Ready to Hear

Biblical Text: 1 Samuel 3:1-10

Sometimes you feel like you live in a time of Eli. Just to be clear what that means is old, blind, uncaring, casually cruel, dismissive of almost everything as beyond your ability to do anything or even care. Like Ezekiel staring a valley of dry bones – Can these bones live? And it seems pie in the sky to say yes.

Yet this is how God works. He works by death and resurrection. And the form or the means of God’s work is His word. Just when we might think “the lamp of God” has gone out, it hasn’t, and it calls out “Samuel, Samuel”. And if comes and stands in our presence and speaks to us anew.

The renewal of the Christian life always starts with “Speak Lord, for your servant hears.” That is what this sermon ponders.

Virtual Bulletin – 1/17

January 17, 2021 – 2nd Sunday after Epiphany

WORSHIP & Bible Study

Worship is at 10AM, Lord’s Supper for those present.

This week’s service Bulletin/Worship Link Here

Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/6458485288?pwd=R2xGZkRNVi9TdzFPQzlaVnluNWo4QT09

Zoom Info: Meeting ID: 645 848 5288 Passcode: miracles

Bible Study after service or 11:15ish.  I’ll keep the zoom line on. 

Devotion & Prayer Thought

The Apostle Paul is probably quoting a common saying “All things are lawful for me” in 1 Corinthians 6:12. He quotes it again in 10:23 to start another segment. And it is a tempting reaction.  If you have been in a ditch on the legalist side of the road and someone lifts you out of it by proclaiming the grace of Jesus that forgives all sins, you might head immediately to the ditch on the other side of the road.  I can do whatever I want.  State of grace, oh happy, condition, “sin” as I please and still have remission.  The really deep parts of that ditch don’t even call it sin but justify every act as a living out of my gospel freedom.  “All things are lawful for me.”   And notice that Paul walks gingerly here.  He definitely sees the legalist ditch as the more troublesome one.  But he is addressing adults, not children.

With young children you simply tell them “no, don’t do that” or say “here, do this”.  The law is how we learn.  But as we get older those childish legalisms don’t cut it.  And they don’t cut it because the parent loves their child.  They want them to be able to make good decisions without parental training wheels.  In the gospel of Jesus you have been set free from your tutelage under the law.  What the Apostle wants his new adults to understand is that things were made for a purpose.  You have been released from your sins by the gospel for a purpose.  And that purpose is not to fall into the ditch of every distraction that alights on your eyes.  “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food.”  Eating is necessary.  Hunger lets us know that we need something.  But giving free reign to the body’s hungers is giving oneself into a new slavery.  “God will destroy both one and the other.”  The body’s hungers are temporal things.  And the adult – the spiritual person in Christ – seeks to align temporal things underneath eternal things.  “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you.”

The way, the road, goes between the two ditches.  We cannot walk the path by checking off laws.  Neither can we follow Christ by confusing temporal desires for eternal ones.  We can only walk as we discern where the Spirit wishes to lead us.  “We are not our own.”  Both those ditches would shout back, “I’m going to do what I want to do.  Everything I do is lawful.”  The narrow way is realizing that God’s map is better, and he leads us beside still waters.  What a child might do because the parents say so, the adult should choose because it is good and right.  May we choose to “glorify God in our body” and not return to a slavery to temporal hungers that impoverish the spirit.

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Jan 18th – Jan 24th

Tues. – Fri. ……….….…  9:00amPreschool

Monday: ………………   6:30pm    Women’s Group Meeting on Zoom

Tuesday………………… 9:00am     Rochester Pastor’s Circuit meeting

Wednesday: ……………   9:00amConfirmation

                                           7:30pm     Church Council Meeting

Thursday: ……………… 10:00amBible Study

Sunday: …………………. 10:00am    Worship

                                           11:00am    Bible Study

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: Ezekiel Chapter 19-20
  • Confirmation:  Start The Lord’s Supper
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  January 27th. See you on the Zoom line.
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, in the sanctuary and on the zoom line.
  • Catechism Moment: How do the daily prayers and table of duties fit into the catechism? Next week.

