Tag Archives: teaching

A Man of the Pharisees, A Ruler of the Jews

Biblical Text: John 3:1-17
Full Draft

This has been a strange 8 days with a Sunday in the middle. The church lost power for most of three days (Wed-Fri) due to a windstorm. Personally I was bedridden sick Friday night until I forced myself up Sunday morning. And then Tuesday and Wednesday we’ver have over 2 feet of snow and been snowed in. Wind, plague, snow and bitter cold, I asked our secretary this morning if Friday was scheduled for the earthquake.

So, buried literally under snow and figuratively under a week worth of work, including tracking and arranging a new date for the delivery of our new organ (did I tell you that was supposed to arrive last Wednesday), I am just getting to the sermon file. Of course the recording line gets real silent at the end of the gospel reading. So, no musical stuff. Also the sermon recording might be a little rough as occasionally not even amplifying brings the sound. (I’m thinking I moved a little far away from the mic at those moments and it got lower clipped.)

It is a shame, because it is one of the greatest texts of the bible. And being under the weather for final editing, I’m short. No hinting or sneaking up on the point. No padding or weak attempts at story telling or making relevant. Just expository. Christ for you. Fitting of John 3:16-17

Rally Day

decalogue-windowThe second use of the law is as the mirror. It shows us our sins. One of the old Rabbi’s ways of using the Decalogue was to line up one through five on the first side and six through ten on the other and use it as a diagnostic. (Sorry any reformed/evangelical readers, Calvin and Zwingli messed up your order because two commandments on coveting offended their reason and they needed to bolster their iconoclasm. The numbering used is the Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran.) If your community or society was engaged in rampant adultery (sixth commandment), the deep problem was idolatry (1st Commandment). That particular insight is often found in the prophets where Israel is compared to the harlot. Likewise if your culture is driven by coveting stuff (“ox, donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor”, 10 Commandment), the deeper problem is with the 5th (don’t murder). The presenting problem may be late stage capitalism, but we are willing to make commodities of everything because we have already made commodities of each other. We can see this in cases big and small, the over 1 million aborted a year to the Chicago murder rate. And if you take Jesus in the Sermon in the mount at his word that hating your neighbor is murder, well our every 4 year festival of hatred where the people wearing the other color are compared to Hitler and real friends are sacrificed should be troubling.

A particular outgrowth of that media cycle that I find almost like cat-nip is the attributing of the worst possible meaning to whatever the red/blue flag bearer said yesterday. Charity assumes that what was said has some reason behind it, that there is some way in which it captures truth, until the pure malevolence of the speaker is proven. I may not understand it, but it is my moral obligation to attempt to or at the least assume there is one. This is the 8th commandment’s territory. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor which Luther glossed with a positive force of “defend him, speak well of him and put the best construction on everything.” Not being a Pollyanna type, more specifically being a hyper-analytical person who likes winning, I have too often put those traits not in the service of charity but destruction, of figuring out the worst possible meaning and imputing that to the speaker. It has been a conscious effort and struggle of mine to control that impulse. It is depressing how often I fail.

That might be the sin that lives in my members, the battle against the flesh, but if I look at the parallel commandment, the 3rd (Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy), I think I am staring at what the world is attacking. When asking what does this mean Luther wrote that “we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” That Sabbath commandment to Luther is about our handling of the Word of God. As Jesus would say “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The Word of God is given to us for our good. If I am willing to intentionally distort my neighbor’s words, that stems first from my willingness to impugn God’s word. When God’s Word is not taken as sacred, it is real easy to treat my neighbor’s word as trash.
We can lament that the world does not take the Word seriously as Alan Jacob’s article in Harper’s a few weeks ago did, but we really should have no expectation of the world doing so. That was part of my response a couple of weeks ago which I posted here. It is another thing when the church neglects the Word. This interview with Kenneth Briggs, the “godbeat” editor for many years at places like the New York Times, talks about what he has seen. His pungent phrase is that the Bible has “become a museum exhibit, hallowed as a treasure but enigmatic and untouched.” Until the church is willing to reform its house back into what Luther called “God’s mouth-house”, the place where the Word forms us deeply, we will find it tough living with our neighbors. The church is the salt of the earth. If we can’t treat each other with charity, how will the world know?

