Archive for July 2006
Matins, Vespers, and Compline or
What’s a Compline?
1. Come to this compline
This compline’s a nightline
running into the night
Turning everything bright
And making you feel fine.
2. O come to this compline
This compline’s a light-line
Running into the night
And setting you right
At the end of your day-time
3. O come to this compline
This compline’s a prime-time
The refreshing respite
Of Christ’s holy light
Enlightens your night time.
4. O come to this compline
This compline’s a life-line
Thrown out into the night
Hold on to it tight
To trust him, it’s high time.
5. O come sing this compline
This compline’s a fine time
To come into God’s sight
Right out of the night
Having a good time
6. Yes, Let’s have a good time
Singing this compline
We’ll bask in God’s sight
Who will make our hearts light
It’ll happen in no time.
O God, we worship you, we gi – ve you praise
all of our days, we really do.
O God, we worship you, we gi – ve you praise
all of our days, and ou-r hearts, too.
Peter Krey September 18, 1996 for Bethlehem’s Compline, Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, CA
Because there are not many opportunities to sing for a compline service, I rewrote this song for Prayer Time.
O Come to this Prayer Time
(The Compline Song)
1) O come to this prayer time
this prayer time’s a life-line
running into the night
turning everything bright
and making you feel fine.
2) O come to this prayer time
this prayer time is prime time
the refreshing respite
of Christ’s holy light
enlightens your life-time.
3) O come to this prayer time
this prayer time’s a life-line
thrown out into the night
hold onto it tight
to trust him, it’s high-time.
4) Sing your praises in prayer time
because prayer time’s a fine time
to come into God’s sight
right out of the night
having a good time.
5) Yes. Let’s have a good time
Singing the whole time,
We’ll bask in God’s sight
Who’ll make our hearts light,
It’ll happen in no time.
O God, we worship you, we gi – ve you praise
all of our days, we really do.
O God, we worship you, we gi – ve you praise
all of our days, and ou-r hearts, too.
Revised Compline Song 9/18/96 and 02/26/2000 PKrey
Paul at the Areopagus
Easter VI – May 9, 1999 St. John’s Lutheran Church in Oakland, CA
Acts 17:22-31 Psalm 66:7-18 1 Peter 3:13-22 John 14:15-21
Let’s make believe we are way back there in Greece on the Hill of Ares, which is the Areopagus. The god Ares can be recognized in the name. In Greek Areopagus means “the hill of Ares” and Ares is the Greek god of war. The old Athenian kings used to sit in council on this hill. St. Paul, sent as the apostle to the Gentiles after the resurrection of Christ, on one of his missionary journeys, arrived on this hill in Athens, on the famous Areopagus, and preached Christ to the Greeks there. St. Paul, the missionary, did not preach the Gospel in vain. A certain Dionysius, a member of the Greek council, Damaris, and others among the Greeks, converted to Christ.
Paul noticed that among all the statues of the Greek gods, those of Athena, Hera, Zeus, etc., and the altars built to worship them, he found one altar to the unknown God. He begins his sermon by telling the Greeks that he will make this unknown God known to them.
In this way he introduces them to the God who made the heavens and the earth. He explains that this God does not dwell in temples made by human hands, but the very heavens are his throne, and our bodies are his temple. This God does not need our help, because this God has given us the whole creation, given us our bodies, our lives, even our breath.
God lovingly originated us all from Adam and Eve so that we would always seek him. And God is not far off, because “in God we live, move, and have our being.” We are, therefore, God’s offspring. God did not have us by accident. We are not accidents. We are children that God wanted and planned to have. We are the fruit of God’s love.
Because of that we should not worship idols, but repent, and recognize that the one true God became flesh and dwelt among us in Jesus Christ our Lord. And Jesus is chosen to sit at the right hand of God, and will judge the living and the dead, which God asserted plainly by raising him from the dead.
Now it is quite possible for you to detach yourself from Paul’s message. You may well say to yourself, “I certainly do not worship idols. I do not make myself images out of gold and silver. And I have no statues and images in my home with altars to worship them. I am a Christian, and I believe in Christ.”
When you confess Christ on your lips, you take some of the clout out of my argument. But you said you believe in Jesus Christ to yourself. Let me ask you, when was the last time you confessed Jesus Christ to someone else? And if you have never done so, or if it has been a long time ago, search your heart and ask yourself, “Why?” Why have you not been witnessing? Why has our worship together not set your tongue on fire for your Lord and mine?
Let me bring up Martin Luther, who tries to get to your heart. I’m talking about the Martin Luther of old, of course, not Martin Luther King, Jr., whom his father named after the great Reformer. Luther wanted to know more than what you confessed on your lips. In his explanation of the first commandment in the Large Catechism, he explains:
Tell me what your heart clings to and trusts in, and I’ll tell you what is really your God.
Luther looked beyond your lip-talk and checked out what you really relied on, what really came first in your life. The devil is not so foolish. He knows that you won’t bow down and worship some statue, or make yourself an idol with your own hands. But the devil makes your heart cling to money and possessions. He makes our society rely completely on the god, Ares, the god of war.
Look at the complete trust our government is placing in the bombing of the Balkans. The picture that comes to my mind is that of a boxing match, where we keep slugging our opponent. The fellow is out cold on his feet, and will not go down. And there is no referee to stop the fight before the fellow is killed. Serbia also seems to be a country that would rather die than give in. We have to stop because they can’t give up. And in addition, there is a hostage situation. The refugees inside Kosovo will starve to death if this keeps up. Is not our first priority to save the refugees?
