March 4, 2015 Text: Isaiah 44:1-5
Dear Friends in Christ,
Shelly Jackson is not only an author, she’s a walking piece of literature. She has a tattoo on her right wrist that reads, “S-k-i-n” yes, Skin. It is actually the title of Jackson’s latest project, which she calls “A Mortal Work of Art.” The plan is that her 2095-word story would be published exclusively in tattoos, one word at a time, on the skin of volunteers. Once a volunteer is accepted into the project, they are known only by the word they bear on their skin.
At last count, Shelly Jackson was still looking for people to bear her final three hundred words. Just think, we could contact her after church, offer our human hides, and be a part of a counter-cultural narrative.
Isaiah also wants people to be marked with one word and be part of a counter-cultural narrative. He writes in our text, “another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s.’” This Lenten truth tonight, we are . . .
One of the ancient Near East’s most dominant narratives in the sixth century BC was the Babylonian creation epic called the Enuma Elish. The Enuma Elish narrates Marduk’s defeat over Tiamat. He cut her in two and built the universe out of her remains. Read during the annual Akitu festival the pinnacle was the acclimation – in the Akkadian language – “Marduka ma surru,” which translated means, “Marduk is King.”
Connected to the pomp and pageantry of Babylonian religion was the empire’s program of changing people’s names. Just ask Hannaniah, Mishael, and Azariah. You may know their VeggieTale names, “Shach, Rach, and Benny.” In Daniel 1:7 the chief of the eunuchs changes their names to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The goal? Mark the Judeans with a new name that will entice them into worshipping Marduk.
But Judean exiles in Babylon didn’t line up. They weren’t interested in being marked by their Maker. Because, you see, there was another text in town.
The dominant story of our day is peddled by the young and beautiful who guarantee we can be young and beautiful, just like them, if we buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t even like.
Their story is hammered into our heads at an alarming rate. From the moment you open the morning paper, or flip on your phone or computer until we fall asleep to another rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond, we will encounter more than 2,000 advertising images. And they portray the same thing over and over – “You can buy lasting happiness!”
In league with this American consumerism is the enemy’s program of changing our names. His goal? Mark us with a new name that will entice us into seeking fulfillment in things. Deemed beloved through water and the Word, Satan renames us cheap, dirty, and worthless. Deemed washed and cleaned in the name of Jesus, he whispers to us, “Guilty as charged.”
Put together, the dominant narrative and the dominant devil create in us a slowness to be part of the counter-text. We convince ourselves, “I can sell my soul to the American dream and claim its promises of prosperity while, at the same time, professing the name of Jesus.”
We’ve all tried the dominant narrative. We are all worn out from believing the dominant American story. Lord, we need an alternative narrative.
Enter Isaiah 40-55, where the prophet takes aim at the empire. Babylon is a drop in the bucket. Babylonian leaders are nothing. Babylonian gods are an empty wind. Marduk is a fantasy, a fake, a fraud, and a huge phony.
The alternative narrative in Isaiah 40-55 is just getting revved up. “Comfort, comfort My people, says your God” (40:1). “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, God is doing a new thing” (43:18-19). God is stirring Cyrus to get Israel out of Babylon. He is raising up the Suffering Servant to get Babylon out of Israel. The Lord promises that His story does what it says. Isaiah 55:11, “so shall My word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to Me empty.” We are the subject of God’s story, so much so that we line up, each one, and “write on our hand” not “belonging to Babylon,” but “belonging to the Lord.”
God has always told His story on people’s bodies; call it Skin! In Genesis 4:15, the Lord marks Cain. In Genesis 17, the Lord gives Abraham and his offspring the covenant mark of circumcision. Deuteronomy 6:8 describes people tying God’s words on their hands and binding them on their foreheads.
It all points to the greatest story told on human skin. Isaiah describes this body, “His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man, and his form marred beyond human likeness…Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not…We all, like sheep, have gone astray. And the Lord has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 52:14; 53:3,6). One spear, three nails, and a crown of thorns left their marks on Jesus.
But first the Ten, and then climatically Thomas, saw Jesus alive; and what shall we call that story? Call it Skin. Our Savior showed His skin. He is forever marked with scars announcing for you, right here, right now, His loyal love and His free forgiveness and His everlasting grace. And so people began lining up to be marked.
Eyes marked with tenderness and kindness; a smile marked with delight and friendship; a mind marked by toughness and truth; hands marked with helpfulness and humility; and a mouth marked with Jesus and joy.
To be part of this counter-cultural narrative, all we need is one word: leyahweh – in English, “belonging to the Lord.” How does that happen? Recall the water, remember the Word, and forever cherish the liturgical rite when you were baptized. “Receive the sign of the holy cross, both upon your forehead and upon your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.”
