Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!


Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Explaining Lutheran Worship (Part Five))

What do you need to know about our Divine Service before attending so that you might get the most benefit from the gifts of God? Let’s continue examining the various parts so that we might better understand from where each part comes and how it connects to the next.

We have invited God to be a part of our service, we have confessed our sins and been forgiven, we have entered into God’s presence, begged for mercy, praised His name, and spoke His Word back to Him in prayer. We have heard the Word of the Lord from the Old Testament, from one of the apostle’s letters, from the Gospel and from the sermon. We have sung God’s Word.

Our response to God’s Word is to offer our prayers, requests and petitions to the Lord. We pray for ourselves with words of thanks and praise. We pray for our family and friends. We pray for our enemies. We pray for those who have requested prayers. We pray for special needs as we have such need.

Our response to God’s Word is shown in an act of faith, in bringing our first fruits, our tithes and our offerings to the Lord. The offering of our first fruit tithes is an act of faith. Our offering acknowledges that God is the one who gives to us in the first place; that all that we have first comes from God and is a gift from Him; and that in faith we return to Him believing that as He has provided us with all that we need, so He will continue to provide for us. Indeed, this offering is an act of faith as Jesus bore witness to the widow who, in faith, gave all that she had, trusting that God would continue to provide for her. Likewise, we give the first tithe of all that our Lord has given to us and in faith trust that He will continue to provide. Thus, our offerings are a privilege for members to offer, not a collection of coins from others who would give monies for services rendered. As the song so well states, “We give thee but Thine own, whate’er the gift may be; all that we have is Thine alone, a trust o Lord, from Thee.”
31 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Honoring God - August 26, 2018 - Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 16) - Text: Isaiah 29:11-19

