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October 8, 2018, 3:08 PM

A huge castle. With beautiful trees around it: the Word of God.



And... I'm now in my 15th year of preaching God's Word to God's people. I have been through the 3-year lectionary (list of Bible readings) five times, counting my student pastorate. There have been special sermon series along the way, but I usually kept pretty true to the lectionary. Along the way there have been extremely disappointing and challenging times; there have been moments of betrayal by people in my congregation and in the church at large; there have been more times I've wanted to quit than I'd care to write about here. 

But I knew there would hard times; perhaps most troubling is the occasional sense that what's been said about a given text has already been said, and I might as well drum up someone else's sermon and just read it. Or, perhaps, a sense of ennui that accompanies the preaching task: as in, what can I say to God's people this week that will impact them and be relevant for them? I've never given in to that urge, to read someone else's sermon; for better or worse, I have done the work myself each and every time.

Thankfully, as it strikes me now, the bulk of God's Word does not NEED to be relevant. It can just be the awesome Word of God, being awesome. It can let the eternal mystery of heaven and God and Jesus shine just as well as it can house very practical, day-to-day needs and activities. It is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It is somewhat like a working castle from the old days of Europe. 

1. DIVINE SERVICE. A castle in the old days had soaring, stone or rock walls and turrets serving as look outs and defensive positions for archers. It is these turrets that are the "romantic" parts of a castle--at least to me--stretching upward toward heaven but having a very earthly purpose. That, as watchmen wait for the morning, so my soul waits for the LORD and all of his redeption, goodness, and love (Psalm 130). That the promises of God remain above all others; that is what a thickly-walled turret says to me. That inside all are protected--thankfully, in the penultimate ways--from sin, death, and the devil. That God Himself is our mighty fortress, as a famous Lutheran once wrote, basing his hymn on Psalm 46. That is His service to us, even as we use the wonderful gifts of his kingdom in Word and Sacrament.   

2. DOORS TO SAFETY, DOORS TO THE WORLDThe drawbridge of a castle leads to a massive door that is intended for physical defense from invaders AND intimidation of evil marauders. God's Word has the big doors, too. "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise" (Psalm 100:4)--and I don't mean this in an isolationist way. God's Word doesn't mean it in an isolationist way. But think of Jerusalem and her gates; this is literally what is meant in the Psalms. "Let us go up to Jerusalem" is a literal utterance; they were ascending Mount Zion to enter into Jerusalem, the temple, the temple courts, and so on. ALL ROADS lead to Jerusalem in Israel's golden age and in the known world of the time. It is no accident that it stood at the center of the world, if you ask Christians like us--Christians who are "evangelical" and proclaim the Son of God and Son of David for all peoples, nations, tribes, and families. "All nations" means all nations--they will come to see that He is the true God, and there is no other (Isaiah 43:9-13).

3. RITE VOCATUS. The "right calling" (Latin: rite vocatus) of God's people often happens in the underbelly of the castle, but is no less important. It is the sacred vocation of all Christians to practice their craft(s) taken together as one. The Holy Church expresses herself both in the faithful administration of bloody, sweaty, and difficult work and in the painstaking work of making great art and godly expression(s) of culture. Martin Luther once said, "The prince should think: Christ has served me and made everything to follow him; therefore, I should also serve my neighbor, protect him and everything that belongs to him. That is why God has given me this office, and I have it that I might serve him. That he would be a good prince and ruler. When a prince sees his neighbor oppressed, he should think: That concerns me! I must protect and shield my neighbor. ... The same is true for shoemaker, tailor, scribe, or reader. If he is a Christian tailor, he will say: I make these clothes because God has bidden me do so, so that I can earn a living, so that I can help and serve my neighbor. When a Christian does not serve the other, God is not present; that is not Christian living." (source: http://www.lutheranlayman.com/2015/01/little-crosses-on-shoes-or-what-luther.html)

And then, at times, we tire of the castle and our work and need rest. Thankfully, the spiritual castle is surrounded by vast trees in a canopy of grace--the history, liturgy, and confession of the saints (all who believe His Word and live according to it). 

The beginning of Divine Service is heard again: "In the Name..." 

And the people and the pastor look up, waiting to be fed. 

And then they are.

And next week we will meet here again.

"I Love Your Kingdom, Lord" 

By: Timothy Dwight

I love your kingdom, Lord, The place of your abode;

The Church our blest Redeemer saved With his own precious blood.

I love your Church, O God! Its walls before you stand,

Dear as the apple of your eye And graven on your hand.

Beyond my highest joy I prize its heavenly ways,

Its sweet communion, solemn vows, Its hymns of love and praise.

Sure as your truth shall last, To Zion shall be given

The brightest glories earth can yield And brighter bliss of heaven.

Hymn # 296 from Lutheran Worship Author: Aaron Williams Tune: St. Thomas 1st Published in: 1800

--PASTOR JOEL

Hebrews 10:23-25


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