Life After Baptism

October 26, 2016

Life After Baptism

This week’s meditation is part 33 of The Oration on Holy Baptism. It was preached by Archbishop Gregory of Nazianzus at Constantinople January 6, 381, on the Festival of Epiphany. He refers to several people Jesus healed and put on the path to a new way of living. I pray you will take this to heart in light of what Christ has done for you. We do not want to trifle with God’s grace, but in sincere repentance live the new life Holy Baptism gives.

Pastor Tom

What say I then, and what is my argument?

Yesterday you were a Canaanite soul bent together by sin; today you have been made straight by the Word. Do not be bent gain, and condemned to the earth, as if weighed down by the Devil with a wooden collar, nor get an incurable curvature.

Yesterday you were being dried up by an abundant hemorrhage, for you were pouring out crimson sin; today stanched and flourishing again, for you have touched the hem of Christ and your issue has been stayed. Guard, I pray you, the cleansing lest you should again have a hemorrhage, and not be able to lay hold of Christ to steal salvation; for Christ does not like to be stolen from often, though He is very merciful.

Yesterday you were flung upon a bed, exhausted and paralyzed, and you had no one when the water should be troubled to put you into the pool. Today you have Him Who is in one Person Man and God, or rather God and Man. You were raised up from your bed, or rather you took up your bed, and publicly acknowledged the benefit. Do not again be thrown upon your bed by sinning, in the evil rest of a body paralyzed by its pleasures. But as you now are, so walk, mindful of the command.

Behold you are made whole; sin no more lest a worse thing happen to you if you prove yourself bad after the blessing you have received. You have heard the loud voice, Lazarus, come forth, as you lay in the tomb; not, however, after four days, but after many days; and you were loosed from the bonds of your grave clothes. Do not again become dead, nor live with those who dwell in the tombs; nor bind yourself with the bonds of your own sins; for it is uncertain whether you will rise again from the tomb till the last and universal resurrection, which will bring every work into judgment, not to be healed, but to be judged, and to give account of all which for good or evil it has treasured up.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

For Whom Are You Voting?

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October 19, 2016

 

For Whom Are You Voting?

Let each of you look not only to his own interests,

but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

 

“For whom are you voting?”  If we are talking about the coming presidential election, we can answer four names, or five, if you include “none of the above”.  But, borrowing from a pastor I heard speak recently, let me suggest a very different answer.  There are millions of people you can vote for.

Of course, I don’t mean millions of candidates, but many on whose behalf you are voting.  When you cast your ballot, whose welfare will come to mind?  Will you be voting for what benefits you first and foremost, or for a political ideology?  Or will you consider your vote a voice of support for those who are powerless in this world and need an advocate?  Will you vote for the unborn and terminally ill who need protection, the powerless who don’t receive due justice, and the spiritually destitute who need the Gospel to be proclaimed in this nation?  Will you vote for your fellow citizen who needs gainful employment to feed his/her family?

Will you vote for the threatened refugee, not only here, but also abroad, that they are safe in their own homeland?  Is the safety of your neighbor worthy of consideration in your choice?

Our Lord elected us for salvation. It was His choice to come to earth, to leave the glory behind, take on human flesh and die so that we would not be shackled by sin, death, and the power of the devil. He voted for us, that we may have life through the forgiveness of sins.  On November 8th we will not be called to sacrifice our lives for our neighbor.  But we can choose to sacrifice our own personal needs to serve our neighbor in how we vote. For the most part, what is good for our neighbor is also good for us.

On that day, exercise your right and privilege to vote.  Until then, learn all you can about which vote will best serve your neighbor.  That is the one for whom you are voting.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Citizen of Heaven

 

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October 12, 2016

 

Citizen of Heaven

Our citizenship is in heaven.

Philippians 3:20

 

Unless I find a certificate of naturalization with my name on it, it appears that I am not a US citizen after all.  That was a surprise to me, when I went to the Social Security Administration to apply for Medicare.  It can be remedied, but not without some effort.

I left the office somewhat frustrated, but glad that I don’t have to doubt that I am indeed a citizen of heaven.  Having been baptized, for which a certificate does exist, I have the witness of the Holy Spirit, who has given me faith that Christ has cleansed me of my sins, written my name in His Book of Life, and declared me to be a child of the living God.

By faith in the assumption of my American citizen status, I have obtained a passport, and also voted, paid taxes, and have been in possession of a social security card for many years. That is appropriate for a citizen to do.

With faith that we are citizens of heaven, what is appropriate for us? For one, we live in wisdom that does not cling to this world, because the “world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”1 John 2:17. We also live in wonderful anticipation “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us”. Romans 8:18; Thirdly, we live in loving service and sacrifice that is laying up treasures in heaven, “where “neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matthew 6:20

You don’t need a certificate to have the privileges of citizenship in heaven, nor to reflect what that life looks like right now. While we are pilgrims here on earth, we already have a home in heaven awaiting us.  Let’s live like we know that.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

 

Family Shows

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October 5, 2016

 

Family Shows

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone,

and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10

 

Two to three decades ago television viewers were treated to a number of highly rated family shows with clever titles that conveyed more than one meaning. If you raised your children then, or were being raised then, you recall how the shows connected with issues in your family. But they still ring true now twenty to thirty years later for a different reason: they mirror concerns facing the church family as well.

In Family Ties, much of the comedy arose from the different political and economic views between the parents and their children. The Keatons navigated the inter-generational differences. with understanding and patience. Successful churches learn to do likewise as they energize their traditions and the wisdom of experience with the zeal and optimism of youth.

Family Matters (both noun and verb) gave us Steve Urkel, the nerd next door who could be low on common sense and social skills, but scored highly on sincerity and genuine care. Every congregation has a few Steves to nudge them out of their comfort zone and to see things from a different angle. The Winslow family’s acceptance of Steve showed that family is not just who you are related to, but who matters to you.

Step-by-Step showed us the classic blended family, bringing together youth and adults who grew with different backgrounds and experiences. They learned to understand and accept each other as brothers and sisters who shared the same Lambert family name.  In our church family growth in spirit and number requires openness to those different from us. For in our shared baptism, we are all adopted into one name: Jesus. We are the ultimate blended family, as Paul wrote of the Gentiles’ relationship to the Jews. “In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ”. Eph. 2:13

Home Improvement wasn’t about improving the house or the car, but the Taylor family. They learned that “more power” was not always the answer, but rather serving and listening to one another.  This usually happened when Tim, the head of the household, sought the guidance of his mentor, the half-hidden neighbor Wilson who peered over the back yard fence. Likewise, Church Improvement happens when leaders seek the wisdom of God, partially visible in Christ, who shares His Word and Spirit with all who ask.

Like program titles above, the title of this article also has another meaning. The Christian family shows—it shows up.  Whether it’s your home or church family, its members are there for each other in time of need.  When there is work to do and sacrifices to make, the family shows up to pitch and get it done. Anything that works in your family do in your church; and if it doesn’t work in your family, don’t imagine that it will work in your church.

Human nature being what it is, we always have the same needs, and all relationships play by the same rules.  Christ sacrificed himself to save all people and to heal all relationships.  His Spirit gathers and keeps us as the household of God, the family of faith. Regularly worship with the saints, meditate on the Word, pray through Christ, and feast on His sacrament. By doing so we can improve our family ties, step by step, because Family matters.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz