Handing Over the Things of God

Biblical Text: Matthew 22: 15-22

I always laugh when I hear someone say the church is so political, although I think I understand what they mean. I laugh because it really isn’t. The lessons from this Sunday’s lectionary are the only ones that I think call for explicit political preaching. And to be honest, in my entire time pew sitting, I probably heard less than one handful of explicit politics from the pulpit. Most ministers would avoid it completely. But what I think they are expressing is not so much “vote for x” from the pulpit as the complete subordination of “things temporal” to “things eternal”. (Don’t miss the collective prayer I left in the recording.)

Jesus’ “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” saying is not an invitation to some type of church state separation. One can have a purely secular politics. Just stop at the first part. And that makes sense. That is the way of the principalities and the powers. But if you want to follow Jesus the call is to give to God what is God’s, which includes the things of Caesar.

Neither Jesus nor I get explicit about the answers to this. Honestly in Jesus’ day it might have been easier, or at least the average person would bear no responsibility for the actions of the gov’t because they were subjects, not citizens. But when you vote, when you are a citizen, you bear responsibility. This sermon attempts to lay out what discharging that duty in a Christian way looks like.

Virtual Bulletin – 10/18

October 18th, 2020 – 20th Sunday after Pentecost

WORSHIP & Bible Study

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

This week’s service Bulletin/Worship Link Here

Zoom (NEW!): https://us02web.zoom.us/j/6458485288?pwd=R2xGZkRNVi9TdzFPQzlaVnluNWo4QT09

Zoom Info Update: As of 9/27/20 Zoom made either passcodes or a waiting room mandatory.  It defaulted to a waiting room.  I have changed that to a passcode, so that when you join you will jump right in instead of waiting to be admitted.  If you use the link above it has the passcode embedded in it.  If you are logging in using the meeting ID or the old link, you will need the passcode. Meeting ID: 645 848 5288 Passcode: miracles

Bible Study after service or 11:15ish.  I’ll keep the zoom line on.  We are going to walk through the biblical stories on pestilence in Israel.  Numbers 11, 16 (Korah’s Rebellion) and 2 Samuel 24 (David’s Census). Everyone is encouraged to stay or to jump in online.  (I think I have even figured out a way to get online voices through the main church speakers.)

Welcome to the family and friends of Alice Marie Bayer for today’s Baptism

Devotion & Prayer Thought

Isaiah 45:1 in a political season often gets attention.  God – Israel’s God, Yahweh, the true one – calls Cyrus the tyrant of Persia his anointed.  And translating that anointed is a cop out.  They should just transliterate it for the full impact, “Cyrus my messiah”. Now David was a messiah, and the royal line is often call this.  In Leviticus the priests are so labeled.  The Prophets often foresee the coming of the messiah, the anointed.  But this is God claiming the Gentile Ruler.  The simple answer is that messiah is simply one who does the will of God.  And all the OT messiahs are fallible types of the perfect Jesus who does the will of the Father perfectly.

But that simple answer doesn’t settle the use of the term in our political season.  What almost every partisan wants is to claim the unique mandate of God for their candidate.  My guy is Cyrus.  But that misses the audacity of God’s claim.  It is not that the guy we like is God’s anointed, but the all the world’s tyrants are tasked with doing the will of God.  Caesar had authority because God gave it to him.  And that authority is given: a) to render proper temporal justice and b) to enable the people of God to live lives of proper service.  “For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name…that people may know there is none besides me.  I am the LORD. (Isa 45:4,6).”  When we claim a unique mandate, we place Christ under our preferred ruler.

The pronouncement is that Christ is over our preferred ruler.  And Christ has specific things that the ruler should do and accomplish.  Cyrus?  Release his people from exile and send the temple goods back with them.  Without a prophet revealing the specific will of God, we can’t know that about ours.  But we do know the types of things that God expects of all rulers: render fair judgments, pay attention to the widow and the fatherless, ensure fair scales and measures, uphold the law and don’t undermine it.

In most times, most of us wouldn’t really have a say.  We would have been subjects instead of citizens.  The one great advantage of that is when our Cyrus proves to be the sinner and tyrant that he or she is, the responsibility isn’t on us.  But we are citizens.  We vote.  We share in the responsibility for the acts of our leadership. And responsibility in these things means understanding where our preferred candidate would lead in regards to those eternal things that are always in the will of the Father.  If we understood the full enormity of that we might not want it.  As our biding prayer states, “help them serve this people according to your will.”  And that would include us. Help us exercise our vote according to your will.  We know that the will of God certainly happens, but we pray that it may be done among us as well.    

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Oct 19th – Oct 25th

Mon. – Fri. ……….….…   8:00am   Preschool

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

Wednesday: …………….  7:00pm   LAF

                                             7:30pm   Church Council Meeting

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

Sunday: ………………….  10:00am   Worship

                                            11:15am   Bible Study

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: We are reading the book of Ezekiel, at least parts of it.  The strangest book in the bible, but also one keyed to the anxieties of the moment. Everyone welcome, including on zoom.
  • Confirmation:  Reviewing the Lord’s Prayer. Soon jumping into “how to have an intentional prayer life.”
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  is next meeting on Wednesdays, October 21st at 7 PM.  We will be on the Zoom line.
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, in the sanctuary on the zoom line.
  • Catechism Moment: We’ve started on the sacrament of Baptism and the sacraments in general.

RHAFT:  Food 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. 

OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD shoeboxes are now available for you take home and fill. 

If you would like someone to shop for your box, the sign-up is on the bulletin board.  We are still only charging $30 to fill and pay postage for a box; cash or check accepted (please make checks out to St. Mark Women’s Group).  The deadline to have someone else shop for your box is Sunday, November 2nd.  Your name must be on the sign-up and payment turned in to either Ellen or Mindy

CONGREGATIONAL MTG:  November 15th – Budget Presentation; Dec 6th – Final Vote

Lacking Wedding Garments?

Biblical Text: Matthew 22:1-14

Jesus tells three parables in a row in this section of the gospel. We’ve read each of them on successive weeks. They spring from a confrontation with the Priests in the temple, but this one – the Wedding Feast – I believe has much less to do with them directly. The two sons has already told them where they have gone wrong. The wicked tenants has rendered the judgement against them and essentially removed them from office. The Wedding Feast is forward looking. “The reign of heaven has become like….” such a wedding feast. This tells us what it is like now. The call is universal. Come to the wedding feast. But it is possible to fall into the same error as ancient Israel, to disrespect and dishonor the Son.

The real question to ask isn’t what is the wedding garment. There are lots of answers that all have some amount of truth. The deeper question is what does it mean to lack it? And to that there is one answer, to dishonor the Son. Is there anywhere in your life you are in open rebellion against the reign of the Christ? Today is the day of grace. Prepare. Put on the garment before you go.

Allen Bauchle Funeral

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

(If you get asked, the link should get you past without, the passcode is: miracles)

Worship Folder for the service

Virtual Bulletin – 10/11

October 11th, 2020 – 19th Sunday after Pentecost

WORSHIP & Bible Study

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

This week’s service Bulletin/Worship Link Here

Zoom (NEW!): https://us02web.zoom.us/j/6458485288?pwd=R2xGZkRNVi9TdzFPQzlaVnluNWo4QT09

Zoom Info Update: As of 9/27/20 Zoom made either passcodes or a waiting room mandatory.  It defaulted to a waiting room.  I have changed that to a passcode, so that when you join you will jump right in instead of waiting to be admitted.  If you use the link above it has the passcode embedded in it.  If you are logging in using the meeting ID or the old link, you will need the passcode. Meeting ID: 645 848 5288 Passcode: miracles

Bible Study after service or 11:15ish.  I’ll keep the zoom line on.  We are going to walk through the biblical stories on pestilence in Israel.  Numbers 11, 16 (Korah’s Rebellion) and 2 Samuel 24 (David’s Census). Everyone is encouraged to stay or to jump in online.  (I think I have even figured out a way to get online voices through the main church speakers.)

