Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Hymn - "O Father, Where's the Lamb?"

“O Father, Where’s the Lamb?”
Based on Genesis 22:1-18
Tune: Was frag' ich nach der Welt
(LW #418
What Is the World to Me )

“O Father, Where’s the Lamb?”
The wood and fire are yonder,
A sacrifice at hand,
young Issac, left to ponder.
And so said Abraham,
Who on the Lord relied,
In answer to his Son,
“The Lamb, God will provide.”

Upon the altar then,
The son his father tying,
In faith, perhaps with tears,
The boy would soon be dying.
But then there came a voice,
While raising high the knife,
“O Abraham be still,
And do not take his life!”

How great a mystery,
We see on mount Moriah,
Foreshadowing much more,
Foretelling our Messiah,
The one who takes our place,
Upon the wretched cross,
Who suffers all God’s wrath;
Our gain is through his loss.

Yes, Christ, the Lamb of God,
The One the Lord provided,
Has by his blood atoned,
For sin that had divided,
Us from our Father-God.
His suff'ring calmed the strife.
His death destroys our death.
His life delivers life!

© Thomas E. Chryst, 2006

Friday, February 24, 2006

"Taking Up" for Lent

The following is my "pastor's page" from the March 2006 church newsletter. (Note also the new "PreachrPoll" in the left sidebar which goes along with this article).


Lent begins this year on March 1st, Ash Wednesday. As you read this month’s newsletter, it’s probably already begun. But I have some questions…

What is Lent? Where did it come from? What does it mean? Why do we do it?

I found the following short essay helpful in briefly answering some of these questions. It’s from the website of DOC pastor Kenneth W. Collins (www.KenCollins.com):

Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days.

All churches that have a continuous history extending before AD 1500 observe Lent. The ancient church that wrote, collected, canonized, and propagated the New Testament also observed Lent, believing it to be a commandment from the apostles…

Because Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, we skip over Sundays when we alculate the length of Lent. Therefore, in the Western Church, Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday, the seventh Wednesday before Easter. In many countries, the last day before Lent (called Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival, or Fasching) has become a last fling before the solemnity of Lent. For centuries, it was customary to fast by abstaining from meat during Lent, which is why some people call the festival carnival, which is Latin for farewell to meat.

Copyright ©1995-2006 by
the Rev. Kenneth W. Collins and his licensors. Used by permission.

And on “Giving Something Up for Lent”. A question I often hear this time of year. Do we Lutherans do it? The answer is: “If you want to”. It is a purely voluntary practice which depends on one’s own personal piety. But if you choose to do it, think about this:

Unlike some Christians, Lutherans expect to earn no merit from God in return for our Lenten sacrifice. Christ has already given us the fullness of God’s grace. Instead, what would we gain from giving something up? Perhaps a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for us. If you find foregoing a favorite food or activity you like helps you remember and give thanks for Christ’s sacrifice, then that’s great!

Some probably also “give things up” because they know it’s a bad habit in the first place. Quitting smoking, giving up sweets, fast food, etc… all are modern favorites to “give up” for Lent. If Lent is the excuse you need to break a bad habit, I won’t criticize you too harshly. But think about this. Lent might also be a good time to “take something up” instead. Form a good habit that you’ve been meaning to do. (Sort of a second chance at a New Year’s resolution).

But since Lent is a season of the Church, especially think about a spiritual habit. Perhaps read your Bible once a day during Lent. Pray for a few minutes at lunchtime. Come to church on Wednesdays for our midweek Lenten series. “Take something up” for Lent that is God-pleasing and will be a blessing to you.

For Christ took up the cross. He bore our sins, and gave his life as our ransom. May your Lent be a time of solemn pondering and meditative reflection on the great love of our Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Neat little blog-thing: a graphic representation of common words used on your blog.

You can do your own here, you can even order a T-shirt from them!

HT to WICatholic

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Banner Brouhaha

One of the LCMS signers of the "Clergy Letter Project" has come to my attention again.

Rev. Robert L. Barker appeared in my sitemeter listing of search terms. Upon a little digging, I came across this publication of a pro-homosexual group. Read the story, then take a close look at the picture on banner on the right of the story (and the caption). Note who took it, who submitted it, and who is responsible for the banner.

I hope this means that Rev. Barker is no longer serving a congregation.


According to President Hoesman of the Michigan District, Rev. Barker is on Emeritus status and no longer serving a congregation. Also, Rev. Hoesman assures me both these matters are being addressed. I am quite satisfied with this response.

Excuses for Sleeping in Church

Thanks to fellow Lutheran Blogger, David Yow, for the following humor:


Good Excuses for Sleeping in Church (depending on the church)
The folks at Wittenburg Door have been keeping track:

  • Good thing I'm a contemplative!
  • Whoa! The Third Heaven is so cool. There's—whoops, sorry. They told me not to tell.
  • Isn't this the healing service for narcolepsy?
  • I was testing to see if my new Bible cover is, uh, waterproof.
  • The church espresso machine is on the blink.
  • I wasn't really asleep—just blinded by the pastor's forehead.
  • I was entering into the Sabbath Rest.
  • Well, excuse me for staying up all night Saturday in prayer.
  • I was getting in touch with my inner Bible study.
  • I always snore when I'm slain in the Spirit.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sermon - Mark 2:1-12 - Epiphany 7

Epiphany 7 – February 19th, 2006
Mark 2:1-12
“Paralyzed. Forgiven!”

I. Introduction –
As this Epiphany season has unfolded, we have been reading through the action-packed first chapter of Mark. There we have seen a growing expression of just who Jesus is – with an emphasis on his authority. He has authority in his teaching. He has authority over evil spirits. He has authority to heal many diseases. Today we seen an even greater aspect of Jesus’ authority – and that is to forgive sins. (Next week will see Jesus fully revealed as the glorious Son of God on the Mt. of Transfiguration).

But for today – the well known account of Jesus healing the paralytic. It’s one of those healing stories that sticks in our memory, perhaps. Jesus’ reputation as a healer has grown, so that now he is surrounded by great crowds. So great a crowd that is was standing-room-only on that day when the paralytic was brought in hopes of healing. But his determined friends would not be pushed out by the crowd. They dug a hole in the roof layers of dirt and straw – and in dramatic fashion lowered their crippled friend right down to Jesus.

You can understand their determination. It’s not like this man had a hangnail or a stubbed toe. His paralysis made him completely dependent on the kindness of others. With no modern American social welfare system available to him, his survival from day to day would have been at the mercy of others. He couldn’t work to support a family (if he even had one). He couldn’t even take care of himself. He was so helpless he had to be carried around on a mat – presumably from place to place to beg for his living.

So here comes this man with great expectations of healing. He had heard about Jesus’ earlier visit to Capernaum. How he healed many that Saturday evening. He heard, perhaps, about the leper whom Jesus had cleansed – we read about that last week – the man who was told to keep it secret but couldn’t keep from blabbing. And perhaps as a last resort, the paralyzed man calls in a favor and has his friends go the extra mile so that maybe, JUST MAYBE this “Jesus of Nazareth” would work a miracle.

As he is lowered in to the house where Jesus is, Jesus takes notice. He comes over to the mat, and speaks to the man. Perhaps the whole crowd waited with hushed anticipation of the miracle that Jesus would do. How he would command the paralysis to be gone, or declare that the man should rise and walk. But he doesn’t do that. At least not right away. Perhaps to the surprise of many, Jesus says something else, “Son, your sins are forgiven”.

II. What Do You Need?
What do you need from Jesus? It’s a question worth asking. None of us here today are completely paralyzed. But we do come today dragging a mat full of hurts and problems.

Sometimes we differentiate between these “felt needs” and our true need. The felt needs are the needs we feel – the tangible things going haywire in our lives – relationships gone awry, health problems galore, struggles at work with co-workers and bosses, conflict at home and in the family, and of course there never seems to be enough money. When we come to this house of God each week we drag a mat weighed down with all sorts of worldly troubles and cares. These things have a way of paralyzing us, at least spiritually. What do you need from Jesus today? What’s paralyzing you?

