Saturday, September 30, 2017

Proper 21

1 October 2017 – Proper 21 – Matthew 21:23-27 (28-32) 

God of love. You know our frailties and failings. Give us Your grace to overcome them; keep us from these things that harm us; and guide us in the way of salvation.

Scripture testifies to the fact that all are sinners, whether in the church or in the world. In that event, why become a Christian? Why become committed to Jesus Christ? If all are sinners. Even Christians. Who can be saved? It is important for Christians to realize they are sinners lest they become holier-than-thou in their attitude toward non- Christians.

It is not a matter of being a sinner; it matters what kind of sinner you are. One type is missing and another repents. He is retrieved and reinstated. These two boys represent two kinds of sinners.

1. The lost sinner — the one who said, “I go, sir” — v. 30.

A. He had respect and piety —One of the sons was very polite and respectful of his father. He addressed him as “Sir.” (κύριε)  This son said he would go to work as the father expected. He gave the right answer and showed the proper respect. But he was not as good as his word. This son represents “religious people” who know the right things to say in worship and prayer and in life.

They consent to God’s laws. They make promises to obey. But do nothing. They gave confession without execution. They have “rigor without submission Orthodoxy without obedience”. 1

Jesus says these people do not enter the kingdom. They failed to repent. This does not mean that we are saved by acts of obedience. It points out that a superficial and artificial relationship with God does not count. How so? They fail in two respects.

B. They give only lip service — He said emphatically: “I go.” (ἐγώ) There are the obedient ones. Yet they refuse to obey. They see no need for Christ.

C. They fail to act. He cannot do what he promised. He cannot produce —“but did not go.” Failed to do what he said – “but did not go” Lip service is inadequate. But how can we do the Father’s will and not simply say, “I will”?

Transition: The way of righteousness is that Jesus calls us sinful sons to enter the kingdom through repentance. This involves sorrow over our sins and faith that God has forgiven our sins and declared us righteous because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit He gives us a God given resolve to be righteous in our everyday life.

2. The saved sinner — v. 29. He repented and He obeyed.

A. He repented — “he repented.” (μεταμεληθεὶς) Here is a case of repentance in action. There was an “about face” in his life. One son refused to go to work in his father’s vineyard. Then he changed his mind and went to work. This about-face. This change of mind. From disobedience. From “no” to “yes.” From going in the wrong direction to turning in the right direction. Is the meaning of repentance. 

When the religious leaders heard the Baptist’s call to repentance. They did not heed it. While the sinners of the day did responded in faith. It was shocking to the professional religious leaders that Jesus claimed the sinners and not the religious ones were in the kingdom. We are all sinners –yet saved by grace.

He repented – “he repented” (μεταμεληθεὶς›) He turned from his sinful ways. He came to the understanding that he was in need of a change in his life. He turned from his evil ways. The way of righteousness is that Jesus calls us sinful sons to enter the kingdom through repentance.

This involves sorrow over our sins. And faith that God has in fact forgiven our sins and declared us righteous. This has happened because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

B. He Obeyed — “He went.” (ἀπῆλθεν) He is the disobedient one who now obeys.

1. They turn from evil to good.
2. They respond to Christ.

Notice that there is action to the young man’s resolve. By the power of the Holy Spirit there is a God pleasing resolve to be righteous. It is Jesus Christ who has changed us. It is His Holy Spirit which works in us to will and to do the Father’s good and gracious will.

"Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The latter." Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you that the tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you.” Matthew 21:31

He who has entered the kingdom through repentance loves not just in word but in deed and in truth; his faith is not dead, without works, but alive and bearing fruit. God grant this for each of us. In Jesus’ Name. 

1  BOBO’s in Paradise © David Brooks

Words –825
Passive Sentences – 2%
Readability – 81.5
Reading Level – 4.2
Luther’s Seal © Ed Riojas Higher Things

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Time in the Word - Pentecost 17 ~ Proper 21

In the Lessons for this week, we deal with sin and an appeal to turn to God for mercy. The Gospel lesson tells of two sons, one of whom repented and entered the Kingdom even though at first he disobeyed the Father. Through Ezekiel, God appeals to sinners to repent lest they die, for His will is for everyone to live. In the Epistle lesson, Paul deals with the problem of disunity in the Philippian congregation resulting from selfishness and arrogance, and appeals for unity by adopting the humble mind of Christ. The suggested Psalm deals with the theme by asking God not to remember the sins of our youth and appealing to God’s mercy and steadfast love.

Collect for Proper 21Almighty God, You exalted Your Son to the place of all honor and authority. Enlighten our minds by Your Holy Spirit that, confessing Jesus as Lord, we may be led into all truth; 

Lord God heavenly Father, since we cannot stand before You relying on anything we have done, help us trust in Your abiding grace and live according to Your Word; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

O God, You are the Strength of all who put their trust in You. Mercifully accept our prayer, and because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without Your help, grant us the help of Your grace that, keeping Your commandments, we may please You in both will and deed.

For Home and FamilyVisit, we implore You, O Lord, the homes in which Your people dwell, and keep far from them all harm and danger. Grant us to dwell together in peace under the protection of Your holy angels, and may Your blessing be with us forever, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

A prayer before we study the Word – Almighty 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.

