Holy, Holy, Holy

 

Becky remembered that at the Methodist church every service began with singing “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.”  She thought every church started the service with that hymn.

At Resurrection on our “Hymns of Grateful Praise Sunday” we did open with Reginald Heber’s hymn.  Heber was an Anglican priest.  He lived from 1783-1826.  After serving a country parish for 16 years, he was made Bishop of Calcutta, India.  However, after barely three years in India he died in 1826. His best known hymn was written for Trinity Sunday.

Stanza 1, ends with a declaration of the holiness of God, who is at the same time “merciful and mighty!”  This is “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.”

The hymn calls us to rise in the early morning with our song rising to God.  Let our worship be a practice for the time we join the saints (St. 2) and the cherubim and seraphim around the glassy sea.

In St. 3 we confess that in this life, “the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see,” yet there is none beside God who is “Perfect in pow’r, in love and purity.”

St. 4 tells us that in the end, “All thy works shall praise Thy name, in earth and sky and sea.”

The hymn is based on Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah 6:2-3 and the songs in Rev. 4:2-11 and 7:9-12.  In Rev. 7:12, the angels, elders and creatures worship God saying, “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God” to whom salvation belongs.

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Worship in Word and Song

 

Once a year at Resurrection Lutheran, Justin Knabach, the Music Director, leads the congregation in a hymn sing in which he gives commentary on a hymn and then we sing it.  It’s a good time to do that since Pastor Schoech, the Interim pastor, is in Kenya with a mission team from the congregation.  We will sing “Holy, Holy, Holy,” followed by Psalm 98, “Oh sing to the Lord a new song.”  Then it is on to “Rock of Ages” and “Just as I am.”

Between those hymns we will hear the Old Testament lesson, from Malachi 4:1-6.  The day is the Lord is coming hot as an oven burning the arrogant and evildoers to stubble.  But for those who trust in the Lord the sun of rightness will rise and they shall go out leaping like calves.  The epistle lesson from 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 encourages us “do not grow weary in doing good” as we await the return of Christ.

Before we hear the Gospel from Luke 21:5-28, we sing “Amazing Grace.”  Then Jesus tells us that in the end times “Nation will rise against nation,” “there will be signs in the sun, moon and stars and on the earth distress.”  But don’t duck, rather “raise your heads…your redemption is drawing near.”

The next is hymn, “Oh, God our Help in Ages Past.”  God who has been with us in the past is with us still and always will be.  And 1n confidence of His faithfulness we declare our faith singing, “We All Believe in One True God.”

Finally, after the prayers and blessing, we conclude the service with “Joyful, Joyful we Adore Thee” an echo of our opening hymn.  Then we go on our way to offer our lives to the Lord as our spiritual worship over the next 6 days.

Baptism of Martin Luther

 

November 11, 1483 was a big day for Hans and Margarette Luther.  Their oldest child was born the day before.  Today, Hans took him to church and he was baptized and given the name, “Martin.”  Why “Martin?”

November 11 was the day the church set aside to remember Martin of Tours.  Martin was born into a pagan family in what is now Hungary about 316 AD.  He grew up in Lombardy, Italy.  He came to the Christian faith as a young person.  His first career was in the Roman army.  But he sensed a call to a life in the church and left the military, becoming a monk.  Eventually he was named bishop of Tours in western Gaul (France).  He lived a simply life and shared the Gospel throughout rural Gaul.  He died November 11.

Prayer:

Lord God of hosts, Your servant Martin embodied the spirit of sacrifice.  Through your grace he became a servant of Christ and defended the catholic faith.  Give us grace to follow in his steps so that when our Lord returns we may be clothed with the baptismal garment of righteousness and peace.  through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Psalm 143: 1 & 10, Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy!  In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness…Teach me to do your will, for you are my God!  Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!

 

Grief and the Election

 

Psalm 73:16, When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me.

Lamentation 1:12, Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me.

As I have listened to people following the election, I noticed that many people are going through the stages of grief. It’s akin to the grief of dealing with a sudden death in the family. I put that thought on Facebook and almost immediately Becky’s niece who lives in Virginia replied that that was exactly how she and many of her friends.  My daughter has cancelled Facebook because of many of her friends are distraught.  My son who lives in Maryland called from vacation in Florida to ask how his mother was doing.

So if someone you know or you yourself are stunned and perhaps even in denial, take some time for yourself or give the grieving person time to work through it.  Yes, democracy worked and on inaugural day we will have a president, that’s true.  While that might be uplifting to some, others may not ready to appreciate that aspect of our democracy.

Psalm 73:26, may be a good place to conclude.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

 

Oh, How Blest Are They

 

LSB 679:1

Oh, how blest are they whose toils are ended.

Who through death have unto God ascended!

They have arisen

From the cares which keep us still in prison.

 

I picked LSB 679 as the Hymn for the Day on All Saints Sunday.  On the way out of church, Mrs. Harms, her husband had been a pastor, said that hymn was new to here.  I said it was new to me.  But she went on to say that she will have to become more familiar because they were quite meaningful.

This hymn was written by Simon Dach in the first half of the 17th century.  Dach was a professor at Konigsberg university in what is now Lithuania.  He wrote more than 150 hymns a large and large number of poems.  Born in 1605, he died at age 53 in 1659.  The hymn was translated into English by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the 19th century.  Of course we, Longfellow for “The Ride of Paul Revere” and “Song of Hiawatha.”

Stanza 3, reminds me of my daily walk through the St. Lucas cemetery.

They meanwhile are in their chambers sleeping,

Quiet and set free from all their weeping;

No cross or sadness

There can hinder their untroubled gladness.

 

In stanza 5 we add our prayer that Christ would come and lead us to where God wipes away tears and where we will join them in, “Songs that ne’er to mortal ears were granted.” (stanza 4)

Stanza 5,

Come, O Christ, and loose the chains that bind us;

Lead us forth and cast this world behind us.

With You, the Anointed,

Finds the soul its joy and rest appointed.

All Saints, 2016

All Saints Sunday, 2016, Glen Carbon, I John 3:1-3

Today, we remember those who have been in our midst, family, church members, friends who have gone on to the church triumphant.  The first lesson gives us a peek into the realms of heaven.  St. John, writes, “Do you see what I see?  Look, a multitude, beyond number, from every nation under heaven – tribes, peoples, languages – all standing before the throne of God and of the Lamb.  That lamb is Jesus Christ, who was slain and is now risen.  Do you see them? Attired in white robes, palm branches in hand, loudly calling out, “Salvation belongs to our God.”  And there are angels, and elders and living creatures.  Now look, all if them have fallen on their faces before the throne worshipping God.  Listen as they sing, “Yes, oh yes.  To our God, blessing and glory and wisdom and understanding, honor and power and strength forever and ever and ever.  Yes, oh yes.”  That’s the vision of the church triumphant as John beheld the host of saints who had washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.

But when we turn to psalm 149, it brings us back to earth to the worship going on right here along Main street in Glen Carbon and throughout the world on this day.  The psalm calls us to join our voices to the angels, archangels and all the company of heaven, “Sing to the Lord a new song.  Sing his praise in the congregation of the saints.”  Then he calls on us to do something crazy, at least for us Lutherans, “Praise his name in the dance! Praise him with tambourine and harp!”  The psalmist calls us to extend our singing throughout the whole day.  In the privacy of our homes he urges us, “Let the saints rejoice and sing for joy on their beds.” Sing for joy on our beds.  In other words, copy here on earth what is going on in heaven, worship the Lord 24/7.  St. Paul tells us to offer our selves and our daily life to God in thanksgiving for his mercies. That is our spiritual worship acceptable to God.

In our epistle lesson, John tells us why God deserves this never ending worship on earth as it is in heaven.  “Look at what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God.”  Remember Jesus’ parable of the son who asked his father for his inheritance before his father had even died and then went over across the river into St. louis and blew the whole thing?  When the wayward son came to his senses, he decided he come back home and work as a hired hand for his father so he could at least have something to eat.  And what had the father been doing all that time?  Every day he went out to the end of the driveway and looked and waited for his son.  And when his son came bedraggled and beworn the father welcomed him back into the family, something he did not expect nor deserve.

That is what the Father did for you and me.  We were created in the true likeness of God.  Or at least our ancestors, Adam and Eve were. However, instead of being content with being in the likeness of God, they grasped at a counterfeit likeness held out as the tempter’s bait, ‘you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’  As a result, they, and we, became unlike God.  Living in a world filled with animosity, darkness and death in the place of love, light and life.  The image of God in us was sadly defaced.

But God’s purposes for us was not frustrated, disobedient and deserving of wrath as we were.  In fullness of time the image of God reappeared on earth in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, undefaced, unscarred and obedient.  In him the love, light and life of God shined forth in opposition to hatred, darkness and death.  However, his own people wanted nothing to do with him.  His own people rejected the Gift of grace upon grace.  It seemed at his crucifixion that hatred, darkness and death had once more won the day.  It seemed that God’s purpose, in launching his all or nothing, all- out assault on the realm of sin, Satan and death, had been thwarted.  But instead, the cross of Jesus proved to be God’s instrument of victory.  God’s purpose was fulfilled.  This was the “reason the son of God appeared, to destroy the work of the devil.” Love, light and life are now the order of the day.

This is the kind of love which the Father gave us.  We who had abandoned our Father and went our own way, were welcomed back.  He adopted us as his children.  That is what we are now.  God’s children.  Restored as full members of God’s family as surely as the prodigal son was accepted back into the family he left.  God sees us, accepts us, loves us and welcomes us home again.

However, God isn’t done with us yet.  There’s more to come.  John adds, “and what we will be has not yet been disclosed.  But we know that when he appears, (when he comes again) we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

You are familiar with the work of the painter Pablo Picasso.  In her autobiography, Gertrude stein described an exchange with the painter.  Even though he had painted her portrait, he did not immediately recognize her at a later meeting.  Stein wrote, “I murmured to Picasso that I liked his portrait of Gertrude Stein.  Yes, he said, somebody said that she doesn’t look like the portrait.  But that doesn’t matter, she will.”  You and I are growing into the image of Jesus, his likeness; even though there are days when we do not seem to be very much like him, we will be one day.  But exactly how that will be we don’t know.  The picture John gives us in Revelation is a vision, more akin to a Picasso painting than to a digital photo shot from an I phone. John gives us no detailed description in our text nor in his vision in Revelation.   It is with us as St. Paul writes, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

Psalm 24 poses an important question, “Who shall stand in God’s holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart.”  We heard Jesus say in the sermon on the mount this morning, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” In the blessing of Jesus death and resurrection our hands and hearts are cleaned and purified of all animosity, darkness and death.  Being clean and pure is not a standard God sets for us to attain, but rather a gift.

Thus as we wait for our Lord to a come again we will grow evermore into the in the likeness of Christ as we see the likeness of Christ in those around us.  Especially those in need of our love and care.  For Jesus will one day appear before us and say, “You saw me when I was hungry, and you fed me.  You saw my face when I was thirsty and you gave me drink.  You saw me when I did not have adequate clothes and you gave me some clothes.  You saw my face in the stranger, a foreigner, a refugee and you welcomed me.  You saw me when I was sick and you visited.  You saw me when I was in prison and you visited me.”  We will ask, “When did we do all this?  He will say, “When you did a kindness to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”  On that day when he returns in glory and bids us come and receive our inheritance, then we will know what it is to be like him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Saints Day Preview

 

 

In the first lesson from Revelation 7, through the eyes of John, we see a multitude from every nation plus angels and elders praising God.

Rev. 7: “And behold, a great multitude that no one could number…standing before the throne and the Lamb…crying with a loud voice…Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!

Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Psalm 149

The psalm mentions “saints” in verses 1, 5 and 9.  The saints sing to the Lord in worship (vs. 1-4) and privately in their homes (v. 5).  One commentator says that in vs. 6-9 the weapons are the praises of God’s people which God uses to advance his rulership of the world.

Praise Yahweh!
Sing to Yahweh a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the saints.

Let Israel rejoice in him who made them.
Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.

Let them praise his name in the dance!
Let them sing praises to him with tambourine and harp!

For Yahweh takes pleasure in his people.
He crowns the humble with salvation.

Let the saints rejoice in honor.
Let them sing for joy on their beds.

May the high praises of God be in their mouths,
and a two-edged sword in their hand;

To execute vengeance on the nations,
and punishments on the peoples;

To bind their kings with chains,
and their nobles with fetters of iron;

to execute on them the written judgment.
All his saints have this honor.
Praise Yah!

 

 

 

A Prayer for Responsible Citizenship

Lord, keep this nation under Your care.  Bless the leaders of our land that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.  Grant that we may choose trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the for the general welfare, and serve You faithfully in our generation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

For responsible Leaders:

O merciful Father in heaven, graciously regard those who make, administer, and judge the laws of this nation and look in mercy upon our leaders.  Enlighten them and grant them wisdom and understanding that under their peaceable governance Your people may be guarded and directed in rightness, quietness, and unity.  Protect their lives that we with them may show forth the praise of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Seeing with Jesus and Zacchaeus

 

Luke 19:1-10 was the Gospel lesson for October 30, if we weren’t celebrating Reformation Day.  I remember the story as a Sunday school favorite, perhaps because a child is small like Zacchaeus and often is left looking between the leg of adults when the parade goes by.

Jesus was passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem.  A certain Zacchaeus was “seeking to see who Jesus was.” He had grown rich as the head of a Roman tax collection franchise, and thereby he was despised by the residents of Jericho.  He was also short.  But who would expect him to climb up in a tree in order to see?

The key in the story is seeing.  Zacchaeus wanted to see “who Jesus was.”  And Jesus saw him, and knew him by name. He saw who Zacchaeus was.  Jesus invited himself into his home where he intended to stay that day, and through faith remain in Zacchaeus’s home. Zacchaeus received Jesus with joy.

The towns people also saw and they grumbled.  Jesus is too good to stay and eat supper with them, but he goes to this sinner’s house?  Please understand, Zacchaeus was a sinner – he was unscrupulous – even defrauding those who were already poor.

Now Zacchaeus also saw who Jesus was, one who accepts people, loves people and brings them home to his kingdom.  Zacchaeus also saw himself in the light of Christ’s acceptance and love.

Luke ends his account with a word for us, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  We sing of Jesus’ amazing grace, “I was lost, but now I’m found.”  Today look around and see -who are the lost in our community who still need to be found?

For All the Saints

 

William How (1823-1897) penned one of the favorite hymns for All Saints Day,

“For all the saints who from their labors rest.”

In a half hour I’ll take my morning walk through St. Luke’s cemetery.  The dog is welcome if he wants. Resting in the cemetery are people who were known in their time, Rott for whom a street and school is named, Sappington gets a street, suburb and school, at least three former pastors of the congregation are buried in there.  Joey “Ducky” Medwick, who played for the St. Louis Cardinals “Gas House Gang,” and won the triple crown in 1937 lies in the cemetery; as is a Civil War General.  A woman’s tombstone, bears the same first name as my great-grandmother, Theresia.

In stanza three, the hymn speaks of that Day when Christ returns, “But lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day: The saints triumphant rise in bright array; (as) the King of Glory passes on His way.”

Each morning, weather permitting, the lively saints from the preschool go to the playground, which is located on the edge, yet in the cemetery.  They run, their bodies bobbing between the staid grave stones lining both sides of the road.

Stanza four of the hymn bring the saints living and dead together, “Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine! We feebly struggle, they in glory shine.”

But one day all the saints, those buried in the cemetery, those little ones bobbing their way to the playground, as well as we dog-walking holy ones will be among the crowd described in stanza 8, “From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast, through gates of pearl streams in countless host, singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: Alleluia! Alleluia!”