The daily Bible study podcast, The Word of the Lord Endures Forever, by Pastor Will Weedon is starting on the Book of Revelation. If Revelation has ever left you uneasy or scared, Pastor Weedon’s teaching style might bring you some much needed clarity.
Funeral of Lenora Pauline Hanna – June 17, 2021
Text: Psalm 139:7-18, 23-24
“In the Uncertainty of This Life, God is the Solid Rock upon Whom We Stand.”
This is where Lenora was raised. She was born May 31, 1956, but soon after born from above by God in the precious waters of Holy Baptism in this congregation (at the old church on 2nd street). Wally and Jean raised her in the Christian faith, and nearly 14 years later, Lenora made her own confession of faith on May 17, 1970 before this altar.
When young people make this confession before the congregation and, by God’s grace, vow to remain faithful to God until death, none of us knows what the future years will bring. This life is full of uncertainties: future plans changing drastically, grave illness for a beloved spouse, marriages broken by divorce or death, and life ending suddenly. All this and more are the things which break our bodies and crush our spirits. Some of them come on gradually, and others hit out of the blue.
When these tragedies come, we long for some kind of answer, some comfort in understanding why, so that we can have some glimpse of good coming out of the evil. But more often than not, the answers don’t come, or they’re not satisfying. That isn’t to say God isn’t able to bring good out of evil [Genesis 50:20], but in the moment, we don’t know how that can be. Why, when things were going so well—when she loved her family, she loved her job, had plans for a big family birthday party, when she had joined her sister, Betty, in coming back to church regularly, and was even looking forward to retirement next September—was Lenora’s life cut short? The only answers we can find leave us weeping.
But there is still certainty even in this hour. It doesn’t come from the chance and changes of one’s life, in the choices one makes or potentially dodging hereditary disease. That certainty is from the Lord God who says to His children: “But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.’” (Isaiah 43:1) The Lord called her through His servant, Pastor Kratzke, as he said, “Lenora Pauline Schmidt, I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” There in the baptismal waters, Almighty God gave her a treasure that outshines anything this world can imagine: union with His Son, Jesus Christ, in His death for all her sins and sharing in His victory over death! God the Father adopted Lenora, and gave her the privilege to be called His beloved child.
Even though we don’t have answers for why Lenora’s life was ended so soon, God has given this sign to us: Lenora died on June 10th, the very day she was baptized in the Name of the Jesus 65 years earlier. By this, I believe, the Lord is pointing us to where we can have certainty in these times: in His sure work that forgives sins, restores peace with God, and assures us of an open heaven and the resurrection to everlasting life.
In the midst of our days and because our sin darkens our understanding, we don’t always recognize and appreciate what a gift is delivered in Baptism. It’s far more than a sterile, ancient rite of the Church. It wasn’t appropriated from other religions just to have something unique to do. Baptism is a gift which the Lord Jesus gave to the world after He died for the sins of all and broke the power of death and the devil. Baptism is the good news, the Gospel of God, delivered through water, as the Apostle Paul tells us:
“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7)
God chooses to become the Heavenly Father of His children, and in that He is no slouch! Earlier this morning, we prayed together a portion of Psalm 139, which beautifully illustrates the God who claimed Lenora in Holy Baptism. And before I read it, I also want you to know that this isn’t just about her. This is true for every one who believes in God’s work. Lenora saw to it that her children were each given this very same treasure: Kenneth on April 3, 1982; Joseph on April 22, 1984; and John on December 26, 1999.
So, listen to how intimately acquainted God, who made Himself your Father, is deeply concerned with each of His children’s lives:
7Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
11If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,”
12even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
13For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
15My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
17How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
18If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
No matter how far one has strayed, how estranged one has been from God their Father, how you may have even despised your Creator and the Lord who redeemed you with His blood—as many days as you have on this earth, God never stops seeking you. He has known you since before your parents even did, and He knows your inmost being, and your life from beginning to end. So knowing this treasure which God the Father desires for each of you, stop neglecting it, resisting it, and going on in darkness. On that road, the only thing that’s certain is death which leads to judgment and hell. That would break your Father in heaven’s heart, Who has done so much that you might know everlasting life.
The All-powerful Creator of the universe is seeking you out to keep you through this life, passing through the Judgment Day, and into eternal life. This is how He is able to call you back when you stray, strengthen you when you’re ready to fall, wipe away your tears, and raise you from your graves. And the conscience who trusts in this Gospel can gladly say,
23Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
24And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Thanks be to God! Amen.
Bible Study on Matthew and Adult Information Class
Mondays from 6:30-8:00pm ~ 12 Sessions
The Gospel of Matthew was God-breathed for the purpose of teaching the Church to know Jesus Christ to be the very same God who revealed Himself in what we now call the Old Testament, and His work to be that ultimate deliverance from the curse of sin and slavery to death and the devil.
Join us in this 12-session study through the Gospel of Matthew, with special attention to teaching the foundations of Christian doctrine as explained in Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. This class will serve to introduce and reaffirm the faith taught in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Attendants would thus be prepared and may then choose to become a member of our congregation.
- Session 1: Matthew 1-3 – The Person of Jesus
- Session 2: Matthew 4-5 – Person of Jesus and Sermon on the Mount, Part 1
- Session 4: Matthew 6-7 – Sermon on the Mount, Part 2
- Session 5: Matthew 8-9 – The Deeds of Jesus Christ
- Session 6: Matthew 10-12 – The Harvest Work and the Weeds
- Session 7: Matthew 13-14 – The Kingdom in Parables and Deeds
- Session 8: Matthew 15-16 – What Constitutes True Religion from God
- Session 9: Matthew 17-20 – The Christ Revealed in Glory and Humility
- Session 10: Matthew 21-24 – The Son of David Enters Jerusalem and Teaches
- Session 11: Matthew 25-26 – The Close of the Age and The Scripture Fulfilled
- Session 12: Matthew 27-28 – The Crucifixion, Death, and Rising of God’s Christ
“The winged bull (or ox), recognized as the animal of sacrifice, was applied to St. Luke because his Gospel emphasizes the atonement made by Christ’s sacrifice of himself on the Cross. The bull (ox) is also synonymous with service and strength, which reminds us as Christians that we should be prepared to sacrifice ourselves in following Christ.”
Reading – Luke 10:1–9
1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
Hymn of the Day – O Christ, Who Called the Twelve (LSB 856)
1 O Christ, who called the Twelve
To rise and follow You,
Forsaking old, familiar ways
For ventures bold and new:
Grant us to hear Your call
To risk security
And, bound in heart and will to You,
Find perfect liberty.
2 O Christ, who taught the Twelve
The truth for ages sealed,
Whose words and works awakened faith,
The ways of God revealed:
Instruct us now, we pray,
By Your empow’ring Word.
True teacher, be for all who seek
Their light, their life, their Lord.
3 O Christ, who led the Twelve
Among the desolate
And broke as bread of life for all
Your love compassionate:
Lead us along the ways
Where hope has nearly died
And help us climb the lonely hills
Where love is crucified.
4 O Christ, who sent the Twelve
On roads they’d never trod
To serve, to suffer, teach, proclaim
The nearer reign of God:
Send us on ways where faith
Where love informs and hope sustains
Both life and ministry.
5 O Christ, the_apostles’ Lord,Text: © 1993 GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission: LSB Hymn License no. 110004659
The martyrs’ strength and song,
The crucified and risen King
To whom the saints belong:
Though generations pass,
Our tribute still we bring,
Our hymns a sacrifice of praise,
Our lives an offering.
“After this,” St. Luke writes. After what? After a section titled “The Cost of Following Jesus,” at the end of chapter 9, which reads:
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
One seems to be willing, unless it means he will lose his home. Another is called, but not if it means losing his family. A third pledges his faithfulness, but hopes to keep one foot in his old life. It would be entrapment if the Lord didn’t disclose this to us: What it will cost to follow Him. Dreams we have of believing in God and He in turn making our life run smooth are a fantasy. They are called Christians because they belong to Christ.
And how did it go for Christ? As meanly as it can for a human being. Yet in that life of perfect obedience, perfect self-sacrifice, perfect suffering, He opened the barred gates of Eden. But Christ’s life is also a template for those who are adopted by God as children through Him. It is a life of eternal peace with God, but often not in the outward sense we think of.
After this, He appointed seventy-two others, men who would be conformed to the template of Christ. He sent them on ahead of Him to do the same thing as Him: Labor in the Lord’s harvest, be His lambs in the midst of wolves, entrust their life to Him, and bear His peace to those they met.
These 72 are first and foremost an example for pastors, who are publicly sent to preach and teach, administer the mysteries of Christ, and to embody the Lord Jesus in their lives. Yet it’s also true for everyone who follows Him, and so let’s take a look at each of those activities for which Christ sent out the 72.
We pray—no, beg—the Lord to send out laborers into His harvest. It is always His harvest, never one’s own labor. We default to think that the Church is the sum of its parts. After all, it’s true for every other human institution. You get in what you put in. Therefore, the Church must depend on having the right quantity of pastors, volunteers, friendly people, donors, sturdy buildings, and so on. But the Lord doesn’t let us be deluded into thinking the harvest is ours. He bids us ask Him to grant success to the harvest, even if in our calculations, things look scarcely possible. Just as was mentioned a few weeks ago, all that the Church possesses belongs to the Lord. So it is with the increase or decrease in a particular time or place. His Word always accomplishes His purpose.
He sent these disciples out without any promise of personal glory. In fact, it was nothing of the sort: “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” This is something we could all stand to be reminded of. The world is uncomfortable and painful because of the evils that happen to us and our own foolishness. But the world is also enemy territory. Little Christs as we are, we need to take to heart how Jesus was received. The demons writhed against His reclaiming of men from the devil’s kingdom (Luke 4:33-36, 8:26-35; 9:37-43a), and those who refused to believe irrationally sought Jesus’ destruction (Luke 4:16-30; 19:45-48).
The warfare may not be intense all the time, but we should always expect it. It may be that the wolves have had a meal lately and it keeps them at bay. But also know that you could be their next meal. See how Jesus rebuffed the temptations of the devil in the wilderness: “The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ 4 And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”’”
Luther wrote in the preface to his Large Catechism,
“Nothing is so effectual against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts as to occupy oneself with the Word of God, talk about it, and meditate on it. Psalm 1 calls those blessed who “meditate on God’s law day and night.” You will never offer up any incense or other savor more potent against the devil than to occupy yourself with God’s commandments and words and to speak, sing, and meditate on them. This, indeed, is the true holy water, the sign which routs the devil and puts him to flight.”
And speaking of that time that our Lord faced off with the devil in the wilderness, His next instruction to the 72 is, “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.” Just as Jesus faced the devil in the wilderness, we daily need the lesson of how God provided for His ancient people for 40 years in the desert. That Scripture Jesus used against the devil, “Man shall not live by bread alone” comes from a larger lesson God gives through Moses in Deuteronomy 8:
“And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know…that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you.”
There are times when it’s easy to believe God provides all we need…because we can see it. Then, there are times when each day seems like a miracle how it all comes together. But unlike those around us who don’t know God, we have learned from Him that He can and will provide no matter how dire the circumstance. Desolate wasteland and thousands of people? He’s got that. Providing for a family, kids in college, and the furnace goes out? He’s got that too. Bills coming due before the paycheck, and then a medical emergency? He does not lie when He says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5-6)
Moses zeroes in on it when he says that God put them in the wilderness to humble them and to test what was in their heart. When our material life—especially our money or our health—goes out the window, these are moments when God is treating us as children, teaching us to rely on Him for every need. No, it doesn’t mean we should overspend and waste His gifts, because that would be putting the Lord to the test. But it does mean that we go out like the 72, with the promise that God will provide it when we get there. He will give us today our daily bread.
Last, He tells His disciples, “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.”
It’s the job of the pastor to publicly proclaim His peace, as these seventy-two did and I’m doing now. But His peace rests upon every believer, and it is shared in our lives, through the vocations we have toward one another. The “sons of peace” are those recipients of God’s kingdom.
But what exactly is this peace? It’s the announcement of the angels to shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14) It’s the result of knowing God through Jesus Christ: that though we rightly deserve His wrath for all that the human race has done and what we ourselves are guilty of, He made the once-for-all atonement. That being reconciled with our Creator, we also have the sure hope of following where Jesus has gone in eternal life on the other side of the grave.
Like we heard St. Paul say last week in the Epistle, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7) The sons of peace have this gift, guarding their hearts and minds even as the world reels and rages. As political ideologies clash and anarchists plot, we are heirs of an unshakeable, eternal Kingdom and today have hope in the God who rules over all the earth. As pandemic orders wear on and people are at each other’s throats, we are filled with the love of Christ for every person.
Truly, the Kingdom of God has come near to you, here as we share in those gifts unique to the Church, but also as each of us go out into the world. He sends us out, and is always with us on the way. Thanks be to God! Amen.
 Δέομαι – ask, request, beg
Reading – Matthew 22:1-14
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” ’
But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Hymn of the Day – At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing
Sermon – Sacrificial Invitation
Today, Jesus gives us another parable about the kingdom of heaven. This time, He compares it to a king who was holding a wedding feast for his son. Throughout the course of the parable, two different problems arise. The first is that those whom the king invited refused the invitation. The second is that some who came refused to wear to wedding clothes provided for the celebration. Both had consequences. And both let us know what just what it is that sin does to us.
Now some background is helpful: wedding feasts in those days had a time limit. In fact, every feast did. Because in order to have meat for the feast, the animal needed to be offered at the Temple. Or if you were far from the Temple, exceptions were made. But the animal was offered as a thank offering to the Lord. The fat and internal organs were burned upon the bronze altar. The priests were given a portion to eat. But the bulk of the meat was them given back to the one who offered it to share with family and friends. It was a holy meal unto the Lord. [Lev. 7:12-18] Which is why it mattered who you invited and who you ate with. Because not only were you eating with your guests in celebratory thanksgiving, you were eating with God Himself as well.
But the meat could only be eaten on the first day, and the second day. And any not eaten was then to be burned. On the third day, if there were any left, it was a blasphemy against God who had given the meal in the first place. Because apparently, you care more about saving leftovers than the Lord. Therefore when we hear the king say to the guests a second time in our text, “See, I have prepared my tdinner, umy oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” Time is short. The clock’s ticking. Only two days remain.
But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. And the first day ends with the king sending out his troops to avenge the deaths of his servants. The first day ends with no one at the holy feast.
Do we realize just what our sin does? Or do we tend to think of our sin as no big deal? Nobody’s perfect, right? We’ve all been there. You’re doing the best that you can. Don’t be so hard of yourself. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’ll all turn out okay in the end. All because your sin isn’t really that big a problem. Just a little forgiveness from Jesus, and it all gets swept under the rug and forgotten.
But that’s not the way sin works. Not even the small ones. Anytime we try to make our sin manageable, We’re telling God that we don’t need Jesus. We don’t need the death and resurrection of the Christ. We don’t need the forgiveness that won, nor Him giving that gift to us. We can handle it all on our own just fine. All by pretending that we’re actually good, worthy of eternal life on our own merits. When we pretend that our sin is manageable, we achieve a staggering arrogance. An arrogance that it is the same as ignoring the king’s time sensitive, once in a lifetime invitation in order to go do what we do every day. Or worse, to harm and destroy His messengers who come with the King’s message.
If that were the end of the parable, it would not be good news for us. Still true. Still showing just how bad our sin is. But then what? What hope would we have? However, in the parable, there is still one more day. The king sends the servants out once again. But this time, they are to invite everyone they meet, wherever they find them. And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
All whom they found, both bad and good. The original guests were not worthy, as the king says. But if we compare them to who actually arrives, they were the most worthy of all. For they had actually received the first invitation. Now the invitation has nothing to do with worthiness. Because “no one is righteous, no not one. No one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Ps. 53:1-3) And yet, the feast must be eaten.
We could compare this to the promise coming through the Jewish people, but now it goes out to everyone. That’s certainly how the Pharisees in that day took it, which they did not like one bit. But I think we do better to apply it to ourselves. If we’re to be worthy, to be righteous on our own, then we will never be at the wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom that has no end. But the invitation is not reserved for the worthy. The invitation and command to enter comes instead to all.
In this way, sin does still hold all its seriousness. But that is not what determines entrance. Rather it is the king’s generosity, the king’s sacrifice that invites. And make no mistake, it is a sacrifice by the king in the parable to invite all. After all, this is a holy feast. A thank offering. And it both needs eaten, and eaten by those who are ritually clean. But when both are impossible, the king chooses one. And it is the choice of compassion. The choice of generosity. The choice of gift. The king sacrifices his own righteousness for the sake of His new guests.
Which is what Jesus does. He sacrifices His own holiness. Sacrifices His own perfection. Sacrifices His own kingship. All to save you. All to pay for your sins. Even the ones that you think shouldn’t be that big a deal. Because that’s the price your every sin demands. And it’s a price you can’t pay, not even for a single one. But Jesus has indeed paid it on your behalf. And that payment for your sin happened at the cross, nearly two thousand years ago. And that payment comes to you personally when you were clothed in the baptism that He gave you.
That’s in today’s parable too. Every guest was dressed in wedding clothes. They didn’t dress themselves. They were dressed when they entered the feast. Dressed by the king’s gift. But not everyone who was invited to the feast wore the clothes. There was one who refused. One who thought that he was just fine the way he was. That his sin didn’t need to be covered. That he did not need to be washed by Christ’s baptism. It’s a different description of the same problem. True, this one was willing to go to the feast, unlike the first invited guests. But only if he was worthy all on his own. And in that self-justification, in that rejection of the forgiveness that Christ gives, the man was thrown out.