Devotion & Prayer Thought

One of the repeated words of the Genesis 1 creation story is “good.” God’s creation was created good.  The fact of the fall complicates things.  We now know both good and evil as the snake promised.  I like the Apostle Paul’s description, “the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from bondage (Roman 8:20-21).”  Instead of good and evil, which are moral words for beings that live morally weighted lives, the creation might be better understood as used for good or used for vanity or futility.  (The word Paul uses there is the same word used in Ecclesiastes “vanity, vanity…”.) The goodness of creation still shines through.  The providence of God maintains the seasons in order.  We can turn it to meaninglessness.  We can abuse the good creation.  We can frustrate it by using it in poor ways.  But we can also with the spirit use creation in ways that give glory to God.

I think that is what Paul is reminding the Philippians in this final chapter when he says, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is true…if there is any excellence…think about these things…what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things.”  The law of God, the things of creation, are universal.  They apply to all.  And we can find excellence in many places.  Sometimes the pagans do things better than the saints.  As Augustine would tell his congregations referencing the Exodus “plunder the Egyptians.”  The creation was good and made for good.  It is still possible to not use if futilely. “Even us who are evil can give good gifts to our children.”  But Paul adds his next line – “learn, receive, heard and seen”.  Our use of these things should be knowingly.  We recognize where they come from – God.  And we give thanks for His goodness.  And because we know, we have learned, received, heard and seen the gospel of Jesus, we practice it.  Not that we have attained it fully, but we try and use the good given to us not for our vanity, but for the glory of God.

May we learn to perceive the good and receive it with thanksgiving.  And may practice lives of meaning, not those turned to futility.     

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Oct 12th – Oct 19th

Tues. – Fri. ……….….…   8:00am   Preschool

Monday: …….…………..  0:00pm  NO Men’s Club Meeting

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

Sunday: ………………….  10:00am   Worship

                                                       11:15am   Bible Study

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: We are reading the book of Ezekiel, at least parts of it.  The strangest book in the bible, but also one that . Everyone welcome, including on zoom.
  • Confirmation: Reviewing the Lord’s Prayer. Soon jumping into “how to have an intentional prayer life.”
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  is next meeting on Wednesdays, October 21st at 7 PM.  We will be on the Zoom line.
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, in the sanctuary.  I’ll also have this on the zoom line.  And I will have coffee.
  • Catechism Moment: We have finished the Lord’s Prayer section.  We will continue on into the Sacraments.

WOMEN’S GROUP will be meeting on Monday, October 19 … in person or virtual yet to be determined

RHAFT:  Food 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. 

OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD shoeboxes are now available for you take home and fill.  If you would like someone to shop for your box, we will have a sign up on the bulletin board next week.

CONGREGATIONAL MTG:  November 15th – Budget Presentation; Dec 6th – Final Vote

NOTE:  We are sad to announce the passing of Allen Bauchle on Wednesday, October 7th

Calling hours are on Saturday, October 10th from 2pm to 5pm at Miller’s Funeral Home on Jefferson Rd. 

His Funeral will be held at St. Mark on Sunday, October 11th at 2pm.  (Note: there are still attendance limits of 50% or roughly 50 people.  The zoom link will be active.)

Being Fruitful Under Wretched Leaseholders

Biblical Text: Matthew 21:33-46

The Gospel text that is the basis of the sermon is a continuation of the scene from last week. The result of last week’s questions and parable is that the Priests have been clearly understood as illegitimate authority. The question that gets answered with this weeks parable is what happens under such illegitimate authority, along with what does legitimate authority look like in the current vineyard – the current people of God.

Legitimate authority is only authority that is built on the cornerstone which is Christ. Of course the church constantly experiences “wretched leaseholders” – those that want to build their own towers of babel instead of building on Christ. What happens in these cases? The answer that Jesus puts forward I believe is two fold. First, the vineyard – the people of God – remain fruitful. A bad leader might “withhold the fruits”, but the people of God remain fruitful. Second, the LORD will come and put an end to all such schemes in the proper time. And that proper time is not excessively long because the fruits will be turned in “in their seasons.”

The larger spiritual reality is that we all labor under such a bad leaseholder – Satan, the powers and principalities. They have been given their notice to vacate. And the the LORD will make it so. But today, the vineyard remains fruitful building on Christ. And the fruits will not be lost.

Virtual Bulletin – 10/4

October 4th, 2020 – 18th Sunday after Pentecost

WORSHIP & Bible Study

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

This week’s service Bulletin/Worship Link Here

Zoom (NEW!): https://us02web.zoom.us/j/6458485288?pwd=R2xGZkRNVi9TdzFPQzlaVnluNWo4QT09

Zoom Info Update: As of 9/27/20 (last Sunday) Zoom made either passcodes or a waiting room mandatory.  It defaulted to a waiting room.  I have changed that to a passcode, so that when you join you will jump right in instead of waiting to be admitted.  If you use the link above it has the passcode embedded in it.  If you are logging in using the meeting ID or the old link, you will need the passcode. Meeting ID: 645 848 5288 Passcode: miracles

Bible Study after service or 11:15ish.  I’ll keep the zoom line on.  We are going to walk through the biblical stories on pestilence in Israel.  Numbers 11, 16 (Korah’s Rebellion) and 2 Samuel 24 (David’s Census). Everyone is encouraged to stay or to jump in online.  (I think I have even figured out a way to get online voices through the main church speakers.)

Devotion & Prayer Thought

My confirmation verse was assigned from Joshua: “Be Strong and of good courage, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Jos 1:9).” Still good advice, even if I’m not always as confident in my rightness as my 8th grade self directly claiming that verse for whatever was my goal at the time (God wills that we win this game!) But if I was picking my own verse today, Philippians 3 just might be it, specifically 10-14. 

Mark Brown’s shorter catechism from those verses.

What is my end/purpose?  That I may know Christ and the power of his resurrection.

Why? That by any means possible I might attain to the resurrection from the dead.

What can I expect today from this pursuit? A sharing in the sufferings and death of Christ.

What can I expect eventually from the resurrection? Perfection.  Christ has already made me his own.  In the resurrection I will have been made what Christ considers the perfect me, the actual me.  That perfection will no longer be a daily often failing struggle but be mine.

What do I do until then? I forget what lies behind, and strain forward to what lies ahead.  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ.

What does this mean? Today, I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sin, I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

How do you know that you won’t miss it? Christ has already made me his own.  It comes not through a righteousness of works of my own, but by faith in these words: Christ is risen.

He is risen indeed. Halleluiah!

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Oct 5th – Oct 11th

Mon. – Fri. ……….….…   8:00am   Preschool

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

Wednesday: …………….  7:00pm   LAF

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

Sunday: ………………….  10:00am   Worship

                                            11:15am   Bible Study

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: We are going to be looking at the book of Ezekiel, at least parts of it.  The strangest book in the bible.  And the bible is a pretty strange book.  Everyone welcome, including on zoom.
  • Confirmation: Confirmation 2 got restarted. Reviewing the Lord’s Prayer.
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  is next meeting on Wednesdays, October 7th at 7 PM.  We will be on the Zoom line.
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, in the sanctuary.  I’ll also have this on the zoom line.  And I will have coffee.
  • Catechism Moment: We have finished the Lord’s Prayer section.  We will continue on into the Sacraments.

GROUNDKEEPING

It is still mowing season.  Thank you and please remember to do your part. 

BEEF ON WECK DRIVE-THRU … Thank you to everyone who lent a hand with the event!

Proper Authority?

Biblical Text: Matthew 21:23-32

Figuring out who and what is proper authority is a difficult thing these days. People hold offices but then do not fulfill the duties of said office. Sometimes they even work contrary to those duties. This text starts out with the Priests confronting Jesus on the basis of authority. By the end of it, Jesus paints a clear picture of proper authority, what Jesus can work with, and what is owed to those who have the trappings of authority but whose hearts are hardened against its proper use.

This is not an easy thing. It calls for wisdom. And that wisdom is available by walking “in the way of righteousness”. Which should challenge us: whether we are a son who shames dad but tries to make it up, or one who saves face but isn’t that reliable. Christ can work with those. Both admit to the authority of the Father. What he can’t work with, are those who deny the proper authority of the Word.

Virtual Bulletin – 9/27

September 27, 2020 – 17th Sunday after Pentecost

WORSHIP & Bible Study

Addition to the schedule. Worship is at 10AM, Lord’s Supper for those present Bulletin/Worship Link Here – Sept 27, 2020 Zoom (same as before): https://zoom.us/j/6458485288

Bible Study will start this weekend after service or 11:15ish.  I’ll keep the zoom line on.  We are going to walk through the biblical stories on pestilence in Israel.  Numbers 11, 16 (Korah’s Rebellion) and 2 Samuel 24 (David’s Census). Everyone is encouraged to stay or to jump in online.  (I think I have even figured out a way to get online voices through the main church speakers.)

