Sunday, August 27, 2017

Time in the Word - Pentecost 13 ~ Proper 17

The Glory of God is the Passion and Cross of Christ Jesus

After St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, our Lord “began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matthew 16:21). Upon hearing this “theology of the Cross,” Simon Peter stumbled into a satanic “theology of glory.” But the glory of God is revealed in the Passion and Cross of His incarnate Son. The faithful prophets, such as Jeremiah, suffered persecution and rejection in anticipation of Jesus’ Cross. Yet the Lord did not abandon them; He remembered them, and He was with them to deliver them (Jeremiah 15:15–20). By His Cross Jesus has redeemed the world, and in His Resurrection He has vindicated all who trust in Him. Thus the Christian life is a discipleship of self-sacrificing love. Since Christ Jesus has reconciled us to God, we “live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). By the certainty of His Cross and Resurrection, we “rejoice in hope,” and we are “patient in tribulation” and “constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

Almighty God, Your Son willingly endured the agony and shame of the cross for our redemption. Grant us courage to take up our cross daily and follow Him wherever He leads; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Prayer for patience: O God, by the patient endurance of Your only-begotten Son You beat down the pride of the old enemy. Help us to treasure rightly in our hearts what our Lord has borne for our sakes that, after His example, we may bear with patience those things that are adverse to us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns…

Prayer in times of affliction and distress: Almighty and most merciful God, in this earthly life we endure sufferings and death before we enter into eternal glory. Grant us grace at all times to subject ourselves to Your holy will and to continue steadfast in the true faith to the end of our lives that we may know the peace and joy of the blessed hope of the resurrection of the dead and of the glory of the world to come; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns…

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, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns…

Time in the Word
28 August – September 2 2017
Proper 17

Monday, 28 August 2017Psalm 37:5–7; Antiphon, Psalm 37:4—Those who trust in the Lord and in His promises may sometimes be frustrated and tempted to question the goodness and righteousness of God when they suffer trials, tribulations, and afflictions in this life. David exhorts us here to ‘trust in the LORD . . . delight in the LORD . . . commit your way to the LORD . . . be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him.’ We Christians should remind ourselves that the Lord has demonstrated His goodness and righteousness in many ways, but especially by sending His only-begotten Son to be our Savior. Through Christ, He has already ‘brought forth our righteousness and . . . justice.’ He has given us ‘the desires of our heart’ in the person of our Savior, Jesus, and will, at the Last Day, deliver us out of this vale of tears and take us to himself in heaven.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017Psalm 26—The psalmist, David, asks the LORD to vindicate him—clear his name—of false accusations. For what reason? Because David has ‘trusted in the LORD without wavering’—he belongs to the LORD by faith. Though Christ has died to forgive every one of our sins, the devil will try to throw our transgressions in our face, and make us despair of salvation. In such situations, we must call upon the LORD to vindicate us—not because we are without sin, but because Christ has redeemed us from sin and its eternal consequence and, by faith, we belong to Him. ‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ (Rom 8:1)

Wednesday, 30 August 2017Jeremiah 15:15–21—Jeremiah calls upon the LORD to deliver him from the assaults and slander of his enemies. On what basis—his own righteousness? No; like David in the psalm for Sunday (above), Jeremiah pleads on the basis of his trust in the Lord: ‘I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.’ We can call upon the LORD in our times of trouble for the same reason: we belong to Him. Though the proclamation and preaching of His Word, and through the holy Sacraments, God makes us His own and delivers us from the tyranny of sin.

Thursday, 31 August 2017Romans 12:9–21—St Paul has spent much of his letter to the Romans showing how we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. But faith always manifests itself in love, especially toward our neighbor. 

Here, Paul illustrates what Christian love, borne of faith, looks like. This is a description of the Christian—not in order to earn our salvation, but because our salvation has been earned for us by Christ.

Friday, 1 September 2017Matthew 16:21–28—In Sunday’s Gospel account, Jesus tells the disciples very clearly what must become of Him: ‘suffer many things . . . be killed, and on the third day be raised.’ This is the plan of God for our salvation, which is why Jesus speaks so harshly to Peter when he contradicts Him. The theology of the cross—that salvation entails suffering—is difficult for the natural man to accept. This is why so many Christians in our world are theologians of glory—looking away from the cross and focusing on temporal blessings, rather than seeing the blessings we have by the cross and by suffering.

Jesus begins to show His disciples what He must endure to win salvation. ”From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things.”(v.21) Suffering is a part of the Christian life. What is the sacrifice God demands?
1. Consider Christ’s sacrifice.
        A. Denied self.
        B. Took up the cross.
        C. Followed the will of the Father.
2. Consider the Christian, a little Christ.
        A. Deny self.
        B. Take upon yourself your own suffering.
        C. Follow Christ.
3. Consider the stakes in terms of winners and losers.
        A. Losers – Gains the world, loses his soul.
        B. Winners –loses life for Christ’s sake and finds his life.

Saturday, 2 September 2017—The hymn of the day, Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus (LSB #531), connects the suffering of Jesus with our salvation and shows that the glory of God is revealed in the suffering and death of His Son. ‘Worship, honor, power, and blessing / Thou art worthy to receive’ because ‘Thou didst suffer to release us…Thou universal Savior, Bearer of our sin and shame.

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

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Proper 16

27 August – Proper 16 – Romans 11:33-36

The knowledge of God is deeper than our understanding

Bigger than Bigger – Romans 11:33-36

In his letter to the Romans. Paul does his best job. In giving us a systematic, organized and logical account of the Christian faith.

Yet, when he comes to the end of the 11th chapter. He takes another look at God. And he realizes. How little he knows and understands about God. He ends his explanation with a doxology of praise. To God. Who is far above all he could think or say.

In our day. We are tempted to localize and minimize God.  There is a temptation to have “God” fit into the mold of our humanity. Even a personal appearance by the Almighty wouldn’t do the trick for some.  
 How many times have you heard someone say, “Well, I wouldn’t believe in a God who…” or “That’s not the God I want to believe in…” Others may simply conclude, “I just can’t figure God out!” 

Some simply terminate the discussion saying, “If God proved He existed, I still wouldn’t believe in him!” For many. God is too small. Too small to handle the problems of the individual. Let alone the world.  Paul would think otherwise. 

Consider the greatness of God. 

His possessions are unlimited – Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! - V. 33 Paul begins this section with a doxology of praise. Paul worships as he reflects on the grace of God which is lived out in the life of the Christian. That is the essence of your spiritual worship. Reflecting the mercies of God in your day to day living. We come to a worship service. And in service. We worship God. 

And our worship finds its roots in the Savior’s mercy. Which is bottomless.  God's riches, wisdom and knowledge are beyond measure. How could man ever understand the reasons for His action? Or explain the methods of His working?

Depth. (βάθος) V. 33 – We know God only to the extent that He has revealed Himself. Paul reminds us that what we know is infinitesimal. So tiny. Only a tip of the iceberg. Who can plumb the depths of God’s wisdom? Or His judgment? His will and His grace?  

When Paul mentions God’s judgments. He says they are “incomprehensible.” They cannot be tracked out. They are beyond description. 

We need Paul’s corrective in reminding us that God is totally-other. He is the hidden, incomprehensible God. Our finite minds are unable to grasp even the smallest part of God’s total truth. And yet, we praise Him. For His acts of mercy and grace.

Man worships God because He is infinitely greater, wiser, and more gracious than men. Seeing ourselves in the light of who God is humbles us. Seeing God in the light of whom and what we are necessitates our praise. We are compelled to worship. 

His ways are beyond understanding – Paul, quoting Isaiah 40:13, and Job 41:11a, asks three questions. Which express the transcendent wisdom and self-sufficiency of God.  “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?” - V. 34

Who has known the mind (νοῦν) of the Lord? The greatness of God far surpasses the sum of all of humanity. To God, “The nations are as a drop in a bucket.” (Isaiah 40:15). How do followers of Christ have the “mind of Christ”? The mind of Christ comes to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. You come to a correct knowledge of Christ through the revelation of His Holy Word. Jesus said He and His Father will come to you. So that you may know Him. And love Him. And keep His word. He will come to you, “and make Our home with him” (John 14:23).

Paul encourages us to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). He reminds us, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20). As the Lord comes to you. You can begin to know and understand His will and His ways.  

Yet we must remember. We are to know His will and His ways. Paul asks, “Who has been His counselor?” (σύμβουλος)? “Who has been His mentor?” “Who is able to give Him advice?” Are you smart enough to tell Him what to do? The answer to all of these questions of course, is no one. Therefore we are simply asked to petition God as we do in the Lord’s Prayer by saying, “Thy will be done, Lord. Thy will be done.”

His gifts are un-repayable – 

Paul finally asks, “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” - V. 35 Put another way, we could ask, “Who first gave to God? Who paid God?” The answer is simple. God owes no man. 

God does not declare us righteous and free from guilt in a vacuum, as if He just ignores our sin. No, we have a great debt we owe God due to our sin, a debt that must be paid. God’s justice demands it. Yet this is a debt none of us can pay.

So, God in His great grace planned for your salvation. For God’s grace is more than a character in God. God’s grace is also active—active in Christ. In His grace God sent forth His Son to become flesh and pay the debt we owe Him. 

The Father sent Christ Jesus to offer His righteous life in exchange for our sinful lives upon the cross and to take upon Himself the guilt of our sin, our debt. Jesus Christ paid for the sin of the world “with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.” Through God’s grace alone we sinners are forgiven and justified because of Christ (propter Christum). 1

His being is all in all – For from him and through him and to him are all things. - V. 36 The end of all things is God. All things were created for Him. What happened before, now and what is to come finds its root in God.   Everything comes from God alone. Everything lives by His power. And everything for His glory.  God is the creator. The sustainer. The ruler. And the goal of everything. Paul concludes with a simple yet profound doxology - A statement of praise to God. To him be glory (δόξα) forever Amen.

