First Sunday in Advent (Ad Te Levavi)
Jeremiah 23:5-8; Ps. 26:1-12; Romans 13:8-10, 11-14; Matthew 21:1-9
The Lord Jesus Comes in Humility to Redeem Us
The new Church Year begins by focusing on the humble coming of our Lord. “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey” (Matt. 21:5). 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 is our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:5-6). 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!” (Matt. 21:9) And as we receive the Sacrament, we set our hearts on His return in glory, for “our salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Rom. 13:11).
Second Sunday in Advent (Populus Zion)
Malachi 4:1-6; Ps. 50:1-15; Romans 15:4-13; Luke 21:25-36
The Lord Comes on the Last Day
The day on which our Lord returns will be a “great and awesome day” (Mal. 4:5). For He will come in a cloud with great power and glory. To the wicked and the proud, it will be a Day of judgment that will “set them ablaze” (Mal. 4:1). The signs preceding this Day will bring them fear and fainting. But to those who believe, who fear the name of the Lord, this Day is one to look forward to and rejoice in: “. . . straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). Christ our Redeemer is coming; the Sun of Righteousness will bring healing in His wings. Let us, then, give attention to the words of the Lord, which do not pass away. Let us “through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures” (Rom. 15:4) be strengthened in our hope by the Holy Spirit and watch diligently for Jesus’ coming. Then, by God’s grace, we shall escape all these things that will come to pass and stand before the Son of Man.
Third Sunday in Advent (Gaudete)
Isaiah 40:1-8, 9-11; Ps. 85:1-13; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 11:2-10, 11
John the Baptizer Prepares the Way for the Lord
The voice of the Baptizer cried out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord . . .” (Isa. 40:1). John called the people to be made ready for the Messiah’s coming through repentance, for “all flesh is grass” (Isa. 40:6). Now He asks from prison, “Are you the one who is to come . . .?” (Matt. 11:2). Jesus’ works bear witness that He is. The sick are made well; the dead are raised, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. Their iniquity is pardoned; they have received from the Lord’s hand double forgiveness for all their sins. The “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1) still deliver Christ’s overflowing forgiveness to the poor in spirit, comforting God’s people with the word of the Gospel which stands forever. This Gospel produces rejoicing among all those who believe.
Fourth Sunday in Advent (Rorate Coeli)
Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Ps. 111:1-10; Philippians 4:4-7; John 1:19-28 or Luke 1:39-56
John the Baptizer Points Everyone to the Messiah
The coming of God in all His unveiled power at Mount Sinai was terrifying to the people of Israel. The thundering voice of the Lord puts sinners in fear of death (Deut. 18:15-19). God, therefore, raised up a prophet like Moses-the Messiah, the Christ. God came to His people veiled in human flesh. The skies poured down the Righteous One from heaven; the earth opened her womb and brought forth Salvation (Introit) through the blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of the Lord (Luke 1:39-56). The fruit of her womb is the very Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the One whose sandal strap John was not worthy to loose (John 1:19-28). In Jesus we are delivered from fear and anxiety. In Him alone we have the peace of God which surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:4-7).
Isaiah 7:10-14; Ps. 110:1-4; 1 John 4:7-16; Matthew 1:18-25
The Word of the Lord Is Fulfilled in the Flesh of Jesus
Though Ahaz would not ask, the Lord gives a sign to the house of David, that “the Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Is. 7:14). With this promise, He signifies that salvation is by His grace alone; it is no work or achievement of man, but the Lord’s own work and free gift. The promise is fulfilled as the Son of God is conceived and born of the Virgin Mary, and the sign is received in faith by the house of David in the person of Joseph (Matt. 1:20-24). “Incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary” (Nicene Creed), God is with us (Immanuel) in the flesh of Jesus, Mary’s Son. Joseph believes that Word of God and so demonstrates a marvelous example in his immediate and quiet obedience, taking Mary to be his wife and caring for her in faith and love. He loves her because the love of God is manifest in this, that “the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world,” “to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).
Isaiah 9:2-7; Ps. 96:1-13; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14, 15-20
The Light of Christ Shines Forth in the Darkness
Heaven and earth rejoice on this night because the glory of the Triune God is manifested in the human birth of “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). In Him, the Father’s grace, mercy and peace rest upon the world. The silence of death is broken by this “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). And all we who have gone astray like lost and wandering sheep, who have “walked in the darkness” of doubt and fear and sinful unbelief, behold “a great light” in the nativity of Christ (Is. 9:2). In Him “the grace of God has appeared” (Titus 2:11). For this Child of Mary who is born for us, this dear Son of God who is given to us, will bear the burden of our sin and death in His own body on the cross. He thereby establishes a government of peace, “with justice and with righteousness,” which shall have no end; not by any work of man, but “the zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Is. 9:7).
Micah 5:2-5a; Ps. 80:1-7; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:1-14, 15-20
The Birth of the Good Shepherd Is Proclaimed to the Shepherds
The first ones to visit the infant Lord Jesus are lowly shepherds (Luke 2:15-20), for Christ came that the last may be first and that the humble may be exalted. Furthermore, Jesus Himself came to be a shepherd, the Good Shepherd who would lay down His life for the sheep. “He shall stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord” (Micah 5:2-5). The babe in the manger whom the shepherds worship is He “whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” For in Christ Jesus, conceived and born of Mary, “the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared” (Titus 3:4). Like Mary, let us keep and ponder in our hearts these things that God has revealed to us through His Word. And like the shepherds, let us glorify and praise God for all the things we have heard and seen in Christ His Son.
Exodus 40:17-21, 34-38; Ps. 2:1-12; Titus 3:4-7; John 1:1-14, 15-18
The Living and Life-Giving Word of God Dwells among Us in the Flesh
In the beginning God created all things through His Word, His Son. But man fell into sin, and with man all creation was cursed. Therefore, God spoke His Word again, this time into the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary. The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle of our human nature (Ex. 40:17-21, 34-38). “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-14). The Son of God took on our flesh and blood and died on the cross in order that we might receive the right to become the children of God through faith. Baptized into Christ’s body, we are made partakers of a new Genesis, “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-7). In Christ, the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man has truly appeared.
First Sunday after Christmas
Isaiah 11:1-5; Ps. 89:1-8; Galatians 4:1-7; Luke 2:22-32, 33-40
The Seed of David Comes to His Temple
A Rod has come forth from the stem of Jesse (Is. 11:1-5)-the Seed of David whose kingdom shall be established forever (2 Sam. 7:1-16). In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son Jesus to redeem us from the judgment of the Law (Gal. 4:1-7). Now He is presented in the temple in fulfillment of the Law and revealed to be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:22-40). Christ has enlightened us in baptism, giving us to be adopted as sons of God and heirs of eternal life. Receiving the Holy Sacrament of His body and blood, we are prepared to depart this world in peace, for our eyes have seen the salvation of God in Him.
St. John, Apostle and Evangelist
(27 December 2020)
Revelation 1:1-6; Ps. 11:1-7; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 21:20-25
St. John, Apostle and Evangelist
St. John the Evangelist put Christmas in one verse: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Not martyred but still a witness, John was exiled to Patmos and died an old man, according to tradition. He bore witness “to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw” (Rev. 1:2). Above all, he was an eyewitness of Christ who proclaims to us what he saw and heard concerning the “word of life” that was “made manifest” (1 John 1:1-3). “And we know that his testimony is true” (John 21:24). The readings today include John’s testimony of Christ’s atoning death and His third resurrection appearance (John 21:14). On the third day of Christmas, we find joy and gladness with John and all the apostles that “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,” who is “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).
New Year’s Eve
(31 December 2020)
Isaiah 30:8-14, 15-17; Ps. 90:1-12; Romans 8:31b-39; Luke 12:35-40
The Lord Comes by Way of the Cross to Serve Us at His Table in Peace
When we despise the Lord’s Word “and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them” (Is. 30:12), we face catastrophe. Our idolatry “is smashed so ruthlessly” (Is. 30:14), so that we are called to repentance. The Lord calls us by the cross, “like a signal on a hill” (Is. 30:17), to return to Him and rest in His salvation. For “he who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” graciously provides us with all good things in Him (Rom. 8:32). Since “Christ Jesus is the one who died,” who is risen from the dead and seated at God’s right hand, “interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34), “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37). It is in that hope that we live “like men who are waiting for their master” (Luke 12:36). He daily awakens us by His preaching of repentance, raises us by His Word of forgiveness and keeps our lamps burning by the grace of His Gospel. He comes to us by way of the cross, in order to bless us and serve us at His table in peace.
Circumcision and Name of Jesus (New Year’s Day)
(1 January 2021)
Numbers 6:22-27; Ps. 8:1-9; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 2:21
The Lord Jesus Comes in the Flesh to Fulfill the Law for Us and Save Us from Our Sins
Circumcision is the covenant God made with Abraham and his seed. It sealed God’s promises and blessings in the flesh, but also signified the burden of the Law. When the Lord Jesus came in the flesh to redeem His people, He subjected Himself to the Law, in order to fulfill the Law and release all men from its captivity. “He was called Jesus” (Luke 2:21) because He came to save His people from their sins. He would shed His blood on their behalf, as He did already when “he was circumcised” (Luke 2:21). As He also sacrificed Himself upon the cross, you are “justified by faith” in His blood (Gal. 3:24). Therefore, “you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29), not by the circumcision of your flesh, but in the flesh and blood of Christ Jesus, the true seed of Abraham. “Baptized into Christ,” you belong to Him and are clothed and covered by His righteousness (Gal. 3:27). Holy Baptism is the true circumcision made without hands, by which the Lord Jesus puts His name on you and blesses you (Num. 6:22, 27).
Second Sunday after Christmas
Genesis 46:1-7; Ps. 77:11-20; 1 Peter 4:12-19; Matthew 2:13-23
Jesus Is the Perfect Israel
Israel and all his family went and dwelt in Egypt (Gen. 46:1-7). God made a great nation of him there, but that nation would prove unfaithful to the Lord. Therefore, the New Israel came. In fleeing the murderous Herod, our young Lord goes to Egypt (Matt. 2:13-23), that the prophecy might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my Son” (Hos. 11:1). Jesus brings to perfection what old Israel could not. He is the faithful Israel, the embodiment of the people of God. He offers His perfect and holy life in place of our own. He submits Himself to persecution and suffering in order to save us. Therefore, we should not think it strange when we who are in Christ experience trials because of the faith (1 Pet. 4:12-19). Rather, we rejoice to share in Christ’s sufferings, knowing that we will also share in His glory.
Epiphany of Our Lord (January 6)
Isaiah 60:1-6; Ps. 24:1-10; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12
The Lord God Is Manifested in the Incarnate Son
The Feast of the Epiphany centers in the visit of the Magi from the East. In that respect, it is a “Thirteenth Day” of Christmas; and yet, it also marks the beginning of a new liturgical season. While Christmas has focused on the Incarnation of our Lord-that is, on God becoming flesh-the season of Epiphany emphasizes the manifestation or self-revelation of God in that same flesh of Christ. For the Lord Himself has entered our darkness and rises upon us with the brightness of His true light (Is. 60:1-2). He does so chiefly by His Word of the Gospel, which He causes to be preached within His Church on earth-not only to the Jews but also to Gentiles (Eph. 3:8-10). As the Magi were guided by the promises of Holy Scripture to find and worship the Christ Child with His mother in the house (Matt. 2:5-11), so does He call disciples from all nations by the preaching of His Word, to find and worship Him within His Church (Is. 60:3-6). With gold they confess His royalty; with incense, His deity; and with myrrh, His priestly sacrifice (Matt. 2:11).