I occasionally get asked why I insist on or put so much effort behind things like VBS, Sunday School, Bible Class and confirmation when the numbers are few. My response is usually something like “that is the call”. If the Pastor doesn’t put the Word first, then who will. Do I worry, especially around budget season, that someday that focus will leave me without a paycheck? I’d be lying if I said no. Another thing to repent from – “each day has enough trouble of its own, don’t fret”. So I turn back to the call, to call out all to repentance for the Kingdom of God is near, and to proclaim that now, in your hearing, is the year of the Lord’s mercy. Or taking that out of the high Biblical register, it’s Rally Day. Sunday School and Bible classes are starting again. I’d invite you to set aside a Sabbath to hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn that Word.

Faith over Fear

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Biblical Text: Mark 9:14-29
Full Sermon Draft

Fear is just not a permanent facet of the Christian life. It is not that we don’t feel it. It is not that we are spared the type of experiences that bring it forward. But the big difference is our belief in the end. The Christian both believes in an author of history, a providential God, and he believes that this providential God loves us and does all things for our benefit. We may fear for a night, but the steadfast love of the Lord is forever. This sermon examines fear, the response of faith with overcomes fear, and how the Christian lives out of that faith instead of fear. As we started Sunday School today, special emphasis is given to that roll of teacher.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Zechariah 9:1-17 and 2 Timothy 2:1-26

Zechariah 9:1-17
2 Timothy 2:1-26
The Victory of God ending in full Grain and Wine
Practical advice for ministers in conflict

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Deuteronomy 21:1-23 and Matthew 16:1-12

Deuteronomy 21:1-23
Matthew 16:1-12
Rough laws for a rough time
Forecasting Spiritual Weather
You should be able to discern very bad teaching

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Nehemiah 2:11-20, 4:1-6 and 1 Timothy 2:1-15

Nehemiah 2:11-20, 4:1-6
1 Timothy 2:1-15
Counting Cost and the Source of Perseverance
Peacocking, creating divisions, the basis in the family, teaching the wider family of God

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Judges 15:1-16:3 and Galatians 3:23-4:11

Judges 15:1-16:3
Galatians 3:23-4:11
The idiocy of Samson, In Weakness real strength, The law as teacher

What are You Seeking?

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Biblical Text: John 1:29-42
Full Sermon Draft

That title was Jesus’ first question of two would-be disciples. It still stands for all would-be disciples. What are you seeking? At the level of first things there are only two answers. This sermon looks is about that question, those answers and what they mean for us.

Daily Lectionary – Isaiah 63:15-65:7 and Luke 2:41-52

Isaiah 63:15-65:7
Luke 2:41-52
LSB357 (O Come, O Come Emmanuel) & The Wisdom Antiphon

Man does not live by bread alone…

This story by Australian Theologian Ben Myers is nifty. And I have to admit I hear the law in it slightly, I am convicted, but not where he is aiming.

Prof. Myers is part of one of those “uniting” churches. That is the same thing the founders of the LCMS were running to America away from – the dreaded Prussian Union. Myers is worried about baptisms without teaching, probably because they are practicing a believer’s baptism (i.e. baptism is administered at an age where you make a serious profession of faith). As Lutheran’s we baptize infants. We believe, with the Catholics, that baptism is the sacrament through which God promises to bestow the Spirit. God’s sure promise attaches to that water. What that doesn’t rule out is that child turning his/her back on the baptismal promise. [A Lutheran/Catholic vs. Reformed difference. To the true Reformed, if you are elect, you can’t ship-wreck you’re faith. The Lutheran/Catholic maintains to ability to do all kinds of damage although nothing positive without the Spirit.]

Where I would feel more convicted is at the Altar Rail for the Supper. We don’t really turn people away. If I see a person I don’t know, I’ll follow up. If I know they are going to be worshiping with us often, I will try and explain the Lutheran teaching. Luther’s questions (which are probably not actually Luther’s but added to the Catechism later) are the place I run. They boil down to three questions: Do you believe you are a sinner? Do you confess the Nicene Creed? Do you recognize the true body and blood (i.e. something mystical is going on here and not just bread and wine)? Here is actually a place where the liturgy or just a well planned worship service helps. Confession and Absolution come first (check first question), the creed is confessed (check second question), the words of institution and as the body and blood are distributed say ‘This is my body, blood…take, eat, drink” (check third question).

The small catechism is all Luther thought the typical peasant layman needed to know. The large catechism was intended for pastoral instruction. (Compare that to 8 years of college!) Am I complicit in not teaching enough? Yes. If I upped the level would I still be complicit? Yes. What is the answer? Sin boldly. Depend upon the providence and grace of the Lord. I come O Savior to your table for weak and weary is my soul. Thou, Bread of Life, alone are able to satisfy and make me whole.