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.

My pictures at the Sermon on the Mount, Capernaum, Sea of Galilee

More or my pictures from Israel.

The top pictures are from the church where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. The picture with what looks like a stump/rock, is where Jesus was supposed to have sat when He gave the Sermon on the Mount.

The beach pictures are where Jesus told Peter; “Feed My sheep”.

The canvas over the foundation is what is thought to be Peter’s house in Capernaum. What looks like a church is the ruins of a Christian church built over a Jewish Synagogue in Capernaum, the synagogue that Jesus would have worshiped. In.

Finally the Jordan River at the site that John the Baptist conducted his baptisms.

Humble Loving Shepherd Ezekiel 34

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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 are glad that Jesus found you, one of His lost sheep said … AMEN!

Our preface to today’s readings notes; “True to our broken nature, we all wander away from our Shepherd’s provision, wrongly assuming we can find our own way … We all stand in need of rescue!” There’s tough guys who tell me they don’t need anyone to rescue them, blah, blah. I need rescuing we all do. We can tell ourselves how tough we are, we find our own way back which must be the right way ‘cuz gosh, it’s our way. I’ve had to pull a few out of harms way who thought they were know it all tough guys. There was these two guys, from New Jersey, dropped their anchor right in the middle of the channel going into the tank farm. They thought it would be a swell place to fish for flounder. We told them they needed to move, they shared their uninformed opinion with me that they were good where they are. Shortly into our chat we realized there was an oil tanker coming down the channel. An oil tanker can’t just stop. An oil tanker has to stay in the channel, Boston Harbor gets very shallow and the channel is really goofy. If that tanker goes out of the channel and aground, starts leaking oil, in a busy harbor, where the channel would be closed in order to do cleanup, disrupt the flow of oil coming into Boston. I and the other guys have been trying to get the anchor up and it’s obviously fouled on something and there’s no way I’m getting that up. At which point I now hear a danger signal, five short blasts, from the tanker, one of those things you know exactly what it is when you hear it. At that point I pull out my handy dandy Ginzo knife and over the protests of the boaters who are going to have to pay the boat rental for the line and the anchor, cut the line, get a line on the boat and drag it out of the channel before we are crushed like a bug.

They weren’t happy, sure they could get the anchor up, they didn’t like me, stupid, ugly, blah, blah. The fact was they drifted into something they had no idea about, put themselves in danger, and being the smart guys they were, sure they could take care of themselves. That tanker wasn’t going to stop for them, crushing them was the easier option then creating an oil spill and serious ecological damage. We chose to go our way, wander off as a sheep, because we want to, we should be free to and then we are in a serious problem and when the Good Shepherd, the Uber shepherd, comes and rescues you, sweeps you away from the danger bearing down on you at the last second. Instead of falling for Satan’s tricks, the Holy Spirit moves you out. Walther writes: “The Law calls: “You have distanced yourself from God by your sin and have become His enemy… Do you not see the abyss you are hurrying toward?” Then writes the Gospel says: “Be comforted you straying lamb. You are not lost. See, here is your Shepherd… Your Good Shepherd will bring you to His flock… protect you from all dangers and finally take you through the gates of death into His heavenly fold.”[1] Is that forgiveness? I’ve seen some startlingly ungrateful people in my life. People know they’re going the wrong way, they insist on sitting or moving right into that collision with that tanker that will simply crush them. It is up to the Holy Spirit to swoop in, He uses me as the under-shepherd to move in to save someone. Of course the under-shepherd has to listen to all the well that’s not sin! Why are you so judgmental! I can do what I want I’m forgiven! Just let me do what I want? Judge not! Those will be the same people who months, years, maybe weeks later will come back and why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you help me? Why did you let me wander off by myself? Too often pastors can’t win. Medical doctors have patients die, so do seel sorgers, soul doctors, healers as Luther called them, people who die spiritually. They wander off, no longer have the security of being in Christ’s church. They become either spiritually starved or malnourished. They become victimized by those who will prey on the defenseless like shysters who take people’s money for various cons.

Happily, quite often those who drift off or chase the Holy Spirit away, do come to realize they need Jesus. The entire time, Jesus is looking for the opportunity to step in just as He tells us in Luke. He will look for that 1out of 100 sheep. Talk about an act of incredible humility. The all-powerful creator of the entirety of the universe, all creation and what does He compare Himself to? A shepherd. The humblest of vocations in Israel. Shepherds couldn’t even testify in a court, they were not well regarded. For Jesus to compare Himself to a humble, even a little disreputable, is a stunning testament to what Jesus does for us. If He makes a point of comparing Himself to a shepherd to emphasize that He cares for us and wants to protect us, often from ourselves, is a striking comment on how much Jesus wants to do for us.

Having said that, if we are spitting in Jesus’ eye by rejecting Him, and yes we will be forgiven, when we … offer sincere repentance. The Greek word is meta,noia we understand repentance to mean realizing we’ve gone astray, we have offended Jesus, that we have sinned. The Greek word literally means: a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or something he has done.” Think of it as ok, I’m sorry, I was wrong it literally means I went the wrong way, I’m going in a direction that I shouldn’t be going. We can think of it as going away from Jesus and going towards what we know is destructive in the world. What does Jesus do when we reject Him, ignore, walk away from Him? The great Creator of everything who could just as easily be shaming us, demanding we come crawling back to Him on our hands and knees begging for forgiveness. He is actually out looking for us, He knows we’ve gone the “wrong way”, wandered off from what we should be and where we should be in Him, the Greek understanding of “going the wrong way”. He wants us back and will do what is necessary to get us back. But we have to be repentant. Jesus wants to forgive us and is not interested in us groveling, but in order to forgive, he who needs forgiveness needs to be repentant, ask for forgiveness. As early as Ezekiel, God tells us He has every intention of doing whatever He can to save us from ourselves, to make us righteous for Him. But He’s not taking us back with the attitude that it’s all about me and God’s just going to have to get with my plan. We need to recognize that what God wants for us is what is best for us. That He wants us to have “life and life more abundant”, where we have life more destructive. We think we’re all that, and have our way in whatever we want. Usually our way is because we want to get back at someone, we want our idols- what’s really important to us – not Jesus, but money, power, prestige, sex, drugs, alcohol, possessions, anything but Jesus because we’re entitled. Yet Jesus waits to give you what we need; hope, promise, true eternal life in Him. In the meantime He promises to provide for us, maybe not as much as we want or as fast as we want, but still what we truly need.

God is telling Ezekiel, 500 years before Jesus: “I will seek the lost and I will bring back the strayed and I will bind up the injured and I will strengthen the weak.” God is saying I will do the heavy lifting, whatever it takes in to make sure My people don’t destroy themselves. But He is also making it clear He is not going to tolerate our sin, selfishness, our attitudes that cause death, destruction, depression, lack of hope, and the things that we see around us. He adds “… and the fat and the strong I will destroy”. That is those people who think that it’s all about them. I have plenty, all I need, I’m nice and comfy or the usual blah, you hear today, I’m strong enough, I don’t have to depend on anyone else, until reality catches up with them and realize they need God or they fall and destroy themselves. Yet our humble, loving, but righteous God will go and look for us, do whatever is needed. But if we are still in our pride and strength, after awhile God lets us have our way, which is death and destruction. God moves in His plan with His people. Those sheep who insist on wandering away from Him? He will stop running after. Jesus says; “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents…” I have no doubt that when one sinner repents and is carried back to the sheepfold by God that the cheering and applause in heaven is deafening. The thrill of one soul coming home to know true life. The one who resists and rebels and insists on his own way, and we see it all around us has only one result, death, destruction and an eternity of misery. You can let the Great Shepherd take you home and give you true life or you can keep on running your own game and know that at some point it will collapse around you and you have no one to blame but yourself. God was working overtime for you and you thumbed your nose at God, told Him to take a hike. Let’s be real, how do you think that course of action will play out?

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

[1] CFW Walther “God Grant It, devotionals” pp 520-521

We are all runaways from God Philemon

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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 wanted to run away from God said … AMEN!

People have, incorrectly, used the Bible to justify slavery especially in the United States. Paul is not justifying or condemning slavery, simply as a fact that Onesimus is, a slave. There were serious conditions under the Roman Empire dealing with slaves. There were only two classes in the Roman Empire, remember this is the secular, the worldly, the pagan empire that kept slaves, and treat them harshly. The Romans kept tight control of the slaves, there were a lot of slaves in Rome one estimate up to 350,000 slaves in Rome of a total population of 900,000. There were slave revolts in Rome. The slave population was able-bodied enough that if it organized effectively would have overwhelmed the free Romans. The army wasn’t allowed in Rome, you might know the phrase “crossing the Rubicon”. In 49 BC Julius Caesar violated Roman law by bringing his legion into Rome, when he crossed the Rubicon he intended to overthrow the government of Rome, the Roman Senate and establish himself as ruler, eventually emperor of Rome. The Roman army was kept out of Rome in order to prevent future coups. But this left the free Roman population vulnerable to slave rebellion and treated slaves harshly for the slightest infractions. Remember the movie Spartacus crosses of the crucified stretched for miles on the road into Rome. This was not an unusual sight. Onesimus stole money from his master and ran away from home in Colosse to Rome and either to Paul, or to look for him. The point is that regardless of what Paul thought about slavery he knew Onesimus was in grave danger. There were “slave-catchers”, what we would think as bounty hunters. If they caught Onesimus it would not go well. They would probably have returned him to Philemon for a bounty, but they would have probably would have worked him over and Philemon might have decided it wasn’t worth it for him and left the slave-catchers to decide what to do with Onesimus which probably wouldn’t have been nice. How Paul felt about slavery didn’t really enter into the equation. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon more to protect Onesimus and go by the numbers and also be faithful to a Christian brother. Philemon was probably rather wealthy, could have been bishop of Colosse at the time, probably held church in his house. Matthew Henry writes: “The apostles had under Christ great power in the church over the ordinary ministers, as well as the members of it…; they might require of them what was fit, and were …to be obeyed, which Philemon should consider. This was a matter within … the apostle’s power to require,,,,” Paul was certainly recognized as an apostle of Christ, apostle meaning “sent one, one who is sent to represent another”. In Paul’s interactions at Antioch and the Jerusalem council no one in the church disputed that Paul was one sent by Christ. Who did Paul meet on the Damascus road? Paul claims he was taken to the third level of heaven and by his acts and knowledge proved it. Paul was in a Roman prison, he had nothing, some Christians in Rome might have provided for him in prison, but how reliable was probably in question. With Onesimus, Paul had someone who would be there to care for his needs. So Paul could have put it to Philemon saying “the guy who was useless to you, is very useful to me, I will pay his debt, then send him to me.  Paul could do that and would have been within his rights to do that. He certainly had extreme need, and it would not have been a hardship for Philemon.

