Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bible Reading Holy Week

Holy Week April 5 - 11, 2009

Palm Sunday Ex. 8:1-32; Heb. 1:1-14
Holy Monday Ex. 9:1-28; Heb. 2:1-18
Holy Tuesday Ex. 9:29-10:20; Heb. 3:1-19
Holy Wednesday Ex. 10:21-11:10; Heb. 4:1-16
Maundy Thursday Ex. 12:1-28; Heb. 5:1-14
Good Friday Ex. 12:29-13:16; Heb. 6:1-20
Holy Saturday Ex. 13:17-14:9; Heb. 7:1-22

Daily Bible Reading Lent 5

Lent 5 March 29 - April 4, 2009

Sunday Ex. 1:1-22; Mark 14:12-31
Monday Ex. 2:1-22; Mark 14:32-52
Tuesday Ex. 2:23-3:22; Mark 14:53-72
Wednesday Ex. 4:1-18; Mark 15:1-15
Thursday Ex. 4:19-31; Mark 15:16-32
Friday Ex. 5:1-6:1; Mark 15:33-47
Saturday Ex. 7:1-25; Mark 16:1-20

Daily Bible Reading Lent 4

Lent 4 March 22 - 28, 2009

Sunday Gen. 41:28-57; Mark 11:20-33
Monday Gen. 42:1-34, 38; Mark 12:1-12
Tuesday Gen. 43:1-28; Mark 12:13-27
Wednesday Gen. 44:1-18, 32-34; Mark 12:28-44
Thursday Gen. 45:1-20, 24-28;Mark 13:1-23
Friday Gen. 47:1-31; Mark 13:24-37
Saturday Gen. 49:29-50; Mark 14:1-11

Daily Bible Reading

Lent 3 March 15 - 21, 2009
Sunday Gen. 27:30-45 Mark 9:1-13
Monday Gen. 29:1-30 Mark 9:14-32
Tuesday Gen. 35:1-29 Mark 9:33-50
Wednesday Gen. 37:1-36 Mark 10:1-12
Thursday Gen. 39:1-23 Mark 10:13-31
Friday Gen. 40:1-23 Mark 10:32-52
Saturday Gen. 41:1-27 Mark 11:1-19

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lent 4 Sermon

“The Bread of Life”
John 6:1-14, Lent 4
March 21 – 22, 2009

In the name of the Father of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

After God had delivered the children of Israel from their slavery to the Egyptians, they traveled in the wilderness for 40 years. In this barren wasteland they would’ve soon died, except that God miraculously provided food for them, bread from heaven. Each morning when they awoke they found a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. This thin bread they called manna. By it God sustained them until they entered the Promised Land.

Here in this sixth chapter of John, Jesus compares Himself to manna and says that it was a sign of His coming. “I am the Bread of Life, (6:35)” Jesus proclaims; and again, “I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world (6:51).” Jesus Himself is the bread of God, which we feed on through faith, which nourishes and sustains us in this world, and which gives us to share in His eternal life in the Promised Land of heaven.

So when we hear of a miracle like the feeding of the 5000, in which Jesus multiplies bread for His followers, we know that the significance of this miracle goes beyond the earthly bread of that time and place. Ultimately, it has to do with Him who is the Living Bread which came down from heaven, Jesus Christ, and the Bread of Life which He continues to bless and distribute to us in the Sacrament of the Altar, His body and blood given for the life of the world.

It was Moses who led Israel during its 40-year journey. In this Gospel Jesus shows you that He is the New and Greater Moses, the eternal leader of God’s baptized people. Just as Moses led the children of Israel through the Red Sea, so also John records that Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee (6:1), and a great multitude followed Him. And why did they follow Him? Because of His signs which He performed on those who were diseased (6:2), just as Moses had performed and announced great signs in Egypt, the 10 plagues. And just as Moses went up Mt. Sinai with the elders of Israel, and they saw God and ate and drank, so also Jesus here ascends a mountain with His disciples, and in Him the people would see God and eat and drink (6:3). Furthermore, it is written here that the Passover was near (6:4). In this way the Lord seeks to teach you that He is your greater Moses. He alone is the One who sustains and leads you safely across the wilderness of this fallen world through death into eternal life and the Promised Land.

Seeing the multitudes coming to Him, Jesus asks Philip a question to test him, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” Philip replies in hopelessness, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them.” In other words, “We couldn’t even come close to having enough money to feed this huge group of people.” Jesus asks this question to show you that the bread of life which He has to offer cannot be bought or bartered for. You can’t purchase this heavenly bread or pay for it. For God freely offers it to you in the ministry of His Word and Sacraments. His forgiveness and salvation are granted to you without cost. They cannot be earned or merited by your own goodness but must be received as a gift from Him. As Isaiah says, “You who have no money, come, buy and eat (Isaiah 55:1).”

Only those can receive the bread of life, then, who acknowledge their spiritual bankruptcy before God, who recognize that their worthiness doesn’t make them deserving of God’s eternal gifts. As Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Those who try to “buy” their way into heaven, so to speak, bartering with their own works and spiritual qualifications, will not be given life from this Living Bread. For they seek a righteousness of their own. Only those who hunger and thirst for the righteousness of Christ will be satisfied.