Devotion & Prayer Thought

It is simplistic to say but bad things are always a sign for repentance. The first thesis of Luther’s famous 95 was “The Lord called for the entire life of believers to be one of penitence.”  That is not usually our response.  In asking why this is happening to us, it is not to discern our faults and turn and live.  We ask that as ancient Israel was asking it, to find worthy candidates for blame.  “The Fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”  God promised us milk and honey, but we got sour grapes, and now our kids are unruly and misbehaved.  It is all God’s fault.

I’d challenge you to go read the missing verses from our Old Testament reading today.  It has one of the Old Testament’s clearest pronouncements of the Gospel. “None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him, for the righteousness that he has done shall live.  Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”

This life is a choice of two ways: our way or the Lord’s way. Our way leads nowhere but enslavement to our own appetites and ultimately death.  The Lord’s way begins in the freedom of his grace and leads to life eternal.  That grace has been extended to us in Christ which gives us the freedom to count up our sins and repent.  They will not be held against us for the LORD does not desire the death of his children.  And it gives us the freedom to walk in new ways. It is wrong to say that bad things come as punishments for specific sins, but they are tests.  They are signposts for us to ask: which way am I walking?  Is this current trouble something minor compared to the enteral damnation I am walking towards?  Or is this current trouble a minor inconvenience compared to the eternal glory that awaits (2 Cor 4:17).  The way of the LORD is just.  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the Kingdom is theirs.  May we consider our ways and turn and life.

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Sept 28th – Oct 4th

Mon. – Fri. ……….….…   8:00am   Preschool

Thursday: ………………  9:00am   Beef on Weck Prep day … brownie baking

10:00am   Bible Study

Friday: ……………..……  9:00am   Beef on Weck Prep day … potato salad day

Saturday: ……………….  4:30pm   Beef on Weck Drive Thru

Sunday: ………………….  10:00am   Worship

                                            11:15am   Bible Study

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: New Study Starting this week.  Everyone welcome, including on zoom
  • Confirmation: Confirmation 2 got restarted. Reviewing the Lord’s Prayer.
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  is next meeting on Wednesdays, October 7th at 7 PM.  We will be on the Zoom line.
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, in the sanctuary.  I’ll also have this on the zoom line.  And I will have coffee.
  • Catechism Moment:We are continuing to our walk through the catechism in your inbox

GROUNDKEEPING

It is still mowing season.  Thank you and please remember to do your part. 

BEEF ON WECK DRIVE-THRU … Save the date … Saturday, October 3rd

We still have volunteer openings and there is still time to sign up.  Volunteers will leave here with dinners without having to go thru the Drive Thru line!  Of course, we will again be wearing gloves and masks and doing our best to social distance while working. However, there are several jobs that can be done separate from other people if you would like to volunteer some time but are hesitant to step outside your Covid Bubble.  Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Mindy if you have any questions.

This is a first-come, first serve meal.  We will NOT be selling tickets in advance.  However, posting a flyer around town and sharing our Facebook ad is appreciated.

Better than Fairness

Biblical Text: Matthew 20:1-16 (Fuller text: Matthew 19-20)

The entire life of Jesus is a revelation of the heart of God, so the Matthew 19 text is a glimpse into how Jesus treats all of his children which is as individual souls and mindful of their eternal fate. Which is nothing like our modern obsessions with care and fairness. And I don’t really want to be too hard on care and fairness. Because it is not that God doesn’t care, or that he isn’t fair. It is that his care and fairness so exceed ours as to make us look like barbarians.

God’s care is not about indulging our temporal and usually spiritual desires. God’s care is his eternal faithfulness. When God promises something, you can take it to the bank. Hell is perfectly fair. The punishment always fits the crime. God is graceful, granting to us what we don’t deserve.

So in this time of work, this time under the cross, God’s care and fairness and seem contrary to ours. But that is because we don’t understand what we have been given. We don’t understand the joy of working in THE vineyard. That is what this sermon attempts to think about. How God has given us so much more and better than what our hard hearts would demand.