Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Psalm 68.15-20, 1 Kings 16.29-17.24, 2 Corinthians 9.1-15 - Lectionary for 8/31/11

Today's readings are Psalm 68.15-20, 1 Kings 16.29-17.24, and 2 Corinthians 9.1-15.

Today we see the further downward spiral of religion according to man's opinion. In the Northern Kingdom of Israel Ahab becomes king and spends his time giving in to the local religious practices, including fertility gods and possibly even human sacrifice. Counter to Ahab, we see Elijah, the prophet of God, who, in God's name performs signs both of cursing the evil kingdom and blessing people in need.

Our New Testament reading praises the generosity of the Corinthians, who gave freely to bless the saints in need in Jerusalem. These readings beg for a question. What is the business of the Church? We might see it as a social agency, and on a limited scope it is that. Historically Christians have always been engaged in doing good for people. But that is only a partial picture. The motivation for the Church to serve the community is rooted in God's mercy, specifically the Gospel of Jesus who gave himself for sinners.

May we have grace to engage in service that is different from that of our surrounding culture, for it is rooted in the work of Christ on our behalf.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Psalm 29.1-4, 10-11, 1 Kings 12.20-13.5, 33-34, 2 Corinthians 8.1-24 - Lectionary for 8/30/11

Today's readings are Psalm 29.1-4, 10-11, 1 Kings 12.20-13.5, 33-34, and 2 Corinthians 8.1-24.

In our Old Testament reading we see more of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who later came to be known as the one who caused Israel to sin. What did Jeroboam do that was so terrible? Chiefly, he arranged for worship in a way which was not authorized by God.

In the Scripture, God is the initiator of worship. He prescribes the offerings. he says where, when, why, and how to worship. This is from his love and mercy, for outside of the righteous requirements of the holy God we dare not approach him. Jeroboam, in taking worship practices into his own hands and planning them according to what he thought best, exalted his plans above God's.

This is one of the reasons I appreciate the historic liturgy. Rooted in the synagogue worship which Jesus approved by his presence and participation, we worship God rightly where Word and Sacrament are present. The historic patterns protect us from exalting ourselves as did Jeroboam. May God alone be praised in all we do.

Sermon for 8/29/11 - "How Long" - Revelation 6, The Martyrdom of John the Baptist

Sermon “How Long?”

Lord of life, Lord of all patience, grant us eyes to see your glory and to look to the sure and certain hope of resurrection, through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Those standing before the throne of God in Revelation cry out to God. How long? How long will the Lord show patience with this world? How long will he tolerate sin? Will the Lord of all not bring judgment and retribution against those who kill the prophets? Why does God delay in his judgment? Why do we endure hardship, persecution, famine, and death on this earth? Is the Lord slack in his promises? Has he forgotten to be diligent? Maybe he doesn’t love us that much after all?

Truth be told, though most of us won’t say it in quite those terms, we wonder the same things that those martyrs from Revelation wonder. When we are in the midst of suffering, when we see parts of our lives falling apart, when we are in conflict within our families, when we wonder if we will still have a job tomorrow, when we think we’re done for when the teacher gives us that test, we wonder about God’s wisdom. Maybe his desire is for our good, but it seems sometimes that he has a warped idea of what would be good for us.

What is God’s answer for us? God the Father wraps his martyrs in heaven up in white robes. He clothes them with his righteousness. He tells them that they have not died in vain but that he is not finished dealing with the world. In the meantime, he shows them he is faithful, that they are comforted, and that they have received their inheritance.

And for those of us who are here in this earthly life? What do we see of God’s faithfulness? As we read in Romans, we who have been put to death in Christ, who are partakers of his death and burial, we are also partakers of his resurrection .We have put on Christ. He has washed us. He has put his name upon us. We no longer live or die to ourselves. We are all wrapped up in Christ.

Does the world find this offensive? It sure does. Just as John the Baptizer, whose death we remember today, proved offensive to Herod, we also prove offensive to our world. When we consider the mysteries of God in Christ as the precious treasure we reject the treasure our society would give us. When we look to the resurrection from the dead we reject the idea that our life in the here and now is of primary importance. When we take a stand, as John did, that marriage matters and that a husband and wife are to be faithful to one another, that the sexual relationship is reserved for husband and wife and nobody else, our world finds us not only irrelevant but even offensive. Yet these are stands which the Scripture takes. This is what God has said he values. Far be it from us to redefine what God has said.

What is the worst that can happen to us? We hold fast to our Lord. We are clothed in Christ who has overcome death. We have been wrapped in his righteousness. We will be gathered lovingly before God the Father in heavenly glory when this life is over. We fear no evil, for God is our shepherd, watching over us. And he will never leave us or forsake us, any more than he left or forsook John. They may kill our bodies. God’s truth remains. And we who have been crucified with Christ no longer live, but Christ lives in us.

Our Lord has not forsaken us. Let us pray.

God of all, Lord Jesus Christ, remind us your people that you have clothed us with your pure white garments of righteousness. Gather us into your kingdom, giving us a living hope in you, for you are truly the resurrection and the life. Amen.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Psalm 17.6-14, 1 Kings 11.42-12.19, 2 Corinthians 7.1-16 - Lectionary for 8/29/11 - Feast of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

Today is the Feast of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist.

Today's readings are Psalm 17.6-14, 1 Kings 11.42-12.19, and 2 Corinthians 7.1-16.

"If the shoe fits, wear it." We often look at others' faults and see if we can get them straightened out. As a pastor, this is often the attitude I see among people who come for counsel. The person with a troubled marriage often wants me to "fix" someone else. Can I do this? no, I really can't. What I can do, though, is what Paul mentions in today's reading. I can point out the sinful beliefs and attitudes that we all have. If this leads someone to repentance of sin it has been a success. Why? Because we like to make people miserable? No. Rather, we want to see miserable people reconciled to God. This brings joy, not desolation. May we ever look to our Lord as the redeemer, who grants us forgiveness and restoration when we confront sorrow for our sin. This is true joy indeed.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Adult Bible Class 8/28/11

In today's adult Bible class we wrapped up the introduction to the idea of biblical peacemaking. Here's the audio.

Next week we start rolling up our sleeves and hitting specific details. Come join us!

Sermon for 8/28/11 "Sink or Swim"

SERMON “Sink or Swim?” audio link

(Psalm 19.14) May the words of my lips and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, oh Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen.

People sometimes ask what will be happening in church based on the sermon title I post on the sign. From this week’s title, “sink or swim,” you might have thought about Peter walking on water. That’s a nice try, but it isn’t quite right.

Let’s try this one on for size, then. In a great economic collapse we can all starve together. We decide to stick together and help one another. I know we’ve told both our parents and our adult daughter that in case of emergency they can come live with us and we’ll all try to get on together as well as we can. That’s what families do. We bind together and we sink or swim. Hopefully we can swim. That’s what people did in Jeremiah’s time as well.

In the time of Jeremiah the prophet the kingdom of the children of Abraham was divided. The nothern part of the kingdom, the twelve tribes which were normally known as “Israel,” had been taken away into captivity to Assyria. This military action was pretty much complete by about the year 722 B.C. The southern kingdom, known as “Judah,” was left behind. They were not condemned for their sin at that time. Jeremiah is writing here quite a bit later, in the early part of the 500s B.C. We’re just a little farther away in time now from the reconstruction period after the American Civil War. It isn’t exactly a really long time ago, but nobody alive today was there. If you’re an elderly person your grandparents probably remembered it well. After the northern kingdom of Israel was taken away, the southern kingdom, known as Judah, including the area of Jerusalem, spent some time spiraling downward. People seemed to be forgetting about the Lord who had rescued them out of Egypt. They seemed to be forgetting that God had promised to give his people a land and an inheritance. They seemed to be forgetting that their Lord had kept his hand of protection on them for all these many years.

Earlier in Jeremiah chapter 15 God proclaimed his rejection of Israel. They have hit bottom, he says. They are constantly in sin. They don’t do what is good. And they will be called to account. This is God’s word to Judah, and his word is certain.

How are we doing, here and now? Are we like the people of Judah in Jeremiah 15? What about those commands in Romans 12? How are we doing on sincere love? Do we hate evil and cling to good or do we often cling to evil and hate good? Do we honor each other? really? How’s the zeal meter? Are we lacking in zeal? I’ll tell you that some of the people I’ve been to visit in hospitals and nursing homes lately are trying to be patient in affliction. But the patience is wearing thin. Do we bless those who persecute us? Or do we rather curse them? Are we swimming or are we sinking? It seems to me that we’re like someone trying to swim across the ocean while carrying a cannon ball in each hand.

Maybe we should just resign ourselves to sinking together. That’s what a lot of people seem to have done. A large portion of our society lives a life of hopelessness. We tend to be quiet about it and engage in our despair privately. But you can look at people and see their lack of hope. What are they going to do? How are they going to live with themselves? They know something’s wrong. But our culture has distanced itself so far from a biblical faith that we often can’t look back at it. It’s like picturing how things were about 130 years ago. What was life like when God took away Israel and left Judah? We can’t really remember. It’s too long ago. Something’s changed, but we don’t get it. Maybe we’ll just have to sink together. That might be more merciful.

But maybe, just maybe, we can look to our Lord in hope. This is what he calls Jeremiah to do. “Look to me,” says God, “not to your neighbors.” And Jeremiah looks to the Lord, who lovingly preserves him through all his troubles. Yes, this is through all his troubles. God doesn’t remove Jeremiah from his troubles. He preserves him through his troubles. Jeremiah is still persecuted. His opponents will still try to kill him. He still spends a considerable part of his life under arrest in a city which is besieged and endures terrible famine. Yet, as he looks to the Lord, he is preserved.

We too can look to Jesus, the one who goes to suffer, to die, and to rise again from the dead on our behalf. We do not need to look with hopeless eyes at what our world would try to depend on. We can look to the steadfast love of God in Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, who loves us always. We can look to Jesus, who has claimed us in baptism, putting the old man to death and lifting us from the waters of death to live in him. We can look to Jesus, who pours out his life upon us. We can deny ourself, take up our cross, and follow him.

Will our opponents still oppose us? They will. Will we suffer from temptation in this world? Of course. Will we live the life of holiness and godly discipline that we are commanded to live in Romans? Though we try, we will fail. But we can know without a doubt that Jesus our Lord has lived that perfect life on our behalf. And he is the one who gives his life to us, taking our death upon himself. When the storms come, when the persecution rolls in, we stand firm looking to our Lord, who has conquered all opposition.

Let us pray.

Our Lord, in you we sink as you put our old man to death. Thank you for drawing us to life, making us the people who swim, who cling to you for life and hope, looking to your salvation. When we face trials, grant that we may look to you, for you have proclaimed victory over the world. Grant us this, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Psalm 48.1-8, 1 Kings 11.1-26, 2 Corinthians 6.1-18 - Lectionary for 8/28/11 - Commemoration of Augustine of Hippo

Today is the commemoration of Augustine of Hippo.

Today's readings are Psalm 48.1-8, 1 Kings 11.1-26, and 2 Corinthians 6.1-18.

Today's readings remind us that Christians are called out from a life of sin and strife. Unlike the people in 1 Kings 11, Jesus' people are not to protect their own interests, but those of others. As the apostle Paul says we open our hearts and proclaim God's reconciliation. We are not to be bound to this world and all its self-interest. On the contrary we look to God's mercy and grace, ourselves becoming instruments of that mercy and grace.

How far do we need to look, what expense do we need to go to in order to be God's instruments of mercy? We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. Surely this begins with those neighbors we live with. It then spreads to our neighborhood, our community, our workplace. And much that we can do is free and simple. May God inspire us as his instruments of grace, bringing life and hope to those around us.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Psalm 72.1-7, 1 Kings 9.1-9, 10.1-13, 2 Corinthians 5.1-21 - Lectionary for 8/27/11 - Commemoration of Monica, mother of Augustine

Today is the commemoration of Monica, mother of Augustine.
Today's readings are Psalm 72.1-7, 1 Kings 9.1-9, 10.1-13, and 2 Corinthians 5.1-21.

We see today in 2 Corinthians 5 that God reconciles the world to himself in Christ. As we are recipients of this reconciliation our desire is that our mortal bodies should be clothed with immortality.

Do we often find ourselves with wrong thinking in this regard? How many times do we want to escape from the body rather than to embrace the bodily resurrection which we confess? How often do we want to reconcile God to us, bringing him to see us as we see ourselves? May it never be! Rather, may we look eagerly to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ and become partakers of his resurrection.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Psalm 36.7-12, 1 Kings 8.22-30, 46-63, 2 Corinthians 4.1-18 - Lectionary for 8/26/11

Today's readings are Psalm 36.7-12, 1 Kings 8.22-30, 46-63, and 2 Corinthians 4.1-18.

Bait and switch - that's our world's general operating principle. It works really well. The store advertises a few "loss items" and hopes you will buy them as well as some profit items. Best of all, maybe you will decide to shop there regularly. Are we guilty of this in the Church? What would Paul say about that? In 2 Corinthians 4.2 he boldly confesses a plan to preach Christ crucified for sinners. What if this is an unpopular message? It is still the message God has given us.

May we be faithful to the calling of God, not diluting the gospel, but proclaiming it boldly to the glory of God. There's no bait. There's no switch. There's only God's truth.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Psalm 32.1-7, 1 Kings 7.51-8.21, 2 Corinthians 3.1-18 - Lectionary for 8/25/11

Today's readings are Psalm 32.1-7, 1 Kings 7.51-8.21, and 2 Corinthians 3.1-18.

In today's readings we see God's glory filling the place where he is. We Christians are partakers of God's glory. The fullness of God dwells in Christ. The Holy Spirit has made us a temple consecrated to his service. Can we see the works of God written in our lives?

Some Christians are all about the works of believers as they follow the Lord in faithful obedience. Some are all about Christ's righteousness and deny that we would look for a changed life. Paul says that we should expect Christians to live differently from the rest of the world. After all, our values have been changed so our behavior will also change. Let us be slow, though, to assume our behavior is a reliable guide. Let us rather make much of our Lord and expect the Holy Spirit to fill us with his tremendous glory.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Psalm 27.1, 7-11, 1 Kings 5.1-18, 2 Corinthians 1.23-2.17 - Lectionary for 8/24/11 - feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle

Today is the feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle.
Today's readings are Psalm 27.1, 7-11, 1 Kings 5.1-18, and 2 Corinthians 1.23-2.17

There's a certain amount of pain that pastors need to inflict on their congregants. May the Lord prevent us from enjoying it, yet may he give us courage to do so faithfully. This is what Paul had done when he confronted sin at Corinth. This is what I've had to do when I point out the dangers of our clinging arrogantly to our sin.

Why do we confront sin? Not so as to revel in people's discomfort, but in hope the Holy Spirit will grant repentance which leads to confession, forgiveness, and restoration. May we ever be bold about the holy demands of God's Law so it will make sense when we are equally bold about the blessings of the Gospel.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Psalm 111.1-3, 9-10, 1 Kings 3.1-15, 2 Corinthians 1.1-22 - Lectionary for 8/23/11

Today's readings are Psalm 111.1-3, 9-10, 1 Kings 3.1-15, and 2 Corinthians 1.1-22.

"You can't understand what I'm going through! I don't know that Jesus can either!" Did you ever hear this? Or maybe you've thought it, especially when a well-meaning friend has given you yet another platitude. What does the apostle Paul confess in 2 Corinthians 1.4-5? He affirms that even though some details may differ, our Lord and his servants are familiar with grief and suffering. There is no affliction, no suffering which God in Christ has not dealt with.

What are the boundaries of Jesus' affliction? Has he not been accused falsely? Has he not endured loss? Has he not faced death, and that a death which he didn't deserve? How much more can he bring comfort in the hope of eternal life to those who trust in him?

This may not make our life easy. But in Jesus we can know that we are not alone. He has gone ahead of us in all things. And he will never forsake us. Thanks be to God.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Psalm 97.6-12, 1 Kings 2.1-27, 1 Corinthians 13.1-13 - Lectionary for 8/22/11

Today's readings are Psalm 97.6-12, 1 Kings 2.1-27, and 1 Corinthians 13.1-13.

1 Corinthians 13 is commonly read at weddings. I wonder if we've ever thought about how thoroughly we fail in showing the love described in this chapter? While we all have our moments of victory, we have to admit defeat, especially as we start to see how universal the statements of love are. Are we always patient? maybe some people are. I'm not. And that's just the start of verse 4. The list plows on through verse 6.

There is only one who has this perfect love. It's God in the persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All you need is love, right? True enough. But let us accept no substitutes. All our attempts fall short. But the steadfast, forgiving, redeeming love of God in Christ Jesus does not fail. May we have grace to delight in the love of Jesus, who loved us while we were still sinners and who gave himself over to death so we could live in him.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Adult Bible Class 8/21/11

I was asked to start recording and posting adult Bible classes. So I tried. Here's a link to audio for today's lesson, which was primarily about going and being reconciled with your neighbor whom you have offended.

Sermon for 8/21/11 "The Right One"

SERMON "The Right One” Audio Link

(Psalm 19.14) May the words of my lips and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, oh Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen.

Have you ever tried picking someone out of a large crowd? I remember at a ceremony I was involved in once someone wanted to know where to find me. I said I would be the one on the floor of the auditorium wearing black and with a square hat. Of course, this was a large university graduation and there were about five thousand other people on the floor of the auditorium wearing the same outfit. This is similar to one of our military members saying he’ll be the guy in the platoon wearing a uniform.

How are we going to recognize Jesus? As we read in the Gospel today this is an important issue. We can go around our community today and ask people how to identify God. Are they going to do well? Whenever I’ve tried this in the past I always get answers that don’t distinguish between the God of the Bible and some other god, maybe the god of people’s imaginations. In fact, most people seem to describe a god made in their own image rather than the God who made us in His image. How is the true God revealed?
First in this passage he is identified by Jesus as the “Son of Man.” This title is used in Scripture to identify Jesus as the one who is the second Adam, the one true human who came to live a sinless life, the life that Adam should have lived, and to take away the curse which has fallen upon us all by Adam’s disobedience. This Son of Man is the one who reverses the curse. He is the one who restores mankind to a right relationship with God.

How does Peter then identify Jesus, the Son of Man? Peter claims that he is the Christ, the Son of God. This confession brings the blessing of Jesus. But what did Peter really say here? How is it different from the confession that the rest of the world might make?

While the others confessed that Jesus was a prophet, possibly even a special prophet like one of the great prophets who had died and had maybe come back to life, Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one of God. This is the person upon whom God had promised to place the Holy Spirit. It is the person who is specially able to redeem the world, to break down the barrier which sin erected between God and man. The Christ is the one who would come and restore all things which had been destroyed by sin. This is not just a prophet. This is not even a super prophet. Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ. As Peter confesses that Jesus is the Son of the living God, he claims that Jesus has the power to accomplish all he desires. Jesus operates in all the power and authority of God the Father. Being the Son of God he is himself God almighty. This is the exact same confession that brought down the wrath of the Jews upon Jesus and his disciples time and time again, for they confessed that there is a multiplicity of persons in the Godhead. This flies in the face of Jewish belief. They are unwilling to confess a trinity. They don’t know what to do with those seemingly plural names of God like “Elohim” or with the statements in the Old Testament which seem to equate the Holy Spirit with God. Peter is confessing that God is present in the persons of the Father and the Son. I think we can assume he is admitting the Holy Spirit as well, but he doesn’t proclaim it here in this passage. But the confession Peter makes is clear. He is saying that Jesus is God the Son.

How well does our culture deal with the idea of the trinity? Not very well. For that matter, there are a lot of people who seem to assume that Jews, Christians, and Muslims have the same concept of God. All are classified as “monotheist” religions. The problem is that only the Christians confess that there is one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All other religions have a very different concept of God. There may be similarities in the concept of the power and eternity of God, but Jews and Muslims are denying the trinity. The similarities end there. We can have no deep religious concord because we worship different deities.

How is the triune God revealed to us? Not by man, but by God the Father. Can we understand the trinity? I think not. Over the past thirty years or so I’ve often tried to wrap my mind around the idea that there is one God in three persons. The Athanasian Creed, which we confessed on Trinity Sunday, explains the Trinity as well as anything can, but we simply can’t conceive of one entity with three persons. This is something which is revealed to us in Scripture, which the Father has given us, but which we won’t really understand. Rather, we need to accept it and rejoice that God has revealed himself to us as he has.

What is the result of recognizing Jesus as the right one, God the Son? In Matthew 16:18 Jesus says something that is kind of difficult to deal with. I’ve seen a number of explanations of the Greek of this passage and none of them is very satisfactory. Here’s what happens. Jesus calls Simon “Peter.” The word “Peter” is the Greek word for “rock.” Because Jesus is calling a male by a nickname he naturally uses a masculine form. Then Jesus goes on to say “on this rock” he will build his church. The word Jesus uses for “rock” here is slightly different. It’s feminine, which happens to be the normal form of the “rock” word. So we have a masculine “Peter/Rock” and a feminine “rock” on which the church will be built. There are several options we could use. Jesus could be saying that Peter is the rock on which he will build the church. This view is weak in several ways. If Jesus wanted to say that he would naturally use the same masculine form of the “rock” word both times. Yet it also seems unusual that Jesus would pledge to build his eternal and supernatural church upon one person, and that a person other than himself.

Another view is that Jesus is claiming he will build his church on himself. That doesn’t make much sense for the same reason the first idea doesn’t. Jesus would naturally use a masculine word for the rock representing himself. And he wouldn’t be purposely confusing by mentioning Peter and then switching the subject to himself without warning. It does, of course, make sense that Jesus would build his church upon himself. That’s appropriate. But the word used for “rock” is still confusing.

