Your Beautiful Law

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and I am preaching on Psalm 119:17-24. It will serve as a prelude to our midweek Lenten series on the promises of God from the Psalms. In preparation for tomorrow’s sermon, I wrote the following prayer based on the preaching text. It sums up the heart of psalmist and thus I present it you and to God be the glory!

Oh God,
show me abundant compassion and mercy,
that I may live.
Heal my hurts, grant me strength, preserve my life,
that I may not only live,
but glorify You through holy obedience to Your law.
It’s all about You, oh God. It’s all about You.
Therefore open my eyes that I may know.
But I don’t just want to know Your law,
I want to know and appreciate Your law –
I want to see it’s beauty in the midst of the ugliness of sin.
This world is just a temporary place for me,
For I am waiting for something better –
Your holy courts.
Oh how I long for Your holy courts.
Oh those beautiful courts.
In the meantime, as I wait and sojourn,
Hide not Your law from me.
Open my eyes.
Many have turned away from You,
and they are accursed.
But I will not turn away.
Even though they persecute me.
I will not turn away.
Even though they ridicule me.
I will not turn away, rather,
I will meditate on Your statutes,
That I may glorify You in my humiliation.
Oh Lord my God, help me that I may not turn away.
How beautiful are Your testimonies.
Sweeter than honey from the comb.
I desire your Word, so much so,
That they are my counselors.
They teach me how to live.
They show me what is right.
They reveal Your holiness.
They proclaim Your glory.
Oh God,
Open my eyes, that I may obey.
Open my eyes, that I my honor You.
Open my eyes.
I want to appreciate Your law more.

Create in Me

It’s Ash Wednesday this week; the beginning of Lent. The text that I will preaching on is Psalm 51. What follows is some reflections from my heart…

Create in me a clean heart,O God,
and renew a right spirit in me.

for You are my Father and my Lord,
thus I will always live with much glee.
I am broken and fallen,
but You are mighty in love.
I am sinful and unclean,
but You are mighty in mercy.
I am lost without You,
but I shall never fear the pit.
For Jesus my Savior; he saves me,
and so I will offer this one plea…
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and I will praise You on bended knee.

The Pastor -|—

Get your ash on

I love that title…

a little lighthearted fun as we begin this season of Lent; a season for reflection and remembering that we came from dust, and because of our sin, to dust we shall return.

This season is also a very somber time as we reflect on our mortality but we can’t forget the celebration at the end because of Jesus. And therefore, in the midst of taking ourselves very seriously, don’t take yourself too seriously. Remember that you are a sinful, mortal human being under the curse of death. That is serious and undeniable. But through the cross of Jesus, you are redeemed and thus, through faith in him, the curse is lifted on that Last Day. That is also serious and undeniable AND “fun” let’s say.

[Leave it to me to put a not-so-serious spin on Ash Wednesday and Lent]

So with that seriousness, let’s move to some fun stuff:


This is me burning palm branches saved from last year’s Palm Sunday worship service. Seems normal, but what you can’t feel is that I am standing outside in a -30 degree wind chill that is chilling me right down to the bone. I guess one can add this to the list of crazy things that only Minnesotans (and other crazy upper Midwesterners] do. But when you live in this part of the country/world you have to make do.

So the ashes are made.
Worship is planned.
The sermon is set.

And I am ready to get my ash on as I dive head-long into Lent.

A serious season in preparation for a “fun” event.

May God be praised and glorified. May you be humbled with the serious fact that you are a sinner. May you be lifted up through the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus.

Praise be to God!

The Pastor -|—

The Curse and The Victory

Many Christian churches around the world will be recognizing Ash Wednesday tomorrow (Feb 18). This is the beginning of the 40 day season of Lent (40 days not including Sundays) culminating in the vigil of Easter and then Easter itself the next day celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.

The season of Lent is one when we remember our mortality and to focus on our sinfulness. Reminders are placed on foreheads as people are marked with ashes; signifying the curse of sin which was pronounced to Adam and Eve (and all humanity) in Genesis 3,from dust you came and to dust you shall return”. Through our willful disobedience to God we have incurred the penalty of death. Our bodies are subject to decay and thus will perish someday.

But this is not the end…

The mark of the curse is made in the form of the cross signifying our redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Earlier in Genesis 3, when God was cursing the serpent for his actions; ones that drew Adam and Eve into temptation; God announced his plan of redemption:

[15] I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring (Jesus); he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The offspring of the woman is Jesus.
The heel bruising is Jesus being crucified.
But the head bruising is Jesus defeating death through his resurrection.

The serpent, Satan, will be destroyed for his part in corrupting God’s beautiful and perfect creation. In the mean time, we will be subject to death and the rule of Satan, but through faith in Jesus, we will taste victory.

So Lent begins with a curse but ends with victory; but in order to know this victory we need to accept our fallen sinfulness and Lent is a time to focus on that. So remember who you are AND know who Jesus his. The curse of death is not forever. The victory has been won and has been given to you.

Praise be to God and Amen!

The Pastor -|—

Palm of my hand to my forehead

I did it again…

[Palm of my hand to my forehead]

…I forgot the cross. (see my post from two years ago: Where’s the cross)

“Traditionally” we put a huge, rugged cross in the narthex at Salem on Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of Holy Week.  It has a crown of thorns on top with a purple cloth draped over the cross beam. For Good Friday, the cross is moved outside to the end of the ramp leading to the narthex with a black cloth draped over the cross beam.  Then for Easter the cross is moved into the sanctuary where it is “decorated” with Easter lilies (something that gives my allergies a run for it’s money).

After this happened in 2011 I asked my secretary to write it on her calendar figuring one of us would remember. We remembered for 2012…just not for 2013.  So…like what we did in 2011, we will wait to put the cross out until Palm Sunday as a way of setting Holy Week apart.

There is so much that can be said theologically about this but I will refrain since I am too busy palm planting my forehead.


The pastor -|—

“Something” for Lent

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday; the beginning of Lent.

As I reflect on the coming season I have been thinking about a Lenten discipline to engage in.  Not that you have to do something or give up something, but “something” has been tugging at my heart.  It’s been tugging for a couple weeks now.   I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but I think I finally know what that “something” is.

Starting tomorrow I am going to do something that I haven’t done before…


Well…actually I do pray daily but what I am going to do for Lent is engage in the discipline of writing out my prayers in a prayer journal.

That is new for me.

I write prayers for worship and for this blog but I have never done so in such a personal and intimate way.  Never in a way to track and see what God is doing in my life.  I have never gone back to prayers I have written to see what God did with it.  I am not going to write those prayers here, but I may share experiences of this discipline here.

But I am curious, though…

Has anyone out there done this or does this on a regular basis?
Do you even engage in a spiritual discipline?
Do you give anything up?

Whatever you do, may you have a blessed Lenten season as we make our way to the cross and the empty tomb.

Praise be to God!

The pastor -|—


It’s Ash Wednesday!

Lent is here!

Bring on the craziness 🙂

Today I kicked off Lent by enjoying the Holy Spirit work through me to finish off the sermon for tonight.  I went to bed last night with writers block.  Woke up this morning hoping and praying that the sermon would finish itself.  Went to my office and BEHOLD…

…enter the Holy Spirit.

Now the sermon is done.  Praise be to God.  I can hardly wait to preach it tonight.

For my next Lenten activity…
I made some ashes for tonight.  I always look forward to doing this.  I just wish I hadn’t inhaled so much ash smoke.  I am still coughing it up. [Mental note ~ wear a mask next year]

Anyway…I am one of those purists who take the Palm branches from Palm Sunday the previous year, burn them to ash and then mix in some olive oil.


Ashes for worship tonight 🙂

Now it is off to release time…then confirmation…then Lenten small group…then Lenten supper…then Ash Wednesday worship…then…at some point…bed.

Lent is here!


edh -|—

A Lenten blog – Many But One

Happy Monday!!!

Today is February 8 and in 9 short days Lent will begin with Ash Wednesday.  So much happens during this time of the year (especially for pastors) that sometimes we don’t have time or don’t take the time to really take in all that Lent has to offer.  For us here in the Jackson, MN many churches will be participating in a Lenten round robin preaching rotation where us pastors “take our show on the road”.  It’s a time I really enjoy for I get to share Lent with 5 other congregations.  What a blessing.

Now a number of us want to share Lent with you in another way.  Starting this week there is a Lenten blog that is up and running called Many But One.  Seven pastors from various points in this country will be taking a particular day of the week to share some Lenten thoughts with you from the daily lectionary.  This week we are each submitting a post on our assigned day (mine day is Tuesday) that will introduce us.  Then, starting on Sunday, February 14, the Lenten devotionals will begin (I know, Lent doesn’t start until the 17th, but work with me here).  Each morning we will each submit our post that focuses on a text assigned for the day and follow that up with a prayer.  Feel free to leave comments and/or questions.

For me…I am looking forward to sharing Lent with 6 other people from around the country.  I hope you will join us on this Lenten journey as we walk together to the cross and celebrate at the empty tomb.

The blog is up and running so go and check out…and…happy Lent everyone.

Praise be to God!