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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Easter in February

"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Cor. 15:20).

Easter will be April 21 this year, or was it February 17?  The earliest Easter can possibly be is March 22.  It last happened in 1818, and won't happen again until 2285.  But I still think Easter came this year on Sunday, February 17.

That's because Sunday's Epistle, read in thousands of churches, was from 1 Corinthians 15, including verse 20.  On Sunday it felt like Easter!  And I say it was.

The sermon presented three fundamental truths: Christ is risen, we too shall be raised, and therefore we don't need to be afraid.

And about that last one.  What are the first words of the Easter angel in Matthew 28?  "Do not be afraid."  And what is the opposite of fear?  Peace.  And what are the first words of the risen Jesus to His disciples?  "Peace be with you."  And what are the last words of the pastor at Holy Communion?  "Depart in peace."  And what does that mean?  That it's safe now to die.  It's safe now to get older.  It's safe now to get sick.  And it's safe now to live.  Because He lives!

Two months from today is Good Friday, followed by Easter.  But you don't have to wait that long.  The bright hope of the resurrection came in February this year, to encourage us through these last days of winter.  To encourage us through all the days of this life!

Monday, February 11, 2019

The One Prayer God Always Answers No

To the members of Faith: With no service yesterday morning, let's really look forward to Wednesday's Divine Service (6:30 p.m.).  In addition to the Word and Sacrament, we'll receive two new members.  A little reception will follow the service.  And a reminder that the New Member Class starts tomorrow (Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.) and is open to members as well.  God bless you and this week's small devotion!

There is a prayer found in the Bible, and you can pray it, but the answer will always be No.  The Lord's Prayer ends with "Amen," meaning, "Yes, it shall be so."  But for this prayer you'll need to find a different word, because, "No, it shan't be so."  Jesus says about the Father, "Whatever you ask in My name, He will give it to you" (John 16:23) - with one major exception: the one prayer God always answers No, as in, No way, absolutely not, not in a million years!

Here is the prayer: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8).

The dear Lord Jesus Christ says No to this prayer.  A gentle, but firm, loving No.

Peter was one part right and one part wrong.  He was right to confess himself a sinful man.  That was true.  No argument there.  But how was he wrong?  Very!  He was wrong about Jesus who came for the very purpose of getting close to sinful people.

How does this apply?  You're a Christian, baptized, righteous in the eyes of God because of Christ.  But what about in your eyes?  You remember sins, you still see sins in your life, you still sin.  And you will think like Peter and try to send God away.  This often shows up in thinking, "I can't go to church.  I shouldn't go to Communion!"

But do you know what that's like?  It's like saying to the doctor, "I shouldn't come see you right now, because I'm sick.  And that medicine you want to give me, let's wait on that till I'm better."

Listen.  You go to God in the very moment you think you should go away.  Go to His Word, Sacraments, Church, and Cross.  Because the very reason you think God should go away from you is the very reason He doesn't and won't.  "I made you, I redeemed you, I make you holy.  I love you.  And so the answer is No, I will not depart."

No has never sounded so good, so completely the Gospel!

And it may be that this one No is like all the other Yeses put together.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Author of Our Faith

"...Jesus, the Author and Completer of our faith" (Heb. 12:2).

The Letter to the Hebrews is the only New Testament book to assign no author.  We don't know who wrote it.  Guesses include Barnabas, Luke, Clement of Rome, and Aquila and Priscilla.  Luther suggested Apollos, mentioned for the first time in Acts 18:24.  "But who wrote the epistle," said Origen of Alexandria, "God only knows certainly."  But from this, two things may be said.

One is, isn't it something that the only book not to say who its author is, is the one book to say who the Author of our faith is?  That's the authorship that matters.  "Let us, through endurance, go on running the race set before us, looking to Jesus, the Author and Completer of our faith."  And for the perfect commentary on "Author and Completer," use Philippians 1:6: "He who began (authored) a good work in you will bring it to completion."

Two is, humility.  Whoever wrote Hebrews had a lot to be proud of: understanding, eloquence, heart.  It is said that the letter displays the finest Greek in the New Testament.  And yet they wanted to remain anonymous.  T.S. Eliot wrote: "Many are engaged in writing books and printing them.  Many desire to see their names in print."  When was the last time you saw the most beautiful book but without the author's name?  Answer: The Letter to the Hebrews.

Seek to do beautiful and blessed things, but to receive no earthly credit.