Monday, March 30, 2020


Pastor Roth

“O come, let us fix our eyes on Jesus,
the founder and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame,
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
(Gradual for Lent, based on Hebrews 12:2)

Yesterday began Passiontide, the last two weeks in Lent. I never understood the purpose of “tide” endings (Adventide, Christmastide, Eastertide, etc.), so I looked it up! According to Merriam-Webster, “In addition to its familiar sense referring to the rising and falling of ocean levels, the dictionary defines tide as a standalone noun: ‘an ecclesiastical anniversary or festival; also : its season.’ Deriving from the Old English tīdan, it can be used in combination for celebrations that pop up at other times of the year, such as Eastertide. Tīdan resembles the Old English noun tīd, meaning ‘time.’”

There are two traditional changes in our sanctuary appointments and the liturgy during Passiontide. The crucifixes in the sanctuary are now veiled, so that as our mouths and ears have been fasting from Alleluia for all of Lent, now our eyes fast as well—we will not look upon these signs of joy until the Easter Vigil. Similarly, we have been fasting from the joyful Gloria in Excelsis throughout Lent, and now we now undertake a two week fast from the Gloria Patri. The return of these signs, words, and sounds at Easter will underscore our joyful celebration of Christ’s Resurrection.

Although we cannot experience these changes together right now, I did still want to highlight them, and I thank Nancy Axelson for veiling the two crucifixes in our sanctuary.

I think following such liturgical customs is good, since it marks off Lent and Passiontide from the rest of the year and makes us “take notice,” but the one that has always struck me as the strangest is the veiling of the crucifix. You’d think that during Passiontide, you would want to highlight the cross and the Crucified One, not hide them. While the “our-eyes-are-fasting-from-this-symbol-of-joy” interpretation of the custom is one way of looking at it, another perspective is that the veiling actually draws attention to the crucifix. We all know what’s under the veil, and we take special notice of the crucifix during Passiontide, while we might take it for granted the rest of the year.

On Easter, the veils are removed and our eyes get to feast on the joyful crucifixes again, as the angel announces, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6). The phrase “who was crucified” also could be translated at “The Crucified One.” On Easter and every day, we rejoice in Him “who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom 4:25), but as cross-bearing Christians (Crosstians?) on this side of the resurrection, we place special emphasis on the crucifixion, following in the footsteps of St. Paul: “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23). In fact, when he came to the Corinthians, he said “I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:1-2). And as Jesus says to all of His disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (Luke 9:23). 

Prayer: On my heart imprint Your image,
Blessèd Jesus, King of grace,
That life’s riches, cares, and pleasures
Never may Your work erase;
Let the clear inscription be:
Jesus, crucified for me,
Is my life, my hope’s foundation,
And my glory and salvation! Amen. (LSB 422)

Prayer requests: Lynn Cottle, hospitalized; Bessie Mahaffey and Alma Gause, hospice care; health care workers and first responders around the globe.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Covenant or Testament?

Pastor Roth

Hebrews 9:11-15 (ESV), Epistle Reading for Judica, The Fifth Sunday in Lent                    
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

The Greek term translated as “covenant” (διαθήκη) in Hebrews 9:15 can also be translated as “testament,” as in, “last will and testament.” In legal and biblical terms, “covenant” and “testament” are quite different concepts. Legally, a testament is a person's will, especially the part relating to personal property, and a covenant is an agreement or contract. The Latin testamentum has the same meaning as our English term, and St. Jerome translated διαθήκη as testamentum in the Vulgate translation of the New Testament. The King James Version, likely under the influence of Jerome’s translation, rendered διαθήκη as “testament” in the New Testament as well.

Given that translation requires us to pick one term or another, Jerome and our beloved KJV did better in opting for “new testament.” Most of our English translations today render passages dealing with the Lord’s Supper and verses like Hebrews 9:15 as “new covenant.” This is because the overwhelming influence of Reformed theology on American translators of the Bible (including ESV) leads them to prefer “covenant” over “testament.”

Now is not the time to get overly technical, but the problem with “new covenant” is that it could imply that we are entering into a two-way agreement with God, in which we sort of meet in the middle: He sent Jesus to pay for our sins, but then we have to decide to enter into the covenant by accepting Jesus and giving our heart to Him. This ends up making our act of will and our obedience a factor in salvation.

