Tuesday, June 29, 2010

LCMS World Relief and Human Care responds to Jesus First questions about Finances.

06-28-2010: The Truth about the Stewardship of LCMS World Relief and Human Care

For the sake of our work of mercy and those in need around the world, and to provide reassurance to our donors, it is necessary to respond to the Jesus First Delegate Letter No. 9. As chairman of the Board for Human Care, I have requested our board Vice Chair, John Edson (a Certified Public Accountant), to prepare a response.

Rev. Bernie Seter
Chair, Board for Human Care

Monday, June 28, 2010

Luke 9:51-62; Fifth Sunday after Pentecost; June 27, 2010

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village. As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Lk 9:51-62 (ESV)

Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“It’s hard to find good help” (Special thanks to Edit-O-Earl)

You can’t help but see a twinge of disappointment on Jesus face when he turns and “rebukes” the disciples that had returned from that Samaritan village. Once again they don’t seem to “get it.” He had rebuked them before, he was going to have to do it again, and well it wasn’t going to be the last time. But maybe it was especially disappointing at that very moment because he has “set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Jesus knew what lay ahead of them. His journey to Jerusalem was a journey to the cross. In that city he would give up his very life. There would be nothing that would turn him aside; his face was set like flint (Isaiah 50:7) to the task at hand. God’s power was to be revealed in the weakness of human flesh. God’s great love was to be shown in innocent suffering and death, and the pouring out of the Holy and precious blood for the sins of the world. The disciples were talking about calling down fire from heaven. They wanted a great display of God’s power, which would teach the people who rejected them a lesson. God’s power was going to be shown in a much different way. And then there were the three “wannabe” disciples saying they will follow Jesus. They don’t “get it” either. Really their promises are half hearted; they put anything and everything before their promise to follow. Jesus determination is set in clear contrast to the commitments of the disciples.

Now it is interesting that when we hear this story our first inclination is to find fault with Jesus. “Isn’t he just a little harsh?” When the first guy says “I’ll follow, but let me bury my father, first,” Jesus coldly answers, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” When another says, “I’ll follow, but first, I need to say good-bye to my family.” Jesus reply is, “No one who has put his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service.” Well, even if we don’t admit it openly, we feel it in our hearts. These requests seem pretty reasonable to us. We cringe at Jesus responses. Isn’t family important to Jesus? Do we have to give up everything to be a disciple?

To really understand what Jesus is saying to these guys we have to look at all that’s going on here. We need to remember that the text starts out with Jesus “setting his face toward Jerusalem.” Jesus is committed to his task and the journey that will take him there. These disciples have been told what it all means. Jesus will go to Jerusalem, be handed over to his enemies, be crucified dead, and rise again on the third day. They react the way they do because they think this plan of action is crazy. Who would want to go on a journey that they all knew would lead to death. Jesus is determined, the disciples want to follow him, but they offer excuses. They want to go with him… sort of. When we look at everything from that point of view, these excuses are more like, “I’d like to go with you but I’ve got to stay home and wash my hair.” After the disciples want to burn up the Samaritan village, and give excuses for not going with Jesus, You can almost hear him saying, “It’s hard to find good help these days.”

I wonder a little bit about these excuses. We don’t know what was in these men’s hearts, but Jesus did, because he knows all things. The first disciple says he’ll follow. But we get the impression that he isn’t really committed. “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but not me. I have no place to call home. That’s what you are singing on for. No glorious living. No fame and fortune.” We don’t know how the man reacted. The next man says he’ll first need to bury his father. Was his father dead? If that was the case why wasn’t he off making arrangements already? Why wasn’t he caring for his mother? Maybe he was saying that he would become a faithful follower of Jesus after his father’s death? That could be years. Jesus ministry; Jesus plan was immediate; he was going to Jerusalem right now. There would be no delay. “Let the dead bury their own dead.” The third disciple gets right at the point. Especially with Jesus reply. “Let me say good-bye to my family.” Jesus makes clear what’s going on. “No one who plows looking back is worthy of plowing.” You have to remember in those days the plow was in front of the plowman. You had to watch the animal and the machine as you walked behind it. You won’t make a straight furrow if you’re not committed to the task at hand, if you keep looking back. There is a Latin word for a plowman who keeps looking back. The word is delirious. It means literally “out of the furrow.” A delirious man, one who isn’t paying attention to his work is like a plow out of the furrow. Being a follower of Jesus isn’t a matter of convenience it’s a mater of commitment. There are no part time disciples in the crowd that claims to be Jesus followers. Jesus calls for full time faithfulness. “It’s hard to find good help these days.”

