Praise

What exactly is praise? Most believers have an idea of what it means to praise God, It is singing, and shouting, and giving thanks to our Lord for all the good He gives and does for us.

It also seems to me that over the years the meaning and practice of praise has strayed from what we are given in the book of Psalms. Praise is an emotive thing, and emotional cry to God, seeking an emotional response from Him. While most certainly ties to our emotions, this view of praise cute out the richness of what God’s Word teaches us about it.

First, the foundational truth of the Christian church is that the Gospel Word of salvation in Jesus, the good news that for you Jesus gave Himself to die, that in Him you may have forgiveness of sins. Thus all the grace and blessing of God flow from Jesus and His Word, and go out to all people. Nothing can separate you from the gift of Christ Jesus. No one is excluded from receiving this gift by faith in Him.

This truth unites all people, the true God of light and life has come, and in Him is our hope of salvation. Out light in the midst of darkness. Our life in the midst of death. Praise then is the result of the saving work of Jesus for you.

Praise then begins with God’s work for you, not with your feelings toward God. Jesus called you His own child in Baptism, turning a rebellious sinner into a beloved child. And when your life went off the track, and you found yourself doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason, Jesus, by His Word called you to repent, and return to Him. All of these wondrous works of the Lord are worthy of praise.

Praise then is our response of faith and gratitude to the God of our salvation.

It is noteworthy that the first miraculous sign recorded by St. John, by which Jesus shows His glory is at a wedding. A wedding is a place and time of praise, for God has joined tow people, a man and a woman together, and has blessed them. This gives to us an earthly picture of Jesus and the church. The heavenly bridegroom soon will come, and we, His church will with praise and joy enter with Him into the eternal marriage feast.

Advertisements

Members One of Another

Romans 12:1-5

A common analogy found in the New Testament in answering the question, “What is the church?” is the human body. The human body is made up of many different parts, all designed to work together toward the same goal, the building up of the body, that it may function together in harmony. Each member, each part belongs to the same whole.

It is in this way that we are challenged to look at the church. Each individual member belongs one to the other. The challenge for us is that, in the culture in which we live, the individual is elevated above all others. You, as an individual are taught to see yourself as important, the most important in fact. This is clearly seen in our sports heroes. When a touchdown is made, the player who crossed the line draws attention to themselves, as though they are the greatest, while the linemen simple run back to the sideline. This desire for attention infects us all, and so it also infects how we view and treat one another in the Holy Christian church. We have a hard time knowing that, as the people saved by the gift of grace found in Jesus Christ, we are a part of a whole, each called to serve one another.

Therefore the proper response to this Gospel, that Jesus saves us from death and darkness is to offer ourselves as living sacrifices in service to God’s kingdom. Empowered by the forgiveness we have in Christ, each of us are given individual gifts, unique to who we are. As the baptized people of God, we use our gifts in service to one another, as we work toward the same goal, the spread of God’s kingdom by the proclamation of His Word, and the administration of the sacraments.

Your abilities are not given by God for you alone, but that you may bless your brothers and sisters in Christ. We belong to each other. What one person needs, another is called to share. Each of us, working together in the unity of the Spirit of God.

This also means that when one part is missing, when one person is missing, we all together feel this loss. (Like my own body feels the loss of one kidney) Each person is here because God has called you to join together with us, to receive His gifts, and work together in love.

Merry Christmas

While for many, the story of Christmas, with angels, shepherds, miraculous stars, Wise men, and of course the impossible, a Virgin mother seems too good to be true, each year many return to the scene. Perhaps they enjoy fairy tales, they tell themselves. Maybe they wish for it to be true. Maybe, they long for what it all really means.

This, the grand story of our Lord Jesus birth is more than a fairy tale, even as it contains all the action and romance of a great story. From this true story of Jesus comes the seed of all great stories. Tales of self-sacrifice for the one you love. The giving of the hero to danger and death in order to defeat the great enemy.

God, in the course of time, when Quirinius was governor of Syria, makes Himself known in human history, top redeem the story began when the devil convinced Adam and Eve to listen, not to the everlasting Word of God, but to the siren song of temptation. God, in the form of a baby boy makes Himself one with us. This is no mere fairytale, it is the truth!

The truth of the love of our creator, who would not leave us to the darkness of this world, or the darkness of our own souls, but sent Jesus to be our light. “Pleased as man, with men to dwell, “Jesus has come, and brings pleasures eternal.” “Born to raise the sons of earth,” by baptism into His blessed name, “Born to give them second birth.”

As time went on, about 33 years, another point on the calendar came. Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and the Savior had come to His own, but His own didn’t know Him. Turned over into the hands of sinners, Jesus suffered death on a cross, that all who, by faith look up and see, from the manger, to the grave A Savior would have hope. Hope that the sorrow of this life has purpose in the cross of Jesus. Hope, that God with us has saved us, and is giving to us eternal life in His Name.

The hope of humanity is in the coming of the Son of God, born of His virgin mother. So small, so fragile is our salvation that as an infant He snuggles to His mother’s breast, and as a man he hangs on the cross and dies. In Christ Jesus we see the love of God come down which brings victory over the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. “Joy to the world,” for “Christ the Savior is born.”

Looking for Another

335px-Luther-Predigt-LC-WB

When the reality of earthly death hits home, and it appears as though your earthly departure is close, this tends to sober you, and forces you to face many of the skeletons and unresolved tensions in life. For John, the prospect of his execution caused him to seek comfort in the Word of God. He who appeared as a voice crying out in the wilderness to make way for the coming Lord, who stood in the waters of the river Jordan and pointed to Jesus, saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God who take away the sin of the world needed comfort in the face of death.

We all do. Whether it is the simple fact that all of us will die, or the news of a deadly illness, our souls cry out for comfort in the midst of uncertainty. The devil is also hard at work, sowing seeds of doubt and distracting us from the Words of life.

Our Lord Jesus, in response to John’s question (Matthew 11) points us to the Word found in the pages of the Bible. In His ministry, Jesus fulfilled what the prophets said would be. Jesus, who is God in human flesh and blood goes about His work of taking away the sin of the world. Where sin is taken away, so the effects are also removed. The blind see in the light of the Gospel of hope and life. The lame and the ill are healed by the blood shed on the cross, so that earthly death is nothing less than the gate to life eternal. The deaf, those who do not trust the Word, receive the Holy Spirit, that they may both hear, and trust that Jesus is the Savior.

The poor – that is, all who stand before God with nothing but the broken promises of good intentions, wounded in our failure to love, hear the Word of peace preached in the absolution. For the sake of Jesus, sins are forgiven. Your Lord takes your brokenness, and in its place, He makes you whole. All these wonderful good news truth found in the preaching of God’s Word.

While the blessings of creation, such as the fruits of the harvest, a faithful family, and good governments are certainly favors from God, undeserved, yet given in love, the full blessing of our Lord is that He, in mercy covers our sin. This covering we received in Baptism, and by the grace of the Word made flesh, will last unto eternity.

Nothing New

Solomon, reflecting on a life lived in pursuit of wisdom, and squandered in the vain chasing of fleshly pleasure wrote in Ecclesiastes that there “Is nothing new under the sun.” There is no sin, or vice that is new. No hurt that one human can inflect upon another that hasn’t been done before. The aging king writes this in repentance for a life that was mostly wasted in running away from God and His Word.

This serves as a good remainder for us this Advent. No matter what sin we may have committed, what hurt we may have inflicted on another, or what sorrow we have endured at the hands of others, what hurts others have given us, it is not new, therefore God knows all about it. In knowing this then, we come with confidence to our knees in repentance. This confidence comes from Jesus, whose Word clearly promises full forgiveness and life for all who come to Him, for all who wait for His gifts and coming. Nothing you have done can keep you from the forgiving love of Christ Jesus our Savior.

As there is nothing new under the sun, then we can expect there to be signs of the change in seasons. This is certainly true when it comes to the seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall. Each is marked by clear signs that a change has come in the weather, and to nature.

The same is true of the change coming on the earth as we near the end of all things. To the world, the signs are of dread. Climate change alarmists spread fear and doubt in proclaiming that the end is near. If the earth dies, then we have no hope – all the while forgetting or ignoring that He who made the heavens and the earth with His word controls even the wind and waves. Even more absurd was what some politicians in Washington DC said about a tax bill. A tax reform bill would bring about the end, doom and gloom.

For we who are baptized into the mighty name of God, these signs of the end are not doom and gloom. Rather, they are signs of the coming consummation, as a hymn writer puts it, of life forever in the new heavens and the new earth. Therefore, Jesus urges us to pay attention to these sign, for they mark He is near. They encourage us to finish the race with faith and hope.

Skipping Advent

The season of Advent is upon us, but judging from what we see and hear you wouldn’t necessary know it. It seems to me, that this year we skipped from Halloween in October to Christmas, even forgetting thanksgiving as stores rushed to get Christmas on the shelves.

Our Christian forefathers and mothers were wise in passing down to us this short four Sunday season of personal reflection and repentance before the celebration of the birth of Christ begins. In this way, we can slow down, and listen. Listen to God’s Word, which by His law exposes us for who we are, sinners in need of mercy.  We can listen to one another, sharing in the trials and joys of life, loving one another, even as Christ loves us.

Most importantly, we can listen to the news of Jesus. His love for you in becoming a human being. His joy at carrying you sin, and death on His shoulders, His mercy to you, as He hung on the cross, bleeding to save you.

Advent means come. In this season leading up to the festival of light, let us reflect on the truth, that as each new day comes and goes, we find ourselves coming closer to the day of the Lord, the day when our Savior shall return.

The coming of Jesus is a time of great celebration for we who are of the faithful, for it marks the return of the one we love. Reunions are almost always a joyful event, how much more so when Jesus returns to being us home. On that day there shall be no more suffering or evil, for the coming of Jesus will be the end of all that is wrong, and the beginning of all that is good, and right, and true.

The first Sunday in Advent is named Ad Te Levavi taken from the Latin phrase that begins Psalm 25, which serves as the introit. “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul”

This is a prayer of faith, knowing that it is in the Lord Jesus alone that we find comfort, hope and peace. It is a plea for mercy in the face of the world’s hatred of Jesus, His Word and His followers. We begin advent with a Word of grace, looking to Jesus for all grace and mercy.

Virtue or Vice

For thousands of years, the Christian church has recognized and sought to teach what are called the seven virtues. The first four are known as the classic, or cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and courage. Christians have combined these with the Biblical virtues of faith, hope, and charity (love) taken from 1 Corinthians 13. These seven form a foundation for the baptized to live lives of virtue grounded in the wisdom we have from God in His word.

The trouble is, the culture in which we live now values not virtue, but vice. Greed is celebrated widely as we are taught personal fulfillment and happiness born of individual desire is good. We are told to bow to the feelings of others, regardless if those feelings are good, and right, and truly loving.

Lust is celebrated daily on the air, and in our eyes on screens as personal gratification has overtaken the value of the giving of the self for the sake of others. Even as Hollywood deals with what is a terrible, and long standing scandal and pattern of abuse, they show their devotion to lust. This is due to pride that says the individual, driven by personal desire, cannot do wrong.

Gluttony is rampant as we are taught to covet more and more, leaving poor souls discontent with the gifts of God’s gracious provision. This leads to envy, as we look not with rejoicing at what our neighbor has been blessed with. This leads us to wrath, an irrational anger born of not getting what the human flesh believes it deserves.

It is in the face of the messed up values and priorities of this world that we are encouraged by the Word of Wisdom to seek the higher, better things from God.

True wisdom is a gift from above, and is distinct from knowledge. Knowledge is knowing things, and in terms of knowledge, we live in an age of a great proliferation of knowledge, both true and untrue. Wisdom from God is grounded in the reality of creation, born of faith in God, and fed by His Word. Wisdom leads to virtue, and the Holy Spirit leads us by the Word of Christ, to live lives of integrity and love. God grant us the courage to live and teach his virtues by the Wisdom He provides.