Tag Archives: providence

And Just Who is ‘Father’?

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Biblical Text: Luke 11:1-13
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The Lord’s Prayer in Luke has a different context and a different emphasis than it does in Mathew. Even though our liturgical prayer comes from Mathew, the context of the liturgy before Communion, is more like Luke. The focus of the prayer itself is the petition “give us each day our daily bread”. But the context of the prayer focuses on revealing just who it is we are praying to – Father.

This sermon is a little shorter than normal. The introduction addresses the reason. The events of the week highlight the first part on our daily bread and just how much “I need thee every hour”. The second portion is pure Gospel. Unlike us who are evil, the Father is holy. And that is what Jesus came to reveal – just who we are praying to.

A Widow & a Scribe – Vocation and Providence

Biblical Text: Mark 12:38-44
Full Draft of Sermon

We collected the pledge cards this week. Believe it or not, that was planned before actually looking at the text. If I had looked at the texts first, I’m pretty sure I would have said, “can’t do it that week”.

There is a really crisp and clear direct application that feels just a little too easy. You could say, like Jesus did, look at the widow and go and do likewise. But to me the widow is not where most of us Americans are at. We are not that poor. We are not forced by circumstances to completely trust on the providence of God. Most Americans are more than likely in the scribal position.

So here I concentrated on scribe a little bit more trying to illuminate the vocational problems and the problems with providence. The law in both cases is clear and comes from the larger context. At the start of the larger section the text comes from Jesus answers what the most important commandments are – love the Lord your God and love your neighbor. The first is reliance upon providence and the second is carried out in our various vocations. What the scribe was doing, what we do so well, is instead of using our vocations for our neighbor, we use them to avoid or deny providence. The good news is that none of us have the vocation of messiah. That is Jesus alone. So we are still called to reliance upon providence and vocations of service to our neighbor, but when we fail Jesus is our salvation and our righteousness, because he did not fail.

On a grading note, that above paragraph is a better summary than is probably in the sermon itself. The spirit of the staircase rules this week. As I left the pulpit certain things became clearer. But the Amen had already been said.

Stewardship 6: A Cheerful Giver.

Here are the links to the prior posts in this series.
post #1.
post #2.
post #3.
post #4.
Post #5

Last time we looked at the OT background of the tithe – both where it has gospel roots and where it is a command of the law. What the OT stories confirm is that while the law doesn’t save, it does reflect the will of God for his people.

This time I want to jump right into the New Testament in 2 Corinthians 8-9. The Corinthian congregation is an interesting parallel to today’s world. Corinth was a wealthy Roman colonial trading port city. It lay on key sea-ways as well and key over-land routes. The aristocracy of the city was based on wealth and not land. In the Corinthian letters Paul scolds them for their separation even during the Lord’s Supper into social stratum layers based on wealth (1 Cor 11:17ff). The old city of Corinth which the Roman’s had destroyed was such a cesspit of vice that the noun Corinth became a verb meaning to fornicate. A “Corinthian girl” was a euphemism for a prostitute. This adventurousness also extended to the religious realm where every type of mystery cult and philosophy could be found. It is in the Corinthian letters that Paul addresses meat sacrificed to idols (1 Cor 8) and the warning not to marry unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14-18).

In 2 Cor 8:1-15 we have what might be the capital campaign. The gentile church was taking up a collection for the church in Jerusalem. Paul praises the Corinthians for their initiative in starting a collection, but the initial push has stalled. Paul is sending Titus and encouraging the collection to be finished. And here we have the two step. Paul does not want the offering to be a law, but wants it to spring from the gospel.

The core of Paul’s advice is in 2 Cor 9:6-11.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

Here Paul states clearly what we have been following in this series with two added thoughts. The repeated themes: 1) He who supplies seed to the sower…will supply and multiply. The goal of stewardship is to recognize and trust God’s providence. 2) Doing so is a matter of faithfulness – you may abound in every good work. 3) Firstfruits are important – decide what you are giving in your heart first. The two new parts are the relation of sowing to reaping and the joy in cheerfulness. Cross reference for a second Luke 6:38. I want to be clear here. Jesus and Paul are not preaching a prosperity gospel. This is not a proclamation that giving to the church reaps material blessings. But, a part of the Christian life is being generous, is being a person given to grace. We have received grace, we should be willing to live that grace. If you want a gracious, graceful and full of grace church and community, a good place to start is your monetary support of it. The second point Paul adds is being cheerful about it. And that is not something you can really fake. God loves a person who can support the mission of God happily and not out of compulsion.

Practically I think we can look at this a couple of ways. First, if you are always hesitating in your offering and worrying about not having enough, you are not giving cheerfully. Reduce the amount until you are cheerful about it. But if you find that your spiritual life and church are somewhat empty don’t be surprised. You reap what you sow. In money matters challenge God. Not to give you the Mercedes Benz, but to give you a cheerful heart. You will be surprised at the response. God is not outdone here.

A second way to think about this is the sanctification walk. First pursue faithfulness. Faithfulness defined by the law is the tithe. We are not under the law, but the law is a good starting point. (Should the graceful response be less than the compelled response?) If that seems too steep at first, ok. Decide in your heart and challenge God in this area. Make a firstfruit offering and ask God to help your cheerfulness grow in this area. The life of a Christian is not under the law, nor is it instantaneous. Taste the truth here. God wants us to know and trust his providence. Will a time of testing come in these matters? Yep, probably. There will be times when you are giving a lot and never seem to be reaping anything. But most of the American church is far from that point. We are baby Christians in these matters. Babies don’t get tested like that. And there is no testing given us that we cannot withstand.

I’m out of space here. I’ll come back to this next week and do some wrap-up and clean up.

How did it come to this?…..


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The three texts for this week worked together almost seamlessly in my mind. There are always things that bother us – give us what I call the whys. And God is just not as interested in the whys as we are. Those whys are the crux of faith. Do we feel the need to create our own stories to explain them. And then we busily patch those stories as we inevitably get them wrong. Patch them until all we’ve got are patches. Or do we trust, do we have faith, in the one who does hold the whys. That is what the life of Jesus demonstrates to us – that the God who says he is love, proved it. Do we let him hold the whys, or collapse back into ourselves and our collection of patches?

Do we trust his providence that in the face of disaster we can say with Paul – blessed is the Christ who is God over all? And most shockingly that invitation is free and open. Come, everyone who thirsts…Come, incline your ear…buy food without money or price.

“Providence…” Sermon on Mark 6:30-44

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The feeding of the 5000 is the only story in all 4 gospels. Why? In Mark it seems to be the climax of a series of miracles, although it might appear to be an anti-climax to the raising of Jairus’ daughter. What does it tell us. Simply that God provides. God’s providence cover us both in physical things and in spiritual things. All ate and were satisfied. The disciples saw the miracle in that.