Remember Your Congregation

 

The verses of the entrance psalm for Sunday are from Psalm 74.  The psalm calls on God to defend his people against a world hostile to God and his congregation.  The psalm verses are sung or spoken immediately following our confession of sin and the words of God’s forgiveness.  In the psalm we remind God to act on behalf of his congregated people.

With the words of the psalm on our lips and in God’s ear we enter into his worship to wrestle with him like Jacob of old and to persist in our prayers like the widow in the Gospel lesson.

Psalm 74 selected verses

Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old, which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage!

Remember this, O Lord, how the enemy scoffs and a foolish people revile your name.

Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild bests; do not forget the life of your poor forever.

Let not the down trodden turn back in shame; let the poor and the needy praise your name.

Have regard for the covenant; arise, O God, defend your cause.

Having called upon God to remember us, we break forth in song.  “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy,” and then continuing with a hymn of praise glorifying God in the highest.

Next, n the Prayer of the Day we ask God’s Holy Spirit to direct and govern our hearts that like Jacob and the widow we do not give up when facing an adverse world but continue “with steadfast faith.”

Prayer of the Day:  O Lord, almighty and everlasting God, You have commanded us to pray and have promised to hear us.  Mercifully grant that Your Holy Spirit may direct and govern our hearts in all things and that we may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of Your name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Now having asked God to remember his congregation, we remember to listen to his word in the lessons and the sermon.

May the Lord bless our worship as we congregate this Sunday.

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Yom Kippur

 

Psalm 122:6-7 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!  “May they be secure who love you!  Peace be within your walls and security within your towers.”

The Day of Atonement — also known as the Sabbath of Sabbaths — is the most important day of the Jewish year. More people go to temple on Yom Kippur than any other holiday.

Yom Kippur marks the end of the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of teshuvah (literally “return,” commonly understood as repentance) that begins with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

During the Days of Awe, Jews seeks forgiveness from friends, family and co-workers, a process that begins with Tashlich, the symbolic casting off of sins that is traditionally observed on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah by throwing bread into a body of water. On Yom Kippur, Jews attempt to mend their relationships with God. This is done partly by reciting the Vidui, a public confession of sins.

The holiday has the most extensive prayer schedule of the Hebrew calendar and arduous abstinence from food, drink, animal-based clothing and sexual intimacy. Communal prayers for Yom Kippur begin with Kol Nidre, a legal document that is hauntingly chanted and emotionally charged. The Book of Jonah is read during the afternoon prayer service on Yom Kippur day. The Day of Atonement is the only Jewish holiday that includes a fifth prayer service, called Ne’ilah, which is a final plea of repentance before the gates of heaven are said to close. The Ne’ilah service precedes the shofar blowing and the end of the fast.

Though Yom Kippur is characterized by fasting and prayers of repentance, it is actually considered the most joyous day of the Jewish year because it commemorates God’s forgiveness of the sin of the Golden Calf, and is considered a time to start anew spiritually.

 

Foreigners Saved by Faith

 

After Jesus healed the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19 only a Samaritan returned to praise God and give thanks.  He is a foreigner.  The Greek word, allogenes, used in 17:18, is the only use of that word in the Bible.  The word is made up of allo – “other or different” and genesis – “origin or descent.” Meaning, “another race or tribe” or “not one of us.”  The term was used in the temple in Jerusalem warning foreigners not to go beyond a certain temple court.

Sunday morning, we studied how the prophet Elisha healed Naaman of leprosy.  Naaman was commander of the Syrian army in 2 Kings 5.  He was also a foreigner.

A columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote that when he first heard of a police officer getting shot to death by an 18-year-old on drugs, he automatically thought it was a young black man in North St. Louis County.  However, it was a young white man from South St. Louis County who killed the officer.  The head of the board of elders at Bunker Hill said, “I think we all thought that at first.”

We live with prejudgments about people, especially those “other people” those people  “different from us.”  Yet God’s will is, “whoever calls on the name of the Lord be saved.”  Jesus told the Samaritan, “Rise go your way your faith has saved you.”  “Your faith has saved you” is the literal translation of what Jesus said.  As for Naaman, he took back home a load of Israel’s soil, on which he stood when worshipping in his nation’s pagan temple.  Because then he was actually on Israel’s soil as he worshipped Israel’s God.

Interesting how the mission of the Lord works its way into people’s lives.

On the Way – Mercy & Thanks

Pentecost 21, Bunker Hill, Luke 17:11-19

The text begins, “On the way.”  Becky and I have had a few incidents while on the way traveling; A New Year’s Day when the dash board started to emit smoke at the Missouri – Iowa border; a broken spring on a camper trailer in western Ontario on the way to Thunder Bay; a blown transmission in our PT Cruiser at the Pennsylvania – Maryland border.  A lot happens to us on the way through life, not only when we travel, but in regard to health, family, school, work, and our faith.

When we encounter Jesus this morning he is on the way to Jerusalem, where people were plotting to kill him; where Judas will betray him; where his disciples will abandon him; where Peter will deny him; where he will be condemned for blasphemy; where he will be lifted up on the cross; where he will die and be buried; where on the first day of the week at early dawn two men will declare, “He is not here, but has risen.”  Yes, Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem, the city of peace, where he would find no peace.  He was on the way in order that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.”  All peoples would find the peace that surpasses all understanding which keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, we are here this morning to “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” that trusting in “God’s unbound word” …we may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”  Yes, much happens to us on the way between our baptism and our dying and resurrection.  Remember those vows we make at confirmation to renounce the devil, his works and ways? To live according to the word of God in faith, word and deed even to death?  Or at the altar to the one we plan to spend the rest of days with to have and hold, for better or worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health, to love and cherish and all of it in faithfulness.  We make those promises without a realistic idea of what will happen as we go on our way through life.  Promises of faithfulness may be broken leading to broken lives and broken families.  Yet, through the strengthening that we have “by the grace that is in Christ Jesus…if we endure (in Christ, in faith) we will also reign with him.”  On the way, it is as we said in the words of our Introit, “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers then out of all their troubles.”

We meet Jesus this morning on the border between right and wrong.  That is, he was on the border between the territory of the Jews in Galilee who regarded themselves as clean and upright before God and land of the Samaritans who were automatically regarded as unclean and on the wrong side of everything godly.   Jesus was entering a village.   Is this village on the right side or wrong side of the border?   Ten lepers approached him, yet maintained their distance.  Being lepers they were unclean and were cut off from other people. Children did not run to greet them.  Wives do not wrap loving arms around them.  Friends did not rush to speak to them in the marketplace.  Leprosy rendered them unclean and unapproachable.  When lepers walked the roads, people crossed to the other side to avoid contact.  These men felt the sting of rejection everywhere they went.

But in their distress and separation from family and a normal life; they loudly cry out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  They are like the people who come to our church door on Sunday morning, disheveled and smelling of alcohol.  They disturb the orderliness of our morning.  What are we supposed to do, for them?  What should we do? What will Jesus do for the ten lepers?

But the Gospel is for those who cry out.  They cry out, “Jesus Master.”  Only the disciples have called him that.  The lepers pray.  They pray for mercy.  Not just pity.  But mercy.  Do they have faith?  Jesus had just told his disciples, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say, to this mulberry tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey.”  Do they have a mustard seed of faith that Jesus is able to help them?  They are expecting more than a donation so they can buy supper, but a miracle.

Without any fanfare, Jesus sends them off to see the priests.  So they must have trusted Jesus at least a mustard seed’s worth. On the way, the lepers noticed their white blotches began to leave them and they knew they were being healed.  They were clean. They were elated.  Ecstatic.  Free.  Off they ran as fast as they could go.  To see a husband, a wife, that they hadn’t seen for weeks.  To see a son or daughter, a father or mother, a grandfather, a grandmother they hadn’t seen for months.  Off they ran to see their field, their fishing boat, their store, their garden, their oxen that they hadn’t seen for who knows, how long. As fast as they could go, they were so happy to be well after all this time.  A painting out of Africa shows the lepers throwing their crutches in air as they celebrate.

But…one when he saw he had been healed, that mustard seed of faith began to grow.  He remembered. Now we have the second instance of loud shouting.  But this time it’s not a cry for help but, “alleluia, alleluia” to God.   He ran back Jesus, fell at Jesus feet, worshipped him, “thank you, thank you.” Then Luke drops a bombshell on us.  “And he was a Samaritan.”  Affliction had broken down the barriers between Jew and Samaritan.  They were all “one of those lepers.”  But for the Samaritan, now though he was healed, though he was clean, he would still be regarded as “one of those unclean and worthless Samaritans,” by the upright and godly on the right side of the border.

And Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine?  Were not ten healed?  And only you, a Samaritan, a foreigner, someone born on the wrong side of the border, a stranger, are you the only one to has returned to say thank you, to give praise to God?”

Then Jesus said, “Rise, go your way, your faith has made you well.”  However, that translation, ‘Your faith has made you well” is not what the Greek says.  The Greek reads, “Your faith has saved you.”  Your faith has brought you salvation.

You see, the other nine was cleansed.  That is, they could now return to their normal life with their families in their villages.  They were healed – the leprosy had been cured and their skin cleared.  And they were undoubtedly thankful, but to whom?  Like many in our world today.  They trusted in Jesus to make their life better. Jesus was the master dispenser.  But they did not praise God by giving thanks to Jesus.  They did not recognize the presence of God’s kingdom in Jesus.

Thus Jesus asked, “Was no one found to return except this foreigner, this one from another tribe, this one not from one of tribes of Israel?”

And Jesus says to him, “Rise,” for the wellness which he has received from Christ will lead to his rising again on the last day and to join with us eternal life in the presence our Lord in eternal glory.  Jesus said, “Go your way.  “Your faith has made you well.”  He is well all over. As was the woman with the 12 – year hemorrhage, and the blind man who recovered his sight.  And so for us too.  Our faith in Christ has made us well all over, saved.   Thus we with the woman, the Samaritan and the blind man have the peace which passes all understanding, which will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

As we go on our way this week may we also, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

 

Psalm 111, Great are the Works of the Lord

 

 

As early 210, Psalm 111 was used at the Vesper service on Sunday evening to celebrate the weekly remembrance of Jesus week of passion, death and resurrection.  In the morning we celebrated Jesus resurrection.

As the psalm was chanted, an “Alleluia” response was sung after each verse.

At the quiet Vesper service the psalm would begin, “Alleluia, I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright in the congregation. Alleluia.”  The psalm continues in the second verse, “Great are the works of the Lord studied by all who delight in them. Alleluia” This Sunday we delight in hearing of Jesus’ healing the ten lepers, one of whom is a Samaritan.

In the sacrament of Holy Communion on Sunday morning we remember, as expressed in verse 4, “He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the Lord is (indeed) gracious and merciful. Alleluia.”  We receive His body and blood in remembrance of him the gift of his body on the cross for our forgiveness and the shedding of his blood for our salvation.

Jesus “Provides food for those for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. Alleluia.” (V. 5) He nourishes our faith through the gift of himself.

We recall again in worship. On Sunday morning that, “He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Alleluia.”  God will not forget what he has promised.

Therefore, as the psalmist concludes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His Alleluia endures forever.”

Prayer:

Merciful and gentle Lord, the crowning glory of all the saints, give us, your children, the gift of obedience, which is the beginning of wisdom, so that we may be filled with your mercy and that what you command we may do by the might of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Rock Fortress for a Leaning Wall

 

This past week, someone posted a series of photos on Facebook of my home church, Christ Lutheran – Pipe Lake.  My great grandfather and grandfather built the original structure in 1902.  They also built the house in which my family lived.  When there was no one left to live in it and it was becoming an apartment complex to various varmints, my young brother hired a man to batter it down with a backhoe.  The operator commented “That house was built to stand.”

Psalm 62 is a psalm “Of David.”  The psalm is written for those occasions when life has battered us about so that we feel “like a leaning wall, a tottering fence.” We can’t stand much more and much longer without some support.  Another blow and we will go down.

However, what the psalmist has done is calm himself down and wait for God to support him.  “He only is my rock and my salvation.” He makes us “a house built to stand.”  Therefore, “I will not be greatly shaken.”   He confesses, God is his rock and salvation; his hope; his glory and refuge…” the power belongs to God…to you belongs steadfast love.”

Based on his own experience he counsels others, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him God is a refuge for us.”  But we may have to wait in patience.  In fact, much of the language in the New Testament is directed toward the certain future.  “Whoever calls on the Lord shall be saved.”  From heaven” we eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are, “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”  Therefore, Paul in romans encourages us, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”

While we wait with perseverance, Paul also encourages to continue working, “not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfast in prayers; distributing to the needs of the saints.”

Elisabeth Cruciger, Reformation Poet

 

Never heard of her?  Well, I hadn’t either until last night when Aaron, our son mentioned her as a contemporary of Martin Luther.  In fact, her daughter married John Luther, Martin and Katy’s son.

