Monday, February 28, 2011

They're Back!

A Flock of seven birds was spotted roosting in a woods off Winchester Rd. on the way to Adams Memorial Hospital! Sure sign of an early spring!

Time in the Word - Transfiguration

Collects for Transfiguration: O God, in the glorious transfiguration of Your beloved Son You confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of Moses and Elijah. In the voice that came from the bright cloud You wonderfully foreshowed our adoption by grace. Mercifully make us co-heirs with the King in His glory and bring us to the fullness of our inheritance in heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives sand reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses Your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment while and glistening; Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in His beauty; who with You, O Father and You, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Almighty God, on the mountain you showed your glory in the Transfiguration of your Son. Give us the vision to see beyond the turmoil of our world and to behold the King in all His glory.

Collect for Psalm 2: Lord God, You gave the peoples of the world to be in inheritance of Your Son: You crowned Him as king of Zion, Your holy city, and gave Him Your Church as His bride. As He proclaims the way of Your eternal kingdom, may we serve Him faithfully, and so know the royal power of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

The Epiphany season draws to its conclusion with the Transfiguration of our Lord. The Transfiguration was Jesus’ experience with God, not the first nor the last, but it was an experience so intense that the glory of God transfigured Him into the brightness of the sun.

The Transfiguration marks the apex of the Epiphany triangle. Through the season we have witnessed the glory of God manifested in Jesus, but today God’s full glory is reflected in Jesus. Jesus’ glory is shown by the brightness of His physical appearance, the appearance of Moses and Elijah, and the presence of the Father evidenced by cloud and voice. Since Jesus has come to the full possession of God’s glory, He is prepared to fulfill His mission as Messiah by going to Jerusalem to the cross. Because of this, the Transfiguration is a preparation for our Lenten pilgrimage to suffer and die with Jesus. The importance of this Transfiguration experience led the church to make the Transfiguration a festival of the church. The liturgical color changes to white, to express the joy and celebration of the event. So, yes, today is a day for feasting, yet ours is deeper, more then the world can understand. We rejoice in God our Savior.

Monday, 28 February 2011Psalm 99:1-5; antiphon, Psalm 99:9.—In the Introit for Sunday, we pray, Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy! See also vs. 5 God’s royal footstool. When God sits on His heavenly throne His earth throne is His footstool.

Tuesday, 01, March 2011Psalm 2:6-12 — The Psalm appointed for this coming Sunday the key verse is verse 7b, “You are my son, today I have begotten you.” The voice in this appointed Psalm refers to God’s voice. The Lord’s anointed proclaims the Lord’s coronation decree. For a New Testament application to Jesus’ resurrection see Acts 13:33; to His superiority over angels see Hebrews 1:5. To His appointment as high priest see Hebrews 5:5.

Wednesday, 02, March 2011Exodus 24:8-18 - The Old Testament lesson an experience with God reveals His glory as He appears to Moses on Mt. Sinai, but it was related to the Law, not the gospel of the Son. The significance of a mountain. A mountain is generally the site of a religious experience. It was, at least, for Moses, Elijah, Abraham, and Jesus. There is a symbolism to a mountain. It is high, above the valley of the mundane. It is a solitary place away from people. It is a silent sight where God’s voice can be heard without the distractions and confusion of human voices. A mountain also speaks of stability, permanence, and strength.

Thursday, 04, March 2011- 2 Peter 1:16-21- In our Epistle lesson disciples testify to the reality of Jesus’ experience with God. The disciples witnessed Jesus’ glorious transfiguration. Our lesson gives testimony of the disciples concerning the reality of that experience. Is the Transfiguration a legend of the early church or an historical reality? This account in 2 Peter assures us that it can be accepted as hard fact, the witness of eyewitnesses.

The problem lies in the interpretation of the text which claims that 2 Peter was probably the last book of the New Testament to be written and this was not written by Peter. Can we believe one who says he was an eyewitness when he was not? If the writer received the witness from Peter, could he not say that he also saw the Transfiguration through the eyes of Peter? Can’t the preacher 21 centuries later say the same when he repeats the witness of the apostle? The authority of the church today is the authorities of the apostle. Were you there at the Transfiguration as you were at the cross? It indicates that the Transfiguration need not be only an historical event, but an existential experience today for us.

Friday, 05, March 2011Matthew 17:1-9- In the Gospel lesson an experience with God is transforming as Jesus is transfigured before three of His disciples. The Transfiguration is a worship experience. The Transfiguration is an experience that blows the mind. Many questions go unanswered. How could the holy presence of God come into a human frame? How do you explain the exceeding brightness of the physical Jesus? How could Moses and Elijah appear in bodily form? Does God come in a cloud and does God have a real voice? Perhaps our only reaction and answer is worship. Like Peter, we do not know what to say. Like the disciples, we are overcome with awe and adoration. Jesus and his three disciples go up to pray and worship and the experience results in worship of Christ.

Before the cross, Resurrection, and Ascension, we get a glimpse of the inner, true nature of the Son of God. Until this time we saw God’s glory manifested in Jesus as the Wise Men saw in him a king, in John the Baptist’s confession of Jesus as Messiah, and in the miracles of Jesus. Now we see directly the divine nature of Jesus. This brings us to the uniqueness of Jesus — “They saw no one but Jesus only.” In the light of Jesus’s being the only Son of God, then, we must confront the pluralism of our day. In the movie O God! John Denver asks George Burns (who plays the part of God), whether Jesus was his son. “God” answers, “Jesus is my son, Mohammed is my son, Buddha is my son, and Confuscius is my son.”

Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House
Lectionary Preaching Workbook Series A by John Brokhoff © 1980 CSS Publishing Lima OH
For All the Saints A Prayer Book for and By the Church Vol. II © 1995 by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, Delhi, NY

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Epiphany 8

Matthew 6:24-34
A Worry Free Life – is this possible?

Almighty and everlasting God, ruler of heaven and earth: Hear our prayer and give us your peace now and forever.”

In the last paragraph of the sixth chapter of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus discusses materialism as a god. It is not possible, He teaches, to hold to this god and to God our heavenly Father. If we would serve the Father, the material side of life – He alone must provide.

In this short passage, the word “anxious” is used six times. It is the key word of the passage. To be anxious is to worry. Jesus teaches His disciples not to worry about the basic needs of life: food, drink, and clothing, nor about the future (v. 34). Now, let me be clear on this matter. Not to worry is not an invitation to idleness and sloth. To have your basic needs met; one must be in partnership with God by planning, working hard, and saving for the future. These things are done by a Christian without the worry of getting enough of the basic needs for today and of having security for tomorrow. The most fundamental principle in Christian stewardship is to acknowledge that God is the Creator of everything. Therefore, He is the owner. We work for Him. We are simply managing His stuff.

Is living without worrying possible? Just read the headlines. There is much to be concerned. The world needs a sermon on how to stop worrying and start living. Who does not worry? It is a universal and constant problem. Jesus faced it in His day and gave the answer. His disciples were to be different from pagans by being free from worry. The secret of not worrying is found in one’s relationship to the Father. Is He your one and only Master? If He is, do you trust Him? If the answers are in the affirmative then life without worrying begins.

How do we live without worry?

1. The bases for worry (Why the world worries).

A. Basic physical needs — v. 25. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Three times Jesus says to us “Quit your worrying!” (Vv. 25, 31, 34) This is more than advice. It’s a command. The idea behind the original language is that we have to put to a stop to what we are doing. Stop it! He says. Quit your worrying now! Very quickly, the Savior gives six reasons why not worrying is simple Christian obedience.

1. Choosing not to worry about our finances is an obedience He expects from us. If your treasures are in heaven, they are safe with Him. You have a living hope that will never perish, spoil or fade. Your security is kept in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1). And if that is your treasure, if that is your true riches, than what we have on earth pales in significance. We need not worry. We need not listen to an earthly tyrant that commands us to worry about our money.

2. Remember who you are. Remember whose you are. If God takes care of all the little things like the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, you who were created in His image, you who are His reputation in this world, how much more will He provide for you!

3. God is your Father. Your heavenly Father is able to provide every need that you have. He who owns the kingdom is giving you all that you need or ask. That’s what he does. He is God your provider. As Paul says in Philippians 4:19, God shall supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ. So quit your fretting. Your life is far more than your body. God will preserve your life.

4. It’s not only the needs of clothing and food, it is also the days of our lives that He provides. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Vs. 27 He numbers our days. Are you the one who is in total control over the number of your days? Some people plan to live until they are 100 years old and they are going to do that they tell us by exercise and diet. Give your anxiety a rest. Don’t worry yourself to death. Your heavenly Father has numbered all of your days. He who is the Alpha and Omega, He who has known us from before the creation of the world knows your coming in and your going out both now and forever more. (Psalm 122).

5. Do not worry. You are a Holy People. In this world you are called to be different. The whole world may run after these things, literally earnestly seek these things, and telling us that they are the most important things to do. But that does not mean that you have to. Live to the beat of a different drummer. Live your lives by a different standard. Live your lives in such a way that when others see your generosity, they will glorify your God in heaven. We have the hope of heaven. We have the guarantee of eternal life. Our Father is pleased to give us the kingdom.

6. Entrust your future to the Lord; He is the one that has your future in His hands. Tomorrow is His concern. It does you no good to waste your energy trying by thought to control what can’t be controlled. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Don’t worry. Set your priorities straight - seek first the kingdom and its righteousness and all these things will be added to you.

B. Nor should we worry about the future — Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own v. 34. Today is of greater concern than tomorrow. You cannot kill to-morrow's anxiety by being anxious about it to-day. And so He says, Each day has enough trouble of its own. Every day that comes will have in it adversity - things calculated to make us anxious. Tomorrow will be anxious. The evil will come whatever you do. Thus, we are lead to pray: Lord, for to-morrow and its needs I do not pray. Keep me, O Lord, from stain of sin just for to-day."

There is nothing ascetic here. You can’t go out and say, Very well, I will be like the sparrow, I will not sow, or reap, or gather - the whole teaching of Jesus is, not that we are not to reap, sow, gather, toil, spin; but that through our toil and planning we are not to be anxious. Through reaping, we are to trust. In our gathering, we are to sing. As we toil we are to rejoice. As we spin, we are to be quiet. It is a call to the life that is frictionless, because by the principle of faith man takes hold upon God, and, submitting, knows what it is to have His power operating through his work, and His life providing for his need.

2. The cure for worry — (Why Christians need not worry).

A. Let the Father be the Master — v. 24. No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. “Trying to love two ain’t easy to do.”* The issue is one of Lords and masters; ones who have control over others. And the issue is this, you can’t have two Lords. You can’t have two masters telling you what to do. God and money are completely opposed. They are opposites when it comes to what you serve. You cannot walk in opposite directions simultaneously. The one commands us to walk by faith and the other demands we walk by sight. The one calls us to be humble and the other to be proud. The one to set our minds on things above and the other to set them on things below. One calls us to love light, the other to love darkness. The one tells us to look toward things unseen and eternal and the other to look at things seen and temporal. You cannot serve both God and Money. Only one will ever have authority in your life.

B. Know that He cares — [For] The pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. v. 32. You need to remember what sort of Father you have. He wants you to believe that He will give whatever is necessary for you. He is a good father and will take care of His children. He is your father. You need not doubt His paternal care. He loves you. He is very interested, and affectionate towards you. Your Father in heaven, who has all things at His command, does whatever He pleases on earth. He knows your needs. He knows everything. He knows all your stresses, your difficulties, your wants and your needs. He knows what is necessary every day. He knows what you cannot do without. It is within His power to provide. Your situation does not go unknown to Him. Nothing is hidden from His eye. You are a dependent. You are dependent upon Him.

C. Trust Him to provide — But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well v. 33. Trust should have priority over worry. A life without worry is the result of having one’s priorities in its proper order. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. God is to come first. Money, wealth, riches, honor, a great job, a nice house, kids that are popular, a new car - these are all nice to have - but that is not your first priority. Trust not in things. Christ alone is to be served. Life is more important than food, drink, and clothing. The things of this world will all pass away.

There is no need to be anxious about material things. The Father will provide them. His hand provides for those who trust in Him. With faith in His provision of our daily needs, we should have no anxiety about tomorrow.

* Trying to Love Two Aint Easy To Do by William Bell
Artwork by Ed Riojas, © Higher Things.
New International Version, ©2010

Monday, February 21, 2011

Time in the Word - Epiphany 8

God Reveals Himself by Providing for Our Bodily Needs
Whatever good things we have, we have received them from the Lord. He freely provides all that we need for this body and life, and especially for our body and soul to life everlasting. He sends His ministers of the Gospel “as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1) in order that we may be clothed with His righteousness and nourished with His feast. Therefore, Jesus says, “do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on” (Matt. 6:25). As our heavenly Father feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass of the field, much more will He feed and clothe us. Though we may be faithless and forgetful, and even a mother may “forget her nursing child,” yet the Lord remains faithful, and He “will not forget you” (Is. 49:15). As He has comforted His people in the past, He also has compassion on us in all our afflictions. He favors us and helps us in the day of salvation, which has appeared in the flesh and blood of Christ.

Prayer against the love of money: Almighty God, heavenly Father, You have called us to be Your children and heirs of Your gracious promises in Christ Jesus. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may forsake all covetous desires and the inordinate love of riches. Deliver us from the pursuit of passing things that we may seek the kingdom of Your Son and trust in His righteousness and so find blessedness and peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns . . .

Prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of pastors: Almighty and most merciful God and Father, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You have established Your Church to be a temple and dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. We give thanks that You continue to provide shepherds to feed and serve Your flock in which the Holy Spirit has made them overseers. We humbly implore You ever to strengthen the labors of Your ministers, that through their ministry of Word and Sacrament Your people may increase in Your knowledge and service and grow up into Him who is the head, even Jesus Christ, to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit, be all glory now and forever. Amen

Prayer for pastors and their people: O almighty God, by Your Son, our Savior, You have always given to Your Church on earth faithful shepherds to guide and feed Your flock. Therefore we pray, make all pastors diligent to preach Your holy Word and to administer Your means of grace, and grant Your people wisdom to follow in the way that leads to life eternal; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns . . .

Monday, 21 February 2011Psalm 62:1–2, 11–12; Antiphon, Psalm 62:8—the Introit shows a picture of calmness for the one who places his trust wholly in the Lord. The one who trusts in God cannot be moved or shaken for God is a Refuge and a Rock and a Fortress. Neither physical nor spiritual enemies can move the Almighty, nor the one who rests securely in Him.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011Psalm 115: 9–18—Looking at this portion of Psalm 115, the first thing that might catch your eye is how many times you see the word LORD in all capital letters. Your English Bibles do this to signify that the underlying Hebrew word is ‘Yahweh,’ the covenant name of God, by which he revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush and by which He led the Israelites through the wilderness into the Promised Land. The use of this name is a reminder to us of the LORD’s provision and care for us all the days of our lives, until He brings us out of this earthly vale of tears into the eternal Promised Land which is His kingdom, and the everlasting dwelling place of all who place their trust in Him.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011Isaiah 49:8–16a—Chapter 49 introduces the Great Servant of the Lord and His work on behalf of His people. In this section appointed for next Sunday’s Old Testament reading, the restoration of the Children of the LORD is in view. He shall take care of their physical needs: They shall feed along the ways; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them. But His care extends further than just the physical: He says to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ He sets us free from the darkness and captivity of sin. That is the great day of salvation which, for us in the New testament era, is already an accomplished fact of history, fulfilled by our great Servant of Salvation, Jesus Christ.

Thursday, 24 February 20111 Corinthians 4:1–13—More problems at the Corinthian congregation: problems between pastor and congregation. Is the pastor just a ‘hired hand’? By no means. Paul explains that they are servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. The pastor is called by God to serve the congregation, but not to be their slave. He is God’s representative to the congregation for their good: to deliver the forgiveness of sins in Word and Sacrament.

Friday, 25 February 2011Matthew 6:24–34—Jesus says, You cannot serve God and money, and then gives an practical example of what trusting in God looks like. We won’t worry about the things of this life, either the desires or even the necessities. To worry about such things is sinful, for it shows doubt that God will fulfill His promises to take care of us. Jesus tells us not to worry, and the reason not to: (1) God has given you life. Will he not also give you everything necessary to sustain that life? (2) If God takes care even of the birds of the air, will He not also take care of you? So what ought to be on our minds? Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Where? Where He has promised it to be found—in His holy Word.

Saturday, 26 February 2011—Sunday’s hymn of the day, Sing Praise to God, the Highest Good (LSB #819), praise the lord for all of His benefits to us of both body and soul. It reflects the themes of the Introit and the Psalm of the Day and also puts us in the proper frame of mind as related in the Gospel—seeking the kingdom of God, and then being thankful for all of the blessings of the Lord.

Lectionary summary on front page from the LCMS Commission on Worship.
Artwork by Ed Riojas, © Higher Things.
Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House.
Pr. Jeffrey Keuning who serves Zion Lutheran Church, Dexter IA and St. John Lutheran Church, Casey, IA wrote this week's edition of Time in the Word

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Epiphany 7

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
10653 N – 550 W
Decatur, IN 46733

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42
Celebrating our 172nd Year
Chartered February 25, 1838

Epiphany 7
February 20, 2011
Matthew 5:38-48
Living as Children of Light

Lord God, we ask You to keep Your family, the church, always faithful to You that all who learn on the hope of Your promises may gain strength from the power of Your love.”

The basis of Christian ethics is rooted in our relationship to God. “Be holy ... be merciful ... be perfect” as your Father in heaven.

Our behavior reflects the kind of God we have. To believe in and to have a God is to be like him by obeying his commandments and leasing him in word and deed. God does not ask us to be or do more than he is and does. The key verse in this passage is “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven....”

Christians are expected to do more than the Law demands. A Christian’s morality is to far exceed the morality of others: turn the other cheek and go the second mile. It is not enough to hate enemies. Love them with Christian love. What gain do you have if you love only those who love you? A follower of Christ is to be complete and fulfilled just as God is perfect.

As children of light we are called to live as God does.

1. Do not resist evil — vv. 38-42. Eye for Eye “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

A. Jesus teaches, “Do not resist one who is evil.” This raises a lot of questions. Don’t resist one who attacks you? Who steals from you? Who demands involuntary service? He calls for passive resistance. Not to resist means not to hate, not to fight back, but take whatever is given with patience. It is using moral persuasion.

B. Is there a theological basis for passive resistance? The key to the passage is the nature of God. He does not resist evil, even to the point of the cross. Humanity is to follow his example.

2. Do good to both the good and the bad — vv. 43-47. Love for Enemies “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

A. We are to love our enemies. Is Christ asking too much of us? How can we love those who hate us and hurt us? Love for enemies is not an emotional love. It is agape love, a love for the undeserving and the unlovely. Love is seeing that all people receive justice. It is helping those in need. Why do this?

Again, we do it because of the nature of God. He loves his enemies — He allows the sun to shine on both the good and the bad and sends rain on the just and the unjust.

B. As “sons of the Father,” we treat our opponents as graciously and as generously as we do the faithful ones. If we love our enemies, we will do as God does — he shares his love and blessings upon all, whether enemy or friend.

3. Be perfect — v. 48. God expects all of us to be perfect. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

A. Perfect in holiness and love. Who can be perfect? The word does not mean moral perfection. Since Jesus was the only one who could say, “Which of you convinces Me of sin?” There is no way to reach that goal in this life. “Perfect” means wholeness, maturity, holiness, and fulfillment.

B. Perfect in the sense of fulfillment and purpose. In the biblical sense, a perfect person is one who has completed or fulfilled his life’s purpose. We are to be perfect because God is perfect.

A follower of Christ is to be complete and fulfilled just as God is perfect. As children of light we are called to live as God does.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Time in the Word - Epiphany 7

God Manifests His Perfect Holiness in Christ through Compassion and Forgiveness

God reveals His perfect holiness in compassion as “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). By His grace in Jesus Christ we are holy just as He is holy (Lev. 19:2) and we are “God’s temple” in whom “God’s Spirit dwells” (1 Cor. 3:16). This gift of holiness begins with fearing, loving, and trusting God above all things and leads us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Lev. 19:18). No longer should we practice “injustice in court”; no longer should we “be partial to the poor or defer to the great”; no longer should we “go around as a slanderer” among God’s people; no longer should we “take vengeance or bear a grudge” (Lev. 19:15-18). Though we were His enemies, our Lord Jesus Christ has loved us and forgiven us. Nourished and sustained by His holy body and blood under the bread and wine of His holy Supper, we “shall be holy” (Lev. 19:2) even as the Lord our God is holy.

Collect for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany: O God, the strength of all who put their trust in You, mercifully grant that by Your power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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 for obedience to the Word: O holy and most merciful God, You have taught us the way of Your commandments. We implore You to pour out Your grace into our hearts. Cause it to bear fruit in us that, being ever mindful of Your mercies and Your laws, we may always be directed to Your will and daily increase in love toward You and one another. Enable us to resist all evil and to live a godly life. Help us to follow the example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and to walk in His steps until we shall possess the kingdom that has been prepared for us in heaven; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns...

Prayer for our enemies: Almighty, everlasting God, through Your only Son, our blessed Lord, You commanded us to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, and to pray for those who persecute us. Therefore, we earnestly implore You that by Your gracious working our enemies may be led to true repentance, may have the same love toward us as we have toward them, and may be of one accord and of one mind and heart with us and with Your whole Church; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns...

Monday, 14 February 2011Psalm 103:8–11; Antiphon, Psalm 103:2–3—That we are called to a life of holiness will be made clear by the Old Testament and Gospel readings. However, to lead a life of holiness is impossible for sinful humanity. But, because the LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, He forgives all our iniquity and does not deal with us according to our sins. For this reason, therefore, we are called upon to bless the LORD, O my soul.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011Psalm 119:33–40—Again this week, a portion of Psalm 119 serves as the Psalm of the Day. In the Hebrew, each line of this section begins with the fifth letter of the alphabet, He (it is pronounced hay, and looks like this: ה). The psalmist, desiring to lead a holy life, a life pleasing to the LORD, calls upon Him to lead me in the path of your commandments. It is only by the LORD’s leading that we are able to do His will, as our will has been corrupted by sin. The author is ever aware that his own works cannot save him; therefore, he prays to God, in your righteousness give me life! Our righteousness and our life come only by the grace and mercy of the LORD.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011Leviticus 19:1–2, 9–18—In Deuteronomy 7:6, Moses reminded the Children of Israel that they were a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession. In keeping with this status, that was not earned, but given as a gift from God, He now calls them to lives of holiness: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. By virtue of our baptism into Christ, we are the Children of God. And He calls us also to lives of holiness. In this section, our dealings with our neighbors are in view. God has created all people; Christ died to redeem all people. If we mistreat those whom God created and for whom Christ shed His blood, we mistreat Him. Jesus will have more on this subject in the Gospel reading for Sunday.

Thursday, 17 February 20111 Corinthians3:10–23—In order to “make it” in the world, we are often told that we have to “sell ourselves”: to show a prospective employer or college recruiter why we are the best and why anyone ought to be pleased to have us. In this case, what is good in the secular world is disastrous in the Church. The Church is no place for anyone to build himself up. Rather, we build on the foundation which has been laid for us by God’s holy prophets and apostles. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the foundation they laid was consistently one that points to Christ, our Savior and our Redeemer. This must be the basis for all teaching and preaching in the Church: Christ crucified and raised again for the justification of sinners.

Friday, 18 February 2011Matthew 5:38–48—In this continuation of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls us to a life of holiness when dealing with our neighbors, even those (especially those!) who are our enemies. He points out what ought to be obvious: If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? We are called to a higher standard: to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. This, indeed, is what Christ Jesus did for us sinners. Romans 5:8 declares: God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. In the same way also, we ought to show love to those around us, whether friend or enemy, especially by the proclamation of the life-giving, saving Gospel.

Saturday, 19 February 2011—Sunday’s hymn of the day, My Soul, Now Praise Your Maker (LSB #820), echoes the Introit, which exhorted, Bless the LORD, O my soul! It is a jubilant song of praise in response to all that the Lord has done for us. His grace and care are endless; He has pity on His children; He puts our sins away. For all this and more, My soul, O praise the Lord!

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

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Epiphany 6

What does it mean to live a righteous life? Think about it. Can you picture someone in your life you would call righteous? Well certainly this person must be virtuous and upstanding in every way. He or she would have to go out of their way to meet the needs of everyone all the time. Maybe the cast and crew of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” would fit the bill. They travel all over the country to build nice homes for deserving families out of the kindness of their hearts (of course with a little help from advertizes). Maybe a religious leader like the Dali Lama would be righteous. Our culture certainly thinks he’s a good and virtuous person since he’s an advocate of peace and understanding. How about a philanthropist like Bill Gates who promises to donate his entire fortune to charity? What about us here today? Does God demand that you and I be righteous? The Gospel today tells us that the answer is yes! And despite the accusations other religions make against Christianity, that we are not strict enough (this goes especially against us Lutherans), it’s clear from out text that God wants our deeds to outshine those of “Extreme Makeover” the Dali Lama and Bill Gates. Jesus tells us through the Gospel lesson today that,
(I. The Christian life demands perfection in not hating your brother.)
(II. The Christian life demands perfection in not committing adultery.)
(III. The Christian life’s demands are met only in Christ’s perfect righteousness.)

What does perfect Christian righteousness look like? It begins by observing the God’s Law. This Law isn’t something that’s inaccessible to us, or something that we understand by meditating on the idea of God. Rather, it’s been given to us through the revelation of scripture. We know on Sinai God gave his people, which include us today, the Ten Commandments revealing His will. Through the commandments God demands that we live according to his holy will. In last week’s Gospel lesson Jesus said, “Whoever does (the commandments) and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” And also, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” So our righteousness, our obedience to the commandments, must be perfect. Jesus’ words can mean nothing else. In the Old Testament lesson from Deuteronomy we heard that the Law comes with a blessing and a curse. If we keep the Law and are righteous we will receive every good blessing. However, if we break the law we will “surely perish.”

To paint the picture of what perfect righteousness looks like, Jesus tells us in the Gospel, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” Fair enough we think to ourselves. When was the last time that I went out and murdered someone? Only the worst people murder. So, it seems the fifth commandment (you shall not murder) is taken care of, right? Wrong! Jesus says, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.” This should make us stop and at take stock of these demanding words. We see that the Law is more damning than how we first try to interpret it, as something that’s easy to do. “You shall not murder” means that even if you have anger against your brother, you are guilty of breaking the whole commandment. Luther explains this in the Large Catechism, “Christ says that we must not kill, neither with hand, heart, mouth, signs, gestures, help, nor council. Therefore this commandment forbids everyone to be angry, except those who are in the place of God, that is, parents and the government.”

Now ask yourself, have you ever been angry? Have you ever wanted to hurt someone who’s offended you? When you get cut off in traffic, do you yell out obscenities? Do you harbor grudges against family members for hurtful things they’ve said or done? Have you imagined getting back at a bully who intimidates you? Of course, when we’re honest we have to say yes! We’re guilty of murdering our brother. And this isn’t a minor type of murdering. Indeed, before God our Judge it’s as if we have our brother’s blood dripping from our hands.

Jesus goes on to tell us, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.” This message is especially directed at Christians who come before God’s alter in order to be reconciled with Him. When we come to God’s house angry with our brother, we deserve to be handed over to our Heavenly Judge as we are, sinful and unclean with the blood of our brother on our hands. Therefore He teaches us later in the Sermon on the Mount to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And He also teaches the parable of the unforgiving servant who refused to forgive his fellow brother after his master forgave him his debt. When we hold onto anger in our hearts the Judge rightfully accuses us, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy your fellow servant, as I have had mercy on you?”

The Christian life is one of perfect reconciliation with our neighbors at all times. But more often than not, we don’t show mercy to our brother the way we should. Instead, we dare to approach God with secret anger and malice in our hearts. We remember sins long after we say that we’ve forgiven them. Keeping this anger in us keeps the blood of our brother on our hands and we appear before the Judge as unrighteous and deserving to be thrown into the hell of fire till we pay the last penny of our debt.

Next Jesus brings up the 6th commandment, “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.'” Hearing this we tell ourselves, I don’t break this command. We think of someone else who we suspect is guilty and say to ourselves, I don’t break the commandment like that person. Keeping the commandment could be difficult at times, but we feel like we have it under control. Absolutely not! Jesus says, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Have you ever had any lustful desires for someone, especially someone outside of marriage? Yes, we all have. We’re convicted and found guilty before God for all kinds of lust and adultery. Luther writes in his Large Catechism. “Not only is the outward act of adultery forbidden, but also every kind of cause, motive, and means of adultery. Then the heart, lips, and the whole body must be chaste and offer no opportunity, help, or persuasion toward inchastity.” In our sexually charged culture rampant with internet pornography and indecency on TV, can anyone live their lives unscathed by inchastity? Is it possible to survive the pressures of youth and not commit the sin of lust? Our culture tries to teach us that members of the opposite sex are just objects to fulfill our pleasure and we are pressured to accept it. We start mitigating the full severity of this commandment when we condone sexual relationships of any type outside of God’s ordained estate of marriage between a man and woman. For instance, saying that it’s ok for a young couple to live together because they’re in love makes us responsible for their sin. Earlier in the sermon Jesus said, “Whoever relaxes one of the least of the commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.”

Instead we must flee from sexual immorality. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” But instead of fleeing from sexual immorality, our sinful flesh draws us to it. Even if we abstain from the act, our mind commits the sin and we fall under the condemnation of the Law in God’s sight.

These commands must be kept if we can be called perfectly righteous. If we have enough pride to proclaim that we have fulfilled the commandments in actions, which I doubt is possible, then our thoughts and desires still betray us. We are anything but righteous. We justly deserve God’s temporal and eternal punishment. Dear friends, we are guilty before God, and the righteousness demanded of us in the Law is impossible. The Law kills us. It secures us in our sins and exposes us for who and what we really are, enemies of a righteous God.

What is left for us to do? Nothing! What is left for God to do? Everything! Jesus Christ alone is righteous. He alone is the Son of God who kept the Law perfectly, who never hated his brother, who never lusted in his heart, who is perfectly righteous before the Father. And I have Good News for you today. Christ’s righteousness is for you! Jesus Christ kept the Law perfectly, was perfectly righteous in order to make you perfectly righteous. Jesus never came to be a more stringent lawgiver than Moses as some people think from this sermon. Instead Jesus points to himself and his own righteousness which becomes yours. How does it become yours? It becomes yours through the exchange of righteousness on the cross. On the cross God the Father laid on Christ all of your sin, guilt and punishment for falling short of his holy Law. He was sacrificed on the cross putting to death your sin, your guilt, and the punishment you deserve. In exchange you receive Jesus Christ’s perfect righteousness before the Father in heaven. Therefore Jesus tells to come to him with our guilt and sin. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Our burden is light, because Jesus has taken the weight of our condemnation under the law and has given us his righteousness which we have done nothing to earn but have received it freely anyway in faith. Yes the Law does kill us through convicting us of our sins, but the Good News of Christ brings us back to life, a life that has been won for us by the blood of Jesus.

Being freed from the condemnation under the Law are we then allowed to go on sinning as we did before? As St. Paul has written, “Let it not be!” “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” We must consider ourselves as dead to sin and alive only to God. This shows itself in two ways. First in returning to our Baptism through repenting of our sins daily, and second in showing love to our neighbor which flows out of the righteousness we have with God. Despite the fact that our sins have been forgiven, not just those in the past but those of the future too, we are still waiting for the consummation of Christ’s work on the cross on the last day. Therefore we are continually tempted and struggle with sin in the world. Does this mean that we’ve lost the grace we received in Baptism. No! God’s promises given in baptism never leave us. Instead are led, through hearing God’s Law, to return to the promise in Baptism, that Christ has put to death all our sins in the washing of water and the Word. So we repent before God and our brother and receive the forgiveness we have though Jesus Christ’s perfect righteousness.

And the righteousness from Christ isn’t meant to stay bottled up. It finds its expression in the love we show to our brothers. The life of a Christian is cross-shaped. There is a vertical dimension between God and man and a horizontal dimension between a man and his neighbor. God takes the initiative and grants us righteousness through Christ’s death that we receive in faith through the hearing of the Gospel. That righteousness manifests itself in works of love toward our neighbor. Doing good works then has nothing to do with earning points with God. Rather it is a natural expression of faith with showers our brothers and sisters in Christ with works of mercy and love. Because we are righteous in Christ we no longer get angery with our brother when he hurts us with his words and actions. Instead we are lead to pray for him. We no longer lust and demean our bodies in sexual immorality. Instead we pray for those who are trapped in that sin and speak highly of God’s gift of marriage which is the proper place for human sexuality.

Dear friends in Christ, the Christian life does make demands. But those demands are met only in Jesus Christ. Because he was perfectly righteous, you are now perfectly righteous. Because of what Christ has done for you, you can in turn love your neighbor as yourself. The Bill Gates, Dali Lamas and Extreme Makeovers of the world may appear righteous through the lens of our culture, but we know that true and real righteousness comes only through Jesus Christ and what he has earned for us by his death and resurrection. Amen.
-Seminarian Brian Flamme

Friday, February 11, 2011

Suor Angelica

Off to See Lydia in Bloomington!
Lydia plays the Abbess in Puccini’s achingly beautiful Suor Angelica

Lydia is the mean one on the right!

Lydia and her crew

Monday, February 7, 2011

Time in the Word - Epiphany 6

Christ Sets Life before Us so that We Can Walk in His Ways
The God who reveals Himself in His incarnate Son promises life and blessing to all who obey His commandments “by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules” (Deut. 30:16). However, we are “people of the flesh” and “infants in Christ” (1 Cor. 3:1) among whom “there is jealousy and strife” (1 Cor. 3:3). Jesus must instruct us against the human ways of anger, adultery, divorce, and false witness (Matt. 5:21-37), because all who live in these ways “shall surely perish” (Deut. 30:18). On the cross He died to forgive our sins and free us from the ways of curse and death. Since Jesus Christ is our “life and length of days” (Deut. 30:20), we can be reconciled to our brother, live in chastity and marital faithfulness, and speak with honesty. He who serves from His cross also offers His gift of reconciliation at His altar, and we can be at peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are “God’s field, God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9).

Collect for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany: O Lord, graciously hear the prayers of Your people that we who justly suffer the consequence of our sin may be mercifully delivered by Your goodness to the glory of Your name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Prayer for pardon, growth in grace, and divine protection: O Lord, our God, we acknowledge Your great goodness toward us and praise You for the mercy and grace that our eyes have seen, our ears have heard, and our hearts have known. We sincerely repent of the sins of this day and those in the past. Pardon our offenses, correct and reform what is lacking in us, and help us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Inscribe Your law upon our hearts, and equip us to serve You with holy and blameless lives. May each day remind us of the coming of the night when no one can work. In the emptiness of this present age keep us united by a living faith through the power of Your Holy Spirit with Him who is the resurrection and the life, that we may escape the eternal bitter pains of condemnation.

By Your Holy Spirit bless the preaching of Your Word and the administration of Your Sacraments. Preserve these gifts to us and to all Christians. Guard and protect us from all dangers to body and soul. Grant that we may with faithful perseverance receive from You our sorrows as well as our joys, knowing that health and sickness, riches and poverty, and all things come by permission of Your fatherly hand. Keep us this day under Your protective care and preserve us, securely trusting in Your everlasting goodness and love, for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns . . .

Monday, 7 February 2011Psalm 98:7–9; Antiphon, Psalm 98:2—Psalm 98 is a hymn of high praise. Verses 7–9 call upon all of creation to praise the LORD—not just the inhabitants, but the seas, and the rivers, and the hills, as well. Why? Because the Lord, the righteous Judge, has made known His salvation, and has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations. When Adam and Eve sinned, the whole world was subject to the consequences. St Paul writes, in Romans 8, that the whole creation has been groaning together, looking forward to the day of salvation in Jesus Christ. That day has come, and thus, we and all creation sing for joy together before the LORD.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011Psalm 119:1–8—Last week, the second section of Psalm 119 served as the Introit. This week and next, other portions of the same psalm are used as the Psalm of the Day. Psalm 119 is a wonderful example of a form of Hebrew poetry called an acrostic. Every line of each section starts with the same Hebrew letter. In this first section, each line begins with aleph: ℵ. The main purpose of this poetic technique is to express completeness. The psalmist wants to meditate carefully on every aspect of God’s Word “from A to Z.” Unfortunately, the acrostic pattern gets lost in the English translation, but the message of exhorting us to the study of Holy Scripture remains: I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011Deuteronomy 30:15–20—Before the Children of Israel entered the Promised Land, Moses, who would not accompany them, re-iterated the Lord’s covenant with them (Deuteronomy 29—30). In this section of his speech, Moses speaks for the Lord, laying out the way of life and the way of death. The way of the Lord is the only way to life. All other gods are false ones, and lead to everlasting death. All other belief systems are false, and lead to eternal condemnation. Faith in anything but the true God, the Lord GOD of Israel, leads only to endless torment in hell, with the devil and his fallen angels. The LORD alone—the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—is your life and length of days.

Thursday, 10 February 20111 Corinthians3:1–9—Spring is coming and it will soon be time to plant vegetables and flowers. What a miracle it is to bury a seed in the ground and watch it grow and bring forth its yield! How does it know when to sprout? How does it know which way is up? How does it know when to blossom or set fruit or grow a head of grain? Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. So it is with His Word. We dare not take credit for how many people we have led to the Lord or how many we have saved. The answer is none; the Holy Spirit does so by the Means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments.

