Monday, February 19, 2018

Monday of Lent 1

Monday of Lent 1    19 February 2018 Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18

These words contain what is commonly referred to as the Ten Commandments. There is a tendency for us to follow only the external content of the law. That is, to regard or to be concerned only with the outward form of the law. To follow the commandment but disregard the meaning. The rich young man attempting to justify himself argued, “these I have kept since my youth.” (Matthew 19:20) Yet the Lord demands of us perfection. “You shall be holy; for I the LORD your God am holy.” That’s an ultimatum!

True, none of us are murderers. But we all have the capacity for anger. None of us has committed adultery. But we all have the capacity for lustful thoughts. During this season of Lent the Savior does not look for rightness. He seeks humility, repentance and faith. 

God never tires of hearing us repent. He doesn’t disregard it, treat it lightly, disparage the person repenting, or, throw them away. He mends. He heals. He forgives. He strengthens. And while we should always strive, as athletes do, not to fall, we do, and even if we should fall thousands of times, we stand back up, we repent, and God grants us forgiveness—for we are all the work of His hand.  

Hymn: Christ the Life of All the Living (Lutheran Service Book  420:6)
Thou hast suffered great affliction
And hast borne It patiently
Even death by crucifixion,
Fully to atone for me;
Thou didst choose to be tormented
That my doom should be prevented,
Thousand, thousand thanks shall be,
Dearest Jesus unto Thee.

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully increase in us Your gifts of holy discipline, in almsgiving, prayer and fasting; that our lives may be directed to the fulfilling of Your most gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. 1

Collect for Monday of Lent 1, 
Thoughts derived from a July 2017 sermon written by Pr. Ken Kelly, Johnstown, PA 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Time in the Word - Lent 2

Collect for the Second Sunday in LentO God, You see that of ourselves we have no strength. By Your mighty power defend us from all adversities that may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul through Jesus Christ, Your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

A Prayer for aid against temptation: O God, You justify the ungodly and desire not the death of the sinner. Graciously assist us by Your heavenly aid and evermore shield us with Your protection, that no temptation may separate us from Your love in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

A Prayer in times of temptation: Almighty and everlasting God, through Your Son You have promised us forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. Govern our hearts by Your Holy Spirit that in our daily needs, and especially in all time of temptation we may seek Your help and, by a true and lively faith in Your Word, obtain all that You have promised; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord.

A Prayer for humility: O God, You resist the proud and give grace to the humble. Grant us true humility after the likeness of Your only Son that we may never be arrogant and prideful and thus provoke Your wrath but in all lowliness be made partakers of the gifts of Your grace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

For blessing on the Word: Lord God, bless Your Word wherever it is proclaimed. Make it a word of power and peace to convert those not yet Your own and to confirm those who have come to saving faith. May Your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to the life that, as You have promised, Your Word may achieve the purpose for which You send it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Time in the Word
19-24 February 2018
Preparation for next week, The Second Sunday in Lent

The theme for the Second Sunday in Lent is The Cross – The Way of Life. The Gospel of Lent 1 was related to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  Today the public ministry draws to a close. Today’s Gospel follows the experience at Caesarea Philippi where Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ. If He is the Messiah, he must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Likewise, His followers must adopt this same style of life: denial, suffering, and the cross. The way of the cross leads home to God. In the Old Testament lesson, the Lord calls Abraham to walk before Him and be blameless. We do this through our adoption into the family of God.  Out of suffering, Paul says, in the Epistle lesson, ultimately comes hope and out of Jesus’ passion comes reconciliation with God. The Psalm urges us to trust this God of mercy. The suggested Hymn of the Day is related to the Gospel lesson which calls upon the Christian to take up the cross and follow after Jesus.

Monday, 19 February 2018Psalm 115:11-13; antiphon, Psalm 25:6—The Introit sets the theme for the day: Lent is a time of suffering as the way of the cross often involves suffering for the Christian.  In the midst of our suffering, we cry out with the Psalmist, “Remember Your mercy O Lord, and Your steadfast love. We ask the Father to look at us through His eye of mercy as He remembers the work of Christ our Savior.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018Psalm 22:23-31—In this psalm, David vows to praise the Lord when the Lord’s sure deliverance comes. The vows proper appear in verses 22 and 25. Verses 23-24 anticipate the calls to praise that will accompany the psalmist’s praise. Verses 26-31 describe the expanding company of those who will take up the praise – a worldwide company of persons form every station in life and continuing through the generations. No psalm or prophecy contains a grander vision of this scope of the throng of worshipers who will join in the praise of God’s saving acts. 

Wednesday, 21 February 2018Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16—In our Old Testament reading, Abram’s name is changed to Abraham as the Lord gives him the covenant of circumcision. The covenant is God’s. God calls it “my covenant” as He initiates and established it. God has covenanted to keep His promises. The Lord gives us His pledge to be the protector of His people and the One who provides for their well-being and guarantees their future blessings.  

Thursday, 22 February 2018Romans 5:1-11—Paul teaches that Christians have peace with God through the reconciliation made possible by the cross. This lesson is a transition from justification by faith to a life of faith beginning with chapter 6.  Hence we have Paul’s “therefore” (v.1).  By grace through faith, we are one with God in peace and harmony. Out of this relationship come reasons to rejoice: that we share in the glory of God (verse 2) that we experience suffering that eventuates in hope (verses 3, 4); and that we are reconciled to God through Christ (verse11).

In our suffering, sin and weakness, God comes to us in love expressed in the death of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Friday, 23 February 2018Mark 8:27-38— Jesus teaches that He must suffer and die and calls upon His disciples to follow Him in the same.
Jesus and the Disciples are at Caesarea Philippi. Peter had confessed Jesus as the Christ. Thereupon Jesus explains to His disciples that as the Messiah He must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die.  This did not fit into Peter’s conception of the Messiah and, therefore, he rebukes Jesus. Jesus sees this as a temptation not to go to the cross. He turns down the temptation by seeing Satan in Peter. Then, in the second part of the lesson (verses 34-38), Jesus explains to both disciples and people that they, too, are to take the way of the cross that involves denial, suffering, and sacrifice.

The rugged cross means a rugged way of life for a follower of Christ.  The Christian style of life is a hard life. Jesus’ life consisted of sorrow, rejection, suffering, and death. His followers can expect no less. The Christian life has a cross at its center. John Donne said, “No cross is so extreme, as to have none. There is no gain without pain.” President Truman had a sign on his desk: “Bring me only bad news. Good news weakens me.” In Tom Sawyer Clemens wrote, “He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it – namely, that in orders to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain.”

Saturday, 24 February 2018Luke 3:22-23—The hymn of the Day is Great is Thy Faithfulness {LSB 809}. The suggested reference reminds us that God was faithful to His promise in sending the Holy Spirit upon His only Son as He began His ministry. God is faithful to all of His promises. As He promised to send His Son, to anoint Him with the Holy Spirit, this same Son will work our salvation. The promises of God are fulfilled in the work of His Son our Savior Jesus Christ.

Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House.

Illustration from a woodcut by Baron Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld, 1794-1872, a distinguished German artist known especially for his book, Das Buch der Bücher in Bilden (The Book of Books in Pictures).
Lectionary Preaching Workbook Series B John Brokhoff © 1981 CSS Publishing Lima, OH

First Sunday in Lent, 18 February 2018 Genesis 4:1-26

The first Sunday in the season of Lent begins with the Devil’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.(See Mark 1:9-15) Today’s reading records the first murder as Cain takes his brother’s life. We each face temptation. Possibly we have not been provoked to murder. But there have been times when we have succumbed to destroying our neighbor’s reputation through our conversation using gossip and hearsay as our weapons of choice. 

We can innocently acknowledge that we have not taken a person’s life. Yet, by our words we can declare them dead by insulting and destroying their name and character.

In this season of Lent we see that God’s plan of redemptions is not stopped even by an act of murder. The promise of a Savior was carried out by Jesus, a son of hope and promise, who innocently gave His life on the cross in exchange for our sins of wanton murder and wrath.

Cain innocently asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” He didn’t have to ask. He knew the answer before he spoke. We are responsible for our neighbor’s life and reputation. Especially during this season of Lent may we defend especially the helpless among us by “defending them, speaking well of them, putting the best construction on everything,” in every given circumstance. Putting your best foot forward sometimes means to stop what we you were previously doing. We call this repentance. A watchword in Lent. Lord, shape and lead us by repentance and faith. 

Hymn: Glory Be to Jesus(Lutheran Service Book  433:4)
Abel’s blood for vengeance
Pleaded to the skies;
But the blood of Jesus
For our pardon cries.

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as You know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find You mighty to save; through Jesus Christ Your Son my Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. 1

1. Collect for First Sunday in Lent,
Image (c)  Google Sacred Images
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts (c) WELS for congregational and personal use

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Lent 1

Lent 1
February 18, 2018
Mark 1:9-15

The Way of the cross leads to the Testing of Faith

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley. – Valley of Vision a collection of Puritan prayers 

As we begin the discipline of Lent we will consider the following theme during the next six weeks “The Way of the Cross.” This morning we will find that the way of the cross leads to the testing of faith.

The whole account of Jesus’ temptation is given in two short verses. They tell us the basics about temptation. These few verses explain what you should know concerning temptation–

It is God allowed - “The Spirit immediately drove Him

Jesus had just been baptized and received the Spirit who came down upon Him like a dove. The Spirit immediately drives Him into the wilderness where He is tempted. The Spirit is always given when a call has been issued to do a task. At His baptism Jesus was ordained to be the Savior of the world.

The Spirit with a sense of urgency – “immediately drove” –Jesus into a wilderness. Where He will have solitude. To think through the method He will use to accomplish the task. He is tempted to take the devil’s way.

The Father allows temptation to come. But always with limits. Jesus was tempted for 40 days. Job was tested. But with limits. Job lost his children, his wealth, his property but not his health. He kept his wife.  And when he was then afflicted with sickness God spared his life.

Jesus reminds Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 Sometimes we endure temptation so in the future we may help others when they face temptation.

It is Satan conducted – “Tempted by Satan

Mark would remind us that Jesus is tested πειραζόμενος.  For forty days Jesus was tested by Satan before He began His ministry. When we are tempted our faith is tested. Mark explains that Jesus was “tempted by Satan.”

Many think God tempts us because we pray in the Lord’s Prayer; “lead us not into temptation.” This is impossible. For God desires us to do only what is right and good.

God indeed tempts no one. Yet we pray that God would guard and keep us. So that the devil, the world and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked y these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.  

Some think temptation is a sin. Not so. Yielding to temptation is sin. Yet, every Christian is tempted.  As was Jesus. The Savior warns us, “For it is necessary (ἀνάγκη) that temptations come.” - (Matthew 18:7)

St. Paul strongly warns of the coming temptation and its serious consequences.“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” [1] “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be under a divine curse! (ἀνάθεμα) As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you embraced, let him be cursed! (ἀνάθεμα)   [2]

It is danger saturated – “He was with wild beasts

Many hold the opinion that the better Christian you are the less temptation you have. The opposite is the case: The better you are, the more you are tempted. Temptation is a trying time. Requiring a spiritual struggle. It is a wilderness experience. In which one fights with wild beasts.

So what are the beasts with which you must do battle? Says St. Paul, “The acts of the flesh are obvious: impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and sorcery; (1st Table of the Law) sexual immorality, hatred, discord, jealousy, and rage; rivalries, divisions, factions, and envy.” (2nd Table of the Law)  - (Galatians 5:19-20)

They are called beasts for a reason. They are fierce monsters with which you must contend. Satan wants to destroy you. But the victory is yours in Christ Jesus.

As to a commentary on how this all is carried out in our lives tune sometime to a re-run of the  popular 1960's television series - Gilligan's Island.

The island is a direct representation of HELL. Nobody on the island wants to be there, yet none are able to leave. They can't escape!

Gillian - plays the role of SATAN - Gilligan is the person who put them there. He prevents them from leaving - by foiling all of their attempts to escape. And remember, it is HIS Island. And he always wears red.

Each one of the remaining characters represents one of the 7 deadly sins:

The Skipper, - Jonas Grumby - the captain of the SS Minnow - represents two sins: GLUTTONY - no explanation needed; and ANGER - he violently hits Gilligan in each episode.

The Professor, - Roy Hinkley PhD - represents PRIDE - he is an annoying know-it-all. He can make a radio out of a cocoanut but can't repair the SS Minnow.

Thurston Howell III - symbolizes GREED - Who takes a suitcase full of money on a three hour tour?

Eunice Lovelle Wentworth Howell - represents SLOTH - she has never lifted a finger to help any of their plans to escape.

Ginger Grant - The movie star -represents LUST - she wears skimpy outfits, she has a full length mirror so she can admire herself, she is obsessed with her looks.

Mary Ann Summers  - represents ENVY - she is constantly jealous of Ginger's beauty.

These characters, on the surface, seem so innocent. Yet they live out their vices in every episode. Showing us the seriousness of sinful actions. The point of the show is obvious. Left to our own devices, No One is able to escape...that's why Jesus was tested for you.

It is angel ministering – “Angels ministered to Him

Where are the angels according to Mark?  They are with Jesus throughout His tempting. Mark uses the word “ministered.” (And for those of you who are grammar geeks, Mark writs in the imperfect tense) to remind us that a prolonged or continued action took place. Although the Spirit drives us to a place of testing. And although God does not tempt us. God does not leave us alone. To resist the devil by ourselves! His angels, His messengers, continually support and comfort us in our trials. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” – (Hebrews 1:14)

Paul assures us that God will not permit us to be tempted above what we are able to resist. “No temptation πειρασμὸς has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear. But when you are tested he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it”. - (1 Corinthians 10:13)

In fact He’s promised to walk with you through the darkest night and the most trying of tests. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. – (Romans 8:38-39)

The Way of the Cross leads to the Testing of Faith. Only Christ alone can sustain that faith. Will you go it alone? Or will you walk with Him during this Lenten pilgrimage? How you answer this question will determine how you will fare.

