Last Build Date: Sat, 22 Oct 2016 03:33:07 -0400Copyright: All Rights Reserved. Higher Things, Inc. Copyright 2016
Sat, 22 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 21:1-23-Matthew 16:1-12
O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there is mercy, And with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel From all his iniquities. (Psalm 130:7-8 from the Introit for Trinity 22)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Some people hope in a "Lord" who might let them off the hook--a Lord whose love they can't be sure of, because they can't be sure of how good they are or try to be. That sort of religion is a dead end. And it's scary because, well, you never know how you're doing.
The LORD, Yahweh, Jesus. With Him you know how you're doing, because He has mercy. He redeems Israel, His Church, you, from all your iniquities. All of them. No sin is left out of Jesus' death for you. No sin escapes His tomb when He rises. They are buried forever.
Just think about how abundant the Lord's redemption is. You'll see it tomorrow in church. Baptism. Absolution. The Word. The Sermon. The Supper. The prayers and hymns of praise. Everything about the Divine Service is about God's mercy to you in Jesus Christ. There is nothing in the service, no part of the service tomorrow that says, "Well what have YOU done to get on God's good side?"
The Divine Service is like a supercharged, overloaded, overflowing, capacity-exceeded rush of the Lord's grace and forgiveness and mercy. It's like an hour-long flashflood of forgiveness. It's a mighty defeat of your enemies: sin, death and the devil. It's a bounty of blessings from your Lord. That's what He's all about!
The mercy of God isn't just an idea. It's a reality anchored in the Lamb's sacrifice for you. And the Divine Service is the place where all those good things are loaded onto you over and over. That mercy never runs out and it's always yours in Jesus. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Fri, 21 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
"When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 20:1)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Get out of bed, head to school or work and what awaits you? Your enemies! The devil, the world, even your sinful nature. They're all out to get you. Drag you down. Ruin your day. Trip you up. Cause you to sin. Lead you into despair and shame. It's not unlike the Israelites coming into the Promised Land with their enemies arrayed against them.
But just as the Lord fought for the Israelites and defeated their enemies (remember the walls of Jericho or Joshua's other great battles and victories), the Lord fights for you now against those enemies.
First of all, He has disarmed them by triumphing over them at the cross, nailing our sins to that tree and covering them with His blood. He has overcome the world, thrown down the devil, and drowned your sinful flesh.
When you get up in the morning, the Catechism says to make the sign of the holy cross and say, "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." That's your reminder that when you go out into the world and your enemies await you, you never face them alone. No, you have standing with you the Lord of Hosts, the Savior Himself, Christ who has defeated all these enemies and stands with you to defeat and throw them down again.
When you go out that door in the morning, you go forth as a conqueror, as one who lives in the victory won for you by Christ. It doesn't mean these enemies won't be there to fight you. But you've already won. You're already a forgiven child of God and try as they might, they can't do anything to you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Thu, 20 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Ephesians 6:10-17
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; (Ephesians 6:17)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Enemies. You have them. They will try to kill you in this life and for eternity. The devil, the world, and your sinful nature want you dead. It's going to be a fight. You need a weapon: the Sword of the Spirit. It's the Word of God. St. Paul gives this awesome description of the armor of God in his letter to the Ephesians. It's the equipment you need as a combatant in this war.
But notice that this battle is not about your fighting skills. It's not about how much training you have. It's not about you. Every piece of armor and the weapon of the Spirit is...well...God's armor. It's Jesus' equipment that is given to you to defeat your enemies. The Lord's armor is different than all other human weapons. In earthly battles, the winner will usually be the one who has better weapons or more skill. But the armor of God gives something no earthly armor or weapon does. It brings with it the certainty of victory.
With the Sword of the Spirit, you can't lose! The devil, the world, and the sinful flesh have no counterattack. They have attacks, sure. But they have no battle-deciding weapon with which to defeat you. Being armed with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, means that Christ is fighting your battle for you. When He goes to fight, look out! He came in the flesh. He was tempted by and defeated Satan. He was subjected to and defeated death. Cross. Grave. All of it was left behind on Easter, when Jesus rose victorious. His resurrection was such a big deal that those who saw Him alive were not afraid to lose their lives. Nothing could truly defeat them, and that same Jesus will just raise them up on the Last Day.
