Five Points For Pastors


In 1850 when Holy Cross, Collinsville called Pastor Strasen to replace founding pastor Fredric Lochner who had taken a call to Milwaukee the passage connected with Strasen’s call was Hebrews 5:4, “And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God.”

Last Sunday Hebrews 5:1-10 was the epistle lesson, and guest pastor Dale Kuhn found five points to apply to pastors in the text.  Incidentally, Resurrection installed a new senior pastor in the afternoon.

  1. 5:1, Every pastor is chosen from among people to act on behalf of people in relation to God offering gifts and sacrifices for sins.
  2. 5:2, The pastor can deal gently with people because the pastor is also beset with the weakness.
  3. 5: 3, Because the pastor is from among the people, the pastor also has sins which need forgiveness.
  4. 5:4, The pastor is also called by God and has a sense or conviction that this is the right way to spend his life.
  5. 5:5, The pastor does is not self-centered, but Christ centered.





My wife has been suggesting on almost a daily basis that’s it time to set a couple of chairs outside our west facing front door to allow us to sit in the warming sun.  Well, I did it this morning setting them in the still shaded space while the temp measured 36 and a chilly wind blew off the snow in the north mitigating any warmth the bright sun might bring.  I noticed while walking into the northly wind, that several cars parked in the cemetery were not for a burial, but for women who were working on the flower garden in the green triangle space where Denny intersects with Lindberg.  They are heartier than me.

Speaking of hearty, several daffodils are blooming in the neighbor’s yard.  Perhaps it is not too early to include a couple of verses from Robert Frost’ poem, “A Prayer in Spring.”

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;

And give us not to think so far away

As the uncertain harvest; keep us here

All simply in the springing of the year.

And make us happy in the darting bird

That suddenly above the bees is heard,

The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,

And off a blossom in mid-air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love

The which it is reserved for God above

To sanctify to what far ends He will,

But which it only needs that we fulfill.


Still Not Shocked


Dorothy Sayers wrote: “It is curious that people who are filled with horrified indignation whenever a cat kills a sparrow can hear the story of the killing of God told Sunday after Sunday and not experience any shock at all.”

Sayers could have been writing about Jesus’ disciples James and John.  Jesus had told the Twelve, what would happen to him in Jerusalem, mocked, spit on, whipped and killed.  Then rise. (Mark 10:32-45)

“Well, ok then Jesus,” the thunder brothers said, “Since it will turn out alright in the end anyway, could we sit on your right and left hand in your glorious kingdom?”  When the other ten heard about the brothers brazen request, they were indignant.  Mark gives the impression that the other ten wanted a piece of action themselves.

In a watch- out what you pray for answer, Jesus speaks of baptism.  In a sense he always speaks of a sort of communion.  “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?”  On both counts they say will be able.   But the baptism of which he speaks is not an immersion in water, but in suffering, blood and death.  The cup is the cup filled with God’s wrath against all the ways throughout our days humans stray from God’s ways.

Jesus was baptized into the vile dehumanizing hatred of humus humanity.   He drank the whole cup of God’s wrath against our wrong ways.  Therefore, our baptism is dying into his death and rising into his life.  Our communion a holy communion as we participate in his blood, not for death but for our life and eternal salvation.

Amazed and Afraid


Jesus’ ministry of bringing God’s good news into the world, as presented in Mark’s Gospel, was met with amazement.  People were amazed at his teaching.  In 7:37, “They were astonished beyond measure as he made the deaf hear and the mute speak.  During a storm on the Sea of Galilee the disciples were utterly astounded when the wind ceased as he stepped into the boat.

But when for the second time he told his disciples about his violent death and then he would rise, they “didn’t understand and were afraid to ask him.”

In the extended Gospel lesson for Sunday (Mark 10:32-45) they are on the road “going up to Jerusalem.”  Jesus is walking ahead. The lagging disciples are amazed and those following are afraid.  For a third time Jesus tells disciples in plain terms what will happen.  Up in Jerusalem he will be lifted up on the cross to die and then rise.

Yes, it’s an amazing thing what Jesus did for us up in Jerusalem.  But following Jesus is also a fearful business, because if he led the way to the cross before arising in glory, what cross stands in our road before we too rise to glory with Him?  In the kingdom Jesus brought into the world greatness is measured in being a servant and the goal is to serve rather than be served.

As it was in the world then so it in our world today – God’s kingdom turns power and authority upside down.


Be Alert for Good Works


What’s on your to do list for today?  Or maybe the question is, What’s on God’s to do list for you today?

In Ephesians 2:10 we read, “For He has made us what we are, creating us in Christ Jesus to do good works, for which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them.”

We who once were among the walking dead were made alive with Christ in his resurrection.  Having received such immeasurable grace from God, God has recreated us for a life of walking in his ways.  In other words, we were recreated to do good works in Christ.

Here is where we need to be alert to what is going on around us.  God has already prepared the good works he has placed on our “to do” list for today.  If we’ve been walking with God for a while, we know that He can be tricky sometimes. We never know when or what kind of thing He might throw in front of us, which is an opportunity for doing good.  I suspect that most of the time these good works may not be big deals, but ordinary things which we might just let pass by.  Sometimes we may have to look at an unpleasant situation and see the opportunity for doing good within it.  Sometimes it may be a smile instead of a snarl, a kind word rather than a cutting one, uplifting someone who has been put down.

Whatever our day brings us, be on the alert for God throwing a surprise in our path as we walk or even trudge through the day. Who knows, it might be one of his good works he has prepared for us to do.

Jesus, lifted up like a Serpent


The Friday morning Bible Class will study Genesis 3 and the appearance of the shrewd serpent.  It is one of the animals God fashioned and named by the man.   It held the first theological discussion in history and convinced the woman and man to listen to him rather than God their creator.  This disrupted all relationships world – wide. I read Exodus 4 this morning and there the serpent reappears when Moses throws down his shepherd’s staff and it turns into the snake.  Scared him half to death.  God tells him pick it up by the tail and it returns to a staff.

Later in the desert, when Israel complained about God, God sent a bunch of fiery (poisonous) serpents leading to several deaths.  Upon confessing their sin, God told Moses to hang an effigy of a snake of a pole and when they looked on it, they would be healed.  Thus, the cause of their trouble became their savior.

But in John 3, Jesus is compared to the serpent on the pole in Moses day.  God loved the world so much that he was willing to allow his only Son to be lifted up on the cross like a serpent, so that whoever believes in him hanging there, limp and lifeless, won’t perish from the results of the serpent’s discussion in Eden, but will live and eternally at that.

Jesus, the seed of the woman designated to stomp on the serpent’s head, becomes the one stomped on.  Four times John says, believe it and live. Grace amazing.


Spring Brings a Sense of Paradise


In the old historic church year, the fourth Sunday in Lent was known as Laetare, rejoice.  The entrance psalm began “rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad.”  The Sunday often fell near the Spring equinox and provided a break in the long purple season of repentance.  It functioned like the third Sunday in Advent with its pink candle and theme of joy.

Pius Parsch, (1884-1954) wrote, “This Sunday is a festival of Spring.  At least it was in the early church.  The first roses were brought to church for a blessing.  (Mediterranean springs comes early.)   When after a cold winter spring comes to our land like a smiling youth, when in the fields God begins the miracle of multiplying bread, when God spreads a great table from which all creatures can eat their fill, when God lifts the white pall of winter from the earth and restores life in abundance to plants and animals – then Christians have cause to experience heartfelt joy, for they have a presentiment that Paradise is not far away.”

New Morning Mercies


We will pray this weekend, “Heavenly Father Your mercies are new every morning.”  Getting up is God’s first morning mercy though my first morning thoughts are about finding some clothes to put on and hoping that the coffee is ready.  Nor do I think about the next phrase, “though we deserve only punishment.”  Despite that “You receive us as Your children” and “provide for all our needs of body and soul.”  Clothes, Becky making coffee, breakfast, rising sun, and its not even 7:00 yet.

It’s fitting then, that we pray, “Grant that we may heartily acknowledge Your merciful goodness.”  Enthusiastically.   And “Give thanks for all your benefits.”

Then, with God’s help, “serve you in willing obedience.”

On Sunday morning, we could fill out a whole hour just discussing the 86 words of our Collect of the Day.  This prayer is something to ponder daily during the next week.

Prayer: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, Your mercies are new every morning; and though we deserve only punishment, You receive us as Your children and provide for all our needs of body and soul.  Grant that we may heartily ACKNOWLEDGE Your merciful goodness, GIVE THANKS for all Your benefits, and SERVE you in willing obedience; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

To that we add our loud AMEN, let is be so among us.



Praying only for Others?


In the Collect of the Day last Sunday we prayed for other people.  “O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy, be gracious to all who have gone astray from Your ways and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of Your Word.”

We acknowledged that God’s glory is to have mercy, on those who are straying from his way.  We likely can name some straying.

However, a little word in that prayer is worthy of our attention. “Be gracious to ALL who have gone astray.”  Consider that word “all.” Only a few minutes before we admitted, “we have sinned in thought, word, and deed?”  We were also seeking His mercy and grace.

And if we thought we were generously only praying for the straying, we next ran into the Old Testament reading, Ex. 20:1-17, the Ten Commandments.  Drat, done in again.

But we also heard Paul say in I Corinthians 1:18-31, that the word of the cross is the power of God to save.   Though we don’t have anything to boast about to boost our status before God, we have Christ Jesus.  Christ Jesus has put us right with God.  He has made us holy and sinless.  He has made us next of kin to God.

We completed the prayer, “Through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.” Let ALL God’s people say “Amen” to that.




Martin Luther and the two Trees of Eden

In Bible class on Friday we will discuss the two trees of Eden.  Luther has an interesting interpretation.

Tree of Life:
“The tree of life, was created that man, by eating of it, might be preserved in full bodily vigor, free from diseases and free from weariness; be preserved in perpetual youth.  Powers for procreation and all tasks would have remained unimpaired until humans were translated from the physical life to the spiritual.”

Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil:

“There is now created a new tree distinguishing good and evil, so that Adam might have a definite way to express his worship and reverence toward God.  This tree was Adam’s church, altar and pulpit.  Here he was to yield to God the obedience he owed, give recognition to the Word and will of God, give thanks to God, and call upon God for aid against temptation.  The tree was not deadly by nature; it was deadly because it was stated to be so by the Word of God.  It kills through potency of the Word of Him who issues the prohibition.”

In Luther’s view the tree was like the Law, not bad or fatal in and of itself, but becomes fatal when we ignore God’s prohibition.  In the same way the Tree of Life, like a sacrament, gave life because of the power of the Word, otherwise, it’s just an ordinary tree like water in baptism or bread and wine in communion.