Whatever it is, you can probably identify with the paralyzed man – who had some expectations, some hopes at least, of finding help. And the surprising answer that Jesus gave him is the same answer he gives us - “Son, (daughter), your sins are forgiven”. And maybe that’s not exactly what we wanted to hear.

Maybe we wanted Jesus to make the cancer go away. Maybe we wanted him to make our kids behave like they should. Maybe we were hoping Jesus would somehow make my spouse see the light and start treating me right. Maybe we were just hoping for a little less stress in our lives. Some minor (or major) miracle so that we can get up get on with our life. But Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven”.

He says it through the absolution of sins, when the pastor stands in his stead and by his commands. “I forgive you your sins” is one of the first things God says to us as we gather. And there’s a reason for that. First things first.
It’s because Jesus knows what we really need. He knows our need better than we do. Jesus knows that the first, the most important, the number one priority for us all – whether we know it or not – is to have our sins forgiven.

It may surprise us, but it shouldn’t. For all our other problems derive from sin. Whether our sin, or the sin of the world we live in. All our other problems are consequences of, mere symptoms of sin. Like the paralyzed man, our real problem, our only real problem, is sin. And Jesus is the one who can and does solve it. He is the One who forgives.

III. The One Who Forgives
In fact, compared to sin, all these other problems are child’s play. For the teachers of the law were right to ask, “who can forgive sins but God alone?” Rabbis can teach, and doctors can sometimes heal. But only God can forgive sins. What a bold statement Jesus makes here, not only forgiving someone’s sin, but also in effect declaring himself to be God! For anyone else to do this would have been blasphemy. But not for Jesus, who is God. He has the rightful authority to forgive sins. And not just because he is God.

The forgiveness that Jesus offers is a forgiveness based on the cross. All the sacrifices for sin in the Old Testament led up to, pointed to, and found power in this once-and-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross. All the times Jesus forgave sins, all the authority he gave to his disciples to do the same – it all goes back to the cross. And every time a Christian pastor announces the absolution, or performs a baptism, or administers the Sacrament of the Altar – it all goes back to the cross.

For there we see the One who forgives sins doing the dirty work of forgiveness. There he procures it, so that we can receive it – again and again. There at the cross Jesus takes care of our greatest need – he appeases God’s wrath, he pays the price, he takes our place, he wins forgiveness. So that God, when he forgives our sins doesn’t do so just because he’s God and just because he’s nice. He does so for the sake of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. “Father Forgive them” cries the condemned Christ, and the Father forgives.

IV. Paralyzed No More
And Jesus does heal the paralytic. He does it to prove to the detractors – and to us – that he has the authority to forgive sins. No, Jesus doesn’t heal us just because we ask every time and at the drop of a hat. No, he doesn’t offer pat answers and easy solutions to all the problems of life. Sometimes a healing or solution is given. And for those times, thanks be to God! Other times, He doesn’t address the needs we feel… at least not right away. But he always forgives. He is “faithful and just”, and promises to “forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.

And the forgiveness he brings has a ripple effect. As forgiven children of God, we live life by His Spirit. We have the comfort of knowing we belong to God. Even when the problems and sins of life try to paralyze us, we have a peace that passes understanding. Even when times are tough and the mat we drag around seems so heavy, we have the riches of his grace.

And we have a future promised to us. We have the hope of heaven. And not just being with the Lord when we die, but also the promised resurrection to life eternal. What that means is this. That someday, all our ills of the body will be healed. That someday, all our troubles and problems will be a long-distant memory (as Isaiah says today, “forget the former things”). When that day comes, the Resurrected One will raise us also to life. The same Christ who has by his word forgiven our sins, will also command our bodies to rise, and finally “get up, and come home”, to live with him forever. And God himself will wipe every tear from our eyes.

Whatever needs you are dragging on your mat, if you’ve come to Jesus, you’ve come to the right place. But remember our greatest need is to be forgiven of our sins. And know that forgiveness which comes only through Jesus Christ and his cross. And see that effects that forgiveness brings, and in Christ, be paralyzed no more. For in him, “your sins are forgiven”. Go in peace. In Jesus Name, Amen.

