An Ordinary Day

 

I was looking for something extraordinary today which would give me some inspiration to write.

The dog wanted to go for a walk at 7:30.  We ventured out for a walk around the cemetery.  Nothing too interesting there.  Everyone were their quiet selves as the traffic roared along Lindberg.

I went to the License Office to get my driver’s license renewed.  However, other than a young lady having to show me how to get the key pad up on the sign in pad, it was all quite ordinary.  “Thank you, I don’t have an I Pad,” I said.  Nothing unusual happened while waiting.  And the renewal process was quick and easy.  My photo came out better this time.  Someone commented about my present photo, “You look like a criminal.”

The rest of the day, I took another walk, worked on my Bible Class material on the Lord’s Prayer, pulled weeds, brushed the dog, took a nap after lunch and tried to watch some of the Cubs-Brewers game in which the Brewers did not play well.

An ordinary day.  Nevertheless, even on ordinary days we are able to count on something extraordinary.  God’s grace.  Once again this morning I got out of bed, Becky had coffee made, and I had plenty to eat three times today.  My heart kept beating – the pacemaker doing its job.  My insulin pump kept insulin flowing into my body – keeping my sugar well in the acceptable range.  The sun shined all day after it rained last night.

This evening my older brother emailed with a question, about why in Acts 8, verse 37 is now in a footnote.  That gave me an opportunity to do some studying and explain about manuscripts etc.

Yes, this was an ordinary day filled with ordinary activities and among the ordinary was God’s grace.  Once more Jesus upheld the universe with his word.  Once more forgiveness is available for me where I may have wandered from God’s path today.

And when I go to bed tonight, His extraordinary grace will accompany my sleep until I awaken to another day.  That’s something to look forward to.

 

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Momentary Sorrow, Everlasting Joy

 

“Momentary Sorrow, Everlasting Joy” was the theme of the sermon last Sunday of Thomas Schoech, interim pastor at Resurrection.  I don’t intend to reprise his sermon, but to look at the lessons from last Sunday through the sorrow-joy lens.

In the Gospel lesson, John 16:12-22, Jesus is speaking to his disciples prior to his death and resurrection.  They won’t understand what is happening, but the Holy Spirit will guide them.  They won’t see him for a little while but he will be back.  They will weep and lament, while the world will rejoice over Jesus’ death.  But their sorrow won’t last forever, though it often seems to us that sorrow really will never end.  Jesus promises us that “your sorrow will turn into joy.”

We rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection, though there is reason enough in our world and our lives to sorrow.  Lamenting and sorrow stand side by side in our life and world.  However, Jesus promises that the time will come when joy will stand alone in our hearts.  “And no one will take your joy from you.”

The long term outcome is indicated in the epistle lesson from Revelation 21:1-7, when God will, “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things has passed away.” We live now by faith in the all-encompassing presence of Christ who is “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”

Thus we pray this week, “that among the many changes of this world our hearts may be fixed where true joys are found; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”

Jonah on the Run

 

In Robert Morgan’s novel, “Chasing the North Star” Jonah is an aptly named runaway slave.  Jonah does a lot of thinking about his situation in life.

“It was so strange to think that he had to go all the way to Canada to be safe and free.  How strange that he was Jonah and not someone else…He could have been born in another time and place.  He could have been born white and free…He could have been born  rich and in the North.  Instead he’d been born Jonah Williams, a slave on the Williams Place, which Mr. Williams called Snowdown.  And he’d been whipped for stealing a book that was already his.  And he’d had no choice but to steal himself from Mr. Williams and run away into the Night.”

Later he discovers his value.  He is worth $100 to be returned to Mr. Williams to be whipped and branded.  He had been whipped when Mr. Williams discovered he had a Bible which Mrs. Williams had given him to read to her.  He had not stolen the Bible, but in order to be free he had to steal himself from his owner.

No Pain Anymore

 

It’s a wonder how some small incident from our youth sticks with us our whole life.  Such is the case with Revelation 21: 4 from the epistle for this Sunday.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Because of the age difference between my mother and her oldest sister my mother had three nephews older than herself.  One of these, Alvin, known as Robin, fell seriously ill.  I remember him being in terrible pain.  He and his wife Esther, had two young children.  As his illness took its toll, my mother would spend nights with him so his family could get some sleep.  However, Alvin/Robin was antagonistic toward our church, for whatever reason.  AS his situation worsened, my mother asked if the pastor could visit him.   He agreed.

I remember my mother reporting that the pastor had told him that in heaven there would be no more pain.

There is much in the epistle lesson for this Sunday which bends the mind.  What will be the form of existence in the heaven and new earth?  I have trouble picturing a new Jerusalem, which is the church – the bride of Christ the Lamb, descending from heaven dressed like a bride.  But Verse 4, brings it down to my understanding.  No tears, no death, no grief, no crying, and no pain.  Those things will not be part of our new life with Christ, the Lamb of God.  Whether it’s God dwelling with us or we dwelling with God, the voice from the throne is announcing, “Behold, I make all things new.”  That sounds heavenly.

Patience in an Age of Impatience

 

Galatians 5: 22- 23: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness gentleness, self-control…

I took the car into the dealership for an oil change and tire rotation.  While reading a book in the customer lounge, a man, perhaps in his 30’s, was becoming increasingly agitated.  Soon he went out into the area where the clerk worked and a couple of other people.  He began to grow more and more angry and to berate the staff.  His patience, which was thin to begin with, had worn away.

In know there is an anxiety when a person drives your car away to who knows where and you can do naught but wait.  I think there may be even more anxiety over one’s car disappearing than going to the hospital for some repair work on your body.

I also thought of a man at the Walgreens I frequent.  He was letting the pharmacist know how dissatisfied he was.  He was taking his business elsewhere.  I don’t imagine that was a great loss for Walgreens, since I’m sure I keep the corporation afloat by myself.

I thought of the person on the receiving end of the blistering.  Because they had to greet the next customer with a smile and take care of their situation.

But there are times when I’ve been impatient.  I walked out of my endocrinologists office after a three hour wait.  The problem was that as soon as I got home I had to make another appointment, because I had to meet the Medicare requirements.

At such times the joke prayer, “Lord, give me patience and give it to me right now.” is a valid petition.  When we lose our patience, we need the Holy Spirit to administer a dose immediately.  In fact, the more I think of it, I need something like my insulin pump filled with a steady stream of patience.  Perhaps Medtronic is working on a patience pump right now. I hope they hurry.

Feast of Dedication

 

The gospel lesson for Sunday, John 10:22-30, mentioned that Jesus was walking in the temple in the winter at the Feast of Dedication.  The Feast of Dedication is what we know as Hanukkah which takes place in December.  The Hebrew word for dedication is hanukkah.  So this year we are reading of the commemoration of a winter event in the springtime during the Easter season.  You will remember that Hanukkah commemorates the occasion when the Maccabean revolt over threw the Syrians who had profaned the temple by erecting an idol of Baal Shamen (an oriental version of the Olympian Zeus on the altar of holocausts (whole burnt offerings).  In a war which lasted from 167-167 BC, the Maccabeans rededicated the temple and built a new altar.  The revolt was led by Judas Maccabeus.

Jesus was walking in “the colonnade of Solomon.”  This was the outermost court of the temple and was surrounded by decorated columns forming a cloister around the outer edge of the temple.  The porticos were open on the inside facing the temple and closed in on the outside.  The oldest portico was on the east side and associated with Solomon.

It’s here that some people surrounded Jesus demanding to know when Jesus would finally tell them if he was the Christ.  They want him to stop hinting at this and give them a straight answer.  Of course, as Jesus does in the gospel of John, he never gives a straight answer.  All they need does is pay attention to what he is doing.  But believe they do not believe he is doing the work of his Father, they cannot grasp the idea that he is the Christ.  Their lack of belief prevents them from hearing what he is really saying.

Listening to the Voice of Jesus

 

Our day is filled with voices beckoning us to follow them.  Advertisements try to convince us to follow them and buy their product which is sure to turn our life from sadness to endless gladness.  Politicians this year are calling us at the top of their lungs that they will be our Savior, if only we follow them.

But Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me.”  My neighbor was telling of his nephew who had a set of car tires that he didn’t need.  He put them out by the street with a sign that said, “Free Tires.”  No one took them.  My neighbor told him to put a sign on the tires listing the price at $150.00.  The next morning the tires were gone.  His nephew asked how he knew someone would take the tires.  Bill said, “Because I know how people think.”

Jesus also knows how people think.  However, he didn’t appeal to our baser instincts, but in his death and resurrection he called us to eternal life.  More than that, he gave us eternal life.  We shall never perish and no one will steal us from him.  Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus continues to speak to us through his Word and through the sacraments. The Holy Spirit helps us to figure out which is the voice of Jesus among all the voices we hear.    Since we are part of his flock, all we need do is keep listening as we follow him through life into LIFE.

Synagogue Worship and the Lord’s Prayer

 

Without doubt the Lord’s Prayer was part of our worship this morning, as it is every week.  I’ve started digging a bit deeper into this prayer Jesus taught us which amounts to only 52 words in Matthew 6:9-13, without the doxology which was not part of the original.  The prayer is 36 words in Luke 11:2-4, with some variations.  One researcher I’m reading spent a good many pages trying to figure out which was the true original version.  I take such efforts as interesting but of little value when it comes to fathoming the depths of Jesus’ brief prayer.  As for the variations between Matthew and Luke, well we don’t say it exactly as either version.  This morning most of us referred to “trespasses” which is not in either Matthew or Luke.  Matthew uses “debts” and Luke has “sins.”

However, the researcher I referred to above did make a connection between synagogue worship and the prayer Jesus taught his disciples.  Jesus would have been quite familiar with the service in the synagogue which concludes with the Qaddish (Holy).  Note how this old prayer finds expression in the Lord’s Prayer:

“Exalted and hallowed be his great name

In the world which he created according to his will.

May he rule his kingdom

In your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime

Of the whole house of Israel, speedily and soon.

And to this, say, ‘Amen.’”

Litany for Good Shepherd Sunday

 

  1. The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
  2. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me and I lay down my life for the sheep.
  3. He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.
  4. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
  5. We your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
  6. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his names sake.
  7. Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph!
  8. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.
  9. My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
  10. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
  11. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.
  12. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
  13. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

All:  Almighty God, merciful Father, since You have wakened from death the great shepherd of Your sheep, grant us Your Holy Spirit that when we hear the voice of our Shepherd we may know Him who calls us each by name and follow where he leads; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Two quotes from Cyril of Jerusalem

In the fourth century Cyril of Jerusalem wrote,

In the same instant you died and were born again; the saving water was both your tomb and your mother.

Solomon’s phrase in another context is very apposite here.  He spoke of a time to give birth, and a time to die.  For you, however, it was the reverse: a time to die, and a time to be born, although in fact both events took place at the same time and your birth was simultaneous with your death.

Perhaps writing as a commentary on Isaiah 43, “When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown.”  Cyril wrote: Temptation is like a winter torrent difficult to cross.  Some then, being most skillful swimmers, pass over, not being whelmed beneath temptations, nor swept down by them, sink in them.  As for example, Judas entering into the temptation of covetousness, swam not through it, but sinking beneath it, was choked both in body and spirit.  Peter entered into the temptation of the denial; but having entered it, he was not overwhelmed by it, but strongly swimming through it, he was delivered from temptation.