The First Sunday after the Epiphany
1 Kings 8:6-13; Ps. 50:1-15; Romans 12:1-5; Luke 2:41-52
The Glory of the Lord Returns to the Temple in the Boy Jesus
In the days of Solomon, the Lord dwelt among His people in the temple. The glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord in the form of a cloud (1 Kings 8:6-13). Now Jesus, who is the glory of the Lord in the flesh, enters the temple to show that He Himself is the everlasting temple and dwelling place of God (Luke 2:41-52). Our young Lord, true man, subject to Mary and Joseph, reveals Himself also to be true God, whose father is not Joseph but the Almighty Father in heaven. Jesus does this at the time of the Passover. For He came to be the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Even as He was found by His parents after three days, so He would later rise from the dead on the third day that the favor of God might rest also upon us. It is by these mercies of God that we present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God through Christ (Rom. 12:1-5).
Baptism of Our Lord
Joshua 3:1-3, 7-8, 13-17 or Isaiah 42:1-7; Ps. 85:1-13; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Matthew 3:13-17
In His Baptism, Jesus Takes His Place with Sinners
Our Lord Jesus is baptized “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:13-17). He partakes of a baptism for sinners in order that He might be our substitute and bear the judgment we deserve. In the water, Jesus trades places with us. Our sin becomes His sin. His righteousness becomes our righteousness. Our glory, therefore, is in “Christ Jesus, who became to us . . . righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:26-31). Jesus is the “chosen” One sent from the Father to release us from the prison house of sin and death (Is. 42:1-7). Baptized into Christ, we also become the chosen ones, beloved of the Father. We cross the Jordan with Jesus (Joshua 3) through death into the promised land of new life with God.
Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Exodus 33:12-23 or Amos 9:11-15; Ps. 67:1-7 or 111:1-10; Ephesians 5:22-33 or Romans 12:6-16; John 2:1-11
Jesus’ First Miracle Reveals God’s Glory
The coming of the Messianic kingdom means the restoration of creation. The sign of this restoration is that “the mountains shall drip sweet wine” (Amos 9:11-15). When the elements of a fallen creation fail and run short at a wedding feast, our Lord Jesus steps in to restore creation and miraculously changes water into an abundance of the very best wine (John 2:1-11). With this sign, Christ manifests His glory. The “back” of God (Ex. 33:12-23) is revealed to those who believe. The hour will come when Jesus will again manifest His glory by taking creation’s curse into His own body to release us from its power. The Bridegroom will give His life for the Bride (Eph. 5:22-32), and from His side will flow water and blood, the holy sacraments by which she is cleansed and made one with Him. Through this sacrificial love of Christ we are enabled to “love one another with brotherly affection . . .” and to “outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:6-16).
Third Sunday after the Epiphany
2 Kings 5:1-15a; Ps. 110:1-4; Romans 1:8-17 or 12:16-21; Matthew 8:1-13
Jesus Came for Gentiles, Too
The Gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Gentile (Rom. 1:8-17). Even in the Old Testament, the Gentiles were beneficiaries of God’s saving power. Though unimpressed at first with the Word of God, a Syrian commander is persuaded to receive that Word, and in the water he is cleansed and brought to faith in the God of Israel (2 Kings 5:1-15a). Evil is overcome by good (Rom 12:16-21). So also in the New Testament, a Roman centurion demonstrates great and humble faith in the Lord (Matt. 8:1-13). All he needs is the Word of Christ, for he trusts that Jesus’ Word of healing has authority to accomplish what it says. And indeed it does. The centurion’s faith is praised by our Lord above that of any Israelite. For the last shall be first, and the first last. Apart from faith in Christ, there is no salvation-not even for a Jew-but only weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Jonah 1:1-17; Ps. 96:1-13; Romans 8:18-23 or 13:8-10; Matthew 8:23-27
Jesus Is Lord of All Creation
In Jonah we see ourselves. For Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord (Jonah 1:1-17) even as we sinners turn our backs on God and go our own way. This brings the storm of God’s judgment. But in Jonah we also see Christ. For even as he was in the great fish for three days and three nights, so also Christ Jesus was buried in the depths of death for us and raised on the third day. The Lord of creation, who rules over the wind and the wave (Matt. 8:23-27), saved us from the fury of divine wrath by taking the judgment in His own body. His love is the fulfillment of the Law (Rom. 13:8-10). Though our faith be weak in the face of peril, yet we are kept in safety on the ship of the Church; for the Son of God is with us. Though the whole creation groans with us under the curse, yet by Jesus’ speaking, there is a great calm. For we know that our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18-23).
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
Genesis 18:20-33; Ps. 80:1-7; Colossians 3:12-17; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
The Righteous Will Shine Like the Sun
The enemy sowed tares among the Son of Man’s good wheat. Thus, the sons of the wicked one and the sons of the kingdom coexist in the field of the world (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43). In order that His own might not be uprooted and destroyed, the Lord has delayed the judgment of the wicked until the time of harvest. Even for the sake of ten righteous all of Sodom would have been spared (Gen. 18:20-33). But in the end, the harvest will come. On the Last Day, the angels will separate out the tares from the wheat. The wicked will be cast into the furnace of fire, but the righteous in Christ will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Therefore, those in whom the word of Christ dwells richly (Col. 3:12-17) need not fret because of evildoers. For their salvation is from the Lord; He is their strength in time of trouble (Introit).
Transfiguration of Our Lord
Exodus 34:29-35 or 3:1-14; Ps. 2:1-12; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9
Jesus Is Transfigured and Manifests His Glory
The Lord appeared to Moses in the light of the burning bush (Ex. 3:1-14). Later Moses’ face would shine with the light of God’s glory when he came down from Mount Sinai (Ex. 34:29-35). At the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared with the One who is the Light of Light Himself (Matt. 17:1-9). Jesus’ glory as God shines with brilliant splendor in and through His human nature. By this epiphany, our Lord confirmed the prophetic word (2 Pet. 1:16-21), revealing that He is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He manifested His majesty as the eternal Son of the Father, and He wonderfully foreshowed our adoption as sons (Collect). We who have been baptized into Christ’s body are given a glimpse of the glory that we will share with Him in the resurrection on the Last Day.
Exodus 17:1-7; Ps. 95:1-9; 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:5; Matthew 20:1-16
The people of Israel contended with the Lord in the wilderness (Ex. 17:1-7). They were dissatisfied with His provision. In the same way, the first laborers in the vineyard complained against the landowner for the wage he provided them (Matt. 20:1-16). They charged him with being unfair, but in reality he was being generous. For the Lord does not wish to deal with us on the basis of what we deserve but on the basis of His abounding grace in Christ. The first-those who rely on their own merits-will be last. “For they were overthrown in the wilderness” (1 Cor. 10:5). But the last, those who rely on Christ, will be first. For Christ is the Rock (1 Cor. 9:24-10:5). He is the One who was struck and from whose side blood and water flowed that we may be cleansed of our sin.
Isaiah 55:10-13; Ps. 84:1-12; 2 Corinthians 11:19-12:9 or Hebrews 4:9-13; Luke 8:4-15
The Sower sows the seed of His Word (Luke 8:4-15). This Word is living and powerful (Heb. 4:9-13) to conceive new life in those who hear it. But the planting of Christ is attacked by the devil, the world, and the flesh. Satan snatches the Word away from hard hearts. The riches and pleasures of this life choke off faith. Shallow and emotional belief withers in time of temptation and trouble. But see how Christ bears this attack for us! Christ’s cross was planted in the hard and rocky soil of Golgotha. A crown of thorns was placed upon His head. Satan and His demons hellishly hounded and devoured Him. Yet, through His dying and rising again, He destroyed these enemies of ours. Jesus is Himself the Seed which fell to the ground and died in order that it might sprout forth to new life and produce much grain. In Him, the weak are strong (2 Cor. 11:19-12:9). He is the Word of the Father which does not return void (Is. 55:10-13) but yields a harvest hundredfold.
1 Samuel 16:1-13 or Isaiah 35:3-7; Ps. 89:18-29 or 146:1-10; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Luke 18:31-43
The seeing are blind, while the one who is blind can see (Luke 18:31-43). Jesus tells the twelve that He is going up to Jerusalem to suffer and die and rise again, but they cannot understand or grasp what He is saying. The meaning of His words is hidden from their sight. However, as Jesus makes His way up to Jerusalem, a blind man calls out to Him for mercy. This blind man sees that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, for he calls Him “Son of David.” Indeed, Jesus is the Lord’s anointed, the keeper of sheep (1 Sam. 16:1-13) who goes to lay down His life for the sheep. He is the incarnate love of the Father who suffers long and is kind, who is not puffed up, who never fails us (1 Cor. 13:1-13). Jesus opens the eyes of the blind (Is. 35:3-7) to see Him not according to outward appearances of lowliness, but according to His heart of mercy and compassion. Those who behold Him thus by faith follow Him to the cross through death into life.
(17 February 2021)
Joel 2:12–19; Ps. 51:1–13, 14–19; 2 Corinthians 5:20b–6:10; Matthew 6:1–6, 16–21
Return to the Lord Your God, for He Has Reconciled You to Himself
On Ash Wednesday, we come down from the mountain with Jesus and set our faces toward His cross and Passion in Jerusalem. We make our pilgrimage with Him by the way of repentance, and thus we return to the dying and rising of Holy Baptism. Christ Jesus, “who knew no sin,” became our sin, so that by His death we are released from sin and in His resurrection we “become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Since God has thus reconciled the world to Himself in Christ, “now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). He has provided the sacrificial Lamb, and He has left “a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering” in the Eucharist (Joel 2:14, 19). He summons us to return to Him with all our hearts, because He is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Joel 2:13). Return to Him in faith and confidence, and so pray to Him as your Father; give to the needy from a heart of love; and fast for the sake of repentance (Matt. 6:3-4, 6, 17-18).
First Sunday in Lent (Invocabit)
Genesis 3:1-21 or 1 Samuel 17:40-51; Ps. 32:1-11 or 118:1-13; 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 or Hebrews 4:14-16; Matthew 4:1-11
Jesus Does Battle in Our Place
In the Garden, man exalts himself to be a god in place of God (Gen. 3:1-21). He succumbs to the temptation of the devil, and eating of the forbidden fruit, he receives death. But in the sin-cursed wilderness, God humbles Himself to become man in place of man (Mt. 4:1-11). He does not eat but fasts and bears the onslaughts of the devil for us that we may be restored to life. Jesus stands as David in our place to do battle against the Goliath, Satan (1 Samuel 17:40-51). Though outwardly Jesus appears weak, yet He comes in the name of the Lord of hosts. He draws from the five smooth stones of the books of Moses and slings the Word of God. The stone sinks into the forehead, and the enemy falls. In Christ we are victorious over the devil. Let us therefore not receive the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 6:1-10), but seeing that we have a great High Priest, let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain help in time of need (Heb 4:14-16).
Second Sunday in Lent (Reminiscere)
Genesis 32:22-32; Ps. 121:1-8; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7 or Romans 5:1-5; Matthew 15:21-28
Holding God to His Word
Jacob wrestled with God; he would not let Him go until he received a blessing from Him (Gen. 32:22-32). So it was with the Canaanite woman. Though Jesus seemed to ignore and reject her, she continued to call upon His name and look to Him for help (Mt. 15:21-28). Even when the Lord called her a little dog, she held on to Him in faith and would not let Him wriggle out of His words: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” This Gentile woman shows herself to be a true Israelite, who struggles with God and man in Christ and prevails. “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire” (Mt. 15:27-28). This is the sanctifying will of God (1 Thess. 4:1-7)-to test your faith in order that it may be refined and strengthened. For tribulation produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope. And hope in Christ does not disappoint (Rom. 5:1-5).
Third Sunday in Lent (Oculi)
Exodus 8:16-24 or Jeremiah 26:1-15; Ps. 136:1-16 or 4:1-8; Ephesians 5:1-9; Luke 11:14-28
Jesus Overcomes the Strong Man
Jeremiah was charged with speaking evil when he spoke the Word of the Lord (Jer. 26:1-15). So also, Jesus is accused of doing evil when in fact He is doing good. He casts out a demon from a mute man so that he is able to speak (Luke 11:14-28). But some said Jesus did this by the power of Beelzebub, Satan. Like Pharaoh of old, their hearts were hard (Ex. 8:16-24). They did not recognize the finger of God, the power of the Holy Spirit at work in and through Jesus. Jesus is the Stronger Man who overcomes the strong man. He takes the devil’s armor of sin and death and destroys it from the inside out by the holy cross. He exorcizes and frees us by water and the Word. We were once darkness, but now we are light in Christ the Lord (Eph. 5:1-9). As children of light, our tongues are loosed to give thanks to Him who saved us.
Fourth Sunday in Lent (Laetare)
Exodus 16:2-21 or Isaiah 49:8-13; Ps. 132:8-18; Galatians 4:21-31 or Acts 2:41-47; John 6:1-15
The Lord Feeds His People
The Lord provided bread from heaven for His people in the wilderness (Ex. 16:2-21). Now He who is Himself the living bread from heaven miraculously provides bread for the five thousand (John 6:1-15). This takes place near the time of the Passover, after a great multitude had followed Jesus across the sea, and when He went up on a mountain. Seen in this way, Jesus is our new and greater Moses, who releases us from the bondage of Mount Sinai and makes us free children of the promise (Gal. 4:21-31). Five loaves become twelve 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 2:41-47). So it is that God’s people “shall not hunger or thirst” (Is. 49:8-13). For He abundantly provides for us in both body and soul.
Fifth Sunday In Lent (Judica)
Genesis 22:1-14; Ps. 43:1-5; Hebrews 9:11-15; John 8:42-45, 46-59
Jesus Is Our Redemption
In the temple Jesus said, “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” (John 8:51). For Jesus came to taste death for us-to drink the cup of suffering to the dregs in order that we might be released from its power. Clinging to His life-giving words, we are delivered from death’s sting and its eternal judgment. Christ is our High Priest, who entered the Most Holy Place and with His own blood obtained everlasting redemption for His people (Heb. 9:11-15). He is the One who was before Abraham was, and yet is his descendant. He is the promised Son who carries the wood up the mountain for the sacrifice, who is bound and laid upon the altar of the cross. He is the ram who is offered in our place, who is willingly caught in the thicket of our sin, and who wears the crown of thorns upon His head (Gen. 22:1-14). Though Jesus is dishonored by the sons of the devil, He is vindicated by the Father through the cross.
Palm Sunday / Sunday of the Passion (Palmarum)
Matthew 21:1-9 (Palm Sunday Procession) or John 12:12-19 (Palm Sunday Procession)
Zechariah 9:9-12; Ps. 118:19-29 or 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 26:1-27:66 or 27:11-54
The Cross and Passion of Our Lord Are the Hour of His Glory
“Behold, your King is coming to you . . . humble and mounted on a donkey” (Zech. 9:9-12; Mt. 21:1-9). Our Lord rides in this humble fashion because He is entering Jerusalem to humble Himself even to the point of death on a cross (Phil. 2:5-11). His kingly crown will not be made of gold but of thorns, the sign of sin’s curse. For His royal reign is displayed in bearing this curse for His people, saving us from our enemies by sacrificing His own life. The sinless One takes the place of the sinner so that the sinner can be freed and bear the name “Barabbas,” “son of the Father” (Matthew 26 and 27). It is at the name of this exalted Savior, Jesus, that we bow in humble faith. With the centurion who declared, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Mt. 27:54), we are also given to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:11).
Holy (Maundy) Thursday
Exodus 12:1-14 or Exodus 24:3-11; Ps. 116:12-19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; John 13:1-15, 34-35
Let Us Love One Another, as Christ Jesus Has Loved Us
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). By eating His body and drinking His blood, we proclaim to all the world that Jesus is, indeed, our Passover Lamb (Ex. 12:1-14), who was sacrificed for us on Calvary. In Christ, the Lord remembers us in mercy and remembers our sin no more; He forgives us all our iniquity. With such love, he “loved His own who were in the world,” and even loves us “to the end” (John 13:1). As He washes us and feeds us in love, let us love one another, just as He has loved us (John 13:34).
Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Ps. 22:1-31 or 31:1-24; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; John 18:1-19:42
Behold the Lamb of God, Who Takes Away the Sin of the World
Jesus, the Lamb of God, is led to the slaughter of His cross as the sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the world. “Despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3), He is the righteous Servant who justifies many by His innocent suffering and death. He bears our griefs and carries our sorrows; He is wounded for our transgressions; He is crushed for our iniquities; He suffers our chastisement, so that “with His stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:4-5). As the Son of God, He fulfills the Law for us in human flesh, and so fulfills the Scriptures (John 19:7, 24). For in Christ, “God was reconciling the whole world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19).
Isaiah 25:6-9 or Exodus 14:10-15:1; Ps. 16:1-11 or The Song of Moses; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or 12-25; John 20:1-18
Christ’s Resurrection Brings Us Life
“In Adam all die.” For we are all participants in the sin of Adam, who rebelled against God in the garden and brought the curse of death into the world. But “in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22)). For He was faithful to His Father and destroyed death on the holy tree. Jesus, the Second Adam, now walks in the garden in the cool of the day and reveals Himself to the daughter of Eve (John 20:1-18). The risen Christ brings not the curse of death but the blessing of life, the resurrection of the body. He leads us through the baptismal sea to new life on the other side, conquering our mortal enemies in its depths (Ex. 14:10-15:1). In this way our Lord Jesus wipes away the tears from all faces. For He has swallowed up death forever. Let us therefore be glad and rejoice in His salvation (Is. 25:6-9)!
Job 19:23-27; Ps. 118:15-29; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 or 1 Corinthians 15:51-57; Mark 16:1-8
Christ’s Resurrection Means That We Will One Day Be Raised
“Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7). By the shed blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, eternal death has passed over us. Now we pass with Christ through death into life everlasting. For Christ the crucified One is risen! The stone has been rolled away from the tomb, revealing that the tomb could not hold Him (Mark 16:1-8). Now our Redeemer lives eternally to save us from sin and Satan and the grave, and we can live in the sure hope of our own bodily resurrection with Christ. “After my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:26). Feasting on the living Christ, who is our meat and drink indeed, we boldly say: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? . . . But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54-55, 57).
Easter Evening / Monday
Exodus 15:1-18; Ps. 100:1-5; Acts 10:34-43; Luke 24:13-35
The Passover Lamb Is Known in the Breaking of the Bread
The celebration of Easter is a never-ending feast. Therefore, let us “sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously” (Ex. 15:1). He is our strength and our song because He has become our salvation. “They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised Him on the third day” (Acts 10:39). His chosen witnesses, “who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead” (Acts 10:41), now preach “forgiveness of sins through His name” (Acts 10:43). By this preaching, Jesus draws near and leads us home. He opens the Scriptures to us, and He opens our minds to understand “the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). He opens our eyes to recognize His wounds and to know Him “in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35).
Second Sunday of Easter (Quasimodo Geniti)
Ezekiel 37:1-14; Ps. 33:1-22; 1 John 5:4-10; John 20:19-31
The Wounds of Christ Give Us Life
“For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood” (1 John 5:7). These three point to Christ and flow from Christ. Jesus shows His disciples His hands side, from which blood and water flowed, saying “Peace be with you.” He presents the wounds which turn our fear to gladness and which restore us to the Father. Jesus breathes on His disciples and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:23). His breath, His words are Spirit and life. They raise up our dry, dead bones and give us new and everlasting life (Ezek. 37:1-14). Christ now gives His ministers to speak His forgiving, Spirit-filled words to the penitent in His stead. Our Lord continues to come to His people, presenting His wounds to us in the Sacraments of water and blood. He bids us to touch His side at His table, to receive His risen body and blood in true faith, that believing we may have life in His name.
Third Sunday of Easter (Misericordias Domini)
Ezekiel 34:11-16; Ps. 23:1-6; 1 Peter 2:21-25; John 10:11-16
The Good Shepherd Cares for His Sheep
Our Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-16). He is not like the hireling, who cares nothing for the sheep and only for himself, who flees when he sees the wolf coming. Rather, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who seeks out His scattered sheep to deliver them (Ezek. 34:11-16). He gathers them and feeds them in rich pasture. He binds up the broken and strengthens the sick. He lays down His life for wandering and wayward sheep. On the cross, Christ bore in His body the attacks of the predators of sin and death and the devil for you that you might be saved. He now lives to restore your soul in the still waters of baptism, to lead you in the paths of righteousness by the voice of His Gospel, to prepare the table of His holy supper before you, that you may dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23). “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).
Fourth Sunday of Easter (Jubilate)
Isaiah 40:25-31 or Lamentations 3:22-33; Ps. 147:1-11; 1 Peter 2:11-20 or 1 John 3:1-3; John 16:16-22
Those Who Wait on the Lord Shall Rejoice
The people of God are pilgrims and sojourners in this world, looking ahead to a destination yet to come (1 Peter 2:11-20). Though we are now children of God, the fullness of what we shall be has not yet been revealed (1 John 3:1-3). We are those who wait on the Lord. “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lam. 3:25). Jesus tells us that the wait is just a little while. “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16). Though you must experience sorrow for a time, though you must live as strangers in a world that is at enmity with Christ, yet your sorrow will be turned to joy when He returns. “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength” (Is. 40:31). The little while of weeping shall be replaced with an eternity of rejoicing in the presence of Christ the crucified and risen Savior. “And no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22).
Fifth Sunday of Easter (Cantate)
Isaiah 12:1-6; Ps. 66:1-8; James 1:16-21; John 16:5-15
Jesus Promises to Send His Holy Spirit, the Helper
Though Jesus has departed from us visibly to the right hand of the Father who sent Him, yet this is to our advantage. For Jesus-who is Lord over all creation, who intercedes for us before the Father, who is preparing a place for us in heaven-has sent the Helper, the Spirit of Truth (John 16:5-15). “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” through Jesus Christ (James 1:17). The Holy Spirit helps us by taking what is Christ’s and declaring it to us. In the Word of truth, the Spirit works repentance and delivers to us the forgiveness of sins, the righteousness of Christ, and victory over the devil. For the ruler of this world is judged and defeated by the cross. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we have been brought forth to new life in Him who is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. Confident of our resurrection with Christ we confess, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid” (Is. 12:2).
Sixth Sunday of Easter (Rogate)
Numbers 21:4-9; Ps. 107:1-9; 1 Timothy 2:1-6 or James 1:22-27; John 16:23-30, 31-33
The Father Answers Our Prayers Because of Jesus
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you” (John 16:23). To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray as one who has been baptized. For it is in the water that He put His name upon you, claiming you as His own, making you a son of God with access to the Father. By His incarnation and crucifixion, our Lord Jesus broke through the barrier of sin which separated us from God, opening a portal to the Father. To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray with faith in Him as the one Mediator between God and men, who gave Himself a ransom for all (1 Tim. 2:1-6). Like Moses in the wilderness, Jesus is our go-between and intercessor before the throne of heaven. He was lifted up for us on the cross that we might be saved and restored to fellowship with the Father (Num. 21:4-9). Looking into this perfect teaching of liberty (James 1:22-27) we pray with boldness and confidence as dear children of God.
The Ascension of Our Lord
2 Kings 2:5-15; Ps. 110:1-7; Acts 1:1-11; Mark 16:14-20 or Luke 24:44-53
Jesus Is Ascended, but Not Absent
On the fortieth day after His resurrection, our Lord ascended to the right hand of the Father. But although Jesus is hidden from your eyes, He is not absent from you. For He now fills all things in heaven and on earth. He continues “to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1), preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins through those sent in His name (Mark 16:14-20; Luke 24:44-53), giving you His true body and blood in the Supper. Jesus is your great Elijah who pours out on you a double portion of His Spirit in the Word and the Sacraments (2 Kings 2:5-15). He is Lord over all things for the sake of the Church. He whom heaven cannot contain has raised your human nature to share fully in the glory of God. You who believe and are baptized into Christ’s body are already sitting in the heavenly places; for you are in Him who is at the Father’s right hand. When He comes again in the clouds on the Last Day, you also will appear with Him in glory.
