Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday

We went to the same church as for that day and that day. The readings were Philippians 2:5-11 and Luke 23:1-56.

Palm Sunday equals controlled chaos. Another name for today is Passion Sunday, the start of our Holy Week pilgrimage. Passover, one Jewish pilgrimage, is this week. The events remind us of the most important event in the history of the world: the death and resurrection of Jesus our Lord, for our transgressions and justification. Are Maundy Thursday and Good Friday too solemn? Yet without them, Easter doesn't mean as much.

"Save us now!" What did the people expect? A holy war? Certainly not a cross and tomb! Yet Jesus makes a pilgrimage each Sunday to the table at which He has promised to be. God is omnipresent - but Christ localizes Himself here. His road long ago led through pain, suffering, ridicule from people who wanted to be entertained. Think instead of your own sin, for which you deserve the death sentence. I do.

Yet the innocent Man has died for you, who go free. The blessed exchange. He bore the cross and the tomb in your place. But death is NOT the final stop on your pilgrimage. Let us ever walk with Jesus, following His example pure. In this week, follow His footsteps, to the cross, the grave, and then the sky.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lent 5

Still at my home church. Today's readings were Isaiah 43:16-21, Philippians 3:8-14 (sermon text), and Luke 20:9-20.

Why do spiritual exercises? Jesus.

It's all about Jesus Christ. We keep the end in sight, the fruit of our discipline. Workouts improve the game, studying improves the citizenship and parenthood. Spiritual exercises - because we need Jesus, the only and glorious option. The hope increases as we near heaven. It never fades; we count all else as loss. Paul sets an extreme example - by human standards, he seemed pretty perfect. Yet only Jesus matters to him.

Christ is our life. He is our Righteousness, for we have none of ourselves. In this we are content, whatever else we have - sickness or health, poverty or riches, death or life. For our citizenship is in heaven. We have Jesus Christ, the only eternal hope. Minds, bodies, and possessions fade, but Jesus does not. He is why we discipline ourselves spiritually. Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. All else is loss. He is with you!

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lent 4

At home for today until next Sunday! Today's readings were Isaiah 12:1-6 (sermon text), 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, and Luke 15:1-3, 11-32.

"The LORD God is my song." Odd? No! God's song of mercy is in our hearts by the Spirit's power. This pertains to spiritual exercise in that the LSB (or any hymnal) can be used thusly. Isaiah sings of the Day of Salvation and the Day of Judgment. What happens on those days? God's anger turns away from us (anger = preaching of Law) and His comfort turns toward us (preaching of Gospel).

Singing in the Church is one of God's greatest gifts to us. The hymnal is intended for home use as well. It has prayers for worship, hymns (of course), and daily and weekly lectionaries (Scripture readings for each day). There are also the five settings of the Divine Service, morning and evening prayers, and mini-services (Compline, Vespers, etc.), as well as the Small Catechism (to be read and memorized).

Isaiah speaks of saving water - which is the Word itself, giving eternal life! "Make known His deeds" - evangelism by living and speaking Jesus with skin on. Tell of God's saving acts - for Israelites, these include the Exodus and Jericho's fall. What has God done for you? Resurrection and adoption in Baptism; Confirmation, Holy Communion, daily breath, etc. He has acted gloriously for you - His perfection is displayed in the Cross. The Holy One is great in our midst; this One is our song.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lent 3

Today's readings, at a wonderful (but far) church we have visited twice before, were Ezekiel 33:7-20, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, and Luke 13:1-9 (sermon text).

Today's Gospel depicts suffering of certain people - did they suffer more because they sinned more? No. But unrepentance leads to perishing. How to connect this with the meaning of "Gospel"? Tragedies signify a broken, rebellious world, not a God who lacks love or does not exist. Such is our existence, but not directly our fault per se. But it is not God's fault. It is ours. Our response is repentance and contrition.

Tragedy serves to turn us from ourselves to the Savior, Jesus Christ. Why? He bore our rebellion's tragedy in His death. He most certainly does exist, and is love, for the fires of hell fell upon Him instead of us as we would have deserved. We worship to be freed from these tragedies. And indeed we partake of a greater reality that - like tragedy - turns us to Jesus, the Pierced-for-us, our Tabernacle-of-refuge. The Lamb's blood feeds us and gives us life and rescues us to eternal life. God's love never fails. See this love in worship. Repent daily. And be sanctified daily.

Soli Deo gloria.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Lenten conundrum

At breakfast, while listening to an adjacent women's Bible study that happened to be on Psalm 149, I was struck by the fact, known to many, that "Praise the LORD" is equivalent to "Hallelujah" or "Alleluia." Yet we Lutherans (and other denominations) say farewell to Alleluia on Transfiguration Sunday. Are we thus forbidden from praising God during Lent?

I know that's not a simple question, but have at it, you theological types.

Update 3/7/10: Several Facebook friends have posted informative comments. Excerpts:
  • "Instead the purpose of removing the alleluias is to promote a more reflective view of praise."
  • "It isn't necessarily a time of sadness. But, it isn't a time the church has chosen to rejoice about our sins. Its a time to consider them. I personally don't know why we 'can't' say Alleluia, or why Hallelujah is verboten. I get happy when I think of what he'd done for me. BUT, it is good to remember what he has done, and that I needed Him to do it."
  • "Now, as for the Alleluia thing... the point is not to keep you from praising, i.e. confessing God's work for you. In fact, the entire point of it IS to make a confession! In Lent, the Church Catholic refrains from alleluias in order to set aside this time for special reflection of how sinful we are. It is a time when the Church confesses her sin and the need for repentance. Also, consider this: by refraining from the alleluias now, it makes saying alleluia all the more significant during Easter, where the Church Catholic confesses the reason why we are no longer enslaved to sin and doomed to death."
  • "Sometimes it is good, right and salutary to be sad and filled with sorrow! I certainly hope all of you feel sorrow when the Law crushes you and you feel the weight of your sin. For only if the Law crushes does the Gospel bring sweet relief."
  • "I guess my point is this: praising = confessing; and one can make a pretty darn good confession simply by refraining from singing alleluias for forty days."
Good stuff! This is why I hang out with preseminary majors. :)