Wait (Psalm 130)

Posted: 4 April 2014 in Ramblings

Predawn-water

1Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
2O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

How many times have I held this passage close? How many times in the last decade have I quietly cried out to God, pleading that the wait be over? Every time the dawn was approaching; the dawn that I thought would bring good news to my ears, there was silence. Seemingly an answer of “no.” Or maybe just “not yet” ? My first, southern-raised response is “what have I done to cause you, O God, to turn away?” Yet, my training, Scripture and the ever present Holy Spirit remind me that He has not forsaken me. He only asks me to wait. Longer.

3If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
4But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

I am a worm. An undeserving sinner who has struggled with anger and angst regarding those who seemingly want only to thwart the path which was laid out before me what seems now so long ago. Thanks be to God, I have been given the strength to overcome those sins of anger, yet there are other sins which just won’t go away. If it were up to me….I would surely die a miserable death…over and over and over again. Yet, just as I have forgiven the sins which have been [unwittingly?] committed against me, my sins have been forgiven me by my Lord Jesus Christ. I know this because that voice which speaks from the Word reassures me. He reassures me not only of the forgiveness of my sins, but that my wait is almost over. Almost.

5I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

As a military man, I know what it feels like to wait for the morning. During that wait, the watchman quietly thinks of events of the previous day and night. And he anticipates the future in the pre-dawn haze. Think on your life for a moment. Think of those events which mark what has made you who you are. Especially those which you were required to wait for. Even those events that would have the length of the wait determined by others. You knew what the result was going to be not by intellectual thought, not by educated reasoning and not because science explained when the wait would be over. You just knew. And you anticipated the end of the wait so much that you related every thought to what would happen after the wait was over. Yet…you were still waiting for the dawn. As do I.

7O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
8And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.

Israel of old were the people of God. Just like each and every congregation of the Church are exactly that. God’s people. Many struggle with things which cause them to wait. Sometimes it’s internal finances. Sometimes administrative actions of their local leaders. Sometimes it is the decisions of people whom they don’t even know. Still …. they wait. During this wait their anticipation, their collective anger and angst can become unbearable. Yet, I would suggest they hold these words of the psalmist close. Pray on them at every opportunity. The love which God has for you is immeasurable. His promised redemption, o congregation, is just over the horizon. He has and will continue to pronounce your absolution at every dawn. Not only has He redeemed you from your iniquities with the blood of the Lamb, He has also given you an ever present Shepherd. Eventually…soon…the one whom He has called into your midst as His under shepherd will be given the opportunity to respond. Your wait will be over. And so will mine. Thanks be to God the Father, who with God the Son and God the Holy Spirit hear our cries for mercy…and answers them.

In Jesus most Holy Name.
Amen +

BeStill2

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
although the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
[Psalm 46:1-3, 8-11 ESV]

As particularly unfavorable news comes from family, our doctors or from those who represent us in certain matters, our situation seems to darken.  We recognize that in our human state, we are helpless regardless of the situation.

As we look into that dark valley of Psalm 23, the valley spoke of seems much more concrete.  The writer of Psalm 46; however, points out who can help us now.  God.  “God is our refuge and strength.”  Any negative experience inflicted on us now is a glimpse ahead to the calamity that will come at the end of the world.  The effects of sin are so great in this world.  Those effects remind us that the end is coming although when we do not know.  It is a warning to us not to put our complete trust in anyone except God Himself.

God says to His people, “Do not fear.”  Though  the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the depths of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, and the mountains quake – as the medical news isn’t good, as evil manifests down upon us…the Lord continues to say to us,

Be Still !

And know that I am God.”

Evil may have its little day, but God has met it at the Cross, where our Savior Jesus Christ confronted the enemy…and defeated him.  Evil forces in our world have met their defeat.  They threaten and try to terrify us, but God has conquered them and His kingdom has come and will remain forever.  What Are We to Do ?
Trust in God.  Do not give in to fear.  Keep up our daily routines.  Devote ourselves to Scripture, to prayer and to joining together in worship  Remember our leaders and pray for them.  Reach out to the suffering and to those who mourn.  Pray for those who are experiencing our dark valley and even those who have valleys of their own.  Ask the Lord to enable His Church to speak the comforting Word of peace in Christ Jesus, so that in the midst of the suffering in the world, we may know that Jesus is the true source of peace in all trials and dangers.
Our world is not a safe place.  Yet, God would have us trust in Him to keep us safe for this He will do.

+ in nomine jesu +

Amen.

Image  —  Posted: 11 March 2014 in Ramblings

God Meant it for Good

Posted: 20 October 2013 in Ramblings

Coat-ManyColorsSitting here watching a wonderful teaching video by Rev. Ernie Lassman (Messiah-Seattle, WA). Pastor Lassman is giving a correct, yet paraphrased story of Joseph as a means to illustrate the Genesis 50:20 textual quote of Joseph to his brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

Tears in my eyes as I hear this lesson as parallel to my situation as well as that of my ordained brothers’ who are awaiting their return into a parish call. My goal of entering into the OHM was not my idea or any others’ who presently walk this planet, but rather that of the One whom I have been called to follow. St Paul tells me in Romans 5:3-5: “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Therefore, I struggle to live by St Paul’s words of Colossians 4:2-4: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”

I pray that one day soon, those who lord it over decisions I am not privy to would see themselves as they read the words of our Savior recorded in Mark 10:42: “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them…” as well as Father Luther’s words in Part III-Article X of the Smalcald Articles. Perhaps they too might be brought to tears and see their proper role of ‘enabling’ those of us who seek only the Holy Will of the One whom has called us all into His Grace and service.

Lord, have mercy. Amen

NOTE: Oddly, I  posted this to  FB on 20 October before I considered posting it here.  Unfortunately, I  have not  been able to post any of this year’s sermons, perhaps that will change in the  not  too distant future.  God’s peace to everyone.

Teachers do not keep secrets, why do people think God does?

Sorry, no manuscript for this post.

Sorry, no manuscript for this at this time.

09 December 2012
Trinity – Sturgis

Grace, Mercy & Peace – text from Holy Spirit – Apostle Luke 3:1-14

I. Intro

 As we’re heading down the road, we come up on a sign that reads “Road Construction Ahead.” What goes through our minds? “Uh-oh. Now we have to slow down” or maybe “Great! There goes my schedule!” or perhaps we’re a bit more positive with thoughts of “Finally, NOW they’re going to fix this bumpy, broken old path!” Whatever passes through our mind, perhaps all of these, we know there will be times of delay and difficulty, mixed with times of promise then followed by a wonderful completion and future on The Way which we travel.

 II. Construction Foreman Introduced

Luke 3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Here we are introduced to ‘John the son of Zechariah’. We could call him the foreman for the road construction project. Of course, unlike those of the temple during the priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, we recognize the foretelling of John don’t we?

 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me…” [Malachi 3:1]

 Yes, God had placed that sign on Israel’s road long before the construction was to occur. And in our Gospel text today, the Holy Spirit tells us through the Apostle Luke of when the work was actually taking place. With this information, you and I can go to the history books and actually point to when this was happening. Documents of Rome tell us that Tiberius Caesar was co-regent with Caesar Augustus in AD 11, then sole emperor from AD 14 to 37. Thus in the 15th year was around AD 26 to 29. Other Roman documents tell us that Pontius Pilate was prefect or procurator over Judea and Samaria during AD 26 to 36 which agrees with the dates for Tiberius. Hebraic documents AND Roman documents tell us that Herod (Antipas), son of Herod the Great, was appointed ‘tetrarch’ over Galilee and Perea 4BC to AD 39 – yet another agreement with all the other documents. Again, Hebraic records and Roman documents along with the historian Josephus tell us that another son of Herod the Great, Philip ruled over Lysanias from 4BC to AD 34, still another agreement with all the Roman and Israeli historical documents. Finally, rabbinical documents and archeological engravings tell us that Caiaphas was the high priest in the Jerusalem Temple from AD 18 to 37, following the Roman appointment of his father-in-law, Annas.

You see, by giving all of these names of historically real people, true dates can be found as to when John, the cousin of our Lord, actually stood in the wilderness and preached. For John the Baptizer was the last prophet of the Old Testament and the first New Testament person to publicly declare the Messiah has arrived. And our text actually points out that it was through John’s preaching that the road work began and that it had been foretold:

III. Construction Foreman’s Mission

4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low,

and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”

7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” [¶] 10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

Doesn’t John’s quote of Isaiah sound like road construction? “Every Valley … filled”, “every mountain … made low”, “the crooked…[made] straight” and “rough places…[made] level” ?

And just like a construction foreman giving his observers and laborers instructions in response to their requests for work plans and assignments, John “gives it to ‘em” in very clear, no-nonsense terms. He warns them of the coming times. He tells them that they had been told of this construction work. That if they think they were prepared for the construction difficulties…they had not. If they think that they deserved better service, well … that just isn’t the case. [PAUSE]

Could John be talking to us? Are we HERE this morning to give all the Glory to God for His gift of grace…or are we here simply to hedge our bets? We know that our Messiah … THE Messiah of the World is coming. After all, this is the second Sunday of Advent…which means “coming”.

