Tuesday, May 27, 2008

On Vacation

I'll be on vacation until June 9th. 

pr. Uecker from Our Savior, Madison is aptly filling in for me.  I'll be twittering occasionally with twitpic photos and such... and maybe an occasional post here.  We'll be traveling to Green Bay, WI to visit my brother.  Otherwise, spending a lot of time doing nothing.

God's Blessings.

Pastor Watt.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Matt.6.24-34, Second Sunday after the Pentecost, May 25, 2008

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:24-34 ESV)

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

“Don’t Worry Be Happy” that’s a song isn’t it… a song from the 70’s? It sounds a lot like what Jesus is saying here doesn’t it?

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Here is a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don't worry be happy
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy......

(Don't Worry, Be Happy, From the Movie "Cocktails", Performed by Bobby McFerrin)

I think it is good advice, don’t you? Don’t worry… be happy… but it’s easier said than done. There’s so much to worry about; too much moisture, or not enough; too much wind, or not enough; high corn prices but high fuel prices, high grocery prices, should I drive to Sioux Falls or get them here; health care costs through the ceiling; will my daughter be alright when she heads off to college; what am I going to do with the kids home all summer; family feuds; global warming; natural and unnatural disasters; presidential elections; illegal immigration; uncooperative neighbors; new neighbors; unwanted new residents; old friends leaving / dying; loss of independence; too fast change in the church; not enough change in the church; on and on it goes… it’s enough to give you an ulcer. What does Jesus think he’s saying anyway? Life is difficult. It’s a struggle to get the stuff we need… and getting harder.  How can he say, "don't worry?"

Well, it’s a good question to ask. What is Jesus trying to say here exactly? And more specifically what is he saying to you and me? Well… to really understand what he’s saying we have to take off our shoes, put on our sandals, and sit down on the dusty ground of first century Palestine. We have to put ourselves in the crowd that was listening to Jesus. This might be harder than you think. Especially for people who are as wealthy as we are. Ya, I said wealthy. Oh, I know, we don’t think of ourselves as wealthy. We seem to struggle every day for the stuff we need (or think we need). But the majority of the folks gathered around Jesus didn’t have nearly what we have. They lived day to day, hand to mouth. To put it in perspective I heard it this way:

If you have more than one pair of shoes, if you decide what you are going to eat each day, you are wealthy, by the world’s standards. (Unknown)

In fact, most of us have never been there, most of us have never been poor by that definition. But these are the people Jesus is speaking to. So when Jesus says “don’t worry about what you will eat or drink or wear” he’s talking to people who really don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. He’s talking to people who scratch every day just to put food on the table. Obesity isn’t a problem for them, like it is for us, starvation is a daily possibility. And Jesus tells them not to worry…

You know, one problem I have is that I get too serious about things. It’s a shortcoming I have. I tell a joke and nobody laughs because they don’t expect it. We look at Jesus that way, too. But one of his greatest teaching tools is humor. I think we miss this about Jesus. And here’s a good example.

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns

Picture in your mind what Jesus is saying. Little wild birds, driving their little bitty tractors through the fields planting seed… little bird sized combines with little birdie satellite dishes for XM radio… and perched high in the tree tops, little bird grain silos full of grain stored up for the winter. No, it doesn’t happen, does it. The birds don’t do any of that. They are provided all that they need from God. They pluck around on the ground and pick up the seed you drop from the combine. They search through the tall grass for the early worm.

and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Or how about those flowers.

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,

Imagine the picture of flowers, sitting row upon row in the fashion sweat shop, Easter lilies, pansies, and chrysanthemums, bent over row upon row of sewing machines. Roses pushing their high fashion clothing racks through the streets of New York. No, that doesn’t happen. God provides what they need… and more beautiful than the richest cloths of Hollywood.

Jesus wants you to know that you are of far more worth than flowers or birds. That’s what he’s telling the folks around him. That’s what he’s telling you. He takes care of all of their needs. He takes care of your needs too. In our sinful nature, the problem is, we don’t recognize real need. We think we need cable television, computers and cell phones. We think we need 16 pairs of shoes and 99 kinds of breakfast cereal to choose from. In fact, if we really looked at our lives and our possessions carefully we’d see very clearly that we have much more than we need. It is only selfishness that keeps it in our possession. We make excuses for not sharing it, like telling ourselves things like “I’d help them but they’ll just drink it away” or “I helped them once but they didn’t use it properly” or “God helps those who help themselves.” “I need to save for a rainy day.” We count success, both personal and in the church by the size of the savings account. Money is simply a resource he gives his people and the church to be used in service to our neighbors and to serve the message of Jesus' love and forgiveness for all.  Jesus gives us fair warning.

You cannot serve God and money.

Notice he doesn’t say “don’t” serve God and money. He says you can’t do it. When our eyes are on our bank account they are not on Jesus. When our eyes are on Jesus we won’t worry about the bank account.

Jesus also gives the solution.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

But be careful! Jesus isn’t telling you what to do. He’s telling you to look for what he is doing. The problem his is language. It’s that phrase “Kingdom of God” that throws us a curve. When we hear kingdom we think of territory or government. But that’s not what Jesus is talking about at all. St. Matthew in his Gospel tells us what the Kingdom of God is.

And [Jesus] went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. (Matthew 4:23 ESV)

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. (Matthew 9:35 ESV)

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. (Matthew 11:1 ESV)

Jesus is God, the King, come to fix the world, to bring the Kingdom of God.  Jesus is God the king come to remove the effects of sin in his world. He does it by preaching and teaching.

Jesus doesn’t help those who help themselves; Jesus helps those who are helpless. Given the choice to serve God or money (because we can’t do both) our sinful nature would pick money every time. We hoard, covet, cheat and steal for it. Our selfishness runs too deep for us to change. In fact, whenever we worry, we assume the power of the King and try to take it into our own hands. But look for the Kingdom of God. Jesus, the King, comes. Jesus, the King, removes sin’s effects by taking the punishment for our selfishness to the cross. The King does what Kings are supposed to do. He takes care of the needs of his people. He starts with our greatest need, the need for forgiveness. He takes our worries into his hands and takes them to the cross. Jesus’ blood dripping from the cross washes away the sinful stench of selfishness through the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5) in the water and the word in Holy Baptism. Jesus’ broken body bears the burden of our serving the wrong master, money. He puts forgiveness right into us with his Holy Supper. Jesus sweetly speaks forgiveness into our ears and our hearts with his Word. He reminds us that we are free from the money master. We are free not to worry about our needs because God, the King, Jesus Christ, our Savior, has them all under his control. We are free to serve the needs of others. We are free to look at the wealth that God has given us and use it in service to other people, even (and especially) people who don’t deserve it. We are free to think about what God has given us as gifts for the help of other people (by the way, that includes our own families). We are free from worrying about ourselves, because Jesus has us in hand. Listen to those wonderful words from the Prophet Isaiah we heard a moment ago.

Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. (Isaiah 49:15-16a ESV)

That’s not just an idle reference. Isaiah is talking about how slaves were tattooed with their master’s names on the palms of their hands. This was done so the slaves would remember who they were working for. Jesus engraves your name on the palms of his hands. He serves you with his life, death and resurrection. Everything he did he did for you. He will never forget you. Even death will not separate you from him. If you are looking for the Kingdom of God, look no further than Jesus doing what he does for you. Amen.

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

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Oh Yeah! Next Time He'll Think Before He Speaks!

Here's a great video;

Cyberbrethren: A Lutheran Blog: The Lutheran Study Bible

The long anticipated Lutheran Study Bible will be available March of 2009.  For more details check out

Cyberbrethren: A Lutheran Blog: The Lutheran Study Bible

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Talk About a Clash of Culture

Here's a German group that sing "contemporary" songs in Gregorian Style.

This is Lennon's "Imagine..."  I selected it because I think the clash most profound!

What does this have to say about style and substance?  Could there be a more profound example of the clash?  Here hooded "monks" sing a song about the virtue of "no heaven" "no afterlife" "no god." 

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

HT: pr David Schultz

More on the Top 25 from pr David Schultz, Fenton, IA

You sent an interesting question on the top 25 books to read.

First thoughts:


1) Bible (an arguement could be made that this is really a Library, so one should read the Gospels, Torah, etc, but for here I will take it as one complete book)

2)Small Catechism

3) Hymnal (I don't care if it is TLH, LW, or LSB)

Here are some age related ones (different ages do have different needs)

4) CS Lewis:  Narnia Chronicles (now out as one book)

5) Screwtape letters (when older)

6) Lord of the Rings (also orginally one book, cut up to three for printing reasons)

7)God At Work, Veith, at the time of vocation. (This list would be so much easier, if it were the top 25 books for pastors...)

8) All Quiet on the Western Front

9) Shakespeare (Everyone should read at least one play by Shakespeare, at least if they are English speaking, or Klingon, apparently )

10) Mark Twain (for Americans), Chauser, (for Brits), Goethe, for Germans, Don Quiote for Spanards, Dante, for Italians, etc, foundational texts for the culture.

11)A history of the world text (changes every few years, with new developments, but there should be a ground work here...)

12)A history of the country text (again, this would change over time and place, but one should know his-her own countries history and 'story')

13) Civics text (could be the US constitution, but again, this would vary from nation to nation, but this is something basic)

I think I will have to quit there for now, as I am starting to get too generic.  Top 25, that everyone in the world should read, or even in the US....without regard to interest or age bracket...too open of a field!

It would have been a better question to say:  what are your top 25 books, at this moment!


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Top 25 Must Reads... Interesting Question

I received this eMail from my friend pr Nabil Nour.  He asks a great question.  I'll post it here for your consideration.


Dear brothers in Christ,

I can use your input. One of my colleagues asked me an important question that I had never given it any thoughts. "If I could pick the top 25 books a person should read in his lifetime?" I never thought of it before, but have begun to do so.

I am sharing this idea with you. What would recommend if this question was posted to you?

Thank you for giving me some ideas.

Look forward to hearing from you soon.

