Tag Archives: Christ Jesus

Walking/Working Together

I am a pastor in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. I say that first because it’s very cool, I am very proud to be a minister of the Gospel and in the LCMS. This name might appear to be provincial, “Missouri”. I’m not from Missouri, was only there for seminary, I’m from Massachusetts very different from Missouri. The name may sound provincial but there is a national baptized membership of 2.1 million, a substantial number and fellowship with Lutheran churches all around the world. Other than Lutheran, named after Martin Luther who by igniting the Reformation and establishing the Christian Church that separated from the Roman Catholic Church, profoundly changed western civilization and the church of Jesus Christ. The other word I wanted to key on was “Synod”.

I never really thought about the meaning, assuming it was an arcane, otherwise out of use word. In the early times of the church in the United States there were a number of “synods”, there still is one other, Wisconsin Synod, an indication of the geographic center of the particular church. Despite the provincial, and old fashion sounding of the name, LCMS is rather compelling. Missouri indicating where the church started and Synod which is an interesting and has a rather contemporary usage. Since you probably don’t get the “Concordia Plans Magazine”, I going to share the article from Rev David Muench writing in the Concordia Plans Magazine he writes: “…’synod’ is take from the Greek words ‘syn (‘with’ or ‘together with’) and ‘hodos’, ( a going’, ‘a journey’, or ‘travel’). We have understood it within our denomination to mean ‘walking together’.” There were many ‘synods’ in the Acts and ancient church, so it is a very old usage and frankly I have a lot more confidence in the old usage of words, then in the pathetic literacy of today. But interesting enough, and since we know, as Gus Portokalos tells us “Give me a word, any word, and I show you that the root of that word is Greek”.(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0259446/quotes) Gus is actually kind of right. English has a lot of influences, but Greek is definitely the biggest one. As Rev Muench points out, there is a Greek word used in the New Testament 13 times. “that word is ‘synergy’.” It’s from from ‘syn’ and ‘ergon’, which means ‘to do work, action, behavior or deed.’ Thus, ‘synergy’ is to ‘work together’ or ‘fellow workers’.” (Concordia Plans Magazine Summer 2016 p 4).

So while the church name may seem rather arcane, it is the basis of a very profound concept that has a very contemporary importance. Having worked in the corporate world and other parts of society for the twenty years, the word ‘synergy’ is still a very important and rather compelling concept. While a lot of the world seems to be losing this concept, and I’m going to say it, for those who are serious, want to genuinely accomplish things and know they have to pull people together to do it, the word ‘synergy’ has as important a meaning as ever.

Of course in this day and age, something so old and arcane would just be pooh-poohed, because we’re oh so busy abusing the language (like, you know, calling a man or a woman a male or female. Really? Female what? A Female human is a woman!) Yes, I kind of vent when I hear insipid usage of language. But to be a part of a ‘synod’, a one that dates back to antiquity, that means “walking together”, in the sense that I’m walking together with Lutherans today, but also Christians all through the past 2,000 years of Christianity. But that’s not all, so closely associated to a word that is oh so chic today, synergy, working together, a concept that while chic the practice is disappearing in society. It’s very inspiring that our church name has so much to do with walking and working together. So thanks Pastor Muench for giving me the inspiration for writing this and being inspired by our church name. Now, if we can actually walk and work together, led by the Holy Spirit, God’s Word and being disciples of Jesus, let’s keep that in continuous prayer.

The heavens declare the glory of God Psalm 19 First Saint Johns July 3, 2016

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 all creation glorifies God, said … AMEN!

We had to stay constantly qualified in the Coast Guard, even being part-time. One of those qualifications was being underway in different areas, night-time, day-time, all year round. Many times we’d be going out at 8pm in January because we had to get the underway hours. No I don’t like being cold, but you have to do it. There you are, far away from shore, no other light around you, especially when there’s no moon. Even in the sky over the ocean at 18 degrees, there is very little humidity in the atmosphere, the sky is clear and dark, and looking into the sky, stars are bright and sharp, the Milky Way is so prominent, it felt as if I could reach up and brush my hand through the Milky Way. The number of points of light in the sky is staggering, we who are so used to seeing the night-time sky in the middle of man-made lighting, the stuff that gets into the atmosphere, we have very little of the total view, even in the best circumstances there is very little that we see with the naked eye. Most of what we see is the galaxy that we are in, what we know as the Milky Way. When we proclaim that God created the universe, that our all creative, powerful, all knowing God made us in His image and set us in this universe, gave us all His creation, many will accuse us of presumption: “How can you think that in this immense universe that we are the only people in this massive, universe? There has to be other people.” There are complicated calculations estimating how many other planets are populated by sentient beings like us. I submit that if you do rely on complicated mathematics and you do the calculations of all the factors involved to account for the fact that we are here, you would see that our presence here is beyond any estimate of scientific possibility. If you really want to justify our existence through science you have to concede that there is an all-powerful, transcendent Creator of the universe. For us to be here is, under the laws of probability, beyond any statistical possibility. If we are statistically impossible, then even in this massive universe, the “probability”, the scientific word, for other life is beyond impossible. Further if God creates us in His image, creates an environment that not only “supports” our existence, keeps us alive, but more so allows us to flourish and grow despite our rather fragile constitution, especially in a universe that consists of such extremes in terms of temperature, radiation, water, atmosphere, and many other factors, that God did provide us an extremely unique environment for us to live. The Christian perspective is that God is all loving, all providing and all powerful in all respects of creation, for His people. Why wouldn’t He give us, His people, His creation, and for those in Jesus, His children. Why wouldn’t He give us an enormous, magnificent, immense universe?

God did create the universe, the prevailing scientific opinion is that the universe was created as a result of the Big Bang. Interestingly, the Big Bang Theory was formulated by a Roman Catholic priest. “This startling idea first appeared in scientific form in 1931, in a paper by Georges Lemaître, a Belgian cosmologist and Catholic priest. The theory, accepted by nearly all astronomers today, was a radical departure from scientific orthodoxy in the 1930s. Many astronomers at the time were still uncomfortable with the idea that the universe is expanding. That the entire observable universe of galaxies began with a bang seemed preposterous.”[1] It’s interesting that conventional science at the time was that the universe had always been, this is called the “steady state” theory that everything always was, and always would be. It took a Christian clergyman to point out to the rest of conventional science that “steady state” was just not reality. No scientist in this day and age believe in the “steady state” because of a number of factors, one being that the universe isn’t just kind of sitting there, that the universe is actually pulling itself apart. At some point, millions of years from now, the universe will have pulled so far apart that gravity will no longer be able to control, that everything in creation will be a lump of frozen solid matter. There will no longer be any heat, because heat is a factor of gravity.

Father Lemaitre, the formulator of the Big Bang is quoted to the effect of saying that if God the Father chose to create the universe in one huge, lightning fast bang, one brilliant flash then so be it. Christians have actually been in the lead of scientific discovery since the beginning, people like Louis Pasteur, arguably the most brilliant mathematician Blaise Pascal to name a few who were devout Christians. Many believe that Galileo proved that the sun was at the center of the solar system. Actually a Catholic cleric named Nicholas Copernicus showed the sun, not the earth was at the center.  A theory expanded upon by another devout Christian Johannes Kepler. The argument has been made that Christians are far better equipped to be scientists since the paradigm for the universe is what God has established, that the God of Scripture is very rational. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14: 33: “For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.    The universe is a testament for order. There are times when we feel that the world is out of control. But then we realize the disorder is what we create, what we do as a matter of our sin. The order that maintains the universe, what God has established, order that we can’t undermine, that the sun shines, the water cycle continues, that we are protected from the harsh environment that surrounds us; extreme cold and heat, radiation, lack of water, extremes of gravity. Our environment, what is around is, is so balanced, so controlled, so tailored to our very specific needs, that to say that this is all an accident is just living in denial to an extreme.

The claim is that it’s science versus faith, but faith has been proved over and over since the beginning, in contrast to science which has been disproved over and over. While the church was setting up universities, training people to teach and to do research in the Middle Ages, secular science was still far more concerned with alchemy and astrology, areas the church condemned. If being right is arrogant then so be it, I submit that being arrogant is far less of a sin than being wrong, or taking a position because of what others want you to believe, because it’s popular, because it’s the world around us living in denial, than yes, I guess I’m going to be arrogant. It is more important to be right than to be popular.

As Christians we know that it is because of God’s will that not only are we aware human beings in the middle of God’s creation, recognizing that the complicated, intricate universe around us could not have been an accident, but on this Independence Day, Christians recognized God’s hand in what we have in our freedoms today, in the United States. In Thomas Jefferson’s final form, he writes: “…to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them…” recognizing that not only that the complicated intricacies of our world, in nature, has been created and controlled by God, but that He also moved the men and women of 240 years ago to create a nation that is still the most faithful in Christ in the world, but also faithful to the true guidelines and inspiration of the Bible. To deny that is to be in denial of history as much as so many are in denial of science and probability.

And of course the most quoted part of the Declaration: “That all men are created equal”, that is there is a Creator, we didn’t get here by accident, we were put here intentionally, as the writer of Esther states: “For such a time as this.”

That God not only created us, but that He endowed His people in His creation, with certain inalienable rights: “…that these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, yes we’ve stretched those “rights” out into the ungodly, but we know who not only created, but also gave us the dignity and responsibilities of His creation in Him as a witness to God. Jefferson ended by stating that the members of the Continental Congress representing all those in the United States; “…appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world, for the rectitude of our intentions”, that is we appeal to God to either confirm our course of action, that we feel we are confirmed in that course, or that He should intervene in order for us to be brought back into His will. For Americans God’s creative power is not just in terms of the entire universe, but also in our very tiny part of that universe, guided by His Supreme will, even in these days when it seems we don’t follow His will.

Craig Blaising and Carmen Hardin write: “The nineteenth psalm present three laws in harmony with one another”, quoting Theodoret. And “It also presents a rebuke of atheism.” Quoting Diodore. They go on to say, quoting various writers: “The pslam begins proclaiming that God, as designer of the heavens, is known by His design. The creation is not by chance. Rather, created things are servants for our instruction. It is the spectacle of creating that speaks, drawing a response from us that glorifies the Creator. … That “God is revealed especially in the order of things. For it is clear that Reason rules through the natural order… This order forms the primal music of the cosmos. This natural revelation constitutes a message of the Lord’s greatness … His providence is a message of his love … in a book open to all … declared in a universal language.”[2]

Truly God is great, He reveals all that we need to know that He is in control. That He has given us life and life more abundant through His Son. That even in this universe which is so sunk in sin, that He gives us the promise of salvation and resurrection through His Son Jesus Christ. All for us who when we consider the vastness of creation and the even more massiveness of God, that He has provided for us in so many ways, continues to provide for us and gives us the promise of eternal life in the New Creation in Jesus Christ. Only someone who is truly in Christ or preaching in Christ can know that this message is truly on their heart.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] This is an excerpt from COSMIC HORIZONS: ASTRONOMY AT THE CUTTING EDGE, edited by Steven Soter and Neil deGrasse Tyson, a publication of the New Press. © 2000 American Museum of Natural History.

[2] Edited by Craig Blaising and Carmen Hardin  “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Old Testament VII p 146

In such a fragile world, let’s focus on eternal life Jude First St Johns Nov 22, 2015

[for the audio please click on the above Sound Cloud link]

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 ready to be used to truly save lives, to eternity said … AMEN!

We are again talking about eschatology, end times, I seem to run into different people over and over who have this fascination with eschatology. But there are “end times” when God will decide that the world will come to an end. And there are end times when someone dies now and dies to eternity, who does not have a saving relationship with God and is forever lost and condemned, they have had their “end time”. You can talk about the end times that Jesus tells us in the Gospels and in the Book of Revelation, but for those who die without being saved in Jesus, their end time happened when they died. I don’t understand this fascination, to me, the end of time, the final judgment, Armageddon, are all about the fragility of life. We just do not appreciate how much of a miracle it is for us to be here, to be what we are, to do what we do. The human body is so fragile, relatively slight changes around us can limit us, cripple us and even kill us. Yet we survive pretty well, considering how much could go wrong with us, the vast majority of people are healthy, death is unusual. But when we talk about end times, I think back to how very fragile we are and also to the fact that despite all my physical limitations, as complicated as the human body is, how easy it would be for something to go wrong, that our Creator, Glorious God keeps us strong, in body, mind and spirit and if it wasn’t for Him, we would be living day to day, in terror of the evil in the world. The Holy Spirit protects us from that evil.

St Jude writes: “But you beloved, building your selves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire;”

While serving in the Coast Guard I had a number of times when I was reminded of the fragility of life. One time started out as a foggy, cool, quiet Sunday morning and the Search and Rescue buzzer going off. It was really foggy, you couldn’t see more than ten – fifteen feet ahead. There is a lot of low water around the station and you just can’t go flying out of there even in a serious emergency, because there’s just too many areas that you can ground the boat. When there’s only about fifteen feet of visibility, it’s even more difficult and we had to pick our way out of the harbor. A small commuter airplane, the husband was the pilot and the wife was a stewardess missed the runway at Logan Airport. The airplane went right into Boston Harbor. The husband was very lucky. He was ejected out of the cockpit and a lobsterman, who just happened to be working on a Sunday morning, which they don’t usually, heard him calling out and the lobsterman picked his way over to the man and pulled him out of the water. Even in the middle of the summer, the water north of Cape Cod, of the Gulf Stream is cold, you don’t want to all of a sudden find yourself thrown out of a plane and into the water. While it was tough on the husband, the wife was trapped in the fuselage and at the bottom of Boston Harbor. I was driving the boat, while two other crewmen were in the back tending to the husband, he had been pretty battered. I had already dealt with a lot of death and injury, but for some reason this one hit me hard. I’m concentrating on trying to pick my way back into Boston Harbor, to the base in Boston to transport the man to the hospital as quickly as possible, but I also became preoccupied with the wife in the cold water, at the bottom of the harbor. I remember at one point having to choke back tears to focus on driving the boat and avoid hitting anything in the fog. It really hit me, this is a couple that just wanted to be back in Boston in the morning, enjoy the city, had no other expectations than to have Sunday brunch and enjoy a day off. The husband did survive, but the wife didn’t make it.

If I could have articulated the passage in Jude at the time, it would have really hit me. I didn’t know if this woman was saved, if she knew Jesus as her Lord, if she knew that Jesus died for the sins of the world, her sins included, in order to restore us to the Father and save us to eternity. St Jude’s quote really hits home and is convicting to me and should be convicting to all of us who are in Jesus: “…save others by snatching them out of the fire…” I had the privilege of serving for 29 years, full-time and part-time Coast Guard, I had many opportunities to “snatch people out of the fire”. I participated in saving many lives. But I and all of you here today, have an opportunity to “save lives” in a much more significant way. Anyone that I was involved in “snatching from the fire”, may have been saved that day, but will, eventually, die. We all will. But the issue is will any of us die and then be in the presence of the Lord? Or will we die for eternity? You have the opportunity with so many of those around you; family, friends, those you work with, your neighbors, to genuinely save lives. It might sound more exciting to plod through the fog to pull someone out of the water and save them from physical death. But it means so much more to save someone from eternal death and all of you here, young, old, strong, not so strong, regardless of education level, work status, marital status, you can save people to eternal life in Jesus. Someone can be saved now, will grow old, sick, infirm, and die without Jesus and be lost eternally. Or they can be saved now, and have the promise of the eternal resurrection. Eternal life in the perfect world, to life that God intended for us at the beginning of creation. We have the promise in today’s Gospel lesson, that at the end of time, when we see the stars falling from heaven and the powers on earth and in heaven be shaken, that the Son of Man, Jesus will come in the clouds with great power and glory, that He will send His angels to gather His elect. Who are His “elect”? You and me, those who Jesus chose from the beginning of time to be saved in Him. We don’t know who those elect are. How do we know that we are elect? We are baptized in the all powerful Name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are confirmed to be members of His Body, His church. We take His Body and Blood to strengthen us in our relationship as new creations, sons and daughters of God the Father. That we are forgiven saints, restored in our relationship with the Father. We hear His preached Word as we are doing right now, that reminds us of that relationship and our responsibility to live our lives in the world, right now, to reach those who the Holy Spirit is guiding us to reach. We can be the greatest life-savers, that even if someone’s physical life ends tomorrow, what we did to witness to Jesus and show them salvation and eternal life in Him, that their lives will be saved to eternity and to true life in the resurrection. That is true life-saving and we get to do that every day we are in this world to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus. Isaiah writes: “My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the peoples…” (Isaiah 51: 5) God comes nearer to us every day and His righteousness will triumph over the evil of the world. The Father has promised us salvation in Jesus, He who died to pay for our sins. But He also promises there will be a judgement. For those in Jesus the verdict will be true life eternal. For those not in Jesus, the judgment will be eternal separation from God in Hell. Take some time this week to think and write about the lives you could be saving to eternity.

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

Confession or separation and from whom

Unconfessed sin isn’t fooling anyone. God certainly knows, and come on those around you? They know. Unconfessed sin also separates us, from each other and from God. God knows, but since you have chosen to suppress, conceal, downplay, dismiss, your sin separates you from a perfect, holy God. Hasn’t a child, spouse, someone close tried to ignore unconfessed sin with you? Can’t you sense a very real separation from that person until you come to grips with that person and their sin. As a fellow sinful being we can kind of understand that, and God certainly understands and forgives, but can’t you still sense the distance, separation, even barrier it has created?

Mark Buchanan points out in Peter love covers a multitude of sins. Sure we get it, you are forgiven, Jesus died for that sin. Pastor Buchanan points out “Love can’t cover over what pride or shame covers up.’ He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.’ (Proverbs 28:13) (Your God is too Safe p 170) Last I checked pride is sin, aren’t we compounding the original sin or subsequent sin? Sin does create separation and barriers: “If anyone is going to love you and if you are going to love anyone the way Scripture exhorts and commands, you’re going to have to show someone the real you. The real you will have to stand up. You’ll need to confess.” (Ibid)

I really like how Pastor Buchanan expands on what this separation and barrier of unconfessed sin creates. Are we Christians, loving not just each other, but those who may even actively oppose us? And not this phoney, shmaltzy, cheesey love. Love is genuine put it on the line, up to the point of sacrificing your life for the best and betterment of someone who truly needs you to stand up for them? How can we truly be the Body of Christ, to trust our lives, to truly be a part of the integrated Body of Christ, if we let sin, pride separate us. We still need to use discretion, as I pointed out in my last blog, there is someone who you should trust with high confidence. Your Pastor. At least as a Lutheran, your pastor has a high level of training, is under the seal of the confessional, which is still recognized under secular and canonical law, who cannot discuss anything with anyone else that you discuss with him. As you grow in relationship with other Christians, sure you should be much more open with them. But remember your pastor has a lot to offer, including: “as a called and ordained servant of Jesus Christ I tell you, for Him, that you are forgiven.” You want an authority figure on the matter, who is better suited than your pastor?

But Buchanan presents the perspective of a regular practice of unconfessed sin: “The first is that Christian fellowship becomes a masquerade – a game of hide-and-seek, of pretense and jargon, with no real life and no real depth. We end up investing so much in the appearance of holiness that we miss the substance of it. We end up so preoccupied with saving face that we fail to live in God’s saving grace. We walk around with insecurity and fear: If you really knew me, you wouldn’t like me. The Only reason you like me is you don’t really know me.” (Ibid)

In other words, a phoney Christian life. I have gone into churches where there’s a lot of phoniness, there’s no real Christian confession, just as Buchanan points out; “pretense and jargon” and that is just not a healthy place to be. You can almost cut the subterfuge with a knife. It’s almost suffocating. In a congregation where  confession, trust, openness, smacks you right in the face like a crisp, winter seabreeze, it’s bracing and challenging, and it’s also refreshing and just makes you want to push right in and get more.

“But confession and true fellowship are deeply joined. John in his first letter makes that explicit. He writes, ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1: 8-9).”  He goes on to note that: “…When we walk in the truth and in the light, we have real fellowship … not among perfect people, but honest ones, people willing to deal with their imperfections. Otherwise we have a country club, not a church.”

“That’s one consequence of a people without the holy habit of confession: Our fellowship becomes a shallow, gaudy, fickle thing, a nonfellowship, an exercise in faking it.” (Ibid pp 170-171) And isn’t that sin? Aren’t we called to fellowship? Aren’t we called to be genuine? It’s not easy and I doubt I will ever be “good” at it. But that’s not an excuse for me to avoid striving for it either.

Let’s do everyone a big favor, start to truly live that Christian life in confession. Let’s start trusting those clergy that God has give to us in order for us to grow closer to God, instead of all the pretense and baloney that we substitute instead. Let’s do our best to grow in our relationship with fellow Christians. Yes, we have to maintain some discretion and common sense. But at least keep pushing the boundaries. Can you get burned? Yup, but it won’t be on you, you will be living the life in Christ, it will be for that person who failed in your trust. Pray for them and for all Christians who can’t step up in maturity and move on as a faithful Christian disciple.

Confession, bone deep honest with God, with His minister

Dr Martin Luther did not post his 95 Theses and then be pursued for the next 30 odd years to have the baby thrown out with the bath water. He had problems with the Roman Church, but it was not about liturgy or Biblical practices, it was about abuses that arose from the Roman Church adding to the Bible. Communion, baptism, confession were not an issue, Luther had no problem with these because they were Biblical. He did have problems with the ways they had become corrupted, but not with the biblical principals.

However subsequent “reformers” chose to dump those practices that they just did not like. Not that they were unbiblical, they just didn’t like practices such as understanding that baptism meant new birth in Jesus. They just did not like that the bread and wine in communion, were the actual Body and Blood of Jesus, they didn’t like the idea of confessing to another person, even though the Bible is pretty clear. It frankly seems as though those who come through Reformed Christianity or other avenues that only seem to emphasize personal preferences, or personal improvement in order to further their own lives, come to the realization that the spiritual practices of Christianity do have a much more profound meaning and do what is far more important in our lives, build our relationship with God.

Mark Buchanan is very much in the Reformed Christian branch of Protestantism, an ordained Baptist minister and well known author. He also quotes Richard Foster, a Quaker, definitely not Lutheran!  In his book Your God is too Safe (p 166) “…Protestants became so scornful of the Roman Catholic practice of confession that we dropped it altogether and ended up creating churches of smiling, laughing, savvy people who are dying on the inside and too afraid to let anyone know. First Church of the Whitewashed Tombs. This, too, bypasses the real issue of spiritual growth. Rather than bear fruit, we’ve tended to paint it on and hope nobody notices that we have no real roots or sap to grow fruit anyhow.”

Full disclosure, I would have to concede, that even though Lutherans retain the confessional, corporate and individual confession, they don’t really practice it. When I was at seminary, graduated 2010, the seminary chaplain held confession every Wednesday. Out of about 500 students and maybe 100 professors, staff etc, he said that he had about 25 people attend confession, about 5% of the possible population. I was one of the 5% and found great benefit in personal confession. Lutherans talk confession, but actual practice, eh… not so much.

Lutherans do practice corporate confession, meaning at the beginning of every worship, we have confession, agreeing we are sinners in need of divine forgiveness and then I announce that as “a called and ordained servant of Jesus Christ and by His authority I forgive you all of your sins.” So I’m sure many feel that the base is covered.

Pastor Buchanan goes on to say: ” Confession is when we quit all the deal making, the sidestepping, the mask wearing, the pretense and preening and we get bone-deep honest before God…” (p 167)

“…In order to present our real selves to God, we need to be honest with ourselves about ourselves and honest about ourselves to at least one other trusted and godly person.” 

I submit, being a person that has to learn all about the subject, has been trained to listen, has taken an oath to never discuss anything that has been confessed to him, called the “sanctity of the confessional” which is even recognized under the law and would be a reason to discharge me from the ministry should I violate that sanctity, that maybe you want me to be that “trusted and godly person.” Puhlease do not get some goofy idea that this feeds some prurient interest on my part. Nothing could be further from the truth, hearing someone’s confession is not something that I relish or look forward to. But I see it as a responsibility. As a pastor I am going to be held to a higher standard in the final judgment and I am not going to be put in the position of being asked, “it would have helped people to know that you offered regular confession, you had the opportunity to do it, why didn’t you?

While Dr Luther did not have a problem with confession, he did have a problem with how the Roman church did business conducting confession. I will readily stipulate that because the concept of confession has been undermined and frankly trivialized by the Roman church (to wit, go and say five Hail Marys and the stations of the cross, come back and I will forgive you), that has allowed most to simply dismiss it as a relic of a past church. As a baptized Christian you are forgiven, we have that assurance when we take the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. Yes you are forgiven. Jesus died for all your sins. Your works do not add to your forgiveness.

Having said that Pastor Buchanan quotes Richard Foster (please note that Mr Foster is a Quaker, again not a Roman Catholic with an agenda, or Lutheran for that matter.):

“The person who has known forgiveness and release from persistent, nagging habits of sin through private confession [that is, to God alone] should rejoice greatly in this evidence of God’s mercy. But there are others for whom this has not happened. Let me describe what it is like. We have prayed, even begged, for forgiveness and though we hope we have been forgiven, we sense no release. We doubt our forgiveness and despair at our confession. We fear that perhaps we have made confession only to ourselves and not to God. The haunting sorrows and hurts of the past have not been healed. We try to convince ourselves that God forgives only the sin; he does not heal the memory. But deep within … we know there must be something more. People have told us to take our forgiveness by faith and not call God a liar. Not wanting to call God a liar, we do our best to take it by faith. But because misery and bitterness remain in our lives, we again despair. Eventually we begin to believe either that forgiveness is only a ticket to heaven and not to affect our lives now, or that we are unworthy of the forgiving grace of God.”

I’ve had men tell me “I don’t confess my sin to men.” Well tough guy that’s not biblical, it’s just not. James’ epistle 5:16 clearly states: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Ya, you may think you have it altogether, but honestly, those are the type of people that end up with all sorts of additional problems that they allow to come between themselves and God. The manly thing to do? I did it. Sit across from someone who you can trust and say I need absolution, I need to know from someone I can trust (your pastor) that I am forgiven. If you want to go into detail I will certainly listen and help you. I do not, however, need to hear the detail. I do not even need to hear the particular besetting sin. But if you are in any doubt, or need assurance, your pastor will sit across from you and provide that. That is at least for those churches that provide for confession.

