Monday, October 25, 2010
Good morning, fellow redeemed!
Yesterday afternoon, as I was preparing for the Youth Night, I was studying Genesis 1 and the creation account yet once more. Curious thing that gets missed whenever we're teaching creation to Christians, both young and old. Genesis 1:5b: And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
In the creation account, this language appears over and over again. Some would like the word day to be elastic, that it could be metaphorical for eons of time. But, the word used here and throughout the Old Testament is always used to denote the same thing: a regular day, no more, no less.
The striking words, though, were these:
And there was evening and there was morning...
This morning, I awakened between 4:30 and 5 a.m., like I do most mornings. Some school clothes needed to be washed last night, so my first chore was getting those clothes into the dryer. Checking email, reading devotions, pondering the week and what events, both professional and personal, will need my attention all occupied my time. Did I mention checking on Hurricane Richard and the currents that will hopefully steer it away, making lunches, and watching some of the news? By the time I left the house, three children had been fed, two taken to different schools were added to the list, too.
Many of you have similar or even more crowded schedules. Most of us wish we had at least one more hour in the day, or another day in the week, but, somehow, the time committee never gets that message.
And there was evening and there was morning...
What's so amazing about these words is the schedule of God's day! His day doesn't begin at sun up, or a few minutes before mine or yours begins. God's day begins in our night!
When I awakened this morning, God had already been at work in His day long before I even reluctantly opened my eyes. Before I even reached for the first Bible verse, God the Holy Spirit was already calling to mind the promises of my Baptism. Before I even thought about prayer, God the Son was already holding His wounds before His Father, interceding for me on account of His suffering and death. God the Father had already brought creation to bear for my benefit.
What's more, in God's night, there is no sleeping. In Psalm 121:4, we are told, "Behold, He who keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps." Even though I grow weary and tired, even though I go to sleep in the night, God, whose day begins in my night, never takes a break.
In our busiest of days, the true God who charts the course of the universe also has been working in our day well before we awaken. Long after we retire in slumber, the true God still continues to work in our day. It's pure grace!
O God, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, You have established the times and the seasons, the days and the weeks. While we go about our daily business, You are already at work, before us, beside us, and after us. Help us to realize Your gracious workings in our own lives and to rejoice in Your gifts. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Next Sunday, Mt. Olive will hold its second annual Trunk Treat Night. This is an opportunity for us to invite our neighbors in this community to receive some goodies, and to proclaim Christ the Crucified to those who may not know Him. Members of Mt. Olive are invited to share in this activity. Bring your car, truck or van. Decorating is encouraged. Bring some goodies to share (wrapped candy is always best). And, maybe even wear your costume (the non-violent, non-scary kind)! See me in my annual costume as Revolutionary Spy! Trunk Treat Night will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. - it's a school night. Come a little early and set up your place!
Also next Sunday, after late service (noon), the Confirmation Class will be watching the movie "Luther." The congregation is invited to join us, and maybe even enjoy some popcorn.
The Fellowship Committee is hosting a special Russian Dinner on November 6. Featured at the dinner are a lot of things I can't pronounce, but sound REALLY good (including Pyrogue - definite REALLY good)! Tickets are $10. Please see one of the Fellowship Committee members for purchase.
Finally, 30 AUG begins the annual Scouting for Food drive in Corpus Christi. Most of you will be receiving bags this Saturday, and are asked to place these on your front porch the following Saturday with some food. If you do not receive a bag, or you need to leave your food at a place other than your home, I'll have some extra bags here at the church on Sunday, October 31, and will provide any food we receive in them to Troop 3's food gathering.
Jackie Steele, undergoing shoulder surgery this week
Donnae Blake, hospitalized
Raymond Whitaker, my uncle, going through therapy following knee replacement
Helen Placke, going through therapy following double knee replacement
Ruth Prytz, at Retama Manor
Ruby Rieder, at Westwood Manor
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney (Afghanistan), Richard Rhode (North Carolina), John Sorensen, Ryan Radtke, Dru Blanc (Corpus Christi)
Lutheran churches throughout the world as they continue to proclaim the Reformation message of Holy Scripture: Justification by grace through faith on account of Christ
Churches, church councils, and the Church Council at Mt. Olive, as they work through the budget process, that God would be glorified in them
This Week at Mt. Olive
Monday, October 25
Board of Elders
Tuesday, October 26
10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Bokenkamp Advisory Board - pastor out
Young Adult Bible Study at Barnes and Noble
Wednesday, October 27
Bible Study (Deuteronomy)
Sunday, October 31
8 and 10:30 a.m.
Trunk Treat Night
Reformation Day October 31, 2010
Lessons for Reformation Day (Lutheran Service Book)
Revelation 14:6-7 ~ God sent a messenger to proclaim the eternal gospel.
Psalm 46 (Antiphon: Psalm 46:1)
Romans 3:19-28 ~ God’s law uncovers our Sin; His grace proclaims our justification.
John 8:31-36 ~ God’s Son sets us free indeed!
GATHERING THE TEXTS: The Gift of God's Grace
God's grace is our refuge and fortress. We are not able to do anything to get into God's good graces; he has brought us there! In Jesus, God has given us a new way to be brought to justice. Our sentence is carried out through the blood of God's own Son, and we are set free from condemnation. In the new covenant of Jesus' blood, God forgets our sins and promises us eternal life as heirs of his kingdom!
PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Gracious God in heaven above, through Christ you came to me in love; help me always know your grace and in it see your loving face. Amen.
STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: God showers us with His richest blessings for this life and for eternity, even though we have done nothing to earn or deserve them. He has put them into our care so that we may share them with others who need to know God’s great mercy in life and His love in Christ.
OFFERING PRAYER: Our life, our love, and wealth, O Lord,
We dedicate to You.
Sanctify us for Your work
In all we say and do.
CONVICTION AND COMFORT: We want life to be fair, but we have a way of interpreting life’s circumstances so that we do not see our own failings and even deny our slavery to sin. The law of God holds us to account for all our sins. Suddenly we realize it is not justice that we need, but mercy. God, by His grace, has meted out justice on our sin and at the same time, has given us His own righteousness! Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ His Son!
Sunday, October 24, 2010
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.
Last week in our adult bible class we had a spirited discussion on the question: “Does God reward our obedience to his will?” And the answer to that question is “Yes, he does.” The class was a little bit taken aback when I said that and maybe you are too—so let me give you some examples.
The Fourth Commandment about honoring our father and mother has a promise attached to it: “that your days may be long”. When we follow God’s counsel on money found in Proverbs there are financial blessings that come with that obedience. The Book of Romans says that God has established government to reward those who do good and punish those who do evil. And the Small Catechism says in conclusion to the commandments that “God threatens to punish all who break the commandments and promises grace and every blessing to those who keep the commandments.” Biblically and confessionally there is no doubt: God rewards those who are obedient.
But the blessings and rewards that God gives to those who are obedient to his will-- have to do with life on this earth—they are material blessings—not spiritual blessings. Financial success, happy marriages, wise governments—all of these ARE blessings from God—but they only have to do with this life—and they have: NOTHING to do with our standing in God’s sight—NOTHING to do with whether or not we are in a right relationship with him—NOTHING to do with eternal life to come in heaven. All of these spiritual blessings come to us through faith in Jesus Christ APART from works of the Law.
