Tuesday, January 04, 2022

The Old Testament Book of Genesis, Part 31

Check out the coolness...captions!

Monday, January 03, 2022

How Will the Next Generation Believe?

Here is the video of yesterday's live-streamed blended worship service with the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. Beneath it, you'll find the text of the message. Living Water resumes its regular worship schedule next Sunday, January 9, with the traditional service at 8:45 AM and the modern service at 11:00 AM. Sunday School for people of all ages happens between the services at 10:00 AM.

Luke 2:40-52
When I was growing up, my family and I attended a huge annual summer picnic put on by a lodge to which my grandfather belonged. There were games and give-aways, tons of food, golf for the interested, a large playground for kids, and, at the end of the evening, a dance with music and styles for all ages. 

One year when I was ten, I stayed in the playground area long after my cousins and sister had joined the crowd at the dance. About an hour after the dance started, my parents, having assumed I’d been with my cousins, became aware that I wasn’t in the pavilion. My father and grandfather searched the place and couldn’t find me. They had the bandmaster page me. But I didn’t hear the page and kept playing outside with a number of other kids.

I’d just run with three or four other kids to shove and land on one of those push-merry-go-rounds, laughing, when an arm pulled me off. It was my dad and he was angry. “Your grandfather and I have been looking everywhere for you! Your mother is beside herself!” These words were accompanied by a few swats on the backside.

The anger my dad felt at that moment was the kind of anger that Luke in today’s Gospel lesson, Luke 2:40-52, says Joseph and Mary felt when they finally found the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem after searching for Him for three days. 

Our translation of Luke 2:47 says of their reaction: “When his parents saw him, they were astonished…” But the root word of the verb Luke uses here is ἐκπλήσσω (ekpléssó). It’s a word used of someone reacting with anger to a situation that brings them shock, panic, or fear. Mary and Joseph had endured a fearful experience. For three days, they had no idea where the twelve-year-old Jesus was. That would fill any parent with panic and anxiety! 

But on top of that, they must have felt dread over losing the One they knew to be not just a Judean child, but the Messiah, God the King. No wonder then that Luke tells us that Mary struck out at Jesus with anger when she and Joseph finally found Jesus in the temple, respectfully asking questions of the Bible scholars and respectfully answering their questions of Him. “Son,” Mary asks, “why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” (Luke 2:48)

Now, I don’t want to turn this into a Greek lesson (I’m not a Greek scholar anyway), but our translation (and it's not the only one that does this) sort of botches Jesus’ response. Our translation renders Jesus’ response in Luke 2:49 as: “‘​Why were you searching for me?...Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” In fact, Luke doesn’t tell us that Jesus used the word “house,” which could refer to the temple. Instead, Jesus more literally says, “Why is it that you were seeking Me? Didn’t you know that it’s necessary for me to be in the things of My Father?”

Jesus’ entire time on this earth was about Him being "in the things" of God the Father, Who sent Jesus to us. It was the necessity of His Incarnation among us

In Luke 12:50, for example, the adult Jesus compares His crucifixion to baptism and says, “I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!” 

And, once more, considering His cross, the adult Jesus says, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” (John 8:28) 

Mary and Joseph, in their panic and anger, forgot what Simeon told them when Jesus was dedicated at this same temple: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35) 

Jesus, God the Son, had come into the world to take our punishment for sin on a cross and to rise to give eternity to all who repent and believe in Him. This was the business of the Father for Jesus! And it’s clear that Jesus loved being about the business of His Father.

The Lutheran pastor and theologian of the last century, Bo Giertz, author of the novel, The Hammer of God, said in one sermon that this text raises a question. It's basically this: How will parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and adults with influence help the children in their lives love the things of God?

Giertz says there are two answers to that question.

First, Giertz says, children must see that we adults love the things of God

None of us completely understands the mystery of Jesus being both fully human, subject to the same need for physical and intellectual development that exists in any child, and fully God, as Jesus claims when He says, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) But it is clear that God the Father placed God the Son Jesus in the home of parents who loved God and the Word of God. In Jesus’ reply to Mary’s panicked words, we can see that it’s beginning to dawn on the boy Jesus that He is God’s Son: He speaks, as few ever had, of His Father’s business rather than of the business of God. 

But Jesus also acknowledges the firm faith footing given Him by Joseph and Mary. How, He asks, could they be surprised by how much He loves God when they had exemplified faith in and love for God every day in their home?

People wonder how the next generations will come to love the God revealed in Jesus Christ or have the freedom from sin and death that belongs to those who repent and believe in Him? Number one, they must see that we who claim to follow Jesus as Lord love and worship Him in response to His great love for us.

But, Giertz says, there’s a second way adults can help the children in their lives to love God and the things of God. It’s to love those children

Loving our children doesn’t mean being indulgent. It does mean providing for their physical and emotional needs, to be understanding, to discipline out of love and not punish out of anger, to not expect them to be mirror images of ourselves, and to major in the majors. 

But it also means to speak of God and the things of God, in Moses’ words, “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7) 

It means as parents promise when their children are baptized, to “faithfully bring them to the services of God’s house…teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments…place the Holy Scriptures in their hands…and provide for their instruction in the Christian faith…” (Lutheran Book of Worship)

When we have faith in the Gospel of new and everlasting life for all who repent and believe in Jesus that comes to us through Word and Sacrament, we need never be, as Joseph and Mary were in our Gospel lesson, dissolved by anger and fear that we have lost Jesus or His saving Gospel. 

Jesus will always find us in Word and Sacrament, always be with us as He goes about His Father’s business. 

Nor, as we return to Jesus in the gracious gifts of Scripture, Holy Communion, and the fellowship of His Church, do we need fear that God has lost us

And, through all the challenges and tragedies, triumphs, and celebrations of this life, the children in our lives can know these things are true, too. 

When they see that we love the God we know in Jesus no matter what and when they know that we love them no matter what, God’s love can help those children hear the Word about Jesus, believe in Jesus, and know they are eternally saved by the grace–the forgiving love of God that always seeks us–in which all believers in Jesus stand. 


2 Things from My Quiet Time with God

Today, for my quiet time with God, I read chapters 1-5 of the Old Testament book of Genesis. Two things struck me today.

First, Genesis 3:16, in which God tells the serpent, an incarnation of Satan, who tempted Adam and Eve into sin, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Here, already, God is promising an "offspring" to the human race, will become humanity's Savior, crushing the power of sin, death, and the devil underfoot. God is gracious and as soon as humanity fell into sin, had a plan to save us from the consequences of our sin.

Second, Genesis 4:15, where God marks Cain in some way to prevent Cain from being murdered. This is another example of God's grace. Cain had murdered his brother. God confronted him and said there would be consequences for his sin: he would be a restless wanderer his whole life. But God said He would not leave Cain vulnerable to being himself killed by others. "...[God said] anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.' Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him." (Genesis 4:15) Cain didn't deserve such grace. None of us deserves God's grace, His charitable love and forgiveness. But He today offers to all as a free gift through Jesus Christ. We can trust in Christ!