His Blood makes Christianity Messy

Flock_of_sheepA good and gracious shepherd, and it doesn’t matter what kind of sheep.  The Shepherd has come to tend his flock… and so it does matter what kind of flock!  Skinny, injured, weak sheep – even ones that have strayed – YES!  But the fat ones, the strong ones, they will just not do.  He’ll leave the 99 and search for the one, but all the hearty, righteous sheep… forget it, they will eat justice.  I guess there could be wolves in sheep’s clothing or at least mean, nasty, down and dirty sheep – sheep that sin, sheep full of doubt and lies, those are the sheep that have wondering, lustful eyes – the ones that aren’t so sure about this whole thing at all.

Is this Jesus a good Shepherd?  Am I one of his sheep?  Have I done enough?  Have I tried hard enough?  Can he really shepherd me?  Is his love enough for my sin?  And not just me – what about this flock??  Are we weak sheep?  Strong sheep?  Fat and strong sheep he will destroy.  He only comes for the lowly and weak.  Every sheep, even every little lamb, comes with doubt.  The devil only encourages it, cultivates it.  You are the ones that think this whole thing could just be a bit over rated!

Sheep in the world.  To say it is a bit easier than to live it, to do it, but you really have not understood.  You have not been in the world and not of it.  You have engaged in a tug of war with the world, with your surroundings, with doubt and fear, because the world is real and you live in it.  Your enemies (the devil, the world, the sinful nature) pull you along.  They pull at your desires and squeeze your emotions.  They promise you what you want.

Who is it that keeps at arms length the thick darkness and the day of clouds?  The evil temptation and the evil desires and pleasures of your heart?  WHO??  Not you – no not one of you!  You had thought maybe you were a strong sheep!  There is no temptation that has seized you that is not common to man.

The Good Shepherd did not come to save the righteous – but to lay down his life for you.  A person who is well has no need of a physician, but you, God perfects his glory in your weakness.  Everything out there is real.  Repeat: EVERYTHING OUT THERE IS REAL.  Satan would use it all to water your doubt and despair – just waiting for the crop to come to harvest.  You are stuck in the world with all its dark clouds, but Jesus seeks you out so that you are not “of the world” any longer.  Sorry to break it to you, but there isn’t a strong or fat sheep, not even a chubby lamb, reading this post.  Jesus is your shepherd (the shepherd of the weak and sinful) and on this day of clouds and the thick darkness of sin and trouble, Jesus has come in search of you.

So, to find you, he became a scronny and weak little lamb.  He laid down his life to pay the ransom for you.  The whole weight of the darkness and even every sin slaughtered him.  Like the lambs, so many lambs sacrificed before, Jesus was sacrificed.  But UNLIKE any other time before, this time God became part of his creation and not just a something of creation.  God became a man – the Man: the Son of Mary.  So Mary had a little Lamb and he had come to the world, entered in it, to die the cross of sacrifice and shame in order  that he would be the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world – your sin.  IN order to be the Good Shepherd that crushes the wolf’s head and lays down his life for the flock – for the ONE, even for you.

He has sought you, brought you to the inn of his church, bound up your wounds, washed your sins away, strengthened your weaknesses and beckons you lie down in green pastures and beside still waters.

Even as the storms rage and spite out there, Jesus leads you, calls you by name, and calls you his own.  You know him: A good and gracious Shepherd… and it doesn’t matter who you are!  Jesus has come as your Good Shepherd.  The Lamb who died and now lives again has done a good work this day.  Your soul is restored and even now he blesses you, forgives your sins, and goes forth this day into the world with you.  The Good Shepherd isn’t a hired hand, and even now you know him for he has rescued you.

Even Satan has a Relationship with God

Just this past week someone told me that they think going to church is nice and all, but if someone has a relationship with God, then that’s good enough [and they don’t have to bother if they don’t want to go].  It isn’t the first time I’ve heard someone talk about relationships with God.  It seems to be the rage… especially with Facebook asking us constant questions about our relationships.  In the name of a personal relationship with God we forget that Jesus has grafted us into Himself, the vine.  We are living stones chosen by God and precious – being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4-5).

Enter life together… when you were baptized, you weren’t baptized into a personal and individual standing before God.  You were baptized into the body of Christ.  You were picked by Jesus as his own.  Like Abraham, you were minding your own business (more or less) and knew nothing of God’s love in Christ Jesus.  You were dead in your sin and wanted nothing to do with your neighbor or with God.  It was deep in your own spiritual grave, that Jesus came and found you.  He called you out of that darkness, took your death and your sin from you and gave you his eternal life and perfect salvation in its place.

