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.

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…

Mid-Week Stewardship Thought

God’s Faithful Stewards

Knowing that God is the Creator and Provider of all things motivates us to worship Him with our faithful stewardship. As faithful stewards, we acknowledge God as the source and owner of everything. We are merely managers or caretakers of His property that is on loan to us. In our faithful stewardship, we seek to use our lives and blessings according to His will. We understand that our main purpose is to serve and glorify Him. We seek God’s wisdom and strength to fulfill our stewardship tasks, and we are aware of our need to be responsible and accountable. The reward for our faithfulness will come from hearing God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23).

Prayer: Lord, as I read and study Your Word, I pray that Your Spirit will enlighten my heart and mind so I may draw closer to you and better understand Your will for my life. May my stewardship give You honor and glory. I pray this in the precious name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus. Amen.

Blessings on your stewardship journey!

Lesson and Hymns for Pentecost 6 (Proper 8 B)

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

Lamentations 3:22-33
2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15
Mark 5:21=43

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

The Lord Jesus Is Faithful, and in Mercy He Raises You Up from Death to Life

The Lord is faithful. His steadfast love never ceases, and “his mercies never come to an end” (Lam. 3:22–23). To keep us in repentance and to make our faith grow, He causes grief for a while, but He does not cast off forever; in due time, “he will have compassion” (Lam. 3:31–33). Therefore, “hope in him,” and “wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD,” for “the LORD is good to those who wait for him” (Lam. 3:24–26). That is what the woman did who had “a discharge of blood,” and also the ruler whose daughter was “at the point of death.” Each waited on the mercy of the Lord Jesus, and each received His saving help (Mark 5:21–28). The woman had suffered much for 12 years, and the ruler’s daughter had already died before Jesus arrived. Yet at the right time, the woman was immediately “healed of her disease,” and the little girl “got up and began walking” (Mark 5:29, 42). Such is “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” who humbled Himself unto the extreme poverty of death “so that you by his poverty might become rich,” even unto life everlasting (2 Cor. 8:9).

These are the hymns we will sing:

Gracious God, You Sent Great Blessings (LSB 782)
Great Is Thy Faithfulness (LSB 809)
Take My Life and Let It Be (LSB 783)
My Country! ‘Tis of Thee (Ambassador Hymnal 631)
God Bless Our Native Land (LSB 965)

“With us in the boat”

Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:

Job 38:1-11
2 Corinthians 5:14-21
Mark 4:35-41

Anyone who has ever been in a severe wind storm, especially in a boat, can have genuine empathy for the disciples in the story from this Sunday’s Gospel. The story begins with Jesus saying, “Let us go over to the other side (of the Sea of Galilee).” Now, remember, they did not fire up some 200 horse Merc’ and zip across. Mark doesn’t say if they traveled under sail or singing round after round of “Row, row, row your boat.” He does say that Jesus took a nap.

Several disciples had made their living on this water, so it was nothing new to them when a storm rolled off the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee responded. But it’s one thing to have the wind and waves outside the boat–it is another when the waves start coming inside. I have been in a boat when waves came over the side, trying to wash tackle and people out. It is not a joy-filled moment. It’s memorable, but not enjoyable. My boat will float, even full of water; theirs probably would not.

They panicked and woke Jesus with: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Jesus saved His comments to them until after His words to the wind and the waves. He rebuked one, and said, “Quiet! Be still!” to the other. Mark notes, “The wind died down and it was completely calm.” Then Jesus addresses the panicky twelve: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

At that point, Mark closes the story with: “They were terrified and asked each other, Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!'” Most scholars agree that Mark used that as a rhetorical question, designed to make his readers draw an inescapable conclusion.

There are some subtle points in this story that I think have great importance. Notice that after Jesus brings immediate calm out of cataclysmic chaos, His question to the disciples is still in the present tense: “Why are you so afraid?” Did some lingering fear of the storm prompt His question?

As I said, I have been in a boat when waves came into it. But I have never been in a boat when someone spoke to the wind and the waves and made them be still!

Few forces in life compare to the wind. The words “hurricane” and “tornado” strike terror in the hearts of any who have been in the middle of those demonstrations of brute strength. But imagine what was going on inside those disciples when, after the wind was gone, a Power much greater was still right there in the boat with them! “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

How do you make peace with the wind? You can’t! It blows where it wants, as hard as it wants. You can’t control it, manipulate it, appease it or please it. How do you make peace with that greater Power–God Almighty–right there in the boat with you? Same answer.

Many scholars agree that this is a transition point in Mark’s Gospel. The book begins with a series of proclamations, then comes a series of parables, then a series of miracles. This is the first of the miracles, but it also provides rather clear proof of the proclamation that Jesus is the Son of God. It also has a parabolic nature of its own. It sets the stage for the stormy conflict still coming. The rages of the sea were often identified with the conflict between good and evil– God and Satan. Jesus’ demands here are similar to His orders to the demonic spirit at Capernaum: “Be quiet! Come out!” (Mark 1:25)

When the last of His conflicts came, why didn’t Jesus demand silence from the religious leaders, Pilate, Herod and Satan, just as He did the demonic spirit, the wind and the waves? Why didn’t He simply strike those people dumb and helpless? Anyone who thinks people are harder to control than wind and waves had better think again. The answer is that God is not a God of control and power, but a God of Grace, mercy and love.

Jesus had not promised, before they set out across the lake, that there would be no wind, no storms, no danger. He did not promise it afterward either! As a matter of fact, He promised that their job and our job as ambassadors of His reconciliation would be thankless, difficult, dangerous, even deadly! But He also promised to be with them, and He promises to be with us. God doesn’t guarantee us smooth sailing, but He does promise to be with us in the boat.

We cannot control God any more than we can control the wind, but we can trust Him! We can believe that He would rather be one of us than remain aloof from us. We can believe that God is in the boat with us no matter what life hurls at us. We can believe that in Christ, as a result of our sins, God chose not to kill us but to die for us. We can believe that He has made us His missionaries–ambassadors of His reconciliation.