Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sermon for 3/31/13--The Resurrection of Our Lord

Do Not Be Alarmed!

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

The women came to tend to their Lord’s body as it rested in the tomb, and they fretted over how they would enter the tomb because of the stone. But when they arrived, they saw that the stone which held the tomb closed with Jesus inside has been rolled away. The tomb which held the body of Jesus was empty. Is it any wonder that they were alarmed? But then to them comes the word of comfort and joy from the angel of God: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here.” But despite that word of comfort, despite knowing, as the angel reminded them, that Jesus had said that He would rise, the women went away in silence and in fear.

Why is it that, when God and His messengers speak to His people, the people seem to do exactly the opposite? No one—not the women, not the Apostles—no one  believed His Word. He told them frequently that He was going to suffer and die and rise again the third day. But it’s not the same for us. It's not as if we were there. Oh, but  it is. We wouldn't have been standing around waiting for Jesus to rise like we believed His Word was going to actually come true!  Just look at your life. You live like Jesus died and is still dead. You still wallow in your sins as if there really isn't anything more to life than approving of the way the world lives and acting the same way.

But Christ is risen! The devil, the world, and your sinful nature have been conquered. That’s more that just your actions. That includes your hatred and murder and lusting and coveting in thought and word too. All that has been buried in Jesus' tomb and left there when He rose. We can no longer live as the world does. We can no longer believe as the world does. When the world allows God to be present, He must be silent about how we live and think and speak. Dear Christians, as you celebrate Christ risen from the dead, do away with your doubt and fear. Rejoice in the Lord Jesus who suffered and died on the cross and is now risen from the dead. Rejoice in and confess the resurrection of the body; that Jesus rose from the dead and so we too will rise from the dead someday. Stop talking about your salvation like you're not sure it’s for you. You are saved. Jesus died for your sins and now is raised from the dead. Cling to the words and promises of God which are yours in the waters of Holy Baptism.

It’s no wonder the women were scared: all their ideas about how things are supposed to work were overturned! Jesus, whom they knew to be God, had died! How could this be? Then Jesus, whom they knew also to be a man, came back to life! How could this be? What could it mean? Notice that everyone was looking for Jesus in the wrong place on Easter. The last place Jesus was going to be was the tomb; His Word said that He would rise again. Easter teaches us to turn away from the sort of religion that looks for Christ somewhere other than in His Word. Jesus doesn’t want you to look for Him in your heart or on a mountain top or in the happy and pretty things of your life—though He is present in all those places. He also doesn’t want you to think He has no place in the dark and ugly parts of your life—He is there with you. He does not abandon you when life hits rock bottom. As the angel reminded the women, instead of looking where you expect to see Jesus, pay attention to where Jesus says He will be: in His church, in His Word, in the waters of Holy Baptism, in Holy Absolution, in His body and blood. Listen to what He says: “Make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teach them to observe all I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the end of the age.” “Receive the Holy Spirit! Whoever's sins you forgive, they are forgiven them!” “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea and to the ends of the earth as you preach forgiveness in my name.” “Take, eat, this is my body given for you; take, drink, this is my blood, shed for you.” Jesus is right here as He promised to be for you, delivering His forgiveness and His life so that you need never doubt Him or be afraid for yourself.

Do not be alarmed! Christ is risen from the dead! Do not be alarmed! God has made you His child in Holy Baptism! Do not be alarmed! Your sins are forgiven you! Do not be alarmed! Jesus, who was raised from the dead, now raises you from death to new and eternal life! Do not flee in fear from the cross and the empty tomb. Instead depart from the empty tomb with joy and peace, and come to the Lord’s Table, where the risen Lord Jesus offers Himself to you as the living bread from heaven. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.  

Saturday, March 30, 2013

GUEST POST: Easter Vigil Sermon of St. John Chrysostom

It's not often you're able to convince someone who has been dead for over 1,600 years to be your guest blogger, but Epistles from Exile is excited to welcome St. John Chrysostom, the "Golden-mouthed". This is his sermon for the Vigil of Easter. (Hat tip to Pastor William Weedon for sharing this so joyfully on Issues Etc!)

Are there any who are devout lovers of God?

Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!

Are there any who are grateful servants?

Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting?

Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour,

let them receive their due reward;

If any have come after the third hour,

let him with gratitude join in the Feast!

And he that arrived after the sixth hour,

let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.

And if any delayed until the ninth hour,

let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,

let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.

He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,

as well as to him that toiled from the first.

To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.

He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.

The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

First and last alike receive your reward;

rich and poor, rejoice together!

Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,

rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!

Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.

Let no one go away hungry.
Partake, all, of the cup of faith.

Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,

for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;

for forgiveness has risen from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.

He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.

He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.

Isaiah foretold this when he said,

"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.

It was in an uproar because it was mocked.

It was in an uproar, for it was destroyed.

It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.

It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.

Hell took a body, and discovered God.

It took earth, and encountered Heaven.

It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting?

O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!

Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!

Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!

Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!

Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;

for Christ having risen from the dead,

is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sermon for 3/29/13--Good Friday (Catechism Series)

Let Your Holy Angel Be with Me (Daily Prayers)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Children are often afraid of the things that go bump in the night. They fear the monsters they think hide under their beds and in their closets, dangers that only become real to them when the lights are extinguished. Most adults have shaken that fear, yet adults, too, fear the unknown, the uncertain. We, too, fear the darkness of life: not the fantastical monsters of imagination, but the monsters that can be all too real—the thugs that beat down our doors and attack our families, the animals that run in front of our spouse’s car as they travel home in the night, the illnesses and diseases that strike without warning. And the day is not without its terrors, either. The light is no defense against bullies that attack us and our children at school and at work. Identity theft, careless or inattentive drivers, a misstep in the wrong place at the wrong time—all it takes to drown is a spoonful of water; all it takes it a single missed stair to result in a fall which can cause injury or even death. Sometimes we make fun of our fear. We watch horror movies, go to haunted houses, ride roller coasters, and do other similar things which raise our adrenaline and leave us breathless. Despite this attempt to mock the things we fear, we cannot deny that Satan has the power to play on these fears.

Jesus knows all this. He knows the frailty and fears of humanity. He knows the dangers of night and day. Consider this: Judas the betrayer was on his way with the soldiers of the chief priest. The perversion of justice in the trials before the Sanhedrin, Herod, and Pilate; the mockery, spitting and scourging; the weight of the cross on the road to Golgotha; the nails and spear—a twenty-four hour period of brutal agony was about to begin. Knowing that the next day would see the completion of His work of paying the debt for the sin of the world, knowing that He was the Lamb of price, Jesus knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives to pray. He was in agony. He perfectly knew the will of His Father. He knew He was the Father’s answer to the sin which marred creation. Even so He prayed, “Not my will, but Yours, be done.” And in response, as Luke tells us, “An angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.

Our Lord does not leave us alone in our fear. He knows the things which strike terror into our souls, for He experienced them Himself. He knows the ravages of hunger. He knows the pain of the death of loved ones. He knows all the trials and temptations. The sin which caused our first parents to hide from God in the Garden of Eden in their nakedness and shame is the sin which causes us to rightly fear those things which bring terror to our hearts. And yet, that sin is precisely what our Lord Jesus Christ overcomes on the cross. He died bearing that sin—the sin that causes our shame, our fear, our separation from God.

While we await the great and glorious day of the return of Jesus in glory, we still live as sinners. Yet that is not the end of it. We are not sinners only, but sinners who bear the mark of the Lamb who was slain, the mark of the name of God upon us in the waters of Holy Baptism. We are sinners who are at the same time saints. Our Lord promises to be with us always, to the very end of the age. He sends His holy angels to guard and watch over us as we walk by day and as we lie abed at night. With His presence and His command that the holy angels watch over us, we may pray with confidence, “Into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul and all things.” For just as the Jesus commended His spirit into the Father’s hands and was raised on the third day, we commend our body and soul into His hands, knowing that it will be raised on the last day to eternal life. No cross, no trial, no demon horde, no sin or evil can overcome the Lord and His holy angels—not by night, not by day, not ever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sermon for 3/28/13--Maundy Thursday (Catechism Series)

These Thy Gifts (Meal Prayers)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

The liturgy of Holy Communion also reminds us, “It is truly meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks” to our heavenly Father. In his explanation of the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed, Martin Luther wrote, “I believe that God…richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. …For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.” And in his explanation to the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer he exhorts us to “receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.” It should come as no surprise, then, that in putting together his booklet to teach the basics of the Christian faith, Luther should include a prayer acknowledging God as the giver of all good gifts before meals and a prayer of thanksgiving to be prayed after meals.

We live in a place where we see so much of what we eat produced on our own land and on that of our neighbors, and we rely on the mercy of God in giving sunlight, rain, warmth and cool weather in their seasons for our livelihood. It should be a no-brainer that we acknowledge God as the One who provides in abundance. It should be obvious that we give thanks to Him for feeding us with our own manna from heaven. Add to that such things as shelter, clothes, your spouse and children, your parents and brothers and sisters, your intellect, and everything else you need from day to day. Such generosity our Father displays to us, even though we don’t deserve it. The Lord does, indeed, “fill the hungry with good things”, as the Virgin Mary prayed.  Or as Luther quotes Psalm 143, the Father opens His hand to “satisfy the desires of every living thing.” Yet we are quick to take credit for our hard work—to accept the praise for the bountiful crop that we planted and sowed and put up, to point to our fattened cattle and -pat ourselves on the back for a job well done—all the while forgetting the One who gave us the ability to do the work, who gave weather favorable to the growth and nurture of crops, who created and ordered the world to produce a harvest from something that started as small as a seed.

Though His children lack gratitude, He does not fail to provide. Though we forget to turn around to worship God, just as nine of the ten lepers forgot to turn around and praise the One who healed them of their leprosy, the Lord does not take away the gifts He so generously provides. Indeed, He continues to bless His creation. The sun continues to rise and shine and set on both the righteous and the unrighteous; the rain gives moisture for both the thankful and the thankless. The crops continue to grow, the cattle continue to graze and mature, our pantries and cabinets and tables bow under the weight of the fruits of the earth, and our bellies groan with the richness of the bounty our heavenly Father provides for us. “All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.”

But even more than that, our heavenly Father even provides for our thankfulness. He provides in the body and blood of His Son a “Eucharist,” as we call it in the Greek—a feast of thanksgiving. Remember how Luther told us that the Father provides “all that I need to support this body and life”? He even provides in this life for the feeding of our souls, for the feeding of our eternal life. There is no end—literally, no end—to His gracious goodness. His mercy, His steadfast love, endures forever.

Once again our Father provides for you. Here at His Table, the dinner table of the baptismal family, the Church, you are gathered to eat the living bread from heaven. The Father welcomes you to the feast of His Son, the Lamb. Once again He feeds you, body and soul. He fills you with the forgiveness of sins, with salvation, with eternal life, and even with the words with which you may praise and thank Him. “O, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sermon for 3/24/13--Palm Suday

Pilate and You

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

What do we know about Pontius Pilate?  The truth is, we don’t know much.  History tells us that he was hand-picked by Tiberius Caesar to govern Palestine. This was one of the “hot spots” of the Roman Empire; the Jews simply refused to cooperate with their conquerors.  It would take the best man Caesar had to govern this unruly province.  That tells us a great deal about Pilate.  He was intelligent and resourceful.  He was loyal—Caesar would have allowed no opposition, especially in Palestine.  But the Bible tells us of another attribute of Pilate, one which comes out in this text, one which we do not always associate with him.  Pilate was a man with an acute sense of justice.  After all, he knew Jesus was innocent of the charges brought against Him.  He knew that the Sanhedrin had turned Jesus over to him out of envy and hatred.  He also knew that those same Jewish leaders would make things very difficult for him if he did not condemn Jesus as they wished.  A word or two spoken in the right ears would brand Pilate as a traitor to a paranoid Caesar and to a threatened empire. 

What was such a man to do?  Even Pilate’s wife told him to have nothing to do with condemning Jesus; he would be condemning an innocent man.  But He was also a man under intense pressure. He knew what was right, and he also knew what was practical, and in this instance they were not the same.  Could he have set Jesus free?  The easy answer is to say that Jesus was appointed by the Father in heaven to die on Calvary’s cross for the sins of the world, and that Pilate was put there to carry out that plan of God; and all of this is true.  But Pilate was no more a robot than you are.  He could have followed what he knew in his conscience to be right and true, and set Jesus free, and God would still have worked His will in some other way.  Pilate made the decision he did for his own reasons.  His decision was the result of all that he had experienced to that point.  God has revealed to us what we need to know.  What we cannot understand or explain, we are to accept as the wisdom of God.

What about you?  What is your story?  Pontius Pilate is not more important than you. Yes, he was at center stage for a portion of the greatest event in human history.  But your story is just as important because each of you is a unique creation of God.  So what is your story?  You were brought to Holy Baptism by your parents.  There in those Word-filled waters, you died with Christ and rose with Him to newness of life.  Do not think for one minute that that event has not had a monumental influence in your life.  You may not yet fully understand it, but God does not abandon what He has made His own.  You have been raised and nurtured in a family—both your birth family and the family of your new birth—that has loved you and has taught you to love the Lord and rejoice in His love for you. All of this has helped to make you what you are now.

The more interesting question, however, is this: What is your story going to be?  Pontius Pilate is history.  You are a work in progress.  Where are you going?  In what direction are you heading?  Are you going to be bounced around like a ball at the hands of an fickle God who is going force you to be exactly who and what He wants you to be?  No. God does not work that way.  His are the ways of love and mercy.  Though you may forget your Baptism, He will not forget; God can never be anything but faithful.  Through that Baptism, our Lord Jesus has made you a child of His heavenly Father, an heir of eternal life. Through that Baptism, our Lord Jesus has applied to you the forgiveness of sins which He won on the cross.

Curtis, Hailey, Blaire: you are about to make important promises, promises meant to last your whole life, promises that may bring you to the brink of death itself through the hands of those who hate our Lord—and because they hate the Lord, they hate you, too. Your brothers and sisters here at St. Peter have made the same promises. Though you may be tempted to wander away from the Lord, He will keep His eye on you: not to strike at you, but to wait for the chance to draw you closer to Him.  In a few minutes you will receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ, your blessed Savior.  It may not seem like much at first.  Those who saw Jesus in the flesh when He walked this earth weren’t impressed with Him either.  But receiving the Holy Sacrament draws you closer to Him than anything on this earth can do.  And there you will find a joy and a peace that surpasses understanding.

What is your story going to be?  Of course, only God knows.  But if I could write your story, I can tell you what the end would be.  On that great day, when our Lord Jesus Christ returns to gather His faithful ones around Him that they might enjoy eternity with Him, and when He looks to me and says, “Who are these you have with you,” I will turn and look and see each of you.  And then, with great joy, I will be able to say to Him, “These are the children you have given to me.  And by Your grace, dear Lord, none of them are lost.”  That will be the greatest story ever, because that is the story our dear Lord Jesus Christ has written for you!  In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sermon for 3/20/13--Midweek 5 (Catechism Series)

Given and Shed for You (Sacrament of the Altar)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

I spent a lot of time with my Catechism students for the past month or so emphasizing just how important are the Words of Institution. The words are straightforward, really. “This is my body.” “This is my blood.” “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” “Do this.” What did He mean? He meant that the bread and wine of the Sacrament of the Altar is His body and blood. It’s simple. It’s only not simple when one refuses to take Jesus at His Word. When one tinkers with the Word of God, errors and heresies emerge. The lesser error is that of the Roman Church. They refuse to believe that the bread and wine are present in the Lord’s Supper. At least they believe that Jesus is present in the Sacrament of the Altar. Yet they still deny the Word of Jesus. But the worse error is that of all those who refuse to believe the word “is,” those who teach that the bread and wine represent or symbolize the body and blood of Jesus.

Luther, of course, makes plain what we believe, teach, and confess concerning this holy Meal: “It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.” Simply put, we believe what Jesus says. We take Jesus at His Word. Just as we trust the Word of God in the water of Baptism to mark us as children of God, Just as we trust the Word of God in Holy Absolution to apply the forgiveness of sins to us, in the same way we believe and trust that Jesus is present in and under the bread and wine when the Word of God is spoken by the men Christ has called to stand in His stead.

That also means we trust that Word of God when Jesus tells us that His body and blood are “given” and “shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  There were some in Corinth who saw the Lord’s Supper to be something other than what Jesus said it was: the gift of His body and blood given to sinners to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of sins.  They had transformed the Lord’s Supper into their own party.  No longer were the body and blood of Jesus being confessed as the gifts that they are.  No longer were these gifts at the center of the congregation’s life.  There was eating and drinking, but the Corinthians were no longer coming together to eat and drink of the Lord’s Supper.
Paul does not offer yet another interpretation of the Sacrament which we should consider alongside the other interpretations.  Paul does not, like so many in the Church today, consider it a matter of indifference as to what one believes and confesses regarding the Lord’s Supper.  Instead Paul says, “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’
In the Sacrament you are given the body and blood of Jesus.  The very body that was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary to bear your sins and suffer your death is given into your mouth.  The very blood He shed to redeem you is the means of forgiveness which flows into your bodies.  The body and blood of Jesus proclaim to you the complete forgiveness of all your sins, and as you eat and drink at the Lord’s Table you confess Jesus Christ to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  You may bring no contradiction of Jesus and His words to His altar.
This Sacrament does not depend on you.  It does not depend on your belief of what you receive.  It does not depend on your own reason or strength.  What you receive does not change based on what you think or feel about it.  The Sacrament depends on the Lord Jesus, who established it on the night in which He was betrayed.  It depends on Him and the Words He speaks to make it what it is, and to make it give what He says it gives.  It is not your faith which makes a Sacrament.  All who come to the altar receive Christ’s body and blood, whether they believe it or not.  And it is Christ’s body and blood, which means it cannot be anything less or any less special than the body and blood of Christ, no matter how often you receive it—once a year, once a quarter, once a month, once a week, or every day.

There is only one way to worthily eat and drink of the Lord’s Supper, and that is with faith in words of Him who is the Host and Founder of the feast.  Luther’s Catechism says it well: “He is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words, ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’  Thanks be to God, for the Holy Spirit, which you receive in Holy Baptism, gives you the faith to believe His Word. That way, when Jesus says, “Do this,” you may receive this blessed gift in a worthy manner. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sermon for 3/17/13--Lent V

Even to Death

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Lord put Abraham to the test. There they were, father and son, going up the mountain. They carried with them everything they would need to sacrifice to God—everything, that is, except for the lamb. Isaac questions his father about that, and Abraham replied, “God will provide for Himself a lamb.” So the Father in heaven sent His own Son to be that Lamb. Nothing but that Lamb will save us from our sins. But the Jews don’t want to hear that. In fact, no one wants to hear that. Jesus taught the Word and told His hearers that they were no children of God because they denied His Word. So of course they called Jesus a Samaritan and said He had a demon. Isn’t that how most religious discussions go? You argue and argue and finally it just seems like neither side is wrong or right or whatever. It’s no wonder religion is not a topic for polite conversation.

My brothers and sisters, beware of the devil’s snare. He wants you to stop seeking and believing the Truth. It seems better to keep silent than to have a fight with a friend or a family member over religion. We all know what happens. You argue. Voices are raised. And then, all of a sudden, you’re not speaking to each other anymore. In our text, the Jews were so angry that they grabbed stones to kill Jesus! It’s so much easier to stop caring about the Truth, about what’s right and wrong. And suddenly the devil wins. If you don’t think the Truth of Jesus being the Savior is worth confessing boldly, worth believing with all your heart, even to death, then you’ve already given up on the Truth…and only that Truth saves you.

Jesus escapes this time. But it won’t be so forever. He’ll eventually let Himself be caught. He’ll confess that He is the Christ, the Son of God. He will stand before Pilate and acknowledge that He is indeed a King. It must be this way for sinners to be saved. For this is the Truth: Isaac goes free, and the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, is sacrificed. And that’s exactly what the sinner wants. The Word dies because we want to kill it. We don’t want to hear that we can’t save ourselves. We don’t want to hear that what we do is sinful and unclean. We don’t want to hear that Jesus is the only way to heaven. So we silence the Word. We cry out with the crowds, “CRUCIFY HIM!” We shut the Bible and let it gather dust. We toss out the Catechism. We stop coming to church. And for every last bit of it, Jesus suffers what He suffers, and He does it willingly. He does it to cleanse you, to keep you from being the sacrifice. He does it to be the sacrifice in your place.

Jesus tells us what matters. Where we would cringe at arguing with someone about religion, Jesus speaks the Truth: “Whoever is of God hears His words.” The Jews don’t listen. They don’t hear. They refuse. But you have God’s words. They’re written for you in the Scriptures. They’re spoken with the water and the font. They’re delivered to your ears in the absolution and preaching and teaching. They’re spoken at the altar. Those words tell you that the Lord isn’t going to require your sins of you. He won’t take Isaac as a sacrifice, and He won’t make you die for your sins. Your Baptism, the Gospel, the body and blood all declare this one promise of God’s words: Jesus has taken your place. Your forgiveness, salvation and eternal life are accomplished. Are you of God? Well, here you are, hearing His words, trusting His Words to give what they say, believing that death cannot harm you. Keeping the Word means nothing else than to trust in and cling to the promises that God makes to you through His Son.

So what about those discussions about religion? You don’t have to be snide or provocative in speaking the truth of God’s Word, but you don’t have to back down, either. You have the truth. Jesus has taught you His Word. Speak up! Just say what God’s Word says. Point to the Jesus who died and rose. And what if they hate you? What if they unfriend you? What if they pick up stones to stone you? Blessed are you! Death cannot touch you. It has no power over you. Death is defeated by the Word of the Lamb who was slain, the Sacrifice who then rose from the grave. Jesus speaks, and His words get Him in trouble with the Jews. They hate His Word so much they killed Him. But His Word saves you. Cling to that Word and keep it, for the Word of God is your everlasting life. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sermon for 3/13/13--Midweek 4 (Catechism series)

Peace Be With You (Confession and Office of the Keys)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Jesus was through with suffering and death.  He was raised from the dead.  The tomb was empty.  The women had seen Him and brought the news of the Lord’s resurrection.  Despite all this—or maybe because of all this—the minds of the disciples were in a muddle.  And then Jesus came into their midst.  With words and wounds He identified Himself.  This was no phantom or ghost, but the same Lord who was crucified on Friday.  He is alive, and His presence and the sound of His voice brought peace and gladness to the disciples who had locked themselves in for fear of the Jews.

Where Jesus is, there is peace.  At His birth the host of angels proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Having seen the infant Jesus, Simeon could bless God saying, “Lord, now You let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word.”  On the eve of His death the Lord had promised His disciples peace, and now the Lord makes good on that promise as He says, “Peace be with you.”  The Lord’s word of peace carries with it the full load of forgiveness, for God in Christ reconciled the world to Himself, making peace through the blood of His Son.  The Lord’s peace means that the enmity between God and man because of sin has been bridged.  That hostility was done away with as Jesus fully answered for our sins in His death.  Now there is peace between God and man, heaven and earth.  Jesus’ greeting of peace is a word of absolution for the disciples.  By it the disciples know their sins to be forgiven.  Think of what that word must have meant to Peter, who had denied the Lord!  Think of what it meant to the other disciples who had run away in the garden!

A second time the Lord says to His disciples, “Peace be with you.”  This time He adds, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you.”  With the first word of peace the Lord forgives His disciples.  With this second word of peace He makes them Apostles, “sent ones.”  The Father sends the Son, and now the Son sends these men.  And how does He send them?  By His Spirit and His Word.  The Lord breathes on these disciples and gives them His work to do: “If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven, and if you retain the sins of any they are retained.”  Just as the Lord God had breathed the breath of life into Adam, so now He breathes life into His disciples.

The Lord’s breath and His Word are together.  The Psalmist wrote, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.”  There can be no Word without breath, and breath without words can be just a lot of heavy breathing or grunting.  But the Lord’s breath and Word gives life to His Apostles.  What they received from the Lord, they have passed on to us.  We are among those who have not seen and yet have believed.  We have believed because we have heard the words of the Apostles—words alive with the breath of Jesus, that is, the Holy Spirit who has created faith in our hearts.  It is a miracle.  Thomas believed because he saw the risen Christ.  We believe because we hear Christ, for, as St. Paul says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

Our salvation was accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ on Good Friday.  When He said, “It is finished,” everything needful for our salvation had been done.  But unless it is delivered to us, the results of His death and resurrection do us no good.  On the basis of that atoning death, the Father declared the sins of the world to be forgiven.  We receive our freedom from sin—that is, the forgiveness of sins—as that word of absolution is spoken to us.  Not only has our Lord accomplished our salvation on the cross; He also delivers that Gospel to our ears through the words of His sent ones.

The Apostles are sent out with that Word, a Word that forgives and retains sins.  The Lord puts that forgiveness into your ears.  Our Lord says of those whom He sends, “He who hears you, hears Me.”  And so we confess in the Catechism, “I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.”  Pastors do what the Apostles did: they go out with the good news of the Lord’s resurrection: “We have seen the Lord!”  Thomas would not believe their word.  “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”  Thomas would see and believe.  He could confess Jesus to be Lord and God.  We live after the Lord’s ascension.  It is not given to us to see the Lord, but we hear His voice in the preaching of His Word.  By His Word, we are given faith.  We believe because we have heard the Gospel.  On that faith the Lord says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

We need not go back to the cross and the empty tomb.  Indeed, we cannot go back there.  But just as the risen Lord came to His disciples on Easter evening and just as He came to Thomas a week later, He comes to us by the words which He gives His servants to speak in His stead and at His command.  And by those words He gives us life in His name.  In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

HYMN: O Jesus Christ, Incarnate Word

I attended a conference for the writers of hymn texts at the end of January. I expected to return from it energized to write hymns. I was, indeed, energized. I did not, however, write any hymns. For over a month. I did some important editing on hymn texts I had already written--and believe me when I say that editing was and continues to be necessary for my texts--but I had nothing going on in the way of creativity. Of course, writing sermons for Sunday and for Lent, writing an article I submitted to Higher Things Magazine, and writing my newsletter article for St. Peter were certainly important word outputs. But I was beginning to think I'd never write another text.

Finally a new text has emerged. Based on the Propers for the Third Sunday in Lent (Oculi) in the LSB 1-year lectionary (and Luke 11:14-28 and the Introit from Psalm 25 in particular), this hymn deals with the account of Jesus casting out a demon by "the finger of God." I desperately wanted to get that phrase into this text, but I haven't figured it out quite yet. Any feedback would be appreciated.  Here it is:

O Jesus Christ, Incarnate Lord

1. O Jesus Christ, incarnate Lord,
Who casts out demons by the Word,
Defend me from the devil's horde
Through Your most holy name.

2. Stretch forth Your hand of majesty
To keep my soul. Deliver me
From perils of the enemy
Through Your most holy name.

3. Arise, O Lord! My foes assail.
Let not the world nor man prevail.
Shield me with grace that cannot fail
Through Your most holy name.

4. Your death atones for all my sin.
With Word and water draw me in
To stand by faith with God again
Through Your most holy name.

(c) Alan Kornacki, Jr.

Sermon for 3/10/13--Lent IV

More Than Enough

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

There is a hunger that is deep within the heart and soul of all people that can only be satisfied by the presence of the living God.  The wonder of God’s love and grace is that He, in fact, seeks us out.  Left to ourselves we would wander away from God.  But through Jesus Christ, and through His saving work—His life, death, and resurrection—God feeds us, and in that way satisfies our great hunger for His saving presence.  In our text we see a striking picture of the magnificent way in which God draws His people to Himself and feeds them.  This event was of unique significance in the life of the early Church.  There is no miracle of Jesus to which the ancient fathers make more reference than this feeding of the 5000.  Indeed, it is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four of the Gospels.
The central figure in this miracle is, of course, Jesus.  To see bread and fish multiplying without seeing the One whose power makes it happen is to miss the point.  Yet, how often in this life do we focus on the gifts without recognizing the Giver?  What would those people have seen as this miraculous event unfolded before their eyes?  Those who were waiting faithfully for the promised Messiah surely would have seen something significant.  They had been taught that the Messiah would prepare a great banquet feast for His people.  That miraculous feeding of the people of Israel in the wilderness would be reenacted in the presence of the Messiah.
Jesus is the Host at this meal; He is in complete control of all that takes place.  He silences the practical, earthly voices of Philip and Andrew.  They, like us, are inclined to doubt in the face of what appears to be an impossible situation.  “Where will we get what we need?  Our resources are insufficient!”  Jesus proceeds, unmoved by the doubts of His disciples.  He will feed His people.  And even if they fail to see or misunderstand the nature of the food He offers, He will still provide it.  He will provide in abundance, as only He can do.  Only Jesus can feed and satisfy the hunger of the heart and soul.  The food we would find and choose to eat has no lasting value.  And yet we prefer to choose our own diet, to find our own way, to live our own lives.  We still prefer that fruit of the garden that began all our problems, because in eating we think we will be like God.  But such a meal does not sustain us.  We remain hungry, undernourished, bound for death.  Our hunger cannot be satisfied by bread and fish because its root is deeper than the lining of our stomach walls.  We hunger for that communion God first established in the Garden, but which our first parents destroyed.  God Himself has placed that hunger within us, and He will satisfy it.
What are we hungry for?  We hunger for forgiveness.  We hunger for communion with God. The weight of sin and guilt hangs mercilessly around our necks.  To say that we have no sin is to play a foolish, deadly game with eternity.  Walking the straight and narrow, cleaning up our acts, being nice to our spouse and children—all of these, as nice as they may be, have no effect on our sin.  At best, such works are appreciated by others and may temporarily soothe troubled consciences.  But the soul that sins will die unless it is nourished by that life-giving Bread of God, which is Jesus Christ.  As the hunger pangs of repentance rumble within us, we are fed and satisfied with the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is aware of all of these needs, which is why He calls us to Himself.  He is the friend of sinners.  He feeds us.   He changes us.  He satisfies a need for communion with Him and with each other as no one else can do.
The place of the feeding has changed, but the food has not changed. Jesus Christ remains the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He once fed His people on a mountainside.  Today He feeds us in the midst of crowded cities and peaceful country settings; in tension-filled work places and in pain-filled hospital rooms; in mortgaged homes and family farms.  He feeds us in times of personal distress and spiritual darkness, in failing health, and even at death’s door.  And He will feed us eternally.  He guaranteed this when He took on Himself our sin, our pain, our guilt, our hatred, our afflictions, and all our spiritual hunger.  Everything that might crush us, and destroy us, and plunge us into despair and death was heaped on Him.  And it broke Him.  On the cross His body was broken for us.  The Bread of Life was broken and laid in a tomb.  But that Bread did not decay, nor did it remain in the tomb.  The life-giving Bread, our Lord Jesus Christ, was resurrected.  Sin could not hold Him.  Death could not hold Him.  He lives and continues to feed the hungry, with more than enough for everyone.
And we, the ones who are hungry, continue to gather around Him, drawn by His love and mercy.  We gather around His Word and His Sacrament to be fed by Him.  And we are fed; fed with forgiveness of sins, with Communion with Him and with each other, and with the certainty of a future that will have no end.  Jesus is our Unending Feast.  We again today savor the goodness and grace of a Savior whose presence is eternally real, whose love for us is unconditional, and whose body and blood satisfy us.  In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.  

Friday, March 08, 2013

Sermon for 3/6/13--Midweek 3 (Catechism Series)

Life-Giving Water (Sacrament of Holy Baptism)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Is there life after Baptism?  Of course, this is like asking, “Is there life after birth?”  Holy Scripture plainly teaches that Baptism is the new birth of water and the Spirit.  Our Lord says in John 3, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”  The Apostle Paul calls Holy Baptism “the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”  To be baptized is to be born again, which means that those who call themselves “born-again Christians” are being redundant.  To be a Christian means you have been born again, born of water and the Spirit.

In fact, there is no life without Baptism. The source and shape of the Baptized life we see in Romans 6 is reflected in the fourth chief part of the Small Catechism.  In the preceding section of Romans, Paul expounded the doctrine that is the very heart of all of Scripture, namely, that Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, died for the ungodly, and through His death God has graciously justified us.  “Therefore,” Paul says, “we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”  To understand what Paul says about Baptism, one must understand what he says about justification by grace through faith, for it is into the death of Jesus that we are baptized.  Justification is His free gift, and this free gift is placed upon us in Baptism.

Paul anticipates the objection of the old Adam in verse 1 of our text: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”  The old Adam is skilled at asking “What if?” questions.  What if God really does forgive all my sins freely and fully for Jesus’ sake?  Does that mean I can continue to live as I please?  The cool logic of the sinner says, “I delight in sinning, and God delights in forgiving.”  Paul answers, “Certainly not!”  That’s because life after Baptism is a death to sin.

Baptism is not an excuse to keep on sinning or to protect you in your sin.  It is God’s means of putting sin to death.  It is God’s way of killing the sinner, so that the sinner will be raised to life in Christ’s heavenly kingdom.  That is why the Apostle Peter says, “Baptism now saves you.”  It saves you by joining you to the death of the One who died for you on Calvary.  Death destroys our mortal bodies.  But how different is the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.  His death gives life—life with God forever—for God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, making peace by the blood of Christ.  To be baptized into Christ is to be baptized into His death, which gives life.

Life after Baptism is life lived in union with Jesus Christ.  In Baptism He puts His name on you.  His name identifies you as one who belongs to Him.  Just as in the Old Testament God’s name made His presence manifest in the Temple, so in Holy Baptism God puts His name on you.  He makes your body His temple.  This life you now live, you live as one who is under new management, new ownership.  You belong to the Triune God.

We live in a time of radical individualism.  We are told that we are in control of who we are.  ”My body belongs to me; I can do with it as I please”—thus the excuses for abortion, homosexuality, and other perversions. But the Psalmist writes, “Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.”  In Holy Baptism God puts His mark of ownership on you.  That is why in the baptismal liturgy the pastor says, “Receive the sign of the cross, both upon your forehead and upon your heart, to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified.”  You belong to Him who “purchased and won you not with gold or silver, but with His own holy, precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death.”  If you do not belong to the Lord who suffered and died for you, then you belong to the prince of this world, the devil.  For that reason the old Baptismal liturgies always included an exorcism.  The Holy Spirit never comes into a vacuum; He displaces Satan and his unholy spirits.

The Holy Spirit given to us in Baptism keeps us in union with Christ Jesus.  Working through His saving Word, He continues to build and sustain our faith.  Life after Baptism is a continual return to Baptism.  It is a daily dying to sin through repentance and faith, daily being made alive to walk in the newness of life.  And we walk in that newness of life as those whom the Son has made heirs of all the riches of the Father’s house: grace and peace, forgiveness of sins, living hope, and life everlasting.  God uses Baptism to give us those gifts in our lives right now.  He has delivered us from the bondage of sin, so that we should no longer be slaves to sin.

The death that Jesus died was the death of sin.  As the Lamb of God, our substitute, He died in our place.  And so Paul says, “Count yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  That is life after Baptism: learning how to live as those who have already died, and with Christ even now walk in newness of life.  What great and wondrous gifts God bestows in and through Holy Baptism.  God grant you faith to trust His merciful words, and so live in the newness of life that belongs to His children—a life lived in the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Sermon for 3/3/13--Lent III

The Finger of God

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

In Egypt, the magicians of Pharaoh used their magic tricks and satanic power to imitate some of Moses’ signs. But when the land filled with lice at the Lord’s command, they could not do likewise. They told Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” Centuries later, Jesus cast out demons. When He was accused of driving them out by Beelzebub, He said that He did it by the finger of God. So what exactly is the “finger of God?” It’s easy to imagine Hollywood special effects: the mighty, oversize hand Lord poking his finger and crushing evil beneath it. But in the Book of Exodus we hear that when the Lord gave Moses the stone tablets, the Law was written on them with the finger of God. Simply put, the finger of God is God’s Word. The Word of God has the power to swarm the land with lice or flies. It has the power to cast demons from those they possess. It has the power to topple Satan’s kingdom and drive him out.

And then the Word became flesh. The finger of God is literally Jesus. The Word drives out the devil. You see, the devil’s power over you is sin. As long as he can accuse you of sin, you’re his prisoner, his slave. But when Jesus gives His life into death on the cross for you, your sins are forgiven. The devil has no more power over you!

There is no neutral ground. Jesus says to those that are accusing Him that if you aren’t with Him you are against Him. If you don’t gather with Jesus, you’re scattering. There’s no in-between. Either you are in Satan’s kingdom or in Christ’s. You belong to  either the Lord or the devil. The world and the Old Adam don’t like to hear it, but that’s the way it is. Either you are redeemed in Christ or you are bound by the evil one. But Christ came into this world to save you. He came to throw down Satan’s kingdom, cast out demons, preach His Word—to save sinners. That Word spoken with the water in Holy Baptism is the Word that cast out demons. That word casts the devil out of you and fills you instead with the Holy Spirit. Where the words of Absolution are spoken, Satan runs away; his power is blunted. Your sins are forgiven. Where Christ is with us by His body and blood, we become raging lions in Christ who are able to drive off our enemies with that single word that knocks down the evil one; that word is the name of Jesus.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there is a war on for you. You are the objective. Christ has thrown the devil out, but Satan will try to come back with seven more evil spirits to get back in. Don’t sweep out the Word of God! What will be your defense when you are attacked by the devil? Only the Word of God protects you from the assaults of Satan. It’s is Christ’s Word which declares what He has done for you and who you are and where you stand with the Lord. The devil brings lies and attacks to try to pull you away from Christ. This is why you need to be where Christ’s Word is: in church, in the Bible, in Sunday School and Bible class, in Catechism—wherever you have opportunity to hear God’s Word and keep it.

Lent is about Jesus putting the devil in His place. Lent shows us why the Word became flesh to dwell among us. Jesus came to living for you, to suffer and die for you, to rise for you. God in the flesh is waging war against the evil one for you. We have no power, no defenses, on our own. So God sends His Son to save us, to deliver us from the kingdom of darkness and sin and bring us into His kingdom of light, grace, mercy, forgiveness and life. Rejoice because the finger of God, His Word, Jesus in the flesh, casts down your enemies and saves you. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Sermon for 2/27/13--Midweek 2 (Catechism Series)

He Is Our True Father (The Lord's Prayer)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

What do you mean when you say, “Amen?”  The Small Catechism reminds us that “Amen” means, “Yes, yes, it shall be so.”  In the book of Revelation Jesus identifies Himself as “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.”  The opening words of our text, which come out as “Most assuredly I say to you,” are actually “Amen, Amen” in the Greek.  In other words, Jesus anchors our praying in Himself, for He alone is the AMEN of God, the Truth.  In fact, He says of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” This means we do not pray as people who don’t know anything about God.  Instead we pray as those who have already been given the Answer, the Amen; for we have been given the Savior, Jesus Christ.

The disciples had been given the Savior, but they had a lot of questions on the night before Jesus was crucified.  Look at their situation.  The Lord had been speaking to them in figurative language, and they were confused.  He had called Himself the Shepherd, the Door, the Vine.  He spoke of rejection and of going away.  The disciples had a hard time getting it through their thick skull that “going away” meant going to the Father by way of the cross.  For the moment, the Lord’s language seemed to be self-contradictory.  Why would the Lord of life go to death?

The disciples had their questions, and so do we.  “Where if my life going?”  Confronted with blind alleys, we wonder if the Lord really does hold our little lives in His hands.  Even our prayers sometimes seem to be more of an exercise in futility than in faith.  We end up measuring the Lord’s Word, and then we get frustrated because we think that God has let us down.  Look closely at the disciples, for in them, we can see ourselves!

To answer our doubts, the Lord Jesus Christ shows Himself to be the Amen, the very Answer of God. Jesus came from the Father into our flesh to be our Savior.  He is God’s answer to our sin.  We must not take that for granted, as though God were under some obligation to forgive us.  He did not “owe” us the forgiveness of sins.  In fact, we deserved His eternal judgment.  Our sins made us worthy of everlasting hell and God’s eternal wrath.  But God in His mercy—as a true Father to His true children—sent His Son to bear our sin in His own body on the cross, to die for our sin as though it belonged to Him.  Jesus comes into the world to carry us back to His Father as redeemed brothers and sisters, as those who were dead in sin but are now alive to God.  He does that by going to the cross as our Savior.

This doesn’t make sense to the mind of the old Adam in us.  The rationality of the old Adam is always the rationality of the Law, namely, that you pay what you owe.  That’s the mind of the old Adam, but it is not the mind of God.  Listen to what God says through Isaiah:  “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,’ says the Lord.  ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”  In the economy of God, His Son, our brother, dies in our place to pay our debt.  In Him we have God’s answer to our sin, our death, and the damnation we deserve.

Because we have been given that answer, we pray to our Father in the name of Jesus.  There is salvation in no other name than the name of Jesus.  In His Holy Name, we are given all of the blessings He won for us on the cross: forgiveness, life, and salvation.  His is the name that opens the door of heaven.  His is the name that was given us with the water and the Word in Holy Baptism.  His is the name that you confessed in the Creed.  Where the Lord causes His name to dwell, He is there to bless.  In the Old Testament God told Moses, “Thus you will put my name on the people and I will bless them.”  God’s name is hallowed in our midst when we teach His Word in its truth and purity, and lead a holy life according to it.

To pray in the name of Jesus is to trust in that name.  Everything that the Lord has put in His name, He has put there for you and promises to give to you.  Therefore He says, “Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”  To ask the Father in the name of Jesus means that our prayers are shaped by His name and His Word.  To pray in the name of Jesus means that we are trusting that name and whatever God has put in that name for us: namely, the forgiveness of sins; peace in the midst of tribulation; courage in the midst of the chaos of this world; life in the midst of death.

Everything that is in the Lord’s name is unpacked for us in His Word.  Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer.  I have overcome the world.”  It is through His Word that the Lord bestows on us His peace that passes all understanding.  It is through His Word that the Lord keeps us for life everlasting.  And it will be by the power of His mighty Word that He will raise our bodies from the dust to live with Him forever.

Even now the life that we live by faith is a life that is given power from that Word.  His Word is the power behind our praying.  His Word does indeed open our minds and hearts to see how great is the Father’s generosity toward us sinners in giving His Son to be our Savior.  His Word gives us the confidence to pray in the name of Jesus, knowing that our Father hears and answers our supplications—not according to our own will, but according to His good and gracious will.  His Word gives us the power to say, “Lord, teach us to pray!”  And this prayer, like all others, is graciously answered by our true Father through His Son.  In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

2013 Reading List: February

As I said last month, I read a lot of books. As of the end of February, I'm up to 40 for the year, and I think I'm a little slower this year. Whatever. In an effort to keep track of what I read this year, I'm posting my reading list. I don't necessarily recommend everything on my list. In fact, this month there is one in particular that I DON'T recommend...unless you were to use it as a primer for understanding the pro-death/euthanasia argument. I'll note that one in the list. And one I recommend in particular is Ido in Autismland, written by Ido Kedar, a 16 year-old non-speaking autistic boy.

Anyway, here's my list for February:

  1. Brees, Drew with Chris Fabry. Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity. Brees Company, Inc., 2010.
  2. Zager, Daniel, ed. Celebrating the Life and Hymns of Paul Gerhardt and Martin Franzmann. Journal of the Good Shepherd Institute, Vol. 8. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2007.
  3. Zager, Daniel, ed. Luther on Liturgy and Hymns. Journal of the Good Shepherd Institute, Vol. 6. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2005.
  4. Strom, Abigail. Cross My Heart. Self-Published Kindle edition, 2011.
  5. Veeck, Bill with Ed Linn. “Bill Veeck’s Crosstown Classic.” Veeck as in Wreck. Mary Frances Veeck and Ed Linn, 1962.
  6. Crane, Rebekah. Playing Nice. Self-Published Kindle edition, 2013. (Excellent)
  7. Rehder, Ben. The Driving Lesson. Self-Published Kindle edition, 2012. (This book is a worldly defense for assisted suicide.)
  8. Cronin, Keith. Me Again. Muscovy House, 2012.
  9. Gow, Kailin. Never Say Never. “Never Knights,” book 1. The Edge, 2012.
  10. Gow, Kailin. Never Land. “Never Knights,” book 2. The Edge, 2012.
  11. Kedar, Ido. Ido in Autismland: Climbing out of Autism’s Silent Prison. Kindle Edition, 2012. (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!)
  12. Lind, Valia. Simplicity. A-Argue Better Book Publishers, 2012.
  13. Kornacki, Alan. One Thing’s Needful. Self-Published Kindle edition, 2012. (I find my narcissism knows no bounds. Yet I remain so humble that my modesty is a beacon in this dark night of vanity and arrogance.)
  14. Chan, Jason W. Meet Me at Taylor Park. Self-Published Kindle edition, 2011. (Did not finish--very poorly written)
  15. Sawyer, Avery. Notes to Self. Laura Schafer, 2011.
  16. Murphy, Monica. One Week Girlfriend. Self-Published Kindle edition, 2013. (Too much gratuitous sex)
  17. Sharp, Tracy. Repo Chick Blues. Self-Published Kindle edition, 2010. (Too much gratuitous sex)
  18. Wilk, Darian. Reinventing Claire. Self-Published Kindle edition, 2012.
  19. Appel, Liz. Save Me. Self-Published Kindle edition, 2012.
  20. Yu, Rachel. How to Be a Super Villain. Michael Yu, 2011.