Sunday, January 29, 2012

Time in the Word Epiphany 5

Time in the Word
30 January–4 February 2012
Preparation for next week, Epiphany 5

Collects for Epiphany 5O Lord, keep Your family the Church continually in the true faith that, relying on the hope of Your heavenly grace, we may ever be defended by Your mighty power; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

O God, our loving Father: Through the grace of Thy Holy Spirit, Thou dost plant the gifts of love into the hearts of Thy faithful people. Grant to Thy servants soundness of mind and body, so that they may love Thee with their whole strength, and with their whole heart do these things that are pleasing in Thy sight; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Morning PrayerI thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.

Evening PrayerI thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.

Healing for Suffering Humanity

In the season of Epiphany we look at Jesus as He begins His earthly ministry and we ask the question, “is he legitimate?” The answer is found in what Jesus says and what He does. He fulfills the predictions and prescriptions set forth in the Old Testament Scriptures. With the Apostle John we can say, “And we behold His glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Can Jesus deliver on this foretelling? He is the healer of a suffering humanity. That is our theme for this week. Sufferings, hardship and adversity are facts of life in this fallen world.
Monday, 30 January 2012Psalm 112:1, 3, 7-9; Antiphon, Ps 112:4 – In Hebrew, this psalm has a special form: it is an acrostic. After the opening Hallelujah, its 22 lines start with each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, in order. It extols the blessedness of the “man who fears the LORD;” that is, he acts out of reverence and awe of God’s commands and works, and gladly does what pleases his Lord. He is righteous, not by what he does, but by what God has done for him; as a result, he lives in an upright manner.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012Psalm 147:1-12 – “How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise Him!” We praise the Lord for His mighty power and unlimited understanding (v. 4); for His mercy shed upon the humble and needy (vv. 2, 3, 6); for His judgment upon the wicked (v. 6); and His provision and sustenance of all creation (vv. 8-9).

Wednesday, 1 February 2012Job 7:1-7 – Job endures physical as well as mental suffering. The lament of Job that life is hard is the lament of all men since the Fall of Adam. We suffer in countless ways, some more and some less, but look forward to the end of our days here in this vale of tears, for our God will gather us to Himself, and there will be no more pain, sorrow, or suffering. Jesus began this work, as we shall read in the Gospel, as He went about healing the sick and afflicted. His work shall be brought to completion on the Last Day.

Job experiences the misery of life. The depth of suffering is illustrated in Job’s experience. We know that God has allowed these sufferings. Job’s friend Eliphas hints that Job is somehow at fault as he suggests that God rewards the righteous and afflicts the wicked. Job maintains his innocence despite his despair and hopelessness.

Thursday, 2 February 20121 Corinthians 9:16-23 – Paul identifies with people of all conditions to win them for Christ. St Paul boasts, not of himself, but of the Gospel. What a privilege it is for him, and all of us, to proclaim the Good News of salvation in Christ Jesus! He cannot but go out to all – Jew, Gentile, weak, strong – and proclaim the forgiveness that belongs to all men through the merits of Christ.
Friday, 3 February 2012Mark 1:29-39 – Jesus heals various  physical and mental diseases. Here we see Jesus, doing His proper work – delivering people from the effects of their sins. He goes about healing diseases, foreshadowing eternal life, where there will be no disease. He casts out demons, foreshadowing how He will defeat the devil on the cross and cast out the prince of this world into the abyss.

He preaches – preaches the Good News of salvation which God has delivered unto His people in the sending of His Son into the world for the redemption of our sins.
There is a spiritual side to human suffering. Jesus identifies the source of disease; demon possession. Yet the demons must keep silent until Jesus has gone to the cross. Notice the Centurion’s faith as he confesses Jesus as Lord.

Some questions this text raises:
That which cannot kill you can only make you stronger. True?
Does god only reward the righteous and afflict the wicked?
The church today “trauma center” or “gymnasium” which is it?
How can disease and hardship be in fact “the work of the devil”?
Can we say that sickness is akin to demon possession?
What if a person doesn’t get better?

Saturday, 4 February 2012 – Songs of Thankfulness and Praise (TLH 134) – “Epiphany” means “appearance.” In this season of Epiphany, we celebrate many of the epiphanies of God in human flesh: to the wise men, at His Baptism, and in His healing (stanzas 1-3). And, we look forward to His final appearance, when He shall come in judgment (stanza 4), and we shall sing His praises eternally, even as we sing them now (stanza 5).

Concordia Self-Study Commentary, © 1971, 1979, Concordia Publishing House.
Lutheran Worship, © 1982, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
Lectionary Preaching Workbook Series B John Brokhoff © 1981 CSS Publishing Company, Lima, OH
Lutheran Service Book © 2008 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
Artwork by Ed Rojas, © Higher Thing

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Epiphany 4

Mark 1:21-28
"Authority, so what?"

It is one thing to have authority and it is another to have that authority accepted. Lack of respect for authority is a problem of our day. Thirty-five years ago, millions in Iran demonstrated against the Shah to the point that he had to leave the country. The people refused to bow to his authority. Though he had authority as a king, his authority was no longer accepted, respected, and obeyed by a majority of the people. The same can happen to any person of authority, including Jesus Christ. What is our response to His authority? We must consider that question this morning. How should we properly respond to Jesus’ authority?

1. First, we must recognize His authority – Listen to verse 22 of our text for today. “And they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as {one} having authority, and not as the scribes.”

From the testimony of the Scriptures, we see quite clearly that when Jesus speaks and when He acts people are bound to take notice. Jesus proved that He had that authority that comes from God by what He said. He spoke for God. But He backs up His words with His works. Jesus speaks and Jesus acts! He says only those things that God can say. He works miracles and acts of kindness that only God can perform. This truly is God in the flesh. No one can work like Him. No one can speak like Him. By His words and by His works we are called to recognize that there is none other. On He can be the Son of God.

Transition: But there is more than merely recognizing Jesus’ works and words for what they are. Few today would dispute what He has done. Few, if any, would put a disclaimer on His words and actions. But how do we respond to what He has said? What is our reaction to the miracles that He works? His words and works call us to action.

2. We must also respect Jesus’ authority – Listen to verses 23 and 24 of our text for today. “And just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, "What do we have to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are-- the Holy One of God!"

“You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19) The devil himself recognizes Jesus’ power and authority. This is clearly demonstrated in our lesson for today. The devil was calling Jesus out. Respecting His authority, the devil knew that Jesus has the authority to destroy him. “What are going to do to us?” The demon asks. “Have You come to destroy us?” The demon knew his fate. He will be doomed forever by the one who has the authority to destroy him. That’s why he asks the question! It’s not a matter that he would be destroyed. That fact is perfectly obvious. The question is when, when will this demon be destroyed. Will you destroy me now or later, for You are the Holy One of God.

Our enemies make for our best critics. The demon gives testimony that this Jesus is the Christ, the very Son of God. We too, are called to acknowledge what even Jesus’ fiercest enemies are called to do. We are to respect Him for He is our Lord Almighty. The one to whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He, Jesus, is Lord of all.

3. We must finally respond to Jesus’ authority – Listen to verses 25 and following of our text for today. “And Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!" And throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice, and came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him."

The inevitable happens. After nine anxious months a baby is finally delivered. We know what is coming. Yet, when that blessed event happens, we are filled with awe. We take in a spectacular sunrise or sunset. We recognize that this is something that happens every day.

The sun is supposed to rise and the beginning of the day. We expect it to set as dusk turns to night. However, when we take it all in we are filled with wonder and awe. Likewise when recognizing Jesus we respond with shouts of thanksgiving. As we are reminded in the catechism. “For it is my duty to thank and to praise, to serve and obey Him!” Yes, this is most certainly true!

The confrontation of Jesus with the demon only heightened the reality that this Jesus is King and Lord of all. May we resound in kind by offering Him our lives for service in His kingdom. Willingly following Him and praising Him for all that He has done.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Time in the Word - Epiphany 4

The theme for the fourth Sunday after the Epiphany the word authority. Jesus teaches and heals with authority. A prophet like Moses is to be obeyed because he speaks the words of God. This is an authority of God’s Word. In the Epistle lesson authority is implied: Knowledge of God gives authority to be free from idols. A review of Luther’s great teaching hymn “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice” would be an excellent devotional guide as you read the propers for this coming week.

Collect for Epiphany 4Almighty God, You know we live in the midst of so many dangers that in our frailty we cannot stand upright. Grant strength and protection to support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Prayers for the Epiphany Season O God, you know that we cannot withstand the dangers which surround us. Strengthen us in body and spirit so that with your help, we may be able to overcome the weakness that our sins has brought upon us.”

Almighty God, you sent your Son to proclaim your kingdom and to teach with authority. Anoint us with the power of your Spirit, that we, too, may bring good news to the afflicted, bind upon the brokenhearted, and proclaim liberty to the captives.

O God, by the leading of a star You made known Your only-begotten Son to the Gentiles. Lead us, who know You by faith, to enjoy in heaven the fullness of Your divine presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

For citizenshipLord keep this nation under Your care. Bless our nation with faithful leaders that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Grant that he may make wise decisions for the general welfare and serve You faithfully in this generation; through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.

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

Monday, January 23, 2012Psalm32:1-2, 5-7- The Antiphon, is taken from Psalm 32:10 “Many are the woes of the wicked but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in Him.” Appealing to God’s unfailing love, kindness, mercy is frequent in the Old Testament since it summarizes all that the lord covenanted to show to His people. This is an excellent Psalm which gives testimony to the joy the sinner has having experienced the Father’s forgiveness in Christ.

Tuesday, January 24. 2012Psalm 111—The key verse of this psalm is verse 3,”Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever,” The Psalmist praises the Lord for His unfailing righteousness. The psalm combines hymns of praise with instruction in wisdom. Truly, an excellent Psalm. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012- Deuteronomy 18:15-20— The authority of reception – who gave it to you. God promises to raise up a prophet like Moses. The book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ last address to the people before entering the Promised Land. Sunday’s Old Testament lesson is a part of a section dealing with prophecy. A prophet like Moses is promised to replace the false prophets. This true Moses will mediate between the Lord and the people. The passage explains how through Moses God provided for the institution of prophecy. True prophecy demands obedience on the part of the people and loyalty by the prophets. 

Thursday, January 26, 20121 Corinthians 8:1-13— The authority of revelation – what you know. Knowledge of God gives freedom to eat meat offered to idols. Paul discusses a specific situation in Corinth which caused a problem for Christians. Pagans participated in offering animal sacrifices to their gods. Part of the meat was burned on an altar and the rest was sold for food at the markets. Some Christians had no qualms of buying such meat for home consumption while others were conscience-stricken at the idea, for it seemed to them that they were participating in a pagan practice. Paul says no one should object to meats offered to idols because idols have no existence. God is the one and only true God. However, if some weaker brothers still feels it is wrong, those who have the knowledge that God alone is God should not each such meat to prevent offense and the destruction of their faith.

