Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
9 E Homestead Ave. Palisades Park, NJ 07650 201-944-2107 Sundays 11:00 a.m. We preach Christ crucified (1. Corinthians 1,23)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Psalm 34,15.16.18.19.22; Psalm 25,15. Oculi

✠ One Message: Christ crucified and risen for you ✠
The Word of the Lord Endures Forever
Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum

Psalm 34,15.16.18.19.22; 25,15 1817
Okuli (3. Sonntag der Passionszeit)  026 „My eyes“ 
Joseph, foster father of Jesus. Widow 
19. März 2017 

1. O Christ Jesus, Thou who prevails the Will of God; let Your justice be declared unto us, so that we may stand before You righteous.  Amen. (Gradual). 
2. When My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net. The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.
  3. The Introit tells us: »My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net.« and the Psalmist is more optimistic than Jesus’ forboding declaration in today’s Gospel Lection: »No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the reign of God.« And we all know where Jesus’ path ends: It ends with Judas Iscariot betraying Him, His arrest, conviction of sedition against Rome and His execution on the cross. The other apostles and disciples all scattered in fear and went into hiding save His mother, a couple of other women and John. When the time had arrived for His apostles and disciples to stand next to Jesus and confess Him boldly and proudly as the Christ, only a few were at Jesus’ feet silent and sorrowful. The apostles had forgotten Jesus’ petition in His high priestly prayer on Maundy Thursday: »O Father, I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep the from the evil one« (John 17,15). Jesus would not leave them without protection or providence. 
4. Therefore, we must keep the truth before our eyes that »The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears toward their cry.« But who are the righteous? The Apostle Paul answers that question in his Epistle to the Galatians: »we know that a person is not righteous by the works of the law but that a person is righteous only through faith in Jesus Christ« (Galatians 2,16). »The Lord hears the prayer of the righteous« (Proverbs 15,29; 1. Peter 3,12). 
5. But He is far from the wicked (Proverbs 15,29; 1. Peter 3,12). He is so far from the wicked that »The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.« It is a serious thing to be cut off from God, and that is what Hades was created for: to be an abode for those opposed to God where their wish is granted, namely they will not have to dwell in His presence. To make yourself independent from God, to become your very own god, is to ultimately dwell apart from the One True God. But it is not God’s desire that anyone dwell alone and apart from Him. Sin and death set fallen humanity upon that wretched, dark path, but God would not see us walk down that road without His Light to show us the way back to Him and His method of redemption. 
6. The Introit comforts us with this very promise: »The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.« The Holy Scriptures are replete with examples of God redeeming people. He provided for Adam and Eve after they had sinned and promised them a Messiah would be born from Eve’s descendant. Barren Sarah and Rachel were given sons. Jacob was spared from his brother’s wrath. Israel was redeemed from slavery. Nineveh was spared the fury of God’s destruction. The exiles were returned from Babylonian Exile. Jesus escaped Herod’s infanticide. Lepers were cleansed, the sick healed, the demon-possessed freed and even the dead returned to life. Whatever brokenhearted situation we experience in this life, we know that we do not endure it alone, for God is with us, comforting us and working to restore our joy. »A bruised reed the Lord will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not quench; He will faithfully bring forth justice« (Isaiah 42,3). 
7. The Introit reminds us that »Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.« Jesus Himself fulfills this: »Draw unto Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest« (Matthew 11,28). Suffering on account of Christ produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope in Christ and this hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5,3-5). 
8. »The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.« All the redemptive events in the Bible were types of the antitype of Jesus redeeming all the world though His crucifixion. Jesus knew the cost to redeem fallen men and women, and upon the Mount of Olives Jesus showed true self-denial and perfect cross-bearing. He suffered rejection, slander, false accusations, condemnation, scourging, ridicule, crucifixion and death in order to save us. Such was the high price the law required to be paid in full on account of sin, and Jesus willingly and lovingly paid that price with His own body and life to restore mankind back to fellowship with His Father. 
9. Lent reminds us to once again discipline ourselves to follow Jesus to the cross where He merits the forgiveness of sin for the entire world. This forgiveness is given out in proclaimed Absolution, the preached Word, in the poured water of Holy Baptism and proffered in the Lord’s Supper; these means of grace promise us that all our sin is forgiven. We receive this promise by faith which is a gracious, free gift given to us by the Holy Spirit. Christian discipleship trusts in Christ for salvation and seeks to live a God-pleasing life in response to this trust. Self-denial and cross-bearing are performed as expressions of faith in Christ. On account of Christ, we may put our hands to the plow and look to Jesus as those fit for the reign of God. 
10. The wonderful story that unfolds within the pages of the Holy Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation is that the Lord’s people fall into sin and never live up to His strict demands of discipleship, but the Lord draws near to His fallen, discouraged people and brings them the gospel of forgiveness that is grounded upon His Son who is Christ crucified and risen for our righteousness and salvation. Christian discipleship is not about living the good, morally improving life – any philosophy, religion or self-improvement methodology can offer that – but Christian discipleship is about Christ, believing in Him whole-heartedly for the forgiveness of sins and rejoicing in the amazing gospel that says you are saved, you are the beloved of the Heavenly Father – not because you have lived up to your Christian potential – but rather Christ has lived it for you, and He gives it to all of us as a free gift. It is a gift that we cannot buy or earn by our good intentions or merits, but it is a gift that was earned by Christ so that He alone gives it to us through the Holy Spirit. This is the gospel, and its message is unique in all the world, and we have it by Christ alone for our eternal salvation.  Amen. 
11. Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, Thou alone are worthy to put Your hand to the plow and sow the field for the harvest of the reign of God, keep our eyes on You so that we never look back in doubt but look forward to the joy set before in Your gospel.  Amen. 

