Bearers of Bad News

Psalm 56; Jeremiah 1:11-19; Luke 19:41-44

No one wants to be the bearer of bad news. To be the one who has to knock on the door and inform someone that their loved one has just died, to have to sit down with a patient and deliver the diagnosis of cancer, to serve as the advisor who explains that plans have not met expectations and futures look bleak. Who is up for such tasks? And who gladly does them? Continue reading “Bearers of Bad News”

Presentation of Our Lord, Part Five

Luke 2:21-40

On the fortieth day of the incarnation Mary and Joseph, as a faithful Jewish couple, presented their firstborn Son at the temple and “bought” him back with a sacrifice of a two small birds. This is known as the “Presentation of Our Lord” and is celebrated in the church on February 2nd. It deserves more than one day. So we continue our contemplation on this sacred event we started a few days ago. Continue reading “Presentation of Our Lord, Part Five”

Presentation of Our Lord, Part Four

Luke 2:21-40

On the fortieth day of the incarnation Mary and Joseph, as a faithful Jewish couple, presented their firstborn Son at the temple and “bought” him back with a sacrifice of a two small birds. This is known as the “Presentation of Our Lord” and is celebrated in the church on February 2nd. It deserves more than one day. So we continue our contemplation on this sacred event we started a few days ago. Continue reading “Presentation of Our Lord, Part Four”

Presentation of Our Lord, Part Three

Luke 2:21-40

On the fortieth day of the incarnation Mary and Joseph, as a faithful Jewish couple, presented their firstborn Son at the temple and “bought” him back with a sacrifice of a two small birds. This is known as the “Presentation of Our Lord” and is celebrated in the church on February 2nd. It deserves more than one day. So we continue our contemplation on this sacred event we started a couple of days ago. Continue reading “Presentation of Our Lord, Part Three”

Presentation of Our Lord, Part Two

Luke 2:21-40

On the fortieth day of the incarnation Mary and Joseph, as a faithful Jewish couple, presented their firstborn Son at the temple and “bought” him back with a sacrifice of a two small birds. This is known as the “Presentation of Our Lord” and is celebrated in the church on February 2nd. It deserves more than one day. So we continue our contemplation on this sacred event we started yesterday. Continue reading “Presentation of Our Lord, Part Two”

The Presentation of Our Lord

Luke 2:21-40

On the fortieth day of the incarnation Mary and Joseph, as a faithful Jewish couple, presented their firstborn Son at the temple and “bought” him back with a sacrifice of a two small birds. This is known as the “Presentation of Our Lord” and is celebrated in the church on February 2nd. It deserves more than one day. So we are going to stretch our contemplation of the event over a few days. Continue reading “The Presentation of Our Lord”

“Friend, Your Sins Are Forgiven.”

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
(Luke 5:20)

It is a sweet gospel. God’s favor is to be savored. This divine favor, this gospel, is underappreciated, however. Shame on us. Do we not realize what it took? Do we not understand that God became man not because we were so worthy but out of pure love? We take it for granted, no doubt about it but its sweetness never depended on our appreciation of it. It is a part of its sweetness. This divine favor given by our Friend. And not a friend like a buddy but a friend in high places who befriended us at the moment we had none. There is nothing about us that would attract Jesus to us as a friend. This is not a reciprocal relationship. He is our Friend by grace. Continue reading ““Friend, Your Sins Are Forgiven.””

My Ministry? My Vocation?

2 Corinthians 4:5-12

It is not wrong to speak this way, but I will admit it drives me nuts. I will also admit it is more of a “me problem” than anything else. It bother me to hear “My ministry” or “Your ministry.” I don’t like the terms. As if this thing we do in the church, this thing we participate in as pastors, belongs to us. As if it was merely a career. I think it is also true of our callings out in the world. “My career, my job, my occupation,” the terms bug me a little bit. As if there was not something divine going on here. As if it belonged to us. As if the end goal was you. Continue reading “My Ministry? My Vocation?”

Be Merciful, Just as Your Heavenly Father

Luke 4:36-42

You’ve probably had it used on you before. Maybe you’ve used it yourself. Someone’s fallen into sin, you try to warn him or her, and, bam, the person plays the “Get out of Jail Free Card:” “Judge not lest ye be judged.” You’ve been bibled, and not only bibled, but King James bibled, perhaps by someone who doesn’t even know a Bible verse, perhaps by someone who wouldn’t know King James from Queen Elizabeth. But is that what Jesus really means here? Is Jesus the only one able to warn those on the dangerous road to hell? Are we restricted from warning one in sin if we ourselves have sinned? Well, you have to outbible a bibler, so lets dig in. Continue reading “Be Merciful, Just as Your Heavenly Father”

Love and Marriage

1 Corinthians 7:1-16 

Having condemned sexual immorality, St. Paul now proceeds to the best possible guard and aid against such sin: a proper view and use of marriage. There is nothing wrong with being single. While singles at times express in a way feeling out of place in the church, especially when the pastor is preaching or teaching about marriage, they should in no way feel like second-class Christians. In fact, St. Paul says that he would have all remain single if they were able. Not all have the gift of Paul, however, the gift of celibacy, of the unmarried life, and so it is also good and right if a single person desires marriage and prays for a spoune, for St. Paul concedes that most should marry in order to participate in the God-pleasing intimacy that marriage affords and satisfy their sexual desires within the boundaries of God’s will.

St. Paul not only concedes that most should marry, but he goes so far as to urge husband and wife not to deny each other sexually, except for a short time for prayer, lest one spouse or the other fall into and be given to lust. While St. Paul commends the ideal of a celibate life, he is a realist, and he would not have one strive for celibacy only to fall into unchastity (shunning marriage from well-intentioned piety only to fall into impious lust or sexual activity). No, it is much better for one to be chaste, that is, to enjoy God’s gift of sex without sin within the marriage relationship He has established.

So important is sex to a healthy marriage and marriage to a healthy sex life that St. Paul writes, “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” The sexual relationship within marriage is indeed, therefore, an expression of Christian love, each spouse putting the other before himself or herself, seeking to provide for their sexual needs and to help guard them against sexual temptations. There is nothing dirty about the sexual act within the marital relationship, as some have mistakenly felt in past ages in the history of Christianity. No, sex is not only not dirty, but it is a crucial part of wedded life. For that reason, when a marriage struggles, one of the places that many times becomes obvious is in the bedroom, and, on the contrary, many times when a couple’s relationship in the bedroom languishes the marriage struggles in other ways as well.

That is not to say, however, that sex is the be-all and end-all of a marriage. Sexual desire waxes and wanes. Should a couple mutually have a lessening of desire over time or for a time, so long as it is mutual, there is also nothing wrong with a lack of sexual activity (in this way born, not out of a selfish unwillingness of one spouse or the other, but out of a mutual contentment in that regard). Once again, Christian love and the avoidance of temptation must be our guide. For this reason, open and honest discussion must be cultivated, as in other areas, in this part of the relationship as well.

St. Paul then reiterates Christianity’s high view of the sanctity and indissoluble nature of marriage. “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.” And while the Bible clearly encourages marriage between like-minded believers, the Apostle makes clear that even when one spouse is a believer and the other is  not, unless the unbelieving spouse deserts the marriage, the Christian should remain in the union, praying that God would convert his or her spouse and striving to raise the children in a Christian manner as best he or she is able.

When a man or woman is widowed, and thus a marriage ends by the death of a spouse and thus without sin, it is good if he or she chooses to remain single, but not necessary, and it is not in any way a sin for them to remarry. It is better to marry than to fall into sexual sin. It is better to marry than to fall into loneliness or despair, if one longs again for the companionship and intimacy of married life. God’s blessing upon marriage is no less present when a widow or widower marries a second time.

With these principles for marriage, St. Paul seeks to guard the church against such sin as he was forced to confront in the previous chapter, and the danger remains the same today, and so the principles still serve and apply well.

Lord Jesus, help husbands love their wives as You love the Church and wives submit to their husbands as to You, each mutually submitting to the needs and for the benefit of the other in whatever ways they are able. Bless Christian marriages with firm commitment, godly devotion, and selfless affection. Bless those who are single with chastity of thought, word, and deed, and let them live, like Paul, their single life to Your glory. Help those who desire marriage to seek and find faithful and pious spouses who will share with them a proper understanding of marriage and a fervent trust in You. Comfort the widows and widowers. Grant them peace in the midst of the loss of loved ones. Should they still feel inclined toward marriage, yearning for the blessings You within that estate grant, help them also to find godly spouses. Give all of us a high view of the institution of marriage, that by our attitudes, prayers, and conduct we might strive to uphold it to the benefit not only of Your Church but of our society as a whole. And, most importantly, keep us in all of our relationships rooted in the forgiveness sins, for that is the life of the Christian life and the love that breeds love like no other. Amen.

Wade Johnston

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