Friday, August 9, 2013

Meditation on the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed

The Third Article
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of sins, the Resurrection of the body, and the Life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean?
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; But the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; just as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.  In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives me and all believers all our sins; and at the last day He will raise up me and all the dead, and will grant me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.
In Babel, when the people began to erect a tower and make a name for themselves God confused their language so that they would not be able to complete the work.  This resulted in many different languages being spoken and the inability to continue consolidating their time and efforts in one place.  The confusion carried the peoples into different parts of the world and they gathered with others who spoke the same language.
The only way it would now be possible to communicate with those of a different language, would be to use a translator.  Over time, some people would learn more than one language in order to speak between the different cultures that now existed.  In a similar manner, all people need a translator in order to understand God’s Word.  Without a translator, the Bible remains a closed book.
It’s not as if the English we use in our translations is too far removed from the English that we speak today, but we really need a translator to understand what God’s word is really saying…we need a translator to help us see with the eyes of faith and not just our earthly perceptions.  This is the role of the Holy Spirit.  He translates God’s word so that we can take it to heart and trust in it, even without seeing it.  “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him.”
In John 14, Jesus said this, “The Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”  Through the work of the Holy Spirit, God’s word teaches us about Christ and all that He has done for us.  Through the preaching of that Word, the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts to believe.
This faith does not occur by some magical act, but rather it is always connected with God’s Word.  Where two or three are gathered around His Word, there God is in their midst.  The work of the Holy Spirit is always attached to God’s Word and Sacraments, and the word and sacraments take place where people of like faith gather around that Word.  This is why we believe in a Holy Christian Church, because it is made “holy” by the Holy Spirit who works faith in the hearts of those gathered to hear this precious word.
Without the Holy Spirit the Word remains hidden to us, and without the Word the Holy Spirit does not bring us to faith.  The two are intimately connected in such a way that where one is, the other is also.  This Gospel through which He brings us to faith is none other than the work of Christ, revealed to us throughout Holy Scripture.
When the Holy Spirit works on us through God’s Word, he works forgiveness and salvation.  He assures us of God’s love for us in Christ and causes us to take that comfort to heart.
O God, You once taught the hearts of Your faithful people by sending them the light of Your Holy Spirit.  Grant us in our day by the same Spirit to have a right understanding in all things and evermore to rejoice in His holy consolation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Meditation on the Second Article of the Apostles Creed

The Second Article
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suf­fered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
What does this mean?
I believe that Jesus Christ is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary; and that He is my Lord, Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His inno­cent suffering and death; in order that I might be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness; even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
Picture yourself falling into a deep dark pit.  The only form you can make out at the bottom is a ferocious beast that is ready at a moment’s notice to swallow you whole.  This is the condition into which each of us is born.  Dead in trespasses and sins, all are moving headlong into the deepest depths of hell with no ability of our own to escape what lies below.
When Adam and Eve fell into sin, the entire world fell with them.  “By Adam’s fall is all forlorn, man’s nature and his thinking, The poison’s there when we are born, In sin yet deeper sinking.” (ELH 430.1)  In our fallen condition, all of us are just dangling over the beast, waiting to be devoured.  Both our sin that we have inherited from our parents and the sins that we continue to commit, earn us a place as food for the devil’s appetite.
Yet, the truth of who Jesus is, brought out in the Second Article of the Creed gives us reason to spite the devil.  Jesus, became man for us so that he might be swallowed up by Satan in our place.  Jesus became our vicar or substitute, clothing himself in human flesh.  Much like a worm covers up a hook, Jesus covered himself in human flesh, by being born of the Virgin and entered our world in the likeness of mankind.  Bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh.  Jesus dangled himself within reach of the ferocious beast, so that once He was seemingly devoured, He would defeat that beast once and for all.
Because Jesus was perfect He had no reason to fear the devil’s snapping jaws.  The devil had no hold over him.  But so that we might be saved, Jesus shows us what kind of a Lord we have…One who was willing to experience death, so that we would not have to experience the terrors of hell.  Jesus removed us from the clutches of Satan and placed us safely at His side where he is able to nourish and strengthen us through His holy assuring us of the forgiveness of our sins.
The Gospel that the Church preaches is based solely upon Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection which has won for us the forgiveness of sins.  There is nothing we have done to rescue ourselves, there is nothing we can do to be saved.  Christ has done all of the work…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  He called us out of darkness, into His marvelous light.  He requires nothing in return and promises us the blessing of heaven when we, by His power, trust in Him as our Lord and Savior.
O God, our Maker and Redeemer, You wonderfully created us and in the incarnation of Your Son yet more wondrously restored our human nature.  Grant that we may ever be alive in Him who made Himself to be like us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Meditation on the First Article of the Apostles Creed

The First Article
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
What does this mean?
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still preserves them; that He richly and daily provides me with food and clothing, home and family, property and goods, and all that I need to support this body and life; that He protects me from all danger, guards and keeps me from all evil; and all this purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I am in duty bound to thank and to praise, to serve and obey Him.  This is most certainly true.
The Ten Commandments have taught us the proper respect we are to have towards God and that we are to have only one God.  The question then that arises is “What sort of God do you have?” or “Who is God?”  The Creed then is that answer and confession of the Christian arranged in respect to the first commandment so that we know who the one true God is.
Psalm 139:13-14 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.  In the First Article of the Apostle Creed, it focuses on what we know about God through the creation.  The opening words of Genesis speak very plainly of our origins and the origins of all life in the universe as we know it.  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  It stands to reason then that the God who created us continues to preserve and care for us through the creation which he has made.  This is called God’s providence.  God still continues to provide for us through everything that he has made.  He gives us every thing that we need to sustain our lives.  All that we have is from Him.
Nor does God just let the powers of evil overtake us but he defends us from all evil and misfortune.  He directs all sorts of danger and disaster away from us.  We have not earned any such divine assistance or protection, but God does so simply because His nature is to love that which He has created.  He has knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs, he breathed life into us in a special way and has promised to continue caring for that life even amidst the struggles and trials that we face.  Yet God’s love for us is not based on the evidence of the material possessions we have, but our worth is derived out of His love for us in Christ as we will learn more about in the 2nd Article.
Because of His divine love for us in Christ, we could rightly say of ourselves that we have a face only a mother could love.  Because of our sins, we were alienated from God and from each other.  We have no worth of our own that would cause him to love us, but because of God’s benevolence, he continues to love the sinner, in spite of the sin.  The evidence of that love is found in the work of Jesus Christ.
Yet our duty toward God is not done.  Because he has loved us in such a way as to provide for us and care for us in all things we are duty bound to thank and to praise, serve and obey him.  Without God providing our oxygen, we would surely perish.  God, by his gracious hand, continues to provide those things necessary to sustain life and without them we would perish.  This article ought to keep us humble and terrify us all, because we cannot earn God’s willingness to preserve us.  Yet we are to thank him daily, even constantly for his blessings; the blessings of divine protection, food and clothing, home and family, property and goods, and all that we need to support this body and life.  By recognition of God as our creator and preserver, our hearts should be warm and kindled to be thankful and to use all such good things to the honor and praise of God.
Almighty God, through Your Word and Spirit You most wonderfully created all things, and through the Word made flesh You brought new life to fallen humanity.  Grant that in Your mercy we may be conformed to the image of Him who shares fully in our humanity, even Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Peace VBS

Peace VBS

VBS for this year will be held from June 2, 2013 through June 6.  The week will begin at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday with activities and a church picnic to follow.  The students will meet from 5:30 to 7:35 on Monday through Thursday.  Supper will be at 5:30, class begins at 6.

This year we will be studying the life of Joseph and how it portrays God's will being done in the life of His people.  Please contact the church for more details or to register.  Children in preschool through 8th grade are encouraged to attend.  (573)496-3893

