Ash Wednesday 2016

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“God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life …”  (Genesis 2:7 KJV).  However, man fell into sin, and God cursed him saying, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  (Genesis 3:19 ESV).  We all share the same fate as the first man.  In Adam all die.

In Adam we have all been one,
One huge rebellious man;
We all have fled that evening voice
That sought us as we ran.

“God created man in his own image …”  (Genesis 1:27 ESV).  But after sin, Adam’s children were born, not in the image of God, but in the image of Adam.  (Genesis 5:3).  Adam’s son Cain murdered his brother Abel.

We fled Thee, and in losing Thee
We lost our brother too;
Each singly sought and claimed his own;
Each man his brother slew.

Jesus Christ came in our flesh.  (Hebrews 2:14).  He was our brother, but we crucified him.  Like Cain, we killed our brother.

But Thy strong love, it sought us still
And sent Thine only Son
That we might hear His Shepherd’s voice
And, hearing Him, be one.

On Ash Wednesday, Christians receive ashes on their foreheads in the shape of a cross as a visual reminder of the consequences of sin.  From the ground we were created, and to the ground we will return: “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”  (Book of Common Prayer, burial).

O Thou who, when we loved Thee not,
Didst love and save us all,
Thou great Good Shepherd of mankind,
O hear us when we call.

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”  (1 Corinthians 15:22 KJV).  The Christian Church is the Body of Christ.  As he rose from the dead and conquered sin and death, in him so shall we.

Send us Thy Spirit, teach us truth;
Thou Son, O set us free
From fancied wisdom, self-sought ways,
To make us one in Thee.

— “In Adam We Have All Been One,” LSB, 569:1-5.

Epiphany: Jesus’ Baptism

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Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water …”

— John 4:13-15, ESV.

The water that wells up to eternal life is baptism.  Baptism is living water made alive by the word of God.  And through this water Christ grants his eternal life and righteousness to all who believe.

One of the first celebrations of Epiphany is of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.

In order to fulfill all righteousness, he took our place.  He submitted to John’s baptism in the Jordan river.  John’s baptism was for repentance, and in this way Jesus took our sin, and identified completely with us sinners.  He began his ministry by taking our place, and becoming our substitute.  He became the Lamb of God.  (Genesis 2:8).

When we were baptized, the water washed our sins away.  When Jesus was baptized, he accepted our sins from the water as his own.  John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  (John 1:29, ESV).

To Jordan’s river came our Lord,
The Christ, whom heavenly hosts adored,
The God from God, The Light from Light,
The Lord of glory, power, and might.

The Savior came to be baptized
The Son of God in flesh disguised
To stand beneath the Father’s will
And all His righteousness fulfill.

Then from God’s throne with thunderous sound
Came God’s own voice with words profound:
“This is My Son,” was His decree,
“The one I love, who pleases Me.”

The Father’s word, the Spirit’s flight
Anointed Christ in glorious sight
As God’s own choice, from Adam’s fall
To save the world and free us all.

— “To Jordan’s River Came Our Lord,” LSB 405:1-2, 4-5.

Blessed Epiphany.

Merry Christmas 2015

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Today is the first day of Christmas, the annual feast celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is:

“God of God,
Light of Light,
very God of very God,
begotten, not made …
by whom all things were made;
who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven
and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary
and was made man …”

— Nicene Creed.

Christ always received worship and adoration from the angels, for He always was God.  Now they are adoring Him also as man.

— Theodoret, “Catalog of Testimonies,”
Book of Concord, Readers’ 2nd Edition, 632.

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A great and mighty wonder,
A full and holy cure:
The virgin bears the infant
With virgin honor pure!

The Word becomes incarnate
And yet remains on high,
And cherubim sing anthems
To shepherds from the sky.

Proclaim the Savior’s birth:
“To God on high be glory
And peace to all the earth!”

— “A Great and Mighty Wonder,” LSB 383:1-2.

Merry Christmas!

Blessed Christmas Eve 2015

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Christmas Eve is the last day of Advent.  Tomorrow, we celebrate the coming of Jesus as a baby.  Jesus is fully God and fully man.  He is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made …” but who also “was made man.”  (Nicene Creed).

The complete divinity and complete humanity of Jesus Christ cannot be overemphasized especially in this world of ignorance where so many think that Christians and Mohammedans worship the same God, and that all religions are “basically the same.”  No one is like Christ, and no god can compare.

