“Come and see (hear) … Go and tell!”

Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:

Amos 7:10-15
Ephesians 1:3-14
Mark 6:30-34

In this Sunday’s Gospel lesson, Jesus gives His disciples their first glimpse into being apostles. Less than halfway through Mark’s story, Jesus’ message to the Twelve changes from “Come and see (or hear)” to “Go and tell.”

It is something of a surprise that Jesus sends them out on their first mission so early in their training. These are the same guys who still look at each other with blank faces when He scores the punchlines of His parables. They are still in the simple “Wow!” stage at the meaning of His miracles.

He sends them out two by two. It is another example of His wisdom–it’s a cruel world out there and He doesn’t want them to face it alone. He sends a dose of divine authority with them as well, making them dominant over evil spirits. But the rest of their equipment is to be scant. They are to travel extremely light. They take no food or money and only the shirts on their backs. Each should wear sandals and carry a walking staff. They are equipped for fast travel.

The idea of leaving excess baggage is a good one for all of us in His mission. Too often we have emotional baggage. We worry that we won’t be able to answer all the questions people might ask. We think we should memorize the Scriptures before we depart. The fact is that too many people think the call to teach others, to “go and tell,” is something that should come later … much later!

Jesus gives the disciples a sense of urgency. If somebody fails to accept their message right away, they are not to hang around and argue. They are to leave them in the dust and go to someone who will listen. As God’s missionaries, we are called to tell the Good News, not to create the results. The results are in God’s hands. Some people may need 100 witnesses to come by before the seeds take root and grow.

This time of the year reminds me of my days in the parish and Vacation Bible School (VBS). We would usually start with 50-70 kids, but in just a few days we would have well over 100. Why did the other kids come? Did we give evangelism instructions to the first group or teach them invitation techniques? No, kids carry no baggage whatsoever. Filled with simple joy, enthusiasm and the Spirit of God, they sang the songs, simply because they liked them, and told their friends about the good time they were having every morning at VBS. For the kids, having come and seen and heard, it was only natural to go and tell. The enthusiasm of children is contagious, perhaps even infectious.

Maybe that is why Jesus sent His disciples out so early in His ministry and so early in their stage of instruction. Maybe that same childlike quality filled their witness. Maybe, years later, when they were hardened veterans in the mission field, they would remember it.

In Sunday’s lesson from Ephesians, Paul begins his letter to this, his main support station, by reminding them that they are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, chosen in Him to be holy and blameless in God’s sight, predestined to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ. It goes on and on. In the Greek, the entire 12 verses are one sentence! The whole thing is fascinating– wonderful, but I particularly treasure the opening lines noted above.

Paul was talking to Gentiles. It went against everything he had always thought “before Christ.” Even the Gentiles, the men and the women, are adopted as God’s sons–the word “sons” is a legal term. As children of God we all receive an inheritance right along with Jesus. There are no second-class children in the family of God.

The words remind me that, just as Jesus did not require any advance qualifications for His disciples, so they require no special attributes to be His apostles–His missionaries. He took swarthy fishermen right from their boats, a tax collector right from his table, and turned them into His full-time students. After very little preparation, He sent them out to proclaim His kingdom. His grace was sufficient to bring them into His presence and His power was sufficient for them to enter His service.

In the same way, Jesus required nothing in advance from us before He went to the cross for us. It’s a good thing, too, since we weren’t even born when He did it. That is the purest of undeserved grace! And now, having made us God’s “sons,” inheritors with Him regardless of our nationality, race or sex, He sends us out. And God blesses us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing–everything we need. We have no need of excess baggage. We who are stained and guilty in sin are, in Christ, “holy and blameless in God’s sight.” Well, now that you’ve come and heard, go and tell!

Mid-Week Stewardship Thought

Expressing Love through Giving

Two brothers shared a field and a mill, and each night they evenly divided the grain they had ground together during the day. One brother lived alone; the other had a wife and large family. The single brother started thinking, “It isn’t really fair that we divide the grain evenly, because I only have myself to care for and my brother has children to feed.” So each night he secretly took some of his grain to his brother’s granary to see that he was never without.

The married brother said to himself one day, “It isn’t really fair that we divide the grain evenly, because I have children to provide for me in my old age, but my brother has no one. What will he do when he is old?” So every night he secretly took some of his grain to his brother’s granary. As a result, both of them always found their supply of grain mysteriously replenished each morning.

In the same way these brothers expressed their love for each other, we are called to express our love to others who are in need of our support. This love can be shown by giving of our time and/or money.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, grant me a loving and giving heart. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Blessings on your journey as a steward!

Lessons and Hymns for Pentecost 8 (Proper 10 C)

These are the Scripture readings you will hear this coming Sunday:

Amos 7:7-15
Ephesians 1:3-14
Mark 6:14-29

Click here to read the above lessons and the propers for the day.

The Lord Jesus Brings His People through Death into Life by the Preaching of Repentance

Amos did not choose to be a prophet, but the Lord took him “from following the flock” and said to him, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel” (Amos 7:15). It was a hard word given him to preach: King Jeroboam would “die by the sword,” and Israel would “go into exile away from his land” (Amos 7:10–11). For this word, Amos was hated and threatened. St. John the Baptizer also suffered for his faithful preaching of repentance. King Herod “sent and seized John and bound him in prison,” even though he knew that John “was a righteous and holy man” (Mark 6:17, 20). Out of pride and fear, Herod “sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head” (Mark 6:27). Yet in Christ, St. John the Baptizer “has been raised from the dead” (Mark 6:14, 16). For Christ is the destruction of death itself “before the foundation of the world,” and even now by faith, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” has blessed us in Christ “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3–4). Through Baptism into Christ, you also “were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” for life and salvation (Eph. 1:13).

These are the hymns we will sing:

With the Lord Begin Your Task (LSB 869)
Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (LSB 686)
Alleluia! Sing to Jesus (LSB 821)
Thine Forever, God of Love (LSB 687)
Lord of All Nations, Grant Me Grace (LSB 844)

“Without honor, but desperately needed”

Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:

Ezekiel 2:1-5
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Mark 6:1-6

In some denominations, the Gospel Lessons for this Sunday and next make up one lesson which was read last Sunday. The stories are related by a potential for failing at spreading the Kingdom. The shocker is that this week’s lesson points to Jesus as the one who “could not do any miracles there.”

The place is Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown. The reason for His failure, in His words, was: “Only in his home town, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” Mark presents Jesus as the Son of God, calming wind and wave, overpowering scores of demons, healing the sick with a touch and raising the dead. But, in Nazareth, He is “the carpenter … Mary’s son.”

Sunday’s first lesson is part of the call of Ezekiel to become a prophet. God warns him: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day.” God wants them to change, but that is not particularly to be Ezekiel’s goal. Instead, God promises: “And whether they listen or fail to listen–for they are a rebellious house–they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

Sunday’s second lesson is one of St. Paul’s rare moments of boasting–he boasts of his weaknesses! His point is provided by God Himself: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” My guess is that, at first, the whole idea was pretty hard for Paul to take. Paul once cherished a personal success and achievement in the law that humbled the ordinary person. After his conversion, he may have placed a great deal of confidence in his own ability to succeed at his new mission. A few early failures–great eloquence of words missing the mark, humbling exits over walls and quick trips to avoid hostile crowds–may have helped to teach him to “preach Christ crucified” and leave the results to God.

The Gospel lesson can teach a thing or twenty to all of us preachers and to everyone in the Lord’s mission: If Jesus is unsuccessful because of people’s obstinacy or indifference, we surely can’t expect anything better! Jesus was amazed at the lack of faith in Nazareth. The people there were amazed by His audacity–teaching and preaching in the synagogue as though He knew something or was somebody. It makes a sad story: a place where a prophet is without honor, but desperately needed.

Times haven’t changed. Many people still come to church to be reassured in what they think they already know. When Jesus confronted the assumptions and challenged the ideas, attitudes and behavior of the folks at Nazareth, they rebelled by attacking His credentials. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles!” Mark’s stinging conclusion is, “And they took offense at Him.”

Mark doesn’t tell us one word of Jesus’ message, but it probably included: “Repent and believe the Gospel.” Apparently these people were as averse to repentance as we are. They certainly were averse to believing the Gospel–Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.

When we read the story, it is difficult to put ourselves in the place of Jesus’ friends and family. We cannot picture ourselves taking offense at Him. But the family of God continues to take offense at Jesus whenever He confronts our sin, our presumptions and our prejudices. Because we know Him as Savior and Lord, not some local boy who decided to become a teacher, we do not openly oppose or attack Him–we just ignore Him. Too many people want a little bit of God in their lives, sort of like a pastime or diversion from “real life.” But we prefer that He not “meddle” in our status quo.

Fortunately for us, Jesus is not just a meddler. He jumps right into our lives, our assumptions, our needs, our prejudices, our confusions and our rejections. He confronts us with the Gospel. God in the flesh accepts punishment and death on our behalf, rather than dealing them out against us. We want to go through His words and cross out what we don’t like, but He doesn’t cross out anything–He doesn’t even cross out the cross! And He does not call on us for some mere intellectual agreement. He brings us right into the mission with Him. He calls us to be like Him, exchanging love for hate and forgiveness for offense. He does not promise we will be successful, but He does promise to be with us, “even to the end of the world.” Christ’s missionaries are never alone.

Some of us are sent far away. Most of us are sent right to our home towns, among our own relatives and to our own households–where a prophet is without honor, but desperately needed.

Mid-Week Stewardship Thought

Jesus Is Lord; We Are Stewards

The foundational truth of Christian stewardship is that Jesus is Lord and we are stewards. What this means is that Jesus is Lord of our lives. He is number one in our lives. He has given us the clothes we have on. He has given us the cars we drive. He has given us the homes or apartments that we live in. He has given us the employment that we have or will give us the employment that we need. He has given great wealth to some while others may have to struggle paycheck to paycheck. Regardless of the amount of money we have, we are to steward faithfully all that we’ve been given. As stewards, we understand that our property doesn’t belong to us. Nothing here belongs to us. It belongs to God; He has given it. Knowing that God has provided our blessings, we should be thinking of ways and opportunities to use our blessings to extend God’s kingdom and help those in need. With God’s help, we can be instruments through whom God can use to share the Gospel and to provide a helping hand to the needy.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank You for being my Redeemer and Savior. Help me to live a life worthy of Your sacrifice. Grant me the faith that I need to carry out my tasks as Your steward. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.

Blessings on your journey as a steward!

Lessons and Hymns for Pentecost 7 (Proper 9 B)

These are the Bible readings you will hear this coming Sunday:

Ezekiel 2:1-5
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Mark 6:1-13

Click here to read the above lessons and the propers for the day.

The Ministers of Christ Are Sent with His Authority to Forgive Sins and Give Life

 

The prophet Ezekiel was raised up by the Spirit of the Lord and sent to speak an unpopular Word to the rebellious house of Israel. As a prophet, he was not to speak his own word, but to preach the Law and the Gospel: “Thus says the Lord God,” whether the people “hear or refuse to hear” (Ezek. 2:4–5). So, too, in the footsteps of the prophets before Him, the Lord Jesus “went about among the villages teaching” (Mark 6:6). In His hometown, as elsewhere, “many who heard him were astonished,” marveling at His wisdom and at the “mighty works done by his hands,” and yet “they took offense at him” (Mark 6:2–3). The offense culminates in His cross, which is, ironically, the heart and center of His “authority over the unclean spirits” (Mark 6:7). It is by that authority of His cross that those He sends preach repentance, “cast out many demons” and heal the sick (Mark 6:12–13). Thus, the apostle Paul boasts in the cross of Christ and in his own weaknesses, knowing that God’s grace is sufficient and that the power of Christ “is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:8–9).

 
These are the hymns we will sing:

O Blessed, Holy Trinity (LSB 876)
Speak, O Lord, Your Servant Listens (LSB 589)
Draw Near and Take the Body of the Lord (LSB 637)
What Is This Bread (LSB 629)
How Firm a Foundation (LSB 728)

“Great Expectations!”

Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:

Lamentations 3:22-33
2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-18
Mark 5:21-24, 35-43

On Wednesday evening, June 25, I attended the closing service of the Missionary Orientation at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. More than 100 missionaries and family members were sent out into the world. The preacher, Rev. Donald Bendewald, suggested that their job was the immediate conversion of 4.5 billion people. He said it might take them “a couple of weeks.” Talk about great expectations! Then again, what other expectations should the people of God have?

Sunday’s Gospel lesson is one of those split texts–10 verses are missing. Those verses are a miracle story in themselves. Sunday’s lesson is the beginning and ending of another miracle story. As a matter of fact, from Mark 4:35 to the end of Sunday’s lesson, Jesus demonstrates total controlling power over roaring wind and waves, a host of demons, a 12-year- old illness and death itself.

In addition to being amazing demonstrations of Jesus’ power, the four stories have an interesting similarity. The disciples wake Jesus in a panic with, “Don’t you care if we drown?” The man with the legion of demons inside him comes from the tombs to meet Jesus as soon as He steps out of the boat. The demons immediately know they are “on the way out.” The rich and influential ruler of the synagogue comes right to Jesus and gets on his hands and knees for the sake of his dying daughter. The poor hemorrhaging woman is too low on the scales of society and religion to approach Jesus directly. But she sneaks up behind Him to touch just His clothes. All of them come to Jesus. All of them have great expectations. It is very interesting that, in all these stories, only those who stayed behind at Jairus’ house lack positive expectations.

When the little girl dies, they seem a little upset that Jesus dallied too long with that unclean “nobody” of a woman. They also figure that it is now useless for Jairus to bother Jesus any more–it’s too late. Jesus told Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Do you wait behind for Jesus to do something according to your prescription? Or do you go to Him with great expectations? When you read your Bible, attend worship or receive Holy Communion, do you expect God to do great things to and through you? Are you like Jairus’ friends–do you think Jesus is too busy, too unconcerned, too distant, too late to be helpful any more?

I love the hymn verse: “Thou art coming to a King–Large petitions with thee bring; For His grace and power are such, None can ever ask too much!”

In 1994, the journal Homiletics had this interesting note about a very common gesture: “Ever ‘cross your fingers’ for luck? Did you know you were making an ancient Christian symbol of faith, a bodily demonstration of faith in God’s protective, caring nature? Crossed fingers were a Christian’s ‘secret weapon’ against evil. Instead of crossing oneself openly, and thus inviting the attention of dangerous foes, a Christian could call on the powerful protection of the holy cross by making this small, inconspicuous gesture.”

Some people today would call that a silly superstition and dismiss it as useless and of no good purpose. On the other hand, maybe we Christians could reassert the symbolism behind the gesture, making it not a childish superstition, but an act of prayer and faith. Do you come to church with your fingers crossed?

The cross is our constant reminder that Jesus is never too busy, too unconcerned or too self-concerned. It represents the opposite truth–that Jesus willingly sacrificed His own needs and wellbeing, His honorable name, even His life for us! What’s more, He didn’t leave it at that. As with the disciples, the little girl and the woman who had the hemorrhage, Jesus restores us to full relationship with God and with each other! The cross reminds us that, as with Jairus’ daughter, Jesus even gives us life after death. He gives us resurrection. Cross your fingers and reach out in faith.

Come to Him with great expectations and reach out to others with great expectations! Reaching 4.5 billion people may take more than a few weeks, but you can reach one today and another tomorrow and another…