It seems to me that when a congregation ceases to function well, one of the casualties of conflict is a loss of a sense of humor about itself. I think the same thing is happening in our nation. We are aggrieved at almost anything and suffer a loss of ability to laugh at ourselves.
Psalm 146 may be instructive: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the dust; on that very day his plans perish.”
Psalm 2 asks, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?” When God sees our vaunted plans and plotting, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.”
A sense of humor is also one of God’s gifts. Perhaps God’s first joke was using the medium of mud to mold us. A reminder of what we are made of.
I like Jeremiah 9:23-24, “Don’t brag about your wisdom or strength or wealth. If you feel you must brag, then have enough sense to brag about worshiping me, the Lord. What I like best is showing kindness, justice and mercy to everyone on earth.”
Paul writes in I Cor. 1, “He sent Christ Jesus to save us and to make us wise, acceptable and holy. So, if you want to brag, do what the Scriptures say and brag about the Lord”.
We were created from dust, we shall return to dust and Christ will raise us again from the dust.
While watching the Packers lose their 8th road game in a row last night I was poking around in some writings by Martin Luther. Luther could be verbose, but he also would often get down to earth, as he did in a sermon in 1545, the year before his death.
Text: I Thessalonians 5:2 “You know very well that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
The Last Day will come to all true and faithful Christians as a day of joy and glory. This is how it will happen: not all of us will receive Holy Communion in our sickbed, nor be laid out in a coffin and carried to the grave. There will be no need for that on the Last Day. It will happen as you sit at the table at meal-time, or stand before the cash-box counting your coins, or lie in bed asleep, or sit in the tavern drinking, or are at a dance, suddenly in the twinkling of an eye you will be changed, that is, you will be dead and then immediately alive.
Whoever will receive advice, let that person repent and become a better person. For the Last Day will come upon us and God’s trumpet will sound before we expect it.
“I am Alpha and Omega” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
This Sunday we ended the church year which began last December 3rd by anticipating Jesus coming, celebrating his coming, his life, his death and resurrection, ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit. Today, we celebrated the end, when he shall come again as Christ the King, Alpha and Omega. Next Sunday, Dec. 2 we begin again rehearsing his coming, his life, his death, his resurrection, his ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit. And yes, his return as Christ the King to take all who trust in him, the firstborn of the dead, that the grave would be but the womb in which we wait for our new birth.
Why do we ride this same merry-go-round year after year? Because we do not know what the new year in the church, or in the world will bring. We are not God, the be all and end all of all that is. Therefore, we prayed this morning that Jesus Christ would so governor our hearts and minds via the Holy Spirit that keeping in mind Jesus glorious return, we would persist in our trust in Christ and in living lives of holiness even as we look forward to a new heaven and a new earth
I had cataract surgery on my right eye Nov. 6. The left eye is scheduled for Dec. 18. My right eye has taken over and I can see distance things clearly. Up close is another matter. I wear “readers” just to see what I’m eating.
What got me started down this rabbit hole was Garrison Keillor writing about downsizing his library as he and his wife move to an apartment. Becky has been after me for years, and I’ve made some effort. I’ve even talked to the head librarian at the seminary.
Downsizing is perilous. For instance, I put Augustine’s “City of God” in a box for the seminary, but then pulled it out, shouldn’t I read this book I’ve had over 50 years? Thomas Merton writes I only must read three chapters to get the gist. And there is the first historian, Herodotus. Maybe a question about the upset victory of the Greeks over the Persians in the 5th century BC will be on the exam for entry into the pearly gates.
Then there is the biblical book of Hebrews. Some years ago, I collected several studies, but when I retired, I gave the books away. Now a person in the class on teach on Friday mornings wanted to study Hebrews. Thankfully, the Sem. library and the Resurrection Church libraries are well equipped.
The class I teach has been described as trying to herd cats. I imagine a bunch of knowledgeable rabbis going at it. Free flowing discussions and questions. It’s great fun.
I can’t wait to get my left eye done and read with two refurbished eyes.
T is for the tree in forest and garden, the tree of the cross; the tree of life growing along the banks of the river of the water of life.
H is for the Holy Spirit who brings us to faith through the gospel and keeps us in the one true faith.
A is for Adam and Eve without whom we would not be and for the second Adam with whom we shall be in eternity.
N is for being new creatures in Christ able to live in new resurrected bodies in God’s new heaven and new earth.
K is for the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
S is for the sacred scripture that are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
G is God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit to whom we give thanks for his daily and eternal gifts.
I is for the imperishable inheritance we will receive when our mortal bodies put on immortality.
V is for Christ’s victory over death in his resurrection, the guarantee of our faith.
I is for the image of the invisible God born by Jesus who restores us to the image of God.
N is for our new name. No longer called Forsaken and Desolate, but My Delight is in you.
G is for Grace, that which we receive at the Lord’s Table, and that which we give at the Thanksgiving table.
The harvest is in. Now its time to –
Come, ye thankful people come;
Raise the song of harvest home.
All be safely gathered in
Ere the winter storms begin;
God, our maker, doth provide
For our wants to be supplied,
Come to God’s own temple,come;
Raise the song of harvest home.
Stanza 4 looks forward to another harvest –
Even so, Lord, quickly come
To Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified,
In Thy garner to abide;
Come with all Thine angels, come,
Raise the glorious harvest home.
Thus the Thanksgiving hymn leads us into Advent, the season of the Lord’s coming.
The Old Testament lesson for this Sunday, Daniel 12: 1-3 is set during a time of great duress for the people of Israel. Babylon had crushed Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple to dust. The people had been led into exile.
In Genesis 3 God had declared that Adam would return to the dust of the ground from which he had been formed. Now, in Daniel, resurrection from the dust is announced
Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) saw a foretaste of what the righteous might expect in the resurrection in the glowworm. “God…has given to the smallest worms to emit from their bodies beams of light in the summer, that natural fluorescence might be a parable of what we expect…He who makes the worm shine luminously will much more illumine the just person.”
Whatever attempts are made to describe the resurrected life we received in baptism and will receive in fullness when Christ returns, will all fall short of what that life will be. But there does seem to be a common denominator in the descriptions. Eternal life in the presence of God and the resurrected Christ is most often described in terms related to light.
Martin Luther said that when we pray in the Lord’s Prayer “thy will be done,” we are praying against ourselves. The same pertains to the Prayer of the Day for this Sunday.
My old man, that is, the old man that I need to drown daily in my baptism doesn’t like to admit that we need to pray, “O Lord, by your bountiful goodness release us from the bonds of our sins, which by reason of our weakness we have brought upon ourselves…”
My old man doesn’t mind receiving God’s “bountiful goodness.” But that I need “release from the bonds of our sins? No, no. ‘Sin’ is such negative word. Just give me your bountiful goods and let’s not have all this negative talk. That’s why I don’t like this judgmental stuff. I want to hear about love.
Yes, there are times when ‘by reason of our weakness we have brought upon ourselves’ some problems. But I have ways and methods of taking care of those. I’m sure ‘that I will stand firm until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.’”
So my old man thinks. But when we apply our baptism to our daily lives then, as Luther writes, “That together with all sins and evil lusts, should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance and be put to death, and that the new man should come forth daily rise up cleansed and righteous, to live forever in God’s presence.”
Yes, that’s God’s way and method to take care of my weaknesses. All this through Jesus Christ “who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.” Amen. It is so.
Just read a piece by Garrison Keillor about going to church. One of the reasons he goes is because in the face of declining attendance he doesn’t want to be part of a trend. Parents should teach their kids that there is more to Sunday than video games and that Sunday doesn’t have to be the same as Saturday and Monday. Church is also the place when you can greet your fellow attendees with the peace of the Lord, something which won’t happen in the produce aisle of the supermarket. Then you confess your failures, receive forgiveness and everyone goes to communion together. He goes because for about an hour and a half he gets away from thinking about himself. His mind wanders during the sermon. He uses the time to think about and pray for an assortment of people and problems. (As does mine. I’m usually ‘writing” my own sermon and how I would treat the texts while I listen to someone’s treatment of the text. Though I am getting better of paying attention. If I was smarter, I would know how to copy and paste what Garrison actually said and you wouldn’t have to put up with my synopsis.)
He concludes with the thought that with all the shouting going on in our society during the week it’s well to be told as you are about the to leave the service, “Go in Peace, God Bless you. amen.”
For myself one of the reasons I go to church is that I get to sing some fantastic hymns with both depth of meaning and music. I also like to sing tenor when I can easily do so. though I wonder sometimes whether my boisterous singing bothers those around me. But Becky hasn’t told me to shut up yet, so I’ll just keep enjoying myself. Thanks Lord for the opportunity.
He Noticed Her
Often, we preachers use the story in Mark 12:38-44 of the widow who put her last two pennies in the temple offering box as an incentive for stewardship giving in church. We may take another view of Jesus watching people in the temple. Yes, Jesus people watched.
He noticed her. His mother, Mary, was right when she sang more than thirty years before, “My soul magnifies the Lord…because He has looked kindly at His humble servant… and lifted up lowly people…those who were hungry He has filled with good things.”
He also knew the widow. He knew she had put in everything she had. She made herself a defenseless prey for the long-robed scribes, who while taking the best seats and devouring the food at banquets would leave and then devour the widows house even while issuing long prayers in behalf of the dispossessed poor and hungry.
The story ends with her impoverishment. How will we write the end of the story?
Hanging on our front door is a blue bag from the Boys Scouts. Did you receive one? Filling the bag is a small way we can look after those whom we might not notice during the week. For as Mary sang, “He has come to help his servant and remember His mercy.” That includes us. We too have received mercy, even as we are called to show mercy.