Jesus, Are You the One?

 

When we are to meet a total stranger at a restaurant we may tell each other what we will be wearing to make identification easier.

In the gospel lesson for the third Sunday in Advent, (Matthew 11:2-15) John wonders how he is going to recognize the Messiah.  From prison, he sends his disciples to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Jesus sends word back to John, that he is fulfilling the signs that Isaiah pointed to as signs of  the Messiah’s coming (Isaiah 35:1-10). The blind receive their sight.  The lame walk. Lepers are cleansed.  The deaf hear. Even the dead are raised.  And the poor have the good news preached to them.

Jesus goes on to call attention to just who John was.  He was the messenger sent to prepare His way. John was the last of the Old Testament style prophets.  Like his predecessors, John was unmovable.  He did not compromise.  He was no reed bending to the wind of public opinion.  He had no one advising him on the most photogenic apparel.

He was a prophet pointing out the sins of the people.  He may have been expecting Jesus to come with an axe in hand to cut down those who did not produce fruit of repentance.  But Jesus came with the fertilizer of the gospel to give the barren trees another chance to bear good fruit.  He came to turn chaff into grain that would be saved from the unquenchable fire and gathered into God’s granary as wheat.  After all Jesus is the Son of God for whom nothing is impossible. He comes with the Holy Spirit and fire, but the fire will be in the form of tongues on his disciples’ heads on Pentecost.  Then the Holy Spirit will fire up their zeal, courage and faith as they preach of God’s salvation in Jesus.

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Ambrose, Bishop of Milan

 

“Savior of the Nations, Come,

Virgin’s son, make here your home!”

Each advent we looking forward to inviting our Savior to come in the words of Ambrose’ hymn Veni, Redemptor Gentium.

Born in Trier in 340, Ambrose was serving as a civil governor seeking to bring peace among the quarreling Christians in Milan, Italy.  In 374, when a new bishop was to be elected, he spoke to the crowd.  A child cried out, “Ambrose, bishop.”  Support for Ambrose spread through the crowd.  Though he was still a catechumen, studying the basics of the Christian faith, he was baptized on December 7 and consecrated bishop of Milan, at age 34.

He gave his possessions to the poor saying, “The world belongs to everyone, not just to the rich.”  He convinced emperors Gratian and Theodosius to oppose and forbid Arianism in the West.  (The followers of Arian taught that Jesus, as Son of God, was not quite equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit)  He also extracted a confession from Theodosius after he massacred 700 Thessalonians.

He introduced hymn singing to the Western churches, writing both the words and music himself.   His preaching drew a young man named Augustine to hear Ambrose’ well speaking ability.  Augustine, after years of searching, soon came to faith in Christ.

Ambrose, pastor, defender of the faith and musician, died on Good Friday, April 4, 397.

Preaching on Jesus words, “When you pray, enter your room, close the door and pray to your Father,”  Ambrose counseled, “Let your prayer then rise not just from your lips…enter the depths of your heart, go right into it.”  “You always have a secret room.  Your room is your Spirit.  Even if you are in the midst of a crowd, you have within you your closed and secret room.”    “Learn that you have a door to close when you, pray.  Pray secretly in yourself, certain that he who sees and hears everything can hear you in secret.”  “If you want something from someone who has good hearing, you do not think it necessary to shout.  It is when you are trying to attract the attention of a deaf person that you begin to raise your voice….those who pray in silence prove their faith and recognize that God examines the reins and heart and, that he hears your prayer before it leaves your mouth.”

St. Nicolas Day

 

Nicholas was a fourth century bishop in Myra on the coast of what is now Turkey.  He was noted as a person who was generous toward the poor

Basil, the great fourth century father of the Orthodox Church, wrote:

What keeps you from giving now?  Isn’t the poor person there?  Aren’t your own warehouses full?  Isn’t the reward promised?  The command is clear:  the hungry person is dying now, the naked person is freezing now, the person in debt is beaten now-and you want to wait until tomorrow?  “I’m not doing any harm,” you say.  “I just want to keep what I own, that’s all.”  You own!  You are like someone who sits down in a theater and keeps everyone else away, saying that what is there for everyone’s use is your own…. If everyone took only what they needed and gave the rest to those in need, there would be no such thing as rich and poor.  After all, didn’t you come into life naked, and won’t you return naked to the earth?

The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry person; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the person who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the person with no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor.  You do wrong to everyone you could help, but fail to help.

Ambrose, the fourth century bishop of Milan, held a similar view.

The large rooms of which you are so proud are in fact your shame.  They are big enough to hold crowds-and also big enough to shut out the voice of the poor…there is your sister or brother, naked, crying! And you stand confused over the choice of an attractive floor covering.

Prayer of the Day – Treasury of Daily Prayer

Almighty God, grant Your church the grace to deal in generosity and love with children and with all who are poor and distressed and to plead the cause of those who have no helper, especially those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief; for the sake of Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, our who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

P.S. Happy Birthday to grandkids Amelia (14) and Lucas (9).

 

 

The Welcome Table

 

Afro American Spiritual:

We’re gonna sit at the welcome table!

We’re gonna sit at the welcome table

One of these days!  Hallelujah!

Gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days.

 

All kinds of people around that table

One of these days! Hallelujah!

All kinds of people round that table!

Gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days.

 

This song likely comes from a time when black people were not welcome to sit, were forbidden, to eat with white people.  The hope was that with the coming of Christ everyone would be welcome to the table of the Lord at the great wedding banquet in heaven.

The origin of all division in the world is expressed in an English carol.

Then after this was God’s own choice

To place them both in Paradise,

There to remain from evil free

Except if they ate from such a tree.

 

And they did eat, which was a sin,

And thus their ruin did begin;

Ruined themselves, both you and me

And all of our posterity.

 

The hope of the ending of such table exclusion was expressed by Isaiah when the shoot from the  root of Jesse will be born, filled with the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit.  One of the results of his coming would be cows and bear feeding together and lions eating straw with the ox rather than eating the ox.

Jesus gave us a sacred act with which to express our unity as we come to the welcome table and receive, “The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which strengthens and preserves us in body and soul to life everlasting.”

Come Lord Jesus, be our guest.

 

The Season of the Holy Spirit

 

Last week my nine-year-old grandson left a sweatshirt at school.  His mother reminded him that that was an expensive sweatshirt and he needed to remember his clothes.  Grandson said, “Oh mom you know how I am.”  Mom said, “you’re a smart kid and if you know yourself that well, you can then try not to forget.”  The next day grandson came home with three sweatshirts he had left a school.

What my daughter did was like the work of the Holy Spirit who is our helper and “teaches us all things and brings to remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

The lessons for this 2nd week in Advent all contain reference to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 11:1-10, The Spirit of the Lord, whose wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear will rest upon the shoot coming forth from the stump of Jesse will enable him to judge in the favor of the poor, the meek against the power of the wicked.

Paul in Romans 15:4-13 ties in the conversion of the Gentiles to Christ, with the coming forth of the root of Jesse.  He is the hope of the Gentiles.  In the power of the Holy Spirit the Gentiles will abound in hope.

WE meet John the Baptist in the Gospel lesson, (Matthew 3:1-12) who comes baptizing for repentance in anticipation of Christ, who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire, which is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

Thus, we prayed today, “Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of Your only-begotten Son, that by His coming we may be enabled to serve You with pure minds; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”

 

 

Only the Father Knows Best

Matthew 24:36-44

 

“Father Knows Best” was TV network show from 1954-1963.  It starred Robert Young and Jane Wyatt.  That father knows best could be threatening if it were that his knowledge and decisions were imposed on the family.  But the father in the show was more of a “Dad” who would do a sick son’s paper route in the rain; who chose to attend a school program to see his daughter over a business meeting.

In Matthew 24, Jesus says that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”  When will this happen? Jesus says, of that, “No one knows, not even the Father in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

That can sound rather ominous.  However, Jesus completes his long discourse about his return and the end of time in chapter 25. To those who have been placed on his right hand, Jesus says, “Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

The judgment for those who follow Christ does not begin with an examination of their lives, but with an announcement of their blessed future in Christ’s Kingdom.  When Christ examines their lives, all he sees are the good things his followers have done for him.  All our times when we haven’t done good to him and our fellow humans has been erased through Jesus death and resurrection.  All that is left for Christ to review are our acts of love for one another.

Prayer: You heavenly Father know best when the end shall come.  Through your Holy Spirit keep us steadfast in our faith in your Son that when you send him to return in judgment we be found living our ordinary lives as people blessed with redemption from sin and death.

I was Glad to God to Church

Psalm 122

 

I love my current job of “running around and preaching.”  Later this month Becky and I will be at Staunton, Il.  But on Sunday morning when I get up earlier than usual, I will not be so glad.  Somewhere along the hour drive I will have downed enough coffee to be ready to enter the pulpit and proclaim, “Let us be merry, Joseph Married Mary.”

Psalm 122 was written for pilgrims who after a long journey on foot had climbed the steep incline from Jericho to Jerusalem.  Their energy renewed and excitement mounted as they stood in the city’s gates.  But the journey was not yet finished.  Their goal was the temple.  However, in reflecting on Jerusalem the center of the universe for the tribes of Israel.  Jerusalem was the capital where the descendants of David were to reign in mercy and with justice.  They were to follow the God’s lead in not being swayed to favor those with standing, wealth or political influence.

Therefore, the pilgrims prayed for peace in the city of Yahweh’s peace, that all who loved the city and temple would prosper and find shalom.  Because Jerusalem contains the seat of God’s presence on earth the pilgrim will seek the peace for the city.

We also look forward to a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, not the one in Israel, but to the new Jerusalem which is the eternal city where God lives and reigns with the Lamb and the Holy Spirit.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, give us the peace of the new Jerusalem.  Bring all nations into your kingdom to share your gifts, that they may render thanks to you without end and may come to your eternal city, where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.

I Love You, O Lord my Strength

 

Psalm 18

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote in Sonnet 43,

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,

I love thee to the depth and breadth

and height my soul can reach.

 

Eighteen centuries before Browning, the poet David said,

I love you, O Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my lofty crag and my fortress and my deliverer,

My God, my rock, in whom I find refuge,

My shield, and my sure defender, my strong tower.

 

How does David love the Lord?  As many ways as the Lord loves him.

The Lord is his strength, lofty crag, fortress, deliverer, God, rock of shelter, shield, sure defender and strong tower.  God empowers us in the Holy Spirit to be fortresses, deliverers and defenders for those who need protection, deliverance, rescue and a place of safety.

Hymn 734:3 LSB,

You are my strength, my shield, my rock,

My fortress that with stands each shock,

My help, my life, my tower,

My battle sword, Almighty Lord-

Who can resist Your power?

Prayer:  Lord God, our stronghold and our salvation, give us such strength of love that we may reach out our neighbor without counting the cost, for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ.