Sunday, July 28, 2013

Greetings from Virginia - perhaps just a sermon since I don't get to preach this week.

"May we shout for joy over Your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners!" (Psalm 20:5 ESV) While on vacation through the nation, this verse has struck me. I have read Psalm 20 numerous times (as is shown by the different colors used in underlining). The amazing thing is, this verse has NEVER been highlighted. There are only 9 verses in this Psalm, but verse. 5 never registered with me. Till now.

And I find it a powerful and meaningful verse for my life. The focus is not upon me, you or anyone else. The focus is upon God and what He has done. We shout for joy...why? Over HIS salvation, over what He has down for each of us. He has won the victory. He has defeated our enemies. How do I know that? We are able to raise our "banners." Those banners that are raised are ones of victory. It is like being in the midst of a battle for a fort, and whoever wins is able to raise their flag. Think of the Fort McHenry in Baltimore, where the "National Anthem" was written. What showed the victory after a night of bombardment from the British ships? The flag still waving on it's pole. So we raise our banners high - because God has won the victory for us! We are victorious, not by our strength, our intensity, our desire but by what He has done.

What is that? He has been raised on the tree, on the cross. He suffered unknown suffering in order to win the victory for us. Where is the victory seen? On the cross? Yes, but that is not where we truly see the victory. We can't raise the banner just yet if we stand at the cross alone. All too often we stand there at the cross and forget that there is more. He dies upon the cross, but we must go from there to another place - to a tomb. NO! We hate going to tombs. It terrifies us. It saddens us. Tears are shed there at the graveside. Too many can't get past the tomb. Why do we need to go there?

"He is not here. He is risen just as He said!" That is why! There, in the empty tomb, a tomb that contains only the cloths that wrapped His body, we see the victory, the salvation of our Lord. The Lord saves! He is risen. The grave is empty. Jesus rose from the dead. And it is right there, in the empty tomb, that we see the victory.

Then we encounter Him! We see the risen Lord - in the Word. As I read Psalm 20 several days ago, I encountered the living Christ in verse 5. All I could do is bow my head in humble adoration. And then I felt like dancing! I felt like shouting (I was sitting in the basement of Julie and Fred's house so I didn't - they were all still asleep). Shout for joy! OVER HIS SALVATION! What joy fills my heart. I encountered the risen living Lord in this simple verse. What joy fills my heart. Set up the banner! Lift high the cross - for that is my banner. Onward Christian soldiers. Christ Jesus lives! He has won the victory.

"May we shout for joy over Your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners!"

Monday, July 1, 2013

Monday morning in San Antonio

Sunday finished with a worship service for the workers and their families, and others. The entire floor of the Lila Cockrell theater was filled and some were on the 2nd level. IT was a powerful service, capped off with the singing of "Brothers and Sisters in Christ" with Terry Dittmer on the organ. Wow! It was so great to sing that with nearly 2000 other brothers and sisters in Christ. Who would have known that when it was written back in the 80's that it would fit the 2013 NLYG  in San Antonio, TX with a theme of "Live/Love[d]"? How does it fit? Listen to the word of the 3rd verse: "Lord, teach us how to proclaim, All Your goodness, Your love and Your name! Lord, teach us how to forgive, (ready for it?) And in love, teach us, Lord, how to live. Raising our voices..." Did you catch it? Live/Love[d] is in the song. In love teach us Lord how to live! Who would have known? God knew! He knew that we would be learning to Live/Love[d] here in San Antonio - even back in the 80's. What an awesome God! Kinda makes you want to sing it again, doesn't it?

Registration went great. Our Youth Group is registered, in their hotel, have eaten on the Riverwalk, swam in their pool and enjoyed being in San Antonio. Penny and I had the chance to see them last night. It was great to see people from home here. They looked good. And they looked like they were having a good time. Go Troy!

We have over 2000 staying at this hotel representing 118 churches. That is a lot of rooms! Registration went great at the Grand Hyatt. Way to go! Just a note - we have 49 states represented. Can you guess which state is not? I will tell you at the end. We have nearly 1/2 of the congregations of the LCMS represented. There are folks from 11 countries. This is the largest gathering of LCMS folks for a long time. Besides being the huge Youth Gathering that it is, this is also the largest gathering of Lutheran adults at one event. With workers, special guests, adult leaders, etc. there are over 7,000 adult Lutherans at this gathering. WooHoo!

And why are we all here? To Live/Love[d]. We are going to grow in faith. We are going to share that faith. We are going to love one another. We are going to love the folks of San Antonio. We are going to be fed from Word and Sacrament (I get to assist in communion distribution Thursday morning at the worship service! Darrell, Alex and Casey are going to be on my team! I am pumped!). The Holy Spirit is going to do amazing things here - reignite faith, renew love, build trust, overcome the devil, free from addictions, and a whole host of other things that only the Spirit can do! Holy Spirit, do Your thing! You can't ask for more than that!

Live/Love[d] is a gift to our church body from the Lord. He is giving us the opportunity to grow in faith and to share that faith. Let's do this! Let's grow! Let's share! Let's live the love of God each day. Thank You, St. Paul's, for sending our youth and adults here, for supporting our 4 YAVs and for supporting Penny and I in coming down here. While we are here, be sure to pray for us and for the Gathering. And let's all Live/Love[d]!

What state isn't represented? If you guessed Hawaii, you would be wrong. The big Kahuna of the Traffic Team, Mitch Gowan and his wife Nancy, are from Hawaii. If you guessed Alaska, you would be wrong. So what state is it? Wait for it, wait for IT...............West Virginia! Bet you didn't guess that state.

Talk with you soon! God be with you.