Worship prayers for 06/28/15 ~ Spiritual blindness

Good morning and happy Lord’s Day.

The sermon text for this morning is Mark 10:46-52. This is Jesus’ encounter with blind Bartimaeus on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. This is the last healing story of this Gospel as we head into chapter 11 with the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem (what we call Holy Week). My focus will be on spiritual blindness and the Church’s call to seek the blind with the Gospel of Jesus Christ; for when one calls out to Jesus in faith, he will stop, as he did for Bartimaeus. So the prayers are written with that theme in mind.

May your Lord’s Day be blessed as you worship our awesome God.

Let’s pray…

Opening Prayer
God of Hope, in a world filled with spiritual blindness, we come looking for Your guiding hand; seeking Your forgiveness; seeking Your Truth. For You are God almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
You are our King.
You are our Life.
You are our Light.
And so we plead with the words of the blind Bartimaeus, Lord, have mercy on us. We humbly beseech You to stop and turn to us as Jesus did on that Jericho road.
Receive our worship.
Receive our praise.
Receive our thanks.
Restore our sight.
For You are worthy and thus we are worthy of judgment, but have mercy upon us as You heal our blindness and make us so bold that our way becomes the way of Jesus. So here we are. May our worship be pleasing to Your ears, in the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Prayer before Preaching
Mighty God, our great Physician, You are the opener of eyes, the healer of faith and the giver of hope. Through Jesus Christ You heard the call of the blind man and did for him what he had asked through faith, that You may be glorified. You then sent him on his way; healed and redeemed. And so we gather here on this dusty road of life as blind beggars; seeking Your Word and healing touch. May all who hear Your Word cast off all that would hinder their coming to You and may they run with haste to get a taste of Your glorious Word. So I humbly ask that You would send Your Holy Spirit to open our eyes that we may proclaim the glories of Your awesome name. Heal all the ails us, not according to our will but may Your will be done. Drive away despair. Bury our sin. Grant us hope through Jesus Christ our risen Savior, Amen.

Offering Prayer
Holy Father; giver of life, nothing we give compares to what You have done for us through Jesus Christ, but it is not about trying to out give you but rather express our thanks through our worship. So receive these gifts collected this morning as our worship to You for the advancement of Your Kingdom, and in turn, may You continue to bless us that we may bless others; for this ministry is not ours but Yours. Let our lives be a living worship service unto Your glory as we serve our neighbors in love. Through Christ Jesus our Lord we pray, Amen.

Benediction
As Jesus opened the eyes of the blind,
may your eyes be opened to the love and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.
May you see your lives as fleeting in this world but held secure in the arms of God.
May you see the plight of your neighbor and reach out with the love of our Lord.
May you see the strength of our awesome God as your strength.
May you see the spiritual blindness in this world as your calling to live boldly for God.
And may you see the way of Jesus as your way.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen

Dead fish and Salmon (Mark 8:34-38)

A fun “tip” my dad used to share when I was young:
“Only dead fish go with the flow all the time.”

And then you have the opposite:
Salmon struggle to swim up stream to find a place to spawn and lay their eggs.

[Now cue the theologizing of the Pastor as he works on the Sunday sermon]

Only dead fish (“Christians”) go with the flow (of culture) all the time.

Salmon (true Christ followers) struggle to swim up stream (deny themselves and pick up their cross and follow Jesus) to find a place to spawn and lay their eggs (share the Gospel and bring glory to God).

Hmmm…that could work.

Any thoughts on this?

The Pastor -|—

Sabbath rest

I thought I should come back today and write something a little more intelligent than the “May the fourth be with you” post from last night.  I guess it just goes to show that no public writing should take place after 10 p.m.  Actually, it is a little questionable now since I haven’t consumed my morning pot of coffee yet, so forgive me if things get weird 🙂

For 12 sermons now, I have been preaching through the Gospel of Mark.  Yesterday was Mark 2:21-22…

Yes, 12 sermons and I am not through the second chapter yet.

…But coming up this Sunday I will finish the 2nd chapter by proclaiming the Good News in verses 23-28 concerning the Sabbath Day, with the following verses capturing my attention this morning:

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

The Sabbath was made for me.
The Sabbath was made for you.

That is Good News.  I mean, think about it ~ the Sabbath was made for you to slow down and enjoy rest.  And I am not talking about sleeping in after a late Saturday night or enjoying a nap on the couch in the afternoon.  The rest that we are being given is rest in the promises of Jesus.  When we make the Sabbath Day about physical rest we miss the point.   Jesus’ death and resurrection frees us from the toil of justifying ourselves in the eyes of a holy God.  But through faith in Jesus, we are made right in God’s eyes and thus we can find holy rest through fellowship with God in worship, study of scripture and communion with other believers.

