Day: March 14, 2016

Monday, March 14, 2016

Psalm 20

Exodus 40:1-15

Hebrews 10:19-25

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.”

[Hebrews 10:24-25 New Revised Standard Version]

St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Akron.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Akron.

I point out often that the most important experience that happens in a church building is worship.

The church facility is a tool for ministry, nothing more. No matter how many great programs it supports, how much social outreach it offers, it is from that gathering together each week that the ministry flows.

It is in worship where we are fed with the word and sacrament and are sent out into the world to make the name of Christ known to others by our words and by our deeds.  That is why the author of Hebrews advises us to, “Hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. [v. 23]

Worship can make us an incredible witness. When you and I worship, we have no idea how we might be making a difference in the lives of others.

In the final verse of our Hebrews reading (see above), the words, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some,” jumped out at me for obvious reasons.  

When we do not neglect to meet together to gladly hear and learn the Word of God, we are promised in Word and Sacrament the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

When we do not neglect to meet together to gladly hear and learn the Word of God, we are able to confess the truth about ourselves, that we are yet sinners in need of that faithful Redeemer who alone can deliver us from all the temptation, empty promises and twisted logic that the world has to offer. 

FB_IMG_1436752294169When we do not neglect to meet together, we become bearers of the Word of God, free to do ministry in Jesus’ name and to the Glory of God without seeking self-glorification.

When we do not neglect to meet together to gladly hear and learn the Word of God, we hold fast to our confession of hope without wavering.  Because when Christ made that single sacrifice for sin once and for all, He made it possible that we might be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

A building may be destroyed, but the place where God dwells is not destroyed. “The place where God dwells” that was built in three days is the resurrected Jesus.

The things we humans build, no matter how grand, will perish; the things God builds, no matter how small, will endure, even to the end of the age.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Isaiah 43:16-21

Psalm 126

Philippians 3:4b-14

John 12:1-8

You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.

[John 12:8 New Revised Standard Version]

At the end of worship, in many of our Lutheran congregations, we are often dismissed with the words, “Go in peace, remember the poor.”

We respond, “Thanks be to God,” and head for the nearest exit, giving little or no thought to the words just heard, and going on with the rest of our day and our lives with a lack of concern for the poor.

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

I imagine that in many churches this Fifth Sunday in Lent, the preacher focused on Mary’s extravagant act of pouring expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and drying them with her hair. But not many would have pointed out the closing sentence of the Gospel reading quoted above.

So I want to touch upon that sentence briefly. (Unfortunately, you will be reading this on Monday, since I failed to post earlier Sunday, on the actual day.)

Jesus was quoting from the Torah. More specifically, the laws concerning the Sabbatical Year found in Deuteronomy, chapter 15. You can’t understand what Jesus said — or what Judas heard him saying — unless you understand what it is he was quoting.

Deuteronomy 15:11 states: Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”

Sabbath As ResistanceIn his book, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now, Walter Brueggeman writes that, “the intention [of the Sabbath law] is that there should be no permanent underclass in Israel.” He makes reference to Deuteronomy 15:4: “There will, however, be no one in need among you…

Brueggemann goes on to say that Deuteronomy is particularly attentive to the needs of what he calls “the great triad of vulnerability;” widows, orphans, and immigrants, needy members of society who are without protected rights.

It is not God’s will that anyone should be poor. Yet hunger, homelessness and poverty are still a tragic reality for millions every day. At least half the world’s population lives on the edge of survival because of the effects of poverty.

We live in the most affluent society the world has ever seen. How can we remain indifferent to their plight?

Here are a couple of statistics that I pulled from somewhere for a sermon I preached several years ago.

  • Of the world’s 6 billion people, more than 1.2 billion live on less than $1 a day. Two billion more people are only marginally better off.
  • About 60 percent of the people living on less than $1 a day live in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

There’s also an interesting web site, globalrichlist.com, that will calculate your salary and compare it to the incomes all over the world.  Click on the link and put in your income. The results will surprise you.

Jesus had a preferential option for the poor. He was against poverty. There is extreme poverty in this world because there is extreme wealth.  If we want to follow Christ, we must struggle constantly and seriously with issues of wealth in our own lives.

Go in peace. Remember the poor.

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