What do you need?

Matthew 21:1-9
And when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Beth’phage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If any one says anything to you, you shall say, The Lord has need of them,’ and he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the ass and the colt, and put their garments on them, and he sat thereon. Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! Today is the start of Holy Week. The time we celebrate the last supper, the washing of feet, the crucifixion, and resurrection of our lord and savior. And today is Palm Sunday. We all have our palm branches, and are shouting hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest! Why are we doing this?
In our text today there is no mention of Palm branches. Matthew says they cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road, it does not say they were palm branches. Only John mentions branches of Palms. Mark talks about leaves from the field, and Luke does not even mention branches or leaves at all. Why do we wave the palms? What is the need for doing this, what do we need?
Well this was a sign of who Jesus really was. The fact the crowd was waving, or throwing down palms had a meaning to those present that day, just as the colt and ass had an image. First of all most people would have just walked into Jerusalem, and some may have thought it interesting that Jesus rode into the city. Others might have known the prophesy from Zechariah 9:9 that the messiah would ride into the city on an ass and her colt. Jesus humbled himself to ride into the city on the ass, but we also need to know the rest of the prophecy from Zechariah. The essential themes of Zechariah 9 are defeat and destruction for foreign nations and the return and restoration for Israel. Those who would have known this text would have seen in Jesus the coming warrior that would bring about God’s wrath on the foreigners in their city. Jesus would be the true messianic fulfillment of the freeing of the nation of Israel from the bondage of the Romans. They needed a hero, a great king to lead them into battle. This leads us to the need for the palms. The use of palms in Maccabees was related to military victories. Were those in the crowd expecting Jesus to lead them to a great military victory? Did they see his entry as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah and he would lead them to the restoration of Israel and the vacating of their land by the foreigners? Is that why they were shouting Hosanna? We use the word hosanna today in our worship service, but do we know what it means? Hosanna comes from the Hebrew words yasha which means save and na meaning request. Combined they make yashana which is O, save! It is a request for salvation. Did those shouting it as Jesus triumphantly entered the city know what they were saying? They were crying for Jesus to save them from the Romans, fulfill Zechariah, and rid our land of the foreigners in our midst. We need a king, we need a savior, we need a warrior to lead us into battle, save us messiah and rid our land of these people.
So today we reenact the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and wave our palms, for the military victory, and shout Hosanna to the Son of David! Save us o son of David! Just what is it we need? A superman for a savior, one who never dies, would not think of doing something as silly as allowing himself to be handed over to be killed… What do we need? What do you need?
To look at this from a different angle and to lead us into Holy Week, what does Jesus need? There is only one thing in all of the writings of the New Testament that Jesus needs, and we see that today in our text. Then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If any one says anything to you, you shall say, The Lord has need of them,’ and he will send them immediately.” The only thing in all of the worlds of heaven and earth that Jesus ever says he needs is an ass and a colt. He needed to fulfill the prophecies spoken about the messiah, and fulfill the plan of the Father. Remove this cup from me if possible, yet not my will but yours be done. I need an ass to ride into Jerusalem. What do you need?
What is Palm Sunday all about? The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, yes that is what it is about… Is it about green palms, being waved as in the need of a military victory? I do not think so. The image today is the palm, but not in the sense of green vegetation. The palm and the whole hand figure prominently in this upcoming holy week. Today palms are used to obtain the ass and colt for Jesus to ride on. The disciples use their hands to place their garments over the ass and colt for Jesus to ride on. On Thursday palms are used to wash the feet of the disciples. Even when the disciples question his washing their feet, still Jesus bows in servant hood, and shows the disciples a way of life for those who want to have a part of him. There is the palm of the hand that blesses, breaks, and distributes the bread and offers the cup of the new covenant. At the table prepared by our savior with loving hands we receive strength and direction for our discipleship walk. The palms of prayer, pressed firmly together in Gethsemane. Jesus follows the will of the father, even when he may not want to go where it leads him. It is his will, the perfect one that needs to be done, not ours. On Friday we see the hands that are nail scared as Jesus is crucified. We see in Simon of Cyrene the need to take up our cross and follow him, the fact we may suffer for our faith. Palms are not green, and may lead us to do things we are not truly willing to do. If we can truly say Hosanna to the son of David, Jesus save us, we need to be ready to use our hands and bodies in service to him.
We see in Philippians that Christ emptied himself, and was obedient to a death even a death on the cross. So should we empty ourselves, and look at what we truly need. Jesus gave up the charge of his life, and maybe this is what we need. If we can empty ourselves of any notion we are in charge, and notion we can have an equal footing with God, and offer ourselves wholly to him and his service, then maybe we will see what we need in a king, a warrior to lead us to our salvation is something we have already been given in his triumphal entry. Hosanna to the Son of David.
What do you need?

Manifest Work

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Silo’am” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. … “Do you believe in the Son of man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, We see,’ your guilt remains.

