Sunday, February 28, 2010

Follow the Apostolic Example! Phil. 3:17 to 4:1

Almost 100 years ago, a group of Christians began a congregation in Kingsville, Texas. They shared a common commitment to God’s inspired, inerrant Word and the Lutheran Confessions as a faithful confession of that Word. Out of all the possible names they could have given to their congregation, they chose the name: St. Paul.

And that choice was made in large measure because they treasured the central article of the Christian Faith which Paul so faithfully taught—the article upon which the church stands or falls: the article of justification—that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

They chose his name as an enduring testimony to their desire to do the very thing that we are called upon to do in the words we have before us today: follow the example found in Paul and the other leaders of the apostolic church—in what they believed and practiced—in what they hoped for—and in what they were committed to as things of first importance.

In the very near future this congregation will celebrate its 100th anniversary. These kinds of milestones are wonderful opportunities to look back—but also to look forward—to do some real soul-searching and ask ourselves: do we still have the same set of values as those who came before us—do we have the same hopes—do we have the same commitments to the faith and practice as the man for whom this church is named?

As we reflect upon God’s Word today—as individuals and as a congregation—my prayer is that we would re-commit ourselves to follow the apostolic example. Paul writes:
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

All of us, I think, understand the value of examples. We can read book after book on how to hit a baseball or how to bake bread but to watch someone do it is to really begin to understand how it’s done. This is especially true when it comes to living out our Christian faith as individuals and as a congregation.

Two thousand years after the words of our text were written, we cannot “see” with our physical eyes the example of Paul and the other apostles—but what we can do is read their words in Holy Scripture. And so to imitate them—to follow their example-- means to read and hear their words for what they are: the Spirit-inspired, inerrant Word of God—as the Lutheran Confessions say: the only rule, source and norm for the Christian life.

The content of the apostolic faith—especially the centrality of the atoning work of Jesus Christ--and the living out of that apostolic faith in genuine Christian piety that we find described in the words of the apostles-- is what we are to return to again and again in our lives as individual Christians and our life a Christian congregation.

To imitate Paul and to follow the apostolic example means that we are to ask ourselves: would Paul and the other apostles recognize me and the members of St. Paul Lutheran Church as believing the same things-- and practicing the same things-- and living the same kind of life-- as they did?

This question must be asked again and again because it is very easy to wander away from the apostolic example and instead begin to imitate the world. Paul writes:
Many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

Just exactly who Paul is speaking of in these verses is a question that bible scholars disagree about and so I will set before you the two choices—and show that they are really not all that different and he could have easily been speaking of both the self-righteous Judaizers and the self-indulgent libertines who troubled the apostolic church.

We know that Paul had to struggle mightily against those in the church who said that faith in Jesus was not sufficient for salvation—that besides faith it was necessary to keep the Jewish laws. We also know that he had to fight against those who took the Good News of salvation and turned it into a license to sin.

Both groups he counted as enemies of the cross—not just mistaken or misguided or misinformed—but enemies of Jesus. The legalists were enemies of the cross because when they added their works to salvation they destroyed the Gospel itself—that we are right in God’s sight on account of faith in Jesus apart from deeds of law. The libertines were enemies of the cross because they destroyed the very reason that we have been saved—to bring glory to God by doing the good works he has appointed for us to do.

Now it may seem at first glance that there could not have been two more different kinds of false brothers in the early church than the legalists and the libertines-- but they were just different sides of the same coin: their focus was not on Christ crucified-- but upon themselves—the legalists in making sure that they scrupulously kept the demands of the Jewish law, careful about what they ate—and the libertines in satisfying every earthly appetite. For both groups—their god was their inmost desires—their belly.

One group was not better than the other or closer to Christ or more faithful to the truth—though each claimed that very thing: that they (and not the apostolic example found in Paul and the early pastors) was what being a Christian was really all about. But Paul told the truth: the end of both of these groups was destruction because they were enemies of the cross—one denying the need for the cross and the other its purpose.

Now all this may seem far removed from this place and time and our lives as individual Christians and as a congregation—but it is not—the same spirit that that troubled the Philippians-- and that would lead us away from following the apostolic example-- is present in the church today.

There are those who follow the Judaizers of old and teach the false gospel that we are not saved by Christ alone but by something we do—some good work or some decision we make.

There are those who follow the legalists of old who do not find their identity first and foremost in Christ crucified for the sins of the world but find it in what they prohibit: drinking alcohol or dancing or wearing a certain kind of clothes or the non-use of technology.

There are those who follow the example of the libertines and are morally indistinguishable from the fallen world around them in how they regard sexuality and the sanctity of life.

And so these words from Paul about the importance of following the apostolic example in how we live our lives and how we order our congregational life are as vitally important in 2010 A.D. as they were in 65 A.D. because they call us to keep the cross of Jesus Christ at the center of our lives as individual Christians and as a Christian congregation--finding in him alone our life and salvation—since eternity itself is at stake—destruction for the enemies of the cross but heaven for us. Paul writes that:
Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, He will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Significant congregational anniversaries like the one that we will soon celebrate are an opportunity to look forward—to plan strategically—to set goals. But it is also easy to focus on all the wrong things when we make plans and set goals because we do not always keep the main thing before us. Should we relocate? Should we build a new building? What should our worship life look like? What kind of ministries would serve our community?

All of these are important questions to consider but they are not an end unto themselves. Instead, they are merely means to en end—ways to accomplish the main thing: and that is for each member of this congregation and every person that we reach—to be a citizen of heaven through faith in Jesus.

No matter where we are located or what kind of building we have or what kind of ministries we conduct, if we do not always keep that evangelistic purpose ahead of us as individual Christians and as a Christian congregation—to make sure that we and those we reach have a place in heaven through faith in Jesus—if we don’t do this--we will have failed to be what God has created, saved, and sanctified us to be.

Having that goal always before us has a remarkable clarifying effect on all that we say and do—on what we value and insist upon. And so we put the first priority on faithfully preaching and teaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are faithful in administering the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. We reach out boldly to those who don’t know Jesus. We put flesh and bone on the life of Christ in our own lives so that those who don’t know Jesus can come to know him through us.

As we believe these things and do these things we will look like the apostolic church—imitating Paul and following the example of the other apostles—confident that we are about the true business of the church and that when Jesus returns we can give him an account of our congregational life that we do not have to be ashamed of.

And he will come again. The apostolic church never lost sight of that—they lived with a constant awareness that Christ could return at any moment—they looked forward to the restoration of all things including their own lives. And so they lived out their faith and they conducted their ministries and they ordered their congregational life with his return always in view—asking themselves: “How will Jesus view this?”

That too has a remarkable clarifying affect on what we do as a congregation and how we live our lives as Christians, doesn’t it? It helps us to remain steadfast in following the apostolic example. All the silly things that congregations can argue over—all of the fads that we are tempted towards—all of the false doctrine and false teachers and false brethren that try to lure us away from the apostolic example—are seen for what they are: things not worth losing eternity over. Paul writes:
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

100 year is a long time—it’s a long human life and it’s a long life for a congregation. But it is nothing compared to eternity—and that is exactly what is at stake when it comes to following the apostolic example in our faith and practice-- and in what we hope for and look forward to.

Standing firm in the Lord and following the apostolic example is not trying to return to the first century or the 16th century or the 19th century or whenever it was that we think that the church got it right, but what it is, is taking what we have received from Paul and the other apostles and living it out in the world of our day—committed to being the Christians in this place and time who have remained steadfast in following the apostolic example. May God grant it for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Blessings of Studying the Catechism

Dear Friends in Christ,
There are many advantages of teaching confirmation. Every time I travel through Luther’s Small catechism I learn something new. In a recent class we were discussing the characteristics of God. We saw that God was omnipresent (everywhere) and omniscient (knows all things). He knows what we are thinking and what we are doing all day long. It was a scary thought for some to think that nothing was in secrete because God knew everything! The question then arose, “What if next Sunday morning when we walked into church there was a list of our top ten secret thoughts displayed on the front wall?” Needless to say the whole class was not enthused about that idea.

But let’s think about this. If God knows all things and sees all things then why doesn’t he expose them to everybody? Why doesn’t he crush us with embarrassment before our friends? Why does he let us be known as Christians (Christ like) and calls us Saints (those who are pure, chosen ones)? The Eighth Commandment says, “Do not bear false witness” or do not lie about your neighbor. What are we to do? We are not to betray, slander, hurt ones reputation, but defend, speak well of, and explain everything in the kindest way. Isn’t that exactly what God does for us even though he knows all the evil we think and do?

God not only doesn’t expose all our sin but he invites us confess and have our sin removed privately. He invites us, as his friends, to his dinner table where he feeds us his body and blood FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF OUR SINS! He knows our sin, reveals it to us, and then forgives our sin because of his grace and mercy.
As we ponder God’s grace toward us, how can we not treat others in the same manner? Think how this would affect our families, our jobs, our communities, and our world. Then people would be drawn to peace we bring to life. When they come asking about our new attitude we have an answer. We tell them how God treats us and because of his great love for us, we can’t help but treat others in the same way.

I would encourage parents to begin teaching your children the Small Catechism where your family can learn and see these same truths for yourselves. I know it’ll be a very worthwhile endeavor.

God’s richest blessings,
Pastor Brynestad

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

The Second Sunday in Lent, Series C February 28, 2010

Lessons for Second Sunday in Lent (Lutheran Service Book)

Jeremiah 26:8-15 ~ The people didn’t want to hear the one message that could save them from destruction.
Psalm 4 (antiphon: v. 8)
Philippians 3:17 – 4:1~ As citizens of heaven, we live in a way that calls people to the cross of Christ.
Luke 13:31-35 ~ Nothing would turn Jesus aside from His mission to cover His people with God’s love.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: When You are Sure You are Right, You'd Better Be!
The people of Jerusalem were ready to kill Jeremiah because he warned them of God's coming destruction. They were so sure they were right that they ignored Jeremiah's repeated warning: "The Lord has sent me to speak against this city." In Jesus' day the people of Jerusalem were sure they were right and would not listen to Jesus' message. They were willing to kill him rather than admit they were wrong. St. Paul reminded the Philippians and us that sometimes the way we live is at odds with God's gift of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. To be sure we are right, we need to be right with God through the cross of Christ.

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord God, give me a humble heart that willingly hears your instruction so that I may learn from your word and so be renewed and reformed to live according to the pattern of your love expressed in Jesus Christ my Savior. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: As citizens of heaven, we use the earthly goods God has given us to represent His love for people still caught up in the shameful ways of this world. Our lives show God’s love as we point people to the cross of Christ, where God covers our sin and transforms our hearts with the promise that in Christ He will transform even our bodies to be like Him.

OFFERING PRAYER: Lord, bless these earthly goods to serve Your purpose from above
So people trapped in sin and shame may come to know Your love.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: We become defensive and self-righteous when we are living contrary to God’s Word. Such a course will bring us to destruction, just as it did the people of Jerusalem in Jeremiah’s day. We have a message that needs to be delivered to turn people from their disastrous ways and call them to God’s love in Christ. Instead of justifying our earthly ways, God has justified us in Christ Jesus and made us citizens of His heavenly kingdom.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

One of the great difficulties of sending out a Sunday evening/Monday morning update is the many dates often missed in between. One such date was February 18. If you look on the Commemorations page at the LCMS web site, it will simply say, "Martin Luther, Confessor."

Martin Luther died February 18, 1546. His last written words, reportedly found by his side, were, "We are beggars."

As 21st century North Americans, as those whose daily lives enjoy myriad technical advances, as those who are used to doing as many things as possible by ourselves, we would gladly give lip service to Luther's words, but little more. We are a people convinced we have change in our pockets. While we believe we're sinners, we're fairly certain we're not really all that bad. We're able to do more and more in the context of life, and want to transfer that ability to our standing before God.

The traditional Gospel for the First Sunday in Lent is the account of the temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:1-11 today). Think for just a moment about the temptations and how we might fair with them. Fasting for forty days and forty nights, wrestling with the devil, we're promised that we might turn stones into bread. How many of us would really balk at the opportunity, preferring to heed God's desire to trust Him for our daily bread?

Assuming we prevailed, the devil would show us all the kingdoms of the earth and their splendor, promising to give us all these things if we would simply bow down and worship him. Forget the idea that the devil is a major league liar, just think: you'd have all the earthly powers at your beck and call. How many of us would really balk at the opportunity to have this great power to make changes, preferring to heed God's desire to call upon Him alone in prayer and praise, even though it might mean we don't get to do things the way we want?

Assuming that we still prevailed, the devil would then take us to the pinnacle of the temple. "Jump down," the devil says. He reminds of God's promises from the Psalms that God Himself would employ His angels to protect us. There was an added benefit. An ancient rabbinic tradition told that the Messiah would descend into the courtyard of the temple. Jump down, y'all, and everyone will believe you. You can forget about all that cross and suffering stuff, because people will be astonished by your arrival.

Every temptation has a basic element. The devil tells us, "You can be independent of God's Will." The truth is, faced with the same temptations as Jesus, we would no doubt fail. In other words, we have no resistance to temptation, no great faithfulness, no great following of God's Will to hold before our heavenly Father and say, "Look at this." The truth is, we are all beggars - no spare change, we can't even get spare change. We have nothing with which to bargain with God.

Perhaps that's what's so amazing about the temptations of Jesus. His obedience is perfect - and He doesn't need spare change. By faith, we receive His perfect obedience as our own. Isn't it amazing? We can't obey our Father's desires. Jesus says, "I'll take care of that for you." We can't pray rightly. Jesus says, "Got that one, too." We can't do anything to please God the Father! Jesus says, "Trust me. I'll cover it for you."

This week at Mt. Olive is full of opportunities for worship. for celebrating (even in Lent), and for serving our Lord by serving our neighbor. I've included my brothers in the ministry here in south Texas on today's update, making sure that our brothers and sisters at our sister churches are invited to these great opportunities!

Tuesday, John and Doris Hauermann, volunteer missionaries to the Far East, will be at Mt. Olive to tell about their mission endeavors. Many of you may remember John and Doris as the ones to whom we sent a notebook computer last year. We'll gather in the Fellowship Hall at 6:30 p.m. Eat before you come, but bring a dessert to share!

Wednesday is the scheduled Lenten services at 12:15 and 7:15 p.m. We are still in need of sponsors for the meal before the evening service.

Friday, the Ongoing Ambassadors for Christ team will be arriving - late (about 9 p.m. or so). I've spoken with a couple of families who are available to be hosts, but I'm going to need a few more, since we have about 18 people converging here.

Saturday, the OAFC team will be leading us in outreach efforts in our area, some Bible study, some faith sharing, all culminating in what OAFC usually calls "an event" Saturday evening. Young people (probably grade 7 and older) and adults are invited to join. All ages are invited to the event on Saturday evening.

Needed for Saturday evening are trimmings for a barbecue meal - potato salad, beans, relish trays, bread, etc.

The OAFC team will also be helping us lead guitar worship on Sunday morning at both services.

