Thursday, November 29, 2012

Even if He does not...

I am already forgetting the Living Word my pastor brought for me, but wanted to write it out here so if any of you would like to remind me about this rather good Gospel stuff I could benefit later when it is all gone from my mind.

The text he used was:

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, o Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel; "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..." ~Isaiah 43:1-3

He first talked to me about when it was that the Lord says, "Do not fear," being most common with the incarnation. He said that this was not a law sort of Word for us but rather a comforting Gospel sort of Word for us because we should really read these words as, "Do not fear because _____________," with the blank part being all the promises that God makes to us (be with us, not leave us, send His Son, save us, redeem us...), just as seen in the passage and when the angels came to Mary and to the others (yes, this is me already forgetting all the one who received notification about Jesus' impending birth).

[I was trying to rehearse this with Sandra so I wouldn't forget as much before getting back to where I could write it out and she also pointed out that God's word is performative, which I am still struggling to understand, but something like meaning it does what it says ... so in saying, "Do not fear," God is actually helping us with our fear because His Word, the work of the Gospel, can ease our fears????????]

My pastor then went on to talk about the fires and the waters part of the passage and asked me if I knew about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Sadly, I am forgetting more and more of the bible stories that I knew and mostly I live in the Psalter (you can chastise me for neglecting the other good bits of the Bible) since there is no ex-evangelical Law/Gospel confusion there. So, he told me the story.

The point he made for me (the Myrtle point) was not just that they said their God would save them (which is the only part that I learned previously) but that they added that even if they were not saved from the fire, they still would not bow down. My pastor talked about how it is not just that they believed God could save them, miraculously, from a fire, that He would still deliver them nonetheless. So, while God could save me, bodily, from what is happening to me, He will, no matter what happens to me now, deliver me nonetheless. That is His promise. That is the Gospel.

Imagine Isaiah 43 being Gospel...Gospel in the Old Testament!!!

He also read to me from Revelation because while he was giving me a sermon as a part of the Divine Service, he let me ask questions and helped pull some of the Gospel together for me in a better fashion than was in my mind. Kind of mind-boggling that John saw me in Heaven before I was born, saw all of us, but in describing what he saw of folk from everywhere the description was all the same, in white and with palm branches (which I did not know was for celebrating victory), not saying, "Well, gee, I saw some lepers and some murderers and some wretched daughters and some terrible husbands and, he saw us all in white, he saw us all as God sees Christ, robed in white, pure, whole, without blemish.

My pastor came with paper and pen in hand and wrote down the Wednesday Advent evening prayer services he told me about so I could remember them if I could get to them, and he wrote down all the passages, and then he wrote down a specific prayer for my father ... what praying for mercy really means. That part, I want to write about, too, but it should be separate, especially since he suggested I listen to something Pastor Weedon talked about on Issues, Etc., only I cannot follow those programs because of the interruptions. By the time they get back to the next program segment, I have forgotten what was said. SIGH.

Because our Triune God is overflowing with mercy, I will add that my pastor sang Divine Setting Three because he remembered that I like it. After realizing that I had forgotten how to sing my beloved Agnus Dei from that setting, I have been searching for the Liturgy CD someone at the synod sent me when I asked about the audio files that used to be available on the website (I cannot find them anymore) so I could hear the music off-line. I somehow did not get the CD into iTunes and forgot where I organized it to. MIRACULOUSLY, a spot popped into my head just a short while before the pastor came. I found it, put it into iTunes, and created play lists for Setting One and Setting Three so I could maybe finally learn the Setting One used at the Monday night services and happily enjoy my long-missed Setting Three.

Anyway, I told the pastor since I couldn't help him sing Setting Three, he could just do One (the one used primarily even on the Sunday services), but he said he would sing Three *for me*. Much to my DELIGHT, I remembered most of the notes for the larger parts. To me, there is such Gospel joy in Setting Three that speaks so clearly. I am not wanting to sound blasphemous, but being able to sing the Nunc Dimittis again after more than two years was nearly as wonderful as hearing my sermon and receive the Lord's body and blood. Since he knows I also am partial to the Apostle's Creed, he used that one. Also, in case you did not figure it out, the hymn we sang was my favorite...even though he already sang it before: "Lord Jesus, Think on Me."

Finally (and you don't have to remind me of this part...just the Gospel bits of the sermon), I asked if after Epiphany, when things were slower, we could talk about whether I could/should have a funeral (all that fantasy about singing that long list of hymns and reading all those bits of my beloved Christian Book of Concord aside). Since I don't come from a family of faith, one of the things my counselor suggested this week, when we were talking about my father, was to take the time now, while I am still demonstrably lucid, to make known what my wishes were for what I would like both before I die and after. I mean, he could not be there and if I don't die before she graduates, one of the two people here who would come to my funeral would probably be moved away, so I am not sure of the point. My pastor said that even if no one was there, part of the purpose of the funeral is caring for the body that God created, fashioned, and would be raising once more in glory. I have never heard that. So, I suppose I have lots of thinking do to while all this busy part of the church year is happening.

[Just so you get the whole picture, Amos spent most of the time as my pillow in the GREEN chair, but when it came time for the Lord's Supper, he tried to join my feast, first by snaking his head to my right cheek, and then by sneaking over to the left. If sharing would mean anything for him, I would do so gladly, freely. Still, he made me smile over the gift he is to me...a moment of one kind of joy wrapped in another.]

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

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