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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!

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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.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Prayers and Offering - Lent Midweek Five - March 9, 2016 - Text: Malachi 3:6-10

This year during the season of Lent and all the way through Easter morning we looking at the various parts of our Divine Worship Service and seeing how the various parts reflect God’s working in our lives; God’s giving His gifts to us, our being given to and our response of faith. We have been following along with the parts of the service in the order of our service but so far we have skipped our Confession and Absolution which we will take up on Good Friday and the Lord’s Supper which we will take up on Maundy Thursday, the evening in which our Lord gave us His Holy Supper.
 
Two weeks ago we were reminded of one of the most important parts of the Divine Service which was one of the means of grace and that being the Word of God. We made note that our divine service liturgy is permeated with the Word of God as is noted in our Lutheran Service Book as all the parts of the liturgy are referenced to the Word of God. Last week we moved forward in our Divine Service to talk about our response to hearing the very Word of God and that was our confessing our faith in the words of the Creed. We were reminded that the Christian Church, and for that matter any person or church denomination that professes to be Christian might well confess the words of the three universal Christian Creeds; the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Indeed, anyone who cannot confess the words of these three creeds is truly not a Christian. This evening we move on in our divine service to another response to the Word of God we were given in the Divine Service, indeed what is a response of faith after hearing the Word of God and that is our offering back to God our prayers and our offerings.
 
Because we have been given the gifts of God, especially because we have been given the spiritual gifts of God including a strengthening of faith through His means of Grace, His Holy Word, we now are moved to respond to those gifts and blessings by bringing our prayers. Indeed, just as it is the Gospel and not the law that moves us to confess our sins, that is it is because we know our sins are forgiven that we are moved to confess our sins, and not the fear of the law which would only lead us to self-righteousness or despair, so it is the word of Gospel we have just heard that moves us to bring our prayers and petitions before our Lord. It is because we have heard the Word of the Lord that our sins are forgiven and that our Lord has so much He desires to give to us that we respond with our prayers and petitions. Certainly our prayers and petitions include our offerings of thanks and praise for all the good gifts and blessings our Lord has given to us, both physical, material blessings; food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land and animals, clothing, shoes, and on and on, but also we offer prayers seeking God’s strength, comfort and all the more spiritual gifts He has to give. Also, our prayers are offered not because God does not know what we need, but because of our need to acknowledge God’s gifts to us, in other words, God already knows our needs, our real needs, so we pray so that we might acknowledge before God our needs and desires.
 
As we acknowledge in the explanation to the second commandment we call upon our Lord’s name in the day of trouble, we pray, praise and give thanks. Our prayers are prayers seeking God’s aid and assistance especially in difficult times, and also we offer prayers of praise and thanks for all the good gifts and blessings our Lord has given to us.
 
We offer our prayers as a response of faith, a response to the Word which has given us the gifts of God, but we also respond with hymns of praise and thanksgiving. Our hymns are words which express the gifts God gives as well as give thanks for those gifts. Our hymns are words recounting what God has done, does and continues to do for us. Indeed, our hymns, our best hymns are those that speak the doctrine of our faith, what we believe, teach and confess.
 
And, because we have been given the gifts of God we are moved to respond by bringing our offerings. Our offerings are not a collection of alms for the poor. Our offerings are not an afterthought or what is left after I have used up what God has first given to me. Our offerings are not simply our pocket change. No, our offerings are our response of faith and are a reflection of our faith. Let me say that again because too many people do not understand what our offerings truly are, that is they are a response of faith and a reflection of our faith. Our offerings are truly faith driven. In other words, because our Lord gives to us first, that is He gives us life, gifts, talents and abilities, even a job or career, He gives us the wherewithal to support ourselves and our families, indeed, because He gives first and because He gives us all that we need, we respond by first returning a portion to Him. It is this returning of a portion that is a reflection of our faith, because the portion we return reflects whether or not we first acknowledge that what we have has been first given to us by God and then it tests our faith as to whether or not we believe the Lord will continue to pour out on us so generously, or whether we might look at ourselves and our assets and think that we need to keep a certain amount more lest we not make as much the next week.
 
In the last book of the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi explains it this way, 6“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 7From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Mal. 3:6-10).
 
What we are born with and what we take with us when we die is what is truly ours. Indeed, nothing in this world is truly ours. Everything we have is on loan to us from the One who created it and lends it to us for use in service to Him while we are in this world. God’s ceremonial laws in the Old Testament required offerings to God in response to the blessings He had given to His people.  Some offerings were offered as a reminder of one’s sin and that the price for sin was that blood had to be shed. Other offerings were offered as a response to the gifts and blessings the Lord had given to His people. These offerings were offered out of faith and yet, as Malachi warns, when we fail to return a portion, even a tithe, of that which has been first given to us by God, what we are doing is rejecting the gifts God has to give, which is the only option we have because of our inborn sinful nature, because our free will has been lost and tainted by sin.
 
We might think about it this way, as we are growing up our parents must teach us to say “Thank you,” when we are given a gift. That response of “Thank you,” is just that, a response and an acknowledgment of the gift that was given. To not respond would be a rude and impolite jester  on our part. Yet, even before God, our lack of response is truly a rejection of the gift that was given. I have always wondered why people who continually reject the gifts God gives by absenting themselves from the very place where He gives His gifts, Divine Service and Bible class, why these same people then wonder why it seems to them that God is not blessing them, at least not in the way they think He should. Why would we not want to be where the gifts are given out and respond with thanks and praise and in faith return a portion, a tithe, of what He has first given, except that the devil is continually thwarting us.
 
Our offerings are a response of faith that God will continue to bless us and this is the only place in Scripture that we read that we are challenged to test God. And please understand that our testing of God is not a testing to manipulate Him, rather are testing is to test our faith and then to know for certain that all that we have is a gift from God and the more we return to Him, the more He has as gifts for us, for the simple truth is that we cannot out give God who gives all in the first place. Try it and see.
 
This evening, as we count our blessings, as we are reminded that God has done everything necessary for our salvation. God has given His only Son to live the perfect life we cannot, to take our sins upon Himself and to suffer and die to pay the price for our sins. Not only does our great and loving God give us the forgiveness He paid for, but He also gives us all the gifts and blessings He has to give according to our need, that is according to what He knows is best for us. Our response is just that, a response. Our response is to say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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