Gospel of the Week – August 21st

Matthew 16:13-20 – The Most Important Confession a Christian Can Make

In the Gospel lesson for this week, we read about Jesus and the disciples in the northern part of Galilee.  This is the furthest north that Christ goes and from now on will travel southward to Jerusalem, the cross, and the salvation of all mankind.  It’s fitting that as Jesus makes the turn for home we get a powerful and wonderful confession by Peter about Jesus.  It is the confession that all Christians must make, by the working on the Holy Spirit in our hearts, as we receive forgiveness of sins and life eternal in Him:

“YOU ARE THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD!”

In those words are all of the meaning and affirmation from the three Creeds, from the Confession and Absolution, from the preaching of the pastor in the pulpit, from the waters of Baptism, and from the Lord’s Supper.  Because in all of those things we see and receive the Christ, our Lord Jesus, who in the Son of the Living God.  Not the god of stone in a temple, or the god of gold in the idol, or the god of images in a book.  He is the Living God, who created all things, who walked among us and lived with us 2,000 years ago, who lives today in our hearts working through the Word and Sacraments.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Living Trinity.

Jesus confirms this confession.  He calls it, this confession of the Christ, the Rock of the Church.  And He builds the Christian Church upon that confession.  For without Christ, there is no Christian Church.  The gates of hell, the evil one, and even death will not overcome this confession.  For anyone who hears this Word and confesses it in faith by the power of the Holy Spirit will not have hell prevail against them.  May it be our confession!

Solus Christus +

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What’s with this thing called the Divine Service?

Here’s a link to an explanation of the parts of the Liturgy at The Brothers of John the Steadfast.  It’s a fantastic explanation of what God gives us in the service, and how we are blessed by Him through His Word and Sacrament.  It’s something to look through with the hymnal if you have one to tie it all together.  And, if you can, check it out and then go to a traditional Divine Service this weekend.  See how the parts work together and enjoy a deeper understanding of the gift of the Liturgy.

“Suffer the little children…”

My wife and I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with some friends of ours on Sunday. We got to sit and laugh and talk with them about all topics great and small. One of the rather interesting things we discussed was our children. They have two wonderful little boys, and we have one of our own, and of course, as parents, we all want the best for them. But the conversation turned to the idea of how to help the children to grow outside of our overprotective nature as parents.

The word that came out in the discussion was “suffering.” Not suffering in the sense of painful agony, or torment and torture, but rather, suffering as a struggle to proceed through life. We all know that type of suffering. The grind of work, the frustration of relationships with other, or the issues we have to work through with ourselves are all examples of suffering. Our friend told the story of moving in the summer before his 5th grade year, and how hard was to be in that situation with new friends and a new school. I think of the death of my grandfather, and how my son learned about the loss of a loved one. Then there are the times when it’s just tough to be a kid (or an adult), and learn about consequence and disappointment when things just don’t go the way they should.

We always want to protect our children, and to help them to understand the world. We don’t want them to experience the harshness that life has until we think they are old enough to handle it. Which is the protection that parents should give to their children. The world is not a happy and nurturing place, like Sesame Street. But it is important to temper the understand children have of suffering the pains of a sinful world with the message of the Gospel. We all do things that are wrong. We all “sin and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And still Christ has made atonement for our sins. He has taken away the power of the evil one and given us life and salvation. That is the message that our children should learn about suffering. It is a time to teach about faith, and to build faith in a child through the Word. “Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4). And that hope is the faith we have in our Lord Jesus, who has taken away the suffering of this life by His suffering on the cross.

At the end of the conversation with our friends, we agreed that the kids would learn suffering soon enough. But we can take comfort and hope in knowing that they will have their Savior to lean on when they do suffer.

The Simplicity of It All

The simplicity of the Gospel is this:

We can be more sure of our salvation in Christ than that the sun will rise tomorrow.

Consider that. It is more likely that the world will end in the middle of the night tonight and the sun will not rise tomorrow than salvation in Christ will not happen. And that is because our salvation has already been assured by the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. We are saved by our faith in Christ’s work, not our own. And to get this salvation, all we must do is believe in Him. That faith is given to us through the hearing of the Word and the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. So, it is this and this only:

Come, listen, believe and live!

Unanswered Prayers – For Richard Phillips

Garth Brooks wrote a song called “Unanswered Prayers.” For those of you unfamiliar with this song, it talks about how the narrator thanks God for not answering a prayer that he had prayed a long time ago. He was thankful because his life turned out great, even though God didn’t do what the narrator thought best at the time. Often I’ve wondered about this song. How is it good that God doesn’t always answer our prayers? Doesn’t it say in Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you?” How can it be that God does not give us what we ask?

Then I turned to Proverbs 19:21, which states, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” And Proverbs 16:9, (my one of my favorite Bible passages) “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”

How can it be that I can ask God for something that He will not give to me? Many, many times I wonder, worry, and fret over this fact. “Will God give me what I want?” “Is this what I need?” “How can I get what I think I need with THAT?”

God is all about TRUST! I know that that is a big word for some of us (especially me!), but think about it. Don’t you think that the CREATOR of all things can figure out a plan for us? Sure, I don’t want to accept the fact that I don’t know what’s going on in my existence. Maybe I WANT to be in control. But, I know in my heart (and maybe NOT my head) that God knows what’s going on. He’s got it all under control. That’s the great part about God. He got it all in the palm of His hand. Like the song, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hand.”

The omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God that we love and believe in has it all together. How great is THAT!? We don’t have to overstress or overwork ourselves, because we know in our hearts that someone GREATER than we will EVER(!) be has it under control. I don’t know about you, but that makes ME sleep soundly at night.

Now, here’s the funny part. Don’t worry! No, this is not a repeat of the advice Bobby McFerran gave us in the 1990’s, or the words of wisdom spoken by animated characters in a Disney movie. This is God, straight-up and true, in Matthew 6:25ff, “Do not worry about you life…” He tells us outright. How wonderful is it that we do not have to overstress about the things of this world? He’s got it under control. Remember this, when you hear the Garth Brooks song. Yes, we may not get what we want, but we have the assurance that someone greater knows exactly what we need, when we need it. Patience is a virtue (Galatians 5:22-23).

Psalm 90:4a “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by.” God works on His own time.

May He give us the faith to wait for His time, too.

For more help, see Psalm 25, Psalm 23, and Psalm 139 (the Psalm of my late Step-Grandfather, Richard Phillips).