Wednesday, March 31, 2010
oh, and Weedon brought out this gem concerning Holy Wednesday from OP Kretzmann:
Holy week... The most important seven days in the history of man... Although the exact sequence of events is not always clear to us, we can discern, even now, the straight lines of divine order... Sunday: The garments in the dust - the Hosannahs as the prelude to the "Crucify."... Monday: Sermons with the urgent note of finality - the withered fig tree - Caesar's coin... Tuesday: The terrifying wrath of the Lamb over institutionalized and personal sin among the Scribes and Pharisees - the fire and color of His last sermon to the city and the world - the sureness of justice and the coming of judgment... Night and prayer in the light of the Easter moon on the Mount of Olives...
Wednesday is silent... If anything happened, the holy writers have drawn the veil... Everything that God could say before the Upper Room had been said... It was man's turn now... Perhaps there were quiet words in a corner of the Garden, both to His children who would flee and to His Father who would stay... Wednesday was His... The heart of that mad, crowded Holy Week was quiet... Tomorrow the soliders would come, and Friday there would be God's great signature in the sky... Thursday and Friday would belong to time and eternity, but Wednesday was of heaven alone...
Silent Wednesday... If our Lord needed it, how much more we whose life is the story of the Hosannah and the Crucify... Time for prayer, for adoration... Time to call the soul into the inner court and the Garden... In our crowded world we are lonely because we are never alone... No time to go where prayer is the only sound and God is the only light... We need more silent Wednesdays... In the glory of the Cross above our dust our silence can become purging and peace... God speaks most clearly to the heart that is silent before Him... [The Pilgrim, pp. 27, 28]
Thursday, March 25, 2010
How do you consider this? How do you find the words to describe this day? What is today? It is March 25. In nine months it will be Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Nine months. The amount of time God ordinarily takes to form a child in the womb.
How many parents were uncertain about their child’s future and wondered, “Do I really want to bring a child into this cruel world, filled with such heartache and suffering?” How many husbands and wives considered that question, and decided No? Whatever worries and uncertainties your parents had before your birth, God overcame them.
It is March 25. Nine months before Christmas – and Good Friday. God was not uncertain about what would happen to His Son. The Lord knew the torment His Son would face when He brought the Son of God into the world. He knew the mockery and the rejection. Yet He still sent the Angel Gabriel to announce to the Virgin Mary that the Holy Spirit would come upon her. The child born to her “will be called holy – the Son of God.”
It is seldom that we talk about the nine months before the birth of Jesus in the same breath as we talk about His death. Not often, but it does happen when the Church teaches us to confess that Jesus Christ “was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.” The Apostles’ Creed moves straight from the Lord’s conception, to His birth and then to His suffering and death.
Some people have criticized the Creed for not mentioning even a word about Christ’s life of merciful works and His word of truth. Yet in moving directly from Jesus’ birth to His Crucifixion, the Creed makes an important point. The Son of God became man to suffer.
The eyes of the man without faith see a tragic ending. They see a man born to a poor mother and father hung on a tree of death for no good reason. They see a sorrow-filled conclusion to an otherwise triumphant and well-lived life. The Suffering Servant Jesus Christ makes no sense for those who think that the goal of life is to avoid all pain.
O believer, it is not so with you. For you know this is at the very heart of what Jesus has come to do in order to reconcile the world to God. He comes to save us from our sins – our actual sins of thought, word and deed that reject God and mock His Holiness. But the Son of God also comes to save us from our original sin that we inherited from Adam through our parents, for we were all sinful at birth, sinful from the time our mother’s conceived. And our hearts are naturally inclined to doubt God. Yet Jesus Christ saves us from our times of uncertainty – when we have thought that God has forsaken us and removed His protection from us.
The Son of God and “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom” for yours. He pays your debts to the Father. And that payment was a high price. The pain your Lord endures is real and raw. The death He dies is dark and cold.
Our eyes may be moved to tears, but He has told us not to weep for Him. Yes, His soul is troubled, but He refuses to ask His Father to save Him from this hour. It is for this purpose that He has come to this dark hour – so that the Father would save you from eternal darkness. Jesus endures it all for your sake.
“In perfect love He dies;
for me He dies, for me.
O all-atoning Sacrifice,
I cling by faith to Thee.”
His sacrificial death melts our cold hearts. And tears will appear in the life of faith – tears of sorrow over our sin and tears of joy that God would love us in this way. For it is no small matter that the Son of God “for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven” to be rejected and crucified for our salvation.
It is no small matter that the same God in the flesh who went the way of the Cross still comes to you today. But saying “Christ died for you” does not magically make all your problems disappear in a puff of smoke. This is not Hocus Pocus – but rather this is the body of Christ given into death for you. There will not only be tears of repentance and tears of overwhelming delight. There will also be tears of pain in the life of faith – for we are not yet at the Resurrection. Jesus has not shown us how get around suffering in this life or how to avoid it. Rather, He leads us through suffering, cross and death to Resurrection. Jesus says to His followers, “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (John 16). Soon every tear from faithful eyes will be dried. Soon you will behold that He who died on Good Friday is now alive forevermore.
But until then, hold fast to your confession. With confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that you may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4). Walk by faith, not by sight. When unbelievers and your old sinful nature tell you to cry out, “Where in the world is God?”, you can honestly reply that God is hidden. And yes, darkness does veil His lovely face. But even though God is hidden in lowly flesh, His Word lights the way for you to find Him. The Lord is in the womb of the Virgin Mary for nine months, in the manger at Bethlehem, in the darkness of the Cross of Calvary on Good Friday, in the water and the blood that streamed from His pierced side. God in Christ was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our trespasses against us (2 Corinthians 5). Therefore God in the flesh today is present with you in His Word and in His Sacraments.
Today “your life is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” He will overcome all your worries and uncertainties. For Almighty God, our heavenly Father, has had mercy upon us and has given His only Son to die for us and for His sake, forgives us all our sins.
Yesterday the Sober Peasant had a link to the blog of a conservative Roman Catholic priest and Latin scholar. While poking around on that blog, I found a prayer for use before connecting to the internet that the priest wrote in Latin (with his translation into English, plus translations in a bunch of other languages). Apparently he's seen it all over the Internet, both with and without attribution.
Because he is true to his theology and invokes a saint (Isidore), I can't in good conscience reproduce it here - though I did pray it this morning, minus the invocation of the saint, of course. If you want to see it for yourself, I've given enough info for you to find it (with or without Google.)
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
And so I thank You, Lord, for giving Scriptures that do not whitewash the heroes of the faith, but show the failures and doubts of Moses and Peter and so many others, so that I might know there is hope for all who continually fail... like me. I have hope, O Christ, because You have promised You will be with me (Exodus 3:12, Matthew 28:20), and You have given this sign for me - when I have been brought out of this world, I shall serve you in purity and in truth on the heavenly Mount Zion because You worshipped to death Your Father on Mount Calvary.
These violations of the rabbinic laws for capital cases occurred during the trials of Jesus before the Jewish leaders:
- Both the trial and the arrival at the verdict were to occur during the daytime.
- Trials were not to be held on the eve of a Sabbath or festival day.
- While a verdict of acquittal could be reached on the day of the trial, a verdict of convition was not to be reached until th eday following the trail (to help prevent the condemnation of an innocent man).
- A charge of blasphemy had to be sustained by the alleged blasphemer pronouncing the name of God Himself. (Jesus remained silent during most of the procedings.)
- The regular meeting place of the high court was to be the "Chamber of Hewn Stone" (not the home of the high priest).
- Capital cases were to begin with the proclamation of reasons for acquittal, and not with reasons for conviction. (At Jesus' trials it seems that only prosecuting witnesses spoke.)
- Witnesses were to be solemnly warned and carefully examined regarding their testimony. (The witnesses against Christ contradicted each other and were never cross-examined.)
Mark tells us that the testimony of the (false) witnesses did not agree (Mark 14:56-59)... There was no just, legal basis for convicting Jesus. He was deprived of justice.
Monday, March 22, 2010
The basis for this morning’s sermon is the final sentence of the Gospel reading: “Then [the disciples] all left Him and fled.” (Mark 14:50)
Have you ever been left behind and abandoned?
Those of you who watched basketball last night probably saw how Michigan St. players wanted to be left alone after they lost to Purdue.
My mom knew how to get me to leave her alone - especially if I said I was bored, she would start listing all the housework I could do. I instantly deserted her. There was another, more serious time. We were on vacation and went to a mall. Something caught my eye, so I stopped to look at it. I did not realize that my parents had assumed that I was still walking with them. I turned around and they were gone. I remember being so scared, thinking I would never find them again. I went out to the car, but they were not there. I went back to the store and a woman helped me find them. Only since adulthood have I realized that they were probably as scared of being without me as I was without them.
I noticed a group on Facebook is called something like “I survived a Mrs. Ryherd class.” I’m guessing a few of you have felt pretty lost in her courses. Worse yet is when it seems like you’ve been left behind because everyone else understands the material better than you do.
