Friday, July 31, 2020

Friday of Trinity 7

Hallowed Be God's Name

Psalm 103:1-13 (ESV) Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.

The First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be Thy name,” sounds obscure to our modern ears, but it simply means, “Dear Father in heaven, let Your name be hallowed—let Your name be kept holy.” We can’t make God’s name holy by our prayer; it’s already holy in itself, as we pray in Psalm 103, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name!” So in the Lord’s Prayer we are asking that God would cause us here on earth to keep His holy name holy.

On the other hand, it is possible for us to treat His name as unholy, so we are praying that He would prevent His name from being profaned or defiled among us. God’s name is holy in itself, but when it is misused by people, it’s like taking a beautiful diamond ring and covering it with mud; the diamond is still precious, but its beauty and value cannot be seen by others because it is covered by the profane mud.

God’s name is how He has revealed Himself to us, and how He wants us to call upon Him, so He wants His good and holy name to be used rightly. A name used to mean something more than it does today. You were raised to keep your family name “sacred.” You realized that when you were out in public, you were representing your family in the eyes of the world. If you did something to disgrace your family, you would be dragging down the family’s good name; your poor behavior would profane or defile your family name and bring shame to your parents.

But today’s cultural heroes—actors, athletes, and musicians—behave shamefully in public with no regard for their family names (if they even have chosen to retain their surnames!). In our fragmented and decaying society, many people today don’t care about preserving the good reputation of their family name since preserving a good name today doesn’t count for much. But there isn’t anything new under the sun, since God’s people in Israel also failed again and again to keep His name holy as they chased after false gods.

But in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, God vindicated the holiness of His name and earned forgiveness of sins for the entire world. Holy and innocent Jesus, who had done nothing in His life to dishonor God’s name but instead had hallowed His Father’s name at every moment, was crucified like a murderous, unholy criminal. Jesus came to redeem us from all our sins, all of the times Israel and all of us poor, miserable sinners have treated God’s name as if it were insignificant; all of the times we have ignored God’s Word and run His name through the dirt. The blood of Jesus was shed to cover all those sins.

In Baptism, Jesus takes the name of God and puts it upon us to claim us as His own. The name of God conveys His presence, and when each of us is baptized “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” the Holy Trinity comes and makes His dwelling with each of us. Those who are baptized in Christ’s holy name and believe in Him should never doubt that God is with them every step of the way, constantly being gracious, daily and richly forgiving sins, and constantly calling us back to Himself.

Enlightened by the Gospel, we now have a fresh understanding of the importance of us having God’s name upon us, and our need to keep God’s name holy. According to the First Petition, our greatest concern in life should be praying that God’s name be kept holy; the most important goal of our life should be living in a way that glorifies the name of our Lord and God.

As faithful children of God, our business is to hallow God’s name by making sure that His doctrine is our doctrine, and that our lives mirror His will by obeying His commandments. As children of God wanting to honor our Father, we preserve God’s name from being shamed when we reject false doctrine and flee from sinful living. We confess the holiness of God’s name to the world when we only teach the proper doctrines of Holy Scripture and order our lives according to the Ten Commandments. May God grant this to us for the sake of Jesus Christ!


Prayer (LSB 766):

1. Our Father, who from heav’n above

Bids all of us to live in love

    As members of one family

    And pray to You in unity,

Teach us no thoughtless words to say

But from our inmost hearts to pray.


2. Your name be hallowed. Help us, Lord,

In purity to keep Your Word,

    That to the glory of Your name

    We walk before You free from blame.

Let no false teaching us pervert;

All poor deluded souls convert.


9. Amen, that is, so shall it be.

Make strong our faith in You, that we

    May doubt not but with trust believe

    That what we ask we shall receive.

Thus in Your name and at Your Word

We say, “Amen, O hear us, Lord!”

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Thursday of Trinity 7

The Mercy Worker

Acts 9:36–43 (ESV) Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then, calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.

Dorcas (a Greek name) was also known as Tabitha (Aramaic). She lived in Joppa, the seaport of Jerusalem, about thirty miles to the northwest. Dorcas is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.

Dorcas was a disciple, which means that she had been baptized and was regularly taught the Word of Jesus (see Matthew 28:16-20) as an active member of the Christian congregation at Joppa. Dorcas and her fellow Christians gathered regularly for the Divine Service, where they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). The Lord served Dorcas with His merciful forgiveness, given to her in preaching and in the Lord’s Supper. His mercy moved her to be merciful to others.

Dorcas’s good works were all the things she did in obedience to the Ten Commandments. The Greek word translated “acts of charity” (Acts 9:36) is the same word used by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount to describe giving to the needy in secret (Matthew 6:1-4). So, while Dorcas was revered by the congregation for her good works, she did not seek praise for them. Her works were not earth-shattering, heroic deeds, but were simple and valuable services to those in need (Acts 9:39). She practiced the admonition, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). We learn from her example to be hard working Christians who gladly serve wherever the opportunity arises and do not “eat the bread of idleness” (Proverbs 31:27).

When Dorcas died, the congregation at Joppa mourned its loss deeply. The church hoped that the Lord would help through His apostle Peter, who was in Lydda, only nine miles away. Peter came at once. He had no power in himself to raise the dead, but was wholly dependent on the Lord’s power, so he prayed for help. The Lord answered the prayer with a “Yes!” Peter told Dorcas to get up, and she did! The Lord still had mercy to show to others through her—in her lifetime, and every time her story is told!

As this news spread, many others came to believe in the God “who gives life to the dead,” “him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:17, 24-25). They were incorporated into the church and saved by Baptism, according to God’s “own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). They then could proclaim, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). And, living with gratitude under such great mercy, the congregation at Joppa could show mercy to others.

We too have been shown great mercy and are called to be merciful in our vocations. Daily we realize that our mercy always falls short, so we cry out, “Lord, have mercy!” with the assurance that God “is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (Luke 6:35). On that basis, Jesus exhorts us, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

Prayer (LSB 855:1, 12, 3, 4):


1. For all the faithful women


To You shall thanks be given;


They served with strength and gladness


To You their lives bore witness,



12. Lord, hear our thanks for Dorcas,


Her hands were cups of kindness,


Send us, O Christ, Your Body,


And touch them with compassion



3. O God, for saints and servants,


In whom through all the ages


We offer glad thanksgiving


That, faithful in Your service,



4. All praise to God the Father!


All praise the Holy Spirit,


With saints who went before us,


We sing glad Alleluias


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Wednesday of Trinity 7

Marriage Made in Heaven

Genesis 2:18-25 (ESV) Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Unless you are an ostrich, it should be obvious to you that the culture in which we live has corrupted God’s institution of holy marriage and perverted His gift of sexuality. I’m not even sure the majority of Christians are fully convinced about God’s definition of marriage, much less the necessity of leading chaste and decent lives in all that we say and do. This is especially true among younger generations. The relentless propaganda from the entertainment industry and mainstream media has succeeded at changing countless minds about the nature of marriage and sexuality, and where it has not convinced people, it has confused them and planted seeds of doubt.

I often lament how children are bombarded with false doctrine and fuzzy thinking on TV and in social media and in school and from their peers, yet the Church gets at most an hour or two each week and a couple years of Confirmation instruction to instill God’s Truth. This means that teaching and prayer in the home is more important than ever. If parents aren’t vigilant to constantly reinforce the teaching of God’s Word at home, then it should not surprise us that the sinful world’s attitudes sway impressionable children.

We always need to go back to what our gracious Lord’s original design for marriage was. In the Garden of Eden, God laid out His plans for marriage and family before sin and unbelief corrupted His perfect creation. This is beautifully stated in the opening address appointed for the wedding ceremony:

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God and before His Church to witness the union of this man and this woman in holy matrimony. This is an honorable estate instituted and blessed by God in Paradise, before humanity’s fall into sin.

In marriage we see a picture of the communion between Christ and His bride, the Church. Our Lord blessed and honored marriage with His presence and first miracle at Cana in Galilee. This estate is also commended to us by the apostle Paul as good and honorable. Therefore, marriage is not to be entered into inadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.

The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for the mutual companionship, help, and support that each person ought to receive from the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Marriage was also ordained so that man and woman may find delight in one another. Therefore, all persons who marry shall take a spouse in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust, for God has not called us to impurity but in holiness. God also established marriage for the procreation of children who are to be brought up in the fear and instruction of the Lord so that they may offer Him their praise.

For these reasons God has established the holy estate that [name] and [name] wish to enter. They desire our prayers as they begin their marriage in the Lord’s name and with His blessing.

What’s remarkable is that once we had fallen into sin and condemnation, God also uses marriage as the framework in which He would redeem and save us! In Ephesians 5, St. Paul quotes Genesis 2: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” When you read that quotation, you assume that Paul is just talking about everyday marriage, right? But then Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit says, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” In fact, the paradigm for marriage between male and female is the One between Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Holy Christian Church.

St. Paul wrote, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4–5). The only-begotten Son of God left His Father in heaven order to come down and be born of His human mother Mary, in order to redeem us lost and condemned sinners and give us a new birth as children in God’s eternal household.

He left Father to come down to be our Savior, and at the cross, He also left His mother behind so that He could take a Bride. At the cross, Jesus says to Mary that she now is to be cared for by the Apostle John, and then He laid down His life in death in order to give life to His Bride, the Church. The first Adam slept while God fashioned Eve from the rib taken from his side, and the New Adam, Jesus Christ, falls asleep in death after suffering for the sin of the world, and water and blood pour forth from His pierced side.

From this sacramental water and blood, and by the proclamation of His death for the sin of the world, now God fashions a Helper suited for His Son, the Holy Christian Church, which is the Mother that conceives and bears children of God for His eternal household in heaven, as Dr. Luther points out in the Large Catechism.

St. Paul also says in Ephesians 5, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” Through Holy Baptism, Jesus makes His Bride holy, and if you have been made members of His Body, of His Bride, the Church, then you are holy, forgiven, without blemish, saved!

The Bible is all about marriage, from the beginning, to the middle, to the end. Revelation 21 uses marital imagery to show us what Jesus has in store for His Bride the Church: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’” (Revelation 21:1-4).

Let us continually fix our eyes on Jesus, our Bridegroom, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. The temporal institution of marriage between male and female is to be a mirror of The Marriage between Christ and His Bride the Church. Satan loves to destroy everything, so He is going to tirelessly work to break that mirror. The Word of God and prayer are our weapons in the fight. Jesus Christ crucified and risen for His Bride is The Holy Marriage in which we rejoice to participate. “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9).

Prayer (LSB 448):

1. O darkest woe!

Ye tears, forth flow!

    Has earth so sad a wonder?

God the Father’s only Son

    Now is buried yonder.


2. O sorrow dread!

Our God is dead,

    Upon the cross extended.

There His love enlivened us

    As His life was ended.


3. O child of woe:

Who struck the blow

    That killed our gracious Master?

“It was I,” thy conscience cries,

    “I have wrought disaster!”


4. Thy Bridegroom dead!

God’s Lamb has bled

    Upon thy sin forever,

Pouring out His sinless self

    In this vast endeavor.


5. Such innocence!

His countenance

    A fount of faith undying!

Worlds on worlds cannot contain

    Grief at Him here lying.


6. O Virgin’s Son,

What Thou hast won

    Is far beyond all telling:

How our God, detested, died,

    Hell and devil felling.


7. O Jesus Christ,

Who sacrificed

    Thy life for lifeless mortals:

Be my life in death and bring

    Me to heaven’s portals! Amen.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Tuesday of Trinity 7

Eat and Be Satisfied

Mark 8:1-9 (ESV) In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away.

In the Gospel reading for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity, St. Mark recounts the slightly less famous feeding miracle, the “feeding of the four thousand.”

The people had been faithfully listening to Jesus for three days with nothing to eat. Their devotion really puts us to shame, doesn’t it? We give up an hour or two a week and think about Sunday dinner in the meantime, and they had gone three days without food! But their feast was the greatest kind, for they had been feasting on the Bread of Life, the Word of God from the lips of Jesus, so they had already received food that satisfies the soul and brings eternal life.

But they still needed to eat regular food too, so Jesus has compassion on the crowd. And this compassion is not just an attitude of pity but actually accomplishes something. Jesus shows mercy to the crowd with a feeding miracle.

Jesus can take weak, little things and multiply them beyond measure. He takes seven loaves of bread and a few small fish and feeds the four thousand until they are satisfied. How could he feed so many with so little? He is the Lord! He is the same one who in the beginning said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. So when He says, “Let the bread and fish be multiplied,” they are multiplied. The Lord’s greatest pleasure is in giving and giving and giving. The people ate until they were absolutely stuffed and couldn’t eat another bite.

So what does this miracle mean for us today? In this miracle Jesus shows us what sort of Savior He is; He wants to feed us so that we may eat and be satisfied, both at home, and at church.

The first point this miracle teaches is that the Lord provides daily bread. Just as the Lord provided manna for the children of Israel as they wandered about in the wilderness and just as He provided bread and fish for the four thousand in the wilderness, the Lord will always provide for the Christian’s needs. Now that doesn’t mean that He’ll give us everything that we want, because many times our wants are corrupted by sinful greed or lust. But as far as your daily bread goes—food, water, clothing, house, home, wife, and children—you needn’t worry that you’ll ever be without; the Lord will provide what we need. And that’s all we really need for our bodily life. As St. Paul writes to Timothy, “We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Tim 6:7–8).

The second point is that Jesus wants to feed us with the Bread of Life in the Christian Church. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world on the cross. He cried out, “It is finished!” and all the sin of the world was answered for. “He died for all,” wrote St. Paul. But while our salvation from sin was achieved on Calvary, that salvation still needs to be given out. We can’t go back in time to the cross to be forgiven there. So Jesus comes to us in the present—at church—to give out His forgiveness through the very lowly and meager means of water and words and bread and wine.

These Word and Sacraments don’t seem like much, and to the eye they appear far too weak and earthly, but Jesus multiplies them with His creative Word. He amplifies their blessing and does what we cannot do. What Jesus did with ordinary bread in the feeding of the four thousand, He does even more with the Bread of Life, Himself. The flesh that Jesus gave on the cross for the life of the world, for your life, He multiplies it throughout the world in His Word and Sacraments to feed the nations, that all who believe and are baptized might live forever.

The Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman once wrote a book entitled, “There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.” That’s true, except for one. Just as we didn’t contribute one bit to Christ’s redeeming death on the cross, so also the meal of the Bread of Life in His Word and the Lord’s Supper is a completely free gift from the Lord’s bounty. With Jesus there is always more and more food that satisfies, because He is the Bread of Life. Eat and be satisfied.

Prayer (LSB 641):

Refrain: You satisfy the hungry heart
    With gift of finest wheat.
Come give to us, O saving Lord,
    The bread of life to eat.

1. As when the shepherd calls his sheep,
    They know and heed his voice;
So when You call Your fam’ly, Lord,
    We follow and rejoice.

2. With joyful lips we sing to You
    Our praise and gratitude
That You should count us worthy, Lord,
    To share this heav’nly food.

3. Is not the cup we bless and share
    The blood of Christ outpoured?
Do not one cup, one loaf, declare
    Our oneness in the Lord?

4. The myst’ry of Your presence, Lord,
    No mortal tongue can tell:
Whom all the world cannot contain
    Comes in our hearts to dwell.

5. You give Yourself to us, O Lord;
    Then selfless let us be,
To serve each other in Your name
    In truth and charity.

Refrain: You satisfy the hungry heart
    With gift of finest wheat.
Come give to us, O saving Lord,
    The bread of life to eat. Amen.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Monday of Trinity 7

Finding Meaning

Ecclesiastes 1:1, 12-14, 2:18-26 (ESV) The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem… I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind… I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity. There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

Just look at all the things Solomon had going for him. Scripture tells us that he had a special measure of wisdom from God Himself (of course, he obviously didn’t always use that wisdom). Solomon’s fame was known in all surrounding nations. He became richer than all the other kings of the earth. He built a magnificent Temple and a beautiful palace. All of his drinking vessels were made of gold. Silver was not even considered valuable in his day because gold was in such abundance. The Bible tells us that “The Lord highly exalted Solomon in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed on him royal majesty which had not been on any king before him in Israel.” Solomon lived a life of luxury, too. He wrote, “I did not withhold from my heart any pleasure” and “all that my eyes desired I did not refuse them.” Including 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3).

In today’s reading from Ecclesiastes, an older and wiser Solomon looks back on his life, reflecting on the treasures he had accumulated and pleasures he had experienced. So what does he tell us about all of them? Did they add up to an ancient version of the American Dream, a life of blissful happiness? Actually, just the opposite. “Meaningless,” concluded Solomon. “All of what I have done is utter meaninglessness, futility, vanity.”

Most of the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes is a depressing litany about the emptiness of practically all of the things that we experience in life. Don’t we all love to laugh? “It is madness,” Solomon said of laughter. Surely pleasure is worthwhile. “What does it accomplish?” asked Solomon. Isn’t hard work a noble goal? “It is all emptiness and striving after the wind,” he wrote. Surely the wisest man in the world would have a high opinion of wisdom. No, that’s meaningless, too. Even though wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness, yet the same fate befalls both the wise man and the fool: death. All men die, and after a man has been dead for a while, the world forgets him, regardless of how wise or foolish he was. And it’s not like you can enjoy money, pleasure, or notoriety after you’re dead. To add insult to injury, everything a man labors for in life will be inherited by someone else who didn’t work for it.

It is a dark picture of the world that Solomon paints. He gloomily said, “So I hated life because everything is futility and striving after the wind.” Solomon had reached the point where life seemed pointless; meaningless; empty. At that point in his life, Solomon would have fit in well in our modern world.

There’s a really smart guy named Peter Singer who is a professor at Princeton University. He has offered the following assessment of the meaning of life in this world. He writes, “[W]e must give up the idea that life on this planet has some preordained meaning. Life as a whole has no meaning. Life began, as the best available theories tell us, in a chance combination of gasses; it then evolved through random and natural selection. All this just happened; it did not happen to any overall purpose. Now that it has resulted in the existence of beings who prefer some states of affairs to others, however, it may be possible for particular lives to be meaningful.”

If you want to understand what is at stake in the Creation vs. Evolution debate, this is it. Obviously, Peter Singer is an atheist. I appreciate this passage by Singer because it is so brutally honest about the impossibility of finding ultimate meaning in life apart from God. He says that the atheist, or agnostic, or person who lives as if God didn’t exist might find some meaning in life by living a certain way, acquiring certain things, achieving a certain status—in other words, by temporarily living for money or pleasure or personal happiness. But in his view, there’s only a possibility of finding meaning for the atheist, no guarantees. The only guarantee Singer recognizes, as Solomon did, is that we’re all headed for the grave.
Solomon in his despair and Peter Singer in his atheism offer views of the world that end meaninglessly.

Of course, you need to read the rest of Ecclesiastes and reach the same conclusion that Solomon does! “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Life is not meaningless in itself, but life apart from God is utterly meaningless. We need God’s intervention in order to redeem the emptiness of our sinful life under the sun. It was not always like this. Before sin came into the world, nothing about the world was meaningless. But after the Fall, God Himself subjected existence to futility and the whole creation is groaning under it. However, this fact is not a cause for despair, but for hope. The same God who punished the world’s sin by subjecting it to futility has set the creation free. God Himself came to earth to fill the emptiness. The Son of God became flesh to redeem the meaninglessness of life on earth.

Christ experienced the emptiness of life so that your life would not be utterly meaningless. In spite of the emptiness He encountered in this world, He lived a truly full life in a way that none of us could. Although sinful pleasures and delights were set before His eyes, Jesus did not sin. Although He witnessed death and sorrow everywhere, He did not despair of life on earth. Although He experienced the emptiness of separation from God as He bore the weight of our sins on the cross, He did not turn away from the task of our redemption. Although Jesus went through the ultimate emptiness of death, He created a new life for the whole creation through His Resurrection.

So life is not meaningless for you because Jesus came to win an eternal and meaningful life for you on the cross. And do you know where Jesus points you to have assurance that your life is filled with hope and meaning? In your Baptism.

In your Baptism Jesus took away the guilt of your futile sin and exchanged it for His saving righteousness, which makes you pleasing to God.
Now in God’s sight, you are truly good, not because of what you do, but because you are covered with Christ’s robe of righteousness. Not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed the way you were when you were baptized into Christ.

Now in God’s sight, you are truly rich, not because of your earthly possessions, but because Jesus makes you rich in God. Not even Solomon with all of his wealth possessed the great treasure you have in Holy Baptism.

Now you are truly wise, not with worldly wisdom, but because you know Jesus Christ, who is your “wisdom from God” as St. Paul says. Not even Solomon with all His wisdom could compare to Christ, who is our crucified and risen Savior and our “wisdom and knowledge and joy.”

Prayer (LSB 834):

1. O God, O Lord of heav’n and earth,
    Thy living finger never wrote
    That life should be an aimless mote,
A deathward drift from futile birth.
    Thy Word meant life triumphant hurled
    In splendor through Thy broken world.
Since light awoke and life began,
Thou hast desired Thy life for man.

2. Our fatal will to equal Thee,
    Our rebel will wrought death and night.
    We seized and used in prideful spite
Thy wondrous gift of liberty.
    We housed us in this house of doom,
    Where death had royal scope and room,
Until Thy servant, Prince of Peace,
Breached all its walls for our release.

