Archive for November, 2018

Reading Ramblings – December 2, 2018

November 25, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: First Sunday in Advent, December 2, 2018

Texts: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36

Context: We begin a new liturgical calendar with the First Sunday in Advent. I follow the Revised Common Lectionary, LC-MS edition, which means that we are in Year C and Luke is the featured Gospel for the year. Advent begins the liturgical calendar where roughly the first half of the liturgical cycle is centered on major events in the life of the Incarnate Son of God – his birth, baptism, his passion and death and culminating in his resurrection on Easter. Advent is very similar, thematically, to the last three weeks of the liturgical calendar, focused on the anticipated arrival of the Son of God. While we have been looking forward to his return in majesty and glory, Advent transitions us in our waiting to focusing us on his first arrival. We can trust God’s promise that Jesus will return because God kept his promises to his people by sending him the first time. As such we continue to look forward at the start of Advent, gradually focusing our gaze more and more backwards on his first arrival. The readings for this morning highlight that element of promises fulfilled in the past.

Jeremiah 33:14-16 – God reminds his people of both his judgment on their sins as well as his promised salvation of a remnant who will enjoy his peace. This will not be accomplished by any mere priest or leader, but the very promised one of God. This chosen one will alone be capable of executing judgment properly because he himself is righteous. And he will be righteous specifically for his people, so that they will be identified with his name and his righteousness forever.

Psalm 25:1-10 – The psalmist, David, places his soul or spirit in God’s hands for safe keeping. This takes the form of David’s trust in God, with the corresponding prayer that God will not allow David to trust in vain. Such a hope is reasonable, for this is the common hope of all who put their hope in God. On the contrary, shame will certainly fall upon those who rely on cunning and falseness to try and achieve their ends. This leads David to pray to God in vs. 4-6 that He would teach David his ways, lest David accidentally follow a false path and suffer the corresponding shame (v.3). God alone can faithfully and truthfully guide his people and provide salvation to them. This leads David to remind God that he is indeed one of his people, and thus an appropriate recipient of the Lord’s vindication and salvation. He calls on God to act in mercy towards him and to forgive his sins, not because of any merit on his part but because this is the very nature of God, to give mercy and goodness. This is because the Lord is good and upright (v.8). Of course He will teach sinners and lead the humble, and of course God will always act in covenant love and faithfulness to his people. David expresses a hope in a similar vein to the Jeremiah text – that God will himself lead, guide, and save his people.

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 – Because we are in the season of Advent we can expect that the Epistle readings will track somewhat with the Gospel and the Old Testament. We are no longer utilizing the lectio continua as we were during the long season of Ordinary Time in the previous liturgical year, but have returned to the lectio selecta practice. Paul has an unusually long introductory section in this letter. He gives thanks for the Thessalonians (Chapter 1), recalls his ministry to and among them and expresses his desire to see them again (Chapter 2), summarizes how it was that Timothy came to them and now refers to the good report Timothy brings to him concerning the congregation in Thessalonica. Unlike Corinth Paul is still held in good regard by the Thessalonians and they are standing firm in the faith Paul preached to them. Paul concludes by placing the matter of a jointly-desired reunion in God’s hands. Paul also prays that the Thessalonians would continue to grow in their love for one another and for everyone, towards the end that God the Holy Spirit would make them blameless in faith when the God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ return. Paul directs the Thessalonians to their hope – which is the return of Jesus. With that certainty in mind, their day-to-day lives will be shaped by this hope and certainty. The end of all things in this life and world is to be prepared for the day when heaven and earth are brought together again in the reign and rule of the Son of God in glory.

Luke 21:25-36 – This is one of two possible readings from Luke for this Sunday, and I chose it because it maintains the prophetic theme of the last days as we heard in Mark’s gospel the last several weeks. I don’t mind doing this because I preached on the Epistle reading last week :-) Luke has assembled certain of the words and actions of Jesus to craft his gospel (1:1-4). Here he captures Jesus’ admonitions to his followers to watch and wait. Jesus obviously thinks his followers will be able to discern clearly when the final times are upon them and the kingdom of God is imminent. It isn’t ignorance of those times signs that will be the danger for God’s people, but rather the day-in, day-out wear and tear of life. The constant bombardment with other things to think about, other things to do. Worries as well as wasted days. Rather, our focus should be constantly on our Lord’s return. We are not to be people characterized either by excessive worrying about the issues of the day or of an excessive refusal to pay any attention to these issues or the coming of our Lord. Worrying will not save us or prepare us for what will come. Neither will an intentional ignorance of these matters. Our posture is to constantly be one of prayer and watchfulness, particularly as we begin to see signs that say our Lord may be near. Given the rather general nature of some of Jesus’ prophecies regarding this, it isn’t unreasonable to say that every generation has, does, and will see things that appear to portend our Lord’s return. Therefore every generation is to be watching and waiting, ready to meet him when He comes.

Cheesy But True

November 21, 2018

Sometimes the Internet breaks with something that’s neither depressing nor complete stupidity.  Not often, but sometimes.

This is a cheesy but good reminder of how blessed we are, particularly in America or the First World.  But I suspect that there is truth here no matter where you live.  The wrapping paper may be on different things, but the grace of God is everywhere.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Reading Ramblings – November 25, 2018

November 18, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: Christ the King Sunday/Last Sunday of the Church Year – November 25, 2018

Texts: Isaiah 51:4-6; Psalm 93; Rev. 1:4b-8; Mark 13:24-37

Context: The final Sunday of the Church year is traditionally celebrated as Christ the King Sunday, which concludes the liturgical year triumphantly on the note of our Lord’s present and future reign over all things. The year which began in anticipation of our Lord’s arrival 2000 years ago concludes with the reality of what that Incarnation accomplished – the defeat of sin, death, and Satan that is already a reality and will be revealed fully as such in God the Father’s perfect timing. So we begin the new liturgical looking back, but with the glorious vision of what we look forward to still very much present and forefront. Only gradually will the readings for Advent turn away from this Sunday’s reality to look back to the birth of our Lord and begin the cycle of readings and seasons that deal with his life.

Isaiah 51:4-6 – Isaiah’s suffering servant continues to speak in this chapter of Isaiah, Christ himself addressing creation 700 years prior to his birth. Here the servant assures his people of the rule He will institute, a rule based in justice. It is a rule that has not begun yet, but a rule that He can speak about with certainty. It isn’t a matter of whether or not He will reign, but rather what his reign will be like. It won’t be like the faithless kings that have ruled over God’s people, nor the violent predations of the various empires that will control her destiny after the Assyrians. The suffering servant’s reign is characterized by justice, righteousness, and salvation. Judgment will be rendered, and those that place their trust and hope in his reign will not be disappointed. It is to this promised reign that God’s people are to look. Looking to the earth – to human hope and promise – is foolishness and hopeless disappointing and insubstantial. Only this divine king can promise to rule forever, and to rule perfectly forever.

Psalm 93 – The reign of God is not a future creation but a current reality. While the enemies of God appear to have their sway and rule over creation at the moment, this is an illusion. God’s reign has never ceased, and it can never be disrupted or interrupted. This is not a God who can be imagined or described, so He is described dressed in attributes – majesty and strength. The language of his throne being established means that there is no threat to it, no doubt as to its continued existence. So sure is his reign that not even the wildness of rampaging flood waters can disturb his rule. The waters rise and roar – perhaps in praise of the God who created them? But if they raise their voice to challenge him, God’s voice is without question stronger and more powerful than the mightiest of sounds in all of creation. But when God speaks it isn’t simply meaningless noise, nor is it a rule based in might alone. Rather when the Lord speaks, what He says is true and worthy of trust, and is characteristic of his holiness. As such we need not fear our God, but rather can trust that He will do what is right for his people.

Revelation 1:4b-8 – St. John greets the recipients of his letter, the seven churches addressed in Chapters 2-3. But he addresses them as a man who has seen the glory of God in the heavenly places. He has already composed his Gospel of the life of Jesus, but now he speaks of the glory and majesty of the Godhead unveiled. What John knew from hearing and watching Jesus during his ministry and his death and his resurrection, and from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost has been bolstered by the revelation of mysteries almost too wondrous to describe. He who glimpsed Jesus in his glory on the mountain before his suffering sees him fully in his divine splendor and power. John describes God the Father, then God the Holy Spirit, and finally the visible one – God the Son, Jesus the Christ. He then focuses on Jesus as the one who frees us from our sins by his blood. His suffering and death makes possible our life. For this reason all glory and honor and power belong to him forever. And this reality will be revealed. He is coming, and there won’t be anyone who can claim that they have not witnessed his power and glory. Some will see it in fear and trembling and anger, resolute in their rebellion. Others will see it in hopefulness and joy as the final fulfillment of their lifelong desire. All of this will take place within the context of creation and God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the authors of all creation from start to finish.

Mark 13:24-37 – Many, many, many people have attempted to decipher the signs and symbols Jesus gives in this chapter with an eye towards forecasting the date of his return. Scholars argue and debate about which of his signs are related solely to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and which might be yet to be fulfilled, and much interest is shown in the words of this passage that talk about the celestial bodies. But the last few verses should temper these efforts significantly. The importance about watching is that these signs are not intended to be sufficient to alert us to something new and different, like hearing a car motor coming down the street before we see the car, or noticing a plume of dust being kicked up by an approaching vehicle. If that were the case we could relax in relative ignorance until we noticed the signs and then we could leap up and look busy!

People regularly ask if these are the end times. And of course the answer is yes. But the end times have been going on since Jesus’ ascension. We are to be waiting and watching for our Lord and King to return, for his reign to be fully revealed and completely effective. And we should be fairly confident that if we think we’ve deciphered some secret Scriptural code to triggering his return or identifying the precise timing, we’re undoubtedly wrong.

Rather, our time should be spent in watching and waiting. This doesn’t mean idleness or other odd behavior, but rather in fulfilling to the best of our abilities the summation of the Commandments – to love God and love our neighbor. Doing these things is enough to fill our time and attention so that there isn’t much time left for speculating on the return date of our Lord! Doing these things are the waiting we are to engage in. Active. Full of hope and joy and certainty, despite the situations of the day. This should fill our attention rather than endless talking heads and pundits on talk radio or television news! Our Lord reigns, and we will see that reign very soon! Come Lord Jesus, Come!

Parental Pressure to Pick Progeny

November 16, 2018

In our continuing insistence on perfecting ourselves vicariously through our children, parents in the United States may have a new set of decisions to weigh, once they’ve made the difficult initial decision to utilize in vitro fertilization (IVF) to conceive.

Tests are now available that can alert parents to potential future health risks in their children such as breast cancer and diabetes.  The tests also promise – based on genetic markers – to alert parents if it looks as though one of their fertilized embryos may be at risk for abnormally low intelligence levels.

Just so we’re clear here, these tests can be carried out on fertilized eggs, also known as embryos, also known as teeny tiny little human beings.  It has to be an embryo so that the complete, unique genetic/DNA material is available for analysis, something that is available once an egg is fertilized with a sperm.  It has to wait for fertilization because all the data isn’t there yet otherwise.  It only becomes a unique human being when an egg is fertilized by a sperm.

Which is  why I oppose abortion.  We’re killing human beings.  Distinct from the mother and the father.  Not fingernails or hair clippings or any of the other completely inane nonsense that is sometimes pushed to defend or justify murder.

For further clarity, IVF is expensive and difficult.  For this reason, multiple eggs are culled from the mother and fertilized externally.  Because the process is inherently unstable and risky to the teeny tiny human being, it is standard procedure to create multiple teeny tiny human beings, and then to select the one that seems most  likely to survive implantation back in the mother.

The others can be frozen, but many do not survive this process or face extermination either before  freezing or after thawing.

So we’re dealing with mass murder, but since it’s in order to gain a life in the process, it’s justified by the scientific/medical community.  (If you utilized IVF and these words are painful and convicting, I’m sorry, and I can offer you the assurance that in repentance this sin – as all others – is forgiven by the death of the Son of God, Jesus the  Christ.  I’m happy to talk further with you privately if this would be helpful, just leave me a note here.)