RHAFT:  Collections for RHAFT are ongoing.  If you would like to contribute to the Rush-Henrietta Food Pantry, a box is located under the round table in the Narthex for non-perishable items.  These could include cereals, canned goods (protein items are always in need), flour, and sugar, cooking oil, hygiene products (i.e. soaps, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste & toothbrushes, feminine products) pet and cleaning products.  RHAFT can only accept food items that have not passed the expiration date.

CHRISTMAS ELVES:  Thank you to Jerry Gardner, Mindy, Nancy and Dave Goetz for filling in for Santa’s Elves.  They made quick work of packing up the decorations and storing them in the steeple room.

WOMEN’S GROUP:  Will be meeting on ZOOM on Monday, January 18th at 6:30pm.  Please contact Mindy if you are planning to join us and she will e-mail the Zoom invitation to you. 

2021 Offering Envelopes have now been tucked in your Narthex mailbox.   If you would like them, but are not venturing out, contact the office (585-334-4795).

Future Opportunity

Biblical Text: Genesis 1:1-5

This sermon is a bit more philosophical that I typically get. It is also leaning of a work of systematic or dogmatic theology I’ve been reading by the Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson. Classic theology is build around what in Latin are loci. In English it is much less impressive, merely subjects of focus. And the classic first loci is God.

There is a blatant problem with that. Absent revelation we can know nothing about God. Most everybody would disagree with that. That is the inspiration for every rational and forced mystic quest for God. It is the thinking behind “seeking”. And all those quests seem to have the same goal, to get under or behind or beneath our existence to the eternal timeless reality. But the God of revelation is not timeless; He is the creator of time.

This sermon invites us not to be driven by fear into seeking some unchanging reality, but to hear Jesus is risen as the invitation to a way through time, through God’s good creation from alpha to omega.

Virtual Bulletin – 1/10/21

January 10, 2021 – Baptism of Our Lord

WORSHIP & Bible Study

Worship is at 10AM, Lord’s Supper for those present.

This week’s service Bulletin/Worship Link Here

Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/6458485288?pwd=R2xGZkRNVi9TdzFPQzlaVnluNWo4QT09

Zoom Info: Meeting ID: 645 848 5288 Passcode: miracles

Bible Study after service or 11:15ish.  I’ll keep the zoom line on. 

Devotion & Prayer Thought

Some of what is said below under the “catechism moment” is duplicated here, but I want to expand.  This week we completed part 1 of the catechism.  If you had a traditional confirmation instruction, that is probably where you stopped.  There are two further sections of Luther’s catechism: the daily prayers and the table of duties.  We will be covering those, but the end of our first cycle of the catechism is in sight.  If the numbers are right the email now goes out to roughly 80 people.  Of those 80, any given week 35 of you open the email.  And that has been pretty consistent.  Some weeks more, never less than 30.  I honestly don’t have an interpretation for those numbers.  What I do have is a sense that an opportunity should be offered, that the point of study and reflection on the catechism is a commitment to living the faith and making this faith mine.

We will be starting afresh with the 10 commandments soon.  The catechism is inexhaustible in that way.  It is a springboard for prayer.  But I would like to offer the chance in worship for anyone who has been studying a chance to reaffirm that “yes, this is my faith”.  In one way we do this every week in the creed.  The smallest part of the faith holds all of it with in.  But it has always bothered me that we “confirm” folks roughly in the 8th grade and then that is it.  The life of faith doesn’t end in the 8th grade.  That should be a start.  And we should occasionally stop and ourselves formally say that “yes, I still confirm this faith and confession.”  So, if you have been following along with our study and would like such a chance, please let me know.  I’m thinking of two things.  Ritually, those who would desire we’d walk through the confirmation rite again, p272 in the hymnal. It is a chance to publicly confess the faith and one’s intention to live it.  Also, I don’t do this with 8th graders because I don’t think they have lived enough for it to be meaningful, but with adults I am of a different mind.  If there is anyone who would like to share a personal testimony of why this is their faith, please contact me.

