Bridge Building to Eternal Life in Christ Jesus

114402291_2c547d3a07I desire that the baptized children of God take on the role of bridge-builders in America. We are the Holy Spirit’s agents bringing the dying into new life in Christ. We cannot pull up the draw bridge into the kingdom of God and hide from the assaults of the devil. We must trust that our Lord Jesus Christ is the King of Kings. In the midst of the evil that surrounds us we are called to be a people of refuge and shelter. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14 -16).

If we pull away from the conflicts of our time and hide behind our walls, we are denying the power of the Spirit of God to be at work through us as we share the good news of Jesus. The sharing of the Gospel is not served when we are quiet in the public square. When Jesus told the disciples to go to all the nations and baptize people in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, He promised to be with us to the very end of the age. I trust the power of the Holy Spirit to call me to faith through the words of the good news of Jesus. In the same way I trust the Holy Spirit to call the church together to be a holy people of God. So therefore I trust the Holy Spirit will be at work in this world calling people from all the nations to faith in Jesus. I trust the Spirit to be at work when I speak the Words of the Lord.

I know that American culture is becoming increasingly secular and stridently anti-Christian in the public square of debate. In reaction to this change, Christians and churches should not become silent. If we become silent we deny the important role we have to bear witness to King Jesus. I do not speak to be right or to dominate someone else into submission. Jesus has sent His people forward to pronounce judgment on those who defy God, and He has sent us on a mission to pronounce forgiveness and freedom upon those who realize their gods and lives are broken. Indeed there is a divide between people in America on many issues, but the most important divide the church must always be concerned about exists between the Word of the Lord and those who are deaf to its message.

The task to build the bridge that connects the Word of the Lord with people that are deaf to its message requires listening to voices from every direction. We must listen to the Word and hear how God’s voice speaks to the troubles and vanities of our age. We must listen to people so that our Christian witness speaks properly to people.

A person who does not know the hope of Jesus may be comfortable in his or her own source of identity, security, and meaning. We can be honest with people about the dead-end paths that lead away from God. On the other hand when people have come to realize their false gods were not gods at all, we must speak a message of mercy and forgiveness. It is unhelpful to continue to speak judgment to a person who has already been broken by the Word of God and the world.

Law-Gospel2The bridges we seek to build in our society will be empty if our message is only wrath and judgment or only mercy and forgiveness. I trust that when we share the both the Law and the Gospel we will find the Holy Spirit bringing people to faith in Jesus.

The central task of the church in the world is to share the good news of Jesus. The Holy Spirit of God will use you to share this good news. Please listen to the false confidences and brokenness of those you care about and properly apply both the Law and the Gospel.

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Preaching from the Gospels in the New Year

In 2012 I will plan to preach more often on the gospel readings of the lectionary. I want to be able to teach the doctrines of the Christian Faith through sharing the life of Christ. I remember a classmate of mine from the seminary, Jeremy Gorline, said he spent one year just preaching from the Gospel lesson. He said it sounds like common sense and easy until you start hitting some of those texts that challenge us.

Jesus in the Scriptures is not always the same Jesus that we have constructed for ourselves. When we get challenged by the truth of Scripture it may feel easier for me to skip over to the Old Testament or Epistle lesson.

So on January 8 at St. Paul Lutheran Church we will celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. The Gospel Lesson is Mark 1:4-11.

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

(Mark 1:4-11 ESV)

How in this text do you find the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at work in bringing about your salvation?

God is united in his purposes for you.