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Message for the Fifth Lenten Midweek Service, Mar 25

March 27, 2015 Leave a comment

A message on Psalm 130

Note:  This Lenten series as been based on resources published in Concordia Pulpit Resources and has been adapted from them.  You can hear this message by clicking the embedded player below.

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Message for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Mar 15

March 27, 2015 Leave a comment

Sermon on John 3:14-21

Text John 3:14-21

 Note: this message can be heard by clicking the embedded player below.

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Forever 21The clothing chain Forever 21 prints it on the bottom of their shopping bags.  One of my favorite places on earth, In & Out Burger, prints it on the bottom of their cups.  It shows up on signs at sporting events.  It’s the whole Gospel in a nutshell.  Christian author, Max Lucado assures us it’s the most often quoted verse in the whole Bible.  John 3:16.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his onlybegotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Certainly, this well-known passage tells us not only that God loved the world, but how he loved it and to what extent he loved it.  But as we see today, the most well-known Bible passage comes to us not as an isolated kernel of wisdom or even truth, but in a rich context that links it to the cross of Jesus Christ.rainydays

God does a new thing for the sake of His creation in sending Jesus but He does not do a completely unexpected thing.  Our reading today begins with direct reference to the Old Testament reading.   “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”  The people of Israel had sinned against the Lord loathing his good gift of manna and so the Lord has sent fiery serpents to chastise them.  They were probably not literally serpents of fire but most likely serpents whose bite felt like fire.  They were dying from the bites and cried out to the Lord and the Lord told Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole and lift it up so the people could see it and when they beheld it, they were saved from perishing because of the serpents.  It’s a story every Israelite knew.  And Jesus reminded them of it as He began to explain how God would save people from perishing, how He planned to show His love for the whole world.  Even in Isaiah 52, the Lord says, “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.”  (Isa 52:13)  So, “…as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Just as Israel had been saved in the wilderness from the punishment for sin by beholding the serpent Moses had lifted up, so the whole world would now see the Son of Man high and lifted up on the cross for the sins of the world and trusting that sign not perish, but have eternal life.  Certainly the coming of Christ into the world to reestablish the kingdom of God is a new thing, but it is not a completely unexpected thing.

Atop Mt. Nebo, today.

Atop Mt. Nebo, today.

God loves the world this much, that He sent His onlybegotten Son into it to be lifted up on the cross, that whoever believes would not perish.  The depth of that kind of love is unfathomable to us.  This idea of God sacrificing His Son has led many otherwise earnest Christians to reject it, claiming it something akin to child abuse on the cosmic level.  Who could trust in, much less love such a God who would even ask much less command His onlybegotten Son to suffer in such a manner as Jesus did?  No they say, substitutionary atonement is a barbarism consistent only with a religion that says an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  It’s completely inconsistent with the New Testament idea that “God is love.”  That’s what they say, anyway.  And yet, God acted in the OT this way too.  Instead of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, God provided a ram there on Mt. Moriah, thus forever remembering that it was in that location that God provided.   It’s also worth noting Mt. Moriah is the same geographical location we know today as Mt. Zion, the temple mount in Jerusalem, mere steps away from Calvary where Jesus was crucified.  It is a hard thing to begin to understand the depth to which the Lord would go in order to free His creation from the curse of death but it is a necessary thing and a good thing to ponder during this Lenten season.  He loves the world this much; He did not withhold His Son.

So what do we do with such a clear teaching from the Lord?  Do we hear it?  Accept it?  Or do we reject it as blood religion superseded by a religion not of blood but love?  To do that mustn’t we disconnect it with how God acted in the past not just with Moses and Israel but even with Abraham and Isaac?  That won’t work will it?  Like Israel in the desert we grumble and moan against God’s Law, all of it, all Ten Commandments.  We despise His gifts, thinking these Styrofoam-tasting wafers akin to the loathsome manna Israel was sick of.  We despise His way of loving others as He has loved us.  This is the state we are in worthy only of a new knot of serpents to come and sting us with the fiery pain of death.

And yet here is the Lord lifted up on the cross for us.  “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  That’s why I think it’s so important we keep actual crucifixes in our church and in our homes rather than mere empty crosses.  And lest we think crucifixes to be idolatry, we should remember it was the same God who forbade graven images who commanded a bronze serpent be fashioned and held up for the sake of the people—a beautiful divine irony worth pondering on its own.  No.  Looking at an empty pole would not have saved the Israelites just as looking to an empty cross does not immediately point us to the suffering of Jesus in our place.  And shortly now, the same body that was lifted up on the cross for us, the Lord Himself will give into our moths in, with, and under the bread of His Supper that we might not just behold eternal life won on the cross but taste and see the fruits of His cross for us.

Behold Jesus lifted up for you.  Behold a God who acts in love to remove from you the curse of His wrath for sin.  Behold a God who delights to give Himself, so that you would not be lost but have everlasting life with Him.  14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

That’s the Gospel in a nutshell.  It’s why we ask Christians to memorize it and understand it.  It’s why a man holds signs up at every football game he can get into.  It’s why Forever 21’s founder insists on this little attempt to spread the message of God’s love.  It’s why the Snyder family who controls In and Out Burger puts it on their cups as well as a bunch of other verses on their other cups and wrappers.  God loved the world this much.  How can you share the same message?  Amen.

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More Bible Class Materials

March 10, 2015 Leave a comment

I tried to copy this from the Winter 2014 LifeDate journal from Lutherans For Life.  But I was thwarted by the technology of a copy machine.

Here is a link to the article I was trying to copy, “Questions and Answers Concerning the End of Life,” by Dr. Lamb as well as a link the whole issue in pdf.

Thanks for your patience. +PS

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Slides from my presentation on cremation

March 9, 2015 Leave a comment

Some of you asked about cremation in Bible class yesterday.  Here are the slides in pdf form.  There isn’t really a script or anything to go along with them.

Cremation Confusion Slides.pdf

The first few slides show cremations from other religious backgrounds.  Namely Buddhist and Hindu and ancient Norse religions which all believed the soul must be released from the body.  Counter that with the Egyptian preservation of the body and the Jewish and then Christian belief in the resurrection of the body.  So you see the Christian catacombs, one with a painting of Jesus on the wall with two kinds of slots in the wall.  One for full bodies to be laid out.  And others to hold ossuaries.

Jesus was buried in new tomb, we’re told, but presumably it held other places to lay out bodies and held niches for ossuaries like we have found in other tombs dating to that time.

Both Jews and Christians used ossuaries to hold the bones of those whose flesh has already decayed and disappeared.  One of significance is the ossuary of the granddaughter of Caiaphas, the high priest when Jesus was crucified.   Internet searches with turn up even more fascinating pictures and better explanations that I can give here.

While Scriptures certainly describe full body burial, they do not explicitly condemn cremation and therefore we should be reluctant to do do when the end result of a full body burial and cremation is the same.  The initial Christian reluctance for cremation might have stemmed from Roman persecution of Christian martyrs and their forced cremation and scattering of the ashes to spite a Christian belief in the resurrection of the body.

In order to understand exactly what cremation is, take a look for yourself, if you want.  YouTube has a video of one.  I was particularly surprised by the technician’s thorough collection of all the cremated remains.

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Bible class materials

March 9, 2015 Leave a comment

The last two weeks, I used a copy of a document in Bible Class called Five Wishes, from agingwithdignity.org.  It was the advanced medical directive we used at Bethesda Naval Medical Center when I was there from 2004 to 2007.  To this day, I think it’s the most comprehensive of the advanced medical directives and explains everything in clear language, not medical speak or even worse legalese.

The copy I used in class came from a health care organization’s site.

Understand what you’re doing.  A Living Will is clearly stating your intentions but does not name a legal proxy.  A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care specifically names an individual to make decisions for you, in case you can’t but doesn’t necessarily outline what your desires might be .  The Five Wishes document above does both and then some.

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Message from the Third Sunday in Lent

March 9, 2015 Leave a comment

The sermon can be heard by clicking the embedded player below.

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Sermon for Lent 2 Midweek

March 9, 2015 Leave a comment

You can hear the sermon by clicking the embedded player below.

Psalm 38.

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