Applying the final proverb to the church, the many and various ways of the gospel, a gospel post-script
Monthly Archives: June 2014
Economist Tyler Cowen interviews Ralph Nader. Prof. Cowen always asks interesting questions typically from two buckets: 1) the hard truth questions and 2) the questions no one else is asking. This falls into the second camp mostly but it is an insightful question and Mr. Nader gives a very interesting answer with a good deal of theological sophistication.
TC: If someone cited to you religion and American churches as the sector of our society
that has best resisted corporatization, would you agree or disagree? And if you disagree,
what would you cite instead?
RN: They’re resisting less. They’ve given up on gambling, and the main bulwark against
widespread gambling—outside of Las Vegas—and against government-run lotteries, was
the churches. But then Bingo started in church basements, and the gambling interests
went to work on the churches. They claimed that their businesses in Atlantic City would
help the elderly throughout New Jersey. The churches lost their credibility.
A society riven with gambling is one that bets on the future rather than builds the future.
So what countervailing force is there? Labor unions are weaker. We have a tremendous
disruption of the community civic values that used to hold commercial values in check. I
only see this emerging left/right alliance against the corporate state that I wrote about in
my book, Unstoppable. It’s the only political realignment that is possible over the next
ten to twelve years. It has the support of public opinion and sentiment. You see bipartisan
reform of the juvenile justice system; a dozen state legislatures are beginning to challenge
the extension of these global, corporate-managed trade agreements in Congress; and
there’s growing opposition to more wars of choice overseas. You’re beginning to see 70–
80 percent support for an inflation-adjusted minimum wage. You can’t get that kind of
poll result without a lot of conservative workers. And the poll results come in at about 90
percent in favor of breaking up the banks that are too big to fail because we fear that their
speculative octopi will get us into another recession.
Proverbs 30:1-9, 18-33
The limits of Wisdom and the need for the gospel,The middle path of wisdom, Hebrew Poetic Form and hard truths
Teasing out the meaning of a Proverb/Wisdom, Far and Near, Knowledge vs. Ignorance, Where does sin come from?
Bibical Text: Matt 10:21-33
Full Sermon Draft
The text is part of what is called the missionary discourse. Jesus is sending the twelve out to proclaim the kingdom. As part of that sending are some stern warning about persecution. Right next to those stern warnings are some of the most treasured expressions of believers about the love of God. What this sermon attempts to do is demonstrate how this functions as the gut-check of discipleship. Luther explains the first commandment as “we should fear, love and trust God above all things.” The gospel is proclaimed as what the disciple is encouraged and expected to believe about Jesus: about the place of a healthy fear of God, but the primacy of trusting God and his demonstrated love for us in Jesus.
The recording begins with one of my favorite hymns in Lutheran Service Book (LSB #933 – My Soul Rejoices). It is a versification of The Magnificat or song of Mary. We used this as our Hymn of Praise this morning.
I almost didn’t get through this one…
Biblical Texts: Isaiah 49:13-16, Romans 5:1-5 and Matthew 11:28-30
Charlie Gruschow was a fixture here at St. Mark’s. And I say that in more ways than one. He was a fixture as a greeter handing out bulletins on Sunday morning. Being the youngest of a large family, he was a great talker with a twinkle in his eye. A bit of rogue-ish charm. The family name is on the stained glass windows right there. He was never a junior, but Charles is also on there. And there is a great story about that organ. Charlie saw the bank account going down and took it upon himself to, and I’m quoting, “get something before the buffoons spent it all”. Charlie’s in the fixtures, and I’ve often reflected that when I stumbled across something fine or of good quality, Charlie was behind it. He didn’t go for junk.
He didn’t do that around church. Charlie didn’t do that in jobs he did. He was always willing to help and do the work.
Now I suppose that same unabashedness and charm combined with those high standards might have led to some confrontations over his years. Charlie was his own man and had his own opinions. That conflict continued in some ways in his later years as instead of battling things external Charlie started battling his own body. When work – like mowers and blades and tractors – that you’ve lined up just can’t be done, it grated. It sucks, when your own gait can’t measure up to your standards.
Gospel in the Life
But let me suggest that Charlie understood something very important.
Peace didn’t come easily to Charlie, he worked. He expected to work. I expect that was why he was here, even hobbling, almost every Sunday. In the midst of a life of work, He knew he needed the grace. In an era full of cheap grace – lowered standards, denial of culpability – Charlie would have none of it. He was plainspoken, even if the plain speech pointed at himself. He might not have shared that with everyone, he was a man of his time, but he didn’t spare himself. And he needed the real grace – the grace that is only available through Jesus Christ.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God.” Charlie needed that. When the work was beyond him, he was strong enough to take God’s peace declared on that cross. And due to his standards he knew the full measure of what that cross offered…of what that cross offers you.
I have to admit something, my prayers for older folks who have major surgery are often two-fold. Typically I ask for healing and restoration, but I also usually ask that God’s peace might be with them. My prayers were selfish with Charlie, I wanted him back. One more story, a couple of months ago at men’s club, Charlie started telling of one of those confrontations that happened roughly 20 years ago. An elder of the congregation had stopped by and somehow had expressed the thought or feeling that he was fine if God took him. That offended Charlie and that day that elder was practically thrown out of Charlie’s house. But at this retelling I got the feeling Charlie was telling it not as a saga of old, but as a current reflection.
Charlie’s passing was a shock – to the doctors and to us. I was too engrossed in my selfish prayers. But Charlie heard Jesus – “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He was willing to put down the yoke he had pulled so long.
Charlie put that down, not in weakness, but in hope. Suffering produces endurance, and endurance character, and character hope. And Charlie was full of hope. Charlie knew that we who are buried with Christ in baptism will also be raised with him. We are engraved in the palm of His hand, and our walls our bodies will stand before Him. Resurrected bodies no longer bent by the work, but eternal dwellings full of grace.
So, the work remains our task, and we do not have Charlie to pull it anymore. But his witness remains with us as well. In the grace of Jesus, we stand. In the Hope of the Glory of God, we rejoice. (Rom 5:2) Amen.
The beloved goes missing for a time, a strange petering out, perhaps I don’t have enough of a poet’s heart
A short lesson on method of interpretation, what is an Allegory, “My Sister, My Bride” – what does this mean?
[Short note, I realize now that if you look at the Lutheran Service Book Lectionary, I forgot to take the jump after Pentecost to the appropriate date. I just kept moving down the column. Since I’ve started Song of Solomon, I’m going to keep going down the assigned readings until the book is complete. At that point I’ll skip ahead to the proper date. I now also get something else. Since the only time these days that we are reading would be normally be read would be when Easter is the earliest is could possibly be, the vast majority of the time Song of Songs would be cut out. You’d read it something like once every 20 years. My inability to read has stumbled me into the book the lectionary is designed to skip. Sigh.]
Coincidental comfort, Allegory of Church & Christ, church in the midst of the vineyard/flocks