Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bridges, 2008. Chapter 5, "God's Rule over the Nations"

Chapter 5, “God’s Rule over the Nations” pp. 79-98

God’s sovereignty over nations and rulers is well established in the Bible. The idea may seem remote from our lives, but it is actually important. Guarding (and sometimes establishing) freedom to live as a Christian is of great importance. Even in “secular” situations we can realize that governments make good or bad decisions under God’s control. This manifestation of God’s sovereignty is not always clear. Yet is is there. The Gospels and Acts show many situations where a government and its officials unwillingly fulfilled prophecy.

1) God establishes government for the good of all people. Therefore, we pray for rulers.

2) God determines who rules in government. How they glorify God may be a mystery, but they do accomplish God’s purpose.

3) God determines the limits of government.

God also rules the decisions rulers make. Sometimes the decisions are wise and sometimes foolish. All are made freely and at God’s command. Christians trust that God is still caring for his children. We pray for our leaders and do what we can to influence them.

God is also the ruler in military actions. We therefore trust God, not our military force.

God’s sovereign rule over nations is greater than we normally imagine. We need to pray and trust God to spread the Gospel through all nations.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Let It Be

Okay, so I've never been a fan of the Beatles. I admit it. But somehow their music is almost ubiquitous. I found myself on hold with a state agency for about an hour today (thanks be to God for a speakerphone I could stick in my pocket while I did other work). The hold music was a terrible midi file of the first two melody legs of "Let It Be." It sounded like one of those horrid musical Christmas cards from twenty years ago. Over, over, over, and over again.

While I was on hold I looked up the lyrics to the song. To summarize my understanding, when I'm in trouble or confused I ask and Mother Mary tells me to let it be. Put up and shut up! Hmm, is this the message the state agency was intending to provide? Maybe so.

I finally got off hold, spoke with an actual human. My hopes rose and then were shattered when he looked something up and said he'd put me on hold and have me talk with someone else. Then after only a short wait I ended up with the person who was able to take care of what I called about.

Glad I didn't just let it be.

Tillich, 1948. Chapter 12, "The Meaning of Providence"

Chapter 12, “The Meaning of Providence” pp. 104-107

Romans 8:38-39

Few concepts are more important in Christian living than God’s providence. When we misunderstand God’s providence we become disillusioned. Reality in our world tries to speak against God’s power, wisdom and goodness.

In Romans 8 and elsewhere God has made very specific promises. Though our world is full of evil, even death, we cannot be separated from God’s love. The final goal is God’s kingdom. All things work toward that goal. Every situation has a redemptive element. Jesus is the Lord who will bring his people to eternal life. This is God’s providence.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Stuempfle, 2008. Chapter 4, "Gospel: Antiphon to Existence"

Chapter 4, “Gospel: Antiphon to Existence” pp. 47-61

When Law is preached as the “hammer of judgment” the Gospel is viewed as justification. When, as is common, the Law is shown as the negative life experience, we bring a Gospel which is presented in a much more complicated way. Here the Gospel speaks back in response to the specific aspect of trouble revealed by the Law. This is akin to the antiphonal responses found in historic liturgy.

Stuempfle considers four “antiphons” as typical examples.

1) Alienation and Reconciliation. In alienation we are pulled away from our world and community. The response of the Gospel is to reconcile us both to God and to our world.

2) Anxiety and Certitude. Anxiety, unlike fear, is very hard to address. It is a generalized state without a firm cause. Fear is of specifics. Anxiety generalizes. To counter it we need certainty that Jesus has overcome all threats.

3) Despair and Hope. p. 54 “Despair is anxiety translated into the future tense.” There will be no change. This eliminates hope. The biblical view shows God creating opportunity to look for future change. Though we don’t always see the fulfillment, we still hve Jesus’ promises.

4) Transiency and Homecoming. Transiency reminds us that we will pass away into death. The Gospel promises life and hope. We will pass away, from this life, but not into hopelessness. Instead, we pass from this life into our permanent home.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tillich, 1948. Chapter 11, "The Yoke of Religion"

Chapter 11, “The Yoke of Religion” pp. 93-103

Matthew 11:25-30

Jesus calls us to come to him for rest from our labor and heavy burdens. What of people who don’t seem to be burdened?

What is the labor? What is His yoke? Why does only he give rest?

Jesus does not say he will take away our daily life’s burdens. Sometimes the Christian life involves greater burdens. But he takes away the burden of religion, the yoke of the law. Jesus teaches us to trust him, not our own obedience.

We cast off the yoke of the law but we need some sort of yoke. We are not good at being completely free. When we free ourself from constraints we always take on more strict ones. Jesus puts his yoke on us. It is easy. It is “above the law” (p. 99). This is a new reality. Jesus has saved us from above. We are grasped by true good, coming from Jesus.

Jesus is the only one who can make this claim in our lives. He has conquered religion. He is someone to whom Christianity should witness. Our job is to forget all our doctrines and what is demanded of us, rather accepting his love, justice and truth. Jesus is the end of religion. He is the one who has reached us.

Sermon for 12/25/13 "Christmas Grace and Truth" John 1

Jesus has shown God’s glory

Jesus, word becomes flesh, with us
 begotten not made
 worthy of all worship, honor and praise
 giving light
 giving birth by Word and Sacraments
   his blood, not by our blood

not a fearsome glory, but glory which is full of grace and truth

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Bridges, 2008. Chapter 4, "God's Sovereignty over People"

Chapter 4, “God’s Sovereignty over People” pp. 57-77

Bridges begins this chapter with the example of the departure of Israel from Egypt. In Exodus chapters 3 and 12 we read that God made the Egyptians favorable to the Israelites so as to give them great treasures. Many times in the Bible God changes attitudes so people voluntarily do what is good for God’s people. Of course we realize also that we live in a world full of hardship. Many hardships are the result of others’ negative choices. The Bible portrays God as active in all of life. One way He acts is by moving human attitudes.

God also works in the world by restraining people from evil actions. For reasons we may not understand people will often choose not to engage in harmful activities. This is a gift of God.

Sometimes God does not restrain evil. Bad things happen. We do not know his reasons but we do know God is wise and good. The results of a bad situation may be used for good in some way.

How do we deal with the problem of God’s sovereignty and human freedom? Bridges says the two are asserted and the relationship is not explained. However, we know God is infinite in his capability and understanding. We cannot think God is like us. God does not cause sin, but he can use sin for his good purposes. People make free choices even when God has influenced their attitude.

Our role in all this is to respond in trust. God is good. He will care for us.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tillich, 1948, Chapter10, "The Experience of the Holy"

Chapter 10, “The Experience of the Holy” pp. 87-92

Isaiah 6

This chapter expresses an experience of God, human existence, and the work of the prophet. God is holy, man is unclean, the prophet seeks to accomplish an impossible task.

God as presented in Isaiah 6 is wholly other. He is the veiled God, hidden from our view. Unlike the gods of our creation, he is holy and pure, not merely glorious.

We, however, represented by the prophet, are unclean. If we are to speak for God we must do so with purified lips. It is only by divine cleansing that we can speak god’s Word.

When we consider the work of isaiah we find he is given a work which is hopeless. He will receive a negative response. The prophet speaks god’s Word, not the word which the people would like to hear. The message of a prophet draws opposition. He receives persecution. Yet the prophet does the work of the Holy God who can create his people out of those who were not his people.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sermon for 12/24/13 "God with Us" Matthew 1

(This recording was made at a retirement home 12/22. It's the same sermon I'll use on 12/24 in our Christmas Eve service.)

God with us. Immanuel.
What kind of God is this?
 Patient beyond measure - promising Ahaz his blessing again and again
 Able to give that holiness to his people, to us, and make us ascend his holy hill
 Working miracles - bringing his miracle child Jesus to be born at just the right time and in just the right place
 Creating life

Isn’t this fearful? The holiness of God ought to make us fear and tremble.
 God’s goodness should show us our failure.
 God’s love shows us that we are not love.
 God’s mercy reminds us that we don’t show mercy.

