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Preaching Requires Knowing More than Scripture:

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 For though I am no man’s slave, yet I have made myself everyone’s slave, that I might win more men to Christ. To the Jews I was a Jew that I might win the Jews. To those who were under the Law I put myself in the position of being under the Law (although in fact I stand free of it), that I might win those who are under the Law. To those who had no Law I myself became like a man without the Law (even though in fact I cannot be a lawless man for I am bound by the law of Christ), so that I might win the men who have no Law. To the weak I became a weak man, that I might win the weak. I have, in short, been all things to all sorts of men that by every possible means I might win some to God. I do all this for the sake of the Gospel; I want to play my part in it properly.
1 Corinthians 9:16 (Phillips NT)

Her (the Church) purpose has been to adapt the Gospel to the grasp of all as well as to the needs of the learned, insofar as such was appropriate. Indeed this accommodated preaching of the revealed word ought to remain the law of all evangelization. For thus the ability to express Christ’s message in its own way is developed in each nation, and at the same time there is fostered a living exchange between the Church and the diverse cultures of people.22 To promote such exchange, especially in our days, the Church requires the special help of those who live in the world, are versed in different institutions and specialties, and grasp their innermost significance in the eyes of both believers and unbelievers. With the help of the Holy Spirit, it is the task of the entire People of God, especially pastors and theologians, to hear, distinguish and interpret the many voices of our age, and to judge them in the light of the divine word, so that revealed truth can always be more deeply penetrated, better understood and set forth to greater advantage.  (1)

Back in the days of my youth, a phrase similar to the title of this blog caused a reaction in me.  I was at a seminar on preaching, actually 3 sections on preparation and one final one, on the actual delivery.

It was the third section that bothered me at first, and yet now I wish it was taught to every preacher, every pastor, every priest.

It is not enough to know the word of God, to be able to know the background of the passage, to be able to study all the words in the original languages, to know what scholars from every age thought about it.  All these studies are good, all are necessary, along with times of devoted prayer.

But what is also needed is what Paul describes, and what Vatican II’s pastors noted.  We have to understand ( to use a pastoral term “exegete”) those who are listening.  We have to understand who they are, where their fears and anxieties haunt them, where their guilt and share show that God’s law (whether it be natural law or the covenant) is convicting them, or should be.

Think of it this way, preaching is part of the ministry of the word of God.  That word of God is a means of grace – a conduit through which the Holy Spirit pours out grace, the mercy, love and peace that God would desire we all know, that affects every aspect of our lives.  Those who preach and teach the word of God are expert at connect the conduit to the source.

But have we figured out how to preach what Luther called “real law” and “real gospel”  Have we thought and prayed about making sure the conduit is connect to the other side?  Do we bother to think of how our people will hear what we preach?  Or do we preach God’s law to convict those not there, and the gospel to people whose sin does not afflict them?

This is what Paul is getting at when he describes becoming like those under the law, or recognize his own weakness, or becoming like those who aren’t bound by the Old Testament.  He strives to preach Christ in a way they will hear it, so that they may be saved. This includes all who God would have hear of His love, the believer, and those who as of yet do not believe.

This is what Vatican II was advising in the selection, to understand the world so that the revealed truth of Christ can deeply penetrate those who hear it, and so that He can be understood, and so they can know His love and presence and peace.

May those who preach tomorrow, and those who listen, find this connection made, and people realize the height and depth, the breadth and width of God’s love for them, revealed in Christ Jesus.  AMEN

(1)  Catholic Church. “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

Y’all Come Back Now, You Hear? A sermon on Ephesians 2 (manuscript)

Y’all Come Back Now, You Hear?

Ephesian 211-22

In Jesus Name

 May the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ assure you of the peace that is found as the world comes back, reconciled to Him!

Concordia Hillbillies

Another Pastor Parker Parable….but one that needs a bit of a set up…

They were gathered, at the end, around a pool that reminded you of a Roman Villa.

As the credits rolled past, the cast of the sitcom would, with a hospitality that seems somewhat unknown today, invite us to watch next week with the words,

Y’all come back now, you hear?

You might call this pastor Parker parable, “The Kingdom of God is like the Beverly Hillbillies!”

Another way to put it is that if we made a television show about our church, it could be called the Concordia Hillbillies!

We certainly are a diverse group of characters, and there is no one that would walk in our doors, that wouldn’t be welcome.

If you are unfamiliar with the show, here is the basic plot, a poor family of people from somewhere in the Appalachia strikes it rich with oil on their property.  They load up their truck and move to the Beverly Hills, the place of dreams and where rich people belong.

