The Pastor's Perch

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Clean Water, Dirty Water

In between the storms, some folks try to wash their cars. It lasts a couple or three days, then back under the rain/snow/ice we go. Can you imagine going into a car wash clean, then coming out dirty? Maybe there was a malfunction. Maybe the hose was clogged, but usually, the dirty, salt-encrusted vehicle comes out with a cleaner look than before it went in. This last Sunday we celebrated as a church, the Baptism of Jesus, which is like the clean car coming out dirtier than the dirtiest it could have been. It went sort of like this: Jesus comes to be Baptized by His kinsman, John the Baptizer, and John, fully aware that he, John, is the sinner and that his Kinsman, Jesus, is not a sinner. So John tries to have Jesus Baptize him, but Jesus tells John to Baptize Jesus, so that all righteousness will be fulfilled. Jesus in essence was telling John that Jesus was beginning His ministry, and here, at the muddy Jordan, Jesus was identifying Himself with every person of every time and place--doing all the righteousness for them. Jesus was obeying and fulfilling all the Law for each person who was unable to do so--not even in any way to earn salvation. Jesus becomes our substitute, and here at the Jordan, Jesus begins the ministry that will culminate in His triumph on the cross of punishment for all people. Jesus is Baptized as though He is the great sinner above all of us, and it is as though He enters into the Jordan clean and comes out dirty. Not with just the dirt of a dirty river, but with the filth of millions of people on Him. Jesus takes our sin away, but He is covered with our sin before He is nailed to the cross. A washing for Him is an exchange of our filth for His perfect righteousness. He fulfills all righteousness for us in our place. He is our righteousness. John's Baptism is not Jesus' Baptism of Matthew 28:19, but John's points to Jesus. Jesus' Baptism is where water and Word meet upon a person to drown the old sinfulness within so that a new person rises from the Baptism, holy, righteous and forgiven. Jesus' Baptism unites us into God's holy family called the Church. We don't stop there but we find rest, comfort and peace from God in our new family, which lasts forever. All this from a simple Water and Word Baptism from Jesus Christ. 

He Still Seeks the Wise (and not so wise)

The 12th day of Christmas is January 6, which traditionally is called Epiphany, and signals the end of the Christmas season and heralds the Epiphany season. So what? Why do Christians keep this calendar that makes no sense to the world around them? For the same reason you might keep your calendar filled with personal stuff that seems to be useful only to you. Epiphany means revealing, illumination or discovery that has great meaning for someone. You are given a gift that no one else really understands. A member of your family discovers that they will be having a baby when they were told they could not have children. While some of this is common for many people, not many see it connecting to them. In our grasp of this event, Jesus was revealed to the outsiders, the nations outside Israel, and the magi, or wise men, who were probably astrologers from Persia or another exotic place were revealed by God that a King was born, the King of Israel. Not many people outside of them worried about that, but the phony-baloney king in Israel at the time, Herod, was enraged that someone besides him was THE KING and really the only King that mattered. The most important thing about the Epiphany of Christ Jesus was not just recognizing Him as true King, but the gifts given Him: gold, frankincense and myrrh. The first two gifts are what you gave kings to recognize their wealth, power, strength, and kingly rule on earth and as God. I could go on at length about those first two gifts, but myrrh is the important gift. It is the precious ointment that kings used for their embalming to halt the process of decomposition after death. Jesus would die--even as true God and True Man--and He would be carefully covered with it when taken down from the cross and entombed by His disciples. Myrrh reminds us of the bitter suffering and death of Jesus for each person of each time across the earth. He had to suffer for us and for our salvation as man and as God, and suffering completely, He would fulfill all righteousness and provide for us all the forgiveness and life eternal that we could not provide for ourselves, neither could we work in any way to achieve or earn. All of what He did He did alone, and we receive the free gifts from the King of everything. Jesus turns this all around: He finds you, gives you the most important gifts--forgiveness, life and salvation--and brings you through this life to the life in the new world He will make. He is the Wise man that found you. Give thanks to Him and follow Him, receiving His gifts as much as you can. If you would  like to know more, just jump in and let me know. Blessings as He "epiphanies" you.

Let Heaven and Nature Sing

Joy to the world--the Christmas song, that is--has an odd line in it: and heaven and nature sing. When you read who praises God, often people stop with just people. But all heaven and nature sing. The enfleshment of the eternal Son of God brings about the greatest praise of all time. Not even Tobymac in his prime could out sing the heavenly choirs and the earthly songs. In the Christmas birth story in St. Luke, the angels cut loose for the sake of the baby Jesus and the shepherds who represent Israel: Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” And nature also brings forth praise, as Psalms 96 and 98 tell:

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.

Imagine that: the coming of the Lord brings about such joy that all creation sings alleluias to the Baby King who brings justice in suffering for each of us--the Just One for all the unjust--and imagine how the song gets louder as more and more join it. Imagine the choir of heaven filled with the faithful ones who joined them this year. That joy will never end even though they are no longer among us. Guess what: they are still singing and it's much louder now because they are not held back by being slightly off-key or tone deaf. They are spot on and they sing with us as we hymn in the Baby who became one of us to save us. We have in our Holy Communion liturgy a very important line: and with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your (God's) glorious name and [sing]: Holy, holy, holy.

Sing out this Christmas and remember your loved ones who are safely with the Lord Jesus. They are singing with you because of Jesus. Jesus came for you and in Him you have His forgiveness and righteousness. You have Him because He has you. Sing out for joy!