To God alone be the Glory 
Soli Deo Gloria

All Scriptural quotations are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 4th Edition © 1990 by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, and the Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition © 1993 by Deutsch Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.  
All quotations from the Book of Concord are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 12. Edition © 1998 by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Psalm 25,1.2.4.8.10.11; Psalm 25,6. Reminiscere

✠ One Message: Christ crucified and risen for you ✠
The Word of the Lord Endures Forever 
se cwide þæs béaggiefan ábireþ ferhþ

Psalm 25,1.2.4.8.10.11; 25,6 1717
Reminiszere (2. Sonntag der Passionszeit)  025  „Remember“ 
Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome ✠ 604
12. März 2017 

1. О Lord, Thou Comfort of the distressed;  consider our afflictions and forgive all our sins, so that we may live each day in peace and security.  Amen. (Gradual
2. Remember Your mercy, O Lord, and Your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. To You, O Lord, I lift up my life. O my God, in You I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Make me to know Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in the way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies. For Your Name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.
3. »Remember Your mercy, O Lord, and Your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.« The Introit begins by reminding us that God’s love for us is eternal and unchanging. This truth is vital to remember in a fallen world where we are ridiculed, persecuted, victims of sinful actions, doubt our own worth and a host of other afflictions. God’s love for us resulted in His creating us in His Image and Likeness. He created man to be the crowning jewel of His creation. The Psalmist proclaims: »God made man a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor« (Psalm 8,5). All the earth was given to man to be a steward over it on behalf of God (Psalm 8,6). When Adam brought sin into our human nature, God promised, out of love for us, to redeem us by sending His own Son to be our Savior. 
4. Therefore, »to You, O Lord, we lift up our life, and we trust in You, O God; let us not be put to shame; let not our enemies exult over us.« In the Holy Gospels, the enemies of Jesus and God’s people were ironically the Jewish religious leaders. They questioned His teachings, accused Him of breaking the Mosaic laws and were aghast when He didn’t follow all the traditions of the elders. Jesus spoke today’s parable against the chief priests, the scribes and the elders. Their consciouses were convicted, but instead of repenting and receiving Jesus as their Messiah they instead doubled down as God’s enemies by seeking to arrest Him (Mark 12,1.12). 
5. »Make me to know Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths.« The Introit exhorts us to make God the Cornerstone of our lives. The Psalmist also proclaims: »O God, Your Word is a Lamp to my feet and a Light to my path« (Psalm 119,105), for »good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in the way.« The Holy Gospels instruct us that only Jesus is the Savior of our wretched condition. Our sins need to be forgiven, and Jesus forgives them. Our sinfulness needed to be paid for, and Jesus atoned us. Death needed to be overcome, and Jesus rose from the grave in victory over Death. The devil needed to be overthrown, and Jesus defeated him. Hades’ gates were locked tight, and Jesus unlocked those gates and set the prisoners free. »All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.« To keep the Lord’s covenant is to believe on Jesus Christ; He is the Cornerstone of our salvation. In Christ we see God’s steadfast love and faithfulness, for in Christ, the Lord, has pardoned all our guilt. 
6. The Psalmist declares: »The Stone that the builders rejected has become the Cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes« (Psalm 118,22-23). Many religious leaders rejected Jesus as the Stone of the Lord’s salvation. They wanted to be secure in their comfortable works-righteous of the law and the tradition of the elders. But the Lord’s salvation and righteousness is built upon the Son of God who laid down His life to take away the sin of the world (John 1,29). 
7. The Apostle Paul assures us: »While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly, for God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us« (Romans 5,6.8). We remember this Great Cornerstone of our faith. We have been justified by the shed blood of Jesus; we have been saved from the wrath of God; we have been reconciled by the redemption price Jesus paid on the cross (Romans 5,9-10). The Pharisees feared this sort of Christ, and they devised a way to arrest Him. We trust in this sort of Christ, and we gladly rejoice in Him and worship Him. 
8. It is true that the world does not want the Crucified Jesus, because the Crucified Jesus is divisive. Christ crucified is exclusive because Christ declares that only He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The road to heaven runs through Christ dying on the cross for our sins and rising on the third day from His grave. That cross causes all manner of people to stumble, but Christ crucified is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. Christ crucified is our salvation and eternal life. The vineyard, then, is ours, for it given as a gift by the Lord, so that we may live long and prosper, and have peace and long life forever and ever. That gift is ours through Christ the Cornerstone. It is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Remember.  Amen. 
9. Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, who shows His love for us in that You died for us while we were still sinners, pour upon us Your grace so that we daily trust in Your mercy and merit that declares us righteous.  Amen. 

To God alone be the Glory 
Gode ealdore sy se cyneþrymm

All Scriptural quotations are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 4. Edition © 1990 by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, and the Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27. Edition © 1993 by Deutsch Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart. 
ELKB. Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Bayern. www.bayern-evangelisch.de/www/index.php. Copyright © 2013 Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Bayern. 

VELKD. Vereinigte Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche Deutschlands. www.velkd.de. Copyright © 2013 Vereinigte Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche Deutschlands. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Psalm 91,1-2.4.11-12; 91,15. Invocavit

✠ One Message: Christ crucified and risen for you ✠
The Word of the Lord Endures Forever
Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum

Psalm 91,1-2.4.11-12; 91,15 1617
Invokavit (1. Sonntag der Passionszeit)  024 „He will call“ 
Eusebius of Cremona, Abbot at Bethlehem, 5th century 
5. März 2017 

1. O Christ Jesus, He Thou First-born of all creation, command Your angels to guard us in all our ways, so that they will bear us up and protect us from the evil one.  Amen. (Gradual). 
2. When he calls to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the Shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord: „My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.“ He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler. For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.
3. The Gospel pericope for Invocavit is the temptation of Jesus by Satan. After fasting for  40 days, Jesus was tempted three times. The devil tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread, to test His Father’s Divine Providence and offered Him worldly power and glory. Jesus overcame these temptations by relying upon the Holy Scriptures as the Psalmist proclaims: »When he calls to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.« 
4. The first temptation by the devil is the most appropriate one: Jesus had just finished a 40-day fast in the wilderness, and He was hungry. An article in a 1997 volume of the British Medical Journal stated that humans can safely fast 30-40 days as long as they keep themselves hydrated by drinking water. Between the 35. and 40. day, though, severe symptoms of starvation begin to manifest in the body. Death can occur between the 45. and 61. day of fasting. It was imperative that Jesus eat soon, but the devil wants to Force Jesus to do so on his terms: why wait? Your fast is over; prove to me that you are the Son of God by turning these stones into bread and eat. »He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the Shadow of the Almighty.« for man doesn’t live by bread alone but also by every word spoken by the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8,3). We live on the very words of Holy Scripture, and they exhort us to abide in God. 
5. next the devil tempted Jesus to put His Father to the test. Surely He will protect you if you jump from the heights of the temple.the devil even quotes Psalm 91: »He will command His angels concerning you, and on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.« (Psalm 91,11-12) While the words he quotes are true, the intention behind the words is at the heart of the matter. It is one thing to trust in God and place one’s well-being in His hands, but it is another to test God by forcing Him to prove Himself to you. Satan wanted to force the issue, but Jesus was content with His Father’s Providence: »God will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler. For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.« 
6. The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that the angels also help us: »They are ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation« (Hebrews 1,14). The Scriptures contain many stories where angels ministered to people. Angels protect, provide for and proclaim God’s Word. Two angels protected Lot and his daughters from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; provided bread and water for Elijah (1. Kings 19,5-6) and told Mary that she would be Θεοτόκος (God-bearer). There are many other instances in the Bible of angels ministering to men and women. Thus the Psalmist exults: »I will say to the Lord: „My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.“« 
7. The Epistle to the Hebrews then tells us that Christ is above the angels (Hebrews 1,4). »Christ’s throne is forever and ever,  the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of His reign. He loves righteousness and hates wickedness; God has anointed Him with the oil of gladness beyond His companions« (Hebrews 1,8-9). Thus, all heaven and earth is Christ’s; He is the Son of God and the Crown Prince of all creation. Satan is a mere usurper of the earth. His claim rests upon his success in tempting Adam to rebel against God. The devil certainly exercises a degree of control over this world; he influences the wickedness that man inflicts upon man. But in the end, Satan is merely an angel and not the Only-begotten Son of God. It should be the devil falling down in worship to Jesus his Creator, not Jesus bowing to the devil. But the devil hoped to divert Jesus from His passion by offering Him worldly power and comfort. 
8. Jesus’ temptation at the hands of the devil is the beginning of His ministry to free us from the bondage of the devil. Jesus refused to use His Divine power to prove His Divinity to Satan. Jesus refused to put His Father’s Providence to the test. Jesus refused to acknowledge Satan as the  prince of this world; He would not receive from him temporal wealth and power nor would He bow before him. Satan is a self-proclaimed god, but Jesus is the Son of God in the flesh, as His Father and the Holy Spirit attested to at His baptism 40 days earlier in the Jordan River at the hands of John the Baptizer. 
9. »When we call to Jesus, He will answer us; He will be with us in trouble; He will rescue us and honor us.« Jesus was tempted and remained sinless. He contested with the devil and won. He went to the cross to die and pay for our sins. He rose from the grave to be the First-fruits of the resurrection. He sends His angels to minister to us.  Amen. 
10. Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, Thou Incarnate Word; help us to draw encouragement from Your temptation so that we see in that time of struggle Your destruction of the works of the devil.  Amen. 

To God alone be the Glory 
Soli Deo Gloria


All Scriptural quotations are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 4th Edition © 1990 by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, and the Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition © 1993 by Deutsch Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.  
All quotations from the Book of Concord are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 12. Edition © 1998 by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ash Wednesday devotion


Christ crucified

Introit (Psalm 130,5-8; 130,3.4)
O Lord, if You should mark iniquities, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption. And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Lent begins with ashes – the symbol of death and complete destruction – and thus, Lent begins with our recognition that one day we will become ashes. Ashes are the end result of God’s wrath and punishment upon sin and sinners. The curse of sin is death, and then after death comes the decay of the physical body until there are only ashes left. Even worse, after a millennia not even the ashes are left, unless you happen to be a mummified pharaoh. Where are Adam’s ashes? Abraham’s? Isaac’s? Jacob’s? Such patriarchs don’t even have ashes of their bodies anymore because so much time has passed that even their bodily ashes have broken down to molecules and atoms that have been reabsorbed by the ground and reprocessed elsewhere in nature. Ashes. We are dust, and to dust we will one day return. Ashes. 

Jesus tells us: „You have been beaten up by the law, and you are afraid of what awaits you when you die and your body turns to ashes, but do not fear, I will overturn Death. You will live with Me forever!“ Jesus accomplishes this for us and the entire world, and He accomplished it when He suffered and died on the cross in ransom payment for our sins, and He secured it when He triumphed over Death when He Himself rose from death unto life, and not just any life, but eternal life never to die again. Jesus gives us these gospel gifts freely and we simply receive Jesus and His promise by faith. 

Ash Wednesday and the liturgical season of Lent, then, are about Christ, His death and His resurrection. The Sinless One became the Chief Sinner; the Eternal One died; the Son of God who dwelt in heaven made a journey into the depths of hell; the One who died became the One who lives again. Jesus did all this for you! And He will form from your ashes a new body that will never die. 

Collect for the Day
O Almighty and Everlasting God, You despise nothing You have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and contrite hearts so that lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness we may receive from You full pardon and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.  Amen. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Psalm 31,1.2a.5.7-8; Psalm 31,2b.3. Quinquagesima

✠ One Message: Christ crucified and risen for you ✠
The Word of the Lord Endures Forever 
se cwide þæs béaggiefan ábireþ ferhþ

Psalm 31,1.2a.5.7-8; Psalm 31,2b.3 1517
Quinquagesima or Estomihi (Sonntag vor der Passionszeit)  022 
Nestor, Bishop at Sida in Pamphylia, Turkey. Martyr 250
26. Februar 2017 

1. О Lord, You are the God who works wonders; make known Your Might among the nations, so that they see Your arm redeem Your Church.  Amen. (Gradual
2. Be a Rock of refuge for me, a Strong Fortress to save me! For Your Name’s sake You lead me and guide me; In You, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in Your Righteousness deliver me! Incline Your ear to me; rescue me quickly! Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord, Faithful God. I will rejoice and be glad in Your Steadfast Love, because You have seen my affliction; You have known the distress of my soul, and You have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a broad place. 
  3. »Be a Rock of refuge for me, a Strong Fortress to save me! For Your Name’s sake You lead me and guide me;« Psalm 31 is one of several psalms that inspired Luther’s writing of his hymn A Mighty Fortress is our God. This hymn is a song of deliverance and salvation by the hand of Christ. Jesus told His disciples in the Gospels that this deliverance would take place through His rejection, being killed and rising from the grave. His disciples did not receive that teaching with thanksgiving for they thought such an undignified end for the Messiah could not happen. But Jesus patiently taught them that to be lead and guided by Him is to ultimately to be lead to the foot of the cross and guided to the empty tomb three days later. 
4. »In You, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in Your Righteousness deliver me!« The Christian faith teaches at its very core that the refuge of God is at the cross and the tomb. Death and the Grave are shameful in our eyes, and with good reason. No one wants to suffer and die. We want to live healthy and fulfilled lives. But Jesus tells us that what is shameful is most glorious in His Father’s eyes. True righteousness is not earned by doing the works of the law; the Pharisees taught that, and Jesus rejected their teaching. Jesus taught that true righteousness is a gift of grace given to us by God, and that Jesus Himself merited this righteousness for the whole world. Our old Adam with its sinful flesh refuses to receive this grace. We would rather earn God’s favor on our own, with works we devise for ourselves from the law so that we can measure ourselves and monitor our pious progress. Such ideals seep their way into our cultural identity, so that a phrase like God helps those who help themselves is believed by many to actually be a verse in the Bible. 
5. »Incline Your ear to me; rescue me quickly! Into Your hand I commit my spirit;« The Psalmist knows the wicked heart of man and knows that people are quick to fall for the deception of self-righteousness as that espoused by the Pharisees. He thus exhorts God to rescue us from such inward looking platitudes of self-redemption. Left to our own idolatrous religions we would soon discard God from the equation all together, or at the very least relegate Him in silence at the far corner of the room. This is what Peter and the other disciples intended in their rebuke of Jesus when He talked about His death and resurrection. God’s grace is not easily understood, and even the apostles did not comprehend it when Jesus first taught about grace and redemption. The Psalmist thus exhorts us to commend our spirit unto God. 
6. »You have redeemed me, O Lord, Faithful God. I will rejoice and be glad in Your Steadfast Love,« The Psalmist knows that our redemption is alone from God. He redeemed us because one of His Divine attributes is steadfast love. Such love is long-suffering. While Jesus clashed with the Pharisees over their false teaching of self-righteousness by doing the law, Jesus nevertheless loved them and wanted them to see their error and receive the grace He freely wanted to give them. Jesus’ disciples constantly showed an inability to grasp some of His teachings, in part because it went against what many of the rabbis and Pharisees had taught them. Yet Jesus continued to teach them and correct their erroneous thinking. 
7. »Because You have seen my affliction; You have known the distress of my soul.« The gospel actually infuriates people. You would think it would be the exact opposite, but when people who have invested their lives on a philosophy or religion that teaches you must save yourself, hearing that such works merit nothing people may become angry at hearing nothing they do justifies them before God and it calls into question the very core of their beliefs. Such realizations are prone to anger and efforts to justify their beliefs as equally valid to the Christian faith. Such a religious crisis leads to a distress of the soul. 
8. »And You have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a broad place.« The gospel ultimately leads the distressed soul to the rock-solid foundation of the faith. Christ is the Cornerstone of this faith and the mighty fortress built upon Him is a castle built to withstand every assault and distress. Jesus says His Church is just such a fortress: the very gates of hades shall not prevail against His Church (Matthew 16,18). The banner that flies from the Church’s rampart is: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who was rejected, killed and rose from the dead (Matthew 16,16; Mark 8,31).  Amen. 
9. Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, we begin our journey with You up to Jerusalem; guide our meditations upon Your Passion, so that we see  everything that is written about the You, the Son of Man, by the Prophets has been accomplished.  Amen. 

To God alone be the Glory 
Gode ealdore sy se cyneþrymm

All Scriptural quotations are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 4. Edition © 1990 by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, and the Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27. Edition © 1993 by Deutsch Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart. 
ELKB. Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Bayern. www.bayern-evangelisch.de/www/index.php. Copyright © 2013 Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Bayern. 
Hummel, Horace D. The Word Becoming Flesh. © 1979 by Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis.

VELKD. Vereinigte Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche Deutschlands. www.velkd.de. Copyright © 2013 Vereinigte Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche Deutschlands. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Psalm 119,89-90.105.114.116.123; Psalm 56,4. Sexagesima

✠ One Message: Christ crucified and risen for you ✠
The Word of the Lord Endures Forever
Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum

Psalm 119,89-90a.105.114.116.123; Psalm 56,4 1417
Sexagesimä (2. Sonntag vor der Passionszeit)  021 
Gabinus, Pastor and Martyr 296 
19. Februar 2017 

1. O Christ Jesus, Thou art the Most High over all the earth; be Thou our Light and Life so that enemies know that You alone are God and that Your people are enlightened and enlivened unto salvation and good works.  Amen. (Gradual). 
2. In God, whose Word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. Forever, O Lord, Your Word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your Faithfulness endures to all generations. Your Word is a Lamp to my feet and a Light to my path. You are my Hiding Place and my Shield; I hope in Your Word. Uphold me according to Your Promise, so that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope! My eyes long for Your Salvation and for the fulfillment of Your Righteous Promise. 
3. »In God, whose Word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.« This verse that begins today’s Introit resounds throughout the Holy Scriptures. In the Scriptures God and His Word are synonymous. Thus St. John the Apostle and Evangelist begins his Gospel by saying: »In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His Glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth« (John 1,1.4.14). Jesus is this Divine Word made flesh, and what is said about the Word is thus said about Jesus. 
4. »Forever, O Lord, Your Word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your Faithfulness endures to all generations.« Here the Psalmist contrasts God’s faithfulness with our faithlessness. We have inherited this faithlessness from Adam. Our faithlessness often bears fruit in idolatry so that our sins stem from a lack of trust in God’s Providence or outright rebellion against His Will. The image of faithfulness used by the Psalmist is a powerful one. The heavens evoke thoughts of eternity. Every day the sun rises and sets. The moon waxes and wanes through its 29.5-day cycle. We see the bright evening star of Venus. The Big Dipper and other constellations inspire our imagination. The stars and planets have been observed in the heavens by mankind for thousands of years; they are dependable guideposts. Likewise, God’s Word; He is dependable, trustworthy and true. Beginning with Adam and Eve, generation after generation have looked to God’s Word for guidance and hope. 
5. »Your Word is a Lamp to my feet and a Light to my path.« We use a lamp to help us see. We light one so we don’t stumble in the dark. We use one to help us look for something we have lost. Sailors can use Polaris [1] to locate true north. In Revelation, Jesus identifies Himself as the Bright Morning Star [2] (Revelation 22,16); He is our Beacon in the dark that points us northward to our heavenly home. 
6. »You are my Hiding Place and my Shield; I hope in Your Word.« Jesus is likewise our Savior and Defender. As Martin Luther wrote in his hymn: Jesus is our Mighty Fortress and a Trusty Shield who helps us in every time of need that overtakes us (LSB 656,1). Jesus is our Shelter when the world’s tempests assail us with its persecution. He is our Shield who protects us from the fiery arrows of the devil meant to harm us.
7. »Uphold me according to Your Promise, so that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!« God’s promise is to redeem us from sin, death and hades. Our sin has put us in rebellion against God; the wages of our sin is death and separation from God; hades is the abode for those separated from God. God promised to redeem mankind from sin, to restore us to life after we have died and to unlock the gates of hades so that we are not imprisoned there. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise; He is our Redeemer and Deliverer. 
8. » My eyes long for Your Salvation and for the fulfillment of Your Righteous Promise.« St. Paul once wrote: »For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.« (Philippians 1,21-24). We all face the dilemma the Apostle Paul honestly wrote about. We enjoy living on this earth, but we also long to dwell in heavenly paradise with God, His angels and all the believers who have gone on before us. This temporal life is fraught with despair and hardships while the eternal life is blessed with joy and peace. 
9. Christ is our Beacon and our Light. He is the world’s Savior and no one enters into His Father’s Glory but through His Only Son. Jesus is the very Word who reveals our sin, exhorts us to repent and change our ways, guides us to live lives in conformity to God’s will and assures us that all is forgiven because Jesus Himself has redeemed us. This grace is passively received by faith in Jesus. We walk in His Light, and we are enlightened by His words. We meditate upon His words, and we edified by the life they impart. Jesus Christ is the Morning Star, Splendor of Light Everlasting and Sun of Righteousness who draws near and enlightens those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.  Amen. 
10. Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Voice is the very word of Your Heavenly Father; soften our hardened hearts so that we may receive and believe all that You tell us in the Holy Scriptures.  Amen. 

To God alone be the Glory 
Soli Deo Gloria

[1]  Polaris is found by following the stars at the end of the ladle of the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor). 
[2]  I am the Bright Morning Star; þe ic oþrum earendel. 

All Scriptural quotations are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 4th Edition © 1990 by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, and the Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition © 1993 by Deutsch Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.  

All quotations from the Book of Concord are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 12. Edition © 1998 by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Psalm 18,1-2.27.30.35; Daniel 3,2-3. Septuagesima

✠ One Message: Christ crucified and risen for you ✠
The Word of the Lord Endures Forever 
se cwide þæs béaggiefan ábireþ ferhþ

Psalm 18,1-2.27.30.35; Daniel 3,2-3 1317
Septuagesimä (3. Sonntag vor der Passionszeit)  020 
Eulalia of Barcelona, Virgin, Martyr 290
Eulalia of Merida, Virgin, Martyr
12. Februar 2017 

1. О Lord, Thou Stronghold for the oppressed in times of trouble; arise, O Lord and prevail for those who put their trust in You, so that we may live and do good to our neighbors in full trust that we are redeemed by Your grace and mercy.  Amen. (Gradual
2. Praise be to You, O Lord, O God of our fathers. Because You are just in everything that You have done for us. I love you, O Lord, my Strength. The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress and my Deliverer, my God, my Rock, in whom I take Refuge, my Shield, and the Horn of my salvation, my Stronghold. For You save a humble people, but the arrogant eyes You bring down. As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him. You have given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand supported me, and Your gentleness made me great. 
  3. The Prophet Daniel wrote from Babylon: »Praise be to You, O Lord, O God of our fathers. Because You are just in everything that You have done for us.« Daniel, although he was blessed to be the archmage of King Nebuchadnezzar’s court magi, was nevertheless one of the many Jews taken into Babylonian captivity many years earlier. This captivity was the Lord’s judgment upon unfaithful Judah. The Lord’s chosen people had broken the Mosaic covenant they had agreed to a thousand years earlier at Sinai. The Jews worshipped idols along side of the Lord. Their idolatry led to a host of immoral vices, including dishonoring widows and children, unjust courts and even child sacrifices to Moloch, who was one of the chief Canaanite gods. The Lord, however, was long-suffering with His people. He sent Prophets to call the ten northern tribes of Israel back to Him, but in 721 bc He sent Assyria to conquer and disperse them from the land. The two remaining southern tribes of Judah heeded the Lord’s discipline upon Israel, but they continued to revel in their idolatry even though the Lord sent them prophets and the occasional devout king to draw them back to the Lord alone. So the Lord raised up Babylon in 587 bc who conquered Jerusalem, looted the temple and took the best and brightest Jewish men and women to Babylon. In all this, Daniel proclaimed that God was just in His judgment upon Judah. 
4. Daniel was not only wise but also a proficient exegete of the Holy Scriptures. He knew from the Psalms: »The Lord is my Strength, my Rock, my Fortress and my Deliverer.« that Judah’s Babylonian Captivity would not last forever. He declared: »In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus [538 bc], by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, 70 years« (Daniel 9,1-2). Our God is a God who rules by justice. He punishes His people for a time on account of their rebellion against Him, but He always restores them for He is a just and righteous God, as the Introit assures us today: »My God, my Rock, in whom I take refuge, my Shield, and the Horn of my salvation, my Stronghold.« 
5. »For You save a humble people, but the arrogant eyes You bring down.« Repenting of sin is an act of humility, whereas refusing to acknowledge sin is an act of arrogance. Our liturgy contains the Rite of Confession and Absolution whereby we confess our sins before God and hear His absolution of forgiveness proclaimed to us. Judah’s judgment of Babylonian Captivity is meant to serve as an example for us that we recognize and repent of our sin before God punishes us. 
6. We never need fear God’s wrath, for the Psalmist assures us: »As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; He is a Shield for all those who take refuge in Him.« God’s Shield is His own Son Jesus Christ. All who take refuge in Christ will be delivered. Christ is Israel reduced to one, and Israel’s history was all recapitulated and consummated in Him (Hummel 17). Jesus being Israel reduced to one means that He is also Israel who was subjected to captivity as punishment for Israel’s sin. Jesus made Himself nothing in His captivity. Israel’s captivity began with the destruction of the temple and the deportation of thousands of people; Darius decreed that Israel return to their land and be allowed to rebuild their city and its temple. Recall what Jesus told the Pharisees who demanded from Him a sign as to why He has the authority to drive out the animal dealers and the money changers from the temple courtyard: »Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.« (John 2,19) Here Jesus connects the temple with His body. Jesus’ captivity began with His  bodily death and descent into hades; His resurrection from the grave was raising and rebuilding His destroyed body back to life. Jesus promises that He is the first fruits of the resurrection; all who believe in Him will be restored and raised to life everlasting in eternal fellowship with Him and all the heavenly host (1. Corinthians 15,23). In Christ Jesus, we see God the Father’s judgment upon Him for sin and justice through Him in forgiveness and resurrection. 
7. The Introit concludes: »O Lord, You have given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand supported me, and Your gentleness made me great.« Jesus is the Shield of our salvation and He has made us great. Jesus has suffered for us, rose from the dead for us, forgiven us, redeemed us and earned for us eternal life in His presence. »Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends« (John 15,13). Jesus has the greatest love of all for He laid down His life for all the world, redeemed the world back to His Father and this forgiveness is received by faith in Him. He desires that everyone behold Him as their Savior from sin, death and hades, but He will not force and compel anyone to believe in Him. Instead the Holy Spirit works patiently through the proclamation of the gospel to create faith in men and women. This faith is grounded upon the crucified and risen Christ. Grace is undeserved, but Jesus Himself has earned and deserved this grace as the very Son of God. Jesus gives us grace as a free gift that is received in faith. Jesus told His disciples: »So the last will be first, and the first last« (Matthew 20,16). We who were last because we are sinners are now first, because Jesus who is First, the only Son of His Father, became last for our account. Jesus is just in everything that He has done for us; let us rejoice for all the good things we have in Christ.  Amen. 
8. Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, our Merciful Savior, hear our pleas and petitions so that we and all we pray for may be blessed with Your righteousness.  Amen. 

To God alone be the Glory 
Gode ealdore sy se cyneþrymm

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