In Christ's love and in His service,

Rev. Nabil S. Nour Pastor  and foot washer Phil. 1:6
Redeemer Lutheran Church
P. O. Box 158
Armour, SD. 57313-0158
(605)724-2489 (O)
(605)724-2722 (H)

"Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" Philippians 1:6

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Matt.28.16-20, Trinity Sunday, May 18, 2008

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 ESV)

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

Well, there it is, “The Great Commission” Go and make disciples. It couldn’t be plainer than that. Jesus commands us to get out there and witness. Jesus wants us to go beat on doors. Jesus wants us to quit our jobs, move to China and be missionaries. “Go… and do it.” Jesus says. Right? Maybe the JWs and the Mormons have the right idea. Ok gentlemen, time to get out your white shirt and black tie and name tag…

But wait… before we get all in a tizzy maybe we should look at what Jesus says again. In fact, let’s look at the whole passage again. It says the disciples had gathered on the mountain to wait for Jesus. When he showed up they worshipped him… but some doubted. That “some doubted” is an interesting phrase. There’s lots of discussion among scholars about exactly what it means and who it refers to… but I think it’s really just asking a question. By the way, you’ve asked the same question yourself.

Here they are standing on the mountain in the presence of Jesus. After all they’ve seen and heard, Jesus healing people, Jesus preaching sermons that they’ll never forget, Jesus feeding the multitudes with 5 loaves and 2 fish, and 12 baskets left over. Jesus arguing down the religious leaders. Jesus arrested. Jesus crucified dead and buried. Jesus alive again in spite of their disbelief. Here they are standing in front of Jesus waiting for what he’s going to do next. The question they have to be asking is, “Now what?”

You’ve asked it too. “Now what?” Something big happens in the church and when it’s over, “Now what?” We celebrated 125 years of God’s love among us, when it was over, “Now what?” Every time you get a new pastor, “Now what?” New children are born, baptized and confirmed “Now what?” Sunday after Sunday you sit in the very same spot and listen to the God’s Word and sing hymns about Jesus and when it’s over you say, “Now what?” Just like those eleven frightened men on the mountain, we say, “Well God, we see what you’ve done in the past but… Now what?” What Jesus says here next is an answer to that question.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Now what? Well Jesus is going to tell us, and what’s more what he says carries some weight. After all he has authority; in fact he has all authority. That means what he says goes. That means what he says happens. That means it’s not an idle wish, or vain hope Jesus is talking about here. Jesus has authority. You want proof. Just look at what he did. He healed the sick with just his words and his touch. He stopped storms on the sea. He multiplied bread and fish. He rose from death alive again. When Jesus says he has authority, all authority, you can be sure that it’s true. The next two words are important but as important as the first is I think the next is even more so. The text says “go therefore.” But we might understand it a bit better if we change the order around. “Because I have all authority, therefore... go...” do it because I’m telling you to do it. Do it because I have authority and I promise to make it work. Therefore, Just do it... as the commercial says.

What are we to do? Now what? That’s exactly what’s next. Make disciples. You know we very often get caught up on that word “go.” But it’s not really the most important part. Make disciples is the main point. You might even say it like this, while you are going… make disciples. While you are living… make disciples… while you are doing what you do every day… make disciples. It’s not the going that’s important it’s the making disciples that’s important. Jesus command to his disciples was to make disciples. Now those guys aren’t standing on that mountain by themselves. St. Matthew wants you to see yourself standing with them. When Jesus gives the command to them he’s giving it to you too. We as the church are to be about the task, the commission, of making disciples. That’s the answer to the question, “now what?” Now what? Make disciples.

Well that’s all fine and good. But we are pretty poor stewards of that task. We haven’t donned a black tie and white shirt in decades. We don’t even have an evangelism committee. The favorite phrase around here (and by the way most churches) is… let the pastor do it. We are afraid. We don’t want to be seen as religious zealots. We don’t want to be accused of “sheep stealing.” But I’m afraid that as much as it is the pastor’s job to do carry out this task, Jesus doesn’t leave you out. Every day you don’t follow his command to “make disciples” is a day you sin. Every time you skip the opportunity to speak about Jesus is a day you fall short of God’s desire for your life. Every day you don’t put Jesus first in your heart and on your lips is a day you deserve only God’s wrath and punishment. It’s sinful not to do it, and we are all guilty of this sin. And don’t forget, the wages of sin. What we earn for disobeying God’s command is death and hell. So welcome to the club. I deserve it to. I am no less a sinner than you. It’s enough to make you think that you’re not really a disciple after all. ‘cause what Jesus says happens and it sure doesn’t seem to be happing around here, through me, or through you either.

But Jesus doesn’t just leave us hanging with his command. He says make disciples because he has authority. He’s going to make sure it happens, that’s what authority is. Next in the text he tells us how to do it. And at first it sounds pretty obvious but then it sounds a little bit surprising. How are we to make disciples? Now what? By baptizing. That’s God’s evangelism program, baptism. He doesn’t talk about knocking on doors, he doesn’t talk about white shirts and ties; he talks about Baptism. And not just any baptism either; baptism into God’s name. Martin Luther puts it clearly:

What benefits does Baptism give? It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

And here’s the good news for you, you are a disciple of Jesus Christ. The proof is in the water. Your sins have been forgiven by Jesus death on the cross. Jesus made sure that you know it is yours because you’re the one who got his head wet. You’ve been connected to the Triune God through God’s promise to you in his Word and water. Your sin is washed away. You are made clean. It is nothing short of a miracle. Hey, I guess your parents were doing what Jesus said to do. In fact, the church has been doing what Jesus said to do ever since that mountain in Galilee. And God is faithful. We are all living proof of that.

But there’s more. Jesus continues his instruction. He also says to teach. This week I heard a new (to me) definition of a disciple. A “disciple” is a “learner.” I love that definition. It is a great way to think about it. Baptized children of God continue to learn about God’s love for them in Jesus. As a disciple of Jesus you never stop learning about Jesus. That’s what the gift of the Holy Spirit is all about. He takes the Word you hear in your ear and plunges it into your heart. He helps you to understand in your head the faith you hold onto in your heart. God does all that with teaching. Christians, disciples, learners, learn every time they hear God’s Word about Jesus. The church is to teach. Martin Luther called it “God’s mouth house,” the place where God speaks. When God speaks, his people listen and learn. Our task in fulfilling the commission, the task we’ve been given to do is to make sure what’s being spoken agrees with what Jesus said, “all I have commanded you.”

It’s going on here all the time. The Great Commission. Baptizing and teaching. Jesus promised it. Jesus makes it happen through his Word. Hey I just realized something. Jesus also promises he’s going to be with us forever. That’s no idle promise either. What he promises is true. And he is not just promising some vague invisible presence either. That wouldn’t mean a thing. His presence with us is as real as my voice, as real as water, as real as bread and wine. Jesus keeps is promises.

Now what? Well, it’s a good question. Got family? Got friends? Got neighbors? Got milk? Jesus isn’t asking you to quit your job and go to Africa. He’s asking you to listing and learn right here. He’s actually given you a pastor to teach you. He’s asking you to support his work here. He’s asking you to point your family, friends and neighbors to Jesus right here. You don’t have to say the right thing you just have to point. You don’t have to give a witness of Jesus in your heart you just have to speak God’s promises in Jesus. Jesus has authority. He makes it happen. He is present here with us forever. Amen.

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

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ephesians 2:8-10, Funeral Sermon for Ron VanPelt, May 17, 2008

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)

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

“Ron was a good man.” I’ve heard that a hundred times if I’ve heard it once. So today we are here, in part, to remember a “good man.” After all how much better does it get than to be called “smiley” by a bunch of kids? How much better does it get to always have a treat handy. It is certain that Ron loved kids. He’s the kind of guy, in fact that still opened the car door for his wife (at least when he was physically able to do it.) He’s the kind of guy that even grown up kids called “grandpa.” Mona complained to me that the kids, grandkids, great grandkids would all take more time saying good bye to Ron than her, even the ones that weren’t his grandkids but hers! That was Ron every loved him. He was a good friend, father, step-father, grandfather, golfing buddy, loving caring husband, and old army friend… and as I got to know him, faithful Christian man. Nobody has anything bad to say about Ron… ever.

Well, that’s nice. But in a way it’s a shame too, because Ron wasn’t perfect. One thing we human beings tend to do at funerals is over speak the truth. We are afraid to speak ill of the dead. It is ok to speak about the shortcomings of Ron, about his failures and mistakes. He had them. He was a good father, but not a perfect one. He was a good husband but he didn’t always put his wives first. He was a good grandfather but there were probably times when he was selfish. He suffered these last few years with little complaint, but he really did wonder why God would punish him so, and he was sometime in despair over it all. You see, Ron was, just like you and me, completely human. And all human beings are the same in that sense. Ron was a good man, he did lots of good things but he was also a sinful man who did and thought sinful things. But as good as Ron was it wasn’t good enough to avoid death. The proof of Ron’s sinfulness is right here in front of us as bold as death itself. And so, even more important than coming here to remember Ron the good man, we remember today also Ron the sinner.

Why is that so important, well, that’s what the text I read at the beginning of this message is all about. It is by grace you have been saved, it is the gift of God, not of works. You see, if anyone had a chance at earning his way to heaven, Ron did. He was a good guy. But he couldn’t earn his way to eternal life and the proof of that is right here. The wage of sin, on display, bold as well death! The reality of it all is that God demands for us not just to be a good man, but to be a perfect man. That’s what Jesus said, You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 ESV) Perfect is all that counts. There’s no one good enough in God’s eyes. Now, this is exactly what Ron believed. He knew he couldn’t earn God’s favor by anything he did. He knew that all his good stuff fell short of perfect. He knew that as far as earning eternal life with God was concerned he couldn’t do it. That’s why he depended on Jesus.

Jesus was no just a good man, he was a perfect man. He didn’t just do good stuff he did perfect stuff. When God, the Father, saw what he did and was going to do he said,

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17b ESV)

Jesus didn’t fall short like Ron. He loved people perfectly. He loved God perfectly. He is the only person who has ever been good enough to earn eternal life with God. That’s something that Ron believed, too.

Why is all this important? That brings us right back to the passage, saved by grace. The word grace means undeserved love. God loves you. God loves me. God loves Ron, in spite of the fact that none of us deserves it. God isn’t willing for you and I to die in our sin and spend eternity separated from him in hell. So God provided a perfect life for us. He does what we can’t do. That’s exactly what he did for Ron. Jesus was born, just like Ron. He grew up, just like Ron. He had friends, just like Ron. He laughed and cried, just like Ron. But Jesus wasn’t a good man like Ron, he was a perfect man. You see Ron’s body here, dead. Well, because of sin Ron deserves to be here. Jesus lay dead in his tomb, but he didn’t deserve it. Ron died easily by just going to sleep. Not Jesus. Jesus died a sinner’s death. He was tortured and crucified. In fact Jesus suffered the death of all sinners. Even though God was pleased with all that Jesus did, in the end he turned away from him so that Jesus suffered the eternal punishment of hell on the cross.

