Full Moon on First Spring Day

The full shiny shining moon peeks through the bare limbs of the oak trees in the yards of the houses behind us.  It’s sitting there beside a red lighted radio tower located on the Lindbergh H.S. campus.  Right now, they are equal in height, but I’m confident the moon will win and traverse from the east side of our house to the west in the hours ahead and the tower will stay put.

I had a diabetic appointment with my endocrinologist this afternoon.  I parked per usual in the outer reaches of the hospital parking lot (Aerobic exercise), where a man was wandering about obviously in search of his car.  Knowing how foolish one can feel having lost your car I said, “It’s happened to me too.”  He responded, “I could have sworn I parked lined up with the door, but now I see its way over here.”  “Probably moved itself out of spite,” I surmised.

Thus, I made my way toward the doctors’ building to see Dr. Thampy.   Now back in December that they had sent in a request for a Lebre free style glucose meter that I could put on my arm and forgo the four-a-day-finger stick.  But I had never heard anything.  Dr. Thampy had warned me that there would be trouble getting it.  So, I called CCS a couple weeks ago and they said they had no record of the request.  I called Thampy’s office and Heather said she would send it again.  Then last Thursday a woman called from CCS and it seemed things were underway.  But nothing.  I called this morning and was told that the notes from the December office visit on the 17th were out of date.  They would need a set of up to date notes.  I didn’t think until I hung up that the notes were still good last week, but their failure to act made them outdated this week.

I told Thampy’s nurse and she shared some tales of woe with getting the Lebre Free Style but would send in the notes from today’s visit.  I mentioned it to Dr. Thampy, and he smiled and said it will come before Christ returns.  I said, “That better be a long way off.”  But if Christ does return before I get the new glucose meter, it won’t matter, because I’ll have a whole new body minus 12 bi-passes, of which only one from 1988 works, minus diabetes and minus a pace maker.

As Rev. 22:20 says, “erxou kurie Iasou – Come, Lord Jesus.”

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When will Jesus get to Jerusalem?

When I was a younger pastor in Albert Lea, I had dreams that I was still at home on Minnie Madden, and the church bell was ringing, but I could never get to church.  As I got older, I didn’t have those dreams at Marshfield or Collinsville.  Perhaps I came to recognize that things would go on whether I got there or not, so relax.

We might raise the question concerning Jesus this week.  Is he ever going to get to Jerusalem to the cross and resurrection?  Shortly after his Transfiguration, Luke tells us “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”  Wouldn’t Luke send him on a direct march to the City of God’s Peace.  But he doesn’t.  Instead Luke delays Jesus for ten chapters. We may be anxious to have Jesus take care of the business of the guiltless one taking on our guilt, of forgiving us because we don’t really know what we are doing in our life, of Jesus appearing among the disciples after his resurrection and granting them “Peace.”

However, Luke wants us to slow down and consider Jesus ministry along the way.  He sends out 72 disciples on a mission to the surrounding towns, He visits Martha and Mary, He takes time to teach the disciples the Lord’s Prayer, He tells parables of the woman who lost a coin, of the lost sheep, of a prodigal son and his forgiving father and grumpy older brother.

Sometimes I think Lent is too long, but it gives us time to consider, as Luke would have us do, that Jesus had a larger ministry than his birth in Bethlehem, his innocent suffering and death in Jerusalem and his rising again to new life for us.

So, I say to myself, “Slow down.  He’ll get there.”

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” was our opening hymn on Sunday.  The hymn always takes me back to the night, while out for a walk, I heard a Lenten caroler.  This is not the first time I’ve told this story.

Every year in Marshfield, Wi. a community chorus put on a Palm Sunday concert at Our Lady of Peace.  “When I Survey” …was the yearly theme song for the concert.  We lived near OLP and Columbus High School.

  I was walking one evening enjoying the crisp air and the snow glistening as crystals reflected the street lights.  Suddenly drifting across the snow came a tenor voice singing, “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died.”  Soon the voice would fade until another snippet would reach my ears, “Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast save in the death of Christ, my God.”

I picked up my pace trying to catch sight of the singer.  Soon again another snip of the tenor voice, “Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?”  But I never caught up with the voice.  Apparently, his evening constitutional ended and soon I headed back to Arlington street myself.

But that evening walk with the diamond studded snow and the tenor voice, now more than 30 years ago, remains fresh in my memory.

Lenten Thoughts

What I have found over past six decades of ministry is that when we begin to discuss caring for the poor, the needy we soon find reasons for not caring for them.  They should get off their lazy butts and get a job, like I did.  They are all con men and women.   They are just trying to take advantage of us.  If you give them a hand out, that only encourages their laziness.  The discussion leaves behind the scriptural charge to care for the poor and finds validation in our American religion of self-esteem, self-support, doing it for ourselves and looking out for No. 1.

But Scripture tells us:

Psalm 41:1-2 Happy are those who consider the poor,

The Lord delivers them in the day of trouble.

The Lord protects and keeps them alive;

They are called happy in the Land.

Once on the Great Sabbath (before the Passover) the rabbi of Ropchitz came home from the house of prayer with weary steps.  “What made you so tired’? asked his wife.  “It was the sermon,” he replied.  “I had to speak of the poor and their many needs for the coming Passover.  Unleavened bread and wine and everything else are terribly high this year.”

“And what did you accomplish with your sermon?” his wife asked.

“Half of what is needed,” he answered.  “You see, the poor are now ready to receive.  As for the other half, whether the rich are ready to give-I don’t know about that yet.”

Isaiah 58:5-9

Is not this the fast that I choose…to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Prov. 22:2 The rich and the poor have this in common: The Lord is the maker of them all.

This is not a political statement, but God’s will.

Happy 3/16

Trinity Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, the one downtown that mostly burned down last year, wished every a happy 3/16.  I wish I had thought of that.

Thursday was PI day, 3.14.  Which doesn’t do me a lot of good, because 3.14 is math and I’m not usually supposed to eat pie, though I am familiar with PI as in the Greek word pneuma – spirit, Petros – rock or even periastrapto – shined around. As in the light that shined around Saul and knocked him to the ground (Acts 9:3)

Friday was 3/15 the Ides of March on which 60 conspirators, calling themselves the “liberators” assassinated Julius Caesar, famous for his history of the Gallic Wars and saying “Veni, Vidi, Vici.”  Shakespeare gives the credit to Marcus Brutus for the knifing to which Caesar responds, according to the playwright, “et tu Brutus.”

And this is 3/16 which suggests those words of the first Bible Passage I memorized, “For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Not all three sixteens contain such good news. For instance, Gen. 3:16 Follows the man and woman eating the fruit and God says to the woman, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.  (and yet) Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

You can finish up the pursuit of 3/16, but I need to check on some porkchops in the oven.

God’s Words: Dangerous

“You shall die.”  So, the people and the priests and prophets reacted to Jeremiah speaking the words the Lord had commanded him to speak.  He said that Jerusalem and its temple would soon be “desolate and without inhabitant.” He was surrounded by an angry mob who demanded a retraction.  The temple was God’s house.  God would never destroy his own house. But Jeremiah persisted saying the people needed to mend “your ways, deeds and obey the Lord’s voice.”  They could kill him, but he could do nothing else than tell the word the Lord had given him. (Jeremiah 26:8-15)

In the Gospel lesson some Pharisees warned Jesus that Herod wanted to kill him. But Jesus could do nothing other than the task his Father had given him.  He lamented the destruction of the temple once again.  But if he was going die, it had to be in Jerusalem. (Luke 13:31-35)

 Those texts impress on me the awesome task that God gives to fallible people to speak his word.  Sometimes it would be easier to tell people want they want to hear and not what they need to hear.  Believe me that is an awesome burden.  More than once I dreaded saying what needed to be said.  Because we have no choice but to speak it.  What is important is not our skin and well-being or popularity, but as St. Paul says in our epistle lesson, “Those who are called to faith in Christ in baptism have a “citizenship in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body…”

Jesus murder on the cross won for us that prospect of a whole new beginning.  We who preach can do no other than make the word of the Lord the center of our message.

Sleep is a Gift of God

If you are somewhere close to my age, you may remember the movie “American Graffiti.”  One of the songs, sung by Bobby Lewis, was “Tossing and Turning.”  The singer laments that “I couldn’t sleep at all last night.  I was tossing and turning, turning and tossing all night.  “I kicked the blankets on the floor…turned my pillow upside down…hear the clock downstairs striking four…it was the middle of the night.”

That song well describes those nights when we seem to wake up every hour with our mind still tracking with the thoughts from the past hour.

Charles Peguy wrote about God’s gift of sleep. 

God says, “Sleep is the friend of humans.  Sleep is the friend of God. Sleep is perhaps the most beautiful thing I have ever created.  And I myself rested on the seventh day.”

I like that line, “Sleep is perhaps the most beautiful thing I have ever created.”

Think about it.  While Adam slept God created a woman, Eve.  When Adam woke up God presented her to the man all indications are that Adam was mightily pleased with the form God had formed.

King David knew the blessing of sleep.  David says in Psalm 3:5, “I lie down and sleep I wake up again because the Lord continues to support me.”  David said this at a time when he was fleeing his son Absalom.  Absalom had undercut David and turned the people against him.  David fled into the wilderness area, where years before he had been on the run from Saul.  Now people were saying that even with God on his side he won’t win this time.  But in V. 3, he isn’t afraid, “But you, O Lord, are shield that surrounds me.  You are my glory.  You hold my head high.”

A prayer from the order of compline is worth remembering, “Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep. We may rest in peace.” 

Variety in Praying


Cyprian of Carthage writing in the third century reminds us that when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we at no time pray only for ourselves. “We do not say, ‘My Father, who art in heaven’ or, ‘Give me this day my daily bread’; We do not ask for our own trespasses alone to be forgiven; and when we pray that we may be delivered from evil, we are not praying only for ourselves either. Our prayer is for the general good, for the common good. We pray for all God’s people, because they and we are one.
I like what J.t. Pettee says, “Pray for peace and grace and spiritual food, for wisdom and guidance, for all these are good, but don’t forget the potatoes.”
In the light of my failure to hang in there with daily devotions or much in the way of traditional meditation, and I’m not quite sure what “being mindful” is about, Henri Nouwen’s words appeal to me. 
“There are as many ways to pray as there are moments in life. Sometimes we seek out a quiet spot and want to be alone, sometimes we look for a friend and want to be together. Sometimes we like a book, sometimes we prefer music. Sometimes we want to sing out with hundreds sometimes we want to say it with words, sometimes with a deep silence. In these moments, we gradually make our lives more open to prayer and we open our hands to be led by God even to places we would rather not go.”
Origen, writing in the third century is also helpful, “Those who pray as well as work at the tasks they have to do, and combine their prayer with suitable activity, will be praying always. That is the only way in which it is possible never to stop praying.”

God Pleasing Fasting

Isaiah 58 discuses what it means to fast.  The seventeenth century poet Robert Herrick summarizes Isaiah 58.  I’m retaining the Old English in which he wrote.  By the way Old English was not old in the 1600’s.  (Spell check is about to go crazy))

God Pleasing Fasting

The larder leane?

Is this a fast, to keep

And cleane

From fat of veales and sheep?

Is it to quit the dish

Of flesh, yet still

To fill

The platter high with fish?

Is it to faste an houre,

Or ragg’d to go,

Or show

A downcast look, and sowre?

No, ‘tis a fast, to dole

Thy sheaf of wheat

And meat

Unto a hungry soule.

It is to fast from strife,

From old debate,

And hate;

To circumcise thy life.

To shew a heart grief-rent;

To starve thy sin

Not bin;

And that’s to keep thy Lent.

Forty

This morning we opened the service singings, “O Lord, throughout these forty days You prayed and kept the fast; Inspire repentance four sin and free us from our past.”

Growing up on a farm when someone mentions “a forty”, they are likely talking about an acreage of land as in “That back forty.” Often when someone turns from age 39 to 40, its as if life itself is over; instead of the reality that the years ahead are our most productive years, everything before is preparation.

Biblically, forty is an important number.  It rained forty days in the Deluge. Israel wandered through the desert for forty years. Moses fasted forty days before receiving the commandments on Mt Sinai. For forty days Goliath scoffed at Israel’s army before David slung a stone into his forehead. The prophet Elijah, on the run from Jezebel’s threats, fasted forty days before catching sight of Mt. Horeb, where he heard God in a light zephyr.  Mary and Joseph took the infant Jesus to present him in the temple at forty days. The adult Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert where he fasted days and nights while Satan tested him.  During his suffering after his arrest, Jesus endured forty lashes minus one of the flesh tearing whip.

The church picked up on the number forty and set aside a period of forty days to contemplate our fragile humanity, and our failures which turn us away from God and one another.  These days were also a time of preparation for baptism, on the Eve of Easter.

The season of Lent is balanced by the forty-day Easter season.

We completed our opening hymn this morning praying in song, “Be with us through this season, Lord, and all our earthly days, that when the final Easter dawns, we join in heaven’s praise.”