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How they/We Recognize(d) Him. A sermon on Luke 24

How they We Recognized Him

Luke 24:13-35


 This grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ that we so often talk about, may you come to know it with your heart, your soul and your mind as you come recognize His presence in YOUR life.

The walk – 

I’ve got a question for you to think about for a moment.

Why did God hide who Jesus was from the two disciples?  Why did God stop them from recognizing Jesus?  (significant pause)

Why not just simply show up and reveal himself directly? He does the same thing to Mary Magdalene in John’s gospel.  She also doesn’t recognize him at first, thought it doesn’t say God stopped her from recognizing Jesus.  She even talked to him, asking Jesus where they put his body.  It would my asking Chuck where Chuck was…

Why hide?

Why hide in plain site?

In the way that Jesus will minister to them, we see a possible answer, an answer that gives us some direction not only for how Jesus ministers to us, but also how He ministers through us.

It’s what we call the ministry or word and Sacrament.

And it is all about revealing God so that they could recognize Jesus, so that we can recognize Jesus, and so we can help others recognize Jesus.

So this sermon title – how do they/we recognize Jesus, is answered.  He is revealed through His word and through the Sacraments.

He Listens

The first thing Jesus does is listens.  Though He knows their hearts, they need express what they know specifically what they know about Him.  They tell Him that He is or should that be was, a prophet, He does miracles, He was a mighty teacher, and we had hoped, we expected based on all this, that He was the Messiah!

Then they tell Him what He knows all to well, that he was handed over to be killed and that they crucified Him.  There is part of me that wonders how Jesus didn’t laugh at the irony.  Think about it!  They are telling Him what happened to Him!

But as He listens, as they speak the truth they see it, they put into words their pain, their inability to believe the drastic change of what is going on.   Our Lord knows us well, and for us to process that He is the Messiah, that He is our Lord, and what that means in daily life, what that would have meant – they need to do that.

We do too…

The Revelation of the Word

Then Jesus begins to do what we call the ministry of the word – and note that is a small “w”.  He explains what we need to know about Him!  The prophetic predictions – th very things that the Messiah would have to suffer, the missing part of their knowledge they have revealed to them.

And while He does, the hearts start to realize something different is going on, even though they won’t get it until Jesus is fully revealed.

But we need to know about Jesus, we need to understand what He did when He died on the cross when He suffered prior to coming into His glory,

The glory of the Resurrection

For Praise God, He is risen!  (He is risen indeed!  Alleluia

And therefore, we are risen indeed!

And that is not just glorious – it is His glory and the fulfillment of God’s desire.

But these men on the road need to understand that, we need to understand it.

We need to understand what God’s desire is, what His goal in creation is, and how all of the scripture, from the law to the promises, from the histories to the psalms, from the gospels to Revelation, are all about that desire being fulfilled in Jesus.

And that is what Jesus explained, from all the scriptures they knew about, He revealed who the Messiah was….

And their hearts burned within them, even as they knew all about Him, and didn’t recognize Him.  And they know this stranger, who showed them that Jesus the Messiah had to suffer in order to enter His glory, they don’t want him to leave.

They begged Him to stay, and yet there is one more thing.

The Revelation of the Sacrament

He has to do something that will drive the lesson from their head to their heart.  For the head comforted the heart, the ministry of the word brought comfort, but they need more.

And so Jesus broke bread and gave it to them, and His ministry fo the sacrament opened their eyes.  This sacred moment, reminiscent of four days before, prophesied about throughout the Old Testament, this revelation, this ministry opened their eyes.

Not only was Jesus the Messiah.

He was their risen Lord.

He had entered His glory.

And they were there to share it with Him.

What our minds can accept but can’t conceive of, that God wants a relationship with us, that He died to set us free to enter His glory, that is something the heart can accept, and know, and convince our mind is so gloriously true.

He lives and because He Lives, we live as well.  We share in His glory, as one of my friend’s is know to say, we get to dance with God.

That’s what the sacraments are, our time to experience God’s love….

Whether it is in our baptism, our as we hear again we are freed from all sin, or as we take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus, whether it is our time in prayer, or our time of giving, these sacramental times, these moments of holiness, are where we encounter our Risen Lord.

Where we learn to rejoice.

Where we share in His glory.

The Ministry of Word and Sacrament

This is why we are a church that does ministry of word and Sacrament. Because we need to realize what the Messiah does, and we need to know Him< to see His promises revealed, to have revealed as well His presence, right here, right now.

For the Lord is here, the Lord is with you!  And He has promised to never leave or forsake you.



Missed the Celebration? Maybe not….

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional THoguht of the Day:

9 The LORD told Moses 10 to say to the people of Israel, “When any of you or your descendants are unclean from touching a corpse or are far away on a journey, but still want to keep the Passover, 11you are permitted to observe it one month later instead, on the evening of the fourteenth day of the second month. Celebrate it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12Do not leave any of the food until the following morning and do not break any of the animal’s bones. Observe the Passover according to all the regulations.  Numbers 9:9-12 TEV

It is there in the wounds of Jesus that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his heart. I have seen so many people who find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him, “Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in your wounds and wash it away with your blood.” And I always see that God does just this:
He welcomes, consoles, cleanses and loves.

For the orthodox fathers were pressured with great hatred by heretics under this particular pretext, namely, that the church should have no other thought concerning the inaccessible light of the Deity than that which the Deity Himself in proceeding from the secret place of His majesty has revealed concerning Himself.

I encountered the heart of God today in a most unexpected place.

Sure the Book of Numbers is in scripture, but we usually think it is one of those boring books with lots of lists and lots of precise and even complicated directions.

Yet, in the midst of it, God offers something to those who are far off from God.  Far off because of business, or far off because of being unclean. There, God gives direction to those who cannot celebrate the Passover, the great high feast where the angel of death is told it has no right to take us, it has no right to deny us the grace God meant for us.

Yes, it isn’t time to celebrate it, because of your situations, but that doesn’t mean don’t celebrate it at all.  Here is your opportunity, here is the way you can know you are with me, that I am still your God, and you are my people.

For us, the equivalent is seen in the wounds of Christ, the place we find our security, our serenity, our peace.  It is there where we ask Him to take away our sin and to wash us.  It is there we find the consolation, the comforting hand of God showing us His love, even as He has always done.

This is the majesty that Chemnitz notes, the heart of God revealed that we don’t have the authority to change. This is the God who reveals Himself to us, and reveals His will that none should perish, but that all be transformed by His love.

Far too often, the church considers people as being away, as if they are no longer part of the family, as if they are no longer part of the church.  Rather than welcome them back, we too often, like the prodigal’s brother, wonder why they’ve returned, why they should be allowed back, as if they weren’t away at all. And as the Father celebrates their presence, we turn away, we refuse to acknowledge their presence, we fail to celebrate with them the love of God which drew them back.

CHemitz reminds us that we need to have the same heart, the same attitude that Jesus has.   For that is what has been revealed to us.  We need to help them know the wounds Christ bore is not something they should fell guilty about but should be in awe of, for He loves us.  We need to celebrate this cleansing, this consolation, this love for them.  No, that’s not right.  Rather this cleansing, this consolation, this love for us all!


Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.


Pay Attention to What the Prophets Wrote!!

Pay Attention to What They Wrote, Until…Concordia - The place where people find Healing in Christ while helping others heal!

2 Peter 1:16-21


In Jesus Name

May you know the height, the depth, the width and breadth of God the Father’s love for you, as we see it revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ.

How do we see scriptures?

Maybe I am just projecting my own personality onto Peter, but I think he must have had the hearing of a typical guy, somewhere from age of 4 until the age of 94.  In other words, he probably had that dreaded disorder called “selective hearing”, especially at church.

Well, it’s not completely based on my own experience, but on his words in the epistle, look at verse 19.

19 Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote,

Maybe it is because I am cynical, but I see Peter, prior to the experience of the transfiguration, sitting in synagogue because his mom or wife is dragging him there.  As the Rabbi is reading the Torah, or Isaiah, he’s thinking about where he will fish this week, about the taxes he has to pay, about the challenges he faces working with his dad…who happens to be sleeping two pews back…

Let’s be honest, there are times in our lives where the Old Testament scriptures, and sometimes the New Testament scriptures don’t seem as important to us as who will win the big game, or the struggles we face at work, or the challenges that affect those we love. We may have forgotten the wisdom of Leviticus last week already, the often repeated phrase in the midst of the commandments,

I am Yahweh, your God.

