Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Dorr, Michigan

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost (B – Proper 21)
Sept. 27, 2009
Text: Mark 9:38-50

“You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus says of His people, of the disciples, of you, of me (Matt. 5:13; ESV). What is the function of salt? It is a seasoning, to be sure, and it is in this sense that Jesus speaks when He calls you the salt of the earth. Christians are to season the world with our confession of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel, and with our good works that glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16). But salt has another function, and it is that of which Jesus speaks in our text this morning when He says, “everyone will be salted with fire” (Mark 9:49). In the days before refrigeration, salt was used to preserve meat. When you cure meat with salt, it keeps the meet from rotting. The salty fire Jesus speaks of is the agent by which our Lord cleanses and preserves His Christians. “It is the discipline of the Word and the Spirit of God which gradually cleanses the believer of sin, and kills the works and desires of the flesh, and the fire of tribulation, which renders sin and its results unpleasant… it prevents moral rotting and a relapse into the service of sin.”[1] It prevents the kind of rot that leads to the weakening of faith, and perhaps to the loss of faith in Jesus Christ altogether.

Dear Christians, you are to be the salt of the earth. You are to season the earth with your confession of Christ and your good works. You are to chase the devil away with the Word and Name of Jesus. Just like the man in our text, wherever you bear the Name of Jesus, and you bear that Name wherever you go since you have been baptized into His Name, there the devil must flee. The man in our text who was casting out demons in Jesus’ Name was the salt of the earth. John and the other disciples had no reason to be jealous of him, just as you have no reason to be jealous of your fellow Christians as they do good works in Jesus’ Name. The truth is, too, that we don’t all have the same work to do. Not everyone casts out demons, like the man in our text. Not everyone is a pastor, nor should everyone study for the office of the Holy Ministry. Not everyone is the president of the congregation or the head elder. On the other hand, being pastor or president or head elder is no more holy a work in the Kingdom of God than that done by any other Christian. Every Christian is important in the holy Church. Every member of the Body of Christ is important to the overall health, wellness, and functioning of the Body. And contrary to popular belief, the works that seem great in human eyes: the prestigious, the spectacular, the works that are noticed, are not as “salty” as some other works that go entirely unnoticed. Jesus says that “whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward” (v. 41) (Now I know why the elders always bring me ice water! Thanks be to God for them!). In the same breath Jesus speaks of the “mighty work” (v. 39) of exorcising demons and the mundane work of placing a cup of water in the hands of one who is thirsty. Both are high and holy works of God. This is salt of the earth kind of stuff. It seasons the world. It confesses Christ in word and in deed. It bears the Name of Christ to a world desperately in need of Him, desperately in need of the life-giving Gospel.

But that’s the easy part of the Gospel lesson. Now it gets more difficult. You are to have salt in yourselves, as well, Beloved. This is to say that the Word of God, Law and Gospel, is to have its way with you, to season you, and to preserve you. You will have to pass through the fire of tribulation, by which God would purify you. It isn’t pleasant. But it is necessary. Because hear again Jesus’ Word about those who cause one of these little ones to sin: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone,” like the one on the front of your bulletin, “were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (v. 42). Better to be dead, than to cause one of these little ones, little children, weak Christians, the vulnerable, to sin. Such could even, God forbid, cause one of these little ones to lose their faith. We have to watch. We have to be on our guard, lest we do mortal harm to our brothers and sisters in the faith. “Here a grave responsibility is placed upon all parents, teachers, and all whose duty brings them into contact with children and with such as are small in the kingdom of God, the Christians that are weak in Christian knowledge. To watch over our mouths that they do not speak words, to watch over our members that they do not commit deeds, that will cause harm and offense, that is a solemn obligation, for which account will be demanded on the last day with most severe reckoning.”[2]

And so this leads Jesus to say the very startling things He says in our text. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off! If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off! If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out! It is better to enter life without these members than, possessing them, to be cast into hell where the fire never stops burning and the worms never stop gnawing at your flesh, where fire and worm are ever consuming you, yet you are never consumed. Any and every alternative is better than hell, a place of unimaginable eternal torment. But is Jesus really telling us to mutilate ourselves? I hope not, because if we had to slice away every member of ours that we have used in service to sin, we would all be laying around with no appendages and no eyes. In fact, we’d be dead(!)… And that’s just the point, isn’t it? We’ve all been caught red-handed. It’s true, these hands are stained by sin. It’s true, these feet have led me to sin. It’s true, these eyes have lusted and coveted and looked upon others with judgment. This is to say nothing of the tongue, that untamable beast afire with gossip, idle speech, filthy language, and the cursing of the neighbor. This is to say nothing about every other member of the body that can be used in service to sin. You get the picture. Lord, have mercy. But even all of this doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is… well, your heart. Remember what Jesus says of your heart. We heard it just a few weeks ago: “out of the heart of man come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23). So you see, what really needs to be cut away is your heart. Cutting off your hands and feet and plucking out your eyes won’t get rid of sin. The heart is the source of sin. Your heart must be cut away and something else put in its place. And Jesus must do it. We cannot do it ourselves. We pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps. 51:10). God must create it if you are to have a new heart. He must break your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ez. 11:19). He must create in you “a heart which rightly believes that it has been purified by God through faith.”[3]

God does this in Baptism. That’s where you receive your new heart. That is where you are created anew, where the Old Adam in you is drowned and you are reborn, regenerated, renewed, made God’s own child, united to the crucified and risen Christ, and anointed with the Holy Spirit. Baptism is where all your sins are washed away, all those evil things that proceed from your heart, and you are given faith in Jesus Christ. Baptism is where you are given your saltiness. Having been cleansed of your sin, the salt of God’s Word and the fire of tribulations, which ever drive you to Christ alone for mercy, preserve and purify you. Jesus says, “everyone will be salted with fire” (Mark 9:49). He’s talking about Christians, not unbelievers. St. Peter writes, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,” salted with fire, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). Jesus says to His disciples, to you, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:50). Have salt in yourselves. Be in the Word. Be flavored by the Word. Be preserved in the Spirit. Be purified by the fire of the cross. And then flavor one another as you live together in peace, always giving place to your neighbor, never insisting on your own way, gently restoring the erring brother or sister, sacrificing yourself for the good of the other, giving of all that you have been given to meet your neighbor’s every need, for you ever receive more and more from your loving heavenly Father. Have salt in yourselves. Be the salt of the earth.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the good news is you have no need to cut off your hands or your feet or to pluck out your eyes. You have no need to have a millstone hung around your neck and be thrown into the sea. You have no need, not because you haven’t sinned, not because you aren’t a sinner, for you have sinned, and you are a sinner. You have no need because Christ has already suffered all of this for you. He gave His body into death in your place. He died for your transgressions. And He is risen, that you may live, even now, a new life. He is risen, that you may be His salt. He is risen, that you may be His Body on the earth and in heaven. He is risen, and one day, on that great and blessed day of His appearing, you, too, will rise. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: New Testament Vol. I (St. Louis: Concordia, n.d.) p. 218.
[2] Ibid., p. 217.
[3] Martin Chemnitz, quoted in The Lutheran Study Bible (St. Louis: Concordia, 2009) p. 897.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Faith Commends Itself to God Entirely

"Omnipotent and merciful God... You are the Life of my life. You are the Soul of my soul. Therefore I leave my life and soul in Your hands and cling to You completely, with a humble heart."

-- Johann Gerhard, The Daily Exercise of Piety, Matthew Harrison, trans. (Malone, TX: Repristination, n.d.) pp. 62, 63.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (B – Proper 20)
Sept. 20, 2009
Text: Mark 9:30-37; James 3:13-4:10

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you,” writes St. James in our epistle lesson (4:10; ESV). Humility is hard to come by. Especially true humility. Not the false humility that makes a show of being modest, but the kind of humility that really knows and acknowledges the depths of one’s inabilities and weaknesses, of one’s sins. That kind of humility is the humility of repentance. That kind of humility is defined by St. James in this way: “Submit yourselves to God therefore” (v. 7). “Draw near to God” (v. 8). “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom” (vv. 8-9). Such humility places oneself under God’s authority and confesses the righteousness of His verdict: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). He’s talking about me. He’s talking about you. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Confession of sins, repentance, submission to God, these are the marks of humility, the humility to which St. James admonishes us. But the problem is that such humility is foreign to our fallen flesh. Humility is hard to come by because it doesn’t come naturally. It cannot come from within us. True humility comes only from Christ, the humble One, who humbled Himself to take on the form of a servant, to be our Brother, to unite Himself with us sinners in our flesh, to die our death on the cross. Jesus Christ is the only truly humble One. The rest of us are either proud by nature, arrogant, defensive, self-righteous, or, when the hammer of God’s Law has broken us to pieces, we despair, thinking that we must save ourselves by our own works, by our own righteousness, and finding none within ourselves, that we must suffer everlasting death in hell because we could not deliver ourselves. The former attitude is that of brazen pride. The latter is perhaps self-effacing, but a pride nonetheless; a pride that says, “I should have been able to save myself, I had all the tools within me to do so, but I just didn’t do enough,” like the athlete who berates himself after a loss.

Behold the mess that the lack of humility has caused in this fallen world. St. James says that lack of humility causes “jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts” (James 3:14), “quarrels” and “fights,” “coveting” and “murder” (cf. 4:1-2). This happens even among Christians. The disciples in the Gospel lesson serve as a picture of this very thing. The disciples are deep in discussion on the road to Capernaum. Jesus is out of earshot. Of course He knows what they are discussing. You can’t pull a fast one on Jesus. He knows men’s hearts. But the disciples think it’s safe. They are arguing about who is the greatest. They still believe Jesus is here to be an earthly Messiah, to deliver the earthly kingdom of Israel from Roman oppression. They believe Jesus will be an earthly king. They are arguing about who will hold what rank in the new government. Surely Peter will be the King’s chief of staff! But then again, James, John, and even Andrew are major contenders for such a lofty position. John, after all, is the disciple whom Jesus loved! And yet again, maybe the other disciples felt slighted by Jesus’ inner circle. Why should they get all the glory? Perhaps a Thomas or a Philip or a Bartholomew would provide better leadership! Or maybe Matthew, the tax collector, who has experience in governmental affairs, or even (perish the thought) Judas Iscariot, the keeper of the moneybags! He at least deserves to be the high-ranking official at Jesus’ Internal Revenue Service!

All this jockeying for position and prestige leaves the air bitter and contentious. But the disciples are measuring greatness all wrong. It’s time for a lesson in humility. Having reached their destination, Jesus asks them what they were discussing along the way. Again, He knows. He’s looking for a confession. He’s looking for a little humility. And finding none (they kept silent in their shame), He calls the disciples to gather round and He takes a child and puts him in their midst and takes the child in his arms. And He says to His disciples, “You want to be first? I’ll show you how. Be last of all. Stoop down, get on the floor, and serve this little child as if he is your king. That’s how you become first in the Kingdom of heaven.” “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). When you humble yourself in such a way as to put the interests of others above your own, even the interests of those you sinfully consider less than yourself, then you serve not only that person, but Jesus, and in serving Jesus you serve the Father. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me” (v. 37).

To stoop down and serve a little child is Jesus’ picture of humility. This is the same Lord Jesus who, in the next chapter of Mark, will become indignant with His disciples when they rebuke the mothers and fathers bringing their precious little ones for a blessing. “Let the children come to me; do not hinder the, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (10:14). This is the same Lord Jesus who says, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child,” powerless, helpless, unable to bring anything to the table, unable to earn his position in the kingdom, simply trusting in the King… whoever does not receive the kingdom in this way, “shall not enter it” (v. 15). To stoop down and serve a little child is to serve the “least of these,” to become last. And Jesus says that in being last of all, the disciple becomes first. This is great encouragement as my wife and I gear up for baby number 2. Swimming in dirty diapers and spit-up, up every three hours for another feeding, enduring the colic, jumping at the whim of one so demanding yet utterly helpless… It takes humility. Unfortunately, my wife and I are not the picture of humility. We do it because we love our baby, to be sure, but we also do it because we have to. The truly humble one does it with no mixed motives. The truly humble one does it purely because it is his privilege. The truly humble one does it even when the child isn’t his own. The truly humble one does it even when the child isn’t a child. A Christian is to serve the neighbor in every need, joyfully, gratefully, no matter how inconvenient, no matter how gross, no matter what the circumstances, even if it means the death of him, because that is what love demands. Who of us can do that? We can’t, of course. We are too weak. We are sinful. It doesn’t come naturally to us. It can’t come from inside us at all. How often have we, like the disciples in our text, quibbled and quarreled and fought and insisted on our own way? It happens at work and at school, among our friends and acquaintances, in our families, and even here at church. Repent, beloved. We must confess what God has said of us in His word. There is no one righteous. All have sinned and fall short of His glory. We cannot live up to His righteous standard.

But do not despair. Jesus is the humble One. And He is the humble One in your place. God counts His humility as your own. He stoops down to serve the children of God, in spite of all their childishness. He who is very God of very God becomes flesh. He is born of a woman, born under the Law, that He might redeem those under the Law, those selfish, prideful, arrogant ones who revel in their own self-righteousness as well as those who despair without hope of salvation in Christ Jesus. He has come to redeem you. He who knows no sin becomes sin for you, that you might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). He takes your sin, your selfishness, your pride, your arrogance, your despair, and all that is wicked in you, into Himself, and nails it in His flesh to the cross. Here is true humility: “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him” (Mark 9:31). He was “like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter” (Jer. 11:19). But the one who humbles himself before the Lord, him the Lord will exalt (James 4:10). “And when [the Son of Man] is killed, after three days he will rise” (Mark 9:31). Jesus, who is by divine right the very First, willingly becomes Last and Servant of all. And so He is the only One in all of human history who has truly earned the title “First.” “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). The disciples of Jesus Christ should not argue about who is the greatest. The disciples of Jesus Christ should not insist on their own way. That would mean giving in to the desires of the sinful flesh. Rather, the disciples of Jesus Christ should praise the One who is rightfully greatest, who made Himself nothing for our sakes, and who has thus been exalted by the Father to the right hand of the throne of God. The disciples of Jesus Christ should only insist on His way. In all other matters they should give glory to God, and in love, defer to their neighbor.

In this way, the disciples of Jesus Christ make a beginning of humility in this life, imperfectly mind you, for it must be so while we still walk in this sinful flesh. But that is why we confess our sins. For “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). Such humility is a gift of God. It must come from outside of us. It is something only the Holy Spirit can accomplish in us as He creates in us new hearts. And He does accomplish it. Such humility is a gift received by faith. In humility, we trust in Christ, the humble One, the Last who is First. We trust in Him alone. Christ’s own humility is given to us, credited to our account, in Baptism. Thus possessing His perfect humility as our own, we live with humble hearts in repentance and faith toward God, and humble love toward one another. God grant us all such humility. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (B – Proper 19)
September 13, 2009
Text: Mark 9:14-29

Beloved in the Lord, do you have enough faith? “All things are possible for one who believes,” says Jesus (Mark 9:23; ESV). Oh, really?! Then why is it that so often life seems impossible? Why won’t the cancer go away? Why is my marriage in trouble? Why won’t the kids behave? Why can’t I find a job? Why did God take my loved one away from me in death? Why do I still have to die? Why is it that my faith CANNOT move a molehill, much less a mountain? All things are possible for the one who believes? What can this possibly mean?

It’s easy to fall into this line of thinking. And when we do, we inevitably begin to ask ourselves the question, “Do I have enough faith?” What is so sinister about this question is the logic behind it. If my cancer isn’t cured, if my marriage falls apart, if I don’t have a job, if my loved one dies, it must be because I don’t have enough faith. Many are the false prophets who would burden you with this false law preaching that says when things go badly with you, it’s because you don’t have faith, or you don’t have enough faith. If you believed enough, these false teachers maintain, you would have perfect health, significant wealth, and you would live in prosperity. This is the “name it, claim it” crowd, or the “Word-Faith Movement” as it is called, represented by televangelists like Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, and Joel Osteen. This is the theology represented in the Prayer of Jabez book that was so popular a few years back. But it’s false doctrine, beloved. It’s a lie. Don’t believe it. Don’t give in to it. The devil loves it when he can convince us that God is punishing us and we cannot enjoy His blessings or salvation because we don’t have enough faith.

Of course, you don’t have enough faith. If you want to quantify faith, nobody has enough of it. It’s impossible. Only Jesus has enough faith. We fallen humans always need more, always need our faith to be strengthened. We always have our doubts. We’re always afraid God can’t handle what ails us. We’re always searching for something else that can solve our problems. We always find ourselves fearing, loving, and trusting things and people that are not God because we can see them, touch them, grab onto them. And these things and these people, which are concrete to us, become our idols. Money becomes an idol. Possessions become idols. The president becomes an idol. Our spouse or our child or our parent becomes an idol. Good gifts of God become idols because we think we can trust them more than we can trust God. We too often think of God as an abstraction. We think we have to see to believe.

This is true even of Christians who have comparatively strong faith. That is why the prayer of the man in our text, the father of the demon possessed boy, must become our prayer as well: “I believe; help my unbelief!” (v. 24). It is both a confession of sin and a confession of faith. It is a confession of sin in that it admits the deficiency of our faith in this respect: It is never strong enough. We always struggle with doubt as long as we live in this fallen world. We’re always afraid our problem, whatever it happens to be at the moment, is something that God, something that Jesus, cannot handle. “If you can do anything…” we pray along with the anxious father in our text. “If you can…” We doubt. All things are not possible for us. But all things are possible with Jesus. Where our faith is weak and lacking, Jesus’ faith is perfect, strong, as strong as it is possible for faith to be. Of course He can! He’s Jesus! He’s God in the flesh! And He wants to help. He wants to help the demon-possessed boy and He wants to help you in all your sorrows and struggles and temptations, in your sin and in your death. “I believe; help my unbelief.”

But this is also a confession of faith. Help my unbelief, yes, but you wouldn’t even make such a request if you didn’t believe at all. I believe. It’s just that my faith needs to grow. Even when the father in our text says, “If you can,” he’s still making a request of Jesus that takes faith. He wouldn’t even have asked, wouldn’t even have approached the disciples in the first place if He didn’t think Jesus could help. The “If you can” part betrays his doubt. But the request itself is a confession of faith. Jesus helps the man in our text move from an attitude of “If anybody can help, Jesus can,” to a faith that confesses, “Jesus CAN help, and He will, in His own way, in His own time.” As it happens in our text, the time is now and the way is Jesus’ authoritative Word. In a demonstration of His divine authority over all things, even demons, Jesus commands the demon to come out of the boy and not to return to him again. The demon convulses the poor boy and comes out. And then there is a resurrection of sorts. The boy is laying motionless, like a corpse on the ground. But Jesus, the Lord of life, who on the third day would rise again in His own glorious body, takes the boy’s hand and raises Him up. What a gracious Savior we have. How compassionate. He really does care about us. He who is very God of very God came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary. He descended into our mess of a world, our mess of a life, into our problems, into our sin, into our death. He became a man for us men and for our salvation. He who is very God did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking on the form of a servant, taking on our flesh, humbling Himself even to the point of death on a cross, our death, the death we deserve in punishment for our sin. And in so doing He delivers us from the main problem, the worst problem, the problem that is sin. This is the problem that rots us to our very core. This is the disease that kills us. It results in death every time. Jesus conquers it in His death. The cross means forgiveness for us. So great is our Savior’s compassion, so great is His love for you and for me that He willingly sheds His blood in order to snatch us out of the jaws of hell. And here’s the real kicker. He is risen! He is risen, just as He said! Death could not hold Him. He is victorious. His redemption worked. We’re saved. And if that’s true (and it is!), how can we doubt that He is able and wants to save us from the rest of our infirmities? “If you can…” we say to Jesus. “All things are possible for one who believes,” responds Jesus. “Just watch what I’m about to do. I forgive your sins. If I can forgive your sins, which only God can do, surely I can make everything else right again.”

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” We must keep coming back to this prayer because our faith is weak. And the hard part is that even though Jesus promises that He is making all things new, even though He is willing and able to help you in your afflictions, He does it His way and in His time, not your way or in your time. You have to bear the cross in this life. You have to suffer in this life. You have to bear sadness. You have to be ill. You have to suffer broken relationships. These things come to you now, for a little while, to crucify your flesh, lead you away from your idols, and drive you to Christ alone for mercy. The cross has this way of making evident the fact that your faith is weak, weaker perhaps than you thought. It has this way of driving you again and again to the prayer: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

Some Christians have stronger faith and some have weaker faith. And at one time or another your own faith may be stronger or weaker. We all need a stronger faith. We all need to grow in the faith. But here’s what really matters: God has given us faith in the first place, faith in Jesus Christ, trust in His sin-atoning death and victorious resurrection, that there is forgiveness of sins in His blood. Faith is God’s gift to us. And whether you have more or less of it, you have it, and it receives. It receives God’s gifts. Faith is the receiving hands of the believer in Christ Jesus. Christ doles out His gifts. Faith appropriates them for the Christian. You do not have enough faith. You never do in this fallen world. But the faith God has given you is sufficient. It is sufficient to receive Christ’s gifts. For all that really matters is Christ. You should always give thanks to God that for the sake of Christ, the Holy Spirit has brought you to faith through the Gospel and continues to sustain you in that faith, through all its highs and lows, by means of the same Gospel.

And what about when you particularly struggle with a weak faith? Immerse yourself in that same Gospel. Come to church to be absolved of your sins. Private confession and absolution is a great way to do this. Hear the Word. Read and study it. Mark it, learn it, inwardly digest it. Trace the sign of the holy cross upon yourself and remember that you are baptized. And do as our Confessions say. Come to the Supper of Christ’s true body and blood. The Supper is precisely for the weak in faith. I’ll let the Confessions have the last word:

"Some Christians have a weak faith and are shy, troubled, and heartily terrified
because of the great number of their sins. They think that in their great impurity
they are not worthy of this precious treasure [of the Lord’s Supper] and Christ’s
benefits. They feel their weakness of faith and lament it, and from their hearts
desire that they may serve God with stronger, more joyful faith and pure
obedience. These are the truly worthy guests for whom this highly venerable
Sacrament has been especially instituted and appointed… Worthiness does not
depend on the greatness or smallness, the weakness or strength of faith. Instead,
it depends on Christ’s merit, which the distressed father of little faith [Mark 9:24]
enjoyed as well as Abraham, Paul, and others who have a joyful and strong faith."[1]

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” “I am able,” says Jesus. “Take, eat, this is my body. Take, drink, this is my blood. It is given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins.” In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] FC SD VII:69, 71 (McCain, pp. 573-74).

Friday, September 04, 2009

Children Grow Into God's Word

In honor of Christian Education, from a sermon by the Rev. William Cwirla on Mark 7:31-37:

"Every once and a while you get a little reminder of what God has been up to with His word. When a little child tells you, “Jesus loves me, and He died for me.” Or, as one parent reported, your child goes down the aisle of the grocery store singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” at the top of his lungs or reciting the Apostles’ creed for everyone to hear while you’re standing in the checkout line. The Word of God has a way of breaking through and getting in.

