Andrew was the brother of Peter, first a disciple of John and moved by the words, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
Although he was the first to believe, he wasn’t as impetuous as his brother. The two of them were called together at some point after this initial meeting (Matt. 4:18-22)
His mark on in the Gospel narratives is only pointing out the boy with five loaves and two fish at the Feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:8-9) and being among the four who asked Jesus about the destruction of the Temple (Mark 13:3-4).
Later tradition says he was a missionary around the Black Sea. Died in Patras, Achaia in the 60’s. Legend says that he was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which is why he is pictured with the two beams of wood. Owing to the tradition of his wide travels, Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, which is why the flag bears a white cross on a blue field.
Almighty God, by Your grace the apostle Andrew obeyed the call of Your Son to be a disciple. Grant us also to follow the same Lord Jesus Christ in heart and life, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
John the Evangelist provides the background of how Andrew first came to learn of Jesus.
18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Matt. 4:18-20)
His call to be an apostle is not the impulsive, hasty “get out of the boat” moment that people make it out to be. He learned from Jesus, first calling Him “Rabbi,” but eventually telling his brother, “We have found the Messiah.”
Likewise, all disciples grow through the Word of God. We all start as babes on the “pure spiritual milk of God’s Word…[having] tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Pet. 2:2) And over time with growth, we become ready for “solid food,” for “solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb. 5:14).
How has your walk been in following Jesus? Perhaps earlier you had misconceptions, underestimating Him. This misunderstanding may have led you to doubt.
What brings you from weak faith to better know Him, and more fervently follow Him, is hearing His Word in the crucible of life. Faith comes by hearing, but maturity comes through trials (Rom. 10:17; James 1:2). We need both.
The Lord knew this for Andrew, just as He did for Peter and all the apostles. The Lord directed Andrew’s growth though His questions and teaching, healing Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31), through his doubts in the crowd of 5,000, through the Messiah’s passion and resurrection and ascension. All of this prepared Andrew for what the Lord would do through him: preach the Gospel to the Gentiles of Scythia, Thrace, and Asia Minor.
What does Andrew teach us about during Advent?
The point for us is that every disciple starts somewhere which the Lord knows. According to His saving purpose, He calls us with His Gospel and enlightens us. As we answer His call and follow Him, Jesus causes us to better know Him, so that we can also tell others accurately about who He is—our Christ and theirs.
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.
“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!
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 ofhimself 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 ourselvesin 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 Transcends timidity, Where love informs and hope sustains Both life and ministry.
5 O Christ, the_apostles’ Lord, 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.
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.
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.
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. Buttake 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.
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!