October 30, 2021

Tomorrow, October 31 is the second largest commercial holiday in the United States, second only to Christmas.  Where did this holiday originate?           The Celts perhaps 2000 years before Christ, celebrated Samhain on November 1 as their New Year’s day, end of harvest, and beginning of the dark time of the year.  It was considered a “thin place” or time when the boundary between the seen and unseen could be crossed.  The ghosts of dead people could visit the living.  Large bonfires were built and sacrifices offered to appease these spirits.  By 43 CE Romans had overtaken the British Isles but they too had celebrations that became incorporated with the Samhain celebration of the Celts.  Pomona, of the Romans, celebrated the passing of the dead.   The symbol of the goddess Pomona was the apple (bobbing for apples?). Those two celebrations combined. In 609 CE Pope Boneface IV declared May 19 as the day for the celebration of the lives of martyrs.  This date was moved to November 1.  By the 9th century All Saints Days was firmly established as November 1.  The “eve of All Saints Day” or Halloween was October 31.  Costumes were worn in these celebrations to hide from the spirits of the dead who were believed to roam around seeking “treats” or threatening “tricks.”

         On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the Wittenberg church door calling for public debate.   He opposed the belief that the dead could return to life and seek help in their after life.  He opposed indulgences as acts of good deeds to help the dead spend fewer years in purgatory.  He opposed the authority of the Pope in selling indulgences.  We looked this week at “Grace alone.”  We are saved by God’s grace because he is good not because we become good.  “Faith alone” is our avenue of relating to God directly and not having to go through in-between places or saints.  “Word alone,” scripture, is the ultimate authority and not councils and traditions that have contradicted each other.  And ultimately “Christ alone” for salvation as there is no other name whereby we must be saved.   The newly invented printing press spread Luther’s challenges and so the Protestant Reformation is dated to October 31, 1517.

         As Christians we do not believe we need to wear costumes to hide from evil.  We do not believe deceased ancestors return to play tricks on us.  We do believe evil was defeated on the cross.  And we certainly believe in welcoming the children in our neighborhood and getting to know people.  We need not fear for we know Christ is alive and that is not a trick.  It is a treat!  Blessings.

“Sola Christus: Christ Alone”

October 29, 2021

In Athens (Acts 17:16-34), Apostle Paul met with the Epicureans (people who lived by their pleasures – eat, drink and make merry for tomorrow we die ) and the Stoics (people who rely heavily on logic).  These men took Paul to their center and wanted to hear his religious views.  Paul noted that there were many gods and idols is their town, even one to the “unknown god.”  Today we too have many gods, things we trust and in many ways worship – education/intelligence in all its forms and pleasure.  We want our lives to be fulfilled and lived to its potential – for all.  We call it equality and the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness.  The problem is that life is not fair.  We have the rich and we have the poor.  The other problem is that there is the “unknown God,” the creator who made everything.  We cannot see this being but we suspect from life that the being exists.  Jesus Christ came claiming to be the embodiment of that God, revealing that God to us.

         In Luther’s time, it was believed that there was a kind of spiritual hierarchy.  The saints, because of their religious lives had more merit than the ordinary person and so if prayed to could intercede for a beloved departed.  I have heard it explained that even as I ask a friend to pray for me, if saints are alive in heaven, I can ask them to intercede for me also. It kinda makes sense for prayer but not for salvation, The saints died but it is only Christ who walked through death who demonstrated real power in all areas of life and death.  Protestants only recognize Christ’s death on the cross as salvatory.  “There is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)”

         Luther confronted this hierarchy of values.  He believed we, like the thief on the cross, had direct access to God and we did not need to go through a saint.  Nor did he believe the Pope received special messages from God.  This was revolutionary.  Christ alone reveals the real nature of a God who walks with us, understand us, and has the power to walk us through death to new life.  In Star Wars the good guys bless each other by saying, “The Force be with you!”  Christians say, “The Lord bless you!”

         Let us finish this week with one more acronym:

         C __________________________________

         H __________________________________

         R __________________________________

         I ___________________________________

         S __________________________________

         T ___________________________________

Sola Scriptura: Scripture Alone

October 28, 2021

We are gifted, graced, not because we are good but because God is good.  Grace alone.  We unwrap that gift through faith as we trust and accept the grace offered.  It is not our works but our faith in Christ that is critical.  Faith alone.  How do we know this?  We as mere mortals are limited by our humanity, our understanding of history and eternal principles.  We have heard about grace and experienced changes through faith, but if we look up the list of churches, synagogues and mosques in our town we will know that the “voices of authority” are many and confusing.

         In Luther’s time the Pope was the ultimate authority but he lived in a different country, spoke a different language and sometimes agreed and sometimes disagreed with the Popes who went before him.  In Luther’s famous trial at the Diet of Worms when he was asked to recant and reject his writings and questioning of the religious system, he is famously quoted as saying

         “Since your most serene majesty and your high mightinesses require of me a simple, clear and direct answer, I will give one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the council, because it is as clear as noonday that they have fallen into error and even into glaring inconsistency with themselves. If, then, I am not convinced  by proof from Holy Scripture, or by cogent reasons, if I am not satisfied by the very text I have cited, and if my judgment is not in this way brought into subjection to God’s word, I neither can nor will retract anything; for it cannot be either safe or honest for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise; God help me! Amen.”

         Luther believed in putting the Word of God into the hands of the ordinary people and so translated the Bible into German.  He started confirmation classes for children and maintained that traditions and councils must base arguments on Scripture.  Suddenly the individual was empowered to read scripture and have direct access to God.  It is true that many flavors of Christianity have arisen from this freedom.  Not all Protestants agree on scripture interpretations but they do agree on the authority of scripture.

         2 Timothy 3:16 assures us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may bethoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Our acrostic today focuses on how scripture has us find our way.

         W ______________________________

         O _______________________________

         R _______________________________

         D _______________________________

Blessings.  Enjoy “God”s Word” by Amy Grant.

“Sola Fideles: Faith Alone”

October 27, 2021

So how does belief become faith?  I may believe that someone is the President of the United States, but that does not mean I have faith in all the proposed policies debated over news broadcasts each evening.  Believing is not having faith.  Ephesians 2:8 shares, “By grace we are saved through faith..”  In Luther’s day indulgences were a big thing.  Indulgences were pieces of paper sold by roving priests like Tetzel that, if bought, guaranteed the forgiveness of a certain number of years in Purgatory.

         “The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a          “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of      heaven,” which is experienced by those “who die in God’s grace and          friendship, but still imperfectly purified” (CCC 1030). It notes that “this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1031).”

Luther challenged this belief, creating a rift between Catholicism and Protestantism.  Both believe in Christ, have similar Bibles, and actually have much in common.  Faith alone says that it is not because of an amount of my faith or because of my purification that I can draw near to God but because of trusting in Christ’s work on the cross, that we are saved.  Faith alone is all that is needed to be in relationship with God.  There does not need to be further purification.  We are saint and sinner.

         A Biblical story that exemplifies the Protestant’s stand is the two thieves on the cross, Luke 23: 39-42.  Both men believed Jesus was on the cross.  Both seemed to believe that Jesus was a good guy.  Neither had access to theological training and they appeared to be ordinary people.  As the one thief  is dying, he turns to Jesus and says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  There is no big theological understanding but he pleads for mercy and to be where ever Jesus is going to be.   Jesus responds, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”  Faith puts one’s life where one’s beliefs are.  I can agree that it is a chair but when I sit on it, I exhibit faith that it will hold me.  I can believe Jesus is a great person but when I trust him to guide my life and future, that’s faith.

         Many of us struggle with guilt over pass failures and in many subtle ways try to deserve God’s grace.  On the other hand, we may cast a critical glance at another and silently judge that their actions make them unworthy of God’s love.  It is not our actions but Christ’s actions that is important.  Faith alone is the means of receiving grace – salvation. 

         Today spend a moment forming an acrostic from faith.

         F ________________________________

         A ________________________________

         I ________________________________

         T _______________________________

         H _______________________________

Blessings as you trust in that relationship.

“Sola Gratia: Grace Alone”

October 26, 2021

We all know how life works.  The student who gets all the right answers, gets the most rewards.  The best looking young woman becomes Miss …..  The person with money for sure must have the easiest life.  We believe that.  In the Middle Ages there was a hierarchy of value also.  God is at the top, then angels, then people but more specifically men and then women, then living creatures, then living plants and at the bottom of the list was the rock or inanimate objects.  We struggle with this hierarchy of value even today.  We see it in our battles with racism, with pay inequalities, and other more subtle prejudices like dealing with people with disabilities or poverty.  The subtle message is that we get what we deserve.

