Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What happened on Holy Tuesday?

Holy Tuesday-The example of the fig tree. (as posted by CPH)

Jesus’ disciples see the withered fig tree on their return to Jerusalem from Bethany. Matthew 21:20-22. When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying,“How did the fig tree wither at once?”And Jesus answered them,“Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”Mark 11:20-21As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him,“Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”

We are reminded this Holy Tuesday that we are the withered fig tree. Our faith is dead without Christ and the reason that Christ had to die was because of us being those weak vessels that quickly wither away.

Lord have mercy today as we celebrate our Lord taking us withered vessles and making us His redeemed. Lord have mercy

Monday, March 29, 2010

Holy Monday...what happened?

Holy Week: What Happened on Monday? (as posted by Rev. Paul McCain, CPH)

On Monday morning Jesus and the Twelve leave Bethany to return to Jerusalem, and along the way Jesus curses the fig tree

Matthew 21:18-19

In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it,
“May no fruit ever come from you again!”

And the fig tree withered at once.

Mark 11:12-14

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it,
“May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”

And his disciples heard it.

Jesus enters Jerusalem and clears the temple

Matthew 21:12-13

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them,
“It is written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’

but you make it a den of robbers.”

Mark 11:15-17

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them,
“Is it not written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?

But you have made it a den of robbers.”

Luke 19:45-46

And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them,
“It is written,
‘My house shall be a house of prayer,'
but you have made it a den of robbers.”

In the evening Jesus and the Twelve leave Jerusalem (returning to Bethany)

Mark 11:19

And when evening came they went out of the city.

May we all celebrate Holy Monday in our Lord's mercy.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday went awesome

The palms were spread in front of church, All Glory Laud and Honor, and the proclamation of the Passion from the Gospel of Luke. Overall, a wonderful Sunday. Palm Sunday (Passion) is quickly becoming one of my favorite Sundays.

This begins an exciting week of centering our faith on Christ and Him Crucified. Holy Thursday will be very exciting as we bring back the old Red Hymnal communion liturgy. Good Friday will include a new candleabra to represent Jesus' gradual death. Easter will be the normal exciting message and the return of Alleluia's in the liturgy.

Today was one of those days that I thank God for all He does and I thank God for the faithful people at St. John Evangelical, North Prairie, WI. May they continue to extend mercy to their sinful pastor!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Church we have a problem

I sometimes default to an opinion that is bright eyed and bushy tailed. An opinion that things aren't as bad as they seem. Most college students that go to big time universities basically have faith, but just are getting their freak on, I naively think although I experienced something different in college. However, I am once again proven wrong when I try to gloss things over, God reminds me of the depravity of man.

I have had a few discussions with students at the great University of Wisconsin-Madison. All of which grew up in a LCMS church, have staunchly conservative parents, and were taught what it means to be a Christian. However, they ALL have basically denied the faith, question the validity of the Bible, and are antagonistic toward any type of conservative view (pro-life, pro-marriage, etc).

What is the answer?

We need to start digging deeper. In a typical church, one that I am most comfortable with, sings songs we like, does an occasional skit, focuses on what types of lillies to get, and learn simple stories in Sunday school...then we send our kids to UW-Madison and expect it to work out fine. We need to have majority of our adults highly skilled in the Bible, apologetics, Lutheran doctrine, and creation science. At the same time, our Sunday School and Bible studies all need to center on Christ, His Work, and ask all the questions that people are asking. Then once our young people are in college we bombard them with information about faith, encouraging letters, visits, and talks about faith. Then after college, we bombard them again with information about life, help in the real world, and resources of how to find good churches.

I'm ready to start tomorrow. Who is with me?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Passion Sunday with Palms...here we come

After a two week hiatus, I am back. Fishing went awesome. We caught the limit in Walleye, I got a nice perch, and we are eagerly awaiting the time to fry them up. I received God's gifts Bethlehem Lutheran, Warroad, MN with the voice of their vicar. And now back with God's people whom He has called me to serve.

This Sunday we are ready to celebrate for the first time Passion Sunday with Palms (as indicated in the LSB Altar book p.501). It will be the typical procession of palms, prayer, children's message, and then a narrative of the passion from Luke (myself and two other people). Then leading into receiving the Sacrament.

Passion Sunday is a unique twist to Holy Week due to its symbolism of the dynamic that Jesus experienced in Jerusalem. He entered in triumph and soo thereafter he had to deal with the crucifixion in the same place. This way we as a church experience it all on one Sunday. Plus it sets the tone for the week to the center of our faith, "Christ and Him crucified."

Lord have mercy as we celebrate this wonderful day.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Off to fishing...for fish, not men

Today I am off to beautiful Lake of the Woods, MN to fish with my brother-in-laws. It will be a blast since we will literally walk on water!

I will be taking the next few days off from blogging and looking forward to receiving God's gifts on Sunday from the mouthpiece of another pastor (Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Baudette, MN). There is nothing better than visiting another church and receiving the gifts of Christ.

Otherwise, it will be a great time of fishing, Dr. Pepper (my version of beer), and roughing it!

Lord have mercy

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Christ for Mercy...Day 22

Preach Deliverance to the Captives
By Rev. Gary Tillman
“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs,members of the same body,
and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” ~ Ephesians 3:6

As I was reading this section of scripture, a song came into my mind. You may have heard it before: This land is your land, this land is my land/From California,to the New York Island/From the redwood forest, to the Gulf Stream waters/This land was made for you and me.

The Gospel, the good news of your forgiveness through Jesus’ death and resurrection, unites all people. We are all baptized into his death and resurrection and made members of his one family. God is the Father of us all. The New Colossus is a sonnet by Emma Lazarus (1849-1887), written in 1883 and, in 1903, engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the Statue of Liberty: Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame/With conquering limbs astride from land to land/Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand/A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame/Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name/Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand/Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command/The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame./"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she/With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor./Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,/I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

The Statue of Liberty stands as a beacon of hope and light for all people looking for freedom in this world. The Statue can only serve as a picture. The Statue cannot deliver freedom. True unity, for people of all time and place, lies under the cross of Calvary. As Christians we look to the cross as our beacon of hope and freedom. The cross is the tool used by God, to demonstrate his love and compassion for all people of all time.

Jesus, the cross, for you, mystery revealed!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Christ for Mercy...Day 21

Preach Deliverance to the Captives
“Truly I say to you, as you did to one of the least of thesemy brothers,
you did it to me” ~ Matthew 25:40
Rev. Gary Tillman, St. John, Ashipun, Wis

We live in a world that separates. Good guys-bad guys, lectern side-pulpit side, Vikings-Packers, Democrat-Republican-Independent. You get the picture! We like to put people into a specific box.

In our reading for today, we hear the Lord Jesus doing a little separating of his own: sheep to the right; goats to the left. These are two totally different kinds of people; believers and non-believers.

Jesus does notwant tomake this distinction.Hewants all people to be saved and live with himforever.However, some people do not want Jesus to be their Lord, so Jesus gives them what theywant; life without him, a life as a stubborn, unforgiven old goat.They will receive the consequences of rejecting Jesus: “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers” (Matthew7:23).Theywill be thrown into hell.The goats get what they want, a placewhere theywon’t be “bothered” by God. As Jesus is talking to the sheep, he tells them about a reward they were going to receive. They were going to receive this gift of eternal paradise by the way they responded to the needs of people. The sheep, in their humbleness, were totally unaware that whenever they helped someone in their time of need, they
were serving the Lord of the universe. (Think of it! Jesus puts his face on those we serve.)

The sheep were doing what comes naturally for them to do. They were bearing the fruit of their faith. As Luther says, you don’t have to tell an apple tree to grow apples, it just does it. The sheep were bearing the image of their Jesus. People would see Jesus through their work of charity and love for the people God loves.

We reflect the mercy our Jesus has for us (his suffering, death and resurrection) to those around us. You might say that Jesus is the light of the world and we are little mirrors, reflecting his compassion to those we see in need!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Christ for Mercy...Day 20

"He has annointed me to proclaim liberty to the captives" Luke 4:18-19
by Rev. Gary Tillman, St. John Lutheran, Ashippun, Wis
This week's theme is preaching deliverance to the captives. Isaiah said that the Messiah would come come and set people free (61:1-2). The Messiah would come and show mercy, love and compassion by restoring everything that was wrong and broken in a sinful world. Isaiah's words were beautiful and comforting to a people living captive in less than ideal circumstances.
Our verse today is spoken by Jesus as he begins his public ministry. Jesus wanted the people to know that he was the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. Sin had taken hold of all creation, and Satan was not going to give it back without a fight. The perfect world God made was taintedby sin and held captive by the devil. Jesus came to set it all free by crushing the head of the serpent.
These words have a special meaning for you, too. What is wrong and broken in the your world? What is keeping you frozen or stuck that prevents you from seeing and living in hte joy in the faith?
Are you concerned about your health, or the healt of a loved one? Are your finances locking you up in a vault of fear? Are you unsure of your job or marriage? Are your children growing up and soon moving off to college? Jesus wants to set you free from that fear that keeps you captive.
When I was growing up, my cousins would come over and we would play a game of tag. One person would be "it" and try to catch everyone. Once you were tagged, you had to stay in the spot until someone came to set you free by touching you. Someone would risk getting tagged to set you free. Once touched, you were free to run around again.
Christ in his mercy has touched you in a personal way in the water and the word of your baptism. Jesus was tagged with the wrath of God for the sins you commit and the fear you hold onto. Jesus died to free you so the favor of God may rest upon you. You are not captive anymore. Therefore, you can run free.
Lord have mercy

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A time to brag...