The same goes for you. The weapons of the Lord defeat your enemies. They cannot withstand Christ's gifts. They cannot oppose His Word. His Word declares you forgiven and saved. His Word declares you washed, absolved, fed. His Word declares you the winner and the devil the loser. His triumph is your triumph. And His armor is your protection and defense. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
A noble army, men and boys, The matron and the maid, Around the Savior's throne rejoice, In robes of light arrayed. They climbed the steep ascent of heav'n Through peril, toil, and pain. O God, to us may grace be giv'n To follow in their train! (The Son of God Goes Forth to War, LSB 661:4)
Wed, 19 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
13. Do you believe, then, that the true body and blood of Christ are in the Sacrament? Yes, I believe it. 14. What convinces you to believe this? The word of Christ: Take, eat, this is My body; drink of it, all of you, this is My blood. (Small Catechism, Christian Questions with Their Answers)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. It seems simple, but not everyone believes what Jesus says He gives in the Sacrament of the Altar. Some believe that the bread and wine (or grape juice!) are just symbols of the Body and Blood of Jesus. Just bread and wine. Some believe that Christ is "present" in the sense that He's not really there on the altar but off in heaven, yet present in our hearts.
Against the wrong ways of thinking, the Christian Questions remind us what we believe and know: The Sacrament IS the true Body and Blood of Jesus. And why? Because He says so! After all, Jesus is God, so why should His words mean anything other than what they say? And why can't it be His Body and Blood if He says it is? There you go.
But it's not just that we are reminded what the Sacrament is. Knowing we believe this from Jesus' words teaches us that the most important thing is Christ's Word. When His Word declares that His death and resurrection are for the sins of the world, we can believe it. When He declares this Supper is His true Body and Blood given for the forgiveness of our sins, we can believe it.
In short, we believe what Jesus says because of who says it: Jesus! The Son of God. The Word of God. True God. True man. His Word is the big deal because He is God. We don't need to try to figure it out or guess what He meant or philosophize it away. He speaks His Word. It does what He says. It gives what He says. It delivers what He promises. Because He's Jesus! And He doesn't say things to leave you puzzled or confused but to forgive you, save you, and give you everlasting life. His Word brings to you in the Sacrament of the Altar just exactly what He gives in the Body and Blood. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
O grant, most blessed Lord, That earth and hell combined May not about this sacrament Raise doubt within my mind. (Your Table I Approach, LSB 628:5)
Tue, 18 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Luke 10:1-9
After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. (Luke 10:1)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Jesus sends out preachers. But what do they preach? They are not to just make anything up or talk about whatever they feel like. They are to proclaim Christ and Him crucified. They preach repentance and forgiveness in Jesus' name.
St. Luke is known as the "Beloved Physician." A doctor by vocation, he wrote the Gospel that bears His name. As he points out in the introduction, He wrote it to a man named Theophilus "that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed" (Luke 1:4). Theophilus had heard the preaching of the Gospel. Luke wanted to make sure he had an orderly written account of everything to verify what he had heard.
And that's why we have the Gospels. They don't tell us everything about Jesus. But they tell us enough that we may believe that He is the Christ and have life in His Name. Any preaching which delivers a Jesus other than the one who is revealed in the Gospels is false preaching that leads to death.
True preaching proclaims what Luke wrote. That Jesus was conceived, born, lived, suffered, died, rose again and ascended--all for sinners. Sinners like lost sheep and coins. Sinners like prodigal sons. Sinners such as Zacchaeus, a thieving tax collector. Sinners like the tax collector who didn't even dare lift up his eyes in prayer. Luke, whose earthly vocation was trying to heal others, proclaims the Jesus who came to heal the sick and save sinners. To save you.
The Gospel according to St. Luke was written so that you, sinner, will know the goodness of God in Christ Jesus. That He came for you. That He gave His life for you. That He washes and feeds you. That you are His. That in Jesus, all your sins are forgiven and you have eternal healing. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Mon, 17 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Genesis 1:1-2:3
Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Lord speaks. His Word does what it says. So much of what passes for "Christian" preaching and teaching makes God's Word into just so much information or facts and the actor, the decider, is you, acting one way or another on the information you've been given.
But consider. Where was the light before God spoke it into being? Nowhere. It came from nothing by His speaking it. It is the same way with faith and the forgiveness of sins. We are born spiritually dead--unable to fear, love and trust in God. Then the Lord speaks His Word. "Be alive! Be my child!" Spoken in baptism. Now what? From nothing, from death and darkness, now you have light and life.
Sins. You're covered in them. You can't get free. You can't overcome them or work them off and trade them for good works. But there is Christ's Word, "I forgive you." Suddenly, where there was only sin and death, now there is forgiveness, life and salvation.
This is what Jesus came to do. Perhaps there is no greater Word He spoke than His Good Friday "It is finished!" That's not facts and information. That Word finished it. At that moment, with those words, Jesus has ended every effort to make yourself right with God and made you right with God. At that moment, everything that ever had to be done to pay off your sins is done. It is finished. Jesus said it and so now your salvation is a done deal.
The same Word that declared that it is done declares that it is yours. At the font. Altar. From the word spoken by your pastor. Christ's Word. It does what it says and does it out of nothing, light and life. Jesus' Word is that your sins are forgiven. This is not something that needs verifying. It's a done deal because the Lord of heaven and earth has declared it to be so. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
They strong Word bespeaks us righteous; Bright with Thine own holiness, Glorious now, we press toward glory, And our lives our hopes confess. Alleluia, alleluia! Praise to Thee who light does send! Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia without end! (Thy Strong Word, LSB 578:3)
Sun, 16 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: John 4:46-54
So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, "Your son lives." And he himself believed, and his whole household. (John 4:53)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Jesus' Word creates faith. That's because Jesus' Word does what it says. The wrong view of things is that Jesus' Word is just more information that WE act upon. The Word of the Gospel is not like an ad for a political candidate wherein we hear what is said and then try to decide for or against.
Remember God's Word at creation? "Let there be light." And there was light. The same Word that creates just by speaking comes in the flesh. That's Jesus. The Word-made-flesh. And when the Word speaks His Word, the man's son is healed.
See how the Word not only healed the man's son but created faith in him. The man doesn't figure out that his son was healed when Jesus spoke and then decide he's going to throw in with Jesus. The Word that saves the man's son has brought him to faith, as well. Faith is the confession, "This Word of Jesus is true. It does what it says. I trust and believe that." That trust and belief is a gift that only comes to us when the Holy Spirit "enlightens" us by that Word.
Same for you. The Word spoken with the water in Holy Baptism gives what it says: forgiveness of sins, death and resurrection with Jesus, all in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
When your pastor absolves you, your sins are actually forgiven. When Jesus' words are spoken over the bread and wine, His Body and Blood are really there for you--for forgiveness, life and salvation.
Jesus' Word is not just more information. Not just facts and statements. His Word is powerful, creative, and gives life where it is spoken and heard. By Jesus' Word. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Lord, we implore You to keep Your household the Church in continual godliness, that through Your protection she may be free from all adversities and devoutly given to serve You in 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 21)
Sat, 15 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Blessed are the undefiled in the way, Who walk in the law of the LORD! (Psalm 119:1 from the Introit for Trinity 21)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Is that you? Undefiled? Pure? Clean? Sinless? Do you walk in the Law of the Lord? Is your every decision to put God first in your life and to help other people out any chance you get? No? Then perhaps this Psalm isn't about you. So how can you go to church tomorrow and sing these words?
Because they are Jesus' words and they are about Jesus. Who is undefiled? Pure? Clean? Sinless? Jesus. Who walks in the Law of the Lord? Who keeps the commandments? Who truly loves the Father and goes to any length, even death, to help His neighbor? Jesus, that's who.
Tomorrow, we're not going to church to hear a lecture on how to behave better. It's not going to be a sermon about how we should try to live better than the rest of the world out there. It's not preaching about being changed and living a better life.
Tomorrow's service is about this one thing: the pure and perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ, who walked the path of righteousness for you. The Son of God who IS the way of righteousness for you. The Son who died for your sins and rose again.
Tomorrow you will hear again that by your baptism into Christ, because of His forgiveness, and through Jesus dwelling in you because of His Body and Blood, YOU are undefiled and walk in the law of the Lord. That's right. Perfect. Holy. Sinless. You. Because you are in Jesus. That's the Good News of the Divine Service tomorrow and every Lord's Day. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Fri, 14 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
"Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.' (Deuteronomy 12:30)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. If you page through our hymnal, you will see nothing but God's Word. The Word of God in the liturgy and orders of service. The Word of God in the Catechism and readings and hymns and prayers. And not just random bits of the Word, but the Scriptures that point us to Christ and declare that He is our Savior by what He has done for us.
The Israelites were surrounded by false religions and false gods and the people worshiped them in all sorts of ways. The Israelites concluded that they should try out those ways of worshiping, too. Beware of the kind of worship that wants to be like the world. When you see a "church" swaying to the beat of a rock band, ask yourself, "How is that different than a rock concert?" If you can't tell a difference, then maybe the church has taken on too much of the world's way of doing things.
The worship of Christ's church did not begin with Martin Luther and Germans. The order of service goes way back even before New Testament times to the way the Israelites were taught by God to sing and pray. The Lord orders our worship because that frees us from the silly ways the world does things and puts our eyes and ears and hearts and minds in the right place: receiving Christ crucified and His forgiveness, life and salvation. Living from our baptism, soaked in Christ's Word and feasting upon His Body and Blood.
Worship doesn't have to be done the way the world does things because in worship the Lord is doing something: saving sinners. That doesn't go on in the world so how would it know anything about salvation and God's promises? The Lord warned His Old Testament people to not try to make church into the world's idea of church. So also He has rescued you from such notions so that everything you see and hear will be about one thing: Jesus and who He is, and what He does and gives. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
May God bestow on us His grace, With blessings rich provide us; And may the brightness of His face To life eternal guide us, That we His saving health may know, His gracious will and pleasure, And also to the nations show Christ's riches without measure And unto God convert them. (May God Bestow on Us His Grace, LSB 824:1)
Thu, 13 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Matthew 21:33-44
"Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' (Matthew 21:37)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. People suppose Jesus' parables are "earthly stories with a heavenly meaning." But that's not what they are. Vineyard owners renting their vineyards out and sending servants to collect the harvest? That seems reasonable. But after they disgraced and killed the servants, what on earth would have made the landowner suppose the wicked tenants would respect His Son? He had to know that they would kill Him, too.
And that's the point. The Lord's kingdom doesn't operate like we think. If we had trouble with our tenants, the last person we'd send is someone we love who might be in danger. But the Father sent His Son, knowing full well that He would be killed.
And the Son came, knowing full well that He would die. Who does that? Not us. But Jesus does, because He loves His Father. And His loving and obeying His Father, even unto the death of the cross, saves you.
God's kingdom doesn't operate the way the world supposes. Things happen that we wouldn't expect. We wouldn't figure the Father would send the Son straight into death to save sinners but that's exactly what happens.
And by that death, the Lord does something even more amazing. He makes you an heir of the vineyard. The crooks said they could kill the Son and take His inheritance. Yet it is actually by the Son's death that you are given an eternal inheritance. That's because Jesus rose from the dead and through baptism, absolution, the Word and Supper, you share in His inheritance with Him. That's an inheritance of everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.
It's crazy to imagine that the father in that story would think his son wouldn't die. But that's what the Father does in the real world. He sends His Son to die to save you and give you all that is His. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Preserve, O Lord, Your Zion, Bought dearly with Your blood; Protect what You have chosen Against the hellish flood. Be always our defender When dangers gather round; When all the earth is crumbling, Safe may Your church be found. (Preserve Your Word, O Savior, LSB 658:3)
Wed, 12 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
11. How do you know this? From the Holy Gospel, from the words instituting the Sacrament, and by His body and blood given me as a pledge in the Sacrament. 12.What are the Words of Institution?
Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: "Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me." In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying: "Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." (Small Catechism, Christian Questions 11-12)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. How do we know what Jesus did for us? How do we know what the Sacrament is all about? It's all there in His words. We call them the "Words of Institution" or the "Words of Our Lord" by which He gives us His Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. The Christian Questions remind us that this is the Good News of what Jesus has accomplished and what He delivers to us in His New Testament.
It starts with His betrayal. That night. The night everything came together to bring Him before the religious leaders and then Pontius Pilate. The night His disciples would betray and abandon Him. The night where Jesus was given into the hands of evil men who would kill Him.
That death was the one on the cross in which His body was given for you. His blood was shed for you. His suffering and death took place for you. His cross and tomb were for you.
And if you ever doubt that, these words will remind you that with the bread and wine you eat and drink in that Supper, you also receive Christ's Body and Blood and every promise and blessing they have earned for you. Learn those words. Memorize them. Hear them spoken and sung. Smile when you hear them because they say you are about to receive an amazing gift from your Savior. It's Jesus, Himself for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Your body and Your blood, Once slain and shed for me, Are taken at Your table, Lord, In blest reality. (Your Table I Approach, LSB 628:3)
Tue, 11 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Ephesians 5:15-21
"Watch how you walk, carefully, not as unwise but as wise." (Ephesians 5:15; author's translation)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. If you were crossing a creek with a rocky bottom, you wouldn't just plow across. You'd step carefully, making sure each step was upon a rock that wasn't going to give way and drop you into the water. You'd be careful not to let your foot get caught between rocks where you would get stuck. St. Paul tells us to walk the same way. But that may not be what you think.
Most churches would probably tell you that to walk this way means making "good choices," avoiding temptations, and being deliberate in doing good things for others. That's all well and good, but we don't need St. Paul to tell us that.
To walk carefully is to walk in and with Christ. It is to avoid the pitfalls of false teaching that teach you that the Christian life is your responsibility. It's to avoid the assumption that you can do this yourself as if you don't have an Old Adam hanging around your neck trying to ruin everything.
First of all, this is the way Jesus walks--carefully stepping through life in a way that fulfills and keeps the whole Law for you. He is God the Father's wisdom, given by the Father to be the sacrifice for your sins. Raised for your justification.
Second of all, that means that for you to walk in His way is to walk wisely, that is, with Him, with Jesus. It is to take each step in life as a baptized child of God, absolved of your sins and missteps, and fed with Jesus' Body and Blood. In other words, this walking carefully is Jesus walking with you and in you.
The devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh have one mission: to trip you up. But walking with Jesus by His gifts, means those three things can't knock you over. You step over them and on into everlasting life. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
I walk with Jesus all the way, His guidance never fails me; Within His wounds I find a stay When Satan's pow'r assails me; And by His footsteps led, My path I safely tread. No evil leads my soul astray; I walk with Jesus all the way. (I Walk in Danger All the Way, LSB 716:5)
Mon, 10 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Isaiah 55:1-9
Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance. (Isaiah 55:2)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. There's something we need to hear over and over about salvation in and through Jesus Christ: It's free. Completely free. No strings attached. No conditions, qualifications, legal clauses, or fine print. Forgiveness, life and salvation in Jesus Christ--these are the only things that are too good to be true but they are actually true!
But there is just no way the world or our Old Adam or religions can let go of that little bit of effort we think we need to put into this. And so people get worked up trying to figure out what they need to do to be good enough to deserve this salvation. What can they do to earn it? It's like they take their efforts and energy and look for some kind of salvation that they can get for themselves. They are spending money for what is not bread and for things that don't satisfy.
But all the while, Jesus says, "Eat what is good and delight in abundance!" He gave His life for you. Shed His blood for you. Died on the cross for you. He rose for you and ascended for you and will come back for you. And in the meantime? Good food! His Body and Blood! His forgiveness. His washing of water and the Word. No strings attached. No conditions. These gifts are given to you with no expectations or demands. Here they are, for you. They are yours and give you what they promise: the forgiveness of all your sins forever and everlasting life.
Don't be fooled! Don't be deceived. Don't listen to the preachers who say, "Jesus died for you. Now all YOU have to do is...!" Don't fall for the lies that say, "Jesus did His part, now there is your part to fulfill."
Nope. Hear this good news: a feast! For you! A table loaded with Jesus' gifts. They're all yours! Enjoy! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Jesus, bread of life, I pray You, Let me gladly here obey You. By Your love I am invited, Be Your love with love requited; By this Supper let me measure, Lord, how vast and deep love's treasure. Through the gift of grace You give me As Your guest in heav'n receive me. (Soul, Adorn Yourself With Gladness, LSB 636:8)
Sun, 09 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Matthew 22:1-14
The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. (Matthew 22:2-3)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. If Jesus died for the whole world, why isn't everyone is saved? Why do some people perish apart from Jesus? Why must some die eternally? The short answer is: They don't want to be saved. For whatever reason, they don't want the salvation Jesus has accomplished for them. It's already a done deal. The invitation is given. The feast is ready and all theirs, but they don't want it.
But notice that nobody really wanted to go to the King's feast. So the servants went out and brought them in. That's how you got in. The Son has died and risen. He has chosen His holy Bride, the Church. And you are brought to celebrate this feast.
Just think of how annoyed you felt to learn your catechism. Memorize more stuff? Just consider how little you pay attention in church. You try to listen to the sermon but your stomach is rumbling and the little kids two pews up are crying and the lady behind you is snoring.
But there you are. You've been brought in for the feast. And you need to be dressed properly. That's why the Master of the supper gives everyone a wedding garment to wear. You were given that clothing in your baptism. Now you are dressed for the celebration.
So why are some saved and not others? There is really only one answer. It's the answer God's Word gives us. You who are saved are saved because the Lord has dragged you in to His Church, put the wedding clothes on you and made a feast and celebration for you. It's all Jesus preparing and bringing you in. Those who perish just don't want to be a part of it, for whatever reason. Those who are saved, are saved by grace. Those who are damned are damned by their own choice out of their unwillingness to receive the gifts Jesus already has for them.
This is a great comfort. It's a comfort because, left to ourselves, we'd never choose the Lord. But He has chosen you. And you are His. And you are in. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Grant, we implore You, merciful Lord, to Your faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins and serve You with a quiet mind; 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 20)
Sat, 08 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
We have thought, O God, on Your lovingkindness, In the midst of Your temple. (Psalm 48:9 from the Introit for Trinity 20)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. What will you be thinking about in church tomorrow? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? What you're going to order for lunch at the restaurant? About your shift at work later in the day? Let's face it: Lots of thoughts pass through our minds during the Divine Service that don't have anything to do with Christ's Word.
But the psalmist says what happens at church is that we think on God's lovingkindness! Uh oh. But wait! These are Jesus' words. Jesus is the One who always gave His full attention to the Word when it was heard or read. He paid attention because we don't. He lived the life we were supposed to because we could not. He died the death we deserved so we don't have to. And He rose from the dead so we will, too.
And that's what church is about. Tomorrow, in the Divine Service, that's the topic: the lovingkindness of God. What exactly is "lovingkindness"? It's that the Lord loves you and is kind to you by not slamming the door in your face when you aren't paying attention to Him. Instead, He forgives you and gives you His Spirit to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.
Just think about it: Tomorrow is all about the lovingkindness of God. From the waters of the font, to the Scriptures read and the Good News of Jesus preached and to the Supper of life and salvation. The whole service is a constant reminder of God's lovingkindness. And even if it happens that you tune out for a bit, when your mind is brought back, where are you? Still in the midst of God's loving and kind mercy and forgiveness.
In the Lord's temple, in church tomorrow, it's all about the God who is loving and kind and patient with you, bringing you forgiveness and faith which rests in Him. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
It is Your work alone That I am now converted; O'er Satan's work in me You have Your pow'r asserted. Your mercy and Your grace That rise afresh each morn Have turned my stony hear Into a heart newborn. (How Can I Thank You, Lord, LSB 703:2)
Fri, 07 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
"Then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. (Deuteronomy 6:12)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. And this is exactly what happened: The Israelites forgot the Lord. What about you? When you were confirmed you made a vow that you would suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from the faith you were taught from the Catechism. Yet all around you is the temptation to make your salvation and religion and faith and piety all about you.
The world is full of preachers and teachers who make baptism into an action of your obedience. That make living the Christian life a matter of how hard you are trying. That make your happiness dependent on how much love you have for God. That turn Christ's gifts into ordinances and the Gospel into a command instead of the proclamation of Good News.
Beware! Beware, because just like the Israelites, you'll be tempted by that cute guy or girl you want to date to drift off to their "me- centered" religion. Beware as you grow older and begin to start making more and more money, because you will be tempted to love all the things you can buy more than the Lord who gives them to you. And so on. Around every corner is some temptation which seeks to make you forget your Savior.
That's why the Lord sent prophets to the Israelites over and over. That's why you have a faithful pastor--to get your attention and direct you always to Jesus. Jesus who became man for you. Jesus who died for you. Jesus who rose from the dead for you. Jesus who rescued you from sin, death and the devil--not with your help but all on His own by His sacrifice and resurrection. Jesus who washed you at the font, making you a child of God. Jesus who forgives your sins. Jesus who gives you His Body and Blood as a gift of forgiveness, life and salvation.
With such a Lord, who led His people out of Egypt and brought you out of the slavery of sin, He'll remind you who He is and what He's done so that you may ever be in His saving faith and church. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Preserve Your Word, O Savior, To us this latter day, And let Your kingdom flourish; Enlarge Your Church, we pray. O keep our faith from failing; Keep hope's bright star aglow. Let nothing from truth turn us While living here below. (Preserve Your Word, O Savior, LSB 658:1)
Thu, 06 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
You go near and hear all that the LORD our God may say, and tell us all that the LORD our God says to you, and we will hear and do it.' (Deuteronomy 5:27)
In the Name + of Jesus. Have you ever argued with your friends about doing something dangerous? "You do it!" "No, YOU do it!" The Israelites told Moses, "YOU do it! You go up close to the mountain!" The thunder and lightning from the mountain and the fearsome presence of the Lord on Mt. Sinai were more than the Israelites could bear. So they told Moses to go and talk to God.
It's a fact that if we sinners were to approach God's awesome glory and majesty, we'd be toast. You can't just waltz into God's presence and expect to slap Him a high five--not when you've got sins. That's why God becomes man. That's why Jesus comes. Since we can't get near God, He comes near to us and in a way that's not scary or dangerous.
Smoke? Fire? Thunder? The blast of a horn? Nope. Baby. In a manger of all places. Guy in a river, bowing His head to be baptized. Silent before His accusers. Nailed to a cross. How can any of that be scary? But when God looks LEAST like God, that's when Jesus is doing what is most Godly at all: saving you from your sins.
Jesus comes so that God can get near us without killing us. Instead, as true God and true MAN, Jesus can get near us and save us. He can take our sins upon Himself. He can suffer and die for them.
But there will come a day when we stand in His glorious presence. What then? Is that the day we get vaporized? Hardly. That's the day you're prepared for because Jesus died and rose for you. You're ready because you've been clothed with Christ in Holy Baptism and in fact, by His Supper, Christ Himself lives in you. All the gifts that Christ gives you now in His Church have prepared you to see the Lord face to face and not die but live. That day will not be a day of terror but of rejoicing forever. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Around the throne of David, The saints, from care released, Raise loud their songs of triumph To celebrate the feast. They sing to Christ their leader, Who conquered in the fight, Who won for them forever Their gleaming robes of white. (Jerusalem the Golden, LSB 672:3)
Wed, 05 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
9. What has Christ done for you that you trust in Him? He died for me and shed His blood for me on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. 10. Did the Father also die for you? He did not. The Father is God only, as is the Holy Spirit; but the Son is both true God and true man. He died for me and shed His blood for me. (Small Catechism, Christian Questions and Their Answers)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Christian Questions are a great review of everything we learned in the Catechism with answers that are simple and clear. Why should we trust in Jesus? What did He do for us? He died for us and shed His blood for us. And, to be clear, it wasn't the Father or the Holy Spirit who did that, just the Son. Only the Son became man. Only Jesus is true God and true man.
The world has many ideas about who Jesus is. People believe all kinds of things about Jesus. They have all sorts of ideas about Jesus. But this is the one thing that is true and that matters: "He died for me and shed His blood on the cross for the forgiveness of sins." That, at its essence, at its simplest, is the Christian faith.
