Author Archives: Pastor Jim Driskell, Lutheran Church

About Pastor Jim Driskell, Lutheran Church

I am the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Chestertown, Md. I pray that you will come and worship with us, worship is 10 am Sundays. We are a renewal church and we are lifting God up in classical worship, and being faithful disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. 101 Greenwood Av, Chestertown. Plenty of parking behind the church.

He has set us apart Psalm 4

[Click on the above icon to hear the audio of  this sermon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those disciplined in God’s Word in Scripture said … AMEN!

Erin Go Bragh,

David is credited with writing Psalm 4. I believe David wrote these Psalms. Do I believe he wrote them as a young man out in the pastures watching over the sheep? It’s possible. All we know about David I wouldn’t be surprised he wrote in this romanticized view. No doubt David was very devout, he knew Yahweh in a way unlike the rarest person, a handful in all of history knew God as David knew him.

Saint Benedict emphasized the importance of the Psalms in the daily life of the monastery as a discipline for monks. There are certainly spiritual disciplines. As there are disciplines in the routine in your daily life. They may seem rote, “boring”, but when we don’t practice those disciplines, we are not as effective, or effective at all. In the Coast Guard we spent much time training, over and over the fundaments, things that we would often do in cases. We were doing those things so they were hardcoated into our brains, do them automatically. The more automatic the more effective for those we are helping and the safer for all of us. Discipline in this age is seen as tedious and boring, when was the last time you reread the Bible, or have you ever read it completely? In seminary I read most of the Bible in the original language, Hebrew or Greek and I try to go back to that, to better understand God’s Word and be disciplined in His Word. Your physician practices regular disciplines in order for him to be better in healing and improving the health of his patients. Dr Luther referred to pastors as Seel Sorgers, soul healers , to be better at addressing the spiritual problems of those in need. As a police chaplain in York, dealing with gritty situations, spiritual disciplines would pop into my head at those times it was important for the comfort of a parent, spouse, of someone who had just died at 2am. At times like those, you don’t run to a reference book, there isn’t anyone available at 2am to help you with a parent whose 20 something child just committed suicide, whose spouse just committed suicide, whose young child was molested by a relative, whose child just died from a heroin overdose. You have to be prepared to help those people at the point of their need. No one expects anyone here to be an expert on spiritual counseling, but when you have acquired a level of Christian discipline that you can give someone comfort and peace in Jesus, then you will be serving those around you in their need. Too often people flounder around when that moment of truth comes in many situations, they’ve never really devoted themselves to any discipline, to any genuine means of serving and saving. I’ve been blessed to have a lot of people keep me disciplined and focused in order to serve those around me. I started in the Coast Guard when I was seventeen. At the time not appreciating my boot camp instructors. Not really understanding how much more disciplined they had to be in order to keep me disciplined and alive. I’ve known guys who have lost people they were responsible for training. Were they disciplined enough, did they insist on that person being sufficiently disciplined? It’s heart-wrenching to watch a fellow Coast Guardsman go through such trauma. In one of my doctoral classes we read The Benedict Option. The author’s main point is that to make it as Christians, we have to be more disciplined in a world that is becoming more antagonistic to Christians. We have to be monks in order to truly serve ourselves, our family, those around us we care for and ultimately how we serve Christ. We act as though 2-3 times per month of an hour of worship is sufficient for anything. Then we wonder why we really don’t feel God’s working or presence in our life. Face it, what does He really have to work with for most people? People who aren’t disciplined enough to take time daily to pray and wait on God. To truly understand His Word in Scripture. To reach out to others to help them see Christ and to be saved in Him, at least discipling their own children. The psalms were written by a man who was incredibly disciplined. He fought numerous battles. To survive all that he was involved in so that his country, Israel, guided by God would grow, David had to be immensely disciplined. He was a disciplined soldier, leader, musician, composer. He failed, seems many great men achieve greatly often fail greatly. But his words, numerous in the Psalms, are read and appreciated today over 3,000 years since he wrote them. That could never happen unless he was incredibly disciplined and hard working. When you read the life of St Patrick you see how incredibly disciplined and dedicated to his mission work in Ireland. He faced huge obstacles to bring Christ to what was a dark country at the time. That became a fortress of faith and the disciplined maintaining of Christianity during the dark ages of Europe. The dalmatic I’m wearing is called a “Book of Kells” dalmatic. Kells is the Abbey in Ireland that produced some of the finest works of literature and teaching in Christianity circa the 9th century.

In a follow up article to the book the Benedict Option by Rod Dreher. he writes: “…If the church is going to be the blessing for the world that God means it to be, then it is going to have to spend more time away from the world deepening its commitment to God, to scripture, to tradition and to each other. [A physician becomes proficient when he has spent numerous hours in study, being guided by teachers. We become proficient as a church when we learn to work, grow and support each other.] We cannot give to the world what we do not have. [Too many in the church don’t have a fundamental understanding of Christian life, they’re not in a position to guide others as a Christian] We should engage with the world, but not at the expense of our fidelity and sense of ourselves as a people set apart. [No one is sent out in a cold, stormy night in January to rescue someone who was not trained sufficiently. That is a recipe for getting killed. Likewise we can’t rely on people in the church, who have no understanding of who they are] We do need monks in today’s world. Ross Douthat noted, another writer observed “…It sure seems like there are a lot of monks in this book.” Douthat’s response was “…we don’t exactly have a surplus of monks in the United States…”[1] No one expects anyone to be cloistered in a monastery. But in our readings in the Psalms, we see an example of a highly disciplined man writing them, and of highly disciplined men and women following St Benedict’s teaching of faithfully reading and living the Psalms. King David was not the pinnacle of virtue, but if your son grew to be a man as disciplined, talented and accomplished as David, you would consider yourself a success. In Psalm 4, David writes about the dysix’ man in verse 4, in Hebrew meaning: “faithful, kind, godly, holy one, saint, pious”[2] There are “Hasidic” Jews refered to as “Hasids” holy ones. Patrick Henry Reardon writes: “This adjective, Hasid, is used … 21 times in the Book of Psalms…strongly suggesting …prayer and praise of God are a major component of the biblical doctrine of holiness. One cannot live a worldly life and still expect to pray the psalms. The Psalter has nothing to say to the worldly, it is not for the unconverted, the unrepentant. It is, rather, the prayer book of those who strive for holiness of life and the unceasing praise of God.”[3] Certainly this is exemplified in such a great man as David,  as Saint Patrick as the men who wrote the Book of Kells, the monks and Saints who have brought Christ to the world in all sorts of difficult circumstances, much as we face today in Christ. David’s Son, Jesus, the ultimate of holiness God the Son who endured all the torture the world could dish out so that we would be completely holy, saved in Him and His church. We need to act accordingly. Now, “May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine be warm upon your face, May the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again May God hold you in the palm of his hand. The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

[1] Ross Douthat  “Plough Quarterly” Summer 2017 p72

[2] Bible works translation of KJV word “Godly”

[3] Patrick Henry Reardon “Christ in the Psalms” p 7

 

Christ, David’s Son Psalm 9

[for the audio version click on the following icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are uplifted by the Psalms said AMEN!

We are in the season of Lent, we know that we try to “sacrifice” something for Lent. Some Lent news; “It was just announced that chocolate maker Hershey is reportedly expecting to cut its global workforce by about 15 percent. Seth Meyers observes: That’s right, for the first time ever, chocolate is giving up people for Lent.” For the Lent season, I’m “planning”, I would like to, do a sermon series on Psalms. We really don’t hear many sermons on Psalms and that really is a shame. I like to just settle in to the Psalms and take it in. Certainly all of Scripture is about the human experience. That experience is with God, and some of it is to show how things get messed up when we try to cut God out of what is going on.

There is 150 Psalms, most, not all were written by David ben Jesse, also known as  King David, husband of Michal, Abigail, Bathsheba, father of Solomon, Absalon, Amnon and Tamar. These were his, let’s say more notorious children. He had 19 sons total, and 1 daughter. I’m not sure what the odds of that happening naturally are, but… I’m sure it made jockeying to be David’s successor a lot more of a story in David’s palace during his lifetime.

The book that Jesus quotes the most is … Psalms. First the Book of Psalms is very long 150 books, second because David wrote most of the Psalms, and that Jesus is often referred to as the “Son of David” and that is because Yahweh promised that the Messiah would be in David’s line, one of David’s descendants would be the Messiah. This is referred to as the “Davidic Covenant”, 2 Samuel 7: 10-13: “…ESV 2 Samuel 7:12 “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” Of course “His” refers to Jesus and His Kingdom. What He established in His first coming and what will be fully realized as it is described in the Book of Revelation.

Father Patrick Reardon, who was the pastor of a church in Butler, Pa where our son Timothy is living, writes this about the Psalms: “From the very beginning of her history, when the Church of God turns to Him in love and devotion, the words of the Psalter form the expressions that spontaneously, as by an impulse of her nature, rise from her heart and take shape in her mouth.”[1] If you look, starting at about page 219 in your hymnal, you will see the “Daily Offices”. Those were the daily worships, roughly, in monasteries going back to sometime on or before the sixth century. Check the references to find that most of what is there are various recitations of Psalms. At least back to the sixth century Saint Benedict of Nursia, … prescribed the weekly reading of the Psalms, all 150, and basically called the monks at that time sissies because they didn’t recite them everyday as earlier generations of monks had done.[2]

This Psalm, Chapter 9, was written by David. It appears that this was for some sort of public declaration of victory. The Lutheran Study Bible notes: “The praise of God in the Psalter is rarely a private matter between the psalmist and the Lord. It is usually a public [that is, at the temple] celebration of God’s holy virtues or of his saving acts or gracious bestowal of blessings.” Where he proclaims God’s glorious attributes, righteous deeds, joyfully celebrate God’s glory. Probably where David is declaring victory over an enemy of Israel and proclaiming the power, might and glory of Yahweh.[3] The note in the Concordia Study Bible goes on to point out that: “This aspect of praise in the Psalms has rightly been called the Old Testament anticipation of New Testament evangelism.”[4] That is that what was written in the Old Testament was also intended for us to praise God now. Praise is the reason why we should more regularly refer to Psalms in worship, which we’re supposed to do in our personal and in daily worship in church. Worship is not just limited to Sunday morning, or once in awhile on Wednesday evenings, but intended to be regularly through the day and that is what Psalms have been. Not just about what David did 3,000 years ago, but what God is still doing today that we should be praising Him for now, daily. I’ve always thought it would be great to have a regular Daily Offices, where people would know they could go all through the week and share in worship and prayer. I think we could take such Psalms of victory, such as Psalm 9 that we’re reading today, and there are a lot of “victory psalms” out of the 150 psalms, and proclaim them as God’s victory against our enemies today, understanding that our enemies now aren’t the Philistines, but the powers of evil that are all around us. Whether that evil is demonic and all its different manifestations, spiritually or what we can actually see in the world. Not only has God defeated them but quoting the Concordia Study Bible, God has redressed the wrongs committed by them against David (and Israel).”[5] Again that is for us today. God has certainly defeated the powers of evil all around us, we who are in Christ, that we are certainly subject to demonic attack and are protected by the Holy Spirit from those attacks. Also that God does restore to us that which might be lost or destroyed, if not in this world, certainly in the world of the eternal of the resurrection. Tremper Longman writes: “It is impossible to date the psalm to a certain period in David’s (Israel’s) history. The characterization of the enemy is purposefully ambiguous so as to permit the individual lament to be used as a community lament.”[6] Again to say that while David probably wrote it for a particular occasion, it has come down to us through Jewish history and since the beginning of the Christian church. It’s interesting how both writers conflate David and Israel. David is very much Israel, Jesus certainly is Israel, and since we are in Christ we are Israel. Praise to God then, is as much praise to Him today, from His children in Jesus.

Undoubtedly David knew Who Jesus is, I have to believe that God the Father revealed to David who his descendant was and what He is. That David knew that while it was His throne that was promised to his Descendant, his “Son” by the power of His deity, would make that “Throne” the universal Throne of all power in creation. That the Name of Christ on the Throne, from all of creation to the end of all of creation was and is the power of Jesus. Reardon writes, kind of a long quote: “… particular attention should be paid to that of the “name”: “’I shall sing to Your Name, O most High,’  and ‘Let all those who know Your Name hope on You.’ This is that name of which St Peter said that ‘there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). This, truly, is ‘the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow’ (Phil 2:9, 10). The praying of the Psalter, in fact, pertains to our sharing in that universal genuflection ‘of those in heaven, and of those on earth…’ As the only name by which we have access to God, the name of Jesus is the proper exegetical key to praying the Book of Psalms.”[7]

So you might wonder why we’re conflating Jesus and the Psalms at this time of the year on the calendar, but certainly Jesus is being proclaimed, praised and given thanks for our salvation in Him from the time of His “father” David to the present. He is known from everlasting to everlasting and we praise Him and bless His Holy Name for His sacrifice, His suffering, His separation in order to bring us to the Father, to give us the hope and promise of everlasting, life and life more abundant in Him in His crucifixion, His resurrection and the marriage feast of the Lamb that is that eternal life in Him.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

 

 

[1] Reardon, Patrick Henry Christ in the Psalms   p xv

[2] Ibid

[3] Concordia Study Bible footnote 9:1 p 794

[4] Ibid

[5] Concordia Study Bible 9:3-6 p 794

[6] Longman, Tremper “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary” p 143

[7] Reardon, Patrick Henry Christ in the Psalms   p18

The Veil is lifted Luke 9 Transfiguration Sunday March 3, 2019 Trinity Lutheran Church Chestertown, Md

[click on the icon above for the audio of this sermon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son T and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have been allowed a glimpse of Jesus as God as His children in baptism said … AMEN

We’re in an interesting period, between the secular observances of Saints; Nicholas, Valentine and Patrick, Jesus’ lifting of His Human veil, plus the time of Lent, where we dedicate time to special reverence. I did come across some detail on the St Valentine story: “A common hagiography describes Saint Valentine, as the former Bishop of TerniNarnia and Amelia, a town of Umbria, in central Italy. While under house arrest of Judge Asterius, and discussing his faith with him, Valentinus … was discussing the validity of Jesus. The judge put Valentinus to the test and brought to him the judge’s adopted blind daughter. If Valentinus succeeded in restoring the girl’s sight, Asterius would do anything he asked. Valentinus laid his hands on her eyes and the child’s vision was restored. The judge obeyed and as a result, freed all the Christian inmates under his authority. The judge, his family and his forty-four member household were baptized.[20] Valentinus was later arrested again for continuing to proselytize and was sent to the prefect of Rome, to the emperor Claudius.

   Of much more importance, like more than infinitely more important, we remember the Transfiguration of Jesus today. Festivals of different saints are a great thing, especially when it’s one who like St Nicholas, Valentine, Patrick who are readily recognized by the secular world, and we don’t emphasize enough the importance of these saints, not for holidays, but because of how they lived and died for Jesus. But we also remember, that in Jesus we are all saints, Nicholas, Patrick, Valentine, great men, who should be remembered as examples of faithful living and maybe we should be more pro-active about observing their feasts and festivals. We look to those men for their example, we pray for God’s strength to emulate their lives, but we too are saints and we all are priests and we are all expected to come into the presence of the Father on the basis of our salvation in Jesus.

Jesus has shown Himself during the incarnation as a man, the Bible says a rather unremarkable looking man, you wouldn’t think much about Him at all if you walked by Him on the street. Those privileged disciples, by extension, now, us, see Jesus as He truly is. He is God, He is appearing to His disciples, in, no doubt, a much more muted form. We could not endure His splendor as God the Son, but in the Transfiguration there is no doubt that He is far above anything we are and the Father comes along and confirms, this is My Son! The veil has been lifted. There are a few times in the Bible where people have been left with a view that’s been hazed over, if not outright obstructed. Moses was in the actual presence of God and had to wear a veil among the people because they weren’t able to bear even a sort of reflected view of God’s Shekinah glory. Mary Magdalene had a veil over her eyes at the tomb. The two disciples didn’t see Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Gregory of Nazianzus writes “The great theophany of Jesus’ transfiguration gives us a glimpse of the mystery of the future resurrected life in Christ.”[1] This is not just the veil of the deity of Jesus, but also the revelation, which Jesus gives us a further revelation of in His resurrection. Which will be us, as Jesus is in our reading, but we will also be so much glorious in the resurrection.

Dr David Lewis observes: “Paul discusses the cause of unbelief with the image of “the veil” an image where faith is likened to seeing and so unbelief is blindness.” We certainly know those who just will not see Jesus as Lord. I have no doubt, the Holy Spirit has presented Jesus, has tried to move some people and they will just not be budged, they like the blindness.

I certainly resonate with what Dr Lewis says in terms of Paul’s ministry and ministry today. Christian ministry, proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus is not for shrinking violets and the church has been guilty of that for decades and is becoming even less of a witness today. We are more concerned about offending others, quoting Billy Graham, while we’re offending God.

Dr Lewis notes: “Because of this [inability to see under the veil] Paul stresses the importance of conducting his ministry with openness/boldness. What is openly proclaimed is that Jesus is Lord.” Why proclaim Him? “The hope [Greek elpida, elpus] in the enduring/remaining glory…the new covenant … This hope motivates Paul to behave boldly/frankly/openly (marresia) in his ministry …”[2] As we should.

Jesus has unambiguously revealed Himself on that mountain and the Father has confirmed who Jesus is: “This is my beloved Son.” The Father envelopes everyone in a cloud, which causes John, James and Peter to be afraid. God the Father proclaims, “This is my Son, my Chosen: listen to him!” The Father never says this about anyone else through the span of 5,000 years recorded in Scripture, or any time in history. He says this just about Jesus. There is no doubt who the Father is, there is no doubt who the Son is. Ambrose writes: “The cloud that overshadows them does not sprinkle them with moisture but with faith to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”[3] We are God’s children when we are born again in baptism, we are His and we are strengthened through His Word in preaching and in Scripture and we are saved through the Body and Blood of Jesus. We are saved through His sacrifice, the payment of His perfect life as compensation, the just payment for our sins. This is our hope, this is the only hope of mankind, the Lord Jesus! And that is why we must boldly proclaim the hope and promise of Him, as Paul did. Jerome writes: “They [Moses, Elijah, the disciples, us], too, indeed are dear to Me, but He is My beloved; hear Him, therefore. They proclaim and teach Him, but you, hear Him; He is the Lord and Master, they are companions in servitude. Moses and Elias speak of Christ; they are your fellow servants; He is the Lord; hear Him. Do not render the same honor to fellow servants as to the Lord and Master. Hear only the Son of God.” You might wonder why Moses, who was given the Law, Elijah considered the Prince of the Prophets figure into this scene. I don’t know where I read this, Jesus talking to Moses and Elijah, that they were discussing His “departure”, which we understand is from His earthly life, to His resurrected life, His glory at God’s right hand. But it’s also to initiate the age of grace, we are saved by Jesus’ acts which are rapidly approaching after the Transfiguration. His entry into Jerusalem, His brutal beatings, torture and crucifixion, His glorious resurrection on Easter. But it is also to close out the age. We are no longer under the Law given to Moses, we are saved only by grace. Further, the age of prophecy which Elijah represents, which consists of so many holy and righteous men is also at an end. We have Jesus’ promises, there is no further revelation, all we need to know to the end times is revealed in Jesus.

Now that Jesus begins the last leg of His journey to the Cross, everything is set for His glorious resurrection and the promise of our glorious eternal resurrection in Jesus.

Since we are entering in to the time of Lent, the time for sacrifice, for reflection, for service, please take more intentional time in devotions. For this week spend some time in prayer asking for guidance to help you lift the veil from those you know. How can the Holy Spirit work through you? Who does He want you to help to lift the veil from their eyes to see the only hope and promise in the world? Jesus Christ, God the Son and our Savior. The Holy Spirit has lifted the veil from we who are baptized and born again in Jesus. He works through us to lift the veil from others in order that they see Jesus.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

[1] Gregory of Nazianzus quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT III Luke Edited by Arthur Just p 158

[2] Dr David Lewis  “Concordia Journal/Winter 2015) pp 60-61

[3] Op. Cit.

Forgiveness is necessary for us to function Genesis 45 Joseph and his brothers February 24, 2019

[click on the icon above for the audio version of this sermon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit. And all those who have been forgiven said… AMEN!

Red Sox Hall-of-Fame third baseman Wade Boggs hated Yankee Stadium. Not because of the Yankees; they never gave him that much trouble but because of a fan… one fan. The guy had a box seat close to the field, he would torment Boggs shouting obscenities and insults, hard to imagine one fan getting under a player’s skin, but this guy had the recipe. One day as Boggs was warming up, the fan began his routine, yelling, ‘Boggs, you stink’ and variations on that theme. Boggs had enough. He walked directly over to the man, …and said, ‘Hey fella, are you the guy who’s always yelling at me? The man said, ‘Yeah, it’s me. What are you going to do about it?’ Wade took a new baseball out of his pocket, autographed it, tossed it to the man, went back to the field to his pre-game routine. The man never yelled at Boggs again; in fact, he became one of Wade’s biggest fans at Yankee Stadium.

Love your enemies. It might change them, and we know it will change you.[1] There’s, not a lot of forgiveness between the Sox and Yankees, there’s a video of the classic brawls of the past. Forgiveness is in short supply in this day and age. More and more it’s all about me; my opinion is the ultimate consideration, nothing else matters, but that I get my way no matter how misinformed I am or chose to be. “Don’t try to confuse me with the facts” is more often the creed of the day. Reality isn’t the issue, it’s all about my opinion and my dignity.

This attitude is so destructive, so negative, the negative ripples tear things apart. Churches are very susceptible. Instead of progress, easier to get bogged down in opinions, or if there is a decision, there’s no forgiveness or support. Daytona just happened last week, also from sermons.com the following illustration showing how destructive the lack of forgiveness can be:

Some years ago, as a hundred thousand fans watched, Richard Petty ended a 45 race losing streak and picked up stock racing’s biggest purse–$73,500. It happened at the Daytona 500. Petty’s win, was a complete surprise. Going into the last lap, he was running 30 seconds behind the two leaders [30 seconds is forever, people have won the Tour de France by about ten seconds, 1100 miles of racing]. All at once the car in second place tried to pass the No. 1 man on the final stretch. This caused the first car to drift inside and force the challenger onto the infield grass, and slightly out of control. What happened next was incredible. The offended driver pulled his car back onto the track, caught up with the leader, and forced him into the outside wall. Both vehicles came to a screeching halt. The two drivers jumped out and quickly got into an old-fashioned slugging match. In the meantime, third-place Petty cruised by for the win.”[2]Those guys went from 1 and 2 prize money to who knows how far down, it cost them big!

I’m sure you’ve seen those kinds of situations where people shoot themselves in the foot because of their grudges. I had a woman show up at the church in York, going on about how people were hurting her, causing her all kinds of damage. The way she was talking made it seem like it was in process. I asked her when that happened and she said 19__, about fifteen years before. You could say mentally ill, but it’s often a “chicken-egg” thing, did the obsessiveness occur because of mental illness or was it the cause?

Tip O’Neil tells a story in his book about how people would talk about a group of just say those who didn’t like Irish-Catholics who burned down a convent in Boston. O’Neill thought it had just happened in the last few years by the way people talked about it. Come to find out, it happened around 1849.

Unforgiveness, distrust, an obsessive need to have things your way, regardless of how it affects you in the long run, how it affects your family, a group you’re a part of is just so destructive. It has such long lasting effects, and never results in anything helpful or uplifting.

Joseph is in the driver’s seat with his brothers. He could have just messed with them, made their lives miserable, caused all sorts of havoc inflicting payback, but 4,000 years later how would that be seen? God would have worked around Joseph. But clearly God was working His plan back that Jacob/Israel was an integral part of, who should have gotten a little payback from his brother Esau. On the other hand, we have received hundreds of generations later, as Christians is that Joseph knew what God was doing, later on he tells his brothers: “ESV Genesis 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

Factor how many times God forgives us? The grueling torment Jesus underwent in order for us to be forgiven. Entirely in Jesus’ righteousness through His sacrifice we are saved. We are saved to an eternal resurrection of sheer delight beyond anything imaginable. Not because of how deserving we are, because … we aren’t. But in and through Jesus to eternity. Last week Jesus told us how much we would be hated because of Him. This week He’s saying “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” Kind of tough to do. Joseph and his brothers became the patriarchs of Israel, heads of the twelve tribes sons of their father Jacob or as God named him, Israel . Joseph was resented because he was Jacob’s favorite, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat… He went to his brothers in the field and they left him in a ditch to die. Then changed their minds, sold him as a slave and then sold as a slave in Egypt. His master, Potiphar, gives him great freedom and trusts him, his wife, let’s say wanted more than just household help, when Joseph refused to betray his master like that, she threw a fit, falsely accused him of trying to seduce her. That ended him in an Egyptian jail, none of this very nice, but he comes to the attention of Pharaoh, becomes prime minister of Egypt, goes from the outhouse to the penthouse, the catbird seat to mix metaphors. Then his brothers show up looking for food, duh, duh, duh! But Joseph didn’t take the opportunity to hit back, or get into a match that wouldn’t have done anyone any good. He gave them the food they needed, then the whole tribe moves to Egypt. This is the way we’re treated in Jesus. We continually offend God, we continually fuss, quarrel, we say forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, we expect God to hold up His end, but we really don’t hold up ours. Jesus took that grueling torture, gave Himself to pay the price of sin and unforgiveness that we couldn’t pay. We dishonor Him in our lack of forgiveness in our fussing and lack of cooperation. We know that is not what the Christian church is about, the Body of Christ is not the forum to pursue quarrels, instead of working together to advance the Kingdom of Christ. Joseph forgave a lot in order to save his family and for everyone to move on to become Israel. Jesus forgave a lot and didn’t deserve any of what He endured. When do we forgive and look to the best interests of Jesus’ Church?

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin

[1] Phil Thrailkill, Loving Like God Loves   sermons.com

[2] Source unknown  sermons.com

Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust: Why Lutherans Receive Ashes on Ash Wednesday

Life Through Lutheran Lenses

Many non-Lutherans wonder why their Lutheran friends or family members wear ashes on their forehead at the beginning of Lent. Are they showing off? Are they trying to stand out? Is it some weird secret church ritual? What does it mean? Should I get them too?

There are three reasons why Lutherans go to church to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. First, the ashes remind people of their sinfulness. Second, the ashes remind people of their mortality. Third, the ashes remind people that they have been redeemed. Let’s unpack this a bit.

Since ancient times, God’s people have used ashes as a sign of humble repentance (e.g. Jonah 3:5-9; Job 42:6; Daniel 9:3: Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13). This tradition was carried on by the early church and remains an important tradition today. When one willingly goes up to a pastor and receives ashes on his/her forehead, they are admitting that…

View original post 716 more words

Least of the Apostles 1 Corinthians 15

{please click on the icon above for the audio version of this sermon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who understand they might have to endure suffering for their witness of Christ said … AMEN!

Kind of wondered what the response would be. Today’s lectionary readings, should be rather sobering about what a real Christian is about.

This is Paul really going for it with the Corinthians. They are a huge pain. But should sound familiar! We all have our issues, our problems. The Corinthians, they sure haven’t taken Jesus’ words seriously. Remember the phrase, describes the boys of the Corinthian church; “hail fellow well met.” The Cambridge English Dictionary defines that phrase as: “If a man or his actions, they are very friendly and enthusiastic, sometimes in a way that is not sincere: greeted with the usual hail-fellow-well-met slap on the back and handshake.” I’m not trying to be a smart guy. These guys are found everywhere, it’s all about them, everyone just get along, everyone is just great, a mile wide and an inch thick. Little of substance, go along to get along. Totally clueless about Jesus’ words, and they would tell Paul to lighten up, let’s just have a good time. As Paul relates he is not a “lighten up” kinda guy, and as Jesus says in His words, despite the cultural perception, He is not a “lighten up” kind of guy either. You might want to put His words on a little Post-It in your brain: “Woe to you when people speak well of you”. Unless it’s being a truly Christian man, like Paul, applause you get from the world, is not conducive to good Christian character. If we’re being hyped by a corrupt and evil world, there might be something wrong in our Christian walk. There’s lots of serious stuff going on around us, as Christians, we need to recognize and address that.

Paul/Saul, had serious issues and he knew it. He headed up persecution of Christians on a large scale. He obviously knew from whence he spoke. God gave Paul more personal attention, Ron Dunn writes: “Paul …when he was caught up into the third heaven, …it is probable that this took place on his first missionary journey and perhaps when he was stoned at Lystra …maybe that’s when the Lord caught him up into the third heaven and gave him a glimpse of that…”[1]  Paul knew from what he was shown, from what Jesus said in Luke. Paul’s was the beginning of Christian persecution. It was small change compared to what Christians were subjected to, and still subject to today. Christian persecution is getting worse. I’m writing a paper on what is called the “Velvet Revolution”, anyone remember? It happened in pretty much all of our lifetimes? … Christians suffering severe persecution in countries that had historically been very strong Christian countries.

You don’t have to go far, in Christian circles to hear about the current state of being a Christian in the United States. We in the northeastern United States are very insulated from a lot of abuse going on in this world, even in the United States, but you shouldn’t get comfortable in that. Today’s lectionary readings are about not getting too comfortable in the world. For Christians who live in most of the rest of the world, they are acutely aware it is not a world of nice, fuzzy Christianity.

Sunny Lockwood writes: “Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution” overturned the communist government in late 1989 … How could such a dramatic, yet bloodless revolution succeed after so many years of oppression?”[2] I want to give you sobering thoughts in terms of the reality of Christianity in the world today, what Christians endure, have endured, that in the United States is probably going to get worse instead of better. We do have a precedent that doesn’t seem to be taken seriously and yet shows that Christians can push back against the secular, even in very trying times, and glorify Christ in their actions. In Poland it was Roman Catholics. Karol Wojtyla, the Polish Cardinal elected Pope. There was an assassination attempt on President Reagan. An attempt traced to Bulgarian Intelligence on John Paul’s life. The rotting structure of communism trying to rule by force, and use force against those against the communist regime. At the same time the Chinese were using force to subdue protestors in Tiananmen square. Communism is a faith system. There is no “god” in communism, but George Weigel writes: “The revolutionary faith of Marxism-Leninism had all the elements of a traditional religion… often explicated in stultifying prose, communism had a doctrine and particularly a soteriology (a theory of salvation …through revolution) an ecclesiology (a theory of the Church—in this case, the party). Within the party, it had a discipline and a theory of apostolic succession. It had sacred texts (the Manifesto, Das Kapital, What Is to Be Done?). It had a ritual, … “[3]  “Weigel argues … people don’t put their lives, and their children’s futures, in harm’s way simply for better cars, refrigerators, and TVs. Something else–something more–had to happen behind the iron curtain before the Wall came tumbling down Weigel argues that “something” was a revolution of conscience. The human turn to the good, to the truly human, and, ultimately, to God, was the key to the political Revolution of 1989… how the Catholic Church shaped the moral revolution inside the political revolution.”  Communism is a faith system, scientism in today’s world, that science holds all the answers to the world, any “faith” system that is not about Christ is used by man to be abused. Science is a great thing, there are many great Christian scientists. But in today’s world, too many put their faith there. Or in politicians or political movements.

As Paul writes: Christ died for our sins. He was raised, He appeared to Cephas, then the twelve disciples, to five hundred brothers, most of whom were still alive at that time, then to James, all the apostles then to Paul. Galileo can’t die for our sins, Marx, Mao, Sartre, Descartes, none of them. Only Christ. For those who deny Jesus existed, that just doesn’t cut it. Paul is writing to people who knew what he was saying was true. There were plenty of people at the time Paul was writing this who could have called Paul out. No one ever has.

The world for Christians has always been difficult. We Americans have had a cozy cocoon for 400 years, that reality is catching up to us. When we look to examples like the “Velvet Revolution”, where surely, there was divine leading of Christians in those countries, our hope is, should always be in Christ. People may hate Christians, speak ill of them. There should be no doubt to them, to you that we speak for Christ, for His promises. We speak for His acts on the Cross, the sacrifice He made for our sins to be paid. To have the promise that Paul reminds us of “the resurrection of the dead, that “in fact Christ has been raised from the dead”. We have the promise of our eternal bodily resurrection in Jesus’s resurrection. We also know we are called to confront evil. Not to worry about who speaks well of us, but that we are blessed when people hate us in our witness of Jesus. We saw that 30 years ago, when Christians led “revolution”, overthrew the most evil system ever on this earth. In China where the church remains it continues to grow. It is estimated by 2030, the Chinese church will be the largest Christian church of any country in the world. Even in the face of the cruel repression that is occurring, Christ’s Church continues to grow. Richard Wurmbrand, a Lutheran minister in Romania, imprisoned for almost 20 years for his Christian witness wrote: “I tremble because of the sufferings of those persecuted in different lands. I tremble thinking about the eternal destiny of their torturers. I tremble for Western Christians who don’t help their persecuted brethren.” Sobering words to us in the United States and motivate us to step up our witness to Christ and His Church.”[4] We can peacefully stand for Jesus to make a difference in our lives here and for those in Christ in the eternal resurrection. We can follow the example of Christians in eastern Europe and make a strong, non-violent witness for Christ. Let’s show the world what serious Christianity is in our life and witness to Jesus.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin

[1] http://rondunn.com/pauls-visit-to-heaven/

[2] Sunny Lockwood “Living the Velvet Revolution”

[3] George Weigle “The final Revolution The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism p forward

[4] Richard Wurmbrand “Tortured for Christ”