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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lent Midweek



Matthew 4:1-11 - Lent I/Midweek - February 29, 2012 

 Hallowed Be Thy Name


It has been said that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.  Well, that’s a pretty good trick.  When people don’t believe that the devil is real, then they’re not prepared to defend themselves against his wiles.  In fact, they soon become his accomplices in the evil that he wants to accomplish.  The devil is a tempter.  He leads people into sin.  That’s how he accomplishes his work.  We don’t see the devil.  But we most certainly do experience sin. 
But people don’t generally like to hear about the devil as though he actually existed — for the same reason that they don’t like to hear about their sin as though they were actually accountable to God. 
Because of this, it’s not a very popular thing to talk about such things as sin, or Satan, or anything really religious-sounding like that.  If you make mention of any of this kind of stuff, you just might be met with scoffing criticism or dismissal even by your friends.  “Keep it in the pulpit!” they say.  “These are the things of myths, and religion; but they are not real life.”  This could not be more false.  In this midweek Lenten series, we pastors will be addressing the theme of modern unbelief, as the front of your bulletin puts it.  And so I’ll try to give a contemporary example of how the devil’s wiles are made light of by the unbelieving world: 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lent 1



Psalm 32 [Matthew 4:1-11] - Invocavit, Lent I - February 26, 2012 

Blessed Is He Whose Transgression Is Forgiven


A while back there was a popular movie that I remember watching.  In it, the main character was a crooked lawyer who made a living getting criminals off the hook.  But then something magical happened that made it impossible for this man to tell lies.  A lawyer who couldn’t lie.  Well it made for a pretty funny movie at least.  In one scene, right after this lawyer lost his ability to lie, a faithful customer of his called him on the phone.  He had just committed yet another crime, and, wanting to avoid punishment, he asked for legal advice.  He received from his lawyer, however, a helplessly honest response: “Quit breaking the law!” 
What good advice.  There are consequences to breaking the law.  It’s wise to obey it.  When one obeys the law, he has nothing to fear from those who enforce it.  We avoid all sorts of punishment by doing what the one who is able to punish tells us to do. 
It’s the same with the law of God.  The law teaches us how to live good and pleasing life before God and man.  Scripture teaches us that those who do according to what God’s law demands will live; those who don’t will die.  We don’t.  Therefore, the law reveals in us exactly what the law condemns.  And the wages of what it reveals is death.  This is the relationship between the law and the sinner.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday



Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 – Ash Wednesday – February 22, 2012
Our Father Who Art in Heaven
Our Father who art in heaven. 
What does this mean? 
With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.  
There are two good reasons to pray to God.  First, He commands us to pray to Him.  “Call upon me in the day of trouble.”  Second, He promises to hear our prayer.  “And I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15).   If God didn’t give us His command and promise, we wouldn’t know whether or not we could or even if we should pray to Him.  But in His word He teaches us that indeed we can and indeed we ought to.  He also teaches us how. 
To pray means to ask.  We don’t tell God to give us anything.  We ask Him.  And we do so on the basis of His own kindness toward us.  Everything we have we receive from Him as a gift out of His fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us.  It is as we confess, “we are by nature sinful and unclean” and “we have justly deserved [God’s] temporal and eternal punishment.”  When we pray to God, we’re asking Him to give to us sinners things that we don’t deserve to have.  And He does, He gives them.  We should thank Him for what He gives, and pray that He would continue to give it.  And we do. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Baptism of our Lord



Matthew 3:13-17 - Quinquagesima/Baptism of Jesus - February 19, 2012
Preaching Baptism

We call him John the Baptist because he baptized.  But John the Baptist was also a preacher.  St. Mark writes, “he came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mk. 1:4).   John’s Baptism and his preaching were inseparable from each other.  In fact, the sacrament of Baptism can never be separated from the preaching of God’s word.  After all, it’s from the word of God that Baptism gets its power to save in the first place. 
Baptism doesn’t wash away sin simply by getting people wet—like some sort of magic potion.  No, it washes away sin by the power of the word that Jesus Himself attaches to the water.  He attaches His word to the water first by commanding that everyone be baptized, and second, by promising that he who believes and is baptized shall be saved.  Because of God’s command and promise we are able to point to our Baptism with confidence and say that that is where God forgives us our sin, rescues us from death and the devil, and gives us eternal life. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sexagesima



Luke 8:4-15 - Sexagesima - February 12, 2012

What God Accomplishes


The word of God is powerful.  The reason that it is so powerful is because it is the word of God — and God is powerful.  God has the power to accomplish what He wants to accomplish.  And God accomplishes things by speaking His word.  That’s how He does it.  God does not speak simply to hear His own echo, but in order to accomplish on earth His good and gracious will toward men. 
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth by speaking.  When He had finished, He looked at what He had made and called it good.  God doesn’t create bad things.  He creates good things.  The purpose for which God continues to send His creative word today is a good purpose.  Through it, He accomplishes good things.  The word of God is powerful and good because God is powerful and good.  And because God is everlasting, so also the word of God shall not pass away.  
God speaks to us today in the words of Holy Scripture.  There is no other place where we can expect to hear His voice, because there’s no other place where the Almighty God promises to speak.  Only by hearing what God wants to tell us in the Bible are we able to come to saving faith in Him, because there’s no other place where God makes promises to save us.  We are saved from our sin by believing what we hear. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Septuagesima



Matthew 20:1-16 - Septuagesima - February 5, 2012 
The First Shall Be Last

During the Lutheran Reformation of the 1500s, the biblical doctrine that teaches that sinners are saved by grace alone through faith alone, apart from works, was (by God’s great mercy) restored in the pulpits and publications of the church.  By excluding man’s works from his salvation, and instead teaching him to rely solely on the obedient suffering and death of Jesus Christ, the certainty of eternal life was thereby placed – not in the works of man! – but in the works of God who alone is able to give us life.  We don’t trust in what we do.  We trust in what Jesus has done.  That’s the bottom line. 
But during the Reformation, the opponents of the Gospel falsely accused the Lutherans of forbidding good works.  They claimed that since we excluded our own labors from the process by which we are saved, that we thereby deny that Christians are called to a life of labor and love.  But we deny no such thing.  Our calling as Christians is, of course, a calling of grace by the Holy Spirit in the Gospel.  But the life that we are called to live is most certainly a life that is full of good works.  God does not call us to do evil.  He calls us to do good.  He calls us to do that which pleases and glorifies our Father in heaven, and which serves and helps our neighbor on earth. 
We do not forbid good works.