Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Online Content Director for Higher Things, a contributing writer at 1517 Legacy Project, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. Pastor Riley co-hosts the podcast: 'The Higher Things Simul Cast'. He is pastor of Saint John Lutheran Church in Webster, MN. A graduate of Concordia Universities in St. Paul, Minnesota and Portland, Oregon, Pastor Riley received his seminary and post-graduate education at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He colloquized into the LC-MS from the ELCA in 2008. He is married to Annie, and is the father of four children: Owen, Alma, Hoshea, and Hallel.
If I’m going to join your church, there’s some things I’ll need to know first. I need to know whether you practice a Christianity that’s primarily a to-do list. Do you emphasize the Christian and his performance? After all, if I don’t do the right thing and avoid the wrong things how will I know what God thinks of me?
God has gifted pastors with a terrible privilege. We’re invited to go inside peoples’ pain. A stranger stands emotionally naked in front of us begging, “I can’t get what he did out of my head. Please, help me!” Pastors call pastors to express feelings of guilt and judgment.
Blood is the thing. In the Scriptures, sin must be covered or "atoned for" as it's called, by blood. You see, God hates sin. But God also wants to enjoy a faithful, loving, and kind relation with his people whom he loves. The trouble is, his people prefer to turn to things that are not God rather than God.
When the apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian church, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?", he's not imagining some new way of worship. He's drawing a direct line from Israel's history to the present tense.
God's Word, water, and the Spirit. Always when God creates and recreates, God's Word, water, and the Spirit are in play. Whether at the beginning of it all, or in the days of Noah, in the wilderness during the Exodus, or at Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River, and at the font today
Baptism isn't a new teaching. The past three to four hundred years have seen an increase in churchly debates about Baptism, but it isn't a new teaching. It wasn’t in Jesus' day, either. In fact, neither Jesus nor John the Baptist introduced baptism. It goes much further back.
It's hard wired into our brain. We can't help ourselves. When we imagine God's character, discuss our beliefs, and chew on the big picture questions about life, the universe, and everything else, we tend to picture God as a radiant, white-bearded Santa Claus who lives at the edge of the Milky Way.
God's grace and mercy in Jesus Christ calls all sinners to a celebration. A "those who sat in darkness have seen a great light" kind of celebration. A "come to Bethlehem and see the new-born Savior" revelry. Like two divine sheepdogs, God's grace and mercy hound every person in the world to join the festivities.
Often, when we talk about the Old Testament, we talk about God's promises and work for his chosen people, Israel. We talk about God's redeeming promise to Adam and Eve. God calls Abraham out of the Haran into Canaan. God sends Moses to Pharaoh with a message of liberation.