Foot Washers

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April 12, 2017

NOTE 1: This week’s meditation was to be shared by our LWML women during the worship service on Palm Sunday, but their pastor forgot. While part of it was shared between services, I wanted to include all of it here.  The author is Linda Bailey of Cullman, AL and it also posted on LWML website. For your mid-Holy Week meditation, I pray you will be as blessed as I was to read this:

Foot Washers

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.                                                                                            John 13:14

Jesus was a teacher extraordinaire! Not only did He explain with words, but He also used examples easily understood by common people. Jesus taught His disciples, including you and me, humility and love when He knelt down and washed the disciples’ feet.

The custom of washing a person’s feet was a sign of hospitality but it was usually done by a servant and not the host. Of course, Jesus could have asked a servant to do this demeaning task but because He wanted to make a lasting impression, He did it. Remember this took place on Maundy Thursday evening, just before He was betrayed, just before He became the Servant Savior of the world.

The reality of this story was made clear to a catechism class. The story goes that one afternoon the pastor walked into the class with a towel and a bowl of water. As the students sat and watched, he took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves, and asked them to remove their shoes. With giggles of embarrassment, they did what the pastor asked. He knelt in front of each student and washed his or her feet.

When he was finished he asked, “Why did I do that?” After a long silence, one student answered, “I guess you just wanted to get our attention!”

Not a bad answer. Jesus got the attention of His disciples, especially Peter who did not want Him to wash his feet because he felt unworthy. But Peter missed the point. Jesus wasn’t just removing dirt from feet; He was showing His love by becoming a servant. No one is too great to serve another. He wanted to demonstrate humility and love to them so they would in turn show it to others, not necessarily by washing feet but by performing acts of kindness out of love. The pastor wanted his students to experience the same feeling as Jesus’ disciples so they, too, would “wash the feet” of others.

Jesus expects us to imitate His example also. We are to show love to one another because He first loved us.

Prayer: Gracious Father, You showed Your great love for us by sending Your only Son, Jesus Christ, to live a life of love. You have taught us by Your example how to live; we need Your Holy Spirit to help us. Humble us Lord, so we might willingly “wash the feet” of others.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

NOTE 2: I am also reminded by this that Jesus said in Mark 10:45,   “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  That he served us His forgiveness and life by dying on the cross and rising from the dead is the reason we celebrate this Thursday and Friday at 7 and on Sunday at 8 or 10:45     

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Your Time Is Up

 

Your Time Is Up

April 5, 2017

Your Time Is Up

“and then the end will come.”  Matthew 24:14c

Timekeepers, whether they are a board game hourglass, a giant stadium scoreboard, an oven clock, or a bedside alarm, all say the same thing: “Your time is up.” They remind us that time is finite. We cannot dawdle on one task, or else we will bump into another task for which our time was already scheduled.

When we see time running out, we might panic and think less clearly, making the time seem shorter than it is.  Or we might become more focused, motivated by the dwindling time to remove all other distractions. That has a way of “stretching” time, as we get more done in less time. Whether we panic or focus depends on our personality. Are we the kind of person that gets disoriented under pressure, or do we actually concentrate better when time is shorter?

How we respond to the shortening of our lifetime is a function of our faith and sense of accountability to God. If we have lived without faith and accountability, a deathbed realization that our time is up will fill us with fear. An inventory of our life will tell our conscience that we are in trouble. We paid little attention to the consequences of how we lived, because we gave no thought to the day when our time would run out.

If, on the other hand, we live with faith and accountability, we are ready for the end when it comes. We will have lived with purpose, knowing that our life mattered to God. We also will have lived with faith that, while our life came up short of what God desired, Christ’s perfect life and death prepared us for eternity in His presence. Since God has declared us forgiven through Christ, “your time is up” is not a dreaded announcement.

Rather, it is music to our ears. Jesus said that when we see the end coming, look up, for our redemption is near.  For the faithful and faith-filled, this will be a celebration.  For while it is the end of this life, it is also the eternal end of sorrow, sickness, trouble, tears, and timekeepers that say, “Your time is up.”

Peace today, tomorrow, and for eternity.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Reading Test

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March 29, 2017

Reading Test

He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Luke 10:26

This week fifth and eighth graders in Texas are taking the STAAR reading tests. The exams present a story followed by questions similar in essence to what Jesus asked a certain young lawyer about the law, “What is written? How do you read it?” The test then presents multiple answers from which the students are to select the correct one.

The lawyer answered correctly without a selection of options from Jesus: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus commended him for his answer, saying, “Do this and you will live”.  In order to convince himself that he could keep the law, the lawyer sought to qualify his answer by asking, “Who is my neighbor?”

“How do you read the Law?”  a. as what I must do to be saved   b. as a reminder to try my best   c. as God’s notice that I need a savior.  When we understand that the Law demands purity in thought, word, and deed, we must conclude that c is the only correct answer. Can we, or do we, ever consistently love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves?  If we are to pass the reading test about the law we must answer with a resounding “no”.

Thanks be to God that there was another reading test question about the Gospel! It leads us to understand that we do have a Savior.  The apostle Philip approached an Ethiopian eunuch who was reading from Isaiah the prophet. He asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30)  Philip explained how Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy by dying as the sacrifice that atones for our sins.  In his perfect love, He met the requirements for our salvation. Therefore, God raised Him from the dead to show that punishment for sin is complete.

How do you read the Law?  If you read the Law correctly, you can also read the Gospel correctly as well.  The answer to all the reading questions is Christ.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

The Blessing of Blessing

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March 22, 2017

THE BLESSING OF BLESSING

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”  Acts 20:35

 While this saying of Jesus is not found in the Gospels, Paul attributed it to Him.  Why is it true that it is more blessed to give than to receive? What is the blessing of blessing?

In a recent meeting with other pastors about our calling to help the poor and needy in our midst, one of them confessed that by nature he could be a stingy person.  How many of us could say the same? Giving to the poor and needy is a wonderful solution to that problem. Not only does it actually help them, but it also gets us unstuck from our natural stinginess and inward focus.  Helping others puts our own needs into perspective. They do not seem so big when we help someone whose needs are bigger than our own. By distinguishing between our needs and our desires, we realize we are more blessed than we thought we were.

Another way we are blessed is that we grow in our faith that God is unlimited in His resources. We can become discouraged that we are unable to do more or enough for others.  Yet, does our Lord ask us to bless others because He cannot do it without us?  Is His arm too short to provide for everything we need?  Certainly, the Lord knows how to care for all his creatures.

It is when we are generous that we see the evidence of that. In giving, we get to witness Him replenishing that which we give and even more than we give. His generosity increases our faith in his ability to provide for our needs and the needs of others.  He can take care of the poor all on his own, but He invites us to participate in the blessings of blessing others.

In summary, the blessing of blessing is that we grow in gratitude for what we have and in faith in what God can do for us, through us, and even without us. May God bestow such blessings always, in Christ.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Denying the Judgment

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March 15, 2017

Denying the Judgment

Know this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 2 Peter 3:3–4

Today about 2,061 years ago, Julius Caesar was assassinated. It was a turning point in Rome, but I mention it to describe an attitude prevalent today. The 15th was called the Ides of March, the first full moon of what was then the first month of the year. A seer (fortuneteller) warned Caesar to be careful of the Ides of March, for tragedy would come upon him. Sometime during that fateful day, Caesar passed the seer and said, “The Ides have come”, implying that the prophecy had not been fulfilled.  The seer replied tersely, “yes, Caesar, but they have not gone.” Caesar was stabbed to death later that day.

As Caesar doubted the seer, so today many scoffers ignore the warnings of God’s Word that a day of judgment is coming.  Peter tells us that they will consider the promise of Christ’s return an empty threat.  “He hasn’t come yet, so why should we worry?” they say. It’s like a man who keeps swimming in a creek with a known population of poisonous snakes, saying, “I haven’t seen them yet, so why worry?”  Such folks want the excuse to keep right on doing what they want.

And how do people live who deny the pending judgment they will face, either in their last day, or on The Last Day?  They live as if they are not accountable to a judge at all, “following their own sinful desires”.  Willful sin dulls the conscience and mind to the natural knowledge of God—that He exists and that we are accountable to him. Atheism is not natural, but a deliberate self-deception.

Yet our Lord, in His mercy delays the judgment so that more may yet repent and live forever.  For our part, we humbly give thanks that God has chosen to give us faith to believe in His Son. We pray for those yet not in the faith. We have no need to deny the judgment. Rather, by faith we look forward to His coming, for our sin has already been judged on Christ’s cross.

Yes, the final judgment has not come yet, but the day is not over.  Be ready, faithful, and joyful that it will come for sure. Until that day, may God’s grace, mercy, and peace be yours through Christ our Lord.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Your Deeds Are Your Creeds

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March 8, 2017

 “Your Deeds Are Your Creed”

“I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18

 “Deeds, not Creeds”, say some people that have little use for the formal and ancient declarations of the Church. Are they saying that it does not matter what you believe, as long as you do good?  Perhaps, they are simply agreeing with James that faith without works is dead. The truth of the matter is that all people have a creed, a code of conduct and a belief about the world around and above them that helps them make sense of life. Even those who deny the need for a creed have one.

