Welcome

Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Jesus Fulfilled All the Promises - Easter Morning - March 31, 2013 - Text: Acts 2:22-33

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
 
Our text for this morning is Acts 2:22-32: “22Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,  or let your Holy One see corruption. 28You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ 29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” This is our text.
 
This year during the season of Lent and Easter we have been following the thread of God’s promise to send a Savior for all people (one covenant, not two). We began in the Garden of Eden when God first made His promise to send a Savior to Adam and Eve, before there was a Jew or Gentile. We continued with the reiteration of the covenant and the announcement of its fulfillment being narrowed, that is that the Savior of all nations would be born through the line of Abram whose name was later changed to Abraham. We followed as the covenant was reiterated and continued through the line of Abraham’s son, Isaac, and through Isaac’s son, Jacob and even through Israel’s greatest king, King David. Last week we moved into the New Testament and heard the announcement of the beginning of the fulfillment of the covenant through Zechariah’s son, John. On Maundy Thursday we continued in the New Testament with the announcement to Mary that she will be the mother of the Messiah. On Good Friday we moved to hear the announcement from the priest Simeon who was serving in the temple, the news and prophecy of the events which we do remember on Good Friday Evening. At our Sunrise service we were reminded that Jesus is the Savior for all people of all places of all times, especially including your Savior and mine.
 
We continue again this morning with a quick review of the history of Christianity which begins in the Garden of Eden. After God created a perfect world and place the perfect man and the perfect woman He had created into the perfect Garden He had created for them, and as soon as He moved to let them live their lives, they just as immediately fell into sin, disobeying God and eating of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. With that sin, death entered the world and God cursed the world. Because of His great love for His creation, God immediately stepped in and promised to send a Christ, which is the Greek word for the Hebrew word, a Messiah. Thus, Christianity was born, in the Garden of Eden with the promise of a Christ, so that all who believed in the coming Christ would be saved. And as we have noted and reiterated time and again through this Lenten Season and this morning, and as we will note and reiterate time and again this morning, this promise, this covenant was made with Adam and Eve, before there was a Jew or Gentile, or any other culture or ethnicity in this world.
 
As time went on God reiterated and repeated His promise of a Christ, by telling Abraham that the promised Messiah would be born through his family line. This was not a new covenant nor a second covenant, but a reiteration and a narrowing of the line of fulfillment of this one covenant.
 
As we moved into the New Testament, the last word of prophecy, the last word from the Lord had been given was over 500 years earlier. When the Lord sent His angels to appear and announce the coming of the fulfillment of all His Old Testament promises He began by announcing to Zachariah that he would be the father of the one who would go before Jesus in the power and spirit of Elijah to prepare the way. He sent His angel to announce to Mary that she was chosen to be the mother of God and to Joseph that he was to be the adoptive father of God.
 
Thus, we get to Jesus who is truly human and truly divine. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit making Him truly God and He was born of the virgin Mary making Him truly human. He had to be truly God so that He might be born without sin, perfect and holy and He had to be truly human so that He might be our substitute, giving and trading His life for ours.
 
And so, Jesus was born and He lived a perfect life, perfectly fulfilling all the law and prophets. Jesus obeyed all God’s laws, His ceremonial, His moral and His civil laws perfectly and He did this because the whole nation of Israel could not do this and because we could not be perfect, so He was perfect for us in our place. He also fulfilled all God’s promises concerning the Christ, the Messiah so that we know that He truly is the one promised in the Garden of Eden and reiterated throughout the Old Testament.
 
After living in perfection, Jesus took all our sins and the sins of all people who had ever lived and all the sins of those living and all the sins of those yet to come, including our sins and the sins we have yet to commit. He took all sins upon Himself and he suffered and died to pay the price for all sins, which was death as set in the Garden of Eden, the soul that sins shall die.
 
Yet, as we celebrate here this morning and the reason we come to divine service on Sunday morning is to celebrate the fact that death and the grave had no power over Jesus, but that He rose victorious over sin, death and the power of the devil.
 
What wonderful words we have from Peter this morning as he preaches a sermon attesting to his witness of Jesus. Peter proclaims the word of truth that Jesus was attested to be the Messiah, the Christ, by His mighty works and wonders and signs, in other words, who else could do the miracles, the healing, raising from the dead, casting out demons, even controlling the weather, except God and as Jesus did these things He showed Himself to be truly God.
 
Peter continues proclaiming Jesus defeat of death for us. As Christians, we profess that Jesus died, yes, our God, in the person of Jesus Christ died, just like you and I will some day die. Jesus died and as He died He placed Himself into the hands of His Father. Jesus paid the price for your sins and my sins. Jesus whose Father had forsaken Him while He was bearing our sins, He who knew no sin, and while He suffered and paid the price for sin, now that He had reconciled us to Himself, now receives Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
 
And as Peter continues to proclaim, Jesus did not stay dead, but rose as spoken by the Psalmist David. Jesus, true God, begotten from the Father from eternity, and true man, born of the virgin Mary, rose victorious over death as well as claiming victory over sin and the devil.
 
And now Peter with all the apostles bear witness of their seeing Jesus alive. Jesus showed Himself to many people over a forty day period, from His resurrection to His ascension, to be alive. Jesus showed Himself to be alive so there would be no doubt about His victory.
 
What does this mean? As we gather on this wonderful Easter morning, as we have walked through the promises of God in the Old Testament and the fulfillment of those promises in the New Testament, we know that we can believe the Word of God as He has given it. The Bible is the very Word of God, a Word with power, a Word that does and gives what it says, namely that it is a Word which gives faith, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life. God’s Word is true and we believe it because it is His Word.
 
We know that we can believe the witness of the Apostles. Why would those who witnessed the resurrection risk their lives telling the truth of the resurrection, except for the fact that it is true. Certainly a person may lie in order to save themself, but the witness of Jesus’ resurrection told the truth which cost many of them their lives.
 
We rejoice this morning as we do every Sunday morning, which, every Sunday we celebrate as a mini resurrection event, because we know that we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus alone. And even more, this faith has been given to us, through God’s means of grace, either through Holy Baptism as a child or through His Word as we have grown older. God gives us faith because of His great love for us. And we are saved by God’s grace through faith alone. Remember, grace costs us nothing so that grace plus anything equals the anything, not grace. That is why it is so important that we take care in expressing our salvation by God’s grace so that we never point to ourselves lest we confuse others.
 
And that my dear friends is why we as Christians are so hated by the rest of the world, because of Jesus, because of His claim to be the one and only way to eternal life. And yet we continue to rejoice in the resurrection. God does it all and He gives everything to us.
 
This morning, we gather here, as Christians around the world, either underground or in the open gatherings, bearing witness of our faith, bearing witness of the Word of God, its power and its work, bearing witness that we worship a living God, a God who does everything for us and gives everything to us. We worship a God of grace and mercy. We worship a God who loves us so much and daily loves us, forgiving us and giving us opportunities and the will and strength to be His people. And when we fail, as we do on a daily basis, He forgives and forgives again. What a great God we have, a living, resurrected God we have.
 
He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

The Savior for All Nations Easter Sunrise - March 31, 2013 - Text: Matthew 3:1-12 (esp. v. 9) and Romans 9:30-33

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
 
We have two texts for this morning, Matthew 3:1-12: “1In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:  ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” 4Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” and Romans 9:30-33: “30What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33as it is written,  “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;  and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” These are our texts.
 
This year during the season of Lent and Easter we have been following the thread of God’s promise to send a Savior for all people (one covenant, not two). We began in the Garden of Eden when God first made His promise to send a Savior to Adam and Eve, before there was a Jew or Gentile. We continued with the reiteration of the covenant and the announcement of its fulfillment being narrowed, that is that the Savior of all nations would be born through the line of Abram whose name was later changed to Abraham. We followed as the covenant was reiterated and continued through the line of Abraham’s son, Isaac, and through Isaac’s son, Jacob and even through Israel’s greatest king, King David. Last week we moved into the New Testament and heard the announcement of the beginning of the fulfillment of the covenant through Zechariah’s son, John. Maundy Thursday we continued in the New Testament with the announcement to Mary that she will be the mother of the Messiah. On Good Friday we moved to hear the announcement from the priest Simeon who was serving in the temple, the news and prophecy of the events which we remember on Good Friday.
 
A quick review of the history of Christianity begins in the Garden of Eden. After God created a perfect world and placed the perfect man and the perfect woman He had created into the perfect Garden He had created for them, and as soon as He moved to let them live their lives, they just as immediately fell into sin, disobeying God and eating of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. With that sin, death entered the world and God cursed the world, but because of His great love for His creation, He immediately stepped in and promised to send a Christ, which is the Greek word for the Hebrew word, a Messiah. Thus, Christianity was born, in the Garden of Eden with the promise of a Christ, so that all who believed in the coming Christ would be saved.
 
As time went on God reiterated and repeated His promise of a Christ, by telling Abraham that the promised Messiah would be born through his family line. He reiterated this promise to Abraham’s son Isaac and to his son Jacob. He reiterated this promise to Judah, and later to Moses and on throughout the Old Testament.
 
As we move into the New Testament, the last word of prophecy, the last word from the Lord had been given over 500 years earlier and then God called Zachariah to announce the coming fulfillment of all those promises. He also spoke to Mary and Joseph as well as they would be the parents of the Messiah, the Christ, Jesus Himself.
 
As to the announcement to Zachariah, God told him that he and his barren wife, Elizabeth would have a son and they were to name him John. This John who would be John the Baptist would be the one who would prepare the Children of Israel for the birth of the Messiah. John’s announcement was that the end was here, that Jesus was ushering in the end times.
 
John prepared the people for Jesus’ birth. Jesus’ birth was the beginning of the fulfillment of all the promises made in the Old Testament, beginning in the Garden of Eden when God first promised to send a Christ for all people. Remember, when God first made His promise to send a Christ to Adam and Eve that event happened before there was a Jew and a Gentile. Jesus’ birth reminds us that Abraham’s children were not children of DNA, but children of faith. In other words, what made a person a child of the covenant was not his or her physical line of descent, but their faith in the Messiah, their faith in the Christ alone, thus showing us that even in the Old Testament only Christians were saved.
 
As Jesus lived a perfect life for us, as He taught and proclaimed the Word of God, He reminded those who thought they were children of Abraham by DNA, that they were not children of Abraham if they did not have faith in the Messiah. Thus, those who did not and who do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah have been removed from the family tree and this removal is the beginning of modern Judaism.
 
Paul clarifies this important fact in Romans where he reminds us that those who attempt to be saved by the Law, the Pharisees and teachers of the law and those who attempt to be saved by their own character and good works will not succeed. Grace, which cost zero for us, plus anything always equals the anything so it is no longer grace.
 
On the other hand, salvation, true salvation is based on faith not works of the law. True salvation is the fact that Jesus lived the perfect life for us, as demanded by God, because we cannot. Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament promises and prophecies, even all the law; civil, moral and ceremonial, perfectly for us, because we cannot. Jesus then took all our sins upon Himself and suffered and died paying the price for our sins. And He did this as our substitute, trading His perfect life, His suffering and death for us.
 
And so, Jesus continues, even today to be a stumbling stone to those who do not believe, to those who would add anything to grace. Jesus continues to be a stumbling stone to those who would rather have their own way, do their own thing, believe their own version of truth which is a lie. Jesus is a stumbling stone for all those who deny that He is the Messiah, the Christ promised in Eden, the Christ promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and so on through history.
 
It is Jesus alone who has purchased salvation with His life, suffering, death and resurrection. It is Jesus alone who gives salvation to all those who do believe. Faith in anyone or anything other than faith in Jesus Christ alone does not save. There is only one name under heaven given among men whereby we are saved and that name alone is Jesus Christ.
 
What does this mean? Contrary to what has been taught and believed by some in our world today, actually a rather new theology which is little over a hundred years old, God did not made two covenants, one with the Jews and a second with the Gentiles. God only made one covenant and that covenant was first made in the Garden of Eden when there was only Adam and Eve, two people, no Jew or Gentile. So, there always was only one covenant.
 
The one covenant was and is a covenant of grace, through faith, given through means. The covenant is not base on one’s birth or family tree. The covenant is not based on DNA. The covenant is not a covenant of rights, rules and regulations, not a covenant in which anything is earned nor deserved. It was God who initiated and made the covenant and we, humanity to whom the covenant has been given. It is God who makes us a part of the covenant by His grace and He does this, makes us a part of His covenant by giving us faith, and He gives us faith through the very means He has given to give us faith, namely the means of grace; Holy Baptism and His Word. And even more He strengthens and keeps us in faith through the means of grace as well; again, Holy Baptism and His Word, but also confession and absolution and the Lord’s Supper.
 
The very reason Christians are hated by the rest of the world, by all those who are not Christians is because of this exclusive claim that there is one and only one way to eternal life and that way is the Jesus and faith in Jesus alone. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we will be saved. One is saved by faith in Jesus alone.
 
Which means that we are the new Israel. Those born of Jewish DNA who refuse and reject Jesus have rejected and given up His covenant. And even those who are not born of Jewish DNA, and yet believe in Jesus, are a part of the covenant. We are saved, by grace, through faith, given to us through means.
 
And so, especially this morning we rejoice in our salvation as we celebrate that Jesus lived for us, suffered and died for us and now rose for us. We celebrate that when we pass on from this world and enter into our eternal home in heaven He will robe us with His perfect robes of righteousness. And our response is to go out and share this good news with others so they too might be a part of His family and kingdom.
 
It is meet, right and salutary that we should gather this day, this Easter morning and even every Sunday morning to celebrate in divine service and be reminded of what our Great God has done, does and will do for us. It is right that we should gather to be given the gifts He has to give so that we might be filled to overflowing and overflow on to others to the praise and glory of His Holy name.
 
He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Fulfillment Announced through Simeon - Good Friday - March 29, 2013 - Text: Luke 2:22-38

Our text for this evening is Luke 2:22-38: “22And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,  according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation 31that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” 36And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” This is our text.
 
This year during the season of Lent and Easter we are following the thread of God’s promise to send a Savior for all people (one covenant, not two). We began in the Garden of Eden when God first made His promise to send a Savior to Adam and Eve, before there was a Jew or Gentile. We continued with the reiteration of the covenant and the announcement of its fulfillment being narrowed, that is that the Savior of all nations would be born through the line of Abram whose name was later changed to Abraham. We followed as the covenant was reiterated and continued through the line of Abraham’s son, Isaac, and through Isaac’s son, Jacob and even through Israel’s greatest king, King David. Last week we moved into the New Testament and heard the announcement of the beginning of the fulfillment of the covenant through Zechariah’s son, John. And last night we continued in the New Testament with the announcement to Mary that she will be the mother of the Messiah. This evening we move to hear the announcement from the priest Simeon who was serving in the temple, the news and prophecy of the events which we do remember on this Good Friday Evening.
 
A quick review of the history of Christianity begins in the Garden of Eden. After God created a perfect world and placed the perfect man and the perfect woman He had created into the perfect Garden He had created for them, and as soon as He left them to live their lives, they just as immediately fell into sin, disobeying God and eating of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. With that sin death entered the world, which was the promised punishment for eating the fruit and God cursed the world. But He also immediately stepped in and promised to send a Christ, which is the Greek word for the Hebrew word, a Messiah. Thus, Christianity was born, in the Garden of Eden with the promise of a Christ, so that all who believed in the coming Christ would be saved. Notice also as we have been pointing out through Lent, the first promise of a Christ was made in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve before there ever were Jews and Gentiles or any other culture or ethnicity for that matter.
 
As time went on God reiterated and repeated His promise of a Christ, narrowing down the family through which He would fulfill His promise by telling Abraham that the promised Messiah would be born through his family line.
 
As we move into the New Testament, the last word of prophecy, the last word from the Lord had been given over 500 years earlier.
 
The beginning of the end, the beginning of God’s fulfillment and the ushering in of the end times happened when Jesus was born. Before Jesus was born, God promised a priest named Simeon, that he would see the Messiah, the Christ who was promised in the Garden of Eden. About Simeon we are told, “there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (v. 25, 26).
 
On this one special day, Simeon was directed by God to enter the temple. Jesus had been born “and when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’)  and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons’” (v. 22-24).
 
“And [Simeon] came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law,  he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, ‘Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel’” (v. 27-32).
 
Moved by the Holy Spirit of God, Simeon prophesied that Jesus was the salvation of Israel. Jesus was the Messiah, that is the Christ that was promised in the Garden of Eden.
 
Simeon prophesied of Jesus that He was a light for revelation to the Gentiles, that is that not only was Jesus born to save those of Jewish descent, but also all people, Gentiles included, again reminding us that the Christ promised in the Garden of Eden was promised before there was a Jew or Gentile and so was promised for all people.
 
Simeon, by the power of the Holy Spirit continued to prophesy of Jesus that He was born for the glory of His people, Israel. In other words, what the entire nation of Israel could not do, that is live according to the perfect will of God, Jesus did. What we are unable to do, live perfect lives, Jesus did and He lived perfectly for us and for all people. Jesus lived perfectly so that He might be our substitute, so He might trade His perfect life for our imperfect life.
 
Simeon prophesied that Jesus would be for the rise and fall of many in Israel. The first New Testament Christians were those of the Jewish faith who believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ. Those who rejected Jesus began what is today aptly called the religion or faith of Judaism. Thus, those who rejected Jesus fell from faith and were no longer a part of God’s covenant, which was a covenant of faith, and those who do believe, even we Gentiles of today are a part of God’s covenant, we are a part of the children of Abraham, not by birth nor DNA, but by faith, by God’s grace through faith which He gives to us.
 
Finally, Simeon speaking specifically to Mary prophesied that Jesus would be “a sign that is opposed,” in other words, Jesus and the name of Jesus would cause much difficulty throughout the world as well as time and history. And Jesus and His name continue to cause controversy even today.
 
What does this mean? Again this evening we are reminded that Jesus is the One promised in Eden. He is the Messiah, which is the Hebrew word for the Greek word, Christ. Old Testament Christianity was faith in the coming Christ. New Testament Christianity is faith in Jesus who came as the Christ. God’s original promise was for a Savior for all people, of all places, of all times, you and me included.
 
Jesus is the One promised to Abraham. God did not make a new covenant or a second covenant with Abraham, rather God simply narrowed the family line through which the Christ would be born.
 
Jesus is the One and only One who saves. Faith in anyone or anything else will not save. Faith in Jesus alone, given to us by God’s grace alone is what saves alone.
 
We are children of the covenant, by faith He gives to us. We rejoice because Jesus came for us. He came to live the perfect life for all of Israel and for us because they could not nor can we. Jesus came to fulfill all God’s promises and prophecies concerning the coming Messiah perfectly and then He took all the sins of all people, of all places, of all times on Himself and suffered and died paying the price for our sin. All because of His great love for us.
 
Today it is important that we continue to remember and follow God’s covenant because His covenant is a covenant, not based on human desire, need or work, but based on Jesus and His work of salvation for us. We need that constant reminder of our part in Jesus suffering and death. It was not only because of Adam and Eve’s sin, not only because the earth has been cursed, not only because we are conceived and born in sin, but also because of our own actual sins that Jesus had to come and die to pay the price for our sins.
 
Even before God began creation, He knew what was going to happen. Even before God began creation, He could look through time and He could see us, you and me. Because of His great love for us, for you and for me, He set into motion, not only creation, but also our redemption. Yes, you and I put Jesus on the cross. Yet, He went to the cross willingly because of His great love for us. At our Baptism He put faith in our hearts and made us His children. As we confess our sins and hear His words of absolution, as we hear His Holy Word read and proclaimed, as we partake of His body and blood in His Holy Supper, we are strengthened in our faith, we participate in His life, death and resurrection, and we are given His robes of righteousness. And all we can do is rejoice and give Him thanks, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Good Friday Thoughts

Good Friday Thoughts
(What Good Friday Means)

My self worth is not related to:
how new my phone is
how big or small I am
how new my car is
how tan or not tan my skin is
how new my computer is
how my eyes are shaped
how my nose is shaped
what title I have
my career
how big my house is
what color my eyes are
my hair color or lack of hair
what I think of myself
how much stuff I have
how much I earn

As a matter of fact in and of myself I am worthless.
My worth is actually the fact that
I am conceived and born in sin (Ps. 51:5)
Every inclination of my heart is evil all the time (Gen. 6:5)
Even against my desire I daily sin much (Rom. 7:14-21)
I am the sinner (Luke 18:13)

Thanks be to God that on this day, Good Friday,
God gives me my worth because of His great love for me,
Love that includes the facts that
Jesus was conceived and born for me (as promised in Gen. 3:15)
Jesus lived perfectly for me, in my place because I cannot
Jesus took all my sins upon Himself
Jesus suffered the punishment for all my sins (even those I have yet to commit)
Jesus suffered hell for me
Jesus died for me
And Jesus rose for me, victorious over sin, death and the devil.

My self worth is that God loves me so much that He gives me value, eternal value!
Thanks be to God!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Fulfillment Announced to Mary - Maundy Thursday - March 28, 2013 - Text: Luke 1:26-37

Our text for this evening is Luke 1:26-37: “26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God. 36And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” This is our text.
 
This year during the season of Lent and Easter we are following the thread of God’s promise to send a Savior for all people (one covenant, not two). We began in the Garden of Eden when God first made His promise to send a Savior to Adam and Eve, before there was a Jew or Gentile. We continued with the reiteration of the covenant and the announcement of its fulfillment being narrowed, that is that the Savior of all nations would be born through the line of Abram whose name was later changed to Abraham. We followed as the covenant was reiterated and continued through the line of Abraham’s son, Isaac, and through Isaac’s son, Jacob and even through Israel’s greatest king, King David. Last week we moved in the New Testament and heard the announcement of the beginning of the fulfillment of the covenant through Zechariah’s son, John. This week continue in the New Testament and the announcement to Mary that she will be the mother of the Messiah.
 
In the beginning God created a perfect world. Into this perfect world He created a perfect Garden and in this perfect Garden He created and placed a man and a woman, Adam and Eve. In Genesis chapter three God “turns the reins” over to Adam and Eve and they disobey God and bring sin, death and a curse onto the world. Thanks be to God that He immediately stepped in and promised Adam and Eve and the world, that He would send a Savior, a Messiah, an anointed one, a Christ, one to atone for and make right what Adam and Eve had broken.
 
After a number of years, God remembered his promise, not that He had forgotten His promise, but He remembered His promise and reiterated His promise, this time narrowing the family through whom He would fulfill His promise down to Abraham.
 
As we have been hearing over the past number of weeks, God continued to reiterate His promise even to King David concerning his kingdom, that is David’s kingdom and God’s kingdom. In other words, the promise in Eden was for forgiveness on earth, which would mean eternal life in heaven. And this forgiveness and life were gifts from our gracious Creator God, so that this forgiveness and life are not earned nor deserved, but are gifts given through faith, which is given as well.
 
Moving into the New Testament, the prophecies God had made were beginning to be fulfilled and the announcement of their fulfillment came to one young woman, Mary, who we are told was a virgin, and this was important, because one prophecy of the Savior was that He would be born of a virgin.
    
To this Mary, God sent His angel, Gabriel, to announce to her that she was favored and chosen by God. This favor and choosing was not because of anything within her, but was because God chose her. Mary did not choose God. Mary did not choose to be chosen by God. It was God who came to Mary, chose her and announced His favor on her. As always and even as in our own lives of faith, God is the one initiating these events.
 
God’s angel, Gabriel announced to Mary that she will conceive a child in her womb and this child will be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit who would “overshadow” her. Thus, this child would be fully human, being conceived and born of a human woman, and He would be truly God, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, even God Himself.
 
This child would also be a son of David, as it were, because as we read in the genealogies of Mary and Joseph, both parents trace their roots back to King David and of course through the line of Judah. All of this evidence, all of these facts are important to make sure we know that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior of the world.
 
And about this Messiah, this Savior, this Jesus who is from the Kingly line of David, His reign will be forever, not on this earth, but in heaven. Again we see the eternal nature of these prophecies, and their fulfillment. We see the eternal nature of God’s grace and favor. We see the eternal nature of salvation as a gift from God, not by genetics, not by birth, but the faith given through the means of grace.
 
Mary’s response to the news of the angel was that she asked for an explanation, yet her asking was not an asking in doubt, as was Zechariah’s. Perhaps, putting the best construction on everything and explaining everything in the kindest way, perhaps a part of the difficulty Zechariah had in believing was because he and Elizabeth were past child bearing years and so his questioning was a questioning of doubt. As for Mary, her question was simply a question of procedure.
 
In faith, faith which God had given to her, Mary submitted to God’s will and plan. Mary agreed to be the mother of God, although I would suggest that she really had no idea what that meant or might mean.
 
As with all of Holy Scripture, we are reminded once again, that with God all things are possible. It is God who is the prime mover in all these events that are taking place. It is God who is doing everything for us.
 
Our what does this mean? Continues to be answered with our focus on our gracious Lord. The events of this Lenten Season, the events of this evening, tomorrow and Easter Sunday are all events set in motion by our good and gracious God who loves us so much that He takes care of everything for us. What we are witnessing is God stepping into our human history.
 
These events which we are witnessing are God fulfilling His promise to save His creation. The promise made in Eden is being fulfilled for us, for you and me, for all people, of all places of all times. None of these events is coincidence. All of these events are thought out and calculated for the purpose of restoring us to a right relationship with God the Father.
 
Again, the focus is always on our Lord. It is God who is bringing redemption and reconciliation. We are doing nothing but witnessing these events. We are being passively done for and done to. God does and we are done to. God gives and we are given to. God is the prime mover for us, because of His great love for us.
 
As we bear witness of these events and as we will continue to bear witness through Sunday, and truly even beyond, what we are witnessing is the fact that we are being saved. What a great God we have. What a loving God we have.
 
We are children of the covenant, by faith He gives to us. We rejoice because Jesus came for us. He came to live the perfect life for all of Israel and for us because they could not nor can we. Jesus came to fulfill all God’s promises and prophecies concerning the coming Messiah perfectly and then He took all the sins of all people, of all places, of all times on Himself and suffered and died paying the price for our sin. All because of His great love for us.
 
Today it is important that we continue to remember and follow God’s covenant because His covenant is a covenant, not based on human desire, need or work, but based on Jesus and His work of salvation for us. We need that constant reminder of our part in Jesus suffering and death. It was not only because of Adam and Eve’s sin, not only because the earth has been cursed, not only because we are conceived and born in sin, but also because of our own actual sins that Jesus had to come and die to pay the price for our sins.
 
Even before God began creation, He knew what was going to happen. Even before God began creation, He could look through time and He could see us, you and me. Because of His great love for us, for you and for me, He set into motion, not only creation, but also our redemption. Yes, you and I put Jesus on the cross. Yet, He went to the cross willingly because of His great love for us. At our Baptism He put faith in our hearts and made us His children. As we confess our sins and hear His words of absolution, as we hear His Holy Word read and proclaimed, as we partake of His body and blood in His Holy Supper, we are strengthened in our faith, we participate in His life, death and resurrection, and we are given His robes of righteousness. And all we can do is rejoice and give Him thanks, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Bold Profession - March 24, 2013 - Palm (Passion) Sunday - Text: Luke 23:1-56 (esp. v. 39-43)*

Today is Palm Sunday. Today is traditionally the Sunday our congregation and many Lutheran congregations celebrate as confirmation Sunday, however, although this year we have no youth to confirm, we do have three adults who will be joining our congregation through adult instruction class, as well as other adults coming into our membership. In years past, the Gospel lesson appointed for this Sunday was the actual Palm Sunday Bible Reading, you know the one about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the donkey with the people waving Palm branches, throwing their coats on the ground, kind of like a red carpet entrance into Jerusalem for Jesus, and singing, “Hosanna, Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Now, for the sake of expediency and, I would suppose, because not everyone attends Maundy Thursday and Good Friday service and so are unable to hear what we call the “Passion” account of Jesus, that is what we have read on this the Sunday before Easter. Evidently the thinking of those who put our lectionary series together is that we need to hear the Passion account before we hear the resurrection account and if you will not be in Divine Service on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, then we should accommodate you by reading it today. Thus, today we heard what is called the Passion account. Actually, Jesus’ passion began when He took on flesh and blood and was born under the law. This passion account is the end of His earthly life and His brutal torture and death.
 
Our text for this morning is the reading of the passion, and yet, for our purposes I want to focus in on verses thirty-nine through forty-three, the account of the two thieves on the cross and their conversation with Jesus. When we hear the account of the thieves, to whom do we identify with? Do we identify with the thief that cursed Jesus or the thief that asked for forgiveness? If we are honest, we should identify with the “other” thief. We do mock God. As a matter of fact, every time we sin we mock God. We say, “I know I should not be doing this, but I will do it anyway. That is my nature.”
 
Not only do we mock God, we also resist, struggle and fight against God, again, every time we sin. When we fail to be in Divine Service, we mock God. When we give some excuse as to why we cannot be in Bible Class or Bible Study, we resist God. When we fail to remember our Baptism or come to the Lord’s Supper, we struggle against God. When we fail to have a personal relationship with God, speaking to Him in prayer and letting Him speak to us through His Word, that is when we fail to read our Bible, we fight against God. And we do this, because this is our nature. So, as we see, we should identify with this other thief on the cross.
 
Certainly we would rather identify with the thief who recognized his sin and confessed. As the thief on the cross did, so we do not claim any merit, but acknowledge that it was my sin that put Jesus on the cross. As the thief, we confess that Jesus is receiving an unjust punishment. Jesus never did anything to deserve what He received. It was us and our sins that deserve the punishment meted out to Jesus.
 
Again, as the thief, we come to church to Divine Service on Sunday and we confess our sins and hear those most beautiful words of Absolution, “Your sins are forgiven.” And as we hear those words, so we know that this is exactly what we are being given, the forgiveness of sins. God’s Word does what it says and as His Word tells us we are forgiven, so we are forgiven.
 
And we hear Jesus words, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Heaven is our home. It is ours not because of anything on our part, but purely by God’s grace through faith given to us through His Word and Sacraments, faith strengthened through that same Word and Sacraments. Heaven is ours because we know that where there is forgiveness, there is also life and salvation. How we would like to be like this thief on the cross.
 
This morning we celebrate our reception of new members, some by transfer of membership from another Lutheran congregation, some by what we call a reaffirmation of faith and some by adult instruction. As I have done so in the past on Sundays of confirmation, explaining the rite of confirmation, this morning I would like to talk a little about the rite of reception of membership, both as a lesson of instruction and as a way of reminding us all of our commitment as members of St. Matthew Lutheran Church of Westfield. Let me remind you as I always remind our confirmands, that the completion of adult instruction classes in no way means we are through with our study of God’s Word. I would continue to encourage and invite you as I do all our members to be in Bible Class as well as Divine Service. Make every opportunity that Divine Service and Bible Class or Bible Study is offered an opportunity to grow in your faith and be given the gifts God has to give.
 
In a few minutes our new members will come forward and answer the same questions or similar questions most of us answered when we joined the Lutheran Church. We will be asked, “Do you this day in the presence of God and of this congregation acknowledge the gifts that God gave you in your Baptism?” Simple enough, do we acknowledge that our faith is a gift from God, given to us at our Baptism and through the very means of the Word of God.
 
Next we will be asked, “Do you renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways?” Of course, to renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways does not mean that we will no longer suffer temptation from the devil. As a matter of fact, it is when we profess our faith that the devil seems to turn up the temptations on us, because he hates to lose us.
 
Next we will be asked, “Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord, and in the Holy Spirit?” This is simply a question concerning the fact that every Sunday we confess our faith in God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
 
Next we will be asked, “Do you hold all the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God and the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from them and confessed in the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true?” This is a question asking if we believe what we have been learning over the past number of weeks.
 
Next we will be asked, “Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully?” I believe the important word in this question is the word “faithfully,” meaning do we intend to be in Divine Service and I would add, and Bible Class, as often as it is offered and as we are able. How can we hear the Word of God and be given His Supper unless we are in attendance where these gifts are given out?
 
The next two questions we will be asked are, “Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death?” and “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” This is a tough question. First, as we mentioned before, acknowledging faith in Jesus may bring about even more temptation from Satan especially as “living according to the Word of God” is concerned, yet we are reminded that when we do fail, there is forgiveness. The last three words are important as well, that we intend to die for our faith. Over the years, it is unfortunate as many of you here has witnessed as well, too many people give up their faith rather than die for their faith.
 
Finally the last two question we will be asked are, “Do you desire to become a member of this congregation?” and “Will you support the work our gracious Lord has given this congregation with your prayers and the gifts God has given you?” Here again, let me remind you that these questions are questions which are asked in response to all that our Lord has first done for us and given to us, so we are asked to respond in faith.
 
Now, in good Lutheran fashion we ask, “What does this mean?” and “How does this tie in with our Gospel reading? This means that we are convinced that Jesus is God in flesh and is our Savior. We believe what the Bible tells us. We believe that we are conceived and born in sin. We believe that we daily sin much and are need of forgiveness. We believe that we are like the one thief on the cross, that we deserve eternal spiritual death.
 
Yet, we are also convinced that Jesus died for us, for you and for me. We believe that it was because of God’s great love for us that Jesus came to live perfectly for us in our place. We believe that even if we were the only person in the world, that Jesus still would have done what He did. We believe that Jesus suffered and died for us. We believe that His suffering and death were enough, that there is nothing left to do, that forgiveness is ours as a gift from Him.
 
Finally, we are convinced that with His help, we will respond by living a life of faith. We cannot live faithful lives alone. We simply cannot do what God expects of us. Yes, even after He has earned forgiveness for us and given it to us, even after we have been given faith and we confess that faith, even after all this, we still are impotent in being the people He would have us to be, therefore we are glad and we rejoice, because our lives are still in His hands. He will help us. He will send His Holy Spirit to us to stir in us a desire to be ever in His Word, to want to be in Divine Service and Bible class, to want to have personal and family devotion, to want to have personal time alone with Jesus, to want to go to Him in prayer, to want to remember our baptism, to want to confess our sins and hear His word of forgiveness, and to want to attend the Lord’s Supper. We will want to continue to have our Lord pour out on us His good gifts and blessings.
 
Today is the day we remember Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where He came for the last time in order to be crucified on the cross for us. We are reminded how we are like both thieves on the cross, but most especially like the thief who repented, was forgiven and promised eternal life, likewise we continue to hear that we too are forgiven and have the promise of eternal life in heaven with Jesus. And in just a bit we will witness our new members make a public confession of faith before us and our Lord. My prayer is that we all might be reminded of our own pledge and with the help and by the leading of the Holy Spirit we too might make our pledge again. Above all, may God be glorified, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Fulfillment Announced to Zachariah - Lent Mid-week 6 - March 20, 2013 - Text: Luke 1:5-25

Our text for this evening is Luke one, verses five through twenty-five: 5In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
 
8Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
 
18And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
 
24After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25“Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.” This is our text.
 
This year during the season of Lent and Easter we are following the thread of God’s promise to send a Savior for all people (one covenant, not two). We began in the Garden of Eden when God first made His promise to send a Savior to Adam and Eve, before there was a Jew or Gentile. We continued with the reiteration of the covenant and the announcement of its fulfillment being narrowed, that is that the Savior of all nations would be born through the line of Abram whose name was later changed to Abraham. We followed as the covenant was reiterated and continued through the line of Abraham’s son, Isaac, and through Isaac’s son, Jacob. Last week we reiterated the covenant through King David. This week we move into the New Testament and the beginning of the fulfilling of the covenant.
 
A bit of the history and historical background; this covenant is God’s covenant and God’s promise. This covenant was initiated by God and as we have been hearing, it was first given in the Garden of Eden.
 
All throughout the Old Testament we have been hearing and rehearing about God remembering, not that He had forgotten, but remembering and reiterating His covenant, even narrowing the family line through which He would fulfill His covenant. His covenant was and continues today in the New Testament to be a covenant of grace and faith. Before God began fulfilling His covenant and promises, there was a period of about 500 years in which there really was no prophet in Israel. God did not speak to His people through a prophet, priest or king for over 500 years.
 
Because God’s timing is prefect timing, at just the right time; just the right time in history, in the time since creation and the first giving of the covenant, just the right time according to the various ethnic and cultural groups, and just the right time according to the gestation cycle of a human for birth. At just the right time God set His plans in motion.
 
The temple in Jerusalem had been rebuilt and the children of Israel were attempting to be God’s chosen people, albeit under Roman rule, the priests continued to care for the temple. During the festival of the day of Atonement, or Yom Kipur, the day in which the one priest, chosen by lot, was allowed to enter the most holy place, Zechariah was chosen to serve.
 
This choosing of Zechariah set in motion God’s fulfillment of the plan, the covenant He first made in the Garden of Eden. The angel Gabriel came to Zechariah while He was serving in the Lord’s house in the very presence of God and announced to him that he and his wife, who had been barren up until this time, would have a son. About this promise of a son the angel said, “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth ” (v. 14). Since Elizabeth and Zechariah were barren, the blessing of children was not only shocking, but exciting and joyful.
 
Continuing on, the angel announced that this son will be a prophet, “for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (v. 15). Because this child was to be a prophet, certain restrictions and instructions were given concerning his birth and life.
 
The angel also told Zechariah that His son will turn the hearts of Israel back to God, “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God” (v. 16). The very reason Israel was in the state she was in was because of the children of Israel and now God would send a prophet to make things better.
 
The angel also told Zechariah, concerning this son that He will go in the spirit of Elijah, “and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (v. 17). This information was important and today many Jews open the door at the Passover to hopefully let Elijah in. Jesus tells us however that John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, so indeed Elijah did come.
 
Finally, the angel said that this promised prophet would prepare the people for the fulfillment of the covenant, in other words he would prepare people for the birth of the Messiah, the Christ. Zechariah is being told by an angel that he and his aged wife will give birth to a child, a son, who will be a prophet and who will prepare the people for the promised Messiah, and this is after five hundred years of the Children of Israel not having heard any prophecies or word from the Lord.
 
