Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Daily Lectionary For November 21–27, 2010

We are so attached to the things of this world, that the promise of the prophet Isaiah that the former things of this world shall not be remembered may not at first offer comfort. Yet, for the Christian whose hope is in Christ, we long to be rid of the corruption of sin and the devil's temptations that so often entangle us. These are the “former things” that shall not be remembered. In addition, the prophet paints the picture that the new heavens and the new earth will be a life that is lived entirely from the love of God in Christ. Today’s Epistle teaches us that “Waking” and “sleeping” are synonyms for “faith” and “mistrust.” To be “awake” and “watchful” for the Lord's coming, is to live in eager anticipation of the consummation of our salvation through the hearing of His Word, the receiving of the Sacrament, contrition and repentance, and the life of prayer. To be asleep is to turn away from these things to find one’s comfort and happiness in what is passing away. Faith in Christ alone makes one wise to salvation. Foolish is the one who casts aside the Gospel of Christ. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins is a parable about faith and unbelief. To believe in Christ is to love Him and long for His coming again in glory, like a faithful bride and her bridesmaids who await the coming of the Bridegroom. Those who do not believe in Christ have no particular yearning or anticipation for the Bridegroom’s coming. We, the faithful, go to the Sacrament each week, confessing our sins that we might “learn to believe that no creature could make satisfaction for our sins…so we may find joy and comfort in Christ alone, and through faith in Him be saved.” (Small Catechism) To “watch, [that is] pray” is to cry out to our Bridegroom, as His faithful bride, according to the loving promises of His Gospel and the gracious Words of His testament: “take eat, this is My body…drink of it all of you, this is My blood.”

Daily Lectionary For November 21–27, 2010
November 21 Daniel 2:1-23; Revelation 18:1-24
November 22 Daniel 2:24-49; Revelation 19:1-21
November 23 Daniel 3:1-30; Revelation 20:1-15
November 24 Daniel 4:1-37; Revelation 21:1-8
November 25 Daniel 5:1-30; Revelation 21:9-27; Daniel 7:1-8:27
November 26 Daniel 6:1-28; Revelation 22:1-21; Daniel 9:1-27
November 27 Isaiah 1:1-28; 1 Peter 1:1-12


The new church year begins by focusing on the humble coming of our Lord. “Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey.” Even as He was born in a lowly manger, so Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a beast of burden. For He bears the sin of the world. He is the Son of David riding to His enthronement on the cross, where He shows Himself to be “The Lord, our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:5–8). Our Lord still comes in great humility to deliver His righteousness to us in the Word and Sacraments. Before receiving Christ’s body and blood, we also sing, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:1–9) And as we receive the Sacrament, we set our hearts on His return in glory, for “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11–14).

Collect for Beginning of the Church Year: Eternal Lord God, our Father, who by Your grace have this day permitted us to enter a new church year, we implore You to pour upon Your church Your Holy Spirit and the wisdom that comes down from above, that Your Word, as becomes it, may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and upbuilding of Christ’s holy people, that in steadfast faith we may serve You and in the confession of Your name abide unto the end; 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: Jeremiah 23:5–8 [The Lord Our Righteousness]
Epistle: Romans 13:(8–10) 11–14 [Our salvation is nearer now]
Holy Gospel: Matthew 21:1–9 [Behold, your King is coming to you]

Sermon for November 20-21, 2010

Last Sunday of the Church Year
Matthew 25:1-13
November 20–21, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Ten virgins pure watching in the dark; ten virgins pure waiting in the flickering light; ten virgins pure surrounded by temptations, dangers in the night. Outwardly they were all clean and undefiled. Nonetheless, these handmaidens of the Lord were overcome. Their flesh was weak. They were seduced by sleep, enticed to slumber. Their eyes grew heavy and they gave up, gave in. They quit fighting. They let the night have its way with them. The oil´s light burned in vain while they satisfied their carnal wants.

And then the midnight cry! It caught them unaware, found them tucked in bed with lovers not their husbands, their virginity and their duties all forgotten. The oil was gone, wasted, frivolously spent in vain pursuits, for pleasure´s sake. For when they gave up hope of the bridegroom´s appearing they were too lazy to extinguish their lamps. What did it matter? They thought that He would not return. Then the cry and then the panic and then the begging: give us some of yours. But there was none to spare. No one can believe for another. So out went the five fools into the night seeking to buy what can only be given. They returned empty-handed, too late. The door was shut. Therefore, watch! Beware! Repent!

It is hard to stay awake these sleepy days, James and John and Peter know. We abide at the end of time. Temptation grows stronger deeper in the night. It seems so futile to keep watch. We´ve waited already all our lives and still He has not come. There are pleasures beckoning to us all around. And no one seems to care if we slip in a few winks or go off for a while, if we go and do those things that young men and middle-aged men and old men think to be their right and their necessary rites of passage. If we behave like the ancient men of Rome or of Carthage or the modern men of Chicago or San Francisco, who can blame us? We are but men. Must we really be so vigilant and suffer so all through this night of days and months and years? Can´t we just have our fun and then repent at the end?

No. We cannot. That way leads to death. Now is the hour of salvation. Even if Our Lord should continue to delay, no man knows when his last hour will come. Repent before it is too late. Repent and watch.

And for the sake of hope and confidence notice this: all ten virgins fell asleep. All ten. All ten were outwardly pure, yet all ten failed in their vigil. What made five wise and five foolish? The wise still had oil. By the grace of God, despite their weakness and self-pity, despite their arrogance and indulgence, even while in the midst of their infidelity and defilement, they never completely gave up hope. They never stopped believing that He would come. They trimmed their lamps, and whatever little oil was left, was enough. It was multiplied like the widow´s oil in Zarephath or the Maccabean warriors´ oil in the cave. Their oil was given by God. For if He desires to be greeted and ushered into the chamber by virgins pure, He must create them. By grace, by what God supplied, the five wise virgins were spared the coming wrath and saved.

So there is hope even for us. You have not defiled yourself so gravely that you cannot be cleansed. Your God has not forgotten you. He brought you here this day for a purpose: to forgive you anew, to restore your chastity and purity, to recreate you immaculate, strong in faith, undefiled, righteous and holy, and mostly wise. The world scoffs at this true wisdom but it comes from God: He is coming back.

He does all this for and to you through His Word. By the Word He creates and restores. He called you by Name through His Name in Holy Baptism. You were born in those waters from above and made alive. He speaks these saving, cleansing words in the Scriptures, in the absolution, in the preaching, in His Church. He feeds these Words made flesh to you in the Holy Supper. This that He would be met on the last day with faith and praise and rejoicing and His work outside the city gate would not be in vain. For He has not fallen asleep. He does not forget His promise. He still and always loves you and makes you again virgin pure. It is ever a new day in Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Concerning then the time and the seasons, you have no need that St. Paul should tell you. He doesn’t know them anyway, nor does even the Son of Man Himself. All you need to know, the best and surest wisdom in all of creation, is that the day is surely coming. It will come suddenly, unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. God in His great love will steal you away from the darkness, death, and chaos of this fallen world. He will pull you from your traitorous bed and trim your lamp. You will again be pure and undefiled. You are not of the darkness or of the night no matter how sleepy and lazy you might feel. You are of the day. You are of Jesus Christ.

God did not appoint you for wrath. He appointed His Son for that in your stead. For one eternal afternoon He hung in Hell for you, was forsaken of the Father, was defiled by death, and the demons danced on His grave. But they were soundly dispersed and disappointed when the tomb was opened by the angel and the guards struck dumb. The night forever ended when the Dayspring from on high rose and gave Light to men. In this way, by His death and resurrection, He appointed you to Himself. He died for you that you would live with Him.

Watch and wait. Do not be afraid. Surely the day is drawing near. Thank God for it.

In + Jesus´ Name. Amen.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Daily Readings November 14 - 20, 2010

Daily Readings November 14 - 20, 2010
November 14 Jer 29:1–19; Matt 26:36–56; Rev 14:1–20
November 15 Jer 30:1–24; Matt 26:57–75; Rev 15:1–8
November 16 Jer 31:1–17, 23–34; Matt 27:1–10; Rev 16:1–21
November 17 Jer 33:1–22; Matt 27:11–32; Jer 34:1—36:32; 45:1—51:64
November 18 Jer 37:1–21; Matt 27:33–56; Rev 17:1–18
November 19 Jer 38:1–28; Matt 27:57–66; Jer 39:1—44:30
November 20 Dan 1:1–21; Matt 28:1–20

Looking Forward to Next Sunday THE DAY OF FULFILLMENT

“The day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night” (1 Thess 5:1–11). The arrival of the bridegroom will be sudden and unexpected. Therefore you are to be watchful and ready like the five wise virgins. “For you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matt 25:1–13). The lamps are the Word of Christ. The oil in the lamps is the Holy Spirit, who works through the Word to create and sustain the flame of faith in Christ. The foolish are those who do not give proper attention to the working of the Holy Spirit in baptism, preaching, and the supper, and so their faith does not endure. The wise, however, are those who diligently attend to these gifts of the Spirit, and who therefore have an abundance of oil. The flame of faith endures to the end. By God’s grace they are received into the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, the new heavens and the new earth created by the Lord for the joy of His people (Is 65:17–25).

Collect: Absolve, we implore You, O Lord, Your people from their offenses, that from the bonds of our sins which by reason of our frailty we have brought upon us we may be delivered by Your bountiful goodness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Old Testament: Isaiah 65:17–25

Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11
Holy Gospel: Matthew 25:1–13

Second Last Sunday in the Church Year

Second Last Sunday in the Church Year
Matthew 9:18-26
November 13–14, 2010

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

What would you do if your young girl needed a heart transplant and the doctor said, “The only way I can give her a new heart is if you give up your left hand.” You wouldn't hesitate for a instant, any sacrifice, any price, any hardship would be worth it. But what if he said, “The only way I can give her a new heart is if you and the Mrs. work things out and fall back in love.” Would you try it? Would you commit with your whole being, sacrifice yourself, your ego and ambitions, your income and honor for the sake of the marriage to save your little girl's heart? More than one little girl has been killed because Daddy walked away in vanity and pride.

I am forever astounded at how bold we are in promising big things, our left hand in the case above. But we hedge on the little things. In the Confirmation vows we never flinch as we promise to suffer all, even death, rather than cease to continue steadfast in the confession of this Church. We are ready to suffer death. It is inconvenience that we are worried about. We imagine ourselves ready to be burned at the stake, but that doesn't mean we are ready to give sacrificially of our income. After all, we need satellite TV and DVDs. In the same way we are ready to confess without compromise before kings and rulers, just not in front of our friends. We are a pathetic people, bent on ourselves, weak with greed, lust, and ambition. Our priorities are right on paper, just not in our hearts. Repent. Stop the lies. Hear the Word of God.

Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, was heartbroken. His 12 year old daughter lay at the point of death. He said to Jesus: “Lay your hand on her and she will live.” And so He did and she lived. But what about us? What of our dying children, our broken families, our failing friendships and crumbling neighborhoods? What of our hurting souls? He has gone up with a shout. Can He yet lay His Hand upon us? Or are we left with nothing more than the shadow of the Word Incarnate? Has the Word made Flesh become a ghost? Is the Jesus who walked the earth and felt the nails bite into His hands now nothing more substantial than a silent thought in our brains, the fluff of the butterflies wings and the sting of a snowflake on our noses? No. He is flesh still. He is Man forever, for there are not two Christ’s, but one. He has forever united Himself to us in the skin and bones, cartilage and tendons, and blood. And all that, for us.

The Hand that laid upon Jairus's daughter and called her again to life is encased in the bread by the power of His Word. He lays His Hand upon your tongue to bring you over from death to life, to rouse your sleepy faith, to forgive your sins, and make you well. He touches you, His Body to yours. He places Himself, the Body that bore your sins and sits at the right hand of the Father, into your heart that your hungry soul would be satisfied, that you would be healed and whole.

In similar fashion, the woman who had suffered many things at the hands of the doctors while searching for relief from the 12 year old flow of blood, thought to herself: “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” She came behind Him and touched His clothes and was healed. And so it is that we too approach God from behind. In our sins we cannot bear His holiness. We touch the garment of bread that clothes the Son of God and Son of Man. He is our salvation. In that touching, that eating and drinking, that Holy Communion, the flow of blood, the years of dying, the uncleanness are removed. We now belong. For this flow of power from Him to us, this flow of His Blood that stops our bleeding, our dying, has not gone unnoticed. In fact, it was His intention all along. His Blood and His death have been substituted on our behalf.

He bled and died in our place. Now, we don't have to. For death is not natural. He did not create us to die. By Grace, we won't - ever. For no one who believes in Him, who trusts in the merits of His suffering, death, and resurrection, who rests in the mercy of the Almighty, who confesses Jesus as Lord, will ever die. Believers don't die. They fall asleep. Their souls go to heaven while their bodies wait in the grave for the resurrection and reunion to come.

Here is power for life. We live by and in Grace, forgiven and forgiving. We lay all things upon the hem of His garment. We hear His address of affection, He calls us “son, daughter. And He calls us by name, by His own Name.” So that we have the strength to carry on. His bleeding, His dying, His rising, His praying these are the things that make us Christians and declare us alive. In + Jesus' Name. Amen.