Archive for June, 2010

ABC Extra – You’re Inadequate

This weekend in worship and ABC we talked about the stain of inadequacy.  We’ve all grappled with inadequacy, of course.   A project we’ve been working on isn’t up to snuff according to the boss.  And we feel inadequate.  The money we make isn’t enough to keep up with our next-door neighbors.  And we feel inadequate.

I always enjoy watching the opening outtakes on the hit FOX TV show, “American Idol.”  Some of the auditions are atrocious.  What is really fascinating to me, however, is that some of these contestants, who couldn’t carry a tune if their lives depended on it, believe that they are truly good singers.  When they find out that they are not, they are crushed.  And they feel inadequate.

I suspect that Peter must have felt much like an “American Idol” contestant feels after Simon Cowell announces, “That was atrocious.”  As Luke 5 opens, we find Peter, a professional fisherman, casting his nets into the Sea of Galilee.  And Peter was no poor fisherman.  To the contrary, he was one of the best.  But even one of the best gets skunked from time to time.  And this was the case with Peter.  He had been fishing all night and had not caught a thing.  But not to worry, for a carpenter from Nazareth named Jesus is on the case.  “Put out into the deep water, and let down the nets for a catch,” Jesus says (verse 4).  A carpenter giving advice to a seasoned fisherman on fishing?  That’s rich.  But Peter trusts and obeys the Lord.  And the results are nothing short of miraculous: “When [Peter and his companions] had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break“ (verse 6).  Apparently, this carpenter knows a thing or two about fishing.  And all of a sudden, Peter is struck with an acute bout of inadequacy.  He says to Jesus, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man” (verse 8)!  Jesus, in turn, responds to Peter’s declaration with a promise of hope in the midst of inadequacy: “Don’t be afraid” (verse 10).

Sadly, many people have twisted this precious promise of Jesus.  In the sixteenth century, a young monk named Martin Luther twisted this promise by refusing to believe it.  He refused to hearken unto God’s call to “be not afraid.”  Instead, in his younger years, he saw God only as a cruel taskmaster who would surely damn all mankind for their inadequacies.  Blessedly, he later came to understand the wonderful compassion of our God, expressed in Jesus Christ.  In the twenty-first century, many people twist this promise by turning God into a wrathless deity who overlooks, rather than forgives, sins.  The promise, “Do not be afraid,” is conceived as an admission that God does not really care about, much less gets angry over, sin.  Indeed, a popular preacher recently toured the country with the message, “The gods aren’t angry.”  His point was this:  God is not angry with you or at your sin.  But this is not true.  God is angry.  And He’s angry at your sin.  As the apostle Paul writes, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men” (Romans 1:18).  God has wrath at sin.  Jesus says, “Do not fear,” not because God doesn’t get angry with sin and sinners, but because His wrath is taken by Jesus Christ in our place for our sins on the cross.  It is by Jesus’ work on the cross that our sins are forgiven.

When Jesus tells Peter, “Do not be afraid,” it isn’t because Peter is really a good guy.  No, Peter’s statement, “I am a sinful man,” is perfectly true.  He is inadequate.  But through Christ’s atoning work, Peter’s sin is taken away and he has nothing to fear.  The answer to inadequacy is not to pretend you’re adequate.  You’re not.  The answer to inadequacy is to trust in Jesus because He is more than adequate.  He is perfect.  And His perfection covers all of our inadequate sins.  Find your adequacy in Christ.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

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June 28, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Sermon Extra – More Than Ceremonially Clean

Our world is full of need.  Approximately one in eight people in world lack access to safe, clean drinking water.  Every year, 15 million children die from hunger because they cannot get basic, nutritional meals.  A little closer to home, every night in the US, anywhere from 700,000 to 2 million people do not have a place to sleep.   Right now, somewhere around thirteen percent of men, aged 25 to 54, are jobless and cannot support themselves.  Basic needs – including those for water, food, shelter, and work – are going left unmet in our world and in our society.  And the consequences are tragic.  Everything from bankruptcy to depression to death can occur when needs go unmet.

In our text for this weekend from John 2, an urgent need quickly pushed its way to the forefront of a wedding celebration in a little town called Cana.  As I mentioned in my sermon, in this day, it was customary – and even mandatory – for wedding receptions to come with “open bars.”  That is, the groom was to provide as much wine for his guests as they desired.  But alas, apparently, the groom at this wedding was not much a planner.  Because the wine runs out.  And one of the social necessities of that day is left unmet.

Jesus’ mother, Mary, is mortified by this social faux pas.  And so, she says to her son, “They have no more wine” (verse 3).  At first, Jesus balks at Mary’s concern.  “Dear woman, why do you involve Me?” He asks, “My time has not yet come” (verse 4).  But His time quickly arrives as Jesus commandeers “six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing” (verse 6).  A couple of things are striking about this verse.  First, the number six is striking.  In Johannine literature, this number symbolizes imperfection.  And indeed, this number is used to describe the imperfect and embarrassing situation of running out of wine.  The second thing striking about this verse is the fact that the six stone jars are used for “ceremonial washing.”  The Greek word for this phrase is katharos, meaning, “clean.”  This word is used in spades in Old Testament literature to distinguish between those things which are “clean” and things which are “unclean.”  For instance, when God warns Moses, “You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean” (Leviticus 10:10), the word for “clean” is katharos. Thus, these jars are used by faithful Jews to make sure they remain ceremonially and spiritually clean according to Old Testament law.

But now, Jesus commandeers these jars for His purposes, that He may perform a sign to “reveal His glory” (verse 11).  And instead of filling them with water for ceremonial washing, He fills them with wine as a gift from His gracious hand.  Later, Jesus would fill another jar with wine and declare:  “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).  And this wine, which Jesus says is none other than His very blood, will have a katharos effect on us.  As the apostle John writes:  “The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).  The word for “purifies” is, once again, katharos. Thus, we no longer need large stone jars filled with water to wash us clean ceremonially, for we have the body and blood of Jesus to wash us clean spiritually and eternally.

There is an old spiritual which asks, “Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”  By faith, we may happily answer this question, “Yes.”  Take some time today to thank God that, by the blood of Jesus, you are more than ceremonially clean, you are spiritually clean.  And Jesus’ cleanness is all you need.  For Jesus’ cleanness leads to eternal life.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

June 21, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Sermon Extra – “I’m A Creative Visionary Leader Who Is Also Obedient”

Creative.  Visionary.  Leader.  Ambitious.  Inspiring. We place a high premium on these values in our culture.  When we are looking for a job, we know that these words, or some combination thereof, are sure to make potential employers salivate and want to know more about us.  When we are seeking out a mentor, these are the qualities for which we look.  For the most part, we want to know people – and we want to be people – who are out in front, recognized and respected by many, leading the pack.

Obedient. Now there’s a word you won’t find on a resume or on a top ten list of values to which we aspire.  Indeed, this value is more often denigrated than celebrated, especially in our popular culture.  From the James Dean classic “Rebel Without A Cause” to a motorcycle named the “Rebel,” disobedience is much more admired and prized than is obedience.  After all, obedience seems so – well…boring!

Perhaps we shouldn’t so readily dismiss obedience.  For obedience is highly prized in the Scriptures.  A sampling of Scriptures will suffice to bring out the premium the Bible puts on obedience:

  • “Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you” (Deuteronomy 6:3).
  • “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28).
  • “This is love for God: to obey His commands” (1 John 5:3).

Clearly, the Bible likes obedience.  And no one is exempt from this cardinal virtue of obedience – not even Jesus.

