Showing posts from February, 2010

There We Meet the Devil

“It is a tricky battle, it is not against flesh and blood. We deal with the superhuman, with the faceless, the contourless, the formless, the nonidentifiable power. All the terror of vagueness, all the terror of the nonmeasurable, the non-calculable, the nonpalpable – that is in this battle … We can identify our adversary only by his grunts and scufflings, only by the loathsome smell of his sweat. We are in the land of senseless panic, of self-generated and self-perpetuating fear, of senseless cowardice and equally senseless self-confidence … Just where we meet the blessing of the elective love of God, there we meet this Satan” (p. 17). Martin Franzmann, Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets.

Jesus in the Desert

Mark 1:1-13 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"-- 3 "a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'" 4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." 9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized…

Just As I Am

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-- this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God-- through…

War in the Wilderness

Luke 4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." 4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone.'" 5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 So if you worship me, it will all be yours." 8 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'" 9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is…

Gazing into the face of God

This is a portion of our Old Testament lesson for Transfiguration Sunday: “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.” Exodus 34:29-30

There's a famous work of art by Michelangelo in which Moses is pictured with horns on his head. Why is that? It's because the Hebrew word for "shine" is the same as the word for "horn," and apparently the Bible which Michelangelo used had translated it as "horn."

“Horn” denotes “power, majesty, authority.” And that’s interesting and all, but why would Moses’ face be shining with power, majesty, authority?

Moses’ face is shining because he is reflecting the glory of the Lord. Moses had been up on Mount Sinai with his Lord receiving the two tablets of the Ten Commandments. Moses had been…

Lutheran Squirrel

We have had a squirrel nesting above our school’s 3rd grade classroom for a while. The kids could hear him walking around on the ceiling tiles. Last week he became very bold and went downstairs into the Preschool classroom in the basement. He crawled through an open ceiling tile and made a mess in the room. Preschool was canceled for two days for our teacher to clean up the mess the squirrel made on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

Over the weekend the squirrel got into the school office and chewed up the bottom of the wooden door to the storage room in the office.

On Sunday morning I was in the school basement where the cafeteria is and where I teach Sunday morning Bible study. It was 20 minutes before church and I was preparing everything for class. I walked over to the piano to get a hymnal. There is a large red barn that the After Care uses that sits on top of the piano. When I approached the piano, something in the barn moved. I looked in the barn window and saw two little beady…

The Ash Wednesday Banner

Growing up, I always found it odd that we worshiped on with an “ashless” Ash Wednesday. The practice at Epiphany for the past few years has been to place a small cross of ashes upon a sackcloth banner during the Ash Wednesday service. That banner stands at the front of the church throughout the Lenten season with crosses made by little children, teenagers, adults and senior citizens. The hundred plus crosses are a weekly reminder of our contrition (sorrow over sins), our humility and our repentance.

The Holy Gospel for Ash Wednesday is Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Pointing to the offense of others, the Pharisee dares to stand before the throne of the almighty God and justify his presence in God’s kingdom. Such self-exalting champions of “righteousness” will be humbled. But those who humble themselves before the Lord’s throne of grace will be justified and declared truly righteous before him.

Luke 18:9-14 To some who were confident of their own righteousness a…

The Serpent on the Cross

This is the Lenten banner we have hanging on the east side of the church. It is the serpent on the cross. Why?

Numbers 21:4-9 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!" 6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us." So Moses prayed for the people. 8 The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.


Ashes of Sorrow

Psalm 51:1 A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

In the Old Testament it was common practice for individuals to show sorrow over sin by wearing sackcloth and sitting in ashes. It was an attempt to show on the outside the misery that was going on inside. As Christians celebrate Ash Wednesday today, we continue to be sorrowful over the sins we have committed.

This evening at Epiphany, you may visibly show the sorrow that is inside by either making the sign of …

A Starting Point

What is the greatest day of your life? The day that was so grand and glorious that you didn’t want it to end? Maybe it was your wedding day or the birth of your first child. Maybe it was seeing your child’s face light up when he saw Mickey Mouse for the first time in Disney World or maybe it was the day your daughter won the State Championship in basketball.

Peter, James and John had a day like that – a day they didn’t want to end. They were up on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus. They saw Jesus transfigured and transformed displaying His glory and splendor as the Son of God. They saw and somehow recognized Moses and Elijah, two of the greatest figures of the Old Testament conversing with Jesus. Peter was so excited at the experience that he didn’t want it to end. He asked Jesus if he should build three shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Although, by his own admission, he didn’t know what he was saying. (But he was Peter, so he had to say something.)

Peter wanted to stay on …

There is only One

Mark 9:2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters-- one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) 7 Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!" 8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

There is only One you can count on. Only One who does not demand your life but gives you His life. Only One who does not lure you into sin but forgives your sin. Only one who does not wait for you to pull yourself up to Him, but who came…

Mountains of Salvation

Luke 9:28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31 appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters-- one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (He did not know what he was saying.) 34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him." 36 When the voice…

Let’s Get Started

The Webster Dictionary defines Stewardship as “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care.”

In terms of our faith-life that means we consider everything that we have (money, possessions, talents) as something that has been entrusted to us by God and that is why it is important for us to be good stewards of all of our resources. It is also why it is important for us to use those resources in God’s ministry.

Generally when we think of Stewardship we think of giving of money to the Church. While that is an important way to support the Church it is not the only way to be a good Steward. Sharing your time and talents with the Church and building and nurturing relationships within the Church are an important part of being a good Steward. The opportunities can be as simple as helping with ushering or cleaning the church as mentioned by Scott Martyn the other day or you can talk t…

Don't be afraid to follow Jesus

Luke 5:10-11 Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

These fishermen just had a miraculous catch of fish. They were not afraid to leave it all behind to follow Jesus. They left everything. Everything!

What are you afraid of? That following Jesus will be too costly? That growing in your faith will make you different from everybody else? That allowing Jesus Christ to deepen your understanding will change you too drastically? That following Jesus too closely will mean dark, scary, intimidating places? That we will be asked to deny ourselves and forsake worldly pleasures? That Jesus will tell you to go back out on the water? Perhaps we are tired. Perhaps we are skeptical. Perhaps we want to catch some shut-eye instead. Perhaps we are just plain afraid.

But Jesus is calling. Calling to forsake old, familiar ways for adventures bold and new. To go on roads we’ve n…

Jesus walks into everyday lives

Jesus walked into their everyday lives. Today we like to keep the sacred and secular separate. Jesus walked into the workplace of Simon and the Sons of Thunder Fishing Company. He showed His power with a miraculous catch of fish. Peter recognized his sinfulness and begged for forgiveness.

At that moment Peter realized something – just how sinful he really was. Peter was a sinful man at home, sinful at work and sinful during his time off. And then Jesus walked in.

We, like Peter, need Jesus' amazing, forgiving power in every moment in our lives. We cannot keep Him hidden away while we are at work. We must let our Light shine. We cannot leave Jesus outside when we enter our homes. We must season our speech with Salt. Nor do we only allow Jesus to affect a change in our hearts and lives during the few hours we are in church. We must welcome Him to come into every aspect of our lives.

Jesus wants to walk in. In while we are fishing, hunting or golfing. In when we are on the road, in…

Peter's Miraculous Catch of Fish

A portion of Martin Luther’s sermon on Luke 5:1-11 plus my own comments:

"And although God is near us and will give us what we need, yet he requires on our part both work and hope, even if he delay for a time; therefore he gives Peter here a catch of fishes and says: 'Put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch.'"

"As if the Lord would say: Let down the nets, and do the work that belongs to a fisherman, and let me care for the rest. The care or solicitude shall not be thine but mine, and the work thine."

How true Luther is. Too often we want the work to be God’s and His alone, while we sit on the sideline. Then we want the worry and care to be our own because God isn’t doing what we want when we want. But Jesus shows us that He only calls us to be faithful. "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." We listen and we do His work. And we leave the results of the work up to Him.

When we are talking church work, ofte…

Istanbul not Constantinople

We had a 7 hour layover in Istanbul on the way to Israel. All anybody from my generation could think of was the They Might Be Giants song, Istanbul not Constantinople.

We were able to get out and see a few sights, spend a few minutes in the Open Market, and eat some scewered chicken with baclava and turkish coffee for dessert. We were able to walk around for a few minutes in the shops before we had to go back to the airport. One of the clerks tried selling Pastor Pagel a Tree of Life rug made from camel hair. All the other rugs were $350. This one was $1250! But Pastor Pagel was able to get the price down to $350. Still no sale.

After flying out of Cairo we spent 6 hours in the Istanbul airport napping, playing sheepshead and going through lots of security. Then we flew 12 hours back to the states.

Some interesting statistics - at least to me. We left our hotel at 12:30 am on Friday and landed in Chicago at 4:30 pm on Friday. That doesn't sound bad except for the 8 hour time d…

Waiting for the Lord

Waiting is hard. It is difficult to wait for the cancer treatments to be over. It is tough to wait to finally get home from the hospital. When we are on our deathbed, it may seem like an eternity waiting for eternity.

David asked, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1)

Then David answered his own question, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6)

Waiting is OK. God is always on time.


We spent two days in Egypt after an 8 hour drive through the Sinai Peninsula and the Dessert of Sin (the Sinai Dessert). I was hoping to be able to get up at midnight to climb to the top of Mt. Sinai, but that wasn’t on our itinerary. Sinai means “tooth.” Sinai isn’t a single mountain, but an entire range of mountains, that look like “teeth.” The Red Sea has two arms to it, one arm flows on either side of Sinai – Agaba and Suez.

Egypt is a very ancient country, with some artifacts we saw dating back 3,000-5,000 years! Egypt has an interesting religious culture. They had worshiped their rulers as gods, as well as other gods like Ra, the sun god who had the head of a falcon or Anubis, who had the head of a jackal. There had been a small Jewish population in Egypt after the time of Jeremiah when Jewish exiles were given refuge in Egypt. This Jewish settlement would have been where Joseph and Mary fled with the baby Jesus when they escaped King Herod’s wrath.

Christian tradition records tha…

Day 6 – Jerusalem, David’s City, Bethlehem

We went to the remnants of the supporting wall and David’s palace in the original city of David. It is much smaller than I imagined. Only 3,000 to 5,000 people lived inside the city walls at the height of the city’s glory.

After King David came his son, King Solomon. Solomon was the one who built the Temple of the Lord. After Solomon, the kingdom was split into two – the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Northern Kingdom was eventually captured and the inhabitants taken captive by the Assyrians under King Sennacherib. An angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 in the Assyrian camp and his remaining men did not immediately attack Judah. (1 Kings 19)

King Hezekiah of the Southern Kingdom of Judah worked at building a thick city wall to protect Jerusalem from an invasion by the Assyrians. Hezekiah then had an underground tunnel built to divert water so that if there was an attack, the Jews and their water would remain safe inside the walls. Two crews set out …