The passage says it is not of our own doing; it is the gift of God. Jesus is that very gift. That’s exactly what we talked about when we put this white covering over Ron’s casket. We say it like this, “in baptism Ron’s sins were washed away.” What we really mean is this: In Holy Baptism Ron’s sins were placed on Jesus. Jesus died on the cross to pay the wages of sin, for Ron. Then Jesus’ perfect life was placed on Ron. So now when God looks at all that Ron did he says,

“This is my beloved Child, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17b ESV)

The gift of God, not a result of Ron’s good stuff, the result of Jesus’s good stuff. We can’t boast about any of the things that Ron did, but we can boast about the thing that Jesus did for Ron.

Ron knew all of this and believed it with his whole heart. We talked about Jesus quite a bit as he lay in hospital bed after hospital bed. We talked about it has his home, sitting in his favorite chair. We talked about it at Good Sam when he longed to be back in his chair. Ron is saved by God’s undeserved love through faith in Jesus Christ.

Oh, one more thing. That last sentence of the text. You and I saw that in Ron every day.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

That was Ron. He was a good man. Ron is God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, through Holy Baptism, for good works. He did them, not to earn something from God, but because of what God had done for him in Jesus Christ. Amen.

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

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Joel.2.28-29, May 11, 2006, Festival of Pentecost

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. (Joel 2:28-29 ESV)

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

Are you parched and dry this morning? I’m not really talking about the weather; we certainly aren’t experiencing a drought this spring. This year, for right now, the ground is plenty wet. And yet I’ve heard it said “never curse the rain.” But, you do know what I mean when I talk about being parched and dry. You’ve seen drought, with the dust floating in the air, where moisture should be; great dry cracks in the ground made by the evaporating of surface moisture; brownish-green plants with shriveled leaves, clenching the dry dusty earth, steadily shrinking into nothing as they vainly suck the ground for water.

Human beings can be dry, too. Working in the sun can quickly dehydrate you. It beats down on you. Its heat makes you to sweat until your clothes are soaked. Your tongue swells to fill you whole mouth with dryness, instead of saliva. Your joints get weak, and even movement emphasizes the need for some moisture. Your mind aches for a small drop of water, on the tip of your tongue. The land can be parched and dry; people can be parched and dry, you’ve all been there, and you know what it means.

Our text today comes from the book of the prophet Joel. We don’t hear much from him in our regular Sunday morning readings, but he pops up every year at Pentecost time. He does because the Holy Spirit inspired him to write the text that St. Peter used to preach the first Sermon in the Christian Church. He did that on the first Pentecost. We heard a part of if in our reading of Acts this morning. It might seem kind of strange, but Joel, that important Pentecost book, mostly speaks about being parched and dry. In fact, almost two thirds of the book talks about an invasion of locusts, and the ensuing drought. Listen to the prophet Joel describe what’s going on:

The seed shrivels under the clods; the storehouses are desolate; the granaries are torn down because the grain has dried up. How the beasts groan! The herds of cattle are perplexed because there is no pasture for them; even the flocks of sheep suffer. To you, O Lord, I call. For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and flame has burned all the trees of the field. Even the beasts of the field pant for you because the water brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness. (Joel 1:17-20 ESV)

It is quite a vivid picture of a drought that the prophet paints. It almost makes you want to get up and go get a drink doesn’t it? We really don’t know exactly when Joel penned those words, or when that drought took place. It really doesn’t make that much difference; the dryness of the land that Joel talks about was something that happened in that part of the world occasionally. The people living there suffered because of it. But, Joel wasn’t only talking about dry ground; he was talking about dry people, too. Over and over again in their history, the people of God, the children of Israel, became spiritually dry. They forgot about what God had done for them. They forgot that He had given them the land they lived on. They forgot that God had supported them in the dry desert when they left Egypt. They forgot what God had done by delivering them from slavery to Pharaoh in the first place. The parched land was only a sign of their parched lives; lives without the God who was their God; lives spiritually dry and empty. Their tongues no longer sang the praises of their God; they lacked the spiritual moisture that was needed. They no longer made the thank offerings and the drink offerings that God had command them to do; they lacked the moisture that was needed. They had turned instead to false gods, made of dry stone, or cut wood. These gods sucked the life from them, instead of refreshing them, and giving them what they needed. Through the prophet Joel, God calls them to repentance. “Return to me!” He called out them. I will end the drought; I am the one who provides what you need to live. I will give you the moisture your soil and your soul need. “Return to the LORD your God,” say the well known words of the book of Joel, “for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”

For you confirmads this is exactly what we have talked about on many occasions. Faith will only grow or die. Faith that isn’t constantly watered by God’s Word dries up and blows away. It is very important that you find yourself in worship, at a church that constantly tells you about Jesus life, death and resurrection for you; a church that reminds you of your sin and your need for Jesus every time you are there. Without Jesus, you faith will dry up.

But God always responds to repentance: “in those days I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” Like the water poured out on a thirsty land, that runs into the cracks in the ground and refreshes dry withered plants; my Spirit, says God, will be poured out on my people. They will drink up the moisture of my care and compassion; I will take care of their physical and spiritual needs. I will give them abundant water, more than a drop to cool the tongue, but overflowing to fill up their whole lives, to refresh and replenish them… “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!” That was God wanted, for the people to be saved, not only from the drought of the land, but from their spiritual dryness, too.

It isn’t difficult to see that people today are also parched and dry. There is clamoring for spirituality, those sections in the bookstore are busier than ever. “10 ways to use God to make your life better.” “Basic life principals-Use the bible to fix whatever is wrong in your life.” “God wants you to be healthy and happy, use this prayer to make it so.” I recently viewed on the internet videos where Oprah denies that Jesus is the only way. She preaches a different gospel that disagrees with scripture profoundly. It is a dry message that seems right to people who don’t know the truth of Jesus. People today are dry as the ground in a drought, sucking at the dust for spiritual direction, panting for moisture in the dryness of misleading (if not well intentioned) texts. Laying their offerings at the feet of false gods who promise and end to the drought but can’t deliver, because the moisture that people need in their lives can only come from the God who created them. It is only found in His Word and Sacraments. The moisture they need can only come from being in a relationship with the Only True God.

Do you sometimes feel dry, too? Even though you are in a relationship with One True God. Do the pressures of life, the busyness of life, the demands of life, seem to suck the life out of you? Life can be that way. It’s nice to be able to work, but when the demands of your job overwhelm you, when the workload increases, it can dry up your opportunities to do anything else. And your family relationships are affected, too. You struggle to keep them alive but the pressure leads to arguments and misunderstanding that just drain the life away from them. In your eagerness to work, you have hurt those closest to you. You have ignored people who needed your help, because you were just too busy, just like the men who passed by the man on the side of the road, you know the one the Samaritan helped. And you can’t forget those painful, hurtful memories about your past. They suck the good from current relationships and leave you gasping for moisture.

Even your relationship with your Savior is, at times, affected. There are Sundays when you may wonder why you are sitting here, because God feels so far away… so far that it seems as if He doesn’t care what happens in your dry and dusty life, so far away that you feel parched and dry.

“In those days,” says the Lord to you, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” God provides the moisture you need in your life. Just as he sends rain on dry parched ground, just as he give due every morning to thirsty plants; he gives you the moisture you need to live on this dry planet. It isn’t a coincidence that he speaks of the ‘pouring out’ of the Spirit. It’s the language of liquid refreshment, water is poured out, wine is poured out, and thirsty lives have what they need.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” (John 7:37-38 ESV)

Those words of Jesus show us that He knows how dry and parched life can be. He knows that people need spiritual moisture, but more that that He knows why life can be that way. It isn’t a coincidence that the dryness of life shows up first in our relationships with other people. That’s because it’s caused by dryness in another relationship, our relationship with God himself. It’s sin that comes between Your Heavenly Father and you, straining the relationship, just like an argument keeps your friends or even your parents away. Sin causes the moisture of life to trickle away. But Jesus says, “come to me and drink.” “I have overpowered the dryness of sin. When it drains your life of meaning by drying up your relationships, remember what I have done for you. I lay in the dry dusty tomb that should have been yours. I died the death and suffered the punishment that your sin should have brought to you. I made permanent the relationship between Our Father and you. It will never dry up again!”

And that brings us to Pentecost. Pentecost is above all things about the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul wrote to a Pastor under his instruction

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7 ESV)

You see, Pentecost is exactly about the pouring out of spiritual moisture, on dry lifeless people. It is about the giving of the gifts of spiritual moisture to Christ’s church. It is the Holy Spirit at work here in this place as we hear the Good News of what Jesus Christ has done. He renews and restores, he works to pour living water into dry and parched people. He is at work, reviving the dry dusty soul at the baptismal font. Where he creates living faith through water connected to the words of God. There is moisture there for you. When we say, “remember your baptism,” we mean remember what God did there for you there. Pouring the water life into your life, washing away the sin that made you parched and dry. Whenever you remember it the spiritual moisture flows again and revives you. The Holy Spirit is also at work whenever we approach this rail to drink the spiritual moisture, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sin, the very blood of Christ.

God knows about your dryness, about the drought that sometimes affects your life. He does more than offer you a drop to cool you tongue. He offers abundant overflowing “…living waters that flow from within.” as Jesus said. He gives spiritual moisture to quench your thirst, moisture to end the drought, moisture to mend the dryness in your family relationships, and bring meaning to the work you do every day. That spiritual moisture, that living water, flows from within you to everyone around you. Just as you are forgiven so you also forgive. The moisture you have been given, you give to others, and just as the ending of a drought begins with a single drop of rain, dry and parched people, the dry and parched land, are revived. Amen.

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

Saturday, May 03, 2008

1.Peter.4:12-19.5.6-11, Seventh Sunday after Easter, May 4, 2008

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:12-19, 5:6-11 ESV)

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

Today’s sermon is about the Seventh Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. But deliver us from evil. This text from St. Peter’s letter talks about just that. Turn to your hymnal on page 303. Go about halfway down the page and let’s read it together.

The Seventh Petition
But deliver us from evil.
What does this mean?We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.

Deliver us from evil. I like that part rescue us from every evil of body and soul… Martin Luther just had a way of saying things that rings true. When we pray this prayer, deliver us from evil we are asking a great big things from God, and there is nothing wrong with that, in fact that is exactly what God wants us to do… ask for big things. And there is hardly anything bigger that to be delivered from evil. Now in fact when Jesus gave the prayer to his disciples He said it a bit different. What he said is often lost in translation, although some versions of the Our Father reflect it. He said, deliver us from the Evil one. And that’s how we get from the Lord’s Prayer to our text for today. Deliver us from evil is all about Satan and his work in the world.