“These days” we have the same view as those would-be disciples. All too often today, Jesus is a part time activity; Sunday mornings and once a quarter meetings. “I don’t have time.” “Everyone is so busy.” “Let the younger generation do it.” St. Paul’s words to the Galatians are words also spoken to us. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13, ESV) Luther says it like this: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” It was Jesus journey to Jerusalem that set us free. Free from the worry about our own relationship with God. We don’t have to do good things to earn a place with God. Jesus has done them for us. We don’t need our good works, but our neighbor does.

“It’s hard to find good help these days.” I think it was always hard for Jesus to find good disciples. I’m sure I’m one of his most troublesome. The truth is we are all lousy disciples of Jesus. Even when we want to do good things we have to argue ourselves into it. And even when we do things for the right reasons our own sinful pride takes credit where none is due. For every good thing we’ve done there are twenty that we didn’t do. For every right thing we do there’s a bucket full of wrong. And there are lots of excuses. School, family, jobs, television, all keep us from being the disciples that Jesus would have us be. Now don’t think I’m just talking about church meetings. We could do all the meetings we want, and still not be “good help.” Our lives of service to others isn’t centered on our gathering in this building for meetings, it’s centered in the life that God has given us. And the new life he gives us through Jesus. Through his life, death and resurrection that is our new life in Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. It has everything to do with the family he’s placed us in. The job we go to every day. The friends we play with. The school we attend. It doesn’t take a church program to serve our neighbor. It doesn’t take a church program to defend life and speak against abortion, or to speak up about the hope that is within you, the hope of eternal life in Jesus. It’s a full time job. It’s a full time commitment. “It’s hard to find good help these days.” You aren’t going to do it perfectly. Just like you, I’ve missed opportunities; I’ve left unsaid what needed to be said. We’ve all used every excuse in the book, “Let me bury my father first…” “Let me get my life in order first…” “Let me get through school first…” “Let me settle into retirement…” “Let me raise my children…” “It’s hard to find good help these days.”

And yet we just sang a beautiful hymn: Take my life… take my hands… take my money… are we saying that we didn’t mean any of it? No of course not. We really didn’t mean every word. After all we are Jesus disciples. He has called us to be his. We know that Jesus walked that road to Jerusalem for us. We know it’s for us because of the promises he made to us in our Baptism. He reaches out with a pastor’s hand and pours water on our heads and says, “The trip to Jerusalem is for this one.” That’s the most important part of faith, clinging to the promises of God, knowing that Jesus did all these things “for me!” That’s the essence of a personal faith in Jesus. That’s what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

Jesus is the perfect model of loving service. Don’t think for a moment that he wasn’t in complete control of events. The Chief Priests and teachers of the law weren’t in charge. The Roman governor didn’t call the shots. Jesus wasn’t even the puppet of His Father. Jesus chose the path that he was on. He made his choice freely and without being forced. His choice was service through sacrifice. He really “took up the cross” of his own free will. And most important of all, he did it for you. He did it for your sins. He did it for your failures. He did it in spite of the excuses you make for not taking up a cross of your own. That’s exactly why he set his face to Jerusalem. That’s exactly why nothing was going to stop him from going. For Jesus, there are no excuses that will stand in his way of setting you free.

We heard also from Paul in the Second reading: For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1, ESV) The freedom that Paul is talking about, the freedom Jesus won for us, isn’t the kind of freedom we often think about, especially as we think about the upcoming celebration of our Nation’s independence. It’s not a freedom to do whatever we want. That kind of freedom is self indulgent. Christ set us free from our need to earn our own salvation. We don’t have to work to make our place with God. We don’t have to do good works to earn anything. Jesus has earned it all for us. In fact, Jesus freed us from the slavery to sin, death and Satan, so that we could be his servants. Just like the Declaration of Independence didn’t mean that our forefathers were free from dependence. They were just dependent on each other instead of the King. “Take my life, O Lord, renew, Consecrate my heart to you;” Disciples of Jesus are dependent on him. We are dependent on Jesus. We are free to serve. Free to follow Jesus… full time, with our whole heart, soul and mind.

As Pastor Earl Feddersen wrote: “Paul has a message for us [today]. It is rather simple really: Christ has already set us free! Get out into the light of His day. As Jesus implied, the spiritually dead can bury their own dead, but you get out and proclaim the kingdom of God!” Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Luke 8.26-39; Fourth Sunday after Pentecost; June 20, 2010;

Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:26-39, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Well, this is a great account of our Lord healing someone in great need of healing. I noticed a few things about what’s going on here. First, Jesus is clearly identified for who he is. Legion the demons yells out at him, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” and later when Jesus is going to leave he tells the man to tell what God had done for him. The man recognized God’s work in Jesus by telling everyone what Jesus had done for him. Although we wouldn’t use this as a proof that Jesus is God, it clearly shows the man knew who was helping him and that God was working through Jesus.

Secondly, I noticed that the guy who Jesus was helping really needed help. It seems to me that lots of people tried to help him and failed. I’m not sure they locked him in chains and kept watch him just to protect themselves. He had family and friends that didn’t want him to hurt himself. Even if they were very selfish in trying to help him by confining him they couldn’t do anything anyway because he broke the chains and ran back the desert. This guy living naked in the graveyard, foaming at the mouth, screaming at the top of his lungs, was quite helpless and in great danger. The danger was very real.

Notice also, how everything is in turmoil in the account. Jesus comes ashore; he’s confronted in a loud voice. There’s a herd of pigs near by (they are not necessarily quiet animals). There’s the description of the man’s activities, and the argument with the demons called Legion. They are begging with Jesus and he’s telling them what they are going to do. “Please don’t cast us into hell! We don’t want to go there yet! Can’t we live in those pigs? We won’t be too much trouble there?” I think Jesus just waved his hand and pointed to the herd. Off went the many demons thinking they had won a victory against Jesus. But instead the pigs were sent screaming into the lake to drown; noise, anger, death, drowning pigs what a commotion that must have been. No wonder the folks who saw it were afraid. Now the contrast is really what this reading is all about. The pig herders run of to tell everyone what happened. When everyone comes to see Jesus the man who had the demons is dressed, in his right mind and sitting a Jesus feet. He’s learning from Jesus. Hanging on Jesus words, it reminds me of Mary and Martha. Remember Martha busy in the kitchen working a frenzy to get everything ready and Mary sitting quietly at Jesus feet listening. Jesus says it is the one thing needful. What Mary needed, what the man who no longer had a legion of demons needed, what you and I need… is to listen to Jesus, to sit at his feet and take in his Word.

The last thing to see here is how everyone is afraid. The pig herders are afraid. The town’s people ask Jesus to leave because they are afraid. In the face of Jesus power and his ability and in recognition that he’s connected to God in some great way people are afraid of him and just want him to go away.

So that’s what we see in this account. Now the interesting thing is this one is right in the middle of two other accounts that have the same kinds of things happening. Right before this Luke tells us that Jesus and his disciples were boating across the lake and were caught in a storm. The waves were crashing over the boat the disciples were in grave danger. They were helpless, the boat was going to sink and they were going to die. Jesus was sleeping. They wake him up and he calms the storm. They are afraid. “Do you have no faith?” Jesus says.

After the Legion account Jesus is waking through crowds of people. They’ve come because of all that they’ve heard about him. Some want to be healed, some want to see the guy who casts out demons, some want to see what’s so special about a guy from Galilee. He was “almost crushed” by the crowed as he was trying to move along. A man named Jairus comes and asks Jesus to heal his sick daughter. She’s helpless, too, because she is dying. On the way another helpless person touches Jesus robe because she is just sure that if she does Jesus can heal her 12 years bleeding illness. Jesus calms the crowd to find out who touched him. She was healed by faith in Jesus. Then news of the little girl’s death comes to Jairus. “Master, don’t bother the teacher anymore, your little girl is dead.” Think of the sense of helplessness that must have filled him standing there with the person who he was sure was his last hope, and the delay caused by the crowds and a sick woman cost him his daughter. Think of the fear of facing his wife… and seeing his little girl dead…. well you know the story, Jesus arrives at the house and the mourners are shouting the grief of death. Jesus quits them and raised the girl to her mother’s arms. And again everything is calm.

Do you see the pattern? Chaos, trouble, helplessness, Jesus, calm. In fact in these four short stories (that actually happened!) Jesus shows that he’s more powerful than nature, Satan and his demons, sickness and even death.

Chaos, trouble, helplessness… that is where we are most of the time in our lives isn’t it? Surgery doesn’t just cause us pain, it takes away our ability to care for ourselves and we have to depend on someone else. It may even mean a change of how we’ve always done things. Oil spews from a hole in the ocean floor and threatens people’s livelihood. The wind blows and the house creaks and the water rises and the rain keeps coming. We panic about all our stuff we’re going to loose in the storm. We send out storm spotters to watch so we can scurry to cover and protection. Murderers live closer than we care to even talk about. Drug smugglers are targeting our kids and making national parks unsafe to visit. Not to mention that we let our kids go out and party on Friday nights closing our eyes to the danger. “They’re going to do it anyway.” Talk about helpless… and danger. My heart aches for the families that will be hurt when Satan’s handiwork comes to its fullness. Death hovers over us. It will happen again; another casket will set before this altar with broken hearts. All of these dangers are real. We get sick, we can’t control or even predict the weather, there’s real evil out there, and people die every day. Satan is constantly trying to get us to focus on our troubles instead of Jesus. The church is not spared the chaos in caused by simple things, signs, paint, carpet, water leaks, etc.

Chaos, trouble, helplessness… Jesus. Jesus on the cross. He hung on the cross because of all that chaos trouble and helplessness would be all that our lives were about if we were left in our sin. The epistle lesson said we were “captive under the law.” That’s a way of saying that whatever we get, chaos, trouble, helplessness we deserve because of sin. But that’s not what God wants. This story of Jesus casting out Legion and sending them drowning in the lake is to show us that Jesus is in control. That God is in control. Jesus suffered, he cried out in pain, he was helpless, there on the cross bearing our sin. He lay in the coldness of death in the tomb, but he overcame it all. He is in control of it all, the whole time. Nothing is more powerful than our God and Savior Jesus Christ, not even chaos, trouble, pain, death, taxes and church budgets.

Jesus brings us here… to be calm; to receive his word; very specifically his word about sin. It’s not a word of judgment. It’s a word of forgiveness. The chaos we face, and oh boy, do we face it, isn’t to punish us, it’s to remind us that He has it in his hands. He can and does control all things. He’ll take care of all things when he will take care of you. Psalm 46 says it… though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam… though kingdoms totter… be still and know that I am God.

That man that Jesus saved from the Legion of demons was dressed, in his right mind and sitting at Jesus feet, listening to his word. That’s what God wants for you.

