Catechesis Notes for the Week — Psalm 87—A Prayer of Rejoicing in the Holy Christian Church—Zion is a type of the New Testament Church. Mount Zion was the location of Jerusalem and the Temple to which people of all nations were to be drawn for the gift of salvation and new life. Psalm 87 prophecies of how the Lord loves His Church, builds His Church, and will draw sinners of all nations into her. The new birth of Holy Baptism makes of people of many tribes, nations, and languages one people in Christ: “This one and that one were born in her and the Most High Himself shall establish her.” The Lord writes their names on the ledger of the Book of Life. In the Church there is deliverance from sin, death, and everlasting destruction. The Church’s choirs and musicians sing and rejoice in the Lord’s salvation in time and eternity.CP200802
Congregation at Prayer
July 26, 2020Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week — Psalm 86—A Prayer for Mercy that Meditates upon the Lord’s Goodness—In psalm 86 David prays for help yet confesses himself to be holy. He says that he is poor and needy yet claims to be the Lord’s servant. How can these things contrasting pairings be true? The prophet says, “the just shall live by faith” in the Lord’s promise of salvation (Habakkuk 2:4). To be a Christian is to trust in the Lord and not in myself. To be a Christian is to confess my sin and to receive the Lord’s forgiveness. To be a Christian is to believe that I am poor and needy in myself yet holy and righteous in Christ. The Christian faith believes in what God’s Word declares about myself and trusts in what God gives me in Christ. The just shall live by faith in the Lord Jesus and His suffering, death, and resurrection for our salvation. For this reason, David’s prayer of faith not only cries out to the Lord for forgiveness for his sin and deliverance from his enemies, but also rejoices in the myriad gifts of the Lord’s salvation. “Preserve my life…be merciful to me…You are good…Give ear to my prayer…You are great, and do wondrous things…Teach me Your way, O LORD…You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth…You Lord, have helped and comforted me.” Psalm 86 teaches us how to pray with boldness and confidence. Even though we are undeserving sinners, yet we are the objects and recipients of the Lord’s mercy and love.
July 19, 2020Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week — Psalm 85—A Prayer for Mercy for God’s People—Even when the Lord punished Israel and Judah with captivities that scattered them during times of captivity, He did so out of love to bring about their repentance. Psalm 85 speaks of the grace of God. He has been “favorable to His land” which means that His grace is upon the people whom He has chosen. He brings us back from the captivity of sin. He forgives our sin. He takes away His wrath. He turns from the fierceness of His anger. He causes us to hear again the sweet words of His forgiveness, mercy, and truth. “Righteousness and peace have kissed each other” speaks of how Christ’s righteousness has brought about our peace with God. When we are troubled in our conscience about whether or not God can forgive, restore, and bring us back from the folly of our wayward ways, Psalm 85 stands as a testimony to His abiding mercy and love for us.
July 12, 2020Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week — Psalm 84—A Prayer of Delight in the Lord’s Divine Service—The Patriarch Jacob rightly confessed “the LORD is in this place” when he heard and received the Lord’s Word in the wilderness. Wherever the Word of Christ is preached in its truth and purity and the Sacraments are administered according to Christ’s institution, it is a “Bethel”— House of God. This is what makes the Tabernacle of the Lord so lovely and why we long to go to the house of God. Faith yearns to receive the Lord’s Word and Supper, and so the psalmist prays, “My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” This yearning is expressed in the basic prayer of faith at the beginning of the Divine Service: “Lord, have mercy upon us!” It is a prayer which believes that everything that we need both spiritually and temporally flow from the Lord’s grace which is offered to us in the Word. The Word of God is like a spring of living water, or rain that covers the earth with pools that refresh the soul. “Blessed is the man whose strength is in You!” Throughout our earthly pilgrimage it is the Lord’s Word that sustains, comforts, and refreshes us. Interestingly, the psalmist draws attention to how even the sparrows could nest in the Old Testament Tabernacle. It is a sign of how the Church of Christ benefits the whole world, even those who do not realize the importance of the Church’s presence for the welfare of the whole earth. May the words of psalm 84 ever be our prayer: “A day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness…O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You!”