It is very easy to get confused about this. People think to themselves: “I’m a pretty good guy—I’m certainly better than the vast majority of folks around me—I strive to do what God wants me to do—I have tangible blessings to show for my obedience--surely things are fine between me and God”. This idea is as old as humanity—it is the religion of natural man—it is the underlying principle of all religions-- EXCEPT for Christianity. Today in God’s Word we see Jesus confront and correct this idea in the lives of a Pharisee—a Tax Collector—and an infant. The Bible says that:
Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:
It is the most natural thing in the world, when we are considering what our status is with God—where we stand with God—to begin with ourselves—especially in comparison to others. But that this beginning place is the most natural thing—does not mean that it is the right thing. It is simply one more piece of evidence of how far we have fallen into sin that we are: blind to the truth about ourselves—blind to the truth about others—blind to the truth about God. And this inborn blindness leads us to lift up ourselves and look down on others.
Every religion in the world except for Christianity is a testament to this blindness because the foundation of their faith- and their followers’ focus- is on what they do to please God. Even we Christians have to struggle against this inborn, sinful tendency in our flesh that wants to believe that who we are in God’s sight rests on us as we compare ourselves to others rather than to God. Jesus said that:
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
The Pharisee may have addressed his words to God out of self-conscious piety because of where he was there in the temple. He begins with God but then says: I—I—I—I—I. Jesus said that he told this parable to those who trusted in themselves and can there be any doubt that this Pharisee was one of those? The focus of his worship was not upon God—but upon himself—and especially upon how he compared to others. But it was even worse than that: the point of his comparison was not “other men”—but the worst of men: extortioners, adulterers, and tax collectors.
How very modern his words are—you hear them all the time! With kind of an “aw-shucks” attitude people will say with mock humility: “Well of course, I’m not perfect—but I’m not a murderer or thief—I do the best that I can”. But what the Pharisee was not willing to do-- and what folks today are not willing to do—is to measure their lives by the best kind of men—to say nothing of God.
Let’s just leave God’s standard of his own holiness out of this for right now and consider for a moment that our right standing with God DOES depend upon our own conduct as compared to others. Why is the measure always the worst kind of men and not the best? Do our lives match up to the love and humility and service of Mother Teresa? Do our lives match up to the heroes of faith that we have known in our own lives? No! And they certainly don’t match up to God’s expectation of us.
The only way that a person comes to a place of trusting in themselves for their right standing before God is when they have reduced the standards of God and lifted themselves up in comparison to men worse than themselves. But God’s standard for our lives is his own holiness-- NOT the worst kind of human beings—and that standard of perfect holiness convicts and condemns every one of us in God’s sight.
But what about the principle of God rewarding obedience? After all, the Pharisee was attending worship—he fasted and tithed—he lived an outwardly obedient life—was there no reward? There was! He was well respected in the community. He was admired for his piety. He got to feel good about himself. Those were his rewards. On another occasion Jesus encountered the same kind of people and this is what he said:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
There most certainly were rewards in the Pharisee’s obedience to the law—but none of them had anything to do with his right-standing before God—but instead they hindered it because they blinded him to his own sins and his need for God’s mercy—which is the truth about all people—even the outwardly righteous. But there was another man that day who had no pretensions about his status before God because his sin was as close to him as his day-to-day work. The Bible says that:
A tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
Several weeks ago, when we were reflecting on the story of the thankful Samaritan, we saw how the lepers stood at a distance and cried out to Jesus for mercy. And I remember making the point that their disease made the distance between them and Jesus and how the same thing is true in our spiritual lives—that our sin-disease makes a distance between us and God. Here we see that very thing.
The tax collector would not enter into the inner part of the temple—he would not even lift his eyes up to heaven. He knew something about himself- and God- and other people- that the Pharisee (that religious expert) did not. He knew: that God was holy—that he could not fool God about who he was—that he was a sinner who had no claim upon God but stood in need of his mercy. He recognized these things because they were simply inescapable—he knew what he was-- and everyone in town knew what he was—and this knowledge of the great distance between himself and a holy God was the beginning of a brand new life for him with God.
And so then, is it better to be a notorious sinner—is Jesus recommending that we lead evil lives? Certainly not! But it is a much needed reminder to the good folks sitting here today that if we ever come to a point in our life with God where we begin to think that our life with him is based upon what we do—or in being a little bit better than other folks—right then, in that moment, we need to reflect again on the perfect, holy standard that God has for us and take an honest look at our lives. That knowledge cannot help but make us say with the tax collector: God, be merciful to me, a sinner!
It’s an interesting thing that- even though almost every English translation has the word “mercy” there—that is not the word that is used in the Greek. Beck’s bible has: God forgive me-- and that’s a little bit better—but the word that is used in the original is “to propitiate”—to be reconciled to God on the basis of a sacrifice that takes away his wrath.
The place where the tax collector was standing (the temple in Jerusalem) had one and only one purpose—and that was to set before the people’s eye—day by day—sacrifice by sacrifice—the promise of Almighty God that he would send a Savior who would make a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world—who would bear our griefs, carry our sorrows, be wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities—whose punishment would reconcile us to God and bring us peace.
That is the promise that God had made—that is the promise that the temple sacrifices pointed to—that was the promise that was fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—and that was the promise that the tax collector laid hold of and clung to in faith when every pretense about his own righteousness had been torn away. And believing the promise of God—he left the temple that day forgiven and right in God’s sight. Jesus said:
I tell you, THIS man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Then and now, there is only one way to be right in the sight of Almighty God—and that is through faith in the Savior he has sent. We can try to justify ourselves on the basis of what we do—we can try to justify ourselves on the worse behavior of others—but all of these efforts are SELF-justification—not God’s justification. Only through faith in Jesus does GOD declare us right in his sight.
A right relationship with God begins in the humility of repentance: that we recognize the truth about God—that he is holy and demands that we too be holy. Life with God begins with the truth about ourselves—that we are sinners who do not even measure up against the best kind of men-- to say nothing of God. And emptied this way of our own self-righteousness—we can be lifted up by the perfect righteousness of Christ—which God gives as a gift. The Bible says:
Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
We began our meditation on God’s Word by affirming that God does indeed reward obedience. There are all kinds of earthly, material blessings that God gives to those obey him—but they are ONLY that—earthly and material. The kingdom of God: the rule and reign of Christ in our hearts—forgiveness, life, and salvation—cannot be earned by our works of obedience, they can only be RECEIVED.
That is the beautiful, comforting truth we see in Jesus welcoming infants. The disciples were just like the Pharisee—they didn’t understand the nature of the kingdom and so they wanted to keep infants away—because, after all, they couldn’t do anything to make a place with God for themselves. But not only did Jesus’ welcome show that it was possible for infants to have a place in God’s kingdom—they were the example of how a person can come into the kingdom at all!
Now is Jesus really talking about how old we are when we come into his kingdom? No! He’s talking about an attitude that recognizes that our place in his kingdom is not about what we can do—but about receiving in faith what God has done for us in Christ when we were helpless to do anything to earn a place in God’s family.
There ARE blessings that come through obedience—but salvation is not one of them. Our life with God is a gift that he graciously gives us when he declares us right in his sight-- through faith in Jesus-- apart from anything we do.
I pray that you would hear this Good News as Jesus’ invitation to you to come into the kingdom of God and receive-with a humble heart and the open hands of faith—all of the gifts of salvation that he has earned for you in his holy life, bloody death, and glorious resurrection! Amen.
And now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Lord God heavenly Father, hear us now as we pray in the name of Your Son Jesus: calm our fears, deliver us from falling, guide our life’s journey, and receive our thanks and praise:
Be with all of those who through sickness and injury have been reminded that this life will not endure forever. As You grant them healing according to Your prefect will and timing, remind them that their souls will be delivered from death. Especially do we remember: Mike, Matthew, Xavier, Sandy, Michael, Kay, Elvira, Nancy, Donald, Laura, Robert, Tim, and Nicole.
We thank You for the gifts of marriage and family that are Your creation and yet we know that our sin often mars these relationships. We stand in constant need of Your help to live together faithfully as husbands and wives—parents and children. Forgive us when we fail in our particular place in the family and forgive those we love when they fail. Help us to abide together in holy love.
Like Abel, grant us a right spirit when it comes to our offerings, that we would always bring You that which is best, gladly sacrificing in thanksgiving for the sacrifice of Your own dear Son upon the cross. We thank You for the faithful stewardship of the members of this congregation and for the material blessings that you have lavished upon us during this last year and pray that You would continue to receive with favor the offerings we bring.
Grant us the gift of Your holy Spirit, active in our lives through Word and Sacrament, that the words of Paul might be our own: that throughout our lives we have fought the good fight and kept the faith so that we might look forward in confident love to the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank You for those faithful Christians who have come before us and now rest in Your presence. Especially do we remember: Wayne and Irene and Domenick and Annie. Keep us perfectly united with them and all Your people in the living Body of Christ.
Continue to bless the work of Your church throughout the world so that Your message of Law and Gospel would be fully proclaimed for the salvation of the world. Protect and bless and empower all of those who preach and teach Your Words and rescue them from every evil and danger of body and soul.
We especially pray that You would graciously keep us from every temptation to trust in anything or anyone other than Your Son Jesus Christ for our salvation. Grant us humility and repentance that we might be lifted up in his righteousness. Help us to return again and again to the promise of life and salvation that You made to us in our baptism and keep us in that grace throughout our life so that we might enter into Your kingdom and obtain the crown of righteousness.
All of these things and whatever else You see that we need—whatever is for the good of our neighbor and redounds to Your glory—grant to us dear Father for the sake of the One who taught us to pray:
Monday, October 18, 2010
Pentecost 22, Series C October 24, 2010
Lessons for Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost (LSB Proper 25)
Genesis 4:1-15 ~ Instead of examining his own offering, Cain removed Abel’s gift by killing his brother.
Psalm 5 (antiphon: v. 11a)
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 ~ Paul was convinced that the course of life is measured and won by faith in Christ.
Luke 18:9-17 ~ A Pharisee used the tax-collector as a standard, but did not see the righteousness God gives.
GATHERING THE TEXTS: Life Depends On How You Measure It.
Cain’s offering to God fell short because he compared himself to Abel. In a jealous anger he wiped out his competition by killing his own brother. St. Paul declared to Timothy that the race of life is won on the merits of Jesus Christ, our Savior, from whom we have received the Crown of Life. When the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable measured himself by the failures of the tax collector and other sinners, he looked pretty good to himself. Jesus says we get a more accurate picture when we measure ourselves by the Law of God, the way the tax collector did. Then we know we need God’s mercy!
PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord Jesus, help me always to see myself according to your plan for me so that I may not think my worth and my powers or greater than they are. Rather than trusting in my own abilities, let me always rely on your grace and mercy. Amen.
STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: Our offerings are not measured by their worth or size, but by our attitude in bringing them. The thankful heart of a cheerful giver makes the gift more valuable than all the jewels in the world.
OFFERING PRAYER: Lord, look upon these gifts the way You look upon our hearts.
Consider them in Jesus’ blood, redeemed from every stain,
To be Your instruments of love in near and distant parts,
Declaring that the shame of Jesus’ cross is all our gain.
CONVICTION AND COMFORT: We like to compare ourselves to others to see how well we are doing, physically, financially, and morally. We exult when we find someone worse off than we are. When we find someone who makes us look bad, we find a way to overcome them, the way the wicked witch did with Snow White – or Cain with Abel! If we compare ourselves to God’s perfect will, we can only admit our own powerlessness and look to the righteousness only God can give through Christ Jesus.
Good evening, fellow redeemed!
Today's Epistle from 2 Timothy 3:16 is an oft-quoted text in our church. Some translations render the phrase, "All Scripture is given by inspiration from God." Sorry, that's not what the Greek says! The adjective is "God breathed." St. Paul calls Holy Scripture "God-breathed," a phrase usually quoted to mean that the Bible is God's holy Word, and rightly so. The texts of the Bible, the things written down, are God's words put to writing by human authors. Talk about heavy!
Yet, it's heavier than at first glance! If Holy Scripture is more like Reader's Digest, a book of truths simply to be mined for its content, Holy Scripture is sadly downplayed.
That Holy Scripture is God-breathed tells us not only that the words are God's Words, divinely breathed out and written down by human authors, but also that this same Holy Scripture is living and active. It is through this Word that the Holy Spirit has promised to work, birthing faith (Romans 10:17). This word combats error (Ephesians 6:17) and gives comfort to the afflicted (2 Corinthians 2:12).
This afternoon, as the confirmands and I worked through the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2, we learned how God created: He spoke. God creates by speaking. It's no wonder, then, that Holy Scripture, breathed out by God, is what we long to hear each day. We want to hear God's powerful, faith-giving, error-combating, comforting, creative Word!
Lord God, You are the talking God who has breathed out His Word. Through this Word, Your Spirit has promised to work. Keep us firm in this Word daily, that we may be kept firm in our faith, safeguarded from the attacks of the devil and comforted in this valley of sorrow. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
Things get exciting each year about this time for a number of reasons.
After seeing Burt Nelson in church last week (and again this morning), Michael Dearing was in attendance today following surgery. Praise God!
Jr. Confirmation began again today. It's always a great joy to watch these young people as the truths of God's Word unfold before them. First year confirmands this year are: Wade Adler, Cassi Hamer, Stephanie Hanelt, and Michael Jennings
Youth functions for the church kick up about this time of year. Next Sunday, October 24, there will be a youth planning and game night for grades 6-12 (that's both groups). Bring your calendars, some ideas for activities, your favorite soda. Word has it that touch football on the parking lot may be a reality. Of course, the big question: Can Mt. Olive's youth go on a camping trip without a hail storm?
Choir has also begun rehearsing, working up to Reformation Sunday (31 October).
Sunday, October 31, will mark many Halloween celebrations. Following in the practice from last year, I invite all those interested to participate in another Trunk-Treat Halloween Celebration. This is an opportunity to share goodies and the Good News about Jesus with our community. I'll have the beginning and ending time later in the week.
I ask that you remember the Church Council in your prayers this week. This month usually marks the month when budget deliberations begin for the coming year. Pray that God give these men and women wisdom, and that, by the Holy Spirit, they be kept faithful and safe from the attacks of the devil.
Finally, the weekly beginning of Sunday School and Bible Class will be a special time. It's time for this fall's first award ceremony! Please make it a point to celebrate these achievements in the faith!
Johnnie King, father-in-law of Sue King, who is hospitalized
Daryl Piering, friend of the Jennings family, who is battling leukemia
Helen Placke, who is progressing well after double knee replacement surgery
Ruth Prytz, Donnae Blake, Ruby Rieder, and Ann Cleveland, who are currently home bound
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney (Afghanistan)
The Sunday School teachers of Mt. Olive and the students committed to their instruction
Churches throughout the LCMS as they begin preparations for the new calendar year
This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, 18 OCT 2010
Church Council - Pastor's Conference Room
STARC testing - Overflow
Tuesday, 19 OCT 2010
Young Adult Bible Study at Barnes and Noble (Topic: the Flood)
Wednesday, 20 OCT 2010
Bible Study (Deuteronomy)
Sunday, 24 OCT
8 and 10:30 a.m.
Jr. Confirmation Instruction
Youth Planning and Game Night
Sunday, October 17, 2010
The text for our meditation on God’s Holy Word is the Gospel for the day. I bring you grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The words that Jesus speaks to us today about the importance of persistence in prayer-- are set in the context of a discussion that he is having with his disciples concerning the last days and his return in glory to judge the world. He calls to their memory the days of Noah and Lot—that people were going about their daily lives—unconcerned about their relationship with God—when the judgment of God fell upon them—destroying them all-- save for a few who still remained close to God.
The flood in Noah’s day and the fire in Lot’s days are Old Testament signs pointing to the final judgment that is still to come and we have Jesus’ warning that, just as it was it Noah’s day and Lot’s day, so it will be in the Day of the Lord—that the vast majority of people will be living life apart from God—going about their daily business unconcerned for their spiritual life—when the final, inescapable judgment of God will fall upon them.
He reminds his disciples- then and now- of the necessity for God’s people to stay close to him—especially through prayer. It is in that context that Jesus speaks these words on the importance of persistence in prayer. Luke writes that Jesus:
…told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
One of the great gifts that God has given us to sustain and strengthen our life with him is prayer: talking to him with our minds and mouths. Prayer is one half of that divine dialogue where God speaks to us in his Word—in the sermons we hear and in the Bible reading that we do throughout the week—and we respond to his words with our words of prayer. It is an amazing thing that the living God of the universe desires to speak to us and desires to hear from us!
But we don’t always do our part in this divine dialogue like we ought to. When it comes to our prayer life we look like that old married couple sitting in their living room and the wife is talking away and the husband has his head hidden behind the paper and contributes only the occasional “grunt” and sometimes not even that. Couples who don’t talk to one another don’t have as strong a relationship as God wants for them-- and it’s the same way in our relationship with God.
For our own spiritual welfare—to be prepared for the Last Day and even the next day of life-- we need to talk to God regularly in prayer.
Jesus knew that this would be difficult for us to do—he knew that the cares of the world would take over our lives at times-- and he knew that at others times it would seem as if God were not listening to our prayers and if he was listening, he certainly wasn’t answering. And so Jesus tells his disciples then and now this little parable to assure us that God is listening to our prayers-- and will answer us when we pray-- and so we ought to be persistent and confident in prayer. Jesus said:
"In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, 'Give me justice against my adversary.' For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.'
The judge in this parable was just the opposite of what a judge ought to be. A judge ought to recognize that he is God’s minister. He ought to have a proper fear of God knowing that he himself will one day be judged. He ought to see the law as the servant of the people for their good.
But the judge in the parable had none of these qualities—he had no fear of God and no regard for the opinions of men—and he was unconcerned about justice being done. But he met his match in a poor widow—and that is what is so unexpected in this parable.
The people of Jesus’ day would have understood immediately how desperate her situation was. Widows of that day had very few resources and even less power and influence. But what she did have was persistence—and that was enough. Though the judge didn’t care one wit about what God or his neighbors thought of him—he grew tired of listening to her and finally gave her the justice she asked for and needed.
She was powerless- and he was powerful- and yet because of her persistence his concern was that “she will beat me down by her continual coming.” The word that Luke uses to describe her persistence comes from the boxing world and it means that “she will give me a black eye”—a TKO--her persistence will pummel me to the point of submission to her request.
It is a vivid image—like a boxing match with Mike Tyson in one corner of the ring and Granny Clampet from the Beverly Hillbillies in the other corner of the ring. Just looking at the two of them you would never think that poor old Granny has a chance—but that widow never gave up—she was persistent--and that’s what makes the difference—that’s what gave her the victory when the odds were against her.
The widow’s persistence is the point of this parable on prayer. Jesus directs our attention to what the judge says about her: " Hear what the unrighteous judge says. Jesus wants us to pay special attention to the judge’s words. And so what does he say again?
'Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.'
We don’t know what got a burr under this poor old lady’s saddle—whether it was something to do with a bill or a boundary--but what ever it was, she cared about it deeply and simply wasn’t going to give up in asking for what she needed. Jesus wants us to do the same when it comes to our prayer life.
And yet when we compare our prayer life to the persistence of the widow we come up pretty short and we give up pretty easy—and what’s even worse is that we give up in spiritual things that are much more important than the material things this woman was so concerned about.
We pray for greater faith- and deliverance from temptation- and the grace to do God’s will- but we never make any real progress in spiritual things because we give up too easily --which is especially shameful because the God who is listening to our pleas and petitions is totally different than the evil judge in the parable. Jesus contrasts the complete difference between the judge and our heavenly Father. He says:
Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?
The way the Greek grammar reads in this sentence is this: Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry out to him day and night (YOU BETTER BELIEVE HE WILL!). Will he delay long over them (NOT A CHANCE!)
The way that Jesus uses the judge in the story is as an example that is completely opposite of God. It is an argument from the least to the greatest and it means this: if even a wicked, unjust judge will eventually give in to the persistence of an old woman-- HOW MUCH MORE-- will your loving heavenly Father hear and answer your persistent prayers--you who have been known and loved and chosen from eternity to be his children—HOW MUCH MORE will God answer your prayers.
Our God is completely different than the judge in Jesus’ parable. Our God cares about justice-- and our God loves mankind-- and both of these concerns are shown finally and fully in the cross.
It was there on Calvary that God did what justice demanded by punishing the sins of the whole world. But it was also there, on that rough cross, that he showed his love for mankind by laying those sins upon his own Son who took our place under God’s wrath and suffered the punishment that our sins deserve. Justice and love perfectly united in the death of Christ to make things right between us and God.
God does indeed give justice to his elect—he gives the justice of righteousness fulfilled and sins atoned for and through faith in his Son Jesus Christ, God declares us not guilty. We who have been elected in Christ from eternity can be confident that through faith in Christ: our prayers are heard by God—that prayer is not an exercise in futility or wishful thinking or a last resort-- but instead prayer is the language of faith—a firm confidence that our prayers will be answered by God in his perfect time.
Jesus promises: I tell you, God will give justice to them SPEEDILY. We live in a culture where people want-- what they want—right now. The whole concept of patient waiting, to say nothing of the value of delayed gratification, is completely lost on us. We want new furniture and so instead of saving for it we pull out the old credit card. Couples want intimacy with one another but won’t wait for marriage. We can’t wait 45 minutes for dinner to be ready so we go out for fast food.
Our demand for things NOW affects our prayer life and faith life as well-- and when we don’t get what we want, when we want it, we think God has somehow failed us and we don’t persevere in prayer like we ought.
But the Lord answers our prayers with not only what we need-- but he answers them so that we receive what we need at just exactly the right time. What we see as a delay in the Lord’s answers is the Lord removing selfishness from our petitions- and what we see as silence is the Lord strengthening our faith—which is what we really need AND what God really wants to give us.
Given our lack or persistence in prayer and our lack of patience in prayer—Jesus asks us: When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" In other words, are we going to live our lives like the people of Noah’s day and Lot’s day—busy with the things of the world but unconcerned about spiritual things and disconnected from God—OR—are we going to stay close to God through persistent prayer?
The day of the Lord will come. Evil will be punished with everlasting fire. The faithful will go to be with the Lord in heaven. This world that is broken by sin will be destroyed and a new heaven and a new earth will come forth. What God’s people have hoped for and longed for in this life—even if we couldn’t put a name on it—will be granted on that day. Will Jesus find us faithful on that day?
The Lord doesn’t ask us that question to cause us to doubt our eternal future. He asks it so that we can respond with the “yes” of faith! “Yes Lord! By your grace and with your help I will remain faithful and steadfast until I stand in your presence. And until that day I will stay close to you in prayer.” May God grant it to us all for Jesus’ sake! Amen.
And now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
Monday, October 11, 2010
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.
It’s been a great blessing and just a whole lot of fun watching my daughter Sarah with her own kids—Jessa and Josiah—especially watching her teach them all the things that I can remember Caroline and I teaching her—simple little things like saying please and thank-you.
When Jessa was just learning how to talk, she would point at what she wanted and says “Get it!”—which I thought was hilarious—but then I’m the grandparent not the parent. But before Sarah would get her what she wanted, she would tell her, “Say please, momma” and little Jessa would say “Peas momma”—and Sarah would get what she wanted. And after she handed it to her, Sarah would tell her, “Say, Thank you, momma” and little Jessa would say, “Thank you, momma.” Absolutely precious!
I was thinking about that as I reflected on the Gospel lesson this week and how that little domestic scene of a mother teaching her daughter to be thankful perfectly captures what Jesus wants to teach us today about being thankful in our life with God.
You see, all of us by nature are just like little Jessa—we stand at the center of our worlds and we tell our heavenly Father what we want and say “get it”—and there’s part of that that’s right because we know our heavenly Father loves us and wants to provide for us and we can expect good things from him. But even more importantly, he wants his children to learn gratitude and be thankful for the things that he is glad to give us.
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance…
Their disease made the distance between them and Jesus. The lepers were in a bad place in life—the requirements of the law demanded that they have no contact with their loved ones and their neighbors—they could not enter the temple or partake in the worship life of their nation—everywhere they went they had to call out “unclean, unclean” so that people would know to stay away.
Their disease made a distance between them and others-- but it had also joined them together—Jew and gentile—into one sad, sorry group—the only thing binding them together was the ugliness of their condition and their great need for healing.
With that description, you can understand why it is that throughout the Bible leprosy is likened to sin. Sin destroys lives—breaks relationships—and ends in death. Sin makes a distance between us and God—a distance that cannot be traversed on our side—but must be bridged by God’s mercy.
The lepers …lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Jesus never traveled very far from his home town but the news about him did. Everywhere the people of that day traveled, they took his story with them: how he fed the multitudes with just a few loaves and fish—how he healed the sick and gave sight to the blind and how he raised the dead—how all of those who came to him in need, received help—how he was both merciful and powerful. The lepers heard about it all and they cried out to him in their great need.
Just like those lepers, our sin-sickness has made a distance between us and God. We cannot approach a holy God in this condition—the law’s demands that keep sinners from a holy God are even more severe than those which separated the leprous from the healthy. Our only hope is to cry out for mercy and we can do that with confidence knowing that Jesus helps those who come to him in need.
When Jesus saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed.
Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry he healed many, many people. Some he touched, some he spoke to, one time he took earth and mixed with his saliva and gave sight to a blind man by putting it on his eyes—and he healed in a variety of ways because he wanted people to understand that what mattered-- was not the “how” but the “who”. That is where the power was—not in the method but in the man.
You see Jesus was not just merciful—he was also powerful—he was not just sympathetic to the needs of broken humanity but he acted to do something about it--and so he still is today: merciful and powerful. He not only hears our prayers and has mercy on our broken condition, but he is able to change things for us. No prayer for help that is prayed to him in faith is an exercise in futility or last resort—but can be prayed with confidence knowing that he will act in our lives for our good—just like he did that day.
The lepers’ situation was special—their healing had to be recognized by the religious rulers if they were to be allowed back into society-- and so when they prayed for healing and Jesus commanded them to go to the priests—they knew exactly what he meant—what he was promising to them-- and such was the power of his promise that they could already begin that journey to be pronounced “clean”.
Believing his promise--and walking to the priests—they were cleansed. You see, there was cleansing power in his promise. So it still is today--for us.
We suffer from a condition much more serious that leprosy--a condition that- on one hand keeps us from our fellow man- but on the other hand joins us together with them for they suffer from it too—a condition that makes a barrier between us and God—a condition that is ultimately fatal—and that condition is sin.
But Jesus looked with mercy on us and came to us with cleansing that has restored our relationships with God and one another. That cleansing comes through his shed blood on the cross and his powerful promise is that all who believe in him will be saved. That promise is made in Word and Sacrament and all who believe his promise are cleaned form their sin and given a brand new life in his resurrection life—a life of thankfulness and praise for the great things he has done for us.
Then one of the lepers, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.
To say that this man was brought back from the dead is not an overstatement—he was given a brand new life in place of the old broken life he had before—there were new opportunities and new directions to live a new life that stretched out before him in what must have seemed like an endless variety. But where did his new life take him? It took him back to God. Giving thanks to Jesus and worshiping at his feet came first.
So it is to be for us! Worshiping Jesus and giving him thanks for the new life we have in his name is not some onerous duty to perform or burdensome law to fulfill---it is the super-natural result that takes place in the heart of someone who has been changed forever by the mercy and power of Jesus.
When we see the truth about our lost condition apart from Jesus and when we see his goodness in saving us—praise and thanksgiving will overflow in our lives and we will gladly offer him our worship as the first and foremost response for what he has done for us in his death and resurrection.
But all of us know about ourselves that even though God has done great things for us—greater than physical healing—we are not always as thankful as we should be—and oftentimes we are forgetful of God’s great mercies.
Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Where were the nine? The nine Jews’ lives had been changed no less than the thankful Samaritan—they too were given a band new lease on life. But where did that lead them? Did it lead them to their families and loved ones? Did it lead them to their friends that they had been separated from for years? Did they just get so caught up in the moment that they forgot to give thanks?
We don’t know—but we do know it didn’t lead them to thanksgiving and worship in the presence of Jesus. I think we can all agree that ingratitude is a particularly ugly kind of thing. That is why we spent countless hours teaching and training our children—just like Sarah does with Jessa—that it is important to be thankful for the good things we receive—and that is especially true for the good things we receive from God.
It has always been a particularly sad thing in my ministry when I see people who have mightily blessed by God and yet cannot bring themselves to come into his presence and give him thanks. The safe delivery of a child after a difficult pregnancy. Financial success after money struggles. A happy marriage after years of being single. Release from the hospital when there wasn’t a lot of hope.
All of them good gifts that come from God’s mercy and power—and yet these folks cannot bring themselves to come into the presence God and give him thanks.
Ingratitude is a heartbreaking thing for our sake because God does not just want to give us some gift—even a great gift--he wants to give us himself—he wants to have a relationship with us. Jesus said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” This is one of those places where the King James Version gets it a little bit better than our translation—Jesus says to the thankful Samaritan: thy faith has made thee whole—thy faith has made thee WHOLE.
You see, the thankful Samaritan didn’t just receive a miraculous healing that day (as wonderful as that was!) -he also received Jesus—and in that gift he was made whole. The leprosy—as terrible as it was—was really only a small defect in his life—what he really needed was a life with God—a faith that understood just exactly what Jesus had done for him- and was thankful for it- and worshiped God for it.
C.S. Lewis told a story that illustrates what I’m talking about. He told of a boy with an excruciating toothache and all he could think about was making the pain go away. And so his mother took him to the dentist. The dentist gave him a shot that deadened the pain and the boy was completely satisfied and ready to go home. But the dentist knew that more was needed for him to be truly whole--he had to have the whole cure.
So it is in our life with Jesus. We come to him in need: the pain of a broken marriage—an illness that has us hospitalized—an addiction that has wrecked our lives—and we cry out to him in pain just like the lepers did that day—and in his mercy he hears us and in his power he helps us. And with our pain gone, we are ready to go on our way.
But Jesus knows that those things that made us cry out are just symptoms of the real healing that we need—a wholeness that is accomplished when we have a life with him that is full of worship and thanksgiving. And so dear friends in Christ, knowing the mercy and power of Jesus, receiving his gifts of healing and new life, let us be thankful! Amen.
And now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
Good evening, fellow redeemed!
There are a lot of times I'm glad I'm a Lutheran. Funerals and weddings constitute a number of those times. The things I hear at some funerals, and I won't say whose or which denominations they are (sometimes they're Lutherans, too), present me with a difficulty. I'm often directed toward "a better place" and a person's helpful lifestyle at funerals, and the great, earthly blessings of marriage, and away from the cross and empty tomb, away from the God of grace who freely gives great blessings. Like I said, I'm glad I'm a Lutheran - the meat and potatoes of the message is always Christ and Him crucified, through whom we are right, justified, before God. Life is different when it's viewed under the cross.
I think that's why St. Paul's words in this morning's Epistle reading from 2 Timothy 2: You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
The message preached so often by Paul, and the one about which he wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit is what gives comfort when everything else is stripped away. This is the message of Christ crucified which calms fears when there's anxiety about the days ahead. While in seminary, Professor Schmelder taught my first homiletics course. Homiletics is the practice of preaching - and I passed it. One day, when class was over, while a lot of us were holding forth on a lot of different things, Prof. Schmelder, to whom we affectionately referred as "Wild Bill", stopped us. He simply said, "Gentlemen, if we're not preaching Jesus Christ crucified and raised for our salvation, none of the rest of this stuff matters."
Sage words from an old preacher were rendered that day. They echoed the forerunner of all preachers and pastors, St. Paul, as the apostle wrote to young Timothy.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, the message of the cross is what stands when everything else has fallen. When our Lord Jesus returns in glory, still He will bear the marks of His life-giving suffering and death. He will still have the places where His blood of atonement was shed.
So often, we look to other messages and other messengers to grant us hope, by which we hold out for the big miracle. We listen to other voices who tell us of the bumps in the road. Yet, all of these undoubtedly fail. Only Jesus Christ and Him crucified remain.
As families mourn the deaths of loved ones, comfort them with the message of Christ crucified, that, while their loved ones have died and now rest from their labors, there will be resurrection in Christ on the day He calls them forth from the grave. As couples look toward the future and the unknowns that line the road, direct them to the one certainty - Christ crucified. As we ponder our own sinfulness and our own mortality, as we look at the great unknowns of the future, give us courage and strength from the cross, that the Crucified has atoned for all our sin, and that, for those who are joined to Him by faith, though there will be weeping and mourning and pain and loss, we have the certainty of sins forgiven and life everlasting because Jesus died and rose again. In His most holy name. Amen
This week at Mt. Olive, a few changes dot the landscape of the week. Church Council meeting has moved to 18 OCT, and the Board of Elders in turn moved to 25 OCT.
Zumba Aerobics continue to meet on Monday and Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Young Adults are meeting for Bible Study on Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m. at Barnes and Noble.
A new Sunday School class has begun - the Cradle Roll! This particular group is especially for those under 2, and will be supervised by Marilyn Hamer.
Choir rehearsals begin this Wednesday after Zumba. Get those pipes warmed up!
Finally, today was Pastor Schubert's last Sunday at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Flour Bluff. We pray God's richest blessings on the ministry into which he has been called at Escanaba, Michigan.
I will be out of the office after about noon on Thursday.
Michael Dearing - successful surgery this week
Those recovering: Ruth Prytz, Donnae Blake, Helen Placke
Those who mourn:
Michael and Brandi Baker and their family at the death of Mike's mother;
Steve and Bill Waterman and their families at the death of Steve and Bill's mother
Those who serve in our armed forces: Rob Vadney (Afghanistan), John Sorensen, Dru Blanc, Ryan Radtke (Corpus Christi)
This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, October 11
Tuesday, October 12
Young Adult Bible Study
Wednesday, October 13
Pentecost 21, Series C October 17, 2010
Lessons for Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost (LSB Proper 24)
Genesis 32:22-30 ~ Jacob wrestled with God and gained a blessing, represented in a new name: Israel.
Psalm 121 (antiphon: vv. 1-2)
2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5 ~ The faithful use of God’s Word yields blessings in life and relationships.
Luke 18:1-8 ~ Jesus taught that faithful prayer brings more blessings than persistent entreaties.
GATHERING THE TEXTS: Hold On to the Blessing
Our lessons today are a call to faithfulness. St. Paul reminded Timothy that God had promised salvation through Christ Jesus. God is faithful and trustworthy; with the certainty of God’s promise we can endure all hardships. Jacob grasped hold of God’s promise and expected a blessing of life, land, and lineage. Jesus’ parable in the Gospel lesson underscores the faithfulness of God in hearing our prayers and providing for all our needs.
PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Gracious God, You are more ready to hear my prayer than I am to pray! Help me rely on Your love, trust in Your mercy, and receive Your grace, that I may be blessed by Your gift of life eternal through Jesus Christ my Savior. Amen.
STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: Rich material blessings in our lives reflect God’s great spiritual gifts to us. Our faithfulness in using those blessings for the benefit of others portrays God’s faithfulness to them.
OFFERING PRAYER: Your gift, O Lord, so great and free,
Gives promise for eternity.
In word and deed let us confess
Your gracious love and faithfulness.
CONVICTION AND COMFORT: Although God has given his sure promise to hear our prayers and grant us great blessings, we often disregard his invitation. When we forsake God’s Word, which is the source of his blessing, we are left with only those things that we make up for ourselves. The magnitude of God’s gift in Christ Jesus moves us to cling to God’s promise faithfully.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Good afternoon, fellow redeemed!
Unworthy servants. To tell the truth, this particular text from Luke 17 is one of my favorites, both for what it says and for what it doesn't say. Jesus doesn't say we need to try harder, or that we need just a little feathering around the edges. He does say that true faith, though itty-bitty, is centered in Him and not in ourselves.
But, the unworthy servants thing? I sometimes tell folks I spent a summer in sunny southern California in a place called MCRD - Marine Corps Recruit Depot. It was a summer to remember. Why bring that up now? I think of all the things our drill instructors called us during our time there. Some of them, as you can guess, are best left out of print. Others are kind of along the lines of unworthy servants: miserable pukes. Well, that's the only one I can remember that's printable. The point of the DIs was to tear us down and rebuild us as Marines. We were moved to maximum efforts on our own parts to do things we didn't think possible. Mine were finally doing more than fifteen pull ups on the physical fitness test and shooting expert at the range.
The great difference for us unworthy servants come in that, in Christ's kingdom and on His mission, our efforts mean exactly squat. Everything we do is tainted with sin while we are still in this flesh. Being in Christ's kingdom is a matter of grace - God's favor on account of Christ. Being on Christ's mission is grace, too. As we confess in the Catechism, "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith, even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
This week at Mt. Olive has one correction for an announcement I made last week, plus a couple of other things.
Yesterday at worship, we all rejoiced to see two folks for whom we prayed over the past year safe and sound at home. One was Andrew Epley, Deysi's husband. The other was actually a guest, John Miller's niece, Athena, and her husband and children. Athena spent the last year in Afghanistan with U. S. forces. It was truly a blessing to see her and be able to tell her, "It's good to see you! We prayed for you a lot over the past year."
Mt. Olive will be hosting the October Circuit Conference for the pastors of our sister congregations. You may have heard this called a "winkel."
Next Sunday, the LWML will be having a bake sale between services. It's time to fire up those ovens! LWML chapters throughout the Church are known for good food, especially good cooking. More importantly, bring money to buy the stuff that will be available!
It brings joy to my heart that our Sunday School is in the process of adding another level - the Cradle Roll. This is an opportunity for the children younger than Sunday School age to gather together, hear an episode from the Bible, and share some fun. Please remember the Sunday School teachers in your prayers, rejoicing that God has given us the task of teaching the voice of the Savior, Jesus, to young people!
Finally, a correction for last week's announcements. I'm always kind of tentative, sending out requests for fund raisers for my children, but here's an easy one. The Carroll Tiger Band will be having doing a fund raiser at the McDonald's at Saratoga and Weber this Thursday evening from 5 to 8 p.m. I'm told that the brass and the drum line will perform from 6 to 7 p.m. A portion of the proceeds from sales during this time will go to the band. If you're in the area, drop by!
Bill and Steve Waterman and their families, at the death of their mother, LaVonne Waterman
Michael Baker and his family, as his mother is seriously ill
Those who serve in our armed forces and their families: Rob Vadney (Afghanistan), Dru Blanc, John Sorensen, Ryan Radtke (Corpus Christi)
The Lutheran Women's Missionary League as they continue mission endeavors around the world
This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, October 4
Tuesday, October 5
8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Circuit 27 Pastors Conference
Young Adult Bible Study (Barnes and Noble for the time being)
Wednesday, October 6
Bible Study (Deuteronomy)
Monday, October 4, 2010
Pentecost 20, Series C October 10, 2010
Lessons for Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (LSB Proper 23)
Ruth 1:1-19a ~ Ruth journeyed with Naomi to Bethlehem, her new home and family, and rejoiced in God.
Psalm 111 (antiphon: v. 10)
2 Timothy 2:1-13 ~ Through Christ’s faithfulness we have life with God and the courage to share it.
Luke 17:11-19 ~ The Samaritan leper recognized his new health was a gift from God and gave Him thanks.
GATHERING THE TEXTS: Following Our Faithful God
Ruth followed her mother-in-law and found a new home and a new family among Naomi’s people, and God showed Himself faithful by including Ruth in the ancestry of the Savior. St. Paul charged Timothy to entrust the message of God’s salvation in Christ to men who would be faithful in telling it, because God remains faithful to His promise, even though we are faithless. The Samaritan cured of leprosy by Jesus returned to follow the One who brought God’s healing to his body. He was prepared to follow Jesus who had revealed God’s faithfulness to him.
PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Lord God, make me grateful for Your mercies every day as I tell others of Your faithfulness to Your people through Jesus Christ, my Savior. When I am faithless, recall me, that I may rejoice always in Your salvation. Amen.
STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: We show our gratitude to God for His great mercy in Christ’s victory over sin and death on our behalf when we are faithful in our use of the many blessings from God’s hand to spread the message of the good news.
OFFERING PRAYER: O Lord, You call us to be faithful in all we say and do.
You shower us with Your blessings and mercies, always new!
Now bless once more our worship and thankful songs of praise.
And use these gifts to reach more hearts in faithful, loving ways.
CONVICTION AND COMFORT: Would that we were as faithful in relationships as Ruth! Or as committed to the truth of God’s good news as Paul! Or as devoted in gratitude to the One who secured our healing from sin as the Samaritan leper! But we are not! Thanks be to God, in Christ Jesus, He is faithful to His covenant of grace, even when we are faithless.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
The text for our meditation on God’s Holy Word is the Old Testament lesson assigned for this LWML Sunday. I bring you grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Along with our reflection on God’s Word this morning we are going to have a little catechism lesson on what I think is one of the most neglected and misunderstood parts of Christian teaching—and that is the place and role of the law of God in guiding a believer’s life—what the church calls the “third use of the law”—what our LWML theme identifies as “walking in the Word”
Christians identify in the Bible three uses of the Law: the first use of the Law curbs violent outbursts of sin and helps keep order in the world. Throughout the world, there is an understanding of right and wrong. There are laws that govern society--among Christians and other religions and among unbelievers. All people know that there are actions that are good and actions that are bad-- because their own consciences tells them that it is so. God has placed his law in every human heart and people feel guilty and fear punishment when they do wrong. This is the first use of the law—a curb.
The second use of the law is like a mirror. When we look at our behavior and thoughts and words compared to God’s Law, we cannot help but see that we have done wrong. Like a mirror, the law shows us the truth about ourselves—what we look like morally in God’s sight. This second use of the law also applies to Christians and non-Christians—all people can see that we have not done as God desires us to do when the mirror of the law is held up to our lives.
The third use of the law is that of a rule—like the word “ruler”—this use of the law lays out the straight path that we are to walk as God’s children and helps us to measure our progress—like a ruler it lays out a straight line and measures progress along that line. But this use of the law—this third use of the law—the lesson we are going to be talking about today--is only for Christians.
Those who do not have Jesus Christ as their Savior cannot please God with their actions—they cannot progress in holiness. Only when our sins are taken away by Jesus—only when we are right in God’s sight on the basis on what Christ has done—can we then begin to please God with our lives and move forward in holy living.
This third use of the law answers the questions that every true believer asks: How can I please God with my life? How can I thank God for what he has done for me in Jesus? How can I serve my neighbor as God in Christ served me?
In other words, standing in faith at the foot of Calvary—seeing the incredible sacrifice of love that God has made for me in the death of Jesus Christ—knowing that his resurrection is my own eternal life, apart from anything that I do—I want to please and serve my Savior and I ask the Lord: how? God says:
Walk in my Word! We are not left to our own devices when it comes to pleasing him as his people-- and this is an important point to remember. People have done- and still do- all kinds of odd things to try and please God with their lives: they fast and join monasteries and refrain from marriage and go on pilgrimages and on it goes. But none of these things are commanded by God.
Instead, the answer that God gives to the believer who stands at the cross and sees his salvation as an accomplished fact of history-- and wants to know what God would have him do-- is found in the law. Someone who is truly a child of God cannot help but want to please their heavenly Father-- and the way to do that is by living a holy life guided by the law in service to one’s neighbor to the glory of God. That is what these verses before us today are all about. The psalmist says: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
I mentioned earlier that the third uses of the law works like a ruler—in setting out a straight path in which we are to walk but also in helping us to measure our progress in holy living. And that is the very thing that is being taught in this first verse. God’s Word is a light for my path.
The path that we are to walk and the road that we are to travel in life is clearly marked out for us in God’s Word just like a streetlight that lightens a dark road. We never have to be in doubt in the least as to the direction that our Lord would have us travel as his children. There are words concerning our family life as children and parents and wives and fathers. There are precepts guiding our economic life as employers and employees and how we spend our money. There are laws governing our speech and our possessions and our bodily lives.
The God who created us- and who saved us- and who called us to be his own children- has a very specific will for the direction that our lives ought to go and he does not keep us in the dark about it but shines the bright shining lamp of his Word upon every aspect of it so that we can be certain of the road of life that the Lord wants us to walk.
I also mentioned that the third uses of the law functions like a ruler in another way—that it helps us to measure our progress in holy living just like a ruler has tic-marks to measure inches.
From the moment that we are included in God’s family by faith in Jesus (whether through baptism or preaching as the means that brought us there) our heavenly Father expects us to grow up in Christ-likeness—to progress in obedience—to become more holy—more set apart from the world around us.
It is a gross distortion of Christianity—in fact it is no Christianity at all-- to say that since our salvation is a free gift from God that we are free to live our lives as we see fit. Nothing could be further from the truth! We have been set free from the accusing curse of the law in Jesus Christ because he fulfilled it for us and suffered our punishment-that is true—SO THAT --we can begin to live as who God created us to be: his children whose delight it is to know and do his will.
The psalmist says: I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. We too have taken an oath to follow God’s righteous laws. We took it for the first time in Holy Baptism where our parents and sponsors gave voice to the fact that we renounced the devil and all his works and all his ways. We took it again when we were confirmed and used our own voice to reaffirm that promise.
We make that promise to follow God’s righteous laws each time we are absolved and each time we come to Holy Communion—promising that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will amend our sinful lives. We make it each night when we go to bed—promising God that the next day we will try harder and do better in our Christian life.
That solemn promise—that oath—to follow God’s righteous laws -has to be made again and again- and we have to be strengthened by God’s grace to that end again and again- because we face mortal enemies who do no want us to keep God’s law.
There are enemies outside of us in the unbelieving world around us and the devil and his angels—and there is an enemy inside of us—our old sinful flesh that wars against the new person that we are in Christ. It is a life-long spiritual battle to follow God’s righteous laws. The psalmist writes:
I have suffered much; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your word. Accept, O LORD, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws. Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law. The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts.
The wicked have set a snare for me. How easy it is to for us today to understand these words that were written by the psalmist 3000 years ago! It is the challenge that every believer faces every day of his life even when we are fully committed to Christ!
We ARE thankful for what God has done for us in Christ! We DO want to live a life that is worthy of him! We KNOW what God would have us do and how he would have us live. But what we find (from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep) is that there are snares that trip us up in our walk with the Lord and unlike the psalmist, I have strayed from the precepts of God—and I bet you have too.
How easy that is to do! We want to avoid sexual temptation- and yet there are images all around us that tempt us to lust. We want to keep God first in our lives- but we live in a culture where we are told that we ought to put ourselves first. We want to honor those in authority over us in our nation- but their dishonorable behavior undermines that desire. We want to be thankful for what we have- but marketers make their living trying to convince us that our possessions aren’t good enough.
We live in a world that increasingly does not share our faith and doesn’t even share our concern for basic, decent moral living and ridicules us for being old-fashioned and puritanical—and we are affected by it. We find ourselves straying from the precepts of the Lord—from the straight path he would have us walk--sometimes unintentionally—sometimes intentionally. That is when the cry of the psalmist becomes our own: Preserve my life, O LORD, according to your word! And he does!
When the world, the devil, and our own sinful flesh threaten to overcome our faith and overwhelm our life with God, he comes to us with his comforting words of life: that we are his children—that Christ has forgiven us—that he will be with us always—words that we hear as we read our bibles and listen to sermons and come to the Sacrament of the Altar—words that restore us and forgives us and preserve our life of faith.
Hearing these words of life we begin again to follow the Lord—praising him for what he has done for us and desiring to know more about the will of our heavenly Father. This joy of a life lived in fellowship with God is what led the psalmist to write:
Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.
That obedience to the statutes of God is a joy, is something that only the believer can say. The unbeliever experiences the law of God as a burden that hinders his life and reveals the unpleasant truth about what kind of person he really is. But the child of God knows that Jesus fulfilled the law in his place and suffered his punishment and so it is our highest pleasure to live in fellowship with God—it is a blessing to obey—and the only way to a joy-filled life. It is what we were created for!
And so on this LWML Sunday we join our voice to that of the psalmist and make the same promise and commitment that he made: Lord, my heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end. From this moment forward, throughout my life, I am resolved to walk according to God’s Word. May God grant it for Jesus' sake! Amen.
And now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.