What do we have here? It is a sign, a miracle. Jesus takes some spit and clay and makes mud, puts it on a blind man’s eyes and tells him to go and wash in a pool, and he returns seeing. The setting free of this man’s eyes takes only 2 verses in this 41 verse story. The rest of the story is about this man and his sharing of his faith story, his healing. But what really do we have here?
This man was born blind our story says. So why did Jesus have to heal him on the Sabbath? What would a couple hours mean to some one who had been blind all of their lives? Did Jesus really have to heal him on the Sabbath? One could say it is not the healing that breaks the Sabbath laws, but the method Jesus uses. Jesus takes some of his spit and mixes it with dirt or clay, and kneads them together to make mud. Kneading is one of the forbidden tasks on the Sabbath. So why didn’t Jesus just touch him, or tell him to be healed? Was Jesus maybe pushing those who thought they could see to actually see what is important? The Pharisees say that he is a sinner and can not be from god for breaking the Sabbath laws, but the man replies “I don’t know if he is a sinner. One thing I know: though I was blind, now I see.”
This sets up the second part to how the man was set free from the blindness, the washing in the pool. He washed in the pool Siloam which John tells us means Sent. The significance of this is found through out the Gospel of John. Jesus is the one who is sent by God in the Gospel of John, Jesus is said to have been sent 51 times by God in the gospel. And in a sense the blind man is sent to the Pharisees to witness to who Jesus is. They want to know how he was healed, and while the blind man does not know, we can see that it is because of Jesus. It was not the spit, the dirt, the mud, or the water he washed in that gave him sight, the one sent by God, gave him sight. The washing in the water is reminiscent of our baptisms. Similarly, it is not water that makes baptism important, but the fact that Jesus, himself, is present in, with, and under the water.
So what do we really have here? John is full of passages that mean more than one thing; there is a first story or literal meaning, and a second story, or spiritual meaning. The literal meaning in our text is the man could not see the beauty all around him, he could not see the wonderful hues of the sunset, or the mystery in the rolling clouds. But what is the spiritual meaning, what do we really have here? Blindness is not about not being able to see, it is about not understanding, or comprehending the movement of God in our lives. Those who think they know it all, and are not open to experience things in a new way are blind according to Jesus in our text. The Pharisees know what is right, and good, while the blind man does not know. It is when we do things for the sake of the goodness of them and can not see the call of God in our midst, is when we need to stop acting so good and be Christian. Follow the call our Father in heaven has given us, to us the gifts we have been given for the purpose he has given them to us to us for. We need to understand that sight and blindness are not defined by one’s physical sight, but by one’s openness to the revelation of God in Jesus. We need to be open to new interpretations of scriptures that God might give us. In our text there was the interpretation that kneading on the Sabbath was forbidden by God. Jesus “breaks” that law to reveal something more important about doing the works of God.
In last weeks text after the woman asks for living water, Jesus tells her to go and invite and bring someone to him. Could witnessing and inviting and bringing people to Jesus be the way we receive living water? That idea is support by the fact that water that is still, or keeping it for ourselves, is not living water. Living water has to be moving and flowing, through us to other people. This is an important theme seen in our story today and our weekend together. We need to share our faith story, not because we want to convert people to God, but because we have been sent to do it. Maybe our approach to evangelism is wrong, we need to go and tell the story, not only so others will here that God loves them, but so our faith might grow through the sharing of the story. We need to make sure our water does not become stagnate – Dead. We need to understand that someone else may come to faith, but our faith will grow even more. The living water will flow through us and cause a cleansing flood to over take us. Mormon youth and Jehovah witnesses go on mission of evangelism where they knock on doors to tell people about their God, about their experiences, and their faith. And the real benefit of these missions is probably found in the growth the individuals who go on theses mission undergo. It was said that these missions do not convert many people, but there is hardly anyone who goes on one of these mission that drops out of the faith. The process of being and doing the work of God pulls them closer to God and allows their faith to grow.
So what do we have here? This man was healed of his blindness for what reason? Because he was blind and needed to see? Because he prayed for healing, or because he asked for healing? He did not ask to be able to see. He was healed, as Jesus tells the disciples in verse 3 neither this one sinned nor his parents but that the works of God might be made known in him. Jesus continues in verse 4 it is necessary for us to work the works of the one who sent me…. It is necessary for us to be doing the works of the father. For us to heal the sick, to baptize the believers, to tell the story of the love of God, pick up the trash, deliver the mail, teach kids how to write and read, stand as a judge on the courts of our county, country, to shepherd others to God, to repair medical equipment, to be doing the work that we are called to do. In order for any of the works of God to become manifest in our world, there needs to be a willing recipient of the work. This willing recipient needs to also recognize their total dependence on God, the one who called them and assists them in the work that they are doing. As we can see in the story of the blind man, we will not always be successful in the eyes of humanity in our sharing of our faith, or the work we have been called to, but in the eyes of God, we could say the blind man was successful, he came from calling the one who healed him Jesus to Prophet, to coming to an understanding he is from God, then to the spiritual truth of his being Son of Man. His faith grew, and his relationship with God grew. His sight, came from Jesus, just as ours does, just as our calls do. We are all a part of the priest hood of all believers, and called to do something that no one else can fulfill. A part of the plan set apart for us, as God told Jeremiah he tells all of us Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah a prophet, Carol a pastor, we are all called to be a part of the body. And we can only perform the function we are called to, as Paul tells the Corinthian’s an eye can not be an ear, and a hand can not be a foot. Just as Jesus had a calling to fulfill in his mission to the cross, we can not let the forces of this world pull us from our part of God’s plan. We need to seek to make God’s work manifest in our lives. So go out into the world in peace, be of good courage; hold to what is good; return no one evil for evil; strengthen the faint-hearted; support the weak; help the suffering; honor all people; love and serve our God; rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit freely offer your self to the vocation God has called you to as a child of God in the world, as a member of the priesthood of all believers. Claim your sight, and go and make manifest the work of God.