On the other hand, “new testament” places the emphasis on God’s decision, God’s will, God’s grace in not only sending Jesus to die for our sins but then giving us regeneration and salvation completely as a gift, without our works or obedience as a contributing factor. This is the point of Hebrews 9:15, where the death of Jesus redeems us from our sins against the Mosaic Law and grants us “the promised eternal inheritance.”

“New testament,” then, emphasizes the central article of our Christian faith, that Jesus “has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death” (Small Catechism, 2nd Article). Likewise, when Jesus gives us “the New Testament in His blood” in the Lord’s Supper, He delivers to us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation without measure.

Prayer: Lord God, heavenly Father, You promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, You led him to the land of Canaan, and You sealed Your covenant with him by the shedding of blood. May we see in Jesus, the Seed of Abraham, the promise of the new covenant of Your Holy Church, sealed with Jesus’ blood on the cross and given to us now in the cup of the new testament; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Prayer requests: Lynn Cottle, hospitalized. Bessie Mahaffey and Alma Gause, under hospice care.

Friday, March 27, 2020


Pastor Roth

Psalm 43, Introit for Judica, The Fifth Sunday in Lent
Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Psalm 54, Psalm of the Day for Judica, The Fifth Sunday in Lent
O God, save me by your name, and vindicate me by your might. O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth. For strangers have risen against me; ruthless men seek my life; they do not set God before themselves. Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. He will return the evil to my enemies; in your faithfulness put an end to them. With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good. For he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.

The Sundays in Lent take their names from the Latin translations of the Introit in the Divine Service. Judica Sunday, then, takes its name from Psalm 43, which has the verb judicare, “to judge” or “to vindicate,” as its first word. The appointed Psalm, 54, has the same verb in Latin, although in Hebrew it is different. No matter. As always, context is key. They deal with the same subject matter: vindication against enemies.

These are difficult Psalms to reconcile with the New Testament if we fail to look at them through the lens of the Incarnation of God’s Son and His work on the cross. Doesn’t Jesus tell us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? (Matt 5:44)? Doesn’t St. Paul tell us to give food and drink to our enemies (Rom 12:20)?

This Sunday begins Passiontide, the last two Sundays in Lent, which intensifies our focus on the saving work of Jesus on the cross. While Psalms 43 and 54 may (or may not) have been penned by King David as he justly sought vindication against the enemies of God’s chosen King of Israel, their primary referent is the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who “was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isa 53:3).

In the Garden of Gethsemane, after Jesus had assented to His Father’s will to drink the cup of wrath against the sin of the world, He said, “See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Matt 26:45). Moments later, Judas arrived to betray Him, hand Him over to the Jewish leaders, who took Him to the high priest, who sent Him to Pilate for judgment.

“Ungodly people” and “deceitful and unjust” men (Ps 43:1), yes, “ruthless men” (Ps 54:3), sought His life by bringing false testimony against Him and crying out for His blood. Pilate eventually assented, in spite of deep reservations that Jesus was truly innocent, but it had to be that way for the Suffering Servant, since the Innocent One had come to die in place of us guilty sinners.

But Jesus knew that His Father would vindicate Him, as had been prophesied through Isaiah: “The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty?” (Is 50:5-9a).

In His Passion, Jesus "committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (1 Pet 2:22-25).

"Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory" (1 Tim 3:16). Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Father vindicated the Innocent One on Easter morn, which means that for all of us who believe in Him and are baptized into His death and resurrection, we likewise will be vindicated before God's judgment seat on the Last Day.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, in the Garden of Gethsemane You suffered the agony of drinking from the cup of Your Father’s wrath against our sin, being betrayed by a kiss from one of Your own. Give us strength to remain awake as we now wait and watch for Your coming again, knowing that the Father’s wrath against us has been satisfied by Your bloody death and vindicating resurrection; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Prayer requests: Lynn Cottle, hospitalized; Alma Gause and Bessie Mahaffey, under hospice care.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Before Abraham Was, I AM

 Before Abraham Was, I AM

Pastor Roth

John 8:42-59, Holy Gospel Reading for Judica, The Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 29, 2020

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” 48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

When Jesus was on trial, He refused to answer the false charges against Him, but finally the high priest asked Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mark 14:61). (This was another way of asking, “Are You the Son of God?”). Now that Jesus had received a question that got to the heart of the matter, the central truth of the Gospel, He would answer with the words “I AM” (Mark 14:62). This is far more significant than simply saying, “Yes.”

In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, “I AM” (ἐγώ εἰμι) is how the Lord of Israel identifies Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14. Likewise, these are the same words Jesus speaks to the Jews who wondered how He could have “seen Abraham” (John 8:51): “Before Abraham was, I AM” (v. 58). The same Lord who created the world, who had called Abraham, who had preserved Israel in Egypt and then saved them by the Exodus was now standing before the high priest in the flesh! Now, just as the Jews had sought to kill Jesus for blasphemy in response to his claims about seeing Abraham (John 8:59), so also would the high priest seek to kill Him.

Jesus calling Himself “I AM” was not the only thing that the high priest considered blasphemous. Jesus calls Himself the “Son of Man” (Mark 14:62), which is a reference to Daniel 7:13–14, where a heavenly “son of man” is given an everlasting kingdom—clearly a prophecy of Jesus Christ. The high priest’s reaction—tearing his garments (Mark 14:63)—tells us that he understood exactly what Jesus was claiming about Himself: that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Son of Man, the great I AM who will come from the right hand of the Father as judge on the Last Day.

St. John records Jesus using the words I AM more than twenty times (John 4:26; 6:20, 35, 41, 48, 51; 8:12, 24, 28, 58; 9:9; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 13:19; 14:6; 15:1, 5; 18:5–6, 8; also see excellent discussion of this theme in The Lutheran Study Bible, pp. 1784-5). Enjoy this sample, and take comfort in Jesus, the I AM who promises that you are saved!

  • “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
  • “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51).
  • “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
  • "I am the door of the sheep…If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:7, 9).
  • “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep... I know my own and my own know me" (John 10:11, 14).
  • “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
  • “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
  • “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser… I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:1, 5).

Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us Your gifts of faith, hope, and love that we may receive the forgiveness You have promised and love what You have commanded; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Prayer requests: Lynn Cottle, hospitalized; Alma Gause and Bessie Mahaffey under hospice care.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Annunciation of Our Lord

March 25, 2020

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1856
Luke 1:26-38 (ESV)
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

The Annunciation is celebrated on March 25, nine months before Christmas Day. It is interesting that this festival usually falls during Lent (in 2035, it will fall on Easter Sunday!). In 2016 it fell on Good Friday. This was particularly fitting. Why did God's Son become incarnate of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit? So He could die! As we sing in What Child Is This?, "Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the cross be borne for me, for you!"

Since the time of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, it has been commonly thought that the Virgin Birth and other miracles in the Bible could not have happened since they contradict laws of nature or human reason. Some people have attempted to retain the Christian faith while embracing such modernistic ideas, but at great harm to themselves and the Church. There are several reasons that we must confess the Virgin Birth clearly. The first reason is that God’s Word, the Bible, confesses it. Isaiah 7:14 specifically says that the Messiah will be born of a virgin, and this verse is quoted in Matthew 1:23. Matthew 1:25 makes it clear that Joseph and Mary did not have sexual intercourse until she had given birth, and Luke 1:26-38 testifies that Mary was a virgin when she conceived. The second reason we must maintain the Virgin Birth is that, if Jesus had had a human father, He would have been born with sin, but since He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, He could be born sinless. Only by virtue of the fact that He is the Son of God is He sinless, and able to save us from our sins. Only by becoming like us in every way but without sin could He offer the perfect sacrifice to God to atone for the sin of the whole world.

Christian mysteries such as the Trinity, Incarnation, and Universal Atonement seem impossible, but as Gabriel says to Mary, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” However, this verse could be misused by Christians who say things like, “If you just believe enough, God will heal your cancer, since nothing is impossible for Him.” While it is true that God can still perform miracles of healing, He has not always promised to do so. The statement of Gabriel applies to God’s ability to make Elizabeth fertile in her old age, and Mary pregnant without relations with a man. We should apply this verse today when people cast doubt on God’s ability to perform the things the Bible claims He can do, such as create out of nothing, forgive sins through His Word, save people through Baptism, make Jesus’ body and blood present in, with, and under bread and wine, take the souls of Christians to heaven at their death, and finally raise us from the dead on the Last Day!

Prayer: O Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son Jesus Christ by the message of the angel to the Virgin Mary, so by the message of His cross and passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Please also pray for: Lynn Cottle, in Austin Heart Hospital (no visitors allowed, not even her husband Joe); Bessie Mahaffey and Alma Gause under hospice care.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A Test Like None Other
Pastor Roth

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 19th century.

Old Testament Reading for Judica,
The Fifth Sunday in Lent,
March 29, 2020

Genesis 22:1-14 (ESV)

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

When Abram (later renamed Abraham) was about 75 years old, the LORD called him from Ur of the Chaldees and sent him on a journey to Canaan with the promise, "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen 12:1-3). Upon arriving in Canaan, the LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." The "offspring" here is the Seed of the woman first promised to Adam and Eve (Gen 3:15). St. Paul makes much of the fact that “offspring” is singular, which is a direct reference to Christ (Gal 3:16), who would give up His life and rise on Easter to justify all nations, Jew and Gentile alike. All who trust in Christ now are “sons of Abraham” (Gal 3:7) children of God’s promises that are all fulfilled in Jesus.
 When Abraham was 99, the LORD established the covenant of circumcision (Gen 17) and the next year appeared to Abraham to announce that Isaac would be born in about a year (Gen 18), which came to pass, just as the LORD had promised (Gen 21:1-7).
Considering the twenty-five years that Abraham had to wait for the LORD to fulfill the promise of a son, Genesis 22 comes as a shocker. The book of Genesis devoted ten whole chapters of Abraham’s life and the promises God had made to him over a twenty-five year period, only to have him sacrifice the promised son!
Although the narrative indicates no hesitation on Abraham’s part, as a man with emotions (as well as sin), Abraham must have experienced great sorrow, confusion, and doubt over the LORD’s command. However, by faith he was able to overcome any doubts because he trusted that God never lies (Titus 1:2) and believed that God can even raise the dead: "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, 'Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.' He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back" (Heb 11:17-19).
God's testing of Abraham was like none other, since it was pointing forward to a sacrificial death that would happen many centuries later. Out of love for the world, what God did not finally require of Abraham (the death of his only, beloved son), God requires of Himself in giving His only-begotten, beloved Son up in death. Like the ram caught in the thicket who dies in the place of Isaac, Jesus is the Lamb of God who dies in our place and takes away the sin of the world.
The extent of God’s love for you is that He sent the holy, innocent Son to give up His life as a ransom for the masses and rise on Easter to justify all mankind by His blood. This message is to be received by faith alone, and through God’s gift we are saved from the wrath of God that He has stored up for unbelievers. And this wonderful love of God for us is then to flow through us into love toward our neighbor.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic and worldwide panic (not to mention all the other trials and tribulations we face on a daily basis!), God is testing our faith in His promises, as He did so long ago with Abraham. What has He promised to you?
On Pentecost, St. Peter preached, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself" (Acts 2:38-39). In your Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, you have received forgiveness of sins, the promise of eternal life, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. While, like Abraham, we may have to wait a long time to realize the outcome of His promises, we can trust that they will surely come to pass.
In the meantime, God also gives you a very specific promise concerning the testing of your faith in this life. In spite of the popularity of the expression, "God will never give you more than you can handle," His Word never actually says that! What He does promise, however, is much better: "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Cor 10:13).
The Greek words translated as "temptation" and "tempted" could also be translated as "testing" and "tested." In fact, the same verb is used in the Greek translation of Genesis 22 in reference to God testing Abraham. It is axiomatic that "God tests, while the devil tempts," but in experience, testing and temptation often feel the same. Right now, God is testing whether we trust His promises, while Satan is tempting us not to believe them. In the case of both, God has promised to provide "the way of escape" so that we may be enabled to endure whatever testing/temptation comes our way.
Abraham named Mt. Moriah, "The LORD will provide" (Gen 22:14) because God had provided a sacrifice in place of Isaac and prolonged the life of his son, through whom the line of the promised Seed would continue. Likewise, for the sake of Christ Jesus, the LORD will provide for all your needs of body and soul today and the fullness of joy in heaven forever. Amen.