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.

Meditation is Chewing Cud

 

William Storey wrote: In down-to-earth Hebrew, to meditate is to chew one’s cud.  Cattle proved a helpful image for the devout believer “whose delight is the law of the Lord and who ponders God’s law day and night” (Ps. 1).  The browsing cow nibbles constantly at the lush pasture and when it has filled its stomach lies down, regurgitates what it has gathered and chews “meditatively” on its cud until the cut is fully assimilated.

My favorite prayer contains the line to “mark, learn and inwardly digest” the scriptures, which I take means to meditate on it.  But maybe like me, you’re not good at what we traditionally may think is meditation.

The writer, Dorothy Day apparently wasn’t good at “meditating” either.  She writes: Because I am a woman involved in practical cares, I cannot give the first half of the day to these things but must meditate when I can, early in the morning and on the fly during the day.  Not in the privacy of the study- but here, there and everywhere- at the kitchen table, on the train, on the ferry, on my way to and from appointments and even while making supper or putting Teresa to bed.

The New Temple

 

It was the Passover.  Thousands had flocked from the greater Mediterranean area to Jerusalem.  The temple marketplace was doing a booming business.  Sheep, oxen, and pigeons were all available to purchase various sacrifices.  Since purchase needed to be made with temple coins, money exchangers were available to exchange Roman coins for Jewish money.  And Black Friday was yet to come when everyone would need a lamb for the Passover meal.  Friday would be a good day.

But then the Lord suddenly came to the temple, as predicted by the prophet Malachi.  The Lord came in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Word made flesh, full of the heavenly Father’s grace and life.

In chapter 1 he had established himself as the new “Jacob’s ladder,” the connection between heaven and earth.

Jesus, had just attended a wedding where he changed the purification waters into the finest wine.  It was time to celebrate, he was the Purifier, the water was no longer needed except for baptism into a His new life.

Now, Jesus changes the concept of temple and sacrifice.  He is the new temple, built cell by cell in Mary’s womb.  He is the new house of God.  The sacrifices are no longer needed. He is the lamb of God whose sacrifice on the cross eliminated the need for any further sale of sheep, oxen and pigeon.

Thus, wherever we are, physically, spiritually, emotionally or economically God’s new temple is there with grace upon grace.  The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…who for the joy set before him endured the cross…”

 

In the Midst of a Snowstorm

 

In the winter of 1912, the Glaubitz family in the Pipe Lake community in Northwestern Wisconsin received unwelcome news.  Joanna, age 47 had a cancerous stomach tumor.  Her husband August was 54.  They had six living children.  Their oldest daughter, Ida, was expecting her third child.  There were no hospitals in the area.   Plans were being made to take the train to the Twin Cities, 90 miles to the southwest.

On February 29 a snowstorm hit.  At the same time Joanna started having some familiar pains.  If they did not know before, they realized now that her tumor was a baby getting ready to be born.  Bruno, their oldest son, rode a horse along the circuitous road into Turtle Lake to fetch Doc Tanner.  Tanner hitched his horse to a buggy or sleigh and followed Bruno to the Glaubitz homestead.  With the help of the good doctor Joanna gave birth to a daughter, a seventh child, on March 1.  The storm was so severe that Doc Tanner had to stay overnight.

Because they hadn’t been expecting anymore children, after Edna was born in 1904, they had no baby clothes.  Second oldest daughter, Elsa, hurriedly sowed some diapers.  Soon they also learned that Ida had given birth to her third son on February 28.  Mom and cousin Bernard Hansen were baptized on the same day in May at Christ Lutheran Church, Pipe Lake.

Today our mother, that is Laurin’s, mine and Wayne’s mother, Esther, would have been 106.  Incidentally, our dad, Victor, was born on April 28 of the same year.