Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Body as a Sacrament

"The body, in fact, and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It has been created to transfer into the visible reality of the world they mystery hidden from eternity in God, and thus to be a sign of it." -- John Paul II

I am beginning to delve into John Paul's work on the theology of the body. Seeing the body as a sacrament --- a sign that makes the invisible visible --- is the place he starts. The secular world has devalued the body by seeing it as merely biological, blind to the theological truth the body communicates. We were created to reflect God --- to image Him --- in the world. The invisible God becomes visible through the human body, especially as created male and female.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Happiness Apart from the Father and the Son?

"But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you . . . yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.'" (Luke 15:28-29)

These words from Luke 15 and the story of the prodigal son, come from the older brother. Notice that his great desire in life is to be happy (to "celebrate") with his friends apart from his father!

How much are we like the older brother, desiring to be happy apart from God as our Father through Christ? And yet, to live apart from God and his Son is to live apart from the source of life and joy, and necessarily puts us in the realm of death, even if we think we are happy.

How foolish was the older brother and how foolish are we if our goal is to be happy apart from fellowship with the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit! True life and true joy are only found in the presence of God.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Two devotions and a hymn based on Luke 3:1-14

Luke 3:1-14

          In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

          “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
          ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
          make his paths straight.
5       Every valley shall be filled,
          and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
          and the crooked shall become straight,
          and the rough places shall become level ways,
6       and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

          7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
          10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

Morning Devotion

It is important to realize that the gospel is eschatological.  What does that mean?  The word eschatological comes from two Greek words, eschatos, which means last things, and logos, which means word.  When we say that the gospel is eschatological, then, we mean that the gospel is a word about the end of this age, which stands under God’s judgment, and the new age, which is the realm of His blessing.  Christ’s death was a judgment of the old age, and his resurrection was the beginning of the new age or future age that people enter through repentance and faith. 

Christ came to bring an end to this present age of sin and death through his death, and to bring a new age of forgiveness and the Spirit through his resurrection.  He has already done this, though his work is now hidden from the eyes of the world.  Only by faith are our eyes opened to see spiritual realities in Christ, so that we may enter into them.

But one day all the world will see, as verse 6 states, “all flesh will see the salvation of God.”  Just as Simeon took the baby Jesus into his arms and thanked the Lord, saying “my eyes have seen your salvation,” so all people will see God’s salvation when Jesus returns from heaven to judge the earth.  On that day, some will rejoice and some will mourn; some will be ready, and some unprepared; some will enter his kingdom, and some will be cast out of God’s kingdom forever into the “unquenchable fire” (see v. 17). 

This passage and the hymn below focus on how to be ready for the judgment, which has come and will come.  The good news of the gospel is that the children of the serpent who are destined for wrath (see v. 7) can be joined through repentance and faith to the seed of the woman, Jesus Christ, and enter into the blessing of the future age that is already here.  The question asked by those who believed John’s message contained a note of urgency: “What then shall we do?”  We will be wise when we too share their urgency and live each day walking with Jesus, in union with his dying and rising, living in repentance as we die to the old realm of sin and death, and living in faith as we rise in joy to live with Christ in his realm of blessing and life.

Evening Devotion

The fact that the gospel is eschatological has ethical implications.  We belong to Christ, who died and rose. We participate in his dying and rising by faith, so that when he died, we died with him, and when he rose, we rose with him.  Having died with Christ, then, to this present evil age, no longer should we live as though we belong to it.  Having risen with Christ, we should live in his new realm a new life --- the life of the age to come through the resurrected power of Christ and the gift of his Spirit given to us in grace.

The ethics of the kingdom of heaven or the age to come have earthly implications in the here and now.  All of John’s ethical exhortations in this passage concern money.  The idea seems to be that now that we have heavenly treasure in Christ and belong to the age to come, we are free to loosen our grip on earthly treasure.  This loosened grip allows us to use wealth to benefit others and advance the kingdom of God.

