The Pastor's Perch

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Needle Necklaces and the Possible

Mark 10:23-31 reveals the truth that nothing we do saves us from our ultimate doom. To underscore this, Jesus tells His disciples that it is easier for a camel to push through a needle's eye than a rich person getting into heaven. This causes amazement among the disciples, which they took as a general pronouncement that nobody gets into heaven. Jesus responds by telling them (and us) "With man this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God."

From there Jesus assures them that what they left to follow Him is not worth worrying about. What lies ahead for those in Christ, for those who trust in Him alone for their salvation, is more than what they could get on this side of heaven. There are no shortcuts to heaven. Only through Christ, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, is our path. Only through His work for us on Cross, in Grave and Risen to save, is our hope and future. We trust in Him to do the impossible for us, covering us completely with His saving blood and innocent suffering and death. We trust Him alone.

O Lord Jesus, nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling. Amen.

Rest In Christ

Hebrews 4 is all about rest in Christ, but that rest is not found in merely knowing about God's salvation. It is in not rejecting the gift of faith that receives all the essential nourishment in His sacrifice for us. According to the writer to the Hebrews, the ancient people of God, while in the wilderness following their miraculous escape from Egypt by God's mighty hand, rejected God, His gifts and did not enter the rest He had given them. They had other gods, mostly their own stubbornness and unbelief. It is a long chapter, but worth the read. Read also Psalm 95 to hear references to this rejection and loss of rest in the peace of God. They did not enter the promised land but their children did. Joshua, Moses' protégé and leader chosen by God, is the first Joshua, or "Savior" as his name translates. Jesus is the second Joshua, as His name is the Greek name for Joshua and therefore, He is our Savior, who brings us through the wilderness of life to the promised land of a new heaven and earth.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Jesus is our Sabbath rest, the focus of our gathering to receive gifts through faith. We dare not reject these gifts because they bring life to us from His death on the cross. His suffering in our place was to atone for our sinfulness and sinning. We, too, are on a wilderness walk, but not to our condemnation. Through trusting and relying on our Lord, we become more convinced of our salvation through Jesus' work--in fact, He had no rest so that we could have complete rest and trust in Him alone for our salvation. Through His Word and His mysteries, the Sacraments, we are renewed and convinced of our salvation, both daily through our Baptisms, and when we gather for worship of God when we set aside time for the Lord to give us gifts through His service to us.

I come, O Savior, to Thy Table,
For weak and weary is my soul;
Thou, Bread of Life, alone art able
To satisfy and make me whole:
Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood
Be for my soul the highest good! (The Lutheran Hymnal 315:1)

Meditation on God's Word

The Psalm for this next Sunday is from the multi-versed acrostic Psalm 119, focusing on the second stanza, verses 9-16. This entire psalm is arranged alphabetically, using the 22-letter Hebrew alphabet. In each stanza, each line follows suit by beginning with the same letter as the beginning letter of that section. We look at the "B" section or in Hebrew "Beth", pronounced like we pronounce bathe, with a long a. Is that too much information? Oh well..

How can a young man keep his way pure?   By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes!
13 With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

Summarizing this, each believer, because this is for ones who follow the Christ, should seek God's strength through God's Word, which the Holy Spirit guides for those who seek true wisdom and comfort. We cannot do anything without Christ (John 15:5) we cannot believe without the Holy Spirit's power (1 Corinthians 2:14; 12:3), we cannot but resist the Holy Spirit and insist on our own way (Acts 7:51; Romans 8:7; Galatians 5:17) and only can we be saved through faith in Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:14; Romans 1:16; 10:17; 1 Peter 23, 25; Ephesians 1:13).

O Lord, let us fix our eyes, minds and hearts upon You and Your salvation. Grant us wisdom through the Holy Spirit, and cause us to trust only in You. Amen.

Getting Satisfaction

Mick Jagger once answered a question about getting satisfaction, according to Rolling Stones' first number one US hit back in 1966, by coyly saying that they were completely satisfied in about every area of their lives. He is as of this date worth $500 million. Good for him. He is an entertainer; he writes, performs and delivers. 

What satisfies us? Not just in areas of political, fiscal and economic plenty. When there is want, poverty and loss, are we still satisfied? Are we still grateful to God? In the storm do we still give thanks?

In Ecclesiastes 5, King Solomon reminds us that true satisfaction comes in the calm assurance of God providing for this life and the life to come in Christ Jesus.

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

Lord, we thank You for all that You give us. Help us to accept these gifts with gratitude and remember to use those gifts for Your glory in service to You and to others. Help us to live contented lives, looking forward to a glorious life to come, for Your Son, Jesus, emptied Himself so that we would be filled with riches to eternal life, through forgiveness and salvation. Amen.

Shortcut

The Introit for this next Sunday is from Psalm 34: 18, 4-7, 17. It is one of those Davidic psalms, from the time of his running from mad king Saul, whom the LORD rejected. David is really king, but the LORD is testing him to see if he will take a shortcut and kill king Saul. After all, David IS the King of Israel. Shortcuts are the story of mankind: from Adam and Eve taking a shortcut because of the devil's seduction for them to become like God--really wanting to become a god, to you and me doing the same. We try to make a shortcut in life and ignore God's long game of testing us to see if we will trust in Him. And we blow it. There just is no way around life but through it.

