Reformation Sunday

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Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age. Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep them steadfast in your word, protect and comfort them in times of trial, defend them against all enemies of the gospel, and bestow on the church your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen
Through the prophet Jeremiah we finally get to see what God wants for us.  It doesn’t seem like much but in the end we find out that it is really all we need.  It’s one of those things that makes us realize just how wanton we really are when it comes to material things.
Psalm 46 (ESV)

God Is Our Fortress

To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth.[a] A Song.

46 God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present[b] help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Justified by faith rather than works.  This is one of the main tenants of the Lutheran protestant tradition.  For that’s all we really can hope for.  There is nothing we can do apart from God to at least try and approach Him, for we were dead from our sins.  Yes, everyone has sinned.  There are a lot of people who don’t like that.  They think they’re perfect then they lust after every little materialistic thing, yet in the end they feel empty, so they go after more and more.  It is a vicious cycle that only God can break.
In the gospel reading we go more into the fact that we are slaves to our wants and desires.  The more we have the more we want.  And then when we have said objects then we realize that’s not what we wanted, so we go after something different.  God sets us free from the cycle our our own wants and desires.

19th Sunday after Pentecost

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Isaiah 45:1-7 (ESV)

Today people would be in shock to find that God had placed on Cyrus the mantle of the messiah.  He wasn’t an Israelite and he wasn’t a follower, but that doesn’t mean anything to God.  He uses whom he will to get the job done.  If that means using a pagan to get someone to do what they should have been doing in the first place, then so be it.

Psalm 96:1-13 (ESV)

Worship in the Splendor of Holiness

96 Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
    tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
    he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;[a]
    tremble before him, all the earth!

10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
    Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
    he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
    let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12     let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13     before the Lord, for he comes,
    for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
    and the peoples in his faithfulness.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 (ESV)

The New Testament reading this week comes from the beginning of 1 Thessalonians.  From research this letter is the earliest example of Christianity.  This is not the reason we’re reading the first 10 verses.  Why we are reading it is because Paul goes into greater detail from what Isaiah and the Psalm revealed.  In that God had chosen those men and women of that early congregation.  But you state what about free will?  Don’t we have that?  Yes.  If you believe that we had free will then so be it, if you believe everything is predestined, then so be it.  Neither is wrong, it’s what you feel most comfortable with.  Just believe in the right person and everything else is semantics.  Just make sure not to put down another person’s belief because it could be true.

Matthew 22:15-22 (ESV)

Today’s Gospel reading is one of the better known passages.  We’ve always had issues of how to split our time and who we should give our time and money to.  To those who are still confused, the best is to follow the words of Jesus.  Whomever we are to give to that’s who it should be.  If it’s the government, then we should not shirk our taxes, if it’s to the church then we should not be miserly in giving our time, money, and talents.

18th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
Lord of the feast, you have prepared a table before all peoples and poured out your life with abundance. Call us again to your banquet. Strengthen us by what is honorable, just, and pure, and transform us into a people of righteousness and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
While reading this section in Isaiah I found it very interesting that most, if not all the powerful kingdoms in the area around Israel are gone yet Israel remains.  How do you explain something like this?  Is it a coincidence?  Fate?  Or maybe something more?  We may never know why God specifically designed and desired for this people to survive throughout the ages as a separate unit.  I am not mentioning some of the other nations in the middle east because the citizens are not the same as they were thousands of years ago.
Psalm 23 (ESV)

The Lord Is My Shepherd

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.[a]
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness[b]
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely[d] goodness and mercy[e] shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell[f] in the house of the Lord
    forever.[g]

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he is exhorting the believers to be reasonable and kind towards one another.  Almost like how the Psalm for this week reads.  The question is if we’re able to do that for we are very stubborn and prideful to the very end.
The gospel reading for this week is another parable.  Last week we looked at the one about the tenant farmers, and this time we see it is about the wedding banquet of the king’s son.  Who would up and miss something like this?  Apparently there were quite a few in this particular story. Then there was the guest that showed up and crashed the party.  That’s what it seems like today.  Many think they can just show up and think they will be accepted, but it doesn’t work that way.  It’s all about our actions and coming by invitation.

17th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
Beloved God, from you come all things that are good. Lead us by the inspiration of your Spirit to know those things that are right, and by your merciful guidance, help us to do them, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
In this passage in Isaiah it’s considered one of the earliest parables.  Jeremiah also has a few that could be construed as the same time.  That’s not what’s important.  What is is how no matter what you do, it can turn out bad.  Parents, hopefully work hard to make sure that their children have good upbringings, but sometimes no matter  how hard they work, the son or daughter goes their own path and makes it difficult for the parents to watch from afar.  God will only bend so far and Isaiah is showing the Israelites that in the end it’s their decision, not God’s.
Psalm 80:7-15 (ESV)

Restore us, O God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved!

You brought a vine out of Egypt;
    you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it;
    it took deep root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
    the mighty cedars with its branches.
11 It sent out its branches to the sea
    and its shoots to the River.[a]
12 Why then have you broken down its walls,
    so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
13 The boar from the forest ravages it,
    and all that move in the field feed on it.

14 Turn again, O God of hosts!
    Look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
15     the stock that your right hand planted,
    and for the son whom you made strong for yourself.

Paul makes an interesting comment within his letter to the Philippians.  Think of it this way.  He knows he can brag about who and what his is, especially with his past.  Basically he was stating, that is if you use the symbolism from the Isaiah passage, that he was planted in the vineyard and had all the good stuff, but in the end (which he figured it out) was that all he was was wild grapes.  The key is that he understood that and laid it before God knowing that the fruit that he produced by himself wouldn’t be what God wanted.  If only more of us came to understand that, but the sad part about it is that it’s not going to happen.
In the gospel passage, the Pharisees knew Jesus was talking about them.  What he’s trying to get across is that the leaders have more to blame than the people under them.  It’s the leaders that everyone looks up to.  It’s so easy to lead someone into different thinking, or to go astray with a single word.  Hopefully it’s that fear that helps those same leaders to keep on the straight and narrow path.

16th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
God of love, giver of life, you know our frailties and failings. Give us your grace to overcome them, keep us from those things that harm us, and guide us in the way of salvation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen
Turn and live so says God through the prophet Ezekiel.  With today’s thinking it’s a hard thing to understand.  Most of us view it as being the afterlife, while with the Israelites at the time it was all about our current life.  Like I mentioned in a previous blog post, eternity was in connection with our life on Earth.  We still use that odd, most likely archaic, meaning in the Christian wedding ceremony.  It’s all they knew and could conceive at the time.  Maybe we should take a chapter from their lives and live that way, that way we might have a better life in the end.
Psalm 25:1-9 (ESV)

Teach Me Your Paths

[a] Of David.

25 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
    let me not be put to shame;
    let not my enemies exult over me.
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
    they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
    teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all the day long.

Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
    for they have been from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
    according to your steadfast love remember me,
    for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!

Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
    and teaches the humble his way.

Paul continues the thread about our living in today’s world.  It all boils down to being kind to others even if we don’t want to.  That’s what all the rules and laws come down to.  We’ve known it for eons, yet we have a difficult time in going along with it, because it’s all about us and what we want and desire.  It is difficult, but it’s also a choice we need to take.  All the worlds problems would be eradicated if we followed just this one rule.
Doing things because of guilt can be one way of doing things the right way, but it’s not the only way.  Sometimes guilt is the only motivator that can get people doing what they should do, which is sad.  It’s our hope that people do things they said they would do.  That being the case that way we won’t need to take an oath to tell the truth.

