The Feast of Saint Matthew

We would require sacrifice. Our heart’s desire is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. We are very good at seeking out vengeance. And we’re willing to be a Matthew, a tax collector, a cheat, a liar, or a thief as long as we get a fat wallet or can stick it to the man. It’s the heart of each of us that is the problem.

“Why do you think evil in your hearts?”

And we are the ones that complain about a God that includes the less fortunate, the poor, the ones that dress differently than us, the ones that talk differently than us, the ones that we don’t like. And yet it is everyone of us that have fallen short of God’s desire. His image shattered and his likeness lost on a people that thrive on boasting, pride, covetousness, and all those things. We are a sick people.

Repent.

It won’t get any better for you on your own. You need a doctor. Rejoice with me, God has sent one to you and to me. Jesus did not come to call the righteous, if there were such a one. He did not come to yuck it up with the experts on prayer and keeping the law. Rather, he came to the sick… to you and to me. He comes to rip from your chest the heart that causes all your evil desires. He comes to give you a new heart, a right spirit. And with that clean heart, then he eats with you, rejoices with you, prepares you for the battle to come, and goes out into it with you.

He comes to the most unlikely—to the ones that don’t deserve it and makes us worthy, he comes to the sick to call us righteous. That he did at your baptism as he clothed you in the blood that he shed on the cross. That he does today as he gives you that body and blood again for your forgiveness and life. You see, the cross is his death, but your life. When he dies, he brings and end to the reign of boasting, of death, of graves, and sin. As a sacrifice, he shows his mercy… his long suffering love. For it is showered down on you today. Love calling your righteous, holy, and forgiven.

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Jesus Weeps…Luke 19

Our God is this weeping man.  The man of all sorrows, knowing every temptation… and keenly aware of all your pain, this Jesus is the creator of heaven and earth.  He weeps because man picks for himself other gods and rejects this Word become flesh.  He entered into that city to die for your sins, to wash you in his blood, and make you whole again — but man has become lost in his own world and even that most holy city becomes complacent in its faith and forgets the true God.

Jesus weeps because he is mourning… He loves them, he knows they will suffer.  But they choose their own way, they pick their own gods.  You know, the gods we pick: the ones that make life convenient for us and our own agendas.  We serve the gods that are pleased that we speak out loud the evils we treasure in our hearts.  The gods that are fine with you being a member of a Christian congregation, but don’t insist that you help the less fortunate, that you feed the homeless, that you clothe the naked, that you tell everyone you meet the good news about Jesus.  The gods that turn a blind eye at what happens under your sheets in your room with the door shut.  The gods that are content with forgiveness that is void of love and compassion.

These are the gods of Jerusalem… the gods of Saint Louis… of the world.  They are happy to see that you are baptized, as if it were some license to sin.  As if being baptized meant that you could never be lost, that Satan’s pain could never touch you.  Repent.  The God of heaven and earth, this Jesus Christ is at hand.  Do away with these gods that cannot save you and cling instead to the Man, who is God, come down from heaven for your salvation.

The Man—Jesus, has made this place his own, a place to meet him, to receive him, to hear of his mercy and then to receive that very mercy.  There is no place for our sin, our second hand gods and false ideas about convenience and faith.  There is only room for him.  He drives away Satan and the world…and opens the door to all, for his mercy is for the whole world.  If it were not for his intervention in your life, your sin would trap you and your complacency would trick you — instead he has driven our sin from us and has cleansed you of your death.  His blood has washed you and his Word has entered you.

And so, we the baptized stand and say, “The devil can’t hurt me.  I’ve sinned.  I’ve done terrible things.  But God is merciful. Jesus died for me. I am baptized and I belong to God. The devil can roar all he wants, he can’t hurt me. Because Jesus has overcome him and risen from the dead. The resurrected Lord brought you back. He forgives your sins.