But now, in addition to all of these inherent risks and the lives routinely lost  in the process of conceiving via IVF, parents now are faced with determining which child to choose based on potential  health risks down the line or even based on the fact that their child may not be destined for a PhD at Harvard.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a family.  It’s a lot of pressure for doctors to face as well.  It would be an easy thing to simply cull those less-desirable teeny tiny human beings without even mentioning it to the parents, or simply saying that they were damaged or non-viable.  There’s a lot of pressure to make some very serious decisions about who lives and dies.

Every parent wants a happy and healthy child.  They want a child full of potential who can enjoy life.  But how we define things like full, potential, enjoy, life can get really tricky.

Ultimately, I argue, this is not something designed to empower parents, but designed to empower folks who believe very firmly that the weak shouldn’t survive, that the future of our species – our next evolutionary step if you will – is only possible by eliminating less desirable people.  We can do this through myraid means already, such as voluntary or involuntary sterilization  and abortion.  Tests that have been around for years can alert parents to the risk of mental retardation or physical abnormalities in their unborn child, information that might prompt a frightened couple to opt for an abortion.  But the simpler step to bypass all that queasy moral and ethical stuff about human life is to have it all done behind the scenes.  To simply implement clinical  policies that certain genetic markers should be grounds for automatic destruction of the embryo.  Murder based on possible outcomes that I would argue are still far too fuzzy to be very confident of.

All done in neat, sterile, clinical environments with virtually no evidence or trace of the lives wiped out.

Dangerous stuff, folks.  Well-intentioned at some level, I trust.   But very, very dangerous.

Cute Confusion

November 15, 2018

In the rush to normalize transgenderism, this book has come to the surface for assisting very young children (kindergarten) know how to deal with a classmate who is dealing with what traditionally was known as gender identity disorder but has been reclassified as gender dysphoria.

I appreciate the desire to help children understand how to deal with a classmate who is very different from them.  But I’ve been troubled by the approach of trying to make it seem as though it’s really not a big deal.  Troubled that kindergarten is now a time to talk about sex education and gender identity.  Gender dysphoria is a big deal.  A big deal that requires a lot of love and care, to be sure, but also a big deal that can’t be broken down into cute, easy to present sound bites without doing a lot of potential damage along the way, both to those who think they might suffer from it as well as their peers who don’t.

Here is a helpful review of the book from a medical doctor versed in this topic.  He makes a compelling case that what we don’t say can be as important (and damaging) as what we do say.  In fairness to everyone, we need a way to make sure that everything is communicated rather than dangerously oversimplifying things.

Veterans Day

November 11, 2018

Below is the address President Woodrow R. Wilson delivered to the United States public on the first Armistice Day (now known as Veterans Day), November 11, 1919:

The White House, November 11, 1919. 

A year ago today our enemies laid down their arms in accordance with an armistice which rendered them impotent to renew hostilities, and gave to the world an assured opportunity to reconstruct its shattered order and to work out in peace a new and juster set of international relations. The soldiers and people of the European Allies had fought and endured for more than four years to uphold the barrier of civilization against the aggressions of armed force. We ourselves had been in the conflict something more than a year and a half.

With splendid forgetfulness of mere personal concerns, we remodeled our industries, concentrated our financial resources, increased our agricultural output, and assembled a great army, so that at the last our power was a decisive factor in the victory. We were able to bring the vast resources, material and moral, of a great and free people to the assistance of our associates in Europe who had suffered and sacrificed without limit in the cause for which we fought. 

Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men. 

To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations. 


(Thanks to Wikipedia)

Beautiful words which in hindsight were so very blind to the reality of sin interwoven into the deepest recesses of the hearts and minds of mankind.  I’m grateful for the resolve of men and women who do and have and will serve our country to keep us safe, striving as well to extend the blessings of peace and liberty to other people.  But I don’t trust those good intentions much farther than I can throw them and I trust the lasting results of those intentions even less.  I prefer the words of Psalm 146:

Psalm 146 English Standard Version (ESV)

Put Not Your Trust in Princes

146 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Put not your trust in princes,
    in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
    on that very day his plans perish.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
    the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
    who executes justice for the oppressed,
    who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
    the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners;
    he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
    but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

10 The Lord will reign forever,
    your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!

(Thanks to

Thank you to all who have, do, and will serve.  I’m sorry it’s necessary.  But it is, and will continue to be until the Lord reigns forever and in all places.




Reading Ramblings – November 18, 2018

November 11, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: Twenty sixth Sunday after Pentecost, November 18, 2018

Texts: Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-25; Mark 13:1-13

Context: As we near the end of the liturgical season and cast our eyes more earnestly towards our Lord’s promised return, might there not be some concern about that day? Judgment has a tendency to induce anxiety even when there is no reasonable grounds to be afraid. How many folks instinctively slow down when they see a police car, even if they aren’t speeding? And how much more concerned might we be about judgment, knowing our sinfulness in thought, word and deed? The readings this week emphasize that the return of our Lord and the judgment to follow should not be a cause for alarm or dread for those in Christ. Our great high priest has accomplished on our behalf what we could never do on our own – the complete forgiveness and elimination of our sins and therefore the fear of the Law of judgment under which those sins would place us.

Daniel 12:1-3 – This passage is predicated on the prophecies in Chapter 12, having to do with the end of the Persian Empire, the advent of the Greek expansion under Alexander the Great, and the ensuing struggles for power and control after Alexander dies with no heir and his lands in the Near East are divided between his generals Ptolemy and Seleucus. However Chapter 13 seems to be dealing with other issues, since the sorts of deliverance – particularly bodily resurrections and judgment – are associated with the return of Jesus and yet to come in the future. Without getting into the complicated arena of prophetic interpretation and application, these three verses indicate a climactic struggle, divine assistance and protection, and a bodily resurrection linked with an eternal/everlasting judgment. Some will rise to eternal glory and others to eternal ignomy. The details are vague, but do provide us with hope. As we marvel at the unraveling of our society and culture we should not be surprised. Whether this is a final unraveling heralding the end of the last days and the imminent return of Jesus we cannot know. But we do know that we are to place our faith and trust in him, knowing that regardless of what the world may do to us, God our creator and redeemer has the final word over us, and his final word to us will be Live!

Psalm 16 – A simple contrast is laid out here, between trust in God or trust in worldly sources. The speaker affirms that there can be no safer or better or surer place to rest their trust than in God, and that all who do likewise should be looked up to and imitated. The alternative of placing trust and hope elsewhere (v.4) are certain and unpleasant, and the speaker will not participate with them. Rather, they affirm that God has already blessed them and that further blessings are to come. God therefore will be the source of the speaker’s counsel and wisdom, trusting neither in themselves or alternate options. This reaches a climax in verse 10, where the speaker asserts that not even death can stop God’s blessings, and that blessings will continue despite and beyond death itself. This is a beautiful psalm affirming God’s promises of life and warning of the dangers of placing trust elsewhere.

Hebrews 10:11-25 – Paul (the traditional author if perhaps not the actual author) continues to contrast the perfect and final work of Jesus the Great High Priest as well as spotless and perfect sacrifice. The earthly high priest stands (v.11) but Jesus now sits (v.12) having completed his work perfectly and without need for further work until the completion of all things (vs.13-14). He then quotes Jeremiah 31:33 and Isaiah 43:25 to flesh out the meaning of this – Jesus’ perfect sacrifice perfectly atones for the sins of all. Nothing further is required, or could be added. Such forgiveness is given to any and all who repent and trust that Jesus’ death accomplishes that forgiveness on their behalf. This results in spirits not of fear and guilt but rather boldness (v.19). There is no place that we are barred or prohibited from on account of our sin. Our situation has been completely transformed by the work of our Lord. What a wonderful assurance! What a wonderful hope to share with others and to encourage and build up one another in – and what a beautiful reason to gather together in worship and praise of our God who has accomplished all of these things by his grace and to the glory of his Name!

Mark 13:1-13 – We are impressed by the things we create or that other more gifted (or wealthy!) people are able to accomplish, such as an impressive building like the Second Temple in Jerusalem. While Jesus’ disciples had seen this many times before, it never ceased to be a source of wonder and amazement. But Jesus redirects them. Such awe is properly reserved for God. Not only is He infinite and the one true Creator, but the things we create will all too soon pass away. Jesus responds to awe in the present by prophetically directing his hearers’ eyes forward. The Temple will all too soon be destroyed with literally nothing left of it to revere. As man creates, so man destroys. Only God can create and save from destruction.

This first section of Mark 13 deals prophetically with the Jewish revolt of 67 AD and the ensuing Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. In the midst of all of this his own followers will suffer as well, put on trial and persecuted for testifying to the miracle of his resurrection from the dead. These are all terrifying things but we are not to spend our time anxiously wringing our hands and wondering whether or not we will be able to remain faithful. Rather, we are assured that, just as Jesus’ followers were given the words to say at the proper time, and the faith to remain steady in their proclamation even to death itself, so we can trust that our God will never forsake us.

Jesus’ words can be placed historically in relationship to the first century, but what held true for his followers then is an assurance and encouragement to us now. The terrors we see in our world are nothing new, tragically. Our hope lies not in avoiding these things but rather by enduring to the end (v.13). Our faith and trust and hope lay in Christ alone. And He who has Created and sustained us through out lives will not abandon us at the moment of death, but rather as the true Good Shepherd, He will guard and guide us through death itself to the celebration that awaits on the other side (Psalm 23).

We look forward to the return of Christ. We can do so only by trusting in the perfection of God’s timing, and the perfection of the atoning work of Jesus’ death, testified to by his resurrection. These should be sources of peace and comfort and joy far more than anything that we can do or say or build or buy.

Reading Ramblings – November 11, 2018

November 4, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – November 11, 2018

Texts: 1 Kings 17:8-16; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44

Context: The last three Sundays of the liturgical Church year form a sort of mini-liturgical season. While they are all considered part of Ordinary Time (reckoned with all the other Sundays after Pentecost), their focus is unified in turning our eyes towards what every Christian should be praying and waiting for – the return of our Lord Jesus the Christ in glory to usher in the final judgment of evil and the beginning of a recreated or renewed creation where heaven and earth are brought together again in perfect unity, something lost in Genesis 3 through our willful disobedience of God. This mini-season culminates on the last Sunday of the Church Year traditionally celebrated as Christ the King Sunday. This mini-season also prepares us naturally for the start of the new liturgical calendar and the season of Advent, which focuses us on the promised return of our Lord as we remember how God the Father first fulfilled his promise to Eve with Jesus’ first arrival 2000 years or so ago. The readings for these last three Sundays of the Church year will center around themes of promises fulfilled as we await God the Father’s fulfillment of his final promise to us – that his Son will return.

1 Kings 17:8-16 – Our anticipation of our Lord’s return is an act of faith. It is a direction of our will, our hearts, and our minds in trust of God’s promise to us. The widow in this reading must make a similar act of faith that guides her decisions in very real ways. She and her son face starvation. Apparently with no husband/father to provide for them, they are even more at risk of this as the famine intensifies (17:1). It is the famine that has caused Elijah himself to seek help (17:2-7). Will the woman enjoy her final meal with her son, or will she provide for Elijah’s needs as well? There’s no indication that she knows who he is, or has any reason to think that her decision will mean anything more than quicker death for she and her son. Perhaps Elijah’s clothing gives him away as a prophet. Or perhaps the way he reassures her assists her in her decision. But in the end, she must trust the Word of God that Elijah reveals to her, and order her life accordingly. This is our job in faith as well. We cling to the Word of God alone, rather than rely on the wisdom or assurances of the world. Sometimes this calls us to make difficult decisions. Yet God is faithful in his promises to us. His Son will return. Evil will be judged and the faithful will live in glory. Even when we face death now, we hold fast to this promise as our eyes close for the last time, knowing that they will open once again.

Psalm 146 – I get a kick out of the placement of this reading so close to election time! Our culture and society want us to presume that the answer to all of our problems is to elect this person or this party. We need human leaders and we pray for wise and good ones, but even the best are flawed and sinful just as we are, and are also mortal. The good they do can be undone all too quickly, and the evil they inflict can persist many generations into the future. This psalm is not a call to political inaction or irresponsibility, but a reminder that we, as political creatures, already have a king to whom our ultimate allegiance is due, and who alone can and will fix the problems not only of our culture and world but our own hearts and minds. Only the one who made creation can redeem it and restore it. In the meantime, we pray for faithful men and women to utilize their God-given gifts for service to God’s creation in the manner which God himself directs. We are to pray for their well-being, offer forgiveness for their transgressions, hold them accountable not simply to opinion but to the Law of God, and pray ultimately that they too will join us around the throne of God in praise of him forever.

Hebrews 9:24-28 – We’ve skipped a fair bit of Hebrews in this lectio continua cycle. But these verses fit well the theme of these last three Sundays of the Church year. Jesus in his role as divine high priest is distinguished from human high priests. His divinity ensures that his singular sacrifice is efficacious completely, as opposed to the limited sacrifices made by the high priest annually. And the passage concludes with a pointing forward to our Great High Priests return in glory to save us. Jesus accomplished perfectly the atonement of the world in his death, evidenced by his resurrection from the grave. Final judgment will be the division of the holy – those who have repented and received the atonement in Jesus’ death, from those who have refused it. This is a division only possible to the divine wisdom and authority of God. Until such judgment, we can only speak provisionally as to someone’s eternal destiny as evidenced by their outwards actions and words. Only God knows the heart, and we should be very cautious indeed not to presume that wisdom to ourselves. Rather, we should constantly exhort one another to faith and trust in the sacrifice of Christ and the life and glory that results in such trust.

Mark 12:38-44 – The Gospel lesson challenges our perceptions of reality. Don’t we marvel at the eloquent, the stylish, the movers and shakers of this world? Don’t Christians do this in church culture as well, glorifying the stylish and popular preaching stars or lecture circuit inspirers? Doesn’t everything in our culture these days direct us to be world-changers, risk-takers, trend-setters, culture-influencers? And yet what Jesus sees is not the impact but the heart that offers it. Two small copper pennies are worthy of more note, more praise and notice than all the heavy, clanking offerings of the well-heeled. They give out of their abundance and she from her poverty. It is not the poverty that is admirable, but the trust and thanksgiving to God in the midst of uncertainty and an undoubtedly meager and tenuous existence. Promises are in this text as well. There is a time coming when all will either be commended or condemned, and we are likely to be surprised by who falls into each category. If the pharisees risk condemnation, it seems that the poor woman will likely receive commendation. All of which is predicated on the relationship of that person to God in Christ.

We look forward to our Lord’s return, a time of great celebration bound up with the judgment of evil and the final banishment of sin, death, and Satan. No other event in our lives can compare to what lies always ahead of us, calling our eyes forward towards the horizon. We look towards that day in faith and hope, confident not in ourselves but in the blood of the Son of God and our union with his death and resurrection in our baptism. It is God himself who declares us worthy, not on our own merits but on those of his Son. Our lives become a humble and joyful anticipation then of that coming day. Our joys are received in thankfulness of the greatest joy of forgiveness and grace. Our troubles are endured in light of the promises yet to be fulfilled, and the promise that one day every tear will be dried (Revelation 21:4) and death itself destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26).

St. Meinrad Mass Bread

November 3, 2018

When we bake bread for use in Holy Communion, this is the recipe we’ve used for nearly two decades.  The recipe comes St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana.  I’ve never been there, but I’m grateful for their recipe!

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup regular bread flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 Tablespoons oil (olive or avocado)
  • 3 Tablespoons dark honey
  • 1 1/2 cups water (slightly warm helps)

Add all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and sift well.

Mix the liquid ingredients in a separate bowl and stir until well mixed.

Add the liquid to the flour and knead until a dough effect is attained (I prefer to do this by hand or with a spoon or you could use a mixer – it doesn’t take long).  Knead only until the dough sticks together, then push it out onto a floured surface.  Knead for a few more moments but not too much – the dough should remain a bit tacky after you shape into into a round loaf.

Cut the round loaf of dough into 12 equal pie-shaped sections.  Roll each section into a ball and with a rolling pin, roll out into a circle 6-7 inches in diameter.  Place on a greased baking sheet, score with a cross, and brush with olive oil.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes.  You want them to be just done, not brown and crispy.