Deeper

Tonight is our final Lenten worship service of the year. I will be live streaming from my home starting at 7 PM (Pacific) on our YouTube channel: Living Word Lutheran Church – Graham, WA (if that doesn’t work, use Puyallup, WA instead for the city). The text for preaching will be Psalm 130, “God’s Promise of Redemption”. And so with that, I offer the following liturgy of repentance that I wrote for tonight. To God be the glory.


Redeeming God, my rescuer –
All too often I have tried to go it alone.
All too often I have tried to rescue myself.
All too often I have appealed to the world.
And each time I try, I sink deeper,
and deeper,
and deeper into the mire.
I struggle and claw,
I fight and battle,
but to no avail.
It’s a hopeless cause,
and one of my own doing.
Yet my pride gets in the away.
My stubbornness too often wins the day.
I resist,
I deny,
I forsake.
I forsake Your redeeming and steadfast love.
Oh God, I cry out to You.
Hear me.
Rescue me.
Help me.
I am weak and defenseless.
I am tired and sinking.
Deeper,
Deeper,
Deeper, into the mire.
Help me. Save me.
Redeem me!
Oh Lord, my God, hear my cry: I repent…

The Boat

The waves are monstrous,
The wind is fierce,
And my feeble little boat is no match for this storm.
I try and try, but I make no head way.
I fight and battle but continue to lose ground.
And the storm rages on.
The storm wants to lay claim to this boat –
to bring it down into the deep.
It fights and threatens.
It claws and bites,
and my feeble little boat is no match for this storm.
Jesus, where are you?!?
Wait — you are right here,
in my feeble little boat.
You are right here with me,
as the storm rages on.
Now I am at peace.
Now I can be still and know –
for nothing can touch me
as long as Jesus is in the boat with me –
in this feeble, broken down, little boat.
The storm rages on,
but it will never claim me,
not with Jesus in my boat.

God Kicked My Butt

God kicked my butt today. Actually, the butt-kicking started yesterday as a series of tech problems halted my plans – plans that I thought were brilliant and would be joyfully received by the worshiping community. But when our ways are not God’s ways, well, we are not going to win that battle. You see, up to this point I had been live streaming worship on YouTube from my living room but it dawned on me this past week that I could use the church’s video camera that we use to video record my sermons,. I could record a service on Saturday from the sanctuary, instead of my living room, and then upload it on Sunday. I felt this would be more worshipful – to be where we always held worship. People would be excited and that made me happy. So that was the plan. It would be great.

Take one: So, I went to the church building on Saturday afternoon to record a worship service. I set up the chancel area and positioned the video camera. The sermon was done, and my worship notes were ready. I put on my alb, stole and pectoral cross. I knew exactly what I was going to do and what I was going to say. Lights, action, camera – and off I went. Everything went great. I thought I had hit it out of the park until I went to stop the camera. When I hit the record button again to stop the recording, the counter started – as if I was just turning it on. In panic, I hit the button again, pulled out the memory card and ran to my office to upload the video. No video. The worship did not get recorded. The camera said the card was full but there should have been plenty of room. I got a little frustrated, but I quickly settled down and took this as God’s sign that I should do this in the morning.

Take two: Sunday morning came, and I got up at my usual time. I went through my usual routine and then drove to the church building. I got set up again – lighting candles, making sure my notes were ready, my microphone pack was turned on and I got dressed in my worship garb. Lights, action camera – again. I led worship and everything went great. Another homerun – or so I thought. I went to my office to upload the video from a card that was empty when I started. But when I open the card directory there were three files. “That doesn’t make sense.” I thought. Apparently, the worship service stopped and started a couple times giving me separate three files. Grrr… Strike two on the recording. Resigning myself to “settle” for a live stream, I packed up my stuff and rushed home – praying along the way. “Why God, why? I am supposed to have a worship service ready to go for people this morning.” After some more praying and then some listening, I finally heard what God was saying, “Worship is not an event to watch.” All weekend I felt something was off about me recording a worship service, but I thought it was just nerves about how everything would turn out. Apparently, the uneasiness I felt was God tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “Don’t do this.

Take three: With a big smile – as I realized the lesson God had just taught me – I prepared my living room for a live stream of worship – no frustration, no anger, just thankfulness. How could I have been so vain to think I could choreograph a worship service production for people to watch later and then call it good and God glorifying. After getting set up, I prayed some more and just listened. I tossed away the bulletin and just led worship – I don’t think the church in Acts had a worship bulletin. And you know something, the Holy Spirit took over and HE hit it out of the park – Grand Slam!

I wish God had given me a clear Post-it note on my computer or something, but some of the best lessons are learned the hard way. When worship is Spirit-led in the moment, God is glorified. All of man’s efforts to produce something that is too scripted, runs the risk of self-glorification. That is what happened to me. In John 4, Jesus said that the Father is looking for people to worship Him in Spirit and truth. Yes, that is worship and that is what finally happened this morning. Thank You, God, for teaching me that lesson. To God be all glory, honor, praise — and worship — through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

Hope

Tomorrow’s (March 29) preaching text is John 11:38-44 — the raising of Lazarus. What follows here is the opening paragraph to the sermon God has placed on my heart. May He give hope to hopeless hearts. May He lift up the downtrodden. May He speak life to dry bones. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.


Have you ever wept without hope? Have you ever stood before a proverbial cave with a weighty stone rolled in front of it?
Maybe it was the loss of a dream.
The death a loved one.
The fading away of a long-held hope.
Have you ever cried so much that your tear ducts seemed empty but there was still more crying to be done? Have you ever cried yourself to exhaustion? It is an awful place to be – standing in front of an immovable stone sealing your hope away. But God gives life to dry bones, restores lost dreams and revives sealed-away hope. God wipes away tears as He breathes the Spirit of life into the redeemed through Jesus Christ our Lord. God uses what seems to be lost and hopeless to shine the light of His glory in this sin-fallen world. Wait on the Lord and hope in His word, for He will never fail to deliver.

Repentance for Straying

For our Lenten worship tonight, via YouTube live stream, I prepared this Liturgy of Repentance. I am preaching on Psalm 23 and highlighting God’s promise of peace. Feel free to worship with us at 7:00 PM (Pacific Time). See the church website for more information on accessing the live stream.

http://www.livingwordlutheranchurch.com

To God be the glory!


Holy God,
Father,
Creator,
Sustainer,
and Good Shepherd.
You give me everything I truly need.
Your provision is unmatched by anything or anyone of this world.
Your supply is endless.
You invite me to come and buy without money and without price.
You give and give and give some more.
For You are the Good Shepherd and I am your sheep.
Yet, I stray from the flock to seek my own.
My wants overwhelm me, and I spurn Your grace.
Fear leads me to stockpile wants that will not save me –
They won’t protect me,
They won’t shield me.
Oh God, I have strayed and gone my own way.
I have sought worthless wants.
Oh my Good Shepherd
retrieve me,
restore me,
revive me,
and lead me in the path of righteousness – repeating Your promises to me. Repeat them without end as I remain in You.
For You are THE Good Shepherd and with you I lack nothing.
All I want is You.
All I need is You.
Keep me close and may Your rod and staff comfort me.
Oh Lord, my God and Shepherd, I repent of my straying.

Washed Clean

The following is an article I wrote for this morning’s paper in The News Tribune (Tacoma). It was something I wrote about a week ago – right when things were really ramping up for many around here with restrictions surrounding COVID-19. Living Word had just canceled the rest of our Lenten services and we were going to discuss the status of our Sunday services (which are online now). What a week it has been, but praise be to God that I am his.


No matter where you go or where you look, you will hear/read news about the COVID-19. Statistics seem to change by the minute. Country, state and county boundaries cannot stop the spread of this virus. The CDC and various state and local health agencies are working hard to keep us informed. Basic health and safety messages are being repeated, “wash your hands”, “stay home if you are sick”, “avoid large crowds”. Aggressive measures are being taken: (i.e. restricting crowd sizes, canceling events, closing schools). But no matter what we do, the virus continues its relentless march like a wall of toothpicks trying to stop a tank. We fight and fight, but the march continues. We hide ourselves away, but it still finds us.

As more and more people experience this menace invading their backyards, the fear factor is rising. “Will I or a loved one be next?”. It seems as if the only thing that can be done is to just sit and wait for the inevitable, like waiting for the invisible man, who has been stalking you, to strike.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like living in fear and therefore…

I WILL NOT!

I refuse to let this virus render me paralyzed by fear. Rather, I am going to remember who I am…

A child of God.

Through Jesus Christ and because I am a sinner: I have been redeemed, I have been claimed, I have been given a new identity, I have been given hope. Through the cross and the empty tomb, I have been given citizenship in the Kingdom of God through the forgiveness of my sins and thus I am protected by God’s holy army. No relentless viral army will touch this redeemed soul. I am His. My creator God is King and Lord. He is sovereign over this virus. He is my loving Father and Mighty Fortress. He is the Rock on which I will stand, and thus I refuse to step off. Satan is wielding this virus to strike fear into people, but I will stand and say, “My life belongs to Jesus! Back off!”

Why isn’t God destroying this virus? Why isn’t God sparing us? Why isn’t God doing something? Well, God is doing something. He’s has my attention. Does he have yours? I really don’t know what God is up to, but I do know, that when this is all said and done, God will be glorified. Why? Because God saves sinners and God is in control.

And therefore, as I repeatedly wash my hands, heeding the advice and warnings of the health professionals I will remember. I will remember that my soul has been washed clean of my sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. Every time I come in contact with water — I will remember and cling to His promises. Water will no longer be a sign, reminding me of the virus I’m trying to ward off – it will now point me to the One who holds my life.

Be cautious. Be diligent. Be smart. But don’t live in fear. Live in hope that through Jesus Christ you are washed clean.

Praise be to God, always and forever, Amen!

Blindness

The following is the opening to the sermon I will be preaching on Sunday, March 22. The text is John 9:35-41 — the ending of the story of Jesus healing the man born blind. I will be live streaming on YouTube at 9:30 AM (PST). I will lead worship and we will partake in Holy Communion together. “How?” you may ask, well, tune in and find out – just make sure you have your bread and wine/grape juice (or whatever) ready to go.

The church’s website, that will give you live streaming instructions, is: http://www.livingwordlutheranchurch.com


People who are blind have learned to adjust to their blindness. They have learned to rely on their other senses to help them navigate their darkness. They have resources, people and other aids to help them do everyday tasks. In every sense of the word, they can lead somewhat normal lives just like everyone else. I’ve never been blind, so I am simply speaking as an outside observer – so please forgive any blindness on my part. I have, though, been in dark, dark places where I could not rely on my sight, but rather, on my other senses and knowledge of the environment – like walking through a dark room. But no matter your knowledge of your environment or the keenness of your senses, there is always a stray Lego on which to step.

Now imagine, being blind or in a dark, dark place – unfamiliar to you – and you hear a low, scary growl. That is enough to send fear coursing through the strongest of people – not knowing where to turn. My friends, we are in a dark and unfamiliar place and the low, scary growl is all around us. To whom shall we go in this darkness? To whom shall we place our trust?

To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.