Sunday, March 28, 2010

Today, church was amazing.  152 verses of Living Word were poured out over me during the Service of the Word!  SIGH.

I admit  I was a tad worried about having M in church, but she was a real trooper, even though the service was just shy of two hours!

After I told M that she would need to whisper once we got inside the church.  So, Miss Z pulled M aside and practiced whispering for a moment before taking her hand and dragging her inside.  The girls read books, colored, and munched on Cheerios.  They also passed back and forth the three beanie babies that came with us.  M was quite angelic all but the last 10 minutes, but even then she was only wiggly.  Z, when she spotted M "wiggling" against the person next to her, switched places so she could be a buffer.  All on her own.  Z also hugged her, let M put her head in Z's lap, and held her hand.  What a sister!

The first time she came to church, Z asked me why I went since it was so early in the morning and she knows how tired I get. I told her that Church was one of the places God comes to us. She asked if she would see Him, too. I explained that we couldn't see Him, but we know He is there because of His promises. I told her that He comes to us in the bible readings and in the Lord's Supper.

This time, after the readings, she turned to me and asked me if I had a good visit with God.

She also asked if she was going to get a blessing again. When I nodded, she turned to her sister and said, "The man in the dress is going to put his hand on your head and say good things just to you. You will like it."

It was interesting for me to watch the two of them together, to see how sisters could be.  They clearly enjoy each other.  Z clearly takes her role as elder sibling very, very seriously.  And there is clearly much love between the two of them.

Last night, they cuddled in the green chair together, a bundle of little girls, blankets, stuffed animals, and books...just in case the movie was not a good one!  I found myself looking at the two of them together more than the television.

The hard part of their visit was realizing that I could barely pick up Z.  She wanted to sit in the child swing at the park.  I had huffed and puffed getting M into it, but did not really think about Z's request.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not lift her much higher than the swing heighth.  So it was a bit of fancy maneuvering to get her into the seat with her long, long legs.  Once it was time to get her down from the swing seat, I was not altogether confident she would be coming home with us! 

I had worried about picking up M at church if she was nervous about going to the rail, but I shouldn't have been.  She and Z are not really cuddlers apart from with family.  M's way of being in my lap is to be pressed right up against me and have her feet in my lap.  Had she wanted to be picked up, though, I could not have done it for more than a moment.  And I could not have done it at all for Z.

This visit, Z insisted on helping me clean this time, pointing out on several occasions that her mother thought she was good at cleaning and that she should help me.  While I vacuumed the main floor, she vacuumed the stairs and the second floor and dusted the main floor.  The sweetest part of her visit, though, was not the cleaning, but when Z announced, during the church service, that she would stand and kneel for me since I was not able to do so.

The hearts of children....

Speaking of hearts, Bettina is struggling to understand something so that she might then explain to her groom: the Lutheran view of baptism.  But, really, with baptism you are talking about salvation.  And original sin.  And the relationship between God and man.  And the proper disctinction between Law and Gospel.  And the role of the Holy Spirit.  And...

Tonight I prepared the bulletins for next Sunday so that I could get them off in the mail to Pastor F.  While I was waiting for them to print, I thought I would start the next evening lecture.  I had just tossed off a long, rather passionate email trying to answer Bettina's question and was feeling very frustrated.  I want so much to share what I know, but I am not a pastor.  A pastor could do this far, far better than I.  Mostly, I just stumble through, trying not to groan out loud over my feeble answers.  Plus, part of the questions are coming from trying to understand something without going to the source material (my Ph.D. background coming to the fore).  And then there is the whole MS scrambled brains thing.

So, imagine my surprise when the 14th Evening Lecture turned out to be on salvation!  After reading the first few pages, I promptly drove to work to scan the chapter so I could email it to Bettina.  Given that Walther was the first president of Concordia Theological Seminary and was lecturing pastors-in-training, I figure he'll know how to explain all this stuff to Bettina and her husband! 



Thus far, I have listened to four Palm Sunday sermons.  Below is Pastor D's:

Jesu Juva

“The Love of Power, or the Power of Love”
Text: Deuteronomy 32:36-39; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 22-23

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Word of God through the mouth of Moses said this to us today:

For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free.  . . . 
When He sees that their power is gone.
Take a moment and consider that.

We don’t like to be powerless, to be not in control, to be unable to do something.
We rebel against such statements, and try to assert our power in any way we can.
How much has life become a power play?
At work, at school, at home, in groups of friends.
Children try to assert their power through shouting or throwing tantrums.
Adults, maybe in that way also (!), but for them, how often is power exerted through silence until the other gives in?
And in a whole host of ways, we manipulate others to get what we want.
To be in control. At least in some small way.
I may not be the top dog, but at least someone’s under me.
Someone I can control.
And tell what to do.
To have some power.
When He sees that their power is gone.
So that’s not true about you, is it?
But should it be?

But pastor, I don’t want to be at the bottom of the pecking order!
True enough; neither do I.
But why not?
Don’t think too hard about that; the answer is easy: sin.
Sin that does not want to serve, but to be served.
Sin that wants to exert power over others.
Sin that wants to be in control.

Besides, no matter how powerless you are, no matter how low, no matter how tired and weak and piled upon, you will
never be at the bottom of the pecking order.
That spot is reserved for one person: Jesus.

“[T]hough he was in the form of God, [He] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

We heard that story again today; and we’ll hear it this Holy Week.
The Son of God become nothing, all the way to the bottom of the pecking order - for you.
To serve you. To save you.

For truly, we are powerless.
We cannot save ourselves.
Like Israel in slavery to Egypt, we are in bondage to sin.
We’ve fallen, and we can’t get up.

And so our Lord came.
As He rescue His powerless people from their bondage to the Egyptians, so He has rescued us from our bondage to sin and death.
And if you think His power against Egypt was great, in truth, His power on the cross was greater.
For the cross shows us not the power of man, but the power of God.
The power of His love.

And so for you, He is arrested and does not fight back.
For you He is punched and mocked and abused.
For you He is humiliated.
For you He is hung on a cross like a criminal.
For you He lays down His life.
To serve you. To save you.

So that we know, as Moses continues and says: See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me.

Truly, there is no other God like this.
Who comes to serve the sinner, the rebel.
Who comes to be shamed, to take our shame away.
Who comes to take our sin and death, and give us forgiveness and life.
There is no other God like this.
Who still today is coming and saving - washing, absolving, feeding.
Still coming to those who are powerless, to give us what we do not have and cannot achieve:
    forgiveness, life, and salvation.
To break the grip of death on you.
To end the reign of sin in your life.
To raise you up, no matter how far down you are.

All this He has done for you.
Not starting when He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, but when He rode into this world in the womb of the Virgin.
And not ending when He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven - no, not ending until you rise and ascend with Him.
For He did not come to return alone; He came for you.
Taking your place here, that you may have His place there.

Until then:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.
What mind is that?
That has now be given to you?
Which is yours in Christ Jesus?
The mind to know that true power is exercised not in control and manipulation, but in service and love.
Not because you have to, but because you can.
Because no matter how far down you go, you will never be at the bottom.
That spot is still reserved for one person: Jesus.
The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Take a moment and consider that.

Whatever you were, whatever you are, in Christ Jesus you are made new.
The same power of Christ that laid down His life for you, now working in you.
That not your sin but His love,
    not your sin, but His forgiveness,
    not your sin, but His life,
control you, and lead you, and guide you.
At work, at school, at home, in groups of friends.

For we call this Holy Week not just because of the holy things that happened,
    or because of the Holy One they happened to -
        but because this is the week
that makes you holy.
Holy, because your sins are forgiven.
Holy, because you have been raised to a new life.
Holy, because the Body and Blood of the Holy One is here given to you.

And so today we enter this Holy Week.
We begin it with Hosanna! Lord, save us!
We will end it with Alleluia! For He has.
It is finished, He said.
And truly, it is.

So today as we enter this Holy Week,
have this mind among yourselves.
And let us cease our love of power, and see and know once again this week the power of His love.

In the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Amen.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

No comments: