- 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.
- Monday, 02 July 2018
From the Word
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
During this calendar year my articles have been about various parts of the Catechism. I have attempted to deal with the subject matter in a concise way that would fit the space available for my article. This month we come to the 2nd Article of the Apostle’s Creed; the person and work of Jesus. I can’t find a way to be concise on that subject, so I am borrowing what I believe to be the finest brief discussion of the 2nd Article I have ever encountered, Luther’s explanation from the Small Catechism. I hope it renews the same appreciation for God’s grace that I always receive from reading it.
“I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord. He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. He did this not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, so that I may be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true
- Monday, 11 June 2018
From the Word
“Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:11
“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” This is the confession of the church on earth which joins the song quoted above, the words of the elders and the living creatures before the throne of heaven in Revelation 4. They cast their crowns before the throne and sing this song. We join that song as we sing, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, all Thy works shall praise Thy name in earth and sky and sea.”
This is an easy song to sing when we behold the wonders and marvels of creation. But our human experience on earth goes beyond the “wow” moments of existence to the everyday. How does the wondrous creation of our Father in heaven impact our daily lives?
Consider the plant. A dead seed lies dormant in the ground until awakened by the combination of water, warm sun, and a little lightning. We call this nature. It is actually creation. God continues His creative work by bringing life from death each Spring. We call it natural because it happens each year. But in a world of death and destruction, what is natural about life?
Do we always consider the creative hand that put the fruits of the plants on our table in the plants we eat, or the creatures whose meat we eat, fed by the plants of God’s creation? Sometimes we do. Often we do not.
Our days are ordered by the sun God created and the moon and stars He set in the heavens. We keep track of the time God has given us with technology wrought by our stewardship of His gifts. We take our gifts (abilities) to work, to bless and provide for our families, then bring them home to enjoy that family as the gift they are.
We marvel at the tiny hands God blesses us with in babies, often forgetting the wonder of our own hands that tend to the needs of those loved ones, not to mention the aged fingers given strength and resolve by Giver of all good and perfect gifts.
The 1st Article of the Creed is our confession of our loving Father who has given us literally everything. We give thanks that He sent His Son to bring us back to Him so that we could see our lives as gifts, not simply nature taking its course. Let us continue to sing the hymns of praise to our Creator. But as we do, let us look right where we are and at those around us. All we see and know are wondrous works. In this knowledge we sing, “Holy, holy, holy, all the saints adore Thee, casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea.”
- Wednesday, 16 May 2018
From the Word
“Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105
“Why doesn’t God just talk to me and tell me what He wants me to know?” He does. He has given us His Word, His conversation with us. In the nearly twenty years I have served St. Paul’s, many have noticed and remarked about the fact that I favor the study of various books of the Bible, rather than topical studies. That’s true. My thinking is simple, the Bible is God’s conversation with us in the way and the context of His choosing. Topics arise, but they do so in the context God has chosen. There is always a temptation to isolate Bible passages from their context. That’s not to say that topical studies are in some way bad or wrong. They are not. The catechism is a continuous topical study on subject after subject.
We cannot underestimate the value of the Bible as God’s communication with us. The Bible is what God wants us to know in the context He chooses to give it. Some of that conversation is lessons learned in God’s interaction with His people. Part of it is in the things He gave us to help us in our walk of faith, and our worship. He gives us his expectations (Law) and His action on our behalf (Gospel). He teaches us through His direct application of truth (Prophets and Epistles), and even uses poetry and hymns to teach us about our relationship to Him.
His purpose is that we live with Him here by grace and in heaven (John 20:31). That is the consistent theme throughout his Word. He also teaches us lessons of life, but always within the context of salvation. He teaches us a way of thinking that is foreign to those who don’t believe. The world around us is steeped in Law, because that’s all they know. But God calls us to think in terms of grace and truth.
We talk to God in prayer and sometimes wish we had His verbal answer. This is one of the many reasons for us to continually be in God’s Word. We are people of the Word and pray that He would keep us steadfast in, and through, His Word. One of my favorite prayers is one we pray in our liturgy to this day.
“Blessed Lord, who has caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that, by the patience and comfort of Your Holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”