Baptism and Holiness


Read this from Martin Luther this morning:

I will not call myself holy for what I have done nor be called holy by anyone else or praised for my sanctity.  I am holy because I can say with firm faith and pure conscience: Although I am a poor sinner, yet Christ is holy in His Baptism, Word, Sacrament, and the Holy Spirit.  That is the one true holiness given us by God.

But how do I attain it? Or what have I to do with the Holy Spirit?  Answer: The Holy Spirit has baptized me and preached the Gospel of Christ to me and enlivened my heart to believe.  Baptism does not spring from me, nor did faith and the Gospel, but He gave them to me.  For the fingers which baptized me were not the fingers of man but of the Holy Spirit.  And the preacher’s mouth and words which I heard were not the preacher’s own, but the words and preaching of the Holy Spirit, who gives inward faith, through such outward means, leading to sanctification.

Therefore, we should as little deny or doubt that we are holy than we are baptized and are Christians.




Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

This weekend the pastor from Holy Trinity Orthodox church in Clayton, Wi. preached on meekness.  He shared the following story which shows that meekness is not weakness but strength.

His family vacations on the shores of Lake Superior.  It’s not rocky, but the shoreline is simply rock formed by long time ago Lava flows.  They named various shapes in the area.  One they called a mailbox. It was shaped like a house sized rural mailbox.  But one year when they arrived, the “mailbox” was missing.  It had broken off and fallen into the lake.  As one might expect it was water which caused the break.  But not the water of the booming waves crashing against it for 10,000 years.  It was rather the droplets of water which seeped into the tiny cracks and crevasses.  Over the years and seasons those drops caused the cracks to swell and retreat as the water froze and melted.  After centuries those droplets forced the enormous change in the terrain.

So, it is with meekness.  Meekness is not loud brash in your face challenges.  The early Christians were strong enough to face persecution and even death.  But slowly over a period of 300 years changed the whole Mediterranean world and the Roman Empire.  That’s the meekness of which Christ speaks and that will inherit the earth. It still true today.

What We See


Tuesday last, there was a reopening of the arch grounds in St. Louis.  What I saw in the video of the event was the elderly daughter of Arch architect Eero Saarinen, standing amid a long line of dignitaries struggling to cut an oversized ribbon with an oversized scissors.  However, others saw there was not a single person of color among them.  Two days later another ribbon cutting was held featuring mostly people of color redoing the ceremony.  This has engendered much debate in the public media.

What we see or don’t see is important.  In Mark 6:1-6, Jesus comes home to Nazareth.  He has just come off a series of events in which he stilled a storm, cleansed a man of a demon infestation, was touched by a woman with a twelve-year discharge of blood.  And raised a twelve -year-old girl back to life.  Who could doubt that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God?

What did the folks at Nazareth see?  Not the Messiah.  Not the Son of God.  They saw one of Joe and Mary’s five boys plus his sisters.  How could their kid have done these works?  Where did he get such wisdom?

Jesus, the hometown boy, marveled how they were offended and refused to believe. It’s in that context, that Jesus sends out his disciples with the news of the Gospel.  Some will see them as bringers of God’s kingdom and others will see them as spouting nonsense.  So, it is still today.

Turning Toward God


Repentance is turning around toward God. I’ve often heard people say, “But you have to repent.” OK.   However, that can border on making repentance something I have to do to receive forgiveness.  Thus, turning toward God becomes my work, my effort, that then earns forgiveness, wiping out the need for forgiveness.

I’ve gotten in deeper than I first intended.  Back to my original thought.

What leads to repentance?  The Prayer of the Day for this Sunday is helpful.

It begins “O God, your almighty power.”  Weak, puny me is in big trouble.”

However, the prayer continues, “Your almighty power is made known chiefly in showing mercy.”  Good news.  Such gospel leads to a request.  “Grant us the fullness of Your grace that we may be called to repentance.”  In the light of God’s almighty power chiefly used for mercy, we ask for his gift of turning us toward God.  In Jesus Christ God has already turned toward us so that as we come to God, in confidence of bucketsful of mercy and grace poured on us.

The goal is that we might “be partakers of Your heavenly treasures.”  With those heavenly treasures waiting for us, who would be foolish enough to turn away from God?  Yes, and all that mercy, grace and heavenly treasures comes, “through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now forever.”

In Christ we can partake in the heavenly treasure of life now and forever.  The cemetery is not the last stop.

Burying Underwear


An article in the Country Today weekly Ag newspaper featured Juneau County, Wisconsin conservationists and UW-Extension agents planting 100% cotton underwear in 10 locations to learn about soil health.  Healthy soil, filled with “swarming creatures,” should break down the underwear more quickly than unhealthy soil.  The underwear will be on display in August at the Juneau Co. Fair.

Turns out the folks in Juneau County, were not the first to think of the idea.  In Jerusalem, around 600 BC God told the prophet Jeremiah to buy a loin cloth (underwear), wear it for a time, but not to wash it.  Then he was to go to the Euphrates River, a journey of over 700 miles round trip, and hide the loin cloth between two rocks. Eventually, God told him to go back and dig up the under garment.  It was spoiled and good for nothing. (Jeremiah 13:1-11)

The rotten loin cloth was not to measure soil health, but the spiritual health of God’s chosen people.  The rotten loin cloth was like Judah.  God had bound Israel to himself as his own people, but they had refused to listen, gone their own way and worshiped other gods.  They refused to serve as God’s banner in the world, so that other peoples would praise and honor God.

We may not appreciate being compared to God’s underwear, but in Christ, God has bound us to himself to be his humble people that the world might see us and give praise and honor to God.



July 4th

July 4th Reflections

Becky and I are spending a quiet 4th watching some tennis, baseball and reading.  Likely, watch the concert and fireworks from Washington DC this evening.

My first July 4 memories came when we took a break from haying, Dad pulled a trailer load of picnic makings down into the pasture where Apple River meandered through now long-gone Elms and the remains of an old logging camp.  Aunt Elsie and August came over from their farm and we had a picnic, a welcome break from the hayfield.

In later years there was a family reunion at cousin Chuck Hansen’s place on a small lake near McKinley.  After dinner, we climbed over a fence into a neighbor’s pasture and played softball alert to cow pies and thistles.

We spent July 4, 1972 in DeSoto. Mo. visiting Becky’s family.  In the evening we went to a reenactment of a civil war battle.  We left uncertain as to who had won the Civil War, but then this was Missouri.

1976, the Bicentennial, we were in Albert Lea, MN.  Following the morning service at Zion Lutheran I went to the Freeborn Co. Fairgrounds, only a stone’s throw away, and took part in a community service.  Yeah, I know us LCMS people aren’t supposed to do those sorts of things, but I did.  That evening while Becky and the boys went with Chuck and Cecile Zenk to the fireworks show over Fountain Lake, I stayed with just over 4- month- old Sarah.

We still miss our time at Camp Luther in Three Lakes, Wi. where we spent several July 4th’s in the 1980s.  During that time Nathan and then Sarah were working as camp counselors. It was a relaxing week in a cabin by the lake, with camp fires and singing in the evening and plenty of activities during the day.  The Wimbledon tennis tournament seemed more special than trying to watch it at home today.


Mercy while in the Dust


The OT lesson Sunday Lamentations 3:22-33, is from a book written after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC.  The lament begins 1:3 -4, “How lonely sits the city that was full of people!  How like a widow has she become…She weeps bitterly in the night…she has none to comfort her…Judah has gone into exile…the roads to Zion mourn…all her gates are desolate.”

It might surprise us to read in 3:22, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.”  Even when crushed under the foot of the captors, “let him put his mouth in the dust-there may yet be hope…for the Lord will not cast off forever.”

This text is paired with the gospel lesson, Mark 5:21-43.  Jairus, a president of a synagogue, sees Jesus’ and falls at his feet in the dust, begging that Jesus would come and touch his gravely ill daughter and make her well that she might live.  Along the way a woman who had been bleeding for a dozen years, an untouchable, touched his clothes and felt in her body the blood dry up.  Jesus also felt power go out of him.  “Who touched me?”  The woman came with fear and trembling and fell in the dust. Jesus said, “Go in peace.”

The Lord is merciful, his steadfast love never ceases, even though we may have fallen or been shoved face down into the dust.


Lift Up Your Eyes


The entrance Psalm for tomorrow from Psalm 121 says, “I lift up my eyes” when I need help because my help comes from the Lord who keeps me from evil; keeps my life and keeps “(my) going out and coming now and forevermore.”

Looking up occurs several times in Scripture.  In Genesis 21, Sarah demands that Abraham to banish Hagar and Ishmael.  With great reluctance Abraham does so. When Hagar’s water skin goes dry, she puts Ishmael under a bush and moves away, not wanting to hear his cries and see him die.  But the angel of the Lord tells her to lift up her son and when she lifts up her eyes she sees a well.

In Chapter 22, God tells Abraham to take his son Isaac to Moriah and offer him as a burnt offering.  On the third day of the journey he lifts up his eyes and sees the place.  Later, on the mountain with Isaac trussed up laying on the altar and Abraham reaching for the butchering cleaver the angel of the Lord intervenes. Abraham lifts up his eyes from the horror before him, he sees a ram caught in a thicket and it became the offering.

Then in Luke 21, Jesus talks about the entire world and the universe coming apart. As these things begin to happen he says to raise your heads because your redemption is drawing near.

Living in trust of God is no walk in the park.

Six Months Til Christmas


I’m reading a book, published in 2003, by Louise Murphy, “Hansel and Gretel.”  Two Jewish children are taken in by an old lady outside a small Polish village during WWII.  They live under cruel Nazi terrorism.  The Poles take extreme measures themselves to stay alive and survive.

But amid the horror is a scene from Christmas Eve. Nelka, whose new born baby has been taken away from her by an SS Oberfurher, to control her, joins in telling the Christmas story in the “witch’s” hut.

Now listen children, listen.  “Mary and Joseph were given the gift of a child.  They were so poor that the babe was laid in a manger, and angels and shepherds and wise men came to see the beauty of the baby.  An evil king wanted to kill the child, but angels warned Joseph in a dream, and he put Mary and the baby on a donkey and fled into Egypt, so the evil king couldn’t kill his son.  The baby was saved and lived to grow up.  And he teaches us to be brave always and never lose hope.  Never.  Even when all the world wants to kill your innocent babe.  In the darkness of deep winter when everything is cold and dead, the babe is born, and God begins to walk in the world.  He walks for four months among us, and then he will be killed, and rise from the dead because there is no death.  Death will die in four months.

God cannot see the darkness that man has created and not throw out light to combat it.  He is walking in the world.”

“Are you sure Nelka?”

“Yes, Hansel.”

He knew that she would never lie to him.


The Birth of a Violent Monster


Following a night, now morning, of a parade of Donner and Blitzen, I’m thinking of Job 38:8 from last Sunday’s Old Testament lesson. “Who shut the sea behind gates
when it burst through and came out of the womb. When I clothed it with clouds
and wrapped it up in dark clouds.”

For 37 chapters God listened to Job and his friends discuss guilt, innocence, suffering and God. Now God speaks up out of a tornado, “Who is this who speak empty words of wisdom but doesn’t know anything about anything.  Put on your pants, stand up like a man, I will question you.  Where were you when…”

In vs 8-9 the poet describes the birth of the sea as a violent baby gushing forth from its mother.  It’s not clear who is the mother.  As the attending physician, God sees immediately that this baby must be contained, or it will wipe out all the rest of creation.  Yet, God will not leave this monster unattended.  God provides clouds for its clothing and darkness as it’s swaddling cloth.

In the Gospel lesson when Jesus quieted the raging sea, the disciples ask, “Who is this that even wind and sea obey him?”  On Sunday morning the waters again obeyed our Lord.  God who commanded the sea to gush forth, who, in Jesus spoke peace to the raging water, used the quiet and obedient baptism water to give new birth, life and salvation to three youngsters.