The Pastor's Perch

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Press On

As this Lenten season is near closing, we look ahead to Easter, less than two weeks away. 

We are fully in the sanctuary, after two years of disinfecting, distancing and  masks. It is a bit strange seeing everyone's faces, hearing people sing out and being close to one another again. I cannot quite believe it, but it gives me joy beyond measure. 

That helps me as I struggle with an illness that is sneaky, elusive and progressive. So many times I have not had the energy to do what I used to in the past. So many times I have not felt up to the tasks at hand. I still catch myself thinking, "How long has it been?" Never mind.

As we continue ahead, we work together, and as St. Paul reminds us, we focus on the goal. From Philippians 3:

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.


Last Things

Normally I would shy away from making a pronouncement on the end of the world. I will make a prediction: the world will end. Maybe soon. Maybe really soon. Who knows? I do not. But God, in His wisdom, does. His timing is impeccable, and we should live by it. So, knowing this, how should we live? 2 Peter 3 gives the key:

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

So, there you go. Be watchful and hold to the Christ, the Savior of the world. Hear how Peter finishes this encouragement for you: 

14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

God won't give you more...

...Than you can handle. You may have heard of this saying. Maybe you live by it. Nowhere is it found in Holy Scripture. Sometimes I hear people misapply this saying to what St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 

12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

In all cases, we seek God's strength in Jesus as the Holy Spirit applies this grace through Word and Sacrament. Notice: God uses means to distribute His grace and mercy at all times. We dare not lean on our own so-called strength. It will fail us. We are sinners. We sin. But we have the greatest advocate in the world, Jesus Christ, our Brother. We seek His strength, the strength that sustained Him in open temptation by the evil one. So, we trust completely in Christ, who is our strength. As Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 12:10,

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

No talk of handling anything without God in Christ and Christ in us. Who handles everything? Jesus. Why? Because He fulfilled all things for the world so that the world might be saved. Who does not need or want Jesus? Self-made people who can handle everything themselves. Until they cannot. 

Praise be to Christ, who is our Savior from sin, death and hell. He applies His forgiveness to us through His Word and Sacraments. There, I said it twice.

Up and Down

Remember the teeter-totter? Maybe you remember it as a seesaw. A board sitting astride a fulcrum from which the heavier person on one side could launch the lighter person on the other side. Usually found on old playgrounds--especially the more ancient ones--and not being used in at least five decades. They were dangerous, heavy and the board was usually held in place with rotting u-brackets, that made it slide and dance, especially when in rapid seesawing motion. And my generation loved every minute of it. The trick was to get the other person lulled into a false sense of security, and then suddenly bring your side down and watch space appear between them and the top of the board they are riding.

Up and down you go, and where it stops, nobody knows. Such is life. It is based on subterfuge and surprise. That is what our great adversary loves--sneak attacks.

And then there is the way of the person who seeks not to scare the living daylights out of you. He rides the seesaw by standing astride the fulcrum, taking the bad hits and keeping you on the board, all the while taking the jolts and jumps so that you, while feeling the resonating shocks, remain on because He holds on to you. Why? He knows the ride. He knows the jolts. He knows it all, because He knows you. He understands you and your frailty and weakness. He will help you and never leave you or forsake you. You know His name--Jesus--and He knew your name from eternity.

1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Ukraine, Petroluem and Food

Every time I get a news flash, it usually comes in threes: War, gas and food. Satan wants us to sit around and worry about the world around us. Yes, pray for the Ukrainian people, especially the most vulnerable ones, who always seem to be under the next Russian bomb or rocket. Pray that the outside world bring to an end what oligarchs and other nabobs seem to keep doing. Pray that evil be stopped in its tracks, but know that nations will rise up against nations, as Jesus reminded us. This must happen.

Gas or Petroleum: the industry does not need a war to start gouging us, but it sure helps. The only people concerned about higher prices are the stakeholders/stockholders, and they do not care about anyone except their own belly. Pray for them, please. Oil prices go up and down, but mostly go up. And this is the norm and has been since oil companies realized the stranglehold they have on us consumers. 

Food: Regardless of what it is, it is more expensive and it will continue this way. If you can, grow a garden or at least a window box garden, to grow your fruits and vegetables. Share with your neighbors or barter it for something they have and you both will come out ahead. Do it not just to get something; do it to show God's love in Christ to your neighbor.

Luke 6:38 "Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

The Lion

From the previous post we heard the Lord Jesus is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. But His dual role also casts Him as the Lion of Judah. Where do we see this and what does it mean? It comes from both Old and New Testaments, and you need both to understand Jesus. 

“Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals’” (Revelation 5:5). This is Jesus, who comes from the tribe of Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob. Jesus' genealogy  puts Him directly in the line of David, and while He is man, as true God, Jesus is King and the One Who established His Kingdom at His incarnation--"conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary." 

The other mention of the lion happens in Genesis 49. On this occasion, Jacob calls his sons together and tells them what will happen to each of them in the days to come. Clearly Jacob is speaking with prophetic language. When he gets to his son Judah here is what he proclaims:

“Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk” (Genesis 49:8-12).

Jesus fulfills this prophecy as the One Who comes to fill His throne and we rule with Him as His holy Church. His millennial reign has already begun and will be brought to consummation at His Second Coming. And because He is lion and lamb, He knows what to do regarding our salvation:

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

He washes us clean of our sin with His own blood, at the cross. He is risen, and now the Lion and the Lamb reigns in His Church. Because He is both Lion and Lamb, He is our Savior and Lord. He rules in His people so that we have the Lord living in us. We have the Lion and Lamb Who lives in and through His people.

Wait For It...

These latter days of winter seem to go on their roller-coaster path: up in the 60's and 70's for three days, and then a drop into the 20's with half a foot of snow. Maybe this will get us hungry for spring. It makes planning for each day a challenge. Although it looks as though we may be looking at higher temperatures into the next few weeks. March came in like a lamb, so, I am told by wise people, it will go out like a lion. Hmm, sounds good.

I like the connection, lamb and lion. Do not have to go too far to see another application of this paradoxical pairing. First, the Lamb.

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

The Lamb refers to Jesus. And to all the people of that time, they would make the connection to all the Old Testament spotless lamb sacrifices made to represent the once for all sacrifice of God by His chosen Son, who is the perfect sacrifice for the world. He died for us to pay for our sin. He substituted for us so we would be credited with His merits and we would covered by His righteousness and forgiveness, as we were adopted by grace through Baptism.

We look next time at the Lion.