Thus what we are really doing is clinging to and entrusting ourselves to the war-god Ares, called Mars by the Romans. Even if we call ourselves Christians, our hearts, especially those of our government, is very attached to war.
You and I need to repent. Christ is promising to send us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. We need to set our hearts on Jesus Christ, the one true God, who came to redeem us in the flesh, came to declare all God’s love to us; we, who are God’s new-born children. We need to trust and cling to God with our hearts, as well as confessing Christ on our lips.
For you and me to detach ourselves from all material things, and from all false spirits as well, is very important. Look at the spirit of the people in tornado alley in Oklahoma and Kansas. We can see them in pictures standing in the rubble that the tornadoes have turned their houses and all their belongings into. Your car is all smashed and up in a tree. Five cars are smashed together in a neighbor’s driveway. And the people comfort each other, and even joke between having good cries. They are grateful that they are still alive.
An article in the newspapers was very poignant in this regard. It noted that “Camaraderie and dark humor mask the grief neighbors share amid the rubble.” A reporter asked one woman whether her neighborhood had a name. It didn’t really have one, she said, but now it could be “Gone with the Wind.” Another was asked what the neighborhood was like before. “Oh, it was pretty much like this, kind of trashy.” After the laugh, he explained it was a regular neighborhood, where everyone mowed their lawn, and block parties had taken place in that driveway there, right under that rubble. One fellow put a sign up in front of the ruins of his house offering it for sale as a “fixer upper.”
The last paragraph in this article tells us something we need to hear. I need to as much as you do:
“People have to understand,” [one person said]. “Something like this shows you, all of this stuff, all of this rubble, it’s just things, it’s just stuff. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s only people that mean anything. It’s true. I mean it. See, that’s my truck over there, that Dodge. Do you want it? Here’re the keys. It doesn’t mean anything. People have to know that.”
That is how the people in tornado alley have been showing us the way. All our attachments in our heart that come before our attachment to the Lord Jesus Christ, weigh us down and prevent us from attaining the power God shares with those who live, move, and have their being in the Holy Spirit.
It is certainly possible for you to melt into the background of life. You can be your car-driver. You can be your house-owner. By that I mean you are living your life for the sake of your car, for the sake of your house, for the sake of your money, power, possessions, or whatever.
Let me compare this power relationship with a proverbial dog. Here I do not mean the case where the tail wags the dog. Let us consider a normal dog, who wags his tail. When you live for your possessions, when they come first in your life, then you are really the tail of the dog. And when the dog wags its tail, you swing back and forth. The dog represents all you have, and the tail represents all you are. And all you have wags you left to right, right to left. And you are so proud of what is possessing you, all your money and possessions. But they have power over you. You and I say to ourselves, “We are so wealthy, I have this big dog.” And there we are getting wagged back and forth behind the butt of a dog.
Let us repent and accept the God who is unknown to our hearts. Perhaps we sometimes have Christ in our thoughts, yet seldom do we confess him on our lips. Let us repent and get to know and attach ourselves by means of Christ to the one true God in our hearts. Let our hearts cling to God only and let us set our hearts and entrust ourselves only to this God. Then it will be the power of God before us, and we will not be a tail attached to the butt of a dog. We will be real human beings, living, moving, and having our being in the Holy Spirit of God.
We will rise up into the marvelous creation of God. We will be moved to share and love and hope against hope. The needs of our neighbor, now so dear to us, will become our own. We will overcome the old devil, who divides and conquers us, because we will become one heart and one soul together in Christ. We will unite and surrender to God, and find ourselves moved by the Holy Spirit, flying in, coming in for an arrival into the new life.
“Baggage?” We won’t have to stop to wait for our baggage, because we have none. No baggage weighs us down and keeps us out of the Spirit. A sunrise opens up above us and we take up the wings of the morning and soar into the new life. Amen.
In Theodore Tappert’s Book of Concord, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959), p. 365. The citation is freely rendered. Precisely: “That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.” In German, Worauf Du nu (sage ich) Dein Herz hängest und verlässest, das ist eigentlich Dein Gott.
The New York Times, Friday, May 7, 1999, p. A 16.
Easter V May 14, 1995
Texts: Acts 13:44-52 Psalm 145 Revelations 21: 1-5 John 13: 31-35.
When the betrayer walks out to do his worst, when Jesus has to look squarely at death, when he knows that his life will now be poured out, he speaks of glory. The Son of Man will be glorified, God will be glorified in him, and God will glorify him in Godself: five times John emphasizes the word “glorify.” And perhaps it is so necessary to repeat, because John teaches that when Jesus is lifted up on the cross he is glorified, and who would ever associate the two?
But it is the wonder of the love of God that put Jesus there upon that cross for you and me. It is the shining glory of God to see the very worst that humans could do, and have God place the very best act of victory into it, showing that evil is undone, bested by the goodness and the love of God. Thus it is plain to see, that the cruel instrument of death has been transfigured into the symbol of the greatest love the world has ever known.
Thus it is very fitting when we ring God’s praises, the way the psalm did this morning. And that we pray: God give us the love for what God commands, and fix our hearts where true joy is found. Make us understand that the cross is stands squarely in the center of love, and that such love is the mark of Christianity, and any version of hostility that tries to go under that name betrays the very heart of the one who died to manifest the love of God.
Not all who call themselves Christians are really so. The devil has a good number of people using that name to try to undo it. “Not everyone speaking about heaven is going there,” to use the words of an old Negro spiritual. The mark of a Christian is not a pin or a necklace with a cross on it, or the fact that one carries a Bible. The real mark of a Christian is love for one another. It is being newly begotten of this God whose heart is full of love and compassion. In the words of our psalm: “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” We sing that glorious characterization of God every Sunday in Lent.
And it is this Father-God who begets the loving and gentle people of God. And he multiplies these gentle and loving people, so that a holy city full of them descends from God out of heaven, like the new Jerusalem, adorned like a bride bedecked for the bridegroom. A city has often been compared to a woman, and the suburbs, the villages nestled around it (in the scriptures) are called the daughters. Thus the holy city descends from the sky, and the train of the wedding gown is all the tender and gentle people by God’s love begotten, come that the violent ones of our city might die, and that these people of love rise in their place.
One time Nora and I, Ashley and perhaps Joshua as a baby came to Oakland for a vacation. Perhaps it was only Ashley as a baby. And we came to a friend here, who had been my intern in Coney Island. He gave us his apartment, gave us his car, gave it all so very selflessly. We did not feel we could afford a vacation, but that was some vacation! I remember going to a restaurant for breakfast, and getting pancakes that were so large they spilled over the plate. Fruit was all around them, and the coffee was as much as you could drink. And I thought: in this city there is quality of life. Everything is made with a touch of charm and intelligence. And there was a golden sparkle in that street. And now we live near-by, and I can’t remember where that restaurant was, where that street.
But one thing I know. The holy Jerusalem can descend into a city, even such a city as Oakland. It can be inside of this earthly city, and the gentle and loving people of God can sweep into Oakland’s people with that swirling sweep of the brides wedding gown. The new Jerusalem can be in Oakland, and Oakland can be inside the new Jerusalem, with all her daughters: the suburbs nestled round. And the God of Love shall be in the midst of her, making God’s home with us. And there shall be no more death in the streets, no more violence, no more crime, no more prejudice, the killing; pain, grief, and crying will be no more, because God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Because the great heart of God is broken to see the sorry state this people have come to.
And there are signs: just yesterday I was surprised to see a cartoon called the X-Men (as Joshua noted, even though there are many women in it too) and the plot was not one of violence, but of the mutants and superheroes struggling to get away from unbelief. One was really trying to convert everyone to God. And when the end came, cynical comments were rebuffed, and the most unbelieving character was in a church on his knees, reading the verses of psalms. I said to myself: “Now, when will they stick a pin into this balloon?” But they didn’t. Lo and behold, the X-Men were really praying, and the cartoon made no bones about it.
That is something new in our culture. It is as new as when for the first time, a fellow of Christian convictions was not presented as a fanatic in Chariots of Fire, when he refused to run an Olympic race, because it was the Sabbath.
Seldom do we speak of a whole city getting replaced by a new inside, becoming opened, and having the heavenly city descend internally into it. But mostly we speak of people getting inner renewal. People getting a new heart within them. Becoming renewed by the changing of their minds. Taking the same attitude as Christ, who humbled himself, taking on the form of a servant, emptying himself, to become full of concern for others. Becoming obedient to God unto death, even the death of the cross.
And that will be glory, glory for you and glory for me. To let that same attitude descend out of heaven to fill our hearts. An attitude that has filled mothers, mothers whom we celebrate on this day. Mothers are rightly honored because they have represented unconditional love and thus witnessed to God, who is dwelling amongst us in, with, and under them. God who has begotten the strength of these women, who have often far surpassed men in their ability to love the little folk, I mean the children in the practical way, which fills their needs. So we toast the maturity of women, which has made them mothers who reflect the image of God so clearly and strongly in our midst.
And we thank God for calling new pastors. Lance will be graduating this afternoon from our seminary on the hill. And the image of God also reflects clearly and powerfully through a pastor sent to bring the good tidings of the Gospel. But what makes it a joy, Lance, is that you find the saints of God in a congregation, also reflecting the face of God your way. And that face of God is more beautiful and more full of love for you than is even bearable in our poor mortal frame. Our hearts begin overflowing like the proverbial cup, starting our eyes -overflowing with tears just to think of it. And of course a pastor is a sinner and a saint like all the rest of us. But in the gospel of Christ we become more and more alive to God and more and more dead to sin. In the end the victory is with Christ, and sin just wont make us come alive any more. Our hearts just aren’t in it. No our hearts then become fixed on where the true joy is found, and we begin to love what God commands.
So you Lance, like DeDe Maiers, being ordained today in Walnut Creek, are going to be proclaiming the wonderful Gospel, which is so powerful, it can change even my sinful heart, and yours as well. It can take away our wretched love for sinning, and give us a heart that shares God’s love to those in need. And yes, it goes through the cross. But count it all joy. Because for us the cross is not the end. All the suffering merely becomes changed into a rich new quality of love in a fresh new existence called into being by God.
And that will be glory. Glory for you and glory for me. You too will begin to bear the marks of a Christian. They will be the marks of love far surpassing any suffering, which is also vanquished, because it all just adds to the music of your witness. Blessings on you Lance, and Godspeed your proclamation of the glorious Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christ the King: The Last Sunday after Pentecost
The Last Sunday as Interim Pastor at First Lutheran Church in Oakland
Jeremiah 23: 2-6. Colossians 1:13-20. Luke 23: 35-43.
My time has come to give thanks joyfully to God our Father, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for having been able to serve you these last sixteen months. We did not think this interim would take this long, but that has made it all the more precious. Indeed my time has come to thank you and the dear Lord for the very high privilege of being your servant of the Word. After reading Pastor Holmes’ article in the news letter, I realize you have nothing to fear. You have another servant of the Word, who will be with you as you Passover into Advent. We find ourselves here at the end of the Pentecost Season, at the end of the interim period of this church, after Pastor Ted Berg left, and now with your new Pastor Holmes you are passing over into the glorious Advent of our Lord.
And give yourselves a push. Go the extra mile. Come in a little earlier and you will find it a real blessing. Then you can change [your Sunday bible study time and choir time] to Wednesday or Thursday evenings the way St. Paul’s does it, when their whole church bustles with activities, which they celebrate on Sundays. But let the Spirit guide and direct you in all that you do.
If you would read my mother’s letters, you would discover why women should be ordained. My mother of course does not believe in women’s ordination, but she is continually preaching to me in her letters. Sometimes her preaching is 90 per cent of the letter. She is filled with anxiety lest I not be preaching the Gospel. What is the Gospel? That Jesus will remember us when he comes into his kingdom. When he goes through the gates of Paradise once more. Even as sinful as I am, as sinful as you are, we will be enfolded in the arms of Jesus, because he has snatched us out of the power of darkness and carried us over into the Kingdom of the delightful Son, the Son of Righteousness. Christ is the “‘Son’ in whose light we see light” (Psalm 36:9).
That is the Gospel: Christ has called us out of the darkness, to be his very own people, to sing his praises, after we have rubbed our eyes, and have begun to see the world and each other in God’s marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
Perhaps what my mother is after is some fire and brimstone, Jonathan Edward’s- sinners-in-the-hands-of-an-angry-God kind of Gospel. But you can see right into the heart of the Gospel in this Lucan depiction of the crucifixion scene. This is Luke’s painting of the Gospel, the scene of the crucifixion, for us, in words, if you will.
The leaders are there torturing Jesus with the words: “He saved others, let him save himself, since he is the Messiah, God’s elected.” Bertolt Brecht has a poem in which the leaders of the former East Germany say to the people: “You have disappointed us. We are going to go out and elect another people.” Think about it! That might be the only way to elect a new government.
But the crowds picked up the words of the leaders and chimed in on the blasphemy, and the soldiers get their licks in too. The charge against Jesus was written in an inscription over him on the cross: “Jesus Christ, the King of the Jews.” It was written in three languages: in Latin, in the language of government: Jesus Christ, Rex Iudaeorum; in Greek the language of culture: βασιλευς τωv Ίoυδαίωv; and in Hebrew the language of religion: Melek Jehudahim. Thus God ironically exacts homage for his Son, even from those rebelling against their God.
What an enthronement this is! That one from heaven sent, the Holy One of Israel, nailed to a cross, and wearing a crown of thorns. What is a real king? Does Princess Diana know?
One of the thieves on the cross (I’m sure it was on the right of Jesus) picks up the blasphemy. “Since you are the Son of God, save yourself, and us!” But Christ is the King of others, there utterly for saving others, there is no selfish bone in his body.
And when the other thief protects him, and says the only kind thing Jesus heard throughout that brutal torture, Jesus shows him that he is indeed a king: “Amen, I say to you, today you will with me in Paradise.”
Do you believe? Oh, Lord, we believe. Help us free from unbelief!
In this way Jesus was crucified between two thieves, who are the representatives of the human race, the House of Representatives for humanity at the cross.
In one commentary it says, on Calvary there were two thieves crucified with Jesus. One thief was saved, so no one need despair; but only one, so that no one might presume.
And here is the Gospel: It was while we were yet sinners that Jesus died for us in order to save us. Christ saved us reconciling everyone on earth with everyone in heaven by the blood of his cross.
And it is Christ who has put us all together. When I think about you all, all you dear people in this congregation, then I really understand how precious Christ is. Jesus! What a wonderful thing when our hearts are all together, bound and reconciled into one heart – because you know that Christ Jesus is our heart, Christ is our center. Princess Diana with all her troubles wants to be a queen of hearts of her British people. It is a hard thing to be able to get into people’s hearts. But Christ has a way of getting right into our hearts, and making them come alive with the love of God, with our whole heart and soul, and love our neighbors as ourselves.
God is in Christ, and through this cross upon which our savior died, we are all reconciled together.
What a blessing our country has been at times! How very thankful we can be. Not that we don’t have troubles. Our crimes and their atrocity have increased with capital punishment. We certainly have our faults, indeed we do. But look at what just transpired in Dayton, Ohio. Our shepherds in the White House are gathering people together, and in their ministry of reconciliation, they are witnessing to the Good Shepherd, the promised one. What a reconciliation they brought about between the Bosnian Muslims, Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian Serbs. What a really selfless thing for Warren Christopher and Richard Holbrooke to do! With the years of hatred, revenge, and murderous wars of the Serbs, Bosnians, and Croats, and now even with their ethnic cleansing and war crimes to boot, there would be ample reason to say – “Forget them!” And who would have blamed us? But they know about the King who died on the cross for us, and loved us, and died for us, while we were yet sinners, as sinful as can be.
That is why Christ is the righteous branch, the promised King to the house of David. God promised that from David’s throne a king would reign eternal. And that is Christ, who is our righteousness. In the Old Testament passage Jeremiah is taunting King Zedekiah. His name means, “God is righteous.” But he left much to be desired, and the prophecy plays with his name, and writes: Yahwey Sidhkenu Christ is our righteousness.
This one who is dying righteous, dying on the cross with all our sins, our injustice, and unrighteousness upon him; this one dying on the cross is our righteousness, and in exchange for our sin and our cursed crimes and violence, he gives us his sinlessness, innocence, and blessedness. Christ takes our death, our mortality upon him, and in exchange, gives us his immortality.
Thus Christ is our very King. Melek Jehudahim: our King of the Jews. The meaning of the name Jews is “those who praise God.” We are the adopted, they the children. This Christ is our βασιλευς τωv Ίoυδαίωv. Basel means “King” in Greek. And Christ is our Rex Iudaeorum, in Latin, our King, the very King who “sits enthroned on the praises of his people”. That comes from Psalm 22:3, which starts, “My, God, why have you forsaken me?” But that is God dying there upon the cross, who did not abandon his people.
