Tag Archives: sermon

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The all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God is always accompanying us. . .

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

There are many thank-you notes, and words of congratulations to share. First, I want to thank all the people who helped make the Houston trip possible for our young men and women. By Meagan’s leadership and resourcefulness, all the participants will have faithful and meaningful memories to carry with them forever. The success of this trip truly was a whole congregation effort because everyone provided prayers and resources. Secondly, I want to send a huge thank you too all the people who participated in the clothing sale. It was a lot of hard work, but well worth it. I know many people are grateful for the kindness and generosity that Our Savior’s shows to the community. Finally, words of congratulations to all those who graduated. Well done. God is using you and your gifts to further God’s Kingdom.

I can confidently say that our congregation is doing well. Everyday I see and hear about acts of kindness, love, humility, excitement, and inclusiveness. I am very honored to be part of this church. Even though our congregation is doing well, we all notice that there are relational, environmental and political challenges, struggles and heartbreak in other parts of our county and world. In reflection of these wider issues I want to direct you to chapters 4, 5 and 6 from the gospel of Mark. We will also be reading these chapters in worship on Sundays for the next couple weeks. While you read, whenever you come across the words fear, afraid, terrified, I encourage you to get out your highlighter or pen and circle that word. Examine who the characters are who are fearful and take notice of what they do because of their fear. One of the topics from these chapters in Mark is the topic of fear and specifically how people react to fear. I’m writing about this topic because it seems to me the most troubling issues of 2018 are related to people reacting to fear in hurtful and unhealthy ways. I hope by studying the Bible and Gospel message, we can equip ourselves and help equip others to use our faith and react to fear with confidence and grace.

Throughout these chapters in Mark, we often see the hurtful and unhealthy ways in which people, especially the disciples, reacted to fear. I will point out a few of these examples (there are several more that you can uncover through study). When Jesus Stills the Storm in Mark 4:35-41, we see the disciple reacting with hopelessness and accusing Jesus of not caring about them.  The swineherds from chapter 5 were afraid and their reaction to fear was to reject Jesus and beg him to leave their neighborhood. Because it is such a dynamic story, most people are familiar with the verses about Jesus walking on the water in chapter 6. A detail that most people miss from that story is that the disciple’s response to fear and not-understanding is simply to harden their hearts. Later in Chapter 9:30-33, the disciples didn’t understand Jesus’ teaching and were afraid to ask him to clarify so they were silent. Their reaction to fear was ignorance.

Simply put, faith enables us to face our fears with bravery and confidence because we know that the all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God is always accompanying us. By reading these chapters together and reflecting on them, I am confident we can face our fears with grace, wisdom, and compassion. When people are not trained to use their faith they often react to fear by being hopeless, judgmental, violent, ignorant and reject Christ himself.

There are two messages of good news for you today. The first is – you have faith. God has given faith to you and you can rely in your faith to get you through the most frightening issues. The second is – even if you fail and succumb to let fear guide you, God will never give up on you. The disciples constantly failed, but God never abandoned them. God will never abandon you either. God loves you and always will.

Have a Blessed Summer~ Pastor Erik

guide helper counselor

. . . Helper, Counselor, Advocate, and Guide.

John 15:26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.”
This Sunday is Pentecost! Such an amazing day when we celebrate the Holy Spirit and reflect on the leadership, guidance, and power that the Spirit continuously bestows upon us and the church. During worship, we talk a lot about Jesus and God the Father, but we spend just a small amount of time talking about the Spirit. This lack of time devoted to the Spirit has left many people confused about the who the Spirit is and what the activity of the Spirit includes.

I found Professor Jones’ words (Wartburg College) to be very helpful, “In John, Jesus’ preferred term for the Spirit is the Paraclete. The Greek noun Paraclete is related to a verb that means “I call alongside.” The Paraclete, then, is the Spirit of Truth whom Jesus calls to accompany his followers as helper, counselor, advocate, and guide. Jesus promises to send the Paraclete as a replacement for his own presence among his disciples.” Jones further writes, “Jesus describes the Paraclete as the Spirit of truth who will expose sin, righteousness, and judgment and who will lead Jesus’ followers into all truth. It is vitally important that readers understand what Jesus means here by truth.

