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!


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, January 29, 2017

The Lord’s Indictment - January 29, 2017 - Fourth Sunday after Epiphany - Text: Micah 6:1-8

Today is the fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, the appearing of the Wisemen before the baby Jesus. Today marks the half-way point of the Epiphany season as we have three more Sundays of Epiphany, then Transfiguration Sunday and the beginning of our Lenten Season. Over the past couple Sundays the prophet Isaiah has continued to point out the sin of Israel which very much reflects our same sins in our world today. He also continued to point to the answer that is he continued to point Israel and us to the Savior, to Jesus, and as we always say, we get it right when we point to Jesus. This morning we move to hear words from the prophet Micah as he also points us to Jesus.
God, through the prophet Micah brings accusations against the Children of Israel and challenges them to give an answer for their sinfulness. He begins by reminding the people of the witnesses of their life, their words and actions, verse one: “1Hear what the Lord says: Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. 2Hear, you mountains, the indictment of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth, for the Lord has an indictment against his people, and he will contend with Israel” (v. 1-2). The witnesses God brings forward are the mountains and hills. The mountains and the hills have been around since creation. The mountains and the hills, although not animate things, are able to bear witness as they hold the remains of what has been left behind by the people who have been there and can therefore give a definitive sound judgement.
Also, the Lord calls to bear witness the foundations of the earth which are sure and solid. Here again, just as archeologist dig up the remains of past civilizations and uncover clues to their life and activity, so the Lord calls the mountains, hills and foundations to bear witness of the life and activities of the children of Israel. Indeed, He might do the same for us today.
The Lord calls for accusations against Him. The questions the Lord asks are, verse three: “3O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Answer me!” (v. 3). As the children of Israel constantly and continually forgot the Lord; as they continually and constantly rebelled against Him and went following other gods and doing the things they were not supposed do, God finally has His fill and so He calls them to account. His question is rather simple, “has He harmed Israel in any way?” Perhaps the Israelites might be able to give some excuse or reason for their disobedience and straying.
He also asks, if His demands are too hard? In other words, are the words of instruction, the laws; ceremonial, civil and moral; laws meant for their good and to protect them, are these demands too hard? The Lord’s desire is to discern the reason for the continual rebellion of His people.
In response to the questions He asks, the Lord moves ahead and reminds the children of Israel of the things that He has already done for them, verse four, “4For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 5O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the Lord” (v. 4-5). How easily we forget, especially how easily we forget the good things our Lord has done and continually does for us. Here God lays out a reminder of some of the good things He has done for His people. Certainly they remember that He delivered them from their bondage of slavery in Egypt. Certainly they remember the passing over of the angel of death because they celebrate the Passover every year. Certainly they remember God’s hand of deliverance.
Certainly they remember His delivering Israel from Balaam. As you might recall, Balaam was hired to curse Israel and yet at every turn all he could do was to bless Israel. And yet, Balaam’s words of instruction to Balak were more condemning for Israel than any curse he might have given, that was to lead Israel astray through idolatry. God’s accusations and witness are well founded. He has done everything for Israel and His demands are not burdensome, but are for the good of the people and yet they are guilty in their constant rebellion.
Although Micah knows the simplicity of God’s desire, to His accusations the prophet makes a suggestion, verse six, “6With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 8He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (v. 6-8). The prophet, Micah is asking, “How can we make this right?” What do we need to do? Notice the prophet focuses his attention on the people as if there is something they can actually do to appease God.
So he suggests, “How about a sacrifice of a calf a year old?” The ceremonial laws continually required sacrifices for sins committed, perhaps a sacrifice of a calf a year old might appease God.  Or better yet, how about sacrificing a thousand rams and with a thousand rams ten thousand rivers of oil. If one calf is not enough, maybe more sacrifices will appease the Lord. And to top off this wonderful offer of appeasement, how about the sacrifice of the firstborn, a human sacrifice?
God’s response is that His desire is to do justice and love kindness. To do justice is to do what is right and good, to be fair and honest. To do justice is to live as God has called you to live. To love kindness is to love as we have been loved, to love as we have first been loved, which is simply a reflection of love. To love kindness is to love others more than oneself, it is to be loyal and steadfast. And more, God’s desire is to walk humbly with God. God’s desire is that we are imitators of Him. God’s desire is that we are modest and reverent, that we are always conscience of our dependency on Him and Him alone.
What does this mean? What does this mean for us today? As in the days of the children of Israel so it continues even today, the mountains, hills and foundations of the earth continue to bear witness and even more so they continue to bear witness against us and our sins and sinful living even today.
We live in a world, in a culture and society that continually rebels against and rejects the good and gracious gifts our God has to give for us. We live in a world which continually desires to walk in ways that are contrary to God and His will and Word. God’s Word is seen by many as being restrictive, being judgmental and taking away one’s freedom. Perhaps we should ask again, “Has God harmed us or are His demands on us to hard?” I would suppose that many in our world would answer, “yes.”
So we too need the constant reminder of all that God has done for us. All the good gifts and blessings He has delivered to us. Indeed, He has given us life at conception and new life and faith at baptism. At our conception God gave each one of us life. At our conception we had all the genetic coding we needed to be born as the person we are, the only thing that was needed from the moment of conception was nutrition so that we might grow in the womb, be born into the world and grow to be children, teens and adults. God has given us new life through the waters of Holy Baptism. For most of us this was before we even knew it, for others it may have been later in life. If He did not give us faith through the waters of Baptism it was through His Holy Word that He worked such faith in us. Yes, we point to Jesus as being the One who has given us life, physical life and life, eternal life through the faith He has given us in our hearts.