Roles, Gifts, Fruit…

I have been reading a book by C. Peter Wagner called Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow. It is an interesting book. The chapter I am on now is about 4 things Spiritual Gifts are not. They are not Natural Talents, Fruit of the Spirit, Christian Roles, and Conterfeit Gifts. So my talent to play the bass, or my pastor’s talent to play the guitar, or write new songs for litergical use are not gifts of the Spirit. At least according to Dr. Wagner. I believe these are gifts of the Spirit. Dr. Wagner also says that only Christians receive gifts from the Spirit. We as members of the body of Christ have been given a gift to use in the ministry of the church, but only members of the body have been given a gift. If you do not believe, then you could have a natural talent for something, but it is not a gift from God. And our gifts are only temporal, only the fruit of the spirit is eternal, as 1 Corinthians 13 tells us, all things will pass away but these three Faith, Hope, and Love will remain. Well Dr. Wagner also says that the fruit, being that it is singular is love and the other words listed are mearly attributes of love. So faith, or faithfullness as it is listed in Galatians 5:22-23, is a part of the Fruit of the Spirit. Yet according to 1 Corinthians 12 it is also a gift. So how can it be temporal and eternal? I guess one could ask the same thing for us, for we are temporal, yet we are eternal as the body of Christ. One other thing he comments on is how an atheist can have a natural talent, that God can transform into a Spiritual gift if the start to believe. Doesn’t this mean that everyone has been given a gift of the Spirit, and it just has not been discerned as that yet. And is not everything we have truly a gift of the Spirit. Luther said we all have a vocation, a call to do, a part of the plan of God that no one else can fulfill. We are all called upon to further the kingdom by doing our part. That means we all have a gift, all of us, and we need to use our gift to the furtherment of the kingdom, not for personal gain. Just remember we all have gift(s) of the Spirit, and we all have roles to play in this game of life, and if you are just a little fruity it will help sometimes.

Get Your Broom

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

“Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Grab your bucket. Get a mop, and bring a broom, and some towels, and cleaners. Today is going to be a day of exciting cleaning. Some of us may remember Spring cleaning, some of us might have heard about it, and others of us may have no idea what this is. Spring cleaning is a time to remove all of the dirt and dust built up over winter. To air out the house, remove the storm windows and clean them really good to store them away until next year, and put in the screens so the fresh air from outside can come in. We need to take out the rugs and beat out the dust, and straighten up our rooms, and closets. Spring cleaning is the time to remove the winter clothes and bring out the spring/summer attire. We need to straighten up the attic and the basements.

Now it may seem a little early for me to be talking about spring cleaning, I mean after all the gopher did just pop out of the hole last week, so we still have 5 more weeks until Spring is here, but today, Ash Wednesday, as we begin our Lenten trek, it is time for us to think about our personal spring cleaning. Also the word Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word Lenten which means spring. Most of the time spring cleaning is done in a day, or a weekend, and it may stretch out into a week, but we have 40 days to work on our spring cleaning, to get us started.

We can start the process of sweeping out our hearts and our minds. As the candidates for baptism in the early church would have done in this time, learning about the faith into which they were going to be baptized. Cleansed from the thoughts of the world, and drowned in the life giving words of the faith. A 40 day trek of catechetical training or for us a 40 day trek in looking more at our selves and cleaning out the cobwebs in our attics and basements, our minds and our hearts, our guts. We can see the biblical meaning behind the 40 days, in the 40 days of Jesus’ fast at the beginning of his ministry, Moses stayed on Mount Sinai 40 days, the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, and Elijah’s 40 day fast on the way to the mountain of God.

And as in all spring cleanings, it is not good enough to dust around the things on the shelf, or push them to one side or the other to do the dusting. We need to remove all of the items and clean each on individually, and then the shelf. And before we think we are through and put the things back on the shelf, we need to also move the shelf and sweep and dust behind it. We need to make sure the dust and dirt of winter are gone, and the wonderful spring time smell can over take us. We can not just rearrange items in our houses when we do spring cleaning to keep from having to clean a part of the house, and in our personal spring cleaning we can not just rearrange our lives to suit our own needs. We need to allow the cleansing waters role over our lives and allow the one who made us new, and claimed us as his children, arrange our lives as he wants it to be arranged.