Or we might have forgotten the phrase we learned back in January, “Alleluia, He is Risen!” (therefore I am risen indeed! Alleluia!)

Something happened to Peter, up on that mountain. That changed how he looked at scripture, how he felt about those boring Old Testament scriptures… so much so that he encourages us, begs us to pay close attention to them…..

I pray we shall, as we encounter the Christ they reveal to us.

Getting Peter’s attention…As we hear Peter tell of the event, we hear his passion well, how much this event, years later, changed him.  It is one of the reasons why I love teaching people how to read scripture, and the bottom line is to read it like you would read to a young child.  Let me read it again, but first, consider this.

Imagine someone coming up to you, Al, and asking that all the stories you told, about the joy of baptizing your granddaughter were really true?  Or asking any of you ladies if your wedding really happened?  Or some event that moved you more than anything else in your life, actually was that important.  Now, as you think through that attitude – hear these words.

16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

I wouldn’t call it being defensive, perhaps Peter could be, but this is important to him, it is one of those events that you don’t forget, for God is revealed to you in all of His glory. As you realize, like Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and every other prophet, and yes, Peter, James and John that there it is a wondrous thing to be found in the presence of God, and to realize you are welcome there. 

Instead of hearing a list of his sins, and the verdict of complete judgment, Peter hears God the Father’s voice, uttered from heaven, sharing about His love for His son……..



Mind blowing…

And completely foretold in the Old Testament.

Now God has Peter’s attention… but will He have ours?

Getting ours…

Words shining in Darkness

So do we need a transfiguration event, an experience like Peter’s to help us take scripture, including the Old Testament writings more seriously?  Do we need something to help us pay attention to all the promises of God’s love, to the promises of Jesus coming to deliver us, to carry us back into relationship with God our Father, the promises that God will never abandon us?

Or will Peter’s words, about these stories he tells, that are neither fables or myths be enough?  I can point us to the transformation in Peter’s life, the repentance and humility that becomes so part of Paul’s life, the changes in people like King David’s life, the determined hope of Jeremiah?

What will it take for these stories to so impact us, that we can’t wait for Bible Study on Wednesday or church on Sunday, but that we desire and guard our time that we can spend as Paul encourages us; to pay close attention to what is written and proclaimed by the prophets?

Will it take a mountain top experience?  I don’t think so, been on enough retreats to know the fervor fades, much as Moses face did coming off of Mt Sinai.

What about the other things Peter witnessed, the miracles, the great teaching, or the things he experienced, the walking on water, or looking into an empty grave?

What will help us see the these words in scripture as a lamp shining into the darkness

What would help us know these words, in order that we could bring light into our neighbor’s darkness? If not for our sake, for theirs, to see them transformed as we have been, as we are in our baptism, to see their joy as they come and celebrate God’s love at the altar, as we commune with the Body and Blood of Christ?

Peter’s answer was simple – the experience made him realize that the scripture was all about Christ’s light invading our darkness, about His coming, the incarnation, about God dwelling with us.  When the Nunc Dimitis is SPOKEN by Simeon, he quotes the Old Testament about the light that shines for the darkness.

Similarly John takes up that theme…
14  The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NJB)

They saw His glory, His light invading the darkness.  That is what makes the difference, and it is what we need to see, to really think through.

We say it sort of, when we ask how people who don’t know God’s love can survive in life.   We realize something has happened to us, but do we realize how much?

Yes, and yet no,

We can’t , until we find ourselves before the throne of God,

Until that day…

Which is why we should pay close attention to scripture, to hear the promises, to see what eyewitness record, to see the lives that are changed because they walked with God, and the lives that were sustained, because they know God is there….

Put simply, the reason we read scripture is to know that our lives, as we walk through them with God, are transformed.  That we walk with Jesus, that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and we in Him.   To know and be assured of the promises that spell out the depth of His love for those He calls to be His own.  The very things that life tries to hide.

Those prophets, those writers  tell us of His love, of His mercy, of His healing presence. That’s why Luther said he saw Jesus on every page of scripture, because that is who He was looking for there!

You see, that’s what devotional reading of scripture, and even serious study is about.  To know as Paul tells it, of the incredible depth and height, the width and breadth of God’s love for us in Christ. It’s not about knowing the theology, its about knowing God.

It’s why it’s not fable or myth – it changes lives to know that love, to understand the promises, to get why this baptismal font and this altar and the words we say here matters.

It’s about God’s love – a love that can’t be stolen from you, a love that will see us to the day when we clearly see Him.

But until that day, of the promises you have been given, I end it with this one,

May you know you dwell in the presence and the peace of God our Father, a peace that can’t be put into words, but indeed a peace that holds us, comforts us, strengthens us, as our hearts and minds secure, for we abide in Christ Jesus our Lord.   AMEN?

So pay close attention to those promises then!





Understanding Christ in the Old Testament

Old testament window

Old testament window (Photo credit: Henry McLin)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day

 16  “Therefore, tell the exiles, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Although I have scattered you in the countries of the world, I will be a sanctuary to you during your time in exile. 17  I, the Sovereign LORD, will gather you back from the nations where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel once again.’ 18  “When the people return to their homeland, they will remove every trace of their vile images and detestable idols. 19  And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, 20  so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God.  Ezekiel 11:16-20 (NLT)

WHILE our Saviour’s Redemption is applied to us in as many different ways as there are souls to be saved, still love is the one universal channel of redemption, without which it can never be applied. And so the gates of this earthly paradise were kept by the cherubim with the flaming sword, that we might learn how there is no entrance into the Heavenly Paradise save to him who is transfixed by the sword of Love. Therefore it is that the Dear Lord Who bought us with His Blood so greatly desires that we love Him in order to our eternal salvation; and that we attain that eternal salvation so as to love Him eternally; His Love effecting our salvation, that salvation His Love. “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled.1[i]


I recently took a class that was supposed to discuss teaching pastors how to preach Christ from the Old Testament.  I struggled with the class, and eventually dropped out of it because of the underlying perception that Christ could be seen in the Old Testament without the lens of God’s love.  The authors of the text book had all academic methods to find analogy and typology and all sorts of literary devices to inject an understanding of Christ.

Personally, I didn’t think it was that hard, I didn’t think finding Christ in the Old Testament was an academic excercise, as much as it is one of trust, one of seeing the very promises of God and trusting them, for they will always lead us to Christ, for He is our way, our truth and our life.  So that which points us to the Father, points us through Christ.  You look for the relationship – as in the great passage from Ezekiel above – the removing of idols, the new heart, the new Spirit,  You look for this relationship this love that would exist between God and His children, a relationship described in essence by the word love.

It is as de Sales says – though one person may be brought to Christ through the work of a child, and another through the work of a priest, and another by passing by a church, hearing the words of a man being read – and that man came to know God’s mercy because of a brush with death – each comes to find God revealed to them, as God’s love shines brightly upon them.  But the one common way is that the love is revealed, the work of that love as Christ was nailed to the cross, bleeding and broken, to heal that in us which is bleeding and broken because of sin.

But what we often don’t realize, or perhaps meditate upon enough is that this is the greatest desire of God, to see His love revealed to us and thereby transform us.  I’ve mentioned it before – this incredible desire of Jesus the Christ to embrace the cross – that His love would be revealed to us, and that His love would indeed save and transform us.  It is mind-boggling to look upon, it is mind boggling to realize, it leaves us quiet and in awe….

And this desire of God is all over the Old Testament.  It is on every page – for even as Luther was reported to note, Christ is found on every page of the Old Testament.   More importantly is what He does to us as we encounter Him.  Encountering Him in the scriptures, encountering Him in our church family gatherings as we worship Him in His presence, and as we meet Him in prayer, encountering Him in the sacraments of Baptism and Absolution and of course in the community celebration of the Lord’s Supper, All of this – seen in the Old Testament relationship of God’s people, all of this seen more clearly as Christ walked among us, all of this more seen as we gather as God’s people,

In the Old Testament, the people of God are His people because of Christ. In the time since.. the same is true.  Where God’s love is, where the people of God are, there is Christ…even as He has promised.

Let us today find our rest as He and His love are revealed to us!  AMEN


1 Luke 12:49.

[i] Francis de Sales. (1888). Of the Love of God. (H. L. S. Lear, Tran.) (pp. 55–56). London: Rivingtons.

I Am the Lord Your God!

Cross & Clouds

Cross & Clouds (Photo credit: John H Wright Photo)

I Am The Lord Your God!
Lev. 18:-1-5, 19:9-18


†  In Jesus Name

May you always thank the Father, as filled with His joy, your find yourselves filled with all His glorious power, and having all the endurance and patience you need in your lives today!

It’s Not as Heavy A Burden as we Think!

At first glance, the Old Testament reading reminds me of my trainer at the gym.  Every time I think I am working with the right amount of weight, he’ll walk over and add 10 or 20 pounds, and I will have to really push myself to get another set completed.  Even as I dislike it when he adds the 10 pounds, the reason I have a trainer is to make sure I get the most out of my working out – so that I become healthier and stronger.

Often, our first reaction to lists of commandments like this is similar to a work out – we know we are going to struggle, we know we are going to be pushed past what we think our breaking point is.  We get anxious knowing we are going to be faced with failure, like when I try to bench press 60 pounds, we just give up.  The same thing here – how many commandments can we focus on at once, how will we grow spiritually and fulfill each of them?

It is easy to look at what God expects out of us, and look at the burden and wonder how Jesus expects us to be as perfect as He is.

What we are going to look at this morning, in both church and Bible study is this idea that the burden is too big, that it is too heavy, that we cannot live as God calls us to live.  The illusion we are only sinners, those who fail God.  Really, the burden is not too much and we can be described as Paul describes the church in Colossae.

…The way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. (Colossians 1:11b)

So let’s look at this list of commands, and consider whether it is a burden to obey these commandments….and walk in this life.

A Challenging List!


God makes it clear that His standard goes beyond that of the world.  It’s not just their behaviors we aren’t to follow, the very laws they established were not reflective of God’s standard.  Sounds familiar, yes?


What is legal in the law of the Egyptians and Canaanites and for us according to the Supreme Court isn’t beneficial or proper for us, according to God.  We can’t say to God, we didn’t hear your laws, or we chose to do what is appropriate here.  His desire for us is to for life to be lived to its fullest, not just to make do.  We are called to live life in a way that Jesus did, valuing what He did, serving those He would serve, sacrificing things we want, and knowing that what He has in store for us is so much more fulfilling!

Look at the “commands”, look at the way God commissions us to live.

God’s law is all about caring for our neighbors, nor matter their race, their religion, their role in society, whether they are in LA or the OC or Cambodia.  That is the bottom line at every one of these commandments.

It starts with the “law” of leaving part of what is ours provide for others. God asks us to give part of what is ours by right, to help those who have nothing, the poor and the stranger – or in other translations, the alien – literally those “not of our people” or “the one who doesn’t belong”.  We are to care for them, to help provide for them – whether the government is involved… or not.

The list moves on to not cheating others, not deceiving, slandering, or exploiting them.  Luther would add that this obligates us to care for them, and their property.  Remember, sin is disobedience! It is walking away from God’s plan in our thoughts, words, or deed – and that includes what we fail to think, fail to say, and fail to do.  Again – God’s desire isn’t just about not harming them, but caring about them, even as God cares for us.  God’s love in action, through us.

We see this as well in not mocking or cursing the deaf, or tripping up the blind – whether they are deaf and blind physically – or spiritually. Our actions should be that which help – and comfort and guide those, not give them reason to hate us.

Caring for them goes to the extent of our not allowing resentment to build in our hearts!  If we do, how can we love each other, or prove that love in the way we care for each other?  We are called to carefully reprove those who sin, in such a way that reconciliation can occur.  It should go without saying, but sin isn’t any more individual than grace and faith are – and it is a sign of our love for our neighbor that we would carefully try to deliver them from their sin – even as Christ has done for us….

This is the way of life God that has commissioned, this is the way of life that He desires us to live and treasure. It is easily summed up as the young man and Jesus talked about… loving your neighbor as yourself… and Jesus will remind the young teacher – that our neighbor is simply the one in need…

What we’ve got to remember He’s Yhwh   
That is what God has commissioned our lives to be – lives invested in each other, and in those who are broken in this world, that our love for them would bring healing and hope – even as we are found in Christ – and are finding healing there for our sin-caused wounds.

Which would be a struggle, an incredible burden except for one thing.  The nature and character of God.   You see, He will not give us a burden we can’t carry, In the midst of this passage, we are reminded constantly of who He is, for that very purpose!

I chose the NJB translation for that reason this morning for our reading.  I’ve mentioned it before – when the Bible spells our LORD in all capitals – it is not the word for Lord or Master or King in scripture.  In fact, it’s somewhat the opposite – it’s God’s personal name… Yahweh/Jehovah.  Translated it is “I AM” and it reminds us of God’s power but even more, His presence in our lives.  For He “is” and that means He is here.. with us.

Knowing that is the key to understanding all of the passages of scripture where God lays out how our lives are to be lived.  Nine times in this passage, God reminds us of Who He is, not with titles that we see in Scripture – like, “God of heaven’s armies” or God on High, but rather His name.  Reminding us of what He desires most – for us to so trust in Him that we call on His name – that we realize that He is our God! He is with us.

This is what the cross is all about!  It isn’t just about forgiving our sins, though indeed that is where they were paid for.  It’s about getting rid of the things that stand in the way of our calling on His name,  Jesus living the way He did, being crucified and raised from the dead – it’s all about His restoring us to the Father, sharing with us their glory, as their love envelopes all of us.

Which is why this way God commissions us to live is not about rules and obligations, as much as it is the natural outcome of our relationship with Him.  This relationship, as we walk with Him, as we realize He is our God, results in a change in us, as we begin to love as He does. Our priorities change, not by our strength or character, but by living in His presence and knowing His mercy.

That is why I said this list is not a burden, The more we dwell in Him, the more we are conscious of the fact that He is Yhwh, the more we are sure that He is here, the more we find ourselves changed – the more we find out that we begin to live in this way.

For we find, in His presence, we dwell in His peace…a peace beyond all comprehension, for He guards as a great treasure, our hearts and minds.


The God Who Comforts….

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 1  The Sovereign LORD has filled me with his Spirit. He has chosen me and sent me To bring good news to the poor, To heal the broken-hearted, To announce release to captives And freedom to those in prison. 2  He has sent me to proclaim That the time has come When the LORD will save his people And defeat their enemies. He has sent me to comfort all who mourn,     Isaiah 61:1-2 (TEV)

“You shall have no other gods.”  1 That is, you shall regard me alone as your God. What does this mean, and how is it to be understood? What is to have a god? What is God? 2 Answer: A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. 3 If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.  (1) 

It is for most men, one of the hardest images of God to grasp onto, because our pride gets so in the way.  We want to be the ones who endure, the ones whom secure the victory, the ones who at the end of the day, soaked in sweat and blood, can rejoice that we are alive.   The last thing we want to admit – we need this God, because He does the exact thing we don’t want to admit that we need.


The God who comforts, the God who consoles.  The God who is so adept at comforting us, that the prophets don’t describe Him just as a father-figure, but use the illustration of a mother comforting her infant.  But throughout the Old Testament, and especially in the major prophets, this is a strong picture of God – the one who comforts and strengthens (a number of times strengthens replaces the same word for comfort..and the word picture is a great sigh of relief)

It’s knowing we can’t go on anymore, we can’t take another step, or we feel like we can breathe.  Then, we realize His presence, and the breathe is one of relaxation, as we realize we can rest in His presence.  All is well.. or so our hearts know, even as our minds still anxiously struggle with the implications of something.   We breathe deeply of the Spirit, we know we’ve found, as Luther says – refuge, sanctuary.

Our God has once again proven Himself to be God.  He shows us we can trust in Him, even when we can’t believe the wars that surround us. Even though we struggle with what seems to be the world, or our nation, or our church, going to pieces.

A God of comfort – one who brings us to a place of peace, a place of nourishment, a place of blessing, as He comforts us, as He consoles us… as He reminds us that He is God.

Lord have mercy on us all, and help us to find comfort in that mercy… even us guys…


HOLY SPIRIT – FOIX (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(1)   The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. 1959 (T. G. Tappert, Ed.) (365). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Why I Love the Old Testament

David bearing the ark of testament into Jerusalem

David bearing the ark of testament into Jerusalem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day 

4  And all these things which were written so long ago were written so that we, learning perseverance and the encouragement which the scriptures give, should have hope.  Romans 15:4 (NJB)

“By reading,” you wrote me, “I build   up a store of fuel. It seems a lifeless pile, but I often find that my mind spontaneously draws from it material which fills my prayer with life and inflames my thanksgiving after communion.”  (1)

Tomorrow morning I find myself preaching on the Old Testament again. As is my habit, early in the week I asked a question that helps me see where people where at.  One of the responses was basically, :we are in the New Coveant, why worry about all that old history?”  The person was basically questioning whether the Old Testament was relevant to us.

There are a number of reasons I can think of….including those written above:

St. Paul’s comment to the church in Rome goes directly to the heart of the matter.  Hope. The expectation that God will see us through the matter, that God not only will be looking after us from heaven, but that He is with us through it all.  Look at the Old Testament as a love story, between God and the one (HIs people) He is working to make the Bride of Christ,  God’s passion for the people He would call His own is infinitely more than any chick-flick ever endured by man…

And that devotion of God, that love, that desire – we see illustrated over and over in the Old Testament.   The more time I spend in Isaiah, or Exodus, or Jeremiah… well in any book – the more that desire is revealed.

Even to the extent that God is willing to look past our sin, to clean us up (remember Hosea and Gomer) that none of us in unreachable, unredeemable.  That we don’t have to hide from God – as so many did, that we don’t need to make up excuses.  That we, to paraphrase Luther – sin boldly – that we might boldly go before the throne of God.  We can’t do that if we hide, or if we justify our sins, or if we simply ignore God.

That is where St. Josemaria’s interaction with one of his students comes into such clarity for me.  As I have ministered to the dieing, to those incarcerated, to those in crisis – whether they realize it or not, to those in bondage to sin; the Old Testament becomes a wonderful resource for revealing to people God’s faithfulness, God’s merciful love (see the word cHesed).The resources just spring to mind, the love of God is so carefully documented and chronicled.  His pain over His people’s sin and immorality – yet His steadfast work to call them back, to clean them up again, so marvellous.  His presence through the valley of the shadow of death, ours, our friends, our children (see King David) so incredible.

How could I not want to share this with the people I care about?  How could I not desire that they know His faithfulness?

Yes, I love to preach on the Old Testament – for it testifies of Christ, and it gives me hope – even as I see His people live in the hope that was even harder to see fulfilled – but was, completely in Christ Jesus.

The Old Testament?  The record of people crying out, “Lord have Mercy!”  And the answer, over and over… “yes my people, I will be merciful – for I, the Lord God, love you!”


Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 417-419). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

To Boldly Go

Eph 3:1-12

In Jesus Name

May we find our trust in God the Father and in the work of Jesus Christ growing to the point where we understand and rejoice in His mercy and Grace…for it means we can boldly abide in His presence!


To Boldly Go….
The last verse of the epistle reading,

12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence


Proving you pastor is a complete nerd, or geek, or whatever the term is these days, I heard an ancient voice echo through my head when I started my study of the passage…

“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

I have a slightly different version of that famous quote – which I will share with you at the end of the sermon.

We probably do not see life as such a great adventure, as we did in the various editions of Star Trek.  Oh sure – we have a list of characters like Spock and Data, courageous leaders like the impetuous Kirk and the thoughtful Picard, people like Bones and Scotty and Number One.
Yet our journey together, is something more incredible – something that discovers treasures and new life.  It is a journey, a mission we share, a journey that brings challenges and joys; a journey of our lifetime, and a journey that continually reveals something that is beyond belief…


SO let us look at this journey, and let us be encouraged on the mission we are on…

His Eternal Plan.. Revealed

The power – capability to know

When we talk of God’s plan being revealed – we often think of the last book of the Bible – the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  Yet, in the epistle today – Paul talks of God’s plan being revealed.  Not just to him, or to a select number of very special people – though it was revealed through the apostles and the prophets, it was revealed that it could be further revealed….to us, and like Paul – through us… to the world.

I love how verse four states it,

 As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ.


In the original Star Trek – they did not know where they were going- they, like Columbus or Magellan, were simply heading off into the dark. They did not even know what they would discover, or what those discoveries would mean for them.

Sometimes, we do not know what we will discover on our journey, the people we will meet, the new life we see created as sinners come to understand God’s plan, and are cleansed and are brought to faith and life.  We do not yet see the joys that will be shared, or the grief we will endure, together.  Yet though we do not know the specifics, we know something even better, for by the power of the Holy Spirit, we understand the plan of Christ that Paul shows us.

It is what Paul was referring to – that God had given the responsibility of extending God’s grace – His gift of life, and faith and repentance and forgiveness that leads to that life, to us.
Extending Grace

Paul actually does not identify the destination, and indeed the journey until the end of the passage – but what he does describes in verses 6-9, as he explains the plan, does give us incredible insight into the journey and the destination.

Despite many prophecies to the contrary, there developed among the people of God in the Old Testament the idea that only certain people were welcome into God’s presence, that if you did not have the right connections, you were not eligible to be part of the family of God.  This was such a case, that in nearly every epistle, and definitely in the book of Acts of the Apostles, that this misconception has to be addressed.

Get it straight, there is no group that is excluded from the grace of God, shown to us in Christ.  It is not just for the people of one continent, or one nation.  It is not just for one economic bracket, for one age group, or for one gender. There aren’t levels – that pastors or elders get more grace, and then comes the choir – not at all!

We share equally in the riches – all who trust in the message of the Gospel – the message we sing in the memorial acclimation, that even as Christ has died, risen and will come again, so shall we.  The phrase in Greek is that we have equal lots in the inheritance – all who trust in God’s message to us – that He loves us, that He is merciful.

If you have ever noticed that scripture repeats itself often, there is a reason for it – we need to hear it over and over again.  We can hear the words that we are forgiven, that His body and blood were broken and shed for your sins, and we still need to hear them, our souls need to be reminded.

That is why Paul repeats the message here – yes – we share – equally – in the inheritance.  He repeats it by saying we are part of the same body, Gentiles and Jews – two categories that compromise not just the diversity of a neighborhood or a community, but also that of the entire world.  It is like saying Concordians, and the rest of the world, it contains everyone for whom Christ has died!

He goes on to include all those who would believe, all who would trust as those who enjoy – not will enjoy – but enjoy – the promises of the blessings – why?  Because we belong to Christ!  We have been made His in Baptism, we have been made His as the Holy Spirit gifted us with faith and repentance, and God re-created us.

Paul finalizes the description with one more reference that he was chosen to tell the gentiles – that is us folks – about the endless treasure available to us in Christ Jesus.


Carried out in Christ!
We trust in Him, and that trust delivers us – that we may boldly and confidently enter His presence!

In verse 11, we find Paul describing how the plan came to completion – how it was made possible and guaranteed to those who trust in God.

 This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.


John described it as well – as the fulfillment of the prophecy we heard in the reading from Isaiah,


32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” John 12:32 (NLT)


There is out mission – to be in the presence of God – brought there, drawn there, guided there, to the cross – and then eternally present with Him, never alone again.

Or as Paul says it,  “12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.

We often talk of the mission of the church, as to go out into all the world, as Paul did – to share the gospel.  That mission of the church happens because we are in the presence of God – that He is with us, that with us, He is bringing His presence to others, revealing to them His plan, through our words, even as we share the gospel that Paul did…..

I promised, at the beginning of the sermon, that I would, in the style of star trek, revise the phrase to fit us, – well here it is..

“Life: the final frontier. These are the journeys of the congregation Concordia. Its ongoing mission: to extend the grace of God, to see created new life, and deepened communion, to boldly go together into the presence of God”

We can do so, only because of Jesus Christ, only because He has claimed us, because we belong to Christ.  This has been the plan for us, for all mankind, since the beginning.  For so Paul has written to us, and so the Holy Spirit has given us the ability to know…

We are blessed to live in a time – where it has been revealed… where we know the peace of God, which passes all understanding, which guards our hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus.  So rejoice – and enjoy the journey!