Monthly Archives: January 2016
Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. 23 These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. 24 That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. 25 But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. 26 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. 27 He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. 28 That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
Romans 8:22-28 (MSG)
But I pressed towards Thee, and was thrust from Thee, that I might taste of death: for thou resistest the proud. But what prouder, than for me with a strange madness to maintain myself to be that by nature which Thou art? For whereas I was subject to change (so much being manifest to me, my very desire to become wise, being the wish, of worse to become better), yet chose I rather to imagine Thee subject to change, and myself not to be that which Thou art. (1)
139 Nothing less than Christ’s power is needed for our conflict with the devil. We know that for Christ’s sake we have a gracious God and his promise. And therefore, we pray that the Holy Spirit may govern and defend us, so that we may not be deceived and err, nor be driven to do anything against God’s will. (2)
The congregation gathered around, absolutely devasted by the events they had endured. They humbly gathered, downcast, not know what to do or say. Heartbroken, unaware of how they will continue on, a simple, profound, wondrous hymn breaks out among them…
A hymn maligned, denigrated, and used as an example of poor hymnody, poor theology, poor worship by countless experts. I will contend that if we learn this hymn if we sing it as it was meant to be sung, there are few that express the theological depth it does.
It doesn’t matter to those singing it, for it is a lament that expresses the only hope they have… the gentle words pleading for that which is promised. A prayer expressed in words so significant that they must resonate in the church today.
“Kumbaya my Lord, Kumbaya, Kumbaya my Lord, Kumbaya, Kumbaya my Lord, Kumbaya, O Lord, Kumbaya;”
O Lord, be with us…”
These words express the same sentiment that Augustine reveals he needed. The attitude that is found in brokenness, the attitude of facing death, and dying to self. St. Paul’s words echo this, comparing this life’s brokenness to labor pains, as we await the recreation, the rebirth of all things. It speaks of those moments when our hearts are too broken to know what to pray, and the Holy Spirit must be our intercessor, the translator of the groans too deep for words.
This song speaks of the eschatological hope we have in Christ, which St Peter begs us to be ready to do.
This song is an expression of the Theology of the Cross, the simple hope found in our brokenness and the healing promised and delivered in word and sacrament.
This song speaks of the incarnation, as we count on Christ’s presence in our lives
This song speaks of vocation, as it asks God to be there in every situation we encounter.
This song talks of the Omnipresence of God, who incarnates Himself into our lives, who draws us into Himself.
It speaks of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, our comforter-paraclete, who teaches us of God’s love.
Amazingly, this song speaks of the sacraments, as we know He has come to us as we are united to Him in the waters of baptism, as we hear His words, you are forgiven, as we are fed with His body and Blood.
It does all this in a humble way, not with glorious melodies, not with perfect 4 part harmony, not with a worship that seeks to impress both God and those who are spectators. Rather, it is sung by voices barely able to create an audible noise. It resonates with the depth of the hearts aid open. It can capture the heart of all, growing in fervor, moving us from darkness to the glory found in His presence.
It is sung with hearts who realize their only hope, the only way to find peace, to receive mercy, is to encounter Almighty God in all His glory and plead for mercy, to cry the Kyrie Eleison, to plead, O Lord, be with us…
This must become again the cry of a church, in a broken world, for it points us to what is necessary, what we need to desire more than all, the presence of God. Here, now, in our lives.
May we be able to cry such words in faith, together, knowing that He who has promised is faithful….
(1) Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 126). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
The Kingdom of God is Like Nuclear Physics…
It’s all about Fission and Fusion
† In Jesus Name †
May you be encouraged by the grace of God, which powerfully is at work in your life, separating you from your sin in His death, and uniting you to Christ, and the glory of His resurrection to life!
The Power of a Word…
A Pastor Parker Parable.
Remember these locations. Fukushima, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Nagasaki, Hiroshima.
The fear and anxiety associated with them is still felt, and their identity will forever be united with the release of incredible power. Nuclear Power.
There is a great power at work in our lives, and the way in which it work can be illustrated by the basic concepts of nuclear power. For there are two actions that take place when the power of God is unleashed.
The first is like nuclear fission, the power released when that which isn’t supposed to be separated is. The second is like fusion, where separate elements are bonded together by incredible power so completely, you cannot tell one from the other.
And so, on this day when we celebrate Christ’s baptism, and our own, we are going to take a glance at Romans 6, and the description of God’s glorious power, at work in our lives.
Like nuclear power, the power of God’s glory at work is amazing, a power so incredible that we are left in awe of it, as we consider it’s work.
And so we shall…
When we consider fission, the basic concept is the core, the central part splits at the atomic level. The destructive force release is incredible as that which was supposed to be one is forced apart by the introduction of another force.
The element is forever changed by the release of such force. Enough so that a small pellet of uranium, about the size of a pencil eraser, is equal to three 55 gallon barrels of oil. No wonder the uncontrolled release of that energy causes death.
And that power is incomparable to the power that brought into the world, that separates us from our sin.
Hear it again from the words of Paul to the church in Rome.
We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.
As Christ entered into this world, so did the power it takes to separate from us a nature that is sinful. For each of us has sinned, and that sin we can see the damage, the destruction it does. The lives that are broken, the relationships shattered; the force that wreaks havoc in this world, a force we call evil. It doesn’t matter the sin, whether it is idolatry, dishonoring God’s name, or those He places in positions of great responsibility, like parents, lawmakers, rulers. It doesn’t matter if the sin is murder, adultery, theft, gossip or simply being un-content with our lives, and desiring that of others.
Sin is that force that was at work in each of us, a force that still tries to wield its power over us.
Christ’s entrance into the world, and his death on the cross releases the power that severs the power of sin that binds us, and we are free as the neutrons freed in the reaction. Such is the power of Christ’s death, which captures the radical sin which so easily ensnared us.
The power of sin is shattered, as a greater power overwhelms it….
If you think the power that would remove from you all sins in thought, word and deed is awe-inspiring, the power at work does something more incredible than that.
For while the power of sin leads to death, the power of God at work brings life, as it works like nuclear fusion, binding us to Christ Jesus.
8 And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9 We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God.
What takes more energy that division is melding something, repairing it.
If you break a window – it takes a lot of force, but how can you replace that which is shattered?
It is a lot easier to spend money, that it is to reconcile the checkbook.
It is easy to damage a relationship, but it is very difficult to restore one.
Yet the power of Christ’s death and resurrection does that, it unites us to Him, it fuses us into Him,
It is the power of God that David’s psalm testifies to, His voice that powerfully resonates like thunder, majestic and able to make the mountains quake, as it rules over us. Look at the power of His voice, look at the fission it creates, and yet at the end, almost an after statement, these is what takes the greatest power.
Look especially at the last verse, verse 11,
11 The Lord gives his people strength! The Lord blesses them with peace!
That is the power, the glorious incredible power that joins us to Jesus in death, and yet in the resurrection, in the quickening, in the very life given to us, the voice of God speaks.
That is the glorious message that is the gospel. That God raises us in Christ, unleashing that power to separate us from sin, and binding us to Himself. That is His word, His promise.
Hear it again from other places
Php 3:10-11 — I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
Col 2:12 — For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
Col 3:1 — Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.
This God at work, in you. It is all of His mighty power at work.
A power that goes beyond nuclear, it is the power of life itself.
Which is why Paul encourages us to stop living in sin, its power has broken over us.
And so I leave you with the last of his words. Know them, and the power of God at work in you. And rejoice as His power is unleashed. He are the words…
11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
Live life my friends, for it is your gift in Christ Jesus.
Devotional Discussion Thought of the Day:
16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. Galatians 5:16-17 (NLT)
346 Loyalty demands a real hunger for formation, because you are moved by a sincere love and you do not wish to run the risk of spreading or defending, through ignorance, principles or attitudes which are very far from being in accordance with the Truth. (1)
In a few hours, I will be officiating at the wedding of a cute couple, both incredibly passionate about each other. It will be fun, as was most of the pre-marital counseling I subjected them to undergo.
Some may think such a day is the best day of their lives. My prayer is that this is just the beginning of a relationship that will know much joy, much peace, even as they will undoubtedly have trying days. They might have a fight or two, they will definitely misunderstand each other, and the very passion that can result in incredible tenderness, incredible hunger for the other (in every way including sexually!) , can also turn on a dime and be focused on betrayal, or a perception that they are betrayed. For passion, and words, are meant for us to use positively,
It is not unlike our relationship with God. We should be passionate in our relationship with God, but I have often seen such passion turned against God when God doesn’t deliver what we think should be delivered. In btoh our relationship with our spouses, and our relationship with God, our sense of self-preservation and selfishness can misinterpret the One (or the one) we love.
