GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR - JESUS THE CHRIST.
It's was late fall and the Indians on a remote reservation in South Dakota asked their new chief if the coming winter was going to be cold or mild. Since he was a chief in a modern society he had never been taught the old secrets. When he looked at the sky, he couldn't tell what the winter was going to be like so being a practical leader, after several days, he went to the phone booth and called the National Weather Service to ask, “Is the coming winter going to be cold?” “It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold,” the meteorologist at the weather service responded. So the chief went back to his people and told them to collect lots or firewood to be prepared.
A week later, he called the National Weather Service again. “Does it still look like it is going to be a very cold winter?” “Yes,” the man at National Weather Service again replied, “it's going to be a very cold winter.” The chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of firewood they could find.
Two weeks later, the chief called the National Weather Service again. “Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?' “Absolutely,” the man replied. “It's looking more and more like it is going to be one of the coldest winters we've ever seen.”
“How can you be so sure?” the chief asked. The weatherman replied, “The Indians are collecting a ton of firewood!”
On our calendar it was a Saturday in the year 29AD. It was the Sabbath. When the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue.
Not much is left to remind us of that synagogue – just some of the ruins unearthed in the 1970s and a hastily drawn sketch. In its day it was quite impressive.
To this day – looking across the ruins of the midrash – you can still see the artifact of the Torah wagon - the place where those sacred texts were stored. Standing by those ruins, you can almost feel how it must have been for those fishermen in Capernaum when Jesus regularly went into the synagogue and began to teach.
The people were amazed at Jesus’ teaching, because He taught them as One Who had authority, not as the teachers of the Law. The Greek word translated “were amazed” originally meant to be struck with a powerful blow to the head – and, in the context of our text, means to be struck with absolute amazement. How could anyone teach with such absolute authority? He came not as a teacher of the Law – but as God Himself as The vulnerable flesh and blood Word of God Christ.
But how could there be such absolute authority in Someone they were growing to know so well?
There in those Baptismal waters God as The vulnerable flesh and blood Word of God Christ responded to humanity’s plea to God to defeat temptation, sin and death.
From those Baptismal waters Jesus remained in the wilderness for 40 days and then faced the ultimate tempter with three temptations Adam and Eve had faced in Eden and failed to resist. All of those temptations to which we yield can actually fit into those major temptations Jesus faced and conquered. Since the temptation in Eden, the forces of evil have brought sin, guilt and death. Even the secular dictionary recognizes evil as “profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity, especially when regarded as a supernatural force.”
Could The Authority in Someone they were growing to know so well defeat something as powerful as evil? They were soon to find out.
Just then a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “What do You want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know Who You are—The Holy One of God.”
Notice whose lips are moving – whose vocal chords are being used - a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out. And notice whose words are being spoken - “What do You want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? They are the words of the evil spirit in the man.
The power of Jesus’ message compels the evil spirit to respond “I know Who You are – The Holy One of God!” Messengers of the tempter - that they are, of course, evil spirits know Jesus is The Holy One of God.
They know why God has come as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ. Have You come to destroy us? they asked in that Capernaum synagogue. They know Jesus has come to destroy evil and its power.
The force of evil in the world is real and always seeks to create alienation between God and humanity. In each of us the struggle goes on – between God and the tempter – between good and evil.
When the forces of evil rear their ugly head in the world, the world seeks to avoid the subject. A member of ISIS or some other fanatic kills scores of people and the world screams “Take away all the guns” instead of calling evil evil and dealing with it. We speak of evil in the world in terms of injustices perpetrated against people – but the discussion is always on the basis of the people identifying themselves as victims. The identity of the group changes but the self-centeredness of the injustice never does.
And the forces of evil always seek to reproduce themselves. Remember how Eve passed the forbidden fruit to Adam. Why do sinners seek Christian endorsement for their sins by forcing a baker to design a cake celebrating a worship service he sees as idolatrous and sinful? Why do sinners always attack Jesus and His Word?
Discussing the presence of evil in the world, Chuck Colson asked, "Can man be good without God?”.
Colson knew the answer to his own question. "The answer I would submit is no. Oh, yes, maybe they can be good for a time but they can't stay good. Who is to make them good? Who is to bring virtue into our society? If I am right, that in the twentieth century we have been able to improve the condition of life in America, western civilization and around the world, but haven't been able to do anything about the sin within us which causes hatred, anger, rivalries, bitterness, moral decay and crime, then who can make us good? Can government do it? No. Scientists and laboratories? No. The media? No. Schools? No. It comes only when the power of God begins to work in our lives and brings forth righteousness. It is something which happens from the inside out and not from the outside in. It is the one thing man can't fix — the condition of the heart."
