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Archive for March, 2014

Rev. Joseph Samuel – prayers ascend

Seter at Karuni

I found this picture of a presentation at Karuni in India.  It brought back some great memories.  One of my memories is the silly enjoyment I took at each one of these events, in my name being a bit bigger than John Fales on the signs that graced the proceedings.  Senseless, but I got a kick out of it.  Chairman of the Board was a big deal.  I felt like Frank Sinatra.

  This was the opening of a sewing training center for displaced folks from the tsunami.

Anyway my pride in getting my name up on a poster and having it bigger than Rev. Fale’s also reminded me of Rev. Joseph Samuel.  He was the president of the India Evangelical Lutheran Church at the time I was there.  He was an example of service and humility that I found inspiring.  His health has not been the best and Mr. Ravi Jesupatham who has been a contributor to these pages notified me and asked for prayers.  My prayers have ascended and will continue to do so.  I pray that you will pray for this kind and humble man too.

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The Reward – More Responsibility.

talentsThis parable is part of what Luther called a “terrifying” Gospel. It is found in Matthew 25: 14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[a] and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents,[b] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[c] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

’We do not preach the doctrine of punishment and reward. Reward is guaranteed by the cross and resurrection. Our faith is a gift, our baptism is God’s stamp of approval upon us because of what Jesus did for us. Our life in Christ is secure. Somehow it seems to me in my preaching I need to let it be known that part of the happiness of our life does come from obedience to Christ. The enjoyment of a destiny that God wants us to have with him is dependent upon the character we take out of this life with us. That character is formed by the extent of our obedience to Christ and loving self-sacrifice for others. God rewards the faithful servant. The reward is a closer conformity to the character of Christ which is itself the height of happiness. God’s rewards are still the products of his grace. Using the parable of the talents we see that the rewards God gives for faithfulness is increased responsibility toward God and toward our neighbors.

 

 

 

 

 

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The End Times View of Mission and Mercy and the Strangeness of Preaching.

I am the Pastor

Some one gave me this little wall hanging years ago.  I look at it everyday and I laugh but I also think a lot about the strangeness of what we do as Christians.

I just got into a conversation (actually the conversation has been going on for a while because of difficulties, trials and tribulations we are experiencing with Project 24) about the “validity” of mission projects.  What makes any Christian Project valid is not its chances of success, but does it bear the marks of the Church?  Is it something that God wants us to do?  How do we know?  Does it relate to the gifts given us with a view towards the end of the age and life everlasting?

If we have this “end time” view of Christ’s mission, our mission, our witness and our life, we have then a stamp of approval on what we “do” as church and believers. We are living that famous statement that Paul made when he said “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” Galatians 2 and 2 Corinthians 5). We have a stamp of approval that comes through the marks of the church. Through the proclamation of the Gospel we are assured that Christ himself is with us “even to the end of the age”. Through the office of the keys we believe we have Gods stamp of approval to forgive people, and that forgiveness is valid in everlasting life. We believe in the Lord’s Supper we are receiving Gods stamp of approval once again and we have a very special reason for doing it often. Every time we celebrate and receive the Holy Supper we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”. There is a mission emphasis to the Supper. When we are merciful because we’ve been motivated by Christ’s Gospel to be merciful, we realize that those acts will be the basis upon which we are judged at the end of the age according to Matthew 25:31 – 36.

The strangeness then of our preaching and our doing, our mission and our witness, is that we cannot expect results. We are not bound to the need for success. One of the more famous churchmen used to say, “Gods work done in God’s way will never lack Gods supply”. China Inland Mission founder Hudson Taylor famously said that and yet the evidence of life, and the witness of the scripture seems to be exactly the opposite. We have problems with this issue. Note all the programs, all the missionary endeavors, all the Bible class materials, all the foundation and fundraising efforts to give us some kind of success, and give us some metric to prove that what we are doing is “valid”. We as preachers very seldom see any “success” to what we do or proclaim. In fact I am convinced that some of the functional difficulties we see in the office of the Holy Ministry today, are in part the result of the fact that preachers are tired, and depressed about the lack of results. I remember being absolutely elated when a member of one of my churches said “I want you to know how much I enjoyed your sermon last Sunday. My family has been talking about it all week every night around the dinner table”. I was so excited I ran home and told my wife the good news. My excitement turned to deflation when she asked me a question – “what did you preach about?”, and I could not remember. I had been so busy during the week getting ready for the next Sunday, that my supposedly wonderful sermon had disappeared from my mind almost as soon as I preached it. My wife didn’t remember it either but that is a story for another time.

Baffled by the so-called “lack of return on investment” in worldly terms, it is my belief that many are turning to what we have mentioned many times as “therapeutic deism”. I believe that the so-called lack of return on investment in faith has caused many people in the society to look to one or both of our political parties as their religion. The evangelist zeal they may have exhibited a few years back in the church is now invested in the kingdoms of this earth. The Bibles warning to “trust not in princes” (Psalm 146) has fallen upon deaf ears. When we can get free stuff bought and paid for by the hard-working labor of others we can have a kingdom on this earth, while at the same time pretending that we have carried out the imperatives of Jesus in Matthew 25.

Our preaching is about a victory. The Gospel is the good news of the victory over sin and death and the power of the devil. But in that preaching we need to hammer home the point that the church on earth is militant, it is a struggling community, it is still in the battle, and so the triumph is often hidden by signs of apparent failure. The validity of so many of our mission endeavors are in question. The motives and competence of partners around the world are called into question without us ever realizing that the demonic forces of evil ranked against them are much more plain and powerful than they appear to us who have things relatively easy. The demonic attack in the third world is “in your face” while the Devils attacks here are much more subtle. Both of them are damning part from Christ.

Restructuring and strategic planning are good first article gifts.  Being efficient and competent are much needed in the church.  But what does a “valid” mission or project mean?  Success?  Was Jesus mission valid when He himself asks this question, in Luke 18 – 7now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8“I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

 

 

 

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Martha Stewart look out! A Good Thing? – Really!

martha stewardI used to love it when Martha Steward would say, “It’s a good thing”.

After worship last night it snowed and rained again and so I am in a bad mood anyway.  I am tired and cranky in the midst of Lent and for that I repent.  We prayed in the evening prayer for the President (by name) and the congress and those in authority over us.  I offer those prayers sincerely  and ask that God would bless the government which is, really, one of God’s good gifts – then I watched the news this morning.

After hearing Sheila Jackson Lee talk about the American Constitution being 400 years old, we now have Alan Grayson coming out and saying that the Russian annexation of Crimea was a “good thing”.   After all the inanities uttered by Nancy Polosi and Harry Reid’s raspy nastiness I have come to the conclusion that the great issue facing us today is not the politicization of everything that some worry about, but the deification of a political party.  The only explanation that I can think of for what is happening today is that a political party has become for about 1/2 the population,  its religion.

There is no reason for the election of folks like the ones I have mentioned above unless you have a blind faith in an ideology.  Unhinged from a Biblical perspective the new faith is in the progressive vision of life. Unhinged from any historical perspective this religion does the same old stuff over and over and believes that the personalities that they vote into office, no matter how ignorant or void of morality will somehow make things better because they are, well, not Republicans.  History means nothing to them because they believe that a new history begins with them.  Remember at the inauguration there were words to the effect that this was the day when the ice caps stopped melting and the sea levels retreated and there would be a chicken in every pot and pot in every home, or something like that? So we are at it again.   Redistribution of wealth and the government oversight of everything from charitable contributions to contraception; from how much a painter should be paid when he paints wood instead of steel to proposing that college athletes be unionized; from your emails to the way you use your credit card.

They complain about the profits of big oil without ever mentioning the fact that a great portion of the cost of a gallon of gas is their life blood – taxes.  They whine about the infrastructure and refuse to tell us where the trillions in taxes that were supposed to go for infrastructure went.   They will stop the Keystone pipeline and yet complain about our dependence on foreign oil and tear the tops of hills off to build those hideous windmills.  Somehow the destruction of those ecosystems and replacing them with a gargantuan and gross monstrosity is not environmental pollution, but I digress.  Of even greater moment up here in the North country is the mess the new religion has made of the hockey world with their ridiculous environmental regulations on refrigerants.  Pretty soon all those hometown hockey rinks are going to have to spend thousands of dollars redoing their refrigeration systems or close down.  What is going to happen when one religion is pitted against the doctrine of the other?  Minnesotans and North Dakotans seem to have both of these religions in tension.  I’m sure when these rinks close or have to raise huge amounts of money Al Franken or Heidi Heitkamp will say “it’s a good thing”.  Better yet,  pass the offering plate and get everyone to pay for it.

They will sue the money makers and raise taxes on things like smoking when the moral thing to do would be to outlaw smoking.  That will never happen because they need the money from the taxes and the Government fines.  I would love to hear from our female North Dakota Senator where all that tobacco money that was supposed to be spent on anti-smoking education went.  I never understood why it should cost a dime to have anti – smoking education, but “just say no” is a dirty concept to this religion.  Never say no to anything when you get everyone else to pay for what ever it is you can’t say no too.  The only exception to saying no is when someone wants to buy a gun or pay less taxes.

Think of all the “good things” this religion has brought us.  More people in poverty today than in 1964 when the religion really began.  A health reform system that is not affordable, messes up Care and really is an ‘act” of one party.  Government by fiat.  Attacks on almost all the “Bill of Rights” – (closed circuit to MS Jackson Lee, those are the first ten amendments to that 400 year old constitution that you mumbled about the other day).  Maybe the greatest single achievement of this religion is that several generations of Americans  are not alive today to pay for your Social Security, Medicare and eventually Obamacare.

Romney got wacked with a crack about Russia being our enemy and the smart aleck in chief responded that the 1980’s were calling and wanted their foreign policy back.  I would have responded that it least in the 1980’s we had a foreign policy.  The religion of the 47% bumbles around and seems to think that war has somehow become obsolete and aggression is a good thing, because it keeps us from being responsible for the people that counted on us to actually lead in this world.

Dan Quayle made the mistake of comparing himself to Jack Kennedy and the comparison was about age.  The ancient  fossil  Lloyd Bentsen’s response: “I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”  Of course hilarity ensued.  I wish Quayle would have said “your right Senator, I’m no Jack Kennedy, I married Marilyn”.  Of course the acolytes for this religion, the media, would have bemoaned how awful that was to sink to that kind of mean spirited discourse.  (Closed circuit to the 47%, Quayle’s wife was named Marilyn and there were rumors that Kennedy had had a affair with an actress named Marilyn.  You might want to “Google” that.)

I still hear the wonderful remarks made by the smart aleck in chief in the debates.  I don’t call them Presidential.  Presidential to me recalls the far off days when there were giants on the earth.  The Roosevelt’s, well at least Theodore,  Lincoln and Reagan.  The Lilliputians that are in charge today are embarrassing.  They can be glib and cool and snide but they are empty suits.

Cool, snide remarks and hanging around with the Hollywood in crowd may pump up the congregation.  It doesn’t work in a world where real fanatics and real bad guys want to mess us up.  The cool and snide in my experience when confronted with real world realities like having to pass a test, meet a deadline, confront a life or death issue with family or friends, face a bully, of just do the real hard things of life, will revert to form and that is withdraw and pout.  Well we are withdrawing and pouting from Turkey to Tunisia and from Iran to Estonia.  But if you think about it, according to the practitioners of this religion, all of those are good things.

 

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Letter from the President.

For those of you who don’t know, the Supreme Court is hearing this case today.

 Tired of Hobby Lobby?
You’re tired of hearing about Hobby Lobby and the Supreme Court, tired of all the talk of fines and health-care plans and reproductive rights, tired of being bombarded with words spoken in anger from both sides of the aisle. You want to put your fingers in your ears, switch the channel, and wait for the ruling and the rest of it to just go away.

But even though you are tired, even though you’ve grown weary of having the same discussions about the same points, Hobby Lobby and fines and health-care plans still matter. They matter because your country – the United States of America – was founded on the principle that you were born with certain rights: the rights to seek and follow truth, to live according to your beliefs, to worship freely.

And no one, not even the government, gets to tell you how to do that.

Today, our federal government threatens that right, consistently refusing to protect religious liberty as our Constitution and the laws of nature demand. In the dozens of cases against the Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate, the government has started dictating the boundaries of religious beliefs, and to pick and choose which beliefs – and which individuals – deserve religious liberty protection.

The contraceptive mandate, part of the Affordable Care Act, requires employers to provide a full range of 20 FDA-approved contraceptive devices, drugs and services in their health-care plans. These include “emergency contraceptives” with the ability to prevent implantation of an embryo – in other words, the ability to end a human life. Catholics, Lutherans, and many other Americans find these drugs morally reprehensible. Yet, though objections to the mandate are strong and numerous – with over 90 lawsuits filed so far – the government has simply swept them aside.

The mandate’s provisions allow for very narrow exemptions for houses of worship. Exemptions do not extend even to affiliates of those houses of worship; for example, a Catholic order of nuns, operating homes for the elderly poor, is not exempt. Nor are Christian colleges, nor are thousands of other religious non-profit organizations, which serve the public good.

In the case of the non-profits, the government has come up with an empty “accommodation” that would force organizations to sign HHS forms directing third-party administrators to provide the drugs that the organizations cannot. As one plaintiff, the Little Sisters of the Poor, explained, these forms are nothing more than permission slips. The Little Sisters cannot direct someone else to act immorally, just as they cannot act immorally themselves. The government has branded this particular belief meaningless.

Neither the exemption nor the false “accommodation” extends to individuals who run their own businesses, like David and Barbara Green, owners of Hobby Lobby. The Greens morally oppose providing drugs that can prevent implantation and have filed suit against HHS, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. In the Greens’ case, the government claims that moral convictions must be abandoned at the door of the workplace. The Greens may not run their own companies according to their consciences. Or, in return for staying true to their convictions, they will be forced to pay crushing fines.

The government’s distinctions under the mandate don’t make sense. The government does not get to reduce God and the way in which He works down to what happens only in church or worship. By its definition, religious liberty stipulates that a church – not the government – must be permitted to form its own definition and its own boundaries.

Moreover, God uses each of us in our vocations to serve those around us. This call to serve others and live according to our beliefs extends beyond our houses of worship, into our homes, our communities, and our work. To prevent individuals from following the dictates of their consciences is an abuse of power and a gross infringement on human dignity.

As the leader of a Christian church body, I strongly object to the government’s approach of picking and choosing whose beliefs merit consideration. Now, according to the government, Catholic nuns must authorize others to give out free contraceptives, and evangelical Christians must abandon their most deeply held convictions in the operations of their own businesses. What group, and what belief, will next be under attack?

Friends, we may be weary. We may be tired. But we must stand together to protect our God-given right to religious liberty. This mandate threatens not only those whose religions specifically compel them to oppose it, but all Americans. We cannot allow our government to define the content of our beliefs or the degree of their significance.

The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison is the current and 13th president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

 
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Mission and Mercy and the Sacraments

lords supper
We have talked about Conviction, Confidence, and Competence as we do mission and mercy.  Are we convinced that the result of mission works should be a church and that means a place where people gather to hear the word and receive the Lord’s Supper and remember their baptism or be baptized?  See what Hermann Sasse wrote about this ……………….
We are meditating in this hour on the divine miracle of the church in which we speak of Holy Communion. See, the church and the sacrament of the altar belong together in a special way. There are three marks by which the church is recognized in the teaching of our confessions: the gospel, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These three have to be there wherever the church of Christ is. The gospel must be proclaimed. There must be baptism in the name of the Triune God. The meal of the Lord must be celebrated. These three means of grace are only found in the church. There are many religious messages in the world, which stir the heart, but there is only one gospel. The gospel is the message of grace. It’s about the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake. For Christ’s sake! it is the glory of Jesus Christ and his special office as the redeemer of the world, for the forgiveness of sins comes only by him and nowhere else on earth.  “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. He has given us the message of reconciliation. We are now ambassadors for Christ. We ask you in Christ’s stead: be reconciled to Gd. He has made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might receive the righteousness valid before God.” This is the gospel and nothing else. With it the church comes to every nation on earth. There are those who come with this message only and without any sacraments e.g. the Quakers. Can’t the church call the nations and peoples with only the gospel? No! Without the sacrament the call of the gospel would soon die away like a voice in the wind. There would perhaps, be a brief echo, but that’s all. THE SACRAMENT MUST ACCOMPANY THE WORD. Just as in the Pentecost account of the New Testament the first missionary sermon of an apostle was followed by the first missionary baptism. Those who believed his word were baptized. And there was added to the church that day three thousand souls. (Acts 2:42). lf one only preached on the mission fields and didn’t baptize, there would never be a Christian congregation but at the worst a society for the maintenance and furthering of a new philosophy. If a congregation of baptized Christians were to renounce the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, it would soon no longer understand baptism and would become a religious society no different in its end from other societies.
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Come to the Water.

 

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Here is a song about the Gospel lesson for today and the leper that Jesus heals in Mark’s Gospel.  I wrote this song a few years ago and we sang it in chapel the other day.

John 4

4 Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria.

So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.

Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”

17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.”

Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”

19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”

26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.

27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”

28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him.

31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”

32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.”

33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?”

34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”

39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of His own word.

42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

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Come Lord Jesus – Maranatha and mercy.

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Come Lord Jesus is a pretty simple prayer.  I’ve prayed in my family and at meals and in some pretty interesting places around the world hence the song.  It is also a prayer from the heart and is pretty important for the life of the church as Hermann Sasse wrote –

Every observant reader of the bible will know of the deep disappointment for the early generations of Christians in that the return of the Lord was delayed. Where is the promise of his coming? Ever since the fathers died, everything has continued as always since the beginning of creation. (2 Peter 3:4). We need to be clear about how earnestly the church asked that question for nearly 2000 years. Where, anywhere else in the world, is there a hope remaining unchanged even though there is no apparent fulfillment when century after century has passed? For nineteen centuries the church has prayed the prayer that belonged to the communion liturgy already at the time of Paul and which is there also at the end of the New Testament.  Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus. How has she been able to do that without flagging? She has only been able because it has been fulfilled at each communion – because at each celebration in accordance with his institution Jesus Christ is really PRESENT. Already in the celebrations of the first century the Sanctus was sung the “Holy holy, holy is the Lord” which is the heavenly worship of the cherubim in Isaiah 6. So we read in a letter, which the congregation of Rome wrote to Corinth in the year 96 AD. Let us be attentive as the gathered host of angels stand before him and do his will. For it says in scripture that 10,000 times 10,000 stand by him and 100s by 1000s serve him and cry Holy Holy Holy is the Lord of Hosts, all creation is full of his glory. And we also are gathered as one in devotion and want to cry out in unison. These are thoughts similar to those of the revelation of St John. (4:10[, 5:E-14) – namely that in the worship service, and at that time it meant the service with communion, heaven and earth become one as in each communion prayer our fathers prayed: “Your supper be my heaven on earth until I reach heaven.” As the supper bridges the gap between this time and the kingdom of God, so the sacrament also BRIDGES HEAVEN AND EARTH. It is ‘cibus viatorum,’ the pilgrim’s food – the food of those who have no permanent city here, but seek one to come. As Israel found the manna in the desert and the water from the rock so the people of God of the new covenant are taken out of the Egypt of the current time into the Promised Land. From the dreary desert of this world they came to the Lord’s Table. Its really heavenly food, bread from heaven as the bible calls the manna (John 6), and not merely in a figurative sense. Where heaven is there is Christ sitting at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1) For the supper is really a heaven on earth until we come to heaven. The presence of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the altar is a different presence from that which we believe is there where two or three are gathered together in his name. The mystery of the presence the church found in the beginning in the words, which the Lord spoke over the bread and the wine: “This is my body. …This is my blood.” The command to repeat the celebration “in remembrance of me,” nor the promise “till all is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God,” are the real essence of the supper. It is the words concerning the body and blood of the Lord. They are not figurative. The attempt to understand the words and the supper figuratively and the institution of the supper as a dramatic act like that of the prophets in the bible have always led to contradictory explanations.

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Blowing the “bargain” into bits.

cs lewis

C.S. Lewis wrote in “Mere Christianity” .

I think every one who has some vague belief in God, until he becomes a Christian, has the idea of an exam, or of a bargain in his mind. The first result of real Christianity is to blow that idea into bits. When they find it blown into bits, some people think this means that Christianity is a failure and give up. They seem to imagine that God is very simpleminded! In fact, of course, He knows all about this. One of the very things Christianity was designed to do was to blow this idea to bits. God has been waiting for the moment at which you discover that there is no question of earning a pass mark in this exam or putting Him in your debt.

Then comes another discovery. Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already. So that when we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God, I will tell you what it is really like. It is like a small child going to its father and saying, “Daddy, give me sixpence to buy you a birthday present.” Of course, the father does, and he is pleased with the child’s present. It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction. When a man has made these two discoveries God can really get to work. It is after this that real life begins.

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Let All Peoples Praise the Lord.

psalm 117

So there has been a great deal of ink and time and treasure expended studying missions and mercy and one has to wonder if the time and energy spent studying would have been better utilized in actually witnessing to Christ in the world and might have resulted in the number of Christians being increased.  Believe it or not some don’t even like the idea thaat missions should be about increasing numbers of Christians.  Time and effort has been expended in trying to figure out what the “mission text” is and the consensus is it is not Matthew 28 and the great commission.  There have even been arguments that the Old Testament was not about missions and that the prophets were not interested in anything but the people of Israel.  Of course then you have to deal with the Israelite hymn book and psalms like this.

Psalm 117 –

Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! For His merciful kindness is great toward us, And the truth of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord!

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