Monday, January 18, 2016

A Cold, Blustery Monday

Boy is it cold out! It is 7 degrees with a wind chill of -9. That is cold. Winter has come with a vengeance and it is going to hang out for a while. Thankfully, it won't stay this cold for too long. In fact, by mid week it is to be back into the 30's and perhaps even 40's. That will feel so warm and balmy. OK, maybe not balmy. But it will feel warm compared to where we are told.

Today is Martin Luther King's birthday remembered. He was a man who had a dream of equality for all people. He dreamed of a time where the color of a person's skin would make no difference. It is a grand dream, one that each of us needs to focus upon as well. The issue of race should not be an issue at all. God has made all people. We are all equal before the mighty God. He loves and cares for us all equally. I, too, dream of a time when we will not hear such phrases as: "The 1st black to do this," or "The 1st Hispanic to do that." Those are not equality statements. Those are racial statements, pointing out the inequality of the races. I dream of a time when we will say, "He did this," or "She did that." And we celebrate the accomplishment and not even mention the color of the skin or the race of the person. That, my friends, is equality.

Will it happen? No it won't As much as we work towards equality, it will never take place in this world.As we have shown in America over the past couple of years, it will only get worse. There is always going to be racial statements and actions. "Black lives matter" is a racially charged statement. It is foolish. Instead if the people wanted to promote racial equality, they would say, "All lives matter."

I know why it is being said. It is a matter of what takes place in this fallen, sinful world. We are sinful men and women who claim to not worry about race or feel like we are racist, but inside, that sinful nature sets apart people of different color than ours. It is not a matter of whites being more racial or blacks being more racial or Asian being more racial or whatever. All people, as they struggle with their sinful nature, are racial. It will be that way until the Lord returns.

Does that mean we don't strive for racial equality? Of course not! Our Lord Jesus Christ would have us strive to treat each other with equality and respect. He would have us love all people equally. He loved all people equally. "For God so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son..." means that God all people. He sent Jesus to save every person, not just some of them. He was not racial in His love. He would have us treat one another with the same love, the same respect, the same wonder of being brothers and sisters.

James writes, "My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." (James 2:1 ESV) Show no partiality. Love all equally. Don't push one person down to raise up another. All one, all treated the same - that is the message of the Gospel.

You and I need to repent of our racial thoughts and actions. We should pray that the Lord would empower us through the working of the Holy Spirit to show love to all people, even those of the race or races we struggle to respect and love. Yes, I have a dream too, Martin Luther King, and the dream is the same. Let's all work to make that dream come true, even if just for a moment.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

State of the Union

Last night was Pres. Obama's annual State of the Union address. He said a lot of things. There were many truths in what he said and his supporters will point those out. There were half truths and untruths in what he said and his opponents will point those out. People will spend days, perhaps even weeks, analyzing what he said and didn't say. Many people will have watched the speech. Many more will not have watched it.

So what do I have to say about the State of the Union? I have nothing to say about what Pres. Obama said. I didn't watch it. But I do have this to say. The state of the union is terrible. Our nation is in sad shape. Not just because of Pres. Obama or former Pres. Bush. It is in a terrible state not because of democrats or republicans. It is in a terrible state because of sin.

Sin has made people selfish and self-centered. It has created people who can care less about the needs of others and more about their own needs. It has made a nation that will spend more than they have to try to win $1.5 billion in a Powerball drawing while becoming upset that they have to pay taxes to educate their children. It has made a people who support the criminal and speak against the police who are protecting them from the criminal. It has created a people who would rather someone spend an eternity in hell than tell them that what they believe will not save them. It has made it a terrible thing to speak about Jesus Christ as a Savior. It has taken marriage from a beautiful gift of a man and a woman as given by God to a terrible thing of nothing more than sex and feelings between two people, no matter what the sex, that has nothing to do with being a gift from God. It has made the life of the unborn a non-issue because it claims the unborn child is not a human and can be killed at anytime before he/she is born.

Sin. It has destroyed our union.

There is one thing I can say. Christ Jesus has come to give forgiveness, life and salvation to sinners such you, me, Pres. Obama and all other people. That message of hope and life is given to all who believe in the name of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And it is only when Christ is at the heart and center of the individual that any hope is given.

Our union will always be a mess. Always. It will have good times and bad times. There will great moments and horrendous moments. It will be that way until the Lord returns. As a Christian, we should do what we can to correct the problems, the terrors of this nation. But know this, when you correct one, sin will find another two ways to destroy people, their lives and our union. It will always be that way until the Lord returns.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Light Shines in the Darkness

Leaving the palace of Herod the king, the magi see that which they had been following for some time - a star. This star, placed in the sky by God Himself, lead them to the place where the they would find the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the One promised long before. They rejoiced when they saw the star. They knew they were on the correct path. Following the star a little longer, they came to the place where the Child was - in a house with His mother.

What did they do next? What would you do? What DO you do? That's right, you have been shown the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Savior of the world. What do you do? Do you bow down and worship. Do you offer Him gifts more rare - your heart, your life, your soul? Is your life changed with that daily encounter? Do you proclaim Him to be your King? Do you pledge to Him all that you are and have?

I love the Epiphany story of the wise men coming to Bethlehem to worship Jesus. It is a great story. But I often wonder if there is any impact upon us when we hear that story? We are shown the Savior, the King of kings in the Word and in the Sacraments. It isn't that we come to Him but He comes to us in these Means of Grace. How do we respond? I fear that all too often we are really more like Herod than the magi. Why? Because we do not want to give up control of our lives. We want to continue to live each day as we did before we saw the star, before the Word opened up to us, before we encountered the Savior. Let me live like before. I will give Him what I want, which is not going to be my whole life. Let me give Him just a part, a corner, a little section and then let me continue to live each day as though it doesn't matter.

Not you? Let me ask you, what is your week like? Who is the focus of your week? At home? At work? At school? When alone? Is the Savior the One that leads your every moment? Or do you only follow Him when it is convenient? Do you worship weekly or when it fits your schedule? Do you read the Scriptures each day or when you have a few moments that you might give up from looking at Facebook or working with fantasy football? And before you start to become self-righteous and say "I don't do those thing," I ask you, are you thinking highly of yourself and putting yourself above others like the Pharisee in the parable that Jesus tells? Or are you lifting yourself up and saying, "I am the tax collector that beats himself up in order to show how much he loves the Lord?" So are you becoming self-righteous in your humility?

I guess I see so much of this in myself and in the world around me. People claim to love the Lord and then never attend worship in order to be fed from Word and Sacrament. Others claim to bow the knee before the Christ-child only to turn around and live each day as though it doesn't make any difference for them. I wonder how you can encounter the Savior and live as though you haven't. That is exactly where Herod found himself. Instead of going to worship the Christ, he seeks to kill him. Why? Because he didn't want his life to change. And the only way to continue to live the life you had prior to encountering the Savior is to kill Him off in your life. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot live the life you once lived and live the life of one who has been bowing before the Child. We have been fed a lie by Satan, the world and our own sinful nature. It says, "You don't need to change. You don't need to give up your former life in order to be a Christian. You can be a Christian and not worship, not hear the Word and not receive the Sacrament." Really? Why would you not want what He offers you? And I can hear the argument, "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to a barn makes you a horse." What a ridiculous statement. A horse that doesn't go to a barn is a wild horse, left to the elements. We feel sorry for horses that are left out in the rain, the snow, the cold or the heat. We become upset and work to have the horse brought into the barn to be taken care of by someone. A Christian should also be brought into the very place where he/she is taken care of in their spiritual life. Where is that? It isn't the bar, the football stadium or the office. It is in the house of God, the place where we are fed from Word and Sacrament.

I have digressed. Sorry about that. Do you actually think the magi left the Child and never changed? Do you think they bowed before the Christ-child and then went back and worshiped the gods of the Persians? Do you think they said, "Well, that was nice but I don't need to be involved with that King ever again."

Follow the star. Follow the Word. Come to the Christ-child. Bend the knee. And then let Him change your life. Give to Him the most precious gift you have - your soul. That is the reason He came - for you and your salvation.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year

I wonder, what does this New Year hold for me? Will there be sorrow and loss? Will there be joy and gain? Will my health be good? Will I have another heart episode like the last 2 years? Will things continue to grow at St. Paul's? So many questions when I start a new year. And to begin 2016 is no different.

I do know that after today, this 1st day of January 2016, I will begin to forget about looking forward and asking what will take place. I will begin to live each day to the glory of God. I also know that I will fail miserably in serving the Lord. I will at times look out for myself and not for the good of others. Then again, I will also have times in which the love of Christ will flow through me to others in ways that I cannot even comprehend.

That is the joy of living as  Child of God. He is in me each day. He is with me in all that I do. He forgives me for all the times I sin. He continues to love me even when I don't love Him. He has shown me that in sending His only-begotten Son into this world to be my Savior. On this 8th day, Jesus is circumcised according to the Law. He is born under the Law for me to redeem me, one who is condemned by the Law. He keeps the Law perfectly for me, even as an infant. And that is complete joy for my life.

I would like to take time to look back on 2015 but this morning is not the time. Instead, I will do that another day. Today I thank God for my life. I thank Him for the love He gives me. I rejoice for my family who is an important part of my life. I give thanks that Penny and I have such a strong marriage. I am thankful for Rachael and Brandon who live close. I pray that Matthew will get a job close to us when he graduates in May. I pray that my mother-in-laws health continues to be good. I enjoy having two dogs, Zeb and Wrigley, a chicken named Henrietta and two turtles, Titan and Houdini. All of that is a gift to me from my good Lord.

In 2016, I pray for my family, my friends, my congregation and my community. I pray that I am able to continue to faithfully serve the Lord with all my hearth and life. And in the end, I pray, "Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly."