Friday, June 29, 2012

Rev. Franke's Theme Thoughts

Series B, Proper 8 July 4, 2012, Pentecost 05

Lessons for Proper 08

Lamentations 3:22-33 ~ When the temple was destroyed, Jeremiah directed the people to God’s unfailing love.

Psalm 30 (antiphon: v. 10)

2 Corinthians 8:1–9, 13–15 ~ The Macedonians showed their love for God and those suffering in Jerusalem.

Mark 5:21–43 ~ Jesus’ touch reached through death to restore Jairus’ daughter to her family.

GATHERING THE TEXTS: : "How Do I Love Thee? ...

... Let me count the ways," Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote. God re-counts the ways of his love: Jeremiah’s comfort for the Israelites with assurance of God's unfailing love in the face of defeat; Jesus' radical economics of love ("though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor. . ."); and Jesus’ touch that healed Jairus' little girl from clutch of death. God's steadfast, abundant, healing touch in and through our lives counts the ways of God's love for all to know.

PRAYER BEFORE THE SERVICE: Almighty Father, loving God, I depend on You for all things. Help me remember that other people depend on me for many things. When I need to know Your love, let me find it in the hearts of those around me, and let me show them Your love in my life. Amen.

STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT: Although Jesus was rich in divine majesty, He emptied Himself to become our servant, and by His poverty in death, we have become rich in mercies and grace. Good stewardship results from giving ourselves to the Lord first – for His care and our service – and then helping extend the mission of His kingdom as we are able.

OFFERING PRAYER: Dear Lord, You gave the greatest gifts when You were on the earth!

You gave Jairus back his daughter in a kind of second birth;

And You have given us new life through water and Your Word.

Now through these gifts, bring healing life wherever it is heard.

CONVICTION AND COMFORT: God shows His love in so many ways! We see it in Jesus’ touch that rescued Jairus’ daughter from death, in the Lord’s faithfulness and compassion for His people when the Temple was destroyed, and most especially in Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf. God plans to use us as instruments to express His love to the many who do not see His love anywhere else, but often we obscure God’s love with our self-centered lives. Still He rescues us from the clutches of sin and gives us to our neighbors to express His love in our service.

This Week at Mt. Olive

Good afternoon, fellow redeemed!

Today marks the birthday of the Lutheran Church. That's right, it's today and not October 31, when we traditionally celebrate Reformation. On this day in 1530, the princes from the Lutheran provinces, including Saxony, presented a positive, definitive statement of belief largely authored by Luther's colleague, Philip Melanchthon. A story of the Augsburg Confession, or "Augustana" as it's sometimes known, is given at, a website maintained by Pastor Paul McCain.

Lord God, heavenly Father, You preserved the teaching of the apostolic Church through the confession of the true faith at Augsburg. Continue to cast the bright beams of Your light upon Your Church that we, being instructed by the doctrine of the blessed apostles, may walk in the light of Your truth and finally attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

I hope to give some discussion of a couple of articles of the Augustana this week at my blog,

The south Texas heat is definitely daunting today. Yet, there continue to be activities at Mt. Olive.
A few notes are in order:

VBS is now about ten days away, give or take a few. Your assistance in carrying out this important ministry is greatly needed. Sunday morning at the Voters Assembly, Gary mentioned that, every year, he is able to give one day during the VBS week. If you're able to do that, or to help with set up, your participation will be greatly appreciated.

Summer Sunday School is also in full swing and teachers are still needed. Usually, we begin with a great number of folks, and, as we get deeper into the summer, there tend to be a few more blanks. Please check the calendar on the narthex table and sign up for your slot today!

Zumba Aerobics this week will be held on Monday and WEDNESDAY.

The "Why Does It Matter" discussion group will be meeting at Barnes and Noble on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

This Week at Mt. Olive:
Monday, June 25
6 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics

Wednesday, June 27
No Wednesday morning Bible Class!
6 p.m.
Zumba Aerobics

7 p.m.
Why Does It Matter group at Barnes and Noble

Thursday, June 28
6:30 p.m.
STARC meeting

Prayer Concerns:
Suzette Hamer and her family as her mom is hospitalized
Becky Chamberlain, Kathy Vadney's sister
Ruby Rieder, Ann Cleveland, Burt and Doris Nelson, Walter and Pearly Theiss
Summer Sunday School and Vacation Bible School preparations

God bless!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Jesus Invites Us Into His Kingdom!

Luke 14:15-24

At this point in his ministry, Jesus was teaching thousands of people—he was at the height of his popularity—and so he was something of a local celebrity.

He was invited by a ruler of the Pharisees to his home for a banquet—which is kind of an odd thing because Jesus had been warning the people he taught about the hypocrisy of their leaders. Woe to the scribes and Pharisees! Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy!

And yet here Jesus was, in this ruler’s home as his guest, surrounded by the very people he had been criticizing.

Luke gives us the reason for this odd scene: that the ruler and the other Pharisees were watching him closely—trying to catch him, do or say something wrong. But Luke tells us that Jesus was also watching them—that he noticed how they chose the places of honor for themselves.

Jesus used this context to tell some stories about what life with God is really all about. He told them about a wedding feast where a man chose the best place for himself only to have to move after the host came and told him someone more important had arrived—that everyone who exalted himself would be humbled and the humble exalted.

He told them that rather than inviting family and friends to their banquets (people who could repay their hospitality) they ought to invite the poor and the blind and the lame because God would repay them in the end for their generosity.

Of course, Jesus was not really telling them these stories to correct their boorish behavior and give them social graces. Instead, he was telling them about how the kingdom of God worked—that life with God is about God’s grace and our humble reception of that grace that makes us gracious to others. At least one man there got it:

When one of those who reclined at table with Jesus heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

This is the response that Jesus wants from all of us—yet it is the very thing we struggle with.

Life with God is about humility and yet we want to exalt ourselves above others. Life with God is about generosity towards others but there’s a cost in that to us we don’t always like to pay. Life with God is about our hearts being right rather than just looking good on the outside but we are experts at pious facades.

Life with God is different than the way the world works-- and there’s a cost to following Jesus-- but the blessings are worth it a thousand times over: forgiveness for our sins and the confidence that God is with us and guiding us and the promise that there is life for us after this life is done.

The blessings of life with God in his kingdom are wonderful and life-changing and he invites us to come to him and faith and take our place and receive his blessings:

Jesus said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

Throughout the Bible—Old Testament and New—life with God is portrayed as a great banquet.

It is no accident that the central feature of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is a salvation meal: the Passover and Holy Communion. A banquet is peace and plenty and God is the One who is the Host and he invites all people to come and take their place at his table of salvation.

He is the One has made it ready. He has sent his Son to die on the cross, reconciling the world to himself. He is the One who raised Jesus from the dead, promising life and salvation in his name. And he is the One who issues the invitation.

Wherever and whenever the Gospel is preached and the sacraments administred, there God is, inviting all people to come and feast on the riches of his bountiful love. And you would think that every person who heard this invitation would accept it with joy and thanksgiving and receive what he offers—but they don’t.

[Those invited] all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’

This list is not meant to be exhaustive-- but it captures the spirit of those who refuse God’s invitation to come to his banquet of salvation: that they think more highly of themselves than the master who invited them-- and they consider what they have going on in their lives more significant than what he has to give.

Last Monday evening Caroline and I watched several episodes of the Royal Family on PBS and it was fascinating. Both of these episodes involved all the preparation for a state dinner with the queen. A breathtaking room—an opulent table—the finest food and wine—and the chance to dine with the queen. Who in their right mind would turn down an invitation to a state dinner with the Queen of England? No one!

And yet people routinely turn down Gospel invitations to God’s banquet of salvation. They do it because they can’t be bothered--because they think little of the host--because they regard the business of their lives more important than receiving God’s gifts.

They do it for material reasons—always seeking after and concerned about things that will only matter in this life. They do it for relationship reasons—because the ones they love have no interest in the things of God, neither do they.

But these reasons—these excuses-- do not suffice when it comes to God’s invitation to have a life with him.

Jesus said: you cannot serve God and money. Jesus said: those who love family more than me are not worthy of me. And to refuse God’s invitation to come to him and have a life with him is to lose something much more precious than money or family—it is to lose one’s own life for eternity under the wrath of God.

The servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’

As much as I would love to go to a state dinner in Buckingham Palace, that invitation is never going to come. The Queen is a gracious, generous lady—but it doesn’t go that far as to invite Allan to the Palace. Unlike Garth Brooks, she doesn’t have friends in low places.

But God does. The poor and the obscure and the broken are invited to his banquet as much as are the rich and famous. Such is his love for the world that his gracious invitation to come and partake of the banquet of salvation goes out to every person irrespective of who they are -or what they have -or what they have done. God wants each person to have a place at his table.

But to refuse his invitation—to reject his salvation—to ignore his grace-- is to learn something else that is also true about our gracious God: that he is also a God of wrath who is angry with those who refuse to have a life with him.

Those who think that they can refuse God without consequences are deceiving themselves-- and so the lesson for us from Jesus’ story is to take to heart God’s invitation right here and now and receive the good things that he wants to give to us.

And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ The master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.

Not only does God call us into his kingdom to give us his gifts—he invites us take part in making sure that others have a place at his table like we do. You will notice that it is the servant who actually issues the invitation.

The question for us is this: can we answer the same as the servant—that everything necessary has been done—that we have made sure that everyone we know has received God’s gracious invitation?

The servant thought he had and I believe that he answered that way fully believing that he had. He wasn’t intentionally trying to deceive the master. But the master asked him to look again. He knew that there were still plenty of folks who didn’t have a place at his banquet and he wanted to make sure that they had every opportunity to come.

The challenge for the servant—and the challenge for us—is to see things from God’s perspective—that all people are welcome to have a life with God.

For the Pharisees and the other religious leaders this meant that they needed to open their eyes and see that God also loved the Gentiles—that God also loved those who had failed miserably in life—that God also loved those who were, at that moment, very far from him.

The master in Jesus’ story wanted his house FULL and so does God want his kingdom full. The challenge for us is to look with fresh eyes and see the folks around as objects of God’s redeeming love—no less than we—no matter who they are, no matter what they have done, no matter how far they are from the kingdom of God right now. God invites all people to come and have a life with him with the warning that those who reject his invitation will never experience the peace and forgiveness and life that Jesus came to give. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.

There are many places where we can see ourselves in this story Jesus tells. Are our hearts as open and inviting as that of the master who wants to make a place in his life for everyone-- or are we closed off to people because of who they are—wanting to keep them at arm’s length?

Are we that faithful servant who makes sure that the master’s invitation goes out to all people—doing our part in the mission of Jesus-- or are we content for others to do that work and support that mission?

Are we those folks who are too busy and too self-important to receive the gifts that God wants to give? May God forbid that we find ourselves there and there is no reason to find ourselves there!

The banquet of life and peace is ready. Jesus has done everything to set before us a feast of forgiveness. God invites us to come and have a life with him.

Perhaps the most important place to see ourselves in this story is that of the man at the beginning of the story, who, hearing about all that Jesus offered, said in faith: Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” This is the response that God is looking for from us when he invites us to come and have a life with him.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

To God Be Glory Forever!

Romans 11:33-36

The words of Scripture that we have before this morning as the text for our meditation stand as the dividing line between the two major sections of Paul’s letter to the Romans. They are praise and thanksgiving for what has come before in this letter—and they are the foundation and motivation for what follows.

What comes before these words is the whole story of our salvation: our sin—the impossibility of saving ourselves by works of the law—the sacrifice of Jesus that has reconciled us to God—the gift of Word and Sacraments that the Spirit uses to bring us to faith—the peace and comfort that comes from knowing that we are saved and the promise that nothing can separate us form God’s love.

These words of praise and awe are the voice of every Christian who sees and understands just exactly the greatness of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!

What follows these words is the call to Christian living—that we do the things that God asks of us—not out of fear or some sense of burdensome obligation—but out of profound, heartfelt gratitude for what God has done for us and so these words are the motivation and foundation for the Christian life: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!

The words of our text are perfectly suited for Trinity Sunday—the only Sunday of the church year devoted to a doctrine-- because they call us, not so much to probe the inner workings of the Holy Trinity, but to praise him and stand in awe and wonder at the greatness and goodness of our Savior God. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!

In the first few chapters of Romans Paul sets out the human condition: the poverty of our spiritual resources—our foolish trust in ourselves—and our blind ignorance of those things that really matter—just the opposite of God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge.

He doesn’t do this to drag us through the mud or to destroy our humanity—but to show us our great need for a Savior God whose riches and wisdom and knowledge far exceed our own—a Savior God who is the LORD.

Out of the riches of his grace he showers us with blessings of both body and soul. He has given us our lives and everything we need to support them. He has given us his Son Jesus Christ who saved us with us with something much more precious than gold or silver and that is his own blood. And he continues to bless us out of the riches of his grace with the forgiveness and peace and hope we need.

He has wisely ordered the affairs of all creation so that all things work together for our good. That we have life—that we have faith—that we have an eternal future is only because of God’s wisdom that has guided our lives each step of the way to bring us to faith and keep us in faith and deliver us to our eternal home.

And when it comes to knowledge, he knows us better than we could ever know ourselves. He listens to our prayers with a wise and loving Father’s heart, granting us only those things that he knows are for our good. He knows the plans he has for us, plans to bless us and prosper us. And he knows the plans of those who are opposed to him and his people and the perfect way to work all things for our eternal good.

When we consider the poverty of our own resources and the riches of God’s gracious love how can we not join our voice to that of the Apostle Paul and proclaim the praises of the LORD, our Savior God:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

After reviewing all that God has done for our salvation—after carefully detailing God’s perfect plan to rescue us from sin and death—it seems odd to hear Paul says that God’s judgment are unsearchable and his ways inscrutable.

Aren’t the mighty judgments of God matters of the historical record? The flood- and the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt- and the rise and fall of Assyria and Babylon- and the death of Jesus- and the destruction of Jerusalem. These mighty judgments of the LORD are historical fact.

And aren’t the ways of God clearly revealed in the pages of Holy Scripture? How God had a plan for our salvation from the very beginning—how God deals graciously with men, not treating us as our sins deserve—how God has carefully ordered salvation history over thousands of years to bring us to a crib in Bethlehem and a cross and an empty tomb in Jerusalem? His saving plan is anything but hidden!

And so what does Paul mean that God’s judgments are unsearchable and his ways inscrutable? He means that we would never in a million years ever be able to devise anything like it—that God’s work of creation and salvation are completely his own and stand in stark contrast to the ways of men.

He means that we would never in a million years be able to figure it out if God had not written it out in the pages of Holy Scripture—that we could never know any of it if he had not revealed it to us.

And finally he means that we could never in a million years believe it-- if he did not work that faith in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

We can know God and believe in God and have a life with God—not only because God the Father has created us and not only because God the Son has redeemed us but also because God the Holy Spirit has done his work to cause the scriptures to be written and then worked in our hearts so that we can believe them and build our lives upon them.

From beginning to end we are utterly dependent upon the greatness and goodness of our Savior God for life in this world and in the world to come and in the words that follow, Paul wants to make sure that we recognize this important truth: that our life with God is wholly dependent upon his gracious love for us. He writes:

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”

Paul asks us three rhetorical questions with one obvious answer: Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has been God’s counselor? Who has ever given something to God so that God is in his debt, beholden to him? And of course the answer to each of these questions is: No one!

The greatest scientists who have ever lived can only discover what they can observe and measure in God’s creation. The wisest philosophers and smartest scholars can only hope to think God’s thoughts after him. And there is nothing—absolutely nothing-- that we can offer up to God that he has not first bestowed upon us as a gift of his gracious love.

This does not mean that the achievements and accomplishments of man do not matter—it simply means that we recognize our limits as creatures so that we can stand in awe of the greatness of our Creator and the goodness of his love for us and understand that: the story of God’s love for the world and for us begins and ends in him—not us. Paul said: For from him and through him and to him are all things.

In the beginning, when God called forth the world into existence and created man, it was his own love—the love that existed between the three person of the Holy Trinity- that brought us forth. True love is always creative and life-giving!

It was love that caused God to send his Son into the world to be our Savior and it was love that caused the Holy Spirit to take us (who were God’s enemies by nature) and make us God’s children.

Our life with God has come from him and through him and (thanks be to God) it is leading back to him.

When Adam and Eve sinned the very first thing they did was flee from God and that was the direction of sinful man and a broken creation from then on.

But that all changed when Jesus rose from the dead. The entire direction of the cosmos has been changed from destruction and death-- towards a new heaven and earth and life everlasting for God’s people.

When we look at a broken world and when we see the suffering around us and when we experience our own frailty we don’t have to despair because we know the direction that it is all going and that is back to God—back to the way it was in the beginning where God and man lived together in perfect fellowship—back to a beautiful, untarnished creation, back to life without end.

All things are from God the Father and have been redeemed through God the Son and are going back to God by the power of the Holy Spirit and that perfect plan is what inspired Paul to write these words of praise to give the LORD, our Savior God all the glory for his great goodness. He said: To him be glory forever. Amen.

As Christian people we are called to glorify God in all that we say and do. This means that first of all we believe in him and trust him and confess him truly.

When we confess our faith in the creeds, like we do today in the Athanasian Creed, it is not some burdensome duty. Instead, it is our chief delight to confess that we know who God is and what he has done for us. There is nothing more important or meaningful in our lives than these two things!

That we give him the glory means that our entire lives are given over to his service—our worship first of all-- but also our work and our leisure and our family and our marriages—all of our day-today life is lived out in such a way that God is given the praise and adoration and thanks that are rightfully his,

Trinity Sunday is not set aside for the explanation of some dry doctrine with little connection to our lives. It is set aside for the praise and worship and confession of the one true God who has made himself known to us as our Creator and Redeemer and Sanctifier so that we might live with him forever. Amen.