Are you afraid of what Jesus can do and does? Well, join the crowds… what Jesus does is frightening. Fear is a natural reaction to God’s Word. But dear brothers and sisters in Christ, your panic, and planning, and fighting, and trying to control others is never going to change your life (or this church). That’s trying to chain up chaos. The chains just get broken and we end up living in the cemetery again. If you want calmness in your life and among us here in the church, it is only going to come through the gifts that God gives: Sitting at Jesus feet, listening to him, eating his meal, his very body and blood, pouring water, and in the name of Jesus receiving the forgiveness of our sins.

That’s what the man had to say about Jesus. Jesus said, “Go home and declare how much God had done for you.” He says that to you do. So let’s start right here. Say this with me:

“Jesus is in control. Jesus has forgiven my sin.” Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Uwe, once again on target.

image I have come to read this post a bit late. Please read "Of Foreboding and Forgiveness" by Uwe Siemon-Netto. 

It is a timely, direct call for Missouri to "get its act together."   A sample of Seimon-Netto's direct language.

The time might soon come when there will be no mega churches with thousands of happy-clappy congregants; whoever among Lutherans believes that in periods of woe bestselling guidelines to a purpose-driven life can be put into action will be egregiously disappointed. What sustained me in air raid shelters and during months of starvation were not expressions of religious enthusiasm but the words and tunes of the Scripture-based liturgy I had memorized since Sunday school, and the unshakeable message that, whatever happened, I was a forgiven sinner and would therefore live eternally by virtue of Christ’s vicarious suffering, death and resurrection.

Along with those mentioned in his article, I too look for the LCMS to am '...praying that the LCMS will emerge from Houston “as a robust church ready to allow the treasures of its own tradition to bear fruit.”'

Uwe endorses Rev. Matt Harrison for president.  As a delegate I am inclined to vote for Harrison for these reasons and many others.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

1 King 17:17-24; Third Sunday after Pentecost, June 6, 2010

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, IA

17After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!” 19And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed. 20And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” 21Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” 22And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” 24And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” 1 Kings 17:17-24 (ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

We know what it’s like to lose a loved one. We know the heart ache of not having that one person to confide in, that one person we can depend on. We know the emptiness of the empty chair and the empty space in the heart that comes when a friend is gone. We know reaching for the telephone and realizing that we don’t have that person to call anymore. It is the way life is, friends leave... loved ones are lost… people die.

It’s because we all know what it’s like to lose a person who is close to us we can understand what’s going on with the widow in the readings for today. She is mourning the loss of more than just a friend. She is mourning the loss of a child. It’s not just any child either it’s an only child, in fact an only son. Not only did this woman lose a friend, a child, and a family, she’s actually lost everything. You see, in those days there was no welfare system, no society “safety net” for people to depend on. All that parents had to take care of them when they grew old were their children. So for a widow to loose an only son was for her to be without any means of support, more than just alone, destitute. Of course, she was also broken hearted. It is the greatest pain in the world when a parent looses a child. Our heart goes out to this widow sitting clutching her breathless child to her breast. We can feel the agony of the loss, the empty feeling in the heart. We know what it’s like to lose a friend. And yet this poor widow has lost so much more than a friend.

Leading up to this heart-wrenching scene the bible goes into great detail about the unfaithful kings of Israel. Right before this text is a litany of kings who “did evil in the sight of the Lord” by leading God’s people to worship other gods. As a reminder that God’s people are only to worship him, God sends a severe famine over the whole area. Elijah, God’s prophet to Israel, seeks safety in the house of the widow, a place to survive during the famine. Things seem to have been going fine between Elijah and the widow until her son suddenly takes ill and dies. That’s when she asks the same question that we seem to always ask when we have a great loss. “Why have you done this to me?” “Why are you against me? O man of God?” she cries. She had opened her house to him, given him a place to stay, even during the hardship of the famine. And for all her good, for all her trouble her son ends up dead. “You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!” She’s saying to Elijah, “You’ve brought me back to God’s attention and because I’ve got sin in my life, sin in my past, God has struck down my son as punishment.”

