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Clergy have highest job satisfaction in UK

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/mar/21/vicars-greatest-job-satisfaction-publicans-least-happy

FILE: Tax Increase On Tobacco & Alcohol Announced In Government's 2012 Budget

Vicars report greatest job satisfaction while publicans are least happy

Overall job satisfaction has little to do with salary, figures drawn from Office for National Statistics data show

Although publicans earn almost £5,000 a year more than vicars on average they are the least happy in their work. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Want to be happy in your work? Go to theological college and avoid a career pulling pints. That would seem to be one conclusion to draw from a new study into wellbeing and public policy, which found that employees reporting greatest job satisfaction were vicars, while publicans – who on average earn almost £5,000 a year more – were the least happy in their work.

Overall job satisfaction, in fact, has little to do with salary, according to the figures drawn from Office for National Statistics data. While company chief executives, earning £117,700 a year on average, were found to be the second happiest employees (mean clergy income by contrast is a mere £20,568), company secretaries, fitness instructors and school secretaries, all earning less than £19,000 a year, emerged among the top 20 most satisfying careers.

Slumped with pub landlords at the bottom of the list of 274 occupations were construction workers, debt collectors, telephone sales workers and care workers, all earning significantly below the national average salary of £26,500. But chemical scientists, earning almost £10,000 more, only scraped into the top 200, while quantity surveyors, on £38,855, could do no better than 234th place.

The data has been used to help inform a report, published on Friday by the Legatum Institute, an independent thinktank that examines wellbeing as a core part of national prosperity, alongside wealth.

“Not only does GDP fail to reflect the distribution of income, it omits intangibles, or feelings, that are not easily reducible to monetary values,” note its authors, who were chaired by Lord O’Donnell, formerly the head of the civil service. “There is a growing recognition that the measures of a country’s progress need to include the wellbeing of its citizens.”

The government has taken some steps towards measuring and incorporating the nation’s happiness into policymaking – the ONS was asked to include four questions in its annual population study relating to life satisfaction, while David Cameron has said: “If you know … that prosperity alone can’t deliver a better life, then you’ve got to take practical steps to make sure government is properly focused on our quality of life as well as economic growth.”

The director of communications at the Legatum Institute, Shazia Ejaz, said: “A lot of careers advisers will tell you, ‘If you become a doctor you will earn this much, as a teacher you’ll earn this much. But perhaps people should also know what different careers can do in terms of their life satisfaction.”

 

 

Top 10

1. Clergy

2. Chief executives and senior officials

3. Managers and proprietors in agriculture and horticulture

4. Company secretaries

5. Quality assurance and regulatory professionals

6. Healthcare practice managers

7. Medical practitioners

8. Farmers

9. Hotel and accommodation managers and proprietors

10. Skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades supervisors

 

Bottom 10

265. Plastics process operatives

266. Bar staff

267. Care escorts

268. Sports and leisure assistants

269. Telephone salespersons

270. Floorers and wall tilers

271. Industrial cleaning process occupations

272. Debt, rent and other cash collectors

273. Elementary construction occupations

274. Publicans and managers of licensed premises

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Jesus Smiles At Me

January 16, 2013 Leave a comment

Jesus in jail. Иисус в темнице. Украина

HT: http://cost-of-discipleship.blogspot.com/2010/05/real-orthodoxy-as-testified-by-lutheran.html

A Lutheran Pastor’s Firsthand Account of Prison Life

by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand

I am a Christian from an Orthodox country — the country of Romania. Having been in prison for fourteen years for my faith, it is now my missionary work to help persecuted Christians in Communist countries. I would like to tell you the stories of several Orthodox Christians with whom I was privileged to come into contact during my time in prison. Their examples and their deeds have been a constant source of encouragement to me throughout the years.

Always Rejoice The first man was a priest who was put in jail at the age of seventy. His name was Surioanu. When he was brought in with his big white beard and white pate, some officers at the gate of the jail mocked him. One asked, “Why did they bring this old priest here?” And another replied with a jeer, “Probably to take the confessions of everybody.” Those were his exact words. This priest had a son who had died in a Soviet jail. His daughter was sentenced to twenty years. Two of his sons-in-law were with him in jail — one with him in the same cell. His grandchildren had no food, they were forced to eat from the garbage. His whole family was destroyed. He had lost his church. But this man had such a shining face — there was always a beautiful smile on his lips. He never greeted anyone with “Good morning” or “Good evening,” but instead with the words, “Always rejoice.” One day we asked him, “Father, how can you say ‘always rejoice’ — you who passed through such a terrible tragedy?” He said, “Rejoicing is very easy. If we fulfill at least one word from the Bible, it is written, ‘Rejoice with all those who rejoice.’ Now if one rejoices with all those who rejoice, he always has plenty of motivation for rejoicing. I sit in jail, and I rejoice that so many are free. I don’t go to church, but I rejoice with all those who are in church. I can’t take Holy Communion, but I rejoice about all those who take. I can’t read the Bible or any other holy book, but I rejoice with those who do. I can’t see flowers [we never saw a tree or a flower during those years. We were under the earth, in a subterranean prison. We never saw the sun, the moon, stars — many times we forgot that these things existed. We never saw a color, only the gray walls of the cell and our gray uniforms. But we knew that such a world existed, a world with multicolored butterflies and with rainbows], but I can rejoice with those who see the rainbows and who see the multicolored butterflies.” In prison, the smell was not very good. But the priest said, “Others have the perfume of flowers around them, and girls wearing perfume. And others have picnics and others have their families of children around them. I cannot see my children but others have children. And he who can rejoice with all those who rejoice can always rejoice. I can always be glad.” That is why he had such a beautiful expression on his face.

Heaven’s Smile

Let me interrupt to tell you about another Orthodox Christian. He was not a priest, but a simple farmer. In our country, farmers are almost always illiterate, or nearly so. He had read his Bible well, but other than that he had never read a book. Now he was in the same cell with professors, academicians, and other men of high culture who had been put in jail by the Communists. And this poor farmer tried to bring to Christ a member of the Academy of Science. But in return, he received only mockery. “Sir, I can’t explain much to you, but I walk with Jesus, I talk with Him, I see Him.” “Go away. Don’t tell me fairy tales that you see Jesus. How do you see Jesus?” “Well, I cannot tell you how I see Him. I just see Him. There are many kinds of seeing. In dreams, for instance, you see many things. It’s enough for me to close my eyes. Now I see my son before me, now I see my daughter-in-law, now I see my granddaughter. Everybody can see. There is another sight. I see Jesus.” “You see Jesus?” “Yes, I see Jesus.” “What does He look like? How does He look to you? Does He look restful, angry, bored, annoyed, happy to see you? Does He smile sometimes?” He said, “You guessed it! He smiles at me.” “Gentlemen, come hear what this man says to us. He mocks us. He says Jesus smiles at him. Show me, how does He smile?” That was one of the grandest moments of my life. The farmer became very, very earnest. His face began to shine. In the Church today there are pastors and theologians who can’t believe the whole Bible. They believe half of it, a quarter of it. Somehow they can’t believe the miracles. I can believe the whole of it because I have seen miracles. I have seen transfigurations — not like that of Jesus, but something apart. I have seen faces shining. A smile appeared on the face of that farmer. I would like to be a painter to be able to paint that smile. There was a streak of sadness in it because of the lost soul of the scientist. But there was so much hope in that smile. And there was so much love and so much compassion, and a yearning that this soul should be saved. The whole beauty of heaven was in the smile on that face. The face was dirty and unwashed, but it held the beautiful smile of heaven. The professor bowed his head and said, “Sir, you are right. You have seen Jesus. He has smiled at you.”

Pure Orthodoxy

Now, to come back to this priest, Surioanu. He was always such a happy being. When we were taken out for walks, in a yard where there was never a flower, a piece of herb, or grass, he would put his hand on the shoulder of some Christian and ask, “Tell me your story.” Usually the men would talk about how bad the Communists were. “They’ve beaten me and they’ve tortured me and they’ve done terrible things.” He would listen attentively; then he would say, “You’ve said plenty about the Communists; now tell me about yourself. When did you confess last?” “Well, some forty years ago.” “Let us sit down and forget the Communists and forget the Nazis. For you are also a sinner. And tell me your sins.” Everybody confessed to him — I confessed to him, too, and I remember that as I confessed to him, and the more I told him sins, the more beautiful and loving became his face. I feared in the beginning that when he heard about such things he would loathe me. But the more I said bad things about myself, the more he sat near to me. And in the end he said, “Son, you really have committed plenty of sins, but I can tell you one thing. Despite all of these sins, God still loves you and forgives you. Remember that He has given His Son to die for you, and try one day a little bit, and another day a little bit, just to improve your character so it should be pleasant to God.”

“God for us: Manger, Cross, and Altar”. New Year’s Eve Sermon.

December 31, 2012 3 comments

lorenzo-lotto-nativity with crucifixNew Years’ Eve

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Romans 8:31-39

December 31, 2012

“God is for us…in the manger, on the cross, on the altar”

Jesu juva.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ:

It is the end of another year.  2012.  How quickly it has passed!

Wisdom would lead us to ask, as the year ends—how did 2012 go?  Not merely, “How did it go in my eyes”.  Did I make money, did I prosper, although, that would be a good thing to take stock of, too.  How was I blessed this year?

But also, “How did I live?  How was my life in the sight of God?”  To answer that question, we need to ask God to give us His Holy Spirit so that we see our lives correctly.  Then we look into the past year on one hand and into the law of God, the ten commandments, on the other.  “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening,” we could say to God.  “Please show me, Father in heaven, how you see the way that I lived during 2012.  Show me what I need forgiveness for and what you want to change; what wrongs I’ve done that I should make amends with my neighbor for and not carry with me through another year.”

To ask God for this is a humbling and frightening thing.  No wonder so many people get drunk tonight!  Most of us have plenty to regret.  On top of that, the older we are, the more clear it becomes that we are no better than our forefathers.  We are getting old just like them.  Just like them, our lives are unlikely to make the history books.  And even if they did, what then?  Famous people and successful people die just the same as people whom time causes to be forgotten.

Wisdom would have us not let a day go by where we do not take stock of our thoughts, words, and deeds before the day is out, so that we may not carry one day’s sin and anger into the next, but bring them all to the heavenly Father and leave them with Him.

Very few of us are that wise, however.  We think little of the time we waste when we are young, and when we start to get old enough to realize that life is short and we are not guaranteed tomorrow—by then it is too late to get back what we have thrown away.  The lessons that I should have learned when I was a teenager and which I have still not learned—I must still learn them.  Who knows what good I might have done if I had learned them younger—who knows what blessings that will last for eternity I threw away for the sake of ease on earth that passed so quickly?

When we go home tonight, and tomorrow as the new year begins, it would be a wise thing for us to ask God to help us examine the life we have led in the past, and to guide us into those things that please Him in the year to come.

But all of that is a waste of energy unless we can answer with a yes the question that Paul raises in Romans chapter 8.   He does not phrase it as a question, but it is a question we must be able to answer nonetheless.  What Paul says is, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  The answer to that question is “No one.”  That is a beautiful answer to be able to give.  “No one can be against me.”

But that answer, and the further blessings that Paul lays out at the end of Romans 8, belong only to those who do not say, “If God is for me,” but “God is for me!”

If God is for us…

  1. 1.         Is God for us?
  2. 2.       What hope and blessing do we carry into the New Year if God is for us?

Is God for us?

We just celebrated Christmas.  The baby who was born was called “Immanuel” which means “God with us.”  His name is “Jesus.”  Jesus means “the Lord Saves.”   God became man because God is for us.  God is on our side.  That is why Paul says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also freely give us all things?”

But if it is so certain that God is for us, why do we still hear threats of His wrath?  Why is there a hell?

God has shown that He is for us in the incarnation of Jesus.  But most people don’t believe that the baby Jesus is God for them.  They look at Christ crucified and don’t see God for them.

They look at their own suffering and don’t believe that God is for them.

That is what Isaiah is talking about in His gloomy words in the Old Testament reading (Is. 30:8-17).  God was for the people of Israel.  But they didn’t believe it.  They didn’t believe that the way that the Lord promised to save them would work.