But then we hear later in the same psalm: When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. 

God hears us our cries and delivers us, sometimes in this life, but ultimately, in the life to come. And the One who understands us the most is the One whose body and spirit were broken and crushed to deliver us from and on the cross, Jesus the Christ. He traded places with us to save us, so that we could receive all the blessings from His wounds. We are healed by His suffering and in His suffering He brings us so that our suffering is made whole in Him. We are forgiven because of His suffering.

And someday the suffering will end. But all of it is for our good and all of it He uses to bring us close to Him in order to receive His gifts and His strength for the day. He uses these tests and trials to guide our reliance on Him and His resources. The devil wishes to pervert and twist things so we believe we should not have such things happen, but they happen. To whom will we turn?

“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.”

Just a Teacher?

In the Holy Gospel for this next Sunday, a rich young man refers to Jesus twice as "Teacher." Most of the world that has heard of Jesus sees this and nothing more. No true God, no true Savior, nothing more than a good moral teacher. Even the Bible-quoting Ghost Buster, Winston Zeddemore, (Ernie Hudson) could only muster "I love Jesus' style." Follow the reading in Mark 10:17-22.

Most of the unbelieving world, caught up in the devil's lies about our Lord, give Jesus only that much. In the reading we hear Jesus redirect the man's false understanding of what he reveals as good works in order to receive salvation to the One Good, God Himself, which Jesus is. Possessed by his possessions, this man is convinced that Jesus will recognize that he is good enough to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Perhaps he earned his wealth, but more likely he inherited his wealth since he is young. Now he wants Jesus to recognize his ability to obey the rules, he is such a nice moral rich muffin. 

Jesus levels it all off by calling out the man's true morality, in that he trusts in his wealth, which he cannot release. This is not just for rich people, but for all people who trust in anything but God. Only in God do we have peace and only through the Son of God, Jesus the Christ, can we receive this peace, through faith in Him. Stripped of all that we trust, will we trust in God to be our provision and salvation? It is the ultimate question but we are not sufficient of ourselves to even fulfill that. 

These are scary questions that without the Word of God and the Holy Sacraments strengthening us in faith and assuring us of the Lord provisioning us for this life we are lost. Only in Christ do we have complete pardon from sin, and the forgiveness flows to us through the Word as He is given over to be punished for us to pay all our debt. We cannot obey in any way, shape or form to save ourselves. We need Christ, especially when we become complacent through wealth or ease. We need Him to save us from ourselves.

The last picture of this guy, leaving disheartened because he was possessed by his great possessions, is truly sad. But the Lord looks at him and loves him. There is hope. With sinful humanity, nothing really that matters is possible. But with Christ, all things are possible. If He can change murderous Saul into St. Paul, if He can change tax collector Matthew into Levi the disciple--if He can by Holy Baptism, faith, forgiveness and Holy Spirit change you and me, there is always hope.

Lord Jesus, True God and True Man, continue to kill the gods of self and possessions in us all. Keep us focused on You for all that we need and especially forgiveness of our sins from Your precious wounds. Feed us with Your Word and Sacraments daily so we seek Your nourishment daily. Assure us we are forgiven and Your people in Your kingdom. Amen.

Press on in Jesus

Imagine being given the keys to the most exquisite automobile, the most spacious home and having access to anything you wanted without any merit or worthiness to have earned them. And then, complaining all the while about how little you were appreciated, how little you really received and in the end rejecting every gift given you because you did not want it that way. Imagine.

In Sunday's epistle reading, from Hebrews 3:12-19, the writer to the people reminded them that the ancient people God had chosen to inhabit the land He gave to them were about to enter into the land. And when they were tested in the wilderness, they immediately and categorically denied, doubted and rejected everything God had given them and wanted to go back to Egyptian slavery. 

And when they rebelled about going into the land promised by God, having heard the evil report from the spies sent in to analyze and return with the report of both how wonderful the land was and how great the resources given them, they focused instead on the size of the present inhabitants, and wanted to kill their leadership and go back to slavery. They did not trust in God's promises and provision to not only enter the land, but He would fight their battles and establish them right away. But they could not and would not trust in Him.

Wow. No faith in God at all.

Yet now, people look around and do the same thing: let's go back to the Egypt of our youth, where everything was so much better and people understood life better and the life was much simpler. Go back to when the lies we believed (about our world/schools/government/goods/technology, etc.) was all we needed. We forget that we took that all for granted, and that while it might have been simpler, we simultaneously wore blinders which the Lord removed and tested us to see if we would trust in Him. We wanted to make the world into our image, forgetting that the world is passing away and we should not hold onto it. So now we have every form of vice, filth and evil out front and in the open--all of which have been around us from the first sin. It is within us to be evil and not just desire, think, speak and do evil. Yet we reject that too. The Lord should strike us down for that alone. Forget about the past and press on to the future, remaining firmly grounded in Christ Jesus.

Hold on to Christ and His salvation. We read from Hebrews 3:

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 

Heavenly Father, I have been so wishy-washy when it comes to taking hold of Your promises and making them mine. But today I will not allow my human reason to talk me out of my spiritual inheritance. Make Your Spirit keep me solid on the Rock of Christ Jesus. Guide me to every promise that You have given me today in Jesus. In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

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