Google Image: Temptation of Christ by Ary Scheffer 1854
Artwork - Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld ©WELS

[1] 1 Timothy 4:1
[2]  Galatians 1:8-9

Words- 1,750
Passive Sentences –7%
Reading Level –5.2

Saturday after Ash Wednesday, 17 February 2018 Psalm 86:1-11

Immediately, the Psalmist gives us the context from which we so often pray, “Incline your ear, O Lord, answer me, for I am poor and needy.” This includes all of us. From the depths of despair, the psalmist cries out to God for help. 

The reason we can come to our Lord in every circumstance is recorded in vs. 5, “For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.” 

Our Father is loyal and full of grace. This is the Father’s goodness in action. It is His unwavering devotion to the salvation of His people. Which, of course, was fulfilled in the cross of Christ our Savior.  When we call upon God, speaking His name in repentance and prayer He will act decisively for us because of His great mercy and grace. With the Lenten hymn we can say, “Glory be to Jesus who in bitter pain, pour for me life blood, from His sacred veins.“ 1 

Hymn: Grant Peace, We Pray, in Mercy Lord(Lutheran Service Book 778)
Grant peace, we pray, in mercy Lord;
Peace in our time, O send us!
For there is none on earth but You,
None other to defend us.
You only, Lord, can fight for us.

Rejoice, O Lord, the countenance of Thy servants; and deliver our souls from the lowest hell, that protected by Thy mercy, we may with spiritual strength tread fleshly desires under foot; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with Thee and the Holy Ghost, One God, world without end. Amen. 2

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth Your right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. 3

1. Glory Be to Jesus, stanza 1, Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
2. Collect © 2005 Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood
3. Collect for Saturday after Ash Wednesday,
Image  © Ed Rojas Higher Things

Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday after Ash Wedneday, 16 February 2018 Psalm 51:1-10

Every time we gather around God’s Word the Lord is convicting us of sin and offering us the new hope of life which comes to us through the saving merits of Jesus Christ. Our response is to thank our heavenly Father for His saving acts. The words of Psalm 50 are commonly used in the words of the Offertory in our liturgy which is sung in response to God’s Word as it is shared with us through the preaching of God’s Word.

A clean heart is created within us and a renewed right spirit is given to us every single time the Lord hides His face from our sins as He blots out all our iniquities. Our sin is purged and we are made clean as the Savior washes away from us all our sin. Having been restored and forgiven we hear the song of joy and gladness. Jesus acts alone for us bearing our sin as He went to the cross. Jesus’ work on that Friday makes it all good.  

Hymn: Lord to You I Make Confession (Lutheran Service Book  608:4)
Lord, in  You I cast my burden-
Sink it in the deepest sea!
Let me know Your gracious pardon,
Cleanse me from iniquity.
Let Your Spirit leave me never,
Make me only Yours forever.

We beseech Thee, O Lord God, to turn Thy face from our sins, and to blot out all our transgressions; and as the publican, who stood afar off, was heard in his humility, so hear us not for our own merits, but for the merits of Him who, being co-equal with Thee, His Father, yet for our sake took upon Him the form of a servant, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen 1

Support us, O Lord, with Your gracious favor through the fast we have begun; that as we observe it by bodily self-denial, so we may fulfill it with inner sincerity of heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. 2

1. Collect  © 2005 Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood
2. Collect for Friday after Ash Wednesday,

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thurs. after Ash Wednesday, 15 February, 2018 Deuteronomy 30:15-20

In the midst of our reading for today we find these words, “love the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life.” This essentially is a summery of the first Commandment; a commandment given to our first parents Adam and Eve way back in the garden. It was a commandment handed down from generation to generation. It was given to the children of Israel as they were to enter the Promised Land.  It is a commandment we could not keep.

This passage also directs us to the source of this life which we have. The same Spirit of God which breathed life into Adam breaths His life-giving breath into His people through His Word. (See Ezekiel 36:22-28)

The Lord directed His people to choose life. The history of God’s people in the Old Testament is one of open rebellion, a call to repentance and finally restoration. This process had to be repeated and was often met with horrible results and painful consequences. In this season of Lent, we are called back to the life the Father offers through the death of His Son. Through the reading the history of God’s people in the Old Testament we learn from their history and apply these lessons to our own Lenten journey.      

Hymn: Lord throughout These Forty Days(Lutheran Service Book  418:3)
Though parched and hungry, yet You prayed
And fixed your mind above;
So teach us to deny ourselves,
Since we have known God’s love.

Heavenly Father, we pray for forgiveness, for all too often we pursue the way of death and evil rather than life and good. Forgive us for the sake of Christ, who perfectly obeyed Your commands and dies for our sins.[1]

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with Your most gracious favor, and further us with Your continual help; that in all our works begun continued, and ended in You, we may glorify Your holy Name, and, finally, by Your mercy, obtain everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.[2]

[1] Lutheran Study Bible, © 2009 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis MO
[2]Collect for Thursday after Ash Wednesday,