And again isn’t that where we really connect to her? Isn’t that where we can really understand her feelings? Our first inclination whenever we encounter some great trouble in our lives is to think that God has sent it to us because of something we’ve done. Something has caused us to come to God’s attention and He’s seen our sin and acted accordingly. We know that our lives are far from the perfection that He rightly demands. But we often hope to hide among the masses, hoping that God won’t pay any attention to our individual sin. We know naturally sin puts us naturally at odds with God. Whenever we have trouble in our lives that seems to come from God we can see very clearly that sinful people are really His enemies. “Now Pastor,” you say, “I don’t feel like God’s enemy. I see God as my friend.” But I really wonder if that’s always true.

There are lots of examples for us in Scripture. Job is the first to come to mind. The bible tells us that he was blameless in the eyes of God, and yet God allowed Satan to take everything from him. Job lost not only his children, but his house, his health, and his wealth… he lost everything but his nagging wife, “just get it over with, just curse God and die!” she said. And Job’s friends gathered around him and told him that he must have done something really evil to deserve all this trouble. All Job could do was complain to God. “Why have you done this thing? Why am I your enemy?”

We know that sin puts us at odds with other people. We know sins separating effects. All of us have seen friendships that have shattered, marriages that have crumbled, and families that have been torn by sin. All of us have at one time or another been the cause of separation through our own sin. We know what sin does in our relationships with other people and we know what sin does to our relationship to God. Just think of the people you know who stay away from church because of some situation they are in, some sin that they live with every day. How many times do we say to ourselves, “I’ll get right with God then I’ll go to church.” Or “I’ll set my life in better order first then I’ll pray more often.” That’s the natural, sinful person in us knowing that sin pushes us away from God. The widow woman seems to have been in the same situation. “God had forgotten about my sin until you came and reminded Him of them. And now my son is dead.” She was hiding away from God because she knew she was a sinful person. She doesn’t say that she didn’t deserve the trouble.

This all points us to our need for forgiveness. We confessed together a few minutes ago, “we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean.” That’s what the bible tells us. The human race isn’t made up of people who are basically good and do bad things once in a while. We are all basically evil, full of sin, and sometimes we do good things. What we deserve from God is punishment, anger and wrath. We deserve to lose our children, families, homes, and jobs. Because of the sin we all have we should rightly be God’s enemies.

But the widow woman saw something different from God. When she complained to Elijah that he had brought her to God’s attention, she was right. When the prophet took the boy in his arms and carried him to the upper chamber the woman must have wondered what was going on. Why was he taking her child away? What did he want with her child’s body? We don’t know how long he was up in that room but it doesn’t seem very long and he returns with a living boy instead of a dead one. Her son was alive again. Her hope was restored to her. She was reunited with her loved one. God was telling her that even though she deserved punishment God forgives and restores. God was not her enemy God was her friend. She responded in joy. She responded in faith. What a joy it is to know that God deals with us that way, too.

We should have sung the hymn “What a friend we have in Jesus” today. That’s what’s going on here. Even though our sin should make us enemies of God, Jesus has makes us His friends. What God does for us is just like what happened to the widow. The son was dead and raised to life again. That death and resurrection of her son brought her to a reunion with not just her son but also with her heavenly father. Not only was her son totally restored to her, but her relationship to God was totally restored, too. She knew that God didn’t hold her past sins against her. That’s what the death and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ says to us, too.