Our Lenten theme this year is "Christ for mercy." In order to put the mercy of Christ into action, our congregation challenged two other LCMS churches to a food pantry competition for the month of February (St. John, North Prairie; St. John, Ashippun; and Bethlehem, Wales). The proceeds would go to Hope Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, Wis.

God really worked through this mercy ministry. In the end all three churches gathered 1800 cans of vegetables and at tonight's prayer service there was a uniting spirit that will definately lead us to many great ministries in the future. The competition was highlighted with a "mercy trophy" that possessed a can of corn on it. St. John, North Prairie won it this year with 920 cans collected. This trophy will be a traveling trophy to the church who gathers more cans each year.

We look forward to next year and hopefully more churches involved.

Lord have mercy

Christ for Mercy...Day 19

"Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord" John 20:11
by Ms. Lauren Jensen, Sheldon, IA

Nothing breaks a heart like death. The finality of it. The knowledge that nothing will be like it was. The pain of dreams and plans unrealized.
But no death could have been more devastating than the death of Christ. To His followers it meant the death of a friend, teacher, healer, brother, son, savior, and the death of hope. "Mary stood weeping outside the tomb" (John 20:11). The body was gone. Peter and John had gone back to their homes. But this heart wrenched woman, dredged in despair, stood weeping for her missing Lord.
She did not run around frantically trying to find him. Yes, she went and todl the disciples, but when they gave up, so did she. She didn't go looking for law enforcement or witnesses. She was helpless. She was hopeless.
"Woman, why are you weeping? (John 20:15). It was Jesus. When Mary was paralyzed with grief, unable to do more than weep and lament, Christ spoke into her darkness. "Mary" (20:16). Her name. The only One able to speak to her broken heart did.
"Why are you weeping?" It's not a rhetorical question. It begs an answer. What has broken your heart? Tell God. He knows, but that doesn't stop Him from asking. He calls your name. Stop running around looking for relief. He speaks it to you.
Things may seem hopeless, but Jesus is alive. Why live as if He is dead? Why weep at an empty tomb? Our God has overcome death itself, and He has done it for you.
Lord have mercy

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Christ for Mercy...Day 18

"It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive, he was lost, and is found." Luke 15:11-32
by Ms. Lauren Jensen, Sheldon, IA

Wouldn't it be nice if our lives were like that of Curious George? In my kid's books, that curious little monkey can cause all sorts of trouble, but things always have a way of working themselves out.
Not so for us. God knows the trouble we sinners make courtesy of the famous Adam and Eve. Jesus mentions a type of Curious George in Luke. The prodigal son. He was a sinner no doubt and he made a big mess. A perfect subject f or Christ's listeners, and us.
Like us, the prodigal son didn't have to prove any worth to his father, which was good because he seemed to be about as reckless as they come. Like us, he squandered everything. If anyone deserved rejection it was him.
It is the father that proves his worth. While any father would be justified in sending the boy back to the filth, this father acknowledges his son's depravity, "For this my son was dead" (Luke 15:24a) and rejoices in His restoration, "and is alive again" (24b) is unbridled jubliance clues us in as to just how far gone his son really was.
We were dead in our trespasses. Our sinful hearts were beyond repair. We were so far gone, and nothing would just work itself out. Yet in His mercy, God gave us life. Our straying was no match for Christ's sacrifice, and our rebellion was no match for His restoration. We can always confess our unworthiness to God, trusting in His unconditional mercy.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Christ for Mercy...Day 17

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18
by Ms. Lauren Jensen, Sheldon, IA
There are few things more daunting than being asked to write devotions concerned with the brokenhearted. We are real people. With real pain. So, maybe "depressing" is a better word for it. It can be depressing to ponder at length the depravity and death that leaves God's beloved children begging for mercy.

And what comfort is there in crying out, "Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy?"
The comfort lies in the confidence God speaks through David in Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." We are broken. The signs of our broken hearts and crushed spirits are unmistakenable. Tears, anger, and despair are strangers to no one, and so we ask in confidence for mercy because we know and trust that God hears us, simply because He tells us He does.
And yet, He doesn't just hear. He listens. He doesn't just listen. He saves. His mercy is ours in truth of Jesus Christ.
Some take comfort in the idea of a distant apathetic god. Some take comfort in an "inner god" that is right "for them." But those are no comfort, because they are lies. We take comfort in a God who is near to us. So near that He listens to our prayers and repentance. He speaks reconciliation and healing to our hearts. He feeds us and clothes us with Himself. He takes our death and sin upon His body and defeats it. Our God is near.