St. Peter paints a frightening picture. Satan prowls around like a lion seeking someone to devour. He is out there, sneaking around waiting to pounce. Picture in your mind the lion hidden in the tall grass with unsuspecting gazelle grazing peacefully nearby. If the gazelle knew the lion was there it would have found someplace else to eat. Instead it eats its last meal without knowing the danger. The cat moves quietly and slowly on padded feet. It is patient even though it is hungry. Every tendon in its body is tense ready for action. Suddenly the gazelle senses something is wrong. It raises its head to look about sniffing the air for a scent of danger. It leans back on its haunches to spring away. Suddenly, out of the shadows of the grass the lion springs into action. Long sharp claws sink into the animals back as the full weight of the great cat brings it to the ground. Then the crushing jaws clamp onto the gazelle’s throat cutting off the oxygen it needs to live. Its death is certain and swift. The cat’s hunger is satisfied.

The warning is to be taken seriously. Satan wants nothing more than to kill you, to devour you, for you to spend eternity in hell. These days it isn’t popular to talk about Satan as a real being. In fact, in our minds we probably don’t even think he’s real. That’s the warning exactly. Satan does his best work in the shadows. He hides behind the actions of people we love. He skulks around whispering thoughts into our ears that sound so reasonable. His lies sound so truthful and reasonable. We want to believe they are true. And he even presents them in such a reasonable manner. “There are many ways to God, as long as you are sincere,” is one of his favorite lines. But it directly contradicts Jesus’ own Words,

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)

That’s Satan sneaking up, hidden by the reasonableness of the tall grass. He is ready to pounce. He wants only to satisfy his own hunger for your death. We graze ever closer to his hunting ground thinking we are safe, thinking that we have nothing to fear, until he sinks his claws into us and suffocates the life out of us with his lies. And we are helpless to resist.

In the Large Catechism Luther puts it very plainly.

Since the devil is not only a liar but also a murderer,3 he incessantly seeks our life and vents his anger by causing accidents and injury to our bodies. He breaks many a man’s neck and drives others to insanity; some he drowns, and many he hounds to suicide or other dreadful catastrophes[1]

And so St. Peter tells us to resist him, firm in faith. He’s telling us that when Satan strikes we have no defense but faith.

But here’s the thing we should come to grips with. Faith isn’t a quality that allows us to stand up to Satan and defeat him. Faith is trust in the promises of God. True faith, doesn’t look inside ourselves for something to use against Satan, for some inner strength to resist. True faith trusts that no matter what happens God is in control, even though Satan seems to be in charge. True faith trusts that no matter what happens God is allowing it for our benefit.

Go back to the first part of the text. He says; don’t be surprised if the fiery trial comes. It comes to test you. It comes to strengthen your faith. It is nothing strange for Christians to suffer.

But often that’s not what we want to hear. We want God, my god, to deliver us from all that we see as all evil. We don’t want to suffer. We want to live my life in comfort, far away from the trouble that other people go through. But this isn’t faith the faith that Peter is talking about is it? The faith he’s talking about is trusting in God’s promises in spite of what it looks like is happening. St. Peter says it this way in the text:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)

That’s right before he tells us that Satan is out there prowling around to devour us. He’s saying that God uses fiery trials in our lives. And that suffering has a purpose. God will use any means necessary to bring you to the realization that you are helpless to save yourself, even Satan who is out there wanting to destroy you. Humble yourself means the same thing as standing firm in faith. Submit to God’s will. Look for God in the suffering. Look for God in the pain. Look for God to reveal Himself. God shows Himself to you when you are helpless when you are at the point where you can do nothing else but to cast all your anxieties on Him.

How about an example: The example is this: Jesus lying on the ground in the garden of Gethsemane the night He was betrayed praying:

“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 ESV)

Jesus could have used these words, Deliver us from evil. They say and mean the same thing. And yet Jesus wasn’t delivered from the cross. He suffered there. Satan unfolded all his might to destroy Him. Satan pounced on Jesus and suffocated the life out of Him. He mocked Jesus thought the lips of the thieves on the crosses beside Him. He died there. This thing isn’t the great evil that it appears to be. Even though the actions of all those around Jesus, the betrayal, the nailing, the mocking, and the piercing, were all great evil, God allowed them all and made it all our greatest good. Jesus suffering and death there brings new life and salvation to you and me. Satan does his worst to Jesus, but Jesus wins anyway. Death turns to life. Jesus opens the grave and lives again.

The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

At the right hand of God means Jesus rules over all things. He is in control. Jesus Christ has control over even Satan. Satan can only do what God allows him to do. He may attack you, but God turns his attack into your good.

And that brings us full circle back to the beginning of the text.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:13 ESV)

Satan is after you. He wants you dead and suffering in hell for all time. But God is in control. His loves you too much to allow Satan to destroy you. That means that when you suffer at Satan’s hand, God is doing something good in your life. That means that no matter how it looks, no matter how it hurts, when you have to cast your anxieties on Him, you can rejoice. He cares for you He will deliver you from evil. Amen.

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

3 John 8:44.

[1]Tappert, T. G. (2000, c1959). The book of concord : The confessions of the evangelical Lutheran church (435). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Gift from a True Friend

In reference to the previous article on Luther and Beer...