V. Conclusion
Like the paralytic, we too are afflicted with sin and its consequences. But we too receive what we need the most- forgiveness of our sins – from the only One who can give it: Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Millenials and Worship

Nice article further building the case that a vibrant, traditional form of worship is appealing to young people nowadays.

HT to Kelly Klages

Faith: New Generation Is Looking Back

by Uwe Siemon-Netto

WASHINGTON, April 18 (UPI) -- A new generation of worshipers is confounding pastors and church musicians alike.

No sooner had they got used to sometimes nerve-wrecking new forms of worship smacking of trivial entertainment, than a youthful thirst for tradition seems to be the liturgical aroma of the day.

Meet the Millennials who are succeeding the Baby Boomers and the GenExers. The Millennials are young people born between 1981 and 2000.

"They are called that way because they will presumably live most of their lives in the new millennium," explained Robert Olsavicky, an organist and graduate student at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Olsavicky has become a specialist of the roller-coaster changes in worship preferences, changes that parallel developments in society at large. According to Olsavicky, today's young Christians often desire the exact opposite of what the Rev. Rick Warren, a Californian church growth promoter, preaches. Warren shouts at fellow pastors, "Why are you still using that pipe organ people hate?"

"What is happening in the religion of teenagers is nothing short of astounding," wrote Robert Webber in the current issue of Reformed Worship, a theological journal. "They want to return to a more stable time, a period of tradition. Not the tradition of the fifties, but of a much earlier time, the tradition of the old, very old times." Webber is director of the Institute of Worship Studies at Northern Baptist Seminary in Lombard, Ill. He sees in the "tradition emerging among the Millennials, Generation X and some Boomers a tradition of classical Christianity filtered through the grid of postmodern, post-Christian, neo-pagan society."

Olsavicky, who is also the musical director of First United Methodist Church in Butler, Pa., concurred: "They are looking back to the Reformation era."

Article Continues Here...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Agape Press on Homosexuality and Alcoholism

'Ex-Gay' Ministry Leader Finds ECUSA Bishop's Alcohol Problem Unsurprising

An interesting article about Stephen Bennet, an "ex-gay" ministry advocate.

Here's an excerpt:
Through his advocacy, the SBM founder and spokesman tries to communicate both to homosexuals and to the general public that no one is born homosexual and that, through the power of Christ, freedom from that lifestyle is attainable. Having left that lifestyle himself 12 years ago, he attests that he is "completely free of homosexual thoughts, actions and desires and completely happy" as the heterosexual man God created him to be.

Interesting how the power of Christ is not about forgiveness, but freedom from the lifestyle (and happiness, of course).

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The "Fours" Tag

Tim the Enchanter has tagged me. Things have been pretty serious around this blog lately, so maybe it's time for a little fun. Thanks, Tim!

Four Jobs I've Had:

  1. Shrimp-peeler at "Deli-Dimensions"
  2. Popcorn-butter jerk at a movie theater
  3. Office Temp
  4. Pastor (my favorite so far)
Four Movies I Watch Over and Over Again:
(I don't really do this. I watch them once, usually. If I see a movie a second time it's a big deal. Here are just some favorites)
  1. Star Wars
  2. The Matrix
  3. The Usual Suspects
  4. The Shawshank Redemption
Four TV Shows I Watch:
  1. Anything on the History Channel
  2. NFL Football
  3. PGA Golf
  4. The Tonight Show (Leno)
Four Places I've Lived:
  1. Baltimore, MD
  2. Bronxville, NY
  3. Warren, MI
  4. St. Louis, MO

Four Places I've Vacationed:
  1. Ocean City, MD
  2. Orlando, FL
  3. St. Louis, MO
  4. Wisconsin Dells, WI
Four Websites I visit daily:
  1. Foxnews
  2. Google
  3. Newsgator
  4. KFUO
Four of My Favorite Foods:
  1. Egg Foo Yung
  2. Steak
  3. Lobster
  4. Anything else cooked by my lovely wife
Four Places I'd like to be right now:
(Don't know about the "right now" part, but four places I would like to go someday...)

  1. Malta
  2. Israel
  3. Greece
  4. The Grand Canyon
Four Bloggers I'm Tagging:
(Since most of the blogs I read have already done this, I'll just let it die here.)

Monday, February 13, 2006

LCMS Evolution Supporters

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) teaches unabashedly and overwhelmingly the Doctrine of Creation. See here, and here. That's good, cause so does the Bible.

Yesterday, hundreds of churches celebrated a sort of “Evolution Sunday”. Noted Australian Creationist (and a Lutheran too, I think) wrote this piece about it.

Here is the related "Clergy Letter Project" letter itself (signed by over 10,000 clergy of various denominations):

Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

All this made me wonder, “Do you think any LCMS pastors signed this document?”

Here's what I found. The following LCMS signatories of the “Clergy Letter Project”:

The Rev. Robert L. Barker
Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
Clare, MI

The Rev. Eugene V. Brueggemann, Retired
Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod
St. John's Lutheran Church
Fort Collins, CO
(Also a Jesus First Supporter)

The Rev. Robert Stuenkel
Emeritus Lutheran Campus Pastor
University of Colorado at Boulder
Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod
Boulder, CO
(Son of former CUW president Walter Stuenkel)

Pastor Thomas G. Van der Bloemen, Retired
Redeemer Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
Fort Collins, CO
(Also a Jesus First Supporter)

The Rev. Karl H. Wyneken
, Retired
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod
Fresno, CA
(Also a Jesus First Supporter)

(Along with NUMEROUS ELCA pastors)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Mocking Mohammed, Mocking Christ?

An excellent blog post from Wretched of the Earth, quoting and commenting on yet another post. The topic:

Being mocked is Christ's work, not Muhammad's

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Sermon Outline

One of my weekly habits in preaching is to include in the bulletin a "Sermon Outline" for the congregation's use. I understand this is probably an innovation of American Evangelicalism, and an interloper in our confessional Lutheran tradition. I don't expect that most confessional minded pastors do this too. But hear me out...

For one, I do not use "fill-in-the-blanks" exercises. I find that a bit pedantic, personally. Nor are my outlines extensive, but they simply cover the (usually 3) major sections of my sermon. I also include a brief paragraph ("Conclusion") at the end, which summarizes the basic gist of the sermon. I usually throw in a graphic too.

I do this for several reasons, but primarily as a "listening aid". In our day people are less and less accustomed to listening to oral presentations of any length. Some people (not all, but some) find it helpful to have a bit of a "road-map" in front of them when listening. But too much information would lead to more of a reading than listening exercise, in my opinion, and so a good outline should draw you into the sermon not away from it.

Not everyone in our congregation uses these outlines, or even seems to notice they are there. I don't often mention it. But there are a few who have remarked how helpful they find this tool. One lady in particular, has shown me on several occasions, how she takes copious notes and "fills up" the outline during the sermon. While this isn't a Bible class or lecture, I have a hard time saying that for her this is a bad thing to do.

So what of it, gentle readers? Pastors and laity alike? Any comments on the practice of printed sermon outlines (mine or someone else's)?

Monday, February 06, 2006

LCMS Pastor Arrested Mid-Sermon!

Strange but true, according to the Chicago Tribune:

The Associated Press
Published February 6, 2006, 7:31 AM CST

Some members of a Lutheran parish on Chicago's far South Side said they are outraged police arrested Rev. Jimmy McCants in the middle of his sermon.McCants, 54, has been the focus of a dispute between rival factions at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The church's board of directors told police the board fired McCants on Christmas Eve, and a woman affiliated with the church signed a complaint against him for trespassing on church property, said Chicago Police spokeswoman Monique Bond.

But a Lutheran Church official said the board fired McCants without going through the proper steps to resolve disputes.

``They have removed a pastor inappropriately,'' said Rev. William H. Ameiss, president of the Northern Illinois District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. ``The real tragedy is the ministry gets put on hold for a power struggle.''

McCants was not handcuffed when police led him out of the church Sunday. He was booked on a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespassing and released in lieu of $1,000 bond.

``My church is the house of the Lord, and I had not committed a criminal act,'' McCants said. ``We're going to see what the lawyers say. I intend to go back next Sunday.''