So they did what they thought had to be done.  If the Lord didn’t seem to help them, they hedged their bets and started worshipping other gods too.  The Lord didn’t seem to be helping them, so they made an alliance with Egypt and counted on the nation that once held them as slaves to defend them against enemies that seemed poise to destroy them.

Then when the prophets came and said in the name of the Lord, “This is not going to work.  Trust in the Lord only.  Find rest in Him only.  Forget about Egypt.  The Lord is much mightier than Egypt.  He is all you need.”  The people of Israel said, “We don’t want to hear that.  Stop preaching the Word of the Holy One of Israel.  Stop confronting us with Him.  Tell us smooth things.”

The problem wasn’t that they sinned.  God would rebuke them for their sins, and then forgive them when they repented.  It was that they didn’t want to quit.  They didn’t want to give up their idols.  They were afraid not to make an alliance with Egypt.  They didn’t think that the Lord would be good to them. They didn’t think that He was for them.

So they said, “Stop telling us what the Lord says.”

The end result was the same thing it always is.  God is for you.  Because He is for you, He does not let our rebellion against Him go unpunished.

If you have sin that you want to hang on to, God is for you in Christ, but you refuse Him being for you.

Whatever your sin is, let it go.  Whatever you have going on that gives you an uncertain conscience, quit it until you have a sure conscience.

God is for you in Christ.  If it is a choice between Christ and something else…

If God is for us, what then?

Who can be against us?  No one.

Would God hold anything back from you if He didn’t spare His Son?

But I have idols I keep returning to.

Repent and believe that God did not spare His Son because He wants you as His own.  The fact that you recognize it and wish to do so no longer is repentance.  Jesus is for you no matter what, but only sinners come to Him.

Who will accuse you?  God has justified you.

Who will condemn you?  Christ intercedes for you at the right hand of God.

Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

We can be separated from earthly peace

From our lives and all the things we have in this world

We cannot be separated from the love of Christ.  No one can snatch us from His hand.

That is the confidence in which we enter the new year.  When we look at the law and examine ourselves, we will find sin from which we cannot free ourselves.

Hope is in Jesus only.  In Him God is for us.

God is for you in the manger–not against You.

He is for you on the cross.

He is for you in His body and blood on the altar.

He is for you.  He is certain.  So certain that you know every week when you come back here what He will say: Your sins are forgiven.  My body and blood for you.

His name is the same name that was put on you in Baptism, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The name that swallows your sins.  The God who gave His Son, who became man for you and redeemed You, the God Who calls you by the Gospel, enlightens You with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps you in the true faith.

You cannot sin in such a way that your sins are more powerful than Christ’s love.  When He pledges His love to you in Word and Sacrament, does He lie to you?  Does He lie to you about the forgiveness of Your sins, about His gracious heart toward You?  Does He lie when He says that He is for you?

Then whatever evil things the devil may say about you (and they may all be true)–do not also believe him when he slanders Jesus and says that Jesus will allow you to be snatched from His hand.  “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.”  He says He loves You; let Him be true and every man a liar.  If He loves You and is not lying, then He cannot let anything take His love from you, whether suffering, or your sin, or the devil and the principalities and powers that hijack God’s world but soon will be destroyed.  Nothing is strong enough to take Jesus out of the manger or off the cross or away from you in the Gospel and Sacraments where He is for you.  I baptize You, He said.  I forgive you all your sins, He said a few minutes ago.  This is my body, for you, my blood, for you, He has pledged all the years of your life, and will still this year.

No one is strong enough to make Him take back those words.

In Him is our justification and the renewal of our hearts.  In Him we can look at the past year and not flinch, because we see our sins and the law through His wounded body.

Look at the law and the year past, and then look at Jesus in which you see God for you.

The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Repeat, Repeat the Sounding Joy

December 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Clausae parentis visceraBrewers_Blackbird

Caelastis intrat gratia;

Venter puellae baiulat

Secreta quae non noverat.

 

[Into the womb of the chaste mother

There enters heavenly grace;

The girl’s belly bears

Secrets that she does not know.]

 

Today as we walked out of the church doors a noisy flock of starlings had roosted on the roof of the church and in the trees in front of the old steep steps to the doors to the nave and in the poplar in front of the derelict house across the street. 

 

My son heard them.  But I didn’t.  I was thinking about the kinds of things I think about when I leave church.  That usually makes it impossible to hear much else.

 

My son said to my wife, “Listen to the birds!  Doesn’t it sound like they are all singing, ‘Merry Christmas’?”

 

“You think they are happy that Jesus is born?”  “Mm hmm,” he said.

 

My wife hates birds of all kinds, but especially black birds.  And for me starlings are kind of like flying stains.  When I was a kid and my dad would see one he would practically spit on the ground and say, “Grackles.”  They don’t sing so much as gurgle or gargle to one another, or babble mutually incomprehensible nonsense to each other like an Alzheimer’s ward. 

 

They aren’t really a color, either.  They’re black.  But then if you move your head slightly they are purple, or green.  Like a rainbow in a puddle of oil. 

 

A long time ago when I was in my early 20’s I remember reading Psalm 84, looking at it with adult eyes for the first time. 

 

How lovely is your dwelling place O Lord of hosts!

My soul longs, yes, faints, for the courts of the Lord;

My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

 

Even the sparrow has found a home,

And the swallow a nest for herself,

At your altars, O Lord of Hosts, my king and my God!

 

I remember the intense skepticism I felt about the Psalmist’s interpretation of the sparrow’s motives.  It was unpleasant.  I felt despair about it.  I needed God, and I needed the Bible to be true and not a book of fairy tales.  I knew no religion or god that needed me to correct its facts would be able to save me.  And I had come to the conclusion that I needed not assistance but saving.  Above all I needed to be saved from the way that I thought I could figure everything out.

  Read more…

That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. Christmas Eve Vespers Sermon.

December 24, 2012 1 comment

mary jesusChristmas Eve Vespers

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 1:18-25

December 24, 2012

“That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Jesu Juva

 

That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

 

What a difficult thing to believe, even if you had a dream of an angel!  People would say you were a fool.

 

Have you ever noticed that we are able to stand firm against the skepticism of the world when it comes to what the Bible says about Jesus’ birth, but we struggle when it comes to believing things like this today? 

 

The Holy Spirit lives in us, conceives in us; yet we look on the outward appearance and not the word.  We see the sin in us and we doubt that what is conceived in us is from the Holy Spirit.

 

So with the church.  So with pastors. 

 

  1. 1.         Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit.

The mighty Lord who made the world fruitful, hovering over the waters, recreated the world, the universe, in Mary’s womb.

 

In Adam the universe was corrupted.

 

In Christ it is made whole.  The baby conceived in her by the Holy Spirit is the rebirth of the world.

 

He is and was a new man.  He is a new creation.  One man brought sin into the world.  Another, born without sin, made it whole.

 

Since Jesus was conceived without sinful seed, conceived by the Holy Spirit, He was born without stain.

 

  1. 2.        Our corrupt birth

Independent of moral and religious striving.

 

You should strive to be good according to the law.  But to be saved from sin, you need to be created again.

 

  1. 3.        His name is “Jesus”—“the Lord saves.” 

He comes to save us from our sins. 

 

The angel doesn’t say how.

 

Lots of religions say we don’t need to be saved from our sins.  Or we only need some help.

 

How does Jesus being conceived without sin save me from my sins? 

 

You know the answer.  But you don’t need to know it; only to receive the message of the angel.

 

For those who cannot save themselves from sin, this angel holds out a promise. 

 

This is not what the world is looking to be saved from.  But you will also be saved from your earthly pain too—in the end.

 

holy family4.       His name is Immanuel—God with us.

He is with us.  Jesus is not pretending to know what it is like to be a human being.  He is truly man.  And He is truly God.  He is what we are.  He is truly the offspring of a woman, just like us.

 

He is able to help us because He is without sin.

 

He is free from that corruption; but He takes our corruption on Himself.

 

  1. 5.        So He is with us in our earthly troubles.

He is with us even though we are sinners. 

 

It seemed foolish for Joseph to believe that.  It seems like folly for us to put our trust in that.

 

Yet the truth is that it is folly not to believe it.  The Holy Spirit who conceived Jesus and recreated the universe in Mary’s womb also planted you in Jesus in baptism.

 

In mary’s womb, on the cross, in the resurrection, and the right hand of God.

 

Why resist the Spirit who brought the earth into being when He seeks to conceive in you?

 

It will get you into difficulties, like Mary.  But in the end your righteous will shine like the sun.

 

The foolish thing that Joseph believed is the hope of the ends of the earth.  God was with us in Mary’s womb; He is with us now at the right hand of God.

 

Amen.

The Interruption. Christmas Midnight sermon 2012

December 24, 2012 4 comments

Statue-AugustusThe Nativity of our Lord—Christmas Midnight

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 2:1-14

December 24, 2012

“The Interruption”

 

 

Jesu Juva

2000 years ago Caesar Augustus interrupted the lives of all the people in the entire known world.

 

Everyone had to go to their hometown and register so the government could keep track of them.  History has no record of this census, other than what we have here in the Gospel of Luke.  So scholars tell us that Luke invented this census to advance his theological agenda.

 

Yet 2000 years later this supposedly fictional census continues to ripple through history.  It replays itself each year?  How many people travel to their hometown at Christmas to celebrate the feast of the birth of Jesus the king of the Jews?  Most of the people in the majority of the nations on earth identify themselves as Christians.  Most of the world observes Christmas as a holiday.

Throughout the nations of the world, the birth of this Jesus whom the angels announced as savior and king is commemorated—purposely or not– by millions who travel to their hometowns just as Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem.  And at least a few of them find their way into churches, into the stable in which Jesus is born and the fields in which the angelic hosts sing glory to God at His birth.

 

Tonight the world is interrupted by Jesus’ birth the way the world was interrupted by Caesar’s census. 

 

Jesus is proclaimed by the angels as king and Lord and Savior of God’s people.  And He is not only king and Savior of God’s people but of the whole world, of all people.  Yet in the nations of the world that observe His birth, very few observe it for the sake of the good news of great joy of the savior born to us. 

 

Most people are glad to have a holiday and glad to be with the family, glad to give and receive gifts, and maybe even glad to go to church and sing Silent Night by candlelight. 

 

But the message of Jesus’ birth interrupts Christmas for many people. It is not for the sake of His birth that Christmas is celebrated by most people in the world. 

For most people the thought that this baby in the manger is Lord and King who deserves the love and adoration of our hearts is an unpleasant interruption of that threatens to spoil what Christmas is really all about.  The thought that Christmas should be joyful because a Savior is born interrupts the earthly joys that Christmas has come to be about.  Christ the Savior is born—the message interrupts Christmas with the unpleasant remembrance that this day started as a day of joy because of people who believed that we need to be saved. 

 

If Luke’s story is true, then we need to be saved very badly.  Otherwise why would the angels appear and suddenly reveal the loud rejoicing that this birth brought about in heaven—unless we were really in deep trouble?

 

Even for true Christians, Christmas interrupts us.  How easily we forget the promise that a Savior is born to us!  We can’t see the Savior’s work, and we doubt it, and get overwhelmed with what we think we have to do.  The joy of the angels and the peace of the angels we lack, even though it should be ours, because we listen very little to their singing and very much to the voice of reason, which is not able to accept anything that Scripture or Luke or the angels say.

 

 

Birth of Jesus in a Kabyle Catholic book

Birth of Jesus in a Kabyle Catholic book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Behind Caesar’s interruption of the world was God’s interruption.  He was interrupting the world so that His Son, the Savior, would be born in Bethlehem. 

 

  1. 1.         Who is it that interrupts Christmas?

 

Is it possible that the God of the whole earth would be so narrow-minded that He would be revealed only to one nation?  That He would let the lives of millions of people be disrupted, all for the purpose of having one baby be born in one backwater city?

 

That is what we confess.  But we should not be surprised if people struggle with it.  It’s contrary to everything people naturally think about God, whether in the time of the Romans or now.  What made sense to almost everyone then is about the same as now: every nation has their own gods.  And who would be so arrogant as to insist that their god was the only true God, that they of all nations alone knew God?

