Glad to Go?

Midweek Meditation

October 29, 2014

Glad to Go?

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” Psalm 122:1

 

When I read the psalmist’s joy about going to the house of the Lord, I wonder how many today really are glad to go, and I wonder why. The parents pushing the children to hurry up and get dressed, blaming each other for being late, arguing about even having to go because you’re too tired, you have company, one of the parents doesn’t go, etc. are among several obstacles to joyfully going to the house of the Lord.

Why are we sometimes, or often, not glad to go?  Why have others quit going altogether?  Two reasons come to mind: First, we don’t remember or ever knew, what is truly going on in God’s house. Secondly, not knowing, we don’t prepare ourselves.

Well, what is going on in house of the Lord?  Are we there to sing a few songs to pump us up, to pray for sick friends and rain, pay our religious dues of time and treasure, to hear a preacher’s opinion about a social issue and to get “how to” tips on this or that, to remember what Jesus did for us by taking bread and wine, and to see what I can get out of church?

Or, as the term Divine Service more than suggests, are we in the house of the Lord to grow in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his saving work; by receiving God’s law and love through repentance and absolution, by praying for new hearts that He gives through His Spirit, by hearing the whole counsel of His holy, timeless, and inerrant Word applied to our lives, by offering up the sacrifice of praise and presence in thanksgiving for His grace, by receiving His very real-time presence in the Sacrament that goes beyond mere remembrance, and by encouraging one another through sharing all this with fellow believers whom He has called and gathered to encourage us—all as we are singing and speaking in a way that supports all these Divine actions?  In the house of the Lord, He is the Host, and He serves. Why would we not want to receive whatever our Lord has to give?

One reason we wouldn’t want to is that we don’t properly anticipate it. How could we do that?  Reading the appointed texts for that day ahead of time would heighten our expectations. (At Faith these are provided in the previous bulletin and emailed on Monday.) Getting enough sleep of course is always good for whatever is important to you the following day.  Rising early enough to have your own time in the Word and in prayer, asking for a spirit open to receive God’s gifts is helpful. In your heart, forgiving any who have caused offense against you clears the spirit and mind to receive God’s forgiveness in a more profound way.  Allowing enough time for unhurried travel brings you to God’s house in a calm spirit. The number one way to anticipate the time of worship is to review again what is going on in God’s House when you do.  (See previous paragraph.)

May you be glad to go!   Pastor Tom Konz

9-12 Church

Midweek Meditation

October 22, 2014

9-12 Church

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, Acts 3:19

 

It seems like yesterday. The infamous day simply known as 9-ll, when our nation was hit by the enemy in a way that changed the world, shook us out of our complacency, steeled our determination to survive and thrive, united us for a time, and filled the churches throughout the nation. 9-12 refers to the time of our awareness that our world has changed and so must our level of diligence.

And it seems like a century ago. We are again a divided nation, complacent, unrepentant, unsure of ourselves, and turned back away from God.  It didn’t take long for the churches to fall back to the normal occupancy of a more benign and less alarming time.

Many centuries ago the people of God in ancient Israel acted the same way. Complacent and idolatrous, they were shaken to the core with fear of the latest invading enemy whom God brought against them. They repented to God and cried out for relief. He heard their pleas and delivered them. Soon afterward, they became complacent and idolatrous again and the cycle repeated itself.

In modern America the repentance part of the cycle went missing. We sought comfort without confession, conquest without the cross. We prayed with righteous anger toward our enemy, but not with righteousness before God. We trusted our armies to save us, not the God of armies.

It doesn’t matter who the enemies are at any given time. God is able to use them to move us to repentance in order to draw us back to Him. When it happens, we believe we can beat the enemy army because we have bigger guns.  We think we can wipe out the microscopic enemies because modern medicine will always find a way. About these enemies we’ve grown complacent to an extent, until they truly hit home again.

But our greatest enemy we cannot destroy without the gifts God offers us to us in the Gospel. Sin and its punishment, death, will not fall before our medicine and munitions. Its Satanic author is destroyed only at the cross. Those who fall before the cross in repentant faith are saved. And only those who see the enemy clearly, free of self-delusional complacency and self-righteousness, will readily and regularly confess their sins and receive the blessed assurances of Christ’s forgiveness.  Thus is our greatest enemy conquered and our confidence restored.

Yet too many are unaware of this danger. So many live in a 9/10 church, oblivious to the coming wake-up call of Christ’s return and reckoning of our sin. May God be merciful to us and teach us to be a 9/12 Church that unites with others against the enemy’s army. May we hunger and thirst for the gracious gifts of word and sacrament that strengthen us for the spiritual warfare we face daily. I appeal to those who claim the name of Christ, but take lightly the enemy and the victory Christ won, to be a 9/12 Christian.  To God be the glory and final victory.  Pastor Tom

Homecoming

Midweek Meditation

October 15, 2014

Homecoming

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off,

his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20

 

Today is wedged between local high school and college homecomings, so the topic has been in the news lately.  The alumni who “come home” do so because they have a sense of belonging. The young prodigal son in Jesus’ story didn’t need an invitation to come home. He knew that’s where he belonged, so he home he went.

This week we began a temporary separation from a dear sister in the faith whom the Lord called home before us. She too has gone to a place where she belongs, in the presence of the Lord. She begins ahead of us the eternal life in paradise where the Church Triumphant dwells in glory. We will join her at a time the Lord appoints for each of us.

Meanwhile, on earth the members of the Church Militant (so called because we still combat the internal and external enemies of faith) also have a home.  It is a place of belonging for all those who have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and have confessed faith in the same. When we were baptized the Church welcomed us as heirs of “all the treasures of heaven in the one holy Christian and apostolic Church” We were received “in Jesus’ name as our brother/sister in Christ”.  Bought by the blood of Christ, through which our sins are forgiven, we belong to the family of God.

Upon our adhering to the fellowship by confirmation or transfer we confessed our faith and expressed intention to “hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully” by the grace of God. We didn’t say that we would do this only if we were invited or if we felt like it. No. We made this promise because the Church is our spiritual home on earth. It is where we belong. It is where we find our brothers and sisters and the gifts of God that will keep us until we reach our heavenly home.

So if you have ever confessed your faith and commitment to a Church family, know that you belong there.  You don’t need an invitation to participate. Don’t wait for one. Your original invitation stands. God has gifts for you, and you have gifts for God, that are too precious to lie unused. If you have been absent long enough to wonder if you are still welcome, then know that your status as a son or daughter has not changed. The Father, and your family, will rejoice to see you come home, where you belong.

Pastor Tom Konz

 

A Better View to Come

Midweek Meditation

October 8, 2014

A Better View to Come

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part;

 then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

 

The moon was indeed a bloody red color, just as advertised for this week’s full lunar eclipse.  As I watched it, I was not thinking about any Biblical or ominous symbolism to it. There may be something there.  I just don’t know. Instead, I thought about the text above from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Full and closer than usual, the moon shown in the sun’s reflected brilliance. Soon it became murky, reddish, and then disappeared altogether. As the shadow of the earth began to move past it and its brilliance started to return in the low horizon, it looked so clear in my binoculars. But just as I was enjoying the view, clouds moved in and soon completely covered it in the early morning dawn. How I would have loved to see the whole event, above the clouds, and taken in the clear brilliance of its light! But it was not meant to be this time.

It reminded me of how often we seem to catch a glimpse of God’s glory.  We see His handiwork and understand his ways with clear understanding. It all seems so obvious. Life is going well.  Then suddenly it doesn’t. Doubts drift in, blurring our mind’s view of God’s ways. Our Lord’s ways, always higher and different than ours, don’t make the kind of sense we thought they would. We don’t get what He’s up to and it becomes discouraging and mystifying. Shadows of the earthly events keep us from seeing what He is doing in our life. Clouds block our view. We see in a mirror dimly.

That’s not all bad.  What we don’t see now, nor can we understand, pulls us toward faith. By faith, we don’t need to see with our eyes or understanding. We have the knowledge of faith that God is working outside of our view, behind the clouds and in the shadows. Our assurance is not what we see anyway. We already have that in the blood. The blood moon, for whatever it meant scientifically, reminded me of this spiritually: The blood of Christ covers our sin, erasing all doubt that God forgives and cares. We don’t need to see God’s bright glory now, partially hidden from us in the earth’s shadowy ways. We know, because of that red sign of the blood, that we will see it, and Him, face to face, fully understanding and being understood.

A better view of God will come because Christ came to show Him to us.  That promise is good for now.

Pastor Tom Konz

 

“Triumph in Trial”

Midweek Meditation

October 1, 2014

“Triumph in Trial”

”I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18

 

In preparing to substitute teach our junior high youth in a lesson on persecution in the early church, I read the following values of studying church history: Church history “illustrates the indestructible character of the church”,  … gives us a bond of fellowship with sainted Christians as well as those throughout the world today, … the trials and triumphs of dedicated Christians in the past can inspire us today and  help prepare us for the trials we face.”  (“How the Church Grew” CPH, 2003).

How we need to recognize those values today!  I recently viewed a video by Julie Aftab, a Pakistani woman born into a Christian family, who refused to deny her faith in Christ.  Her co-worker asked three times if she were a Christian, giving her three opportunities to deny her faith.  He promised her an easier life if she converted to Islam, and then tried to bribe her with money. Frustrated by his failed efforts, he threw acid on her face and arms, blinding her in one eye. Her hospital “treatment” was more like torture because she would not deny Jesus, at the insistence of the doctor.  After much agony, but remaining firm in her faith, she has since immigrated and become an American citizen.

The church history lesson includes a letter from a Roman governor written to his emperor in which he states that the Christians (first Century) committed no crime but having faith.  He too asked them three times, “Are you a Christian?” , making it clear that it they were, they would be executed.  While some denied the faith to save themselves, many were executed for staying firm. History reveals, as Jesus promised, that the gates of hell could not prevail against His Church. Many pagans converted to Christianity, inspired by the faithfulness of the martyrs.

Persecution is not new, nor will it ever end, though its intensity will vary from time to time. In this period of increased persecution, we might despair if we don’t know church history.  We might forget that the faithfulness of our Lord has long sustained his people throughout the ages, protecting them physically or keeping them in the true faith even unto death.

Church history reminds us that serious persecution will come against those who take their faith seriously.  Before it comes, shore up your faith now, taking advantage of God’s gifts to strengthen you in His Word, confession, prayer, fellowship with fellow believers, His Sacraments, and praise.  Lift high the cross of Christ, where he willingly suffered to give you eternal life and peace that the world cannot take away. Believe the promise of Christ that whether persecuted by people, illness, doubt, the devil, or guilt, all who call upon the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. He builds His Church on the confession that He is what Peter professed, the “Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  What better ally can we have?

Pastor Tom Konz