Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tear Down This Law

"...a time to tear down" (Eccles. 3:3).

The 44th annual March for Life took place this past Friday in Washington, D.C., an event that has occurred every year since Roe v. Wade in 1973.  I was able to be a part of it this year.  And if I had to pick one highlight to share with you, it would be the words spoken by Eric Metaxas.  Members of my congregation will recognize him from The Family Project.  God bless him for his courage and love!  And may God give those same two things to each one of us!

https://youtu.be/OxIh4bbktuk

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Agnus Dei (Lamb of God)

"...he sees Jesus coming toward him, and says, 'Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29).

The above is how this verse reads in the original Greek.  The verbs are present tense because Jesus comes to us now, in the present.

It's as though John the Baptist is speaking to us, and we are the disciples who hear his words and follow Jesus (vs. 37).

But then change the "he" to "we," and you get the perfect description of the Divine Service (the worship service as practiced by Lutherans and others).  How so?

The pastor speaks (or sings) the Words of Institution over the bread and wine and then shows them to the people.  The congregation, in faith both simple and profound, believes that they are beholding not only bread and wine but the body and blood of Jesus.  He is coming toward them, as it were, and soon they will receive Him into themselves.  And what do they do?  They sing "Lamb of God" (Agnus Dei in Latin):

Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world; grant us peace.

We are disciples of Jesus, the crucified and risen.  But it is John who teaches us what to say and sing when we see Him coming toward us in Holy Communion: Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Prayer for the Nation

On Sunday, in view of the inauguration, I led the congregation in the following prayer for the nation.  I received a number of positive comments about the prayer, and so I'm putting it here for use throughout this week.  It comes from page 313 of Lutheran Service Book.

Almighty God, You have given us this good land as our heritage.  Grant that we remember Your generosity and constantly do Your will.  Bless our land with honest industry, truthful education, and an honorable way of life.  Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil course of action.  Grant that we, who came from many nations with many different languages, may become a united people.  Support us in defending our liberties, and give those to whom we have entrusted the authority of government the spirit of wisdom, that there may be justice and peace in our land.  When times are prosperous, may our hearts be thankful, and in troubled times do not let our trust in You fail; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Best Day Ever

"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27).

As part of his chapel message, a Lutheran high school teacher asked students, "What was the best day in the history of the world?"  He then led them to consider and believe that the answer would be "the first Easter."  The Day of Resurrection!

Hard to argue.  That's a very good answer to a very interesting question!

It made me think, though, of some other very big days.  The first that came to mind was the day the Son of God took flesh in the womb of Mary.  Then I thought about the first Christmas.  I thought for a long time about the first Good Friday.  I found myself thinking about the Ascension, and then the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

And I began to question the question.  Why do we have to pick just one day?  The Gospel gives us many best days of which to think, each one adding to our faith.

Then it dawned on me.  No, there is a best day.  The best day ever is the day I was baptized into Christ, because on that one day the incarnation, birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ were all at once applied to me, together with the Holy Spirit.

Best day ever?  Your Baptism!

And then by reminding you of your Baptism, God makes today the best day too!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Seasons Turn

The season of Epiphany begins with January 6 and lasts until it turns into Lent on Ash Wednesday, March 1.

"These are the feasts of the Lord...which ye shall proclaim in their seasons" (Lev. 23:4).

Much like the four seasons of spring, summer, fall, and winter, the Church Year is made up of six seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.

We are currently in Epiphany, a season defined by the Wise Men, the Baptism of Jesus, the Wedding at Cana, and finally the Transfiguration.  Soon it will be Lent.

Let me give you a way to understand this succession of seasons.  Use the word "becomes" or, better yet, "turns into."  Instead of seeing Christmas, for example, as coming to an end, see it as turning into Epiphany.  And before long, Epiphany will turn into Lent.  Then Lent into Easter.  Easter into Pentecost.  And again before long, Pentecost will turn into being face to face with God in heaven!

For now, we have the Church Year to guide us and teach us many things.  As Jesus turned water into wine at Cana's wedding, one blessed season turns into another.  But always the same Christ.