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January 4, 2016, 9:49 AM

Roof-deep in The Water


Recently we sat down around our TV at home and watched the roof of a family home float down a swollen river and slam into a bridge near St. Louis, Missouri. Flood waters crested there on New Year's Day, just last week as I write this. When interviewed by a news channel, the father of the family said, "Well, everyone is safe, you know--the important thing. I just didn't expect my house to go floating away!" 

Nobody expects that one day their house will go floating away. Yet in our dangerous world, waters rise and rivers swell beyond their banks. The same is true for our souls as we face the challenges of life and stare down the many temptations that are around us. ...Wait a second. Didn't Jesus say something about this?... Why yes, he did: 

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law." MATTHEW 7:24-29

And so our goal is/should be very simple: hear the Word of Christ. Put it into practice. In this way, we build upon the Rock. Easy, right? 

Well...the devil knocks us off track. All. Of. The. Time. And how he loves it when we settle for the spiritual equivalent of a tent on a flood plain. Will this protect our family? "Who cares," we say, "Sunday is my only day to catch up on household chores." 

Look: Resurrection Lutheran Church is not about making Lutherans, or strengthening a particular denomination. It is about YOU, building on the Rock before the floods come, or even WHILE the flood waters are cresting. Period. The fact that our church is IN a denomination means that we all can receive encouragement and strength from other congregations, District officers who have a wider perspective, health plans and benefit programs for me and other staff members (if we had other staff), etc. 

I hear loudly and clearly the drum beat of my generation, believe me: "we want something authentic, exciting, and REAL, man!" And so they often abandon The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod and denominations like it. Well, when put into this perspective in this article, I pray that you might see all of the denominational stuff differently. It could be said that the Lutheran Church is simply 500 years of disciples building on the Rock. And the story of what they have learned while doing so under different types of governments, in different lands, among different kinds of culture and people groups. 

You see? This is about building on the Rock. I am your trained servant of the Word. Notice I did not say, "fearless leader" or "passionate speaker." I know I am not the greatest preacher of all time. But I DO get excited about the Word and I want you to be excited about it, also. 

Join us for Divine Service Sunday or Wednesday night. Join us for Bible study on Sunday mornings. Buy a good Lutheran study Bible. Or, bring forward suggestions for other Bible studies you'd like to see around church. Studies can be held in your home. I can help you start one. This is more than theological exploration. This is building on the Rock.

Roof-deep in the waters of holy Baptism we are, ideally, being fed and led by Christ our Lord, growing as living stones upon the Rock who is Christ our Lord. Come what may. 

Our children need to know that: come what may. This should be our chief priority.

Yours in the Savior,

Pastor Joel
pastor_joel@live.com
(719) 393-5967  

 

 

 




November 28, 2015, 8:55 AM

Happy New (Church) Year! A reflection on you, as God's treasured possession


Today, it begins. A new church year. A group of us at Resurrection will file into the church and decorate for Advent, the month of preparation before the celebration of the twelve days of Christmas.

"This is the month, and this the happy morn," said John Milton, English poet. What we in the church call "the nativity of our Lord"--that happy morning when Mary had given birth to Jesus and realized that the words of the angel had come true. She was truly the handmaiden of God. 

There is little more comforting, beautiful, and holy than these traditions. Yet that is what they are: traditions. Yes, as you may have heard, it's true that Jesus was not actually born on December 25th. This is simply the day set aside by the Church down through the centuries in response to a pagan holiday in the Augustinian month of December. The same is true of All Saints' Day (November 1) and Easter (which, in the West, follows the Spring equinox). No, none of these dates are mandated in Holy Scripture. So, why celebrate them? Wasn't the Church mean spirited to set these over the pagan holidays? 

Well, to put it bluntly, it depends on how you view the confession of the holy faith. Is declaring that Jesus--believing and trusting in His person and work--that he is the only way to heaven a good thing or bad thing? If you answered, "I'm not sure about that," or "a bad thing," then you are likely going to say that setting the holy days over and against the pagan ones is some kind of oppression or patriarchal nonsense. Yet I would ask you to see that God's choosing us is really a "scandalon" (in Greek, scandal in English) for all of us. There is no rhyme or reason, it is all from the mind of God the creator and sustainer of all things. It is just more of the same scandalous choosing that God performed when he took the people of God from the land of Egypt long ago to the Promised Land that was also called Canaan. There was no reason within the Israelites themselves. Consider the Lord's explanation in Deuteronomy 7:6-8,

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 

but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt."

When viewed as the Holy Lord calling us out of slavery to sin and bondage to the Devil's will, then the Church Year is a good, resplendent, lively thing. It helps us mark the days and weeks with attention to defeating sin and committing it to death. It helps us rise to new life in Christ. It helps us repent and set our hearts anew. It resets the accusatory nature of the Devil's word to our hearts with the saving, merciful word of God in Christ. 

God in Christ. That is what the Church Year is about. Not traditions first, but the spiritual work of taking our sinful hearts (Matthew 15:19) and boldly confessing the Gospel / good news of salvation that we need so badly.

No matter what, folks, God loves you. You are his treasured possession. Like an old blanket you have, or a picture album from years previous, something valuable to no one else but invaluable and irreplacable to you, its owner. Treasured. Gifted. Holy. The Church. The Church Year. The songs and hymns. The Word of Christ. The grace of God. 

Servant,

J. Dieterichs

28 November 2015 + Advent I    


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