For The Feast of the Holy Trinity | June 4, 2023
A great thinker and saint of the Church, St. Augustine once said: "If God is love and if we want (as we do) to understand this love as the life of God, as 'making up' what God is, then there must be three divine persons - the Lover (Father), the Beloved (Son), and the Love itself (Holy Spirit)."
In some ways, the Holy Spirit can seem the most difficult part of the doctrine of the Trinity. But let us recall again that it is through the works of God that God reveals Himself. God's work is not only the sending of the Son. God's work also includes giving us the new life in Christ, creating a new heart in us; leading us into a new way of obedience, and uniting us in communion with God and with our fellow Christians. This giving and new living in love is God Himself working His way in us and through us.
The Holy Spirit is God giving to us the gift of God the Son who is given to us by God the Father.
Thus Paul can write, "For through him (Christ) we have access in one Spirit to the Father" (Ephesians 2:18). Similarly, the unity of mutual love and peace which Christians experience among themselves and for which they pray to be among themselves is the binding work of the Holy Spirit in whom we participate in the love of Father and Son. As John puts it, "By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His own Spirit" (1 John 4:13). And Paul can exhort us "be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:2b - 3)
The Christian confesses God to be Trinity became the new life in Christ involves a life with others in mutual self-giving love. This life is one life shared with others. And thls is not our life. We do not have this life in ourselves or from ourselves. This life of love with others is a gift; it is the gracious gift of God "being Himself" for us, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
An excerpt from “One God in Three Persons” by Dr. Bill Weinrich
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For The Festival of Pentecost | May 28, 2023
The Holy Spirit came when they all were staying together in one place and with one mind. Undoubtedly, He is the Spirit of love and like-mindedness. He joins us to Christ through faith, to God through love, and to our neighbor through affection. The devil, the author of discord and separation, separates us from God by sins. Through hatred, contention, and disputes, he separates men from each other. But the Holy Spirit, just as He unites the divine and human natures in Christ by He overshadowing (Luke 1:35), so also the Holy Spirit unites man to God and God to man by the effusion of His gifts in us. So long as the Holy Spirit remains in a man with His grace and his gifts, the man will remain united with God. As soon as a man casts out faith and love by sin, and sends away the Holy Spirit in this way, he is separated from God and that most blessed union is removed.
Whoever has the Holy Spirit does not hate his brother. Why? Because through the Spirit he becomes a participant in the mystical body of Christ, of which all the pious are members (Ephesians 5:29). Who indeed is able to hate his own members? For this reason, whoever is ruled by the Spirit also loves his enemies. Why? Because whoever clings to God is of one spirit with him (1 Corinthians 6:17). Surely, God makes the sun rise over both the good and the evil, and He hates nothing whatsoever that He has made (Matthew 5:45; Wisdom 11:25). Whoever has the Spirit of God is consequently prepared to serve in every way, works for the good of men in every way, and makes himself the servant of all, because God also is the fountain of all mercy and grace for all. Now the Holy Spirit truly works His own personal impulses in a man. Just as the soul makes the body alive, perceptive, and mobile, so also the Spirit makes man spiritual, filling the mind with the sweetest goodness of the divine, and leads all the members into obedience to God and concern for his neighbor.
Johann Gerhard, Sacred Meditations, XXII. A homily concerning the Holy Spirit.
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For The Ascension of Our Lord | May 18, 2023
Reflect, faithful soul, on the ascension of your Bridegroom. Christ has removed His visible bodily presence from among His faithful in order that faith may have exercise; for blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe (John 20:29). Where our treasure is, there our heart will be also (Matthew 6:21). Christ our treasure is in heaven. “Therefore let us set our hearts on heavenly things and set our minds on things above” (Colossians 3:2). The bride awaits the return of the Bridegroom with most ardent sighs. Therefore, let the faithful soul always eagerly expect her Bridegroom to come on that Day in which she will enter into marriage with the Lamb (Revelation 19:7). Let her trust in the pledge of the Holy Spirit, whom the Lord relinquished to her when He ascended. Let her trust in the body and blood of the Lord that is received in the mysterious Supper and let her believe that our bodies, satisfied in this meal, will at long last be raised to incorruptibility. Since we now believe, we will then see, and our hope will then be a reality.
Johann Gerhard, Sacred Meditations, XXI. Concerning Christ’s ascension
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For The 4th Sunday of Easter | April 30, 2023
The Old Testament Reading for the 4th Sunday of Easter, Isaiah 40:25-31
Today we see our problems ... no matter how weighty ... against the background of our God's faithfulness and power.
The people mentioned in Isaiah were to wait; they were to look ahead … days and months and years … for the return to the land … according to His promise. And that promise would be kept because He would use His incomparable power.
We are look ahead … days and months and years ... through funerals and loneliness and through wedding anniversaries and pay raises and through ordinary days and terrible days … for the return of the Lord and for His promised salvation, the salvation that you confess: from thence He shall return to judge the living and the dead. God has not destined us for wrath; He has created us and recreated us for life.
The promise is for those who wait on the Lord. That is how we share in this strength that the Lord offers. "Wait for the Lord" is a synonym of faith. "Wait" means lean only upon the Lord.
"Wait" speaks of active anticipation—farmers waiting for a crop ... not wasting time ... but a life of confident expectation. Those who give up their own frantic efforts to save themselves and turn expectantly to God will have their worn-out strength replaced with new strength. Waiting for the Lord depends completely on God and expects Him to fulfill His promise when He desires.
If we are not waiting for the Lord … are we relying on ourselves?
The one waiting … the ones that know His promises … that He has always kept His word … they are the ones who will find the strength to carry them through the disappointments and frustrations of life. God gives us perseverance and endurance as we wait on Him. As He maintains communion with us in His Word we will have an ever-flowing supply of the Holy Spirit’s strength, the strength that we need to press onward through the difficulties and trials we face.
Now we have heard. Now the promise has been proclaimed to us.
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For The 3rd Sunday of Easter | April 23, 2023
The Epistle Reading for the 3rd Sunday of Easter, 1 Peter 2:21-25
When we endure unjust suffering for the sake of a good conscience toward God, we are not saying justice does not matter; we are saying that the Good Shepherd watches over His sheep and we are confessing that our God is the final judge and will settle accounts justly.
That means that abuse from others on account of our faith is not an excuse for our sin; slander and maltreatment because of our Christian confession and life must not be misused as a pretext for sin. Rather, humiliating circumstances are our opportunities to bear witness to the grace of God that holds and sustains us
For this is our calling: Not to return evil for evil and not to plan how to return evil for evil, and not to seethe with bitterness because we are not allowed to exercise vengeance. Rather, we pray for those who publicly malign us; we pray for them and do not ask God to punish them. We never seek retribution for ourselves. To the contrary: if our enemy is hungry … we feed him; if he is thirsty, we give him something to drink. Let that person’s conscience consider how Christians suffer with dignity and repay evil with good. And we are to keep doing good even though conflict is being generated and even though authorities and society question whether a life motivated by faith in Christ is good.
Because we live as disciples of Jesus, our identity is bound to how Jesus suffered—unjustly. Thus, we display in our lives when we suffer for the confession of Jesus the same attitude and behavior Jesus did as He confessed the Father. For Jesus left that pattern in order that we might follow in His footsteps. As sojourners we cannot follow in the footsteps of Jesus and then head off in any other direction than the direction He took. His footsteps of faith lead to the cross and through the grave and then onto glory. The sheep follow the Shepherd through the darkest shadows—even through unjust suffering and death—for He is with us.
Be careful not to live like wandering sheep. Since you have been returned to your Shepherd, follow Him. We have the faithful Shepherd who cares for us. For our God has made us secure in every circumstance because with perfect confidence in the Father Jesus has suffered the ultimate injustice and then was raised to divine glory. And because you are baptized into His eternal life, you have been born into the living hope of the resurrection.
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Regarding Pastor Crown's Call to Peace Lutheran Church of the Desert, Palm Desert, California
April 19, 2023
To the saints in Christ Jesus of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, fellow heirs of life eternal as the gift of Our Father with the guarantee of our inheritance, the Holy Spirit.
On March 19, 2023, after the Divine Service, I announced that I had received the call to serve as the pastor for the saints of Peace Lutheran Church of the Desert, Palm Desert, California.
For twenty-eight years God has allowed me to serve you, His people, and the Gospel in this place. And I pray that He keep me faithful, steadfast, and joyful as I remain in humble service to you; for I have declined the call to Peace Lutheran Church, Palm Desert.
May God our Father and the Lord of the Church by the Holy Spirit bring to the saints of Peace Lutheran Church a devout and diligent pastor; and may our God preserve the Church, them and us, as one, in true faith, ever fruitful for His name’s sake.
In the peace of Our Lord,
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For The 2nd Sunday of Easter | April 16, 2023
The Old Testament Reading for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Ezekiel 37:1-14
I believe in the Holy Spirit; I confess the holy Christian church; I confess the holy communion and the baptism for the forgiveness of sins unto the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.
What do I mean?
I believe that my bones had been strewn about the valley of death; I could not claw myself out of a grave; and I could not crawl out of a cemetery. For I was dead in trespasses and sin.
But the breath of God was breathed into me for He hovered over the refreshing waters of baptism. The Holy Spirit called to my dry bones: “Hear the word of the Lord.” And a man ordained prophesied as he was commanded, and the sin was forgiven. The Lord caused breath to enter me, and I was made alive. He knit me together with the supple sinews of grace and blessed me with the flesh of one newly born from above and clothed me with the skin of the second Adam. He has set me aside as His own—I am not the property of death and I do not belong to the grave. And He keeps me lively in the true faith, a sound hope in the conviction of things not seen.
In the same way the Spirit of Holiness calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies all who call upon the name of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus; and you who were once bleached white bones spread across greed-baked valleys of board rooms and vacation homes and scattered about in distress-scorched ravines of household vocations now live and stand on your feet on Jesus Christ in the well-watered garden of the faith, with the sound hope in the conviction of things not seen.
In this exceedingly great army of the restored and regenerated, the Holy Spirit daily and richly forgives all my sins and your sins so that we may walk in the newness of life.
Even as we have been made alive together with Christ
… by grace we have been saved …
and raised up with Him
and seated with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
on the Last Day
… as surely as the breath was breathed into Jesus Himself who was made alive by the Spirit of Holiness …
the Father will raise me and you
… whose bodies had borne the image of the man of dust and wherever our bones have been scattered …
on that Day when He opens our graves and raises us from our tombs and places us in our inheritance (in our own land!)
… whom will then bear the image of the Man of Heaven …
He will give eternal life to me and to you and to all believers in Christ.
Then we shall know that He is the Lord.
He has spoken, and He will do it, declares the Lord.
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For The Resurrection of Our Lord | April 9, 2023
The Epistle for The Resurrection of Our Lord, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
When the apostle says, “let us keep the feast,” he does not mean, “let us sometimes keep the feast,” but let us always keep it. Our passover is perpetual. It has no times and seasons; it is lifelong. For you are baptized into the Crucified and Risen Lord, over whom death has no power or authority; therefore, your feast in Christ is always. So, greet your God each morning with your hymn of praise; do not let the sun go down without another hymn of thanksgiving. Praise Him, praise Him, and praise Him. As ceaseless as His mercies are raining down from Heaven with each new day in Christ, let your praises spring forth from the soil of faith and hope. Oh for the life of Heaven on earth—Thy will be done!—to be always praising God. His will has been done, for the Sacrifice was offered; and worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! (Revelation 5:12). Let our hymns and songs be a part of our continual festival. Our keeping of The Feast of Victory is not a matter for times and seasons, for calendar dates and conveniences; this shall always be our new song.
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For Palm Sunday | April 2, 2023
The Old Testament for Palm Sunday, Zechariah 9:9-12
In what manner you arrived might say as much as that you arrived.
The high school prom duo pulls up to the dance in a sleek white chrome-outlined limo. The US president is ferried through the skies by a refitted Boeing 747; and off the tarmac and through the streets nothing less than “The Beast” serves as his chief mechanized porter. Pomp and power highlight that the VIPs have arrived.
And the Messiah arrived on a donkey?! Yes, contrary to expectations, but maybe not in the way that we expect Him to counter expectations. For on this purebred donkey, a magnificent four-legged beast of a ride, is how the King, who brings peace and not war (for then He should have ridden a stallion decked in glory), should arrive—in the way of the son of King David (1 Kings 1:33). He rides not on one of the many horses from the royal stables, which were forbidden by the LORD (Deuteronomy 17:16) lest it appear that a king depend on and then actually rely on the legs of horses for the victories of Israel (Psalm 20:7), but on the donkey. He is the proper Heir to the throne of David.
Jesus of Nazareth rejects the usual image of a ruler of men; the Kingdom of Heaven cannot be gained or maintained by chariots and horsemen, spears, and bows—they will be broken; more than that, weapons forged by flame are useless and impotent for the war that Jesus has come to wage. He does not merely bring a righteous realm; He is animated by righteousness and endowed by God Himself to govern—all which will be displayed when this triumphal entry reaches its goal, when after He is crucified, God raises Him and bestows on Him all authority in heaven and earth and the name above every name, Lord of lords.
And having arrived, what does His reign bring? Rescue. He frees His people from the horrors of a slow starving thirsting death in the pit (picture an empty well or cistern used as a dungeon). Consider the wasting away in Babylon as dying of hunger. Think of languishing unto death under the burden of sin, into a grave in which to the senses all hope necessarily disappears. This deliverance has been assured by blood, the blood by which He pledged Himself and bound His name to Israel (Exodus 24:8); it is the blood that Jesus shed, the blood poured out for forgiveness.
On the donkey He arrived in humility; and in greatest glory He will return, advancing on His white horse (Revelation 19:11ff.): To save those who are eagerly waiting for Him (Hebrews 9:28).
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March 19, 2023
Beloved of the Lord and fellow heirs of the eternal life in Christ Jesus from God our Father. May His grace abound more and more in your lives by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word.
Here is the announcement that I read after the service this morning:
On Thursday I received the divine call to serve the saints of Peace Lutheran Church of the Desert, Palm Desert, California. We do not choose the time of testings for our vocations. For we would often avoid the harder questions. Our Father knows best when to test us, in order to drive away all dross so that we would dwell on His Word, full of grace and truth. Since this call arrived during the last weeks of Lent and a family wedding upon me, He chose wisely. I implore you to pray for me, that He fill me with His insight. And I ask you for your counsel as I deliberate this call during the next weeks.
Let us pray. Hear our prayer, O Father, for the whole Church, that You confirm her in the truth of the holy faith, inspire her with unity and harmony, and extend and prosper her throughout the world. We pray You for those who are ordained to be ministers in Your Church, that by their life and doctrine they may set forth Your true and living Word and rightly administer Holy Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper; and that by the Holy Spirit they are guided with wisdom so that they gladly exercise heavenly duties and they may be strong and steadfast, abounding in Your work. Grant to me a righteous understanding of Your will and counsel to this congregation in my deliberations. In the name of Jesus.
Thus your pastor has "two calls", and by the Holy Spirit I seek to be led. Because you have insight, I will gladly listen to you in order to gain your counsel. The "usual" time of deliberation is between 2-4 weeks.
In His holy Name
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For the Fourth Sunday in Lent | March 19, 2023
The Old Testament for Lent 4, Exodus 16:2-30
God gave to the Israelites manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16:14). What is it? It is the bread of angels (Psalm 78:25), that is, food for which no man can work and keep. In the New Testament feast of the Holy Communion, God gives to us the heavenly manna. What is it? It is His grace, remission of sins, yes indeed His own Son, the Lord of angels. Christ is truly the Bread of Heaven, descended from heaven to give the world life (John 6:51); and this Bread man did not work for—He is given freely for the life of the starving-to-death world. This world prefers the husks tossed out, and ignores the sweetness of the honey-like Word; the world does not desire that Goodness. God gave them manna in the desert, that is, earthly food in that place; yet, if one only eats the perishable manna and does not thank and praise the Giver of the manna, what consolation of the soul could be bestowed by earthly things? Jesus “is the bread which descended from heaven and gives life to the world. If anyone will eat of” Him, that one "will not hunger for all eternity” (John 6:33). He is the bread of grace and mercy. All who eat of Him will “taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:9), for partaking of His life blesses the eater with “grace upon grace from His fullness” (John 1:16). He is the Bread of Life that is not only living; He makes alive. If anyone eats of Him, he will live forever (John 6:58). This Bread has descended from Heaven and is not only Himself heavenly but He also makes those partaking of Him partakers of the heavenly feast. Whoever eats of this feast with faith and in the Spirit will become heavenly because they will not die but will be raised in the Last Day. They will not be revived for judgment in the Last Day because whoever eats this Bread will not come to judgment or to damnation since there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus; they will be resurrected for life and salvation (Romans 8:1). “Whoever indeed eats the flesh of the Son of Man and drinks His blood will have life in him and will live because of Christ” (John 6:54,57). His flesh is real food and His blood is real drink (John 6:55). Therefore, let us not satisfy ourselves by surviving on our own works but with the Lord’s food. Let us not become sated with the abundance of our own house but with the imperishable bounty of the house of the Lord (Psalm 36:9).
based on John Gerhard
XVI. The spiritual refreshment of the pious.
XVIII. Concerning the salutary participation in the body and blood of Christ.
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For the Third Sunday in Lent | March 12, 2023
The Gospel for Lent 3, Luke 11:14-28
He stands at your door and knocks. What will you do? Your presence in the divine service confesses: I want those gifts. Let the Word of God dwell richly in you
And that is what keeps you safe against the devil and what keeps the house lively and occupied … the life-creating and sustaining Word of the Gospel
Jesus is still at work … forgiving sins and giving eternal salvation. That is why you must not despise the Word of God and its preaching or Communion or Absolution. They are God’s Word coming to you through material means that Christ has chosen to use. If you do not abandon the grace that God gives to you in His Word … you will indeed be eternally blessed … inheriting the kingdom of His glory.
His Word … His Communion … His Absolution … are nothing else but the Finger of God writing life into our ears and onto our tongues. The Finger of God does not point at you with words of accusation and judgment; the finger of God points to the cross. His Finger writes to forgive your sins … so that you may go in peace to serve God and walk in His love. His Finger feeds you His body and blood … so that you may be one with Him … overcoming sin and death and whatever demonic and evil would attack your house … your heart. His Word protects you in those battles against Satan … letting you know what awaits you as you trust in God’s mercy
You are preparing for the day when the house will come down. Until that day satan will attack your house … threatening you with eviction. But since Satan has no jurisdiction over Christ … he has no jurisdiction over you who believe. You are of God and have overcome him because the One who is for you is greater than the one who is in the world. And therefore what is mortal … this frail tent … will be swallowed up by life … an eternal residence. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God.
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For the Second Sunday in Lent | March 5, 2023
The Gospel for Lent 2, Matthew 15:21-28
Jesus comes to this place to feed you … not because of the ancient liturgy nor because we do it exceptionally well … we do not … but because He desires to show us His mercy arrives without any of our traditions. For our traditions did not make us clean nor do they keep us holy and righteous. What has declared you holy is the word of the Lord: I have had mercy upon you. And we gladly receive whatever His mercy gives.
Mercy. His mercy alone. Mercy is that God does not pour on us what we deserve. What was deserved has been given to Christ. And God pours out on us what we have not deserved: His Son’s blood that cleanses us from all unholiness and impurity. Blood that removes guilt and shame.
Blood that sets us aside us holy, belonging to the Lord … independent of our ethnicity. We are no longer foreigners but members of His household … heirs with Ruth and Rachab … apart from male and female … apart from practices of tradition. The only thing we need is Him.
Therefore we will not stop. We will pray over and over: Lord … Son of David … have mercy on us.
Will Jesus be silent when we approach Him for mercy? When we offer our collected petitions on Sunday? When we pray grieving in our hearts? No … He will not be silent … for His blood is not silent. His blood cries out for our mercy, and we hear: Your sins are forgiven. It is said to you as you have desired.
Great is the faith that clings not to tradition but to God’s mercy. Great is the faith that believes holiness is not my practice but His favor. Great is the faith that says … confessing His grace … Lord, have mercy!
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For the First Sunday in Lent | February 26, 2023
You must know God’s word, for the Scriptures have been written for your perseverance and endurance (Romans 15:4). By knowing God’s Word you will learn to remember, to recall and practice, this Word: You are not your own; you have been bought with a price. And by knowing God’s Word, you will learn to remember this Word: By baptism into Jesus … by direct participation in your defense attorney’s victory … your identity is an heir. The Word that proceeds from the mouth of God says: You are My heir. This word, “Your sin is forgiven,” proceeds from God’s throne. This word from the mouth of the great high priest says: “My body and blood given and shed for you”. By remembering the word that comes from God’s mouth, the word that gives you identity and forgiveness and draws you to your great high priest, you will be empowered to deal with temptations. Approach God’s throne for help.
You do not have to overcome the devil, as if the battle and the war and the victory depended on you and you alone. You will surely be tempted, and all the more delivered from the evil one and his wickedness. For that is what Jesus has done for you. The Lord is a man and and is on your side. Everything that Jesus did He did for us in our place as a substitute and champion. He did nothing that was not for you.
Faith confesses: I pray in the name of Jesus and thus I approach God’s throne with confidence. Because God has spoken to us—Jesus is the great High Priest who has been tempted in every way like us, who remained without sin, who gave His life as a sacrifice for your sin—we are assured we stand in God’s presence forgiven.
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For The Transfiguration of Our Lord | February 19, 2023
What we see of ourselves now and what we know about ourselves today will not be what we see and know then. For when He returns in glory, then we shall be revealed in His glory.
The law did have its glory. For the law is of God. And thus the law is good. The law is good even when we know we cannot keep it, and even when we know it identifies our sin and condemns us. The law remains the work of the Holy Spirit, for He puts the finger on our false sense of self-sufficiency. The law had its ministry, revealing the futility and destructiveness of our self righteousness.
But we in Christ say had because Moses put a veil over his face; he covered his face because the glory faded. It was a true glory but a temporary transient glory, for something greater, an enduring permanent was coming: The Ministry of the Gospel, which is the unfading glory of the face of Jesus, by which we behold the face of God.
The proclamation of forgiveness
The Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world,
Our Righteousness before God
Our Access to the most holy place
Our Intercessor at the throne
Our Righteous Advocate, whenever we sin
that is the enduring glory, the ministry of righteousness in Christ.
The ministry of death and condemnation by the law has been surpassed; it has faded in comparison to the brilliance of the of the gospel.
If one follows Moses — holding to law of any sort — one is ensnared in the ministry of condemnation, a fading glory that ends in death. But when turned to the Lord, we have been enlighten by the forgiveness and reconciliation in Christ. We live in the ministry of life and enduring glory of His indestructible and permanent life and light of the Resurrection. For wich reason the altar and chancel are not adorned with the Ten Commandments. The building is the place for the ministry of life and not the ministry of death.
We are being transformed from one glory — fading — to another glory — unfading. Now by faith and in the hope we see the faint but distinct outline of eternal life; then when we shall see Him face-to-face, with no veil, all that shall remain is love.
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For The 6th Sunday after The Epiphany | February 12, 2023
If Thy kingdom comes, then we will be delivered from evil. Thus we pray confidently as the Lord Jesus teaches us. So what’s wrong or improper with a smidgen of deliverance from evil right now? Especially if we have the opportunity and zeal and means.
Our Lord warns the zealots of every age that the promised world-wide reign of the Son of David cannot be planted (Matthew 13:1-23) or expanded or preserved or identified with the actions and desires of man (this and the other parables of Matthew 13). Such attitudes among Jewish freedom fighters led to tragic consequences for those that thought that the kingdom of David could arrive by the edge of their swords (e.g., the rebellion of Theudas & Judas the Galilean, Acts 5:35-37; the First Jewish War and the destruction of Jerusalem).
In homes (Cain) and in church institutions (false teachers) and in the hallways of power (those elected to preserve life do the opposite) darnel (the weed in the parable) is sown every place. And what shall the wheat do? Shall we form groups like Boko Haram or recruit for a 21st century crusade or legislate commandments and prayer time in pubic schools in order to cleanse the world of evil so that the kingdom of God may be safe and grow? Would we be the church if we were to depend on those earthly tools and weapons of man’s desires?
Since the reign of God has come by the sowing of the Gospel and not by the will of man, could the reign of God be maintained and kept pure by the will of the flesh or the will of man?
The kingdom of God has not been sown by man’s sword or man’s laws or man’s zeal, and thus will never be maintained and protected by man’s sword or man’s laws or man’s zeal. Because of Jesus’ faithful endurance, because He suffered all even death for the hope of God’s promise to Him, the harvest of His resurrection and glorious eternal righteousness more brilliant than any sun, our Lord has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. The field is His, and He oversees the field and watches His wheat (Ephesians 1:19-23). He gives no authority to us to purge the world or to harvest. He delegates to His angels the task of the harvest. The only authority that He delegates to us now is when He says: Make disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching.
Aren’t we to discern evil? Aren’t we to protect people from evil? Aren’t we to cut off from our lives that which causes others … especially the youngest stalks of wheat … to doubt God’s love? (See Matthew 18:1-9). Aren’t we to pull out those temptations? Yes! (Consider Ephesians 5:1-21.) Aren’t we to be salt and light and love? Absolutely! (See Matthew 5:13-16.)
The Scriptures address those important matters. This parable does not focus on those concerns. Our Lord here does not teach us how to use domestic, societal, and churchly vocations to hinder evil. Jesus calls us to judge carefully our desire about trying to purge evil now before the harvest then. He calls us to trust Our Father. He calls us to patient hope and hopeful endurance.
So, the implicit response is: invest time in prayer (Thy kingdom come; deliver us from evil); encourage the wheat in the field (do not forsake gathering together in order to build up each other); and partake of the Savior Himself for strength in temptation (gather at His table for the assurance of He who came will come again). Surround yourselves with God’s means, Word and Absolution and Communion, that strengthen you. Let God enrich and nourish your faith.
The sowing of the bad seeds will not destroy the Lord’s intent. He will reap a good harvest. For this is His field; He planted us; He preserves us; and we will be His harvest. In this hope we are saved. And if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for the harvest with patience.
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For The 5th Sunday after The Epiphany | February 5, 2023
Isaiah 55:10-13. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
The Lord, who spoke and brought forth light, who stretched out the heavens, who appointed communities, and nations to the places on the earth … this Lord says: My word, My will, My desire I make known. I tell you what I am thinking, and My thoughts are not like dust clouds, dry and unable to relieve a drought. My thoughts and My word are powerful and creative, as the rain is.
As you see your own weakness and futility—your sin, your death, your grave—acknowledge you cannot save yourself. His word is like the rain; and in a desert this rain has miraculous consequences. Where barren soil produced nothing, where the land was void and empty, His rain causes to spring forth vegetation. The desert becomes a field. The Carrizo plain in Southern California is a prime example, as well as practically any region of California. In the dry season, the vegetation turns brown golden, brown and crispy, but in the winter—and thanks be to God for this winter’s rains—those hillsides blossom and the Carrizo Plain becomes a carpet brilliant in color testifying to the creative, sustaining will of God.
His word rains down on the dry soil of your ears, the vacant territory of your life, and He brings forth; His righteousness floods your life, soaking you in the waters of Baptism. The Spirit is the shower of Life.
The rain of the past month has already had its effect on the parsonage backyard and the consequences will be enjoyed for weeks and months to come. How much more from the divine word that pours sweetness from heaven, the constant bath of a day-long shower of God’s forgiveness … the gospel raining in the Divine Service: the hymns, the creed, the absolution, the communion, the sermon … all which are spoken to you. The weather pattern, the heavenly river of grace, has stalled over you so that your whole life is thoroughly soaked by the word, by God’s Word, by the Lord Jesus. Wherever His life as water seeps, into every crevice and pools in every dry place, life springs forth—as Israel from Babylon and as the Lord Jesus from the tomb.
The crucifixion was not man’s thought or man’s way; it has accomplished God‘s purpose, His righteousness, what He demanded as payment for sin, a death for disobedience. And His word “It is finished” sprouted from the barren tomb and has created a harvest, a forest, a verdant congregation people, a new creation that bears His name. You are the display of God‘s work; you are the consequence of God‘s word. His word is planted in you; you are the sign. Your confession is the sign; your resurrection will be the sign of the truth of His word. And this sign, His Son’s resurrection (and thus yours!) will never be cut down, disappear, fade, or perish. All of this depends on the living Word of God, our Lord Jesus.
I do not pretend to be a first class orator nor do I have aspirations to rival Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Quintillian, or Isaiah. It is enough … more than sufficient … thanks be to God … that His word is spoken to you and His word produces for Him the abundant harvest.
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For The 4th Sunday after The Epiphany | January 29
Romans 8:18-25, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
We endure the suffering, weakened by arthritis. We endure the pain, recuperating after surgery. We endure the grief of a spouse’s death and of hearts shattered by wicked violence. We put up with the afflictions of our bodies and the futility of the world … drought and famine, floods and disease.
But endure to what end? Until our souls can no longer take it? Maybe we should all coordinate our alarms for a particular day in February; and at 8:00 p.m. that evening, step outside and scream. Will that shouting end the world’s disquieted nature or calm our spirits? Or do you think that instead we should turn off our lights at that time, and in the darkness of our living rooms, whimper in hopeless resignation?
As we endure we groan in hopeful prayer. We are not silent. We are not stoics. We groan in the hope in the way that only those with hope can do; we groan with the hope in the way that only those who know the Lord who stills storms and heals the lame and raises the dead, who by His death and resurrection tears the veil and has begun to unveil who in Him we shall be.
Here is the point and promise. Our present sufferings … all our present sufferings and all our futility and all creation’s dishonor … count as everything on one side of the see-saw. Yet all of that is not even worth measuring on the same scales as the glory that will be revealed to us. The majesty of glory yet to be seen is near to the point of being indescribable, for “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9); the glory of our inheritance and the guaranteed experience of the transformation create a certainty of longing that takes us through this life with eager expectation. Most certainly as Christ was manifested in glory at His resurrection, we are waiting for the declaration of Holy Baptism, our adoption by grace, to be visible at the day of our redemption, when we shall be forever free from the sorrows and grief of this vale of tears. This is not escapism; this is the hope given by our Lord’s resurrection and the presence of the Holy Spirit in you.
As you feel the frustration of your bodies and as you behold the frustration of the earth … go ahead and groan … but groan in hope and eager expectation. For in Christ Jesus eternal glory lies ahead for you and the entire creation.
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For The 3rd Sunday after The Epiphany | January 22
2 Kings 5:13, “But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”
If you are willing to pay a very high price or to do something very difficult — if necessary — to salve your soul or to give yourself hope and life for a few more months or years … why would you not happily do something “small”? Why be troubled by believing “Baptism now saves you”
You know the answer. Pride.
The great Naaman grasped the logic of his servants’ argument, and he conceded the point. He went to the Jordan and was washed seven-fold … entirely. And he came out a new man.
Pride. The pride that first generated Naaman’s anger at Elisha’s apparent indifferent prescription. Your pride … manifested in an iota of trust and dependence outside of God’s word. All is washed away … drowned once and for all in the waters of the baptismal font.
If you want to call self-interest and self-glorification, ambition, tower-building, and honor-seeking your leprosy … they are washed away by the Word of Christ in the nondescript waters of Baptism. Plain as the waters appear to be, they remain God’s waters combined with the word that is God’s word.
So God has given to you faith. The greatest miracle God can work is your faith that says “At Your word, for there is no God on earth except for You, O God, who heals me”. All depends on God speaking the simple Word to you; it is the word that says “I forgive you your sin”, and also declares “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, and also says to you “This is My body given for you. This is the blood of the new testament in My name, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins”.
The same word. The same grace. The same Jesus.
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Walk For Life West Coast
Saturday, January 21, 2023, 10:30 a.m.
SPEAKER: Executive Director Faith Paull
Faith is the Executive Director of Alpha Pregnancy Center, San Francisco. She has devoted the last 12 years of her life to economically, emotionally, and spiritually empowering women and families facing unplanned pregnancy.
TOPIC: “From Enemies to Advocates”
West Portal Lutheran Church & School Parish Hall
200 Sloat Boulevard, San Francisco, CA 94132
Tel. (415) 661-0242 WestPortalLutheran.org
(Parking on small parking lot & on streets around the church & school.)
10:30am Pre-Walk Gathering
11:15 am Refreshments & Break
11:30 am Walk To West Portal/Sloat/St Francis Circle Muni Station
11:45am Muni Train To Civic Center Station
12:00 pm Walk Go to Civic Center Plaza, the corner of Larkin St. & Grove St. A LCMS representative will be standing at this corner with a LCMS “feather flag” to direct people to exactly where our group will be standing.
12:15 pm Arrive
12:30 pm Main Event
Rebecca Kiessling (An international pro-life speaker & advocate. Conceived in rape, she’s been a staunch advocate for the pro-life movement, touching the hearts of many U.S., Canada, Latin America & Europe legislators.)
Shawn Carney (The CEO, President, & Co-founder of 40 Days for Life. He helped lead the first ever local 40 Days for Life campaign, and has been instrumental in growing 40 Days for Life nationally and internationally.)
Angela Minter (President & Co-Founder of Sisters For Life, Inc. She is a champion for pre-born babies, their families, and the sanctity of life.)
Rev. Clenard Childress (One of most respected leaders in the entire pro-life movement, & especially for the African-American community. He’s a senior pastor, winner of many awards, & founder of BlackGenocide.org)
1:30 pm Walk for Life The walk begins!
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For The 2nd Sunday after The Epiphany | January 15
The Old Testament Reading for the 2nd Sunday after The Epiphany, Exodus 33:12-23
A couple of weeks ago during a zoom call, one participant, sitting alone in an office, asked another (in the room in which I and two others were) to remove her mask so that he might see … “know” … to whom he was speaking.
Moses was seeking a bit more than facial recognition. Since the LORD knew Moses by name (33:17), Moses sought to know more of the LORD … more than witnessing His mighty acts of parting the Sea and more than feeding the multitudes of Israel with quail and manna. “Now show me Your Glory.” Moses had already witnessed the LORD’s grace and mercy, for He had not blotted out Israel for the people’s golden calf idolatry. What else, then, could Moses wish to see? He sought firsthand knowledge on his terms of the “real” LORD; and as Peter at the transfiguration, Moses did not quite grasp what he was requesting (compare Luke 9:33). So Moses was hidden behind a “mask”, the LORD’s hand as Moses stood in the cleft in the rock, and he could see what he needed to see: the LORD’s Presence, His goodness proclaimed in His name (Exodus 34:-7), would be with him and Israel. And that glimpse would sustain Moses until …
… he beheld the glory at Jesus’s transfiguration; “And Jesus was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun …” (Matthew 17:2). In the person of Jesus Moses (along with Elijah, Peter, James, and John) came to know … see … the glory of God. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, He has made Him known.” (John 1:17,18) Thus, to hear and believe Jesus, the grace and truth manifest in His works and Passover sacrifice, is to know God our Father, His character and nature (John 17:6). For in response to Thomas’s question, our Lord has declared: “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” (John 14:7) The author to the Hebrews summarized how we behold the Glory of the LORD in this way: “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). Thus, when we hear and believe His words of forgiveness, and see our Lord glorified and exalted on the cross, and know and confess that in Christ Jesus God has reconciled Himself to us—counting our sin against Jesus and reckoning by faith His righteousness to us—we behold the Glory of the LORD. “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Our Lord is the fullness of God’s grace and mercy. Behold the glory as He turned water to wine and stilled the seas and raised the dead and offered Himself as the Lamb of God for us. Yet, the hand of the LORD covers us, in that we behold Him by faith, perceiving Him with the eyes of the heart as we hear the Absolution and partake of the Holy Communion. And that glimpse will sustain us till until the Day, the day for which we yearn; on that day the benediction shall not be spoken but seen: The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His face to you, and give to you peace. “… we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
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For The Baptism of Our Lord | January 8
Even more, the more plentiful the grace that has been conferred upon us through baptism, the more diligently we ought to guard that gift that has been given. “We have been buried with Christ through baptism into death so that, for that reason, just as Christ was raised from the dead in the glory of the Father we also will enter into a new life” (Romans 6:4). We were healed. Therefore, let us sin no more lest something more detrimental happen to us (John 5:14). We have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ, by far the most precious clothing there is. Therefore, let us not stain it with the blemish of sins. Our old man was crucified and died in baptism. Let the new man thus live. We have been regenerated and the attitude of our minds has been renewed in baptism (Ephesians 4:23). For this reason, do not let the flesh dominate the spirit. “The old has passed away. Behold, everything has been made new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Let not the oldness of the flesh prevail upon the newness of the spirit. We have been made sons of God through spiritual regeneration. Let us then lead a life worthy of such a Father. We have been made the temple of the Holy Spirit. Let us thus prepare a hospitable seat for such a great guest. We have been received into the covenant of God. Let us therefore take care that we do not labor for the wage of the devil and thus be cut off from the grace of the covenant. Work all this in us, O blessed Trinity, one God, who has given such great grace in baptism, and grant that we may persevere in this great grace
Johann Gerhard, Sacred Meditations, XVII. Concerning the fruits of Baptism.
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For The First Sunday after Christmas | January 1, 2023
Luke 2:21, “And at the end of eight days, when He was circumcised, He was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.”
This is why the Church remembers the Circumcision and Naming of Jesus. The divine rite performed on the little One, whom more than a little crying did make, fulfilled the promise given to Aaron in his benediction: “So shall they put My Name upon the people of Israel … and I will bless them” (Number 6:22ff.) The Name goes first and foremost on the 8 day old baby Jesus; and where the Name is, there the Lord does His work. Remember His work; remember His name; remember what His Name means: Yahweh Saves.
On the 8th day of the week we … marked by His name … will gather to be assured that He made us His own and we remain His. For Holy Baptism has scoured away the old name and has imprinted the Name of Jesus … all of Jesus … upon us. Baptism has completed what circumcision signified … the new 8th day. Baptism now saves you.
For Jesus, who bears the Name of God Himself and who reveals the Name of God to us, has put His Name upon you. At your Baptism you received the Name and the cross and the resurrection and therefore all of Jesus; thus we confess: it is no longer you who live but Christ who lives in you (see Galatians 2:20).
And now, since the Lord’s Name is put on you, in the presence of God no other name identifies you. We shall never claim the name American or an ethnic label or political identity or economic status in the gathering of the saints. All those names and those relationships fail, especially at the point of death.
But when this Name is on you, the old has died and the new is alive. The former way … the pedagogue way … the guardian law way … is dead. The new way of son and of the Spirit and of faith identifies you. And nothing is more certain for the child to say to the father than what the father has said to the child: “Father … You named me Your child! In Jesus is all my identity!”
O Jesus! You have been born for me. You have been circumcised for me. For the sake of Your holy name have mercy on me. My life condemns me but Your name … Your holy status … saves me. Act toward me according to Your name, the authority by which the Father forgives my sin
Be Jesus for me in the present life. In Your work I believe, for by faith in Your work Your Father calls me His son. Be Jesus for me in death, for in Your work I find refuge when I die. Be Jesus for me in the judgment, for in Your name I will appear before the Father. Be Jesus for me in eternal life, for in Your name I will be raised at the last day. Your name is not changed because of me. You will be Jesus for me because You are unchangeable in essence and therefore unchangeable in mercy.
We confess what is true and sure when we say to God what God has said to us. His name is Jesus because He has saved you from your sin.
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For Christmas Eve | December 24, 2022
Let us with the shepherds approach the manger of Christ, that is, the Church, and let us come upon this infant wrapped in bandages, that is, in the Sacred Scriptures. Let us also ponder with Mary words of such great mystery, the holy mother of the Lord, and let us continually and daily reflect on this in remembrance. Let us continue the singing of the angels with our own voices and let us give thanks for his merits on account of their great benefit. Let us sing joyfully and cheer with the heavenly host. If indeed the angels rejoice to such a degree for our cause, how much more ought we, for whom this infant is born and given, rejoice (Isaiah 9:6)? If the Israelites raised voices and shouts of joy when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to them (1 Samuel 4:5), which was a figure and shadow of the incarnation of the Lord, how much more ought we be joyful since the Lord himself descended to assume our flesh? If Abraham was glad when he saw the day of the Lord and prepared for the time when the Lord Himself would assume human form, what ought we do when our nature has been joined with Him in an indissoluble and perpetual covenant?
Let us marvel at this immense kindness of God who, when we were not able to ascend to Him, chose to descend to us. Let us look in wonder at the immense power of God who was able to make one most intimate union out of two most distant things, namely, the divine and human nature, so that now man and God may also likewise be one. Let us wonder at the wisdom of God who was able to find a way for our redemption when neither angels nor men were able to see a way. The offense was infinitely great, requiring an infinitely great satisfaction. Man offended God. From man satisfaction was required. But man was able neither to furnish an infinite satisfaction nor to satisfy divine righteousness without an infinite ransom. Therefore, God was made man in order to make satisfaction for those who had sinned and to pay an infinite ransom to Him who was infinite.
Let us marvel at this wonderful plan of righteousness and mercy from the divine, which no creature was able to discover before God manifested Himself, and now after He has been made manifest, no creature is fully able to comprehend. Marvel thus, and do not probe more curiously. We may desire to look into it, although we cannot understand it all. Let us admit our ignorance rather than choose to deny the power of God.
Johann Gerhard, Sacred Meditations, XIV. Concerning the Mystery of the Incarnation
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For The Fourth Sunday of Advent | December 18, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Advent 4, Deuteronomy 18
[Moses said:] “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to Him you shall listen— just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And whoever will not listen to My words that He shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.’”
What does it mean to be a prophet like Moses?
Certainly not in the manner of Moses’ disobedience ... (see Numbers 20:10ff)
Rather Moses, brought into the Presence of the LORD, had been given the word of God and that word he spoke (Exodus 3). And in that way Jesus is like Moses. He, who was in the bosom of the Father (not through a burning bush but in the intimacy of the Father and the Son), received the Word and this Word He proclaimed (John 17:4-6).
Yet how can a slave be compared to the Son? For Moses was the slave in the house, and Jesus is the Son over the house (Hebrews 3:5,6); and as Son not only is He entrusted with the Word of the Father, to faithfully and fully reveal the Father by proclaiming the words, He is the embodiment of the Word—the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9). Raised up from among His brothers, He partakes of our blood and flesh to proclaim grace and truth to man; for He has not come to save angels but the children of Abraham, that is, those who have faith in the word that God preaches from the cross (Hebrews 2:14-17). Through Moses and many others, employing dreams and visions God had spoke to our forefathers; in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son: the Word become flesh (John 1:14; Hebrews 1:1-3). In Christ and only in Christ Jesus do the words proclaimed and the Proclaimer merge into the seamless holy Sermon. Amen.
If one does not hear His word, what other word from God is there? He proclaims grace and mercy; He was not sent to fulfill the ministry of the law—that was the call for Moses (2 Corinthians 3); Jesus was not sent to condemn (John 3:17-21). The word proclaimed by Moses can only lead to judgment and condemnation and death. Let us hear the word of life unto life. For Jesus was sent to proclaim the Father’s ministry of reconciliation in Himself, a sermon proclaimed fully unto His death. The Father spoke His “amen” to this Sermon and certified the Sermon as His true, unerring word by raising His Son from the grave. Those who refuse this word must have their own word and sermon ready before God, in order to defend themselves if they have declined the advocacy of Jesus the Righteous One.
What Moses’ prophetic call could never be he finally witnessed and heard at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:3). We need not wait nor should we delay in hearing the Lord proclaim to us. For to us He declares the words of life: “I forgive you all your sins” and “this is My body and blood”.
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For The Third Sunday of Advent | December 11, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Advent 3, Isaiah 40:1-11
The wilderness is not merely a dry, empty place what we might imagine as badlands and sagebrush. The wilderness is the opposite of place. What I mean is this: place is meant to offer security, identity, and meaning; place is the location where one receives the promise of daily bread, of hope, and of mercy. How can a wilderness … empty and devoid of life and unproductive … offer any of that?
In the midst of wilderness … outside of the land sworn on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob … a voice cries out. What kind of voice would you expect from a barren land? A voice of woe, a voice full of sorrow, a voice generated by turmoil. a voice singing a dirge. A voice of no peace, no hope, no promise.
But the God who spoke “Let there be” into a void, barren and unproductive, and brought forth light land, vegetation, and animals spoke also to those dwelling in this “not a place” in this deserted land. The voice of hope rings out: “Comfort, comfort, My people! Your sin is forgiven! You will be raised from your grave; you will be free from Babylonian tyranny and never again will your eyes look upon idols.”
The God who rescued your forefathers from Egypt, the God who made heaven and earth comes to you! The King draws near to you … you who thought that you would die in the wilderness, abandoned to the powers of sin and death … the God of all comes to you!
What will we say? What do we say?
Save us now!
We will prepare for His arrival!
Repent! Remove all obstacles from His approach! Smooth His road!
Is He pleased with deceit and gossip? Is He content with households full of strife? Is He satisfied with hearts that grumble? Acknowledge that He draws near to those who deserve death in the wilderness … outside of the land
The lack of fear, love, and trust brings condemnation, death, and burial … abandonment.
Yet He comes to you in the wilderness of your sin, your death, your Babylon … and proclaims “Comfort, comfort”. He has not forgotten you.
We say: “I am without hope; I am cut off. I have been idolatrous; my prayers have fallen silent; to gather with the saints in the holy assembly is not always my joy; I have deserved condemnation for cursing my neighbor; I have lacked love; my thoughts have wandered into jealousy and lust; and I should die and be buried out here in the dust of the wilderness.”
The Lord … He is our God! … and He makes the dead alive and He shapes the dust into a living creature by His Spirit. This is the glory of the Lord: to bring life to what was dead and to bring from the wilderness into the place, the land of life.