That’s how this Jesus still is.  He keeps coming to you – although you keep ignoring him, breaking his commandments, not loving your neighbor with your whole heart, and living like God did not matter and as if you mattered most, Jesus would have you for himself.  He comes again with his Word and good gifts and calls you to himself and to his church.  We believe that we cannot believe in Jesus Christ or come to him… but the Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel and gathers us around Word of Absolution, Word preached, and around the very Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.

The point of our life with Jesus isn’t about whether or not we have a relationship with him rather it’s that He has claimed us as his own.  Relationships abound, some are good and some are bad, some are estranged, and some are evil.  Everyone has a different definition of the word.  Even Satan has a relationship with God.  The point is that Jesus has grafted you into the whole of all the church.  He has taken you from your private, individual standing in death and sin and plucked you out of the darkness and grafted you into the body of Christ.  You are now part of the bride.  You are a member of the church.  You are fed and nourished as the church is called and gathers around the very Word of God that has become flesh and blood: Jesus.

Where do you get your identity?  At the altar, where Jesus is.  It is before the throne of God that you are made new, that God showers his mercy and love upon you, that he forgives your sins and makes a clean heart within you.  Where does God want you?  He wants you gathered together with other Christians around Word preached and the Body and Blood of his Son given to you.  He wants you to encourage one another to that end, to gather as one people (people loved by God), receiving power as Sons of God, and going forth in acts of love and mercy.  A plant taken away from the water will wither and die…so also the Christian that is not feed on the Word of God and his Holy Sacraments.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

Justification as Pastoral Care

Jesus for you IS care of the soul.  There is a great little Blogia article… really just a teaser or a question posed by Rev. Dr. Scott Murray… (Click HERE to read it.)  I would really like to hear him say a little more on the subject (which I will just have to wait a little time for), however, it has forced me to think about the subject myself.  So let’s answer the question: How does the [Lutheran] pastor specifically shape his pastoral and Christian care for the flock over which the Lord has appointed him as overseer (Acts 20:28)? 

“Our churches teach that people cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works.  People are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake.  By his death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins.  God counts this faith for righteousness in his sight.” – Concordia, The Lutheran Confessions: Augsburg Confession, Article V

It has been said that the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls is this very doctrine of justification.  The center of the pastor’s work has to be the cross of Jesus Christ.  The existence of an absolute is jarring to the world, but necessary to the Christian life.  Too much of the world’s answer (and even our own flesh’s answer) is to create and allow a reality that is personal and unique to one’s self.  The problem for humanity is that God requires his church to speak back what he has spoken.  That means a specific and external reality in Jesus.  Pilate asked, “What is truth?” and the world has tried to answer ever since the fall into sin.  The church’s answer is that you are free from your sin in Jesus.  He is God and he is man.  He is the new Adam come to take your sin from your white knuckled clutches and give you his life in return.  It isn’t something for one and a something else for another… it isn’t different depending on your life story or upon your sin.  Jesus has come for all sin.  He comes for yours and he comes to kill it.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his Spiritual Care, said, “Caring for the soul is a special sort of proclamation.  The minister should proclaim wherever possible.”*  He echoes Paul… preach in season and out of season.  The church lives by the speaking of the Word of God.  Our God creates by his Word.  He strips us of our sins by his Word.  He makes water, bread, and wine extraordinary by his Word.  He makes us new by his Word.  The preacher’s duty is to proclaim that Word and that Word is the truth that makes for a new reality in the sinner.

What does JUSTIFICATION have to do with parish practice?  It is the content of the Church’s work.  It is the content and the work of pastor and the people.  I’m reminded of Bo Gertz’s Hammer of God.  A young curate is called to the deathbed of a parishioner who refuses to believe that he is worthy of Jesus and an eternal life with him.  It takes another member of the parish to come and remind the old man that he needed a Savior and that he couldn’t justify himself alone – at all.  Jesus had to come specifically for people like him – sinners.  We have a need for a savior.  Jesus is the exact savior we need.  What calls us Lutherans out from other Christians is that we believe that we can’t do anything to earn anything before God.  Our words are the Word of heaven… we can’t, by our own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ or come to him.  But God has called us by the Gospel… called us out of our own reality in the reality of heaven – under the shade of the Tree of Life.  Jesus is our reality… he is our truth… he is the absolute that the world continues to deny.

I would suggest that the article of justification pushes us toward daily proclamation.  It is the article of our confessions that reorders our work as preachers by the daily proclamation of the very Word of God.  From the other perspective, daily care of the people of God is informed and built upon the foundation that is Jesus and his cross.  This absolute is what makes the Lutheran pastor stand out from everything else in the world.  The Lutheran preacher’s message and work: you who were dead in your sin and could not save yourself or do anything before God have had that sin removed and now you are a son of the living God by the blood of Jesus.  You don’t do anything to earn or merit eternal salvation.  It is a free gift in Jesus.

That Jesus is what pushes Lutheran pastors through the brink of sorrows and pain and that carries them through the valley of the shadow of death.  It is the God-man that informs their teaching and their prayers.  Though there be tears, there is One who has destroyed sin, death, pain, and sorrow and brought new life to light.  The doctrine of Justification pulls us out of our false personal realities and plops us down before Jesus.  It’s the job of the Lutheran pastor to put that Jesus before every one of his sheep, that is the real care our souls need… in our ears, in our eyes, in our mouths, and upon our heads.

*Dietrich Bonheffer, Spiritual Care, Fortress Press, 1985 – page 30

Did God really say??

Think with me how to engage the young people in your parish/congregation.  What do you do specifically to reach out to the young people?  This is a guest post written by Deaconess Rose Adle.  Rose was the associate director of the deaconess program at Concordia Theological Seminary while I was studying there a few years ago.  She is married to Pastor Scott Adle and they have three children.  Her topic?  Young women in the church.  Her post specifically addresses order of creation and speaking to God’s people the Word God has given us to speak.  I’m sure you’ll love it.  Thanks, Rosie.

ENTER Deaconess Rose Adle

All of us are to be fed regularly on God’s Word and Sacraments. These precious gifts are as needed by males as they are by females, young and old alike. Here there is no distinction.

When it comes to providing unique encouragement and exhortation for young women, the Church says what God says.

Eve was created to be a helper suitable to Adam. This order of creation was significant then, and it’s no less important today.

When Satan tempted Eve, he appealed to her pride. Why be the helper when you can be the head? Why take instructions when you can give them?

“Did God actually say…?” Satan asked Eve. He invited her to teach him and to take charge. He invited her to spit out that rotten “helper” role and bite into something sweeter and juicier. Eve took the bait and took the bite. Women have done the same ever since.

Did God actually say that women should be in silent submission in the churches? Did God actually say that a wife is to submit to her husband? Did God actually say that the woman is the weaker vessel? Did God actually say that a woman should be adorned with a gentle and quiet spirit?

For the Church to encourage young women in their God-given identities, we must remind them that God did actually say these things. Satan tells us that God didn’t mean it quite like that. The world tells us that those things don’t apply anymore. Our sinful nature tells us that we are too special, too gifted, and too important to accept these roles prescribed in Scripture. We are tempted to think, talk, and act as though God did not actually say these things.

The Church, meanwhile, encourages women to rejoice in our identity according to the created order, rather than to reject, avoid, or craftily circumvent it. The Church teaches that the Lord ordered creation as He did out of His deep love for humanity. The creation of a woman was so excellent because it provided the world with a creature that was different – a suitable helper that was beautiful and beloved, who could delight in being provided for and protected, just as the Church is served by Christ, her Lord.

The qualities unique to women made us needed way back in Genesis, and these differences continue to demonstrate our value today. The church serves men and women well by teaching that manhood and womanhood are distinct and this is good. In knowing who we are as creatures and in living according to these distinctions, we praise the Creator for His work. Did God actually say that it was very good? He did!

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

 

Free to be faithful

The Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison has posted a new video on YouTube about the ongoing attacks upon our religious freedom in America.  Check it out here.  Our God has called us to be faithful.  It doesn’t always mean that we will be popular.  Indeed, Christ says that being a Christian will in fact mean pain and persecution.  Being made cross shaped is part of the game…indeed God is creating in us a new heart.  He’s taking out the one that runs from God and instead renewing a right spirit (Psalm 51).  With the Holy Spirit, God is keeping us in the faith, making us little Christs, and sustaining us in the warfare of life.  Pain will come, splinters will be driven deep into our skin, but Christ sustains us.  Christ, who died upon the cross and rose for our justification, makes all things new even in the face of a real world/new world disaster.  When they differ, we must obey God rather than men, for it is by the Word of God that we have life.  Check out the video.  Pray for our country, pray for your fellow Christians, bear the crosses of your neighbors, and know that Christ has redeemed you and you are forgiven and alive to God.

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 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