Tag Archives: Lutheran

Bliss

READ
Luke 6:20-31

REFLECT
When we hear the world “beatitude” we often think of the Sermon on the Mount or the Sermon on the Plain – “Blessed are you…” etc and so forth. But what does “beatitude”  mean? Surprisingly beatitude does not necessarily refer to a thing but a state of being. Webster defines beatitude as “a state of ultimate bliss.”

So what then is Jesus saying in these sermons that contain what we call “The Beatitudes”? Simply this: those who suffer and those who are faithful in this world will experience ultimate joy (bliss) when the Kingdom of God is fully realized.

As people we often like to focus on the goodies and not the bad stuff which is why what follows the beatitudes is often problematic for us. We don’t like to think that bliss might not be ours, but rather the woe. Jesus tell us that if you are making this world your focus – if you are making yourself the focus – you might well have good stuff here but the Kingdom and its bliss is not yours. You will lose what you have. You will hunger, weep and the praises sung of you will fade. Bliss will be eternal. This world’s pleasures will pass away.

God gave us a great world with wonderful things to enjoy but we should never value them above God and above others.

PRAY
Heavenly Father, helps us to keep our enjoyment of the things of this world in perspective. Help us not to love earthly things above you and above others, rather helps us to a friend to the friendless and care for those who are forgotten and neglected. Above all move us to love you firstly. In Jesus name we pray. AMEN.

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Sola Gratia

READ
Romans 3:19-28

REFLECT
“If something seems too good to be true it probably is.”

In the fallen world we live in this mantra is often valid. We are inundated with all kinds of offers that seem too good to be true. There must be some strings attached – at the least. At the worst the too-good-to-be-true offer must be a scam.

Because offers are made by people – often unscrupulous people – a wary eys is in order. However, Paul points out clearly that the offer or gift of salvation does not come from the human realm but from Heaven. Paul states clearly that no one is justified by human effort but solely by faith in Jesus Christ.

Does this mean we can do whatever we want and that there are no standards of behavior? Of course not. Grace does not negate the law but fulfills it and the law is important. It identifies sin and makes us aware of our need for a savior. It drive us to Christ where we find forgiveness when we believe in him alone.

Unfortunately a lot of Christians are still trying to win God’s favor by works rather than doing good works as a response to the gift that God has given them in Christ Jesus: do this, don’t do that; wear this don’t wear that; don’t watch this; don’t listen to that. The list goes on and on.

I am glad I do not have to win God’s favor by doing this or that. I would certainly be lost and certainly never be sure if I had done enough – given my nature I would despair because I would be sure I had not done enough. Thankfully, Christ has done enough for me and for all who believe and this same gift is available to all the world.

PRAY
Gracious God, you gave us a greater gift than we could ever imagine. Helps us to have faith in you and your gift of salvation apart from our own feeble attempts to win your favor. Helps us to do good works  as a response to your grace. In Jesus name I pray. AMEN.

What Have You Done for Me Lately?

READ
Luke 17:11-19

REFLECT
What have you done for me lately?”

That is a phrase that brings back a lot of memories of the 80s. Yeah the Big 80s: moussed hair , Wayfarers  and Members Only jackets. Though I enjoyed that time of my life moussed hair was not my thing; I didn’t wear Wayfarers because everyone else did; I did have a Member’s Only jacket – which if still in existence is being worn by a 90-year-old guy someplace. Funny how fashion changes.

Regardless, that line brings back memories – even if I was/am not a Janet Jackson fan. I think Eddie Murphy got far better mileage out of the line in his comedy routine.

However, the line is good and fits perfectly the gospel text of Jesus Cleansing the Lepers The Lord does something miraculous and life changing for the lepers and nine of the ten do not thank him. Only one is grateful. Are we not that way? Do we really have gratitude for the way in which Jesus changes our lives, makes us clean and no longer untouchable by God? Or do we just say, “What have you done for me lately?”

PRAY
Lord Jesus, we give thanks you cleanse us daily and make us whole in the eyes of God. By the power of the Holy Spirit we come daily to the baptismal promise made by you that if we repent and ask in faith you will forgive us our sins. Help us to appreciate what you have done for us and help us to see this as more than enough so that we will never ask, “What have you done for me lately.” AMEN.

God Doesn’t Give Gold Watches.

READ
Luke 17:5-10

REFLECT
People really are full of themselves and, sadly, Christians are often overflowing with this fullness. Somehow Christians – and what I really am speaking about are church members, as opposed to disciples- think that faith and following God ends after Sunday worship or at some self-appointed age of retirement. They think they have somehow made the mark, earned the points and can now coast along. You have probably heard this is some form or another, “I am too old to…” or “I have done … long enough. Let someone else do it.” I do realize that as people age there are things they cannot do or not do as well, but ministry never ends. There is no retirement party and no gold watch. There is always something to be done for the Kingdom.

How interesting it is that many Christians can muster the time ,strength and effort to do things for themselves and for their friends and family but are completely devoid of time, energy, ability and talent when it comes to helping others. They can build and fix at home but will not fix a stranger’s porch. They can bake and cook for family and friends but will not prepare a meal for the homeless.

Often people fall into the habit of living their Christian life vicariously through others – often their pastor. However, as John the Baptist said to the Pharisees and Sadduccees , “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.'”  People must produce good fruit and not rely on the fruit of others.

It is all a matter of faith and motivation and to be honest a pastor cannot give you faith, cannot strengthen your faith and cannot motivate you. As one of my faithful and very energetic parishioners said the other day, “that has to come from within” and “God is talking to you but are you listening.”

So, are you listening? Can you hear God calling you to greater faith and motivation? Will you respond?

PRAY
Holy Spirit, increase our faith and empower us to do the work of God’s Kingdom in this world. Help us to not be lazy or self-centered but motivate us to do for others the things we would gladly do for ourselves. Help us to never think we have earned the right to do nothing or think the nothing we do is something in the eyes of God. AMEN.

Fruitful Waiting

READ
Mark 13:24.27

REFLECT
When I was a kid I thought I would never get to 16. I wanted that magical driver’s license. When 16 came reality hit me. My parents were in no hurry for me to get my license. When I finally got it reality hit again: no money meant no car and no insurance even if I had a car.

It seems we are always waiting anxiously for something. Despite all our effort and worry we cannot make any of these things happen any sooner or actually happen at all. Sure, we can do what we are called to do but thing will happen when they happen.

So it is with Jesus’ return.

Jesus will return on that “Last Day,” whenever that might be, and none of us will enter the Kingdom of God by our own merits, nor will we enter any sooner for all our anxious waiting. It has all been placed in the Jesus’ hands by our Heavenly Father. Our salvation and is all a matter of God’s grace, apart from our works.

This does not however give us permission to sit idly by. As it says in James 2, “For as the body without spirit is dead so faith without works is dead also.” Article VI of the Augsburg Confession states plainly that good works ought to be the result of faith and salvation. If we are not exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit what does that say about us?

PRAY
Merciful Savior help to keep our hearts anxious for you alone. Fix our hearts and our eyes on the life from above. Help be fruitful as we wait for your return. AMEN.

In to Our Hands is Placed a Treasure

READ
Matthew 24:14-30

REFLECT

As Christians our Lord and master, Jesus Christ, has left us with a precious treasure. In our hands He placed not only His Gospel message; but also the commandments to love God and neighbor and the Great Commission. It is not only a duty but a privilege to be tasked with bringing forth and increase on behalf of God.

The Lord does not call us to bury what we have been give, in essence to keep it for ourselves. Rather, we are called to bring forth and increase for Him, for what we have been given is does not belong to us but has been give to us to hold in trust.

PRAY
Heavenly Father, help us to see that all we have is held in trust for you. All that we have been given comes from you. All our time, talent and possessions are to be used to your glory. The most important these things given in trust is the Gospel message of your son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Let us not bury this treasure but rather give us the courage to “invest” it in our fellow-man that he might come to know Christ and your glory may yield an increase. AMEN.

Be Ready

READ
Matthew 25:1-13

REFLECT
Wouldn’t it nice if we had an advanced warning system for the return of Christ? But we don’t, regardless of what the Left Behind films, the associated hoopla and the erroneous theology that surrounds them have to say about the matter. This whole Rapture business with the Tribulation and Christ’s multiple returns is a relatively modern invention from the mid-19th century, which took off with the publication of the “Schofield Bible” in the early 1900s. This might be as shock to some but we Lutherans, along with the majority of the Christian Church, have never held with what is called “Pre-millennial Dispensation” – a big word for “Jesus is coming back so you better be ready, and if not you get a second chance cause He’ll be back again.”

What we know is this: Jesus will return and we have no idea when that will be. Says who?…well, Jesus, that’s who. Read Matthew 24:36-44. Jesus clearly states that not even He will know. Only the Father knows. This is why we need to be ready at all times.

We are called to be like the wise bridesmaids who awaited with readiness the return of the bridegroom. It is easy to think that Christ’s return will be at some future date or there will be enough warning so we can run out and get the “oil of righteousness” or do everything at the last minute. Sadly this will not be so. This is why it is incumbent upon us to live in accordance with the will of God, follow His commandments, pray, incorporate His word in our lives and above all trust in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. It is not something we can buy or earn and certainly not something we can buy or earn once the bridegroom has returned.

PRAY
Gracious and mighty God, we ask you to give us the wisdom of the wise bridesmaids so that we might seek your face while there is still time and not be like the foolish bridesmaids shunning your will and your way. Increase our faith in the only one who can save: Jesus Christ our Lord, AMEN.