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Monday, July 29, 2019

Sermon on the Lord's Prayer

The Lord's Prayer is found in two places in the Bible: Luke 11 and Matthew 6.  The Matthew 6 version is the one we know and love, to take nothing away from the Luke 11 version.

The Lord's Prayer is also found in the Small Catechism.  It is the third part, following the Ten Commandments and the Creed.  In the Ten Commandments, God gives us a mirror in which to see our sin.  In the Creed, God gives us His Son in whom to see our righteousness.  And in the Lord's Prayer, God gives us His ear.

The Lord's Prayer contains seven petitions (the perfect number) together with an introduction ("Our Father who art in heaven") and conclusion ("For Thine is the kingdom...").

What if there could be a near-perfect sermon on the Lord's Prayer?  A sermon that wasn't too long, wasn't too short, and made you want to pray the Lord's Prayer from all your heart.

I think that maybe that sermon exists.  Found in the Small Catechism, it covers each of the nine parts in a way that is both simple and rich.  For example, it says about "But deliver us from evil":

"We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven" (emphasis mine).

How much that means to me!

Pray the Lord's Prayer.  And for the near-perfect sermon on it, turn to the Small Catechism.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Mother Love

"And a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary..." (Luke 10:38-39).

Mary and Martha are sisters, each with a different personality.  Mary is passive, quiet, resting at the feet of Jesus, receiving His Word.  Martha is active, busy, constantly doing, serving.  Opposite personalities, and yet sisters.  Reflect on the fact that as sisters, Mary and Martha are daughters of the same mother.

In spiritual terms, that mother is Love.  God's love gives birth to two daughters.  One is named Faith (Mary) and the other Works (Martha).  Faith is passive, quiet, resting at the feet of Jesus, receiving His Word of forgiveness at all times.  Works is (are) active, busy, constantly doing, serving wherever there is a need.

The two sisters, born of Love, dwell together, as did Mary and Martha, in the same house.  And that house is your heart.

The only caution is that Martha (works of service) not be allowed to take Mary (faith alone) away from her resting place at the foot of the Cross.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Good Samaritan

Luke 10:25-37


Good Samaritan Hospital in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, has this most beautiful sculpture of the Good Samaritan,* with these words:

"In Luke Chapter 10, the parable of the Good Samaritan is described.  Jesus said to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.  Just as the Good Samaritan cared for and showed mercy on the beaten man, we are instructed to do likewise.  By staying true to the mission, the physicians, employees, and volunteers of Good Samaritan Regional Health Center do just that."

To this I would add only that Christ is the Good Samaritan who saw and took pity on you, saved you from death and brought you to an inn, the Church, telling the innkeeper, your pastor, to take care of you, and giving him the Means: the Word and Sacraments.

*The sculpture is by Harry Weber of Wright City, Missouri.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Remain a Pupil

Some Christians struggle to believe that Genesis 1 and 2 are describing an actual week and that Creation took place over the course of a literal six-day period.  Their pastors don't always help.  At a recent conference, one pastor publicly denied a literal six-day Creation.  I was both saddened by this and alarmed, recalling that the very first temptation (Genesis 3) was to deny God's Word.  When will we learn?

Luther called the article of Creation "harder to believe than the article of the Incarnation."  But he wrote: "If you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are.  For you are to deal with Scripture in such a way that you bear in mind that God Himself says what is written.  But since God is speaking, it is not fitting for you wantonly to turn His Word in the direction you wish to go."

I agree, but I also add something.  I observe a strange focus on Creation Week and the question, "Is it literal?"  And I say that, because in the Gospel we are presented with another week, the one that begins on Palm Sunday and climaxes on Good Friday.  It could be called Redemption Week, through which the Lamb of God took away the world's sin.  How come no one has ever questioned the literalness of this week, especially when you stop to consider that to redeem the world was indeed a thousand times harder to do than to create it?  And that's because at Creation there was no resistance, no enemy.  Whereas Redemption fought a battle against sin, death, devil, and hell.

And so next to Redemption Week, I find Creation Week very easy to believe.  And I will spend the remainder of my life not wondering whether God created the heavens and the earth in six literal days, but pondering that He redeemed the world, and me, in six literal hours upon the cross.