A Promise Wrapped in a Name

November 29, 2010

“’The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.'” – Jeremiah 33:14-16

Most parents spend a lot of time choosing a name for their child. One reason for their careful consideration is that a name says something about a person. For many people, certain characteristics come to mind when they hear various names. For example, people may be inclined to trust someone with the name “Lincoln,” and when they hear the name “Tiffany,” they might think of someone who is wealthy.

When God promised the coming of his Savior, he wanted to make sure that his people would have a clear picture of what he would be like, so he gave him a name that described him well. He announced through the prophet Jeremiah that the Savior would be called the LORD Our Righteousness.

His name is the LORD. Capital L-O-R-D, Yahweh, a name reserved for God himself. He would be the “I Am” – the one who always is – the God of free and faithful grace, who always keeps his promises and saves his people. His name is also “Our Righteousness.” Instead of demanding a righteousness that we don’t have and can’t offer, he would be our righteousness, so that we would have the peace and favor of God.

God’s Old Testament people looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, but we have seen the LORD Our Righteousness in the person of Jesus Christ. As we look forward to celebrating Christmas, let’s rejoice that the baby born in the manger was wrapped up in a name that tells us so much about him. He is our LORD, and he has brought us righteousness. There is no greater reason to celebrate.

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, thank you for telling us so much about your Son and our Savior. Help us to stay focused on what is most important this Christmas season. Give us a faith that continually looks to the baby born in the manger, who is the LORD Our Righteousness. Amen.


First Sunday in Advent

November 28, 2010

Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin

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Thanksgiving Eve Divine Worship

November 24, 2010

Evening Prayer, Page 250, Lutheran Worship

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“Now Thank We All Our God”

November 22, 2010

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Now thank we all our God
With hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom the world rejoices;
Who from our mother’s arms
Hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours today.

From Now Thank We All Our God by Martin Rinkhart (1586-1649)

The Thirty Year War was a long, complex, and devastating war that touched most of Europe. Even though its conclusion led to many positive and long-standing changes in Europe, the loss of life was shocking. Nevertheless, as is so often the case in the course of traumatic events, some great people emerged through the trials.

Born a cooper’s son in Eilenburg, Saxony, Martin Rinkhart enjoyed a good education, eventually graduating from Leipzig in theology. Like the other Martin, Luther himself, Rinkhart was a good musician and entered ministry as a Lutheran cantor, then as a deacon in Eisleben. In 1617, he returned to his home as archdeacon of Eilenburg.

The next year, the horrors of the Thirty Years War began. At one and the same time, Eilenburg was a good place to be and a bad place to be. It was a good place to be because it was a walled city that became a refuge for the war-ravaged population. It was a bad place to be because in a fortified city, disease can run rampant. For some time, Rinkhart was the only pastor in Eilenburg because the others had fled or died. It is reported that in 1637 a great pestilence swept through the city that left 8,000 dead, including Rinkhart’s own wife. In the midst of his own grief, Rinkhart conducted nearly 5,000 funerals, sometimes leading as many as 40 or 50 per day.

During the closing years of the war, Eilenburg was overrun or besieged three times, once by the Austrian army and twice by the Swedes. On one occasion, the Swedish general demanded a payment of 30,000 thalers (a German coin). Rinkhart served as the intermediary, pleading that the suffering city could not afford such a tribute. His earnest pleas, however, were rejected. Turning to his companions, the pastor said, ‘Come, my children, we can find no mercy with man; let us take refuge with God.’ On his knees, he led his people in such fervent prayer and singing that the general radically reduced the levy.

How is it that this man could write the words of this famous hymn – Now Thank We All Our God – published in 1636, in the eye of the great suffering? Hadn’t the good pastor become so discouraged and desensitized by the stark tragedies around him that thanksgiving was the last thing on his mind? In some amazing way, he had simply come to believe that God’s great providence and grace are always good, no matter what the circumstances, though he did acknowledge the hardships:

O may this bounteous God
Through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts
And blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace,
And guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills
In this world and the next.

You may not be ready for Thanksgiving because you’ve had a tough go of things and have come to the unalterable conclusion that there is nothing to be thankful for. But, whether you feel like it or not, Thanksgiving is coming, which reminds us that circumstances don’t have to deter us from giving thanks. As for Rinkhart, it so much depends upon what we look at, and how we look at it. But through the eyes of Jesus, we can always be truly thankful.

Prayer for Thanksgiving: Almighty God, Your mercies are new every morning and You graciously provide for all our needs of body and soul.  Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may acknowledge Your goodness, give thanks for Your benefits, and serve You in willing obedience all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Christ the King Sunday

November 21, 2010

Divine Service II, Page 158, Lutheran Worship

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Don’t Be Deceived

November 15, 2010

Jesus said, “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.” – Mark 13:5, 6

The real thing. The original. The one and only. These slogans are often used to sell products from food and beverages to clothing and appliances. The words are meant to convey a certain level of confidence and inherent value. Still, a wise shopper knows to look beyond the slogans and make a careful examination, because slogans, like appearances can be deceiving.

The same can be said about many who claim to really understand who Jesus was and what he did. They write books and produce documentaries. They even make numerous appearances to promote their conclusions. Many of these “experts” often use phrases like the “historical” Jesus, the “real” Jesus, and the “complete” Jesus. These slogans are used to allay doubts and offer a perception of the truth. Unfortunately, many of them are shallow and nothing more than personal opinion. They are deceptions at best.

The truth I need comes only from the Bible. Here I have God’s own testimony regarding Jesus. In the pages of the Scriptures I have the complete picture of who Jesus is, and what he did for me. There are no slogans, no gimmicks, and no catchy phrases. God’s testimony is simple, clear, and it is true. It is the testimony I need to trust.

My hope of life beyond this life depends on Jesus being the very Savior God said he would send. Jesus is the one who lived a perfect life as my substitute. Jesus is the one who died on the cross to fulfill God’s just punishment for my sin. Jesus is the one who overcame death and the grave to offer me life in heaven. This is the truth which proclaims what I need to know. It is also the truth which shatters illusions and uncovers deceptions.

I know I live in a world that offers many deceptions. I know that Satan still seeks to deceive me. I also know the truth that God gives me in his Word. It is this truth that will keep me from being deceived. It is this truth that will keep me confident of my Savior and the life he has secured for me.

Prayer: Oh gracious Lord, I thank you for your precious Word. It is that Word which leads me away from deception and leads me to the truth that gives eternal life. Open my eyes to the truth concerning Jesus, and make it my comfort and my confidence. Amen!

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost

November 14, 2010

Matins, Page 208, Lutheran Worship

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