- Tuesday, 04 December 2018
From the Word
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11
I thought I would let you read an excerpt from Luther’s Christmas sermon 1530.
This is our theology, which we preach in order that we may understand what the angel wants. Mary bore the child, took it to her breast and nursed it, and the Father in heaven has his Son, lying in the manger and the mother’s lap. Why did God do all this? Why does Mary guard the child as a mother should? And reason answers: in order that we may make an idol of her, that honor may be paid to the mother. Mary becomes all this without her knowledge and consent, and all the songs and glory and honor are addressed to the mother. And yet the text does not sound forth the honor of the mother, for the angel says, “I bring to you good news of a great joy; for to you is born this day the Savior” [Luke 2:10–11]. I am to accept the child and his birth and forget the mother, as far as this is possible, although her part cannot be forgotten, for where there is a birth there must also be a mother. Nevertheless, we dare not put our faith in the mother but only in the fact that the child was born. And the angel desired that we should see nothing but the child which is born, just as the angels themselves, as though they were blind, saw nothing but the child born of the virgin, and desired that all created things should be as nothing compared with this child, that we should see nothing, be it harps, gold, goods, honor, power, and the like, which we would prefer before their message. For if I receive even the costliest and best in the world, it still does not have the name of Savior. And if the Turk were ten times stronger than he is, he could not for one moment save me from my infirmity, to say nothing of the peril of death, and even less from the smallest sin or from death itself. In my sin, my death, I must take leave of all created things. No, sun, moon, stars, all creatures, physicians, emperors, kings, wise men and potentates cannot help me. When I die I shall see nothing but black darkness, and yet that light, “To you is born this day the Savior” [Luke 2:11], remains in my eyes and fills all heaven and earth. The Savior will help me when all have forsaken me. And when the heavens and the stars and all creatures stare at me with horrible mien, I see nothing in heaven and earth but this child. So great should that light which declares that he is my Savior become in my eyes that I can say: Mary, you did not bear this child for yourself alone. The child is not yours; you did not bring him forth for yourself, but for me, even though you are his mother, even though you held him in your arms and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and picked him up and laid him down. But I have a greater honor than your honor as his mother. For your honor pertains to your motherhood of the body of the child, but my honor is this, that you have my treasure, so that I know none, neither men nor angels, who can help me except this child whom you, O Mary, hold in your arms. If a man could put out of his mind all that he is and has except this child, and if for him everything—money, goods, power, or honor—fades into darkness and he despises everything on earth compared with this child, so that heaven with its stars and earth with all its power and all its treasures becomes as nothing to him, that man would have the true gain and fruit of this message of the angel. And for us the time must come when suddenly all will be darkness and we shall know nothing but this message of the angel: “I bring to you good news of great joy; for to you is born this day the Savior” [Luke 2:10–11].
 Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 51: Sermons I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 51, pp. 213–214). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
- Friday, 02 November 2018
From the Word
“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
1 Corinthians 10:16
Are you going to communion? This was a question I heard in the hallways of my congregation when I was growing up. As I grew older and realized what the Lord’s Supper was, I wondered why anyone would choose not to receive it.
Paul’s admonition to examine ourselves about our repentance and our faith in the words of Jesus concerning the Sacrament are indeed valuable. As a Pastor I would not want anyone to eat and drink in an unworthy manner because of the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11. Such examination is important, especially as a reminder of the wondrous gift we are receiving.
But, in a sense, the question of us coming to the Lord’s Supper puts the emphasis in the wrong place. The focus is on us, when it should be on the Sacrament. The point of our reception of the Sacrament of the Altar is on what is received.
Jesus uses the simple word “is” in His institution of the Sacrament. “This is My body.” “This is My blood.” “Is” means “is.” Any attempt to make this a metaphor or allegory needs biblical evidence for support. But every reference to the Sacrament says “is.” Nowhere are we given any reason to believe that He means anything else than “is.”
The point of the Sacrament is that Jesus gives us His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus comes to us with His physical presence to touch us with His grace. Our participation in what He brings is a participation in the body and blood of Jesus, given and shed for us on the cross. We don’t have to go to Calvary to see the crucified Savior. The crucified Savior comes to us as we participate in His once for all sacrifice. All He did in that moment, we receive in the moment we commune with Him. In the body we receive He unites us as His body, one in faith and hope. In the blood of Jesus we are united to His blood that washes us (Revelation 7:14).
Are you going to communion? The Lord is coming to us!
- Thursday, 27 September 2018
From the Word
“Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” Matthew 6:11-13
We continue our journey through the Lord’s Prayer. For a greater discussion of this wondrous gift, go through the section on the Lord’s Prayer in Luther’s Small Catechism.
Give us each day our daily bread. In Jesus day, the bread was not only a staple of their diet, it was the means by which they scooped up their food (their eating utensil). The bread helped them eat nearly everything. Daily bread refers to all the blessings of body and soul that we need each day. God daily provides this, and this prayer reminds us of the source of every blessing.
And forgive us our debts (Luke has “sins”) as we also have forgiven our debtors. The reason Jesus came was to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins, once and for all time. We are forgiven by God’s grace because Jesus took our sins to the cross. Having been forgiven so much, we forgive in thanks to Him. Forgiveness is what our lives are built on. Forgiveness dominates our relationship to God, and is indispensable in our relationships with others.
And lead us not into temptation. Satan alone tempts us, but we ask God to guard and protect us from the evil one. This is a constant need. Satan comes with temptations and accusations, seeking to remove our focus from Jesus and rob us of our peace. It is the grace of Christ that enables us to resist temptation. It is that same grace that grants forgiveness when we give in. When Satan accuses us and seeks to get us to despair, we flee to Jesus as our defense. We are sinners, but we stand in the forgiveness and righteousness of Jesus. We will not be moved.
But deliver us from evil. Jesus delivers us from the evil in this world. We are strengthened in that assurance as we continue in God’s Word and in the reception of His grace in the Sacraments. Our sole reliance is on Him and Him alone. He will ultimately deliver us from evil when He takes us to the home He has prepared for us in heaven.
Lord, teach us to pray.
- Sunday, 02 September 2018
From the Word
“Pray then like this, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’” Matthew 9:9-10
Why do we pray the Lord’s Prayer so frequently? We do so because it is a gift from Jesus Himself to us to use in our prayers. It is a wondrous prayer that also instructs us how to pray and the things to pray for. Satan will tempt us to say this prayer mindlessly, and sometimes we do. It is fitting, therefore, to periodically remind ourselves what is contained in this gift from Jesus to us. For a greater discussion on this subject I would refer you to Luther’s Small Catechism. For now a brief comment in this and the next Epistle article might be helpful.
Our Father in heaven. What a blessing it is to be able to address God as Father. This is not something we can simply do in our natural state. Many mainly associate God as being our Father with the fact that He created us. While that is true, Scripture points us mainly to the fact that God has paid the adoption price for us in the blood of Jesus. We also see his fatherly love for us in that act. It is in the sending of Jesus that we see the depth of love God has for us, and are able to apply that depth of love to what He provides for us daily.
Hallowed (holy) is Your name. God is perfect and holy from eternity. Our sinful condition makes us unable to fully, or mostly, comprehend the complete holiness of God. This petition confesses that. But we primarily ask God in this Petition to make His name holy, first and foremost in us. We ask the Spirit to use us as the instruments of glorifying God in our homes, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, and our world.
Your kingdom come. The kingdom has come. God established His kingdom on earth in the people of Israel as the means of God fulfilling His promise to save us. His kingdom has come in fullness of grace when Jesus came to earth to fulfill God’s promise. He uses us to bring the Gospel to people that they may be part of the kingdom. He will come again to take us into the fullness of his presence in heaven. We pray for all this to be true of us, and evident through us as a witness to the world. We pray for His return, that we may forever experience the fullness of joy.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The will of God is that all people come to the knowledge of the truth and become members of His kingdom. His will for our daily life is found in the Ten Commandments. We pray here that He would work in us to refrain from those things the Law forbids, do those things positive things we are called to do in love for others, and be witnesses that the Spirit may use us as the means of accomplishing His will to bring others to saving faith.
Lord, remember us in Your kingdom and teach us to pray.
- Thursday, 16 August 2018
From the Word
“If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through the Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:11
I’m sometimes asked what the Holy Spirit does. It’s almost easier to list what the Spirit doesn’t do. There is no aspect of our lives untouched by the Holy Spirit. The Catechism lists His work as “Sanctification,” which means “to make holy.” The Spirit makes us holy by creating faith in us, making us God’s own children and heirs of His grace on earth and His glory in heaven. Being made holy, all of life is affected.
The Spirit dwells in us by faith, and is at work in us to produce the fruit of faith. The Spirit was given to the church in John 20, specifically to give, and exercise the authority to forgive and retain sins. The Spirit was given to the church in Acts 2 to bring the Gospel to the world. Thus the Spirit is the means by which the church lives out her mission to nurture the life of God’s people, and to bring people to faith. We are the vessels of the Spirit to do these vital works.
The Spirit works in us to bless our families. The Spirit leads godly men to “love their wives as Christ loved the church” and godly women to receive that love and respond with love and respect for her husband. The Spirit guides fathers and mothers in their loving service to their children. The Spirit teaches godly people in authority to love and serve as Jesus did. The Spirit teaches those under authority respect with good stewardship and hard work. The Spirit leads us to loving, sacrificial service to others in need. All that we are called to do, we are led to do by the Spirit of God.
The Spirit works through the Word and Sacraments to strengthen our faith. The Spirit helps us in our prayers, communicating our groaning to God as heartfelt prayer. The Spirit will give us the words to say as we witness and the Spirit will work through that witness to make new. Whatever God’s people do, the Spirit does in them. We live in the confidence of God’s presence and power in us.