God Chooses Cyrus as Messiah and Gate Basher

 

In the OT reading, Isaiah 45:1-7, God anoints the Persian king Cyrus II as his temporary Messiah who will conquer Babylon in 539 BC and free Israel to return to Judah and rebuild Jerusalem.  As God had led his people Israel so now God will take Cyrus by his right hand.

God will go before Cyrus, “I shall break down the bronze gates and cut through the iron bars.”

The gate was the weak spot in the walls surrounding a city. The road to the city gate was often set at an indirect angle.  Some approaches came from the right of the gate forcing enemy soldiers to fight with their right arms against the wall.  This led to the development of corps of left handed soldiers.

The entryway of the gate would be narrowed with walls protruding into the path of those entering.  Rooms may have been built between these protruding walls giving defenders protection as they shot arrows into the mass of attackers.  The gates themselves were covered with bronze to make them more solid and fireproof.  Iron bars inserted across the gates provided more strength and protection.

However, when Cyrus’ Persian army surrounded Babylon in 539, the priests of the god Marduk   opened the gates and declared Cyrus Marduk’s chosen king.  But, it was Yahweh, God of Israel, whom Cyrus did not know, who had brought about Babylon’s downfall, all to serve his people Israel.

  1. 7, “I make the light, I create the darkness; author alike of wellbeing and woe, I the Lord, do all these things.”

 

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Sing a New Song

 

Psalm 96 calls us to sing a new song.  Does that mean we only sing new songs in worship?  I’ve discovered that writing hymns is not an easy task.  Rightly understood that is not what Psalm 96 is about.

The Psalm was used when David placed the Ark of the Covenant in the tabernacle in Jerusalem (I Chronicles 16:23-33).  It marked God’s enthronement as King of Israel sitting between the cherubim in the Holy of Holies.

The psalm finds a deeper meaning in Jesus when, “The word became flesh and tabernacled among us (John 1:14).   The “new song” is of salvation through Jesus’ victory over death.  The same term is used in the anthem sung to the victorious Lamb. (Revelation 5:9) From this time forward humanity is dealing with a new reality.

Christ’s resurrection summons all the earth to sing to Christ the King.  Christ is King over all nations.  Every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea, are included in the chorus.  All of creation is on its way to restoration through Christ’s victory on the cross and in his resurrection.

Therefore, “Sing to the Lord a new song: sing to the Lord all the earth…bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.”

A Day When Three Lights Shined

 

One of the numerous hymns written by 19th century scholar and poet, Christopher Wordsworth, nephew of William Wordsworth, is “O Day of Rest and Gladness.”

In stanza 2, Wordsworth writes of the light which shined on three Sundays.  Creation, Resurrection, and Pentecost.  At one – time people thought that God started creating on Sunday, which would make us Friday folks.  Maybe God was the one to say TGIF.

This version is from ELW

On you at earth’s creation,

The light first had its birth;

On you for our salvation,

Christ rose from depths of earth;

On you, our Lord victorious

The Spirit sent from heav’n;

And thus, on you, most glorious,

A three – fold light was giv’n.

 

In each case darkness preceded God’s creating act. The darkness over the face of the deep; the 3 hours of darkness on Good Friday and the tomb; the darkness of ignorance that permeated humanity before the enlightening of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.

Each featured a creation out of nothing, the world; life out of death; and a people called to be the church.

 

 

Crosses behind the Crossbar

Benjamin Hochman’s wrote an article on football at Valle Catholic High in St. Genevieve Mo. in the St. Louis Dispatch sports page. It offered a pleasant surprise this morning.

“Behind the crossbar, there are crosses. They sprout from the tops of tombstones in the cemetery, which sits on a hill behind the south end zone, here at this high school football stadium, where the names on the field are the names chiseled on the grave.”

Going to Church

 

“I don’t go to church ask God for anything,” Bob said, at the Friday morning Coffee and Conversation Bible Study group. “I go to give thanks to God for what I have and am able to do.”

The main reason I go to church is to sing.  This morning we began our sabbath rest singing, “O Day Of Rest and Gladness.”  How is one’s body able to rest while singing of the day of gladness, a day of joy and light.  We also sang, “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing.”  We sang of Easter triumph, Easter joy.

We heard in the readings of the mountain top feast in Isaiah 25, and Jesus’ story of our invitation to his wedding banquet. These were sandwiched around the promise of psalm 23 that the Lord prepares a table for us even in the presence of our enemies, even as we walk through death’s dark valley, followed Paul’s assertion that “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” How appropriate to sing “In Thee is gladness Amid all sadness.”  The hymn is set to a 16th century tune, which surely must have been intended for dancing.

Then going to the altar where, “Christ Himself, the priest presiding, Yet in bread and wine abiding, offring pardon grace and peace.” Finally we were ”Sent forth by God’s blessing, our true faith confessing…to work for God’s Kingdom and answer His call.”

That’s why I go to church, what about you?
 

Come to the Feast

 

If God wants to host a wedding banquet for us, as promised in our readings this weekend, the Lord will have to outdo Bill and Leslie Jourdain.  Only a few people attended their wedding in the chapel at Holy Cross, Collinsville, so Becky and I assumed that the wedding dinner would be a quiet intimate affair.  When we arrived, however, a large banquet room was filled.  And around the outside several serving stations featured food from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Leslie and Bill set the bar high for the Almighty.

This weekend God invites us to his banquet hall featuring a variety of fine wines and rich food, beef with marrow in the bone, and veal.  It’s a wedding feast.  Jesus is both host and groom and we are guest and bride.

But God will not be dining on his own cuisine.  No, God’s appetite is already sated.  He has swallowed the shroud of death that hangs over us and all peoples.  Death is destroyed.  At this banquet God wipes away all cause for tears.

Therefore, St. Paul, urges us to “Rejoice in the Lord always.”  As we wait for the banquet hall doors to open we live with the blessing that, “The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Jesus Christ.”

Get dressed in our wedding attire, which we received in baptism, even Jesus Christ.  The aroma of eternity wafts out even now.

Is. 25:6-9; Philippians 4: 4-13; Matthew 22:1-14

What did Jesus Write in the Dirt?

 

In John 8, while Jesus is teaching in the temple some of the Bible Scholars (scribes) and lay watchmen (Pharisees) brought a woman to him whom they had caught in the act of adultery.  How did they manage that?  Makes me suspicious.  His opponents claimed Moses commanded them to stone such women.  “So, Jesus, what do you say?”

Jesus bent down and started to write in the dirt while they kept after him for an answer.  Finally, he stood up and told them that the one without sin, (never missing the bullseye of God’s target of perfection) could throw the first stone.  Then he bent down and continued to write in the dirt.

What did he write?  I think it was not only what he said, but what he wrote which caused the would be stone throwers to wander off.  I think he started writing the ten commandments.  When he got to the sixth, about committing adultery, he stood up and told whoever hadn’t broken any of those commandments could fire away.  Then he crotched down and continued to write the rest of the commandments, don’t steal, don’t lie about people, don’t covet what someone else has.

What do you think he wrote in the dirt?

Unearthing a Burial Memory

 

Read a story in Country Today about Arcadia Wi. It unearthed a memory of a burial there when Becky and I lived in Winona, MN and I was Assoc. pastor at St. Martin’s Lutheran.  Future, sister -in-law Bev. taught at the school.

After the funeral at St. Martin’s I rode in the hearse with funeral director Tom Martin.  We started the 25-mile trip north along Hwy 93, crossing the Mississippi River and leading the procession through the hills and curves of the driftless area of S.E. Wisconsin. (Driftless, is the term where the last glacier, 10,000 years ago, did not rearrange the landscape.)

A police squad car met us at the edge of town and led us to the Catholic Cemetery; except we didn’t want to go the Catholic Cemetery.  Next, we drove to another cemetery outside of town. Alas, it was also not the right cemetery either.  By this time, I was enjoying Tom’s embarrassment.  “I should have come over and checked it out before today,” he said. Someone in the procession then spoke up.  “I think there is another cemetery in town.”  With the hearse no longer leading the way, the procession returned to town and someone led us down an alley between two brick building and there it was, a little cemetery located on a knoll right off main street.

The cemetery tour having been completed we finally laid the deceased in his resting place until the resurrection when all cemeteries will have become useless.

I have always maintained, funerals are more interesting and memorable than weddings.

Wisdom is Practical Smarts

 

We’re all familiar with Proverbs 9:10, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

With wisdom God created the world.  With wisdom God crafted our salvation on the cross.  With wisdom we are His workmanship to do good works.

How do we practice wisdom in our own life?

Retired Chief Inspector Gamache has an answer in Louise Penny’s mystery novel, “The Long Way Home.”

Recognize that: I don’t know. I was wrong. I’m sorry. I need help.

Wisdom is practicing practical smarts.

 

God Planted A Vine

 

Palm 80:7-19

My grandfather, August Glaubitz’ died in 1957.  Yearly, at his birthday in September the family gathered at the farm he homesteaded.  The memory that stands out is of a grape vine which had grown up into an apple tree and spread onto the roof of a granary/woodshed.  If it hadn’t froze yet, we might find some grapes to eat, along with some apples.

In the psalm, God brought a vine out of Egypt, cleared the ground and planted it.  It spread its branches over the mountains and mighty cedars, filling all the land and beyond.  But now the psalmist asks, “Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?”  Israel has been plundered.

The psalmist pleads that God would restore them, “let your face shine, that we may be saved!”

Jesus compares himself to the vine from which we, the branches, grow and bear fruit.  The problem for Israel is that it forgot God was their savior.  Now, they plead for God to look upon them and save.

At the end of the service on Sunday, we branches attached to Christ the vine, are sent on our way with the face of the Lord looking upon us, keeping us, and giving us peace.  Thus so, connected to Christ we spread out into our communities bearing fruit in our life.