Jesus kind of gives us an outline for how our lives should be arranged through our gospel text for today. He discusses acts of righteousness, or piety as our text says. First off though. Jesus does not say these are things we should be doing, he does not spend any time saying that Alms giving, praying and fasting are necessary things for our faith. Why is that? Because he expects that as faithfully practicing Jews, these things are being done. And as faithfully practicing Christians, these are things that are happening. So we are to gives Alms, which is giving over and above the tithe that was expected in the worship practice of Jesus’ day. And we are to pray, this is more than just when you feel like praying, Jesus is referring here to the pray offices, or specified times of pray that were required in the Jewish faith practices, and we are to Fast, to go without something. All of these practices are meant to be done in piety towards God, and not so that others give you praise because of what you are doing. The question of having public verses private faith is not is what at stake here; rather it is where the heart truly lies. Are these acts being done out of righteousness, or piety the translators have chose to render the word, or are these acts being done so we individually receive the praise. Jesus never condemns these faith practices, but condemns the motives that are behind the faith practice. Are we in our lives storing up treasure where moth and rust and thieves can destroy what we are trying to save? Or are we storing our treasure in heaven, where nothing can destroy? Where are our hearts?

As we start this years Lenten journey. Let us sweep out our hearts, let’s clean out the cobwebs, let’s move everything out and let our lives be arranged by the one who created us. Remember the words to Jeremiah in Chapter 1 verse 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” We are all named and claimed by God in our baptism, in our burial in the water, and our rising to new life. Lent is a time of reflection on our baptism, our dying to self, and allowing the one who knew us before we were born to claim us as his own.

As we receive the sign of the cross on our foreheads this evening, and here the words, “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return,” remember our mortality, and remember that ashes can suggest cleansing and renewal. Ashes can be used as a cleansing agent in the absence of soap, and tonight we can think of them as a reminder of our baptism. Water both stifles and refreshes, drowns and makes alive. So the ashes also remind us of our mortality, and of the renewal we have in cleaning out our lives and allowing God to have control.

As we go through our spring cleaning, let us remain faithful disciples of Jesus in the world. And go countercultural to our times, by being transformed through God’s claim on our lives, and our embracing the words “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Society wants us to think we are worth it, and we should not think about our mortality. We need to live for the day, and reach for the golden ring. Yet if we can live in the understanding of our mortality, and the fact that we are worth it, we are worth the death of our savior, to the one who claimed us as his children, inheritors of his kingdom, then we truly have begun our spring cleaning. We can live in the understanding or mortality, knowing the cross of Christ puts sin to death, and live in the promise Christ will raise us out of the ashes of our death to eternal life with him.

So remember you are dust and to dust you shall return, and get you broom and let’s do some cleaning. Amen


Matthew 17:1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. 17:2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. 17:3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Eli’jah, talking with him. 17:4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli’jah.” 17:5 He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 17:6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. 17:7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 17:8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. 17:9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of man is raised from the dead.”

What are you just sitting there for? Don’t just sit there, do something! This is a line I’m sure most of us have heard before. We need to be doing something. In our fast paced society, where we need easy mac, to speed up the time it takes to make macaroni and cheese, we need to be doing something. There is always something to do. That is what it seems Peter is doing here. He is needing to do something. Struck by the awe inspiring event that just took place. Can we imagine what Peter was thinking… There we were walking up the hill. Jesus asked me, and James and John to come with him up this mountain. So we walked up the side of this hill, and there right before us, Jesus turned form the guy in the dirty robe with dirty feet, to shining brilliantly white. And he was talking with two other people, could that be Moses, and Elijah? What in the world is going on here, I mean I just said he was the messiah, but I never expected this, we need to do something…

That is usually our first reaction to most things. Let’s do something. Let’s get busy and get this done, so we can move on to the next project. We need to stay busy. So Peter suggested they stay there and put up 3 tents, booths, or tabernacles, but what happened next. If we look at our text, we see that Peter is saying something in verse 17.4 and then verse 5 starts “While he was still speaking,” Peter was interrupted. Now this is probably something most of us can relate to. We are interrupted all the time by people. But has there been a time you can remember filling a little taken aback by an interruption. Maybe it was in a meeting when you were given a great idea you had and the boss interrupted you saying that is not a good idea. Or maybe in class you were talking with a friend or relating an idea to the class and the teacher interrupted you saying I am teaching the class, please listen to me. In moments like these we feel smaller, demeaned; our worth is taken away from us. Imagine how Peter felt, God interrupts Peter! If ever there was a time to feel about 2 inches tall, it might be when one is interrupted by God! Matthew presents the scene as if God were indicating to Peter, while he was still speaking, “Shut up and listen to me!”

We are so busy doing sometimes, we forget to stop and listen. Just like Peter we miss the point, we miss the word. Peter is one of the 3 inner circle disciples. He is the one disciple that truly gets it. He knows who Jesus is, we see this in Chapter 16 of Matthew, Jesus said to the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you Peter! Peter knew that Jesus was the Messiah, he understood who Jesus was. But he could not listen to what Jesus had to do, because after his confession Jesus told them he would have to go to Jerusalem and suffer and die, and Matthew continues the story that Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” He could not hear what needed to be heard. He knew who Jesus was. He knew who God was, but that was not enough. Peter wanted to do something about the glorification of his Lord, but God wanted him to listen. And keep listening. The word in the Greek implies action that continues forever. This is my Son the beloved, listen to him now and keep on listening to him for ever. Just as Moses did when he went up onto the mountain and received the commandments and the laws from God, he was with God for forty days and forty nights, and he listened to God. God wants us to listen to Jesus. The silence in our service is meant to give us time to listen to God. Our prayers are times when we can listen to God. Jesus listened to God. He is the Beloved son of God because of his faithfulness to fulfill all righteousness, and he understands doing what God requires is more important than his own life, God requires him to be faithful to God’s righteousness.

