Archive for June, 2013

A statement from the LCMS on the recent SCOTUS decision to strike down DOMA

June 27, 2013 Leave a comment


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Sermon for Wednesday, June 26

June 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Sermon for Weds Night Service — June 26, 2013

Note:  This is the first sermon for the saints at Heavenly Host.  They have a regular Wednesday night service each week, spoken liturgy, with holy communion twice a month.  In beginning to think about what to preach on (aka what lectionary to follow), I hit upon the idea of following the lectionary from the Treasury of Daily Prayer.  This will provide for a seasonal continuity with the Sunday services but allow for a greater variation in readings over the years.  So the sermon for the evening was set on the first reading for June 26, from the first chapter of Joshua.  As usual, the audio can be heard by clicking the link here 38 Sermon for Weds, Jun 26.mp3.

The text for our meditation this evening is first lesson from Joshua chapter 1.  This reading makes an excellent mediation for us this evening particularly because this is my first sermon here at Heavenly Host and I’d like to make some assurances to you all about what you’ll hear from this pulpit.

Joshua receives oversight of the people of Israel after the death of Moses.  The Lord is speaking to Joshua clearly and unambiguously about the nature and content of his leadership.  In tone, it is not entirely unlike the installation service many of you attended Sunday, of course with significant departures.  Pastor Paavola is now President and not dead and I was never his assistant.  And we might be tempted to think, “and the Lord God, was not the one speaking either,” but we’ll examine that thought in a minute.  There’s a bit more there.  No.  The point I’ll be trying to make this evening is that the Lord continues to speak, to provide men to do His ministry of Word and Sacrament, and serve His people as their God.

Joshua receives a specific charge from the Lord Himself.  “Go over this Jordan, you and all this people.”  “Every place your foot will touch, I have given to you.”  As any watcher of the news today knows the boundaries the Lord demarks here are in contention by the many nation states that lay claim to parts of these lands.  Did the Lord fail to deliver on His promise?  Was Joshua somehow unable to fulfill his part of the deal?  The rest of the book of Joshua describes the conquest of the Land of Canaan and the failure of the Israelites to claim all that the Lord had set aside for them.  The Lord did not fail to make good on His promise but the people failed to trust in the Lord to deliver even though the Lord Himself speaks so clearly here and unambiguously.

Verse five clearly and unambiguously proclaims the promise of the Lord to Joshua and to God’s people, Israel.  “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.”  God’s promise is clear.  Can it be any clearer?  And so that we’re clear, this is not one of those God will do His bit if you do yours kind of deal.  The Lord says, “I have given the Land.”  It’s already a done deal.  He has already made good on His promise to deliver them out of bondage to Pharaoh in Egypt and into the freedom of salvation in His Promised Land in Canaan.  The only thing that remains is for Israel to take possession of the Lord’s promised gift.  The Lord even reiterates His promise down in verse 9.  “Have I not commanded you?”  We can paraphrase this a bit and hear, “Remember who it is who saying this to you.  It’s me, the Lord.  So, don’t be afraid, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  God’s promise, His blessing is so clear here.

And yet the people of Israel confused even this clear message of promise.  They focused instead on what Joshua should do.  “Be strong and courageous.”  And are we any different than the people of Israel confusing the Word of God?  What’s on the Christian t-shirts and coffee mugs?  “Be strong and courageous.”  Not the promise.  Not the Gospel of the Lord God spoken to His servant and to His people Israel, but the Law.  “Be strong and courageous.”  “Make sure you do your bit for God.”  “Keep up your end of the deal at all costs.”  It’s as if we think the Lord is some old frail God who can’t fight anymore and it’s up to us to have to defend Him.  Is that the picture we get here?  The Land is already given.  It is already theirs.  They need just take possession of such a blessing from God.  They need never fear nor doubt that this thing has already been done.  And instead of focusing on the bit that the Lord has already done, they focus instead on the bit they need to do.  Keep in mind, there are things we need to do.  They are outlined clearly here as well.  Verses 7 and 8.  “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”  This should sound less to us like the bit we have to do and more like the bit we simply do because we are in the act of possessing the gift we have already been given, things we do that are in line with using the gift.  Perhaps an illustration would help here.

I had a number of house projects to complete before we moved to Tennessee.  Some of these involved using one of my favorite tools, a skillsaw.  If anyone has ever used a handsaw for any length of time at all, you realize instantly the great blessing that is the skillsaw.  However, there are certain things you don’t want to do with a skillsaw.  If you do them, they can get you hurt and hurt very badly.  These are things that you don’t necessarily have to do but things you do because you are possessing using such a great tool.  Without doing them, a great blessing can turn into a terrible curse.  Such is also the case with the blessings of God if not even more so, or they can become a curse.

I said that this text can be a meditation for us tonight as the text for my first sermon at Heavenly Host and I think some of the connections are very clear.  The Lord Himself has established His ministry here in this place among His people.  In that sense, we are no different than the Israelites and I am no different than Joshua.  It is the Lord who has established this place as the place where He speaks His Word, where He comforts and feeds His people, where He corrects and even rebukes His people.  He has already done it.  He had led you out of slavery to your sin and given you the freedom of the Gospel of the new creation in Christ Jesus.  The only thing that remains for you to do is continually take possess of that gift of grace, daily, weekly, annually.  Daily in your prayers the remembrance of your baptism in the Lord’s own Jordan and the doing of what the Lord has given you to do in your vocation as parent/child, ruler/citizen, employer/employee, weekly in your hearing of the Word of the Lord read and proclaimed in His house in your eating at His very own table of grace in the Supper of His Son’s body and blood given and shed for you, and annually in your participation in the life of Christ, prophesied, born, suffered, crucified and risen for you.  That’s my task as the Lord’s called man here, if you will, your “Joshua”, to always remember the promises of the Lord, to always do what we have been given to do as a result of those promises, to not fear but be courageous, because the Lord Himself has already done this.  I have pledged not to depart from the Book of the Law, nor the rest of 61 canonical books of the Scriptures, nor the Lutheran Confessions because they are a true exposition of the Scriptures and reflect a true understanding of what the Lord spoke to His men and prophets of old as well as through His Son and His apostles and teachers of the new Israel, the Christian Church of which we are a part.  Remember the Lord has done it.  He has already accomplished it for you in His Son.  He has given you salvation and eternal life.  You are to be possessing it not fearing that it will slip out of your hands or someone will steal it from you.

I say that especially today because of the latest challenge by the Supreme Court of the United States to the Lord’s order of grace in the striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act.  We may lament what is happening but we need not fear but rather be strong and courageous and not depart from what we have been given realizing of course that there is a far higher court than that of our land.  The Lord Himself speaks.  “I will not leave you or forsake you.”  These are good words for new pastors.  They are good words for hearers.  They are good for us as God’s people who find ourselves more and more to be strangers in a land that rebels against God’s order of grace.  “The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Amen.

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Called to another area of the Lord’s vineyard

June 27, 2013 Leave a comment

From a few comments here and there that have trickled in over the years, I know that there are a few occasional readers of this blog that might not know that back in April, on the Second Sunday of Easter, Heavenly Host Lutheran Church and School in Cookeville, TN, were led by the Lord of the Church to extend a divine call to me to be their pastor.

My prayerful deliberation of this call was not nearly so easy as some thought.  But the primary consideration a pastor must make is the application of his skills and abilities and where those skills and abilities might best be used.  And after almost 6 weeks, it was evident to me and to most everyone who knew me well, where I might best be used in the Lord’s vineyard.

And so, after finishing up a few house projects, painting kitchen cabinets and new floors in the kitchen and master bathroom, as well as taking down some dying shrubbery outside, we’re here in Cookeville, Tennessee.

The people at Augustana were sad to see me go, as sad as I was to leave.  And the people of Heavenly Host have been warm and supportive and so very friendly.  I’m still asking for prayers as I transition into a very different role here.  I still pray for the folks at Augustana because they are a flock without a shepherd now.  The Lord will provide.  And I pray now for the folks here at Heavenly Host because they are trying to adjust to new pastor, which is never quite as easy as it might sound.

A dear friend sent me a collect in an email which I have been praying regularly.  I think you’ll see why.

Lord God, You have called Your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go but only that Your hand is leading us and Your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  (LSB Altar Book, p. 449)


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