July 5, 2020Download (Adobe PDF)
|Catechesis Notes for the Week — Psalm 83—Prayer for the Church Against Oppression from Her Enemies—The Old Testament church often found herself surrounded by enemies, foreign powers, who sought to destroy both the nation of Israel and her faith. The persecuted and suffering Church of the New Testament needs to read the psalms as applying to our situation today, as the false teachings of the world don’t merely stand alongside the teachings from God’s Word, but actually fight against it. The world is full of many false teachings, but they often have one thing in common: a malevolent hatred of the Gospel of Christ and the confession of Christianity. Tolerance in our world abounds for every other teaching and point of view except Christianity. Christians often experience the condition of being in the minority and the object of societal discrimination and the bigotry of political correctness. Against this backdrop, the psalmist prays, “Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace, and do not be still, O God! For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head… They have consulted together with one consent; they form a confederacy against You.” We learn from this psalm prayer that the Lord will deal with the enemies who attack the Church. We are simply called to be faithful and to entrust ourselves to the care and protection of Him who suffered all for our redemption. “O my God, make them like the whirling dust, like chaff before the wind! Let them be confounded and dismayed forever; yes, let them be put to shame and perish, that men may know that You, whose name alone is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.”CP200705|
June 28, 2020Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week — Psalm 82—A Prayer for Comfort against Tyrants—Luther writes: “The 82nd psalm is a psalm of comfort against the tyrants who oppress those in misery… After the Gospel or the ministry, there is on earth no better jewel, no greater treasure, nor richer alms, no fairer endowment, no finer possession than a ruler who makes and preserves just laws. Such men are rightly called gods…. But worldly government will make no progress. The people are too wicked, and the lords dishonor God’s name and Word continually by the shameful abuse of their godhead. Therefore, he prays for another government and kingdom in which things will be better, where God’s name will be honored, His Word kept and He Himself be served; that is the kingdom of Christ…. For Christ practices aright the three divine virtues…. He advances God’s Word and the preachers of it; He makes and keeps law for the poor; He protects and rescues the miserable. The service of God in Christendom is justice, peace, righteousness, life, salvation. Of this kingdom of Christ, the Gospels, and the Epistles of the apostles, preach and testify.” From Reading the Psalms with Luther, CPH. CP200628
June 21, 2020Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week — Psalm 81—Luther on Psalm 81: “The 81st psalm is a psalm of prayer. It is a song sung and preached in the harvest season at the Festival of Tabernacles, calling the people back to the First Commandment, that they should have only one God—He who had brought them out of the land of Egypt—and should praise and call on no other. They did not keep this command, but instead their mouth and instruction were full of idolatry, whereas they ought to have been full of the true God and should have always spoken of Him alone. This psalm teaches us to believe in Christ and cling to Him alone and never commend any work as righteous before God. We also should have our mouth full of Christ, yet we do not do this. Each one follows his own self-conceit and idol.” Martin Luther, Reading the Psalms with LutherCP200621
June 14, 2020Download (Adobe PDF)
|Catechesis Notes for the Week — Psalm 80—A Prayer for the Church’s Restoration—Psalm 80 depicts the Old Testament Church as “a vine that the Lord brought out of Egypt.” He cast out the nations before them and planted them in the promised land. He established His vine in the land and “the hills were covered with its shadow.” “She sent out her boughs to the Sea, and her branches to the River.” But Israel rebelled against the Lord, so “He broke down her hedges, so that all who pass by the way pluck her fruit.” Because of her unfaithfulness, He permitted her to be uprooted by the unclean boar and the wild beasts. Psalm 80 is a metaphor for the New Testament Church. Unfaithfulness to the Lord’s Word often causes the Church to suffer oppression at the hands of the enemies of the Church who do not believe the Gospel. If the Church loses her distinctiveness as a people who preach the Word of God in all its fullness and who confesses that there is salvation in no one else but the Lord Jesus, she has nothing to offer the world and has lost her first love. Psalm 80 begins, therefore, as a prayer to the Lord for deliverance from the Church’s own shortsightedness