Seventh Sunday of Easter (Exaudi)
Ezekiel 36:22-28; Ps. 51:1-12; 1 Peter 4:7-11, 12-14; John 15:26-16:4
The Spirit of Truth Bears Witness to Jesus
The Spirit of Truth bears witness to Jesus, who is the truth. But the world does not receive the truth. It loves its own and hates those who are of the truth. Just as Jesus was scorned, so is His Church. “The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God” (John 16:2). Yet it is by Jesus’ suffering and death that we are saved. Therefore we rejoice to share in His sufferings, that we may also share in His resurrection glory (1 Pet. 4:7-14). Through the ministry of the Spirit of Truth, we are cleansed from the deceit of our idols and given a new heart and a new spirit, the heart and Spirit of Christ (Ezek. 36:22-28). He now works in us fervent, self-giving love for one another, love which covers a multitude of sins, “that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet. 4:11).
Joel 2:28-32; Ps. 85:1-13; Romans 8:12-17; John 14:15-21
The Holy Spirit Is Poured Out
Jesus promises not to leave us as orphans. He sends us “another Helper . . . even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit helps you in your weakness and intercedes for you “with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26). He prays for you when you do not know what to pray for. This is the same Spirit whom the Lord promised long ago: “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Joel 2:28). At Pentecost, this prophecy was fulfilled, and so it is today, as the Holy Spirit “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith” (Small Catechism).
The Day of Pentecost
Genesis 11:1-9; Ps. 143:1-12; Acts 2:1-21; John 14:23-31
The Holy Spirit Gives Peace
Following the flood, Noah’s descendants failed to spread out and fill the earth as God had spoken. Rather, they exalted themselves; with “one language and the same words” (Gen. 11:1) they spoke proudly and arrogantly. The Lord humbled them by confusing “the language of all the earth,” dividing and dispersing the people (Gen. 11:9). That dispersal was reversed on Pentecost Day (the fiftieth day of Easter), when God caused the one Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to be preached in a multitude of languages. “At this sound the multitude came together” (Acts 2:6), for the preaching of Christ is the primary work of the Holy Spirit, whereby He gathers people from all nations into one Church. The Holy Spirit teaches and brings to our remembrance the words of Jesus, which are the words of the Father who sent Him. These words bestow forgiveness and peace to those who keep and hold on to them in love for Jesus. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27).
Isaiah 6:1-7; Ps. 29:1-11; Romans 11:33-36; John 3:1-15, 16-17
The Holy Trinity Reveals Himself to Sinners
When Isaiah beheld the glory of the Lord, he cried out “Woe is me!” For the sinner cannot stand in the presence of a holy God and live (Is. 6:1-7). But God the Father lifted up His Son Jesus for us on the cross, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. This eternal life of Christ is given us according to the Holy Spirit’s good pleasure in Baptism. “Unless one is born [again] of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). To sinners in fear of death, the messengers of God place on our lips the living body and blood of Christ and speak His words of absolution, “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (Is. 6:7). Having received forgiveness and life from the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit, we join with the angels in praising the blessed Trinity, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!” (Is. 6:3). “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:33-36).
First Sunday after Trinity
Genesis 15:1-6; Ps. 33:12-22; 1 John 4:16-21; Luke 16:19-31
Faith Trusts in Christ for Life Eternal
When the beggar Lazarus died, he was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. For he was truly Abraham’s seed. Like Abraham, he believed in the Lord, and the Lord “counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). The name Lazarus means “God is my help.” The unnamed rich man, on the other hand, did not love and trust in God. For he evidently cared little for the beggar at his gate. And “he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). He who loved and trusted in possessions and prestige died and was in torments in Hades (Luke 16:19-31). Repentance and faith are worked only through Moses and the prophets-that is, the Word of God, for it points us to Christ. Only through His death and resurrection are we brought the comfort of life everlasting.
Second Sunday after Trinity
Proverbs 9:1-10; Ps. 34:12-22; Ephesians 2:13-22 or 1 John 3:13-18; Luke 14:15-24
The Gospel Call Goes Out to All
Wisdom has issued an invitation to the divine feast: “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight” (Prov. 9:5-6). This is the call of the Spirit of Christ to believe the Gospel and to receive His saving gifts in the Holy Supper. Many make excuses and reject this invitation, even as the Jews did in the days of Jesus, yet the Master’s house will be filled. The Gospel call therefore goes out to the lowly and despised, into the highways, even to all the Gentiles (Luke 14:15-24). For “you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13-22). In Christ, believing Jews and Gentiles are no longer strangers but fellow members of the household of God. The enmity of class and race is put to death through the cross. Having been reconciled in the one Body of Christ, we are enabled to love one another (1 John 3:13-18) as we await the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom which will have no end.
Third Sunday after Trinity
Micah 7:18-20; Ps. 103:1-13; 1 Timothy 1:12-17 or 1 Peter 5:6-11; Luke 15:1-10 or 11-32
Jesus Receives Sinners
“This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2). The Pharisees’ statement of judgment against Jesus is in fact a proclamation of Gospel truth. For our God is one who delights in mercy, who casts all our sins into the depths of the sea through the cross (Micah 7:18-20). “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). Those who refuse to be counted as sinners also refuse Jesus who came only for sinners. Those like the older son (Luke 15:11-32), who think they are righteous of themselves, will not join in the heavenly celebration over the sinner who repents and so remain outside of the Father’s house. Let us therefore be on guard against self-righteously trusting in our own merits. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6). Rejoice that Jesus receives sinners like us and that He still sits at table with us in the Holy Supper, bestowing His forgiveness and life.
Fourth Sunday after Trinity
Genesis 50:15-21; Ps. 138:1-8; Romans 12:14-21 or 8:18-23; Luke 6:36-42
Christ’s Mercy Is Ours to Show to Others
“Be merciful, even as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36-42). The old Adam in us wants to condemn and seek vengeance. But the Lord says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (Rom. 12:14-21). To condemn, to avenge yourself, is to put yourself in the place of God. It is to fail to trust that He is just. Ultimately, it is to disbelieve that Jesus suffered the full vengeance for all wrongs. Only Christ is merciful as the Father is merciful. He is the one who overcame all evil with the good of His cross, forgiving even His executioners. Jesus is our Joseph, who comforts us with words of pardon and reconciliation (Gen. 50:15-21). He is the One who does not condemn but gives life that runs over. Only through faith in Christ are we sons of the Father-being merciful, forgiving, doing good to our enemies. For in Christ we know that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:8-13).
Fifth Sunday after Trinity
1 Kings 19:11-21; Ps. 16:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 or 1 Peter 3:8-15; Luke 5:1-11
Jesus Makes Fishers of Men
The Lord called fishermen to be fishers of men (Luke 5:1-11). The net they would use is the message of the cross, which is foolishness and a stumbling block to the world (1 Cor. 1:18-25). The power of God to save is not in spectacular signs like wind and fire and earthquakes (1 Kings 19:11-21), nor is it to be found in human intelligence and wisdom. The power of God to save comes in the still, small voice of the preaching of Christ crucified. In worldly darkness the disciples could catch nothing. But in the light of Christ, whose Word was attached to the water, the boats were filled with fish. So it is that in Baptism you have been drawn in to the ship of the Church. Though the nets are breaking and some who hear the Word do not believe, pastors continue to cast the net of the Gospel and the Sacraments, that Christians may abide in the boat of the Church and that we may be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:8-15).
Sixth Sunday after Trinity
Exodus 20:1-17; Ps. 19:1-14; Romans 6:1-2, 3-11; Matthew 5:17-19, 20-26
Our Only Hope Is in Christ’s Righteousness
“Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:20). God demands nothing less than perfection and holiness from you in regard to His commandments (Ex. 20:1-17). Your only hope, then, is not in your own goodness but in the goodness of Christ, who did not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them for you. In Christ, your righteousness does indeed exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. For you have been baptized into Christ’s death and your sinful nature crucified. Therefore, he who has died has been freed from sin (Rom. 6:1-11). You are now raised with Christ to walk in newness of life and to share in His resurrection on the Last Day. Christ has brought you through the baptismal sea “out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Ex. 20:2). Therefore, “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11).
Seventh Sunday after Trinity
Genesis 2:7-17; Ps. 33:1-11; Romans 6:19-23; Mark 8:1-9
Jesus Restores Paradise and Feeds Us Freely
In the Garden of Eden, our first parents received food freely from the gracious hand of God, apart from any burdensome work (Gen 2:7-17). But after the fall, food would be received only through toil and labor. The curse declared, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground . . .” (Gen. 3:19). In other words, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). But into this wilderness world came Jesus the Messiah to restore creation. Having compassion on the weary multitudes, He renewed the bounty of Eden on the third day, freely granting an abundance of bread to the 4,000 (Mark 8:1-9). So also our Lord Jesus, having endured the burden of our sin, was raised on the third day to bring us back to Paradise. He now miraculously turns the bread of death into the Bread of Life in the Sacrament, giving you His very body and blood for your forgiveness. For “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
Eighth Sunday after Trinity
Jeremiah 23:16-29; Ps. 26:1-12; Acts 20:27-38 or Romans 8:12-17; Matthew 7:15-23
Beware of False Prophets
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15). Deceit has its strength in masquerading as the truth. False prophets speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord (Jer. 23:16-29). They deny the judgment of the Lord, speaking peace to the unrepentant, when in truth there is condemnation and wrath. “You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:20). The “fruits” of a true prophet are not outward righteousness or success but faithfulness in proclaiming the Word of the Lord. This is the will of the Father in heaven, that pastors take heed to the flock, the Father’s adopted ones (Rom. 8:12-17), warning them against the wolves and their lies, and shepherding the Church of God which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:27-38). For indeed, the cross is that good tree bearing good fruit-namely, the body and blood of Christ, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
Ninth Sunday after Trinity
2 Samuel 22:26-34; Ps. 51:1-12; 1 Corinthians 10:6-13; Luke 16:1-9, 10-13
The Steward’s Shrewdness Sanctified
“The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness” (Luke 16:1-9). The steward’s shrewdness is praiseworthy for two reasons. First, he knew the master would be merciful. He trusted that the master would honor the debts he forgave in the master’s name. In the same way, though we have squandered our heavenly Father’s possessions in selfishness and sin, Jesus is the Steward who has canceled our debt, knowing that His forgiveness will be honored by the Father because of the holy cross. Secondly, the steward was shrewd in using oil and wheat to provide for his earthly welfare. So also do these earthly elements aid us when pressed into heavenly use in the anointing of baptism and the wheat of the Lord’s Supper. Those who have the Sacraments will have an eternal home when their earthly home fails. These provide us aid in times of temptation (1 Cor. 10:6-13). For the Lord is our strength and a shield to all who trust in Him (2 Sam. 22:26-34).
Tenth Sunday after Trinity
Jeremiah 8:4-12 or 7:1-11; Ps. 92:1-15; Romans 9:30-10:4 or 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Luke 19:41-48
Jesus Weeps for Jerusalem
Our Lord wept over Jerusalem for the destruction that would soon come upon her. For she did not recognize the time of God’s visitation in Christ, who had come to bring her peace (Luke 19:41-48). Through His prophets God had consistently called His people to turn from their deceit and false worship. “But My people do not know the judgments of the Lord” (Jer. 8:4-12). They sought to establish their own righteousness rather than receive Christ’s righteousness through faith (Rom. 9:30-10:4). So it was that God was in His temple to cleanse it, a precursor to the once-for-all cleansing from sin which He would accomplish in the temple of His own body on the cross. God grant us to know the things that make for our peace-His visitation in the Word and Sacraments-that by the Holy Spirit we may penitently confess “Jesus is Lord” (1 Cor. 12:1-11).
Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
Genesis 4:1-15; Ps. 50:7-23; Ephesians 2:1-10 or 1 Corinthians 15:1-10; Luke 18:9-14
The Lord Lifts Up the Lowly
“And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard” (Gen. 4:1-15). For unlike Abel, Cain’s offering did not proceed from a heart that revered and trusted in the Lord. Thus, the lowly tax collector who prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” was the one who went down to his house justified before God, not the respectable, outwardly righteous Pharisee who trusted in himself and his own good living (Luke 18:9-14). “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:1-10). The one who penitently despairs of his own righteousness and relies completely on the atoning mercy of God in Christ is the one who is declared righteous. For Christ died for our sins and rose again the third day (1 Cor. 15:1-10). Therefore, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Twelfth Sunday after Trinity
Isaiah 29:17-24; Ps. 146:1-10; 2 Corinthians 3:4-11 or Romans 10:9-17; Mark 7:31-37
Faith Comes from Hearing
A man who was deaf and therefore also had an impediment in his speech was brought to Jesus (Mark 7:31-37). In the same way, all are by nature deaf toward God and therefore also unable to confess the faith rightly. For “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:9-17). Jesus put His fingers into the man’s ears, and He spat and touched His tongue. Even so in Holy Baptism, water sanctified by the words of Jesus’ mouth is applied to us; and the finger of God, that is, the life-giving Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:4-11) is put into our ears in the hearing of the baptismal Gospel. Jesus’ sighing “Ephphatha” opened the man’s ears, and his tongue was loosed to speak plainly as Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah, “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book” (Is. 29:18-24) So also, He who sighed and breathed His last on the cross for us has given us to hear and believe in Him and has opened our lips that our mouths may declare His praise.
Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
2 Chronicles 28:8-15; Ps. 32:1-11; Galatians 3:15-22; Luke 10:23-37
Jesus Is Our Good Samaritan
The Law cannot help us or give us life. Rather, it confines everyone under sin as wounded and naked before God (Gal. 3:15-22). So it is that two figures of the Law, the priest and the Levite, passed by the injured man on the side of the road (Luke 10:23-37). Only the promised Seed of Abraham can rescue us and make us righteous before God. Only the Samaritan, our Lord Jesus, had compassion, as did the Samaritans of old (2 Chronicles 28:8-15). He came down to us in our lost and dying condition, pouring on the oil and wine of the Sacraments. He placed us on His own animal, bearing our sin and brokenness in His body on the cross to restore us. Jesus brought us to the inn, that is, the Church, and gave the innkeeper two denarii, that His double forgiveness might continue to be ministered to us. In this way the Lord, by whose Law we are torn and stricken, heals us and revives us by His Gospel and raises us up with Himself.
Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity
Proverbs 4:10-23; Ps. 119:9-16; Galatians 5:16-24; Luke 17:11-19
The Cry of Faith: Lord, Have Mercy
The ten lepers cried out from a distance, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:11-19). Their condition cut them off from God and others. So also do the works of the flesh cut us off from God and others. “Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:16-24). Thus we cry out with the lepers, “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy,” eagerly seeking His good gifts. Jesus said to the lepers, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. So too, we walk by faith and not by sight, being confident of Jesus’ help before we see any evidence of it, trusting that Jesus’ cleansing words of forgiveness will restore us to wholeness in the resurrection. Let us be as the one leper who returned to the true High Priest to give Him thanks and glory. For Jesus bore our infirmities in His sacrifice at Calvary. His words are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh (Prov. 4:10-23).
Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
1 Kings 17:8-16; Ps. 146:1-10; Galatians 5:25-6:10; Matthew 6:24-34
Anxious Bondage vs. Confident Trust
“You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24-34), for they require two contrary forms of service. Worry is the worship given to the false god of mammon, an unbelieving anxiousness and focus on the things of this world. Faith is the worship of the true God, a confident trust that He is a loving Father who will care for all of our needs in both body and soul. The widow of Zarephath served God- that is, she believed the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah that the bin of flour would not be used up nor would the jar of oil run dry (1 Kings 17:8-16). He who feeds the birds and clothes the flowers will certainly provide for our daily needs. For He has already provided for our eternal needs, clothing us with Christ’s righteousness in Baptism and feeding us His body and blood for our forgiveness. With such confidence we are liberated from worry and freed to do good with our material resources, especially to those who are of the household of faith (Gal. 5:25-6:10).
Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity
1 Kings 17:17-24; Ps. 30:1-12; Ephesians 3:13-21; Luke 7:11-17
Jesus Calls forth Life from Death
A large funeral procession carrying the only son of a widow is confronted by another large procession, Jesus and His followers. Death and Life meet face to face at the gate of the city (Luke 7:11-17). Filled with compassion, Jesus comes into direct contact with our mortality in order to overcome it. He touches the coffin and speaks His creative words of life, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” Jesus does what is neither expected nor requested. For through Christ, God the Father “is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think” (Eph. 3:14-21). Jesus bore our death in His body that we may share in His resurrection. Even as Elijah stretched himself out three times over the Zarephath woman’s son (2 Kings 17:17-24), God stretched Himself out over us in the threefold application of His name in the baptismal water, breathing new and everlasting life into us. “To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
Proverbs 25:6-14; Ps. 2:1-12; Ephesians 4:1-6; Luke 14:1-11
Whoever Humbles Himself Will Be Exalted
“Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence” (Prov. 25:6-14). Rather, take the lowest position at the table. Humble yourself before Him. For your place is not for you to take but for Him to give. Conduct yourself with all lowliness and gentleness, bearing with one another in love (Eph. 4:1-6), that the King may give you glory in the presence of those at the table with you. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:1-11). Is this not the way of Christ? He is the one who took the lowest place, who humbled Himself even to the point of death for us. He is now exalted to the highest place at the right hand of the Father that penitent believers may be exalted together with Him in the resurrection. To the humble at His Supper He says, “Friend, move up higher,” giving you His very body and blood for your forgiveness that you may ascend to take part in the great wedding feast which has no end.
Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity
Deuteronomy 10:12-21; Ps. 34:8-22; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3, 4-9; Matthew 22:34-46
In Life and Death, Christ Fulfills the Law of God
The Pharisees ask a Law question. Jesus asks a Gospel question. The Pharisees seek to test Jesus in His own words. Jesus seeks to “test” them in the saving reality of who He is as the Messiah (Matt. 22:34-46). The Law requires you to “fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” and to “love the sojouner” (Deut. 10:12-21). Failure to keep the Law perfectly brings judgment. On the other hand, the Gospel brings the grace of God given by Jesus Christ, that you may be blameless in the day of His return (1 Cor. 1:1-9). Jesus is David’s Son yet David’s Lord, true God and true man. He is Love incarnate who fulfilled all the demands of God’s Law on our behalf, that we might be saved from the Law’s condemnation and sanctified in the Gospel’s forgiveness. Thereby we see that “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).
Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
Genesis 28:10-17; Ps. 84:1-12; Ephesians 4:22-28; Matthew 9:1-8
Jesus’ Incarnation Secures for Us Life, Forgiveness, and Healing
The Lord does not require us to ascend to Him; in mercy He descends to us (Gen. 28:10-17). The ladder in Jacob’s dream was not for climbing; it was the means by which the Lord came to bless Jacob. This event finds its fulfillment in Christ who descended from His throne to save and bless us. By His incarnation He is the eternal bridge between heaven and earth. “The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matt. 9:1-8). The Lord was present in the flesh to absolve the paralytic. Jesus also healed and restored this man’s body. “For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation” (Small Catechism). The Lord still has power on earth to forgive sins. In holy absolution He raises up the new man (Eph. 4:22-28) and bestows the healing medicine which will bring about our resurrection on the Last Day. Thus we say with Jacob, “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” (Gen. 28:17)
Twentieth Sunday after Trinity
Isaiah 55:1-9; Ps. 27:1-9; Ephesians 5:15-21; Matthew 22:1-14
Jesus Invites Us to His Wedding Feast to Receive Abundant Righteousness
The Holy Spirit sounds forth the Gospel call: “See, I have prepared my dinner ... Come to the wedding feast” (Matt. 22:1-14). But many reject this invitation in favor of worldly pursuits. And so the call goes out to others, both the good and the bad. For the wedding invitation is not based on the qualifications of those invited but on the basis of the merits and work of Christ. The feast is free: “He who has no money, come, buy and eat ... delight yourselves in rich food.” (Is. 55:1-9). Those rejecting the Spirit’s work shall experience God’s wrath and judgment. Those who are not clothed in Christ’s righteousness shall be cast into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Let us therefore seek the Lord while He may be found, for He will have mercy upon us. Let us redeem the time, being filled with the Spirit, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 5:15-21).
Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity
Genesis 1:1-2:3; Ps. 8:1-9; Ephesians 6:10-17; John 4:46-54
God Declares Us Righteous Unsheathing His Word Against All Evil
“‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Gen. 1:1-2:3). The Father speaks, and it is so. His Word accomplishes what it says. He created all things out of nothing through His Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Father’s creative Word became flesh in Jesus Christ, that He might restore fallen creation and save fallen man. To the nobleman whose son was deathly ill, Jesus says, “Go; your son will live” (John 4:46-54). And in the very hour Jesus spoke, the nobleman’s son was made well. The Word of Christ still accomplishes what it says. In baptism, absolution, and the Lord’s Supper, He declares His life-giving forgiveness to you, and it is so. This saving Word of God is the sword of the Spirit by which you are able to fight off all the onslaughts of the devil (Eph. 6:10-17). “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”
Reformation Day (October 31)
Revelation 14:6-7; Ps. 46:1-11; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36 or Matthew 11:12-19
The Son of God Has Set Us Free from Sin and Death by His Grace
“Wisdom is justified by her deeds” (Matt. 11:19), and the true Wisdom of God, Christ Jesus the incarnate Son, justifies us by His deeds. He prepares His way by the preaching of repentance, but He has suffered the violence of the Law and voluntarily handed Himself over to violent men, that we might eat and drink with Him in His Kingdom and “remain in the house forever” (John 8:35). For He is “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 11:19), and He has rescued us by His grace from the slavery of sin and death. By the proclamation of His eternal Gospel “to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people” (Rev. 14:6), “the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law” (Rom. 3:21), “that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). And by hearing the Gospel of Christ Jesus, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith” (Rom. 3:25), “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
All Saints’ Day (November 1)
Revelation 7:(2-8) 9-17; Ps. 65:1-13; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12
Saints Are Blessed in the Eternal Presence of Christ
“A great multitude from all tribes and peoples and languages,” cry out “salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne” (Rev. 7:9-17). Faith-filled saints from every place and time with unified voices eternally magnify the Lamb of God. As His beloved children, we too, “shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:1-3). Joined with the throng of angels and a myriad of saints, we shall “serve him day and night in his temple” (Rev. 7:9-17). In our earthly tension vacillating between saint and sinner, faith and doubt, sacred and profane, we earnestly seek Jesus to calm our fears, comfort our spirits, and forgive our sins. The Holy Spirit, through faith in Christ propels us forward, fortifying us in Word and Sacrament, to our eternal home. In the midst of our constant struggle as believers, we need to be blessed. And so we are. The poor in spirit, the meek, the hungry, the thirsty, the merciful, the pure, and the persecuted are all blessed and we will most certainly inherit the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:1-12).
Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity
Isaiah 51:9-16; Ps. 126:1-6; Colossians 1:9-14; Matthew 9:18-26
The Strength of the Lord Is Our Salvation from Sin, Death, and Darkness
A shroud of darkness engulfs us. Sin, death, and disease threaten to sever us from life’s fullest measure. Without new life in Christ Jesus, there would be no light to dissipate, dispel, or curb grief and sadness. But Jesus has qualified us “to share in the inheritance of the saints of light” delivering us from the dark domain (Col. 1:9-14). “I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand,…You are my people” (Is. 51:9-16). The presence of Christ, in word, wine, bread, and water, confronts our sinful nature with forgiveness. In the sacraments, God claims us to be His very own children, creating, and sustaining our faith. So in Christ, we humbly receive the words, “your faith has made you well” (Matt. 9:18-26). On the last day God will surely awaken us also from slumber in resurrection glory.
Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Trinity
Exodus 32:1-20 or Job 14:1-6; Ps. 14:1-7 or 102:1-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 24:15-28 or Luke 17:20-30
Faith Comes by Hearing the Word of Christ
“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed” (Luke 17:20). You must use your ears and not your eyes. For God’s kingdom in this world is one of faith, and faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ. The people of Israel, however, wanted to walk not by faith but by sight. When Moses delayed in coming down the mountain, they decided to make a visible god for themselves, the golden calf (Ex. 32:1). Upon such faithless and false worshipers God’s judgment comes. Only on the Last Day will our faith be turned to sight. “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:27). The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, and He will gather His people to Himself, both the living and the dead. In a world in which our days are few and full of trouble (Job 14:1), let us comfort one another with these words of the resurrection and the coming of our Lord Jesus.
Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Trinity
Daniel 7:9-14; Ps. 50:1-15; 2 Peter 3:3-14; Matthew 25:31-46
Render to God the things of God
“Behold, with the clouds of heaven there came One like a Son of Man” (Dan. 7:13). The Lord Jesus will return in glory on the Last Day with all His holy angels. “Before Him will be gathered all the nations . . . And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left” (Matt. 25:31-33). Those on His left will be cast into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For they rejected Christ by failing to receive and support His brethren, that is, the preachers of the Gospel. But those on His right will inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. For they received and supported His brethren and believed what they preached. We believe in the promise of Christ’s coming, even it is delayed because of His longsuffering mercy. Conducting ourselves in godliness, knowing that this fallen creation will soon pass away, we look forward to “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).
Last Sunday of the Church Year
Isaiah 65:17-25; Ps. 149:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:1-13
By Faith We Are Prepared for Christ’s Return
“The day of the Lord will come like 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” when the Son of Man is to return. (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).
Day of Thanksgiving
Deuteronomy 8:1-10; Ps. 67:1-7; Philippians 4:6-20 or 1 Timothy 2:1-4; Luke 17:11-19
We Praise God for Sustaining Life in and through His Word
The nation resounds with thanksgiving for the earth’s bountiful harvest, crops of wheat and grains, all beneath the canopy of God’s almighty care. But “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:1-10). The Church is the vessel through which the Word of God penetrates the world with its Law and Gospel. It is this divine Word which proclaims Jesus as the sole source of life, health, and wholeness. It is Jesus who heals lepers with His Word, “Go show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:11-19). Of the ten cleansed, only one expresses thanksgiving back to Jesus. But true gratitude proceeds from a heart sustained by faith. Jesus bids this one Samaritan to “rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” So also, we are sent from the Divine Service, bolstered in our faith by Baptismal and Eucharist blessing to be thankful in our circumstances of plenty and hunger, abundance and need (Phil. 4:6-20).
Mr. Craig Parton, author of The Defense Never Rests, discusses Apologetics/Defending the Faith in a recent lecture (mp3, 1h17m58s, 53.5 MB, 2009-Oct-30)
Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, Professor of Theology at Concordia University, Irvine in Irvine, CA, and well-known as the co-host of the nationally syndicated radio program "The White Horse Inn", in Introduction to Apologetics, covers subjects like what questions non-Christians ask and a Lutheran defense of the Gospel. (mp3, 1h03m36s, 43.7 MB, 2009-Oct 30)
Continuing our conversation with Pr. Steven Parks, University Hills Lutheran Church in Denver, Colorado, about the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the Solas of the Reformation. This edition talks about Sola Fide and the Roman Catholic understanding of Justification. (mp3, 53m35s, 18.3 MB, 2009-Nov-23)
There is a handful of Protestant pastors who have left their church bodies and have joined the Roman Catholic church. Some of them have taken it upon themselves to convince other non-Catholics to also "come home to Rome." The first step in the process is to get the person to question "Sola Scriptura" or "Scripture Alone." But do these Catholic apologists have the proper understanding of Sola Scriptura? Pr. Steven Parks, pastor of University Hills Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado, joins Pastor Wolfmueller in this discussion about Sola Scriptura. (mp3, 1h10m52s, 24.3 MB, 2009-Nov-13)
Dr. Lawrence Rast, Professor of Historical Theology and Academic Dean, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, reviews Joel Osteen's new book, "It's Your Time" with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 54:54, 22.1 MB, 2009-Nov-16)
Excerpt from Dr Rast:
"Here we have a gospel that moves into a different arena. The Gospel in the Bible is about the forgiveness of sins because of the work of Jesus Christ. That is largely absent in this book and that is profoundly disturbing to me. Instead, what we hear is kind of a power of positive thinking rhetoric that says, 'By virtue of your own state of mind, you can create your own reality.' The criticism, in other words, is not having a positive view of the world. It's rather, how do you respond to the world when the world does what the world is wont to do, namely, when it is destructive, when it causes heartache, when it causes absolute despair, in the life of a human person because of events they couldn't control no matter what they may have said. That is where you need the word of the Gospel; the real Gospel."
Will the host of the radio program Issues Etc defeat the Iron Preacher? Pr. Todd Wilken challenges Pastor Wolfmueller in a match of Iron Preacher, judged by Dr. Carl Fickenscher of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Then Pastor Wilken will spend the rest of the time talking about the proper distinction between Law and Gospel. (mp3, 51m18s, 18 MB, 2008-Dec-30)
Pr. Steven Parks, University Hills Lutheran Church, Denver, Colo., discusses The Reformation and Its Theology with Pr. Todd Wilken
Word (Scripture) Alone (mp3, 40:27, 16 MB, 2009-Oct-19)
Faith Alone (mp3, 40:29, 16 MB, 2009-Oct-20)
Grace Alone (mp3, 54:16, 22 MB, 2009-Oct-21)
Christ Alone (mp3, 40:31, 16 MB, 2009-Oct-22)
Dr. Lawrence White, Our Savior Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas, discusses The Reformation Today with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 40:18, 16 MB, 2009-Oct-23)
Origin of the Creed and God the Father (mp3, 53:59, 22 MB, 2009-Oct-05)
God the Son and the Incarnation (mp3, 54:00, 22 MB, 2009-Oct-06)
The Work of the Son (mp3, 53:59, 22 MB, 2009-Oct-07)
God the Holy Spirit (mp3, 53:59, 22 MB, 2009-Oct-08)
The Church and the Life of the World to Come (mp3, 54:00, 22 MB, 2009-Oct-09)
Dr. Richard Stuckwisch, pastor of Emmaus Lutheran Church, South Bend, Ind., discusses a core set of hymns that all congregations should sing and know with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 28:30, 11.4 MB, 2009-Sep-28)
Issues, Etc., Classics (before June 30, 2008) originated at KFUO-AM in St. Louis, and were broadcast on other stations around the country. Phone number and address mentioned are no longer valid.
Pr. J. Bart Day discusses proper reverence during the celebration of the Lord's Supper with Pr. Todd Wilken on Issues, Etc., Classics (mp3, 23:16, 6.8 MB, 2007-May-07).
Issues, Etc., Classics (before June 30, 2008) originated at KFUO-AM in St. Louis, and were broadcast on other stations around the country. Phone numbers and address mentioned are no longer valid.
Higher Things Magazine: Mining the Riches: Take, Eat!
by Pr. J. Bart Day
Is there a right or wrong way to receive the Lord's body into your mouth at Communion? Should you be given it from your pastor's hand or take it from your own? Is one way more Lutheran? Pastor Day explains the importance of reverence during Communion, what the Church has said about it through the ages, and the gifts we are given by receiving it.
"(T)he pastor is to preach from the Bible text how the death of Christ can save even a Christian! Of the many possible themes in Scripture that may be preached, he is particularly to preach as central the forgiveness of sins wrought by Christ on our behalf.
"If the pastor does anything else that eclipses this, he is guilty of forsaking his call. If, for example, he uses the Bible text only for a call to deeper Christian living, he has forsaken his call. If he only placards Christ as an example of what we Christians are to emulate by the power of the Holy Spirit within us, he has forsaken his call. If he only preaches Christ as an answer to some perceived need we may have, other than the forgiveness of sins, he has forsaken his call. If he preaches only some laudable social or political action the congregation should take, he has forsaken his call. If he only does solid Bible-based education on some tangential topic in the Scriptures, he has forsaken his call." (emphasis in the original)
-- Dr Rod Rosenblatt, Christ Alone, Wheaton, Ill., Crossways Books, 1999, pp. 38-39. Dr. Rosenblatt is a professor of Theology at Concordia University, Irvine, Calif. He is also an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and a co-host of the program, White Horse Inn, which can be heard in this area on KDCR (88.5 FM) Sundays at 8:30 pm.
Guests discuss the 9 parts of The Lord's Prayer with Pr. Todd Wilken:
Our Father Who art in heaven - Pr. Peter Bender, Peace Lutheran Church and Concordia Catechetical Academy, Sussex, Wisc. (mp3, 53:59, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-03)
Hallowed be Thy Name - Pr. Paul McCain, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Mo. (mp3, 54:00, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-04)
Thy Kingdom come - Dr. Laurence White, Our Savior Lutheran Church, Houston, Tex. (mp3, 53:59, 50 MB, 2009-Aug-05)
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven - Dr. Scott Murray, Memorial Lutheran Church, Houston, Tex. (mp3, 53:59, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-06)
Give us this day our daily bread - Pr. Bill Cwirla of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Hacienda Heights, Calif. (mp3, 53:59, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-07)
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us - Pr. William Weedon, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Hamel, Ill. (mp3, 54:00, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-10)
Lead us not into temptation - Dr. Steven Hein, Concordia Institute for Christian Studies, Monument, Co. (mp3, 53:59, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-11)
Deliver us from evil - Pr. Steven Parks, University Hills Lutheran Church, Denver, Co. (mp3, 54:29, 22.2 MB, 2009-Aug-12)
For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen. - Dr. John Saleska, Concordia University Wisc., Mequon, Wisc. (mp3, 54:29, 22.2 MB, 2009-Aug-13)
The internet is full of allegations that the historical records of the life of Jesus are examples of a kind of religious plagiarism rehashing dying-and-rising-god fictions of ancient mythology. Read Mr. Koukl's article in Solid Ground magazine about the false connections being made of Jesus to mythology. (pdf , 352 KB, 4 pgs)
Pr. Daniel Preus of Luther Academy discusses Christ-Centered Theology with Pr Todd Wilken:
Law and Gospel (mp3, 35:02, 14 MB, 2009-May-06)
Baptism and Lord's Supper (mp3, 28:30, 11 MB, 2009-May-13)
Conversion (mp3, 33:25, 13 MB, 2009-May-20)
The above discussions are based on Pr. Preus' book, Why I Am a Lutheran: Jesus at the Center
By Pastor Sean L. Rippy
As one who has written contemporary worship (CW) services in three different congregations, started it in one congregation, who has been raised on much of its music through radio and worship services, who sought for something in CW that he thought could not be found in LW, who actually likes much of the music of CW and who believed firmly that you could make contemporary worship, Lutheran, but has now rejected CW as profane, allow me to chime in.