As Christians we can get an attitude, make up our mind; I’m entitled to whatever I want, I should be able to take because I’m under grace and everyone, from the minister through the church should hand over or perform the way I want them to. If we have sixty people is it realistic to think all sixty should get their way? That is why we have doctrine. Dr Luther along with some of the greatest minds from the sixteenth century to the present wrote doctrine to unite us as Lutherans and make it clear what we genuinely believed as a church. We have Christians who feel their ideas and visions of what the church should be are right and the church should accept that and move along. We have no right to make demands of the church and vice versa. If you are not sufficiently moved by the Holy Spirit to serve, to give, to understand, to accept, be unified, you certainly don’t have to. However, if, as Philemon seems to have realized with Paul and Onesimus, regardless of his opinion, or his rights, there was a greater need. I think that the Holy Spirit’s finger prints are all over this pericope. It’s about 2100 kilometers from Colosse where Onesimus started out, to travel to Rome, about 1300 miles. Even in today’s world, most of us don’t just wander somewhere, 1300 miles at a whim. The Holy Spirit had to be guiding this entire scenario, assuring Onesimus got where he was going, that he found Paul, that Paul accepted him, Paul appealed to Philemon as he and Onesimus are brothers in Christ, that letter would get to Philemon and would survive to today. We have to put our individual preferences and priorities beneath the best interests of another brother or sister and to the church as a whole. Paul sums up: “ESV Philemon 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother- especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” Philemon should see Onesimus as more than property, he should see him as a brother in Jesus. That is where we need to be in relationship with each other and in Jesus. We’re not just members of a group that loosely talks about things in the Bible. That through sacrifice, through grace, through our works, and because ultimately we all benefit from the same gifts of grace in Christ and justified by our faith in Him, that we are bound together for the best interests of Christ, of His Church and those of us who are in the Body of Christ. That we are beloved brothers and sisters in Jesus. That our priority is always building our relationship with Jesus’ church and His people and how that church brings Christ into the world. That we remember who we are in the world, that we are Christ’s and His agenda. Jesus says in our Gospel reading that it is our love for Him that takes precedence over everything, our parents, siblings, children, even ourselves. If we don’t take our cross, the things God has given us to deal with in life. Then we are not His, we cannot be disciples of Jesus. Many claim there is a middle choice, we can kind of make it up on our own and chose our own way. I’ve never had anyone explain to me what that way is. I know, if it’s not in Christ, it is sad, it is deadly, a grim if not painful eternity. There is only one way, one hope and one baptism that gives us new life in Christ. That baptism gives us the hope of the true life in the eternal resurrection of Christ which only happens in our forgiveness by our completely just and holy God who forgives all our sins in that sacrifice of Christ. It is how we are led in the Holy Spirit, true life in the life of the Church, His true Body and Blood that saves us. All can only be efficacious if it is truly in Christ and His Church.

Tradition says Philemon sent Onesimus back to Paul. Philemon might have been a bishop at the time of this letter, Onesimus becames a bishop. Ignatius writes the slave Onesimus became the Bishop of Ephesus succeeding another of Paul’s beloved sons, Timothy. “Later, as Saint Jerome and other Fathers testify, he became an ardent preacher of the Gospel and a bishop… He was cruelly tortured in Rome, for eighteen days, by a governor of that city, infuriated by his preaching on the merit of celibacy. His legs and thighs were broken with bludgeons, and he was then stoned to death. His martyrdom occurred under Domitian in the year 95.”[1] I believe one of the reasons they were elevated to these positions was they both submitted to the authority of their minister, Paul the Apostle, the sent one who based on their obedience in Christ and the furtherance of the church, recommended both of them for further leadership that the need of their faithful service to the church through this event with Paul moved them to be leaders in Christ’s church by the Holy Spirit. All of this we read 2,000 years later, because three men stepped up to serve each other and the church and to put their own agenda aside.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

[1] https://sanctoral.com/en/saints/saint_onesimus.html

Very few pass through the narrow gate of Jesus.Luke 13

 

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 strive to go through the “narrow gate”, said… AMEN!

Last week we talked about Jesus bearing the sword, He said, I did not come to bring peace but division. Jesus says that as He brings, discipline and fruits, He is causing division. The world is not going to accept what Jesus brings. We in the world want it our way, and face it, if you have 500 people, you are going to have 500 my ways. With Jesus there is one way; “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” So when Jesus talks about a “narrow gate” He’s saying that it’s going to be His way, it’s not going to be any other way. The obfuscation, confusion, syncretism people try to create, is entirely theirs and has nothing to do with Jesus, because of this, it is those around us who create the division. Even in the church there is division, but not when we talk about the fundamental principles of the Christian faith; who Jesus is, that He was sacrificed, crucified as the perfect penalty for the sins that we have all committed against a totally just and holy God. A penalty had to be paid, Jesus paid th penalty. His sacrifice, what He did for us, He has paid for us /redeemed us, that God has saved us by the payment of sin through Jesus He is the propitiatory, complete payment of our sin. That is the narrow way, the narrow gate.

Big deal! A narrow gate, so? Just take us a little longer to get through the gate, sort of the TSA of the judgment. That’s not what that really means. In Jesus’ time, after the sheep had been grazing out in open fields during the day, the shepherd would gather the sheep together and herd them into a pen. That way sheep couldn’t wander off while the shepherd slept, and was less likely for wild animals to attack any of the sheep. The gate to that pen would be narrow. In order for the shepherd to react quickly and be an obstacle to a wild animal, the gate to that pen would be narrow enough that he would effectively close that gate with his own body. At night, the shepherd would arrange himself to lie across the sheep pen gate to sleep during the night. The sheep wouldn’t try to step over him and if a wild animal was trying to get in, it would have to step over the shepherd, which would wake the shepherd up and give him a chance to defend the sheep.

Who do you think Jesus is saying is the shepherd who has His body across that narrow entrance into the sheep pen? Gives more meaning to Jesus’ quote in John 14:6: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” If you are intended to be in that sheep pen, if you are led into that pen in the safety and salvation of Jesus, there will be no question that is where you belong. That you are under the protection of Jesus. That you have been guided by Him into eternal life. You may still be here on earth, but Jesus is making sure that there is no doubt that you are a sheep of His flock. Ron Graham writes: “The main idea is that only the shepherd has a full commitment to the sheep, and consequently has their full trust. The good shepherd will even lay down his life for the sheep, so much does he care about them.”[1] Jesus says in: “ESV John 10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,” We grow in our trust and faith of Jesus and each other by knowing Him better. We are all His sheep, we need to know that the shepherd and the sheep can all be trusted. Certainly we can trust those who show us they are in Jesus. Those who know the Shepherd are going to know the sheep in the shepherd. Those are the sheep that are in the “fold”, the enclosed space of His love and protection. Being in that sheepfold doesn’t guarantee that we won’t be dinged on occasion, we certainly will, maybe even more than those who do not know Jesus. But it’s not how many of us, but who of us truly know the shepherd.

It’s pointed out that Jesus isn’t really answering the question. Well ya, why? It’s kind of the wrong question, isn’t it? Why would you or I really be concerned about how many are saved? I can be faithful in my witness, keep pushing back on people who want to push wrongheaded opinions on me, I can keep everyone I know who is not in Jesus in prayer, there are people I’ve been keeping in prayer for years that they would come to know Christ. I want those people to be saved, to be with them in the eternal resurrection. Wouldn’t I want to be around the people I was so close to in life, be with them in the eternal resurrection? But we all know that what you or I want is not the determinant factor. Jesus knows who is saved, does that mean that one of those people can’t reject Jesus and His salvation? Sure! Jesus gave them the opportunity to condemn themselves. Some call that “free-will”. It’s not, it’s self-condemnation, you can commit physical and /or spiritual suicide, but that’s not a “choice”, that is eternal condemnation. It’s certainly not a rational “choice”.

Cyril of Alexander writes: “To enter the narrow gate requires a steadfast faith and a spotless morality. The wide door is reserved for those who ignore the law and demonstrate this by their sinful behavior.” How many have a “spotless morality”, if you’re in Jesus you do. For those who basically have the “antinomian” attitude, I can thumb my nose at Jesus, the Law doesn’t really matter, do what I want because Jesus loves me and forgives me!? “SV John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” I don’t understand how someone can claim to be saved, decide they’re going to stay out of the sheepfold in their life, and basically tell Jesus when I’m ready I will get it together and be in the sheepfold. At what point does Jesus decide: “you don’t love me because you don’t obey me”, “I can’t trust you as part of my flock because you reject being part of the flock”, …

The epistle lesson in Hebrews: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Heb 12:4) Sound a little harsh, not what you expected? Do you usually discipline the neighbor’s children, scold the child screaming on the airplane or the mall? They’re not yours, it’s not up to you to scold them. If it’s your child? Yeah you do. That’s a good thing, if that’s true and we know we’re getting scolded or disciplined by God, what does that mean? We are God’s, we are His sheep, we are disciplined in our salvation, we are Christ’s in our fruits and we are given access through the narrow gate. The rest of the passage might seem “harsh”, but Jesus is saying, you can’t run your own game over and over disregarding Jesus and then expect to knock at the door and expect the owner of the house to rush down and throw that door open to you. You don’t know His voice, Jesus said strive to enter the narrow way. But in your life what have you done? Gone down the main boulevard with everyone else who is much more interested in their own agenda then salvation in Jesus and then later on show up at the door, go to the protection of the sheepfold and expect the door thrown wide open to you? Just doesn’t make sense. You expect sense and understanding from God and then treat him senselessly and expect him to then act senselessly and rush down to open the door for you? God’s not stupid, He’s not going to play the game. He gives us an immense amount of mercy and grace, but that doesn’t mean He gives license, He’s not an enabler and it’s certainly not your “striving to enter the narrow door.” You want the wide door and the world’s agenda and to ignore Jesus. To think the wide way is supposed to lead to the protection of eternal life in Jesus completely ignores what Jesus has told us right here. The wide way, wide gate Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14; “…wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it.” You have to get into that sheepfold over Jesus’ Body or over one of the walls. Is Jesus laying at that entrance for no reason, just to welcome you despite that He says that few are allowed through that door? Spending a life ignoring His laws, His voice, and then expect to stand outside that door knocking and receive an open arms welcome? What does Jesus say: “…I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…” Jesus’ words not mine. Not a place you want to end up in, we want the safety and comfort of the sheep pen, but we have to make sure we’re permitted in the narrow gate at the leading of our Lord. Do some journaling this week and write about what that “narrow way” is, who do we know not interested in the narrow way?

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

[1] https://www.simplybible.com/f882-shepherd-sheepfold-parables.htm

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The World chooses to divide against Christ Luke 12: 48-53 August 18, 2019 Trinity Lutheran Church, Chestertown, Md.

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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 known strife and division said … AMEN!

I’ve seen lots of pastors have a real problem with this passage, that it doesn’t fit their concept of Jesus. Their perception of Jesus wrong, it’s presumptuous, just not scriptural but that’s what people want. They want gentle Jesus with the little children, heal some people, make some gratuitous remarks and then go away so that we can live real life. We’ve done our duty, we sit and endure a sermon, some readings, Jesus is the little baby Jesus, nice and harmless and really doesn’t require anything of anyone, let’s just make nice, feel we’ve had a little bit of God and now let us move on to the stuff we want to do and keep us from all the judging stuff. After all I’m a good person, I deserve all the good stuff. Like Sally in a Peanut’s Christmas, “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.” If I were you, I would not be making that demand to God, you may think that it’s what you expect in this world, but expecting what you think is your “fair share” from God? How do you think that is going to work out? I always find it funny when I hear a Christian, I heard this from Roman Catholic clergy a lot in the social justice movement, we expect justice from God!  How do you think that is going to work out? Do you really want justice, or what we do get, grace? I’m very good with grace, please give me grace. God’s justice; Father, Son and Holy Spirit is as we see in this reading. The silly perception of sweet, humble, peace loving is just not realistic. We see His quotes in this passage. We see how He went up against the Jewish leaders. He had no compunction holding people responsible for their sins, certainly forgiving those seeking repentance. We’re not entitled to “forgiveness”, we certainly don’t want what we have coming to us, we wouldn’t like it. So likewise with today’s Gospel. Jesus is serious, He’s not some kind of supernatural Santa Claus dispensing what you want, when you want, good, bad, sinful, that’s not Jesus and you just can’t gloss over this passage. How do we see Jesus in Scripture? Certainly in this passage: “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!” So Jesus’ is causing all this division? You’ve heard of the golden rule? He who has the gold makes the rules? Jesus makes the rules, the people who defy Him are causing the division. How is Jesus portrayed in the Book of Revelation? “One of the concluding visions of the Apocalypse pictures the victorious “King of kings, and Lord of Lords.” He is riding triumphantly on a white horse—a symbol of conquest (19:11-16). He is faithful and true, consistent with his holy character, he will “judge” and “make war.” The judging discriminates between the godly and the ungodly; the war signifies the punishment to be inflicted upon the rebellious. His garment is red with the blood of his enemies (cf. Isaiah 63 from which the imagery is borrowed). Those who have served faithfully under his leadership likewise are on white horses and are clothed in white garments, signifying their purity and/or victory. By his word he smites the rebel nations and breaks them with his rod of iron (cf. Psalm 2:9). His enemies will feel the fierceness of his wrath and find no relief ever after (cf. 14:9-11).”[1]Through the Gospels we see Jesus taking on those He has a problem with; the merchants abusing His house, the Jewish leaders who abuse their positions. Those who sin gratuitously. Jesus is telling us in this passage, I wasn’t sent by the Father to be a simple bumpkin, I was sent to take on a very evil world. It’s not Jesus who is causing the division. First off that’s just oxymoronic. How can the person who through all creation came into existence, cause division? He created everything, He makes the rules. If someone choses to ignore the all-powerful Creator of all and make rules and creation in his own image, contrary to Jesus’ image. The culture scoffs at the idea of worshipping idols, when they’ve made themselves an idol, that they believe all creation is made into their image. Those are the ones causing division. Jesus is coming with a sword in order to restore creation, for people to turn back to Him, the one who makes the rules, the one who saves us to eternal life, the One who is to be worshipped, not ourselves. You create division any time you think, despite what Scripture says, that the “fair” thing is for things to be your way, in your image. If you’re breaking the commandments, violating the law that God established, you are the one causing division, and that is called sin! Jesus confronted and defeated Satan after 40 days in the desert and then proceeded in a number of situations. Jesus is about overcoming evil, the ultimate spiritual warrior. He repeatedly confronted demons in Scripture, yes He loves the little children, but there’s one pericope about children, there’s numerous ones in particular today’s reading and most of the Book of Revelation. This is what Jesus is about and not some wimpy, vacillating milquetoast. People should think about when they decide to put themselves on the altar as their idol to worship. Jesus does not tolerate those who simply dismiss Him and conduct their life in defiance of His will and laws. When you really consider all the evil of the world, when we portray Jesus as this kind of nice fella, wonderful with children, I can see why people don’t take Him very seriously. That’s our fault trying to “sell” Jesus as the gentle, benevolent nice guy. Jesus is the ultimate warrior! Sounds like a good wrassling name, doesn’t it? He is! The evil of the world is kept in bounds because of what Jesus does for us. I’ve heard commentators suggest how insufferably evil the world would be without the Holy Spirit keeping it in bounds and He will be withdrawn as the Book of Revelation tells us. Jesus’ angels are with us, it is Jesus who commands the arch-angel Michael the commander of the heavenly host who drove Satan out of heaven. It is Jesus who will be the ultimate warrior as we see in Revelation who will destroy the world. The upside for us who are in Jesus is that He will then restore the world. Not the world tainted by our sin and evil. The world likes to make it about those who are in Jesus who are the ones causing all the strife: if you would just leave people alone and let them do what they want all will be well !!!! Yea that’s why we’re having these ridiculous scenes police officers in New York being doused with water while making an arrest, being hooted and pelted in Philadelphia by a mob, the scenes we’re seeing played out in Baltimore. Should have just let those people alone. There are innocent people in those neighborhoods who have to live there, don’t want to be subjected to the violence and the threat of attacks on their person. Letting people alone is not the answer, that is what is called division. God will judge those who divide and cause the strife in the world and that is what Jesus is talking about in this passage. It is those who do what is contrary to God’s will who cause division. Wes McAdams is on spot when he writes in Radically Christian: “the sin Jesus and the apostles addressed the most might have been division. In fact, did you know the word “heresy” comes from the Greek word that means “sect”? Literally, a “heretic” (Titus 3:10, KJV) is a person who divides from others and forms a sect around his or her opinions. This kind of sectarianism is expressly condemned and I believe every single one of us need to heed the warnings of Scripture. The book of James sheds a lot of light on what causes divisions. And the simple answer is, a lack of wisdom from above. James says, “Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere” (James 3:17). When we are not being peaceable, gentle, and open to reason, it is obvious we are lacking the kind of wisdom James is commending here. He goes on to say our conflicts are caused by our passions which are at war within us (James 4:1). We want and we do not have, which causes us to fight, bicker and quarrel with one another. What we really need, James says, is to humble ourselves (James 4:6-10). Wouldn’t a good dose of humility and some spiritual wisdom (that is peaceable, gentle, open to reason, etc.) go a long way in preventing religious division? If Christians – on both sides of division – would stop pushing their own agendas and humbly stick with what Scripture actually says, there would seldom be division. James also says we need to not speak evil against our brethren or judge them (James 4:11-12). So what does that mean?”[2] This is spot on. Our wants, our opinions, our passions, those are the things that cause division, they put us on the altar, we are our idol. It is all about what we want and obviously that divides us from God.

Journal about what are the idols that you are obeying, worshipping that are dividing you from God. What divisions are you causing because of your opinion, in what you do to deliberately misunderstand Scripture to twist it to your desires? This is what causes divisions. We want God to be the great benevolent enabler because our sins are OK, and they’re not. They separate us from God. Jesus causes division when He comes with the sword, from those who battle against God. It’s going to be His way, no matter how far in denial we are. So we can continue to live in this idea that it’s everyone else’s fault and I should just have my own way. Then we’re shocked when people in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore attack for no reason, just for a hoot and we know the only way it will get better is when we start getting serious about God and are bringing Him into the world.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

 

[1] https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1484-jesus-christ-in-the-book-of-revelation

[2] https://radicallychristian.com/the-sin-of-division

Faith Hall of Fame Hebrews 11 August 11, 2019 Trinity Lutheran Church Chestertown, Md

[for the audio of this sermon click on the above 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 blessed with faith in Christ said … AMEN!

Today’s readings are certainly interwove. The Gospel reading, follows on last week’s reading of the man who had plenty. He had neither fear nor faith, he didn’t have to, he’s rich. He was an American because we know wealth solves our problems, that is if you ignore the recent spate of celebrities and millionaires who have committed suicide. I’m sure they would say something different, now that they have to explain themselves to their Creator, the one who made them and gave them life. How would I explain to God how, while He has given me so much and there may not be millionaires here, but we are all blessed with so much. I wouldn’t want to explain to God my lack of faith, after all He’s blessed me greatly.

Going through serious personal trauma for the last few weeks, I am getting a powerful lesson in dealing with anxiety. I wish I could say that I’ve been doing just smurfy. That would not be true, maintaining faith under difficult circumstances has been very difficult. It is instructive when I was in Marge’s room at the Neuro Critical Care facility at the U M Medical Center in Baltimore, I did know one thing. No matter what, the Holy Spirit was closer to me than anything I could imagine. He knew more about me than I did through this time of trial. With Margie mostly unconscious, being in a city I had only been in three other times, I certainly felt alone, isolated, fearful. When concepts like Sola Fide are drilled in your head, in the depths of fear and uncertainty, God reaches through the Lord’s Prayer, Apostle’s Creed, the sermons, the discussions, the teaching, through these God spoke to me in that dark room, where the uncertainty of Marge’s situation hung over my head. Dr Luther writes: “Faith makes God real to us and real in us. Without faith, God’s honor, glory, wisdom, righteousness, truth and mercy cannot be within us. Where there’s no faith, God has no majesty and divinity… When we honor God, his divinity remains complete and intact – he has everything that a believing heart can give him. When we honor God in this way, we are showing the greatest wisdom, the highest justice, and the best worship, while offering the most pleasing sacrifice.”[1]

After Jesus relates the parable of the Rich Fool, ESV Luke 12:22 “And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.” There is nothing wrong doing your best and earning money. If you are successful good for you! Too often those who put their faith in what they earned, that it’s all about what they store in the barn and silo, and “…who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21) There is a lot of people who have plenty and found it did not satisfy. We regular folks, have anxiety, stress, worry, about those things, Jesus tells us there’s not much point. In fact, the guy who thought he had it all found at the end of the day, he would be in the presence of the Lord. His full barns, silos and smug attitude won’t help when you’re in the presence of the Lord.

The contrast then in our readings is between the self-righteousness arrogance of the farmer, to the “Faith Hall of Fame” described in the Book of Hebrews. The Book of Hebrews is interesting in itself. Dr Luther describes it as “… a marvelously fine epistle… who wrote it is not known and probably not be known for a while [500 years ago Luther wrote this, it’s been “awhile”] it makes no difference… he discloses a firm grasp of the reading of the Scriptures and the proper way of dealing with them…” It is telling in the fact that that writer knew the Old Testament, even things we really don’t accept as canon/Scripture. It’s not to say we don’t consider these books as acceptable history or relating of some truths at the times they were written. They are just not considered to be inspired by God. There are a number of “apocryphal” books that were considered for the New Testament, one in fact was Hebrews. Big problem on Hebrews is, as I quoted Luther, we don’t know who wrote this book. There is some interesting suggestions. Tertullian quoted from an epistle to the Hebrews under the name of Barnabas.”[2] I favor that, Barnabas was a really great disciple, it would be very appropriate if we had writing from his hand. “Tertullian goes on to write: “The author, furthermore, calls his document ‘my word of exhortation’ (13:22) and Barnabas means “son of encouragement/exhortation (Acts 4:36)…”[3] Luther nominated Apollos mentioned in Acts 18:24, Paul and others have been nominated, maybe in 500 more years the name of the author will be discovered.

Chapter 11 of Hebrews starts: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (vv 1,2). From there the author describes those in the Old Testament, notable for their faith. Abel, Enoch appears in Genesis, he’s only described in Genesis as who was his father and who he was the father of, that he walked with God, meaning he was faithful and that he was taken. The author of Hebrews interprets that to mean: “ESV Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him.” In particular he describes Abraham. Rev Dr Carl Fickencher on Issue’s Etc said: God created this faith in Abraham to believe God’s Word and according to Paul the Lord counted this to Abram as righteousness, believing that God honor’s His promises, that God cares for us, is the way we receive the righteousness of God Himself. This opened the way to the Reformation when Martin Luther understood God accounted His righteousness to us, when we believe it was given to us in Christ, that opened the door for Luther to change the world, it opened his heart to see that heaven was opened before him, rather than for him to trust in his own works, his own laboring, his own hope which we know will always be fruitless.”[4] If we picked the leading example of faith in the Old Testament it would be Abraham. Most of us know what it’s like to pick up and move from a familiar place to the unfamiliar, I’m still learning my around this area. Abraham picks up from a place he had grown old in, to a place completely foreign to him in Canaan, the promised land of the Old Testament. Abraham is called to wait into extreme old age for the son God had been promising him. When that child came, when he was about twenty years old, God called him to sacrifice that son. The Hebrews author writes: “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from the dead.” (v 19) C.F.W. Walther writes: “Before the world, faith appears to be so humble, but before God, it is the most precious thing one can offer. Through faith, man begins to fulfill the first and highest commandment to make God his God and to trust in Him above all things. … ‘Without faith it is impossible to please him.’”[5] Whether in that hospital room an unfamiliar place, not as unfamiliar as Abraham in Canaan, but still imposing, praying to God that He heal and restore Marge praying over her all night. It is in faith that we trust what Christ did for us. God gives us the faith we need in order to not just function through the trials of our life. He gives us the faith we need that 2,000 years ago a man hung on a rude, rough cross in that same Canaan Abraham had been led to 3,000 years earlier. That Jesus died in order, by faith, to save us to eternal life in the resurrection. God gives us that faith. He does not expect us to have the faith necessary to move through life on our own. He knows we depend on Him for everything as Jesus tells us in the Gospel lesson. Certainly clothes, food and also the faith to trust, the same way Abraham, Abel, Noah, Enoch, all those who lived in faith in God and all pointing to Jesus. Dr Luther writes: “…faith is a power that comes from God. When God gives faith, the individual is born again and becomes a new creature.” Take some time to really think about those times that you simply had to turn over to God the trials we experience. How did God lead you, how did you cope waiting on Him? There is one Hall of Fame we can qualify for, the Faith Hall of Fame through Christ.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

[1] Martin Luther quoted in “Martin Luther Through Faith Alone” September 26

[2] Concordia Self-Study Bible p 1873

[3] Ibid

 

[4] Dr Carl Fickencher on Issue’s Etc with Todd Wilkins Aug 9, 2019

[5] Translated by Gerhard Grabenhofer “God Grant It” Daily Devotions from C.F.W. Waltheh

Thanksgiving vs vanities Psalm 100 Aug 4, 2019

[for the audio of this sermon click on the above 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 give thanks said … AMEN!

God certainly is in the Old Testament but it seems that for the most part He left the Old Testament for us to understand who we are, get snapshots of ourselves. Sometimes those snapshots are good, positive, uplifting. Today’s Psalm is very uplifting and positive. The Psalms have been categorized into different “types”, there are 37 psalms that are considered to be “praise and thanksgiving”. Martin Luther writes: “the 100th psalm is a prophecy of Christ. It calls on the entire world to be joyful to praise and to give thanks, that is, to worship God and come to His throne and His courts, and to call on Him with all confidence. His grace is an eternal kingdom, which truly remains forever and ever.”[1] Luther is right, what is more deserving of praise in knowing that He is coming, that He is coming again and from Him we have the promise of eternal life in Jesus in the resurrection.

Psalm 100 is not attributed to a writer, it could be the writer of our Old Testament passage, King Solomon. Doubtful. Solomon in his other writings does not seem to be the yippy-skippy type. The readings certainly contrast each other. There are passages from the Old Testament that speak of great nobility, but there are plenty of places that lack nobility. Our Bible is the only “holy book” that is not reluctant to describe the dark side of the people in the Bible. While Solomon was brilliant, things did not end up well for him.

The Queen of Sheba, of Solomon’s time, was incredibly wealthy and accomplished in her own right. ESV 1 Kings 10:2 She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones. And when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. 3 And Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her… 5 the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the LORD, there was no more breath in her.” Solomon’s splendor had to have been staggering in order to wow someone like the Queen of Sheba. Under Solomon Israel was at its pinnacle. The temple he built was brilliant, encased in so much gold. It’s said there was so much gold in Israel that no one even bothered with silver, it was considered too common.

Solomon talks about “vanity” in Ecclesiastes. Vanity to us often denotes “wow look at me, aren’t I all that and a bag of chips! But it also means that no matter what we do, all we do, the world is usually going to pass us by, just ain’t no thing! I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of cleaning out the garage, basement, attic/ all of the above, of an elderly relative. Everything they did in life, collected, all that they had hoped and planned. To those of us who were doing the hauling most of it had little meaning. We owned our home in Massachusetts for twenty years, our children were raised there. From 1985-2005, what I accumulated there, eventually had to be packed and moved; it could be seen as vanity to keep much of that stuff, and also that I kept it in vain, to what end? My wife often asked me that. While we indulge our vanities and so much is in vain our Psalm reading tells us about giving praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.

Recent studies have shown that even into old age our brains are very plastic, that we really have a choice in letting our brains settle and harden into a rigid plasticity of the same old, same old. Too many people become bitter and complacent: I’m too old to learn, I’m too old to change, yada, yada. This is just not true, but in our “hey let’s find an excuse so we don’t have to push ourselves” world, it works for most people. So when we enter this hum-drum, gray existence where nothing ever changes, which is how Ecclesiastes reads, our brain gets wired that way. Nothing new, nothing to be thankful for, just grouchy, grumbly misery, which is rather stunning for us who are the most blessed of those living in the world today and in history! Yet what do we mostly see and often among Christians. There was a cartoon character when my children were children, Gulliver’s Travels” every episode was always: “Gulliver, we’ll never make it, we’re all doomed.” In spite of having everything we could begin to imagine, that might as well be the creed of Americans today.

There is thanksgiving in all that we do. We may have the vanity in our life, the things that we left behind, but I have no doubt that each of you has had times and places where we did make a difference. Where we did serve with strength, honor, conviction of what we knew would serve Christ and His Church. We honor Christ in what we are thankful for by keeping those times, those people in our heart. But we also need to move on from those things, there is no such thing as settling on your laurels in the church of Christ. I know how much of a nice, warm, cocoon we have in our memories, and those memories aren’t in vain, they were delightful times that God has given us. In those times we often forget about the struggle to achieve what God gave us to realize, that we need to persevere, the uncertainty, tragedy. We might let it interfere with the plans Jesus has for us now. We get caught up in the way things were, we tend to ignore the great things going on around us now and don’t do those things that the Holy Spirit is moving us to. In that sense our past becomes vanity and keeps us from moving into the future God has for us. The parable Jesus tells compares our vanity to our lack of thanksgiving. The farmer is patting himself on the back, how deserving he is of all his crop. Food was much more valuable then, people often went without, this guy knows he’s in for a big payday. We see tremendous vanity and complete lack of thanksgiving. He knows Psalm 100; “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name!” He’s in his counting house like Ebenezer Scrooge, or Scrooge McDuck, rubbing his hands “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink and be merry.” We’ve had those times cashing in. We didn’t enter God’s grace with thanksgiving and praise, too often we’re worried what tax bracket it’s going to put us in.

Ron Wessel has given me a great education in agriculture and I’ve heard this from him and other farmers: with crops and livestock you have to put in the work, but God gives the blessing and the return on our labor. While the farmer in the parable is patting himself on the shoulder, God steps in and I don’t think to punish this guy but he had reached the end God had planned, God lets him know; okay superstar! You think it’s all about you? You could work harder and longer and it wouldn’t make a difference, it would be in vain. Talk about vanity, in vain, you’re at the end tough guy, you’re not going to get to do any of those things you had planned. You could have given thanks, go to the temple to share some of what you have, take time in prayer. But instead of making it about me and all that I did for you, you made it about yourself and that never ends up well for you.

In Jesus we don’t get into the petty fussing and nonsense we see with the two brothers in the Gospel reading. We don’t let the monetary issues, the things that we might have received, but didn’t. We remember who it is that has given us the hope and promise of the eternal. That Jesus has put us back in relationship with God. God is completely holy, pure, just, who loves us greatly, but in His justice, He will not abide sin and evil. God the Father gave us His Son to reconcile us, to be the price for our sinful acts to make us perfect and save us from God’s justice. Jesus takes us and delivers us to His eternal hope and promise, the eternal life of the resurrection in Him. For that and so much that He’s given us we should be constantly entering His gates and going to His courts in Thanksgiving! Dr Luther writes: “…we’re showered with blessings every day and we’re always using what God gives us…we accept his gifts as if they simply appeared out of nowhere or as if we had earned them through our own efforts, diligence or wisdom. We think that God somehow owes us these things, and therefore we don’t need to thank him…”[2]

We can continue to live in vanity, take the joy out of a joyful life God has given us and intended for us, we should be doing all we can to enter His gates and go to His courts in Thanksgiving.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

[1] Reading the Psalms with Luther p 235

[2] Edited by James Glavin 365 devotional readings from Martin Luther  Through faith Alone  April 27