Tuesday, September 25, 2018

For Those Who Set the Table

"...they followed Him and took care of Him" (Mark 15:41).

This past Sunday we "installed" the ladies of our Altar Guild.  It was a beautiful morning!  These women are specially trained to set up for Holy Communion, to take care of things afterward, and to clean and take care of the whole chancel area.  One thought is that these women are the descendants of the women spoken of in Mark 15:40-41.

In thankfulness for our Altar Guild, I wrote the following hymn stanza:

For those who set the table
And place the bread and wine,
Who make the altar ready
For sinner-saints to dine,
We thank You, O Lord Jesus,
And ask You now to bless
Their hands with strength for serving,
Their hearts with happiness.

And we sang it on Sunday to the tune of Lutheran Service Book 855.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Faith Is a Candle

To the members of Faith Lutheran: What a week it's been!  Good attendance on Sunday, with at least one new family.  The 5-word prayer.  Are you doing your homework?  Tuesday was Altar Guild training.  Wednesday was Sunday School teacher training.  And this evening is a big Board of Directors meeting.  Praise the Lord!  This Sunday we'll formally install the women of the Altar Guild (some 20 of them!), together with a special sermon.  In ABC we'll continue with "Spiritual Day-Timer."  Doesn't matter if you missed last Sunday's ABC.  Plan to attend this Sunday!  Sunday School at 9, Service at 10, with coffee and ABC to follow.  Pastor Matt

"Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, 'I believe; help my unbelief!'" (Mark 9:24).

What is clear from this man's prayer is that he should be teaching at the seminary.  For he understands the true theology of faith: that faith and unbelief are found in the same heart.  Looking in his own heart, he formulates a five-word confession and prayer among the most insightful in the New Testament.

He is saying to Jesus, "The problem is not that I don't believe.  The problem is that I don't believe!"  In other words, "I've got faith, but I've got unbelief too.  Help me!"

Let us make two points.

1. This prayer is reassuring.  If you're a Christian and experience doubt, you needn't worry.  It is to be expected.  But true doubt is only possible right next to true faith.  Think of faith less like a bright sunny day and more like a candle burning in a dark room.  Faith burns as a candle in the darkness of our own sinful, unbelieving hearts.

Our faith is not yet all it should be, but it is enough.  Luther said, "On earth the heart can never attain or feel faith to such a degree as it should; but it always stays in the stage of a wishing and a sighing of the spirit, too deep for a man to express.  Then the heart says: 'Oh, that it were true!'  Again: 'Ah, if only one could believe it!'  Nevertheless, this sighing and this spark of faith achieve so much that God regards them as a complete faith and says: 'According to your faith be it unto you; and because you believe, you are certainly saved.'"

Ask yourself not, "How much faith do I have?"  But rather, "How much Christ?"  And the answer is: All of Him, crucified and risen!

2. The Lord is responding.  Pray this five-word prayer and then know that your Lord is responding.  He comes running to anyone who prays this prayer and gives them His sure Word and strengthening Sacrament.  He is risen, dear Christian, for this purpose, and to keep your little flame from ever going out.

Now practice praying, "I believe; help my unbelief!"

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Gospel of Spit

To the members of Faith Lutheran: A little note here just for you!  I enjoyed an excellent Elders meeting last evening.  Thank you, men!  This Sunday's Divine Service theme will be a powerful five-word prayer found in Mark 9.  The Lord's Supper will be served.  Let us prepare!  And in ABC we'll talk about God's gift of time.  Bring your Bible if you can.  Sunday School at 9, Service at 10, and ABC to follow.  See you all soon!  Pastor Matt

"He spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva" (John 9:6).

Warning: You may never look at spitting the same way.

Three times in the Holy Gospel Jesus spits, and each time in order to heal.  Mark records two occasions (Mark 7:31-37 and 8:22-26) and John another (John 9:1-7).  John alone uses the noun "saliva" - a word that almost seems to be trying to spell "salvation."

God is omnipotent, but there was something He could not do.  Prior to the Incarnation He could not spit.  In the Person of the Son, God put on our human flesh and blood - and saliva.

Think of it this way: The Word became flesh and spit among us (cf. John 1:14).  When you come to these healings in which Christ uses His spit, think deeply about the Incarnation and rejoice that God became man for us!

But wouldn't you know: The same Incarnation that enabled the Lord to spit, also enabled Him to be spit upon.

"Then they spit in His face..." (Matt. 26:67).  See the prophecy of this in Isaiah 50:6.

This is nearly unspeakable.  The one true God and Creator of all is spit upon by His creatures!  And yet we speak it and preach it and proclaim this Gospel of the depths to which the Lord God humbled Himself for us and for our salvation!