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Devotion on the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession (June 25)

 

Preached on June 8, 2020

 

Audio

 

Readings–Acts 4:23-31; Hebrews 12:1-3; Matthew 10:27-33

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

ACLater this month, on June 25, the church commemorates the presentation of what is considered to be “the principal doctrinal statement of the theology of Martin Luther and the Lutheran Reformers”—the Augsburg Confession (June 25, The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession).

This Confession of the faith, written largely by Philip Melanchthon, was formerly presented before Emperor Charles V in 1530, not by the clergy, but by leaders, who feared not the wrath of man, but sought to serve the Lord with their very lives.

At its heart, the Augsburg Confession confesses the justification of sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone. It centers on the forgiveness of sins won for sinners by Christ’s death on the cross.

Continually does this Confession bear witness and give testimony to the Word of God, which reveals Christ as Savior and neither Church, man, nor any other.

For the pastor and the layman, June 25, 1530 is a date to be remembered.

Men of simple faith gave witness to what they believed according to Holy Scripture, even against the powers that be.  They were not willing to compromise the Good News of salvation, the Gospel, for any worldly type of peace, let alone for the sake of unity against a common enemy.

In that day, that common enemy was the Turk, the Muslim.

Rome sought peace with the Lutherans for the purpose of a united front concerning the advancement of that empire.

Such a peace, however, was not based on the peace that passes all human understanding.

Such a peace hinged on Rome’s set manner of peace, not the peace ordained of God, the peace set forth by God in Jesus Christ according to His Holy Word.

The kind of peace that Rome sought was that peace based on agreement with their teaching, with their doctrine, in submission to the authority of the Pope—the kind of peace that was on their terms, not those of our Lord.

That those presenters of the Augsburg Confession on that day of June 25, 1530 were given the platform for declaring what they believed and confessed is reason for thanksgiving.

Even as the Romish church remained Romish, crystallizing their doctrine in the Council of Trent years later (1546ff), that the Reformers said what they said, declared what they declared, testified of the faith revealed by God, such a work was not merely that of man.

And God’s Word does not return void.

Says God through the prophet Isaiah, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-19 NKJ).

As God gives utterance through the prophets and the apostles, giving the words to say, so also does the Lord continue to do so.

The Lord moved those presenters of the Augsburg Confession to declare words of truth amid error. They were seeking genuine unity based on what God said.

They were not seeking a unity based on ‘agreeing to disagree’ or on the ‘acceptable’ kind of teaching having the most popular votes.

Throughout history, God’s people have rarely, if at all, been in the majority.

God’s Word has not, and does not, enjoy high regard from most of the world.

The truth must be spoken, as difficult as it is to do.

The where and the when have their place, to be sure.

Vocation demands it.

Let the chips fall where they might.

The outcome is the Lord’s, always!

Concerning that presentation of the Augsburg Confession commemorated on the 25th of this month, we are heirs of that Confession.

That Confession is also our own, as are also all statements of faith in the Book of Concord. They are our own because, not “in so far as,” they are correct expositions of Holy Scripture.

These include the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds, the latter just confessed this past Holy Trinity Sunday, the most articulate of the Creeds concerning the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.

In truth, these creeds of the Western Church express a oneness with the church universal.

The Reformers were not at all seeking to venture off on their own. They only sought to remain with the Church of God according to the Bible.

Such holy desire moved them to present at Augsburg.

Such holy desire moved the Christians before them to bear witness to the truth.

Such holy desire moves Christians today to confess the Name of the crucified and risen Christ, to distinguish Law and Gospel, to be in the Word, to receive the Lord’s proclamation of Command and Promise, to partake of Christ’s body and blood, to remember their Baptism into the Name of the Triune God, to beat down the old man and to put on the new.

Pastors, too, have these desires.

But any strength that they show forth in these matters is not of their own.

Whether clergy or lay, the fruit of the Spirit, the creation of a new heart, gratefulness to the Father—these come from the gracious God who bestows upon us what we don’t deserve.

God reveals that life is in, and only in and through, His Son.

Living by faith in the Word and not according to sight in the world, our attention is drawn to the Messiah, the Christ, Whom the blessed Father sent, not that we have peace in the world, but that we rest fully in Him, sure and certain of what is to come, sure and certain of what is ours even now, whether there be unrest or upheaval, whether there be trouble or difficulty.

St. Paul, in His godly inspired letter to the Christians in Colossae, writes,

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4 NKJ).

The concern of the Reformers then, and the concern of the Christian Church and her preachers today, is that such confidence be born of God in Christ Jesus that in life or death, the Christian know the Christ who ever holds him, He Who is faithful to His Word, even when all else appears to the contrary.

Even the disciples of our Lord Christ were distraught upon His death. They thought that all was lost, that Jesus was undone.

Three days later, Jesus disproved their unbelief in His Word.

Jesus confirmed what He said.

Jesus still confirms His Word.

Hidden as such confirmation may be, His Word remains and will remain that to which we cling, that of which we proclaim.

The Christian Church has no other Word to declare.

The Christian Church is not about unity at any cost.

Christ’s body is not about the lowest common denominator.

What God says—God says—all of it—None we can deny.

Any confidence in this is not of our own making.

Any confidence in what God says, in what God reveals—this, too, is of God—in and by whom we stand. Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Lord God, heavenly Father, You preserved the teaching of the apostolic Church through the confession of the true faith at Augsburg. Continue to cast the bright beams of Your light upon Your Church that we, being instructed by the doctrine of the blessed apostles, may walk in the light of Your truth and finally attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigins with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

Audio

 

 

“She will be saved”

“While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher.” But when Jesus heard it, Jesus&Jairus'Daughter3He answered him, saying, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.” When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl. Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead. But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Little girl, arise.” Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat. And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened” (Lk. 8:49-56 NKJ)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Jairus’ daughter was determined to be dead. So, the announcement came to the father.  Jesus had heard this news, too.

He was on his way with them to see the girl.

Before, she was dying.

Now, the news of her death must have struck a chord with the father.

Jesus was coming to help a dying girl.  Now that she was dead, there was no need, so that “someone from the ruler’s house” had thought, and the father, too, may have been encouraged by that thought, not to trouble “the Teacher anymore.”

If one calls for help and that help would seem to be useless due to circumstance, why continue to request that which is doubtful, uncertain, or considered not to be of consequence in providing the help that was first sought? Such would be a waste of time and energy.

The girl was dead.

The belief was that Jesus could no longer help, that death could not be undone, that hope of the girl’s recovery was now gone.

Jesus had something different to say.

Death does have its day. Suffering, grief, and sorrow do have their time.

Man’s unbelief and loss of hope, however, does not mean that there is none.

Going by what we see and feel is not all that there is to go on. These are weighty, to be sure. But the last word is not what we see before us, think, or determine to be so, even in the face of death.

To the truth of the girl’s death, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be saved” (Luke 8:50).

Such words call for faith, not faith that is either blind, unsure, doubtful, or self-derived, but faith in what Jesus literally says.

We might hear these words of our Lord and then immediately ask, “Believe in what?”, even as other places in Holy Scripture are deemed to call for faith without an object, or so many would say.

Yet, what the Lord says, the Lord Jesus Himself, is the object of faith, not what we determine to be so.

When Jesus says what He says, He’s calling for faith in what He Himself is saying.

As to the word “be well,” the translation given by the ESV and any number of other translations, Jesus literally says, “be saved.”

“Be saved” has a greater meaning than “be well.”

“Be well” has more the temporal, physical sense attached to it.

“Be saved” has the more lasting, eternal sense attached to it.

Not only would the girl be “saved” from physical death and be brought back to life. The girl would be saved unto eternity through the One who raised her from the dead, as would the father, believing Jesus’ words.

The father did believe. The group continued to the house. Jesus spoke to the child, “Arise” (Luke 8:54), and “she arose immediately” (Luke 8:55).

Such is the authority, the power, not of faith, but of Jesus, to even raise the dead from death.

According to His Word is this so, not because of our believing or our not believing, but due to His Word, which faith believes.

Thus, did Jesus rise from the dead, just as He said He would, whether there is belief in it or not.

Faith doesn’t make a thing so.

Jesus’ Word, work, death, resurrection, these do.

This is what faith believes.

According to the Word, such faith is sound and true, and leaves nothing unsure, for it is founded only on what God has given and not on human hopes and dreams. Amen.

PrayingHands&Cross1Dearest Jesus, help us hold fast to Your Word and only to Your Word. Keep us from being tempted away from You to trust something other than what you say. Give us courage during uncertainty and joy amid trouble, that we look to You for our comfort and our stay. Amen.

 

The Ascension, Day of Pentecost, and The Visitation, all in May

In the Name of the risen Lord Jesus Christ!

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

The church continues rejoicing in the blessed resurrection of our Lord. The church continues glorifying the King of king and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).

Even at this time…And always!

Though uncertainty be in the world, the Word of God IS certain.

Jesus is no longer in the tomb.  Jesus is no longer dead. Jesus is risen, just as He had said (Matthew 28:6)!

JesusOnCrossThis month of May includes two special days in the church year, not to be neglected (also a third, in addition to the Lord’s Days, Sunday). The church year cycles according to the life of Christ (think Time of Christmas and Time of Easter) and the life of church (think Time of Pentecost).

The first of the special days noted this month of May, is The Feast of the Ascension of our Lord, Thursday May 21. Forty days after the Lord rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, Jesus ascended into heaven. The readings for ‘The Ascension’ are: Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:16-23; and Luke 24:44-53.

Of this occasion, the Psalmist earlier writes (Psalm 68:18; See also Ephesians 4:8ff).

Jesus also speaks of this in John 20:17, “I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God’” (NKJ).

Jesus’ ascension, however, does not at all mean that He was to no longer be with his disciples (or us).  His threefold office of prophet, priest, and king continues, today, just as Jesus continues to preach His Word (Luke 10:16; Romans 10:14-17), make intercession for us (Isaiah 53:12; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25-29), and reign (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20-23).

In Word, and Sacrament, Christ continues to be, not only among us, but for us, giving forgiveness and life eternal, the blessing of His redemptive work on the cross. Therefore, Christians long to hear the Word preached and to receive the Lord’s Supper often, especially during the days such as we are living in.

The second of the significant days in the church year during this month of May is the Pentecost2Feast of Pentecost. The readings for this special day (Sunday, May 31) are Numbers 11:24-30; Acts 2:1-21; John 7:37-39.

The Day of Pentecost is the day that Jesus sent His Spirit upon His disciples, that they preach Christ and Him crucified for the salvation of sinners. This they did, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and many believed (i.e. Acts 2:41).

By the power of that same Spirit, working through the very Word preached, and spoken with water (Holy Baptism) and bread and wine (The Sacrament of the Altar), God continues to create, sustain, and strengthen faith in Christ (Luther’s Small Catechism, Meaning to the 3rd article of the Creed).

A third special day (as noted above) appearing on the church calendar in May is The Visitation, Isaiah 11:1-5; Romans 12:9-16; Luke 1:39-45(46-56). This is the day commemorating Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, who was pregnant with he who was to be named John (the Baptist).  Just a few months before, the angel Gabriel had visited Mary, announcing to her the “Good News of great joy” (Luke 2:10), that Mary would bear the Son of God (Luke 1:35) [The Annunciation of our Lord, dated March 25, 2020].

As the greeting of Mary entered the ears of Elizabeth, so also had John “leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41).

With the Word of our Lord, we, too, rejoice in the Lord’s undeserved kindness and unmerited mercy.

Though we don’t know with certainty how long Covid-19 will affect us and influence our lives as it has, we are certain that Covid-19 is not the greatest of our fears. Neither is sin or death for that matter — because of Christ Jesus.

Jesus did indeed die.  He is risen from the dead. He has ascended on high. He reigns forevermore. His Spirit He sends. Jesus will return in glory! Amen.

PrayingHands&Cross1Prayer on Ascension Day: O Jesus Christ, Son of the Most High God, who having left Your earthly humility, are seated at the hand hand of your father as Lord over all things; we beseech You to send us Your Holy Spirit, give us faithful ministers, preserve Your Word, curb Satan and every tyrant, and mightily uphold Your kingdom on earth until Your enemeis are all laid at Your feet and we through You are victorious over sin, death, and all things. Amen. (Lutheran Prayer Companion, 48)

 

 

Some new podcasts posted

openBible1

New devotions have been uploaded. Click here.

 

 

 

Luther–Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague

 

In the following letter, here are a few areas Luther addresses:

  • Christians will not all respond in the same manner
  • Vocation and office
  • Prayer
  • Loving neighbor, Caring for the Sick
  • Denouncing the devil
  • Use of God-given reason
  • Hearing God’s Word, Receiving the Sacrament, Confessing one’s sins
  • Contact the pastor for pastoral care

“We here give you our opinion as far as God grants us to understand and perceive. This we would humbly submit to your judgment and to that of all devout Christians for them, as is proper, to come to their own decision and conclusion. Since the rumor of death is to be heard in these and many other parts also, we have permitted these instructions of ours to be printed because others might also want to make use of them…” (Luther)

 

Luther-Whether One May Flee From A Deadly Plague

 

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasO God, You desire not the death of sinners, but rather that we turn from our wickedness and live. Graciously behold Your people who plead to You and spare us. Withdraw the scourge of Your wrath and be moved in mercy to turn away this pestilence from us; for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (LCMS, In Time of Pestilence)

 

 

 

The Penitential season of Lent

Blessing.AbsolutionWe are at the beginning of the penitential season called, as of Ash Wednesday.  During these 40 days, you’ll notice omissions in the Sunday Divine Services for the Sundays in Lent. These omissions include the Hymn of Praise (“This is the Feast,” “Gloria in Excelsis”), the “Alleluia” response(s) (i.e. before the Gospel reading), and the Post-Communion Canticle, “Thank the Lord.”

We omit such portions to draw attention to the solemnity of the Lenten season.

The word “penitential” means, “of or relating to penitence or penance” (Merriam-Webster, online).

The word “penance” as a noun, according to Merriam-Webster, can mean “an act of self-abasement, mortification, or devotion performed to show sorrow or repentance for sin.” So, the dictionary.

Christians do seek to mortify (put to death, crucify) their sinful flesh, as St. Paul writes, “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13) and “your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desires, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).

Christians do this, however, not “to show sorrow or repentance for sin” for others to see (i.e. Matthew 6:1-4, 5-6, 7-8, 16-18), or to demonstrate to God that they are sorrowful (as if God can’t already see or doesn’t already know, 1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Jeremiah 23:23-24; Hebrews 4:13).

Rather, Christians, because they desire to live according to God’s Word, seek to amend their sinful lives.  They trust in the God of salvation; whose Son went to the cross for the salvation of the world (John 1:29; 3:16).

God calls all people to repent (i.e. Acts 17:30; 2 Peter 3:9), to turn from their sinful ways and to believe in Jesus.

The season of Lent is just about this, and points to “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 NKJ).

Now, about that word “penance” as a verb, “to impose penance on” (Merriam-Webster, online).

This word is not to be understood in the Roman Catholic way of “doing penance.” We know that if it was that, we could never do enough. Because of our sin, we are not able to “get right with God” by what we do (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16).  This is to minimize Christ and His work for our salvation.

Rather, salvation is not by our doing at all.  It is God alone who saves, through His Son alone.

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NKJ).

Christians don’t “do penance,” to show repentance, yet Christians are penitent. We sorrow over our sins and want to do better. We trust in Jesus alone for help and salvation.

We “Therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NKJ).  We seek to hear the Word of God often.  We regularly partake of Christ’s body and blood for “forgiveness, life, and salvation.” We also recognize “that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts,” and also “that a new man should daily come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever” (Luther’s Small Catechism, Fourth, What does such baptizing with water signify?). Amen.

 

 

Commemoration of Silas, fellow worker of St. Peter and St. Paul

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Feb 10 is a day commemorating Silas, Fellow Worker of St. Peter and St. Paul. Of this saint of God, the Commission on Worship on the LCMS website comments,

“Silas, a leader in the church at Jerusalem, was chosen by Paul (Acts 15:40) to accompany him on his second missionary journey from Antioch to Asia Minor and Macedonia. Silas, also known as Silvanus, was imprisoned with Paul in Philippi and experienced the riots in Thessalonica and Berea. After rejoining Paul in Corinth, he apparently remained there for an extended time. Beyond that there is little further mention of Silas and his association with Paul.” (Commemorations, Biography)

Another description, from Treasury of Daily Prayer, offers these additional words,

“Sometime later he (Silas) apparently joined the apostle Peter, likely serving as Peter’s secretary (1 Peter 5:12). Tradition says that Silas was the first bishop at Corinth.”

These words of comment leave us little to go on with reference to Silas.  It is a given that Paul and Peter both knew him, and that he served the Lord with them according to his calling.

We don’t know about his background like we do with Paul, formerly named Saul.

We don’t know his father or mother, his home country, or his occupation, if he had one prior to his conversion or after.

Little is given about this commemorated man of God.

Curiosity here, though, does not lead the faithful to speculations, lofty or not.  What we can know with certainty of any name referenced in the Bible is that which God reveals in that Word.  This alone is the “rule and norm,” our litmus by which all be tested.

Even here, however, we are left with limited knowledge of the man called Silas.

But to end speculation and wandering curiosity, we are simply left to ask, “What does God say?”—and then—“what does this mean?”—a good Lutheran question, to be sure, but qualified with an “according to the Word alone.”

Too often, the meaning of a thing is not left “as-is,” having confidence alone placed on the bare Word of God as given.

Rather, personal assumptions and sinfully contrived notions and “interpretations” are purported to reveal the true meaning, if not definitively, at least partially, “to me.”

Ego-centeredness and self-interest aside, we can only speak with certainty of Silas as given by Holy Scripture, and as mentioned earlier, there is little to go on, or so it would seem.

The name Silas occurs a total of 13 times, and only in the New Testament book of Acts.

That’s it!

Nowhere else does the name Silas occur.

Additionally, however, commentators connect the name Silvanus to Silas, which adds four more hits to the one today commemorated, once in 2 Corinthians, once in each of the two letters of Paul to the Thessalonians, and once in Peter’s first epistle.

This makes for a total of 17 instances where the name Silas, and Silvanus, appear in the New Testament writings.

In the latter four non-Acts occurrences of the name Silvanus, no lengthy narrative accompanies the name.

In Acts, the findings are quite distinct.

Without laboring you with more numbers, references to the man Silas in Acts connect readily to specific narratives and joined with the apostle Paul.

The first reference to Silas in the book of Acts is in relation to the Jerusalem synod of Chapter 15.

This is where “certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’” (Acts 15:1 NKJ).

And also, where, “Some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise (the converted Gentiles), and to command them to keep the law of Moses’” (Acts 15:5 NKJ).

The church came together and definitively said, “No… we believe and confess that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they” (Acts 15:11).

In other words, not by being circumcised according to the Law of Moses is eternal life, but through faith in the Christ Jesus preached from Holy Scripture, whom Peter and Paul preached.

Silas doesn’t appear a main speaker of the meeting proper, like Peter had.  In fact, Silas doesn’t appear to speak at all there.

Yet, the apostles and elders, with the whole church (Acts 15:12), did send Silas, along with Paul, Barnabas, Judas, and Barsabas to Antioch with the letter, crafted to “Not trouble those form the Gentiles who are turning to God” (Acts 15:19).

Silas was known among them, among the “men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26).

Also, he with Judas were considered by Luke to be “leading men among the brethren” (Acts 15:22 NKJ).

With Judas, Silas was to “Report the same things” of the letter “By word of mouth” (Acts 15:27).

This Silas did.

Judas and Silas “Exhorted the brethren” in Antioch, “With many words and strengthened them,” records Luke, relaying also that both were “leaders” and “themselves prophets” (Acts 15:32).

This meant that Silas spoke. Prophets speak.

Words not spoken by Silas at the Jerusalem synod were spoken elsewhere.

So, God gives His servants to speak as He will, where He will, with the Words to proclaim.

In the same chapter of Acts 15, Silas is the one who Paul chooses over Barnabas, to accompany him in visiting the brethren where they had “preached the word” (Acts 15:36).

This was where Paul and Barnabas contended about John Mark going with them, though he “had not gone with them to the work” (Acts 15:38).

Paul and Barnabas parted ways, the latter taking John Mark to Cyprus, the former taking Silas, “Being commended by the brethren to the grace of God” (Acts 15:40).

Next, we hear of Paul and Silas imprisoned, for the simple reason that Paul exorcised a demon from a girl, and her masters could no longer profit from her fortune-telling (Acts 16:19).

Of Paul and Silas, their accusers stated, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; “and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe” (Acts 16:20-21 NKJ).

The preaching of Jesus is not politically correct.  Nor is the true doctrine accepted by all, neither is godly work recognized as such by the world.

The devil fights against Christ and seeks to silence and suppress the truth however he might.

Yet, Paul and Silas, in prison, prayed and sang “hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).

In the midst of their ordeal, they blessed God.

And in the midst of their ordeal, a jailer heard, asking, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).

The answer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

The jailer and his household were baptized.  They believed God.

In two successive chapters, chapters 17 & 18, we find the remaining places where Silas is named in the book of Acts.

In chapter 17, Paul and Silas, still together in accompaniment, traveled to Berea, where the Jews “were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:10-11).

And, “Many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men” (Acts 17:12).

In chapter 18, when Paul was in Corinth, it was after “Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia” that Paul “was constrained by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 18:5).

What the Lord reveals of Silas in these passages is not at all insignificant.  The Lord had Silas right where He wanted him to be.

Silas was God’s servant, a member of the household of God.

It was not Silas who was running the show or plotting out how he would serve.  It was God directing, God leading, God moving, God giving.

In such giving, moving, leading, and directing, so God’s servant served.

Though it is true that we know little of Silas’ background, life, personality, etc., we know what God makes known.  And what God reveals of Silas manifests, not Silas, but God and His work, God’s salvation and redemption.

By God’s grace and work, the Lord grant you the same. Amen.

 

Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, Your servant Silas preached the Gospel alongside the apostles Peter and Paul to the peoples of Asia Minor, Greece, and Macedonia.  We give you thanks for raising up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of Your kingdom, that the Church may continue to proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Be still, and know that I am God…

10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.”

(Ps. 46:10-11 NKJ)

 

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

Such words of our Lord bespeak what we of ourselves are unable to do.

Our Lord says, “Do no be anxious.” We worry.

He says, “Do not worry.” We are anxious.

Over what we cannot see, we trouble and fret.

We want to have control, have a hand in the outcome, consequences we consider to be of benefit to us.

Our Lord calls us to a different way, one of faith, trust in the Lord’s Word, confidence in the Lord’s doing and in His ways.

Only the Lord Himself can bring such a change, that we begin to see things His way, not our own.

This the Lord does, by means of His own Word, through which He gives faith and confidence and trust in the Lord’s gracious and kind acts, on account of Him of Whom the Father sent “when the fullness of time had come,” Who was born of woman, born under the Law, to redeem” us from our sins.

Therefore, we, as God’s people, rest in the Lord, believing that He is God of gods, King of kings, Lord of lords.

So resting, we wait upon the Lord, are confident in His promises, trust His mercies, live by faith, seeking all the more to please God by what we say, do, and believe, according to His Word, through which He reveals Christ. Amen.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead us to rest fully in You, trusting in Your Word alone, believing Your Son, our Savior, for the forgiveness of sins and life eternal.  Keep us from pride and arrogance in our own ways.  Bring us to humbly approach Your throne of grace, calling to You in every need, ready to receive Your undeserved kindnesses, for which we give You praise and thanks. Amen.

 

“Jesus is the Savior of All,”Matthew 2:9-11

9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (NKJ)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Epiphany_MG_0764-415x685.jpgThe star directed the Magi to where Jesus was.  But so, too, did the Word accompany such sign.

Sign and Word, together, led the Magi to where the King of the Jews was to be.

Both were for their benefit, not God’s.

Such it is with the way of our Lord.

The Lord does what He does for our Good.

Leading the Magi to the Christ child with such treasures as they brought was foretold in the Old Testament.

Salvation was not only to be exclusively for the House of Israel, narrowly defined as regional in a certain locale.

Rather, salvation was to extend to the House of Israel, broadly speaking of all who believe in the promised Savior, sent of God, born of woman, born under the Law, in Bethlehem of Judah.

Of those who believe, St. Paul says,

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:28-29 NKJ).

Abraham’s seed includes only those who believe God according to His Word.

These are one in Christ Jesus.

They hold to God’s faithfulness, God’s faithfulness in keeping all of His promises, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Prayer: Grant me to rejoice with exceedingly great joy because of Your mercies to me in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

 

“Christ is the One,” Matthew 11:2-15

 

2Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”  4And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.  6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

      7As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see?  A reed shaken by the wind?  8What then did you go out to see?  A man dressed in soft clothing?  Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.  9What then did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  10This is he of whom it is written,

       “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’

11Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  12From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.  13For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.  15He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Here we have John the Baptist, the one who Jesus calls “more than a prophet” and the one of whom Jesus says, “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:9, 11).

Jesus also says of John that he is Elijah who is to come, that same Elijah of the Old Testament who was said to come before the “coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” who would “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:5-6).

John is the one of whom it was written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You” (Matthew 11:10; Malachi 3:1).

It was this John of whom Jesus spoke so highly – who pointed to Christ.

He had not worn the soft clothes of king’s houses.

He was not a reed shaken by the wind.

He stood his ground.

Yet, it was this John who asked a question of Jesus that was plain and quite to the point, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

John’s question is the question worth asking.

Everlasting life and the Kingdom of Heaven are worth being sure of.

The Coming One would save His people from death, forgive their sins, and establish His kingdom forever.

This was the One promised to Adam and Eve, the One who would crush the serpent’ head (Genesis 3:15), the Prophet like Moses whom God would raise, who would speak to the people all that God the Father commanded Him, and whoever would not hear His words which He speaks in the Father’s Name, it would be required of Him (Deuteronomy 18:18-19).

The Coming One to which John referred was the One who would rule on King David’s throne forever.  He was the One who would build a house for the Lord’s Name whose kingdom would have no end.  This was He of whom the prophets prophesied and all the people had hoped to come.

Isaiah said of Him, “Say to those who are fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear!  Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you.’  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.  Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing.  For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert” (Isaiah 35:4-6).

In another place, of Him who would come, Isaiah writes, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound (Isaiah 61:1).

John was asking the question about this One.

This One is none other than Jesus the Christ, the Savior of the world, the One foretold by the prophets, He who fulfilled all righteousness, and He who gives eternal rest and peace to all that trust in Him.

This One is God in the flesh, born as one of us, yet without sin.

John the Baptist also looked to this One.  He declared Him to be THE ONE, and John’s ministry ended.  But the ministry of Jesus goes on.

After John had heard in prison the works of Christ, he sent to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

This question and its answer are not without significance, nor are they without import to us in the 21st century.

John had heard.  And Jesus told John’s disciples to tell John what they had heard and seen.

John first heard correctly the things about Jesus.

Those things that John heard about Jesus were true.

Jesus’ Word and work testify to His identity.

His works and His Words bear witness to who He is.

These reveal to you that Christ is the Coming One, the Messiah, the Savior of the World.

He is the expectation of all Israel.

He is the One who delivers from sin and death.

He is the resurrection and life and no one comes to Father except through Him, the Son of living God.

The Coming One is the One that all will seek who hope to be saved.

Only an unbeliever would turn away from Him who declares God’s grace and hope to save himself.

That you not look to yourselves, or to another, or to false hopes of peace and prosperity in the world, the Lord directs you, as He directed John and His disciples, to His Word and Work.

Jesus had indeed given sight to the blind.

On one occasion, two blind men had followed Him, crying out, “Son of David, have mercy on us!  And when” Jesus “had come into the house, the blind men came to Him.  And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’  They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’  Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith let it be to you’” (Matthew 9:27-29).

These two men received their sight from the only one who with a Word is able to do so.

On account of Christ, the lame walked.

A man who was lying on a bed was brought to Jesus.  Seeing the faith of the men who brought the one on the bed, Jesus said to the one lying down, “Your sins are forgiven.”

To demonstrate that the Son of Man, for so Jesus was, has power to forgive sins, He said to the man lying on the bed and who couldn’t walk, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house” (Matthew 9:6).

The man walked.

Christ not only forgives with the word, but has of Himself the power to heal with the word.

At the word of Jesus, lepers were cleansed.

In the 8th chapter of Matthew, we have this account.

“A leper came and worshiped Jesus, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’  Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’  Immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matthew 8:2-3).

Jesus raises the dead.  Jairus’ daughter, who had died before Jesus came, was said to have been sleeping and not dead.  And the mourners and the wailing ones laughed Jesus to scorn when He said this.  “But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.  And the report of this went out into all that land” (Matthew 9:18-26).

Jesus did all of these things, and more.

Through Him, the blind received their sight.

The lame walked. Lepers were cleansed.

Deaf ears were opened.

Dead were raised.

Poor had the gospel preached to them.

These works of God testify that Jesus is the Coming One.

In Christ, the words of Isaiah the prophet find fulfillment, and in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus Himself reads them and then says, “Today, these Scriptures are fulfilled in your hearing.”

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

Jesus preaches the Gospel that you believe it.

He heals you with His Holy Word.

He proclaims you free from the fear of death.

What Jesus does and what He says give witness to His identity.

Jesus’ word and work point to His work of redemption for all people, not just of the body, but also of the soul.

On the cross, His work for that redemption came to its culmination, for there on that tree, Christ gave His life – that you be at peace with the Father and so live.

In Christ, you are.

John’s question whether Jesus was the Coming One or not is given answer for all to hear and see.

The Word and work of Christ reveal Christ to be your Savior and the Savior of all who call out to Him.

The proclamation of His gospel reveals that He continues His work today.

Poor miserable sinners though you are, God declares you wealthy saints in Christ, having the riches of heaven and God’s favor.

“You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Jesus Christ came, not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those that are sick (Matthew 9:12-13).

Jesus, and Jesus alone, gives true healing, not only partially, but completely.

He gives eyes of faith that you see His Works of grace and mercy.

He gives you to walk according to His Word, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

He cleanses you of your sin and declares you clean before Him.

He opens your ears that you hear and believe His promises, for they faileth not (Lamentations 3:22).

He raises you from the deadness of your sin to new and abundant life in Him.

He proclaims His Gospel through Word, Water, and Holy Supper.

Christ is the Great Physician of both body and soul.

Christ’s work identifies Him as the Coming One, for so He is—for John, for his disciples, for you!

His Word and work point to His work on the cross, through which He declares you reconciled to God.

By His Work and by His Word Jesus, proclaims to you that you need not look for another.

Jesus is the One and there is no other.  Amen.

Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to see Jesus and believe only in Him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the salvation of my soul. Amen.

 

 

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