Prayer Concerns:
Ruth Prytz, hospitalized
Bill and Mavis Waterman, Stephanie Waterman, and Kathryn Guerra, as Mavis' mother, Elva, was called to her Lord and given Christian burial this past week.
Ken, Sue, and Matthew Catherman, as Ken's dad, Kenneth, was called to his Lord and given Christian burial this past week.
Those who serve in our armed forces: Andrew Epley (Iraq), Richard Rhode (North Carolina), Michael Baker (Corpus Christi), Dru Blanc, John Sorensen, Ryan Radtke (NAS Corpus Christi), Bill Worley (NAS Kingsville)
The families of those who are serving in our armed forces
Those who serve in the health care fields, often caring for people who are in the clutches of death
Pastors and their families, during the busy time of Lent

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, February 22
Girl Scouts, 6:30 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics, 6:30 p.m.
Board of Elders, 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, February 23
Mission Presentation by the Hauermans, 6:30 p.m.
Don't forget to bring a dessert to share!

Wednesday, February 24
School Chapel, 8:30 a.m.
Bible Study, 9:30 a.m.
Prayer at Midday, 12:15 p.m.
Lenten meal, about 5:45 p.m.
Choir Rehearsal, 6 p.m.
Evening Prayer, 7:15 p.m.

Saturday, February 27
OAFC activities, 9 a.m.

God bless!
Pastor Kevin Jennings

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Temptation of Jesus Luke 4:1-13

The text for our meditation on God's Holy Word is the Gospel lesson appointed for the day. I bring you grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday night after the worship service Caroline and I were in the kitchen helping clean up after the meal. And as I put dish washing soap into the bucket to wash some of the utensils, I said out loud that “Caroline ALWAYS complains that I put too much soap in the dish water” and Caroline immediately responded that “she NEVER says that”--which is hilarious because not fifteen minutes before in the sermon I had used that exact illustration of what we shouldn't be doing when we argue with one another! Fifteen minutes--which is about right for me when it comes to resisting temptation!
A couple of Sundays ago in confirmation class one of the students asked me why it was that when they knew what their parents wanted them to do--and when they themselves wanted to do the right thing--why did they did they find themselves doing just the opposite. And I just had to smile to myself and say "kiddo, do I have an answer for you!" And we turned to the seventh chapter of Romans when Paul asks that exact same question and give the answer: it is the sin living in me--what a wretched man I am!
What Caroline and I experienced last Wednesday and what my confirmand was going through and what Paul experienced is very familiar to us all--it is a part of our broken human condition--it is temptation--from the world, the devil, and our own sinful flesh. And we should not be the least bit surprised. The Bible says in 1 Peter chapter 4: Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial you are enduring.
From the moment we were baptized and became God's children, we have been targets in the devil's sights—him trying to wrench us away from God. And not only has it been that way in our lives, it has been that way from the very beginning and throughout salvation history. Adam and Eve faced temptation and failed. The children of Israel faced temptation and failed. The patriarchs and great heroes of the Bible like David faced temptation and failed. All people were victims to temptation right up until the moment that the Son of God entered into the field of battle--and then it all changed.
Jesus was not defeated by temptation. He is the new Adam who got it right when it comes to temptation. He is faithful Israel who was faithful to his heavenly Father in every way. What we're going to see as we reflect upon God's Word, is that Jesus’ obedience is the best possible news for us because through faith in him, his faithful victory against temptation is counted as our own-- and he provides the model we need to remain steadfast in temptation--and that is to take our stand on the Word of God. Luke writes that:
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.
I want you to realize that when it comes to temptation, you are not being tempted because you are a bad person or because you are weak but you are being tempted because you are a child of God. I remember as a young man struggling with this and talking with the principal of our school about it because I felt terrible that I was constantly faced temptation--Paul's Romans 7 struggle was my own and I worried that I had lost my faith. But thank God for that wise man who told me that it was BECAUSE I was a Christian that I was tempted--BECAUSE I knew God's will and wanted to do God's will that I regretted it when I didn't. This was a profound comfort to me-- that being tempted didn't mean that I had lost my faith-- but struggling against it meant I was still a believer.
There is a spiritual battle that rages against us and in us and each of us must fight against temptation. From almost the very beginning when Satan and his angels rebelled against God, a battle has raged on and Satan and his evil angels have done everything in their power to destroy mankind--to wreck the fellowship that were created to have with God--and that certainly included tempting Jesus who was not only a human being like we are--but also the heaven-sent Savior of us all. Right before his temptation…
Jesus had just been baptized--the Spirit had descended on him--the Father had announced his pleasure in him, identifying him as his Son--and yet immediately Jesus faced temptation from Satan. Jesus did not seek this out--he did not cavalierly put himself in harm's way--he wasn't looking for a fight--it simply came to him because he was filled with the Spirit and led by the Spirit.
In the same way, we should not intentionally put ourselves in harms way spiritually. If we have problems with alcohol we should stay away from places where it's served. We should be circumspect in how we interact with the opposite sex and so on. But even when we do all that we can to avoid it, temptation will still come to us because Satan is a destroyer and we are his goal. Luke writes that:
Jesus ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”
If you remember the stories of Israel wandering in the wilderness for those forty year before entering the promised Land, you know how they struggled with trusting God to meet their physical needs--how they grumbled and complained and would have gone back to being slaves in Egypt just for the food-- if Moses had let them do it.
Now please understand--being hungry is no more a sin than being thirsty is a sin or desiring companionship is a sin. God made us creatures with physical appetites. But on account of sin, those appetites have become distorted and misdirected and the devil tempts us to meet them sinfully. Adam and Eve ate the one thing they were forbidden to eat in a whole world of food. Noah served God faithfully and kept mankind from complete annihilation in the flood by building the ark but got drunk to celebrate. David sinned sexually with Bathsheba. That sorry list goes on and on and includes us.
And so when Jesus goes hungry in the desert there was no sin in that--there would be no sin in turning a stone into bread and certainly within his divine power--but what he would not do was take his cue from Satan on how to meet a legitimate bodily need.
Jesus is the faithful Adam who says "no" to Satan. He is the faithful Israel who is satisfied with his Father's provision no matter what it is. He is the faithful man that God wants all men to be who find their sufficiency in God himself and Jesus responds to this temptation by saying, "IT IS WRITTEN." If you have your bibles open or your bulletins open you ought to underline that each time it occurs in our text for with each temptation Jesus has but one response: "IT IS WRITTEN."
Jesus' faithfulness is our salvation and his method of remaining steadfast is something that every child of God can make use of--in fact, the Bible says that we are to take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Now this doesn't mean that we simply quote some verse of the bible when we are tempted—though there is sure nothing wrong with that. What it does mean is that who we are and what we desire and the direction and purpose of our lives is to be drawn from the Word of God.
The devil and the world want us to believe that we are nothing but biological creatures--merely animals-- who are at the mercy of our appetites-- and our flesh wants us to believe that lie. But we are much more than that. We are God's children for we were created in God's image and we find our life in his Word that has called us forth from death to life through the Good News of his death on the cross--The very thing which the devil would have wrecked in the next temptation. Luke writes that:
The devil took Jesus up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”
The really sinister thing about Satan's temptations is that truth and lies are always twisted together. When he tempted Adam and Eve with the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil he promised them that they would be like God—knowing good and evil. And sure enough they did know good and evil-- but what they discovered is that they were evil and God was good and they weren't like God at all but had lost the image of God altogether and become subject to death.
That's the way it always is with temptation--Satan shows us the pleasure but hides the danger--the glass of wine with a meal that becomes an early death and a ruined family--the innocent friendship at work that becomes a destroyed marriage—and so on--spiritual danger in some good thing that Satan ruins.
That is how Satan tempted Jesus. He showed him that which was rightfully his: kingdoms and glory and power and honor--the kings of the world casting down their crowns before him--every knee bowing before him in submission--and all he had to do was one small thing--to render one act of worship to Satan. Who would ever know--they were all alone--why go through the rejection and suffering-- when what is rightfully yours-- can be yours-- right now? Why die?
This temptation cut to the very heart of Jesus' mission--he had come for this purpose—to die. This was his work--to offer up his own life upon the cross as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world--to do what we have failed to do in giving our all to God. The Bible says that we are to worship God by offering our bodies as living sacrifices-- but we all know how often we have failed to render to the Lord the worship that is his due and instead have used the members of our bodies as instruments of unrighteousness.
But Jesus did not fail--he did not abandon the way of the cross. He was tempted in every way as we are and yet without sin. He set his face towards Jerusalem and the cross and never looked back. After his death and resurrection he ascended to the Father and took his rightful place at the Father's right hand--the ceaseless worship of angels and archangels and all the company of heaven sing his unending praises and on the last day every knee will bow before him BECAUSE the way of glory went through the cross.
So it is to be for us. We are constantly tempted to take short-cuts in our spiritual life--to desire forgiveness and peace and hope apart from hard work of taking up our cross and following Jesus in faith. We want a life of ease unaffected by the hardships of living as God's people in this broken world. Now sure enough, the day will come when the hardships of this life will be no more--but that journey goes through the cross--not around it--and so we take our stand on the promises of the Word of God. But in doing so, we should also recognize that even there, that Satan is at work. Luke writes:
The devil took Jesus to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
I don’t think that any of us would consciously put the Lord to the test—which implies that we doubt his word and demand some kind of tangible proof of his existence or promises. But how often do we say or think to ourselves: “Well, if God really loved me…then this or that would take place”. Who we are in God’s sight and what his attitude is towards us is certain—his Word tells us of his love and the sacrifice of his Son is the enduring sign of all of it. But Satan tempts us to seek certainty in some external sign.
With Jesus, Satan used the Word of God itself—inviting him to put God’s promise to the test and cast himself down from the pinnacle of them temple with the promise that the angels would catch him as a sign to himself- and a testimony to all looking on- that he really was God’s Son.
But at his baptism, Jesus had already heard God’s Word concerning his identity and that was sufficient. The same is true for us. When we were baptized God said: you are my child. And he has not changed his mind. We can return to that promise again and again no matter what is going on in our lives—no matter how we are being tempted-- and be certain that it is true and unchanging. Luther said that morning and evening we need to lay claim to that promise because Satan is not going to give up and we have to fight on until the day that God calls us to our eternal rest. Luke writes that:
When the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Jesus until an opportune time.
The devil never gave up on Jesus—step by step in his public ministry the devil was right there beside him trying to undermine his mission and destroy his purpose. But Jesus was faithful each step of the way—going to the cross—laying down his life—rising again and descending to hell to announce—not only his own victory—but ours as well.
What we see before us in our text today in Jesus’ faithfulness in temptation is God’s promise to us of our own victory over Satan as we put our faith in Jesus and take our stand in his Word. Amen.
And now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

