Thursday, September 6, 2012

Psalmody - September 6, 2012

This showed up in my Inbox today as part of an email from a Roman Catholic group that somehow got a hold of my address in response to what has been going on politically in regards to abortion.  Amazing how often the Treasury of Daily Prayer readings touch what is going on in life.


Lord Jesus,
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood
render us participants in divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless you.

Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life,
truly present and alive among us, we beg you.

Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life,
make us capable of seeing in the fruit of the maternal womb
the miraculous work of the Creator,
open our hearts to generously welcoming every child
that comes into life.

Bless all families,
sanctify the union of spouses,
render fruitful their love.

Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies
with the light of your Spirit,
so that peoples and nations may recognize and respect
the sacred nature of life, of every human life.

Guide the work of scientists and doctors,
so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person,
and no one endures suppression or injustice.

Give creative charity to administrators and economists,
so they may realize and promote sufficient conditions
so that young families can serenely embrace
the birth of new children.

Console the married couples who suffer
because they are unable to have children
and in Your goodness provide for them.

Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children,
so they may experience the warmth of your Charity,
the consolation of your divine Heart.

Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer,
in whose womb you took on our human nature,
we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Savior,
the strength to love and serve life,
in anticipation of living forever in You,
in communion with the Blessed Trinity.

Pope Benedict XVI, at the conclusion of the Prayer Vigil for the Unborn, November 27, 2010.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Homily for Mark 6:45-56

            After He feeds the 5,000, the same Jesus who was in no rush to send away the crowds immediately makes His disciples get in the boat and go away.  With so many fishermen in the group, they never would have done this on their own.  They knew strong storms could whip up the Sea of Galilee at night.  This was the Lord’s doing.  He ordered them to go on ahead to Bethsaida while He prayed on the mountain. 
He wanted them out on the choppy water in the darkness, just as much as this same God wanted Noah bobbing on the waves of the flood in the ark with his family, 8 souls in all.  It was a regular zoo in there, with no dry land in sight.  You can imagine they got uncomfortable and anxious on board, with the rain thundering down for 40 days, and the wind and waves rocking the creaking boat another year or so past that.
            Go out to sea for a while, and you will remember you are a creature of the earth.  God did not create us until after He pulled the dry land out of the water.  The sea is a nice place to visit, but living there long-term?  No thank you.  We belong on solid ground.
Yet strangely, there is something about water that is not foreign to us.  Our kids love to play in the pool.  Perhaps because we all were born out of water, suspended in our mother’s wombs for 9 months until her water breaks at our birth.  And more than just at our individual beginnings, water is there at the beginning of it all – when God created the heavens and the earth, the whole world was covered with water as His Spirit hovered over them, and God’s creative Word echoed above them to begin the dance of life.
All of that is here in this miracle too – the water, the darkness, the wind, the LORD.  Jesus walks on water as if it were solid ground.  “The sea is His, for He made it.”  To their credit, the wind and wave obey the Lord better than we do.  Furthermore, the ancient people saw the deep water as representing Death and the grave.  Many also thought that Leviathan, a great sea dragon, lurked down there.  When Jesus walks on the water like He’s strolling through a park, it is as if Christ is treading the devil underfoot.  The old evil foe is judged, the deed is done.
Mark gives the detail that when Jesus gets near the boat, He just keeps on going, as if He intends “to pass by them” (Mark 6:48).  To be honest, I have no idea what that is all about.  The Lord is mysterious – maybe He is going on ahead of them to Bethsaida without the help of the boat.  Maybe Christ was trying to teach them to follow Him, even as we are to follow Him through death and resurrection.  We are powerless against the chaotic forces that threaten us, but Jesus is the Lord over all creation.
They thought He was a ghost.  When you are exhausted in the dark of night, the mind play tricks on you.  We all get scared when our safety is threatened.  They thought they needed to be saved from the Savior – even as we at times might be scared when we see God get to work on our life.  Have you seen His hand of help and mistakenly thought it would destroy you?  I have.  We might not believe in superstitions, but our fears are just as real when we wait for test results, or we have that close brush with Death. 
Seeing Jesus does not comfort them.  Only the voice of Jesus calms them down.  “Take heart; it is I.  Do not be afraid.”  It is the Lord, our God, come to save them. 
            He gets into the boat and the wind stops immediately.  They would have been safe if the Lord stayed out of the boat, but the disciples did not trust that.  Not yet.  “They did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened,” as slow to believe as we are.  Quick to panic, still not certain it is safe to trust God.
            For all the wonderful things going on in this miracle, as it reveals that Jesus is the God of Creation, the conqueror of chaos, the Lord who tramples the beast underfoot – for all of that display of divine power, the Disciples find no confidence, no comfort, no hope, no faith in it.  Many of the first readers of Mark’s Gospel had thought that if only they had seen Jesus do His miracles, then they would believe more strongly – just like you and I can start thinking that we would have a stronger faith if God would just give us some great sign.  Today, Mark lets us know life does not work that way. 
            It takes a lot less than a boat on a stormy lake at 3 am to push us into panic, doubt, disbelief.  The slightest thing disturbs our peace, and we begin to act like we have no God on our side, none of His promises to be with us and save us.  That is our old sinful nature at work, our inner sinner that refuses to take God at His Word or trust that the Lord knows what He is doing. 
            The disciples are confused.  They cannot connect the dots of the loaves and fish, the calmed wind and seas.  In the darkness, they cannot see that this Jesus is the eternal God in the flesh come to save the world.  We should not be surprised, not if we remember the Catechism – “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.”  No matter how many miracles I see or how much of God’s goodness I experience, I could not trust in Jesus – except that the Holy Spirit works on me through God’s Word. 
            The Jesus who came as the Disciples’ Savior on the water, came in the Baptismal water to be your Savior.  That is where the chaos of sin and death come to an end, where your fear is calmed, your life restored.  That is where the new creation by water and the Spirit happens.  Baptism is our little lifeboat, our ark on the water with Jesus right there with us, holding us in His death, raising us in His life, keeping our lives safe and secure in ways we cannot.
            Take heart, dear brothers and sisters, in the midst of whatever chaos you face.  Remember how Jesus is for His disciples.  They were not in danger of dying, even though they thought they were facing a ghost in a storm.  Jesus could have kept on going on the water and the disciples would have survived it all.  But Christ goes the extra mile in what He needs to do.  He climbs in the boat with them.  His Word lets them know they are safe with Him in the midst of life’s discomforts.  And that lets us know we are safe with Him too – not just safe from the discomforts, but safe also from the sin and death that threaten to destroy us.  For this same Savior goes the extra miles to His Cross, to die for all our doubts, our fears, our disbelief, our sin, so that we would be safe with God forever.
            Our lives as baptized believers in Christ are to be ones of continual growing in what Jesus has done for us.  Just as the disciples were works in progress, so we too are maturing into who we are in Jesus and who Jesus is for us.  Jesus will send you off at times in your little boat so to speak.  He will let you row with all your might against the wind, and you will feel like you are all on your own in the dark.  God does it for no other reason than to exercise that faith the Holy Spirit has created in you, to work into you that trust in His promises, so that you would grow in faith, in knowledge, in love, in hope, in patient endurance and character.
            Paul's prayer in today’s Epistle for the Ephesian Christians shows this nicely.  Hear them as a prayer for you as I read it again:
 "I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

Friday, July 6, 2012

July 5 - Acts 12

Apostles James, John and Peter
Recently I had noticed that in the Gospels, whenever the Apostle James is mentioned, it is noted that he is John's brother (haven't checked yet to see if it is every time or just most of the times).  This struck me since I figured that the readers of the Gospels should have been aware of James, and not needed the extra words.  However, when I read Acts 12, I understood.  James was martyred.  The first readers of the Gospels still could go talk to all the other Apostles, except James.  They could only go speak with his brother to verify the account.  Which is about the only way I see this insight as applying to our lives today, other than it shows some maturation in my reading of the Scriptures as I did not just ask "Where does Acts 12 touch my life?" but clearly saw where it touched the lives of the first hearers.

