Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 30 - Psalm 114

"The 114th psalm is a psalm of thanks, for the people of Israel to praise God at Passover for His wonderful works.  He had led them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, through the dry wilderness, mountains, and the Jordan, into the Promised Land.  We sing this psalm daily to Christ to praise Him who has led us out of death and sin, through the wilderness of the flesh and the devil, into an eternal life."
Martin Luther
Reading the Psalms with Luther, pg. 274

Saturday, June 26, 2010

June 25 - Proverbs 31 redux

I wrote about and honored some special Proverbs 31 women in my life last year in this post - though conspicuously absent was my mother-in-law.  OOPS!  Especially as she just finished serving the Lord and others by being the director of our VBS this past week (and, almost as importantly, already has gotten commitments and plans in the works for VBS 2011!)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 24 - John 20

my classmate Lance O'Donnell posted this today.  very nice.  now for my post-VBS recovery - NAP TIME.  One more day.  So much fun, I miss it when it's done.  but it is absolutely exhausting!

also it's the 9th anniversary of my first preaching as a pastor - preached on God keeping His promises as seen in the birth and life of John, the forerunner of Christ.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June 23 - Proverbs 27:1, Psalm 139:24 and John 20

I feel like the whole month of June has been one big Proverbs 27:1b in action!  Lots more I can think of writing than this - maybe next year.  It's VBS week, so for now, this is all I can offer you:

Mary Magdalene and the other women thought they knew what they were going to do on Sunday morning (yeah, I know, not in John, but in the other Gospels.)  But they did not know that that day would bring resurrection and reunion with the living Lord who is triumphant over death!  He saw their grieving ways, and led them (and leads us) in the way everlasting. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

June 21 - John 19

(HT - Doxology)

Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as “a bad press.” We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine – “dull dogma,” as people call it. The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man—and the dogma is the drama.
…Possibly we might prefer not to take this tale too seriously—there are disquieting points about it. Here we had a man of Divine character walking and talking among us—and what did we find to do with Him? The common people, indeed, “heard Him gladly,” but our leading authorities in Church and State considered that He talked too much and uttered too many disconcerting truths. So we bribed one of His friends to hand Him over quietly to the police, and we tried Him on a rather vague charge of creating a disturbance, and had Him publicly flogged and hanged on the common gallows, “thanking God we were rid of a knave.” (Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing)
…So that is the outline of the official story—the talk of the time when God was the underdog and got beaten, when He submitted to the conditions He had laid down and became a man like the men He had made, and the men He had made broke Him and killed Him. This is the dogma we find so dull—this terrifying drama of which God the victim and hero.
If this is dull, then what, in heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused Him of being a bore; on the contrary, they thought Him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified Him “meek and mild,” and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies. 
…He was emphatically not a dull man in His human lifetime, and if He was God, there can be nothing dull about God either. But He had a “daily beauty in His life that made us ugly,” (Shakespeare, Othello) and officialdom felt that the established order of things would be more secure without Him. So they did away with God in the name of peace and quietness. 
“And the third day He rose again”; what are we to make of that? One thing is certain: if He was God and nothing else, His immortality means nothing to us; if He was man and no more, His death is no more important than yours or mine. But if He really was both God and man, then when the man Jesus died, God died too, and when the God Jesus rose from the dead, man rose too, because they were one and the same person.
…Now, we may call that doctrine exhilarating or we may call it devastating, we may call it Revelation or we may call it rubbish; but if we call it dull, then words have no meaning at all. That God should play the tyrant over man is a dismal story of unrelieved oppression; that man should play the tyrant over man is the usual dreary record of human futility; but that man should play the tyrant over God and Him a better man that himself is an astonishing drama indeed. Any journalist, hearing of it for the firs time, would recognize it as News; those who did hear it for the first time actually called it News, and good news at that; though we are apt to forget that the word Gospel ever meant anything so sensational.
Dorothy Sayers, “The Greatest Drama Ever Staged,” Creed or Chaos? (Harcourt, Brace:1949/ 1974 ed. Sophia Institute Press), pp. 1-9

Sunday, June 20, 2010

June 20 - John 18

(A re-run from last year, but a lot of you weren't around last year to read this - and I'm a bit busy in my vocations of fatherhood (spiritual and physical) today to come up with anything new.  God grant me to make the good confession to His children.)

Do not only see Peter's denial (which broke the 8th and 2nd Commandment), but see also how John holds that in close connection to Christ's giving the good confession, thus keeping both 8th and 2nd Commandments. This active obedience was credited to Peter as if he had done it, and to you as if you had done it too (Romans 4).
In a previous post, I mentioned Manute Bol, a former NBA player who suffered a terrible disease after serving his country with love.  May Christ use Manute's good confession (even in the face of great loss - see the story attached to the previous post) to comfort those who mourn his death, and to bring peace to Sudan.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

June 17 - NT, and an anniversary

about a month ago, I posted this sermon last month on John 16:22-33.  Below is the sermon I preached the Sunday before on John 16:12-22 (adapted from this sermon by Rev. Weedon.) 
I was authorized to preach such sermons in the Church on this date 9 years ago at my ordination at St. John Lutheran Church in Ruma, IL.  Rev. Herbert Mueller preached that I must "just say the Word" (springboarding from the Centurion's request in Luke 7:7).  And Rev. Ralph Laufer gave to me the treasure of Psalm 27 that has been a blessing through little whiles of sorrows before joy returns.  May the Lord grant me the ability to tell His saving Word to many more.

John 16:12-22

I get curious when Jesus says, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." I want to know what it was that Jesus did not tell them on that Maundy Thursday night of John 16, just before He was betrayed. Apparently I am not the only one, since the fifth century Bishop, St. Augustine, says: "You are perhaps wishing to know what those things were that the apostles were then unable to bear. But which of us would venture to assert his own present capacity for what they lacked in ability to receive? ...If the Apostles were still unable, much more so are you" (ACC, John v2, p204-5). What hope do we have of understanding what Jesus did not tell the Apostles? They had the benefit of three years with Jesus, and yet they could not handle it. They have a hard enough time understanding the stuff Jesus does say.

He has been telling them that He is going away where they will not see Him, going to the Father. But then Jesus says, "Again a little while, and you will see Me."

If you were there that night, you would be able to tell from the look on the disciples' faces that they did not get it, they were not following what Jesus was saying to them. But the problem is not with Jesus being unclear. It is with us. The sin that deadens our ears and muddles our brain until what is good for us makes no sense and evil becomes reasonable. That is why we are so slow of heart to trust that God knows what He is doing. That is why we are quick to assume the worst.

Yet the Lord Jesus is slow to anger and frustration, and quick to help, patiently explaining what He means. "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. People will be too distracted by their own happiness to care about your pain. But I promise you that your sorrow will turn into joy. Think of it this way: When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come. She hurts - a lot. But the pain does not last forever. When she has delivered the baby, when she holds him on her chest, looks at his face, touches his tiny fingers, the joy God gives her helps her forget the anguish she went through. If she accurately remembered the pain, do you think she would want to ever be pregnant again? There would be a lot more only children, a lot less brothers and sisters in this world. But the mother no longer remembers the anguish when Her heart is filled with joy that a human being has been born into the world."

Look around at the Apostles now, and you would see that they are starting to catch on. But they still do not have a clue as to how Christ's words apply to them. So Jesus goes on:

"What I mean is that now you will be sorrowful. Your heart will feel like it is being ripped out when you see what is about to happen to Me. You will cry out in pain. You are going to lose your life, you are going to lose Me, for a little while. You are going to be alone for a little while. A little while. Do you hear that? Hold tightly to that. The dark days to come will seem to last forever. But just keep hearing My voice say, 'a little while, a little while.' Because I will see you again.

"Even though Death tries to get in My way, though the grave will try to lock Me up, I will see you again. Me - the One speaking to you now, the flesh and blood Me that you have known for all these years. You will see me again when the time of sorrow is over. So much joy will flood your heart that you will be changed forever, and no one will take your joy from you. Because I will see you again. And then you will understand."

Bad pain was coming in their near future. Not just pain caused by others, but also self-inflicted wounds. They would hurt themselves with their own weakness, denials, desertions and betrayals of Jesus. They would be tormented as they watched people torment their beloved Jesus at the Cross. Knowing that He was there due to their sin and the world's. Knowing that they could do nothing for the One they loved. They could only stand by and watch Him die, completely helpless and alone.

But this pain would not last forever. Not for Him. And not for them. And not for you. It was only for a little while. And as Jesus promised, when it was over, there was joy that never ended, joy that changed the Apostles forever, the joy of Jesus alive, seeing them again.

And just as Jesus said, no one ever did take away this joy from His Apostles. No circumstances ever robbed them of their delight in Christ. Though plenty tried. The Apostles faced attacks against Christianity and arguments between Christians, poverty and sickness, rejection and refusal to believe their message. They were arrested and beaten, exiled and crucified. Yet they never gave up their Christ and His joy. Even at His ascension, when they no longer saw Jesus, Luke 24 makes a point of saying they were not sad when Jesus disappeared up into the heavens, but they had "great joy."

From Jerusalem they marched out into the world where the sadness of sin held people captive. The Apostles released prisoners from their chains of guilt, and their key was the life of Christ. Everywhere they went, they told the message of Jesus, by which we must be saved. Through them God granted the repentance that leads to life (cf Acts 11:14, 18). They announced, "Jesus has completely answered for your sin. He has taken your guilt. He has destroyed your death. You are loved by God in His Son. And at the end of time, He will wipe away every tear from your eyes, and then you will have no more crying or pain (Revelation 21:4).

"But we will not lie to you about the Christian life. We must tell you what Jesus told us in the Upper Room. In this world you will have trouble - all kinds of troubles. Nothing in this world will ever be just right. For we are still weak. And evil still attacks God and His Kingdom. Sin is still hell-bent on breaking your heart in this world. You will have disappointment and heartache. You will be grieved by various trials (1 Peter 1:6). You will begin to fall apart.

"But do not give up. Learn to hear Jesus say to you, 'A little while,' a little while and it will be over. Trust that you will see Jesus again, in His kingdom, on that day when death is no more, when the earth gives birth to her dead (Isaiah 26), and the dwelling place of God is with man, on that day when He comforts and heals all hurts. In His mercy, God will make you to be like Jesus - tormented for a while by sin, but then raised up with sorrow turned to complete joy."

We are not able to understand all the things the Apostles want to tell us about Jesus in the Holy Scriptures now. But we will understand all this, and then some. On the day of the Lord when He makes us new, perfect in mind and body and soul, perfect in glory and love and holiness and wisdom and strength and intellect. Now we know only partly, then we will know and love completely, just as God fully knows and loves us.

In the meantime, you have what Jesus promised. You have the Holy Spirit, who brings you to understand Christ. The Spirit of Truth acts like a tour guide leading people through a foreign country, as He guides you into the all the truth, so that you come to understand the true nature of godly love and mercy and forgiveness and sacrifice and hope - things that our sin makes foreign to us. He will bring to mind the things to come, the happiness and feasting of Heaven's eternal celebration. He leads us in our journey towards that goal.

Sometimes we walk with a bounce in our step on the path our Lord has set. And sometimes we trudge along and need to be told to pick up our feet. Our exhaustion makes us doubt we can go any further. The thought of our failures and betrayals of the new life in Christ discourages us.

But here is Jesus, slow to anger and frustration, and quick to help. He patiently reaches out to us the food of pilgrims, the Supper of His body and blood, given and shed to save us from our evil, to get us through death to life. Jesus says to us, "When your hearts are overwhelmed and My joy seems far away, when you feel like your sorrow is lasting forever, hear Me tell you it is only for a little while."

That is the theme for today - and for all our days. O, pilgrims loved by God, keep this theme in your hearts. Carry with you the word Jesus gave His Disciples on the night He was betrayed, the word that got them through the sorrow of His death and the pain of their own. A little while. A little while of sorrows, then eternal joy. Amen.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June 16 - Proverbs 16:6-7

Proverbs 16:7 sure jumped out at me today.  As a man, Christ's ways pleased the LORD (notice how often the covenantal Name is used from 15:33-16:7;  HT - Dr. Andrew Steinmann's Concordia Commentary), and God has made us, who were His enemies, to be at peace with Him.  See Romans 5:10, Acts 9:4-5, and Philippians 3:18.

But then looking up that verse in the commentary led me to reconsider Proverbs 16:6 - and wow, how that brings to mind our salvation as well!  In the words of Dr. Steinmann:

The passive Pual (Dp) verb  יְכֻפַּ֣ר , "is atoned for," grammatically hides the agent of the action, who is the source of "mercy" and "faithfulness," namely, Yahweh (see Exodus 34:6).  The NT applies this language specifically to Jesus Christ, who is the source of "grace" and "truth" (John 1:14-17).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

June 10 - Psalm 116

Before I got in the car to pray with a couple at the hospital before their c-section, I remembered to open my TDP - and very much enjoyed seeing Psalm 116.  It's one of my favorites anyway, and it's such a treat reading it on my own birthday later this year. 

This particular couple (pictured here, since they serve along with the Weedons as godparents of our Sophia) did not know want to know beforehand if they were having a boy or a girl, so I teased that today's Psalm gave a sign from God - "O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the SON of your maidservant.  You have loosed my bonds" (v. 16).  Sure sounded like a baby boy was about to be loosed from the boundaries of the womb to me!

And I was RIGHT!  8-)
(I know, 50-50 shot and all, but still, isn't that cool?)

O all-Creating Father, we give You thanks for Your great compassion in the healthy delivery of Brian James.  Keep him, his parents and sister, his grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins in Your tender care as You bring him through Baptism to the loving embrace of Your Son, Wisdom incarnate Who was by Your side at the Creation of the World (Proverbs 8).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June 9 - John 12 and Writing and Collect

 I love this writing by Bo Giertz about the Knight and his Muslim servant.  The moment my eyes saw, "Ibrahim?" I remembered it instantly from last year.  For one thing it clearly displays the lie that we all worship the same God.  The servant calls the work of Christ blasphemy, while the Knight finds his comfort and peace in it.  And then you and I pray in the Collect (from Christmas) that this One who experienced "cold and rain, filth and vermin, beatings and wounds, fear of death and defeat" would free us as well by that same Incarnation.  This story is a great illustration through fiction of the litany for the dying (Prayer on Wednesday, pg 1307) being answered. 
By the mystery of Your holy incarnation, by Your holy nativity;
By Your agony and bloody sweat;
By Your cross and Passion;
By Your precious death and burial;
By Your glorious resurrection and ascension;
And by the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter:
                        Help them, good Lord.
If you want to be depressed, read this article about the Claremont School of Theology hiring Muslim and Jewish faculty to teach the respective religions "of Abraham" (BAH!) - and if that goes "well", they'll be looking to add Hindu and Buddhist faculty as well!  The Devil must howl with delight over how easy it is to take people away from Christianity not by force, but by "kindness."
For reason to praise the true God of Abraham, check out this story about the Lutheran Heritage Foundation's work amongst Muslims, Getting Behind the Burkha

O Christ, though You lived among us, many still do not believe in You (John 12:37).  Free the Jew, the Muslim and all unbelievers from seeing Your blessing as a curse, Your truth as a lie, Your incarnation as a blasphemy.  Grant courage to those who are believe in You, but are afraid of losing status in life (or their very lives) if they confess You (John 12:42).  Comfort those who have lost greatly for declaring Your truth.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

June 5 - Proverbs and St. Boniface

since we will be in Proverbs for 3 weeks, it would not be a bad idea to listen to Dr. Andrew Steinmann talk about the book on Issues, etc.  (or you can right click here for the first hour and here for the second hour).

also, check out St. Boniface's letter "asking prayers for the conversion of the Saxons" on page 1301-2 of TDP.  This is what I posted on him last year.

June 4 - Ecclesiastes 12

keepers of the house = hands and arms
strong men = legs
grinders = teeth
those who look = eyes
doors = ears

The dreariness of old age in chapter 12 describes that life which is only focused on what is under the sun and separate from God.  The man and woman of faith, however, though they will certainly have trials, may grow old with God on their side and with God's grace constantly helping them.  Read what happens for the Christian despite physical aging: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.  (from a Bible Study by Rev. Al Espinosa.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

June 3 - Proverbs 11

Proverbs 11:1 is similar to the saying, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

We express this sentiment in German this way, "He who is afraid of the bushes will never get into the woods."  To the person who is giving, it seems that he will have nothing left at home but will lose everything.  This is the reason why we are so reluctant to give things away.  Therefore he says, "if you want to be afraid of poverty and ingratitude, you will never do good to anyone."  He who looks not to the Word of Him who has promised but at the property given does not believe that he will eventually be fed or will have plenty.  Therefore you must look at the Word of God and at the promises (Matthew 4:4): "Man shall not live by bread alone." If you listen to His Word, I say, He will bless you in the field and at home... But he who does not believe the Lord does not do anything good.  He who overlooks the Word, overlooks the work as well.  (Luther's Works, Vol. 15, pg. 173)