General Prayer--Lent 1C

Lord God heavenly Father, we come to You in prayer confessing that You are our refuge and Fortress, trusting You to hear and answer all those who take shelter in You:

We thank You for Your protection and provision which is both mighty and tender. When we look out upon a world that is filled with many terrors of both body and soul, gather us to Yourself. Use Your ministers in the government to protect us from those who would do us harm. Bless the president, the congress, and all who make and administer our laws. Protect our military men and women and bless their families.

When the pestilence and plague threaten us and those we love, be our constant help and guard us in all our ways. Bless those who are ill, recovering, and facing surgery and testing. Assure those who are hospitalized and in nursing homes that You are with them both day and night. Comfort all who mourn with the Good News that darkness and destruction has no place in the death of Your people but that all who trust in You abide in light and life.

O Lord our God, when we reflect upon our lives we see that You have mightily blessed us along our life’s journey and brought us to a place of abundance. As a confession of that truth, lead us to be generous in giving back to You in tithes and offerings a portion of what You have already given to us. Let our giving always be marked with joyous thanksgiving for all the good You have bestowed upon us.

We thank You that You are the God who delivers and sets free and by the mighty, nail-pierced hands of Your Son Jesus and by his outstretched arms upon the cross, You have delivered us from the enemies of sin, death, and the power of the devil. We know that through His resurrection we shall be saved. By Your Holy Spirit working through the Word grant us faith to believe this Good News and courage to confess it to the world so that all might call upon Your holy name and be saved.

In our day to day lives as Your people help us to remain steadfast and faithful in times of temptation. Let the faithfulness of Jesus be our own through faith in Him. Grant us the ministering help of Your Holy Angels. Help us to remember that we do not live by bread alone, that we are to serve and worship only You, and that we are to simply trust Your Word of promise.

Lord God heavenly Father, we have made You our dwelling place and we pray that You would keep us from all evil throughout our days; through Jesus Christ Your Son, our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

February 18--A Poem on the Anniversary of Luther's Death

Martin Luther, born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, died on February 18, 1546, while visiting the town of his birth.

Here is a poem commemorating his life:

Where Luther Stood
(from the Castle Church, Wittenberg)

Through this doorway Luther walked,
and on these very stones he stepped!
This is where he sang and talked,
and here’s his tomb where Katie wept.

From this pulpit Luther preached:
“God’s Word alone reveals His will.”
To our day this truth has reached,
and in these halls it echoes still.

Luther learned these truths from Paul:
“In Christ alone God’s love is known.”
“All who hear the Gospel call
Receive God’s gifts through faith alone.”

Here was Luther bold to say
“By grace alone God counts us good.”
Why is it so hard today
To take a stand where Luther stood?

– Gilbert A. Franke, Aug 2008

Ash Wednesday

Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. Joel 2:13

Most of us know that on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg. But have we ever read them? Probably not! It's helpful to at least know the first one for it sets the tone for all the rest and is really a brief summary of the evangelical faith of Luther and the other reformers.

1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

When we think of repentance we think primarily of sorrow over sins--but this is only half of what the Bible teaches about repentance. The other half is faith in Jesus. And so the life a Christian is an ongoing dynamic of sorrow over sins and sincere trust in Jesus as our Savior from sin. That of course is not just the teaching of the reformers or even of the New Testament--but is the teaching of all of Holy Scripture.

The prophet Joel called upon the people of his day (and really God's people in every place and time!) to "Return to the Lord your God…"! They needed to return because they had wandered away, following the direction of the world, their flesh, and the devil rather than the gentle guidance of the Good Shepherd. So it is for all of us. As the old hymn says: "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love".

But even though they had wandered away, they could still return in faith to the Lord, knowing that he was (and is!) a God who is "gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love."

These twin themes of contrition and faith that comprise biblical repentance are the very heart of the Lenten season. With heartfelt sorrow we recognize that our sinfulness is not just a matter of this sin or that-- but cuts to heart of our human existence and clings to us as closely as our own flesh. But even greater and more powerful is our Savior God who shows his grace and mercy and steadfast love for us in the sufferings and death of his own Son Jesus upon the cross of Calvary.

Let us pray:
Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Mt. Olive Update

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Tomorrow begins the holy season of Lent, forty days of contrition and repentance as we walk the road to the cross which our Lord Jesus Christ bore for us. The forty days follow Jesus' fasting and praying in the wilderness before being tempted by Satan (Matthew 4, Luke 4).

One of the big questions about this blessed season is: What are you giving up for Lent?

To be sure, a Lenten fast is a good thing. Fasting is an activity in which we refrain from something, usually eating, in order to spend time in repentance and prayer. In Jesus' directions concerning fasting and praying in Matthew 6, Jesus' plan is that we fast (giving up a meal or eating for a day). The money spent on food would then be given to the poor (alms) and time spent preparing and eating the food would be spent in prayer and meditation on God's Word. Sometimes, as recommended by our Lord, the Lenten fast is a very private matter.

