donnell, a classmate of mine. He started out having his listener picture all these John Deere tractors driving down the main street in town, spraying seeds everywhere - the street, office buildings, stores, etc. As ridiculous as that sounds (what modern farmer would waste valuable seed in a city?), so also it sounded ridiculous to Christ's first hearers - the seed is too valuable. No sower would cast seed on a path, amongst weeds, etc. No sower except Jesus Christ - and the ministers He sends to scatter His Word behind Him.
O Lord, we praise you for being extravagant with your redemption, paying with Your precious blood not only for our sins, but for the sins of all the world. Send Your Holy Spirit that Your ministers would not be discouraged, but even scatter Your Word in the most unlikely of places, that it might bear fruit of thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Quick Poll – How many wish that today was Friday?
How many are glad that today’s not Friday, because then it would be Friday the 13th?
How many do not care that November will have a Friday the 13th? That day in November happens to be my birthday, so I do care about it – and no I don’t think it will be a day filled with bad luck.
There’s a number of superstitions in our world. If you’ve ever been to Dynasty, or some other Chinese restaurant, you’ve probably seen the Chinese zodiac and figured out what animal you are according to what year you were born. It’s funny to me that it says that my wife and I bring bad luck to my oldest daughter, so she should avoid us because of the animals we are.
Weddings have their own share of superstitions. The Bride is supposed to find something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue to bring good luck. And it is extremely bad luck for the bride and groom to see each other before the wedding. As a pastor, I meet with the couple a few times before the wedding. One of the things I do is encourage them to have as many wedding pictures taken as possible before the service. Which means the bride and groom see each other before the wedding.
It is just a superstition – besides, we are to fear love and trust in God above all things, even superstitious luck, because we are to have no other gods than Him. As we said in Psalm 27 this morning, the Lord is our light and our salvation. Shall we be afraid of bad luck? Shall we be afraid of the number 13? No, the Lord is the stronghold of our life.
Now, we might be afraid of God – or at least a bit uncertain about what He thinks about us. After all, we have not kept that First Commandment. We have acted as if He was not in control of our lives, as if luck had more power than He did, as if we have more power than He does. Our approach to life is pretty offensive to the Lord who can destroy both body and soul in Hell forever.
Yet consider what kind of God this is. Again and again when His people are terrified because either He arrives in His world, or the angels in all God’s holiness arrive, again and again scared sinners here this message from God: “Do not be afraid.” Adam and Eve hiding in the bushes, and God comes not to destroy them, but to invite them out and into His salvation in the Son of Man who will come years later to destroy the devil’s work.
Or in today’s Gospel text, with the Disciples on Easter evening locked away behind the closed doors for fear of the Jews. The Jesus who has defeated death and risen from His grave, appears to them – not to destroy them for abandoning Him and being a bunch of faithless cowards on Good Friday. Jesus does not hold a grudge. But neither does He simply ignore their failure and pretend they never sinned. Rather our Lord and our God arrives to forgive them and release them from the condemnation that is worse than any imagined bad luck. “Peace be with you,” He says.
And then God sends them out as His ambassadors. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you… If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld” (20:21, 23). It was not enough that the Father sent the Son to suffer and die for the sins of these disciples. More scared to death sinners must be made alive, until His Kingdom is filled with people from every tribe and people and language. So Jesus sends the Apostles out with the authority to preach, baptize, and feed the Supper to people in His name. He puts forgiveness in their mouths for a world lost in the same sins that had held these men as prisoners. His Word of peace is sent to people locked in the darkness where we hide, not just hide from bad luck, but we hide from each other because we are afraid of them. That is what our sin does – it isolates, divides, and alienates us, it tears apart what God has joined together. We refuse to step out, but Jesus steps in. He comes to us in the Christians He sends to us, with His word of pardon for our false superstitions. The times we have been ungrateful to Him for His goodness because we were too busy trusting good luck – those times are all forgiven by the Lord who says to you, “Peace be with you.”
The Apostles from the Scriptures tell us to look at the wounds of Jesus. Look at the wounds that killed Him when He hung on the tree. These wounds are for you. There is no sin of yours that He did not answer for upon His cross. Not one. And His risen body shows that the sacrifice He once offered was totally pleasing to God the Father, who raised Jesus and “exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior,” to give you repentance and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:30-31). Look at the wounds of Jesus! They tell you of the eternal love that was in the heart of God for you before time began. The Holy God was willing to embrace your sin and your death in order to swallow them up with His mercy and life.
Whether today is the 13th or not, a Friday or not, as the Scriptures say, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). The Bible does not speak about good luck or bad luck, but it does speak about blessings and curses. And whatever curses do come your way, we will rejoice because God knows about it – and He will work the curse into something that will eventually be good for you. I do not know whether Good Friday was on a 13th or not, but look what God did with the evil murder of Christ on the Cross – the Lord has turned that evil into your eternal blessing, to forgive your sin and bring you to Paradise, the place where no one will even think about bad luck. So we can rejoice and be glad in this day, for your eternal Christ has blessed you with the freedom to step out of locked rooms and fearful lives and the darkness of unbelief. You are blessed to go out into the world rejoicing in the good news of sins forgiven in the name of the crucified and risen Jesus. You have no bad luck. You are blessed.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Who can declare all the Lord's praise indeed. Holy Spirit, help me to proclaim Your Word clearly and keep me from babbling on endlessly.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
anyway, you know how it is when you're gone - the work piles up and you have about 6 days of work to do in two. I hope to post some thoughts on the conference, but it might not be until next week (if ever.)
btw, if you have The Lutheran Study Bible, check out the wording of the dedication page. very cool.
And GO DODGERS!!!!
Monday, October 5, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
- Psalm 3 reminds me of the collect for Vespers, asking for God's protection during the night. that God protect us not from our enemies per se, but from the fear of our enemies. (Think of the sins committed by Abraham, King Saul, Peter, et al because they were afraid of what man could do to them.) Long before the collect was written, Psalm 3:5-6 had put together the themes of sleep, the Lord's sustenance and protection from fear.
- Is the Deuteronomy reading giving us an example of Moses failing like we do, blaming others when it was really his fault? For he says that "The LORD was angry with me because of you..." (3:26)... Numbers 20 would indicate it was "because of Moses" not "you". The Lutheran Study Bible gives that reference in the notes (without pointing out the "not really because of you" aspect. AND it has a great quote of Luther from AE 9:42, pointing out that though, like Moses, we are not heard by God, He still gives us evidence of His favor, even as He gave Moses to see the Promised Land.
- "Whatever you wish that others would do to you..." (Matthew 7:12) follows right after the section on prayer. We pray for others even as we wish they would pray for us.
- Brilliant Writing by Gerhard. In some places of this selection, it sounds a bit like prayer is a means of grace. Since it is Friday, I started thinking of the final four points in terms of our Lord's first prayer from the Cross (Luke 23:34):
- God's omnipotent kindness - omnipotence without kindness is dangerous for us. Kindness without omnipotence leads to, "I wish there is something I could do, but I can't." His kindness is all-powerful over our sin as the Father does forgive us.
- God's unfailing truthfulness - just think if God's promise to forgive was really just an example of Him pulling our leg. yikes.
- Christ's intercession as our mediator - case in point, this prayer from the Cross. Kleinig uses the example of Christ giving us a piggy back ride into the Holy of Holies
- The Holy Spirit's Testimony - without His bringing to mind all the Lord had spoken, inspiring Luke to write what he had heard from others, we would not know this prayer had been prayed.
for what it's worth...
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
1. It's amazing how the readings from TDP (often accidentally) throw you back to what you heard on Sunday in church (at least for us 3 year types, with the cutting off of that which causes to sin).
2. I posted these thoughts on anger in May. To them I will add this tidbit from Dr. Kleinig at Doxology in Naperville: if we stop ourselves from being angry, then we will also stop ourselves from loving. Love does not rejoice in evil (1 Corinthians 13:6), but neither is it neutral. Jesus is warning against the sinful side of anger.
