Gospel of the Week – January 6th

Matthew 2:1-12 – The Visit of the Wise Men

And now we’ve reached the “A-HA!” moment of the season of Christmas. It’s the moment that Christ is revealed, not just to the Jews, but to all the nations! This is Epiphany! It is the “Second Christmas” of our Lord. For the Gentiles have now come to see the Christ and to worship Him.

The Magi, wise men from the east, have come across from distant lands following “His star” (v. 2). They meet up with Herod the king and ask where the child is. Herod, as one would expect, is upset that there is a child out there who would be considered a king, and could come to take his throne. For Herod, a wicked ruler, was ruthless and was determined to kill off any who would seek to take his power from him. So he attempted to trick the wise men into thinking he wanted to worship the child, and sent them off with instructions to find the baby and tell him where the child was. God, however, had other ideas, and after leading the wise men to Jesus, warned them to go home a different way.

You might ask, if Herod was such an evil man, why the Magi would go to him first? Surely, they had to know who he was. Someone would have let them in on what Herod was like. It is the gifts of the Magi that tell us so much. They brought with them gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These are the gifts worthy of a king, and one would expect to go to Herod the King to give the gifts.

But, Jesus wasn’t with the king. He wasn’t even in a palace. This was the same Jesus who was born in a dirty manger, in a cave, behind a hotel, in the middle of a nowhere town like Bethlehem. This was the king they came to see. You would imagine they would be surprised to find a poor carpenter, his wife, and child. After all, it’s just Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, a little family in a backwater town in Judea.

And yet they worshipped Him. They “fell down,” as verse 11 says, and presented Him and His mother with the finest of gifts. They came in faith to be in the presence of Jesus. It was faith that led them to follow the star, faith in the Word of God from verse 6 (taken from Micah 5:2), faith in the dream given them by the Lord to protect the Son. The Holy Spirit worked faith even in strangers from distant lands, who traveled to be with Jesus. Faith to find the King in a poor man’s house, and to worship Him.

The Spirit works faith in us, too. Faith that brings us to church on Sunday; faith that walks with us to the font and the rail; faith that puts us in presence of Christ in our Baptism and in the Holy Supper; faith in Christ, given by the Spirit through the Word. Galatians 3:26, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

Come and worship the Christ. Live in faith like the Magi, and the words of the Venite in Matins:

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.

Psalm 95:1-7

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Gospel of the Week – December 30

Luke 2:22-40 – Jesus Presented at the Temple

Jesus’ parents, being good Jews, proceeded to the temple after the appointed time of cleansing (Leviticus 12) to make a sacrifice. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are Jews, and, as such, are required to fulfill the Law of Moses, and have come to the temple to sacrifice two turtledoves.

It’s good to note here that the public life of Jesus begins with a sacrifice for His mother as required by Jewish law, to atone for sins and provide satisfaction. And His life ends with a sacrifice to remove the requirements of Jewish law and atone for all sins, including those of His mother.

Here at the temple, they meet Simeon, a fellow Jew and a righteous man, who has been awaiting the Messiah. When Jesus arrives, Simeon is filled with the Holy Spirit, takes Jesus into his arms and praised the Lord for what He had done for Simeon. For Simeon had met the “salvation” (v.30) for all people, both Jew and Gentile, to deliver all mankind. And then another Jew, this time Anna, a prophetess of the Lord, began praising the Lord as well, for God had brought to them “the redemption of Jerusalem” (v.38).

God uses many people to give thanks and praise for Jesus. He sends His Holy Spirit to those who are called to tell of Him who will redeem all men, and bring salvation. He even calls us to praise Him as well when we hold Jesus in our hands and our very mouths when we partake of the Holy Supper. That is why we sing the song of Simeon, the Nunc Dimittis (Latin for “Now dimiss”), after the distribution and dismissal at the communion rail.

O Lord, now let Your servant
Depart in heav’nly peace,
For I have seen the glory
Of Your redeeming grace;
A light to lead the Gentiles
Unto Your holy hill,
The glory of Your people,
Your chosen Israel.

All glory to the Father,
All glory to the Son,
All glory to the Spirit,
Forever Three in One;
For as in the beginning,
Is now, shall ever be,
God’s triune name resounding
Through all eternity.

LSB p.211

We sing with Simeon, two-thousand years later, because we share with him the presence of our Savior. We give thanks to God with Anna, because the redemption of Jerusalem has arrived and is with us. Advent is over, our preparations have ended, and the time of Christ is here!

Praise the Lord!

Gospel of the Week – December 23

Luke 1:39-45 – Mary Goes to See Elizabeth, and John and Jesus Meet for the First Time

Here we are, in Luke 1. Zechariah has gone mute because he doubted the words of the angel of the Lord, Elizabeth has been hiding out at home because she got pregnant at what Zechariah delicately describes as “advanced in years,” and now Mary has her own angel give her the good news that she is going to, despite her rampant virginity, bear the Son of God, the Christ, the Savior of the World. Needless to say, it’s been busy. All these adults running around, finding out that “Nothing will be impossible with God” in Luke 1:37.

