Love your neighbor.

November 23, 2014

I’ve been putting this off for awhile.

There is one thing that irritates be beyond belief.

It’s the phrase, “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

There’s two reasons it irritates me. The first reason is pretty simple. This isn’t in the Bible. It’s quoted as scripture but it’s not. The thoughts behind it are not based in scripture either but we will tackle that a little later on.

Here’s the second reason. Even if this is good principal for life, we do a very good job hating the sin. We focus on it pretty well and we excel at it. Probably better than anything else the church does. We are terrible at loving the sinner.

This thought of love the sinner hate the sin is something we are incapable of doing. First of all we are sinners in a sinful world. It’s natural for us to hate. Love takes work and it is against our very sinful nature. We’re too lazy for things that take work. That’s in our sinful nature as well.

So we have found out this deadly phrase is not in Scripture. What then does the Scriptures say?

The best place to look for this is Luke 10:25.  A lawyer stood up and asked how he could inherit the Kingdom. Jesus asked him what does Scripture teach. Scriptures teach, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus says if the lawyer does this he will live. This is where the Good Samaritan parable comes in because the lawyer is like any lawyer and wants definitions for words lest there be void for vagueness.

Jesus says the Samaritan is the neighbor because he’s the one who helped the man. The Samaritan. What does that mean in terms of today? The Samaritan in those days were considered half breeds. You could be a Eunuch from Ethiopia or a Roman guard and while you might not be liked, you were tolerated and you could walk on the same side of the street as a Jew. Samaritan’s were the Jew’s idea of the lowest in society. Half breeds were looked down upon and not given any of the blessings promised to the Jews.

Luke 9, a Samaritan city rejected Jesus and James and John wanted to call down fire from Heaven. With their statement Jesus gave them the name Sons of Thunder. Jesus rebuked them for their behavior and their words of death.

Jesus was asked which is the great commandment in Matthew 22. He said the first commandment is to love the Lord your God and the Second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. All the rest of scriptures is dependent on these two. This is likely a different version of the story as it was a lawyer who asked the question.

The answer in both instances is a summary of the 10 Commandments. The first 2 of the 10 is about loving the Lord your God. 3-10 are all about loving your neighbor as yourself. You do these things because you love your neighbor. You don’t still because you love your neighbor as yourself. You don’t lie because you love your neighbor as yourself. None of this whatsoever has to do with hating the sin. None of the commandments tell us to hate the sin. They tell us to love.

Let us ask the question today, who is our neighbor?

Let’s take the good Samaritan story and change it around a little bit. Let’s say there is a Christian who has been beat up pretty bad. A Lutheran walks by and says, “Oh that’s a shame. I can’t help him unless I do a work,” and he walks by. A Baptist walks by and says, “That’s a shame,” does the sinners prayer with him and keeps walking.

A Mexican walks by, doesn’t speak the same language, sees the person needs attention or will not survive and takes the person to the nearest hospital.

Or in a same scenario, a Muslim Imam walks by and sees the person will not survive and takes them to the nearest hospital.

Or in a third scenario, a lesbian, a transgender and a bisexual are walking by. They notice the same life threatening injuries and take the person to the hospital.

In all three cases the person survives after receiving proper medical treatment. So I’ll ask again, who is my neighbor? If you change the Samaritan to a Mexican, Muslim or a member of the GLBT or somebody who is a gay Mexican who practices Islam, you have your neighbor.

Love a Samaritan as yourself. Love a Mexican as yourself. Love a Muslim as yourself. Love a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender as yourself.

The end of the Sermon on the Mount, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  He makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good and send the rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?

Our job is to love our neighbors. It is not the job of Christians to cure whatever it is we think ails our neighbors. If we cure anybody it must be ourselves as Philippians 2 states we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

Before we judge others, remember this from Titus 3, such were we before the loving kindness of God appeared. He saves the same way, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing and regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ.

The only thing between us and hell is the loving kindness of God. The difference between a sinner and a saint is not what they do, but the work of Jesus.

There will be more “Samaritans” in heaven than we realize, because it’s not the “Samaritan’s” work.

Don’t judge. You don’t know what they’ve been through. The hills they’ve climbed. The oceans they’ve swam. You don’t know the battles they’ve fought and the struggles they’ve overcome. But you can if you love your neighbor. If you get to know a neighbor.

I challenge you. Find one person who makes you uncomfortable. One person you may not normally talk to. Get to know them and show them the loving kindness of God living through you.

Don’t think about hating the sin in them. Let that not be something which even crosses your mind. Love the sinner which is yourself and love your neighbor as yourself.

The Burning Bush and Real Presence

August 31, 2013

Exodus 3:2 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.

The Catholic says: at the ringing of the bell, the bush became the Angel of the LORD

The Lutheran says: the Angel of the LORD was in the bush, but the Angel of the LORD isn’t the bush. The bush is still present and the Angel of the LORD of the Lord is still present, physically.

The Reformed says: the bush was present and the Angel of the LORD is present but the Angel of the LORD only has a spiritual presence.

The Evangelical says: the bush is a symbol for the real presence of the Angel of the LORD but it’s only a symbol.

The Pentecostal says: the burning bush is a representation of the Holy Ghost fire.

The Apostolic says: Acts 2:38

The Mormon says: the bush  is going to be of the 144,000 because it felt a burning in it’s bosom.

The purpose of the Holy Spirit

April 30, 2013

     I heard a sermon a couple weeks ago about the Holy Spirit. The pastor said, “The Holy Spirit is for you”. In other words, the purpose of the Holy Spirit is for your benefit.

     I struggled with that at first. In fact, I wanted to disagree but I needed to think about it more first before I disagreed. After much thought, there wasn’t enough evidence to disagree except that “you” are not the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit but the secondary purpose.

     The primary purpose of the Holy Spirit is to point to Christ. This is contrary to some charismatic ideas. Some charismatic people would say that the purpose of Christ is to give us the Holy Spirit. The purpose of Jesus is, in that case, to give us the infilling of the Holy Spirit as if it were the only reason Jesus died. The justification that Jesus provided on the cross does not matter much so long as you have the Holy Spirit. We are sanctified by the good works that we do from having the Holy Spirit and then at the end reaching total sanctification, as though that should be attained over and above or absent of justification.

     We know from the creeds that the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit is to point to Christ. In the Nicene Creed, [we believe] in the Holy Spirit. Granted, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father [and the Son]. The Holy Spirit is not the Cinderella or the silent partner because he is together worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son. But at the same time, he is not the end goal. The Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit whose primary goal is to point to Christ. This is as the Son’s goal is to point to the Father, by reconciling us to the Father through the blood that He shed on the cross.

     In what ways does the Holy Spirit point to Jesus? First, he spoke by the Prophets. He points to Christ through the church, his participation in the sacraments[1] which also includes the forgiveness of sins, giving of life[2], resurrection and life everlasting in the world to come.[3]

     The secondary purpose of the Holy Spirit is not independent of the primary purpose. The primary purpose is also not independent of the secondary purpose.

     The secondary purpose is for the church. The church’s function in the primary purpose would not be a function at all if not for the secondary function.

     The secondary purpose of the Holy Spirit is wrapped up in active righteousness, or righteousness before the world.[4] It is the duty of the church to bring the beliefs of the third article to the lost and dying world. For it is the churches function to be tools of the Holy Spirit, point to Christ who reconciles us to the Father.

     The Lord and Giver of Life empowers the church in taking care of the sick, providing for the poor, fighting for the weak, caring for all of the needs of our neighbors[5]. If you need to know who the church’s neighbor is, read Luke 10 before continuing[6]. This is as much an in reaching function as much as it is out reaching. Both in reach and outreach function on behalf of the Holy Spirit to point to Christ. He has spoken by the prophet Micah. Yahweh has told us what is good and what Yahweh requires of the church. Do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. That is life giving. That is the sum of active righteousness.

     The Holy Spirit has spoken by the prophets. The prophets pointed forward to Christ and the cross for their contemporaries and up until the point of the act of the cross itself. The Holy Spirit still speaks by the prophets to us today and points back the Christ and his work on the cross. The Holy Spirit has spoken by the prophets as much real and for their present time of Israel as he speaks by the prophets now to our present time. It is the function of the church to bring words of the Holy Spirit by means of the prophets for us today. This is to minister and uplift current believers, pointing to the cross as an Ebenezer. This is to minister to the lost and dying world to point to the hope of the cross.

     There is one holy and apostolic church that not only use the words of the Holy Spirit by means of the prophets but also brings to life: baptism, the forgiveness of sins and the communion of the saints. The statement of one holy, catholic, and apostolic church is the melding point between the Old Testament and New Testament.

     This is what will open up what we believe in the Holy Spirit to be equal to or greater than what anyone else believes about the Holy Spirit. To go more at this point would be a spoiler alert for that which is to come.

     The Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life gives us physical life. He gives us spiritual life through baptism, the forgiveness of sins and communion of saints. But those things give us eternal life through resurrection and the life of the world to come. Therefore, the proclamation is that the Holy Spirit is for you!

 

We care for others by going to work, providing shelter and food for our families, caring for the needy, providing emotional support for our loved ones, and looking after the environment. We care for the spiritual welfare of our neighbor through prayer, catechesis, and bringing the gospel to bear upon their lives.—Charles Arand


[1] The communion of saints.

[2] Not only did he participate in life giving to us but Jesus was incarnate by the Holy Spirit in the Nicene Creed or conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Apostle’s Creed.

[3] Kolb, Robert. The Book of Concord. Fortress Press, Minneapolis. Pps. 19-24, 2000

[4] Coram Mundo.

[5] Arand, Charles: Called to Be Human: The Two Kinds of Righteousness Part 1. http://seminary.csl.edu/facultypubs/TheologyandPractice/tabid/87/ctl/Details/mid/513/ItemID/28/Default.aspx St. Louis, 2007

[6]  Luke 10: 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” ESV

Trinity and the Government. Not Coequeal

April 24, 2013

Whosoever will be American, before all things it is necessary that he hold the American way. Which way except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the American way is this, that we elect one Government in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Branches, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Branch of the Executive, another of the Legislative, and another of the Judicial. But the Government branch of the Executive, of the Legislative, and of the Judicial is all one… Such as the Executive is, such is the Legislative, and such is the Judicial. The Executive of the people, the Legislative of the people, and the Judicial of the people. The Executive comprehensible, the Legislative comprehensible, and the Judicial comprehensible. The Executive elected, the Legislative elected, and the Judicial of the elected. And yet they are not three governments, but one government. As there are not three of the people nor three comprehensibles, but one of the people and one comprehensible. So likewise the Executive is too big, the Legislative too big, and the Judicial too big. And yet they are not three too bigs, but one too big. So the Executive is Government, the Legislative is Government, and the Judicial is Government. And yet they are not three Governments, but one Government. So likewise the Executive is Federal, the Legislative Federal, and the Judicial Federal. And yet not three Federals, but one Federal. For like as we are compelled by the American verity to acknowledge every Branch by Himself to be Government and Federal, so are we forbidden by the American way to say, there be three Governments, or three Federals.

The Executive is made, of the people and elected. The Legislative is of the Executive alone; made of the people and elected. The Judicial is of the Executive and of the Legislative: made, of the people, not elected, but proceeding. So there is one Executive, not three Executives; one Legislative, not three Legislatives; one Judicial, not three Judicials. And in this Trinity none is before or after other; none is greater or less than another; But the whole three Branches are coeternal together, and coequal: so that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be term limited. He, therefore, that will be American must thus think of the Trinity.

 No description of the Trinity is ever perfect but I like this. Yes I came up with this myself, leave me alone.

We Believe in the Holy Spirit too; Athanasian Creed excerpt

April 17, 2013

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three Eternals, but one Eternal. As there are not three Uncreated nor three Incomprehensibles, but one Uncreated and one Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords.

The Father is made of none: neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son: neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before or after other; none is greater or less than another; But the whole three Persons are coeternal together, and coequal: so that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped. He, therefore, that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

There has been plenty of writings on the Trinity. My goal is to write only on the Holy Spirit. But because the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity it is necessary to at least include a statement on the Trinity. There is no simpler of an explanation than what is given in the Athanasian Creed.

We Believe in the Holy Spirit too; a creedal look at the Third Article

April 16, 2013

We believe in the Holy Spirit

Too

except nobody knows it yet:

a creedal look at Pneumatology

 

 “Everyone believes in god,

But it seems like no one does in You

But I do

And I’m not ashamed…

 Beautiful Spirit!

Talk to me!

Holy Spirit!

Walk with me!”

 Nerve  —  Blindside

 

        I did my undergraduate studies at a Pentecostal university in the heart of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A century old and steeped in the tradition of studying the Holy Spirit, the school’s curriculum surrounded pneumatology in every subject area. The classes ranged from studies in the book of Acts and Systematic classes focusing on pneumatology.

     With all of the classes centered around and interwoven with studies on the Holy Spirit, many of my classmates varied in backgrounds from unchurched to Lutheran to those who grew up in the Pentecostal church. From many of my classmates from the varying backgrounds, I heard scores of comments about the idea that only the Pentecostal church is the only group of people that believes in the Holy Spirit.

     We were taught that the Holy Spirit was the Cinderella of theology. While the other two Persons of the Trinity are thrust to the forefront of discussion and entire systematic classes are taught on them, but little is ever said about the Holy Spirit.[1] But this was not the case at my Alma Mater.

     When I heard arguments that other Christians did not believe in the Holy Spirit, I thought to myself, “we do”. And then I thought a little further on it and I calculated that we possibly believe in the Holy Spirit more than they do. It’s a bigger part of our beliefs that go into more areas than just spiritual gifts.

     I pondered this for some time. I thought about how I could prove that we believed in the Holy Spirit and to what extent. I went into a lot of thought about this.

     As I pondered, I realized how much we believe in the Holy Spirit and really excited about putting down in words, my thoughts and studies about this. But the more I pondered, the more I realized that we believe in the Holy Spirit, we just don’t know it yet.

     One third, of our creeds, deal with the Holy Spirit. I have heard some people say the third article of the creed is a lump sum of everything else that the first two articles do not cover. Without thinking about it, they recite the deep richness of the first two articles and then say oh by the way we also believe in the Holy Spirit and all these other things.

     If the third article is the sum of everything else not covered and we say, we believe in the Holy Spirit but then that’s it. The Lutheran mantra is “what does this mean?”

     Some say this means the Holy Spirit is the silent partner and it is enough to say that we believe in him. But what if the lump sum is not a lump sum? What if it is the summation of all things that are attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit just as are the words of the first two articles.

     The Creeds are our statements of faith; our statements of faith about God and the Trinity, in detail. It has been said that the Creeds are dead.

     If the Creeds are dead, then we killed them. Yet their shadow looms.

     My attempt is to at least bring to life the third article of the creed; to put flesh and bone to the shadow; a voice to the silent partner; to put the glass slipper on the third article and have a ball.

 


[1] Karkkainen, Veli-Matti Pneumatology: Baker Academics; Grand Rapids pps. 18-19, 2002

What Will You Say

February 18, 2013

Missions

This is War

February 18, 2013

Man against father… daughter against mother… daughter in law against mother in law…

Jesus knew about this war… this sword.. from firsthand experience. This war put Jesus’ family against him. His family said he was out of his mind (Mark 3)! This war had put his disciples against him in John 6.

Imagine for a moment, this beautiful place of worship you have here. Imagine all the sweat and blood that you put into building it. Imagine the tears of joy when a man and a woman were joined together in holy matrimony. Imagine the tears of pain and isolation and loneliness when a loved one has passed. Imagine the joy shared over Christmas programs and Easter and baptisms. Imagine for a moment, that other members of this church said you couldn’t worship here anymore. After all those memories, these are fighting words. This is war.

This is the very thing that the Apostles and early Christians dealt with. There place of worship was under assault by family members and friends and many of the early Christians were excommunicated because. The early Christians were excommunicated because they received Jesus, and the prophets who pointed forward to Jesus and the disciples who pointed back to Jesus. All the blood sweat and tears, the early Christians had put into their place of worship, and they could not worship there anymore. In some cases they were forced out by the sword! This is war!

This war! This war has been going on since the beginning of time.

My wife’s college roommate, Diane, went to Afghanistan teaching English as a second language in Kabul. While Diane was there, teaching and living out her faith, Gayle Williams was gunned down near the Compound where Diane lived. This really shook Diane because Gayle Williams was in Afghanistan for the same reasons Diane was. It got out that Gayle was a Christian and when she came out of her compound, the people of Kabul came against her. The very people that Gayle was trying to give a better life, gunned her down in opposition to Christianity.

This is what Jesus meant, he did not come to bring peace but a sword. This means war!

This war hits a little closer to home when raged gunmen took over Columbine High School. When the gunmen came to Cassie Bernall, they asked if she loved Jesus. Cassie said yes and her life was taken for it. This is War!

This war is in our world, it is in our schools and it is in our work place. This war doesn’t always end the same way but the battle is just as fierce.

In college, I worked at UPS, loading boxes. I’d always talk to my coworkers, asking where they went to school, how long they planned working there; those kinds of questions. My coworkers would always ask me the same kinds of questions. They found out that I was studying to be a pastor. Many of them would make fun of me for being a Christian. Mad-dog was the chief to make fun of me for being a Christian. This is war!

But Mad-dog wasn’t the greatest foe I’ve faced. My biggest foe follows me around every day. My biggest foe lives inside my own head. Yes, I am my own biggest foe. My foe tries to trick me into saying that I’m not worthy to follow God’s plans for my life. My foe tries to tell me that it’s okay love other things more than Jesus. Some days, I find it to love other things more than Jesus.

In order to make it out of this war, we have to love Jesus more than our families. We have to love Jesus more than the people we are trying to help. We have to love Jesus more than life itself. We have to love him more than our own feelings. (Moo 263) This war is a demand for loyalty that strips the sanctity of family ties.

To top it all off, Jesus indirectly commands his disciples and us to take up our cross and follow. We must take up our cross to be found worthy of him. 
To accept this mission of accepting the sword; to engage in front lines of this war is to take up your cross and follow Christ.
This is the Gospel message in this text. This is the central verse in our reading today. How can it be that taking up the cross is the central theme of our text, Seminarian? 
The cross is the central theme of any text.
But Blogger, didn’t Jesus do all the work on the cross for me?
You are right. So what do we do with this?

Luther says It is the will of God for us to take up our cross. The cross is understood as a punishment of death.  How is this Gospel? This is war! The cross is our war flag!

(1 Sam 2:6) the Lord kills and brings to life. He brings down to hell and raises up.

When we are brought to the waters of baptism, + the sign of the cross is made upon your heart and upon your forehead. Before we were baptized, we bored the cross. When we were baptized, we were buried with Christ. When we are baptized we are killed, we are brought down to hell. We are buried with Christ into his death. In the waters of baptism we are brought to life. In the waters of baptism we are raised up to new life!

Carrying the cross makes us ready for battle! As the words of the great battle hymn proclaim “Onward Christian Soldier, marching as to war! And the Cross of Jesus, going on before! Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; 
               forward into battle see his banners go! 

This is war! And our baptism brings us together so we are not alone in this war. We have been given a band of brothers and sisters through baptism.

Jesus says, whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. When you receive his word and believe that you are raised to new life in baptism, you receive him. When you come to the altar, you receive substance and sustenance for this war. When you receive his word, attached to the food received at this altar, you receive Jesus. This is war!

 Brothers and sisters in arms, this is war and whoever loves Jesus more than anything else in the world, is worthy of Jesus. Brothers and sisters in arms you are worthy of Jesus. You are made worthy because of your baptism and you are reminded of your worthiness every time the sign of the cross is made. Brothers and sisters in arms you are worthy of Jesus because your sins have been forgiven through absolution. Brothers and sisters in arms, you are worthy of Jesus because you received his body and his blood for sustenance for this war!

Yeah: This is war! My dad pastured in Montana. On one occasion, while fighting on the front lines, he had the opportunity to baptize little Rebekah. Rebekah’s parents had already been baptized and they carried the cross and followed Christ and now had the opportunity to share this with their daughter. Rebekah’s grandfather was a hard boiled WWII POW Veteran. He didn’t have much use for the church or for his kids going to church. When Rebekah was brought to the waters of baptism, Rebekah’s grandfather was sure to be there. She had won his heart.

When Rebekah was brought to the front to be baptized, the entire Hahn family, including aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents were all in attendance. That day,  baby Rebekah joined the ranks, receiving the cross of Jesus on her little heart and her little forehead.

It was not in the foxholes where Atheists find God that Rebekah’s grandfather found God. It was at the frontlines of Rebekah’s baptism. He was overwhelmed by his sin and begged to be baptized that day, to join the ranks of so many believers.

This is war! This is a time to find out who loves you and who hates you because of Christ. Remember, in the heat of the battle, when it looks like all is lost, in the end, we will win. In the resurrection, we will receive our reward and be brought up to Jesus. We will receive our reward and have a life without pain or suffering. This war will end. This war will be over and you shall have forever life.

 

Anamaniac Theology

February 18, 2013

It’s a great big universe. Everybody lives on a street in a city. Or a village or a town for what it’s worth. And they’re all inside a country which is part of a continent. That sits upon a planet known as Earth. And the Earth is a ball full of oceans and some mountains. Which is out there spinning silently in space. And living on that Earth are the plants and the animals And also the entire human race. It’s a great big universe And we’re part of a vast interplanetary system Stretching seven hundred billion miles long. With nine planets and a sun; we think the Earth’s the only one Across the interstellar voids are a billion asteroids Including meteors and Halley’s Comet too. And there’s over fifty moons floating out there like balloons In a panoramic trillion-mile view. It’s a great big universe And still it’s all a speck amid a hundred billion stars In a galaxy we call the Milky Way. It’s sixty thousand trillion miles from one end to the other. And still that’s just a fraction of the way. ‘Cause there’s a hundred billion galaxies that stretch across the sky. Filled with constellations, planets, moons and stars. And still the universe extends to a place that never ends. Which is maybe just inside a little jar! It’s a great big universe. And we’re all really puny. We’re just tiny little specks. About the size of Mickey Rooney. It’s big and black and inky. And we are small and dinky. It’s a big universe and we’re not.

It is a great big universe and we are not big. Have you ever felt lost in the size of this creation?

Have you ever felt alone? Devalued? Insignificant? Small? Abandoned?

The expanse of the universe shows us how small we really are. Even still there are 6 billion people in the world And we can still feel very alone In June (2011), I was working with churches in New York City. We walked around the neighborhoods We saw one house stacked on another. There were no yards or parks for the children to play in.Often times, one house was subdivided for six to eight families.

People literally living on top of people. In a city of over 9 million people,It is still easy for the residence to feel alone or irrelevant. In a city where you have to fight for space to breathe. It is easy to feel like nobody cares. it’s still a great big universe. Yet, the world has never been smaller. Cell phones make it easy to call all around the world. We find it easier to get in contact with our loved ones. We can send text messages when phone calls aren’t possible. If calls, texts and emails just aren’t enough, We can always video message (Skype) all around the world.

One of my friends at the seminary is from India. Sam was not able to bring his wife and daughter last year. But when Sam preached, Sam put his laptop on the pulpit And  Sam was able to video message his sermon to India and other parts of the world. Technology has really brought the world closer together.

Even though the world is closer than ever,  Sam never felt more alone.No matter how small we make the world, It is still great big! Sam felt alone because his family was still in India

 

It’s a great big universe.

 

Here in our text was, Israel. A family.

All around this family, nations had been established for years.

Kingdoms had been set up for generations.

Kings had elite armies developed over decades.

Yet, here were the descendants of Abraham.

They had no kingdom.

They had no land.

In this great big universe, they were SO small.

The promise to Abraham seemed so far away.

The generation delivered out of Egypt was disappearing.

Even though God had promised a people…

Even though God had promised a land of milk and honey…

Here they were.

Small.

 Alone.

No land.

No Kingdom.

Discouragement had set in for this family

The heart of the book of Deuteronomy is to contemporize the Abrahamic covenant to God’s people.

The heart of the book is to make the promise real.

Numbers Chapter 5  says

The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.

3 yNot with our fathers did the Lord make this covenant,

but with us,

who are all of us

here

 alive

 today.

4 The Lord spoke with you zface to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire[1]…. He said

 6 c“ ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. [2]

Moses says the covenant didn’t apply to the fathers anymore

Because the covenant is for Israel, now.

A church I visited in the South Bronx had Bible study on Rahab.

The pastor pointed out that Rahab was a prostitute

And later the pastor pointed out that Rahab was in the lineage of Christ.

A lady new to the Bible study was excited because she had been rescued out of prostitution.

The lady said,

“I didn’t know the Bible was about us.”

This was what Israel was going through.

They didn’t know the Bible was about them.

They didn’t know the word of God was about them.

They didn’t know that the covenant was for them.

Brother’s and sister’s:

The covenant is for us today.

The covenant is not for Israel.

The covenant is not for your fathers.

The covenant is for YOU!

The story is about YOU!

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God.

YOU ARE CHOSEN!

In this great big universe,

YOU have been set part.

In this great big universe

 YOU have been chosen to be a people.

Out of this great big universe,

YOU have become a treasured possession.

Out of all the people who are on the face of the earth

YOU are chosen.

It was not because you were more in number than any other people.

In fact, you were the fewest of all people.

The smallest.

You were looked down upon.

But despite that,

out of all the peoples in this great big universe,

the Lord set his love on you.

Out of all the peoples in this great big universe,

the Lord chose you.

The Lord loves you because he loves you.

The Lord loves you for no other reason than he loves you.

The Lord has redeemed you!

Whee:

I once heard a story about a man in China whose job it was to work waist deep in raw sewage.

This was his job in the great big universe.

Government officials had warned him about sharing his Christian faith.

But, this man was able to get around this warning.

Waist deep in sewage the man began to sing praise and sing psalms to the Lord at the top of his lungs.

None of the of officials would do anything to him,

Because that would require going out into the sewage.

This man knew even in a stinky situation,

he was a person Holy to the Lord.

Even all by himself in the middle raw sewage,

he was not alone.

He knew he was chosen.

He knew he was treasured possession of all the peoples on the earth.

Through his baptism,

he was made holy to the Lord.

Through his baptism,

he became a part of something bigger than this great big universe.

Through his baptism

he became part of the story.

Through his baptism

he became he became part of the body of Christ.

Brothers and Sisters, so it is for us.

In our baptism,

we are chosen.

In our baptism,

 we are made holy.

In our baptism,

 we become a part of something bigger than the great big universe.

In our baptism,

we are buried with Christ’s death and resurrection.

In our baptism

we are raised to new life.

In our baptism,

We are part of the forever community.

In our baptism,

We are given everlasting life.

While the rest of the world has their kingdoms, we pray “Father, your kingdom come.”

While the rest of the world has their kings, Jesus is our King.

While the rest of the world has their land, our promised land will come on the last day.

It is a covenant and a steadfast love to a thousand generations.

Conclusion: It is a great big universe but we are all connected through our baptism. We are all made holy. We are all a treasured possession.

 

 

 

SDG

 

 

 

Deut 7: 6“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.


y [Heb. 8:9]

z [ch. 34:10; Ex. 33:11; Num. 14:14; Judg. 6:22]

[1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001, S. Dt 5:2-4

c For ver. 6–21, see Ex. 20:2–17

[2] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001, S. Dt 5:6

Mortality

February 18, 2013

Grace mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

            Like many of you today, I will never forget the moment I realized my own mortality. I can’t remember where we were exactly. I can’t remember who told us, but I remember I was fourteen. Sure, I had been to more than my fair share of funerals as a PK. I had seen more dead people at that age than I wanted to; people who died from natural causes to random massive heart attacks to head on collisions… I knew what death was. I didn’t like it. But it was always older people or people I didn’t know, someone on the news far away from me. 

            But this was different. I knew Andrea. Andrea’s dad and my dad had classes together at the seminary. Andrea and I had fought side by side in the largest water war in the history of Concordia Seminary.

            But I can still hear it, “Andrea was killed in a car accident,” and “it was somebody driving a stolen car”. The words “she was just 16” still echoes in my ears.

            I’ve heard the same echoes this week. “She was just 17”. Since Stacey’s death, I have been hearing questions of why would God take her from us?

            I know that Stacey’s parents prayed for her every day. For her safety. For her well being. 

                I prayed scriptures with Stacey’s family. “How long, LORD, must I call for help,
   but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!”  but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice?  Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me;  there is strife, and conflict abounds.

            Today’s text is from Job. It was Stacey’s favorite verse. Stacey chose this verse for her confirmation banner and she sang a choir solo of Handle’s rendition of this verse.

            “I know that my Redeemer lives and at the last day, he will stand upon the earth.” This is the message for us today.

            Job says that God took all his things from him and then threw him into the mud. Job said he made a covenant with his eyes and God still showed wrath on him.

            Job said “Oh, that I had someone to listen to me. Let the almighty answer me.”

                              “Though I cry, ‘I’ve been wronged!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice Job cried out to no reply.

            The entire book of Job, God gets a couple lines at the beginning, but then he’s silent for the next 37 long grueling chapters. Job is reliving over and over again the affliction that has come on him. His family dead.  His wealth, decimated.

            Why did God allow this to happen to Job?

            Out of the depths , Job cries out that he knows that his redeemer lives. But what Job is really calling for is an umpire. Job feels that God is throwing his weight around and Job knows he doesn’t stand a chance. Job is hoping for someone to throw a yellow card or a red card (soccer reference) so that the fight is at least fair. Without a Redeemer, defender, or umpire, Job has nothing. Perhaps, Job thinks that on the last day, on his dying day, he might have a chance and the umpire will stand with him.

            Why did God allow this to happen?

            The almighty God in all his power has told the oceans to go this far. He has given orders to the morning. Yet, the world is not how he made it. The world is so far from the perfection God created it. And when evil befalls us, God knows our hurts better than we do.

            God saw the earth when it was very good. God saw when people didn’t die needlessly. God has been hurting since the fall and he is more frustrated by the unfairness of sin sickness and death and dying than we could even imagine. God is grieving with us about Stacey.

            But since the fall, God promised an umpire. God promised somebody to level the playing field.  Jesus was marched to a trial and to his own crucifixion. Jesus hung and died on the cross to level the playing field so that we have an advocate with the Father.  Jesus leveled the playing field to be the vindicator that Job foresaw. “I know that my redeemer… I know that my vindicator lives and on the last day he will stand… But our Redeemer… our Vindicator… does not just stand on the last day… he stands today.

            You see, God was not aloof when Stacey’s family prayed for her. God in his mercy leveled the playing field when Stacey was brought to the waters of baptism. Through baptism, Stacey was buried with Christ in his death. Through baptism, Stacey was raised to new life. A life with Christ. A life forever.

            God leveled the playing field by the body and blood of Christ. Stacey was joined into the body of Christ and was strengthened and preserved to life everlasting. On the last day, Stacey will be raised from the dead and live in perfection forever because God gave us an umpire to level the playing field.

            We have hope that on the last day, because of our faith in our great umpire… our great vindicator… our great Redeemer… We have hope that on the last day Jesus will stand for us.

            Jesus stands to be our umpire to level the playing field. To bring us hope that we stand a chance in this crazy world, now and forever.

            Now the peace, that passes all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds. 


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