Saturday, March 28, 2009
Deaconess Pat Nuffer spoke to the Kentuckiana Zone of LWML today. Pat is the wife of CTS Professor Richard Nuffer, and serves many, many disabled people in the Sudan. A couple times a year she aids the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Sudan by bringing items such as first aid kits with common, over-the-counter items like Band Aids, Tylenol, aspirin, Tums, etc. Items as varied as solar panels, hygiene kits, and handicapped-adapted bicycles are among the things she takes.
Of course, in the context of bodily mercy, aiding the disabled near Yambio, Pat and her co-workers teach from My First Catechism and One Hundred Bible Stories, sharing the Gospel with the people they are aiding.
Hands of Mercy is purposefully a joint project between Pat and her American contacts, and the indigenous Lutheran Church in Sudan. No "short term mission project" that lacks connections to altars and pulpits.
What an amazing thing to hear of God's work through Hands of Mercy!
[Yes, I know that this is six days late!]
The people had grown impatient. They stopped listening to God. They closed their ears to Moses, His messenger. Standing their ground in a rebellion against the Lord and His minister, the Israelites remained in their sin. And judgment came. Poisonous snakes were everywhere. Great crowds of people were bitten and fell ill and died. Others were finally seeing the error of their ways. But what could be done?
The irony was not wasted on them. They realized that sin and death entered the world by a serpent enticing our first mother. They were not blind to the image of serpents now overrunning their camp, and doling out death. If a serpent got someone, it was a fatal bite. Death was sure. Crying out, they pleaded with Moses to intercede for them and ask God to remove the deliverers of death.
But God’s answer was not to remove the agents of death. The Lord did not take away the hardship and potentially fatal danger. What did He do?! He delivered them from evil! He gave salvation!
God told Moses to make a serpent out of bronze. Moses, who received the blame of the people when they were judged by God for their unbelief – Moses, whose fault they said it was that they did not have good food like the good old days when they were slaves and life seemed easier! Now the minister of God who bore their anger and blame was to craft the means of grace that would save the grumbling multitudes.
Now, whoever was bitten was to look to that image, and live. The poisonous snakes did not disappear, but when someone was bitten, they could look to the bronze serpent and not die, but live!
The Serpent was lifted up. This sculpture of death became a source of life! The children of Israel were brought to realize that nothing they could do would rid them of the snakes. Yet God Himself could and would deliver them. No Israelite could, by his own reason or strength, save himself. No remedy, medicine, or “snake bite kit” was going to save them. But simply looking in faith toward the Lord’s means of grace would release them from death’s slithering grip.
Fourteen hundred years later, Jesus teaches this morning’s Gospel lesson. In Adam, all have fallen and are bitten by the poisonous serpent who brings death. It is a fatal bite. Death is sure. And once again, no one could, by his own reason or strength, save himself. No remedy, medicine, or “snake bite kit” could save anyone. Jesus alone has God’s remedy.
What is that remedy? Jesus was lifted up. Just like the strange image of a deadly serpent was used as God’s means to give life, so was this strange, gut-wrenching, lifting up of Jesus on the cross. Here was a man – the Son of Man – dying, lifted up and on display for all to look to. And in His death, He gives life – eternal life.
Simply gazing upon our Suffering Servant on that cross, we behold God’s gift of salvation. We are strengthened and comforted, being reminded of God’s boundless love, as He died for you!
That is the beauty of the crucifix. A cross with a picture or sculpture of Jesus on it is a most amazing treasure, preaching to the eyes. With that image, God delivers the Gospel visually, visibly proclaiming salvation. The Church has always recognized this. The Lutheran Church has always cherished this. In some areas of Germany, it was easy to spot the Lutheran churches, because they had the largest crucifixes! They wanted the message of Christ crucified to be boldly proclaimed.
And when someone was dying, do you know what Dr. Luther encouraged? He said someone should hold a crucifix before the eyes of the departing Christian, that he could be calmed and assured and comforted by recalling Christ’s sacrifice that they might live.
Of course, there are many folks who are uncomfortable about this. People didn’t like the bronze serpent either. It’s gross. Disgusting. Just ask Mary Ann, or Indiana Jones about snakes. Many of us don’t even want to see them in the zoo, much less outside of a glassed-in exhibit. How disturbing that God’s salvation from the poisonous snakes was an image of a snake!
Similarly, the salvation from death is an image of death. It is scary. Offensive. Disturbing to the core! Many people do not like seeing Christ on the cross. Be on guard, dear friends in Christ, that if you become leery of seeing a painting or sculpture of Christ on His cross, it does not carry over into an attitude of avoiding Christ crucified! Do not become ashamed of Jesus and His humble death. Do not let Satan celebrate that you constantly fail to lift Jesus up in a positive way, witnessing His love and mercy. Do not despair that you keep thinking how you are responsible with those chief priests, and scribes, and Roman soldiers for Jesus being lifted up on the cross. Jesus is lifted up for you!
Jesus is lifted up for you, dear friends in Christ! And after being lifted up on the cross, He was lifted up out of the tomb! Death was not strong enough, it could not keep Him. Since He paid the price of death, it totally lost its power. Jesus was victorious, now glorified and exalted – lifted up!
And forty days after that, Jesus is lifted up for you again, as He ascends into heaven, that He may be nearer to you than ever! He lifts up from this earth, that He may be lifted up in Word and Sacrament.
As your pastor holds up the Body and Blood of Christ, declaring, “The peace of
the Lord be with you always!” you see Christ lifted up for you. There, lifted in the pastor’s hands. There, lifted by God’s servant for all to see. In a room filled with people suffering from the snake bite of Satan, Jesus is lifted up at the altar for all to see.
Seeing our Lord Jesus held aloft is comfort enough, encouraging us to fight the
good fight. And yet, He doesn’t just leave us to battle the devil alone. This Jesus who is lifted up for you now enters you! He places His Body and Blood inside you, that you may be strengthened and preserved in the true faith, to life everlasting! He comes to you and in you that you may be forgiven, enlivened, and saved!
In the Holy Eucharist, you receive the ultimate in Jesus being lifted up for you!
Come, dear friends in Christ, and be lifted up by Him who is lifted up for you!
Throughout the week, you may feel bogged down, burdened, and crushed. But
the One who was lifted up for you, now lifts you up! So rejoice, dear friends in
Christ. Christ lifts you up, today and always!
Friday, March 27, 2009
Cool news about the Treasury of Daily Prayer! CPH is working on a recording of the music, with the singing of Matins and Vespers so people can sing along as they use the book. Now, even if you cannot read music, you can join in the singing of these great prayer offices!
For more details, please see Pastor Scott Kinnaman's post.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Another Lutheran pastor has briefly blogged today about the importance to this day for the Church's teaching on life. Today we mark the first moment of Christ's incarnation, as a cell in His Blessed Mother's womb.
Well spoken, and succinct, I'll simply send you to his blog.
A Blessed Feast of the Holy Fetus to you!
Over the ten years that I have been online, I have learned on lesson again and again: You cannot enunciate on the internet. There is no tone of voice. No sign of sarcasm or seriousness. Even with smiley faces,
A number of years ago I participated in AOL’s discussion group for the LCMS. Even there, getting to know the regular contributors, I was mistaken for a very Protestant idea of the Lord’s Supper because I was taken out of context, and the playful sarcasm in my mind did not translate onto the screen.
This week’s discussion of the observance of Laetare, and the varying expressions of it, once again bring this lesson to the forefront. I know all these people in “real life,” to one degree or another. And I like them all!
Knowing Sandra, I also know she hates being the center of attention like this. She also has such a respect for the Office of the Holy Ministry, that she would not “attack” or malign a pastor. I know she is cringing right now at the cackling of Satan as he tries to divide Christ’s people.
Knowing Pastor Petersen (albeit on a much lesser level), I admire his knowledge and catechesis on the liturgy. I enjoy hearing of the ceremony and rite at Redeemer, and appreciate what he shares on their website. I confidently trust that the people of Redeemer receive the Word and Sacrament with all this beauty, focusing on Christ and not the man in front of them – just as it should be in any parish.
Knowing Pastor Esget, I LOL’ed as he posted “Real Priests Wear Rose” in his tag line! I already knew what he enunciated in a later post. He does not take himself too seriously, and planned on his readers having a sense of humor. In no way, shape, or form was he putting down anyone who simply wore a violet stole, or variation of Lutheran vestments for the day. I know he was genuinely dismayed that his comments were made to be some sort of rallying cry.
Knowing Stan, I know his passion. He jumps at every opportunity to defend the Gospel. In a strong spirit of Luther, he can do that with cutting wit, or sharp “Here I stand”s. In a parallel universe, he would be the Gutenberg for HT’s Reformation Germany.
Knowing Pastor Borghardt, I know his servant-humility and Christ-centered ministry. Pastor Borghardt always has the question “How will this serve or detract from Christ and His Gospel?” in the forefront of his mind. His enthusiasm for proclaiming this Christocentric, one-and-only Gospel to our youth is unparalleled!
The Lord has placed an amazing team among us! Yet with well-intentioned friends of HT who may not know these individuals as well, a war of words has flown way out of proportion. Each of us can sing with glee: “I am baptized into Christ!” Each of us here is authentically Lutheran. Violet, rose, or pink, each of us celebrated Laetare, hearing Christ’s Word and (hopefully) receiving His Body and Blood, the Bread of Life!
As we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord, recalling the great Gospel preached to the Blessed Virgin, we rejoice. As that Gospel was placed in her ear by the Holy Spirit for her to conceive the Son of God, we rejoice. As God’s messengers continue to preach this Gospel to us, conceiving faith and birthing new Christians, we rejoice.
Dear friends in Christ, don’t give in to Satan dividing us, or allowing him to cause ill feelings among us. No. Gabriel announces to you today: “The Lord is with you!” He tells you of the One who is great and is called the “Son of the Most High.”
The Son of Mary is come for you. And He will always speak in the clearest of words to you. Thanks be to our Incarnate Lord, whose enunciation is clear… on His Annunciation, and always!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Note also that you can copy that widget or follow the link and get your own variation on it for your Facebook, blog, MySpace, etc.
We are in this Lenten season, being reminded of almsgiving as we are able. This is just another opportunity to reflect the love of our Savior.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
CJ, one of our four-year-olds from Saint John's has recently been diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL.) The good news is that this is the most common and the most treatable form of leukemia in children.
CJ and his family are really doing quite well, all things considered. They have created a Facebook page to keep everyone updated, and now a blog, simply called: CJ's Blog. Feel free to join the Facebook group and/or follow the blog. And most importantly, please remember CJ (and all other cancer & leukemia patients) in your prayers.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Evening Prayer is such a peaceful, refreshing way to end the day! Pastor Chris Esget remarked about it on Facebook tonight, and I heartily agree.
This service is based on the ancient Office of Vespers, with psalms, hymns, and Scripture readings. Our Lord nourishes us with His Word, and we give our response of humble thanks and praise. We thank Him for the blessings of the day now past, and ask for His protection as we sleep through the night.
Evening Prayer concluded tonight with singing "The Day Thou Gavest." This hymn was introduced to us in Lutheran Service Book, and speaks of the ongoing nature of the Church's prayer. While we have prayed through the day here, the other side of the world slept. Now, as we sleep, the Church in lands west of us is awake and interceding. It is a beautiful, non-stop cycle!
What peaceful joy to have had your prayer rise before Him as incense, and now spend the night resting in peace!
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I LOVED "Carol Burnett & Friends." One of the best television shows EVER. And I would maintain that Carol is the funniest woman alive.
Ben is officially a Boy Scout. He received his Arrow of Light (Cub Scouting's highest honor) in February, and "crossed over" to the Boy Scouts. He is in a very large and active troop, which promises to be a lot of fun!
All three of his grandparents were there for the banquet when he got his Arrow of Light, which thrilled him! His first meeting with the troop was a Court of Honor, when boys are recognized for their achievements during the past six months. He and the others who just crossed over received their "Scout" rank that night, since they had met all the requirements.
Now, he looks forward to his first summer camp, and all the other excitement of his first year as a Boy Scout!
This morning you hear a case of mistaken identity. “Who do people say that I am?” All sorts of answers were floating around. Some were saying Elijah, John the Baptizer, or another prophet. Even those who knew this was Jesus of Nazareth, were not clear about Jesus’ work—His ministry—His identity.
Over a hundred years ago there was a growing number of professors who thought they knew more than the Bible. They felt that the Scriptures contained many fables and myths, and that the story of Jesus had grown to include a lot of fiction. They began what they called a search for the “historical Jesus,” rather than God-in-the-flesh – our Lord Christ. What they did not understand is that this is one and the same. The Man Jesus IS God. He speaks only the truth, and can and does work miracles. He has power over death. Jesus IS the Christ, the Son of the Living God!
Those scholars suffered from a case of mistaken identity. They were not clear about Jesus’ work—His ministry—His identity. Their supposedly superior education had shattered their faith like little children, and destroyed any clue of a proper response to our Lord’s question: “Who do YOU say that I am?”
“Who do YOU say that I am?” Jesus asks the Twelve. Peter jumps up to be the first student to answer the Teacher’s question. He swiftly and boldly declares: “You are the Christ!”
Now, yes, Peter confesses the right answer. But our Father in the faith, Blessed Martin Luther, would have us ask Peter: What does this mean?
Jesus says what it means – and the apostles don’t want to hear it. Even Simon Peter, who has just given this beautiful and strong confession of faith – the Prince of the Apostles, who has just boldly declared that Jesus is the Christ – does not get what that means. Peter is back in the mixed-up identity that the rabbis had developed for the Christ. Simon Peter thinks that the Christ will burst into Jerusalem and force out the Gentile occupying government and army.
Jesus gives His correction: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Very plainly Jesus tells them that He must suffer for them and for us. That He must die for them and for us. And that He must rise from the dead for them and for us. Who Jesus is, is wrapped up in what He does. Our Savior’s identity is precisely that: He is our Savior – our Redeemer – the Suffering Servant.
Simon Peter jumps to be the first to correct Jesus. He rebuked Jesus! No way, Lord. That will NEVER happen to you. We’ll die before we let them get you!
Then Jesus comments on the identity behind that argument: “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
He knows people don’t get it. He knows that without the benefit of hindsight, you and I would be right there, baffled with the Twelve that Jesus says He has to die. We would be right there with Simon Peter, saying: “Lord, You don’t know what you’re talking about! You don’t know what You are saying! We’ll protect You from anything like that!” And you and I often join Peter in this arrogant sin of thinking that Jesus depends on our protection – that He’s helpless without our defense.
Jesus also knows that this idea does not come from us. It is from the devil himself. “Get behind Me, Satan!” The devil wants us to have a case of mistaken identity. He desperately desires that we think that Jesus’ glory comes from earthly power, and would be nothing if He suffered and died. The old evil foe conspires to persuade you to believe a false identity of who Jesus is, so you would join that foe in hell.
Don’t jump into the devil’s bandwagon! Stop rebuking Jesus! Quit thinking He’d be ruined without your aid! That’s the work of our old, evil foe.
But our Lord Jesus has conquered that foe. By giving Himself to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again, He became our Savior, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
Our Savior, Jesus, is the Christ—the Anointed One. Christ was anointed to suffer and die in our place. Christ was anointed to be not only the Great High Priest and King, but also the Sacrifice. Christ was anointed to be the One who did not deserve to die, yet took that punishment so death could be rendered broken and impotent forever. Christ was anointed so that in His death, He would conquer death. And in His resurrection, He would give new life.
So it comes down to this: Jesus’ identity is wrapped up in who He is and what He does. Our loving Lord forgives Peter for his display of ignorance and wicked outburst that defied Jesus’ divine mission. He sends His Holy Spirit to work on Peter’s heart to recognize the purpose and work of Christ. And when all was said and done, Peter gladly received salvation from our Lord Christ, and proclaimed it, preached it, and gave it through the Sacraments for the rest of His earthly life.
We receive that salvation from Jesus too. In His boundless love, Jesus’ identity becomes yours in Holy Baptism.
The story is told of a man who was drafted into the French army under Napoleon. Now there was a perfectly legal practice at that time that one could hire another man to take his place in the army. This man, whose family needed him at home for them to survive, found someone to take his place. During the war, the substitute died.
Because of a clerical error, later the man was drafted again. He politely protested that his time in the army was already served. The case ultimately ended up being heard by Napoleon himself. He declared that due to this acceptable and legal substitute, not only had this man served, but died as a hero to their nation, and should be honored as such.
Jesus has taken your identity on Himself when He was baptized. He has suffered your death, so you do not have to. And because of all this, He gives you His identity. Yes. You have traded identities with Jesus!
As you look forward to the Resurrection in this Lenten season, you are free from death, dear friends in Christ. He has not only served, but died in your place! Now, in Holy Baptism, our Father in heaven looks at you, but He sees His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. That’s no mistaken identity. That’s a gift!