         “By grace we are saved…” starts out Ephesians 2:8-10.  The “grace” of Christianity directly confronts the hierarchies of life.  We say “the ground is level at the foot of the cross;” meaning we are all sinners and no one is more deserving than any other to receive the goodies of life or eternity. 

         The all time favorite hymn “Amazing Grace” was penned by John Newton in 1772.  Newton was born of a Catholic trained shipping father and a nonconformist mother.  At a young age he was orphaned and raised by his mother’s friends.  Newton had many near death experiences but it was not until the middle of a violent storm at sea that he turned to faith.  He is famous for having been involved in slave trade though is thought to have treated his slaves well as he believed that was the Biblical directive that justified ownership.  Later in life, under the influence of Wilberforce, Newton fought against slavery.

         Newton understood that there was nothing “good” or deserving about his life that merited salvation for himself.  He saw himself a “wretch”, “lost,” and “blind.”  By grace he was saved, God reached out to him.  He did not crawl up to God, earning favor, by doing acts of faith or giving large gifts or doing great deeds.  He knew he was saved by grace alone, “sola gratia.”  We sometimes make grace into an acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expensive.  Perhaps you can think of other words that go with grace to describe the miracle of salvation:

         G ____________________

         A ____________________

         C ____________________

         E ____________________

And so we say, “thank you!”  Blessings.

“Sola …”

October 25, 2021

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, It is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)”

         When I think of the Reformation and Martin Luther, I think of this Bible verse.  The reformation that we officially say started Oct. 31, 1517 when Luther nailed 95 theses or statements to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, started a process where theologians and ordinary people began to articulate the premises, the foundations, of their faith.  Four or five “solae (only)” became central to the understanding of Protestantism and how it varied from Catholicism.  I want to look at these “Solae” this week and to reflect on the core of our faith.

         Before we delve into these foundation beliefs, it  might do us well to think about what is foundational as we think about our faith.  Is there something about my faith that I would be willing to die for?  Our military people are willing to put their lives on the line for the freedoms we cherish dearly as written in the Declaration of Independence: all should have the freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness.  The spiritual revolution of the 1500s we call the Reformation said all people have the rights of: scripture, faith, grace, and Christ.  These led to an individualism and belief in the value of each person regardless of race, creed, or intelligence. We cherish our rights to become, to think for ourselves, and to thrive.  Many of our social tensions right now are wrapped up in how we understand these rights and how we balance the needs of the many with the rights of the individual.

         So take a moment and write down one freedom that you value and then the implications that come from that value for your life and the choices you make.  Spend a moment to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for that freedom.  Which “sola” would you trace that freedom to: Scripture, grace, faith or Christ?  Blessings.

22nd Sunday after Pentecost

October 24, 2021

First Reading: Jeremiah 31:7-9

7Thus says the Lord:
 Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
  and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
 proclaim, give praise, and say,
  “Save, O Lord, your people,
  the remnant of Israel.”
8See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,
  and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
 among them the blind and the lame,
  those with child and those in labor, together;
  a great company, they shall return here.
9With weeping they shall come,
  and with consolations I will lead them back,
 I will let them walk by brooks of water,
  in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;
 for I have become a father to Israel,
  and Ephraim is my firstborn.

Psalm: Psalm 126

1When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
  then were we like | those who dream.
2Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.
  Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” 
3The Lord has done great things for us,
  and we are glad indeed.
4Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
  like the watercourses of the Negeb.
5Those who sowed with tears
  will reap with songs of joy.
6Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,
  will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

Second Reading: Hebrews 7:23-28

23The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; 24but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
  26For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. 28For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Gospel: Mark 10:46-52

46As [Jesus] and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

CHILDREN’S SERMON:  Turn to your neighbor and share about your last “fast food” ordering experience. If you are not into “fast foods” then reflect on your last restaurant experience.

PRAYER:  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.


How many of you have heard of the sandwich principle?  One version goes like this, if you are going to give a criticism, always sandwich it between complements: complement or point to a strength, critique, then compliment and affirm relationship.  Our text today is an interesting Burger King Super Whopper.  Lots of meat between two buns with lots of condiments.  Let’s see if we can bite into it.  Theologians have titled this whopper story, “Blind Bartimaeus.”  We are going to look at three “Rs”:  Road, Reason and Robe.  I think we pray before we eat so let’s us say a quick prayer in this drive thru.  “Lord, for the food we are about to receive, may we be thankful.  May it strengthen our bodies, minds and souls to serve you. Amen.”