This is the kind of God who makes us want to run and hide. Our sin has separated us from God.
 all the other religions of the world - try to earn the way back into a deity’s good favor
 Christianity confesses God has loved us when we were not worthy.

We build biblical theology on this event, the incarnation, the time when God becomes man
 like us except without sin
 to understand us
 so we can understand him
 full of grace and truth
 full of love for us who do not deserve it
 full of mercy, as we need mercy
 full of forgiveness

How do we respond?
 I’d like to think we respond well, in faith and gratitude
 So often that is not the case
 We respond by repenting and praying

Lord, God with us, Immanuel, you have broken into our world. Break into our lives. Make us bring you honor, make us reflect your care for us. Use us in your work of changing this world.

Stuempfle, 1990, Chapter 3, "Gospel: the Gift of Forgiveness"

Chapter 3, “Gospel: the Gift of Forgiveness” pp. 34-46

Stuempfle observes that preachers often seem hesitant about the importance or the power of the Gospel. Possibly this is because we find our broken lives more familiar than forgiveness. Not only that, but we are bound to do more than simply describing forgiveness. The preacher’s job is to apply forgiveness and grace, if possible, in a way parallel to the way the Law was proclaimed. For instance, if the Law pointed out our failure to restore, the Gospel needs to show how Jesus restores us.

Stuempfle also shows that many of the terms we use for forgiveness may not be readily understood by and audience today. He suggests finding the cultural parallel rather than simply explaining the term. As we proclaim the Gospel, Stuempfle advocates keeping four principles well in mind. First, find an idiom the audience understands. Second, tell the implications of forgiveness rather than simply announcing it. Third, address people as directly as possible when announcing forgiveness. Finally, focus clearly on Jesus and his work. Merely mentioning his name is not what people need. They need to know how and why Jesus is for them.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bridges, 2008, Chapter 3, "The Sovereignty of God"

Chapter 3 “The Sovereignty of God” pp. 35-55

This is a difficult chapter to respond to. Since Bridges is a Calvinist and I have never been one, it is not exactly easy to build a fair response. Calvinist theology, I have often observed, is largely dependent on the sovereignty of God as its ruling principle. This contrasts with a Lutheran view founded on God’s love shown in the incarnation of Christ. It is not clear how Bridges will bring his argument to fruition - I’ve read the book before but enough years ago that I don’t remember details.

Bridges builds a strong case for God’s sovereignty both in what He has revealed in Scripture and in what he does by decree, for instance, in guiding human interactions. God is entirely free to act according to his will, which Bridges says many times is for the good of his people. In times of peace, prosperity, and pleasure this is easy to accept. In times of trial it is more difficult. On p. 37 Bridges says, “If there is a single event in all of the universe that can occur outside of God’s sovereign control, then we cannot trust Him.” Bridges gives many examples of situations, pleasant and painful, where we can trust in God’s sovereignty. And he is is quite right. God is sovereign and trustworthy.

Will the use of sovereignty rather than incarnational love as a foundation cause problems? I know I would find Bridges’ job difficult faced with the same plan. But we’ll see how he does.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tillich, 1948, Chapter 9 "Nature, Also, Mourns for a Lost Good"

Chapter 9 “Nature, Also, Mourns for a Lost Good” pp. 76-86

Psalm 19:2-5, Romans 8:19-22, Revelation 21:1; 22:1-2

Who are the redeemed? Jesus is the redeemer of the world. Psalm: All nature speaks, and it has a message, though unheard by most humans. They sing the glory of God the creator.

As science has subjugated nature we have forgotten how to listen to it, including its beauty, power, greatness, and underlying character.

Romans: Creation is tragic. It is created and being destroyed. It is right to have sympathy with the tragedy of nature. All nature is subject to the curse of God. By man’s violation of God’s law all nature is fallen.

Revelation: Revelation shows a redemption of both man and the rest of nature. This is not a future view, but a symbol of the current effect of salvation in this world. Tillich allegorizes all the redemptive language of restoration passages.

As a conclusion, Tillich says we need to view nature as a part of a sacrament, as the saving power of natural and spiritual things join together. This brings hope of salvation.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sermon for 12/18/13 "Blessed Is the One" Matthew 11

We’re all ready to follow a miracle worker.
 like signs of power
 like things that are amazing
 Wouldn’t you like to have a mighty leader who could do all sorts of miracles?
 healing for blind and lame, lepers, deaf, dead, poor

What does Jesus do for the poor?
 not money
 promises that have to wait
 may suffer hunger, thirst, weakness, scorn

What is the good news here?

Matthew 11:6 (ESV) “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Jesus does good on his own terms.
 heals the one he chooses to heal
 feeds the one he chooses to feed
 brings us to be with him in our eternal home when he wants to, not before or after
 some he gives earthly life, some he does not

Is this offensive? Why would a good God act like that?
This is the same Lord who melts the hills and breaks rocks in his anger in Nahum chapter 1.
He acts on his own terms, for the redemption of the world.
 doing his “alien” work of condemning sin
 doing his “proper” work of forgiving and rescuing

Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

John, when you are sitting in prison, deciding whether to chase the rats away from your bread or to try to catch and eat the rats, you are waiting, suffering. The world doesn’t look very hopeful. But in Jesus there is healing, restoration, forgiveness, and life. But it’s on Jesus’ terms, not your terms. Are you offended? Please don’t be. Just wait and trust. Your redemption is drawing near also.

The good news - resurrection from the dead
The good news - eternal riches
The good news - blessedness forever

Makes this often sad and unrewarding life look, well, only temporary. It will pass away. The good news, Jesus, God’s good news, is here.

Stuempfle, 1990, Chapter 2, “Law: Hammer of Judgment and Mirror of Existence” Stuempfle 1990

Chapter 2, “Law: Hammer of Judgment and Mirror of Existence” pp. 20-33

Stuempfle moves his discussion into the particular use of the Law. He observes that Lutherans and Calvinists alike view God’s Law and our failure as a foundation to good preaching. But how is the Law to be used? Following Luther he considers God’s Law as a hammer. Following Tillich he considers it as a mirror.

God is good. So is His Law. Used as a hammer, it can serve to break our sinful attitudes, to probe for weaknesses, and to construct something pleasing. Luther viewed God’s Law as useful in a “political” sense, restraining evil and giving order to society. But more often Luther saw God’s Law directing us to an “inner righteousness” which could stand before God. As a hammer, the Law breaks our hypocrisy and evil and points us to Jesus. The idea of guilt and a need for forgiveness is not always foremost in our world. Tillich tended to view God’s Law as a mirror, showing us our feelings, our emotional estrangement ultimately from God. When we see our real situation we realize our need for the Gospel.

Stuuempfle closes the chapter with three commitments we can make about the Law. 1) We preach it to confront sin. 2) We use it so people can see their darkness. 3) We preach the Law to serve proclamation of the Gospel.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bridges, 2008, Chapter 2 "Is God in Control?

Chapter 2 “Is God in Control?” pp. 23-33

In this second chapter Bridges brings up the question of God’s sovereignty. Counter to authors such as Rabbi Harold Kushner, who popularly claims that troubles in our lives are outside of God’s control, the Bible points to God’s loving care for all aspects of our lives. Suffering and pain do exist in this world, but not apart from God’s sovereign control.

His power and goodness together add up to providence. Though we may prefer only to refer to God’s providence when what we see as good happens, the Bible shows God as being involved in our lives even when we find life difficult. Bridges, in the tradition of J.i. Packer, identifies God’s providence as his sovereign care which leads always to his glory and our good. The two are inseparable, for God is good to his people.

Those who deny God’s providence in hard times fail to see that God always sustains his creation. He is involved in every aspect of the world. And God has always cared for our circumstances. The fact that we don’t always understand his actions or intent does not make God weak or evil. It simply means we don’t see the depth of his care for us. He is, in fact, intimately involved in our lives, good, and sovereign. We can trust God because he is in control.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tillich, 1948, Chapter 8 "On the Transitoriness of Life"

Chapter 8 “On the Transitoriness of Life” pp. 64-75

Psalm 90

We look at the thoughts in Psalm 90 and find they fit every age. There is a great pessimism about life and death. There is no easy comfort in this life. Yet the Bible does not allow for despair. It looks first to God and then allows us to see our limits.

Our short time is juxtaposed to God’s eternity. This perception of our temporality can turn us to superficial nostalgia. Yet this Psalm points us to the danger of that by reminding us of God’s majesty and wrath against our sin. We are dust and will die. The Psalmist further points us not to our guilt for particular acts of sin, but for our sinful nature. God looks at our inmost being.

Once man’s sin is established, the Psalmist asks God to look upon sinful man to give gladness and joy. God is not only the God of the past, but also the God of the future. The Christian message says boldly that God has communicated with man by taking on our impermanence in Christ. This gives us the hope of God which will not disappoint.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

"The Holidays"

Ever wonder what people mean when they talk about "the holidays," as in, some sort of festive time during late December? I know many people in recent days have pulled holidays from a number of religions together and observed they happen at this time of year. But if we wind our clock back a few decades, or maybe even a century or two, here's what we'll find.

The season of Christmas proper begins at sundown on December 24. Here's what a churchgoer might find on the calendar of the Western Church around that time.
  Christmas Eve, December 24
  Christmas Day, December 25 - first and foremost a church celebration, presents are secondary.
  St. Stephen, the First Christian Martyr, December 26
  St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, December 27
  Holy Innocents, December 28 - remembers the death of children at the hand of Herod.
  The Holy Family, December 29 - Roman observance, not universal to the Western Church
  The Eve of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus, December 31 - typically Lutheran, not universal to the Western Church
  The Circumcision and Name of Jesus, January 1
  Epiphany, January 6

Quite a handful of holidays, eh what? The twelve days of Christmas are pretty busy.

Sermon for 12/15/13 "Elijah and the Kingdom" Matthew 11

Jesus calls John the Baptist “Elijah” - the one prophesied who would come to prepare the way for the Messiah. He points us to the very end of time. That’s what we are crying out for during this season of Advent. Lord, come, even now.

Looking for the end of time?
Hoping for green pastures
all that is good and wonderful
finally the Lord will take care of everything
 blooms in the wilderness
 joy and singing
 strong hands
 leaping and rejoicing
 deaf shall hear
 blind shall see
 dead will be raised up
Wait a minute - the dead?
Everybody wants to go to heaven.
We all want the time when all is well
 no more shame
 no more pain
 no more crying
 no more dying
Are we ready for God’s judgment?
 sin will not survive
 When God brings the end of this troubled life, he brings it through death.

How did John the Baptist feel about this?
 in prison
 enduring torture
 expecting death
 Are you the Messiah?

What does Jesus do?
 healing - with each person he heals he draws closer to his own suffering
 forgiving - taking the sin and guilt of the people upon himself
 raising the dead - bringing himself to his death

Get ready for that millennial kingdom - Jesus has taken all God’s wrath and judgment upon himself. He gives us the healing, forgiveness, and life that we need.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Stuempfle, 1990, Chapter 1, "The Theological Foundation of the Sermon"

Stuempfle, Herman G, Jr. Preaching Law and Gospel.. Ramsey, NJ: Sigler Press, 1990.

Chapter 1, “The Theological Foundation of the Sermon” pp. 11-19

What makes up a sermon? Of course we are interested in the preacher’s use of language, the structure, imagery and delivery. Yet the theology which underlies the sermon is extremely important. The relationship between the theologian and the preacher is very tense. Theologians study sermons and commentaries as they analyze interpretation of Scripture. Preachers in turn study theologians. Both look to the other for guidance. Although some preachers will affirm that they are not theologians, this is false. All preachers are using and teaching theology. The question is the faithfulness of that work.

Stuempfle identifies two basic frameworks which theologians have recognized in sermons. One, identified by Kyle Haselden, is that a sermon will describe man’s peril, announce God’s promise, and proclaim God’s work in Christ to implement the promise. The other analysis, by Heinrich Ott, is a structure moving from man’s sin to Christ’s redemption, then showing the obligation the believer has due to God’s love.  The first structure is typical of the Lutheran reformation while the second is found in Calvinism. Both emphasize God’s redemptive work. Both require the preacher to rightly identify God’s demands and God’s work of salvation.

Preaching Law and Gospel

Stuempfle, Herman G, Jr. Preaching Law and Gospel.. Ramsey, NJ: Sigler Press, 1990.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bridges, 2008, Chapter 1 "Can You Trust God?"

Bridges, Jerry. Trusting God Even when Life Hurts. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2008

Chapter 1 “Can You Trust God?” pp. 13-21

We are surrounded by large and small trials as long as we live on earth. Most of the trials we face are relatively small. But they, like big trials, make our life difficult. Bridges asks the question, “Can you trust God?” He puts the emphasis on the word “God” and also on the word “you.” Are we convinced that God is trustworthy? Does our attitude penetrate our troubles to make a difference in our life even when we don’t understand the trials we endure?

Bridges points out three characteristics of God which will help us trust Him in all situations.
 1) God is sovereign.
 2) God is wise
 3) God is loving

In our suffering we can lost sight of God’s attributes. Yet even Jesus (John 19:10-11) told Pilate that the power to arrest and kill came from God. Jesus’ own suffering on our behalf accomplishes the sovereign, wise, and loving care of God for the world. Though we are not wise to know all God’s plan, we can trust God’s wisdom.

We learn to trust God as we know him through Jesus, God the Son, who has given himself for us, for our forgiveness.

Bridges, 2008

Bridges, Jerry. Trusting God Even when Life Hurts. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2008

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sermon for 12/11/13 "Redemption Drawing Near" Luke 21

Wildlife scene from trip to Boston - full of flora and fauna in the midst of traffic, noise, people.

The last days are coming. Jesus’ return is near. How do we know?
We think it would be a time of comfort and joy, peace, prosperity.
But instead we have trouble
 roaring sea - great and dangerous power
 fear, foreboding - try watching CNN, doomsday stories
It seems that everything which is good and right has been overturned!
What will we do?
Look up.
Straighten up.
Receive the promises of God.
You are safe, you are secure, you are imperishable.

All the disaster that comes upon us, all that can come upon us, as we trust in Jesus we find ourselves safe. There’s no harm. Figs - perishable fruit - and we are guarded by the Lord.

Back to the traffic scene and the bees busy about their work.

Summer is near. Where’s our mind?

Tillich, 1948, Chapter 7 "The Depth of Existence"

Chapter 7 “The Depth of Existence” pp. 52-63

2 Corinthians 2:10; Psalm 130:1
Our meditation is about “depth”
 depth transferred from space to a spiritual quality
2 meanings - opposite of . . .
 shallow - truth deep not shallow
 high - suffering is deep not high
Both are contrasted to the surface, first appearance
That which doesn’t disappoint is below the surface
 Digging below the surface causes upheaval.
 Good to look below our own surface
 Often we only look at our surface.
God is the depth, the foundation of all.
 We find that depth as we look at others around us.
 The depth of God may be “hope” for us, maybe history, it varies from person to person.
Most of us find it safer to avoid that depth.
 We think it complicated when in fact it is simple.

 Depth, in fact, is dangerous, which is why Jesus calls those who endure it “blessed.”

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Willimon, 1984, Chapter 8 "Getting Everyone into the Act: Lay Involvement in Planning and Evaluating Worship"

Chapter 8 “Getting Everyone into the Act: Lay Involvement in Planning and Evaluating Worship” pp. 103-111

In this final chapter, Willimon proposes that it is necessary to involve a broad spectrum of the laity in planning and executing worship leadership. he recommends a worship and music committee that oversees weekly plans, musical equipment, accompanists, acolytes, ushers, decorations, and the like. This committee consists of people who wish to learn about worship and liturgy and who will support the pastor and his vision for the life of the church. When the people are involved in this way they will gain more from their participation in worship. Their enthusiasm will spread throughout the congregation.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Brueggemann, 2001, Chapter 7 "A Note on the Practice of Ministry"

Chapter 7 “A Note on the Practice of Ministry” pp. 115-119

Brueggemann summarizes his argument as follows. Moses’ prophetic work criticized the establishment of Pharaoh, energizing God’s people toward freedom. These reforms were too radical. In the establishment of kings, Israel reasserted the royal principles of Egypt. jeremiah put the monarchy to death, expressing mourning. Isaiah gave hope and saw Israel’s joy reborn. Jesus laid death and despair to rest, bringing life and hope. This work of ministry is done in every age. Through the prophetic ministry we seek four dimensions. First, we evoke an alternative community. Second, we build a consistently biblical worldview. Third, we penetrate numbness and grief. Finally, we penetrate despair, giving true hope. This move, essentially from death to life, is exactly what Jesus always brings. It is our job to act as his instruments to deliver it to our world.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sermon for 12/8/13 "Prepare the Way of the Lord"

Matthew 3

Prepare the way
That means, “Get ready. The King is coming.”
Job once, long ago, working in the office of a college development director.
 person responsible to bring in large amounts of money
 create positive image for the organization
 can make or break the future of the college, regardless of academics
My job was to prepare the way. The offices had been gutted. Rubble from old walls, broken things all around, filthy place, dust mask required

Get ready.
 get rid of the trash
 clear out the rubble
 Salvage? Maybe, but not much
 trees that are not bearing fruit are cut down and burned
 chaff is swept away from the threshing floor - burns very fast
 husks, weeds, rubble - everything that isn’t fastened down - it goes

We shoveled plaster, wires, wood, old blinds, broken glass into trash cans, removed it to dumpsters, had those removed to the landfill - all to ruin.

Was it time for the development director to move in?

Another crew came in, several crews - fresh paint, new light fixtures, carpet, windows, decorations - a new scene without chaos and destruction

Where do we stand in this time of Advent, the time of preparation for the coming king?
 no depending on history “we always did…”
 no depending on heritage “my parents were, I used to be…”
 no depending on current situation “always in church, try to be a good person…”

All our goodness, all our righteousness - it’s chaff, goodness mixed with sin, good for burning

What will we do? Absolutely nothing. It’s all our striving and trying that gets us into the fix of the Pharisees and Saducees, the people who would be looked up to, the religious elite.

We bring nothing to the bargaining table. We bring nothing but a need for forgiveness and restoration.

John baptized for repentance. Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. We look to Jesus.

bringing judgment and destruction
bringing healing and restoration

He will take us, broken, rebellious, toxic, and wash us. He will cleanse us to be useful to him. And he will give us the message, the same message of the Gospel which has been since Genesis chapter 3, that sin will be judged in the Son of Man, Jesus, our Lord.

Jesus alone will come to present us to the Father without fault, blameless, by taking the blame and guilt we deserve upon himself. He receives our scorn and death so we can receive his life and hope. We are found in him.

Lord Jesus, cleanse us, your people, and use us as your servants, bringing your peace, life and hope in this world of darkness. Come to deliver us.
Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tillich, 1948, Chapter 6 "The Escape from God"

Chapter 6 “The Escape from God” pp. 38-51

Psalm 139

How can we ever escape the presence of God? This inescapability is precisely what makes God be God.
 Idealists may think they could rise up and escape.
 Those who long for death cannot escape.
 Our world tries to rush here and there - no escape.
Would we flee the god of our own making? No. he is like us.
It is the true God from whom we would hide.
The true God knows us completely, beginning to end.

Theological terminology often talks about God in terms of “omnipresence” and “omniscience.” This leaves us in the realm of speculation. We are left with ideas about God instead of the presence and knowledge of God. The Christian life is not about a theory, but about a person. We know that God knows us intimately and is always with us. This confronts us with our sin. It gives us reason to fear.

As the Psalmist reflects on God’s knowledge of him and care for him, he is moved to awe and wonder. God cares for his people. There is finally no need to fear.

Near the end of the Psalm, the author realizes again his sinfulness. It brings fear. Knowing God’s love, he asks for deliverance.