Category Archives: Christian Ministry

The World chooses to divide against Christ Luke 12: 48-53 August 18, 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 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

Ascends as Lord of all creation Acts 1 Trinity Lutheran Church,

[click on the above icon 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 know Jesus’ sits at the right hand of all power and all glory said… AMEN !

We use the “Common Lectionary”, when people come up to do the readings, they traditionally read out of the service book, that has the daily readings assuring that we observe the important, formative, enlightening events of the Bible. It usually guides our worship. Sometimes the pastor has a good reason to deviate from Scripture, but usually we want to stick to the lectionary. This keeps the pastor focused. Too often in non-liturgical worship, preaching and teaching is more about the preacher’s hobby-horse versus, trying to teach the entire Bible. The entire Bible is important, we need, at the very least to be familiar with the various parts and be able to describe different parts of the Bible and what is going on in those parts. The entire Bible points to Jesus being active before His incarnation, the events Jesus lived through in the incarnation. When we understand that, we have an even deeper appreciation of the entire Bible. People will often tell me how “boring” the Book of Such and Such is. Yet that Book, all of Scripture describes Jesus, God the Son who has lived eternally, John writes in his Gospel: “ESV John 1:3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” As much as the Father was through all eternity, so is the Son and the Holy Spirit. They may not have been revealed until the New Testament, but they very much existed, all eternal God. I’ve had people who claim to be Christian “pastors” say, I don’t preach on the Old Testament, it’s the Gospels and the epistles that really matter. Nothing could be more wrong, and someone who claims to be a pastor, and believes that, is not a qualified Christian pastor. All this is to say that the lectionary keeps us all honest, on track, having a thorough understanding of Jesus, and all of Scripture as possible. While Ascension Day may seem anticlimactic, OK, He rises up into the air and disappears, time to move on… Daniel Marrs writes: “I wonder if our tendency to let Ascension Day slip past uncelebrated has more to do with the simple fact that it feels anticlimactic? The Christmas story tells us that God purposed to be with us, joining himself to human nature and walking among us as a man. And we know how Jesus’ life culminated with the world-shaking significance of the cross and the resurrection. But then he just…leaves. Why? And what does it mean for us?[1]

Jesus is not unique in being bodily taken to heaven, Elijah was lifted up into heaven in front of his student Elisha. ESV 2 Kings 2:11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” It does seem that God’s intention for Elijah that he would be the one who would announce the Messiah’s return. We know he was with Jesus at the Transfiguration. Moses was also, some people believe Moses was also bodily ascended into heaven. Elijah and Moses are thought to be the two witnesses in Revelation 11: 3-12, because they were bodily raised to heaven for these purposes. While Dr Luther stipulated that the Bible did not say anything about the bodily assumption of Mary, he didn’t deny the possibility either. Lutherans have rejected that view, I’m not trying to convince you of it, but just that Mary is included in the list. Isaiah may be also, he was brought into the presence of Yahweh, but the intention was not to keep him there, same for St Paul.

While it might make an interesting discussion, how many angels dancing on the head of a pin, kind of discussion, we know this for sure. Elijah and Enoch may have been raised up to somewhere by God in heaven, and Paul says that he was raised to what he called the 3rd heaven, Jesus was raised to the right hand of God. In His Ascension into heaven, Jesus became the entirety of the universe. Elijah, Enoch, Paul, Mary(?) if God did raise them bodily into some level or part of heaven, Jesus was raised to the right hand of God. Being at the right hand of any ruler was always understood as the person being at the right hand had the power and authority of the ruler. Peter Mikhalev offers this pointed quote: “St. John Chrysostom: “Elijah ascended as if into Heaven, because he was a slave, but Christ ascended into Heaven itself, because He was the Lord.”[4][2] This is generally to be understood as the man who carries out the will of the ruler. Enoch, Elijah, Mary (?) may have bodily ascended to heaven, but to be sure no where near the right hand where as we profess in the Apostle’s Creed: “seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.” By virtue of this position of power Jesus is He whose rule is in complete glory: John Calvin writes: “Christ was invested with lordship over heaven and earth, and solemnly entered into possession of the government committed to him — and that he not only entered into possession once for all, but continues in it, until he shall come down on Judgment Day” [3](Institutes 2.16.15). Mikhalev quotes St Gregory: “…by His own Divine power the Creator ascended into Heaven, because He was returning to there from whence He descended. He entered there where He had habitation from the ages: for, although He ascended as man, as God He possessed both Heaven and Earth.”[14][4]

R C Sproul writes “God’s right hand is the place of “highest favor with God the Father” (WLC, Q&A 54), and the phrase is used throughout Scripture to indicate His power and sovereignty (Ex. 15:6Isa. 48:13).  This means that He is ruler over all and that the kings of the earth rule only according to His sovereign permission. As such, Christ alone is worthy of our highest allegiance, and it is to Him that we must render obedience, even if it means, at times, defying the rulers of this world. Jesus’ kingdom alone is eternal, and His rule is above all others.”[5]

That Jesus raised Himself to heaven, to the ultimate glory of His ruling over all of Creation eternally, also is another demonstration of His Lordship overall creation. Arator writes: “…let us commend the manner of his rule though the powers that are subject to him: born of a virgin mother, rising again by treading upon death, seeking the scepter of heaven He announces such deeds by these angelic servants. Nor do the elements cease to serve their thunderer. In his honor as he is coming, a star does service as a soldier going before the magi. A cloud waits upon him in obedience as he goes.”[6] As He is about to be lifted up, unbeknownst to the disicples, He gives them the great commission, we quote Matthew 28 more often, but Acts starts this way, reminding us we are His disciples, His witnesses to the end of the earth, everywhere. As He says that He is lifted up, the disciples stand there [wide eyed] The angel sitting there had to be amused what you guys doing? He’s told you what to do and He will return in the same way. In the meantime it’s time to turn to for Jesus.” They certainly did in the power of the Holy Spirit whose intentional introduction will be made at Pentecost that we will observe next Sunday.

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.biblegateway.com/blog/2019/05/its-ascension-day-heres-what-it-means-for-you/?utm_source=bg&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weeklybrief&spMailingID=59440308&spUserID=MjgzMzMxOTk1NTAS1&spJobID=1644181925&spReportId=MTY0NDE4MTkyNQS2

[2] Did Enoch and Elijah ascend into heaven? Deacon Peter Mikhalev

[3] R C Sproul quoting John Calvin https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/seated-at-gods-right-hand/

[4] Op Cit

[5] Seated at God’s Right Hand   RC Sproul

[6] Arator quoted in Ancient Commentary on Scripture NT 4 p 10

We are a kingdom and priests Revelation 1:6 Trinity Lutheran Church April 28, 2019

[click on the icon 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 and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know that they are priests in the Royal Priesthood of believers said … AMEN!

I am not about the mystical issues surrounding the Book of Revelation, I had the opportunity to hear lectures from one of the foremost authorities on the Book of Revelation, Dr Brighton who was brilliant, fascinating to listen to, also tell stories about living in sub-zero temperatures in Saskatchewan where he grew up. Dr Brighton starts his commentary where Jesus started His revelation with the Greek word Apoka,luyij which means a revelation, a disclosure. What English word comes to mind? Apocalypse… Which has come to us to mean end times, what will happen in the end times. This is what Jesus is revealing to John in his vision of what John discloses to us of end times, what we call the apocalypse. Dr Brighton writes: “…the revelation comes from Jesus and it is a revelation about Jesus Christ. Through everything that Jesus Christ reveals, he reveals (that is, unveils) his exalted glory and dominion … the unveiling of Jesus Christ in his glory at the End…” God had always intended His people to be a chosen people, a Kingdom of priests. ESV Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” Israel has always been? …Jesus! The Church is the Body of Christ, that means that those in the Church, the Body of Christ are Israel and Jesus is making it clear in the reading His revelation is for His people, His priests and we are responsible for proclaiming Christ and His revelation.  In October, I preached on Jesus being the “Great High Priest”, Hebrews 4:15. If Jesus is our “Great High Priest” He must have junior “priests”. All in Jesus are “priests”, you and I equally priests before the Father. Jesus is our great High Priest, intercedes for His people, equally before God. We have people in authority over us in the church. We trust those people to “minister” to us according to church doctrine, and Christ’s Word in Scripture. In their vocation they are trained and ordained in order to properly serve Jesus’ church. We want people like that, we need people who are properly and sufficiently trained in Scripture and in the church to properly serve Christ’s people in His Church. There is a lot of nonsense out there by people who either don’t have a clue, really don’t care, have made it up to what they think makes people happy and hang a shingle saying they’re preachers. In York, I had a lot of people who were never around unless something serious happens, then there they are expecting I’m supposed to turn and burn for them. They knew I was well trained, that what I said was true Gospel, and when they needed authenticity they came to me. Otherwise, they preferred the church that told them what they wanted to hear, made them “happy” and convinced them everything was hunk-dory with Jesus. They had no intention at all to serve, certainly not as a priest, it was what they wanted, when they wanted it. One of the highest accolades I received was in my time in the York Police Dept as a chaplain. There were usually 9 serving as chaplains and we rotated duty, on 24 hour call. Both the police lieutenant and chief of chaplains said they had such confidence in me and my training and experience they would sometimes call me, even though I wasn’t on call, to come and minister. They knew I had the best training. I was called for a homicide on Good Friday, number of suicides, one involving a police officer in a town outside York, a number of overdose deaths. As a “minister”, qualified and responsible for teaching, preaching, administering the sacraments to serve you to the best in order for you, as priests, to grow in Christ and serve those around you as priests in Jesus.

The difference between a priest and minister a Roman priest, Greek Orthodox priest. You come to a priest, in confession, you tell the priest your issues. He takes those “issues”, raises them up to God on your behalf, asks God to forgive you in Jesus, God forgives you. He also tells you what “penance” you are to perform in to show true contrition, pay for your sin in some sense. This was one of Dr Luther’s major beefs with the Roman Church. Do I need someone to mediate for me before Jesus? No. We are all priests, we should all go before the Father for forgiveness. We are told, Matthew 5:24, before we go to the communion rail we should leave our gift, reconcile our issues, come back and offer your gift. We understand that to mean that you come before a minister, in confession and work out some of your sin issues. It is helpful to sit with someone be accountable to in Jesus. Either way, you’re the one, as a priest, who has to reconcile your issues before God the Father. I help you do that, as a doctor would help you deal with a physical issue, but in both cases, you have to do the consultation, “confession and absolution” in this case, and have to perform the treatments. All to your spiritual health as a “priest of Christ”, as being a part of the priesthood of believers. Dr Luther writes: “All this …proves that those who serve people with Word and the Sacraments may and must not be called priests. That they were called priest stems either from the custom of the heathen or was drawn from vestiges of the Jewish people and adopted to the great harm of the church. According to the evangelical writings, they should more correctly be called ministers, deacons, bishops and stewards…” I am an ordained minister and by virtue of that bishop of this church. We don’t normally refer to a pastor as “bishop”, we do have people in higher authority usually referred to as bishop. We are all priests, my priesthood consists of serving the congregation in a way that is to build you up, support you in Jesus. In your vocation you are called to be a “priest” to those around you. They won’t know you are, but the Holy Spirit will. Often you are the only Jesus people will ever see. How are you representing Jesus in your vocation, being His priest? Many people think that the pastor is supposed to be the “church evangelist”. American culture with its bizarre idea that people in the parish are there to take in, be entertained, maybe leave with one good thought of the day and bang, out into the real world. Based on my experience, ministry, done properly is as real as it gets. Second, my primary job, as Paul writes to the Ephesians, 4: 11-12 is to “equip the saints”, that would be you fellow saint and priest. Give you grounding and support to reach those around you, most I will never meet or know. Isn’t the Holy Spirit using you, in your vocation where you work, as Jesus’ priest to reach that person who might otherwise be lost?

We are a Royal Priesthood. In our life in Jesus, He serves us, saves us, mediates before the Father for us, constantly in prayer for us. Jesus is the One who will pull you across to complete the race, to be with Him in the eternal Resurrection, where we will live our life and life more abundant. In our life on earth, we are His junior priests and responsible for serving Him and others as His priests. Take some time this week, pull out a notebook, start a journal of your life in Jesus. How are you serving Him, His church and each other as His “priests” as a member of the Royal Priesthood of believers in Jesus?  ESV 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

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

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

Resurrection

We Christians talk about heaven as if that’s the ultimate goals. Many non-Christians, certainly the “nones”, use that as their cop out, because wow is that generation, ah heck the whole culture today, all about excuses. Doesn’t matter, what happens, happens, I’m entitled anyway, it’s all about me, yada-yada!

Well no, sorry, but your ticket is punched for hell. What you thought was reality, i.e. it’s all about me, well you will find out that it’s not true and that is tragically and eternally.

On to the actual, ultimate reality. It’s not heaven. Many will never be in heaven. They are saved, but if Jesus returns tomorrow, and you and I are around, we will never be in heaven, we go right to the eternal resurrection. For the non-Christian reading this, sorry, doesn’t apply to you, you will be eternally condemned in hell and that’s just the way it is. I sincerely do hope that the Holy Spirit uses this to save the reader who is not a Christian, but as a Christian minister, I’m required to live in the actual real world, and the ultimate reality in that world for me is the resurrection. For the non- believer, the ultimate reality is eternal condemnation and torment in hell.

Kind of separate, but interesting how our Christian holidays have become more about who we are in Jesus. The world is all about Christmas because it’s me-me-me, all about me, and that’s what the world is about. As Christians we know the deeper meaning and can still celebrate and observe Christmas in a genuine way. For genuine Christians (by that I don’t mean the people who call themselves that, because they grew up in that culture, went through the motions, but really have no clue, and live very much in the world. Too many of those people are in churches, don’t get it and don’t care. Like those in the world, they’re entitled, and well God has to come through for them.) Moving along, Easter is where it’s at if you are genuinely in Jesus. Easter Sunday and every Sunday we remember the resurrection, that is what being a Christian is all about. The new-perfect-eternal life in the new world. The world will look very familiar, but it will be perfect, no evil, no sin, no death, no illness, full of genuine life, of infinite potential. We will have the whole picture, understand completely what God did in creation, in history, in salvation and will understand that it was and is completely perfect and understandable. We will see what a truly evil, debased world the world around us was. We will see the spiritual warfare that went on around us, the constant attempts to undermine our relationship with Jesus and tear us away from Him to eternal  condemnation. The Holy Spirit and all the spiritual warriors all around us fought hard to keep us focused on Christ and fit for eternal salvation in the resurrection.

Certainly one way we resist in this spiritual warfare that is going on around us is through prayer. Continual prayer on our part keeps us connected to the spiritual, to God’s guidance to the beings around us that are protecting us. We are tuned into God’s direction, guidance, what He is doing in our life. Failing in prayer is to cut yourself off from God, to be tuned in only to the world and its direction. The world is condemned, and if that’s where you are tuned, you very much risk being condemned. Prayer doesn’t save you, that’s not the point. None of our works save us, we are only saved in what Jesus did and does for us. But if we are not connected to what God is doing in, for, through and around us through our prayer, we lose that connection, we eventually just buy into the constant blah-blah from everything around us in the world, decide that it’s the world’s message that’s most important and fade off into eternal separation from God.

The resurrection is the ultimate destination, the Holy Spirit guides us there, Jesus makes us fit to be there by His righteousness imputed to us and the Father assures us of that eternal life in the resurrected, perfect, eternal new world, New Jerusalem.

Millenials, long on fault finding, short on doing

I shared a post by a “millenial” who wrote, essentially, that the problem with the church was that it was too focused on being the church and wasn’t “serving”enough”. The research today says that “millenials” are motivated to “serve”. OK, they may believe that, but I see little evidence of it and what I see is not very well thought out and is more of a social event and well short of any effective service. Further, it seems as if society as a whole is convinced that the church is just another social service agency.

Well no it’s not.

It is the Body of Christ and is, at least supposed to be, supposed to teach about Christ, how we live the Christian life and how we grow as disciples. Yes, that certainly means to serve, but not to some end that is to self satisfaction, but in how the Holy Spirit moves the disciples of Christ to serve.

The writer had a problem with how too many churches do conduct their ministry more in terms of being a social club. I would agree and the church has been doing that for decades. It’s not so much the church, but telling people what they want to hear, pat them and send them back into the world as clueless as ever. The problem is that such a superficial generation takes every opportunity to deny reality, play the system and not assume any real responsibility, because everyone else should take on responsibility.

So I just wanted to post my comments about the church I’m the pastor of. Surprise, didn’t receive any response. I raised a bunch of questions that I really don’t think the superficial millenial mentality wants to deal with, because then, they’d actually have to do something:

thank you very much for the opportunity to answer you and this blog this is like throwing a dog raw meat. First I did not grow up in the church and yes I’m an old guy and yet I get stereotyped by the culture in general and get shut down without so much as a how do you do. First I have to laugh at the supposition that the church has millions of dollars. Oh I get the accusation but I assure you at least First Saint Johns is living hand to mouth. And yet unlike the critics we are standing on our ear to serve. However we are not a social service agency. We are here to give hope and promise of Jesus to a world with no hope and promise and getting worse. As a pastor of a downtown church I spend a large amount of my time trying to help people, millennials included, whose attitude is just gimme. We have a food bank, we have Grief Share, I’m a chaplain for the police department and have had to comfort people as the result of suicide, victims of crime, parents on the scene of a child who died of a heroin overdose. I am the chaplain at the Lutheran Mission Society that gives clothing to people. We started a community radio station at great time, expense and emotional expense. For a small group with limited resources we have done an enormous amount. We have started an afternoon meal program, a workout area and offer classes in martial arts. We started an employment support group. You know what the response has been from the community? Crickets! I’ve made a few efforts with the public schools and York College to get involvement at a great expense of time (frankly my wife thinks I should spend more time at home) and I assure you I’m a long way from making my first million. I’m sure I was making more in the business world hour to hour and actually had days off and vacation. We have been an open door for so much and again crickets. I’ve had to get up in the middle of the night to be with members and nonmembers undergoing duress. I’m sure the teacher writing this article never had to get up in the middle of the night for a math emergency. Oh I get it there are plenty of pretty suburban, happy clappy churches out there who are just about themselves but sad to say that’s pretty much the way of the society. I wish I had half the time off of a school teacher. I’ve averaged fifty hour weeks 52 weeks a year for seven years in ministry I am regularly exhausted and stressed at less pay then school teachers. Speaking of which we have begged the school dept here to give students the educational opportunity of the radio station that we spent a lot of money we don’t have. We are right across the street from William Penn HS. There’s been talk, but it’s easier for them to just say no. There’s a lot of people out there who love to wag their finger and just don’t know what they’re talking about and don’t care. I would love to have an open forum but I know what would happen. I’d spend a lot of time organizing and being there and no one would show up. I will do it since I’ve been challenged. I’ve been thinking about a “grill the pastor ” for First Friday but like the rest of our attempts no one will show. I was at church at 8:30 this morning went to about 1pm, went out at 4pm to support the Sheriffs canine program who have to raise money they don’t get any government funding, typing this message out at 10pm missing the All Star game and I’m on call for the police dept and what I get for all my trouble is why aren’t I doing more. I will compare my social service and DayTimer with any secular and Christian critic. Oh and we’re also setting up to be a Safe Space for the city and also have Spanish ministry and we’re doing it all on a shoestring budget. Maybe it’s time for the Millenials to put up. What I see from most of society is a lot of complaining and criticism, but very little in terms of action. Anyone who wants to come and talk I welcome the opportunity. But they need to listen too because I have a Masters Degree and extensive life experience. My experience with the culture is there is little background but don’t want to give and take but just want to lecture. I frankly believe they don’t want “give and take” because they have very little background and are used to getting their way, don’t want to give and have very little capacity for critical thinking. I felt this was important, missed most of the basketball game and need to get some sleep because I have an enormous amount to deal with on Monday my “day off”. But hey if someone tells me they will be at First Saint Johns to really talk tomorrow I will be there. And then go home to my wife who will be upset that I’m taking time away from her and not getting any rest. She cares about the stress and fatigue that ministry has been putting on me. Feel free to share this with anyone interested. God bless you and thank you for this opportunity.
…a big issue with church the pastor is supposed to do everything. I’ve been in corporate, operational in the military and ministry has just been a revelation very little support. The 80-20 principle. There are lay people who do provide physical support about 20 percent and the rest attitude is “it’s the pastor s job”. This is usually from people who work 9-5 5 days a week, have no concept of what it’s like to get a 2am phone call to go out in nasty weather to a bad situation for members and nonmembers. It’s the pastors job. People need to get real and lose the attitude and expect someone to come running to them at a moments notice. Maybe there will come a time where you need that attention. Who else comes running out in the middle of the night? But at some point they just might say “can’t do it, exhausted ” I will try to get there by noon. Why not? Every other profession does it or gets paid a lot of extra money for extra attention!
…Oh and if someone wants a mentor I will mentor the heck out of them. Check out my background not many out there with my breadth and depth of life experience and I would be thrilled to share that with anyone. But like all the other things we’ve been doing no one will take me up. It’s easier to criticize and complain then do something. Oh yeah another on my “wish list ” would be to train and coach a triathlon team high school, York College HACC, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting. Michal Helfreich took a local television station thru the church for them to tape what we’ve been doing and offer. Results? Nil. We have a Men’s Group having an overnight retreat at a lodge here. All guys are welcome but they won’t. Their noses are buried in their phones.