The Welcome Table

 

Afro American Spiritual:

We’re gonna sit at the welcome table!

We’re gonna sit at the welcome table

One of these days!  Hallelujah!

Gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days.

 

All kinds of people around that table

One of these days! Hallelujah!

All kinds of people round that table!

Gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days.

 

This song likely comes from a time when black people were not welcome to sit, were forbidden, to eat with white people.  The hope was that with the coming of Christ everyone would be welcome to the table of the Lord at the great wedding banquet in heaven.

The origin of all division in the world is expressed in an English carol.

Then after this was God’s own choice

To place them both in Paradise,

There to remain from evil free

Except if they ate from such a tree.

 

And they did eat, which was a sin,

And thus their ruin did begin;

Ruined themselves, both you and me

And all of our posterity.

 

The hope of the ending of such table exclusion was expressed by Isaiah when the shoot from the  root of Jesse will be born, filled with the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit.  One of the results of his coming would be cows and bear feeding together and lions eating straw with the ox rather than eating the ox.

Jesus gave us a sacred act with which to express our unity as we come to the welcome table and receive, “The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which strengthens and preserves us in body and soul to life everlasting.”

Come Lord Jesus, be our guest.

 

The Season of the Holy Spirit

 

Last week my nine-year-old grandson left a sweatshirt at school.  His mother reminded him that that was an expensive sweatshirt and he needed to remember his clothes.  Grandson said, “Oh mom you know how I am.”  Mom said, “you’re a smart kid and if you know yourself that well, you can then try not to forget.”  The next day grandson came home with three sweatshirts he had left a school.

What my daughter did was like the work of the Holy Spirit who is our helper and “teaches us all things and brings to remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

The lessons for this 2nd week in Advent all contain reference to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 11:1-10, The Spirit of the Lord, whose wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear will rest upon the shoot coming forth from the stump of Jesse will enable him to judge in the favor of the poor, the meek against the power of the wicked.

Paul in Romans 15:4-13 ties in the conversion of the Gentiles to Christ, with the coming forth of the root of Jesse.  He is the hope of the Gentiles.  In the power of the Holy Spirit the Gentiles will abound in hope.

WE meet John the Baptist in the Gospel lesson, (Matthew 3:1-12) who comes baptizing for repentance in anticipation of Christ, who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire, which is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

Thus, we prayed today, “Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of Your only-begotten Son, that by His coming we may be enabled to serve You with pure minds; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”

 

 

Only the Father Knows Best

Matthew 24:36-44

 

“Father Knows Best” was TV network show from 1954-1963.  It starred Robert Young and Jane Wyatt.  That father knows best could be threatening if it were that his knowledge and decisions were imposed on the family.  But the father in the show was more of a “Dad” who would do a sick son’s paper route in the rain; who chose to attend a school program to see his daughter over a business meeting.

In Matthew 24, Jesus says that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”  When will this happen? Jesus says, of that, “No one knows, not even the Father in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

That can sound rather ominous.  However, Jesus completes his long discourse about his return and the end of time in chapter 25. To those who have been placed on his right hand, Jesus says, “Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

The judgment for those who follow Christ does not begin with an examination of their lives, but with an announcement of their blessed future in Christ’s Kingdom.  When Christ examines their lives, all he sees are the good things his followers have done for him.  All our times when we haven’t done good to him and our fellow humans has been erased through Jesus death and resurrection.  All that is left for Christ to review are our acts of love for one another.

Prayer: You heavenly Father know best when the end shall come.  Through your Holy Spirit keep us steadfast in our faith in your Son that when you send him to return in judgment we be found living our ordinary lives as people blessed with redemption from sin and death.

I was Glad to God to Church

Psalm 122

 

I love my current job of “running around and preaching.”  Later this month Becky and I will be at Staunton, Il.  But on Sunday morning when I get up earlier than usual, I will not be so glad.  Somewhere along the hour drive I will have downed enough coffee to be ready to enter the pulpit and proclaim, “Let us be merry, Joseph Married Mary.”

Psalm 122 was written for pilgrims who after a long journey on foot had climbed the steep incline from Jericho to Jerusalem.  Their energy renewed and excitement mounted as they stood in the city’s gates.  But the journey was not yet finished.  Their goal was the temple.  However, in reflecting on Jerusalem the center of the universe for the tribes of Israel.  Jerusalem was the capital where the descendants of David were to reign in mercy and with justice.  They were to follow the God’s lead in not being swayed to favor those with standing, wealth or political influence.

Therefore, the pilgrims prayed for peace in the city of Yahweh’s peace, that all who loved the city and temple would prosper and find shalom.  Because Jerusalem contains the seat of God’s presence on earth the pilgrim will seek the peace for the city.

We also look forward to a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, not the one in Israel, but to the new Jerusalem which is the eternal city where God lives and reigns with the Lamb and the Holy Spirit.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, give us the peace of the new Jerusalem.  Bring all nations into your kingdom to share your gifts, that they may render thanks to you without end and may come to your eternal city, where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.

I Love You, O Lord my Strength

 

Psalm 18

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote in Sonnet 43,

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,

I love thee to the depth and breadth

and height my soul can reach.

 

Eighteen centuries before Browning, the poet David said,

I love you, O Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my lofty crag and my fortress and my deliverer,

My God, my rock, in whom I find refuge,

My shield, and my sure defender, my strong tower.

 

How does David love the Lord?  As many ways as the Lord loves him.

The Lord is his strength, lofty crag, fortress, deliverer, God, rock of shelter, shield, sure defender and strong tower.  God empowers us in the Holy Spirit to be fortresses, deliverers and defenders for those who need protection, deliverance, rescue and a place of safety.

Hymn 734:3 LSB,

You are my strength, my shield, my rock,

My fortress that with stands each shock,

My help, my life, my tower,

My battle sword, Almighty Lord-

Who can resist Your power?

Prayer:  Lord God, our stronghold and our salvation, give us such strength of love that we may reach out our neighbor without counting the cost, for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ.

St. Andrew, Apostle

John 1:35-42

“Behold, the Lamb of God,” John the Baptist exclaimed.  Jesus turned, saw two of John’s disciples following and he asked what they were seeking.  They asked where he was staying.  Jesus said, “Come and you will see.”  In response, they came, they saw and they stayed.  One of them was Andrew.  Immediately, Andrew found his brother Simon Peter and informed him, “We have found the Messiah.”  He brought his brother to Jesus.

The “Treasury of Daily Prayer” mentions that when Andrew became the first home missionary.  He also became the first foreign missionary (John 12:20-22). Following Jesus entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, a group of Greeks, there for the Passover feast, asked to see Jesus.   Jesus took this as the sign that his hour had come.  Though Jesus was troubled over what lay ahead, nevertheless he proclaimed, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

St. Andrews Day comes near the beginning of Advent when we follow the Lamb of God not only to the manger, but to the cross where we receive the gift of eternal life.

Prayer: Almighty God, by your grace, grant us to follow Jesus Christ in heart and life as Andrew your Apostle did.  Give us courage to be among those of whom St. Paul says, “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”  In Jesus name.

 

God’s Fashion Line for Bill Paying

 

Romans 13: 8 & 14

Many of us have a “Christmas” sweater, tie or pair of socks. We might be surprised that God has a line of fashion especially designed for paying off our debts.   In writing of God’s line of fashion, St. Paul isn’t referring to our financial bills, but our debt of love.  “Don’t owe anyone anything, except to love one another.”  Paul directs us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”  The good news is that God dressed us in Christ at our baptism.  “For as many of you were baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.”

We are wearing a power suit through which God puts us to work doing the good works which God has already created for us to do.

Wearing Christ does not turn us into superheroes, but gives us power for our daily life.  Respect marriage, don’t murder one another in word or deed, don’t take what doesn’t belong to you, don’t covet what someone else has.

So have fun wearing your Christmas sweater, tie or socks, but let Christ, whom you wear every day, bring joy into your life and those whom you encounter.

Prayer: Lord, you dressed me in your Son Jesus, when I was baptized. Grant me the courage and the will to show the power of your love in the way I treat my neighbor.

Isaiah Saw the Word of the Lord

                                   Isaiah 2:1-5

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”  Those words are inscribed on the wall of the United Nations building in New York.  In the plaza a statue by Russian sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich depicts a figure holding the hilt of a sword in his left hand while his right hand grips a sledge hammer poised to strike another blow in turning the weapon into a plowshare.

Isaiah 2, begins, “The word that Isaiah…saw.” What Isaiah sees is not humanity’s efforts, but God’s work completed in Christ. The Lord assures us, that our warfare with him is over.  Our sins are pardoned. God has given us double grace for all our sins. Isaiah sees “all the nations” flowing to Zion, a vision which finds its fulfillment when, in Jesus words, “I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.”

Prayer:  Lord, through the eyes of my faith let me see the Word of the Lord that I might walk by His light and evermore learn to walk in your peaceful paths, through Jesus Christ, Your Son Our Savior. Amen.

God is Gracious

Advent 1, 2016, Glen Carbon Luke 1:5-15, 23-25

The dawning of the Day of our salvation began in the dark days when the people of Judea had been under the thumb of the Roman empire for 60 years.  An outsider, Herod was king, a Jew by birth, but not in conduct.  He had ten wives.  He erected The Roman golden eagle, in the temple.   He partially financed his extravagant building programs by appropriating money from the temple treasury.   He controlled the appointment of high priests.  It’s not that he was worse than other provincial kings, but he fully as bad as the others.

But in the quiet hill country of Judea, lived an older couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth.  They were among the treasured possessions of the Lord.  Zechariah, meaning “The Lord Remembers,” trusted in the Lord who had remembered his people, and acted in behalf of Israel ever since the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Zechariah lived his life in accord with his faith.  As did his wife Elizabeth who also lived up to her name which meant, “God is an Oath.”  Her name testified, that what God promises God delivers.  Their faith was accounted to them as righteousness and they lived law abiding lives.  We would like to think the same could be said for us that we are faithful, righteous and law abiding.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were the ideal couple.  Both of priestly heritage.  Zechariah of the tribe of Levi, those who assisted the priests in the temple.  Elizabeth was a descendant of the first priest, Aaron, brother of Moses.  In fact, she shared her first name with the wife of Aaron. It was like the early days in our synod, when pastors’ sons married pastors’ daughters and kept all in the family.

As the book of Deuteronomy promised, they should have been blessed with numerous children.  Psalm 127, tells us, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”  But there was no fruit of the womb for Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Oh, they had prayed and prayed for a child, but Elizabeth never got pregnant and now they were both old.  Do we have things of which we have dreamed, prayed for, hoped for, planned for, that never seem to come to fruition? How long do we keep praying and hoping for the fulfillment of our dreams when all we hear from God is the sounds of silence?  How long before we finally decide that God’s answer is “No?” and get on with life.

Zechariah and Elizabeth shared in the pain of some prominent Old Testament couples.  We know well of Abraham and Sarah.  God had promised descendants as many as the stars in the night time sky or sands on the seashores. However, there was no baby with twinkling eyes peered at them from his crib.    It was laughable to Sarah when three men came along one day and promised a child within a year.  She was 90 and her husband 100.  Nevertheless, a son was born. They named him, Isaac, laughter. Their son Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah.  Twenty years he and Rebekah waited for a child. Finally, their prayers were answered.  Rebekah was pregnant, but with twins who fought with each other even in the womb and her labor pains were excruciating.  Later one of their twin sons, Jacob, was conned into marrying two sisters.  The older, Leah, for whom he cared little, bore one child after another, but beloved and beautiful Rachel could not, until the very end when she mothered Joseph and Benjamin, but died in childbirth.  Like smoke on a quiet day the pain of childlessness hung in the background of the life of Zechariah and Elizabeth, but they were in good company.

Then one day Zechariah received word he had won the lottery.   His name had been drawn to burn incense on the altar in the Holy Place in the temple in the Jerusalem at conclusion of the afternoon service. Perhaps this was a once in a life time occasion for Zechariah, and his family and his hill country village.  The incense altar stood in the Holy Place just outside the curtained off Holy of Holies.  Off to the side was the eight candled Menorah, the one which burned eight days after the temple was reconsecrated in the time of Judas Maccabaeus, a century and a half before, inaugurating Hanukkah. What a humbling honor to enter into the Holy Place.

Outside, the multitude of the people were praying as the incense rose.  To this day, we sing in the evening prayer service, “Let my prayer rise before you as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”  Undoubtedly, among the multitude was Simeon, who would soon take up in his arms and look upon God’s salvation in an infant named Jesus.  And there was Anna, worshipping with prayer and fasting day and night in the temple who would speak of the baby Jesus to the multitude who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

They were all waiting for Zechariah to complete offering the incense.  He would come out, stand on the steps and bless the people with words first spoken by Elizabeth’s ancestor, Aaron, and still spoken today, “The Lord bless you and keep you, The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.”  But today there was a delay.  What could have happened?  People needed to buy some bread and go home and make supper.  People had things to do.  What’s the hold up?

The holdup was that the angel Gabriel had appeared, standing on the right side of the altar.  Zechariah was troubled and overcome with fear and finally doubt.  Remember that part of the service in which the pastor says, with “Angels and archangels and all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name.”  What if those angels and archangels and company of heaven appeared here?  It might boost attendance, but wouldn’t we be troubled and overcome with fear?  That’s the way it is when we are confronted by the holy heavenly host.  We like the prophet Isaiah know that we haven’t quite lived up to the holiness which is ours in Christ Jesus.

The angel said, “Fear not.” Then Gabriel told Zechariah that his prayer is answered.  “Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall call his name John,” which means God is gracious. Yes, the Lord had remembered his promise of mercy spoken first to Abraham.  In acting in behalf of Zechariah and Elizabeth, God was also acting in behalf of all Israel as they waited for their redemption.  The answering of their prayers.  And God was acting in our behalf too.

It was the dawning of the day of salvation when God would visit and buy back his people from sin and death.  John, would prepare the way for the One who would come with salvation and the forgiveness of sins.

All of this happened during a conventional twice a day worship service.  So, it is happening beyond our sight during a conventional worship service this morning.  The Holy Spirit is carrying the word into your hearts and minds and lives, strengthening your faith and life.  As we receive the bread and wine of Holy Communion we will also be receiving Jesus invisibly wrapped inside the bread and wine.  Once more our gracious God remembers his people.

And after the service Zechariah went home again. Elizabeth conceived and gave birth to John.  A few months later the angel Gabriel made another appearance to a virgin named Mary.  She too would conceive and bear a son and name him Jesus, who would bring about the day of salvation.  Therefore, we can go home to wait for the Lord’s coming, knowing that we are living in our gracious God’s day of salvation.

 

 

Parson Brown or Circus Clown

The other day I was listening to “Winter Wonderland” and noticed that “Parson Brown” had become a “Circus Clown.” One source said the “circus clown” version originated in 1953.

Well, Steve Miller, Bob Reinhardt, Dan Jansen and Nathan Jansen “Parson Brown” or Circus Clown” what’s the difference?
We’re in good company with St. Paul, “We are fools for Christ’s sake” in a world that think’s it’s wise.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving everyone.  We will be thanking God for our blessings and eating some Turkey with our oldest son in Tennessee.  Blogs will pick up again on Sunday.