Likewise, it doesn’t matter if you’re outside a congregation, or in one: if you think that your sin is any different than everyone else’s. Only by the forgiveness of sins does one have a place in the kingdom of heaven. And that forgiveness is given out without cost. Without your work. Without your worthiness. It comes solely from Christ Jesus. He has invited you to the feast. He has dressed you in the wedding garments of your baptism. He has sacrificed His own body and blood for you to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins. And it is still today.
As is written in the epistle to the Hebrews, “Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.””
Invited by God the King, and coming in faith, you eat His body given for you at the cross. Drink His blood, shed for your forgiveness. Your sin has been paid for. Your debt is covered. And so we enter to celebrate the wedding feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom, which has no end. Amen.
On August 2 after service, we watched Tortured for Christ, the story of Romanian Lutheran pastor Richard Wurmbrand. If you weren’t able to attend, you can find the link below.
- Persecution of Christians in the USSR – Provides broad overview of the Soviet response to the Christian Church, especially after WWII
- Marxist-Lennist Atheism – The ideology that drove the restriction, arrest, and torture of Christians, including Wurmbrand.
- Soviet Occupation of Romania – The situation specific to Romania, where Wurmbrand lived
Sermons by Wurmbrand
For three years during his imprisonment, Pastor Wurmbrand was in solitary confinement 30 feet underground. He would sleep during the day, and woke during the night. Each night, he prepared and preached a sermon. Owing to his extraordinary memory, he memorized those sermons and they are published in this volume.
The Soviets outlawed possession and distribution of the Bible. This action has accompanied all the major efforts to repress Christianity over the past 18 centuries. Pastor Wurmbrand had a remarkable memory and the movie mentioned that he had memorized a verse of the Bible about fear for every day of the year.
What would we do if we were to lose our Bibles? If we rely on a mobile device, a recent discussion about Tik Tok revealed that Google and Apple are able to remotely wipe out apps from our phones. Even though the pressure isn’t on the near horizon, it is good practice to immerse ourselves in God’s Word so that we will be able to recall it whenever the need arises. Here are some suggestions:
- Pray the psalter daily (the Psalms). It is the first songbook of the Church, addressing topics related to our whole life before God. I suggest praying it aloud because you will be using two senses (sight and hearing) which help you remember it better. One suggested plan is for morning and evening. Here is a bookmark with the schedule.
- Listen to the Bible. Even if you have a busy schedule or many distractions, Faith Comes by Hearing has provided audio Bibles in both the ESV and King James. It is available as the Bible.is app, and also in standalone formats.
Influence of Government on Religious Practice
It’s shocking to think of what happened just 70 years ago under gross abuse of state powers. Persecution like this is happening today in China. But something to which we can relate is the use of state power over religious practice, especially as it has to do with public health during the pandemic. From the state’s perspective, they are enforcing restrictions to protect the good of the public, but from many Christian’s perspective, state governments are overstepping the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment.
In addition to that, there are currently socialist movements and calls for revolution in several major cities. If fascism in the name of equality brought on the evils of the USSR and China, what could happen in our own land?
It’s something we should be mindful of, as Christians who live in the End Times.
|Day 1||Matt 26:1-46|
|Day 2||Matt 26: 47-27:28|
|Day 3||Matt 27: 29-66|
|Day 4||Mark 14:1-72|
|Day 5||Mark 15:1-47|
|Day 6||Luke 22:1-38|
|Day 7||Luke 22:39-71|
|Day 8||Luke 23: 1-56|
|Day 9||John 18:1-27|
|Day 10||John 18:28-38|
|Day 11||John 18:39-19:16|
|Day 12||John 19:17-42|
With all the disruption brought by recent events in the world, this is still a sacred time for us as Christians. Easter draws near, and as our Lord reminded His disciples just before His betrayal, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
So lifting up our eyes, I encourage us to use this time to meditate on our Lord’s passion according to the four evangelists. This reading schedule was published by Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, IN, and I pass it on to you.
In order to help you in this devotion, I will post a video reading the assigned section for the day.
Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
LWML Sunday (Proper 22C) – October 13, 2019
Text: Luke 17:1-10
Today is LWML Sunday. The theme of the day is from the Gospel reading, where Jesus says, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” It is that gift of faith in people’s hearts which is so precious in the Lord’s sight. Today, we recognize and celebrate the support which dedicated women from all across the country give to spreading the Gospel, so that He, through the means of His Word and Sacraments, increase faith in people’s hearts and bring unworthy servants into His household.
To understand what Jesus is saying about faith and mustard seeds, we’re going to have to dig into the Greek a bit. Our Lord uses some pretty powerful language to make His message clear to us.
First, He says some things which sound familiar and pretty basic:
And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
You know what the most difficult part of living on earth is? People. You’ve often heard it said and probably thought it yourself, This world would be great if it weren’t for all the people. Well, the same goes for the Church too. Being in the Church and following Jesus would be great, if it weren’t for all the other people! Think about it: The thing that is our biggest source of frustration is the people we live with (sometimes even other Christians!). It’s hard not to take the perspective of one popular song: “I’ve got one less problem without you!”
Jesus says something shocking though, not just that “temptations are sure to come”, but “It is impossible that temptations should not come.” It can’t be any other way, which means that all the things we hate—the deadbeats who lure our children away from what they know is right, the abuses and injustices we suffer—are unavoidable. It also means those people you get annoyed by the most, the people who tick you off, those who you loathe to speak their name because of the memories it brings up…Yeah, God put them in your life. It can’t be any other way.
Now that’s no free ride for the creeps, because God pronounces “Woe!” to them who cause one of these little ones to stumble, who scandalize faith. But don’t underestimate the almighty power of God to bring good even out of the evil of others. (Genesis 50:20)
But the Lord doesn’t support us just denouncing the world and bemoaning how corrupt it is. He says, “Pay attention to yourselves!” He is speaking to each of us personally, not just that guy we really think needs to hear it. Listen up, dear Christian, He is talking to you and applying this to you as you follow Him.
If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
This series of statements use a special construction in Greek called a conditional statement. The gloss is, “Whenever this happens, this is what the result will be.” So it reads not “if” but “When your brother sins, rebuke him” It’s not a matter of if he sins, because he will. (The same message is being preached to him about you, by the way.) So, whenever your fellow Christian sins, you are to rebuke him. This is unpopular, especially because we would rather make people happy and like us than have to be the bearer of “negativity.” But, this isn’t an optional thing for the Christian. It’s a basic part of being part of God’s family, that we actually speak to our brother or sister about their sin. It’s not judgmental; it’s loving: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:1-2).
“Pay attention to yourselves!” When you rebuke your brother for his sins, you don’t do it from a high horse. You do it, realizing you are just as dirty. He may have this sin that needs to be called out, but you have your own. The motivation for rebuking another Christian has to be because God loves them, and you love them enough to tell them when they are mixed up with sin.
The next part is also crucial: “If he repents, forgive him.” Without Peter even having to ask (as he does in Matthew 18:21) Jesus drives home how important this is, saying, “If he sins against you seven times in a single day [emphasizing the Greek], and turns to you seven times saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” If you claim the name of Christ, this is absolutely how you are to conduct yourself. Anything less profanes God’s Name—even the name of Jesus which means “He saves His people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21) The Christian Church is a community of repentance and forgiveness.
That’s not the way we like to operate, though. It’s much more satisfying to see people have some sort of consequences. We figure they need something to teach them a lesson and keep them from doing it again. But doling out consequences is not a vocation that God gives us with respect to our brother or sister (unless we hold a civil office). Truth be told, we often find ourselves avoiding the person who has sinned against us, rather than to do what the Lord commands here.
That’s when the disciples, like us, realize how spiritually bankrupt we’ve been, and cry out, “Increase our faith!” or literally “Add to our faith!” That’s when Jesus throws them another humbling reply: “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” He says this because it’s not that things would magically be better if we just tipped the scales on the “right amount” of faith. He points to the mustard seed, and says if you had even the tiniest speck of faith, you could command a tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea.
Here is another place, where the Greek tells us more: This is what’s called a contrary-to-fact statement, like, “If you had blue hair, you would look like Marge Simpson.” But you don’t have blue hair, so neither is the other part true. “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed (which you don’t), you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted.’…” But the point is you don’t.
Boy, what a downer, Lord. I thought you wanted everyone to have greater, bigger, stronger faith? I mean, your prophet, Habakkuk even said, “The righteous shall live by his faith.” (Hab. 2:4) It sounds pretty important. But Jesus isn’t diminishing our faith; He’s diminishing us. He’s humbling us, so that we realize this immense work of living reconciled with God and those around us isn’t our work. Having faith is being humbled to realize all that dwells within us is desires to see the wrongdoer have their comeuppance and for God to vindicate our worthy case. But those are not God’s ways, because they are higher than our ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:9).
Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ”
The final humbling statement comes with the illustration of a house servant. This doesn’t make much sense to us today, as I don’t know any of us rich enough to have domestic servants. But we can still understand it from the employer—employee relationship. If you have an employee, would thank him for doing what was already his job? I’m so glad you came in on time today, and answered the phone! Splendid! I think we’ll make you employee of the month! Well, what this means is that it is our basic duty as Christians to rebuke our fellow sinners with God’s Word, and when they recognize their sin, forgive them with God’s forgiveness.
This is the work which the LWML supports. But it’s not just about the money they raise for missions; it’s about the way these women dedicate their lives to living out their faith. But that is really nothing over the top: “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” All Christians, from the least to the greatest, are called to this amazing-and-humanly-impossible work of steadfast reconciliation. That is our witness to those who don’t know Christ—not just that we get walked all over by people who never understand, but that our lives witness to the grace of God in Christ to fellow broken people who need God’s grace.
But it’s not about us; it’s God’s work through us. So, when we find ourselves loving those who have wronged us, thanks be to God! This is what our Lord has commanded us: Love one another; forgive your enemies (Matt. 5:46-48, Luke 6:27-31). This is what faith does: it puts God’s love into us so that we love as He does.
So today is really about Jesus who has loved us while we were still sinners, whose love sends His Holy Spirit to add to our faith, to put into our cold hearts a divine love which witnesses that in Christ, there is peace with God and peace with our fellow man. And we thank God for the support of the LWML both in sharing and living this Gospel. To God alone be the glory, forever and ever! Amen.
Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Feast of St. Michael and All Angels – September 29, 2019
Text: Revelation 12:7-12
We often thank God for the dedicated service of the members of the armed forces. We thank Him for giving these men and women such dedication to their country and its citizens. That peace we enjoy in our nation as a result of their service is something we should rightly be thankful for and never take for granted.
While as Americans, we do enjoy liberty day to day, there is another nation with which we are familiar because we are also citizens of it. That nation is the Christian Church. God calls us a holy nation, a people for His own possession [1 Pet. 2:9]. This nation also has an army—although its service is mostly unseen. There are those dedicated soldiers who work tirelessly to defend the citizens of God’s nation—the army of God’s angels. Today, on this Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, we remember the faithful service of these angels to us.
But we might ask, What does the God of Peace need with an army? The very fact that the angels are God’s army means that there is an enemy to be fought and defeated. This is what we learned from the 2nd reading, from Revelation 12:
“Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” (vv. 7-9)
This war is between powers in the heavens, between the angels of God and the angels who follow Satan, who we know as the demons. Satan and his demons are determined to destroy God’s people, as they have been since the beginning of creation. This is the true battle between good and evil: It isn’t between warring political parties, social ideologies, or nuclear powers. It is a war between the Creator of heaven and earth, and a rebellious faction of His servants who threaten the crown of His creation—mankind. The stakes are not merely the rise and fall of an earthly nation, but the difference between an eternity in hell for us or God’s goal of bringing us into eternal fellowship with Him.
The battle lines are drawn upon the salvation of sinful men and women. For this, immortal creatures clash as Satan and his army vies for dominance. As the prophet Isaiah alluded to, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” (Isaiah 14:12-14). Satan desired the glory that belongs only to God Himself. He wants man to worship and serve him. He wants the majesty of God to be his own, though he is not God. Then, he planted that same deceit in the heart of Eve, and then Adam. How he rejoiced when we became convinced of our own ability to become like God, judging for ourselves what was good and what was evil.
But God would not let such a victory be had. He would not let His glory be given to another [Isa. 48:11]. So, He swore to trample that serpent, to crush his uplifted head, and to unravel the corruption Satan had incited in man. And because God swears to do it, no creature—not even the most powerful of angels—can overturn God plans.
That plan of God was carried out with the birth of a “male child” (Rev. 12:5). Yet this male child was no ordinary son of Adam. He was not simply another human, conceived in sin and ripe for deception and accusation. No, this was the One who would turn the battle in favor of God and the salvation of man. From the beginning, the angels of God have had a heavenly, eternal commander-in-chief: known as the Angel of the Lord and the Lord of Sabaoth. “Sabaoth” is Hebrew for armies, as we sing in the Sanctus—“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of Sabaoth.” He is the Lord of God’s Army. This One entered the battle Himself when He became man and was born that male child.
In this way the battle was swayed in our favor, because the commander of the Lord’s Army, God’s Son Himself, fought for us by taking up our cause in the flesh. He entered the fray with His almighty power, at which the demons cried out: “I know who you are! You are the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24) and they cringed at His presence. No enemy can withstand His power, because He commands even the angels who have rebelled against Him.
Yet it wasn’t only with His might that He fought for us. His most effective weapon against Satan and the demonic host is His human flesh. Satan and his army had brought corruption and death to the sons of Adam. All their flesh had followed in the image of Satan, so that there was none righteous, no not one and all had turned aside to this angel posing as God [Ps. 14:1]. Then came the Lord of Hosts in the same flesh—yet without sin. The Accuser had nothing to accuse, and try as he might, he could not tempt and deceive this Second Adam [Matt. 4:1-11]. Yet Jesus bore these accusations on behalf of man. He bore the punishments in our place. The Lord of Sabaoth died in lowly grief and shame. And on the Third Day, this same Lord rose victorious over Satan’s greatest weapons against man—sin and death.
Because of this victory, the song rings out in heaven, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Rev. 12:10-11). This is the victory which guarantees the success of every battle fought until the Last Day. The commander of the Lord’s army Himself has won in the fight, laying down His life for man and taking it up again [Jn. 10:18].
This battle continues, as it says, “Woe to you, O earth and see, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath because he knows that his time is short!” (12:12). For this reason, the angels of God still fight the devil and his angels. The battle is far greater than any human being could win. The proud devil has been thrown out of heaven, and instead, we have been promised a place there. But he will not rest until he is cast into hell on the Last Day.
We have heard it in so many Gospel accounts of demon possession, yet we see it in our own day how the devil has deceived a whole generation into only watching out for visible dangers. The Prince of Lies has convinced the masses that stories of angels and demons were invented by primitive people who had no better way to explain the world around them. But this plays into his power over us. As true as the rest of God’s Word, Satan and his demons are a very real threat. But even more so, the angels of God are a very real help against these enemies!
Satan’s wrath is great against God and against those who belong to Him. Ever wonder why unbelievers have it so easy? It’s because Satan and his demons aren’t fighting against them. They are right where Satan wants them—lost in unbelief. But we belong to God. He redeemed us out of the devil’s house with the blood of His only-begotten Son. Through the waters of Holy Baptism, God brought us into His Kingdom. But Satan always wants us back. He fights to regain us as hard as he can, and he’s got a third of the angels fighting with him.
All armies seek the defeat of their enemies, but the devil’s army fights for the damnation of every human being. It is against this kind of army that God and His holy angels fight. And, unlike earthly battles, what’s at stake isn’t land or power over people. As I said before, the outcome here is the difference between eternal life or eternal death. In the Gospel, Jesus says, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (v. 20). This shows us what the Lord and His hosts fight for. He isn’t out to defeat Satan just to show that he’s more powerful. It’s not a war for the sake of bragging rights. The Lord is seeking the salvation of all people. Our boast is in the Lord, not only because He is mighty, but because He is mighty to save us in body and soul forever.
So, it’s for you and me that God’s angels fight. The Lord Jesus Himself commands these forces to defend us against the devil’s attacks, whether these attacks come to our bodies or our souls. Satan tries to destroy our souls by fillings us with doubts and telling us lies about God. Demons cannot dwell alongside the Holy Spirit in believers, but they certainly come pounding on the door. But God sends His angels to defend us against these attacks. As Psalm 91 says, “He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:11-12). They guard your path, so that you can stay on the narrow path which leads to life [Mt. 7:14].
But the devil also seeks the harm of our bodies because he wants to catch us off-guard. In one of the ancient prayers of the Church, God’s people pray for deliverance from “sudden and evil death.” A sudden and evil death is one where we are caught at a time when we’ve been lazy in defending against satanic attacks and perhaps we’ve even hung the Armor of God up in the closet. But even in these times of blindsided attacks, the Lord sends His angels to watch out for us. We may or may not know what’s happening, but the help is still there.
The Lord of Hosts and His angels are a great army, always watching out for us. They fight for us, against an enemy far stronger than any human being. They fight for God’s people, always keeping vigil for our safety. They carry out God’s commands with swiftness, accuracy, and without question. All this they do because of the incredible love of God in Christ Jesus. Though they already see God face-to-face, they gladly leave His presence to come to our aid. This they do for us, so that we too can behold Him face-to-face when we will arise in the glorious resurrection. Through the labors of the holy angels, you and I will enjoy that peace which never ends. Thank our God and Savior for the faithful service of His holy angels! Amen.