For SchoolsAlmighty God, our heavenly Father, since You have committed the care and nurture of children to Your people, graciously enlighten those who teach and those who are committed to their instruction that they may know the truth and trust in You all the days of their lives; through Jesus Christ, our Lord

Monday, September 25, 2017Psalm 147:1-5, Antiphon, verse 6 – “The Lord lifts up the humble He casts the wicked to the ground.” Those who acknowledge that they are without resources in and of themselves, the Lord lifts up while others who trust in themselves will be cast down. This is the definition of faith.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017Psalm 25:1-10 – The Psalm appointed for next week has as the key verse, verse 6, “Be mindful of thy mercy, O Lord, and of thy steadfast love, for they have been from of old.”  The Psalmist asks the Lord to remember the Lord’s long-standing mercy and love but not to remember his long-standing sin.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 – God wants all to repent and live. In Sunday’s first reading, God appeals to Israel to repent and live. Turn from evil to good and you shall live. With that we can agree, but the rub comes in making the turn. What will create a desire to change? Where does one get the power to break away from sin to walk in righteousness? The answer is in “a new heart and a new spirit.” But how does one get a new heart? This takes us to Jesus who said, “You must be born new.” Thus, one does not straighten out his life and then come to Jesus. He comes to Jesus as he is in sin and gets a new spirit. He then follows a new way of life.

Thursday, September 28, 2017Philippians 2:1-4, 14-18 – Turn from conceit to humility for unity.   Paul in the Epistle lesson appeals for unity in the Philippian congregation. Paul, in appealing for unity, presents Jesus as the model of humanity and obedience. Paul pleads for unity in the congregation at Philippi. He uses Jesus as an example of humility. In this lesson Paul shows the dual reality of the humanity and divinity of Jesus. His deity is indicated by the words, “in the form of God” and “equality with God.” His humanity is expressed in the phrases, “emptied himself,” “the likeness of men,” “in human form,” “obedient unto death.” This humility and obedience led to Christ’s exaltation. It is God’s will that every tongue confess Him as Lord. In the light of this, Christians are to work out their salvation as God works in them.

What is the solution to lack of church unity? Paul urges his people to have the mind of Christ. His mind was one of humility demonstrated in His taking the form of a servant and dying on a cross. 
Humility is expressed by considering others better than yourself and being concerned more about others than yourself. Arrogance and pride divide and cause trouble while humility draws together into a unity.

Friday, September 29, 2017Matthew 21:23-27 – The sinner who repents enters the Kingdom of God.  The Gospel lesson tells of two sons, one of whom repented and entered the Kingdom even though at first he disobeyed the Father. In the Parable of the Two Sons we learn a valuable lesson concerning sin and an appeal to turn to God for mercy. With this parable, Jesus confronts the religious leaders of His time (priests, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees) who condemn Jesus for His association with sinners (publicans, prostitutes, and so on). This one son who says, “I go” but does not, represents the religious leaders. The other son who says, “I will not go” but later changes his mind and obeys, represents the sinners. Moreover, Jesus points out that when the religious leaders saw sinners repenting upon hearing John the Baptist, they still did not repent. Consequently, the sinners will enter the kingdom before the leaders will.

Here is a case of repentance in action. One son refused to go to work in his father’s vineyard. Then he changed his mind and went to work. This about-face, change of mind from disobedience, from no to yes, from going in the wrong direction to turning in the right direction is the meaning of repentance. When the religious leaders heard the Baptist’s call to repentance, they did not heed it, while the sinners of the day did. It was shocking to the professional religious leaders that Jesus claimed the sinners and not the religious ones were in the kingdom.

Saturday, September 30, 2017John 8:31 – This passage is the inspiration for the hymn, “Lord Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word.”  Faith clings to the Lord and His teaching. We are called to be faithful; faithful to the Lord, to His Word, to each other.

Lutheran Service Book Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis MO © 2006.
Lutheran Worship Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis MO © 1980, page 83.
Lectionary Preaching Workbook Series A by John Brokhoff © 1980 CSS Publishing Lima OH, page 253.
Image © Ed Riojas Higher Things 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Proper 20

24 September – Proper 20 – Matthew 20:1-16
It’s Payday!

When unemployment figures are released for the nation, the state, or the local community people take notice.  The goal is always to have zero unemployment. In America, most are happy with 5 or 6% unemployment or less.  Unemployment means poverty, enforced idleness, increase in crime, welfare payments etc.

In God’s Kingdom there is not to be any unemployment.  God, as the householder, goes to the marketplace at different times of the day and asks, “Why do you stand here idle all the day? Come and work for Me!”

Every worker is interested in the wages for his work. Before he takes a job, he asks what the wages will be. If they are not adequate he may refuse to work.  What is the nature of God’s wages?  We know what the wages of sin is.  “The wages of sin is death.” Do we know the wages of God? This morning, let’s consider the nature of God’s wages.

1.      The amount is God’s decision, not our demands. “...and to those he said, 'You too go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' And {so} they went.” (v.4NAS)  The landlord asked the workers to go into the vineyard. Agreeing to pay the workers a pre-determined amount.
God’s pay scale contradicts our notion of rewards. The enemies of Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, grumbled about Christ’s gracious offer to sinners. Even Peter thought he and the other disciples should have received more. They had not left their homes, their families and jobs to follow the Savior.

Yet God deals fairly with us. God is a real equal opportunity employer. Whatever we give up we receive back a hundred –fold. And finally, we receive eternal life. Jesus says “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” - Matthew 19:29

2.      The wages are uniform – Everyone gets the same. "And when those {hired} first came, they thought that they would receive more; and they also received each one a denarius. (v. 10 NAS) God has dealt fairly with us. No injustice has been done. We have received the agreed wage. God never promised to give us what we think we deserve for our efforts. 

Could it be that if we find ourselves grumbling that it may reveal a loveless and unmerciful attitude? If this were so. We are under Law instead of under grace more then we perhaps care to realize.

