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This week’s Daily Lectionary Old Testament readings are from 1 Samuel.  

Samuel was one of the last of the long line of Judges. The period of the judges (the history in the OT book of the same name) was a loose confederacy of the tribes of Israel with no central government. By Samuel’s time, the people wanted a different form of governance  for the reason they wanted a king “…like all the nations”.   The Lord, our Father, solemnly warns them of the pitfalls of wanting a king.  First, having a human king, means  rejecting the Lord as King (see vs. 8). Second: note the consequences for the affirmative answer to the people’s prayer below.  I have emphasized a key phrase in this section:

“…all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.”But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

Samuel’s Warning Against Kings

10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots.12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. (military conscription and armaments manufacture) 

13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. (taxation) 

16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work.17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18  And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

Commentary:  Wanting to be, “…like the other nations”,  sounds rather like a child or a teenager who wants something just to be like everyone else. Israel wanted to be like their pagan neighbors.  Israel wanted to be like their pagan neighbors, again and again by adopting their pagan gods and goddesses.  Now in our families, in the so-called enlightened times we are living in, to be like everyone else is also aping paganism. Think of the children offered to the Molech of the self by abortion. The rise of idolatry inevitably gives rise to immorality.  So in both politics and religion, Israel desired greatly for the ring of power to be placed on a king’s finger.  

Further, the Lord said Israel rejected Him as King.  Rejected, yes, but the good news is no one can dethrone the Lord as King.  This was not the only time this type of rejection came up.  The Lord speaks of the Wilderness Wanderings as He led them up but His own people rejected him again and again.  Israel probably would have preferred slavery in Egypt for “melons and cucumbers”, than freedom.  They wanted a bread king, a king who would fill their stomachs.  One of the Lord’s great temptations was so simple:  He fasted 40 days and nights, and the evangelists’ tell us, “He was hungry”.  Then that ruler of the dark realms tempted Him with bread.  Israel served other gods.  They wanted bread. The Lord’s new Israel, the Church, has a certain craving for other gods as well.   Rejecting the Lord as King, has meant the government, the State (note usually capitalized) becomes god.

Six times it is written of a king, “he will take” and the takings are old: heavy taxation, military conscription, a military-industrial complex and finally slavery. Governments tend to take, especially the State.  The United States’ people are more and more ceding such power, contrary to the Constitution, to the government.  Why?  

With the rise of atheism, the vacuum has been filled by other deities.  The problem has never been God in our politics, but too many gods (Peter Berger).  When the Church is forced out of the public square, then the State will become the Church (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus).  The god that is arising is the State.  The erosion of first amendment rights, in the name of stopping all ‘hate speech’, is going forward to the degree that, for instance, even to say marriage  between man and woman is hate speech.  At the end of the Soviet Empire, many Russians wanted a Stalin back to control their lives.  We Americans are not there yet, but we are getting closer.  Like Israel too many  want a King to, “go out before us and fight our battles.” (1 Samuel 8: 20)  We lust for a father figure to take care of us. The Church prays to Our Father who art in heaven, alone.  The State is an institution and who wants to live in a institution? We need to say with firm conviction, and without anger, we do not. In “Fiddler on the Roof”, the movie, a yeshiva student asks the rabbi, What is a blessing for the Czar?  The rabbi pauses and says, “God bless the Czar and keep him far away from us”. That’s about right. As the Lord’s Word says: kings “take”, they seldom give.  Ask an American Indian.  Following the Constitution, this is still the solution for government that is minimal.  But better: The Lord is our God.  He rules. He gives us freedom, political and spiritual to order our lives according to His Word.  The government can not do that and the kings of Israel, for the most part, did not do that either. 

For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver;
    the Lord is our king; he will save us.

Isaiah 33: 22

 

Prayer of the Day

O gracious God, Your servant and apostle James was the first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the name of Jesus Christ. Pour out upon the leaders of Your Church that spirit of self-denying service that they may forsake all false and passing allurements and follow Christ alone, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

Readings:

Acts 11: 27-12: 5  Psalm 56   Romans 8: 28-39  St. Mark 10: 35-45

About:  St. James and his brother John, sons of Zebedee and Salome (see Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40), were fishermen in the Sea of Galilee who were called with Peter and his brother Andrew to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:18-22). In the Gospel lists of Jesus’ disciples, James is listed following Peter and preceding John. Together these three appear as leaders of the Twelve. Because James precedes John, it is reasoned that James is the elder of the brothers. The Book of Acts records that James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I, probably between AD 42 and 44 (Acts 12:1-2). Thus James is the first of the Twelve to die a martyr and the only apostolic martyrdom recorded in the Bible. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  Our Lord equipped His apostles for suffering (see Matthew 10:17-19).  Matthew 10 is the Lord’s sermon to the Apostles after He called them.  He equips the apostolic Church with the Holy Spirit to bear witness to the redemption Jesus would win for us all upon the Cross.  James the Elder (or Greater) was the first apostolic martyr.

 We live in an age in which we want to have glory and fame, wealth and power and the guarantee of such  is “mammon” (Matthew 6:24).  We want to be number 1,even in the churches.  We lust to be the successful, vibrant congregation(s) and like the world, the church wants fame. There was even a TV show called “Fame” about a performing arts high school in New York City with the show’s title theme song and this lyric:

Fame! 
I’m gonna live forever, 
Baby remember my name…
source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/famelyrics.html

We want fame so that we will be forever remembered, that is eternal, but false gods’ have no memory since they are not real.  This is as old as Babel: build the great skyscraper and we will make a name for ourselves and have eternal security (Genesis 11: 4).  But no one remembers and “fame” is a false god that can not give eternal life;  but we remember James as he was faithful servant of Jesus Christ. We name our sons James, not Herod.  The LORD remembers His people. 

 James and his brother John were especially susceptible to that lust for glory as they wanted to sit on Jesus’ right and left hand when He came in power (see today’s Gospel reading).  Jesus named James and his brother John “Boanerges”, that is the “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17), possibly because of their impetuous nature and temperament.  James and John  asked the Lord, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (today’s Gospel reading). This verse maybe is the first example of the false, “name it and claim it”  practice of magically using prayer to get what I want. The disciple can not demand of His Lord what the Lord gives only by His command and grace. They also  asked Him to sit on His right and left hand when He came in glory.  At the beginning, during Jesus’ earthly ministry it was a rough start for James! We all have these moments! The prayer of repentance that these moments do not become a lifetime of habit. We pray for faithful preachers and teachers and parents to call us back to the Lord.

James and John did  sit on His left and right hand:  in martyrdom. They were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection and preached Christ.  As Jesus taught them that in the reign of God it is not about being number 1, lording it over others, but serving each other under the Lord. Jesus was and is number 1 and He took the lowest place:  a cross for all the sons of thunder.  For as Jesus taught, the Lord Himself, “… came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (vs. 45).  As Americans we crave to be number 1 but whom we remember in our lives are those who gave of their lives for us and who taught us Christ. James no longer sought his own fame, but proclaimed the Name above all names that at the name of Jesus every knew will bow (see Philippians 2)  He gave His life for us and for our salvation and John the Elder preached Jesus Christ.

O Lord, for James we praise You, Who fell to Herod’s sword;  He drank the cup of suff’ring And thus fulfilled Your Word.  

Lord, curb our vain impatience For glory and for fame.  Equip us for such suff-rings As glorify Your Name. (“By All Your Saints in Warfare, Lutheran Service Book, #518, stanza 21)

Ezekiel, the son of Buzi, was a priest, called by God to be a prophet to the exiles during the Babylonian captivity (Ezekiel 1:3). In 597 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army brought the king of Judah and thousands of the best citizens of Jerusalem — including Ezekiel — to Babylon (2 Kings 24:8-16).

Ezekiel’s priestly background profoundly stamped his prophecy, as the holiness of God and the Temple figure prominently in his messages (for example, Ezekiel 9-10and 40-48). From 593 B.C. to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 B.C., Ezekiel prophesied the inevitability of divine judgment on Jerusalem, on the exiles in Babylon, and on seven nations that surrounded Israel (Ezekiel 1–32). Jerusalem would certainly fall and the exiles would not quickly return — the just consequences of their sins.Especially in the early part of the book, much of what the Lord “said” to His people was delivered in the form of action prophecies. In these, Ezekiel acted out representations of coming events pertaining to the fall of Judah, the destruction of the temple, and the seeming end of the Davidic line of kings. These action prophecies included the eating of the scroll (3:1-2), being struck with dumbness (3:22-27), sketching of the city of Jerusalem (4:1-3), lying on one side and then the other (4:4-8), eating restricted rations cooked on a fire of dried dung (4:9-17), and shaving his hair and beard with a sword before dividing the hair (5:1-4).

Some seem a bit strange at first glance, once we understand their meaning and context, their messages are quite easily comprehended.Once word reached Ezekiel that Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, his message became one of comfort and hope. Through him God promised that his people would experience future restoration, renewal and revival in the coming Messianic kingdom(Ezekiel 33-48).Much of the strange symbolism of Ezekiel’s prophecies was later employed inthe Revelation to Saint John. Among these are the visions of the four living creatures as seen inEzekiel 1 and Revelation 4. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? Ezekiel 18: 23

Ezekiel called a thing what it was.  He did not call sinfulness, “dysfunctional behavior”, he called it wickedness, as did his brother prophets.  The question of morality is not about psychology but spirituality. The only way the word wicked is said in our day is maybe, “Oh, that was wicked”, that is, something that is actually good. Unlike Orwell’s 1984, we do not need a big brother state to enforce “newspeak”. The divinely inspired prophet leveled the Word of God at wickedness, but not only toward other nations, but primarily his own nation, Israel.  

All the prophets primarily  preached.Was Israel wicked?  Answer:  Yes. By what standard did the prophets know Israel was wicked?  Answer: The Law of God.  

Was the Lord and His prophet’s goal to destroy Israel in it’s wickedness? Answer:  No, but as we read above, the goal was repentance and life in His Name.

The Church in the United States is wicked and full of dead men’s bones. Marriage between man and woman is denied.  Abortion is promoted. Divorce is winked at.  The poor are extolled while we worship our unappeasable appetites.  Celebrity is likewise extolled and adored while saintliness is considered antiquated, in other words, Christians are practicing idolaters.  Good works as salvation via social activism is openly promoted while faith is assumed.  At church assemblies people know more about Robert’s Rules of Order, than the Lord’s rules, that is, the Law of God.  The newest fad of  ‘theology’ is read or lectured and the Bible is denied. Christians are more interested in updating their Facebook status than in improving their hearts and souls through the Word of God.  A comfortable Christ is preached but not the crucified Christ for the comfort of His forgiveness. We worship on our derrieres on padded pews and want our worship likewise padded, but not desiring the comfort of the Gospel for sinners.  As there really are no ‘sinners’, no one is wicked, except the person(s) we do not like.  I think it was an unintentional prophecy when the Lutheran Book of Worship came out and the verses  from 1 John 1 were incorporated into public Confession and Absolution: 

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

The Church  in the United States has done a good job in making Christ a “liar”.  Remember as the Lord taught:  Satan is the father of lies. The churches  have been fooling themselves and the word is not in us.  The churches are wicked. The Lord God sent His Son into our wickedness and it is His Cross that moves us to see what wickedness has wrought:  so great a Savior.  The following quote is from Spiritual Meditations by Pastor Johann Gerhard:

Jacob served fourteen years to win Rachel for his wife ; but Christ for nearly thirty years endured hunger, thirst, cold, poverty, ignominy, reproaches, bonds, the scourge, the vinegar and gall, and the awful death of the cross, that He might prepare for Himself and will as His bride the believing soul. Samson went down and sought a wife from among the Philistines, a people devoted to destruction (Judges xiv. 3), but the Son of God came down from heaven to choose His bride from among men condemned and devoted to eternal death. The whole race to which the bride belonged was hostile to the heavenly Father, but He reconciled it to His Father by His most bitter passion. The bride was polluted in her own blood (Ez. xvi. 22), and was cast out upon the face of the earth ; but He washed her in the water of baptism, and cleansed her in the most holy laver of regeneration (Eph. V. 26).

 Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Ezekiel, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles Your presence in creation to heal it of its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

In Matthew 11 the Lord’s cousin, John the Baptist had sent his disciples who did not really get it that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ.  Two cities of which Jesus did many great deeds were unrepentant.  In the next chapter, the Pharisees accused Jesus as a man healing people by the power of “Beelzebul, the prince of demons” and the Pharisees “…went out and conspired against Him, how to destroy Him.” Note:  not just “kill” but “destroy”.   The times were hard and so was the soil. And here in chapter 13 is our Lord’s Sermon of Parables and most of  them are about seeds and plants growing.  The parable of the Sower is the Lord answers the question:  Why is it that so many in the crowd are not responding in faith and discipleship? The Parable of the Sower answers that question then and now.  

Verses 1-4:  That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.

Verses 18-19:When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path

 “the word of the kingdom” This is what the reign of the Lord is like:  a seed.  “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.”  1 Corinthians 15:  43  A seed in the ground growing. Sown in weakness.  Sown in death.  Against amazing odds. Even malicious enemies. No moral law makes a seed grow. This is specific Word of God of His reign through Jesus Christ.  I chose the icon above because of a significant detail: notice the depiction of the Lord’s hand.  Yes, red with the mark of the nail and it is almost as if the seed is coming from his blood, and so His forgiveness is given through the means of preaching and teaching, the means of grace, that is, the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, in repentance and absolution. We preach Christ and Him crucified.  The Lord calls His Church to preach the Lord’s reign through he death and resurrection of HIs Son for sinners. 

Along the beaten path, the road very traveled, that every Tom, Dick and Harry walks, the easy path that leads to destruction,  the devil comes along and snatches the seed of the Word of God’s reign. Everyone is doing it whatever the current “it” is. “Everyone’s doing it”.   For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  And along the beaten path  of the world, many are beaten by it. His Word laying on the top is prey to the evil one.

A sower went out to sow:

The sower sows; his reckless love 
Scatters abroad the goodly seed, 
Intent alone that men may have 
The wholesome loaves that all men need. 

“…this sower, unlike other sowers, casts seed without apparent regard for where it lands. ” This picture illustrates the gracious character of Jesus, who invites to himself all who labor (11:28) and who has come to call even sinners to repentance (9:13). This indiscriminate broadcast—of the seed and of the Gospel—is not very “efficient” and goes against the human tendency to conserve one’s resources and efforts when one is not confident about receiving personal benefits. Surely this is not the most “productive” way to operate. But that’s how it is with the reign of God in Christ; grace trumps efficiency.” (Concordia Commentary on St. Matthew by Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs)

This is a good line:  “grace trumps efficiency”.  The Sower casts the Word of the Kingdom all over.  The word “seminary” has as the Latin  root, “seed” as the school to teach men to preach and teach the Word, but all Christians will be given opportunities to broadcast the Word of the Gospel.  “Broadcast” is the name given to this type of sowing.  We call TV shows, “broadcasts”:  it’s all over.  Jesus was not stingy with the Word of the Kingdom, of the promises fulfilled in Him who is the Word made flesh. The Lord knew about broadcasting a long time before the 20th century.  

After all, we heard His Word last week, COME TO ME ALL WHO BURDEN AND HEAVY LADEN AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST: ALL,  the doubting, the frightened, those carrying a load of woe, those who know their sin and know they can not do anything about it. They are the soil of the seed:  the Word of the Kingdom.

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Ruth 1  But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

Note: These verses used to be one read at many a wedding years ago because it is about faithfulness in all the path of life in faith in the Lord, “…till death do us part”. As Ruth and Orpah, marriage is about loyalty one to the other.  Faithfulness is key in a marriage and maybe the dearth of hearing this passage from Ruth in the wedding rite is an indication that the aim of faithfulness is not central as it once was.  If so, this is sad.)

Ruth of Moab, the subject of the biblical book that bears her name, is an inspiring example of God’s grace. Although she was a Gentile, God made her the great grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:17), and an ancestress of Jesus himself (Mt 1:5). A famine in Israel led Elimelech and Naomi of Bethlehem to emigrate to the neighboring nation of Moab with their two sons. The sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth, but after about ten years, Elimelech and his sons died (Ruth 1:1–5). Naomi then decided to return to Bethlehem and urged her daughters-in-law to return to their families. Orpah listened to Naomi’s but Ruth refused, replying with the stirring words: “Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). After Ruth arrived in Bethlehem, Boaz, a close relative of Elimelech, agreed to be Ruth’s “redeemer” (Ruth 3:7–13; 4:9–12). He took her as his wife, and Ruth gave birth to Obed, the grandfather of David (Ruth 4:13–17), thus preserving the Messianic seed. Ruth’s kindness and selfless loyalty toward Naomi, and her faith in Naomi’s God, have long endeared her to the faithful and redounded to God’s praise for his merciful choice of one so unexpected.

 This short book…”… of David’s great-grandmother,” tells the charming story of Ruth the Moabitess, who lived in the days when the Judges ruled in Israel…

“One of the sweetest stories in the Bible, showing that even in the blackest period God has men and women who love and serve Him:

  • In Boaz we have the model rich man of his age; every act and word shows his deep faith in God.
  • In Ruth we have an example of modesty and patience, coupled with a remarkable belief in the true God.
  • In Naomi we have a specimen of a good woman, whose religion shows itself in fidelity to all her duties.”

“One chief purpose of the book seems to be the tracing of the genealogy of David to the Moabitess Ruth, whose name it bears.”… “This information gains in significance if we remember that the genealogy of David is at the same time that of Jesus Christ. The story therefore goes to show how Ruth the Moabitess, by birth an alien to Israel, was chosen to become an ancestress of the Savior. Her reception into the communion of Israel also testified to the fact that even in the days before Christ Gentiles might be admitted to the kingdom of God if only they received the promises of the covenant in true faith.

 As the genealogy here recorded ends with David’s name, it is improbable that the book should have been written before David had become a person of influence and renown among the people of the covenant. We find an additional reason for this assumption in chap. 4, 7, where the author explains a peculiar custom, which had fallen into disuse in his days. – The author remains unknown to us; but it has been suggested that David himself might well have penned this account of a significant episode in his family history,” and the record concerning Christ’s ancestors was thus completed. From Dr. Paul Kretzmann’s 4 Volume Commentary on the Bible

“…what an awful delusion has taken hold upon so many men’s minds who ridicule the pure doctrine and say to us: “Ah, do cease clamoring, Pure doctrine! Pure doctrine! That can only land you in dead orthodoxism. Pay more attention to pure life, and you will raise a growth of genuine Christianity.” That is exactly like saying to a farmer: “Do not worry forever about good seed; worry about good fruits.” Is not a farmer properly concerned about good fruit when he is solicitous about getting good seed? Just so a concern about pure doctrine is the proper concern about genuine Christianity and a sincere Christian life. False doctrine is noxious seed, sown by the enemy to produce a progeny of wickedness. The pure doctrine is wheat-seed; from it spring the children of the Kingdom, who even in the present life belong in the kingdom of Jesus Christ and in the life to come will be received into the Kingdom of Glory. May God even now implant in your hearts a great fear, yea, a real abhorrence, of false doctrine! May He graciously give you a holy desire for the pure, saving truth, revealed by God Himself!

(From Dr. C.F.W. Walther’s Proper Distinction between Law and Promise, Third Evening Lecture)

Galatians 1: 3:  Grace be to you, and peace, from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.

From Dr. Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians:  

The terms of grace and peace are common terms with Paul and are now pretty well understood. But since we are explaining this epistle, you will not mind if we repeat what we have so often explained elsewhere. The article of justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly because the frailty of our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectly and to believe it with all our heart.

The greeting of the Apostle is refreshing. Grace remits sin, and peace quiets the conscience. Sin and conscience torment us, but Christ has overcome these fiends now and forever. Only Christians possess this victorious knowledge given from above. These two terms, grace and peace, constitute Christianity. Grace involves the remission of sins, peace, and a happy conscience. Sin is not canceled by lawful living, for no person is able to live up to the Law. The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience with terror, and drives men to despair. Much less is sin taken away by man-invented endeavors. The fact is, the more a person seeks credit for himself by his own efforts, the deeper he goes into debt. Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God. In actual living, however, it is not so easy to persuade oneself that by grace alone, in opposition to every other means, we obtain the forgiveness of our sins and peace with God (1).

The world brands this a pernicious doctrine. The world advances free will, the rational and natural approach of good works, as the means of obtaining the forgiveness of sin. But it is impossible to gain peace of conscience by the methods and means of the world. Experience proves this. Various holy orders have been launched for the purpose of securing peace of conscience through religious exercises, but they proved failures because such devices only increase doubt and despair (2). We find no rest for our weary bones unless we cling to the word of grace.

The Apostle does not wish the Galatians grace and peace from the emperor, or from kings, or from governors, but from God the Father. He wishes them heavenly peace, the kind of which Jesus spoke when He said, “Peace I leave unto you: my peace I give unto you.” Worldly peace provides quiet enjoyment of life and possessions. But in affliction, particularly in the hour of death, the grace and peace of the world will not deliver us. However, the grace and peace of God will. They make a person strong and courageous to bear and to overcome all difficulties, even death itself, because we have the victory of Christ’s death and the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins. 

(1)  I was visiting a hospice patient.  When it came for Scripture time, I spoke about the text regarding God’s grace in Jesus Christ for sinners. She started weeping.  I asked her why she was crying.  She said, “It’s so good to hear that”.  I said Martin Luther agreed:  when it comes to justification by grace through faith, we need to hear it everyday because we forget it everyday.  She nodded in the affirmative.

“The article of justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly because the frailty of our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectly and to believe it with all our heart.”-Luther

A person can not “persuade oneself” about so great a salvation by grace alone by one’s self alone,  but we need to hear it from someone else:  encouraging, preaching, teaching the Lord Jesus’ atonement. This comes from the preacher, a teacher or a dear friend in Christ. Faith comes from the outside in, through the ear to the heart, not the inside out where there is corruption in the flesh, in the heart.  The world’s religions only go from the inside out, and this includes too many religions that bear the name “Christian”. So we need the Divine Service to hear our forgiveness in the Lord in  so many ways:  Confession and Absolution, the Scriptures and the Sermon, the confessional hymns, the sharing of the Peace of Christ and fully:  His Body and Blood.  Truly, the Divine Service is Gottesdient:  God’s Service to us. We are fed and so we are led.

(2)  “Holy orders” in the 16th century were in superabundance:  monasteries and convents.  The works righteous theology was if you really wanted to be saved then become a monk or a nun.  At one time, Luther thought this as well until the revelation of the Gospel, the Lord’s “grace and peace” alone through the death and resurrection and Jesus Christ awoken faith in Luther.  We do not see many monks and nuns in our day, but we do see their popular equivalents on TV,  who promote all sorts of “religious exercises” in order to insure “to gain peace of conscience”, e.g.  the exercises of Joseph Smith, Mohammed, Joel Osteen, etc. etc.  In fact, from the ’60s to the second decade of the 21st century we have been drowning in religious movements, from EST to your Best Life Now.  But like Paul Simon sang, “The nearer your destination, the more you keep slip sliding away”.  And all these purveyors of peace have a price for their ‘salvation’:  $$$$.  They say, “love, love” but their is no love. The Lord paid the price once and for all, not with silver or gold but the precious blood of His Son. He so loved that our salvation is done.

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