What happened at the Incarnation (March 25) and at Christmas (December 25) testifies to the true nature of God, the Trinity.  The Incarnation is beautiful and mysterious, and evinces a glory deeper than the greatest show of glory.  It is a hidden glory of weakness and love.  Almighty God became a real human baby.

Creator of the stars of night,
Thy people’s everlasting Light:
O Christ, Redeemer, save us all
And hear Thy servants when they call.

To God the Father and the Son
And Holy Spirit, Three in One,
Praise, honor, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally.

— “Creator of the Stars of Night,” LSB 351:1, 6.

Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas!

Blessed Reformation and All Saints Days

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Blessed Reformation and All Saints Days!

Thy strong word did cleave the darkness;
At Thy speaking it was done.
For created light we thank Thee,
While Thine ordered seasons run.

Lo, on those who dwelt in darkness,
Dark as night and deep as death,
Broke the light of Thy salvation,
Breathed Thine own life-breathing breath.

Thy strong Word bespeaks us righteous;
Bright with Thine own holiness,
Glorious now, we press toward glory,
And our lives our hopes confess.

From the cross Thy wisdom shining
Breaketh forth in conqu’ring might;
From the cross forever beameth
All Thy bright redeeming light.

— “Thy Strong Word,” LSB 578:1-4.

From the cross shines the wisdom of God.  This wisdom is foolishness to the world and the worldly.

Notes:

The picture is of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Appleton, WI.

Resurrection Sunday 2015

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Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6, ESV).  Jesus is life eternal.  He is the bread of life given for us to eat.  (John 6:35).

Happy Easter!

He is risen!

“Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw when wayfaring.”

“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
the glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
Bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
My Lord, my hope, is arisen;
To Galilee He goes before you.”

Christ indeed from death is risen,
Our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen.  Alleluia.

— “Christians, to the Paschal Victim,” LSB, 460.

He is risen, indeed!

Palm Sunday 2015 – Hosanna!

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May the Lord bless your Palm Sunday and Holy Week.

Hosanna, loud hosanna,
The little children sang;
Through pillared court and temple
The lovely anthem rang.
To Jesus, who had blessed them,
Close folded to His breast,
The children sang their praises,
The simplest and the best.

May we follow the example of those children, may we follow Jesus.  (Matthew 18:1-4 & 21:16).

From Olivet they followed
Mid an exultant crowd,
The victor palm branch waving
And chanting clear and loud.
The Lord of earth and heaven
Rode on in lowly state
Nor scorned that little children
Should on His bidding wait.

— “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna,” Luthernan Service Book, 443:1-2.

Every Spring the very rocks declare the glory of the Lord, and all creation sings his praises.  (Psalm 19:1).

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Early sun beams illuminate daffodils.

As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

— Luke 19:37-40, ESV.

What is Lent? A Video

The above video was produced by Concordia Publishing House.  The song the children sang in the video is “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”

O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss, till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered
Was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
‘Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor,
And grant to me Thy grace.

My Shepherd, now receive me;
My Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me,
O Source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me
With words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me
To heavenly joys above.

— “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” LSB 450:1, 3-4.

The original wording of this hymn is attributed to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

May you have a blessed Lent.

Merry Christmas 2014

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Merry Christmas!

On this day, it is my prayer that you were able to not only remember the incarnation of the Lord in word and song, but that you were also able to physically participate in His incarnation by eating His very Body and Blood.  (Luke 22:17-20).

But if you, like me, were not able to receive the Lord bodily, there can still be a real spiritual communion.  God gave Christ to Mary bodily, but to the shepherds by proclamation and sight.  God gives Christ to us in both Word and Sacrament.

Unto us is born a Savior!  He is Christ the Lord!  Merry Christmas to all!

Mild, he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth:
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.

— “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” text by Charles Wesley.

Merry Christmas!

Blessed Palm Sunday 2014

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May you have a blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week.

From Olivet they followed
Mid an exultant crowd,
The victor palm branch waving
And chanting clear and loud.
The Lord of saints and angels
Rode on in lowly state
Nor scorned that little children
Should on his bidding wait.

“Hosanna in the highest!”
That ancient song we sing,
For Christ is our Redeemer,
The Lord of heaven our King.
Oh, may we ever praise him
With heart and life and voice
And in his royal presence
Eternally rejoice.

— “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna,” Christian Worship, 130:2-3.

The morning sun illuminates daffodils.

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The Lord came to the earth, and from the earth He receives praise.

As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

— Luke 19:40, ESV.