So it is that the Scriptures say, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy (Isaiah 55:2)?” In the pursuit of a full life and peace and happiness, you are tempted to invest yourself and your time and money in the things and the pleasures and the prestige of this world. But those things do not satisfy. In the end they leave you hollow and empty. Therefore, Jesus says, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you(6:27).” It is written, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near (Isaiah 55:6).” For those who come to Him shall never hunger, and those who believe in Him shall never thirst.

One of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” On the surface it appeared that this bread and fish would be useless to help feed the people. But with Jesus it was more than enough to do the job. So it is in the Sacrament of the Altar. Someone might ask, “What good can a little bread and wine do? How can these elements help my soul or give me any eternal blessings?” But with Jesus, such elements are more than enough. For what counts is not the impressiveness of bread and wine but the miracle that our Lord is able and has promised to do with them. You must focus not on the elements only but also on the Lord who stands behind them with His gracious power.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was much grass in the place.” The Lord bids you also to do the same today, for the Psalm says, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.” The grassy pasture in which the Lord makes you sit is this very place. For it is here that He calls you to come to Him for rest. It is here that He leads you beside the still waters of His living Word. And it is here that He prepares a table before you, spread for you with heavenly food.

“And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.” Here is the great miracle, that as the disciples handed out this food given them by Christ, there was always more and more. The more they handed out, the more there was. First there were five loaves in the basket. Then, as this was distributed, the disciples would reach in and find more and more loaves ready to be given out. And likewise with the fish. Thousands upon thousands of people were fed, and the food never ran out. In fact everyone had as much as they wanted. They were thoroughly filled. By His loving power, the Lord had multiplied the bread and fish so that all the multitude would be fed.

Is this not also how it is with the gifts that Christ gives in Holy Communion? In bread and wine He multiplies His body and blood, and through His ministers He distributes them to His people, that you may receive all that you want of Him who is the Living Bread from heaven, and that your souls may be thoroughly satisfied. There is always more and more of this Bread of Life to be given out. For Christ’s gifts of life and forgiveness are limitless and eternal. Our Lord’s love is ever-expansive. The more that He gives, the more that He has yet to give. So when you come to the Lord’s table in penitence and faith, you need never fear that the sin you bring is greater than the Lord’s forgiveness. For His mercy is without measure. When you receive the Living Bread from heaven in the Sacrament, you receive the fullness of Christ’s life and pardon, all that you could ever need or want. And there is still more even beyond that. For you cannot put a boundary around our Lord’s love. It never fails, it never runs out. There is always more.

This is so because the gifts of Christ are distributed to you from His holy cross, which is an everlasting storehouse of love and life. For it was there that the Passover Lamb of God was sacrificed to take away the sins of the world. Jesus said, “The bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world (6:51).” As the eternal Son of God offered up His own flesh and blood on Calvary, He won for you eternal salvation, forgiveness without limit, and life without measure. There’s no confining these gifts of Christ. The Bread of Life continues to come to you in abundance from the cross, delivered to you in the blessed supper of our Lord. What you are given at the altar is nothing other than this living body and blood of Christ that was offered up for you on the cross and raised on the third day. Therefore, Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed(6:54-55).” Truly, Jesus is the Living Bread from heaven, come down to you from above.

Finally, when the disciples gathered up what remained, they filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves. Five loaves became twelve baskets. Five is the number of the Law, for there are five books of Moses. Twelve is the number of the apostles, for Christ chose twelve men to follow Him. From this miracle, then, we learn that Christ has fulfilled the Law and has formed a New Israel, the Church. Christ’s Church is founded not on the Law of Moses but on the doctrine and ministry of His apostles, as we say in the Creed, “one holy Christian and apostolic Church.” So it is that we hear the following description of those who were baptized on Pentecost Day: “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42).” This is the meaning of the five becoming twelve: that, having been freed by Christ from the judgment of the Law, you also are to continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking and receiving of the Bread of Life, and in the prayers and liturgy of the church. For this is your life.

Brothers and sisters of Christ, the feeding of the 5000 is not only a temporary, one-time miracle. It is an eternal miracle that is still going on in the Church, for you. God grant you ever to receive Him who is the manna from above and to be filled with His life.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Midweek Lenten Service

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

“A Prayer That Sums It All Up” (The Lord’s Prayer)

Suppose you were commanded by God and invited by God to pray for all the needs you have and all the gifts he has to give you. Think of that! All of your needs, all of His gifts. And you have to put it all into a prayer. How long would it take you to pray for all those things? How many hours, how many thousands of words?

Well, the answer is, about 30 seconds and 70 words. 30 seconds? 70 words? How can you possibly cover all of God’s gifts and our needs in that short of a time and with those few words? But our Lord Jesus seems to think it’s possible. In fact, he even gave us a prayer that does all of that. We call it the “Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father.” In this short prayer, which we can pray every day, we are invited by God to come to him and call upon him, asking for all of his gifts, seeking his help in all of our needs. The Lord’s Prayer is truly “A Prayer That Sums It All Up.”

