What makes you tick

1 Corinthians 1_9

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

If you want to know what a person is really passionate about, just listen to them as they speak. It doesn’t take very long to figure out what makes them tick; it’s that one thing they continue to bring up repeatedly. The apostle Paul was relentless in sharing the Gospel of Christ throughout the world. Being among God’s people and rejoicing in the promise of life in God’s kingdom is certainly what fueled Paul’s fire.

Paul endured hardship, imprisonment and even shipwrecks, yet nothing seemed to dampen his excitement for telling others about the power of God’s love made manifest in Christ’s victory over sin and death. The world was desperate to receive the good news of God’s salvation, and Paul was especially willing to proclaim it.

Today, it is no secret that the world is desperate for God’s Word. As traditional values erode and the authority of Holy Scripture is not as widely recognized, the Gospel of Jesus Christ continues to be shared by those especially willing to proclaim it. Some endure hardship, others face persecution. But like Paul, they are relentless in their mission.

Most Christians do not face such difficulties. Still, being among the people of God, rejoicing in the promise of God’s grace, and sharing the good news of Christ makes many Christians tick. Listen, God is calling. He is calling Christians to follow the example of Paul, to speak with passion, His promise of grace and peace to a world so desperate to receive it.

Prayer:  Almighty God, make us bold in our proclaiming your message of grace through Jesus Christ. Amen.

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God will help

Luke 16_24

Luke 16:19-31

He is dirty, has a long scraggly beard and holds a sign in his hands that simply said “Hungry. Anything will help.” His name is Lazarus.

Does this sound familiar? Likely you have driven past him as you entered the parking lot at the shopping center or fast food restaurant. Responding to his predicament is a tough call. On one hand, Jesus teaches us that we are to care for the needy, feed the hungry and offer help to the poor. One the other hand, we don’t know if the person begging from us is truly in need or if they are trying to take advantage of a person’s generosity.

Street corners and parking lots are a haven for beggars. For some it is food for their children. With others, gas for the car, or medicine for a particular ailment. Today, Jesus teaches us that we should be kind to those in need, sharing what we have for the sake of the poor and hungry without judging them. The question is, do we help?

Focusing on the man we drove by as we entered the parking lot consider this, in Hebrew, the name Lazarus means “God will help.” No, not every beggar is in such need. We won’t always be willing to let go of those precious dollars we worked so hard to get. But we can act in good faith, for we have Moses and the prophets to teach us. We have God’s commandments and we have the parables of Jesus. The truth is, God will help. He helps Lazarus, and he will help us too.

Prayer: Father in heaven, give us hearts for compassion, and the will to be generous to those in need. Amen.

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Abiding in the vine

John 15_4

John 15:1-8

Fruit is actually a plant’s excess. It is the overflow of the life that a plant has taken into itself. The more life that a plant takes into itself, the more fruit it produces. Branches don’t have to force themselves to blossom; rather, because they are fed from the vine, they cannot help it. Branches simply need to be in the right place and reap the benefits of the gardener’s care.

For the people of God, the right place is connected to the vine, which is Christ the Lord. All who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he gave his life for the sake of sinners, and that through him God extends mercy and grace are branches of the vine. Those who believe his Word, pray and read Holy Scripture remain connected to the vine.

Branches are expected to bear fruit. Connected to the vine, we cannot help but to do so. As stated earlier, fruit is the overflow of the life that goes into a plant. As we branches of the vine of Christ learn from our teacher and follow his example, the abundant life given through Christ produces a harvest of fruit for the kingdom.

Within our midst, God has planted his vine called the Christ. Through our Baptism, he has claimed us and grafted us onto his vine. All we need to grow is provided by God, the vinedresser. Through Holy Scripture and prayer, worship and the sacraments, God feeds his people and we receive light and life. Remaining connected to the vine we cannot help but produce fruit. It is the overflow of the life that is within us, the light and life of Christ our Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ, fill us with your light and life that we may bear fruit for your kingdom. Amen.

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Encountering the risen Lord

John 20_20

John 20:19-31

Isn’t it amazing how quickly Easter Sunday comes and goes? Oh, Easter isn’t over, just the hoopla that surrounds Easter Sunday. In too many respects, the world doesn’t quite understand Easter. The crowds may be gone, but the story hasn’t been fully told. That’s the difficulty faced by the church. The crowds have not heard the whole story. It is no wonder there is so much confusion with regards to Easter. But there was also plenty of confusion that first Easter day.

Women went to the tomb and found it empty. The great stone was rolled away but no one saw who did it. Angels gave the message that Jesus had been raised. As night fell, the disciples were afraid. They locked the doors out of fear that those who killed Jesus might come after them. Just then, Jesus stood among them very much alive.

Perhaps that’s number one problem so many people have at Easter. Perhaps so many come for the celebration, but skip the rest of the story because they are afraid that they might really have an encounter with the risen Lord.

That’s not such a far-fetched idea. All through his ministry, Jesus said that if any would follow him, they must first take up their cross. Jesus expected his followers to bear fruit for the kingdom, love God, worship him, and live for the sake of their neighbor. For so many today, doing these means a drastic change in the way life is lived.

Encountering Jesus means living on his terms, not ours. Encountering the risen Lord means we actually have to do something faithful. Meeting Jesus means acknowledging our sin and coming to repentance. It’s easy to see why so many do not want to hear the rest of the story. It’s easier to simply leave the empty tomb of Easter Sunday and get on with life on Monday. But tombs are meant for the dead, and Jesus is alive.

Jesus left behind what belongs in the tomb; the darkness of sin, death and the devil. The risen Christ brought with him light, life and the peace of God. Ours is to share the entire story so that others may come to believe.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, empower me to do your will, and go where you lead. Amen.

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Along the road with Jesus

Luke 24:13-35

How many times have you traveled the Emmaus Road? How often have you considered the pitfalls and disappointments of earthly life and wondered, “How did these things occur?” The two disciples walking along the road, in the midst of despair asked this same question; “How did the crucifixion of Jesus come about?” The next question was even more difficult; “Where is his body?” “Can it be true, what the women said, that he is alive?”

Each of us walks the Emmaus Road in our own way. Earthly life has many toils and snares. Among many simple pleasures, sin, doubt and sorrow also make their presence known. Yet, as we make our way to Emmaus, the stranger comes alongside. Walking with us, stride for stride, he assures us of God’s love, mercy and grace. The stranger joins us in our story and welcomes us into his.

And finally, as the stranger stays with us, this invited guest serves as host for the most wonderful feast of all, making himself known in the breaking of the bread. It is true! Our Lord Jesus, who once was dead, is alive! And because he lives, we shall live also. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Walk with me, O Christ, bring me the joy of your saving grace. Amen.

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Sharing the good news

John 20_21

John 20:19-23

In hours and days after Jesus’ crucifixion, those who followed him were lost for words. How could it happen that Jesus was crucified? It didn’t make any sense that a man hailed as king one day, would be executed by the end of the week. Then confusion reached an even higher level when reports were made that Jesus’ body was gone. Some even said they saw him alive again.

Confusion still remains when it comes to the risen and living Lord Jesus. The world won’t accept it. How can someone who was dead be alive again? How can one man’s dying save the entire human race from their sins? The powers that defy God are perfectly content to keep Jesus in the grave. They are also perfectly content to keep the risen Lord’s disciples fearful of reprisals lest they begin proclaiming his victory over sin and death.

Yet the promises of God are sure. Sin has been defeated. Christ has opened the gates of heaven to all believers. Through our risen Lord, fear gives way to assurance, doubt surrenders to belief, and those who call upon the Lord are provided the peace of Christ. It is the message our fallen and broken so desperately needs to hear. Open the doors and go tell others, for the peace of Christ is to be shared with all.

Prayer: Almighty God, provide a clear voice for your church, that the good news of your grace is shared throughout the world. Amen.

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Seeing and believing

Luke 24:1-11

Sometimes seeing isn’t always believing. Eyes have been known to play tricks. But when seeing is combined with feeling and hearing, one should consider the possibility that what has been seen, heard and felt is true. Such was not always the case following Jesus’ resurrection.

Perhaps we should not be so hard on the eleven remaining disciples, people often refuse to believe and provide alternatives to the resurrection. Even some buoyed by years of scholarship fabricate contradicting theories. Some will go to great lengths to fabricate a story. They say things such as , Jesus was revived and taken away, someone took his place on the cross, he didn’t really die. In the end they still have the same problem. Moses and the prophets all point to Jesus and the empty tomb.

Because the tomb was found empty the hearts of God’s people are filled with joy. Because the tomb was found empty, the void created by sin is filled with God’s forgiveness. Because the tomb was found empty, humanity is filled with the promise of eternal life. We can believe this because all of the evidence, the eyewitness testimony along with Moses and the prophets all point to one thing; on the third day the tomb was found empty. There is only one conclusion; Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!

Prayer: O Lord, through the eyes of faith and the truth of your Word, we believe.  Amen.

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The light of Christ’s love

John 20_15

John 20:1-18

“Early in the morning while it was still dark.” That is when Mary Magdalene went to visit Jesus’ tomb. It is likely she had no idea what she would do when she got there. The great stone would be blocking the entrance, and the other women who would assist with anointing his body would not arrive for some time. So in the darkness of her grief, Mary would wait, and she would mourn the death of Jesus.

In her darkness, Mary imagined the worst, that Jesus’ body had been stolen. In their darkness, Peter and John did not understand. It seemed the darkness of Jesus’s death would only become more intense, and the absence of light and life appeared to lay claim upon their future hope. Only a risen Lord can dispel such darkness.

As the first rays of sunlight pierced the darkness of Jesus’ tomb, the darkness of the grave was overcome. As the great stone was rolled away, death gave way to life. In a moment, the light of the resurrection obliterated the darkness of death. As she cried out in her grief, Jesus uttered one little word that would change her forever. The Lord said “Mary.”

Today, the risen Christ calls his people by name. He calls us out of the darkness of this world and into the blessed light of his love. In Christ there is no darkness at all. He is risen! Jesus has conquered sin and the grave forever. May the light of his love shine upon you today and always.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, hold me in the light of your love. Amen.

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A silent vigil

Matthew 27_60Matthew 27:57-66

The day after we remember the crucifixion of Jesus the church remains silent. There is no business to conduct. There is no proclamation other than “Jesus died.” Silence is perhaps the only way we can respond to such news. What is there to say? The one upon whom all of our hope was placed is himself placed in a tomb. Sealed with a great stone, Jesus’ tomb causes us to wonder if our fate too is sealed.

The Good Friday worship concludes without benediction; there are no “Good words” for us to offer. It is sin that brought Jesus to earth, sin that led him to the cross and sin that put him to death. Not his sin, but the sin and disobedience of humanity are what killed Jesus, our sin. There are no good words for us to say; we ourselves had a hand in all of this. So once again we are silenced by our shortcoming and must allow God the final word. Only God can speak for a fallen humanity that brought his Son to trial, convicted him and put him to death. In judgment, God’s final word is all that remains, and God’s final word is “life.”

In silent reflection upon what Christ endured for our sake, the people of God keep a prayerful vigil. Festivities and celebrations will wait one more day. Today is the day for prayer, for just as we have had a hand in the death of Christ; God will hear the prayers of his people. By his hand, Christ is raised.

Prayer: Almighty God, in the silence of our hearts we seek your forgiveness. Grant us the joy of your saving help through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Victorious

Luke 23:26-49

Convicted. Albeit wrongly, that is the word which describes our Lord’s condition. Jesus was convicted, found guilty. Guilty of what you might ask? Guilty of “our” sins. It had to be this way. Jesus had to be convicted and sentenced to death, for the wages of sin is death. How could he save sinners from such wages if he himself were not to suffer the pain of our death? And so what needed to be was accomplished.

Victorious. One more word that describes Jesus as he breathed his last. Yes, victorious, what other word could there be? Jesus of Nazareth, the one whom God sent into the world in order to save sinners fulfilled his purpose. He lived a life without sin, obedient to God’s law even unto death. And in offering his life for the sake of humanity, Christ paid our debt to God.

Forgiven. That’s what Jesus declares for those who are truly repentant and confess their sin. We are forgiven, freed from the consequences of our disobedience. We are relieved from the burden of our guilt and our relationship with our Father is restored. This is the reality of Good Friday, that through the innocent death of Jesus Christ, sinners are set free from death. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus for your pardon and peace. Amen.

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