This is when we need to realize that a major component of love is loyalty. Both the Hebrew cHesed and the Greek agape see loyalty, dedication to the “other” as the true nature of love. To desire and use everything that the one has to achieve what is best in the relationship.
Escriva is right, and it is applicable in our intimate relationship with God and our intimate relationship with our spouse. Formation is key, because it is there when we encounter love at its most incredible level. It is revealed to us, this love that sustains us, that empowers us, that purifies us. It is as we get to know the other (whether God or our spouse) that the relationship takes on such value that we would never want to risk damaging it. When such damage does occur, we need to grow to where we run to see it healed.
That is what formation does, it trains us, it helps us grow, it brings healing with it, for growth can’t occur if we are damaged beyond our ability to even seek healing. Formation is encountering mercy at its sweetest, at the moment it is unexpected.
For then it is revealed to be love.
Such love draws us to God, such love will bring a couple through anything that could occur.
I pray we all find those who will encourage and guide our formation with God, and for those who are married, I pray that your being formed with God provides the strength to really set aside your own needs, to meet the other’s needs.
Lord, in your great love, have mercy upon us.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria, The Furrow
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
20 Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood— 21 may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21 (NLT)
345 What a great discovery! Something you barely half-understood turned out to be very clear when you had to explain it to others. You had to speak very gently with someone, who was disheartened because he felt useless and did not want to be a burden to anyone… You understood then, better than ever, why I always talk to you about being little donkeys turning the water-wheel: carrying on faithfully, with large blinkers which prevent us personally seeing or tasting the results—the flowers, the fruit, the freshness of the garden—confident about the effectiveness of our fidelity. (1)
There are days in our lives when we wonder if what we do has any meaning. What we are questioning is our worth as individuals. Do we mean anything to anyone?
I’ve been there, and I’ve been there when others are asking those questions. Some of these people are older, people near 100 years old who live in retirement homes; some are a little younger, those trying to make the adjustment to retirement, as they have spent 40-60 years of defining themselves according to what they do. Some asking the question are younger, the 11-15-year-old, or 20-25-year-old who is not sure what to make our of their lives.
Pastor’s aren’t immune either. Especially those of us who know that the church doesn’t depend on us for our brilliance, our steadfastness, even our gifts, and abilities.
The church existed before us; it will be long after we have gone.
I have to admit, I am tempted to measure my value as a pastor. (For me that is measuring my value as a person as well) It isn’t about numbers in church; it is more the comments and questions I get from the sermon, or in Bible class. It is the way people call on me to remind them that God is with them.
My question – do people know, trust in and depend on Jesus more, because I am here. This goes for this blog as well, though I admit that I look at the numbers of hits and comments here! But the question remains, “will people call out to God for help, will they turn to Him and realize they dwell in Him.”
The question helps me keep focused in ministry. And the few times I do get a response, it lifts me considerably. I hate to admit it, but I need that encouragement. As do elders, and all church staff, whether volunteer or professional, ordained, commissioned or lay person. I don’t have to measure how effective, as much as doing what we are called and put in place to do.
So how do we know we have value? How do we know if we truly have any meaning?
We can’t evaluate it. As with St. Josemaria’s donkey, I can’t say know what benefit I have given to this world, to my community, or even to my family. It’s beyond my ability to measure.
That’s okay. It’s not my job to judge. Which is a good thing, because the person responsible for the quality, the worth of what I do, isn’t me. My worth comes from the fact that He works on us, in us, through us. That is why St. Josemaria can discuss the confidence about our effectiveness as we trust and have faith in the God who created us to be masterpieces.
That is ultimately our key, to stop trying to worry about our worth, knowing that is in the hands of the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1604-1609). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 No! I can’t be quiet! I am angry and bitter. I have to speak. 12 Why do you keep me under guard? Do you think I am a sea monster? 13 I lie down and try to rest; I look for relief from my pain. 14 But you—you terrify me with dreams; you send me visions and nightmares 15 until I would rather be strangled than live in this miserable body. 16 I give up; I am tired of living. Leave me alone. My life makes no sense. 17 Why are people so important to you? Why pay attention to what they do? 18 You inspect them every morning and test them every minute. 19 Won’t you look away long enough for me to swallow my spit? 20 Are you harmed by my sin, you jailer? Why use me for your target practice? Am I so great a burden to you? 21 Can’t you ever forgive my sin? Can’t you pardon the wrong I do? Soon I will be in my grave, and I’ll be gone when you look for me. Job 7:11-21 (TEV)
For I bore about a shattered and bleeding soul, impatient of being borne by me, yet where to repose it, I found not. Not in calm groves, not in games and music, nor in fragrant spots, nor in curious banquetings, nor in the pleasures of the bed and the couch; nor (finally) in books or poesy, found it repose. All things looked ghastly, yea, the very light; whatsoever was not what he was, was revolting and hateful, except groaning and tears. For in those alone found I a little refreshment. But when my soul was withdrawn from them a huge load of misery weighed me down. To Thee, O Lord, it ought to have been raised, for Thee to lighten; I knew it; but neither could nor would; the more, since, when I thought of Thee, Thou wert not to me any solid or substantial thing. For Thou wert not Thyself, but a mere phantom, and my error was my God. (1)
Yesterday’s sermon was on the slaughtering of the innocents, and the despair of Israel as the children were led away into captivity. An odd way to begin the year, I thought. I included statistics that were overwhelming, the number of martyrs, both those who died without denying Jesus, and the number of lives cut short before their
It’s enough to make you stagger, to bluntly reveal our brokenness, to tear our hearts apart by simply being honest. Even those who helplessly look on are devastated and struggle to find God, and even more, we often push away the comfort He would give us.
Often times, we are too polite, to bound by a sense of hospitality, to address these things. We want to shove the pain into some dark corner or our soul We are afraid to be honest with God, to openly cry about the pain, to admit the anger, to let ourselves be purged of our bitterness.
Augustine tried to find such solace, he couldn’t escape the pain. Neither could Job. But it is as they confess this, as they struggle with the god they cannot see, that they cannot fathom, that hope begins.
I understand them, perhaps all too well. When I am at such points, overwhelmed, I want to run and hide. To find solace in a place like Lake Ossipee, NH. To dive into the fictional works I love, of earlier times in history, or the worlds of Tolkien or Feist. I long to be someplace other. To replace prayer with the study of theology, to replace the sacred times, the sacramental life with busyness serving others. Ministry can be a great place to hide in the illusion of self-preservation known as denial.
David knows this grief, as did Solomon. the emptiness, the lack of the peace we pursue. You can’t read the Psalms without noting it, or Ecclesiastes without finding the bitter pain of a life that seemed only to be defined by vanity.
It is in facing that vanity, that lack of peace, that emptiness that we can realize our need for God. That we can understand what faith is, that we can understand how intimate the relationship is, where God teaches us to desire and pray to see His Kingdom come and will be done.
Stop running, cry out with your soul until you can be still. For then you will know that He is God, know He is here, and that He is your refuge. For being still is not possible until we deal with the pain that would have us fight or flee. It is then, broken, wounded, weeping, that we come to the cross, and indying to ourselves, we find Him.
There, at the cross, worn out and weary beyond measure, you will be still; ou will find what Agustine and Job, David and Solomon all found, and what transformed them. A God who comes to us… and brings healing and peace.
Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
We Have Hope!
† In Jesus’ Name †
In this new year, may the hope of God’s rewards for you, the rewards of being His children become more and more real, as we see the hope for our future in Christ Jesus!
You have to wonder….
One of the guys I want to meet in heaven is the guys who chose and approved the readings for the three-year church cycle, and how we choose which readings to use. I mean you look at the readings for today, they don’t seem like the kind of readings you want to start the year with, they don’t seem exactly what you might call promising!
They are the readings that call us to remember some of the youngest martyrs in the church. An event that Matthew’s gospel compared to the time the young people of Israel were led off into captivity, a fate that was the result not of their unfaithfulness, but the unfaithfulness of the generation that preceded them.
That is the weeping that Jeremiah’s passage originally referred to, yet Matthew says it is equally applicable to the time of Jesus birth. For then, the male infants and toddlers were sacrificed because of a man’s paranoia…
Again, the readings don’t seem to be the kind you want to start the year with!
Well, not at first…
The sobering reality…
The sobering reality is that babies are still killed because of the sins of the generation that would have given them birth. You look to places where children are taken from their homes and conscripted into armies. Others are simply killed because they won’t convert to another religion. Estimates online say between 10,000, and 100,000 ( http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24864587) Christian martyrs in the world last year. Worldwide the estimate is another 43 million children were killed before their birth in 2015. Even as I wrote this sermon yesterday, the amount for 2016 was already over 171,000 (http://www.worldometers.info/abortions/)
It is enough to make you weep.
This is just one form of the trauma that exists, one that makes no sense, like those observed by Jeremiah and by those who watched Herod massacre young children.
But the Law isn’t that
But it is not the acts of death that I see confronting us today. We need to find ways to help those being persecuted, and those who are told that life is disposable if it threatens our lives.
But I want to look at the Rachel’s, those of us who weep for this reason or maybe others. Some of us have hit that point, and others of us have friends who are experiencing that level of grief, that level of despair or depression. This is the law that confronts us this morning when the struggle to trust in God is too great, and we refuse to be comforted.
How do you help the person whose cry is described as, “deep anguish and bitter weeping.” How do we help the person, “refusing to be comforted.”
How do we help a person when faith doesn’t seem to be enough?
For that is the mission of the church, especially this church. Remember how we are described,
Concordia is the place where broken people find healing in Christ while helping others heal.
So how do we, as the people of God, bring healing and hope to people who have none? And how is that the gospel message for this day, and for this year?
And the gospel is this…
We do it the same Jeremiah did, and with the same message:
We spend time with them, there in the struggle. Praying for them, holding their hand, feeding them, caring for them, and sharing with them this message,
Do not weep any longer, for I will reward you,” says the LORD. “Your children will come back to you from the distant land of the enemy. 17 There is hope for your future,” says the LORD. “Your children will come again to their own land.
In the passage, God addressed the very issue that was causing the struggle, the pain over the children who were. No more. He didn’t forget them, nor the pain that the people of God knew, as the innocent suffered because of the evil of that day.
In this passage in Hebrew, five times, the phrase, “says the LORD” is used, though we see it only three times. The important thing is to realize this isn’t the title of God, the Lord Almighty, but the personal name we aren’t to use in vain, but to use in communicating to Him.
He keeps saying,
First he was the one who heard the cry of His people and recognized the depth of the pain. Even the fact that the people refused to be comforted. That is what God says…
And then He says the promise. Do not weep. There is hope for your future.
In this case, the children will come again into the land, they will return from the land of the enemy.
For the Jewish person, this is a promise of reconciliation, that God will restore not the property, but the position of being the covenant people, the people He has promised to care for, the people He loves.
That is what so many fail to see when they talk about being the chosen people. They look for the land, rather than the relationship.
But the hope, the hope which will dry up the tears is found in the relationship. The very thing that was forgotten, that was trampled upon, is restored to those it should have been passed onto.
When Matthew’s gospel quotes this passage, he recalls to people’s minds the promise. Not a promise to one mother, but to the nation of Israel – that God’s people will be God’s people. He will restore them. That He will keep His promises, including the one we don’t always see occurring, that all things work for good, for those who love God, and are called according to His purpose.
You see, we aren’t waiting for God to keep this promise somewhere in the future. The very thing that would call us “home” has occurred. We have this relationship with God; we are His people that have returned. We know that the promise is complete, even though we struggle to see its completeness…. Because we don’t see Him face to face…yet.
But we shall, and we have the promise of eternity with Him.
That is the promise, the ultimate promise, of that day when there will be no more injustice when there will be no more martyrdom or those who are sacrificed for the benefit of others.
For this is why He came….Jesus even said so, in his first recorded public sermon.
18 God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free, 19 to announce, “This is God’s year to act!” 20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. 21 Then he started in, “You’ve just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.” Luke 4:18-21 (MSG)
This is the message we have for those, who at first refuse the comfort we want to want dearly to give them. It is the message of the altar; the place were we find healing, and the peace that comes from knowing God will do what He promised.
For He always has. He always speaks to His people, bringing them comfort, and hope.
God still acts, and He will in our lives, and in the lives we bring to find His love, His mercy, and His peace.