3. Thou camest to our hall of death,
    O Christ, to breathe our poisoned air,
    To drink for us the dark despair
That strangled our reluctant breath.
    How beautiful the feet that trod
    The road that leads us back to God!
How beautiful the feet that ran
To bring the great good news to man!

4. O Spirit, who didst once restore
    Thy Church that it might be again
    The bringer of good news to men,
Breathe on Thy cloven Church once more,
    That in these gray and latter days
    There may be those whose life is praise,
Each life a high doxology
To Father, Son, and unto Thee. Amen.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Saturday of Trinity 6

Postmodernism in the Church?

Ephesians 4:17-24 (ESV) Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.


Yesterday I talked about postmodernism in society, which is easy to spot. But postmodernism is sneaky; it even slithers its way into the Church, perhaps without people even realizing it. Consider “church growth guru” David Luecke, an LCMS pastor who is (in)famous for his books on why Lutheran churches should change their liturgy and music and architecture in ways that appeal to the surrounding culture. Here is his description from his own web page:


Dr. Luecke greatly admires the Apostle Paul. Paul was a world-class entrepreneur who established a new religion in the Roman Empire. To do that he showed himself to be an organizational genius and a top-level analyst. From Paul’s letters, we see how he could recognize what was going wrong in churches he helped establish and point out what needed to be done. Paul stressed the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit much more than we traditional Protestants do… Luecke thinks Lutheran, as well as Presbyterian, Reformed, Episcopalian, Methodist, and United Church of Christ churches, have lost their basic spiritual energy. The only way to regain it back is to pay much more attention to who the Holy Spirit is and how he works today. (


In some ways, I think Luecke’s perspective is even more pernicious than the Canadian postmodern professor I talked about yesterday. Conservative Christians are going to be resistant to relativism, but Luecke sprinkles enough Christian-sounding language in his analysis to make it sound convincing. But there are two gross errors in what Luecke says above.


First, and most basic: Paul was no entrepreneur, and he certainly did not establish a new religion in the Roman empire! I am astonished that a 79-year old LCMS pastor with more than 50 years of experience in the ministry could miss the fact that Jesus Himself established His Church (Matthew 16:18) and commissioned Paul and the other apostles to spread and preserve “the Truth of the Gospel” (Galatians 2:5). I also don’t like to call Christianity a “religion,” since that lumps us in with all sorts of other religions out there into a sort of religious buffet. This plays into postmodernism, too: that there can be multiple truths, and therefore multiple legitimate religions—lots of different paths to reach salvation. But try reconciling that with John 14:6!


Luecke’s second error is in thinking that “traditional Protestants” like us fail to stress the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit and have lost our “basic spiritual energy.” Now it is true that many of the denominations whom he criticizes have faltered by not clinging to the right teaching of the Word of God and proper administration of the Sacraments, which indeed has caused them to lose “spiritual energy.” But Confessional Lutheran churches always have and always will have the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit through the Means of Grace, the Word and Sacraments. In fact, our Lutheran forefathers called the Word, Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper “the means of the Spirit,” the instruments He uses to create and sustain faith in Jesus Christ.


When St. Paul visited Athens and preached the Gospel in the Areopagus, St. Luke tells us, “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). Modern scholars and “church growth consultants” like Luecke likewise are obsessed with novelty. They think their “new approaches” are better than the old ways that God has given us in Scripture. They are wrong. As Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” However, there is a New Testament under the Son, and by His Word of Truth He has made us a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and promises us everlasting life in the New Heavens and the New Earth (2 Peter 3:13)!


Prayer (LSB 545): 

1. Word of God, come down on earth,

    Living rain from heav’n descending;

Touch our hearts and bring to birth

    Faith and hope and love unending.

Word almighty, we revere You;

Word made flesh, we long to hear You.


2. Word eternal, throned on high,

    Word that brought to life creation,

Word that came from heav’n to die,

    Crucified for our salvation,

Saving Word, the world restoring,

Speak to us, Your love outpouring.


3. Word that caused blind eyes to see,

    Speak and heal our mortal blindness;

Deaf we are: our healer be;

    Loose our tongues to tell Your kindness.

Be our Word in pity spoken,

Heal the world, by sin now broken.


4. Word that speaks God’s tender love,

    One with God beyond all telling,

Word that sends us from above,

    God the Spirit, with us dwelling,

Word of truth, to all truth lead us;

Word of life, with one bread feed us. Amen.