Bombs and the Will of God

 

In July, 1944 Helmut Thielicke preached a series on the Lord’s Prayer in Stuttgart, Germany while the allies were bombing the city.  By the time he reached the sermon on “Thy will be done, all that was left of the Church of the Hospitallers was the choir section up front.  The sermon on the Lord’s will was interrupted by sirens and an ensuing air attack.  Shortly afterwards, a second attack completely destroyed the part of the church that was still standing.

The following is an excerpt from that sermon.

“Is it not our own will which never tires of arrogantly turning down the latch when God knocks on the door of our heart?  Is it not our will from which we want to be freed when we cry: “Thy will be done?”… Everything that happens to you, whether good or bad, must first pass muster before your Father’s heart.  Even in the midst of tumult and war the thoughts of that heart are thoughts of peace toward you.  Even the darkest places of your life must be seen in this light, in this Christ-light.

We are already joined to heaven and to the host of those who praise and love God and whose food it is to do the will of God.  We can bury everything in your will, Our Father.”

Thielicke cites a poem by Wilhelm Raabe

The Eternal is hushed and still,

The Temporal strident and loud;

Silently, over the strife on earth,

Moves the will of God.

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Nothing but the Forgiveness of Sins

 

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  Matthew 18:21

At Bible Class next Sunday, we discuss the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer.  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

In a sermon from 1524, Luther preached:

God’s kingdom or the forgiveness of sins has no limit.  Using a parable Jesus exhorts us, in fear of losing God’s grace, to forgive our neighbor his trespasses, without any reluctance, because God forgives us such endless sin and guilt.  Our debt which we owe God… is infinite.  It is so great we could not pay it, with all our possessions and with all our powers, for we cannot blot out even the smallest sin.  And since God in His kingdom forgives us so much out of sheer grace, we ought also to forgive our neighbor a little.

Christ speaks as follows: “In My heavenly kingdom, where there is really nothing but forgiveness of sins, that is, the Christian Church, I will do so to him who pardons another man’s sin.”  Or again: “To him who will not show mercy in his neighbor will I also show no mercy.  I am like a lord and king with reward to you all, but you are like fellow-servants among one another?”

Tap into the Water of Life

Pentecost 15, 2016, Bunker Hill, Jeremiah 2:4-13

2:13 for my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns.

On the way up here Becky and I cross the Mississippi once and Cahokia Creek at least five times.  We pass by water filled borrow pits along 255 and moats around warehouses. Water is much in the news these days, too much in some places; too little elsewhere as fires ravage the landscape; schools testing for lead, it’s not only in Flint, Mich.

The bible is filled with water stories.  “Let the waters…be gathered…Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures.” So says God on third and fifth days of creation.   Mist watered the earth and four rivers flowed from the Garden.  And it was good, very good. But it was bad, very bad when water poured down from the heavens and gushed up from the earth destroying all save for Noah and those in his salvation boat. At a well, Abraham’s servant met a pretty girl named Rebekah.  She helped him water his camels.   She became Isaac’s wife.  Isaac and Rebekah’s, son, Jacob, met lovely Rachel at a well. He helped water her flocks.  God sent a sea faring creature to return Jonah to the road to Nineveh.  When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, the heavens opened and the Spirit descended upon him.  The way to heaven was opened for us at our baptism as the Holy Trinity descended upon us.  As the bible begins so it ends with a vision of the river –  of life – giving water flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, watering the tree of life with its abundance of fruit.  Will there be water in the next life?  I don’t know.

I do know, we cannot live without water, nor without God, the Water of Life.   David cried out, “I search for You! O, My God!  My whole being thirsts for you!  My body desires you in a dry and tired land, no water anywhere.” (Ps. 63:1) Another psalmist calls out, “As the deer longs for the water-brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God.  I thirst for God, the Living-God.” Preaching on the mountain Jesus promised, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.” God satisfies our thirst with the gift of water and in Jesus, God satisfies our thirst for the Water of Life.

When the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, the Lord said, “My people have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water.”  How stupid, how foolish could people be?  If you were outdoors on a hot day and needed something to drink, would you scoop up some stagnant warm water left standing in a mud hole when cool refreshing water was at hand to slake your thirst?

But his own people had chosen to quench their thirst with that which cannot satisfy.  And God is puzzled.  God asks, “What fault did your fathers find in me that they went so far astray, and went after worthless idols and became worthless.”  God had chosen them to be his very own people.  He had given them a pathway through the water of the Red Sea.   When they were thirsty in the wilderness God caused water to gush forth from a rock.  He had brought them up from a land of deserts and gave them a good land that they might enjoy the fruits of the land and the Lord’s goodness. The Lord had been so near to them and they to him, like newlyweds who couldn’t spend enough time together.  But now his bride had strayed away seeking other husbands.

A Pastor tells of a next-door neighbor who was very shy and bashful.  When in high school, he had a crush on one particular girl.  He finally worked up the courage to ask her to go to a dance at the school and she accepted.  The night of the dance he got all dressed up and took her flowers.  Once they arrived at the dance he asked if she wanted something to drink, and he went to get each of them a Coke.  When came back with the drinks, she was kissing another guy.  She forgot, she abandoned the one who brought her to the dance. The young man was so hurt that the pastor thought he would never get over it.

God loved and treasured his people but they forgot who brought them to the dance.  They forgot the story of their salvation.  The priests no longer knew the Word of the Lord.  The kings no longer cared for the people.  The prophets spoke in the name of Baal.  God was good enough for them when he brought them out of slavery and accompanied them 24/7 for forty years through the wilderness. But once they crossed the Jordan they abandoned their Savior God and found new gods in their new land.  Perhaps they were embarrassed by their wilderness God. They followed gods who were powerless to help, gods who were not gods.

The granddaughter of a pastor friend will be attending an excellent college in her field of study this fall, but he and his wife are concerned about how she will fare as a Christian in an atmosphere where living in Christ is often ignored, regarded as irrelevant and even scorned.  There will be new gods which will seek to attract her.  But we don’t have to go away from home to be lured by new gods of our own creating. Other gods beckon to be placed before the God who died on the cross for us, who while we were still enemies reached out to make us his friends.  Therefore, we do well to examine our lives.  What is it during the next week that will loom more important, demand more attention, cause us to go against what God has said is the way to treat and talk about other people?   What or whom might we count on in our daily life above god our creator, preserver and savior?  Because nothing, no matter how much it promises to change our life and no one, no matter how much they promise to take care of our problems, can even come near what God is able to do and has done.  Everything else, everyone else, does not hold the water of life. And in the end will leave us as empty as their empty promises. Our epistle tells us, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”

Therefore, God speaks of himself as the fountain of living water.  In a story remindful of Isaac and Jacob, one noon day Jesus met a woman at well.  In fact, it was known as Jacob’s well. She had come to draw water.  Her water jar was empty, but so was her life.  Jesus struck up a conversation with her.  He wasn’t supposed to do that because this woman was a Samaritan, a woman automatically to be dismissed as immoral and unclean. He even asked for a drink of water.  When she asked why he would ask her for water, Jesus turned the table on her.  If she knew who was asking for a drink of H2O, she would ask him for a drink of the living water.  Because the water from Jacob’s well would only quench her thirst today.  Tomorrow she would have to be back for more.  But the water Jesus would give her would become in her a spring of water that would bubble up into eternal life.  For that living water was Jesus himself.  She unworthy as she was, believed in him.  Then she brought out the whole village to quench their thirst on this eternal water who had come to visit them, unworthy Samaritans though they were. It’s a marvelous story.  A story that befuddled his disciples.  A story that tells us that God puts no preconditions on his grace, only believe and you will be saved and let the Holy Spirit do the changing.

This week take that story of the living water, carry it with you every day and when something or someone threatens to become more important than God in your life, tap into the spring of living water within you, for that spring is none other than the eternal, thirst quenching water of life, Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forevermore. Then share it, that others might have their longing for God satisfied.

 

 

 

 

 

Humility

 

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 14:11)

In the children’s message for tomorrow I’m using the Dr. Seuss story of Yertle the Turtle.  We didn’t have the book, so my wife and I wrote own version.

Yertle the Turtle

Yertle the Turtle, King of the Pond,

sat on a Stone

Which served as his Throne

Wanted to rise above and beyond.

 

Mack and his buddies

Eager to obey,

Stacked themselves

Like bales of hay.

 

But Yertle did not say, “Thank you”

Or even “Do you need a drink.”

No, Yertle the turtle shouted six words,

“BE QUIET!” “I’M TRYING TO THINK!”

 

But the tower of turtles

Collapsed to the Ground

Tossing Yertle, King of the Pond,

Into the mud which lay all around.

 

Now Yertle the turtle is King of the Mud

No longer, sitting on his stone

Which he took for his throne

No, Yertle the turtle is just a mud dud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.