Archive for the ‘Roses’ Category
St. Valentine’s Day February 14th 2016 Christ Lutheran Church
Deut. 26:1-11 Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 Romans 10:8b-13 Luke 4:1-13
Children’s Time: When any of us at home would go on a trip, my brother-in-law, Bill would always say the verse from our Psalm for today: “For God will give the angels charge over you to protect you in all your ways.” (91:11) Then to make believe they were angels, my sisters would wave their arms like wings, so we would keep thinking about our guardian angels watching over us when we drove off.
When they waved their arms it looked funny – but we then knew just what they meant. Can you wave your arms like they were wings while I read the verse? “For God will give the angels charge over you to protect you in all your ways.”
The Psalm begins with our “dwelling in the shelter of the Most High and our abiding in the shadow of the Almighty,” because God is up there watching over us and sending angels, God’s messengers to guard and protect us. God does this without our asking, but God likes to be asked in prayer, so that we are mindful of the angels. Thus, whenever we left the house we had to say a verse from the Bible or read a passage from it. And when we were children we then had to say a prayer in German: Wie fröhlich bin ich aufgewacht/ wie hab ich geschlafen so sanft die Nacht/ hab dank den Vater im Himmel mein/ dass Du uns wollens bei mir sein/ Bleib mit mir auch diesen Tag / dass mir kein Leid geschehen mag. Amen.
How happily I woke up this morning
How soundly I slept all night
Thank you, dear Father in Heaven mine
that you were with me the whole time
and please watch over me today
so no harm can come my way. Amen.
Can we pray that together? Amen.
We Flourish by Giving
Sermon: With such clear texts in the Bible, I do not know how Christians can be anti-immigrants and refugees. We were all immigrants or refugees coming into the new world, except for Native Americans or Africans that we imported shackled to salve ships to buy and sell on auction blocks. That’s the story of African American history. So the children of Israel were told to recite this truth so that we would remember, we were all immigrants; just like they should remember: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor,” who remained a stranger in a strange land. And going down into the empire of Egypt, as descendants of Abraham, they were oppressed by slavery. God heard their cries and they received the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey. We received these spacious skies filled with amber fields of grain, from the Red Woods of California to the Long Island shores. We received this mighty continent, which we really stole from the Native Americans – but we live by forgiveness and we need to reach out to those we hurt so much.
Now the Bible also tells us to offer our first fruits, the way they did in a basket…notice how we often still collect the offering in baskets and our offerings allow us to prosper. That is because it requires self-denial to think of God first and remember the church, the immigrants, the refugees, and the poor among us, celebrating the bounty with which the Lord has blessed us.
[Now there is a place for self-affirmation, if someone has always been denied a say-so in one’s own life. And there is a place for raising capital if you start a business to meet the needs of others. But it’s Lent. Let’s consider self-denial.]
Christians flourish in self-acceptance via God’s acceptance by self-giving. The question is, “Why do we prosper when we give?” The answer, It’s because we slam the brakes on our insatiable desires that can really turn into greed. We can’t make ourselves first. God has to be first. We have to care for the widows and orphans, so that the common good becomes our concern. Our egos are a problem, because we could have a billion dollars and still be unsatisfied. Now I’ll give a dollar to a beggar and then see another beggar and I’ll feel: “Oh, no he is going to hit me again! I just gave the last one a dollar.” Then I’ll turn around and spend $50 at a restaurant with my wife. That’s 25 times more that I spent on me than I gave my neighbor. So giving money away, reduces my ego and makes me be able to deny myself. Keeping all my money makes what I have not nearly enough, giving way the tithe, the ten percent, that offering to the Lord, makes me have more than enough and even have something for beggars to spare. I speak from experience.
It is like pruning. I love roses. (Putting roses in my sermon is as close as I’ll get to Valentine’s Day.) We had a gardener who asked if she could prune my rose bushes. I said, “All right.” Then she cut whole stems away! Snip, snip, snip! She was brutal. My heart was bleeding! How could she cut off all those good branches? A short time afterwards, the roses burst out blooming as never before: over 50 blossoms, where there had only been 10 or 20 before, which the deer would eat. They came down the creek into our yard.