Meditation on the Conclusion of the Commandments

Conclusion: What does God say about these commandments?
I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, and showing mercy to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
What does this mean?
God threatens to punish all who transgress these commandments.  Therefore we should fear his wrath and do nothing against these commandments.  But he promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments.  Therefore we should also love and trust in Him and willingly do according to His commandments.
In the Ten Commandments we have the sum total of everything that God would have us say and do.  All of the commandments are a reflection of the First Commandment: You shall have no other gods.  When we serve the only true God, all of the other commandments will follow from the right spirit. Yet St. James wrote, “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10)  The seriousness of transgressing God’s commands is severe.  Because of our sins we are guilty.  The primary purpose of the law is to accuse us of our failings and inability to do what God demands…and under no circumstances are we ever able to keep His law as we properly should.
Yet, as sinful human beings we are often tempted to invent other ways by which we can please God.  We make up other rules that are not quite so difficult, not quite so plain.  We desire elaborate works that truly show our devotion to God and we treat His Commandments as passé, out of date. We invent ways in which we can please God and unknowingly set aside the Holy Commands that He has given to us.
As sinful human beings we have a hard time stomaching the rigid requirements of God’s law and would like an alternative to serve Him.  For example, if we look at our sinful understanding of the 3rd commandment, we say to ourselves “It is important that I worship regularly.”  But instead of treating God’s Word as though it is the most important thing in our lives we treat it as though it is just another requirement to fulfill.  Instead of whole heartedly loving and willingly submitting to all of His commands we look at them with fearful drudgery or indifference.  Instead of feasting on the Gospel of forgiveness, we subject ourselves to the divine service and the Word for the day and treat that act of obedience as good enough.
In the Ten Commandments we see how easily we fail to fulfill them.  When taken as a whole they form a complete unit.  Like a giant circle that begins with devotion towards God and ends with devotion towards God.  When we fail in just one area, our devotion towards God fails.  God wants us to love and serve him alone because He shares allegiance with no one.  This is an allegiance that belongs to Him and is only possible through the One who has completed the Commandments in our place.  God’s love for you was so great that He willingly sacrificed His Son, so that He would not have to punish as our sins deserved.  He extends His mercy on all those who rightly fear Him…a mercy that is alone found in Jesus Christ.
While we will never have the ability on this side of heaven to complete the Commandments, we by the grace of God are given the faith to trust in Jesus work in our place.  This is a faith that compels us to love and serve Him, not out of fear or compulsion, but out of devotion towards someone who has graciously rescued us and set us free.  In that freedom we use the Ten Commandments again and again to review the best ways in which we can fear, love and trust in God above all things, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
To us God gave these Ten Commands That you might learn, O child of man, Your sinfulness and also know To live for God, as you go. Have mercy, Lord!
Lord Jesus Christ, now help us all, Our Mediator from the Fall, Our works are all so full of sin, But You for us heav’n did win. Have mercy, Lord! Amen. (Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary 490)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Meditation on the 9th and 10th Commandments

The Ninth Commandment:
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, so that we do not craftily seek to gain our neighbor’s inheritance or home, nor get it by a show of right, but help and serve him in keeping it.

The Tenth Commandment:
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not tempt, force or coax away from our neighbor his wife or his workers, but urge them to stay and do their duty.

What is it above everything else that God wants from us?  He doesn’t need our things…they are His already.  If we outwardly keep all of the other commandments and show ourselves to be truly pious by what we say and do…all will fall short of the righteous requirements of God when it comes to the commandments against coveting.  Coveting is sinful desire that occurs in our hearts and our minds.  This commandment is not for the cheaters in the eyes of the world, rather it is for the most pious, who want to be praised and to be called honest and upright.
The difference between these two commandments may be subtle, yet they are given to protect very different things.  The ninth protects a neighbor’s inanimate (lifeless) possessions and the tenth protects animate (living) possessions.  Houses cannot be wooed away from their owner like a spouse or a servant can be, so it was important for God’s law to differentiate between the two.
All sin begins in the heart, and these commandments make that very clear.  The ninth commandment prohibits us from plotting to acquire with the intention of harming our neighbor.  It also teaches us to be content with what God has given us, and to be thankful for what I have by being generous with the things I have been given.  In the ninth commandment we should recognize that God has truly given everything that we need or that which is good for us.  Instead of finding ways to scheme against our neighbor we should find ways in helping our neighbor keep what is rightfully his.
In the tenth commandment God desires to protect especially those living gifts and assets which are beneficial and necessary for family life, providing services to others through laborers, and the benefits which one receives from raising livestock.  Our desire should be for our neighbor to keep those things that God has given him, we should encourage his wife and his workers to stay in their calling, instead of encouraging them to leave.  No amount of things will ever make us content until we understand that God has given us Himself.  He is our God and his will towards us is good and gracious at all times.  Only in Him will there be true contentment.
Our natural instinct is that no one wants to see someone else have as much as himself.  Each one acquires as much as he can.  Yet we pretend to be godly, know how to dress ourselves up most finely and conceal our base character.  There is no commandment that we are capable of keeping, least of all commandments that require perfection even in our thoughts.  It requires us to serve those who seem to us to have more than we do.  These commandments are especially directed against envy and miserable greed, but God wants to remove all causes and sources from which arises everything by which we harm our neighbor.
Almighty and everlasting God, You despise nothing You have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent.  Create in us new and contrite hearts that lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness we may receive from You full pardon and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Meditation on the 8th Commandment

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, so that we don not lie about, betray or slander our neighbor, but excuse him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.
A story is told of a young man during the middle ages who went to a monk, saying, “I have sinned by telling slanderous statements about someone.  What should I do now?”  The monk replied, “Put a feather on every doorstep in town.”  The young man did as he was told.  Then he returned to the monk, wondering if there was anything else that he should do.  The monk said, “Now go back and pick up all the feathers.”  The young man replied, “That is impossible! By now the wind will have blown them all over the town.”  The monk replied, “So has your slanderous word become impossible to retrieve.”
Next to one’s own body, spouse, and temporal possessions, we still have another great treasure that God wishes to protect – honor and good reputation.  As Solomon says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.”  We cannot do without a good reputation, for it is intolerable to live among people in open shame and contempt.  Once someone’s name has been tarnished, it becomes almost impossible to restore it.  If we learn something juicy about someone close to us, it becomes almost impossible to forget, yet we have no right to share it, unless called to do so in court.
To bear false witness is nothing other than the work of the tongue.  It doesn’t only mean that one should not share false things about one’s neighbor, but not even sharing true statements about one’s neighbor.  For if we are unwilling to go before a judge with the same information then why should we be willing to share these unkind statements with others.  Unless our speaking results in the building up of his reputation, one should keep his mouth shut.  Yet we cannot handle this.  We would rather make ourselves look better than suffer the praise and adoration of one’s neighbor.
There are times when the Christian is called upon to admonish his neighbor, yet we would rather keep silent.  Jesus says that if your brother sins go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he repents, you have gained a brother.  Unfortunately, I fear that we are all too comfortable either keeping our mouth shut or too busy sharing the faults of our neighbor with those who have no reason to know.  Instead we should only act when we have the reformation and love of our neighbor in mind.  The same still rings true as we were told when we were kids, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
The law and its power have no means to rehabilitate.  It only condemns.  “Don’t lie.” it says, yet we lie anyway.  By the grace of God, there is forgiveness for liars like us.  Forgiveness does not come about by giving it our best shot, but only by the love that has been shown to us in Jesus Christ.  “Father forgive them” Jesus said, “for they know not what they do.”  Jesus yearns to give of Himself to you, so that you quit relying on your imperfect works and trust only in that which Jesus has already done.  Only then can you truly begin to love our neighbor without the fear of the law.
Almighty God, You have sent the Spirit of truth to us to guide us into all truth.  Rule in our hearts, we pray, by Your grace and power, that we may be truthful in our thoughts, words, and actions.  Keep us, merciful Lord, in Your fatherly care and protection, that no fear or sinful ambition may make us deceitful in our speech or behavior.  Cleans us, we ask, from everything false and wrong, and bring us into the freedom of Your Good News in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Meditation on the 7th Commandment

You shall not steal.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or goods, nor get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his goods and means of making a living.
Have you ever caught yourself thinking, “he doesn’t need that” or “he could do without that”?  Sometimes it’s hard not to think those thoughts when surrounded by people who have plenty.  It often turns into an argument with yourself about how you deserve those things much more than the other guy.  Besides, we know all of his faults and it’s just not fair.
I often have to remind myself that I’m not someone else.  I am who I am and there is nothing I can do to make me into someone else.  Each of our callings have their rewards, not all of which are monetary.  God demands that I work for my daily bread and beyond that it is up to Him to provide the increase.  If no man works, neither shall he eat.  Yet, everyone is guilty of stealing in thoughts, words, and actions.  Man has stolen from others by failing to provide for those in need, he has mismanaged time and left things undone that should be done, and he has stolen by treating his belongings as though they were solely for his own benefit.
The Psalmist wrote, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness. The world and those who dwell therein.”  It’s humbling to note that everything which man claims as his own all belongs to God.  It is not our own things or time that are being misused, rather it is God’s things and God’s time that is being misused.  Everything we have is on lease from Him.  He still owns it.  The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.  Whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, do it all to the glory of God.
Unfortunately, our actions often only show how we would like to glorify ourselves.  Our actions place us in the role of the creator, not the created which we are.  We assume that we answer to no one but ourselves.  Ultimately, though, we all have to answer to God.  It is God who says, you shall not cheat your neighbor, your employee, or your employer.  It is God who says we should always have the best interest of everybody else’s belongings in mind…not the best interest of ourselves.  The psalmist says we are His people, it is He who made us and not we ourselves.
Has anyone always thought of his fellow’s property instead of himself?  Has anyone always used the goods entrusted to his care for the benefit of his neighbor?  No normal human ever has, nor can we.  We were steeped and covered in sin when we were born, and for each sin we are deserving of death.  A punishment which is far to painful for us to withstand.
Yet, we have a gracious Lord, who desired to love us, in spite of our sin.  He sent His Son to be perfect in our place, even going without in order to help others.  And not only did he do right on our behalf, but God inflicted upon Him the punishment which our sins deserve.  Jesus willingly paid a price greater than we can imagine so that God would not hold us accountable for our sins.  May the comfort of that gift encourage you to give to others as you have been generously given.
O Lord our God, You have commanded that we should receive Your may blessings with thankful and generous hearts.  Give us your grace, we pray, to use all of our talents and abilities for Your glory and for the good of others.  Help us to respect the gifts and possessions You have given to others, so that we might encourage all people to trust Your mercy and love in Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray.  Amen.