This is what the mouth of the Lord declares: your sin is forgiven. Once you were out of the land, a people without hope. Now you have been returned to the land, to Christ, and you are people abounding in hope.
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For The Second Sunday of Advent | December 4, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Advent 2, Malachi 4:1-6
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear My Name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts. Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
“Wait until your father gets home.” Is this good news for you or otherwise? That depends … sort of … on you. But not on how much you have been disobedient or on occasion obedient in external matters. For how can you measure your disobedience? Is not one of your offenses against the holy God worthy of your condemnation? Does not your expectation of His arrival depend on your faith in who He is? No, we are not suggesting that His character changes and shifts because of who you are or the quality or quantity of your faith in Him. Could you really measure either one of those reliably? To those who trust Him, who call upon the name of the Lord, confessing that He by mercy blots out sin and no longer remembers transgression, His arrival is the day of hope; because all that you have heard and known and seen of Him in His death and resurrection will be revealed when He makes His presence known. You will be vindicated and publicly declared the sons of the Father and heirs with Christ, released from every circumstance that presently calls into question your status as His son through Holy Baptism. In ancient days the darkness and all fears and threats connected with night (think enemy ambush or lurking predators) would be banished by the dawn, the rising sun. So, our fears in and from the night—as the gloom and thick sadness of the world tempt us to wonder if God will really come to rescue us and how soon will the night of death be forever flooded and dispelled by the brilliant light of the resurrection—will be scattered and will dissipate into nothingness when the Son arises in His glory. And the forces of wickedness must submit to the Lord of all and thus to those who belong to Him; all perpetrators of evil (first think of Commandments 1-3) will exercise no power to act or even to accuse you—they shall be under your feet (also Romans 16:20; and compare Romans 8:37) because they are forever under His feet (Ephesians 1:20-23; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28). As surely as the night of day 6 passed and day 7 began without a night following (!), so we are assured that the when this last night of the present evil age passes, only the light of the eternal day shall shine (Revelation 21:23-25). Yes, let us gather as His people, hearing the Word and partaking of the body and blood as the meal of hope and forgiveness, waiting until the Lord returns. For His return is very good news for us.
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For The First Sunday of Advent | November 27, 2022
Romans 13:8-10. “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Considering this, devout soul, seek holy love. Whoever your neighbor may be, Christ chose to die for him (Romans14:15). Why then would you refuse to extend love to the neighbor for whom Christ has not hesitated to extend His life? If you really love God, love also His image. We are all one spiritual body (Ephesians 4:4). Therefore, let there also be one spiritual soul. It is improper that those who will one day live as one in heaven should differ in the world. While we are of consenting minds in Christ, let us also be joined in will. We are servants of the one Lord (Ephesians 4:5). It is not equitable, then, for us to differ. A member of the body is dead when it does not feel concern for the others. Let the one who does not suffer along with another in pain not consider himself to be a true member of the mystical body of Christ. There is one God, the Father of all (Ephesians 4:6), whom every day you address as Father, just as Christ has instructed (Matthew 6:9). How will they recognize you as a true son unless you in turn recognize His sons as your brothers? Love the man commended to you by God if he is worthy, for you should love him who is worthy. If he is unworthy, love him anyways, for the God whom you serve is worthy. By loving the man who is your enemy, you will show yourself to be a friend of God. Do not concern yourself with what the man may do to you, but rather concern yourself with what you may do for God. Do not concern yourself with the injury that your enemy inflicts, but rather be concerned with the kindness which He who commands you to love your enemies (Matthew 5:44,45) confers upon you. We are neighbors because of our earthly birth, brothers because of our heavenly hope. Let us therefore love one another. Inflame in us, O God, through Your Spirit, the fire of love.
John Gerhard, Sacred Meditations, XXXVI. "Concerning the properties of true charity"
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For Michaelmas 3 | October 16, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Michaelmas 3, Genesis 1:1 - 2:3
As marvelous and glorious as all of this is … take a look … be impressed as you meander along Yosemite’s floor or jet over the Rockies … or peer through a microscope … but much more be overwhelmed as you gaze into a mirror. Be awestruck at the intelligence of a dolphin or crow … but they were not made in the image of God. Though burdened with a variety of cancers and other maladies you are still yet more wonderful and glorious than El Capitan or Jupiter’s bands of exotic color. Even in your frailty and weakness it is marvelous that our flesh and bones have been formed for us by God. What is man that God is mindful of us? Are we not fearfully and wonderfully made? It is a great work to create any man. It is more marvelous still that God chose to become flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones. It is a greater work to redeem man from evil and for Jesus to receive in Himself the satisfaction for man’s debt. Though weak and afflicted now what will you be at the resurrection … when God raises you in glory and strength and power: in the likeness and image of His Son. For when Christ was raised you know that is the promise of your exaltation … returned to proper dominion of creation … reigning as the sons of God as we truly are now.
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For Michaelmas 4 | October 23, 2022
The Epistle Reading for Michaelmas 4, Philippians 1:3-11
When Paul and Silas, along with Timothy and Luke, first preached the Gospel to Lydia and her friends in the Roman colony of Philippi, two things are plainly evident: God brought about the opportunity, and they are completely engaged in what God is doing.
Paul is not credited for deciding to take the Good News to Europe; the Holy Spirit redirected Paul from Asia Minor into Macedonia. Paul is not credited for having a plan that worked when they arrived in Philippi. Paul could not follow his regular pattern of starting at the local synagogue on the Sabbath because the Roman city of Philippi had no synagogue. Rather, according to practice, Jews and God-fearers would meet at a flowing river (living water), and at the river bank Paul and company found a women’s Saturday morning Bible study and prayer meeting. Lydia likewise is not credited for her faith; for the Holy Spirit opened Lydia’s heart to pay attention to Paul’s message” (Acts 16:13-15). When the church is gathered from among the Philippians, no one receives credit except the Holy Spirit, who calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the Christian church. God is the Creator and Redeemer and Preserver.
At the same time, these people were engaged in the lively Gospel. While in Philippi (Acts 16), Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten, and thrown in prison because of their Gospel activity, but because the Spirit had recreated her heart, Lydia jumped in with both feet. Her entire household was baptized, and she insisted her house be the home base of Gospel proclamation in the region; in her home the believers met when Paul and Silas were released from prison. God is Creator and Redeemer and Preserver, and they were engaged in God’s work of saving the world.
All of that informs us why Paul wrote his first words to the Philippians. Paul followed a standard opening, with a salutation and a thanksgiving that spills over into prayer. Yet the Gospel cannot be contained in a standard greeting: see the liveliness of the Word in Philippi. God brought about the opportunity, and they were engaged in what God is doing.
Paul’s overwhelming sense of joy and thanksgiving flows from what he called the Philippian “partnership in the Gospel” (1:5). The partnership included both the activity and the financial support for mission activity of the Good News. From the beginning of their engagement with the grace of God in Jesus Christ, the Philippians were involved in supporting and participating in the expansion of the Church. He reminded his beloved friends that even their partnership from the beginning had its origin in God’s work, not theirs: “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (1:6). Both the origin and the completion of the excellent work of salvation belongs to the work of the Holy Spirit in us; God is the Creator and Redeemer and Preserver.
Likewise, from first to last, this lively Gospel has engaged us. We at Trinity are co-workers in God’s creative startup Paul labeled as “grace.” Trinity in truth is described in her work and calling by the Spirit of Jesus with the word “grace”. And we reveal, in heart, mind, actions, and finances, we are co-workers in the grace of God manifested in Christ Jesus. From first to last, God brings about opportunities for the Gospel, and we are engaged in what God is doing. And that brings forth thankfulness, joy, yearning, affection, partnership, longing, and love.
These opportunities are also the times when our faith is tested and proved reliable, for at the same time God’s promises are tested and are proved reliable, an ever-certain foundation; and therefore we are properly equipped to test and prove what are the excellent things (see also Philippians 4:8-9). Finally, you will be tested and proved reliable at the return of our Lord. And I am sure, because God is faithful, that your faith will be shown genuine, and your lives will not cause stumbling to any who walk the narrow way (1:10). Why my confidence in the daily and final outcome of your faith? Because you are bearing the fruit which comes from being declared right with God. The proof is in your life, but you gain no credit: God alone receives all glory and honor and praise (1:11).
I rejoice and give thanks for God’s work in and through this congregation; I speak about your partnership in the Gospel with love. And I point to your support of the School of Young Leaders, Hispanic Mission, Lutheran Heritage Foundation, People of the Book Lutheran Outreach, Apple of His Eye, and Hispanic Lutheran Hour; and Lutheran Bible Translators, Lutheran Braille Workers, Lutheran Association of Missionaries and Pilots, and Lutheran Friends of the Deaf; and your prayers and financial aid to the Bombaro, Steele, Conrad, and Wolf families, along with support for the proclamation of the Word in Sierra Leone, in Kenya through Project Timothy, and by Trinity's partners in central Asia; and the unknown missions, unknown to me, that you prayerfully support. Those activities and others demonstrate that you are engaged in the saving work of the Gospel, partners in the grace of God.
From beginning to end, your engagement in God’s work is already the result of God’s work in you. So I invite you to trust more fully and rejoice even more confidently in the Spirit’s work as you mature in the image of God. What a blessing: God brings the opportunities, and you are engaged in what God is doing.
based on a no longer available article on 1517.org
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For Michaelmas 2 | October 9, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Michaelmas 2, Isaiah 55:1-9
"My ways are not your ways; My thoughts are not your thoughts".
And that dear Christians is absolutely and fully the good news of Jesus Christ.
For no one looks at the cross of Jesus and says: “Oh … religious and political authorities colluded to execute a man … He must be the savior of the world!”
God's thoughts are not your thoughts.
God must draw our attention away from what we want to work for and how we spend our time and money … which we assume is always valuable … to what He freely distributes.
His way … partaking of your blood and flesh.
His way … faithfulness for you.
His way … suffering for you.
His way … dying for you in your flesh and blood.
His way … pardoning you with His blood.
His way … compassion for you.
His way … His every thought … love.
And because He has raised His Son from the grave.
His way … Jesus raised for you.
You can now confess that His way was not your way.
Thanks be to God!
And now you hear and believe why our Father says: Seek Me where I make Myself be found; call upon Me while I make Myself near.”
That is why He must tell you where He is found and that He is near.
Find Him at the table … no hide and go seek … this is My body and blood.
Discover Him at His banquet offered freely.
God is not content to be at a distance.
He wants to bring us to His table where we may be with Him.
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For Michaelmas 1 | October 2, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Michaelmas 1, Genesis 28:10-22
(12) Behold, there was a flight of steps set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven.
And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
(13) And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am The LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. (14) Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
(15) Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Behold. Behold. Behold. Behold. The Holy Spirit really wants us to pay attention, grabbing the ear as He does four times. But why?
Because with all the shenanigans happening among people (read how the family field was plowed and planted with seeds of estrangement in Genesis 27), The LORD wanted Jacob to know that our schemes and desires do not override His promise. Rather than overhearing a son and a mom plotting in the kitchen and hearing that same son lying to his father in the dining room, we hear God speak the truth from His throne. That’s the first behold. When people use their words for schemes and tear apart what God has created, God remains truthful. He will still speak in order to fulfill His promise.
Though Jacob had been driven out of the land by the murderous thoughts of his brother Esau and he may seem to be alone on the journey to Haran, to stay with his uncle Laban, God—who promised that the 2nd son would inherit rather than the first son—would guard the bearer of the promise, so the angels of God would keep their eyes on him, always and ever reporting to God (see Matthew 18:10). That’s the second behold. Outside of the land and away from the family …who will watch over him? God.
But if he left the land, wouldn’t the blessing of his father be emptied and in vain? The promise was to live on the land … and if Jacob left, well, the promise could not be completed, right? So The LORD reiterated the oath heard by Jacob’s grandfather Abraham, whom also endured trials and temptations outside of the land … but The LORD returned Abraham to inherit the land. So, though Jacob will not feel the earth beneath his feet and till the land of his inheritance, God gave His word that Jacob’s absence would be temporary and he would be returned in order to possess the land. That’s the third behold
Notice how the promises of God are piling up. Each time you might think that the good news has ended, He keeps giving!
Behold … yes another! God is not caged within the boundaries that man might set—rivers and hills. God oversees all creation; as the psalmist later confesses (with a paraphrase for Jacob): “Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from Your Presence? If I escape to Haran, You are there! If I cross the Jordan, You are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell on the far side of this wilderness, even there Your angels shall watch me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness of my brother’s anger shall take its vengeance on me, and I shall not see the light of my father’s face,” even those shades and shadows, as deep as they are to me, are not dark to You; my night is bright as the day, for my darkness is as light with Your grace on me.” (see Psalm 139:7-12). That’s behold #4.
Are you waiting to hear a behold?
Behold! Not a staircase … but the flesh of Jesus—He is the access from Heaven to earth and earth to Heaven. He is the Way; He is the Door. In many and various ways He spoke to the faithful of old, now He has revealed the way to Himself through His Son. No one comes to the Father except through the grace manifested and proclaimed in Jesus. You do not need a dream; for you already have heard the promise: faith comes through hearing (and not by dreams and visions), and hearing through the word of Christ.
Behold! This message is not delivered through angels but the message of grace and truth delivered to us by God’s own Son. And if Jacob believed the promise signified by the staircase and angels, how much more do we rejoice that the promise is spoken to us by the Son. For the Son participates in our blood and flesh; He has come to help the offspring of Abraham. And we are those descendants of Abraham, as we believe the promise.
Behold! The Holy Spirit, bestowed on us at baptism, is the down payment of this inheritance, of our possession of what our Father has promised to us. Jacob had a word and what a word it was! Now we have been granted the promised Spirit, guaranteeing what we sons will inherit because we are in Christ Jesus. The Son speaks the better word: the meek (the faithful) shall inherit not a few thousand square miles of creation but the earth. Restored to righteousness and holiness by the truth, we hope for that day.
Behold! The angels of the Lord Jesus still serve us. They are the ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation. They are the heavenly host, unseen yet always present, guarding us and escorting us in life and in death; and always oriented to the Father, they “report” to Him our situation.
Behold! The Lord Jesus says: I will be with you even to the end of the age; I will never abandon you nor will I forsake you. Would this Groom ever leave His Bride, since He wears the same flesh and blood and offered Himself on the cross? Let’s paraphrase Psalm 139 for us now: “Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from Your Presence? If I try to run away from my past, You are there! If I ponder the days of tomorrow, You are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the loneliness of an ungodly society, even there Your angels shall watch me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness of my sin shall overwhelm me, and I shall not see the light of life,” even death’s shadow is not dark to You; my night is bright as the day, for my darkness is enlightened by Jesus Christ who is the light of my path.”
He who has the ear to listen, pay attention to what follows the behold.
Behold! May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23,24)
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For St. Michael and All Angels | September 25, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for St. Michael and All Angels, Daniel 12:1-3
“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”
The Holy Spirit enabled Daniel to see the Day of Jesus, when the adversary, the old evil foe, the devil, the accuser of Christians, was expelled from the heavenly court by Michael and the mighty host of Heaven, because he and his horrible horde have been conquered by the blood of the Lamb.