Does evil as successfully reproduce itself when people listen to God? “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly, “Come out of him!”
The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching – and with Authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey Him.”
Colson is right and I would carry Colson's question into an even deeper and more foundational territory - beyond that very foundation and basis of all ethics and morality - to the very foundation and basis of all human belief and lifestyle. Can a human being be righteous without God? Can a human being be what God created us to be without the Redemption of Jesus Christ?
That question answers itself. No one can be what our Creator created us in His Own Image to be without God’s conquest of evil and our redemption – purchased on the cross and proclaimed from the empty tomb.
Every day brings us news of what the world becomes when it rejects God and The Word of God for our ethics, our morality and the only valid faith to live by.
G. K. Chesterton was right when he said, "The doctrine of original sin is the only philosophy empirically validated by thirty-five hundred years of human history." I remember a certain wise man who was fond of saying, "Every time I point an accusing finger at someone I am reminded that three of my remaining fingers are pointing directly back at me." As God Himself proclaimed through Paul's EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS (3:23) "All people have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God."
How richly blessed are we that God proves His Love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. As God declares through the apostle Paul, “For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed rarely will anyone die for a righteous person - though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves His Love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
The first event that took place in Jesus’ earthly life after He entered our struggle through His Baptism was His defeat of the greater tempter Satan. The second event is our text this morning – casting out the evil spirit in the synagogue. God is the only One Who can defeat evil and death – that is why God came among us as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ – and where His battle on our behalf began. There is no more perfect and total forgiveness and reconciliation possible than that - from God Himself.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS - OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR WHO MAKES SAINTS OF ALL WHO BELIEVE IN HIM. AMEN.
4th SUNDAY OF THE EPIPHANY SEASON
January 28, 2018
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio
Call to Discipleship and Apostleship
"CALL TO DISCIPLESHIP AND APOSTLESHIP"
Text - MARK 1:14--20
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR - JESUS THE CHRIST.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee… Following Jesus' Baptism, His 40 days in the wilderness and temptation by Satan, Jesus returned to The Galilee and moved His home from Nazareth to Capernaum where He established His headquarters. John the Baptist had proclaimed The Messiah's coming, John's work was done and John was arrested.
Now Jesus came preaching The Gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in The Gospel." "The time is fulfilled” -The Messiah promised over all the centuries and pointed out by John the Baptist is here. “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” - God has arrived as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ to redeem us. “Repent” – totally alter your lifestyle and follow Jesus. “Believe in The Gospel” – live by God-given Faith.
Capernaum - today a series of ruins visited by pilgrims and tourists fewer in number by far than those who visit Nazareth - nevertheless, was even more important than Nazareth to God as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ.
Everyone living in Capernaum earned their living in the fishing industry including Simon, Andrew, James and John and even Matthew the tax collector heavily taxing those who worked on the sea.
First, of course, there were the fishermen who spent every night from late November to April on the sea earning one-third of their catch each night. Winter was the fishing season and night was when the fish were biting.
Second, there were the people who owned and maintained the boats which they leased to the fishermen for one-third of the night's catch.
The final third went to the people who owned and maintained the nets which they leased to the fishermen.
South and west around the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum – in those ruins where trees now stand on the shore - the cannery was located in the village of Magdala. Here people earned their living by salting and canning the Sea of Galilee fish and selling them locally and throughout the world.
The busiest time on the shore was sunrise when the boats returned, fish were sorted and distributed and then prepared for sale and shipping. One such morning Jesus, passing along by the Sea of Galilee, saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending their nets … in the boat with the hired servants.
Our text paints quite a picture of these four fishermen and their families. James and John were in their boat mending their nets and the Zebedee family had hired servants meaning their business was not a one boat operation but a fishing fleet.
In another text where John and Peter were admitted to the High Priest's courtyard during Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin, we discover the reason John was recognized and admitted by the staff was because of the fish he had been selling to them. Hired servants, a fleet of boats, nets to use and to rent and all four fishing the lake – then canning, selling and shipping – this was a 1st Century conglomerate.
There were lots of profits to attract the four fishermen and lots of responsibilities to command their attention in their fishing business. Jesus was asking a lot from Simon, Andrew, James and John when He said, "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men."
Immediately - without a moment's hesitation - they radically altered their priorities in life and followed Jesus. Simon followed so faithfully that Jesus changed later his name to Peter – the Rock.
Jesus called these four men to be His disciples. That meant they were committing themselves to learning everything Jesus had come to teach them. They would hear His every word and carefully watch His every action. They would ask Him seemingly endless questions. They would spend countless hours dialoguing with Him and with each other about Him. Jesus would be The Teacher and The Subject in their newly prioritized lives.
We, like those fishermen, are called to that discipleship. We are called by Jesus to daily reading THE HOLY BIBLE and to hearing God's Word read and preached at every opportunity - prayerfully and expectantly. Jesus calls us to be His disciples just as surely as he called Simon, Andrew, James, and John - and, not merely coincidentally, their powerful tax collector neighbor Matthew.
The Good News we learn from Jesus is not something that can merely lie fallow in our lives. God’s Word needs to be lived and shared. Jesus told the four fishermen that He wanted them to trade fishing on the Sea of Galilee for fishing in the sea of humanity. "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men." Remember Jesus did not call the four fishermen to become fishers of men after He called them to be disciples. It was all the same faith and lifestyle. Sharing Jesus is central to the discipleship to which Jesus calls those four titans of the fishing industry and you and me.
What Jesus gives to all of us as His disciples is not to be experienced and lived in a vacuum but to be shared. It is such Gospel - such Good News - that once it grabs hold of us we feel the need to share it. And, as we share The Gospel with others, we find ourselves growing in The Gospel as well. What Jesus calls us to is a living relationship with Christ and, in His Love, with others.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS - OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR AND TEACHER. AMEN.
Third Sunday Of The Epiphany Season
January 21, 2018
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio
Where Do We Go From Christmas?
"Where Do We Go From Christmas?"
Text - LUKE 2:22—35
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM JESUS TRUE GOD THROUGH ALL ETERNITY AND TRUE MAN BORN IN A BETHLEHEM STABLE, CRUCIFIED FOR OUR SIN, AND RISEN FROM THE DEAD TO PROCLAIM OUR ETERNAL VICTORY
When the time came for the purification according to the Law of Moses. Mary and Joseph brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present Him to The Lord. They came to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in The Law of The Lord - a pair of two young pigeons.
As Paul wrote to the Galatians (4:22), when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under The Law. In order for Jesus to offer Himself as The Perfect Sacrifice for our sins, He had to live the perfect human life – live perfectly under The Law. Since the time when God sent the death angel to take the lives of every first-born male in Egypt sparing only the first-born sons in the homes of God’s people who faithfully painted the lamb’s blood on the doorpost and lintel of their homes, God’s chosen people were to recognize their first-born sons belonged to God in a very special way. Mothers were required to bring their eight-day old first-born son to the temple to be offered to God for a lifetime of service in God’s priesthood. The tribe of Levi was called by God to serve in the temple in place of the firstborn sons who were redeemed or bought back with the gift of a lamb or – if the parents were poor and could not afford a lamb – the gift of two young pigeons.
When Jesus was 8 days old, Mary and Joseph traveled with Him from Bethlehem, where they were staying, to the temple in Jerusalem. Coming up from the south, they saw the magnificent temple complex high atop Mt Zion. They worked their way through the sellers of wares and mementoes and climbed the huge steps to the beautiful temple courtyard. As they entered the huge temple porticoes where moneychangers and sellers of sacrificial animals hawked their wares, Joseph purchased two young pigeons.
Leaving the porticoes, they entered the large Court of the Gentiles where pilgrims, tourists, Roman soldiers and temple police mingled with rabbis addressing their groups of students and curious travelers. They moved swiftly to the north to the entrance to the Court of the Women.
The Levites who served as priests in place of the redeemed first-born sons received the offering of the two young pigeons by the treasury area in the Court of the Women.
THE HUMAN TENDENCY TOWARD EVIL
Eighteen years ago – as the 20th Century ended and the 21st began - Billy Graham commented on how the 20th Century had truly been the century of scientific advances. Such a myriad of scientific wonders to behold and the 21st Century is bringing even more.
Still Billy Graham reminded all of us that there are three great problems science and modern technology cannot solve:
(1). The human tendency toward evil. Since Adam and Eve yielded to temptation in Eden, greed and selfishness have been an undeniable part of human nature. Anger, crime, and war never disappear. And all of us find ourselves doing things we regret doing and wish we had been strong enough not to do.
(2). Human suffering. It is also part of the human experience that all of us have a share of suffering in our lives — and some of us seem to suffer through most of our lives. Science can make great strides in alleviating some forms of suffering, but it can never eradicate all suffering.
And (3). Death. That ultimate enemy from which no one escapes.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR … JESUS THE CHRIST.
Recently, I was asked a question that I've been asked a number of times before - "When western Christian churches celebrate Jesus' birth on the 24th and 25th of December, why do eastern Christian churches celebrate His birth nearly two weeks later
While we in the Western Church emphasize the Birth of The Christ Child in the Bethlehem cave stable, the Eastern Church emphasizes showing That Baby is God coming to all people as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ – a wondrous epiphany we celebrate with the wise men on the often ignored January 6th festival of THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD – on the day after our 12 days of Christmas end.
At the time of Jesus' birth, as Israel walked about in a time of spiritual darkness, an even greater spiritual darkness permeated the Gentile world.
In Old Testament times, the rulers of Assyria had a dream – the creation of a one world order that was a paradise to be produced by people without God’s help. They did conquer the world - but they obviously didn’t create their human paradise and their empire toppled.
The rulers of Babylon had the same dream. In their attempt to succeed where the Assyrians failed, they created the magi. That word entered our language as "magician" - but the original magiwere a brain trust of people deemed capable of creating Babylon's godless paradise.
The hierarchy sought out boys barely in their teens who displayed great intelligence and aptitudes and placed them in a palace college where they were trained in their respective fields with the tools to produce that human paradise. The prophet Daniel was magi and the one voice proclaiming God’s Word in that brain trust.
The historian Rousas J. Rushdoony writes that “When Christ was born in Bethlehem, the world had reached a dead end. …. The ‘wise’ men of Babylon had failed; so had the ‘wise’ men of Persia, Macedonia, and now Rome. All sense of meaning was departing from life. In the Roman Empire, life was increasingly reduced to one dimension alone, and the life of that day had a familiar ring: the people saw no meaning in life except pleasure.” (WISE MEN STILL ADORE HIM by Rousas j. Rushdoony. NEW WINE MAGAZINE. December, 1981) A great lesson of human history is that any society, nation or world that believes we’ve outgrown our need for God and His Word is doomed to collapse.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR - JESUS THE CHRIST.
Every year someone approaches me in a store or calls me on the phone to announce “I just read a real important article. The writer says we shouldn’t be celebrating Christmas on December 25th. He discovered Jesus really wasn’t born on December 25th. The date is all wrong. We shouldn’t celebrate Christmas.” I just shake my head – wondering why paper is wasted publishing an article refuting a claim no one is making.
I know of no credible Christian theologian – living or dead – who has said Jesus was born on December 25th. While we know when Jesus was crucified and when He rose from the dead, no one knows the date of Jesus’ birth. Historically, there are a number of reasons we celebrate Christmas this time of the year - none of the reasons have anything to do with the actual date of Jesus' birth. Christmas does not commemorate a specific day in history. Christmas is far more than that.
Decades ago – when I was writing my weekly column – I wrote one about the two holidays we celebrate each December – Christmas and Winterfest. Today when a festival called “Christmas In July” has become so popular and the secular Christmas celebration begins when the children have barely stopped “trick or treating”, the distinction between the two December holidays has become increasingly indistinctive.
Christmas is really our Christian celebration of the greatest miracle in all of human history. That miracle of miracles is God’s total love for us – God loving all humanity enough to come into the world God created as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ on our behalf and for our eternal Salvation. God entering our world as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ is to Christian believers the beginning of the most wondrous event in all of human history.
The best explanation of the meaning of Christmas, for me, is contained in words which God spoke through the Apostle Paul in his EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS - Let this mind be in you, which is yours in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men: And being found in human form, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Let this mind be in you, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Believe totally and completely in God as Jesus Himself believed totally and completely in His heavenly Father. Believe totally and completely in God's Plan of Salvation as Jesus totally believed and lived that Plan of Salvation - even when it meant suffering and dying on the cross. Love God, ourselves, and each other as Jesus did and does.
Christmas celebrates the miracle of God's Love for us.
Why should we be amazed that, through the virgin birth, God became the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ – was born in the likeness of men and found in human form? With God, nothing is impossible. If God wants to do something, of course, He can. That's basic to God being God.