The Collect references James the Just, but quite appropriate too is stanza 21 from "By All Your Saints in Warfare":

O Lord, for James, we praise You, 
Who fell to Herod's sword;
He drank the cup of suff'ring

And thus fulfilled Your word.
Lord, curb our vain impatience 

For glory and for fame,
Equip us for such suff'rings
As glorify Your name.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Nativity of John the Baptist Homily

Throughout this life we are always on trial.  Always judging and being judged, by ourselves and others.  Our sense of fairness is satisfied when evildoers get what we judge is coming to them.  They victimize the weak and violate the vulnerable to fulfill their twisted desires.  For far too long they felt safe.  Justice would never catch up with them.  Or so they thought until condemnation fell upon them.
            However, even when that happens to one enemy of humanity, there are so many more out there hurting and abusing children and adults.  The cops and criminal courts do what they can, but they cannot stop it all.  So if only God would come down.  If only He would visit, then He would see how horrid they are – and how great we are.  And He would be happy with us and bless us, His people.
            But when God looked down at His people in Noah’s day, He saw all sorts of violence and perversion and lack of faith.  Years later, when God visited Abraham and promised Sarah would have a son, she laughed in His face.   Centuries later, when God visited Moses and the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai, He found them worshiping the golden calf.  And when God was almost ready to make His greatest visitation of all, becoming flesh like us, telling Zechariah he and Elizabeth would have a son who would prepare the way of the Lord – what did He find?  He found one of His own priests who refused to believe an old man and woman could become parents, despite knowing the story of Abraham.  He found people with lives more like crooked highways than the straight and narrow path that leads to Heaven.  Nevertheless they thought their place in Paradise was secure simply because they were born in the right religious family.  He found hearts that were cold and dead to faith, and yet they were lifted up in pride.  He found eyes blind to the fact that they were sitting in darkness, the very shadow of death.
            Open your own eyes and repent.  God sent John to preach to a people who are not nearly as different from us as they ought to be.  We go to bed wanting to think we are good.  Though not innocent, we tell stories that we think that will somehow explain we have a good reason for how we have behaved.  I’m good, except those few times when I’m not.
Will the Lord’s visitation to you reveal that you are better than they are?  Better than the people of Noah’s times?  Or have you never doubted and ignored God’s Word?  Have you never laughed in God’s face?  Have you never victimized God’s children to fulfill your twisted pride or anger, lust or envy?  Have you thought you will get away with it all, that justice will never catch up with you?  The Truth hurts. 
            St. Paul warns us never to think more highly of yourself than you “ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3).  For the judgment of God is a sobering thing.  Not the judgments we think He should pronounce, but what He actually says.  There is no one righteous.  No, not even one.  Not even you.  All of us need to hear John’s sermon this day, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  Return to God from your deadly ways.
            And what a blessed God we have.  Praise the Lord, for He has not only visited His people, He has also redeemed them.  Without redemption, God coming to you gets deadly.  If God visits the world with our iniquity, our guilt, then all is lost.  You cannot live without God – that is Hell.  But you also cannot live with the Holy Lord Most High in your sin either – that would result in your destruction. 
However, when the Lord visits His people in Jesus Christ, there is redemption.  Here God comes, with mercy and Divine compassion, using preachers like John the Baptist “to give knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness of our sins.”  And so John does not only preach “Repent.”  He also points to Jesus, telling God’s people, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
            In the blood of Jesus, the world is redeemed.  The great visitation of God against sin falls upon Jesus, and He bears the terrible weight of all your guilt and mine.  Like a sponge, Christ soaks up all our evil at His baptism in the Jordan, He carries it with Him to the Cross, takes it down with Him into His grave.  And then He leaves your pride, your anger, your bitterness, and every other sin that victimizes you and other children of God.  All of it is left  there when He rises from the dead.   By this forgiveness, you are saved.
            Zechariah says that God's people will serve Him without fear - but how is that possible, when there are so many worries about doing the wrong thing when working for God, so many opportunities for sin?  And then what condition will I be in when God visits?  Will He find you and judge you to be outside His kingdom?  Well, listen again to how Zechariah ends his praise of God at the birth of John:  It is all “because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. “  This is the way it is with God, in the Old Testament, and today, and even around the time of the birth of His Son Jesus Christ.  He finds us sitting in sin’s deadly darkness, weighed down by our guilt, blinded by ignorance of His ways, overcome by Satan’s lies.  The Savior, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life comes to people who can never make themselves ready for Him.  He brings to us the Light as Christ teaches us to know His gift of forgiveness.  And with that we live in peace with God.
            Throughout this life we are always on trial.  Always judging and being judged, by ourselves and others.  But in the end, God is our Judge.  And Christ, who has taken the blame for your guilt, is our only hope.  Amen.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

on a day when the Treasury of Daily Prayer brings Christ to us opening up the minds of the disciples to understand the Old Testament proclaims His death, resurrection, repentance and forgiveness (Luke 24), it is rather appropriate that Numbers 35:25 should jump out at me.  I knew about the cities of refuge, but that the death of the High Priest should result in freedom for those who have fled there, even as we flee for refuge to the name of God (Proverbs 18).  Wow.
And yet the Gospel is better than the Law, for the Cities of Refuge were only for those who became unintentional manslayers - while the Name of God brings forgiveness for us even after our intentional sins.
Wow.  Oh for a thousand tongues to sing indeed, for my one tongue finds itself speechless, lost in wonder and praise.  There just are not words to adequately thank the Lord enough for all His many blessings.  And so we share in the mega-joy of the Apostles after the ascension of our Lord (Luke 24).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ascension - What Bo Giertz said

"Several times He disappeared from their sight, but this time at Bethany He disappeared in such a way that they knew they had seen Him for the last time...This doesn't necessarily mean that God's kingdom is somewhere above us in space, but that when God created the heavens above us in space, but that when God created the heavens above us, He gave us a reminder of His kingdom's immenseness and majesty, of the light and clarity there... The Lord's ascension is a milestone in world history. Christ sits at the Father's side and resumes full divine qualities. He is now the omnipresent Savior, who can intervene anywhere with His saving presence." - Bo Giertz' Devotion for Ascension Day from To Live with Christ

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Psalm 23

a slight departure from TDP-inspired posts...

While prepping for tomorrow's sermons, I could not get past the first verse.  "I shall not be in want."  There I was, sitting at my daughter's softball practice in my nice car - not the nicest car, mind you.  It is over 10 years old, makes some funny sounds, and one speed of the ac fan doesn't work.  But it is still nicer than the car my dad drove when I was growing up, and nicer than ANY car his dad ever had.  And I was reading from The Lutheran Study Bible, which again is nicer than any Bible they ever had.  And I was just overwhelmed by it all, that God would be so kind to me that I could afford the time and money for my daughter to spend this morning playing softball.  And all I could do was thank Him for His many benefits, providing more than all that I need for this body and soul, without any merit or worthiness in me.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday in Easter 2 - Psalmody

O Lord, You know better than I that I do not love as I ought.  Enlarge my heart that I may evermore be faithful to You and serve my neighbor in love.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter 2012 Homily

“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”  That was quite a problem the women faced on that first Easter morning.  Even bigger than the stone was the problem of the Lord’s death.  They thought Jesus was gone forever.  All that talk about Jesus being the Messiah was cold and dead in their hearts, a distant memory.  Now they went to do what they could to honor Him in death, bringing spices to anoint His body.  If Jesus could not live, at least He should be buried with respect as a great teacher.
            We all fight this battle – against despair, hopelessness and death.  Sometimes the battle goes well, and we even get time off from the front.  Times of happiness when life is going well, we have our health, our kids and grandkids are doing fine, tax season is almost over, and even the Cardinals are going strong.  God is gracious, all is right with our world, and there is much to smile about.  Until those times return when things are going awful everywhere.  It seems that Death and Devil are winning.  A sickness will not go away.  A loved one dies.  The economy and election, conflict in the home and shootings at schools.  Sometimes the fight gets long and the battle strains us hard.  The sufferings feel like they will never end – or if they do get resolved, then bigger problems will come along to take their place.  It can look like there is no reason to hope for the future, for things to ever get better.
            Find courage and strength in that other Christians have also faced this battle with Satan and sin and Death, and they survived because Christ pulled them through it to life on the other side.  St. Paul writes this morning’s words to the Corinthians to remind them of the Gospel he had already preached to them.  They needed to hear again that Christ died for our sins, just as the Old Testament had said, and that He was buried and raised on the third day.  They could be certain this is how it happened because there were over 500 witnesses who had seen Jesus alive after Good Friday.  They could go to Peter or the other apostles, or James, or any of them and asked them about the facts of Christ’s life – and the testimonies would all agree. 
            After our Epistle ends, St. Paul lets us know why he needed to remind them of this basic fact of Christian faith.  Some people in the Corinthian congregation were not certain if the dead would be resurrected.  They thought that you lived and died, and that was the end of it.  So Paul answers that concern, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:19).
            How often have you been miserable because you forget the most basic heart and core of Christianity?  How often have you lived as if the dead body of Jesus was still decaying in a tomb somewhere – or as if He never had a body, or as if He never existed?  When we allow the dark trials of life to shut us down and make us blind to the Light of the living God, it is as if we are with those women asking their question on the way to the tomb.  “Who will roll away the stone for us?”
            Do not get me wrong – I am not saying we should be happy all the time, just have a positive outlook on life and things will get better.  Our Lord Jesus knows personally how hard this life gets.  We do suffer things – real pain that can feel like it will not end.
            However, Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!
He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!
And for poor, weak, dying sinners like you and me, that is the greatest news ever.  Momentarily we will hear Arlen sing those faithful words of Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives.”  If anyone had reason to complain and let the darkness defeat him, it was Job.  His livelihood was destroyed, his health and wealth all gone, his children were dead, and his family wanted nothing to do with him in case his curse might affect them.  His very life was barely hanging on.  Yet despite all of that, Job was able to confess, “For I know that my Redeemer lives and at the last he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27).
            Job points us to this great, beautiful reality.  No matter what happens, no matter what evil, sin, Satan, death and the world throw at you, Jesus is risen from His grave.  Even though everything else may be taken away from you, even life itself, you can never be separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
            Death has lost its sting because Jesus is risen.
            Your sins cannot drag you down to Hell, because Jesus is risen.
            You have a future that is bright and clear because Jesus is risen.
            All that is messed up and broken today will be fixed and restored because Jesus is risen.
            You are not doomed to Hell’s prison.  You will be free in Heaven because Jesus is risen.
            Christ’s blood now marks you as belonging to Him, because Jesus is risen.

            Rejoice this morning and be glad.  The things of life that weigh you down will pass.  God is at peace with you, so you do not need to be afraid of anything forever.  Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer, lives, and that is all that really matters in life.  Believe it for Christ’s sake.  Amen.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife: Jesus at the Gate

and another good point about Jesus in the Abraham-sacrificing-Isaac reading from the Easter Vigil by Lora Horn:
The Rebellious Pastor's Wife: Jesus at the Gate

The Sober Peasant: Easter Monday Morning Thoughts

I've been very busy with funerals and extra services in the past few weeks.  As my brain takes a sabbath from thinking and writing theologically, my friend, Rev. James Douthwaite, has an excellent final paragraph to his post today:

Now, back to the grind. But leave Easter behind? No. How could we? That will be my sermon for Wednesday Evening Prayer. The apostles went back to fishing, but they did not leave Easter behind. Everything was changed. Peter's reaction is the witness to that. Come listen if you're in town! But so too for me. Back to school work, reading, writing, papers, languages, questions, struggles. But not the same. Never the same. One never leaves Holy Week the same way you enter. The Word of the Lord does its work. Thanks be to God.

You can read the rest of his post here - The Sober Peasant: Easter Monday Morning Thoughts:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday in Lent 5 - Mark 14

Before the Passover Meal, the Lamb was inspected for any stains, weaknesses, or imperfections.  Worthy is this Lamb, whose death makes me His own.

Monday in Lent 5 - Mark 14

How our Lord trembles before the cup that's filled with God's wrath against our sin.  None of us takes our guilt as seriously as we should.  We have made ourselves numb to the deadly consequences of our trespasses.  We have lied to ourselves that our evil will not result in bad, but in good.  But here in the Garden we learn to rightly estimate the cost as Jesus is terrified at the thought of having to drink down to the dregs God's justice against our guilt.

However, when the arresting party arrives, there is no hint of wavering in Christ's voice.  Just a firm resolve - and peace!  Really?  When a beloved disciple inflicts such pain as betrayal of His love (which we do everyday), where in the world does He find the strength to be peaceful at a time like this?  He does not.  Not in this world at least.  He finds strength in God's love from above.  "The peace came from His trust in the Father. To submit to the One who has loved you with an everlasting love is not terror in the end, but joy. He knew that and so His head was held high as He went to hand Himself over" (Rev. William Weedon).
He hands His life over to the arresting party, showing us what it is to live the prayer, "Thy will be done."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday in Lent 5 - Exodus 2

Baby Moses rescued from the NileBaby Moses rescued from the Nile (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"Baptism's grace in Moses' early life - being condemned to die, he was cast into the water, from which he was drawn out and adopted as a royal prince; even so in Baptism we are sent into the water to die, but are drawn from it and adopted as the royal kings and priests of God in Christ."      