She was the first woman poet of the Reformation.  Her hymn, “The Only Son from Heaven” is included in LSB – 402, and ELW – 309.

Elisabeth was born in 1500 in Treptow, Pomerania near the southern shore of the Baltic Sea.  As happened to many young women in that day, she was sent to nunnery.  Her pastor was John Bugenhagen who became part of the Reformation movement.  Later he moved to Wittenburg where he was an associate of Luther and pastor of St. Mary’s church.  In 1520, Elisabeth fled to Wittenburg and stayed with the Bugenhagens.  In 1524 she married a student at the University, Caspar Cruciger, who was studying Hebrew and later assisted in completing the translation of the Bible into German.

The Bugenhagens wanted to have a full festival for her wedding.  They had regarded her as a daughter when she was disowned by her family for converting to Reformation teachings.  Bugenhagen asked Frederick the Wise, the ruler of Saxony, to supply enough venison to feed 10 large tables of guests.

She died in 1535.

Their son, also named Caspar, became embroiled in the controversies that arose after Luther died.  These controversies were finally settled when the Book of Concord was produced in 1580.

 

Pay It Forward

Pentecost 20, John 1:43-51 LWML Sunday, Bunker Hill

We’re familiar with the term, “pay it forward.”  Someone in the drive- thru lane at McDonald’s will pay for his own order and that of the person behind him.  Then the next person discovers that her order is covered pays it forward to the  person behind her.  A chain reaction is started.  Now when a person pays it forward, they might be in for a big surprise. Maybe they need to cover only a cup of coffee or maybe the person is picking up breakfast for a houseful of guests, 8 orders of pancakes with hash browns, 4 milks and 6 cheese and bacon egg Mc Muffins and 5 large coffees.

There is much surprise in the paying it forward chain reaction in the first chapter of John’s Gospel.  It’s begins with God, well what doesn’t?  The Word, who had participated in the creation of the universe, became flesh and lived right here on earth.  That Word was named Jesus, God’s Savior, came to give us grace upon grace; one gift of grace after another.  Some years ago there was an advertisement on TV around Christmas.  Johnny hadn’t been particularly good, deserving only a large chunk of coal in his stocking.  Before he went to bed he left a large succulent honey – baked ham for Santa Claus.  The next morning when appeared at the top of the stairs he saw below him a drift of gifts that stretched from the Christmas Tree, across the floor and up onto the bottom stair steps.  In wide eyed amazement Johnny exclaimed, “Wow!  Oh, Wow!”  Well, without our leaving the hip of a hog to bribe Jesus, he has left us a drift of gifts that spreads from our baptism across our life unto eternity.  Forgiveness of everything wrong we have ever said or thought or did, this week or in all our life.  He has cared for us providing house, and home, breakfast, lunch and supper, fields, cattle, family and all that we need to support our body and life.  And we have all the spiritual blessings of the heavenly realms stored up for us   – eternal life in the presence of God, where God will wipe away all tears from our eyes.  Gone is sin, sorrow and sadness, no sickness or hurts, no danger, only joy and gladness.  And what did we who deserved only a large chunk of coal do to receive such blessings? Nothing.  Christ has done it all for us.  Giving us gift after gift after gift.  All of it guaranteed with the Holy Spirit as a down payment.

Now here is where paying it forward comes into the picture.  Jesus came to John the Baptist, who proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world…I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove and remain on him.”  The next day two of John’s disciples began following Jesus. Jesus asked, “What are you seeking?”  They at least knew what they were seeking, but we live in a world where people are looking for answers, for love and security, in all the wrong places and people.  Psalm 146, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man in whom there is not salvation.  When his breath departs he returns to the earth, on that very day his plans perish.  It is the Lord watches over the stranger, upholds the fatherless and the widow; sets the prisoners free; opens the eyes of the blind; lifts up those who are bowed down and those who are upright in him.   It is God who listens to our prayers and loves us with an everlasting love.

When two disciples of John began following the Lamb of God they asked, “Where are you staying?”  Jesus said, “Come and see.”  They came, saw and stayed.  One was named Andrew.  He found his brother Simon, saying “We have found the Christ,” brought his brother to Jesus.  See how all this is paying forward?  See the chain reaction?  Do you see to whom Andrew brought his brother Simon the Rock? That’s the chain reaction of paying Christ forward.  That’s what the LWML has been about for over 70 years. That’s what the church is about.

Now things are really on a roll.  The next day Jesus had a mind to go into Galilee.  And what do you know he came upon a man named Philip and said, “Follow me.”  And Philip followed. What’s special about Philip?  Nothing.  In fact, we know nothing else about this particular Philip other than he was Jesus’ disciple. He’s just an ordinary person, like you and me.  One Friday morning in Bible Class, I was talking about leaving an impression on the world through our life.  And John, asked, “After you die, how much will your great – great grandchildren remember about you?”  I had to admit, “Probably nothing.”  God uses very ordinary people to serve as his witnesses.   Because it’s not whether our descendants will remember us, but that they remember and follow Christ.

That we are followers of Christ from our baptism is testimony to the Holy Spirit – empowered message of Jesus.  It’s not only Jesus and his word that are powered by the Spirit, but so are we and so is our life and message concerning Christ whom we have in us.

And when Philip, newly minted disciple of Jesus, comes across Nathanael he pays it forward.  “Nate. We have found the one of whom Moses and the prophets wrote.  Guess what? It’s Jesus, Joseph’s son, the one from Nazareth.”  Now for the first time the message of Jesus, the Christ, the one whom Israel has been awaiting for centuries, meets resistance.  Nate replies, “Out of Nazareth is something able to exist?”  Philip doesn’t argue.  He simply invites his friend, “Come and see.”

Come and see is the theme all the way through John Gospel as a variety of people are invited to “Come and see.” Come and see is the theme of this LWML Sunday.  Jesus invites a Pharisee named Nicodemus to come to the light and see clearly what God is doing.  A Samaritan woman, her life in shambles, invites her whole village to come and see the Christ.  A blind man whom Jesus healed, invited his synagogue to come and see.  Even at Jesus’ trial Pontius Pilate, a Roman official, said, “See the man.” And again, “Behold, your King.”  At his resurrection John and Peter came to the tomb and saw it was empty.  Mary testified, after she came from the grave, “I have seen the Lord.”  And Jesus invited Thomas, filled with doubts, “Come and see my scars.”

It’s a pattern for us to follow, for Jesus, the word made flesh, crucified and raised from the dead, sends us to invite, not only our friends, but strangers.   To simply say, “Come and see what God has done.  Come and hear and I will tell you what he has done for my soul.” God’s wants all the world to “Shout for joy to God, sing the glory of HIS name, give to him glorious praise.”  That is in accord with the vision that God will create a new heavens and a new earth.  He will send out his people to far off places so that those have not heard of his fame or seen his glory will be brought from all the nations, so that “all flesh shall come to worship, before me.”  Do you know what I discovered during my time at Immanuel Chapel in north St. Louis Co.?  The nations are coming to us and we have that same powerful commission to invite people to come and stand before the Lamb of God, because salvation belongs to him who was sacrificed on the cross and thus conquered, sin, death and the powers of evil.

Oh, do you know what happened with Nathanael?  He came and saw Jesus.  And he confessed, “Teacher, you are the Son of God!  You are the King of Israel!”  That is the power of Christ and his Spirit – powered message.

Whatever the situation in the world we carry a message from God, “Come and see, what God has done through his Son from heaven and from Nazareth.”  We have come and seen, now pay the invitation forward.

 

Clinging to God in Faith

Clinging to God in Faith

The following excerpts show that it’s all about faith in this week’s readings.

 

Habakkuk 1:1-4

1 …Yahweh, how long will I cry, and you will not hear? I cry out to you “Violence!” and will you not save? Why do you show me iniquity, and look at perversity? For destruction and violence are before me. There is strife, and contention rises up. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails; for the wicked surround the righteous; therefore, justice comes out perverted.

I will stand at my watch, and set myself on the ramparts, and will look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.

Yahweh answered me, “If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay…The righteous will live by his faith.”

Luke 17:5-6

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”

The Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you would tell this sycamore tree, ‘Be uprooted, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

2 Timothy 1:5

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

 

Habakkuk 3, is not among the lessons for this weekend, but forms a bookend with the readings from chp.s. 1-2.

Habakkuk 3:17-18

For though the fig tree doesn’t flourish,
nor fruit be in the vines;
the labor of the olive fails,
the fields yield no food;
the flocks are cut off from the fold,
and there is no herd in the stalls:
18 yet I will rejoice in Yahweh.
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
Prayer of the Day:

O God, our refuge and strength, the author of all godliness, by Your grace hear the prayers of Your Church.  Grant that those things which we aske in faith we may receive through your bountiful mercy; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit.