Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tuesday in Lent 3 - Genesis 35

I couldn't help notice this connection while reading yesterday - Rachel dies in childbirth in Ephrath, which will later be named Bethlehem, where the son of Judah (Rachel's nephew) will be born to save Rachel and the rest of us from death.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Not TDP - Lenten Carnival

The Fight Between Carnival and Lent 
the nephew of my sem buddy Joel Kuhl is working on putting together a Blog Carnival for old time's sake.  (Then again, he is a pastor, it is during the busy season of Lent, and he did mention something about April 1.)
Anyway, he's looking for Lenten blog posts, so submit your own, or mine if I get back to writing something Lentish that intrigues you:

 I loved this pic of the Fight Between Carnival and Lent when I first saw it in CPH's To All Eternity
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sermon for Lent 2A - John 3

How frustrated do you get when you try to have a conversation about something important to you, but the other person is determined to change the topic?  As though what you want to say does not matter to them. When you read the Gospels, sometimes it seems Jesus does not care what people say to Him.  Quite a few times a person asks Christ something, and His response goes in a completely unexpected and different direction.  Like today, where Nicodemus comes to Jesus and says, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2).  And, seemingly from out of nowhere, Jesus brings up the need to be born again to enter the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus responds by practically asking, “Are you trying to confuse me?  Because I do not understand anything that you’ve said.”
            Dear brothers and sisters, at some time or another, just about every Christian gets tired of being confused.  It is no fun to be in the dark about what God is up to.  So we want a sign or evidence that God is truly in our lives.
            Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Pr. Randy Wilken, the leader of the Acts 1:8 Mission Society.  A few of you have heard him speak and know how this work got started.  He explains that during his seminary days he volunteered to put a new roof on a church all by himself.  After a while he got tired of it, and prayed that God would send a contractor who could take over the job for him.  Time goes by and no contractor shows up.  But one day a young girl appears next to him out of nowhere and asks, “What are you doing?  Can I help?”  And he thinks to himself, “Very funny, God.  I asked for a contractor, and you send me her?”  But, despite those first thoughts, he found ways for her to help.  And the next thing he knew, other neighborhood kids were helping.  Long story short, that eventually led to his current work, which involves teenagers and young adults in servant events.  Among other things, he’s got kids learning to put up drywall in an old Lutheran Church just south of Barnes Jewish Hospital.  I hope to let you know more about how he works with congregations later this year.  In the meantime if you want to find out about him, he said he will be on KFUO 850 this Tuesday morning.
            Many Christians do not have such a dramatic story about being in the dark – and then finding out what God is up to.  But we have all gone through times of great hardship, loneliness or doubt.  A signal from God that everything will be okay would be great.  Or times where you have a major decision, like if you should change jobs or move to another town.  If only the Lord would let you know which choice to make…  Still others look at their continual failures to get rid of their sin.  They doubt that God could ever remain on the side of such sinful people as themselves.  Some sort of sign would be a great comfort during the dark night of the soul.
            If you ever find yourself searching for a sign from God for any or all of these reasons, then John 3 is for you.  Nicodemus wanted exactly the same thing.  He though he found it in the miracles he saw Jesus perform.  “Rabbi,… no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
            Jesus was extremely popular and loved at this point.  The hatred and humiliation of the Cross is approaching, but that hour has not yet come.  Christ’s signs of turning water to wine, of exorcising demons and healing diseases amazed the people.  These miracles make Nicodemus feel like he may be close to having the answer to all his prayers.  He comes to Jesus to make certain, to ask questions about what Jesus is doing. 
            However, rather than going along with what Nicodemus wants to talk about, Jesus immediately changes the subject to Baptism.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Why does Jesus not want to talk about His miracles? 
Because there is something greater, something more comforting, something that will stay with you forever.  Jesus does not want to talk about turning water into wine or healings or casting out demons because God’s Son wants Nicodemus – and you – to know about Baptism.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (3:5).
            It is about like Jesus says to Nicodemus, “You want to talk about My miracle work?  Okay, let’s cut to the chase and talk about the greatest one of all, the one where you find lasting comforts and assurances from God.  Do not worry about how water was turned to wine.  Stop fixating on the healings and exorcisms.  All those miracles are good gifts from God, but not a single one of them will last too long.  Water turned to wine passes through the body quickly.  That paralytic who can walk will have lifeless legs again in his grave.  And the blind eyes that now see will be dark again at death.”  Before it is all over, Christ will even raise Lazarus from his grave, but that only will postpone the inevitable.  “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  There is only one sign that is truly significant for your eternal life; one sign that will give you continuous assurances that God is with you and will never leave you – you must be born again!
            Because we are people filled with sin, lonely people wanting many signs from God that He loves us, this Gospel text is all the more important.  It clearly and simply teaches us that God’s love for the world is seen as His Son is lifelessly lifted up on the Cross so that we would not perish in Hell, but have the life of Heaven forever.  And we learn from this text that God’s miracle of Baptism is where we will find the sign of this love.
            Consider God’s connecting you to Jesus at Baptism to be like how my Grandpa helped me graft new branches onto a well-established apple tree.  In that tree, nutrients and life flowed up the trunk through the graft into the new branches. Likewise, Christ’s ongoing forgiveness for your guilt and shame flow from Him through Baptism into you – for He is the vine and we are the branches.
            God our Father Baptismally gave you a second birth, a birth from above.  People can take your money, your house, your family, your comfort, and even your earthly life.  But nobody can take your birth away from you.  That apple tree became old, diseased and died a few years ago.  But gloriously risen from the dead, Jesus will not get old and diseased.  He died, but death now has no power over Him – nor over you, since you are connect to Him.  No matter what you will experience in this painful world, no matter what hatred and humiliation you might suffer in the future, your birth from above remains forever. 
Even if God appeared right here and miraculously healed all of the brokenness in your body, that gift would not last too long, just as the new sight given to the blind man was taken away again at death.  And so also some spiritual gifts can be taken away.        The preaching of God’s Word and the celebration of His Supper are also signs from God.  But these miracles are different from Baptism.  If you doubt it, just ask our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Russia, Siberia and the Ukraine.  Christianity survived Soviet tyranny there only by God’s grace.  Just ask our fellow Christians in Iraq and other countries as they flee their homeland or else face death for worshipping our Savior Christ.  Preaching and Communion can be taken away from you.  But you cannot be robbed of God’s on-going Baptism miracle.  It is His continual sign that you will never wear out His patience, and that He will never be too far from you.  Your Baptism is God’s river of life welling up inside you, delivering forgiveness, life, and salvation from Hell so that you will see the kingdom of God.
            Nicodemus said, “Rabbi,… no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”  Should we be confused that Jesus answers the way He does?  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  With these words, Jesus stops Nicodemus in his tracks, spins him around, and sends him in a different direction – the eternal life-giving direction.  “Do you want to talk about My truly great miracle?  Here it is: You must be born again, born from above, born of water and the Spirit.”  Amen.      

Monday, March 14, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday after Ash Wednesday - OT and Writing

It never ceases to amaze me how absolutely appropriate certain day's readings are.  Today we wake up to news of death from an earthquake and read in Genesis 3 of the reason there are earthquakes - creation has been subjected to the curse of our sin.  And then there are these words from Luther today:

The good God permits such small evils to befall us merely in order to arouse us snorers from our deep sleep and to make us recognize, on the other hand, the incomparable and innumerable benefits we still have. He wants us to consider what would happen if He were to withdraw His goodness from us completely. In that spirit Job said (2:10): “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”
...from all calamity by fire and water; and from everlasting death: Good Lord, deliver us

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison: Let's Pray the Litany Daily: Kyrie Eleison!

Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison: Let's Pray the Litany Daily: Kyrie Eleison!: "I've long enjoyed praying the Litany. Luther did too. The prayer has an amazing longevity in the church, having found its form by the 6th c..."

Transfiguration A and March 6 - Writing

I know it was an accident of the calendar that lined it up
  • (and only for us 3 year types), 
but it was nice
  • (astonishing? magnificent? ponder-worthy? awesome? thought-provoking) 
to have fresh in my mind from reading TDP before church Luther's explanation of "compact," "covenant," and "testament of the Lord"
  • ("These words signified that God would one day die."  From "The Babylonian Captivity of the Church")
while reading the first verse of today's Old Testament Lection for Transfiguration A, Exodus 24:8-18
  • And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words."

Saturday, March 5, 2011

March 5 - John 12

There is something nice about reading of Palm Sunday just before we enter the holy season of Lent.

In John 12:3-8, Mary anoints Jesus with expens...Image by Wonderlane via Flickr
Christ's rebuke of Judas intrigues me.  How many times did He give Judas opportunities to change course?  The Lord knew he helped himself to the money, and gives him a chance to repent of it not by addressing the sin that was not known publicly, but by what was heard publicly - though not recognized as sin.  It sounds great to criticize what is considered a waste of money - but Jesus says the anointing was a thing of beauty.  There is quite a bit of food for thought in this short scene.  How many times has the Lord tried to teach us of beauty and the poor, as well as tried indirectly rebuking us - yet we continued on our way?  Hosanna.

I don't know if I'll get another post in before Lent, so I encourage you to consider finishing the book of Job, since there's only one extra day of reading.  Perhaps on Tuesday evening?
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Fun - nothing TDP

my 7 year old loves the M&M NASCAR race car... and thus Kyle Busch.   So she saw a commercial saying you could go to this site and design a car and meet the driver if you win.

Now mom and dad are not delusional enough to think that she has a chance at getting the thousands of votes she needs to win.  But still, it's fun to see how excited she gets when she gets more votes.
So if you, dear reader, would do me a favor and go and vote (the page takes a while to load, BUT you don't even have to login or give any personal info, just go to the site and click the circle marked "Vote"), and then if you know others who would do this to, let them know, and then if you would remember to do it again tomorrow - or even do it again today on a different computer, well, that would be great.

Rejoicing in First Article gifts,
Enhanced by Zemanta