In my sermon this past weekend, we looked at Luke 2:41-52, the only canonical gospel account of Jesus’ childhood.  This story is depicted by one of our stained glass windows, pictured above.  As the story opens, Joseph and Mary take Jesus in tow, traveling from Nazareth to Jerusalem, to celebrate the Passover Feast.  After the Feast, they travel back to Nazareth only to find that Jesus is missing at the end of the first day of their travels.  So they make a desperate search for their son.  As I mentioned in my sermon, after finding Jesus, when Mary says to her son, “Your father and I have been anxiously looking for you” (verse 48), the Greek word for “anxiously” is odunao, a word meaning, “pain.”  Mary’s concern for her lost son was so great that it caused her pain.  It put a lump in her throat.  It made her sick to her stomach.  And Jesus knows this.  And Jesus cares about His mother and her anxiety.  And so we read:  “He went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.”  Jesus, the Son of God and the Sovereign of the universe, is obedient to his earthly father and mother.  Such is the primacy of obedience.  It is a value extolled and practiced by our Lord.

The Greek word for “obedient” is hypotasso, meaning, “to arrange under.”  The idea is that, out of love, people should learn to place their concerns, wants, needs, and desires under the concerns, wants, needs, and desires of others.  That is, people should be concerned with others before they are concerned with themselves.  In the words of the apostle Paul, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).  This is obedience – to show concern for the interests of others.

Jesus is concerned with the concern of His parents.  For they have been worried sick trying to find Him.  And so, He is obedient to His parents.  Indeed, Jesus’ whole life and ministry is one of obedience as  “He humbles Himself and becomes obedient to death – even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8)!  Jesus’ obedience is so unflappable, it leads Him to a cross.

What premium do you put on obedience in your life?  Do you intentionally arrange your concerns, wants, needs, and desires under the concerns, wants, needs, and desires of others?  Obedience may not be a secular value, but is a biblical one.  And it is a value that, when embodied by Christ on the cross, wins our salvation.  Perhaps we should take a value as powerful as obedience a little more seriously.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

June 14, 2010 at 4:45 am 2 comments

ABC Extra – Filled with the Spirit

Recently, I have had some very full days.  Many appointments, tasks, and some added duties have kept me plenty busy.  My MacBook calendar is filled and my to-do list is long.  Of course, seasons like these come and go.  From time to time, we all get busy and our days get full.

In ABC this past weekend, we kicked off a brand new series called “STAINED! Windows Into Our Heritage.”  In this series, we are reflecting on the stained glass windows which grace the front of our sanctuary and study that biblical stories which they portray.  We began our series with our Pentecost window, pictured here.

The festival of Pentecost is as old as Moses.  Originally, it was a harvest festival known as the Feast of Weeks, celebrated fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits – hence, it’s Greek name “Pentecost,” meaning” fifty.  In latter days, however, it also became associated with the giving of the Divine Law to Moses on Mount Sinai.  Thus, Pentecost was a day to celebrate the gift of God’s Law.  But on a Pentecost day in Acts 2, it became a day to celebrate another gift of God.

The story of Pentecost begins thusly: “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1).  The Greek word for “came” is symplero’o, meaning, “to fill up completely.”  Apparently, this Pentecost day was a full one.  It was a day that didn’t just arrive on a calendar, but “filled up completely” a moment in history.  But it didn’t fill this moment in history with appointments, tasks, and duties.  No, the fullness which this Pentecost day brought was much more profound and transcendent.

The story continues:  “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1-4).  Some 1600 years earlier on Pentecost day, God has filled His people’s souls by giving them His Law through Moses.  Now, once again, He has filled His people’s souls by giving them His Spirit through a rushing wind and tongues of fire.

One of the many precious promises from our God is that He loves to fill His people with His good gifts.  As Jesus Himself says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).  And unlike the things of this world, which, though they might fill our lives with their demands and stresses, steal our souls, the things with which God fills us always bless us and keep us in Him.  And so we rejoice that Christ fills our days and our lives with His good gifts.

Are you feeling empty?  Pray that God would fill your days and life with what you need.  May He fill your heart with His love, your concerns with His comfort, your doubts with His truth, your sin with His forgiveness, and your soul with His Spirit.  May you be full in, with, and through God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

June 7, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment


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