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God Brings Restoration

goya-repentance1.  God brings restoration

From all tribulation;

All to Him I’ll leave.

I was His elected

ere in womb detected,

ere my heart did grieve.

Likewise He/ Will come to me

And my soul from woe deliver;–

‘Tis His manner ever.

3.  God brings restoration;

Storm and fulmination

Well may have their way.

Mid the noise and quaking

Of the billows breaking,

He will by me stay.

Jonah, tombed/ Was yet exhumed;

Though adversity dismays thee,

God again will raise thee.

 

5.  God brings restoration;

In His weak creation

He is ever strong.

What was left unheeded

That His children needed

When they suffered wrong?

So, my heart,/ Forget Thy smart.

All is God’s, let Him arrange it;

He has pow’r to change it.

 

6.  God brings restoration

Though with dread sensation

Jaws of death swing wide;

Though life’s years, expended

Lie on bier extended,

Heav’nward He will guide.

‘Tis the way,/ All has its day:

Saints must first in death be buried

Ere to heaven carried.

 

7.  God brings restoration,

Who brought devastation

To that dragon old.

Lonely ways He leads us,

Often thorn impedes us,

Ere we reach the fold;

Yet fear not,/Whate’er thy lot,

Leave to God thy tribulation,

He’ll bring restoration.

E. Stockmann, 1701.  tr. M. Carver.

 

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“Jesus Knows What He’s Doing.” Palm Sunday 2013.

March 24, 2013 2 comments

grunewald crucifixion isenheim altarpieceJesu juva!

Palm Sunday

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 21:1-9 (chs. 26-27)

March 24, 2013

“Jesus knows what He’s doing.”

INI

 

Jesus knows what He’s doing.  The crowd gets it right, and the little children get it right.  Not that they realize it.  If they knew what Jesus knows they would not be waving palm branches and cheering.  They’d be wailing and tearing their clothes, throwing dust on their heads.

 

But they get it right.  By accident, it’s true.  But they are right to treat Jesus’ coming as the coming of the long-awaited promise, the arrival of final, unalterable victory.

 

When Jesus comes, it is time for rejoicing, even if Jesus comes dragging a cross, His face marred beyond human semblance.  Even if He comes with condemned criminals and crazy people for companions, with cripples, former prostitutes, deformed and paralyzed people for His companions.

 

Whenever Jesus comes it’s time to sing Hosanna and wave the palm branches like the battle’s over, even if all your problems aren’t solved yet and you don’t see how they’re going to be.  He knows what He’s doing.

 

The disciples should know this by now, anyway.  A little while before in Bethany Jesus was crying with Mary and Martha at Lazarus’ tomb; then He said “Take away the stone.”  Martha said, “But Lord, by now he will stink.  He’s been dead four days!”  Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

 

Jesus knows what He’s doing.  Otherwise He would not have opened the grave or told Lazarus to come out.  Because if Lazarus had not come out it would have been seen that Jesus could heal the sick and raise the dead, but not those who had been dead long enough to rot.

 

But Lazarus came out with the burial cloths still on him.

 

Jesus knew what He was doing then, and He knew what He was doing when He postponed coming to Bethany until after Lazarus had died.

 

And now He reminds us once more that He knew what He was doing when He came to Jerusalem.  He tells two of his disciples: “Go over there and get the donkey and her colt that you find tied up, and if anyone asks you what you’re doing, tell them that the Lord needs them.”  Jesus knows exactly what He’s doing as He goes into the city where He will be surrounded by enemies plotting in the shadows to do Him harm.

 

It is not as a naïve, idealistic child that He goes into the city as a king with no weapons or army except the Word of God.

 

He is embracing the cross which the Father has given Him.  It’s not that He doesn’t see it.  With all wisdom and knowledge and all power He goes to meet it.

 

But everybody around Him can’t believe Jesus knows what He’s doing.  The chief priests and the elders, the Jewish ruling council—the Sanhedrin—knows that Jesus as Messiah simply won’t work in the real world.  He will get their holy place torn down by the Romans.  If Jesus keeps getting followers, He will destroy everything.

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God Encloses us in our Afflictions like an Ocean Encircles a Spark-Luther

March 9, 2013 3 comments

15. Thus God certainly deals also with us. Here we should learn the kind of God we have, namely, he who surrounds us and is about us in our very greatest dangers and troubles. Therefore, if one is poor, sticks deep in sin, lies in death, is in sorrows and other afflictions, he thinks: it is a transition state, it is a drop and a spark; for God has surrounded him on all sides with pure wealth, righteousness, life and joy, only he does not permit him to see it. But it is a matter of only a little time when we shall see and enjoy it.

