Lent

The Stones will Cry Out

The Gospel narratives offer many different aspects of the Triumphal Entry. In Luke’s narrative, the disciples are singing the praises of Jesus at his coming, but the Pharisees are not pleased with their benediction.

In verse 39 of Luke 19, some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” In other words, “Stop them from pouring out adoration towards you.” As Matthew Henry writes, “Christ’s triumph and his disciples’ joyful praises of them, are the vexation of proud Pharisees, that are enemies to him and his kingdom.”[1] Luke is the only one to report this response of the Pharisees. Jesus is sharing honor with God, and the Pharisees despise it. Jesus responds in verse 40 with that powerful and memorable response: “If these people were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Some have viewed this statement to say that even if human beings do not praise God, the stones will do so. There is a sense in which this idea is true. When our Lord Jesus died, the gospels tell us that the earth shook, and the rocks were split, as if they uttered the praises of Christ.[2] In other words, the stones were witnesses of the sacrifice of Christ. But in this passage, it appears that Luke is drawing an allusion to Habakkuk 2. In Habakkuk, God tells Habakkuk that He will destroy Israel at the hands of the Babylonians. God will use a wicked nation to bring justice to His chosen people who have committed far greater idolatry. In Habakkuk 2 we read, “For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond.” The stones refer to the stones of the temple. The temple represented God’s presence. The witness of the temple itself is against them. Jesus in Luke alludes to this passage. The prayer of Habakkuk is beginning to be answered. If my peoples are silenced, then the very stones will bring witness against you. Their house will oppose them.”[3] The stones will cry out in judgment. And indeed, they do cry out in AD 70 when the Romans armies surround the Holy City and bring God’s judgment upon apostate Israel.

In our day, we can be sure that if this nation does not accept Jesus in our midst, the stones will cry out in judgment against it. Christ will be honored. He will be praised. He will be adored. Justice will be vindicated and proclaimed whether through human witnesses or the witness of stones. God’s whole creation will bless the Blessed one, Jesus Christ.

[1] Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible. Luke 19:39 http://www.ccel.org/ccel/henry/mhc5.Luke.xx.html

[2] Matthew 27:51. Matthew Henry found this idea plausible.

[3] Steve Wilkins. Sermon.

Lenten Devotional

Pastor Steve Hemmeke has done a fine job in putting this together and I commend it to you as you begin this Lenten journey.

Lent CREC Devotions 2015

I have a contribution for Palm Sunday.

5 Lessons I (Re)Learned in Lent

5 Lessons I (Re)Learned in Lent

Easter Season is here! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Easter came with all the glory expected. Every year it just seems more and more meaningful. But as I am slowly immersing into the season of abundant joy, I ask myself what to do with the season that is now behind us, namely Lent?

The 40 days of Lent a provided some genuine times of reflection, introspection, and renewal. The Season went by faster than I anticipated, but it left a profound mark in my life. There are five lessons I thought I’d share as I enter the Easter Season with a tremendous appetite to see Christ exalted in everything I do.

First, I learned that Lent is needed. We tend to think that we can meditate on everything without any order or sequence. We simply can’t. God loves time. He gave it to us. He knows we need to be structured as human beings, and He gave the Church wisdom to help us structure our meditations and concerns. To do so, He gave us Jesus. Jesus is with us all year long as we live, move, and have our being in Him through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, and Pentecost (Trinity). We need not just Christ, but His entire life lived, crucified, and raised. Consistent meditation on one theme over the others causes misdirection in affection and the Christian experience.

Second, I learned that Lent is for loving. We live for others. We live for the community. We follow the Head, and following Him means serving the body. Lent is for going the extra mile in service and charity.

Third, Lent is for dying. Life is structured as a death/resurrection pattern. We all enjoy the latter motif, but we find the dying part to be a bit outrageous. Perhaps our expectations need to be re-shaped. Lent is for dying to self. It’s for taking up the cross. It’s for weeping with those who weep. Lent is the realization that the joy of living is dying, so that others may live.

Fourth, Lent is imprecation. In Lent we learn that God has enemies.  In Lent we pray that God would act justly upon those who humiliate, abuse, torture, and murder the innocent. I learned that imprecation is the most powerful response to such cowards. In Lent I learned that God’s justice is always perfect and His acts always timely.

Finally, during Lent I learned that I do not love the cross as I ought. I learned that crucifixion and death are still too foreign to my way of thinking. I learned that the death of Jesus continues to have serious consequences for the way I live my life.

Through Lent, I learned that I needed Easter and that Easter needs Lent.

  1. also known as Quadragesima  (back)
Reflection on Good Friday by N.T. Wright

Reflection on Good Friday by N.T. Wright

For reflection on Good Friday, here’s an excerpt from Christians at the Cross by N.T. Wright:

“Finished.” “Accomplished.” “Completed.” Jesus’ last word, which sums it all up. Part of its meaning is that everything that had gone before . . . has now come together. This is where it was all going; this is what it was all about.

Part of its meaning is that in Jesus’ world that word “finished” was what you wrote on a bill when it had been settled: “Paid in full!” But underneath these is the meaning John intends, I believe, most deeply. When God the Creator made his wonderful world, at the end of the sixth day he finished it. He completed his work. Now, on the Friday, the sixth day of the week, Jesus has completed the work of redeeming the world. With his shameful, chaotic, horrible death he has gone to the very bottom, to the darkest and deepest place of the ruin, and has planted there the sign that says “Rescued.” It is the sign of love, the love of the creator for his ruined creation, the love of the saviour for his ruined people. Yes, of course, it all has to be worked out. The victory has to be implemented. But it’s done; it’s completed; it’s finished . . .

Now here in this community, and in this church, there are plenty of Marys and Johns, plenty of people for whom life isn’t going to be the same again. Our job is to stand and wait at the foot of the cross, and to see what fresh word may come to us concerning the way forward, the way of becoming a community again . . .

Good Friday is the point at which God comes into our chaos, to be there with us in the middle of it and to bring us his new creation. Let us pause and give thanks, and listen for his words of love and healing.

N.T. Wright, Christians at the Cross: Finding Hope in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus (Ijamsville, Md.: The Word Among Us Press, 2007), 57–58.

Lent rebuilds marriages

Lent rebuilds marriages

Lent rebuilds marriages, as we commune with the Perfect Husband who gave Himself wholly for His Bride. – Peter Leithart

We are considering this season how we can begin to re-orient our attention to the Crucified Lord. There is a brokenness that takes place at Genesis 3; a relational brokenness. And this is why seasons like these help us to re-focus on that brokenness and find a rationale to re-energize our loyalty to Jesus our Lord.

Lent helps us to see ourselves as God sees us: marred by sin, but justified in Christ. And in this recognition we begin to grasp that our personal and corporate relationship with our Lord is always in need of refining, and Christ is committed to refining us.

Christ is the perfect husband and the more we commune with him the more we understand his ways and his desires for us.

Christ is not a despotic husband. He serves and serves and loves and loves and he dies for our sake; to show us that no greater love exists than that of a Lord who gives Himself wholly for His Bride.

The Victory of Lent in One Paragraph: A Violent Scene

The Victory of Lent in One Paragraph: A Violent Scene

The reason Lent is so important for us is because through death he (Messiah) destroyed the one who has the power of death (Heb. 2:14). What we witness in this Lenten Season is the re-capitulation of the blow Satan received at the cross. The cross of death was turned into a sword of life, and the old serpent received a paralyzing blow. In fact, what we witness in our day is the continuous bleeding of the serpent. The promise of the curse in Genesis 3, is the promise that at the death of our Lord—fulfilled many centuries later– we will witness by the success of the gospel the utter humiliation of the devil.  At the last day, the introduction of the New Heavens and New Earth, our blessed Lord–the Seed of the Woman– will provide a public display of the decapitation of the evil serpent and his demons who will suffer the final blow and  be sent forever into the endless pit of doom.

What must we fight?

What must we fight?

What must we fight in this Lenten Season? What is it that so deeply entangles us? What sin is it that needs to be confessed? What role does prayer and biblical wisdom play in those things you long for? Have your desires been so conditioned by the world that they have become worldly desires? There is nothing inherently wrong in possessing things; but there is something wrong when your desires for possessing things are void of godly patience. The devil’s game is to persuade you that kingship comes without the cross, but Jesus offers the better way. He endured temptations, so that we would be strengthened to endure temptations.

In this season of Lent, resist the devil by trusting that God’s gifts and promises are yes and amen, and that His timing is better than any offer Satan can ever make.

On Feeding on the Word

On Feeding on the Word

C.S. Lewis observed in his Reflections on the Psalms that a Christian can’t always be defending the truth, sometimes he needs to feed on it. This is very appropriate for the people of God on this Lord’s Day. This is the day to receive the blessings of God in word and sacrament. This is a day to feed on the One who gave himself for us. This is a day to be renewed and encouraged to assume our roles in this world.

The Psalms and the entirety of Scriptures presuppose this nurturing role for the people of God. We cannot defend something unless we have been transformed and fed by it. The Psalter, in particular, calls us to see if there is any wicked way, so that we may be led to an everlasting life. The first step to being fed by the Word is to allow the Word to cut through us and exorcise our sinful habits and thoughts. We cannot be truly fed by the Word if our hearts do not desire the Word.

On this Sunday of Lent, as we prepare to confess our sins, let us receive and to respond to this pure Word spoken by our Creator and Redeemer, the Beloved of God, Jesus Christ.

Riding on a Donkey

The Concordia Journal observes that John is using the donkey as key in this text.  The donkey pointed to the Passion Week. The donkey, though used as kingly transportation in the Solomonic days, was also a symbol of peace.

He was riding on a donkey to show just how he would defeat all our enemies.

Jesus does not come to war against His enemies with human weapons, but with humility and blood.

Preaching and the Prodigal Son

I often sit at my desk on Monday morning after a tiring and refreshing Sunday, and say to myself “Here I go again!” I just finished preaching and leading a liturgical service the day before, fellowshiped in the afternoon, and on Monday morning I am ready to begin that process all over again. I hear many pastors take Mondays off, but on Mondays I am on. I am motivated to find the best resources, the best applications to feed my congregation the following Sunday.

Preaching through Luke this Lenten Season has been part of this motivation. Luke has become dear to me. His attention to details, his emphasis on the Word-authority of Jesus, and his unique description in chapter 15 make Luke unique among the Gospel writers. What is in chapter 15? Chapter 15 describes–among many other things–the lostness of the son, and the found-ness of the Father. The Father finds what He lost; the Son lost what He had, and the elder brother belittled the feast of the found one.

Preaching through this section is filled with remarkable challenges. What to emphasize? What is central to this text? Father or sons? Or both? How is Jesus connecting the lostness of Israel to this text? What is the significance of the feast imageries in the reception of the prodigal son? What does repentance look like? In what way is the Father’s profound forgiveness like our heavenly Father’s forgiveness? How is the elder brother’s reaction much like ours? How is his reaction much like the Jews of the first century? Suffice to say, these are only initial questions to pose in this ocean of beauty and grace.

Once again I am confronted with the glorious task of savoring this text as much as it is possible before I can give my parishioners a sample of it as well. May this sermon do justice to this remarkable and rich passage of Holy Scriptures.