Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Mid-week Advent 2

Mid-week Advent #2
December 13, 2017
Luke 1:26, 31-33
To Whom Does Jesus Come?

INTRODUCTION: In the Gospel of Luke the birth of Jesus is foretold. The Lord sends a messenger who comes to Mary the very peasant girl who will give Him birth. To whom does Jesus come?  Jesus comes with comfort to him who waits.

In Luke 1:26  we read: “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,”  The mention of Elizabeth's "sixth month" establishes a link between Jesus and the prophet John the Baptist. Nazareth was a small town off the main trade routes. Its insignificant size contrasts with Jerusalem, where Gabriel's previous appearance had taken place. Jn 1:46 records the negative Judean opinion of Nazareth. “What good ever came out of Nazareth?”  

Likewise, the region of Galilee contrasts with Judea. Surrounded as they were by Gentiles, the Galileans were not necessarily irreligious but many were somewhat lax regarding strict Jewish traditions. And what really is the point? Jesus did not come to the high and mighty, the religious. He came from a region of sinners and a family of sinners to redeem sinful people.

What can we say concerning this Savior? Let’s see what the angel has to say:
“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”  Luke 1:31-33
Mary’s Son was to be infinitely greater than John.

(a) His name was to be Jesus, ‘Jehovah is salvation’ (31).

(b) He would be great (32), a title which, unqualified, is usually reserved for God Himself.

(c) As heir to David’s throne He will reign over God’s people (33).

(d) His kingdom will be eternal (33).

CONCLUSION: To whom does Jesus come? He comes to comfort those who wait patiently for Him.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Time in the Word - Advent 3

Time in the Word
Advent 3 
December 11-16, 2017

Monday, 11 December 2017Psalm 85:8–9, 12–13; Antiphon, Psalm 85:7—During this season of preparation by way of repentance, we pray that, even as we break with the sins of our past, the Lord would not let us turn back to folly. Our sin is persistent, and we can never conquer it by our own doing. Our only hope is in the Lord, who will speak peace to His people and will give what is good. He does this through our Savior, Jesus, for righteousness goes before Him.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017Psalm 126—This psalm was composed when the Israelites returned from the Babylonian Exile. When God delivered them, their mouths were initially filled with laughter and their tongues with shouts of joy.

But the hardships they faced upon return tested their faith in the Lord’s promise to restore the fortunes of Zion. This psalm provides comfort that those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! Likewise, when we face unexpected hardships and suffering, we can take comfort that the Lord has done great things for us. The greatest thing He has done is restored us by the death of our savior, His Son, Jesus Christ
Wednesday, 13 December 2017Isaiah 61:1–4, 8–11—God’s anointed messenger is here proclaimed. He will proclaim the good news of relief and release to the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, those who are bound, and those who mourn. All these things describe us in our sinful state: We are poor, lacking the riches of fellowship with God, and thus brokenhearted; we are captives of, and in bondage to sin, and thus can only mourn our condition. But the One whom the messenger proclaims will give us the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit, that we may be called oaks of righteousness.

Thursday, 14 December 20171 Thessalonians 5:16–24—What is our response to and our witness of Christ has accomplished for us? That we rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances. This we can do, because we are no longer in our former state, as people who have no hope, in bondage to sin. Christ has set us free, and gives us His gifts of Word and Sacrament, that our whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, 15 December 2017John 1:6–8, 19–28—When the priests and Levites confronted John the Baptist, asking him who he was, he responded that he was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah in the Old Testament reading. John is the man sent from God, the voice of one crying out in the wilderness. He went before the Lord Jesus, to prepare the way for Him, to bear witness to Him. John baptized and preached a message of repentance. Likewise, we still heed John, and prepare ourselves for the celebration of the coming of Christ in the flesh by repenting of our sins.

Saturday, 16 December 2017—The hymn of the day, Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding (LSB 345), tells of the work of John the Baptist. His voice is thrilling to believers, for his voice heralds the coming of our Savior, Jesus.

Collect for Third Sunday in Advent: Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers and to lighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Prayer for deliverance from sin: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, You desire not the death of a sinner, but rather that we turn from our evil ways and live. Graciously spare us those punishments which we by our sins have deserved, and grant us always to serve You in holiness and pureness of living; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns . . .

Prayer for grace and forgiveness: Spare us, O Lord, and mercifully forgive us our sins. Though by our continual transgressions we have merited Your chastisements, be gracious to us. Grant that all these punishments which we have deserved may not come upon us, but that all things may work to our everlasting good; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns . . .

Prayer at nightfall: We praise and thank You, O God, for You are without beginning and without end. Through Christ You are the creator and preserver of the whole world; but above all, You are His God and Father, the giver of the Spirit, and the ruler of all that is, seen and unseen. You made the day for the works of light and the night for the refreshment of our weakness. O loving Lord and source of all that is good, mercifully accept our evening sacrifice of praise. As You have conducted us through the day and brought us to night's beginning, keep us now in Christ; grant us a peaceful evening and a night free from sin; and at the end bring us to everlasting life through Christ, our Lord; through Him be glory, honor, and power to You in the Holy Spirit now and always forever and ever.

Prayer for catechumens: Almighty God and Father, because You always grant growth to Your Church, increase the faith and understanding of our catechumens that, rejoicing in their new birth by the water of Holy Baptism, they may forever continue in the family of those who You adopt as Your sons and daughters; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns . . .

Lectionary summary on front page from LCMS Commission on Worship
Artwork by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld, ©WELS.
Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Advent 2

Advent 2 – 10 December 2017 –Mark 8:1-8

Prepare for the Savior’s coming by Repentance

Should Christmas Be Banned?

In Mark’s Gospel, there is no Christmas! It begins with an adult Son of God. After John, the Baptist’s preparation for Jesus He simply appears as a thirty-year-old adult seeking baptism.

If it were up to Mark, quite possibly, we would have no Christmas celebration. Should we follow Mark as the Puritans did in the 17th Century – by banning Christmas? Some would feel at home with such an idea. Now, to totally outlaw any celebration of Christmas might be stretching things a bit. However, in light of the materialism of our modern day maybe we should simply skip all of the Christmas “sell-a-bration”! It is imperative that we come to an honest understanding of what Christmas really means for this world.

What is Christmas all about?

1.            Which is not simply an understanding of how He was born but we need to understand who was born in Bethlehem and for what reason He came to this earth. All of us are quite familiar with the birth of Jesus Christ. We are familiar with the story of His birth we know of the manger, the angels, and the star.

A.            All these things are important. They point to an undisputed fact that Jesus was born, that He became a human being.

1.            These facts points that Jesus was a man. Hardly anyone would dispute these events as fact. Most people are not offended to say that Jesus was born, that He became human.

2.            To make the point that He came in history is all somewhat to say about Jesus. This is the all some are willing or comfortable to go with respect to the birth of Christ. To them “little baby Jesus’ is simply all they care to know concerning Christ. They will attest to the fact that a baby was born and that is it – nothing less and certainly nothing more!

B.            If we get hung up on just His birth, we may lose out.

1.            The reason for His birth is what is important. Why did He come? The Lord of life entered time and space to be our redeemer. He entered our world to bear our sin. He came to this earth to reconcile us back to the Father.

2.            He is not simply a “cute baby” a little lamb. He is the eternal Son of God. Yes, He entered this world as you did for He came to be your substitute. He came to live a perfect life for you. He came to fulfill the law for you. He came to fulfill and keep every requirement the Father requires of you. To be your substitute He had to be perfect in every respect so that His sacrifice would be complete.

2. Jesus, the child who was born – He is “The Son of God”

A.                  Very God.

1.            He is the Creator of us all. In Him is all life. He is the one who was with the Father from the foundations of the earth.

2.            He is the all-powerful One by Him and for Him all things were made. Mark will begin his gospel with a powerful and bold confession. Jesus is the Son of God. This is Gospel and good news.

B.            In Him is what all the prophets had written
1.            Over 800 prophecies concerning the Savior were written in the Old Testament. Mark quotes from Malachi and Isaiah to show that John was not an ordinary man nor was Jesus. Mark was the predicted forerunner of the Messiah. John prepared the way for Jesus by calling the people to repent, confess their sins, and be baptized.

2.            Jesus fulfilled each of these prophecies. He fulfilled every one of them. Every single prediction concerning the Christ was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Each has been fulfilled in His birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection.

3. Why He was born – He is “The Christ”
A.            He is the One who came to save us

1              We could never save ourselves. Our sin condemns us. Our works are soiled with sin. Our attempts at being good fall short. We need a Savior. Only Christ will do.

2.            Sin has separated us from God. Sin has caused a huge wedge to separate us from God, and from our neighbor. In Jesus’ life, passion, death and resurrection that which has caused separation has been removed.

B.                  By His suffering and death, we are saved and redeemed.

1.            In Baptism we are brought into His family. Paul reminds us “When we were baptized into Christ Jesus we were baptized into His death. We were buried with Him by our baptism into death so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father we too should live a new life. For if, we have been united with Him in a death like His we shall certainly be reunited with Him in a resurrection like His. Your baptism is both a death certificate and a birth certificate. In your baptism, you died to sin and became alive in Christ forever.

2.            Through this covenant of Baptism we are kept in faith. He calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies and keeps you forever in the faith. He gives us His Holy Spirit. As He calls you, He plants the seed of faith into your heart. He enlightens you causing growth toward the light of the Gospel. He sanctifies you so that your works may flower and show the fruit of a genuine faith. He keeps you watering and nurturing your faith so that it remains active and effective, as He has promised to use you in His kingdom.

So, should Christmas be banned? By no means! When we look past the trappings, we see the One who has come to redeem and save us. He is God in the flesh our Savior, King and Redeemer.

Words – 1,000
Passive Sentences – 12%
Readability – 78.8%
Reading Level – 5.2
 Woodcut by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld, © WELS

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Mid-week Advent 1

December 6, 2017
Luke 1:18-20
 “The Promised Savior”
To Whom Does Jesus Come?

INTRODUCTION:  To whom does Jesus come? Does He come only to those who are rich in faith? Does He come only to those who have everything figured out? Does He come only to those who are secure in their beliefs?  What about the Scrooges of this world? Does Jesus come to them also? These Scrooges…they want to believe. They want to get all caught up in the merriment of this holiday season and yet they are reserved… There are those people who simply haven’t finally gotten a full grasp of the Christmas story. Now don’t get me wrong, they know the story inside and out which might be their downfall. They don’t necessary doubt but they have questions. Could the Savior really be born in Bethlehem, in a stable, to a Virgin?  As we consider the question: to whom does Jesus come we will find that Jesus comes with proof to him who has questions.

Ah yes, there are plenty of questions in the Christmas story. The man we will focus on this night is an old man by the name of Zachariah.

We know a little concerning Zachariah the father of John the Baptist. We know that Zachariah was a priest, whose lot it had fallen to offer up prayers at the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Jewish exile into Babylon had interrupted the original lines of descent; so once returning to Israel the divisions were regrouped, most of them corresponding to the original in name only. Each of the twenty-four divisions served in the temple for one week, twice a year, as well as at the major festivals.
An individual priest, however, could offer the incense at the daily sacrifice only once in his lifetime since there were so many priests. Therefore this was the climactic moment of Zechariah's priestly career, perhaps the most dramatic moment possible for the event described to have occurred. God was breaking into the ancient routine of Jewish ritual with the word of His decisive saving act and nobody could believe it!

The suddenness of the appearance of the angel in the Holy Place is in agreement with other supernatural events in the Christmas story. Consider the heavenly host that visited the shepherds. (cf. 2:9, 13).

Only a heavenly being had the right to appear in that place with the priest. Zechariah's startled and fearful reaction is not only a natural reaction to such an appearance but is also consistent with what the Gospels say about the response of the disciples and others to the presence of the supernatural. They are - startled and to say the least - apprehensive at best, - doubtful and the worst.

This is the first indication of prayer on the part of Zechariah. The specific petition probably refers to both his lifelong prayer for a child (probably a son) and his just-offered prayer in the temple for the messianic redemption of Israel. Actually, the birth of his child was bound up with redemption in a way far beyond anything Zechariah expected.

As he prays for a son his prayer will be answered. As he prays for the redemption of Israel through the coming of the promised Savior his prayer will be answered!
That the prayer included a petition for a son is substantiated by the further description of the child, beginning with his name "John" (meaning "The Lord is gracious"). John being named before his birth stresses God's amazing mercy and grace in choosing John to be His servant.

To question does not mean doubt! Mary’s question arises from faith (v.45). Mary simply inquired as to the way God would work; Zechariah questioned the truth of the revelation. Zachariah's question, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18 seems oh so innocent, but  it was asked in doubt. In contrast to Mary's question- - "How can I be sure of this?" apparently was a request for a sign. Though we are told that Zechariah was devout (v.6), his quest for confirmation was perilously close to the attitude described by the skeptics, who in Luke 11:29 are searching for confirmation of Jesus’ ministry but find nothing to their satisfaction. “As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.”  

In the midst of his skepticism, disbelief, uncertainty and doubt the Lord speaks to Zachariah through the messenger Gabriel. “The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.” Luke 1:19-20

There you have it! Zachariah is dumbfound by the news and staggers at the very thought that he would be a father in his old age. Thus he will live in silence until the child is born. Yet, the mighty acts of God will be fulfilled in Zachariah’s lifetime. He will have a son, and the promised Savior will be born. John will be His prophet and the holy one of Israel will come to deliver His people. It will happen all as Gabriel had promised.

The Christmas story is just as difficult to imagine as is the birth of John, born to parents well beyond years and yet it all happened as it has been recorded to us in sacred Scripture.

The fact that Zachariah had difficulty believing what his ears were hearing does not mean it is impossible. To the contrary, it reminds us that what is impossible for man is all God’s doing!  If an old couple could cradle in their arms their own son could not God give us His own Son to be conceived of a Virgin, to be born, suffer, be crucified, die and then rise from the dead on the third day?  If you have difficulties grasping the wonder of the Christmas story your in good company with the likes of Zachariah and Thomas and even Peter.   To whom does Jesus come? He comes with proof to him who questions.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Time in the Word ~ Advent 2

Time in the Word
Advent 2
December 4-9, 2017

The dominant theme of this coming Sunday is preparation for Christ’s coming. John the Baptist is sent to prepare the people for Christ’s first coming by preaching a Baptism of repentance. In the Old Testament lesson, the Lord calls for a way to be prepared for His coming. The Epistle lesson deals with the Second Coming and the end of the world. Christians are to prepare by living blameless lives. The suggested Psalm of the day indicates that righteousness shall precede God’s coming. As we focus on John the Baptist’s words, he calls on us to prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming. On Advent 1 we were assured that Jesus is coming again. This Sunday we prepare for His coming. As the Gospel suggests He may be coming to some for the first time; for all He will be coming a second time at the end of time.

Monday, 4 December 2017Psalm 80:1, 8a, 9b, 7; Antiphon, Psalm 80:3— “Restore us, O God; make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.” The whole purpose of Jesus coming into this world was to save us. In these weeks counting down to Christmas, we remember that Jesus entered time and space to be our Savior. As He came at just the right time to redeem us, He will appear at the right time to receive us into glory. His timing is impeccable; His ways are perfect. 

The psalmist prays for the restoration of God’s people, remembering the deliverance God wrought through Joseph. In Advent, we, too, pray for restoration—restoration from the bondage of sin. The vine out of Egypt of verse 8 recalls the flight of the Christ-child into Egypt to avoid Herod’s persecution. That Vine has taken deep root and filled the land and it is through Christ, who is the Vine, that we have been restored.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017Psalm 85—Another psalm asking God for restoration, Psalm 85 recounts the forgiveness of the Lord in the past, and prays that He might once again make known His steadfast love, or mercy.

With confidence, the psalmist can say, ‘Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.’ For the steadfast love and faithfulness of the Lord do meet in the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; there, righteousness and peace kiss each other (verse 10).

Wednesday, 6 December 2017Isaiah 40:1–11—‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ the Lord instructs Isaiah. Release from the bondage of sin is at hand. The voice crying in the wilderness shall prepare the way for the glory of the Lord to be revealed. The Word of God, which stands forever, shall assume flesh in order to bring comfort to the people by removing the blot of iniquity. Then He shall ‘tend his flock like a shepherd.’

Thursday, 7 December 20172 Peter 3:8–14—Isaiah wrote his prophecy of the coming of Christ seven hundred years before He came. It must have seemed an interminable amount of time for those who lived during those years, wondering when God would fulfill His promises. But the Apostle Peter reminds us that the Lord has His own timetable, and a good purpose for accomplishing things in His own time. He further admonishes us to be ready for the Lord’s Second Coming at any time, and to live lives of holiness and godliness waiting for that day.

Friday, 8  December 2017Mark 1:1–8—In fulfillment of the words of the prophets Isaiah and Malachi, John the Baptist comes to prepare the people for the coming of the promised One. The coming of Jesus Christ is Good News (Gospel), Mark proclaims boldly at the outset of his Gospel, but we must be prepared for His coming. John the Baptist prepared the world in his day, and continues to do so in our day, by calling people to repentance, urging them to confess their sins, be baptized.

Saturday, 9 December 2017—The hymn of the day, On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry (LSB 344), recounts the Old Testament and Gospel readings of the work of John the Baptist. It closes with a doxological stanza which proclaims the Good News that Jesus’ ‘advent sets Thy people free.’ This is Good News, indeed!

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of Your only-begotten Son, that by His coming we may be enabled to serve You with pure minds; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Collect for Advent 2Stir up our Your power, O Lord, and come and help us by Your might, that the sins which weigh us down may be quickly lifted by Your grace and mercy; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Stir up your power, O Lord, and come. Protect us by your strength and save us from the threatening dangers of our sins, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Almighty and everlasting God whose will it is to restore all things to your beloved Son, whom you anointed priest forever and king of all creation: Grant that all people of the earth, now divided by the power of sin, may be united under the glorious and gentle rule of your Son.

Some thoughts concerning our worship life together

The Lord’s Prayer is the chief prayer of the Christian Church and it is prayed here at the chief event of the Divine Service.  As children of God, we call upon “Our Father” as we prepare to encounter Jesus in His Supper, acknowledging that in the Sacrament He will answer our petitions. The congregation prays, “Thy kingdom come,” then receives the kingdom of God in the coming of Christ in His body and blood. We pray, “Thy will be done,” then witness salvation being distributed. We pray for forgiveness of sins and hear Christ’s own Word proclaiming that in His death He has accomplished everything needed to “forgive us our trespasses.”

LUTHERAN SEVICE BOOK © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO
Schnorr von Carolsfeld, woodcuts © WELS Permission to use these copyrighted items is limited to personal and congregational use.
Worshiping with Angels and Archangels – An Introduction to the Divine Service by Scot Kinnaaman © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis p. 35

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Advent 1

Mark 23:33-37

Today we celebrate the first Sunday of a new Church year. As we prepare for the celebration of the Savior’s first Advent, we prepare for His Second Advent – His sure and certain return on the Last Great Day. You and I as 21st Century Christians have no better way to live our lives now then from the perspective of eternity. As we prepare for the observance of our Lord’s first coming, we must remember that the entire Christian life is oriented towards the last advent of Christ with its glorious eternal salvation.

God requires of us alertness.

1. The Lord wants us to be spiritually alert at all times.

A.        Jesus’ inevitable return in power and glory will be sudden, and unexpected. Verse 35 refers to the four watches of the night - making the point that the Lord’s coming can come at any time. "So keep watch!
You do not know when the owner of the house will come back. It may be in the evening or at midnight. It may be when the rooster crows or at dawn.

B.        While we wait, there can be many things that cause us to neglect our responsibilities of watching and waiting for the Lord sure and certain return.

1.        This can happen by overlooking the threatening dangers of our own sinfulness. This is what we pray for in the prayer of the day that we might be rescued from the threatening perils of our sin and then be saved by the Savior’s might deliverance. Isaiah makes mention of this in the Old Testament lesson for today when he says, All of us have become like someone who is "unclean." All of the good things we do are like polluted rags to you. All of us are like leaves that have dried up. Our sins sweep us away like the wind. [Isaiah 64:6]

2.        Then there is the temptation to confirm to the world’s view of the supreme importance of material things. Thinking that have the latest thing will cause us true happiness. Says the Savior in the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ "For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. [Matthew 6:31-34;]

3.        Then of course, there is the very weakness of our own flesh. We are by nature sinful and unclean. We need, especially in this Advent season to pray to the Lord, “Kyrie Elysian.”

C.        The result of yielding to temptation is misbelieve, despair, and prodigal living all of which call forth the wrath of the Lord. Although it is correct to conclude that our neglect of God-given responsibilities calls for God’s wrath and punishment it is not correct to give the impression that we can somehow earn God’s favor by changing our lives and carrying out our responsibilities. In other words, the answer to the Law is not more Law. We can’t get right with God by simply saying, “We’ll work harder at it!”

The solution to our issues with sin is found in the sweet and comforting message of the Gospel. The returning Lord has already come to endure in our place the punishment for our sinful disobedience and failings: in Him, we have the grace of God and so you do not lack any gift; God has called you into fellowship with His Son, who will confirm us to the end. This Paul announces to us in the Epistle lesson for this day!
Transition: God requires alertness and He works it in you.

2. God Himself effects spiritual alertness in us.

A.        Mark’s Gospel proclaims the works of our Savior Jesus. In this new church year, we will hear 37 selections from the Gospel of Mark. Mark's Gospel has also been called a story of the death of Jesus with a long introduction. Mark's Gospel is about the period leading up to and just after the death of Jesus.

B.        The retuning Lord has already come once to accept the punishment for our failings. This is the story of the cross. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself not counting our sins against us and He has now given us this message of reconciliation. This is what causes us to say with joy “Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth!”

C.        By bringing us to faith in Jesus, God now motivates and enables us to seek and do His will. The Holy Spirit instructs believers by answering the question that arises from faith-filled hearts “what is my Savior’s will for my Life?” The Holy Spirit helps us realize the importance of spiritual alertness. And in His Supper, the Lord provides the nourishment that enables us to remain alert. In providing for us this “food for the soul”, we are enabled to remain alert waiting for the Lord’s coming.

Only by God’s grace in Christ can we eagerly and alertly look forward to the Lord’s return. No better preparation can be found, either for Christmas or for Judgment Day, than the spiritual alertness that God wills and works.

Words –930
Passive Sentences – 13%
Readability – 70%
Reading Level – 7.5

Woodcut by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld, © WELS

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Time in the Word - Advent 1

Time in the Word
Advent 1
November 27-December 2, 2017

The new church year begins with the Second Coming. It is the one Sunday of the year which features the return of Christ as the main subject. In light of the interest in the Second Coming, the church would do well to consider this doctrine of the church and teaching of the New Testament. The Gospel calls upon us to be on the alert for the sudden, unannounced coming of Christ. The world’s cry for God to come to His people is heard in the Old Testament lesson. Paul refers to the Second Coming in the Epistle by assuring His people that they have every spiritual gift as they wait for Christ’s return. The Psalmist calls upon the Lord’s return to help and save His people.

Collect for Thanksgiving–Almighty God, Your mercies are new every morning and Your generously provide for all our needs of body and soul. Grant us Your Holy spirit that we may acknowledge Your goodness, give thanks for Your benefits, and serve You in willing obedience all our days.

Collect for the Harvest – Almighty God, Your crown the fields with Your blessing and permit us to gather in the fruits of the earth. As stewards of Your creation, may we receive Your gifts in humble thankfulness and share Your bounty with those in need; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Collect for Advent 1 -Stir up Your power O Lord and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

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, my Lord.

A prayer before we study the WordAlmighty God, our heavenly Father, without Your help our labor is useless, and without Your light our search is in vain. Invigorate the study of Your holy Word that, by due diligence and right discernment, we may establish ourselves and others in Your holy faith.

Monday, November 27, 2017 - Psalm 25:1-3 - The Antiphon for this coming Sunday is from Zechariah 9:9b, “Behold Your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation.”  This passage of Scripture will be quoted on Palm Sunday as Jesus rides triumphantly into the city of Jerusalem. Our king comes not in triumph as a military hero by rather in humility and meekness. David and his sons did not ride horses but rather mules (see 2 Samuel 18:9; 1 Kings 1:33).

Tuesday, November 28, 2017Isaiah 64:1-9 -An appeal for the Lord to return to save His people. This lesson comes from the third section of Isaiah (chapters 56-66).  It was written in the period of 540-500 BC. The Jews returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile. The exiles find a pathetic situation: Jerusalem is desolate and the temple has been burned to the ground. The people are despondent and impatient for God to come and do something about their condition. They feel that God is angry and has hidden His face from them. He is accused of causing them to sin. The people confess their sins and feel confident that God will not reject them for He is the potter and they are the clay. 

Wednesday, November 29, 20171 Corinthians 1:3-9 -By grace Christians lack no spiritual gift as they wait for Christ’s return. This section of Scripture was chosen for this “Second Coming” Sunday because Paul refers to the return as the day of Christ. As the Christian waits for that final event, the promise is given that we are sustained by Christ’s grace and will be guiltless for Christ’s appearance. God is faithful in His gifts and promises.

Thursday, November 30, 2017Mark 13:33-37 -Watch for Jesus’ unexpected coming. Because the time of Christ’s return is unknown, we must watch for Him. In this brief lesson the word “watch” is used four times. Twice Jesus says, “You do not know when the time will come.” This fact is the reason for being on the alert. The emphasis is laid on Jesus’ return as sudden and unexpected.

There is no place here for speculation when the time of the return will be. It is an exhortation to be ready whenever He comes. Since no one knows the time, it is necessary for the faithful to look for Him every day. The mood of Advent is not speculation but joyful anticipation of the Lord’s return.

Friday, December 1, 2017Psalm 80:1-7 - This Psalm is the appointed psalm for this coming Sunday.  Verse 7 is the key verse, “Restore us and we shall be saved”.

Saturday, December 2, 2017 - Matthew 21:1-16 - Our reading is the inspiration for the hymn, “O Bride of Christ, Rejoice.”  How does the Savior choose to make Himself known? Not in pomp and circumstance, not with a grand fanfare and a floury of light and sound. Instead He chooses to be placed in a manger, the feeding trough of the animals. He is born in a stable where beasts are kept. Not the place you would go looking for the savior of the world.

But this is the amazing thing about our Savior, He chooses to be found in those places the world would least expect. He chooses to reveal Himself in those places the world considers unimportant. He chooses to exert His power in what an unbelieving world considers weak and of little consequence.

The cruel cross of Calvary looks ahead of us even in Advent. Does the death of a condemned man seem compelling enough to offer atonement? Could His life and sacrifice really save you? The surroundings and the circumstances of His birth predict His death. They are the means by which we find peace with God and absolution for our sin.

LUTHERAN SEVICE BOOK © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO
Schnorr von Carolsfeld, woodcuts © WELS Permission to use these copyrighted items is limited to personal and congregational use.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Proper 29

Proper 29 –26 November 2017– Matthew 25:31-46
“Christ the King Sunday”

What you need to know concerning the end

Almighty and everlasting God whose will it is to restore all things to your beloved Son, whom you anointed priest forever and king of all creation: Grant that all people of the earth, now divided by the power of sin, may be united under the glorious and gentle rule of your Son.”

Most of us have an interest and curiosity of what will happen to us at the end of the world. Is there or is there not a judgment? Is there really a heaven and a hell?

Our Gospel lesson makes certain affirmations concerning the end. People need to be assured of these facts, for they make a difference in our way of life.

Outline: What can we learn from this text about the end?

1. Jesus is the judge of all people — v. 32. “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

Before Him will be gathered all the nations of the earth. All must be summoned before Christ's tribunal. Every person of every age of the entire world, - from the beginning to the end of time - will be placed before Him. All those nations of men that have ever existed, every person who has ever walked on the face of the earth. Those who were here for only a season. Those who created a legacy - will be summoned before Jesus the Shepherd King. It will be the day of the final account of the entire world.

2. As there is a judgment, there will be a time of accountability — v. 33 “…and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Jesus did not say that He will put the rich on His right hand and the poor on His left.” He did not say He will put the learned and the noble on His right hand, and unlearned and despised on His left; but the godly on His right hand and the wicked on His left.

A distinction will then be made between the precious and the vile. He shall separate them one from another, as the tares and wheat are separated at the harvest, as the good fish and the bad are divided at the shore, as the corn and chaff is separated on the floor. You cannot determine a righteous man from an unrighteous person just by observation. Both the wicked and the godly dwell together in the same kingdoms, in the same cities, in the same churches, and in the same families. They are not obvious. You can’t tell one from another. But on that day they will be separated, and parted forever.

3. There is a heaven and hell — vv. 34, 41, 46. “Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;…These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Jesus tells us that the eternal hope of the righteous is in Him; just as eternal punishment awaits the unrighteous who are apart from Him. Since we know none are righteous as St. Paul reminds us in Romans 3:10, As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one…”our only hope is in Christ - for our faith alone justifies us declaring us righteous in God's sight. As Paul continues “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Romans 3:20-22.

4. Compassion is the basis for judgment — v. 40. “The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”  St. Francis of Assisi is to have said: "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary - use words." The faith is taught and it is caught. By word and deed we are to express the compassion of Jesus Christ especially to the least of these as such, we should include them in our circle of compassion and mercy.

 The key word is the word - When (vv. 37-39). “And when did we see thee...?” Three times, the righteous asked the King the same question. They served Christ without knowing it. It was a natural, spontaneous, and automatic expression of compassion for those in need. This they did without any thought – it came naturally for them. As they did it they did it unto Christ.

The deeds of love and compassion for the needy resulted from their possession of the spirit of Christ. They had the heart and mind of Christ, and thus they had concern for the hungry, naked, and imprisoned.
Words – 900
Passive Sentences –18%
Readability – 74.2%

Reading Level -6.9 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving 2017
Once again we have come to another Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving here at Zion is much more likened to a harvest festival in which we return thanks to the Lord who has given us another year to serve Him in providing the people of this world food to eat.

We have again experienced the four seasons which are so critical and significant to our farming community. There is first, the dormancy of winter in which the world around us sleeps and enters hibernation. But with the emergence of spring comes the hope of another season. Planting leads to growth and maturation in summer which gives way to the harvest of autumn. Each year has its own challenges and this year has had its own.  How should we view this year’s harvest? Let us consider these realities.

  1. Through the kindness of God we have again received the fruit of the earth in their season. Having called upon our Lord we are drawn to the many blessings which flow from His mighty hand. We recall His kindness. His blessings. The richness of His grace. His forgiveness. These we do not deserve – yet, He lavishes them upon us - because He is kind and gentle toward us. This is His nature. He can do nothing else.

As He acts on our behalf we have again received the fruits of the earth. True, our farmers put in many hard and long hours. Fields don’t plant themselves. And someone has to work the harvest. Your work is important. Tremendously important. And yet we find a significant and profound truth. It is the Lord who multiplies and gives the increase. He sends the rain at the proper time. He sends the sunshine. Everything is fixed according to His timetable.

And the harvest which is received comes at the proper time in their season. The Lord has promised that there will always be a crop.  Though we may often times go through cycles of adversity and challenge that Lord has promised there will always be another growing season. The land lays dormant now. Just as Advent leads to Christmas and the discipline of Lent segues into Easter so also the death of winter will only give birth to spring, The Lord promises “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will not cease.” – Genesis 8:22

  1. Our prayer should be that we rejoice in Christ’s mercy. Without the Lord we have nothing. Without His sustaining hand we are left living a life which is dictated to chance. Without His hand ordering our days and guiding our path we are left to circumstances directing our life. We need a balanced life. It is Christ which brings this balance.    

  1. Our prayer should be that neither prosperity nor adversity would drive us from Christ’s presence.

A.   So that neither prosperity in times of plenty, both when the stock market is climbing, and the prices are souring. When yields are high and dividends are increasing. 

B.   Nor adversity – such as the time in which we live today when the future is not so certain when the experts try to explain that we are entering into uncharted waters, where the solution is uncertain.

C.         We pray that these may never drive us from Jesus’ presence. Instead we look to the Lord for direction and life. David reminds us in Psalm 46 “God is our refuge and d strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

By adopting gratitude, we can discover God’s abundance. Gratitude takes math out of the equation. When gratitude replaces anxiety, even when we find we have less than we had during our worry days, gratitude reveals that we have far more than we need.

Look at the birds of the air,” says Jesus.  “Consider the lilies of the field.” Jesus wasn’t being idealistic. He was being practical. Worry will not add one inch to your stature. Nor can you extend you life through worry. Medical science however has shown that by not worrying, we can add to our life span. We don’t have to worry about our lives day to day – what we are going to eat or drink or wear? Nor do we have to worry about our children’s needs. All we have to do is say thank you, knowing that what needs to happen will, and the rest is not all that important. Gratitude is the secret.

  1. Of course, we always pray through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
A.         Who lives and reigns - For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water, And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.- Revelation 7:17

B.          With You and the Holy Spirit. Blessed by the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. Let us give glory to Him because He has shown His mercy to us. -Liturgical Text from the Introit for Trinity Sunday

C.         One God, now and forever. With the evangelist John we can say Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our god forever and ever. Amen -Revelation 7:12

D.         Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father. Place yourselves under each other's authority out of respect for Christ. -Ephesians 5:18-21

Lord God heavenly Father, through whose kindness we have again received the fruits of the earth in their season, grant us ever to rejoice in Your mercy that neither prosperity nor adversity may drive us from Your presences. This we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen -A Blessed Thanksgiving - in Jesus’ Name.

Words – 1,025
Passive Sentences –8%
Reading Level –5.5