Pastor's Reflections

Ark Encounter

 

Genesis 6:9-22

    These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. [10] And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

    [11] Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. [12] And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. [13] And God said to Noah, "I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. [14] Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. [15] This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. [16] Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. [17] For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. [18] But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. [19] And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. [20] Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. [21] Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them." [22] Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

 

Genesis 7:11-16

    In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. [12] And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. [13] On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah's wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, [14] they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. [15] They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. [16] And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the Lord shut him in.

 

This reflection will be different than others that I’ve written. On June 25. 2018 Linda, Marin, and I were visiting our son Bill and his wife Janice. We journeyed to the Ark Encounter https://arkencounter.com/ that is located at 1 Ark Encounter Drive, Williamstown, KY 41097. As we are a Grace Alone, Faith, Alone, Scripture Alone congregation I normally would not promote a tourist attraction, especially a model of Noah’s Ark since from the Biblical Scripture above we really don’t have much information on the ark such as how did it hold two of every kind, how were the animals fed, etc.  We simply know that Scripture says it happened, so we know it did happen. However, there are many who simply say that because of the number of animals, their size, the need to feed them, and of course the problem of sanitation, that it could not have happened. It is an attempt to show that Scripture is not historically accurate.   

 

That is why I am promoting this exhibit. First it is honest about what scripture says but then it does provide the research that would show that every kind, not every species, would fit in an ark of the size in scripture and they give possible solutions to the issues that have been raised to show that scripture could not be true. The result is that this Ark demonstrates a solution to the issues raised that Noah could have used, and since Noah had God as his architect, we know that he would have been given a good solution.  Therefore, visiting the Ark Encounter is a valuable use of vacation time since it’s signage is clear as to what Scripture says vs. their research. They intend to show that the issues are solvable and also have exhibits on the truth of Scripture, thus making the time spent exploring this life size ark well worth a family’s time to explore.

 

If you do have the opportunity, I trust that you will enjoy the day. While we don’t know exactly how Noah solved the problems, we do know he had God’s guidance so we can take comfort that the Ark Encounter does demonstrate a possible solution to all the issues that did exist when God sent the rains on the earth.

   

Pastor Wayne

15 July 2018

 

 

Engaging the World with the Gospel of Hope

 

The 60th Atlantic Convention of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) was held on June 8-9 and the theme for the convention was “Engaging the World with the Gospel of Hope.” The ‘Convention Essay’ (Keynote Speech in common language) was given by Dr. David P. E. Maier who is president of the Michigan District of the LCMS. I wish to simply give the conclusion of his hour-long speech as I think it is important that we understand the Biblical use of the word Hope.

The heart of the gospel message is that we, as sinners, are hopelessly lost for we have a God who expects perfection to enter the Kingdom of God. For that reason, he sent his only Son to make restitution for our sin which by His grace gives us the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Therefore, because we know that Jesus rose from the dead we have the hope of eternal life with him.

 

This is proclaimed by the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 1:3-5.

 

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Just reading that in English is not necessarily comforting. For example, Linda and I travel by car from place to place and have the hope that we will arrive safely at our destination. However, we know that things can go wrong and sometimes they do. Hope is not certain. However, when our Hope is in God we know that God always keeps his promises so the Biblical use of the word hope is absolute assurance that it will happen. One of the key purposes of the Old Testament is to demonstrate that when God speaks his promises are carried out, and that is true in spite of the sinfulness of his people. The prophet Jeremiah shows us the Biblical use of the word hope when he writes in Lamentations 3:21-24 -

 

    But this I call to mind,
        and therefore I have hope:
    The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
        his mercies never come to an end;
    they are new every morning;
        great is your faithfulness.
    "The Lord is my portion," says my soul,
        "therefore I will hope in him."

 

 What this means for you and for me is that our hope in the resurrection is not based on the English use of the word hope for it is something that we can without doubt count on. Salvation for us comes from Christ alone, by His grace alone, through faith alone, and we know this from Scripture alone. 

 

Rev. Wayne Olson

17 June 2018 
 
    

 

 


 

Marriage, A Loving Gift of God - 14 January 2018

 

John 2:1-11
    On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. [2] Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. [3] When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." [4] And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." [5] His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
    [6] Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. [7] Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. [8] And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. [9] When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom [10] and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." [11] This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

    
In Luther’s day he thought that marriage was under attack by the medieval Catholic Church. It was taught that for a holy life it was more important not to marry but to live in a monastery. Marriage was primarily an accommodation to sexual desire and therefore was a sin. Sure, it was less a sin than adultery but even some confessors would absolve penitents for having sex within marriage. The end result is that there was little respect for marriage.

If you think about it that is roughly the same as today. Marriage has become a piece of paper, and it is a piece of paper that is just as easy to discard as it is to obtain. Even the Supreme Court considers marriage an accommodation to love which is defined by sexual desires and therefore doesn’t even matter what sex the two persons are. Two people will even live together just to assure that they are compatible before obtaining that piece of paper in spite of the fact that marriage statistics do not support that claim. Just as in Luther’s time there is very little respect for marriage.

Martin Luther set out to change that view of marriage by showing Marriage, a Loving Gift of God. For the most part he succeeded, and I pray that over time the Church today can also show Marriage, a Loving Gift of God.  

Today’s gospel has been preached with a focus on the wine, Jesus relationship with his mother, the miracle of changing water into wine and even with a focus that the jars were used for purification. Luther’s focus was on the two unnamed persons in the story, the bride and groom, and the fact that this was a wedding. In other words, the main point of this story is that the first actions of Jesus as he began his ministry was to attend the ceremony forming a marriage.

The last verse of today’s gospel states (John 2:11) “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory.” I’ve often wondered how this story manifested his glory, after all how is simply turning water into wine such a great miracle? Doesn’t that encourage too many people drink too much so why? Why would Jesus encourage that? As I thought about that and the fact that Luther focuses on the marriage, the Spirit led me to better understand the significance of the fact that Jesus first actions were at a wedding.

The first thing that God did after creation AND before the fall was to establish marriage.  We read in Genesis (2:24-25) “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. [25] And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” It is important for us to realize that marriage was established before the fall because that emphasizes how important marriage is to God. With only Adam and Eve present at the time it is easy to understand why marriage was important, and that verse emphasizes it is not lust and we know that because sin did not yet exist in the world. Remembering that God is a God of relationships, He has just defined the family relationship and his plan for populating the world he had created. Jesus, by using a wedding as his first actions stresses the importance of marriage to Him and to his Father. I’ll come back to the family relationship aspects of marriage, but first I’ll emphasize further what Jesus did at the wedding.  

It is important that the bride and groom were not identified because that sends us the message that all weddings are important to God, not just theirs. Further it is important that Jesus was called to help this couple out for what would be an embarrassing situation. It may seem minor problem, running out of wine and I’m sure that has happened many times during a wedding reception. However, what it shows is that no matter how minor the issue is, God is ready to help a marriage out of a crisis, It didn’t even matter that the couple were unaware of the issue and it was Mary that made the request. Jesus was still willing to help this couple out of what would be an embarrassing situation. By doing this miracle Jesus blesses the wedding and shows you and I that we can also call on God no matter what deficiencies we experience in our own marriage.  He is there to help us out even if we are not aware of what he does for us. Marriage is so important. I think that is how Jesus showed his glory and why the disciples believed in him. We can believe Marriage, A Loving Gift of God.

I promised to return to the family relationship aspect of Marriage and to do that I’m going to use the family of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. In Matthew we are told that Mary was betrothed to Joseph but was found to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Opps, betrothed was a period of engagement that was so firm it would require a divorce to end and was a period of about a year to demonstrate that the woman was not pregnant. Joseph being a religious and a just man wanted to divorce her quietly to avoid embarrassing her. When an angel stated that Mary was the virgin carrying a son as prophesied in Isaiah. Joseph believed the angel and married Mary. If we look at Paul’s writing many years later in Ephesians we see that what Joseph was doing was presenting his wife as blameless and without spot just as we are to do today when we marry our wife.  

Joseph was the religious head of the household. As we have discussed in previous weeks this family carefully followed Jewish law. Jesus was circumcised, Mary was purified after birth, and Jesus was presented to God as the firstborn son.

From past years we also that Joseph obeyed the angel warning them to move to Egypt because Harrod was after them. When it was again safe, Joseph moved the family to Nazareth. He was acting as the head of the household
     
Last week we saw that the family annually went to Jerusalem for the Passover and we saw Jesus with the other adults in the temple when he became an adult at age 12. Yet we see the family relationship continued by the verse that tells us that Jesus submitted to his parents growing in wisdom and stature.

While we don’t have full details of Jesus’ family life, we have sufficient information to know that he had good and faithful parents and that during times of difficulty God was there to sustain them. In other words, the marriage of Mary and Joseph was important to God incarnate just as all marriages are important to God. Again we recognize Marriage, A Loving Gift of God

In conclusion the gospel today is there to reinforce the importance of a Biblical marriage in the eyes of God. We would do well to reestablish the Biblical view of marriage in our society including the fact that it is more than a piece of paper. It is a way of life that we should cherish. But it is a way of life that I know I actually we, can’t fulfil. We need to remember that it is a way of life that was established prior to the fall into sin so the Bible shows marriage in its perfection. However, we should strive for that perfection by showing our love of God by returning to the way God intended, removing lust, trusting in our spouse, submitting to each other as we as Christians submit to each other and establishing the husband as the representative of Christ serving the family and training them to be faithful to the Lord.     Marriage, A Loving Gift of God

 

Pastor Wayne