Tag Archives: resurrection

Remembrance (October Newsletter)

Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. – Isaiah. 44:21

I’ve never been a specific date person. If you asked me how old I am, I’d have to calculate it. Probably after looking at my driver’s license to check the date. And I recognize that there are people who get offended when you forget specific dates, but such things to me have usually been abstractions. It is real hard for me to fix emotion to an abstract calendar. There are concrete things that make me recall past events. For example walking around Darien Lake this summer one of the things that is unmissable is the strollers and little kids being carried on shoulders. Ethan is now past riding on shoulders. But that concrete experience brought to mind the three-year-old we might have been carrying around. Another one would be an upcoming happy event. By the end of the year we will have the car paid off and be back to no car payments. Seeing as the car I drive is almost 14 years old and well over 100,000 miles that might mean it’s my turn. I haven’t driven a new-ish car since the one I leased in 1998 when I got my job at IBM and kids were still just a thought. But I’m in no hurry to lose the Santa Fe. A practical reason is I’m cheap, let’s say frugal to be nice. But that car was my brother’s. He had just finished paying it off when he passed away seven years ago already. Time like an ever rolling stream, soon bears us all away.

Remembrance is a tricky thing. The young are unburdened by it. The old can wallow in nostalgia over things that never actually were. The constant drumbeat of crack church consultants is relevance. Stay in the now looking to the near future. But that has never been the way the people of God have operated. The proclamation of the Kingdom – OT and NT – has always started with the call repent, and repentance is an act of remembrance. It is a remembrance of whose we are – “remember these things, O Jacob…I formed you.” It is a remembrance of His words and His ways – “you are my servant”. Repentance is always an act of memory.

But if that was all it was about, to hell with it. My remembering ends the day I do, maybe earlier. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may as the poet says. But when the bible talks remembrance it may start with repentance, but it always points to something bigger. “Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD (Psalm. 25:7)!” “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom (Luke. 23:42).” Our remembrance ultimately fails. As much as I might be willing to fix the Santa Fe, eventually I won’t be able to, as Jerry’s experience with a model year newer recently reminded me. What the Psalmist begs for is not his ability to remember, but that God would remember him according to his steadfast love. Like the thief on the cross asking the innocent lamb, “remember me”. That is the promise. “Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.”

The church’s remembrance is not a false nostalgia, neither is it focused on a myopic short term relevance. It is sustained in the now, by looking far. By looking to the fulfillment of that promise that all Israel shall be remembered. By looking for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

Two Fishing Trips

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Biblical Text: John 21:1-11 (background Luke 5:1-10)
Full Sermon Draft

John includes a third resurrection appearance in his Gospel. He has the first Easter represented by The Magdalene, John and Peter’s trips to the tomb. He has the second represented by Thomas. And then the third is this fishing trip. There are two things that stand out about this third day to me. The first is the exact number – 153 fish. That has stood out to a bunch of other people as well, and this sermon looks at it a little. The second item is how meaningful it is to compare this fishing trip to a fishing trip at the start of the ministry of Jesus. Luke records it as the calling of the first disciples.

THe developed points in this sermon are the simple importance of the material, or the bodily resurrection. If you are asking me the 153 fish are just 153 fish. It is one of those rediculous details that stick out about great days. The point is not a meaning on deeper reflection but the readily apparent meaning that Christ is Lord over the material as well as the spiritual. It is all his. The second half of the sermon does develop a meditative meaning in contrast to the first fishing expedition. In that sense John’s resurrection account is a looking forward to our resurrection, to pulling all the fish to the shore.

Broken Things Risen Things

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Biblical Text: Luke 24:1-12
Full Sermon Draft

Preaching on Easter is a unique experience. You do get the full joy. A full house. The best music and hymns. The core message. But you also get the full foolishness of the gospel. As if some loser 2000 years after the event could possibly have anything to say. At least the Orthodox just get in the pulpit and repeat Chrysostom. Likewise the proclamation is unique, sui generis, not replicable until well it is replicated. All examples and illustration and props are gone. All you can point at is Christ. He’s risen. Any eloquence you might have, any cunning or logic is stripped away. He’s Risen. This is how God fixes broken things. After the cross, resurrection. And there you have it. He’s either defeated death, and it will be given to you at the right time, or his hasn’t. I’m just the messenger telling you what I’ve been told and believe. He’s risen. Broken things will rise.

Recording note. I would love to have left some of the music on, but the gap between the live experience of Easter music and our poor recording of it is just too much. So, it is just the lessons and sermon. Come to church next week. We will still be singing the Easter hymns on the octave.

Repentance Walk

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Ash Wednesday

I like the church year because along with Christmas and Easter and the days that you naturally blow the trumpet it has days like Ash Wednesday. Days that force us to think about things we don’t want to think about.

I’ve been told that the word sin has no meaning in modern English. That what sin means to the vast majority of Americans is an understandable indulgence. The sinful chocolate. The scale says you don’t need it, but hey. The sinful car. Yes, the payment is a little more, but you’ve always wanted that badge and now can swing it. Biblically those really aren’t sins. They might be foolishness, or they might even be just enjoying God’s creation. Jesus was called a drunkard and a glutton by the Pharisees.

Sin biblically is dominated by two metaphors. There are the purity metaphors – clean and dirty. And there are the special metaphors – missing the mark, walking the wrong way, ever before me. A common division of the Jewish law is between the ceremonial and the moral. The ceremonial law is what governs what is kosher and non-kosher. The breaking of the ceremonial law was cleansed by the ceremonial washings and the sacrifices. Purity being the primary way to talk about it. And purity – clean and dirty – tends to be digital. You are clean or dirty, there is no space in between. Eat a bacon cheeseburger and you are ceremonially unclean. Offer the sacrifice and you are restored to cleanliness.

The sacrifice of Jesus fulfilled that ceremonial law for all time. That cross has made us clean. It has washed us, created in us a clean heart.

The other portion of the law is the moral. The 10 commandments are the shorthand for it. This is where those spacial words start to take over. Cast me not away from your presence. Uphold me with a willing Spirit. The word that becomes resurrection is literally stand up, be put aright.

When you read repent in the New Testament, there are couple of different words used. Metanoia, which focuses on the mental. The recognition that we by ourselves are unclean. And the first call of metanoia, repent, is believe. The other word is epistrepho, which is spacial and means turning around and walking in the other direction. We start walking in the ways God intends.

Luther said in the first of the 95 theses, When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. That is not a life of constantly changing our minds, but of constantly walking in the correct direction.

And here is where Ash Wednesday is unique. Our justification is immediate. We are made clean by the righteousness of Christ by faith. But because we went wrong, we wandered a far distance “east of Eden”. And the consequences of sin are death. Abraham never possessed the promised land. Moses never entered it. David’s kingdom fell apart. Dust we are and to dust we will return. However far we walk in the way God intends, this flesh is not going to make it.

But this flesh is not our hope. As the writer of Hebrews says in the chapter of the heroes of the faith.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. (Heb 11:13-14)

Our hope is not here and now, but then and there. Our repentance walk here and now, turns into a triumph then and there. When we are no longer clothed with this mortal flesh, but we receive the resurrection – are stood aright. There are plenty of days on the calendar to celebrate that. But Ash Wednesday is on the calendar to remember that it is not yet a full on triumph. We only share in that triumph to the extent that we seek a homeland. To the extent that we pick up our cross and follow him past Calvary. Amen.

Tick-Tock Time

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Biblical Text: Luke 9:28-36
Full Sermon Draft

Today was Transfiguration Sunday which is the last Sunday in the Season of Epiphany. Lent Begins mid-week with Ash Wednesday.

