Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (text from The Bible in 90 Days) 9/13/2009

A New Beginning -- Let's Get It Started!

Lessons:     Isaiah 50:4-9a     Psalm 116:1-9 (9)     James 3:1-12     St. Mark 8:27-38     Semicontinuous Series         Proverbs 1:20-33         Psalm 19 (7) or Wisdom 7:26 – 8:1 (7:28)     Prayer of the Day     O God, through suffering and rejection you bring forth our salvation, and by the glory of the cross you transform our lives. Grant that for the sake of the gospel we may turn from the lure of evil, take up our cross, and follow your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

This week's reading from "The Bible in 90 Days"

1:1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. 6 And God said, "Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." 7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. 9 And God said, "Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it." And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. 14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth." And it was so. 16 God made the two great lights-the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night-and the stars. 17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

Genesis 1:1-19 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Martin Luther and his 16th Century colleagues had a robust belief in the power of God's word. As they worked to reform the church, they made changes that would affect the course of Christianity for thousands of years. Yet they never attributed these changes to their own efforts. They believed that it all occurred because of the power of God's word.

During a sermon on March 10, 1522 in Wittenberg, Luther famously made this statement (one of my favorite quotes from him):

In short, I will preach it, teach it, write it, but I will constrain no man by force, for faith must come freely without compulsion. Take myself as an example. I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philips and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.



Luther, M. (1999, c1959). Vol. 51: Luther's works, vol. 51 : Sermons I (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. page 77.

Luther was committed to reform the church he loved so dearly. But he knew that reformation would never come because of what he did. The only hope for reforming the church, in Luther's mind, was to turn the people back to a focus on and an appreciation for the Word of God.

This belief is rooted, in part, in the lesson that we are studying this week. The opening verses of the Bible are some of the most powerful and poetic words in all of the Scriptures. It describes six days of God's creating activity. Every day follows the same pattern. During the day, God creates some aspect of the cosmos. At the end of the day, the same benediction is pronounced: "And there was evening, and there was morning -- another day." Yet it is the beginning of the day that catches our attention. Each day begins with the same three words: "And God said." Each day God speaks something new into being. Each day the power of God's word is on display, and we discover that it is able to create ex nihilo (out of nothing).

The Bible makes great testament to the power of God's word. In Genesis, it is God's word that causes creation to come about. The Psalmist proclaims, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105). Speaking on behalf of God, Isaiah says, "So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11). St. John understood Jesus to be the word of God, enfleshed as a human being (St. John 1:1-14).

There is indeed great power in God's word. Sadly, many people who call themselves Lutherans today have lost track of this important truth. Surveys show that many among us own numerous Bibles, but few of them ever get much use. That is why Saint Peter has established a commitment to the discipleship habit of reading the Scriptures on a daily basis. And that is why Saint Peter's Discipleship Team has invited us to read through the Bible, cover-to-cover, between September 13 and December 12 this year.

I am filled with hope and excitement about this project. Using the program, The Bible in 90 Days, nearly 75 of us have committed to reading 12 pages of the Bible each day, and meeting once a week to reflect on our experience and encourage one another. (There's still room for you -- give the church office a call if you are interested...) I understand that this will help a few of us check off one of those items on our bucket list. But I also believe that it will have a significant spiritual impact on those who are reading, and on the life of our congregation. 

I don't exactly know what to expect in the coming weeks, but I do expect that the power of God's word is going to make something happen here at Saint Peter. I trust that as we immerse ourselves in God's word, that word will "accomplish that which God purposes, and succeed in the thing for which God sent it." I hope you will join us, if not by using this program, at least by spending time with God's word each day. It has the power to transform our lives, and I pray that you will come to know that power.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Text:

  1. What central truths do we learn about God in the first chapter of Genesis?
  2. What does God's approval of creation ("And God saw that it was good.") say about this material world in which we live?
  3. What other examples of the power of God's word in the Bible come to mind?

Connecting with This Week’s Text:

  1. When has God's word made a difference in my life?
  2. What prevents me from spending time with God's word every day?
  3. How can I overcome those obstacles, and dedicate myself to being more diligent about studying and reflecting on God's word?

 Scheduled Readings for "The Bible in 90 Days" 9/13/2009 - 12/12/2009

Date Begin Reading At Sermon Based On
9/13 Genesis 1:1 Genesis 1:1-19
9/20 Leviticus 1:1 Exodus  16:2-15
9/27 Deuteronomy 23:12 Deuteronomy 6:1-9
10/4 1 Samuel 28:20 Joshua 24:1-3, 14-18
10/11 1 Chronicles 1:1 1 Kings 3:5-12
10/18 Nehemiah 13:15 Nehemiah 1:4-11a
10/25 Psalm 89:14 Job 38:1-11
11/1 Isaiah 14:1 Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
11/8 Jeremiah 33:23 Isaiah 25:6-9
11/15 Daniel 9:1 Ezekiel 2:1-5
11/22 Matthew 26:57 Micah 6:1-8
11/29 Acts 6:8 John 20:19-31
12/6 Hebrews 1:1 Romans 5:1-11