A Tumor became my Mother

I may have told you before about how on March 1, 1912 on the homestead of August and Johanna Glaubitz a rumored tumor turned out to be my mother.
How at age 46 Johanna was preparing to take the train to the Twin Cities for surgery. How pains she hadn’t felt in eight years sent son Bruno on horseback to fetch Dr. Tanner. How Dr. Tanner came out by sleigh. How a snowstorm prevented him from going back home that night. How their oldest daughter, Ida, gave birth to her third son on Feb. 28. How both my mother and her nephew missed being leap year babies by a day. How they were both baptized on May 25. How my mother, Esther, married my father, Victor. How her nephew, Bernard, married dad’s sister Mildred. How their son Monte is both a second and a first cousin.
In other news, Autumn begins in Australia and New Zealand today and its St. David’s Day in Wales and this day is the first day meteorological spring whether you believe it or not. No I don’t know who St. David was in Wales. Google it.

A Day that takes the Breath Away

Normally when we hear the phrase, “It takes my breath away,” that’s a good thing. The photos of the snow in Wisconsin are breath taking.  That’s not taking into consideration digging out.   In the St. Louis area, it’s a beautiful morning with the sun shining brightly, an unusual thing for winter here.  For me it’s literally a breath-taking day. With wind blowing, 25 to 60 miles mph, I wouldn’t be able to get my breath outdoors.

But the Epistle lesson (I Corinthians 15:21-42) for this week is also breath taking.  As we labor through winter; as we approach the purple season of lent, we have a bit of Easter.  The good news of Resurrection.  If are wrapped up in politics, struggles in the church for control, at work, personal ambition, or power struggles within us, then consider this breath-taking news.  “Then the end will come, when He hands over the Kingdom to God the Father, after He has put an end to every government, authority, and power.”  All the political power struggles, all those power difficulties among followers of Christ, all those we encounter at work, or within ourselves exist in the realm of death which came through that first man Adam, the man made of dirt. But resurrection has also come through a man, Jesus Christ.  He is the first fruits of the harvest of the resurrection and we will follow him.  As Paul wrote to the Philippians, Everyone and everything will kneel before the true and lasting power in the universe and proclaim, “JESUS CHRIST IS LORD.”

That will be a day that takes the breath away.  

Good News from Beginning to New Beginning

The Epistle lesson for this weekend is a bit lengthy, I Corinthians 15:21-42.  It begins and ends with some great good news. “For since a man brought death, a Man, also brought the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (Vs 21-22)”

Then at the end you will hear, “That is how it will be when the dead are raised.  When the body is sown, it decays; when it is raised, it cannot decay. (V. 42).”

It’s in between the beginning and the new beginning where life is challenging.  The entrance Psalm (Ps. 37) begins and ends with, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way.”

The gospel lesson from Luke 6 begins, “But I tell you who are listening:  Love your enemies, be kind to those who hate you.”  Near the end of the lesson, “Stop judging, and you will not be judged. Stop condemning, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

The Old Testament lesson from Genesis 45 tells of the occasion when Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers who had sold him into slavery several years ago.  They are dismayed.  But Joseph invites them, “Come near to me, please.”  He invites his brother to come near not to take their life, in return for what they did to him, but give them life.  Joseph tells his brothers, “It was not you who sent me here, but God.”

Indeed, good news from beginning to new beginning.  What will we do with such good news this week?  Will we heed it in the week ahead or will we rationalize it away?  Pray the Spirit that we read, learn, mark and digest it. 

King Saul went Crazy. You can read about it in the first book of Samuel About corrupting power of power, it’s a manual Concerning David, Saul who’d grown paranoid He declared the life of that upstart null and void He placed his replacement under a curse Made plot and plan to send David home in a hearse. Saul’s own children, daughter Michal and son John Knew David was as innocent as a swimming swan Tried to make their father see some sense And believe their defense of David’s innocence But all their words only made Saul more sure To bury David’s body in a pile of manure When David came to a priest of Nob, Ahimelech David hoped a meal of bread he might fetch The priest gave him the day – old bread of Presence For from the fresh loaves arose savory scents David said, “Have a spear or sword at hand that if attacked, I might make a stand?” Said the priest, “I have the sword of Goliath the Philistine.” David said, “With that I can do any enemy in.” But lurking about was Doeg, chief of Saul’s herds He tattle-taled to Saul what he saw and heard. Saul summoned Ahimelech and all the priests of Nob Saul, of eighty-five priests, their lives he robbed. And he commanded his horrible authoritative word All, whether woman or child suffered the sword. Still we live in that same terrible world Where evil around us continues to whirl And where is God, our creator and Savior To permit this endless human behavior? We can but look to him who hung the cross Who paid with His life for Judas’ double-cross? For in Christ we come to the intersection Of death and life, of hope and resurrection.

David Acts Like a Lunatic

One of the reasons I like to preach on Old Testament texts is that the OT contains such interesting and vivid stories.  I Samuel 21, was my OT reading for today.  However, I don’t see a lot of sermon material in the following. Stories surrounding David are never simple and straight forward.

David though already anointed to be king by Samuel is on the run from king Saul who means to kill him.  David seeks refuge with Achish the king of the Philistine city of Gath.  This is the area from which Goliath came, who got stoned and then lost his head.  Achish’s advisors recognized David and remembered how the people sang of David striking down ten thousands of people. David knew he was in trouble.  Not only because of Goliath, but when Saul previously had offered his daughter Michal as David’s wife, he put the bride price at 100 Philistine foreskins (ouch).  David and his men brought Saul 200 foreskins (ouch ouch).  David, always overachieving, counted out the foreskins in front of Saul. 

David was a persona non grata in Philistia.  So, what to do?  David was no dummy.  He pretended to be insane, scratched on the doors of the gate and let drooled like a mad man.  The king took one look at him and said, “Look at him!  Don’t you see that he’s insane?  Why bring him to me?  Do I have such a shortage of lunatics that you bring this man so that he can show me he’s insane?”

You can read of David and Michal’s marriage in I Samuel 19 & 2 Samuel 3 & 6.

What do I do now?

When we are caught between a rock and hard pan it may be as Paul writes in Romans 8:26. “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

A passage near the end of Cecilia Ekback’s novel, “Wolf Winter,” catches what Paul is getting at.  The novel is set in Lapland in 1717.

“After his conversation with the bishop, Olaus had tried to return to the Lappmark.  He hadn’t got far.  The thaw set in.  He had returned and spent the days on his knees in the barren room in the bishop’s residence, in agony facing choices, unable to pray, unable to do anything else, and it wasn’t until toward the end of his stay that he had felt something else, someone, and he wasn’t going to say it had been the voice of God…but he had felt compassion amid pain.”

“WITH,” and important word.

“And he came down WITH (meta) them and stood on a level place, WITH (meta) a great (mega) crowd of his disciples and a great (mega) multitude of people.”  That’s how our gospel lesson (Luke 5:17-26) for this week begins.  Jesus had been in the hills praying together with a large group of his disciples.  While up there he selected twelve of those disciples and called them apostles (sent ones).  Included was Judas, of whom Luke adds, “the man who would betray him.”  So, we already know how that will turn out.

From that level place, not from a mountain, but a place on the same level as the people he began to teach his disciples. “His disciples.”  If you are a follower of Jesus, then pay attention.

“Blessed are you who are poor for the Kingdom of God is yours.”  Not “poor in spirit,” but just plain poor.   Jesus doesn’t promise wealth, which he says later, is not necessarily a blessing in the long run (v.24), but a cause for woe.

Jesus echoes Mary’s when she sang while pregnant with our Lord. “God, my Savior…has scattered those who think so proudly in their hearts…and lifted up lowly people.  He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty handed.”

By implication, then, Jesus means for us to stand WITH those who are poor and hungry.  I’ve found that whenever we discuss poverty and hungry, we soon shift to thinking of those who don’t deserve our help.  Nowhere in scripture, do I find that God adds qualifications, even as he does not place qualifications on us to receive grace upon grace.

As Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”

Jesus Knew the Psalms

I began teaching a class covering some of the Psalms last Friday.  I sense that the men are a little apprehensive, which means one of my goals is to raise their appreciation and understanding of biblical poetry which comprises the bible’s hymnal.

When Martin Luther began teaching at Wittenberg University as a freshly minted professor, he started with the Psalms in August 1513 and finished in 1515.  His view of the psalms echoed that of the early church fathers, “It might be called a little bible.  Everyone, whatever his situation may be, finds in the psalms words that fit his situation and apply to his case put in a way that seems only for him.”

When Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples, they sang psalms 113-114 before the meal and 115-118 after eating.  Mark tells us, “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mt of Olives.”  (The Greek word for hymn is “umnos.”)  Soon Judas and his agents showed up and arrested Jesus.  We know that ended on the cross from which Jesus called out in the words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”  That afternoon darkness ended with Jesus voicing Psalm 31:5, “Into your hand I commit my spirit.”  But as anyone around the cross who was well versed in the Psalms knew, that verse ends with a note of gospel, “You have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful Lord.”  Jesus was not giving up his life to no good end.  God would be faithful and rescue him from death and in doing so would also redeem our life and death with new life.      

Jesus, Fish Finder

 “We’ve been shut out all night,” Peter said, “But if you say so, I’ll try again.”  That was Peter’s response (Luke 5:1-11) to Jesus command to take the boat out and “lower the nets to catch some fish.”   Yes, the nets they had just washed clean. Yes, this is Jesus the preacher who now suddenly thinks, not for the last time, he knows where the fish are.  But then, this is the One who had said long before, “Let the water swarm with swimming creatures” of whom John will write, “Not one thing that exists was made without him.”  I’m not sure how much Peter knew about him, but he preached good news and healed his mother-in-law.  So, Peter and his partners threw the nets over the side.

And behold, the nets netted so many fish that it was starting to tear, and they had to call out for help.  More fisherman came and they filled both boats with flopping fish until the boats were in danger of sinking.

Peter, overwhelmed, knelt before Jesus, “Leave me.  I’m a sinful person.” Jesus doesn’t say “You are forgiven,” but says “Don’t be afraid.”  120 times that phrase is used in the bible. Grace is such an undeserved gift that it can leave us fearful.  You know, if the sun is shining today and I’m enjoying the warmth, then I’m going to pay for such joy.  Its, going to storm tomorrow and I’ll be miserable because that’s what I deserve.

A few verses down, Jesus does forgive sins.  Yes, God graces us with undeserved forgiveness, but also gives comfort and encouragement.  And Jesus has a plan for Peter the sinner. “From now on you will catch people instead of fish.”

Ida Died in February

I was reading a passage from James Joyce novel Dubliners in which he wrote of snow falling on a cemetery.  It made me think of Ida who had been a first-grade teacher at Immanuel School in Marshfield.  She was Sarah’s teacher. It must have been about 1982 when she was diagnosed with cancer and had to resign her position.

She was a shy person who when it was her turn to lead staff devotions, she recorded them the night before and played her recording for us the next morning.  Ida had never married.

We were in Peoria, Il. for a basketball tournament the weekend she died.  We had left Marshfield’s high snow banks which had led some to put orange balls on their car antennas so they would be visible.  The temperature rose into the 70’s in Peoria that weekend, which was a welcome two-day respite from winter in central Wisconsin.

When we learned of Ida’s death our group wanted to have our own Sunday morning service to remember her and her service to our school.  Her funeral service was later that week at a Wisconsin Synod congregation out in the country.  The pastor mentioned her service to their congregation, but never mentioned her work in an LCMS congregation.

As we drove away after the committal that afternoon, Sarah looked at Ida’s casket sitting out in the snow-covered cemetery.  Our 6-year-old youngest said, “Won’t she get cold?’  I’m not sure what Becky and I answered, but I always remember Sarah’s question.