We know that repentance is a sign for our reception of salvation. Have we ‘done’ that? Have we repented? To use John’s words…Do we give [half] of what we have to those who have not? Do we only take from others what we have coming to us? Do we steal things or seek to acquire the things of others through less-than-God-pleasing ways? [PAUSE] If we participate in things that MIGHT be construed in these ways, I suggest that we should expect a very, very bumpy road. Just as the weather takes a toll on the surface of the road in which we travel, SIN has made our way very difficult and full of turmoil. Not only that, but OUR SIN has made the roads of others less than favorable!

And what are we to DO regarding these wrongs… these sins which each of us are so guilty of? Are we to expect to be the trees which are to be laid waste? Are we to shudder as we consider the fire which John speaks of? Are we to fear the wrath of God when all time has come to completion? [PAUSE] Is the road before us one of terrible passage? Does it end in a concrete barrier with a sign that says “Dead End” ?

 III. The Path Before Us

Absolutely NOT! <REPEAT> For Luke’s writing continues to tell us, in the next few verses that John was truly there to foretell of a better road…a better WAY… beginning at v16, John tells us

 16 … “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming…, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit … 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn , but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18 So with many other exhortations [John] preached good news to the people.

You and I have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. Although that baptism consisted of water, God used that water to deliver the Holy Spirit unto us! Those of unrepentant hearts, the chaff, shall be burned in unquenchable fire!

However, our path, our road, our Way has been prepared before us through our baptism and the faith given us.

For, through that baptism and the continued work of the Holy Spirit in us, we are told that our Lord Jesus Christ speaks to us when He states in John 14[:6-7]…

 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Our Lord Jesus is … the Way. You see, John was the construction foreman for the preparation of the road…the Way. Yet, Jesus IS the Way! Jesus has made straight the path for our salvation. Although, as we travel the worldly path…even though we struggle with the sin… the ruts and potholes in the world each day… you and I seek God’s forgiveness for our wrongs. Even though we fail in avoiding sin, our Heavenly Father knows of our stumbling along the path. That’s why He sent His only begotten Son to pay the price for your sin…and mine. My beloved brothers & sisters in Christ, John prepared the road for our Savior, yet Christ paved that road with His very body and blood on the cross of Calvary. Even though we might attempt to pave our the path of our salvation with our good intentions, those are unnecessary since Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice…the only sacrifice possible and necessary for our salvation. Through no work of our own, we shall come before our Triune God.

Yes, in this season of Advent, we look to the celebration of our Lord’s first advent…Christ-mass. And we also look forward to our Lord’s coming again…when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And we hold to the truth that He is the only Way unto the Father. Thanks be to God…you and I shall one day look behind us and see a ruinous path, yet we shall look before us and see only God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Where we shall dwell in peace, joy, light and thankfulness for all eternity.

IV. Conclusion

 So as we continue to await the coming…the Advent… of the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us also wait for the Second Advent of our Lord in faith and hope.

 + in nomine jesu +

Amen.

May the peace which passes all understanding keep your hearts & minds in Christ Jesus. Amen

06 December 2012
StJohn – Wannatah / LaCrosse

Grace Mercy & Peace – text from Holy Spirit – Apostle Luke 19:19-40

I.                    Intro

Well, we’ve just passed through the Thanksgiving season.  Where our National focus has hypothetically been on thankfulness for what we have as Americans.  Each of us focus on giving thanks for good families, wonderful friends, our great country where we enjoy many, many freedoms, and for those who make sacrifices so that our needs and safety are guaranteed.  Yes, we focus on giving thanks for many things.

Yet, I dare suggest that if a survey was done on the street, during what is now the busiest shopping season of the year,… if we asked average America WHO they gave thanks TO last week and who they are focused on NOW, that it would not be the same single focus point as you and I have.  I’m sure you would agree with me that for the beginning of each day, each worship service, each prayer we offer and each meal we eat our focus is on the same individual who is the center of today’s Gospel text.  As a matter of fact:

AS JESUS’ FOCUS IS ON HIS DESTINATION,

OUR THANKFUL FOCUS IS ON HIS GIFT PAID THERE AS WELL AS OUR ULTIMATE DESTINATION.

 II.                 Jesus’ focus

28 And when [Jesus] had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’ ” 32 So those who were sent, went away and found it just as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road..

