Saturday, November 10, 2007


The Buckeyes can't let up today or when they face Michigan's Wolverines next week. This, from
Michigan and its fans should not drown in its sorrows with Saturday's loss. Since 1980, the Wolverines have lost three times in the game immediately prior to playing Ohio State. Each of those previous three times, the Wolverines have bounced back and defeated the Buckeyes.

Romero: How We Treat the Poor is How We Treat God

[This devotional piece comes from my friend and colleague, Glen VanderKloot, pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Springfield, Illinois. It cites Roman Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. Romero was gunned down in 1980, while serving Holy Communion to cancer patients. His crime? Speaking against the oppression of the poor in his homeland. Glen VanderKloot sends our a daily emailed inspiration. To subscribe, send him an email at at and put SUBSCRIBE on the subject line.]

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A Thought for the Day

The guarantee of one’s prayer is not in saying a
lot of words. The guarantee of one’s petition is
very easy to know:

How do I treat the poor?

Because that is where God is. The degree to which
you approach them, or the scorn with which you
approach them—that is how you approach your God.
What you do to them, you do to God. The way you
look at them is the way you look at God.

Archbishop Oscar Romero

Matthew 25:34-40 TNIV

34 "Then the King will say to those on his right,
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your
inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since
the creation of the world.

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
36 I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord,
when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty
and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see
you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes
and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in
prison and go to visit you?'

40 "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever
you did for one of the least of these brothers and
sisters of mine, you did for me.'


Lord, help me to see you in the eyes of everyone in need
and to respond with love and kindness and assistance.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Pass at Luke 20:27-38

[My wife, son, and I have just moved to Logan, Ohio, where I will be serving as pastor of Saint Matthew Lutheran Church. Here, I hope to continue to write and post "passes" at the Bible lessons appointed for the Sundays ahead. They're designed to help the people of Saint Matthew to prepare for worship. But they may also be useful to others, since we follow the Church Year used by most Christians each week. Because until Friday, my access to the Internet results only from my walking to the Logan Library and using their free WiFi access, there will only be one pass at the lesson.]

1. The appointed lessons for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost are: Job 19:23-27a; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17; and Luke 20:27-38. The Psalm is Psalm 17:1-9.

2. All three of the lessons for this week share several common themes:
  • Resurrection
  • Human obsessions v. God's ways
3. In the first lesson, Job, a man dealing with multiple tragedies responds most immediately to his friends, who are bent on blaming Job for all of his troubles.

This is a common--and wrongheaded--human response to the tragedies of others. It no doubt stems in part for our very human desire to make sense of things. But not everything that happens in our fallen world "makes sense." Our alienation from God, a condition the Bible calls sin, means that inexplicable things happen in our world. Bad things do happen to all people.

Job doesn't exempt God from blame either. That's okay. As I often tell people who confide that they sometimes get mad at God, only people who believe that God is real, present, and caring get angry with Him. If we didn't believe in God's existence, we wouldn't be angry with Him. The Psalms are replete with examples of people shaking their fist at or bellyaching to God.

We get angry at the tragedies of life because, deep in our DNA, we know that tragedy and death were never meant to be part of the human experience. See here for a discussion of these issues.

Looking back to vv. 19-22, just before this lesson, we see that Job is not only wearied by grief, pain, and his sudden poverty, he also feels persecuted by his friends. He feels that both God and the world are against him. Throughout that section just before our lesson for this week, Job makes references to his flesh, saying that his bones are clinging to his flesh and that he has escaped death himself by the skin of his teeth, wondering why his friends, "like God, are never satisfied with my flesh?" All of this lay in Job's triumphant affirmation of the resurrection of all who believe in the God revealed, first to Israel, and definitively, in Jesus Christ:
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God...
4. In the 2 Thessalonians passage, the apostle Paul confronts the tendency of the Christians in the Greek city of Thessalonica, to believe reports that Jesus had already returned. Paul asserts that Jesus, God in the flesh, did in fact rise from the dead and that through His resurrection and our faith in Him, we too will experience resurrection. Until Jesus does return or until we leave this earth, we are to be faithful in following Him.

Paul's words upbraid modern Christians in two different camps:
  • Those obsessed with Jesus' return with little thought to actually living in daily repentance and renewal, daily seeking God's help to love God and love neighbor or to make disciples.
  • Those who dismiss the reality of Jesus' resurrection and turn their faith into a kind of "feel good" elixir for their troubles. To them, Paul would say, as he did to the church at Corinth, "If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied" (1 Corinthians 15:19).
5. The Gospel lesson records the only mention that Luke makes of the Sadducees. The Sadducees, it's believed, traced their movement to the ancient priest, Zadok. They comprised a smaller, but more influential, movement than that of the more frequently mentioned Pharisees.

Jesus, in fact, had more in common with the Pharisees than with the Sadducees. The Pharisees, although guilty of legalism that obscured the grace and love of God, believed, like Jesus, in a resurrection and that the entire Old Testament was the Word of God.

The Sadducees repudiated the entire notion of a resurrection and believed that only the first five books of the Old Testament, which make up what the scholars refer to as the Pentateuch, were "canonical." (See point 6, here.) The Pentateuch was also called "the books of Moses."

This is why Jesus reference to Moses toward the end of our lesson is so clever, claiming, as He does, that Moses affirmed the reality of the resurrection by referring to the Lord as "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."

6. The "question" of the Sadducees is really designed to trip Jesus up, anger Him, or ridicule Him. The fictional case study they present to Jesus is rooted in what's called "levirate law." (The word levir is a Latin term, meaning husband's brother.) In most circumstances, it was considered wrong for a woman to marry her husband. (See Leviticus 18:16; 20:21) There were several apparent purposes behind levirate marriage: to maintain the continuation of a family line and to protect women who otherwise were without rights. The refusal of brothers to fulfill their duty under this law, while momentarily embarrassing to the man (check out Deuteronomy 25:5-10, linked below) had an even graver consequence. Women widowed without heirs were often forced into a life of prostitution.

But if a woman was widowed and childless and a brother of her late husband is unmarried, it was his duty to marry the widow. Their first male child--only males had property rights, would be considered the heir of the deceased husband. Levirate marriage is discussed in Genesis 38:8 and Deuteronomy 25:5-10.

7. The Sadducees, more concerned with religious propriety than with faith in God, were also obsessed with money, being members of the wealthiest classes. For them, "this life" was all there was. So, their "question" springs directly from their beliefs.

8. Jesus responds in two different ways to the Sadducees, as pointed out by Fred Craddock:
  • a. In vv. 34-36, Jesus answers with reason. In the resurrected state, all of what Martin Luther would call "emergency" measures, things like marriage and governments and such, will go by the board. Nobody will be widowed or orphaned. All will have God as Father and, as the New Testament puts it occasionally, husband. It isn't that we won't know or love those with whom we've shared this life. It's just that the old measures will be both unnecessary and defunct.
  • b. In vv. 37-38, Jesus responds by alluding to Scripture. As pointed out above, He does so very cleverly, invoking the faith of the very person the Sadducees claimed to be the author of the only books they deemed holy, Moses.