Bartholomew/Nathaniel

 

 

What will believers in Christ know about you and me in 200 years?  Unless all our blogs, face books, Twitters and text messages are still available, believers in Christ nor anyone else will know of us at all.

I raise the above question, because when you say Bartholomew you’ve said all we know.  2000 years ago he was among the list of Jesus’ disciples in Matthew, Mark and Luke.  In John the name Nathaniel is listed instead.

 

The epistle for his day from 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 begins, “We have this treasure in jars of clay.”  Though we will not be much remembered in a hundred year, yet like Bartholomew (Nathaniel) we carry the treasure of Jesus’ death and resurrection in our mortal bodies.   Bartholomew was a disciple of Jesus. He, with the other disciples, proclaimed the power of the Gospel, which lives on far beyond the time when his weak mortal body breathed its last and died.

 

Bartholomew reminds us that what is important is not how much influence I have and how well known I am.  What is of the utmost importance is that I know Jesus’ and am known by him.

As John the Baptist said in referring to Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

 

Some traditions say Bartholomew preached in India or Armenia following the resurrection.  In art, Bartholomew is pictured holding a flaying knife to indicate the manner in which he was killed.

 

The hymn, By All Your Saints in Warfare (LSB518) has a stanza dedicated to Bartholomew

 

Stanza 23

All praise for him whose candor

Through all his doubt You saw

When Philip at the fig tree

Disclosed You in the law.

Discern, beneath our surface,

O Lord, what we can be,

That by your truth made guileless,

Your glory we may see.

 

The Woman who was Bent at a Right Angle

 

I remember the driveway to the farm house.   I was on a home visit to an elderly shut in.   I remember the woman who answered the door was bent forward 90 degrees.

I think of that woman when I read the story in Luke 13:10-17 which tells of Jesus teaching in synagogue one Sabbath.  “There was a woman with a disabling spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.” Jesus saw her over in the women’s section.  Right in the middle of the service, right in the middle of his teaching, he called her over to himself to where he was sitting with the men in the front of the synagogue.  When she came over he said, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.”

He laid his hands on her and “immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.”  Luke reports, “And all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him (Jesus).”  However, there was one who did not rejoice, he was indignant, that was the head of the synagogue who had invited Jesus to teach his people that day.   Jesus had to go and set a bad example.  He healed, he worked on the Sabbath.  The woman could have come Sunday through Friday if she wanted to be healed, but on the Lord’s day, on the day when God had expressly said “Six days you shall work and on the seventh rest?”  Had not God himself created the heavens and the earth in six days and rested on the seventh?  Who does Jesus think he is?

That’s the question isn’t it?  Who does Jesus think he is?  Well, Jesus is the One whom God sent into this bent world to straighten it out, not with the law to make the world toe God’s line, but with the Gospel.  He was sent to do glorious things and to do the one inglorious thing on the cross so that all who believe in him can rejoice and glorify God.

The Prayer of the Day in ELW hymnbook is fitting:

O God, mighty and immortal, you know that as fragile creatures surrounded by great dangers, we cannot by ourselves stand upright.  Give us strength of mind and body, so that even when we suffer because of human sin, we may rise victorious through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Chosen Before Birth

Pentecost 14, 2016, Bunker Hill, Jeremiah 1:4-10

A time line has been added to the end of the sermon

This morning we travel back in time to 580 years before Christ, to Egypt where we meet the prophet Jeremiah.  He doesn’t want to be in the land of the pyramids; neither does the Lord nor does Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. But when the Babylonian forces over ran Jerusalem those fleeing forced him to go with them.  Now he reflects back more than forty years to when the word of the Lord first came to him when he was only about 15 years old.

Let’s listen in as he dictates his recollections to his secretary Baruch.

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, YOU SHALL GO!
and whatever I command you, YOU SHALL SPEAK!
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,”
declares the Lord.

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me,

“Behold, I have put MY WORDS in your mouth.
10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”

 

With that Jeremiah’s life was changed forever.  Notice, while the Lord and his mother were forming him in her womb, the Lord came to know him intimately.  Before he was even born the Lord set him apart and appointed him to be his spokesman.  Now I don’t know if any of us is able to say we were set apart by the Lord while He and our mother was forming us in the womb.  But I do know that the Lord consecrated us for himself at our second birth – in baptism.   In baptism he set us apart as his royal priesthood, his precious chosen people; to tell of the wondrous works of God in Christ; to tell of his mercy.  To live a life that shows our good deeds so that others may see and glorify God.

Jeremiah knew who had come calling that day.  He responded saying “Ah Lord God, I’m only a kid.  I don’t know how to speak.” Yahweh dismisses his excuse, “Nonsense, you are going to go to where I send you.  You are going to say whatever I command you.  Don’t be afraid of them.  I am with you to deliver you.”  You see, God doesn’t care who we are, how young or old or whatever.  God chooses whomever He chooses. He came to Abraham and Sarah too old to have a child and — they have a son.  He came to Moses fugitive from Egyptian justice and called him to be Israel’s deliverer because “I am who I am and will do what I will to do.” He came Gideon hiding from the Midianites called him a mighty man of valor and turned the coward into a mighty man of valor.  He came to Mary who was still a virgin and told her she will be the mother of God and so she became.  He came to Saul persecutor of Christians and made him Paul preacher of Christ.  To none of these did God offer a more meaningful life, but He had a job for them to do.  God is not the way we get what we want, but we are God’s way to get what He wants.  Sometimes whatever blessings and benefits come with answering God’s call is preceded by pain and trouble.  His call is not always convenient and may take us out of our comfortable life and change our plans.  Young Jeremiah had a nice life until God called him.

Then the Lord put his words into Jeremiah’s mouth.  Later Jeremiah tells the Lord, that when he came upon His words he ate them, and discovered they were sweet and were a joy and the delight of his heart. “For I am called by your name, Yahweh Elohim Sabaoth (Lord God of Hosts).”  An old prayer in which we ask God to help us hear the word of the Lord, read it, mark, learn it and inwardly digest it, so that the word becomes a part of our self.  So the word of the Lord has come to us this morning and we are not only dining on the word from scripture, but at the Lord’s Supper we will eat the word made flesh, the bread of life, Christ himself. The Lord’s Supper is a preview of that time we will recline at the Lord’s table in the Kingdom of God. In baptism we have the name of the Lord placed on our forehead in anticipation of the time we will see Christ’s face and his name will be on our foreheads in heaven.

No, the word of the Lord is not a dead thing, but alive and powerful. The word of the Lord on Jeremiah’s lips would uproot and break down, destroy and overthrow, but also build up and plant.

The word would come through everyday objects; a twig of an almond tree; a cooking pot spilling out of the north toward Judah and Jerusalem signaling destruction.  One-time God directed Jeremiah to wear a new loincloth, and not wash it but to walk 500 miles east to the Euphrates River and bury it.  Then come back home.  After a while God told him to go back and dig it up.  1,500 miles of walking all over a pair of underwear.  The loin cloth was spoiled.  God told Jeremiah that He had bound Israel to himself as closely as a loin cloth, but they had become rotten chasing after other gods.  God had created Israel and Judah, “that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise and a glory, but they would not listen.”  Now he would spoil them.

You see the people, the leaders of the people had put altars to Baal and the sun god and all sorts of gods, in the temple.  Priests of these other gods were preached and sacrificed in the temple.  Things were so bad that they had forgotten about celebrating Passover, the festival commemorating their salvation from slavery in Egypt.

Israel and Judah were like a boat full of people partying on a river with a waterfall downstream in the distance.  Suddenly, Jeremiah discerns that the boat is headed for disaster.  He warns the partyers, but they ignore him.  His calls for repentance annoy them.  They tell him to shut up.  Then he discovers that it’s too late they are going over. The disaster can be averted.

But the Lord also placed in Jeremiah’s mouth news of hope.  Jeremiah’s remarkable word is that no trip over the falls is final.  God is the kind of God who picks the people up from the rocks below the falls and continues to be about the business of building and planting for the future, even when there does not seem to be much to work with.

Jeremiah’s words points ahead some 580 years down the road, when the word became flesh and visited us in Jesus Christ.   Jesus uses the image of the temple destroyed to speak of his own death and resurrection, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”  When his opponents used those words against him at his trial, they were unwittingly proclaiming the word of salvation.  Jesus would become the new temple, God’s home on earth.   God’s final words to his people are not judgment.  We heard the word of the Lord from the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament lesson, “The time is coming to gather all nations and tongues and they shall come and see my glory and I will make new heavens and new earth and all flesh shall come to worship me.”  Think of it, God has created a whole new universe, a whole new dimension in which we will live with Him forever. That’s a hopeful word.  That’s a powerful.  That’s a word with promise.  That’s a word for us to enjoy in all its sweetness and joy in the coming week.

Time Line

627BC – Jeremiah called to prophecy.

612 – Babylon defeats Assyria

609 – King Josiah is killed in a battle with Egypt.  His reforms are dropped.

605 – Nebuchadnezzar takes throne of Babylon.

601 – Babylon moves against Judah and king Jehoiakim rebels

598-597 – Jerusalem falls.  Leading citizens and utensils from the temple are carried away.

587 – Babylon destroys city, burns the temple and takes more people into exile.

582 – another uprising, more people exiled, Jeremiah taken to Egypt.

561 – Jeremiah still alive in Egypt.

538 – Exiles begin to return to the land, as God promised.

7 – Jesus is born in Bethlehem

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Behind the Narrow Door

 

 

If you are of a certain age, you may remember a song from the 1956, “What’s Behind the Green Door?”  Jim Lowe, the writer, never finds out.  There’s old piano playing and lots of laughing, but try as he might he can’t get in.

“Strive to enter through the narrow door,” (Luke 13: 24) Jesus tells someone who asks if those who are saved would be few. Like the curiosity about the green door many will try to get through the narrow door and even claim that they know the doorkeeper, Jesus and yet will find the door shut.  Name dropping is not enough. The key, if you will, is to believe that Jesus is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.  He brings near the Kingdom of God because he and his word are the kingdom of God.  Jesus is the one whom the angel announced as the Savior, Christ the Lord.  He is the dividing point for the world.  Therefore, all need to repent, turn toward God.

What’s behind the narrow door? Isaiah 66, informs us that the faithful will be part of a gathering of all nations and languages.  Step inside the narrow door and one finds oneself entering into a new creation with new heavens and new earth, a new universe. Behind the narrow door are the myriad of angels and God, the judge of all and Jesus whose blood speaks a word better than the blood of Abel.  All those gathered will be in constant worship of God.

Luke 13:29, Alleluia. People will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. Alleluia.

Prayer: O Lord, you have called us to enter Your kingdom through the narrow door.  Guide us by Your Word and Spirit, and lead us now and always into the feast of your son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

Bernard

 

 

I had a cousin from my mother’s side of the family, named Bernard.  He was born two days before my mother, his aunt, in 1912.  He married my aunt Mildred from my father’s side.  One day when I went to visit their son, Monte, who was both a first and second cousin, my aunt Mildred said, “Monte, I hope you grow up sometime, because your father never will.”  That pretty well described my cousin Bernard or “Cy,” as he was known.  With good reason we much younger cousins enjoyed being around him.

He was a milk hauler in the days when milk was picked up at the farms in cans and boosted up into the truck before being hauled to the creamery or cheese factory.  It was great fun going with “Cy.” Monte and I would try our best to pull the can out of the tank  of cold water. Most of the time the suction was too great for us.  Then we usually couldn’t quite get them boosted into truck bed.  In the winter the trucks were equipped with a snowplow.  The milk haulers were usually the first to plow open town roads and farm driveways.

 

The Bernard the church remembers today and he died in 1153.  Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux was a man of great spiritual depth.  He was born in 1090 to an affluent Burgundy family.  At age 22 he entered the monastery at Citeaux and two years later started a new monastery at Clairvaux.  He was known for his charity work and political ability.  But his preaching and hymn writing are what make him particularly memorable.

 

Two hymns in LSB are attributed to him, “O Jesus King Most Wonderful” and “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.” ”Jesus, the very thought of Thee,” possibly another of his hymns is found in TLH.

 

He devoted much of his writing to the humanity of Christ.  His sermon on the Song of Solomon treats that Old Testament book as an allegory of Christ’s love for humanity.

 

I’m including two stanzas of “O Jesus, King Most Wonderful,”

 

When once You visit darkened hearts,

Then truth begins to shine,

Then earthly vanity departs,

Then kindles love divine.

 

O Jesus light of all below,

The fount of life and fire,

Surpassing all the joys we know,

All that we can desire.

 

Johann Gerhard, Theologian

Johann Gerhard (1582-1637)

After Martin Luther died in 1546 there arose a question about how to carry on his theology.  Two men arose who are especially credited with “saving” Lutheran theology.  One was a second Martin, Martin Chemnitz ((1522-1586).  The third, Johann Gerhard carried forth the work in the 17th century.  He wrote twenty-three large volumes defining Lutheran orthodoxy.  He also wrote numerous other books and many of his sermons were published and are still read.

In my library I have a book of fifty-one devotions called “Sacred Meditations.”  I’m including a brief excerpt from a meditation on imitating Christ.

“Is it not proper that our whole life should be conformed to Christ’s, since He has conformed Himself to our low estate out of pure love for us?  God manifesting Himself in the flesh has afforded us a perfect example of a holy life, so that no one might excuse his failure to live such a life by appealing to the weakness of the flesh.  No life cane be more joyful and tranquil than Christ’s because Christ is true God; and what can be more joyful and tranquil than the true God Himself, the highest good?…If you begin to conform yourself to the life of Christ here, then in the resurrection you will be more fully conformed to Him…If for Christ’s sake you renounce in this life your own honor, your own love, your own will, then in the future life Christ will graciously make you a sharer of His own honor, His own love, His own will.”

Prayer: Lord, make us more and more like You, O blessed Jesus, that in the world to come we may be perfectly conformed to You.

 

 

Mary, Mother of God

 

 

On August 15, the church remembers Mary, mother of Jesus.  St. Paul writes in the epistle for the day, Gal. 4:4-7, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman.”

“The fullness of time,” was the time in the history of the world and the history of God’s plan for redeeming the world from sin that He said to the Son, “Okay, now go!”

For Mary, “the fullness of time” came nine months after the angel Gabriel told her that she had found favor with God.   She would conceive in her womb and bear a son whom she would name Jesus.  In “the fullness of time” when her womb was filled with God she sent forth her and God’s Son.  God, born into human flesh was completely obedient to God’s demands in His commands.  He suffered death on the cross as the price for buying us back from captivity to our disobedience of the demands of His commands.

God honored us, adopting us as his children thus making us heirs of eternal life.

We remember Mary, the girl from Nazareth, who had the singular privilege of giving birth to God’s Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  No wonder Elizabeth loudly exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”

Because of that “blessed event” we too are among the blessed.

 

We sing of Mary, mother,

Fair maiden, full of grace.

She bore the Christ, our brother,

Who came to save our race.

May we, with her, surrender

Ourselves to Your command

And lay upon Your altar

Our gifts of heart and hand.

LSB855 st. 8  For all the Faithful Women

Jesus First and Second Baptisms

 

Luke 12:50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished.

At his first baptism – John the Baptist

At his second baptism – Jeering crowds

At his first baptism – water

At his second baptism – blood and water

At his first baptism – the voice of the Father

At his second baptism – sounds of silence

At his first baptism – the cross formed Spirit winged its down

At his second baptism – The cross

At his first baptism – the heavens opened

At his second baptism – the heavens darkened

Peace or Division

 

The Gospel lesson contains some troubling words.  Jesus says he has come to cast fire on earth.  He faces a baptism and is greatly distressed until its done.  He speaks of not bringing peace but division.

Isn’t it John the Baptist who promised fire?  When Jesus speaks of his own ministry he assures us that the Spirit of the Lord is upon him.  He has been anointed to proclaim good news and the year of the Lord’s favor.  At his birth angels declared peace on earth.  At his entry into Jerusalem the crowds proclaimed peace on heaven.  So what’s going on with Jesus in our gospel lesson from Luke 12:49-53?

Well there is a hint of the violence to come when his parents brought him the Jerusalem temple a few weeks after his birth.  Simeon took the child in his arms and blessed God giving thanks that now he is able to depart in peace.  He has seen God’s salvation with his own eyes.  This salvation is for everyone Gentles and Jews.

However, Simeon also told Mary that her son would be the great divide in Israel.  Some will rise and some will fall when they encounter Jesus.  The true intents and thoughts of many will be revealed.

Jesus will cast fire upon the earth on Pentecost with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But first he must pass through a baptism, not in the River Jordan, but on the cross.  Through his baptism on the cross the salvation which Simeon beheld and held will be accomplished.

Those who follow Jesus will find peace in him, but also division as faith cuts through families dividing humanity into two camps, those who follow Jesus and those who oppose and reject him.

In the Prayer of the Day we ask our merciful Lord to, “give us grace to receive with thanksgiving the fruits of Christ’s redeeming work and daily follow in his way.”

 

Life Lived In Christ

 

As the summer winds down, not the calendar summer but the “vacation” summer, this week has been filled.  Two grandchildren started school this week.  Our second oldest son and his family have been visiting from Maryland.  Their school doesn’t start until after Labor Day.  And, of course there plenty of Olympics to watch.  Furthermore, I’ve got Sunday off for the first time since May and also decided that since the Friday Morning Bible Class I teach hasn’t taken any of my hints to shut down for a time, I’m taking today off myself.   Chris, the new vicar, will seek to “rodeo” the class this morning.

Through it all Luther’s comments on the words of Paul in Philippians 3:12 still come to mind.  “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

Luther writes: Hence the whole life of the new and the faithful and spiritual people consists in the fact that with the inward groaning of their hearts, with the cry of their works, with the toil of their bodies they desire and implore for this one gift: that they may be justified until death; that they may never stand still, never think themselves to have already attained, never regard any work as the goal of a justification actually already attained, but await it as though it were beyond their reach as long as they still commit sins.