Tuesday of Invocabit (Lent 1)

Our Savior Lutheran at Prayer

February 28, AD 2023

Mark 3:20-30

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

In the name of the Father and the +Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. The work of the Holy Spirit is to create faith. He calls us with the Gospel and enlightens us with his gifts. He makes us holy and keeps us in the true faith. The Holy Spirit’s work is to bring you to Jesus. He is like Saint John the Baptist in that he wants to decrease or fade out of the lime light so that Jesus can shine. To blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to blaspheme the flow of faith—the route that faith comes to you. To blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to cut off the very things that we need from heaven. But the Holy Spirit has given us the Strongest Man—Jesus. He is no match for the devil, the world, our sinful nature, or any other enemy. He binds up the devil and then plunders his house—casting out demons, rebuking fevers, returning sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, and most importantly, snatching you back from death and the grave so that he can have you to all eternity. He forgives your sins by dying on the cross and shedding his blood. These gifts, rescues from death and the devil, forgives sins, and gives eternal salvation, he brings to you via the Holy Spirit in preaching and Baptism and Absolution and the Lord’s Supper. No house divided here, only united in one Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God! In the name of +Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Steven Cholak, School Chaplain and Assistant Pastor, Our Savior Lutheran Church and School

You may utilize the Order of Daily Prayer for Individuals and Families (pages 295-298) in Lutheran Service Book for your family prayers.

The Collect of the Week:

O Lord, mercifully hear our prayer and stretch forth the right hand of Your majesty to defend us from those who rise up against us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Prayer for others:

For the pre-born, the weak, the sick, those in hospital, and those who cannot care for themselves;

For the shut-in and those recovering from surgery at home;

For those struggling with sin and those who are sick;

For those attacked by false teaching;

For our pastors (Pastor White, Pastor Krieg, and Pastor Cholak);

For pastors and congregations throughout the world as they begin the Lenten season;

For those who mourn;

For the Christian training of the young, especially at Our Savior Lutheran School.


Friday after Ash Wednesday

Our Savior Lutheran at Prayer

Lord, remember us in your kingdom and teach us to pray…
February 24, AD 2023

Mark 1:29-39

And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. 35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

In the name of the Father and the +Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. The whole world is going out after him. He is healing the sick and casting out the demons. He is in their synagogue teaching and preaching. The people flock to him. We would have gone, too. They wanted more. They wanted to see more signs and wonders, but that is not why he comes. He comes to preach. He comes to proclaim. What is he proclaiming? He proclaims the good news of his cross. He proclaims that all the promises of salvation and the coming Messiah are fulfilled in him. He proclaims to you that the Law is fulfilled in him. They will all fall away. Crucifixion is not the sign they want to see. They’d rather see someone come down from the cross rather than go up on it. However, it is that very act, Jesus dying on the cross, that saves the world. It is Jesus paying the price for sin and rescuing from death and the devil that is the most important thing—for you! Thus, he keeps sending his Word to be preached to you. He keeps sending his Holy Spirit to call you with the Gospel of the Cross and to enlighten you with the gifts that were won there. In the name of +Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Steven Cholak, School Chaplain and Assistant Pastor, Our Savior Lutheran Church and School

You may utilize the Order of Daily Prayer for Individuals and Families (pages 295-298) in Lutheran Service Book for your family prayers.

The Collect of the Week:

Almighty and everlasting God, You despise nothing You have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and contrite hearts that lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness we may, like David before us, receive from You full pardon and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Prayer for others:

For the pre-born, the weak, the sick, those in hospital, and those who cannot care for themselves;

For the shut-in and those recovering from surgery at home;

For those struggling with sin and those who are sick;

For those undergoing surgery;

For our pastors (Pastor White, Pastor Krieg, and Pastor Cholak);

For pastors and congregations throughout the world as they begin the Lenten season;

For our Lenten journey to the cross;

For the Christian training of the young, especially at Our Savior Lutheran School.

I’m Going Fishing

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Amen. The Word of God that will serve as the basis of our meditation this morning has been caused by the Holy Spirit to be written by the Apostle Saint John, our Gospel Text, I reread these words, “Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you don’t have any fish, do you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’” Thus far our text.

This is our season, our season of victory and joy, yet Peter hadn’t quite grasped it yet. The One that Peter spent three years with, the One he saw the Romans crucify, the One that came through locked doors to grant peace, remember, Peter so long ago…Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men.” Now is the time to cast nets to catch men with the Gospel. Now is the season of the extraordinary, the season of resurrection, of victory over death. Now the grave has lost its sting and Satan lay in ruins. This is our season, people loved by God! This is it! The victory has been sealed. We are a kingdom and priests to our God because of Jesus’ blood on the cross that has been showered upon us in our baptism. This is our season, The Resurrected Jesus’ season, Peter’s season, John’s season, the season of victory and joy and we sing our loud, alleluias! This is the fullness of time and the end of sin’s reign. This is the Reign of Jesus the Christ, who was dead, but now lives forevermore. Yet Peter hasn’t quite understood. “I’m going fishing!” he tells his companions. They miss it too, or they are polite to help him, either way, they go with him. 

God has created the extraordinary for his People. What we thought was normal is gone. Everything is turned upside down. Sinners are forgiven, the dead live, the lowly are exalted. Jesus has taken the weak and even the violent and made them his spokesmen and stewards. He has taken sinful men and placed them in pulpits to declare the Kingdom of God in your presence. To declare the day of salvation to you. To stand on the shore and call to you in the middle of the dark and murky waters of your life…of your struggles…of your sin… To stand next to you and in the midst of you and preach the Word of God and to administer the Sacraments and say into your ears, “It is the Lord!” 

It couldn’t have been angels (or anything else in all of creation) that Jesus sent to be these heralds, it had to be men, because Jesus is a man. He wanted Men to stand in his stead: To have his authority and to declare with the power of heaven that sins are forgiven. To declare to the Church—his holy Bride—that he has come for her. We preach the forgiveness of sins that the man Jesus won, we declare the life and salvation of the only Son of God. The Holy Spirit uses our mouths to call Christians with the Gospel, our hands to enlighten the people loved by God with the gifts of the cross, the victory over sin and death and the devil. To declare the season of resurrection, and victory, and joy…to wash his holy people in the renewal of the Holy Spirit and feed them with His very body and blood.

That is because, dear Christian, you’re in a war of reason against faith. Human reason (or better called “the sinful nature”) thinks it all boring and unimportant. Certainly worthy of being skipped and ignored (from time to time, or all together). Indeed, the Gentiles think the Gospel and all the trappings of this God to be foolishness. And we struggle with that very thought ourselves. So did the Israelites and Peter and John and the other disciples. Like the father who came to Jesus to heal his daughter, “Jesus, we believe, help our unbelief.” For to those who are perishing and to your sinful nature, it is just the same words over and over again, nothing flashy here, not that entertaining, not even a full meal, not even always the most skilled orators and yet to the Christian…to your faith, to those made kings and priest to our God, the Kingdom of Heaven comes here and the Lord of Life bids you come into his presence for a foretaste of heaven itself. For you—kings and priests of the Living God—it is the power of God unto salvation.

So now nothing can be ordinary for you again. And that is a hard saying. The world is in an alliance with the devil. And the world and the devil are in an alliance with your sinful nature. They will use everything they can, everything they have to trip you up, to introduce doubt and unbelief, to convince you that they have more to offer than Jesus. They will entertain and they will tell you things to make you feel good. They will appeal to your desires and your emotions and your feelings. They will break the Law of God in subtle and seemingly innocuous ways so that it becomes normal and ordinary to you. TV shows and movies take the Lord’s name in vain, story lines attack marriage and sexuality, things tempt you to take the place of church and church activities on your calendar… your friends gossip about your neighbors and they gossip about your fellow believers… You are tempted at every turn to believe that sin isn’t really that bad, that the devil doesn’t exist, that there is no such place as hell, and that God isn’t really concerned about his Law or his Word. Everything is fair game for the devil. He has lost and he is mad. He wants you and he wants nothing more than to destroy Christ’s Church on earth. Nothing is ordinary for you anymore. It hasn’t been ordinary since Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden. It still isn’t ordinary now. Even the things we count as vocation, as things we are good at, that we were given to do by God…like Peter going fishing, are under attack by the devil. And the greatest temptation is to go at alone: without Jesus. Peter and the disciples worked all the night and caught nothing. It had happened before. They were skilled fishermen. They knew the water. They knew the boat. They knew the fish. When Jesus first called them to be his disciples, they had toiled like this to no avail.

So when it was morning, after their failure had set in, Jesus stands on the shore. He manifests himself to his disciples yet again. It is, if you will, another Epiphany. God made man made manifest for his people: the proof of his resurrection, the declaration of life and the defeat of death. (You see, Jesus shows himself alive many times and in many different places to many different people…indeed to over 500!) He comes here to set the disciples straight. Their success was absolutely sure if they would obey his command and rely only upon his Word. “Let down your nets on the right side.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because of the quantity. John declares, “It is the Lord!” The good gifts in our life, the bounty we enjoy, the family and friends, our wives and husbands, the houses we live in, the church we gather in, all that we have is a gift from our God…but one gift goes higher. One gift tops them all. Your Lord Jesus comes to you, alive and declaring his Word of Salvation and victory, your Lord stands on your shore and loves you with his good gifts and Spirit. 

God has cast the net of his Gospel. He has created the extraordinary for you. It is hidden from human reason and sinful flesh, but it is manifest to you. So he prepares you for the battles in your life. He clothes you in righteousness and he sends you out with his Word. Nourished by the forgiveness of sins and by his holy gifts, he guards and protects you from every evil and defends you against all danger. It is his word that you need as the devil and the world attack you. He has made this extraordinary—the filling you up and clothing you in his Word. The whole armor of God is yours and his Word has been delivered to you. For he has come to you to feed you, to tend you, and keep you in his loving arms. So come to the extraordinary, to the Divine Service, to Bible study, come and eat and drink the Lord’s body and blood. Fill yourselves on the good and gracious Lord of Life. And encourage one another to come and be filled by Jesus. And when the world, and the devil, and your sinful flesh ware you down, return to the Lord and feast again. Fill yourself and know that this is your Season of Victory. Now is your season of the extraordinary. This is the season of Resurrection and Life. This is our season, it is Jesus reign. You have been made a kingdom and priests to your God by the blood of the Lamb and dear Christians, your Lord Jesus has come for you. He is Risen. Alleluia!

Sanctifying Blood (Hebrews 13)

The world and its henchmen have honed their craft. You know these enemies of the Church of God: The Devil, the World, and our own sinful Flesh… there is no where to hide, no where to go. The Devil goes to and fro upon the Earth and back and forth upon it. He prowls like a hungry beast ready to devour his meal. The world has location. It’s everywhere. Hedging you in on every side, it entices you with its pleasures and feelings. It panders to your emotions…always trying to out do the pleasures and enticements that came before. And if that were not enough, your own flesh betrays you. These enemies of God and of God’s people do not want us to hallow God’s name or let his Kingdom come. They despise the gifts of God, hate his mercy and grace, and twist the Word of God into lies. Oh, it sounds like the Word of God, but they have twisted it and turned it into deception and thievery. They would convince you that there is no need for anyone to die for sins. No need for spilled blood. And yet they would demand your blood as payment for the sins you have committed. Their goal is to pull you away from Jesus, convince you that you don’t need him, that you should abandon your faith for better things.

The devil, world, and the flesh work together, accomplices, with diverse and strange teachings…and yet they attack you with one accord with that which is another gospel. They call it good news… Good news for world, bad news for you. Bad news for you because it leaves you in the law. It sure sounds good…at least on the surface.

Their teachings are diverse because they appeal to our bored imagination by their colorful novelty, showy variety, and superficial glitter, and they are strange because they are alien to the tradition of the Church and unauthorized by Christ and those he has sent to preach and teach his Word. Their teachings are full of all sorts of odd and yet a teaching that gives comfort to the passions of man. The only Gospel that is truly good news is the news that Jesus shed his blood for the sins of the world. So there is one religion of the Devil, the World, and the Flesh, and another of Jesus. They are diametrically opposed.

The religion of the devil captivates on the law because the law requires everything of you and provides no way to accomplish it. Your enemies can trip you up and leave you for dead in the law. It appeals to human reason and wisdom, but crushes, accuses, and kills. In Latin we say, lex semper accusat, which means, “The Law always accuses.” And the Devil loves to accuse you and heap heavy burdens upon you. The devil lays a heavy burden upon you and the flesh wants to convince you to climb to God, impress God, and win his grace by your works and your life. The Law will always crush, shatter, accuse, and kill. Your enemies are happy to leave you in despair with a heavy burden. Where will you turn?

The second is the religion of your God, the religion of Jesus. In this religion, God rescues you from your sin and gives you life eternal by the blood of Jesus Christ. He takes your condemnation and guilt and puts it on Jesus. He who knew no sin becomes sin and is condemned and punished instead of you. The Law has its place here. It still crushes. It still accuses, it still kills. But the Gospel, the blood of Jesus, always rescues the dead, visits the heavy laden, relieves the sick, and redeems sinners. The Blood of Jesus sanctifies and makes whole. The Gospel provides everything, indeed, even the very treasure of heaven, but its burden is light. For Christ keeps the Law for you and dies for you. He dies to make death a portal into life. He lives victorious over death and the devil.

So something outside of you must come to you to rescue you. Left to yourself, you are left to despair and death. You are attacked by the enemies of God. But the Law, which is written upon your heart can only lay heavy burdens on you. “Look, you are a sinner!” the Devil accuses! You deserve to die an eternity of deaths. You are poor, and miserable, and God should be angry with you, his wrath kindled against you. Because of your sin, your blood should be shed. You should die. Thus far the devil as he turns and twists lie after lie into your ears.

Yes, there must be blood. There is no other remedy. There can be no other route to salvation. There can be no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. But your God will not leave you to that demise. He becomes part of the creation. He takes on human flesh and blood so that he can shed his blood and win you back. He weeps, He sorrows…He sheds blood so that you can live. Jesus isn’t going to shed the blood of goats, or cows, or sheep. He is going to offer a different sacrifice. His sacrifice must be for all time. His sacrifice must be for all the people. His sacrifice must be holy in order to make you holy by it.

So here is the pure Gospel for you. God becomes man. He takes on the flesh of Mary and is born. He keeps the Law for you perfectly. A high priest that does not serve according to the order of Aaron and his sons. Instead, Jesus serves as the High Priest according to a different order…he serves according to an eternal order. And don’t forget, a priest serves by sacrifice, but it couldn’t be the blood of beasts. Not all the blood of beasts upon Jewish altars slain could give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain. Instead, Jesus must offer the sacrifice that is his own body. He shed his own blood. Thus he sanctifies….he makes holy the people outside the gate. He sanctifies you. Thus when you God looks at you, he sees his holy precious children. The wrath that our sin caused has been stilled.

So when the devil accuses and spits and sputters at you. When the Law presses down hard upon you and Satan points his finger in your direction… you can say: What of it, devil? Christ Jesus has made me holy by his own blood on the cross and now I am a child of God. When the world hedges you in on every side, return to Lord your God. When the flesh rears its ugly head to pursue all matter of desires, push him back under the water and promise of your God. Christ, the eternal high priest, the heavenly Lamb, has made you a new creation. Christ your Lord unites with you against the devil, the world, and your own flesh and takes all your sins away.

Luke 13:1-9 (Lent 3)

From the very beginning God has had a garden, speaking and teaching in gardening terms, he has used plants and trees and vines to illustrate and bring home the concepts of your faith. The smallest of seeds give way to the trees in which nests are built. The sower has no regard for the amount of seed he sows, but he throws it in abundance. No one gardens like your God. 

The thing about a garden is that it must be kept. Not just watched, but a good garden must be worked. And so it is that your God comes to the fig tree looking for fruit. This is a marvelous thing. You have a God that comes to where you are, seeks you out, knows your sorrow and pain, hears your prayers, puts his fingers in the dirt of your life, and tends your needs of body and soul. He told Moses that he was this kind of God in burning bush. “I have surely seen the affliction of my people…and I have come down to deliver them…” Jesus says of him that he takes away every branch that does not bear fruit and throws it in the fire. He prunes the branches that they may bear more fruit. (Of all his scattered plenteousness One-fourth waves ripe on hill and flat, and bears a harvest hundredfold: “Ah, what of that, Lord, what of that!”) The gardens of our God produce a hundredfold. But this God is pruning, fertilizing, and watering. This God is a cut it down and throw it into the fire —why must it use up the dirt—kind of gardener God. Your God, this gardener God is dangerous. He isn’t safe. Do not be fooled by the devil’s lies. 

Left to our own devices, we become wily, unpredictable plants. We wander from our purpose and produce all kinds of sin and unrighteousness. Thus what seems like ordinary and innocuous duties of a gardener are actually painful and jarring activities for the plant. Pruning involves cutting and trimming. Fertilizing involves putting on manure. Plants must be cleaned of parasites—insects, worms, and larva. Unwanted leaves and sprouts must be cut out and removed. This is such a nice way of saying that the Law accuses, the Law kills, the Law lays waste. God will not abide with our sin. He is a merciful God, but he is also a righteous and just God. Our sin angers him and the ax is laid at your roots. 

Promises of prosperity, good health, a lack of sorrow and pain are not promises of the Christian life. That’s the devil’s doctrine. Instead, expect to be pruned, to be disciplined, to have sorrow and a cross to carry. Yet we are angry with the Gardener. We grumble against him for his pruning and his trimming. We buy into the lie that God couldn’t possibly discipline anyone. In our sins, we are at war with God and it isn’t good for you. You are outnumbered and out gunned. It isn’t a safe place for you to be. The war is against you. Sin will not win, wily, unpredictable plants will be pruned or uprooted. Repent. 

As he directs your life for you, follow meek and lowly. In every need, He knows well how he will shield you. 

In his mercy, your God has allowed the fig tree a space in his vineyard and he has come to it year after year looking for its fruit. For a tree is known by its fruit. No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. The good trees bear fruit with patience. The main characteristic of your God is mercy. This is the God that will not play along with our worldly desires, but neither will he leave well-enough alone. He interferes and he intervenes in his creation. He becomes part of his creation. The merciful One intercedes with the merciful One on your behalf. “Let it alone another year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but, if not, you can cut it down.” Jesus gave his life, endured the punishment of your debt, was forsaken of the Father, for you. The God that prunes and fertilizes, the God that sends rain (and floods and hurricanes), the God that pushes over towers and spills blood, endured death for you…went to the cross for you. Remember that this is the cut it down and throw it into the fire—why should it use up the ground, God…thus Christ endures the cut it down and the throw it into the fire of hell for you and then is victorious over death and hell and Satan for you so he can be the God of life that has his fingers in the dirt of your life. He digs and prunes and waters and gives growth. Jesus is not done with you.

This is how your God gardens. He washes you in the Water of your baptism. He sends his Word into your ears. He puts his own body on your lips and pours on his own blood. He protects you against the winds of sin and death by his own constant forgiveness. His fruit comes forth in you. Christ makes good trees and good trees bear good fruit. He does all things well. His mercy endures forever. No one gardens like your God.

In the name of +Jesus. Amen.

Luke 18:31-43

Just a few short verses before our Gospel reading, in the same chapter of Luke’s Gospel, people were bringing their babies to Jesus that he might touch them. The disciples couldn’t understand. He had better things to do, stop interrupting the teacher! Take your babies and your children and get gone. But this greatly upsets Jesus, because he comes for the children. He comes for the sinner. He comes for those broken and hurt by sin and death. He comes for Ellie and for you. He comes for the blind man and for the disciples and for the crowd. He comes. 

Your God is acutely aware of you and your needs…your situation and your suffering. He has seen your affliction, he hears your cries for mercy, he knows your suffering, and he has come down to rescue you. This is what your name is all about: Immanuel, which means God with us. It’s about a God that comes, becomes part of his own creation, and then redeems that which is lost, broken, Deaf, and blind. Everyone one of us, affected by sin, suffering because of our sin, suffering with our sin, under our sin. Every one of us carrying a cross and at the same time living under the weight of that cross, living a life where the devil goes to and fro and back and forth upon the Earth looking for someone to devour. 

The man was sitting by the side of the road. His sight had been taken from him. Now he had to beg. Saint Luke doesn’t even tell us his name. He was a second rate man, a nuisance, an interruption, and someone to be ignored. His eyes could not see, but his heart believed. What was hidden from the disciples was revealed to him. What was inconceivable to the crowd, was attainable to him. The disciples did not understand that this Jesus needed to die to conquer death. What did they go out to see? Whatever it was they didn’t see it and this saying was hidden from them. He needed to be killed and on the third day rise again: to give life to the dying and to destroy the power of the devil. What was such a stumbling block to the disciples, to the crowd, to the priests, was the Rock of Refuge for the blind man. 

Jesus comes for the children! He wants the blind man and he wants Ellie and he wants you… and he wins you for himself to have forever. He knows that the only way out of eternal death is the CROSS. Thy will be done, Father in Heaven. The will of the Father was the cross. The will of the Father was that every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh would be broken and hindered. Jesus tells his disciples, he tells us, that this is what has to happen. We’ll go up to Jerusalem and everything that was written about the Son of Man by the prophets will come true. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon…and after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. The saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what he said. Moses and all the prophets testified about this one, they had heard him teach and preach about this very thing before. Yet his own disciples did not understand. 

And what of the crowds that lined the streets? They stood by the sides of the road to greet him, to see him, to get a glimpse. What did they expect to see? And this blind man’s eyes kept him from knowing what all the commotion was about. What is happening? Why the noice? Why all the people? Thus it starts: The blind man’s annoying interruptions. The people that day had their reasons for going out to see Jesus… but none of them, including the disciples went out to see a crucified and blood spilling, betrayed Savior (A savior that doesn’t restore the kingdom to Israel, instead gives the kingdom to Gentiles and foreigners, to blind people, and deaf people, too. They went out and we go out to have our ears tickled… to see signs and wonders, to hear fancy things). 

But when the blind man finds out that it is Jesus of Nazareth, he begins to shout out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” His eyes didn’t work, but his heart believed. Be quiet, the crowd beckons him. Stop interrupting, you’re making it hard to hear, you’re making it difficult for others, too. But all the more, the blind man called out. He called him “Son of David.” In other words, he called him the Messiah! But the crowd would have none of it. Take your interruptions and get gone. Jesus has better things to do than talk to you and we would do better without your endless wailing. But this upsets Jesus because he comes not for the righteous, but for the sinner. He comes for the blind and for the nameless and for the outcast. Jesus stops and commands that the blind man be brought.

What would you have me do for you? —Jesus says. The Greek word for recover sight is “ἀναβλέψω.” It literally means to look up. The blind man asks Jesus for the ability to look up. That I may recover my sight. That I may look up. No one there was looking up. It was an endless game of looking down and in. Luther used a Latin phrase. He said that after the fall we all became “Incurvatus in se” or curved in on ourselves… belly button watchers or naval gazers. When we are incurvatus in se, we are caring about ourselves and not our neighbor and our focus is not on our God.

Look at this blind man’s faith! The Son of David comes to rescue and save. The Son of Mary comes to uncurve his people (to straighten them out) that they may recover their sight and look up and see their God and serve their neighbor. The blind man could not have grabbed ahold of Jesus if it were not for his faith. He could not believe, he couldn’t understand, we can’t get it without the Holy Spirit calling us with the Gospel, enlightening us with his gifts, and sanctifying us in this true and holy faith. You, too and the disciples, the crowds, cannot believe in this Jesus without God coming and finding you and planting faith by his Word preached and by water included in the Word and Command of God. This God comes down so that you can look up to him: ἀναβλέψω

Jesus knows the blind man’s whole situation. He knows your crosses and your sufferings, too. He declares to the blind man, “Your faith has saved you.” For this Word of God goes deeper than the eyes…it goes all the way to the heart. Yes, the word here can mean, “made you well,” but it more importantly is the word for, saves you. Your faith has saved you.

This is why Jesus has come. He comes to save you. How does he do it? The CROSS. Thy will be done, Father in Heaven. Every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh is broken and hindered on the cross. The Son of David was delivered over to the Gentiles and was mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon…and after flogging him, they killed him, and on the third day he rose. This is your God. He comes down to give life to the full, to destroy the devil, and restore sight. He comes for the children. He comes for you and no one was able to stop him. Look at your faith. This same God comes to you here. The Son of David has mercy on his people with humble means…and mere wood and colored glass, the things of creation become the landing place for all of heaven. God comes down even now, even today that he might fix your eyes on his cross that you would live. Amen.

Luke 5:1-11

In the darkness, they had toiled all the night. It didn’t matter how hard they worked, how rested they were, how strong, how well dressed, how prepared. They had brought their best, but in the darkness their nets were empty. There was no power or skill in these men that could force the fish into the nets— as anyone of you that has tried out fishing surely knows —especially if you were hungry. You can’t make the fish bite the hook…and no fish wants to bite the hook, get stuck in the net, get filleted, and cooked. Perhaps their spirits were crushed, they toiled and took nothing, they worked what they knew best, but they cleaned the nets with nothing to sell, nothing to eat, nothing to show for a long night at sea.

The enemies of God love the darkness. The devil, the world, and our own sinful nature wage war against the church and the church is rightly called the Church Militant. You confess the faith of the Church that is at war. They attack, they swarm, they surround, and they accuse. Our own sinful nature is an accomplice. The world is all around us. The devil is breathing his foul hot breathe upon our necks. The struggle is real. The darkness of sin cast upon the whole of creation. In the darkness, they attack, and in the darkness, we sin. Oh, the things we would have locked up in the depths of darkness so that no one will ever know. Our sin is a stench, it’s a terrible mark, a weight to bear. And it would drive us to an eternal death.

And then in the midst of our struggle and attack, a peculiar and frightening thing takes place. Here you are so desperate to hide what destroys you and God comes standing in front of you. In his mercy, God becomes a man to live with you, to die for you, and to rise again to life to resurrect you. But what does your sinful nature do with Almighty God that stands in your presence? It knows that sinners deserve the wrath of Almighty God. It knows that you are a sinner and that the God that stands in your presence should destroy, lay siege against you, and shower you with wrath. Almighty should terrify you.

At first, Peter is polite. The Lord taught with authority. Peter listened and looked on while he cleaned his nets. Jesus sits in his boat to keep the crowd at bay in order that he could be heard, for the people were pressing down upon him. “Put out a little from the land,” Jesus told Peter, and he taught from Peter’s boat. When he was finished he commanded that the nets be let down. The nets that were being mended and cleaned, Jesus ordered to be let down. They’d have to be mended again, cleaned a second time, and for what?? They took nothing after toiling all night, in the darkness. But Peter puts out to the deep and lets down his nets for a catch. “At your Word, I will let down the nets.”

He expects nothing. We expect nothing. Our reason and experience tells us what to expect. This rabbi knows nothing about fishing. We know about fishing. [Insert here our own expertise.] We toiled all the night and caught nothing. We’ll let down the nets to be nice. We toil all night and all day. We struggle and we sorrow. We weep and we hurt. For you and me, appearances are everything. All this pain, all this suffering, all this everything, and we have nothing to show for it. Friends and family see your life and know your work and your words and still don’t care about Jesus or their faith. What about your faith? Is it where you think it should be? Have you tried to work out your salvation and still have nothing? All for what? This Word on a page. This recitation of ancient script. A little bread and a little wine. It’s anticlimactic.

Just another man sitting in Peter’s boat. A teacher who thinks he knows something about fishing. And at Jesus’ word, Peter let down the nets, but unbeknownst to Peter, Jesus commanded the fish into his net. He commanded an abundant number of fish into his net. So many fish that the nets began to break. So many fish that the other boat needed to come and help. So many fish that both boats began to sink. Appearances had failed Peter and they fail you, too. This man is God. This man, Jesus, commands the creation with authority and power and he commands your heart and Peter’s heart and everything because he is God Almighty. And this terrified Peter.

Peter knew that sinners can’t stand in the presence of Almighty God and live. So he does the thing we are so good at. He writes his own absolution like the prodigal son (I am no longer worthy to be called your son, make me one of your hired servants). “I am a sinner, depart from me!” “Woe is me!” Oh, no! You caught me, God. This is what I want you to do: just leave. Go away and depart and I’ll save a few minutes or days, maybe years. Depart for I can’t be here now.

Yet, Jesus will have nothing to do with your made up absolution. He refused to depart. To depart would mean that Peter would go to hell. In his terror, in our passion, and our present predicaments, we bid Jesus depart so we can live the life we have designed for ourselves. So that we can wallow in our sins, enjoy our passions, eat, drink, and be merry according to our design…all the while forgetting that we are part of Jesus’ design. He is the creator and now he is the redeemer.

Instead of departing, he says, “Do not be afraid!” It’s as if he said, “You won’t be destroyed. I come to save you, rescue you, love you, and keep you. I have come to fight for you.” It’s the same thing that Gabriel says to Mary, “Do not be afraid!” It’s the same thing Jesus says to the disciples when he walks on water, “Do not be afraid!” It’s the same thing that the angels say to the Marys at the Easter tomb, “Do not be afraid!” Our God becoming a man, the incarnation, is just this: Don’t be afraid. I have become one of you in order that I might save all of you.

And with that Jesus gives Peter a new place to toil. “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching men!” Jesus’ words give comfort and peace. The absolution God gives has depth and seriousness. Now the disciples will toil in the day. They will preach the Word of Christ to the far ends of the earth. Men will be sent to speak. Their power will not be driving fish into nets or other great signs and wonders. Their power will be in Jesus’ Word of absolution. He will compel men into the nets of his Church. He will be the one that forgives and gives life. He is the one that will refuse to leave you. So appearances will fail the world, but this God Almighty comes here to dwell with sinners. Like unto Peter’s boat, he may not look like the God that created heaven and earth, but he is that God, the same God that became man and was crucified (taking the weight of our sin) for the salvation of the world, for you! This is the same God that rose again to newness of life to live with you, fight with you and for you. Yet, the war has been won. The victory belongs to Jesus and if the victory belongs to Jesus, then it belongs to you. You confess the faith of the Church that is at war, but you also confess the faith of the Church that has won that war: the Church triumphant.

Salvation and life are gifts from Christ! Stop your worry! Sometimes we gain nothing by our work, and that is okay. Jesus sends his Word to you. In that Word you gain everything. Rejoice with the angels. You’ve been caught in the net of the Church, compelled there by Christ’s command. Rejoice in the giving of heavenly gifts. The Lord’s mercy endures forever. That will shelter you in the storm and bring you home. The Lord compelled you here. He sustains you in his peace. The boat must sink, but every Christian is pulled from the water by the hand of Jesus. Harmony is Jesus given for sinners. Peace is Jesus given for you. Don’t be afraid.

Many are called

A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife. At last, bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. She will be called woman because she was taken out of man. And the two shall become one flesh. Each wedding was an extravagant event. A suitable, perfect, wonderful helper was found for Adam, and likewise the perfect helpmeet for each husband [for you]: to show the world the love of Christ for his bride the Church. The day God gave Eve to her husband rocked the newly formed cosmos. He changed his creating pattern, got his fingers in the dirt, and even moved flesh and blood so that Adam would have a wife to die for. Every marriage is a mystery, but I’m talking about Christ and his Church. Your marriage, my marriage, Adam and Eve’s marriage, defined by a better, more perfect, most perfect union: Christ for his bride the Church.

But we have made it into a burden. Whether a mere annoyance to our calendar or a conflict that harbors hate and anger, we have degraded, misused, and discounted this gift, this extravagant and lavish gift. But this gift is a lens by which we see Jesus and his love. This gift is what defines who the church is…Your marriage does not define marriage. Likewise, the state or the opinions of men and women cannot and do not define what marriage is. No court or judge can define what was established at the cross of Jesus as some blanket civil union between the emotions of two people—regardless of who they are. Call it what they will, the facts remain. The marriage of Christ to his bride, the Church, is what defines marriage. Today we see into that wedding. Today we see that not only our own marriages are defined by Jesus’ marriage to the Church, but our faith—our Christian life—is defined by this Jesus by virtue of his death and resurrection, which is of course his marriage to the church.

[We have made Christianity into a burden. Jesus says, “If any man would follow me, let him deny himself, pickup his cross and follow me.” We must lose our life in order to find it because if we hold on to our life, our selfishness, if we try to make a name for ourselves, we will lose ourselves to the outer darkness. The world would have you believe that you have a unique identity by yourself, by virtue of yourself. But your baptism changed that. Your identity is not of yourself, but of Jesus. Your identity is of the Church, of absolution, of self-sacrifice, of denying yourself.]

The school children often ask what heaven will be like. Today, Jesus gives us an answer. The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a King who gave a wedding feast for his Son. Not a wedding feast like your wedding or my wedding. This kind of wedding feast was not a short event, a day or evening alone event. A wedding feast was an event that required lodging, clothing, food, drink, entertainment. It was days long…it was extravagant. And the wedding feast prepared by this King would have just been over the top. When it’s all set and ready to go, the King sends out the servants to find those invited and escort them in. The Word goes out. This is the preaching of the Gospel. In the Garden, from above the waters of the Flood, from the mountains of Moriah, from the burning bush, the midst of the Red Sea, from Canaan, and Israel, Judah, Babylon, and Bethlehem. From Corinth, Rome, and Spain, India, and Asia…Africa, Europe, America…the four corners of the world. And even to the midst of New Mexico. From the mouths of apostles, evangelists, and pastors everywhere, the Word goes out.

But there are excuses. They pay no attention to this great gift, this extraordinary invitation. You didn’t have to pay for anything! The King wants his people in his presence and he’s stopped at no expense to take care of his guests. [It is a testament to his character, his very identity. This Father has given us our body and souls, our reason and senses, he gives us our eyes, ears, and all our members and still takes care of them, wife, land, animals, and all we have. Only out of his Fatherly divine goodness and mercy.] And instead of running to hop on the carriage—the people invited seize his servants, treat them shamefully, and kill them. Anger rules in our hearts. Selfish desires have us wrapped up so tight that we even think of the Gospel and the heavenly gifts as hostile to us. We think our own way and our own plans are just as good or better than the King’s. We are proud of our own dirt and our own sin and even the fig leaves we have tied together as our clothing.

This is not some text to shame us into coming to church on Sunday and to make you feel bad about missing church on a given week. No, this is a text to show us that we have forsaken God and his gifts.

But the King will not have an empty wedding hall. Compel them to come in. I will clothe them and feed them and they shall be my people. It isn’t some decision in your heart. You didn’t cause the others to forsake the invitation. You were just walking the main roads. The servants found you minding your own business. They invited you to something out of the world. It sounds too good to be true, but it is true. It’s a wedding feast that has no end. The King will take care of you forever. There will be no need to fear anything. The Son of the King has married a wife. She is without spot or blemish. The King will attend to your every need. Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live!

The stops on Sunday morning are tastes of the feast that has no end. When the Church worships, it is the Bride of Christ gathered together. The little pieces of the whole, the members of the Body together with the Head. You’ve heard it called a foretaste of the feast to come. You’ve never tasted anything like this. But there is the temptation to say you don’t need to taste. The devil, the world, or maybe your own heart will say you’re okay another week. Perhaps you’ve been used to making it. Maybe you have your own business, your own plan. For the King, he bids you come. He says, they are weak, my Son is strong. They need to eat. My Son leads them to the green pastures of his body and his blood. The Hall won’t be empty. He compels you. Come, eat! Come, drink!

And just as he did in the Garden so long ago, he still does. He walks in the midst of you. He looks as his guests. He brings his Word right up to you. Even here, he brings his Law and Gospel: to show you your sin and to give you your Savior (the BrideGroom). It was necessary that he clothe you. Like Adam and Eve, the fig leaves we have used to cover our shame—whatever you have conjured up to cover your sin and guilt, won’t do. He must kill the Lamb and use his righteousness to cover you. No one can gather in the presence of the King if the King doesn’t first clothe him. In the waters of baptism, he does just that. He wraps you in the death of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus, too. Having been wrapped in Jesus’ clothing, the King delights in his Son and in you. He delights with you.

A suitable, perfect, wonderful bride was formed for Jesus. She was created as his hands were nailed to a tree. And so the man has left his Father and has been joined to his bride. She has been taken out of him. By virtue of the Water of Baptism and the Blood of the Sacrament she is joined to him—bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. They are no longer two, but one. He sustains her. He keeps her in safety. He feeds and nourishes her. He gives his everything to have her. Jesus dying on the cross is the definition of marriage. His resurrection is the bride’s life: your life. The day Jesus died on the cross, the cosmos was rocked to its very core. He created by dying. He sustained her by giving up himself to take her to himself. You are the Eve he died for and now he lives to give you forgiveness and life with him.

Come, for all things are now ready. The King has prepared the dinner, the Lamb has been slaughtered, and now he lives again. Come, all you who thirst and are hungry. Come to the waters and to the Lamb. Eat and Drink. Come to the wedding feast. Christ will transform you. You are his beloved.

Walk by the Spirit

There can only be two masters. One is good and the other is not. The entirety of the human experience is summed up in this: you are either born of the Spirit and walk by the Spirit or you are not and are caught up in transgression. The human heart is either aligned to a religion of Law or it is called to the religion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Either you are on your own, pleasing the flesh and the manifestations of your own heart… or you are redeemed and washed by the living God who is Jesus Christ.

One who sows by the Law will also receive the harvest of the Law’s demands. There can be no escaping the Law’s stern requirements and accusations. Do not depend upon the Law to save you, it is no respecter of persons, and you are incapable of meeting the demands it sets before you. It’s a sharp sword and will cut you open and leave you for dead.

However, the heart will convince you that you are actually fulfilling the law and you are pleasing your false gods…even as the world delights in providing you pleasures and sweet nothings. Your focus is upon yourself and your envy is for things…whether they belong to others or not. Instead of bearing burdens and loving the neighbor, there is deception, envy, and strife. But the day of harvest will demand instead of provide. He who sows by the flesh will reap by the flesh. The wages of sin can only be death.

But the one that sows to the Spirit will reap from the Spirit eternal life. It is the Lord Jesus who has paid for your sin. Cast your cares and your worries on Jesus. He is the true master that rescues and restores, he creates new and buys back from death to give life and salvation.

The world and our sinful flesh will grow weary of doing good. But the Spirit of God does not weary. You have been created for Good Works. There is much to be reaped as the burdens of the neighbor become your own. What does God do to your focus? He redirects it from within to your neighbor and to love that is given and shared.

One master sacrificed on the cross to give everything to you. He also is no respecter of persons. His blood covers all —even you and me. He did fulfill the law completely so that he could give you all of the Gospel. The life of a Christian is one of testing and discipline. We give and help and bear the burdens of those around us. We love because the Lord Jesus, our true master, became a servant and loved us so completely that he died and shed his blood. Shed blood as the payment for your sin and mine. The wages of sin are paid.

So put your worries and cares on him. He will care for you. What will we do? What will we drink? What will we eat? What will we wear? It is all prepared for you. It is all ready. Come, recline at table. Wear the robe of Christ’s righteousness, eat his body, drink his blood, and live.

Galatians 5:25–6:10

Holy Cross of Jesus

There is no food and there is no water! The sinful nature speaks in lies and hyperbole. We grumble by nature, we tell everything in exaggerated terms. We don’t like the daily bread come down for us and we love to worry and be anxious. Yesterday’s Gospel in the one year lectionary told us that we can’t serve two masters and that sufficient is the day for its own trouble. But we won’t listen. The sound of our anxious grumbling has wafted up to the ears of God. Perhaps we meant it for our other master. The Israelites meant it for Moses, but God knew that they were really rebelling against him. It was his plan. His exodus. His daily bread that we don’t like.

What about you? What cares have you cast on your spouse, your neighbor, your children? What grumbling have you insisted on and what worry have you orchestrated trying to add one moment to your span of life?

The Living God hears your grumbling and he listens to the prayers you pray to your false gods. He is a jealous God and he will not let it be. There may not be fiery serpents coming for you, but there is fire for those who serve a different master.

Cast all your cares on Jesus. You need a intermediary. Apart from him, your grumbling only produces more pain and trouble. Apart from Jesus we will see and know only death. Indeed, apart from Jesus there is nothing but wrath, anger, and death. But the living God hears the prayers of his people. In the midst of our pain and darkness he gives hope, life, and salvation.

God gave the people a bronze serpent to look upon to live. He did not get rid of the snakes. There is an antidote, there is an answer in the midst of pain and sorrow, but it may not be that he will take away the pain and the sorrow. What he will give is Jesus and his cross. That he gives to you and me. He gives his only begotten Son that you would have love, mercy, and grace in the place of anger, wrath, and death.

Through the blood of Jesus lifted high for everyone to look at there is life. It is the cross alone that is our theology. We wish to see Jesus because our faith bids us look to the sacrificed for our transgression. We not only see him, but we taste and see that the Lord is good.

You have one master. You have one Lord. He is the crucified one. He is the Son of God. He is the one that speaks to the Father for you. There is no need for worry and there is no need for anxiety. Jesus comes for you. Jesus comes near you and gives you himself.

There is food and there is water and there is wine. Food has come down from heaven for you to eat and water that wells up to eternal life. What will we eat? The bread that is Christ’s body. What will we drink? The wine that is Christ’s blood. Listen to the Word of God. Eat his body. Drink his blood. See the one lifted up on the pole and live with him forever.

Numbers 21