You know that fellow crucified on the cross has become our very heart, and his love, one greater than the world has ever known, and powerful enough to make the heavens bow down and kiss the earth, also has the power to make our hearts one with God.
We need not remain in the garbage can existence of sin, but this champion of ours, whom God himself elected, comes and snatches us from the powers of darkness and transfers us into the Kingdom of the Son, the delightful Son. The promise of Paradise is there once more, that Garden of Delights, for all those in whom God delights, because of his beautiful Son, our Savior.
We live in a democracy of course, and thus we have no king. Call him Melek-Basel-Rex, Koenig or king, what you will, this man dying on the cross came down from heaven above to pick us up out of this old and sorry world, and drop us over into a fresh new world, the gentle loving world of God’s brand new creation. Where in Calvin’s words, (not Calvin and Hobbes), but the reformer, there in the peace that passes understanding we praise and enjoy God forever.
Call Christ what you will, but he has come into our time of troubles, to make selfishness and greed, violence, wars, and crime come to an end. Because Christ has come down to us, these old times have come to an end, a new calendar even now marks the event, this season draws to a close, and we have the advent of a new time. It is a new time in which we can be with the Lord and the Lord is about. Because of Christ ours is a new world in a new time, with a new humanity, because of the Son of Righteousness – this human being who broke through, offering us all the abundant life of the dear Gospel. Melek, Basel, our King, and Rex – Christ will keep our hearts together, until God’s remembering raises us up to be with our righteousness on that day. Amen.
Pastor Peter Krey
Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 1, 1997
Deuteronomy 5:12-15. Psalm 81:1-10. II Cor.11:5-12 Mark 2:23-3:6.
[The children’s sermon dealt with the need for rest, the need to keep the Sabbath holy by attending church services, and the need to respond to emergencies even on the Sabbath. I told the story of our wall rolling down the railway embankment in Ward Hill, Mass. onto the tracks as a case of an emergency.]
Ours is not the problem to be fanatical about the Sabbath day the way the Puritans were. “They hanged a cat on Monday, for having chased a mouse on Sunday.” We have to be reminded of the need to take a day of rest, of the need to keep it holy, of the gift it represents to us from God. Think about the good feeling that comes to us because of the weekend. That good feeling really relates to the Sabbath which was commanded for us to keep in the first lesson. TGIF, we say: “Thank God, it’s Friday!” Everybody starts thinking about their own plans for the weekend. Seldom do we remember that Saturday is the Holy Day for Jews, Friday for Moslems, while Sunday is the one for the Christians.
This day of rest is a wonderful gift from God – and it is one that is commanded. “Six days you shall do all your labor and work, but on the seventh day, you shall rest,” and you shall keep it holy by worship.
It is important that we have this regular interval of rest, and that it should have a real mark which sets it apart from working time. Part of the old Hebrew custom, in this respect, is worth appropriating: at six o’clock on Saturday evening the day of rest should begin, and at six o’clock on Sunday evening, this rest should end. Then it is time to start homework. It is time to get something done again.
The command is to honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy. In the Small Catechism Luther does not mention rest. He merely states:
“We should fear and love God, so that we do not despise the Word and the preaching of the same, but deem it holy and gladly hear and learn it.”
The Sabbath is holy because we look up to God again. The Jews thought about how God had freed them from slavery with an outstretched and mighty hand. We too think about the hand of God at work for us on our day of rest. We think about the way God delivered the slaves from their cruel Mars’ers of America-land with a mighty outstretched hand, against which no rebel forces could prevail. Indeed, they could not stop the redemption of the Negro slaves that the Lord had in mind. The Sabbath is a day to keep holy by remembering this emancipation, and thanking God for it. It is natural to see Abraham Lincoln in this story, as the figure of Moses, even when we tell about Moses and the children of Israel way back in the House of Bondage, way back in Egypt land.
Christians who we are, we also think about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the Sabbath. The power of the resurrection coming to us in the promised Holy Spirit, is that power which delivers us from hatred, evil, sin, and death. We receive treasures in earthen jars, a treasury of gifts made for us in heaven by God: our own wonderful bodies, our tongues, our voices; voices to be used to praise God for being part of this wonderful creation: the sunshine, the trees, the birds, the hills and mountains, even our streets, our neighbors, the children! We could make an endless list of these gifts from God, “for all of which we are bound to thank, praise, serve, and obey him.” Most certainly, certainly, certainly, Lord! And it is a day to hallow our relationships with all, because we have the day we keep holy, this wonderful Sabbath Sunday.
Now we cannot think of political freedom only, which, thankfully, has already been attained for us. We also need to consider freedom from sin. The power of the resurrection sets us free from sin. What good is political freedom, if we become alcoholics and our lives are completely controlled by the demon of the bottle? What good is political freedom if we cannot make a decision, and we go running to whoever will think for us, take care of us, and make our decisions for us? But “For freedom Christ has set you free. Stand fast, therefore, and do not submit to the yoke of slavery again.”
We have to take the time for rest, for worship, for remembering, meditating, so that we have time, so that we stand up in the full stature of Christ, so that we become people fashioned by the hand of God, become the people of God’s hand, and not of our own. We are made in heaven, and God forgive, we should feel or declare ourselves to be self-made.
Now the command to rest does not mean we should not work. There are six days that we should labor and do all our work. There are six days in which we struggle with the work of our hands, hearts, and minds. That multiplies out to six times as much work as rest, considering the one day of rest in relation to the six work days. But on the day of rest, we become mindful that the world, nature, and our own lives and families, are all the divine work of God, given us as a gift.
People who avoid all work, who want to party all the time, who imagine themselves above serving the needs of others, are a problem. If you never work, how can you take a vacation? If you have never had the blessing of working real hard, how can you understand the sweetness of taking a rest? One more frivolous entertainment following after another cannot replace the joy of refreshing rest following some honest work. A life lived for good times avoiding work, not only robs us of real rest, but will remain meaningless and empty.
When thinking about the work of our hands, the problem of avoiding real work, is obvious enough. But what about the work of our hearts? What about our relationships with our children, spouse, our neighbors, friends, or just some compassionate response hoped for at our door-step? Who notices, who watches over the work of our hearts, part of which is the hard work involved in sustaining relationships? Or consider the work of the mind. If we never do any work, how can we take a vacation? Thinking and learning is hard work, and we are challenged to do six times as much of it as the time we allot for our minds to rest. If we never start thinking, how can we give our thinking a rest? Do you see words you do not know? Look them up in a dictionary and learn them. They are tools you need to think with.
It is our vocation to serve others with hands, our hearts, and minds, six times as much as we are served by them. Our service is love in work-clothes.(We cannot do six times as much as God, because we cannot match God’s service for us. God has done infinitely more for us than we can ever repay.) But our grateful response is love expressed by work. The way faith becomes active in love, so love becomes active with work. Love is inside work, garbed as work.
And when the laws are all right, meaning that we have had a say in them, and our relationships are ordered rightly, then there is nothing wrong with good hard work. It is part of the blessing of God, as much as the rest. It is only when slavery or exploitation or abuse comes in, that work starts getting ugly, that work is found, like an apple – to have a worm in it. For example, when the woman is out working all day, like the man, and comes home, and the man won’t lift a finger to help her do the whole household, then Abraham may not help, because it won’t be in his interest, but most certainly a Sarah will rise up and lead women out of that house of bondage.
We need a holy day to get our relationships straight – to enter into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Freedom from work for the sake of divine work. The Sabbath is all about freedom. To repeat Paul’s clarion call: “For freedom Christ has set you free. Stand fast therefore, and do not submit to the yoke of slavery again.” The Sabbath is designed not only to set the relationship of men and women right again, but also to undo the exploitation of the poor by the rich, so that people reap the fruits of their labor, that these not be extracted from them. And the methods, now-a-days, by which the fruit of our labors are extracted are so subtle, that we need a Sunday, and a great deal more thought, as well, to figure out how they do it.
In addition to regular relationships, there are those with other ethnic groups, nationalities, and other races. In these natural divisions, the devil can slip in some incredible evil and hatred. When the German and then Belgian racism was added to the long history of division, already exploited by earlier Africans, between the Tutsi and the Hutu of Rwanda and Burundi, veritable attempts to commit genocide have been the result.
It is the unity in Christ we need to bring to bear upon these divisions in order to overcome them. In Christ is neither Jew nor Greek, Caucasian or African, Japanese nor Korean, Hutu or Tutsi, German or Slav, Irish nor English – all are one in Christ. That is the work of Christ, which we need to receive and celebrate with each other on God’s Holy Sabbath.
When we look upon the mountains and hills of work here required, we despair until we look into the second lesson, and see some of the advanced Christianity St. Paul is involved in, and which he shares with us here. We ourselves are mere earthen jars. We point to the place from which the power comes to overcome these evil divisions, caused by a dominant group taking the earth away from others, to have it all for itself, and thus spreading nothing but hell as a result. But with the grace of God, living against that, we are not overcome. Even if persecuted and struck down, we are never forsaken, nor destroyed. St. Paul reports a blessed rest, a blessed divine work here that cannot be overcome.
Luther speaks of justification by grace as a blessed Sabbath freeing the faithful from all good works, and opening up salvation by grace. There is nothing we must do in order to be saved. In the Holy time of God, sufficient grace is given us for all the work of the other six days: because it is God’s work that is carried out through us, and sustains our working, so that it becomes as refreshing as rest. The rest of God is no idle thing, if it is God’s work doing the work of our hands, our hearts, and minds. All our works are really thy doing, oh Lord!
There is nothing we must do to be saved. It is our rest, and God’s doing for us. We come to the end, the limit of our action, our suffering, our lives – we come to our death, but the living God comes and does what we cannot do, especially in face of enmities, corruption, and the evil way people want to steal life from others in order to take it for themselves. God give us the grace to overcome that evil. If we have never done this work, then how can we take a rest?
We may be earthen vessels, but we are filled by the treasure of grace, for the divine rest of the work, for the divine work of the rest – overcoming the injustice of human destruction: taking that evil head-on, we will not be beaten, we cannot be beaten, according to St. Paul. Therefore, let freedom ring!
“A people united, can never be divided!”
“ We’re all fired up. We can’t take no more!”
“Keep your eyes on the prize! Hold on!” Amen.
Communion blessing: Let us thank God for the day of rest, in which our labors cease, in which we praise God for all the great things he has done for us. Amen.
Preached by Pastor Peter Krey at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Oakland, California.
Luther’s Small Catechism, from the explanation for the First Article of the Creed.
See “Central Africa’s Cycle of Violence,” National Geographic, Vol 191, No.6, June 1997, p. 124-133.
II Corinthians 4:7-9.
In his “Treatise on Good Works,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 44, Helmut Lehmann and James Atkinson, editors, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), p. 80.
A Field Mouse Loses its House
Robert Burns wrote a poem to a mouse
Because while plowing the field
He turned up its house.
And all the baby mice tumbled out
And into the field they keeled
right next to his shoe.
now, what could they do?
The frantic mother scurried about.
Robert Burns felt sorry for that mouse:
All that work, all that toil,
All in ruins, in the soil.
So much careful planning, all for naught.
And Robert Burns thought:
Aren’t we people like this mouse ?
For right along,
the best laid plans of mice and men
have often gone wrong.
For my son, Joshua. September 10, 1995
Christ Lutheran Church in El Cerrito, California
14th Sunday after Pentecost – August 21st 2005
Isaiah 51:1-6 Psalm 138 Romans 12: 1-8 Matthew 16:13-21
Peter’s Confession at Caesarea Philippi
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, Oh Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” Amen. (Psalm 19:14)
During the summer I have been making a study about how the Gospels are rooted in the prophets and they are not rightly understood if the sayings of the prophets are unknown to us. Thus, in Habakkuk, the fishing nets are used by Babylon to fish for the nations in order to plunder them. The mustard bush is a humble version of the tree that represents the emperor and the empire. The emperor of Babylon is like a proud cedar of Lebanon, whose top-most branches reach up into heaven, and he will not let God be God, but is consumed with pride as the birds, i.e., the nations come and seek refuge under his branches.
I never realized how much Christ really tangled with Caesar and how Christ had the individual and the structure of society in focus. New wine needs new wineskins for new wine in the old wineskins will make them burst. You can’t sew a new patch of cloth onto the old fabric of society, because when they go through the wash, the new one will shrink and either it or the society will tear up. Thus new persons, who are not conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewal of their minds (Romans 12:2), also need a new community to thrive in.
This sermon is going to look at the structure of the community mostly from its head to understand what the vision of Christ was for the new covenant of the promised land flowing with milk and honey.
Moses, Caesar, and Christ
Looking up Caesarea Philippi, we find that it is a small city 20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee on the slopes of Mt. Hermon, away to the north of Israel, where the Gentiles pushed against the Jewish Galilee of the Nations. The city had been a worship center of Pan, the Roman nature god, and when Herod’s son, Philip, came to rule, he rebuilt the city and named it after himself and Caesar.
In the Gospel of Mark the context of the confession of Peter comes right after a healing miracle in which Jesus healed a blind man. Here in the Gospel of Matthew you will see that Jesus also had to deal with the problem of blindness.
Jesus had just fed 4,000 people by multiplying the seven loaves and a few small fish, which symbolized feeding the nations, because seven baskets of fragments were left over.
(Traditionally seven, because seven nations had not been completely driven from the land. See Joshua 24:11). Before that Jesus had just fed 5,000 people, representing the feeding of Israel, because twelve baskets of bread-fragments were gathered-in that were left over, signifying the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus sent out the twelve disciples to them and in the Gospel of Luke, he sends out the seventy in the context of the nations, meaning that he is the “King” of Israel and the Lord of all the Nations.
After this miraculous feeding, the multiplication of the loaves and fish, the Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign! Were they blind? Where had they just been? Had they seen nothing? And then consider the disciples. Jesus says, “Beware the leaven, the sourdough of the Pharisees.” And the disciples whisper anxiously to one another, “Jesus must know that we forgot to buy bread and now we have only one loaf in the boat!” And Jesus has to bring up the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish, so they understand he is speaking about the teaching of the Pharisees and not the bread, per se.
Thus Jesus has to deal not only with the blindness of the Pharisees, who were the local political and community leaders, like our state assembly representatives, or city councilors, etc., but also with the blindness of his own disciples, and my own blindness, I submit, and yours as well.
To help his disciples see his vision, he asks them, “Who do people say that the son of man is?” This expression has three meanings: “this mere human being who is mortal, who am I?” The “son of man” can also mean the end-time judge in Daniel 7:13; or this expression can mean a human being pointed toward suffering, i.e., the suffering servant. In this place it means “this mortal” or “this mere human being.”
It was as if Jesus were to say, “After these healing campaigns we have made crisscrossing Israel, changing attitudes, healing the sick, feeding the poor, and bringing hope to the coastlands, the East and the West Coast in our case, we thirteen, myself and you twelve, who do they say I am?”
The disciples answer: some say you are John the Baptist come back to life. Herod thought that was the case when he heard about Jesus. Others say you are Elijah. In the last verse of the last book of the Old Testament in most of our Bibles we read, “I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents toward their children and the hearts of the children toward their parents, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse!” (Malachi 4:5-6) Others say you are Jeremiah or one of the prophets. They probably referred to a verse in Deuteronomy (18:15): there Moses states, “The Lord your God shall raise up a prophet like me from among your own people: you shall listen to such a prophet.”
You may not know that Muhammad claimed that he fulfilled that verse. He said, “I am the prophet there foretold.” I myself, being a Christian, believe that Muhammad was not cured of his blindness about Jesus and the vision of the Gospel of Jesus, the way Peter was.
When I was taking a Sociology of Religion course with Robert Bellah, he asked us to try a thought-experiment: what if King David had not written poetry and played a harp, but had been a conqueror and mobilizing armies he had gone down into Egypt and conquered it, taken North Africa, then gone over into the East and conquered all of Asia into India, came back and tried to conquer Europe. What if the Jews had conquered the world, rather that having been booted out of so many countries, and been persecuted the way they were? Well, that is what Islam did under the sign of monotheism. But they did it with armed force and thereby forfeited the promises that had a peculiar new kingdom and covenant in mind: one predicated on life, trust, and healing campaigns, rather than death, coercion, control, and military campaigns.
To get back to the confession of St. Peter: Jesus realizes that their answers are too general, so then he moves the question into their hearts – and we also have to let Jesus move this question into our hearts as well – and Jesus asks, I don’t want to know so much who they say I am, but now, who do you say that I am?”
Peter was blind but now he could see. “Let me tell you, Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”
Now that was a real mouthful! Let us break down his confession to understand it a little. What does the word, “messiah” mean? The word means “the anointed one” in Hebrew. The word, “massage” comes from the same Hebrew root. Usually a masseur uses some salve or oil to help their craft: sweet almond oil or others. In Hebrew, “massach” means “to anoint with a fragrant oil”. And the kings of Israel were so anointed. You may remember how Samuel poured the oil over the head of young David anointing him the king. Now “crissere” is the same word in Greek. So some Bibles have Peter say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Christ means the anointed one in Greek like what the Messiah means in Hebrew. Thus in the name Jesus Christ, “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name, as in Peter Krey. Christ refers to the one who will rule on the throne of David, as David’s son, who is also David’s Lord, as promised by God, forever and ever.
That is why directly after Peter makes his confession, Jesus turns his face to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, where he will cleanse the temple and when asked by the chief priests, “Are you the Messiah?” in the Gospel of Mark he will answer, “I am, and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven’” (Mark 14:62).
What does it mean to be the Messiah, to be the Christ? No king is really allowed to rule over Israel. God reigns over the people and only God can be their king. You remember how hurt Samuel felt that the people wanted a king over them like the nations. God said to Samuel, “they are rejecting me not you.” Moses understood God’s rule perfectly well and called himself, the servant of God, Ebed Jahwey, in Hebrew. The kings of Israel had to be confronted by the prophets because just their being kings contradicted the rule of the holy One of Israel and the promises of God for God’s holy people.
David was God’s darling as his name signifies. He wrote poetry, played the harp, danced naked in front of the arc of the covenant as it came up in the procession from Bethel into Jerusalem. David’s wife saw him from the window and rejected him thereafter. David is a peculiar king. And Jesus is the son of David for the royal throne, but this move goes much farther than Moses went. Jesus is not merely the servant of God, but the suffering servant, promised for the new covenant.
“Moses,” you may not realize, is an Egyptian throne name. In Hebrew they insist it means “drawn from the water,” but the daughter of Pharaoh named him Moses, but he identified with the Hebrew people and did not end up building a pyramid, but tried to take the Hebrew people into the promised land, flowing with milk and honey. No one even knows where his grave is or where he was buried. But Moses had received the throne name of the Egyptian Pharaohs. “Thutmosis” means “born of the god, Thoth,” “son of the god, Thoth.” Raamses is Ra-mosis in Egyptian, and means, “born of the god, Ra” or “son of the god, Ra”. Moses had become the throne name of the Pharaohs ever since Ahmose had liberated the Egyptians from the occupation of the Hyksos (ca. 16th century BCE), and they received the name Moses after him, just like the Roman emperors named themselves Caesars after Julius Caesar.
So concerning the titles Caesar, Moses, and Christ, what does it mean to be the Christ? Peter says, “Jesus, you are the son of the living God,” he means, the only God, the one true God, whose name is too holy to pronounce. Thus Moses did not have God’s name attached to his. He did not call himself “Jahwey-Moses”. It is as if Peter said to Jesus, “You are born from the one who made the heavens and the earth. You have been given the power over Israel and all the nations of the earth and you will come riding on the clouds in the last days to judge them all,” – to see if they did healing campaigns or military campaigns, served the Prince of Peace or drowned the world in blood.
Jesus answers Peter: “Blessed are you Peter, son of Jonah.” Peter is a nickname Jesus gives him, which is as much as to call him, Rocky, (not Belboa, although that boxer’s face seems to try to show a face filled by suffering. But in Jesus’ conception of things, he could not be a suffering servant while punching another boxer out.) Jesus called Peter the Rock, the rock of faith from which we have all been quarried (Isaiah 51:1), the Rock who gathered the twelve back together when the false rulers had struck the shepherd and all the sheep had scattered.
“Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but my Father in heaven.” This Messiah did not rule an ordinary kingdom, but one predicated on life, trust, forgiveness, expanding under a heaven of grace by means of healing campaigns. Who can see such a vision in this dark world full of coercion, control, and military campaigns, designed to tear away God from the rule of God’s holy people.
Thus we too like Peter need to receive eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that understands. Jesus is Lord. Not a “lord” in the medieval sense of lords and ladies, but in the sense of the name Adonai, the name used not to pronounce that of the most holy One of Israel. Jesus is born from the living God, who created the heavens and the earth and his “kingdom” comes when we confess Jesus to be the Christ with Peter – so that the name above every name also names us and we become part of that great healing campaign of Christ in all the promises of the gospel.
And this revelation came to Peter at Caesarea Philippi. You can forget Caesar. Christ was revealed to Peter and now to us. Caesarea Philippi, you can for get Philip, the son of Herod, ruler of Israel. Christ, the Messiah, is the anointed One of God, who is the suffering servant, lamb of God, leading us all into promised lives in a promised land composed of all the nations of the world, under a heaven of grace, full of forgiveness, predicated on love and trust and peace, flowing with the milk of human kindness and the honey of God’s grace. Amen.
Pastor Peter Krey 8/21/2005
 I wonder if it is possible to see significance between the place here where Jesus says, “I am.” And later in Mark (15:2) before Pilate, where Jesus says, “You said it.” I thought that Jesus might mean that Pilate does not understand the vision of the Messianic Kingdom and may have distanced himself by that remark. In Matthew, however, he also says, “You said it” (26:64) to the high priest.