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Thu, 29 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Luke 10:17-20
And He said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. (Luke 10:18)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Happy St. Michael's Day! Today we give thanks for angels, messengers of God. As you recall, the word "angel" means "messenger." Throughout the Bible, the Lord sent these messengers to speak to His people and announce things. In the Old Testament, we see these angels announcing the Lord's victory over the enemies of Israel. In the New Testament, they announce the birth of the Savior, they minister to Jesus after His temptation, and they declare His resurrection at the empty tomb. It is these heavenly beings who are the Lord's host, His army. They exist to serve us, protect us and work behind the scenes for our good.
When the seventy preachers ("angels," in fact, as they were "messengers") returned, they rejoiced that even the demons gave way when they arrived. Jesus says that He saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. What caused Satan's fall? The preaching of the Gospel: "The kingdom of God, the Savior is near!" The preaching of Jesus drives away Satan. The Good News of Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection is the Word which causes Satan and his army of darkness to run away.
How do the angels help and serve us? Consider the earthly angels--the "messengers" by which the Lord works: They baptize, they preach and teach and absolve. They administer the Supper of Jesus' Body and Blood. Angels are all about giving gifts. The Lord preserves our lives through the work of angels behind the scenes so that we can hear the Gospel and the Holy Spirit can keep us in the faith.
In short, angels (heavenly and earthly) serve Christ. Angels are not go-betweens. They are servants. As the Lord's dearly beloved children, angels exist to serve you and protect you and deliver Jesus to you. That's their job and so we give God thanks today for them! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
But watchful is the angel band That follows Christ on ev'ry hand To guard His people where they go And break the counsel of the foe. (Lord God, to Thee We Give All Praise, LSB 522:7)
Wed, 28 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
7. Who is Christ? The Son of God, true God and man. 8. How many Gods are there? Only one, but there are three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Small Catechism, Christian Questions 7-8)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. In a simple way, the Christian Questions remind us who our God is and who Christ is. With simple language, we are confessing what all of the Bible teaches: Jesus is true God and true man. God is one God in Three Persons and Three Persons in One God.
In our day and age there is much confusion about who the true God is. Many people take the "lunch buffet" approach to religion and collect a spirituality that's a mish-mash of little bits from all kinds of different religions until they've made up their own god in their heads.
But giving the right answer is more than just about "being right." It's about knowing why those answers matter. Jesus is true God and true man so that He will save us. As true God, His sacrifice is enough for the sins of the whole world. As true God, He can conquer death and sin. As true man, Jesus can suffer our suffering and die our death in order to redeem us. Jesus redeems what we are, that is, human beings.
Confessing God as triune teaches us that He is the Creator and we are the creatures. He is the Redeemer and we are the redeemed. He is the Sanctifier and we are the saints. It is this name into which you were baptized and by which we have life and protection from every evil. Also, this confession protects us from false and misleading views of God, such as that we are all gods ourselves or that God is the world and nature and so on.
The previous two Christian Questions directed our hope to Jesus Christ. These two Christian Questions give a strong confession that Jesus is our Lord and Savior and that the true God is the one revealed in the Bible. It is He alone who saves us and gives us every good thing. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Triune God, be Thou our stay; O let us perish never! Cleanse us from our sins we pray, And grant us life forever. Keep us from the evil one; Uphold our faith most holy. And let us trust Thee solely With humble hearts and lowly. Let us put God's armor on, With all true Christians running Our heav'nly race and shunning The devil's wiles and cunning. Amen, amen! This be done; So sing we, "Alleluia!" (Triune God, Be Thou Our Stay, LSB 505:1)
Tue, 27 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Deuteronomy 10:12-21
And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, (Deuteronomy 10:12)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Sounds easy enough, right? Just love and serve God with all your heart and soul. No problem. Until you can't. And don't. And won't. Try harder? How's that working for you? Do better next time? Did you? When we live by the Law, thinking we have it within ourselves to just crank up some love for God, sooner or later we'll realize we can't. We're simply not able.
Then why would God tell His people to do this if they can't? He does so to teach them they cannot--to teach them they need a Savior. The purpose of the Law isn't to make us better. It's not to improve our lives. It's to kill us. It's to bring us face to face with the stark reality that God demands we live a certain way and we don't. And for that, we should be doomed.
Except, as Jesus said in the Gospel this week, all the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments. And what are the Law and Prophets about? They point to Jesus. Get it? Jesus hangs on these two commandments. On the cross. In His suffering and death, He is taking the full weight of the Law of God which we cannot keep. In doing so, He keeps it and pays for your not keeping it. He fulfills it and suffers for your not doing it. He offers Himself in exchange for you, sinner: His righteousness for your sin. It is a blessed exchange.
For you, the Christian, born from above in Holy Baptism, forgiven, and filled with Jesus' Body and Blood, the Law takes on a new angle. It has become a gift--a blessed teaching of how we are to live, so we don't need to make up rules or figure out what we should be doing. We love God; we love our neighbor. Of course, as long as the Old Adam is around, the Law will accuse and condemn. But that condemnation no longer applies. It has been silenced by Jesus. The Law has no curse or sting for you any more. In Jesus, you DO love God above all things and your neighbor, too. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
To Jesus we for refuge flee, Who from the curse has set us free, And humbly worship at His throne, Saved by His grace through faith alone. (The Law of God Is Good and Wise, LSB 579:6)
Mon, 26 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Deuteronomy 10:12-21
HeÂ isÂ your praise, and HeÂ is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen. (Deuteronomy 10:21)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We don't love God because the Law demands it. It's the Law's demand that we love God that drives us as it drove Adam and Eve after the Fall to flee God and hide from Him, for through the Law comes knowledge of sin. The Law isn't given so that we sinners can try the best we can to do it, but rather to turn us toward God who alone can fulfill for us what the Law commands. We love God, not because the Law demands it, but because He first loved us, sending His Son as a propitiation for our sins.
Then St. Paul tells us, "Christ is the end of the law for all those who believe," because "Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses."
The Law doesn't point to itself, it points to Christ. The command to fear and love God doesn't point back to Sinai, it points to Calvary. Moses can't help us, only Jesus Christ can, because He is risen from the dead, and lives and reigns for all eternity.
True godly fear and love isn't proving to God you did your best, but taking God at His Word. He is our praise. He is our God--not money, possessions, personal gifts or interpersonal values. He does for us great and awesome things that our eyes see when His Gospel Word is preached to us, sprinkled on us, and fed to us for the forgiveness of sins, life, and eternal salvation. Released from the Law, we are bound to Christ. In this way, through faith, we fulfill all of the Law's commands in perfect obedience--no longer slaves to the law of sin, but children of our heavenly Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit, now and forever. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Faith clings to Jesus' cross alone And rests in Him unceasing; And by its fruits true faith is known, With love and hope increasing. For faith alone can justify; Works serve our neighbor and supply The proof that faith is living. (Salvation unto Us Has Come, LSB 555:9)
Sun, 25 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Matthew 22:34-46
"If David then calls Him 'Lord,' how is He his Son?" (Matthew 22:45)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Is the Savior the Son of David? Sure, because He's born from the line of David. Then how can David call Him Lord if He's a descendant? This is the mystery the Pharisees and religious leaders didn't get. They weren't paying attention. It's what the world doesn't get.
Put simply, Jesus is the "Son (descendant) of David" because is true man, born of Mary (who is of the line of David, as was Joseph, Jesus' guardian.) He is David's Lord because not only is He a man, He is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, eternally begotten of the Father. True God, true man. That's Jesus. That's the answer to His question.
But as long as the Pharisees refused to see Jesus as the fulfillment of the Scriptures, they would miss this point. Jesus as true God and true man can both love God the Father and love His neighbor. He can be a sacrifice for the sin of the world and be a sacrifice that counts for the whole world. He can die. He can rise. He can conquer sin and death.
The problem the Pharisees have, and that we face, is that we think we are pretty good at loving God and that we are surely good at loving others. But we're not. The Law of God exposes our sin and says we cannot do either. So we need a Savior. Not just a man like us. Not just God who is nothing like us. A God-man is our Savior. A man who can bleed and die. A God who shows His heart by dying for us.
We call this the mystery of the incarnation. How can God be a man? How can a man be God? In Jesus, both are true since He is true God and true man. He suffered and died, rose again and joins us to Him by water, Word and Supper. And in Him, you have fulfilled the Law and are sons of God. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
There dwells the Lord our king, The Lord our righteousness, Triumphant o'er the world and sin, The Prince of Peace. On Zion's sacred height His kingdom He maintains And glorious with His saints in light Forever reigns. (The God of Abraham Praise, LSB 798:7)
Sat, 24 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek your good. (Psalm 122:9 from the Introit for Trinity 18)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Why does the Lord seek your good? Because you have been in His house. The Church is where the Lord is so if you're there, too, the Lord seeks your good. After all, in His Church is where the Lord does His good things, gives His gifts, saves sinners and keeps us in the faith.
When we think of the "house of the Lord" the first thing we should think of is Christ. After all, He is the temple--the place where God dwells because He is true God in the flesh. Where Christ is, there you have God Himself. And where you have Christ's Word you have Christ. So in the Church, where Christ's Word and Sacraments are present, Christ is present and that means God is there.
The Bible teaches us that God works all things together for good. He does so because you are His child. You are in His Church. When you go to church tomorrow, remember that the Lord is pleased with you. He smiles down upon you--NOT because you dragged yourself out of bed and sacrificed your Sunday morning to be there. Rather, He is pleased with you because Jesus is there and in Christ, the Father says of you what He says of His only-begotten Son: "In you I am well pleased!"
To go to the Lord's house is to learn what the Lord has to say about you, what He promises, what His heart is toward you. The remembrance of baptism, the absolution, the Word read and preached and the Supper of Jesus' Body and Blood--all these gifts shout loud and clear that God seeks your good, forgives your sins, and calls you His child.
That's what goes on in the house of the Lord. So the Lord treats you in His house for that is where He Himself is. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Here stands the font before our eyes, Telling how God has received us. The altar recalls Christ's sacrifice And what His Supper here gives us. Here sound the Scriptures that proclaim Christ yesterday, today, the same, And evermore, our Redeemer. (Built on the Rock, LSB 645:4)
Fri, 23 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, And did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, And gave them water for their thirst. (Nehemiah 9:20)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The words above were prayed by the priests of Israel when they had come home to Jerusalem after being in exile in Babylon. Even though the Israelite history is one of constantly turning away from the Lord, when the Lord brought them back, it was always His Word that reminded them of the good things He had done.
We tend to wander in similar ways, drifting from the Word of God because of things we think are more important or more exciting or more interesting. Yet it is always by His Word that the Lord calls us back. Think back to all the good gifts the Lord has given you, just as you read above.
As a child (most likely) you were baptized and your sins were washed away. The pastor the Lord gave you spent time teaching you in Catechism. Now the Lord is satisfying you with the manna of Christ's Body and Blood. His Spirit is at work in you as you go to Bible study and hear the sermon preached and read and hear His Word. By that very Word, the Lord is always calling you back to Him and strengthening and confirming that faith in you.
As Christians, we stand in the faith of Nehemiah and the Old Testament saints. They, too, struggled as we do with their Old Adams. They, too, longed for things other than God's Word. And they, too, were brought back from sin through repentance to faith and trust in God's promises. They longed for and hoped for and looked for that Savior who was promised to come and they died in the faith that trusted that someday God would keep His promise.
And keep His promise He did when Jesus was born. When He suffered and died. When He rose. In Christ, God's promises came true and the same salvation that saved the Old Testament children of God is the same salvation that saves us. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer, Pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak, but Thou art mighty; Hold me with Thy pow'rful hand. Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more; Feed me till I want no more. (Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer, LSB 918:1)
Thu, 22 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
5. Do you hope to be saved? Yes, that is my hope. 6. In whom, then, do you trust? In my dear Lord Jesus Christ. (Small Catechism, Christian Questions 5-6.)
In the Name + of Jesus. The Christian questions don't mince words. We're sinners. We deserve death. So if we're going to be saved, in whom do we trust? Not in ourselves. In Jesus. Only Jesus has died for our sins and has taken them away. Only His baptism and absolution and preaching and Supper are our sure and certain answer that our sins are forgiven.
Now be careful. When we read the word "hope" in this question, there is a temptation to think of it as "I hope it's going to happen but I'm not sure." No, here the word "hope" means, "this is One I hope and trust in." In other words, our hope is never unsure or uncertain but rather SURE and CERTAIN. How can it not be when the One we hope and trust in is God Himself who became man for us, carried our sins for us, suffered for us, died for us and rose again for us?
Notice that these Christian Questions take a direct approach to our self-examination. We acknowledge that we're sinners. Yet like everything else in the Catechism, we move quickly to Jesus. Yes. We're sinners. It's true. But we don't stay dwelling on that fact forever. That would simply despair us to do so. Rather, the Christian Questions move us quickly to Jesus as the One who deals with our sins and our sinfulness and saves us.
And that is our Christian life. Yes, we acknowledge that we are sinners and that our sins deserve nothing but God's wrath. But we don't mess around with trying to get rid of them ourselves. That's Jesus' job as our Savior. And that's what He did, and so He's the One in whom we trust. For Christians, our life isn't in dwelling on our sinfulness but living in and from Christ's life and forgiveness. The Christian Questions remind us of that and so teach us that our life is lived from the altar, where Jesus gives us Himself for forgiveness, life and salvation. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus' blood and righteousness; No merit of my own I claim But wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ, the solid rock, I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. (My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less, LSB 575:1)
Wed, 21 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400Today's Reading: Matthew 9:9-13 Daily Lectionary: Nehemiah 5:1-16; 6:1-9,15-16; 1 Timothy 4:1-16 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house,Â thatÂ behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.Â And when the Pharisees sawÂ it,Â they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" When Jesus heardÂ that,Â He said to them,Â "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn whatÂ thisÂ means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.'Â For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Matthew 9:10-13) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Where the self-righteous love bread and its security, Jesus loved the Father. Where those who have no need of a physician pursue comfort, Jesus went to the cross. Where the Pharisees looked for profit, control, and gain, Jesus took loss. Where sinners gladly bow down to the devil for little more than a sampling of this world's riches and security, Jesus renounced this world's riches and worshipped God. Where we are faithless in little, He is faithful in much. Where we delight ourselves in power and wealth and fame, He delights in righteousness and faithfulness and love. What we praise and esteem as the great goals of life is despised by God. And what is praised and esteemed by God is despised by us. Jesus--crucified risen, and ruling at the Father's right hand--is highly esteemed in the sight of God yet despised and ridiculed in the sight of men. We sinners are justified before God, not by who we are or by what we do, but solely by trust in who Jesus is and what He has done. This, too, is despised by us and esteemed by God. In the end--and there is a coming end, when bread and its security fails, when the economy collapses under the weight of its own greed, when the idol of Mammon is finally exposed as the worthless fraud that it is, when we have lost everything including our own life--there is only Jesus who will not fail us, who will welcome us to His table, to an eternal feast that He prepared for us by trading His life for our lives. We are baptized into Him. His life is ours. His faithfulness is ours. His kingdom is ours. We literally have nothing to lose, even if we die as a tax collector. Having nothing to lose, being dead and brought to repentance by baptism to newness of life turns out to be the greatest freedom there is. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Man does not live by bread alone, But by every word That proceeds from the mouth of the Lord, Alleluia, alleluia! (Seek Ye First, LSB 712:3) This reflection is available as an mp3, click here to download and listen to it. [...]
Tue, 20 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Ephesians 4:1-6
...one Lord, one faith, one baptism; (Ephesians 4:5)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Water baptism. Baptism of the Holy Ghost. Some churches and preachers say there is more than one baptism. St. Paul could not be any clearer: There is ONE baptism. It is the baptism of water AND the Spirit, as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3. This wrong teaching comes really because there is a misunderstanding of how many Lords and faiths there are, too.
There is not the Lord who saves you and then the Lord who bosses you around. There is ONE Lord: Jesus. True God and true man. The Lord who is your Redeemer, that is, who paid for your sins by His suffering and death and rose again. He's not a Lord one way and then a different way. He's always one Lord. The same Lord. The saving and life-giving Lord.
Likewise, there is not the "beginner's" faith which at least trusts Jesus but has to move on to "mature" faith that really shows God what it can do! There is ONE faith: the faith of Jesus. The faith which confesses Him as the One who has saved us from our sins. The faith of the Christian Church since the days of the apostles. This one faith isn't one level for one Christian and something else for a different person. It's one faith because it's the same Jesus who lived, died and rose again.
And just so there is only ONE baptism. One Jesus who died and rose so one baptism into Him by which our Old Adam is drowned and the New Man is given birth from above. One baptism in which we are clothed with Christ and our sins are washed away. One baptism by which we are sealed by the Holy Spirit for everlasting life.
Trying to distinguish between beginner and more advanced Christians, or those who are spiritually more mature than others is what leads to slicing and dicing the Lord and His gifts into many pieces. But when it's all about Jesus, there can be only One. One Savior. One Lord. One faith. One baptism. One Jesus. Who is for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Elect from ev'ry nation, Yet one o'er all the earth; Her charter of salvation: One Lord, one faith, one birth. One holy name she blesses, Partakes one holy food, And to one hope she presses With ev'ry grace endued. (The Church's One Foundation, LSB 644:2)
Mon, 19 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Proverbs 25:6-14
Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the place of the great; (Proverbs 25:6)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We want the top spot. The seat at the cool table. Even if we are not in the "in" crowd, it's still nice to have friends. And very often we will throw our friends under the bus if it means making ourselves look better or being popular with others. Wherever we have selfishness, it's not just the cool table we're aiming for. We're trying for God's spot. Move over, God, and let me have the top spot. Let the world bow down to me and act like I'm the king.
Jesus stood before kings. And governors. And religious councils. And He didn't defend Himself. He didn't speak up. He didn't try to throw them aside and declare Himself "Dictator for Life!" But Jesus doesn't come humbly to show us a good example. Hey, be humble like Jesus. He comes to act humbly so that His humility will save us from our pride. His being lowly will save us from exalting ourselves. Jesus doesn't come without a lot of pomp to show how humble He is but in order to save us.
That humility is nowhere more evident than on Golgotha, where the Son of God is nailed naked to a cross, crowned with thorns and is the butt of every joke and insult. And there, in that one example of true humility, He's doing that for you. Not a bit for Himself. All for you.
Jesus comes to raise you up--not in the way the world exalts things but in the way God does. For real. By forgiving sins. Down you go, humbled in Holy Baptism; up you come, a new creation in Jesus. Down you go in humility, confessing your sins; up you go with Jesus' words of forgiveness. Down you go in humility at the altar rail, bowing or even kneeling; up you are raised, full of Jesus and all His forgiveness, life and salvation.
God's Word says don't put yourself in the place of the great. But Jesus can put you there, for by His life, death and resurrection and His gifts in His Church, He puts you at the highest place of all: with Him in the heavenly places. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
In silent pain the eternal Son Hangs derelict and still; In darkened day His work is done, Fulfilled, His Father's will. Uplifted for the world to see He hangs in strangest victory, For in His body on the tree He carries all our ill. (In Silent Pain the Eternal Son, LSB 432:1)
Sun, 18 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Luke 14:1-11
But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go. (Luke 14:4)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Like the Pharisees, we often try to use the Law to talk and talk. Jesus healing sinners on the Sabbath? That's breaking the Third Commandment. Other people doing things they shouldn't that break commandments? The Law of God condemns. The Law has lots to say about sin: Keep the Law or die. That's what it says. That's what it says to you, too. Love God and love your neighbor or go to hell.
But when Jesus shows up, the Law and its preachers are silent. There is nothing to say. Here is the Son of God, healing a man on the Sabbath. Here is a Lord who shows up, not to collect the merit badges of the faithful, but to heal the sick and save the lost and sinful. So when Jesus shows up, the Law has nothing to say.
Or rather, it still says it, but it can't shout down Jesus. The Law indeed accuses and condemns. But the Law now accuses and condemns Jesus. And He forgives. His sacrifice on the cross and His suffering and death take away the Law's curse. By living perfectly and paying for our not living perfectly, Jesus silences any accusation of the Law against us.
Your sins? The Law cannot condemn you for them. They have been laid on Jesus. By water, Word, Body and Blood, you have the seal and promise that the Law can't accuse you. It can't condemn you. It cannot judge you. It cannot say anything to you. It has been silenced in Christ.
Now the Law becomes no longer a way for God's people to judge others but rather a precious treasure which teaches us how to love others and serve them. And all the while we know that if it ever seems to turn and bite us, Jesus has taken care of that. And you, like the man with dropsy, walk away saved, healed of your sin and set free forever, exalted by Jesus and lifted up to the glorious status of a child of God. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Lord, we implore You, grant Your people grace to withstand the temptations of the devil and with pure hearts and minds to follow You, the only God; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for Trinity 17)
Sat, 17 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Deal with Your servant according to Your mercy, And teach me Your statutes. (Psalm 119:124 from the Introit for Trinity 17)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. What if God were to deal with you based on what you deserve? You do that to others, don't you? They do something to you and you figure that gives you an excuse and a valid reason to hurt them back. What if the Lord paid you back like you pay others back? What if the Lord just gave you what you deserve for breaking His commandments? You'd be in trouble, that's what!
So we beg the Lord to deal with us according to His mercy. What is mercy? Mercy means God DOESN'T give you what you deserve. It means what you've got coming is not what you've got coming! Make sense? To put it another way, the Lord won't give you what your sins deserve. Instead, He's going to give you what Jesus deserves.
Jesus, on the other hand, got what you deserved. Think about Jesus praying this prayer. "Deal with Your servant according to Your mercy." That means kill Him. Send Him to the Cross. Let Him suffer. Let Him bleed and die and be pierced by thorns and nail and spear. After all, if Jesus is the Lamb of God, God's mercy means HE is the one to suffer and die.
Of course, Jesus rose from the dead. That's a reminder that the Father was pleased by what His Son did. His inflicting wrath and judgment upon His Son was for your sake. That way, when you are in the Lord's house tomorrow, you will get nothing but mercy. Baptismal mercy. Absolution mercy. Scriptures and preaching mercy. Body and Blood mercy. Mercy. Mercy. Mercy. Not getting what you deserve because Jesus got what you deserve.
Christ's holy gifts in Word and Sacrament are God's mercy to you for Jesus' sake. These gifts give you something you never thought you had coming-forgiveness- and make you something you never were- a child of God in Christ. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Fri, 16 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
There had been no Passover kept in Israel like that since the days of Samuel the prophet; and none of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as Josiah kept, with the priests and the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 35:18)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The people forgot. They forgot that the Lord had led them from Egypt. They even forgot the Passover meal in which they would remember how the Lord saved them. But King Josiah reminded them. He made sure the Passover was celebrated and that God's people heard the Good News of all that He had done.
We forget, too. Sometimes we get out of the habit of hearing God's Word and receiving Christ's Body and Blood. Maybe it's life overwhelming us. Maybe it's just our being lazy. Either way, our sins don't seem so severe; God's promises and gifts don't seem that important.
Repent! The Lord has saved you from your sins. Your sins would kill you! They would damn you forever! But Jesus came to rescue you. He lived His life for you. He died His death on Calvary for you. He rose triumphant over death for you.
Then He washed His blood upon you in baptism. He instituted His Passover Supper in the Sacrament of the Altar for you. Do you remember? You learned what the Supper is all about. And it's there for you, every time the Divine Service is celebrated. There it is: the true and fulfilled Passover of Jesus' Body and Blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. There is the Supper of Jesus to remind you that He has saved you. He has redeemed and rescued you and delivered you from all your enemies.
As magnificent as the Passover celebration of Josiah was, it has nothing on the wonderful and blessed meal of Jesus' Body and Blood that is there for you to receive over and over all the time. The Passover pointed ahead to the Lamb of God, Jesus, who takes away the sin of the world. The Lord's Supper delivers to you the flesh and blood of that Lamb so you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your sins have indeed been forgiven and that you have eternal life. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
The death of Jesus Christ, our Lord, We celebrate with one accord; It is our comfort in distress, Our heart's sweet joy and happiness. (The Death of Jesus Christ, our Lord, LSB 634:1)
Thu, 15 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Are you sorry for your sins? Yes, I am sorry that I have sinned against God. What have you deserved from God because of your sins? His wrath and displeasure, temporal death, and eternal damnation. See Romans 6:21,23 (Catechism: Christian Questions 3-4)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Christian Questions don't just stop at asking if we're sinners. They also teach us to consider what we deserve because of our sin. Usually in our world, people aren't so much sorry for what they've done as they are sorry they got caught or that they have to deal with consequences. God's Word, on the other hand, teaches us that just for our very thoughts, words, and deeds we should be sorry, if for no other reason than that we have done them and gone against the Lord's will.
Consider that the consequences of our sin before God are far greater than any punishment you could think of! There is the anger of the Almighty, not to mention dying and having eternal damnation. These questions force us to face the reality of our sin, but remember where they're taking us: to the Lord's Supper.
Who is it really who gets those awful things? YOU deserve them but it is Jesus who suffers those things. And for this reason: so you will never have to. Salvation means being rescued from what your sins deserve. Repentance means being turned away from your sins to faith and trust on the Savior who has traded places with you.
The whole reason we ask and answer those questions about our sin is not so that we have to mope around with a gloomy "I'm such an awful person" attitude. It's to learn just how great a thing Jesus has done for us by taking ALL of our sin and wiping it all out. True, we deserved those things because of our sin according to the Law. But according to your baptism, and the Body and Blood of Jesus He gives for you to eat and drink, you now have forgiveness and everlasting life.
These questions then help us always to remember why it is we go to the Lord's Supper. We go there for the forgiveness that stands against our sins and what we have deserved. We go and receive Christ's Body and Blood as His own unbreakable promise that He has taken what we deserved and has given to us everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness instead. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Lord, on You I cast my burden-- Sink it in the deepest sea! Let me know Your gracious pardon, Cleanse me from iniquity. Let Your Spirit leave me never; Make me only Yours forever. (Lord, to You I Make Confession, LSB 608:4)
Wed, 14 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: John 12:20-33
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." (John 12:32)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. You don't get to Jesus on your own. He draws you--drags you really--to Himself. We wouldn't go toward Jesus. We would look in horror and want nothing to do with that horribly suffering man. After all, it was our sins that put Him there and caused Him such suffering. If it were up to us, we wouldn't go near church or the Bible or have anything to do with Jesus at all.
So Jesus draws us to Himself. To His crucifixion. To His wounds where we see the awful measure of our sin--so bad it killed God Himself. Yet in those same wounds inflicted by the nails that pinned Him to the tree of the cross, we have our peace and rest. Our forgiveness. Our safe haven from the evil one and death.
In the gash given to Christ's side in death upon that cross we have the peace of the water which flowed to the font and in which we were washed and made holy. We have the forgiveness that flows from Christ's side in the blood that pours into the cup for us to drink. By these holy gifts, Jesus draws us into His holy church where He bestows upon us the life He won for us on that cross.
This is why we learn as Christians to make the sign of the cross upon ourselves. It is a reminder that we are the Lord's, not because we have chosen to be, but because Christ has drawn us. It is a reminder of the promise of the cross, that our sins are forgiven. It is a reminder of the baptism by which our Lord's work on the cross is delivered to us. Indeed, the cross is a reminder of all that Jesus accomplished for us.
Long ago, a big deal was made about supposed pieces of the true cross that the church had. Yet we know the cross is nothing in and of itself. Yet the Lord used this instrument of punishment and torture to do His work of saving the world from sin. So while we don't worship the cross itself, we give thanks for what Jesus did as He hung upon it, as our Savior. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Faithful cross, true sign of triumph, Be for all the noblest tree; None in foliage, none in blossom, None in fruit thine equal be; Symbol of the world's redemption, For the weight that hung on thee! (Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle, LSB 454:4)
Tue, 13 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Ephesians 3:13-21
Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. (Ephesians 3:13)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The church isn't about you. It's about you for others. All that Jesus did, all that He suffered, was for sinners. He didn't do it for His own sake or glory but to obey His Father and to provide us with salvation and everlasting life.
Likewise, St. Paul suffered many things as a preacher of the Gospel but it wasn't to make Him look good. It was for the sake of those to whom he preached so that they would know and believe that their sins were forgiven for Jesus' sake and that they had eternal life in Christ.
The things that happen to you may hurt. They may test you. They may bother you. But they are given to you by God so that others may benefit. Your whole life as a Christian is given to you by God so that you might be a blessing to others.
That's counterintuitive to what the world says. The world says to revel in your pain. Make others feel sorry for you. Use it to your advantage. Be a victim. St. Paul knew that no matter what happened to him, it happened so that he could preach the Gospel to people. Who knows what benefits and blessings your trials and tribulations will bring to others?
And since we don't know how our sufferings might help us to be a blessing to others, it's easy to wallow in them and forget that all things are from our heavenly Father's hand. That's when we return again to the suffering of our Lord as being done for us. For our forgiveness. For forgiveness of our doubting and fear and wondering.
Know this. You are a baptized child of God. Whatever the Lord allows for you, He does it ONLY ever out of love and to bless you and those around you. He really does work all things out for good. After all, since Jesus has risen from the dead, we know everything is going to turn out okay. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Be patient and await His leisure In cheerful hope, with heart content To take whate'er thy Father's pleasure and His discerning love hath sent, Nor doubt our inmost wants are known To Him who chose us for His own. (If Thou But Trust in God to Guide Thee, LSB 750:3)
Mon, 12 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: 1 Kings 17:17-24
So she said to Elijah, "What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?" (1 Kings 17:18)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We know death is coming. When people are old, we expect it won't be long. But when a child dies, that's a heartache that is unexpected and bitter. It's the kind of tragedy that we want to throw in God's face and ask "Why? What did I do to deserve this?" Is death a reminder of our sins? Absolutely. Not necessarily any particular sin but just the fact that sin is in the world and we live under the curse of death.
But God doesn't allow death so that He can punish us. He allows it so that He may be glorified in saving us from it. Again, like the miracle last week of flour and water that don't run out, Elijah's raising the widow's son is a reminder to the woman of God's promises. It is an opportunity for her to be pointed to the triumph over death that the Lord was going to accomplish when He sent His Son.
Now the Lord didn't raise every person from the dead and there's no guarantee He will keep us from death until He returns. But consider what Jesus has done to death. He's stripped it of its power. Now, instead of a horrible end, death has become nothing worse than a nap, a rest, until our Lord comes again. By paying the price for our sins and rising from the dead, Jesus has made sure death's sting has been removed. Sure, death still hurts. It's still sad. But it's NOT the end.
In fact, beginning in baptism when we die and rise with Jesus, we've already defeated death. And if death couldn't keep Jesus down, how's it going to keep you down if you've got His Body and Blood in you? It can't. And it won't. On the Last Day, you will be raised to life, and death will be defeated once and for all. After all, Jesus died. And He rose. And He'll raise you, too. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Weeping, be gone; Sorrow, be silent; Death put asunder, and Easter is bright. Cherubim sing: "O grave, be open!" Clothe us in wonder, adorn us in light. Jesus is risen and we shall arise: Give God the glory, Alleluia! (Alleluia! Jesus Is Risen, LSB 474:4)
Sun, 11 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Luke 7:11-17
Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen up among us"; and, "God has visited His people." (Luke 7:16)
In the Name + of Jesus. How do you know when God has come? People rise from the dead. "The Lord has visited His people!" He sure has because He interrupted a funeral procession to wake the dead young man up and give him back to his mother! It wasn't the first or last time Jesus raised someone from the dead. But those were just signposts, pointing ahead to something greater.
That something greater is Jesus' rising from the dead, and not just any death--a death that paid for the sins of the world, a death so painful and horrible we couldn't even begin to imagine what our Lord bore for us and the world. But on the third day, He is risen! He was not there in the tomb. He is alive!
Now when God shows up, people still rise from the dead. When you were brought to the church, to the font, you were raised from the dead. Not physical death. Spiritual death. Your baptism into Christ is a resurrection just as His resurrection meant He is alive. And more than that, your baptism is the promise that even though you may die physically, that won't keep you down. You will be raised on the Last Day just as Jesus raised that boy from Nain.
And when Jesus raised that young man, He gave him back to his mother. So also you, when you were baptized, were given to your parents--not just handed back to mom and dad but presented before your heavenly Father and your mother, the church.
We make such a big deal over death. We think it's the end and the worst thing. But Jesus just strolls up, touches the coffin and the boy is alive again. That's because the Savior who conquered death by His own death and resurrection doesn't think death is anything at all. It's not. He's beaten it. And likewise for you, death is nothing special, just a nap and rest until the Last Day. For your Lord's victory over death means you've beaten it, too. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
O Lord, we pray that Your grace may always go before and follow after us, that we may be continually given to all good works; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for Trinity 16)
Sat, 10 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
For great is Your mercy toward me, And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. (Psalm 86:13 from the Introit for Trinity 16)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Ever felt down in the dumps? Like life's the pits? The worst pits are the ones our sins dig. That uncomfortable knowledge that we've done what we know is wrong. The fear that someone will find out. The nagging whispers of the devil that with such a sin on our record, we'll never really be Christians.
Rejoice! The Divine Service is all about pulling you out of that pit! It's all about the Lord delivering your soul from Sheol, the "depths." After all, who went down into the depths to grab you? Jesus. Who suffered under the true hell of God's judgment against our sins? Jesus, who actually went to hell to announce to the Evil One that his power is done and over and that the sins of the world have been answered for? Jesus!
These words, like the words of all the Psalms, are Jesus' words. They remind us that Jesus was lifted from the depths of suffering and hell to rise victorious on Easter. What better day to sing these words than on a Sunday, the day Jesus rose and the day the church celebrates His resurrection every week.
In worship tomorrow, because He's been delivered from the depths, the Lord will deliver you from your depths. Whatever deep spots of sin you have wallowed in this week, the Lord is going to lift you up and out. He'll do it by tracing your baptismal name upon you again. By absolving you with words that cannot be contradicted by the devil. By filling your ears with His forgiving Word and your mouth with His death-defying Body and Blood.
Indeed, Jesus' mercy to you is great. By going down to the depths instead of you, He is able to bring you up from the depths of your sin and give you life and light. Indeed, Christ is the Lord's great mercy upon you and He has delivered your soul from Sheol. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
O love, how deep, how broad, how high, Beyond all thought and fantasy, That God, the Son of God, should take, Our mortal form for mortals' sake! (O Love, How Deep, LSB 544:1)
Fri, 09 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
And Elisha prayed, and said, "Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Elisha's servant was scared because all He could see were the enemies of Israel around the city. Some days we look around and all we see are enemies: the world that hates us, the devil who seeks to drag us away from Jesus, and our own sinful flesh that keeps drawing us toward sin.
But know that just like in Elisha's day, the Lord's holy angels surround you--ministering spirits the Lord sends to protect His holy people. At the head of these heavenly armies stands Jesus Christ, who became not an angel but man. The captain of these heavenly hosts is Jesus, whose holy birth was announced and sung by angels. They attended their Lord in His battles with temptation in the wilderness and in the Garden of Gethsemane. They announced at the tomb that He who was crucified was risen! Indeed, the glory of the angels is to behold their Lord and His saving work for you.
The word "angel" means "messenger" and there are not just invisible angels who stand guard around you. There is also the visible "angel messenger" of your pastor who stands always ready to declare Christ's forgiveness to you and drive away the enemies who frighten you.
When the enemies who surround you frighten you, go to your pastor, who will open your eyes to the powerful gifts of your baptism and Christ's Body and Blood, and who will remind you that no enemies can touch you because you are a child of God in Christ. The tangible gifts of water, Word, Body and Blood are given to us so that we will not fear our enemies nor despair of our Lord's love for us. They also remind us that behind the things we can see, stand the Lord and His armies, which we cannot see but are always watching over us.
The Lord opened the eyes of Elisha's servant so that he could take comfort that the enemies of Israel were not stronger than the Lord. So the Lord has opened your eyes to show you that in Christ, nothing can defeat you. You are His. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Christ, the Lord of hosts, unshaken By the devil's seething rage, Thwarts the plan of Satan's minions; Wins the strife from age to age; Conquers sin and death forever; Slams them in their steely cage. (Christ, the Lord of Hosts, Unshaken, LSB 521:1)
Thu, 08 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
But [Naaman's] servants came near and said to him, "My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, 'Wash, and be clean'?"Â So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. (2 Kings 5:13-14)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Naaman has come to find God's prophet. Instead of doing what he expected, instead of doing something extraordinary to heal him, Elisha told him to bathe in the river. Naaman was angered by this. This is not how a real God does things. But at his servants' urging he obeyed the prophet's command. He washed and his leprosy was healed. God had used ordinary water to heal his leprosy. This was God showing how He will be toward Naaman and all people. He will not be the God of Israel only. He reveals to Naaman how His judgment falls--how His righteousness is fulfilled. God added His promise to the water so that Naaman was healed of his bodily disease and converted at the same time. In the Jordan River, in the water, God put His Name on Naaman.
God has put His Name on you, too. With the water His Name was put on you at your Baptism, and most certainly at Jesus' Baptism, too. There Jesus is in solidarity with you and you with Him. Because He is the beloved Son, you along with Him are beloved sons and daughters. You are delighted in and beloved by God. So you can't just drag along the old man in Adam and his dreary, fearful, guilt-ridden, nobody-loves-me, me-standing apart, all alone way. When John saw Jesus as separate, Jesus said, "No... Us." When Jesus says, "us," He takes on what we are and gives us what He has. The Righteous One fulfills all righteousness. And you are the object of His delight, with Jesus. As if that were not enough, Christ gives to you His Body and Blood, together-ed with Him. It goes with you as it goes with Him. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
All Christians who have been baptized, Who know the God of heaven, And in whose daily life is prized The name of Christ once given: Consider now what God has done, The gifts He gives to evr'y one Baptized into Christ Jesus! (All Christians Who Have Been Baptized, LSB 596:1)
Wed, 07 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Do you believe that you are a sinner? Yes, I believe it, I am a sinner. How do you know this? From the Ten Commandments which I have not kept. (Catechism: Christian Questions 1-2)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Well, you don't hear THAT question very often. And even if you were to ask someone if they were a sinner, they might answer something like, "Well, I'm not perfect but I'm not a BAD person..." But these questions lay it out simply. We ARE sinners. The Ten Commandments teach us that. The commandments teach us that we are idolaters, haters of parents, murderers, adulterers, thieves, gossips and discontent people. The Law throws in our face the fact that we neither love God nor our neighbor. That makes us sinners.
The question is whether the answer to our sin is found in ourselves or elsewhere. Can you stop being a sinner? Can you stop sinning? The answer, of course, is a resounding, "No!" The answer for your sinfulness and your sins isn't in you.
The questions above are in the Small Catechism to help us prepare for the Lord's Supper. So the answer to our sinfulness and our sins is the Body and Blood of Jesus for you to eat and drink. On the cross, the body of Jesus was broken for you. The blood of Jesus was shed for you. In your place. For your sins. To take them away. To make you clean. To earn your forgiveness.
You are a sinner. Jesus isn't. Yet on the cross, an exchange takes place. On Calvary, Jesus becomes your sin and by your Baptism into Him and by eating and drinking His Body and Blood, you become the righteousness of God.
Preparing to receive the Lord's Supper begins with knowing that we are sinners. But it doesn't end there. Rather, it ends with our being filled with Christ's Body and Blood and being holy in God's sight because of Jesus. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Who can condemn me now? For surely The Lord is nigh, who justifies. No he'll I fear, and thus securely With Jesus I to heaven rise. Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood Be for my soul the highest good! (Thy Body, Given for Me, O Savior, LSB 619:3)
Tue, 06 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Galatians 5:25-6:10
Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. (Galatians 6:6)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. If you were going to get your pastor a gift, what would you give him? Hopefully, if you get a paycheck, you're already learning the habit of supporting the church and your pastor with an offering. But if you could get something just for him, what do you think he'd want?
St. Paul tells us to share all good things with him who teaches. This means more than just putting some money in the plate for the pastor's salary. It means sharing in the "good things" of the Gospel with your pastor. What would happen if you thanked your pastor for his sermon on Sunday, with a specific example of why you thought it was a good sermon? What would happen if you were singing hymns on the way back from a Higher Things conference? Your pastor's heart would be filled with joy!
It's not that our pastors deserve anything in and of themselves. But as our pastors, they're the ones called by the Lord to deliver Jesus and His gifts. It is your pastor, more than anyone else, who will always point you to Christ when your sins trouble you and when the religions around you try to point you to yourself. It is your pastor who will teach and preach Christ crucified for your salvation so that you need never doubt God's love.
It is your pastor whose hands the Lord borrowed to splash water upon you and speak the Word which makes you God's child and a forgiven new creation. It is your pastor whose voice Christ uses to speak solid and unalterable words of forgiveness. It is your pastor by whose hands the Lord gives His own Body and Blood to you to eat and drink.
And when you receive those gifts with gladness, it gladdens your pastor's heart because He knows that you are receiving Jesus and that it is Jesus forgiving you and blessing you. So share that with your pastor and rejoice in his being called to do that for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Help, Lord Jesus, help him nourish All our children with Your Word That in fervent love they serve You Till in heav'n their song is heard. Boundless blessings, Lord, bestow On his faithful toil below Till by grace to him be given His reward, the crown of heaven. (Send, O Lord, Your Holy Spirit, LSB 681:3)
Mon, 05 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: 1 Kings 17:8-16
"For thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.' " (1 Kings 17:14)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Why does the Lord preserve the life of this widow by giving her flour and oil that don't run out? So that she may see and believe the promises of God that Elijah preaches. This isn't a miracle done just for its own sake. By providing for this woman, the Lord is providing for Elijah, the preacher who is staying at her house. That means that what is happening is done for the sake of the Lord's Word being preached and for those people hearing and believing it.
The Lord takes care of you. But why? For what purpose? So that you can hear and believe the Gospel. So that you will have the forgiveness of sins. Perhaps you can look back in your life and see places where the Lord provided something you needed. Why was that? It was to teach you that you don't need to worry about that stuff and so you can give your attention to Christ and His forgiveness.
And that is a gift even greater than the flour and oil. For from the side of your crucified Savior came blood and water that never run out. In that flow of forgiveness from His side, you have the promise that you have forgiveness of all your sins and eternal life. You have a baptism that never runs out or expires. You have a Supper, which is always available, and never runs out.
If you look through the Scriptures, when the Lord does a miracle, it isn't just to show that He can do stuff that's beyond natural. He shows He has dominion over nature to show that He has power most of all over sin and death. His miracles point us to trust in Him alone as the only One who can truly take care of us in every way.
The miracles of the Old Testament directed people's attention to the prophets. The prophets pointed them to the coming Savior, just as Jesus' miracles point to Him as the true Savior. Just as the Lord's taking care of you is that you will be able and ready to hear the Gospel preached and receive His good gifts. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
O Lord, we praise Thee, bless Thee and adore Thee, In thanksgiving bow before Thee. Thou with Thy body and Thy blood didst nourish Our weak souls that they may flourish: O Lord, have mercy! May Thy body, Lord, born of Mary, That our sins and sorrows did carry, And Thy blood for us plead In all trial, fear and need: O Lord, have mercy! (O Lord, We Praise Thee, LSB 617:1)