So while he has been banished from God’s Presence and his accusations are given no hearing in the heavenly court, our presence in the court is not in doubt, for those who enter through the body of Jesus—confess His sacrifice as the declaration of their absolution—have their names written in the Book, which is the official chronicle of the King’s acts, the record of our salvation, His glorious deed (compare 2 Kings 20:20). The Father has adopted you, and those whom the Father has joined to His Son … what shall we say? “Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:33,34). Thanks be to God for now no condemnation can be spoken against those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Is not “no condemnation” the absolution you hear from the throne: “Your sin is forgiven”?
But those who have opposed God and His Christ, His reign and grace, who are not in Christ Jesus—they shall know the contempt of darkness, sorrow, shame, and regret of their sin (Matthew 25:30). They, too, shall be banished from the court and they will no longer have a right of petition to the King (Matthew 25:41)—the door shall be shut by the Lord for He does not know them (Matthew 7:23).
However, for those in Christ Jesus, the gift of deliverance, the forgiveness of sins, brings more. For where forgiveness of sin is, there is life and salvation. Those who had returned to the dust (Genesis 3:19) shall be awakened; their time of shame and dishonor not being recognized as God’s own—a body burdened with frailty and weakness unto death—shall end and they shall be raised to life. Having been united with Christ Jesus in His death, we shall also be revealed in glory, participating in His resurrection. Thus, as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the Man of Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:49), our Lord in the glory and immortality of His victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:53-57). We shall shine in the glory of our Savior. What else except “shining in permanent glory” is the life for those in the Presence of the King?
What will Michael and all the angels do then? Those who rejoiced at your baptism and have accompanied you all the days of your life will then escort you into the Father’s presence, where you and all the heavenly host, which sang His praises at creation, will join voices in the new creation to forever bless and worship the Father and the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.
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For Christian Education Sunday | September 11, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Christian Education Sunday, Deuteronomy 6:4-15
Your household portrays, in miniature, God’s “Household of Creation”; for as He has created all and made man in His image, with the innate duty to be fruitful and to steward that abundant life in God’s House, so man in his own house exercises those duties in a limited scope, to and for those living within his four walls. God’s word brought forth all things and His word was the source of fellowship; and the House seemingly collapsed when man abandoned the word and then were exiled.
To maintain the identity and sustain the integrity of a Household newly created in His image—those to whom the LORD spoke had been called out of Egypt and baptized in the sea—His words were to mark every aspect of the life of the Household in a two-fold manner: the call to undivided loyalty and commitment to the LORD, for He restored them to His house; and knowledge of His word, His revealed will, impressed on the heart, which is the core of one’s being. Thus, as God passed His word to those within His new Household, those in the Household followed the image of God by passing on the word of God to the next generation, being fruitful and multiplying, teaching the word to the children in their houses. And that word of God shaped their lives from A to Z: in the house and away from the house, from day to day, work and perspective, displaying the identity of those in the house, even as the blood of the lamb marked the houses for Passover.
We are God’s house, sons of the Father in and with Jesus the Christ; and the message of Christ marks our houses. For baptized into the Lord, His cross marks our forehead and the heart, who we are, and transforms our vocations, our hands, how we serve. Without this word, we would not know who the Lord is; His life would not be in our houses. Without His word, we could not call upon Him; without His word, we could not know forgiveness. Without His word, we would be without a home.
But with His word, what are we lacking? With His word dwelling in our houses, our identity as His children is assured. Remember, no Scripture verse asks how many Bibles are in your house or how many Bible verses are displayed in posters; the word is impressed on the heart, as a seal into soft clay, marking us as His; however, what the house looks like inside (the heart of faith) will be revealed on the outside, in the practices of one’s life. By His word dwelling in our households, we know His steadfast love; by His word dwelling in our homes, our work has become His good works appointed for us to do (serving with a good conscience cleansed by the blood of Christ); with His word dwelling in our families, we are marked as heirs, longing for the new creation, where in that restored House of God, righteousness (complete knowledge of the Lord, unwavering godliness, perfect fellowship, etc.) dwells, for His Word will be heard and done. With His word dwelling in our houses, our house is full of His life.
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For Trinity 12 | September 4, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Trinity 12, Isaiah 29:7-14
The Holy Spirit often describes the Lord’s work with opposites: The fruitful will become barren, and what was barren will become fruitful; the ruthless/scoffer will be cut off, and the meek/poor will be refreshed; what is powerful in the eyes of man will be made nothing, and what is weak in the eyes of man will be exalted; those who cannot hear and see hope in their present status before man, before Himself the Lord will affirm their identity. In other words, man in rebellion against God has inverted the order of the world, but the Lord will restore righteousness; His people shall not forever live in shame. That was the gospel that Isaiah proclaimed and would be embodied in Immanuel (Isaiah 7-12).
Jesus, the Immanuel Isaiah prophesied (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22,23), quoted a portion of this reading (29:18) as evidence of His divinely-appointed ministry (Matthew 11:5). Restoring hearing and sight was one facet of the beginning of the reversal, that God would set all things straight in His Son. This has been publicly affirmed; for He endured the cross, disregarding its shame in the eyes of man because of the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2), and was raised as the first-fruits of the new creation (1 Corinthians 15:20ff.), the beginning of the restoration of all things in the Christ (Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:15-20).
From this perspective we understand our lives. We walk by faith; we do not yet enjoy the fullness of the inheritance, the strength and glory of the bodily resurrection. Though we are named sons in Christ, co-heirs with Him declared by Holy Baptism (Titus 3:4-8), by sight our lives offer no evidence of this Heaven-bestowed status; presently we live under the weaknesses and burdens of this life, maybe carrying in our bodies the physical conditions of blindness and deafness, which would seem to deny our status.
No doubt that whatever bodily weaknesses we bear, we long to shed them (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5). For the endurance to reach the day of redemption, the day when we are manifested as the sons of God and when faith will be turned into sight and shame into glory and poverty into riches, to keep our faith lively the Holy Spirit fastens our ears on Jesus: His absolution declares us forgiven and thus assures us of our status, our inheritance, and our resurrection, affirming what we have been given in Baptism. And thus with opened ears, the tongue also has been loosed in order to sing His praise; those with open ears and restored speech cannot but zealously proclaim His awesome works. So, on that Last Day we will stand, with all the redeemed, in awe of the Lord and bless His holy name: “He has done all things well!”
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For Trinity 11 | August 28, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Trinity 11, Genesis 4:1-16
If it is not well with the Lord in His House, how can it be well in our own houses?
If the tree is bad, how can the fruit taste good?
So Cain’s disbelief in the Lord’s House brought death into a house meant for life, the house of his father Adam): rather than multiplying by faith, Cain divided by sin; his refusal to keep Abel his brother meant that he could not “keep” the ground.
How does our lack of worship—the lack of receiving His gifts of life—contribute to the uneasiness of our homes? If we do not know our heavenly Father, how He would keep and tend His House, how can we in faith keep and tend that which He has given to us? What will increase and multiply in a house that does not know the Word of God? Rather than acknowledge our sin and rule over temptation, how have we pointed the finger at God? And the land east is certainly never ever in any possible way a place for even temporary homesteading …
God did not desire the fabric of His creation to unravel any more; so, for the house of Cain, teetering toward self-destruction and occupied by fear, God delayed its imminent collapse by erecting a provisional retaining wall, a mark to prevent vengeance. The kindness of God allowing more than sufficient time for Cain to repent …
Is now the favorable time?
Yes … now is the day of salvation. (compare to 2 Corinthians 6:2)
Have you been marked for vengeance or for salvation?
How have you been marked for salvation?
Have you not heard in Holy Baptism: “Receive the sign of the holy cross, both upon your + forehead and upon your + heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified” (LSB, page 268).
For you have been marked with the mark declaring that your blood-guilt has been borne by the Other, the mark of His cross, the mark of His cursedness and being away from the presence of the Father. And Jesus’s blood does not cry for vengeance; to you and for you it speaks the better word, crying out the word of forgiveness—of no more wandering, of the return into the Father’s House of life.
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A Brief Summary of the Congregation Planning Session
Sunday, August 21
After extended discussion of the good gifts of God abiding in the congregation, the members decided that during the next year, a "deep dive" into missions and evangelism will be the focus and next step of the next three congregation sessions. Those "deep dive" dates, the congregation's sessions, will be
December 4, 2022
February 12, 2023
May 21, 2023
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Friday August 19
2 Samuel 11:1, “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.”
What is required of a servant is faithfulness … whether you are king or foot-soldier, father or child, business owner or employee; within the reign of God … if you are a member of His household … you are a servant, and therefore what is required of you in your vocations is faithfulness (1 Corinthians 4:2; Matthew 25:21)
There are no ifs and buts … as David supposed. “But David remained at Jerusalem” … whereas his call, his God-given office as king, summoned him to faithfulness at the head of the troops. How could he protect his people, God’s sheep, if the shepherd was some place else? If he was not watching his soldiers, who was he watching?
If you are not tending to your calling, to what are you tending? If you are not being faithful in your vocation, in what way are you iffing and butting your way in unfaithfulness?
For example, vocations for women are wives, mothers, neighbors, citizens … not jobs or career paths, which are means to fulfill your vocation. Wives and mothers multiply life in the home, nurture life, and train life to walk on the godly path. That is how you tend to your vocation, exercising care over the garden, the household, that God gave to you. Put a hedge around your life and around the life of your neighbor—your neighbor’s bodily welfare, marriage and chastity, reputation, and household goods—so that you do not break into and enter a neighbor’s realm and grab what belongs to him. Know the Table of Duties in the Small Catechism, and be familiar with Ephesians 5:15-6:9 and Colossians 3:5-25.
On the other hand, David watched what he should not have been watching, and took what was not his; he leapt over the fence and burst into his neighbor’s house, stealing what was not his. And his unfaithfulness destroyed the life of Uriah, a faithful soldier. Though David attempted to portray himself as a faithful kind king—“I will bring a soldier home on leave, and I will invite him to feast”—Uriah would not abandon his duty. David in order to cover his tracks of unfaithfulness took extreme action; rather killing his old man, he killed a faithful man, even compelling another soldier, Joab, to participate in his unfaithfulness. “O poor Uriah, he died on the battlefield.” But David the kind king shows mercy to the war widow. Who would be suspicious? Who would know? Only the One whose word discerns every thought and intention (Hebrews 4:12,13).
if your eye or your hand or your foot causes you to sin, if they become tools of unfaithfulness … rather than serving in your proper vocation become tools for invading and destroying the lives of others … gouge out the eye and cut off the hand and foot (Matthew 5:27-30). Learn in your calling to crucify the unfaithful old man and arise as the faithful new man by the Spirit in Christ Jesus (Romans 6).
For into Christ are you baptized. He is the One who fulfilled His vocation. He assumed onto His body our misuse of vocation, our abuse of our callings, our abandonment of vocation and the consequences of our unfaithfulness. And He completed His calling as Son, serving as the One who always did the Father’s will—He and the Father are one (John 10:30)—giving to each according to the need. He would not set aside His calling, even though faithfulness as Son meant His crucifixion and condemnation. He would not give the task to another, for He knew that He alone could do it—He fixed His eyes not on the will of man but on the Father’s will, to guard and protect the sheep given to Him. He knew the joy of the faithful completion of His vocation: His own glory and your salvation (Hebrews 12:2; John 17:5). As the King of heaven and earth, possessing all things, He then distributes to us all the goods that we need as members of the Father’s household. That is His on-going work, to intercede for us, to rule over all things, to accompany us all our days.
And the thing that Jesus has done brings great pleasure to the Father.
O God, who is the highest good for our spirits and who seeks the hearts of Your children: deliver us from all sloth in our callings and all coldness in our daily work and every pursuit that is dishonorable and destructive; and by Your own zeal, rekindle our love and devotion for everything that is good and right so that by our proper work we may love our neighbors, and by waiting upon You, our strength may be renewed in Christ Jesus, so that we may not grow weary. In the name of Jesus. Amen
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Thursday August 18
2 Samuel 7:26, “And Your name will be magnified forever, saying, ‘The LORD of hosts is God over Israel,’ and the house of your servant David will be established before You.”
The Lord breathed into David the promise of a house, a house that would endure forever; and David exhaled a prayer of thanksgiving and praise. Thus David teaches us that true prayer and adoration of God are given their life by the living Word of God. Without the Word spoken to David, David would have nothing to speak to God. But with the Word of the Lord filling the lungs of faith, David’s mouth must be opened to declare His praise. For if fruit is absent, is the tree living? If inhaling and exhaling are absent, is the body alive? If prayer and thanksgiving were absent, would faith be living?
God formed adam from the clay and breathed into him … a living being! And He forms us, once dead, into lively people, born of the Holy Spirit. He breathes into us the Word, the forgiveness of sin and the reconciliation of God to man, the Scriptures breathed out by God to make us wise unto salvation in Christ Jesus. And thus “divinely inspired”, we breathe out not threats and hatred generated by the wrong spirits. No, we are filled with the Spirit, that is, having life empowered by the Holy Spirit in the way of life, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-21). The Lord breathes into our lungs of faith the word of life, and faith exhales prayer and praise and thanksgiving. The divine respiratory “system” of the Holy Spirit.
So take care of your breathing, what you inhale. What pollutants, particulates, air-borne diseases, etc. could easily be inhaled if we were not attentive to filter out what is dangerous. For if we were to breathe in all manner of dust and dirt, we would gasp and wheeze … hoping to catch our breath after the slightest exertion. And in the end, inhaling sufficient quantity of toxins and not caring about the sensitivity of our lungs of faith, would we not choke and finally asphyxiate ourselves?
Make sure then you are breathing the crisp, refreshing air of the Gospel, breathing deeply the promises of God as David did. Exercise your lungs faith by breathing in the Word, drawing every breath from the pure air of God’s love and faithfulness and forgiveness. Breathe in and be rejuvenated by the freshness of Romans 6 and 8 and Titus 3; select hymns from the Baptism and Justification and Praise and Adoration section of Lutheran Service Book in order to train your lungs in exhaling songs of praise and thanksgiving.
For we are recreated in the image of our Lord. He who was conceived by the Holy Spirit always sought to inhale the Father’s word: “Did you not know that I must be in My Father's house?” (Luke 2:49). When tempted to breathe in lies and deceit, He had His lungs filled already with the inspired Word of the Father: “It is written …” (Matthew 4:1-10). And in His deepest woe, when crucifixion was rendering any breath nearly impossible, He continued to exhale words of trust: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43) and “Father into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). Read and meditate on Psalms 22-24, 69, and 88; inhale His Passion for you, and exhale in praise of the Father’s mercy and forgiveness, a song of joyful salvation. Even now we join the host of Heaven: ““To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13) And we with confidence, even as David came and sat before the LORD, approach His throne of grace with every petition and supplication and intercession with thanksgiving (Hebrews 4:16; Philippians 4:6).
If we were to inhale the gossip and fear and cheating and rumors and false beliefs circulating today, how could we exhale in prayer and praise and thanksgiving? But when we inhale the words of God, then we will breathe out the mercies and faithfulness of God in praise and adoration.
Father, on the Day of Pentecost You poured Your Holy Spirit on the Church; we praise you for the gracious assurance that He shall remain with Your people always. Your kingdom is without end! Without His mighty working we can do nothing that is pleasing to You; and we know not what to pray for as we ought, unless He help us in our infirmities and intercedes for us; indeed not one of us can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the power of Your Spirit. And so we implore You: Grant to us His inspiration so that we may think those things that are good and pleasing to Your and beneficial to our neighbors, and so that we open our mouths in praise and adoration of Your holy Name. In the name of Jesus.
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Wednesday August 17
2 Samuel 7:12-13, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My Name, and I will establish the throne of His kingdom forever.”
“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Thus David learned and so David teaches us.
The desire of David’s heart, initially confirmed by the prophet Nathan, seemed good, very good. David a king resides in a house of cedar, but the King of Heaven and earth has His earthly throne in a tent. Yet what could a servant do for his Master … except obey? What could a recipient of grace and mercy provide to the Giver of every good gift … could he offer something that the Giver does not already possess? With what can a king on earth enrich the King of all the earth? And above all, what word of command had the King given to His servant to build an earthly structure?
What then should David do? Continue receiving from the Lord. As the Lord formed a prince from a shepherd, so He will build an abiding house from the youngest son (1 Samuel 16:6-13). Let God’s glory be known in that He raised up the lowly and the weak … and not that His residence on earth must compete with how the kings of earth invest gold and silver in temples for mute and deaf and impotent gods. For any king can plunder the earth and work metals and wood and stone into forms appealing to the eye. This God, who had chosen David, hears from His eternal abode; He does not need a temple built by human hands to be near. What nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon Him? We have not built Him; He has built us (Genesis 2:7; Psalm 139:13-15).
So the Lord built a house for David; the first story being the next king from David’s body, Solomon. And as the Lord stated, Solomon was chastised for his waywardness; but the Lord’s commitment and loyalty would not waver, and the throne of David, as established by the Lord, would endure forever.
Matthew, therefore, is keen to trace the genealogy of great David to his greater Son, Jesus (Matthew 1:2-17). For in Christ Jesus the throne has been established forever. A house with a foundation tested in every way and with every temptation and with death and the condemnation of man’s desire to build his own houses—for since Jesus died … who ever thought that He would see descendants (have a house) and has been raised, death cannot end His reign; and as the faithful Son, being chastised not for His own sin but for ours, He has received the Name above every name accompanied by all authority in heaven and earth (Philippians 2:9-11; Matthew 28:18-20). The Father built the house for His Son, whom did not labor in vain. And now the Son builds the Father’s house, by adding to the household, expanding the reign. For with His authority He sends His ambassadors to baptize and teach, to make citizens of Heaven of every nation and people and language. Thus the Church prays: Thy kingdom come.
The House is being built … not with paraments and new construction and renovation and maintenance and meetings (as necessary as they are for order among the people of God and for our mutual service by which we praise the One who builds us) … but with the promise of God. His word, applied to flesh and blood of people washed and sanctified and justified in Christ Jesus, gathers us into the House, over which His Son sits (Hebrews 3:6) and to whom the Son distributes the forgiveness and the fellowship and the hope, the riches of His eternal dwellings (Isaiah 53:12). When the Lord builds His House, those who oppose it … death and demons and our sinful desires … labor in vain.
If the Christian does not grasp that he is not the one building the house or that the house building is about temporary things, then how can he comprehend how God builds using people as living stones and calls him to stewardship for and in the greater eternal House?
What then shall we do? Continue receiving life and wisdom, forgiveness and strength from the Lord. Then our labor is not in vain, because we are in Christ Jesus. We are His house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” (Hebrews 3:6).
O Lord, by the preaching and teaching of the Gospel extend Your kingdom, turning all who hear to genuine faith in You. Send into Your harvest fervent and zealous workers, and may our hearts and hands joyfully support Your kingdom. Build up this congregation, directing her work, and leading her officers, instructing her teachers, and blessing her families. By Your Word shape us as living stones, so that for the honor of Your Name, the temple in which You dwell, the Church, is built into the fullness of Your Son. In the name of Jesus.
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Tuesday August 16
2 Samuel 6:21, “David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the LORD—and I will celebrate before the LORD.”
Uzzah, with no word from God to assume a physical custodial management of His throne - for who may assume to touch the throne of God?! - gained no blessing by his sincerity but by his presumption he had his life taken away.Obed-Edom revealed himself a faithful priest. His Levitical household … in a city set aside for the right teaching of the LORD’s word … by faith faith his household prospered.
The contrast of faith take note of. God disciplines the irreverent, and He blesses the humble according to His faithfulness. Do not begin to reach out in order to grab but extend the open hands of a beggar, ready to receive from Our Father‘s throne of grace.
This contrast the faith is again demonstrated with David and Michal. David, the king according to the LORD’s will, brings up the Ark for he was the LORD’s anointed; he proclaims the Presence and power of God for salvation. He foreshows the greater glory of Jesus, who though King of all, humbled Himself in the procession from manger through temptation and mockery to death on a cross. David in faith honored God by adorning himself in priestly / prophetic garments … not in order to usurp any office (unlike Saul had willfully done) but in order to lead the people in praise and thanksgiving. David laid aside his royal garments that the glory of the LORD might be seen. Thus we offer our prayers and song as the kingdom of priests, holy to the Lord and joining in the hymns of heaven.
Michal did not perceive by faith David's praise and thus could not grasp how the LORD was praised. She saw the vulgarity; what she named common: a king no longer appearing so royal and embarrassing himself before the people. Michal could only grasp how this might have had an impact upon her ... her husband displaying himself in a crude manner. Could it be that this would affect her? She thought that this was shameful in the eyes of man. Yet … what is abased in the eyes of man is glorified before the LORD. And by faith David was in the presence of the LORD. What man deems worthy does not bring shame or dishonor, for our Lord has stated: “Blessed are those mocked for righteousness’ sake” (Matthew 5:10,11). Though Michal wished to embarrass David, he was exalted before the LORD and the LORD was extolled. Those who are proud in their own eyes will fall and those who humble themselves before the Lord will be exalted (Matthew 5:12).
Jesus, as king David had foreshowed, would humble Himself before His Father, making of Himself no account before people. And the Father exalted Him. Jesus made Himself contemptible that the Father would be honored. Do not begin to fear man says; his words pass away. And if we appear foolish, it is only in the eyes of man. What can man’s word to do?
You belong to our God. That is what God’s word of Holy Baptism declares. You have the inheritance, the good portion that cannot be taken away. Praise Him in the gathering of the saints.
Disbelief received nothing. Michal for her sarcasm estranged herself from the king. The house of Saul … like father, like daughter … would not produce anything. She deprived herself of her calling: a wife to be a mother.
Do not despise the praise and song of others … to call down fire on those following the Lord. Recognize the fruit of faith and be glad that they have prayed: “O Lord, open my lips” and He has. Their mouths show forth His praise. God inhabits the praises of His people. He does not need them, as a needy deity longing for hymns to feed His ego. We “enthrone” Him by confessing Him as the King as we sing by faith. Our praise and gathering summon each other: “Let us go to hear the word of the Lord and to receive His gifts.” Our praise summons the nations: “Come with us. This God has saved us and He desires that you also know Him and His gifts.”
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth; break forth in joyous song and sing praises” Psalm 98:4
O Father, let the brightness of the Holy Spirit shine in our hearts, and increase in us the knowledge of Your glory, that we may never depart from the true and saving faith, but rejoice always in the redemption purchased by the blood of Christ. Uphold us in temptation, and fill our hearts with holy thoughts and desires, that we may worship You with fervent prayer and walk before You in all holy obedience and devotion; in the name of Jesus. Amen
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Monday August 15, St. Mary, Mother of our Lord
The Old Testament Reading for this day is Isaiah 61:7-11.
Isaiah 61:11, “For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.”
Where God sows His word, there comes forth His will. In the barren ground of an unproductive earth He sowed His word … let there be … and there came forth all manner of life. And it was good. Thanks be to God for His kindness.
And into the pristine ground of the virgin Mary He sowed His word and the Holy Spirit brought forth the Righteous One and His Praise, that all nations might eat the fruit of His garden. And it was very good. Honor and glory and majesty are His along, for salvation is from Him alone.
Mary would have remained barren unless the Lord had chosen her and spoken to her; the word and the word alone filled Mary’s ear and her womb. And the first fruit evident … along with the conception of the Holy One, the Son of God … was the praise from her lips: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary teaches us how Christians hear the Word; for she hears the word and gladly submits to it; and then she treasures the words in her heart, meditating upon it day and night (Luke 2:19,51; Psalm 1:2). For the word is her joy—and how much more is her joy when she believes that the Word, Jesus, is God’s righteousness and praise.
By the power of the Lord’s word we eat the produce from the earth; and in the power of the Christ’s death, the seed that that was buried in the ground (John 12:24), and resurrection, the first fruits of God’s glorious harvest (1 Corinthians 15:20,23), we partake of the life of our Father, given to us by the Lord and Giver of Life, the Holy Spirit, with every absolution watering us and every communion nurturing us. “Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).
We—for we speak not only as an individual but also as the body of believers; we are sheep but sheep in a congregation—are the Lord’s vineyard. He planted in us His word; and the once desolate land sprouts forth with His fruit (Galatians 5:22,23). Without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5); and in Him our labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). Thus we ask the Father to tend to us, that every weed be uprooted and every root be well-watered and every bird chased away; the Owner of the garden visits His vineyard day by day to nurture and to prune, seeking a harvest of righteousness and praise.
Almighty God, You chose the Virgin Mary to be 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, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
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I stated in today’s sermon that “the week prior to the congregation planning session is essential … not chiefly for copying papers or finalizing the agenda … all which will contribute to a well-organized gathering but for this reason: that you devote yourselves to the daily readings and prayer … asking God to grant to us His Holy Spirit and the wisdom of the Scriptures and the joy of service and the hope of the future.” To that end I will send a prayer and daily devotion based on the Daily Readings (in the bulletin, from Lutheran Service Book), though for today, the devotion is based on the Sunday Gospel, Luke 16:1-13.
Sunday August 14
The Sunday Bible has been reading Jonah, but today (August 14) we examined and discussed the difficult parable, Luke 16:1-13; because the parable and its context (Luke 15-16) speak to a congregation planning session, I will refer to it next Sunday at the session. In the meantime, here is a revised portion of a sermon from several years ago, demonstrating how the parable and the following teaching were proclaimed then.
You cannot serve both God and mammon. They are diametrically opposed … earthly fading possessions and the eternal God.
One commands you to walk by sight … and God calls you to walk by faith. One can feed pride … but God upholds the humble.. One summons forth a lust for the things that are seen and temporal … while God lifts up our eyes to look ahead for the things that are unseen and eternal. One is bound to return to the dust … yet God desires to receive us in Heaven. One enlarges your desires … but God knowing the daily bread we need brings contentment with such things as we have. One urges us to withhold … on the other hand God moves us to be ready to distribute. One can hypnotize us to gaze at only one’s own things … God teaches us to protect the goods of others. One believes that happiness is in the created … God is our joy. You cannot serve two masters … the riches to whom we would be enslaved and the Creator and Owner who enriches us. For there was a rich man who had a manager; and the report was brought to him that this man used all of his possessions faithfully. The manager had wisely fed all of the people on time … cared for their needs … and taught them of the rich man’s generosity, mercy, and kindness. Summoning the debtors, He also forgave all of their debt, releasing the people with His own riches … even to the point of giving all He had … even His own life. The rich man said, “I want all people to hear about His stewardship”. So He called Him from the grave, and gave Him all authority in heaven and earth to distribute all the riches of His household. The Father commended His Son for His faithfulness and says: “Distribute My riches to people so that we may welcome them into Our eternal dwellings.” Your future is in Jesus Christ the faithful manager of God’s riches. For He forgives your debt in the absolution. And He with His body and blood gives to you a foretaste of the eternal banquet. This is the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He was rich yet for your sake He assumed your debts so that you … by His payment … will be welcomed home.
O Father in Heaven, help us so that by our lives and good works others may be prompted not to exalt us but to praise You and to honor Your name and to recognize Your goodness. Protect Your people so that no one may be injured by our evil works or offended by our shortcomings, calling You an agent of hurt and distress. Discipline us so that we may not act foolishly toward fellow members of the Body, and instruct us in the way of wisdom that strengthens the bond of love and peace. Keep us from desiring anything temporal or eternal that does not praise and honor Your name; if we should ask You for any such things, we pray that You would not hear our imprudence. Help us so to live that we may be found true children of God, and that Your fatherly name may not be used falsely or in vain because of us. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
The book that I identified in the Bible study is two books in a single volume: Poet & Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes by Kenneth Bailey.
For Trinity 9 | August 14, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Trinity 9, 2 Samuel 22:26-34
Read carefully … even aloud … what I have written.
There is no self-righteousness in a sergeant sent on an expedition, and upon completion of the tour reporting to the general: “I obeyed your instructions in every particular; I never deviated from the course you prescribed.” He has described himself as a servant, performing his duty.
For this is the other side of 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. God is faithful; thus, call upon the name of the Lord and you will see that He is merciful and abounding in steadfast love. He keeps His word. He reveals Himself as loyal and true. His Son is named Immanuel “God with us” for He never forsakes His people. God is always who He is; we do not and cannot change Him by being different ourselves.
“ … if we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful—for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:12,13)
That is important to know.
Some people bring out the worst in us; they push our buttons. Their anger ignites our flammable old man personalities; their griping and gossiping creates a whirlpool, drawing us in when we are foolish sailors. People treating us badly tempts us to respond in kind … twisting us to follow the pattern of the world, a shape that we would prefer not to be.
Our Father is not like that. You cannot lure God away from His own nature. He does not return just “whatever” we may give to Him. He ideals appropriately with us in every case. His law always judges our every sin precisely and thoroughly … tearing down what is built perversely. This teaching calls us to repent, lest we act foolishly, building on sand and collapse in the judgment.
And His steadfast love for us is constant … for He would raise us anew each day by His Spirit. He is wise and circumspect and just / righteous in all ways and in all of His dealings with us. Consider these passages:
“We are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by Jesus’s blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:24-26)
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
The proud will be cast down … out of His presence … for they judge God as twisted and wrong for His judgement against their sin and belief. Yet He will save the humble people … those that trust Him as faithful and just. His faithful word is the way of escape.
For Trinity 8 | August 7, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Trinity 8, Jeremiah 23:16-29
The Church does not offer her opinions to the world. The Church does not offer her musings to the nations. The Church has been given the Word of the Lord, and thus she speaks “Thus saith the Lord” as she has heard. To add to His word usurps His authority in heaven and earth; to subtract from His word diminishes His glory. What the Church has received by hearing, she faithfully sows by speaking among the peoples and languages. If she in fanatical boldness were to add any word or if she in editorial zeal were to delete any word, she must not say: “Thus saith the Lord”; she would have forsaken her calling and abandon the One whose word creates and redeems.
(This differs from adiaphora, which means those things which are neither commanded by Scripture nor forbidden by Scripture; adiaphora begins by stating that those actions are neutral. They are not sinful because they do not transgress God’s word, but — having no command from God to do them — there is no sin in abstaining from them.)
The so-called prophets of Jeremiah’s day were “editors”, deleting the condemnation that stood against Israel for its sins. They should have been proclaiming “Repent!” but instead were attempting to alleviate fears by mouthing “It shall be well!” It would certainly not be well for Judah and Jerusalem for the juggernaut Babylon was being prepared by the Lord as His blunt instrument of judgment. And for preaching lies in the name of the Lord, those dreamers would be as chaff, driven away by the strong winds of judgment and not ever gathered into His granary. His word is the mighty hammer shattering the fragile rock of lies and the intense flames consuming husks of fake news.
God forbid and prevent lies and fake news from even entering a pulpit, much less being spouted from a deceiver.
