Mid-Week Stewardship Thought

The Holy Spirit Equips and Powers Us

“And when He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and He said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping?  Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation’” (Luke 22:45-46).  Jesus was exhausted too.  After all, He was human.  He got hungry and tired, just as His disciples did.  We are prone to shake our heads at those lazy, disloyal disciples, but how often do we say we’re too tired to serve, too poor to give, too inadequate to help?  Like the disciples who were transformed on Pentecost, we have received the Holy Spirit Who equips, enables, and energizes us to be God’s stewards.

Prayer:  Our gracious Heavenly Father, You have given us the message and the power to proclaim the Gospel.  Give us joy and courage in our task.  Forgive us when we fail our responsibility.  Thank You for Your Son Who has lived the perfect life of stewardship for us.  Through Him we ask these things.  Amen.

 

Blessings on your stewardship journey!

Lessons and Hymns for Pentecost 10 A (Proper 14)

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

Job 38:4-18
Romans 10:5-17
Matthew 14:22-33

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

Christ the Crucified Comes to Save Us by the Word of Faith

The Lord who “laid the foundation of the earth” (Job 38:4) is the Author and Giver of life who governs all things by His Word. His wisdom and power are beyond our understanding, except as He reveals Himself in the incarnate Word, Christ Jesus. He has “entered into the springs of the sea” and “walked in the recesses of the deep” (Job 38:16), and He draws near to us in mercy. We have been “a long way from the land, beaten by the waves” and tossed about by hostile winds (Matt. 14:24). In our mortality and sinful unbelief, we do not always recognize the Lord Jesus. But as we cry out in fear, He speaks tenderly to us, “Do not be afraid,” and He reaches out His hand to save us (Matt. 14:27, 31). “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13), and now we call upon Him in faith, because we have heard “through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (Rom. 10:8).

These are the hymns you will sing:

God Himself Is Present (LSB 907)
Eternal Father, Strong to Save (LSB 717)
What Is This Bread (LSB 629)
Thy Body, Given for Me, O Savior (LSB 619)
Precious Lord, Take My Hand (LSB 739)

Mid-Week Stewardship Thought

God Bless America

In the history of our nation, people have turned to God during periods of crisis.  And that’s what God asks us to do: “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).  How gracious is our God to answer our pleas for help, but how foolish we are to go our own way when the crisis has passed!

 

Prayer:  Good and gracious Heavenly Father, I give You praise and thanks because You are the Lord of lords.  Thank You for blessing me with such a wonderful country where I am free to worship You.  Grant the United States of America the ability to remain “one nation under God.”  Help this nation to be a blessing to other nations in the world.  In Christ’s name I pray.  Amen.

 

Blessings on your stewardship journey!

“It’s the Big One!”

Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:

Acts 10:34-43
Colossians 3:1-4
Matthew 28:1-10

“It’s the Big One!” If every other Sunday in the Church Year is a “Little Easter,” then this Sunday is the Big One! Redd Foxx, playing Sanford of Sanford and Son, got a lot of mileage out of the phrase, “It’s the Big One!” It was his standard ploy, in the series, to feign a heart attack whenever things were not going his way. He would even call out to his deceased wife, and tell her he was coming to join her. Like Sanford, many people try to devise ways to manipulate others around them. Some do their best to even manipulate God. Easter reminds us that God always has the last laugh, the last and best Word — the Big One!

A Sunday School teacher told her class that many Bible passages refer to Christ as the Cornerstone of the church. Then she asked if they knew what a cornerstone was. One little boy raised his hand immediately, waving it in the air almost frantically, making grunting sounds and other noises to get her attention. “Yes, Bobby,” she said, “what is a cornerstone?” He proudly answered, “It’s the big one.” In most circumstances, and especially today, his answer is correct. Cornerstones no longer serve the purpose they once had. Today, they are primarily markers, engraved with the name of the building and the date of construction. They are often hollow or have a cavity behind them into which memorabilia are placed. At the church I attend, the “cornerstone” is not even in the corner. We should call it the “centerstone.”

The original purpose of a cornerstone was to set the direction of the building. The succeeding stones were placed in line with it. In an old issue of Pulpit Resource, Glendon Harris shared a story about such a stone.

The setting is the construction site of a great edifice. A contractor inspects a load of quarried stone that has just been delivered. Some stones he approves; a few he rejects. Later in the day the architect arrives on the scene to survey the growing structure and sees a small heap of discarded stones piled on the edge of the site. One stone catches his attention, and he examines it closely. He has never seen anything so flawless. It will make the perfect cornerstone. Calling the contractor, he asks, “Why have you rejected this one?” The builder replies, “It doesn’t fit in with the others.” The architect says, “Then the others must be chiseled to fit in with this one.” Harris added, “So the stone which the builders refused is polished, inscribed and set in the place of honor. It becomes the head stone of the corner.”

One of the most frequently quoted statements of England’s famous man of letters, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, is that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, but found difficult and left untried. The author described in one short sentence the lives of many people. We so often try to make Christ fit in with our lives or our world, instead of making the world and our lives fit Him. Given the way things were, when Christ first came to the world, He didn’t fit. So, one Friday, the world rejected Him, and people thought they had changed Him. Then, on Sunday, God said, “Excuse Me! . . .” And at least part of the world hasn’t been the same ever since.

In a sermon last Easter, I said that I often wonder why, in all of His post resurrection appearances, Jesus didn’t show up at the homes of Pilate, Herod, or Caiaphas. Obviously, try as I may, I am not like God. I couldn’t have resisted the temptation to show up (with a twinge of fiendish delight) in the homes of these men as they were getting up from bed on Sunday morning. After all, they thought they had taken care of the “Jesus situation.” So, about the time they were fumbling around for whatever they used as their eye-opening cup of coffee, I’d have made a grand appearance. I wouldn’t have said much; just waved, and said, “Hi Pi,” “Mornin’ Herod,” “Hey Cai!” Jesus isn’t the kind to say, “I told you so.” He just tells us and leaves us to draw conclusions and make adjustments.

Many things in life are like playing golf — just about the time we think we have something figured out, we have to start figuring all over again. I believe that some of the people who made mocking comments at the foot of Jesus’ cross were still not sure how they should figure Him. When they said, “If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross,” I think that partly in hope, and with a great deal of fear, some of them actually wondered if He would come down — down from the cross and down on them! After He died, they probably concluded that they had Him figured out after all. Then came the third day.

Speaking of the best laid plans of mice and women, Mark tells us that when the women went to the tomb on Sunday morning, they remembered the spices, ointments and wraps, but they forgot about the stone which had been used to seal the opening — it was a big one. On the way, they remembered it and wondered who would roll it away for them. When they arrived, they had a chance to remember something else. The Big One had been on the inside, not the outside! The Stone which the builders had rejected was establishing Himself at the corner or, as at my church, the center of their lives.

When those people at the foot of the cross wanted Jesus to behave like God, they could not imagine that He was already doing just that. The god of their sinful minds would have come down to save himself, and down on them like a ton of bricks! God doesn’t recreate Himself to our image. The fact that we cannot comprehend the scope of His love and mercy does not alter it in the slightest. A sign in front of a church says, “Love that lays no limits is not love.” I can only guess at the intentions of the creator of that message. Luther’s meaning of the Eighth Commandment requires that I guess it is intended as a piece of advice for parents. In which case, it should probably read, “Love that lays no limits does not make for good parental discipline.” Personally, during this Holy Week, I would love to sneak up there and change it to read, “Love that lays no limits is God’s love, laid bare on a cross for all the world to see.”

Neither the creator of that sign nor I can change that other Creator — The Big One — to conform to our image of what He or His love is or should be. We are to conform to Him, the Cornerstone of our faith. At every juncture where we find that He does not fit in with the way we think or the way we live, our thoughts and lives need to be changed. In the movie, The Life of Zola, there is a powerful courtroom scene. Zola was battling to reopen the Dreyfus affair, but his evidence was not admitted and his witnesses were not allowed to testify. The judge, firmly and with finality, declared that it was a closed case. As they were leaving the courtroom, Zola’s attorney pointed to a mural above the judge’s head. It was a painting of the Crucifixion. The lawyer said, “That, too, was once regarded as a closed case.”

The Judge — The Big One — reopened it. Caiaphas went to Pilate to get some soldiers to seal and guard the tomb. He figured the disciples might come and steal the body of Jesus. The soldiers sealed and guarded the tomb from any outside interference. Pilate, Caiaphas and the soldiers were not ready for the Surprise from within.

Let us not make their same mistake. The Christian life, like the Resurrection, is God’s surprise from within. It is not some external change we can make for ourselves, once we have the game figured out. Christ Himself is the Way, the Truth, the Resurrection and the Life. He has picked through the rock pile of our lives, forgiving and discarding forever that which displeases Him. The Holy Spirit still has work to do, however, to chisel away at us through the Word and Sacraments to build a faith and life that will most certainly not fit with the world, because they do align with our Chief Cornerstone — you know – – The Big One.

Blame the Methodists

Here is a bit of trivia for you–Methodist minister Thomas Bramwell Welch developed non-alcoholic grape juice in 1869. You can read all about it in this article from Christianity Today.

As a Lutheran, I do not understand providing grape juice for the Sacrament of Holy Communion. That’s not what our Lord used when He instituted the meal on the Thursday before His death. But Welch was trying to address a problem of his day and inadvertently created other issues at the same time.

In my congregations, those who have had issues with wine have usually found ways to deal with it without the wine not being used for communion. Most times, they were able to receive the wine because they understood that the wine had been brought together with the blood of Christ and the bread joined with the body of Christ to give us a powerful meal for the forgiveness of our sins. In other words, the wine and the bread weren’t seen as those simple elements. Rather, they were given to us joined with the body and blood of our Savior for a unique purpose–to cleanse us of our sins. That made a difference in the meal.

For those churches who see only bread and wine, I could understand where those receiving that meal might not see the wine as anything but an alcoholic beverage since it is nothing more than a remembrance of Christ and His suffering. When God’s Word is added to the physical elements, what we receive is far different.

I have known some Methodist ministers to use wine at communion so there is no consistency in how Communion is viewed within that denomination. When they see the meal as a gift from God for the forgiveness of our sins, then I will know that they are reading Scripture as our Lord intended.

Mid-Week Stewardship Thought

Stewards, not Owners

When the time was right, Jesus came to live perfectly under the law, and to be the perfect atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world (Galatians 4:4). Through His death and resurrection, we are free to live abundantly and eternally with Him. Our faithful response to Christ’s love shown on the Cross is our stewardship. In Christ, we are new creations, people willing and eager to share His love wholeheartedly with others. By grace, His Spirit equips and strengthens us to use our lives and resources to serve Him by serving others. Through faith, we acknowledge our role as stewards, rather than owners, of what He has entrusted to us.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for give me the privilege of being Your steward. Help me to manage faithfully all that You entrust to me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Blessings on your journey as a steward!

“Pleased to give”

Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:

Genesis 15:1-6
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Luke 12:32-40

If you noticed the title before you started reading these words, did you think that this Edit-O-Earl is going to be about gifts and offerings? Well, I would be honored to help you make a gift to LCMS World Mission, but the title refers to Jesus’ words in the Gospel lesson for Sunday. He says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom.”

Twenty-five thousand LCMS youth recently attended a gathering in New Orleans. The most consistent observations from “older folks” all say that if those youth are an example, Christ’s mission is in good hands.

The incidence among American youth of suicide, violence, drug abuse, and dropping out of school and family has drawn a lot of attention. Most of the research and most of the conclusions begin from a negative point of view. The assumption is that youth are in trouble and those troubles are the center of attention. Some TV documentaries have left us with the questionable conclusion of having to throw up our hands and say, “Ain’t it awful.”

In The Closing of the American Mind, Alan Bloom once suggested that young people today face an indeterminate future while being bound by nothing in the past. He described their condition as that of the “spiritually unclad, unconnected, isolated, with no inherited or unconditional connection with anything or anyone.”

The Great American Dream suggests that we can be anything we want to be and go anywhere we want to go. It sounds delicious on the one hand, but it has its problems. If our horizon is without limits both ahead of us and behind us, we can go in any direction we choose. The problem comes when, as Bloom suggests, “There is no necessity, no morality, no social pressure, no sacrifice to be made that motivates going in or turning away from any of these directions.” Consequently, many young people become preoccupied mostly with themselves and with finding ways to avoid “permanent free fall.”

In a chapel address this week, Pastor Larry Reinhardt pointed out the “I” trouble of the shortsighted rich man in Jesus’ parable from last Sunday’s Gospel. The rich man used the words “I,” “my” and “myself” 11 times in his quick three-verse conversation with (of course) himself! Talk about preoccupied with self!

When Robert Louis Stevenson was coughing out the last days of his life with a lung disease, his wife Fanny walked into his bedroom and said, “Well, I suppose you’ll tell me that it’s a glorious day.” The noted author replied with a resounding, “Yes!” Then, looking at the sunlight streaming through the window, he continued, “I refuse to let a row of medicine bottles be my horizon.”

A far-too-limited horizon seems to me to be a more common problem for people today than the totally unlimited one described by Alan Bloom. I once read that an astonishing number of people living within 100 miles of the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans, have never stepped foot on a beach. Some have never driven out even to see an ocean.

I expect that something similar is true of people living near the Great Lakes. When you add in the people who live in the Midwest, the number of Americans who have not seen an ocean or great lake must be phenomenal. A person living in Ohio or western Kansas who has never traveled 100 miles from home has an inadequate mental definition of the word “hill.”

Don’t get me wrong, Ohio and western Kansas are unique in their own way. People who have never ventured out of the Rockies, Smokies, or even Ozarks have an inadequate operating definition of flatlands as well! Words enable no one to experience the Grand Canyon. No travel brochure, no television show or motion picture, no National Geographic can provide even the sights, let alone the sounds and smells that are out there for us in God’s great world.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if far-too-limited and far-too-expansive horizons in life are not intimately related. Perhaps one way of dealing with the unlimited possibilities of life is to constrict them into comfortably familiar surroundings and very narrow potentials. Whether the two are related to each other or not really doesn’t matter. The tragedy is that we do not venture out because we are afraid.

The world is a mess. There are people killing each other over a few dollars in robberies or a few acres in wars. People are being hurt or killed every minute in accidents. They suffer from horrible diseases, natural calamities, hunger, homelessness, alcohol and drug addiction, mental illness and a host of other things. People foul up all the time with oil spills, nuclear accidents and things we don’t even hear about. We’ve got sunspots, pesticides, toxic waste, greenhouse effects and all kinds of other stuff that we do not understand, let alone know how to control. Stop the world. I want to get off!

We send kids to school to learn the three “R’s.” The reason, of course, is so that they can get into the real three R’s–the Riches Rat Race. As if that isn’t enough, in many places they are then hit with the BIG 3: Right, Rite, and Reward so that they can properly participate in the Religious Rat Race. Here they must follow the right rules and perform the right rituals in order for some god to reward them with something.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for the Father is PLEASED to GIVE you the Kingdom.” The future, which seems so terribly out of our control, is in God’s control. He will freely give us a secure and joyful future and, what’s more, it just tickles Him pink to do it! Jesus talked a lot about the Kingdom. I recently wrote about its now and not yet qualities. It arrived with Jesus and it will be fulfilled when He returns.

Theologians often speak of Christ’s first and second coming. Christians can actually talk about Him coming three times–first, at Bethlehem, third at the end of time, but in between He comes to each of us. His coming to us in Word, Sacrament and His Spirit to grant faith and enlist us in His service is the moment when the Father graciously bestows our future inheritance.

There is a curious fish from Central America called Quatro-ojos, meaning “four eyes.” It doesn’t actually have four eyes, but each eyeball has two lenses. The fish can swim along the surface and see both above and below the water. The upper set of lenses looks up in search of food. The other set watches out for danger from below. The Quatro-ojos is able to see into two worlds–one above and one below its horizon. Christians have a similar kind of vision. We are not afraid to see the world as it is, because we are also able to see the Kingdom above our horizon.

We find ourselves in the curious position of being sons and daughters of the King and yet spending our time with the lost, the poor, the lonely, the aging, the sick, hungry, homeless and dying. We foresee a kingdom where no one is homeless, no one is deprived and no one is robbed of freedom. For us, Christ has already made a second coming. While we await His third, we do what we can to help others into His kingdom and to make our present kingdom approximate that better time and place.

Unlike the people described by Alan Bloom, Jesus was not spiritually unclad, with no inherited or unconditional connection with anything or anyone. As a matter of fact, He had connections in High Places. He also had connections in the lowest places. The first did not guarantee His earthly safety. The second clearly denied it. He was physically stripped. But a naked King, with thorns for a crown and cross for a throne is a King nonetheless. He went to the lowest place in order to work out our forgiveness and to assure our place in the Kingdom.

Like our Shepherd, we His “little flock” are connected–focused and directed. But there are other sheep that are not of His fold and these, too, are His flock. We are called to tell them His Good News: “Have no fear…for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom.”