Among the Tombs

Biblical Text: Luke 8:26-39

The Gerasene Demoniac is one of those stories that is so vivid for me it stands a proof of the rest of the biblical story. Nobody could make it up. And it is such a perfect living symbol that only God could be behind it. This sermon ponders the demonic for a bit and how at least compared to my childhood, it is so much more apparent today. We live among the tombs, in Phillip Rieff’s word, among the deathworks. But you Christian have been cleansed and put in your right mind. Which causes its own problems. We know the trouble of demons. We know we have enemies. And that our very existence reminds them that they have been defeated and their time grows very short. Yet Jesus bids us “go home and tell what God has done.” The right mind knows what kind of request that is. It also knows that our Lord is with us and does not ask more than he has given.

Virtual Bulletin – 6/19

June 19th, 2022 – 2nd Sunday after Pentecost

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  June 20th – June 26th

Monday……………….            Juneteenth

                                                 6:00 PM           Women’s Group

Thursday……………….          10:00 AM        Bible Study

Friday…………………            Nativity of St. John the Baptist          

Saturday………………..          Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

Sunday: ………………….          10:00 AM        Worship

                                                 11:15 AM        Bible Study     

COMMEMORATIONS

We are only a few years past the “500th Anniversary” of the Reformation.  People usually tie that to the 1517 95 Theses.  It got buried in all things COVID.  The church just didn’t have the capacity to think about anything else. But 1521 is the other big date that people might remember – the Diet of Worms.  That has been a very popular framing of the “Luther Story”, 1517 to 1521.  The old standard Luther Biography, Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand, covers those years. That is “young Luther” or sometimes jokingly called “thin Luther.” If you think of Luther as a revolutionary who maybe didn’t go far enough, that’s where you stop.  Of course the story is actually bigger than Luther himself and it doesn’t stop.  There is an Old Luther or Fat Luther narrative that is often told contrary to the revolutionary. This Luther isn’t as charismatic or as daring.  He does some things, like tell the princes to crush the peasant’s revolt and defame the Jews, that we judge him harshly for. But he’s putting back together things that he broke.  But both of those narratives – thin and fat, young and old Luther – have a tendency to skip over our Commemoration – The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession in 1530. The Augustana is the real document of Lutheranism.  No less than Pope Benedict mused, when he was the Cardinal at the head of the Old Inquisition Office, that he thought it could be recognized as a Catholic Confession.  That never happened of course. But the Augustana isn’t Luther’s. It was written by Melanchthon, who continued to think he could modify it, which proved it wasn’t his when he couldn’t.  It was presented to Charles V by seven “Lords of the Realm” and two Independent Cities, all laymen.  June 25th is the day the Reformation became not Luther’s or the Reformers’, but was given to the church at large. A truly catholic, meaning universal, confession.  The phrase that starts most of its articles is “Our churches teach…”.  It is a true expression of the faith which is believed.

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

Advent to Trinity Sunday was 29 weeks this year, the festival portion of the church calendar.  That gives us 23 Sundays in the church portion – the long green season of the Sundays after Pentecost.  Year to year the numbers can fluctuate depending upon the date of Easter.  The Season of Epiphany gets shortened and a few more get added to After Pentecost if Easter is early.  It strikes me more each year just how abrupt the change is. I sometimes imagine Trinity Sunday being added after Pentecost as one more act of nostalgia.  “No, let us stay in the festivals a bit longer.”  I see that hard break reflected in Paul’s thinking in Galatians this week (Galatians 3:23-4:7).

In the festival season we are “under a guardian”.  The meaning of Christmas, Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter and Pentecost is clear.  But the days come when we are no longer children, or at least they should.  The facts of the life of Christ must now be applied to our lives, our individual lives and our communal lives. “You are no longer slaves, but children and heirs.” The inheritance is yours.  Use it wisely.

It is not that we have been abandoned by Jesus.  He promised his presence and He is there when we gather.  He is there in the indwelling Spirit. But entering the green season, we are no longer toddlers.  We are not even teenagers.  We can sell everything and squander it in a far country.  We can become misers tripping over Lazarus at the gate. We can even reject the Christian liberty and attempt to run back under various guardians who will give us laws.  That is what the Galatians Paul is writing to were trying to do.  They were going back to Judaism and its laws.  But living by faith is living without a guardian.  Living by faith is taking the mina given (Luke 19:11ff) and working with it. The only failure is hiding it away.  I used to question that part of the parable, or Matthew’s parallel of the talents. Why isn’t there an example of someone who failed?  Who invested the mina and came up empty? But they are parables of adult faith, of the faith of the green season.  Christ is with us.  We will make errors.  But our errors do not hinder the kingdom.  Not from an eternal perspective because the Kingdom is in His hands.  The adult faith he desires us to grow into does not fear the punishment of the guardian, but lives with the confidence of the Sons and Daughters of God.  A God who loves us and has plans to prosper us.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story” – Reception of the 10 Commandments
  • Confirmation: Completed Year 1, return in the Fall
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Summer Break
  • Sunday Morning: Going to continue with the Psalms for a Season. Come Join Us in the prayer book of the Bible.
  • Catechism Moment: Baptism, in your inbox

Solid Spiritual Words

Text: The Athanasian Creed

It was Trinity Sunday. Probably the one Sunday a year where I don’t have a very specific biblical text as the basis of the Sermon. That’s ok, because the Creeds in the Lutheran tradition are part of the Confessions, sometimes called the symbols. The Bible is the Norming Norm, but the Confessions are the Normed Norm. The creeds are meaningful texts for preaching because they are faithful expressions of the faith. They are norms of doctrine and life which have been normed by the Scriptures.

In this case I had a specific teaching I wanted to cover: the faith which believes vs. the faith which is believed. Then I wanted to think a bit what it means to ponder the faith which is believed. The creeds point at that Holy Spirit given stuff – the faith which believes – while giving us sound Spiritual words to talk about the faith which is believed. Call it a teaching with an invitation to meditation on the unity of the Trinity.

Virtual Bulletin – 6/12

June 12th, 2022 – Trinity Sunday

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  June 13th – June 19th

Monday……………….             6:00 PM           Men’s Group

Tuesday……………….            Elisha

Wednessday……………          7:00 PM           Council Meeting          

Thursday……………….          10:00 AM        Bible Study

Friday…………………            Eastern District Convention (Day 1)     

Saturday………………..          Eastern District Convention (Day 2)

Sunday: ………………….          10:00 AM        Worship

                                                 11:15 AM        Bible Study     

COMMEMORATIONS

What is Elisha famous for?  The “what the heck is this about” episode is when he curses some boys for making fun of his bald head and two bears immediately come and maul them. (2 Kings 2:23-25). What is it about? I can make a guess, but the best answer is probably “the Lord works in mysterious ways, best not to trifle with them.” But there are more scenes with Elisha that makes the “Sunday School Summary” than you might think. They start with his “call” by Elijah where he sacrifices the oxen he was plowing with on their yokes (1 Kings 19:19ff) through the healing of Naaman from leprosy (2 Kings 5:8ff) ending with the strange episode after his death of the resurrection of a man thrown on Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:21). That skips the fiery chariot of Elijah, the raising of the Shunamite’s son, the floating of an axe head, the chariots and horsemen of Israel, and the King’s wimping out on “one free wish”. John the Baptist was the Elijah that was to come, which following the type makes Jesus the Elisha, the prophet of resurrections, healings, signs and wonders.  Including those pronouncement of woes like “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” which ended with “not one stone atop another.” Elisha should remind us of both the mighty works of God and how little we understand His ways.  

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

The Old Testament occasionally takes an attribute of God and personifies it.  First off, what is an attribute of God?  An attribute of God is something that God possesses or an aspect of his character.  The most common ones might be his justice, love or wisdom, but it would also include His righteousness and wrath.  If you remember catechism class you might remember memorizing “the omni’s” – omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence. There is an entire literature dedicated to talking about the attributes of God.  The Old Testament has an interesting habit of taking one of those attributes and making it sound like its own person, it personifies an attribute of God.  That is what our Old Testament Lesson this morning (Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31) does with the wisdom of God. “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work (Proverbs 8:22).”

There is a long history of taking these personification of attributes as either a type of Christ or the pre-incarnation eternal son.  And this is not without biblical warrant.  The opening of the Gospel according to John which says “In the beginning was the Word” is the textual bridge.  The Word in Greek philosophy is a complex idea.  It is the report of how everything works.  It is the pattern of creation. So when John writes, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made,” it sounds a awful lot like parts of Proverbs 8.  For example, “When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep…I was beside him, like a master workman.”  As a reader of Scripture, I’m not completely against such “Wisdom Christology”.  God describes himself as love and the entirety of the Gospels might be described as a personification of the love of God.  We just call that personification Jesus. Jesus himself would seem to invite the Wisdom comparison in Matthew 11:19, “Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

But I do think we can only hold such identifications lightly if at all, because if we are confessors of the Trinity the so-called attributes of God are shared by all the persons.  The Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God.  In their divine nature they all have wisdom.  Such a close identification of an attribute with one person of the trinity risks splitting their unity.  Strangely, when the pop phenomenon book “The Shack”, not a species known for its deep theology, introduced a character of “Justice” or “The Judge”, it shied away from a close identification with any of the persons.  In that book she was a divine attribute personified.  She was there for a single purpose, not either a full person of the Trinity nor the fullness of God.  I’m pretty sure the author just stole it directly from Proverbs 8 changing the attribute from Wisdom to Justice.  Both of which are typically represented as female.

Ok, so what does any of this mean?  The hard answer is simply the delight in pondering God.  Even God apparently takes delight in pondering God.  “And I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.”  Wisdom has its practical pursuits, but from Socrates until to today, if the truly wise speak they usually end up dead.  “The wise remain silent in such a time (Amos 5:13).” Any of the practical benefits of wisdom are purely secondary.  Jesus says the seek first the Kingdom and all these things will be added.  C.S.Lewis echoing that wrote “aim for heaven and you get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”  And that might be the trouble with the church today. We want to be relevant. We are taught to be as winsome as possible.  But in these things we are aiming for the earth, or the residents of earth.  And we might even be doing it for the best of intentions.  But are we missing God?  The first 600 years of the church are simply arguments over the attributes and works of God.  They didn’t get everything right.  That is the record of all the heresies, but they wanted God.  And they got the empire thrown in along the way. But even pointing that out I think betrays the point.  God is not a utilitarian. In another attribute he describes himself as Jealous. God, if He is God, is a subject worth pondering in himself, something to delight in. If he is not, you have not found God. Or if somehow you are not delighted, well, see that part about jealousy.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story” – The Passover & Jewish Festivals
  • Confirmation: Completed Year 1, return in the Fall
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Summer Break
  • Sunday Morning: Going to continue with the Psalms for a Season. Come Join Us in the prayer book of the Bible.
  • Catechism Moment: Baptism, in your inbox

Spirit Power: Courage, Teaching, Peace

Biblical Text: Acts 2: 1-21, 22-47, John 14:23-31

This Sunday continues a couple of series. It continues our study of the book of Acts even if we have been “jumping around” in that book. This sermon ends up following up on last week. If last week was about the Spirit’s work “inside” the church before the public work that begins on Pentecost, this week’s is about the “outside” work, what the Spirit empowers in the world. The summary is the three word subtitle. The Spirit continues to empower courage. The Christian life comes with its own power source. The Spirit empowers the teaching of the church. The sermon reflects on the first sermon of the church and how it models ever Spirit filled sermon since. And the Spirit empowers a peace that the world cannot give.

Virtual Bulletin – 6/5

June 5th, 2022 – Pentecost

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  June 6th – June 12th

Tuesday……………….            7:00 PM           Elders

Thursday……………….          10:00 AM        Bible Study

Saturday………………..          Barnabas, Apostle

Sunday: ………………….          10:00 AM        Worship

                                                 11:15 AM        Bible Study     

COMMEMORATIONS

Barnabas is one of those guys that pops up in the bible for a sizeable role and then disappears into tradition.  His given name was Joseph.  He was a Levite, so from the Jewish priestly tribe.  He was also a native of the island of Cyprus.  He’s recorded as one of the earliest believers.  His description as an apostle would probably place him as one of those 120 gathered after the Ascension as apostle is typically reserved for those who witnessed the risen Christ. His first act recorded is selling a field and giving the proceeds to the 12 Apostles.  That act, immediately followed by the strange story of Ananias and Sapphira who try and do the same thing, but both end up dead, is one of the strangest stories in the bible. It is Barnabas that eases the former persecutor Saul’s acceptance as Paul (Acts 9:27).  It is Barnabas who digs Paul back up in Tarsus and sets him on his course in Antioch (Acts 11:22ff).  And it is Barnabas who is Paul’s traveling companion on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:2) upon which he gets hailed as Zeus in Lystra (Acts 14:13). Mark was Barnabas’ cousin, and it would be Mark that would cause Paul and Barnabas to split (Acts 15:39). From that point Barnabas is handed over to tradition which has him stoned to death in his native Cyprus for preaching the gospel.  The name means “Son of Encouragement” which seemed to be his role.  He was always looking for ways to include in the mission.

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

An article in The Atlantic by Jonathan Haidt recently used the Tower of Babel, our Old Testament lesson (Genesis 11:1-9), as its introductory image. For what he is trying to do in that article, it is an interesting choice. He is trying to describe a feeling about the present time in the United States.  In his words, “Something went terribly wrong, very suddenly. We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past.”  In that article, this state of being is portrayed as the negative outcome of social media.  We can’t go back before the new technology introduction, but we can learn to use it better, regulate its dangers, and resume the march of progress to a “more cooperative future.”

Why I say that it is an interesting choice is not because of the description of living immediately post Babel. I think he nails that.  Haidt even mentions that Google translate became widely available on smart phones in 2011. “We were closer than we had ever been to being ‘one people,’ and we had effectively overcome the curse of division by language. For techno-democratic optimists, it seemed to be only the beginning of what humanity could do.”  There is no doubt in my mind that to many folks who read the Atlantic 2011 probably felt like a unitary world of endless human possibility. The problem being in 2011 the ability for anybody who disagreed with that techno-future to express it was much more limited.  I have no doubt that for many of the good and great the 10+ years post 2011 have felt like living post-babel as they were forced to realize they shared a country with people who didn’t agree with them on very basic things.  And the inability to talk has only ramped up as “blocking” and yelling “shut up” seem to be the preferred strategies. But the Biblical story of Babel assigns curse and blessing to different states than Haidt.  The curse was the whole earth having one language and the same words.  The blessing of God was the confusion.

That may sound wrong or at least counter-intuitive.  The reasoning is that mankind has a God mandated purpose.  In Genesis that is to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over every living thing.” The deepest meaning and happiness that mankind can find is living the purpose for which God created them.  But the people of Babel had become fixated on a purpose contrary to the will of God.  The tower was fighting the last war.  If God sent a flood again, which he promised not to do, the tower was the defense and maybe even an offensive weapon to “storm the heavens”.  It was also directly contrary to God’s will in that the tower’s purpose was to prevent filling the earth and instead to stay together. Continuing to pursue this sinful purpose, a war with God, would only lead to misery.  It was God’s blessing to confuse the languages and spread them out.    

Now in a fallen world blessings can feel like curses or at least punishments.  The correction or even the limitation of sin (the first use of the law, a curb) can hurt.  As Jesus says in John 15:2, “every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” The Holy Spirit is the promise of the Kingdom Come.  In the Kingdom we will not have to ask because we will know as we are known (1 Cor 13:12). In the Kingdom, the confusion of languages isn’t necessary, because we are united in Christ.  Pentecost rolls back the confusion not because it was a curse, but because in the Spirit such a law is not necessary.  The many languages do not go away in Pentecost as they are all part of God’s good creation.  But all understand as if in their native tongue.  We so often strive after unity in external things which leads to sinful tyranny like Babel.  It is the unity in the Spirit the produces many types of fruit.   

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story” – The Passover & Jewish Festivals
  • Confirmation: Completed Year 1, return in the Fall
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Summer Break
  • Sunday Morning: Going to continue with the Psalms for a Season. Come Join Us in the prayer book of the Bible.
  • Catechism Moment: Baptism, in your inbox

Courage of the Spirit

Biblical Text: Acts 1:1-26

This Sunday on the church calendar – the 7th Sunday of Easter – to me is the strangest one in the entire calendar. The sermon gets into that a bit, so I won’t spell it out here. But sitting between The Ascension and Pentecost is a time of internal preparation. God never leaves His people, but sometimes there are some things to do before going public. This sermon is about the presence of the Holy Spirit with the people of God. It is about what the Holy Spirit enables, and how He enables it. It is about life in the Spirit.

Virtual Bulletin – 5/29

May 29th, 2022 – 7th Sunday of Easter

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  May 30th – June 5th

Monday……………….. .           Memorial Day

Tuesday……………….            The Visitation

Wednesday…………….           Justin, Martyr

Thursday……………….          10:00 AM        Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00 AM        Worship

                                                 11:15 AM        Bible Study     

COMMEMORATIONS

The Visitation is Mary’s visit to her relative Elizabeth.  Elizabeth is assumed to be 6-7 months pregnant with John the Baptists because Luke 1:56 states that Mary stayed “about three months.” It’s assumed that she stayed for the birth and a short time after.  If we think about the calendar, the annunciation to Mary was March 25th, so she is two months pregnant with Jesus.  She’d be returning to Nazareth 5 months.  The great addition to the Christian life that we have from this story in the Magnificat, Mary’s Psalm that mirror’s Hannah’s song from the Old Testament in praise of God’s fulfillment of His promises.  My favorite version of it is LSB 933, My Soul Rejoices, but there are 5 version in LSB alone (933-935 plus Vespers and Evening Prayer chants). Singing one on Tuesday might be a fitting piety.

Justin Martyr (c. 100-165 AD) is so often called that, that you might think Martyr was his last name. Justin was from a rather well off pagan family though he was born in Judea.  As a young man he found Christ after studying the Greek philosophers and became an apologist for the church.  It is from Justin that we have our earliest descriptions of Christian worship.  He wrote of a “gathering of all in one place on the Lord’s Day, where the writings of the prophets and apostles were read, the Presider delivered a homily inviting all into the pattern of these good things, prayer was offered and bread and wine were taken, blessed and distributed as the body and blood of the eternal Word.”  The Roman account of Justin’s martyrdom survives. One day Justin was commanded to sacrifice to the gods or face torture.  His reply to the Roman prefect was “That is our desire, to be tortured for our Lord and so to be saved.”

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

I’m not sure why the lectionary spends so long in the last two chapters of Revelation.  Theoretically the Epistle Lessons were chosen to allow a lectio continua – a continuous reading – through various New Testament books. But it jumps from chapter 7 to spend three weeks in chapters 21 and 22.  I guess you can say there is a small difference between those chapters.  21 is the MTV Cribs picture of the New Jerusalem.  Satan has been defeated and put away.  This old world has been rolled up and the new heavens and the new earth are created.  And the New Jerusalem has come down adorned as a Bride. Maybe you can say chapter 21 is the wedding day.  Chapter 22 is the only picture we have of life in the New Jerusalem, life in the age to come.