The primary question in relation to any kind of worship style is to determine whether it is Christian and to what extent it is Christian. For example, Voodoo rituals are said to be a mixture of Roman Catholicism and pagan rites. To the extent that their rituals are "Christian" it would still not be wise to use their worship styles or rites, as most of us would agree that there is way too much paganism (even evil demon worship) involved. I think most of us would agree that even a drop of unchristian theology or worship would be intolerable.
Furthermore, as Lutherans, we understand and believe certain things about the scriptures and about what the scriptures say about worship. In relation to the question of worship, it is important, in order for us to be Lutheran, that we determine what kind of worship is Lutheran. In essence, as Lutherans, we seek a worship that conforms to the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions; which, in our understanding, is synonymous with Christian worship. (i.e. Lutheran worship and Biblical Christian worship are one and the same)
To this end we ask the question: "What does the Word of God say about worship?"
The Word of God teaches us:
1. To use doctrinally pure material - i.e. no heresies, nor even a hint of heresy (Gal. 1:6-10; 1 Tim. 1:3-7; Titus 1:9-2:1, etc.)
2. A particular form which includes:
Hymns (Col. 3:16; 1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19, etc.)
Prayers (2 Chron. 6:40; 7:15; Psalm 141:2; Luke 1:10; 2:37; Eph. 6:18; 1 Tim. 2:1; 1 Kings 8:33; Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4, etc.)
Reading of Scripture (Acts 13:14-15, 27; 15:21; 1 Tim. 4:13; Luke 4:16-22; Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27, etc.)
Preaching which is focused on Christ (Acts 15:21; Matt. 4:23; Mark 1:39; Rom. 10:14; 1 Tim. 4:13, etc.)
Worship which is focused on Christ Jesus (Hebrews 9:1-10:25; Matt. 2:2; Phil. 3:3; Heb. 1:6; 3:1; Rev. 5:1-14; 1 Cor. 1:22-24; 2:2; 2 Cor. 4:5; Ps. 29:2; 95:6; Zech. 14:16, etc.)
The Lord's Supper (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 10:16-21; 11:17-31; Rev. 19:9)
Confession of faith/Creed (Rom. 10:9-10; Phil. 2:10-11; 1 Tim. 6:12)
Confession of sins and Forgiveness (1 Kings 8:33-34; Prov. 28:13; Ezra 10:11; Neh. 1:6-7; 9:3; Dan. 9:20; 1 Sam. 7:6; Neh. 9:2; Matt. 3:2, 6; Acts 3:19, 19:18; 1 John 1:8-10; James 5:16, etc.)
Grace and mercy coming from God, followed by our praise and thanksgiving (Ezek. 11:19-20; Ps. 103:11-14; Isa 1:18; Heb. 13:15; Ps. 9:11; 47:6; 147:1; Jer. 31:7; Heb. 2:12; Rev. 5:12; 7:12; 19:5, etc.)
3. That the worship service must be done in decency and in good order (1 Cor. 12-14, esp. 14:26-40)
4. That the worship service be reverent (Lev. 19:30; Joshua 5:14; Ps. 5:7; Heb. 12:28; Eccl. 8:12; Heb. 5:7; 1 Pet. 1:17, etc.)
The Lutheran Confessions teach us:
1. The proper, highest worship is to acknowledge one's sins and to seek forgiveness--the ebb and flow of worship: God forgives, we praise Him. (Ap. IV, par. 154; Ap. IV, par. 310; LC 1, par. 16; AC XXI par. 3; Ap XXIV, par. 71f)
2. Christ is the center of worship. (AC XXI par. 3)
3. Outward ceremonies do not make one righteous. (AC XXVII par 40f; Ap XV par. 20-21)
4. Outward ceremonies ("such as the liturgy of the Mass and various Canticles, festivals, and the like") which serve to preserve order in the church may be changed, reduced or increased without sin. (AC XXVII par. 40f, FC X; SD X)
5. "We should not consider as matters of indifference, and we should avoid as forbidden by God, ceremonies which are basically contrary to the Word of God, even though they go under the name and guise of external adiaphora and are given a different color from their true one" (SD X par. 5). (I believe CW falls under this.)
"Neither are useless and foolish spectacles, which serve neither good order, Christian discipline, nor evangelical decorum in the church, true adiaphora or things indifferent" (SD X par. 7). (I believe CW often falls under this as well.)
6. "The real adornment of the churches is godly, practical, and clear teaching, the godly use of the sacraments, ardent prayer, and the like. Candles, golden vessels and ornaments like that are fitting, but they are not the peculiar adornment of the church. If our opponents center their worship in such things rather than in the proclamation of the Gospel, in faith, and in its struggles, they should be classified with those whom Daniel (11:38) describes as worshiping their God with "gold and silver" (Ap. XXIV par. 51).
(These are not attempts at comprehensive lists)
Within these guidelines there are varieties of worship: Matins, Vespers, Compline, The Divine Service (I, II in LW & pg. 15 in TLH), The Service of the Word (a.k.a. the Half-Mass--pg. 5 in TLH), The Deutsche Messe (DS III in LW), Nones, Sext, evening prayer, morning prayer, etc.
Furthermore, there are other worship services which may be created for edifying use in the church--services which must follow the prescribed forms and orders of scripture and the Lutheran confessions.
Now how does Contemporary Worship fit into all of this?
While CW is sometimes very hard to define, over the years I have realized certain commonalities between each service that is called "Contemporary". I have learned these by reading books on the subject, attending conferences, being trained by my vicarage pastors and by trial and error. I have even been told when some of my services were not "contemporary" and why. Through this process of discovery I have learned that the Esse of CW is not Lutheran or Biblical. The Esse is that which is at the core and soul of a thing. It is that which if you took it away, it would cease to be what it was and become something else. In other words, what is it that distinguishes CW and sets it apart from Liturgical worship? And does that distinction make CW unlutheran and unbiblical?
1. CW is distinguished by a focus on emotion--often referred to as "meaningful." CW has accepted the Pentecostal theology of spirituality and has therefore defined deeply-felt emotions as true spirituality. Whether it is more "emotional/meaningful" music, or more emotional/meaningful" sermons, or a more "emotional/meaningful" service, it's still the same focus on the subjective self and emotion. In this line, charismatic preaching is important to CW. Charismatic choirs are important to CW. Enjoyable, charismatic songs are important to CW. It may be possible that the pastor who engages in CW does not have this specific understanding of spirituality; however it is reflected in his actions and in his CW.
The primary goal of CW is to pump you up, to make you feel more emotional and charged about Christ and this becomes "true" spirituality. It's a pep rally of sorts. Even when this "pep rally" mentality is toned down, the goal is still some form of emotional, uplifting experience. From the CW perspective, excitement supposedly shows your commitment to Christ.
This is contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding of the Holy Spirit and true spirituality. True spirituality is not a function of emotion, but rather a function of the Word and Sacraments. True spirituality is not subjective, but objective. True spirituality cannot be found in a song but only in the means of grace.
This is also contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding that the proper, highest worship is to acknowledge one's sins and to seek forgiveness. Which means more than that confession and forgiveness are offered in the service, but rather, that the entire service is one of confession and forgiveness through Word and Sacraments. The Lutheran service is penitential and joyous at the same time.
One might also argue that this is also contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding that the worship service be reverent and done in decency and good order.
2. CW is distinguished by "Self-Help" or "How to" sermons: "How to be a Better Christian," "How to be a Better Husband," "How to be a Christian Leader."
This is contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding of Law and Gospel preaching centered on Christ and Him crucified.
3. CW is distinguished by a lack of reverence--often referred to as less stodgy and "more spiritual" (see emotions above).
This is contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding of reverence in worship.
4. CW is distinguished by Pentecostal and Baptist music. By Pentecostal I mean, the style of music was created/brought in by the Pentecostal church, the majority of authors are Pentecostal or Evangelical and/or the songs reflect Pentecostal and Baptist/Evangelical theology, especially as it relates to "meaningful/spiritual" worship (see emotions above). There's a lot of focus on the individual and what we do for God (usually praising Him) rather than on what Christ does for us. There's a lot of focus on the Holy Spirit (from the heterodoxical Pentecostal theological perspective).
This is contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding of using only doctrinally pure materials.
This is not exhaustive, but sufficient, I think for the current discussion.
One may follow up by asking if it’s possible to avoid some of these dangers and still use CW? In other words, "Is it possible to write a contemporary service using Baptist and Evangelical forms and make it Lutheran?"
After having been told by several "experts" in the field that one's form is predicated by one's theology and that it is therefore impossible to use Baptist/Evangelical worship forms and still be Lutheran (this principal is very old--so old it is known in Latin: "Lex orandi, Lex credendi," meaning: the law of worship is the law of belief or to put it more succinctly: "How you worship is how you believe." Form and substance are intricately united). However, after having been told that it was impossible to use evangelical forms and have Lutheran substance, I tried anyway. I followed Pastor David Luecke's understanding of "Evangelical style and Lutheran substance." I fervently believed that it was possible to blend Evangelical style with Lutheran substance and come up with a solid and unique Lutheran worship style.
This is where I got caught up in trying to write a Lutheran Contemporary Worship Service. I knew that one of the things to be avoided was this Pentecostal concept of Spirituality. It was certainly very difficult to avoid in the songs--almost impossible in fact, as most CW songs are predicated upon this singular concept (spirituality is feelings and feelings are given by the Spirit without means: "Spirit Rain," "Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me," "Blaze Spirit blaze, set our hearts on fire," etc.--which is obviously not the Lutheran understanding of spirituality or the means by which the Spirit comes to us.) Furthermore, as I was attempting to write a Lutheran liturgy which could be defined as contemporary, I quickly realized that one of the definitions of CW is that it had to be less reverent and more "spiritual" or emotional in nature. Note the titles of some of these contemporary services: "Celebration Service," "Spirit Song," etc. These titles reflect an unLutheran, dare I say unChristian emphasis upon feelings as opposed to the gift of forgiveness in Christ Jesus. (While a title such as "Celebration Service" can be defended as the celebration of Easter or Christ, sadly, oftentimes the service and sermon themselves reveal this is not the case. Also it is the juxtaposition between "celebration" and "traditional." If the "celebration" service is a celebration of joy, then what is the "traditional" service? Whether intended or not, titles teach!)
What I found was none of the "forms" for CW (for indeed there are general categories that are the same within CW) reflected a Lutheran view of spirituality and worship. It seems that while Lutherans believed and maintained that the Bible says worship must be reverent and holy, the esse (soul) of CW was less reverent (I believe it's actually irreverent) and more emotionally driven.
Coming to this realization, I tried to make a Lutheran CW which might avoid these pitfalls. Working on the principal that it surely isn't the unLutheran view of spirituality and irreverence which the people were requesting, I sat down to prepare the services. In the early days, I actually tried to write my own liturgies, working from CW sources and preprinted CW services, trying to remain faithful to the hymnal. It didn't take long before I realized: a. how difficult it is to write liturgies as opposed to sermons; b. how easily you can mislead people (heresy) when you thought you were writing something else and c. how quickly the people began to misunderstand worship. For example, when one uses an "Evangelical" or "Pentecostal" term, such as "Praise and Worship," it carries certain meanings, which our people have learned from the Christian radio and popular Christian books, and which do not correspond to a Lutheran understanding of those words. Or when one sings "Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me," it carries an unchristian/Pentecostal message, whether it can be understood correctly or not. The author is not saying, "Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me, through Word and Sacrament. Oh, and by fresh, I do not mean that I have somehow lost the Spirit, since I don't feel Him right now."
Later, I began to use various combinations of already written liturgical forms. For example, I took a Gloria from one Lutheran hymn book and the Kyrie from another, trying to find more emotionally enjoyable settings--if we sang them at all (we often didn't because the more chant like tones were considered "a bland expression of the liturgy" to quote Rev. Dittmer). Also, I changed their names to reflect an easier understanding. I might place a popular hymn for the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy). I printed everything out in the bulletin (a must for CW). In spite of the heretical dangers of most CW songs, we chose only "contemporary" music for the "hymns" and we had the whole band thing. I tried to choose the least objectionable “contemporary” songs and those that could at least be understood correctly. What I discovered is, they still led the people astray.
In spite of this, I was told repeatedly, "This is not contemporary worship!" I was frequently requested to add more feeling to the service (like the last pastor did) and make it more "spiritual." I received complaints like: "The service it too strict" (i.e. reverent). "I don't sense the Holy Spirit anymore." The music director repeatedly implored that the opening hymns were supposed to be "uplifting" so we can "lift the rafters" and the closing hymn had to be similarly "uplifting" lest we leave on a low note. And we had to have several opening hymns in order to achieve the "perfect" worshipful mood.
It is also of the essence of CW that the sermon not be a Law and Gospel Sermon, but rather a sermon about getting through life (as if Law and Gospel did not do this--in fact there might be something to the argument that CW sermons have changed the Lutheran understanding of how one gets through life--not by confession and absolution, but by trying harder). Oftentimes this is defended as preaching the third use of the law--however, Lutherans have always contended whether you have a section of third use or not, the Gospel must predominate. This is certainly not the case in the CW sermons I have heard. I received complaints that my sermons talked about sin. I received complaints that my sermons weren't applicable to daily life. I received complaints that I wasn't preaching 10 steps to greater health or a better marriage or whatever.
It was at this moment that I realized that what the people were requesting was not, in fact, Lutheran worship, but rather a mix of Lutheran and Evangelical/Pentecostal theology in their worship. They wanted Evangelical spirituality and Lutheran communion, two things that are not actually compatible. Eventually, one must replace the other. In fact, Pastor David Luecke has apparently realized the same thing for a few years ago he told a NOW district conference that we need to think of the means of grace as a failed strategy and adopt new forms and substance in order to grow.
What I learned in summary:
1. As a writer of liturgy you lead people astray. Even if you get one week "perfect" that's only 1 out of 52. (See below on writing liturgy.)
2. The CW songs lead people astray.
3. The people who request CW are not requesting Lutheran worship, but a hybrid of Evangelical/Pentecostal worship with a Lutheran understanding of communion added on. (Though this too shall change, I imagine, as the two theologies cannot stand side by side. The one must replace the other.)
It is often falsely believed that if a pastor can write a "good" (often defined as God-pleasing) sermon, then he can write a "good/God-pleasing" worship service. As one who has attempted to write contemporary worship services and as one who has spoken to those who "create" worship services for our hymnals, allow me to say, "This is not true." Besides the significant point that from my experience most of the pastors who go for contemporary worship do not write (or preach, or even seem to understand) "God-pleasing"--Law and Gospel sermons, and therefore do not write God-pleasing--Gottesdienst--besides that! Writing liturgy is a different task than writing a sermon. When you write a sermon, you have an entire 15-20 minutes (average) to get your point across. If you make a mistake, or misspeak, you can correct yourself. When you make a point, you can make it in several different ways, using different examples to make sure you don't miscommunicate. You can still miscommunicate, of course, however, it's less likely than when you write a liturgy. When you write a liturgy, you have one or two sentences to get it right and that without misleading anyone.
Oftentimes, you wind up writing what makes sense to you (the author) but not what makes sense to the people (a situation much easier to deal with in a sermon, where you have more time and more words to explain). This is why it takes liturgies years of writing, discussing and practice before they officially come out. Talk to the people who write liturgies for the hymnals--it takes a group (not 1 pastor) and about 2-3 years to get it right. And remember, for the most part, they're using already tried and trusted wordings! The simple truth of the matter is, pastors are not trained to write liturgies. We have not taken classes to that effect (primarily because no one thought we'd need to have that skill). And those parish pastors that attend conferences on writing worship services, often wind up taking classes from Reformed/Baptist/Pentecostal sources, thus absorbing their theology.
Furthermore, in the desire to make Christian concepts more understandable, CW has a penchant for using metaphors and language that are not scriptural and certainly not Lutheran and often misleads, even if they can be understood correctly. One series of CW services I was using used the example of a summer bus trip for the theme of the summer services. The metaphors used during the confession and absolution alone were down right ridiculous and would be humorous if not actually used in a worship service. In replacing the words of the Bible with the words of human understanding, we are leading our people further and further from the Word--a point which might be highlighted by recent Barna research indicating that Christians are becoming less and less able to understand the Bible. Could it be that we're taking away one of the primary helps to interpretation of the Bible--the Liturgy? Historically, this is how the liturgy has been used--as an interpreter of the Bible. The Liturgy helps us understand the Bible, but not when you change the Biblical metaphors and words to "modern" metaphors and words.
Also, CW likes to use a lot of Bible passages from the O.T. to replace the wording of the liturgy (i.e. the confession and absolution) and while it is certainly laudable to use Bible passages in the liturgy which, of course, Lutherans do in the traditional services, due to the unfortunate and almost total stranglehold that Pentecostals and Evangelicals have on O.T. understanding through the radio, music and popular Christian books, and because CW often only quotes a part of a Psalm or O.T. passage (usually the praise parts--remember it's the emotional build-up that's important), it often misleads our own people into believing Lutherans have the same understanding. The Introits and Psalm readings in Lutheran Worship seem to avoid this by quoting larger sections of the Psalms, if not the whole Psalm. In other words, it's the question of how you quote the O.T. (or Bible for that matter). Are you trying to design an emotional response or center on Christ Jesus?
Very often the end result of Contemporary worship writing is Baptist/Evangelical/Pentecostal theology (form and substance) with the Lord's Supper thrown in. The Confession of sins is still there, however it is very often not a Lutheran understanding of the confession of sins (most I've seen are very weak on sin and either ignore original sin or make sin sound like we're apologizing rather than confessing. The Absolution is often very anemic and often comes off sounding like an "Oh, that's okay" sort of reaction to an apology.)
The Benediction is still there (now called a blessing), but it is not a Lutheran understanding of the Benediction. Benedictions in CW are almost always "encouragements" to go into the world and do better. This is not a Blessing!
The creeds are often vacant and if they are present they are either rewritten or simply torn down and built anew. They certainly do not represent the concept of an ecumenical creed which has been believed and confessed by all Christians for 2,000 years and unites us in that moment of confession with all those who have passed on in the faith.
Communion becomes McCommunion (a speedy version of lines where the pastor might not even commune some people at all! Certainly not Lutheran).
The vast majority of the songs (and yes I've seen a lot of them in my time as contemporary worship writer) are simply heretical. Sometimes they can be understood correctly, but that is no excuse to use songs which in their original understanding are contrary to our understanding of scripture and, without extensive study, lead the people astray. Those that are not heretical are simply not as good and solid theologically as the hymns we already have. Consider St. Paul's example of milk and meat. CW songs are, at their best, milk (or, as I like to use, cotton candy--it tastes sweet to the mouth but dissolves quickly and rots your teeth--not necessary for life and can be harmful) while hymns are meat (good, strong steak--good for you and necessary for life)--not a perfect analogy but useful. And, at worst, CW songs are heretical, leading people astray.
Popular CW songs like, "We exalt Thee" or "Great is the Lord" etc. are vague as to whom we are addressing. They can be sung by Christian, Jew and Muslim alike and are centered upon the Reformed concept of the sovereignty of God, rather than the Lutheran emphasis upon Christ. An occasional song here or there which speaks of the sovereignty of God is indeed good, right and salutary. We have a few hymns along these lines. However, Lutheran hymnody is largely centered on Christ and rightly (ritely) so. Christ-centered hymns are a hallmark of Lutheran worship. Furthermore, it is the belief (theology) of the Pentecostal church that these songs are designed to "put God on His throne." They actually believe that you "must" begin your worship service with such songs, praising God's might and power so that God might see the great faith of the gathered congregation and come to that service with His power and might.
In trying to avoid many of these pitfalls, I found my "contemporary" worship services getting closer and closer to the Divine Service in the hymnal. The more pitfalls I avoided, the closer it got to the Divine Service.
In the final analysis I have found that, whether intended or not, the irreverence and unbiblical spirituality of CW has the ultimate effect of pointing us to our feelings and not to Christ. This makes CW profane, in the truest sense of the word.
"For profanity consists in this: for the sensual gratification or amusement of the moment to give up that which is spiritual and unseen; to be careless of that which is holy, so as to snatch the present enjoyment--in short, practically not to deem anything holy at all, if it stands in the way of present pleasure" (Edersheim, Bible History, Old Testament, p. 112). This was written in the context of Esau selling his birthright for a mess of pottage but has application to all things profane.
CW trades that which is truly spiritual and unseen for enjoyment (which CW defines as spiritual). Since CW defines deeply felt emotions as true spirituality, it is no surprise then that they trade true worship for felt needs--again, whether intentional or not.
Finally, remember this, CW is not new. Versions of CW have tried to come into the church through various means: Pietism, Pentecostalism, NeoPentecostalism, and now through the CW movement. As Lutherans, we have conscientiously and consistently rejected their attempts to move us away from our Christ-centered worship, until recently.
Pastor Sean Rippy, Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, a former advocate of Contemporary Worship, discusses the differences between historic and contemporary Christian worship, highlighting where contemporary worship falls short with Pr. Todd Wilken on Issues, Etc. Classics. (mp3, ~25 MB, 53:48, 2003-Oct-23)
Issues, Etc., Classics were broadcast on KFUO-AM in St. Louis, and other stations around the country. Phone number and address mentioned are no longer valid.
Pastor Sean Rippy, Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, a former advocate of Contemporary Worship, discusses the differences between historic and contemporary Christian worship, highlighting where contemporary worship falls short. (mp3, 53:48, 25 MB, 2003-Oct-23)
Issues, Etc., Classics (before June 30, 2008) originated at KFUO-AM in St. Louis, and were broadcast on other stations around the country. Phone numbers and address mentioned are no longer valid.
See also Pastor Rippy's article "In Defense of Historical Worship - From a Former Advocate of Contemporary Worship"
The Sheep Judge Their Shepherds - Dr. C.F.W. Walther (12 pgs, 198 kb) Booklet (6 pgs, 193 kb) printable
The Judgment of the Sheep Over Their Shepherds
Eighth Sunday after Trinity
C. F. W. Walther
(Translated by Rev. Donald E. Heck)
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Dear friends in Christ Jesus.
God's Church on earth has always been a militant Church. She has always been oppressed and persecuted by the world and its mighty; even within the Church herself men have continually arisen, who have spread false doctrine, obtained a following, and thus harassed the Church, causing division and offense. In the Church of Adam was self-righteous Cain; in the Church of Noah, Ham who despised his father; in the Church of Abraham, the mocker Ishmael; in the Church of the prophets many false prophets who preached and the Lord had not sent them, who falsely comforted the people and misled them into idolatry. Almost everywhere even in the apostolic Church where the Gospel was preached arose heretics who caused splits, yes, often destroyed whole flourishing congregations. St. Paul classes among those especially Alexander the silversmith, Hymenaeus, and Philetus. St. John names the entire sect of the Nicolaitans. Thus it has continued until this very day.
Mrs. Colleen Campbell discusses the sexualization of girls with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 14:29, 5.9 MB, 2009-Aug-27)
Mr. Craig Parton, author of The Defense Never Rests, discusses Evangelical Style and Lutheran Substance with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 25:58, 4.5 MB, 2008-Jul-01)
Pr. Wilken: "Can we talk about evangelical style and Lutheran substance and really make any sense?"
Mr. Parton: "Somebody who says they're going to do Lutheran substance and evangelical style generally means they don't know anything about either subject. So you ask them, 'What is Lutheran substance?' and you get a vacuous stare, a couple of things said, unlikely correct. Then you ask them, 'What's evangelical style?' And they'll inevitably be wrong because if they're Lutherans, they're thirty years behind the times, and their idea of evangelical style is not what's being done out here in California at the leading evangelical centers."
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