Tag Archives: life

Thanksgiving at Zacchaeus’ Place

tg-bulletin-cover Text: Luke 19:1-10, Thanksgiving (3rd Petition Catechism, Psalm 147)

Introduction
Thanksgiving is such a great shared holiday. It’s a secular one, but it treads on sacred ground. A sign to how those spheres in better days can work together. In the past I’ve attempt to dig out Lincoln or Washington or some other American President on the topic of Thanks, if not the day itself. Coolidge, maybe the last true heir of the Pilgrims, is more touching than you might think. Silent Cal loses some of his reticence to speak and having suffered personal loses in the midst of the roaring ‘20s, his reflections are homey-er and occasionally prophetic of what was to come.

But this year I think we’ve had enough of Presidents. The judgement passed I think if we are honest would be the God let us all have what we desired. If we didn’t like any of the results, that is what this Thanksgiving sermon is about.

Text
The text, Zacchaeus, might not be immediate for Thankgiving. Part of picking it was simply it always gets skipped. Reformation Day and All Saints – because we Observe them on Sunday instead of the actual days – consistently bump a couple of assigned readings. Poor Zack is one of them.

But Zacchaeus starts out wanting something simple and specific. He wanted to see who Jesus was. The Galilean prophet of renown is approaching Jerusalem. Palm Sunday is only a parable away. I want to see this prophet. And mixed in there is probably some apprehension about his business. Zach was a tax collector and rich after all. Is this prophet and his mob one that is going to upset my revenue stream? How big and of what type is his following? Are they going to burn it down, and me with it? That is what he wants to know. Can I keep my life?
And the crowds are big enough that he has to climb his tree to see over everyone and get his glimpse. That is when what he desired starts to be changed.

Jesus looks up as he passes the tree and calls up to Zacchaeus, “Come down, I’m going to your place today.”
I doubt that is what Zack was thinking initially. In fact it is probably just the opposite. The last thing a rich tax collector wanted at his door was a populist prophet. But Zacchaeus hurries down and receives him joyfully. Not what he originally wanted, but something better. Fear turned to joy.

Now the people following Jesus I think had different expectations as well because they begin to grumble. We brought along the pitchforks, tar and rails for guys like this, and you are going to eat with him?
But somewhere in the midst of that grumbling Zacchaeus starts thinking about “Can I keep my life” in a different way. No longer is it – are my position and goods safe for me, but how am I walking with my God and my neighbor? And he takes actions that were probably the furthest thing from his mind at the start of the day. Half my goods to the poor, and if I’ve cheated anyone – which is more or less the definition of tax collector in the day – I restore it four-fold. Who is this man? Does the grumbling crowd recognize him? Does he recognize himself? “Can he keep his life?”

And Jesus answers that one for him. “Today salvation has come to this house.” Yes he can, but his life doesn’t mean what he thought in the morning. “Because the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

Application
We rightly give thanks for all the stuff we have – harvests and food and plenty. We rightly give thanks for those we have been placed with – family and friends, hearth and home. We rightly give thanks for all the first article bounties of creation that the Father daily and richly provides. And we share that thanks with all people because the Father daily and richly provides for the sinner and saint alike. A shout out to the traditional Thanksgiving text – all 10 lepers are cleansed even if only one gives thanks.

But our deeper thanks should not be over all those things that we desire. Our Father knows that we need them and provides. Our deeper thanks should be over what our Father knows we need, but we did or do not desire. He could hand us over to our desires. That is actually the punishment of sin. God doesn’t have to cook up lightning bolts and plagues to punish sins. He just lets us live with them. What our Father knew we needed was salvation. He knew when we didn’t that we were lost. We were bound to the plans of the devil the world and our sinful nature.
And he broke them. There on that cross he broke all those evil desires. That cross shows us where those desires end. In mocking, and cruelty and death. If we desire to keep that, we can.

But He has also called us. Today, I must stay at your house. If we desire His life, we can receive it joyfully. Because he’s done it, and though Christ and in Christ we are all Children of Abraham. He came to seek and save the lost.

That is our deeper thanksgiving. Not that God gives us the things we naturally desire. These are good, but we can often twist even the greatest of his gifts. We give thanks because in this one most important thing – life – he didn’t just give us our desires. God acted and continues to act. He builds up Jerusalem and gathers the outcasts of Israel. He determines the number of the stars, he gives to all of them their names. Sing to the Lord with Thanksgiving. Amen.

Inheritance

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Text: Luke 12:13-21 (Col 3:1-5)
Full Sermon Draft

The parable at the core of today’s gospel can be highly moralistic. It is something we need to hear, but the parable itself gains it gospel grounding in the life of Jesus. The man at the start gives Jesus the opportunity to talk about life. What the life of Jesus, his questioner’s life and the parable invite us to do is correctly order things perishable and things imperishable in our lives.

When we have those thing properly ordered, then many situations and stations in life become much easier to judge the moral response.

Musical Note: I left in the hymn of the day Lutheran Service Book #732, All Depends on Our Possessing. I think it is one of the sweetest hymn tunes in the hymnal. Nothing flashy, but I’m still humming it. Not an earworm, but it strikes that right blend of melancholy and hope that is perfectly paired with the text. The text comes from the 17th Century Nurnberg church. The attribution is haus-kirche which would be house church, so it probably originated as a pietistic folk song shared among the various meetings much like campfire songs in the 1970s. But this text was caught by Catherine Winkworth, translator extraordinaire. What makes her translations so compelling is that unlike most American German to English translations which are more concerned about an exact translation, Winkworth cares first about the English. It doesn’t hurt that she has some evident skill at poetry. Technically she’s the translator, but most of her hymn translations are relatively free creations that manage to bring German hymns into a pleasant English expression.

Willful Moral Ignorance

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Biblical Text: Mark 9:30-37
Full Sermon Text

This text is the second passion prediction and a unique to Mark saying of Jesus. The saying is mirrored a couple of other places in very similar sounding ways, but the setting and the vocabulary of this text are unique. Unique enough to support this sermon. The central theme or problem is what do you call it or what happens when you know the moral path but are afraid. And this is tied to a very specific living example.

Desire the Good Stuff

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Biblical Text: John 6:22-35
Full Sermon Draft

The assigned readings take a three week tour though John 6. This chapter of John often gets called the bread of life discourse. That is fancy language for an extended teaching session between Jesus and the crowd after the feeding of the 5000 which was read from Mark a couple of weeks back. In this first section of teaching we have Jesus at what I would say is his most cryptic. The main thread is his claim that “I am the bread of life.” The background biblical story is the OT text of Israel in the desert after the exodus receiving manna. Manna, is actually a direct transliteration of the Hebrew and it simply means “what is it?” It is Moses that tells the it is the bread from heaven. Jesus picks that phrase up and encourages the crowds not to want temporal things (i.e. bread that spoils or after which you grow hungry again) but to desire the good stuff (i.e. eternal things) – the bread from heaven. The crowds pick up his drift as they ask about Moses, but they are still stuck on temporal things. They are still desirous of physical bread, hoping that this Jesus is a better Moses who can grant the manna for a longer time. Jesus’ response is the staggering “I am the bread of life.” He is not a Moses testifying about the bread, nor is this bread like that manna which did go away, but this bread is eternal. The Word of God himself has appeared. The Father wants to give us this bread. And the only requirement is believe.

So this will continue for the next couple of Sunday’s, but right now Jesus wants to get across a couple of items. If we are aiming for temporal things, however worthy they might be, we are missing the target. The Father wants to give you eternal things. Raise you eyes. Desire the good stuff. The second part of this is that the good stuff is the Word of God incarnate. When we live by the word of Jesus, when we believe him we have life. And that bread brings us through this temporal world to eternal life.

The hymn we closed with which I left in captures this theme and the images of the lessons perfectly – Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer LSB 918. (If you know your hymns, yes, for some reason the worship committee of the LCMS decided to mangle the first line of the more common “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah”. I’m not sure why, but it probably has to do with the term Jehovah for God which is something of a mishmash. It came about through a mistake of reading the vowel pointings of Adonai (Lord) that are usually placed over name of God tetragrammaton in Hebrew. The Jews would not say the name out loud but instead by looking at the vowels would substitute LORD. Something that was carried over in most of our Old Testaments when you see capital letters LORD what you have is the name of God. If you try and pronounce the name consonants with the vowels from Adonai you get Jehovah. So, a mishmash, and then one used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, so probably the cause for the rewording.)

What’s Your Ending? – Hope or Fear

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Biblical Text: Mark 16:1-8
Full Sermon Draft

The Easter Text in Mark’s gospel ends on a strange word – fear. What this sermon does is look both at our discomfort at fear and at what Easter has to say about it. Mixed in with a bit about that interesting ending of the gospel.

Happy Easter! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed. Alleluia!

No Kentucky in This Bracket

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Biblical Text: Mark 10:32-45
Full Sermon Draft

It is March Madness. It is also deep lent. The text is from right before Holy Week on the march to Jerusalem. This sermon connects all those 10 seeds or less, all those good teams that draw Duke, to our Spiritual reality. Yeah, we are going to lose. That dance is going to end. We will drink the cup Jesus drinks in the fact that we die, but that cup now contains our salvation. His baptism now saves us. Do we play these minutes with The Spirit, or do we stumble through them like the walking dead?

Two recording notes: 1) I think I’ve solved some of the quality problems by knocking down the line level before the recording and 2) I included our opening hymn – Come to Calvary’s Holy Mountain (LSB 435) – which contains many of the themes in the sermon and service. I wish I could have included our choir piece, but not being directly mic’ed, knocking down the line live made the start just a little too quiet.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Job 3:11-26 and John 1:35-51

Job 3:11-26
John 1:35-51
Questioning the Wisdom of God
How the Call of Christ overturns our expectations
The destination of the wisdom of the World/The Wisdom of God

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Numbers 10:11-36 and Luke 16:19-31

Numbers 10:11-36
Luke 16:19-31
The Pattern of Life is the Pattern in eternity, don’t build walls that can’t come down

Ah, thoughts on the staircase. It stuck me as I was completing the upload that the OT does have a lesson. In learning the very basics of being the children of God, Israel dwelt in tents. Those tents came down and went up at the command of the Lord at unknown times. Being the people of God requires living in certain dwelling lightly. The graceful practice in the church is not always going to look the same. Not talking about the eternal law, or the Word which abides forever, but about how we live it or incarnate it.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Numbers 9:1-23 and Luke 16:1-18

Numbers 9:1-23
Luke 16:1-18
Gradations or subsidiarity of the law, Days of Training, Sanctification, borrowed vs. owned wealth/life

Feast Day of St. Athanasius

It is also my anniversary. Do you think Mrs. Parson would be upset if I told her I just figured out a way to always remember my anniversary date? Every time I see this guy, “hey, that’s the day I got married”. You should google image Athanasius Icon, I wonder why that semi-scowl is a required part of the iconography. I suppose if it is you against the world, we can grant you a scowl. As for the anniversary…
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