Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pentecost 13 - Proper 16

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of man. Mark 7:8

Almighty and merciful God, defend Your church from all false teaching and error that Your faithful people may confess you to be the only true God and rejoice in Your good gifts of life and salvation.

Do not use religion to avoid the demands of faith. Leadership of Jesus day built for themselves a religion of traditions and proceeded to use tradition to escape the demands of faith. Jesus has a word for this – hypocrisy. Whose voice will you listen, the voice of God or the voice of the church? That was the issue of the 16th Century. Certain reformers repudiated those traditions that they found contrary to the word of Scripture. Is the church today in need of another overhaul? Some believe that a reformation is long overdue. If so, who is to be the arbitrator? At all costs, we need to avoid making religion our religion.

  1. There is a religion centered in man’s traditions.
A.      Traditions can become a substitute for true religion.
1.       The leadership of Jesus’ day – they were godly, they had it right, they fulfilled the very letter of the law, including the traditions. They were convinced that the external cleanliness of their lives, as was exhibited by their ritually clean hands, pots and pans made them clean before God.
2.       When tragedy strikes our lives, do we not sometimes wonder why God seems to take no notice of our godly and clean living? After all, we are faithful in our church and communion attendance. We are regular in our witness and generous with our offerings. We work hard at our jobs and try to raise our children rightly. We’re upright and moral people. When such thinking occurs, we make self the object of our worship, making tradition our religion, and fall into the trap believing external living in compliance with God’s law somehow makes us clean and godly before Him.
B.      When we live for tradition – customs and ceremonies can soon lose their significance and meaning.
1         We may wake up finding ourselves following practices and ceremonies not even knowing why we are following them.
2         This happens when we follow blindly never questioning why we practice such rites, rituals and ceremonies.
3         Cleanliness before God must flow from the inside out. From the heart out. It is the condition of the heart, not the position of the body that concerns our Savior. It is the state of your heart that determines whether you are clean before God.

We dare not let tradition become like barnacles that gradually grow on a ship and impedes its progress.

  1. We need a religion based on the clear word of the Lord

A.      His Word will not fail. What does His Word teach us? It teaches us that mere ritual, washing, or clean living will never do. However, His washing will always make us clean. St. Paul reminds us, “When we were baptized into Christ Jesus, we were baptized into His death. We were buried with Him by our baptism into death that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we were united with Him in a death like His we will certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”[1]

In Baptism you were incorporated into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ is the only one who has ever live a perfectly good, clean life before God. He alone is the spotless Lam of God. He never soiled Himself with the stain of sin, even though He was tempted as you are.

B.      His Word gives salvation and life. Jesus chose to cover Himself with the entire dirt and filth of your sin. The Father chose to give Him your punishment for that sin and to give you His cleanliness.  Now in the waters of Baptism the Father give you Jesus’ clean, holy life as your own and washes away the stain and dirt of your sin.

This is the Father’s idea of godliness. Not what we can do to look impressive before God rather it is what He has done for you. The power of forgiveness in Baptism we are able to really do what the leaders of Jesus’ day and our own hypocritical nature can only mimic – offer a life to God that is also externally clean and godly.

In Jesus Christ all our actions as God’s people – from the rituals of our worship to the duties of our daily lives are now clean in God’s sight. No wonder the Scriptures call Baptism a “washing of regeneration” and “a renewing of the Holy Spirit.” 

[1] Romans 6:3-5

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pentecost 12 - Proper 15

Almighty God, whom to know is everlasting life; grant us to know Your Son Jesus to be the way, the truth and the life that we may steadfastly follow His steps in the way that leads to life eternal;

Do you live to ear or eat to live? That all depends on your age, and your metabolism. While miss manners may offer advice of the proper answer, the unique spiritual answer to this question in light of today’s Gospel is that you need both. With eagerness, we receive all that God gives. Through His working in our life, we have real life in Christ.

  1. People often undervalue God’s gifts.

A.      The gifts seem too simple (Vv.41- 42, 52) “They were therefore grumbling about Jesus because He had said, I am the bread that came down from heaven. And they were saying, is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He say, “I am the bread of life?” And the leaders of the people continued to argue saying, how can this man give us His flesh to eat?

1.       How could Jesus come from heaven? The crowd knew His family. They were familiar with His father and mother. He was no different from them. He most certainly   could not have come from heaven. They had no idea; standing before them was the Lord of life. [illustration spotting Yoko Ono in NYC]
2.       The world wants a Jesus they can claim to be their own. If they have control, over which Jesus they will trust in they can tell us everything of which He is about. Unfortunately, this Jesus is often the invention of their own sinful imagination and will.  And the Jesus the world falls in love with is by no means a man from God.

B.      The gifts are often thought to be worthless (V.58) “This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

1.       People value too highly their own works.

2.       Believing seems too simple to have any real value.

People living in ignorance and blindness have no clue whatsoever who Jesus is, where He has come from let alone His mission. Through the proclamation of the clear Word of the Lord people are brought into a right understanding of Jesus the Savior of the world

  1.  Christ offers the life and death gifts to God’s people.

A.      God the Father calls us. (v.44) “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

1.       The Father is always pleading and calling us.

2.       He uses those means, which draws us as. This is what He has always done. This is what He will always do.

B.      He sustains us through this life (V. 51) “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

1.       The Scriptures reveal the Gospel.

2.       The Sacraments bring the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, as they are the means by which the Gospel flows from the Father’s hand into the believer’s heart.

C.      Christ gave His flesh and blood a payment of sin and for the life of the world.

1.       This is why the Son was sent to destroy the works of the Devil.

2.       As Jesus made His trip to the cross, we see those deliberate acts, which He performed to draw you to Himself.  His miracles, His sufferings, He trip to the cross were not random acts of Jesus kindness. They all a part of the Father’s plan to win for you salvation.

God’s mercy has provided a way that we will always know where the next meal is coming from. Believing, we trust and find contentment in His merciful sustain feeding hand.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Time in the Word - Pentecost 12 - Proper 15

Preparation for next week, the 12th Sunday after Pentecost 

Jesus Is the Word and Wisdom of God, Who Gives You Life and Light in His Flesh 

Jesus is the divine Word by whom all things were made, who has become flesh and dwells among us. He gives His flesh “for the life of the world,” not only as a sacrifice for sin, but as “the living bread” from heaven (John 6:51). Eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:54–57), and no longer walk in the darkness of sin, but walk in His light. “Arise from the dead” and live in Him, because you are “light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8, 14). Being filled with His Spirit, confess Him to “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart” (Eph. 5:18–19). Fear, love, and trust in Him, “and serve Him in sincerity and faithfulness” (Josh. 24:14). For He has brought you “out of the house of slavery” by His Cross and Resurrection, and now He does “great signs” in your sight (Josh. 24:17). Indeed, He is the divine Wisdom, who has built His house, prepared His feast, and set His table; who bids you to recline, to eat of His bread and drink of the wine He has mixed (Prov. 9:1–5). 

Collect for Pentecost 12—Almighty God, whom to know is everlasting life, grant us to know Your Son, Jesus, to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow His steps in the way that leads to life eternal; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. 

Collect for the Feast of St Mary, Mother of Our Lord (15 August)—Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your only Son. Grant that we, who are redeemed by His blood, may share with her in the glory of Your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, 

Collect for the Commemoration of Johann Gerhard, Theologian (17 August)—O Lord God, heavenly Father, pour out Your Holy Spirit upon Your faithful people, keep them steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and comfort them in all temptation, defend them against all enemies of Your Word, and bestow on Christ's Church Militant Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, 

Prayer for responsible leaders: O merciful Father in heaven, from You comes all rule and authority over the nations of the world for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do well. Graciously regard Your servants, those who make, administer, and judge the laws of this nation, and look in mercy upon all the rulers of the earth. Grant that all who receive the sword as Your servants may bear it according to Your command. Enlighten and defend them, and grant them wisdom and understanding that under their peaceable governance Your people may be guarded and directed in righteousness, quietness, and unity. Protect and prolong their lives that we with them may show forth the praise of Your name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, 

Prayer for responsible citizenship: Lord, keep this nation under Your care. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Grant that we may choose trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and serve You faithfully in our generation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, 

 Monday, 13 August 2012Psalm 111:1–5, 9; Antiphon, Psalm 111:10—In recent years, many atheists have become much more vocal and strident. They have even taken out ads on city buses in cities across the U.S. (even in Des Moines), that proclaim that there is no God (‘Don't believe in God? You are not alone.’). What utter nonsense! What through-and-through foolishness! In the Introit for Sunday, the psalmist tells us what it truly means to be wise: to fear the Lord, to recognize all that He has done for us. Those so-called ‘atheists,’ far from disbelieving in a god, have made themselves their own god, and a very poor one at that. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012Psalm 34:12–22—This is a continuation of the psalm for last Sunday. In the antiphon for to-day (v. 11), David calls us to listen to him, that he may teach us the fear of the Lord: one who is not foolish, and acknowledges the Lord, will turn away from evil and do good; he will seek peace and pursue it. These righteous ones will the Lord deliver out of all their troubles. 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012Proverbs 9:1–10—In the Old Testament reading, our education in the way of wisdom continues, as we learn from the wisest man who has ever lived, Solomon. Here, he gives wisdom a personality, and we start to understand that the personification of wisdom is Christ our Lord, for it is Christ who invites us to eat of His bread and drink of His wine. These are His body and blood, which He gives for the life of the world. 

Thursday, 16 August 2012Ephesians 5:6–21—In this section of our reading from the book of Ephesians, St Paul continues his instruction of how we ought to live. Since Christ has made us His own, and, since, by Word and Sacrament, we have eaten the living Bread that comes down from heaven, we ought to walk, not as unwise, but as wise. We ought not allow ourselves to be deceived by charlatans masquerading as men of God; we ought not take part in the sins that the world takes pleasure in; we ought, rather, make the best use of time, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Friday, 17 August 2012John 6:51–69—Jesus declares that He is the Living Bread that came down from heaven. It is through Him alone that we can be forgiven, that our sins can be removed, that we can partake of eternal life. Through Word and sacrament, Christ feeds us, bestowing faith and nourishing it. The bread that He gives does not just satisfy for a short time, like earthly food; whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. 

Saturday, 18 August 2012—Sunday’s hymn of the day is O God, My Faithful God (LSB 696). This hymn is really a prayer set to music, asking the Lord that He would give us a confident faith and that we would lead a life pleasing to Him. The hymn fits the Scripture texts perfectly, praying that we make walk as wise men, and not as foolish, staying in the way of the Lord. 

Prayers from Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House 
Artwork by Ed Riojas © Higher Things 
Lectionary summary on first page from LCMS Commission on Worship 
The Revd Jeffrey M. Keuning, wrote this week’s issue of Time in the Word

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Pentecost 11 - Proper 14

Gracious Father, Your blessed Son came down from heaven to be the true bread that gives life to the world. Grant that Christ, the bread of life, may live in us and us in Him.

Who is this Jesus? Where did He come from? Who is He? His reference to His coming from heaven caused folks to cuss, fuss, and discuss. It made them murmur, complain, and disagree.
The conversation continues to this very day. We are no different. All kinds of things are said about Jesus in books, lectures, sermons, and conversations. Who is this Jesus? When He says He comes down from heaven many continue to have difficulty in accepting Jesus as the divine Son of God. The times in which we live are incredible. While 40% of the American population remains unchurched, yet everyone has their own opinion concerning the person of Jesus Christ.     [i]
Let’s go to the directly to Jesus and let Him tell us who He is. What does Jesus have to say concerning Himself?
  1. I am from heaven. V. 41 - “They were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” John reminds us in the introduction to his gospel, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” As Jesus entered time and space He came to be your substitute. He does not merely claim to represent God. He demands that He be known to be God.

Only God can rain down bread from heaven in the form of manna. Only God can send ravens to feed a starving prophet who was holed up in a cave.

To make Himself equal with God caused many to grumble at Jesus. This is what caused many to walk away from Him. Are we to grumble too? He has promised to sustain and lead us. Do we trust Him? It takes faith to submit to His will and trust Him come what may. 

Jesus claims to have come from heaven. What’s more, He claims to have direct access to God.

  1. I alone see God. V. 46 - “Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.” Jesus is the only one who has seen the Father. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from god. Jesus will not lay claim to anything else but to be the only begotten Son of the Father. Not one who know God. Not one who understands God. Jesus makes an exclusive claim. He is the only one who has seen the Father.

Only Jesus has seen the Father. To have seen God meant sure and certain death. Moses had to shield his face. Jesus will make the sole statement – I alone see God.

Jesus claims to come from heaven. He claims to have seen the Father. He alone is the bread of life.

  1. I am the bread of life. V.48 - “I am the bread of life.” Not to eat is to starve and die. Not to eat enough leads to weakness and disease. To eat the wrong things injures health. To eat too much results in obesity. Yet when we feat on Jesus, the bread of life we are satisfied. To feast on Jesus the bread of life a new life, which never ends begins. 

He is the one who creates life. With ten simple phrases, the entire created order was made. There is nothing that exists, whether on earth, or in heaven, which did not come by the created mouth of Jesus.

He sustains life. He spoke the universe into existence. He his promises to sustain and keep it. “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease.” (Genesis 8:22) Times and seasons, crested by the Savior Himself will never end until the end of time. This is His promise to you.

Jesus comes from heaven. He alone sees God. He creates and sustains the earth. He alone gives eternal life.

  1. I give eternal life. V. 50 – “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.” As soon as the Bread of Life is eaten by faith, a new life, which never ends begins. Heaven is a present possession, for heaven is essentially life in Christ. In Christ, we get life now.

Do you trust these claims by the Savior? Do you believe He is God in the flesh? Do you believe He gives his life for this world? Do you believe His death on the bloody cross and an open tomb can give and sustain life?

In the midst of life, we are in death. Jesus claims if you feast on Him you will not die. Is this life possible? Jesus guarantees eternal life for you. By faith, you believe and live.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven,” Jesus said. “If anyone eats of this bread, He will live forever.” By faith, you trust Him. By faith, you receive Him. In faith, He will sustain you.

[i] George Barna survey indicates 28 percent of the U.S. adult population is unchurched, or nearly 65 million people. When the number of children living with unchurched adults is also included, the number rises to 100 million people. Barna’s latest national survey on the unchurched, conducted August 2009 through February 2010, was based upon random samples of 4,020 adults. Of those adults, 1,144 where unchurched and 703 were self-identified Christians.