Thursday, February 28, 2008

Daily Readings for March 3 - 8

Deuteronomy 9:1-29
Luke 23:26-56

Deuteronomy 10:1-22
Matthew 26:1-35

Deuteronomy 11:1-32
Matthew 26:36-75

Deuteronomy 28:1-14
Matthew 27:1-38

Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Matthew 27:39-66

Hebrews 9:11–15
John 8:42–59

Small Catechism for Memorizing - Laetare (March 2)

Lord’s Prayer: The Seventh Petition
But deliver us from evil.

What does this mean? We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.

Bible Verse for Memorizing - Laetare (March 2)

“This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:29)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Looking Forward: Sundays and Holy Days in March

Taken from the March issue of Tidings, the parish newsletter of Immanuel.

Looking Forward: Sundays and Holy Days in March

March 2: Laetare - The Fourth Sunday in Lent takes its name, Laetare, from the first word of the Introit in Latin: "Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her." As we draw closer to the awe-full deeds of salvation wrought by our Lord, we Christians—citizens of "the Jerusalem above" (Epistle, Gal. 4.26)—even at this solemn time rejoice at the Savior's work. During the season of fasting (Lent), our weakness has been exposed. We have stumbled. Fallen. So like that "great multitude" (Gospel, John 6.2) of old, we look to Jesus, who alone can feed us with the Bread of Life.

March 9: Judica - "Judge me (Judica me), O God," "Vindicate me ... and defend my cause against an ungodly people" (Introit). On this day, the "Sunday of the Passion," we speak words which we dare not utter regarding ourselves. If God should judge us, we would be damned. There is only One whose work needed vindication—Jesus, whose death was unjust, yet atoned for all our injustices (sins). Beginning with this Sunday, the crosses are veiled and the Gloria Patri disappears from the liturgy. We are on the final portion of the journey to the cross, and the signs of our joy are hidden from our eyes and ears, as we see how blind and deaf sin has made us.

March 16:
Palmarum - The Palm Sunday Divine Service begins outside, hearing the Gospel of Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. The mood of the liturgy abruptly shifts, as we hear the entire Passion according to St. Matthew. There, we hear that the crowd which lauded Jesus on Sunday as a conquering king called for His blood on Friday. Having sung our "hosannas" to Jesus, will we likewise betray Him? Holy Week has begun.

March 20: Holy Thursday - Sometimes called "Maundy Thursday" (probably from the Latin mandatum, "commandment," based on the words of Jesus in today's Gospel, John 13: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another"), this Divine Service focuses on the Sacrament of the Altar, which Jesus instituted "on the night when He was betrayed." The service concludes with the Stripping of the Altar, in preparation for the solemn observance of Good Friday.

March 21: Good Friday - One cannot understand Easter without this day. Not a "funeral for Jesus," this Divine Service features a series of "Reproaches," as we hear that it was our disobedience and unfaithfulness that necessitated Christ's suffering. The Passion of St. John is read, and the body and blood of Jesus is distributed, for on this day, of all days, it is meet and right that we receive the benefit of the cross: communion with Jesus, the forgiveness of our sins.

March 22: The Great Vigil of Easter - A service unlike any other in the entire year, the liturgy begins with the blessing of the Paschal Candle and a journey into the darkened church. Our Lord, who spent this great Sabbath in a darkened tomb, awoke "very early in the morning on the first day of the week." Awaiting the celebration of His joyous resurrection, we hear again the narrative of salvation history - Creation, flood, deliverance from Pharoah's bondage, the valley of the dry bones - all leading up to our Lord Jesus, who fulfilled everything for us. In this liturgy we make special remembrance of our Baptism, and hear the first Gospel of Easter. Christ is risen!

March 23: The Resurrection of Our Lord - This day is the Feast of Feasts, and no adornment is out of place: the chanting of the Creed, a sequence hymn ("Christians, to the Paschal Victim, offer your thankful praises..."). Christ is risen, death's sting is removed, sin is forgiven, the devil is routed. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!

March 30: Quasimodo Geniti - The funniest of all the funny Latin names, Quasimodo Geniti is the Latin beginning to the Introit, from 1 Peter: "Like new-born babes, desire the pure milk of the Word." By baptism into Jesus' death and resurrection, we are newly-born. Through drinking in the Word, we will grow as God's children. Today's Gospel recounts the events of Easter evening and the following Sunday, when Jesus appeared to the Disciples and showed His wounds to unbelieving Thomas.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Daily Readings for February 25 - March 1

Luke 11:14-28
Luke 18:15-30

Matthew 21:1-17
Luke 19:1-40

Matthew 26:2-16
Luke 20:1—21:4

Matthew 26:17-35
Luke 21:37—22:38

Matthew 26:36-56
Luke 22:39-71

Galatians 4:21–31
John 6:1–15

Small Catechism for Memorizing - Oculi (February 24)

Lord’s Prayer: The Sixth Petition
And lead us not into temptation.

What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.

Bible Verse for Memorizing - Oculi (February 24)

“Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” (Luke 11:28)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Daily Readings for February 18 - 23

Matthew 15:21-28
Luke 13:1-17

Genesis 44:18—45:3
Luke 14:25-35

Genesis 45:4-28
Luke 15:11-32

Genesis 46:1-27
Luke 16:10-18

Genesis 46:28—47:12
Luke 17:1-10

Ephesians 5:1–9
Luke 11:14–28

Small Catechism for Memorizing - Reminiscere (February 17)

Lord’s Prayer: The Fifth Petition
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

What does this mean? We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.

Bible Verse for Memorizing - Reminiscere (February 17)

“God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Daily Readings for February 11 - 16

Matthew 4:1-11
Luke 9:28-62

Genesis 42:1-24
Luke 10:1-22

Genesis 42:25-38
Luke 10:38—11:13

Genesis 43:1-34
Luke 11:29-36

Genesis 44:1-17
Luke 11:37-54

1 Thessalonians 4:1–7
Matthew 15:21–28

Small Catechism for Memorizing - Invocabit (February 10)

Lord’s Prayer: The Fourth Petition
Give us this day our daily bread.

What does this mean? God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

Bible Verse for Memorizing - Invocabit (February 10)

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Guidance on Fasting

After my counsel after Divine Service regarding fasting on Ash Wednesday, several parishioners asked me for more details and guidance. I have some printed materials from previous years at church that I can (and will, when I get time) distribute, but for now I commend for your consideration Pastor William Weedon's little article on fasting. (Pastor Weedon is a minister in my former district, Southern Illinois, and his blog is well worth reading.)

Auf Deutsch, Lent is Fastenzeit. Fasting-time. And the readings for Ash Wednesday invite us to this discipline as part of our "return," our repentance.

But how does one fast? As Lutheran Christians we know that there can be no laws about HOW to fast in the Church for the simple reason that neither our Lord nor the Holy Apostles have given us any. There have always been divergent practices on fasting in the Church. Not without reason did St. Irenaeus confess "differences in fasting do not destroy the unity of faith."

Further, we know that fasting is not pleasing to God when it is offered in any way as a propitiation for sin; then, in fact, it becomes an abomination. There is but one propitiation for the sin of the world and that was offered once and for all by the Lamb of God upon the cross.

So why should we fast? We have to think no further than our Catechism: fasting is "a fine outward training." Now, that was spoken in regard to the Eucharistic fast, but it applies to fasting as a whole. On Septuagesima we heard St. Paul speak of how he disciplined his body, kept it under control, lest he end up being "disqualified" after preaching to others.

Well, if we can admit that fasting is a "fine outward training" the question still arises of what to do?

Many people confuse fasting and abstinence. To fast is to be hungry; to abstain is forego certain kinds of food. The traditional fast of the Western Church was 1/4 meal for breakfast and lunch, with a simple dinner. In other words, for breakfast maybe half a slice of toast, for lunch an orange. Then a regular dinner - but nothing fancy. Something like that was observed throughout the days of Lent. Further, Western Christians have traditionally abstained from meat and wine on the Fridays (and sometimes the Saturdays, and some would say the Wednesdays - all depend on whom you ask) of Lent.

Now, fasting was never meant to live by itself. It is joined to the other two Lenten disciplines: almsgiving and prayer. An increased giving to the poor and an increased time of prayer can go hand in hand with fasting: by not eating so much, you actually have more money to give to others who have less than you, and by not fixing elaborate meals, you also have more time to spend in the Word and prayer. Further, by going hungry each day you experience solidarity with those many members of the human race who also go hungry each day. Above all, we teach ourselves that the hunger behind all hungers is the hunger for God Himself.

In the freedom of the Gospel, we can discipline our wayward flesh by not letting it dictate to us what and when to eat. Give it some thought and prayer and then rejoice in the truth that "man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Wishing one and all a joyful time of renewal during the upcoming Fastenzeit!
(Click here to see the article on its original page.)

Sermon for Children and Adults on Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday Matins
Jonah 3.1-10
February 6, 2008

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent is the time of the year when we remember Jesus' sufferings for us, and we focus again on the importance of being repentant, that is, of being sorry for our sins and asking God to forgive us and help us be better.

The day is called Ash Wednesday for a reason; putting ashes on our heads is an old custom. What's it mean?

Ashes are what's left over after something has been burned, destroyed. It reminds us that our own bodies will one day return to the earth, the same earth out of which God made the first man, Adam. Ashes remind us that we sinners must die. As God said to Adam, "Dust you are, and to dust you shall return." At a funeral, the pastor says when the body is put into the ground, "Ashes to ashes and dust to dust."

But the ashes aren't just smudged on our foreheads in any old way. They go in the shape of the cross. So even the ashes remind us that the God-Man who died on the cross, Jesus, conquered death, and will raise up our bodies from the grave.

All this was part of the message Jonah was sent to preach to a very bad city called Ninevah. You might know that before Jonah gets to Ninevah, he had quite an adventure.

You see, God had commanded Jonah to go to Ninevah and call them to repent--confess their sins and ask God for forgiveness, changing their sinful way of living. Now Ninevah was a horrible city, filled with drunkenness, gambling, prostitution, and false worship. No Christian would want to go to a place like that.

Jonah's not so excited either. What's going to happen if he goes and tells them to repent? The people probably won't like it too much. It would be like going to a football game and cheering for the visiting team instead of the hometown favorites. Only a lot worse. If Jonah goes to Ninevah and tells them, "You aren't following God's Word, and He is going to punish you," the people might just laugh at him, spit on him - or even kill him!

So Jonah says, "No thanks! I'm not going there. I think I'll take a cruise instead." So he hops on a ship sailing in the other direction. He thinks God won't find him. Hah! You cannot hide from God. God causes a mighty wind to blow, and when the ship is about to sink, Jonah realizes that this whole thing is God's judgment on him. He tells the sailors, "Throw me overboard!"

They do, but then a giant sea creature swallows Jonah, but instead of chewing Jonah up, swallows him whole. Jonah lives in the belly of that giant sea creature for three days, and then, the creature vomits him out onto the land.

"Now, Jonah," says the Lord, "shall we try this again?" So Jonah goes to Ninevah and amazingly, the people listen! And that's where the Bible reading that we heard today picks up. The people repent, and even the king sits in ashes to show how sorry he is for his sins. And then the best part: God forgives them.

You see, that's what God does. He loves. He forgives.

This whole story--which is a true story--is telling us what's going to happen at the end of Lent. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days, so Jesus will be in the belly of the earth (that is, in the tomb) for three days. And because Jesus rose again just like Jonah was spit up onto dry ground, we too can be repentant, be baptized, and have our sins forgiven. And what happens then? Even though we die and turn to dust and ashes, we won't stay that way forever. God will raise the faithful up on the last day, and we will live forever in His kingdom.

That's why we celebrate Lent - to help us prepare for the true Easter to come - the day when Jesus will return and raise us up from the grave.

So today you're going to go around and see people with ashen crosses on their foreheads. You might be tempted to think it's a game. Or worry about how you look. Or worry about it itching, or getting something dirty. This is no game. Remember, O man, remember, boy, remember, girl, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Look at the ashes all day today, and remember that you are going to die. But look at the ashes in the shape of a cross, and rejoice and be glad that Jesus died for you, and just as He is risen from the dead, so will you too. Rejoice and be glad, even this Ash Wednesday! +INJ+

Ash Wednesday

Blow the trumpet in Zion,

Consecrate a fast,

Call a sacred assembly;

Gather the people,

Sanctify the congregation.…

Let the priests, who minister to the LORD,

Weep between the porch and the altar;

Let them say, "Spare Your people, O LORD,

And do not give Your heritage to reproach."

-Joel 2.15, 16a, 17

Tomorrow, February 6, 2008, is an important day in the life of the Church, and in your life. Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, opens the time of fasting and penitential discipline. All communicants are urged to undertake a fast, abstaining from meat and alcohol, and eating no food in the hours before Divine Service at Immanuel on Wednesday evening (7:30 p.m.). Preceding this solemn service will be the imposition of ashes at the rear of the nave - please arrive a few minutes before the service if you wish to receive this ancient token of mourning and repentance. The day of fasting culminates with our Lord's holy Supper – the true Food which we are training ourselves to desire.

I recently posted an excerpt from St. John Chrysostom on what I found to be an excellent summary of the real purpose of fasting; you can view it by clicking here.

A Prayer for Ash Wednesday

Almighty and everlasting God, who hates nothing that You have made and who forgives the sins of all those who are penitent, create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of You, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.