next three weeks our lessons will touch on being a neighbor. Paul declares that in Christ Jesus we are
free of obeying laws and rules (Galatians 5:1,13-25). But, he warns, don’t let your freedom as an
excuse for allowing your corrupt nature to take over. Rather, use our freedom to be expressed in
love for each other. “But if you bite
and attack each other, be careful that you don’t destroy each other.” The of giving into our desires is hatred,
rivalry, jealousy, angry outbursts, conflict and factions, and things like
Gospel lesson (Luke 9:51-62) Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem where he will prove
to be everyone’s neighbor on the cross. He
and his disciples were traveling through Samaria where a village refused to welcome
them. No love was lost between Jews and Samaritans.
their corrupt nature win the day, two of Jesus disciples, the brothers James
and John, volunteer to pray that fire come down and burn up the village. They did
not regard Samaritans as neighbors. Thankfully,
Jesus turned and corrected them.
we prayed this weekend, “Lord of all power might.’ God could have granted the brothers venge-filled
prayer. But God is “the author and giver
of all good things.” The good thing we
asked for was that God would “graft into our hearts the love of your name and
nourish us with all your goodness so that we may be enabled to love and serve
our neighbor.” In Jesus view, our
neighborly love is not only for one another in the church, but also for those we
think deserve a bit of fire from heaven.
must be grafted into our hearts. That is
done “through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our lord, who lives and reigns with You
and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.”
Testament reading for today from I Kings 19 recounts how the prophet Elijah became
so discouraged that he wanted to die. Queen
Jezebel had declared him a dead man for wiping out her prophets to Baal. Elijah runs down to Mt. Horeb and hides in a
cave, complaining that he is the only one in all Israel who still is faithful
to God. “Poppycock,” says God, “I’ve
still got 7,000 people who haven’t bowed to Baal. Get out of the cave I’ve got stuff for you to
God “volunteered” him lead to his people out of Egyptian slavery. In Numbers 11, Moses gets fed up. “God, you
gave birth to these people, but you’ve made me their nursemaid to carry them
like babies to their new home. If this
is the way you’re going to treat me, just kill me.” Yahweh directed him to bring seventy of the
leaders and God gave them some of Moses spirit to help oversee the people. Not that things were all hunky dory after
that. The next thing we know, his
brother and sister, Miriam and Aaron, started undercutting him.
Isaiah answered God’s call, “Here am I send me. Send me.” God told him that his
ministry would involve preaching to people who would not listen to him. (Isaiah
6). At some point Isaiah became
discouraged and confessed his failure as a prophet to Israel. God answered, “You know what? You need a bigger
job. I’m making you a prophet to the
nations, (Is. 49).”
It was the
same with Jeremiah, who accused God of deceiving him. He determined not to speak the word of the
Lord any longer. The Lord told him that
he should stop complaining and say something worthwhile and just do the job he
was called to do.
I don’t mean
by this that congregations should make their pastor’s life miserable and not
care for their pastor, but pastors also must realize that success, as the
world, and even the church measures success is not the way God measures things.
God measures by faithfulness, both on
the part of his people and on the part of their God – called leaders.
of the Day on Sunday was not printed in the bulletin. Though the pastor said, “Let us pray,” my mind
apparently was somewhere else. I’m sure
I added my “Amen,” my “Let it be so among us,” yet, I had no idea to what I was
“Amening.” I looked up the prayer and
this is what we prayed; in case your mind went wandering.
acknowledged, “O God, You have prepared for those who love You such good things
as surpass our understanding.” It might
have been good if the pastor asked us, “Well,
what good things have you received this week that you never expected and
were a surprise and beyond your understanding?”
What you answer? Give it some thought.
Then we made
a request, even if we don’t recall it, “Cast out all sins and evil desires from
us” Now that is going to take some heavy
lifting on God’s part to get inside me and throw out all the junk the
accumulates throughout the day, week, year, lifetime.
excavated our lives, we asked that God would “pour into our hearts Your Holy Spirit.”
We need something to replace the junk. So
God would you dump a whole bucket full of the Holy Spirit us for a purpose. “To guide us unto all blessedness.” Part of our blessedness is to recognize that
we receive so many good things in our life that it’s beyond our understanding as
to why God is so good to us.
We know that
it can only happen, “Through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and
reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”
Now we can
add our “Amen.” And know what we were praying about.
In the OT
reading (Isaiah 65:1-9) this weekend Yahweh states that he stands ready to help
people who don’t want any help and don’t think they need God poking his nose
into their business, thank you very much.
Nevertheless, Yahweh starts waving his arms shouting “Here Am I, here am
I.” He spreads out his hands 24/7 to
people who not only ignore him while following their own devices, but have any
interest in the One who is the great “I am, that I am.” “Go away,” they say. “Don’t come near me. I’m too holy for the
likes of you Yahweh.” Yahweh responds, “I
will not shut up. I will not go
away. I will repay you for your errant
ways and insults.”
We see how
God repays such behavior in the Epistle Lesson (Galatians 3:23-4:7). When the time was right, God sent his Son,
born of a woman, to free us from living under the Law, in order that God could
adopt us into his family. Thus, in
Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male
nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus.”
An example of
God’s repaying sins with grace is in the Gospel Lesson, (Luke 8:26-39) where
Jesus brings the good news of God’s reign into an area east of the Sea of
Galilee. He does so by freeing a man of
his demons who was living in cave tombs, running around naked. He could not control himself nor could anyone
else, though they had tried. Jesus
ordered the demons out, and turned the man into not only a believer, but one
who testified of the great things Jesus, God’s Savior, had done for him. Thus, the good news of God’s kingdom took
hold in the least likely of places in the least likely one to be adopted as God’s
we discussed Jesus sending out his disciples with instructions to take only a
staff, one cloak and sandals. In Luke it could be two pair of sandals or none. Go barefoot.
Naturally, we got diverted into talking about going barefoot in the
summer. Larry and I grew up on farms in
Missouri and Wisconsin and we both remembered going barefoot in the summer
except for church and going to town. I’m
barefoot even as I write this.
Usually our bare
footedness started with the close of the school year. However, earlier in the Spring we had to clean
up the manure pile which grew in the barnyard in the winter. However, our boots
often got stuck in the muck. Thus, we
would to take off our boots and load the spreader standing in the still icy
ground barefoot. Feet are easily washed. This is not necessarily a pleasant memory.
As the days
progressed, tender feet began to toughen up and we could walk on the gravel
road, and with a slide step tread through hay and oat stubble. A person did have to lookout for thistles. One
of the drawbacks was riding bicycle.
Often our old bikes only had the steel rod on which the pedal could be
fastened. Feet were never tough enough
for pedaling with the steel rod.
In 1953 our
Happy Pipers 4-H softball team played barefoot.
We reached the semifinals of the Polk County playoffs. The next year we put on shoes and won the
These days I’m
careful going out barefoot, being a diabetic.
But its good to feel the soft grass beneath my feet occasionally. Of course, sandals are almost as good, which
is what I wore to church this morning to teach the class. I felt like a disciple.
morning our pastor asked what we were known for. And a member answered, “Abortion.” It takes me a while to process stuff. But my response is that if opposition to
abortion is what we are chiefly known for, then we have really lost our way as
people of Christ. What is the chief
business of the church? Jesus laid it
out clearly when he began his ministry, it’s all about him.
In Mark and
Matthew Jesus begins his ministry. Proclaiming the gospel of God and saying, “The
time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the
gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15) The gospel of
God is nothing other than Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. The kingdom of God is at hand because Jesus
is at hand and he is God’s kingdom. When
we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your Kingdom come,” we are asking Christ and
nothing but Christ to rule in our lives.
When Jesus says, “repent and believe in the gospel.” He means for
everyone to turn away from all the other stuff we thought was so important and
trust him and his message and the message about him.
4:18-19, Jesus quotes Isaiah and the psalms to explain the nature of his
ministry and ours. The Spirit of the
Lord has anointed, set him aside, to tell the Good News to the poor, to
announce forgiveness to prisoners of sin, those who have missed the target of
God’s expectations, restore sight to the blind and those who can’t see their
way through the darkness, forgive those who are shattered by what has happened
in their life and what they have done and to announce that this is the year,
the time, when the Lord is acting favorably, with grace.”
closed the book sat down and said, “This passage came true today when you heard
me read it.” Good news of grace in
Jesus, forgiveness in Jesus, giving people a way through in Jesus, and that day
and that year is still in effect. That
is the chief business of the Church.
member of the Friday morning Bible Class said he and his wife would be going to
the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League convention in Mobile, Alabama this
week. I said, “Their conventions are the
only ones I really ever enjoyed.” Hans
replied, “If we let the women run the synodical convention, it would be done in
really got involved with LWML in about 1971 at Zion, Albert Lea. We did have an
active women’s group and happy to be asked to be the counselor to the zone LWML.
paid my way to the district convention at Gustavus Adolphus college, in St.
Peter’s MN. The college is rooted in Swedish
What took me
by surprise was the realization that for the first time in my post high school
education I was in a setting with several hundred women and only a few
men. I was only 4 years out of the
seminary and except for 2 years at Concordia College, St. Paul, my next six
years were in an almost total male environment.
At that time pastors’ conferences and conventions were overwhelmingly
attended by men.
changed since those days. I have always appreciated the work of the LWML
and the great support they give to the missions of the church. And my experience at Gustavus Adolphus
college in the summer of 1971, has made me sensitive when I see a minority amid
overwhelming majority; whatever the make up of the minority and the majority in
lesson for Trinity Sunday ends (John 8:48-59), “So they picked up stones to
throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” Strange way to treat the Son of God who with
the Father and the Holy Spirit created the throwers to be, according to Psalm
8, “a little less than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and
honor.” Moreover, they used stones which
God had created to try to kill God. All this dishonorable and inglorious
behavior took place in what was claimed to be God’s earthly residence. Thus, they drove God out of his own home.
already made himself unpopular in Chap. 2, when he used a whip to chase out of
the temple courts those selling oxen, sheep, pigeons and those exchanging
currency to the special temple money.
Imagine the narthex at church filled with bellowing oxen, bleating
sheep, cooing pigeons and all the odors that go with having animals, including piles
of manure and the merchants calling out offering the best deals on their sacrificial
animals. And we tend to take notice of a
Chapter 8, is the conclusion of a nasty
exchange between God (Jesus) who was accused of having a demon. He protested
that he was honoring his Father. However,
they were honoring their father, who was not Abraham as they claimed, but the
devil who was a liar, murderer and wouldn’t know the truth if it bit him on the
nose. And neither would they.
One gets the
idea that this isn’t going to end well.
Which it doesn’t because these folks created to be a little less than
the heavenly beings, managed to not only chase God out of the temple, but even
out of Jerusalem where they hang God on a cross and bury him, thinking “good
riddance.” Of course, we know how that ended, with Mary Magdalene meeting Jesus
in the garden cemetery and becoming the first apostle telling the disciples, “I
have seen the Lord.”
I guess we
can say on this Father’s Day, “Father knows Best.”
Dad didn’t know why Mr. Rivard wanted to look at the 80
acres of wooded land which abutted the south line of our pasture below the barn
and across the river. He could have
accessed the parcel from the town road that ran along the other side of the
80. Dad was an accommodating person and
not one to question the wisdom of someone like our visitor from town, attired
in his everyday wear of a 3-piece suit, tie, hat and dress shoes. In our neighborhood, in the late 40’s, suit,
hat, tie and dress shoes were reserved for Sunday morning church. Dad guided the
Sunday attired Mr. Rivard through the manure rich barnyard, down the hill, around
the swampy area that stood between the barnyard and the river to the tree trunk
bridge which spanned Apple River.
Sometimes these bridges were trunks of large trees that the river
undercut and fell on their own and sometimes they were smaller trunks which had
been deliberately felled. A bridge might
serve its purpose for a few years but eventually decay and the spring floods
carried it away. The smaller tree-trunk bridges tested the balance and nerve of
the pedestrian. The one currently in use
was one of the smaller narrower versions.
Mr. Rivard took the challenge in his 3-piece suit, tie, hat and dress
shoes. Unfortunately, he had hardly
begun his acrobatic walk when he lost his balance and fell into the moderately
deep water. It may be that dad retrieved
his hat before it got too far downstream toward New Orleans via the St. Croix
and Mississippi. The now drenched Mr. Rivard hauled himself up
the bank and without a further word retraced his steps around the swampy area
up the hill and through the manure rich barnyard to his car and drove back to
Turtle Lake. We never saw Mr. Rivard
again and I don’t think he bought the 80.
Several years later dad purchased the 80 and my brother now uses it as
sylvan pasture land for his cattle.
When I was a
young pastor, I would get peeved at those older pastors who would throw out a
German phrase at a conference, but not translate it. Well, now I’m an old pastor and am going
throw out a favorite Latin phrase but will translate it.
coined the phrase, “Curvatus in se.”
Curved in on oneself. What got me
going on this train of thought was a translation of Solomon’s blessing on the
people following his prayer at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem. I Kings 8:58, “May he bend our hearts toward
translations have “incline”, but I like the image of bending better. If you’ve ever tried to bend something into
the shape you want or tried to straighten what was already bent, you know it
takes some effort, maybe more than you have to complete the task. Luther said that being curved in on oneself
means that people, will seek to bend the best gifts of God for their own use and
enjoyment alone. Even when we come to faith in Christ, we will have a propensity
to bend God to our own use; instead of seeking to be useful to God.
It may be
that a pastor in giving the blessing at the end of the service may do so hoping
that God will bend our hearts toward himself during the coming week, that we
might see our work, our role as spouse, parent, child of parents, brother,
sister, and neighbor as ways in which we are serving and glorifying God in
everything we say and do.