26 October 2017
25 October 2017
12 October 2017
11 October 2017
05 October 2017
Brief Service of the Word:
Psalm 16 (sung antiphonally)
Reading: Hebrews 12:4–11
4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives."
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
He had been in church every Sunday he possibly could. He delighted in Bible Class and actively participated. The family he had grown up in was pious and still to this day his sisters talk about the joy of singing hymns together as they wash the dishes and put them away after meals. He was blessed with three children and numerous grandchildren and a godly wife. And then one day, when attending his granddaughter's volleyball game, he stood up only to fall down. His leg broke. And broke because a cancer had eaten all the way through the bone. I was his pastor and with him when the news came. It took him a while to process it, and he didn't say it to me but to his wife: "I guess God doesn't love me anymore."
When she shared this with me, my heart sank and I wanted to wallop him upside the head with a Bible. How could he think that? After all the sermons and Bible Classes, how? What would HE tell a coworker or a friend who said such nonsense to him?
But you know, that IS the struggle. It's one thing to know the love of God in theory, that is when the times are good. It's another thing to believe it and hold fast to it when the discipline touches you, your body, your life, your loved ones.
It was a dark moment for him, but he came out, as Luther would say, kissing the rod. Yes, his body was, short of a miracle, not going to recover this time. But he found peace: he was "subject to the Father of spirits" and so he lived and dies and yet lives still. He triumphed in submission, and spent his final days actively witnessing his hope to the staff in the home where he was being treated.
God, of course, is not terribly interested in your happiness. In fact, not interested in it at all, and neither should you be. The God who, you tell yourself, wants you to be happy, that is just an idol of your own making. The real God wants you to be holy. Or more accurately, to share His holiness. And this doesn't come from giving you nothing but sunny days and balmy skies and smooth sailing in your relationships and in your health and in your pocketbook or portfolio. It comes when He takes the rod in hand, treating you as His sons and daughters, whom He loves entirely too much to leave as slaves to hedonism, to pleasure. God is NOT against pleasure. He is against you settling for the teasing tastes that He sends to lead you to something more. The more is Him: "In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore." And you know who is at His right hand. He is the Joy and He is the Pleasures forevermore. The whole point of the discipline, then, is to train you to find in Jesus all your joy, all your pleasure, and to find Him to be enough. And this is not something that is apparent when you are living the life of Job pre God's and Job's crap match.
So He sends the sorrows. Not because He hates you. Because He loves you. Because He wants you to share in His holiness, because He wants you to find in Jesus and in His love for you absolutely everything that you truly need for time and for eternity.
Don't beat yourself up when you have doubts about His love when the trials come. The point of the trials is to expose the doubts, to send you running into the Savior's arms and to have you hear His Spirit's testimony in your hearts: "You are mine, child. I love you. I died for you. I forgive you every sin. I will raise you from the dead. I have your every need covered. Really and truly. Don't be afraid. Hush now. Just rest here in my arms."
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Hymn: All Depends on Our Possessing 732
O Lord, we pray that Your grace may always go before and follow after us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Father of spirits, we ask for the suffering the grace of submission to Your will that they may know in the hardships Your love and so live. We especially commend to You Al, Amy, Allan, Jan, together with all the suffering and the grieving through the recent tragedies. Grant to each the comfort and restoration that is according to Your will, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Gracious Giver of Life, it is Your will that none perish but that all be saved and come to know the truth of Your love. Hear our prayers for Pr. Jonathan Clausing and his family as he serves in Kenya, that they be strengthened in sharing the good news and provided with their daily bread; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Taught by our Lord and trusting His promises we are bold to pray: Our Father...
The grace of our Lord Jesus + Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all! Amen.
02 October 2017
From Psalm 10:
He sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent, his eyes stealthily watch for the helpless; he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket... The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might. He says in his heart, "God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it." Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand, and forget not the afflicted.
From Psalm 11:
For behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart; if the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do? The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test, the children of man. The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
From Psalm 12
On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the children of man.
Oh, Christians! Let us take up our Psalters again and pray. We will find in the Songs of David the very words we need for when our own words fail.
01 October 2017
I remember five years ago this August driving Lauren, Sawyer, and Cindi to the airport, coming home and watching the light fade on the wall. Great sadness. A stage in life's journey was over (having all my children close at hand). Now my daughter and her little family (hey, it was little at the time!) would be 14 hours away by car. And as I was driving Lauren and the four kids (plus that wretched cat) back to Illinois for a period of transition as they prepare to head up to Wisconsin as Dean assumes the pastorate of two parishes (this time only 8 hours away), I thought: I'm living Psalm 126. I went out weeping that August day, carrying precious seed for sowing, but I'm rejoicing in bringing the sheaves home with me. And since that day, three grandchildren here in Illinois, and the engagement of youngest daughter, Rebekah, with her upcoming marriage in May to Andy. The precious seeds, planted, are flourishing and for that all glory be to God on high!