And we are named beloved sons and daughters of God, if we stop and listen. Baptism is a connection of water and word. Luther says that baptism is water enclosed in God’s command and connected with God’s Word. And the sacrament of the Altar, Holy Communion is also connected with the word, the benefits of the Eucharist come to use according to Luther through the words given for you and shed for you. With out the word of God, our sacraments are nothing more than water being poured over some one, and bread and wine, but when we listen to the promise made through the word of God, these earthly elements become life changing, life transforming. We through these sacraments are transfigured into the likeness of Jesus. If we listen closely we can hear God claim us. In Baptism, God names us and claims us as his own. Just as he did to Jesus in his baptism, God names us his beloved, ones in whom he is well pleased.

Just like Peter it is not enough for us to know who Jesus is, but we must listen to what he has to say, and act accordingly. Jesus really did not want to hear what God had to tell him all the time, but he listened and acted in righteousness, to do what God required even when it required his own life. He tried to have the cross removed from him, if it is possible remove this cup from me, yet not my will but your will, be done. What you tell me to do, I am listening. Speak Lord, your servant is listening. We need to stop and listen, for that still small voice. Peter was lucky. He had the cloud role in the God boom in, “Peter, excuse me, but listen up!” We do not always get this, most times God comes to us in a still small voice, speaking ever so gently, but if we are listening, oh the wonderful things we can hear. To be called beloved by the creator of the cosmos. Peter James and John reacted correctly to the booming voice of God, to fall prostrate on the ground in fear. But when we feel the touch of God, and hear him say to us, “Get up and fear not my beloved child. I am with you, and will never leave you.” This can give us the strength to go on and do the work he has called us to do. To go into all the world, making disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them everything I have commanded you. We can do, because we take the time to listen.

Embrace Jesus, and listen to God. Do not be afraid to stop, and do nothing to sit in his presence and listen to him. He will be with us always even until the end of the age, and he has called us to do a part no one else can do. Listen, ever so closely and hear him say to you, you are my beloved. My daughter, my son, in whom I am well pleased. I love you and will never leave you, just listen. Listen.


Drag Net

Matthew 4:12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; 4:13 and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Caper’na-um by the sea, in the territory of Zeb’ulun and Naph’tali, 4:14 that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 4:15 “The land of Zeb’ulun and the land of Naph’tali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles — 4:16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 4:18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 4:20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 4:21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zeb’edee and John his brother, in the boat with Zeb’edee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 4:22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. 4:23 And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.

This is a gospel passage most of us are familiar with. Fishers of People. We hear about it in Mark, Luke and Matthew. John has a rendition of the calling of the first disciples which we heard last week. But Fishers of People is one we are all familiar with. But I admit I don’t know much about fishing, and really how does one go about fishing for people? What I do know about fishing is it requires a fishing pole, which could have a real of fishing line on it, unless of course one is fly fishing, then you just have a pole and a line, I think. But any how fishing requires a pole and some line and a hook. And bait. We need to have something for the fish to come after, to entice them to the hook. Well ok, if we are going to be fishing for people then I guess we need to find us the right pole, and the proper line to hold the weight of the people we are going for and we need the right kind of bait.

What kind of bait is right for people? What kind of worm would attract a person? Well a gummy worm may work for some people, but certainly everyone does not like gummy worms. If I was going to think about bait for Pastor Scott, I would get some chocolate covered nuts. And for Pastor Carol, one could set out a nice frosty mug of A&W root beer, of maybe some Swedish fish or Twizzlers. And what kind of hook should we use? I mean we do not want to hurt these people when we catch them. If we take a closer look at the passage from Matthew we can see that this is really not the kind of fishing we are talking about. There is no rod or reel, or fishing line or hook required. The fishing we are talking about is using a net. James and John were in the boat with their father and servants mending the nets after the catch from the morning. The fishing we are talking about is using nets, where the fish do not have the choice of bite or not bite, but the fish are dragged from life out of the water to their death.

Now this is not a very appealing thing to me to think about. Am I really suppose to go out and drag people into church. Jesus says come and follow me, and lets get people and drag them out of their old lives and have them die to that and bring them to a new life in the church. Are we really supposed to drag people into church? I wonder what acolytes think about being dragged into worship, or if they are dragged into worship? Pastor Carol and talked about this the other day on the way to a meeting. The word Acolyte comes from a Greek word which is used twice in our text today. The word comes in verse 20 and 22, and immediately they left their stuff and followed him. The word for acolyte comes from the word to follow. An acolyte is one who follows the presiding pastor around and helps them, one who serves. Isn’t that really what all of us are to Jesus? Are we all not called to be followers of the one who first sought us out? Jesus calls us to be followers and then we become disciples. A disciple is someone who learns from a teacher or master.

Now in Jesus time a person would seek out a rabbi, or a teacher to follow as a disciple. The rabbi would not lower himself to go looking for students to follow him, or learn his teachings, but that is just what Jesus does. Jesus called these four men, to follow him. He did not promise them anything in return to follow them; they did not follow because he said they would get anything. He said follow me and do this job, follow me and fish for people. Jesus called them from one type of fishing to another, not to get something, but in a sense to give something.

