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God’s Plans for You: Christ

May 31, 2012 1 comment

 

 8th grade Graduation—X

 St. Peter Lutheran Church

Jeremiah 29:11

May 31, 2012

“God’s Plans for you—Christ”

 

Dear X,

Y, Z, A, and the rest of X’s flesh and blood,

All of you who work and learn at St. Peter Lutheran School and all of you who carry it on your heart,

Beloved members of Christ’s holy body at St. Peter Lutheran church;

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

1.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 

Those words from Jeremiah 29 are in the middle of a letter.  The letter was written by Jeremiah, God’s prophet, to some of his people who had been taken as prisoners of war and brought far away from the promised land and the temple of God into Babylon, an evil, pagan city.

 

The sentence from the letter fits the occasion tonight.  But the verse in its context does not.  You aren’t going away to an evil, pagan city.  You’re going to Joliet Central.  And you’re not going bound in chains by soldiers who just set your home on fire.

 

We are not in mourning tonight.  There are bittersweet feelings for you, X—and even more so for your parents and teachers, because they feel time marching on.  But no one, I’d guess, expects your future to be a bad one, a hopeless one.

 

But in the letter from Jeremiah, the verse of the class of 2012 takes on a slightly different texture.  The letter in which it comes is written by Jeremiah, but it really is God’s letter to the exiles.  It reads something like this:

 

From the Lord of mighty armies of angels,

To the prisoners of my people, whom I locked up and sent away into exile,

 

Build houses, plant gardens.  Get married, have children.  Plan to stay in the evil pagan city for awhile.  Keep having kids, don’t die out or give up.  But, seek the blessing of the evil pagan city you’re in, because you will prosper only if it prospers.  For this is what I, the Lord of the armies of angels, your God, have to say: don’t listen to the preachers who tell you that you’re only going to be in the evil pagan city for a little bit.  Nope.  I will keep my promise and I will bring you back, but not for seventy years.  Which means that you will finish your lives there, and most of your children will too.  Don’t listen to the prophets and preachers who tell you otherwise.  They are lying.  They’re talking about their own plans, not mine.

 

For I know the plans I have for you—plans to prosper you and not to harm you…”

 

Now wait a second.  How are you planning not to harm us if you’re going to keep us here 70 years?

  1. 2.      God’s good plans for you are not your plans.

It’s like when your parents follow through on a threat not to let you go on a big trip that you really wanted to go on.  Their plans are what?  To harm you?  No, of course not.  Their plans are to give you a hope and a future.

 

That was the Lord’s plan for Israel.  He was going to make them seek Him with their whole heart.

 

The Lord’s plans are not ours.  But that is good.

 

What are our plans usually?  Self-seeking in one form or another.

Even as Christians our flesh does not will what pleases God.  We will to let God have some as long as we can remain in control.

 

But the things that we set our hearts on—success, popularity, a “good life”—often draw us away from Christ.  They become more important than him.

 

The Lord’s plans are to prosper you, but not the way the world measures prosperity.

Look at Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet.”  Do you think it was his plan to preach judgment and wrath to his people?

 

Look at Luther.  Do you think he wanted to get into a fight with the pope and the emperor and the whole world and the devil?  No!  He wanted peace—just like we do.  And it’s always more peaceful for us if we do not receive the Lord’s plans for us.

 

  1. 3.      God gives you a real hope and a real future—Christ.

 

Chastening causes us to seek the Lord—to take hold of the “shalom” that the Lord has planned for us.

 

Israel would not serve the Lord but insisted on doing things its own way.  It couldn’t even see that it was not doing the Lord’s will. 

 

But God’s will is to give you real hope and a real future.

Not temporary happiness, but eternal happiness.  Not success accomplished by our own strength or beauty, but a victorious future in eternity.  Not a short life in a world of sorrow and death, not a temporary glory here, but eternal life as one who receives God’s praise and commendation.

 

This hope and future is Christ.

            In Christ, and in Christ alone, He gives you deliverance from eternal death and wrath, and the forgiveness of sins.

            In Christ He clothes you with righteousness so that the self-seeking of the flesh is not counted to you.

 

            God gives you Christ, as He has done all through your years at this school.  His thoughts toward you are thoughts of peace and blessing—so He gives you Christ.