3. It was a hard reading yesterday, looking into the mirror of the perfect law of God, and seeing again that I am not perfect as my Father is perfect. While searching for something completely different, I was glad to stumble upon this passage in "Minister's Prayer Book" by Doberstein (pg. 326-329):
So you want to be a pastor of souls? Absolutely necessary for this ministry is a mirror. But you, I know, are not fond of gazing into a mirror. And yet there are a lot of people who like to stand in front of a mirror because they are pleased with themselves. But you an I get no pleasure from looking into the mirror. I do not mean the mirror in the bathroom, but rather that unerring mirror of the Word of God that reflects the true picture of what we are. It reveals that latent anger within us as the source of murder. It exhorts us not to let the sun go down on our wrath (Eph. 4:26). And we take our hatred into the night and our dreams and drag it around with us for weeks. And our hard and heartless words? The Lord would have our hearts free of dust and dirt. And they are like an untidied drawer into which we stuff all kinds of rubbish to keep ourselves and others from seeing it. But we reproach others for their secret disorderliness. God's Word bids us to set our light on a stand that it may give light to all in the house (Matt. 5:15). But does our light shine in our own home? Sometimes in our homes one leaves the other to sit alone in the dark! How can one "who does not know how to manage his own household" (1 Tim. 3:5) sow and cultivate love in the congregation? A look into that mirror paralyzes one's joy in this ministry. "Sweep before your own door!" You say it to yourself, and I say it to myself too.
My dear friend, don't be trouble. Don't avoid this mirror. If you shun its judgment, your pastoral care of souls will die, no matter how zealously you busy yourself with it. Then the worm is gnawing at its root. If you stand before the person who seeks your counsel as a paragon, how is the poor duffer going to have any trust in you? And do you not arouse his trust when he senses the fact that you too have to struggle and fight, that you too have your falls and the Lord's grace must constantly be picking you up again? We do not need to wash our dirty laundry in public every day, but in certain cases we can let those who seek our counsel know that their sin is also our sin. How can we ever hear confessions rightly without confessing ourselves? The other person gives us the key to his heart when we give him the key to ours. At the close of the service the pastor does not urge the congregation to pray for him simply to make a show of the terrific strain of his office, but because he too is not only a sinful man in general but also has to fight against evil every day and, like all the rest of us, always needs the prayers of the congregation. There is a legend of a little girl who had an ugly hump on her back, so deformed that she was either ridiculed or pitied by everybody. But when she died it turned out that the ugly hump concealed angels' wings. May it not be that all the ugly things in our lives that dismay us have in them angels' wings? We can make everything, literally everything, the subject of our prayer. So a look into the mirror of God's Word can become a blessing for us and for those to whom we minister.
My dear friend, don't avoid the mirror of the Word of God. If you do, your pastoral care is done for. Then you have ceased to care for your own soul. After all, it is not merely our own nature but the face of our Lord Christ that gazes questioningly at us from this mirror. And what more salutary could happen to us than this? His gaze kills our pride. Only a humble man can really be a pastor. His Word summons us to resist all evil to the death. Only a fighter can be a real pastor. The Lord's presence promises us forgiveness and gives us the courage again and again to make a new beginning. But how could our spirits be glad without his promise: "Behold, I make all things new." His Word is a call of alarm that keeps us from stiffening into self-satisfied security and saves us from the danger of fleeing into a deceitful double life. How often we try to put our best wares in the show-window while back of the counter there is nothing but junk. The mirror of God preserves us from being phony paragons. Real pastoral care requires truth. And that's what God's mirror gives us, in order that we two may care for others with unflinching and joyful hearts.
So we two shall hold on, you, dear John, and your friend who greets you.
- Christian Lendi-Wolff, from "Von Mensch zu Mensch. Seelsorgerliche Winke" (1954).
Monday, September 28, 2009
- Nice how the current Responsory (pg. o-69) throws one back to continuing meditation upon today's Gospel text.
- And the Bonhoeffer writing was tremendous. "When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die."
- Praise to you, O Lord Christ, for you are our righteousness that we may enter the kingdom of heaven.
- (and no matter whether you are a 3-year type, or 1-year, check out this snippet from the sermon for yesterday by December's "Portals of Prayer" author.)
Saturday, September 26, 2009
I also have some thoughts on Malachi 2 - blessings becoming curses/dishonoring God leading to being faithless to the neighbor - and the application of that to the practice of open communion... but there is the aforementioned sermon preparation that must happen.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
And I know that the passages were chosen separately, but Nehemiah sure paired up well with its reminders of what happens when God's people become faithless.
Lord, keep us faithful to You, for You remain faithful to us.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Before yesterday, Rev. Stuckwisch was already thinking about 1 Timothy 5. I'm glad the TDP reading gave him an occassion to post those thoughts.
Rev. Weedon has this post about liking today's writing. Take note of Rev. Petersen's comment.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Give hope to those who battle with depression, and sustain those with mental
illness. Help us all to know the full consolation of Your love, especially when
we are overcome with anxiety and despair.
I certainly appreciate knowing holy hands of pastors across our synod will be lifted up in prayer tonight and tomorrow for members of my congregation who struggle mightily with depression, as well as many dear friends (I hear a second volume of "I Trust when Dark My Road" might be in the works! If you haven't read it, the first printing is all gone - but you can go here to read the pdf. well worth your time.)
At my own darkest moments, I've been glad to know that others are praying for me when I can't.
You are truly worse than me.
The reading from Nehemiah 1 was tremendous (reminded me of Isaiah 6, with a prayer that takes ownership of the corporate sins of Israel. Plus there's that quick little prayer right before he speaks to the King.) And LOTS of goodies in Paul's first chapter to Timothy, more than I used to realize (and then if you open it up to the real hymn referenced above, even more goodies). But having just gone through Doxology, Dr. Kleinig's talk about a "good conscience" made that phrase stand out. Sometimes we try and create a good conscience by justifying ourselves. For instance, the mangled lyrics above demonstrate one of our approaches to life (but end up walking the path to death) - "I ain't perfect, but at least I'm not guilty of the sin that guy does."
God uses His Law to awaken our conscience (which may have been so darkened by sin that we actually feel pretty good about ourselves) to its badness, then uses His ministry of Word and Sacrament to deliver to us faith and a good conscience. Apparently Hymenaeus and Alexander were delivering a falsely "good" conscience, and thus were handed over to Satan. But only for a time, so that they would again rejoice in the truly good conscience that comes in the name they blasphemed at the time of the writing.
Lord, lead us always to turn away from those ways we try to justify ourselves. Make us instead to rejoice in Your justification of us. Bring to repentance those who blaspheme Your name.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
anyway, Todd Pepperkorn has an old sermon on this Psalm here. apparently he's hosting a Lenten preaching seminar next winter based on this and other penitential psalms. I'd be curious to know how his dark road experiences might have changed his approach to preaching 130.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Since I have not yet purchased a copy of one of them new fangled study Bibles from a certain publisher about 50 miles from here, I looked the verse up in Kretzmann (online here), which said, "What Necho believed to be the will of the Egyptian god whom he served, that he transferred to Jehovah of Israel, in order to persuade Josiah the more easily." However, I don't think we can untangle this mystery so easily, since the Chronicler in verse 22 says that the words of Neco came from the mouth of God.
As Paul asks, "Who has understood the mind of the Lord?"
btw, if you want to know more about Cyprian than what TDP gives, check out this post.
Also, Weedon has this quote from Cyprian today, and yesterday recommended looking at the additional reading from Nahum.
2nd btw, if you know both Weedon and the Uneasy Priest, make sure to ask the latter for his impression of the former... I'm still giggling after the Mac-store inspired impression on Saturday night.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Psalm 38 from yesterday is a great follow up (a reminder even) to Sunday's prayer of the father from the Gospel (in LSB 3 Year) - "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief." David is weighed down by guilt (though his words could describe the physical anguish of depression, grief, excessive anger, etc.) David is able to be honest with himself before God about how much it hurts (not that God needs to be told - David's longings and sighings are not hidden from God, so He does not need to hear it, but David (and you and me) need to speak it. At Doxology, Dr. Kleinig reminded us that God invites us to dump our anger on God.)
Just as it seems the darkest - with light, friends and companions all gone - there is still hope. Just when it feels like I will be overwhelmed with sorrow, faithlessness, hopelessness, and think that I am no longer simul justus et peccator, but only 100% unbeliever, faithful words are put into my mouth: "For you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer."
Lord, though sometimes I question whether I have any faith left at all, Your Word reminds me that in Truth I do believe. Help my unbelief. Deliver me from the Evil One, who desires to rejoice over my foot slipping.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
And Weedon, the thought did cross my mind that I should just plain get a Mac. And then I thought about how expensive those things are.
Oh, and today's TDP Old Testament text is one of my favorites... it was definitely written for my comfort and learning. As Cwirla preached the Sunday I attended his church back in 1997, Elijah needed to learn there are no soloists in the symphony of God. I need to learn that too.
And what great mysteries to rejoice in that Paul reveals in Ephesians 3. I know you probably forget they are mysteries, because I know I do, and I know no temptation has come upon me except that which is common to you.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
If you are like me, you haven't backed up your files. go. do it now. especially considering how easy it is with a flash drive.
on the plus side, I've been doing a lot more reading of books.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Also, I noted how the psalm - after the business about clean hands and pure heart - says that God must give us righteousness (Psalm 24:5). It cannot be self-produced. It was nice to discover I wasn't finding stuff that was not there. Looking through the sample material for The Lutheran Study Bible, I found this note for 24:5 - "receive blessing . . . righteousness. God’s children are not righteous by their own works; God declares them righteous for the sake of Christ (Gal 3:6)."
Finally, unrelated to TDP, I've been following a thread on how pastors ought to talk with non-members wanting their children baptized. Rev. Kevin Vogts yesterday posted his practice, which sounds like an excellent one:
Because of the location and nature of congregations I've served (campus
community, mission congregations, etc.) I have always gotten a lot of these
calls. And that is what they usually are -- telephone calls from people who have
never been to worship. They would often demand an immediate answer, even before
or without being willing to meet with me, and start arguing with or berating me
if in that case the answer had to be no. (One woman screamed over the phone,
"You call yourself a Christian? I thought Christians were supposed to HELP
Twenty years ago I started a practice that has been very helpful: I
politely and enthusiastically respond that I would be very happy to meet with
them, tell them what time the Divine Service is, and that if they will introduce
themselves to me after worship we can then check our calendars and set a time to
I don't actually say it, but my firm rule is to NOT say or even hint "Yes"
or "No" without such a meeting, and to only set a meeting in this manner. It
seems to me that they should be willing to come to worship just once if they
wished to be married or have their child baptized here. That seems reasonable
from both a pastoral and common sense perspective.
In over 20 years, I have never had such a caller actually follow through and show up for worship. I have had many responses such as, "Well, I don't want to come to church there. I just want to be married/have my child baptized." The classic was a young woman who declared, "I really don't care what the church services are like. I just want to be married there because you're close to all the good restaurants for the
By doing the scheduling of meetings only in person following a worship service, those unwilling to attend even one service are self-selecting rather than me telling them "No."
Thursday, August 13, 2009
(I also noted that David respected the authority of King Saul more than Saul respected the authority of King Saul. He previously rightly forbade the consulting of mediums by drving them out, and then went against the law of the land by consulting one. A good warning for Pastors, that we practice what we preach and respect the authority of the office as much as those outside the office are to respect it.)
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
while reading about David sparing Saul's life again, I was struck by these two things:
- It seemed like David's chances of survival would increase if he broke the 4th Commandment, but he kept it nonetheless. Pastor Peters has an excellent post today on the respect for authority here.
- The Son of David also spared the lives of those rulers who sought to kill Him. For He could have called down legions of angel armies to destroy His enemies. But His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Therefore He told them to stand down.
Monday, August 10, 2009
I connected the verse just before that to the 8th Commandment in my sermon yesterday. Found this quote explaining Ephesians 4:25 by Rev. Armin Panning in CPH's People's Bible Commentary for Galatians/Ephesians: “Dishonesty is especially damaging when it occurs among believers, ‘for we are all members of one body.’ To deceive a fellow Christian is really to harm ourselves, because just as in the human body all the members work together for the common good, so it is also in the church. Being dishonest with another Christian is like shooting ourselves in the foot” (pg. 191).
Oh, and nothing to do with the Epistle, just a great illustration from Gerhard, by way of Pr. Weedon here. Going to have to file that one away for a sermon sometime.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
But Pastor Cwirla, without referencing today's writing, comments on a lady who is wrestling precisely with the "sure experience of the divine wrath", thinking that the evangelicals have substituted it "for a wish that is founded on nothing at all" (TDP 594).