Yet, isn’t it wonderful that even those of us who worked only one hour also receiving a denarius? 
There is a lesson to be learned here. The work itself is already a reward in and of itself! Just to be a Christian is a privilege. It is not a wearisome duty but a happy service. No matter how long God allows us to serve. There is no richer, fuller life than that of a disciple of Christ. The wage question in the kingdom of God need not trouble us. In the kingdom there is no unemployment. The wage level is uniformly high.

3.      The wages are generous – The parable concludes. 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?' (v. 15NAS) 

God lives up to His promise to pay. We might go back on our words. And try to wiggle out of a commitment. Not so with the Savior. He has graciously promised that He will in no wise cast us aside. He went to the bloody cross on Good Friday to win for us salvation and life. There are literally hundreds of predictions in the Old Testament pointing to the cross. Jesus fulfilled them all and the payment for sin has been paid in full. The debt we owe has been paid.

God has a right to do what He pleases with His own. We are his workmanship. He is the one who deserves of our praise. We are obligated to Him. We are obligated to His Words and promises. He has the right to save and redeem those whom He pleases. This is why the landlord went back to the market place again and again. We should in no wise doubt that firmly believe, that this gracious act of the Father is an indication of His good and gracious will toward us. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.

God is generous to all. From His vantage point God’s wages are more than generous. Because of who we are and the wrong we have done, we rightfully should not get anything from God. We should get nothing but condemnation. God gives His grace to all regardless of how long or how well they worked for Him.

Ours is to have the joy and the privilege of being in the kingdom. We do not serve for wages. You can never obligate a person for doing good. Our only reward is simply being in the Father’s kingdom and doing His good and gracious will.

Words – 880
Passive Sentences –6%
Readability – 79.1
Reading Level – 4.8
Luther’s Seal © Ed Riojas Higher Things

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Time in the Word - Pentecost 16 ~ Proper 20

Time in the Word
Pentecost 16 ~ Proper 20

In the Lessons for this week the Gospel, as usual, gives the key to the theme of the day. When a payment time comes for the laborers in the vineyard, it was learned that each was to receive equal pay regardless of hours worked. The reward is the same in the Kingdom whether we enter early or late. They who return to the Lord (Old Testament reading) will receive mercy and pardon. In the Epistle lesson, Paul says he does not know whether to live or die, because death would mean a closer relationship with Christ, his greatest reward. The Lord is good to all. The suggested Psalm relates to the Old Testament lesson –“seek the Lord.” The hymn emphasizes our stewardship of life and harmonizes with the Gospel with its emphasis on working in the Kingdom.

Monday, September 18, 2017Psalm 116:12-13, 15 - Antiphon, verse 17: “I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.” – This psalm is a song of deliverance from death. David or another king such as Hezekiah may have written it. (See Isaiah 38:10-20) 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - Psalm 27:1-9 - This week’s Psalm is David’s triumphant prayer to God to deliver him from all those who conspire to bring him down. The prayer presupposes the Lord’s covenant with David. It is faith which publicly testifies to the Psalmist’s confident reliance on the Lord.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - Isaiah 55:6-9 - Generosity of mercy to all who return. In Sunday’s first reading, the prophet’s hearers are encouraged to seek God and return to Him for mercy and pardon. God’s thoughts and ways are totally different from ours. This truth is illustrated in today’s reading, the parable of laborers in the vineyard. If God were like the world, he would not take back his enemies and freely pardon them. The world, rather, would seek revenge and treat enemies with hatred. We, by our nature, do not love or seek reconciliation. We hate and kill and never, never forgive. God is so different — thank God for that!  Those who return to the Lord in repentance will receive mercy and pardon. The same thought is echoed in the much loved hymn, “Just as I Am”

Thursday, September 21, 2017Philippians 1:1-5; 6-11; 19-27 - Our Epistle lesson for this week speaks of the generosity of Christ both in life and in death. Paul finds life on earth is Christ while the anticipation of death is gain. Paul says he does not know whether to live or die, because death would mean a closer relationship with Christ, his greatest reward. Thus our life here on earth is nothing but preparation for our life to be lived in glory. 

Friday, September 22, 2017 Matthew 20:1-16 - The parable of the laborers in the vineyard in the Gospel lesson for this coming week reminds us that God’s generosity is equal to all. When payment time came for the laborers in the vineyard, it was learned that each was to receive equal pay regardless of hours worked. The reward is the same in the kingdom whether we enter early or late. The thief on the cross receives the same reward as the faithful Christian who lives eighty plus years. Are we to spurn God’s generosity? 

Saturday, September 23, 20171 John 3:17 - Our reading is the inspiration for the hymn, “We Give Thee But Thine Own.” How does this hymn harmonize with our theme for today? It emphasizes our stewardship of life and harmonizes with the Gospel with its emphasis on working in the Lord’s Kingdom. How has the Lord blessed your life? How will you return a portion to Him this coming week?

Collect for Proper 20Lord God heavenly Father, since we cannot stand before You relying on anything we have done, help us trust in Your abiding grace and live according to Your Word; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Keep, we pray O Lord, Your church with Your perpetual mercy. Because without You we cannot but fall, keep us ever by Your help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable.

For Home and Family -Visit, we implore You, O Lord, the homes in which Your people dwell, and keep far from them all harm and danger. Grant us to dwell together in peace under the protection of Your holy angels, and may Your blessing be with us forever, through Jesus Christ, our Lord

A prayer before we study the Word - Almighty 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.

For Schools - Almighty God, our heavenly Father, since You have committed the care and nurture of children to Your people, graciously enlighten those who teach and those who are committed to their instruction that they may know the truth and trust in You all the days of their lives; through Jesus Christ, our Lord

Lutheran Service Book Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis MO © 2006
Lutheran Worship Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis MO © 1980, p. 83
Lectionary Preaching Workbook Series A by John Brokhoff © 1980 CSS Publishing Lima OH, p. 253
Image © Ed Rojas Higher Things 

Saturday, September 16, 2017


17 September – Proper 19 – Romans 14:1-12

Christian Forgive!  As the Lord Forgives You

In settling His accounts with us. Our Lord acts not with anger. But with compassion. He does not imprison you. As you deserve.  Rather He forgives.  All your debts.  And releases you.1  Therefore, our Lord bids each of us to have “mercy on your fellow servant.”2 

As for you? "Forgive your brother from your heart.”  

1. By the Lord’s forgiveness of your sins. You are now free to forgive those who sin against you.

A. Because Jesus has been handed over to the jailers in your stead. He has paid your entire debt.  With His life. And with His blood. Luther put it this way, “two little words, “grace” and “peace”, contain a summary of all of Christianity. Grace contains the forgiveness of sins, a joyful peace, and a quiet conscience. 

But peace is impossible unless sin has first been forgiven, for the Law accuses and terrifies the conscience on account of sin. And the sin that the conscience feels cannot be removed by pilgrimages, vigils, labors, efforts, vows, or any other works; in fact, sin is increased by works. The more we work and sweat to extricate ourselves from sin, the worse off we are. For there is no way to remove sin except by grace… 

Because the world does not understand this, it neither can nor will tolerate it. It brags about free will, about our powers, about our works – all these as means by which to earn and attain grace and peace, that is, forgiveness of sins and a joyful conscience. 

But conscience cannot be quiet and joyful unless it has peace though this grace, that is, through the forgiveness of sins promised in Christ. 3
B. Whether we live or die. We "are the Lord’s.” v.8 We live unto the Lord.  We live to do His will. And to promote His glory. This is the grand purpose of the life of the Christian. Other people live to gratify themselves. The Christian has a higher purpose. To do those things which the Lord requires. And what does the Lord require of us? He requires of us to simply forgive. As the Lord has forgiven you. 

C. Paul puts it simply. Since you all will “stand before the judgment seat of God.” You are not to "despise your brother." v 10 But gladly forgive him.

Transition:  We pray in the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." And what does this simply mean?  We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worth of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us. (Explanation from Luther's Small Catechism) 

2. As you have been forgiven...forgive!

A. By the grace of God.  You forgive your brother also. “For the Lord is able to make him stand.” V.4 You do not know your neighbor’s motives or intentions. It is not for you to condemn. Rather you forgive. As God in Christ has forgiven you. 

B. Though we daily sin against each other. And so often fail miserably on this account. To simply forgive. We ask God for the strength and the mercy to forgive.  

Notice how grace is played out. Even in a dysfunctional family as Joseph's. The Lord intends, “to bring it about that many people should be kept alive.” 4 

The Lord knew there would be a famine. He placed Joseph in the position to save not only his family but an entire nation. But consider all Joseph had to endure. 

He dreamt that his brothers' sheaves were bowing down to his own sheaves as they rose. His brothers hated him even more for this.  So much that they could not even speak civilly to him. 

One afternoon, Joseph's father sent him to check on his brothers who were tending their flocks. When his brothers saw him, they quickly planned to kill him. Reuben suggested that they should not harm him. But only throw him in the cistern. God worked through Reuben to save Joseph's life. Judah later formulated the plan to sell Joseph to the Midianite merchants, who later sold him to Egypt. 

Joseph was sold into slavery at the age of seventeen. The brothers convinced Jacob that Joseph was eaten by some wild beast. Jacob mourned for days. Jacob thought his favorite son had met such a tragic end. And all his sons could do was watch him mourn in silence. What could they say?  

Joseph was made a slave to an Egyptian master. But the master saw that God was with Joseph. And make him his attendant. Then Potiphar’s wife, one of Pharaoh's officials begged Joseph to sleep with her. Repeatedly! But God gave Joseph the strength to resist. One day, the wife lied to the pharaoh. She said Joseph had begged her to sleep with him. So the pharaoh sent Joseph to prison. But the prison warden saw that God was with Joseph and put him in charge.

Pharaoh saw that God was with Joseph and allowed Joseph back into his palace. He then made Joseph the king of Egypt. Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh King of Egypt. For seven years, Joseph traveled all throughout Egypt and stored up large quantities of grain. 
When the abundance was over, the famine began and lasted for seven years. The people of Egypt were well-fed because they lived off of the grain Joseph stored. Soon, people all throughout the world were coming to pay for Joseph's grain.

When God had sent the famine onto Joseph's brothers again, their father allowed them to take Benjamin back to Egypt. Once they arrived and Joseph saw that Benjamin was there, he invited them for dinner. At the sight of all of his brothers, Joseph became so emotional. He had to leave the room to weep. 

When it got to a point where he could no longer take it. Joseph admitted to his brothers that he was, in fact, their brother. And how long had it been since he had last seen his brothers? Close to a quarter century. Close to twenty-two years!  

He then warned them that the famine God had sent will last for five more years and invited them to live with him in the best of Egypt. He also gave them new clothes (five times more for Benjamin) and donkeys, and sent them on their way. He also instructed them to bring back his father.   

C. Jesus speaks kindly by His Gospel and promises: “I will provide for you and your little ones.”5   Only in hindsight could Joseph see God working through every circumstance of his life. He could finally say to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” 

You might not always be able to see the big picture. Do you find forgiveness a hard thing to do? Consider Joseph. Yes God sees everything! He knows of the misery. The pain. The nasty words. Everything!  Never give up in forgiving others. If He could do it for Joseph. He can certainly do it for you!

Words – 1,325
Passive Sentences –6% 
Readability – 82.7
Reading Level – 4.0
Luther’s Seal © Ed Riojas, Higher Things

1.Matthew 18:23–27 from the Gospel lesson
2.Matthew 18:33, 35 from the Gospel lesson
3.From We Pray, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis,© 2008, 2010
4.Genesis 50:20 from the Old Testament lesson
5.Genesis 50:21 from the Old Testament lesson

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Time in the Word - Pentecost 15 ~ Proper 19

Forgiving as the Lord Forgives Us
In settling His accounts with us, our Lord acts not with anger, but with compassion. He does not imprison us as we deserve, but He forgives all our debts and releases us (Matt. 18:23–27). Therefore, our Lord bids each of us to have “mercy on your fellow servant,” and “forgive your brother from your heart” (Matt 18:33, 35). By the Lord’s forgiveness of our sins, we are free to forgive those who sin against us, because He has been handed over to the jailers in our stead, and He has paid our entire debt with His lifeblood. Whether we live or die, we “are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8). Since we all will “stand before the judgment seat of God,” we are not to despise our brother (Rom. 14:10), but gladly forgive him. By the grace of God, our brother also “will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Rom. 14:4). Though we daily sin against each other, the Lord intends “to bring it about that many people should be kept alive” (Gen. 50:20). Jesus speaks kindly by His Gospel and promises: “I will provide for you and your little ones” (Gen 50:21).

Time in the Word
11-16 September 2017
Preparation for next week, Proper 19

O God, our refuge and strength, the author of all godliness, hear the devout prayers of Your Church, especially in times of persecution, and grant that what we ask in faith we may obtain; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Prayer for deliverance from sin: We implore You, O Lord, in Your kindness to show us Your great mercy that we may be set free from our sins and rescued from the punishments that we rightfully deserve; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns…

Prayers for the occasion of the sixteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks:

Prayer for peace in the world: Heavenly Father, God of all concord, it is Your gracious will that Your children on earth live together in harmony and peace. Defeat the plans of all those who would stir up violence and strife, destroy the weapons of those who delight in war and bloodshed, and, according to Your will, end all conflicts in the world. Teach us to examine our hearts that we may recognize our own inclination toward envy, malice, hatred, and enmity. Help us, by Your Word and Spirit, to search our hearts and to root out the evil that would lead to strife and discord, so that in our lives we may be at peace with all people. Fill us with zeal for the work of Your Church and the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which alone can bring that peace which is beyond all understanding; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns…

Prayer for our enemies: Forgive, we implore You, O Lord, our enemies, and so change their hearts that they may walk with us in sincerity and peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns…

Prayer for the armed forces of our nation: Lord God of hosts, stretch forth Your almighty arm to strengthen and protect those who serve in the armed forces of our country. Support them in times of war, and in times of peace keep them from all evil, giving them courage and loyalty. Grant that in all things they may serve with integrity and with honor; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns…

Prayer for good government: Eternal Lord, ruler of all, graciously regard those who have been set in positions of authority among us that, guided by Your Spirit, they may be high in purpose, wise in counsel, firm in good resolution, and unwavering in duty, that under them we may be governed quietly and peaceably; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns…

Monday, 11 September 2017Psalm 143:1–2; Antiphon, Psalm 143:9—Psalm 143 is the last of the seven penitential psalms. It is, like many of David’s other psalms, a plea to the LORD to rescue him from his enemies. David does not appeal to his own goodness or righteousness, however, but explicitly confesses that no one living is righteous before you. Therefore, he must beg the mercy of the LORD: In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness! This is how we, too, must approach the LORD when we ask Him to rescue us from earthly and spiritual enemies—acknowledging, as we do in the catechism, that we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment, and acknowledging that He delivers  us purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017Psalm 103:1–12—What a beautiful psalm of comfort! David praises the LORD for all His benefits to us: He forgives all our iniquity, heals all our diseases, redeems our life from the pit, and more. Why? Because the LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017Genesis 50:15–21—Joseph’s brothers had done the unthinkable—they had sold him into slavery and told their father that his son was dead, eaten by wild animals. Years later, they were astounded to find out that Joseph was still alive and serving in Pharaoh’s court, as the most powerful man in all of Egypt after Pharaoh. So long as their father was alive, they thought that they were safe from Joseph’s retribution; however, after Jacob’s death, they feared for their lives. Incredibly, Joseph forgave them. He recognized the hand of God at work in his life. Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers ought to serve as an example to us, particularly when we find it so hard to forgive petty sins of others.

Thursday, 14 September 2017Romans 14:1–12—Our reading through Paul’s letter to the Romans continues with Paul warning us against judging other Christians—especially those new to the faith or weak in faith. Two extremes must be avoided: measuring and judging others by comparing them to ourselves or our own standards; and failing to use the Word of God to judge. Paul reminds us that we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. What will be the standard? The same as here on earth: God’s holy Word, as revealed to us in the Bible.

Friday, 15 September 2017Matthew 18:21–35—When we hear this parable, our first reaction is probably the same as the king’s: indignation and fury against the servant who was unmerciful, especially after he had been forgiven a far greater debt. We must ask ourselves: Are we like the unmerciful servant? God has forgiven all our sins at great cost—the life of His own Son. We ought to examine ourselves: Is there anyone against whom we hold a grudge, refusing to forgive because we have been wronged? If so, we are like the unmerciful servant. Rather, we ought to remember the Lord’s Prayer, where we plead, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. That is, we beg God’s forgiveness, and then pledge that we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.

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

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Proper 18

Proper 18
Romans 13:1-10
10 September 2017

It would be helpful for us to know the context and the circumstances surrounding Paul’s address to the Romans. Paul is addressing a congregation of Jewish Christians. A group of people committed to a new Messiah who found themselves living in the capital city of the Empire. Jewish Christians had recently returned to the Empire’s capital after having been exiled by Emperor Claudius. (See Acts 18:2) 

According to the Roman historian Tacitus, this exile took place because the Jews were constantly fighting about ‘Christos’ – a reference to the ongoing conflict between Jewish Christians (such as Paul, Aquila and Priscilla) and traditional Orthodox Jews. Who refused to believe in this Messiah Jesus.

When Paul wrote these words, the state was not persecuting Christians…yet.

Claudius was followed by his 17-year-old stepson Nero.1  Paul appealed to the Emperor Nero.2  (See Acts 25:11) And was subsequently acquitted after a hearing before the emperor. 3 4    

Nero later became a brutal psychopath. Blaming Christians for the Great Fire of Rome. 5   Sending many of them to their death. Both Paul and Peter were executed by Nero shortly after the outbreak of the Romano-Jewish War, 6 when anti-Jewish frenzy was at its height. 

As Paul addresses these Christians. He talks to them pastoral. Concerning the ways in which they should live. To be sure. They were conflicted. The former Emperor had sent many of them into exile. Now that they have returned back to Rome. The conflict concerning Jesus was still present. There was now a new Emperor. Yet many of the Roman people thought him compulsive and corrupt.

Until Jesus comes, we will be "pilgrims and stranger" in this world. Like those believers in Rome. We are surrounded by an alien culture. That needs to hear about Jesus. That needs to see His truth lived out by those who claim to know Him. Consequently we submit to those who are masters over us. 

Paul begins this section with a command. A divine directive.  “Each must be subject to the governing authorities.” v.1 Paul makes it very simple for us. To resist the State is to resist God. To obey governmental officials is to obey God. Paul is on the side of law and order. We obey the laws of the State for good order and for sake of a good conscious.

It is assumed that governmental officials are trustworthy ministers of justice for all. According to this view, the State is an order of God’s creation. It is God’s way of executing justice and restraining evil. Thus, government officials are ministers of God carrying out justice in society by punishing evildoers. This gives Christians a new insight into their attitude and response to government and its laws. To disobey the laws of the State is to disobey God who will bring judgment upon offenders. Imagine the change in the crime rate if this truth would be accepted by the majority in modern society. 

Yet Paul does not insist on blind obedience. At all costs. As was experienced under Nazism. If and when a government is corrupt and persecutes people, it is because evil powers have taken over and must be resisted. The Lord reminds us to honor those over us as His representatives. However, if one of these demands something which God forbids or forbids something which God demands, we must obey God. 

When the early apostles were brought before the Ruling Council for preaching Christ Luke reminds us, “And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:27-29)  

And you may have to suffer. Paul has already mentioned this, “…but we also rejoice in our sufferings…”  (See Romans 5:3-10) When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were ordered to pay homage to the king, they replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 
If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3: 16-18)

These Hebrew boys were never promised that the Lord would spare them. They knew God was able to intervene. Yet it was not given to them that deliverance would come. It did not matter.  They were willing to suffer and face even death if the Lord would not adjudicate their situation. 

Presently we are living in a safe haven. We are free under the law to practice our faith. But that freedom is never certain. Thus we pray, in the words of the hymn, “Give Thy Church, Lord, to see, Days of peace and unity.”7 

Yet we do not follow the law for the sake of “following the rules.” There is something more powerful than the mere observing of the laws which motivates us. 

Love compels us. V. 8 –You are to be free of all debt except the debt of love. The one thing we have over our fellowman is love. For love is the performance of the law. If you truly love your fellowman, you will not hurt him, steal from him, lie to him or covet what he has. If we truly loved God, we would willingly obey God’s laws. Love is the answer to our delinquency, crime and moral corruption. The big problem is, where can we get such love? How can we get people to love each other? We must first experience God’s love for us before we can truly love each other. 

To be a Christian is to live under the sign of Him who came from heaven down to earth, to live under the sign of His cross and resurrection, and thus to wait hopefully, patiently, on this earth, by making it a better place - and to challenge the world, - through one’s vocation and the church to do the same.” – Gerhard Forde (Where God Meets Man)

Years ago. The National Park Service used to encourage visitors to, "leave them cleaner than they found them." Seek to promote the culture of grace in this world. To leave it better. Then you found it! To that end. Help us dear Lord.  

  1. in the year 54AD
  2. in the year 57AD
  3. in the year 62AD
  4. From Barns notes – “The name Augustus Σεβαστός Sebastos properly denotes "what is venerable, or worthy of honor and reverence." It was first applied to Caesar Octavianus, who was the Roman emperor in the time when our Savior was born, and who is usually nailed Augustus Caesar. But the title continued to be used of his successors in office, as denoting the veneration or reverence which was due to the rank of emperor.
  5. in the year 64AD
  6. in the year 66AD
  7. O Lord, We Praise Thee, stanza three Lutheran Service Book © 2009 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis

Words – 1,200
Passive Sentences – 12%
Readability – 71%
Reading Level –6.4 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Time in the Word - Pentecost 14 ~ Proper 18

Time in the Word  
Proper 18
September 4-9, 2017

Christian Obligation to Sinners

In the Lessons for this week we encounter sinners. What shall we do with our fellow sinners and how shall we deal with them? In the Gospel lesson Jesus teaches what we should do to be reconciled to those who sin against us. Ezekiel in the Old Testament lesson reports that God expects us to warn the sinner, who, if he repents, will live. Paul in the Epistle lesson urges obedience to the officials and law of government and teaches that love is the way to obey the law. The Hymn of the Day speaks of the power we as Christians possess to carry out this task. It is found in the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who has called and saved us according to His grace and favor. We place our confidence in God and enjoy His blessings, even in times of trouble.