Jesus and disciples have been on a journey to Jerusalem.  If we go back to chapter 8 of Mark, we find Jesus healing a blind man at the beginning of  the journey and today we have a healing of a blind man, Bartimaeus, as we near the end of the journey.  Between these two miracles dealing with blindness, three times Jesus tries to tell the disciples what they are about to encounter when they reach Jerusalem.  Enroute we meet various people wanting to be part of the coming kingdom and their perception that Jesus is the coming Messiah, about to usher in this kingdom.  Last week we heard James and John quibbling about their positions in the kingdom they think is about to arrive.

         Jesus has been “on the way” but today’s text places the group leaving Jericho.  The road to Jericho should shake up our memories as we pick up the bun, the context of this episode.  Remember Joshua fighting the battle of Jericho?  Jericho was on the other side of the Jordon the Israelites crossed from wandering in the wilderness.  It was the entrance to the Promised Land.  Could we be coming to the Promised Land, the fulfillment of promise?  Jericho “was commonly known as the ‘oldest city in the world.’  It was called “The City of Palm Trees.”  Perhaps it is like arriving at Palm Springs when traveling to Los Angeles.  We are getting close but have not arrived.  We are all “on the way” with Jesus and drawing closer to the Promised Land.

         Leaving Jericho, we find a blind beggar sitting by the side of the road.  Jesus has used this road in a parable telling about the Good Samaritan who encountered a man beaten up by thieves and left to die.  In the parable, the “good guys” walk past this victim of life but the Good Samaritan stops and helps the person.  “Who is the neighbor?” Jesus asked.  Today we meet another man beaten up by life and left to beg for the leftovers of life from whomever might notice or hear his plea.  The crowds are trying to hush him and erase him, trying to walk by.  But Jesus notices and calls Bartimaeus forth.  By the end of the text, Bartimaeus is walking beside Jesus to enter Jerusalem.  This healing is sandwiched between being discarded by the side of the road and being on the road with Jesus, between blindness and sight.

         Before we hurry to the “meat” let us reflect a moment.  Where are we in this story?  Perhaps some of you today feel sidelined by life, by age, by illness, by language, by disabilities or even finances.  So many things push us to the side of the faith road, begging for help.  It seems like the “crowd” blocks us from accessing Jesus as he passes by and we cry out, “help.”  Perhaps we think Jesus only cares about those successful churches that attract the crowds and we are discouraged wondering if Jesus even notices the ministry and struggles of Bethany.  It is possible to feel that way some days.  You need a “Blind Bartimaeus” sandwich today!


         We are about to reach the ordering box that speaks to us and asks what we want.  Blindness that has created a tremendous hunger within Bartimaeus, drives him to yell out when he hears Jesus is passing.  Our struggles drive us to cry out for “food.”  Unlike anyone else in the Gospel of Mark, including the disciples, Bartimaeus addresses Jesus as “Son of David.”  Note, we are not in Israel yet but crossing the border.  I think we must assume Bartimaeus is uneducated, not a priest or theologian, not the rich man who knew the law and had kept it from his youth, and certainly not a disciple worrying about out position in the new kingdom.  It is likely he was not an Israelite. Nope, this is someone living at the bottom of the social ladder, a blind man who sees with the eyes of his heart a  truth. Jesus is Son of David.  Bartimaeus calls to the compassion of a Messiah that is true humanity and understands his pain.  He calls to the heart of Jesus, over the crowd that is trying to hush him and erase him.  His hunger drives him to yell out and persist in seeking Jesus.

         Now we have several self-reflective questions.  Do I see myself as blind, pleading with Jesus for help, or am I one of the “blessed” coming to church as I was taught, looking for a good sermon, seeking to be with friends, a part of the faithful crowd of followers?  Ouch.  Perhaps the question to ponder is whom Bethany might be trying to hush and subtly blocking from accessing Jesus.  That is a painful and hard question.  The prayer is then – open our eyes Lord for we are blind to our faults.  The only other alternative is that we might be on the wrong road and not even see Jesus passing by.  Let’s hope no one is on the wrong road and that those of us on the right road will be willing to tell the lost where “the meat” is.

         Friends bring the blind man to Jesus in chapter 8 of Mark and Jesus spits and creates eyes that see.  At first the man only sees people like trees and so there is round two when Jesus touches him and he is healed.  Sometimes Jesus has to create the eyes to see.  This kind of blindness needs the touch of God and so prayers of faithful friends who care.  We carry the blind to Jesus because they cannot access him by themselves.  They cannot see.  Bartimaeus, though, is told to come to Jesus.  He is called forth from the sidelines to the center of the road.  This time, Jesus only speaks and his word is able to call Baritmaeus forth. The Word of God is able to call us forth from our blindness today to join him on the journey to the Promised Land.  We must never be discouraged at the reading of the Word.

         The crowd now stops hindering and hushing and calls Bartimaeus forth.  Ahhhh, even here is a lesson for often the church acts as an affirmation and identification of spiritual life within others, enabling our youth to claim their walk beside Jesus. Evangelism is not the only gift.  Pastors are needed but the crowd, ordinary Christians who faithfully pray, who faithfully escort “the other” to healing are also important.  Who are you encouraging to come to Jesus today?

         Now our quarter pounder becomes a free upgrade to a half-pounder sandwich.  The presenting  reason for crying out to Jesus opens the door for our real order.  No long is it hunger that is driving us.  Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?”  Now there is the million-dollar question.  What do we want Jesus to do for us?  Think carefully!  On Burger King’s menu there are many options.  Do we really know what we want from God today?

         Solomon asked for wisdom to govern God’s people.  His wisdom did not protect him from the harem.  Hezekiah asked for 15 more years of life but then got in trouble showing his wealth to the emissaries of the enemy.  Namaan wanted to be healed of leprosy but had to bath in the Jordon and had to be encouraged by his servants to humble himself.  We often say, “Be careful what you pray for!”  If we pray for patience, we may get trials that teach us patience!  Jesus asks and does not assume but asks Bartimaeus what he wants. What do we want?  Perhaps our song is

          “Open my eyes, Lord, I want to see Jesus.    

         Open my ears Lord that I might hear his voice. 

         Open my heart that I might feel his presence!”

Bartimaeus responds. “My teacher, let me see again.”   Prayer answered!

The man is not sent to the temple to satisfy the priests.  He is not told to not tell anyone.  He is not sent home to tell others.  He follows Jesus on the road to Jerusalem and the cross.


There is one more interesting detail we can consider this morning in our text.   It’s not the meat to our sandwich but it might be the dressings.  The robe.  Nope we are not talking about Richard Douglas and the movie, “The Robe.”  Mark records for us that when Jesus calls Bartimaeus to come forth, Bartimaeus throws off his robe and jumps up to go to Jesus.  Unlike the young man two weeks ago who left Jesus sad because he, the man, had many possessions, this beggar throws away his possession. 

         The robe is somehow a status symbol.  Robes seem to be mentioned in several Biblical scenes:  at the cross the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ robe, the woman with bleeding believed if only she could touch Jesus’ robe she would be healed, and people put the sick on the roads Jesus walked on so they could touch his robe and be healed.  The robe of Bartimaeus is cast off though.  In Kenya, handicapped were placed by the roads to beg.  The robe would have protected Bartimaeus from the sun.  It could have been used to nap on. Or it could have been laid out like his collection plate for people to throw their gifts on.  Bartimaeus threw away his security blanket and went to Jesus.  Bartimaeus was anticipating transformation.  Jesus confirms by saying, “Go, your faith has made you well.”

         With these words, Mark changes this story from just another healing of a blind person with a name, Bartimaeus, to a lesson about faith for disciples.  When Jesus finds us, we are sitting blind by the side of the road.  It does not matter if we are infants in the arms of our parents or wayward teens lost in modern culture, or little ole elders looking death in the eye.  We are blind and helpless, sitting by the side of the road of life.  We have no motion and we are dependent on the help of others to survive.  The crowds blur our access to Jesus.  We are next to the ROAD, not on the ROAD.

         We are all sinners and we all have a REASON to call out for help.  None of us is an island and we cannot make it through life by ourselves. But when we learn that Jesus is passing, we can cry out.  Jesus, son of David, God in the flesh with a heart of compassion and not far off in the clouds observing and judging – have mercy on us.  God feels your pain!

         When Jesus calls our name we will be burdened and ROBEd in many cares and concerns.  As we throw off those robes that surround us and approach Jesus, we hear the question, “What do you want me to do for you?”  What do we want Jesus to do for us today, for our family, for our community, for our church and for our world?  Jesus calls us into relationship and prayer.  Next week you will bow at the altar for communion and receive his body and his blood as symbols that he is in you, on the road with you, and giving you sight.  Wow. 

The people of God said, “AMEN!!”

“A Mighty Fortress is Our God”

October 23, 2021

This week we focused on the famous Reformation hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” written by Martin Luther around 1529.  On October 31, 1517, Luther nailed on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, 95 theses or complaints.  It was a way for calling for a public forum to discuss these issues.  The printing press was newly invented and so these 95 statements went to press.  Catholicism was the dominant Christian version of faith and to question the Pope was radical.  These statements crystalized into four basic “alone” statements that came to symbolize the Protestant Reformation.

  • Faith alone (no need to buy indulgences)
  • Christ alone (no need to go through the saints to God)
  • Word alone  (Scripture over tradition for truth)
  • Grace alone (salvation is gift, not earned)

We will look at these four pillars of Protestantism next week and ponder how they strengthen our faith walk.

         Spend a few minutes today reflecting on these four points – the role of faith, the role of Christ, the role of Scripture, and the importance of grace.  Then listen to a Mighty Fortress. 

         Luther went on to translate the Bible into German, the people’s language in his area and we are recipients of that movement.  Many of us are gifted to be able to read the Word in our mother tongue.  We have much to be thankful for as we head into this next week.  Perhaps you could name now one thing for each of the four areas.  I love my confirmation verse Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Thank you Lord for that Scripture! Do you have a favorite scripture verse, a favorite faith memory, a memory of grace unexpected and what is one word you would use to describe who Christ is to you?  Blessings.

Safety Psalm 31:19-24

October 22, 2021

Psalm 31: 19-24

“A Mighty Fortress is Our God”

19 How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.

20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues; you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues.

21 Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege.

22 In my alarm I said, ‘I am cut off from your sight!’ Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.

23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people!  The Lord preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full.

24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.

In the second stanza of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, Martin Luther laments that life would be a disaster if we were left to our own resources as there is an “ancient foe who seeks to work us woe.”  The legions of evil would defeat people for “on earth is not his equal.”  David in Psalm 31 equally felt that he was cut off from God by the evil that confronted him as he ran from King Saul.  David realizes that God has prepared good for his followers though.  God hides us, preserves and keeps us safe as God is our refuge and our fortress in times of trouble.  David does not say we will not have trouble but during those times when we feel cut off from God by our problems, we can “be strong and take heart” and hope in the Lord, not the powers of this world.

     Perhaps we feel cut off from God by our troubles.  Often we feel that way.  That is a lie.  God is preparing good things.  He is present and it is he who keeps us safe, not our money, our talents, or our government.  So what does safety

  • Look like ?______________________________
  • Feel like? ______________________________
  • Smell like? ____________________________
  • Sound like ? ____________________________
  • And taste like? __________________________

Thank the Lord for each of these sensations that remind you are secure!

Psalm 31, A Mighty Fortress stanza 2

October 21, 2021

2.  Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be loosing

were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing. 

You ask who that may be? 

Christ Jesus, it is he; Lord Sabaoth his name,

from age to age the same; and he must win the battle.”

As we approach Oct. 31, we are focusing on this great Reformation hymn written by Martin Luther.  We’ve looked at Psalm 46 which inspired the hymn but Psalm 31 carries a similar fortress theme.  It is a psalm of King David.

         1. “In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame;  deliver me in your righteousness.

         2. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.

         3. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.

         4. Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.

         5. Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.”

The word “refuge” is written three times and “fortress” twice.  In Swahili the word for refugee is “mkimbizi” or a person who has been forced to run.  Certainly refugees are people “running from” evil and “running to” safety.  Maybe I am not a political refugee but this psalm understands some of the things I run from.  I run from shame (v.1)  I run from deaf ears that do not hear me, from loss of voice (v.2)  I run from chaos and aimlessness (v.3).  I may be running from social or financial traps (v.4).  And I run to the hands of God who is faithful (v.5).

         The second stanza of “A Mighty Fortress” focuses on our helplessness in many of our life’s problems.  Perhaps we call it “control issues” because we feel like we are in control so little.  We are hounded to buy insurance for all sorts of things that are going to catch us.  But Luther reminds us that we cannot depend on our own strength but must run from self to “the Man of God’s own choosing,” Christ Jesus.

         So of the conditions that plague people – shame, invisibility, confusion or lack of direction, and feeling trapped – what might you be seeking refuge from today?  We can run to Jesus who does not change and who is a rock to stand on, a refuge to hide in.  Thank you, Lord.