 

Here, in this text, we are mid-way through Chapter 19 of Luke.  We should recall that Jesus has recently spoken of His future.  In Luke 18:32 He reminds the twelve that:

 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”

Jesus KNOWS where He is bound for and He tells the twelve both the geographic location AND the ultimate sacrifice which He is to pay.  Thus, they keep on walking to where Jesus has attempted to put their attention.  Then, on His way to Jerusalem…the location of His focused destination, they passed through Jericho where He told them:

“Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

[PAUSE]“…to save the lost.”  Jesus gives this explanation upon calling a notoriously wealthy tax collector, Zacchaeus, to faith and repentance.  Immediately afterward, Luke tells us that Jesus continues to teach in parable of His necessary departure and return (in Luke 18:11)

 “…because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately”

He returns to the Abrahamic promise in attempts to keep the twelve focused on the prophecies. Remember the prophecies?   God promised Abraham that his children would be as the number of stars in the heavens. Isaiah wrote of God’s promise that

 “the ransomed of the Lord shall return…” and sing with “…everlasting joy…and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 36:10)

Yes,…everlasting joy for the Lord’s lost.  BUT first remember, the OTHER prophecies as Jesus had attempted to during recent weeks, to focus the disciples’ attention,

“…he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Why, Jesus attempts continued in today’s text… with the intentional fulfilling of Zechariah’s [9:9] prophecy

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he,

humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

 

Yes, Jesus had His focus…on His destination.  And He made every attempt to cause His disciples to focus there as well. What of our focus? Today… [Date of Delivery]  are we focused on Jerusalem?

 III.               Our focus

Today is the first Sunday in the church season of Advent.  Advent means…. “coming”  But for us… what or what is coming?  Are we looking forward to four short weeks when Santa will come?  Is our focus on the coming of all those relatives (yet again) for another big celebration?  Are we focused on the coming of all those packages for our enjoyment?  [PAUSE]

The World tells us that we should focus on huge extravagant meals for friends & family.  The World tells us that we should focus on our anticipation of what our friends and family will GIVE to US by piling it under the Tree.  The World wants us to think that we can sin now, yet ask for forgiveness later.  That we can wait for the SECOND advent of our Lord to throw ourselves on His mercy…That we only need to change our focus to our Lord when He returns, descending in the clouds.  And then we will receive forgiveness of our sins.

Are we focusing on the things the World wants us to focus on?  OR are we focused on the things our Lord wants us to be focused on?  Are we watching for what can’t be predicted?  Our unknown Worldly presents?  OR is our focus on the one who had the focus of those in Jerusalem that day when a single rider road in on a donkey?

IV.  Important Focus

 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

The crowd was focused on Jesus…their Messiah.  They were quoting Scripture and proclaiming Him to be their king. The crowd even paraphrased our Lord’s first arrival…in Bethlehem. Here, it is the multitude of disciples saying…“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” In Chapter Two, Luke records the multitude of angels saying…“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace…”

 Although there is a confusion amongst the people. Their focus is on the Christ…it is on Jesus! This is where our focus should be…  on Jesus!  NOT on gifts… NOT on family gatherings…  NOT on debt…but on RICHNESS.  The richness that we all share in BECAUSE of our Lord’s Focus on His mission. In our text, we are told that Christ was focused on His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  His Triumph was only a few short days or weeks ahead. His Triumph when He would pay that ultimate sacrifice for your sins and mine…for the sins of the entire world… for ALL TIME!

Here, in our text, we witness our Lord’s Advent into Jerusalem. He is focused on you and me during that Advent! AND He is still focused on us,,, this Advent…today…NOW!

As this year’s Advent season progresses let us not get lost. Let us not have our focus changed by the world around us.  Today, we celebrate the beginning of Advent.  We celebrate the Advent of our Lord.  Let us not go into a frenzy and lose the Christ child among those other things that are coming as well.  Let us not focus on Worldly things, but let us focus on Heavenly gifts. Let us have our focus be on our Lord’s first Advent – on Christ-mass.  When He came, born of a Virgin on that first Christ-mass, our Lord’s focus from then on was His ultimate coming into Jerusalem, where He would greatly suffer and die, He was focused on the giving of His very Body and Blood on the cross.  Such that your sins and mine would be forgiven! So that when His second advent occurs, when He returns to call all mankind before the throne of God, you and I will again receive His focus as you and I are invited into the New Creation. To spend all eternity with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit…to live in never ending light, joy and peace.

Unlike the gifts which will await you under the tree in four weeks, this most precious gift is already yours.  The gift was given to you, not under the tree, but UPON THE TREE of Calvary.  Christ set His Divinity aside on that day, He spread His arms in Submission to His Father’s will, and DIED for you and for me on that Cross.  He gave up His very body and blood so that you and I could come before God and continue to receive the blessings of His most precious gift.

 V.                 Conclusion

 So as we our Lord’s first Advent…today, let us also look towards His second coming as well.

+ in nomine jesu +

Amen.

 May the peace with passes all understanding keep your focus on Jesus Christ.  Amen.