Sermon for the Third Sunday in Lent, March 24, 2019 (Luke 13:1-9) – “Christ the Vinedresser”

“The Vine Dresser and the Fig Tree (Le vigneron et le figuier)” (1886-1894), by James Tissot (1836-1902). The Brooklyn Museum.

This sermon was originally preached at Living Savior Lutheran Church, Fairfax Station, Virginia, for the Circuit 9B Pastors’ Winkel on March 21, 2019, in preparation for its delivery on March 24, 2019.


Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Terrible things seem to be a frequent fixture in the news of late, don’t they?  It seems like some new horrible thing happens somewhere around the globe every day.  Just this past week we had the Ethiopian Airlines crash of a Boeing 737 Max-8 that killed 157, rockets shot into Israel from Gaza and retaliation by the Israelis, terrible and historic flooding throughout the states of Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri that has displaced thousands and killed three, and the terrible attack on the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that left 50 people dead.  Three weeks ago, Fulani herdsmen attacked the village of Karamar in Kajuru, Nigeria, setting a church and several houses on fire and killing 32 people. In early February, 40 Indian troops were killed in a suicide bombing in Kashmir, increasing tensions between India and Pakistan.  In January, Abu Sayyaf terrorists bombed the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Jolo in the Philippines, killing 20 and wounding 102.  And so far this year, 301 people have been shot in the city of Chicago alone. The list goes on, and I know that I am not including everything that has happened.  Certainly I am not including smaller tragedies, like accidental deaths and injuries, illnesses, and tragedies that are the result of crimes.  I’m not sure I could. Living in a world of 7.7 billion people, there are countless tragic things that happen every day that lead us to ask the questions “why did x happen?” and “how did x happen?”  More often the question is “why would God allow this to happen?”  And sometimes, we ask, “was what happened deserved?”

But calamity is nothing new, and this is where we get to our reading this morning from the Gospel of Luke.  Jesus has just finished teaching the crowd about how they should live in light of the coming kingdom of God, when some of the people present tell him about an atrocity committed by Pontius Pilate against a group of Galileans who had come to Jerusalem to make sacrifices.  Pilate had apparently killed them on their altars, and their blood mingled with that of their sacrifices. It seems these folks in the crowd believed that the Galileans must have done something really bad in order to get Pilate to do this to them— or rather for God to let it happen to them—, and wanted to hear from Jesus as to what it was and how they could avoid something similar.  Maybe they wanted to hear Jesus rail about how unjust Pilate was. After all, some people expected Jesus to be a political Messiah who would kick out the Romans. Perhaps the questions “why?” and “how?” underlay their bringing this incident to Jesus’ attention. But whatever the reason, it seems that they expected some sort of answer from Jesus, but not the one he gave them.

“The Tower of Siloam (Le tour de Siloë)” (1886-1896), by James Tissot (1836-1902). The Brooklyn Museum.

For Jesus, the specific reason for what happened to the Galileans doesn’t matter.  What happened to them was bad. So was what happened to the people crushed by the tower of Siloam.  But in both cases, no one deserved what had happened to them.  No one’s specific sin caused these terrible things.  Instead, Jesus challenges his hearers to look at themselves instead of asking “why” something happened or seeking to assign blame for the cause of a tragedy.  Jesus challenges them to repent, or else they will “likewise perish.” The response to tragedy should be repentance, not on the part of the victims, but on the part of everyone.  That’s what Jesus had been preaching.  Like John before him, Jesus had been “proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15, ESV).  Such calamities, says Jesus, are signs of the times, and they indicate that God’s judgment will be meted out against all people.  Therefore repent before it is too late and you perish forever, not dying bodily as the result of a homicide or being crushed by a falling building, but for all eternity, with no hope of restoration.

That’s an odd thought for us to have nowadays, that we all should “repent lest we perish” because we really like to assign blame when things go wrong.  When something bad happens, we immediately begin by pointing fingers to determine who it was who “sinned” to bring the catastrophe about. For example, when a mass-shooting happens, we all collectively blame the gunman, but we also blame the people who allowed him to get his hands on his weapons, or we blame the people we think ideologically influenced him, or even the people who made the weapons he used.  Or we blame law enforcement and even the government for not preventing him from carrying out his aims. And sometimes we even blame the people who were harmed or killed for not doing enough to protect themselves. “If they had or hadn’t done x, y, and z, then this never would have happened!”  Or when a natural disaster occurs, we may try to blame it on climate change and the people who we think, through their actions or legislation, are exacerbating it. Or we may blame our response on fearmongering (“Climate change isn’t real!”).  We expect all those people to repent of their actions (or inaction) in light of a catastrophe, but our response is rarely to think of our own need for repentance in our lives.  We look at the large sins committed by and against others, but we ignore the little sins we commit every day, perhaps sometimes thinking like the Pharisee in the parable, “thank God I’m not a sinner like those people!”  We ignore the unkind attitudes we have toward our neighbors. We ignore the words we say that hurt others. We ignore the unclean thoughts we have about others. We overlook our lack of charity. We overlook our own ingratitude.  We overlook our sins in things done and things left undone.

When something terrible happens, we focus on the event and the actors, but we never think that our attitude in light of its happening should be one of repentance.  We never see how we, poor sinners that we are, really deserve the same fate— or that is to say, those who are victims of such calamities deserve what happens to them no more than we do. We, being sinners, deserve the same such reward.  Death is the wages of sin, and it could come for us at any moment. The same goes for the Last Day— we do not know when it will come. Thus Jesus’ warning is all the more important. When one perishes— ἀπολεῖσθε in the Greek— one doesn’t just die; one dies utterly.  There is no time to repent. Seeing the evils that happen in the world, we should not be assigning blame or thinking that the victims of evil somehow deserved it more than we do.  We should not ignore our own sinfulness which merits nothing less than the ills that others receive. Rather, we ought to be saying, “Lord, have mercy on me, a poor sinful being!”, because these disasters are the wages of sin writ large.

Azulejos depicting the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree in Cloister of Mosteiro de Santa Cruz, Coimbra. Photo by Joseolgon, Wikimedia Commons.

But Jesus doesn’t leave it there, as if he wants only his hearers in Luke (and us) to say that we’re sorry and hope that God will forgive us.  He follows up his injunction to repentance with the parable of the fig tree. In this parable, we see a fig tree, a relatively valuable tree that even had legal protection in ancient Judaea, planted on a piece of good soil in a vineyard.  However, this fig has been a poor fig, not producing any fruit or showing evidence of its production. The owner of the vineyard wants to remove it from the vineyard— he planted it, he can cut it down— and for three years it hasn’t produced any fruit at all.  What good is it taking up fertile soil that can be used to grow other things? It has not lived up to its “figgy-ness.”

But the vinedresser, who tends the vineyard, has a suggestion.  “Master, leave it also this year, until I will dig around it and put down fertilizer, and if it may make fruit in the coming year, all the better; and if indeed not, you shall cut it out” (Luke 13:8-9).  We shouldn’t read this as if the vinedresser and the vineyard owner are at odds. Both agree that if the tree doesn’t produce, then it’s into the woodchipper. But the vinedresser wishes to work on it, to fertilize it and add new soil, and to ultimately bring fruit out of the tree.  He doesn’t give up on it. He works tirelessly to bring it into fruiting condition so that it might be spared and continue to have pride of place in the vineyard.

An etching by Jan Luyken illustrating Luke 13:6-9 in the Bowyer Bible, Bolton, England.

Of course, the vinedresser in the parable is Jesus and the vineyard owner is God the Father.  Like the vinedresser, Jesus didn’t give up on those who heard him in the crowd that day and repented, those listening members of the fig tree of Israel, and he doesn’t give up on us, his children, either.  We are his, after all, because he claimed us, cleansed us in the waters of baptism, and grafted us onto his vine. Because we are his, he won’t cut us out of his vineyard when we trust in him. When judgment comes, he will save us.  When we see the terrible ways of the world; when we receive the wake-up call to see the power of sin in our lives and the lives of others, we can rest assured in Christ’s promise to us that we will not perish utterly and forever when we call on him.  He will help us to live lives that bear fruits in keeping with repentance.  He does this by watering us in baptism and in feeding us with his body and blood.  He sends the Holy Spirit, our helper, to cultivate us and teach us to shun those sins in our lives large and small and to turn to Christ and his promises when sin, death, and the devil attack us.  When we call on him in faith, he is merciful to us and will help us to live as his children, both now and for all eternity. He can help us to repent of our own shortcomings, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to act and speak rightly towards them, and to remember whose we are and be grateful for it.

Detail, “Parable of the Fig Tree” (1430). Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague.

So when calamity strikes in this world— violence, terror, flood, and famine—, don’t seek to assign blame for it, but turn to Christ and trust in him, knowing that though you and I are unworthy members of a sinful generation, Christ loves us anyway and has shown us mercy so that we might have everlasting life.  Though sin can destroy the body, it cannot destroy the soul that trusts in him. He has not abandoned you to be cut out of the vineyard, but is mercifully tending you and bringing you to bear fruits in keeping with repentance, helping you to leave behind those sins that mark your life and to live in his care eternally.  Indeed, we can sing with the 17th Century hymn-writer, Haquin Spegel, in his hymn, “The Death of Jesus Christ, Our Lord”:

“Oh, blest is each believing guest
Who in this promise finds His rest;
For Jesus will in love abide
With those who do in Him confide.”

Amen!

Lenten Midweek Sermon 1, March 13, 2019 (Psalm 4:8, Job 7:11-16) – “Sleeping in Heavenly Peace?”

“Job and his Tormentors” (1540-1550), either Jan Mandijn (ca. 1500-1560) or Pieter Huys (1519-1581). Musée de la Chartreuse de Douai.

This sermon was originally preached at Living Savior Lutheran Church in Fairfax Station, Virginia.


Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright,
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.

“Vicar,” you ask, “why the heck are you reciting some lines from a Christmas carol in Lent?  The time for that was months ago. What’s the big idea?”

Well, I’m not going to preach on Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber’s Christmas hymn, but I do want to think about the idea of sleeping in heavenly peace.  Apparently the baby Jesus got to if this 19th Century carol is to be believed (though I imagine that a cattle shed is not terribly conducive to a peaceful first night, but what do I know?), but can we ever experience such a sleep?  How many of us have a tough time even getting normal sleep at night? [Show of hands.] I know I often do. I ruined my sleep schedule in graduate school with a potent combination of late nights, early mornings, and massive quantities of caffeine.  And though I’ve tried getting back on track, I often find myself up and awake at 2 AM. Sometimes I find myself awake with racing thoughts, other times it’s a leg cramp. Sometimes it’s just too warm in the bed. Maybe you have the same troubles sometimes.  Maybe you have trouble falling asleep because you keep hearing every little noise at night, or your mattress doesn’t support you properly, or your pillow cocks your head at a weird angle, and your neck and body start to ache. Maybe you wake up in the middle of the night with the dog’s foot jammed in your throat and can’t fall back to sleep.  It happens.

“In the Middle of the Night.” Rupert Fawcett, “Off the Leash.”

And of course, making it harder to sleep, we now have screens in bed.  Our phones and tablets are constantly by our sides, and if what sleep scientists say is correct, the blue light generated by those screens keeps us awake by stimulating our brains to produce cortisol, which our brains use to feed our wakefulness.  It makes it harder for us to get our minds turned off so we can actually fall asleep and sleep through the night. It seems we don’t necessarily get to sleep in a lot of peace any more, let alone in heavenly peace.

“Job” (1880) by Leon Bonnat (1833-1922).

Which leads to our main reading tonight from the book of Job.  Job was not at peace, not at all. He was the unwitting subject of a wager between God and Satan— God had held up Job as the prime example of a blameless and faithful servant, and Satan bet God that, were God to allow him to oppress Job, Job would curse God and sin against him because Satan believed that Job feared God not because of God’s righteousness, but because God had blessed Job with many things and a good life.  “Job’s only worshiping you in order to get stuff!” was the thrust of Satan’s argument. God, knowing that this was not the case, took up the wager and allowed Satan to harass Job and his family. At this point in the book, Job has still proven that he worships and fears God and has not sinned in anything he has said (though he will overstep himself later when trying to justify himself before God). But here, Job is lamenting his estate.  His children are dead, his land in ruins, his livestock dead or carried off by bandits, and his body wracked by boils and illness. He just wants his suffering to end— he doesn’t know why it’s happened, but he cries out to God, asking God to leave off his suffering and to show him his offense. He cries out,

“Hiob – aus der Tiefe rufe ich zu DIR” (2015?) by Andreas Neumann-Nochten. Wikimedia Commons.

11   “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth;
     I will speak in the anguish of my spirit;
     I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
12 Am I the sea, or a sea monster,
     that you set a guard over me?
13 When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me,
     my couch will ease my complaint,’
14 then you scare me with dreams
     and terrify me with visions,
15 so that I would choose strangling
     and death rather than my bones.
16 I loathe my life; I would not live forever.
   Leave me alone, for my days are a breath. (7:11-16, ESV)

Job cannot find temporal rest for his afflictions. He thinks that his suffering will end when he lays down to sleep, that he may find some rest from his suffering.  But he does not find any. Though he is a righteous man in the eyes of God, he is still subject to the dangers of living in a sinful world ruled by Satan. Why can he not find any rest?  Why is his sleep tormented, and why does God allow it? Why can he not find temporal peace even though he fears God?

If you want a great musical re-telling of the story of Job, I can’t think of a better one than this by the band Seatrain from 1971. I first heard this when I bought a 45 RPM record that had “Song of Job” on the A side and “Waiting for Elijah” on the B side from a little stationery and tsotchke shop in Richmond, Virginia called “Mongrel” when I was in college.

This is a question we often ask ourselves— why does God allow suffering?  Why does God allow us to experience pain and tragedy and fear? Why are we beset day after day by physical and spiritual pains and assaults?  Why are we subject to illness and pain and death? Why are people constantly under the threat of war and economic distress? Does God care? Is he with us?  Why can’t we find peace? Why do we not experience this “heavenly” peace? Why do we still feel the sting of sin in the world and in our own flesh? Why do we still sin?  Why hasn’t God taken all that away?

Of course, we’ll never get the answer we want to this question.  God is God. You are not.  (Read your Bible, read it a lot–you’ll often hear Dr. Joel Okamoto say this at Concordia Seminary.)  When we ask the question “why” with regard to suffering, we seek to try to know something that God has not told us.  We seek to understand his hidden will, what Luther calls the Deus absconditus or “hidden God.”  And when we do that, we start projecting ideas of what we think God is like onto him.  We make him look the way we want him to. And it’s very easy to create an image of God that is merely based on one of his attributes— his justice or his all-goodness or his wrath or his divine love.  Of course, that’s not God— it’s a terrible idol based on him. This is the pitfall Job himself eventually falls into when he begins to fear that his death is imminent (it’s not). He sees God in his justice and his wrath, and comes to believe that what God has been putting him through is unjust and that God himself is not treating him the way a just God should.  He asserts his innocence and says that he does not deserve the lot he has been given.

“Job and his Friends” (1869) by Ilya Repin (1844-1930), Государственный Русский музей.

But in his anger and pain, Job fails to fully realize that even in suffering one should trust in God’s mercy, because God is indeed merciful and has said so.  God is God, Job is not, and when in the midst of suffering, Job should trust God and draw near to him rather than curse him. Job cannot see the whole of God’s plan.  In his limited frame of reference, Job cannot see how God works all things to his good purpose, and that rather than try to rationalize what God is doing (like Job’s friends who try to “help” him)—  saying that God must be doing x for y reason— Job should trust God in his wisdom.   This is what God desires of his children and what Job ultimately learns.  God rules an immense creation full of beauty and complexity far beyond the ken of mortal man, and though suffering is now part of the fabric of this creation due to mankind’s sin, God is still in control of all of it.  And Job learns that God is still gracious and merciful, even when we don’t necessarily perceive it, so we should trust him when the sinful world starts bearing down on us, when we cannot find rest from our afflictions, when we ourselves struggle with our sins.  He is not like other gods who are fickle and capricious, who will, on a whim, abandon those who call on them to destruction. He will ultimately bring those who trust and fear him rest and peace, and even if that peace is not physically experienced in this life, those who trust him can rest knowing that they will experience it with him.

King David understood this, that God delivers those who trust and fear him and gives them peace in their suffering.  He writes in Psalm 4:

1  Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
     You have given me relief when I was in distress.
     Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

2 O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
     How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah

3 But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
     the LORD hears when I call to him.

4 Be angry, and do not sin;
     ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah

5 Offer right sacrifices,
     and put your trust in the LORD.

6 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
     Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”

7 You have put more joy in my heart
     than they have when their grain and wine abound.

8       In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
     for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4, ESV)

“Crucifix in a Classroom at Concordia Seminary” (2017) by Nils Niemeier.

David trusts God’s purposes without seeking to understand his ways.  He knows that if he trusts in God and relies upon his mercy, God will deliver him.  And we have that greater assurance now in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  We can look to the cross and see God at work. We can see his mercy. We do not have to try to divine the work of the “hidden God” here— here is God revealed to us (the Deus revelatus), his love for us shown to us most plainly in its starkness here.  Job hints at this (“I know that my Redeemer lives”), but now we see the finished work.  For God so loved us that he took on human flesh, lived the sinless life we could not, and then died in our stead, taking all of our sin and its punishment upon himself here.  Knowing this, seeing this, you and I need not despair or fear those nights when we can find no rest or peace. On the cross, God draws near to us and forgives all our sins and takes away their consequence.  Here, he gives us something to trust in— himself! When we trust in his work, we know that we can indeed lie down and sleep in peace, because even though the world rages around us and sin may harass us, the Lord ultimately keeps us safe and delivers us from them.  He rescues us when we call on him, though we may need to deal with the world for a while. It is he who ultimately makes us to dwell in safety. And if our consciences are burdened with guilt and our sins convict us, he invites us to run to him and confess our sins.  He will restore us. Trusting in that in spite of what the world and our sinful flesh tell us, as his redeemed and trusting children, he does make us to lie down and sleep in heavenly peace.

Amen.

“Strong on Doctrinal Topics but Weak on the Books of the Bible” by Dr. Paul Raabe (Grand Canyon University)

Dr. Paul Raabe

I had the pleasure of having Dr. Raabe for Isaiah at Concordia Seminary the semester prior to his retirement and move to Grand Canyon. One of the things Dr. Raabe always entreated us to do was to become intimately familiar with the Biblical text and to always come back to it, chew on it, and work through it when preaching and doing pastoral work. His analysis of the familiarity of people with Scripture in my own church body of the Missouri Synod is both a wake-up call and a call-to-arms to dig back into the text, and it’s something I know that I, myself, can always strive to improve on in my own life. His advice here is a good reminder for any vicar or pastor (or layperson!).

I have reproduced Dr. Raabe’s article from Concordia Theology here in full. Check out the other articles and podcasts there for more good thoughts from the faculty and staff of Concordia Seminary St. Louis.


The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) is strong on doctrinal topics but weak on the books of the Bible. After teaching at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis for 35 years I’ve come to that conclusion. In the Synod those trained theologically can typically articulate our orthodox doctrinal position and can work with Lutheran concepts. They can explain, for example, the differences between deus revelatus and deus absconditus. But they can’t tell you the first thing about Haggai or Chronicles or 1 John.  The situation is not a case of false doctrine. It’s just weird.

The theological debates that take place in Synod typically deal with Luther and Luther’s theological position. We debate Luther. “What was Luther’s position on the ministry? Did he have a high view or a low view or in-between? Did the later Luther change his position? Did Luther teach the third use of the law? Well, the expression ‘third use of the law’ never appears in Luther’s works. Yeah, but what about the concept? Yeah, but you have to distinguish between the early Luther and the later Luther. What was Luther’s view on the liturgy? Did he advocate high liturgy or low liturgy? What were his liturgical practices? Yeah, but what about the later Luther?” After a while I want to respond: “What does the Bible teach? You know, the Bible, that book collecting dust on the bookshelf.” By listening to our debates one would get the impression that we are a Society for Luther Studies.

I have taught the books of the Bible to laypeople for decades, and I can speak from personal experience. Our laypeople typically do not know the books of the Bible. I remember once when I taught a series on the Minor Prophets. A solid Missouri Synod Lutheran layman, about 85 years old, sat in the front row every week. At the end of the series he told me that his pastors had faithfully taught him Lutheran doctrine many times over, but no pastor had ever taught him the Minor Prophets. I wondered to myself, “How can this be, a solid, life-long Lutheran was never taught all the books of the Bible?”

Occasionally I visit other churches to hear a variety of pastors preach. Sometimes I am thrilled to hear a solid, textual sermon. But I am surprised how often I hear topical sermons without a specific text in a specific book of the Bible. The sermons are doctrinally sound. I am not hearing LCMS preachers preach false doctrine. But often there is no functioning biblical text from a biblical book in the pulpit.

It seems to me that in the Missouri Synod the 66 books of the Bible take a backseat. Yet, we need to remind ourselves of the obvious. First and foremost, the Bible is a collection of books, not a collection of favorite verses or doctrinal topics but a library of books. And each book needs to be treated as a book, read in a holistic way by attending to how it flows from the opening verse to the closing verse. That is simply respecting the shape of the inspired Scriptures themselves. The Sacred Scriptures come to us in the form of books.

If Martin Luther were here today, my hunch is that he would agree. After all, he wanted the people to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Scriptures themselves and not only learn summary statements of what the entire Bible teaches. That is why he translated the Scriptures into the language of the people.  That is why he preached and lectured through books of the Bible.

The books of the Bible are primary literature, while summaries of their doctrinal teaching are secondary literature. Yes, people have to be taught what all of Scripture teaches, the articles of Faith, the corpus doctrinae, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Faith. The Confessors of the Augsburg Confession realized that. But that desideratum should not overshadow or eclipse the biblical books themselves. The written Word of God comes in the shape of books, and we should honor and love that shape and teach the Word according to that shape.

Have no fear. The exegetes are coming to the rescue! Pardon me for a shameless commercial. The Concordia Commentary series has been putting out excellent Bible commentaries for over 20 years now.  We are grateful to Jeff Gibbs for his third volume on Matthew just out. Twenty nine biblical books have been covered already plus parts of four others (see them all at cph.org). It is a great series for every seminarian, pastor and congregational library to own.

Our motto of sola scriptura sets up the expectation that our churches and ministers actually theologize that way, that in these churches the pastor is all about the Ministry of the Word, not “social justice” or “inclusivity” or feel-good psychology, but the Ministry of the Word (Acts 6). That requires devotion to both the orthodox corpus doctrinae and the books of the Bible.

“To a Waterfowl” (1818), by William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)

http://www.baronfineart.co.uk/Gallery/peter_scott.htm
“Pinkfeet, the Wild Geese of England” (1949) by Sir Peter Scott (1909-1989), Baron Fine Art Gallery.

William Cullen Bryant, ca. 1876

This poem is a favorite, and came to my mind after seeing that Psalm 91 is the appointed Psalm to be read this coming Sunday. I’ve included the text of Psalm 91 after Bryant’s poem – note the similarities and shared themes!

Bryant’s biography is an interesting one, as he is known as the poet who really brought American poetry to the world scene in the early 19th Century with his poem, “Thanatopsis.” You can read more about Bryant here.


Whither, ‘midst falling dew, 
While glow the heavens with the last steps of day, 
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue 
Thy solitary way? 

Vainly the fowler’s eye 
Might mark thy distant flight, to do thee wrong, 
As, darkly seen against the crimson sky, 
Thy figure floats along. 

Seek’st thou the plashy brink 
Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide, 
Or where the rocking billows rise and sink 
On the chaféd ocean side? 

There is a Power, whose care 
Teaches thy way along that pathless coast,— 
The desert and illimitable air 
Lone wandering, but not lost. 

All day thy wings have fanned, 
At that far height, the cold thin atmosphere; 
Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land, 
Though the dark night is near. 

And soon that toil shall end, 
Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest, 
And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend, 
Soon, o’er thy sheltered nest. 

Thou’rt gone, the abyss of heaven 
Hath swallowed up thy form, yet, on my heart 
Deeply hath sunk the lesson thou hast given, 
And shall not soon depart. 

He, who, from zone to zone, 
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight, 
In the long way that I must trace alone, 
Will lead my steps aright. 


Psalm 91

    He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

    I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress:
My God; in him will I trust.

    Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler,
And from the noisome pestilence.

    He shall cover thee with his feathers,
And under his iwings shalt thou trust:
His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

    Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night;
Nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

    Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness;
Nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

    A thousand shall fall at thy side,
And ten thousand at thy right hand;
But it shall not come nigh thee.

    Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold
And see the reward of the wicked.

    Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge,
Even the most High, thy habitation;

10    There shall no evil befall thee,
Neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

11    For he shall give his angels charge over thee,
To keep thee in all thy ways.

12    They shall bear thee up in their hands,
Lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

13    Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder:
The young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

14    Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him:
I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

15    He shall call upon me, and I will answer him:
I will be with him in trouble;

I will deliver him, and ghonour him.
16    With long life will I satisfy him,
And shew him my salvation.[1]


[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Ps 91.

Thursday Meditation: Psalm 145

“Aller Augen warten auf Dich” (1866) by Adrian Ludwig Richter (1803-1884), from “Eine Auslese aus den Werken des Meisters, Herausgegeben vom Leipziger Lehrer-Verein,” (Verlag von Alphons Dürr, Leipzig 1905).

I was out walking in our local park the other day and had taken along my pocket New Testament and Psalms to read if I found any idyllic spots along the trail. It was cold and muddy, so that was out of the question, but I opened up the psalm section randomly on my walk and found Psalm 145 again. It has been on my mind since, and so I offer it as a meditation for this Thursday morning.

I am using the King James Version because it is now in the public domain, and it’s more poetic than some other translations.











Psalm 145
David’s Psalm of praise.

    I will extol thee, my God, O king;
And I will bless thy name for ever and ever.

    Every day will I bless thee;
And I will praise thy name for ever and ever.

    Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
And his greatness is unsearchable.

    One generation shall praise thy works to another,
And shall declare thy mighty acts.

    I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty,
And of thy wondrous works.

    And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts:
And I will declare thy greatness.

    They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness,
And shall sing of thy righteousness.

    The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion;
Slow to anger, and of great mercy.

    The Lord is good to all:
And his tender mercies are over all his works.

10    All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord;
And thy saints shall bless thee.

11    They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom,
And talk of thy power;

12    To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts,
And the glorious majesty of his kingdom.

13    Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.

14    The Lord upholdeth all that fall,
And raiseth up all those that be tbowed down.

15    The eyes of all wait upon thee;
And thou givest them their meat in due season.

16    Thou openest thine hand,
And satisfiest the desire of every living thing.

17    The Lord is righteous in all his ways,
And zholy in all his works.

18    The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him,
To all that call upon him in truth.

19    He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him:
He also will hear their cry, and will save them.

20    The Lord preserveth all them that love him:
But all the wicked will he destroy.

21    My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord:
And let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.[1]


[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Ps 145.