Listen, tough guy, you want to be tough? Stand up, admit your sin, know that you are forgiven, go back into the world and truly live the life in Christ. Frankly the biggest cowards I’ve seen are the ones that can’t stand up to their sins, to those they’ve sinned against and of course that is always against God. Who refuse to know that they are forgiven and will know how to live his life truly in Jesus. Ask yourself can you really continue to live a life that is as Pastor Buchanan describes: “in churches of smiling, laughing, savvy people who are dying on the inside and too afraid to let anyone know. First Church of the Whitewashed Tombs.” Ya know, going through the motions, doing the “right” thing, knowing that you are just living a farce, never really dealing with your relationship with Jesus and your fellow man, just making it up. Wow, this is from guys who would tell me how much they can’t stand phonies. Ya, really dude? Take a look in the mirror.

Let’s all be real, strong men (and women), deal with the things we need to deal with, with someone we can trust. Get in their with your pastor, tell him what’s happening, get the assurance that you are forgiven in Jesus, maybe some objective guidance as to how to move on from a besetting sin, put it behind you and grow in your relationship with Jesus. Sorry guys, you are nowhere near as smart and tough and savvy as you think. I know that, because I know I’m not. Let’s get real together, move on as men together and do some real stuff. Then we can really smile, laugh and be savvy and show the world what it really means to be a Christian man.

We are His saints, enriched by Him Matthew 5 All Saints Day First St Johns Nov 1, 2015

[For the audio of this sermon please click on the above link]

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 saints in Christ said in a spirit of celebration and joy … AMEN

I am going to paraphrase Paul: “To the church of God that is in York, Pennsylvania to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1: 2-6)

Paul goes on to say to his brothers and sisters in Corinth as I would like to express those same sentiments to my brothers and sisters in York: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge-even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you- so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1: 7-8)

As His Saints we win and we didn’t do anything. Because He’s overcome, we have overcome. We have overcome the world. We have overcome death. We couldn’t do any of these things ourselves. While we like to think that we are so strong that we can achieve whatever we are confronted by, deep in our hearts we know we can’t. Why do you think that there is so much fear, anger, angst around us? All of these people who know perfectly well that they just can’t confront the world. They hear the lies of the world all around them and they try to believe them. They have to. Why? Because there is nothing else for them to believe. So they accept that they are somehow gifted, strong, personally endowed with some skill that is going to enable them to make it. But when you ask them what that looks like, how did they get there and for that matter, where is there? You get bewilderment, you get frustration. They don’t know. The world’s told them a lie, that they are somehow special. But they don’t feel special, they say they are. Students in the United States today rank way below the rest of the world in math, language, science. But they do rank first in one thing, in self-esteem. They feel good about themselves. But when you confront them with the reality of what that means, they have nothing. They are somehow special, but special how? They don’t know. Those around us today can’t perceive, or maybe more accurately don’t want to perceive anything past the next event. “Well let’s see what happens after the World Series. Let’s see what happens after the next election. Let’s see what happens after the next Federal Reserve meeting. Sure we wait to see the outcome, then what happens? Pretty much where we were. Nothing much has changed. We cling to the latest stock market numbers, and then we watch as our IRA’s, our financial future drop again. We think we have a way to make money on the stock market, we might even have a little success, then the market closes and we just spent money without lifting a finger. That affects the Christian and the non-Christian. But we have Jesus to cling to. He has overcome the stock market, the housing market, the GNP, the President and the Congress.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” That’s us! Ours is the kingdom of heaven. It might not “feel” like it right now. Another thing that separates us from the world? It’s not about our feelings. It is about what Jesus has done, what He continues to do. It’s His promise of heaven and eternity. Things might not be that great for you right now. We all know perfectly well that there are Christians all over the world who are very much suffering for their witness to Christ. You see that last verse in our Gospel reading? “…for your reward is great in heaven…” We have all had days and will have days, when we don’t feel so great, when everything’s going wrong, the future looks doubtful. Are there times when we’d like to give up? Sure! But because we are saved the Holy Spirit doesn’t give up on us. Why? We are His, we aren’t allowed to give up and we won’t because the Holy Spirit saves us from ourselves. The world does not have that promise, believes Satan’s lies and gives up, gives up in the form of drugs, alcohol, sex, money, power. They honestly believe this will save them, but we all know, and they know deep inside too, it will make them slaves and condemn them.

As a saint, as one who is saved in Jesus you are saved, you have the promises of Jesus, you have new life in Jesus, you are a special, holy, sanctified person, completely saved in Jesus and the Father’s special child and you didn’t do anything to be any of that. God chose you, He saved you, He recreated you in baptism, He lifted you up from the waters of baptism a new creation in Him. He gives you His own Body and Blood. His ministers share His saving, life restoring word with you. You received all this. You should praise and glorify God for what He’s given you. But none of that is yours because of your praise or worship, it’s yours because God gave it to you in your baptism in Jesus. Randy Alcorn writes: “What God made us to desire, and therefore what we do desire if we admit it, is exactly what he promises to those who follow Jesus Christ [His Saints]: a resurrected life in a resurrected body, with the resurrected Christ on a resurrected Earth. Our desires correspond precisely to God’s plans. It’s not that we want something, so we engage in wishful thinking that what we want exists. It’s the opposite – the reason we want it is precisely because God has planned for it to exist. As we’ll see, resurrected [saints] living in a resurrected universe isn’t our idea – it’s God’s[1]

For those He has separated, not our choice, His decision. That’s something that we take to the bank. If Jim makes a decision for God what does that mean? Well did I do it the right way, did I do it at the right time? I’m fallible did I make some kind of mistake? It isn’t on me, I am hagios I am holy, separated. You and I are made to be a completely new and different being because Jesus redeemed you and me, He died for you and me, He paid for all of our sins and now we are made perfectly clean and holy. I am made to be completely acceptable to God because of Jesus. The Holy Spirit led me to be baptized and in that baptism I am cleansed from the sin I was born in and the sins I have committed in my life and made to be that new creature, His saint. Then as a part of His church, the Body of Christ, I am given His Body and Blood to strengthen me in Body and Spirit, to be newly cleansed of my sin, renewed in my Spirit. All because of what He did for us, nothing of what we did. We therefore have that assurance that because God did it that it’s done, completely right, totally in His power and none of it in ours. There can’t be a mistake, because of that we have complete assurance that Jesus is the Lord of our lives, in this worldly life and in the true life that is eternal and perfect in the resurrection. Journal about it for the next week, what does it mean to you to be a[gioj completely clean in Christ, how does that compare to what you see in the rest of the world, why is this a reason to give thanks, to praise and glorify our Savior Jesus Christ?

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

[1] Alcorn, Randy   Heaven  pp 7-8

Meyer Minute Suicide in the world, those who see no other way Nov 5

This subject is vitally important and Rev Dr Dale Meyer really hits it on the head. The rate of suicide is climbing, especially in terms of middle aged people, although it is one of the leading causes of death for those under 30. Of all the ways to die, suicide is clearly the most controllable and in Jesus it is even more so. The hope of the world is Jesus and we trust what He is doing in our life. We may not like the way our life is going, we probably think we have a better plan, but we trust that in the end Jesus’ plan is much better and it always is. Rev Dr Dale Meyer is the president of Concordia Seminary, he was the voice of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Dale Meyer

Meyer Minute for November 5

When Charles Gliniewicz was killed on duty in northern Illinois, an extensive manhunt searched for the cop killer. Yesterday: “This investigation has concluded…that this is a carefully staged suicide. He had been stealing and laundering money from Fox Lake” (Wall Street Journal, November 5; A6). Gliniewicz concluded that suicide was his only way out.

Actor and comedian Robin Williams committed suicide in August 2014. Recently his widow Susan said that he struggled with depression, Parkinson’s, and Lewy body dementia, an illness that leads to declining mental ability (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 4; A18). Again but for different reasons, Mr. Williams saw no way out.

“Death rates are rising for middle-aged white Americans, while declining in other wealthy countries and among other races and ethnicities. The rise appears to be driven by suicide, drugs and alcohol abuse” (New York Times, November 3; A15).

Whatever sad reasons lead someone to choose death, suicide goes directly against the God who gives life and promises hope (Psalm 42:11). “Thou shalt not murder” (Exodus 20:13). So it’s a sin against God but a sin for which Jesus died. While God only knows the eternal destiny of the suicide, we who survive can know suicide is temptation to be avoided, by you, by me, and by those around us. Easily said, but overcoming the temptation when you’re in emotional or physical despair seems insurmountable. Each of us in our individual and sometimes lonely lives needs to be in a safe place where support and love are dependably present to help us overcome the temptation. Does our family, our congregation and our presence at work and in community promote a culture that cares for the weakest? Even if we do, sin is so insidious that all of us can rely on only one guarantee.

“When the righteous cry out for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:17-19).

“When all things seem against us, to drive us to despair, we know one gate is open, one ear will hear our prayer” (Lutheran Service Book, 915, 4). God, help us all.