Sure, you can find rest for your bodies on the golf course or the lake or watching your children play a sport (on Sunday), but rest for your soul is found only through Jesus.  And if that is the case for you, then why wouldn’t you want to worship the King of the universe in the presence of other believers as the Good News is proclaimed TO YOU.

The Sabbath was made for you to enjoy the promises made to you through Jesus Christ.  May you enjoy a holy rest made possible only through the awesome and amazing grace of God.

The pastor -|—

The things of God

The “assigned” Gospel text for Sunday is from Mark 8 where Jesus foretells his death; Peter rebukes Jesus; and then Jesus in turn rebukes Peter: “Get behind me Satan, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God but on the things of man.”

This “things of God” verses the “things of man” has got me thinking this week.

I started the week reflecting on Psalm 119:1-16 where it says:

Blessed are they whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the Lord.
2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart.
3 They do nothing wrong;
they walk in his ways.
4 You have laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.
5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast
in obeying your decrees!
6 Then I would not be put to shame
when I consider all your commands.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous laws.
8 I will obey your decrees;
do not utterly forsake me. 

9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, O Lord;
teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.

I have been soaking these verses in every chance I get this week.  When some down time presents itself to me I open my Bible to read and reflect.  I listen and then read again.  I ponder and wonder if I am indeed setting my mind on the “things of God” rather than on the “things of man”.  Do I mediate on God’s precepts? Do I take joy in learning God’s righteousness decrees?

You see ~ The “things of man” doesn’t encourage you to open your Bible during some down time.  The “things of man” doesn’t encourage you to just sit and listen, as a friend of mine so aptly wrote on his blog recently.  The “things of man” doesn’t tell you that God’s way is best.  And so I am encouraged:

I feel good about myself.
I feel justified that I am doing what I should be doing.
I feel like I am on the right path.

But then I also realize that I have my moments (actually…many moments) when I am setting my mind on the “things of man”.  In a lot of ways Peter and I are kindred spirits.

I want what I think is best without consulting God.
I want to find peace and contentment in the things of this world.
I want to rush in with MY agenda.

So then I feel discouraged that maybe I truly don’t have in mind the “things of God” 😦

But then in Romans Paul reminds us that this battle is never ending.  We are always going to be frustrated by the battle between the desire to set our mind on the “things of God” verses the “things of man”.  We are always go to be tempted to take the easy/pleasurable way over the productive/God-honoring way.  The battle is going to rage on and never calm down until that day when Jesus returns to take us home and redeem the pitiful state we find ourselves in.

So in the mean time, take every moment you can to immerse yourself in the Word.  Find quiet moments to listen to God. Remember to shut up and listen once in a while.  And don’t lose hope.  When you falter; when you revert to your “default” setting of the “things of man” remember the Good News ~ forgiveness through faith in Christ ~ and then update your settings to the “things of God”.

Praise be to you, O Lord; 
teach me your decrees. 
13 With my lips I recount 
all the laws that come from your mouth. 
14 I rejoice in following your statutes 
as one rejoices in great riches. 
15 I meditate on your precepts 
and consider your ways. 
16 I delight in your decrees; 
I will not neglect your word.

“Things of God”…CHECK 🙂
[At least for now]

Praise be to you O God!  Even though I falter and take you for granted, you don’t leave me orphaned.  Even though I often revert to the “things on man” you don’t cast me aside to fend for myself.  O God – I want to strive after your righteousness decrees.  Help me to keep my internal settings on the “things of God” that I may grow closer and closer to you.  Through Jesus Christ I pray…Amen.

edh -|—

Authority of Jesus

Do you want to know what never, ever gets old with me?

What never gets old with me is the fact that when Jesus says something…IT HAPPENS.  No if, and or buts about it.  When Jesus speaks, people (and demons) listen.  I guess that is also why I enjoy preaching on texts, like what we have for Sunday ~ Mark 1:21-28 ~ the authority of Jesus/casting out evil spirits.

Jesus teaches with authority (not like that of the scribes).  The scribes, when they taught, would rely on the authority of the great teachers that came before them.  Their teaching would be full of phrases such as:

[So and so] said [this] about [this] Commandment and therefore according to [so and so] you should live in [this way].

This got old for the people.  The scribes never taught with their own authority.  They didn’t make their own judgments.

But Jesus did…and the people loved it.

You see…Jesus’ authority wasn’t just in the manner he spoke.  It wasn’t just in his voice inflection. It wasn’t just in his facial expressions and body language.  Jesus’ authority was much different…and powerful.  Jesus’ authority was his own’s and he didn’t need teachers who came before him.  Actually…no one came before him because he was God for crying out loud.  You don’t get any more authoritative than that.

And Jesus displayed that authority through his powerful words when he commanded those evil spirits to leave that man…and the evil spirits listened (kicking and screaming on the way out).  But that shouldn’t surprise you because…
…when Jesus speaks people listen.