God has given His Son and His life for ours. As we are reminded that God’s demand is that we are perfect, that is that we live a life of perfection, obeying all of His laws and demands perfectly, so too are we reminded that this is not a life we are able to live. Because we are conceived and born in sin we begin life in the negative, we begin life owing, owing a debt we cannot pay. Jesus was born in perfection, true God, conceived and born of a true woman, being truly man. Jesus was born to live for us, to live perfectly for us in our place because we cannot. Jesus was perfect. He obeyed all God’s laws and commands perfectly. He also fulfilled all God’s prophecies perfectly. He did all that we cannot do for us in our place because we cannot. And even more, He took our sins, all our sins, our sins of thought, word and deed, our sins of omission and commission. He took our sins and suffered and paid the price for our sins on the cross so that we might have forgiveness of sins and be seen in God’s eyes as being perfect as He demands.
And so, what do we suggest? What do we offer to God? More often than not we suggest that we really are not that bad of persons. Or we suggest we will try to do better. In other words, we too act like Israel, we point to ourselves. We think we are not so bad and that we can do better. We continually lower the bar of our expectations on ourselves thinking that if we can be so good then Jesus will only have to suffer and die a little for us. What we continually fail to understand is that he who has been forgiven little loves little. It is only as we come to understand, admit and confess just how sinful we truly are that we can begin to fathom how great God’s love truly is.
So, as Micah reminds us, so I remind you, God created us to love us and He does. God’s love is seen first and foremost in the knowledge and in God’s foreknowledge, that although He knew what was going to happen, that man would sin, that Jesus would have to suffer and die, yet He created this world anyway. God’s love is seen in that although we continually and daily sin much, He continually and daily forgives us. God’s love is seen most especially in His Word and Sacraments, in Confession and Absolution and in His Son, Jesus.
We do need the constant reminder that God has done everything that He demands of us for us in Jesus. All history, all of Holy Scripture points to Jesus. We need to be constantly pointed to Jesus. Do not look inside yourself, but look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith. And most certainly the desire of one having faith is seen in one’s desire to be given even more of God’s good gifts and blessings, that is in one seen doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God, not because we do this in and of ourselves, but because God is working this in and through us.
So I remind you again, God gives and we are given to. God gives and we mess up what He gives. And so God gives and gives and gives even more. God gives forgiveness and then He gives even more forgiveness. God loves you so much and He has so much He desires to give to you. And indeed, the desire of those who have faith is to be given even more of the gifts and blessings of God, as He gives His gifts. I encourage and exhort you, be given the gifts of God so that we might all together stand before the Lord, with all the saints who have gone on before us, and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Great Light - January 22, 2017 - Third Sunday after Epiphany - Text: Isaiah 9:1-4

Have you come to a place in your spiritual life that you know for certain that if you were to die tonight that you would go to heaven? Suppose you were to die tonight and you were to stand before God and He would say to you, ‘why should I let you into my heaven?,’ what would you say? Using these two questions as tools, many people learned the art of Evangelism Explosion or the “Lutheran” version of Dialogue Evangelism. In an attempt to make the questions less threatening and easier to ask, Dialogue Evangelism II changed the questions. I would ask that you think about these new questions as I ask them. First question, do you consider yourself to be a Christian? Second question, how does a person become a Christian? I pray that each of you can answer those questions.  In the next few minutes we will work to answer those questions in the context of our text for today.
Isaiah tells us in verse one, “there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the later time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations” (Isaiah 9:1). This is a verse of great joy, especially to us Christians. Isaiah is here alluding to the grace of God which comes through Jesus Christ. It is by God’s grace that there will be no more gloom. It is by God’s grace that we are given forgiveness and with that forgiveness, the gift and promise of eternal life in heaven.
It is by God’s grace that each of us has a part in the promise of eternal life. It has nothing to do with how good we have been or how good we think we have been. We could never be good enough or do enough good to earn or to deserve any of God’s good gifts. That is why it is by His grace that we are given His good gifts. It is too bad that we have really confused grace and gift giving so much so that many people in our world today do not know what grace and gift giving really means. And we have talked about this before, at Christmas time we talk about gift giving, but the understanding is usually one of an exchanging of presents, that is, I give you a present and I expect you to give me a present, thus not truly a gift giving time, but a present exchanging time. Even when going to a birthday party, we bring a gift, but more often than not our expectation is to receive something in return, either a treat, a party favor, or something in return. None of this is grace or gift giving. The exciting thing is that God has not misunderstood grace and gift giving. He gives His good gifts knowing that there is no way we could ever repay, or exchange anything with Him. This is grace and true gift giving.
In verse two Isaiah tells us, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Isaiah 9:2). Darkness is the image of sin. We are the people who are walking in darkness. We are the people who are walking in sin. We are sinners. David said it best when he said, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalms 51:5). In other words, we are each conceived and born in sin and our natural inclination is to sin.
Because we are born in sin, there is no way we are able to save ourselves. There is no amount of good works we can do to undo the sin we have done. In order to illustrate how much of a sinner we are I use this math equation, and many of you have heard me us this before; if we only sin three times a day, times 365 days in a year, that is over 1000 sins in a year. Multiply 1000 times how old we are and we get an idea of how much a sinner we are. Of course, I might rather suggest that the real number of our sins is more like ten times that, in other words, if we only sin 30 times a day, times 365 which is over 10,000 sins a year, times how old we are, and we get the message. We are sinners.
We compound that guilt when we realize that our God is a just God, that is He is a God who is faithful to His Word. He says He must punish sin, and He must. If we found an unjust judge in our court system, a judge who was letting offenders go because they simply promised not to do it again, in the same way that we would not trust that judge, so we would not trust an unjust God. Our God is a just God.  He demands that we live perfect lives according to His laws and commandments. And He will not hold anyone guiltless who disobeys His commandments.
The good news is that while our God is a just God, He is also a gracious God. Our God is so gracious a God that we cannot comprehend all of His grace. If He were to show us all His grace at one time, if He were to pour out all His grace on us at once, it would overwhelm us, it would literally kill us. That is why He shows us His grace only a little at a time, only as much as we can handle at a time. Our God is a gracious God whose will it is that all people are saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. And so we have a just God and a gracious God. He has promised to punish sin, but He is also gracious to us.
Our God is gracious to us because of the great light which has dawned. The great light is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity. Jesus Christ was with the Father and the Holy Spirit at creation. He humbled Himself, St. Paul tells us, and took the form of a servant. He gave up the glory that was due Him as God and became a human being.
Thus Jesus Christ is true God and He is true man, born of the virgin Mary. As a man He lived under the law. He obeyed all God’s laws and commandments perfectly. He took all our sins upon Himself and suffered and died for our sins. Three days later He rose victorious over sin, death, and the devil.
His life, suffering, death and resurrection delivered us from the yoke that burdens, that is, sin, death, and the power of the devil. Isaiah describes these events in the last part of verse four, “For the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian” (Isaiah 9:4). We are indeed burdened by sin and its guilt. Jesus’ work on the cross, His suffering and dying, brought us forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness comes deliverance from death. With deliverance from sin and death we need no longer have any fear of the devil, because he has already been defeated.
These gracious blessings become ours simply by faith, but let us not misunderstand faith. Faith is the instrument which takes hold of these blessings of God. True saving faith is not merely a head knowledge about God. In other words, saving faith is not merely knowing there is a God. Even James tells us, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder” (James 2:19). The devil knows that there is a God, but it does him no good. Just knowing there is a God is not saving faith.
Nor is saying that you know there is a God saving faith. I call this lip knowledge. Sometimes this is referred to as “paying lip service.” In his Gospel Matthew tells us, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Saving faith is more than simply having your name on the books at a church. True saving faith is more than knowing there is a God, and more than just saying there is a God.
True saving faith is what I call heart knowledge. True saving faith is putting complete trust in Jesus work for salvation alone. It is taking what is in your head and being said with your lips, and confessing it and believing it with your heart. True saving faith is knowing and believing that there is nothing I can do to save myself and is complete dependence on Jesus for my salvation. True saving faith can be seen in one’s utter dependance on God so much so that nothing will stand in the way of one thinking, speaking and living as a Christian. And although, at times, we may fail to think, speak and live as a Christian, this means we will repent and struggle again.
Well, that is all fine and good, but the next question we ask is, what does this mean to me? What can I do? I consider myself to be a Christian. I am sure that if I died tonight I would go to heaven. I have this assurance because of my faith in Jesus Christ, faith which the Holy Spirit worked in me at my baptism. Faith which He renews daily through remembering my baptism and reading His Word. Faith which He strengthens through my reception of His body and blood at Holy Communion.
What can you do? We all can do is to pray. We can pray for the unchurched, the unchurched of the world and of the nation, but most specifically we can pray for the unchurched of Westfield, Spring and our surrounding area. We can pray that the Lord would work through us and through others in order that the unchurched may have the opportunity to hear His Word. Pray that upon hearing the Word that Word might take root in the heart of the unchurched, spring up and bear abundant fruit.
If you would like to do more than pray you can invite people to come to divine service. I believe that God’s Word, especially the book of Acts, gives us the best examples of how people are reached with the good news of the Gospel. It is as people were living their lives as Christians, living in their various vocations, as they were coming into contact with the rest of the world that they had opportunity to give an answer, to give a defense of the hope and faith they had. As they had opportunity, they shared with others and invited them to “come and see,” that is to come and hear the Word of God through which the Holy Spirit worked to give faith. The question we might ask ourselves is this, “What do others see and hear from us concerning our faith and our church?” If you were to invite a co-worker or friend to church would they decline because of our witness, or would they be excited and want to come and see because of our witness?
I believe the example of the Bible is the best example in how we are to reach others with the good news of the Gospel. First and foremost is the fact that we need to be filled with the message of salvation. If we are not filled, then we will never speak of what we do not have, thus, as I continually encourage, regular and diligent use of the means of grace is priority number one. Second, we will want to pray for those who do not yet have faith in Jesus. Pray that the Holy Spirit would move them through our witness to “come and see,” to come to divine service to hear the good news and be given faith. And of course, we will seek as many opportunities as possible to invite our unchurched family and friends to church and to church activities.
Most importantly we need to realize that we are all personal witnesses of our Lord and Savior. As personal witnesses it is our privilege to invite our friends, especially our unchurched friends and neighbors, family and co-workers to church. It is through our personal invitations that people come to hear the Word and to know Jesus Christ. People respond more to the loving concern and care of another person more than anything else because it is this loving concern and care that truly reflect what is in one’s heart. The Lord has done great things for us. With His help He can do great things through us.
It is really frustrating to me to try to motivate you without using a law motivation, without trying to motivate you by making you feel guilty. Sharing your faith is not something to feel guilty about, nor is being afraid to share your faith, nor is thinking that you are not sharing your faith. As we are reminded of God’s great love for us, that Jesus lived for us, that He died for our sins, that He rose so that we know that we might also rise, that we have forgiveness of sins and eternal life, how can we keep that great good news to ourselves. Indeed, we cannot help but share that great good news with others so they too might share heaven with us. So, let me encourage you and assure you, just by your being a Christian, just by your attending divine service and Bible class on Sunday, just by your being a part of St. Matthew Lutheran Church, you are already sharing your faith. You are already bearing witness of the faith that is in you. The exciting thing is that the Lord can and does continue to work through that simple witness to plant His seed, to water and nourish that seed and to bring forth abundant fruit, to His glory, when and where He pleases. We may never know whose life we might touch, but praise the Lord because He can and He does work His good and gracious will in and through us, to the praise and glory of His holy Name. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Explaining the Lord’s Supper

What is the Lord’s Supper and why do we believe what we believe which is that we are eating Christ’s body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine? In order to understand the Lord’s Supper and its Sacramental value we must first look at what Jesus was doing when He gave us the Lord’s Supper. We must go back to the original Sacrament which is the Passover meal.
Matthew, as well as Mark and Luke, remind us that Jesus was celebrating the Jewish Passover meal with His disciples (Apostles) for the last time when from this meal He gives us a new meal, the Lord’s Supper. “17Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?’ 18He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, “The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.”’ 19And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover” (Matthew 26:17-19).
So, let us go back and understand the Passover so we might understand what Jesus is giving us in the Lord’s Supper. In the Passover the Children of Israel were given specific instruction concerning what they were to do when the Lord would strike Egypt with the last plague, the killing of the firstborn of Egypt, so they would be protected when the angel of death passed over Egypt. They were to select a lamb, an unblemished lamb as pure as they could find, and they were to slaughter the lamb, sacrifice it. They were to take some of the blood of the lamb and paint it on the door post and lintel of the door, in essence marking the door with the up and down and left to right sign of the cross. This marking of the door is what the angel of death would see and pass over that house not killing the first born. They were to roast the lamb and eat it. In other words they were to eat the sacrifice so that it became a part of them.
The ceremonial law which would be given as Israel wandered through the wilderness dictated many sacrifices for the Israelites all of which pointed to the One ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross. As a part of many of these sacrifices the one offering the sacrifice was to eat of the sacrifice, again, thus participating in the sacrifice so it became a part of them.
In order to help us to make a good, right and salutary connection we must also remember that as John the Baptist came as a way preparer for the Messiah, He spoke of Jesus. In the Gospel of John we read, “The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29). Notice that John called Jesus the Lamb of God. Also remember that the sacrifice of the Passover was the Lamb which was eaten and became a part of the people.
Now, on the night in which He was betrayed, on Maundy Thursday, Jesus celebrated this Passover with His disciples. “26Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ 27And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom’” (Matthew 26:26-29).
So, as Jesus was celebrating the Passover meal with His disciples, at one point in the meal He took bread, blessed it and gave it to His disciples. With the bread in His hand He told them to take and eat the bread which was His body. Because Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, it was important that as He offered Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of the world, that those who participate in the benefit of His sacrifice also eat of the sacrifice; thus, Jesus declares that the bread being eaten actually is His body. Jesus does not say the bread represents nor is changed into, but is actually His body.
After He distributed His body/bread to His disciples, He then took the third of four cups of the Passover, the cup of Redemption, blessed it and passed it around for His disciples to drink with the words, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Notice here again, Jesus did not say the cup of wine symbolized or changed into, but was His blood. And here again, as they drank His blood/wine it became a part of them. Thus, as those who eat Jesus’ body and drink Jesus’ blood, the body and blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, they are participating in Jesus so He becomes a part of them. As He is a part of those eating and drinking, His life becomes theirs, His suffering and death become theirs, and His resurrection and eternal life become theirs.
The eating and drinking of Jesus’ body and blood and recognizing this eating and drinking of His body and blood in the Sacrament are so important that Paul tells us, “23For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ 25In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world” (1 Cor. 11:23-32).
To not recognize this Lord’s Supper as the Sacrament it is and that one is actually eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus therefor participating in Him, brings judgement upon oneself. Notice also, that Jesus never explains how this is happening, our eating and drinking His body and blood (as we explain) in, with and under the bread and wine. He simply tells us this is what we are doing; thus, we eat and drink in faith believing the Word of Jesus whose Word does what it says and gives the gifts He says it gives. And we rejoice and say, “Amen,” God is faithful. “Amen,” gift given, our being given to, thanks be to God and to Him be the glory.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Salvation For All - January 15, 2017 - Second Sunday after the Epiphany/Life Sunday - Text: Isaiah 49:1-7

This morning we come to the second Sunday after the Epiphany. This year we actually have a rather lengthy Epiphany season. The Epiphany season can last no longer than eight Sundays followed by Transfiguration Sunday. This year we have seven Sunday in Epiphany. The reason for this lengthy Epiphany Season is that this is one of those years when Easter arrives later and since Easter arrives later that moves everything back, so that we have seven Sundays after the Epiphany, then we will celebrate Transfiguration Sunday, followed by Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten Season. This morning we also celebrate Life Sunday, the fact that God gives life at conception and that life is precious in His sight. With all that in mind, we again hear words of promise and prophecy from our Lord, through the prophet Isaiah. And again, the word which we hear is a word which reminds us that God’s promise to send a Savior was a promise given to all people, all nations, not simply to one people or one nation and we see this great Gospel message time and again here in the Old Testament.
As we get into our text, we begin with the Prophet speaking, “‘1Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. 2He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. 3And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’ 4But I said, ‘I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God’” (v. 1-4). Notice that God called the prophet from conception. Also, notice that life begins at conception. At conception we have all the genetic information in our cells so that all that is added is nourishment and we grow to be born, to be babies, to be children, and to be adults. Anyway, the question we might ask is this: “Is this the prophet Isaiah or is this another prophet?” And as we read this text we can see that this is not a text speaking about the prophet Isaiah, but is indeed a text speaking about the coming Messiah. God promised to send a Savior, a Messiah. His promise was that the Messiah would be born of a woman.
God’s promise was also that He would gave the prophet “sharp” words to speak. As Jesus lived, walked and preached, His words were often “sharp” words. His words were words which called attention to sin and unbelief, disobedience to God’s Word and commands, and His words often upset those who believed He had no right to speak to them in such a way. Kind of like what happens in our churches still today. When the pastor preaches words of law we do not always like to hear such words because we like to think we are good people, at least we are not as bad as some people. But the purpose of the law is to show us our sins so that we do repent.
Unfortunately, because the people failed to listen, the prophet believed his labor was in vain. Time and again the prophets of God were mistreated, abused and even put to death. Time and again the prophets of God believed themselves to be failures. Of course, we would remind ourselves, as we read these words, that God never asked the prophets to be successful in whatever it was they were called to do, rather He simply asked that they would be faithful and would faithfully proclaim the message He gave them to proclaim. Here again, is not this the same as what happens in our churches today? Pastor’s are called by God, through our congregations to be faithful and to faithfully proclaim the message of law and Gospel, the message of salvation and yet we have some in our church body who would suggest that what we should be looking for are pastors who preach feel good sermons who are successful, at least in human terms and according to their own measure of success. And as I mentioned before, there are times I believe my labor is in vain, especially when so many people refuse and reject the gifts God has to give by absenting themselves from divine service.
But God is not through speaking through Isaiah. He continues to speak of the Messiah, “5And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him—for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength—6he says: ‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’ 7Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: ‘Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you’” (v. 5-7). God’s promise is to send a servant to save Israel. Last week we talked about this Servant Messiah or this Suffering Messiah. Jesus came as our Messiah, our Savior. He came humbly, giving up all the glory that was His in heaven, taking on human flesh so as to be one of us, so that He could be our substitute.
Isaiah tells us that the servant will be born of Jacob. This is why we have the genealogies of the New Testament. As we read through the genealogies of the New Testament we are shown how Jesus is from the line of Jacob, so that we might know for certain that Jesus is the promised Messiah.
Isaiah tells us that the servant will be a light to the nations.  Notice, he does not say that the servant will be a light only to the Jews, but that He will be a light to the nations. Here again we might be reminded and pointed back to Genesis, to the fall into sin and to the first Gospel promise. The promise of a Messiah, of a Christ, God’s promise to send a Savior was given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The promise was given before there was a Jew and a Gentile. The promise was given when there was simply one nation.
Isaiah tells us that the servant will be despised and hated. Of course, we have the advantage of looking back and seeing how these words of Isaiah did have their complete fulfillment in Jesus. Jesus was despised and hated, at least by those who would not believe He was the Messiah. He was despised and hated by those who refused to believe in Him. And Jesus continues to be despised and hated even in our world today. The world despises and hates Jesus and His followers. Yes, the world despises and hates us Christians because of the exclusive message of God’s Word that is that there is only one way to eternal life and that one way is through Jesus alone.
And Isaiah tells us that in the end all people will acknowledge Him as Lord. Even John in his Revelation reminds us that in the end, on the day of judgement all people, believers and unbelievers alike will stand before Jesus and confess that Jesus is who He says He is. Unfortunately, for the unbeliever this will be a day of confession to eternal judgement. They will finally get it right. They will finally understand and acknowledge the exclusive claims of the Christian church, but it will be too late. And for us Christians, it will be a day of confession to eternal life.
What Does This Mean? The children of Israel were chosen by God and called by God to be His people. They were to be the nation through which the Savior of the world would be born. They were to bear witness to the world of their belief in the one true God. They were to be a light and beacon for the world so that the world would know of the coming Messiah, but they failed.
By faith in Jesus, faith given through our Baptism, faith strengthened through God’s Word and Sacraments, we are called by God to be His people. God has chosen us and has called us to be His people. God has called us to bear witness of our faith through our very lives, through our words and actions. God has chosen and called us to be lights and beacons to the world so that the world might know that Jesus is the one and only Savior, but we too fail. We fail to keep the commandments, actually breaking many of the commandments, on a daily basis. We tend to be like the Pharisees and teachers of the law, thinking more highly of ourselves, believing ourselves to be above the “law” or that God’s law is not speaking to us, but to others who are worse sinners than we perceive ourselves to be. We believe that if Jesus did need to die for us, it was only that He needed to die a little for us, because, again, we are after all good people. Yes, we sound very much like the Israelites, like the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.
Thanks be to God that He promised to send a Savior for Israel and for us. Here again, we might point ourselves back to Genesis, but we might also point ourselves to the New Testament where we are reminded again and again that Jesus came for all.
The Messiah, Jesus came to live for Israel, that is to do what she could not do and He came to live for us, to do for us what we cannot. Because God demands perfection and we cannot be perfect, Jesus came to live in perfection. Because we cannot keep God’s laws perfectly, Jesus obeyed all God’s laws perfectly, for us, in our place. Because we cannot save ourselves, Jesus came to give His life for ours in order to save us.
Jesus is the Messiah, the one promised by God, the one promised through the words of Isaiah in our text for this morning. Jesus was born of a woman, the virgin Mary. He was born under the law. He fulfilled all God’s laws perfectly. Last week we were reminded of His Baptism by John in the Jordan river. This was, as Jesus Himself tells us, to fulfill all righteousness, to identify with us as our substitute.
Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. These are the words of John the Baptist in our Gospel reading for this morning. John knew who Jesus was. John came to prepare the way for Jesus. John knew of the sacrificial system of the laws concerning the offering of sacrifices as satisfaction for sin and He knew that Jesus came to offer Himself as a once for all sacrifice for us for our sins. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
After living a perfect life, Jesus took our sins upon Himself, all our sins, our sins of thought, word and deed, our sins of omission and commission, all our sins. And Jesus died for ours sin. But death and the grave had no hold over Him. He rose from the dead, victorious over sin, death and the devil. So, that now, by faith in Jesus we are saved.
For those of us living in the last days, in New Testament times, you would think it would be easy to believe and live according to God’s Word, we have, after all, the advantage of looking back and seeing how Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior of the world and yet, because of the temptations that surround us in this world we tend every day to look and sound like the world in which we live, we tend to let the culture take over our lives and then we begin to look like the world, not like the people God has chosen and called us to be. It is not difficult to read through the Old Testament and substitute us Christians for the children of Israel and see the similarities. Hopefully, as we do this, we also recognize our need for a Savior and our utter helplessness without Him. And hopefully, we then recognize that Jesus is the one promised in the Garden of Eden, the one promised to Abraham, the one sent from God, for us, for you and for me and for all people. So that, by faith, given through the Word and Sacraments, given by the Holy Spirit, put in our hearts and strengthened by God, we know and have confidence in our eternal salvation so that we might respond living lives of faith and giving praise to God alone.
Finally, this morning we are also celebrating what has become known as Life Sunday, that is we are celebrating God’s gift of life especially in children and in the pre-born children. Life is indeed precious to Jesus. He shows us how precious life in through the very fact that He gave His perfect life for the sins of all people, of all places, of all time, including pre-born children. Just as the Lord called Isaiah from the womb to be a prophet and as He called Jesus from the womb to be our Savior so He calls us from the womb, and even more, He calls us even before the foundations of the world have been set, to be His own, so much is His great love for us. So we rejoice in His great love for us and say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

I Will Put My Spirit on Him - January 8, 2017 - Baptism of our Lord, 1st Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Isaiah 42:1-9

Here it is the second Sunday of the New Year and our calendar is beginning to fill up, even our church calendar is beginning to fill up. Today is the first Sunday after the Epiphany of our Lord, which we celebrated last Friday. Friday we were again reminded that Epiphany is the time we celebrate the visit of the wise men, or the Magi to Jesus. The word “epiphany” literally means appearance, or to give light and is celebrated because this was the first appearance of our divine God in human flesh to someone other than an Israelite. This was the first appearance of our God to Gentiles. To us as Gentile Christians that means that this is God’s sign that we Gentiles have also been included as a part of His kingdom. Jesus was born as the Savior for all people, the Light of the world. Today we recognize as the second Sunday of the New Year, and the first Sunday after Epiphany.  You may also have noticed that the reading from the Gospel is the account of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist some 28 years later. So, again, this morning is the first Sunday after the Epiphany, it is the second Sunday of the New Year and it is also the Baptism of our Lord Sunday.
Before we get into our text let me make a comment about all our lessons. The Gospel lesson is the account of Jesus’ baptism. The Epistle reading from Romans is Paul’s words of encouragement that because we are united with Christ in His death, through our own baptism, so we are also united with Him in His resurrection. The Old Testament reading is God’s plan prophesied way back in time and is what we read as being fulfilled in the Gospel and Epistle lessons.
So, getting to our text we begin at the first verse. We read, “1Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations’ (v. 1). There are two key words in this verse. The first is the word “servant.” This is not just an ordinary servant, one who serves coffee, tea, or biscuits. The servant that is talked about here is a suffering servant. The servant talked about here is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, was born as true man. In his letter to the Philippians Paul tells us about this servant when he says, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8).” Jesus Christ is true God and with that comes all glory, but He gave all that up and became a servant in order to save us. In the same way, Paul tells us that our attitude should be the same as Christ’s, that of a servant seeking to help others, seeking what is best for others rather than being self-seeking, looking out for number one.
The second key word in this verse is the word “justice.” Our God is a just God, a fair God. He demands that we keep His commandments, that we live perfect lives, that we make satisfaction for our sins. The problem is that we cannot do this, be perfect. We cannot keep His commandments, we cannot live perfect lives, we cannot make satisfaction for our sins. The good news is that His servant, Jesus Christ our Savior has brought us justice through His death and resurrection.
Moving to verse two we read, “2He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street” (v. 2). This is a reiteration, or an expansion, of the role of the servanthood of Christ. He humbled Himself. Isaiah expresses this later when he writes, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). Jesus humbly gave Himself over to death in our place.
Continuing on in verse three we read, “3a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice” (v. 3). The bruised reed and the smoldering wick are images of delicate things which require gentleness. Thus, we see this servant coming in gentleness. For those who are struggling in their faith, those who are unsure and are barely hanging on He comes in gentleness, nurturing and strengthening the faith that is there.
Isaiah continues, “He will faithfully bring forth justice.” This is not our faithfulness, but the Lord’s faithfulness. We are unfaithful people. Sure, we come to church on Sunday, at least once in a while, maybe we even attend a Bible class, at least once in a while, but when we leave the church grounds, when we get out of the parking lot we have a tendency to go right back to our daily grind. How often it is that when making a decision, we forget to take it to the Lord in prayer. How often it is that in a moment of anger we misuse the Lord’s name. How often it is that we murder our neighbor, not actually killing them, but hating them and killing them in our mind, or simply not helping them. How often it is that we lust after another person, or covet someone’s possession, devising ways to get this, that, or the other thing. How often it is that we defame someone, running them down rather than putting the best construction on everything and building them up. And the list goes on. We are not faithful, but our Lord is faithful. In His faithfulness He has remembered and continues to remember His promises and He keeps them. In faithfulness, in His faithfulness He brings forth justice.
Continuing with verse four we read, “4He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law” (v. 4). Our Lord will not be discouraged. Sure, He has a lot about which to be discouraged, but He is not discouraged. This is what makes it seem like our Lord is a long time in His returning to take us to heaven. Our Lord is a patient, loving God who wants everyone to be saved. In that desire He is giving all people every opportunity to hear His Word and to come to faith. Our Lord is not discouraged, but is patiently waiting, allowing sufficient time for all people to hear His Word and put their hope in Him.
Picking up at verse five we read, “5Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: 6‘I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, 7to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness’” (v. 5-7). Who created the heavens and spread out the earth? It is the Lord God, the Lord Almighty who created the heavens and the earth. He said, “let there be,” and it was.
Who gives breath to its people, life to those who walk on the earth? He says, “I am the Lord,” the one who called you in righteousness. “I am the Lord,” the one who has given you life at your birth, physical life, but not only physical life, also new life, spiritual life through our baptism.  It is the Lord who makes us righteous. It is the Lord who brings us back into a right relationship with Himself.
Our Lord says, “I will take you by the hand and keep you. I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations.” Our Lord is speaking specifically to the Israelites. He says that He will work the salvation of the world through them. The problem was that they were sinners. This does not give us any reason to look down on them as if we are any better than they are, rather it makes us even more responsible because now the Lord has made us to be His witnesses and we too are sinners. The Lord’s solution, which ties this back to our first verse, is that He sent His servant, to be the embodiment of Israel. In other words, the Lord made His covenant with the children of Israel, that He would save the world through them. They were to keep His commandments and live according to His laws. Because they were unable to do these things He sent Jesus to be Israel. Jesus fulfilled all the Lord’s commandments and lived according to all His laws. Jesus did what all of Israel and for that matter, what we, all of us and all people cannot do, He lived perfectly. He fulfilled all the Lord’s commands perfectly, in our place. He obeyed His parents perfectly for us. He worshiped only the Lord and never misused His name for us. He obeyed all the Lord’s commandments and laws perfectly for us, in our place, as our substitute.
Jesus is the one who opened the eyes of the blind. He freed the captives. His healing, casting out demons, and miracles were all signs that He was who He said He was, God’s own Son, born in human flesh. Thanks be to God for this prophecy and for its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
Our text concludes, “8I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. 9Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them” (v. 8, 9). It is the Lord who does and gives and we are done to and given to. This is indeed good news. We touched on this point a little, earlier when we made note that the Lord had intended to save the world through His covenant people, Israel. We made note that although they failed, the Lord worked salvation through His people who were embodied in Jesus Christ. Today we are included as a part of God’s people through faith in Jesus Christ. Again, our Lord intends to get the good news out to the world through His people, through us. So how are we doing?
It is exciting to see new Christians, how excited they are about their new found faith, they cannot help it, they have to go out and tell everyone the good news they have heard. How about us “old” Christians, does our faith still excite us? Or are we more afraid of saying the wrong thing or being made fun of or the like? Or is our excitement still the desire to share the good news of Jesus with others so they too might have a part in His kingdom?
We may not always know what to say to someone, or how to tell them the good news, but let me assure you, we are all personal witness of the good news, whether we say something or not. We are witnesses in word and in deed. We do not have to say anything to bear witness of the good news. Simply because we wear the name “Christian” we show through our actions what that means to us. The good news about this is that no matter how bad a witness we might think we are, God can and does use our witness for good. With that in mind, I would encourage you, do not be afraid to talk to your neighbor. You do not have to talk about religion. You might simply want to invite them to come to church or to any church sponsored activity. If you know of someone you think would be receptive to hearing the Gospel, if nothing else, tell me and if they are interested, I will be happy to speak to them.
As we are now in the countdown to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, as Lutheran Christians we have the purity of the Gospel, the right understanding of Justification, why would we want to keep that to ourselves. As we hear our family and friends speak a confusion of Law and Gospel and seek to be saved by pointing to themselves, how can we not point them to Jesus who is the One who saves us. Just as our text points us to Jesus, so we point others to Jesus as we have been pointed to Jesus. And the joy is, that Jesus will do His work, when and where He pleases. And we are left to rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for  Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Lord’s Acts of Mercy - January 1, 2017 - First Sunday after Christmas - Text: Isaiah 63:7-14

Today is one of those rare Sundays as today is the first Sunday after Christmas and it is also New Years day. The waiting has ended, the presents have been opened, we have had time to relax and enjoy our families, we have eaten as much food and especially sweets as we can, and perhaps finished most of them off last night at New Year’s Eve parties or we may have saved some to finish off during our New Year’s day celebrations today. Some people used the past week to make New Years resolutions, which may or may not have already been broken by the time they made it to church this morning. After a late night as we come to be given the Lord’s gifts on this first day of the new calendar year, a new year as a gift from God, our text is just what we need, another beautiful Word of the LORD telling us the good news of all that He has done for us.
In our text Isaiah tells us of the kindness of the LORD. To the untrained eye that might sound, well, okay, but when we take a look at what this kindness is that he is speaking about, then we will see just what an impact this text can make. The word “kindness” in our text means more than just being kind to someone. The word “kindness” in our text refers to our LORD’s steadfast love for us and His faithfulness to His promises. When we keep our text in its context, we understand that when Isaiah speaks of the LORD’s kindness he is speaking of the LORD’s continual covenant loyalty even through the Israelites were disloyal. In speaking to us today we might say that the LORD continually shows us His kindness even though we continually disobey His commandments.
Isaiah tells us that the LORD is to be praise because of all the good things He has done. Our LORD is the one who created this world in which we live. He has given life to each one of us. He has given us new life through our baptism. He sent His one and only Son into our world, born as one of us, born under the law. Jesus lived the perfect life for us. He obeyed the commandments for us. He took all our sins, all our disobedience, all our disloyalty, upon Himself, suffered, and died for our sins.
The LORD has done these many good things because of His compassion and many kindnesses. That Jesus died for us has nothing to do with our goodness. In no way did we or could we influence our LORD to be good to us. As a matter of fact Paul tells us that it was while we were yet sinners, that is while we were in the midst of being sinners, while we are in the midst of being disobedient, that is when Jesus gave His life for us. It was because of His compassion and many kindnesses that the LORD has done these many good things.
It is the LORD who has chosen us. He has chosen to do these things for us. He is the one who calls us His people. Isaiah tells us that God said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely” (v. 8). We are God’s people because He chose us to be His people. By faith we are Abraham’s children. All believers in Christ are God’s people and children of Abraham, not by flesh, not as a physical descendant, but by faith, not by birth.
Because we are God’s people, chosen by Him, Isaiah tells us, “And He became their Savior” (v. 8). God chose us. He chose to be our Savior and to save us. He chose to save us by sending His one and only Son to be born as one of us. Jesus freely gave up Himself for us, to save us.
Now please do not misunderstand this next statement, because you well know that I am not one of these touchy feel-y preachers, but does not all that make you feel good? Kind of makes you feel like smiling, does it not? The problem is that we often have a hard time believing all that we have just heard. We would rather have a part in our own salvation, in one way or another. Our first defense of our own self-righteousness is the denial of our sin. We think to ourselves, “I am no worse than the next guy.” And that is true, we can always find someone who is a worse sinner than we are, at least in our own eyes. The problem is that if we are going to compare ourselves to anyone the person we must compare ourselves to is Jesus. And we remember He was perfect.
What we often fail to realize is that with the denial of our sin and even with the minimalizing of our sin, we imply the denial of the need for a Savior. Hardly ever is this an outright denial, usually it is more of a subtle denial. We figure that if we have never intentionally hurt anyone then we must be pretty good people. The problem is that being pretty good does not get you very far with God.
More often than not we confuse the Gospel of the LORD with the word of society. This usually occurs when our desire to fit in with society is greater than our desire to live according to God’s good and gracious will. The problem is that what society tells us is, more often than not, the exact opposite of what the Gospel of the LORD tells us. It is the word of society which is what makes us have such a hard time admitting that we are sinners, admitting that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves.
We live in such and affluent country that we believe we are entitled to all that we need and even all that we want. And often it is believed that if we do not have all that we want then somehow life is not fair and then there is a demand for what is wanted. We have a difficult time distinguishing between wants and needs. God’s promise is to take care of all that we need, not all that we may want and we can want an awful lot. Indeed, we have so much more in this country and in this world than we are entitled. To what are we entitled? According to the Word of the LORD, in and of ourselves, we are entitled only to eternal life in hell.
What is really frightening is that after we read about what a kind, compassionate, loving, merciful God we have, that rather than receive all His kindness with open arms, we would rather give our feeble excuses as to why we deserve for Him to do anything for us. Our sinful human nature even makes it difficult for us to simply open our arms, open our hearts to passively be given all His good gifts and blessings. It is really too bad that so often the only time we come to the LORD is when we are distressed and even then we often come with the attitude that He should have helped us before the distress took place. Should we expect anything from the Lord? Are we entitled to anything from the Lord? Our first answer to these questions should be “no,” we are not entitled to anything, nor should we expect anything from the Lord, except eternal death and punishment. Our second answer to these questions should be “yes,” we are entitled, we should expect everything from the Lord, because He has promised to give us all things. However, and this is a big however, it is only when we realize just how sinful we really and truly are and that all we deserve is eternal death and punishment, only then will we begin to realize how wonderful are God’s gifts of grace.
Thanks be to God that we do have such a loving God. Isaiah explains to us that our God continues in His kindness. He tells us, “In all their affliction he was afflicted” (v. 9), in other words, Jesus took all our afflictions on Himself. Jesus took all our sins upon Himself and suffered the punishment for them.
The most difficult phrase of this passage might be Isaiah’s reference to “the angel of His presence” (v. 9). “The angel of His presence” is Christ Himself. Isaiah is referring to the presence of the LORD Himself. It is the LORD Himself who saved us. He is God, born in human flesh. We just celebrated His birth, the beginning of His life on earth. A life in which he lived perfectly, something we cannot do. The exciting thing is that His perfect living was done for us. When we stand before God, by faith in Jesus we will be able to claim that perfect life as our own.
“In his love and in his pity he redeemed them” (v. 9). In spite of us, or rather because of our sinfulness, in His love and mercy, He redeemed us. In His love, is the kind of love that only God can have, so much that He gave His life for us. In His mercy, in His great compassion, He felt sorry for us, sorry enough to deliver and protect us from the danger of sin, death, and hell.
And, “He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old” (v. 9). The LORD not only has created us, not only has He recreated us through the waters of Holy Baptism, but now He lifts us up and carries us all our days. He is the one through whom we given strengthening, daily as He comes to us, especially through His means of grace, His Word, confession and absolution and His Sacraments; Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
The Word of the Lord for today is a Word in which we rejoice. The Word of the Lord for today is a Word which reminds us of the kindness, the mercy, the compassion, the love of our great God. The Word of the Lord for today is a Word which lifts us up and carries us all our days. It is a word reminding us of what a great, loving and compassionate God we have, a God who does all and gives all, for us, because of His great love for us. And because of His great love and compassion for us, we are moved to respond and say, thanks be to God, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.