Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

Sermons, Devotions, and News from Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iola, WI

Tag Archives: anointing

Feasting with God #22 – A Table in the Presence of My Enemies

Feasting with God #22

A Table in the Presence of My Enemies

Text: Psalm 23:5-6

5You prepare a table before me
     in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
     my cup overflows.
6
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
     all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
     forever.

This psalm is in our culture today among the most beloved, because of the great comfort it gives.  It begins with the personal care and comfort we claim from God, stating, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (23:1).  The very sick or the dying have found comfort in the passage, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (23:4).  God is present to the one who speaks this psalm, very close and providing comfort and care and guidance, and it moves us to let go of any reliance on ourselves and to yield to God’s caring arms, like a tired child in the arms of his parent.

The verses cited above are no different from the rest of the psalm; they speak of the same great comfort, but there’s something new: our comfort comes “in the presence of my enemies.”  It seems as though we mean to gloat: that we’re showing off to our enemies, proving the riches we have and letting them starve or eat dirt.  If we take that picture too far, it seems like we’re turning ourselves into the rich man who denied help to poor Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).

This devotional series is called Feasting with God for a reason.  We are moved by these passages of Scripture to see the great blessings God provides for us, often spoken of metaphorically as a great banquet or feast.  God feeds his people, so that we never go hungry.  And the blessings of this food are explained in the passage above: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  The blessings that God feeds us with are goodness and mercy in this life, and dwelling in God’s house in eternal life.  We have two sorts of blessings: blessings now, and blessings hereafter.  These blessings are so great, and move us to such wonderful appreciation and thanksgiving to God, that we want to show them off, we want to share them.

Perhaps this means we share them with our friends, showing them what great blessings we have, as Peter writes encourages Christians to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15).  Notice, they are the ones asking us.  So they have to see the evidence of our hope.  We hope in the blessings which we receive now, and which we will receive hereafter.  That ought to be visible.

But the text speaks specifically of enemies.  Christians have plenty of enemies.  The whole world is full of sin, and sometimes it is our own sin which is our enemy.  Sometimes it is the author of evil, the devil himself, seeking to tear us down.  Sometimes it is other people, who see the things we teach and believe that we are close-minded, old-fashioned, bigoted.  We can have courage in the face of all these troubles, however, because God provides a table of blessings before us, even before them.  Even when these enemies are gnashing their teeth at us the worst, we have God’s blessings.  And sometimes that means that those enemies will see our blessings as well.  Sometimes those enemies will notice that our spirit is not broken despite their best efforts.  Perhaps that will make those enemies lose heart, or perhaps it will cause those enemies to become jealous of our hope and blessings, and perhaps they’ll want to have some of those same blessings.

It’s always a good thing for our blessings to show.  No, these blessings aren’t physical things—perhaps we’re blessed with a good job, a happy family, a nice house, fine toys and things—the real blessings that we show, though, are the spiritual blessings we have received: faith in the one true God, in his Son Jesus Christ who died to win us eternal life.  Let the joy of that show on our faces.  Trust the Holy Spirit to keep us safe and secure in that faith.  And notice, it’s not up to us to try really hard to show it off.  It’s God who prepares this table before us.  Our faith rests fully and securely in him.

Dear Lord, our Good Shepherd, guide us as you have promised in green pastures and beside still waters.  Restore our souls and lead us in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake.  When we face death or deep darkness, help us to fear no evil, knowing that you are with us, comforting us with your Word.  Prepare before us a table of sweet blessings that all our enemies may see.  Confirm your election of us by keeping us in faith, making us sure of the goodness and mercy that follow us in this life, and of the hope of our eternal life, dwelling in your house forever.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #12 – To Prepare Me for Burial

Feasting with God #12

To Prepare Me for Burial

Text: Matthew 26:6-13

6Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7a woman came up with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.  8And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste?  9For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”  10But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman?  For she has done a beautiful thing to me.  11For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.  12In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.  13Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

What gifts do you have that you can give to Jesus?  He has taken all your sins on his head, and accepted the punishment that should have been yours.  What can you do to repay him?

The text above finds Jesus in the home of Simon the leper, one of the many Jesus had healed while on earth.  Simon, out of thanks for what Jesus had done for him, was providing his Lord a meal.  And as the disciples were all there eating, this woman came in with very expensive ointment and poured it on Jesus’ head.  The disciples thought this was a waste.

It would indeed be a fine and loving thing to have sold that perfume and given the money to the poor, but what this woman did was a far greater thing.  She knew of Jesus, and knew what he would do for her.  She had faith in him, and her faith is what drove her to pour this oil on Jesus’ head.  This woman, like all the rest of us, was saved by Jesus, was granted forgiveness for all her sins, and therefore was rescued from hell.  What gift could she give that was worth all that?  This simple act was the greatest thing she could have done, as Jesus said, “In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.”

When a person died, he was prepared for burial by having some sort of perfume poured over his body.  This was done mostly to mask the stink of death.  And as we see later in the Gospel, after Jesus had died several women “went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared” (Luke 24:1).  They were going to pour these spices and perfumes over Jesus’ body, as the tradition demanded.  So this woman in our text today was planning for the same thing.  Pouring the oil on Jesus’ body, she was pointing ahead to his burial.

So really, the act of this woman was an illustration proclaiming the Gospel message.  By pouring the perfume over Jesus, she demonstrated his death.  He would die, and he would be buried.  Jesus defends her against the disciples’ disapproval, because her action points to the action he would take in saving the world.  In a sense, she served as a sermon illustration for Jesus.

Do we have anything we could give Jesus that is worth the great gift he gave us?  No.  But Jesus doesn’t ask us to give him anything.  We have that gift from him, our forgiveness, free of charge.  But because this gift is so massive, we can show our thanks for it in any way we are able.  Out of faith, we can give thanks by how we live our Christian lives.  That may mean giving aid to the poor, but more than this, it may mean pointing to the death of Christ: telling others about the Gospel message.  We can say the words of the Gospel: “Jesus Christ died for you”; and we can live as a sermon illustration, showing through our lives what that Gospel means for us.

Dear Lord Jesus, we can’t thank you enough for the great gift you have given us, winning forgiveness from sins, eternal life, and salvation.  We receive this gift in faith, and we live our lives now devoted to you.  Use our lives to spread the message of the Gospel, to extend your kingdom, and to bring more to forgiveness and faith.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.