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sermon - Epiphany 5 - Mark 1:29-39

"A Busy Weekend"
Mark 1:29-39

I. Introduction –

Today’s Gospel reading from Mark picks up where we left off last week. Jesus had gone into the synagogue in Capernaum and served as guest preacher. He was confronted by a man with an evil spirit, which he promptly cast out of the man. And the people who heard and saw him were amazed by his power and authority.

It’s still the Epiphany season. Our readings are still shedding light on different facets of who Jesus is, and what he is about. Today, if there’s one word to describe the way Jesus is presented, it might be this: “busy”. Mark, of all the Gospel writers, whose favorite word seems to be “immediately”, presents Jesus as a man with lots to do, and little time to do it. He is busy.

We know about “busy”. But today as we read about Jesus’ busy weekend, we think again not only of how much he does, but how much he does for us! Our busy Savior.

II. I’m Just So Busy

If there’s one thing people are nowadays, it’s busy. Find me the person that has too much time and not enough to do – and I will give you a medal. We are busy. We have full calendars and full plates. We juggle the responsibilities of family, work, play – of chores and errands, of commitments and involvements. And then there’s church on Sunday morning, which for many is way down on the priority list. And even though we’re all here today – maybe our minds are already on to all the other busy things we need to do next – today, this week, etc.

There’s a sin aspect to our busy business. When we take on too much or don’t balance our responsibilities well. When we mis-prioritize our time. I am reminded a phrase I have heard used more frequently, “Me-Time”. And, while it’s not always a sin to take time for oneself (and some need to do more of it), many are too selfish with their time. We’re not Jesus – we won’t (we can’t) balance our busy lives perfectly. We get it wrong so often.

Yet into the mixed-up mess of our hectic schedules comes Jesus Christ. Today we see that he, too, is busy.

III. Jesus’ Busy Weekend

Jesus Saturday started off in the Synagogue (as I mentioned, we read about that last week). Next, he is off to Peter and Andrew’s home – and to the bedside of Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus’ afternoon doesn’t give him much “me-time”, as he heals the woman and shares a meal with his newly called disciples.

After the sun sets (and the Sabbath is officially over), Jesus’ Saturday evening is not spent out on the town. Rather, the town comes to him. Mark says, “The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons” So it was a busy time. It was perhaps a late night. But Jesus got no overtime.

The next morning, Sunday, Mark tells us Jesus is up and at-‘em quite early. But he’s not out playing golf or going to rummage sales. Jesus goes off by himself to pray. Finally some “me-time”, or is it? I suspect that even then, Jesus’ prayers were not for his own sake, but for the sake of the people. Even if he did pray for himself, it was surely that he might have strength to continue serving, ministering, and loving his people.

When the disciples finally roll out of bed, they get busy looking for Jesus. Finally they find him, and (no rest for the weary), the demands on Jesus continue. “Everyone is looking for you” they said. And what truth they had spoken.

Still, today, in a sense, everyone is busy looking for Jesus. They just don’t always know it. Sin’s reality makes us aware that something is wrong with us – something needs to be fixed. It may not be a disease or a demon-possession, but our problems are just as real.

Everyone is busy looking for Jesus – but not always to the right Jesus. A Jesus who only leads by example and asks “what would I do?” is a poor excuse for a Jesus. That’s a Jesus of the Law. Not a Jesus of the Gospel. Our Jesus doesn’t ask people to do anything but believe in him and what he does for us.

Everyone is looking for Jesus, but not always for the right reasons. Some, like the disciples, even do it on Sunday morning. Perhaps even in church. If you have come here today mainly to give something to God, or do something for God, or praise him or serve him – then you are busy with the wrong things. Our first concern must be to receive what he gives us, on his terms, by his grace. Our business is to receive, and only then to respond.

And so, wherever Jesus was – praying – the disciples found him. “Everyone is looking for you Jesus”. It’s actually a nice confession of our need for Jesus. We too look for him – and to him – as the source of our blessings. And he does not disappoint.

He doesn’t book a vacation to some far off land. Rather than take a holiday from all the stress – Jesus gets busy again. He says, “Let’s go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come”.

There are more people who need him. So Jesus goes.

IV. “Why I have Come”

Did you catch what he said, though? He didn’t say, “Let’s go so I can heal some more people,” or, “Let me go cast out some more demons”. Jesus is focused in his task – his purpose – and that is to preach. He comes with a message. All the signs and wonders point to the message, his preaching and teaching and proclaiming of the Kingdom of God.

It was a message of greater healing than all the disease-busting he did. It was a message of even more defeat for the forces of evil than a simple exorcism or two. Jesus came to bring ultimate healing to the suffering sinner, and ultimate victory over our spiritual enemies.

Why did Jesus come? Well it was to preach, but not only to preach. As the ultimate prophet he brought God’s word to the people – he was – is – the very word of God made flesh. But this prophet is also a priest. And priests make sacrifice. And Jesus does the same.

In another purpose statement, Jesus says, “I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly”. Of course the great surprise is that he brings life to us by offering himself to die. His sacrifice at the cross – and his resurrection from the dead – are the heart and foundation of his message. They are what make the kingdom of God accessible to us poor sinners. This too is why he came.

For on another busy weekend, Jesus had lots more to do for his people. It started on a Thursday, when he established a Holy Supper for his people, washed his disciples’ feet in service, and prayed in the garden. He was arrested, and a long night and morning of trials led to a hill outside of Jersusalem where he was crucified. Dying mid-afternoon and buried before sunset, his body lay in the tomb until early Sunday morning, when divine power burst open that grave, and his cold clay took on breath and life again. Then too, his disciples went looking for him. Then too, they would find him – not dead, but alive! Appearing to the women that Easter morning, and to the 12 later in the day – Jesus’ OTHER busy weekend is the one to remember. That too is why he came. And in all his work – in his dying and rising – he does it for us his people.

And as we come this Sabbath day – this day of rest from our busy-ness, we too hear the message of Jesus and his cross. And by that message we are healed of our sinful disease. And we receive victory over our evil foes. We get just what we need from the only one who can give it. Forgiveness, life, salvation offered in words of absolution, in remembrance of our baptism, in bread and wine that truly are Christ’s body and blood. Here the busy-ness stops, and the business of forgiveness gets done. Here we find pardon for all the times we are too busy, not busy enough, or busy with the wrong things. Here Christ is busy still, forgiving and loving us, his people.

“This is why I have come” Jesus said. What a busy weekend.

In His Name, Amen.

V. Conclusion

We may think we know what it’s like to be busy, but just ask Jesus. One busy weekend found him healing, casting out demons, praying, and of course preaching. But in all he does, Jesus has his people in mind. We are his priority.

Friday, February 03, 2006

More on Local Shooting

This morning's paper carried a column, "Parson to Person", in which the ELCA Lutheran, Rev. Carol Baumgartner, wrote, "How can we cast out the spirit of violence?" Here is the link.

A few things strike me about Rev. Baumgartner's comments. As the title itself suggests, in her remarks the onus for change and the focus of actions is human beings, not Jesus himself. Therefore, even though she mentions Jesus (as a "risk taker" and "rule breaker"), she does not mention the most important thing Jesus does - namely dying for his people. Nor is there really any talk of the forgiveness of sins. There is slight mention of what God (in general) will do (if we "let him").

Now, you might argue that this wasn't a sermon, and so shouldn't be held to the same strict standards of Lutheran orthodoxy. You might say that it was a "pep-talk" to the community. But I believe that when a Lutheran speaks out to the community in such a visible way, he (or she) must hold the cross before their eyes.

Paul says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" Romans 1:16

Her original question, "How can we cast out the spirit of violence?" can best be answered:

We can't. But Jesus Christ has - at the cross. And he continues to "create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me" through the gifts of Word and Sacrament. There's no other way.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

How Sinful Are You?

Take the quiz here.

My results:

Your Deadly Sins
Sloth: 80%
Gluttony: 60%
Greed: 40%
Envy: 20%
Pride: 20%
Lust: 0%
Wrath: 0%
Chance You'll Go to Hell: 31%
You will die while sleeping - and no one will notice.

Wow. This test went easy on me. ;-)