Tag Archives: Life

Respite

Solar_eclipse_1999_4_NRToday I experienced a total eclipse of the sun.  My family and I drove 36 miles southwest of St. Louis to Washington, where there was the greatest amount of “totality,” a little over two minutes.

We got there early staking our place out under a tree, down by the Missouri River.  As people gathered, a sense of excitement grew as footballs were thrown, a barbecue grill was started, and a policeman walked around handing out free solar glasses to anyone who needed a pair while she laughed and chatted amiably with the folks.  We built two pinhole cameras to see the eclipse along with our ISO rated glasses.  The glasses were great, but there was something really good about the “old-school” pinhole cameras too.  A couple of guys even older than me had some awesome telescope shaped pinhole cameras.  As the morning went on, I had several good conversations with people who had gathered with us, one family from Oklahoma.

The eclipse started around 11:48, and suddenly, folks were getting their glasses, looking into the sun, and the air of expectation built.  It began slowly, but soon the quality of the light was different … muted somehow.  As it got darker, the shadows through the trees became crescent shaped, and everything grew still as if a curtain had been opened at a theater.  The lights of the town came up as the streetlights reacted to the light change, and the “orchestra” started as crickets and other insects started to chirp.  Suddenly, it was dark and people dropped their glasses and just stood quietly looking at the moon, with the sun’s corona shining around it–colors of pink, purple and magenta flashing–and an amazing sunset/sunrise effect over the river on the clouds.  Then, the crowd started to cheer, as if somehow they instinctively knew that God had presented us with this wonderful drama.

This might have been my first total eclipse.  I know that I remember seeing at least partial eclipses through those, then remarkable pinhole cameras.  But as I stood there marveling at totality, it truly filled us with a sense of awe.  I know my granddaughter Johnna was thrilled and amazed at such a sight, and we were struck with the sense of order that our Creator designed the universe with.  It is just this order of His that gives us the ability to predict such things with such accuracy.

After the past week of lunacy and disorder in Spain, Finland, Charlottesville, Boston, and other places, today was a much-needed counterpoint as we experienced God’s great order in His creation.  Even the people were pleasant!  Surely this is how God meant for us to live.

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Good Friday: Passover–Deliverance

CrucifixionIllustration:  “Crucifixion,” by Marc Chagall, lithography on paper, 1964.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

You have heard me say that God has deposited His truth in the traditions of His people. And there is much more to the unleavened bread than we have seen already.

Before the Passover, the bread is prepared in a very special way. It is rolled out into flat sheets and pierced by a large wooden wheel with pins in it. The bread has no yeast and therefore will not rise. It is pierced to allow the heat from the baking to rise through the bread and avoid burning.  It is only baked for 18 minutes, the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word Chai, which means Life.  The baking process gives it dark stripes between the rows of holes.

Prior to the Passover Seder, three sheets of matzoh are placed in a special linen which has three compartments. This matzoh tosh is a tradition for which no one has an explanation.   Some say it represents the patriarchy, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Some say it represents the temple, at which worship the Israelites, the priests and the Levites. Neither of these explains the source of the tradition, but the ritual itself is very clear.

As the Seder begins, the head of the house takes out the middle matzoh from the tosh and breaks it, puts half back in the middle compartment of the matzoh tosh, and wraps the other half in linen and and hides it away.

When Jesus says of this bread, “this is my body,” He is being very literal. His body is sinless, and on Good Friday is striped and pierced as He is whipped and crucified.   Dead now, He is wrapped in linen, and laid away in a tomb. Is the matzoh tosh somehow a picture of the Trinity, showing the second part, the Son, taken and sacrificed? Is God trying to teach His people even in this man-made tradition?

Prayer:  Lord of truth, You teach us by Your Word and open our eyes to the truths “hidden” in the traditions of men. May our eyes be clear to see, and our tongues be strong to teach others. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  As we grieve the death of our Messiah, even as we look forward to His resurrection, we also grieve the death of those who die without faith in Him.

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Why do it?

13-04-17-mishegoss1Last Sunday, Congregation Chai v’Shalom celebrated the installation of a new pastor, Rev. Brian Earl, who is serving our ministry in outreach.  He was one of my students in 2006 and continued to work with Rev. Brad Aldrich, who was serving our ministry then.  Following graduation at Concordia Seminary, Brian served a parish in Nebraska for five years, and then moved to St. Louis with his new bride Christa and while he is here serving a Chaplain internship, he received and accepted a call to serve our ministry to help in outreach.

He and his wife have been a blessing to our ministry.  Christa is a violinist, a linguist, and gifted in many other ways along with being from Colorado.  It is nice to talk to someone else who knows Denver!  She and Brian are young (so much younger than me!) and have a lot of energy, and Brian has faithfully been leading our monthly outreaches for some time now.  In addition to a bunch of other things that we do, we hold a monthly outreach on the 2nd Saturday evening of each month and go to an area of St. Louis called “the Loop.”  It is a shopping district in the midst of a vibrant Jewish community and a wonderful area university.

The night before his installation, Brian and I were on the Loop.  We are enjoying really warm weather in St. Louis right now, and there were a lot of people around.  Part of what we do is try to engage people in conversation, prayerfully leading to a spiritual conversation.  Between the two of us in the span of an hour, we had three conversations.  He met a woman who really refused to talk spiritually, and wanted to talk more about the election.  OK. . .that’s fair.  I met a “Hebrew Israelite” who wanted to talk spiritually, but she didn’t really help me understand what “Hebrew Israelite” meant, or what her faith was.  From what I could gather about her, she wasn’t Jewish per se, and not Christian either.  She did allow me to share who I was, and I gave her some literature from our worship service, and also told her where the nearest synagogue was when she asked.  At least we got to talk about Jesus, about whom she seemed to have no opinion!  That’s rare.

Our third conversation that evening was together with two young men who enjoy “intellectual dialogue.”  One said he is an agnostic and the other eschewed all labels.  Both believe in a higher power, but not the Bible or even a traditional understanding of God.  They sort of fell into the Aristotelian concept of the “unmoved mover.”  But when pressed, they chose a deistic approach to God who created everything, got bored, and moved on to another planet.  Yes, we did talk about “extra-terrestrial beings”, and at best we left them contemplating about why God would create all this, and how he chose to reveal himself to us.

All-in-all, an average evening on the Loop.  So, why do it?  The Loop is a snapshot of how badly the world needs Jesus, and how confused it is.  But at least all those who we talked to left knowing about our faith in Jesus.  Sometimes that’s the best we can do, trusting that God is working in these lives through the rest of His Church!

The Lamb’s Book of Life

bookoflifeLast month I had the opportunity to preach at Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.  It is the home church for our branch in the Detroit area, and they have often invited me to preach in the autumn for the season of Rosh HaShanah/Yom Kippur.

Mary Lou Temple is our branch director there, and she and a group of volunteers put together small baskets with apples and honey in them, and the invitation to the congregation was to take those baskets to their Jewish friends, neighbors and relatives, with a greeting for Rosh HaShanah.  It is a simple and easy way to connect, and some left the names of their friends for us to pray for.

The traditional greeting for Rosh HaShanah is “Shana Tova,” meaning for a good year, but that is just shorthand for the greeting of “May your name be inscribed for a good year.”  That greeting is appropriate because the tradition of this season is that on Rosh HaShanah God opens three books with everyone’s name in them.  By Yom Kippur (this year it is October 11), God chooses either life or death for you, so the hope of this greeting is that God will choose life for you.  For those with a little more chutzpah, I encourage them to greet their friends with the greeting “May your name be inscribed in the Lamb’s book of life.”  After all, that is the only way that God will choose life for us.

While the Jewish tradition of God opening these books is that, the books themselves are not just tradition.  The Torah tells us that God keeps these books, and Moses pleads for the Israelites as he cries out to God “please forgive their sin–but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written” (Exodus 32:32).  This reference to blotting out is carried throughout the Scriptures.  David cries out for his sins to be blotted out (Psalm 51) and for his enemies to be blotted out of the book of life (Psalm 69).  Paul refers to the book of life in Philippians 4:3, and of course John in the Revelation, talks much about the Lamb’s book of life.  Whatever it may be, from a human perpective, God is keeping a record, and “only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” will enter “the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God”  (Revelation 21).

Another theme that came up during this year’s sermon in Michigan was the theme of seasonality.  Just as there are seasons for planting and reaping the harvest, celebrated in the final days of these autumn festivals (Sukkoth), it seems that there are seasons for outreach too.  In the Spring, with the spring festivals of Passover and Sh’vuot (Pentectost), it is a great time for planting seeds of faith.  The long, hot and dry summer is a time to cultivate, water, and feed faith so that by the autumn the Holy Spirit can reap the faith that is grown.  48 names were given in Michigan.  Please pray that many of them will be added to the Lamb’s book of life.

For more on the High Holidays, www.archives.kfuo.org/mp3/FAF/FAF_Sep_29b_2016.mp3

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