Archive for the ‘Piety’ Category

Build Up, Raise Up, Repair. Trinity 18 2018

September 27, 2018 Leave a comment

nehemiah.PNGThe Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Isaiah 61:1-4 (Ephesians 4:1-6, Luke 14:1-11)

September 23, 2018

Build Up, Raise Up, Repair


Iesu Iuva

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


The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.


Just over the river there is a park with nature trails through the remains of the old Joliet Iron and Steel works.  They say it was the second biggest steel mill in the country, but by the early 1980s it was abandoned, and now there is a nature trail through the ruins.


Nobody wants to rebuild those ruins, but a lot of people would like to have back what that steel mill represented.  It represented a vibrant industry in Joliet.  There was work here that allowed working people to support a family.  Work that brought people to this town and kept them here.


But now it’s a ruin.  Most of the other industries that employed lots of people in Joliet are either gone or drastically cut back too.  And when the money and the jobs went, so did a lot of the people whose great-grandparents built the churches in downtown Joliet.  There’s a beautiful Catholic church downtown right next to the casino, with a steeple that points high into the heavens.  But it’s been vacant for decades as, right next door, the casino was open for business and had lots of visitors.


There are other ruins around us, and it’s hard not to notice them—especially if you loved them.  The Christian culture we had in America, despite its flaws, now seems to be a ruin, being replaced by people with no religion.  The neighborhood around our church is full of vacant houses and crime and blight.  It has fallen into ruin.

And worst of all, when you look at your church and compare it to earlier times when it was full of children and full of energy, when you had to come an hour early on Christmas to find a seat—it feels like even your church has become a ruin—to many of you—at least a ruin compared to what it once was.


But then we have this word from God in the 61st chapter of Isaiah saying, They shall rebuild the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities. 


Today we don’t usually rebuild things that have fallen into ruin.  It’s usually easier to start again somewhere else, where the history, the bad memory of failure isn’t there.  But God behaves differently than we do.  Throughout the Old Testament He continues to work with the people of Israel, the people He had chosen, despite their terrible track record of unfaithfulness.


And, though Jesus’ disciples all fail at the crucial moment, though they all fall away as He is led to the cross, He rebuilds them as well.  He makes them into the apostles they could not have been on their own.  He rebuilt them from the ruins of their failure, and made them people who rebuild the ruins and raise up the devastations.  Through them He built the Holy Christian Church, His holy people in the world.  They are the people Paul speaks about in the epistle reading—who share in the one body of Christ and have the hope of eternal life in front of them.


This is the people Isaiah is talking about who will build up, raise up, and repair the ruins and devastations that are everywhere in our world.  Our world is a world where ruin and decay and death reign.  Ask the trustees what happens if you don’t keep maintaining the building and cutting the grass and trimming the trees in the cemetery.  Things fall into ruin.  And history teaches us that even when people build great things and take care of them for generations, eventually they become like the pyramids in Egypt, or like Stonehenge in England, or like the Iron and Steel Works in Joliet.


It’s just another example of death and its power over creation.  No matter how people try to come to terms with death, there is no way for us to remove the sting from it.


That’s why people will always need to hear this messenger described in the 61st chapter of Isaiah—and His message.


The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound… (Is. 61:1)


Who is this?  Who did the Lord anoint and consecrate and pour out the Holy Spirit on to bring “good news to the poor?”  It is Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit descended upon Him when He was baptized by John.  The Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased.”  He was marked out as one sent by God with a message of good news to the world.


The good news Jesus brought, and still brings, is the message that God forgives our sins and has put them away for the sake of Jesus, His Son.  And with the forgiveness of sins comes release from all the consequences of sin—sickness, misery, poverty, ruin and brokenness, death.  So in the Gospel reading, Jesus refuses to postpone healing the man with dropsy until after the Sabbath day to avoid offending the Pharisees.


This is what Jesus does today, still.  He comes with good news.  He comforts. He pronounces freedom.  He releases from prison and slavery—to sin and to death.


He takes away grief and mourning, and replaces it with gladness; He takes away “a faint spirit,” the spirit of despair and depression, that says, “We have already lost.”  And gives in its place the garment of praise.  (Is. 61: 3)


How does He do all this?  He comes and through the minister He preaches His cross, where He, the Son of God, shouldered your debt and was afflicted with your sickness.  He assumed the penalty for your sins—death and condemnation by God.  And He made the full payment of your debt to God’s law.  He healed the sickness of your sin in His own body, in His suffering, sweating in the garden and nailed to the cross.


He comes, and He declares you forgiven and released from sin.


And then He attaches an amazing promise to the end of this chapter.  He says that you, and all those who have heard the good news from Jesus and believed it, will go out into the world that is pockmarked with ruin—some of it in the people and places we love.  You will go out and you will build up, raise up, repair the ruins of many generations.


He says this.  As weak as we feel ourselves to be, it is written there, and He will do it in all who believe in Him, just as He did it among the apostles who were also weak and torn down in the days after Jesus was crucified.


So look around.  When the divine service is over, look around at the halls of the school.  And when you walk out the doors, look around at the neighborhood. And while you are waiting for holy communion, look in your own mind at your loved ones and neighbors who do not know or believe the good news or whose lives do not testify to it.


Remember the words Jesus says about His church: They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.


How can this happen?


It happens because Jesus raises us up.  He does it through His Word and Sacraments.  As we attend the Divine Service faithfully, we receive Jesus’ absolution.  We hear His good news proclaimed to us.  He gives us His body to eat, the body in which He healed the ruin our sin has brought on us; He gives us His blood to drink, and purifies us and puts His life in us.


This is where the life and the strength comes from that enables us to rebuild in the midst of the ruins we see around us.


And when will this rebuilding happen?


It starts as soon as a person believes.  It is happening now, whereever Christ’s church is.  There are still many children growing up all around us with no knowledge of the Triune God, no knowledge of the Creed, no knowledge of His Law, no knowledge of the Gospel that proclaims forgiveness to us who have fallen short of God’s law.  And when one child is baptized and taught the faith, the ruin in this world is being repaired.


This work won’t be finished any time soon.  But one day the work of Christ’s church will be finished, and everyone will see it.  And those who have been faithful will know that they have been part of rebuilding the world.


This is what Christ calls us to in this place.  And He gives us encouragement when we have a faint spirit, a despairing spirit, when we are worn down.  He reminds us of the good news that He proclaims to us.  And He says, “You will rebuild.”  So the first part of our lives as Christians is this—to let the triune God rebuild us by receiving His gifts in the Divine Service, by being present to be taught the Word, by regularly reading the Holy Scripture in our homes.




The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen


Soli Deo Gloria

Death and Life; Hypocrisy and Reality. Ash Wednesday 2018.

February 14, 2018 Leave a comment

nineveh.PNGAsh Wednesday

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 6:16-21

February 14, 2018

Death and Life; Hypocrisy and Reality


Iesu Iuva


Death has been in front of our eyes in recent weeks, and today we are reminded again with the black ashes on many of our foreheads that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.  Today the black ashes are on our foreheads, tomorrow they will be gone.  But even when they are gone, we will still live in a world in which death’s mark is stamped on every person in it, as though every person we meet had a forehead smeared with black ash.


But death does not reign in the Church, over Christians.  Our Savior Jesus Christ…abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel, the apostle says (2 Tim. 1:10).  And we are His people, baptized into His death so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  (Rom. 6)  We have a beautiful picture of this whenever a little child is baptized.  We light a small candle from the paschal candle, the candle lit on Easter, that symbolizes Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  That little burning flame is a picture of the new life that we have received from Christ.


The new life that is in us is Christ’s life.  It is more powerful than death.  On Christmas Day we heard the words of St. John’s gospel: In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  The little baby in the manger, and the little light born in us in Baptism, are stronger than the darkness of death in us because the life of Christ is the life of God.  It is not overcome by the darkness of sin and death in us.  It burns in the midst of the darkness in our flesh and, growing ever stronger, finally burns up the darkness and fills us with the light of life


Why is it, then, that the darkness within us seems to blot out the light of Christ’s life?  St. Peter says this in the epistle reading: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness [1 Peter 1:3].  It is ours, yet we must make every effort, as St. Peter says, to take hold of itAnd when we do not, the flame begins to sputter.  Faith flutters.  The new life grows dim.


So during Lent we examine ourselves to see where the darkness remains in us, where death has crept back in.  We meditate on Jesus’ passion to see the reflection of our sin and death.  And to aid our meditation, Christians fast.


We are called to do this not just during Lent but always.  We heard St. Paul discuss this a few weeks ago: Every athlete exercises self control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable…[so] I discipline my body and keep it under control (1 Cor. 9:25, 27).  Fasting is self-discipline; it refers specifically to moderation in eating and drinking and to abstaining from food or drink for a period of time.  We do this to keep alert, to keep sharp so that we may devote ourselves to meditation and prayer and to serving our neighbor.  More broadly, fasting includes throwing off every hindrance to rising to new life with Christ, moderating our use of television, internet, phones, or abstaining for a time so that we may give our attention to the one thing needful—Jesus Christ.


Jesus expects that his followers will fast.  When you fast,  He says in the Gospel reading.  What does that mean except that Jesus expects that we will fast, that we need to fast?


He doesn’t reject all fasting, but false fasting, done to win praise from other people, done so that we may be proud of our own spirituality. When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.  Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. 


Piercing words from our Lord for those who fast, or do other religious works only to take pride in themselves!  Jesus calls them hypocrites.  They have a reward—in the misplaced admiration of other people, in their own high esteem of themselves.  But they have no reward from God for this.


Instead God condemns their fasting, churchgoing, praying as false and empty.  They are only pretending to pray, or go to church, or fast, pretending to love and serve God. In reality, they are loving and serving only themselves.


How evil it is to use God’s name to make yourself a name!  Yet isn’t this what most religion boils down to?    Don’t even true Christians do this?  How many times have you acted piously, religiously, when your heart was far from God, not humble, not grieving over your sins, not desiring his grace, full of self-righteousness?  Oh, the bitter ashes we taste when we realize this about ourselves, that so often we ignored Jesus whipped, condemned, and pierced, and sought to glorify ourselves!


God relented from destroying Nineveh because they confessed their sins and eagerly sought His grace with fasting and prayer.  Most Lutherans do not fast, so we are not liable to be proud about it.  But in our worship, prayer, and work in the church we frequently forget that like Nineveh God has pronounced our overthrow, together with all who disobey His Law.  Before we realize it, we have forgotten what we are, become confident in our religious works, satisfied with ourselves because we seem to be doing more than others.


True Christian fasting is not done in this spirit.  Christian fasting is not done for men, not even for ourselves.  It is done because we desire life from Christ, because we confessing from the heart that we are dust and ashes. It is done because we desire life from Christ; we desire forgiveness, and we desire not to live in sin any longer.  It is done because we want to become like Christ.  A Christian who fasts in the way approved by God forgets about himself and what others think about him because he is looking at Jesus.


This kind of fasting has a reward from God.  Jesus says, When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.


The reward of the Father is life.  He sees what is in secret.  He sees the broken and contrite heart yearning to be forgiven, to be at peace with God, to become like Christ.  And He rewards such a heart with its desire.  He forgives our sins and makes Christ’s light burn more brightly in us until all darkness in us is burned away.

This new and contrite heart is God’s work, not ours.  He creates it in us through His Law.  And when faith in the good news of Christ enters the contrite heart, life comes in.  When we fast, we train the members of our bodies so that they do not lead us astray with the desires of the flesh and put out the life of Christ in us.  We train our members to seek life in Christ; our ears to hear His Word, our heart and mind to meditate on the Savior that the Word proclaims, our tongue to call upon Him.  And the reward is that this life grows in us.  We grow in virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, and love; vice, ignorance, self-indulgence, cowardice, and selfishness dies off in us.  And as Peter says, we make our calling and election sure; we grow in the assurance that the life God has planted in us will reach its fulfillment, and the light of Christ’s life will fill our whole bodies with light.


That is what we are after during these forty days of Lent.  We are straining ahead to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of us when we were baptized.  We are straining toward the heavenly reward of the Father, when we will be like Him, when we will be completely new, and life will replace death.


It seems far away and difficult, and it is.  Between you and that reward stands the cross to which you and I must be nailed and die.


But if you desire it, it is not far; you only need to come a few steps to take the body of Christ and to drink the blood which He poured out for the life of the world, for your life.  If what you long for is everlasting life in heaven—come, for everlasting life is here.  Everything is ready.  Come and receive the life of the Son of God.


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


Soli Deo Gloria

Each Called Out To His God. Day of Supplication and Prayer. Jonah 1:3-5

September 20, 2017 Leave a comment

jonahsprayer.jpgDay of Supplication and Prayer

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Jonah 1:4-6

September 20, 2017

“Each Called Out to His God”



But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.  Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god.  And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them.  But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.  So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper?  Arise, call out to your god!  Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”  Jonah 1:4-6


The pagan captain is astounded at Jonah.  Even the sailors are scared for their lives at this storm, but the prophet is sleeping.  And even pagans know that when you are about to die, you call on your god.  They don’t know whether their gods will hear them—and indeed they won’t, because they are no gods at all.  Yet Jonah the prophet of the true God is sleeping through this storm like he is dead.


Why is Jonah sleeping when his life is in danger?  Because he’s trying to get away from the Lord.  The Lord sent him to preach repentance to Nineveh, that great city.  And Jonah refused and went on a ship the other way, to Tarshish.  He knows the Lord won’t let him do that so easily.  So he sleeps and tries to forget it all.  And he knows that if he does get up and call on his God, the Lord will send him back to Nineveh, where he doesn’t want to go.


Occasionally people ask why I keep doing Evening Prayer every week, even though only one person comes.  I think I understand why they ask this question.  You have so many things to do, Pastor, and you have limited time with your family.  Why have another service when no one comes?


This is why: because I’m like the captain of the ship Jonah was on.  There is a storm on the sea.  It seems to me that the ship is going to sink—the ship of this church.  The ship of our nation.  The ship of my own life, many times.  And I don’t know what to do.


And the sad thing is, with all these boats taking on water, I still will not make time to call on my God many times.  I need the help of the church, of the other believers in Christ—even if it’s one other person.


I’m not the only one affected by these storms.  You are too.  So are the people not here tonight.  And it’s not just us.  So many of our brothers have fallen overboard and are alone on the sea.  Others have sunk beneath the waves.  If this ship goes down, we can swim to another.  But what about them?  And what about the many who like the pagan sailors don’t know the true God and can’t call on Him?  Who prays for them?


Rise, my soul, to watch and pray, says the old Lutheran hymn.  From your sleep awaken!  Be not by the evil day Unawares o’ertaken.  For the foe, well we know, is a harvest reaping, While the saints are sleeping.  That is true even when there are no obvious dangers facing Christians.  But that is not the case today.  If you smell the air, you can sense the chaos rising in the nation.  And as the churches are growing weaker, as we are losing a whole generation of young people, the heat is being turned up on the church.  Watch against the devil’s snares, Lest asleep he find you; For indeed no pains he spares, To deceive and blind you.  Satan’s prey, oft are they, who secure are sleeping, and no watch are keeping.


That’s why Matins, Morning Prayer, Vespers, Evening Prayer, and Compline are in the hymnbook.  We can, of course, pray at home, and we should.  But we often are lax.  And even when we do pray, oftentimes we don’t know what to pray for.  You, especially you here tonight, are very good at working together.  You are not lazy.


But how much stronger a congregation we might be if we also prayed together!  Then the constant difficulty we have finding people willing to work might be solved or made better.


We surely have enough reasons to pray.  We have our own concern about our future; we need a reinvigoration of our life as a congregation. Everyone says that.  And the trouble we have is the trouble of our whole synod.  They need our prayers as well.  As far as I can tell, no one really knows the answer to the difficulties we face.  Then there is the well-being of our country, and the fact that so many of our countrymen have forgotten the true God.


We do not have a false god like the pagan sailors.  We know the true God.  He has placed His name on us in His Holy Baptism.  He has put us to death with His Son and raised us from the dead.  He has promised to hear us as He hears His own Son.  Jesus has invited us to call Him “Father”—as though we also had always been obedient children.  He promises us, “The Father will give you whatever you ask in My Name,” and encourages us, “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”  In our Lord, our prayers are not “maybe” but “Yes” and “Amen.”


If we have been running away from where the Lord would send us, it is not over for us.  He will raise us with Christ and bring us where He intended us to go.  And if we have not been running, the Lord who rules the waves will put His power to work in us and through us to go through our storms.  If we sink to the depths, even from there He will raise us up.


Dear brothers, let us call upon our God together in these days leading up to this glorious festival of the Reformation, where we rejoice in the gift of His pure Gospel, which is the power of God to save those who believe.


The peace of God, that passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria”

Soli Deo Gloria

Prayer for Reconciliation with the Neighbor. Gebets-Schatz

Rembrandt, Heimkehr verlorener Sohn - Return of the Prodigal Son / Rembrandt - Rembrandt, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van RijPrayer for Reconciliation with Neighbors. 

(Seckendorf Hymnbook) (Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz)


Good Jesus, by Your grace I have prepared and fit myself to come to private confession [zum Beichtstuhl] for the forgiveness of my sins.  But I remember that You earnestly commanded: “When you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, then leave your gift there before the altar, and first go and reconcile yourself with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”


Unfortunately, now I have fallen into misunderstanding and disagreement with my neighbor.  Therefore grant me your grace and govern me, so that my heart lets itself be found willing to be reconciled.


I recognize the hardness of my heart and confess that it is difficult to force flesh and blood and to let go of all anger and vengefulness.  But I hope, yes, I pray, that You, Lord, would take from my flesh the heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh—that is, a heart rich in love and willing to be reconciled—and that you would make me a person who loves his enemy, blesses those who curse him, does good to those who hate him, and prays for those who insult and persecute him.


Ah!  Let me think on the judgment and strict accounting that I will have to give [one day], that I may let go of hostility (which seeks only death and destruction), and be reconciled with my adversaries while I am still on the way with them, according to Your command, and never again let the sun go down on my anger.


And as I pardon and forgive all those who have offended me, so also let me find those whom I have grieved and angered to be submissive to Your word, so that they for Your sake also forgive and pardon me for all the ways I have offended them.


Oh Jesus, forgive all our sins and govern our hearts, that we may live peaceably as Christians with one another, and praise Your name together here in time until there in eternity we laud You forever.  Amen.

Tuesday Midday Prayer–Eichorn

March 4, 2014 1 comment

gethsemaneJohann Eichorn

Rust und Schatzkammer (Spiritual Armory and Treasury)


Midday Prayer—Tuesday


Passages of Holy Scripture


Fear God and give Him the glory, because the time of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth and the sea and the springs of water.  Rev. 14.


He who serves God with gladness is acceptable to Him.  His prayer reaches up to the clouds; the prayer of the wretched pierces through the clouds, and does not desist until it enters [God’s ears], and does not cease until the Most High sees.


Let the book of this law not leave your mouth, instead, meditate on it day and night, that you may keep and do according to what is written in it.  Then you will be successful in all that you do and will be able to handle things wisely.




O Jesus Christ, my Lord and God, You know—yes, You have taught us Yourself how great is the weakness and foolishness of man, yes, how he can do absolutely nothing without Your help and assistance.  Where he trusts and believes in himself, he is bound to fall into a thousand disasters.


Have mercy on me, dear Lord, on account of this works-righteousness of Your child.  Graciously assist me, that through Your enlightenment I may see what is righteous, through Your admonition desire it, and through Your power finally also might obtain it.  Now I surrender myself, yes, commend myself wholly and completely, in body and soul, to You alone, who with God the Father and God the Holy Ghost are praised, one true and Almighty God forever and ever.



Lutheran Prayer-Treasury: Thursday Morning-Blessing

April 4, 2013 3 comments

man-praying-1883_jpg!Blog38.  Another Thursday Morning-Blessing

(Marburger Gesangbuch—Marburg Hymnal)

(From Evangelische Lutherischer Gebets-Schatz–Evangelical Lutheran Prayer Treasury)  (Prayer-Hoard!)

God Father, God Son, God Holy Spirit!  Highly-lauded Trinity!  I abandon myself to You, body and soul, from now to eternity, and from my heart proclaim Your praise and thanks, that you have not allowed the evil foe to harm me this night, but instead through the protection of Your blessed angels have kept me safe and sound.  With what shall I repay You?  How can I sufficiently praise You for this?  With regret and pain I will offer to you a distressed and battered heart, full of blood-red sins.  You will graciously receive it, and wash it white as snow with the noble blood of Your dear Son, my Redeemer.  You will conceal it in His holy, innocent wounds, and graciously give me the forgiveness of all my sins.  Help me also, that today and always I remain in Christian preparation [for death and judgment], so that I depart in blessedness and salvation, because I cannot know when you will come or how and where you will summon me.  Grant this to me, gracious God and Father, for the sake of Your dear Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.


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Prayer of one oppressed for the sake of the truth. Luther.

January 16, 2013 3 comments

wurmbrand mugshot414.  Prayer of a person who is oppressed for the sake of the truth

Martin Luther (1483-1546)


I suffer much, and things go evil with me, but well with my enemies.  They live; I die without intermission.  They are powerful and strong; I am bowed down constantly.  They are held in honor; I am scorned and derided.  They have peace; I, strife.  They are admired and praised by many, and many people stand with them.  I am alone, abandoned.  No one takes up my cause or looks upon me with favor.  I am a castaway, scorned and forsaken by everyone.  Therefore, dear Lord God, take me up, forsake me not.  Make haste to help me, because all other helpers will only help me be damned.  I seek no salvation, blessedness or paradise in myself or anyone else.  I look for it only in You.  Amen.

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