Ash Wednesday divine service Mt. Olive will be held at 12:15 and 7:15 p.m. A special meal of Christian fellowship is made available by the Sunday School teachers tomorrow beginning at 6 p.m. The menu is Italian casseroles, salad, bread, and dessert.

The sermon series for the Lenten season will present us with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it applies to our life in this dying world. Our focus will be on the Gospel's answer to what many in our world call postmodernism, using 1 Peter as the text.

Please join us as we enter this holy season, as we contemplate our sinfulness for which Christ came to die, as we walk the road to the cross, as we see our Lord die His life-giving death, and we await the news of the empty tomb.

God bless!
Pastor Kevin Jennings

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

Lent 1, Series C February 21, 2010

Lessons for First Sunday in Lent (Lutheran Service Book)

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 – The people were to bring their first fruits and their thanks into the Lord’s presence.
Psalm 91:1-13 (Antiphon vs. 1)
Romans 10:8b-13 – God’s Word of promise has come close to us in the flesh of Jesus Christ our Savior.
Luke 4:1-13 – The account of Jesus’ temptation hits close to home, for He was faithful in our stead.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: The Faithful Son of God
When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the Judean desert, He would not use a power that was rightfully His as the Son of God. Instead He remained faithful to His mission for our redemption. The children of Abraham, led from slavery in Egypt, through the desert, and into a land of milk and honey, were blessed by God although they were not always faithful. We have been called to be children of a faithful God. By the power of His promise we are able to confess that Jesus is our Lord. In the power of that promise we trust in God's grace for salvation.

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord Jesus, it must have been a really tough struggle, but You appeared so strong when You faced the devil in the desert. When I face his trickery, help me know that You are my strength. Where I have fallen, help me to know Your grace. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: Our lives depend less on our daily bread and more on the Word of God, yet our gracious Father provides more than we need of both! His Word has drawn near to us in the person of Christ our Savior, who was faithful to the Father’s will in our place. God asks that we bring Him the first fruits of our lives in worship and in trust, and in service to one another.

OFFERING PRAYER: Here, Lord, we bring our first-fruits, and seek Your blessing now.
We trust Your Word of promise, and in Your presence bow.
With mighty hand You rescue Your children facing harm,
And through these gifts You beckon with loving, outstretched arm. Amen.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: In worship, trust, and dependance we wander far from God, our refuge and our strength. We are more like the Israelites in the wilderness than we are like Jesus in the desert. Yet Jesus is the faithful Son of God in our stead, and by His obedience has come near to us in our wanderings. He is the Word of God, near by, the place where God’s name dwells. He is close to us so we can call to Him. He draws us to Himself so we can hear Him whisper, “Everyone who calls on Me will be saved!”

Sunday, February 14, 2010

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

A physician and priest living in Rome during the rule of the Emperor Claudius, Valentine become one of the noted martyrs of the third century. The commemoration of his death, which occurred in the year 270, became part of the calendar of remembrance in the early church of the West. Tradition suggests that on the day of his execution for his Christian faith, he left a note of encouragement for a child of his jailer written on an irregularly-shaped piece of paper. This greeting became a pattern for millions of written expressions of love and caring that now are the highlight of Valentine's Day in many nations. (LCMS Commission on Worship, Biographies)

A blessed Valentine's Day to you all! May we follow in the train of this faithful martyr.

Death has touched the family of God at Mt. Olive. Elva Meyer, mother of Mavis Waterman, was called to her Lord on Friday. Kenneth Catherman, father of Ken Catherman, was called to his Lord this morning. Remember both of these families in your prayers, that they may know the great comfort of Christ who died and was raised, and know the great joy of a blessed resurrection when our Lord returns in glory.

Lent begins this week with Ash Wednesday! The blessed 40-day season begins with ashes, reminding us that we are dying sinners and calling us to contrition and repentance. Ash Wednesday services at Mt. Olive will be held at 12:15 and 7:15 p.m. A meal will be offered at 6 p.m.

Those groups wishing to serve a Lenten meal are invited to sign up in the narthex, or contact the church office to have your date secured. Dates for future Lenten meals: February 24, March 3, 10, 17, 24.

The spaghetti dinner that was scheduled for next Sunday after late service has been postponed to a later date. Look for the dinner to be held after Easter in the April-May time frame.

Coming next week are a Lenten service and two important events. On Tuesday, February 23, John and Doris Hauerman, missionaries, will be at Mt. Olive for a pot luck meal and a presentation of their important work. John and Doris are part of the group to whom we supplied the notebook computer last year.

On Friday, February 26, the OAFC traveling team will be coming to Mt. Olive for the weekend. These energetic young people will be leading us in an outreach effort, in learning some new songs, and in having a good time in the name of Christ. The main date for the activity here will be Saturday, 27 FEB, and worship on Sunday, 28 FEB. Also needed for this weekend: lunch for Saturday, dinner for Saturday evening, and 7-9 host families. If you're inclined to help in one of these areas, please contact me as soon as possible.

Prayer Concerns:
The family of Elva Meyer
The family of Kenneth Catherman
Those who serve in our armed forces
The Altar Guild, whose work will get much busier with our entrance into Lent
The Sunday School teachers, who continue the important work of teaching the faith to young 'uns
All those who have wandered from the faith, that they may be brought back into the fold

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, 15 FEB
Girl Scouts, 6:30 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, 17 FEB
School Chapel, 8:30 a.m.
Bible Study, 9:30 a.m.
Ash Wednesday Midday Service, 12:15 p.m.
Dinner, 6 p.m.
Choir Rehearsal, 6 p.m.
Ash Wednesday Evening Service, 7:15 p.m.

Thursday, 18 FEB
Cub Scouts, 6:30 p.m.

God bless!

Transfiguration Truth Luke 9:28-36

The text for our meditation on God’s Holy Word is the Gospel lesson appointed for the Transfiguration of our Lord Sunday. I bring you grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

