Virtual Bulletin – 10/17

October 17th, 2021 – 21th Sunday after Pentecost

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

Monday………………..             St. Luke, Evangelist

                                                 6:00pm             Women’s Club

Wednesday…………..               5:30pm            Confirmation

                                                 7:30pm             Council

Thursday: ………………           10:00am           Bible Study

                                                 7:00pm             LAF

Saturday:……………….           St. James of Jerusalem, Brother of Jesus

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

COMMEMERATIONS

The commemorations this week are recognizable.  Luke has a gospel and James a letter in the New Testament.  Yet the life of James is one that is hard to contemplate.  We presume he grew up in the same household as our Lord (Galatians 1:19), yet he does not claim that in his own letter, merely a servant but “brother” to those he writes.  He didn’t believe until after the resurrection (John 7:3-5), and it took a special appearance (1 Corinthians 15:7) – something Paul notes they shared.  Paul and James are often seen as in conflict, yet when they meet they recognize each other’s apostleship (Acts 15).  Maybe the hardest saying of James to contemplate is James 2:19 which has to do with his conception of faith – “Even the demons believe.”  Faith is not just historical knowledge or mental assent.  The demons have that. Faith is that living thing that brings forth the fruits of repentance, which the demons do not have.

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

The one thing the makers of the lectionary did understand was church budget seasons.  They built in a couple of weeks of stewardship or monetary lessons in the middle of October.  I’m assuming anyone who will read this has seen Wayne’s note.  I’ve had several private and group conversations myself over the past month.  There are some simple facts: church finance over the past two generations has morphed into an 80/20 thing.  80% of the budget comes from 20% of the offerings. That might always have been true.  80/20 rules abound in real life.  The other fact is that the total number dividing into 80/20 has declined.  We aren’t alone in this.  Nationally the median congregational attendance in 2000 was 137 people, in 2020 it was 65.  (Median means 50% of the congregations were larger and 50% smaller.)  There are three comments I’d make here. 1) Pre-covid we had actually bucked the big part of that trend.  The 2008 national number was 115.  Our average attendance in 2008 was 57, in 2019 it was 64.  If we had been on trend it would have been 32.  2) While we were zooming services, I could fool myself into thinking that we were holding together when I mentally added people online to people present.  But I say fooled, because the heart of any church is corporate worship, and that goes double for a smaller congregation.  The mutual consolation of the brothers and sisters is in that gathering of the body of Christ.  This isn’t to get into an argument over if it is or was fear or prudence.  Everyone can and will make their own decisions there.  What can’t be denied is that missing corporate worship has made the body of Christ smaller.  If one was feeling apocalyptic you might say that “a third of the earth was burned up…and a third of the waters made bitter (Rev 8).”  3) We focus on numbers because that is who we are.  If it is not a number we don’t take it as real.  But we know in human terms without numbers, that isn’t sustainable.

This article is not meant to pre-explain the budget meeting.  This article is to encourage theological reflection and prayer. And the verse that caught my eye this week is from the OT lesson.  “There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun, riches were kept by their owner to his hurt (Ecclesiastes 5:13).”  Probably the straightforward way that could be taken is what I typically mean when I’ve commented about the broader church: “we barely give enough to keep ourselves evangelized.”  We have all been given gifts from the providence of the Father. And part of those gifts are for the keeping of His church.  The modern church just doesn’t preach the tithe.  Even though the law of God has a third use as a guide to our path, actually preaching the tithe is coded as greedy, when I’m convinced that it is a giving to love that God multiplies.  “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. (Mal. 3:10 ESV)”   There is a grievous evil, riches kept to the owner’s hurt.  We don’t have because we don’t give.

But as I meditated over those words I also came to a second understanding.  The riches might not just be read as money.  The riches of God are his people.  There are lots of congregations that are holding onto these riches, and for what?  To keep their building open?  To keep their expression of themselves around?  (There is a local church that has had their pulpit vacant for going on 4 years because “nobody meets our needs.”) For any number of other petty reasons? “And he is the father of a son, and has nothing to give him (Eccl 5:14).”  We withhold ourselves from the gathering (Heb 10:25) weakening the body.  We withhold the tithe missing the blessing promised.  And maybe we withhold God’s people because we are worshipping something else.  We shouldn’t be surprised when we have nothing to give our sons.

Yet the joy, the only place the teacher of Ecclesiastes comes close to that, is in the work.  “For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart (Eccl 5:20).” That joy down in the heart is the Word of Christ.  There is much worry in all the other possessions.  This alone grants rest.  Becoming a congregation occupied by the Gospel, that is the prayer.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: We are going to be reading the last letter of John starting this week.  Come Join!
  • Confirmation: Work on memorizing the commandments and read the 4th commandment questions.
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  October 21st, Fruits of the Spirit
  • Sunday Morning: Back to Mark, intending to wrap up with the passion story.  Come Join!
  • Catechism Moment: I’m going to stop making promises.  I do intend to get back to this.

WOMEN’S GROUP

Women’s group is Monday.  Dinner and fellowship. 6PM.  Sign-up on the bulletin board so I have some idea of numbers

UPCOMING CONGREGATIONAL MEETINGS

October 24th will be the budget presentation and officer nominations.  November 7th will be voting.

BEEF ON WECK

We are going to attempt a Beef on Weck on November 6.  You might be asked to help, please do help.  Ellen and Lisa and Abel Acuña are the contact points.

Questions of the Soul

Biblical Text: Mark 10:17-22

You become what you love. We either love God, and with loving God love the truth and love our neighbor; or we have something else we love. And whatever else that something is, it isn’t enough, not to be the primary love that forms our souls. The biblical text is Jesus’ encounter with what is typically called the rich young ruler. The man – the individual soul – knows something is wrong. He is actually quite sharp, sharper than we tend to be these days. This sermon meditates upon this encounter of love, and what questions our souls should be asking? Into what are we forming our eternal life?

Virtual Bulletin – 10/10

October 10th, 2021 – 20th Sunday after Pentecost

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

Monday………………..             Philip the Deacon

                                                 6:00 pm                 Men’s Club

Wednesday…………..               5:30pm            Confirmation

Thursday: ………………           10:00am           Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

COMMEMERATIONS

Who is Philip the Deacon?  You’ll run across him first in Acts 6 as one of the seven chosen to serve.  Stephen, one of those seven is martyred immediately, so Philip gets his own chapter – Acts 8 – including the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch which ends with Philip’s seeming teleportation  “when they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the Eunuch saw him no more…But Philip found himself at Azotus.”  And the mission continues without missing a beat. The last picture of Philip is with the man who kicked off his wondering mission.  Having run from Saul after Stephen, in Acts 21:8-15, Paul stays with Philip and his four prophetess daughters, and tries to convince Paul to change his course from going to Jerusalem. Who was Paul most likely envisioning when he writes 1 Timothy 3:8-13 (The Qualifications for Deacon)? Philip.  There is always a call for faithful service to the needs of the local church at the time – be they teleportation enhanced evangelism, or raising a family in the faith.

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

What happened to the promised land, the land flowing with milk and honey?  Our Epistle Lesson (Hebrews 3:12-19) is taken from the middle of the author’s 2nd argument.  He’s put down his argument about Jesus being superior to angels and picked up one about Moses and the promised land.  The promised land was both the physical land of Canaan, but it was also the land flowing with Milk and Honey.  Put that another way the land of milk and honey is the land of the Sabbath rest.  He quotes from Psalm 95 that God’s judgement upon those who wandered in the desert for 40 years, which would be shared by those who harden their hearts in rebellion, would be “they shall not enter my rest.”  Moses led the people to Canaan, but the people proved to be a stiff-necked and rebellious people.  Moses did not lead Israel into the Sabbath rest of God.  It is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and why Jesus is superior to Moses, that leads us into that Sabbath rest.

The promised land is not and never was completely a patch of ground on this old earth.  The promised land has always been peace with God.  The promised land has been the revocation of the curse – “by the sweat of your brow you shall eat.”   The promised land is entering into the eternal Sabbath rest where “the One seated on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. Never again will they hunger, and never will they thirst; nor will the sun beat down upon them, nor any scorching heat. (Revelation 7:15-16)’  And we enter into this promised land by faith. 

There are many roads of rebellion, many ways to turn aside from the way of the cross.  Most of them promise an easier way.  Put down the cross, that is too hard.  Jesus himself was just lost.  And for that matter what about Moses, the guy wandered for 40 years in the desert.  It isn’t hard to beat either is the devil’s promise.  But “all those bodies fall in this wilderness.” The proclamation of the gospel is “today…today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” This old earth is still a wilderness.  And even the partial fulfillment of the promised land is something that is elusive.  Our greatest taste of it is the Sabbath meal which multiplies to fill the need.  But it is by faith in the one who marked out the path, Jesus, that we are welcomed into God’s rest. “Take care, brothers and sisters, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.”  Today is the day we enter His rest.  Today is the day we can see it approaching. May we be kept in this faith by the abiding Holy Spirit.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: We are going to be reading 2 & 3 John starting this week.  Come Join!
  • Confirmation: Finnish memorizing the books of the bible, read the 3rd commandment questions.
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  October 21st, Fruits of the Spirit
  • Sunday Morning: We are going to pause our walk through Mark for a day for a question about 1 Tim 2:15.  All are welcome to join!
  • Catechism Moment: I’m going to stop making promises.  I do intend to get back to this.

MEN’S GROUP

Men’s group is Monday.  Dinner and fellowship. 6PM.  Sign-up on the bulletin board so I have some idea of numbers

UPCOMING CONGREGATIONAL MEETINGS

October 24th will be the budget presentation and officer nominations.  November 7th will be voting.

BEEF ON WECK

We are going to attempt a Beef on Weck on November 6.  You might be asked to help, please do help.  Ellen and Lisa and Abel Acuña are the contact points.

Forming Institutions – Marriage

Biblical Text: Mark 10:2-16

There are lots of biblical texts about human sexuality. There are also lots of texts about freedom. This text has more to say about both and their intersection than any of the rest. This is Jesus talking about how God made it, and this is Jesus giving the gospel key to understand the rest. This text, just as it was in its day, is a nuclear explosion against all the settled pieties and selfish claims of our cultural moment. This is my attempt to preach it. I’m content with this.

Virtual Bulletin – 10/3

October 3rd, 2021 – 19th Sunday after Pentecost

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Oct 4th – Oct 10th

Monday………………..             St. Francis of Assisi

Tuesday……………….             7:00pm             Elders Meeting

Wednesday…………..               5:30pm             Confirmation

Thursday: ………………           Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Pastor

                                                 10:00am           Bible Study

                                                 7:00pm             LAF

Saturday…………………          Abraham

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

COMMEMERATIONS

It is worth noting Pastor Muhlenberg for a second.  Born in Germany in 1711, he was ordained in Leipzig in 1739, but took a call from a group of German speaking Pennsylvania residents in 1741.  I say Pennsylvania because the USA didn’t exist yet. I often joke that Lutheranism is invisible in America because it isn’t really part of the Anglophone world.  It is the near other to Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and High Anglicans. But Muhlenberg is contrary to that.  Lutherans were here early.  Why Henry Melchior makes the list is his 47 years of extraordinary service.  In 1748 he formed the first proto-Synod, the Pennsylvania Ministerium.  Part of the work of that Ministerium was the first American Lutheran liturgy in English.  If you compared our DS3 and that liturgy you’d see the continuity.  The vision behind this work was two-fold: the English was missionary; the liturgy was unifying. And Henry worked his entire life on both visions.  One son, John Peter, followed into the ministry and was also a General in the Revolutionary War, served as a Representative in the 1st Congress and eventually a Senator from Pennsylvania.  A statue of John Peter stands guard in the US Capitol crypt. The other son, Frederick, was the first Speaker of the House of Representatives.  The Saints are always more interesting than the Devil leads us to believe.

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

What do you think about Angels?  The reputation of Angels seems to ebb and flow rather dramatically.  In some ages and circles they are awesome beings of tremendous power and dread – St. Michael casting down Satan.  In other ages and circles they are fat babies that you hope are not your guardian angel, because they don’t look like they could do much. And there have always been those who dismiss the unseen creation: angels and demons. The Epistle Reading this week (Hebrews 2:1-13) picks up in the middle of an argument about angels. Around the time of Jesus, in Jewish circles, angles were at high tide: awesome, mysterious, powerful, behind everything that God did.  The only two angels named in the bible are Gabriel and Michael.  The other names we might have heard, like Rafael, all come from extra-biblical works from this timeframe. It was the Marvel Universe of the day – stories of incredible works of angels. But the purpose of the unknown writer of Hebrews is to rightly place Jesus Christ.  Whether it is a rhetorical evangelization strategy with angel valuing Jews (likely), or a salutary reminder to Christians overvaluing angels against Jesus (less likely), the first chapter of Hebrews is a string of Biblical quotes asking the question: “To which of the angels did God say x?” with x being “you are my son” and “let all God’s angels worship him.” If you so value the angels, you should more highly value Jesus.

The argument continues that “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard.”  Everything the angels told us, think of the angels to the shepherds, and the angels at the tomb to the Mary’s, has proven true.  This Jesus is both the Christ and the Risen One.  “And it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come.” We don’t see everything yet, but all the angels, and the demons, have been made subject to Christ.  Christ who for a time was made lower, but now “is crowned with glory and honor.”  If you trust the angels to watch over you.  If you trust the angels to pilot this world. So much more should you trust the one they give praise and honor to, Jesus.  Because it is Jesus who sanctifies, makes holy, all of us.  The awesome holiness of the angels is a reflection of the holiness of Jesus whom they serve.  And our holiness is given to us by grace through faith in his work.  “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source.”  And that source of all holiness is Jesus.

This Jesus “is not ashamed to call us brothers.” The one who is the highest is also our brother.  When he speaks, the angels move.  If the angels hang on his words, how much more should we?

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: 1 John, Darkness and Light, The Antichrist, Children of God, Love one another, good time to join!
  • Confirmation: Last week: 1st commandment.  This week: 2nd.  (And remember to memorize the NT books.)
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  October 7th, Fruits of the Spirit
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: I’m going to stop making promises.  I do intend to get back to this.

UPCOMING CONGREGATIONAL MEETINGS

October 24th will be the budget presentation and officer nominations.  November 7th will be voting.

Tribal Counsels

Biblical Text: Mark 9:38-50

The text for the day feels like one of those collections of aphorisms. The sermon attempts to place them within the larger gospel narrative. But then spends the majority of time meditating on how the aphorisms “those who are not against us are for us”, “if hand/foot/eye cause you to sin cut them off” and “have salt in yourself” provide a surprisingly robust practical guidance on the problems of division or tribalism. I don’t say easy to live, but understandable with some spine. They are not just a collapse into a limp toleration. Neither are they a simplistic dualism. They are a call to the sanctified life.

Virtual Bulletin – 9/26

September 26th, 2021 – 18th Sunday after Pentecost

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Sept 27th – Oct 3rd

Wednesday…………..               St. Michael and All Angels

                                                 5:30pm             Confirmation

Thursday: ………………           Jerome, Translator

                                                 10:00am           Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES NOTE

Our Service Book in the front under “The Church Year” has a three-fold division: Sunday’s and Seasons, Feast and Festivals and Commemorations.  The Sundays and Seasons are big things like Lent or Epiphany, things we change the altar colors for.  The Feast and Festivals are the major events of the life of Christ and the “saint days” of the apostles or other major early figures plus Reformation Day.  The commemorations are people and events of later years that the Synod at large thought deserve notice.  The Augsburg Confession (AC 22) states “Our Churches teach that the history of saints may be set before us so that we may follow the example of their faith and good works.”  Individual parishes might add their own commemorations of a local “saint” who is set before us.  You might have noticed a week or two ago I added “Holy Cross Day” in the list.  Above you see St. Michael and All Angels and Jerome.  St. Michael is a Feast Day, although not one we observe on the nearest Sunday.  Jerome was the translator of Scripture into Latin – the bible of Western Church from his work until the Reformation.  As these days roll through, I’m going to start noting them in Upcoming Activities and occasionally comment on them.

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

What is the most common religious practice or instinct? Come up with an answer before reading on….Ok, you probably came up with prayer.  At least that would be my answer.  I can’t think of a religious tradition that doesn’t have some form of prayer.  Now there are wildly different types of prayer, from simple petitions (I need this God) to what we call mediation, a vacating of our mind in search of the divine will.  Paul’s four-fold request in 1 Timothy 2 still covers the general Christian use: supplications (requests for ourselves), prayers (talking things out with God), intercessions (requests for others), and thanksgiving (returning praise to God for his providence).  But all of this prayer can often run into a mental or even doctrinal roadblock. Doesn’t God know all this stuff already?  Can my prayers really influence the Almighty God?  Are the prayers of someone “more worthy” more likely to be heard?  That seems to be what James implies this week. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16).”  All of those questions can silence our prayers. Let me offer a quick answer to those in case your prayers have been blocked.

“Doesn’t God know all this already?” Yes.  But get out your bibles and turn to Matthew 6:8-13.  Jesus tells us The Father knows, and then immediately says “pray this way” giving us the Lord’s Prayer.  The Father knows and he wants us to know.  He wants us to know both that He does provide and that He listens.  Jesus’ “pray this way” is about how we talk.  Prayer is not a magical incantation that seeks to move God.  It is not about exactly the right sequence of words.  The Kingdom of God certain comes without our prayer.  But in our prayers we pray that the Kingdom will come to us also.  Our prayers are about moving our hearts within the kingdom.

What about the effectiveness of prayer?  Does God actually change?  Whole books have been written on this arguing both sides.  But this is the difference between the God of the Philosophers and The Revealed God.  The Revealed God does respond.  James says to the sick, “call the elders and let them pray over him…and the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick (James 5:15).”  The God revealed in Jesus desires prayer to be effective.  And whatever logical problems that causes with the philosophers, you can take those up with God in prayer also. God listens to his own.

But what about the tough question?  Are some prayers heard more than others?  Who is the righteous person of James 5:16? Read the full verse.  “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person has great power.” The righteous person is the forgiven person.  The righteous person in the one who believes that Jesus has taken away our sin and the sin of our brothers and sisters.  The righteous person is the one who forgives.  The Lutheran teaching on saints is not that they are closer to God and so can get us the good stuff.  The Lutheran teaching on saints is that they are our examples.  They believed and it was credited to them as righteousness. Their prayers were heard in Christ.  Likewise in faith our prayers are heard in Christ.  We are all the communion of saints, those made righteous by the blood of Jesus.  So ask boldly, ask in faith, knowing that the Lord provides everything his people need.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: 1 John, Darkness and Light, The Antichrist, Children of God, Love one another, good time to join!
  • Confirmation:  Back to Work!
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  October 7th, Fruits of the Spirit
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: I apologize for this.  When I run out of time this is the last thing added and the first skipped. I will get back to it this week.

UPCOMING CONGREGATIONAL MEETINGS

October 24th will be the budget presentation and officer nominations.  November 7th will be voting.

BEEF ON WECK

We are going to attempt a Beef on Weck on November 6.  You might be asked to help, please do help.  Ellen and Lisa and Abel Acuña are the contact points.

Sanctified Ambition?

Biblical Text: Mark 9:30-37

The text is probably a familiar one, at least it contains a couple of Jesus’ aphorisms that still have public purchase. “The one who wants to be first must be the servant of all” and “who ever welcomes the little child, welcomes me and the one who sent me.” These two sayings form Jesus’ teaching on ambition, although as I’m always saying the context of Jesus’ aphorisms is important. This sermon ponders the struggle of the divine and human ambition with Jesus himself. And this struggle (think about the Garden of Gethsemane) is the frame for a Christian teaching on ambition. Crucifying our ambition toward domination (“Who is the greatest”) and raising our ambition for service toward those whose only recompense is from God.

Virtual Bulletin – 9/19

September 19th, 2021 – 17th Sunday after Pentecost

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Sept 20th – Sept 27th

Mon – Wed:………….              Pastor at Doxology (Mon Afternoon – Wed Morning)

Monday: ………………             6:00pm             Women’s Group

Wednesday…………..               5:30pm             Confirmation

Thursday: ………………           10:00am           Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

The creeds that we say every week have their three-article structure with each article confessing a person of the Trinity.  But also when confessing that person they confess a particular action most associated with the person.  The Father is the Creator.  The Son is the Savior.  The Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier.  Out of that basic structure grew the classic outline of theology.  The first locus would be The Doctrine of God.  In many individual theologies that doctrine starts out with the god of classical theism, the god of the Philosophers.  If you have met this god it is probably in the list of divine attributes: unity, simplicity, immutability, omnipresent, eternal and so on.  But that god never revealed himself.  Much of that is confirmed in revelation, but it remains largely speculation of an unknown god.  The Father revealed himself.  He revealed himself in the work of creation.  He eventually reveals himself most fully in Jesus.  The God we can know and love is the revealed God.

The second doctrine is typically the doctrine of Man.  What is man?  What does it mean that God has become man or a man? With what type of nature did God create us? Small questions. Eventually the theology has to answer and not just pose questions.  If you are Descartes you say that man is two-fold – a mind and the body.  I think, therefore I am.  And that is how most of our world continues to thing about man leading to such things a the “mind-body” problem or the problem of consciousness. How does the mind interact with the body?  How does the material body produce the mind?  Why do separate minds appear to share the same material universe? (That’s The Matrix problem.  How do you know that the entire world is not just a projection fed your individual mind?)  Not that Christian Theology has never delved into those things, but Christian Theology has tended to see man not as dual but in three parts.  The emotions and base desires with the seat of the gut.  The rational mind with its seat of the head.  And joining these is the will with its seat of the heart.  Ignoring, or maybe I should just say accepting naïve reality, Christian Theology, especially Reformation Theology, has stressed that it is our will, our hearts, that are wrong.  It is not just that we desire, gut level, the wrong things, but that we then tend to translate that desire into active will.  And we turn our reason into self-justification.  I have taken x, because I wanted x, so brain explain why this is good, right and salutary when it is not.

This is what James picks up this in this week’s Epistle reading (James 3:13-4:10).  “If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” Our reason would do exactly that.  It will deny the truth and boast about other reasons, to cover actions of jealousy and ambition. The world is status market full of pushing and grabbing, and if you don’t promote yourself, nobody else will.  But James insists that wisdom is in works of meekness.  We will the wrong things.  “Is it not your passion at war within you? (James 4:1)” that produce our quarrels.  Our envy of things we think should be ours and yet aren’t leads to murder or simply hatred of the one who has.  Why don’t we have?  God wishes to give us the bounty of his providence.  “We ask wrongly, to spend it on our passions.” We take God’s good and perfect gifts and use them to further our quarrels.  We take the gifts of God to make peace with the world or to buy our way in it.  “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4)?”  And so God, if he is merciful, spares us this by not giving us what we ask.  James is pointing why we do not have and all the ways our hearts – our wills – have gone wrong.

At the end he returns to the thought, or maybe question at this point, if God wants to give us the gifts of his grace, how does grace work?  “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).”  God’s greatest gifts are not things we strive after, but things he gives away.  The way of the Kingdom is not the way of the world.  Yes, if you are in the world, you better run your own PR.  If you are of the Kingdom, “humble yourselves before the LORD, and he will exalt you (James 4:10).” The doctrine of man?  Fallen, but redeemed. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, but restore unto me the joy of Your salvation. Seek first the Kingdom, and all these things shall be given unto you.  Lord so move our hearts toward your good fruits (James 3:17) and friendship with your Son.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: 1 John, Darkness and Light, The Antichrist, Children of God, Love one another, good time to join!
  • Confirmation:  Covered the Intro, be prepared for the First Commandment
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  This Thursday, Fruits of the Spirit: Gentleness
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: Baptism continues in your inbox

WOMEN’S GROUP

6 PM Monday here at church.  Dinner and fellowship. All invited. (They might have an actual agenda also.)

SOMETHING FUN?

An internet friend is gathering a survey of LCMS Lutherans for a Grad School project.  It takes about 15 mins and asks some questions about your religious upbringing and the current LCMS.  If you would like to take his survey it can be found at https://t.co/EcKTWk3pxF?amp=1

Coming Down the Mountain

Biblical Text: Mark 9:14-29

The Gospel text assigned for today is the second half of a pair that occurs in all the Synoptic Gospels (Matt, Mark and Luke). The first part is the transfiguration, when Peter, James and John are taken up the mountain and see Jesus transfigured in glory. The second part is this story of arguments, crowds, fathers, sons and evil. It is a story of the confusion that reigns here on the plain, here at the bottom of the mount. And since they are always juxtaposed the text invites us to ponder, what is the difference between the mountaintop experience and life down below. The big difference is the role of faith. The mountaintop is not about faith, because you see. You might have trouble comprehending what you see. Integrating what you see might be tough. But you don’t have to have faith in it. Life on the plain is about faith. This sermon ponders that difference and the meaning of a prayer, “I believe, help my unbelief”, and prayer in general (“This kind only comes out by prayer”) in the life of faith lived here on the plain.