"I’m a firm believer in having the little ones in church, in the Liturgy. Even the littlest ones. Some people say that they are the future of the church. Jesus says they are the picture of what the church ought to look like. I know takes a great deal of patience, but it’s well worth the effort, even if it means a few squirmy Sundays. Most of us learned to pray “Our Father who are in heaven…” long before we knew what the words meant. We grew into it. St. Paul reminded Timothy of how he had been acquainted with the Scriptures since the time of his infancy, before he could read. Most things we give our children, they will grow out of all too quickly. But the Liturgy of God’s Word and the Lord’s Supper they will grow into, a little bit every week, if only we give them the chance. They learn by watching us. They learn by participating along with us. They are counting on us. They can’t do it on their own. What a awful thing it is when open ears are denied the voice of their Shepherd, or when loosed tongues have no opportunity to pray, praise, and give thanks."

-- http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/The%20Sermonator/SeriesB/16pentecost.html.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod - A Look at Health Care Reform and Sanctity of Life Concerns

Christians have an obligation to engage their society with the truth of God's Word, spoken in love and humility. LCMS World Relief/ Human Care helps us with this in many respects. In that tradition, they have done us a service with their page on Health Care Reform. Follow the link and check them out...

The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod - A Look at Health Care Reform and Sanctity of Life Concerns

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Train Up a Child in the Way He Should Go

Pastor’s Window for September 2009
Train Up a Child in the Way He Should Go

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children” (Deut. 4:9; ESV).

The people of Israel were to diligently remember, call to mind, meditate upon God’s mercies toward them, and to impart them to their children and grandchildren. Notice that passing on the faith begins with holding it diligently oneself. Parents (and grandparents and Godparents and any adult who has influence in a child’s life) are to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). That is to say that parents and caring adults are to hand on the faith to future generations, just as the faith was first handed on to them by previous generations. We train up our children in the way they should go when we remember, call to mind, meditate upon God’s mercies to us, particularly as they are revealed in His Word, and then pass this Word on to our children.

How do we do that? To begin with, we make certain that we, along with every member of our family, including all the children, are present each week for the Divine Service. It is primarily here, as the people of God gather together for Word and Sacrament, that our Lord pours out His gifts upon us in the Gospel. Here we meet Christ in His Word, in Baptism, in Absolution, and in His body and blood in the Supper. Here we receive Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, takes away our sin and nails it to His cross where it has been paid in full. Every sinner needs to receive the gifts of the Lord Jesus Christ, even the youngest sinners among us. And true training in the way we should go happens here for both adults and children, as together we hear God’s Word. There are times when children are unable to sit through the whole service, and for such occasions we have a cry room. But as a rule, all the children of our congregation should be in church, participating as much as they are able (see the article by Mollie Ziegler Hemingway in the succeeding pages of this newsletter, or go to http://www.getreligion.org/?p=16597). We should expect them to participate, teach them how to do so, and serve as role models, attending and participating faithfully ourselves. Most of all, we should rejoice in the gifts of Christ and let our joy in the Gospel be infectious.

Second, we should make sure our children are in Sunday School, and we should be in Bible class. Adults have to set the example by being faithful in Bible study themselves. In Sunday School and Bible class, we hear our Lord speak to us in His Word. We continue to receive His gifts, gift upon gift, grace upon grace. The only difference between what happens in Sunday School and what happens in Bible class is that the material is age appropriate. We are all children before our heavenly Father. We all want and need to learn His Word.

Third, we should make the Word of God and prayer part of our daily lives, both as individuals and as families. We should daily read and meditate on God’s Word. Families should do this together, perhaps at the dinner table or before bedtime. We should constantly talk about God’s Word with our children, especially as we engage our culture from a Christian worldview. And we should teach our children to pray by praying with them. Treasury of Daily Prayer from CPH is a tremendous resource for this. God says to His people: “these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut. 6:6-9).

Of course every child should eventually attend Catechism class, which leads to reception of the Lord’s Supper and the rite of confirmation. Adults may set an example for their children and strengthen their own faith by attending our Adult Information Class, a Catechism class for adults. Other opportunities to train up our children in the way they should go include Vacation Bible School and our Higher Things affiliated youth group. In these ways, and as we participate in many other opportunities to enjoy and grow in our common Christian faith, we keep our souls diligently in God’s Word, and make His mercies known to our children and our children’s children.

Pastor Krenz