The first picture is the reappearance of something very old alongside a promise fulfilled.  The tree of life grows alongside a river of the water of life.  The River fulfills the image of Ezekiel 47:1 with the promise of John 4:10ff to the Samaritan woman at the well.  Jesus promised living water and here is a full river of it.  The tree of life was barred to us by the flaming sword of the cherubim, lest we live forever in our sins (Gen 3). But in the fulfillment there are three notable things.  The singular tree now grows along the entire river.  Its singular fruit is now 12 kinds each in their season.  And most importantly, its leaves are the for the healing of the nations.  The tree of life in the New Jerusalem is not barred.  No flaming sword denies us.  ‘No longer is there anything accursed.” It is worth reflecting that the trees are very fruitful.  Food is still taken in the age to come. Also there might be a slight comment on the length of time we spent in the garden.  Maybe it only had one fruit, because we only saw one month.  Likewise the mention of the leaves being for healing. There is a paradox in not having “mourning or crying or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” and needing “leaves for the healing of the nations.” I have trouble in chapter 22 thinking of this as healing of anything from before because “the former things have passed away.” But life in the New Jerusalem occasionally needs healing.  I guess the biggest thing is that it is always abundantly available, unlike here, where some things are just broken and cannot be fixed.

The rest of the picture strikes me as a bit an argument.  What is seen is too good to be true, “the big rock candy mountain.” This is probably where Freud grabs the popular idea of religion as wish fulfilment.  But the angel – the messenger – pleads with the Apostle John “these words are trustworthy and true…don’t seal up the book, let everyone read.” Unlike the prophet Daniel who was told to seal it up.  What he saw was too great for that time.  “Now the time is near…Behold I am coming soon.”  And you have the repeated plea, “Come”.  The Alpha and the Omega, “blessed are those who come wash their robes.”  The Spirit and the Bride, “Come.”  The one who hears, “Come.”  The one who is thirsty, “Come.”   The one who desires the water of life, “Come.”  It is not wish fulfillment, but divine promise. Christ and the angels and the Holy Spirit and the Church and the great cloud of thirsty drinkers all plead, “Come.”  You don’t want to miss this.  Come now, because He is coming soon. Amen, come quickly, both you and the Lord Jesus.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story” – The Exodus – the Plagues
  • Confirmation: Completed Year 1, return in the Fall
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Summer Break
  • Sunday Morning: Going to continue with the Psalms for a Season. Come Join Us in the prayer book of the Bible.
  • Catechism Moment: Continuing with the Lord’s Prayer

BOILER NOTICE – Congregational Meeting, Today (May 29th ), after service

We are calling a congregational meeting next week, May 29th after service.  The purpose, prayerfully, is to approve the council plan to fix the boiler breakdown.

Discipleship Itinerary

Biblical Text: Acts 16:6-15

The text as I read it had two parts. The first being something of a travel itinerary. And it was travel that was done under some uncertainty and stress. First Paul wanted to go West, but the Spirit stopped him. And he drifted north. When he runs out of North he decides to go east, but the Spirit of Jesus stops him. And eventually Paul has a vision, “come help us in Macedonia.” It’s not that Paul was doing anything wrong; he just didn’t have the necessary figured out yet. But when you figure out the necessary, there is only one choice – obedience. The sermon reads Paul’s itinerary as a metaphor for the life of discipleship. The second part of the text is what happens when you arrive at a new point. Paul and his traveling companions have gone to Philippi, a Roman Colony. And what they encounter is different. When we’ve come to something new in our discipleship walk, we have a choice.

Virtual Bulletin – 5/22

May 22nd, 2022 – 6th Sunday of Easter

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  May 23rd – May 29th

Monday……………….. .           6:00PM            LAF

Tuesday……………….            Esther

Wednesday…………….           Bede the Venerable

Thursday……………….          10:00 AM        Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00 AM        Worship

                                                 11:15 AM        Bible Study     

COMMEMORATIONS

I’m not sure what they were looking at, but on the pastor’s wives retreat Ellen texted me and asked “What would you write or teach about if Esther was the subject?” I replied two things: 1) the virtue of courage and 2) God working through means.  Esther is on the commemorations calendar this week.  It’s a short fun book in the Old Testament.  You might sit and read it in 20 mins on Tuesday.  If you do, tell me what you take away. I’d love to hear.

