Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Christ, the Commandments, and the Cross

Our dear Lord Jesus Christ kept the Ten Commandments perfectly and He did so for us - in our place.  We know and believe that He did this over the course of His earthly life.  But I wonder whether it's not possible to hear and see Him fulfilling each and every one of the Ten Commandments as He hung on the cross.

I. You shall have no other gods.  The central word from the cross is this: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"  Twice with these words He confesses that He has no other god.  He looks to and trusts in the very God by whom He feels forsaken.

II. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.  He uses (opposite of "misuse") God's name to pray and even to sing a total of three times.  "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."  "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"  "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!"  The second and third of these are from the Psalms and so may be considered songs.

III. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  The Sabbath day was Saturday.  He suffered and died on Friday.  Mindful of the approaching Sabbath, He "finishes" His work of redemption in time to rest His body in the tomb all day Saturday.  When the Sabbath is over, He rises from His rest - very early on Sunday.

IV. Honor your father and your mother.  He honors His Father by saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."  And His mother by saying, "Woman, behold, your son!" - and by entrusting her to the care of John.

Next week, the rest of the Commandments.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Prayer of Saint Francis

On Sunday I introduced the congregation to the Prayer of St. Francis.  I did so because it captures the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount and the essence of the Christian life.  I know of no finer prayer outside of the Lord's Prayer, the Publican's Prayer in Luke 18:13, and the other prayers in Scripture.  It is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) but was probably composed much later.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is friction, union;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Right Eyes

"If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away" (Matt. 5:29).

These words of Jesus move us to avoid temptations to sexual sin, many of which enter through the eye.  Remove and resist visual stimuli that would appeal to a sinful heart.

But the eleventh-century Archbishop of Bulgaria, Theophylact, explained, "When you hear 'eye' and 'hand,' do not imagine that the Lord is speaking of parts of the body, for He would not in that case have specified 'right eye' and 'right hand.'  He is speaking instead of those who appear to be friends, but who are in fact harming us.  Take, for example, a young man who has friends living in debauchery, and who is harmed by their bad influence.  Cut these off from you, the Lord says, and perhaps you will also save them, when they come to their senses.  And if you cannot save them, you will at least save yourself.  But if you continue in your affection for them, both you and they will be destroyed."

We are reminded in the Small Catechism that God has given us our eyes (First Article).  It would not be right or thankful to throw away a divine gift.  Far better to see that He has also redeemed our eyes (Second Article) and makes them holy for new use (Third Article).

See your eyes as precious, think of what they are able to do, and resolve not to set before them "anything that is worthless" (Ps. 101:3).  Use them to "look at the birds of the air," as He instructs later in the same sermon (Matt. 6:26).  Lift up your eyes to the Hill and to the Crucified, from whence come both forgiveness and then help, much help, in the fight against temptation (Ps. 121).

Remember that lust is never satisfied (Prov. 27:20), but that love always finds fulfillment.

If you (or someone you know) seem trapped in sexual sin, seriously consider talking with your pastor.  He will hold the matter in strict confidence, offer a listening ear, and share with you God's Word of forgiveness, hope, and help.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Marriage, Family, and Worship

"Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!" (Ps. 95:6).

On Sunday in Adult Bible Class I touched on the importance of home devotions and how spending time in God's Word and prayer with your spouse and children will absolutely strengthen those relationships.

But one of the things I want to draw more attention to is the blessing of going to church with your spouse and family.  Often when we go to church we see ourselves as individuals and, also, as members of the congregation, that is, a family of faith.  But husbands and wives, parents and children can miss that they are there in their marriage and family relationships too.  And the Divine Service will strengthen those relationships mightily.

Think of it: Husband and wife kneel to confess their sins and then to hear the Word of forgiveness.  They pray together, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" (having each other in mind).  They receive the Body and Blood of the Savior and are simultaneously connected to Him and to each other!  Wow!  That marriage is now prepared to take on anything!

A husband walks away from Sunday morning wanting to love his wife more like Christ loves the church.  A mother walks away wanting to love her children more like the church loves us.  And children learn to honor their parents as we are all created to honor God.

A woman came to church on Sunday without her husband.  He should have been there too.  Why?  For his own good?  Yes.  Because he's a member of the congregation?  Yes.  But also because it will bless and strengthen his marriage and family!

We need to emphasize this more.  And I need to go talk with that husband.