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Category Archives: The Bible

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Biblical Cudgel

A commentary on this, the stupidest tweet of December 2018, which sadly, will be followed by an even stupider tweet…

As seen on the Internet…

She is a blithering, clueless idiot. I am just as fascinated (analogous to watching a train wreck) by the spectacular idiocy of the district that elected this glittering jewel of colossal ignorance as I am a political party that elevates and celebrates this piece of work.

All of that said, I have heard this Jesus was a refugee assertion from scripture many times as not only a justification for open borders, but used as cudgel to beat those who disagree. As one would expect, I have heard this many times before this now semi famous tweet, given the fact the Congress Woman elect is clearly incapable of an original thought. Just as often, actually more so, I have heard Matthew 25:35-40 used as a proof text for unsustainable (usually socialist) government programs like Medicare for all.

For almost 20 years of ordination I have been confronted with the stupidity of those who want to rip what they want the Bible to say from any possible defensible exegesis or hermeneutic. I have absolutely no problem with someone who sees or interprets scripture differently than I do. In fact, I have learned to benefit greatly from those with whom I most disagree theologically. This kind of utter nonsense is insufferable.

I have no tolerance for unbelieving socialists like the jackass Congress woman elect who wants to use the Bible as a weapon when they otherwise have contempt for the Bible and even more contempt for those who seek to live by the authority of Scripture.

Just once, I would like to see an otherwise unsuspecting TV host turn to an idiot like this and say something like, “I appreciate that you hold the Bible in high enough esteem to impose your theological point of view on the rest of us. Given your point of view that public policy and moral authority should be in fidelity with the Bible, I trust that you oppose gay marriage given Romans 1:26-27. I fully expect that you are pro life given the words of Jeremiah 1:5. However, I am a bit confused given your socialist leanings. Can you help me reconcile the authority you see in Matthew 25:35-40 with what is written in Matthew 7:15-24; especially as these words inform your own Christian faith and practice?”

Just once, I would like to see that scene unfold when one of these socialists start quoting scripture.

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Posted by on December 26, 2018 in Liberals, Socialism, The Bible

 

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You Know You Live In A Country Run By Idiots If….

Received via e-mail…

You Know You Live In A Country Run By Idiots If….

…A Muslim Army officer crying “Allah Akbar” while shooting up an army base and killing 13 soldiers is considered to have committed “Workplace Violence” while an American citizen boasting a Ron Paul bumper sticker is classified as a “Domestic Terrorist”.

….You can get arrested for expired tags on your car but not for being in the country illegally.

….Your government believes that the best way to eradicate trillions of dollars of debt is to spend trillions more of our money.

….A seven year old boy can be thrown out of school for calling his teacher “cute” but hosting a sexual exploration or diversity class in grade school is perfectly acceptable.

….The Supreme Court of the United States can rule that lower courts cannot display the 10 Commandments in their courtroom, while sitting in front of a display of the 10 Commandments.

….Children are forcibly removed from parents who appropriately discipline them while children of “underprivileged” drug addicts are left to rot in filth infested cesspools.

….Working class Americans pay for their own health care (and the health care of everyone else) while unmarried women are free to have child after child on the “State’s” dime ($six figures) while never being held responsible for their own choices (incentive to breed built into system).

….Hard work and success are rewarded with higher taxes and government intrusion, while slothful, lazy behavior is rewarded with EBT cards, WIC checks, Medicaid and subsidized housing, and free cell phones.

….The government’s plan for getting people back to work is to provide 99 weeks of unemployment checks (to not work).

….Being self-sufficient is considered a threat to the government.

….Politicians think that stripping away the amendments to the constitution is really protecting the rights of the people.

….The rights of the Government come before the rights of the individual.

….Parents believe the State is responsible for providing for their children.

….You pay your mortgage faithfully, denying yourself the newest big screen TV while your neighbor defaults on his mortgage (while buying iPhones, TV’s and new cars) and the government forgives his debt and reduces his mortgage (with your tax dollars).

….Your government can add anything they want to your kid’s water (fluoride, chlorine, etc.) but you are not allowed to give them raw milk.

….Being stripped of the ability to defend yourself makes you “safe”.

….You have to have your parents signature to go on a school field trip but not to get an abortion.

….An 80 year old woman can be strip searched by the TSA but a Muslim woman in a burka is only subject to having her neck and head searched.

h/t runt-of-the-web.com

 

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The Reason For The Season

The Gospel According to Luke: Chapter 1

Introduction

1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Mary’s Song

46And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

The Birth of John the Baptist

57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

Zechariah’s Song

67His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

The Gospel According to Luke: Chapter 2

The Birth of Jesus

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

The Gospel of Our Lord

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2011 in The Bible

 

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Sermon – 07/17/2011

On 07/17/2011, I was again honored to be asked to lead the services at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Cape Girardeau, MO.  With a focus on the Gospel of Matthew 13:24-30/36-43, I prepared and delivered the following sermon to the glory of God!

Matthew 13:24-30/36-43

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

36Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

h/t AAA Jack's Blog

The Sermon

Pastor probably already mentioned that the 13th Chapter of Matthew is a chapter of parables – seven of them: The Parable of the Sower; The Parable of the Weeds; The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast; The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl; and The Parable of the Net. Our Lord Jesus called them “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven”.

These parables, according to Scofield’s Reference Notes, “describe the result of the presence of the Gospel in the world during the present age, that is, the time of seed sowing which began with our Lord’s personal ministry, and ends with the ‘harvest’.”

Mark and Luke have their own, more concise, versions of the 13th Chapter. The 8th Chapter of Mark and the 4th Chapter of Luke share some of the same parables. Those Books included two additional parables that were not included in the 13th Chapter of Matthew: The Parable of the Revealed Light and The Parable of the Fruitful Earth. I count 9 in total.

At this time in His ministry, Jesus is traveling and ministering in Galilee. These parables were spoken on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and this teaching takes place between the 2nd and 3rd Passover Feasts of His ministry. More than ‘The Twelve’ were regularly traveling with Him, and the Gospel of Luke goes so far as to list three of the women: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna.

The Chapter begins with Jesus leaving the house and sitting by ‘the lake’. He then boarded ‘a boat’ to be heard by the large crowd that had gathered. In other versions of The Bible, ‘the lake’ is ‘the sea’ (The Sea of Galilee) and ‘a boat’ is ‘a ship’. I wondered whose house he had left, and found in my readings, that it was the house of Peter.

In my last sermon, I calculated that Peter was speaking to at least 3001 people at the Pentecost of Jesus’ death and resurrection, so we could probably surmise that a similar or larger crowd would gather to hear Jesus’ words – especially this far into His divine ministry. Several times throughout His ministry, Jesus boarded a boat (or a ship) to better be heard by the crowds. I’ve read of natural amphitheaters along the sea in Galilee that would amplify Jesus voice to be heard by the thousands gathered.

What kind of people do you think were in this crowd? Pharisees? Sadducees? Wealthy landowners? Military men? Probably not many. The crowd was likely made up of peasants, workers, slaves, small farmers, merchants, and entertainers. However, our story today is based around the activities of a wealthy landowner.

He had fields and barns; he had slaves, servants and harvesters. He had a lot of land and was likely very wealthy.

And…he sowed some seeds.

Now, I’m not a wealthy owner of fields, and the only garden I have is one of those upside-down tomato plants. But, I’ve sure spread my share of grass seed around the yard, and I’ve seen exactly the results that Jesus describes in last week’s Parable of the Sower. Some of it fell on the sidewalk, and of course, the Robins ate it. Some fell right next to the driveway, and it grew fast. But it didn’t have room to spread out its roots, so it died. Some fell next to the weeds, and the sun never had a chance to make them grow. And some fell in the front yard on good soil, and grew a beautiful lawn… …this past spring… …but is now arid, dry and dying in the hot summer sun.

I’ve also had a similar horticultural experience to today’s Parable of the Weeds. I think it was in in 2007. I did everything I knew to do. I used a 25-Gallon sprayer on the back of a 4-wheeler to kill the weeds; I waited; I put down the Weed and Feed; I waited; I put down the grass seed; I watered; I watered; and I watered. Then as the summer went along, a beautiful dark green grass spread across the lawn. I watered some more. One of my neighbors commented about how nice the lawn looked. But as time went along, I became unhappy with how the grass grew. It grew sideways across the lawn. It was so thick that I had to keep cutting it higher and higher. It sent shoots over the sidewalks and the driveway. It had ugly seed pods that quickly shot above the growth line of the rest of the grass. I, like the servants, wondered what kind of grass seed I had sown.

I turned to the Master – in this case, the Internet. I pulled up pictures of grass, and quickly found that I was the proud owner of a lawn filled with Crabgrass. For all my 40+ years, I was absolutely sure that Crabgrass was this other horrible thing that I had seen from time to time. I too couldn’t tell the difference between the good grass and the Crabgrass until well after it had grown throughout the lawn.

The positive side of that story?!?! …my neighbor obviously didn’t know it Crabgrass was either.

The weeds of today’s parable are also called “Tares” or darnel (in Latin: Lolium temulentum). It’s a poisonous weed that is actually related to wheat and looks just like wheat in the early stages of its growth. Its poisonous properties are believed to come from a fungus that, when poisoned, gives on a feeling of drunkenness. It can cause death.

Matfran, a Biblical commentator, notes that to sow darnel amongst a person’s wheat was punishable under Roman Law, and this parable may well have been drawn directly from events which were known to most of Jesus’ hearers.

Considering that rival farmers often feuded at the time, it is not surprising that Roman law would specifically forbid sowing such poisonous plants in another’s field. If you found an abundance of such weeds in your field, you would certainly suspect your enemy’s hand.

One can easily see that the Wealthy Landowner would blame an enemy. He certainly cannot sell poisonous weeds among his good grain. Let’s not poison our customers, eh.

At this point, it would be very helpful if I were a well-studied Pastor or other theologian that had much much more knowledge of Scripture… …because as I studied for today’s sermon, I came across two different interpretations of The Parable of the Weeds. If I was more learned, I could better discern the correct interpretation and discuss it with you. So indulge me and we’ll review them both, and we can decide for ourselves.

The difference in the interpretations was centered on Jesus’ explanation of today’s parable in verse 38. Specifically verse 38 starts with the words, “the field is the world”.

  • Most of the interpretations I reviewed considered ‘the field’ to be the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth – in other words, The Church. It was the seed that God, through Jesus, spread during his ministry on Earth.
  • The other interpretation considered ‘the field’ to be, literally, the World.

Well, if ‘the field’ is only those within The Church, then we better start looking at who’s sitting here today, cause we’ve got some weeds within our mix. I immediately thought of Phil… …just kidding.

I could certainly be that weed in our midst. With the thoughts that go through my head regarding Christianity and religion-in-general, I could easily find myself to be judged as a weed if today were the harvest and the end of the age.

Maybe it’s all of us. The Central States Synod of the ELCA certainly may think that all of us here at St. Mark are weeds; the Baptists over the hill may think we are weeds because we don’t practice full immersion baptism; the Catholics may think we are weeds because we don’t engage in priestly confession.

Maybe it’s all of them. I disagree with churches that don’t practice open communion. Does that make them the weed?

Pick any reason or difference between two Christians, two church buildings, or two denominations, and you can call out the other as weeds. The interpretation of the words in verse 38 as ‘the field’ meaning ‘the church’ is as correct as the other, but it sets up an environment where one person or one group might (incorrectly) judge another.

I have to say that I agree more with the second interpretation – that ‘the field’ is, literally, the World. We know that God’s realm, God’s kingdom, and God’s might rules over and includes all of the earth – indeed over all Space and Time. So, when Jesus sowed the seeds, he sowed them throughout the Earth, not just in the burgeoning Christian Church. And, the evil one came in the night and sowed the weeds… ..throughout the Earth.

And for all the time that man and woman shall inhabit the Earth, the weeds sown by the evil one will dwell among us. Or, if we are weeds, we shall dwell among the good seeds sown by Jesus. The Master has chosen to let us be until the time of the harvest.

There is a big omission in the explanation of this parable if you take the good seed versus the tares too literally. Without some serious and quick evolutionary steps, the good seeds cannot turn into the tares, and the tares cannot turn into the good seeds.

But, that is not true for the human race, and that is the part of the parable that Jesus did not explain. Men and women have the unique opportunity to turn away from the evil of being a weed and turn toward the righteousness of being the good seed. In other words, we can become children of the kingdom if we, simply, believe. That’s all we can do is believe. We are still sinners, but, if we believe, the rest is done for us through God’s infinite love and grace. That’s good news.

And, even better news is that through our work here at St. Mark Lutheran Church, we can become a big part of that evolution of turning others from the evil of the weed toward the Kingdom on Earth. And guess what, our part in this transformation is written on the front of our bulletins, and we talk about it every week.

Our mission is to: Celebrate the Word of God and Respond to Human Need.

By celebrating the Word of God and responding to human need, we can be that community of believers that awakens the bad seeds to the truth of God, Jesus and everlasting life. Through our efforts and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can be like that light that is shining at the end of the age – a beacon that helps to draw those planted by the evil one to the love and abundance of our one God.

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2011 in Miscellaneous, The Bible

 

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St. Mark Lutheran Church – Sermon – 05/15/11

Once or twice per year, I am honored to be asked to compose and deliver the Sunday Sermon at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Cape Girardeau, MO.  Last weekend, I gave the Sermon on Acts 2: 42-47.  I am not a Theologian nor have I attended or graduated from Seminary.  Thus, it is quite a challenge to study and prepare a Sermon… …and I really enjoy it!

Below is the Epistle Lesson followed by the Sermon:

Acts 2: 42-47

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The Sermon

So, I was reading the Lessons for this week, and yes, I feel I’m supposed to speak about the Gospel, but I could NOT stop focusing on the lesson from Acts.  The knee-jerk questions started flying as I read through that lesson:

  • What kinds of ‘wonders and signs’?
  • What is ‘everything in common’?
  • Verse 45 “…anyone who had need” Who?  The Jews?  The Pharisees?  The Gentiles?
  • Verse 47 “…enjoying the favor of all the people“.  What people?  The Jews?  The Pharisees?   Gentiles?  Samarians?
  • What happened to the powers that were granted to the Apostles?  Why weren’t they passed on to future generations?
  • Why did the fellowship end?

For the scripture readings, I try to build in my head a picture or a film or a video of the scene and the actions and the dialogue, and this week, the reading from Acts really came to life.  Then I read the verses that surround today’s reading.  And Verse 41, directly before today’s reading, REALLY brings the picture to life.

41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.     

In Acts 1, we are told that there were about 120 of them – the believers.  That’s, what, about twice as many as we average here on a given Sunday.  Can you imagine Pastor Malone giving such a great sermon, and with the work of the Holy Spirit, 3000 new souls being baptized and added to our numbers in one day?  Imagine every man, woman, and child from Chaffee, MO joining St. Mark Lutheran Church in one day!

I doubt today’s sermon is going to have that affect.

Pentecost is not for a few weeks (June 12th), so it seems were are getting ahead of ourselves.  But, the scene from today’s reading starts shortly after the Apostles spoke in tongues and on the same day as that 1st Christian Pentecost.  Then, the lesson gives us a view of the next few weeks going forward.  I picture the center of Jerusalem, a busy city with thousands of people teeming with merchants, guards, commoners, religious types – all that going on before Pentecost.  Then, the Holy Spirit descends upon the Disciples, and they start speaking in tongues.h/t http://www.speaking-in-tongues.net/

A crowd gathers.  I always imagined that crowd to have been a hundred or so people, but now I know that’s not possible.  I would think the crowd had to be at least 4,000… …at the very minimum, 3001.  I picture Peter practically screaming to be heard by that mass of people – especially at first when they were grumbling about the Disciples being drunk on “new wine”.

Peter stood up and spoke with great conviction.  In his Sermon, he quoted the Prophet Joel, admonished the Jews for putting Jesus to Death, and quoted King David.

And then, those who accepted his message were baptized – 3000 of them.  How many didn’t accept his message?  Based on the wording, some didn’t accept his message.  Some Americans don’t believe NASA landed on the moon.  90% do.  So that ratio would mean that at least 3,333 were listening to Peter.  As of 2009, 79% of Americans believe Jesus rose from the dead.  That ratio would mean about 4,000 were listening to Peter on that first Christian Pentecost.

So, the crowd he spoke to must have been massive, and with 3,000 added to their numbers (and more every day), I see an enormous logistics problem.  And, I don’t see UPS showing up in brown vans to deliver food, water, and other necessities to the Temple.

I see the Temple and Solomon’s colonnade bustling with the newly faithful. I imagine them praying and celebrating the word of God and the Resurrection of Jesus.  I envision people coming and going to and from their homes bringing food, money, and property.  I see Apostles teaching, but also directing, planning, organizing, leading, controlling and appointing other faithful to ensure that this new church can devote itself to the Apostle’s teachings.  All that activity and hustle and bustle is in this scene in my head.

And finally, we are here at Verse 42 with my list of questions:

My first question was ‘What kinds of wonders and signs?

It was fairly easy to locate some specific examples of what we would generally consider wonders and signs.  We think miracles:

  • Peter curing a man unable to walk: Acts 3:1-10
  • Peter causing Tabitha (Dorcas) to rise from the dead: Acts 9:36-10:1
  • Philip dispossessing unclean spirits and healing the paralyzed and lame: Acts 8:5-7

But, I learned that the real wonder and awe goes to the Holy Spirit and the evidence of its presence in the budding the Church.  The fact that so many people believed the teachings of the Apostles in such a short period of time is truly a wondrous and miraculous occurrence.

My next question was of a suspicious nature, “What is this ‘everything in common’?”

Well, it was exactly what it said. Those who had plenty and those who had little sold their possessions and brought them to the Apostles to be included in the common purse.  The Disciples and Jesus kept a common purse, and other groups of Jews used the same practice long before the advent of this Christian Church.  So, this was not exactly new.

But being who I am, my brain immediately saw this as a verse that would be quoted by the Marxists and Communists as biblical evidence that supported their causes.  I could see being admonished to give up the products of my labors to the government because, “What Would Peter Do?”  But, I quickly learned that this commonality was different.  It was not coerced at the end of a gun nor through law or guilt.  Each man or woman made the choice regarding their possessions as the Holy Spirit worked within them.

In Verse 45 & 47, my questions were “Who is this… …anyone who had need?” and “What people were they … … enjoying the favor of”.

William Willimon wrote that “Certainly, Luke makes a makes a distinction between what is said to outsiders and what is proclaimed within the ongoing life of the church.  Far from any modern mushy ‘inclusiveness,’ Luke is quite careful to separate those on the inside, who know, from those on the outside, who do not know.”

Regarding “anyone who had need,” Luke is describing the activities of and within the fellowship, not the beginnings of social ministry.

And, considering in Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested by “the [chief] priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees,” we know that they weren’t enjoying the favor of those people.  (There’s also that little thing where Stephen becomes the 1st martyr in Acts 6.)  Again, Luke was describing the activities within the budding church when they were “praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.”

What happened to the powers that were granted to the Apostles?  Why weren’t they passed on to future generations?

A more knowledgeable person than me could write a book on this subject, but from my readings, put simply, the miraculous powers given to the first Apostles died out with the first Apostles.  Why?  God’s choosing.

It seems that God through Jesus entrusted the 12 Disciples with divine powers and with or through those Apostles to Stephen, Phillip, Paul and Barnabas.  But that seems to be all.  There is discussion of wonders and signs being performed at churches in the absence of the Apostles, but to a lesser extent.

The greatest level and number of miracles were performed during the times of Jesus and immediately following through his first Apostles and a few chosen others.  God chose to use the miracles performed by Jesus and the Apostles to glorify Himself through Jesus and the Apostles.

Additionally, there were many times throughout the Old Testament where there were a greater or lesser number of miracles being performed by God, His Prophets (major and minor), and His believers.  So, it stands to reason that the level and number of miracles would seriously increase during the magnificent event where God, through Jesus, frees us from the bonds of sin… …and then decrease from there.

And my final knee-jerk question was, “Why did the Fellowship end? 

Reading in Acts Chapter 8, we get a pretty good description of why the Fellowship ended.  After Stephen’s sermon and martyrdom, “a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. […] 3But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.”

So that was it; the end of the Jerusalem Fellowship; the end of the great Christian Communion; the end of the Temple Community on Solomon’s Porch.  You might even call it the true end of the Resurrection Pentecost.

There was actually one more question that I had, but it seemed a bit more thoughtful and less knee-jerk.

In what ways is the Fellowship present in today’s time?”

Was the “Great Persecution” the end of the Fellowship?  Did Saul’s attack on the Christian Communion succeed? That wasn’t it; was it? That wasn’t the end.

For in the very next verse, we hear “4Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”

And with that, you can draw a straight line from Jerusalem to Cape Girardeau, MO and all points beyond.  This wasn’t the end; it was the beginning.  It was the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, with Its Divine power, leading the people out of Jerusalem to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.

It was the Advent of our Christian Religion and Faith.  It was the beginning of the Community of St. Mark Lutheran Church in Cape Girardeau, the Communion of our members, and the Fellowship of our believers.

We see the power of that 1st Pentecost all the time here at St. Mark:

  • Every week in the Sanctuary
  • Every month on Sweet Sunday in the Fellowship hall
  • At Spirit Club
  • WELCA
  • Dorcas Circle

I have felt the power of the Holy Spirit in the St. Mark Community since I returned to the area in 2006.  When I arrived, I often cried in the pew in sorrow and despair, and the St. Mark Community in the Sanctuary lifted me with Song and The Word.  I have laughed time and again with different members of the St. Mark Community as we have worked in the Glory of God.  I have felt the pain as we have lost loved ones and watched with pride as we’ve supported those left behind.  I have seen the power of the Holy Spirit as we have cared for those within the St. Mark Community.  And I’ve known that if I was one of those seriously in need, the St. Mark Community was ready and willing to help.  That is the evidence 1st of the days of the Christian Church that I’ve seen at St. Mark.

And I know… …we can grow the St. Mark Community in the same way the Christian Community at Jerusalem grew after that first Resurrection Pentecost – with the divine aid of the Holy Spirit.  In business, they say, “If you aren’t growing; you’re dying.”  St. Mark is certainly not dying.  So I know, as we go outside of our Community at St. Mark, we can count on the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we spread the Good News of Jesus Christ; and we can rely the fact that, as we tell others about God’s Grace, He will “add to our numbers daily”.

Let us Pray,

Lord, thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit and its guidance over the ages.  Help us to rely on its power to continue to strengthen the Community at St. Mark in both love and numbers.  Keep us on the right path so that we may find that gate to everlasting life.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2011 in Miscellaneous, The Bible

 

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Sermon – 11/28/2010

On 11/28/2010, I was honored to be asked to lead the services at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Cape Girardeau, MO.  With a focus on the Gospel of Matthew 24:36-44, I prepared and delivered the following sermon to the glory of God!

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When I prepare for the Sermon, I take the opportunity to read about the origin of the Book of Gospel for the day.  Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about Mark and Luke, and this week, I took time to study the origin of the Gospel of Matthew.

Scholars disagree somewhat on when the book of Matthew was written and how it came about.  Why be an expert if you’re only going to agree with all the other experts?

Almost universally though, scholars agree that the book of Matthew is based on the book of Mark.  The similarities of the time-line and the events documented are among the evidence that testify to Mark being basis of Matthew.  There’s also the little fact that, with the exception of small portions of 7 of Mark’s Chapters, the entire contents of the Gospel of Mark are found in the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew was one of Jesus’ 12 Disciples, but there is a consensus that he did not write the book.  Some say he may have written a Gospel in Aramaic or Hebrew, but I learned earlier that the whole of the New Testament was written in Greek.  So, since the Gospels, when Canonized, were written in Greek, how could Matthew write this Gospel – named for him?

Scholars’ such as J.C. Fenton view the text in Matthew as written by one who did not witness the events first-hand.  He writes, “…the changes which he [the writer of Matthew] makes in [or from] Mark’s way of telling the story are not those corrections which an eyewitness might make in the account of one who was not an eyewitness.”  Mark, too, was not an eyewitness to the acts of our Lord.

As far as the time the Book of Matthew was written, the writer does not directly give us a date.  To determine its date of writing, scholars study the references to world events and the existence of certain items in the world.  For example, without a document being dated, if it referred to the destruction of the Towers of Gotham, you’d know we were at least talking about 9/11/2001.  Similar references in Matthew allude to a certain time after Jesus’ death.  For example, in Matthew 22:7, “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” This is believed to be a reference to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70.

Not only do Scholars review the text itself, they review other documents and their reference to the Gospel of Matthew.  So, if we know that Mark was written in AD 65, and we believe the Gospel of Matthew was written based on the Gospel of Mark, we probably know it wasn’t written until several years after AD 65.  They didn’t upload the Gospel of Mark to the Internet for Matthew’s writer to review the next day.

Again, according to J.C. Fenton, “The earliest surviving writings which quote this Gospel are probably the letters of Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch, who, while being taken as prisoner from the East to Rome about A.D. 110, wrote to various churches in Asia in Asia Minor and to the church at Rome. Ignatius refers to the star which appeared at the time of the birth of Jesus, the answer of Jesus to John the Baptist, when he was baptized, and several sayings of Jesus which are recorded only in this Gospel (12:33, 15:13, 19:12). It seems almost certain that Ignatius, and possibly the recipients of his letters also, knew this Gospel, and thus that it [the Gospel] was written before A.D. 110.”

So, there we have it – sometime after AD 65 and before AD 110.  With that and other information, the Scholars infer that the Gospel of Matthew was written around AD 80.

Why was the Gospel of Mark written?

Professor Barry Smith of Crandall University tells us, “It is safe to say that the author of the Gospel of Matthew aimed to bring together material in order to write a more comprehensive gospel than that of the Gospel of Mark. His emphasis on the fact that Jesus’ ministry fulfilled scripture and his inclusion of units of Jesus’ teaching that was only fully understandable by and of interest to Jews seems to indicate that he intended to write a gospel for a Jewish readership, rather than a gentile one.”

http://www.abu.nb.ca/courses/ntintro/Matt.htm

That’s a short Who, What, When, and Why of the Gospel of Mark.  But, another ‘Why’ question I have today is…

Why are we talking about the second coming of the Son of Man on the 1st Sunday in Advent?  Today is the 1st Sunday in the Church Year.  Today, we start the preparation for the coming of the newborn Christ.  Today, we lit the 1st candle of the Advent Wreath.  Today, we sing songs of the Advent season.  Today, we think of the coming stories of Mary and the Holy Spirit; of Joseph and the Innkeeper.

Today. Today. Today. Today. Today.

I can see why we’d be talking about the 2nd coming of the Son of Man and the ‘End of Times’ last week.  It was the last Sunday of the Church Year.  It was the time to talk about the ‘End’!  But, why this week?  Why today?

One reason this text might come up in the 1st week of Advent is that, if you take it completely out of context, if you don’t think about it being part of the Jesus’ ministry, if you pretend that it was said years earlier, you could almost see the Prophet Isaiah or the Prophet Jeremiah giving us the exact same warning about the coming Messiah.  When I read the words, and think of it from an Old Testament perspective, I feel it could be said about the coming Messiah – not said by the Messiah.

Additionally, the word “Advent” is from the Latin word “Adventus”, which in English is the word, “come”.  The computer tells us that the word “come” occurs 1462 times in the Scriptures – more than a 1000 times in the Old Testament and more than 400 times in the New Testament.

The single word, “come”.

“Advent” simply means “to come”.  And, if we apply that translation to our text for today, we see even more clearly how it relates to today’s celebration:

37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the Advent of the Son of Man.

39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the Advent of the Son of Man.

42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what is the hour of your Lord’s Advent.

Be it his birth Advent or his Advent as Judge (the Second Coming), today’s text admonishes us to be ready – Today!

The time of Matthew’s writing is believed to be shortly after the destruction of Temple Mount in Jerusalem… …with ‘not one stone left upon another’.  The destruction was so great many of that day felt this was the Second Coming, the Second Advent, of the Son of Man.  Do you think they were prepared?

As I prepare a sermon, I read the verses that surround today’s Gospel. I was reminded of the events I’m seeing in the world today.

Beginning in Chapter 24, Verse 4, Jesus said, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. 5For many will come in my name, saying, “I am the Messiah!” and they will lead many astray. 6And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars… …for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: 8all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

Is it true that some have already been led astray?  I can’t see any answer but “Yes!”  Are some following a false Messiah?  A false God?  In my opinion, absolutely!

In the days of these writings, you would only hear about the wars (and rumors thereof).  There were no Newspapers, Televisions or the Internet to spread the 24/7 news.  Today we hear about wars daily, even hourly, from the Koreas to Afghanistan to Iraq.  We read of the earthquakes, the tsunamis, and the famine.  Do the people in these nations think this is the Second Coming of the Son of Man?  Do you think the people in those lands are prepared?

In Verse 9, Jesus said, 9‘Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name.”

How often in today’s times do we hear news stories about how Christians are persecuted and killed?

  • Five suicide bombers stormed the Iraqi Catholic cathedral, Our Lady of Salvation, on October 31st, killing 56 Christians and 12 others.
  • On November 10th, in another attack on Christians, 11 roadside bombs exploded in three areas of Baghdad killing five people.
  • Christians are persecuted in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Jordan

I wonder, as I read these headlines, what the Christians in these nations are thinking as they read the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 24?  Are these the birth pangs foretold being felt in the year 2010?  Is this the persecution that was prophesied?  Do you think they are prepared for the Second Coming?

We, in America, Europe and similar countries are tremendously fortunate.  When tragic events strike such as the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, we recover quickly.  In other lands such as Haiti and Indonesia, earthquakes and tsunamis bring on misery for years.  Do we in America see such events as portends of the Second Coming?  Do those Christians in Haiti and Indonesia?  Do you think they are prepared?  Do you think we are prepared?

So, why, as we prepare for the birth Advent of our Lord, do we, at the same time, admonish ourselves to prepare for the Second Coming – the Second Advent?  Maybe it’s because, with the First Advent, we have but four short weeks and are eager and excited to prepare.  We celebrate, we sing, we anticipate.

But, with the Second Advent, well, it’s been so long since it was foretold.  It didn’t happen last week.  It didn’t happen last month.  It surely won’t happen today.

That’s just it.  We prepare for the First Advent because we know it is coming in four short weeks.  We prepare for the Second Advent because it may not wait four weeks.  It may not wait until tomorrow.  It could be today!

Today, we shop!  Today, we wrap!  Today, we eat, drink, marry, and give in marriage.  Today, we prepare for the First Advent.  Let us also prepare, today, for the Second Advent.

Today is the day to make sure we are right with God.  Today is the day that we accept the Lord as our Savior.  Today is the day that we celebrate His Word.  Today is the day we respond to human need.

Amen.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2010 in Miscellaneous, The Bible

 

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Seven Deadly Sins and Barack Obama

The Seven Deadly Sins are a Christian Construct listing actions by man that are believed to threaten man to eternal damnation.  A 4th Century monk, Ponticus,  is credited with the initial list (of 8 sins)  and Pope Gregory I is thought to have penned the final list of 7 sins.  So let’s have a look at each one of these capital sins in the current Progressive Liberal Democrat President — Barack Hussein Obama:

  • Lust
    • I won’t speak to lust in a sexual nature, but the original and current definitions for lust include the lust for power.  This commission of this sin is simply unquestionable in Mr. Obama.  With falsehood after lie after misdirection after untruth after deceit after disinformation after evasion after misrepresentation, Obama was able to goad a gullible American public into ignoring the truth and voting him into office.  Only a lust for power would allow such a man to behave as he did during the election process.
  • Gluttony
    • Since arriving at the Whitehouse, the Obamas have brought a “steady stream of the nation’s top culinary talents“.  While America eats Cake, the Obamas dine on the finest cuisine available.  Not only is gluttony displayed in their “Laute” (eating too expensively),  one can see the opulence of their travels to France and Spain along with hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to whisk them off to date-night in New York City
  • Greed
    • An easy example of the excessive desire to gain wealth, status and power is displayed when, in 1995, he took an advance to write a book on race, and instead, at age 34, wrote a memoir.  Who, at 34, writes a memoir?  Answer:  Someone with a high appreciation for the self and an inordinate desire to gain, um, wealth, status, and power.  His own friends saw him as a politcal opportunist that saw his jobs as stepping stones.  And, his percent of giving from 2000-2004 barely measured 1% of his annual income… …the remaining 99% being kept for him and his family.  As his personal financial activity came under the microscope, he shallowly increased his giving percentage.
  • Sloth
    • Obama’s spiritual and emotional apathy are apparent in his callous use of the Christian religion to advance his political career.  At the behest of his friend Ms. Preckwinkle, he joined the infamous Reverend Wright’s church to build his political network.  His inability to select and attend regular religious services since arriving at the Whitehouse confirms this sin.  Additionally, his laziness in studying the true history of Capitalism, small government, limited spending, and freedom in creating the great America in which we live, further confirms his carelessness.
  • Wrath
    • When you can’t control yourself and your commentary in various situations, you exhibit symptoms of wrath.  Obama injected himself into the minutia of the arrest of a Harvard professor saying the police “acted stupidly.”  Without all the facts, Obama made the knee-jerk RACIAL decision that the white police officer, obviously because of his racism, arrested the man on account of his race.  Interjecting himself into various other issues the are unworthy of Presidential comment continue to show his inability to control himself — most recently the New York Mosque and Arizona’s SB1070 Immigration Bill.  Additionally, when questioned toughly in interviews (such as with Fox News) by journalists that are not in the State Run sycophant media, Obama becomes testy and perturbed.
  • Envy
    • Obama’s entire career and presidency are based and built on envy.  Being raised and trained by Marxists, Communists and Socialists, Obama believes strongly in taking from those that have to give to others — instead of going out and working hard to earn for oneself.  His campaign whipped up and envy-frenzy to the point that one fanatic claimed that Obama was going to pay her mortgage.
  • Pride
    • In the face of the mountain of evidence to the contrary, Obama continues to ignore reality and enact his ideology of massive government control, Keynesian spending, strangulating regulations, and monumental tax increases.  The entire Democratic Progressive Party agenda is the antithesis of expanding economy, yet they cannot fathom why the economy continues to falter.  What colossal pride it must take to look at the reality of America’s current financial crisis, the Obama policy of trickle-up poverty, the failure of Stimulus/Vote-Buying-Schemes… …and CONTINUE to blame it on George Bush.

One could spend hours detailing Barack Hussein Obama’s continued commission of these Seven Deadly Sins.  These are but a few simple examples (don’t get me wrong; I’m a sinner too).  But, the country lest the entire globe is at stake with America under the control of this Lustful, Gluttonous, Greedy, Slothful, Wrathful, Envious, Prideful college-student-in-chief.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2010 in Free Market, Obama, The Bible

 

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