Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Finding Jesus in Genesis

I am going to begin posting a Bible Study I developed called "Finding Jesus In..." It walks through each Old Testament book looking for Christ. Feel free to use it! Let me know if you do.

Finding Jesus in Genesis

The First Gospel—Genesis 3: 15

A Substitute Sacrifice and a Promised Seed—Genesis 22: 1—18

The Lion of Judah—Genesis 49: 8—12

Joseph Displays God-pleasing Grace—Genesis 50: 15—21

Who is the angel of the LORD? Genesis 16: 7;

See also Exodus 3: 2, 4; Judges 2: 1—5; 6: 11—24; 13: 22; Zechariah 3: 1—7; 12:8

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It's What You Show

This short article serves as our February preschool newsletter lead article.

My son and I were sitting at the kitchen table recently, when, without warning, he asked me, “Dad, how can Jesus be God’s Son?” That wasn’t a question I was expecting him to ask. I did my best to answer him in a way he could understand, and I will concede that my pastoral training did come in handy. Nevertheless, his question surprised me. I tried to communicate to him a thoughtful answer, and I hope he will take it to heart.
As a parent of a preschooler, I think you can probably relate to this. The questions that children come up with can often amaze us and catch us off guard. As parents, we have been called by God to guide our children through life, but there will be times when we simply don’t have all the answers. We need to convince ourselves that that is okay. In fact, I am sure that it is better for our children to hear Mom or Dad say an honest “I don’t know,” than to fumble around with a made-up, unconvincing story or a bogus explanation.
Like many other aspects of parenting, it’s about what you show more than what you know. If you show your child that you don’t know everything, but you know where to look for answers, that is a powerful lesson. If you show your child that learning the Bible and being part of a Christian fellowship is important, you will provide them with a strong foundation for life. Showing your child that learning is a lifelong attitude is one of those gifts that keeps on giving.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Many Thanks

A word of thanks to all who have been keeping my Dad in their prayers. A week ago Tuesday, Dad underwent successful knee replacement surgery at University Hospital in Cleveland. I am happy to report that he is doing very well--according to his physical therapist, he is about a week ahead of the curve on his recovery. It is great to see the progress he has made so far.

If you've ever had a loved one undergo a medical procedure, you know the mixed emotions that are involved. It is at such times that we are reminded of how little we have control over our lives--and how much we truly depend on the Lord for daily, basic gifts; indeed, for life itself. I am grateful that God saw fit to extend Dad's life--and now he has the potential for freedom from pain and increased mobility. These are great gifts. But even moreso I am grateful for parents who still show me what Christian faithfulness looks like. If you are reading this right now, I urge you to take a moment or two to reflect on someone whom God has used to touch your life, and thank Him.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

In Memoriam -- Rev. Erik Vincent

Exactly one Epiphany ago, a good friend, Rev. Erik Vincent, was called to heavenly rest in Christ Jesus. This was the funeral homily I had the privilege to deliver.

Grace and peace are yours in abundance in your knowledge of God and your Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Dear Friends,

Rarely do we think about the miracle of language, about words themselves. We just know how to talk and we do it. It’s a means to an end. Reading, writing and speaking are automatic, like driving a car.
But how we learn a language is still largely a mystery. Scholars have devoted entire careers to studying the way human beings acquire and use language, but at the end of the day, it is very hard to say how it happens, exactly.
So when we hear of people mastering not just one language, but two or more, there is something very interesting going on there. In some cases this happens out of necessity, in others, its simple curiosity. In the case of Erik Vincent, mastering multiple languages was, first of all, a matter of survival, coming to America as he did at age 18. But most importantly, it became a matter of proclamation. It became a matter of communicating the most important message there is to send or receive. It became for him a matter of clearly speaking the gospel of Jesus Christ, and in speaking those words, be they Finnish or English, in speaking those words extending the blessings of Jesus to those who listened.
Rarely do we think about words themselves, but one thing we do know—words have power. The wrong words, spoken at the wrong time, can create lasting damage. Conversely, the right words, spoken winsomely, can change the world, or just one human heart—especially if those words are God’s. This knowledge drives those who are charged with speaking God’s Word to learn God’s vocabulary, inside and out, so that saving communication can take place. And so Erik Vincent put himself through the seminary in order to get that vocabulary down pat, and God utilized his servant by enabling him and sending him to places where in two languages he would speak of one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all. Erik’s wife, Anja, shared with me that Erik cared about the Word so much that in cases where he would be called upon to minister at memorial services much like this one, and two services were required, one Finn and one English—he would, in fact compose two distinct messages—instead of just delivering one sermon two ways.
That love of the Word—God’s Word of grace in Jesus Christ—was evident in Erik’s preaching. You don’t become the voice of the Finnish Lutheran Hour if you don’t love words and the Word. It was also evident in his careful translations of Finnish hymns—keep in mind, when translating a hymn, you’re not just translating words and ideas, but you’ve usually got to make it rhyme, too. It’s an art. And his personal writings also reveal someone who had come to rely fully on the Word made flesh who lives with us. For example, listen to these words written by Erik Vincent the same year that he emigrated to the United States. [See attached poem, “Syntisen Aani”]
A work like that could only be written by someone in whom the Word of the Lord is alive and breathing. The Word that drops the hammer of the Law, convicting us as guilty sinners—beggars at best…the same Word that offers the healing salve of the gospel, the good news, “It is finished,” “he is risen,” “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” The Word that gives hope when all other words fail. That Word, which Erik was called upon to proclaim, was also his own Word to treasure, for it told him of the forgiveness of his own sins, and the life and salvation that His Savior had granted to him.
Did you know that the Word of God hugged Erik’s finger for many years? It’s true. On the inside of his wedding band was inscribed, “Ephesians 4: 32,” which reads: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” What words to carry into his marriage with Anja. This Word informed their life together as a family. And it is this same Word that sustained them through times of tragedy, the same Word who is the resurrection and the life; the One who comes to give the abundant life today.
And so, in his final days on earth, his health fragile and ever-changing, what do you think Erik was up to?
I vividly recall walking into the intensive care unit about a week before Erik went to be with Christ, and I found the doors to his unit were closed. Now the doors are transparent, so I could see and hear Erik saying something, rather loudly, and one of the nurses mentioned to me that he had been at this for some time. With a prayer, I opened the door and let myself inside. And there, in the ICU, Pastor Vincent was preaching.
And here was his text: “Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace, for thy Word has been fulfilled. For my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared in the sight of all people. A light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel.”
There, from the hospital bed, came the song of old Simeon, who had been informed by the Spirit of God that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ. There, in the ICU, was the joy and peace of one who had seen God’s salvation in the baby of Bethlehem and the Christ of Calvary. Simeon’s song became Erik’s song, “Lord, let thy servant depart in peace—your Word has been accomplished.” I just sat and listened and tried not to cry. He preached with a boldness that made me ashamed of my own shyness. He didn’t care if anyone heard him—he wanted them to hear—nurses, doctors, anyone within earshot. He had good news and he was going to proclaim it, shut the doors, open the doors, didn’t matter.
Now, a doctor would probably say that the part of Erik’s brain that controlled inhibition had ceased to function. That may be true medically speaking, but I don’t really buy it. Erik was just doing what he had always done: Communicating the good Word of a Savior. Oh, that we would lose our inhibitions and speak the Word of Christ Jesus without caring what people thought of us! To be stripped of our fears and join the good confession of St. Paul and say “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for those who are being saved.” No, Pastor Vincent was simply being faithful to his calling. His Savior used him to the end to bless others with words of grace and truth and love about Jesus, God’s own Son.
So in our remembrance of Erik John Vincent, husband, father, minister of the Word, let us take heart in the promises God made to him in his baptism and give thanks that faith in Jesus Christ was preserved in him to the very end. Let us take heart in knowing that he is among the “company of heaven” praising God and singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might!” Let us take heart in knowing that for him and for all who place their trust in Jesus alone, these wonderful words are fulfilled, words brought into English by Erik himself:

In the yonder realms of gladness,
In the city of our God,
There’s no sorrow, neither sadness,
Joyfully our hearts will throb.
Take us, Jesus, Savior blest,
To that peaceful land of rest.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Matzke on Media Has Been Launched

I invite you to check out my latest web venture, "Matzke on Media." On this new site I will be reviewing movies, books, albums, TV shows, etc., with an emphasis on how that particular work echoes--or proclaims--the gospel. Please visit and POST A COMMENT! SEND A LINK! Give me your take on what I've reviewed--or suggest something for me to review.

Click the link or go right to: www.matzkeonmedia.blogspot.com

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Check Out This New Link

I've added a new site to my links called "kids-in-mind". It analyzes the content of movies so that you can make an informed decision about seeing them--with or without your kids.