The best view I can come up with is that the “rock” Jesus will build his church on is the confession that he is the Christ. This is what he compliments Peter for. This is what he says God the Father revealed. This is consistent with building an eternal church, as a confession is something which is not dependent on any human individual. So I think we are safest here to say that the Church is built on the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

What is the result of Jesus’ building his church? He says the gates of Hades will not overcome it. This is language of warfare. Yet I want you to notice that the gates are what a city has. Defending the gates means you are being attacked. So many times we seem to think the Church is under attack, and it is. But Jesus here pictures the Church as being on the offensive. We have beseiged Hell itself and with his cross, Jesus is assaulting the gates, hammering on them, and bursting them open. The gates of Hell will not overcome the assault of Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection.

The Church will go forth, then, in healing, spreading the grace of God throughout this world, releasing people from their sin and shame, releasing them from their guilt, proclaiming the gospel that their sins have been atoned for, their life is wrapped up in Jesus, and they can look forward to the sure and certain hope of eternal life in our risen Lord Jesus Christ. This is the message that we have. This is the true gospel which breaks down the bondage of sin. This is what has been revealed to us by the Father. It’s all wrapped up in the person of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God. This is Jesus, the real deal, the right one.

Let us pray. Our Lord, as you have revealed to your servant Peter that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God, so work in our hearts that we may have full assurance of that faith. Grant us to trust that you have overcome death, hell and the grave, and that you are the one who has loosed us from the bondage of sin, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Psalm 139.13-16, 22-24, 1 Kings 1.1-4, 15-35, 1 Corinthians 12.14-31 - Lectionary for 8/21/11

Today's readings are Psalm 139.13-16, 22-24, 1 Cings 1.1-14, 15-35, and 1 Corinthians 12.14-31.

The Church of Christ is an intricate, mystic body. In this body we see that all the believers in Jesus, every last one of us, have functions. We are valuable. We are a body, not a storage closet. What I mean by this is that we do not consist of a smattering of people with different gifts, who may end up being disused and belonging in a rummage sale. There are also no vacancies, no gaps. We all fit just so and contribute in the way our Lord has appointed us.

Where does strife come from? As we saw in 1 Kings we have no end of conflict when we try to act outside of the roles the Lord has given us. Then we find dissent and anger. Would we not be far better off if we looked to our Lord in humble faith, asking him to use us according to his good pleasure? May he ever bless us in this way.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Psalm 51.1-8, 2 Samuel 12.1-25, 1 Corinthians 12.1-13 - Lectionary for 8/20/11 - Commemoration of Samuel

Today is the commemoration of Samuel.
Today's readings are Psalm 51.1-8, 2 Samuel 12.1-25, and 1 Corinthians 12.1-13.

The opening of 1 Corinthians 12 is very divisive. This should not be so, as we read in verses 4-7 that the Holy Spirit gives gifts to people as he desires, to accomplish his purpose for the good of his people. How do we look to the Spirit? Do we want to exalt ourselves or to exalt Christ? Do we want to build ourselves up or to nurture others? May we have grace to seek God's best, the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in others with all we do. Would we like to see the Holy Spirit work among us? Let us have the mind of Christ, who humbled himself for us.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Psalm 12, 2 Samuel 11.1-27, 1 Corinthians 11.7-34 - Lectionary for 8/19/11 - Commemoration of Bernard of Clairveaux, Hymnwriter and Theologian

Today is the commemoration of Bernard of Clairveaux, Hymnwriter and Theologian.
Today's readings are Psalm 12, 2 Samuel 11.1-27, and 1 Corinthians 11.17-34.

Earlier we read about Saul and his attempts to guard his own interests. We saw how God stripped the kingdom from him due to his selfish desires. Now we see David's success beginning his downfall. Rather than being busy about the kingdom God had granted him, David is idle, pursues his selfish desire for yet another wife, and gains her at the cost of Uriah, her husband and one of David's most faithful servants.

What sin we fall into, especially when we are idle! May the Lord protect us and keep us occupied in His kingdom, loving our neighbors rather than indulging ourselves. Does this require us to avoid all pleasure? Not at all, for our Savior ate, drank, and surely laughed with his companions. But in all our pursuits, may we honor our Lord and be about his business rather than busy pursuing our own selfish pleasures.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Psalm 107.1-9, 2 Samuel 7.18-29, 1 Corinthians 10.23-11.16 - Lectionary for 8/18/11

Today's readings are Psalm 107.1-9, 2 Samuel 7.18-29, and 1 Corinthians 10.23-11.16.

Our passage today in 1 Corinthians 10-11 is one of the most difficult texts in all of Scriptures. Specifically, what is Paul talking about with head coverings?

It doesn't seem he was acting in a culturally bound manner. Greek men prayed with heads covered, Romans with heads uncovered, Jews with heads covered. Greek and Roman women sometimes wore head coverings, sometimes not.

What seems to be a key is a sign of authority. Men are to uncover their heads to bare themselves before Christ. Women are to have a symbol of the authority the Lord has placed over them. Do we have such a symbol in our culture? Should we go back to the custom of women wearing hats in church as they did a generation ago? Let's have some comments here!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Psalm 24.1-6, 2 Samuel 7.1-17, 1 Corinthians 9.24-10.22 - Lectionary for 8/17/11 - Commemoration of Johann Gerhard, Theologian

Today is the commemoration of Johann Gerhard, Theologian.
Today's readings are Psalm 24.1-6, 2 Samuel 7.1-17, and 1 Corinthians 9.24-10.22.

Paul's charge to us in 1 Corinthians 10.14 is to flee idolatry. Yet he immediately turns about and says that in communion we have a participation in the real body and blood of Christ. The terminology he uses is crystal clear. We take part in the true body of our Lord, the bread of heaven, the sacrifice made for us. By tying communion with Israel's sacrifice he boldly points to a real, physical, forgiving presence of Jesus, giving real forgiveness of sins.

I've been told by those who view communion as a metaphorical, symbolic presence that it's all right for us to commune together even though we view it differently. But that is no communion. We would not be participating together. Not at all. Either it is a participation in the body and blood of the Lord or it is not. Let us rather make up our minds to accept what our Lord has given us, then we can have true communion - unity with one another and with Jesus, who gave himself for us and is truly with us.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Psalm 11, 2 Samuel 6.1-19, 1 Corinthians 9.1-23 - Lectionary for 8/16/11 - Commemoration of Isaac

Today is the commemoration of Isaac.
Today's readings are Psalm 11, 2 Samuel 6.1-19, and 1 Corinthians 9.1-23.

We often hear suggestions to "become all things to all people" (1 Cor. 9.22b, ESV). This suggestion, however, is often used in defense of a decision to get a tattoo, ride a motorcycle, or grow long hair. It's used by people who want to do something they perceive as edgy. How did Paul use it? He was talking about getting married, having a job, allowing his day-to-day struggles to show, and living in his community in a way that brings glory to God. I wonder if we see the freedom in this? It means that as a Christian in my community I can have a garden. I might want to fire up the grill. I may even want to check books out of the library, go to the opera, and, since I am known as a pastor, I can look like a pastor and join the ministry association in my town. How about taking my kids to the playground? I can do that too. Ahh, the freedom of the Christian life. So next time you want to buy a sweater, remember that you too can become all things to all people.

Sermon for 8/15/11 "Unexpected Greetings"

Sermon “Unexpected Greetings”

Lord, speak to your people in clarity, bringing us your forgiving grace. Amen.

How do you expect people to greet you? I remember when caller I.D. was first showing up on telephones. It really surprised me when I called someone and the person picked up the phone and greeted me by name immediately. How about this one? When the trick-or-treater comes to the door, have you ever asked him if he has brought the pizza you ordered? Have you ever thanked the clerk at the doctor’s office for letting you pay?

In our readings appointed for today, the feast of Mary, the mother of our Lord, we see unexpected greetings. In Isaiah we who are unworthy are welcomed into the presence of God, who adorns us with forgiveness and salvation. In Galatians we who were slaves to sin are made heirs of God. In Luke, Mary, who is pretty newly pregnant, is greeted as the mother of the Lord by her cousin Elizabeth, who had noticed her unborn son leaping for joy in the presence of the Savior. The Scriptures draw our attention to God’s forgiveness, granted according to his sovereign will, in his timing, on his terms. And his revelation of this forgiveness should take us by surprise.

How will we enter into the presence of God? Shouldn’t we have every expectation that we would need to earn that privilege? We who have clean hands and a pure heart may ascend to the holy hill of the Lord. We would come with sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise, also with worthy gifts, showing that we have cleansed ourselves and purified our hearts. That’s what we would imagine. But how are we brought into the presence of God in our passage from Isaiah? We who are sinful are brought into the presence of God as unclean beings. We bring our shame, our grief, our iniquity, our uncleanness. It is God who proclaims us righteous, who puts his holy love upon us, who raises us up as pure and spotless servants in his kingdom. Salvation is of the Lord, not of our own devices. We cannot come to Christ on our terms. Not at all. He brings us to himself on his terms, or salvation is of someone other than the Lord. We who come to Jesus in faith are greeted as his great friends, his heirs.

But what of the fact that we are enslaved to sin? This is exactly what Paul points to in Galatians. We who are slaves find that our God greets us as slaves no more, but now as heirs, joint-heirs with Jesus. Once again we have to ask how this came about. Did it happen because we were worthy? Not at all. Did it happen because we brought the right offerings? No, again, we can do nothing to earn our Lord’s favor. Our Lord greets us as heirs because of his good pleasure, because he called us to Christ, because the time was fulfilled and he wanted to save the world through God the Son. So we who are slaves come to our Lord and he greets us as sons. We are slaves no more but are heirs. This is our Lord’s choice, in his timing, according to his perfect will.

As we look at God’s timing we have to look to the timing of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. This is about the right time of year for the visit. Mary was found to be pregnant of the Holy Spirit. She went to visit Elizabeth, who was about six months farther along. So it’s early in Mary’s pregnancy, late in Elizabeth’s pregnancy, and we’re about the right amount of time after the feast of the anunciation and before the feast of Christmas. How is Mary greeted at this time? Upon perceiving that his savior had come into the room, John leaped in his mother’s womb. Elizabeth greeted Mary as the mother of the Lord. And Mary burst into poetry, proclaiming God’s mercy on his people, on all who believe on him.

Not only have Elizabeth and Mary greeted one another, let us remember that our God, God the Son, Jesus Christ, has greeted us as he greeted his cousin John. It is our Lord who calls us together, who promises to pour out his righteousness upon us, who has called us heirs along with him, and who has proclaimed the day of salvation. It is in Jesus that the rich are humbled and the poor are exalted. It is in Jesus that we are sent away with all the blessing of God.

How have we been greeted? Our Lord and Savior greets us with salvation, just as he has been doing since he was still in his mother’s womb. Let us then look to Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, believing that he is indeed able to adopt us into his kingdom and fill us with his glorious righteousness.

This may be the feast of Mary. It’s the day we remember Mary. But why do we remember Mary? We remember her because she carried our Savior. We remember her because she burst into praise of her Lord and our Lord, proclaiming his mercy. So may the Lord give us grace to proclaim his mercy, just as Mary did on that day.

Our Lord, author and finisher of our salvation, show your redemption. Have mercy on your people. Grant us to believe on you, looking to your loving kindness and receiving from your favor, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Psalm 132.11-18, 2 Samuel 5.1-25, 1 Corinthians 8.1-13 - Lectionary for 8/15/11 - Feast of Mary, Mother of Our Lord

Today is the feast of Mary, Mother of Our Lord.
Today's readings are Psalm 132.11-18, 2 Samuel 5.1-25, and 1 Corinthians 8.1-13.

Our reading today from 1 Corinthians 8 is at the heart of a debate in North American Christianity. Though our culture does not have a custom of sacrificing food to idols then engaging in ceremonial meals, we have a parallel in consciences. Ever since the mid 1800s there have been a significant number of Christians who require others to avoid alcohol entirely, something which is expressly not required in Scripture. This has been done so effectively that many Christians are bound by their conscience in the matter, rather than being bound by Scripture. How should we whose consciences are not bound respond? We want to treat a genuinely bound conscience as something fragile and precious before God. If we can release it from its bondage, that's great. But we want to avoid damage to the person who is bound. Better to do nothing than to cause guilt and shame.

Are we willing to limit our freedoms for the sake of someone else's conscience? I hope so. May the Lord also give us wisdom to know when we are dealing not with someone else's fragile conscience but with someone who wishes to bind others' consciences and to act accordingly.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sermon for 8/14/11 "A Gospel of Rejection?"

SERMON “A Gospel of Rejection?” audio link

(Psalm 19.14) May the words of my lips and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, oh Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen.

Romans chapters 9-11 is full of very hard teaching. In this segment of Scripture the apostle Paul talks about the way his own people, the Jews, have departed from the covenant God made with them. He confesses with tears that his own kinsmen have rejected God’s mercy and have condemned themselves to separation from God. Some theologians, many theologians, actually, have taken this portion of Scripture to be a passage which teaches that God has actively chosen some people for salvation and has also actively chosen some people for condemnation. This doctrine is called “double predestination.” It views some as predestined for heaven and some as predestined for hell.

Did God then reject his people? In Romans 11.1 we see Paul’s answer. God has in no way rejected his people, the nation of Israel. Our Lord has always known all about his grace and mercy. He has always known his intention of coming in the person of Jesus Christ, God the Son, and giving his life as an atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world. This plan, this gospel of salvation, was established from the foundation of the world. Jesus is the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world, coming to die for the sins of the world. This is the message our Lord has given us in Scripture. It is the good news of God for the whole world. And it flies in the face of that doctrine of double predestination which our Calvinist friends hold. They would say that the good news of salvation is emphasized by the fact that there is also news of condemnation. Through understanding of the reality of God’s judgment against unrepentant sinners we gain an understanding of the enormity of God’s grace shed upon those who believe. This may be a useful tool, but it’s awfully hard to find a way for Scripture to justify it. We look for a God who has rejected his people and we don’t find it. In fact, God never rejects any of his people who look to him in faith. He rejects those who try to work their own salvation. He rejects those who depend on their own righteousness rather than Christ’s righteousness. But that’s the message he’s given us all along. Salvation is of the Lord. It is not of ourselves. There’s no gospel in saying that God has chosen to reject some. No, the gospel of rejection is no gospel at all. It only limits what Jesus has done for us, rather than embracing the full biblical claim for the work of Christ.

