Saturday, March 28, 2015

Two Weeks' Notice

Two times in the Bible, and no more, we are given the account of a week.  The first is found in Genesis and presents the six days of creation and the seventh day on which God rested.  The second is found in the Holy Gospel and records the events of the first Holy Week.  God means for us to consider these two weeks together.

As God made the world in six days and then rested, so on Palm Sunday He entered Jerusalem to redeem the world.  He "finished" (John 19:30) that work by day's end Friday and then used Saturday to rest.

We know from Genesis that man was created on the sixth day (Gen. 1:26-31), that is, Friday.  No coincidence then that Jesus died for man also on a Friday.

The Bible's two weeks and the parallels between them must not go unnoticed.  The One who made the world without sin in the course of a week, in the course of a week saved it from sin.  More personally, He who made you head to toe has redeemed you body and soul to be, again, His own.

To you and yours a very blessed Holy Week!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Make a Holy Week Plan

"So from that day on they made plans to put Him to death" (John 11:53).

Sunday morning in church the children and I practiced saying the days of the week: "Sunday, Monday, Tuesday...."  I taught them, then, that while every week is special, only one is called "Holy Week," and it's almost here!

According to the above verse from John, the seventy-member Jewish Council, or Sanhedrin, made plans to put Jesus to death.  They were not the first.  Long before, God made plans to give and sacrifice His Son for our sins.

The question now is, Have you made plans?

Holy Week is the heart and highpoint of the Christian year.  Everything moves either toward it or away from it.

Take time this week to make a plan.  Plan to attend the special services.  Plan to invite a friend to go with you.  Plan extra Scripture and devotional reading at home.  Plan to turn off the TV.  Plan possibly to see your pastor for individual confession.  Plan to clean the house on Holy Saturday in joyful preparation for Easter!

Plan to be strengthened in your faith and love.

Make a Holy Week plan, for it's almost here!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Luther on Annunciation

In 1532 Luther concluded his Annunciation sermon this way.  It's as though he spoke these words this morning.

"It almost seems as though God is at enmity with the world.  Present conditions are so shameful all around us in the world, as God allows murderous mobs and rabble, so much violence and so much misfortune to prevail, so that we might think God is only Lord and God of the angels and that He has forgotten about mankind.  But here in our text we see that He befriends us humans like no other creatures, in the very closest relationship, and, in turn, we humans have a closer relationship with God than with any creature.  Sun and moon are not as close to us as is God, for He comes to us in our own flesh and blood.  God not only rules over us, not only lives in us, but personally became a human being.

This is the grace which we celebrate today, thanking God that He has cleansed our sinful conception and birth through His holy conception and birth, and removed the curse from us and blessed us.  By nature our conception and birth are flawed and laden with sin.  In contrast, Christ's conception and birth were holy and pure.  Through His holy conception and birth our sinful nature, flesh, and blood are blessed and made holy.  It is on this basis that we are baptized, so that by means of God's Word, the sacraments, and the Holy Spirit we might have the fruit of His holy conception and birth.  May we always thank Him for His grace and never become weary or surfeited in hearing and learning this.  Unfortunately, most people in the world think they know it all, after they have heard it once."

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Coming March 25

We're halfway through Lent.  We're looking forward to Easter.  But don't miss Annunciation, coming March 25.

March 25 should be considered a great holy and happy day!  Called "Annunciation" for the angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary, it comes nine months to the day before Christmas.  If on Christmas we celebrate the birth of our Savior, on Annunciation we celebrate His conception.  "Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary" (Apostles' Creed).

Let's go for a moment to Nazareth as it stands today.  We enter the Basilica of the Annunciation, built over the Grotto of the Annunciation, held by tradition to be the place where the angel came to Mary.  Inside the grotto, or cave, is an altar bearing five Latin words: "Verbum caro hic factum est."  They belong to John 1:14.  One word, however, is added: hic (in English, "here").  And so it reads: "Here the Word became flesh."

While there is no way to confirm that this was the exact location, the words should be understood more deeply as pointing to the Virgin's womb.  Of that location we can be certain!

Sadly, many Christians miss the significance of March 25 as an opportunity to remember, ponder, and celebrate the Incarnation: God's Son putting on our flesh.  But you needn't miss it at all!

Take time to read Luke 1:26-38, say the Creed, and sing perhaps this ancient hymn:

Not by human flesh and blood,
By the Spirit of our God,
Was the Word of God made flesh -
Woman's offspring, pure and fresh.

Here a maid was found with child,
Yet remained a virgin mild.
In her womb this truth was shown:
God was there upon His throne.

And celebrate the day with your family and Christian friends!  Forget your Lenten fasting for a day and prepare a feast instead!  Give thanks with greatest joy for the love of God shown to us in the incarnation of His dear Son!

Pray the Holy Spirit to come upon you.  See your faith as the womb in which Christ is conceived and grows.  Then give birth to Him through words and works of love so that He may touch the lives of others.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Unashamed

"For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels" (Mark 8:38).

By Richard Wurmbrand

In a theater in Moscow at the premier of a new play, Christ in a Fur, the hall was overcrowded.

The actor Alexander Rostovtsev had to play the main role.  He belonged to the high circles of Soviet life and was a convinced Marxist.

On the stage was a mockery of an altar.  The cross on it was made of bottles of wine and beer.  Full glasses surrounded it.  Fat "clergymen" said a drunken "liturgy" consisting of blasphemous formulas.  In this sham church, "nuns" played cards, drank, and made ugly jokes while the "religious service" went on.

Then Rostovtsev appeared as Christ, dressed in a robe.  He had the New Testament in his hands.  He was supposed to read two verses from the Sermon on the Mount, then throw away the book in disgust and shout, "Give me my fur and my hat!  I prefer a simple proletarian life."  But something unexpected happened.  The actor read not only two verses, but continued, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5), and so on to the end of the sermon.  It was in vain that the prompter made desperate signs for him to stop.

When Rostovtsev came to the last words of Jesus, he made the sign of the cross in the Orthodox manner, said, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom" (Luke 23:42), and left the stage.  He was never seen again.  The Communists disposed of him.

Let us, like this actor, forget the ugly roles imposed upon us by the world and allow ourselves to be enraptured by the beauties of the Savior's words.