Luther speaking of “Christian liberty” once said the Christian is the freest of all men but the servant of all. Our knowledge of God frees us from superstition, legalism, and a bad conscience, but love enslaves us for the welfare of our brother who might not yet have such knowledge. How many Christians today are willing to sacrifice their freedom of life-style to prevent offending a narrow Christian?

Friday, January 27, 2012Mark 1:21-28— The authority of identity – who you are. With authority Jesus teaches and drives out an unclean spirit. After calling four disciples Jesus begins his ministry by teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. The people are impressed by His authoritative teaching compared with the t4eaching of the scribes. A man in the congregation has an evil spirit which addresses Jesus and knows Him to be the Messiah. With authority Jesus commands the demon to leave the man. At the very beginning of His ministry, Jesus comes into contact with evil powers. At God’s Son He conquers the evil spirit. He does it by exercising His authority as God’s Son.

The word “immediately” (Vv.21,23) is a word Mark will often use. It has theological significance. It denotes a sense of urgency and importance. The Kingdom cannot wit. There is no place for laxity nor procrastination. One must work while it is day before the night comes. The fields are white unto harvest. Jesus has a world to save in three years! He has the whole truth of God to reveal. He needs to set up a movement to carry on His work when He leaves. The church today needs to imitate Christ in this matter to overcome lethargy. 

Saturday, January 29, 2012—John 6:37- The hymn of the day is, “Just as I Am, Without One Plea.” (LSB 570) God’s action not man’s is primary in salvation and Christ’s mercy is unfailing. See John 6:44, 10:29, 17:6, 18:9. This hymn has become a treasured hymn of many people.

LUTHERAN SEVICE BOOK © 2008 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO
Schnorr von Carolsfeld, woodcuts Zachariah names John, Jesus feeds the 5,000 © WELS Permission to use these copyrighted items is limited to personal and congregational use. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Epiphany 3

"And after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."(NASB)

Jesus came preaching, but what did He preach – law or gospel, or both? Mark gives us a summary of Jesus’ preaching. Since we honor and respect Jesus above all preachers, we would like to know the content of His preaching. What does Jesus have to say to us today? Our text gives us the answer…

Jesus preached the gospel of God

1. The time – "the time is fulfilled" – v. 15
Jesus began to preach in Galilee after John was put in prison. When John had finished his testimony, then Jesus began His public ministry. Notice what is happening here. The silencing of Christ's ministers shall not be the suppressing of Christ's gospel. John is imprisoned but the Gospel cannot be silenced. If some are laid aside, others shall be raised up. John’s imprisonment is the beginning of Jesus’ preaching. It is the signal for Jesus to carry on the same work that John had stated. Now Jesus is to begin with His message. And what is that message? Look at the second phrase of our verse for this morning.

2. The fact – "the kingdom of God is at hand" – v. 15
This is the message of what Jesus preached; "The gospel of the kingdom of God is at hand!" Christ came to set up the kingdom of God among us, that we might be brought into it, and that we might obtain salvation in His kingdom. He set up His kingdom by the preaching of His gospel, which brought about a power that has brought salvation and life.

Transition: The great truths Christ preached are found in our verse for this day. The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. This time refers to the Old Testament, in which the kingdom of the Messiah was promised. A time was fixed for the introducing of God’s coming into this world. Jesus’ hearers on that day were not so well versed in those prophecies, nor did they observe the signs of the times, as to understand it themselves. Therefore Christ gives them His official notice; "The time once fixed in the past is now at hand. Glorious discoveries of divine light, life, and love, are now to be made; a new direction far more spiritual and heavenly than that, which you had been under, is now to commence."

3. The response"repent and believe" –v.15
Notice how God keeps time. When the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand. Christ gave His hearers back then as well as us today the ability to understand the times that they might know what they ought to do. Christ tells us that that the kingdom is approaching. They must repent, and believe the gospel. They had broken the moral law, and could not be saved by their own good works for the hearers then as well as us today are condemned under guilt. They must therefore take the benefit of a covenant of grace, they must submit to a remedial law, and this is the evidence that God’s kingdom truly has come---there must be repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.

By repentance, we must lament and forsake our sins, and by faith, we must receive the forgiveness of our sins. By repentance, we must give glory to our Creator whom we have offended; by faith, we must give glory to our Redeemer who came to save us from our sins. Both of these; repentance and faith must go together.

We must not think that reforming our lives will save us without trusting in the righteousness and grace of Christ. Nor can we say that trusting in Christ will save us without the reformation of our hearts and lives. Christ has joined these two together, repentance as well as faith. And let no one think to put these two away. They will mutually assist and befriend each other. Repentance will quicken faith, and faith will make repentance evangelical; so that the sincerity of both together will be evidenced by a diligent conscientious obedience to all of God's commandments.

Thus with the arrest of John the preaching of the gospel by Jesus has begun, and thus it continues to this very. Still the call remains, repent, and believe; we are called upon to live a life of repentance and live a life of faith. That is the basis of the gospel message. That is our high Christian calling to this very day.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Time in the Word - Epiphany 3

The theme for the third Sunday after the Epiphany is the concept of time. The word time is mentioned in each of the lessons. It was time for Jesus to begin His ministry and to call disciples, time for Jonah to preach to the people and time for them to repent; and it was time for Christians to live in the light of the end of time. As we seize the time to serve God in this generation we have security in the knowledge of God’s nature. The Hymn for the day has its focus on Christ our true and only light.

Collect for Epiphany 3 Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon of infirmities and stretch forth the hand of Your majesty to heal and defend us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Prayers for the Epiphany Season Almighty God, you sent your Son to proclaim your kingdom and to teach with authority. Anoint us with the power of your Spirit, that we, too, may bring good news to the afflicted, bind upon the brokenhearted, and proclaim liberty to the captives.

O God, by the leading of a star You made known Your only-begotten Son to the Gentiles. Lead us, who know You by faith, to enjoy in heaven the fullness of Your divine presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Most merciful God, You gave Your eternal Word to become incarnate of the pure Virgin. Grant Your people grace to put away fleshly lusts that they may be ready for Your visitation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The Gospel is a good report, discourse and proclamation of Christ, announcing that He is nothing else but pure goodness, love and grace. Such a report could not possibly be made concerning any other human being, or any of the saints. For, although the other saints were men of quite good repute, a report on them does not constitute the Gospel as such. It is Gospel only when the goodness and grace of Christ are proclaimed. Even though mention is made of famous saints and their doings, this does not make the report the Gospel. The Gospel bases Christian faith and confidence solely on the rock, Jesus Christ.  (Martin Luther)

Monday, January 16, 2012Psalm113:1-2, 4, 7-8- The Antiphon, is taken from Psalm 113:3 “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised!” These words are taken from a hymn to the Lord celebrating His high majesty and his mercies to the lowly. It was probably composed originally for the temple liturgy. As the Lord is enthroned on high, He is exalted over all creation.

Tuesday, January 17. 2012Psalm 62—The key verse of this psalm is verse 8, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”
 The Psalmist commits himself to Good when threatened by the assaults of conspirators who wish to dethrone him. Verse three suggests a time of weakness and may indicate advanced age. Implicitly the psalm is an appeal to God to uphold him. No psalm surpasses it in its expression of simple trust in God. The little Hebrew word אַךְ (’ak) begins six of the twelve verses; it is short, but significant, having the meaning “only.” “My soul finds rest only in God.” “He only is my rock and my salvation.” “Find rest, O my soul, only in God.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012- Jonah 3:1-5, 10—Jonah obeys God’s command to preach to Nineveh; the people and God repent. Jonah refuses to obey God’s command to preach to Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrians. After Jonah repents and is vomited out of a large fish Jonah obeys and preaches judgment to Nineveh. The coming disaster causes the government and people to repent. Thereupon God decides not to condemn the city. Jonah reflects the nationalistic concept of God. The Lord is not the God only Israel but of any would repent and trust the Lord. Judgment motivates repentance and God’s mercy is extended to any people who repent, regardless of nationality or race. God’s salvation depends on repentance and not on national origin. 

Thursday, January 19, 20121 Corinthians 7:29-31—Live in the light of Christ’s imminent return. This reading comes from the chapter dealing with marriage. The Lesson begins with life lives in relation to the end of the world and Christ’s return.  Paul teaches that the status quo in one’s life should be maintained, for soon the whole song will be over. A Christian is not to get involved with the world or to change his vocation. He is to continue doing what he has been doing, for the end of life on earth is near. Today’s life is to be viewed in relation to eternity. When this is done, the present issues of earthly life become insignificant. Paul is not teaching withdrawal from the world [such as the Amish community] but to tolerating and persevering in what we are now doing.

In verses 29-31 Paul uses the phrase “as though” five times. He urges us to live as though conditions did not exist. It is a kind of “make believe” style of life. Since the end of the world is at hand, we are to live as though the world no longer existed. It is a manner of living that does not take seriously the things of this passing world. Our interests and values are set upon Christ’s values.

Friday, January 20, 2012Mark 1:14-20— Jesus begins his ministry and calls four disciples. Jesus has been ordained in his ministry at his baptism. He struggles with Satan in deciding upon the method of his ministry. With John the Baptist arrested, He feels the urge to begin His public ministry. He begins to preach in Galilee.

The content of his preaching is the gospel of God, the good news that the King is here. In the light of this, people are believing and repenting. Faith and repentance are not necessarily conditions of bringing or entering the Kingdom, but the response to the fact that the Kingdom is here in Jesus. Then, Jesus begins to choose his leaders by calling four men whose future will be catching men.

Jesus immediately called certain ones to be disciples. He knew whom he wanted and needed. He did not have to weigh the matter. There was no problem of making up his mind. In like manner the Disciples accepted the call. To be a Christian one does not need neither to weight doctrinal matters nor to consider theological alternatives. There is the certainty of responding to the challenge of the call to follow the Master. There is no hesitation, no need to think it over. In an instant one knows it is the right thing to do. 

Philip Melanchthon one of the co-writers of our Lutheran Confessions relied on this passage to show the proper Scriptural teaching that repentance always has two parts – contrition and faith.

Saturday, January 21, 2012Luke 1:79- The hymn of the day is, “O Christ, Our True and Only Light.” (LSB 839) Those who are lost, separated from God are found only in Jesus Christ. In the season of Epiphany we see more clearly who Jesus really is. By His words and actions we come to the conclusion that He can only be God made flesh. See also Isaiah 9:1-2 and Malachi 4:2.   

LUTHERAN SEVICE BOOK © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO
Luther’s Works: American Edit Edition. 55 volumes. (Volumes 1-30, Concordia Publishing House; volumes 31 31-55, Fortress Press)
Schnorr von Carolsfeld, woodcuts Zachariah names John, Jesus feeds the 5,000 © WELS Permission to use these copyrighted items is limited to personal and congregational use. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Epiphany 2

John 1:43-51
"Your Part in Church Growth"

Parishes across our Synod are asked to fill out numerous forms this time of year to show how much they have grown and in many areas across our country, there are churches that have not confirmed or baptized an adult in over 3 to 5 years. Here at Zion God has blessed us yet may mainline churches have been losing members. Churches all across our synod are losing members. By God’s grace, we have grown. (By close to 25% over the last twenty-five years.) That’s remarkably good but there is still room for us to grow.