So who’s doing the rejection? Because we do confess that not all people are saved. We confess that there are some who will be condemned to eternal torment. We confess that some people are going to die without knowing and believing Jesus, and that their eternal state will be very very bad indeed. Who in our epistle lesson today is doing the rejecting, though? It is not God. On the contrary, in verse 15 of Romans 11, it is Israel doing the rejection. Sinful man is busy rejecting the gospel. Even these people who have been blessed by God over and over again throughout all their history are ready to reject God, to try to work out their own salvation, to depend on their own righteousness. They have rejected God’s salvation and chosen their own version of salvation. This is their condemnation. And in their condemnation, they have not only rejected the gospel of Christ, they also try to make others reject our Lord and Savior. You’ll remember from your readings if you’re following the daily lectionary, that throughout the book of Acts it was the Jews persecuting the Christians. The Roman government really wasn’t doing anything against Christians, but the Jews were.

What does this rejection do? Oddly enough, we find that where Christ’s people face opposition the body of Christ grows and flourishes. Where we have to stand up for our faith and defend the claims of Christ we grow bold in the faith and realize that our Lord is in fact exactly who he claims to be, the savior of the world, victorious over death, hell and the grave. You might think of opposition to Christ being sort of like pruning of a bush. Surely you’ve done this. If you’re like me you haven’t done it quite as regularly as would be best, but I bet you’ve experienced what happens when you trim most bushes. They grow back thicker than before. Where you cut the end off of a branch it forks into more branches. If you want the shrubs in your yard to be nice and bushy you need to trim them frequently. It seems backwards, but it works. The same thing happens with Christians. Do you want to learn how to defend your faith? Go somewhere that makes you defend it. Do you want to learn to pray? Come before the Lord in situations where you realize your prayers are what will make a difference. Do you want to see the Lord working in your community? Ask him to do his will regardless of the cost to you. As we learn to trust in our Lord, to consider our neighbor’s needs as more important than ours, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to confess our sins to one another, praying for each other, then we will learn what our Lord and Savior would do in our communities. Then we will see how we can be God’s hand extended to bring knowledge of his redeeming love to our neighbor.

What if we are rejected? Does that matter? Or do we see that Jesus is simply being rejected again, just as we reject him over and over again? Maybe we see that we are just the kind of people Paul claims the Jews are, people who reject the grace of God and try to work out salvation on our own terms. Maybe we see that we “who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy” (Romans 11.30, ESV). Maybe we see that there is a sort of a gospel of rejection after all, but that the one who is rejected is Jesus, who is rejected and forsaken by God the Father on account of our sin which he bears on his shoulders. Maybe there is a gospel of rejection as we see that Jesus was rejected so we would be accepted. Maybe there is a gospel of rejection as we see that our sin is rejected and is put to death on the cross of Christ. And as we see Jesus being rejected again and again we begin to step up and defend him before our neighbors. As we see Jesus cast out of our society we realize that the very people who are rejecting him are those for whom he died. As we see that our Lord has called all people to himself, despite their rejection of him, we decide that we will follow Jesus no matter the cost, for he has come to us at the cost of his life.

Our God has not rejected his people. There is only one predestination. There are not two. And God’s call, his destiny for you and for me is this. Salvation is in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, who has given himself as the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. What do we do? We believe. We look to him as the sufficient sacrifice. We look to him as the savior. We simply believe that Jesus has given his life as an atonement for our sin. And in that belief we walk in this world, being salt and light, loving our neighbor as ourselves, bearing with us the Christ who is life and salvation.

What if we are rejected? Then it is our Savior who is rejected, not us. Is it serious? Certainly it is, for those who reject the message of the gospel reject Jesus himself. They have rejected life and salvation. It is indeed a matter of life and death. Yet it does not harm us in any way. When people reject Jesus they do not change anything he has done. They don’t change who he is. They condemn themselves. May the Lord have mercy on us and on our neighbors, calling our community to believe and receive the life and salvation in Christ.

Our Lord, make us your faithful servants. Show yourself to our community through our testimony. Draw people to you in faith. Grant us persistence to bring the message of the gospel over and over again. And in all things let us look to you, the author and finisher of our salvation. Amen.

Psalm 33.13-21, 2 Samuel 1.1-27, 1 Corinthians 7.25-40 - Lectionary for 8/14/11

Today's readings are Psalm 33.13-21, 2 Samuel 1.1-27, and 1 Corinthians 7.25-40.

How do we react to the misfortunes of those who oppress us? Do we rejoice? Are we pleased that they finally got what they deserved? May we rather learn from what David did in response to Saul's death. He protected Saul's reputation, just as he had when he lived. He reminded the people of Judah how their king had shared prosperity with them. He praised the good aspects of the man who was anointed by God as the king.

What happens when we concentrate on the favorable aspects of those who have sinned against us? We learn to honor them and dwell on what is good. We learn to forgive, as our God in Christ forgave us while we were yet sinners. May we have the grace to bring such reconciliation to our little corners of the world.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Psalm 68.1-6, 1 Samuel 31.1-13, 1 Corinthians 7.1-24 - Lectionary for 8/13/11

Today's readings are Psalm 68.1-6, 1 Samuel 31.1-13, and 1 Corinthians 7.1-24.

Our passage today from 1 Corinthians 7 is sometimes used to suggest that Paul gives his opinion on divorce but that it is not binding. He says in 1 Corinthians 7.10 that he, not the Lord, says we who are married should remain married. It may be helpful to us to observe that 1 Corinthians may well have been written before any of the Gospels. However, if we consider that Luke 1 and John 21 suggest there were collections of sayings and deeds of Jesus prior to the composition of the canonical Gospels, it is easy to take away the idea that Paul could not find a specific quote from Jesus about this situation but that the overall thrust of Scripture and apostolic teaching pointed him to this conclusion.

How seriously do we take our marriage vows? What of our other obligations? Do we trust our Lord can work through our situation and use us no matter what? Or do we act as though Jesus' death on the cross had nothing to do with the sin and failings we and those around us show every day? May the Lord give us grace to deal with whatever situation he has given us. May we be his instruments of peace and reconciliation in this world, though all our vocations, every day.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Psalm 99.1-5, 1 Samuel 28.3-25, 1 Corinthians 6.1-20 - Lectionary for 8/12/11

Today's readings are Psalm 99.1-5, 1 Samuel 28.3-25, and 1 Corinthians 6.1-20.

For every one of us there comes a day of reckoning. Some of us, like Saul, have an opportunity to reflect on the way our life has been spent. In the case of Saul, his adult life was spent defending himself and protecting his interests against all others, including David.

What did Samuel tell Saul? All he had worked for would be ruined. He could not save it. The kingdom was being given, against all of Saul's efforts, to David. And it would be transferred through a catastrophic military defeat. There was nothing he could do. He was responsible for this great failure.

Whose interests are we busy defending? Do we fight for our own agenda, or will we look to the interests of others? In 1 Corinthians 6 we are called to glorify God by loving our neighbor, not protecting ourselves. May we have grace to reflect on our lives and glorify God in all things, looking to the interests of our neighbors above ourselves.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Psalm 51.10-13, 1 Samuel 26.1-25, 1 Corinthians 5.1-13 - Lectionary for 8/11/11

Today's readings are Psalm 51.10-13, 1 Samuel 26.1-25, and 1 Corinthians 5.1-13.

Repentance. It's a difficult thing. Or at least it should be. Like Saul in today's reading, we are often confronted with our sin. We see our need to repent. And once in a while we are moved to sorrow and repentance. What do we do then? It's as likely as not that we turn around and enter into sin again. It may not be precisely the same sin. We may wait a while. It may not be immediate. But, as I frequently observe to people I'm visiting or counseling, we confess we are sinners, and sinners sin against God and other people. That's just what we do. We're good at it.

Like Saul, we are confronted with our sin. Like the Corinthians in today's reading we are told to cleanse ourselves from sin. But why? Because Christ the Passover has been sacrificed for us. At the Passover the Israelites purged their houses of leaven, eating only unleavened bread. This leaven, almost always a biblical symbol of sin, is to be removed and be replaced with Christ, the Paschal Lamb, the one sinless substitute for us.

Are we moved to repentance? Let us then be filled with Christ, who has given himself for us.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Psalm 14, 1 Samuel 25.23-44, 1 Corinthians 4.1-21 - Lectionary for 8/10/11 - Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

Today is the commemoration of Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr.

Today's readings are Psalm 14, 1 Samuel 25.23-44, and 1 Corinthians 4.1-21.

In our readings today we remember that we have only incomplete knowledge. In one way or another, most of the time we are like Nabal. We are blissfully unaware of the trouble that lurks around every corner. how many times have we missed harm? How many times have dangers passed us by when we were not watching? If we were made aware of all that our Lord sees we would surely die of fright.

The apostle Paul reminds us to have a sober mind. We should not think too highly of ourselves or our security. After all, Christians are really stewards of the mysteries of Christ. We do not get to invent theology. We do not get to create the Christian faith. There's no place for innovation. We simply act as stewards of what God has delivered to the apostles through Jesus, and what those apostles have passed on to us. Christians, in a sense, are the ultimate traditionalists.

May the Lord put a holy fear in us when we decide we know how to branch out and be creative.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Psalm 94.8-15, 1 Samuel 25.1-22, 1 Corinthians 3.1-23 - Lectionary for 8/9/11

Today's readings are Psalm 94.8-15, 1 Samuel 25.1-22, and 1 Corinthians 3.1-23.

We read more today about wisdom and foolishness. David has an encounter with Nabal, the fool who will not recognize the fact that David's forces have protected his livelihood. Our New Testament reading, from 1 Corinthians 3, points to the wisdom of God. As Jesus did not consider his exalted place in heaven, but humbled himself (Philippians 2), we see the apostles also did the job placed in front of them by their Lord, not worrying about their rank or office. What were Paul and Apollos doing? They were simply carrying on the work the Lord had given them. The results depend on God. The work is given to the believers. And as we work in the building, the Church, laid on the foundation of Christ, our work will be evident. We are responsible to look to our Lord as the rule, the foundation, and to remember that we are building a temple of God, not a temple to ourselves.

This is divine wisdom indeed. Let us look to our Lord, being committed to Christ the Savior, allowing him to use us as his tools in his kingdom, exalting him, not ourselves.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Psalm 62.1-7, 1 Samuel 24.1-22, 1 Corinthians 1.26-2.16 - Lectionary for 8/8/11

Today's readings are Psalm 62.1-7, 1 Samuel 24.1-22, and 1 Corinthians 1.26-2.16.

Our reading today in 1 Corinthians serves as an apt commentary on the selection from 1 Samuel. Why did David spare Saul? Why did he repent of even his act of cutting the corner off of Saul's robe? Why did David pledge to care for the household of Saul after Saul's death? As we read in 1 Corinthians 1, God has chosen that which is foolish and weak in the eyes of this world to show His own wisdom and power.

What is our attitude? Do we come into this world as the apostle did, determined to know Christ crucified as our answer? Do we approach our world in humility, looking to our Lord and Savior as our only hope in this world and in the life to come? Or do we try to win people with our powerful arguments, our advanced degrees, our rhetorical prowess, or our fine-tuned bibliographical references? While we don't wish to be demeaning toward those who can make great arguments, who have an excellent academic background, or who have gifts in research and writing, yet we confess the wisdom of God. Let us have the mind of Christ, as did the apostle Paul.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sermon for 8/7/11 "Didn't You Know?"

SERMON “Didn’t You Know?” Audio link

Our Lord, you who lovingly care for all this world, guide our hearts and our minds into your truth, that we may see your majesty and trust in your mighty hand. Amen.

Maybe you’ve had the experience of the nice police officer asking you if you know why he has stopped your car. Or you have had the pleasure of receiving a letter from the Internal Revenue Service pointing out a discrepancy in your tax return. Or maybe, and this one is a lot worse, you’ve had a conversation with your wife who was convinced you had forgotten her birthday or your anniversary. Surely you knew when the meeting was. Didn’t you know you had be there a half hour early? Everybody knows you can’t receive a text message here. The date for the final exam was posted on the board, didn’t you see it?

Sometimes, no, often we need to be reminded of our own frailty. We find that we have been exalting ourselves and deciding we are quite sufficient. This happened to our friend Job in a big way. He was defending his own righteousness throughout his time of trial. And God agreed. Job was righteous. This is the claim God made for Job when Satan asked him if he knew where he could find a righteous man. Yet at some point in Job’s discussion with his friends Job moves from having sober judgment about himself to thinking too highly of himself (Romans 12.3). Job begins thinking he should have a talk with God and remind God that he, Job, knows right and wrong. God’s response is to point to Job’s inadequacy before the true God.

You saw all these questions God asked. Did you notice that they didn’t pick on Job? Our Lord shows his greatness and glory, not to run Job down, but to let Job run himself down. Job does well, no doubt. Yet in comparison with God Job is not worthy of praise. Didn’t you know what was going on when the world was created? Oh. I did. I was there. Didn’t you know where the undersea fountains are? I made them and put them in their places. I know how they work. How about the tides? Ever wonder? I’m the one who directs the traffic.You see the hearts of people and know all the ways the wicked are wicked, right? No? Oh. I do. Well, so, Job, what do you know? Surely there’s something you know about that I don’t. There isn’t? Oh. I’m so sorry. Well, now, that does put you in a state, doesn’t it.

Some people say that the goodness and grace of God doesn’t drive us to repentance. But it does. After all, it allows us to see our poverty before God. So our Lord can use the wonders of his presence, his love, his provision for us to create repentance in our hearts. We see him for who he is and we are confronted with our own inability.

This saga continues in our reading from Romans 10. Our Lord asks us again, “Didn’t you know?” But look how the questioning goes here. Didn’t you know that righteousness is by faith, and that faith is directed toward the Lord Jesus Christ? We start to see some glimmers of hope because we do know that. Maybe we needed to be reminded of it, but we did know it. We’ve heard it. It doesn’t take much time around Christians to hear this, at least I hope it doesn’t. Didn’t you know that we trust in Christ and confess with our mouths that God raised him from the dead? You did know that belief on Christ’s death, burial and resurrection on your behalf saves you, right? And did you know that you are completely safe in his arms as you trust him? Did you know that God sends people to proclaim this gospel of Christ so you can believe? And did you remember that the Lord creates faith in our hearts as we hear? Did you remember that? I hope so.

