Catechesis Notes for the Week— The Seventh and Eighth Commandments—In the Seventh Commandment, “You shall not steal,” God wishes to protect His gift of property. Christians have a unique perspective on temporal goods. We are given our property that we might use it for the benefit of others. The Catechism declares that we are to help our neighbor “to improve and protect his possessions and income.” This is a concrete expression of love. In the Eighth Commandment, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor,” God wishes to protect the gift of a good name and reputation. We are not only called to speak the truth in love to our neighbor and for our neighbor’s benefit, but we are also called to use our tongue to cover the sin and shame of others. We are called to “defend [our neighbor], speak well of him, and explain everything [about him] in the kindest way.” The Bible Stories for the week highlight these two commandments. When Abram gave Lot the choice of the land, he demonstrated his faith in God’s promise to care for Him according to the Gospel, and he lived in generous love toward his nephew Lot. When Zacchaeus was brought to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus, the selfishness of his heart was transformed and he restored all that he had stolen from others by repaying fourfold what he had taken. In the story of Zacchaeus we see the power of the Gospel of God’s generous love in Christ transforming a sinner’s heart. When Jesus instructs us to “Bless those who curse us” He is articulating how faith in His undeserved forgiveness and love manifests itself in the way we speak about and pray for others. Mercy and undeserved loving kindness seasons our speech. Ultimately, the Law of Love is only fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus prays for His enemies who had hated Him and nailed Him to the cross. Since Jesus’ speech was so seasoned with the sweet Gospel of God’s undeserved loving kindness, how much more should we put the best construction on our neighbor’s actions and speak well of those who have sinned against us. This week’s verse is a portion of Jesus’ catechesis on the Eighth Commandment in which He instructs us that our speech should be governed by the truth of God’s Word, anything other than this is of the devil: “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”
Congregation at Prayer
September 30, 2016Download (Adobe PDF)
September 24, 2016Download (Adobe PDF)
September 11, 2016Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week— The Fifth and Sixth Commandments—In the Second Table of the Law we see especially the gifts of creation that God wishes to protect and through which He brings many blessings to us. The Fifth Commandment, “You shall not murder,” teaches us that human life is sacred. After the Flood, God instituted capital punishment for murder precisely because man was made in the image of God (Genesis 9:5-7). By the Fifth Commandment God wishes to protect human life. Inflicting physical harm upon someone, abortion and euthanasia, as well as hatred and grudge-bearing, are all forms of murder forbidden under the Fifth Commandment. The Sixth Commandment, “You shall not commit adultery,” teaches us that marriage and sexuality are gifts of God to be used and enjoyed in the way that God created them. According to God’s Word, marriage is only between one man and one woman for life. Sexuality is a gift of God that is to be used for the most intimate expression of love within the one flesh union of marriage and for the procreation of children. All forms of adultery, homosexuality, and divorce are forbidden under the Sixth Commandments. The sanctity of human life and marriage is taught by Jesus in this week’s Bible Verse. The Fifth and Sixth Commandments not only forbid murder and adultery, but they also teach how love is expressed according to these commandments. We are called to “help and be of service to our neighbor in every physical need” and “to lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do,” loving the spouse that God has given us in marriage. The Bible Stories for the week correspond to the Fifth and Sixth Commandments. Cain murders his brother Abel because his faith was not in the Lord’s grace but rather centered in his own works and his self-righteous attitude toward them. The Good Samaritan, as a picture of our Lord, loves and cares for the one who is His enemy, thereby fulfilling the Law of love. In Joseph fleeing from adultery, we see the Spirit of Christ that flees from every temptation to indulge the flesh in those things that God has not given. Even though Joseph did the right thing when he ran from Potiphar’s wife, he suffered for it; nevertheless, the Lord was with him and blessed him through his suffering and self-denial. In Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, He rebukes Satan and conquers his temptations with the only weapon any of us have: the Word of God.
September 4, 2016Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week—Labor Day—As we pray this week during our country’s observance of Labor Day, we are reminded that as Christians we see our life’s work as the means by which we serve our neighbor in love. The work that God has called us to is not principally for our own benefit, but for the benefit of our neighbor. God loves, cares for, provides and helps others through the service of Christians who live faithfully in their vocations. The strength to be faithful in our daily work comes from the Lord’s forgiving Word, and by our work for others we reflect and confess our Savior whose work brought the gift of salvation to all people.
August 28, 2016Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week—Praying through the Catechism—As we begin another year of meditation upon the Catechism, prayers will be included on the assigned Catechism sections each week in the Congregation at Prayer. These prayers will assist you in your family prayer and individual devotions at home. We learn best how to pray and meditate upon the Catechism by actually praying according to what the Catechism teaches us. In addition to these prayers and use of the Congregation at Prayer, we encourage individuals and families to obtain copies of the Lutheran Service Book hymnal for use in the home. Reading Scripture together, reciting the Catechism, learning by heart verses of Scripture, singing and praying with the hymnal is among the foremost ways in which we are preserved in the Christian faith and pass on our faith to our children.
August 21, 2016Download (Adobe PDF)
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.
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)