Good Friday 2017

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He took our bad, and replaced it with his good.  This Friday is good.

How blest shall be, Eternally
Who oft in faith will ponder
Why the glorious Prince of life
Should be buried yonder.

O Jesus blest, My Help and Rest,
With tears I now entreat you:
Make me love you to the last
Till in heaven I greet you.

— “Oh, Darkest Woe,” CW 137:4-5.

The colors and light in the photograph are soft and heavenly because the harsh cross that Christ endured is the way to heaven.  Good Friday is the way to Resurrection Sunday.

“It is finished!”

Maundy Thursday 2017

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“This is my body.”

“This is my blood.”

Praise the Father, who from heaven
Unto us such food has given
And, to mend what we have done,
Gave into death his only Son.

Then hold fast with faith unshaken
That this food is to be taken
By the souls who are distressed,
By hearts that long for peace and rest.

If your heart this truth professes
And your mouth your sin confesses,
Surely you will be his guest
And at his banquet ever blest.

— “Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior,” CW 313:7-8.

He is the word made flesh given to us.

Maundy Thursday 2016

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God’s presence filled the temple in Jerusalem.  The Lord entered the temple when the

priests brought the ark of the LORD’s covenant to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the temple, to the most holy place, beneath the wings of the cherubim…  The temple, the LORD’s temple, was filled with a cloud.  And because of the cloud, the priests were not able to continue ministering, for the glory of the LORD filled God’s temple.

— 2 Chronicles 5:13-14, HCSB.

The curtain of the temple separated the ark of the Lord’s covenant from the people.  Only the high priest entered that most holy place, and only on the day of atonement.

But the high priest alone enters the second room, and he does that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.

— Hebrews 9:7, HCSB.

On Good Friday, God ripped that temple curtain in two.

Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit.  Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary, was split in two from top to bottom…

— Matthew 27:50-51, HCSB.

God removed the barrier.  God removed the barrier of sin between us with blood.

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.  And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

— Mark 14:22-24, ESV.

Our bodies are the new temple of God.  He gives us his spirit.  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  He also gives us his very body and blood.  This is his real presence.  The “body and blood of Christ are truly present and distributed to those who eat the Lord’s Supper.” (AC, article X).  (1 Corinthians 10:16).

It is important to recognize the real presence of God.  Those who do not recognize the holy presence suffer judgement.  The “Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”  (Exodus 34:14, ESV).

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.  But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

— 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, ESV.

The Lord is merciful.

Kyrie eleison.

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.

Maundy Thursday 2015

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The Lord was in the temple, but on one good day Jesus Christ tore the temple curtain in two, from top to bottom.  (Matthew 27:51).  Was it so we could go in to him?  Or was he coming out to us?

He has come out to us in the Lord’s Supper.  And where he is, is a new temple.

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

— Matthew 26:26-28, ESV.

Our bodies are the new temple of God.  He puts his very real presence into us.

May the Lord bless your Maundy Thursday and Triduum.

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.

In Flesh, In Us

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The church was fairly dark when I took this photo.  The sky shown in through the blue stained glass windows, illuminating the chalice, and enhancing its silver tone.  The altar area was gently illuminated by amber track lighting, which caused the gold on the altar to glow, and gave the background a warm color.  The crucifix was illumined by purple lights inside the altar.  (St. John recently purchased, and installed lights around the crucifix that can change their color according to the season).  I used a time delay, and let the camera’s lens drink in the light.  The picture is still a little dark, but I wanted the photo to reflect the dark reverent stillness of Lent.

The church was fairly dark when I took this photo.  An organist was practicing, but the place still felt quiet, silent, reverent.  The quietness of a holy place is a powerful solid stillness found in the whisper of God’s word and the awe of things sacred.  (1 Kings 19:11-13).

During our Lord’s first Supper, it was probably quiet.  The words He spoke were sacred: “This is my body.  This is my blood.  Given for you, for the forgiveness of sins.”  The reality was quiet and hidden, but it was also no less momentous than at any other time the Lord was with His people.  He was with His people through the sea and in the dessert.  He was with His people in the Tabernacle and in the Temple.  At the dedication of Solomon’s Temple

fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.  And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house.  When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”  [2 Chronicles 7:1-3, ESV].

The Lord was in the Temple, but on one great day, from one sundown to the next, Christ tore the Temple curtain in two.  Was it so we could go in to Him in Jerusalem’s Temple?  Or was He coming out to us?  He has come out to us in the Lord’s Supper.  And He puts His real presence into our bodies.  We, our very bodies are the new Temple of God.  We are God’s Temple/Church/Congregation.  When His Temple assembles in congregation, there He is in the midst of them.  There He is inside of us.

Take and eat.  This is my body.  This is my blood.  We are our bodies, and we are the physical Temple of God.  We are the physical place on earth where God can be found, where He puts His very real presence.  He is in human flesh, in bread, in wine, in us.

May you have a blessed Maundy Thursday.

Blessed Ash Wednesday

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Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent.  Lent is a period of renewal involving confession, absolution, and repentance.  It takes place in Spring because our Lord died and rose again in Spring: Spring is a period of renewal and new life.

In our baptism, God drowned our sinful nature, buried it with Christ, and raised us again to new life in His resurrection.  (Romans 6).  The sacrament of Confession and Absolution stems from our sacramental death and resurrection in Baptism.  In Confession we die to sin, and in the Absolution we are raised again to new life.

As Lutheran Christians, we

keep Confession, especially because of the Absolution.  Absolution is God’s Word which, by divine authority, the Power of the Keys pronounces upon individuals.  Therefore, it would be wicked to remove private Absolution from the Church.  If anyone despises private Absolution, he does not understand what the forgiveness of sins or the Power of the Keys is.

— Apology to the Augsburg Confession, Art. XIIb, 2-4,
The Lutheran Confessions, CPH 2005, 172.

Baptism and repentance are both gifts of God.  (Acts 11:18).  In the very first of the 95 Thesis, Martin Luther wrote that when “Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ [Matt. 4:17], he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”  (Luther’s Works).  That means that the entire life of a Christian is a living out of our baptism.

On Ash Wednesday, many Christians use ashes to remind us of the wages of sin: death.  For we were made from dust, and to dust we will return.  (Genesis 3:19).  Our deaths bring only death forever.  On the other hand, Christ’s death brings us life eternal.  In sin and ash we fall from death to death.  But with cleansing water Christ raises us from death into His life.

In Him, He makes us clean and alive forever.

Blessed Ash Wednesday and Lent

“God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life …”  But man fell into sin, and God said, “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”  (Genesis 2:7, 3:19 KJV).

“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, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  But after the fall, man’s children were born, not in the image of God, but in the image of Adam.  (Genesis 1:27, 5:3 KJV).  In Adam all die.

“We fled our God, and losing Him,
We lost our brother too.
Each singly sought and claimed his own;
Each man his brother slew.”

However, one son of man was born in the image of God.  His name was Jesus.  His mother was bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh.  He was our brother, but we crucified him on a tree.  (Genesis 2:23, 3:15, Hebrews 2:14 KJV).  Like Cain, we killed our brother.

“O Savior, when we loved you not,
You loved and saved us all;
O great good Shepherd of mankind,
Oh, hear us when we call.”

On Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, many 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).

“But your strong love, it sought us still
And sent your only Son
That we might hear his shepherd-voice
And, hearing him, be one.”

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”  (1 Corinthians 15:22 KJV).  Christians frequently partake of the Lord’s Supper, communing in the Lord’s very body and receiving his life giving blood:  “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?  For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”  (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 KJV).

The Christian Church is the one Body of Christ.  Jesus is our head and the new Adam.  As he rose from the dead and conquered sin and death, in him so shall we all.

“Then shall our song united rise
To your eternal throne,
Where with the Father evermore
And Spirit you are one.”

— “In Adam We Have All Been One,” Christian Worship, 396:1-4, 6.

Good Friday

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Mark 15:16-24:

The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace … and called together the whole company of soldiers.  They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him.  And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!”  Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him.  Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him.  And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him.  Then they led him out to crucify him…

They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).  Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.  And they crucified him.

In Psalm 22:16 the prophet wrote of the coming Messiah:

Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet.

About 700 years B.C. (Before Christ), the Prophet Isaiah wrote (in chapter 53) about the coming Messiah:

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth…

After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

“It is finished.”  — Jesus