…when Jesus speaks his words do something
[“Lazarus, come out”, “Take your mat and walk”]

when Jesus speaks he means exactly what he says.
[“Your sins are forgiven”]

Wow…that is authority.  That is awesome.  That is powerful.

We are God’s children because He says so.
We are forgiven because God says so.
We are saved through faith in Jesus Christ because God says so.

Next time you are in worship and hear the pastor announce forgiveness, know that the pastor does that with the authority of God and therefore the words being spoken are from God himself…AND therefore…you can trust that the words will do what they actually mean:  YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN.

Thank you, God, for calling me your child, forgiving me when I stray and embracing me when I return.  May you be praised always and forever. Amen!

edh -|—

Serving at The Banquet

This afternoon we make our annual “pilgrimage” to The Banquet in Sioux Falls, SD to serve supper (see The Banquet for more information on this ministry). Salem, Belmont and Bethany Lutheran Churches bring about 35 to 40 people to serve supper for people who are homeless or just need a hot meal.  When I called last week to plan the meal I was told that The Banquet is expecting to serve about 500 people that day (numbers have been up from previous years).  In the past we have served 465, 421, 363, 396 people.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about the increase of people needing a hot meal considering the economy.

But as I think about making the necessary preparations to bring this group to Sioux Falls I find myself looking at our Gospel text for Sunday from Mark 12:38-44 (“The widow’s offering”).  Scripture commands us to care for the alien, the widow and the orphans.  Now I am not calling The Banquet guest “aliens” or anything of the sort, but they are people we are called (and commanded) to care for.  I mean…for the most part we live lives of abundance.  You have food in your refrigerator and you probably have a good idea where lunch and supper is coming from.  You probably even know what you are going to eat at those meals.  For the guests that utilize The Banquet for the livelihood, they don’t know…they don’t even know for sure if they can even get in to have a hot meal.  It depends if they get in line soon enough and the number of people there.  There are so many questions for those guests, but not so much for us.

A friend of mine has told me that they get frustrated with themselves because they feel they don’t do enough for others.  But maybe, just maybe, the poor widow from Mark 12 can teach us something:  It’s not the amount but the sacrifice.

I am looking forward to tonight; looking forward to what God is going to do through each of us…for His glory.

Praise be to God!

-edh-

“Stewardship” Sunday

Stewardship is not about the church’s need to receive but rather about YOUR need to give.”

I heard the above quote at a stewardship seminar I attended a couple years ago (I may have even blogged about it but I can’t remember).  I bring this up because this coming Sunday, Nov. 8 is “Stewardship Sunday” at Salem.

“Stewardship”…Sunday…isn’t every Sunday about stewardship?

Isn’t every day about stewardship?

I mean seriously…shouldn’t we talk about stewardship as something we do everyday as a response to what God has done for us in Christ?
–Aren’t we stewards of the Gospel?
–Aren’t we stewards of our time, gifts and talents?
–Aren’t we stewards of “our” possessions?
And if we answered “yes” to all those questions (and we should) then “Stewardship Sunday” is something that needs to be done away with because “Stewardship Sunday” should happen every single day.

I also bring all this up in light of the Gospel text for this Sunday which is from Mark 12:38-44.  This is the story of the woman giving her two small copper coins (all she had) and Jesus commending her for giving out of her need (as opposed to the rich who gave out of their surplus).
–Is this text about us being better stewards?
–Is Jesus calling our attention to the fact that she felt driven to give despite her poverty; knowing God will care for
her?
–Do we use this text to highlight the church’s need to receive, our need to give, all of the above or none of the above?

I wonder if I need to do something different this year and totally throw people off.  Maybe I need to just rename this Sunday to “Turkey Dinner Sunday” because after all that is what we are also doing on Sunday.

Do you have a “Stewardship” Sunday?

-edh-

Sheep and THE Shepherd

The Gospel text for Sunday seems like a piece meal deal that cuts out a major story (The Feeding of the 5000).  But before we get too excited, the Feeding of the 5000 account is picked up next week when we begin a 6 week stretch in the Gospel of John.  This stretch in John starts with the feeding story and then a series or texts that talk about Jesus as the Bread of Life.  We will deal with that more in the coming weeks…but back to sheep and the Shepherd.

This Sunday, Jeremiah mentions the shepherds who have scattered God’s sheep and God’s response to their irresponsibility.  The Psalm is Psalm 23…”The Lord is my shepherd…“.  The second lesson is from Ephesians 2.  It doesn’t talk about sheep and shepherds specifically, but some correlations can be drawn.  The key verse that jumps out to me here is 2:19 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone.”  And then the Mark text from chapter 6 has people flocking to Jesus.  And even though he and the disciples are trying to get some R & R, Jesus has compassion on the people “because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  So he began teaching them many things.”  Lots to deal with here.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I still haven’t totally figured out what I am preaching on yet (actually I should say that the Holy Spirit hasn’t revealed it to me yet).  But here are some thoughts I am pondering (at least until further notice):

(1) “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” (Jer. 23:1)
–As people who know the truth of God through Jesus Christ, we have an amazing responsibility.
–God WILL bring all his sheep back under one righteous King (referring to Jesus).
–God has a heart for “sheep”.

(2) Psalm 23…”and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Picking up where Jeremiah left off.

(3) Ephesians…God’s gift of salvation is for ALL people through Jesus Christ.

(4) As “sheep” we all need a shepherd.  But as we see from Jeremiah, we need to be aware of what shepherd we are following.  There is only one GOOD Shepherd.

Those are just a few things I am pondering and I am sure others will pop up today.  So with that I ask you:
What preachable moments are you seeing in the texts?
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 23
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

As a lay person sitting in the pew (and I know there are a number of you out there reading this…and many who are here in Jackson) what do you need to hear…right now…in this place?

What does it mean for you to be considered “sheep” and that Jesus is our “Shepherd”?

Until next time, happy scripture reading and have a blessed “sheepish” day following our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

Praise be to God!

-edh-

Out of the storm

In Job 38 verse 1 it says, “Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm…“.  And then in chapter 42 Job realized how foolish he was to not trust God.

In Mark 4:35-41 the disciples (with Jesus) are in the midst of a storm.  When called upon Jesus answered out of the storm…and the storm was quieted.  But the disciple are amazed and still have no clue who this Jesus is.

When you are in the midst of a storm, do you expect Jesus to answer you out of the storm; in the midst of a world crashing in all around you?  And when Jesus does answer, what do you expect?  I think people expect God to calm the storm that is raging all around us, but what God wants to do is calm the storm within us.

It is the calm that is within us; the peace that surpasses all understanding, that powers us through the storms raging all around us.  When Jesus died on the cross…FOR YOU…and when Jesus rose from the grave…FOR YOU…Jesus paved the way through the storm.  This is not a scheme to make out lives better now, but rather it is Good News…NOW (which does make our lives better).  But it’s already been done; Jesus has won; the storms have lost their power; and Jesus is already in the boat with you.

What do you need to do?  Nothing…but look behind you…Jesus right there.

-edh-

Storms

I love storms…

…especially if they don’t cause lots of damage and no one gets hurt.   When a good ole fashioned summer thunderstorm rolls in I am all eyes and ears.  One time when I was in seminary, a tornado warning was issued for my area.  People in my dorm were heading downstairs to the storm shelter but I took a detour…I went outside to see if I could see the funnel.  No such luck.  Recently I attended a storm spotters training session lead by a guy from the National Weather Service out of Sioux Falls, SD.  I went not to become a weather spotter, but because I like storms; I want to know what I am looking at.  I learned a lot and plan to attend more spotter training classes to hone my weather knowledge…because I love storms.

Casting Crowns sings a song that my wife and I really like called “Praise You in the Storm”.  Since this is a Christian song they are obviously not talking about a summer thunderstorm, but referring to the ole cliche…”the storms of life”.  We all encounter them but the difference is how we react to them: Do we run and hide; crumble under the pressure; curse the storm (and maybe curse God); or do we look at the storm as something that can build us up.  In the Gospel text for this Sunday (Pentecost 3) from Mark 4:35-41, the disciples are in a boat with Jesus when a nasty storm pops up.  Jesus is sleeping but the disciples are scared silly.  Pushed to their breaking point they wake Jesus up and accuse him of not caring for them.  Jesus rebukes the wind and the storm becomes quiet.  He then says “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?

In Job, Job is questioning God about why this suffering has come upon him when God finally speaks up and says “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” Etc, etc… Job has no other reply than “I know that you can do all things; no plan of your can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)  The storms of life will not “thwart” any plan that God has and therefore we can have faith and trust that God has still won the day.

How do you respond to “storms”?  Do you run and hide?  Do you crumble under the pressure?  Do you curse God?

OR

Do you “Praise Him in the Storm”?

We can praise God in the storm because God has overcome this world through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ FOR YOU and FOR ME.  A mere thunderstorm can never define you.  A tornado can not take away what God has given you.  A hurricane can not have power over God.

God may not take away the storms in your life, but one thing is for sure…God will be with us through the storm; we will never be alone.  When the next storm brews and threatens all you have…give praise to God for the life you have in Jesus Christ and let the world’s storms take their best shot…you already have a home that no thunderstorm can destroy.  For that…I will praise God in the sun, wind, rain, clouds…and…I will praise God in the storm.

Praise be to God…ALWAYS and forever, Amen.

-edh-