Why does our Savior weep? He weeps for those He loves. He weeps for the lost and also for the sorrows of the faithful. That sorrow does not stop Him. It doesn’t render Him impotent. He endures. He presses on. He goes to the cross. Because many in Jerusalem were lost, they would not have Him. But not all were lost. Peter was there. Mary. Nicodemus. Zachariah. Saul. And you, your parents, your children, your brothers and sisters, your coworkers around you today. He goes for them, to save them, to open heaven for free to all believers, to give power and authority to baptism, to give substance and life to the Holy Communion.

The Temple is now cleansed. The Lord is risen and weeps no more.  He has what He came for: you. You are baptized, forgiven, faithful by Divine decree and promise. Now you have forgiveness for yesterday, strength for today, and hope for tomorrow, and you fill this God-Man with joy.

In Jesus’ Name.

Chapel at the International Center: August 9, 2013

A Lutheran Poem by Chad Bird

Mary had a little Lion
Whose roar shall fall the Foe
And everywhere the church might be
The Lion is sure to go.

He follows her o’er land and sea
In search of souls to save
And everywhere the church proclaims
The life in love he gave.

Mary had a little Lion
Whose mane was once stained red
That he might wash you white as snow
In blood for you he bled.

— Chad L. Bird

 

An Ordination Sermon

One of my friends was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry a few weeks ago.  Here is the sermon, preached by Pastor David Petersen.  It was a High Delight to hear an old friend preach at one of the Holy Spirit’s festive days.  Congratulations, James and God’s blessings in Christ as you lead the church to her Holy Groom.

Rev. James Ambrose Lee Ordination

Trinity Lutheran Church Worden, Illinois

John 20:19-23

September 26, 2012 A+D

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

Aquinas thinks that the Sacrament of Our Lord’s Body is a necessary antidote to the forbidden fruit. Our first parents brought terrible misery upon us by eating. Fruit, meant for knowledge, was abused and taken by force, bringing guilt, need, and death down upon us. Our Lord responds not merely by taking these things into Himself, substituting His law-keeping for our law-breaking and His innocence for our guilt, but also by providing His very Body as Food to replace that which we stole and to undo its effects. His Body removes guilt, satisfies our hunger, and bestows life.

In some ways, His Body gives what was falsely promised to Eve: it makes men like God. There is irony here to be sure. Men lusted to be like God. So God, to fix the thing we broke, took up what we despised.

All the Greek myths, by the way, can be understood in this way. Man goes awry when he seeks immortality. Icarus wasn’t meant to fly. That was reserved for the gods. Pandora wasn’t meant to open the box but chafed against being merely human. And wasn’t Eve’s lust also partially for knowledge that only God should have?

Perhaps the Greeks better perceived the natural law than we thought, or, as descendants of Noah, they retained a confused version of the truth.

We lusted for God. We wanted to be immortal and above the Law. So He took up that which we despised: mortality, weakness, hunger. He became a Man, a creature, born under the Law, that we might be elevated and be like Him. Do we not now know, in Christ, both good and evil?

So Eve gets what she thought she wanted, the object of her temptation. It is bit like David keeping Bathsheba. It certainly seems wrong. Uriah is dead at David’s hand. David’s son is dead for David’s guilt. But he gets his cake and eats it too. He keeps Bathsheba. He gets, in a sense, what he wanted. That is more than kindness. That is high injustice: that, however, is grace.

The Body of Jesus given in the Sacrament gives precisely what we tried to steal from the tree of knowledge. We are like God because God is more than like us: He is one of us. He has a Body and He has Blood and in it He unites us to Himself.  We reap not only where we did not sow, living in houses we did not build, but we get the inheritance by killing the Son. That which we sought to steal is declared a gift. We are welcomed into the family of the Holy Trinity.

It is no wonder the Romans thought we were hedonist cannibals and atheists. We wanted to become gods so god became a Man and declared us His sons and His Bride for killing Him.

Put your feet up, baby, it is Christmastime. Welcome to the happy insanity that is Christianity. I was listening to Johnny Cash sing the little drummer boy on the way here. The song is high on schmaltz, to be sure. But consider for a minute how unusual a piety Christians have that they can write such songs. A dirty little boy can approach God almighty and give Him a worthless gift without fear and even with the correct expectation that God will accept it. The Muslims don’t write any such songs about Allah. This is a distinctly Christian ability and it is because our God has made Himself a Man precisely that we might approach Him. He is not angry with us despite our sins. He forgives us. David gets to keep Bathsheba. This is the happy insanity of Christianity, of grace.

In any case, I think Aquinas is on to something with the connection between the Sacrament and the Fall. And I wonder if the character of the Fall isn’t also seen in the institution of the Office of the Holy Ministry. Death sent an ambassador into the garden, an angel in the form of a snake, who beguiled Eve with clever lies and false promises to tempt and seduce her. The living God responds by sending ambassadors, called angels in St. John’s revelation, into the wilderness of our exile to speak the Truth and proclaim God’s promises, not only to expose the lies of the devil, but also to break the bonds of temptation, to reconcile rebels to their God, to declare them righteous and welcome them to the feast in the garden. Men were seduced by words to eat. Men now are called by words to eat and live.

All pastors sent by God as anti-devils, undoing with words what the devil did through words. Perhaps that is why the primordial and creative breathing is repeated in the Upper Room. Ash Wednesday’s curse is not quite true. We returned to dust in the Fall but God rebreathes live into us again through the Apostolic Ministry. What is breathed into them but the new Adam which they breathe out again in preaching? Dust we were and to dust we returned, but the Holy Spirit comes and revives us again through preaching and absolution. The preachers undo the lie, undo death, by telling the truth. They remove the curse by proclaiming the promise, and their words are carried on the breath of the Holy Spirit. That is why preaching leads to the Sacrament . The devil lied and pushed Eve into the thorns through eating. The pastors tell the Truth and take Eve by the hand, gently leading Her to the Life of God in His Blood.

So that is your charge, James: tell the truth. Lead the Bride to the Supper, to the Bridegroom. Undo the curse. Breathe the Holy Spirit out upon dusty men in need of Good News and Life with God. And God will be with you even as in you He will be with them.

In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Rev. David H. Petersen, Pastor – Redeemer Lutheran Church Fort Wayne, Indiana

War Broke Out IN Heaven

And Jesus saw Satan fall like lightening.  Where did he go?  Here.  The Church is at war.  Our enemy prowls around like a lion ready to devour any prey that will make it into his toothless mouth.  He’s looking for Christians.  He wants to destroy shepherds and scatter sheep.  Make no mistake, even in peaceful America, you and I are at war with the powers of darkness.  Where should we flee and from whence cometh our help?  We look to the mountain(s)… to Calvary.  For God has given us the victory.  He has made us the living heirs to his kingdom.  Satan cannot harm you, but he will scowl fierce as he will and hurl all kinds of insults and lies at you.  No fear: Christ has judged him, return to the Lord your God.  Read his holy Word, pray for his Holy Spirit, and return again to his Word and Divine Service.  Be fed, be alive in Jesus… for he has marked you as his own.  The angels see the mark.  Satan sees the mark.  The angels rejoice and sing for joy over you.  Happy St. Michael’s Day… Who is like God??  You are, for Jesus has washed you in the blood of the Lamb.

Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

It’s really easy to hate your enemies.  That’s the way of the Old Adam and the sinful human flesh.  That’s the norm for the world.  The thing is our Old Adam has been drowned and killed in the waters of our baptism and now we are children (sons and daughters) of our Father in heaven.  That means that he is making us to be like his only begotten Son.  We are becoming cruciform, Christlike, inheritors of the heavenly kingdom.  God reorders and recreates our hearts that his Holy Spirit may dwell there, thus instead of the evil that dwells in the heart… alone… all the time… (Genesis 6:5), now the Holy Spirit dwells there, planting faith and growing love.  We now love like Christ loves.  It’s not perfect; we trip and fall and mess things up.  We are sinners, but we have been washed.  We are righteous in the sight of our Father in heaven.  No longer like the Gentiles, now like Christ we love… that is, we lay down our lives and reach out to serve.

It’s really easy to hate those that kill and murder, spit, and lie.  It’s really easy to ignore or to spit, lie, and murder back.  All the rest do that, but you have been washed.  You have been marked with the cross of Christ as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.  We go forth in love, laying down our lives only because Christ first loved us and laid down his life for sinners.  He let himself be spit upon, mocked, slapped, and killed.  But what he laid down for the life of the life of the world, he picked back up again and delivered that life to you.  Marked, washed, redeemed, forgiven… a child of God.  We love because he loves us.

A Sermon for Reminiscere – Matthew 15

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  It looks pretty grim.  They tell me this is a dying place.  The sun and its rays are hidden and the fierce darkness of Satan’s clouds are rolling in.   The rain is sure to fall upon our heads… The day is past, your prime is over, the excitement blown out when the clouds blew in.  Some say its the neighborhood or the gangs.  Some say its just because everyone has moved on in their lives.  Our Redeemer Lutheran Church waiting for its end… no youth, no excitement, no money.  What else is there to do?

Satan’s been lying in wait.  He’s been counting the days, to stir up within us terrible thoughts, as if God our Lord had rejected and forsake us.  His sly and cunning tongue whispering the nothings of destruction in the ears of God’s elect.  By a word he cast doubt in Eve’s ear and by misusing the Word of God he wills to convince you that trouble will reign in your hearts, in this place, among those gathered here… that you aren’t worthy of the things God has in store for you, that you don’t even belong to him.  “Heathen, Jesus came for the lost sheep of the house of Israel – you are nothing, dogs at best, mangy mutts to be kicked under the table.”

Yes, even the Lord Jesus would agree.  He gave the Canaanite woman the silent treatment.   He reminded her that he came only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  He called her a dog.

The disciples were bothered by her continued pestering.  Send her away, Jesus, for she cries out after us.  Wailing and yelling she longed for the King of kings to cast out her daughter’s demon.  She wanted her daughter back.  She came to the creator of all things and called out again and again.  But he ignored her.  She was a Gentile.  He was a Jew.  He the King of the Jews.

You and I might have quit there.  He won’t answer.  His people are staring at me.  I’m uncomfortable and I’m not getting anywhere.  It isn’t going to happen anyway.  She’s been tormented for years… I’ve been looking for a job for weeks… The congregation is getting smaller and smaller… We’ve been hoping the cancer would go into remission…

We’re not getting anywhere.  We ask and ask and ask.  He doesn’t answer.  He says ask for anything and the Father will give it… but there is no answer.  We might as well just pack it up and go back home and quit there.

But, the difficulties in the way do not appall the Canaanite woman; she keeps only in view the object of her coming, and forgets that she is a heathen and he a Jew.  Her confidence and hope in Christ are so great that she never doubts his condescension.  Her faith cancels the fact that she is a heathen.  One without faith would never have acted this way, but would have concluded: It is of no use to present my request before him; I am in the clutches of the devil beyond all hope; let his own people come to him; them he will hear, but not me.

It is surely a severe and dangerous affliction when Satan comes and prompts the heart to despair of the mercy of God.  Rest assure the devil is at work to speak his lies to your hearts in this place.  You and I are his target.  He labors to convince us to refuse to pray to Christ, and rather to be ready to curse him… to think that all is lost and damnation sure… to think we are the heathen kicked under the table to be ignored by God and his Christ.

But she cried out all the more, “O Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Full of earnestness and faith she confesses with these words her faith in Christ as the Savior of the world.  And yet he says, “I came only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  And here her faith moved her like your faith has moved you today.  She worshipped him.  Casting herself to the ground she would not let him go.  “It is not good to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs.”  It was as if he said to her, “You are a child of the devil in every respect; begone, I will have nothing to do with you!”  It matters not what your problem, woman, be gone.  Stop pestering and leave me.

You and I cower and relent.  We retreat and stop asking… we decide he must have better prayers to answer, more important people to care for… and we go home.  And yet we learn a most startling thing; faith will not retreat.  It will not cower in even the most harsh of rebukes by the King of kings.  Faith takes hold of Christ’s words, even when they sound harshly, and changes them into soothing expressions of consolation.  She replies, Yes Lord – I am a dog.  Treat me like one if you like.  Give the bread to the children, and seat them at your table… only allow me to sit under the table and pick up the crumbs those children drop.  With those scraps I will be happy.  Taking the place of a dog she receives the privileges of a child.  And here, forced by his own words, Jesus gives in.

Satan would have us believe it is a dark and gloomy day.  But really it is the light of Christ that dawns.  The rays of God’s pure light make manifest what really is happening here in this place.  The Holy Spirit is creating faith in your hearts.  He is using the very Word of God come from heaven to create and sustain this faith – deep within the soil of your heart.  And this makes the devil frustrated because this faith reaches forth and grasps ahold of Jesus… just like this Canaanite woman’s faith.  It draws you to Jesus in your need.

Christ’s repulsive treatment of the Canaanite woman did not proceed from an unfriendly disposition towards the Gentiles, but it was his purpose to test and make manifest the faith of this woman, so that we might learn from her.  Jesus is so well pleased with this woman that he can no longer withhold his mercy and kindness, but tells her: “O woman, great is your faith.  Be it done to you as you desire.”

And so likewise he is please with your faith.  No longer stuck under the table eating the scraps that fall to the floor, Jesus commands that you come up higher and sit with him as he restores you in the forgiveness of your sins and gives you life and salvation.  He does this by his body and blood shed upon the cross.  This the Holy Spirit testifies to you and this your faith reaches out and grabs ahold of.  Jesus died upon the cross and now the devil’s trickery and lies have no depth.  The grave can’t hurt you and death has no sting.  For in the renewal of life, the Lord of life showered you with his blood, drowning the dog that was your old Adam and instead brought forth a new man – righteous before the Father and holy in his sight.  You are made new in the death of Jesus.  You are given new life in the resurrection of the flesh of Jesus.

Satan would have you believe this is a dark and gloomy place.  He wants you to stop praying for this congregation and to ignore its people.  The devil works overtime to make sure that there is division and strife among you.  But I tell you today – in your hearing – that Jesus, the Son of David, the Lord of life is here in this place.  Satan has no hold.  He is a liar.  But Jesus speaks the truth.  He is here and he has called this place holy and vibrant.  He looks out and sees brothers and sisters – not dogs – Children of God.  Angels are singing because of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church.  All the vault of heaven resounds because of this family.  Jesus is building you up.  He has made you alive.  Today he sets a table in the presence of your enemy the devil.  He sets it here for everyone to see.  Your faith is great – your sins are forgiven – come dear brothers and sisters and feast with Jesus and celebrate with God.

The day is now.  This is the day of salvation.  This is Our Redeemer’s prime.  Celebrate with Jesus.  The Father is celebrating because of you and because his Son has picked this people.  In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church Houston

The Reverend Steven Thomas Cholak

Liturgical Question Box – The Ten Commandments

The Small Catechism is divided in the the six chief parts of the Christian faith.  They are: The Ten Commandments, The Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Altar.

The words found in the Small Catechism answer practical questions for every Christian:  What is God’s Law? The Ten Commandments.  God’s Law smashes the self-righteousness of man and exposes his mistrust of God.  At the same time, God’s Law exalts the righteousness of Christ who fulfilled the whole will and Law of God for us.  The Law must condemn the sinner and convict him of his need for Christ.  This is the preaching of repentance.

The Law is always taught with Christ in view.  We are the sinners.  He is the Savior.  Apart from his grace we can have no salvation, and can do no good thing.  The Christian is taught to use each of the Ten Commandments as a guide for self-examination in preparation for private and corporate confession and absolution.

Love does no harm to its neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.  –Romans 13:10

Love is the summary of all the commandments.  It is found in the Love God has for the world in that he gave his only Son who perfectly kept the Law of his Father to be our Savior.

Invocavit Wednesday Sermon

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.  —Romans 8:16-17

God would with the opening words of the Lord’s prayer (Our Father who art in heaven) invite us to believe that we are his true children.  Even the Holy Spirit testifies to the case – God has made us his own.  So that we may with all boldness and confidence use his holy name to ask him as dear children ask their dear Father.  But rather — what do we use his holy name for??  We call upon it in every unimportant moment and joke and curse with it upon our lips.  It was by this name that you were brought out of your old life and made a new.  It was by this name that you are marked and targeted by the devil.

True, God’s name is indeed holy by itself.  Without you or me – it is holy and it will remain holy despite our sinful nature.  But that it may be holy among us… holy upon our lips… holy in our use, that is what we pray here.  God has come to you and me when we did not want him in our lives, when we ignored him and ran the other way.  In our sin he stopped us in our tracks and showered his Spirit upon our hearts to make Christians out of the heathen.  This holy name he placed upon us and we were begotten in that baptism.  Begotten and birthed by our mother, the church.  A man must be born of the Spirit.  And born of the Holy Spirit you were.  He testifies with your spirit that God has made you an heir to the heavenly kingdom.  You are holy heirs.

Our Father gives us the kingdom.  We call him Father and he is ours because of that which he done to us.  The Blood of Jesus has washed you and made you a new Adam.  We have been transformed by the glory of Christ and by his blood we are made alive.  Not only alive, but forgiven.  And so the Father continues to give you these gifts of heaven.  He calls out your name and doles out the goods.  He looks out and sees his beloved and is delighted that he has picked you.

And so that name that is above every name has forced fruit to come forth from your branches.  Good works cannot be helped.  They are a natural result of the name that God has placed upon your head and that he wants you to use with your lips.  You are his witnesses and you will suffer because of it… but he has provisions.  There is nourishment for the war, and consolation for the weak of heart.  Jesus has won the victory.  Upon Calvary’s cross, he emptied his body of its life and died.  The Godman died.  You are bound to that death.  It is yours.  The water that was poured over your head and the blood that is poured down your throat have made that death yours.  And the life he lives in his resurrection is yours made real in your baptism.

Sin no longer has mastery over you, but rather it is defeated in the bread and wine here offered.  The body and blood of the King of kings has undone the power of the devil and has elevated you to the right hand of God.  Sons and Daughters of the Almighty Father.  It is real.  He is true to his Word, you are his and he is Our Father.  In +Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Reverend Steven Thomas Cholak

Invocavit Sermon

Grace, Mercy, and Peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.  For forty days and forty nights it rained upon the earth.  Eight souls in all were in that boat.  As the rain began to come down, Noah and his family began to fast.  It would be some time before they would see the sunshine again, or to breath the fresh air as the wind carried it down the face of the mountains and across the valleys.  Forty days the rain came down and for forty nights, too.  It deprived them of everything they knew and loved and kept them locked up with all the animals.

Not a self-chosen fast, like “I’ll give up liver this Lent,” but a fast inflicted upon them because God counted Noah righteous.  Forty days and forty nights the rain beat down upon that boat as eight souls remembered their village, their friends, the green grass, and the warmth of the sun upon their cheeks.  They remembered the ridicule, the pain, and the violence that filled the earth.  Locked up by the Lord Himself because the Lord found favor with Noah.

Jesus was hungry.  Again, not a self-inflicted fast, but it was the Spirit of God that led Jesus to the wilderness.  For forty days and forty nights, He he did not eat.  A desolate place, alone without the niceties of life, away from everything that He knew and loved, led there to be tempted by the Prince of Darkness.  And when he was good and hungry Satan came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But Satan didn’t get it.  Well, he thought he was punching Jesus when He was down.  You find the weak part in the armor and drive the sword straight through.  Tempt Jesus with food when He’s hungry, yeah that’s the way to go…and maybe, just maybe, He’ll take the bait and lose the war.  But Jesus’ answer was more devastating for Satan than he would ever know.  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.”

In those Words, in that short little bit of preaching, Jesus’ fast was over.  “It is written,” Jesus said.  Man shall live by the words that God has written.  Man shall live by the bread that comes from God, that comes down from heaven, that fills our ears, our mouths, and our eyes.  It is the gifts from heaven that sustain God’s people.

Beware dear Christians, it has been a long fast.  Many years have gone by since we have walked with God in the cool of the Garden.  The Prince of Darkness has waged a long and dangerous war and each of you is his target.  Get the weakest link, take down the ones that are hungry, and carry away the spoil.  Too often this devil’s lies have found willing ears nestled upon our heads, his seduction an easy mark in our wayward hearts.

A fast has begun for us this past week.  Our alleluias taken from us.  No more “Glory be to God on High”…for forty days and forty nights…our lenten fast carries us outside the walls of Jerusalem to the bread that came down from heaven.  Each stop along the way eating up the Word we live by.  Nourishment for the war that is being waged upon us.

A bumper sticker, “Pray for peace!” it said.  Peace in our world, no doubt, peace that keeps soldiers from marching through Kabul…that keeps Twin Towers from falling…that cures cancer and dries each tear before they are formed.  Satan would tempt us even with a little bumper sticker.  Tempt us to forget about the Peace nestled within the Word of God and rather to turn to the desires of sinful men.

Temptation is always temptation to break God’s Word, to go against it.  God says, “Do this” or “Don’t do that.”  And the devil says, “Oh, come on now!  That is not practical.  You’re being a prude, old-fashioned, no fun.  Surely God didn’t really mean it.  And even if He did then it is only because He is holding out on you.  What kind of a God is He, anyway?  I thought He was supposed to love you.”  This is the way he attacked Eve in the garden.  It is the way he attacked Our Lord in the desert.  It is the way he attacks us here and now.  Eve could not bear the assault. Adam failed to protect her.  He, and she, gave in, and became children of Satan and you are the spawn of their loins.  But the 2nd Adam, the perfect Adam, suffered these temptations also.  And He did not fail.  He overcame.  He lived the perfect life of faith and with nothing more than the Word He drove the devil back.

So we pray for a different peace, knowing that bombs will still kill, and soldiers will still march.  There will always be hospitals…and those that die in them.  We pray for a peace that sustains and brings us through the lies and attacks of Satan.  We pray for the peace that brings us life and unifies us with Christ.  We pray for peace that is the Word of God.  The Word that we live by.  Christ, our fighting King, has succeeded where Adam failed.  He does not stand idly by as Satan and his legionnaires taunt you with their siren songs of destruction and death.  He intervenes.  He shields you, His beloved, but weak bride.  He protects and defends you.  He attacks those who would harm you.  He goes in your place, overcomes what you and Eve could not.  He did not need to do this for Himself.  He did it for you.  He removes death’s sting, the grave’s morbid victory.  The roaring lion who once terrified you is now but a barking dog with no bite.  His teeth, his claws have been removed.  He is chained to his own torture which will never end.  He cannot have you.  He cannot harm you.  For you have a Master, a King, a Benefactor, and a Protector.  You bear the Name He placed upon you in Baptism.  Thus you belong to Him, not just because He made you, but also because He bought you.

So be forewarned.  Be prepared.  Make yourself ready for warfare, ready for sneak attacks, and dirty underhanded tricks.  Make yourself ready by eating and drinking the provisions provided in His Grace, that which He has given and shed for you.  Open your ears.  Hear the Word of God.  Pray that He would strengthen and sustained you in the days to come.  Pray lest you fall into temptation.  And learn to pray once again, O Christians, the prayer He taught, the prayer He gave.  And learn to pray as the early Church so fervently prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly!”

“And the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to Him.”  In +Jesus’ Name.

Reverend Steven Thomas Cholak