“Practice what you preach.” “Actions speak louder than words.” “If you are going to talk the talk, then you need to walk the walk.” “You cannot live a life that says, do as I say and not as I do.” Or as our Lord tells us in our text for this morning, “this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me” (v. 13). Is our life a demonstration of what is in our heart? Certainly it is, one way or another. So, instead of asking ourselves what we think is in our hearts, if we really want to know what is in our hearts we may simply look at our lives. And when we look at our lives, what do they say is in our hearts? Do we live life as if our lives in this world are most important, or as if our life in the world to come is most important? The greatest indication of what is in our hearts is to look at our lives and see how we spend the gifts God gives us, our time, our talents, our treasure?
I believe one of Satan’s greatest temptations is not the temptation to not believe in Jesus, nor even to not go to church, per say, but one of his greatest temptations is that we speak with our lips that God is first in our lives and then we live life filled with the business of this world so that we have little or no time left for God, which, as we have been saying, is another way of saying that God takes a backseat to all else in life. Are we honoring God with our life?
Our text for today is God’s Word given through the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah speaks of the corruption of God’s people. The vision the Lord gives to Isaiah is a vision delivered as words in a book, but it cannot be read by those who have closed their hearts to the message. Those with closed hearts are those who worship God with their lips only and not with their hearts. Those with closed hearts hide from the counsel of the Lord and then they attempt to pervert and turn everything up side down. Certainly we can see this in our world, society and culture today. What was once known to be wrong and sin is now touted as mete, right and salutary and what was once seen as mete, right and salutary is now seen as sin. And this mind-set has made its way, even into the church. What God says through Isaiah is true, the faithless do not understand. And the faithless have closed their hearts and minds to the Lord.
Today people are leaving the Church in great numbers and one of the reasons is because our culture has elevated human reason above God’s Word, which is what we talked about last week. God’s Word is no longer thought to be the authority by which all things are to be judged, instead, human reason has taken over as the end all, judge of all. Now, in previous years we might have used this text to talk about the difference between tradition and doctrine and the problem of elevating tradition over doctrine, and although this continues to be a great concern with in the church, I believe that today that is one of the least of our concerns at least outside the church. I am sure those outside the church think it silly of us to contemplate tradition and doctrine when they believe neither are important.
When others look at us and the way we live our lives, when we speak to others concerning our church and our church lives, what do they see and what do they hear? Do we live and speak as if God and His Word are the ultimate authority or as if we are the ultimate authority, that is, that our human reason is the ultimate authority? Do we live and speak of the importance of our faith and faith life, of the importance of making regular and diligent use of the means of grace, or do our lives and our words speak something different? God’s desire is to have our heart. I would suppose that much like a parent of a grown child or the grand parent of grown children and grandchildren would like their children or children and grandchildren to come and see them often, so our Lord’s desire is that we are in divine service every Sunday and that we are reading His Word every day, so that every Sunday and every day He might pour out on us and lavish us with His good gifts and blessings.
In our epistle lesson for this morning, Paul speaks of the relationship of husbands and wives, but he does so in order to help us to better understand the relationship of the Lord to His bride, the Church. Paul reminds us that the Church is the bride of Christ and so the Church should subordinate herself to Him, putting Him first, not simply in words, but in action. For the Church to subordinate herself to the Lord means that the Church recognizes the authority of the Lord and His Word. His Word is above all else, especially and including our sin tainted human reason. All things in heaven and on earth are to be judged by His Word, thus anyone, or anything that speaks contrary to the Word of the Lord should be judged accordingly.
Christ is the groom and He loves His Bride, the Church. The ultimate loving of Christ, the groom, for His Bride, the Church, is demonstrated and witnessed in the giving of His life for His Church. No greater love can anyone have than this, that one will lay down His life for the one He loves and that is what Christ, the groom has done for His bride, the Church. Because of God’s great love for us, because He has given His life for ours, because He gives us faith, forgiveness and life, because of all He has done, all He does and all He continues to do for us, how can we not subordinate ourselves to Him, recognize His authority and the authority of His Word, and live lives that profess such faith, even if we do so imperfectly?
In our Gospel lesson for this morning we have Jesus’ interpretation of these Words, that are actually His Words as God, through the prophet Isaiah. In the Gospel reading Jesus was dealing with the Pharisees who elevated their own laws or traditions over God’s Word. You might remember that the Pharisees were rather legalistic. They believe they earned special merit, even eternal life, by obeying the laws of the Lord. What they failed to realize was that they were sinners who could not fully keep the law. In order to help them keep the law they had hundreds of laws that pertained to the ten commandments so they would not break them. Of course, their laws were not the commandments, yet they insisted that their laws were to be kept, not necessarily the commandments of the Lord.
Just a side note here on the reference of Baptism, or ritual washings as it is translated, in this lesson. For those who believe in immersion, do you really think they immersed their dinning couches, which is one of the items on the list of those things included in their ritual washing or baptizing?
Anyway, true worship of the Lord is worship in thought, word and deed. We cannot separate these things; our thoughts, from our words or our words from our deeds, or even our deeds from our thoughts. As we think, so we speak and as we speak so we act. And yes, even as we act, so we tend to think. And all this flows out of our hearts which are either in tune with the Lord or far from Him.
So, what does this mean? One of the questions we might ask ourselves is this, “Are we “members” of a church, and in particular this church, for social reasons or because of what the church, our church, this church, believes, teaches and confesses? Do we believe we “have” to go to church or do we believe we “get” to go to church? Or do we live according to what is really in our heart, which is unbelief, and not go at all? Perhaps I should ask the question, “Do we know what our church believes, teaches and confesses?” “Do we know all of what our church believes, teaches and confesses?” Why would we be a member of any organization of which we do not know what it is they believe, teach and confess?
A second question we might ask ourselves is this, “Is our desire, our yearning to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace?” Or is our desire simply to have a church as a place to go if I do not have anything else going on in life. Is church a joy or a chore and if it is a chore why? I think it is interesting when someone says, “I don’t get anything out of church.” My response is, “Did you put anything into it?” I am sure you do not remember every sermon you have ever heard and certainly some are less memorable than others, but do you remember what you had for dinner last Wednesday night? Are not some of your dinners more memorable than others and most simply forgotten meals, but you still eat, do you not?
Do we rejoice in our Messiah or do we look to ourselves and how do we know? You know, it does not necessarily matter what we profess with our lips, because God can and does look into our hearts. I would suggest to you that, not only does God look into our hearts and know what we believe, I believe that others can look at our lives and can truly get an idea of what is in our hearts, because we do live according to what we believe and we do act according to what is important in our lives, no matter what we might profess with our lips. Unfortunately, as we look at our attendance records and let me say, I do not want to simply pick on us here at St. Matthew, because the records of attendance at churches all over America are very much the same, and even those in Europe are worse, but our attendance records attest to the fact that God must certainly be disappointed in us. He has so much He want to give to us, so many gifts and blessings He wants to pour out on us and we constantly refuse and reject what He has to give by staying away from the very place and the very means He has to give us the gifts He has to give.
Thanks be to God that He is a gracious and merciful God. And please do not take these words as an excuse, but God’s great love and mercy are shown in the fact that God’s promises are true and God is faithful, even today, even when we are not faithful. We know that God’s greatest gift is forgiveness of sins. We know that because without forgiveness we would remain in our sins and we would be lost eternally, but with forgiveness of sins is life and salvation. So, when we fail and we do fail, miserably, we can come to the Lord, we can confess our sins and we can hear His wonderful words of forgiveness and absolution. And we can try again, preferably with His help, to be the people He would have us to be.
I would encourage you, whenever you hear the Old Testament lessons, never think they are meant only for a certain group of people at a certain time, in other words, never think they were meant only for the children of Israel a long time ago. Please understand that all of God’s Word is written for us even today. God has so much to give and I would encourage you, be given the gifts He has to give and even more, live in the gifts He has to give. I would also encourage you to share His love and gifts with others so they too might be a part of His kingdom. May the Lord continue to love you, lavish you with His good gifts and blessings, strength and keep you in faith, and make you always ready to give an answer for the faith He has given you in His Son, Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Explaining Lutheran Worship (Part Four))

What do you need to know about our Divine Service before attending so that you might get the most benefit from the gifts of God? Let’s continue examining the various parts so that we might better understand from where each part comes and how it connects to the next.

So far we have invited God to be a part of our service, we have confessed our sins and been forgiven, we have entered into God’s presence, begged for mercy, praised His name, and spoke His Word back to Him in prayer.

Now we move to hear God’s Word. Indeed, as God speaks most certainly and most clearly through His Word, we hear His Word read. We hear a word from the Old Testament, from one of the letters of the apostle’s in the New Testament (the Epistle), and words from one of the Gospels. These three lessons have been chosen so that they fit together (if not all three, at least two lessons have the same theme) and they are chosen to fit the time and season of the church year. We read lessons either from the Three Year or One Year pericope system known as a Lectionary. These lessons have been chosen, although modified in recent years, since the 5th and 6th centuries. Using these readings helps keep the preacher and the congregation focused, not on the favorite topic of the day, but on God’s Word and how today fits God’s Word.

The readings are followed by the hymn of the day which reflects the readings and through which we sing back to God what He teaches us in His Word.

The Sermon follows the hymn of the day and the purpose of the sermon is to speak God’s Word. Understanding that we cannot add to God’s Word, nor should we subtract, the attempt of the sermon is to simply preach God’s Word. As seminarians are told, “Preach the Word and sit down!” Let God’s Word do what God desires. The Word is preached and the hearers are to hear, believe and obey.
30 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Wisdom Calls - August 19, 2018 - Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15) - Text: Proverbs 9:1-10

One year during Advent I had asked all the children to gather around the Advent wreath. I asked the children why we took the time each year to talk about the Advent wreath. One young man answered, “To see how smart we are.” I would guess that there are times in all our lives that we would like to think that we are smart. I would also suggest that there are times when we would like to think we are as smart as, or maybe even smarter than the Lord. It happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as they tried to become like God. It happens in our world today as people try to be smarter than God. When it comes to being smart or thinking that we are smart I like to remind myself of Paul’s words, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Cor. 1:25).
Our text for today is a text about wisdom. Wisdom is personified as a person, as someone who is out to attract others to herself. As you read through the book of Proverbs you will also come to see that not only does wisdom seek to attract others to herself, so does folly. Our text for today, however, just talks about wisdom, so let us get to our text.
Our text begins with wisdom making preparations. We read beginning at verse one, “1Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars. 2She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table. 3She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town” (v.1-3).
Our text begins by telling us that wisdom has built her house on seven pillars. Seven is the number of completion. It is the trinity number, three, and the earth number four. Wisdom has built her house on the foundation of the fear of the Lord, the triune God and the Creator of the world.
Wisdom prepares the heavenly banqueting table. We do not see it here in this one verse, but this verse is in contrast to verse seventeen which tells us about the banqueting table of folly. The banqueting table of folly is one that is prepared with stolen water and with food eaten in secret. Food eaten in secret is another way of exposing folly for being what she is, an adulteress who is only looking to have a “good time,” that is why she does what she does in secret.
Wisdom calls to all people. She calls to all people of all times of all places. Our Lord is the Lord of all. Jesus came to give His life, not just for one group of people, not just for one generation. Jesus came to give His life for all people of all places of all times. Wisdom calls to all people of all places of all times.
Our text continues with the words of wisdom’s call. We pick up at verse four, “4‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ To him who lacks sense she says, 5‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. 6Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight’” (v.4-6). Wisdom calls. She says, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” Wisdom calls the simple. And yes, we are the simple human beings that she calls. We are simple and we need to take heed lest we fall, not for wisdom but for folly.
Wisdom calls us to come eat at the eternal banqueting table. Wisdom calls us to come and believe in the Lord. Wisdom calls us to faith. Wisdom calls us to be a part of the kingdom of God, to have a part of heaven, by grace, through faith in Jesus.
Wisdom gives us the gift of understanding. The gift of understanding is not necessarily what you and I think of when we think of understanding. The word which is translated as understanding is literally the word “heart.” The word “heart” in Hebrew includes the whole of a persons life. The word “heart” includes the person’s mind, body and spirit. So, to get the gift of understanding from wisdom is to get life and to get eternal life.
And we have a few more words to the wise in the last verses of our text. Picking up at verse seven, “7Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. 8Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. 9Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. 10The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (v. 7-10)
Here we are reminded that we cannot correct a scoffer which is another way of saying that we cannot correct a fool. Someone once noted that if you argue with a fool you only wind up looking foolish yourself. And who is the fool? The fool is the one who believes himself to be wise and even more, the one who believes himself to be wise apart from the Lord. As the Psalmist tells us, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 53:1). Of course, as Christians we would include in this category those who deny the validity, the authority and the truth of God’s Word. We would also include those who accept over the Word of God, without a challenge, science, anthropology, geology, biology, and so forth including anything that speaks anything contrary to the Word of God. I know you have heard me say it before but it bears repeating, when the word of falliable human beings differs from the word of God, I will believe the Word of God and conclude that the word of man needs more study.
Our text reminds us that when it comes to wisdom, a wise man will listen to correction and will become wiser. The key to our text is this, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and here we understand that fear is not necessarily being afraid, although when we are in our sin, we should be afraid. No, here in our text this fear is an awe, a respect, and acknowledging that the Lord is God, the Creator, the Sustainer, the Redeemer, the Sanctifier.
The question I would then ask our text is, how is this done? How do we get wisdom? To answer that question we must contrast the world’s understanding of wisdom with that of true wisdom from the Lord. According to the world wisdom is something a person learns, perhaps in a classroom or from a book. Wisdom is often equated with a person’s education, or perhaps even his age, thus religion, which is based on faith, is for the uneducated, and not for the wise, again, according to the wisdom of the world.
To be wise and educated in this world is to live life as if this is all we have. Our life in this world should include eating, drinking and being merry for tomorrow we die. The wisdom of this world is that this is all we have so we must make the best with what we have, because once it is gone, or once we are gone, that is all there is.
To gain wisdom in this world we need to educate ourselves. And, according to the world, we can educate ourselves so that we are smarter than the gods of the various religions. In other words, the educated have no need for any god because they are smarter than any superstitions concerning gods. What happens then is that the educated person becomes their own god.
But there is a better answer. There is a better answer as to how do we get wisdom and how do we get eternal life from wisdom? The better answer is the answer of the ways of Christ. The book of Proverbs and Holy Scripture itself reminds us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of true wisdom and of truth. Think about it this way, if your Kenmore refrigerator breaks down, you go to Kenmore to get it fixed. God is the Creator of all, He ought to know about all things, thus where do you go when you want to be truly educated? You go to the Author and Perfecter of all. You go to the manufacturer, the Creator, you go to the Lord.
The ways of Christ are that we dine at the Lord’s table of grace and mercy. We dine at the Lord’s table made ours through the life, death and resurrection of His only Son Jesus Christ. This death and resurrection stuff are indeed foolishness to those who are perishing. The unwise cannot understand how or why a God would give His life, would die for His creation, especially for His creation run amok. That is the cross point of the believer and the unbeliever. The unbeliever will not believe. The believer praises the Lord.
The ways of Christ are that not only did our God become human for us, but He also gives us all His good gifts and blessings, including wisdom and understanding. Our Lord gives and we are given to. And we are given to declare, praise be the name of the Lord.
We live in a very academically advanced world. A great much of what is known today was not know a hundred, fifty, and even ten years ago. What was once learned in college is now taught in grade school. Many fields of education are so advanced that they have divided up into specialty groups. You do not go to a doctor today, you go to a specialist.
While all this intelligence is abounding in our world today, something rather interesting has happened. Sociologist tell us we have moved into a post-modern, post-Christian era and I actually believe we have moved into the next era, but we do not know yet what it will be called. The dawn of enlightenment in the 18th century brought with it the “wisdom” that if something could not be proved then it was not true. Science was seen to be provable and religion was not, so science was the way for the enlightened and educated, while religion was for those who needed some superstition to believe. We have come full circle so to speak in that we are now in the age when the educated are beginning to realize that much of science cannot be proved, but must also be accepted by faith. The thought is that maybe the theory of evolution was not how the earth began, because it cannot be proved, and more often than not it has been disproved. Thus, science is now back on the same field as religion, or we should say, religion is back on the same field as science, both have to be accepted by faith, or so it is believed.
As Christians we can proclaim what the writer of Proverbs has said all along, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The foundation of wisdom is the Lord. Jesus is God in flesh, true wisdom. Jesus is true wisdom, true God who came down from heaven to live for us and to give His life for ours. This belief is foolishness for those who are perishing, but eternal life for those who have been given faith. God gives us all things and especially He gives to us our greatest need, forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness we know we have life and salvation. Thus, God gives forgiveness, life, faith, wisdom, eternal life. And for this we say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Explaining Lutheran Worship (Part Three))

What do you need to know about our Divine Service before attending so that you might get the most benefit from the gifts of God? Let’s continue examining the various parts so that we might better understand from where each part comes and how it connects to the next.

We began the service being reminded of our baptism. We continued by confessing our sins and being given forgiveness. Now that we are forgiven, we move into the Lord’s presence as we speak or chant the Introit or the entrance Psalm. Following the Introit we beg our Lord for mercy (as Luther reminds us, “We are all beggars it is true!”) in the Kyrie, the Lord have mercy! We rejoice in His presence as we sing the Hymn of Praise and then we speak the prayer of the day called the Collect. The Collect speaks God’s Word collected in one (or two) sentences what God speaks to us today in His Word.

Thus, as we believe, so we worship. As we believe that God comes to us through the means He has given, the Means of Grace (His Word, Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution, the Lord’s Supper) so our Divine Service is permeated with these means. So, we believe we are brought into the church through faith given to us through the waters of Holy Baptism, our service begins with the Invocation; as we believe the Lord forgives us our sins as we confess our sins, through confession and absolution; so we are cleansed and ready to move into His presence as we enter speaking and chanting His Word back to Him(Introit); and so we beg for His mercy (Kyrie); we sing praise for His mercy (Hymn of Praise); and we speak back to Him the very Words He has given us to speak as we pray the thoughts of the Words of Holy Scripture of which we are about to hear (Collect).

As we understand and explain these parts of our Divine Service, so our service becomes a blessing filled with the joy of being given the gifts of God.
29 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Strengthened by the Food of the Lord - August 12, 2018 - Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 14) - Text: 1 Kings 19:1-8

Our text for today is a day in the life of Elijah. As we review Elijah’s life do not be surprised if you begin thinking to yourself, “I know how he feels.” Yes, Elijah was a great prophet and a great man of God. He was a man of great faith and yet, he too had his ups and downs. Our text for today brings us to an Elijah who has become tired by the struggles of this world. He has turned to the only place he knows to turn, the only place he feels there is left to turn, he turns to the Lord who in turn gives him the strength he needs to continue. Before we get to our text we want to spend a moment putting it into its context. The book of first Kings relates the history of Elijah and how Elijah was simply obeying the Lord and doing and speaking as the Lord told him. None of this is Elijah’s doing by himself, but all that Elijah was doing was from the Lord. So, the book of first Kings relates how Elijah pronounced a drought upon the land. How he was fed by ravens by the creek. How he multiplied the flour and oil for the widow at Zaraphath. And how he raised the widow’s son from death.
In the chapter before our text we read of his challenge and defeat of the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Maybe you remember the account of how the prophets of Baal prayed and prayed for Baal to set fire to their sacrifice and nothing happened, except for Elijah’s making fun of them. And when it was his turn, Elijah had his sacrifice doused with water until it was overflowing. Then, when he prayed to the Lord, the Lord sucked it all up, the whole sacrifice and the water in the trenches, with one big “woosh,” showing the He is God Almighty. However, immediately following his victory Queen Jezebel threatens to have him killed for killing all her prophets.
As we get to our text we have an Elijah on the run, running for his life. We begin at verse one, “1Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.’ 3Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. 4But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.’ 5And he lay down and slept under a broom tree” (v. 1-5a).
Please do not misunderstand the text. Elijah is running away, but not because he is afraid of Jezebel or her threats. He is running away because he is just tired of fighting the good fight. He is at the end of his rope so to speak. Today we might say he is suffering from burnout. He has done all that the Lord has asked him to do and yet he does not think it has made any difference. “Why bother?” is probably what he is thinking. He runs away into the hot desert until he gets to a broom tree where he sits down and prays to die. And that is even what he asks of the Lord, to simply take him to heaven.
Elijah felt alone like many of the prophets before him. He felt like he was the only one fighting for the Lord. In the verses following our text we hear Elijah’s response to the Lord’s question. Picking up at the last part of verse nine, “9b‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 10He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away’” (1 Kings 19:9b-10). Here again we see that Elijah felt alone and helpless.
Elijah was at the point where he wanted to die. He did not want to commit suicide. He did not want a to visit Dr. Kevorkian. He acknowledged the Lord’s presence, His grace and His sovereignty, yet He wanted the Lord to take him. He was ready to go to heaven, and have it all over and done with.
Our text continues with God’s answer. We pick up at the second part of verse five, “And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ 6And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.’ 8And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God” (5b-8).
The Lord’s answer is not to take Elijah, in essence we can say that this is one instance where we know the Lord answered Elijah’s prayer and His answer was “no.” However, the Lord sends an angel, not simply to speak to Elijah, but to touch him. (Someone once asked if this was the original “Touched by an Angel”?) The angel touched Elijah and told him to get up and eat. The angel had prepared a cake of bread and a jug of water. And I cannot resist here either, yes, Elijah ate real “angel food cake.” The Lord did not provide Elijah with just a little to eat. Twice He provided food for his physical nourishment.
The Lord supplied Elijah with the nourishment he would need for the journey he was about to take. After Elijah had eaten he was taken on a 40 day trip to Horeb. Horeb was the source of divine food. Horeb was where the Lord revealed Himself to Elijah’s ancestors, to Abraham as well as to Moses. Horeb is where the Lord made His covenant with His people.
As we look at our text for today we might ask ourselves, how do we relate? And we might answer, let us count the ways. And we will do that, but we must also ask the question which relates to the reason for our being here. We must ask the question, “Where is Jesus in our text?” The simple answer to that question is that Jesus is there as God. He is one person of the trinity, so He is there directing the events that are taking place. But I think there is more to it than that and we will get back to “where is Jesus?” in a moment.
Getting back to the first question, “how do we relate to this text?” Do we not often feel alone in this world? We live in an affluent, fast paced, technologically advanced, competitive world. The measure of a person, their success or failure, their worth, their intrinsic value, their contribution to society and on and on are all based on standards set by our society. We often feel like we are on our own and it is us against the world. Quite frankly, it is enough to make a person want to give up.
Added to our already, seeming, insurmountable struggles is the fact that as Christians we face even more obstacles. As Christians we have a different view of the world than our society as a whole. As Christians we know that there are absolutes, that there is a God who is loving, but who is also just. As Christians we know that there is right and wrong. As Christians we know that there is a God to whom we are ultimately accountable. As individuals we struggle through this life and as Christians we often feel like we cannot take it any more.
The answer the world gives us is to reach deep down inside ourselves or to simply look inside ourselves. Radio, TV and movies, news papers, magazines and books, self-help and pop psychologist tells us that our help comes from within. We have to look deep down inside ourselves to find the answers for which we are looking. Our Lord reminds us in His Holy Word that all we will find within ourselves is sinful human beings. We cannot help ourselves. We cannot find the answers within ourselves. All we will find within ourselves is more questions, more problems, and more struggles.
Fortunately for us, God shows us a better way. Our Lord shows us that our help comes from outside of us. In Divine Service Setting Three we confess, “Our help is in the name of the Lord. Who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8). In the explanation of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed we confess, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason our strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”
As I said, our Lord shows us a better way. Our Lord’s better way is where we meet Jesus. We are unable to save ourselves, that is why Jesus came, to live, die and rise for us. Jesus came to hit bottom for us. Jesus knows how we feel, He knows what we feel. He knows what we go through. Everything that we experience, all the pains, struggles and hardships of this life, Jesus has experienced. Jesus was stricken, smitten and afflicted. He was despised and reject for us. He was a man of sorrows. By His stripes we are healed. Where is Jesus? He is seen in life of Elijah, yet, He actually gave His life for ours.
Our text for this week brings us to our usual conclusion, God gives and we are given to. We live in a sin filled world. We live in a world which is at enmity with the Lord. As Christians we struggle. We feel alone like Elijah. We feel like there is no reason to continue on. We may even ask that the Lord would take us from this vale of tears to be with Himself in heaven. Our Lord does hear our prayers, just as He heard Elijah’s prayer. And our Lord answers our prayers, often in the same way He answered Elijah. And His answer is the same as His answer to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in your weakness” (1 Cor. 12:9). The Lord answers our prayer by giving us the forgiveness, faith and strength to continue on.
In our text the Lord sent His angel to deliver physical food to sustain Elijah. Today our Lord provides spiritual food for our nourishment. Today the Lord comes to us to give, strengthen and keep us in faith through His means of grace, through His Word and through His Sacraments. The reason we as Christians desire, more than anything else, to be in divine service, to be in Bible Class, to remember our baptism, to confess our sins and hear His words of absolution, to hear His Word read and proclaimed in divine service and to eat His body and drink His blood in His Holy Sacrament, is because this is where He comes to us to give to us, to strengthen us.
Our Lord never promised that life would be easy. As a matter of fact, His promise to His disciples was that they would die for Him. Our Lord does promise to be with us. He promises that He will give us all that we need in this life. He promises to hear our prayer and to be near to us and He does and He is. Our Lord promised to save us and He did, through the blood of His Son, Jesus on the cross. Our Lord comes to us, from outside of us, through His means of grace, to give us all His good gifts and blessing and to that we say, to God be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Explaining Lutheran Worship (Part Two))

What do you need to know about our Divine Service before attending so that you might get the most benefit from the gifts of God? Let’s examine the various parts so that we might better understand from where each part comes and how it connects to the next.

Our service begins with the Invocation. The invocation is an invitation and an invoking. We are invoking or inviting God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit to come to us in the Divine Service to give us the good gifts and blessings He has to give. At the same time we are reminded of our Baptism and how God’s name was put on us at our Baptism. At our Baptism we are made God’s children. He washed us, He put (spoke) His name on us (through the hands and mouth of the pastor), He put faith in our hearts, He chose us, He wrote our names in the Book of Life, He forgave us our sins. He did it all and we were done to.

Following the invocation we confess our sins in corporate confession. Indeed, private confession is a valuable rite and means of grace and we are encouraged to make use of private confession, yet in the Divine Service we make confession together. We confess all our sins, sins of omission, failing to do what we should do and sins of commission, doing the things we should not be doing. We confess our sins of thought, word and deed. Just as the lamb was brought for sacrifice and slaughtered pointing to the ultimate Lamb of God, so as we enter the Lord’s presence we confess our sins.

After confessing our sins we hear the most beautiful words in the world, God’s Word of absolution and forgiveness spoken by God through the mouth of the Pastor. And we know that just as we hear the words of our pastor so we know what he says is true because what he says is what God has given him to say so they are from God and we know our sins are forgiven. And with forgiveness is life and salvation.

Confession and Absolution are one of the means (of Grace) God uses to give us His good gifts and blessings.
28 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)

Sunday, August 5, 2018

You Will See the Glory of the Lord - August 5, 2018 - Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 13) - Text: Exodus 16:2-15

One of Aesop’s fables talks about a hungry wolf that sees a bunch of grapes high up in a tree. He tries to get the grapes, but cannot reach them. He finally gives up and thinks to himself, “they were probably bad grapes anyway.” The moral of the story according to Aesop is that “it is easy to despise what you know you cannot possess.” For our purposes this morning I would suggest that this fable suggest “that we often change our opinion about something, depending on how it relates to us.” This morning we see how that happens to the children of Israel and we are reminded that it happens to us as well. Getting back to the fable, I do want to say that God’s Word is not a fable. A fable is a story with a moral. God’s Word never has a moral. I get antsy anytime someone, speaking about a portion of Holy Scripture says, “the moral of he story is...” Holy Scripture is Law and Gospel, not a book of stories that teach morals.
As we get into our text we read how Moses is an ambassador from God, to the people. We begin at verse two, “2And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, 3and the people of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’ 4Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. 5On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily’” (v. 2-5).
Did you notice the exaggeration of the people. They were not getting what they wanted so they changed “their perception of reality.” They said “we had so much to eat in Egypt. We sat around pots of meat and had all the food we wanted.” Is that what you remember about the Israelites in Egypt? Were they not complaining about being slave in Egypt? Now they are grumbling about what little they have to eat in the desert and are remembering how good they had it in Egypt. Maybe they are exaggerating a little.
Moses is the Lord’s ambassador. God hears the complaint of the Israelites and He comes to Moses and tells him what He will do. The Lord will rain down bread from heaven and He will use this as a test for the Children of Israel. The test will be if they listen to and obey the Lord or not. They are only to gather as much as they need and twice as much on Friday, for the Sabbath, and they are not to keep any over night. Notice that the Lord also uses this as a way to prepare the people for the keeping of the Sabbath Day. Notice also how the Lord uses this to remind the people that He is the One who is taking care of them.
Continuing in our text, Moses and Aaron bring the word to the Israelites. We pick up at verse six, “6So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, ‘At evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against the Lord. For what are we, that you grumble against us?’ 8And Moses said, ‘When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him— what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.’ 9Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, “Come near before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.”’” (v. 6-9).
Moses and Aaron speak to the people. They tell them that God has heard their complaint. They tell them that God will answer their grumbling. God will show His mercy in the morning and in the evening. In the morning they will have bread to eat. In the evening they will have meat in the form of quails to eat.
Moses and Aaron warn the people that their grumbling was not against them, but against the Lord. Moses and Aaron are merely ambassadors, heralds of the Lord’s word. This same thing happens even in the church today. When things are not going the way we think they should, we want to blame the pastor when in reality we often end up blaming God. It must have something to do with our being children of Adam. Remember, Adam blamed God way back at the beginning of the world, when he first fell into sin. Interestingly enough, it is the fact that as the people are grumbling against God, they are also recognizing that He is God, that God is in charge and that He is the one with all power, might, and authority. Moses and Aaron exhort the people to come to God and repent.
Our text continues with the appearance of the glory of the Lord and His voice. We pick up at verse ten, “10And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11And the Lord said to Moses, 12‘I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.”’” (v. 10-12).
While Aaron was speaking to the children of Israel, the Lord came and showed them His glory. And as He spoke to Moses the people heard His voice. This is one of those times that the Children of Israel know that the Lord is God and that He is the one who is directing all that is happening, not Moses and Aaron.
Finally we have the giving of “what is this,” or what we have come to call “manna.” We read at verse thirteen, “13In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. 14And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. 15When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.’” (v. 13-15).
The Lord told the children of Israel what He would do and He did it. That statement should remind us of what we heard last week, that is that God said it and that settles it. God does what He says, no matter our unbelief or faith. In the evening the Lord provided meat. He provided all the quail they could eat. In the morning the Lord provided “what is it,” manna. He gave them all the manna they could eat. Again, God said it and it happened. God gives and we are given to.
Here, once again, the Lord is the one who is the provider. The Lord gives and the people are given too. The Lord shows over and over, time and time again, that He is a gracious and loving God who gives all His good gifts and blessings.
Are we not like the Children of Israel in our world today? We hunger today, we have cravings, we have needs, we have wants. We hunger, maybe not so much for food, but more for physical, earthly things. As sinful human beings we hunger for every kind of impurity. We have needs, but often we confuse our wants for our needs. We live in an affluent country. We have more than we need and often more than we want and yet we still want more and in our wanting more we tend to let the work of the Lord go neglected. We are negligent in our response to all the Lord gives. The Lord gives and we are given to and we forget that it is the Lord who gives and we want more.
In the same way that our Lord supplied the children of Israel with all they needed, so our Lord supplies us with all we need. Notice, I did not say all that we want, but I said all that we need. Most of us have more than we need as well as more than we want. Our Lord supplies us with all that we need, as we confess in the explanation to the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.”
However, and having made that statement concerning our physical needs, God would have us crave even more for our spiritual food, that is that we would crave for His Word and Sacraments. Our Lord would have us crave after His Spiritual food which is what we need the most anyway. Our Lord would have us hunger for spiritual food, bread of life. In the Gospel reading Jesus tells the people and reminds us that He is the bread of life. Jesus is the true bread which we eat at the Lord’s Supper. He is the true bread who gave His life for ours on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins. He is the sacrificial lamb which we eat at His Holy Supper for the forgiveness of sins.
Our Lord provides, gives, us all that we need to support our daily lives. We are given all the physical things we need as we just heard in Luther’s explanation to the first article of the Apostles’ Creed. We are also given God’s spiritual food, the bread of life through the means that He gives them, through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, Holy Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and the greatest gift, forgiveness of sins through Holy Absolution. He feeds us through Bible Study, Divine Service, His Holy Supper, personal and family devotions, our personal reading of His Word and so on. Our Lord gives and gives and gives and we are given to.
Our text for today reminds us, once again, how we are very much like the children of Israel. Our Lord would have us come to Him yearning for spiritual blessings, praising and thanking Him for all His good gifts and blessings, but instead we come grumbling because we do not have what others have, we do not have enough earthly things to keep us content. Yet, our Lord continues to come to us through His Word and Sacraments to urge us to repent of our sins and to be given His forgiveness and all His other good gifts and blessings. Our Lord knows what is best for us and what we need and He gives to us according to His good and gracious will. What a great loving, merciful God we have. He gives and gives and gives and we are given to and to that we say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Lutheran Vocational Evangelism

(Explaining Lutheran Worship (Part One))

As our friends “Come and see” Jesus in the Divine Service it may be helpful to explain how the Divine Service is a reflection of and flows from what we believe. First and foremost in the Divine Service God is the one who is the prime mover and the one who acts first. God comes to us in the Divine Service through the means of grace to give to us. Our response is just that a response, moved in us by God to speak back to Him. And we worship best when we speak back to Him the very Words He has given us to say. Thus, we see how our Divine Service is permeated with the Word of God.

We even call our worship Divine Service because Divine Service means God service. God is coming to us to give us the gifts.  He has to give, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation.

Our Divine Service follows a liturgy a form which goes back to the early church of the first century and even flows out of the ceremonial laws given in Leviticus, except that today it is in its fulfilled form. Thus, our Divine Service is not a contemporary, that is with time or set in time, or here today and gone tomorrow service. Rather our Divine Service transcends time. Our Divine Service is for yesterday, for today and will continue for tomorrow. Just as our hymns are not of certain time, place or culture (ethnicity), but transcend time, place and culture. Our hymns are hymns from around the world and from many different times of history.

Every Sunday morning we give up our favorite genre or style of music and instead we worship in the style of Divine Service which is its own style, which transcends time, which transcends cultures.

Our Divine Service is a service of order which reflects the fact that we worship a God of good order. Finally, it may be good to go through the good order of the Divine Service, explaining the parts so that your friend might understand what is happening in the Divine Service and get more out of it by putting more into it.

(More about the parts of the service in the next installment.)
27 of 52    © Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Bogs (2018)