Trust God to Act for You


Within the 72 verses of psalm 78, the writer goes over the complicated relationship between God and his people.  He sets out to tell an important story of Israel’s lack of continuing faith in God, despite his “glorious deeds…his might and the wonders he has done.”  He charged the people to teach this to following generations and to trust God in tough times by remembering what he has done.

The problem is that every generation was disobedient and lived with no purpose neglecting to set their hearts steadfastly on God’s steadfast love.  For instance, though He had split a rock in the wilderness from which water poured out in abundance, “they sinned again.”  They raised the question, Yes, he gave us water, but will God “spread a table in the wilderness…will God give us bread as well…can he provide meat.”

This psalm is for the continually dissatisfied.  We always want something more, something new, something which someone else has but we don’t.  We look through the lens of what we don’t have.  And despite all the Lord does, “they persisted in their sin and had no faith in his wonders.”  Sometimes the Lord reacted in anger.  Other times he controlled his wrath.  But in the end the psalmist wrote, “yet he was merciful, wiping out guilt and not destroying… He chose David to be his servant and took him from the sheepfold to be the shepherd of his people.”

The story of this psalm is our story.  The shepherd who guides us, is the son of David, Jesus Christ who shepherds us to approach the throne of God boldly for there we will find grace and will receive mercy in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Lighter than Air


When we lived in Winona, MN. The Good Year blimp made an unexpected landing in a field just outside of the city.  I, went out to get a close – up look at this lighter than air wonder.  Someplace among my slides is a photo.  Lighter than air objects are fascinating.  I spent much of my youth looking at the clouds when I should have been picking beans for Stokely Van Camp’s.  When we were in Marshfield, Wisconsin one year we let some helium filled balloons loose during the Ascension Day service.

However, we may not appreciate the comparison in Psalm 62:9:

“The common people are mere empty air, while people of rank are a sham; when placed on the scales, they rise, all of them lighter than air.”

In recognition of our lighter than air weightiness, the Psalm begins, “For God alone I wait silently; my salvation comes from him.  He only is my rock of salvation, strong tower, so that I stand unshaken.”  Vs 7 “On God rests my salvation and my glory, my mighty rock, my refuge is God.”

The basic meaning of glory is “weight, and “importance.” According to the psalmist we have no weight nor importance. Therefore, our glory is found only in God’s glory.  And God’s glory is found in Christ who glorified His Father by going to the cross for our salvation.  Christ is our rock of refuge, our fortress to whom we can go for refuge.  He is our salvation. Anything else in which we might trust, including ourselves, our own status, and our possessions, when placed on the scales of God’s judgment are lighter than air.

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday 2017 Iuka/Flora, Psalm 8

A man confessed to going to church only once a year.  He didn’t choose Christmas or Easter to fill his spiritual tank for the next 364 days.  He chose Trinity Sunday.  “Because,” he admitted, “I love to see the preacher get so confused trying to explain the Trinity.” This is that Sunday today, Trinity Sunday, as we confessed in the Athanasian Creed, the Sunday devoted to the blessed Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However, St. Augustine cautioned, “If you think you understand it, it’s not God.”  Even with interlocking circles and triangles, we fall far short of grasping the greatness of our awe filling God.

Therefore, I turn our attention to Psalm 8 in which the writer exclaims, “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” No explanations.  Only an exclamation of praise to the Lord who created the heavens and the earth, who brought light out of darkness, order out of chaos, whose strong word ordered the seasons to run.  His fingers set the moon, stars, planets, and comets in their place like an artist creating a mosaic on the vault of heaven.  All of creation, from Super Novas to nursing babes tell the wonders the Lord has done.

The Psalmist asks, what are we that the Lord of quarks, atoms and neutrons should think about us, here on this third rock circling a middling star we call the sun? We should Know that humans are not an afterthought, but the crown of creation, slightly less than heavenly beings.  God already had a pattern in mind when he reached down and formed the first lump of mud into man.  Christ, is who God had in mind.  St. Paul calls us to have the mind of Christ among ourselves.  That’s the way we were created with a mind turned toward Christ as the pattern for our life, that we might run to him, and in running to Christ we are running toward God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Christ was not an afterthought either.  For St. Paul tells us in Ephesians “God was making known to us the mystery of his will, which he set forth in Christ, from before the foundation of the world.”  And to all that, God said, “It is good, it is very good.”  He blessed man and gave him governance over his creation from the purple mountain majesty to the fields of golden grain, from the mighty Mississippi to the wandering Skillet Fork, to care for it in his stead.  Yes, this was all the work of the blessed Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

But something went terribly wrong.  Remember the story of the fox and the gingerbread man? An old woman baked a gingerbread man, who when she opened the oven, he ran.  He outran the woman and her husband and the cow and the horse all the while taunting his pursuers,

“I’ve run away from a little old woman,

a little old man,

And I can run away from you, I can!”

But when he came to a river he needed some help, which a fox was glad to provide.   At the fox’s invitation, the Gingerbread man hopped on the fox’s tale.  But as they crossed the river the fox said he was getting too heavy and suggested he climb up on his back.  Soon the fox coaxed the gingerbread to move up to his head which was still out of the water.  Just when the gingerbread man was settled high and dry, the fox flicked his head tossed him in air, caught him in his jaws and gobbled him down.

Is that not the story of man, who was created to run toward God, but instead ran away?  Isaiah describes it as everyone going astray, going his own way.  And in the end, we are done in by the sly cunning unholy trinity of sin, death and the devil, who have an inexhaustible hunger to devour what God has made.

But the blessed holy Trinity in their undivided unity had a plan.  The Son would be born of the Virgin Mary through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.  This is how the psalmist describes it, He was made, for a little while, a little lower than the heavenly beings.  He was, as we confessed, “perfect God and perfect man, equal to the Father with respect to His divinity, less than the Father with respect to his humanity.”

He was the good news we needed, a Savior, Christ, the Lord, a nursing infant laid in a manger, of whom angels sang and to whom shepherds ran to see this thing that the Lord had done.  This was Jesus, whose fingers touched the unclean leper taking his uncleanness upon himself and giving him health of body and of soul.  This was Jesus who said that if you have faith no larger than a mustard seed you could tell the majestic purple mountains to move and they would.  This was Jesus who plucked the golden grain as he walked along the fields on the sabbath.  This was Jesus who prayed in Gethsemane under the stars his fingers had set in place, that if it were possible let the cup of his suffering and death be removed, but if not, then the Father’s will must prevail.  This was the blessed Holy Trinity in their undivided unity at work for us and for our salvation.

Thus, according to the plan and foreknowledge of God, Jesus was crucified.  But also, according to God’s plan He raised Jesus from the dead, for death can have no permanent dominion over him.  He is now seated at the right hand of God in all power and will finally return to destroy, our last enemy death.

So, we are gathered here today, 21 century disciples, not on a mountain but on the plains of Marion County (Clay County) at the end of Trinity Lane (at Faith church in Flora) to worship him.  At that last gathering on the mountain in Galilee, his disciples worshipped him.  But this was not a perfect church, for there were only 11, not 12, in the loss of Judas they lost nearly 10% of their membership.  And even their worship was not perfect for doubt lingered among them.  Yet our gracious Savior did not reject them, he announced that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to him.  And now he was sending them, imperfect and doubting as they were, to go and make disciples baptizing in the name of the Holy Trinity, who lives in undivided unity.  He who came into the world as Immanuel, God with us, before he left he issued one last blessing that he is still Immanuel, “With us to the end of the age.”

O Lord, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth.







Psalm in a Time of Bewilderment


“Bewilder,” is from an old English word “be wilder” meaning to lose one’s bearings.  The word borders on being lost in the wild.  I suspect that many of us have a sense of bewilderment these days. Psalm 44 is written by one who is bewildered by what God is allowing to happen to Israel.

The Psalmist speaks to God:

“We have heard for ourselves, God, our forefathers have told us what deeds you did in their time, all your hand accomplished in days of old…God you are my King.  In God have we gloried all day long and we shall praise your name for ever.

Yet you have rejected and humbled us and no longer lead our armies to battle.  You have given us up to be slaughtered like sheep.  You have made us a byword among the nations, and the peoples toss their heads at us.

Though all this has befallen us, we do not forget you…our hearts have not been unfaithful, nor have our feet strayed from your path …. had we forgotten the name of our God and spread our hand in prayer to alien gods would not God have found out?” The writer is implying that God has rejected them for no reason.

The Psalmist continues: “Rouse yourself, Lord.  Why do you sleep? …Why do you hide your face, …Arise and come to our aid; for your love’s sake deliver us.”

Prayer: Lord, rise up and come to our aid.  You are the king who knows the secrets of our hearts; fill us with the light of truth and with your strong arm lead us to freedom, as you mightily delivered our ancestors; for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Personal Psalms


I read Psalms 34-41 this morning.  These psalms are intensely personal.

Psalm 35, particularly caught my attention.  The author is already in trouble at the very beginning as he asks the Lord, “Contend…with those who contend with me…say to my soul, “I am your salvation.”

There may be times when we sense that people are setting a “Gotcha trap.”  V. 7 “Unprovoked they have hidden a net to catch me, unprovoked they have dug a pit to trap me.”

He continues in verses 11-12, “Malicious witnesses come forward and question me on matters of which I know nothing. They return me evil for good, lying in wait to take my life.”

As for his part, (13-14) “Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth, I mortified myself with fasting. When my prayer (for them) came back unanswered, I walked with head bowed in grief as if for a brother; as one in sorrow for his mother I lay prostrate in mourning.”

In return for his mourning others as if they were closest family his pursuers reacted with schadenfreude when he had set backs, (15-16), “But when I stumbled, they crowded round rejoicing…unknown assailants jeered at me.  When I slipped, they mocked and derided me, grinding their teeth.” And in verse 21, “They open their mouths and shout at me, ‘Hurrah!  What a sight for us to see!’”

Prayer: Lord God, you rose to the aid of your beloved Son against those who unjustly sought his life.  Look on your Church as we journey to you, and rescue the poor from their oppressors, that they may tell of your righteousness and your praise; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The True Headwaters of the River of Life

Pentecost 2017 John 7:37-39


It may have been in 1975, that our young family emerged from a stand of Red Pine at Itasca State Park in Minnesota to splash across the Mississippi River at its headwaters.  However, discovering the headwaters was not so easy.   After several people followed the wrong streams, finally in 1832, Henry Schoolcraft discovered the true headwaters of the Mississippi River.  He named the lake, Itasca, meaning “True Head.”  In our Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus invites people to come to him as the true headwaters of the River of Life.  The scene for our text is the temple in Jerusalem, during Jesus’ ministry.  For the crowds gathered in the temple at Jerusalem, many missed the True Headwaters of the River of Life, but some found it in Jesus.

It was early October, the Feast of Booths.  The festival, remembered Israel’s journey in the wilderness and specifically the time Moses struck a rock and waters flowed quenching the parched throats of the Israelites.  Centuries later Solomon dedicated the newly build temple during the feast.   Part of the festival included prayers offered to God to send the winter rains, that the grain would sprout, grow and ripen in time for Pentecost.  And…there was an expectation that the Messiah would come.

For seven days, priests carried a golden pitcher of water up to the temple and poured it over the altar.  On the seventh day, they circled the altar seven times while the crowds waved bundles of myrtle and willow twigs.  The choir sang, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”    And when the Messiah arrived, “water would gush from below the threshold of the temple.”

However, there was a distraction. A man from the north, named Jesus, was teaching in the temple. He was the center of controversy.  The rumor mill was working overtime.  Some had heard that the Samaritans, of all people, believed in him.  However, some of his own disciples had recently left him.  Others’ like Peter thought that Jesus had the words of eternal life.  Some among the religious leaders were seeking to kill him.   Even his own brothers did not believe in him.  Opinions ranged from Jesus being a good man to one possessed by demons.  Other people wondered whether he might be a prophet or even the Christ.

Amid all the hubbub Jesus stood up and shouted, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”  He was the true headwaters of the Rivers of Life who would quench the thirst of parched spirits.  No longer would they need to carry water up the hill to the temple.   For he, Jesus, was the temple, the center of worship and the source of the River of Life that would rehydrate parched lives filling them with eternal life. Filling lives with the same living water he offered the Samaritan woman at the well.

Sometimes I find myself tired and weak and in need of a nap.  But then I finally figure out I need to drink some water.  At times we become spiritually dehydrated, past sins pop into our minds, we become irritated and snap at someone, we worry about our life and our work.

One of the songs associated with the late country western singer Eddie Arnold was “Cool Water.” That song describes parched spiritual condition.

All day we faced the barren waste

Without the taste of water, cool clear water.

Old Dan and I with throats burnt dry

And souls that cry for water,

Cool clear water.


Therefore, the thirsty come to the true headwaters to drink of the rRver of Life, that is, believe in Jesus, for from him flows the words of eternal life.  When Jesus stood and proclaimed shouting, “If anyone thirsts let him come to me,” it was the seventh and great day of the festival.  A great day, indeed. I can imagine that for some, the festival had become another tradition, “yeah, we do this every year.  We’ve been doing this for a thousand years.  And still the Messiah hasn’t shown up.”  Jesus proclamation reenergized the greatness of the day.  “Whoever believes in me, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Jesus awakens us to our need for spiritual satisfaction.  HeeHe also provides the Holy Spirit to lead us to himself, the true headwaters.  To paraphrase Luther, “The Holy Spirit has (quenched my thirst) by the gospel.”

On this Day of Pentecost, this day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit leads us to the cross where, as Jesus was about to give up his spirit, cried, “I thirst.” He cried on behalf of all people.  Earlier Jesus had said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”   All people thirst for something and they may not even understand that they are thirsting for what God has to offer. There is a scene in a movie about Jesus crucifixion that I find particularly moving.  Jesus is hanging on the cross.  A stream of blood and water flows from his side. Of course, it’s raining and his blood commingles with the water forming a stream which goes out to cover the whole earth.  In Missouri at St. James and at Montauk park. At the base of a rock wall a pool of water forms.  The pool is fed by springs running from deep in the earth and issuing out as a fully formed river. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you and I have drunk from that river of life flowing from the deep love of God.  In baptism, the flow of the river of living water is now flowing in us and through us.  Notice I said, “through us.”

Think of your heart being in the shape of a Pool of living water.  It’s filled to the brim with pure water, alive with the love of God’s Holy Spirit, compassion, gentleness, mercy and forgiveness.  The pool is constantly overflowing because the source of the living love of God flows from deep within God himself and never runs dry.   From the pool of your heart, out flows the living water into the lives of others.

Now we are the source of living water for a world that is parched and dying.  We are a “Channel,” “conduit,” or “vessel” is more like it.  We become a channel for God’s blessings, a conduit for the water of life to flow through.  That’s Jesus goal, you will be a vessel for bringing the life and love of Jesus into the lives of others.  Now streams of living water flowing out from us bless those around us.  In the coming week, don’t damn up the flow but it run freely into the lives of those you contact.  Because in the book of Isaiah we read, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.” And we are filled with that thirst quenching water of life.









Remember Me, Not My Misdeeds


I was reading Psalm 25 this evening.  It’s the Psalm the LCMS has chosen to be used on Pentecost this year.  Verse 7 caught my attention, “Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness.”

While pondering that verse, I checked into Facebook and found the following posted by a relative of my wife.  “Sometimes I really wish I could go back in time and fix whatever mistakes I’ve made that hurt another.”  I referred her to the psalm verse quoted above.

The psalmist is asking God to act toward him according to his and never -ending-love which has characterized God for ancient times.  On the other hand, he asks God to not act upon (remember) his youthful sins and transgressions. Rather, based on his steadfast love he wants God to remember “me” as a person, not only as a sinner and law breaker.

We all find that things we did in our younger days can rise up to haunt us and accuse us.  Almost invariably there is nothing we can do about those past misdeeds or misspoken words.  However, acting not on our sins, but out of the love which led Jesus to bear the sins of our youth and old age, god would, through His Holy Spirit teach us to walk in his paths and his ways.

The psalmist asks in v. 11, “for your name’s sake, O Lord pardon my guilt, for it is great.”  Sometimes our guilt even outweighs the wrong we might have done.  Therefore in v. 18 the psalmist asks God to consider how his guilt afflicts him and how he is troubled and turn to him with forgiveness of all his sins.

We find ourselves on the cross beside Jesus pleading, “Jesus, remember me which you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus says: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers were there


In the middle of the First lesson for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, from Acts 1:12-26, we read in verse 14, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to pray, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and his brothers.”  I suspect that when we read that lesson last Sunday we simply passed over the presence of Mary and Jesus’ brothers.  Of course, they were there.

However, the Gospel lesson in the LCMS for Pentecost is John 7:37-39.  Jesus is teaching in the temple during the Feast of Booths.  He does so amid a rumor mill working overtime regarding his identity.  Even though people were seeking to kill him his brothers urged him to go to Judea and show himself to the world.  Then John writes, “For not even his brothers believed in him.”  (John 7:50) So, when his brothers went up to Jerusalem, Jesus didn’t go with them, but went by himself.

Somewhere during the latter part of Jesus’ ministry his family did come to believe in him. Thus, when we come to the gospel lesson for Trinity Sunday, Matthew 28:16-20, Jesus sends his disciples into all the world, with no qualifications as to who was Gospel worthy.

I think of a man who lived only a couple of doors down from the church where I was pastor.  The secretaries informed me that he had suffered a stroke and was in the hospital, however, “there was no use in going to see him, he won’t want to see you.”  I said, “I’ll let him decide if he wants me to visit or not.”  So, I went to see him.  He was receptive.  I asked if I could pray with him.  He accepted.  And about the second or third visit I brought communion.

I can’t remember why he was upset with the congregation, and I don’t think he ever talked about it.  But he did return to church.