Friday, 11 February 2011Matthew 5:21–37—The Sermon on the Mount continues with Jesus showing how the external works of the Pharisees were for naught, for their hearts were hardened against God and against His promised Messiah. Good works save no one; only faith in Christ does. Later in Matthew’s Gospel (23:27), Jesus will refer to the Pharisees as whitewashed tombs: outwardly, they looked good by their many deeds, but their self-righteous hatred for the Son of God made them rotten on the inside, where only God sees.

Saturday, 12 February 2011—Sunday’s hymn of the day is Songs of Thankfulness and Praise (LSB #394). It shows how Jesus is the Son of God: God in man made manifest. The Magi from the East came to worship Him, the Father declared Him to be His beloved Son at His baptism, He performed miracles, such as turning water into wine and healing people of sickness and disease. This same Jesus will one day return in glory, when all will see the Judge appear and will take those who confess Him as Lord to His heavenly home, where we shall praise Thee, ever blest, God in man made manifest.
Lectionary summary on front page from the LCMS Commission on Worship.
Artwork, ‘The Israelites and the Ten Commandments,’ by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld, © WELS.
Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House.

This week's Time in the Word is written by Pr. Jeff Keuning pastor of St. John Dexter, and Zion, Casey, IA

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Epiphany 5

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

10653 N – 550 W
Decatur, IN 46733

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Celebrating our 172nd Year
Chartered February 25, 1838

Epiphany 5
Preached to the preachers
February 8, 2011
1 Corinthians 2:2

The only thing a Christian needs to know

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified

“Almighty God, You sent Your only Son as the Word of Life for our eyes to see and our ears to hear. Help us to believe with joy what the scriptures proclaim.”

Paul wrote that he was determined to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified. Why then do Christians send their children to faith based schools and maintain church sponsored colleges? If we know Christ, is that not enough? Certainly, Paul knew more than just about Christ. He knew the philosophies of his age. Paul does not mean we should live in ignorance. What he is saying is that knowledge and wisdom cannot reconcile one to God. This is the sole work of Christ on the cross. It would be better to know nothing but Christ than to have all wisdom and know nothing of Christ.

Paul decided to know nothing except Christ. Is that true wisdom? Paul knew more than most. He knew how to make a living by making tents. He knew the Bible thoroughly, for he was a student of the great teacher Gamaliel. He understood the philosophies of his day. He was more than a university student. He was a Rhodes Scholar. He had it all - a pedigree and a plan – to rid the world of those who were of “The Way”.

When it comes to making a living, we need to know certain skills. When it comes to making a life, knowledge and wisdom judged by human standards are useless. It is enough to know Christ, for He is the truth about God and life.

The only things a Christian needs to know are a person and a place.

1. A personJesus Christ: revelation — For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ.

A. This revelation is not found in man’s wisdom. Pilate asked the question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) The wisdom of man is limited to what is tangible, what can be defined, and measured. Its importance is determined by what can be experienced. Truth for man today is what I define to be real and convenient for me.

B. Philosophy, theology, maxims, rhetoric, oratory — these are human opinions, which are all subject to change. Yet the message of the cross is what we proclaim. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

C. Man’s opinions, attitudes and belief systems are all soiled with sin – they are inadequate. Jews required signs pagans relied on reason. The wisdom of God made no sense. It was foolishness to them.

D. A mere reading of Scripture will remind us how deficient man has become.

1. Knowledge is power. Yet it is deficient when wisdom becomes your god - Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding – Proverbs 3:5

2. Trust not in princes. Cynicism raises its ugly head when human-kind becomes your god - Thus says the Lord, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord– Jeremiah 17:5

3. Creature comforts abound in this world. Yet, what happens when pleasure becomes your god? - (These are the enemies of the cross of Christ…) whose end is destruction whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is their shame, who set their minds on earthly things – Philippians 3:19

4. Think of how our American elite use the power of money and wealth. There are three ways to think of the power of wealth and money. Most see money as something to be spent. Some see money as something to be saved. For the elite, money means nothing. These people equate wealth and affluence as a means rather than an end. They do not disdain money. They use it to achieve their ends rather than considering wealth as an achievable end in itself. Money, wealth, power, wisdom, humankind, pleasure - all leave man broken and spent. To find peace you need to know a person – Jesus Christ the Prince of peace.

Transition: You need to know a person. You need to know a place where your salvation was won for you in time and space.

2. A placeGolgotha, the place of the cross; redemption — For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

A. The proclamation of Christ and Him crucified, as St. Paul would remind us “Is in the power of God”. It is a power, which makes us wise unto salvation. It is the only tool, which you have at your disposal.

St. Paul writing to young Timothy encourages him when he says, Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. 2 Timothy 2:4

Preach the word - The Word of God; the gospel. This is the main business of the pastor - to be faithful; faithful to the Lord, faithful to His Word, faithful to your hearers.

B The power of God is in the Word, the gospel. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

C. In the Word is the Spirit, the power of God. For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. 1 Thessalonians 1:5 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:4-5

D. Faith therefore is the creation and gift of God. "For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).

If all of the gifts of God are good and perfect, it is no surprise that they are eternal. It is significant that the sole occurrence of the plural "gifts of God" stresses this wonderful truth. "For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). He never withdraws them once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call. Every one of these gifts of God will be yours to treasure throughout eternity.

The only thing a Christian needs to know is – a person and a place. Christ and Him crucified on the bloody cross of Calvary. These are the marks of your salvation. This is the message what you have been called to proclaim. Proclaim it boldly. In Jesus’ Name. Amen

Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use.