The final words of this chapter sum up all of human history and show that God is in control of history. He is the source, the means, and the goal of all things. This means He is “the author and the finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). It means He is the One who began the good work in us, and He is the One who will also complete it (Philippians 1:6).

Paul has come to the end of his greatest work on theology. He has systematically worked out a theology of the Christian faith. When he comes to the end. He realizes how little he knows of God. Contrasted to all God is. Theology is of the mind. And no man can fully grasp the whole truth of God. Thus, theologies come and go. When the mind goes as far as it can. The person contemplating God turns to a worship and praise. God is so great and good. We can only explode in a doxology of praise. We offer unto God ourselves. “As a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 12:1) 
Words – 1,385
Passive Sentences –3%
Readability – 81.2
Reading Level -4.0  

Luther’s Seal © Ed Riojas Higher Things
All Scriptural references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Points to Ponder for further discussion
1. In what sense is the knowledge of God "deep"?
2. Consider the three elements of v36a. Each speaks of God's divinity. How is this important?
3. Have you ever glimpsed the wonder of God's hand upon your life? If so, how might you your share your experience?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Time in the Word - Pentecost 12 ~ Proper 16

There Is No Other God than Jesus Christ
In Jesus’ day, people had many ideas about who this Jesus was. Simon Peter made the bold and true confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matt 16:17) Likewise, in our day, people wonder about Jesus. Was He merely a rabble-rousing Jew. A revolutionary? A great teacher? Did He exist at all? With Peter, we must be bold and proclaim the truth: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” The eternal second Person of the Trinity came down from heaven, assumed flesh and was born of a virgin, lived, died, and rose again for the remission of the sins of all people. He is the One of whom the psalmist tells us in the Introit God declared, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” (Psalm 2:6) No one could have imagined that this would be the way which the Lord would send One to deliver the world. This is why St Paul writes in the epistle reading, Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33) The illustration above carries the title of our Lord: the Anointed One, or, in Greek, ὁΧριστός, the Christ.

Collect for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: Almighty God, whom to know is everlasting life, grant us to know Your Son, Jesus, to be the way, the truth, and the life that we may boldly confess Him to be the Christ and steadfastly walk in the way that leads to life eternal; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Prayer for the Church: Almighty God, grant to Your Church Your Holy Spirit and the wisdom that comes down from above, that Your Word may not be bound but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people, that in steadfast faith we may serve You and, in the confession of Your name, abide unto the end; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns . . .

Prayer for the Holy Ministry: O almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, gave to His holy apostles many excellent gifts and commanded them earnestly to feed His flock. Make all pastors diligent to preach Your holy Work and the people obedient to follow it that together they may receive the crown of everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns . . .

Prayer for Church musicians and artists: God of majesty, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven, be with Your servants who make art and music for Your people that with joy we on earth may glimpse Your beauty. Bring us to the fulfillment of that hope of perfection that will be ours as we stand before Your unveiled glory; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns . . .

Prayer for those who hold special offices in the Church: Lord of the Church, in whose name all who oversee and serve Your flock have been called, grant Your servants all the gifts necessary for the godly administration of their duties for the upbuilding of Your Church that they may bring glory to Your name; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Prayer for defending the Church from error: Almighty and everlasting God, You would have all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. By Your almighty power and unsearchable wisdom break and hinder all the counsels of those who hate Your Word and who, by corrupt teaching, would destroy it. Enlighten them with the knowledge of Your glory that they may know the riches of Your heavenly grace and, in peace and righteousness, serve You, the only true God; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns . . .

Time in the Word
Proper 16
21–26 August 2017

Monday, 21 August 2017Psalm 2:6–7; Psalm 117; Antiphon, Psalm 115:18—Next Sunday’s Introit comes is take from three psalms. Psalm 2 is one of the most important messianic psalms, pointing directly to Christ. Psalm 117, the shortest psalm, is Hallelujah song that calls upon all nations to praise the LORD for His steadfast love and faithfulness in keeping His promise to send a Savior to redeem us from sin. The antiphon expands the call to praise the LORD to all time. Thus, all people everywhere and of all times, Praise the LORD!

Tuesday, 22 August 2017Psalm 138—The beginning three verses and ending two verses of this psalm of David are David’s vow to praise the Lord for His deliverance and protection. The middle three verses, like the Introit call upon all the kings of the earth to give thanks and sing of the ways and the glory of the LORD. His love and mercy extend to all peoples of all time. Christ is the Redeemer of the entire world.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017Isaiah 51:1–6—In chapter 40, the LORD said, “Comfort, comfort My people.” The comfort would be provided by a Savior, one who would deliver His people out of exile in Babylon, out of exile in a land of idolaters. Chapter 42 begins telling us of this great Savior, who is portrayed as a Suffering Servant. The portion of Isaiah 51 used for next Sunday’s Old Testament reading once again assures God’s people of the comfort which He will provide them: joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song. From where would such comfort be provided? He would be a Descendant of Abraham and Sarah (v. 2), but would bring His light to the peoples, that is, all peoples, not just other descendants of Abraham and Sarah, but for us Gentiles, as well.