The Spirit of truth is not focused on propositional, dogmatic truth. Jesus does not send the Spirit to ensure that the community makes no errors in its theological descriptions of the Trinity or of the precise nature of Christ’s presence in the consecrated bread and wine. No, Jesus sends the Spirit of truth to help his followers live in the Way of Jesus.”

I hope to see all people at worship on Sunday. It will be an amazing day. Celebrating an amazing promise. A promise given to an amazing group of people.

God’s Peace~ Pastor Erik

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I’m Glad to Know. . .

Mark 3:28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

                When I was a kid I remember being outside during Thanksgiving break putting up Christmas lights and decorations with my Dad. Several other people on my street were also out putting up lights because it was a beautiful day, and the weather forecast said starting that evening it would snow and be cold. While we were out, my next-door neighbor was climbing up an extension ladder to put lights on some high windows when he accidently fell. He wasn’t seriously hurt, but he fell hard, and his ladder also broke his window. He was mad, really mad.  He yelled a series of creative profanities and swear words. I thought to myself, “Oh no, Mr. B. just blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. That’s the worst thing he could’ve said.”
Unfortunately, I never asked my parents, pastors or any adult what it means to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. I thought it was simply swearing at God. The Gospel of Mark teaches us that it is not about swearing. Instead, Mark says that blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is when someone sees and experiences the Good-Work of God firsthand and attributes that action to the devil. It means that someone is so-far-gone- that evil has completely permeated their life, character and the way they interact with the world and their neighbors.
I am glad to know that my neighbor, Mr. B, is ok and going to be ok. I want you to know that you are also ok. God loves you and so do I.

 

Blessings~ Pastor Erik

Shovel in the ground, close-up.

God is calling you for something special. . .

Acts 2:17 “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.”

Last Sunday was Pentecost! It was a day of celebration for our congregation. We celebrated Peyton and Madison as they look towards college. We also celebrated the New Testament reading from Acts which described the coming of the Holy Spirit and how people from the early Christian church were given profound abilities to communicate with the people from the whole world about the good news of Christ.

Sometimes I hear from people that they can’t fully participate in the life of the congregation because they are… too old, too young, too new, too busy, too… These verses from Pentecost teach us that we are all worthy and equipped to participate in God’s Kingdom. Nobody is too old or too young. Men, women, rich and poor- all people have something to contribute to God’s mission. Regardless of your status in life, God is calling you for something special.  What is God calling you to?

Keep up the Good Work you do. Your fellow servant of Christ~ Pastor Erik

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Bless this Mess!

God Will Bless the Mess

One of the joys I have as pastor is that I am invited into peoples’ homes for conversation, communion, and relationship building. I like learning about others, hearing their story, and sharing my story. In addition to conversation, I learn about other people by taking notice of what people hang on their walls—photographs, art, souvenirs, and folky sayings. One of my favorite hangings is one that simply says, “Bless This Mess.” I can relate to that phrase well, and if you’ve recently visited my house, or especially my office lately, you’d agree. It seems like I live in a constant state of messiness.

There are so many reasons why homes and offices become untidy, disordered, and messy. Some reasons are fun and positive — children who make a mess are often so excited for the next project or event that things are not cleaned up first. Messiness can be proof that things are happening, and life is being lived. However, the reasons for a mess can also be upsetting and painful—poor health, financial distress, broken relationships unhealthy conflict. Sometimes a messy office or home reveals a troubled heart or mind.

I am confident in saying that everyone’s life is messy to some degree. I am also confident in saying that God will bless the mess. Stacks of dirty dishes in the sink means there was a recent meal with laughter shared by friends and loved ones. That is a blessing from God. Muddy footprints on the carpet mean someone had a great time splashing in the puddles on the sidewalk or playing in the yard. That is a blessing from God.  Or, neglected chores and housework can be a result of illness, depression, or loneliness. God sees the mess, hears the cries, dries the tears, brings hope of healing, meaning, and fulfillment. God calls you to notice the harsh messiness of the world and respond with grace and mercy, and blessing.

Have a blessed summer~ Pastor Erik

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Bless This Mess!

God Will Bless the Mess

One of the joys I have as pastor is that I am invited into peoples’ homes for conversation, communion, and relationship building. I like learning about others, hearing their story, and sharing my story. In addition to conversation, I learn about other people by taking notice of what people hang on their walls—photographs, art, souvenirs, and folky sayings. One of my favorite hangings is one that simply says, “Bless This Mess.” I can relate to that phrase well, and if you’ve recently visited my house, or especially my office lately, you’d agree. It seems like I live in a constant state of messiness.

There are so many reasons why homes and offices become untidy, disordered, and messy. Some reasons are fun and positive — children who make a mess are often so excited for the next project or event that things are not cleaned up first. Messiness can be proof that things are happening, and life is being lived. However, the reasons for a mess can also be upsetting and painful—poor health, financial distress, broken relationships unhealthy conflict. Sometimes a messy office or home reveals a troubled heart or mind.

I am confident in saying that everyone’s life is messy to some degree. I am also confident in saying that God will bless the mess. Stacks of dirty dishes in the sink means there was a recent meal with laughter shared by friends and loved ones. That is a blessing from God. Muddy footprints on the carpet mean someone had a great time splashing in the puddles on the sidewalk or playing in the yard. That is a blessing from God.  Or, neglected chores and housework can be a result of illness, depression, or loneliness. God sees the mess, hears the cries, dries the tears, brings hope of healing, meaning, and fulfillment. God calls you to notice the harsh messiness of the world and respond with grace and mercy, and blessing.

Have a blessed summer~ Pastor Erik

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Reflections of Lent on the Sense of “Hearing”

Pastor Erik’s Lent Reflection 2018

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.  (1 John 1:1)

            Just a few weeks ago we celebrated the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Christmas is always a special time of year not just because of all the fun activities, but because we learn and remember that Jesus Christ arrived to us as a person- as human flesh. Jesus is both -100% God and 100% human being.  During Jesus’ earthly ministry there were many people who encountered him physically. The saw him, heard him, touched him and were touched by him. Today, we can also encounter Jesus physically. For example, many of you have already felt and smelled the oily ash that was drawn on your forehead in the shape of the cross on Ash Wednesday. In a few weeks we will smell the wonderful Easter lilies, we will taste the Seder meal, and we will feel the weight of the cross as we place it on our backs and carry it during Holy Week.

This year, during Lent, I want to encourage you to think more deeply about how you encounter Jesus in a physical way.  I am writing a Biblical reflection each week that focuses on the 5 senses. This week focuses on the sense of “hearing.”

John 5:25-29

‘Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

John 10:4

When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.

Romans 10:14, 17

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.

Genesis 1

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

There is authority in Jesus’ voice- authority to lead, authority to create, and authority to judge. John 5 shows us that his judgment either results in life or condemnation. But how can his voice be heard even by dead people? The details are a mystery, but what we do know is that the Word of God constantly and consistently accomplishes what it says. The Word of God spoke and the earth was created and light began to shine. The Word of God calls out to Lazarus in his tomb even though he has been dead for four days. (John 11:43). When Jesus talks about judgment in John, he places more emphasis on life than on condemnation. His ministry is centered around calling and inviting people toward life, safety and community, and people respond to the Word of God just as sheep respond to the call of a trustworthy and familiar shepherd (10:4).

My advisor from seminary recently wrote in a blog, “Being roused from sleep is almost always a startling experience. A familiar sound — a regular alarm chime, the bark of the dog, a family member gently speaking your name — makes the experience easier on the body. By contrast, shattered glass or a scream in the night starts the adrenaline flowing. Discipleship involves learning to find familiarity in God’s words, so we respond rightly. Such familiarity creates a kind of harmonious resonance, the result of growing into greater intimacy with God. It does not mean a dismissive attitude toward the divine voice as something tame and predictable.”[1] For me, I find comfort in being able to recall from memory lines from my favorite hymns and personally meaningful Bible verses. When I am feeling overwhelmed, scared, nervous etc. I can rely on these familiar words from God to give me peace, perspective and help me through any obstacle. You can rely on the same God’s Word too.

When Paul draws a connection between hearing and believing, he teaches the congregation in Rome something very important about the Christian faith. He teaches them that it involves relationship and interaction with others. It is not about isolation. Faith means something other than following theological doctrines. Faith comes from listening to another’s report. Faith comes from listening to the Word of God being spoken by someone else and entering your ears and being heard. Faith comes when people hear God addressing them. Faith implies a communion shared with a communicative, expressive God. Christ still speaks today, through the scripture readings, sermons, hymns, and prayers. Guided by the Holy Spirit, these words and messages come from the mouths of all his followers, even you personally.

[1] http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?m=4377&post=4251

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New Directory!

NEW CHURCH DIRECTORY

 We are excited to announce that we are updating our Church Directory. Lifetouch will provide the services to put together this important community resource. Our link to sign up for a session is https://booknow-lifetouch.appointment-plus.com/ycyx5sbc/ They offer photo packages if you would like to purchase pictures for your family. The dates for our photograph sessions are May 15th-19th. Tuesday – Friday  the sessions will be held from 2pm —9pm.  Saturday,  May 19th, the sessions will be between the hours of 10am-5pm.

We invite everyone in our church to participate, even if you are not planning to purchase a photo package, so all may be included in the directory.

Sunday Sermon – Pr. David

redREFORMATION SUNDAY/AFFIRMATION OF BAPTISM

THE TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

Year B, Lectionary 30

October 25, 2015

Jeremiah 31:7-9

Mark 10:46-52

Pastor David Tryggestad

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church

Duluth, Minnesota

“Believing is seeing.”

Common wisdom says the opposite: “Seeing is believing.” But biblical faith invites us to consider the opposite: “Believing is seeing.”

Bartimaeus is blind. But he knows who Jesus is: “Jesus, Son of David.” That is: “Messiah.” The disciples, though they see, do not understand. They fail to see.

“Believing is seeing.”

The Gospel writer Mark gives us only two accounts of Jesus healing a blind man: at the beginning and at the end of the section of narrative about discipleship, chapters 8, 9, and 10, the section that includes Jesus’ three passion predictions, the three explicit statements to his disciples that he will be arrested, that he will suffer, and that he will die.

In the first account in chapter 8, Jesus and his disciples encounter a blind man in Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26). The people of the area beg Jesus to heal him. Jesus takes him aside, puts saliva on the man’s eyes and lays hands on him. Then Jesus asks, “Can you see anything.” He replies, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking” (Mark 8:24). Evidently the healing was only partial. So Jesus lays hands on his eyes again, then then the man can see clearly. What’s going on? I’ll come back to this story.

What does it mean that this section of narrative about discipleship is bracketed by the healing of two blind men?

The second blind man is Bartimaeus, the story in our Gospel today. Bartimaeus in his blindness stands in stark contrast to the unbelief of the disciples. Bartimaeus, though blind, perceives who Jesus is—Son of David—and he knows that Jesus can help him. The disciples, in contrast, fail to understand who Jesus is and argue about which of them is the greatest. Why is it that we are sometimes—or often—surprised by the faith of someone we might consider an outsider?!

Jesus declares to Bartimaeus, “Your faith has made you well”—literally—“your faith has saved you.” In Confirmation we are learning about the Reformation. One of the foundational verses for Martin Luther and the Lutheran Church is one that the girls in Confirmation have committed to memory: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God . . .” (Ephesians 2:8). (The boys in Confirmation have memorized different verses, all significant to the Reformation.) Jesus declares to Bartimaeus, “Your faith has made you well”—literally—“your faith has saved you.”

The genuineness of the faith of Bartimaeus is that, having received his sight, he follows Jesus. The genuineness of faith is not how well we know our Bibles, or how many verses of Scripture we can quote, or how well we pray, though all these things are beneficial. The genuineness of faith is in following Jesus. How many people, after encountering Jesus, walk away, even those who walk away sorrowful, like the rich man in our Gospel two weeks ago?

The last three words in our Gospel for today are “on the way.” Bartimaeus follows Jesus on the way. On the way is the way of discipleship. It is a journey, not a destination. And all are invited, regardless of status. Our Confirmation young people are on the way, and the way does not end when Confirmation ends, rather, it’s a milestone on the way.

Perhaps more than being a healing story, our Gospel story today is a call narrative—a call story: three times in verse 49, Mark writes the word call: “Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you’” (emphases added). Jesus calls Bartimaeus and his call is mediated through the disciples. Have you ever considered that you—as a congregation as well as individuals—are mediators of God’s call on others?

As a congregation, you are in the process of discerning extending a call to a pastor. The call comes through you, but the call originates in God. The call is authenticated by God. The call is empowered by God.

As individual Christians, we all have the high calling to be mediators of God’s call to others. Consider in your own heart when you have been a mediator of God’s call to another.

Many people stand outside our circle of fellowship. Some of those are seeking Jesus, even if they don’t articulate their seeking in those words. But they are seeking. Perhaps they, like blind Bartimaeus, are making a disturbance, causing a problem, making a nuisance of themselves. Perhaps we, like the disciples, would try to silence them, as the disciples sternly warned Bartimaeus to be silent. Perhaps we try to shut them out, or to put roadblocks in front of them. But Bartimaeus cries out all the more. Those on the outside seeking Jesus cry out all the more.

Have you considered that Jesus may be calling us to be a mediator of God’s call to those on the outside? Who are those “making noise,” trying to get our attention, when we would rather silence them?

A few weeks ago, our Confirmation young people wrote some of their deep questions about faith and life and God on post-it notes; they are displayed on a bulletin board toward the west wing of the building. Youth Director Meagan compared the posting of these questions to Martin Luther posting his 95 Thesis to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany, on October 31, 1517, an event we celebrate today and every Reformation Sunday. We join thousands of congregations across the globe celebrating Confirmation/Affirmation of Baptism, on Reformation Sunday.

Have we as a congregation and as individuals taken the questions and cries of our young people seriously? Have we been mediators of God’s call on their lives? If we don’t take the questions and cries of our young people seriously, how are they to take the church seriously?

Back to the story of the blind man of Bethsaida who was healed twice. It’s the only instance in the Gospels where Jesus had to heal a second time. Did Jesus not get it right the first time? Did Jesus mess up? Was his power inadequate the first time? What’s going on?

The two healings of blind men bracket the narrative about discipleship. Despite Jesus’ three-time explicit teaching about his impending suffering and death, his disciples fail to understand. They fail to see. They lack the faith to see—to understand. They are like the blind man from Bethsaida, who sees at first, but only in part. He sees men, “but they look like trees, walking.”

Perhaps we are like the disciples. Perhaps we see only partially, or not at all, or fail to understand, or get it wrong more than we get it right, are always jockeying for position, arguing about who is greatest (but perhaps arguing in a more Scandinavian passive-aggressive manner!).

We are all blind, like the man in Bethsaida who was healed twice, or like blind Bartimaeus. In our First Lesson from the Jeremiah, God sings through the prophet of a time when God promises to gather the lost remnant, including the blind and the lame (Jeremiah 31:8). The Good News is that Jesus calls us, in whatever state of blindness we may be, whether we don’t have a clue who Jesus is, or whether we see partially, like the blind man of Bethsaida, who sees men who look like trees walking. The Good News is that Jesus calls all of us who cry out to him: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Like Bartimaeus, we are all blind beggars. It is said that, at the death of Martin Luther, a note was found in his coat pocket written in his hand: “We are all beggars, it is true.” Martin Luther, declared by TIME magazine to be the most influential person of the entire second Millennium, summed up his life: “We are all beggars, it is true.” Like blind Bartimaeus, we cry, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Thanks be to God!

Sunday Sermon – Pr. David

1502435_488720847898065_5065822072428423218_o (1)THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

Year B, Lectionary 25

September 20, 2015

Jeremiah 11:18-20

Psalm 54

Mark 9:30-37

Pastor David Tryggestad

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church

Virginia, Minnesota

Youth Director Meagan Esterby gave me an assignment this past Wednesday. She asked if I might teach the opening session of Confirmation this coming week. If you were in worship last Sunday, you recall that many of our young people received age-appropriate Bibles, depending on their age or grade: three-year olds, third graders, and sixth graders. Sixth graders are starting their Confirmation journey and their new study Bible will be their guide, not only through their years of Confirmation, but also through their life’s journey.

The assignment Meagan gave me was this: In 20 minutes or less, give our young people an introduction to the Bible—and that 20 minute limit includes a four-minute video. That leaves me with 16 minutes. Now when I was a freshman at Luther College, I took an intro to the Bible course that lasted the entire year. And Meagan wants me to offer an introduction to the Bible in 16 minutes! Yikes!

If you were to give the Bible as a gift to a young person, where would you suggest that person begin? In the beginning? That would make sense if the Bible were a novel, but it’s not. In fact, the Bible is not any one kind of literature. It’s a collection of many kinds of writings. It’s a collection of 66 books in all. It’s a library. And in this library we find history, liturgy, songs (even colorful and suggestive love songs), theology, teaching, ethics, wisdom, and biography—and more! Where do we begin?

A careful reading of the entire Bible reveals a variety of points of view, a variety of images of God, even areas of discrepancy and disagreement. Some have attempted to distinguish and contrast the images of God between the Old and New Testaments, for example, by suggesting that the “God of the Old Testament” is a God of vengeance, while the “God of the New Testament” is a God of Love. We’ve all heard it; some of us may have said it.

Two verses from our appointed Scripture readings for today are evidence of this notion. The beleaguered Old Testament prophet Jeremiah laments to God about his detractors and cries out, “. . . let me see your retribution upon them . . .” (vs. 19b). Our psalmist sings, “. . . strangers have risen up against me, and the ruthless have sought my life . . .” (vs. 3) and challenges God: “Render evil to those who spy on me; in your faithfulness, destroy them” (vs. 5). Despite these and other similar passages, to conclude that the God of the Old Testament is a God of vengeance is a false and grotesque caricature of God.

One of the preeminent Old Testament scholars in the world in the last century published a book in 1979 entitled: What Does the Old Testament Say About God? The Old Testament says many things about God, some of them seemingly contradictory, but, according to Claus Westermann, the author, the primary thing the Old Testament says about God is that “God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” A far cry from the Old Testament portraying a God of vengeance!

Last Sunday we considered Jesus’ question to his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” We learned that the New Testament offers many and various viewpoints on that issue. The history of the Church for 2000 years has witnessed that various Christian groups, denominations, or sects tend to foster one particular image of Jesus over others. These various different understandings of Jesus have resulted in innumerable struggles and even violence through the centuries.

So when we read the Bible, where do we begin? And when we have answered that question and we launch into this marvelous book, we are confronted with things that are difficult to understand, things that don’t make sense to us, things that seem to contradict each other. How do we make sense of all of it? So we must eventually come to another critical question: Is all Scripture created equal?

Now this may sound like a scandalous question. But let’s consider some specifics. For example, the Bible says that there are certain foods that we’re forbidden to eat. Pork is one (Deuteronomy 14:8). A week ago Wednesday we enjoyed grilled pork chops during the Quilter’s lunch. The Bible says that we’re not to wear clothing made from a combination of different fabrics (Deuteronomy 22:11). The slacks I’m wearing are made of polyester and wool. The Bible says that women, after giving birth, must wait a prescribed period of time before going to the temple to worship (Leviticus 12:2-5). The Bible says that women are to remain silent in church (1 Corinthians 14:33-35). The Bible says something shocking about rebellious young people—do we know any rebellious young people? Or have we ourselves been a rebellious young person? The Bible commands us to take rebellious young people and stone them to death (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)! No doubt you have your own list of confusing and problematic texts from the Bible.

Is all Scripture created equal? The answer is clearly and emphatically No.

We know that Scripture is inspired by God. But what does that mean? (The video we will show during Confirmation as part of my 20 minutes will get at this issue of inspiration.) This book we claim to be the norm and guide for our life of faith is a collection of writings from many different authors over more than a thousand years. Have they all experienced God in the same way? Have we all experienced God in the same way? Do we all have the same understandings of God?

Martin Luther can help us. Luther tells us that the Bible is the “cradle” for Jesus. The Bible gives us Jesus. The Bible shows us Jesus. The first verse of the Gospel of John, the author writes: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In the 14th verse of that same first chapter, the author asserts: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” That Word is Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God “incarnate”—“made flesh.” This morning we sang the hymn, “O Word of God Incarnate.” The hymn is not about the Bible; the hymn is about Jesus. In the sixth chapter of John, all the crowds have left Jesus, no longer interested in what he has to say—they don’t understand and they find his teaching scandalous. Jesus says to his disciples, “Don’t you also want to go away?” Peter replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

So where do we begin in reading our Bible? Let us begin with Jesus. According to Jesus himself, all the law and prophets of the Old Testament before him point to him. Jesus is the culmination and fulfilment of what God has been doing in the world. Jesus becomes the interpreter of Scripture.

Jesus says over and over in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, “You have heard it said . . . but I say to you.” Jesus not only interprets Scripture, and reinterprets Scripture, but he also repudiates Scripture. “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye . . .’ but I say to you, do not resist evil and turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:38). Jesus says, “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies,’ but I say to you, Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you” (Matthew 5:43).

The Bible gives us Jesus. And Jesus then gives us the Bible. But it’s the Bible according to Jesus. It’s the Bible read through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Any other reading or interpretation of the Bible is not the truth about Jesus or the truth about God.

But even the Bible according to Jesus has proven to be confusing. And that confusion goes all the way back to the disciples. Last week, we found Peter rebuking Jesus and then Jesus in turn rebuking Peter. Peter didn’t like what Jesus was telling them about what it would mean for Jesus to be the Messiah. Now again today we find Jesus scolding the disciples for misunderstanding him and his ministry.

A little context is helpful. Between last Sunday’s Gospel reading and today’s, Jesus has taken Peter, James, and John to the top of a mountain where he was transfigured before them. His face and clothing shown bright as lightning. Not only that, Moses and Elijah, both dead for centuries, appeared with him, and the three of them were talking together. The disciples were astonished. The disciples saw Jesus in his heavenly glory and splendor. Maybe, they thought, Jesus didn’t really mean it when he said he must suffer and die. Maybe he—and all of us—will be exalted and given honor and glory.

So it’s not surprising that the disciples are arguing amongst themselves on the road, with the three who witnessed the transfiguration telling what they had seen (we wonder if they kept the secret). No doubt the three of them put themselves at the front of the line for glory. They refused to believe, again, Jesus telling them that he must suffer and die.

I wonder if Peter, James, and John told the others what God had spoken on the Mount of Transfiguration. Moses represented all the law of the Old Testament, and Elijah all the prophets. Then there was Jesus. God speaks from the cloud that overshadowed them: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7).

Listen to him. Listen to Jesus. All the law and all the prophets are to be interpreted through Jesus. All Scripture is interpreted through Jesus.

And this is what Jesus says: “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

To illustrate his point, Jesus takes a little child and puts it in their midst. It’s helpful to know that children were not doted on in first century Palestine the way they are now. Children were mostly a burden and a nuisance. But not to Jesus. He takes a little child and puts it in their midst.

“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Pastor Mike Carlson from St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi was here this past Wednesday to speak to the Confirmation youth from all the area churches. Pastor Mike is a child of Our Savior’s, having been confirmed here. The sanctuary was packed last Wednesday. He told a story about once taking a baby from its mother’s arms during worship and handing the child to the crabbiest person in the room.

We could try that now, but there aren’t any crabby people here. We can’t claim Jesus as Lord and be crabby! And children are welcome here! Because Jesus says so.

The entire world was shocked, horrified, and unspeakably grieved at the photo of a dead three-year-old Syrian child lying face-down on the beach on the coast of Turkey, having drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, along with his mother and five-year-old brother. The photo has moved the world to compassion and action. The image confronts all of us: globally, nationally, communally, and individually. How do we receive such little ones as these?

“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Thanks be to God!