Ploughing through Ezekiel

 

Ezekiel almost did me in, in my effort to read through the Bible.  Ezekiel reminded me of an organ recital I attended at Valparaiso University years ago.  The recital featured J.S. Bach’s 14 or 17 variations on a theme.  By the time we got to the no. 10, I thought, “alright Johann, I get it, now you’re just showing off.”  Well, by the time I got to about chapter 30 in Ezekiel I was ready to say, “Enough, already, Ezekiel.”

Reading Ezekiel is something like ploughing a field on our home farm.  Every once in while we would find an arrow head or a nice Lake Superior Agate.  Occasionally, Ezekiel reveals a nugget, like the valley of the dry bones, or that the Lord himself will be our shepherd, or the vision of a river running out of the temple like the rivers out of Eden and developed in Revelation 22.

Then at the end of the last furrow in the field of Ezekiel came the biggest find of all.  Yahweh-Shammah.  The name of the new Jerusalem (Jahweh’s peace) is The Lord is There, (Yahweh – Shamma.)  Yahweh is not only in the temple in this new city, but in the whole city.  All twelve tribes of Israel have a gate by which to enter into the presence of the Lord.

We too all have a gate giving access into God’s presence, that gate has multiple names, Immanuel, (God with us), Jesus, (God’s Savior), Christos, (Anointed One), Uios Theos, (Son of God) to mention a few.  The gate is always open.

 

Mary, Mother of Our Lord

 

 

On August 15, the church remembers Mary, mother of Jesus.  St. Paul writes in the epistle for the day, Gal. 4:4-7, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman.”

“The fullness of time,” was the time in the history of the world and the history of God’s plan for redeeming the world from sin that He said to the Son, “Okay, now go!”

For Mary, “the fullness of time” came nine months after the angel Gabriel told her that she had found favor with God.   She would conceive in her womb and bear a son whom she would name Jesus.  In “the fullness of time” when her womb was filled with God, she sent forth from her womb her and God’s Son.  God, born into human flesh was completely obedient to God’s demands in His commands.  He suffered death on the cross as the price for buying us back from captivity to our disobedience of the demands of His commands.

We remember Mary, the girl from Nazareth, who had the singular privilege of giving birth to God’s Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  No wonder Elizabeth loudly exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”

Because of that “blessed event” we too are among the blessed.

 

We sing of Mary, mother,

Fair maiden, full of grace.

She bore the Christ, our brother,

Who came to save our race.

May we, with her, surrender

Ourselves to Your command

And lay upon Your altar

Our gifts of heart and hand.

LSB855 st. 8  For all the Faithful Women

Martin Luther on Preaching

 

Classmate Bob Kolb has an article on Luther’s preaching in the Winter/Spring issue of the Concordia Journal.

“It is true that a preacher ought first to ascend through prayer in order to receive the Word and teaching from God, and then ought to study, learn, read and meditate.  Thereafter he ought to descend and teach others.”

I usually tried to begin that conversation with God and the Word on Sunday evening and continued it through Thursday or Friday.  Descending to write and preach took up Friday-Sunday.  Then the cycle began again for the next week.

I also find something else that Luther said to be true: “I have often wanted to spit on myself when I left the pulpit ‘Pfui on you!  What did you preach?’  But just this sermon the people praised the most, that I had not preached so wonderful a sermon in a long time.”

 

Let us Sing

 

This morning in Worship we sang the Venite from the order of Matins.  “O Come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation…” And so we did, opening the service with “Precious Lord, take my hand…I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.”  In my head the voice of Elvis Presley sang along.  But we also sang some less familiar hymns.  I always enjoy the challenge of the newer hymns, “Church of God, elect and glorious, Holy nation, chosen race…Royal priests and heirs of grace…”  but then back to Matins singing a newer version of the Te Deum Laudamus: “We praise you and acknowledge you, O God to be the Lord.”  That is exactly what the disciples did after Jesus rescued Peter from his fear caused sinking in the Sea of Galilee.  “Truly, you are the Son of God,” they confessed on the quieted waters as dawn crept in from the East.

These were hymns which called for not only full voiced singing but full- bodied singing as well, driving the music upwards from the soles of the feet through the calves of the legs and on up to finally sound forth from the mouth.  The Matins service begins with a prayer: “O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare your praise.”

We went out into our week singing, “How firm a foundation, O saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in His excellent word.”

Next Sunday we get to do it again.  Thanks be to God.

Job, Jesus and Me

 

Tomorrow, Job 38 is the Old Testament lesson.  God asks Job, “Tell me if you’re so smart…Who slammed the door on the sea when it burst from the womb…caged it’s behind bars and told it, “This far and no farther…here is where your proud waves will be stayed?”  (My paraphrase).

In the Gospel Matthew 14:22-33, this same God, contained within Jesus,’ body walks upon the proud waves of the Sea of Galilee.  Dawn was creeping in from the East.  The waves were pounding against the disciples’ boat as they made their nighttime crossing.   But suddenly they notice an apparition. “It’s a ghost,” they cried in terror.  The Lord of the waters said, “It’s me.  Nothing to fear.”

Peter said, “Lord, command me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus said, “Come.”

Peter climbed over the gunnels and walked on the water toward Jesus.  What faith!  But when he saw the wind and waves, he lost his courage and began to sink.  He cried out, “Save me.”  Jesus reached out and caught hold of him.

Then Jesus asks a pertinent question for all of us to consider, “How little you trust me. Why did you doubt?”  That’s a question that hangs over some of Jesus’ parables in chapter 13 of the treasure and the pearl.

The disciples bowed down before Jesus confessing, “Truly you are the Son of God.”  When we make our confession of faith tomorrow, the question to ask ourselves is, “What is the measure of our trust in Jesus who has saved us and beckons us to come to him.”

Minister in a White Cap

Since Adam went into the hospital on July 20, Becky and I have witnessed on daily his care by the hospital staff. I have always liked the “parable” by Herbert Brokering from a book called “Eye Openers” published by CPH in 1974. To JoAnne Reinhardt and Kathie Rogers and all others in the nursing profession.
Once there was a girl who wanted to be a minister when she grew up. Everyone told her to stop saying it because it was silly, so she did. She became one anyway and didn’t tell people. She washes feet, says the peoples names, tries to get Sundays off, sometimes works all night, and helps the people go to sleep. She can make a bedroom feel like Communion. She is very pretty. When she was ordained, they gave her a white cap.

The Mathematics of Feeding 5,000

 

There is a math problem in the story of Jesus’ feeding the 5,000 in Matthew 14:13-21.

Following the execution of John, the Baptist, Jesus tried to get away from it all for a while, but when he and his disciples had crossed the Sea of Galilee, crowds waited for him on shore.  Though he was grieving the death of his cousin, out of compassion, he nevertheless healed the sick who were brought to him.  Since it was a wilderness place and the day was coming to an end, the disciples suggested he dismiss the crowds so they could buy some food.  Jesus told the disciples to feed the people.

However, the disciples only had 5 loaves and 2 fish which posed an unsolvable equation for them.  In their view, the equation was 5 + 2 = 7.  Actually, the equation was 5 + 2 + 1 = 8.  The 1 is Jesus.  Notice I used the present tense.  Like the disciples we often view our resources as inadequate.  But Jesus says, “Bring them to me.”  Look what happens.  Jesus took the loaves and fish, looked up to heaven and said a blessing upon what was at hand and turned it into an abundance.

This isn’t only a mathematics problem in our private lives, but also in congregations.  Bring our resources to Jesus and see what he can do.  After all, in Holy Communion yesterday, He turned bread and wine into his body and blood, and fed millions of people.

 

Father, Grant the Holy Spirit

Pentecost 9 Prayer of the Day

The Prayer of the Day (Collect) is addressed to the Heavenly Father.  “Though we do not deserve your goodness, still you provide for all our needs of body and soul.”  The gospel lesson features the time Jesus fed five thousand men, plus women and children, with five loaves and two fish borrowed from the disciples’ picnic cooler.  After everyone had eaten their fill, the disciples, ever the want not waste not sort, picked up twelve baskets of left overs.  So, they ended up with far more than they had begun.

As the Prayer of the Day continues, it focuses on the work of the Holy Spirit.  We ask the Father to give us the Holy Spirit that we might do three things.  1. Acknowledge your gifts.  We have nothing that is not from the Father.  2. Give thanks for all Your benefits.  That would include a boundless list beginning with life, and air, and water and food and our bodily functions and on and on including family and friends.  Remember Martin Luther’s list in the catechism?  3. Serve You in willing obedience.  Notice, it says, willing obedience.  Not “Yeah, yeah God, if you insist, I guess I don’t have a choice, do I?”

We pray for all of this “through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”

A lot to think about tomorrow in those 30 seconds of prayer. Worth talking about, maybe in place of the sermon.

The Fall

From Richard Ford’s Novel

Let me be Frank with You

I feel a need to more consciously pick my feet up when I walk- “the gramps shuffle” being the unmaskable, final-journey approach signal.  It’s also to keep me from falling down and busting my ass.

What is it about falling?  “He died of a fall.”  “The poor thing never recovered after his fall.” “He broke his hip in a fall and was never the same.”  “Death came relatively quickly after a fall in the back yard.”  How far do these people fall?  Off of buildings?  Over spuming cataracts? Down manholes?  Is it farther to the ground than it used to be?  In years gone by I’d fall on the ice, hop back up and never think a thought.  Now it’s a death sentence…Why am I now a walking accident waiting to happen?  Why am I more worried about that than whether there’s an afterlife?

The Reality of Gardening

 

It’s hard to be romantic about gardening as we enter August.  The lush green Hostas of May which had soaked up the ample Spring rains are now dry leafed.  The squirrels have enjoyed more of my tomatoes than I have.  I imagine the garden crying out, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.” (Ps. 22:15) The mowing crew stirs up more dust in the backyard than tops of grass being sliced off.

The thorns and thistles of Genesis 1 hangs more heavily in the air than the visionary hopes of Rev. 22 with the tree of life yielding twelve kinds of fruit with leaves the heals the nations.

We hope for the grace of rain to fall like the word of the Lord freshening up the abused plants even as the grace of the word refreshes our lives.  We hope for the grace of rain so that the squirrels can find another source for thirst quenching drink than the juice in my still green tomatoes.

The gospel lessons for the last three Sundays have been from Matthew 13.  How fitting that all of them contain parables Jesus told and all of them are based in the world of agriculture.  A sower went out to sow and some seed failed and some yielded a hundredfold.  A man sowed seeds and then at night an enemy sowed weed seeds. A man sows mustard seed.  Where I come from mustard was wild invasive weed.  A treasure is hidden in a field.

Perhaps I need to look more closely at my crying garden to see the parables they are telling.