This is how it is with these texts of the Catechism, isn’t it? Short summaries that cover vast and profound things. The Ten Commandments, covering all of God’s will for our lives and showing us all of our sins where we fail to do it--all covered in just Ten Commandments of 83 words. The Apostles’ Creed, a summary of the entire New Testament, telling us who the Triune God is and how He Creates, Redeems, and Sanctifies us--all of that in only 111 words. And, now, this comprehensive prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, 70 words. What a complete and to the point explaination of the Christian faith and life we have in these parts of the Catechism! Easily memorized, ready for our recall, right there for our use, morning, noon, and night--anytime, anywhere, every day.

Tonight our focus is on this summary prayer, the Lord’s Prayer. It covers all of our needs and all of God’s gifts in one short prayer. And we are taught and invited by Christ to pray this prayer and come to our dear Father who promises to hear us. This is a prayer we can be sure of, that we can put a hearty “Amen” on, for Christ himself is the one who has given it to us. Think of what a treasure we have here in this prayer! Our only problem is that we do not pray it often enough, with thought and with faith.

The Lord’s Prayer is both a prayer that works in itself-- and it also serves as a model and a springboard for further praying. It works as a pattern for prayer. Look how each line can lead to more praying.

“Our Father, who art in heaven”: Know first who this God is who are you coming to in prayer, that he is your dear Father who loves you and cares for you. Meditate on God’s character as you have learned to know him, and put that into words.

“Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Seek first God’s kingdom and glory and honor, the things that pertain to what God is doing in the world--make them your concern. For example, “Thy kingdom come” can lead us to pray petitions related to the spread of the gospel, that God’s kingdom of grace be extended in the world through the ministry of the church. You may name particular missionaries or ministers you have on your heart. That would be using the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern for further praying.

Likewise, when we come to the petitions about daily bread and the forgiveness of sins. What are the particular needs of this body and life that you have or that your fellow Christians have? Put them into words, and bring your supplications before your Father in heaven. What are the sins you are aware of, that trouble you and for which you need forgiveness? Confess them before your gracious God, pleading the blood of Christ your Savior. Are there those who have sinned against you? Pray for a heart of forgiveness, and ask God for help to restore your relationship.

Then we come to the attacks of the devil upon us: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” God wants you to call on him in the day of trouble. When temptations fly about your head, call on God for help. When the evil one is throwing evil things your way--attacks of every sort, both physical and spiritual--pray in the name of the Mightier One, Jesus Christ, who has defeated the devil on the cross. Name the things for which you need help, and call on God for protection and deliverance. He promises to hear you and to help you.

“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” And so we conclude our praying the way we began, by praising and glorifying God. “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.” Sing a hymn as part of your daily prayers. I highly recommend this. Praising God in song, rejoicing in the Lord, will not only lift your spirits, it will also stimulate and spur on your faith, as you dwell on the goodness of God. “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.”

With such a prayer as the Lord’s Prayer, whether we pray it by itself or use it as a pattern for praying our own specific petitions--in any case, when we pray thus, knowing that we have a gracious and merciful God who hears us and promises to answer, then what else can we say but “Amen”? Yes, yes, it shall be so! For God has commanded us to pray, He has promised to hear us, He invites us to come to Him as His dear children, and Jesus Himself teaches us to pray these very words in this very way! If that doesn’t merit an “Amen,” I don’t know what does!

Yes, if Jesus gives us this prayer and teaches us to pray in this way, we can be certain and confident in our praying. For who is Jesus but the very Son of God, who came from heaven from the Father’s side? Who is Jesus but the one who reveals the Father to us, through whom we know the Father’s heart? We come to God and call on him as “our” Father, because we are coming in company with Jesus, the one-and-only Son of the Father, in a unique sense. Through Christ, we have gained access to God and this grace in which we now stand. For Christ has opened the way to God through His blood shed for us on the cross. Our sins stood in the way and prevented our access to the Father, but Jesus has opened the new and living way through His body. Having won forgiveness for us by His death, Christ has risen and ascended into heaven and presents that shed blood as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, that intercedes for us, that gives us access to the throne of God, where we will find help and grace when we need it. The Lord’s Prayer becomes possible because of the Lord’s Blood shed on our behalf.

And so now through Christ, joined to him in Baptism, we are brothers of Jesus, and the Father becomes our Father, too. What a great and glorious privilege we have been gifted with to call on our Father in prayer!

What a great and glorious prayer we have to do it with! The Lord’s Prayer, a prayer given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ himself, in which all of our needs and all of God’s gifts are summed up for us in one brief prayer. You can pray it every day, two or three times a day, but this is a prayer that is ever new, every time we pray it--because our needs, always changing, will always fall under its comprehensiveness. God’s gifts, which are greater than our needs--all of God’s gifts, which he pours out on us day after day--all of those countless gifts are packed into this little prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer, “A Prayer That Sums It All Up.” Only 70 words, but it will take us 70 years, 80, 90 years, to pray it--every day of our life, until the good and gracious Lord gives us a blessed end. Amen! It shall be so! Amen!