Quoting Giants…

“But every person must have experienced something of the bitterness  of penitence, or he will never even begin to relish the sweetness of the Gospel…Unless the rocky subsoil in their hearts has been pulverized by the Law, the sweet Gospel is of no benefit to them.

It is indeed a common observation that all those who have passed through great and profound sorrow at the beginning have become the best and most stalwart Christians.”

The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel – C.F.W. Walther

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On This Day

On this day, we remember so many things. We remember the smoke, the sirens, the screams, the gray clouds roaring, the multitudes of people who lost identity and became one huge ash-covered mass of population.

We think about the faces on fliers, hung on streetposts and walls through the city, searching for the lost. The bright sunshine, an irony to the darkness of the day, shone throughout the morning. There were no clouds to cover the empty skies.

We think about the firefighters and the police officers rushing in, the people who didn’t run out, the soldiers who perished not on the battlefield in some distance land, but in the headquarters here at home. We think about “Let’s roll!” and those who fought back for us.

Most of all, we think about sin, the cause of our suffering. It’s Sunday, and maybe that’s appropriate. For today we remember that we live in a world filled with sin. We live in a world filled with death and destruction and pain and loss. How much more then do we need salvation?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.

“It is finished.”

Amen.

There’s a clutter in my church life…

How cluttered is your church/faith life?  I know mine is very messy.  From the choirs I sing in (yes, plural) to the Board I serve on to the Bible classes and the books to read and the things to discuss and wonder and about which to pray.  I spent so much of my time thinking about my faith life, trying to remember what I’m supposed to be doing next in my church life, how I’m supposed to fit it all in, and then wondering how to streamline my faith life and church life so that they can dovetail together.  I want my life at church to hum along like a well-oiled and maintained machine.

There’s a website I like to read called unclutterer.com.  It’s an organizational nirvana, with interesting stories about ways to align your life with your priorities and pictures of beautiful and well-maintained office spaces.  But my favorite part is “Unitasker Wednesday.”  Every Wednesday, the website’s author finds a device/tool/object that very strangely, and often times absurdly, completes only one task, and usually not very well.  This is the kind of stuff you would find on the TV at 3 o’clock in the morning, only far, far less useful.

This, of course, begs the question, “Is there some way for me to organize my faith/church life?”  A plan or system or alignment that can bring it all together and make me able to move mountains, get it all done, and still get to choir on time.  And the answer is:

IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU, IT’S ABOUT JESUS FOR YOU!

There it is!  The Word of God is the ultimate Unitasker, only this one works as advertised and without fail!  All this time for working and planning and organizing, and completely missing the point!  I can spend the time I have doing things at church, being “involved” and trying my best to be a part of the church, but I’ve forgotten that I already am!  Jesus has called me to be His, to be part of His Bride the Church, in the Word with the Water in my Baptism.  He has called me by name, and given me Life Eternal in His Word.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  – Colossians 3:16-17

I don’t need to “organize” my faith life into my church life, and vice versa.  My Faith in Christ and Him crucified does it for me, not my own efforts or strength.  My priority is to read and study His Word, to listen to Him speak to me through the pages and the verses, and to repent of my desires to “be all that I can be” to the congregation.  A Faithful existence is not one filled to the brim with “church,” but one filled to the brim with God’s Word and Sacraments.  The clutter is swept away, and from that faithfulness comes the work that God has laid out for me, and the use of the talents that He has given to me to serve His church.

“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in all sincerity and in faithfulness.”  – Joshua 24:14 (My confirmation verse…oddly appropriate.)

Talk about timing! (And it’s all in the timing…)

A change is on the horizon.  A new season is coming.  For those of you in the midwestern U.S., the smell was in the air.  Fall is upon us, along with, for some of us, the preparations of another year of schooling, or the sending of children to regular classes at all levels.  The trees will soon turn many wonderful colors.  The days become short, the air gains a new crispness in the evening, and all around, life changes.

Ecclesiastes speaks to this change, and many others, in the first part of Chapter 3.  It states,

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keepo and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”

These are powerful words in our lives, because of the constant changes we endure.  The deaths and births, the moving from one place to another, the divorces and marriages that we encounter our lives.  We see change all around us.

And yet, our lives do have a Constant, a never-changing Source of Hope and Comfort, of Peace and Joy.  Malachi 3:6a, “I the Lord do not change.”  This is the assurance in our lives, the INSURANCE we need against change, large or small.  Whether we discovery a friend who does not return in the fall to school, or the destruction of our lives by fire, flood, or human fraility, we will always have the Lord with us, to guide and strengthen us, to hold us firm and keep us safe, no matter what season we experience.  Jesus Himself says in Luke 21:33, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.”

And those words are our unchanging Hope.

God’s Peace I bring you, God’s Blessing I wish upon you, God’s Hope and Comfort I leave with you.

Also see:  The Story of Job and his unchanging Faith, 1 Samuel 15:29 (NIV), Hebrews (shows the Unchanging God throughout time), Matthew 5:17-20 (The Word of God will not change)

Gospel of the Week – September 4th

Matthew 18:1-20 – It’s interesting to note that this week’s Gospel starts and ends with the name of Jesus, and the things that are done in the name of Jesus.  You can look at the whole of Matthew and see the bookends that are the name of Jesus.  The beginning is the genealogy, and Matthew 1:23, “‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”  The end is “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

We see the importance of the name of Jesus the Matthew, Chapter 18, as well.  “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.”

SIDEBAR:  In this time, children were not seen in the same light as they are today, in which they are given equal, and sometimes greater, status.  Children were less than grownups.  Not in a degrading way, but in the adults went first, and the children knew their place and fell in behind kind of way.  What Jesus is saying here is anyone who will go to lengths to serve even the least in His name are servants of all by faith in Christ (we see this in John 13, when Jesus takes the form of a servant and washes the disciples feet).  It’s important to note that this does not mean that the act of servitude earns us salvation in Christ, but rather our humility comes from the faith we have in Jesus, even in His very name, and moves in us the desire to serve.

The pericope for this week ends with the name of Jesus, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  We see that being together in the name of Jesus, which is what we do in church when we begin the service in the name of God, He comes among us and we are with Him.

The name of Jesus brings so much to us.  It gives power to Baptism, it blesses and sustains us in the Benediction, it leads and guides all that we do.  We see the faith which comes from the Word of Jesus in action in the verses prior to the last.  “If your brother sins against you” is not a prescription for what we MUST do, but rather the result of loving, kindness, and humility in faith for our brothers in Christ, a faith which leads us to draw back those who have fallen away.  Those who have become the lost sheep.  Those who sin, as we all have.  We have Jesus Himself, who brings life and salvation.

In Jesus name, Amen.