Crying over spilled Jerusalem

Lent 2 – St. Luke 13:31-35

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The Lenten Fast

Lent 1 – St. Luke 4:1-13

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Always near

Transfiguration of Our Lord – St. Luke 9:28-36

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Let My people go!

First Lutheran Church  Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church  Natoma, Kansas

March, 2019

Quiz time!  What was the focus of last year’s midweek Lenten services?

Give up?  It was the account of Joseph found in Genesis 36-50.

It’s ok if you forgot; a lot can happen in a year; there were lots of other sermons and services at the church, not to mention all the things that happened in your own day to day lives that occurred in between.  In fact, while you probably remember the general idea of the Joseph account in Genesis 36-50, you may not remember every little detail that we examined in the services and in a series of midweek videos that were posted online.

Again, it’s all good.  I myself have very few recollections of any Advent or Lenten series that I have heard preached by others over the years; and sometimes struggle to remember the details of the series I have actually preached.

Now take your struggle to remember a Lenten series that was a year ago, and consider how much of it you would remember if it had been 400 years ago!

Because that is how much time passes between the end of Genesis 50 and the beginning of Exodus 1.  400 years come and go in the turn of a single page, and in that 400 years, a couple of things happen: first, the family of Jacob, that numbered 70 when they went down into Egypt, now is a great nation, mighty and strong.  Second, leaders arose in Egypt who did not remember or feel indebted to Joseph for all that he had done to save Egypt, and then make Egypt a world power during the famine.  And finally, the people of Israel, who have now been in Egypt longer than they have ever lived anywhere else, see that it is time to leave.

Exodus begins with this conflict: the children of Israel are no longer welcome guests in the land of Egypt, and there is a desire to suppress them by Pharaoh, which results in a desire to leave on the part of the children of Israel.  What follows is the call of Moses, and then the 10 plagues, the Passover, and then leaving Egypt while crossing the Red Sea waters on dry ground.

But while that is the part of Exodus we easily remember, and that is the part that always makes it into movies about the Exodus, there is so much more to the Book of Exodus then just this conflict and its ultimate resolution, it also is about the children of Israel learning to be the people of God.  The wilderness wanderings, highlighted by an extended period of time at Mount Sinai, is confirmation instruction for the whole nation.  This is what it means to be God’s people; this is how you are to worship Him; this is how you are to treat one another; and most importantly, this is how you will be different from all the other nations.

This Lent, we are going to pick up right where we left off last Lent.  We are continuing the story just as the Scriptures do.  Our midweek services will focus on the Book of Exodus, starting with the conflict in Egypt, but then continuing on to Mount Sinai and seeing how God takes this group of people and molds them into His people.  And we will see how the Exodus, the central event of the Old Testament, points us Christ, whose death and resurrection are the central event of world history.

Join us on Wednesday’s at 7PM at First Lutheran, Plainville as we make our way through the Book of Exodus.  In preparation, you may wish to read the Book of Exodus, a few chapters each day, to get the full account.

Also, during this time of Lent, please make use of the daily devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries; also consider praying The Litany (LSB p. 288 or TLH #661) each day as part of your devotions.

God Bless!

Pastor Schmidt

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The resurrection of the dead

Epiphany 7 – 1 Corinthians 15:21-26

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Firmly rooted

Epiphany 6 – Jeremiah 17:5-8

Trees belong in a category unto themselves when it comes to plant life.  There is perhaps no living plant based organism that is harder to sustain through the early years of its life, but at the same time, once established, no living plant based organism that is more resilient through the harsh realities of life.

A perfect example of this was seen while driving to a meeting this past week.  For while driving along the highway, we drove over a valley; and at the lowest point, there was a puddle of water, the result of all the snow and ice that has come through this winter.  And in the middle of that puddle, in the lowest point of the valley, were two trees, growing in a place that they otherwise had no business growing in.

Everything that was elevated on the plain, was as flat and as barren as outsiders imagine western Kansas to be; but in that valley, where there was a source of water, there were two trees, firmly rooted, and freely soaring.

What happened to the other trees, the ones up above that should be visible on the flat plains?  Surely some squirrel would have planted a nut that could have grown into a tree over time.  Surely some bird would have dropped a seed out of its beak that could have given birth to a new tree.  Surely the wind, surely the wind, could have blown in some fresh twigs that could have taken root and sprung to new life.

And the truth is all of those things probably did happen at one point or another.

But without the water source, without being able to place down deep, solid roots; whatever sprang up, quickly died when the winds blew long and hard; or when the sun burned hot; or even when the rains came and washed away everything not nailed down.

Which tree are you?

Are you the tree that finds the water source and sends out its roots, yielding long life?  Or are you the tree that thinks it can make it on its own, only to find the realities of life a bit too much to endure, so that you wither and die?

Well, surely no one wants to be the foolish tree that withers and dies; and so no doubt, you stand here today and confess that you will be the tree that stays near the water source that yields eternal life.

But here is the thing, sometimes water is not always in the most attractive place.  The valley looks wonderful when you are standing on top and looking out over it; but in the midst of the valley, suddenly life is not nearly so appealing, surrounded by walls on every side, with no view, and where no one can see you.

Life in the valley does not always allow one to see the bright lights of the world; life in the valley is safe and secure, but that means that the excitement of life is rare, if not totally absent.  Life in the valley can in fact be bland and boring most days.

But life on top is so much more alluring.  The bright lights, the noise, the excitement, the fun and games.  Life away from the water source is where life seems so much more worth living.

Again, you say not I; as one could easily expect you to say on a Sunday morning, where you have forsaken all the other possibilities with which one could spend their time, in order that you might come here and hear the words of an Old Testament prophet.

But what about the other six days?  What about the rest of your life?

Here is in fact where roots are firmly planted; in the church, at the font and the altar.

Notice that the tree can go a long time, but it still needs the basics to survive.  How long can you go without word and sacrament?  We’re here every week.  But that seems excessive to many; can you go without food and drink for more than a week?  A month?  Longer?  How long before your roots attach themselves to something else, anything else, because they need to be sustained, even if it is by the poison of the world?

And if your roots are not being fed here; then how often is a church, with font and altar, sought after when deciding where to go to college?  This is your forsaking the bland and vanilla, with the opportunity to go anywhere to learn; and yet, what about your roots in the faith?  Will that faith be fed and nourished?

And then you come home, to wherever you have decided to make home, what now?  Where will those roots be planted now?  Will they seek out a font and altar?  Or will they sustain themselves solely on the junk food diet of work and pleasure?

And what happens when you take a spouse and you yield forth new seedlings of your own, where will they be rooted?

Suddenly you see why there are so few trees in the valley; the appeal is never in the valley; it is always elsewhere, even when elsewhere is not near the source of Word and sacrament.

And when you look elsewhere, what do you see?  You see a flat plane that stretches forth for miles, because the trees that tried to take root there, had nothing to sustain them when the realities of life struck.

Where were the baptismal waters when the fires of temptation burned hot?  Where was the nourishment of Christ’s body and blood when you needed some assurance that you were not alone?  Where was the absolution, when you noticed how deep you had strayed from the truth of God’s Word?

If you are not near the source, then when you need what the source offers, you will never find it.

The world is the barren wilderness that Jeremiah describes this morning.  You can lurch out into it; you can look around; but you will soon find yourself far away from the water source that offers life and salvation, and without that water source, you will soon die, alone, and apart from Christ forever.

Jeremiah describes the one who strays from the water source as cursed; and indeed, cursed are those who reject the things that lead to eternal life.  Cursed are those who turn their backs on the very thing that can save them.  Cursed are those who do not have roots firmly planted near a source that can continuously refresh them and sustain them in the parched wilderness of this world.

But Jeremiah does not just describe the one who is cursed, but also the one who is blessed.  Blessed is the one who sets their roots out near the streams of water that give life for eternity.  Blessed is the one who is regularly refreshed here at font and altar where the Lord comes to us Himself and offers His life giving, life sustaining gifts that offer not just the needed refreshment to survive in this world, but that which is needed to live forever in the world to come.

Now one may hear these words and think that the church is a ball and chain, which one can only travel and live within a reasonable driving distance from, for if one strays too far, they will go from being among the blessed to among the cursed.

There is in fact much to be said for that; that whenever one makes a decision in life, whether it be work or education or even an extended vacation, the question should always be asked: where will I be sustained?  Where will my roots stretch out to?

But instead of looking at the church as a chain that only allows you to travel the radius of one hour, instead, look again at the tree.

Trees start out as all plants do, as seeds, some almost microscopic.  And yet, what happens to the tree?  What starts out so small, when it takes root, will soar high above all else; lifting up, out of the valley, and into the heavens.

That is what strong, deep roots do.  They take hold, firmly clinging to that source of life, and then they can reach up into the heavens, far above all else, dwarfing all those whose roots are connected to the poison of this world.

Let your roots reach out to the source of eternal life; let your roots cling to this font and this altar all the days of your life; let your roots find themselves deeply wrapped in the words of Jesus; let your roots be planted deep in the Father’s love, so that you may soar to the heavens and live with your Father for eternity.

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What am I learning?

Image result for man in thought statue

First Lutheran Church  Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church  Natoma, Kansas

February, 2019

Around the first of each month, church newsletters hit the mailbox and the internet.  To be honest, reading who the greeters are or whose birthday it is in another church is not that exciting to me; but what I do find interesting is reading the pastor’s article.  Now pastor’s articles in the church newsletter will always fall into one of two categories: either an overview of upcoming events in the congregation, or a devotion or mini-sermon.  To each his own.

It was in reading one of these letters that I noticed that one pastor includes each month a section on what he is learning.  Sometimes it is academic, other times it is behavioral; sometimes it is about himself, other times it is about others.

This is a proper reflection on the life of the pastor, as it is one of constant learning, which is one of the reasons that a pastor does not have an ‘office’ but a ‘study,’ though the two may look identical.

With that in mind, here is a picture of what I am currently learning.

To start off with the obvious: I am learning about the book of Samuel.  We are currently studying 1 Samuel in Bible Study; and as a history buff myself, I have always liked the easy reading of Samuel marching from one historical event to the next, not to mention all of the action that goes on in many and various battles, and some memorable Biblical accounts, like the call of Samuel, and David and Goliath.

I’m also in the process of reading a book called With My Own Eyes by Bo Giertz, which is a narrative re-telling of the Gospels written after a trip to the Holy Land; the intricate detail included in each account, such as the activities surrounding the sun rising and setting on the Sabbath Day, helps one view the life of Christ in a whole new way.

The next book on the list to read is Law & Gospel by CFW Walther.  In an ongoing, and never-ending quest, to improve my own preaching, I have been thinking a lot lately about the way in which the preaching task is taught at the Seminaries, and how it is refined and honed over the years in the congregation.  Law & Gospel is the foundation for all preaching, and reading it again, I hope to gain new insights.

In the pro-life arena, I am focusing my attention on the discussion of demographics and how they will play a role in the growing issue of euthanasia.  The population is nearing the breaking point, and the Church needs to be ready when the question shifts to what to do with the aged and infirmed, who are still valuable in the eyes of God, but who in the eyes of the state are becoming increasingly expensive to care for.

And of course, I am learning about you, both as a congregation and as individuals.  As I approach 12 years here in Kansas, I have seen a lot of changes in these communities and in how it impacts the daily lives of those who live in them.  I’ve seen growth and change in both congregations (as I’m sure you have also seen change in me), and that impacts what we do not only each Sunday, but also throughout the week and into the future.

Additional learning always occurs at conferences, both out of the area and locally at our monthly Winkels.  Even scanning through Facebook can cause the mind to ponder

Oh, do I do anything for fun?  Well, for fun, I’m reading the book Mary Poppins, which the movie was based off; and if nothing else, I keep up on the baseball hot stove, counting the days until Spring Training, or kick back on the couch and watch some college basketball.

What are you learning?

God Bless!   Pastor Schmidt

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