The First Savior

I’ve launched an effort to read the bible from Genesis to Revelation. I checked out the God’s Word translation from the seminary library.  To my surprise, the attendant said I had it for one year.   I responded, “Oh, that gives me a goal to get through the bible by next Valentines Day.”  I’m up to Chapter 15, of Genesis.

When reading of Abram’s journey to Egypt in Gen. 12:10 – 20, I was struct that the first savior in the bible was Sarai (Sarah).  In fact, she is the first “beautiful savior.”

Though she was at least 65 years old, Abram feared that her ravishing beauty would drive Pharaoh to kill him and take her for his wife.  To save his life, he directed Sarai to say that she was his sister (which was sort of true).  Indeed when the princes saw Sarai they were struck by her beauty and informed Pharaoh, who took her into the great house as his wife. (vs. 15 & 19)

Because of Sarai, Abram lived and was further enriched with by gifts of producing livestock and servants.  But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh with plagues.  Somehow Pharaoh discovered that his new wife was also the wife of his honored guest, Abram. Pharaoh called Abram on the carpet for his deception and ordered his men to see to it that Abram was deported.  The episode ends, “and they sent him away with his (savior) wife and all that he had.”

It is a strange story with Abram guilty of several moral ambiguities.  It is one of the many stories throughout the bible of how God perseveres to bring to fruition his promise to bless the whole world with life and salvation in Jesus Christ, despite the less than perfect people with whom he has to work.

 

 

 

 

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Aquila, Priscilla and Appollos

 

Aquila and his wife Priscilla were experienced travelers.  The couple had been converted to Christ while residing in Rome; however, when persecution broke out they left the capital and traveled to Corinth in Greece.  Corinth was a cosmopolitan city, a major shipping center and stop for travelers in the Mediterranean Sea.  While at Corinth they met Paul and found a connection not only in Christ, but also in their trade as tentmakers.  They then joined Paul in his missionary efforts of proclaiming the Gospel.  Later, they traveled with Paul to Ephesus in Asia Minor (Turkey).  There they established a home that served as a hospitality center for new converts to Christ.

Apollos was one of their many Jewish students in the faith.  He eloquently and fervently spoke and taught “the things concerning Jesus.”  He also became a traveling missionary gong from Corinth to the province of Achaia.

You are able to read about their activity in Acts 8.

Prayer: Triune God whose very name is holy, teach us to be faithful hearers and learners of Your Word, fervent in the Spirit as Apollos was that we may teach it correctly that we might follow the example of Aquilla and Priscilla for the good of the Church you established here and entrusted into our humble care; for you, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, now and forever.

God’s Salvation Business

 

Before God began creation, He had a plan for our glorification.  Following our inglorious take- charge- of- our- lives-plan, everyone dies.  Like Jack and Jill, we’ve tumbled down, breaking our crowns.  In the fashion of Humpty Dumpty we have taken a great fall.  Not even the king’s cavalry can put us together again.  No matter how we try to straighten up and fly right, the glide path of our lives is that of a dump truck.  We may be able to patch ourselves up and make some temporary repairs, but the pot holes in our lives will keep breaking open.

God is not in the patch up and repair business.  God is in the salvation business, bringing into being a new creation where Jack and Jill wear the crown of life, Humpty Dumpty is made whole and dump trucks soar to glory.  God revealed his hidden plan in this present age, not in the brilliance of our minds, nor in the power of our strength, but in the weakness of Jesus on a hill far away on an old rugged cross, upon which was fastened the crucified Christ.

God overcame our wisdom and our power to take charge of our own lives, resulting in death.  God put Jesus in charge, resulting in life.

Yes, God is in the salvation business.  God’s business is one in which it is profitable to invest.

Our Sunday Conversation

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Deut. 30:15 & 20

See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him,for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the Land that the Lord swore to your father, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

However, we with Israel have made the wrong choice, thus we pray in the Collect:

 O Lord, graciously hear the prayers of Your people that we who justly suffer the consequences of our sin may be mercifully delivered by Your goodness to the glory of your name; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.

 

The entrance psalm (Introit), Psalm 98, indicates that the Lord has heard and delivered us.

The Lord has made know his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.

Let the sea roar, all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it!

Let the rivers clap their hand; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.

He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

Having been saved by the Lord Jesus, he continues to teach us in the Sermon on the Mount, Matt.5:21-37

Everyone who is angry with his brother is liable to judgment…be reconciled with your brother. You have heard it said, “You shall not commit adultery.” I say, Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her.  If your right eye cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.  Everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery. You have heard it said, “You shall not swear falsely, but I say, do not take an oath at all…Let what you say be simply, “Yes,” or “No.”

Therefore, we are reminded to pray again:

All: O Lord, graciously hear the prayers of Your people that we who justly suffer the consequences of our sin may be mercifully delivered by your goodness to the glory 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.

 

 

Psalm 111 and 112

Psalms 111-112 go together like two sides of the same coin.

Psalm 111 begins “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart in the company of the upright…Great are the works of the Lord…Full of splendor and majesty.” The psalm continues to praise the Lord for all his great works, ending with “He sent redemption to his people.”  All that the Lord has done leads the psalmist to conclude, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

Fear of the Lord is a determination to hold God in reverence and to obediently put into practice his commandments, “all those who practice (wisdom) have a good understanding.”

Psalm 112, tells us, “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments.”  The psalmist states the blessings that his children will have a good reputation and be respected and he will have wealth.  Yet he also alludes to the times when these blessings are not forthcoming.  Even then “Light dawns in the darkness for the upright.”  The upright person will continue to be merciful and deal generously in his affairs.  He will never be moved from his uprightness and so he will be remembered.  Bad news won’t faze him because his firmness and steadiness is in trusting in the Lord. No matter the circumstances he will continue to give to the poor.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are the light shining in darkness for the upright. Teach us to love one another as you love us, that we might being peace and joy to the world and find the happiness of your home, where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.

Interrupted by Babies

 

In Luke 18, Jesus is teaching about the coming of the kingdom of God.  He shared a story of a widow who kept bothering an unsympathetic judge until he granted her request, so God will give justice to his people who continually cry to him.  He also told a parable about a self-righteous Pharisee in the temple and a tax collector who threw himself on God’s mercy because he was a sinner.  The tax collector went home forgiven.

Amid his teaching, parents interrupted him by bringing their babies.  The disciples said, “no, no, no.”  But Jesus said, “Yes, yes, yes. The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

Do we regard a baptism as an interruption in the service?  I suspect in our modern church where we often don’t know the family, we do regard a baptism as an interruption in the service.  But as the hymn points out “See this wonder in the making, God himself this child is taking…Here we bring a child of nature; home we take a newborn creature…His to be awake or sleeping…Born again by Word and Water.”

Whenever a baby is baptized we are seeing, a “Miracle each time it happens as the door to heaven opens.”  We are seeing another human being called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.

So, as we begin each Sunday Service, we do so under the sign of the cross, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  We remember that at some point we were brought forward to the font, an interruption of the usual flow of things, and with Water and Word we were placed under the care and salvation of God won for us through the cross and resurrection.

 

We are Jacob

 

Ah, Jacob, you rascal you.  What shall we call you?  Usurper, Cheater, Heel Grabber, Imposter, Deceiver, Momma’s Boy, Schemer, Refugee, Patriarch, Israel – one who struggles with God, Limpy, Forgiven, Father of 12 Tribes, Blesser of his sons, Ancestor of Jesus, Our forefather in the Faith.

We shall call you, “One of us.”  Who of us has not usurped the place of God in our lives?  Who of us have not cheated God of all that is rightfully his?  Who of us has not posed as more pious than we are?  Who of us have not schemed to cover up our sins and make ourselves look better than we are?  Who of us has not struggled with God?  Who of us have not limped between faith and unfaith?  Who of us has not been forgiven through Jesus’ death on the cross?

What shall we call you, Jacob?  We shall call you “one of us” in Christ.  You are our brother in the faith. What shall we call you?  We shall call you brother.

Early in Jesus Galilean ministry he encountered a man named, Nathaniel.  Nathaniel said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Apparently, Nazareth didn’t have much of a reputation.  Jesus was not affronted by Nathaniel’s insult to his hometown.  He said, “Behold, an Israelite in whom is no deceit.” Jesus again refers to Jacob, “…You will see heaven opened, and angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:43-51)

What shall we call ourselves?  We shall call ourselves,” Jacob.”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, scepter that rises out of Jacob, lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, rule our hearts through your suffering cross and forgive us our sins, that we may become partakers of Your divine life; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

 

 

 

Salt and Light

Epiphany 5,2017, Glen Carbon, Matthew 5:13-16

Rosie Williams is a member at Immanuel Chapel in North St. Louis County.  Whenever I would greet her on Sunday morning, she would respond, “I am blessed.”  And so, she is and so are we – blessed.  By our baptism and trust in Jesus Christ we are blessed to be Jesus’ disciples.  Last week we were among those who came to Jesus on the mountain to be taught, that “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted; blessed are those who yearn for rightness for they shall be satisfied.  Yes, and blessed are those who are persecuted for doing the right thing in Jesus name…Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven.”

St. Paul tells us today that we are blessed because the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes to see what no eye has seen, opened our ears to hear what no ear has heard, opened our minds to things which are beyond the human imagination.  With eyes and ears and minds opened by the Holy Spirit we can understand the things God has done for us in Jesus Christ. St. Paul declares, “We have the mind of Christ.”  All those blessings come to us through Jesus Christ and him crucified.   We anticipate that day when we will see Jesus return and hear him say, “Come blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

This morning we again gather around Jesus who continues his instruction.  He tells us, “You are the salt of the earth.” You are that which salts the earth.  You are that which seasons with earth with God flavors.  “You are the light of the world.”  You are that which gives light to enlighten the world.  You are that which brings out the God colors of the world.

Jesus isn’t saying, “You should be the salt of the earth and light of the world.  He’s not saying, “You have to be” or “you better be.”  Rather, he is saying you are.  You are already salt and light.  Even if you don’t know it.  Even if you once knew it and forgot.  Even if you don’t believe it.  Jesus isn’t making demands of us, but is making promises to us and giving out gifts.

Let’s consider how we may have shown our saltiness and lit up a bit of the world the past week or so.   We might be surprised.  On the farm when I was growing up we had a salt block on a stake for the cows.  But occasionally we would be surprised and filled with some joy when a deer would be found among the cows taking advantage of the salt block.  So, it might be surprising to learn how our little actions of word and deed brought some joy into someone’s life or someone did the same for us.  Something as simple as how we answering the telephone with a cheerful greeting and readiness to listen.  We might have shown patience while standing in a checkout line.  Or a clerk might have helped us.  When I check out at the pharmacy at a nearby Walgreens, I get overloaded with all the answers I’m supposed to put in that little screen.  So, one young lady turns it toward her and does it for me, not only helping me but also aiding the waiting people behind me.  Thus, people season our day with kindness or we are a ray of sunshine in another person’s cloudy day.

Notice Jesus says to us, “You are the salt of the EARTH.”  “You are the light of the WORLD.”  This is a commission from the Lord like when the resurrected Savior commissioned his disciples, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing…and teaching them.”  Now that’s a tall task.  We may have trouble being salt and light in our daily encounters let alone for all the earth and for all nations.  A member of my Friday morning Bible Class was an executive at Ralston Purina and then served as president of Concordia Publishing House for ten years.  By his own admission, he was not a patient person.  His greatest challenge now is that his wife is very ill and prone to frequent falls.  Friday, she was having a bad day.  He often gets frustrated.  His wife tells him that the reason for her disability is to teach him patience.  So being salt and being light can be a challenge.

Nevertheless, we are not judged on how successfully we carry out our identity as salt and light.  Jesus has changed us into salt.  Jesus has changed us into light. He will preserve us.  For the source of our light is God who said in the beginning, “Let there be light.”  In the same way, the source of our being light and salt is none other than our heavenly Father, who sent his light, that is Jesus Christ, as the light of the world.  As John tells us, in him was life, and his life was the light of mankind.  That light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it…The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”

But Jesus had said salt and light, “of the earth, of the world, and all nations.”  I’m reminded of a time when the prophet Isaiah told the Lord that he was failing at what the Lord had called him to do.  “I have toiled in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.”  And the Lord responded, “The problem is that I have given you too light a task to simply raise up the tribes of Jacob…I going to appoint you as a light to the nations so that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

So now that we are salt for the seasoning of the earth.  Now that we are light for the enlightening of the world.  How do we go about using our blessing, to be a blessing to others?  The world certainly needs us.  All we have to do is check the headlines; listen to the news; glance over the social media pages – there is dis-ease in the world.  We have divisions in our country.  Yet when we look back at last week’s words of Jesus, his blessing is for the down trodden of the world, for those who recognize they are poor in spirit, for those want peace, for those who show mercy, for those who mourn.  As Mary sang about the child in her womb, “for he has looked on the humble…he has filled the hungry with good things, he has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy.”

Scripture gives us a few ideas how to be salt and light.  When Jesus speaks of his return to welcome into the kingdom of heaven those who are blessed of the Father, he will review our work.  “When I was hungry…you gave me food.”  Is there a food pantry nearby?  Bring them some food.  Is there a stranger nearby or a refugee in need of a welcome?  Jesus says that’s me. When you welcome the stranger, you are welcoming Jesus.  Jesus continues by saying that when we saw him naked we gave him some clothing.  When we visit the sick we are visiting Jesus.  The same for visiting a prisoner.  The Southern Illinois District has a great prison ministry.   Supporting that ministry is supporting Jesus.  When I preach at Pinckneyville the pastor’s office is filled with material for ministry at the prison on the outskirts of town.

Some things are difficult to accomplish and some are simple.  But however, we show our saltiness or let our light shine, Jesus says “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works” not so that they can send you thank you cards, but to” give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  In that way, the Lord says through Isaiah,” Your light shall break forth like the dawn,” demonstrating what it means to have “the mind of Christ.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presentation of Jesus

 

Everyone was busy with meeting someone, with prayers or putting temple money in the offering boxes.  Out of all the milling crowd the Holy Spirit was only able to break through to two people, Simeon and Anna.  They saw the couple with the six week old baby for who they were.  They saw the six week old baby for who he was.

It was thirty two days after Jesus had been circumcised and named.  It was the time for Mary’s purification as mandated for mothers by the Law of Moses.  As the firstborn, son Jesus belonged to the Lord.  He was the firstborn, not only of Mary and Joseph, but of the Lord.  Mary and Joseph bought either two turtle doves or two pigeons from the marketer’s.  To buy a lamb for the sacrifice was a bit out of their range.  Of course, they were carrying the Lamb of God in their arms.  He would be the Sacrifice to end all sacrifices, at no cost to anyone other than himself.  The price for this Lamb was beyond the means of everyone, for it was his life.

Were Mary and Joseph startled when Simeon and Anna, broke into the proceedings?  Well, they had been startled before, by shepherds visiting the stable maternity ward only hours after Jesus was born.  Before that there was the angel breaking into Mary’s day with a startling announcement.   We dare not forget Joseph’s dream.

Then Simeon takes the baby and begins to sing.  He is now ready to die peacefully.  His eyes have seen salvation itself.  He is holding in his arms the Light and Glory of all peoples.   Anna gave thanks to God and hurried off telling everyone.

What a day.  When Mary and Joseph finished what, they had come to do, they started the 70 plus mile journey back to Nazareth to resume their life.

That’s what we do today.  We go on with our life.  But we go having another One present who is the very favor of God upon us.

 

 

 

You are blessed

 

Perhaps our greatest need regarding being blessed is to recognize that we are in a state of blessedness.

When Jesus sat on the mountain and the disciples came to him, the first words of his sermon were “Blessed are the…”

His sermon on the mountain was not about how his disciples might become blessed.  Not even about how to be a blessing to others.  It’s not necessarily the wealthy who are blessed, or the powerful, the famous or successful, the beautiful or enviable.  Most often we think of being blessed with material goods or good health or loving family.

However, as is usual, Jesus turns our ideas upside down.  God calls the down and out blessed.  Those who are distressed or yearning passionately for rightness are blessed.  Peacemakers are blessed, those who dare to enter the midst of a conflict.  And blessed are the persecuted for the sake of believing in Jesus Christ.  These are the blessed and are called to rejoice and be glad.

Being blessed does not depend on our situation in life.  Blessedness is ours in Jesus Christ no matter the conditions of our life.  It’s like those wedding vows are applied to our whole life. Blessedness is ours “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.”  We are loved and cherished by God until we depart this life in death.  All of this per “God’s holy will” and pledged to us in his faithfulness.

When Christ returns, we will see where all our blessedness leads.  “Come blessed of my Father and inherit the kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world.”