The death of Jesus. For the forgiveness of sins. If we forget that, deny it, reject it, then we have turned away from God and have fallen into unbelief. But to cling to and believe those promises, that Christ died and that He shed His blood for our forgiveness, well, that is our hope, our life, our religion, our faith, our church, our worship, our everything.
And so, the Christian Questions are reminding us of this so that when we go to the Supper to receive that Body and Blood, we'll know what it's all about. We'll know what it's for. It's for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus didn't suffer and die for any other reason than to obey His Father and give His life into death in exchange for ours, so that all our sins would be wiped out.
When you go again to receive Christ's Body and Blood, remember that. Remember and rejoice that this very Blood of Jesus was given for you and has taken away all your sins. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Your body and Your blood, Once slain and shed for me, Are taken at Your table, Lord, In blest reality. (Your Table I Approach, LSB 628:3)
Tue, 04 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Ephesians 4:22-28
And that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:24)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Whenever we read the Scriptures which tell us to kill the Old Adam (see verse 22), that Old Adam tries to twist it into making religion about us. Put on the new man? Sure--by trying to live a certain way. By trying to be a "good Christian." Jesus saved you but you have to do the work of living and changing.
No! St. Paul is not telling YOU to do something. He's telling you that your life is in Christ. The Old Adam doesn't die and the New Man arise because you try to break your bad habits and do better. The Old Adam dies daily by contrition and repentance in a return to the promise of baptism. And by that same baptism, the New Man is brought to life each day.
But how does that work? Like this. On Calvary, Jesus took the job of being your Old Adam. The Second Adam took on Himself the sins of the original Adam and everyone since. He took on your sins. He bled and died for them to put sin to death once and for all. Then He rose from the dead and by water and the Word, gives you that new life.
Putting on the new man, as St. Paul describes, isn't done by some effort in us. It's accomplished by the Holy Spirit through the water and Word and Body and Blood of Jesus.
There is a lie out there that says the Christian life is all about how you respond to what Jesus has done for you. The truth is the Christian life is all about Christ living in and through you. He died and rose again. That death and resurrection is what happens to you daily as Christ lives in and through you, connected to you by water and the Word and His Body and Blood.
You are baptized. You are a new man. You have all righteousness and holiness in Jesus. He's accomplished that for you. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
We thank You, Christ; new life is ours, New light, new hope, new strength, new pow'rs. This grace our ev'ry way attend Until we reach our journey's end. (All Mankind Fell in Adam's Fall, LSB 562:6)
Mon, 03 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Genesis 28:10-17
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it." (Genesis 28:16)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. A lot of people think that when we go to church, we are just hearing about things that happened long ago. Jesus came and went and, while He may come again some day, we are just thinking about a God who is far away.
Jacob dreamed that heaven was connected to earth right there at Bethel. He awoke and had not realized God was there. Do you make the same mistake? Do you think God is far away? Absent? Do you suppose that on Sunday, there is a time to think about the God who is not there but that's all it is?
In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes a reference to the ladder that Jacob saw and teaches us that it was Him. He is the connection between heaven and earth. He is God, from above, and man, born in this world--both, at the same time.
On the cross, God for sinners; a man bleeding and dying. Both at the same time. And now, in church, where His Word and water and Body and Blood are. There, Jesus is present. Not just present in our "hearts" but in a real and actual way through His gifts.
Jesus told His disciples that when they baptize and teach, He will be with them always until forever. That's not just a pious thought that "Jesus is with me" when I know He's not. He actually is. Where? Altar. Pulpit. Lectern. Book. Pastor. Bread. Wine. Water. In these gifts, Christ is truly present. For real. For you. This is why in church we are gathered to sing His praises and speak and act (bowing and kneeling and such) as if Jesus is actually there, because He is.
And whenever He shows up, it's always for the same reason: to join heaven and earth and make sure that sinners know His promises. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Then let us now draw near, Washed in that precious flood And enter the Most Holy Place By Jesus' blood. From hearts that are sincere, Let tongues our hope profess, And trust anew God's faithful grace That we confess. (Christ Sits at God's Right Hand, LSB 564:5)
Sun, 02 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Today's Reading: Matthew 9:1-8
And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, "This Man blasphemes!" (Matthew 9:3)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Blasphemy. Trash-talking about God. Saying things about God that aren't true. Talking in a way that God doesn't talk. What got this term, "blasphemy" thrown at Jesus? He forgave a man his sins! Think about this. The enemies of Jesus are upset because he told a man that there is nothing that separates him from God because his sins are forgiven. All that he's ever said, done, or thought is forgiven.
To declare that forgiving this man's sins is blasphemy is saying that God is NOT in the business of forgiving sins. Whatever else the Lord is about, it's NOT telling people their sins are forgiven. So what is God about? Who knows? But do you really want a God whose business is something other than forgiving sins?
Jesus, who is Himself God, came to forgive sins. To die for sinners. To pay for their sins. To take them away. Once and for all. But not only that, He came to deliver and proclaim that forgiveness. In many instances, Jesus Himself told sinners their sins were forgiven. But that was just a preview of what was to come. After His resurrection, He sent His Apostles to tell even more people their sins are forgiven. And they ordained men and so on, down to our pastors today--through whom Jesus still announces that forgiveness.
If someone gets up in your grill because you say that baptism forgives sins, or your pastor pronounces forgiveness, or that Jesus' Body and Blood give forgiveness, just ask them, "Well what do YOU think God is all about?" The real blasphemy isn't that God uses men to speak the forgiveness that Jesus won. The real blasphemy, the real trash-talking about God, is saying that He is not about that very thing: forgiving sinners.
The crowds marveled that God had given such authority to men. But there it is. By the voice of those He calls, Jesus says to you, "Yes, your sins, all of them, are forgiven." In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
O almighty and most merciful God, of Your bountiful goodness keep us, we implore You, from all things that may hurt us, that we, being ready, both in body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish those things that You would have done; 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 19)
Sat, 01 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 1:16-37
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. (Psalm 34:17 from the Introit for Trinity 19)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Careful. Some might read these words and say, "Well if that's true, people wouldn't die in car accidents. Or get murdered. Or waste away with cancer. When someone gets sick and they pray and they still die, then did the Lord not hear? Did He not deliver them?" That's to hear these words of the psalmist apart from Jesus.
On the cross, Jesus cried out. The Father was silent. He didn't hear. He didn't answer. And instead of Jesus getting saved from suffering, that suffering killed Him. And that death of Jesus, followed by His resurrection, followed by your baptism and His Word and Supper--that is His hearing and delivering you.
You have been delivered from all your troubles. But wait, don't you still struggle in school? Fight with your parents? Have that illness? Miss that friend? Sure. But that doesn't mean you haven't been rescued from your troubles. In fact, in Jesus, there is not a single thing on earth that can truly defeat or hurt you. Not sickness. Not sadness. Not even death. Do those things hurt? Are they unpleasant? Sure. But they're not the end. And they're not your future.
In Jesus, you have been delivered out of all your troubles. All of them. That doesn't mean you won't endure them. But it does mean they can't separate you from God's love. It means they cannot stick to you and condemn you. They cannot keep you from rising from the dead on the Last Day.
We forget this. We get bogged down in our troubles. So tomorrow we'll go to the Lord's house and cry out again for Him to hear us. And Jesus will remind you of your baptism, forgive your sins, strengthen you with His Word and raise you up with His Supper. That's being delivered from all your troubles. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
No danger, thirst, or hunger, No pain or poverty, No earthly tyrant's anger Shall ever vanquish me. Though earth should break asunder, My fortress You shall be; No fire or sword or thunder Shall sever You from me. (If God Himself Be for Me, LSB 724:8)
Fri, 30 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
"And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. (Matthew 6:7)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. There's a notion out there that prayers that are "rote" or written down are not really genuine prayers. Some people compare prayers that are written down or said over and over to the "vain words" that Jesus speaks about. But what was Jesus' answer to the idea of "vain words"? The Lord's Prayer. To guard against rambling and pointless prayers, Jesus Himself teaches us to pray.
It is NOT wrong to use your own words in a prayer. Yet many find that when they try to pray their mind wanders or they don't really know what to say so they stumble along.
But prayer isn't for being timid! It's for being bold! And that boldness doesn't come from ourselves but from God's Word which Jesus teaches us to pray! When Jesus gives us the words of the Lord's Prayer, He's teaching us to ask these things from the Father because the Father is promising to give them!
The thing about the Lord's Prayer is that Jesus is the One who teaches it so it must be the best prayer there is! And indeed, there is nothing we could ask for that we don't ask for in the Lord's Prayer. Really! Try to think of something that you might ask your heavenly Father for that's NOT in the prayer that Jesus taught. You can't do it, especially when you learn what each petition means, as the Catechism teaches.
We can pray such a prayer because the One who taught it is the One who died for our sins and rose again, defeating death. We can pray "Our Father" because in baptism, we are given the promise that we have been made God's children. All that we ask for we ask in and through Jesus because He is the One whose salvation means we are now children of our heavenly Father.
To pray the Lord's Prayer is to pray as the Lord commands. It is to ask for all things that the Lord promises to hear and give us. It is not vain and babbling words, no rambling, pointless prayer. It is the "battle cry" of the Christian as we live each day by the mercy and grace of God in Christ. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Our Father, who from heav'n above Bids all of us to live in love As members of one family And pray to You in unity, Teach us no thoughtless words to say But from our inmost hearts to pray. (Our Father, Who from Heaven Above, LSB 766:1)
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)