Peace Lutheran Church Sussex, Wisconsin

Congregation at Prayer

The Catechism: The Ten Commandments—Ninth and Tenth Commandments

September 24, 2023

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Catechesis Notes for the Week — The Glory of the Lord’s Saving Presence — At the heart of God’s glory throughout the Scriptures is His saving grace. In a Pillar of Cloud by Day and a Pillar of Fire by Night the Lord manifested Himself to the Children of Israel and led them through the wilderness. The glory cloud was the place of His saving presence. His glory was above the Mercy seat of the Tabernacle where the blood of atonement was sprinkled. At the Tabernacle, the Lord distributed His forgiveness and led them throughout their pilgrimage. After having received the entirety of God’s Law, Israel Departs from Sinai. They were to walk by faith as the Lord led them. Throughout their pilgrimage we see many times of fear, doubt, grumbling, and mistrust of the Lord’s goodness. Yet the glory of His grace did not depart from them. When the People of Israel Complain against the Lord, the Lord Feeds His Grumbling People with Quail. He did not forsake His flock, even though they had so often doubted the provisions of His grace. Even Aaron and Miriam Speak against Moses, but the Lord calls them to repentance and in love for His people reaffirms Moses as the foundational prophet of His glory that they might know the certainty of His care for them. The glory of God is not merely His power; it is, rather, most especially His grace and mercy for sinners. It is this glory of God that we see lifted up in Jesus upon the altar of the cross. Led by Him and the glory of His love, we are kept safe throughout our earthly pilgrimage.CP230924

The Catechism: The Ten Commandments—Seventh and Eighth Commandment

September 17, 2023

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Catechesis Notes for the Week — Atonement to Cover Sin — The Day of Atonement was among the most important days in the Old Testament Church Year. Atonement is payment for sin. On the Day of Atonement, the sins of the congregation were imputed to the “scapegoat” which was then driven out into the wilderness. John the Baptist connected this to Jesus who, at His Baptism, was designated the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Following this the High Priest took the blood of atonement and went into the Holy of Holies to offer the blood upon the mercy seat in payment for the sins of the people. He then went out to the congregation and sprinkled them with the blood and water of atonement for the forgiveness of their sins. This action found its fulfillment in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice upon the cross. Blood and water flowed forth from His side after He was offered up in death upon the altar of the cross. In Holy Baptism, the water and blood of Jesus covers our sin and declares us righteous. The remaining Old Testament stories for this week highlight the ministry of the Levitical priesthood which find its fulfillment in Jesus’ priesthood. By the Second Passover after Israel had left Egypt, the Old Testament worship life was established. It taught them the pervasiveness of sin, the need for the sacrifice of blood to pay for that sin, the need for a substitute to be offered up in their place, and the need for a priest who would intercede for them in the sacrifices, prayers, and teaching that they needed. Jesus is all of this for us. He is both the High Priest and the sacrifice that makes atonement for sin. He continually intercedes for us in prayer on the basis of His sacrifice. He is also our teacher who, by the preaching of His Word, instructs us throughout our earthly pilgrimage that we might faithfully live the joyful life of daily contrition and repentance.

The Catechism: The Ten Commandments—Fifth and Sixth Commandment

September 10, 2023

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Catechesis Notes for the Week — The Sacred Liturgy of the Old Testament Church — Many Christians view the Old Testament Liturgy of the Tabernacle as both works righteous and unnecessary. Some consider the material in Leviticus to be boring. Unfortunately, all of these views are misguided and fail to see how this liturgy was given by God and intended to catechize the congregation of Israel for the coming of Christ. The Burnt Offering showed the priest imputing the sin of the congregation to the sacrifice by laying his hand upon the head of the animal. In the same way, the sin of the world was imputed to Jesus. The Burnt Offering was the all-encompassing sacrifice that gave the congregation access to the presence of the Lord. In Christ’s sacrifice we all have access to God. The Sin Offering was made for specific sins, some of which were known, some of which were unknown. In any case, Christ’s offering upon the cross covers all the specific sins we have committed, even those we are unaware. The Restitution Offering taught that sin not only needed to be atoned for, but also that the devastation caused by sin needed to be made right. Jesus came to pay for sin and to restore that which had been ruined by sin. The Ministry of the Priests Begins points to the ultimate priestly ministry of Jesus. He is sanctified for His service by the shedding of His own blood on our behalf and by virtue of His atoning sacrifice upon the cross, He has the authority to intercede on our behalf before the throne of grace as the Levitical priests did for the congregation of Israel. The Profane Fire of Nadab and Abihu teaches us how seriously the Lord takes His divine service. Christ’s Word is to be preached according to the Holy Scriptures and His Sacraments are to be administered faithfully according to Christ’s institution. Anything less, profanes the Lord’s divine service even today as it did in the days of Nadab and Abihu. Every sacrifice, every offering, and every ceremonial action of the Old Testament Church finds its fulfillment in Christ and His sacrifice upon the cross. How fitting then it is that Holy Cross Day should be celebrated this week in which so many of the Old Testament prophetic allusions to Christ’s sacrifice are heard.CP230910

The Catechism—The Third and Fourth Commandments

September 3, 2023

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Catechesis Notes for the Week — Labor Day and the Law — Christians have a unique perspective on work. We work, not to serve ourselves, but to serve our neighbor in love. A man works for his wife and children. An employer serves his employer and the patrons of his business. A business owner employs many workers to help provide them with a livelihood for their families and to serve the community. This is patterned after our faith in Jesus’ work for us.  It is this perspective that gives us true and abiding contentment with our lives, not in serving ourselves but in working for others. Christians are not against good works. We are in favor of good works, and we believe in them not for our salvation but for the benefit of our neighbor. As we continue to meditate upon the Ten Commandments, this perspective on work is highlighted in the positive descriptions to the Catechism’s explanations. In short, these descriptions describe what the work of love looks like. In contrast to this, the Bible Narratives for the week recount how the Israelite’s unfaithfulness at Mount Sinai in the worship of the Golden Calf included a thoroughly self-centered disposition toward others. For their salvation, the Lord renewed His covenant with them and erected the Tabernacle as the place of His saving presence so that they could be refreshed and renewed in God’s work for them.CP230903

The Catechism: The Ten Commandments—The 1st and 2nd Commandments

August 27, 2023

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Catechesis Notes for the Week —Christ Is Fulfillment—This week begins another academic year in which we pray through the Small Catechism sequentially, beginning with the Ten Commandments and concluding the last eleven weeks of school with the Table of Duties (descriptions of what faith in Christ looks like in our several stations and callings in life). The year begins with Bible stories that move from the giving of the Law upon Mount Sinai to the Monarchy of David. This year will also include eight weeks of “Catechism Stories” highlighting the Sacraments and the annual “Church Year Stories” clustered around Christmas, Passion, Easter, and Pentecost. When we speak of Christ as the One who fulfills the Law, we most often think only of the moral Law given in the Ten Commandments. But the Law of Moses also includes all of the ceremonial Law in the Old Testament Divine liturgy. The year begins with a description of that liturgy in the Ark of the Covenant, the priestly garments, the ransom money, and the Sabbath law. As you read those stories, ask yourself the question, “How is this fulfilled in Christ?” or “How does the description of this ceremony, vestment, or Tabernacle appointment point to the person and work of Jesus?” Answering these questions is what gives this portion of the Old Testament relevance for us today as it deepens our understanding of Jesus’ work and the gifts that flow to us from Him in the New Testament Sacraments. In this sense, the Old Testament ceremonial Law was both provisional and catechetical as it taught Old Testament believers their need for Christ. Along with these readings from the Old Testament we will take up readings from the book of Hebrews. This book was written to Hebrew Christians to catechize them in how the Old Testament Law with all of its sacrifices and rites was fulfilled in Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross. He became for us the greatest High Priest and the greatest sacrifice for sin. He is the Tabernacle of God on earth, and in Him we receive true Sabbath rest.CP230827

Catechism: Confession and the Office of the Keys

August 20, 2023

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Catechesis Notes for the Week — Prepared for Christ’s Coming — We conclude our summertime readings from Matthew this week by looking forward to Christ’s Second Coming. The Parable of the Fig Tree teaches us that the signs of the times (false Christ’s, false prophets, earthquakes, famine, pestilence, wars, persecution, etc.) teach us that the new and better life in Christ is about to dawn, like the budding leaves of the fig tree that teach us that summer is near. “Heaven and earth will pass away” but Jesus’ Word will never pass away. Who is the Faithful Servant but that minister or Christian that is living faithfully according to Christ’s Word. Ministers faithfully preach, teach, and administer the Sacraments. Christians live in the station in life, confessing Jesus with faith in Him and love to the neighbor. The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins teaches us that we are prepared for Christ’s return in glory as our heavenly bridegroom if our hearts are filled with the Holy Spirit and faith in Christ. This preparedness only comes through the ongoing reception of Christ’s Word and Sacrament. The Parable of the Talents teaches us that the Lord has committed His Gospel and sacraments to His servants, that they might preach and administer them faithfully in His stead until His return. All ministers will be called to account on the Last Day for the administration of His gifts. In the Second Coming in Judgment, Jesus will separate believers and unbelievers. The works of mercy and compassion that are cited in the sheep are the works of love that flow from faith in Christ and which identify Christians as followers of Jesus. The fact that the sheep are amazed that Jesus cited such things, shows that their faith is not in such works, but that such works are the sign of living faith in Christ. When Jesus’ returns again in glory, we will hear His sweet word of comfort, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”CP230820

The Catechism: The Creed—The Third Article

August 13, 2023

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Catechesis Notes for the Week — The Final Challenges to Jesus’ Ministry and the Signs of the End — Should we honor and obey the government, or should we honor and obey Christ? The answer is YES to both! When Jesus says, Render to Caesar the Things that Are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s, He teaches us the sublime doctrine of how God rules and governs in two kingdoms. In the secular kingdom, represented by Caesar, God rules through the force of Law to protect the innocent, maintain order in society, and to punish law-breakers. God stands behind the authority of all civil rulers and they are to be honored because of this, but their authority stops at what God’s Word allows. Civil authorities have no right to bind our conscience or to demand something of us that is against God’s Word and our faith in Christ. In the spiritual kingdom, God governs the heart by faith through the ministry of the Lord’s Word and Sacraments. Here the Gospel reigns supreme and the heart is not governed by the coercion of the Law, but by faith in Christ created by the Gospel. In Questions About the Resurrection, the Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection or in life after death, challenge Jesus with a snarky question about a woman who had multiple husbands saying, “in the resurrection whose wife will she be?” Here Jesus reprimands them by clarifying that marriage does not exist in the resurrection as we know it today, but rather we will all worship the Lord in the life to come as the angels of heaven do so now. In the Greatest Commandment, Jesus teaches us that the foundation of the Ten Commandments rests upon love for God above all things and love for the neighbor as oneself. When Jesus speaks Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees, He upbraids them for what is the greatest sin of all, namely, to reject the mercy of God in the Gospel of Christ in the self-righteousness of impenitence. In Jesus Predicts the Signs of the End, He weeps over the impenitence of Jerusalem for rejecting Him and He foretells both the destruction of the Temple as God’s judgment for unbelief and the rise of false prophets and lawlessness as His Second Coming approaches. “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”CP230813

The Catechism: The Lord’s Prayer—The Sixth Petition

August 6, 2023

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Catechesis Notes for the Week — “I Desire to Show Mercy and Not to Receive Your Sacrifices” (Hosea 6:6/Matthew 9:13) The hatred that Jesus experienced by many throughout His earthly ministry was centered in a rejection of the Gospel of God’s mercy. The impenitent and the self-righteous despised Jesus’ mercy for the sinner. They did not believe that sinners were worthy; and if you were suffering an affliction of the body, they believed that you had done something to deserve it. The truth is: all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The call to repentance and faith in Jesus is a call to reject all self-reliance, confess your sins, and cling to Jesus for the gift of mercy that comes by grace alone. He desires to show mercy to us all and not to receive our sacrifices. None of us could atone for our sin or make up for what we have done. Christian faith clings to Jesus and His love for us. Out of this repentant faith, all good fruits flow. The irony concerning those who hated Jesus for His ministry of mercy, is that they hated the one who truly loved them and desired to be their Savior. This week’s Bible readings from Matthew highlight the Lord’s mercy and the phenomena of impenitence that rejects His mercy. In Two Blind Men Receive Their Sight, we hear the simple prayer of the penitent, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!” When Jesus Cleanses the Temple, He does so because the Jews had turned the order of salvation upside down. Instead of God providing for them through the sacrifices that He made for their salvation upon the cross, they adopted the works-righteous view that they could pay for their sins by their own sacrifices. Instead of the Temple sacrifices pointing to their fulfillment in Christ, they believed that they were a liturgy of salvation by works. The Fruitless Fig Tree is an illustration of how this “works-righteous faith” of Israel resulted in no true fruit of repentance and faith in God’s mercy. Therefore, they were under the curse. The Parable of the Two Sons contrasts faith in the Father’s mercy in Christ in the reception of the call to repentance versus impenitence and unbelief that refuses the call to repentance. The Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers is an illustration of Israel’s history in the Old Testament. He sent them prophet after prophet to call them to repentance and faith in His mercy, but they rejected and persecuted them all. In the end, they persecuted and martyred the Father’s Son. “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” Finally, our week ends with The Parable of the Wedding Feast. In this parable we see the idolatry of setting one’s affections on the things of this world, rather than the free gift of salvation in the King’s Son. The ministers of the King go out into the highways and byways to call both “bad and good” to the wedding feast of salvation. It must be received as a gift of God’s mercy in Christ, or it cannot be received at all. Only those who are clothed with the wedding garment of Christ’s righteousness can enter into the feast.CP230806

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

July 30, 2023

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Catechesis Notes for the Week — The Strength and Comfort of the Grace of God — “How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seen times?” This is the question that Peter asks Jesus which inspires the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. The liberality with which Jesus forgave sin and received sinners demonstrated the kind of grace that Peter had never seen in any other teacher. Jesus’ answer drives the disciples to understand that the grace of God in Christ is even greater than we can imagine. In the parable, the kingdom of God’s grace is represented by forgiveness for a debt that is impossible for the servant to ever repay. Our sin is an impossible debt before God. But in Christ it has been forgiven! If, therefore, we refuse forgiveness to a brother (who owes us far less than we have been forgiven by God) we deny the grace of God and reject the forgiveness that we ourselves have received from Christ. God’s grace in Christ is our only strength and comfort. When Jesus Teaches on Marriage and Divorce, we are to understand that it is the strength and comfort of God’s forgiving grace in Christ that alone makes it possible for us to be faithful in marriage. It is God’s grace that is on display when Jesus Blesses the Children. They could do nothing to receive His blessing but were given the blessing of forgiveness and life with Jesus as a pure gift. The kingdom of God must be received as a gift by all of us, or it cannot be received at all. The “gift character” of the Christian faith is something that the Rich Young Ruler could not grasp because he trusted in his own works for salvation. The one thing he lacked was repentant faith in Christ that trusted in Him alone for salvation. The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard is a parable of pure grace as illustrated in the various “workers in the vineyard” who are all “paid” exactly the same wage. Since Christ has paid the debt of salvation for each of us, it can only be received as a gift. In Jesus Predicts His Passion a Third Time, we learn that it is the atonement for sin by Christ upon the cross that is the foundation for the grace of God. Christ died in sacrificial love for us. His atonement won forgiveness for all our sin, and it is this forgiving grace of God in Christ that is at the center of all Christian theology and our only strength and comfort in life and in death.CP2307300

The Catechism: The Second Article of the Creed

July 23, 2023

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Catechesis Notes for the Week — “Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me” – When Jesus speaks these words to the disciples, He calls them and us to live the baptismal life. The cross always means death. When we become a Christian, we die to our sinful self in the call to “contrition and repentance that the new man might come forth and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” Our lives, as baptized Christians, are patterned after Christ’s life of death and resurrection. In the Transfiguration we not only see the deity of Christ shining through His humanity, but we also see the glory that waits us all in the resurrection. St. James the Elder, Apostle is celebrated this Tuesday. He is the first of the Twelve to be martyred for His faith. The reading from Acts 11 highlights his martyrdom, but also God’s providence that spared Peter until another day. The call to follow Jesus resulted in James’ literal martyrdom, but by it he gave witness to the suffering and death of Jesus for our salvation. When a Boy Is Healed after the Transfiguration, we see the violence that is often associated with the miracle of faith. The old nature must die; the new nature must rise. But in the end, there is peace. Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection more frequently as He draws near to Jerusalem to suffer. The disciples would later remember these words which would be a source of strength as well as a catechesis on what is at the center of all Apostolic doctrine. Finally, we see in the question In Who Is the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus sets forth a dependent child as the picture of what it is to be a Christian. His most severe condemnation is for anyone who would cause one of His little ones who believe in Him to stumble. It would be better if they had never been born. God’s love and desire to save is the motivation for going to an impenitent brother in If Your Brother Sins. Ultimately such encounters are to serve the sole purpose of bringing about repentance and restoring those who have gone astray from the faith.CP230723