Catechesis Notes for the Week— The First Article of the Creed — The Scriptural account of the creation of the heavens and the earth move quickly to the creation of man as the crown of God’s creation and the object of God’s greatest affection and love. Though man squandered God’s free gifts in the creation, God did not abandon His affection and love for us. The story of man’s fall into sin is quickly followed by God’s first promise of salvation from the devil and the condemnation that this fall brought upon us. This promise is contained in God’s Word to the devil: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” The “Seed of the Woman” is the Virgin born Son of God who crushed the devil’s claim upon man when His heel was bruised in His suffering and death upon the cross. This promise of salvation is also accompanied by God’s curse of the fall. The curse of the fall was necessary in order that sinful man might come to believe in His need for God. The curse of the fall gives the preaching of the Law its teeth. The Law preaches repentance—revealing the sin and rebellion from which we need God’s salvation—and the experience of the curse of the fall teaches us that the problem of sin is real and has separated us from God. It is in this context of the Law’s preaching and the experience of our fallen condition that the Gospel enters in to bring forgiveness and comfort, and to raise us up to the new life of faith. By faith in Christ and the promises of salvation through Him, we are enabled to bear up under the curse of the fall until we are delivered from all the suffering of our fallen condition on the last day in the resurrection of the dead.CP171015
Congregation at Prayer
October 8, 2017Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week—The First Article of the Creed — “All that I am and all that I have comes from God. Apart from Him I am and have nothing.” These assertions are central to the Christian teaching concerning God. They declare that we, and all of creation, are completely dependent upon Him. Even when we abuse the life and gifts that He has given, we do so by His power in us. This is what makes such evil all the more blasphemous! Martin Luther’s Creedal Hymn confesses both our dependence upon God and His love for us that motivates Him to create, provide, protect, and defend us. “We all believe in one true God, who created earth and heaven, The Father who to us in love has the right of children given. He in soul and body feeds us; All we need His hand provides us; Through all snares and perils leads us, Watching that no harm betide us. He cares for us by day and night; All things are governed by His might.” The Catechism helps us to understand that what He has made and given is ALWAYS good, even if our sinful human reason might not think so and might even rebel against such gifts. There is great freedom in the gift of faith that accepts the truths of the First Article. All Christians, the deaf, the blind, and the lame, still confess that God has made them, including their “eyes, ears, and all their members,” even if they don’t work the way they want them to work. God’s created gifts are given AS THEY ARE, that we might learn to trust in Him through these gifts, extolling Him alone as God and relying upon His grace in our weakness.CP171008
October 1, 2017Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week—Review of the Commandments and the Close of the Commandments — The first commandment is behind all the commandments, and all the commandments are interconnected in the demand to love God above all things. The threat of the Law to punish anyone who turns away from God is visited upon Jesus in His death upon the cross. He was punished for the sin of the fathers in fulfillment of the law. Therefore, there is grace and mercy for us sinners, because Jesus “loved and trusted in God and gladly did what God demanded.” He did this even to the point of suffering the punishment that we sinners deserved. Death and condemnation is the result of turning away from God, the source of all life. The tablets of the Law that were hurled at the Jews from Mount Sinai show how all our righteousness is crushed under the scrutiny of God’s commandments. This is necessary. If we do not feel the crushing blow of the Law, we cannot receive the righteousness of Christ. Christ bore the crushing blow of the Law’s condemnation in His death. He willingly took our place, like a scapegoat, and suffered all that we by our sins deserved. Why did He do this? His love and desire to save us and give us life is at the heart of all that He does for us, even when the Law is proclaimed that crushes our self-righteousness and pride. This week’s Bible verse accents these themes, teaching us that “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in [God’s] sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
September 24, 2017Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week— The Ninth and Tenth Commandments—Covetousness and Contentment—The Ninth and Tenth Commandments both speak of covetousness. Covetousness is the desire of our heart that insists upon having those things that God has not given to us. Many of the things that we might desire are very good things indeed. “Food, drink, clothing, shoes … a devout husband or wife, devout children,” etc. are all good things and good gifts from God. Sometimes, however, through our own sin or through the Lord’s gracious providence we are not allowed to have certain good things that we might otherwise desire and that might make life easier. Desires for good things become covetous and idolatrous whenever we won’t take no for an answer, whenever we insist that we must have this or that in order to be happy and content. At the center of the Christian faith, which trusts Christ for salvation, is learning to be satisfied with Him—with His love, with His forgiveness, with His Word, with everything that He is as our Savior and God. True contentment actually comes not from getting what we want and what we believe we must have, but from the faith that rests in Christ and is content with Him, especially under the cross of suffering and affliction. When we have Christ and His love as our “one thing needful,” then His Word transforms our lives, turning us outside of ourselves and our own desires to the sacrifices of love for others.
September 17, 2017Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week—The Seventh and Eighth Commandments — By the Seventh Commandment, “You shall not steal,” God desires to protect His gifts of property, and that we help and serve our neighbor in the preservation of what belongs to him. Jesus fulfilled the Seventh Commandment by using all of His property in loving service to us, without counting the cost. By the Eighth Commandment, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” God desires to protect His gifts of a good name and reputation, and that we help our neighbor preserve his honor. The Eighth Commandment forbids gossip, even though the words that we speak might be true. By gossip we do not cover our neighbor’s sins, but hurt and harm his reputation, which God has not given us to do. Jesus’ catechesis on the Eighth Commandment in the Sermon on the Mount teaches us that He is the fulfiller of this commandment. He blesses those who curse Him. He prays for those who persecute Him. By His Words He bestows upon us the Good Name of God, covering our sin with His mercy, that we might confess Him with our tongue in words of blessing and prayer on behalf of our neighbor. Jesus’ love in fulfillment of the Law is seen in the cross where He prays for His enemies and preaches the Gospel to the penitent thief. The verse for the week emphasizes that “love is the fulfillment of the Law”—love that gives of itself for the welfare and benefit of another, even and especially if they are undeserving. Christ fulfilled the Law for us in His loving sacrifice upon the cross. His love takes shape in us as we learn to live by faith in His forgiveness and mercy.
September 10, 2017Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week—The Sanctity of Life and the Sanctity of the One Flesh Union—In the Fifth Commandment, God protects His gift of life and the sanctity of human life. It is not a coincidence that the protection of the gift of life under the Fifth Commandment stands next to the protection of the gift of marriage in the Sixth Commandment. It is God’s wonderful ordering of the creation that human life is to be brought into this world and nurtured through the institution of marriage between one man and one woman for life. We are made in the image of the Triune God of love. This is what makes life sacred and why it is to be protected. The Fifth Commandment forbids every form of murder: abortion, euthanasia, and even the hatred of the heart. We are not to “hurt our harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.” In the Sixth Commandment God teaches us that this gift of life is brought into this world through the sanctity of the one flesh union in marriage. The sexual union is both a physical and a spiritual union. When a husband and wife come together in the physical intimacy of sexual intercourse, they are not just “having sex”; each is actually giving his or her very self to the other as an act of self-less love for the comfort and strengthening of the other. This means that love in marriage moves out of the self to give of itself to the beloved. The question of the lover is not “what am I going to get out of this?” but “what am I going to give to the one I love?” In marriage, there is no greater gift than to give one’s self to his spouse. This bond is so profound, intimate, and sacred that it is called “one flesh.” The Church should not only condemn the self-centered sins of fornication and adultery against the Sixth Commandment, but should also hold up the wonderful gift of human sexuality and how God intends it for the giving and receiving of marital love. This is why the Catechism itself speaks in positive language about the Sixth Commandment: “We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.”
September 3, 2017Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week— The Third and Fourth Commandments—“Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy” (Third Commandment) is more accurately translated, “You shall sanctify the day of rest.” The Third Commandment is not mainly about “a day” but more importantly about the Word of God. The seven day week of creation teaches us that there is a rhythm to our lives. We work, but we also require rest. But Christians began worshiping on Sunday (the first day of the week) instead of Saturday (the Old Testament Sabbath day of rest) because they properly understood that the Sabbath Day (or Rest Day) was chiefly about Jesus and His Word of life. Jesus is the source of Sabbath rest and He gives that rest to us through the Word of the Gospel that we receive by preaching, teaching, and the Sacraments. To highlight this important understanding, Christians began to worship on Sunday—the day of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead. On Sunday, the first Easter, Jesus spoke a Word that gave a “rest” that was far greater than the mere cessation of work. He gave the “rest” of sins forgiven through the Word of absolution: “Peace be with you.” That is why the explanation from the Catechism states that we are “not to despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” The Third Commandment calls us to “sanctify” the day of rest (whatever that day might be) by hearing the Word of God through which we are renewed in repentance and faith in Christ.
Under the Fourth Commandment—“Honor your father and your mother”—we are taught to believe that God stands behind our fathers, mothers, and other authorities and works through them. We are to honor the authorities, not because they deserve it but because of the commandment of God and the office that He has given them. Parents and civil authorities are also to remember the awesome responsibilities they have been given by God lest they abuse the authority they have received.
August 27, 2017Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week— The First and Second Commandments The First Commandment teaches us that there is only one true God, the Holy Trinity—The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are to trust in Him above all other things. We are to love Him and cling to Him. The First Commandment shows us our faithlessness and the sin of unbelief. It calls us to repentance, that is, to the confession of our sin and to faith in Christ. He feared, loved, and trusted in the Father to the death of the cross for us. We, faithless sinners, must flee to Him for forgiveness. The Second Commandment teaches us that we are to pray to God at all times and in all circumstances of our lives. We are to call upon Him in trouble, not simply to take away the trouble, but to teach us to trust in Him in the midst of the struggle. Our prayers are to call upon God to give us the wisdom to receive the cross of affliction in our lives with rejoicing and thanksgiving. The Second Commandment shows us our unwillingness to pray in this way. We chafe under the cross of affliction. We consider our will to be better than God’s will. Instead of praying that God’s will be done, we demand that He act according to our will. We do not praise Him and give thanks to Him in the midst of suffering; instead we curse Him in unbelief. The Second Commandment, too, calls us to repentance, and to faith in our Savior who prayed faithfully unto death for us. No one suffered a greater evil than our Lord, yet He did not chafe under the cross but accepted it as the Father’s will for our salvation. From His obedience unto death we have salvation and our prayers are heard.
August 20, 2017Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week— How Do We Receive the Holy Spirit — When Jesus appeared to the disciples on Easter evening, He said to them, “Peace to You! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you … Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20: 21-23, NKJV). These words teach us much about “how” we receive the Holy Spirit. We receive the Holy Spirit through our Savior’s Word of forgiveness. There is an inseparable linkage between our Savior’s words and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is “the Lord and giver of life.” He calls us to faith in Christ. He creates a new will in our hearts that desires to love God and serve the neighbor. He produces in us the good works of love that flow from faith. He brings forth in us the “fruit of the Spirit”— love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He brings to us everything that Jesus has done for us. By the Holy Spirit, Jesus Himself actually dwells in our hearts by faith. The Holy Spirit does all this by the Word of our Savior. Christians need to know where the Holy Spirit promises to be found: in the reception of the Word of Christ. Therefore, we seek the Spirit in the very promises of our Baptism, in the ongoing preaching of the Gospel, in faithful catechesis of the Word of Christ, in the life of repentance and faith that confesses sin and receives the absolution. Even the Lord’s Supper carries the promise of the Holy Spirit because Jesus’ word, “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” is at the center of the Sacrament. When we pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are praying for the Holy Spirit to come to us and work in us where He promises to be found: in Christ’s Word—in all the wonderful ways Jesus’ word of forgiveness comes to us.
August 13, 2017Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week— The Sixth Petition—Faith in Christ’s Righteousness Brings True Freedom —It is by the gift of Christ’s righteousness that we are delivered from every evil. This is why faith continues to pray that God would preserve us in His forgiveness against all evil. Satan’s desire is to tempt us away from the free gift of the righteousness of Christ. When our faith moves away from Christ’s righteousness, then false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice come into our hearts and lives. So the faith that receives Christ’s righteousness is always calling upon Him in prayer to preserve us in the freedom of His righteousness.