Across our national church body, there has been a new interest in adding numbers to the church. In the nineteenth century, evangelism was identified with mass meetings, revivals, and evangelists. Today we happily have turned to a Bible based form of evangelism in terms of what some like to refer to as "personal evangelism". Recent statistics show that people join the church primarily through the invitations of friends. Sometimes it is called "relational evangelism". A Christian becomes a friend of a non-Christian; the believer invites him/her to church, and does what he-she can to help that unchurched friend. Our text gives an example of this type of evangelism when Philip brought Nathaniel to see Jesus. This morning let’s see how you can help the church to grow…

1. You must first follow Jesus – Listen to verse 43 of our text for this morning…"The next day He purposed to go forth into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, "Follow Me." Philip was called immediately by Christ Himself. Philip was called in a direct way: Jesus found Philip. Christ sought us, and found us, before we made any inquiries after Him. . Philip was brought to be a disciple by the power of Christ going along with that word, "Follow Me!"

Here we see the nature of true Christianity; it is following Christ, devoting ourselves to His will and His way, attending His movements, and treading in His steps. Here we see the efficacy of the grace of God, as it is the rod of His strength.

David reminds us in Psalm 23 "Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me". We find our totality in Christ alone. The world says "find yourself…find happiness in pursuing your own goals and traveling your own road, set your own compass, carve out your own niche in this world" John, on the other hand reminds us simply "He must increase, I must decrease"

2. You "find" an unchurched person - verse 45 "Philip found Nathaniel…" We are told that Philip was of Bethsaida, and Andrew and Peter were so too, (v. 44). These first disciples received not honor from the place of their roots, but reflected honor upon it. Bethsaida signifies the house of nets, because mostly fishermen inhabited it; there Christ chose disciples, who were to be furnished with extraordinary gifts of the Spirit. They did not need the ordinary advantages of learning; their knowledge came from on high. "Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:25”

Bethsaida was a wicked place. On the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee, Philip the tetrarch rebuilt Bethsaida and renamed it "Julias", after Julia, the daughter of Caesar Augustus.

In Matthew 11:21 we are told how Jesus spoke out against that city when He said "… Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon, which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes“ Yet even there was a remnant, according to the election of grace.

What mistakes and weaknesses Philip labored under: he called Christ "Jesus of Nazareth," whereas he was of Bethlehem; he called Jesus the Son of Joseph, whereas Joseph was but Jesus’ supposed Son. Philip serves us well as an n illustration. Young beginners in religion are subject to mistakes, which time and the grace of God will rectify. It was his weakness to say, we have found Him. Christ found both of them (Philip and Nathaniel before they found Christ. Philip did not yet comprehend what all of this meant but he was intent on finding his brother and sharing Christ with him.

So often, the excuse is made, "I don’t know it all so I can’t witness for Christ!" Jesus doesn’t expect us to "know it all" as if we ever could. Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic Philip told Nathaniel all that he knew. That is what we are expected to do; we are to simply share Christ and tell our family and friends to come and see.

3. You tell what Jesus means to you - verse 45 (continued,) "Philip found Nathaniel and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and {also} the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Philip had just a simple acquaintance with Christ, yet he steps aside to seek Nathaniel. Notice what is happening here. When we have the fairest opportunities of getting good to our own souls, yet ever then we must seek opportunities of doing good to the souls of others, remembering the words of Christ, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," (Acts 20:35). Philip simply said, “we have found him of whom Moses and the prophets have written".

Notice the joy that Philip has upon this new acquaintance with Christ: "We have found him whom we have so often talked of, so long wished and waited for; at last, he is come, he is come, and we have found him!"

4. You invite the person to see Jesus - verse 46 "And Nathaniel said to him, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him," Come and see." Come and see. Let us not stand arguing here, and raising difficulties to ourselves, which we cannot get over; let us go and converse with Christ Himself and these difficulties, will all vanish! It is folly to spend that time in doubtful disputing. Granted, there is much to be said for wanting "pure teaching "and "correct doctrine" and yet much time is sadly spent over disputes that matter little in the final analysis. "When reckoned in the counsels of God, whose going to care anyway!"

Philip persuades his brother to experience Christ personally. This is what we are called to do to share Christ and to experience Him personally in our life. Philip says to his brother Come and see; not, Go and see, but, "Come, and I will go along with you".

Jesus would go forth into Galilee to call these two brothers... Christ will find out all those that are given to Him, wherever they are, and none of them shall be lost. In mercy, He has called and found us. Like Philip go forth this day as you share Christ with your family and friends inviting them to come and see.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Time in the Word - Epiphany 2

Prayers for the Epiphany SeasonO God, by the leading of a star You made known Your only-begotten Son to the Gentiles. Lead us, who know You by faith, to enjoy in heaven the fullness of Your divine presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Most merciful God, You gave Your eternal Word to become incarnate of the pure Virgin. Grant Your people grace to put away fleshly lusts that they may be ready for Your visitation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lord God, You showed Your glory and led many to faith by the works of Your Son. As He brought gladness and healing to His people, grant us these same gifts and lead us also to perfect faith in Him.

For divine guidanceHeavenly Father, send Your Holy Spirit into our hearts to direct and rule us according to Your will, to comfort us in all our afflictions, to defend us from all error, and to lead us into all truth; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

A prayer for grace to receive the Word –Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that, by patience and comfort of Your Holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

God and men proceed in contrary ways. People settle first on whatever is best, and afterward they deal with what is worse. God first gives the cross and affliction, then honor and blessedness. He does this is because we seek to preserve the sinful flesh, which urges us to keep the Law by works and offer promises great and sweet. But the result has a stale taste. And although the flesh is intoxicated with great promises, it does not feel its wretchedness. Yet when the wine is digested and the false promises gone, the wretchedness appears. God, however, terrifies the conscience, sets on miserable wine, in fact nothing but water. Then He consoles us with the promises of the Gospel which endure forever. (Martin Luther)

Time in the Word
January 9-14, 2012
Preparation for next week, Epiphany 2

The theme for the second Sunday after the Epiphany is quite clear –the call of God. Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael to discipleship in the Gospel. God calls Samuel to be his prophet in the Old Testament lesson. Through Paul and the church God calls us to glorify Him in our bodies. When we respond to God’s call, we appreciate His goodness and thus we break forth in praise.

How many today feel that they are carrying our a call of God? Probably, very few. For most, life is a matter of making a living as best they can and getting some enjoyment out of doing it. Under this philosophy, the one thing they look forward to is retirement – no work and all play! Christians are different. Their lives are a fulfillment of God’s call to a specific task.
God the Father calls you to a holy vocation – 1 Samuel 3:1-10
God the Son calls you to discipleship – John 1:43-51
God the Spirit calls you to glorify God – 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Collect for Epiphany 2Almighty and everlasting God, who governs all things in heaven and on earth, mercifully hear the prayers of Your people and grant us Your peace through all our days; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Monday, January 09, 2012Psalm 40:1-5- The Antiphon, is taken from Psalm 40:10 “I do not hide you r righteousness in my heart; I speak of Your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal Your love and Your truth from the great assembly. ” When speaking of the Lord we must center our conversation on His faithfulness and salvation which flows from righteousness. The word Epiphany literally means, I see, I understand, I see the light, I get it! In Epiphany we “get it!” This Jesus whom we have worshipped at Christmas truly is the Son of God. By grace, through faith, by the Spirit’s aid we are brought to a right understanding of spiritual things; finally we “get it!”

Tuesday, January 10. 2012Psalm 139:1-10—The key verse of this psalm is verse 14,  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” The Psalmist is saying literally “Lord you know me as one who formed me yet I can not begin to comprehend this creature you have fashioned. I can only look upon him with awe and wonder.” Miracles happen all around us. Some might wonder if the Lord will support them in the New Year. The antiphon affirms He will. He acts in our lives so we can see that the plan He has for us and the path he has determined for us will be the best for us. Fare thee well child of God His sure hand shall guide you.    

Wednesday, January 11, 20121 Samuel 3:1-10— The child Samuel hears God’s call to be a prophet. In the temple at Shiloh, the boy Samuel is serving the priest Eli. He sleeps near the Ark of the Covenant, a symbol of God’s presence. One night Samuel is called. Twice he mistakes the voice of God for Eli’s. Then Eli instructs the boy to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.” Samuel obeys and God speaks to him of future happenings in Israel.

Thursday, January 12, 20121 Corinthians 6:12-20— The human body is to glorify God. People in the Corinthian church were sexually immoral for religious reasons. They accepted the truth that Christ’s death on the cross fulfilled the law for them. Since they were saved by grace alone, they felt free to do what they pleased. Some of them participated in sexual perversion. Paul counters this thinking by giving a theology of the body. These words of Paul give us a divine perspective. We are not free to do as we please. The grace of God is not a license to sin.

Friday, January 13, 2012John 1:43-51— Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael. When Jesus is in the area of John the Baptism, He calls Andrew and Peter as disciples. Then He goes to Galilee and calls Philip of Bethsaida. Philip asks Nathanael to come and see one, who he claims, is the Messiah.

At first Nathanael is skeptical and asks if anything good can come from an insignificant village of Nazareth. When Jesus tells Nathanael that he saw him under a fig tree at the time when Philip invited him, Nathanael changes his mind and calls Jesus the Son of God and King. Jesus did not want him to base his opinion on a miracle and promises that Nathanael will see greater things in the future.

Notice the word of Jesus’ call to Philip denotes a relationship between Christ and the Christian. To follow Jesus means we acknowledge and accept Him as shepherd, leader, and master. It is not an association of peers. There is no democratic relationship of equality. The word also indicates our position in the relationship. To follow Him does not mean we walk with Him (beside Him), nor before Him, but behind Him. He is first and we are second; He is leader and we are followers; He is master and we are servants.

Saturday, January 14, 2012Matthew 16:24- The suggested hymn of the day is, “Come Follow Me, the Savior Spake” (LSB 688)   Nathanael is asked to follow as the Savior has directed him.  Some decisions we make are life altering. Where do we go for direction in life? We seek the Lord. As He has promised to guide us we too must follow. It would do us little good if we decide to head in the opposite direction from whence we should go. This much loved hymn speaks of the Lord guiding His own.

LUTHERAN SEVICE BOOK © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO
Luther’s Works: American Edit Edition. 55 volumes. (Volumes 1-30, Concordia Publishing House; volumes 31 31-55, Fortress Press)
Schnorr von Carolsfeld, woodcuts Zachariah names John, Jesus feeds the 5,000 © WELS Permission to use these copyrighted items is limited to personal and congregational use. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Baptism of our Lord

Mark 1:4-11
The Three Great Days of Your Life

What would you say was the greatest day of your life? A Wedding? A Graduation? Possibly Childbirth? A Christian has three great days of his/her life; they happen to be the day he is born into this world, the day he is born-again in baptism, and the day he is born into glory. What do you think? Are these the three most important days of your life? Let’s see why these are the three greatest days you will ever have…

1 The day of your birth – "In those days Jesus came from Nazareth" verse 9

Life is a great privilege and adventure. It began on your birthday. When you were born into this world, you became a part of the human race. You became a part of your family. You were given the gift of life and placed here upon this world to be a part of society; to contribute, to provide for others. You were given talents, abilities and gifts to praise God as you serve your neighbor. Yes, your birthday is important for it is the day that you were officially welcomed into this world and were recognized as a person living on this earth.

2 The day of your rebirth-Baptism- "was baptized by John" verse 9

Why is baptism the second greatest day in your life? From the old baptismal rite we recall these words "We also learn from God’s Word that we are all conceived and born sinful and are in need of forgiveness. We would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation. But the Father of all mercy and grace has sent His Son Jesus Christ, who atoned for the sin of the whole world that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (LW Agenda pg. 91) Why is the day of your baptism such an important day? In baptism, we are given life- new life in Jesus.

A. New Birth is given in baptism- "The Spirit descending upon Him like a dove" –10 When Jesus was baptized the Holy Spirit fell on Him and from that moment He began His public work of proclaiming that the Kingdom of God had come. Likewise, when you were baptized you received the Holy Spirit into your life. You received the full measure of the Holy Spirit in your baptism. In your baptism, you were given a new birth, a washing away of your sins and a renewal of the Holy Ghost. There is nothing lacking in you – your baptism makes you complete!

B. When you were baptized you received an adoption into God’s family – the Father called Jesus "My beloved Son" –11 As Jesus was called God’s one and only Son so in your baptism God called you His only child. You are a part of a human family by virtue of your human birth – but what an even greater family you were born into when you became a part of God’s family! You are a child of God! You are a part of God’s family! Because of the wonderful gift of baptism, you are a child of the King!

Transition: The day you were born into this world, the day you are born again in baptism and finally, the third great and glorious day for you is the day that you are born into glory. That’s your third birthday!

3 The day you are born into glory. Jesus would again hear the voice of His Father will you hear His voice too?

A. "Well done good and faithful servant" were the words that Jesus heard as He accomplished all that the Father sent Him out to do. He came into this world to suffer and die for the sins of the entire world. He came to redeem and to save that which was lost. He came to redeem me a lost and condemned creature…He has purchased me from sin, from death and from the power of the devil not with gold or silver but with His holy precious blood and His innocent sufferings and death. Well done! is what the Father will say to you on the day that you enter into glory.

B. Enter into the glory I have prepared for you… That is what the Father will say to you because of the redemption that is found in Christ Jesus. Jesus suffered and died for me so "that I might be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness" "Even as Jesus is risen from the dead so He lives and reigns through all eternity!" Jesus has said, "Because I live you will live also!" Jesus has said, "Were I am going there you will follow" Heaven is your destiny because Jesus Christ has risen to new life and bestows that life to you!

The year 2012 is fresh before us…like a virgin field of fresh fallen snow. A New Year should remind us of grace – God’s do over. We are entering into a new era. What will be said of this generation and of you as you live out your days in the year 2012 and beyond? May it be said of us that we have found the importance of these three important days of our lives. Live for Christ daily – make each day count! In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Time in the Word - The Baptism of our Lord

Prayers for Epiphany O God, by the leading of a star You made known Your only-begotten Son to the Gentiles. Lead us, who know You by faith, to enjoy in heaven the fullness of Your divine presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Most merciful God, You gave Your eternal Word to become incarnate of the pure Virgin. Grant Your people grace to put away fleshly lusts that they may be ready for Your visitation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Almighty God, You have poured into our hearts the true Light of Your incarnate Word. Grant that this Light may shine forth in our lives; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Prayers as we enter a new year – Lord God, You have called Your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go but only that Your hand is leading us and Your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, grant Your mercy and grace to Your people in their many and various callings. Give them patience, and strengthen them in their Christian vocation of witness to the world and of service to their neighbor in Christ’s name; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Let us honor Christ’s baptism and celebrate this fest in holiness. Be cleansed entirely and continue to be cleansed. Nothing gives such pleasure to God as the conversion and salvation of human beings, for whom his every word and every revelation exist. He wants you to become a living force for all humanity, lights shining in the world. You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of him who is the light of heaven. You are to enjoy more and more the pure and dazzling light of the Trinity. For now you have received — through not in its fullness —a ray of its splendor, proceeding from the one God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever. (Leo the Great)

Time in the Word
January 2-7, 2012
Preparation for next week, The Baptism of our Lord
The first Sunday after the Epiphany is a special day – the baptism of our Lord. In the early church Epiphany was celebrated in terms of Jesus’ baptism. In keeping with the festival, the liturgical color is white. The Gospel lesson records the events of John baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River. With His baptism Jesus will begin His earthly public ministry. John comes preaching repentance and baptizing in the Jordan. He prepares the way for Jesus by telling the people that one is coming who will baptize with the Spirit. Then comes Jesus from Nazareth and is baptized by John.  According to Mark, this is a personal experience of Jesus, for He alone saw the dove and heard the Father’s voice. From this moment Jesus is the Son of God.  

Collect for the Baptism of our LordFather in heaven at the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River You proclaimed Him Your beloved Son and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. Make all who are baptized in His name faithful to their calling as Your children and inheritors with Him of everlasting life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Monday, January 2, 2012Psalm 2:7-11, 12c- The Antiphon, is taken from Isaiah 42:1a “Behold my servant whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights.” In ancient times the term “servant” meant something like “trusted envoy” or “confidential representative” but here there is more. This is the Lord’s chosen one, the one in whom the Lord delights, the one in whom the Lord’s Spirit is given. This is a prediction of Christ who comes to make our salvation a reality. With His baptism not only does the Savior begin His ministry but from here on there can be no turning back. Salvation will find its completion at a bloody and cruel cross and an empty tomb.

Tuesday, January 3. 2012Psalm 29—The key verse of this psalm is verse 3,  The Voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.”  The Voice of God is the theme for Psalm 29 which blends with the theme for this coming Sunday that the Voice of the Father was heard by the Savior. In the thunderstorm, sometimes frightening, suggestive of terrifying cataclysms at the end of the world.   

Wednesday, January 4, 2012Genesis 1:1-5— The Old Testament lesson for the Baptism of our Lord reminds us once again that the Voice of God is important. In ten phrases the Creator of the Universe speaks the world into existence. Sunday’s Old Testament lesson will focus on Day 1. Merely by speaking God brought all things into being – see also Psalm 33:6, 9 and Hebrews 11:3. God’s first creative word called forth light in the midst of the darkness. Light is necessary for making God’s creative works visible and life possible. As you have been baptized God is re-creating faith in a once sin-darkened heart.

Thursday, January 5 2012Romans 6:1-11— Paul will explain both the when and how of the Christian’s death to sin. Baptism is a means by which we enter into a vital faith relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a means of receiving God’s grace, and it depicts graphically what happens as a result of the Christian’s union with Christ. Through faith we are united with Christ, just as through our natural birth we are united with Adam. As we fell into sin and became subject to death in father Adam, so we now have died and been raise again with Christ – with baptism effects.

Friday, January 6, 2012Mark 1:4-11—Sunday’s Gospel reading is St. Mark’s account of the baptism of our Lord. In Jesus’ baptism, God the Father proclaimed Jesus His Son, whom He loves. In His baptism, our sins are washed onto Jesus, and the baptismal waters sanctified, that they might wash our sins off us. We, too, are beloved of God. The day of our Baptism is one of the greatest days in our lives, when our old man was drowned in those sacred waters, and our new selves, righteous and holy, were brought forth to “live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”

The Father declares that Jesus is His Son. Here Jesus receives the knowledge of His identity, His self-understanding, and of His mission in life as the messiah. Wasn’t Jesus God’s Son prior to His baptism or does this mean that this is the first time Jesus came to a realization of who He was? It is important to note that we only know who we are and what we are to do in relation to the Father. When we know whose we are, we know who we are. Baptism for us is the time of adoption as children of God. By His grace we are accepted as children of His kingdom. Baptism is the initiation and incorporation into the body of Christ.

Saturday, January 7, 20012Matthew 3:13-17; Hebrews 2:17; Luke 4:18; 2 Corinthians 4:21 - The hymn of the day for the Baptism of our Lord is, To Jordan’s River Came Our Lord (LSB 405) In this hymn reference are made to the Savior’s baptism. The Theme for the day emphasizes baptism as the time of the Spirit’s reception and the beginning of ministry.  

LUTHERAN SEVICE BOOK © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO
Luther’s Works: American Edit Edition. 55 volumes. (Volumes 1 ion. 1-30, Concordia Publishing House; volumes 31 31-55, Fortress Press)
Schnorr von Carolsfeld, woodcuts Zachariah names John, Jesus feeds the 5,000 © WELS Permission to use these copyrighted items is limited to personal and congregational use.

Election year thoughts

A national election will held on Tuesday, 6 November 2012. As a nation, we will be electing leaders on a local, state and national level. A yearlong debate will remain as the nation considers which individuals will be our country’s leaders. Discussions begin in earnest January 1.

According to the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms (referred by many as the doctrine of Church and State), we Christians recognize our president (and all elected leaders whether on the local, state or national level) as God’s man for this time - whether he knows and understands it or not. St. Paul in Romans 13:1 reminds us, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” For this reason we are directed to “give everyone what you own him: If you owe taxes, pay tassel if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect, if honor, then honor.” [Romans 13:7]

Daily we should pray for our leaders that the Lord would give them wisdom. They need the Lord’s direction to use their power for our country’s good so that we may live in peace and safety. They need divine guidance that we as free people might exercise our rights of free assembly and worship. We need to treasure our freedoms and support those who have sworn to protect them so that we can gossip the Gospel before the Lord returns in glory.

We live under a representative republic, which means we elect individuals to stand in for us for a certain moment of time. Every four years we inaugurate a head of state, not a king. When we are satisfied with our leader’s work, they are re-elected. If not, others will take their place. We are given freedoms in this great country: to speak our mind, to disagree, and to come together. Every time a new administration is elected, there is a peaceful transfer of the figurehead of power. There are no riots. Life does not cease. In all reality, not much changes. The bureaucrats keep their jobs.

We are living in challenging times. In many respects, we are entering uncharted waters. Some of these challenges we have not had to confront in over fifty years. Others have been looming over us for a while. Now they need to be addressed. We will need the best minds our country has to face the difficulties and challenges of our 21st Century. In this New Year, commit yourself to daily pray for those who serve as your representatives. Vigilance is needed. Serving both God and country is what makes us model citizens. Love God. Serve your neighbor. Be a sermon in shoes.