Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, July 29, 2007, Luke 11:1-13

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Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:1-13, ESV)
Lord, teach us to pray…

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

Today’s Gospel from St. Luke is the account of Jesus teaching his disciples to pray. It is, in fact, a unique thing. Not that Jesus is teaching but it’s the only place in the bible where Jesus is asked to teach. The disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray as John the Baptist taught his disciples. They ask and Jesus answers. Notice, too, what Jesus says: “When you pray say…” He doesn’t say here’s a pattern for your prayers, here’s what they should sound like, he says, “Pray these words.” So very often we think that prayers from our hearts are more valid than written prayers. Or that that spontaneous is real prayer and the Lord’s Prayer is just a beginner’s prayer. But the truth is there is no better prayer than this one. A Christian could pray this prayer every day of his life and never exhaust the importance or the depth of this prayer. Now I’m not saying there isn’t a place for prayers from the heart, God loves those prayers too, but often we tend to think that the Lord’s Prayer is a “beginning” prayer, and that our prayers will get beyond the Lord’s Prayer as more spiritually mature. Or that the Lord’s Prayer is just a pattern prayer that we use until we know how to pray. Well, Jesus doesn’t say that he says “pray this prayer.” It is the very best we can do is to say back to God the very words that he gives us to say. Our Church services are full of the very words that God gives us to say back to Him. We can take great comfort in knowing that whenever we pray the prayer that He gave us to pray we have prayed for everything that we need and everything that our neighbor needs. A Christian who knows and prays the Lord’s Prayer every day should never be heard saying, “I don’t know what to pray for.” When you ask, “Lord, teach me to pray.” He answers by saying, “here’s the prayer to use.”

Remember also that prayer isn’t an option for a Christian. God commands us to pray just as much as he promises to answer our prayers because of Jesus. The Second Commandment says “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.” God gives us his name, that is, he makes us his children through faith in Jesus. He adopts us through the Word and Water of Baptism and puts His name on us. We are to use His name that He gives us as He tells us to use it. … call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”(Psalm 50:15, ESV) Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!(Psalm 118:1, ESV) … whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.(John 16:23, ESV) We pray because God is our Father, because He commands us to pray, and because He promises to always listen to and answer the prayers of those whom He has given faith in Jesus.

Of course many of you will recognize that Jesus words here in the Gospel of Luke are just a little different than the words He used to teach the disciples in Matthew’s Gospel. There Jesus starts the prayer with “our Father,” here he just begins with “Father.” Either way means the same. The word “Father” sets our prayer in its proper context. God is our Father. He loves us and cares for us by giving us we need. In fact of all the words in the prayer “Father” may indeed be the most important one. The whole rest of the prayer, and the little parables that Luke records for us, are really expanding on the idea that we pray to “Our Father in heaven.”

I find it difficult to say it better than Martin Luther did. Turn to page 302 in the front of your hymnal. Let’s read the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer together.

The Introduction
Our Father who art in heaven.
What does this mean?
With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.

Listen again to some of the words… God tenderly invites us. That’s Jesus teaching his disciples to pray. “Say this prayer.” Use these words that God tells you are true. He is your Father, your true Father and we are His true children. Jesus explains what it’s like in a way that we can understand:

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

He’s saying, “You know what it means to have a loving father. No loving father is going to give his son poison when he asks for food.” God is our true father. He is God over all things. He will give us everything we need, because He alone knows exactly what we need. And as Luther said, “God tenderly invites us to believe” this. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are confessing that we believe that God is our Heavenly Father; that He loves and cares for us beyond our understanding. We pray that He will do what is best for us, no matter what. And because of Jesus, that’s God’s promise to us, God’s Children.

But exactly how is it that we are God’s children. How is it that we dare call God, “Father?” It’s easy to lie ourselves into thinking that because we sit in our pew every week that we earn it. We haven’t murdered our sleeping spouse and dumped the body in a dumpster. We haven’t planned terrorist attacks. We haven’t been attending dogfights lately. We always think that while other people aren’t worthy of God, we are, because we give more than our fair share to the church or other charities. We strive to not be wasteful of our possessions. We have worked hard to earn a good long retirement. We are clean, well kempt, non-drug users and respected in the community. Naturally we want to think that because of these and many other things, God calls us his children. We look like his children; we act like his children, so we must be his children. But as I said, all of this is a lie that we tell ourselves because we really want to save ourselves. We want our hard work, all the “good” things we do in our live to account for something more than just a nest egg, and a good reputation in our community. But God makes it very clear. “all our righteous deeds,” He tells us through the Prophet Isaiah, “are like polluted garments.” And as far as our relationship to God, all the good things we do, all the hard work, and self sacrifice, mean nothing. Did you notice that God didn’t say our evil deeds? No, He said that all the good things we do are polluted. You see, when we hold up our good works to God as signs of why He should treat us like His children, it’s like a child offering their dirty diaper as a precious gift to their parent. We are not God’s children because of anything we do. Everything we do is polluted by sin. Everything we do is for our own benefit. Everything we do is to build our own reputation. None of what we do makes us God’s Children. We are God children because of what God does. We are God’s Children because of what God has done in Jesus Christ.

The fact that Jesus calls God, “Father” is very significant for us. Where God tells us our good works are filthy rags, He says to Jesus, “This is my Son; in Him I am well pleased.” What Jesus presents to God, all of His good works, are perfect and perfectly acceptable to God. The life He lived every day, the prayers He offered every day, and especially His self sacrificing death on the cross; His whole life was good and perfect in His Father’s eyes. His life is what ours should be, but can’t be because of sin. But remember, Jesus invites us to believe that God is our Father too. He invites us to believe that we have the same relationship with God the Father that He has. He invites us to believe it. He also promises us that it is true. Jesus has made sure of it. That is what his life, death and resurrection are about. Jesus didn’t come to show us how to do good things that are acceptable to God. He didn’t come to give us a pattern to follow for our live, just as He didn’t give us a pattern of how to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus came to do acceptable things for us. Jesus came and lived a perfect life for us. Jesus loved our neighbors beyond our ability to love them. His righteous deeds are perfect, so Jesus establishes a perfect relationship with God. And then He gives that relationship to us by removing the thing that makes all the things we do unacceptable to God. Jesus perfect life was sacrificed on the cross for our sin. His perfect life makes our imperfect life, perfect in God’s eyes. God makes that exchange for us in Baptism. His perfect life is ours; our perfectly deserved death is put on Jesus. His righteous deeds are given to us, our un-righteous perfectly polluted deeds are put on Him. What He takes from us He takes to the cross and puts to death. When He rises from the dead, He proves that what He gives to us is perfect. Everything that He came to do, he came to do for us. In the Lord’s Prayer, when Jesus says, “when you pray say, ‘Father’,” He’s saying that, everything that he came to do makes God our Father, too. Sin is removed, God is indeed our Father.

The last thing I want you to notice about Jesus teaching about prayer is this. Do you know what the most common word in this text is? It’s “friend.” That’s Jesus way of assuring us that we are God’s friends and more than that even, as Luther said “true children who in all boldness and confidence ask Him as dear children ask their dear Father.” You see, we don’t pray to God for the things we need and want because we deserve anything. We don’t ask for anything from God, our Father, because we earn it. We ask because He is Our Father. We can indeed ask boldly. We can indeed ask with confidence. We can do that because of Jesus, because of what God does for us through Jesus. What God wants to do for us doesn’t have anything to do with our polluted rags. He gives it because of our relationship with Him, He is our Father. And so we pray, Our Father, in heaven…


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

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Eight Sunday after Pentecost, July 22 2007, Luke 10:38-42

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, ESV)
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“Martha was distracted…” now there’s a phrase we can relate to. Finally here’s a person in the bible that we can really understand. Martha… we might even say, this is a woman after our own hearts. Distracted… there was a lot to be distracted about. Jesus had come to her house. She had “opened her home to him.” He was an honored guest and that meant a lot of preparation… like food. We don’t know how many had come with Jesus, but if his disciples are there that’s at least 13. That’s a lot of food. That’s a lot of beds. Decisions about who was going to sleep where… “Let’s see I’ll put Jesus in my room and I’ll sleep on the couch. Peter, James and John can sleep in the big bedroom, and Andrew…. You get the idea there was simply a lot of things that needed to be done. Martha, the text says, was distracted. She was being pulled around the house, concerning the many things of serving her guests. Martha was busy… she was busy with things of life… she was busy with the things that needed to be done.

And that is where we can relate to Martha. Life is busy. There are a lot of things to do.
  • Didn’t we say that we were going to slow down and not do so many things this summer?
  • After the corn is planted there will be more time.
  • As soon as we’re done processing this order I’ll be able to spend more time at home. You know, they are a very important customer.
  • I know I said I’d help you, but the tractor is still broken down. I’ve been trying to get to it for weeks now and it still isn’t finished.
  • What do you mean this new order is bigger than the last one. I can’t keep working overtime!
  • Mom, did you forget I had to be at the fair today… I’m supposed to work serving at the food booth.
  • Honey, I’d really like to eat at the table tonight, when was the last time we sat together at the table for a meal.
  • No, I can’t go to Sioux Falls again… I’ve already gone three times this week and I still didn’t get all the shopping done.
  • “Hello Joe, this is John, I’m serving on the nominating committee at Church. I know your already serving as a Sunday school teacher, but …
A thousand things… pulling us a thousand different directions and it never seems to stop. Back and forth, to school, to work, back home, to church…

That’s why we can relate to Martha, she too was being pulled back and forth… to the kitchen to check on the food, to the bedrooms to check on the beds. Peter’s drink is empty, “Does Jesus really look comfortable. There is so much to do… how am I going to get it all done! So many places to be at once… so much running around to make sure everything is ready. And everyone is comfortable.”

Well at first reading we might get the idea that there was something wrong with what Martha was doing. Because, after all, Jesus does give her a mild rebuke. But the truth of the matter is that she was doing a good thing. Especially as far as the culture was concerned. You see, if guest come to your house you have to make sure they are comfortable. You have to take care of them… Look at all the trouble Abraham went through when he had visitors. He got his wife to cook three individual loaves of bread from the best flour they had in the house. He ran to his herd and picked the finest young tender calf he could find. He gave his guests curds and milk. Milk doesn’t keep long in the desert without refrigeration. Abraham went to a lot of trouble to take care of his guests. It was a good thing to do. Martha wants to serve Jesus out of her love for him. He has come to her house. She has invited him in. She wants him to be comfortable. It is a good thing for Martha to want to serve Jesus.

But… there is a very strong contrast in this reading today. Look at the text again. Before we are even told how busy Martha is, we are told about Martha’s sister, Mary. What is Mary doing? That’s right she is sitting at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he has to say. Really the English translation doesn’t really convey what Luke is trying to say. He’s building a strong contrast between Mary and Martha. Mary was sitting there, he says, and she kept on listening, in spite of what you are going to read next, she was intently sitting at Jesus feet hanging on every word he said. In spite of all that was going on around her she was not distracted. Mary too, is motivated by her love for Jesus. She sits at his feet listening to him. She is being served by Jesus.

Well, the contrast doesn’t make Martha very happy. I imagine she too would have like to be able to sit at Jesus feet listening to him. But there were things that needed to be done. “Doesn’t Mary see that I am busy… doesn’t she know I need help… Why doesn’t Jesus tell her to help me?”

But Jesus makes the point very clear. “Martha, Martha, what you are doing is a good thing. I know you love me, but you are being distracted by many things that there will be time for later. Right now I have come to your house. Right now I am saying things I want you to hear. Right now I am here to serve you. That is the one thing you can’t live without. That is the one thing that is needful. See Mary has chosen to be served by me, I won’t take that away from her.”
A different Gospel writer put it this way, “… the he Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matt 20:28) In the midst of Martha’s busy life, Jesus Christ came to serve her. In the midst of our busy lives, Jesus Christ has come to serve us. He has come to give us the one thing that we need most. Jesus Christ comes to serve… remember how he healed the man with the withered hand, how he restored sight to the blind. Remember too how he said to Jairus’s daughter, “Talitha Kum!” and life returned to her cold dead body. Jesus Christ comes to serve… he served us beyond all our ability to serve ourselves. When we deserved death because of our selfish will to live our lives without God. Jesus Christ served us by dying for us. When we deserved God’s wrath and punishment for our rejection of God’s control of our lives, Jesus Christ served us by enduring that wrath and punishment. When we deserved to die and stay dead, Jesus Christ served us by rising from the death and breaking its hold on us forever.

But that isn’t all… Jesus Christ is here right now to serve us again. We began our worship in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. He promises to be with us “when ever 2 or three are gathered in his name.” We began by coming before God bearing our sins. “We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed.” Have mercy on us, serve us Lord Jesus we say. And he answers with forgiveness. He comes to his table here both host and food, to again serve us with forgiveness of sins. He regularly comes to serve us here, and we come to be served. Jesus knows the one thing needful and he comes here to bring it to us, week after week.

