A Lamp to My Feet

Mark Twain once said, "Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I DO understand."

Sam's wife was worried about her husband playing ball on Sunday. She searched through the Bible for direction but could find nothing. Finally she went to her pastor. "Is it a sin for Sam to play ball on Sunday," she asked. Her minister said, "It's not a sin, but he way he plays, it's a crime."

A preacher who suffered extreme strained relations with his congregation was finally transferred by the Bishop and appointed chaplain at the state prison. Elated to be rid of the pastor so easily, the people came in great numbers to hear this farewell sermon. The preacher chose as his text, John 14:3, "I go and prepare a place for you…that where I am, there ye may be also."

Today is Bible Sunday. And so my sermon will focus on not just Scripture passages from the Bible, but the Bible itself.

We are collecting old and new Bibles to be sent to Christian Resources International who will then repair any damaged Bibles and send them on to places they are needed.

The Bible should be important to Lutherans as Martin Luther was so convinced that people should be able to read it for themselves that he translated the Bible into German, the language of his people. He felt it was important for everyone to be able to read Scripture for themselves, and not just hear it on Sunday at worship, when they attended.

In the adult Sunday School class Art was asked to list the Ten Commandments in any order. Art answered, "Five, two, eight, ten, seven, six, three, one, nine, four."

Is the Bible important to you? I think not so important for many of you because so few of you attend Bible study; so few of you attend Sunday School. Our Bishop, Bishop Knoche, says that as he travels around the Delaware-Maryland Synod one thing has profoundly struck him, and that is that Lutherans are biblically illiterate. We are sorely lacking in our knowledge and understanding of Scripture.

Two church attenders had just come from church and a sermon on Sodom and Gomorrah from Genesis. John said, "You know, Pete, I always thought Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife." Pete replied, "I can believe you, because I thought the Epistles were the Apostles' wives."

We in this country are so quick to celebrate our freedom and proclaim how important it is to us, however, we don't celebrate freedom of religion and worship; we are much more loyal to the flag than we are to the Bible. We make claims on the Bible to support our patriotism or our political or personal views and opinions, but very often those claims do not hold up as authentic and true to what the Bible actually says. And we use the Bible to judge others rather than to let God do the judging and we do what God commands us to do, to love one another-not judge one another.

Many people in their judging use Scripture passages that they don't really understand and have misinterpreted, or have just listened to how someone else interprets it, and if that fits in with what they believe, then they adhere to that interpretation as the truth.

We need to care that someone might try to mislead us! We need to care that someone is trying to lead us by a nose ring and we don't even know it! We need to care that someone is pulling us along by our ear? I know some folks don't care because I hear what many of you say or claim is biblical and it is NOT biblical.

Not only that, but so many folks put words into Jesus' mouth that he never spoke; attribute ideas to him that he never had. And even worse, the ideas and teachings he gave to us, we toss aside if it doesn't suit our ideas or philosophy or belief or tradition, or if it's just too hard, too much of a bother to follow. No matter how righteous you think you are, there isn't ONE of us here that can't learn more from the Bible; not one of us that can't deepen our understanding; not one of us that does justice to the teachings of Jesus in the way we live our lives.

No matter how 'good' we think we are in comparison to others, especially people we judge or speak unfavorably about or look down on (even though we wouldn't admit we do), remember that Christ didn't come to save the folks who thought they were good, righteous. Jesus came to save the sinner, the one who recognized he or she was in need of God's forgiveness and God's grace and God's mercy.

Starting today, make a pledge to yourself to attend Wednesday night Bible study. When I first came here I taught a course on Bible Basics. That class was well attended and I intended to teach it again (and still do) but with all the other meetings there isn't any way to find even 3 weeks in a row for the same night to teach such a course. Hopefully boards will consider the proposal that all boards meet on the same night once a month. What a blessing that would be. Only one night of Board meetings!!!

Right now we just have Wednesday night Bible Study. For those who can't make Wednesday nights, I offered to teach it at noontime. To bring a bag lunch at 11:30 and then from noon to 1pm we'd have the class. That's still an option, but I'm not going to take time from other pastoral duties if we don't have at least 15 who will commit to coming every week for the first 3 weeks of each month. The sheet is on the table in the narthex (hallway) to sign up for that. This Wednesday, because I was on vacation earlier this month, we are holding another Wednesday night Bible Study, as last week. Then the first and third weeks of November. If enough sign up for noontime, I'll start that the first Wednesday of November.

To conclude this sermon, I want you to turn to Psalm 119 in your LBW; that would be page 273 in the front of the LBW. I want us to read three sections together, and I'll briefly comment on each one of the sections. (See attached page for Psalm verses quoted in sermon) The first section begins with verse 9. Page 273 in the LBW, Psalm 119. We will read whole verse by whole verse. The men will read one verse, then the women will read one verse etc….

It ends with "I will not forget your word." How does it end this way? Because prior to that the Psalmist asks that God "instruct me in your statutes." And also says, "With my whole heart I seek you…" And also says, "I will meditate on your commandments and give attention to your ways."

How is this done Martin Luther would ask. By studying, not just reading, the Bible. And to be intentional about it; enthusiastic about it; joyful about it. That's the attitude we need to have. It's what I've been trying to convey to you

Now, on page 274, let's start with verse 33. This time we'll begin with the women reading one whole verse, and then the men etc….

Here are the essential words we need to pay attention to in that passage: I shall keep it to the end; give me understanding; with all my heart; for that is my desire; turn my eyes from watching what is worthless; I long for your commandments.

Can you hear the passion and determinedness, commitment and desire? And look at that telling sentence, "turn my eyes from watching what is worthless." We so easily slip into that. We would much rather look to what is worthless than to study the Word of God. If we study the Word, we might have to change our thinking. We might have to change some long held ideas that we thought were substantiated by the Bible.

Finally, turn to page 276, at the bottom, verse 105. We'll begin with the men this time, whole verse by whole verse, men then women….

Again, did you hear the key words and phrases? "I am determined"; "I do not forget your law"; "I have not strayed from your commandments"; "Your decrees are my inheritance…truly, they are the joy of my heart"; "I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes forever and to the end."

The Psalmist speaks what is in our hearts, but we let our selves get caught in the traps the devil sets for us that turn us from God's Word; that turn us from the joy we know is ours to have; that turn us from applying God's Word in our lives; that turn us from knowing what actually is God's Word and intent for our lives.

On this Bible Sunday, let us be determined; let us be attentive and not be caught in the devil's traps to turn our attention away from the Bible; let us not be caught up in worthless watching, worthless thinking, worthless action, worthless non-action and apathy. Let us be intentional, committed, enthusiastic, passionate, and joyful in our study of Scripture. And let's start that with a promise to God today.


Read more sermons by Pastor Brie