Transfiguration to me is a tough preaching assignment because it is fundamentally a visual experience. Parables are about words. Miracles are just as often about reactions to the happening. Both of those are easily pondered and preached in words. But with the transfiguration, it is an icon. What I mean by icon is that it is a picture that invites you to ponder fundamental reality, to contemplate and enter eternity. What this sermon chooses to ponder of that reality to time. We live, especially we moderns live, in a culture that at a minimum emphasizes tick-tock time. It sometimes goes as far as to deny there is anything but. But all icons are invitation to see beyond or underneath that press of the everyday. The transfiguration as the ultimate icon invites us to see all of eternity in one moment. The alpha and omega present on a mountaintop.

The sermon moves from the lessor to the greater. It posits hopefully a couple of more common icons in our lives that telescope time into an icon. Then it moves to the transfiguration. Finally it moves on to the demands and promises of knowing any icon. The what I put it here is that knowing eternity, we are freed to live in the moment. Not for the moment or obsessed with tick-tock time, but fully present in it. We are so freed to be truly present in good and ill because we are part of Jesus exodus. In Christ our time has been redeemed, reconnected to eternity. We have eternity, so we are free to enjoy time.

Worship note. Can I share a pet peeve? I understand the point of copyright. I believe that musicians and composers need to get paid. But copyright just kills the culture of hymns and sacred music. Here is what I mean. Today as a close we sang Lutheran Service Book number 416 – Swiftly Pass the Clouds of Glory. It is a very modern song. The text is copyrighted 1994; the tune (Love’s Light) in 2000. To me this hymn is one that I’d put in the list of all time greats that every Christian should know. Think Amazing Grace or A Mighty Fortress. The tune is gorgeous, contagious and singable. The words are deep, emotional and challenging. And part of the magic is that they fit together. That is a hymn that should be shared. I can’t. It’s copyrighted. Church music, like preaching, isn’t really a commercial endeavor. You do it for the good of the church.

God’s Not Going Away

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Biblical Text: Luke 4:31-44
Full Sermon Draft

An honest appraisal first. This I think is one of those sermons that is rich content wise, but attempting to put a title on it and looking at the word cloud makes me think it was probably too full. I can’t tell you exactly what the “sparkler” that one would take away from it was. There are several potentials, but none of them sparkle enough, and there are too many. Looking at it with hindsight, I think I would re-focus it on that title I picked.

The emphasis I believe in the story is on Jesus’ definition of himself. What is this Son of God going to be like and do? The demons and the people are challenging him to smaller definitions. The demons want him to just go away. Go back to heaven and leave creation to its just reward. But Jesus silences them and gives mercy through healing and exorcism. Mercy is not receiving what we deserve. The demons aren’t wrong. Being sinners we deserve them. But Jesus in the incarnation takes on our flesh. God’s not going away. He is bringing mercy. The second challenge is to leave it right there, just mercy. But again God does not go away. He proclaims grace. Grace is when we receive what we do not deserve. We do not deserve the Kingdom, but that is what Jesus is here to give us. In the incarnation God gives us grace, and through the sending of the Spirit to indwell in us we are partakers of divine grace. That is the fullness of the mission of Jesus. Jesus defeats the temptation to sell himself short.

We also struggle with self identity, but our struggle is really the opposite of Jesus. As the sinless one, Jesus is self-actualizing. As those full of the sinful nature, self-actualization in this world is a bad goal. We will know everything we can be in the resurrection. In this world our call is more humble. Learn to love. Instead of holding on and hoarding the good things for ourselves, our end is to learn to serve others. To love our neighbor as ourselves which means giving away ourselves in faith that God will fill us back up. Simon’s Mother-in-law in the text is our example, or at least the more reachable example.

This sermon works through those thoughts I think in a meaningful way, but it is full. It requires your meditation.