Of course, there are some things they had to get used to,  As the slide says, Ma, somethings just ain’t going to be the way they used to be!  Things like indoor plumbing, a pool in the backward instead of a creek and a pond, and the manners of the rich and infamous they would need o learn to deal with, and quickly.  It was a study of cultural anthropology, and conflict resolution between peoples of different cultures and backgrounds done with great humor.

As we hear the words of Paul to the church in Ephesus, we see similar cultural issues, and we see a community being formed, as the people become one.  There were things that the Gentiles and the Jews would need to learn, as they were brought together in Christ.

This is our goal for today. That we would begin to desire that all people would come and hear our plea, “be reconciled to God!” No matter their place of birth, their native language, their gender or economic status, that they would come, and that they would all come back to God, you hear?

Did We Worry About Fitting In?  Or Did we Look Down on the newbies

The first plea to be reconciled goes to those who are new to the community.  Those who were, and you have to here the “were” aliens.  They weren’t part of the community, they weren’t governed by the law of the covenant, they were considered outsiders.

Some of us have experienced that feeling once or twice in our lives.  We were born in a different place, some even on a different continent, like South America, or Asia.  Some have come from Africa or Europe  Some of us came from really strange places, like the lakes region of New Hampshire.  We may have had people mock us, and California natives tell us we weren’t welcome or we felt like we would never fit in.  Hear Paul’s words again, and see if the feeling sounds familiar,

  • 11 Don’t forget that you – used to be outsiders.
  • You were called “heathens” by the others
  • In those days you were living apart.
  • You were excluded from bein part of the community
  • You did not know the rules and benefits of bein a part
  • Therefore, you lived in this world without God and without hope”

For the Gentiles, it was just a matter of being held without the hope of fitting in,
I love Paul’s concern for these new believers that they will fit into the community of God.  But part of that is helping them understand that they aren’t unbelievers anymore.  These things were true – but they aren’t anymore.

It is as if he said, “Clampetts – you used to go to the bathroom out back, but Jethro, you don’t need to anymore.”  Paul says, “Gentiles – remember you were like that before, but now you have hope, now you are part of the covenant, now you are in the community, no longer separated, no longer aliens!”  They were now saints.. and that means something.

But they weren’t the only one’s who needed to learn!

Does anyone remember the name of Miss Hathaway’s boss?  You know the rich banker who used to try and acquire the Clampett’s money?  Was it Clydesdale?

Whatever his name, I think they modeled him after the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. He had trouble, serious trouble, adjusting to the fact that someone whom he didn’t think was worthy ended up with more blessings than he did.  The Jews had the same struggle.  Their pride in their circumcision and the other traditions they counted on caused them to lose contact with God’s vision.

It’s a problem we all struggle with at times, as our faith isn’t focused on Christ, but on something of us.  I love how this translation puts it, “even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts.

Do we let our religious lives get like that at times, where they affect our body, but not our souls?  Do we get to the point where we go through the motions and say the words, but don’t rejoice over the incredible mercy and love God shows us?  The point when our traditions, or our preferences become more important than others coming to know God’s love?

What will it take for the new folk and the old folk, for the Jew and the Gentile, for all the cultures, all languages, all life to be at home together?

What Makes it Home

It happens when the same way it did in the Clampett household.  It happens as we feast together.

It happens when we remember the life, death and resurrection of Christ includes us.   We come home as we are joined together with Christ’s death and resurrection.
That’s how we know when we are home… home together.  Hear Paul’s words again,

17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

to His home together

19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
We belong together, we have been made one people, one holy people as we are God’s family.  He is making His home out of us.  People from every background imaginable, people who’ve committed every sin and been forgiven, people who are broken, who’ve come to be healed.  God will work with people who’ve even come, like the apostle Paul did, to fight God,  He can heal those who come to persecute God’s people, and like Paul was filled with awe, God can reach them!  We can welcome, and even love them, and shown glimpses of the glory of God which we shall share in, together.

That is the power of God, seen as He makes us one….in Christ…

And y’all come back now, to His table for there will be a feast, celebrating His death and resurrection, the power of which is at work in us.


Our Need for a Church Community

Featured imageDevotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:

3  How excellent are the LORD’S faithful people! My greatest pleasure is to be with them. Psalm 16:3 (TEV)

9  Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. 10  Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. 11  Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. 12  Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13  Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. 14  Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15  Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16  Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise. Romans 12:9-16 (TEV)

465    I think it is all right for you to feel concern for your brothers—there is no better proof of your mutual love. Take care, however, to keep your worries from degenerating into anxiety.  (1)

For those of us who regularly gather with other believers, it is something we wouldn’t consider giving up for other things.  Yet I don’t know if we can explain this well to others.  The words from Solomon above tell me that those I gather aren’t the first to feel this way.  Even Solomon looked forward to gather with others who also tried to walk with God.

But it takes time to get to this point. It takes effort to look past the fact that we are all sinners and to be comfortable knowing that we can gather with each other.  Being honest with each other comes slowly, but it comes, and then we being to see people react like the second quote above.  We become like that.

We will, I have seen it.

Even in the most broken of congregations, there are those who will take time to listen and to pray.  Often there are people that sacrifice their time and talent, and yes sometimes help out financially. Let me give you an example.  We had a visitor one year to our midweek services.  She worked somewhere else, and couldn’t have communion regularly.  So the congregation agreed that from that point on – Wednesday services will have communion.  A simple decision, yet a decision which made our visitor feel quite at home.  I don’t think it is a coincidence that those services, during Lent and Advent, have quadrupled in size over the last few years.  I could tell other stories, of people underwriting tuition for children, of people bringing others meals, or caring for their lawn.

But to see all of these incredible acts of love one has to be involved.  One has to hear the stories, to cry and weep with those around them.  They have to let others cry and weep with them.  One has to learn to love deeply, and allow yourself to be loved deeply.

The reason to go to church isn’t the love of your neighbor though that is one of the blessings that comes with it.  The reason we come together is to see God’s love to you revealed!  We are gathered together as He works in our lives, from bringing healing of your heart and soul, to bringing comfort, to sustaining us.  We realize this as we find great joy when a baby, or a 90-year-old, is baptised, reminding you of the very promises given to you.

It is an amazing thing to see those promises poured out on the lives of others, to share in it, to be comforted by it.  To realize that a church is more than listening to some music and a message.  But that the message and the music, because of God’s love, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, impacts lives.  It does this as we explore the height, depth, width and breadth of God’s love for us, His family, together.

Come join us, spend some time together with us, and experience the love of God, poured out on a community.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1134-1135). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven.

Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven

Who’s Driving?
Rev. 7:9-17\

May you be blessed, as your realize the depth of God’s work in your life, evidence of His great love and affection for you!

Our Way to Heaven is like…

In my congregation, we have been working on a sermon series, a long parable of sorts.

The idea is that like our life long journey in Christ, which ends before the throne of God, is like a long family car journey.  We aren’t the drivers, rather, we are the 3 oe 4 siblings in the back seat.  That as the Holy Spirit guides us toward eternity, we sometimes act like little kids in the backseat.

The sermons have been based off of scripture, but using the idea of the conversations heard in the back seat to describe how we live together.  We journey together toward the day when we are in that vast crowd, people from every nation and family and culture.  But getting to that day can be a challenge.   Just like surviving a long drive in the back seat of my parents 1971 Dodge was a challenge.

We’ve had titles like, “get along back there” and “that’s not fair!” and of course the ever popular phrase, “are we there yet?!?”  Interestingly, they have all tied into the scripture passages on our three year cycle of readings.

Today, as we look at this incredible message from the Book of Revelation, chapter 7, the question is simple….

Who’s driving?

And the more we can realize that God is in charge of our journey, the more we see it as a blessing.  That results in a life of holiness and peace.

So let’s look at this more clearly.

Destination Heaven!

A vast crowd, too great a number to compute, from everywhere,  every time, every language, all before the throne of God, all in His clear view.  Called by Him, gathered together by Him.

What a glorious day that will be.  All the people of God.  Together.

How did they get there?  That is one of the questions asked the elder to the apostle John, in verse 13.

The answer is not a list of directions, generated by a gps device, or from google maps.  But it is how they got there…

“These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white. 15  “That is why they stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night in his Temple. And he who sits on the throne will give them shelter. 16  They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. 17  For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”  (Verse 14b-17)

This gathering of all believers made their way there, because God led them, because God cared for them.  It is why we will find our lives in eternity as those who minister and serve God.  They are transformed, and what they have been clothed with is dazzling white.

This is what is promised in the Old Testament, in Isaiah 1:18

 “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. Isa 1:18,

and in the story of the high priest representing Israel, in Zecariah,

1  Then the angel showed me Jeshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD. The Accuser, Satan, was there at the angel’s right hand, making accusations against Jeshua. 2  And the LORD said to Satan, “I, the LORD, reject your accusations, Satan. Yes, the LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebukes you. This man is like a burning stick that has been snatched from the fire.” 3  Jeshua’s clothing was filthy as he stood there before the angel. 4  So the angel said to the others standing there, “Take off his filthy clothes.” And turning to Jeshua he said, “See, I have taken away your sins, and now I am giving you these fine new clothes.” Zechariah 3:1-4 (NLT)

We get there, to the point where we are clothed in Christ Jesus because of God’s work,  This is how the Apostle Paul says it,

26  For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27  And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28  There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26-28 (NLT)

The one people, made up of all peoples.  We are one in Christ.

So I have a question

Backseat Driving

Why do we try to be spiritual backseat gps devices?  Or as we used to say, backseat drivers.

Let me explain.  When William was little, he loved to imitate the GPS, and on occasion, try to beat it to the punch.  Trying to sound like a computer generated voice, he would give me directions.

at the next light, turn right.  Go four miles, turn left. You have arrived at your destination.  That last one was usually said when we got near a McDonalds!

He really didn’t know how to get where we were going.  For that matter, he often didn’t know where we were going.  But he wanted to give me the directions.

Sometimes we act that way with God.  Rather than trusting our Lord who came from heaven to bring us there, we tell Him the directions we want to take.

Lord, do this for me.
Lord, I think this is how it should work out.
Lord, if you don’t follow my ideas, we will get lost!
Yet like a four year old giving directions, we don’t know the way to heaven, apart from Him.

And sometimes, we might even think we are there, when it is our hungers that really speak.  You see this in the world today, it often throws aside how God has designed us to live, and people want to follow their passions.  In this world people even go so far as telling God what is good, and contradicting Him when He says what is desired is sin.

Humanity, even those in the church, often want to take over and navigate this journey of life.  They want to do this, rather than letting God guide us, letting God take care of us, letting God teach and protect us along the way.

It’s in those times, like children realizing their moms and dads probably know their way around better; that we have to remember who is taking us through life, and bringing us home.

It is then we need to come to our senses, to repent, to know we are forgiven, and listen to God’s ways.

Look at Who our Chauffer/Guide is….

In every passage of scripture where heaven is described, I love the awe that is described.  We will be shouting in heaven

“Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!”

and not only us, all of heaven, the angels, the elders, the four living beings are in awe as well, as they sing,

 “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever!

This is who will bring us to heaven, this is the God who has promised to bring us to a feast that is like no feast we have ever seen.

This is the God who will guide our steps, all of our steps, even as He guided each one of us to this place, even as He will guide both Passion and Concordia’s ministries in the days and years to come.

For He is God.

So let us bow before Him, recognize Him as Lord, and with confidence in His completion of what He has began in us, walk with Him, letting Him lead our way.

For there, walking with Christ, cleansed by His blood, knowing His love, we are assured of getting where He is taking us.  To see the Father, high and lifted up on the throne, surrounded by angels and elders, living creatures, and us, the people of God, from every nation and tribe and language….

Until then, we are assured by His presence, that we can dwell in His unexplainable peace. For Christ guards our hearts and minds in that peace.  AMEN?

How to “Change” Mondays

Devotional Thought of the Day:Dawn at Concordia
22  So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. 23  Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24  Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25  Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. Hebrews 10:22-25 (TEV)

66         It is true: we are worth nothing, we are nothing, we can do nothing, we have nothing. And, at the same time, in the middle of our daily struggle, obstacles and temptations are not lacking. But the joy of your brothers will banish all difficulties, as soon as you are back with them, because you will see them firmly relying on Him: Quia tu es Deus fortitudo mea—because you, Lord, are our strength. (1)  

It’s Monday again, the weekend is over, and to be honest, that first sentence of St. Josemaria’s note seems all to real.

On Monday’s we often feel challenged, unequal to the task of a long week, It seems our list of weaknesses is all to real, and we’ve forgotten the lessons learned a short twenty-four hours ago.  We may already be tempted to think about and/or do that which is wrong.  Or maybe, the temptation is just to overlook that which others are doing wrong, or even the risk to their souls.

Mondays are hard, even thought 24 hours or so before, we found ourselves close to heaven, as we gathered with others who have been called to be part of God’s family.  Who have learned that we can trust in Him, that we can know the promises He has made us are sure. To hear God’s word together, and rejoice in the love for us that is revealed.  We get to hear that all of our sins are forgiven, erased, that Christ’s merits have brought healing to our souls. and to the relationships that have been marred and broken.  Incredibly, God invites us to a feast, one that calls to mind the feast that will occur in heaven, the wedding supper of Christ.

Mondays are hard, because we forget the lessons we learned again on Sunday.  We forget the words we professed, the words we know are true on Sunday.

My way of dealing with Mondays is simple.

I start preparing for the next time I will find myself with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I think about the service (pretty much I have to ) and the message God will share with us. (as long as I don’t get in the way)  I think about the hands humbly reaching out for the Body of Christ, and the visible change in body language as they receive again the promises of God. the promises of being in Christ.  Of our burdens being taken by God, an offering to Him that is pleasing, as we recognize that He is our God, that He will provide and heal.

It is truly good to gather with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

For where two or three, or sixty or thousands are gathered, here He is, in their midst.

And that changes everything… even Mondays!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 496-499). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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