The other commemoration this week is one of those long middle-ages “names.”  Bede is early enough (672-735 AD) he is often the “End of the Church Fathers” but late enough he’s not part of the Mediterranean world.  Bede was born in Northumberland England and never went further than 100 miles from his place of birth. He was sent to a monastery by his parents at age 7. At age 14 plague swept through killing the entire monastery except the Abbot and Bede. His commentaries on scripture are still consulted today. He was also a prolific poet and Hymnwriter.  LSB 493, the Ascension Hymn “A Hymn of Glory Let us Sing” is Bede’s.  But what might be his most enduring work is an early History of the English Church which gives us much of early English history.  He died on Ascension Day working on a translation of John’s Gospel into Saxon, apocryphally completing it, singing a Glory Patri, and expiring.   

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

The world always seems to be on fire.  What is causing the flames seems to always be new, as one internet personality calls it “the current thing”, but the flames persist.  And like the old Billy Joel song recounting a list of past current things insists, “We didn’t start the fire.” Billy says he tried to fight it.  The Joker just likes to watch the world burn. But all of these things keep the focus on the fire. The purpose of Apocalyptic, like the book of Revelation, or you could say the Bible itself, is to learn to walk through the fire without being burned.  To learn to ignore the fire because that is the death pangs of a world already judged, a world that you have been rescued from.

Hear Jesus’ from our gospel lesson this week (John 16:22-33).  “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.”  Is the world on fire? Yep. It is a place of tribulation. Is it our job to put out the fire? No. Christ overcame the world.  Is it our job to feed the fire? Even less so. “God judges those outside (1 Corinthians 5:13).” So what is the Bible about if it isn’t about how we can save the world or defeat it? It is about peace.  “I say these things that you might have peace.”

And how might we have peace in the midst of flames, maybe even flames that we have caused?  First, know that you have caused the flames.  Denying it like Billy does no good.  Instead, confession is good for the soul.  “We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).”  And that is the fire on this old earth, sin.  It has been burning from the day Eve took the apple, probably prior, for where did that old snake come from? But if we broke it, doesn’t that mean we have to pay for it? Normally, but God loves his creation, enough to rescue it. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son (John 3:16).” But what if God changes his mind?  All those old pagan gods and even our new gods do that constantly.  Capricious is the world applied to them most often. Have peace in your hearts, “the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children (Ps. 103:17).” The word that most describes The LORD is steadfast love.  It is the Hebrew “Chesed” which can also mean faithfulness or covenant obligation or even grace.  When God makes a promise, he’s good for it.  Always has been.  Far from being capricious, The LORD is steadfast, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Read the entire story and tell me that isn’t true.

But why doesn’t he stop the fire?  Well, he has for those who will look up to the cross.  “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the son of man must be lifted up (John 3:14).”  That story is in Numbers 21.  “Fiery serpents” plagued Israel who were healed by looking up.  And we are likewise saved by looking to the cross. This is the peace that Jesus desires us to have.  He’s defeated the world and saved you.  Not that he’s taken you out of it.  You are his ambassadors of peace.  But you no longer need to fear the fire.  This world might destroy this body or this home, but you have the resurrection body and a better home.

Revelation shows us the fire in all its fury. The dragons and the beasts, the powers that be.  The four horsemen and the bowls and the trumpets.  These things continue.  They are the great tribulation.  But in the midst of all this, it shows us the sealed.  It shows us those who have come out of the great tribulation. And especially it says, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the lamb (21:9).”  And we are shown this great cube city (1380 miles wide, long and high) having the glory of God and made of only the best stuff. This is our home, the Holy City Jerusalem that comes down from heaven to earth.  This is the place that has been prepared for you.  Have peace, take heart, the bridegroom comes.  

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story” – The Exodus – the Plagues
  • Confirmation: Completed Year 1, return in the Fall
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  May 23rd, 6PM, Zoom
  • Sunday Morning: Going to continue with the Psalms for a Season. Come Join Us in the prayer book of the Bible.
  • Catechism Moment: Continuing with the Lord’s Prayer