Luther Church Postil Trinity 16

Thoughts on a Six-Year Old Sermon

January 18, 2013 5 comments

2013-01-17 St. Peter neighborhood Jan 2013 010I was thinking of a story I wanted to use in a sermon maybe, and I wanted to see when the last time was that I told it, because I was pretty sure I had told it before.  Lo!  Apparently the last time was in August, 2007!  That was when I had been a pastor a whole year.  That was a lifetime ago.

The sermon was not bad.  Actually, technically it could well be better than my sermons now.  It was certainly shorter.  On the other hand it seems to stick closely to the pattern of sermon I heard preached at seminary.  That may be why it is better technically, but it also seems derivative.

Yet I can see that I was trying to (even then) communicate with the congregation, not preach over everyone’s head.  I’m not sure how successful that’s been over the years.

Anyway, I look at this and think that I haven’t changed much technically or theologically.  If anything I’ve gotten worse technically.  On the other hand I feel when reading it that it was a different man who wrote and preached it.  I hadn’t yet experienced very much tentatio or suffering.  The theology is orthodox, but the preacher had not yet suffered much of anything in the ministry.  I thought I had though.  It will be interesting to see what I think in another decade if the Lord sees fit to have me preaching then still.

I know what it is that strikes me as off about this sermon.  Even though it is probably better technically than my sermons now, the difference is that I can tell that when I wrote it I still was naive and thought that all I would have to do is preach it a couple of times and then people would get it.  You can also see me banging the drum about “Lutheranism”; that was back when I thought that I could convince people that they should care about being a Lutheran.  You can also see me subtly (or not so subtly) rag on the congregation for thinking they know everything and being unwilling to learn, a theme that I have undoubtedly returned to again and again.  And it has seemingly had little effect beyond making many people angry.

I post it mainly for myself.  But any other pastor who reads this and still feels like he just left seminary but really has been at it over five years may be inspired to go look at a really old sermon.

When you come out of seminary you don’t know that it costs you to preach.  I mean, the cost we pay is really nothing if we look at it correctly and don’t whine, considering the exceedingly great glory of the Word that we are allowed to speak.

But I think I didn’t really understand that it was God’s Word then, so I thought my performance in writing or speaking would do something.  That was a very painful lesson that I don’t know if I’m done learning–the lesson of running into a ten feet thick titanium wall for years–that it is God’s Word, and He has it work in spite of me (thanks be to God), and not how I want it to work.  I knew this theological concept but it was a painful lesson to learn, or begin to learn, in experience.

I didn’t understand that cost associated with preaching the Word of God.  And I also didn’t understand a different kind of cost– that it was necessary to experience pain and weakness and failure and utter inability to see anything, to know whether you were doing it right or wrong.  Of course I knew, theologically, that if the sermon was Scriptural and the law and gospel rightly divided then you were doing it right.  I hadn’t felt what it was like to have the Word rejected and agonize about your failures, to blame your lack of preparation and so forth, and to see your clumsiness in handling God’s Word.  I knew theologically that preaching and suffering went together, but I hadn’t experienced it yet.  And I am sure that that remains true.  Dr. Kleinig said something to us at the Ft. Wayne class about Exodus.  He asked whether we had suffered as a result of preaching, whether we had had major conflicts and faced opposition.  Then he said, We assume that as we get older, we’ll have fewer problems like that because we’ll gain experience.  But, he said, the hardest trials come as you have been in the ministry a long time, and as you approach the end of your years of service.

2012-11-26 plainfield november 2012 013 - CopySo, I haven’t experienced anything yet!  Quit whining!  is the moral of the story.

I wish that I could help someone else escape the pain that comes from preaching God’s Word and having to learn the hard way that it is not your Word, and therefore you can’t make it do anything, and it’s necessary for you to be afflicted by the devil so that you do not “become too elated at the surpassing greatness” of the Lord who is pleased to raise the dead through your lips.  But I suspect that I cannot help anyone escape it, except maybe to comfort someone else who is in the middle of it and let them know that it is the Lord’s work when you fail.

The beautiful thing is that it is really the Lord’s Word, even if it is despised and seems to bear no fruit.  Even if you have no talent as a preacher or a pastor or an administrator, and you appear to ruin more than you build up, it is Jesus Christ’s word that you have to preach.  And He preaches it to us as well as to the congregation.

One of the most shocking things about preaching is when, after years of everyone esentially telling you your sermons are “all right” and everyone else saying they are garbage behind your back, and when even your wife doesn’t like your sermons, somebody in the congregation was edified–maybe even comforted–and it was a person who doesn’t like you.

So it is really the Lord’s Word, and He has to keep us aware of the fact that the treasure is from Him and not from us, and therefore it is driven home again and again that we are jars of clay.  In my case more like a potsherd or a broken vessel.

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