Catechesis Notes for the Week— Jesus’ Catechesis on the End Times (Summer Stories from the Gospel of St. Luke)—Our summertime stories from Luke’s Gospel conclude this week. The Life of the Church after Jesus’ Ascension could well summarize the general theme of this concluding set of Bible stories. In Render to Caesar the Things that Are Caesar’s Jesus teaches us that civil government has not been abolished by the Gospel, but that the Christian exists in both the temporal and spiritual kingdoms. Before God we live by faith in Christ and in love toward the neighbor. Before the civil authorities we give all due honor, respect and obedience in so far as this does not violate our faith in Christ or the Word of God. In the story of the Sadducees Question Jesus about the Resurrection we learn that false doctrine is nothing new. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection or of life after death, even though they claimed to be faithful believers. Jesus counters their false teaching by referring to the Old Testament patriarchs as though they are alive, because, indeed, they are alive and are awaiting the resurrection on the last day. In the Widow’s Two Mites Jesus underscores the teaching that everything that a Christian has ultimately comes from God and is a gift over which the Christian is but a steward. The widow confesses this faith by placing all of her money into the Temple treasury. In the Signs of the End Jesus describes the very things that we have been experiencing since His ascension: the proliferation of false doctrine, the ever-present reality of warfare among the nations, earthquakes, famine, and pestilence of every kind. Finally, he predicts the rise of persecution for the name of Jesus. All of this will continue in the world until Jesus comes again in glory, therefore, we should not be discouraged but rather “look up” in vigil until our Lord’s return. The last two stories for the summer are linked together and speak a word of warning against impenitence and unbelief. The prediction of the Destruction of Jerusalem and Signs of Christ’s Second Coming not only teach us that God’s judgment would fall upon Jerusalem for their rejection of Christ, but that this judgment was to serve as an ongoing call to repentance and faith in Christ and to prepare the Church for Jesus’ Second Coming in glory. The Parable of the Fig Tree is an illustration of all these end time predictions. As we see these things taking place we (His Church) should not be discouraged, but rather be encouraged that the Lord’s Word is true and that He will sustain and preserve His Church to the end of time.
Congregation at Prayer
August 14, 2016Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week— Jesus’ Holy Week Catechesis (Summer Stories from the Gospel of St. Luke)—After Jesus’ joyful entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in which thousands hailed Him as Messiah, the opposition to His ministry began in earnest by the chief priests, Sadducees, scribes, and Pharisees. Always looking for ways to trap Jesus in a contradiction, the Pharisees are the first to challenge Jesus. Luke records that they “pretended to be righteous” but they could not catch Him in His words. Should one be loyal to God or loyal to the government? Jesus silenced them in His famous words: Render to Caesar the Things that Are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. The Sadducees Question Jesus about the Resurrection because they did not believe in the resurrection or life after death, yet they claimed to be faithful to the Law of Moses. Jesus used Moses’ words to counter them: “Now even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ For He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” In the account of the Widow’s Two Mites, contrasts the false faith of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes with the true faith of the widow who, without pretense or an attempt to justify herself before others, put into the Temple treasury all she had. Jesus catechesis during Holy Week then shifts to a discussion of the Signs of the End and the Destruction of Jerusalem. The destruction of the Temple, the rise of false doctrine, wars, earthquakes, famine, pestilence, and persecution will all characterize the end times before the Second Coming of Christ. Finally, the Parable of the Fig Tree concludes Jesus’ catechesis on the end times. As the change in the leaves of the fig tree indicate that summer is near, so these signs of the end times indicate that Christ’s coming is near. The Church is to live each day in anticipation of His coming with fervent faith in His Words to the end: “Heaven and will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
August 7, 2016Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week— The Call to Repentance and the Things that Make for our Peace (Summer Stories from the Gospel of St. Luke)—This week’s testimony from Luke’s Gospel orbits around the word of Jesus as He wept over Jerusalem: “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes…because you did not know the time of your visitation” (19:42, 44b). The ministry of Jesus was not all that different from the ministry of the Old Testament prophets, He called sinners to repentance for sin that they might receive His peace and salvation. The call to repentance is necessary, in order that we turn away from trusting in ourselves, our own righteousness and accomplishments, to trusting in the mercy of God in Christ. This call to repentance is always based upon our Savior’s love for us. We see this compassion and call to repentance in Jesus’ ministry to the Rich Young Ruler. The “one thing” this man lacked was Christ and His righteousness. In Jesus Heals Blind Bartemaus, we hear the prayer of this repentant faith when Bartemaeus cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Though he was pushed away by others, Jesus received this poor blind beggar. In Jesus Comes to Zacchaeus’s House we continue to see the call to repentance and the result of repentant faith in Zacchaeus giving back his stolen property. In the Parable of the Minas (unit of weight) Jesus speaks about the gift of salvation in the Gospel that is to be put to use in repentant faith and faithful service in the Church and the Christian’s vocation until He comes again. On Palm Sunday we see the beginning of the climax of Jesus’ work of salvation. All things unfold according to God’s Word and plan of salvation in Christ. Those who believe in Him rightly sing the Passover psalm to Him: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” He weeps over the impenitence of the people of Jerusalem, who did not realize the visitation of God’s salvation in Jesus, who called them away from reliance upon self to reliance upon the mercy of God that He came to bring. Repentance and faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice is the only thing that can give us peace with God. The story of Israel’s pattern of impenitence and hardness of heart is described in the Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers. Time and time again God sent them His prophets. Time and time again they rejected the call to repentance. Finally, He sent them His Son—the only One who could make for their peace with God—but they rejected Him and nailed Him to the cross. Yet the irony of all of this is that the very act of their rejection in the crucifixion of Jesus became God’s instrument of salvation for a sinful world.
July 31, 2016Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week— The Parables of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel Continue… (Summer Stories from the Gospel of St. Luke)— The first of the stories for the week is The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. This parable is remembered by many as the first lesson in the Didache course which covers the first three commandments. “ This parable raises the questions: Who is your god? What do you worship? Is God’s judgment at death final? How does God warn me of the judgment of hell? What brings me to repentance and true faith? … Each received what he believed in: the rich man received the comforts of this life and of his own achievements, which did not last, and the beggar received the comfort of God’s salvation through the faith of Abraham, which endures to eternal life…” In Faith as a Mustard Seed, Jesus warns of the offense of works righteousness which destroys faith and extols the gift of saving faith in the Gospel of God’s forgiveness. In the Ten Lepers Are Cleansed “Jesus shoes that His grace and salvation is intended for all sinners, even those who would not return to Him in faith, and that fellowship with God is restored to us sinners only through the cleansing afforded us by Him who has fulfilled the Law’s requirements on our behalf.” (Excerpts from New Testament Catechesis in the Lutheran Catechesis Series). In The Kingdom of God, Jesus emphasizes themes we hear in the explanations to the Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism. The kingdfom of God is about the gift of the Holy Spirit and faith in Christ. The kingdom of God is Christ and the salvation He came to bring. The kingdom of God is “in our midst” wherever Jesus’ Word and Sacraments are preached and administered, and wherever Jesus’ Church suffers under persecution. In the Parable of the Persistent Widow, we learn that “the Christian prays continually because he believes that God can be relied upon to deliver him from his enemies. Prayer flows from the faith that God is righteous toward us for Christ’s sake, and that He will vindicate us and right all wrongs at last. If a man who neither fears God nor respects any man will deliver you from an enemy because you continually bothger him for his help, how much more shall God, who has called us in His son, deliver us when we cry out to Him?” Finally, in the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, Jesus spoke…to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. It teaches us that ‘the highest worship [of God] in the Gospel is the desire to receive forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness’” (Excerpts from New Testament Catechesis in the Lutheran Catechesis Series)
July 24, 2016Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week— The Parables of Jesus (Summer Stories from the Gospel of St. Luke)—This week’s readings from the Gospel of Luke focus upon seven miracles of Jesus. “Parables are figurative stories that teach the mysteries and paradoxes of the Christian faith…The mysteries of the Christian faith can be understood and believed only by Christians. Natural man cannot accept and believe in the mysteries of the Gospel because they are foolishness to him (1 Corinthians 2:14-15).… Most often, God is the chief actor in the parables. Parables teach how God operates differently from how sinful man operates.… Parables proclaim that faith and salvation is solely a gift of God’s grace in Christ. Parables invite catechumens to explore more deeply the mysteries of God’s grace and salvation to them in Christ. Parables always teach reliance upon Christ and never teach reliance upon self.” (Excerpted from New Testament Catechesis) The Mustard Seed teaches us that “Christ, planted in this world by the preaching of the Gospel, looks to be the most insignificant word in all the earth, yet He produces a mighty congregation of believers among whom the Holy Spirit dwells to give the shelter of His forgiveness and salvation to all who enter her.”
The Leaven teaches us that “the Gosple spreads throughout the world and produces faith.” The Great Supper teaches us that “the call of the Gospel to receive salvation in Christ is like an invitation which is rejected because people have ‘more important things to do.’ Those who are helpless and needy receive the invitation and believe the Gospel. Those who believe they have no need reject the invitation and are excluded from salvation.” The Lost Sheep teaches us that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save the lost sinner who was not worth saving. Jesus’ passion to save the single lost soul is illustrated in this parable in which a man does the unthinkable: He leaves the many to rescue the one. This work delights the Lord and all of heaven.” The Lost Coin follows the theme of the Lost Sheep and teaches us that “Jesus’ desire to save the lost sinner is like a woman who is possessed with an obsessive desire to find something she has lost, and not to rest until she does. The Lord and His angels have no greater joy than the salvation of a sinner.” The Prodical Son is the third parable in this sequence and “teaches us about God, whose grace toward the fallen seems irresponsible and wasteful, and that all Christians live by the grace of God alone without any merit or worthiness in them.” Very simply, this parable teaches us that “The love of God in Christ calls prodigal Christians back to their baptism.” Finally, in the Unjust Steward “the Lord Jesus is compared to an unethical man who alters the accounts of his master’s creditors, so that their debt is reduced and he is received by them into their home when the master casts him out. In the Lord’s atonement for sin, He took the debt that we were responsible for paying and canceled it, so that we might receive Him for our eternal good. The axiom is true: it is beneficial to show mercy. This parable teaches that the unbeliever is often quicker than the believer to understand the potential benefits of showing mercy to others with one’s material goods. Jesus commends this understanding.” (Excerpts from New Testament Catechesis in the Lutheran Catechesis Series).
July 17, 2016Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week— Confessing Christ (Summer Stories from the Gospel of St. Luke)—This week’s readings from the Gospel of Luke highlight the teaching that the Church of Jesus Christ rests upon the confession of faith in Christ which is not only her foundation, but which is also that which is attacked. The first story of the week, Confessing Christ, begins with warnings about the works-righteous doctrine of the Pharisees, who would seek salvation by human merit, followed by an encouragement not to fear those who would kill us for our confession of faith in Christ. Martyrdom gives witness to Christ and, if we are called to endure it, we should not fear it but rather rejoice that we in our death might bear witness to the death and resurrection of Christ for the salvation of the world. Jesus warns that those who deny the confession of Christ have no place in heaven, but promises that those who confess Him will also be confessed before His Father in heaven. It is the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, that will teach us what to say in the face of persecution for the name of Jesus. The theme of confessing Christ continues throughout the remaining stories of the week. The Parable of the Rich Fool warns us of the covetousness that is a part of our sinful nature and which wars against the confession of faith in Christ. To be “rich toward God” is to cling to Christ alone. The Faithful Servant is that minister of the Gospel who, standing upon the confession of faith in Christ, faithfully preaches the Gospel and administers the Sacraments of Christ according to Jesus’ institution and for the saving benefit of sinners. Christ Brings Division and Suffering returns to the theme that where there is faith in Christ and the confession of the name of Jesus, there will be opposition and hatred directed against the Church and everyone who confesses the name of Jesus. But again, this suffering carries the promise of eternal life with Christ. The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree is an illustration of how the Lord is patient and long-suffering, desiring all to repent and believe the Gospel. A Woman Is Healed on the Sabbath concludes this week’s stories and teaches us that Jesus is the source of true Sabbath rest and that all who cling to the confession of faith in Jesus are the true sons of Abraham.
July 3, 2016Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week— The Call of the Gospel Leads Us through Death to Life (Summer Stories from the Gospel of St. Luke)—Peter’s Confession and Jesus’ Prediction of His Suffering heads off this week’s readings from the Gospel of Luke. At the heart of the Church’s confession that Jesus is the Christ is His suffering and death for the sins of the world. The Gospel is the good news that we have a gracious God in Christ, who has done all to save us through His suffering and death. The call of the Gospel to faith in Christ leads the followers of Jesus through death to life. His death, the death of the Son of God our Savior, is the source of life. This truth continues through all the readings this week. We are called by the Gospel to faith in Christ. As His body the Church, we confess that the death of Christ for our sins is the source of life. The call of the Gospel means that we may suffer with Christ, but the end of our faith is the resurrection to eternal life. In The Transfiguration of Our Lord we see clearly that the Suffering Servant is none other than the eternal Son of God, as the glory of His divine nature, and the future glory that we shall partake of, is revealed in His human nature. In A Boy Is Healed we see that the call of the Gospel delivers us from the kingdom of Satan and the forces of darkness. At the heart of Satan’s kingdom is the wickedness of a perverse generation that rejects all that Christ has done for us. To counter this perversity, Jesus again predicts His suffering and death because His work alone is our salvation. Those who humbly receive the Gospel by faith are the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. The highest worship of Christ is to receive, believe, and trust in what He has done for us in love. The call of the Gospel brings forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and eternal life to sinners. This is why we follow Him, even through suffering and death. The call of the Gospel, “Follow Me” not only carries with it the power of the Spirit to bring us to faith in Christ, but it also enables us to bear up under the same rejection, persecution, suffering and death that Jesus faced. We have no such strength of our own, but the Gospel gives us this strength, making us faithful and fit for the kingdom of God. In the power of the Gospel alone, the Sending Out of the Seventy takes place, giving us a picture of the Office of the Holy Ministry that continues to the present day in the Church. The present sufferings of this life for us as Christians are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. The call of the Gospel leads us through death to life.
June 26, 2016Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week— The Word of Mercy Gives Life (Summer Stories from the Gospel of St. Luke)—Jesus’ Word of Mercy Gives Life is a major theme in this week’s Bible Stories from Luke. The Parable of the Sower and the Seed teaches us how the Seed of the Word, the Gospel of God’s mercy in Christ is what brings a sinner to repentance and faith in Jesus for salvation. It is a miracle of the Word of Mercy whenever anyone comes to faith in Christ. Those who receive His Word are the true members of Jesus’ family. Jesus Stills the Storm teaches us how Jesus’ Word of mercy is the source of salvation as it stills the storm of divine judgment in the Law and gives the peace of sins forgiven. A Demon-Possessed Man Is Healed teaches us not only the power of Jesus’ Word of Mercy to deliver us from the kingdom of Satan, to clothe us with His righteousness, and to give us a good and sound mind, but it also reveals the insidious nature of the unbelieving sinful nature that fights against the Word of mercy and rejects Jesus, even as the citizens of the Gadarenes pleaded with Jesus to leave them. A Girl Is Raised and a Woman Is Healed reinforces the great truth of the Catechism: “Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” It is Jesus’ Word of mercy through the forgiveness of our sins that not only raises the dead to life, but which also cleanses the unclean and restores life with God. The Sending Out of the Twelve teaches us that the Office of the Holy Ministry is not only established so that Jesus’ ministry of mercy continues, but that whenever His Word is proclaimed it is just as powerful and life-giving as if Jesus spoke the Word Himself. Finally, the Feeding of the 5,000 teaches us that the preaching and teaching of God’s Word of mercy and grace leads us to Jesus, the bread of life, who is the very fount and source of forgiveness, life, and salvation for all who believe.
June 19, 2016Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week— Summer Stories for the Family from the Gospel of St. Luke—This week’s stories from Luke’s Gospel conclude chapter 6 and catechize us on what it means to live by faith in the grace of God in Christ. It is precisely because we have received God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ which we do not deserve that we live in that mercy toward our enemies and persecutors. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” is exactly what our Lord has done for us. It is the reception of God’s grace in Christ that causes the tree to be good and which brings forth the fruits of mercy toward others. “A good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit.” The fruit of the Gospel received is the manifestation of Christ’s mercy, forgiveness, and pure doctrine for the saving benefit of others. The Church and every individual Christian rests upon the foundation of Christ and His Gospel. This is the Rock upon which we stand against every assault upon our faith and life as Christians. In chapter 7 we see the power of Christ’s forgiving Word in the stories of A Centurion’s Servant who Is Healed—“I am not worthy … but say the word, and my servant will be healed”; The Raising of the Widow of Nain’s Son—Jesus took the uncleanness of sin and death to Himself, spoke the Word of life that raised the boy from the dead, giving him back to his mother as a picture of the resurrerction and the blessed reunion we will experience in heaven; John the Baptist Sent Disciples to Jesus to confirm that He was the Messiah, and they were directed to all the words and works that Jesus performed in fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures; and at the end of chapter 7, Jesus Forgives a Sinful Woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee takes us full circle to the mercy and grace of our Lord that was at the center of Jesus’ teaching in chapter 6: “Love your enemies…”