Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Think Fast

"Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training.  But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: 'Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins'" (Small Catechism).

One of the congregation's more senior ladies whispered to me on the way out of church Sunday, "I fasted this morning."  "Oh, bless you!" I said, clearly revealing my pleasure.  "Now go eat something."

See, several weeks ago I gave a sermon on how to fast and prepare your body for receiving Communion.  I shared five concrete examples such as dressing your best or brushing your teeth.  The fifth and final suggestion was to skip breakfast on Sunday morning as a bit of fasting before receiving Communion.  I stressed that this should only be done health-permitting, and that people might consider doing it one Sunday a month at first.

Fasting on Sunday morning helps teach self-control, repentance, and focus on God.  What's more, it turns the Lord's Supper into the true breakfast.  You break your fast with the body and blood of Jesus.  And because Sunday is the first day of the week, the Sacrament becomes your First Food of the new week.

But let us fast and prepare in other ways not because we must but because we are in love with Christ!  A lover experiences loss of appetite out of a consuming desire to be with the other person.  In a spiritual manner, this should be our experience toward the dear Lord Christ.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Wedding Planner

"See, we are going up to Jerusalem" (Luke 18:31).

Holy Week is fast approaching.  It is the most important week of the Christian year.  It begins March 24.  You wouldn't wait till the night before to plan your wedding.  Holy Week and Easter represent the wedding of Christ and the Church.  Also, the wedding of Christ and your faith.  Now is the time to plan for Holy Week.

Find out your church's schedule of special services.  Be aware of all of them.  Then prayerfully decide which ones you will attend.  Make a real effort to attend on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and of course Easter.  Use Saturday to clean the house in preparation for the happiest day of the year.

As a boy I was taught to believe that Holy Week is like living through the very first Holy Week.  To this day I have trouble sleeping on Thursday night, knowing that my Lord has been betrayed and entered His suffering.  This is the spirit of Holy Week!

And Easter is rightly celebrated when we awake early on Sunday morning to discover that Christ has just now risen from the dead!

Make a good plan and ask God to bless it!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Matthias (cont.)

Continued from last week, five more answers to the question, "Who was Matthias and what can we learn from him?"

The man who was a witness to the resurrection.  "One of these men must become with us a witness to His resurrection" (Acts 1:22).  This may have three levels of meaning.  1.) Matthias was among those who personally saw the risen Jesus.  2.) Matthias would join the other eleven in preaching specifically the resurrection.  3.) The Greek word for "witness" is "martyr."  The apostles added the exclamation point to their resurrection preaching by becoming martyrs.  Tradition holds that Matthias was martyred.

The man who came off the bench.  The pro basketball player Kevin McHale was a famous "sixth man": a non-starter but who comes into the game to contribute a real spark to the team.  Matthias did not start the game but came in at a critical point.  Important for young athletes to understand.  Important for all of us!

The man who filled a role.  It was a role left vacant by another.  There's a wonderful application here.  If you look around, often very close to you, there's a vacant role: a child in need of a father or mother figure.  A young person in need of a big brother or sister.

The man who is never mentioned again.  He is mentioned only here in the Bible.  He didn't write a book.  He didn't try to leave a legacy.  He just served when and where he was called, letting God determine how to use him.

The man who stepped in.  How do you think he felt?  "I don't belong."  "I'm not ready."  "This is happening too fast."  "Get somebody else."  There's no indication of that.  Only of a man who stepped in by faith.  Christ never calls without also equipping.  Many Christians are equipped much more than they know!