Conversation at the Church Coffee Pot

 

I stood with another man after the confirmation service at St. john’s, Burn, TN.  I must have asked, “How’re you doing?”  He replied, “Still upright.”  I said, “One time when I was filling in at a church a man I knew fairly well asked me, ‘How you doing?’ and I said, ‘Still upright.’  Within in two weeks I received word that he had suddenly died of a heart attack.  So, I don’t tell people that I’m still upright anymore.”

The man at the coffee pot said, “I knew a guy who lived his life sort of helter –  skelter.  But then he got cancer and I asked him if he had ever been baptized, ‘No,’ he said, ‘But I’ve always wanted to be baptized.’  He lived near a catholic church and school, I asked if he wanted me to talk to a priest or one of the nuns about baptizing him.  ‘No, I don’t want that,’ the man said. Well would you like me to baptize you.  He said, ‘Yes, I would like that.’  So, I baptized him and told Pastor Nathan. Nine days later he died.  It made me feel real that I did that.  It was a real blessing to be able to do that”

“Yes, I said, “It was a blessing to you and think of what a blessing it was to your friend.”

 

 

Advertisements

I am the Door

 

One of Jesus “I Am” statements in the Gospel of John is from John 10:7, “I am the door of the sheep.”  To enter the protection of the sheepfold, Jesus is the door which is open to those who know his voice and by entering is saved.

In his sermon on Good Shepherd Sunday, Nathan, our son, took us back to the previous chapter where Jesus gives to a man born blind.  Jesus smeared mud on the man’s eyes, sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam and the man came back seeing.  If he thought everyone else would be overjoyed with the man’s new found sight and Jesus who had opened his eyes to the light, well he had another think coming.  Suddenly nobody seemed to know him.  Some of his neighbors weren’t sure he was the man who had been blind.  The Pharisees grill him with questions about who had done this on the sabbath, yet.  His parents didn’t step in to defend and support their son.  Finally, he was thrown out of the community in which he had always lived.

Yes, sometimes the church is not a welcoming community and is blind to Jesus working among them.   Yet Jesus is present in his community, in the Word, in Baptism, in Holy Communion.  He is present as the resurrected Savior.  He is the door who welcomes all who believe and through whom those who enter will find life and “have it abundantly.”

Opening the Scripture

 

In Luke 24 the two disciples encountered a stranger who “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”  Again, forty days later as he was about to ascend into heaven Jesus, with the disciples gathered around him, “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”

Becky and I have two grandchildren being confirmed this month.   It remains a wonder that so many confirmands and their parents believe that the whole of scriptures has been opened to them by the time they reach 13 or 14 years of age.

Well here I am, nearly 50 years a pastor, in a couple of weeks it will also be 50 years of marriage with four children and I am still finding that the scriptures continues to be opened for me.  I wasn’t fully ready to be a pastor upon graduation from the seminary on May 26, 1967 nor for marriage when Becky and I were wed the next evening at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Desoto, Mo.

Just as I had to figure out and, am still doing so, how to be husband and father and now grandfather, so I am still figuring out how to live as a child of God and brother of Christ and a pastor even in retirement.  The scriptures have much more to say to me in these latter days than when as a 13-year-old I knelt before the altar at Christ Lutheran Church, Pipe Lake and promised I would rather die than give up my faith in Christ.

Thus, one of my favorite prayers speaks of reading, marking, learning and inwardly digesting the Word.  And so, it is.

Little Things Mean a Lot

 

Mark 16:1, When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so they might go and anoint him.

Each of the gospels notes the “Myrrh Carriers,” who at first light on Sunday, went to Jesus’ tomb to complete his burial.  It was a little thing, but it meant a lot.

Two points are worth considering: 1. Doing little things is part of serving someone else.  A woman was in London England, when she learned her father had suddenly died.  She discovered that her cell phone didn’t work and all arrangements for returning to northwestern Wisconsin, where she lived.  She was flying into the Twin Cities, but the family lived in Milwaukee.  There was no one to pick her up.  However, her roommate had contacted the family about her arrival, but no one knew the time.  Her roommate drove the airport and kept watch at the gate for all flights coming from London.  She also got a fresh cup of Starbucks coffee before each flight landed so that she could have a hot coffee in hand for her friend when she got off the plane.  It was this little thing but it meant a lot to see a familiar face.

  1. A second point taken from the Myrrh Carriers faithfulness to little things is that they became the messengers of Jesus’ resurrection. The early church called them apostles to the apostles.

I find within congregations there a people who take care of the small things who are important to the smooth functioning of the church.  Who opens the door on Sunday and turns on the lights and the heat or air?  Who cleans the church or sets up communion or folds the bulletins?  Who fixes the plumbing etc?  Who takes the offering in the bank?

Jesus also forgives the little sins we may overlook in ourselves or which may bug us to no end.

These are little things, but they mean a lot.

Jesus Resurrection and the defeat of Leviathan

 

Today Leviathan, the great sea monster, might appear in video games and dramatic cartoon movies.    In the Bible and the early church, Leviathan was also a dramatic image of death, terror and chaos.  Job 40, asks, “Can you lead about Leviathan with a hook, or curb his tongue with a bit…upon the earth is not his like…he is king over all proud beasts.”

In a rabbinic legend we read, “The Holy One, blessed be he, will in time to come make a banquet for the righteous from the flesh of Leviathan.”

Cyril of Jerusalem describes baptism as a descent into the waters of death which are the dwelling place of the dragon of the sea.  Jesus went down into the waters of the Jordan to crush the power of the dragon who was hidden there: “The dragon Leviathan, was in the waters, and was taking the Jordan into his gullet.  But as the heads of the dragon had to be crushed, Jesus, having descended into the waters, chained fast the strong one.”  Christ has made the waters a place where not only do we die, but a place which remembers Jesus’ battle with death and we emerge, like Jesus, alive.

In one of Jesus post Easter appearances, “While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them?”  Could Luke be relating something more than a proof of Jesus’ resurrection?  Could the image of defeating Leviathan be in the background?

An early church image of Christ was that of a fish-ichthus.  Christ himself is the fish.  Could it be that the in the background of eating fish on Friday, the weekly anniversary day remembering Jesus’s death, lies the battle in which Jesus’ caught and cut up Leviathan?  And if Christ is ichthus, perhaps we can see in Holy Communion that we are also eating the death and terror and chaos which are gathered into Christ’s cross, now cut up and peacefully eaten as love.

St. Paul wrote, “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”