Just because we live in Babylon does not mean we will live like the Babylonians. My life and your life tell another story. We are consumed with another narrative. And what is that called? Jesus . . . with skin.
Why does giving seem so difficult? In reality, it isn’t. But we make it difficult. We make it difficult because we’re afraid. We’re afraid that it isn’t worth the investment. We’re afraid that what we give to the church might be wasted, or that we could use it for something better, something more enjoyable, something more real, more tangible, more immediate, even more important, something more important than God and His gifts.
The point is this: We struggle with giving because we don’t believe as we should. We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. And so we fail to give because we don’t love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind. We fail to give because we don’t fear Him more than we fear other things. We fail to give because we don’t trust Him more than we trust the things we can more immediately see, taste, and touch. We don’t trust that He will give us everything (EVERYTHING!) we need to support this body and life. For if we did fear, love, and trust in God above all things, we would see and know that all the other things that vie for our time, our talents, and our treasures pale in comparison to the joy of the real, tangible, immediate love God has showered upon us in the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins on account of His Son’s death, resurrection, and ascension.
The only proper response to this is repentance: to confess our sin, our stinginess, our lack of fear, love, and faith in God’s promises, and to trust in Him to help us bring our desire to do better to fruition. For God is not holding out on us. He never has. He never will. For if He has given you His only Son, how will He not also give you all things? He will. It is His promise. And these promises are sure and certain.
The reality is that God doesn’t need our giving. He doesn’t need our time, our talents, our treasures. He is God. We are not. He can do all things without our help. And even what we do give, even the good and righteous things we do accomplish, these are but filthy rags, as the prophet Isaiah tells us (Isaiah 64:6). Our gifts to God and to the Church are like a child’s gift of dandelions to his mother. They are weeds, which most of us spend an entire summer trying to rid our yards of them. And yet despite the fact that they are weeds, mothers always receive them with a smile and with joy. They will even put them in vases and display them on tables and countertops. They will recount to friends and other family members how their child gave them “flowers,” just to say I love you and I’m thankful for all you do.
Our Lord, too, receives with joy and a smile the gifts we give in thanksgiving and praise of what He has done. Even though these gifts are but weeds, filthy rags, and despite the fact that He doesn’t need them to accomplish what He wills, He receives them and puts it to use for our and our neighbors good. That is the real joy of giving. He doesn’t need us. Yet He makes use of us, He employs us in His service despite it. He makes all that we do—our giving, our work, our service to our family and friends and neighbors—holy. And He blesses it for their and our good and to the glory of His name.
So is giving so hard? Nah, it’s like giving dandelions to our mothers. And when dinner is ready, when the food is on the table, she’ll gladly have a vase full of them right in the middle. The Lord has prepared a table for you. Dinner is ready. The table is set. His Body and Blood is given to strengthen and nourish you. And right there, where Christ is with us, are the dandelions we gave. He has put them to use for our good, for our forgiveness, for our life in Him.
|Mar 1||Charles Nottingham, Gerald Semelka, Joshua Parry, Paul Gerike||Craig Culp||Ryan Kleiboeker, Travis Henson|
|Mar 8||John Hardy, Matthew Holland||Curt Kessler||Greg McNeely, Holden Lueck, Theron Noth|
|Mar 15||Jeff Piper, Mike Field, Nathan Kluender, Steve Davis||Paul Gerike||Bud Kessler, Curt Kessler|
|Mar 22||Gene Fuller, Richard Ross||Mike Field||Brian Dirks, Karson Lueck, Mike Huth|
|Mar 29||Daryle Schempp, Gerald Semelka, Joshua Parry, Steve Parry||Nathan Kluender||Greg McNeely, Ryan Kleiboeker, Travis Henson|
|Mar 1||Anna Holland||Pastor/Elder|
|Mar 8||Pastor/Elder||Isabella Kessler|
|Mar 15||Lucas Piper||Pastor/Elder|
|Mar 22||Pastor/Elder||Will Dowell|
|Mar 29||Katey Parry||Justin McNeely|
- Michael Anderson 3/1
- John Isaac 3/1
- Laura Kessler 3/2
- Anita Contois 3/3
- Vanessa Biddle 3/4
- Steve Parry 3/4
- Taylor Dirks 3/16
- Ruth Alvis 3/18
- Jillian Sompong 3/21
- Jennifer Cloyd 3/25
- Sherry Parker 3/26
- Dawn Jirovec 3/26
- Mary Anne Kirchner 3/29
- Robert Bier 3/31
- Lucas Schempp 3/1
- Jennifer Parry 3/3
- Betty Bier 3/4
- Linda Dirks 3/11
- Mollie Hitch 3/13
- Ryan Hitch 3/13
- Johana Kirchner 3/16
- Ruth Alvis 3/18
- Luanne Huth 3/20
- Carol Schroeder 3/24
- Carin Henson 3/31
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We begin with what I consider an easy question: Do bad things happen to Christians? From the Scriptures and our life experiences we can answer with a resounding: “Yes!” We all quantify bad things differently, but it still does not change the answer.
For the believer in Christ, we know that our Lord is there. No matter what might happen to us – sickness, accident, financial challenge, problems with spouse or children, job loss, or just the daily irritants that can really bug us – we are assured through the Holy Bible that God loves us. That love was never more evident than in the sending of His Son to die in our place on a cross. Our filthy, damning sin was paid for by Our Redeemer. He rose again so that we can look forward to an eternity in heaven with Him. The bad things will cease!
God is always by our side to help us and strengthen us. Sometimes when things seem to be going along swimmingly, we lose sight of our gracious Savior. We need Christ each and every day. Each block of 24 hours has its own challenges.
The Psalmist wrote, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; and I will deliver you.” (Ps. 50:15). So we pray to Him and ask for His guidance and assistance. He will answer our prayers. He will never leave us.
March 1, 2015 Text: Romans 5:1-11
Dear Friends in Christ,
Exactly six months from today, the whole world will celebrate again one of the greatest days in human history. On Sept. 1 we’ll reach the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II. Peace. Of course, that peace left millions dead, including over 400,000 Americans, many of whom are buried in Europe or the Pacific in cemeteries marked by rows and rows of white crosses.
Many of these grave markers bore the initials “R.I.P.” for the Latin requiescat in pace, meaning, with the same initials in English, “rest in peace” – words written and spoken on the dead. Is that really peace? Can there be peace when someone lies in the grave – whether death has come violently in war or peacefully in one’s own bed? And what about while we live? Since the world never lives in peace, can we?
“R.I.P. – REST IN PEACE?”
Paul had stated earlier in Ephesians that apart from Jesus, we have no hope and can expect only eternal death. Now here in our text, he continues to describe how desperate we were: “we were still weak” (v. 6). There is never a good time to be weak. Weak in sin, weak in moral fortitude, weak in faith. That does a nice job of describing you and me. Paul goes on to say, “we were still sinners” (v. 8) We know that’s true, don’t we? We still sin. Sometimes it seems as if our lives have wandered into one of those survival shows on television and we are about to be eliminated, or at least have questions about lasting longer than a few more weeks or months. Too many false calculations, too many wrong-headed decisions. Too much time spent looking out for ourselves to the detriment of others.
But it gets worse. We aren’t just weak and sinful; we were enemies of God. Verse 10, “we…were…enemies.” Enemies of God.
Enemies? But God is so nice. He’s the “Big Guy Upstairs,” the doting uncle who gives you daily treats of bread and breath. It’s hard to imagine being a screaming-in-your-face enemy of God. But look at the crowd in front of Pontius Pilate. “Crucify him! Crucify him!” goes the shouting. (Matt. 27:22-23) Yeah, like I said, we’d never do that. Enemies of God?
Yeah, world war. The whole world has been at war with God since the time of Adam and Eve. Enemies. Not buds who occasionally step on each other’s toes. Not allies who occasionally disagree about foreign policy. Enemies. Every one of our sins puts us at war with God. False calculations – enemies! Wrong-headed decisions – enemies! Looking out for ourselves – enemies! Our sin means war. Our indifference isn’t neutrality; it’s opposition. Jesus says, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Mt. 12:30). Enemies of God. No resting in peace for us.
But…but. “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (v. 6) Despite our weakness, Jesus became weak in death. To see in Scripture the almighty Lord and Savior sweat blood and stumble down the street with a cross on his torn back and then his weak hands and feet nailed to the cross – what wondrous love. Jesus wrested the keys of death from the devil and now Jesus holds them in his strong, resurrected hand. You are “died for” by Jesus. Weak and ungodly, yes, but washed in the peace-giving blood of Jesus.
And if he couldn’t preach enough good news, Paul continues, “While were still sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 8). While you were weak, the death of Jesus became your death in Baptism. You did nothing, have done nothing, to be saved. Jesus takes the weak you and makes you strong and redeemed. Is that not a peaceful message, one that can give you rest even in the worst of times?
And while we were also enemies, Jesus in his great love for you defeated your enemies – devil and sin and death. When “R.I.P.” is said of you at death it will be true. But that peace is also yours right now. Reconciled by Jesus, you now have “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, which will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).
Wherever we may be buried – in a military cemetery or the plot next to a country church – whatever may mark our grave – polished marble or weathered wood – if our lives have been marked with the cross, we will most surely rest in peace.
Today, Paul celebrates the end of the world war, and we rest in peace because Jesus ended the world war. “R.I.P.” – Rejoice in the peace of Jesus, dear people of God. Fear not, and rest in His peace.
† Bulletin Announcements †
March 1, 2015
THOUGHTS ON STEWARDSHIP: Mark 8:32: “And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” Anytime we sin we are acting like Peter: thinking we know better than the Lord. But as Jesus says, such acts stem from Satan. So let us repent: let us trust our Lord Jesus and follow Him. For certainly He has earned our trust with His gracious sacrifice for us.
THE ADULT BIBLE CLASS, led by Pastor Lueck, will be studying during Lent: “Singing With The Exiles”, based on the Book of Isaiah. This Bible Study corresponds with the Wednesday evening Lenten messages. The class is at 9:15 a.m. in the church basement.
TODAY IN SUNDAY SCHOOL students study the account “Jesus Calms a Storm.” Just as Jesus calmed the storm with His Word for the frightened disciples, so He calms and ends the storm of sin and death by taking our sin upon Himself and dying in our place so we may live eternally. Consider discussing, “What did Jesus do to calm the storm? How does Jesus calm the storms in our life?”
THIS WEEK: Pastor hosts the Bloomington South Circuit Pastors and Delegates this Tuesday, March 3rd, from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Please be aware if you need to be at church that day. Thank you.
MIDWEEK LENTEN WORSHIP SERVICE: We gather for Lenten Worship this Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. The Sermon: “Marked”. The Evangelism/Stewardship Board with smiles on their faces will be serving the soup/sandwich meal at 5:30 p.m. The free-will Offering will support the mission of Wittenberg Lutheran Center on the campus of Illinois State University.
SUNDAY, MARCH 8TH & Sunday, March 15th: This month we will have two door Offerings. Next Sunday, March 8th, will be our regular one, which will go to Reverend Michael Kearney. On Sunday, March 15th, we will have a door Offering for Seminarian Chris Suggitt who will preach and lead Adult Bible Study that day. Both men have sent a card or letter recently. Please read their correspondence posted on bulletin board outside the church office.
ADULT INSTRUCTION CLASS TO BEGIN: Pastor will be conducting another Adult Instruction Class. It will begin on Thursday, March 5th, at 7:00 p.m. It will last for ten weeks. This class is for those wanting to learn more about the teachings of the Lutheran Church, both member and non-member. Those wanting to join Good Shepherd at the conclusion of the class are welcomed and encouraged. Please invite those you might know. If you have someone you would like Pastor to invite, please let him know.
FELLOWSHIP HOSTS: The sign-up for help with coffee/doughnuts is posted on the wall by the north stairwell. We need an individual/family to sign-up each week to pick up the donuts and make the coffee. If no one is signed up by Friday of each week, the order will be cancelled. We thank everybody who continues to help with this part of our church fellowship.
CID LLL CONVENTION REGISTRATION: Lutheran Hour Ministries update of ongoing projects, such as the State Fair, will be held on Saturday, March 14th at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 200 Charleston Ave., Mattoon IL. Registration Forms are available on the table in the narthex and are due no later than Monday, March 9th. Come and have fun and great food! If you have any questions, please see or call Herb Renken at (309) 454-2986.
THE LUTHERAN HOUR: “Lifted Up” is the topic for next Sunday. The sermon text will be from Psalm 103:8-12. When sinful pride lays us low, God’s grace in Christ lifts us up again. The speaker will be Reverend Gregory Seltz. Hear this Sunday’s message on the Lutheran Hour on WGN (720) at 6:00 a.m.; WJWR (104.7 FM) and WJWR (90.3 FM) both on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Also, if you can receive Lincoln, IL radio station WLLM (1370 AM) the program is broadcast two times on Sunday at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tune in! You can also listen to The Lutheran Hour on your personal computer at RealAudio, www.lhm.org.
PRAYER CHAIN: If you have a prayer request please submit them by email to Mary Anne Kirchner at firstname.lastname@example.org or you may phone a Prayer Request to Mary Anne; her home # is (309) 661-6522; her cell phone# is (309) 532-2582. The Prayer Request box is on the table in the narthex for any written requests.
CHURCH OFFICE: The Office Hours for Janet and Sandy are as follows: Janet: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and others times by request/appointment. Sandy’s hours are Mondays, 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.; Thursdays, 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; and Fridays, 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Also, if you stop by the church please let the office know that you are in the building.