The Father of Jesus Christ is Yours

Biblical Text: Luke 11:1-13

Ok, I start off with something a bit hokey – Tony Stark/Iron Man – but this is about Fathers and Sons. (And yes it includes daughters, but the language we are given in Father.) The Lord’s prayer in Luke is a revelation of the Father of Jesus Christ. The Father of Jesus Christ is good, compared to all of us earthly fathers who are by nature sinful. This sermon is a meditation on what that means. The biggest hurdle is what Luther’s catechism emphasizes about it – believe it. The Father of Jesus Christ has been made Our Father in Christ, and he gives us good gifts.

Contemplated Action

Biblical Text: Luke 10:38-42

The text is Mary and Martha which is usually taken as a compare and contrast of two symbols. Martha representing the active life and Mary the contemplative life. But I think that is a bit facile. And I’m basing that on both the immediate context – largely Luke 9-10 – and the life situation that is being displayed. Martha and Mary are not simple cut outs. Both are making choices about actions. And Martha’s request and Jesus’ words are not directed at action, but disordered action. Mary is acting. She is just acting after contemplating the good of the Kingdom. Not what her own anxieties and troubles desired, but what Jesus desired. As a sermon, it is probably a bit subtle. But the take away if I were to force one would simply be ordered action. A gift of the spirit is self-control. In the spirit we have the ability to act with kingdom purpose, not out of our anxiety.

The Old Old Story

Biblical Text: Luke 10:25-37

The Text is the Good Samaritan. When you are preaching on such a story you really have to be content with telling the old old story. And as a Lutheran that Old Old story is captured in this incredibly compact story of law and gospel. The law story is clear and is the direct text. You have a lawyer, arguing points of the law, and a command to go and do likewise. The gospel? The gospel is the subtext of the story. Because you eventually realize that the text is impossible. Something or someone must deliver us from this narrative that we have been living. That someone is Jesus the Good Samaritan.

Virtual Bulletin – 7/10

July 10th, 2022 – 5th Sunday after Pentecost

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  July 11th – July 17th

Mon – Wed……………. .           Apparently Summer                             

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

Saturday……………….           Ruth

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

                                                 11:15 AM        Leadership Meeting     

COMMEMORATIONS

The Old Testament person of Ruth is the commemoration this week. We just so happened to have covered Ruth in Thursday Bible Study this week.  What you might remember her for is her profession commonly heard at weddings, “were you go, I will go…”. What that profession really represents is Ruth’s confession of faith.  She is a Moabite, about as far from the God of Israel as you can imagine (look up Deuteronomy 23:3-4), yet she commits to “your God shall be my God.” And the LORD accepts this and she is redeemed, expressed in her story through what is known as Levirite Marriage or the Kinsman-Redeemer of Boaz. How shall the gentiles be saved?  By inclusion in Jesus Christ, our Kinsman-Redeemer.

LEADERSHIP MESSAGE – John Bayer

The prophet Isaiah, in a message of hope wrote, “The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” 

Last week Pastor Brown made a difficult decision to answer a call to Mt. Zion Lutheran Church in Peoria, Arizona.  God works His kingdom, placing and removing His ministers as He sees fit and many factors come into play as a pastor contemplates such a huge change.   But if the Spirit is truly in a call, a pastor has little choice but to follow His lead.  There is a profound mystery surrounding the Holy Office that we lay folks don’t readily see.

As your president, I want you to know that it is a privilege to serve you.  Sure, the next twelve months or so may be a challenge, but God will provide.  There are good people looking out for us right now; this includes our elders and council members, area pastors I’ve already had and will continue to have conversations with, as well as the Eastern District itself which is beginning to provide the support and counsel needed as we move further into the call process.  God will bless this challenging but exciting time at St. Mark.

The commitment needed from the congregation right now is prayer and your continued support of God’s work here at St. Mark.  Pray for us and pray that everyone involved in the call process will seek out and be sensitive to God’s will.  Please be in prayer for the Brown family; the time constraint for them right now is tremendous.  Stress levels are rising rapidly.  Don’t be surprised if, at some point, I put a call out for moving-help.

Sylvia and I wish we were with you in Divine Service today but we are with Pastor Bayer and his family.  Linley is being confirmed this Lord’s Day.  Andrew was confirmed last year at this time.  Their daddy is their pastor—sweet!  These are events grandparents don’t soon forget  …and in case you don’t know, they are expecting their 5th!

God bless us and bless His church!

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

I have to admit that the second someone starts talking about “social teaching” I typically break out in hives.  I hear that phrase usually as code for “you should do what I say and give me all your money for whatever hairbrained scheme I think is right.”  But our Old Testament Lesson for this week (Leviticus 19:9-18) would be the core of any church social teaching.  It ends with the famous summary of the 2nd table of the law – “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We do have a responsibility to our neighbor.  Jesus does what Jesus does with the law, turns it up to 11 in our gospel lesson (the good Samaritan).  Nowhere is Jesus more Lutheran than in how he treats the law.  You can’t keep Jesus’ interpretation of the law.  It condemns all of us.

In the middle there are some common-sense social things.  Property is real (sorry communists), don’t steal. Pay fair wages (sorry Randian libertarians).  Do Justice in courts (sorry politicians everywhere). But the opening command for me is the most useful bit of wisdom.  “When you reap the harvest, don’t take it right to the edge, leave some for the poor and the sojourner.” We can’t keep the law in its fullness.  Jesus did that for us.  But the law as a guide, as wisdom, is good and true.  And the kernel of “social teaching” is simply be aware of even those on the far margins.  The rich man was judged harshly for walking past Lazarus every day.  The field is your property, and you are the steward of its return, but remember that you live in the midst of others less fortunate.  Some no doubt due to laziness.  Give them ways to live even if it is from the closest edge of your field.

Most of us don’t literally have fields these days. We have to translate it. And the command is not against diligent work.  Get your plot to raise as much as possible.  The social teaching is remember some of the return for those you live amongst. Live a life of personal grace.  Grace is not something you can force out of others, it spoils like manna, but you can choose to live it.  And God has chosen to live so towards you.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story” – Samuel, Saul and David
  • Confirmation: Completed Year 1, return in the Fall
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Summer Break
  • Sunday Morning: For the month of July there are going to be short leadership meetings
  • Catechism Moment: Short Break

70 or 72? Call, Authority and Mission

Biblical Text: Luke 10:1-20

The text is Jesus sending out the 70, or is it the 72? That is one of the few textual questions of the New Testament. Which like all textual questions is ultimately unanswerable. It becomes a matter of faith. But if you side with the King James Version and the manuscript that usually “wins”, 70 opens up a bunch of old testament references that could see their fulfillment in these 70. There is a tie in with Moses’ 70 elders who received a part of his Spirit. The fulfillment being the Priesthood of All Believers where Moses’ wish that all would have the Spirit becomes true. There is a tie in with the teaching authority of the 70 members of the Sanhedrin. The called and ordained ministry sent out with the authority of the Word. And there is a fulfillment of the 70 nations from the table of nations in Genesis 10. The proclamation of Jesus being sent to all the world.

Virtual Bulletin – 7/3

July 3rd, 2022 – 4th Sunday after Pentecost

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  July 4th – July 10th

Monday……………….            Independence Day

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

Wednessday…………              Isaiah

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

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

                                                 11:15 AM        Bible Study     

COMMEMORATIONS

Sometimes the Sacred calendar and the secular calendar throw off fruitful juxtapositions.  July 4th is American Independence Day: fireworks, John Phillips Sousa and the Spirit of ’76.  It is everything that we hope America can be.  In the same week we have Isaiah, the prophet who wrote what is often called the 5th gospel. If the Spirit of ’76 is the desire for liberty, you could say the same thing about Isaiah.  But the definitions of liberty are quite different. Modern American liberty is self-determination.  It is military savvy.  It is the first and second amendment freedoms to worship what I want or don’t, to say what I want, and to defend myself.  Isaiah’s liberty is the Freedom of the Christian.  God has chosen you and claimed you and set you free from sin, death and the power of Satan. You are free to serve your Righteous King, the branch of Jesse, the suffering servant. The Founding Fathers of the United States were closer in their understanding of liberty to Isaiah than our often jingoistic reception of them. The fruits of liberty are to serve the right, not to wallow in libertinism.

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

The endings of Paul’s letters are always a bit strange to me.  Having completed his main argument, in Galatians the law free gospel or salvation by grace alone through faith alone, Paul turns to practical things.  Some scholars assume that in the background are letters or reports received by Paul with questions or things troubling the church.  And Paul closes his letters with responses to such questions.

You can imagine a question like: Paul, what do we do when someone who claims to be part of our fellowship is publicly flouting the teaching in sinful ways?  “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness (Gal 6:1).” You who are spiritual?  Probably the elders of the congregation. Spirit of Gentleness? Don’t rush to kick them out or relish it, but it must be addressed.

Paul, what do we do about those who are chronically in some kind of trouble?  “Bear one another’s burdens…for each will have to bear his own load.” Thanks Paul.  But it might make more sense than it seems.  We are part of the same family, but even families know that you can only help those who want the help.  We have a personal responsibility to examine ourselves, just as we have a duty of love to our neighbor.

Paul, how much do we Pay the minister? “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.” Paul, what about that person who leans into your law free gospel making grace seem very cheap? “Don’t be deceived, God is not mocked…if you sow to the flesh, from the flesh you reap corruption, but sow to the Spirit and reap eternal life.” That person may feel they are “getting away with it”, but know that they are not.  But Paul, that makes the Christian life pretty tough, because the first charge is always hypocrisy? “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap.” We can’t control what others do, but we can control ourselves.  Continue in the way, and trust the Lord to provide the harvest.

But then sometimes you just enter the mystery. “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” What is that about? Some say it is the mystical stigmata, but why that would be the basis for such a command I’m not sure.  More likely: Paul, there are people here still questioning your apostleship, what do we say to them?  Point them at the wounds like in 2 Corinthians 11:23ff, “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one– I am talking like a madman– with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death…”. Does someone without a call suffer these things?  That is what Luther in his Great Galatians commentary points at.

The problems of life together are more common across the ages that we might think.  Paul is still questioned as being an authentic Christian.  Many wish to pit Jesus vs. Paul. We keep falling into the same sins, age after age.  But the gospel remains for sinners.  “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your Spirit brothers. Amen.”

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story” – Ruth
  • 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: Short Break

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