What they believe is not hard to figure out.  Just watch their deeds, and you will know their creed. Jesus said of the false prophets, “you will recognize them by their fruits.” It did not matter what they professed, what they practiced reflected their true belief. Martin Luther penned the words found on our sign this week. “Where a man spends his time and money, there is his god.” In other words, the deed reveals the creed, regardless of what you tell people you believe.

Do your deeds reflect your creed?  You confess faith in God the Father Almighty.  Yet do you make decisions based on fear, lack a generous spirit, or do not pray often because maybe you really believe that He is not almighty enough to protect, provide, and answer prayer?

You confess faith in Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord, who suffered and died, and rose again for you. However, do you still cling to guilt, deny your neighbor the forgiveness you undeservedly have received from God, and give easily in to sin because maybe you really believe that the cleansing of the cross was not thorough enough?

You say you believe in the Holy Spirit, who inspired and speaks through the prophets and apostles and works faith through the Sacraments. Do you then doubt God, spend little time in God’s Word, or not cherish his gifts in the Divine Service, because maybe you really believe that the Spirit is not powerful enough to help make a difference in your life?

So we can profess the Creed all day, but few will think we really believe it if we do not act upon that belief.  But when we do, people will notice and will want to know our God who is glorified in our life.  Our deeds can bring others to our Creed. To God be the glory!

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Why Try?

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February 28, 2017

“Why Try?”

For I do not do the good I want,  but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Romans 7:19

 If you are like me, you would admit that you have asked yourself, “Why try to keep God’s commandments if I can’t succeed?” Paul, the author of Romans, felt the frustration of not being able to do the good he wanted but rather do the evil he did not want to do. Then if the commands of God are so unreachable, why even try to do them?  That is a fair question, to which I will give three short answers that have to do with love.

First, we try because God loves us too much to see us suffer the consequences of sin. Having created us, he wrote the manual for what it takes to experience optimal joy, free from guilt and conflict. Sin has natural temporal consequences. Whether they are obvious, such as the effects of gluttony on our health, or more discreet, such as the relational roadblocks that arise from coveting, lust, or other secret attitudinal sins.  We have little idea how much undue suffering we cause others and ourselves when we sin.  Obedience has its rewards. For your own sake, try.

Secondly, we try because God loves us so much that He does not want us to be separated from Him for eternity. God is holy, and nothing sinful enters His presence. The Good News is that in Christ’s atoning sacrifice for us, God does not hold our sins against us. Regular repentance reminds us of our need for Jesus.  However, no longer trying to keep God’s commands will eventually lead us to dull our conscience, no longer repent, and finally deny our sin and our Savior altogether. While they still live on this earth, such people may yet repent and return to the Lord, but no one knows how long that window is open.  Today is the day for repentance.  Today is the day to keep trying.

Thirdly, we try to keep God’s commands because God loves also our neighbors too much to see them separated from Him forever.  He desires that all know His Son, and knowing Him, be saved.  Our efforts to keep God’s laws, also called good works, are a witness to the world that give glory to God who does such works in us.   If we take Christ’s name, but live as if He were not abiding in us, then we dishonor Him and give no reason for anyone to believe in Him. For the sake of pointing others to Christ, keep trying.

I know it is frustrating to try when we can never succeed consistently to keep God’s commands. Such feelings of failure vexed Paul as well and prompted him to write a few verses later, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! He pointed His readers back to Christ, the forgiver of sins and the giver of second (and more) chances. When we fail after trying, and we will, we too can rejoice that our salvation is dependent upon Christ, not on us

So we keep trying, for the sake of our neighbor and ourselves, and to give God due honor and glory.  Join us tonight for Lenten service at 6, to better understand the blessings of trying.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

 

Subjective “Sins”

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February 22, 2017

Subjective “Sins”

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

                                                                                                       Proverbs 19:11

 In my personal observation of others and of myself, I come to realize that we are all prone to take offense at what I call “subjective sin”.  It is subjective, because we label what someone else did or said as sin, based on our feelings about it, not on whether God’s Word actually calls it a sin. By contrast, objective sin is “every thought, desire, word, and deed that is contrary to God’s Law” (question 78, Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation.) That definition of sin has nothing to do with our feelings.

For example, if you take offense in a sermon when I truthfully speak God’s law to you, I am not sinning against you, no matter how you feel about it.  Likewise, if you speak truth to someone that needs to hear it, it may be taken as an offense, but you have not given offense.  The Proverb above recommends having the good sense not to get easily offended or to be quickly angry. Consider whether the words were true and if so, the motive behind speaking them. By doing that, we may realize that while we took offense, no offense was given.

However, that does not take the “truth” teller off the hook. He or she has the Christian responsibility to speak the truth in love and with gentle humility. (Galatians 6:1-2)  This month’s character theme for Faith School is “Sensitivity”, described as “being aware of the true attitudes and emotional needs of those around me”.  So yes, again, the hearer is to be sensitive to the “true attitude” of the speaker, not attributing to the speaker unkind motives that are not there. But the speaker is to be sensitive to the emotional needs of the hearer. That means we speak with consideration to the meaning of our words, the tone of our voice, and the motive of our heart.

Still, no matter how careful the speaker may be, he or she may still commit subjective sins, unintentionally causing offense. At such times, the offended hearer would do well to acknowledge the feeling without ascribing an unkind motive to the speaker. “I felt offended,” rather than, “you offended me” is more likely to result in a humble apology from the one guilty of the “subjective sin”.

Whether a sin is subjective or objective, love and forgiveness is the best Christian response. Christ himself forgave those who sinned against him by having him nailed on the cross, “for they knew not what they did”. He daily forgives us our sins as well. Seek reconciliation whenever you can, but understand that is to His glory that we overlook an offense.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Every Day Love

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February 15, 2017

Every Day Love

Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.  1 John  3:18

 Another Valentine’s Day in the books: card given, flowers delivered, dinner out or a movie, perhaps, Valentines distributed to students or staff.  Done for 2017. But what about today, February 15? What about tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and all the days after? No, we do not have the focus, or the money, to keep up the expressions of love that Valentine’s Day urges, but we do have no less need to receive and give love—every day.

If you have not read, recently or ever, the first epistle of John at the back of the Bible, it is a good time to look at all his passages of love. Paul’s thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians is a better known passage about love, with all its “love is and does” and “love is not and does not” lines, but John is not to be missed. He gets right to the nitty gritty.  Do not just talk about love, but also show it.  Do not fake love with fancy words, but hold it truthfully in your heart—every day.

For example, he points out that if we see our neighbor in need but do not help him, the love of God is not in us.  If we say we love God but hate our neighbor, then, in fact, we do not love God.  Love is a fruit of the Spirit, which dwells in people to whom God has given love and granted saving faith. The necessary connection to God is what makes love work—every day.

How could it be otherwise?  God is love, John writes, and thus is the source and substance of our love. He loves beyond anything we can imagine or imitate. He loved us enough to hang Jesus on a cross as full payment for every loveless word and deed we have ever and will commit. He keeps loving us by providing daily bread, forgiving our sins, delivering us from evil and temptation, and everything else we ask according to His will.  We celebrate that love every Lord’s Day, but He loves us all week—every day.

So what about you?  Is your love limited to sweet words, but not demanding deeds?  Do you extend it to your “loved ones” but not to your enemies?  Is it pretense or real?  Christ did the deed and the word of love.  He died for both His friends and His enemies.  His love was so real that it bled from His veins.  There is not a day that He does not cover us with His love.  So, “let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth”—every day.

Grace and Peace and Love by yours from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz

Personal Pulpits

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February 8, 2017

Personal Pulpits

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, ”  Colossians 3:17

“Today’s sermon is based on the text from …”. So begins a pastor’s message delivered from the public pulpit with prayer and preparation each Sunday.  Speaking God’s Word to God’s people is an awesome and fearful responsibility. Not only do I want to speak the truth, but I want to do it in such a way that people will want to hear it, with just the right amount of seasoning.

While that is the challenge and privilege of pastors, it is also true that every Christian has a personal pulpit. If you are identified as a Christian, you have a platform from which to speak the winsome truth to a world in need of it. Your pulpit is portable, going wherever you go. Your church is your workplace, home, school, and any place you are planted.

Your “sermon” consists of the kind and encouraging words that you speak to your spouse, co-worker, student, child or sibling. It may also contain gentle correction to someone on the brink of an unwise decision or already on the wrong path. Perhaps your sermon is posted in the public arena of Facebook, Twitter, or blogosphere. Does it belittle or build up, speak hope or pessimism, truth or half truth?  Does it invite or alienate?  By the words you choose and the way you speak them, does your sermon glorify God and serve your neighbor? Does it build a relationship of acceptance, so that someone would gladly hear your testimony of faith in Jesus?

Your daily sermon preparation is to pray and meditate on how Jesus has spoken and continues to speak to you in the Scripture.  He spoke rebuke to the stubborn, and wisdom to the confused.  He spoke forgiveness to the unworthy sinner as He delivered it on the cross. He spoke assurance and comfort to the doubtful and grieving as he rose from the dead. Now His Spirit dwells in you. As you listen to Him, Jesus speaks through you from your personal pulpit. May all who listen to your words hear of Jesus and his love!

Blessings on your sermons,

Pastor Tom Konz

Pastor Tom Konz