and prays for the restoration of His vine. It appeals to the Lord who met Israel for her salvation in the blood of atonement that was offered upon the mercy seat between the cherubim in the temple of the Lord. The Church looks to the blood of Christ—the location of God’s mercy and restoration. “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel… Restore us, O God; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved! O Lord God of hosts, how long will You be angry against the prayer of Your people?” Oppression, suffering, persecution, and distress often befall the New Testament Church to purge out unbelief and to establish a faithful vine from the remnant of the repentant faithful. Ultimately, the Church’s salvation is only found in “the Man of Your right hand, the Son of Man whom You made strong for Yourself.” The eyes of faith must look only to Christ for deliverance from our own shortsightedness and rebellion against God’s Word, “then we will not turn back from You; revive us, and we will call upon Your name … and we shall be saved!”CP200614|
June 7, 2020Download (Adobe PDF)
|Catechesis Notes for the Week —The Holy Trinity and the Creation of Mankind—On Holy Trinity Sunday the Church celebrates, confesses, and meditates upon the mystery of the Holy Trinity. “The catholic (historic, universal, biblical) faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance. For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Holy Spirit is another. But the Godhead of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal” (Athanasian Creed). That God is Triune—one God in three persons—has important implications for humanity and how we understand marriage and family. Mankind is created in the image of the Triune God to be fruitful and to have dominion over the creation. There is an “ordering” in mankind’s creation. “Man was created by God in two genders, male and female: the man was created first from the dust of the ground and the woman was created from the rib in man’s side. This does not show a ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’ quality between the man and the woman, but an ordering in this relationship of love between two different individuals. It shows both the uniqueness of each person and the corporate and dependent nature of their relationship. This ordering is a reflection of the ordering between the three persons of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: ‘None is before or after another; none is greater or less than another’ (Athanasian Creed), and yet, the Son is ‘begotten of His Father’ and the Holy Spirit ‘proceeds from the Father and the Son’ (Nicene Creed). Holy Scripture teaches that ‘the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God’ (1 Corinthians 11:3).”—The order of creation, Lutheran Catechesis, p. 311.|
May 31, 2020Download (Adobe PDF)
Catechesis Notes for the Week —The Feast of Pentecost celebrates the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified as God and Lord. The Holy Spirit is sometimes called the Spirit of love for it is by the Spirit that we are drawn into the fellowship of the love of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit is always the Spirit of Christ who shines upon the person and work of our Savior, calls us to repentance and faith, and bestows upon us every blessing that Jesus won for us. The Spirit’s means or instruments by which He does His work are the Gospel and Sacraments of Christ.
The Third Article of the Creed—“Neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe in him and take him as our Lord, unless these were first offered to us and bestowed on our hearts through the preaching of the Gospel by the Holy Spirit. The work is finished and completed; Christ has acquired and won the treasure for us by his sufferings, death, and resurrection, etc. But if the work had remained hidden and no one knew of it, it would have been all in vain, all lost. In order that this treasure might not be buried but put to use and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to be published and proclaimed, in which he has given the Holy Spirit to offer and apply to us this treasure of salvation. Therefore to sanctify is nothing else than to bring us to the Lord Christ to receive this blessing, which we could not obtain by ourselves…Further we believe that in this Christian church we have the forgiveness of sins, which is granted through the holy sacraments and absolution as well as through all the comforting words of the entire Gospel. Toward forgiveness is directed everything that is to be preached concerning the sacraments and, in short, the entire Gospel and all the duties of Christianity. Forgiveness is needed constantly, for although God’s grace has been won by Christ, and holiness has been wrought by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word in the unity of the Christian church, yet because we are encumbered with our flesh we are never without sin.” The Large Catechism, Third Article CP200531