Some of the mission offerings at our local LCMS churches go to the Lutheran Church in South Africa. Rather than pretend they were strong enough to handle one of their problems on their own, the South African Lutherans asked some of our Southern Illinois pastors for advice. They thought that since we had so much more experience at being Lutheran, we had the answer to their question of how to stop kids from abandoning church after they have been confirmed.
Christ did not create us to be “Lone Ranger” Christians. Christ created the Church for times such as these - for times when we feel alone, like we are the only one suffering what we suffer. By His death, He brought us into a community of other sinners who have no strength of their own. Relying together upon God’s strength, we share our burdens as well as our joys. As God says in Ecclesiastes 4:10, “If one falls down, his friend can help him up.”
That verse was probably not in the Disciples’ minds on this particular evening. Mark 14 emphasizes their abandonment with three significant uses of the word “all.” Earlier in verse 27, Christ told them that they would ALL desert Him. They ALL protested, saying they would follow Him even if they had to die. At the arrest of Jesus, “They ALL left Him and fled” to different places. The proud, self-confident assertions of a few hours earlier were forgotten.
It might be easy for us here and now to look down on the Disciples for being weak. But what about out in the world? When the moment comes for you to stand up for Christ or commit a sin, how often do we desert Christ, fleeing at the first sign of danger to seek an easier life by giving in to temptation. At those moments, we find it hard to believe that God protects us from facing more than we can handle.
We have not been deserted by God. Neither was this scared and scattered band of Disciples. What soon would happen to them was nothing short of a miracle. ALL eleven went through a major change. These same men who were scared to face imprisonment together go through much worse over the course of their later lives. Imprisonment, beatings, tortures, shipwrecks, all but one of the Apostles were put to death.
What changed these men was the day God abandoned His own Son to death on the cross. Jesus cried out in agony, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” The reason God turned His back on Jesus is so that He would not turn His back on us, so that He would not forsake us. By being abandoned, Jesus paid for all the times that we desert God, for all the times that we love our earthly lives more than we love our Heavenly Father.
But this is only part of the miracle that changed the lives of the scattered followers. The Father abandoned His only Son to the Cross. However, He did not abandon His Son to the grave. He did not let His Holy One see decay. On the third day, God raised Him from the dead. Then Jesus showed Himself to ALL eleven Disciples. In spite of their fear and desertion, ALL eleven were saved. ALL eleven were looked upon with God’s forgiving love. This saving and forgiving love is what transformed a quivering, scared and scattered band of men into heroes of the faith. Men who stood with boldness, confidently proclaiming that God had suffered a criminal’s death, abandoned by all so that you and I would never be alone.
It is these men who wrote down the words and actions of Christ so that we today would know that He is still with us. Men who wrote down what it was like when the road of life got rough for them and sometimes got lonely. But we have a God who knows how it feels to be alone. They tell us we have a God who is certainly on the “Holy” ground of church, but He does not keep Himself locked away in the sanctuary. He does not abandon you to the world. Jesus said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Not just the day you are baptized. Not just on Sunday mornings. Not just at church. As I send you out, I also go with you.”
Because God has walked with us when we were lonely, we can share Christ with the lonely people we meet along the way. Picture it this way: You are walking along with a friend, and you meet up with your friend. “How’s it going, Jaret? Have you met this friend of mine before? This is Jesus.” Maybe nothing changes immediately for Jaret, but a seed has been planted. Perhaps in the years to come, Jaret will learn that there are Christians who have faced many of the same things that he does. Then there will be one less person who is lonely and one more person who will know that he is not alone. One more person united by Christ to believers around the world and believers in Heaven. One more person who will know that God is with him. One more person who will know that Christ was abandoned to the cross so that we would not be alone in this life, nor in the life to come. Amen.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Friend and fellow "Doxologist" Rev. Randy Asburry has this today.
And Rev. Cwirla posted this "Ode to Joseph" a few Christmas Eve's back. He also once preached (in a sermon I can't find online anymore) that we say we believe in Jesus Christ, born of the virgin Mary easy enough. It wasn't so easy for Joseph to say that. He had to go on faith in the Word of God that she was still a virgin, though pregnant.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
For a certain number of years, and in a limited number of ways, I am given to serve my children and care for their needs, but their bodies and lives are always really in the care and keeping of their Father in heaven.
Jacob confesses this in the end. Son Judah pledges the safety of Benjamin (Genesis 43:8-9). But Jacob knows that unless the Lord protects his house, Judah's promise is in vain. Without the Lord's mercy, Benjamin will not return. Nonetheless, God's will be done as Benjamin goes (Genesis 43:14).
Now the Son of Judah has pledged to you safety, even the resurrection of your body and the raising of your dead (Mark 12:25-27). And the Son of God never makes vain promises, for the work of the Lord is never in vain.
O Risen Son of God and Son of Man, let us see the fulfillment of Your Scriptures which promise us Your protection.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Psalm 3 is a psalm of prayer in which we follow the example of David. He prayed this prayer in distress when his son Absalom expelled him, and his prayer was granted to him. At the end, David glorifies God for being a true helper and keeper for all of His people who call on Him in distress.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
- On Thursday, the Lenten Catechesis in TDP gave this quote from the Large Catechism: "It is not as though [God] did not forgive sin without and even before our prayer. (He has given us the Gospel, in which is pure forgiveness before we prayed or ever thought about it [Romans 5:8])." Now picture the Prodigal father in Luke 15 embracing and kissing his found younger son before the son has said one word. And read this (from a sermon by William Cwirla):
We make our confession within the embrace of our Father’s forgiveness. That’s what the Bible calls “grace.” Undeserved, unmerited kindness, love, mercy on the part of God all for Jesus’ sake. When you confess your sins, when you admit that you are a poor, miserable sinner, when you acknowledge the worst of what you’ve done, you are doing it in the embrace of a Father who has already run down the road to meet you with open arms. You confess within the embrace of God’s acceptance in Jesus. Got it?
- Again on Thursday, we read in the Gospel (Mark 10) of James and John's request. Follow them beyond the condemnation of the Savior, beyond His baptism of fire and His drinking the cup of God's wrath against our sin, see them dying and rising in Christ, and you will see a huge difference in these brothers. They stopped seeking their own greatness, and, following in the footsteps of Jesus, become servants, giving their lives for others. The change in these two is incredible. And it means there is hope for you and me. Do you think the change that needs to occur in you is too great - from loveless self-glory seeker to servant of all? Too much for even God to work and do in your life? It was a huge change for James and John, from sons of thunder (Mark 3:17) to love. The Lord who did this good work in them and brought them to Heaven has begun this same work in you
Friday, March 12, 2010
Yet for all that James and John get wrong, they are correct in thinking that being at the right and left of Jesus is a good place to be. Mark later writes that with Jesus, "they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left."
It is not an easy place, it is a place of death, but death with Jesus, the One who pays the ransom none of us can pay to God - the price of our life (Psalm 49:7). For taking what was not theirs, the robbers suffered justly. But in death, by grace, the penitent received what was not his, as Christ served him with the opening of Paradise.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
(for my non-liturgical friends, an antiphon is a verse of Scripture repeated at the beginning and end of a psalm or other liturgical texts.)
I usually let the date decide it this way - I divide the date by the number of antiphons for the season. For instance, there are three for Lent, so tomorrow, 10 divided by 3 has a remainder of 1, so I'll be using #1, Matthew 4:4. Today has no remainder, so I used #3, Isaiah 53:7, 6.
(I have also divided Lent into thirds, the first third using #1, second third 2, and third third 3.)
Sometimes, like today, this somewhat random way of choosing antiphons leads to interesting results. Isaiah 53 is very solemn and somber, but Psalm 105:5-11 is rather joyous in tone - doesn't seem to go together. Yet there is this connection - The same Lord who faithfully kept His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has now cut His covenant with us in the blood of His Son. He promises that He has laid all our iniquity upon Christ, that "To you I will give [Heaven] as your portion for an inheritance," and He will not go back on His Word.
So, how do you choose an antiphon?
+ Our feet have taken us to places we do not belong and we know we should not be.
+ Our hands have touched what should not have been touched and taken what did not belong to us, and have been much too slow to help.
+ Our eyes have wandered where they should not have.
...instead of making us maim ourselves and cut off our body parts – which, as we read, is what should happen because of our sin – instead, Jesus came to deal with it personally. And He did -- by offering all the parts of His body on the cross, in place of all the parts of our body that sin. And all the parts of His body were, in a way, cut off. Think about it:
Monday, March 8, 2010
Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!
Thursday, March 4, 2010
I'd like to connect this same text to what he posted today ("Abandonment and the Pastor"). Our church's 3 year lectionary last Sunday (Luke 13:34) brought us Jesus weeping over Jerusalem's unbelief. Like the woman in Mark 7:24f, the church weeps as she sees the devil have his way with her children. We pray and pray, and it can feel like we are getting the silent treatment from the Lord. Yet Mark 7:24-30 assures us that the Lord does hear. And so we confidently pray such words as the Prayer on Thursday in the Treasury of Daily Prayer (p. 1308), knowing that the gates of Hell will not overcome the Lord's Church, for the same God who answered Abraham's servant (Genesis 24:12-14) will answer our prayer as well.