Monday, October 31, 2011

Adult Bible Class 10/30/11

Caught a recording of our Adult Bible Class yesterday - review of some peacemaking principles, discussion of stewardship of conflicts.

Psalm 46, Deuteronomy 32:28-52, Matthew 20:17-34 - Lectionary for 10/31/11 - Reformation Day

Today is Reformation Day.

Today's readings are Psalm 46, Deuteronomy 32:28-52, and Matthew 20:17-34.

I once knew a lady who was born blind. She attended a church fellowship where on a weekly basis the leaders of the church would stand in front and have a time for people to come and be prayed for. The desire of this lady's heart was that her husband would believe in Jesus as Lord. Yet every time she went for prayer the leaders would pray that she would receive her sight. Needless to say this was discouraging for her. She was comfortable knowing the first face she would ever see would be in eternity. But she was not comfortable with her husband's lack of preparedness.

When the blind men met Jesus he asked them what they wanted. May we who are asked to pray be equally sensitive and perceptive. And when we come before Jesus may we also see that he cares enough to hear our prayer, even if our concern is not the one everyone else thinks it should be.

Sermon for 10/30/11 Reformation Day Observance "Free, Really Free"

Sermon “Free, Really Free”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit – amen.

This evening we are assembled, really a day early, to recognize Reformation Day, the day when Martin Luther tacked 95 debate topics onto the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. These 95 theses, topics for debate, centered around the freedom we have in Christ. He was asking questions that needed to be asked. What is the foundation of salvation? Are we saved by grace through faith? Are we saved by works? Is there some combination of the two? Why, if forgiveness for sin is granted, do we have an idea that we must pay for our sins after we have died? Those were all good questions. They were questions about places where biblical faith and cultural faith came into conflict with each other.

We might ask the same questions today. Then again, maybe we need to ask some other questions today. It might just be that our society runs afoul of biblical faith in slightly different ways. We have to wonder if today, some 494 years later, there might just be other questions to ask. But I won’t try to be a prophet. I don’t think the Lord is directing me to question all the foundational beliefs of American Christianity. And I’m not planning to spend the rest of my life fighting for whatever I might say tonight.

What did Jesus say about our life in him? If the Son sets us free we are free indeed. The Gospel is of God’s grace. It is entirely free for us. We receive forgiveness, life, and salvation freely. Jesus has truly paid it all. And he claims boldy to the the only one who has provided a means of salvation. It is found nowhere else. We aren’t all following different world religions but going to the same place because we ultimately believe in the same deity. That isn’t the way the world works. The different religions have different beliefs. They understand God differently. And it is only in the Christian faith that we look to the true, triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This claim is different from the claims of the other religions. We also claim that the salvation earned for us by Jesus’ death on the cross is a true substitute for us. We don’t add any merit to Jesus’ death. We don’t bring any righteousness. We’re at the card table of life, but God is the one with all the cards. We don’t have anything to play. Yet in his grace and mercy our Lord has set us free. he has called us to the table. He has set life and salvation before us. He has given us Word and Sacrament. And he lets us respond. He tells us we are free. And we are. We are free as free can be.

How do we react to this freedom? If the Son has set us free we are free. But what if, like the Jews who were talking to Jesus, we say that we have never been in bondage? What if we deny that we need his salvation? What then? We’re transformed into people at the card table of life, with no cards, and we have to play. We get to work out our own salvation. We have to earn our way into God’s favor. This we cannot do. Yet it is the dreadful news that so many in the American church today take as the gospel. They preach a gospel of self-help. They preach a gospel of works salvation. They preach that you can do better by just trying. And in doing so they deny the true gospel of salvation only through faith in Jesus.

May we never fall into this trap! May the Lord bless us to hold firm to the true gospel. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, with that faith directed to Christ alone, with glory given to God alone. This is the Reformation of October 31, 1517. This is the Reformation of today. If the Son has set us free we are free indeed. We look to him for life and salvation, realizing that we have no power of our own to earn our salvation. We have power only of condemnation, disobedience, and death. May the Lord preserve us!

Our Lord, you have given yourself freely so as to draw all men to you. You have granted life and ssalvation through faith in your name. And as you have given freely, we are to give freely. Grant that we may believe you when you say you have accomplished salvation on our behalf. Make us to walk in your paths, freely giving our society the good news, the true gospel, the news that you have come to set us free from sin and death. This we pray in the name of the Jesus, God the Son, for you live, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever interceding on our behalf. Amen.

Sermon for 10/30/11 "True Prophecy"

SERMON “True Prophecy” Audio link

Direct us, Lord, to bring you glory and delight. Live in us so we may delight in you. Amen.

There’s a right time to mourn for our unrighteousness. It isn’t a time we want. But it’s a time we need. As we look to Reformation Day tomorrow – celebrated this evening, we ask ourselves an important question. Why do we need reformations? It’s about time that we admit it. We do need reformation, though we would like to deny it. Our Old Testament and Gospel passages for today make it very clear. And they are hard-hitting. Especially the passage from Micah is rough on us. What will we do with the Word of God? More importantly, to the point, what will our Lord do among us with his Word? So we will move along. We will look bravely at our passage from Micah 3. may the Lord use his Word to reform us as well.

What are the leaders of God’s people doing? They hate good and love evil (v. 2). They harm God’s people – acting as cutthroats, murderers, cannibals (v. 3). Should we take verse 3 literally? Actually, there is no evidence of cannibalism in Israel. But we can see that kind of killing and eating going on today as well. Does anyone here know a cutthroat businessman? I ask you not to point at anyone in the room. But we know some of those people. If they can get something for themselves they will. There’s no concern for the health of the business. There’s no concern for the customer. It’s the profit of the moment that counts. I’ll take all I can and give as little back as possible.

Woe to me if I should do that to you! That shows that I hate good and love evil! But some of us have seen this in the Church. It is nothing new. It was there in Israel at the time of Micah, about 3000 years ago. It was there at the time of Jesus. It was a crisis point in the 1500s with Martin Luther. And it’s with us today. May the Lord reform his Church. It isn’t God’s purpose for the Church to kill and eat her people. It is God’s will for his shepherds to nurture their flock. My job is to feed you, to care for you when you are weak, to delight in you when you are flourishing.

What happens, though, when we are not engaged in this? What goes on when we are not being reformed by our Lord’s word? Then in verse 4 we see a dreadful situation. What do you expect when I pray for you? Not that I pray any better than any of you. Maybe I get more practice, at least in public. Maybe I have a cool voice. I’m not sure. But you like me to pray. And you expect what I expect. Or at least I hope we learn, bit by bit, to expect when we pray what we expected when we were young. Do we expect that Jesus will answer us when we pray? I hope so. He’s promised to be with us. We know he can hear and answer. But what happens in verse 4? God will not hear the prayers of those priests and rulers who have turned to evil instead of good.

