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God, Have Mercy . . . On Me

Ash Wednesday

God Have Mercy . . . On Me

Text: Luke 18:9-14

Three days ago, 21 men in orange jumpsuits marched along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea on the coast of Libya.  All 21 were Coptic Christians from neighboring Egypt.  Each one was led as a prisoner by a masked man belonging to the terrorist Muslim cell known as Isis.  You probably heard what happened next.  Most, perhaps all, of the 21 were placed face down on the beach and simultaneously beheaded.  Those cowardly barbaric terrorists are despicable.  God, have mercy on them.

Of course, there’s plenty of shame to be found in America too.  How about Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber?  If you don’t know who Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber are, don’t worry.  Your life is better for it.  What a bunch of young punks they are, thinking they can gallivant the globe like untouchables above the law.  Their behavior is the epitome of a mostly pathetic young Hollywood.  God, have mercy on them.

Oh and Hollywood.  Have you ever been there before?  I think it’s disgusting.  It’s filthy.  It stinks.  There are adult stores and venues on every street.  It reminds me of a lot of other places I’ve been to, like Las Vegas or New York or New Orleans.  Lots of fun to be had in those place, but even more sin.  God, have mercy on them.

Oh, and speaking of New Orleans.  How about Mardis Gras?  What a fine, family-friendly celebration that is, isn’t it?  People partying it up until the wee hours of the morning, drinking like fish, exercising zero inhibitions or control.  Women proudly wearing beads like badges of honor, with every necklace clearly telling you how many times they “worked” to get those beads.  How convenient to “get it out of your system” at Mardis Gras and on Fat Tuesday just in time for Lent to start.  God, have mercy on them.

But that’s the problem with our world today, especially with our country.  What a fruit basket upset America is these days!  What a bunch of crooks we live with!  What a bunch of evil, wicked people in our country!  What a bunch of idolatrous, adulterous people we live among. God, have mercy on them all.

Yes, God, have mercy.  God, Have Mercy . . . On Me when I think like this because I’m acting just like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable this evening.  Listen again to what happened in the story, starting at verse 10:  Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself:  ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fas twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’” Read the rest of this entry

O God, Be Merciful to Me!

Ash Wednesday

O God, Be Merciful to Me!

Text: 2 Samuel 24:10-25

Life was good.  Really good.  David had been king in Israel for almost 40 years.  There had been plenty of strife over those 40 years.  Wars.  Enemy attacks.  Even a rebellion led by David’s own son Absalom.  Of course there was the whole murder/adultery scandal between David and Bathsheba, too.  But over time David and Israel matured spiritually, politically, and economically.  Now, with the Lord bringing crushing blows to their Philistine enemies, Israel was enjoying a time of peace and economic prosperity.  The kingdom was strong.  The people were wealthy.  Their veteran, 70-year-old king was seated securely on his thrown.  Life was good.

That meant the timing was perfect.  The Bible tells us about this time:  Satan rose up against Israel and incited David.”  When everything was going well and no problems were in plain sight, Satan knew the opportunity was ripe for temptation.

He started amongst the people.  He whispered arrogant thoughts of ingratitude in the ears of the Israelites.  After defeating their enemies and attaining peace and prosperity, the Israelites didn’t thank their God.  A feeling of pride in their own achievements arose.  A spiritual laziness sprouted in their hearts because they didn’t really need God all that much while things were going well.

But why stop with the people?  Why not shoot for the top?  The best way to take down a kingdom is to take down the king.  So Satan set David in his crosshairs, too.  Read the rest of this entry

Ash Wednesday

This is an annual repost regarding Ash Wednesday

Today marks the beginning of the church season called Lent. While we praise God every day of our lives, during Lent our lives and our worship become more muted and quiet. For during the next 40 days we will meditate upon our Savior who came to carry our sins and die in our place. Our reserved and contemplative worship reminds us of the depth of suffering which our sins have caused and which our Savior endured.

The first day of Lent is 40 days before Easter, on a day that has become known as Ash Wednesday.  Here are some historical notes on Ash Wednesday, adapted from a post by Pastor Johnold Strey while he was pastor at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Citrus Heights, CA:

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the Christian’s 40-day journey (excluding Sundays) to Jesus’ cross and his tomb to await the proclamation of Easter.  Ash Wednesday begins the Christian’s Lenten journey with a reminder of our mortality and a call to repentance.  The ancient practice of imposing ashes on the foreheads of Christians gives Ash Wednesday its name.  The church father Tertullian (c. 160-215 AD) writes of the practice as a public expression of repentance and of our human frailty that stands in need of Christ.  The imposition of ashes has never been an exclusively Roman Catholic practice, but today is observed widely by Christians of many traditions.

Today, midweek evening services for Lent have become the norm in Lutheran congregations, and the repentance theme of Ash Wednesday is often replaced by a focus on the Savior’s Passion, a focus at one time reserved for Holy Week alone.  In popular practice, Ash Wednesday has become the first in a series of six services that include the reading of the Passion history and a review of one or another aspect of the Savior’s suffering and death.  Most of our Lenten sermon series as well as most of the worship resources produced in our circles have placed Ash Wednesday into the regular set of midweek Lenten services.

In recent years there has been renewed interest to return to a confession and absolution focus for Ash Wednesday worship.  That confession and absolution focus will be emphasized in our service at Christ the King on Ash Wednesday evening.  Black, the color of sorrow and death, will be used rather than the normal purple of Lent.  The Ash Wednesday service reflects a serious tone of meditation and repentance over sin.

We will also include the imposition of ashes for the third consecutive year in our Ash Wednesday service this week.  The service will begin with an extended corporate confession of sins (identical to our Ash Wednesday services in recent years).  Near the end of this opening rite, worshippers who want to receive the sign of ashes may come forward.  Participation is voluntary.  Children are welcome to participate at their parents’ discretion.  Guests are also invited to participate.

The traditional custom for the imposition of ashes is that the minister places the ashes on each person’s forehead in the shape of a cross.  In our worship at Christ the King, the ashes will be placed in the form of a cross on the back of your hand instead.  As the ashes are imposed, the minister says, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return” (see Genesis 3:19).  Worshipers then return to their seats.

The goal of a custom like the imposition of ashes is to proclaim God’s law in several ways (in the confession of sins, in hymns, in the sermon, and with the use of ashes), just as we proclaim the gospel in several ways (in absolution, in hymns, in the Creed, in the sermon, in the Lord’s Supper, through visual art such as banners, and in various worship ceremonies).  Many worship scholars, both within and outside of Lutheranism, have observed that we have entered a more visual and tactile generation.  That observation has led many Christians and churches to seek visual, tactile ways to proclaim law and gospel in worship.  The Ash Wednesday imposition of ashes is one example of a tangible way to proclaim God’s Word in our worship.  May its message impress our hearts and minds with our need for Christ’s salvation!

Indeed, as we use this ancient ceremony in our Ash Wednesday worship, we pray that the law of the Lord strikes our hearts with sorrow and repentance over our sin and then turns our hearts toward our Savior from those sins, Jesus Christ. For in him alone do we find forgiveness and salvation.

God bless us all as we meditate on that Savior during Lent, and God grant that our quiet contemplation prepare us for the joy of victory on Easter morning!

You Are the Man

Ash Wednesday

You Are the Man

Text:  2 Samuel 12:1-13

Intro

Jim and Bill couldn’t have been more different.  Jim had everything the world could possibly offer—cars, flat screen TVs, gourmet foods, designer clothes.  Jim lived in a massive mansion right on the ocean in Hammock Beach.  Bill didn’t.  Bill had the clothes on his back, a few nickels in his pocket, and one pair of shoes with holes in it.  Bill lived in Bunnell technically, but moved around to wherever he could find shelter that night.

Though the lives and societal classes of Jim and Bill were light years apart, they had one thing in common.  They both loved dogs.  Jim practically owned a zoo in his colossal coastal castle.  But his prize possession was his prize-winning pooch, Prince.  Bill however, had just one dog—a mangy mutt named Max.  Max was really the only possession to Bill’s name.  Max was truly his best friend.  It scrounged for food with him during the day.  It snuggled with him and kept him warm during the night.  Bill had lost everything in the recession, but he still had Max.  All was well, as long as Max was by his side.

One day rich Jim saw poor Bill and his mangy mutt Max.  He knew exactly how to handle the situation.   He knew his life was missing something.  He knew just what to do.  Jim held out a fat, juicy T-Bone steak from his limo door, and Max jumped right in.  Immediately, Jim slammed the door and sped off.  Now, Max had a proper home—with Jim’s other exotic animals mounted on his living room wall.  Read the rest of this entry

Ash Wednesday

This is an annual repost regarding Ash Wednesday

Today marks the beginning of the church season called Lent. While we praise God every day of our lives, during Lent our lives and our worship become more muted and quiet. For during the next 40 days we will meditate upon our Savior who came to carry our sins and die in our place. Our reserved and contemplative worship reminds us of the depth of suffering which our sins have caused and which our Savior endured.

The first day of Lent is 40 days before Easter, on a day that has become known as Ash Wednesday.  Here are some historical notes on Ash Wednesday, adapted from a post by Pastor Johnold Strey of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Citrus Heights, CA:

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the Christian’s 40-day journey (excluding Sundays) to Jesus’ cross and his tomb to await the proclamation of Easter.  Ash Wednesday begins the Christian’s Lenten journey with a reminder of our mortality and a call to repentance.  The ancient practice of imposing ashes on the foreheads of Christians gives Ash Wednesday its name.  The church father Tertullian (c. 160-215 AD) writes of the practice as a public expression of repentance and of our human frailty that stands in need of Christ.  The imposition of ashes has never been an exclusively Roman Catholic practice, but today is observed widely by Christians of many traditions.

Today, midweek evening services for Lent have become the norm in Lutheran congregations, and the repentance theme of Ash Wednesday is often replaced by a focus on the Savior’s Passion, a focus at one time reserved for Holy Week alone.  In popular practice, Ash Wednesday has become the first in a series of six services that include the reading of the Passion history and a review of one or another aspect of the Savior’s suffering and death.  Most of our Lenten sermon series as well as most of the worship resources produced in our circles have placed Ash Wednesday into the regular set of midweek Lenten services.

In recent years there has been renewed interest to return to a confession and absolution focus for Ash Wednesday worship.  That confession and absolution focus will be emphasized in our service at Christ the King on Ash Wednesday evening.  Black, the color of sorrow and death, will be used rather than the normal purple of Lent.  The Ash Wednesday service reflects a serious tone of meditation and repentance over sin.

We will also include the imposition of ashes for the third consecutive year in our Ash Wednesday service this week.  The service will begin with an extended corporate confession of sins (identical to our Ash Wednesday services in recent years).  Near the end of this opening rite, worshippers who want to receive the sign of ashes may come forward.  Participation is voluntary.  Children are welcome to participate at their parents’ discretion.  Guests are also invited to participate.

The traditional custom for the imposition of ashes is that the minister places the ashes on each person’s forehead in the shape of a cross.  In our worship at Christ the King, the ashes will be placed in the form of a cross on the back of your hand instead.  As the ashes are imposed, the minister says, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return” (see Genesis 3:19).  Worshipers then return to their seats.

The goal of a custom like the imposition of ashes is to proclaim God’s law in several ways (in the confession of sins, in hymns, in the sermon, and with the use of ashes), just as we proclaim the gospel in several ways (in absolution, in hymns, in the Creed, in the sermon, in the Lord’s Supper, through visual art such as banners, and in various worship ceremonies).  Many worship scholars, both within and outside of Lutheranism, have observed that we have entered a more visual and tactile generation.  That observation has led many Christians and churches to seek visual, tactile ways to proclaim law and gospel in worship.  The Ash Wednesday imposition of ashes is one example of a tangible way to proclaim God’s Word in our worship.  May its message impress our hearts and minds with our need for Christ’s salvation!

Indeed, as we use this ancient ceremony in our Ash Wednesday worship, we pray that the law of the Lord strikes our hearts with sorrow and repentance over our sin and then turns our hearts toward our Savior from those sins, Jesus Christ. For in him alone do we find forgiveness and salvation.

God bless us all as we meditate on that Savior during Lent, and God grant that our quiet contemplation prepare us for the joy of victory on Easter morning!