Tag Archives: Faith

The Real “Never Ending Story”

READ
Matthew 28:16-20

REFLECT
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.

PRAY
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.

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What They Received, so Have You.

READ
John 20:19-23

REFLECT
Breath: without it we die. One of the life-saving measures we learned in the military was restoration of breathing. If a person could not breath it was of paramount importance to get air into their lungs less they suffer brain damage and ultimately death. It was as equally as important as stopping bleeding, covering wounds and treating for shock.

When babies are born, medical techs clean out their airways – not sure if they give them a slap on the backside – so important is it to get them breathing.

Breath is life. God breathed life and all Creation into existence.

By breathing up His Disciples – His Church – Jesus gave a different kind of life. He gave eternal life. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we have faith, and by faith we are saved.

PRAY
Lord, breathe anew your Holy Spirit into my life daily, no hourly. Not hourly, but constantly. Give my your life-saving breath so as to keep me in the true faith, with you, your Father, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

The Church Wins!

READ
John 17:1-11

REFLECT
The church has seen a lot of dark days over the past 2,000 years, in the form of persecution. We have all heard the stories of Christians being burned alive as “Nero’s Torches,” illuminating the City of Rome. We have heard (and seen in movies, at least) Christians being thrown to the lions in the Great Coliseum. Today, – though mostly ignored by the Mainstream Media and the “mainline Protestant” denominations, the most vile and violent persecution of Christians is taking place in the Middle East at the hands of the Mohammedan – nothing short of genocide. Europe has been purged ideologically of Christianity and the United States is feeling the same evil wind blowing our way as the faith is publicly mocked and marginalized and in some cases attacked in court.

It all looks rather bleak for the faith…but it is not. The one things the Mohammedan, the secularist, the Cultural Marxist, and others have forgotten, as they gloat like ravenous jackels over wounded prey, is we are not alone in the fight, and ultimately the victory belongs to God and HIS people. The individual Christian might well perish – and as a martyr enter into glory – but the church, which is the body of Christ, is eternal and under God’s protection.

This protection is a certain and sure one because it is asked for by none other than Jesus.

“Holy Father, protect them in your name, that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

The individual might die but the church lives on and ultimately the church on earth will be triumphant. The church will be vindicated and avenged, when Christ returns in his glory, his enemies are destroyed and the nations made his footstool.

In the words of Martin Luther, “Were they take our house, goods, honor, child, or spouse, though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day. The kingdom’s ours forever.”

Do not be discouraged. Pray and be of good cheer.

PRAY
Lord Jesus Christ, we trust in you to protect your Church. Helps us, your people, to remain faithful and joyful in the face of marginalization and persecution. Help us who can speak and act on behalf of our oppressed brothers and sisters to do so. By the power of your Holy Spirit, sustain and strengthen those who suffer for the faith.  AMEN.

Jesus Teaches and Calls us to Him

READ
Luke 24:13-35

REFLECT
Jesus has something to teach us, perhaps this is why it took him so long to reveal himself on the Road to Emmaus. All that Jesus wanted the two disciples in the story to know about him and what he wanted those at table to know about him was of utmost importance and it needed time to be told. Had Jesus revealed himself prematurely the revelation would have likely become a distraction for those he wanted to inform. Yet Jesus did reveal himself, and he chose to do so in the breaking of the bread.

Today’s Gospel account tells us two things: firstly, Jesus wants us to know about him. Secondly, Jesus is telling us where we can find him – where he is certain to be with us, without question. Thus, we are to study the Word and engage with him in prayer and we are to come to the table of the Lord regularly so that we might be in constant corporal and spiritual  communion with him.

So much for the idea that one can be a Christian and never engage with the Word, never pray, never attend worship, and never commune.

PRAY
Lord God, by the power of your Holy Spirit, keep us ever desiring to know more about you and about the precious gift that is Jesus Christ. Help us to seek you in Word, worship, prayer and the sacraments, increasing our faith and drawing us into closer relationship with you. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

Frederick the Failed Pharisee

READ
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

REFLECT
I have to admit it. I am a lousy Pharisee. I tried to be all holy once, to perfectly live so my outward behavior would be a representation of God’s ability to change the human heart. I failed at it and truth be told I continue to fail at it. I am not saying I do not want to live a Godly life, to keep Jesus commandments and to do good works – as the fruit of a new obedience to God. I do pretty good for a while then I do or say something – often say something in jest – and blow it all. Other times I let my emotions get the better of me.

Basically I stink in the Pharisee department. But maybe because I am lousy at it and know it I have a chance  of not really be one. Perhaps that is my saving grace. Were I better at keeping the outward appearance of a holy guy (all the while failing inside) I could become a “joy” to be around (not!). In the end I know I am a failure at being holy and so all I can do is rely on Jesus for my forgiveness. All I can do is have Jesus as my righteousness – as I have none of my own.

I know there are those who do not think I am “saved” or a plethora of other holy things (maybe even not much of a pastor) because of the failed and sinful flesh encasing the heart – a heart that wants to live for God. Oh well! All I can do is my best, which isn’t much. That is all anyone can do and ask for God’s help and forgiveness. We we have done all we can, cry out to Jesus, “I am a sinner. Save me.”

PRAY
Lord God, I try but I fail, miserably so. I want to live for you and be a shining example of your love in this world, but I am weak, prideful, thoughtless, self-centered, heartless, in a word “sinful.” By your grace in Jesus Christ, save me, for I cannot save myself and help me to live as you would have me live. AMEN.

Be Transfigured

READ
Matthew 17:1-9

REFLECT
Do you ever wonder what it was like to be Peter, James or John to see Jesus transfigured. It must have been amazing, not just amazing but awe-inspiring. Hearing God speak at the same time…. WOW!  These things just don’t happen everyday.

The closest thing I can imagine to the joy of seeing the transfiguration is the joy one gets when they see their child really happy. I get that joy when I see my wife overwhelmed by sparkly thing and rainbow unicorns (yes, she loves sparkly things and rainbow unicorns.)

For all the emphasis we put on the transfiguration of Jesus we might want to think about another miracle – the way Jesus transfigures us. Life in Christ is truly a transfiguration brought about not by what we do but by the work of the Holy Spirit – giver and perfector of our faith. Often, though, we work against the Spirit because we want things the sinful way we want them.

Rather than working against the Spirit why not submit and see what happens. It will be miraculous.

PRAY
Heavenly Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit, increase my faith in the Son, so that I might be transfigured as you would have me. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

Don’t Be a Dusty Bible

READ
Matthew 4:12-23

REFLECT
“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.

PRAY
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

READ
John 1:29-42

REFLECT
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.

PRAY
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.

Lead By Example

READ
Matthew 3:13-17

REFLECT
The best leaders lead from the front. The worst lead from the rear. That is sort of sarcastic but makes a good point – you cannot lead from the rear and if you are in the back and think you are lead think again. You have to be out front – that is why they call it “leading” and not “pushing.”

The best leaders we have when I was in the Army where the officers and N.C.Os who where not afraid to get their hands dirty, the ones who suffered the cold, the wet, the heat – all of it.

In this Gospel account from Matthew Jesus is not afraid to get his hands dirty – so to speak – to show that He too is subject to the will of God, even though he needed not baptism for either repentance or to be made a child of God. He did it as an example of humility. This is the same humility we are called to exhibit.

PRAY
God of all mercy, come to us by the power of your Holy Spirit that we might be as humble as Jesus in all that we do. Empower us to have fellowship with all your people and forgive us when we hold ourselves above and before others. In Jesus’ name I pray – AMEN.

Proclaim Salvation!

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

REFLECT
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.

PRAY
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.