Tuesday, March 31, 2009

LCMS Working to Sell KFUO-FM (Updated)

The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is working behind the scenes to sell KFUO FM.  A few years ago it was worth about $20m.  Now days about half that.  Is it bad stewardship to sell the station when the price is down?  Here's an article in St. Louis Today.


Given the climate at the Synod one is always suspicious of decisions to sell valuable assets that can never be replaced.  As the article says generally AM FM pairs are sold together.  If the FM goes the AM is likely to follow.  Some are hopeful the FM sale profits will be used to support the AM station.  I think this is not likely.  It seems that the AM has always been used to shelter the FM and protect it from criticism.  As the budget at the Synod is likely not to be well funded, cash is going to be needed.  $10m is an attractive number to help balance the books. 

I have always found it difficult to understand the FM's Classical Music as a ministry of the LCMS.  I listened a bit when we were at Seminary, and was quickly disappointed.  I changed to the AM, primarily for Issues, Law and Gospel and the Bible Study.  These kind of programs are what the AM and FM should be playing.  The AM / FM combination has potential as a platform for Lutheran Web radio.  It's loss would be a great loss to the synod, albeit it is being wasted now.  The value of the FM as a potential for the Gospel combined with the AM and Internet is worth well more that the price tag.

On the other hand the value of the FM will likely continue to plummet.  The cash is likely better now than it will be in the foreseeable future.

However, again, the sale of this valuable asset to pay the bills is probably rather shortsighted.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hebrews 5:7-9; Fifth Sunday during Lent; March 29, 2009

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. (Hebrews 5:7-9, ESV)

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

Well, that's an interesting reading isn't it. It talks about Jesus the source of salvation for all who obey him. So I guess we'll all we have to do to be saved is obey him. Well that shouldn't be too hard for us. After all we are here today aren't we. It's those out there who aren't keeping the commandments that have the problem. We do pretty well, I think. We park here on Sunday, we pay our dues to keep the church up and running. When something needs to be done here in this building we do it. That sounds exactly like that reading, doesn't it. We obey Jesus so we can be saved right? That's pretty good news, isn't it.

Let's look at the Ten Commandments. I'll bet we can find that we keep each one pretty well. Well mostly anyway. You shall have no other Gods before me. You haven't got a shrine to Vishna set up in your garden do you ____? You haven't sacrificed any of your children to Molech lately have you ____? Right? Good. I think we got that one in the bag. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Right. Well, that's pretty easy to keep. Just gotta bite my tongue when the hammer hits my finger. I can do that... I think. Remember the Sabbath day... Check. ...in church, as I said, commandment kept. Not too bad off in the obey category are we. Out of these first three I think we can say we keep them most of the time. We obey. Right. And this passage says that Jesus is the source of salvation for those who obey. Let's go on. Honor your father and mother. Ok, that one can be tricky sometimes but you gotta admit we usually do the right thing by them when we get older. You shall not kill. Well, it's a good thing pheasants and deer don't count but only people. I haven't shot my spouse in the back. No problem with this one. You shall not commit adultery. The older you get the easier this one is. After all older folks never think about sex. God's gotta be pretty happy with us on this one, isn't he? How many of you out there have been married more than 10 years? 20? 30? 40? Yeah! Good job. We've really got that commandment handled. You shall not steal. The police haven't been at my door for theft. None of you've knocked off the corner pantry, yet right? ...Bearing false witness. That means we don't lie. You haven't told any big ones lately have you? The little white ones are called “white” for a reason. Lies have to hurt someone before they count don't they? And finally those last two. You shall not covet.... I'm not exactly sure what coveting means, but I do know my neighbor doesn't deserve half the stuff that he's got. He never worked a hard day's work in his life. I'd be so much happier if some of his junk was mine. Nothing wrong with that. Since I deserve it. So that's the ten. And on the whole I'd have to say that when the scales of justice are set out with the good stuff we do on the one hand and the few little problems we have the “the Ten” we do pretty well. And even if there's a few things on the down side we're sure a far sight better than lots of folks are. Especially those who never darken the door of a church. So we're in like flint. Jesus gives us salvation because we obey. Right? Well isn't that what the passage says?

Maybe we'd better take a closer look at what Jesus says. Look here in Matthew 5:19-20

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

I don't like the sound of that.... and listen to this!

You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.

That can't be good. I may not have killed anyone, but I think I was mad this morning trying to get my family out the door to church.

I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Ouch! That's pretty strict isn't it? Who can keep that commandment? You'd have to be dead! And look, Jesus goes on here pretty extensively. And none of it sounds good at all. Divorce... breaking promises... payback... Jesus hits them all, or should I say hit me and you with them right between the eyes. And then he caps it all of with this zinger.

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Did you hear that? Perfect! If we expect Jesus give us salvation because we've obeyed him, we have to be perfect. Well, that's not going to happen. I'll never be perfect. You'll never be perfect. No one is perfect... not your grandparents, not your parents, not your children. So where does that leave us when we hear a passage like this one. [Jesus] became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. That's not good news at all, in fact, it's terrible news, there's no way we can be saved that way.

But that's what it says, isn't it? Well... maybe not. Let's look again.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications... he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.

...he became the source of eternal salvation. It's not that he gives eternal salvation only to those who obey him. That's just what we think. That's what we want it to be. We'd rather paddle our own canoe. We'd rather have something to do with our salvation. We want to get some of the credit for saving ourselves. We'd rather be our own source of power. Instead it says that Jesus is the source. That means that salvation comes from him. He is the source. He obeyed the Father perfectly. All those little ways we talked about how we break the commandments? Not Him! Ever. He earned salvation perfectly. When Jesus says You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. He's talking about something that only he can do, something only he did! That's why He is the source! You get everything you need for salvation from him.

Just think about the parable of the sheep and the goats. Remember, Jesus separates the sheep from the goats. And then he tells the goats of all the great stuff God counts to their credit.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

And how do they react? “When? We didn't know we did that stuff for you?” St. Paul answers the question.

for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal 3:26-27, ESV)

Perfect Jesus is the source of all your good works. When you were baptized he was put on you. You were given his perfect life. He fed the hungry. He clothed the naked. He visited strangers. He is the source of all of your good works. It's a gift from him through the work of the Holy Spirit given to you when the name of God was spoken over you in Baptism. And the Holy Spirit through that Word of God gave you faith.

And what's more, now the stuff you do every day God actually sees as good works. That's because the sin that tags along with everything we do is taken away by Jesus. You know what I'm talking about. We haven't killed anyone but we certainly have been angry with them. We haven't had an affair with our neighbor's wife but... yea you know. So he gives you his good and perfect life, so that in God's eyes you can be perfect, and then he takes the sin that dirties up everything you do and he kills it. He kills it on the cross.

Here we are right back to the cross again. It just seems like we can't have a single day in church with out ending up here. And that's good. Because here is where Jesus finished all that he needed to do to be the source of your salvation. Here is where he perfectly completed what God asked him to do. Here is were we see that he not only fed and clothed and watered people who needed it but gave his very life for them. He went above and beyond the call of duty... for you. He is the source of your eternal salvation.

And... he's the source of your good works. Since your sin is nailed to that cross the normal stuff you do every day, taking care of your kids, paying the bills, cheering up a friend who is down in the dumps, making an extra straight furrow in the field, etc... all of it is good stuff, counted by God as obeying Him.

Hey, the bible passage is right! We do obey, and Jesus is the source of our salvation. Amen.

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

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Help Protect Conscience Rights for Health Care Workers.

imageUrgent Action Needed!

Join LCMS Life and Health Ministries in urging U.S. Health and Human Services to safeguard current regulations protecting health care workers’ “conscience rights.” HHS is accepting public comment until April 9 regarding the proposed repeal.

Laws established over the past 35 years guaranteeing health care workers’ freedom from religious and moral discrimination are under challenge after seven states and two pro-abortion groups filed suit. Foreseeing this possibility, the Bush administration attempted to shore up these protections in Dec. 2008, by issuing what’s become known as the “conscience rule.” The Obama administration has called for a repeal of this rule.

Read more!



For More Information:




Thursday, March 26, 2009

Death Visited Our House Today (Friday, March 13)

IM001465 Death visited our house again today. No, it wasn’t any of my children or my wife or any other person in the family. It was Sugar. She was our pet. I know, it isn’t the same. And yet, we still feel the same. After all she had been a part of our family for six years. She was a Latino Cockatiel, beautiful yellow with big dark eyes and that red spot on the side of her head. Every morning when we got up she would chirp a good morning. At night when it was time to go to bed, Sugar was the one who tried to keep us on schedule with an obnoxious squawk. She enjoyed watching movies with us. I think she liked Fred and Ginger better than James Bond, but we all enjoyed them together. We also joked that she was the only Orthodox Lutheran Cockatiel in the world. In the morning if we weren’t prompt in turning on Pirate Christian Radio, she would begin to complain. She listened with raped attention to Issues, Etc. and Fighting for the faith. I’m sure she was tempted to use the comment line a time or two. The thing is she was a part of our household and a part of God’s creation that we lived with every day. We hated death that took this little treasure from us. So, we cried. We groaned.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21, ESV)

The trouble is this isn’t the last time we’ll face this problem. And next time it just might be a child, a parent, a sister, a spouse, or a brother. This little death only points out that there is more to come, more hating death, more crying, more groaning.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (1 Corinthians 15:56, ESV)

And there it is; we sinners facing the sting of death; we sinners facing our mortality; we sinners facing the wages of our sin.

My daughter, 17, asked if animals go to heaven. There’s no good answer. I told her that God created animals and loves them as a part of his creation. And thanks be to Jesus, when he comes again we will live in a new heavens and new earth, a physical place full of physical things, made to have relationships with physical human beings. There were animals in the Garden; it seems to me they’ll be animals in eternity with Christ, too. When Jesus comes again all things will be made new.

But there real issue here isn’t weather Sugar will be with us in paradise. We faced our sin today. We faced our death. Without Christ, facing death would truly be a hopeless prospect. With Christ, death is swallowed up in victory.

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:50-55, ESV)

Our comfort in the face of death is the death and resurrection of Christ. He makes the difference between hopelessness and hope-full-ness. In the future we will still face the crying and groaning, but for us the groaning has an answer. The answer is Jesus.

Jesus, our Savior, died on the cross as the punishment for our sin. When we face death, we don’t face the sting of it anymore. Our sins are forgiven. The law that requires our permanent punishment has been taken out of the picture by Jesus. Our death doesn’t lead to eternal death, eternal punishment and separation from God and each other; instead it leads to eternal life. Jesus shows this to us in his resurrection. He didn’t stay dead. After three days He rose again. He lives. He gives us the promise of life after death with him. And there is even more. Jesus is returning to end the groaning forever. Death has been swallowed up in victory. For now we must die. When he comes again death will come to an end. The pain of death is knowing that it will end, and wishing for that to happen now.

You see, it doesn’t really matter if the death we are talking about is the death of a bird, our beloved pet Sugar, or the death of a young child, an old woman, or my death or yours. Jesus is still the answer. Jesus is still the hope. Jesus stands in the face of death. Thanks be to God he gives us the victory, in Jesus Christ.

That little yellow bird has left a hole in our hearts, a part of the groaning of creation. But the groaning will end. Come, Lord Jesus, Come! Amen.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jonah 3:1-4; Weekday Lenten Service 5, Jonah the Survivor Series by Reed Lessing; March 25, 2009

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:1-4, ESV)

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

I just love how this part of Jonah starts. “The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time… Go to Nineveh!” And Jonah got up and went. After all that he’s been through, after all he’s done, Jonah gets a second chance. He does exactly what God sent him to do. It’s the “second time” that such a wonderful phrases here. Think of it this way…

In the “old days” people used to have answering machines on their home phones. Actually we are considering dropping the land line altogether once we get “local” cell phone numbers. But in those “old days” you’d have a message like this. “Hello this you’ve reached the Watt family, we can’t come to the phone right now but if you leave your name and number we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. (beep)” Then you’d go through your messages one at a time and pick the calls you wanted to return and the calls you want to ignore. Now days people use caller ID for the same purpose. You probably do that. It works well to avoid those calls from salesmen. But they’ve pretty much learned the *67 secret for keeping their ID from showing up. Well, Jonah did that with God. His message went something like this. “Hello, this is Jonah. I am unable to take your call right now, please don’t leave your name, number or message, because I won’t be getting back to you, (beep).” And you know all the trouble it caused. But here we are, after fish vomited Jonah on the beach. God keeps calling. He never gives up on Jonah. He never gives up on you either. Now you can take comfort in that just as well as you can take warning. The belly of the fish is a dreadful place to be. But God is faithful he keeps calling.

You can’t avoid the Baptismal images here. God’s grace, his undeserved love, comes to Jonah through his “baptism” in the sea. It’s a death and resurrection for Jonah. He dies to his sin, in the water. He arises alive again, vomited out on the dry land to live again by faith. It shows here where Jonah does exactly what he’s been told to do. He goes to Nineveh. I’m not sure what he expected when he got there. He was probably expecting his visit to end in a horrible death. But I couldn’t be worse than what he had already been through. And besides he had already died, in a sense. Deep into the water he went and up again saved by the fish, spit up on dry ground. But Jonah isn’t the only example of God killing and raising in water. Think of the flood. The water covered the earth. It was washed of its sin. The water was judgment. And the water saves, too. Noah and his family were saved by the same water. And remember again how God saved his people at the Red Sea. When all was lost, they were trapped between the sea and the Egyptian army. There was no escape. They were faithless; they had lost all hope of rescue. And then God opened up the water of the sea and they passed through it, safe. I’ll never understand what possessed the Egyptians to follow. The water that saved God’s people became judgment for their enemies. They went through death and resurrection to new life and on through the desert to the Promised Land. I just love how hymn 487 in LSB says it.

Come, you faithful, raise the strain Of triumphant gladness!
God has brought His Israel Into joy from sadness,

Loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke Jacob’s sons and daughters,
Led them with unmoistened foot Through the Red Sea waters.

(LSB 487 Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain)

We could look at all kinds of places in the hymnal that make this connection of death to sin, and resurrection to new life in water. But turn first to LSB 268, we’ve been here before but the connection is so strong I just can’t help turning to it again. Look at the prayer.

The Flood Prayer

P Let us pray.

Almighty and eternal God, according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all. You drowned hard-hearted Pharaoh and all his host in the Red Sea, yet led Your people Israel through the water on dry ground, foreshadowing this washing of Your Holy Baptism. Through the Baptism in the Jordan of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin.

We pray that You would behold [name(s)] according to Your boundless mercy and bless [him/her/them] with true faith by the Holy Spirit, that through this saving flood all sin in [him/her/them] which has been inherited from Adam and which [he himself / she herself / they themselves] [has/have] committed since, would be drowned and die. Grant that [he/she/they] be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers and serving Your name at all times with a fervent spirit and a joyful hope, so that, with all believers in Your promise, [he/she/they] would be declared worthy of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

C Amen.

Now turn to LSB 325. Look down the second column and read with me the section labeled “Fourth”

Holy Baptism - Fourth

What does such baptizing with water indicate?

It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?

St. Paul writes in Romans, chapter six: "We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:4)

This is no idle figure of speech either. Baptism is a death. That old sinful nature in you is killed. It receives just what is necessary. Compare yourself to Jonah and the people of Israel backed up to the Red Sea. You know your unfaithfulness. Your unwillingness to do what God asks. You go through the motions so it looks good. You sit in church listening attentively. But you struggle against sin. Your unfaithfulness is different than mine. Your temptations are different than those of your spouse. It’s easy to find fault in other people. We are so quick to relish your neighbor’s problems. We don’t like to face our own. When someone gives us “constructive criticism we act grateful but really are resentful. We are so eager to get the stuff of the world. Those glossy ads make so many things seem like needs instead of wants. And how reluctant we are to give to the real needs of people all around us. We certainly don’t want to be “enabling” bad behavior. It’s hard to speak kindly of those God has placed in government when you totally disagree with the way they approach… everything. You see the problem isn’t really these things that you do. The problem is you. You are sinful and unclean. It’s easy to relate to those who run from God, and those who lose faith in the face of trouble. That’s us, with our backs to the water. That’s us trying to get away from God’s judgment.

But you have to die so you can live again.

You guys will probably remember the story of the Georgia Tech, University of California game on New Year’s Day, 1929. Roy Riegels made the biggest mistake of his career. He recovered a fumble, and made the best run of his life… in the wrong direction. He was only stopped by Benny Lom, a member of his own team who, by grace, caught him at the one yard line. 36 in. and Roy would have scored a touchdown for the other team. The locker room was silent all during half time as the coach struggled with what to do. When it was time to return to the field he only said, “Men, the same team that started the first half will start the second half.” Everyone got up to go onto the field, everyone that is except Roy. He wanted to die. The coach called to him to get out on the field. “Roy didn’t you hear me? The same team that started the first half will start the second.” Roy looked up with his cheeks wet with tears. “Roy,” the coach continued, “get back out there, the game is only half over.” Roy played his heart out the second half. The players testified that they had never seen a man play as hard as Roy.

Jonah too played hard. He went to Nineveh. He took the task before him and did exactly what he was asked to do. Imagine if you will shouting out the message that Jonah shouted, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Now imagine that you are yelling it in a city that is known for killing people for the fun of it. Now, Jonah isn’t really happy about what he’s doing. But he offers the people of Nineveh what he’s been given. He got a second chance to do what God commanded. And that’s what he offers to them. “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Jonah was probably laying heavily on the destruction idea. He didn’t want to offer these people God’s grace. But it is there anyway. When he’s done preaching he goes out and waits for the fireworks. And Nineveh is overturned. They repent. God relents of the disaster. The sinners of Nineveh have faith in God their Savior. They are overturned to be new different people.

Repentance. Death and resurrection. That’s what God has for you too. You are overthrown through water and God’s Word. You die to sin and rise to new life. You are given a second chance. Your sin won’t condemn you to the depths of death and hell. It all happens in Jesus. You are overthrown in Jesus. Your sin is killed in Jesus. Your old sinful nature dies in Jesus through your death in the water of baptism. You go deep, deep into the water, drowned dead, and come up again a new man, or woman. It is a lavish washing away of your sin. Martin Luther talked about how the water of baptism is colored red by the blood of Jesus. Jesus’ death is your death to sin. His blood is shed on the cross for you, for the forgiveness of your sin. And it happens again in daily contrition and repentance. God uses his law to show you your sin and you die. Then he shows you your savior and you live again. Your sin doesn’t condemn you you have a second chance to live. And you come up out of the water, motivated to do better because you have been overturned.

Jonah survived only through the gospel, and so do we because our God in Christ is the God of the second chance! You have received the forgiveness of your sin in your death and resurrection in Holy Baptism. You have received the forgiveness of your sin because of Jesus death and resurrection on the cross. Anem.

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

Important info from Lutherans for Life!

Many people are aware that President Obama is in the process of rescinding a regulation from late in the Bush administration allowing health-care workers to refuse to provide services based on moral objections. 

What many do not realize is that the required public comment phase began March 10 and ends April 9. 

It is also very difficult to find the link to provide such comment. Click here for the link―and please pass along.


Jim Lamb

Lutherans For Life


Lutherans For Life
1120 South G Avenue
Nevada, IA 50201-2774

Monday, March 23, 2009

Finally a "real" explanation of Twitter.


Follow me on Twitter.  http://Twitter.com/WattsWhat/

Follow Trinity Lutheran Church on Twitter  http://Twitter/TrinityCreston/

Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 22, 2009; Numbers 21:4-9

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (Numbers 21:4-9, ESV)

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;

(Pause - 1 minute)

I am going to preach... That was only a minute... if you think it felt like a long time to you, just imagine how long it felt to me! Did you get impatient? When your are waiting for something, even a short time can seem like a long... impatience sets in... we drum our fingers, begin looking around, maybe even whistle... We just don't like to wait.

Waiting is almost a natural state these days. We are always waiting for something. We wait for traffic lights tapping on the steering wheel. We wait in line, at the bank, the grocery store, and the dry cleaners. We wait for the phone to ring, or wait to go on a date. It seems like it takes forever for the order you placed on the internet to arrive. If you are hungry waiting for supper can seem to take forever. Waiting is a part of life that we just can't escape.

You would think that as much waiting as we do we would get good at it. But, the fact is, we aren't. We don't like waiting... we become impatient. It feels like we are wasting our time. When we have to wait our pulses race, blood pressure rises, we get hostile (even to family and friends). We think of all the things we could be accomplishing instead of waiting. Computers, microwave ovens, pagers, and cell phones are all designed to keep us from waiting. They are the high speed tools for working in an impatient world. I read an article in time magazine about how children these days can multitask, doing homework, chat rooms on the computer, and listen to music all at the same time. They do it because they don’t like to wait. They're supposed to help us use our time more efficiently, but we often end up impatiently waiting on them. If you really want to see impatience first hand just take a quick trip to McDonalds, or visit a busy airport. You won't have to be there very long and you'll se it: someone waving their arms, red faced, and raised voice, upset because they had to wait for their food or the airplane was delayed. People get angry at delay because of impatience. For an impatient person delay means denial.

It wasn't always this way, waiting used to be considered a virtue. If you couldn't afford something you saved until you could. But it just isn't that way anymore. American families owe an average of $7000 on each credit they hold. This is a huge indicator of an impatient society that wants it, and wants it now.

Where it used to be a virtue, now having to wait is a bad thing, almost the ultimate evil. If it can't have it now, if it can't be mine right now, if I have to wait, it is just like not getting it at all. Delay means denial. We have all been there, impatient customers, complaining about the wait and wanting it right now.

In the book of numbers (and specifically our text for today) we also find some inpatient people. Unfortunately we can certainly identify with them. Some human attributes cover the distance of time very well. It reads They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; They were ready to take control of the Promised Land. Their 40 years of wandering is almost over. They've wandered and waited. The fastest route to their destination is through the country of Edom. But when they ask permission to pass trough, permission is denied. They just can't strike a deal with the King of Edom, and a war is not an option. Going around means a long delay... it means they have to go back the way they came... back toward Egypt. They feel like they are walking in circles. This turns out to be convenient for the complainers. They emphasize the people's impatience. "This trip is going to take forever!! We had it good in Egypt," they say. "Good water, Good food... better than this old manna!" What they conveniently forget is the bad stuff that came along with Egypt. Like whips and chains. Working hard for the food they ate. While they are wandering in the desert all they had to do was collect the Manna off the ground. It was given freely and abundantly. But, they are tired of it. They've been eating manna every way possible for nearly 40 years. They make Manna soup, manna stew, manna with gravy... manna burgers, manna waffles, manna bagels... ba-manna-bread. And now they are turned away, no short cuts, they have to go the long way. They blame Moses... they blame God... "...another delay, another time they can't get what God has promised. How many more delays will there be? Maybe God is really not going to give them what he promised. Maybe this delay is just another one in a never-ending line of delays. If we can't have it now, If it can't be ours right now, if we have to wait, again, its just like not getting it at all."

God is not amused. After forty years of wandering in the fiery desert they still doubt his promises. They still don't trust his word. They are still an impatient people... he sends another reminder. The Hebrew bible calls them "fire serpents." Poisonous snakes with a burning bite... they bit the people and many Israelites died. Immediately the people repent... "Moses, we've sinned! Get God to take away the snakes!" God has his own plan and the bronze serpent is raised on a pole, so that anyone who looks at it will survive the bites. God's plan is that they are to pay attention to him and his solutions, they are to look to the pole for salvation. Don't watch the ground where your enemies are look to the pole. I've provided a way out. A way for you to be saved. ... and it works. The Israelites would wander a little more... they would fight a little more... they would complain a little more... but, the promised land was theirs, that was God's promise. It was theirs when God gave it to them. God's delay is not his denial.

So... do you feel like looking under pews for poisonous "fire serpents?" Do you see yourself in the impatience of the Children of Israel? Well, the text isn’t here to tell us that we are impatient so God is going to punish us with snakes. What it is saying is that God's promises are true, even when we experience delay after delay... but we are impatient. We want his promises now.

We pray for healing... "God heal me I can't bear the pain any longer. I don't understand why you don't answer me." we grow impatient... “Why do I have to struggle with money? God why don’t you just make me win the lottery?” discouragement sets in... “I’ll never be married. No one would want to live their whole life with me?” We focus on ourselves... “I am a worthless person. Everything I do fails.” questioning... “Doesn’t God love me? Is God really there?”

God's delay becomes God's denial. “If I can't have it now... then it’s just not worth it.” Our troubles become the center of our thoughts.

Sometimes we even miss the ways that God does work. And when we are focused on the problem we can miss God’s purpose. Maybe God’s answer is found with the Christian next door who is allowed to serve and practice their faith by helping you. When we are patient waiting for God’s resolution to our problems our children see faith in practice... an example of turning to God and accepting his will in spite of discomfort. God might even intend to for other Christian friends and family to be inspired to go to their Lord more often in prayer. In these ways, and many others, God strengthens is people. His delay is not a denial but a gracious act; a faith strengthening act, for someone... maybe even you.

God's delays are a part of his perfect will for the world. He delays because it isn't the right time to act. God always acts at just the right time, the perfect time, the only time necessary. Just as he acted when he sent Jesus to be our Savior. He chose the perfect time and the perfect place...

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8, ESV)

Right when we needed it most... when we were lost in our sin with no hope of escape. God sent Jesus for us. His death saves us. His crucifixion gives us the life we were created to have by removing the curse that sin has over us. We get impatient with God because we don’t trust that He has our best interest at heart when He delays. Instead of punishment God forgives us for Jesus sake. In light of our faithless impatience we need to look to Jesus. Just like the snake on the pole we look up to him, on the cross and see the way that God has provided ...the way for us to be saved... and it came at just the right time, for us. Knowing about God’s forgiveness for our impatience allows us to begin again and wait for God’s perfect timing.

I'm an impatient person. Everyday I struggle with it. My foot gets a little heavy on the gas pedal. I watch the clock for supper to come around. ... I know you struggle with your own impatience. It's hard to wait especially when what you are waiting for seems to be so much in God's will. But, God delays... and we wait... We don't always know his will, we don't always see what the waiting accomplishes, and sometimes we may never see it until we go to be with Him. St. Peter wrote that...

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, ESV)

God delays because he is gracious. When the Israelites repented in the desert, he didn't remove the snakes right away. He provided a way of salvation that pointed to him. He provided a way that showed faith in his promises. He provided a way that points us to his Son. When we were dead in our sins, God sent our Savior Jesus at just the right time. He is the one who saves us and he does it in his own time.

Delay... it isn't always clear to us why God delays. We get impatient... we are impatient people... we want to see results and we want to see them now... if we don't we think that God is denying us.... But God's delays are not denial. What he promises is true whether it happens now... a week from now... a year from now or in the next millennium... He gives us strength through his word and sacraments to believe in his promises and to stand in faith ... patiently. Amen.

The peace of God, keep your hearts and minds in the promises of Christ Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jonah 2; Lent 4; March 18, 2009; Jonah, the Survivor Series by Dr. Reed Lessing;

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. (Jonah 2, ESV)

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

It’s a bit extreme don’t ya think? I mean Jonah praying inside of the fish. Sure he ran from God. Sure he was reluctant to do what God wanted, but now look. Jonah prays. Well of course he prays. He’s been swallowed by a fish! Now don’t be getting the idea that this is some make believe story about when we are suppose to pray. All those years ago, the Bible tells us this is actually what happened. How did he survive? How did he breathe? How is that he didn’t digest? Well, I don’t have answers for that, but I do know that when Jonah ran from God, God sent a fish, a great big fish, and Jonah was in there, in trouble and he prayed. Now there is something you can understand; Jonah praying from the depth of his trouble. All the time up to here he’s been running away. He can’t get any further from God. God has caught him captive to capture his attention. And He has it. Jonah prays.

You and I pray like that don’t we? When things are going well and we are running our own lives, when the cash flow is good, when work is working well, when the church isn’t fighting, when we can shop for all the toys we want, God is out of the picture. We are actually more comfortable with God that way. When he’s at arms length or more He’s safe. Remember when Moses was on the mountain and he wanted to see God. God said, No! If you see me you’ll die. Moses insisted. God pushed Moses into a cave and covered it with his hand and Moses was able to see God’s “backside” just the glow of His glory. Moses glowed for weeks. He had to cover his face because just the glow was terrifying for the people of Israel. A close God isn’t safe. A close God has demands. A close God has to be dealt with. When God is close He sees the stuff I do. He knows the stuff I think. When God is close He wants to be in control. Better to keep God away than to get singed. And we do get singed. Wherever God is He brings the law with him. You shall not covet. You shall not kill. You shall not bear false witness. You can’t avoid the problem you have with these laws when God is near. It’s the same reaction you get when you tell people that something they are involved in is sinful. That kind of talk can get you killed.

“The bible says, Judge not lest ye be judged.”

Even people who don’t know anything else about the bible know this passage. And they say it in the “King’s English” for added authority. What they mean is that you can’t tell them that anything they choose to do is wrong. They use the passage to push you away, to push God’s judgment against them away. To get God out of the picture. It is a natural reaction to God.

We do it, too. We want, what we want, when we want it. God’s presence in our lives shows us our sinful nature. He makes our sin stand out. The mirror of God’s law shows us our sin.

And sometimes God lets us dig our own grave. That’s what Jonah did. He went down to the sea. He went down into the bottom of the boat. He went down into the water. He went down in to the belly of the fish. He went down into the deepest part of the sea. All to get away from God. Then at his lowest point. Jonah prays.

Has that ever happened to you? God leaves you on your own. God shows you your sin and you ignore Him. He lets it have its way with your live. Chaos follows. Trouble comes. Life breaks down. Happiness fleas. You find your self in the belly of the fish led there by your behavior. Life gets hard, impossible… then you pray.

One tribe of Native Americans had a unique practice for training young braves. On the night of a boy’s thirteenth birthday, he was placed in a dense forest to spend the entire night alone. Until then he had never been away from the security of his family and tribe. But on this night he was blindfolded and taken miles away. When he took off the blindfold, he was in the middle of thick woods. By himself. All night long. Every time a twig snapped, he probably visualized a wild animal ready to pounce. Every time an animal howled, he imagined a wolf leaping out of the darkness. Every time the wind blew, he wondered what more sinister sound it masked. No doubt it was a terrifying night for many. After what seemed like an eternity, the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest. Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and the outline of the path. Then, to his utter astonishment, he beheld the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrow. It was the boy’s father. He had been there all night long.

Jonah wanted God out. But in his deep distress, when he was a lost and condemned creature, when he was helpless, he turned to God for help. But he wasn’t alone. God was with him all along. He guided and directed all the events that brought Jonah to prayer. Jonah prays. God hadn’t abandoned him. The fish spit him out on the shore.

Jonah’s story, our story, is also God’s story in Jesus. Jonah faced God’s judgment and so did Our Savior. Jesus’ life seemed to spiral out of control. He told people that He was God come near. Repent for the kingdom of God is near. People replied as they always do, “Judge not lest ye be judged!” That kind of talk got Jesus killed. He ate with outsiders. He forgave sins. He healed and preached his way right to the cross. God’s judgment came down on Jesus. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed. When Jesus was hung on the cross, he prayed. Now here’s the thing. Jesus was left alone. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!” It’s a psalm, a prayer. God, the Father, turned away from Jesus. His judgment came down in full. Everything that happened to Jesus was directed by Him. And in his hour of greatest need, when he faced the full judgment of God, Jesus was left alone. The horror of it might just be too much to contemplate. That is our judgment. We push God out of our lives and He should just leave us to it. We should be hanging on the cross there with Jesus crying out for God to save us. And God should turn away and forsake us completely. And he does that to Jesus. Alone, afraid and suffering he dies. It is the punishment of total separation from God. It is what our sin deserves, but Jesus takes it for us. Jesus was spit out of death. He rose again from death. He was forsaken by God and then reclaimed. Jesus lives. Three days in the fish made Jonah a new man. Three days in the grave by Jesus makes you a new man, a new woman. Just as Jesus suffered for you He rises from the dead for you, too.

You are not alone in your suffering. Sometimes God allows you to go down, down, down, your own way until you find yourself alone and afraid. But God never leaves you. He left Jesus alone on the cross instead. That punishment was already poured out on Jesus. Forever alive, Jesus is now with you always. Like the Indian father in the woods. Jesus watches over you. When you are in trouble, and think you are alone, when you have lost everything else, you are forced to turn to God. When you are in the belly of a great big fish… you pray. And God is with you, there in the middle of your suffering. He promises life, when all you can see is death. Even if your trouble ends that way, you have a way through it. God will cause death to spit you out. Jesus life is your life. Your trouble isn’t the last Word, but Jesus is. That’s how you survive the belly of the great big fish. Amen.

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

Monday, March 16, 2009

Commentary on Being "Judgmental"

"Jan thought about warning the diver..."


From "The Sacred Sandwich, Dubious Photojournalism"

Saturday, March 14, 2009

1.Cor.1,18-25; Third Sunday during Lent; March 15, 2009;

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25, ESV)

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

We are rather foolish, don't you think? I mean, honestly, we've given up a beautiful morning... we could be sleeping in... my body and mind have not yet agreed with the time change. Crawling out of bed in the morning has become quite a chore. Some of you might even rather be out playing golf… you probably need the practice... maybe he could shave of a stroke or two. Just think of all the things you could be getting done this morning…

What are we really doing here anyway? Repeating some old dusty words... and talking down about ourselves. It just doesn't seem wise to admit that we are 'by nature sinful and unclean.' I don’t think Norman Vincent Peale or pastor Schuller would approve. Wouldn't it be better to say that we had a poor childhood, or our parents abused us, it really isn't our fault that we do the things that we do. It would seem much more productive to talk about the things we do right.... It really doesn't seem very uplifting to listen to someone who you really don't know preach to you about things that are wrong with your life. And worse yet tell you you are a sinner. Sometimes it feels like pouring salt on the wounds... it can be like beating us when we're down. And some of those Lenten hymns just don't have much of an up theme do they. They seem to just drag on. It can all feel... well... foolish.

There are other things that go on in this place place that seem foolish too. Dropping money into that plate as it goes by. Don't you think that it's foolish to drop money into a bucket with a hole in it. The faster it goes in the faster it runs out...

Life is short, play hard! Makes a lot more sense than 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' I surely don't want to miss out on anything. I think it was Billy Joel who sang, "Only the Good Die Young." it was a ballad to Catholic girls who wait too long to 'fool around.' Doesn't it make more sense to test each other out before making a commitment like marriage. How do you really know someone unless you... well sleep with them for a while. It seems foolish to think that you can really get to know someone any other way.

Suffering is overrated. But somehow we end up talking a lot about it here. It seems foolish to think that pain is good. Oh sure we say, "no pain; no gain" but that's quite different from the pain of cancer, or a death in the family. If pain were good it wouldn't feel bad, it wouldn't hurt. It seems foolish not to avoid something that hurts. Isn't that why God invented pain.

I don't know about you... but I have never seen a miracle. I know of people who beat cancer, or were healed by doctors, but an out right miracle... I don't think so... nothing like the bible tells us, anyway. It is hard to believe that those things really happened, so long ago... Medical Science just doesn't back it up.

And there is so much more... the sprinkling of water on a baby... a thin wafer and strong wine... centuries old prayers... and lit candles... and all of this foolishness hangs on a naked man on a cross. That is the most foolish thing of all... to think that a man, a criminal, executed by one of the greatest civilizations that has ever existed... a beaten, bloody, weak, and dying Jew in a far off country and a far off time, could mean anything to me or you. If you look up 'foolish' in many people's dictionaries... right there drawn in the margin would be a picture of Jesus, crucified, dead and buried. Foolishness.

That is how all of this is seen in eyes of the world. Sometimes, my friends, that is even how we see it. ... when we wonder about the pain in our lives, or the logic of waiting for marriage. When our lives don't make sense because of unmanageable change. When death knocks on our door... and God feels a million miles away. And it all seems so foolish.

It is at those times when our faith directs us to the very thing that the world considers the most foolish. We look to our crucified Lord. When we look on the cross we see a beaten, bloody and dying jew... but, with the eyes of faith we see more than that. We see the Jesus Christ crucified... for us. We see him bearing the burden of the whole world's sin. We see him bearing the burden of our sin. Instead of being a million miles away, instead of being separated from human suffering, he showed us how much he loves us when he came to be in this world. He came to be a human being and experience the things that trouble us. He came to feel our pain and suffering. He came to be with us. Immanuel.

All of the things we do here reflect that. It isn't any wonder that people outside those doors don't understand it, even more think it is all foolishness. But we believe it because we believe in Christ Crucified.

When water is poured upon a baby and Christ declares through the words we speak that this is now one of his own dear children; We believe it because we believe in Christ Crucified. His death and even more so his resurrection make his promises true. We believe what he did and we believe what he says.

When we approach the communion rail and eat bread and wine and Christ declares through the words we speak that he is with us; we believe it because we believe in Christ Crucified. We believe in what he did for us, his suffering and death so we believe in what he says about his supper.

When we are suffering and there is not end in sight; and Christ declares through a visiting Christian brother or sister that suffering brings us closer to him; We believe it because we believe in Christ Crucified. We believe it because we know that Christ Crucified knows suffering; Christ Crucified knows pain; and Christ Crucified knows us.

When it seems as if the whole world stands in opposition to God's will for a man and a woman. And marriage is assaulted from all sides... mocked and belittled; Christ declares through the words of wedding vows that a man and woman are united together and become one flesh. We believe it because we believe in Christ Crucified. We believe it because he came to earth as a sexual human being.

When the panic wants to set in over the budget... when we wonder if the doors of the church will be closed, and if his word will ever be preached in this place again; Christ declares through the word read in this place that his word will never pass away; We believe it because we believe in Christ Crucified; We believe in the word become flesh and living among us full of grace and truth.

When we stand together here in this place shoulder to shoulder with Christian brothers and sisters and confess that we are sinful people, undeserving of God's grace and forgiveness; and Christ speaks through the words of his servant; "I forgive you." We believe it because we believe in Christ Crucified. We believe he willingly hung naked, bruised, bleeding and dying on wooden cross. We believe that his death won forgiveness for us. We believe that he gives that forgiveness to us through his word.

Are we being foolish? Well, maybe... at lest it is in the eyes of those who aren't sitting here with us. They would have us believe that the things of God are foolish. But "the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom." The foolishness of God sent Jesus Christ to the cross. The foolishness of God allowed him to suffer and die. And the foolishness of God raised him again to life, bringing that life to all who believe. That is beyond human wisdom. Human wisdom just can't figure it out; in only makes sense in faith. In faith we hold on the the foolishness of Jesus Christ crucified. In faith all of the foolish things we do here make sense.

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

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jonah 1:1-17; Wednesday Lenten Service; March 11, 2009;

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.” And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:1-17, ESV)

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

Consider Fallon, Nevada. The EPA has found that Fallon’s water system delivers more arsenic to its customers than any other large town water system in America. Folks there even joke about it: “Arsenic? It only bothers you if you’re not used to it.” Tim Miller, who has lived in Fallon all his life, jests, “Arsenic is no biggie. I’ll die of something. It’s called life. Once you’re born, you start dying.” The arsenic levels remain high, not because people like drinking arsenic, but because they don’t want to pay for the solution, a $10 million treatment plant. One local official said, “This is Nevada. They don’t want to feel government is intruding in their lives.” Talk about being obstinate! These people would rather serve arsenic-laced water to their children than allow the government to “intrude” into their lives with a water treatment plant. Their stubborn, ridiculous choice to dig in their heels is repeated time and again by humans across the country and throughout the globe.

Jonah is a stubborn soul. He doesn’t want to go to Nineveh. He does everything in his power to avoid it. He runs away from home. Imagine the picture of the 4 year old. “Mommy, if you don’t by me that toy I’m going to run away from home.” Or the five year old sulking in her room. “No body loves me; Everybody hates me; Sitting in the garden eating worms.” It’s the same attitude. Jonah runs to the shore. “No matter what, I’m not going to go to Nineveh!” He spends the money necessary to get a ship to get as far away from what God has told him to do as possible. He actually thinks if he runs away from home, he’s running away from God. If he runs away from God, he won’t have to do what he’s been told to do. Stubborn Jonah gets on the ship and heads out to sea. But God provides…

Yep, that’s what I said, “God provides… He provides a great wind.” And the wind blew up a great storm. Our God is a providing God. He provides what we need not what we want. God provides the storm for Jonah. But Jonah is stubborn. He goes down into the bottom of the boat and goes to sleep. “God, I’m sleeping don’t bother me. I know its 6:30. I know its time to get up and get ready for school. But the time change is unfair. I’m not getting up!” “God you can’t make me go to Nineveh!” Jonah is snoozing away in his stubborn sin. His shipmates are suffering, facing the storm. Finally, the skipper has enough. “If you don’t get up I’m going to throw a bucket of water on you. Get up pray for us! We are going to die!”

Stubborn Jonah wakes up but he sits in silent stubborn sin. He doesn’t say a word. The sailors decide enough is enough. They cast lots to decide whose fault it is. But they already know. I imagine Jonah sitting in the corner wrapped up in his blanket stubbornly refusing to participate. Still, when everyone has selected a straw, Jonah gets the only one left. It’s the short straw. “Ok, ok I’m up. But I’m not going to be happy.” “Ok, God I admit it. It’s my fault, but God… Jonah deflects the blame. “I’m sinful but God is to blame for the storm. I worship him. He did it.” It’s typical of stubborn sinners. “I can’t help being homosexual. I was born that way. My childhood was bad because God gave me parents who didn’t care about me. I know gossip is wrong. But I just can’t keep this story quiet. It’s the way God made my brain to work. I can’t help it. The boss God gave me doesn’t have clue. He’s such a dweeb. He doesn’t deserve respect.” Jonah refuses to take responsibility for the problems he’s caused. The sailors accuse him, “what have you done to us!” The sailors are afraid and rightly so. The God of the universe is not to be trifled with. But Jonah is stubborn he won’t relent. “I’m not going to Nineveh! Throw me overboard. If I’m dead I can’t go! I won’t go!”

There’s a lot of Jonah in you. Your reaction to sin and God’s law is the same. “That was a great sermon pastor. You really nailed them with the law. Too bad the people who really need to hear it are at home in bed.” Or “That’s not sinful.” “I’m not doing anything wrong.” “It’s not my fault.” “I’m better than he/she is.” The truth is we’d rather die than give up our sin. We’ll give up what’s on the surface. We want to look good. But we think that God doesn’t really see our heart. We actually think we can hide our sin there. “God do anything but don’t take my sin away.” Picture yourself. Sitting in the stormy boat wrapped up in your blanket, clutching onto your stinking sin. “I probably shouldn’t tell you this but… did you hear about….” “I was sitting here minding my own business, searching on Google when those pictures just popped up.” “I’ll never forgive my ex for what she said about me.” “I don’t hold a grudge. I get even.” You don’t want to change. You won’t change. You can’t change. “Throw me overboard!”

“Throw me overboard! It’s the one thing the sailors don’t want to do. Talk about rowing upstream. The more stubbornly they row the more God sends the storm against them. Finally they give up and do what Jonah wants. And suddenly the storm stops. And stubborn Jonah sinks. “Now try to get me to Nineveh!”

“And God provided a great fish to swallow stubborn Jonah.” It looks like judgment doesn’t it? It looks like torture. He’d rather die than give in. The storm wasn’t enough for Jonah so down the gullet he goes. But the torture is really treatment. The fish is there to save Jonah. The fish is God’s SOS. He is God’s Law in fish flesh, to Show us Our Sin. Jonah refuses to throw his sin overboard. He’s willing to die instead. So into the water he goes. Jonah is lost. But God saves him from death. God provides a fish. He is Jonah’s savior. After three days in the fish it vomits him up on the shore and Jonah has a change of heart (or does he?).

The fish is still God’s SOS. The fish Shows us Our Savior. Jesus told his enemies that all the sign the needed was in Jonah’s fish. God saves us from our stubborn sin. We’d rather commit suicide. We’d rather die than give up our sin. And that’s what happens. It is no accident that the ancient church used the fish for a sign of Jesus. It is the sign of Jonah. The fish takes Jonah to his death. Deep into the water. For three days Jonah is good as dead in the stomach of the fish, in the deep, deep darkness of the sea. But he is safe. Saved by the fish. Saved from his stubborn sin. And spit up on the shore again.

The Greek word for fish is IXTHUS. It is an anagram for Jesus. In Greek the first letter of each of the words Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior spells IXTHUS, fish. Our Jesus, our fish saves us from our sin. Saint Paul says,

“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (1 Corinthians 15:54b-56, ESV)

God provides the law to push us to Jesus. It is our SOS. It shows us our sin. Jesus takes our sin and swallows it up in victory. It’s not the victory we think it is. There’s no hoopla, at least not at first. Jesus carries our sin in his body to the cross. The law accuses him and he, even though he is not guilty, is declared to be guilty. We die to sin with Christ on the cross. He protects us from death by taking our death into himself. And then for thee days Jesus lies in the deep, deep, darkness of the belly of death. But you see, He can’t stay there. Only our sin, and our punishment stay there. Death can’t help but vomit Jesus out. That’s because Jesus is life. He is perfect life, perfectly lived, and perfectly sacrificed. He wins the victory over death. He takes out the stinger. We rise with Jesus, too.

Listen to Paul describe it in Colossians:

having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:12-14, ESV)

Sounds like Jonah and the fish doesn’t it!

So tonight I say to you. Give up your stubborn sin. Let Jesus drown it here at the font. Jump into the water with both feet. Die with Christ, your IXTHUS, your Fish, your Savior. And rise again with him. He does it all. He does it for you and to you. He’ll spit you up on the shore safe again. Amen.

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My Bible Study in the March 2009, Lutheran Witness.

image This month is pastor Watt's final installment of three in a row for "Searching Scriptures" in the Lutheran Witness.

Greetings, O Favored Ones: The Lord Is with You

Right now you have to read the printed edition for the whole study.

After this month the three studies will be posted here.

These are Pastor Watt's articles in the witness.

Search Scriptures Bible Studies:

Feature Articles:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lord, Have Mercy! Christ, Have Mercy! Lord, Have Mercy!

As they say, "and now for something completely different!"

Dear Lord, protect me from "Phoning it in!"


Monday, March 09, 2009

Lord, Have Mercy! Christ, Have Mercy! Lord, Have Mercy!

Take the time to watch this video.  It is a wonderful description of what worship is all about. 

I've not yet read pr. Harrison's book but if this is any indication of what it is like I can't wait to get my hands on a copy!


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Romans 5:1-5; Second Sunday in Lent, March 9, 2009;

1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5 (ESV)

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

We have been "justified" by faith. That's what St. Paul tells us. Justified. We see that word all over Paul's letters. And it is no wonder; this word is at the very heart of our faith. If we are not justified by Christ, we are still in our sin, St. Paul tells us. But, I wonder if sometimes we see it and just kind of pass it over, because it's a word that we think we should know what it means. Do we really understand what it means? And do we really know that we have been justified?

First let's make sure we understand what the word "justified" means. The picture is this. We stand before the judge guilty. There’s no plea bargain. There’s not fancy lawyer to get us of easy. We deserve the punishment that is coming our way. The worst part is we are standing before the most severe judge there is. He never lets anyone off that deserves punishment.

“You realize your crime deserves death.” He says.

We have to agree.

Just when the judge is about to pronounce the sentence Jesus steps forward.

“Father, this one is mine. I have already paid the price. I have already suffered his death.”

“Ok, My son, with you I am well pleased.” the judge responds. Then to you he says. “I declare you to be not guilty on account of the punishment already paid. You are free.”

What we are talking about here, being justified is what Jesus Christ has done for us. It's His life, death and resurrection that do it. We are declared to be righteous. That is sin set aside. Sin removed. Sin taken care of. My sin taken care of. Your sin taken care of.

Whenever we talk about being justified it's important that we remember that we are indeed sinful people. We are born that way. We need to be justified. No one who's been a parent can really believe that children are born without any sin. The smallest child will bear this out. Of course they need the attention they demand, but they are the most self-centered people on the planet. As they grow older we tend to overlook the selfishness, or think that it's cute. Go to any playground anywhere and you'll see the bald truth that children have to be taught not to hurt one another. I know the folks who you see on TV don't agree. But in spite of what they say, children do not have to be taught to hate, they have to be taught not to hate. I have a teenager in the house. I think the teenage years are the time when all of us struggle the most trying to balance selfishness and living in community. That struggle between what we really want and what is best for us and the people around us is what makes those years so difficult. Even when we get older some of us never get over the fact that we are supposed to share our toys. We are sinful people. Earlier in Romans Paul says it this way:

10as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; 11no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." 13"Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." 14"Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." 15"Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16in their paths are ruin and misery, 17and the way of peace they have not known." 18"There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:10-18, ESV)

The lying tongue, the bitterness, the anger, the pushing God out of our lives, we all have to admit that there we are, right there in the middle of the pack. We'd like all those "theirs" in there; "their tongues, their feet, their paths, their eyes, to be "theirs" that is someone else's. But we know that we lie, even if it's just those little white one that pop up in conversation to make us look better to our friends. And who hasn't been bitter about the nice things in life that other people seem to get so much easier than we do? And talk about no peace, even in our Christians families, yelling and anger are regular features of our lives. Just feel the tension as we try to make any decision at a voter’s meeting. But worst of all, we could walk around all day and simply ignore the fact that we are sinful people. We get into our everyday and everyday, and simply think that God will just ignore our sin because we do. But God won’t ignore sin. In fact, sin deserves punishment because it is an affront to God’s purity. God is perfect and holy, we are not. In order to be tolerated in God’s presence we have to be perfectly perfect, “without spot or blemish,” without any sin of any kind. To stand before God in sin is to stand before the judge who will condemn. "None is righteous, no not one" points out our need to be justified.

When we realize that the law Paul wrote is talking directly to us, then that's when those first few words "Since we have been justified…" come to us as pure Gospel, that's when it's not just Good News, it's Great News. "Since" Paul says. The word “since” means "in view of the fact that…." It's true. It's a fact. It's yours and it's mine. "Since we have been justified…" Even though we are sinners we have been made holy. We have been declared righteous. That selfishness that controls us from the time we are conceived through our adolescence and right into our adulthood, and even old age, is taken awy. God has seen to that by sending Jesus. From His adulthood all the way back to His conception He wasn't a sinful person; He was never selfish, He never spoke lies; He wasn't ever bitter about His place in life; and He always kept God in His mind and always thought of other people’s needs. That law that Paul preaches to us "no one does good, not even one." applies to everyone except Jesus. Jesus never sinned.

And yet, there is a way that all of it does apply to Jesus. He does something about our sin, because we can’t do anything about it ourselves. We are helpless to change. We are born with sin and in order to get rid of it, it has to be killed. Paul talked about that too in another letter he wrote.

21For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

And in the verse right before our text he says, 25[Jesus] was delivered up for our trespasses... (Romans 4:25, ESV)

All that sin, that deserves God’s punishment, was put on Jesus. He became the target of God’s anger. Jesus, God’s only and perfect Son, was killed because of it. He became sin… our sin… your sin… my sin… Jesus, the world’s only perfect person is also Jesus the greatest sinner who ever lived, not for sin of His own but your sin and mine. You know the sins that we wish weren’t ours. The ones that we wish were only “theirs” Their lying tongues that are really ours. Their bitterness that is really ours. The lustful thoughts that we love to have, but then regret when they are over. Our hating the judge for requiring us to be perfect. That sin that we wish was someone else’s really does become someone else’s in Jesus. In Jesus our sins are put to death. In Jesus they are sent to the grave. In Jesus they are under the punishment and anger of God. Jesus dies on the cross and takes the punishment for our sin. And He gives to us the righteousness of God. When Jesus takes our sin, and when he becomes sin for us, he gives us his perfect life, we become his righteousness. All that living right, all that doing good, all that not sinning is given to us in exchange for our sin. Jesus becomes sin, we become justified. So that’s what it means to be justified.

We’ve had here the best object lesson about justification that there can ever be. It has happened right here over and over again. Right here at this font the words are spoken. “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” When a pastor says it here he isn’t speaking for himself he is speaking for God. He does exactly what God has commanded us to do. And little children, born in sin, become God’s children. All the promises of God are now true for them. God justifies them through the cross of Jesus Christ. In that moment God declares the to be justified, not guilty of the sin they are borne with. Now remember Paul’s word, that little word “since?” It means “in light of the fact.” All that happens here at the font is in fact, founded on Jesus. It’s all because of what Jesus has done. You see it. You have a real picture that you can’t miss the meaning. The sin is washed away by water connected to God’s Word. You witness it. You see justification in action. It is one of the reasons we do baptize publicly, and why we recognize the private baptisms here during worship. There is no better picture than being justified and not lifting a finger to make it happen. Jesus comes and takes our sin and gives us his perfect life. Jesus lives perfectly. Jesus dies. Jesus rises again. When ever we see God working in baptism it is one of the clearest ways that we see that we have nothing at all to do with our justification. It is given to us through the work of God accomplished by Jesus Christ. And given to individuals given to you and me through water and God’s spoken Word and promises.

Do you know that it’s true for you? You do if you’re pointing to Jesus. You do if you are remembering that in your baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, God declared you to be not guilty. Because in that baptism Jesus took your sin to death on the cross and in your Baptism he gives you his perfect life. You’ve been justified. Amen.

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