Seeking the Holy in Halloween

Halloweening the Reforming Saints, or what happened to 500 years of no fear. Well, Halloween is upon us and the great pumpkin is about to rise from the patch, so that we can be spooked once again, except for all those thrill seekers who have to be spooked continually on their electronic devices. I say with certainty that there are nasty, ghostly things because I have had to deal with them. Or rather, I have had to call upon the Lord to deal with them for me. I will not go into it, but a few times in my life, the supernatural on the bad side has reached out to me, and fool that I was at those times, I reached back. Touching evil means leaving the safe confines of God’s care through angels, and seeking the lord of the flies, the prince of the air, the old dragon, the devil himself. And once he appears, you will never forget the experience. I realize this puts me at risk—both for being seen as a nut and also as one who may be misunderstood as some sort of religious fanatic. I am neither. I am a sinner who has been brought through the darkness into the light of Christ Jesus. Never mind what I have seen or experienced. Every place on this earth has angels and demons, and the Lord protects His children by keeping the latter away by the power of the former. If you want to see a ghost (really a demon from hell and not your dear departed Aunt Agnes, who is in heaven) God will let you do that. But why expose yourself to such hell, when God has better plans for you? We celebrate All Saints ’ Day, not praying for or to those faithful who have been received into heaven, nor placing food or other victuals for our dead relatives, as this is animism or ancestor worship at the very least. They are with the Lord who saved them by His precious blood and innocent suffering and death—He, Jesus, punished for our sin and sinfulness. They are in bliss and peace. No more tears. No more suffering. No more sorrow. No more sin. The sinner-saints who have passed from this vale of sadness are with the One who brings us gladness, so that with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify His glorious Name and saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God of Hosts!

Please pray this prayer: I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Be Still! But not you!

As a young child, when an adult wanted to silence a bunch of kids, we might hear the shout, Be still!" Shut up was the obvious meaning, and soon the room was quiet so that an important announcement from the top could be shared with us. Often we want God to speak to us, but He is silent. He will not break the silence, and even worse, He wants the noise of the world to be silenced. Why? Because He promised to listen to you and hear your call to Him. He doesn't want us silent, but He knows how to silence the world around you so that you know He hears you. The devil, the non-believing world and our own sinful selves love to fill in the silence with noise that takes us far from our Heavenly Father. The devil even wants us to be silent because we think God will not want to listen to us. Maybe you think that God would not listen to you because you have been far from Him. He will never leave you or foresake you (Hebrews 13:5). God has promised to hear you (Isaiah 65:24), and even when you don't know what to say, the Holy Spirit speaks for you (Romans 8:26-28), and especially does our Lord Jesus pray for us (John 17:20-23). Pray the Lord silence the world so that you can focus on Him, but know that He will always hear you, and He will help you even when you don't know what to say. He is your advocate. He is your savior. He is with you always.

Interruptions

It's been a while since I posted. Not that I didn't want to. Many things happen in a person's life, things that take priority. Even our Lord Jesus had to take time from His busy schedule to attend to things. Not that He can't be everywhere. He could, but to test people, and to let people know that He uses the things He created to serve others, He often allowed interruptions in His ministry. These interruptions were interruptions of further interruptions. In Luke 8:40-56, Jesus is at it once again, bringing the kingdom into focus in people's lives. Here comes Jairus, a ruler of the local church, whose 12-year-old daughter is (from the last he saw her) near death. She does die while her father and Jesus make their way to the house where she is. In the process, a woman with a 12-year-old illness sneaks up behind Jesus to get healed when she touches His robe. Talk about cutting into the line! She had patiently waited and paid through the nose to doctors to heal her, and it only got worse. Desparation causes her to cut into the line, and now poor Jairus must wait while the Great Physician pronounces that her faith in Him was well placed; she is healed by Jesus. So that leaves Jairus out in the cold: his daughter is dead and he is like most of us dads, lost in inconsolable grief. Why her and not my child? Why a line-jumper and not me? The point is that Jairus was a line-jumper also. He comes swooping in and wants Jesus to drop everything to heal his daughter. But the point is that both Jairus and the unnamed woman trusted that Jesus could heal and save. They were desparate and now the Lord is there, and they in great faith approached Him. And He more than delivered. We wish He would do for us what He did for them. Often people think that Jesus forgot them because their issue, trouble, problem was not solved. They wake up each day with the same trouble, same problem. Where is Jesus? Right there, in the middle of their life. Right there, in the middle of the trouble. Right there. And that is there where He wants to be. Right next to you, not just when trouble occurs. All the time. And He answers prayers in His time and in His way. We trust Him, not to answer the prayer our way, but His way. Can we trust Him?

When Endings are Beginnings

My Mom died June 25 at 5:00 am. She had breathed her last and went on her final journey into heaven, which we all knew was coming, but the blow of losing her is still with us, and most intensely, with Dad. The ones left standing cry all the tears, and we are no different than any other family. But we have that hope in Christ Jesus, who swallowed death for us. St. Paul reminds us that the final victory awaits us, when all things--people, animals and the universe--will be made new by Jesus Christ and His power to bring everything into submission to His will. And His will is for our good. What He does He does for us. Google and Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. And we are forever people because Jesus died for us and paid all that we owed. When you are made debt free, you are freed to serve others who are under a crushing debt. Google and Read Galatians 6:1-10. You are freed because you have been moved from the strike zone to the safe zone of Jesus Christ. Google and Read Colossians 1:1-14. Mom's ending here leads to her beginning there in heaven. And it only gets better. Talk to me about this. God bless and keep you.

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