At that time in biblical history I don’t know whether they paid tithes and taxes or only tithes. But taxes, when they enhance the common good, also function the same way. Ugh! This hurts, but I have to hear this part too. Taxes can also function like pruning so that we prosper. We don’t seem to remember, but huge tax cuts preceded our great recession. There was so much money on Wall Street, that they were using crazy financial devices and making ever more risky bets to make more and more money. And consider this: If corporations have to give their first fruits, they will be blessed and they will flourish. It’s really counter-intuitive. But it helps them when they are mindful of the common good and do not get all absorbed in their private profits. Filling the needs for the public good is the purpose that makes them flourish.
By knocking money out of the first place in our lives also helps us remember that there are values that money just can’t buy. Check out our second lesson. It is pure Gospel and in the epistle! God bends over backwards to find a way to save us. Having the confession of Jesus Christ on our lips and having the Savior in our hearts, raises us up from the dead. When we believe in Jesus in our hearts, we become pleasing to God; we live our lives in God’s favor, and we become filled and fulfilled by God’s blessings.
When we have not pruned our egos, when we haven’t practiced self-denial, then we can really go out of bounds. Money does not need to be in first place. For some it is sexual pleasure. Think of those priests, who sexually abused children. They fall into the abyss of shame. But when God is in the first place, requiring self-denial, then whoever trusts in him will never be put to shame.
Money has to be knocked out of the first place in our lives. God has to be number 1. And loving our neighbors as ourselves goes along with loving God. Luther said, what your heart clings to and you really rely and depend on is your God. So when we have Jesus on our lips, let’s not have our hearts set on money. Let’s set our hearts on Christ rising from the dead, so that we rise up to live the wonderful life.
With Christ in our hearts with the strength of Christ we can overcome the temptations of money, alcohol, drugs, sex, what have you. They can’t give us the promised life that God provides us. We can get high on the Holy Spirit and there is no hang-over. We get high on the Spirit of love, compassion, and forgiveness. Then with all sinners and saints we can exclaim: it’s so great to be alive! Because the life in Christ is better that the life of Riley, whoever he was! But for that life we have to remember our humble origins, put God into first place. God’s grace provides us the strength to practice the necessary self-denial. Amen.
Devotions for ORLC Council April 11, 2013
A New Pastor is the Way to Go
The text I chose for tonight comes from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans 10:1-17. It is quite difficult and I will try to open it up for you. My brother Philip and I are writing a commentary on Romans so I have been working with this text a great deal. I chose it mostly because it shows how necessary a pastor who proclaims the Word of God, the Gospel is and the way you are about to choose your pastor for this congregation:
10 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
5 Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.”[a] 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’”[b] (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’”[c] (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”[d] that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”[e] 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”[f]
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”[g]
16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”[h] 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. New International Version (NIV)
Like those who rejected Jesus, we dare not be self-righteous or try to be righteous by thinking that the law is the way of salvation. Christ is the objective, the end for which the law existed, the New Human Being. Now, not the Ten Commandments per se, but the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount describe those who have received Christ and know that Jesus Christ is the way to salvation and through our faith in him, we also can fulfill the law, but in terms of the Gospel. Thus it is “no longer an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” but if someone sins against you seven times or seventy times seven times, we forgive and overcome evil with good. The extravagant love that Christ taught us fulfills the law and what’s more, like a cup overflowing.
The emphasis on the righteousness of the law is upon us and our effort, while the righteousness of faith places the emphasis on God in Christ, the one who made the promise and can keep it, and whom we believe and trust until it comes true. We have to find a way through the wilderness of this world where there is no way. If we go by our efforts and our human strength and wisdom we will fail. But if we rely on the Maker of Heaven and Earth, God the Father of our Lord and Savior, then the right Hand of God will accomplish what is completely impossible for us.
The Word of God that is near us and in our hearts is: “Jesus Christ is Lord” and “He died and is risen.” In my website, I tried to say it with flowers. Nora received a wonderful bouquet of roses that I photographed with my smart phone again and again until they wilted and we had to throw them in the trash bin. In the reversal of the resurrection, my first photo in my website was of them in the trash bin and then all the way to their first day as lovely roses in full splendor once again. “The roses a-rose!” You say, “No way!” and really for us there is no way. But when the Right Hand of God acts, then like for the children of Israel facing the Red Sea and Jesus on the cross, God makes a way where there is no way. That goes for this congregation and its growing and experiencing a renewal again, as well as whatever you are facing with impossible issues in your life. “It would take a miracle!” you say. Yes, indeed, it would and God performs them every day.
So we don’t have to go all the way up into heaven, nor descend down into the abyss of Hell. Christ already has and Christ crucified and resurrected is in our hearts and we exist in him and we believe that he is risen from the dead and that we too will rise in him. Our Redeemer’s is the wonderful place where we call upon the name of the Lord so that we are saved.
This church is incredibly precious and a resource above all resources, a divine capital that puts money as capital to shame. The fountain of life is dispensed freely for those who believe and receive the promises of God. The issue here is Jew versus Gentile. For us it is European descent versus Latino, Asian, African Descent Americans, etc. – all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved and through Christ we have become brothers and sisters. None of us deserve anything, we all receive this gift by grace.
But how can people call on this life-saver, if they have not believed in him and how can they believe if they have not heard the wonderful news? That is where your new pastor comes in, but also yourselves, who have this word in your heart and tell others this wonderful news with your lips. You are choosing one to publicly proclaim the Word, who is Jesus Christ in this place! How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news! I was washing feet on Maundy Thursday and I can tell you many of us do not have beautiful feet. You would hate to see mine! Luther thought words had to have feet or how could they travel from ear to ear and get there all at once and at the same time? From that I thought, poetry is measured by feet so how beautiful the poetry of those who proclaim the resurrection of Christ! How beautiful is the language! How beautiful is the cadence of their poetry! Karl Barth leaves out the word “beautiful” and says how timely Christ comes to rescue us. Christ comes right in time! But through all the trials and all the rejection and all the troubles of this world, the beautiful feet of Christ find God’s way to us, right to our hearts, and we will not die, but live and continue as a Church, like a city on a hill, proclaiming that Christ died on the cross, but Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Pastor Peter D.S. Krey, Ph.D.
 If “You shall not kill” were expressed in the positive: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Mat 22:37 and 39) then the law would come closer to adequacy. But it would still be a commandment without the wherewithal to carry it out. The grace and strength to do so comes from the Gospel, the promises of God. Interestingly enough, Jesus substituted the word “mind” for “might” or “strength,” found in the Septuaginta and the Hebrew Bible.
 Wilhelm Pauck, ed., Luther: Lectures on Romans, (Louisville: Westminister John Knox Press, 1961), page 300: “Even though one can interpret “feet” literally.., they signify more correctly their very words or the sound and the syllables or pronunciation of their words and preachings.” So Luther is referring to the cadence too. I wonder if the origin of dividing the lines of poems into different units of rhythm called feet, i.e., iambic pentameter, trochee, anapest, dactyl, spondee, pyrrhic, derive from this interpretation? Luther’s lectures were discovered in the Vatican, I believe, and were first published in 1908, making it difficult to argue his influence on the term from them. But Robert Graves and other Englishmen attended Wittenberg and may have heard of Luther’s interpretation. In the Rhyming Dictionary of the English Language, (London: George Routledge and Sons, Ltd., undated but after 1851 and before 1914) page ix: J. Longmuir relates the term to beating time with the feet or staying in step.
 D. Karl Barth, Der Römerbrief, (the fourth printing of the new revision), (Munich: Chr. Kaiser, Verlag, 1926), page 366.