I would like to incorporate this as a rhythm to our corporate life together.  We started this cycle Dec 4th, 2019, so it takes about a year to walk through the catechism one segment a week.  After each cycle, we will offer this opportunity.  In Matthew 10, right after telling the crowds “the divine duh” – to have no fear because you are worth more than many sparrows – Jesus says, “So everyone who confesses me before men, I also will confess before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”  I think that such a roughly yearly opportunity could be a valuable source of renewal and mutual strengthening.  So again, please let me know.

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

Mon. – Fri. ……….….…  9:00amPreschool

Wednesday: ……………   9:00amConfirmation

                                           7:00pm     LAF

                                           7:30pm     Church Council Meeting

Thursday: ……………… 10:00amBible Study

Sunday: …………………. 10:00am    Worship

                                           11:00am    Bible Study

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: Ezekiel Chapter 18
  • Confirmation:  Continue with “The Office of the Keys”
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Resuming January 13th (studying patience). See you on the Zoom line.
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, in the sanctuary and on the zoom line.
  • Catechism Moment: We finished the “first part” of the catechism this week.  If you had a traditional confirmation, that is probably where you stopped.  But Luther’s catechism has two other sections.  They are both in the little booklet we’ve been using (you can still grab them, or contact us and we will send you one).  Daily Prayers & Table of Duties will be looked at next.  Then we will cycle back around.  The catechism is something that is inexhaustible.  But when we are finished, I have a question for everyone.  If you have been reading along and you would like to renew your confirmation, please let me know.  I’ve been thinking that every time we go through it completely, I would add something to our worship service to mark the occasion. Let me know.

RHAFT:  Collections for RHAFT are ongoing.  If you would like to contribute to the Rush-Henrietta Food Pantry, a box is located under the round table in the Narthex for non-perishable items.  These could include cereals, canned goods (protein items are always in need), flour, and sugar, cooking oil, hygiene products (i.e. soaps, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste & toothbrushes, feminine products) pet and cleaning products.  RHAFT can only accept food items that have not passed the expiration date.

CHRISTMAS ELVES:  Thank you to Jerry Gardner, Mindy, Nancy and Dave Goetz for filling in for Santa’s Elves.  They made quick work of packing up the decorations and storing them in the steeple room.

WOMEN’S GROUP:  Will be meeting on ZOOM on Monday, January 18th at 6:30pm.  Please contact Mindy if you are planning to join us and she will e-mail the Zoom invitation to you. 

2021 Offering Envelopes have now been tucked in your Narthex mailbox.   If you would like them, but are not venturing out, contact the office (585-334-4795).

Ponder in your Heart

Biblical Text: Luke 2:40-52

I am always surprised at how multivalent (fancy word for many valid levels) the scriptures are. A Protestant temptation, and a temptation of “smart” people, is to think that there is only one interpretation or reading that is best. For this text, Jesus in the temple, that “best” reading usually focuses on the distinction between the boy Jesus and the “teachers of the law”. And that is not an invalid way of thinking about the text. But I owe a big debt to Luther for this view, and I think it is a perfect example of the pastoral Luther. Luther put aside the immediately obvious Law and Gospel distinction, to focus on the situation of Mary. Mary who for three days has lost God. The core question is where do we find consolation, where do we find God?

This sermon ponders a bit why God would put his “most highly favored” in such suffering situations. And it then puts forward how we find consolation in such times, and how we should prepare for the crosses of life.

A Sign of Opposition

Biblical Text: Luke 2:22-40

This sermon owes a bunch to Luther’s Postil sermon on this text for this 1st Sunday after Christmas. That published sermon of Luther’s is one of those great overstuffed things. There are about 6 different sermons attempting to break out. In some ways I imagine the great man might have been under some of the similar pressures. He’d probably preached three times in the week already and had a few other things due. And then the next Sunday is there. What do you say? There is always a lot in God’s word, the real work of preaching is picking and expressing one specific thing. But sometimes you just don’t have the bandwidth for that work. So you offer up a smorgasbord.

Solid potato dish – The faith of Simeon & Anna/Joseph & Mary.

Vegetables – The humility of Christ in this group

Fish – Typology, Anna as Old Testament Saints/Temple; Mary as New/Church

Desert (don’t take too much) – Some numbers, 7 & 84

Prime Rib – The sign of opposition

Ham – The Christmas promise against that sign

Virtual Bulletin – 12/27/20

December 27th, 2020 – 1st Sunday in Christmas

WORSHIP & Bible Study

Worship is at 10AM, Lord’s Supper for those present.

This week’s service Bulletin/Worship Link Here

Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/6458485288?pwd=R2xGZkRNVi9TdzFPQzlaVnluNWo4QT09

Zoom Info: Meeting ID: 645 848 5288 Passcode: miracles

Bible Study after service or 11:15ish.  I’ll keep the zoom line on. 

Devotion & Prayer Thought

Joshua Gibbs – writer/teacher – compiled an interesting book of essays on Christmas called “The 25th”.  The first essay addresses “The Christmas Season”.  It posits a strange future where we are visited by aliens.  These aliens are nice ones, no Star Wars.  And they largely find earth to be an entire planet of the French Riviera.  They come to earth about the same time every year give or take a couple of days, and they collectively leave almost immediately at the end of a month.  They have their own music, dress and food.  And we earthlings collectively for that month adopt their ways.  First it pays to do so, and second their culture is different.  Ours is mostly about that first category, it pays.  How can we acquire things?  Theirs is a gift economy.  They live to give things away.  And they want to make people happy by what they give.

Ok, even with my bad summary you can probably see the thin imaginary for the Christmas Season.  We are visited by something that starts give or take a day soon after Thanksgiving, and it ends every year on Jan 2nd.  (And yes, I’m a hold out, it shouldn’t end until Jan 6th, Epiphany.) We dress differently, we eat differently, our radio stations change formats, and we look for gifts.  Why?  Or maybe more insightful, why has our regular acquisitive culture not been able to commoditize and spread out the Christmas season? Why if I served Egg Nog for July 4th would people look like I’d done something terrible?  Everything else in our culture has been commoditized and spread out, why not Christmas?

Mr. Gibbs, I think rightly, does not jump immediately to Christ.  Because I think he is right, it is not like the birth of Christ has an exclusive claim to our Christmas season.  It is too paganized, and maybe always has been, for that.  But he doesn’t banish the Christ child either.  Why not Christmas year-round?  Holy things are things set apart.  A commodity can’t be holy.  And in the Christmas season, we recognize our last holy thing.  Serving Egg Nog, as good as Nog is, for July 4th would be stealing the holy things.  And no, Egg Nog itself is not holy, but we are talking poetically here.  There are always moments that we become aware that we are treading on Holy ground.  And even our acquisitive culture in full raucous commercialization realizes something Holy about the Christmas Season.  Something that we can’t have all the time, but that while it has been gifted to us, we should enjoy it.  And if we recognize the child whose Spirit comes down and blesses the time, so much the better.

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Dec 28th – Jan 3rd

Mon. – Fri. ……….….…   NO Preschool

Wed……………………..   NO Confirmation (2 Week School Vacation)

Thursday: ……………….  NO Bible Study

Sunday: …………………. 10:00am    Worship

                                           11:00am    Bible Study

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: Off for two weeks.
  • Confirmation:  Off for two weeks for school vacation.  Pick up with confession after.
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Resuming January 13th (studying patience). See you on the Zoom line.
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, in the sanctuary and on the zoom line.
  • Catechism Moment: Watch your inbox.  The Sacrament of the Altar – part 3.

RHAFT delivery update:  We delivered 67 bags to RHAFT over the past six weeks! Thank you, members of St. Mark, for your generosity and willingness to help those less fortunate.

Christmas Day 2020

The text is Isaiah 52:7-10. The picture is a messenger bringing news of the war, and then how that message spreads. It starts with one. The watchmen see it. Those who had no hope receive it. And the good news spreads to the ends of the earth. The zeal of the LORD of hosts has done this. God has become man today, so that we might become Sons of God. Blessings on you and on your Spirit, and may the peace of God rest in your hearts this Christmas.

Christmas Eve 2020

The recording is the full lessons and carol service. The sermon though I believe is a good one for this year of many changes. A Christmas Eve reflection on the roll of memory, ritual and God’s repeated announcements of his grace. Merry Christmas. Time to get home to the kids.