15th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
Almighty and eternal God, you show perpetual loving kindness to us your servants. Because we cannot rely on our own abilities, grant us your merciful judgment, and train us to embody the generosity of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
Jonah is an interesting book.  It never states what he did in the end, whether Jonah moped back to Israel, or actually went down to Ninevah and celebrated with the citizens in their new found freedom (at least how the story goes).  It’s more to question us, as the reader, or listener, on what we should be doing compared to what we want to do.
Psalm 145:1-8 (ESV)

Great Is the Lord

[a] A Song of Praise. Of David.

145 I will extol you, my God and King,
    and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
    and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
    and his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
    and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

The conflict of whether to do what one wants or do what God wants is once again the focus of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  Living on Earth can be easy, or difficult.  Easy if we decided to go with what everyone else is doing, and difficult if we push back and do what the world considers foolishness.  The question is which one will you or I choose?
“That’s not fair!”  Is what the ones who labored all day grumbled.  Even though they agreed to be paid a days wage, they felt they were entitled for more since the ones that were hired last received the same pay.  The key is that we need to be content with what we have and what we will earn each day.  I do understand their complaints, at the same time the ones hired last should be grateful that they were paid exactly what was told they would receive, even for an hour’s work.  Now that’s generous!

14th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
O Lord God, merciful judge, you are the inexhaustible fountain of forgiveness. Replace our hearts of stone with hearts that love and adore you, that we may delight in doing your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
 The way Joseph’s brothers reacted when their father died is typical, especially for ones that know they did evil.  Their jealousy and hatred were so great that it was only after the fact that they realized they did something wrong, and then not by much.  They’re scared because they have finally come to terms with their actions many years ago.  The difference is that this time Joseph responded in kindness, only realizing after the fact that everything was for the best.  So when we’re in the middle of a Jacob moment it’s best we wait it out and then look back to see what was really happening.
Psalm 103:[1-7] 8-13 (ESV)

Bless the Lord, O My Soul

Of David.

103 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

 The thoughts and ideas of judging another continues with the readings from Romans.  We are not to judge one another based on our beliefs, ie whether we choose to eat or not eat certain types of foods, or whether we worship on one day or every day it is all to the Lord.  With the far extremes one side has a more difficult time in accepting this tenant than the other this is the best time to show compassion for each other.
The Gospel reading shows what could happen if one does not show compassion and forgiveness to another it will come back to haunt us in the end.  The key is how to respond to things such as these.

13th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
O Lord God, enliven and preserve your church with your perpetual mercy. Without your help, we mortals will fail; remove far from us everything that is harmful, and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
There has always been contention between the people who think everything is predestined, and the ones that think that we have a free will.  It could be a little of both.  For in Ezekiel God seems to tell him that it’s the ones listening to the message that have the ability to choose whether or not to believe in it.  It’s their choice whether to live or to die.  Then again we find in other parts of scripture that God has complete control whether we want to fight Him or not.  Confusing, isn’t it?  I suspect that it’s set up in such a way that we can take it either way and not be “punished” for it.
Psalm 119:33-40 (ESV)

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;
    and I will keep it to the end.[a]
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
    and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments,
    for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,
    and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
    and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise,
    that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread,
    for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts;
    in your righteousness give me life!

You shall not… The words Paul repeats several times makes one think that Christianity is a belief systems made up of rules and regulations.  You know, boring and not able to do anything of note.  Our goal is actually to care for the ones around us, the ones that are needing our services.  It can be hard, (we do like to keep what we’ve worked for), but in the end it will help everyone.  The key is not to be trampled upon.  The ones receiving the help need to work just as hard to improve themselves and the ones that are working to give the help.
In Matthew’s gospel we read even more about the care and now forgiveness towards one another.  What Paul is trying to get at is that we need to solve our problems amongst ourselves and not hang out our “dirty laundry” for everyone to see.  If we did that then we would have more people in line to at least give us a chance.

12th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
O God, we thank you for your Son, who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world. Humble us by his example, point us to the path of obedience, and give us strength to follow your commands, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
In today’s Old Testament reading Jeremiah is complaining.  He’s railing against God about everything that’s being done to him.  He also thinks that God is in on everything, but He’s not.  It’s only after the fact that we realize that God does give us the strength to handle anything and everything that the world throws at us.  Sometimes it does feel like God is leaving us all alone, but that’s not really the case.  Jeremiah eventually came to understand that it’s the world that’s against God, and since Jeremiah, and us to an extent, could be considered God’s mouthpiece, then by proxy we are railed against.  In the end we will be protected, and that’s all we have to remember.
Psalm 26:1-8 (ESV)

I Will Bless the Lord

Of David.

26 Vindicate me, O Lord,
    for I have walked in my integrity,
    and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
    test my heart and my mind.[a]
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
    and I walk in your faithfulness.

I do not sit with men of falsehood,
    nor do I consort with hypocrites.
I hate the assembly of evildoers,
    and I will not sit with the wicked.

I wash my hands in innocence
    and go around your altar, O Lord,
proclaiming thanksgiving aloud,
    and telling all your wondrous deeds.

O Lord, I love the habitation of your house
    and the place where your glory dwells.

The message that was given to Jeremiah so many years ago, Paul reiterates in Romans.  Be steadfast and hold true.  Be kind and generous to everyone around you, for you could be in the presence of God’s messengers.
Matthew states clearly that the way of a Christian is difficult at best, and at the worst, it causes death.  We are to die to ourselves so we can live out the best we can be.  It’s a daily burden that can be difficult to live with.  But God will never give us more than we can handle, that’s all we have to remember.

11th Sunday after Pentecost

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Prayer of the Day
O God, with all your faithful followers of every age, we praise you, the rock of our life. Be our strong foundation and form us into the body of your Son, that we may gladly minister to all the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen
Looking back from what we know with the New Testament, the Isaiah reading is very interesting.  Let’s face it, the Israelites at this point in their history had no concept of eternity.  What they knew is all they had during the here and now.  And then reading the last verses on how the earth will wear out, but God’s salvation will continue on throughout eternity.  I think it’s very interesting.  Maybe when the verses were composed they probably equated eternity until their death.  We still use the terms when it comes to love and (hopefully) marriage.  “I’ll love you forever!”  But now we see it in a completely different light.  God’s salvation is throughout all eternity, meaning even after we die we will be saved.
Psalm 138 (ESV)

Give Thanks to the Lord

Of David.

138 I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
    before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
    and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
    for you have exalted above all things
    your name and your word.[a]
On the day I called, you answered me;
    my strength of soul you increased.[b]

All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord,
    for they have heard the words of your mouth,
and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
    for great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,
    but the haughty he knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
    and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Paul discusses the difference between grace and sacrifice.  We are to be a living sacrifice, as he states.  All this is true, but at the same time most of us, if not all have a hard time with it.  We keep trying to crawl off the altar.  At the same time through that same grace we are giving “specialties”, what we call gifts.  The smaller the congregation the easier it is to see the differences, because those with certain gifts will automatically do what needs to be done.  You can’t step back and state that someone else will do it because there isn’t someone else.  Sometimes we working through our gifts is like laying it on the altar before Him.
In the Gospel reading we have Peter’s great revelation on who Jesus was.  Personally I’ve always liked the way the KJV, or any of the other versions that still use some of the archaic terminology.  “Thou art the Christ” sounds so much more regal, doesn’t it?  It’s what we’ve heard for the longest time, especially since the KJV was, and still is to some extent the most popular version.  But, I digress.  Jesus never told the disciples who he was.  All they had was what he did as he traveled around Galilee.  Those twelve, at least twelve in men, we have no idea how many women were there, also, saw his actions every day and how he treated everyone.  It was a great leap of faith, or as Jesus states that he didn’t figure it out all by himself, but that God had revealed it to him.
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