30 August 2019
And now with many words: my right-hand, Deaconess Sandra Bowers.
Sandy and I have known each other for so long that it seems like she's always been part of our lives. I still remember the horrid snowstorm where my family been trapped inside for days and we were all at each other's throats. And at a time when surely no sane person would be out and about, a knock at the door. Sandy and Matt with board games to play. I remember I was so exasperated with the kids at the moment that I was anything but gracious. I think I said something along the lines of: "Come on in, if you don't mind a bunch of people ready to kill each other." It was a marvelous evening. Who would drive from Highland to Hamel in snow??? Sandy! When I started at the IC and realized I was in over my head, I began to wonder whether Sandy might not be the answer. She was. In spades. (And that's one of her favorite cards games, by the way). Early on we struck an agreement: she does numbers (budget, spreadsheet stuff) and I do words (writing). We mostly stuck to that and it worked like a charm!
Another way we complimented each others gifts: we discovered through Strength Finders a very curious thing. Yours truly is gifted in but one of the four areas: strategy. Sandy, blessedly, was gifted in several areas, but excelled in execution. I wasn't sure how this worked together at first, but it finally gelled with this: I dream it up, Sandy makes it happen.
I remember feeling absolutely horrible about this at the last Institute. Toward the end, Sandy was working like a mad woman. And it seemed whenever I would try to help, I only got in her way and caused her MORE work. It finally took Kevin (my fellow-voyager in all things Bible) telling me: you do what you do, let her do what she does. All my "help" tended toward the sort of things that made her life more burdened. I learned a valuable lesson: get out of the way. She'll take care of it, and cheerfully do whatever she asks me specifically to do. And don't try offering her what surely (to me) seems a better way to do x or y; invariably I was off base. She'd have to take time to explain why I hadn't thought this through and if we DID x or y, then z or a was going to be likely and undesirable consequence.
Which is just a long winded way of saying I learned to trust her ability to get stuff done and to distrust my own instincts when it came to anything dealing with execution. This is as simple as when I was going to "help" her unwrap the communion ware for convention. And she knew exactly what a disaster that would be, because she knew ahead of time she was going to save every little plastic bubble wrap bag to put them all back in (really! She did too! And so they're all ready to go for next time round)! She gave me a stern lecture about how it would have to be done and I think accomplished her objective of scaring me off elsewhere to work on something different, you know, something with words where I couldn't do too much damage unsupervised.
She has seen us through two Liturgical Institutes and three Synod Conventions now and what a blessing she has been through it all. And that's not even counting the stuff she just makes happen at the IC week by week. Oh, there's chapel today and someone to play and someone to preach the Gospel? Thank Sandy! And how she does it all with such a generous sense of humor (provided I'm not helping her).
So Deaconess Bowers orchestrated my farewell reception at the IC. It could NOT have been more perfect. Cake and punch, right? Well, not with Sandy dreaming things up. For this carnivore there were eggs fried and hardboiled, sausages (fried up in ONM even!), and then bacon. The requisite cake sported a warning as you can see in the pics. It was a hoot and half! Such joy. We all laughed and laughed and she gave me a shirt featuring my food pyramid: chicken, standing on hog, standing on cow. YES. Beautiful flowers for Cindi from Grace. A stunning calligraphy of stanza three of "Lord, Thee I Love." Overwhelming. Thank you Sandy and Barb and all who worked to make the most fun farewell EVER. I am going to miss you all!
29 August 2019
25 August 2019
23 August 2019
22 August 2019
20 August 2019
15 August 2019
09 August 2019
08 August 2019
Prayer and Preaching, p. 260
Reading: Jeremiah 7:1-11
Jeremiah 7:1-11 (NLT) 1 The LORD gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, 2 "Go to the entrance of the LORD's Temple, and give this message to the people: 'O Judah, listen to this message from the LORD! Listen to it, all of you who worship here! 3 This is what the LORD of Heaven's Armies, the God of Israel, says: "'Even now, if you quit your evil ways, I will let you stay in your own land. 4 But don't be fooled by those who promise you safety simply because the LORD's Temple is here. They chant, "The LORD's Temple is here! The LORD's Temple is here!" 5 But I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice; 6 only if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows; only if you stop your murdering; and only if you stop harming yourselves by worshiping idols. 7 Then I will let you stay in this land that I gave to your ancestors to keep forever. 8 "'Don't be fooled into thinking that you will never suffer because the Temple is here. It's a lie! 9 Do you really think you can steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, and burn incense to Baal and all those other new gods of yours, 10 and then come here and stand before me in my Temple and chant, "We are safe!"--only to go right back to all those evils again? 11 Don't you yourselves admit that this Temple, which bears my name, has become a den of thieves? Surely I see all the evil going on there. I, the LORD, have spoken!
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
People loved by God, the crowds to whom Jeremiah preached and wrote were tempted to abuse the great promises of God regarding His temple. They remembered God's words to Solomon: 1 Kings 9:3 (NLT) "I have heard your prayer and your petition. I have set this Temple apart to be holy--this place you have built where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart." But their selective memory ignored the threat God made only a few verses later in the same chapter: "But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the commands and decrees I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, then I will uproot Israel from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my name. I will make Israel an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations. And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass by will be appalled and will shake their heads in amazement. They will ask, 'Why did the LORD do such terrible things to this land and to this Temple?'" Couldn't have been much clearer, could He? And yet they dared to treat the Lord's temple as a talisman, a sort of magic charm that warded off destruction and somehow guaranteed their continuing as a nation in the land regardless of how faithless they were to the covenant; how much they rebelled against His commands. "The temple of the Lord! The temple of Lord!" they chanted, and thought they were safe. So they deceived themselves, but Jeremiah exposes their deception and invites to repentance.
Oh, people loved by God, do we face a similar danger today, particularly we Lutherans Christians? Do we not sometimes treat Holy Baptism and the Holy Eucharist as talismans? As Lutherans we're convinced we've got the straight on biblical scoop on the Sacraments. But do we ever abuse them to comfort ourselves that impenitence and rebellion in our lives against God is all going to turn out okay because we've been baptized and take communion. With our imagined "get-out-of-hell-free" card in our back pocket do we blithely go on our way, blind as ancient Judah to God's implacable opposition to impenitence. "No sin can bring me into judgment! I am baptized! I took communion last Sunday! i am saved. I am good to go."
Ack! Lord, have mercy on us if those sacred gifts offered to us to grant us forgiveness AND grace to resist and fight disobedience to Christ in our lives, to enable lives of genuine repentance and contrition, end up being abused by us, by not being used toward their intended end.
Throughout the prophets God is clear that He's not interested in mere ritual compliance. "This people draws near to me with their mouth, but their heart is far from me!" "To obey is better than sacrifice." "Rend your hearts and not your garments! Return to the Lord that He may have mercy and to our God for He will abundantly pardon."
make no mistake, the temple as the forgiveness place pales in comparison with Christ's sacraments. Yet Holy Baptism and the Eucharist, so chocked full with the forgiveness of Jesus, poured into them by the Savior Himself, the very atonement of the cross dished out richly over your life and into your body, mind, soul, and spirit, both, I say, end up bringing only judgment if you use them with the assumption that merely receiving them outwardly guarantees God's certain favor. That is no different from "the temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord" that Jeremiah decried.
So while it is true that baptism now saves us, as St. Peter taught, and as our Lord said: "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved" it is also true that "he who does not believe will be condemned." Yes, even though he be chanting: "I am baptized! I am baptized!" all the way to the grave. And the Eucharist is of course the very body and blood of Him who wiped out all the sins of the all the world on the tree of the cross and is given now to you to eat and to drink for your forgiveness, but when you receive in an unworthy, thoughtless manner (particularly by not discerning the body of the Lord), what was intended for life brings judgment instead.
Our Augsburg Confession expresses this matter with clarity in article XIII: "Our churches teach that the Sacraments were ordained...to be signs and testimonies of God's will toward us. They were instituted to awaken and confirm faith in those who use them. Therefore we must use the Sacrament in such a way that faith, which believes the promises offered and set forth through the sacraments, is increased. Therefore, they condemn those who teach that the Sacraments justify simply by the act of doing them."
When the Lamb of God makes you a beautiful promise, people loved by God, this promise is to be heard, relied on, and put to work in your life. That's what it is to receive the Sacraments in faith, that is in repentance, because genuine faith only exists in repentance. God deliver you and me and all of us from presumption in the use of His holy gifts and stir up our hearts to living faith, through His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord. God grant it! Amen.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Hymn: 583 God Has Spoken by the Prophets
Prayers: Al, Zoey, Kent, Joel, Bonnie, Herb, Gene, Paula, Roger, Allan and Jan; for all those in missionary training this week.
03 August 2019
Yet the images blend in others. Think of Gerhardt's great "A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth" (and pity it was so reduced in LSB!): "The guilt of sinners bearing, and laden with the sins of earth...that spotless life to offer." Vicarious satisfaction. And yet the heroic task laid on Him by the Father, who is NOT against us, but precisely FOR us: "Go, forth, My Son, the Father said, And free my children from their dread of guilt and condemnation. The rod and stripes are hard to bear, but by Your passion they will share the fruit of your salvation." Christus victor, but conquering precisely in bearing "the rod and stripes." And as the believer steps back to look at the union of these two motifs: "O wondrous Love, what have you done? The Father offers up His Son, desiring our salvation. O Love, how strong You are to save! You lay the One into the grave who built the earth's foundation."
The unifying theme, of course, is the great exchange which is not exhausted by the incarnation, but reaches to the depths of Calvary and the cry of dereliction. And yet, the incarnation is not neglected. In fact, think of how Gerhardt could sing at Christmastide in a hymn that far exceeds any English carols I have ever heard: "Should we fear our God's displeasure, Who, to save, freely gave His most precious treasure? To redeem us He has given His own Son from the throne of His might in heaven." Pure Christus victor. God on our side sending the Savior. "See the Lamb, our sin once taking, to the cross, suff'ring loss, full atonement making. For our life His own He tenders and His grace all our race fit for glory renders." Pure vicarious satisfaction. And then in a glorious unity of themes, the Child calls out to us from His manger bed: "Softly from His lowly manger Jesus calls one and all: You are safe from danger. Children from the sins that grieve you, you are freed; all you need, I will surely give you." And so the explosion of joy: "Come, then, banish all your sadness! One and all, great and small, come with songs of gladness. We shall live with Him forever there on high in that joy which will vanish never."
Similarly hear the great exchange in another Christmas hymn: "He undertakes a great exchange, puts on a human frame, and in return gives us His realm, His glory and His name" (better auf Deutsch: und gibt uns in Dein Vaters Reich die klare Gottheit dran). "He is a servant, I a Lord, how great a mystery! How strong the tender Christ Child's love, no truer friend than He."
The great Good Friday hymn "O Darkest Woe" also unites both motifs: "Thy Bridegroom dead! God's Lamb has bled upon thy sin forever, pouring out His sinless self in this vast endeavor. // O Virgin's Son, what Thou hast won is far beyond all telling: How our God, detested, died, hell and devil felling." I could go on but this post has gotten too long. It was merely meant to commend Jack's fine work, T.R.'s great summary, and to comment on how the Lord Jesus becoming the victim who freely offers Himself in obedience to the Father to live the perfect life of love and to bear in His body the sins of the world and their penalty, and THUS putting to flight the enemies of the human race: sin, death, the devil and evil spirits and even silencing the power of His own Law to condemn us, is not merely taught and preached with gusto in our beloved Lutheran Church but also sung into the hearts of young and old. Okay, okay. One last one:
"O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild! For sinners You became a child. You came from heaven down to earth in human flesh through human birth (I first learned this as You came from heaven to fulfill Your Father's great and holy will). O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild! O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild! With God we now are reconciled. You have for all the ransom paid, Your Father's righteous anger stayed. O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild! O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild! Joy fills the world which sin defiled. Whate'er we have belongs to You; O keep us faithful, strong and true. O Jesus so sweet, O Jesus so mild!"