What will we do if our Lord has abandoned us? We have no life, no hope, no future. We are blind. We will have no way to find what we need. Our death sentence is sealed. Woe to us when we refuse the calling of God. Woe to use when we treat God’s people as those to be plundered. Woe to us when we flee from God’s gracious commands.

This has been heavy so far. And the weight of Micah’s prophecy is enormous indeed. As Luther puts it, the Law crushes us. It makes us despair. If we are comfortable in our righteousness let us ask our Lord to confront us with his Law.

But if we leave it there we’ve done no good. We left you despairing. Don’t leave yet. I want to turn the page and look to the Gospel. For there is hope here. There is life here. We know something that Micah didn’t know. I know, though, as biblical scholars, that you know what happened to Micah’s people, the people of Judah, the line of promise, the people from whom the Messiah would come. Not long after Micah’s time the Assyrians came. And what did they do? They took away the northern ten tribes who were assimilated into the other nations and never emerged again. But God preserved his chosen people, the people of Judah. God preserved the line of the Messiah, Jesus, who came to cleanse us from sin. God preserved his people.

Why did he do that? Not because of their righteousness. Not because of their faith. Not even because they reformed themselves. Our salvation is not because of our works. We’re condemned. We’re blind, we’re deaf, we’re dead. We do not offer prayers that result in deliverance. That’s what the priests said to do. That’s what Rome told people to do at the time of Luther. That’s what much of American evangelicalism would tell us today. We gather as many people as possible together and if our prayers are good enough maybe God will hear us. It sounds like a good idea. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, it won’t work.

How did God deliver Judah? He did it not through their prayers. He did it by his good pleasure. He kept his promise and he did it despite the unrighteousness of his people. He raised up a deliverer – not because of our cries to him, but because he said the time was fulfilled. This was the other, unspoken part of Micah’s message. This was the deliverance. Though his people were unfaithful, yet God remained faithful. Though they were vile murderers, yet God was the God of life. According to the great love of God he preserved his promised people, preserving the line of Jesus, the Messiah. Even though God’s people could not call on God rightly, he raised up Jesus, the one who would live, pray, and even die on our behalf to renew us. He has ushered us out of our own realm, our own kingdom, a kingdom of death. He has created faith in our hearts and made us trust on him for all we need.

Some 1500 years later we see the Church by and large telling people what they needed to do to earn their salvation. We needed reformation again. By his grace God raised up reformers like Martin Luther who pointed us back to Christ’s work on our behalf. But is the work done? No, we still need reformation. We need our Lord to draw us into his Word. We need him to use Word and Sacrament to show us once again that he has accomplished salvation on our behalf. We cannot and will not repent well enough. May the Lord work repentance and faith in us, turning us from our self-centered evil. May he put our attempts at righteousness to death, bringing us to life by faith in our Lord, the one who takes his righteousness and places it upon us.

Lord, reform us always. Amen.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Psalm 90:7-17, Deuteronomy 31:30-32:27, Matthew 20:1-16 - Lectionary for 10/30/11

Today's readings are Psalm 90:7-17, Deuteronomy 31:30-32:27, and Matthew 20:1-16.

We read today in Deuteronomy a lament of Moses. Really it is a prophetic lament of God, describing the Lord's faithfulness and Israel's idolatry. There's a recurring theme of God rejecting Israel's innovations. They go after new gods, they invent new forms of worship, they forget what the Lord has given them in the past. In so doing they reject the God who has loved and nurtured them. They are no longer God's covenant children. Yet God is still their father. He has established his covenant and will guard his children for the sake of his name, even as his children drive themselves to destruction and ruin.

Our Lord has shown his mercy throughout history. Will we try to invent something newer and better or will we rest in his covenant of grace?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Psalm 56, Deuteronomy 31:1-29, Matthew 19:16-30 - Lectionary for 10/29/11

Today's readings are Psalm 56, Deuteronomy 31:1-29, and Matthew 19:16-30.

Our Psalm today sums up the main theme of the Old Testament and Gospel readings. When we see our lives as ineffective and our tasks as impossible then our Lord shows himself to be the God who accomplishes all things according to his perfect will. See how the Lord brings his rebellious people into the promised land and will still be their God despite their idolatry. See how Jesus promises to be the great reward of those who give up everything for his sake.

What does this say to us? As Moses laid down his very life, trusting in God's mercy, leaving his people to the grace of God, we also can trust that our Lord Jesus will keep his promises, bringing us forgiveness and life.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Psalm 127, Deuteronomy 30:1-20, Matthew 19:1-15 - Lectionary for 10/28/11 - Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles

Today is the Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles.

Today's readings are Psalm 127, Deuteronomy 30;1-20, and Matthew 19:1-15.

Again in today's readings our Lord sets out life and death, blessing and cursing before us. Do we receive our Lord and Savior with all his blessings? Or do we try to make our own way of salvation, which leads only to the curse of God and our destruction? Do we receive God's promises like little children who accept his love by trusting in Him? May we ever have grace to trust that his promises are for us, that he has sworn by himself to bless us and bring us safely into his kingdom with life that has no end. May we be shown faithful, as He remains faithful. This is what we see in that apostolic band, as they carry the message of Jesus' atoning death and resurrection as the firstfruits of the resurrection at the end of the world. May we likewise carry the Gospel with us wherever we go, even to die with Christ.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Psalm 20, Deuteronomy 29:1-29, Matthew 18:21-35 - Lectionary for 10/27/11

Today's readings are Psalm 20, Deuteronomy 29:1-29, and Matthew 18:21-35.

We are warned in today's readings against an arrogant spirit. Since I said that you might expect me to go straight to our Gospel reading. But in fact I'm thinking about the warning of Deuteronomy 29:18-19. How should we react to God's deliverance? Will we have a believing heart and confess that we have been chosen by God not due to our goodness but purely from his grace? Or will we decide that God showed good judgment because we're the kind of people who deserved mercy? Will we become unbelieving in our arrogance? Or will we confess that we stand only in the redeeming love of our savior?

So we go to the parable after all. What was our debt of sin? It was a debt we could never pay. Let us then accept God's grace as what it is - pure grace that forgives us. We have no call for arrogance, only grateful thanksgiving.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Psalm 12, Deuteronomy 28:1-22, Matthew 18:1-20 - Lectionary for 10/26/11 - Commemoration of Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heerman, and Paul Gerhardt, Hymnwriters

Today is the commemoration of Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heerman, and Paul Gerhardt, Hymnwriters.

Today's readings are Psalm 12, Deuteronomy 28:1-22, and Matthew 18:1-20.

Today in our reading from Deuteronomy we see the blessings to counter the curses we read yesterday. Often when Christians think of blessings we are ashamed of ourselves. We try to restrict our thoughts of blessing to spiritual well-being and to good feelings. yet the blessings God promises in Deuteronomy 28 are very concrete. God promises his blessings of food, drink, offspring, successful farms, all manner of blessings we might reject as "merely temporal." Yet this is the way God often shows his blessing. may we never reject the way our Lord desires to bless us.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Psalm 93, Deuteronomy 27:1-26, Matthew 17:14-27 - Lectionary for 10/25/11 - Commemoration of Dorcas, Lydia, and Phoebe, Faithful Women

Today is the commemoration of Dorcas, Lydia, and Phoebe, Faithful Women.

Today's readings are Psalm 93, Deuteronomy 27:1-26, and Matthew 17:14-27.

Blessings and curses. Sometimes we would like to evade one or the other. Just as I know some people who emphasize only the negatives, God's curse against unbelief and disobedience, I also know many people who won't talk about the things of cursing but only about God's blessing.

But the blessing and cursing have to be held in tension with one another. If we don't see how God blesses his children, how will we understand the severity of his curse? If we don't see the terror of God's judgment against sin how will we understand the love of God, who loved us in Christ while we were yet sinners? We need the blessing and the cursing together. As we hear both, we are able to look to our Lord and see him clearly as he is.

May God be praised in all things.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Psalm 99, Deuteronomy 25:17-26:19, Matthew 17:1-13 - Lectionary for 10/24/11

Today's readings are Psalm 99, Deuteronomy 25:17-26:19, and Matthew 17:1-13.

How do we look to Jesus? Today in the account of the transfiguration we may find ourselves looking to Jesus as the one who made us to find a new means of worship. There's a temptation, as the apostles found, to try to do something - anything - which could specially recognize Jesus when we get a glimpse of his glory. Yet what we see is that God can bring glory to himself all by himself without depending on us to set up tabernacles or build altars. How then do we respond when we are confronted by Jesus' glory? As the Father tells the apostles, we are to listen to Jesus. In our Savior we see the riches of God's glory. We look to him and receive his word. Our words will add nothing.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sermon for 10/23/11 "Two Great Commands"

Sermon for 10/23/11 "Two Great Commands" audio link
Lord, open our hearts to hear from your word. May we hear you rightly and seek your kingdom and glory now and forever, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

You’ve probably heard the debates, or at least heard about them. Those debates that go on about posting the Ten Commandments in public places. Some people like having the Ten Commandments up in the courtroom or on a plaque in the park. Sometimes teachers want to post them in their classrooms. There was a lawsuit in St. Louis not that long ago about a grocery store where the commandments were posted. There are some people in our society who want to do away with God’s Law wherever it shows up. And there are some people who will fight to the death, it seems, to make sure that the Ten Commandments are posted in courtrooms and in city, state, and national parks. You know, as do I, that the people on each side of the debate will stop at nothing. Both sides are convinced of their arguments. And they’ve been carrying this argument on for a long, long time.

Yet today we see two commands, the commands that Jesus says are the greatest commands. This is what our Lord and Savior says our society should be built on. Or at least he’s saying that our lives should be built on these two commands. What are these commands and why are they so revolutionary? What are we going to do about what our Lord has proclaimed here?

First let’s re-visit the commands. There’s “love the Lord your God with all your . . . “ you can fill in the blank. Some places where the Scripture says this it lists heart, soul, mind, and strength. Sometimes it leaves out strength. In any case it’s talking about everything you have. Love God with everything you have. Then what’s the other command? Love your neighbor. Notice there is no third command saying we have to love ourselves. The Bible never sees us as loving ourselves too little. Not at all. We love ourselves plenty, so we’re supposed to love our neighbor that much. Love God. Love neighbor. It seems like a pretty complete picture. So there are our commands. What makes them so revolutionary?

Seen from one point of view there’s nothing revolutionary at all about these commands. They are perfectly normal things for God to say and he’s said them many times in the past. But from another point of view this should rattle your cage. It should make you wonder what happened to your world. These commands should be a little hard for you to understand. Here’s why. When we ask what we are supposed to do we normally want instructions about activities. That’s why the Ten Commandments are so easy to understand. Don’t steal. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t murder. I can understand those physical activities quite well. It may be difficult to live in obedience to those commands sometimes but we do understand what God is commanding. Now how about a command to love the Lord with all your resources? What does that mean you’re supposed to do? It isn’t as straightforward as it seems, is it? Are our heart, soul, mind, and strength four different characteristics? Does each one represent our whole being? Where does money come in there? How about time? To what extent, and more importantly, in what way, do we love God? Does this mean that everyone is supposed to engage in what we call “full-time Christian service”? We have a lot of examples of people who are pleasing to God who did not do that. So how are we going to love God as we repair the farm machines? How are we going to love God while we sell shoes? how are we going to love God while we change a baby’s diaper or sweep the floor?

Our Lord hasn’t told us all the details of how we will occupy our time. He has simply told us to love him entirely while doing what we are doing. That’s not only difficult enough for us to understand, it’s really difficult for us to get over the idea that we will have a checklist of the things to do in order to be acceptable in God’s eyes. He didn’t give us a checklist. He didn’t give us an agenda. He told us to love him entirely all the time. Not only is that revolutionary. It’s impossible, isn’t it? We’ll take just a little example. If you love someone you listen to what he is saying, don’t you? Maybe I should ask my daughter to confirm. Right? And she predictably would answer by asking what I just said. How many times do we tune out what the people we love are doing? How many times have you checked out during this divine service? During this sermon? How many times has my mind wandered? Plenty. We fail all the time. We don’t worship God like we should. We don’t pray like we should.

There’s a story, likely not true, that Martin Luther once wanted to demonstrate to another priest that we don’t pay good attention as we pray. He challenged this other priest to pray the Lord’s prayer without distraction and Luther would give his fellow priest a horse. The other priest said he certainly could do that. “Our Father, which art in heaven, does it have a saddle?”

Yes, we fail. We don’t love God as he has commanded. What are we going to do about it? Are we going to realize our sin? Are we going to confess our sin and know that the Lord is faithful and just to forgive us? Are we going to give up on trying to love God simply because we fail? Or will we look to Jesus’ perfect righteousness which is entirely pleasing to God the Father? Will we look to our Lord for his forgiveness and for the life which he gives us? It’s very important that we do so, and that is because of the second great commandment.

Remember that second great commandment? Love your neighbor as yourself. This is the way we find ourselves pleasing God. This is the way we find ourselves loving God. As we delight in caring for the needs of those around us we can also find that we are delighting in God as he provides for those others. We find that as we pray the Lord will give us our daily bread we are also involved in his work of giving people their daily bread. We find that we are the instruments Jesus uses to love his people in our communities. We are the hands of Jesus extended to the world. We are the ones giving help, comfort, prosperity, and peace to our world. This is pleasing to God. As we view our life and our work in light of the Gospel we see that no matter what our occupation is we can use it to be God’s means of loving this world. All that we do can show the praises of God.

Once again, are we doing it from the right motives? Not usually. We catch ourselves doing something helpful and receiving the praise of our neighbors. Then we want to take that praise for ourselves rather than giving glory to God. As soon as we realize we’ve done something good we seem to be able to turn it around to a self-centered purpose. We realize that we are ultimately loving ourselves even when we set out to love our neighbors. Maybe if I take care of his needs he will do something nice for me. Maybe if I help my neighbor with his problems he won’t bother me as much. Maybe I’ll feel better about myself when I win over all these people around me by my good works. We always tend to turn our good works into works done for us rather than for our neighbor.

Again we are brought to ourfailure. We are brought to our sin whenever we look at God’s commands. We see our need to repent. So where’s the good news in all this? I do have good news for you. You know that by now. Here’s that revolutionary good news. No, I’ll ask you a few questions and let you figure it out yourselves. That’s more fun.

Who loves God perfectly? Jesus. Who loves his neighbor as himself? Jesus. Now let me ask you. How has Jesus loved you and me, his neighbors? He does not want us to perish but to have everlasting life. So he has given himself as a substitute for us. He took on the full burden of all our sin and shame. He carried the wrath of God against all unrighteousness, including our unrighteousness. He himself was crushed for our sin. Why is this? It’s because he loves God with all his heart and he loves us as himself. He loves us enough to restore us to the perfect life of joy and peace in the presence of God the Father which he had from the beginning. There’s your good news. Even as we fail to love God and our neighbor we see that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has done all that is necessary to fulfill all righteousness. There is no condemnation for those who look to Jesus. None at all. On our behalf he has loved God perfectly. And his love for God is shown as he loves us as he loves himself.

Let us pray. Our Lord, you have loved us. While we were yet sinners you loved us and died for us. We pray now that you would give us a heart of love for you, a trust in you, and a desire to love and serve our neighbors as you have loved and served us. Enable us in our efforts. And when we realize the sin with which we corrupt our obedience to your will, correct us. Grant us repentance and faith that we may go forth in your name again as your instruments in this world. Amen.

Psalm 107:10-16, Deuteronomy 24:10-25:10, Matthew 16:13-28 - Lectionary for 10/23/11 - Feast ofSt. James of Jerusalem, Brother of Jesus, Martyr

Today is the Feast of St. James of Jerusalem, Brother of Jesus, Martyr.

Today's readings are Psalm 107:10-16, Deuteronomy 24:10-25:10, and Matthew 16:13-28.

Matthew 16:24 is often quoted as a call to repentance. It is used to beg unbelieving people that they should obey and follow Jesus. Yet we are well advised to think about what we read in its context. Jesus is speaking to "disciples." These are people who already are hearing his words. They are with him willingly. So this passage doesn't really fit as a call to unbelievers to repent and follow Jesus. Then we also consider what Jesus calls these people to do. They are to give up their lives for Jesus. When we take up the cross we are embracing shameful criminal death.

Is there gospel in this? Yes, in every way. Look what we receive as we lay our lives down for Jesus. We receive our soul, redeemed for us by our Lord. This is the greatest reward we can imagine. As we give up our lives for Jesus we see that Jesus has given up his life for us. Let us then delight as we receive the life our Lord has redeemed on our account.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sermon for 10/18/11 - Do the Work of an Evangelist

Sermon “Do the Work of an Evangelist”

Lord, open our eyes to the reality of your calling and of your work in us and through us. Amen.

Paul tells Timothy to do the work of an evangelist. What does he mean by this? If we look at the context of the passage today from 2 Timothy we find that Paul seems preoccupied with the fact that he is going to die, that he has been wronged, and that he has been abandoned by some people. He’s cold. He’s tired. Yet that’s only a part of doing the work of an evangelist.

Today, on the feast of St. Luke, Evangelist, we look to our Gospel reading from Luke chapter 10. Jesus sends seventy people out in twos. They are to bring nothing of their own. They don’t carry their own supplies. They don’t make provisions. They don’t need any weapons, no extra shoes, and they aren’t to stop in anywhere asking someone to furnish them with all that. Rather, they go to a home in a town and they proclaim the peace of God over that home. What happens then? If it is the right home, the peace of God dwells on it. If not, the peace of God comes back to dwell on them. In their work as evangelists, proclaimers of the good news of Christ coming for sinners, they bring God’s peace. They apply it to the people they encounter. And they will find that God’s peace, his good will, is all they need. In light of the mercy and grace of God, all else that these disciples will need is taken care of.

Our Lord called Luke, who is often pictured as some sort of physician, to be a physician of souls. He called him to go and bring the peace of the Lord to the people he encountered. And Luke left his former life to do just what our Lord commanded.

What of us? Do we see our Lord and Savior calling us to a life that is different from the life from which he redeemed us? Do we see that he loves us too much to leave us in our sin, but rather he changes us? Do we see that he who redeemed our soul will also make us partakers in the bodily resurrection in the last day? Do we see that where Jesus is, all our need will be met? Do we see that we are never alone, that the risen Lord is with us always, even to the end of the world? Then we can walk, as did Luke, rejoicing that our Lord will use us to proclaim his good news, the peace of God. We can bring the joy and comfort of the resurrection with us wherever we go, whoever we are talking to, no matter what we or those around us are facing. We have been given this treasure of the Gospel. We can bring it into every situation.

What if the Gospel is rejected by those around us? Then we can know that they have not rejected us, but have rejected Christ. And the peace of God will return to us.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Psalm 75, Deuteronomy 17:1-20, Matthew 14:1-21 - Lectionary for 10/18/11 - Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist

Today is the Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist.

Today's readings are Psalm 75, Deuteronomy 17:1-20, and Matthew 14:1-21.

Today as we remember Luke the Evangelist we also see in our readings the role of an evangelist. In all our readings today we see that God's people can approach him according to his desire. We look to God where he has revealed himself. We trust in God's grace rather than in the horses, chariots, lawsuits, and political strategems which we may devise. This is the call of the evangelist. Look to God as he has revealed himself in the person and work of Jesus on your behalf. Know that you are safe in his presence, no matter what else you may face in your life. Fear not. God is right there, where he has revealed himself, providing you with all you may need.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


I seem to have fallen off of the posting wagon - fighting a migraine just now and realizing that I haven't prepared blog posts for a little while. Hopefully I'll be back to normal (whatever that is) in the next day or two.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Psalm 119:33-40, Deuteronomy 13:1-18, Matthew 13:1-23 - Lectionary for 10/15/11

Today's readings are Psalm 119:33-40, Deuteronomy 13:1-18, and Matthew 13:1-23.

Today some of the people who have read this blog for a long time will be surprised. The parable of the sower is being dangled in front of me and I'm not biting. From our Old Testament reading, see how our Lord uses temptations. They provide us with an opportunity to see our devotion to obedience to our Lord. They also give us opportunity, ample opportunity, to turn to Jesus in repentance, asking his forgiveness, since we have surely failed.

How devoted are we to keeping God's covenant? Surely not enough. We will fail again and again. As we see in our parable there are plenty of forces at work trying to kill our faith. Yet our Lord has chosen us as his people. How do we come to him? Not in our perfect obedience. That will never work. We don't have that resource. Rather,we come to Jesus in repentance and faith to receive his forgiveness and his perfect righteousness. We can have confidence then. Even as we struggle to keep our Lord's commands, we can see his obedience on our behalf.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Psalm 114, Deuteronomy 12:13-32, Matthew 12:38-50 - Lectionary for 10/14/11

Today's readings are Psalm 114, Deuteronomy 12:13-32, and Matthew 12:38-50.

Our Lord pictures us as his people, his family, in today's readings. This means that we will by nature care for one another. We rightly involve ourselves in a community - gathered in Christ we look to him as the one who meets all our needs. We also rejoice with others who have seen God's provision. As we find our brothers and sisters in need, we try to assist them. All in all we find that we get along well, being supplied by our Lord with every good thing.

How can we be God's instruments in our community? May the Lord who bears our burdens also enable us to bear our neighbors' burden.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Psalm 111, Deuteronomy 11:26-12:12, Matthew 12:22-37 - Lectionary for 10/13/11

Today's readings are Psalm 111, Deuteronomy 11:26-12:12, and Matthew 12:22-37.

I think sometimes we look at life too closely. Of course, sometimes we are not careful enough. But today I'm reminded of times we're tempted to be overly careful. When God brought his people into their promise there was no contest for spirituality. There was no question of how well his people were keeping the covenant. The grim truth of it is that everyone failed to keep covenant. Nobody deserves to be maintained in God's covenant. But the Lord graciously brought his people into the promised land because he had set his favor on them.

Does this mean that our obedience is irrelevant? Not at all. Let the good tree be good and let it bring forth good fruit. Not every blossom grows to good and mature fruit. But God's people are pictured as his fruitful tree. May God grant us to bear much fruit of Christlike behaviors and attitudes, that we may be a blessing to those around us.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Psalm 119:97-104, Deuteronomy 11:1-25, Matthew 12:1-21 - Lectionary for 10/12/11

Today's readings are Psalm 119:97-104, Deuteronomy 11:1-25, and Matthew 12:1-21.

Our readings today explore the dominion which God's people will exercise in the promised land. They will be the rulers, not subject people. They can expect to find a land of plenty. And nobody will stand before them. God is Lord and his people will rule the land as God directs them.

In our Gospel reading we see Jesus as the Lord of all. He's the master of creation, the one who governs the land. How would we expect him to act? Do we see him as a domineering master who exercises authority with an iron fist? No. he's the one who feeds his children and nurtures them according to their need.

May we also, as stewards of God's great promises in Christ, bring healing, hope and life to the world around us.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Psalm 23, Deuteronomy 9:23-10:22, Matthew 11:20-30 - Lectionary for 10/11/11 - Commemoration of Philip the Deacon

Today is the commemoration of Philip the Deacon.

Today's readings are Psalm 23, Deuteronomy 9:23-10:22, and Matthew 11:20-30.

Restoration. Doesn't it feel good? When we are involved in struggles, when we doubt the security of a relationship, often we reach a point where the struggle, the distance, the conflict ends and we can look to our Lord, the restorer of our relationships. This is what we see in our readings today. After the incident of sin with the golden calf Israel is restored. our Lord wants to put the strife to an end so he reconciles his sinful people to himself.

What hope do we in this time have? How will we find reconciliation with our Lord? Jesus calls us. All we do is come to him and we will find rest. he will graciously direct our paths and grant us his peace and rest. Ah, the sweetness of a life reconciled to God!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Psalm 106.1-12; Deuteronomy 9:1-22; Matthew 11:1-19 - Lectionary for 10/10/11

Today's readings are Psalm 106:1-12, Deuteronomy 9:1-22, and Matthew 11:1-19.

There's a common theme in our readings from Deuteronomy and Matthew today. See how in each passage we are told that God's plans are not our plans, that his ways are not our ways. When we seek some plan of salvation on our own terms it will always be based on our works rather than God's works. We pick what is lofty, God picks what is simple and humble. We pick a kingly looking ruler. Jesus looks anything but kingly.

What then? Do we accept that salvation is by grace through faith? Do we truly realize that Jesus has accomplished salvation and that there is nothing we contribute or add? May God protect us, that we should be found looking to his grace, not our works, finding our sufficiency in Christ Jesus.

Sermon for 10/9/11 - Come to the Banquet

SERMON “Come to the Banquet” audio link

Lord, let us feast on your word and drink deeply of your spirit as we receive your gracious command. Amen.

I know what some of you have started thinking. At least I know what some of you will be thinking about in a few minutes. You saw the sermon title. It’s November. There’s a banquet coming, a dinner. And you have started to think about it. Tender, succulent turkey, roasted to perfection. Dressing. Mashed potatoes. Carrots. Rivers of butter. Gravy, steaming and creamy. And even though you’ve eaten more than any normal human being could eat in one week, when you push back your plate you are ready for pie. There’s a banquet to be eaten. Are you heroic enough to rise to the task? It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. The banquet may not just be a banquet of food, either. There may be friends and relatives you haven’t seen for a while. There may be delightful conversation, laughter until your sides are about to split, then you think of the way people were acting and laughing and you start all over again. Come to the banquet! It’s a merry feast!

But this jollity, this merely human rejoicing, this banquet of mortals will pale before the one our Lord is spreading for us. What is the banquet of our Lord? In Isaiah 25 we saw a feast. Rich food, aged wine, the best meats. And unlike the feasts we have, where some people are now missing around the table, those who have died before us, our Lord is going to destroy death itself. He is going to remove the burial shroud from all nations. He himself is the destruction of death. Like you can swallow a pickle slice, our Lord can swallow up death. At that time he will take away tears. In the presence of our Lord and Savior there is no hunger, no thirst, no sickness, no pain, no death, no shame. Everything is made right in the presence of God in that last day.

Whis is this Lord who invites us to an immortal banquet, one which we can barely imagine? This is the Lord Jehovah. This is the Lord who saves. This is Jesus Christ, true God and true man, God the Son. He has called us. We must come to his banquet.

What will we do with the summons our Lord has issued? He has called us to his wedding banquet. Will we, like those in Matthew 22, refuse to come? When our Lord calls us again and again, are we going to reject him? Do we so despise our God’s mercy? Do we reject the fact that we, the Church, those who believe, are the bride of Christ? How often we do reject our Lord. We busy ourselves about our little things. We are consumed with our field and our business. We think the messengers of God are to be despised. We are the very kind of people who killed the prophets. We are just the kind of people who want to go our own way, do our own thing, anything but come to Jesus’ wedding feast.

Did you see our Lord’s persistence in today’s readings? Is God going to put up with our rejection? Is our Lord going to spread a banquet and not bless anyone with it? No, not at all! Rather, he sends his servants out to gather all the people they can find. God calls us, the wanderers, the good, the bad, even the ugly, to come to his feast. He has the best wine, the best meat, all delights. He promises eternal life, joy and peace to us as we come to his banquet. Jesus is just the kind of Lord who brings us, the evil people, people who are yet sinners, to be at his banquet. And he fills up his hall.

Now let me ask you one question. Just one little question. How are you supposed to dress to go to a special occasion? Do you just throw on whatever clothes jump out at you? I’m afraid some people do. I notice that in our society today some people need a little education on how appropriate clothing for the occasion does make a difference. If I go to a job interview to be the chief financial officer of a huge corporation and I show up in a ragged, oil-stained t-shirt, torn shorts, and flip-flops, looking like I haven’t washed myself for a week, well, I might as well not try. There’s appropriate dress for appropriate occasions. And this feast our Lord calls us to is a special occasion. Jesus calls us to come to him, dressed for his wedding feast. How do we dress for him? Look at our passage from Philippians. We rejoice. We are gentle. We approach him in confidence, with his peace, the peace he places upon us. We think about all the good which he has done and will continue doing. We trust that our Lord is going to take away that shroud of death, and that he has already done all that is necessary. We rejoice that Jesus has conquered death by his resurrection. We trust confidently that we are also partakers of the resurrection. We exhort others to receive these gifts our Lord has been offering us. And we are steadfast, knowing that Jesus has called us to a banquet. It is his good pleasure to call everyone and to keep calling them.

Come to the banquet! Look to our Lord’s provsion! Rejoice in the Lord! There is a time coming, a time when sorrow will pass away, a time when we will see death swallowed up in victory, a time when we will be present at the immortal feast of our Lord, celebrating that he has come and won the Church, his bride, to present her as a pure and perfect inhabitant in the heavenly realms forever and ever. Come and dine!

Lord, grant us this joy and confidence, knowing that you have redeemed us from the curse of sin and are presenting us to the Father purified, dressed in your radiant white garments of righteousness. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Psalm 103:1-10, Deuteronomy 8:1-20, Matthew 10:24-42 - Lectionary for 10/9/11 - Commemoration of Abraham

Today is the commemoration of Abraham.

Today's readings are Psalm 103:1-10, Deuteronomy 8:1-20, and Matthew 10:24-42.

The last verse of our Psalm for today sums up the entirety of the Christian life. In it we see that God does not treat us as our sins deserve. Rather, he treats us with all his mercy as we approach him in repentance and come into his presence with faith. He has chosen us as his people based on his own goodness, not ours. Throughout today's readings we see that we fail again and again. But God remains utterly faithful. His forgiveness goes even farther than our repentance as he redeems us from the curse we have brought upon ourselves. May we ever look to Jesus' righteousness and, like Abraham, see that faith in God is accounted to us as righteousness.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Psalm 26, Deuteronomy 7:1-19, Matthew 10:1-23 - Lectionary for 10/8/11

Today's readings are Psalm 26, Deuteronomy 7:1-19, and Matthew 10:1-23.

Did anyone ever promise you that the Christian life would be all peaches and cream but no fat or cholesterol? See in today's readings how God's chosen people are the object of his care and blessing. Yet at the same time they may endure hardship, even persecution and death on account of their dedication to Jesus.

Are we ready to walk with Jesus? What if he calls us to come and walk the path he did, which included death? Do we realize that as we lay down our lives, our desires, our goals, and we take on his, that he is able to protect us even through death as he makes us partakers of his life and resurrection? Then thanks be to God, who has indeed poured out his covenant love upon us. Not even death will separate us from our Lord.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Psalm 121, Deuteronomy 6:10-25, Matthew 9:18-38 - Lectionary for 10/7/11 - commemoration of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Pastor

Today is the commemoration of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Pastor.

Today's readings are Psalm 121, Deuteronomy 6:10-25, and Matthew 9:18-38.

Do we often see some sort of a disconnect between obeying the commands of God and believing on Christ? So often we like to say there is faith and there are works. We emphasize one over the other rather than allowing them to be in appropriate and biblical balance. It is wrong to deny that God requires us to do good works or to say that our good works are not pleasing to God. He has boldly stated just the opposite. However, how do we see the work of God being accomplished in Scripture? It is always by faith that God uses us to accomplish his commands. Consider our New Testament readings. The healing of the ruler's daughter, the healing of the blind men, the healing of the man unable to speak - all come about by faith. These people by their works approached the people of God and found themselves in the circumstances where God was working. Then, as residents in the community of God's people, they believed God's commands which were bringing them healing.

Without a doubt, salvation is by grace through faith. Yet that grace is received in the community of faith. It is not found separately from the situations where God has revealed himself as the saving God. Let us then gather together as a community of faith and look to our Lord and Savior to give us the faith we need to believe in his forgiveness and salvation.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Psalm 91:9-16, Deuteronomy 5:22-6:9, Matthew 9:1-17 - Lectionary for 10/6/11

Today's readings are Psalm 91:9-16, Deuteronomy 5:22-6:9, and Matthew 9:1-17.

In our Gospel passage today Jesus is revealed as the true Lord over creation. Yet he is not the Lord in an impersonal way. rather, he comes to those who need him, and he comes very personally. How does he show himself to the be the Lord? Jesus shows himself to the the Lord over sin and disease as the paralytic is brought to Jesus. Jesus grants him forgiveness and then heals him to show that he is indeed able to do the impossible. Jesus shows himself to be the Lord over careers as he calls Matthew to leave his former life and to be one of Jesus' apostles. Jesus shows himself to be the Lord over religious practice as he talks about fasting and the way he uses us in all our different callings.

Are we tired of seeing impersonal manifestations of the deity? Are we tired of natural philosophy yet? Let's look to Jesus, the Lord who shows himself to be God with us.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Psalm 86:1-10, Deuteronomy 5:1-21, Matthew 8:18-34 - Lectionary for 10/5/11

Today's readings are Psalm 86.1-10, Deuteronomy 5:1-21, and Matthew 8:18-34.

In Deuteronomy 5:9-10 we see that God is the God who is jealous for his people. Our God, the redeeming God, gathers his people and jealously guards them. Those who will not approach him in faith he allows to feel the sting of their evil, and it is a serious situation. They suffer, as we read, to the third and fourth generation. We can observe that suffering in families tends to go on for several generations. Poverty, abusive situations, and all manner of evils tend to follow each other in multiple generations of a family. But what of those who love God and keep his commandments? Look how much greater God's love is than the wrath which is shown earlier. He shows that love to thousands of those people - thousands of generations. As far as the eye can see, God's blessing is on those who love him and who desire to keep his commandments. He enables them to come to him in faith. He rejoices in our attempts to keep his commands, simply because they are pleasing to him.

Let us come near to God, loving him, approaching him in faith, looking to his mercy and love to conform us into the image of God the Son, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Psalm 80:1-7, Deuteronomy 4:21-40, Matthew 8:1-17 - Lectionary for 10/4/11

Today's readings are Psalm 80:1-7, Deuteronomy 4:21-40, and Matthew 8:1-17.

Sometimes I wonder if we really realize how supernatural God claims to be in Scripture. In our Gospel reading today we see Jesus doing miracles by speaking and touching people. He is able to do that which is impossible, and to do it effortlessly.

So what is the burden we bear? Is it too great for our Lord? Is there any sin that is too great for God to forgive as we bring it to him in sorrowful repentance? Is there any trouble that God cannot handle? Is there any illness which our Lord cannot cure? Is there anything in Scripture which God claims to have done which would be impossible for him if indeed he is the God he reveals himself to be? No, there is nothing that is too great for our Lord. He is the Lord of all.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Psalm 119:9-16, Deuteronomy 4:1-20, Matthew 7:13-29 - Lectionary for 10/3/11

Today's readings are Psalm 119:9-16, Deuteronomy 4:1-20, and Matthew 7:13-29.

Today in Deuteronomy 4:15-20 we see a stern warning against worship of idols. It's easy for most of us to say that we don't engage in idolatry. But I question whether we are being entirely truthful with ourselves. This passage points to our trusting in what God has created rather than trusting in the God who created it all. In the final analysis we do trust in the creation rather than in the creator. We look to our culture, our economy, our jobs, our families, our physical well-being rather than the God who created all those things. We are easily deceived.

May the Lord keep us from idols.

Sermon for 10/2/11 - Paying the Rent

SERMON “Paying the Rent” Audio link

Our Lord, open our hearts to receive from your word with joy, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Today in the Gospel reading we meet up with God the crazy farmer again. Or maybe we meet up with God’s crazy tenant farmers. Did you ever wonder what goes on in the mind of someone who is a tenant? I have. If you’ve ever rented a house or, worse yet, owned a rental property, you’ve probably run into things like the place where someone painted around the couch instead of moving it. Or maybe you’ve found the switch plates fastened to the wall with tape. None of us has ever been guilty of fixing a leaky pipe with ductape, right?

But here we see God the gardener. He builds a garden. It’s a vineyard. It’s got nice walls around it. There’s a watchtower so that an attendant can make sure nothing happens to the grapes or vines. There’s a winepress. Everything is just so. He’s ready to engage in some commercial wine making. So he rents out the vineyard to some people who will care for the vines, bring in the crop, make the wine, and give him some of it, sell some of it, and pay rent on the vineyard. It all seems to be in order, at least until the harvest.

What happens to the rent collector? The one sent to collect some of the produce? The tenants treat him badly. He sends servant after servant to try to collect his rent. The tenants treat them all badly. They even kill some of them. Nobody is able to collect the rent from these tenants. Finally the owner sends his own son.

What’s going on in the minds of these tenants? I don’t know how the rent contract works where you live, but wherever I’ve lived, if the owner’s heir dies it certainly doesn’t mean that I’ll end up owning the building. That’s a ridiculous idea. But it seems to be the idea held by these tenants. They abuse and kill the son of the landowner, thinking then they can keep the vineyard to themselves.

Be assured of this. If you try that with the person who collects your rent or other bills it won’t work. When you have entered into a contract to pay for something you get to pay for it. The person you’re supposed to pay won’t come and kill you, but you could be forced to pay and you could end up with all sorts of other legal consequences as well. It isn’t a good idea. And in our parable we see that the landowner will indeed get rid of his tenants and rent the vineyard to someone else, someone who will pay what is due.

Notice in our Gospel passage today that many of the people heard Jesus’ parables with joy. Many of them realized that God wanted to draw people to himself, people who would live by faith in God’s grace. They knew that as the tenants in the vineyard they would do what was required of them and that they would receive a share in the produce. And they confessed that God would graciously bless them generously, not according to their good deeds but according to his abundance.

So who are the evil tenants in this parable? See how the religious leaders are the people who become angry with Jesus? They know that Jesus is speaking against them. He sees these leaders as the people who have denied God the glory rightly due his name. Jesus says that the chief priests and Pharisees are refusing God and that they are bringing condemnation upon themselves and all those who follow them. These are fighting words. They don’t want to be seen that way. And that’s for a reason. The Pharisees don’t see themselves in that way. They are the ones who are showing their people how to be a people who are holy, set apart to God. They are showing people how to bear the fruit of righteousness.

What’s gone wrong, then? There’s a disconnect somewhere. Somehow the Pharisees don’t see themselves the same way Jesus sees them. After all, they are the people who are learning the Law of God. They are the people showing people that they need to keep God’s commands. They are the people who are helping others protect themselves so as to keep from breaking any of God’s commands. This is serious business. The Pharisees see themselves as the good guys. So do most of the people. If you want to be a really holy person you want to be a Pharisee.

What’s that disconnect? The Pharisees think they can keep God’s requirements. They think that by building walls of protection around God’s commands they can guard against any sin. They think they can keep themselves free from sin so they don’t have to deal with it any more. We see this attitude today. I dare say we even see it in Lutheran congregations, though I think it’s more widespread in other fellowships. I know the Church of Christ and a lot of the Wesleyan groups have an idea that you can reach a point in your obedience that you eventually don’t end up sinning any more. And I know there are other Christian groups around who think that. Here’s how it plays out today. Beware of it. Don’t buy into it. We’ll see why in a moment.

Imagine you start going to a church. You hear a sermon that says Jesus was crucified for your sin and that your sin is taken away by faith in his death on your behalf. Fair enough, right? This is the genuine, historic message of the cross. It’s the Gospel, pure and simple. You believe the message and confess that by God’s grace you have been saved from the curse of sin. You are now covered with the righteousness of Christ, because you do believe that he died to take away your sin.

What happens next? This is where it starts going astray. And I guarantee you won’t have to be around a lot of church congregations long before you start seeing this. You’ve been saved by God’s grace. But what do you have to do now? You have to reform your life so you are good enough to keep God’s grace active in your life. You have to purify yourself morally. You have to bring forth fruit. You have to earn God’s favor day by day through your acts of obedience. You were saved by God’s grace, but you end up being told that you have to keep your salvation by your works. And it’s easy to fall into this error. But error it is. It ultimately condemns you and tells you that you have to save yourself, something you can never do.

Now wait a minute. What’s wrong with doing good works? I thought as a Christian I was supposed to keep God’s law. I thought I was supposed to read my Bible and pray. I thought I was supposed to do works of charity. I thought I was supposed to give in the offering. Is there something wrong with all this? Am I just supposed to believe on Christ and not change my life?

The good works we do are indeed good works. God loves them. He desires them. He wants to see us doing those things. And it’s good to obey the Scripture, to read it, to absorb God’s word, to pray without ceasing. We’re supposed to care for the needs of those around us. There’s no doubt about it. Make no mistake about it. God does give us commands and he expects that we will busy ourselves about following his commands. But we never follow God’s commands perfectly. We want to, we try to, but we always fail. There’s a sentence from the time of the Reformation describing this. “Lex semper accusat.” “The Law always accuses.” When we try to follow God’s law we fail. We then see our sin and our need for a savior. But something else happens at the same time. Our neighbor sees our attempts to keep God’s law. Our neighbor benefits from that. We end up helping one another and being a blessing to one another. This is decidedly a good thing. How many good works should I do? I should do as many good works as I can. They are good. But how many of those good works are going to save me from sin? There is no good work that can save me from sin. There is nothing I can do that will overcome evil. I have a sinful nature and cannot overcome it. Only Jesus can overcome sin. And he has done it. He’s done it for you and he’s done it for me. He did it while we were still sinners. And by his grace he has clothed us in a white robe of righteousness, all who believe. He is the one who has planted us in this vineyard. He’s the one who has brought forth fruit, the fruit of the Spirit. He’s the one who has let us run the vineyard for a ridiculously low price – we just have to believe and trust him. He’s the one who comes to collect the glory which we give him. And he’s the one who gives us every good gift – gifts indeed, gifts for which we cannot work or they will not be gifts.

So what do we do? Do we engage in sinful self-congratulation? Do we decide to be arrogant because God has given us all this? Or do we look to him in love and trust, confessing that he is the great and mighty God who has loved us, giving us all we need in the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus on our behalf? That’s what is due him. That’s the rent he collects from us as we work in his vineyard.

Our Lord has taken away the vineyard from the priests and the Pharisees. He has given it to us who believe on him. May he grace us with his presence and make us willing and ready to share the good gifts of his vineyard with all who ask, in the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Psalm 3, Deuteronomy 3:1-29, Matthew 7:1-12 - Lectionary for 10/2/11

Today's readings are Psalm 3, Deuteronomy 3:1-29, and Matthew 7:1-12.

Our reading today in Matthew 7 is important when we consider conflict resolution. Verses 1-5 may easily be summarized to say we are to put the best possible construction on other people's actions and the worst on our own. Are we quick to consider what we may have contributed to a conflict? Or do we automatically consider ourselves as flawless? What about the person we're likely to criticize? Do we realize that someone may have had a thousand reasons to show anger to us, and that we probably provided some of them?

What encouragement do we find as we seek to do good to others, to bring them healing and grace in times of conflict? At the end of the Gospel reading we are reminded that we who are evil give good gifts to our children. Our Lord, who is good and perfect gives perfect gifts to his children. These gifts include reconciliation with God, life, peace, and an everlasting hope. Without a doubt, as we ask our Lord Jesus for his good gifts, in faith, we will receive that peace and reconciliation without measure.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Psalm 130, Deuteronomy 2:16-37, Matthew 6:16-34 - Lectionary for 10/1/11

Today's readings are Psalm 130, Deuteronomy 2:16-37, and Matthew 6:16-34.

Our Lord and Savior tells us in no uncertain terms that we are not to be anxious. We are not to have a concern about whether he will provide for us or not. We should not have any fear about the future. How then do we deal with the reality of life in this fallen world? Do we neglect careful planning? Do we have an obligation to provide well for our families, to plan for our children's future, to plan even for our own future?

I may have a skewed perspective in this. Many of the people I work with on a regular basis are 85 or more years old. Some have been in retirement nearly as long as I have been at work. Some are running out of their life savings, as their lives have extended longer than they anticipated. Some have long since run out of savings and are being supported by their children or by charitable programs. Many are concerned about their future, or at least their children who are both supporting their parents and their own children are concerned.

There's a place for careful planning, even shrewd investment. This is not denied in Scripture. But what we are to keep in mind, first and foremost, is that all our provision comes from the Lord God, the one who created everything, who cares for it all, and who numbered our days before we were born. We have nothing without the Lord. And we need nothing that he will not somehow supply. We may need to resign ourselves to living as humble people, even as our Lord and Savior did, who had only one nice garment. We may not have all that we could dream of. And godly people do die in poverty. Yet we look to our Lord who has granted us a rich inheritance in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection.

Yes, we find that we have no cause for worry. Our Savior has taken all our reason for fear.