The call of Peter, Andrew, James and John is a foreshadow of all of our calls. As Douglas Hare says these 4 represent “all future believers whom Jesus irresistibly summons to follow him. It may not be necessary for all to leave professions and possessions behind, but all must leave their world behind and enter the new world into which Jesus invites them.” We might think these men and we chose to follow Jesus of our own free will, and in some sense we do. We chose to be present at this worship service, we chose to be present where the Word and Sacraments are presented. We chose to study scripture and ponder its meaning. However on a deeper level we know that we are all really just caught in God’s net. We were all dragged from life to death. We were all given the promise of being inheritors in the kingdom of god through are snare in the net of God’s love. Augustine said “I could not seek you, if you had not already found me.”

We are all sought by God, and called to come and follow him where he leads. We are called not because of what we get, but we are called to do something, called to evangelize, called to Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

We are called to follow Jesus, but to be ourselves, the one who God has made, and sought for a particular part in his plan. A great illustration for the fishing and being dragged from life to death in a net is found in the movie Finding Nemo. Towards the end of the movie there is a scene where Nemo, his dad Marlin, and Dory are swimming in the fishing channels, and Dory is caught in a net with a bunch of other fish. As the net is pulled out of the water, Nemo says he can save Dory. Marlin exclaims he does not want to lose Nemo again, but he reiterates he can save Dory. So he swims in the net and tells all the fish to swim down. So as the boat’s winch is pulling the net up and out of the water and fish on the top are pulled out of the water and are dying the other fish start to swim down, pulling the net back into the water. Nemo saved Dory, by getting the fish united in a single task. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians “all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” The fish were united in the task of freeing themselves from the net, it is not our task to free ourselves from God’s Drag Net. It is this net that holds us in his love, as he first sought us. Our task is to be overjoyed to be in the net, and to help others see the wonders of dying to self and allowing the drag net of God’s love to pull us to him.

Help us to respond as these four men did, immediately, to the persona of our Lord who says “Come behind me, and I will make you fishers of people. Give us all the strength to set aside our fears and follow the authoritative nature of Jesus and his word which inspires us to total allegiance. Open our hearts and minds to total abandonment of self to your control, and relax in the drag net of your love. Our task is not to fight the net, or try to escape the net, as Douglas Hare says “Our task is to share a faith that is exciting enough to be contagious.” Remind us you sought us first by dragging your net, and hold us in the love of your drag net. Amen

What does it mean to Fish for People????

The one aspect I am stuck on is the call to leave behind the life we have always known. This is what most of us think about in this story. The men were called, and immediately left their boats, nets, and families to follow Jesus. Not for what they would get, but because of the job he called them to. They left their lives behind them, and never went back, right?

Well no I do not think so, they probably were never more than a few days from their homes. They even return to Peter’s home later in the Gospel of Matthew. God is calling us to a life of service to him. But that does not mean we need to or have to or should severe the ties we have with our old lives. While we are new creatures in Christ, we are also called to a vocation in the body of Christ. It is all of our resonsibility to be the light to the world, not the light to our congregation. We must cast our nets, and drag in those who are not a part of us, so they can die, just as we did in the waters of our baptism, and receive the promise of becoming inheritors of the kingdom of God, and eternal life. We are called to a new life, sometimes this is within our old life. We are called to be doctors, lawyers, judges, painters, builders, clerks, nurses, teachers, janitors, insert occupation here, with the new call to spread the love of God and “catch” those who do not know the promises made to us by God. As Douglas Hare said “Our task is to share a faith that is exciting enough to be contagious.”

Our call is to live and follow Jesus immediately, and always. To be repenting. to keep repenting, and to look into the face of Jesus and to seek To be where Jesus is, to stay close to Jesus, to drown in the Spirit, to worship in Truth, To be where Jesus is, to walk in his ways, to have Jesus rename us, again here today. We need to seek to be where Jesus is.

We are called to immediately follow, to be overjoyed being caught in God’s net of Love, and spread that love to all we can net…

Hope Recognized

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 1:2 He was in the beginning with God; 1:3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 1:7 He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. 1:8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. 1:9 The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. 1:11 He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. 1:12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; 1:13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. 1:15 (John bore witness to him, and cried, “This was he of whom I said, He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.'”) 1:16 And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace. 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.

We don’t seem to recognize this gospel reading to be a Christmas story. It does not seem to have all of the necessary details. I mean where is the manger? Where is the baby? Where are Mary and Joseph? What about the angels, and the star? Where are the shepherds? Where are the wise men? There is nothing here which makes us recognize this story as a Christmas story, but maybe this is just the best Christmas story of all!