So Mary goes to see Elizabeth, a close relative, with all haste because, frankly, this needs to be discussed. Imagine an angel of the Lord appears to your 70 year-old grandmother and your 13 year-old niece and tells them both that they’re pregnant, one with the greatest prophet to ever walk the Earth, and the other the Son of God Himself. Oh, and both women, one barren and the other a virgin, are having their first child. You can bet these women want to get together and talk this whole situation out.

As Mary approaches the house of Elizabeth, she calls out a greeting. Immediately, John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb. Note here that John doesn’t shift, he doesn’t move slightly, Elizabeth doesn’t get a cramp that might be the baby; John leaps! And Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, gives it to Mary straight. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God, has arrived in Elizabeth’s house!

Let’s note the importance of what is going on here. The Gospel lesson is not about two women getting together over tea to hash out the problems in their lives. They are not meeting up to knit a couple of pairs of socks for the babies-to-come. They only get out a word edge-wise, and the children, who are still unborn, are already part of the act. These unborn infants, which today we have come to call fetuses, are participating in the world, and have stories to tell. John proclaims the Gospel to his mother with his leaping. Elizabeth recognizes that the child growing in Mary is a person, and of the Most High Importance. These are not medical conditions that these women have. They bear blessings for all mankind. One is the preface and prophet to the Greatest Story Ever Told, and the other IS that Story. He, Christ Jesus, is All-Atoning Sacrifice for all humanity, come to bear our sins away on the cross. His mother, Mary, is proclaimed by the Holy Spirit through Elizabeth to be blessed, as she carries in her womb the Son of God. And we are the recipients of the blessing her womb bore.

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Remember that despise our needs, wants, or desires, life begins when God places it there.  He is the Giver of all life, the Planter of the seed which grows and blooms, and He is the One who shows time and again that we must respect the life He grants.  Amen.

Gospel of the Week – September 4th

Matthew 18:1-20 – It’s interesting to note that this week’s Gospel starts and ends with the name of Jesus, and the things that are done in the name of Jesus.  You can look at the whole of Matthew and see the bookends that are the name of Jesus.  The beginning is the genealogy, and Matthew 1:23, “‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”  The end is “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

We see the importance of the name of Jesus the Matthew, Chapter 18, as well.  “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.”

SIDEBAR:  In this time, children were not seen in the same light as they are today, in which they are given equal, and sometimes greater, status.  Children were less than grownups.  Not in a degrading way, but in the adults went first, and the children knew their place and fell in behind kind of way.  What Jesus is saying here is anyone who will go to lengths to serve even the least in His name are servants of all by faith in Christ (we see this in John 13, when Jesus takes the form of a servant and washes the disciples feet).  It’s important to note that this does not mean that the act of servitude earns us salvation in Christ, but rather our humility comes from the faith we have in Jesus, even in His very name, and moves in us the desire to serve.

The pericope for this week ends with the name of Jesus, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  We see that being together in the name of Jesus, which is what we do in church when we begin the service in the name of God, He comes among us and we are with Him.

The name of Jesus brings so much to us.  It gives power to Baptism, it blesses and sustains us in the Benediction, it leads and guides all that we do.  We see the faith which comes from the Word of Jesus in action in the verses prior to the last.  “If your brother sins against you” is not a prescription for what we MUST do, but rather the result of loving, kindness, and humility in faith for our brothers in Christ, a faith which leads us to draw back those who have fallen away.  Those who have become the lost sheep.  Those who sin, as we all have.  We have Jesus Himself, who brings life and salvation.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Gospel of the Week – August 28

Matthew 16:21-28 – Jesus Tell the Disciples of His Death and Resurrection, and Says to Take Up the Cross and Follow Him

So here we are, on the way to Jerusalem, and Jesus pulls His disciples aside and tells them about what’s coming in Jerusalem.  “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised,” Matthew 16:21.  But Peter tells Jesus not to talk that way, and tries to gently scold Him for His words.  Of course Jesus understands that this is the tempting of the evil one who seeks to hold Jesus back from destroying death at the cross.  So Jesus tells Peter to lose the attitude and understand that this isn’t for Him to have a say in at all.  In other words, “Get behind me, Satan!”  Jesus sees the selfishness of Peter in Peter’s desire to keep the Lord alive, so that Peter can be with Jesus.  But Christ knows what is to come, and tells Peter to get his head out of the things of man and set his eyes on God’s purpose.  Peter would soon learn that purpose, or, as we like to call it, the Theology of the Cross.

Then Jesus goes on to talk about that life with the cross.  But it’s important to recognize here that Jesus doesn’t want these verses to be about what we have to do.  These are not the things of the Law, for how could we ever expect to live like Jesus, to be able to follow Him where He went and to be perfect like He is?  “None is righteous; no, not one,” as Paul says in Romans 3:10.  And how could we ever come up with enough to purchase our souls?  Could we use the whole world to buy the soul?  Would having everything even matter if we would lose our souls anyway?  The only One who could purchase our souls has done so, and did with His blood on the cross at Calvary.  And that One is Jesus Christ!  We are saved, our souls are not lost, because our lives are given over to Christ through faith brought by the power of the Holy Spirit, and not by living in the world and of earthly things.  For this world and the things in it are not the goal, the end result.  Neither is a life led bearing the cross.  The final purpose is life with our Lord Jesus, who defeated sin and death to give us that life eternally through faith.  Praise be to God in Christ Jesus!

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 +