 

What is actually amazing is that the cultured and tolerant Greeks and the proud and powerful Romans came to believe that God revealed Himself to the Jews, this one little uncultured nation full of fanatics who struck them much the way that Muslim fundamentalists do us.  That is an extraordinary thing.  As the prophets of the Old Testament had promised, the kings of the Gentiles came and bowed the knee before the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. 

 

And to this day in the post Christian America and Europe, and in more recently converted Africa we are still paying homage to the one who was proclaimed the king of the Jews.  People still enter these old buildings built by grandparents and great grandparents to listen this story which was as alien then as it is now—alien and strange to Jew and Gentile, to Christian and skeptic.

 

Surely this should also cause reasonable people to pause. 

 

It is a strange thing that a census that we are told never happened should still interrupt so many lives, and that the world which has grown past childhood should still be interrupted by this foolish story of God born to a virgin and laid in a manger.

 

It is a testimony to the fact that it is God who interrupts our holiday now.  He reminds us that sin and death do not bow down to our ideas about what is reasonable.

 

God interrupted the Roman world so that the promised king would be born in Bethlehem.

Read more…

This Pleases God…Who Desires All Men to Be Saved. Thanksgiving Sermon

November 22, 2012 4 comments

 

Jesu Juva

Thanksgiving

St. Peter Lutheran Church

1 Timothy 2:1-6

November 22, 2012

 

Dear Christians:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  1 Timothy 2:3-4.

God is our Savior.  He desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

 

What a happy description of God that is for anyone who needs saving!  St. Paul does not tell Timothy that God is the skeptical critic of the Church, or the all-powerful, provoked judge of the Church.  He is “God our Savior.” 
His almighty power is not separate from His tender-hearted, bottomless love.  He loves us with all His strength, which is limitless.  As His strength is awesome, so His love is compassionate, patient, and gentle.  He is not quick to become angry, but patient.  Nor does He hold on to His anger forever.  He is all-powerful; He is just.  But Scripture does not say “God is power,” and it does not say, “God is justice.”  It says, “God is love.”   God who is love, and who is almighty, is our Savior.  No one and nothing in the universe is able to interfere or stop God from saving His Church.

 

 The word “Savior” implies helplessness.  That is what we Christians were and still are.  We were conceived in sin, helplessly held captive by death and Satan, God’s enemies, subject to punishment.  But there is a Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as the ransom that set us free from sin.  By His blood shed for us, the man Christ Jesus made us free and saved us.  Yet we remain today completely dependent on God our Savior.  He who baptized us into Christ and made us free through His blood must also keep us in Christ through faith.  We cannot do it.  We remain those who are, in ourselves, powerless against the sin that still lives in our flesh.  God our Savior, by His love and His power, has to deliver us from the sin which still lives in our flesh.  He has to do this so that we do not wrestle with sin alone, but daily return to Baptism where His death on the cross took away our sins.  He has to save us, finally, by raising us from the dead in bodies that no longer are in the image of Adam, prone to sin, but in the image of the Son of God, over whom death has no dominion.

 

 But He has promised us that He will do these things.  That’s why St. Paul calls Him “God our Savior.”  He has done it all and will do it all.

 

 Since God is our Savior, you and I are free to give thanks for everything.  God gave us the whole creation when He created Adam, to enjoy.  And when Adam sinned and lost the right to enjoy God’s gifts, God redeemed us through the suffering of His Son and made us His sons and heirs.  The whole creation belongs to the man Christ Jesus, and He gives it all to His brothers who are baptized into Him, reborn in Him as sons of God.  That’s you. 

 

 Today we each have all kinds of earthly blessings for which to give thanks.  The catechism teaches our children to say: I believe in God the Father Almighty.  What does this mean?

 

 So we have our personal blessings, earthly and spiritual, for which we should be grateful, though we often are not.  Or we find fault with them.  Or we treat them as if they are not gifts from God but accidents.  Or perhaps we think that we have gotten them for ourselves, independent of God our Savior.

 

 But in Christ, we have far more than just what God has given us individually to enjoy and care for, to watch over and pray for. 

 

 You are in Christ.  You were baptized into Him, taken out of Adam and born anew in Christ.  And this was not your doing.  Jesus did it. 

