“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.

Things Don’t End Just Because They’re Not in the News

All of us (especially the media) have extremely short attention spans and this is clearly shown in the lack of reporting from Hawaii about the continued lava flow from Kilauea, the volcano that began fissuring and spewing lava everywhere on the island. Things haven’t changed there and are only getting more interesting as the following video shows:

I didn’t know lava can flow at such a high rate of speed! I bet you didn’t either.

Credit: Ken Boyer Photography via Storyful

Mid-Week Stewardship Thought

Money Is a Test

Jesus said, “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:11). The way we handle our material possessions is a good test of the way we would handle responsibilities relating to God’s kingdom. Jesus tells us that, if we can be trusted with our stewardship of the material things that He entrusts to us, then He will trust us to be stewards over things of highest value which relate to the eternal. In order to be “trustworthy in handling worldly wealth,” we need to recognize our privilege and responsibility to use our material blessings with a kingdom focus.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to develop a right and proper attitude toward the money You have entrusted to me. Help me to see my money as a tool to help others. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

Blessings on your stewardship journey!

Lessons and Hymns for The Nativity of John the Baptist

Note: This year we are trying to include special services celebrating various feasts and commemorations in the church year that fall on a particular Sunday. This Sunday is an example.

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

Isaiah 40:1-5
Acts 13:13-26
Luke 1:57-80

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

St. John the Baptist Was Sent to Prepare the Way of the Lord

St. John the Baptist is not the Christ, only His forerunner (Acts 13:25). He was called from the womb to bring Jacob back to God through his Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Is. 49:5), just as Christ was the true Servant of the Lord. Miraculously conceived by Zechariah the priest of barren Elizabeth, John was marked to be the greatest born of women (Matt. 11:11). The Church rejoices over the Lord’s mercy just as Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives did at John’s birth (Luke 1:58). But when Zechariah’s tongue was loosed, John was not the subject of his song. Instead, he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68). John is the voice crying, “Prepare the way of the LORD” (Is. 40:3); Jesus, the virgin-born Son of God, is that Lord. John is “the prophet of the Most High” (Luke 1:76). He is born “to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,” because Christ the Dayspring is visiting (Luke 1:76–79). Thus, what John preaches is the comfort of iniquity pardoned by Jesus, the promised Savior of Israel (Acts 13:23), so “that [His] salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Is. 49:6).

These are the hymns we will sing:

When All The World Was Cursed (LSB 346)
Sing Praise to the God of Israel (LSB 936)
Comfort, Comfort Ye My People (LSB 347)
On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry (LSB 344)
Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies (LSB 873)