Sitting Down With God
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Exodus 24:9-11: Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and the saw the God of Israel. There were under His feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And He did not lay His hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.
"I can only imagine." I have to borrow the lead line of the song because it fits this text. I can only imagine in my mind sitting down at the table with God Himself. I know that it will happen one day, after my passing and being with Him forever. But for now, I can only imagine it. Or can I?
Here is the real cool thing about God. I "sit at the table" with God every week. When we gather to worship, we gather "In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." We not only invoke, or call upon, the name of God, we are also in His presence. Jesus Himself said, "Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them." So, we are in the room with the Almighty. Wow.
But wait, there's more. Every time we come together and participate in the Lord's Supper, not only do we celebrate the feast until He comes back. In the words of Jesus Himself, "Take and eat, this is my body given for you." as He passed the bread in the final supper with His disciples. "Take and drink, this is my blood in the new testament for the forgiveness of sins." as He passed the cup of wine. Every time we celebrate the Lord's Supper we receive the body and blood of Jesus that is truly present in the bread and the wine so that our sins are forgiven.
Here's the point. We do not have to imagine being in the presence of God. We already are, especially when we gather together as the Church. And one day, we will, after our passing or Jesus returns whichever one comes first, we will be at the dinner table of God in heaven forever. Both are really cool. Dear God, thank You for being with us as the center of our celebrations, amen.
The End and the Beginning
Monday, March 26, 2018
Mark 14:22-25: And as they were eating, He took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them and said, "Take, this is my body." And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to the, and they all drank of it. And He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new int eh kingdom of God."
Three years of walking, teaching, leading, healing, miracling (I just created a word), and raising people from the dead. All of what Jesus did and came to do is coming to its' conclusion.
Or it is the conclusion? Yesterday was Palm Sunday. We celebrated the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem to the sounds of, "Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" Thursday is the celebration of Jesus' last Passover which He turned into the Lord's Supper. Friday, Jesus will go to the cross to the shouts of, "CRUCIFY HIM!" Then the words, "It is finished." Sounds like the conclusion to me.
It is the end AND it is the beginning. It was the end of Jesus' ministry and mission. Jesus accomplished something that no man would do. Jesus was, and is, the ONE TIME sacrifice for all sins of all people of every age. He gave up His body and shed His blood so that we are forgiven. It is the beginning of OUR lives who live in the forgiveness that Jesus gave and the new life that rose with Him on Easter.
So as we work our way through Holy Week, remember that the end is coming AND the beginning of our lives as disciples will begin anew. Dear God, lead us through Holy Week and guide to remember and relive what Jesus faced for us, Amen.
Is It Time?
Monday, March 19, 2018
Mark 13:8-10: [Jesus is saying,] "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations."
Why does bad stuff happen? Why do Christians have to endure hardships? Why can't we all just get along? What will save us?
Bad stuff happens, like storms, gas leaks, tree and hail damage. It happens because we live in a broken sin filled world. It's been broken since they day Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. There has been, is now, and will always be wars, rebellions, bombings, terrorism, and the like because man can't get along with man. There is anger, rage, fear, jealousy, and the like. And, as Jesus says, "This is just the beginning."
Christians endure hardships because the world doesn't know Jesus. People react to what they don't know with fear and distrust. People also don't like to be told, "NO." People don't like to be told, "You're a sinner and you deserve punishment. REPENT." People don't hear, "And when you repent, you put your trust in God to forgive your sins and give you a new life by the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus." Does that inhibit us from speaking the truth in love? Sometimes. We get scared to say it. However, you and I have a power to speak the truth in love. God give us the power to boldly confess the saving grace of Jesus in our own ways and gifts.
We can't get along until we get along with Jesus. Human beings will struggle with individualism and individuality. We will always react first in fear and anger. So by the power of God, let go of your fear and distrust and grab hold of God and His grace by means of Jesus and His sacrifice that forgave our sins. As we proclaim the message of salvation and grace, fears subside, anger is reduced, and grace and love rise.
The mercy of God will save us. The grace and love of God our Savior and Redeemer will give to us the strength to endure and even thrive. What we go through, sometimes on a daily basis, pales in comparison to what Jesus went through. And Jesus did it all for us. By His stripes we are healed. By giving His body to be broken and shedding His blood, we are forgiven and renewed. Through Jesus' resurrection we have the strength and power to live a new life now and a new life forever. Dear God, lead us to be the light of life in this dark world, amen.
The Priestly Servanthood
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Hebrews 5:5-6: So also Christ did not exalt Himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by Him who said to Him, "You are my Son, today I have begotten You"; and He says also in another place, "You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek."
For those of us who are pastors, especially in the Lutheran beliefs and traditions, we believe that the office of pastor is not one we seek out "on our own." Men are sought out by God, chosen in order to serve amongst people, to lead them to believe, repent, confess, receive forgiveness and life from God through Jesus, and live out their lives in faith to the end of living with God forever. We are to be priests to offer the "sacrifices" God gave for the benefit of His people. Pastors are also prophets, telling the people of God's pending judgement while telling the people of God's overwhelming grace when they repent, confess, and believe they are forgiven. As a man who is a Pastor, I did not seek this role. The Lord of the Church placed His call upon me, especially when the people of God at Faith Lutheran Church and School called me to be their Senior Pastor. Other denominations have variations on the same theme.
Yet, as a pastor, my role is that of a servant to the "Good Shepherd" and the "Great High Priest," and "THE Prophet." My role is subservient to the ONE who God placed to be shepherd of the world, THE ONE and ONLY sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins and cleansing for all people of every age, AND the ultimate Prophet of Law and Gospel. It is my role, when you boil it down, along with Pastor James, is to lead YOU to HIM. Our calling as pastors is to lead you to Jesus, the priest forever in the order of the "King of Righteousness." Melchizedek is a combination Hebrew word. "Melech" means "King." "Zedek" means "Righteousness."
So, Jesus is the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and Pastor." He serves us (remember yesterday's blog), and I, along with Pastor James, serve You. Why? To lead people, you, to believe in the forgiveness that He gave. Father, send Your Spirit to lead us to believe more fully, Amen
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Mark 10:43b-45: But whoever would be great among must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
What is servanthood? What does it mean to serve? Does it mean that some person benefits from what I do for them? Partially. Society today adds, "And you'll feel better for the service." It seems that we serve in order to feel good about ourselves. We serve so that we feel better.
Have we lost the fuller focus of service and servanthood? You may feel good that you provided help for someone else. You may even derive some joy from helping someone get back on their feet. However, that is not the reason that we serve. Service is about the joy the person who we served has from what we do. Is it okay to "feel good" for doing good for someone else? Yes it is. It's a benefit of serving, for sure. That's not WHY we serve.
We serve because Jesus first served us. We help people because Jesus gave His life in order to save us from our sins. We serve for the good that our service gives for the other person. It is never about us. It is always about the one who is being helped.
The final part of servanthood that needs to be defined is, self sacrifice. We have Jesus as the ultimate example. Jesus served to the point of death. For Jesus, it was all about the sacrifice. Jesus' "joy" was giving His all for the sake of the people. His body was broken and His blood was shed to bring life to broken and bleeding sinners, to heal the wounds of sin by His sacrifice. We are healed of sin, death, and the influence of Satan by means of His wounds. Jesus sacrificed it all so that we will live in order to serve.
So, we serve and give our all, all that we can for other people, because Jesus served us by giving up of His life. God, thank You for Jesus' service to us, Amen.
Authority and Responsibility
Monday, March 12, 2018
Mark 11: 27-33: And they [Jesus and the disciples] came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes came again to Him, and the said to Him, "By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?" Jesus said them, "I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me." And they discussed it with one another, saying, "If we say 'From heaven,' He will say, 'Why then did you not believe him?' But shall we say, 'From man'?" - they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."
"Who gave to you the right...?" is a common question that is, as we can see, very old. The Pharisees and Scribes were the leaders of the people of Israel. They thought that they were "in charge." So when they questioned Jesus as to who gave Him the authority to teach, preach, heal, do miracles, and even raise people from death, Jesus threw their "authority" right back at them. The question was, "Who gave the right to John to baptize? God or people?" Their politically correct answer of "We do not know" showed that they didn't want to take responsibility with the authority they did have.
Now let's move forward in time to today. The question can be, and is being, posed to us as Christians. "Who gave us the authority to tell people that they're sinners who need to repent? Who gave us the authority to proclaim the Gospel of salvation and life that comes from Jesus alone? Who gave us the authority as well as the responsibility to carry out the mission of Jesus of making disciples?" Our authority is constantly being attacked. "Who told you that you can tell my son about Jesus?" "Who gave you the right to publicly broadcast your message of hope in Christ above all else?"
I'll tell you who. JESUS DID. Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, told me to "make disciples." Jesus, my Savior and my Lord, gave to me the authority to do the things that need to be done AND the responsibility to do it. Throughout the Word of God, God continues to equip the faith of His people, encourage His people with hope and promise of new life today and forever, and to engage His people with love and mercy with the responsibility to take action. We have the authority through the infallible, inerrant, and inspired Word of God. Let us be responsible and fulfill His Will for the world. Holy Spirit, be with us always, Amen.
Snakes and Salvation
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Numbers 21:8-9: And the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
I have not been bitten by a snake. I was asked by a member of a former congregation to go on a backpacking trip. He said, "On this trip, you'll see rattlesnakes on the trail sometimes." By a blessing (?) there was a fire in the area so we had to cancel the trip.
Some snakes are poisonous. In our Bible story, the camp of the traveling Israelites was infested by poisonous snakes. People were dying. And why were the snakes there? It was because the people rebelled against God. They were grumbling and complaining against God because they didn't like what He provided for them. The deeper reason was, they didn't trust God that He would lead them the way they wanted Him to lead them. So God put the snakes in the camp to rebuke them and lead them to salvation.
And the salvation? Look to the snake that Moses made which was on a pole. Then you will live. The poison will not continue to hurt you.
God allows troubles, sorrows, and strife to come to us. These troubles, sorrows, and strife are in the world, and in our lives, because of sin. Sin causes rebellion against God. Sin is, by nature, selfish and self-centered. That goes against the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods besides me." God cannot abide that. So He rebukes us with the desire for us to repent of our sins and turn back to Him and His way. We have to die to our self and self will.
And He sets up a way for salvation. Just as the snake was lifted up on the pole for people to see and thereby be saved, God the Father had Jesus the Son lifted up on the tree of the cross to save us from our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The end result of Jesus' death is our forgiveness. Jesus' resurrection is our resurrection to live by grace now along with living with God forever in heaven. God, open our hearts to sin our sin and to see our Savior, Jesus, Amen.
The Road to the Light
Monday, March 5, 2018
Mark 10: 32-34: And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, He began to tell them what was to happen to Him, saying, "Se, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him and kill Him. And after three days He will rise."
Now you may think that the title doesn't match up with the text. Jesus is saying a lot about "gloom and doom" that will happen to Him. Everyone is aware of being handed over to the Gentiles means. It means crucifixion. It means a horrible way to die. I can understand why His followers would be afraid. And it would be natural for us to fixate on all the pain and suffering that will happen to Jesus. And that is why we would naturally focus on the title being wrong.
NOW, let's focus on the last sentence that Jesus says here. "And after three days He will rise." Everyone was so focused on the "lead up" that they missed the point. Jesus was going to die a horrible, gruesome, and humiliating death. AND Jesus was going to rise to life. Jesus was going to go through the agony of the crucifixion only to come back to life. Jesus was going to die to be the one time sacrifice for the sins of humanity for all time in order to forgive humanity and rise to give humanity a brand new life that lives with Him and for Him. By means of Jesus' death, He has destroyed the influence of sin, evil, and the Evil One. By means of Jesus' resurrection, He has brought life, light, and immortality to all who believe in Jesus. This is GOOD NEWS.
And this is the good news that we celebrate AND live out every day. We first are sad and afraid of what our sins cause to happen in us and what God had to do. We are ALSO joyous in believing that Jesus' death and resurrection freed us from sin, cleansed us from all unrighteousness, and gave to us a brand new life. God, thank You for all you did to save me and give me life, Amen.
Pastor Robert Hemsath joined Faith Lutheran Church and School as the Senior Pastor in January 2017. Pastor Hemsath comes to FLC from Christ the King Lutheran Church in Waxahachie, TX. He has also served congregations in Aberdeen, ID and Pocatello, ID. He has been a Lutheran pastor for the past 20 years.