Peace Lutheran Church Sussex, Wisconsin

Congregation at Prayer

Yearly Archives: 2022

The Catechism: The Third Article

December 25, 2022

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Catechesis Notes for the Week — Celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord in Devotion and Prayer — This week’s Congregation at Prayer affords us the opportunity to read and mark in Holy Scripture the Church’s minor feasts that follow Christmas: St. Stephen, the First Martyr (December 26); St. John, Apostle and Evangelist (December 27); and the Holy Innocents (December 28). Stephen was one of the first seven ministers ordained in the Church after the Apostles. His ministry included giving Word and Sacrament to Greek-speaking Jewish Christian widows. The account of Stephen in the book of Acts shows him to be a faithful preacher of Christ from the Old Testament Scriptures. His use of the Old Testament is an important guide to us in understanding that the Old Testament Scriptures, like the New, point to Jesus Christ. He condemned the unbelief and impenitence of the religious establishment of his day by comparing it to the unbelief and impenitence of Old Testament Israel. Stephen reminds us that the message of Christmas must also be the call to repentance from dead works to living faith in God’s mercy in His Son. This feast also reminds us that the joy of Christmas exists in the context of persecution, suffering, and even death for being faithful to the Gospel. The feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, underscores the great truth that we can have no faith in Christ apart from the Scriptures that are written that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ. Faith is created and rests upon the certainty of the Apostolic and prophetic witness to Jesus. The feast of the Holy Innocents depicts the depth of human sin in the evil of King Herod who will stop at nothing in his attempts to kill God. This appetite of the sinful flesh is the nature of all sinners and is the reason why “the Word became flesh” for our redemption. Baptism saves us from this horrible evil and makes us children of the Child born in Bethlehem. Remembering our baptism daily makes every day a celebration of our Lord’s birth and our rebirth in Christ: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (Titus 3 from the Catechism)CP221225

The Catechism—The Second Article

December 18, 2022

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Catechesis Notes for the Week — Advent Meditations: St. Thomas, Apostle – As we begin our final week of Advent, looking toward the celebration of the birth of the Son of God in human flesh, we hear the detailed testimony from the evangelists St. Matthew and St. Luke in the Bible Stories. Listen carefully how the evangelists cite the Old Testament Scriptures which are being fulfilled in Jesus’ birth.  Christ’s Birth Is Foretold to Joseph is anchored in the promise of the Virgin birth from the prophet Isaiah. The Nativity of Our Lord and the Birth of Christ Is Announced to Shepherds shows the connection between the presence of the Lord in the glory-cloud that was suspended between the cherubim above the mercy-seat in the Old Testament and the fulness of that glory in Jesus that shone around the shepherds as the Angel of the Lord announced His birth. Against the backdrop of Scripture fulfilled in the birth of Christ stands the Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle, on December 21. Thomas, together with his fellow apostles, witnessed the fulfillment of the entirety of the Old Testament Scriptures in everything that Jesus said and did. Thomas’ insistence that he must see the resurrected Lord was proper. As an Apostle, he could not bear witness to that which he had not seen. This teaches us that everything recorded in the Apostolic witness of the New Testament is what the Apostles heard and saw from Jesus in fulfillment of the Scriptures.CP221218

The Catechism: The Lord’s Prayer—Fifth and Sixth Petitions

December 11, 2022

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Catechesis Notes for the Week — Advent Meditations: St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist – This week’s Bible Stories turn to the narratives in the New Testament leading up to the birth of Christ. Gabriel Appears to Zachariah in the Temple while he is officiating as priest and announces to him that he and Elizabeth would be the parents of the forerunner of the Christ who would prepare His way. After six months, the Angel Gabriel appears to the Virgin Mary in the Annunciation of Our Lord, “announcing” that she would be the mother of the Son of God—the promised Christ, the Son of David, the Seed of Abraham, and Seed of the Woman—who would redeem us from sin, Satan, and death. In the Visitation, Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth who is six months pregnant with John the Baptist. The Word of the Lord through the Angel Garbiel is confirmed. Mary confesses the Magnificat by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and both Elizabeth and John confess the faith with joy. The final story of the week is the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. John, who would prepare the way for Jesus, is born according to the Lord’s promise. His father Zachariah, a one-time questioner of the Lord’s Word, has his heart and lips opened by the Lord to confess his faith and announced that the child’s name would be John, which means the Lord is gracious. Against this backdrop of narratives, Wednesday’s Advent meditation celebrates the Feast of St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist. John, the son of Zebedee and brother of James the Elder, was one of the original Twelve called to be Apostles. In addition to his apostleship where he would bear witness to all the events of Jesus ministry, including especially his baptism, death, and resurrection, John was called to be the disciple who would take care of Mary after Jesus’ death and resurrection. He is referred to as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” not because Jesus did not love all the disciples, but as a sign to us poor and lowly sinners who often doubt his love, that He loves us too. It is very appropriate during this season of Advent, in which we prepare to celebrate the Lord’s incarnation, that we meditate upon John’s words in the first chapter of his Gospel: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).CP221211

The Catechism: The Lord’s Prayer—Fourth Petition

December 4, 2022

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Catechesis Notes for the Week Advent Meditations: St. Stephen, Martyr – During the second week of Advent our daily Bible narratives focus upon Jacob’s journey back to the land of promise where he will meet his brother Esau. Over twenty years earlier his brother vowed to kill him, but in the end the mercy of God won the day, and Jacob and Esau were reunited in the Lord’s forgiveness. This week’s advent meditation focuses upon St. Stephen, the First Martyr in the New Testament. Normally this feast is celebrated the day after Christmas which brings a sense of sobriety to our Christmas celebration. Since, however, Advent celebrates living by faith in this vale of tears, it is appropriate to celebrate this feast ahead of time.

“St. Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5), was one of the Church’s first seven ministers, chosen and ordained after the Apostles. He was called to especially minister to the Greek-speaking Jewish Christian widows who were being neglected (Acts 6:2-5). Their ministry enabled the Apostles to give their full attention to the proclamation of the Gospel to which they were called as direct witnesses of the Lord Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection. The central authority of the Office of the Ministry is to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments. We see the Seven doing exactly that. Philip, another one of the Seven, catechized and baptized Simon the Sorcerer and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Stephen preached the Gospel in the Synagogue of the Freedmen (the free Hellenized Jewish citizens of the empire). It was this faithful preaching of the Gospel, whereby he demonstrated that Jesus of Nazareth was, in fact, the promised Messiah predicted in the Old Testament, for which Stephen was martyred. During his martyrdom we see a faithful Christian, not only in his preaching, but also in his faithful witness to God’s mercy in Christ as he prays for his enemies, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”CP221204

The Lord’s Prayer — Second Petition and Third Petition

November 27, 2022

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Catechesis Notes for the Week — Advent Meditations: St. Andrew, Apostle – During this first week of Advent our daily Bible narrative meditations will continue to focus on the patriarchs, particularly Jacob and his dealings with Laban. Our Advent midweek divine services throughout the season will focus upon four saints: St. Andrew, St. Stephen, St. John, and St. Thomas. Saints’ days in the Lutheran tradition especially highlight the amazing gifts that God worked through these sinful men and women by His grace. They also, during Advent, give us the opportunity to reflect upon how we are to live as Christians in this sin-darkened world as we look forward in hope to the Second Coming of Christ. “St. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was born in the Galilean village of Bethsaida. Originally a disciple of St. John the Baptist, Andrew then became the first of Jesus’ disciples (John 1:35-40). His name regularly appears in the Gospels near the top of the lists of the Twelve. It was he who first introduced his brother Simon to Jesus (John 1:41-42). He was, in a real sense, the first home missionary, as well as the first foreign missionary (John 12:20-22). Tradition says Andrew was martyred by crucifixion on a cross in the form of an X. In AD 357, his body is said to have been taken to the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople and later removed to the cathedral of Amali in Italy. Centuries later, Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland. St. Andrew’s Day determines the beginning of the Western Church Year, since the First Sunday in Advent is always the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew’s Day.” – Excerpted from the Treasury of Daily Prayer.CP221127

The Catechism: The Lord’s Prayer—Introduction and First Petition

November 20, 2022

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Catechesis Notes for the Week—The Blessing of the Lord’s Grace—Esau had despised his birthright. Jacob was a deceiver who coveted his brother’s position. Neither son of Isaac deserved their father’s blessing. But in the scheming and conniving of the story of Isaac Blesses Jacob we learn that in every way God’s promise of salvation in Christ rests upon God’s grace alone for the unworthy sinner. Jacob was, no doubt, proud of himself for believing that he had tricked his father into giving him the blessing. But in reality, it was God’s will from before the birth of Jacob and Esau that Jacob should receive the blessing. This teaches us that God’s blessing rests upon His grace for the sinner and not upon any merit, position, standing, or priority of birth order. Esau Does Not Receive the Blessing to be the “son of the promise” in the lineage of Jesus, but God’s favor to Esau was, nevertheless, included in Jacob’s blessing because, according to the promise, the Seed of Abraham would bring the blessing of salvation to all nations. Over the course of his lifetime, Jacob would be humbled, and his pride would be crucified. He would learn to depend upon the grace of God when he might have otherwise been tempted to believe that he deserved it. In Heaven Is Opened at Bethel, Jacob learned the important lesson that wherever God’s Word of grace is proclaimed, there the Lord is present with His gifts. This is why Jacob named that place Bethel, which means “House of God.” In Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel, the conniving trickster was outfoxed by his uncle Laban who gave Jacob Leah instead of Rachel. The competition for Jacob’s affections by the four women that gave birth to all his children teaches us the reality of human sin and the frailty of the flesh for which we all need a Savior. Despite the rivalry and bitterness between their mothers, the Children of Jacob would share in the gift of salvation by grace that came through God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This story teaches us that all human life is sacred. All human life is the object of God’s love in Christ and in the promise of His Gospel.CP221120

The Catechism: The Lord’s Prayer—Introduction & First Petition

November 13, 2022

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Catechesis Notes for the Week —God’s Promise to Abraham Is Fulfilled in the Cross—At the heart of God’s promise to Abraham is the suffering and death of Jesus, the ultimate Son of the Promise, who by His death would destroy death and bring forth the resurrection of the body to eternal life. In the Sacrifice of Isaac, Abrahm’s Faith Is Revealed. The event in which the Lord calls Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the son whom he loved, we see a picture of how God the Father would offer up His only begotten Son to the death of the cross. The call to sacrifice Abraham was not a test of the strength of Abraham’s faith, but “a test” that revealed that, by the grace of God, Abraham knew that even if Isaac was put to death, he would rise again because of God’s promise. We learn that this was Abraham’s faith in the words of Hebrews 11:17-19, “By faith Abrahm, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” Additional Gospel themes are also seen in this narrative, as a ram is caught in a thicket to be the substitute sacrifice in place of Isaac. In the same way, Jesus becomes our substitute in His death upon the cross. The stories of the patriarchs continue to unfold throughout the week in Abraham Sends for a Bride for Isaac. Abraham was concerned more than anything else that Isaac’s bride would share Isaac’s faith in the promise. Rebekah is a gift of God who would be Isaac’s helpmeet. In the account of Jacob and Esau, when Esau Sells His Birthright, we not only see in Esau one who made light of the promise of salvation, but in Jacob (who received the promise) that pattern of yet another man who did not deserve it. Jacob was chosen as the second born son of Isaac, not because of his standing in the family or because he had no sin, but because of God’s grace alone. In the story of Isaac and Abimelech, we see the same patterns of fear and deception that we saw with Abraham and Sarah, but we again see God’s faithfulness to them as His chosen ones.CP221113

The Catechism: The Creed — The Third Article

November 6, 2022

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Catechesis Notes for the Week —The Faithful Grace of God—After 25 years of waiting, the Lord came to Abraham and Sarah in the form of the Three Visitors who announced to them that within the year the Son of the Promise, Isaac, would finally be born. Throughout those 25 years, Abraham and Sarah learned dependence and what it means that “the just shall live by faith” in God’s promise of salvation in Christ (Habakkuk 2:4). The call to Abraham was the call of God’s grace in the Gospel of Christ for all people. For this reason, Abraham Prays for Sodom, the wicked city, interceding for the city for the sake of those in the city who were righteous by faith in the promise. In the end, though God is merciful and longsuffering, Sodom and Gomorrah Are Destroyed because of the rejection of the Lord’s Word and the refusal to repent. In the story of Abraham and Abimelech, we learn that there was truth in Abraham’s previous statements that Sarah was his sister. Though a believer in the promise, Abraham was not immune to the fear that others might kill him for Sarah if they found out that she was his wife. Despite Abraham’s fear, the events surrounding Abraham’s encounter with Abimelech put God’s grace on full display. The Lord promised to protect him, to bless him, and to provide for him, not because of Abraham’s worthiness but because of His love for Abraham and Sarah in the Promise. He promises the same to us in our baptism. By faith in the grace of God, Abimelech appeals to Abraham to intercede for him, and Abraham does pray for Abimelech because of his faith in the promise of God’s grace. Isaac is Born and Ishmael Is Cast Out is a story that illustrates God’s faithfulness and grace in the birth of the Son of the Promise, but yet appears too harsh in the casting out of Ishmael. What does this mean? Ishmael is cast out, not because the call of God’s grace is not for him, but rather to teach that salvation is entirely based upon God’s grace in the promise and not at all upon any work of man or standing in the family. The Scriptures develop this theme in the New Testament, Galatians 4:21-31, wherein the son of the bondwoman illustrates an attempt to gain salvation according to the works of the Law from Mount Sinai verses the gift of salvation by grace that comes from the Son of the Promise from the heavenly Jerusalem. When it comes to our salvation, there can be no mingling together of works and grace. Salvation comes by grace alone.   CP221106

The Catechism: The Creed—The Third Article

October 30, 2022

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Catechesis Notes for the Week — This week we celebrate the Reformation and All Saints’ Day. These two feasts appropriately go together. Reformation celebrates the recovery of the Gospel, that sinners are justified (declared righteous) by grace alone, through faith, for Christ’s sake. This justification is what makes all saints “saints.” Saints are sinners who are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. This is the teaching of the epistle for Reformation: “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the Law.” (Romans 3:21-23, 28) The Gospel for Reformation continues this theme in the words of Jesus: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).  The Word of Jesus calls us to repentance and declares us righteous on account of what He has done for us in His death upon the cross.  The righteousness of Christ—the forgiveness of all our sins—is received by faith alone and sets us free from punishment and the judgment of the Law to live in the joyous freedom that only Christ’s forgiving Word can give us. These celebrations correspond well with the Bible readings for the week that orbit around Abraham. Abraham was called to faith by a promise. He believed in the promise and the Lord reckoned him righteous on account of the Promised Seed.CP221030

The Catechism: The Creed—The Second Article

October 23, 2022

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Catechesis Notes for the Week — The Second Article and the Call of Abram—During this second week of meditation upon the person and work of Christ under the Second Article, we read the Tower of Babel in which we see the idolatry of man who begins to erect a monument to himself. The Lord confused the languages of mankind and scattered humanity as a testimony to what man will become without reliance upon his God and Savior. The origin of language, nation, and differences in people groups can be traced back to the judgment of God at the tower. The Call to Abram should be understood as the call of the Gospel. Abram was called to leave his idolatry and in repentant faith to follow the Lord to the Promised Land (a picture of heaven). Every promise of salvation to the Old Testament patriarchs highlights an aspect of the Gospel and our call to faith in Jesus. The call of the Gospel rests upon God’s grace, so it caused Abram to be generous in sharing the land with his nephew in the account of Abram and Lot. It is the call of the Gospel that moved Abram in love to rescue Lot. It is Abram’s faith in God’s promise that in his Seed (Jesus, the Son of God) all the nations of the earth will be blessed with the gift of salvation in Christ that Abram Pays a Tithe to Melchizedek (whose name means “king of righteousness”). Melchizedek is a type of Christ. Thus, every Old Testament story this week connects us to the person and work of our Lord Jesus, the blessed Seed of Abraham who brings the blessing of salvation to the world.CP221023 corrected