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Devotions for 2-16-22  “The Bread of Life for the World”

During this epiphany season we’ve been shown in many ways that Jesus is revealed to the world as both God and man, holy and human, divine and earthly. In today’s reading we again see evidence of the two natures of Christ revealed in Him. Listen to portions of John 6:41- 54

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “… No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day …Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life…This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. ”The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

The Jews clearly understood that Jesus was human. They mention knowing His father and mother. They witness for us to the truth that Jesus did not stand around with a glowing halo of some sort that would mark Him as not human. In fact, He is so human, the Jews simply don’t see anything that prevents them from judging Him as they would anyone else they knew. That’s another thing, they knew Him! And His family! And they understood clearly that He was saying He was not merely human, but He is also from God! Jesus’ words are not ambiguous to these who heard Him.

In His speaking He makes clear that in Him alone is the promised resurrection. And in His resurrection, there is life! Life for all who believe that God has sent Him, Jesus, to be the bread of life. The bread that leads to eternal life. The Jews understood His words, but, as of yet, they could not receive what He said as real.

But every time we come to Holy Communion, we receive what He said is real and we do as He promised. We eat of this bread, of His flesh, that we may receive Him whom God has sent for our redemption. It is the testimony of both the Jews and of Jesus that this is what Jesus meant when He said, And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh! And on the cross, He does give up His flesh to death that we indeed may have life in Him that results from His glorious triumph by His resurrection from the grave! Come soon to Holy Communion and again be witness to and partake of Christ’s death and resurrection for your own eternal life!

With my retirement coming up quickly this, today, will be my final devotional to share with you. And this Sunday will be my last worship service at Zion. As we are celebrating the Holy Supper, I again encourage you to come and partake of the Lord’s goodness, given and shed for you! Now, one last time, In Jesus name, amen and goodbye.

Devotions for 2-14-23  “A Valentine Enemy ”

On this valentine’s day it seems God sends an unusual gift to Egypt – He sends an enemy. Egypt has long been the reverse of Israel. Whereas Israel worships the one true Lord of heaven and earth, Egypt worships many so-called gods and deities. It makes their valentine’s day very confusing for them trying to win the hearts of so many idols! While Israel hopes in the promises of the true God of all creation, Egypt listens to the voice of Pharaoh, a mere man, as though he were a god. Egypt relies on its own strength and might to accomplish its victories, but Israel trusts in God to be her protector, avenger, and victor over those who oppose Israel.

So why, why would God send the son of Israel, Joseph, into Egypt? Today’s lesson tells us it’s so that Joseph could protect and preserve his father Jacob and all of Joseph’s family. And how was that done? By making Joseph ruler in the land of Egypt. God sent Joseph into the land, not of promise and not into the land of an ally, but into the land where God was not welcome. Into the land that denied God His rightful due. God sent Joseph into enemy territory – in order to save His chosen people! In the same way He sent Jesus to us. Listen to selected portions of Genesis 45

4 So Joseph said to his brothers, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed…because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life, to preserve a remnant on earth, to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt… I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty….

God sent Joseph to Egypt to become the ruler over Egypt! God sent him into enemy territory to do the will of God so that all of Israel would be saved. And in doing this, we see one way in which Joseph foreshadows the work of Jesus Christ.

God also sent Jesus into enemy territory, into this world that had rejected God and turned away to serve self and all manner of idols and false deities. God sent Jesus to earth to become the rescuer of earth and her inhabitants. Not because earth honored God and not because we asked for God’s salvation. No, God sent Jesus to save. To save from death. To shower His love on His beloved.

Just as Joseph saved Israel from death by famine, so too God rescued earth in Jesus Christ from the famine of rejecting God and His living, saving word. As we have seen God in, Joseph, turn the defeat of being sold into slavery to life, and hope and victory , so also in Jesus we see the defeat and death of Jesus at the hands of men, be turned into life and victory through His glorious resurrection. Let us be grateful to God for not leaving us in our sin but rescuing us by sending Jesus to provide His life to preserve us. In His name we pray, Amen and goodbye.

Devotions for 2-9-23  “So It Is…

Today’s devotions are out of some very familiar verses in the Gospel of John, chapter 3 vss 3-8 listen: “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’”

In answering Nicodemus’ question about entering a mother’s womb to be born again, Jesus makes clear, that such a rebirth does not happen by the will or determination of a person on their own. Besides, being born again, is not a ‘do-over’ when it comes to being born. It’s a new birth, a birth of a differing nature, which Jesus is saying is required to see the kingdom of God.

The nature of that new birth is spiritual not physical. And it’s not just a mystical or vague ‘spiritual-feeling’ sort of thing. No, it is specific. Jesus says you must be born of The Spirit, not a spirit. It is into The Spirit of God that this new birth occurs. And it is that which allows one to enter into God’s kingdom.

Being born of The Spirit is not a human action or choice. Jesus compared it to the wind and how it blows. Just as you do not know the wind’s origin or can be certain of its path, “So” Jesus says “it is with everyone who is born on the Spirit.”

You do not tell God that you have made the decision to be born again, He has already done that for you! You do not make a choice just as you cannot choose the course of the wind. God in Christ has done that for you. Oh, true you can reject it and turn away from that gracious gift. But that leaves you breath-less, and lifeless, and lost.

Just as God has given you breath through your first birth on earth, so also God breathes the Life of the Holy Spirit into you by His grace! What great joy and comfort it is knowing it is His work and His doing in you. And it’s what He does for everyone who is indeed born again. Rejoice that in your new birth of water and the Spirit you have been born unto life eternal! In Jesus name, Amen and goodbye.

Devotions for 2-7-23  “Fear God”

Sometimes we all struggle with an idea that’s often used in scripture. It’s the idea that we should fear God, or to fear the Lord. Why are we mysteriously to fear God? We’re taught He loves us and that we return love to Him for His great grace, mercy, and kindness to us and all the world through the cross of Christ. That’s all true. However, if you’d been in the boat with the disciples in today’s gospel you might gain a bit better understanding of the fear of God. Listen to Mark 4:36-40

36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat… 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

They thought they were afraid of the storm. They thought they knew what it meant to fear life and death because of the storm. These were men of the sea, and they respected its power to kill with wind and wave. So, they expressed their fear of death to… a sleeping Jesus. A Jesus whom they astoundingly found they had to waken in order to tell Him… that they were all going to die!  So, Jesus, arises with the wind and the waves still crashing into the swamping boat full of literally scared-to-death disciples and Jesus speaks 3 emphatic words. Peace! Be still! And it happened. There was peace and everything became, still, because this Man spoke those words.

If they were afraid of what was going on around them just a moment ago, the disciples were now terrified of Who was standing there among them in the midst of the perfect calm. These men were anything but calm on the inside. Oh yes, the threat of drowning was removed, but they were still floundering with the truth that this Man, asleep only moments ago, now held the power of the wind and waves at bay by Him speaking words. They now knew the proper meaning of the fear of the Lord, or what it meant to fear God. If there was any doubt before, it was gone in that same instant, with those 3 words Peace! Be Still!

And that is what Jesus gives us all. We don’t treat the Lord Jesus Christ as a favorite uncle or some kindly grandad. He’s also not a buddy, pal, or someone to ‘just hang with’. Jesus is not your ‘go-to-guy’, nor is He The Big Guy, and one I really don’t like, Jesus is not, ‘the Man Upstairs.’ All of these phrases and euphemisms, these, we should fear. We should be afraid of using them or speaking them out loud at any time or for any – anyone to ever hear us say! Instead, we do well to simply hold our tongue and in the quiet fear of God receive from Jesus what He gave the disciples and the storm, those three words peace, be still. In the proper fear of Jesus name, amen and goodbye.

Devotions for 2-2-23 “The grammar of the Gospel”

Today’s devotions come from Paul’s letter to Titus, especially Paul’s greeting in 1: 2&3, “in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began  and at the proper time manifested in his word.”

What stands out for us in these 2 short verses is, one, that the hope of eternal life has been God’s promise since before all time. And two, that that hope was brought to light to all mankind at the proper time. Before time began, the promise was made. And at the right time the promise was made clear, so that for all time all people would know God’s love is for them! It is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ that is the manifestation of God’s promise.

Only in this way, through the preaching of Jesus name and the declaration of His mighty word and actions; His death, resurrection, and ascension, that God’s promise is established for all the world to see and trust in! Jesus is the word of God in the flesh. And by His flesh He has made the promise of life eternal come to pass, so that we could possess God’s promise and live in that certain hope. Even in St Paul’s greetings we get the gospel! Again, we’re told that this manifestation occurred at the ‘proper time’. Even though God had made the promise in eternity, for us to know and receive this gift, we had to wait till the time when it could be understood. One example of this is trying to teach someone to read.

For a person to appreciate great literature you don’t start them off with Shakespeare. No, you start with the alphabet! Without that, nothing else works. And from there you put letters together that make words and you follow that with teaching how to connect the words with grammar and that is followed with simple stories and books. Only after that and with time and experience with grammar, vocabulary and syntax can a person be ready to read the Bard and beyond.

So also with God’s promise and His word. We needed to learn His alphabet, grammar, and syntax, so as to appreciate what He gives us. What we read in His word of creation, of Abraham and God’s promises to him. Followed by the stories of the Hebrews through Moses, and the prophets. All of these things were the alphabet and grammar the world needed to take in the word of God that came in the flesh of Jesus Christ.

Because in Him alone and by His words and works, the promise of eternal life comes to pass. At the right time we have had God’s timeless promise of life eternal made known to us by His gift of His only Son, our Lord and redeemer Jesus Christ. In His name we have now, all that God has promised! Take time to ponder on that. In Jesus name, Amen and goodbye.

Devotions for 1-31-23  “Retirement”

For today’s devotions I want to read an abbreviated version of my letter announcing my retirement for those who may not yet have heard. Here goes…

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: In seminary we were taught that a pastor’s primary calling is to his family. With the changes God has brought to our family life and health I believe that He is calling for a new season in my ministry. Therefore, the time has come for me to retire and so the season for my pastoral service to Zion Lutheran Church is coming to a close. As of February 28, 2023, I will retire from full time parish ministry. The last of these twice weekly devotionals will be Thursday Feb 16th. And my last day in the pulpit is to be February 19, Transfiguration Sunday. (It was Transfiguration Sunday 2013, when I was installed!)

In Numbers 27, it tells of God bringing Joshua to lead the people in the place of Moses. God had a plan and a person picked for the continued leading of His people Israel. I have no doubt that God has prepared the next pastor to lead Zion Lutheran Church.

At the same time that God has given me peace with this decision, I will miss you all very much St. Paul’s words in Phil 1:3-6 express my feelings well: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” I mean for you to take to heart these words of St Paul. Especially, that I thank God for all of you and your partnership in the Gospel. To have been given 10 years together in Hearing, Sharing, and Living the Gospel is hard to believe has come and gone.

I have every confidence that God has been preparing for the right man to serve you in love through continued Word and Sacrament ministry together here in Bolivar.

We have His promise from Eph 4:11-12 which tells us: 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

As Paul makes clear, Christ gives His gifts according to His desire and will for the up building of His people in the church. And the church is Christ’s very own idea and plan as He says in Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Never forget that it is Jesus who builds His church in His way and in His time. These are the promises of God in which we rest our trust.

With all glory to God and hearts full of gratitude to the people of Zion Lutheran Church, we pray you God’s blessings and His grace to guide us all forward toward the prize of eternal life together, with Christ.

In the name of the Father and of + the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. And goodbye.