Thursday, 24 August 2017Romans 11:33—12:8—St Paul’s splendid hymn of praise at the end of chapter 11 follows several chapters of his teaching about the salvation of all people—Jews and Gentiles alike—and extols the wisdom and knowledge of the one true God who conceived of, and brought about His plan of Salvation. 
He then gives practical advice as to what shape our response to God’s love and mercy in Christ ought to take: in leading lives that are acceptable to God, who, by His Word, transforms our minds, that we may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Friday, 25 August 2017Matthew 16:13–20—The Holy Christian Church is founded upon the confession of Peter—that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. This Church, the Body of Christ, is not distinguished by race or origin, but by those who despair of their own works and trust solely in the merits of Christ, the promised Redeemer, for their salvation.

The Lord asks two important questions at this moment, in this location and of His disciples. The answers to the questions were important for them and also for His followers today. There can be no doubt that Jesus was aware of the gravity of the question being asked. They are the two important questions of faith.

“Who do men say that I am?
“But you, who do you say I am?”

Saturday, 26 August 2017—Sunday’s hymn of the day is Built on the Rock (LSB #645). It is based on the Gospel reading, the confession of St Peter which is the Rock on which Christ’s Church is founded. The last stanza confesses the same truth which is confessed in the Augsburg Confession: The Church is the congregation of saints in which the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered.

Almighty God, whom to know is everlasting life, grant us to know Your Son, Jesus Christ to be the way the truth and the life that we may boldly confess Him to be the Christ and steadfastly walk in the way that leads to life eternal; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Artwork by Ed Riojas, © Higher Things
Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House
Photo © Greg Gallmeyer 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Pentecost 11 - Proper 15

Haters be Hatin’ but not Jesus!
        Romans 11:1-2a, 28-32

Father welcomes all His children To His family through His Son. Father giving His salvation. Life forever has been won.” – Lutheran Service Book #605

Let Your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend Your Church; and because it cannot continue in safety without Your help, protect and govern it always by Your goodness; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. ~ Collect for Pentecost 11  

“Has God rejected His people?” The Lord has not totally cast off the people He chose long ago. Even if they are at times disobedient to His will. God will always preserve for Himself a faithful remnant. There will be for Him, a faithful remnant as in the days of Elijah. 

What can we glean from today’s lesson is simply this. When God makes a promise He keeps it.  Not like out cheap imitations. Israel is still chosen. Even though many have cut themselves off. 

His promises are sure. For some, a promise is meant to be broken. But not with our Heavenly Father! For Him a promise is a promise.  He never breaks a promise, “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” This is reassuring to us. Who live in a world where so often a person’s word has become largely unreliable.  He will not disappoint you.

Paul addresses two sets of ears. The first were Jews who became Christian converts. The other group, are Gentiles. Like their brothers. They were at one time pagan. But now they are a part of the family. Paul says to these Gentiles, “You too were once unfaithful, disobedient.” But because Israel was unfaithful, Gentiles have been brought to Christ.  

Many of you in this room might not have ever met a Jewish person, let alone a Jewish Christian. Tammy and I have a mutual friend who is both Jewish and a Christian. A few weeks ago I reached out to Michelle and asked her for her input with respect to this portion of Scripture. Her response is as follows…
This is one of my favorite kinds of questions. I would want them to know - God's promises to the Jews continue to this day. Irrevocable means irrevocable. The church is grafted in to the covenant promises God first made to Israel. There are more Messianic Jewish believers today than at any time since the first century.” She concludes with these words, “Anti-Semitism is a toxic virus. Even if you personally don't know any Jewish people, maintaining anti-Jewish attitudes carries like a virus in our culture.” 1

Israel’s unfaithfulness had a purpose. That they might be brought back to God. The Lord called the Jews to be His people and Paul is positive God does not break His promises. Paul had this assurance that one day Jews and Gentiles will be in the church reconciled to God by faith in Christ. The disobedience of one provided the Lord with the opportunity. To give His mercy and love to all. Jews and Gentiles were of mutual benefit to each other. When one was shown mercy. The other shared in the blessing. 

God kept His promises to the Patriarchs. To Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Maintaining His love throughout. God will never cease to be merciful. God has never rejected His own. Because God’s promises are irrevocable speaks of His relationship to the entire world and especially in the world in which you live.

In this morning’s Gospel Jesus heals a Canaanite woman’s daughter. In this regard faith embraces Christ – which is NOT about doing right things. Or being correct. Performing rituals to perfection. Or even eating certain foods. It is what is on the inside which is the most important. 

We must not forget. Jesus was a Jew. As was the Apostle Paul. These words are Paul’s concerned, complex attempt to wrestle with the paradox that at least one Jew saw Jesus as Lord. While most of His people did not. This Canaanite woman is an unlikely candidate to be the ideal follower of Jesus. She’s Gentile. Yet she calls Jesus, “Lord” and “Son of David.” Unlike Peter. Who fails to understand anything Jesus was doing. Along with Jesus’ other disciples. Who attempt to chase her away. 

Discipleship is not automatic. Instead, a true believer is one who has absolute faith in Jesus. Paul is attempting to come to grips with the reality that his own people have not accepted Jesus as the Christ.  Yet all have been disobedient alike – both Jews and Gentiles together. In spite of everything, God is able to work through our disobedience to show us His mercy, love and care.  

In Jesus’ conversation with the Canaanite woman there is a wonderful exchange of words. Jesus responds to her by saying, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the family puppy.” She replies by saying, “Yes, Lord, yet even the mutts off the street eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.”

By her persistent prayer.  That Jesus would have mercy and help her. Even in the face of His initial silence. And apparent rejection. This Canaanite woman boldly confessed her faith in Christ. 

Her beautiful example. Encourages us to cling to the words and promises of the Gospel.  Even in the face of the Law.  That accuses and condemns us. Do not think you can walk your way into the Kingdom of God by some grand achievement. Paul commands a life of faith. By faith we receive the Father’s gifts. By faith we get precisely what we don’t deserve. And even more! That is why grace will always be karma’s worst nightmare. 

There is a purpose in all this. “That he may have mercy on all.” (Romans 11:32). Hence, the woman’s faith and hope were not disappointed. But her prayers were answered in the mercy of Christ. Not only does He grant us the crumbs from His Table. He also feeds us with “the children’s bread” in the house of His Father.  

Faith believes that God is not a Divine Accountant of Probation Officer. Rather, He’s an indulgent father. Who throws a party. For his indigent son. He’s like an employer. Who pays employees a full day’s wage. Even though they only worked an hour. He’s like a lavish wedding host. Who provides copious amounts of only the best and finest wine. He’s your Good Shepherd. Content to leave behind ninety-nine of His herd in safety. Who will risk all. To save just one, that is lost. 

This is the God who desires to bless all people I’m tempted to curse. He includes those whom I’d exclude. And embraces the very people I would shun. This good news, He says, is for all people. No one is to be excluded from the Father’s presence.

Tomorrow. We will witness the great eclipse. May this be our prayer. Lord, through the power of the Gospel - eclipse fear and hatred. By the power of Your love - eclipse violence and injustice. By the mercies of Christ - eclipse racism and bigotry.2

1 In light what has transpired in Charlottesville, VA these words are most appropriate:

Words – 1,175
Passive Sentences – 6%
Readability – 76.8%
Reading Level – 4.7
Luther’s Seal © Ed Riojas Higher Things

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Time in the Word - Pentecost 11 - Proper 15

Time in the Word:
Proper 15
14-19 August 2017
"The Church Lives Under the Cross of Christ  and Prays in the Hope of His Mercy"

By her persistent prayer that Jesus would have mercy and help her (Matthew 15:22, 24), and even in the face of His initial silence and apparent rejection (Matthew 15:23–26), the Canaanite woman boldly confessed her faith in Him (Matthew 15:28). Her beautiful example encourages us to cling to the words and promises of the Gospel, even in the face of the Law that accuses and condemns us. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 10:29), and His Law “has consigned all to disobedience” for the very purpose “that He may have mercy on all” (Romans 10:32). Hence, the woman’s faith and hope were not disappointed, but her prayers were answered in the mercy of Christ. Not only does He grant us the crumbs from His Table, but He also feeds us with “the children’s bread” in the house of His Father (Matthew 15:26–27). He has brought us to His “holy mountain,” and He makes us joyful in His house, where He hears our prayers and accepts our sacrifice of praise upon the altar of His cross (Isaiah 56:7).

Almighty and everlasting Father, You give Your children many blessings even though we are undeserving. In every trial and temptation grant us steadfast confidence in Your loving-kindness and mercy; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Prayer for the mission of the Church: Almighty God, You have called Your Church to witness that in Christ You have reconciled us to Yourself. Grant that by Your Holy Spirit we may proclaim the good news of Your salvation so that all who hear it may receive the gift of salvation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns…

Prayer for the mission of the Church and her missionaries: Almighty and gracious God, You want all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Magnify the power of the Gospel in the hearts of Your faithful people that Your Church may spread the good news of salvation. Protect, encourage, and bless all missionaries who proclaim the saving cross that Christ, being lifted up, may draw all people to Himself, who lives and reigns…

Prayer for those outside the Church: Almighty and everlasting God, You desire not the death of a sinner but that all would repent and live. Hear our prayers for those outside the Church. Take away their iniquity, and turn them from their false gods to You, the living and true God. Gather them into Your holy Church to the glory of Your name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns…

Prayer for unity of faith:O God, Your infinite love restores to the right way those who err, seeks the scattered, and preserves those whom You have gathered. Of Your tender mercy pour out on Your faithful people the grace of unity that, all schisms being ended, Your flock may be gathered to the true Shepherd of Your Church and may serve You in all faithfulness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns…

Monday, 14 August 2017Psalm 28:1–2, 6–7; Antiphon, Psalm 28:8—This psalm of David was probably written during the rebellion of his son, Absalom. Recognizing that he is unable to protect and redeem himself, David cries to the Lord, his Rock, to hear the voice of his pleas for mercy, and then gives thanks to the Lord for having heard and delivered him. Verse 8, used as the antiphon, shows that God’s blessings extend to all His people.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017Psalm 67—All of the Propers of the day express the fact that God’s salvation is for all people.The psalmist begins with the familiar Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:24–26), a blessing originally applied to the children of Israel, but then extends it to all people: that Your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017Isaiah 56:1, 6–8—Writing about 700 years before Christ, Isaiah prophesies of the LORD: Soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance will be revealed. The LORD’s salvation and righteousness have been revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus for all, regardless of race, the LORD is pleased to gather to Himself people of all nations and races, and accepts their offerings and sacrifices: My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.

Thursday, 17 August 2017Romans 11:1–2a, 13–15, 28–32—St Paul recounts how salvation is from the Jews (for Jesus was a Jew), but that it extends to all peoples, even to the Gentiles. Indeed, he laments over the fact that his people have now been disobedient by rejecting the Savior, but hopes that they may yet be saved.

Friday, 18 August 2017Matthew 15:21–28—In Sunday’s Gospel account, Jesus heals the daughter of one who was despised by the Jews of His day—a Cannanite woman. Jesus shows that His ministry is not limited to the Jews; it extends to all people. Like the woman, we are all poor beggars before the Lord, and are privileged to receive His crumbs of mercy, for even His crumbs are more than sufficient for us.

Get this woman off my back!

The disciples show great compassion…Not! They say concerning this Canaanite woman, “Send her away! She keeps crying out after us!” How did Jesus feel about her? At first he ignores her, Then He insults her by calling her a dog!

No one likes someone who nags. Yet, she uses her nagging to get a cure for her daughter! Could we learn something from her today?

This woman had no right to nag.
1. She was a woman with no rights Vv. 21-22
2. She was a gentile with no claim on the Jews. Vs.26
3. She was a pagan, a devotee of a false religion. Vs.22
This woman had reason to nag. 
1. She had a serious need. Vs. 22
2. She had humility. Vv. 25-26
3. She had faith. Vs. 28

Saturday, 19 August 2017—The hymn of the day, In Christ There Is No East or West (LSB #653), reflects the theme of the readings: that, according to the order of salvation in Christ, there is no difference between any of the people of His Church. All man-made distinctions are gone as regards His forgiveness: Jew/Gentile, black/white, male/female, Anglo/Hispanic, etc. The Body of Christ, the Church, comes from all nations. Indeed, even our liturgy reflects this, as it is drawn from Jewish, African, and European sources. Likewise, our hymns come from many cultures across many ages.

Almighty and everlasting Father, You give Your children many blessings even though we are undeserving. In every trial and temptation grant us steadfast confidence in Your loving-kindness and mercy through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen

Lectionary summary on front page from LCMS Commission on Worship
Artwork by Ed Riojas, © Higher Things
Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006Concordia Publishing House
Photo © Greg Gallmeyer

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Time in the Word Pentecost 10, Proper 14

Time in the Word
7-12 August 2017
Preparation for next week, Proper 14

Christ the Crucified Comes to Save Us by the Word of Faith
The Lord who “laid the foundation of the earth” (Job 38:4) is the Author and Giver of life who governs all things by His Word. His wisdom and power are beyond our understanding, except as He reveals Himself in the incarnate Word, Christ Jesus. He has “entered into the springs of the sea” and “walked in the recesses of the deep” (Job 38:16), and He draws near to us in mercy. We have been “a long way from the land, beaten by the waves,” and tossed about by hostile winds (Matthew 14:24). In our mortality and sinful unbelief, we do not always recognize the Lord Jesus. But as we cry out in fear, He speaks tenderly to us: “Do not be afraid,” and He reaches out His hand to save us (Matthew 14:27, 31). “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13), and now we call upon Him in faith, because we have heard “through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). “The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (Romans 10:8).

Collect for Proper 14: Almighty and most merciful God, preserve us from all harm and danger that we, being ready in both body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish what You want done; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Prayer for steadfast faith: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, because of Your tender love toward us sinners You have given us Your Son that, believing in Him, we might have everlasting life. Continue to grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may remain steadfast in this faith to the end and finally come to life everlasting; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns…

Prayer in time of spiritual doubt and affliction: Almighty God, our heavenly Father, You have given to all who believe exceedingly great and precious promises. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may without all doubt trust in Your Son, Jesus Christ, so that our faith in Your sight may never be found wanting; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns…

Prayer for agriculture: Almighty God, You bless the earth to make it fruitful, bringing forth in abundance whatever is needed for the support of our lives. Prosper the work of farmers and all those who labor to bring food to our table. Grant them seasonable weather that they may gather in the fruits of the earth in abundance and proclaim Your goodness with thanksgiving; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns…

Monday, 7 August 2017Psalm 34:4–8; Antiphon, Psalm 34:1—1 Samuel 21:10–15 provides the background story to this psalm. David, the one chosen by God to be king, lost his faith in a moment of weakness when pursued by King Saul and his armies, and sought refuge with the Philistines, the enemy of Israel. David realized his mistake and the truth of what he declares in verse 8:Blessed is the man who takes refuge in the LORD! When we are tempted to look elsewhere than to the LORD for rescue, let us also remember this psalm of David, and then bless the LORD at all times.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017Psalm 18:1–6—It is likely that King David wrote this psalm near the end of his life, as it is very similar to the psalm recorded in 2 Samuel 22, just before his last words. Here he recounts many of the terrible situation in which he found himself over the course of his life, and tells how the LORD delivered him. He says, In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. When we find ourselves in bad situations, we ought to remember that the LORD has already delivered us from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation, and that He stands ready to defend us throughout our lives.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017Job 38:4–18—Job had questioned God, as to why He would let such great calamities befall him. In response, the Lord answers Job by recounting His creation of all things, His ongoing involvement and dominion over that creation. God is not subject to nature; nature is subject to God. We weak humans, created beings that we are, have no right to question our benevolent Creator, but simply to trust that what He does, he does for our benefit.

Thursday, 10 August 2017Romans 10:5–17—How are we saved? By grace alone (sola gratia) by faith alone (sola fide).in the merits of Christ alone (solus Christus). This salvation extends to Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) alike. But how are we to receive such saving faith? By Scripture alone (sola scriptura).Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

That is why Paul quotes Isaiah: How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news! For the preaching of the Good News of the Gospel engenders saving faith.

Friday, 11 August 2017Matthew 14:22–33—We can see ourselves in Peter. Jesus asks him to do the impossible, and Peter, full of bravado, believes he can. However, when he takes his eyes off of Jesus, he falters, and is at risk of perishing. Likewise, when we avert our eyes from Jesus, we lose faith and confidence, and put ourselves in spiritual jeopardy. When we cry out, Lord, save me, Jesus rescues us, lest we drown in our sin and unbelief and are lost forever.

Saturday, 12 August 2017—Sunday’s hymn of the day is Eternal Father, Strong to Save (LSB #717). The first stanza, from the original Navy Hymn, proclaims the supremacy of our heavenly Father over the sea. The next two stanzas declare the authority of the Son and the Holy Spirit over the land and the air, respectively. Finally, the fourth stanza affirms the sovereignty of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, over all our foes. Let us put our trust in God alone for protection from all our enemies, whether physical or spiritual.

Collect for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: Grant us, Lord, the Spirit to think and do always, such things as are pleasing in Your sight that we, who without You cannot do anything that is good, may be You be enabled to live according to Your will; through Jesus Christ, Your son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy spirit, one God, now and forever.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” – Psalm 119:105

Lectionary summary on front page from LCMS Commission on Worship
Artwork by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld, © WELS
Luther’s Seal ©Ed Riojas Higher Things Higher Things
Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006Concordia Publishing House and Lutheran Worship © 1980 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Proper 13

Romans and the Reformation
A sermon series based the book of Romans in anticipation of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
6 August – Proper 13 – Romans 9:1-5

I’d go to Hell for You – Romans 9:1-5

Almighty God, You invite us to trust in You for our salvation. Deal with us not in the severity of Your judgment but by the greatness of Your mercy; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Paul is so concerned about his fellow citizens the Jews not accepting Christ that he says he would be glad to be cut off from Christ to get them to come to Christ. George Whitefield had a similar passion for winning people to Christ. Once he even told a non-Christians that he was willing to go with him to jail or even to hell, but he was unwilling to go to heaven without him. How would such a statement stand today?  

So, what about you? Who do you worry about? Whose walk with God are you anguished over? Hoping for them. That they find the hope you have found? Can you name them? Do you include them in your daily prayers? And if not, why?

This concern for the lost. This love for those missing. This passion for the non-Christian. Are the taproots of evangelism. In a time when Christians are prone not to seek Christian converts, this passage of Paul’s concern may be, to some, embarrassing.