Well, this is great! Aren’t we all Marys here? Aren’t we all sitting at Jesus feet listening to his word. Aren’t we all going to come to the Lord’s Table now two times a month!? Aren’t we here today because we know that we need what Jesus offers? That’s where Martha comes in. We are so easily distracted. Life is so distracting it invades our thoughts even here. Let’s face it there are a lot of things that have to happen just so we can gather together here for worship. There is a lot of service going on. There’s ushers, elders, the alter guild, and musicians all serving Jesus. The communion ware needs to be set up. The offering has to be counted… There are parents getting their kids up and ready. All of these things are necessary, all of these things are good, all of these things are done because we want to serve Jesus. Jesus has come to this house and we want to serve him. Our minds can be pulled back and forth with all the preparation… in it all we are sometimes distracted from the one thing that’s needed. We sometimes forget that the reason we are here is because Jesus is here, and he brings the gifts he has won by his life, death and resurrection.

Clear your mind. Jesus is here. Sit at his feet he has gifts to give you. See and listen, taste and feel Jesus is here. He is saying to you right now, “My Child; My Child; I am here today. I know that you love me… don’t be distracted by all these many things. Right now I am saying things I want you to hear. This is my body given for you… This is my blood… I forgive you all your sins. It is the one thing you can’t live without, it is the one thing that you need.” Amen.

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

At Convention -- July 14-19.

I will not be preaching this week, as I am a delegate to the 63rd Regular Convention of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod this coming week.

I'll try to post an update or two while I'm gone.

There are several ways to get news about the convention.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Gal 6:14-15, July 8, 2007

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (Galatians 6:14-15, ESV)

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

(Thanks to Rev. Paul Raabe)

St. Paul says the world is dead to him. What about you, are you dead to the world? I’m not talking about a really sound sleep; I’m talking about being influence or not by the anti-Christians things that surround you every day. Clearly there are a lot of ideas that you come into contact with every day that you are tempted to believe, tempted to take to heart, tempted to say are not a problem for your life. Do you think like the world? Do you value what the world values?

Maybe I should ask the question a different way: What are you most proud of? What is your biggest boast? What’s the one thing in your life you couldn’t live without? The one thing you are unwilling to lose? Is it your job? Your children? You church? Your savings account? Your family history? Your reputation? Your standing in the community, position in church, your family held farmland?

Well we must all confess that we all have things we like to boast in, things we think we brought about through our own hard work, ingenuity, accomplishment, or status. Things that we believe we deserve because of our own good works. That’s from the footprint of sin in our lives. Our sinful nature always wants adopt the thinking of the broken world around us and to take credit for the good things in our life. We want to be recognized and held in high esteem by the world around us. We even want to be recognized by God for our good works.

That’s part of the problems they were having in the Christian Church in Galatia. And it’s one of the reasons Paul wrote a letter to them; a letter we know as the Book of Galatians. What they were valuing was being “good Jews.” Some of the members of the congregation were boasting that they were circumcised and followed the Jewish laws. They even held it over the non-Jews who were a part of the congregation. “If you really want to be a real Christian, you have to be circumcised, like we are; you have to follow the exact letter of the Jewish laws, as we do.” They were really boasting in their own accomplishments. “Look at us! Look at what we’ve done! Look at who we are!” That’s the way the world works isn’t it? We have to demand our own attention, in order to get ahead. We have to boast in ourselves. Sometimes that means stepping on other people to push ourselves up.

Now Paul really had reason to boast. His credentials were of the highest caliber. His background was impressive, according to the Jewish religion. He was circumcised on the 8th day, just like the law demanded. He was a faithful member of the house of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin. He followed the strict laws of the Pharisees, went to the best school available at the time. He protected the laws he followed against all those who would make them less important. With zeal he sought out and killed Christians. In many ways Paul could “out-Circumcise” the folks who wanted everyone to follow the letter of the law.

But Paul didn’t boast in any of those accomplishments. In fact he considered the garbage in light of what Jesus did for him. Paul only boasted in the “cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” Paul knew that all the praise of the world, all the good deeds he did in the name of his religion meant nothing at all to God. In fact, since they were self-centered and full of selfish pride they were evil in God’s eyes. What God counts as important is not what Paul did but what Jesus did, “the cross of Christ.”

That’s really quite different from the way we think. That’s very different from the way we want to think. Whenever, we hear that God doesn’t consider our good works, we always say things to our ourselves like: “Maybe not other people’s good works, but mine count, to God. They have to. I’ve done some really good things. I sit in church every Sunday. I’m known for my work throughout the community. I make sure everything gets done, and that it’s done right. This church / community couldn’t survive without me. That’s got to mean something to God. God’s got to notice me.” Don’t you see how that matches up with the way things are in the broken world? To get ahead we have to be noticed by the boss. We’ve got to go public with our accomplishments or we’ll never be recognized. Volunteer hours have to be counted to be praised. God doesn’t work the way we do. He doesn’t think the way we do. We see it most clearly in the only thing that Paul wanted to boast in, the cross of Jesus. What God shows us by sending Jesus to hang on the cross and suffer and die for us is that He doesn’t want to praise you or admire you, he wants to forgive you.

Just think about God’s Law. The way we want to use it is to say, “Look at how I measure up.” Usually we use it to show that other people don’t live up to it and imply that we do. But God won’t let us get away with that. He tells us that breaking the law is a matter of the heart. We can make a show of keeping God’s law like the Ten Commandments, but in our hearts we’d rather be breaking them. And the more we really look at them, the more we look at ourselves in light of them the more sin we see and the more hopeless we see our own situation. The world says, “Look inside yourself to find the good that is there.” God shows us that inside the human being is sin, hatred and death.

But God wants to forgive you. In fact, it is his very nature to do so. The more he can forgive you the happier he is. You won’t find your happiness and life by looking inside yourself. There’s nothing to boast about there. You will find it outside of you, in the only thing you can boast in, the cross of Jesus. Inside of you is sin. Outside of you is a perfect Jesus. Inside of you is death. Outside of you is Jesus resurrection from death. That’s the Good News that’s worth boasting on.

Paul said that he was dead to the world, crucified to it. Jesus’ death on the cross put to death the old way of the world. All its values and boasts are worthless to you. They can’t do anything to help you. Jesus resurrection from the dead brought about a new world, a new creation. In another letter Paul says it like this. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.(2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV) That new creation is in you through faith in Jesus.

The old world doesn’t rule over you anymore. Jesus death is your death through baptism. Jesus new life, his resurrection is yours, too, through baptism. You have been crucified with Christ and now you no longer live, but Christ lives in you. You don’t have to boast in your achievements to get God to notice you. He knows who you and he considers you worthy because you are connected to Jesus.

Back in Galatia, some Christians boasted that they were circumcised. The non-Jewish Christians alternative was to boast that they hadn’t been circumcised. Paul said that neither was anything to boast about. What as worth boasting about is what Jesus did for them on the cross. What was worth boasting about was the new life they had received from Jesus.

Well, of course, it’s hard not to be influenced by what we see every day, where we live and work. It’s expected that people will conform to the ways of the world. We are told that boasting is necessary to get ahead, and we are likely to believe it. But to you and me, that world is dead. If you want to boast, boast every time you get wet with water and remember your Baptism. Boast every time you rise from your bed and step in the shower or sit in the bath tub or pour a cold glass of water down your throat, and remember the water that was poured on you in Jesus name. Boast that through Baptism you are dead to the world and you life to God. Boast in the Cross of Jesus that is yours. Amen.

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

Monday, July 02, 2007

My Knee Surgery...

Dear friends;
(Warning! The following post contains surgical pictures that may not be appropriate for all readers).
On June 19, I had my knee scoped. I had it all done at Sioux Falls Surgical Center. I was well cared for. My doctor was Bradley Plaga. It should have been a simple procedure to fix torn cartilage. However, Dr. Plaga told my wife that within 5 years I'd need a new knee. My local doctor said so too but I really didn't believe it. Well, for those interested here's the pictures. You can see also the wear on the bones from no cartilage for 25 years. Diagnosis Ostioarthritis.

In the following picture I think the red stuff (blood) is the torn cartilage. Lots of rough stuff here, I think everything here should be smooth.
On the upper right I believe this is a picture of behind my knee cap. On the left next to it you can see much more wear on the bone... also the bottom two pictures show the wear pretty clearly.
Here you can see the wear and tear on my bone (upper and lower left). I think the doc is cleaning up the surfaces. There is lots of debris.

As far as I can tell this is the after pic. Less rough stuff more smooth. It is another good view of the wear.
Any comments from you medical types would be appreciated.