 

 You are in Christ and all that is Christ’s is yours.  Nothing is held back.  Today the altar is open to you, and God our Savior gives you the flesh and blood of His only Son to eat and drink that you may have life instead of death.  What will the holy God not give you when He freely gives you the life of His Son?

 

 All that is Christ’s is yours.  What belongs to Jesus? 

 

The whole universe.  Eternal honor and glory and joy.  The right to sit at the Father’s side, above all the holy angels who never sinned, to live forever in the new heavens and earth in which there is no weeping or pain, sin or death.

 

What belongs to Jesus?  All people.  Because God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  So God became man and took as his own all the sins of men, and all the grief and suffering of all people.  So Jesus took upon Himself all people and was baptized for their sins in the Jordan, sweat drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane, and came under the wrath of God on the cross.

 

 Even now, at the right hand of God, Jesus carries all people upon Himself.  The guilt and grief and sin of all men He carries as His own.  He rules the world to bring all men to repentance.  He intercedes with the Father for His church and for the unbelieving as though He were them.  He stands with them.

 

 In Christ, that is yours too, this work to see all men be saved, this love that takes on the sins and suffering of other people.

 

 That is why Paul urges Timothy as the most important thing for the church in Ephesus, after receiving God’s salvation through the Word and Sacrament, that prayers be made for all men. 

 

 Jesus prays for all men.  As His church, His priests, we join in Jesus’ work of gathering all men to Himself. 
We do that through making supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings—not only for ourselves, but for all people.
Not only for ourselves or for our Church, but for the whole world and every person.
Jesus prays for all who are in any need.  He makes “supplications” or requests.  So together in worship and privately in our homes, we join with Jesus in His work, since all that He has is ours.  We don’t only ask for blessings for ourselves, but for anyone we see in need.  Personally we are called to pray for those in our families, with whom we work, for our church, its pastor and leaders, and particularly for those who are in need of bodily or spiritual blessings.  But we also pray for the whole world—for those in authority.  We don’t stand apart from the world, because Jesus desires the blessing on earth and in heaven of every person, every nation, whether enemy or friend. 
We make prayers for the prosperity of people who don’t appear to be in need too.  God is our Savior.  He is for us—not because we are good, but because of His mercy and love.  Now we are in Christ, and our neighbor’s problems are ours.  Our neighbor’s poverty becomes our poverty.  Our neighbor’s wealth is our wealth.  We rejoice for those who do well as though it was us who received the blessing.  We weep for those who suffer as though we were suffering.
Not that this comes naturally to us.  It doesn’t, because our sinful flesh is selfish.  But Christ has given us Himself—not only His blessings, but the gift of sharing in His work.  The Church remains on earth to bring blessing and salvation to the world.  We are here to pray for the world’s salvation and also to uphold all in authority—earthly governments, earthly rulers.  Unbelievers can’t pray for themselves.

 

 When people sin, we make intercessions for them.  That is what Jesus does when we sin.  He does not damn us but prays for us.  When our brothers in the Church sin, we should weep as though it were our own.  And the holiness and strong faith of brothers in the Church is not just for them, but we have all in common in Christ, because we are one body.
Finally, Paul tells us “give thanks for all men.”  Jesus rejoices and gives thanks over the lost sheep, and so do the angels.  They rejoiced for the shepherds when Jesus was born, as though it was their own blessing.  So we are given to give thanks for the blessings others experience—Christians or non-Christians, enemies or friends.
In this way, we not only live a peaceful and quiet life in that we don’t bother anyone outside the Church, but we are serving them in the best possible way constantly—bringing them before God for blessing in prayer.  When God brings people near to you, He does it so that you can pray for them and bring them blessing.
God desires the salvation of all men.  Our congregation’s work of bringing the Gospel to our neighbors rests on our prayers for all men, because when we pray for them we are wishing them good.
Therefore today, don’t simply give thanks for your own blessings, but for the blessings given to your brothers and sisters in the church, and for the blessings God gives to those outside.  And know that all of your blessings are not only yours, but Christ would make them available through you to everyone, just as He did not see His righteousness and joy as His own, but came to earth to serve us and make us partakers in them.
Let us rejoice and give thanks in this bounteous God who comes to feed us richly in His body and blood.  Amen.

 

The grace of our Lord…

 

SDG

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