- William Weedon, Commemoration of Moses 2008
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Sunday in Lent 5 - Exodus 1

العربية: Deutsch: Alle Pyramiden von Gizeh auf...العربية: Deutsch: Alle Pyramiden von Gizeh auf einem Bild. English: All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Русский: Все пирамиды Гизы на изображении. Español: Las Pirámides de Guiza (Egipto). Français : Les Pyramides de Gizeh (Egypte). Català: Les Piràmides de Giza, a Egipte. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The kings of the earth plot in vain against the Lord and His chosen ones, and He who sits enthroned in Heaven laughs as Psalm 2 says.  Good thing to remember as opposition to Christianity becomes more blatant.  Pharaoh wants to stop the Hebrews from increasing and deserting Egypt - and his schemes to keep it from happening actually bring it about!
Check out the repetitive parallelism of 1:7 - Moses is making certain you catch on that while the slavery might indicate God had abandoned them, in actuality God was right there with them doing His Genesis 1 blessing to make the Hebrews fruitfully multiply.
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January 24 - Psalmody and New Testament

English: Cruise Control System symbol Polski: ...Image via Wikipedia
So, with a busy day of Bible Study, hospital visits (involving over 100 miles driven) and council meeting, we read Romans 13.  And what comes to mind?  That I need to put on Christ, and my car's cruise control, lest my foot slip as oft it does and I gratify the desire of my flesh to go faster.  Funny, but sad, but true.

And now for some beauty from Psalm 131 - How is it that the soul is calmed and quieted?  It is through placing one's hope in the Lord forevermore.  But there are lots of hopes out there.  For instance, I hope Eli and the Giants beat Brady and the Pats in the House that big brother Peyton built.  But that hope is not certain, nor long lasting, nor does it calm and quiet my soul.  The only sure hope that brings peace is from the Lord making the Word of His Salvation known to us.  Alleluia indeed!  (Antiphon 2 for Epiphanytide, TDP page O-63).

Finally, I just love Valerius Herberger's writings included in TDP!  Particularly this gem today - "Since St. Paul and St. Timothy were dear friends, they were put beside each other in the calendar, and also on the day of St. Timothy, the Gospel of John 15:9-16 is read, which speaks of pure love and friendship."
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Monday, January 23, 2012

January 22 - Joel 2 and a Lenten discipline

This text contains the OT for Ash Wednesday.  One year during the reading, I was struck by verse 17:

Between the vestibule and the altar 
   let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep 
and say, “Spare your people, O LORD, 
   and make not your heritage a reproach, 
   a byword among the nations. 
Why should they say among the peoples, 
   ‘Where is their God?’”

The neglect of the Church by our society has never been good, and it has increased by staggering proportions in my time as a pastor.  At both congregations the Prayer of the Church includes the lost, wandering, and erring - and I have seen those prayers answered in the lives of some, and there is great joy over them.  Yet still there are the other members who were gone before I got here, or have abandoned us since my arrival, and my heart weeps.  Perhaps that is why this verse connected to my heart so deeply.  That year I made it a discipline to pray each day this verse as my OT counterparts in the priesthood did - for certainly Christians in our day are becoming a reproach, even among fellow Christians, a byword, an afterthought.  And for many reasons we deserve it.

Yet the Lord has had mercy.  He has spared us many disasters.  He who relented of overthrowing Ninevah in the day of Jonah has relented again and again of overthrowing His people (fascinating connecting between TDP and the 3 year lectionary yesterday, eh?).  He promises that the gates of Hell will not overcome the Church.  And so the Gospel is like a passing rain shower, as our Lutheran fathers said, here to nourish today and then gone.  Yet it does not leave here without arriving elsewhere.  Still, for the sake of the lost of our land, I pray that it is not time for it to leave America yet.

Consider this year taking up the discipline of praying Joel 2:17 daily during Lent.  At the very least, by the end you will have learned by heart a verse of God's Word.
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Saturday, January 7, 2012