Monday, September 4, 2017Psalm 37:3-5,39; Antiphon, Psalm 92:1—The theme of next week’s propers is the description and obligation of the Christian living in the world. The Introit tells us that trusting in the Lord enables us to serve Him, and to have courage in the face of a world that is hostile to the Lord and His people.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017Psalm 119:113-120 - The first letter in each verse of this portion of Psalm 119 is the Hebrew letter samekh. As in the other sections, the psalmist here extols the goodness of God in giving us His holy Word. His devotion to the Word of God moves him to reject the counsel of evildoers. Take note that when the psalmist write, “I love Your law,” this is not the opposite of the Gospel, but a term which encompasses the whole of God’s communication to man.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017Ezekiel 33:7-9—The Lord told Ezekiel that He would restore Jerusalem, yet this did not remove Ezekiel’s obligation to warn sinners to turn from their wicked ways and repent. Likewise, we who live in the post-resurrection time, when Christ has restored mankind by His death and resurrection, have an obligation to warn sinners to turn from their wicked ways and repent, that they may partake of fellowship with God.

Thursday, September 7, 2017Romans 13:1-10—Civil governments have been given their authority by God. Thus, the Christian submits himself to that rule which God has established, and exhorts others to do the same. 

St. Paul also tells us how we are to live with our fellow man: letting love for the neighbor guide all our actions and dealings. This love is not of ourselves, but flows from Christ, who first loved us.

Friday, September 8, 2017Matthew 18:15-20—Since we have been reconciled to God through Christ Jesus, the Christian life is one that strives for reconciliation with our fellow man. If our brother sins against us, we will try to restore him privately. 

Only if that fails will we bring it before others, and before the Church as a last result. Throughout, the goal is the restoration of the erring brother, and his reconciliation with us.

Saturday, September 9, 2017—Hymn 373, By Grace I’m Saved, Grace Free and Boundless—How is it that we have been set free from the bondage of sin, to live a life pleasing to God, with love toward our neighbor? Only by the grace of God. Our salvation is a free gift; our works could never begin to secure our salvation. But, through the love of God poured out upon us in the person of His Son, Jesus, He has made us His own. Tomorrow’s chief hymn is a jubilant recounting of the goodness of God in graciously providing for our salvation.

Artwork © by Ed Rojas © Higher Things© Higher Things
Lutheran Worship, © 1982, Concordia Publishing House

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Pentecost 13 ~ Proper 17

3 September – Proper 17 – Romans 12:9-21

Living as Humble Little Children of the Father

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

True greatness. Is not found in self-sufficient strength. That alone runs counter to our culture today which boasts, “Only the strong survive.”  Rather, it is rooted in humility. Like that of infants and children. παιδίον Which always trusts. Always hopes. Always perseveres. This love. - Bears all things. Believes all things. Hopes all things. Endures. All things. 1  

The greatness of child-like faith receives all good things as gracious gifts from our Father in heaven. Apart from such faith, “you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” But whoever is humbled. As a little child. Is considered, “the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” 2

How then shall we live? We live in humility. In faith before God. And in service toward our neighbor. Which is always motivated by love.  

We live in humility and faith before God and in love for our neighbor.

1. This is shown by “serving the Lord.” V. 11

Paul is specific regarding attitudes which lead to certain actions and outcomes. Rejoice in hope.  Be patient in tribulation. Be constant in prayer. V.12

A. Rejoice in hope. ἐλπίδι

1. Rejoice with patient perseverance with those who rejoice. V. 15a
Says Jesus, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice, celebrate, and be exceedingly glad; because great is your reward in heaven; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets before you.”3  Paul expresses the same sentiments when he writes, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him.”  4

It is indeed a privilege to suffer. But your life is not lived in the abstract. Rather, you live on behalf of Christ and with Christ. And for Christ. Thus we rejoice in the confidence that we belong to Him. You are a sheep of His fold. A lamb of His flock. A sinner of His own redeeming.  

2. We also “weep with those who weep.” v. 15b You can have unwavering confidence that Christ will act on your behalf. We should therefore not hesitate to pour out our hearts to Him in prayer concerning our personal grief. How comforting it is to know that Jesus understands our pain and provides the comfort that we so sorely need! Without a doubt, the primary source of consolation is our compassionate heavenly Father. 5  He is the foremost example of empathy. He has assured His people: “I myself am the One comforting you.” —Isaiah 51:12; Psalm 119:50, 52, 76.

B. Paul encourages us to be patient in tribulation. We each will face difficult days. Paul points us to Christ.  Who will shepherd you. Under the most difficult times.

1. Bless those who persecute you. V. 14a – Says Jesus, “But to those of you who will listen, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone takes your cloak, do not withhold your tunic as well.” - Luke 6:27-29

2. Bless and do not curse them. V. 14b – Jesus continues, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” - Luke 6:35

C. Be constant in prayer.

1. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. v. 17 Paul does not mean to be politically correct. Rather he encourages us. This is love in action. Repay no one evil for evil. But take thought for what is honest and proper and noble [aiming to be above reproach] in the sight of everyone.

2. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. v. 18 If you regard someone who has done evil in a haughty, disrespectful way, then you are guilty of not doing all that is possible to live at peace with that person.  Paul speaks of our attitude toward that person. It means to think about and to help meet others' genuine needs, including the needs of people who do not like us. 

3. But why? What’s the point?  Does Paul argue that by doing good to an enemy you will increase God's judgment on that person?  We are not to have any part in repaying evil in our personal relationships. Love is to be genuine. My love for an enemy isn't genuine if I am motivated by the idea that any kindness shown increases God's punishment on that person! There are people placed into your life for only one purpose – that you may love them.  

2. In the reverent fear of God. We do no harm to our neighbor.

Luther, commenting on this section of Scripture reminds us, “Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God's grace. It is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it. This kind of trust in and knowledge of God's grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures. 

This is what the Holy Spirit does by faith. Through faith, a person will do good to everyone without coercion, willingly and happily.  He will serve everyone; suffer everything for the love and praise of God, who has shown him such grace. 

It is as impossible to separate works from faith as burning and shining from fire. Therefore be on guard against your own false ideas and against the chatterers who think they are clever enough to make judgments about faith and good works but who are in reality the biggest fools. Ask God to work faith in you; otherwise you will remain eternally without faith, no matter what you try to do or fabricate.” 7

A. Let love ἀγάπη be genuine. v 9 This love. Refers to divine love. What God prefers. To literally see that person as they are – one for whom Christ died. Thus Paul would also write, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 8

1. This love. Abhors. Detests. Hates. ἀποστυγοῦντες What is evil. This is the only time Paul will use this phrase. It is a love devoid of evil. 

2. This love. Holds fast to what is good. It is love connected to Christ. Who went to the cross to redeem you and make you His own. 

B. Love φιλαδελφίᾳ one another. v.10 

1. With brotherly affection. Give preference. “For you have been taught by God how to love one another.” 9  This love. Is self-evident. It is constant. It simply exists. It can do none other.

2. Outdo one another in showing honor. Honor is an act of grace. It is giving someone else what they don’t always deserve and can never earn.

3. Honor is the opposite of shame. Shame drives people away. Shame marks people as outcasts. Unloved. And unvalued. A shamed person says, “If you really knew everything about me you wouldn’t love or value me.” But honor draws people into community. Honor says, “I know everything about you and I love and value you.” Honor is rooted in the cross. This is the demonstration of Christ’s mercy and love. You belong to Christ. That is why you have honor.  

Genuine love is not simply being nice to people. Genuine love has a moral orientation toward the good we desire. When we show love toward someone, we are moving them toward Christ and His goodness. To love someone is not simply to cater to specific likes and dislikes of that person. It is rather to act toward them in ways that help them experience more of Jesus. Showing them His goodness love and care.  

Words –1,500
Passive Sentences – 3%
Readability – 77.8
Reading Level – 4.5
Luther’s Seal © Ed Riojas Higher Things

1. A Prayer in times of affliction and distress:
2. 1 Corinthians 13
3. Matthew 18:3-4
4. Matthew 5:11-12
5. Philippians 1:29
6. 2 Corinthians 1:3,4
7. Luther's Commentary on Romans 12
8. Philippians 2:5-9
9. 1 Thessalonians 4:9

Friday, September 1, 2017


2017 marks the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. As a community we will gather in Hoagland for a day-long celebration on September 9 Mark your calendar today to be a part of this important festival. 

At the heart of the Church’s beliefs is the doctrine of justification. It is the teaching of how we are declared righteous in God’s sight. For years the Lutheran Church has used four important watchwords to articulate this doctrine:

A sinner is justified by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) for the sake of Christ alone (solus Christus), a truth revealed to us in Scripture alone (sola Scriptura).

Each of these “solas” will be considered in the next few articles, beginning with the first of these watchwords: grace alone (sola gratia).

When we speak of grace we must first ask the question: What is grace? Grace is God’s undeserved favor (favor Dei) toward sinners. Grace is God’s unmerited good intention. Grace is His loving disposition toward those who have gone astray and are “dead” in sin and “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1, 3). Grace, then, is something in God, not in man. So we hear that “Noah found favor [grace] in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8).

However, God does not declare us righteous and free from guilt in a vacuum, as if He just ignores our sin. We have a great debt we owe God due to our sin, a debt that must be paid. God’s justice demands it. Yet this is a debt none of us can pay.

So, God in His grace planned for our salvation. For God’s grace is more than a disposition in God. God’s grace is active—active in Christ. In His grace God sent forth His Son to become flesh and pay the debt we owe Him. God sent Christ Jesus to offer His righteous life in exchange for our sinful lives upon the cross and to take upon Himself the guilt of our sin, our debt. Jesus Christ paid for the sin of the world “with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.” Through God’s grace alone we sinners are forgiven and justified because of Christ.

This means that there is nothing in us and nothing we do that moves God to forgive us. God is gracious to us because of Jesus Christ and because of Him alone. St. Paul writes: “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). This gives such comfort to sin-stricken consciences, for God’s grace is not earned by what you do but is given freely by a generous God. For this reason Scripture constantly speaks of God’s grace as the reason for our salvation in opposition to our works: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Again, St. Paul writes, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Romans 11:6). To be saved by grace alone means you do not save yourselves. Christ does. Christ has. It is finished! (John 19:30)

This grace of God extends to everyone. Grace is universal).  Scripture teaches that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). And on Jordan’s banks John the Baptist cried of Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) Jesus Himself would simply say, “God so loved the world…” (John 3:16a) No one is excluded from God’s grace in Christ.