Here's the stein I was talking about.  It was given to me by Rev. David Schultz a friend who knows me well.  (Actually the gift is from my God child, she's gonna be a great Lutheran!).

The article talks about Luther's mug having three "bands."  This one also.

Top band: Ten Commandments; Middle: Apostle's Creed; Bottom: Lord's Prayer.  Nice "trinity."  The mug is useful for both increasing faith and slaking thirst.


I especially like Luther's Rose on the bottom... a reward for a good brew.


Of diversity and the use of statistics in worship:

A very nice article by David O. Berger. Very much worth reading.


He concludes:

The historic liturgies of the Christian Church are based on the fundamental spiritual needs of sinful mankind.  They are and remain, in the best sense, counter-cultural.  They are part of our identity as Christians – as Lutherans.  Their content is the very content of our faith. The content may change slowly over time, absorbing contributions of the highest order of each age, but always passing these contributions through the fine-meshed sieve of the chronological communion of saints.  The Lutheran hymn / chorale is a prime example of such absorption.  The person-centered song tradition of Revivalism, including CCM, pales in comparison to the miraculous marriage of teaching Word and elevated music in Lutheran hymnody.  O. C. Rupprecht’s, “The Lutheran Chorale in the Life of the Child” (Valparaiso Church Music Series, no. 3, 1946) should be read by every church music director and pastor.*  If the Divine Service is constantly re-fashioned and adapted to attract seekers / shoppers or fulfill some other “felt need,” it is being used for the wrong purpose.  Creating faith is the work of the Holy Spirit, using the biblical means of baptizing –– yes, infants too –– and sound teaching.  In our worship, God provides us with His gifts of Word and Sacrament.  Thorough catechesis (the historic liturgy also teaches) and reverent Word and Sacrament worship centered on the gifts of God to His people are the visible manifestations of a living church and the means by which He builds it.

The Beers of Martin Luther

Kihm Winship has a very nice article from 2005 on The Beers of Luther. The article delights with some great details only a beer lover could love.

Thus, the beers of Luther's era would have been complex, highly flavored, possibly a tad sour and/or cloudy, and would have varied in color, flavor, strength and quality.

The author discusses the different qualities of beer based on their place of brewing. Especially interesting is the connection between the monastery and brewing. There are some wonderful quotes from Luther.

As for the use of beer as an aid to Lenten discipline, Luther noted, "Under the papacy everything was pleasant and without annoyances. Fasting then was easier than eating is to us now. To every day of fasting belonged three days of gorging. For a collation one got two pots of good beer, one small jug of wine, and some ginger cake or salted bread to stimulate the thirst. The poor brothers then left like fiery angels, so red were they in the face."

Here we see yet another reason to re-consider the practice of a lenten fast.

Kihm also writes about "Luther's Favorite." "Luther's fondness for beer is well known..." He writes, and apparently on the day of Luther's famous stand he was fortified not only with God's Word, but also his favorite commercial brew.

Because he traveled, Luther could have had many of these beers, but there is only one with claims to the effect that it was his favorite. Frederick Salem, in his Beer, Its History and Its Economic Value as a National Beverage (1880) notes, "Luther's fondness for beer is well known, and on the evening of that eventful day at Worms, April 18, 1521, the Duke Erich von Braunschweig sent him a pot of Eimbecker (Einbecker) beer, to which he was specially addicted."

As I have also been known to say, Beer makes good gifts. I have often given mead as a wedding gift. Kim quotes "The Beer Hunter" Michael Jackson on just one such gift to Luther and Katie on their nuptials.

Also, Michael Jackson, in his New World Guide to Beer (1988), notes that Luther received a gift of Einbeck beer on the occasion of his wedding. Luther scholar Luther Peterson recalls a visit to a restaurant in Einbeck where he found a beer coaster with portraits of Martin and Katie on one side and a tale about their receiving a barrel of Einbeck beer as a wedding present. Although he adds, "How authoritative a beer coaster can be is another question."

A delightful addition to the article.

My favorite part of the article however, is the section where the author speaks about not only Martin's beer but his relationship with Katie. She was a faithful wife, fulfilling her God-given vocation with grace and favor. Kihm writes:

Luther much preferred homebrew. After Luther married, his wife Katie brewed beer as the lay brothers had brewed it in days gone by. Luther Peterson notes that Martin often began his written invitations to friends with the note that Katie had made him another barrel of beer. Once in 1535, while away from home, he wrote to her about some bad beer he had drunk 'which did not agree with me... I said to myself what good wine and beer I have at home, and also what a pretty lady, or lord.' Here's an endorsement of homebrew, and very diplomatically put as well.

And I must comment on Luther's mug:

He enjoyed his beer and had a great mug with three rings on it, one 'the Ten Commandments', the next 'the Creed' and third 'the Lord's Prayer'. He boasted that he could encompass all three with ease.

A friend of mine gave me a very nice (read large) stein in this tradition. Beer is especially tasty poured over theology.

I end my review with Kihm's final quote with which I, Luther, and all good Lutherans can agree...

And so we have Martin Luther's permission to enjoy a light buzz, especially at home with family and friends, but his stern admonition to refrain from piggishness.

Pastor Watt.

Thanks to Stanley Matthews for pointing out this article.