How about from our Gospel passage for today? Did you know that when Jesus tells his disciples to go across the lake he will make sure they get there? Did you remember that Jesus is the true God and true man, who can suspend the laws of nature when he wishes to do so? Did you remember that Jesus would be able to watch over his disciples and bring them help and comfort when they needed it? You did know that Jesus can direct our faith toward himself and that we are perfectly safe when we are looking to our Lord, right?

What kind of a God do we see in the Bible then? Do you know that he is the creator, redeemer, and sustainer of all creation? Do you remember that Jesus Christ came to be a man, to live a perfect life in your place, to be crucified, killed, buried, and raised again from the dead in your place? Did you know that nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ? Do you know that he calls you again and again to repent and to look to him in faith? Did you remember that he gave his body to be broken for you and his blood to be shed for you, and that he is here, today, really present, for you to receive?

Does this drive us to repentance? Yes, I suppose it does. Does it also remind us that our Lord is the great Savior who provides us with all we need, in whom our salvation begins and ends? Then even as we repent of our sin and inability, let us look to him in joyful expectation. For on this day, the Lord’s day, and especially this Sunday when we receive our Lord’s body and blood given and shed for us, we celebrate his resurrection until he comes. It is a little Easter today and every Sunday, and we joyfully proclaim, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

Our Lord, you were there, there indeed. Thank you for loving us in such a way that you gave yourself into death on our behalf, rising again as the firstfruits of the resurrection. Remind us of your mercy and your grace. Give us your joy and peace in the comfort of the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Psalm 144.3-10, 1 Samuel 20.24-42, 1 Corinthians 1.1-25 - Lectionary for 8/7/11

Today's readings are Psalm 144.3-10, 1 Samuel 20.24-42, and 1 Corinthians 1.1-25

Our world cries out for unity. So do many Church leaders today. But what kind of unity are we pursuing? All too often the calls for unity which I hear are asking that we set aside our differences rather than working through them to reach a sound, biblical consensus. Granted, we may not be able to reach agreement in all facets of doctrine and practice. Yet when we neglect the chance to pursue unity, we deny the fact that our Lord has really and truly revealed himself in a clear, distinct manner.

Paul's caution to the Corinthians is well-fit for today. We ought to be about the message of Christ crucified for sinners. This is the historic call of Christ's Church. May we seek our God's wisdom and follow his priorities in all our life and message.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Psalm 92.1-9, 1 Samuel 20.1-23, Acts 28.16-31 - Lectionary for 8/6/11

Today's readings are Psalm 92.1-9, 1 Samuel 20.1-23, and Acts 28.16-31.

We can never know for certain where we will find support and where we will find criticism. David, accepted into the household of Saul, is put to flight by the king he has honored. Yet he is aided and protected by the son of the king - the very person who has the most to gain from David's demise. Paul continues to see a mix of acceptance and rejection by the Jews, his kinsmen who would recognize his training and experience. In the final analysis, we look to the Lord for support and care. We will find help no other place. Let us trust in our Lord Jesus Christ who has borne all our sins and clothed us with his perfect righteousness. We need nothing more. We can know that he will never leave us or forsake us.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Psalm 21.1-7, 1 Samuel 19.1-24, Acts 28.1-15 - Lectionary for 8/5/11

Today's readings are Psalm 21.1-7, 1 Samuel 19.1-24, and Acts 28.1-15.

Our Psalm today proclaims that we can trust in God no matter the circumstances. We see David and Paul living this out in the other readings. What is there for us to fear? Do we fear the unknown? There is nothing which is unknown to God. Maybe we fear what we know? Is there anything that we will face today which Jesus has not faced? There is no pain, no terror, which our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has not faced, endured, and triumphed over. There is no situation that he cannot redeem by his grace. No, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8). Then let us be strong in the Lord, trusting his loving care for us in all that he has given us this day. It is all under his loving, protective grace.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Psalm 56.1-4, 1 Samuel 18.10-30, Acts 27.27-44 - Lectionary for 8/4/11

Today's readings are Psalm 56.1-4, 1 Samuel 18.10-30, and Acts 27.27-44.

In our passage from 1 Samuel for today we see David's power and authority increasing even as Saul's decreases. What is the difference between these two men? Both are anointed by God as the king of Israel. Both are brilliant and proven military leaders. Yet we see that Saul is concerned with retaining power and David is concerned that God should get the glory and exercise power as he wishes.

What are our desires? Are we jealous for Christ's glory and honor or for our own? Whom do we desire to protect? I can answer for myself. All too often I'm just like Saul. My concern is that my kingdom should come and my will should be done. May the Lord grant me repentance to pray for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Psalm 68.4-10, 1 Samuel 17.48-18.9, Acts 27.9-26 - Lectionary for 8/3/11 - Joanna, Mary & Salome, Myrrhbearers

When challenges face God's people, how will they respond? In our reading today from 1 Samuel, all seems well, at least it does at first. The Philistines are routed, Jesse and his family are freed from slavery to their government, and David is no longer a servant in Saul's household. but does this mean the strife is over? Not at all. Saul, feeling threatened by David, keeps a close eye on him. He knows that the king may be threatened by a great warrior.

How do we deal with victories? Do we decide to rest on those times of success? Do we recognize that we are always in new and exciting dangers? Do we try to crush all opposition? We may have all sorts of responses, both good and bad. What we do know, however, is what Paul confesses boldly in Acts. All we endure is in the hand of God, who has not forsaken his people. Let us look to the Lord in all things.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Psalm 71.1-8, 1 Samuel 17.20-47, Acts 26.24-27.8 - Lectionary for 8/2/11

Today's readings are Psalm 71.1-8, 1 Samuel 17.20-47, and Acts 26.24-27.8.

"You are out of your mind: your great learning is driving you out of your mind" (Acts 26.24b, ESV). So Festus rebukes Paul, who is testifying to Christ. Do Christians today receive the same rebuke? Often we are accused of ignorance and a lack of learning. Yet it is not ignorance to live in the hope of the resurrection. Rather, it is those who deny the resurrection, who scoff at the non-material world, who deny the miraculous nature of God, who have limited themselves, and who have an inadequate view of this world.

As David shed the garments of mortal, human protection, trusting in the God who is truly supernatural, may we also shed the limitations of this world, trusting in the true God who works all things according to his good pleasure.

Will we be accepted? Not by all, but we have confidence that we bear witness to the true Lord, the God of life, the Lord of the resurrection. May our learning drive us out of our mind and into the mind of God.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Psalm 70, 1 Samuel 17.1-19, Acts 26.1-23 - Lectionary for 8/1/11

Today's readings are Psalm 70, 1 Samuel 17.1-19, and acts 26.1-23.

Our Psalm sums up today's readings very well. When we are in trouble we call upon God to confuse our enemies. What does the Lord do to the Philistines? He will raise up an unexpected warrior. What does the Lord do for the early Christians who were being persecuted for their faith in Christ? He raises up a servant and witness in Saul of Tarsus, the man voted least likely to help a Christian.

Are we facing challenges? What kind of enemies do we face? Are any greater than the Lord? No, not one is. So we call on God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in living hope of deliverance. He is strong to save. Surely he will cast down His enemies and protect His people.