Category Archives: English

2 Peter 1:16 – The Last Sunday after Epiphany

publicspeakingforinfluencers.jpg“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” -2 Peter ‪1:16

I know that I’m a halfway decent public speaker. Definitely not the best, not even among my close friends and colleagues, but it usually goes alright. I’m probably not the worst either. With a little bit of effort, I can manage to be convincing, to show off the good sides of my topic and to leave the bad sides in the background – noted, but not emphasized.

If I would do that, we wouldn’t really have to speak of “cleverly devised myths,” not quite yet. But still, it is a pretty similar matter: By doing that, I could twist the message a little to make it more attractive, to make it impress you more, maybe so that my proclamation could have more success.

It’s surely possible to aim for more success than the Holy Spirit himself attains. And not even just possible – it’s a well-known thing that happens. The Apostle Peter doesn’t just explain here that he’s not doing it, but a few verses later he warns about how it already has happened and will keep happening. “False teachers” is what he calls the men who do that. So:

First of all: Peter didn’t make up that stuff about Jesus.

Not at all. Rather, the things he tells about back then are thing he remembers. He was there while Jesus preached and healed people, and he wasn’t far when he was crucified. He saw him with his own eyes after the resurrection. And here, he’s speaking of having been there for what we call Jesus’ “transfiguration,” when Moses and Elijah appeared on the mountain with Jesus and God declared that he was well-pleased. Peter got to see for a second how majestic this Jesus was, and afterward he didn’t want to be preaching about anyone else.

And second: There are people who corrupt Christian teaching.

This happens, for example, when you say that Jesus wasn’t God, or that he never resurrected, in other words, when people say that what Peter said was nonsense. But it also happens when people say all kinds of things about Jesus that Peter knew nothing about.

These days, people connect Jesus’ return to all sorts of things going on in the world: He’ll come back when we’ve done enough mission work; or he’ll come back when we’ve sufficiently purified our country or our church from sin; or he’ll come back when a particular political party has finished its time ruling…

Cleverly devised myths – every one of them. Not to be believe, but certainly exciting, because they give us a way to measure how long until Jesus returns, or they tell us what we’re supposed to do to hurry it along.

It works to draw people in, but it doesn’t bring Jesus any closer. That’s why Peter stuck to what he’d experienced. And so I try to to stick to what he proclaims in the bible. Maybe I could gather more people, but the cost would be too high. There’s only one message that leads to heaven.

 

Isaiah 51:9 – 4th Sunday after Epiphany

everlasting-arms.jpg“Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord!” -Isaiah 51:9

Let’s get to it! – in the new semester, the new job, the new home. Off we go! – you Christians, called to be God’s people, to proclaim the wonderful treasures of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Rise up, be on your way! – the very power of God rests in this message and its proclamation. Go! Proclaim!

It’s so easy for us to hear this message in the bible passage. We have precise knowledge about the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ, but when the bible speaks about it, it’s as though it’s not spoken to us, but rather entrusted to us.

In other words: we hear in the gospel not the voice of God that forgives our sins, but his call to action, to tell others. We need to learn another way. Otherwise risk turning our attempt to obey God into robbing him of his glory.

The rest of the Isaiah quote (and the verses that follow it, if you want to keep reading) makes clear what I mean: “Awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces, who pierced the dragon?”

We’re not the arm of the Lord at all. That doesn’t mean Israel. God himself is being called to get out of bed, to begin to work. Like Jesus sleeping during the storm on the sea and being awakened by the disciples, so also here: We call to God for help, not the other way around!

That’s the point – the voice of the gospel isn’t God’s cry for help, but a word of forgiveness and comfort. And God doesn’t comfort us so that we know how to comfort others. We’re a means to an end, an instrument that he uses to grow his kingdom. We’re the goal. He forgives, so that you have forgiveness. He comforts, so that you can be at peace, and secure, and safe. He speaks, so that you believe.

It’s so easy for us to turn this around. Maybe because we want to be actively involved; maybe because we need a cause to dedicate ourselves to; maybe because we think we need to show our gratitude; or maybe because we don’t really believe that God has everything in his hands.

But he does. And when it doesn’t seem that way, when our faith in God starts to shake, that’s not the time to take things into our own hands, but the time to call on him: “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord!”

 

Romans 1:11-12 – 3rd Sunday after Epiphany

scribe-at-work-ii“For I long to see you … that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” -Romans 1:11-12

Life in the church of Jesus Christ is different than it was in the first century. It’s so different, that I say with some confidence – and aware that some faithful Christians disagree with me on this – that we cannot expect to return to how it was back in the New Testament era, and that we shouldn’t even try.

When Paul writes Romans, the Christians in Rome receive a letter from their pastor. I doubt that you can remember the last time your church got a letter from the pastor. And that’s because he’s there. He lives there, he preaches to you every Sunday and, God-willing, uses his time during the week to get to know you, to live with you, so that when he preaches on Sunday, he knows what you need to hear.

Here’s the one big difference: Back then, the pastors moved from one congregation to the next – not all of them, but certainly the ones whose names we know well: Peter and Paul, for example. But today, our pastors more or less stay where they are, and the Christians move from one church to the next.

Like you’re doing right now, if you’re a South African student getting ready to leave home for the university. So on behalf of all those pastors in Pretoria, here’s that letter:

Dear Christian university student,

I don’t know you well, and perhaps I don’t know you at all, but I know something about the journey you’re about to begin. I know you’ll be without the comfort and familiarity of your home church, just as I know that you’ll not plan to stop calling it your home, but instead to go back there whenever you can. I also know you’re about to face a double challenge: not only that of an entirely new and genuinely exciting collection of opportunities, some of which will turn into commitments, but also of the probably new task of managing all the decisions that go along with those yourself.

There’s a lot to be said about this, also a lot to be done, and most of it you’ll have to do yourself. But I would like to be there to help you along, not to make the decisions for you, but to rejoice with you when you make good ones, and show you the cross of Christ when you don’t. I’m confident both situations will come up from time to time.

To paraphrase St. Paul writing to the Romans: I’m eager to welcome you here. I look forward to encouraging you and being encouraged by you. God will strengthen us both through it.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor

 

1 Kings 8:9 – 1st Sunday after Epiphany

LostArk.jpg“There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.” – 1 Kings 8:9

What’s in your ark?

It’s a funny question. I don’t have an ark at home. I mean – I do have a big box around. But an ark is a bit more than that. It’s a chest – not for storing anything, but for storing certain special things that deserve their own place.

Like if you had been given something important by God himself. That’s what Moses had in that ark.

The two tablets of stone – those were the original 10 commandments, given by God to Israel through Moses so that they would know how to live their lives in a way that was pleasing to him. That was something worth keeping in a special, holy place – in an ark.

So what’s in your ark?

What’s so important to you that you set it aside, take special care of it, have a particularly special place for it. Remember – we’re probably talking about something in your heart, not in your flat.

But there’s another way to ask: What’s the best gift God has given you? What do you cherish the most? No thinking – answer quick. Because what comes to mind – that might just be what’s in your ark. Your family? Your successes? Your comfortable life? Are these the things you think of when you think of God’s gifts to you?

Is that what’s in your ark?

Those things are God’s gifts to you. But there’s really only one thing that belongs in your ark. It’s the only thing that really makes you God’s child and God your heavenly father. Anything else can disappear, and nothing changes between you and God. But this one thing you can’t take away:

Jesus Christ should be in your ark. Or even more specifically: his death and resurrection – that’s what belongs in your ark. It’s not just the greatest gift ever given, and it’s not even just the fact that it really has been given to you. It’s the gift that you can rely on when everything else could fail you, and when you happen to be enjoying the other gifts, it’s the reason for that too.

Jesus Christ belongs in your ark, because he’s the one who made you into God’s child, who took away all of your sin and gave you a new life to live and a new heart to praise and trust in God.

Of course, as long as the old heart sticks around, you’ll always find yourself stuffing other things into the ark – things that are nice, things that are gifts from God, but things that don’t belong in your ark. The Christian thing to do is to go sniffing around there once in a while. Then take out what doesn’t belong. And then you should see more clearly than ever what remains: Jesus Christ, God’s greatest gift for you.

 

We’re off!

Hi and welcome to the Lutheran@UP website. If you’re reading this message, it’s because you’re one of the first visitors to the site. If you click around a bit, you’ll see what’s here and some of what’s coming, but I’d like to tell you myself as well.

Almost the only content on the site right now is a devotion posted May 28 on John 16:23. Feel free to give it a read. I’ll be posting one of these every Wednesday. The main purpose of this website is to support Lutheran campus ministry work at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, so the devotions are there to give the students a glimpse into God’s word for the strengthening of their faith mid-week-ish. That’s after all, what such things are for. I’ll be keeping them all about the same length as that one, and at that length, you can’t have to many tangents, so it should be easy to always tag them like I did this one: Devotion, English, Gospel of John, Prayer. These tags aren’t that useful with just one text posted, but once things begin to add up, these will help in sorting and finding past posts. [The site is a wordpress blog, so posts are what we’re working with here.]

I also plan to use the site to publish shorter texts that accompany bible studies I’ll be teaching once things get rolling here in Pretoria. So those should appear in between the devotions, though maybe not right away.

The link in the menu bar to “Arcadia Lutheran Ministries” is worth having a look at if you’re wondering if I’m not getting a little ahead of myself, just deciding to buzz down to South Africa (I’m an American) and do Lutheran ministry at UP. Those are the churches, etc. in Pretoria who have students at the University, without whom I most certainly would not be here.

I’ll spare you the list of parts of the website that are still under construction. A few things I hope to bring online soon are passworded under “new stuff.” So you can see the list, but not access them. In the meantime, read the posts, comment below them, and contact me directly! We’re off!

-Pastor Corzine

PS You may have noticed everything repeated in German. Or is English the copy? At any rate, a whole lot of our students speak German, so we’re doing double duty here on the website…

Here it is…

Hallo und herzlich Willkommen auf der Lutheran@UP-Webseite! Wer diese Nachricht liest gehört wahrscheinlich zu den allerersten Besuchern unserer Seite. Wenn Du ein bisschen rumklickst wirst Du sehen können, was so da ist und was wir noch so vorhaben, aber ein paar Sachen nennen ich Dir auch selber.

Fast der einzige Inhalt auf der Seite gerade ist eine Andacht vom 28. Mai zu Johannes 16,23. Schau da mal rein! Ich werde so was jeden Mittwoch hochladen. Der Hauptzweck der Webseite ist die Unterstützung lutherischer Studentenarbeit an der Uni Pretoria in Südafrika. So sind die Andachten gerade dazu da, um den Studenten unter der Woche einen Blick in Gottes Wort zu verleihen und so den Glauben zu stärken. Dazu hat man ja Andachten.. Sie werden alle in etwa diese Länge haben, was bedeutet, dass sie beim Thema bleiben müssen! So kann ich sie mit Stichworten versehen, wie bei dieser: Andacht, Deutsch, Johannesevangelium, Gebet. Diese “Tags” sind nicht so nützlich bei nur einem Text, aber wenn ich schon ein paar gepostet habe, wird es das Suchen und Sortieren leichter machen. [Die Seite ist im Grunde nichts als ein Blog – von daher geht’s immer um neue Posts oder Einträge.]

Ich habe auch noch vor, manchmal kürzere Texte zu posten zu Themen, auf die ich dann in Bibelstunden dann hier näher eingehen werde. Das muss aber erst noch losgehen. Die werden, jedenfalls, zwischen den Andachten erscheinen.

Oben in der Menüleiste ist vielleicht ganz interessant der Link “Arcadia Lutheran Ministries”. Falls Du Dich fragst, wie ich auf die Idee komme, mal nach Südafrika zu fliegen um hier Studentenarbeit zu machen, wird’s da deutlich, dass es nicht meine Idee war, sondern dass hier Kirchen sind, die das wollen und mich dazu berufen haben.

Manches wird noch gebaut. Das liste ich hier nicht auf. Aber unter “new stuff” kann man ein paar Sachen sehen, die noch kommen. Ohne Passwort kommt man nicht rein – ist aber nicht fertig! Bis dahin aber herzliche Einladung alles zu lesen und zu kommentieren, und auch herzliche Einladung, mich mal direkt zu kontaktieren. Wir starten jetzt!

-Pastor Corzine

Und ja: natürlich ist alles doppelsprachig. Also guck immer wenn Du englisch siehst aber lieber deutsch liest, ob nicht doch noch weiter unten eine Übersetzung (die ist manchmal auch die originale Fassung!) vorliegt.