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

Advertisements

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.

Counting Stars and Sand

 

Hebrews 11:12, “Therefore from one man and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”

I asked the Bible Class last Sunday if any of them had ever tried to count the stars.  No one volunteered that they had attempted it.  I had when I was growing up on the farm; likely after having the story of Abraham in Sunday school.  I had assumed that everyone would have made the attempt, but I guess not many kids are as dreamy as I was.  However, whatever dreams I or anyone else has ever had are next to nothing when compared to the over the top dreams of God.

“By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.” Of course, the author of Hebrews chose to overlook Sarah’s laughter from behind the tent flap when God made his “ridiculous” promise.  The writer of Hebrews by-passed the ancient couples attempt to bring God’s dream into reality through their nephew Eliezer and the disaster of Abraham begetting a son, Ishmael, through Sarah’s maid, Hagar.

And yet, Genesis 15:6 tells us, “And (Abraham) believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”  Abraham and Sarah may have made a mess of things trying to take God’s promise into their own hands.  Yet, because Abraham believed, God counted his faith as everything.

That’s good news  when we mess up living by the promises of God in Jesus Christ.  God, who through the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith, counts that as putting us right with himself.

That’s worth a daily “praise the Lord.”

The Father’s Pleasure

Pentecost 12, 2016, Luke 12:32-40

32, Have no fear little flock; for your Father has chosen to give you the kingdom.

Phobias – We’ve all got some.  Fear of heights, Fear of closed in places.  Fear of crowds. Fear of saying something in the presence of others or that we have done or said the wrong thing.  Fear of water.  Fear of flying. Fear of change.

Jesus says to us today, “Fear not.”  The scribes and Pharisees had begun to press and provoke Jesus seeking to ambush him with his own words.  The multitudes of people were trampling one another to get their personal gripes satisfied.  Last Sunday a man interrupted Jesus pressing him to settle an inheritance dispute. With all this the disciples were likely beginning to get a knotted up feeling in their stomachs.  Where would this end if Jesus doesn’t back off, as he pushed on toward Jerusalem?  Is this the kingdom of God?  Are we in the kingdom? A lot of people are telling us that Jesus is wrong about the kingdom of God. They were fearful.

Some fears about the kingdom of God are also our fears.  Fear does not really hear the message of Christ, but something else.  Fear begins to wonder about the future.  Fear hears something new or different going on in the religious scene and says, “Maybe I really haven’t been in the kingdom of God all this time.  What if I am not really a Christian?  What if I’m not really saved?  I have no big spiritual awakening that I can point to.”  Fear hears Christ’s forgiveness and says: “That can’t be for me.” Fear leads us to say, “I sure hope God forgives me.”  “I hope Christ takes me to heaven someday.”  Fear does not hear the good news of Jesus Christ as good news.

Faith does hear the Gospel.  Faith receives the good news of Jesus Christ and sees that he is the shepherd of the little flock of God’s people.  Faith casts out fear.  Faith trusts in God.  And when faith sees Christ as the head of the church its sees him as one who is faithful.

Faith sees that becoming a member of God’s kingdom is not a matter of our working, our worry, and striving.  The kingdom is not something to be grasped in such a way.  A pastor I worked with said one time that we should stop trying so hard and using up so much energy to get into heaven.  Our text for today says the same thing.  “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  Your Father has chosen to give you his kingdom.  And the kingdom is nothing other than where Jesus Christ is present with the good news of salvation.  You are already in the kingdom of God.  So stop fretting about it.

When did you enter the kingdom?  For most of us it was at baptism.  There we received the gifts of life, forgiveness of sins and salvation.  Through Christ, God has already given us the kingdom as our possession.  God has already forgiven our sins.  Faith simply receives what Jesus has already done for us.  Luther says that faith points to the blood of Christ and proclaims: “That’s what gained my salvation.”  He also wrote, “(Jesus) died with the intent that this testament become permanent and irrevocable.”

So with such sure promises from God, faith wants to get out there and get at the work of the kingdom.  So let’s get out there and give the kingdom away to others and build up each other in Jesus Christ.  Let’s start serving God by serving one another and the community.  That’s what faith wants to do.

But fear isn’t through with us yet.  Fear reins in on faith and reminds faith that it has to deal with reality, or what fear thinks is reality.  Faith says, “I’ve got the kingdom of God as my possession, all these other possessions are not really important.  After all, they are gifts from God to be given to those in need just like the kingdom is.”  Fear says to us, if we are a senior citizen: “Wait a minute, I have to keep enough for myself to get by until the day I die.  I’ve got to be careful.”  And if we have a growing family, fear speaks: “Look there are braces and college costs, and house payments, and I’m busy, busy, busy. Let someone else look after the affairs of the kingdom.”  The single person might hear fear saying: “I don’t have a whole family network to support me and back me up.  I’m on my own, and I’ve got to look out for myself.”

Some years ago a group of boys broke into a hardware store.  They didn’t take anything, but rearranged the price tags.  Power mowers were now $3.29 and flashlight batteries were $439.  Towel racks were .29cents and roofing nails were $5.63 apiece.  All the values were hopelessly confused.  It’s very easy for us to do the same with our priorities in life.  Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Fear leads us to concentrate on our billfolds and pocket books.  But they wear out.  How many of us don’t have an old one laying around the house?  When possessions become the focus of our concentration then they become our goal.  Possessions absorb our energy and our planning.

Faith says, “Pocketbooks and billfolds that wear out are not needed.  Heaven is a purse which contains an ageless, invaluable and inexhaustible treasure.  Total economic ruin will not diminish it in the least.”  Faith changes our view of both God’s kingdom and our possessions.  Faith says, “Fear not. Don’t be anxious.”  Faith regards all other gifts of God as blessings to be shared.

But fear continues to badger us.  Fear raises the issue: “Doesn’t Jesus say we should be watchful and waiting for his return?  But you don’t know when he is coming.  What if you are not prepared when Jesus returns? What if I sin at the moment of his return or my death?”

Faith however, responds: “The coming of the Lord is a joyous thing.  There is no need to fear.  After all, didn’t he choose you to be part of the celebration?  Remember he has given you the kingdom already.  All your other possessions will one day be lost.  Not your possession of life, salvation and forgiveness of sins.  That is not based on you, but on Christ.  You are already prepared for his coming in the good news to which faith clings and which it proclaims.  Forgiveness of sins extends even to the very last one you commit, because Jesus paid for that one too.”  Your baptism is valid, in which God says you are mine.

Fear or faith.  Within ourselves they both struggle.  But fear simply seeks to center attention on myself.  Fear tells me I am in charge.  Fear leads me to think that somehow through my worry, my struggle, my anxiety and effort I can determine what the future will be.  Fear has me concentrate on some past sin which I fear may keep me out of the kingdom after all.

Faith says, “I’m not in charge here.  God is.  Let go of yesterday.  Let go of the past.  God has already dealt with the past.  He, in Jesus has already guaranteed the future.”

So what do we do in the meantime.  Something useful.  We serve Christ best by serving others. So where do we serve?  Sister Corita Kent, a Christian artist, once said, “Accept an assignment, then you won’t feel responsible for everything.”  Fear says either “I can’t,” or “I am the only one and will have to do everything myself.”  Faith says God has given a multitude of gifts to his people.  I will use mine where he so directs. For in that way, fear is cast out and faith becomes visible.

We do not know when Christ will return.  But in faith we are ready.  We are prepared.  We can continue to live with faith, assured that he will uphold us.  We can continue to serve knowing that our love will be a blessing. And we can continue to hope, because God has and will keep his promises.

 

The Lord is Reliable

Reliability in Psalm 33:12-22

Psalm 33:12-22 is the Psalm appointed for this Sunday.  The reliability of the Lord is contrasted with the unreliability of everything human.

V.13 The Lord looks down from heaven and sees every human being.  V. 15, God is the one who made all their hearts, the one who knows everything they do.  Therefore the knows what is in our hearts and what makes us tick.

Kings aren’t save by the strength of their armies…a warhorse is a bad bet for victory. (Vs. 16-19)

Vs. 18-19, Now pay attention to this.  “The Lord’s eyes watch all who honor him…to deliver their lives from death…”

The psalm concludes (20-22), “We put our hope in the Lord.  He is our help and our shield…Lord, let your faithful love surround us because we wait for you.”

The hope for which we wait is Jesus.  His is the holy name in which we trust.  He is God’s faithful love that surrounds us.  He is the treasure which is stored in heaven for us.

In epistle lesson from Hebrews 11, the author writes, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Jesus says in the gospel lesson (Luke 22-40) “Don’t be anxious…Fear not…It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Tomorrow we will pray,

Almighty and merciful God it is by your grace that we live.  Grant us that we may walk by faith, and not by sight, in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Holy Communion Service from about 100

 

The writing “Didache” or “Teacher” comes from around the year 100 -give or take.  I often wonder about how the services of the early church compares to our present day liturgy.

The following is from Didache.

This is how to give thanks: first in connection with the cup:

“We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David, your child, which you have revealed through Jesus, your child.  To you be glory forever.”

In connection with the piece (of bread):

“We thank you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you have reveled through Jesus, your child.  To you be glory…

As this piece was scattered over the hills and then was brought together and made one, so let your Church be brought together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom.  For yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.”

(Only the baptized is allowed to take the sacrament.  After they finished the sacrament a grace was said).

“We thank you, holy Father, for your sacred name which you have lodged in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which you have revealed through Jesus, your child.  To you be glory…

Almighty Master, ‘you created everything’ for the sake of your name, have given men food and drink to enjoy that they may thank you.  But to us you have given spiritual food and drink and eternal life through Jesus, your child.

Above all, we thank you that you are mighty.  To you be glory forever.

Remember, Lord, your Church, to save it from all evil, and to make it perfect by your love.  Make it holy, ‘and gather’ it ‘together from the four winds’ into your Kingdom which you have made ready for it.  For yours is the power and the glory forever.

Let this Grace come and let this world pass away.

Hosanna to the God of David.

 

Jesus from Bethlehem to Jerusalem

 

Bethlehem – where the inn had no room.

Bethlehem – where Jesus was born from Mary’s womb.

Bethlehem – where “a Savior is born” the angel voice boomed.

 

Jerusalem – where the cross loomed.

Jerusalem – where Jesus laid in a borrowed tomb.

Jerusalem – where Jesus emerged from the cold cocoon.

 

Baptismal – where we become the bride of Jesus the groom.

Baptismal – where we are delivered from tomb’s dark gloom.

Baptismal – where grace is unloosed for our blessing and boon.