Thursday, March 4, 2010

Daily readings for March 7-13, 2010

Third Sunday in Lent Genesis 27:30–45; 28:10–22; Mark 9:1–13
March 8 Genesis 29:1–30; Mark 9:14–32
March 9 Gen 35:1–29; Mark 9:33–50
March 10 Gen 37:1–36; Mark 10:1–12
March 11  Gen 39:1–23; Mark 10:13–31
March 12  Gen 40:1–23; Mark 10:32–52
March 13  Gen 41:1–27; Mark 11:1–19

Looking forward to next Sunday 
LAETARE—THe Fourth Sunday in Lent

The Lord provided bread from heaven for His people in the wilderness. (Exodus 16:221)  Now He who is Himself the Living Bread from heaven miraculously provides bread for the 5000. (John 6:115) This takes place near the time of the Passover, after a great multitude followed Jesus across the Sea, when He went up on a mountain.  Thus we see that Jesus is our new and greater Moses, who releases us from the bondage of Mt. Sinai and makes us free children of the promise. (Galatians 4:2131) Five loaves become twelves baskets, that is, the five books of Moses find their goal and fulfillment in Christ, whose people continue steadfastly in the doctrine and fellowship of the twelve apostles, and in the breaking and receiving of the Bread of Life, which is the body of Christ together with His precious blood, and in the prayers. (Acts 2:4147) So it is that God’s people “shall neither hunger nor thirst.”  (Isaiah 49:813)  For He abundantly provides for them in both body and soul.

Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be | glad with her,*
        all you who | love her;
that you may feed and be | satisfied*
        with the consolation of her | bosom. (Isaiah 66:10–11)

I was glad when they | said to me,*
        “Let us go into the house | of the Lord.”
Our feet have been | standing*
        within your gates, O Je- | rusalem!
Pray for the peace of Je- | rusalem:*
        “May they prosper who | love you.”
For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will | now say,*
        “Peace be with- | in you.” (Psalm 122:1–2, 6, 8)

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we implore You that we, who do worthily deserve to be punished for our evil deeds, may mercifully be relieved by the comfort of Your grace;  through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament: Isaiah 49:8–13 [Restoration of Israel]

I was glad when they | said to me,*
        “Let us go into the house | of the Lord.”
Peace be with- | in your walls,*
        Prosperity within your | palaces. (Psalm 122:1, 7)

Epistle: Acts 2:41–47 (alternate) [The fellowship of believers]

Those who trust | in the Lord*
        are like Mount | Zion,
which can- | not be moved,*
        but abides for- | ever.
As the mountains surround Je- | rusalem,*
        so the Lord surrounds His | people
from this time forth and for- | ever.*
        Peace be upon | Israel! (Psalm 125:1–2, 5)

Holy Gospel: John 6:1–15 [Feeding of the 5000]

Oculi – Lent 3 March 6-7,2010 Luke 11:14-28 “Slavery Gone”

Oculi – Lent 3 March 6-7,2010          Luke 11:14-28            “Slavery Gone”

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

Our text for this morning is the Gospel lesson just read from Luke chapter 11, and from Exodus chapter 8, the beginning of the plagues.

The people were under a cruel dictator. He made them slaves. He killed them indiscriminately, all in the name of his so-called gods. Even their young male children did not escape his wrath and fear. They had suffered under him for many years. It seemed there was no hope, no deliverance from their suffering and death.

The people longs for deliverance, but they were afraid to hope, afraid even to ask that God would release them from their sorrow and pain. Was God there any more? Did he care about their trials and tribulations? And perhaps even more series still, could God deliver them? Did He have the strength and the power to go against such a cruel tyrant? That was the question on everyone’s lips.

We’re not talking about Osama Bin Laden, and the war against Afghanistan, dear friends, or any other dictator from the last centuries. We’re talking about Pharaoh and the people of Israel. It is amazing, though, how often the events of this life seem to parallel and mimic the great stories from the Scriptures, isn’t it? Don’t you feel sometimes as if we’ve been here before? Our lives are déjà vu, a reflection of the lives of suffering and pain which have gone on forever.

Back in Moses’ day, when the people suffered under cruel Pharaoh, they cried out to God for a deliverer and God sent him. His name was Moses. God’s hand was upon him. He went to Pharaoh and said on behalf of the Lord, let my people go. But Pharaoh would not let them go. He was too arrogant, to struck with pride in his own power and accomplishments to realize that the very finger of God was upon him, and about to squash him as a bug.

Each time God sent a plague upon the people of Egypt, Pharaoh’s magicians and sorcerers would try to mimic it, to copy the power and might of the God of Israel. Sometimes they were successful. The rod into serpents. The plague of blood. They could copy God’s power, to an extent. But it would not last.

In our Old Testament lesson today, the magicians and false gods reached their limits. They could not mimic the plague of lice or the flies that swept over the land. This is the finger of God, they told Pharaoh. They had met their match in the God of Israel. But Pharaoh would not listen. He refused to see what was plainly right before his face. He would not hear what God told him through God’s servant, Moses. Eventually Pharaoh would suffer the virtual destruction of his nation before he would see that he wasn’t in control.

Now this story about Pharaoh and the children of Israel I suppose could teach us something about the war and how we should operate with patience toward the people, and pray for a swift victory. That’s probably true. But that’s not the point for us here today.

The point for us is that Jesus is the greater Moses, who delivers us not from a cruel tyrant here on earth, but from the cruelest dictator of all, Satan himself. Jesus casts out demons. That is His work, to undo the power of Satan in our midst by forgiving sins and drawing us to Himself. That is the very essence of Jesus’ work here on earth. Everything else which Jesus does in His ministry serves that one great purpose of bringing you to heaven to be with Him forever.

That is what offended and scandalized the Pharisees and the like in our text. Jesus casts out a demon and the multitudes marveled. He is doing His work of undoing Satan’s work of destroying our lives. But while Jesus is about His work, others said that He casts out demons by Beelzebub, or Satan, the prince of demons.

 The children of Israel could not get out of their slavery by themselves. There even came a time for them when they were willing to compromise in order to get out the easy way. But God was not content to have their slavery be easier, he wanted it GONE. And in order for that to happen, their deliverer had to come. They could not save themselves.

 The same is true for you and me. You cannot save yourself. You cannot fix the mess of your life. When you and I try to solve the problems of our life without Christ, we are like the man in our text who tries to remove the power of Satan on his own:
When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

 This man could not get out of the mess of his life by himself. When the unclean spirit left, he searched and searched and everything was dry. So he went back to the old way, the way of the Law. And so when he returned to his old way, things were worse than when they were before.

Our Lord Jesus Christ this Lent has big plans for you. He has plans not to just make your slavery easier. He doesn’t want your problems and difficulties to be manageable, like an incurable disease you just have to live with. No, His plan is to deliver you completely. He is the stronger man in our Gospel, who binds the power of Satan with the cords of his own death. And because of Jesus’ death, the bonds Satan has over you are broken forever.

Repent of your self-willed ways. Repent of your desire to solve your own problems and get out of your own difficulties. Repent of your arrogance and pride to believe that you can defeat the enemies that are against you on your own. Repent and believe. Believe that Jesus Christ is the one who is the very finger of God, who traces His life upon yours. Believe that Jesus is the stronger man, who can bind the power of Satan up forever.

Repent and believe. Christ is your deliverer. He is the Lord of your life and the God of your salvation. He is the one who saves you by His blood and then gives you His body and blood to show you His great love for you. In a world of uncertainty and trials, He is your life and your peace. Believe it for Jesus' sake. Amen.

March 3 Lenten Midweek "The Wound of Apathy"

March 3, 2010 Lenten Midweek
“The Wound of Apathy”
Text: Matthew 26:31-46 (1 Kings 19:1-18; Revelation 3:7-22)

None of us is nearly as frightened of sin and hell as we should be. We don’t have the first clue about how horrifying a place hell is - about its suffering, about its loneliness, about its finality. We think sin no big deal. God will forgive. Like getting a “C” on our report card - I know I’m not the best, but I’m not the worst either. So, we go on with our lives. Hurting and failing to help. Murdering reputations with our tongues. Dishonoring those God has given us for good. Living as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most. It’s all good, we think.

Well tonight, go to Gethsemane with Jesus and see with your own eyes whether or not your sin is a “big deal.” Before the eyes of Jesus’ soul that night was the cup that He would now drink. The cup of God’s wrath against the sin of the world. Against the sins we think so little of; against the sins we think are fun and pleasing; against your sins and mine. Are they a big deal? You tell me. Jesus now looks over the brim of that cup into its fathomless depths, and shakes in terror.

Jesus had gone to Gethsemane to pray. He did not want to be alone and so took with Him His friends, His disciples. Do not forget that Jesus was fully human like us. That night He craved the companionship that comes from love ones. And especially He wants with Him His three closest friends: Peter, James, and John. He can no longer keep back the sorrow and grief that is weighing heavy on Him now. “My soul,” He says, “is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with Me.” And then He stumbles a few steps farther and lands on His face, beseeching His Father that “if possible, let this cup pass from me.” If there is any other way . . .

But here we see our Savior, and the ultimate difference between Him and all of us sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. For even as He looks trembling into that cup of wrath and dread that we so foolishly choose time and time again; as He looks up to His Father and pleads for some other way. What He does next fills the soul with joy and wonder: He lowers His eyes again to the cup and says, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” He will drink this cup, so great His love for you and me.

Exhausted, Jesus now turns back to His friends for the comfort they can give. But instead of comfort, He is struck with another wound - their apathy. In the midst of His struggle with sin, death, and hell, they are sleeping. “Peter!” He cries out, probably startling them awake. “Could you not watch with me one hour! Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.”

Weak, yes. That is indeed what we are. Weak and apathetic in our lives. Weak and apathetic in our struggle against sin. Weak and apathetic in our regard for His Word. Weak and apathetic in our prayers. Weak and apathetic in our love for God and for others. Weak and apathetic in our faith. And in this we too wound our Savior and add to the cup He must drink.

“Watch and pray” He asks of them; He asks of us. Surely they will do so now. Surely will we, right? But again when He returns they are asleep. Jesus is all alone with this, with our sin and death. One final time He returns for prayer and is strengthened. It is time to do the Father’s will. Yes, He will do it. He will go forward and drink this cup - all the way to its dregs; not one drop left for you and me, that when God’s cup is now offered to us, it be filled not with wrath and death, but with the sacramental blood of Jesus’ life and forgiveness.

And Jesus goes now filled with peace, trusting in His Father and submitting to His Father’s will. For to submit to the One who has loved you with an everlasting love is, in the end, not terror, but joy - no matter how dark the path may be. So Jesus goes now in peace and joy. It will not be easy, but as He wins the battle in Gethsemane, so He will win the battle on the cross. So that just as He once woke His sleeping disciples, so too will He wake us from the sleep of death to the life He is about to win for us. A life with Him which will never end.

How awesome to see tonight the love and faithfulness of our Savior! And to see that although we are weak, He is strong; and although we are often apathetic, He is never apathetic about us, but is filled with the resolve of love and compassion. That just as does not reject, but He feeds and strengthens a frightened and downcast Elijah, so He feeds and strengthens us in our struggles and pain. Just as He does not reject, but encourages and beseeches the churches in Revelation to faithfulness, so He encourages and beseeches us in our walk of life and faith. And just as He does not reject He weak and sleeping disciples, so He does not reject us, but looks on us in pity. The Good Shepherd who always loves His sheep.

In the wounds of Christ, we find healing for our wounds of apathy - for when we wound others with our cold and uncaring hearts, and when we are wounded the same. In the wounds of Christ, we discover a love that wakes us from our sleep and raises us to life again. In the wounds of Christ, we find the strength of compassion, and the joy of forgiveness. That no matter how dark our road or apathetic the world, we face nothing alone, but have a Savior with us who fulfilled His Father’s will. And so we too now go in peace and joy. In the Name of the Father, and of the  Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.