On such day’s I’m always glad when the surrounding liturgy and hymns are great supports. I’ve left in a little more than usual. It was a 5th Sunday, so we pull out the bells and whistles of the liturgy including having the choir sing/chant the introit, gradual and alleluia/verse. The introit in particular was gorgeous this morning. I also left in the Hymn of the Day “Son of God, Eternal Savior” Lutheran Service Book 842. It takes the congregation a verse to get going, but they pick up. And I have to say as we sang the song my smile got bigger. You pick hymns in worship planning sometimes weeks in advance. You think the service holds together as a whole. It usually isn’t terrible, but today, I felt the Spirit while singing that hymn. When it so clearly reflects or in this case prepares for the sermon, you know someone else is there working with your terrible material.

From the Days of John Until Now

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Biblical Text: Matthew 11:12-19
Full Sermon Draft

There are two lectionary gospel texts for Reformation Sunday. This is the alternate text. It is actually my favorite because I think it reminds us of something necessary. The nature of the Kingdom here is not one of apparent power and victory. The Kingdom is comes in weakness. It is often veiled. It is violated, and violent men seize her. Yet the victory is won. Christ is risen, and there is always an angel with that eternal gospel. You might have to go to the wilderness to hear it, but the Word remains.

Recording note: I’ve left in the Hymn of the Day which was Lutheran Service Book #555 – Salvation Unto Us Has Come. A Mighty Fortress is often considered The Reformation hymn, but my money is on this one. We sang the odd verse which tell the full story of grace. I also left in the concluding short Hymn, God’s Word is Our Great Heritage, LSB 582. I think if Luther was around to say what the purpose of the Reformation was, 500 years later removed from the arguments of the day he would say what this hymn does. We have been given and entrusted with the Word. We betray the Kingdom if we forget this.

Beginnings and Endings – A Cruciform Existence

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Biblical Text: Mark 6:1-30
Full Sermon Draft

Under the biblical text I put the full text I was drawing from. The reading is only Mark 6:1-13, but I think that cuts off a significant element of interpretation. What we see in this text is Jesus marveling at his rejection by his hometown because of what they “know”. They don’t really know anything, but what they “know” gets in the way of actually seeing. What this represents is the start of the hard opposition and rejection of Jesus. His ministry which has been one of crowds and superficial acceptance up until this point makes a turn toward the cross. At the same time he sends out the twelve. This is the beginning of their ministry. So we have the beginning and the beginning of the end in the same story.

What that highlights for us is the nature of Kingdom growth. The Kingdom grows not because of any individual ministry, but it grows through multiplication, through death and resurrection. A seed falls to the ground and produces a hundred fold. Jesus’ successful ministry healed people one at a time. We he was nailed to a tree, he healed the entire world. God’s power is revealed most sure in weakness, in the midst of the trial. And that is what the stories the church tells, the lives of the saints reflect most clearly.

Recording note: The hymn left in is Fight the Good Fight (LSB 664). The lyrics and the music reflect that cruciform nature of discipleship in this world. Success is not about the outward appearance, but about Fighting the Good Fight, Keeping the Faith, because God’s definition of success is found in Christ.

To the Other Side

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Biblical Text: Mark 4:35-41
Full Sermon Draft

The text is Jesus stilling the wind and the waves. What this sermon does is first examine the language or the story itself. It then based on that language look at two different points of the text. The first point is Christological, “who is this one?” This is the original meaning of the text, but there is a second more metaphorical meaning long read devotionally by the church. Not only is this one The Lord, but he is the The Lord with us in the midst of storm and tempest. The sermon attempts to present both.

It is bolstered by the included Hymn of the Day – “Jesus Savior Pilot Me” – LSB 715.

Can These Bones Live?

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Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 15:26-27, 16:4-15
Full Sermon Draft

Given the recent Pew Report on American Religion I’m surprised the image of dry bones hasn’t been used. I suppose it is because Satan knows scripture and there is a sturdy reply in this text. But we have heard some church members, and I myself at times, sounding like Israel in the Ezekiel text, “Our bones are dried up, and our Hope is lost.” This sermon is God’s answer to that. It is the answer of Pentecost. Therefore prophesy, and say to them, thus says the Lord God: “Look, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.” Therefore prophesy and say to them, “And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live…Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”