 

            This means our daily bread.  It means that He will provide us with earthly good, because He does not tempt us beyond what we are able to bear.

            But even more, it means that we receive the benefits of Jesus and we become what Jesus is.  We share forgiveness on His account, and we are born again and participate in His life.

 

This is what your baptism is all about—you were united to Jesus.

 

So when He gives you Jesus He gives you all of Jesus.  All of Jesus for you, received by faith, and along with it, all the fullness of God in Christ dwells in you.  Christ is in you.

 

So you share His life.  You share in His passion and death.  And His resurrection.  And His ascension, His glorious rule over all things.  All of this is yours.

 

This is far better than your own plans, which are to exalt yourself, to have a good life, to be popular, or what have you. 

 

Instead God gives you Jesus, and makes your life not the life of an earthly success story—which ends in death and judgment—but the life of a son of God, the life of Jesus in you.

 

Jesus’ life was a huge success in the eyes of God.  In the eyes of the world it was the worst of failures. 

 

God’s plans are to make you in the image of Jesus, a son.

 

 

4.      Real joy because God’s thoughts toward you are always good.

That’s why I am glad you picked the hymn you picked.

 

The life of Christ, as a disciple, is not miserable.  It is the way of the cross, but it is the way of joy.

 

Hebrews 12—Jesus endured the cross, scorning the shame, for the JOY that was set before him.

 

Yes, joy!  Absolutely.  But not the joy of the world.  That joy depends on having things.  When things go well, when you get rich, when you succeed, when you don’t suffer—the joy that comes from that is worldly joy.

 

The joy of God’s children is not dependent on things going well or on doing well.  Like the hymn says: God’s own child, I gladly say it!  I am baptized into Christ!

            Death, you cannot end my gladness!  I am baptized into Christ!

            Satan hear this proclamation!  I am baptized into Christ!  Drop your ugly accusation!  I am not so soon enticed!

            Sin, disturb my soul no longer!  I am baptized into Christ!

 

Listen to the joy!  It is joy not based on works or ability or success or payoffs in this world.  It is joy that is by grace—the joy of receiving Christ, which is the peace and prosperity the Father has planned for us.

 

Why do we have joy?  Because I am baptized into Christ!  When I suffer, when I struggle with sin—I am baptized into Christ.  My struggle, my pain is His.  He died for me on the cross, and all that I now suffer from and struggle with He made His own and tasted the pain for.

 

Joy comes from faith in Christ.  Faith in Christ believes that God’s plans for me are good, always.  Faith in Christ believes that sin, death, and hell are conquered for me.  Faith that saves takes hold of Christ and says, “He is mine, just like God said.  So now hell, death, sin can’t harm me.”

 

And that is true hope and a future.  In this life it is comfort when we suffer with sin, or death, or the animosity of the world.

 

In eternity the Christ whom I grab by faith and hold on to when the devil or my conscience accuses me will be eternal joy, reigning as a king.  I share in Him and bear His cross now; there we will share in His reign and glory and everlasting life.  There will no longer be anything to make us afraid.

 

Christians boast of that now, by faith.  Did you hear the boasting in the hymn?  God’s own child, I gladly say it!  Does anyone dare to say with a hundred percent certainty—I am God’s child, God is pleased with me, there is no condemnation for me, and even though I still have sin God does not count it against me or wish to damn me because of it? 

 

You, together with all Christians, make that boast every time you pray, “Our Father…” and every time you receive Jesus’ body and blood.

 

Joy marks the Christian life in the face of sin, which still lives in us, and Satan, who tempts and attacks us, threatening us with hell, and the world, which hates Jesus and also opposes and attacks all who belong to Him and are members of His body.

 

Christians live in joy through all this.  Because we know that God’s thoughts and plans toward us are good; His thoughts and plans since eternity have been to give us His only Son.  He gives us Christ now in the Word and Sacraments; He will give us Christ in His heavenly glory on the last day.

 

The Lord said to the exiles that his purpose in 70 years of captivity was that they would call upon Him and He would hear them.  They would seek Him and find Him.  He said, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

 

That seeking is repentance and faith. 

 

Don’t seek what the world seeks.  Seek God’s thoughts of peace—Christ.  Seek to take hold of Him daily; read His word asking for the gift of the Holy Spirit.  By faith, claim Him and all His gifts and promises as your own in prayer.  Say, “Lord, you have given Yourself for me, and I am yours; let me have You.  Let me believe in you as my Savior and let me live in You as my new life.”

 

Then—you may be a Jeremiah, or a Canaanite woman, or a Daniel in exile, or one of the many saints whose name is not recorded in Scripture or remembered by anyone on earth, but is written in God’s book.  And whatever God gives you to do, whatever He allows you to suffer—He will be giving You it in Christ.  He will be giving you your life in Christ, and such a life is always shalom—peace and prosperity, a life with hope and a future—because Christ is risen from the dead and dieth no more.  Death hath no more dominion over Him.

 

Death has no dominion over you then.  That is a hope and a future.  Boast in what is yours, because you are baptized into Christ!

 

Amen.  In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Luther: Thanksgiving for the Hearing of the Word of God

An early printing of Luther's hymn A Mighty Fo...

An early printing of Luther’s hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanksgiving for the Hearing of the Word of God.

O God, Father of all mercies, we give You our highest thanks now and always, that You, according to the infinite riches of Your grace, have brought the treasure of Your Word to us, in which we have the knowledge of Your beloved Son—a certain pledge of our eternal life and blessedness, which is to come in heaven, prepared for all who in pure faith and fervent love persevere without wavering until the end.  How we then hope and pray that You, merciful Father, would, together with all Your elect, keep us united in one mind and make us perfect together in the image and likeness of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord!  Amen. 

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

From Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz

Prayer for the First Sunday after Trinity

May 30, 2012 2 comments

Gospel for the First Sunday after Trinity:  St. Luke 16: 19-31 http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Lk16.19-31

A prayer on the First Sunday after Trinity:

Lord God, heavenly Father!  We pray You to lead and rule our hearts by Your Holy Spirit, so that we would not hear Your blessed Word like the rich man, and bear no fruit, nor handle earthly goods so as to forget those that are eternal.  Instead, grant that we help the poor gladly and with mildness, according to our means, and not sin through haughtiness and extravagant living.  And where we ourselves are afflicted with the cross and misfortune, grant us not to despair, but to set all our hope on Your constant assistance and grace, and by patient endurance to overcome it all.  Amen. 

Johann Eichhorn (c. 1518-1564)
from Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz

Rules for Prayer from Johannes Matthesius

May 29, 2012 1 comment

This is taken from Seed Grains of Prayer by Wilhelm Loehe.  The English translation is available at Google Books.  This is part of a version I’m editing into booklet form to give on visits to the hospital or other occasions.

 

Christian Rules of Prayer, as Laid down by Matthesius.[1]

 

To true, Christian and salutary prayer it is necessary:

 

1. That a man lift up holy hands (II Tim. 2) and offer his devotions with a good conscience [that is, with the assurance that his sins are forgiven and that he intends to do God’s will]; for God does not hear unrepentant sinners (John 9).

 

2. That a man pray in every time of trial and need; for, the greater our need the stronger is our prayer. For that reason, God says in the 50th Psalm: “Call upon me in the day of trouble.” (At all times and in every place there is more than enough trouble to provoke us to pray, if we would only recognize it).

 

3. That a man pray, cry and sigh from out of the depths of his heart, without hypocrisy, anger, complaint or doubt, even as Moses prayed upon the shore of the Red Sea. Lip-service and mouth- work in which the heart is not engaged is not prayer.  It is vain service of God (Matt. 15).

 

4. That a man call upon the one, true and only God as He has revealed Himself at the River Jordan, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as Christ teaches in the Gospel (John 16), and in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6; Luke 11).

 

5. That a man plead the name, merit, blood, death and intercession of Christ for help, and the support of the Holy Spirit. (John 4, and 14).

 

6. That a man pray with all boldness as Abraham prayed. Gen. 18; with a mighty faith, as the centurion prayed; without murmuring or impatience, without giving up, as the Canaanite woman did; and with humility, as did Daniel. (Dan. 9).

 

7. That a man persevere, as Sirach teaches, and set no limit or goal for God, as is said in Chapter 8

of the Book of Judith.[2]

 

8. He that will thus pray needs first of all to believe, that he is reconciled to God through His Son, and must base his pleas upon baptism and the blood of Christ as well as upon God’s command and promise [i.e. God’s command to us to pray in the 2nd commandment, and His promises to hear us for Christ’s sake, such as in Luke 11 and John 15-17.] He must embrace the promise of Christ and the example of all the saints; and remember that God has frequently helped others before us.(Ps. 22:34.)

 

If prayer is to be rightly offered, all these things must be well observed and kept:

 

1. Holy hands and a good conscience.

2. Our need.

3. From the heart, without hypocrisy.

4. Calling upon the name of the One, Only God.

 5. In the name of Jesus Christ, who is the soul of all prayer.

6. Boldly.

7. Preseveringly.

8. In faith.

 

Such prayer pervades heaven, as Sirach says; and makes our joy perfect, as Christ witnesses, John 16. It attains help, gives comfort, joy, and a sure defense against all devils and evil men.

 

I.                    PREPARATORY PRAYERS.

 

The Lord is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him. (Hab. 2: 20).

From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offeredunto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts. (Mal. 1: 11).

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. (Ps. 19: 15),

 

2.

For Grace to Pray Rightly.

 

I thank You, Lord, my God, for Your unspeakable favor, that You have not only commanded us to call upon Your saving Name, but, as a father, have graciously promised certainly to hear us, and to give at the proper time all that is saving and beneficial for our bodies and our souls. I pray You, O God–pour out Your Holy Spirit upon me— the Spirit of prayer— that I may always love and desire to pray.  I am daily free to draw near to You with all confidence in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ and to bow the knee before Thee in every time of need as a well-beloved child, most beloved Father.  You are a Father in truth to all Your children in heaven and on earth.   Grant that I may always lift up holy hands to You, without fear or doubt, and in full assurance that all my prayers and sighings which come from the heart are truly heard. Grant also, that when my help delays, I may be patient, not dictating to You at what time or in what way You should answer me, but to wait and abide Your own good time; for You have pleasure in those who fear You and put their trust in Your mercy. Finally, God, rule me by Your Holy Spirit, and remind me that I may daily and frequently meditate upon the hour of my death and so be prepared for it at a moment’s notice, praying always for a blessed departure from this world. Amen.


[1] Johannes Matthesius (1504-1568), who transcribed some of Martin Luther’s Table Talk, a collection of Luther’s discussions at the dinner table about theology and other matters.  He was a student of Luther’s at Wittenberg and pastor for nearly twenty years in the mining town of Joachimsthal in what is now the Czech Republic.

[2] Sirach and Judith are books from the Apocrypha.  They appear in Roman Catholic Bibles, and in Luther’s German Bible, and they used to be included in the King James Version.  Luther did not regard them as Scripture, but  considered them useful and the Lutheran Church continued to use them in worship.

Luther: I’ve heard it all before

 

Martin Luther, author of the text of Christ la...

What folly, they say, that I should let myself be baptized with water poured on my head, supposedly to be saved thereby; or that some poor parish preacher, barely able to put a coat on his back, should pronounce forgiveness and absolve me from my sins; or that by receiving bread and wine in the Sacrament I should be saved.  On that basis they despise a Christ-preacher.  For it goes with the territory to be despised by reason of Christ’s poverty.  As a result, when a man becomes a preacher he is more despised than some lowly knave of no reputation. There is no station in life quite as scorned and humble as that of a preacher.  That happens not because of us or the preacher, but because Christ is despised on all sides in the world.  No wonder that the aristocrats and plutocrats say, Why should we believe some tramp-like, beggarly cleric?  Why doesn’t our Lord God send us a fine pulpit-prince to preach to us?  Him we would believe.  However, just as Christ’s preachers are despised, so people also despise his baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar.  Virtually no peasant retains respect for them, let alone burghers or nobles.  Under the papacy people mocked at indulgences and pilgrimages, and yet they were highly regarded.  Now, however, the prevailing word is, Huh, if all you can do is preach about Christ and faith, I’m fed up with that already, I’ve heard it all many times before.

 

Martin Luther, Sermon on the First Sunday in Advent, 1534, Church Postil

I am carnal

May 27, 2012 1 comment

Frequently a Christian may act in a very unchristian manner.  Rom. 7, 18 Paul says: I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not.  It is plain that in this passage the apostle describes a Christian.  How a person becomes a Christian he had described before.  Next, he proceeded to show how a Christian ought to walk and to please God.  In the section of his epistle from which the above passage is taken he begins to discuss the doctrine of spiritual tribulations in which Christians frequently are merged, in order to comfort them.  He describes a Christian as a double being.  The true Christian, he says, always desires what is good, but frequently he does not accomplish it.  Now, then, if a preacher describes a Christian in such a manner as to deny that, unless he accomplishes all that is good, he does not really will what is good, the description is unbiblical.  To will what is good is the main trait of a Christian.  Frequently he does not progress beyond the good will to do something.  Before he is aware of it, he has gone astray; the sin within him has come forth, and he is ashamed of himself.  But for that reason he has not by any means fallen from grace.

 

Rom. 7, 14 Paul says: For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin.  He means to say: “Who would not gladly be rid of sin?  As for me, I am like a slave sold to a master.  I cannot get away from him; I am always being tyrannized by him.”  That is the condition of a Christian: he feels like a slave, with this difference, however, that he does not obey his master gladly as a Christian slave must obey.  He renders obedience with the utmost reluctance.  Accordingly the apostle cries in v. 24, “O wretched man that I am!  Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”  Remember this, partly for your own comfort, partly for the task of comforting the members of your future congregation.  The prevailing spiritual malady of our time is lack of assurance on the part of Christians.  This is because they are not given any reliable teaching.  Now, when a real Christian is shown what a miserable sinner he is, he clings to Christ all the more firmly and spurns the whispering of the devil, who tells him that he is fallen from grace and has lost God.

 

CFW Walther, Law and Gospel, p. 309.

Pentecost

May 27, 2012 1 comment

Pentecost (Confirmation of x; Baptism of y)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Acts 2:1-21

May 27, 2012

“No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit”

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ

(and especially you who today will confess the Name you called upon in Baptism and were saved;

And especially you who today bore witness as y called upon the name of the Lord in Baptism and was saved,)

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

In the first Pentecost sermon, Peter quoted the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  Isn’t that an odd thing for Peter to say to the people in Jerusalem who came and heard him?  After all, these were “Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.”  They were in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost, the feast of firstfruits, and also the day when God had given the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. 

 

How could it be that these men did not already “call upon the name of the Lord”?  Why would God go to all this trouble to work this sign of speaking in other tongues just to get them to “call on the name of the Lord”—since they were already people who knew who the Lord was and where He was to be found (the temple)?

 

Peter preached that they were in the last days.  If they were then, surely we are now.  But it doesn’t look like the last days, anymore than it has at other times, does it? 

 

And what is necessary to be saved through the last days?  Only to “call upon the Name of the Lord?”  But we’ve known about that since we were children.  And has it had the same kind of effect on us that it did on Peter?  Surely there must be more.

 

But no, calling upon the name of the Lord is not a small thing.  It is a great thing, and it is impossible for sinners to do it.  “No one can say, Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit,” Paul says in 1 Cor 12. 

 

 

  1. 1.       The ungodly do not call upon the name of the Lord.
    1. a.       They may know the name YHWH or Jesus or Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
    2. b.      But they do not call upon Him alone for salvation with assurance.
    3. c.       They go on trusting themselves.
    4. d.      Their bad conscience causes them to make up idols, even in the church.

                                                              i.      A nice god who can be controlled and sold.

                                                            ii.      And then it’s up to us to make this god successful. 

  1. 2.       The Church calls on the Name of the Lord and is saved in the last days.
    1. a.       Peter’s boldness.  (vs. earlier weakness.  Men of Israel, listen to me.  And the disciples are not locked in a room either.)
    2. b.      He had learned all too well what his resolutions resulted in.  NOTHING!  Denying the Lord, not calling upon Him.
    3. c.       The Spirit is given by Christ.

                                                              i.      He gets the people’s attention.

                                                            ii.      He gives Peter boldness and words to speak with power.

                                                          iii.      He makes Peter call on Jesus’ name with confidence.

  1. d.       The Spirit does as He wills, not as we will.
  2. e.       The Spirit has promised to work in us through Word and Sacraments.
  3. f.        He points to Christ

                                                              i.      Who has saved us from our self-trust,

                                                            ii.      From our idolatry

                                                          iii.      From our inability to free ourselves from idolatry.

  1. g.       We can do nothing…

                                                              i.      But He has promised that we are saved.

In this confidence we confess and call upon His name in prayer, and we let Him build us and the church.

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