Monday, June 28, 2010

Here We Go Again

Here's my notes from yesterday's sermon. You can listen by clicking this link (mp3).

It’s been an interesting week, a historic week. The first time this church had an interesting, historic week was the week of its founding, in January of 1870, 140 years ago. Here are a few words from the church’s history:
While it is not possible to judge how accurate and objective the minutes were, it appears that the proceedings were self-assertive and frank.

There was a dispute at the organizational meeting of this congregation… and I quote “There arose a most unpleasant controversy… According to early members who recalled this incident in later years, the disagreement was called by dissidents who were opposed to being bound by Lutheran confessions and practices… But these persons withdrew from the meeting and ‘peace and unity prevailed.’”
When difficulty and disagreements arise, we should not panic! We should simply say “here we go again.” The God who brought the congregation safe through discussion and disagreement and division in the past—that same God will be faithful today.

And it’s clear that none of this begins with us or with our church. The scriptures assigned for today speak the truth about a complex and difficult road, but a wonderful road—the road of faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let’s first look at the scripture from First Kings—when I first read this I thought it was Elijah’s retirement! Elijah had been depressed and hiding in a cave. He’s hiding because he’s gotten in huge trouble—and he’s in trouble because he’s been obeying God.

He is depressed and in hiding… he goes in God’s strength for forty days into the desert of the Sinai peninsula… he goes to a mountain where he experiences wind and earthquake and fire… and finally hears the whisper of God’s voice. This is in First Kings 19:9 and following—page 320 in the church’s Bibles…

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” says God in verse 9… Elijah is up far away from everyone else, hiding in a cave. Have you felt like hiding lately? If so the Word of God come to you in your hiding place? What are you doing here?

Elijah answers honestly—I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts, FOR THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL HAVE FORSAKEN THY COVENANT, THROWN DOWN THY ALTARS, AND SLAIN THY PROPHETS WITH THE SWORD, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.

And then the reading for today begins with verse 15.

What happens next looks like a retirement story. The Lord tells Elijah to do what looks like is going to be the wrapping up of his work. He’s to go anoint a couple kings and to “anoint Elisha as prophet in your place.” It looks like Elijah’s retirement.

But it’s not. Elijah actually continues his ministry, standing up and witnessing to the one true God—except now he has Elisha by his side as an assistant. When Elijah is so depressed—that isn’t the end… God strengthens Elijah with his Word and sends him out to do many things like he has done before. Here we go again.

And something similar happens in our gospel with Jesus.

Luke 9:51-62. Like Elijah, Jesus is standing up for a particular, specific TRUTH. Jesus is not someone who always gets along with everyone. People are leaving his meetings all the time. It’s clear from this passage that it’s important to be kind and not to call down fire from heaven on those you disagree with. It’s important, as it says in Galatians 5, to love one another and not “bite and devour” each other… but that doesn’t mean just saying every opinion is alike.

That wasn’t true for Elijah and it’s not true for Jesus Christ himself. When we have disagreements about truth, we ought to sigh and say “Here we go again…” and trust God to bring us through.

When we are dealing with matters of truth, there are going to be disagreements. It’s just how it is. It’s important to make sure that what any of us are standing up for is supported by God’s Word, but the mere fact that there are disagreements should NOT be surprising! It’s simply a time to hold even tighter to God’s hand, and in a sigh to deep for words---in a sigh that says “Here we go again” pray and pray… and ask God to bring us through.

There are many times in scripture that God’s Word divides.  That is why the Word of God is called "the sword of the Spirit." There are many times that God's Word does not unite. We ought always to be kind and gentle with one another, we ought to be way more sad than angry, we ought to LOVE those we disagree with no matter what, but that still does not always bring us together. Oh, Lord, we pray you will be with us as here we go again.

The gospel for today shows how hard it is to follow our Lord. Many times what we do will seem harsh and uncaring. When Jesus speaks to his followers he says things that seem very harsh today. There are deeper reasons for what he says in verse 60 for example, and in verse 62, but those reasons do not take away the fact that following Jesus usually, normally, time after time, it is hard. So we cannot claim that those who are “upset” or seemingly divisive are wrong simply because the things they bring up are difficult to handle. Everything will not always be peaceful on the surface or even way down deep—at least not until we reach the kingdom of God.


Why are these things of God so important that it’s worth it anyway, even though there are divisions—I mean, the words of Jesus to those who would follow him are not all that peaceful!

Why is it worth it?

Early this morning I heard a message by Pastor Mark Larson on the radio. He compares what Jesus says to what first responders—fire and police and other emergency personnel—Pastor Mark Larson compares what Jesus do to what “first responders” did on 911.

Here I quote from Pastor Mark’s sermon:
Jesus said, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the Kingdom of God." These words are very blunt. It seems perfectly reasonable and proper that a man be allowed to attend the funeral of his father. These words seem harsh. Why is Jesus in such a hurry when He calls to us, "Follow Me!"?

To answer that, put yourself in the big shoes of the first responders after the Twin Towers were attacked on 9/11. Huge plumes of smoke are rising to the sky. Many people have already died. . . . And it's raining . . . raining people, people who are forced to choose between death by fire or death by jumping out of the buildings a hundred stories up. The sirens of the fire and police vehicles howl and echo back and forth in the skyscraper canyons of the city. The first responders speed toward the task appointed before them. Many in the Towers have already died, but some people still need to be rescued. The firemen and the policemen set their faces toward the Twin Towers. Their eyes are fixed on this catastrophe; I don't think they could look back if they wanted to. They could not say good-bye to their families. There was nothing more important at that moment than the task of saving the lives of those still trapped in the Twin Towers.

What an important task, saving lives. Yet this pales in comparison to the task of saving eternal lives. The brave first responders went to save earthly lives. Jesus and those who respond to His words, "Follow Me" set their faces to save the eternal lives of those who are trapped in sin. . . It's still raining. . . Raining the souls of men being lost from our Heavenly Father's tender care to a hopeless, despairing eternity. So Jesus says, "Follow Me. Right Now! Don't look back!" That's the meaning of this passage of the Bible.
Because this church will do what it always has done—preaching and teaching salvation in Jesus Christ alone—there will be challenges and even divisions. But because Jesus is the only one who can save us and the world, let us say with confidence, even in the face of disagreement, “Here we go again…” and follow our Lord.

I invite you who are reading this to join in our prayers from June 27, 2010.

Remembering always to give thanks, let us pray for the whole Christian Church and for all people everywhere. ...

We praise you Lord, for preserving for us the saving gospel of Jesus Christ alone. Continue to raise up, strengthen, and encourage all who speak your Word for the sake of the world, that many may be saved. Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

Jesus, Master, many times we hide from difficulty. We panic when hard times come upon us. Remind us you are always with us, and come to us as you did to Elijah with your Word. Help us listen and believe. Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

Jesus, Master, many times we seek retaliation and revenge. Too often we would like to see others suffer. But you rebuke us. You reject our self-righteousness. Help us, Lord, know what it means to stand with uncompromising truthfulness and total love. Fill us with compassion. Make it our goal to change every enemy into a friend. Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

Jesus, Master, turn easy words of commitment into action. Eliminate excuse making. May the greater desire to follow you overcome all selfish desires. Give us ears and eyes to see those who are in need of your salvation. Give us a sense of urgency so we leave all else to follow you. Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

When there is stress or tension, turn our attention to you. you promise that you will not leave us for forsake us. Help us always trust in you and your Word. Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

Bless and protect our youth as they are traveling and working for you in Montana. Give them a blessed experience as they bless others in your name. Thank you for Izabella Grace Bendorf. Bless her and her parents, Nate and Sarah. Grant your healing to Isabelle Mattson, to Jeff Barth, and to the many others who are injured or who are ill or in trouble. Send your healing balm upon all who are living with stress during these days. Give your peace and love to Frank Cruz and his family as they mourn his mother’s death. Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

For the poor and needy, for those with mental illness, for the institutions that care for them, for first responders and our military, that God would work in every situation. Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.

Others were invited to pray... then we continued…

Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

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