Money can so easily be an idol for us.  Only union with Christ in his death and resurrection can truly free us from its power and enslavement.  If we live lives of self-indulgence, we live in death according to saint Paul, who says the self-indulgent are dead, even while they live (1 Timothy 5:6).  How much better it is to die with Christ to money and self-indulgence, so that we might truly live in a world that is dead to the triune God because of its love of money.  May the Lord free us from our love of money by showing us the wondrous love of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, who in grace and mercy sent his Son to suffer and die in our place, so that we might truly live and use wealth to love Him and others.  Amen

Christ the Lord is Coming, John Proclaimed, Announced

Suggested tune: WEM IN LEIDENSTAGEN ( click on Glory Be to Jesus 158). Meter: 6565.  Based on Luke 3:1-14.  Words: William Weber, 2011. (eschatology, ethics, repentance and faith, love of money, after sermon, offering)

v. 1
Christ the Lord is coming,
John proclaimed, announced:
soon the King is coming,
sin must be renounced.

v. 2
Sin must be forsaken,
lives must bear their fruit.
Hypocrites who bear not,
cut off at the root.

v. 3
Find your life in Jesus,
in the Righteous Vine.
Let your soul lean on Him,
near His heart recline.

v. 4
Let the stingy share with
those who do not have.
Live in Christ the Righteous,
not as wicked chaff.

v. 5
Let the greedy give up,
vain and worthless things.
Find in Christ contentment,
worship Christ the King.

v. 6
Let the false, dishonest,
turn away from gain.
Seek the Lamb who suffered,
who in heaven reigns.

v. 7
Praise to You, O Jesus,
whom the Father sent.
By Your Spirit grant us,
hearts that will repent.

v. 8
Judgment soon is coming,
Jesus will return.
In repentance daily,
may his path we learn.

A Hymn for Spring

Nature Wakened from its Sleep

Suggested tune:  INNOCENTS ( click on Songs of praise the angels sang).  Meter: 7777.  Words: William Weber, 2014. (Spring, creation, second birth, creational theology)

v. 1
Nature wakened from its sleep,
God his promise He will keep.
Winter leaves and mourning too:
for creation is renewed.

v. 2
See the buds upon the trees,
feel the warmth and Spring-time breeze.
See through nature as a glass,
Jesus' beauty shining fast.

v. 3
Gently falling is the rain,
on the hills and on the plain.
Softening the hardened earth,
picture of the second birth.

v. 4
Colors burst upon our view,
birds are chirping songs anew.
We may join their happy song,
if to Jesus we belong.

v. 5
Mediator of all life,
be to us our sun and light.
Be to us the Lamb 'twas slain,
dwelling in You, our domain.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A New Hymn based on Luke 7:11-17

 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.

O Who Is Like Our Lord

Suggested tune: DARWALL'S 148TH (  Meter: 666688.  Based on Luke 7:11-17.  Words: William Weber, 2014. (after sermon, atonement, Christ's resurrection, Easter, Christ's authority)

v. 1
O who is like our Lord,
with all authority;
who merely speaks a word,
and death and darkness flee!
All praise to Christ, who is the Lord,
the resurrection and the life.

v. 2
Though He is Lord alone,
the Author of all life,
sin only is atoned
by costly sacrifice.

v. 3
His mercy brought Him down,
He came from heav'n to save.
Our sins He came to drown,
by going to the grave.

v. 4
He came to stop our tears,
that we might no more weep;
to put away our fears,
that our transgressions reap.

v. 5
O sinner, now rejoice,
if to Him you belong;
and lift your happy voice,
in everlasting song.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hymn based on Luke 2:41-52

Luke 2:49

English Standard Version (ESV)
49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?”

Jesus Fully God and Man

To the tune: NUN KOMM DER HEIDEN HEILAND ( click on Savior of the Nations Come 95). Meter: 7777.  Based on Luke 2:40-52.  Words: William Weber, 2011. (after sermon, incarnation, trinity)

v. 1
Jesus fully God and man,
came to do His Father’s plan;
came to bring us back to God,
by the shedding of His blood.

v. 2
In our nature free from spot,
wisdom in His heart was wrought,
though from all eternity,
member of the trinity.

v. 3
Joseph, Mary looked for Him,
holy Son who never sinned,
did not know where He must be,
nor the holy Mystery.

v. 4
In the Father He must be,
at His business willingly.
In His Father found delight,
always living near His side.

v. 5
Blessed are those in Jesus Christ.
In his dying, rising find:
Christ the Lord who reigns above,
with the Father and His love.

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