The Kingdom of God is like a seed

With all of the stories about the alleged decline of Christianity, it was encouraging to hear our pastor,  preaching on Mark 4:26-34, remind us about how the Kingdom of God grows. [Read more...]

God from above vs. God from below

I’ve started working through the Christian Year of Grace by Johann Spangenberg, a contemporary of Luther who, as a pastor and educator, wanted to provide laypeople a guide to help with the devotional reading of the newly-available Scriptures.  He took the appointed Scripture readings for each Sunday, then–as a classical educator trained in dialectic–offered questions and answers that take the reader deeply into the riches of these texts.

After the jump, I’ll give you an excerpt from his treatment of Romans 11:33-36, the Epistle reading for Trinity Sunday:  “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God:  how incomprehensible are His judgments, how unsearchable His ways!  For who has known the mind of the Lord?” [Read more...]

Holy Spirit day

Yesterday was Pentecost, commemorating the gift of the Holy Spirit.   I think part of the religious problem today is that when people imagine God, they picture the Deist god, an entity above and beyond this world, who looks down on it all from afar.  But the Christian God is very near to us.  He is the one in whom we live and move and have our being.  He became incarnate–a tangible human being– in Jesus Christ, who took into Himself the world’s evil and its suffering.  Then He ascended back into the Trinity, but He promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age.  And so He is really present–bodily–in the sacrament of Holy Communion.  He has also sent us the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, to be our helper, our comforter, and the giver of life, bringing us to faith through God’s Word and preserving us in that faith, indwelling us so that we are nothing less than Temples of the Holy Spirit.

Thus, faith is not merely the acceptance of God’s existence, as if He were merely another fact in the universe, which is again something like the Deists and their followers thought of Him.  Rather, faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, something those of us who have it can hardly help.  It was formed in us by the Holy Spirit working through Baptism and our hearing and reading and being impacted by God’s Word.  So have a happy Pentecost, the season that lasts for the rest of the church year, and revel in God’s nearness.

Seven reasons to rejoice today

Today is Ascension Day, a major festival of the church year–on a par with Christmas and Easter–but it doesn’t get much attention these days.  Prof.  Joel Biermann of Concordia Seminary gives us “seven reasons to rejoice on Ascension Day.”
[Read more...]

David, Jesus, and the 23rd Psalm

Last Sunday was the day in the church year when the regular round of Bible readings comes to the 23rd Psalm, as well as the New Testament passage about how Christ is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-18).  Therefore, the day is heralded as Good Shepherd Sunday.

Pastor Douthwaite began by posing this question:  “I would like to know when David wrote the 23rd Psalm.” [Read more...]

Worship is more than praising God

Pastor Mark Schroeder cites a rather compelling quotation on worship from Klemet Preus:

“If the Divine Service is viewed primarily as our praising God, then you can do that just as well from home. In fact, once we have looked at the topic of vocation, you will see that we can serve God better in the world than in the church building. But if the service is understood as God giving us the forgiveness of sins, then you’ve got to be there. It is very possible that the low attendance at Sunday services seen in so many churches today is a reflection of how we define the service. If I am acting, then I can do it another time. If God is acting, I better be there.”

Pastor Klemet Preus, The Fire and the Staff, Kindle ed. loc 2871

Rev. Schroeder goes on to discuss the point, telling about a sermon he heard that was all about our need to praise God, but forgetting to say anything about Jesus and His cross.  [Read more...]