Times Of Refreshment–June Prairie Preacher Article

Ecc. 2  24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?  (ESV)

Summer’s almost here, but this Spring’s weather hasn’t always given us the chance to appreciate that fact.  Even as I write this article for the Preacher, it is Preschool Picnic Day, 49 degrees, and a steady rain outside.  The fun of today will have to be “indoor fun.”

I do trust, nevertheless, that summer will come.  The beauty of the summer months is that our schedules usually relax a little and we have a chance to recharge before another school cycle hits us.  Summer is a wonderful time of the year for the “times of refreshing” that go with it.  It is a time to enjoy time with each other outside, in the Vitamin D-filled sunshine, and to let our cares go for a while.

Sometimes, in our productivity driven age, I think that we completely devalue the business of refreshment and rest.  The body needs these things and our Lord is all about meeting our needs.  The “busy, busy, busy”-nature of our world today often gives the suggestion to people that it is a sin to rest.  One of my grandfathers was a dairy farmer.  He died two years after he sold his farm.  Ever since, I have struggled with whether he died of a broken heart from selling the farm or he died from simply having worked himself to the end and then falling tired into his grave.  I see this problem among my brother pastors as well, who often bear the physical, psychological, and spiritual scars of too many consecutive 60+ hour weeks.

There is nothing better…  The Teacher of Ecclesiastes puts the value of refreshment, rest, and work in these terms.  There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.  While the Bible does not promote the “eat, drink, and be merry” philosophy of the ancient Greek Epicureans, it does encourage us to enjoy life, our work and our rest.  It tells us that there is nothing better than enjoying our labor, our food, our drink.  It’s good for the body.  It’s good for the mind.  It’s good for the soul.

Why are eating, drinking, and labor so good?  This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?  I’ve always wanted to tell someone who looked really overworked and stressed, “God wants you to have a vacation!”  While many might think such a suggestion to be presumptive, the Teacher of Ecclesiastes doesn’t seem to think so.  Times of rest and refreshment are every bit as important (and God willed) as our labor is.  Indeed, when I come to think of it, they are necessary from a vocational perspective.  Time away from productivity for our families, friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ is necessary and faithful.

He who died and rose again once said, Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28).  The rest of which He speaks is the rest of an unburdened conscience and heart set free by the Good News of the forgiveness of sins.  What’s good for the soul, however, is also good for the body.  Times of rest and refreshment are part of God’s will for us.  They demonstrate, along with the grace which saves us, that God’s will is always for our good, not for our harm.  Our labors every day are not for our harm, but for our satisfaction and wellbeing.  Our rest and refreshment also are not for our harm, but our good.  And they reveal that our God is a good, loving, and gracious God.

God wants you to have a vacation!  He wants you to have times of rest and refreshment.  I pray you hear those words and enjoy yourselves this summer.  The time is coming when we will rest forever in His everlasting arms, but this does not mean we can’t have a little joy now as well.  God grant you rest and refreshment this summer.  See you in church!

Sincerely in Christ, Pastor T.

Preach YOU The Word–SWD Spring 2011 Pastors Conference Homily

I had a lot of requests for the manuscript for my homily for Wednesday morning’s devotion at the Pastors Conference this week.  A link to the audio of the sermon is below, along with the manscript.


In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN.

Dear brothers in the ministry and those gathered here at this conference who love them,

I struggle.  (pause)

Yes, brothers, I struggle.  I struggle because I see what Peter is doing.  I get it.  I understand.  Peter is “preaching you the Word” and what’s more is that he’s “planting it home.”  He’s pushing the seeds of Law and Gospel deep into the soil of the hearts of those listening…and he’s punctuating it with the homiletical 2nd person plural.  You.  Or if Peter was from down south, Y’all.

But make no mistake about it, he’s preaching you the Word and he’s not letting you off the hook.

And this is why I struggle.  He’s not letting me off the hook either.  This One whom God has made both Lord and Christ, He’s the One YOU crucified.

I struggle to do the same thing, week in and week out.  To preach to all the yous out there.  But the inclination is to soften the blow.  We crucified Him.  Somehow, the mutualizing of the Law, we reckon, sounds better to the ears of those in the pew.  After all, who are we to punctuate our sermons with yous?  Aren’t we pastors sinners too?  Isn’t it equally true that we all are guilty of the Son of God’s blood?

It’s almost as if the prophet Nathan had said to David:  “We are the men!”  Surely Nathan’s eyes had wandered.  Surely he had sinned.  But that wasn’t the point.  Nathan was God’s man at that point and it wasn’t Nathan’s sins that were the main concern.  Nathan’s 2nd person singular You was absolutely necessary.  David had sinned and this dilly of a sin had called into question his own faith in the promise of a Messiah.  Does the forebear of the Messiah behave like this?  YOU, Nathan proclaimed at the risk of his own life.  No mutualizing, no sympathizing, no reducing.  YOU are the man.  The one who sinned.  The one who besmirched the family name of the Son of God Himself.

And so I struggle.  Because I am tasked today to preach this Law to you.

Twice Peter told the crowd, “YOU crucified the Son of God.”  What’s funny is that our text ends with 3000 people being baptized!  In Waukesha county we have a growing number of non-denominational mega churches which I am quite sure are not preaching the way Peter preaches.  They pull in big numbers, but with not quite the same message.  And this is why I struggle.  I don’t think they are preaching the accusing YOU to all the Yous in the pews.  By all rights, I have no reason to think that if I preach like Peter I will have such success.  I’m still looking for the sermon which leads me to baptize 3000.  And surely I must be crazy to think I’m going to get it by preaching that all those yous had crucified Christ.

Brothers, you hold this same office.  Christ has called you, sinners that you are, to broadcast His message, to publish the fact that all the yous to whom you preach are guilty, guilty of crucifying Christ.

The irony here is that you are just as guilty.  You are guilty, brother.  You are guilty, John.  You are guilty, Matt.  You are guilty, Dan.  You crucified Him.  Your sins nailed Him to His tree.

Whatever shall we do?  What have we done?  How can we go on?  Should we struggle through and just preach it anyway, not paying attention to the tremendous credibility problem we have?  Should we just live with the feeling at the bottom of our stomachs that we are hypocrites, preaching the damning YOU, knowing full well that we are guilty too?

No.  YOU hold this same office and it should not be limited by YOU at all.  Indeed, the accusing YOU may be true, but the forgiving YOU is also true.  The promise is for YOU and your children.  Did you hear that?  It is for YOU.  It’s a gift for y’all, because it’s marked off as FOR YOU.

We may fear the damning, accusing YOU.  We may fail to hold this office firmly and preach it.  But ask yourself, which sounds better to you?  Christ forgives us?  Or Christ forgives you?  And which do you think makes a better impression on the YOUs of your congregations?  The Law which accuses YOU makes the Gospel which saves YOU so much sweeter.  Don’t confuse the 1st and 2nd persons.  This isn’t about US or WE.  It’s about YOU AND Y’ALL.  The Gospel never sounded sweeter than when it’s preached to YOU, or shall I say, FOR YOU precisely because the Law was preached TO YOU.  Indeed, AT YOU.

Brothers, you are guilty.  Yet for the sake of Him who died, who received God’s accusing YOU, you are declared not guilty.  God’s accusing YOU was spoken to Him and the blood required to repay was shed.  That blood is FOR YOU.  Though your sins be as scarlet, they are white as snow.  Christ’s Baptism is FOR YOU.  His Body and Blood are FOR YOU.  God’s promise to save is FOR YOU, the same YOUs who crucified Him in YOUR sins.  Brothers, repent and be saved, all of YOU.  In repentance, YOU are made clean again by Christ.  Repentance is all about YOU, YOU accused by God’s righteous Law; YOU saved by God’s amazing grace for sinners.

Peter might have looked on his life to that point, all the gaffes, the denials, the contradictions, and he never would have gotten to the YOUs of the Christian message.  This message is all about YOU, condemned by the Law, and YOU, saved by the sweet, sweet Gospel.

Brothers, YOU hold this office, this shepherding, guiding office.  And I would submit that you have not really preached to the sheep until you have preached to the YOUS.  J

Brothers, the promise is for you and your children and all the YOUs to whom you preach.  God strengthen you to preach to the YOUs as ones set free by the Gospel for YOU.  AMEN.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN.