The Best and the Worst


Mark 5:21-43
Full Sermon Draft

The events of the week offered two extremes. The last fruits of a culture that would listen the church, and the declaration of the end of that listening. This is a little raw, but call it first pass a law and gospel in exile. The fact of repentance and the hope of return.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Isaiah 26:20-27:13 and 1 John 4:1-21

Isaiah 26:20-27:13
1 John 4:1-21
Assyria, Babylon and the promise of return to God’s people
Love & How we see God hidden in our lives

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Jeremiah 5:1-19 and Matthew 22:23-46

Jeremiah 5:1-19
Matthew 22:23-46
The warning of wealth preceding exile
Evangelism: Sadducee and Pharisee and ears to hear?

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Nehemiah 1:1-2:10 and 1 Timothy 1:1-20

Nehemiah 1:1-2:10
1 Timothy 1:1-20
A spirituality of exile: prayer, fasting, bible reading; the continuing exile
The fulfillment of the sacrificial/temple practice
Making a shipwreck of faith, the importance practice of the faith

Resident Aliens

Full Text

Our lectionary (the assigned readings for the week) is taking us through 1 Peter during the Easter Season. I can’t remember ever hearing a focus on 1 Peter. As I write this now 3.5 weeks into it, I understand that a little better. Peter is very short. You could condense the letter to two very short sentences. God chose you. Live like it.

In a world that is often plagued with doubt, Peter isn’t. He is bold enough to say compare your former life with your current life in Christ. Compare the status craving world running from one idol to the next to your status as God’s chosen. Yes you are resident aliens. You are exiles, but exiles from what? Something that is here today and gone tomorrow. Christ’s election is incorruptible and unfading. Christ has called you and given you an inheritance and has a job for you. Whatever that job is there is nobility in it, because God has placed it in your path. The world will say your odd. Make the comparison. Which is worth more?

As a preaching and denominational note. Even though Luther liked first Peter, the message is somewhat different. The Lutheran pattern is law and gospel. When you have been convicted of the law then the gospel restores. That was Luther’s personal experience. His anfechtung over sin followed by the recovery of the gospel to himself. Lutheran preaching can be caricatured – “make you feel really, really band and then make you feel really, really good.” Peter’s proclamation is Gospel (God chose you) followed by sanctification (live like it). It is a radical dependance upon the Holy Spirit to first call a wavering people to recognition of who they are and second to then live the faith.


Text: Daniel 1:1-21

The old testament readings in the daily reading series just started to take us through the book of Daniel. Since it is now after Easter, I hope to get back on track with these posts and a new book seems like a good place to start. Daniel is also one of the names if it is a boy we might use for our expected baby. Daniel as a book is also one of the most critically challenged books, at the same time having some of the highest homage paid to it by Jesus himself. Jesus quotes from it in Matt 24:15. Jesus also takes the name he calls himself – The Son of Man – from Daniel 7:13-14. All those seem to be good reasons to take a devotional look at Daniel.

Daniel is a book of opposites. It has the sunday school staples of the firey-furnace, the lion’s den and the infamous source of the phrase “the writing on the wall”. Daniel also has apocalypic visions that are opaque and not used in Sunday School. The book itself is composed in two languages – Hebrew and Aramaic. The stidently Jewish Daniel is the star of the Babylonian court. The typical jewish attitude toward gentile rulers is absent and instead these Easter Emperors are the servants of God. Those gulfs in the book stradle to today. Critical scholars want to date the book to the 2nd century BC. Traditional dating is the 6th century BC. That 400 year gap is larger than even the gap between a traditional dating of the exodus and the alternative timeline. A book of opposites.

The opening is of four children of Jewish nobility being instructed out of their tradition while in exile. They get new names. They learn new languages and alphabets, and they are expected to eat the finest the court has to offer (probably pork.) But instead of swallowing it all, the four are graced by God. They adapt to the profitable and reject the dangerous. They maintain their idenity in the face of what surely looks like the better and wiser path. And they maintain that identity while not rejecting or scorning the good of the gentile kingdom. This is something God has ordained. They will not worship the kingdom, or follow its ways, but they will support it with the best they have been blessed with. In Jeremiah’s words they pray for the wellbeing of the place they have be exiled to.

Is that not the same situation of many Christian children today? After being brought up in the faith, they are exiled away from parents and supporting people to a university – a place surrounded by all the wonderful good things that this kingdom has to offer. New knowledge, new languages, new foods and the opportunity to put on a new identity. I’m at a loss to pull a solution from the passage as it just says that Daniel resolved not to assimilate. Daniel asked those is charge to eat the Jewish diet. And God graced Daniel with understanding teachers and gave him learning and skill and wisdom. Maybe the idea is prayer and preparation. Preparation in that it is a parents job to teach a child and form in them a sense of identity. Prayer in that once that formation is finished, you pray for God’s grace to sustain them. No magic bullet. Just years of work followed by years of prayer.

Exile and Prosperity

Text: Jeremiah 29:1-14

Jeremiah prophesied for forty years or so – the judgement is coming, a day of the Lord is at hand. But there were a large number of prophets in the land. The larger bunch of them with that title shouted peace! prosperity! And they had the better share of the argument for most of that time. Jeremiah even lashes out at the Lord Jeremiah 20:7 – “O LORD, you have deceived me…I have become a laughingstock all the day.” It would be hard to fault Jeremiah for sending a “Ha, I told you so” letter. That is not what he sends. He tells the exiles to make a life in their new land – build, marry and grow larger. Pray for the welfare of Babylon because its welfare is yours. He does get in his digs, but not in a snotty way. He just tells the exiles to not be decieved by the “prophets” among them – they are not from the Lord. And He leaves them with a promise from God – “In 70 years I will bring you back. I have plans for you.”

Do we find ourselves in exile in a strange land? Has everythign that we have known seemingly been pulled out from under us? God’s answer is not opposition or withdrawl or nostalgia. God says stay engaged and pray. He has plans for his people. God always has plans for His people. That promise given was to those exiles specifically, but it does take on broader views. “I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have driven you.” Those Israelites were in Babylon. The church is spread throughout all nations. God has a plan for His people.