In our confirmation class we have just started the section on the Lord’s Prayer and if you can remember back to when you were taking confirmation instruction or helping your kids with their memory work you know that with each petition to the Lord’s Prayer there are two questions: “What does this mean”? and “How is this done”? Repeat.
Those are also good questions to ask when it comes to the transfiguration of our Lord-- but they are difficult questions to answer if we don’t consider the context for this important even in our Lord’s life—so that is what we are going to do first.
Luke begins his account of the transfiguration by saying that it occurred about eight days after these sayings. But what sayings are those? Looking back at what immediately precedes our Lord’s transfiguration, we hear Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ. We hear Jesus explain just exactly what this means: that he will be rejected by his own people, die upon a cross and rise again three days later. And then Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that they too will have a share in his suffering-- but if they will remain faithful to his Word, they will see the glory of God and have a place in his kingdom.
Those are the sayings of Jesus that were spoken before the Transfiguration and they form a nice little summary of the Christian faith and life: trust in Jesus as the Savior of the world—a life of discipleship following him as Lord-- and a future with God.
What the transfiguration does then is show that the one who speaks these words has the right to expect our faith and obedience and is more than able to keep all of the promises he makes to those who follow him. Luke writes:
Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white…and they saw his glory
Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ of God—the heaven sent Messiah—was a pivotal moment in our Lord’s earthly ministry and a high point in Peter’s life and the church remembers this event each year in the liturgical calendar. But what did Peter mean when he confessed that Jesus was the Christ?
We know that many, if not most, of the Israelites of that day were expecting an earthly deliverer—someone who would restore the fortunes of Israel—a national hero like Joshua who led the people to the Promised Land or David who ruled a mighty kingdom.
But who Jesus really was and what he had come to do was even more than these great heroes of the past and Jesus revealed the truth slowly—piece by piece.
He turned water into wine. He drove out demons and healed the sick. He fed the multitudes and calms the stormy seas. And last week we saw Peter’s own “aha moment” when we realized for the first time who this Jesus of Nazareth really is: that he is God in human flesh and Peter knowing his own sins, draws back in fear.
Peter’s judgment about the identity of Jesus is confirmed on the Mount of Transfiguration. The uncreated Light and glory of God himself shines through the veil of human flesh that hid the divinity of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity behind the face of a carpenter.
This then is who it is that will be rejected by his own people—this then is who it is that will lay down his life on a cross—this then is who it is that will rise again: it is the Lord-- who has come to the aid of his people-- and that makes all the difference in the world when it comes to how we spend our life and where we spend eternity. Let me explain why it is so important that we get this right.
Virtually every person in the world recognizes that a person names Jesus of Nazareth once lived here on earth. Everyone regards him as decent and good and kind and what human beings ought to be. The world’s religions all respect him. But it is only in the Christian church that he is confessed to be—who he reveals himself to be—and that is God in human flesh.
God in human flesh: 1. That is why the rejection by his own people-- and by so many today is a matter of eternal consequence—2. that is why we be confident that his death on the cross really has atoned for the sins of the whole including those sins that trouble us—3. that is why we can be certain that death is not the end for us—because it had been conquered for us by the Author of Life who rose from the grave.
His identity as revealed on the Mount of Transfiguration (God in human flesh) is the lens through which we view his saving work-- and his call to discipleship-- and his promise of another life to come. Luke writes that:
Two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.
What was so important that the veil that separates heaven and earth was pulled back so that Moses and Elijah—departed from earthly life for centuries—could be there with Jesus that day on the Mount of Transfiguration? What was so important? They came to talk to Jesus about his departure—in the original language: his exodus. His exodus. For those who know their Bible history this word is loaded with meaning.
1500 years before this moment, God’s own people the Israelites were slaves in Egypt—living painful lives of sorrow and hopelessness and knowing that nothing better waited for their children either.
But God saw their great need—he saw that they were powerless to help themselves—and he had mercy on them and sent Moses to be their deliverer and bring them to freedom. Taking refuge from the angel of death under the shed blood of a lamb, by the power and might of the outstretched arm of Almighty God, Moses led them to freedom and they witnessed the complete destruction of their enemies. That’s the exodus.
What God did for the people of Israel in 1500 B.C. he was about to do for the world in 30 A.D. as Jesus Christ, in his death and resurrection, would lead us out of slavery to sin and death and take us into the Promised Land of: life with God here on earth and forever in heaven. That’s why Moses and Elijah were there! That was the exodus he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem—God’s plan of salvation from before the foundations of the earth—witnessed to by the Law and the prophets.
Of course Moses and Elijah were there—for the promise of God they proclaimed: the reconciliation of God and man--was about to be fulfilled. Luke writes that:
As the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.
Poor old Peter has been getting grief from preachers for the last two thousand years—“there he goes again, letting his mouth run ahead of his mind”—“how ridiculous to think that tents on earth were suitable for the Lord and the saints of heaven”—and on it goes.
But I’ll tell you the truth—Peter is absolutely right in what he desires—to remain in the presence of the Lord and his saints—certainly a lot more right than all of the sinful, earthly things that we so often desire. His desire was right and good and God-pleasing—it’s just that his timing is a little bit wrong.
Peter had this same trouble the week before the transfiguration as well and it’s not because he’s bad—it’s because he’s human.
Earlier, when he confesses that Jesus is the Christ and then is told what this means—that it means suffering and death—he tries to correct the Lord-- but is himself strongly rebuked.
The glorious light of the Lord’s presence for eternity is the absolute promise that Jesus makes to all who would trust in him as Lord and Savior. But that journey to heaven goes through the cross—it did for Jesus and it does for his people—there is no way of escaping it. The Bible says that it is only through much tribulation that we enter into the kingdom of God. Peter had to be reminded of that and we do too.
We need to remember that because there are all kinds of false prophets who want us to believe that God wants to give us our best life here on earth and that the life of the Christian is nothing but health and wealth. But we also need to remember it because our own sinful flesh wants us to believe it—and we kick and scream and moan and groan when life doesn’t work out that way.
But Jesus and the apostles never sugar-coat what the life of a disciple is really like—that each of us are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus-- and that it profits us nothing to gain the world and lose our souls.
That said, the Transfiguration of our Lord is a wonderful confirmation that the promise that Jesus makes to all who follow him about seeing the glory of God and having a part in his kingdom and enjoying life everlasting—is absolutely true --and something that we can look forward to and comfort ourselves with as we follow Jesus in this life. And until that day, we have his Word to guide us and strengthen us each step on the way of the cross. Luke writes:
A voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
One of those sayings of Jesus before the Transfiguration that Luke mentions concerned the importance of Jesus’ Word. Jesus said that if anyone was ashamed of his Words, the Son of man would be ashamed of him on the Last Day. On the Mount of Transfiguration we hear the voice of God himself speaking to the world and directing them to listen to his Son. Faithfulness to the word of Christ is the mark of a disciples of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps we think we don’t need this warning—that simply by being members of a congregation that affirms the inspiration and inerrancy of the Word of God that we have somehow met God’s expectations. But while it is vitally important to be a member of a Bible-believing congregation-- the command of God to listen to Jesus and honor his Word with our lives and in our lives-- is given to each of us individually and personally.
His Word—must be the final Word—in our lives—unashamedly—unapologetically—unreservedly--which is easy enough to do sitting here in church with our fellow Christians but when we go out back out into the world-- as we all must do—how much more difficult this becomes. The words of Jesus about marriage and priorities and values and how we are to treat our enemies become much more difficult to follow and much more easy to simply ignore because they are so different than what we hear and see all around us in the world.
But if there is anything that we learn on the Mount of Transfiguration it is that the One who speaks authoritatively and says “my words are truth” and the One who speaks from the majestic glory and says “listen to my Son” cannot and must not be ignored-- for the words he speaks are the dividing line between life and death—promising judgment to those who are ashamed of him-- but the kingdom of heaven itself to those who believe what he says.
Peter, James, and John saw how true that was on the Mount of Transfiguration and bear witness of that Good News to us: that Jesus would lead a people from slavery to freedom in a land of their own—that death was not the end for those who trusted in him—but that life in the very presence of God was promised for all who follow Jesus. May the truth of the Transfiguration grant us the same faith and a place in God’s kingdom! Amen.
And now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The General Prayer for This Sunday

O Lord of hosts, our Sun and Shield, how blest we are to be in Your house this morning, privileged to come before You in prayer, knowing that we can expect favor and honor and all good things:

We thank and praise You that You are the God of kept promises. You kept Your promise to the patriarchs and brought Your people into the Promised Land. Let Your faithfulness be our confidence and hope. When our sins and failures undermine our life with You, let the promises of forgiveness and peace that we have in Your Son Jesus Christ restore us again and again.

At the death of Your servant Moses You did not leave Your people without leadership but raised up Joshua to go before them. Continue to raise up workers for Your harvest field. Bless the church’s schools and all who are preparing to serve Your people in the Public Ministry so that Your mighty, saving works would be told forth from generation to generation.

We thank You that You have made us a part of Your household of faith through Holy Baptism and kept us a part of it through preaching and Holy Communion. Lead us as a congregation and as individuals to treasure these precious means of grace all the days of our lives. Grant repentance to those who disregard public worship and return them to our midst. Let the joys and sorrows of our brothers and sisters in Christ be our own. Heal those who are ill. Comfort those who mourn. Help those who are in any need and use us to be Your hands of mercy and Your voice of care and concern. Bless Grace as she celebrates a birthday and remembers her mother’s birthday.

When we are tempted to hesitancy and doubt, grant us confidence and hope—especially as we bear witness to You and testify to our great high priest Jesus Christ who has offered up the “once-for-all” sacrifice of His own life for the world. The exodus of His death and resurrection has led us from a land of darkness and death into the glorious light of a new life with You. Make us faithful confessors of this saving truth.

On this Transfiguration Sunday we thank You for the faithful testimony of the Holy Apostles. Through their eyes we behold Your majestic glory that shines forth through the human flesh of Your Son and rejoice in the promise that is there in Moses and Elijah: that death is not the end for Your people but the beginning of a life lived in Your glorious presence.

Into Your hands we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Jesus Christ our Lord who taught us to pray: Our Father…

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

"For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was born to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain." 2 Peter 1:16-18

I have to confess that I’m not much of a Jim Carrey fan but I did like his 2001 movie, “The Majestic.” It is set in 1951 and tells the story of Peter Appleton (Carrey), a young Hollywood screenwriter, who lived a self-centered, selfish, dissolute life. After attending a communist party rally (only to impress a girl), he is pursued by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Deciding to flee town, and after having drowned his sorrows in a bar, he is involved in an automobile accident that leaves him with amnesia.

When he is found by some folks from the small town where he ended up, they discover that he looks exactly like a young man from their community who was believed to be lost in battle in WWII—a young man named Luke—and Peter is welcomed back as a long-lost hero. Luke was everything that Peter is not—good and decent and kind and brave—but as Peter takes Luke’s place in the community, as he learns more about who he thinks he should be as Luke—he too becomes those things—he is transformed by the life of another.

When the town lost Luke to the war—they lost their heart—but with his seeming return—hope returns as well—and the town is transformed. The townspeople rally around the man they believe has returned from the dead and they rebuild “The Majestic”—the old time movie theatre at the center of town—its newly refurbished glory a symbol of their return from the brink of despair.

When Peter, James, and John went with Jesus up on the Mount of Transfiguration, they were granted a glimpse of what we will one day see—the glorified Christ—and their lives were changed by it. The Transfiguration of Our Lord provided a “lens” through which to view what was to come in his suffering and death and resurrection—a glorious transformation, not only for Jesus, but for all who are part of him by faith-- and an eternity in the Majestic Glory of God Himself.

“A life transformed by the life of another”. That’s nice little summary of one of Jim Carrey’s best movies but more importantly it’s the story of our life with Christ—lives transformed for time and eternity by the crucified, risen, and glorified Savior.

Let us pray: O God, in the glorious transfiguration of your only-begotten Son, you once confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of the ancient fathers, and in the voice that came from the bright cloud your wondrously foreshowed our adoption by grace. Therefore mercifully make us coheirs with our King of his glory, and bring us to the fullness of our inheritance in heaven; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

Transfiguration, Series C February 14, 2010

Lessons for Transfiguration (Lutheran Service Book)

Deuteronomy 34:1-12 ~From the top of Pisgah, Moses saw the land God promised to Abraham’s descendants.
Psalm 99 (antiphon: v. 9)
Hebrews 3:1-6 ~ The hope we have in Christ, God’s own Son, will lead us in the days ahead, to future glory.
Luke 9:28-36 ~ As the glory of God shone in the face of Christ, the three disciples saw His road to the cross.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: It is a Matter of Vision.
The question is the range of our visibility. It takes a good vantage point to see a long way. Moses climbed Mount Nebo, and God gave him a view of the promised land. He saw the future of God's people. On the mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John caught a glimpse of Jesus' future and the glory of eternity. In the gospel message of salvation we see the light of Christ's glory and God's promise of heaven. How do we translate that into the journey that lies before us? What kind of future, what kind of mission and ministry do we see for our congregation and community?

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Holy Lord Jesus, it is surely good to be here with You and catch a glimpse of divine glory in Your face! Help me to see clearly the path of life and service that You set before me, that in all things I may live in Your promise, day by day, and for eternity. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: God has given us many material things that make our lives more comfortable, but sometimes they hold us back because we want to hold onto them. By releasing them in service to God and to our neighbors, these blessings can carry to others the promise of God for a blessed future in Christ Jesus.

OFFERING PRAYER: Lord, we don’t need a shelter; we don’t need a booth;
In Jesus You are near, Your glory and Your truth!
We know that You are with us every single day,
Now bless these gifts we bring, and bless us on the way.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: The future is unsettling when it depends on our efforts, but seen as the promise of God, it becomes a hope of God’s glorious presence. Moses was denied entrance into the promised land because he had struck the rock in frustration over his inabilities to lead the people. Peter was more comfortable with the wilderness image of God’s presence in the tabernacle than he was with the idea that God could be present at the suffering of the cross. So long as we are planning our conquests and building our booths, we will miss the glory built and given to us by the chosen Son of God. When we see who Jesus really is, we see the future God has chosen for us.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good afternoon, fellow redeemed!

No doubt this afternoon, many have staked out their spots to watch the Super Bowl. No doubt, many of us have our favored team to win the game. No doubt there will be much boasting among players, especially among the winners. Of course, if you're like me, you'll be watching primarily for the famed Super Bowl Commercials. Will the Saints win, or the Colts, or the network selling 30-second spots for huge amounts of money, or the merchants banking on the advertising space? Someone will come out a winner today. But, do they deserve it?

Listening to the Gospel today from Luke 5, we're shown an incredible window on vocation. We receive the benefit of our work because that's how God has chosen to deliver His gifts. In fact, we deserve nothing from God except punishment. But, in His mercy, God has blessed us in ways unimaginable.

Does this mean that the true God is a Saints fan or pulls for the Colts? Hardly! Instead, He has chosen to bless His creation.

The Lutheran Women's Missionary League is the oldest missionary society in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. In their work, prison ministries are supported, missionaries receive assistance, and many church workers benefited from their generosity during their academic careers. The LWML, as it is known, also gives opportunities to Lutheran women to grow in their relationship with the Lord Jesus and with each other. The LWML has two opportunities in the next seven days:
The LWML will meet Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m.
Next Sunday, the LWML will offer a bake sale between the services.

Ongoing Ambassadors for Christ is an organization of Lutheran young people who have a passion for sharing Jesus with those around them. Many of my college friends had participated with OAFC on numerous occasions. OAFC is still going strong. A traveling team will be at Mt. Olive beginning Friday, February 26, until Sunday, February 28. Needed are as many as nine host families for the two nights they are with us. If you are available, please contact me at the office in the next two weeks.

Part II of the OAFC weekend is a day of outreach, singing, and having a good time. That will be Saturday, February 27. College age, high school, and grade 7-8 youth are invited to join us!

By the way, the Church Office is in the midst of producing one of its semi-annual printed directories. Please take the opportunity to check your information in the bulletin this week.

Please include in your daily prayers this week:
Rita Murphy
Elva Meyer
Jennifer (Leon and Barbara Dube's daughter)
Those who work to relieve suffering
Those who work to protect us (police, firefighters, EMTs, etc.)
Those who travel to the Area Convention Convocation in Dallas next weekend
Those who serve in our armed forces: Andrew Epley (Iraq), Richard Rhode (North Carolina), Rob Vadney (Ft. Campbell), John Sorensen, Ryan Radtke, Dru Blanc (NAS Corpus Christi), Michael Baker (Corpus Christi), William Worley (NAS Kingsville)

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, February 8
Girl Scouts, 6:30 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics, 6:30 p.m.
Church Council, 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, February 9
LWML, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, February 10
School Chapel, 8:30 a.m.
Bible Study, 9:30 a.m.
Choir Rehearsal, 6 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics, 7 p.m.
Guitar Worship practice, 7 p.m.

Thursday, February 11
Cub Scouts, 6:30 p.m.

God bless!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Christianity: A Blood Religion?

Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Hebrews 9:22

Not all the blood of beasts–On Jewish altars slain
Could give the guilty conscience peace–Or wash away the stain.

But Christ, the heav’nly Lamb–Takes all our sins away;
A sacrifice of nobler name–and richer blood than they. (LW 99 vs. 1&2)

Christianity has been criticized as being a “blood religion.” Something ancient and barbaric. Not worthy of modern people’s belief.
These critics would make Christianity into a moral system with Jesus as its teacher rather than its savior and sacrifice.
But Holy Scripture will have none of that attitude. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness for our sins!
This is not something that the early church “read into” the events of Jesus’ life. It was there from the beginning of time.
After Adam and Eve sinned, they attempted to fashion a garment for themselves out of plant material to cover their shame. But it was woefully insufficient. God provided garments for them from the skins of animals–the first shedding of blood to cover the sin of humanity.
That picture continued for thousands upon thousands of years as God’s people sacrificed animals in anticipation of that once for all sacrifice to come.

That sacrifice was Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. He offered up the perfect sacrifice of his body and blood upon Calvary’s Cross to pay for the sins of the whole world.
We rejoice in the fact that Christianity is a blood religion–and thank Almighty God that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all unrighteousness!

My faith would lay its hand–On that dear head divine.
As penitently here I stand–Confessing guilt is mine.

My soul looks back to see–The burden you did bear
When hanging on the cursed tree–I know my guilt was there.

Believing we rejoice–to see the curse remove.
We bless the lamb with cheerful voice–And sing his bleeding love. (LW 99 vs. 3,4,5)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good evening, fellow redeemed!

The month of January 2010 now fades into the file labeled "Past" as we barrel into February. The way this world progresses, it seems more like a high speed centrifuge instead of the days and months and years of this planet's annual path.

It would be really easy to marginalize many in our society, especially as there seems to be less time and fewer resources than there were yesterday. I was reminded of how easy marginalizing someone can be this afternoon while conducting a chapel service at Bokenkamp. Talking to these young people who little or no English, I was the one stumped in communicating. I had to rely on a translator to help me as we sang and discussed. But, how easy it would have been to dismiss this handful of young people as insignificant, unimportant, in short, a bother.

In the Gospel for the Day, Jesus is confronted with those who were the bothersome of the day: the demon possessed and the ill.

What is the antidote for the marginalized, the insignificant? Our Lord Jesus says it in the Gospel: It is necessary for Me to preach the Gospel. The Gospel is Christ our Lord, the crucified who was raised. It is this Gospel that forms the basis of the ministry entrusted to us by Jesus.

February 2 is the day set aside in our nation for a little critter of the earth to look for a shadow. Big deal. The same day is when the Church celebrates the purification of Mary and the presentation of the infant Jesus at the temple according to Law. You can read about this episode of salvation history in Luke 2.

February 17 is Ash Wednesday. As has been the practice at Mt. Olive, meals before Lenten services will be available. At the meals, a free will offering will be received.

February 21 Mt. Olive's Fellowship Committee will host a Spaghetti Dinner to benefit Camp Lone Star. With changes in funding from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, this part of Lutheran Outdoor Ministries of Texas will be scrambling to find funding, and perhaps become more creative in the way things are funded. It is our hope that, with this dinner, we'll be able to make a contribution to keep this important ministry ongoing.

February 26-28, Ongoing Ambassadors for Christ, or OAFC, will be at Mt. Olive. These young people, mostly college students, will be partnering with our young people, along with some from our sister congregations hopefully, to tell the good news about Jesus in the community around our church. Needed will be: young people, of course; lunch on Saturday and Sunday, and dinner on Saturday night; host families for the team that will be visiting. I'm told by the leader, who lives in Illinois, that many of these folks jumped at the chance to come to south Texas from places like...Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, etc.

I will be out of the office most of the day on Tuesday for the monthly circuit conference.

Prayer Concerns:
Those who serve in our armed forces: Andrew Epley (Iraq), John Miller's niece (Afghanistan), Rob Vadney (Ft. Campbell), Richard Rhode (North Carolina), Ryan Radtke, John Sorensen, Dru Blanc (NAS Corpus Christi), William Worley (NAS Kingsville), Michael Baker (returned from deployment).
The families of those who serve in our armed forces - of all those who serve, the families are under some of the greatest stress.
Leon and Barbara Dube and their daughter Jennifer as she undergoes surgery this week
The President of the United States, the members of Congress, the Judiciary, our governor and state legislature, and our local leaders, that they would pursue the causes of peace and justice, and serve to protect all of life from conception to the grave.

In Christ,

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Wednesday, February 3
School Chapel, 8:30 a.m.
Bible Study, 9:30 a.m.
Choir Rehearsal, 6 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics, 7 p.m.
Guitar Worship rehearsal, 7 p.m.

Thursday, February 4
6:30 p.m.
Cub Scout den meetings

Monday, February 1, 2010

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Series C February 7, 2010

Lessons for Epiphany 5 (Lutheran Service Book)
Isaiah 6:1–8 (9–13) ~ The Lord sent Isaiah with a message to build up His people after all hope was gone.
Psalm 138 (Antiphon: v. 5)
1 Corinthians 14:12b–20 ~ The Spirit has given gifts to His people for building up the church.
Luke 5:1–11 ~ Jesus picked Simon’s boat for a pulpit and Simon and his partners as His evangelists.

In the year that good King Uzziah died, when the people could only expect the Assyrians to overrun Israel and Judah, Isaiah was called to proclaim that the Holy King, Lord Almighty reigned! He would preserve a little seed from his chosen people. On the shores of Lake Gennesaret, Peter, James, and John were encountered by Jesus, who filled their nets with fish. He called them to join Him in carrying the Kingdom of God to others. St. Paul gives instructions on how to use God’s gifts to proclaim the message of God's grace.

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Most holy God, Lord Almighty, although I shrink from Your majesty and might, You have called me Your child and friend in Jesus, my Savior. Help me respond to Your grace by sharing Your forgiving love with my friends and neighbors through what I say and do. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: Every gift can be used for different purposes; tools that build can also be used to destroy. Words can build up and tear down. Even the material goods God has showered on our lives can be used for the benefit of His people or in ways that hurt and harm the witness of His kingdom.

OFFERING PRAYER: Lord, here we are before Your throne of grace
With tongues that sometimes fail to share Your name.
We pray that You would purge our lips, and trace
Your mercy through these gifts to spread Your fame.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: God has given all believers a special calling to build up His kingdom with word and deed. When we say things that tear down the faith of a fellow believer rather than build up the body of Christ, we need our lips purged, like Isaiah. When we do things that turn people away rather than draw them into God’s love, we must fall on our knees like St. Peter and recognize the distance we place between us and God. But in Christ God has reached out to embrace us and has given us as seed and seedling to be living building blocks for His Kingdom.

(Bonus: ‘A Mighty Glory,’ hymn based on Isaiah 6)


A mighty glory fills this place! What is this sight I see?
Angels surround the throne of God flying so high and free!
My eyes have seen the Lord, my King. “Here, Lord, am I; send me!”

“Holy, the Lord!” The angels’ call shakes the room mightily.
Around the throne the holy hall is filled with majesty!
He calls me with his Gospel clear. “Here, Lord, am I; send me!”

As if to purge my unclean lips an angel comes to me.
This coal has touched; my lips are clean! Christ’s blood has set me free!
My guilt is gone; my sin atoned! “Here, Lord, am I; send me!”

“Go, make disciples everywhere, and teach my Word for me.
Baptize all nations,” Jesus said. “I’m with you constantly.”
“Whom shall I send, and who will go?” “Here, Lord, am I; send me!”

Tune: BROTHER JAMES’ AIR 86 86 86
(LW # 417, “The Lord’s My Shepherd Leading Me”)

Gilbert A. Franke