When Jesus broke the bonds of death, when he came out of the cold dark room of the grave, He promises to us that our sins are forgiven. All that we deserve for our sins, death, separation, trouble, punishment and God’s anger were put on Jesus on the cross. He suffered and died in our place. The widow believed that God struck down her son dead because of her sin. Jesus is struck down dead because of our sin. There is sin in your past that troubles you; sin that caused you to lose a friend; sin that ended a marriage; words spoken in anger that cut a family member to very soul; sin that troubles you in the darkness of your own bed; sin that should by rights make you God’s enemy; sin for which you deserve to die. When that sin came to God’s attention He struck down the Son. Jesus Christ crucified is God’s answer to your sin. The death of Jesus is the death of all the sin in your past. The death of Jesus is the death of all the sin in your future. And when breath returned to Jesus, life returned to you and me, through Jesus. His resurrection is God’s full restoration of friendship through the forgiveness of sins. You don’t have to hold on to the guilt of your sin. Sin no longer makes you God’s enemy. Jesus makes us God’s friends.

You know the widow responded in joy to the new life given to her son. We respond in joy to the new life given to us through resurrection of The Son, Jesus Christ. Sin and guilt don’t have to dominate our friendships. “In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for you, and for His sake God forgives you all your sins.” When we see what God has done for us through Jesus our natural response is one of joy, “What a friend we have in Jesus; all our sins and griefs to bear!” When we hear again what God has done for us in Jesus, we naturally turn to Him in faith, and hold on to Him in faith all the more. Because we know what God had done to take care of the sin that separates us from Him and other people, we naturally put our trust in Him whenever we run into trouble. We know God is faithful by what He has done, we know He is faithful in what He will do.

There is hope in the resurrection, not just for our relationships right now, but also for the relationships that have been broken by death. Those separations are the most difficult for us. They seem to us, in human terms to be the most permanent. The joy that the widow experienced will be our joy, too, when we gather in wonderful reunions with our family and friends who have believed in Jesus. We’ll grab a hold of one another and shout joyous praises to our friend Jesus. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Very Interesting Article: Criticism doesn't surprise Redeemer pastor By LARRY MITCHELL - ChicoER.com

Mitchell puts together a very interesting article about the Missouri Synod.  Read it an let me know if you think it's accurate? fair?

Here's how it starts

CHICO — The Rev. Donald Jordan says it's no shock that his church, Redeemer Lutheran, and its denomination, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) are sometimes targets of criticism.

They've been called such things as old-fashioned, inhospitable, unyielding, inhumane, unfair and insular.

Jordan doesn't accept all these barbs, but he says, according to the spirit of the age, they are understandable.


The hymns sung at Redeemer often date from the 16th and 17th centuries, and the service is quite formal, with little room for innovation.

And the message in Jordan's sermons may seem archaic to many. There's plenty of talk about sin, death and eternal life.

The sermons focus on what Jordan calls "Law-and-gospel" Christianity. According to this understanding, the Law (the 10 Commandments) is simply impossible for humans to keep. Christians would be doomed were it not for the good news of the gospel, that Jesus kept the law perfectly and gave his life for humankind, so that believers can be in good standing with God.

Finish reading here: http://www.chicoer.com/news/ci_15188236?source=rss

A Registry of Lutheran Faculty

HT: Cyberbrethren:http://cyberbrethren.com/

Dr. Jon Bruss sent me the following note and asked me to pass it along . . . A Registry of Lutheran Faculty Most college students raised in Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Synod, and Evangelical Lutheran Synod households do not, for whatever reason, attend synodical colleges. This website is for them and their families, because their continued connection with the Evangelical Lutheran Church is of utmost importance. In the presence of the Means of Grace—the Word and the Word in the Sacraments—faith in Christ is created, fed, and nourished. Apart from the Means of Grace, this faith withers and dies.

It’s quite that simple. Orth[odox] Luth[erans] i[n] a[cademia], orthluthia, is designed to facilitate helpful contact between Lutheran students and orthodox Lutheran faculty. Those listed here have volunteered their names and contact information because they want to help students maintain their confession in the face of indifference on the one hand and animosity on the other. If you are student or family member or pastor of a student, please use this site! It’s meant to be used, not looked at. Faculty, if you would like to be listed, please send your name, university, department, email address, parish affiliation, and synodical affiliation to the webmaster at jonbruss@yahoo.com.