Are You Full of Sap? Producing Fruit Even in Old Age

Cedar Beam used in Construction in American Southwest

Psalm 92: 1-4, 12-15
1 It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; 2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, 3 to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. 4 For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. 12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13 They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. 14 In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap, 15 showing that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Psalm 92 talks about “the righteous.” In the Bible, righteousness is nothing more and nothing less than “the fulfillment of the demands of a relationship.” People are righteous when we fulfill the demands of our relationships, and these demands vary. We owe our parents one thing, and our spouse another. We are called upon to honor our father and mother, but only to a point. When we marry, we are called upon to leave our mother and father and cleave to our mate. Loyalties shift, and if they do not, there is trouble, right here in River City. A noted psychiatrist said that a failure to separate from one’s parents is the number one cause of failure in marriage. Likewise, we owe our friends and neighbors certain things that we do not owe the stranger we meet in the street. Unless, of course, that stranger is in need, in which case, according to Jesus, that stranger becomes a neighbor.

God calls upon his people to be righteous and insist upon nothing less for Himself. Emil Brunner said that God’s righteousness (or holiness) is God’s self-respect. In Biblical terms, God is righteous when God rewards virtue and right living and punishes sin—just as he promised to do when he made his covenant with Israel. Continue reading

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Out of the Depths

A Pre-Covid 19 Celebration. On June 27, we will be back!

We are considering Psalm 130. I want to begin by rearranging, modernizing, and amplifying the voice of the psalmist.  In verse 3, he confesses “O Lord, if you should keep a permanent record of our human sin and evil, who could stand?”   The Psalmist then cries out from the depths of his own sin and guilt—and the unspoken circumstances into which that sin has cast him, and he ask that the LORD God of Israel might forgive him and restore him

The psalmist based his hope on the word that God had spoken through his prophets, and the Mighty Works God had done on behalf of his people, Israel. When we see others enjoying the benefits of faith—we seek the same for ourselves.  The Psalmist had faith. People can always count on sunset and sunrise, that day follows night. The Psalmist said, “My faith in God is stronger than our common faith that sunrise always follows sunset.”

Now, let me ask you, “What do you know about the depths?”  I know at least this: Continue reading

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How Does God Communicate with Me? with You? with Us?

This Memorial Day, let us remember not just those who have given the last full measure of devotion for our nation, but those who actively serve in harm’s way on our behalf.

Isaiah 6:1-8, Romans 8:12-17, John 3:1-17

One of my favorite actors is Paul Newman, and one of my favorite movies is, “Cool Hand Luke.” Luke was sent to prison for getting drunk and cutting the heads off parking meters. He should have been out pretty quickly, but he had problems with authority and he took on his fellow prisoners, the guards, and the road boss. The most famous line in that movie first spoken by the road boss. Looking down on Luke–after knocking him down, he says, “What we have here is failure to communicate.”

The Bible is all about communication. Seen as a whole, the Bible is not a monologue but a dialogue. We speak to God, and God speaks to us.

For instance, in the Psalms, humankind makes its case with God, sometimes praising the LORD and sometimes pleading with the LORD. The prophets speak to God on behalf of the people and they speak to the people on behalf of God. They often preface their speeches with the phrase, “Thus says the LORD.” Continue reading

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Meditation for Ascension Sunday

Ephesians 1: 15-23, Luke 24: 44-53, Acts 1:1-11

You may have noticed that we altered the order of the readings this afternoon, putting the gospel lesson before the lesson from Acts. This is the natural order of things, especially since Luke-Acts form two-volumes of a single work. According to tradition, both were written by Luke, the beloved physician, a companion of Paul on many of his missionary journeys. And both are addressed to Theophilus, which, translated from the Greek means “God-lover.” Theophilus may or may not have been a single individual. Even if he was, he certainly stands for all God lovers, whenever and wherever they have lived. Continue reading

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Thoughts on Mothers Laying Down Their Lives for Their Children

The oldest mother at Fries Memorial! Older than you think, too!

On certain Sundays, it seems wise to focus on the day rather than on the lectionary, and Mother’s Day is certainly one of those Sundays. Still, given the gospel lesson, it is easy to pick a text to go with the day.

Jesus said, “Greater love hath no one than this, that one lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Just a couple of weeks ago, we saw that though some people, like Jesus, James, Peter and Paul, the martyrs of the church in all ages, and soldiers of all nations, lay down their lives for their friends “all at once,” most people lay down their lives for others, little by little, here a little, there a little. Though all of us like to believe that our mother would gladly have laid down her life in order to preserve ours, the truth is, that our mothers laid down their lives for us a little at a time. Continue reading

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