Tag Archives: Bible

The Real “Never Ending Story”

Matthew 28:16-20

The story of Christ is a hard one to tell chronologically when you try to fit it in the church year. It would be nice if we had a way to fit Jesus and the Gospel into the traditional form of a story: beginning, middle, and end. But when we hear of Jesus throughout the year it just doesn’t work that way. It’s all jumbled up.

The year begins with Advent – great. We are awaiting the birth of the King, the Messiah, Jesus. But we are also looking toward the return of Jesus – the second coming of the King. We also have John the Baptist proclaiming the Messiah – so Jesus is already born and an adult. The timeline is all out of whack here. Okay, let’s start at Christmas. We go along good for a bit: baby in the manger, but closely linked to his is the story of the Magi at Epiphany – which is really three years or so after Jesus is born.

This could be very frustrating if we are hoping to see the Gospel as a story, like some novel, but it is not. It doesn’t begin at Christmas and end at Easter. Jesus does not “ride off into the sunset” so to speak. It doesn’t end at the Ascension, because Pentecost comes and Jesus – though his earthly ministry is finish – remains with us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Be God’s grace he comes to us physically in the Lord’s Supper.

The story never ends. It is ongoing AND IT IS ONGOING IN OUR LIVES. The “book” is never closed and put back on the shelf, and we are not simply readers but participants. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 and Jesus admonition to “Go, Make, Baptize, and Teach” calls us into the story with Jesus. We are in this together.

Lord God, by the power of your Holy Spirit help me to always remember that I am part of the Gospel story and that the Gospel is really not a story at all. It has no beginning, middle, or end – it is eternal, just as you are eternal. Help me to participate fully with Jesus in making the world know your grace and mercy. AMEN.


Don’t Be a Dusty Bible

Matthew 4:12-23

“Jesus Begins His Ministry.”

That is what the subtitle says in this section of the Gospel in my super-duper 500th Anniversary of the Reformation ESV Bible (with genuine leather cover and gold-leaf edging – thank you very much). It is truly a wonderful thing to behold – not quite an illuminated manuscript, but Hey! I didn’t have years to wait and didn’t have any unemployed monks handy.

Bottom line is the Word of God rest in nicely appointed covers with nice shiny edges on the pages. In Jesus, God’s Word found a far more beautiful home, for He was the Word Made Flesh – the eternal Word of God, truly God and truly man and much more fantastic than my anniversary edition of the Bible. Why? Because Jesus didn’t keep the Word contained. That is what ministry was all about – making God’s Word known to those who so desperately need to hear it. This is what Jesus calls us to do.

We can either be like my Bible and keep the Word locked up within us or we can be like Jesus and preach that Word to the world that needs it. That is what ministry is all about, at the end of the day. Feeding, clothing, paying rent, giving food vouchers, whatever it might be are all nice things but are part of something bigger: Making God’s Word Known.

So go be like Jesus and not like my super-duper 500th Anniversary of the Reformation ESV Bible (with genuine leather cover and gold-leaf edging). By itself that Bible could just lie on the table and gather dust. Jesus on the other hand didn’t sit around gathering dust.

Be like Jesus.

Your Word tell us that, “In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” By the power of your Holy Spirit, O God, help us to be proclaimers and doers of Your Word, rather than dusty containers upon a shelf. This I pray in Jesus’ name – AMEN.

Call and Response

John 1:29-42

In music there is something called “Call and Response.” It is a succession of distinct musical phrases played by two different musicians or sung by two different singers. As you would imagine the second phrase is a direct response to the first. Have you ever heard of it? Have you ever heard it? I bet you have and never knew it. Anyone who has ever been in the military has sung a call and response. Remember this one:

“Hey, Hey Captain Jack
Meet me down by the railroad track”

Yup, that is “Call and Response.” It also common in popular music. Remember the Banana Boat Song?

“Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home”

In the church we also use “Call and Response” in both prayers and music. When a church sings the Psalm antiphonaly it is using “Call and Response.”

In our relationship with God there is likewise “Call and Response.” In this week’s Gospel John proclaims Jesus as the Lamb of God, but if we look at what is happening – not only in the Gospel but in the Old Testament reading (Isaiah 49:1-7) and in the Epistle (1 Cor. 1:1-9). Isaiah is called and likewise Paul. In the Gospel reading the first disciples are called to Jesus by what they have witnessed.

It is not enough to know who Jesus is – not enough to know that He is the Lamb of God. He is calling you to be His disciple – His Call, your Response. The question is will you answer the call or will the beautiful song of God that is His offer of a relationship and salvation have no response from you.

Heavenly Father, you call us to greater things than we can ever imagine. You have given us so much in the person of your Son Jesus Christ. Help us by your Holy Spirit to join in the song of new life, service, salvation and eternal life in Jesus – AMEN.

Proclaim Salvation!

Luke 2:15-21, Luke 22:22-32

It is funny how people like to use words to obfuscate, to skirt around things they not like. Take this upcoming Sunday – what some like to call the “Naming of Jesus.” Pretty bland is it not? It says really little about Jesus we do not already know.

We already know he is “Emmanuel – God with Us” and Jesus or Joshua in the Hebrew means, “He saves.” Both of these names tell us who Jesus is and what he will do: God will be with us and will redeem us through His Son.

This coming Sunday was traditionally known as the “The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ.” It is a shame we downplay this in favor of the naming. Perhaps for certain segments of the church Jesus’ circumcision is “too male” and  an uncomfortable reaffirmation of Jesus masculinity.

Focusing on the circumcision has significance: it is the first instance of Jesus’ precious blood being shed. The shedding of this blood tells us two things – firstly, Jesus is fully human – affirming that Jesus is “with us” in all aspects. He fully shares our humanity. Secondly, he is (at this point through the faithfulness of his parents) obedient to the Law and the will of God.

Of equal significance and something left out of the lectionary reading for this Sunday is the witness of Simeon and his subsequent song:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant[a] depart in peace,
    according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
    that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

Simeon affirms the salvific mission of Jesus and his messianic personage. Additionally, his proclamation does not limit the redemption Jesus will bring, for he is “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.” The knowledge of God and salvation are available to all and through this salvation God will be glorified.

Gracious and Merciful God, we give you thanks for the salvation you have brought to the whole world through your Son Jesus. We know that some will reject this gift, yet we also know we are to extend this gift to all. Help us to be givers of your Word and help us to be like Simeon so that we might boldly proclaim salvation in Jesus name – AMEN.

Give the Gift of God’s Word

John 1:1-14, Isaiah 52:7-10

What is Christmas all about? I am not going to get down on the whole secular Christmas deal. I love trees, lights and jingle bells as much as the next guy – so I am not going there. So the question I ask what is Christmas about? It’s Jesus birthday comes to mind. It is a time of peace. Christmas is about giving, about family. There are probably a lot we can say Christmas is about.

Ultimately Christmas is about the Word of God. That is what Jesus is: the Word of God incarnate – that is “in-the-flesh.” The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John says.

Okay. Fine, well, and good. But what then. Well, we know that God sent his son to save us from sin, death, and the devil by His precious blood upon the cross, but what then? What do we do with the Word – not just this Word made flesh, but subsequently the written Word of God – Holy Scripture.

Isaiah tells give us an answer.

“How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
    who announces salvation,
    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

We often think about what we can get or what we got because of Christmas. We think of salvation (or maybe some choice Christmas presents). Isaiah refocuses us to what we are to do and not what we get. Isaiah tells us that the righteous, the blessed, the ones pleasing to God are those who bring His Good News. Jesus is the Good News and we are called to announce Him and His peace, His Good News and His Salvation, which is for us.

So this Christmas give the gift of God’s Word and continue to do this throughout the year.

Heavenly Father help us to bring the message of peace, Good News, and salvation to all those with whom we come in contact, the same we you brought us the these things in the person of Your Son. This we pray in Jesus name. AMEN.

Sometimes it’s “Right” to be “Wrong”

Matthew 1:18-25

People love being right. It is only natural. Even the most good-hearted person doesn’t like to be wrong – though the good-hearted person might give up being right for the sake of others. Some years ago I read a book entitled, “As a Gentleman Would Say.” It advised that it is often better to relinquish being right and save ones honor and that of others than to press one’s “right” to the detriment of all.

I think one could say that Joseph was truly a gentleman – not in the phony Victorian way based on birth but rather based on character. Joseph could have had Mary put to death, but even before the dream that assured Joseph of Mary’s purity, he chose to do the honorable and kind thing toward her.

Too often in this world people will fight to the death when they are right (or think they are) and often for the most mundane things. Bottom line is you need to – “Know when to hold ’em; know when to fold ’em.” You pick your battles. You don’t always have to be right. Sometimes the “right” thing to do is give the other person the privilege of being right even when you know they are wrong.

Joseph could easily have exercised his right to be right and saved his honor by publicly denouncing Mary for what he believed to be her infidelity. No one would have disputed it or faulted him for it. Yet, he chose not to do what was right and acceptable in the society, choosing rather to do what was right, even though to some it might have looked like the wrong things to do.

Heavenly Father, help me to be gracious in all things, to do the right thing always, to think of others before myself, as Jesus thought of others when he gave his life to redeem us. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

Be the Outsider

Matthew 3:1-12

Society doesn’t take very kindly to outsiders. Society would like you to conform to whatever it is that a particular society wants you to be – what it deems good and right. This is very dangerous, not only to the body but to the spirit and especially the soul.

Recently the foul and evil dictator Fidel Castro (darling of the American Left) died. I am sure (short of some miraculous conversation) he will roast in Hell. May God forgive me, but I have to say, “couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.” He and his ilk were/are all about making people conform and they went/will go to the most drastic and draconian measures to do so. Why? Because systems opposed to God and His will do whatever they can to remain in power. In essence the state becomes God and all must bow down before it.

Outsiders are important. Many of our great churchmen could be called outsiders: Martin Luther would rather conform to the Word of God rather than the concoctions of Rome, Dietrich Bonhoeffer chose to conform to Word of God rather than the religion of Nazism. Both men proclaimed greater truths than those being proclaimed by those who defined society for the masses. Notice that both of these men and other were not anarchists, iconoclasts or ideological non-conformists. The chose to conform to the greater thing.

John the Baptist was an outsider, figuratively and literally; in his dress, his habitation and his proclamation of God’s Word. John chose to conform to the Word of God  and proclaim the coming messiah rather than conforming to the society and its dominant religious view.

In a world that is increasingly becoming homogenized, pre-packaged and auto-tuned; in a world that presses people to conform to its vapid and vacuous humanism be the outsider. As Saint Paul says in Romans 12:2, “ Do not be conformed to this world,  but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect”

O God, by the power of your Holy Spirit, strengthen me to put off the things of this world and take upon myself those things you would have me do and desire. In the world that rejects you help me to be the outsider who proclaims you boldly. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.