The Father has spoken, and He has assured you of the word that He has spoken. The Word is Jesus, the fullness of the Father’s revelation. And this Word has been confirmed by His death—no one may alter or revise an iota or a serif—and resurrection demonstrates that this Word, forgiveness of sin in the name of Christ, is living and life-giving. Thus when we, as the liturgy teaches us to ask “Lord, to whom shall we go” we may with all boldness reply “You have the words of eternal life!” (citing Peter in John 6:68)
Listen to every syllable. Accept no substitutes; look for no supplements. Test what you hear, and take to heart and mind the standard of teaching to which you are committed.
Behold, the calm day of the Lord!
Peace has gone forth,
the sun of righteousness has risen;
it will shine upon those who believe.
Blessed Father, since 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 we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
For Trinity 7 | July 31, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Trinity 7, Genesis 2:7-17
Hear the word and by the strength of the Word serve each other. Work is neither volunteering, for the man did not offer his power for work, nor is it altruism, thinking about the other.
This tilling and keeping in the Church is distinctly Christ-centered. For you, baptized into Christ, are a new kind of gardener. You follow the Father’s will because He is working in you for His good pleasure; you have been recreated in genuine righteousness; and thus you have the mind of Christ. And with Him, the work of your call is part of your worship in the Spirit.
So the table of duties (Small Catechism) describe the work of gardening for each of us in our callings, what is the tilling and keeping in each situation in accord with the faith.
A father and mother till a garden called children; a husband and wife keep a garden called marriage; son and daughter work in a garden called home. In those places we till and keep what has been set aside for us. Father and mother raise children in the faith: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” For husband and wife, a chief portrait is Ephesians 5: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord; … husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”
The children are instructed in Ephesians 6: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right”. Honor your father and mother.
The family receives instruction in 1 Timothy 5: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
We also do the same with life in society tending to the holy work God has given to you. We strive for faithfulness at the office, diligence in the classroom, and kindness to the neighbor. We must keep your conduct among unbelievers honorable so that if ever they accuse you of evil, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
The gardening that God has given to us is within the holy plot of the Church, and it extends farther and farther outward, so that your neighbor may be helped and served, so that others may be invited to godliness by our example, and that we give no one a cause to dishonor our Father, the Savior, and the Gospel.
You are not your own, and neither is your work or service or life. They are the gifts of God.
Your righteousness is not your own. It is the righteousness of Christ; it is the gift of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. With Jesus the true tree planted in our midst there is more life in this garden than in the garden of Eden.
For Trinity 6 | July 24, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Trinity 6, Exodus 20:1-21
We have heard, or possibly spoken many times, “My house, my rules”, often as the parents’ high fence in order to restrain and to guide the adolescent desire to live by personal impulses. For the youth the words may crush the spirit, be perceived as unfair or unneeded: “Don’t you trust me?” Will the child grasp the words as spoken not by a tyrannical parent but by the parents that brought forth life and sustain life and desire to protect life?
The Ten Commandments were spoken after the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt and then had escorted the Israelites to Mt. Sinai. He brought them, the children in His image, into His house for life in His house; these words defined and expressed the Redeemer-redeemed household in which the Israelites were to live. They were given freedom in His House, except in the matters that were not theirs. (Compare the instruction given to the man in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 2:15-17). They were forbidden to usurp God’s position as Father and they were forbidden to interrupt “family life”. However, they were free to worship Him, and they had the liberty to work and to serve the rest of the household and the non-family member.
You, having been baptized into Christ Jesus the Father’s Son, are adopted by the Father and you live in His household. Therefore, you must not assume His chair; and you must not lord your life over fellow heirs in the Father’s house, in any way depriving them of what the Father has freely bestowed on them. As children of our Father, live freely; led by His Spirit you are free to do all that you desire as His children, for the Father wills and works in you according to His pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
What is the role of the Ten Commandments in the life of the Christian? We are not under law, that is, our meaning, identity, and security are not secured by our adherence and obedience to those words; law reveals sin and condemns the effort to create and maintain life with the Father (Romans 3:19,20). By Christ’s obedience and death you have been set free from law’s accusation in order to receive through your baptism His life from the Father; the Father freely and generously provides (Read the Apostles Creed and the meanings in the Small Catechism, LSB 322-323.) The Commandments unfold the two great statements: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22: 37,38). The New Testament has expanded those words in many places (for example, Romans 12; 13:8-10; Ephesians 4:17ff.). Our Lord’s exhortation “love one another” (John 13:34 and repeated by John throughout his first epistle) teaches us that we are “fences” protecting life within the household and “pipes” distributing life to other members of the house (refer to the Commandments’ two-part explanations in the Catechism); the commandments guide in specific ways how we respond to the Father’s love, to Him and to the family and to all people. Consider the post-communion collect: “ … we implore You of Your mercy You would strengthen us through the same (the Lord’s Supper) in faith toward You and in fervent love toward one another …” LSB 201. In the Father’s house we live by grace and rely on His mercy, and our new lives shine forth with the beauty of His salvation.
For Trinity 5 | July 17, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Trinity 5, 1 Kings 19:9-21
The Lord had said to Elijah: “I gave to you your calling among the Israelites. I gave to you My Spirit for faithfulness among the Israelites. What are you doing here? I called you to preach among the Israelites there in Israel; I did not call you to shelter here in this cave by yourself.” So the Lord told Elijah to return to where He had placed him, to continue the work that He had apportioned to him, both to anoint the kings and to ensure the prophetic ministry would continue in the next generation, passing his mantle to Elisha.
Did the Lord send Elijah to work alone? No … the Lord sent him into his calling with His promise; the Lord Himself would take care of the future results of Elijah’s work; the Lord told him whom to anoint; the Lord told him his successor; the Lord had given to him His Word.
God assigns you your vocation: you are members of God’s family, adopted in baptism and known by God within the faithful Sonship, known within the perfect vocation of Christ, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross of His vocation.
Thus God’s other present callings for—you are a member of your family; you are neighbors and citizens—are grounded in Christ. Your callings are given and shaped and used by God; your callings are holy for your sins are forgiven. Though you may not perceive the growth or the fruitfulness or the benefit of your callings, because your life is entirely in Christ crucified and risen and ascended, you may remain steadfast and immovable, knowing that your calling is not exercised in vain.
What ever happened to Elijah and his vocation? His calling was completed when he was charioted away into God’s glory; his calling was fulfilled when he beheld Jesus at the transfiguration; his calling will be completed when he will be raised in glory at the Last Day.
And what will happen to us and our vocations? Our callings will be completed when God calls us from this life. Our calling will be fulfilled when we see the Lord Jesus in His glory. But for today, you are called to return to work here—doing what God has called us to do, both relying on His promises and trusting that the work is His.
For Trinity 3 | July 3, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Trinity 3, Micah 7:18-20
Gods of power are a shekel an omer. Every nation and every people has at least one: Baal, Marduk, Jupiter / Zeus, Odin, Scientism, Radical Individualism. Everyone expects his god to rule with exceptional might. For who would worship a puny god that would not fight but would instead die?
But who has a god that is merciful? Is there such a god? Not a deity who grudgingly repays you because you sacrificed a bull, a remodeled bathroom, a car, and fifteen weekends. But a god that does not pay you what you deserve. And what do you deserve? Who among us has honored our God with a perfect trust, bowing with reverence and confessing “I am but a humble servant”? Have we not wasted His goods? Have we not failed to listen to His living Word? Have we not ignored the needs of fellow citizens of His reign? Condemnation and banishment from our God’s royal presence are deserved, that we should be forcibly trampled as so much dust and purposely hurled into the depths of the sea.
So how is our God different? How is He unlike the gods of power that overwhelm disobedient subjects? This God, our God, has shown faithfulness as He promised to Abraham. For from Abraham’s line our God has raised a Lord that has healed us. For the blood of the Lord Jesus has marked our lives - painted mercy on you with the brush of absolution and marked your house (body) with His body and blood - and thus His anger and death have passed by. No vengeful god is He; He remembers us according to His steadfast love, a love displayed in His Son’s death. In that way, the Son’s obedience unto death on a cross, He has trampled sin, crushing it under His feet that walked to the cross and that walked the road to Emmaus. Sin may seem capable of many things, but it cannot swim, especially when bound by the unbreakable fetters of Christ’s indestructible life. No longer may sin trespass into the land of our lives in Christ, depriving us of life; sin is headed for the darkest abyss of the chaotic waters.
Who is a God like our Father that remained faithful when His people were not? Who is a God like our Father that has sent His Son? And who is a God like our Father, showing compassion to us, crushing the enemy and lifting us from the dust of death and diving into the murky waters that He might rescue us?
No one! And He shares His glory and honor with no one.
To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!
Deliver Life to Us
The Coffee Hour — Upholding Life: Overturning Roe v Wade
Deaconess Tiffany Manor, director of LCMS Life Ministry, reflects on the overturning of Roe v Wade from a Life Ministry perspective.
The Coffee Hour — Women's Health and the Overturning of Roe v Wade
Dr. Donna Harrison, CEO, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, talks about the implications of the overturning of Roe v Wade on maternal and child health care.
For Trinity 2 | June 26, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Trinity 2, Proverbs 9:1-10
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
Without the worship of the Lord—receiving from Him all things with thanksgiving and praise and rendering to Him service and obedience—one lacks awareness of how to live fully and freely in God’s creation. If one fails to confess God is the Father, one begins to disconnect other people from the Creator—that stance dehumanizes the self as well as the others—and starts acting only as a consumer and thinking as a materialist and has begun to abandon godly stewardship. That is called practical atheism and idolatry. (Review Genesis 1-3.)
When we confess that God is our Father and that from Him comes every good gift and perfect donation (James 1:17), we honor and revere Him as the source of life and depend on Him; we thus know how to act wisely. For example, He upholds creation by His might, thus we pray for daily bread; a fool considers that seedtime and harvest and sunshine and rain either are controlled or manipulated by him or are purely naturalistic events. As you read the proverbs, you will discern that the fool swims against the current in God’s river and lives against the pattern — the orderliness — of His creation; that person may appear to succeed for the length of his days, but a path of unrighteousness (living contrary to God’s will) will at the end bring condemnation from the Creator.
Those who live in the presence of the Lord, who approach Him in the spirit of humility and dependence, who worship Him and seek from Him mercy and forgiveness, apprehend that He is the Creator; they seek to live in accord with His holy expressed will; they demonstrate that they are in His image and walk on the path of His righteousness, that is, depending on His just reign (trust in Him) and building their households (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15-25; Psalms 127 & 128) as He Himself has built His creation.
Our Lord Jesus fully and freely displayed wisdom, being in the Father’s House (Luke 2:49), depending on the Father’s word (Luke 4:1-12), doing the Father’s work (Luke 4:40-41), and even in His accursed death on the cross, entrusting Himself to the Father (Luke 23:46). His wisdom is vindicated, and His understanding and insight of life before God are revealed as genuine and trustworthy by His resurrection, ascension, and by the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out on those baptized in His name. If the path of wisdom does not lead to Jesus’s death and resurrection, then it is not truly fearing the LORD. Genuine wisdom can only be found in the Son, for anyone who has grasped Jesus by faith has comprehended God the Father (John 14:9). So, believing the Son perceives Wisdom in action. For Jesus prayed: “Now this is eternal life, that they may know the one You have sent” (John 17:3). Jesus is the fullness of Wisdom, for He is the fullness of the Deity (Colossians 2:9), and Paul’s purpose of proclaiming Christ was that the Colossians “… may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).
Where does one find and receive this Wisdom? We hear His living voice in the Gospel, that is, in the living and active Word of God that forgives sin and brings into the household of God (Hebrews 4:12, Romans 10:17, Luke 10:16). Through the Gospel we are made “wise for salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15). Jesus is your wisdom; for trust in Him is the foundation on which life is built and confession of “Jesus is Lord” is how you perceive and grasp and attain and live life abundantly.
An earthly analogy might be:
The child’s life in the household begins with the trust in the parents;
and the strong bond with the father and mother sets in motion an orderly life in the family.
For Trinity 1 | June 19, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Trinity 1, Genesis 15:1-6
Read aloud verses 2-3. Do you hear Abram’s words as a complaint, expressing distress and uncertainty? Note that the Lord first came to him, stirring in Abram his recollection of previous encounters with God, and thus these sorts of questions and statements: “You spoke about land and descendants, and I waited. Where are they? Again You mention a descendant. Am I to continue to wait?”
Did the Lord immediately fulfill the promise? He presented evidence to believe the promise: “I who promise to you have placed the stars in the sky.” Abram was to consider this: “If God oversees the host above, can He also oversee the beginning of a great host, a single birth, below?”
Abram believed that the might of God would bring forth a child; God would keep His word. And Abram’s belief was counted as righteousness. As Hebrews 11:1 states: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. In this instance, faith is the assurance of the son hoped for; and God revealed that He is just and the justifier of the one who has faith in His promise (Romans 3:26).
But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for Abram’s sake alone, but for yours also. For it is preached that Jesus was delivered up for your trespasses and raised for your justification. Your faith in that declaration will be counted to you, who believe that God raised from the dead Jesus, as your righteousness. It is your righteousness because it is credited to you by the means of faith, yet this righteousness is of God and from God. What is this righteousness that God credits to you? First, this righteousness is the gift of a new relationship (fellowship, communion) to God for believers in Christ; rather than anger and wrath remaining on you, He has reconciled Himself to you and counts you as a member of His household; baptism both delivers this righteousness to you and is the sign of inclusion in the household of God (Romans 6:1ff; Galatians 3:26ff). Second, this righteousness is the victory over the devil’s accusations, Master Sin’s grip on your will and heart through Christ’s life (perfected obedience), atoning death (He is your substitute), and resurrection (God’s glorious “yes” to His Son’s faithfulness), all of which makes the new relationship a possibility; again, baptism has clothed you with Christ—His death and resurrection and new life by the Holy Spirit. And third, this righteousness is the fact that when God creates this new relationship (from Him to you on the basis of Christ’s death and resurrection), God is being true to His Word and faithful to His promises—He has proved that He is faithful and just to forgive your sins (1 John 4:9; compare Romans 3:26).
Your faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (the resurrection from the dead, the ingathering of all who believe, the new creation). God has declared that your inheritance is very great, and your faith in His promise is credited to you as righteousness.
For Holy Trinity | June 12, 2022
The Old Testament Reading for Holy Trinity, Isaiah 6:1-7
On the inside Judah was suffering. For a good king had died and the people were wholly sick, dying because they refused the life of God offered in His forgiving word. From the outside the nation was threatened—death by spears and arrows slung and shot by armies larger than Judah’s host. Was the Lord powerless in that circumstance? Would He remember His people? What would be the word and sign of His deliverance? Whatever circumstances the eye observed and at which the heart trembled and spirit fainted, God remained Lord, ever seated on His throne and ruling over the entire earth—the triple “holy” a magnificent emphatic heavenly choral assertion that He is incomparable and far above the earthly threats. He would manifest His glory as He reigns over all. More than a revelation of glory, the revelation would signal His saving intent. For He is the Lord of hosts—those with His people from His army (the hosts of Heaven) are always more than the foes that oppose His people (2 Kings 6:16). And He would provide a living sign of His saving presence for His people, a leader named Immanuel (Isaiah 7; Matthew 1) and therefore He would put a new song in their mouths, so that they would sing not dirges for their own funeral but praises to the Lord who has delivered them from every evil (Isaiah 12).
But who would tell His people this good news? In this scene of the inner court, where the King of kings sits enthroned over all creation, the Lord would prepare Isaiah for His preaching - his lips are cleansed by the reverent attendants. With lips cleansed, Isaiah was then readied to be summoned and sent to preach the fullness of God’s message (Isaiah 6:8ff.)
This declaration remains true and powerful for this congregation. As a banner that cannot be effaced, over the altar “Holy! Holy! Holy!” declares the Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen and ascended, reigning over all. He is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and He has the name that is above every title of office and status that could be named and could be imagined not only in this present age but also in the one to come. He reigns; and since He lives, raised from the grave, His reign cannot end. He is Immanuel, God with His people in every situation. Whatever kind of threat from satan and the world and our flesh would try to endanger the faith or the fellowship of believers, He leads the host of Heaven, God’s own army to battle for you in the day’s unseen events, sometimes visible in earthly events and some probably hidden from our wondering and tear-filled eyes. The Father has put all things under our Lord’s feet - all things includes death and sin - and gave our Lord as head over all things to the Church.
Against whatever internal struggles we wrestle and whatever external threats the Church faces - this word of God (Isaiah 6) is not a statement for the political or economic or social well-being or success of Christians in the U.S. A. or in any other country - this word assures the Church that the Lord remains with His people and He fights for us; and that He continues to cleanse the lips of His preachers so that the people may not fear the days to come but sing confidently “Hosanna” as the messengers of God also cleanse the peoples’ lips with the true body and blood of Christ Jesus.
Stanford Art Walk for College Students
Saturday, June 25
Please arrive at Trinity at 10:45 a.m.
We will walk through the Cantor Arts Center first.
Then we will make our way through the rest of the campus.
We will provide snacks during the walk.
A 5:30 p.m. supper will be provided
For The 5th Sunday after The Epiphany | February 6
“It shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
The glory of a garden belongs not to the plants but to the gardener. The beauty of the clay pot belongs not to the clay but to the potter. The victory on the field is secured not by the leather ball but by the players. The residents trapped in the house aflame are not praised for their bravery but the firefighters that saved them.
Thus when the people of God were delivered from exile in Babylonia, neither Cyrus received honor as God’s chosen instrument nor the Israelites that returned gathered the praise for being delivered but the Lord and Him alone. For He will not share His glory and honor with any other; no other god created and no other is the beginning and the end; He speaks and brings into being. Even as the standing stones that commemorated Israel’s passage through the Jordan as the work of the Lord, that Israel would remember Him (Joshua 4), Israel’s life and salvation stand as a memorial for the Lord and His grace.
Our Father the Creator receives our thanksgiving and obedience for the rain and snow, which water the earth and then generate the seed and harvest. How much more, then, does He receive majesty and praise and blessing from us, that His Name — His Person and reputation — are declared, for He has delivered us. The fact of our salvation, our rescue from death and our inheritance of life is not to our praise; we stand as the living testimony to the lavish grace washing over us. “In love our Father predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:4-6).
His Word has accomplished His purpose in us, for He has brought us to faith, which is not our doing but the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8), and He preserves us, for He is faithful (Hebrews 6:17,18). Neither famine nor flood, neither persecution nor poverty, neither riches nor rage, neither powers above and unseen nor powers below and seen shall cut us off from the Lord; He shall not abandon us. And for our assurance, He has supplied us with the Guarantor of our inheritance, the Holy Spirit, until we acquire possession of the eternal inheritance of the new creation, to the praise of His glory.
SAVE THE DATE
March 5, 2022
2022 LWML CNH Zone 8 Prayer Service
Prayer may be simple or complex — silent or corporate — memorized or free-flowing from our heart. It is a conversation with God and shows our love for our heavenly Father. The 2022 Prayer Service, based on Luke 11:1, “Lord, Teach us to Pray,” looks at various forms of prayer used frequently by believers as we seek to honor Christ, the Lord of the Church, with our prayers. LWML thanks Rev. Grimm for authoring the 2022 LWML Prayer Service.
Saturday, March 05, 2022
10:00 AM Prayer Service
In-person & Zooming Live
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Palo Alto, CA
The Rev. Stewart Crown, Prayer Leader
If joining virtually, email your RSVP for the Zoom Link & Service bulletin to:
Mary Deger Seevers firstname.lastname@example.org
& Lori Fisher email@example.com
It will be posted to YouTube for Later Viewing
The 3rd Sunday after The Epiphany | January 23
2 Kings 5:1-16
An unlikely recipient of God’s kindness is this great man, given much success and heroic in his calling though beset by a chronic debilitating disease. Could that be Naaman … or you? Who of us should have the Lord Almighty wave His hand over us or bathe us in the water or come to our homes or take us by the hand, raising us from a bed of affliction? Yes, each and every one of us … unlikely recipients of God’s kindness.
Give thanks that the Word has been spoken to you, and with water empowered by that lively Word you are born from above, renewed in the Spirit before God and whose flesh shall be born from the grave in vigorous and imperishable manner.
And what shall we render to the Lord for all His benefits to us? Let us lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord; and we will offer ourselves as living sacrifices to the Lord in the presence of all His people.
+ + +
Beginning January 23 the Sunday Service Schedule will change:
9:30 a.m. (no longer 9:00 a.m.) Communion (also on Zoom)
10:45 / 11:00 a.m. Bible Study (later start time)
12:30 p.m. Communion (this service is not affected by the 9:30 a.m. service start).
Walk For Life West Coast
Saturday, January 22nd
West Portal Lutheran Church & School Parish Hall
11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
travel to Civic Center Plaza
12:30 p.m. Speakers
1:30 p.m. Walk for Life
For Epiphany 2 | 2022 January 16
18 Moses said, “Please show me Your glory.” 19 And He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you My name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” He said, “you cannot see My face, for man shall not see Me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while My glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with My hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”
St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, wrote: “I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.” (3 John 13,14). Those were his options: ink on parchment or face to face. Which would you prefer? Texting and emails constantly fall short; “facetime” is far better—but not through a screen, for a face-to-face presence allows you to know the person, without a mask and without photoshopping and without layers manipulating appearances. We seek words and appearances that are in harmony and in perfect union.
Moses wanted to see, to know, to have communion with God face to face, a personal conversation unshielded by burning bush or stormy clouds. He sought the unhindered revelation of God. Yet who could stand in the Presence of the Lord, in His Glory, since the day that the man and woman were no longer ashamed but hid themselves?
Only One has made God known: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, He has made Him known” (John 1:18) In Christ Jesus we see the Father’s face; we have the true image of the unseen God, the fullness of grace and mercy that Moses longed for (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 4:6). For God has not turned away His face; He lifts up His face to look upon you—to shine upon you with His face and to assure you of His peace (Numbers 6:24-26). Our Father is not angry with you; His Word, Jesus spoken loudly and clearly in His ministry unto death and vindicated in the resurrection and ascension, reveals His face, His favor, His love for you. He is gracious to you, and He shows mercy to you. In the name of Jesus “let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Moses had a glimpse of the backside of God, and with Elijah he saw more fully at the Transfiguration. Now we “see” through the Word; we see in a mirror dimly; but then when He appears we shall be like Him—then you also will appear with Him in glory—because we shall see Him as He is, for then face to face, to know fully, even as we have been fully known (1 John 3:1; Colossians 3:4; 1 Corinthians 13:12).
For The Epiphany of Our Lord (observed) | January 9
Israel had turned off its light, the light by which the nation would have demonstrated that it had been chosen by the God of grace to the peoples of the world. Rather “Be light as He is Light”, it had become darkness and gloom—lies in the court, blood in the streets, the blind were leading the blind, and good condemned (read Isaiah 59). No one—there was no righteous advocate—could have interceded for Israel before the Lord; so the Lord, according to His own faithfulness, would deliver Israel from its sin destined for destruction and raise a Redeemer. That is the Light that Isaiah promised.
As a moth to the flame, so the magi to the Light; they were not the first Gentiles to hope in the Lord (recall Rahab and Ruth), but they were the first Gentiles to offer their worship—praises, along with gold and frankincense (the wealth of the nations)—to the Redeemer in His flesh and blood. The Christ Jesus is the righteous work of God revealed, how God rescues according to His covenant. Jesus is the Light, for He the truth of God shines and He the Glory of the Lord reveals the salvation of God. God delivers from darkness—our unrighteousness—in no other way except through the brightness of His righteousness, Jesus. His genuine obedience and perfected faithfulness, the true Light shining, radiantly shine on us through the Word and Communion, that we walk not in the old man’s night but in faith.
The Light’s brilliance had just begun to enlighten the world when the magi arrived; we see more fully after His death and resurrection; but at His return, neither sun nor moon will light the days, for we shall behold His fullness of Presence.
For The Second Sunday after Christmas | January 2
And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph's hand shall close your eyes.”
The Word of God had created faith in Abraham; and Abraham had delivered the word of the Lord to his son Isaac and then Isaac Jacob. In each man the word created faith, a basket in which to catch the Lord’s gifts. So when the Lord calls to Jacob, he responds with words that are ready to receive and to serve: “Here I am”. He does not hide among the bushes; he offers no excuse; the Lord is the master and he the servant, and the servant has but one will: to hear and to do what the master desires.
Yet wasn’t the promise to possess the land of Canaan? Wasn’t the promise for the family to be fruitful and multiply in that place? How could they be a blessing when God seems to be disassembling what He promised to create? The Lord assures Jacob that though the promise seems to head in the wrong direction—he will die outside of the land of promise—He will keep His word.
To our experience and brief sojourn in this life, it can appear that we are backtracking, the Lord is reversing course, the work of God is being undone. “Here am I” could be a risky response … maybe even committing oneself to a dead end. Yet … years later … many years later … the Lord returned Jacob and His people to Canaan. Foremost, keep your eyes fastened on Jesus. For He always from the heart responded “Here am I; I am here to do Your will” even to the cross. An apparent public disaster … until God kept His promise, raising Him from the grave.
Your “Here am I”, having been created by God’s Word, will not be disappointed. You have the Scriptures that testify to God’s faithfulness. He occupies His entire universe; so He will be with us wherever He sends us. And He will bring us up. Not to the land of Canaan but into the new creation.
Teaching Children about God's Design for Marriage
If you are not familiar with the CPH blog, you will find robust biblical and faithful support for your calling as Christian parents. I urge you to read this and follow the links; you cannot be disappointed.
"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Psalm 127:3
Walk For Life West Coast
WHEN: Saturday, January 22nd 2022, 10:30am
SPEAKER: Erin Maggard. She is the wife of a Lutheran pastor & an IT professional. Having decades ago gone through the pain of an abortion, she’s now able to help others as a pro-life speaker.
TOPIC: “Life After Abortion!”
West Portal Lutheran Church & School Parish Hall
200 Sloat Boulevard, San Francisco, CA 94132
Tel. (415)661-0242 URL WestPortalLutheran.org
(Parking on small parking lot & on streets around the church & school.)
11:30 am to 12:15 - travel to Civic Center Plaza
12:30 pm Speakers:
Lila Rose. Speaker, writer, activist for the unborn. President of Live Action, a human rights nonprofit with the largest footprint for global pro-life
Christi Hockel Davenport. A witness to the full life those with Down’s Syndrome can experience. A Fellow of Concordia University, Irvine
The Rev. Clenard Childress. One of most respected leaders in the pro-life movement. Winner of many awards. Founder of BlackGenocide.org
1:30 pm Walk for Life
Each day in Advent will have a Bible reading, a short devotional, and a prayer. This year the readings and devotions will take their course through the structure of the book of Malachi as the Lord’s prophet preaches on the love of God, faithless worship, faithless marriages, and faithless offerings. Malachi is a prophet calling God’s people to repent. He is also preparing the way for John the Baptist and of course our Lord Jesus Christ.
left: Godspeed and Farewell to Joshua Eggold [August 8]. After six years and achieving a well-deserved doctorate, Trinity bid farewell to Joshua, who has moved to Philadelphia.
right: Our God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—adopted, through the Holy Baptism, Madeline Hallie Dorn, the daughter of Tim Dorn and Katherine Stalder (on bench) [September 12]. Madeline was born December 14, 2020. Her sponsors for Holy Baptism are her great aunt, Barbara Allen, and aunt, Julia Stalder.
For the near future, Trinity will retain its two service schedule on Sunday, for we recognize that not all members and guests may be comfortable coming to church on Sunday because of the number of people.
9:00 a.m. Communion (and on Zoom)
10:15 a.m. Bible study (and on Zoom)
12:30 p.m. Communion
No longer is registration a requisite for services.
Requirement to Wear Face Coverings Indoors. Regardless of vaccination status, all persons must wear face coverings at all times when indoors except:
in their own residence or working in a closed room or office alone or with members of their household;
when they are actively performing an activity that cannot be done while wearing a face covering (e.g., actively eating or drinking, swimming or showering in a fitness facility, or obtaining a medical or cosmetic service requiring removal of a face covering); or,
as specifically exempted from use of face coverings under the guidance of CDPH at https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/guidance-for-face-coverings.aspx (e.g., to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired or where a face covering poses a safety risk).
We will not ask you if you are vaccinated and will not screen you or visitors upon entry. You do not need your vaccination card and we will not ask for it.
The rope barriers have been removed.
You may sit farther away from people as space allows.
Communion distribution will return to normal.
I encourage you to return to the practice of using the chalice rather than the individual cups.
The evidence to this date suggests that the risk difference between individual cups and the common cup is very small, and the risk level is about the same.
You may stand at the communion rail rather than kneel. I do not believe kneeling poses any risk at this point, but there are lots of reasons a person may prefer to stand rather than kneel.
I encourage you to consider what your long-term practice has been and will be, and why.
Service Books and Bulletins
The congregation will use the hymnbook.
The large format online bulletin will be sent to all.
The offering pouches will remain at the nave doors.
You will not be ushered out at the end of the service. Visit as long as you like (or until the Bible study begins).
I am comfortable with greetings being back to normal.
Greet as you are comfortable.
Bible Classes and Sunday School
Bible classes are also free to meet and use the facilities as needed.
Please recognize that the experiences of each member have differed and therefore their comfort level and willingness to resume what might be called pre-pandemic practices will not be the same as yours. Be compassionate and kind toward each other; just because you are comfortable with hugging, shaking hands, etc., does not mean that everyone else is comfortable. Give members and guests space, and try to communicate with each other about your own comfort level.
Has all of this become tiresome? Yes. I thank our God that you have exercised patience and learned how to adapt. He is merciful, and we pray this will be near the end of Covid-19 for us.
Trinity will continue to care for her members as best as we can.
In His peace,
In the name of the Lord Jesus, we welcome Anna, Geri, and Stephen Gustafson as members of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Stephen was baptized shortly after birth and has maintained membership at LC-MS congregations his entire life. At a young age, he desired to serve as a pastor or in the military, ultimately deciding to serve in the military. Geri came to the faith later in life and began attending Resurrection Lutheran Church in Santa Clara. Instructed in the evangelical Lutheran confession, Geri was confirmed the year before her marriage to Stephen in 2003. Born in late 2010, Anna was baptized in the Spring of 2011 and currently attends Apostles Lutheran School in San Jose, where Geri also serves as the Transitional Kindergarten After-care Administrator. Stephen works at Applied Materials and continues to serve in the US Navy, where he has 23 years of active and reserve service. The Gustafsons reside in southwest San Jose with their three cats.