Monday, December 31, 2012
Happy New Year’s Eve. Each year on this day, I can’t help but sing over and again the following stanzas written by Slovak hymnwriter, Jaroslav Vajda. Our Lord stands us in His grace and walks beside us during tragedy. He sees us through our struggles. He orders our days and our deeds in His peace. Check this out. “Now greet the swiftly changing year With joy and penitence sincere. Rejoice! Rjoice! With thanks embrace Another year of grace. Remember now the Son of God And how He shed His infant blood. Rejoice! Rjoice! With thanks embrace Another year of grace. This Jesus came to end sin’s war; This Name of names for us He bore. Rejoice! Rjoice! With thanks embrace Another year of grace. His love abundant far exceeds The volume of a whole year’s needs. Rejoice! Rjoice! With thanks embrace Another year of grace. With Him as Lord to lead our way In want and in prosperity, What need we fear in earth or space In this new year of grace! “All glory be to God on high, And peace on earth!” the angels cry. Rejoice! Rjoice! With thanks embrace Another year of grace. God, Father, Son, and Spirit, hear! To all our pleas incline YOur ear; Upon our lives rich blessing trace In this new year of grace.” (Lutheran Service Book 896, stanzas 1-7)
Sunday, December 30, 2012
I admit it. My interests lie in a whole lot of cseemingly contradictory areas. For instance, I’m a liturgical/sermon nut. I’ll read, listen to, and download a bunch of chants and sermons each week. But, my playlist doesn’t stop there. Yes, I dip into the music of such luminaries as Katie Perry or Billy Joel and (my favorites) Van Halen (DLR at the lead vocals) and .38 Special. I believe very strongly in the third commandment, which says “Honor The Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” Yet, my love for sports craves any college or pro game that fills the TV/radio airwaves on Sunday or any other day of worship. I don’t care if there’s too many bowl games. I’d watch them all if I had time. Yet, part of the reason I don’t is I bury my head in books—theological, political and a lot of techno-thriller fiction. It comes down to Christian freedom, I think. (Gal. 5:13) The Divine Service (and any other form of corporate worship), Holy Scripture, and great hymns are all gifts from God. So are people’s daily vocations—whether that be working or lurking the graveyard shift in an office, teaching in a classroom, rocking out on a stage, or shooting hoops for a living. Part of sports is the business angle just as part of politics is the partisan filibuster. The point of living free in the gifts God gives is receiving them in our lives without compulsion. Legalism of any kind puts the emphasis on the wrong syllable. (emphasis mine) Yet, license is equally just as bad if we take stuff too far. Okay, I can be guilty of this, too. Most of my sin of license is flaunting my Christian freedom with a big old grin on my face. And, what is license? Abusing the gifts our Lord gives us. If we don’t come to corporate worship, we are taking license in our absence from it. If we constantly flee from eating and drinking the Sacrament often (1 Cor. 11:26), we miss an opportunity for Christ to give us all of Himself and His forgiveness. If we habitually flee from God’s house for the Big House or any other sports shrine, we play fast and loose with the freedom God gives us. Yet, does that mean we are being irreverent by buying season tickets to the Indianapolis Colts or Denver Broncos games? No. Many churches offer multiple times for worship. And, we aren’t tied down to just one. Oh, drat, that means someone may sit in the pew I think has my name on it. Eeeeeek! Lol So, as I write this blog, I’ve got Sunday night football going and yet I’ve indulged myself, simultaneously in studying liturgics. Yet, what do we do in those times our conscience tweeks us with a supposed reality check. Hmmm. Check the Scriptures. Get convicted by God’s Law and freed again by His Gospel. Okay, let me take liberty here to admit something I’ve mulled around in my head for sometime. I believe the decline in church attendance doesn’t just result from external enticement. More than that, I think it results from a confusion people have over the issue of Christian freedom. Contrary to a pop-American assumption, Christian isn’t a matter of keeping rules and avoiding certain pet practices. It’s a matter of God’s grace that, first of all, saves us free for the trusting in Him and, secondly, teaches us to say “no” to things that hinder our faith. (Titus 2:11-14) Newsflash: We all have the need to repent of saying “yes” to whole lot of things that dissuade our faith. No, it’s not younger generation irritating the older folks or the older folks not understanding the younger generations. We’re all guilty of straying like lost sheep. (Is. 53:7) Yet, our loving, heavenly Father has put all the burden of our sin and guilt—our licentious abuse of Christian freedom—on His eternal Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Our hope aligns with that of the apostle John’s first epistle, written that we may not sin. Yet, what do we know for sure when we do sin? WE have an advocate in Jesus Christ, doing the will of our heavenly Father—forgiving our sins day in and day out. That’s the confidence in which we Christians long to live. It’s the confidence into which our Lord drowns our sinful nature first at Baptism. It’s the confidence He speaks to us in private and public absolution. It’s the confidence He distributes to us in His body and blood—“in, with and under the bread and wine, given for us Christians to eat and drink.” (Small Catechism, VI, 1-2) I have a lot of interests and hobbies, some of which may seem contradictory by nature. So do you. What a privilege our Lord gifves us in this living, active Christian freedom now and until He comes again.
Luke 2:29-32 “Lord, now you are letting your servant departin peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen yoursalvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” What aprayer Simeon prayed after He beheld the infant, Jesus! He longed to see Israel’s restoration. He believed he would see it. Israel’s restoration did not come in the form many others expected—an armed force kicking out the Romans, a mighty King traipsing into the palace knocking Herod off his throen. NO, restoration, salvation came in human flesh, the Word became flesh—and stayed that way. The babe who lay in a manger and, that day, in Mary’s arms is also God the Son from eternity past and future. He is the second person of the Trinity, having two natures—divine and human. So we,too, make Simeon’s prayer our prayer every time we return from the Sacrament of the Altar. Jesus, in and with and under bread and wine, gives us His body and blood. In this testament, we see His salvation. No, the elements don’t change their substance while maintaining their earthy appearance. You can’t cut the bread and see what particles are Christ’s body and what parts are wheat. But, people can and do doubt our Lord’s promise, that He gave when He institute the feast we share each Lord’s Day. People can and do say it’s only symbol or ememberance. Bah! Jesus didn’t and doesn’t lie about Himself or His gifts. And, we don’t just take a part of his salvation with us each time we receive His Sacrament or hear His Word. Nope, it’s always the whole thing. So, when we behold Him, in full confidence of His grace, we are ready to die. Not that we feel ready or that we want to be ready. The Lord, through His Word and Sacrament prepares us to die. Through His absolution, He forgives our sins. Through His Supper, He forgives our sins just as, at our Baptism, He forgave our sins. When forgiveness happens, part of us does die—our old Adam. It’s a little death but a necessary death because nothing immoral or impure can enter the kingdom of heaven or survive its foretaste. Because Christ has conquered death, then, He promises to bring all who trust in Him through it free of sin and its fall-out. But, as prepared/ready as Christ makes us to die, He most of the time has further service for us to do for others. So, He does bid us go in peace. His Word is fulfilled objectively forever and individually for each one of us. WE may not comprehend that peace, like its some feeling or twinge within our gutt. WE still worry about kids, bills, and health. But, it’s a peace that bids our fears and doubts to cease. It’s our Savior’s peace that welcomes us into our heavenly Father’s care through His son’s intercession. Peace with God means that we can pray to Him with boldness and confidence in the name of Jesus, our Savior. So, trusting in His promise, we bid our Lord to dismiss us from His table in peace and blessing. He sends us into our world for more service to one another or to death and His welcoming embrace in heavenly bliss. Either way, His Word has been fulfilled for us.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
December 30, 2012 The readings for the first Sunday after Christmas are Ex. 13:1-3a, 11-15; Col. 3:12-17, and Luke 2:22-40. The Word of Christ dwells with us richly. He draws us to worship, fils our songs with juoy, and enriches our daily vocations. He, our infant Lord, came to His temple in Mary and Joseph's arms to be dedicated. He fulfilled His own Law there. Years later, He hung crucified for Mary, Joseph, and us on the cross. Now risen, He forgives our sins each day. He bids us go in peace. His Word has been fulfiled.
What a vacation!, a long one from posting on this blog. I’ve visited my brother’s family in Annapolis, MD and my parents in Springfield, MO. I’ve published one book, BEHOLD! YOUR KING COMES, and hope to be publishing more books this coming year. A Bible verse that often comes to mind when traveling is Ps. 121:8. Our Lord does guard our comings In and goings out every day. Whether we work or volunteer, see friends or take a walk our dog, our Lord cares for us even in our times of refreshment. When teaching His disciples for three and a half years leading up to His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus called them to times alone. Mark 6 speaks of Him bidding them come to a quiet place. The crowds clamored for our Lord’s attention, so He took their weariness on Himself and fed them with His love. Do times of refreshment last very long? Not for many of us. Work goes on. Children need our attention. Bills need paid. WE get gripy. We procrastinate. Or, we dive in with our head and hands and feet first before burning out. That’s when Jesus gives us the rest we need, not always what we think we want. He calls us to His house for worship. He restores our souls with forgiveness of our sins--true peace. He teaches us through His written Word read aloud and His preached Word spoken to us. He feeds us His body and blood in, with, and under bread and wine in His Supper. Each day, He calls us to His written Word in devotions and study that we gladly learn and hear it. We may not think of four or five minutes as a quiet time amid kids’ going off to school, our grabbing that last cup of coffee, or yawning ourselves awake. But, it’s the time our Lord speaks death to our sinful nature and life to our new heart created in His image every morning. If we have the blessing of longer times of daily devotion, great. Our Lord’s written Word is replete with command and promise for our whole lives. May His grace uphold us as this year draws to a close and the new one begins.