Why I’d go to hell for you

1. To keep you from going to hell.  Accursed: V. 3 ἀνάθεμα – Paul is deeply concerned about his fellow countrymen– who have not yet accepted the Gospel. He is so concerned that he would be willing to be excluded from the Kingdom if it were the price of getting into the Kingdom. 

Paul is willing to go to hell. If his going would keep others from going there. In this age of pluralism. Some may argue it to be presumptuous and in bad taste to even consider witnessing to non-Christians on behalf of Christ. Would Paul agree?

Paul’s had “great sorrow (λύπη) and unceasing anguish (ὀδύνη)” in his heart because his fellow countrymen, though they were very religious, were lost. So great was his anguish, he was willing to be cut-off from God; if it meant his fellow Jews would be saved. (10:1) – 

2. To persuade you that Christ is the Savior. Paul says he is telling the truth. V. 1 - A recent researcher claims the average person tells one hundred lies daily. Was it the same in Paul’s day?  

Apparently, telling lies was a practice. Paul felt it necessary to assure the Roman Christians that he was not lying but telling the truth in Christ. It is not merely telling the truth. But the truth in Christ. It is the truth in relation to Christ – spiritual truth, divine truth.

It would be easy to think, “I’ll go to hell…so you can go to heaven!” But it isn’t that simple. You cannot enter heaven on another person’s merits. You can’t avoid condemnation. By allowing someone else to take your place. For it is Christ alone who became your substitute. 

Hence the question. “Did the Father also die for you?” He did not. The Father is God only as is the Holy Spirit; but the Son is both true God and true man. He died for me and shed His blood for me.  1

The Lord demands perfection and rightness. He has said, ‘You shall be holy as I the Lord am holy.” To keep us from being separated Christ entered time and space. 

He was abandoned by God and by men for your salvation. As Isaiah predicted, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment, he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7-9)

3 To enable you by faith to have a life in Christ. – Paul says his conscience   confirms that he is telling the truth. 

Paul’s heartache leads him to do two things. 

First, pray for them. 

Second, he would teach them whenever and wherever he could.2  Paul’s first course of action whenever he came to a new town was to find the local synagogue and teach the Jews why Jesus was the Christ.  3

There is no doubt; Paul had a heart for the lost. His constant plea was for others to follow his example.4 With that in mind, how then can you follow Paul’s example and have a heart for the lost?

How might we imitate Paul’s heart for the lost? 
Be grounded in your faith.

Paul was definitely a man who knew what he believed. (ref. 2 Timothy 1:12). He was “rooted and built up… and established” in his faith. (Colossians 2:7). A well-grounded faith is necessary if you are to have a heart for the lost. Otherwise, what will you share with them if you don’t really believe it yourself.

Have a sense of urgency.

Why did Paul constantly travel from city to city teach others? Because he had a sense of urgency. He knew the eternal punishment that awaited the lost.5  Time and time again, he alerted people to the destruction that awaited those who reject Jesus as Lord and Savior (Philippians 3:19). If you are to have a heart for the lost then you must live with a sense of urgency because of the destruction that awaits the lost.

The Church is literally a hospital and a hospice for sinners. If we are going to speak of salvation in medical terms… Here the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, “the medicine of immortality" 6  is dispensed, as the Great Physician prescribes them. Christ is your Divine Healer. 

Man is sick and dying with sin and the grace-filled Word and Sacraments give him life and healing. Sure, there are those who seem to think the Church is nothing but a sort of "museum of the saved" or the "collection of the already sanctified brethren" as the unwashed dare not enter. 
But you’ll never find a “No Vacancy” sign outside the church door.  May the Lord give us a passion for those who are missing. There is still room - in the Father’s house. 

  1. Christian Questions with Their Answers, Luther’s Small Catechism © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
2.   (Acts 9:20, 28; 13:14; 14:1; 16:13; 17:2, 10; 18:4; 19:10; 28:17)
3.   (ref. Acts 9:20; 17:1-3)
4.   (ref. 1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:9)
5.    (ref. Colossians 1:28-29; 2 Timothy 4:1-2)
 6.   As St. Ignatius of Antioch called them.

Luther’s Seal © Ed Riojas, Higher Things
Words – 1,200
Passive Sentences –8%
Readability – 81.3
Reading Level – 4.5

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


We continue with our review of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.  The Righteousness of God which is offered us through the Gospel is what frees us. There is a tendency for us to follow only the external content of the law. “Don’t curse, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor authority, worship God…” That is, to regard or to be concerned only with the outward form of the law. How often do we follow the commandment but disregard the meaning? The rich young man attempting to justify himself argued with Jesus, “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 a requirement. 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. The Savior does not look for rightness. He seeks humility, repentance and faith. 

Christ Jesus. The Incarnate Word.  Opens our ears to hear.  Opens our minds to understand. And penetrates our cold broken hearts. To believe His Word.  Lest the evil one come. And snatch it away. He transforms our rocky hearts into good soil. Which, clings to the Gospel. And, “indeed bears fruit.” (Matthew 13:23).

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.