Please Look, We Are Your People

Biblical Text: Isaiah 64:1-9

It is the first Sunday in Advent, and when I was planning my preaching for the season I looked and saw three texts from Isaiah in a row, and I felt the need to preach a little on the Old Testament. The sermon elaborates a little bit, but this text is from “third Isaiah”. For someone like me who sees no reason to reject the received tradition – that Isaiah the prophet saw foresaw – third Isaiah is simply the portion of Isaiah addressed to those who have returned from exile, what we would call the intertestamental period. And this particular text is one that resonates deeply.

Oh that the Lord would come down. It is Isaiah working out his desire for signs and wonders that would rescue his people. And debating with God, and with himself, if that is possible. Which of course it is, but first the Lord must come down in grace. The power teaches us to fear, but if we are wise we know to fear. It is the grace which moves to abiding love.

Virtual Bulletin – 11/29

November 29nd, 2020 – Advent 1

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

Advent this year is going to be a little different.  We won’t be having the children’s program.  Instead, since Advent has all the best hymns, and we can’t typically get them all in, Advent 4 is going to be a special Advent Carols service.  The Old Testament lessons are all from Isaiah this year which I’m going to take as the sermon texts.  Which leaves the Gospel texts for this space.

Advent 1’s gospel text is always Palm Sunday.  Sorry for the physics analogy, but the themes of advent are like a quantum superposition waiting to be resolved.  The King has both come and not yet come.  The people of God have both seen the fulfillment of his coming and still wait with eager expectation.  We have seen the King come humbly riding on a donkey surround by people shouting hosanna.  We have not yet seen the King come in power riding the clouds with saints and angels crying out.  As Zechariah says he will have righteousness and salvation.  We have received his righteousness through faith.  We await his salvation when death will be no more.

The people of God – Israel – has always been a people of Hope.  He told them to go find the colt, and they went, and found it just as he said. They hailed the coming Kingdom of our father David, not knowing exactly what that meant, but hoping.  We are still a people of Hope.  He desired us to go and find His lost sheep, and the church has gone, and found them just as he said.  We hope for the coming Kingdom, not knowing exactly that means, but knowing that it is centered on Jesus – the one who comes in the name of the Lord, hosanna.  So much happens in this life that we don’t control or even understand.  We ride into this life humbly, and we are taken out as Luther said as beggars. Yet what Advent places before us in our weakness, is the strength of the promises of God.  Our Hope was never in the might of an earthly king, nor in an earthly temple with earthly priests to make sacrifice.  Our Hope was always in this one, rejected by the earthly Jerusalem but enthroned in the middle of the heavenly Jerusalem; convicted by priests of the old temple, yet made the cornerstone of the new, the great high priest.  Our Hope rests in his coming righteousness and salvation.  On the day when the true city comes down with mighty stride.  On that day when we can observe and see, and the superposition of hope is resolved in the fulfillment of all the ages.  May we see that day with Hosanna’s on our lips.

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Nov 30th – Dec 6th

Mon. – Fri. ……….….…   9:00am   Preschool

Tuesday: ………………..  7:00pm   Board of Elder’s Meeting

Wednesday: ……………  9:00am Confirmation

                                          7:00pm    LAF

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

Sunday: ………………….  10:00am   Worship

                                            11:00am  Congregational Meeting

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: Will return this coming week in Ezekiel
  • Confirmation:  Return on Wed starting with the section on Baptism
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  is next meeting on Wednesday, Dec 2nd 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: Will return this week on the Sacrament of the Altar. Watch your inbox.

OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD Thank you to all who helped with St. Mark’s leg of the shoebox journey.  And Thank you to the congregation for putting up with the clutter for a week. We collected 1252 shoeboxes.  Slightly down from last year, but still more than two years ago.  Not bad for everything going on.  The entire region (basically Monroe County plus some) collected just under 16,000 boxes.

CHRISTMAS DECORATING:  Like most things during this year of Covid we need to rethink how to accomplish Christmas decorating at St. Mark.  After some discussion this is how we are going to attempt to safely proceed with this task …

Jerry (Gardner) and an Elf or two will bring the decorations down from the steeple room on Sunday (11/29) after service.

This year we will only be putting up the following decorations:

    1. Christmas tree in the Sanctuary, decorated of course

    2. candles on the window ledges

    3. Manger on the round table in the Narthex

We will NOT be having a decorating party or serving food.  We would like 3 teams (preferably two or three people on a team that live together or socialize together on a regular basis).  You may come in to decorate at any time during the week as long as the work is done by Saturday afternoon (12/5) so Jerry and his Elves can put the boxes etc. back in the Steeple room.  This is a first come first serve project, so if you would like to do a specific task please let Mindy know as soon as possible.  We are not using our traditional sign-up so it is necessary to contact Mindy by phone or e-mail.

CHRISTMAS POINSETTIA ORDERS:  Please contact the office if you would like a poinsettia this year.  We will have a sign-up sheet, but…taking the positive step of contacting us will be helpful.  The cost will be: $8.00

CONGREGATIONAL MTG:  December 6th/Final Vote

Pandemic Challenge for RHAFT :  Food collections for RHAFT are ongoing and in urgent need as we all struggle to weather this Pandemic.  We would like to implement a weekly collection of items like we have done during Lent in previous years.  A list has been posted on the bulletin board as well as attached to this bulletin.  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.  Please remember that the items donated cannot be past their expiration date.

Thanksgiving 2020

This was the thanksgiving service. The 400th Anniversary of the Mayflower, I thought it worth reflecting on what the Pilgrims might be able to tell us about both good order and what we should be thankful for.

Even the Least of the Brothers

Biblical Text: Matthew 25:31-46 (Matthew 10:40-42)

This was the last Sunday in the church year, so we say good bye to reading Matthew. (Hence the fading to blue in the colors above, the color of advent.) Most of my sermons tend to be serials. They are one offs on the text of the day. And there are reasons for that, but the gospel is a story, a narrative. And sometimes you need to understand the full narrative. And that is the case with the Last Judgement. This sermon attempts to understand the picture of the last judgement with: Jesus in all his glory, All Nations and The brothers in the context of the full story.

Usually this text is used in a very law based way. Do these “works of mercy” and you’ll be with the sheep. And it isn’t a terrible message, but it isn’t the gospel. And the last judgment really does have a gospel message. And that is what this sermon attempts to proclaim.

Virtual Bulletin – 11/22

November 22nd, 2020 – Last Sunday of the Church Year

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

In our Thursday bible study we haven’t read to Ezekiel 34 yet, but our Old Testament text echoes many parts of what we have read.  The larger people of Israel don’t escape the prophet’s call for repentance, but throughout the Lord’s great problem is with the leaders of his people.  Their priests practice idolatry in the Temple.  Their prophets proclaim peace, when the destruction of Jerusalem is around the corner.  The King’s counselors are out to make a buck, along with every hustler hawking magic amulets and scarves.  And the King? Absent, a non-entity.  The result is that the people themselves are lost.  But the Lord promises a remnant.

And on that day, “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out…I will rescue them from all the places they have been scattered.”  And the greatest promise?  “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep.”  The King will no longer be absent, but will be the good shepherd.  And the actions of the good shepherd?  “Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat and the lean sheep.”

There is definitely good in such a judgement.  It is something to look forward to. Honest scales and true justice, there is a reason the next to the last words of Revelation are “Amen, Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”  And I think the lack of that true King, the good judge, is what often drives our discontents. There is a reason why the word “justice” is popular.  But maybe it is the Lutheran in me that pauses at outright rejoicing.  Looking for the judge is looking for the law. And the law always finds some way to condemn us.  We probably focus too much on the division of the fat and the lean, and miss what comes after.  The story doesn’t end there.  That is just beginning of the Kingdom which does not end.  “I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them.”  The wounds are bound and healed.  Justice is proclaimed.  And the work of the Kingdom continues into eternal life.  The Prince is among them, no longer absent or a non-entity.  The final words of Revelation aren’t that clear and good desire for justice; they are “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all.”  May we all suffer here with Christ, that we might share in that Kingdom.  May we not tire of running the race as prey now, that then “we shall no longer be prey”.    

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Nov 23rd – Nov 29th

Mon. – Fri. ……….….…    NO Preschool

Monday ………………..  11:00am   O.C.C. Shoebox Collection closes

Wednesday: …………….  7:00pm   Thanksgiving Eve Service

Thursday: ………………  Thanksgiving

                                             NO Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….  10:00am   Worship

                                            11:00am   Bible Study

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: No bible study on Thanksgiving
  • Confirmation:  Thanksgiving break.  We will pick up with baptism next week
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  is next meeting on Wednesdays, Dec 2nd 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: Finished Confession and the Keys this week.  Sacrament of the Altar next

OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD as of Friday afternoon St. Mark has filled 57 shoeboxes and collected more than 700 boxes from the community to pack in cartons.  The cartons will be loaded onto a rented U-haul truck and taken to a location in Webster where they will be joined by other cartons and transferred to a semi-truck for the next leg of the journey.  Pastor Brown would appreciate assistance today (Sunday) in loading the U-haul. Thank you to all who helped with St. Mark’s leg of the journey.

CONGREGATIONAL MTG:  December 6th/Final Vote

Pandemic Challenge for RHAFT :  Food collections for RHAFT are ongoing and in urgent need as we all struggle to weather this Pandemic.  We would like to implement a weekly collection of items like we have done during Lent in previous years.  A list has been posted on the bulletin board as well as attached to this bulletin.  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.  Please remember that the items donated cannot be past their expiration date.

Week 4 – Nov. 22:  BOXES

(cereals, granola bars, oats, boxed potatoes, macaroni and cheese mixes, pasta, crackers,  “Hamburger Helper”, stuffing mix, rice…)

Will You Have Such a Lord?

Biblical Text: Matthew 25:14-30

Recording Note: We had a snafu on recording live, so this recording is an after the fact re-recording. Lessons and sermon only.

The text is the parable of the talents. And we often get lost in pondering the talents themselves. So much so that the word, which originally was just a measure of weight of precious metal, now means abilities. That gives us an insight into how this parable has shaped in influenced our very language.

But the parable really is not primarily about our actions, but about our beliefs that drive those actions. It wants us to ask what do we believe about our master, Jesus. Do we live in the grace and love of God such that we immediately try to do his will, working the talents? Or do we think he is “hard” and merciless? It is a parable that tells us about God and holds a mirror up to our heart’s understanding of God. Will we have such a Lord as Christ?

5 Wise and 5 Foolish

Biblical Text: Matthew 25:1-13

This parable has so much to teach us…if we don’t ask for it to teach us too much. That is always the trouble with eschatology, end times things. We want to know more that is ours to know.

The biggest thing I think it means to tell us is to know the time. It is a parable about the Day of the Lord, the time of fulfillment. As such the most important things in that time are different that today. Today things like wise and foolish are not locked in. Today is a day of grace. Today is a day when the oil may be procured and the lamps prepared. For the night is coming when no work may be done. Sleep comes to all. And that is why Jesus tells us this parable. Not that we might know everything about That Day, but so that we may prepare for it.

Virtual Bulletin – 11/8

November 8th, 2020 – 23rd 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: Meeting ID: 645 848 5288 Passcode: miracles

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

Devotion & Prayer Thought

Over the last year or so, the Thursday morning study has been reading the minor prophets – like Amos – and then moving into a long complex one, Ezekiel.  The themes of these prophets are all remarkably the same: repent for the Day of the Lord comes, rend your hearts and not your garments and do the things the Lord delights in.  And these prophets get specific about the sins and who is committing them.  They name names as it were, and nobody escapes.  The only difference is roughly where in time they sit.  The books in our bibles are arranged in presumed time order, with one complication.  The earlier books are not quite as strident in tone or as dismissive.  The later books are caustic with hope turning to some distant future.  The one complication is that Amos is a prophet sent to the Northern Kingdom of Israel which falls more than a century before the Southern Kingdom.  So Amos is at the fever pitch well before the ones that follow.

The other wrinkle is that Amos was not one of the club.  He was “neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son, but a keeper of fig trees.”  So when God calls him, you can feel the passion underneath.  He has no family or conflicting motives in what he says.  He might even “want to watch it burn.”  And at least for me reading these books, the great discomfort has been how much I can associate with them.  With many biblical books, there is distance between our situation and those they address.  These prophets feel like contemporaries.

Amos’ preaching in Chapter 5 is focused on the status of the heart versus the exterior life.  The Day of the Lord is coming, and as our Church year turns toward its end, we turn to contemplation of that.  So did religious life in Israel.  Sukkot, the end times festival, precedes Rosh Hashanah, the new year.  And the Northern Kingdom of Israel was rich.  Their wealth covered all the external needs of the religion.  They had their solemn assemblies.  They went to temple and made all their burnt offerings.  Their psalms were sung with gusto.  They were sure of their status.  The Day of the Lord would deliver them.  But Amos tells them “you abhor the one who speaks truth, you trample on the poor and exact taxes from him, to build houses and vineyards – you shall not dwell in them.” Their outward piety belied inward unbelief, and unchanged heart.

“Woe to you who desire the Day of the Lord, why would you have it?  It is darkness not light.”  And in a very funny quip, “it is as if a man fled from a Lion and a bear met him.” We expect God to provide comfort.  And this he does in Jesus Christ.  But have we welcomed Him?  Have we sought the Lord where and when he may be found?  Or have we just assumed he’s there for us, and done what we like?  This is not works righteousness.  You will not be saved by what you do.  But it is a question, who do you fear, love and trust the most?  The Day is Coming.

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Nov 9th – Nov 15th

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

Monday: ……………….   1:00pm   O.C.C. Shoebox packing

                                            6:00pm    Men’s Club meeting

Tuesday: ……………….   6:00pm   O.C.C. Shoebox packing

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

Sunday: ………………….  10:00am   Worship

                                            11:15am  Budget Presentation

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:  Practical Unit on “how to have an intentional prayer life.”
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  is next meeting on Wednesdays, Nov 18th 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 Office of the Keys and Confession

WOMENS GROUP:  During our meeting this week we agreed to spend some of our Spring Beef on Weck profits in the following ways … 

    $400 … donation to the Organ Fund

     $200 … Community Lutheran to assist with their holiday endeavors

     $200 … direct Congregational support

     $100 … Calvary Food Cupboard

    ? … looking into adopting a RHAFT family for Christmas

Pandemic Challenge for RHAFT :  Food collections for RHAFT are ongoing and in urgent need as we all struggle to weather this Pandemic.  We would like to implement a weekly collection of items like we have done during Lent in previous years.  A list has been posted on the bulletin board as well as attached to this bulletin.  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.  Please remember that the items donated cannot be past their expiration date.

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

MEN’S CLUB MEETING:  The Men’s Club is meeting at St. Mark in person on Monday, November 9th at 6pm.  Please sign up on the bulletin board if you plan to attend.

Operation Christmas Child Collection Week:  Collection week is Nov. 16-23.  Please sign-up and volunteer to “man the booth” which will be open for 3 hours a day.  I’m putting up volunteer sheets for 1-hour slots.  Please consider helping in this.  (You may bump ‘Mindy’ on any day.)

CONGREGATIONAL MTGS:  November 15th/Budget Presentation  &  December 6th/Final Vote

Those Who Come Out of the Tribulation

Biblical Text: Revelation 7:9-17

It is both All Saints Day and two days before a presidential election. As I pondered the texts for today I was struck by the polarity between our current expression of the City of Man, illustrated by the Presidential race, with the vision of the City of God seen by John.

From the one: Democracy, division, sickness and racial strife. From the other: The Kingdom, unity, shelter in the presence of God and rightly ordered allegiances.

This sermon reflects on what parts of this are available for the Saints at warfare in the midst of the tribulation, and what All Saints at rest look forward to.