Zechariah’s response was first and foremost to doubt and even worse to question the angel concerning the validity of his prediction. Because of his doubting and unbelief and to show the validity of his words, the angel made Zechariah mute and he would remain so until after the child was born.
 
When Zechariah had completed his time of service in the temple, and on this day in particular, because of his conversations with the angel, his time was rather lengthy, at least more so than usual, when he came out of the temple the people realized that he had seen a vision. Unfortunately, he was mute yet he was able to communicate as such to the crowd before returning home to be with his wife.
 
And sure enough, as the angel had said, Elizabeth, his wife, even in her advanced age conceived and bore a son. When the child was born the people were sure he was to be named after his father, so when Elisabeth said his name was John, they asked Zechariah how the child was to be name, who, upon writing on a piece of slate that his name is John, his mouth was open and he could again speak.
 
And so, we have our what does this mean? These events mean that the time of fulfillment of the covenant was near. After some 2500-3000 years since God first promised to send a Savior, God was now setting in motion the fulfillment of that promise.
 
Not only was God fulfilling His promise to send a Messiah, but the Messiah, Jesus was also ushering in the end times. We are now living in the end times. Now, whether that means that Jesus will return during our life time or not, I cannot say. Anyway, Zechariah was given word that His son would prepare his people, Israel, for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus.
 
Jesus was sent to fix what was broke in Eden. In Eden Adam and Eve broke their perfect relationship with God the Father and now Jesus came to restore that broken relationship. And the way Jesus would restore that relationship was by paying the price of His very life. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden as death, eternal spiritual death. Jesus came to pay that price for us in our place and He did.
 
We are children of the covenant, by faith He gives to us. We rejoice because Jesus came for us. He came to live the perfect life for all of Israel and for us because they could not nor can we. Jesus came to fulfill all God’s promises and prophecies concerning the coming Messiah perfectly and then He took all the sins of all people, of all places, of all times on Himself and suffered and died paying the price for our sin. All because of His great love for us.
 
Today it is important that we continue to remember and follow God’s covenant because His covenant is a covenant, not based on human desire, need or work, but based on Jesus and His work of salvation for us. We need that constant reminder of our part in Jesus suffering and death. It was not only because of Adam and Eve’s sin, not only because the earth has been cursed, not only because we are conceived and born in sin, but also because of our own actual sins that Jesus had to come and die to pay the price for our sins.
 
Even before God began creation, He knew what was going to happen. Even before God began creation, He could look through time and He could see us, you and me. Because of His great love for us, for you and for me, He set into motion, not only creation, but also our redemption. Yes, you and I put Jesus on the cross. Yet, He went to the cross willingly because of His great love for us. At our Baptism He put faith in our hearts and made us His children. As we confess our sins and hear His words of absolution, as we hear His Holy Word read and proclaimed, as we partake of His body and blood in His Holy Supper, we are strengthened in our faith, we participate in His life, death and resurrection, and we are given His robes of righteousness. And all we can do is rejoice and give Him thanks, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Stone the Builders Rejected - March 17, 2013 - Fifth Sunday in Lent - Text: Luke 20:9-20

Our text for this morning follows Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were pretty upset that Jesus allowed the people to put up such a commotion for Him, (you remember, the waving of the palm branches, the placing of their coats on the road, the sing of Hosannas and so forth) certainly there was a lot of jealousy and envy going on, and so, they are now trying even harder to discredit Him before the people. Luke tells us that after His triumphant entry into Jerusalem that Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. And he tells us, “Every day [Jesus] was teaching at the temple” (Luke 19:47a).
 
In the verses right before our text Luke relates to us the fact that Jesus’ authority is being questioned. As Luke relates the story, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders asked Jesus, “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things? Who gave you this authority?” Jesus’ answer was a question back to the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders concerning the authority of John the Baptist, because, you see, His authority was from the same place as John’s. Thus, if they could answer His questions concerning from where John received his authority, then they would have to admit the same for Him. That is why the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders answered as they did, “We don’t know,” and that is why Jesus answered as He did, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” As if it would have made any difference anyway.
 
Our text then, really is Jesus’ response to these chief priests, teachers of the law and elders. His response is in the form of this parable. His parable is taken right out of Isaiah 5:1-7. And while He is at it, Jesus also quotes from Ps. 118:22, but we will get to that later.
 
Jesus tells the parable, we begin at verse nine (v. 9b-15a), “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. 10When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”
 
Now let us break this parable down. The owner of the vineyard is God the Father. He built a most wonderful vineyard, and here we need to read Matthew’s account of this parable because he does a better job of describing this vineyard. Matthews tells us, “There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower” (Matt. 21:33). In other words, God the Father is the one who planted the vineyard of the children of Israel. He did everything imaginable for the children of Israel. He chose them, out of all the nations on the earth. By His grace, not because of anything within them, He chose them. He made them His people. He put His name on them. He blessed them. He promised to make them a great nation and that through them He would save the world. Again, through them, He would save the world. It was not just them that He would save, but the world. And He expected them to bear fruit, to live as His people, to share the message of salvation with others, so that through them He could save the world.
 
When harvest time came around, the vineyard owner sent His servants to gather His share of the harvest from those who had rented out the vineyard. Jesus’ reference is to the prophets whom God sent from time to time to proclaim His message to His people. However, the leaders of the people, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders of the people continually beat, maimed, abused and even killed these prophets.
 
Finally, the vineyard owner, God Himself, decided to send His beloved Son, Jesus. The reaction of the tenants was that if they kill the Son, then there will be no one to claim the vineyard, thus, possession being nine tenths of the law, perhaps the vineyard might then be theirs, and all the profits of the vineyard. So, they plotted to kill the Son. Interestingly enough, Jesus has spelled out the plot against Him by the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders, completely, although they do not realize it. They were secretive in their plans just like the tenants of the vineyard. Yet, they forgot one important part of the equation, Jesus is God, thus He is omniscient. Jesus knew their plans and here He is spelling out their plan to them, but they do not get it.
 
Jesus’ then asks and answers what amounts to a rhetorical question (v. 15b-16a), “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” The crowds response, (v. 16b) “When they heard this, they said, ‘Surely not!’”
 
The renters thought they could beat the owner, however, the owner was still the owner, in other words, there will be a day of judgement. The vineyard owner will judge the evil tenants and will give the vineyard to more responsible tenants. This is a warning from Jesus that the Jews will be disenfranchised and the Gentiles will be made a part of the kingdom.
 
The crowd understood what Jesus was saying and their response was one of disbelief. How can this be? Surely not! May this never be! Certainly more than the chief priest, teachers of the law and the elders, the crowd understood what Jesus was saying and they knew He was talking about their eternal inheritance.
 
Jesus then explains by quoting Ps. 118:22 (v. 17-18) “But he looked directly at them and said, ‘What then is this that is written: ‘“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” The reaction of the teachers of the law and the chief priests (v. 19), “The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.”
 
The fact of the matter is this, that Jesus is a stumbling stone. He is a stumbling stone in order to get their attention so they will believe. A person may stumble over Jesus and be hurt, but this is not a fatal wound as a matter of fact, this might be a saving wound, if it does get their attention.
 
Jesus is the stone that was thrown away, that is, He is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant has passed away. Not because it was just tossed, but because Jesus fulfilled all its requirements. Now He is the corner stone for a new covenant. The New Testament Church is built on Jesus and faith in Him.
 
And there is the warning for those who continually disown Jesus. He is the stone that will fall on them and crush them. This is a permanent crushing, a fatal crushing, an everlasting life in hell crushing. In other words, for all those who continually reject Jesus, all they can expect is eternal spiritual death.
 
As we hear this parable today we are reminded that we are the renters of the new vineyard, the new covenant. So we might ask ourselves the question, “How are we doing?” “Are we producing fruits by the power of the Holy Spirit, or are we thinking that if we get rid of the owner we can have the vineyard all to ourselves,” in other words, are our eyes focused on all we can get in this world, “the one with the most toys wins,” or are our eyes focused heavenward?
 
How do we react when we stumble over Jesus? How do we react when we are reminded of our sin and the fact that if we remain in our sin then we will ultimately reap eternal death? Are we grateful, learning to love Him more, because it is when we know our sins that we can confess our sins and be given forgiveness? Or do we despise Him, thinking He is only in our way? Do we perhaps think like the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders, that we, somehow, deserve something from God, an eternal inheritance, perhaps? Or do we realize that it is only by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ alone that we have forgiveness of sins and the gift and promise of eternal life in heaven?
 
For us, Jesus is our cornerstone. He is the base of our New Testament faith. He is the one who has chosen us, put His name on us, given His life for ours, put faith in our hearts, given us forgiveness of sins and the gift and promise of eternal life. And He expects that we bear fruits of faith. As He had chosen the children of Israel to be His people and that through them He would save the world, so He continually chooses us to be His people and through us He continually works to bring the message of salvation to the world, so that through the proclamation of His Word, His Holy Spirit will work faith, life and salvation and that is how we bear the fruits of faith, by, with His help, living lives of faith as a response to His good gifts and blessings.
 
After hearing these words of Holy Scripture for this morning, we cannot help confessing with Paul, from the words of our epistle lesson, “8Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—10that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:8-14). To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Covenant to David - Lent Mid-week 5 - March 13, 2013 - Text: 2 Sam. 7:1-17

Our text for this evening is second Samuel seven, verses one through seventeen: “1Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, 2the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” 3And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.” 4But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, 5“Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? 6I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. 7In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ 8Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. 9And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” 17In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.” This is our text.
 
This year during the season of Lent and Easter we are following the thread of God’s promise to send a Savior for all people (one covenant, not two). We began in the Garden of Eden when God first made His promise to send a Savior to Adam and Eve, before there was a Jew or Gentile. We continued with the reiteration of the covenant and the announcement of its fulfillment being narrowed, that is that the Savior of all nations would be born through the line of Abram whose name was later changed to Abraham. We followed as the covenant was reiterated and continued through the line of Abraham’s son, Isaac and last week through Isaac’s son, Jacob. This week we move ahead to God’s reiterating His promise to King David.
 
Again we want to have a bit of review of history, with the reminder as someone once said, if we forget our history we are doomed to repeat it. Anyway, we continue to be reminded that God first made His covenant to send a Savior to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, immediately after they disobeyed Him, eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and bringing sin into the world and God’s curse on the world. And God’s promise to send a Savior to take the curse of the world upon Himself.
 
Later in history, after the great flood, after the disbursement of cultures around the world by mixing the languages of the people at the tower of Babel, when the time was right, God reiterated His covenant to send a Messiah, a Savior and with His reiteration of the covenant He narrowed down the family line through whom He would fulfill His covenant, that is He reiterated His covenant to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
 
As history continued to unfold, as God provided for His people, Israel, by moving them to Egypt, and as Israel became enslaved in Egypt, God again reiterated His covenant. He did this by calling Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt and also by calling judges and even kings to rule and govern His people.
 
After Israel’s first King, Saul, failed miserably, God chose David to be His king. It was God who chose David. God chose David and said, “Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel” (v. 8). These words remind us that this is God’s covenant and that He is the one doing the making of the covenant.
 
The second part of God’s covenant was the part of a great name. Continuing on in our text, “And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth” (v. 9). Again, just as God told Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, and so on down the line, God is making the name of His people, the family through which He will send the Messiah, a great name.
 
The third part of the covenant was the promise of a land. Continuing on in the text, “And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly” (v. 10). God will bring His chosen people into the promised land, which, here at the time of David, He had already done. And now God’s promise to David is that He will be with His people to occupy the land and be an example nation to all those around.
 
Next, God promises to David that He will establish his throne, which will be an eternal throne and kingdom, picking up in our text, “He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (v. 13). Here in these words God means more than simply an earthly throne. He is speaking of an eternal throne, heaven in other words.
 
The greatest part of the covenant, which is the part initiated in the Garden of Eden is the part concerning the coming of a Messiah. David’s offspring will include the birth of the Savior for all people. Again and again and again we hear how Jesus is not simply the Savior of some people of some particular ethnic group, but He is the Savior of all people, of all place, of all times, as first stated in the Garden of Eden.
 
This covenant is God’s covenant. God is the One initiating the covenant. God is the One making the covenant. God is choosing His people. Adam and Eve did not choose God. Noah did not choose God. Abraham did not choose God. Isaac nor Jacob chose God. Moses did not choose God, nor did David. Out of His love, by His grace, God chose them.
 
The reason God is making the covenant and choosing those necessary for the fulfillment of the covenant is because God is doing this covenant for all nations. Just as God is not divided, but the trinity is in unity, so the covenant is not divided, is not two covenants, but is one. One God, One Creator, One Redeemer, One Sanctifier. For one nation, one world of one group of human beings, even of diverse cultural backgrounds.
 
What does this mean? Just as it was not Noah, nor Abraham, nor Moses who chose God, nor was it David who chose God, rather it was God who chose David. Certainly we are told that David was a man of God, but more important than David is the fact that it was God who chose Him.
 
And just as Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and the like did not establish a covenant with God, but instead God established His covenant with them, so here it is the Lord who established His covenant through David, an eternal covenant, and an eternal kingdom.
 
So, even to this day, by God’s grace, through faith given to us, we are a part of the covenant. We are children of Abraham, not by blood but by faith.
 
We are children of the covenant, by faith He gives to us. We rejoice because Jesus came for us. He came to live the perfect life for all of Israel and for us because they could not nor can we. Jesus came to fulfill all God’s promises and prophecies concerning the coming Messiah perfectly and then He took all the sins of all people, of all places, of all times on Himself and suffered and died paying the price for our sin. All because of His great love for us.
 
Today it is important that we continue to remember and follow God’s covenant because His covenant is a covenant, not based on human desire, need or work, but based on Jesus and His work of salvation for us. We need that constant reminder of our part in Jesus’ suffering and death. It was not only because of Adam and Eve’s sin, not only because the earth has been cursed, not only because we are conceived and born in sin, but also because of our own actual sins that Jesus had to come and die to pay the price for our sins.
 
Even before God began creation, He knew what was going to happen. Even before God began creation, He could look through time and He could see us, you and me. Because of His great love for us, for you and for me, He set into motion, not only creation, but also our redemption. Yes, you and I put Jesus on the cross. Yet, He went to the cross willingly because of His great love for us. At our Baptism He put faith in our hearts and made us His children. As we confess our sins and hear His words of absolution, as we hear His Holy Word read and proclaimed, as we partake of His body and blood in His Holy Supper, we are strengthened in our faith, we participate in His life, death and resurrection, and we will be given His robes of righteousness. And all we can do is rejoice and give Him thanks, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Beautiful Gift from God: Divine Service Explained

    Why do we do what we do every Sunday morning? Why do we have what is called “traditional” or “liturgical” worship and not what is called “contemporary” worship? Interestingly enough one of the meanings of the word translated as “tradition” in the New Testament is that this is something that has value because it has Divine authority. In other words it is something that was given by God and passed down through the generations. After reading through the book of Leviticus, I believe that the Divine Service we use every Sunday flows out of the ceremonial instructions God gave the children of Israel in the wilderness. The Divine Service we use on Sunday morning is very similar to the Divine Service used by Martin Luther over 500 years ago and certainly had been used in the Christian church since the time of Jesus. Because our Divine Service is a service which was used by our ancestors, by us and by those who follow after us, that I say that our service transcends time for it is not simply “traditional” or “contemporary.” Our Divine Service is a “liturgical” service because of the pattern of the worship service. The usage of “contemporary” worship is a rather new phenomena in the church and suggests that worship is something that is constantly changing with the times. When we understand that the way we practice our worship flows out of what we believe (doctrine determines practice) and that what we believe is instructed through our practice (practice influences doctrine), then we can get a better understanding of why we do what we do every Sunday morning. As I have outlined in an article some time back (check my blog: http://rabswritings.blogspot.com/p/why-liturgical-divine-service.html) our Divine Service flows out of what we believe, teach and confess. If we should “act” a different way on Sunday mornings, that would instruct and inform us of a different belief system. If we change the way we “act” on Sunday, this would instruct and inform us of a different teaching, other than what we say we believe, teach and confess.
    Because every part of our Divine Service has meaning and value, the following article is here presented to help you understand the different parts of our Divine Service.

Invocation and Sentences
    In the invocation we call upon God’s name as we gather for Divine Service remembering our Baptism into His name, and He promises that He is here in our midst (Matt. 18:20). The sign of the cross may be made by all in remembrance of their Baptism.
    The Sentences or versicles and responses (1 John 1:8-9, Psalm 124:8 and Ps. 32:5) introduce our time of confession.

Confession and Absolution
    The presence of God reminds us of our sin and our unworthiness before Him. We are led to confess our sins and lay down our burdens at the doorway before entering upon the praises of God. Here at St. Matthew our pastor kneels at the altar for the congregation in confession. God hears the prayers of sinners who are sorry for their sins and promises to forgive all their sins.
    Following our confession, the pastor turns to the congregation and announces, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, not from his own sinful volition, that those who have confessed are forgiven in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection which earned forgiveness for us.

Introit
    “Introit” is Latin for “entrance” or “beginning.” The Introit, which is comprised of psalms, marks the actual beginning of the service and introduces the theme of worship for the day. You may notice that the pastor does move forward to the altar until after the confession and absolution. Much like the priest in the Temple (or Tabernacle) did not enter the Holy of Holies until after being consecrated. During the Gloria Patri, the pastor then moves toward (enters) the altar.

Kyrie
    The word “Kyrie” (kir’-ee-ay) is the first part of the Greek phrase Kyrie eleison, which means “Lord, have mercy.” This prayer was very common in the worship of the early church. We call upon Jesus, our Lord, for His care and help in our every need. (Mark 10:46-52)

Hymn of Praise
    The “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14; John 1:29) was spoken by the angels when Jesus was born. To it the early church added additional words in which we praise God for giving us His Son, Jesus, who took away our sin. The alternate hymn in Divine Service is, “This Is the Feast” (Rev. 5:12-13; 19:5-9) and is a hymn commemorating the resurrection.

Salutation and Collect
    The pastor turns and faces the congregation for the Salutation (2 Timothy 4:22) which is indicative of the special relationship between the pastor and the congregation. It is more than a fitting sentiment; it is part of the every day speech of God’s faithful people, much like that found in Ruth 2:4; Luke 1:28; 2 Thess. 3:16 and elsewhere.
    The pastor then turns back to the altar for the Collect which is a brief prayer which is also related to the theme of worship for the day. The name “Collect” refers to collecting all of the needs of the body of Christ and summarizing them in this short prayer.

Scripture Readings
    God speaks to us today through His Holy Word. First, we read from the Old Testament which tells us what God said and did for his people Israel centuries ago. The Old Testament points us to Jesus as the coming Messiah. Next, we read from an “epistle,” one of the letters to churches or people in the New Testament. The Verse comes from John 6:68 and points us to the Gospel reading. Finally, we read from one of the four Gospels. The Gospel reading focuses on what Jesus did and said in order to accomplish our salvation. We stand for this reading to give honor to Jesus and His words.

Creed
    Together we respond to the Word read and preached when we say the Creed. “Creed” comes from the Latin Credo, which means “I believe.” The creeds we use are the Apostle’ Creed (written c.390 ), the Nicene Creed (c. 325), and the Athenasian Creed (c. 500). The creed outlines Christianity’s fundamental beliefs; it witnesses to the perpetuity, unity, and universality of the Christian faith; it binds Christians to one another and to believers of all centuries.

Sermon
    The sermon is the public proclamation of the Word of God. Traditionally sermons are based on the Sunday readings. Especially during the seasons of Advent and Lent sermons may be topical or thematic.

Offering and Offertory
    The offering is an act of worship and thanksgiving, acknowledging that all we have comes from the Lord. We offer to God our material gifts as an outward sign of our inner spiritual dedication to Him. (Psalm 51:10-12) The use of “What Shall I Render . . . ” (Ps. 116:12-13, 17-19) is traditionally associated with Holy Communion because the Hallel Psalms probably were sung by Jesus and His disciples on Maundy Thursday.

Prayers
    Prayer is one of the marks of the congregation established and gathered by God according to His purpose. Petitions, intercession and thanksgiving are made to our Gracious Lord. Requests for prayers should be made know to the pastor either personally or by using a prayer request card.

The Service of the Sacrament
Preface
    The preface is a dialog between the pastor and the congregation in preparation for the reception of the Lord’s Supper (2 Timothy 4:22; Colossians 3:1; Psalm 136). The insertion of sentences from the Word of God appropriate for the seasons of the church year focus one’s attention on the Word and the season of the Church year.

Sanctus and Benedictus
    The sanctus, “Holy, Holy, Holy” (Is. 6:3; Matt. 21:9) moves our Divine Service from a supertemporal nature (literally, “above time”) and becomes truly eternal. The Hosanna, translated “O Lord, save us,” and the Benedictus, “Blessed is He,” follow as the people of Jerusalem sang these Messianic verses as Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. We sing these words as Jesus comes to us in the mystery and marvel of the Sacrament of the Altar.

Prayer of Thanksgiving
    The prayer of thanksgiving of the Eucharistic Prayer traditionally has two parts, anamnesis and epiclesis (Greek for “remembering” and “invoking”). We “do this in remembrance” of Christ and ask for the Spirit’s continuing aid in making us worthy recipients of the Sacrament.

Lord’s Prayer
    What better prayer can be spoken? The very words our Lord has given to us we speak back to Him. Where the Lord’s Prayer is spoken follows the Words of Christ in the consecration.

Words of Institution
    The Words of Institution are designated as the “Consecration” in the Lutheran liturgical tradition. These words are the words spoken by Jesus on the night in which He celebrated the Passover with His disciples and from that Passover gave to us what is His Holy Supper, the Lord’s Supper.

The Peace
    Jesus’ Easter greeting (John 20:19) is recalled by pastor with this clear statement of proclamation. Luther suggested that this was another statement of absolution similar to the absolution spoken earlier in the Service.

The Agnus Dei
    As John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29) , so we are reminded in this canticle that Jesus alone is the one who was sacrificed for our sin and through whom we have access to God’s mercy and peace.

Post-Communion Canticle
    Traditionally the Nunc Dimittis, or Song of Simeon (Luke 2:29-32) was sang as a beautiful expression of spiritual satisfaction in appreciation for the manifestation of God’s salvation. The natural response after being given a gift is to “Thank the Lord” (Ps. 105) which is a newer song in Lutheran Worship. Because this song includes the alleluia, it is not used during the Lenten season.

Post-Communion Collect
    The Post-Communion Collect combines thanksgiving with a prayer that the gifts here given by the Lord may accomplish His purpose for His people. This collect underscores the blessings of the Sacrament.

Benediction
    Following Aaron’s lead (Num. 6:22-27) the pastor speaks this Trinitarian blessing on the people. The last word of the liturgy comes from God who hosted the service.

Amen
    The word “Amen” means that we believe God hears our prayers and will answer them according to His will. (Matt. 6; Luke 11)