Most of you probably know who I am. You would recognize me if I was walking down the street, in a bank, or a store. Most of you can recognize your families, and would be able to pick them out of a crowd at say a football game, or a basketball game, or at the mall. Most of us probably do not remember the first time we looked at our mothers and fathers and knew who they were. Babies as young as a few months can recognize their parent’s faces. It is amazing how soon babies recognize the faces of those who love them. Baby ducks can also recognize their mother after seeing her and hearing her. When ducklings hatch, they immediately look around for something to follow. Usually the first thing they see is their mother. They will then follow their mother and she will teach them all they need to know to be grown up ducks. However if the mother duck happens to be away from the nest when the ducks hatch, they will still look for the first thing they see. And if a cat walks by the nest, the little ducks will follow the cat. Now this is not very good, because the cat will not be a good mother duck. The cat can not teach the ducklings how to find food, how to fly, or where to fly in the winter. And if the real mother duck showed up, then the ducklings may not recognize her. We need to recognize who we belong to, or who’s we are. God created the world and everything in it. Genesis 1:1-3 says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God said the word, and “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Everything that was created was created by God through Love. Everyone did not recognize Jesus when he came to earth, John says “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.” Even today people do not recognize him, but “to those who receive him”. How is it we receive him? How is it we receive the Word? The word used here for receive can mean either to take, or to receive. One, to take implies and action, and the other to receive implies some passivity. I do not have to do anything usually to receive a gift. And in order to receive a word, all I have to do is listen. Now I suppose it is possible to take a word, but usually we only get words from someone when they are ready to speak, so thus we are on the receiving end. And through our passivity of receiving this word, we also receive the power to become children of God. All of creation was passive in the creation, and even Jesus in his incarnation was passive, he had no control over his human birth, just as none of us had any control over our human birth. We were born without doing anything, it was a passive moment in our lives, now I am sure our mothers were not passive, but there was nothing we could do to keep from being born. Yet while everything in creation was passive, and had no control over being created, this creation can evoke responses. We can believe the Word about God’s intimate involvement in creation and the eternal origins of Jesus or not believe it. If we truly believe that we are to proclaim Jesus Christ to each other and to all the world, then we need to understand our every action is making known what God has done, is doing and promises to do. And this proclamation, the proclamation that God loves us can be accepted or denied. However, it is not our belief that makes God love us, and if someone where to say they do not believe, that does not undo the love that God has for all of us. The question is not whether we love God, but the question is do we believe that God has, is and will always love us, and live as children of God, accepting the power to become inheritors of the Kingdom. “He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” as the Epistle to the Ephesians says. God loves us and this is a gift freely given, we can either recognize the hope we have, or not. Even if we are following the wrong mother, as the ducklings can, God still loves us, and there is always hope.

The epilogue of John is the most wonderful Christmas story, because it does not tell us about the baby in the manger, it does not tells us about the birth of Jesus, yet it is a confession of faith in who Jesus is. This is a Christmas story that is not about Jesus, it is a story of God. Christmas is more than the story of shepherds being created by angels. Christmas is more than the story of wise men coming from the east. Christmas is more than a story about a carpenter and his betrothed. Christmas is even more than the story of a baby in a manger. Christmas is a time when we can see concretely who God is and what God has done for us. God, the almighty, the all-powerful, who created everything that exists, is far beyond our understanding and comprehension. This same God came to earth. God came to us, as a human being in human flesh. This is God’s love in action. As John says later in chapter 3 of his gospel “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” More than all the pageantry of the nativity scene Christmas is a concrete demonstration of God’s love for all of humanity. Christmas is a concrete expression of God’s love for you and me.

We can live in the promise and Hope of Advent in Christmas and throughout the years because Christmas is not only a day in the past, it is not only a baby in a manger. Through the face of the infant in the manger we see the outpouring of God’s love for all humanity. God created Light, and the light over came the darkness. Jesus existed before the creation of the world. In some mysterious and unexplainable way, Jesus was involved in the creation of the world. This divine power was part of creating the universe comes to us as a human being. John says it very simply, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In Philippians 2:7-8 it says “but (Christ) emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” Christmas is not just a day, but is a reminder to us of the love that God has for us. God came to earth to humble himself to redeem us to a right relationship with himself. Recognize who’s you are and the gift freely given to you. Live in the Faith, Hope, and Love given to us by God, and live life always in Christmas, the concrete expression of God’s love for us, in the out pouring of love in the face of the infant. Hope recognized in the face of an infant, in the face of Jesus. Amen.

We are filthy

Deep Water is the name of my Pastor’s Blog. I read this today and thought about how apropriate it is to think about what Christ has done for us, as we await the coming of his birthday. For 1 year now we have a tradition, ohhhh we’ve done it once (I know not much of a tradition), of singing happy birthday to Jesus on Christmas morning. To us, birthdays are the way we track how old we are, well If we were counting Jesus would be about 2007 years old, if of course Christmas was his “birthday”. It does not matter if Christmas is the actual day Christ was born or not. The reason we celebrate is the gift that was given, from the words of a 6th grader “the best present for Christmas is Christ’s presence!” The best thing we can ever hope for, believe in, trust in, is the presence of Christ, and he is coming to us, not only in 3 days, but always. He promised to be with us always even until the close of the age. We are filthy, just as Zane said, but we have been washed clean through the faithfulness of Jesus to come, and go to the cross where no one else could go to do what he did.

Remember this Christmas that Christ is present and he has washed us clean, through the waters of our baptisms, and as Todd said we are filthy rich in Christ.

With or Without Hope

Advent is the season of Hope. Hope is a kin to trust. Merriam Webster dictionary defines Hope as to cherish a desire with anticipation, to desire with expectation of obtainment, to expect with confidence: Trust. This Advent season we have heard about the imagination of advent, a people of hope in the greenlandians, and eschatological hope. Today I want to continue our look at hope in this season of hope, with just a little twist. You see advent is not only the season of Hope; it is the season of Promise and Hope. We can have hope because of the promises that have been made, and we can trust in the promises made through our hope.

We have hope in the promise, we can trust in the promise. But what is the promise? The promise of what? In our readings for today we heard two promises. But I would like to offer you 7 promises made by God for your consideration. First is the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12:2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. God Promised to make Abraham a great nation, the father of countless generations. Second is the promise to David, that his offspring will be the Son of God, and his kingdom will last forever in 2 Samuel 7:12-16. David’s descendant will sit on the throne of all eternity. Third is the promise made to Ahaz, found in our first reading for today, the sign of the young woman with child whose son shall be called Immanuel. Fourth is the promise to Mary found in Luke 1:32 that her son will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end. The Fifth promise is to Joseph, son of David, found in our gospel passage for today. The son your fiancé is about to have is the son of God, he is from the Holy Spirit, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. The Sixth promise is to an old man named Simeon found in Luke 2:25-35, and the Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Christ. All promises made by God, all promises that could be said to have their fulfillment in the coming expected day of Christmas, the birth of our savior.

But let us look closer at the two promises from our texts for today. We can see we have two men, we have two promises, and as Pastor Scott said last week, we have one with imagination and one without. Ahaz was king over Jerusalem. His city was under siege and he did not know what to do. Isaiah, God’s Prophet, told Ahaz to ask a sign of God, and Ahaz being the pious Jew would not test God. He knew this was something you just did not do. But this was a sign he had no imagination. He had really no hope in God providing this sign for him, and could not image what would happen from doing this. So God gave him a sign anyway. God said the young woman (probably best translated for us today as teenager) was with child and was going to have a son and he would be called God with us. This child was born, and Ahaz was freed from the trouble he was in, but then wound up in even bigger trouble. He was a man of great faith, very pious in nature, but he had no hope, no trust in God fulfilling his request for a sign, and God gave a sign, a son Immanuel, God is with us!

Then there is Joseph, son of David, a man who also was very pious, and of great faith. He was faced with the dilemma of having to break of the marriage with Mary. You see he and Mary were in a prearranged agreement. They were betrothed to one another; they were in a contract of engagement. This is a very big deal in this time. Money or goods were exchanged by the families, and power was acquired or strengthened by the marital unions between families. And while Mary was not with Joseph she came to be with child. Now Joseph had to break off the marriage, because it was not within his rights to forgive Mary of this sin, he was pious and faithful to God. So according to Deuteronomy 22.23-24 Joseph was to find the man who was with Mary and bring them both before the courts and they would be stoned to death for their sin, so as to purge the evil from their midst. Well Joseph did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace or to have her put to death; he was going to break off the arrangement quietly. But this all changed when he had a dream. An angel came to him and gave him a promise. That the child Mary was carrying was the child of God, and that Joseph should take him and name him Jesus. And so Joseph imaged what it would be like to be in the life he had envisioned before Mary got to be with child and he believed the promise that Jesus will save his people from their sin. He awoke and did as the angel told him. He married Mary, and when the baby was born Joseph adopted the boy by giving him the name of Jesus. Usually the mother would give the child a name, but the father could claim the child as his own by taking the right to give a name, and so Joseph adopted Jesus into the blood line of David and Abraham, thus fulfilling the promises to David for one of David’s offspring to be the Son of God, and the promise to Abraham to be the father of many nations. Joseph had the hope to believe in the promise that this child would be, as the name Jesus mean’s in Hebrew/Aramaic, God’s Help or God’s Salvation.

We can hold what Karl Rahner said that God is our absolute hope. Because as Pastor Scott said, “Because we believe that God is real, that God loves life, that God treasures relationships, that God is the final goal of all creation because we believe these things, God is the source of hope that is a magnet for us Christians.” The promise is something we can believe in because of this absolute hope. Our absolute trust in God, our faith in his promise, through the hope that only he can give us. Today we get a fore taste of the feast to come through the Eucharistic meal we will share, with all who have gone before us, and all of those yet to come. This was promised to us, and in hope we can trust in God to be Immanuel, to be with us.

Earlier I said there were 7 promises give by God, and I told you about 6, well the Seventh is the promise God made to us. We see this in our readings from today. Jesus will save his people from their sin, and he will be called Immanuel. He came to fulfill God’s will, to return us to a right relationship with God the Father. He came to faithfully go, where no one else could go, to the cross, and redeem us to that right relationship. Through his faithfulness to keep the promises, we can trust in him and know we always have hope to see things differently, to image life with God. He also said he would be with us, “and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” in Matthew 28:20. He is with us, and that is how we can hope in tomorrow, and believe in the promises of God.

As we await the coming of Christmas and the coming of the Christ child, remember we live in the hope and promise of his coming. We live in the realization of his faithfulness, the faithfulness to die a death, even a death on the cross, so we may have hope, so that we may believe in the promise. Martin Luther said “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” As we await the coming of Jesus let us remember our absolute hope is in God, and through this trust we can believe in the promise, the promise that Jesus is Immanuel and he is with us. Amen