Lord have mercy

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Christ for Mercy...Day 16

This year I and other fellow theologians have written devotions based on the Lenten series from LCMS World Relief, "The Spirit annointed Christ for mercy."

Now until Easter morning, I will post the devotions that focus first on the mercy of Christ and then our mercy to others. I look forward to this journey together. We begin with Day 16, "Christ for mercy: To heal the brokenhearted."

Luke 4:19-"He has appointed me to...proclaim the year of the Lord's favor"
by Ms. Lauren Jensen, Sheldon, IA
My husband's sister, Melissa, answered the phone, "Hello, Jensens." On the other end of the line was my mother, "Hi, honey, it's me, Mom."
"Mom?" It was then that they both realized that my mother had no idea to whom she was speaking. She had mistaken Melissa's voice for mine, a mistake that wouldn't have been as sad, or funny, had my mother-in-law not passed away the week before. We all had a much needed laugh, while my mom stood in horror at the words just exchanged. Open mouth. Insert foot.
We have all donee it. Thank God, He never has. Isaiah 61 says, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted" This is the beginning of the passage Christ read at hte start of His ministry in Luke 4. His listeners were in the synagogue. They knew exactly what passage Jesus was reading and, if there was any doubt about why He read it, He said to all of them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing (Luke 4:21).
He knew who was listening. He knew who was self-righteous. He knew who was a worrier. A gossip. Who was hungry for the Lord.
And He knows you. He knows your vices and trials. He knows your needs. And He is here to bind up your broken heart. Listen to Him. His words of mercy are for you.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Generation Y and the Gospel

Why is every church trying to figure out the magic formula of getting and keeping young people in worship? The church's that claim to have it right actually have a small percentage of their church attendance in the Generation Y (19-29) and even they are not committed to the whole ministry. Why is this such a problem.

This article from the Milwaukee Journal, March 2, 2010, gives us a taste of why.

"She grew up in a house on a cul-de-sac in Chicago's western suburbs. It was her parents' dream, the American dream.

So, when she struck out on her own in Milwaukee, Clarissa Mankus climbed on the first rung of home ownership and bought a condo in the Third Ward. She liked the space and briefly enjoyed pride of ownership.

But she learned quickly that her parents' dream was not really her dream. She wanted to be independent, mobile and able to pack up and go at any moment. And she also wanted to pay her tuition bills for graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

She sold the condo after a few months and now doubles up with a roommate in Grafton.

"The thought of having a mortgage to worry about doesn't seem appealing to me," says Mankus, 26. "A lot of people in my age group feel the same way. We're anti-commitment."

Ring true? Younger people today are seeing the deep debt that their parents went through to have the perfect house, the deep debt that they have because their parents kept telling them they had to go to school, the numerous divorces their parents and neighbors endured and seeing everything they have said, "Enough with commitment."

Generation Y is anti-commitment, anti-marriage, anti-institution, and living for the moment. Yet, this generation far exceeds their parents in looking to change the world through social action, joining together in small groups to do big things, and helping America continue to be great.

So what is the church to do? A well thought-out plan of living among Generation Y, investing in a Gen. Y pastor, small groups, and a more contemporary music service? That might work for awhile, but this generation sees right through people being fake. What will work is this...Presenting the Gospel, administering the Sacraments, and caring for our neighbor. Sound familiar?

The church will be presented with many challenges due to this next generation, but the Holy Spirit will also do many amazing things through His means and despite us getting in the way.

Lord have mercy

Monday, March 1, 2010

What would you do as a baptized child of God?

Last night my wife and I watched the thriller movie, "The Box" starring Cameron Diaz. The previews looked awesome. A little sci fi (my favorite) and suspense. The quality of the movie and plot was above average, but the ending left much to be desired.
My favorite part of the movie was the ethical dilemma that leaves you wondering what you would do in the same situation. Cameron Diaz and her husband are struggling financially and a mysterious man arrives offering them a deal. He provides them with a box which has a button. The offer is that they can push the button and receive one million dollars. However, if they push it someone they do not know will die. What would you do?
The basis behind the question deals with love of neighbor versus coveting. As a Christian, we see everything through the eyes of Jesus' command to love one another, the command to not murder, and not to covet. All of these things take precedence over receiving money and living a comfortable life. Yet, how many of us would be severely tempted to push that button, receive one million dollars and forget about the person we do not know.
The movie basically ends with another question. If this box man goes to many homes to make this offer, will he visit people we do not know and then I will be the next person to die? Our friends and family may not die, but will they be harmed? What kind of guilt may we have with this money? Is this good for my neighbor?
At the end of the day, as Christians we would have to say no to such a proposition because the cost of life and the many temptations are much worse than the perceived comfort of more money. May we always value life, our neighbor, and the chance of mercy above our own covetous ways.
Lord have mercy